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The Life of Captain James Cook

XXII — Last Days at Tahiti

page 549

Last Days at Tahiti

It was a four weeks' passage from Tonga to Tahiti, at first with north-easterly, later with more favouring winds: a passage broken by only one untoward incident and one new discovery. The untoward incident was a sudden heavy squall in the evening of 29 July, which blew two of Cook's staysails to pieces and did worse to the Discovery, carrying away her maintopmast and causing other damage—fortunately without making for much delay. The discovery, on 9 August, was that of the high island Tubuai, one of the Austral group, in latitude 23°25′ S, a fellow of Rurutu, encountered on the first voyage. The usual canoes approached the ships, without coming alongside. Cook saw no advantage in landing, altered his course to the north, and on the 12th made both the sign-post island Mehetia and Tahiti itself. He was not far from Vaitepiha Bay, but a series of baffling airs and squalls kept him from anchoring there until the next morning. Meanwhile he had his first visitors, learnt that two ships, which must have been Spanish, had called at the island twice since his last departure, and that Spaniards had lived there for almost a year; and had the spectacle before his eyes of Omai, the returning hero. This was much as Cook had foreseen. The hero was ignored until it was found he had red feathers with him. Then he became a dupe. He was not the only one who had red feathers: next morning at daybreak, before the ships had even moved into harbour, they were surrounded by a multitude of canoes and people, and 'not more feathers than might be got from a Tom tit would purchase a hog of 40 or 50 pound weight'.1 Trade throve. At last anchors went down, Omai's sister came on board, and at last he was welcomed for his own sake. Cook at once began to inspect his provisions and set his caulkers to work; and went on shore.

He gathered the news. Purea was dead, as was the young Vehiatua whom he had known on the last voyage, succeeded by a boy his brother, not yet to be seen. Tu and his friends of the other end of the

1 Journals III, 187.

page 550 island were all alive. He was equally interested in the Spaniards, the story of whom took some time to emerge, and did not emerge at all very clearly; but it was clear that they were from Lima, that their commander had died and been buried on shore, that they had returned two of the youths taken away before, had treated the people generously, had left behind them, and afterwards taken away again, three of their number, and had done a good deal of vaunting of their superiority to the British. Cook found a small house they had put up and a little furniture, and a cross, and some animals—goats and dogs and some fine large hogs 'of the Spanish breed'—and was told of cattle. Had all his trouble and anguish in bringing stock from England, then, been needless, irrelevant, as he had been thus preceded? It was a desolating thought. It was in due course relieved; the Spanish cattle turned out to be a solitary bull. The cross had carved upon it the words CHRISTUS VINCIT CAROLUS III IMPERAT 1774. This would not do, the glory of George III was at stake: he had cut on the other side the exclusively secular legend, Georgius Tertius Rex Annis 1767, 69, 73, 74 & 77. We can be clearer about this small piece of Spanish history than Cook could. The visits were at once an ineffectual assertion of sovereignty over Pacific islands and a singularly feeble attempt to convert the islanders; for the two Franciscans who formed the mission were but timorous servants of the Lord and scarcely left their house, while the ship's boy who looked after them, though he enjoyed his stay thoroughly, and wrote an excellent account of his experiences, was neither conqueror or apostle. There was nothing to do with the friars but remove them. A successful mission might possibly have complicated the situation for Cook, against whom the Spaniards had warned the people—rather belatedly, to be sure. Without such a thought, and noting the great plenty of coconuts, he went on board after this first expedition and called his crew together. He did what there is no record of his doing before or later, and took them into his confidence. It was another result of the winds and the lost season. He foresaw a shortage of grog in the cold northern climate if the men drank their spirits now. They could on the other hand drink from coconuts now, and save the spirits for future support in the quest for a north-west passage, with a cash reward—perhaps—at the end. They would not be entirely deprived: there would be the usual Saturday night's allowance 'to drink to their feemale friends in England, lest amongst the pretty girls of Otaheite they should be wholy forgoten.'1 We can almost hear this speech. Clerke made the same proposal in the

1 Journals III, 189.

page 551 Discovery. The men could decide; and without hesitation they plumped for prudence.

It rained for two days. The people nevertheless flocked to the place with hogs and fruit in the hope of red feathers, Cook made the acquaintance of the young chief and exchanged names and presents with him; when the weather cleared set off some fireworks for the general delectation; and visited what his officers had taken for a Roman Catholic chapel, and turned out to be the decorated house where the embalmed corpse of the last Vehiatua was laid in state, a fata tupapau, an extremely tapu spot. He met other chiefs, and one or two oddities—a man who was said by Omai to be the god of Borabora, and did bear the god's name, Oro; another man said to be possessed of the spirit of an atua, or god, who squeaked, and was probably mad; but nothing occurred that could detain him long from what he considered to be the real centre of Tahitian life at Matavai Bay, and to that bay he steered on 23 August. He was to remain there till the end of September, and he could not complain of the quality of his refreshment.

Tu, whom he continued to regard as the 'king', was at Point Venus next morning, ready to receive presents, with a vast crowd of people. The returning hero knelt at his feet, embraced his legs, and handed over 'a large piece' of red feathers and a length of gold cloth—the sacred colours, red and yellow—and was ignored. Cook's gifts included a linen suit, a gold-laced hat and more red feathers, the principal item being one of the Tongan feather bonnets (for which Tu later made the return of ten large hogs). The whole royal family came on board to dinner, attended by a train of canoes loaded with provisions for the ships; then Cook went on shore to Tu's own district of Pare, to deposit Lord Bessborough's peacock and hen, with turkeys, geese and ducks, and saw the Spanish bull, a fine beast. The following day he relieved this animal's celibacy with three cows, but his own remaining bull, horse, mare and sheep he put ashore at Matavai; and 'now found my self lightened of a very heavy burden, the trouble and vexation that attended the bringing these Animals thus far is hardly to be conceived. But the satisfaction I felt in having been so fortunate as to fulfill His Majestys design in sending such useful Animals to two worthy Nations sufficiently recompenced me for the many anxious hours I had on their account.'1 One hopes that was true, because he deserved recompense. Meanwhile the observatories and other tents were pitched at Point Venus, under the command of King, and old friends arrived in such numbers that it was difficult

1 ibid., 194.

page 552 to know what to do with all the provisions they brought. Meanwhile also there was a change in Omai's fortunes. Tales of his wealth spread quickly, and his friendship was courted by the great; but alas for Omai, he would associate with low fellows, who got from him articles that no chief could extract from anybody else on board; and if it had not been for Cook's intervention, within a few days he would have had little left. Cook still hoped a little: the young man, he seems to have thought, might make a respectable marriage and settle down under Tu's patronage as a sort of farm manager and instructor. This was not Omai's idea of the good life at all. True, at Vaitepiha he had had the sense to rescue a despised grapevine, planted by the Spaniards, from destruction, and had brought away slips; but this was with the ambition of making wine. As the days went by, he continued to fall from grace. It seemed to be a way with protégés: when Hiti-hiti—the charming youth 'Odiddy' of the second voyage, who had adventured in the Resolution—came to pay his respects he also was found to have gone rather to seed. Cook gave him some clothes the Admiralty had sent out for him, adding the more useful gift of a chest of tools: Omai took his wife to live with.

There were other things to do than to bestow gifts, tasks that kept seamen from gazing enraptured at too many 'libidinous' dances. The Discovery's main mast, which had suffered in the squall in mid-ocean, was taken ashore and repaired, as were sails and water-casks; Cook had one of his vegetable gardens made and planted, though doubtful whether it would be looked after. Shaddock trees, however, seedlings from Tonga, were to flourish, as Nelson the gardener, who put them in, was to find when he revisited Tahiti with Bligh eleven years later. There was the usual wooding and watering and work about the ships. There was the first of several reports of Spanish ships at Vaitepiha, and this first one was so persuasive that Cook sent a boat to investigate, and at the same time put his own ships in a state of defence, not knowing whether England and Spain were then at peace or war. As all these fictions came from Taiarapu men, he concluded that they aimed at getting him away from Matavai—in which conclusion he was no doubt quite right; for other parts of the island might well think that Matavai, and Tu, were getting far more attention and profit from the visitors than were their due. Tu was not generally liked.

Indeed, it is difficult to find anybody who liked Tu. Cook certainly did not warm to him. Yet his position as an ari'i rahi, or high chief, gave him a leading importance, his participation in certain ceremonies page 553 was essential; and thus Cook was able to take advantage of his own importance as a familiar of the chief and witness one of the great Tahitian ceremonies, that of a human sacrifice. Cook's sight of the great war fleet drawn up in the bay in 1774 will be recollected, and its occasion, the quarrel between Mahine of Eimeo, or Moorea, and certain chiefs of Tahiti—a quarrel in which Tu was rather a laggard. The fleet had had no glorious victory, and now, three years later, the quarrel continued to smoulder, Tu still a laggard, and the chief whom Cook had then thought to be his admiral, Towha or To'ofa, still an impatient and fiery leader. Cook had been anchored but a week at Matavai when news was brought of a fresh flare up when 'Otoos friends' on Moorea 'had been obliged to fly to the Mountains'. He was present at a long debate at Tu's house, when it was decided to despatch a strong avenging force—to which, he managed to make plain in his halting Tahitian, he could contribute no aid. Nor could the later eloquence of Tu's father convert him. To'ofa was absent from the meeting, but acting independently to ensure success, killed a man for sacrifice to Oro, the god of war, and sent to demand Tu's presence at that god's marae at Utuaimahurau on the southern coast of the island. Tu agreed that Cook should accompany him, and they set out immediately in Cook's pinnace with Anderson, Webber and Omai following in a canoe. On the way they called on To'ofa who was to be absent himself, but gave Tu some feathers and 'a lean half-starved dog' for additional sacrifice. When they arrived at the marae, on a small point of land, the seamen were confined to the boat, while Cook, Anderson and Webber had to doff their hats. Before them were many men, some boys, no women; priests, attendants, the great sacrificial drums and those who beat them; the bruised corpse trussed to a pole in a small canoe at the seas edge, some miserable man caught unawares and felled with a stone. The ceremony began at once, a long and complicated affair of prayers and invocations, the production of symbolical articles, the symbolical 'eating' of one of the victim's eyes by Tu, the offering to Oro of red feathers, some of the victim's hairs, the dog's entrails, the sounding of the drums. A kingfisher, the sacred bird, made a noise in the trees: 'It is the atua', the god, Tu told Cook. A hole was dug and the dead man buried in it. A boy called out shrilly to the atua to eat of the sacrificed dog. The day ended. The next morning there were further ceremonies: renewed offerings of red feathers; the sacrifice of a pig; the careful unwrapping of the 'royal' maro of red and yellow feathers fixed to tapa cloth and edged with black; the partial unwrapping of what Cook called the 'ark' of the atua, a page 554 bundle containing something he was not allowed to see, so sacred was it—a simple object of twisted and woven coconut fibre, representing the god—and its re-wrapping with the latest offerings of red feathers added.

To all these proceedings Cook was very attentive. His description of them stands beside that of the inasi as an unpretentious classic of anthropological observation.1 Those sinister sacrificial drums, it might almost be said, throbbed round Europe, which found the paradisal island rather unpleasantly stained with blood. Nor had the eyes or the pencil of Webber been idle: he was to produce a picture that even more, in its way, became a classic, of Pacific illustration. That was for the future, but the first two days of September would remain in their minds. They went back to the ship, with Tu in company. They called again on To‘ofa. He had the morning before tried to enlist Cook as an ally, and been angered by refusal—the refusal of a professed friend to take part in his war! Now he tried again, and was even more angered by the same reply. Well, then: how did Cook like the ceremony he had just seen? Cook, having Omai to help him, did not hesitate to say that he disliked it extremely, and that the atua was much more likely to reward it with defeat than victory. This was not an entirely uncalculated answer; for he had noticed that in relation to these hostilities there were three parties, those in favour, those who strongly supported Mahine, and the third perfectly indifferent; and this being so, there was unlikely to be a satisfactory war effort. When Omai, entering into the spirit of the matter, explained that in England a chief guilty of having a man treated so would be hanged To‘ofa was outraged beyond endurance: ‘Ma ino, ma ino’—‘Vile, vile’! he bawled (we have Cook's authority for the word), and the company broke up. To‘ofa seems to have been frequently an angry man.

The days passed, without great event involving Cook. There was some pilfering, but not beyond control, and Tu was instrumental in having stolen articles returned. He himself and other chiefs were sometimes victims, and applied to have boxes or chests made for them, with locks, on the model of a few which the Spaniards had left, to keep their valuables safe, and Cook was glad enough to oblige them. Presents of food-stuffs continued, and there were large presents of fine cloth, wrapped ornamentally in the native manner round handsome girls, who were then led on board. Some of the dishes drew forth Cook's admiration: in the course of his life he ate so much that could be recommended as food only because it was

1 Journals III, 199–204; and for Anderson's account, 978–84.

page 555 fresh that it is pleasant to find him as gourmet. On the first voyage he had spoken highly of baked Tahitian dog; in these weeks he describes with a sort of affection the whole making of a quite elaborate pudding or poe, and adds, 'Some of these puddings are excellent, we can make few in England that equals them, I seldom or never dined without one when I could get it, for they were not always to be got.'1 Omai entertained royal and naval guests at a dinner-party. Omai dressed up in his suit of armour. Tu's sisters appeared elegantly as actresses in a play. Fireworks caused both delight and alarm. When Cook and Clerke took to riding the horses about the flat ground at Matavai there was general astonishment and pleasure; for though Omai had tried thus to exhibit his skill he had always fallen off. Horses, and this use made of them, says Cook, 'I think … gave them a better idea of the greatness of other Nations than all the other things put together that had been carried amongst them.'2 Cook handed over the remaining stock, a ram and ewes. He inspected another embalmed chiefly corpse. The young New Zealanders enjoyed themselves hugely.
Argument continued about the war. Cook would have attended a second human sacrifice with Tu if he had heard about it in time; the unenthusiastic Tu refused to provide a victim himself for a third. To‘ofa, in a burst of impatience, with one or two equally belligerent friends, took a fleet over to Moorea, got into difficulties, and bombarded Tu with demands for assistance—which, though the bay was full of his war canoes, he still withheld. At least he was obliging enough to detach two of these canoes, himself and Cook in one of them, and demonstrate for Cook's information the tactics of a sea-fight. Then, just as Cook found all his work on the ships done, had loaded the observatories and instruments and bent the sails—it was the end of the third week of September—and was fixing a day for departure; at the very moment, indeed, when, that settled, he was stepping into his boat to watch a great review at Pare of Tu's fleet, the news arrived that To‘ofa, lacking the help of this fleet, had been forced to make a truce, upon poor terms. The review was cancelled. Controversy and rumour grew excited. It was all Tu's fault. No, argued Tu's father: had not Cook agreed to transport Tu and his whole family to Moorea at the very same time as the fleet went? To‘ofa was to blame. To‘ofa and Vehiatua, it was said, would join in falling upon Tu in vengeance. Cook thought he, Tu's friend, might go so far as to threaten that in that case he would take vengeance himself on all implicated, when he returned to the island;

1 Journals III, 207.

2 ibid., 209.

page 556 and as a peace-making move this flight of imagination was perhaps justified.

Friendship was evident in another direction. A message came for Tu to be present yet again, next day, at Utuaimahurau, this time for a peace-making ceremony, and Cook was invited. He could not go, he was 'much out of order', but would send King and Omai instead. With him on his return to the ship went Tu's mother and three sisters, and eight other women, who announced their intention of staying all night and curing his disorder, some sort of severe rheumatism on one side. They fell on him simultaneously, as many as could get at him, with the massage called rumi, squeezing him 'with both hands from head to foot, but more especially the parts where the pain was, till they made my bones crack and a perfect Mummy of my flesh—in short after being under their hands about a quarter of an hour I was glad to get away from them.'1 But it gave him relief, and after three more of these assaults he was cured. A day later the party returned from the peace negotiations, or celebrations, the account of which given by King proved that he was an observer not unworthy of Cook.

Although Cook felt he should go, he was still rather reluctant. For the main purpose of his voyage he had time in hand; there were still such quantities of provisions coming forward in this season that he did not need to go to other islands for them, and by now he understood the system of bartering 'presents' so well as to make it a mode of reasonably fair exchange; the trickster's side of Tu, his meanness (he levied toll every morning on the girls coming away from the ships or the tents) did not annul his utility as a chief of power. The complicating factor was Omai. He had to be deposited at some place which would offer him and the two boys the prospect of a tolerable life; he had rejected Tahiti and certainly the people there had had enough of him, unless they could have got hold of his remaining treasures, on which Cook had kept a strict eye. The only profitable exchange he had made himself was with To‘ofa, a handful of red feathers for a fine double sailing canoe, round which he hung as many flags and pendants and streamers as he could summon up. Cook also could have taken away a canoe, if there had been any way conveying it, a sixteen-foot well-carved va‘a—not a war canoe—which Tu wanted to give to the monarch of Britain, as the only thing he could send worth His Majesty's acceptance. It was true that His Majesty had been generous to him; Cook was none the less highly pleased. Tu gave Cook a list of the presents he wished the ari'i rahi no

1 Journals III, 214.

page 557 Pretane to send him next time. Cook got from Tu four goats, two for Raiatea, which had none, and two for any other island he might meet with on his passage to the north. Cook had Webber paint his portrait, and gave it to Tu, perhaps as a parting gift. He does not mention this himself, but we know it was done; for it was recognised in later years by visiting seamen, some of whom had sailed on this voyage.1 We should like to see it too, though Webber's portraits of Cook are not ingratiating. It had its adventures, was for a while snatched away by To‘ofa and Mahine, who in the mutabilities of politics had joined forces as enemies of Tu; sank out of sight and no doubt has long since rotted away.

Light westerly breezes and calms detained the ships in the bay a few days longer. At length in the afternoon of 29 September an easterly sprang up, Matavai Bay was saluted with seven guns, Cook obliged Tu with a short run out to sea, and then bore away for Moorea.

One may find it rather odd, as Cook did himself, that he had not before visited this high island, so close to Tahiti and from it visually so striking. He had been told that there were no harbours, which could have been easily enough verified: in fact there were on the north side two excellent harbours, easily accessible through the reef, and others on the eastern coast. One wishes, now that he did pay his visit, that the episode had not happened; for it left him with regrets. It leaves the reader of his journal both regretful and baffled, as at some odd unintelligible phenomenon.

The canoe-borne Omai had preceded him, and marked his way through the reef. He entered Mahine's harbour, the more western of the two, and sailing right up to its head, anchored so close to the shore that he could moor the ships to the hibiscus trees, with the pure water of several rivulets flowing into the bay near by. He looked on this place with a severely practical eye, as 'not inferior to any harbour I have met with in any of the islands' for security 'and the goodness of its bottom'—which hardly conveys an idea of the immensity of the backdrop to the calm sheet of water; for in this dead volcano

1 Bligh saw it in 1788. 'Captn. Cooks Picture which was left by him in 1777 and drawn by Mr Webber was brought to me, With a request to repair it. They said it came from Otoo, that it was Toote Errie no Otaheite. They said Toote told Otoo when he gave it him, that when his son came out he must show it him, and they would always be good Friends, Excepting a little of the background [of] the Picture being eat off, it was not at all defaced. The frame wanted a little repair and as all came within my abilities I assured them it should be done and they left it.'—Log of the Bounty, I, 372–3. Cook's midshipman John Watts, when lieutenant in the Lady Penrhyn, homeward bound from Botany Bay, also revisited Tahiti in 1788, before Bligh, and had seen the picture.—Phillip, Voyage to Botany Bay (1789), 233–4.

page 558 strange peaks and buttresses, fire-blasted walls of rock, reach into the sky as if here the world had blown up, and the world's greenness were forever to fall back defeated. But below the heights the green grows thick enough, peaks sink into slopes, the curve of the bay reaches gently to the outer lagoon. It was the bay of Opunohu. Cook called it 'Taloo', getting the name from that of a rock, Tareu, near its mouth; it has acquired the later name of Papetoai; Webber did his best with it in terms of wild romance.1 The ships were here for ten days. A sort of landing stage was set up, in the hope that some of the Resolution's too many rats would take advantage of it. Hogs, breadfruit and coconuts were plentiful. The purau, or hibiscus, made good firewood, and they loaded up with it. The islanders set no value on it, and no wood had been obtained at Tahiti: 'the geting it at that island is attended with some difficulty, as there is not a tree at Matavai but what is usefull to the Inhabitants.'2 The humane man speaks.
This was the bay where To‘ofa had so recently brought his fleet, and it carried the obvious signs of invasion. There was a suspicion on shore, not unnaturally, that Cook, the friend of Tahitian chiefs, might have come in their support. On the second day only did Mahine, rather hesitantly, visit the captain—a middle-aged chief with what was most unusual in the islands, a bald head, covered by a sort of turban. Was this because the story of shaven heads as a punishment for thieves had spread? Cook noticed that those of his officers who were short of hair had doubtful glances directed at them. In the obligatory, though not extravagant, exchange of presents Mahine got a morning gown, printed all over with large flowers, for which he returned a hog. Amity, Cook thought, was sealed. For a few days all was peace and goodwill, and he put his remaining goats ashore to graze, bringing them off again at night. Mahine asked for two of them. This Cook's plans for the other islands did not allow, but he sent Tu a request, accompanied by still more red feathers, to oblige Mahine with a pair. The fatal 6 October came. A man who shared the charge of the animals took something by force from a native; the native in simple revenge filched a young goat. It had been taken to Mahine, so the story went; Cook chose to fasten the responsibility on him, and next morning sent him a threatening message, demanding both the goat and the criminal. He also put the goats on shore again, and in the evening another was skilfully

1 The neighbouring bay Paopao has no right to the name Cook's Bay which has been given to it.

2 Journals III, 232.

page 559 snatched away, as the first was being returned. The thief, coming voluntarily with it, and explaining the circumstances was rather surprised to find himself in irons, though he was later released. Cook, now convinced of Mahine's turpitude, was determined to have this second goat back. He began, acting on information that was dubiously correct, by sending two midshipmen to the other side of the island to claim it. That was Wednesday the 8th. They returned at nightfall without it. Cook was afflicted by a mixture of feelings, of the sort that brings satisfaction to no one. 'I was now very sorry I had proceeded so far, as I could not retreat with any tolerable credet, and without giving incouragement to the people of the other islands we had yet to visit to rob us with impunity.'1 He applied to Omai (a measure of his desperation) and some elders who had already advised him for suggestions on what to do next; 'they without hesitation, advised me to go with a party of men into the country, and shoot every Soul I met with.'2

'This bloody advice', says Cook, 'I could not follow', but he behaved as if a cold rage had taken possession of him. On Thursday the 9th he marched a strong party right over the island, a hot and wearing journey, burning houses and war-canoes, and being met on the other side by Williamson with three armed boats; on Friday the 10th he warned Mahine by messenger that if the goat were not delivered up he would not leave a canoe on the island, and broke up three or four on the beach at once, taking the timber to build a house for Omai. Then he went to the neighbouring harbour of Paopao and burnt on broke up twice as many, as well as houses. Omai and the sailors took an enthusiastic part in the destruction, and plundered with joy. When he got back to Opunohu in the evening the goat was there. 'Thus the troublesome, and rather unfortunate affair ended, which could not be more regreted on the part of the Natives than it was on mine.'3 No doubt this was his conclusion; but some of his men, as at Tonga, were troubled. Why had he not taken a chief as a hostage? Why should this people, having suffered from To'ofa, suffer also from them? Canoes were laboriously built. Clerke summed up the case for destruction: 'every social attention … the Devil put it in their Heads, to fall in Love with the Goats … strange perverseness … foolish and unaccountable.'4 The sorrowful King was candid on the other side.

1 ibid., 229.

2 ibid.

3 ibid., 231–2.

4 More at length—' … these good people, whose ridiculous conduct in stealing those Goats, and most absurd obstinacy in keeping them, has brought upon them such damages, inflicted as retaliation and punishment, as they will not recover from these many months to come; but it was wholly their own seeking; we sollicited their friendship at our arrival by every social attention, and were upon the best of Terms, till the Devil put it in their Heads, to fall in Love with the Goats: when they had taken these, every gentle method was tryed to recover them, and the consequences of their obstinacy, very clearly and repeatedly explained to them, before any destructive Step was taken; but their strange perverscness in this Business, is I think equally foolish and unaccountable.'—Journals III, 232, n. 1.

page 560
Not being able to account for Capn Cooks precipitate proceeding in this business, I cannot think it justifiable; less destructive measures might have been adopted & the end gain'd, whether it was simply to get what was of little value or Consequence back again or in future to deter them from thefts; I doubt whether our Ideas of propriety in punishing so many innocent people for the crimes of a few, will be ever reconcileable to any principle one can form of justice.1

Next morning friendship seemed to be restored, to judge from the amount of fruit brought early to barter. We may doubt its reality: 'in future they may fear, but never love us', King had added. But there was not time for proof. Cook had been delayed three days beyond his intention. That same morning he put out for Huahine.

It was but a twenty-four hours' passage to Fare harbour. This did not give time enough for Cook's passion to die down entirely. We have King again: 'Just before we got in the harbour, an indian we had brought from Eimaio had been caught with something he had stolen, on which the Captain in a Passion ordered the Barber to shave his head & cut off his ears.'2 The barber having finished the head was about to start on the ears when an officer standing by (one thinks of King himself) convinced that the rage would have passed, sent him to have his orders confirmed, and the man was made to swim ashore with the loss of only one lobe. But this did not mean a permanent return to gentleness, as will be seen; and the passengers from Moorea—mainly Tahitian women determined to cling to their sailor friends until the last possible moment—creating by their heightened stories of the destruction there a great effect on the people who crowded the ships, may have helped to persuade the captain that he had done well. Apart from his friend the old chief Ori, he was not fond of the anarchic robbers of Huahine; perhaps they would now behave a little better than they had done in the past. It was important that they should do so; for he had determined that if he could make suitable arrangements, he must deposit Omai here. Omai, he thought, had become more prudent since his self-induced misfortunes at Tahiti, but not so prudent that, with his announced ambitions, it would be safe to leave him on his home island of Raiatea.

1 Journals III, 1383.

2 ibid. Bayly noted (13 October) Cook 'a little indisposed at present'. ibid., 233, n. 4.

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28. The Fourth Earl Sandwich, by Thomas Gainsborough

28. The Fourth Earl Sandwich, by Thomas Gainsborough

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29. Stählin's map of Russian discoveries, 1774 In An Account of the New Northern Archipelago (London, 1774), by Jacob von Stählin

29. Stählin's map of Russian discoveries, 1774 In An Account of the New Northern Archipelago (London, 1774), by Jacob von Stählin

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30a. Captain James King, after Samuel Shelley Medallion engraving by L. Hogg

30a. Captain James King, after Samuel Shelley Medallion engraving by L. Hogg

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31. Christmas Harbour, Kerguelen's Land Water-colour drawing by William Ellis

31. Christmas Harbour, Kerguelen's Land Water-colour drawing by William Ellis

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32. 'Cook's interview with Natives in Adventure Bay, Van Diemen's Land, 29 January 1777' Unsigned drawing

32. 'Cook's interview with Natives in Adventure Bay, Van Diemen's Land, 29 January 1777' Unsigned drawing

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33. Cook in Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand Water-colour drawing by Webber

33. Cook in Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand Water-colour drawing by Webber

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34. A Tongan Dance Drawing by Webber

34. A Tongan Dance Drawing by Webber

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35. 'A Human Sacrifice, in a Morai, in Otaheite' Drawing by Webber

35. 'A Human Sacrifice, in a Morai, in Otaheite' Drawing by Webber

page 561 His father's land was occupied by Borabora people who, Cook thought would be willing to leave amicably. Ignoble, thought Omai: he preferred to arrive as a patriot and a conqueror, and drive all Borabora usurpers off by force of musket, pistol and his suit of armour. There were many, even in Huahine, who looked forward to this entertainment, for the depredations of the Borabora men had not made them loved. Cook would have none of it. Omai's duty, in spite of his armament, was to cultivate the arts of peace; or, if he could cultivate no art, at least to be peaceful.

Although Ori the old chief had been deprived of power and was now at Raiatea the arrival of the ships had brought all the principal people together, and they were more important for Cook's purpose than the new titular ari'i rahi of the island, a boy eight or ten years old. After the ceremonies, usual at Huahine, of presentations to the gods as well as the chief, made as impressive by Omai as possible, Cook came at once to the point. He wanted properly conducted relations, he wanted them to make over a piece of land for Omai's settlement, failing which Cook would carry him on to Raiatea, but he would neither aid nor permit any action against the Borabora people. A spokesman rose up and announced with magnificent hyperbole that the whole island and everything in it was Cook's: let him give Omai what he liked. Omai was delighted. Cook preferred something less expansive, and finally a piece of land on the shore of the harbour, something over two hundred yards square, was settled on, at the exchange rate of fifteen axes, with beads and other trifles. In the next few days the ships' carpenters were set to putting up a house, while other hands planted shaddocks, the rescued vines from Tahiti, pine-apples, melons and other desirable vegetables, and nearby Cook established his observatories and trading post. The house was built with as few nails as possible, as a precaution against its being pulled down for their sake; and Cook, thinking of the belongings he had preserved for Omai, and the envy they would bring him, advised him to cultivate some of the most important chiefs by sharing a part of them out as an insurance premium; adding a statement for general consumption that when in due course he came back there would certainly be weighty resentment shown if Omai were worse off. Omai was sensible enough to take his advice; sensible enough also to trade back to the ships a number of the articles for which neither he nor the otherwise rapturously gazing multitude had a use. He kept the barrel organ and the compass and the toys, but as for the wares of British domesticity—he 'now found that a baked hog eat better than a boiled one, that a plantain leafe page 562 made as good a dish or plate as pewter and that a Cocoanut shell was as good to drink out of as a black-jack'; and he went for hatchets.

Omai was concerned in another matter, which proved troublesome. More than a week went by before anything appreciable was stolen—a week in which, apart from building and planting, the only notable event was a tremendous but unavailing onslaught on the Resolution's cockroaches—and then on the evening of the 22nd a sextant was taken from Bayly's observatory. A dramatic performance was in progress: Cook put a stop to it and again threatened punishment worse than that at Moorea if both sextant and thief were not delivered up. The criminal, pointed out sitting calmly in the audience denied the crime; Omai flourished a sword and said he would run him through; the chiefs all fled; Cook, a little in doubt, sent the man on board the ship and put him in irons. Omai, by threats and promises wormed a confession out of him, and in the morning the sextant was found unharmed where he had hidden it. He appeared to be 'a hardened Scounderal', says Cook; 'I punished him with greater severity than I had ever done any one before and then dismiss'd him.'1 That is, this time the man was both shaved and lost his ears. He was not deterred from thoughts of revenge; next night he fell on Omai's garden and destroyed vines and cabbages, following this up with a public promise to kill the owner and burn his house as soon as the ships were gone. Omai may well have been perturbed; for the man was from Borabora and had followers. Cook seized him and put him in irons again, with a view to deporting him from the island, at which the Huahine people were not displeased. Others expected to see him shot. In the early morning of the 30th the sentry standing over him, and the whole watch on the quarterdeck, went to sleep, and he escaped clean away. Cook concluded that he had been able to reach the binnacle drawer, where the key of the irons was kept, and release himself; and Cook was undoubtedly in a fury. Harvey, the mate of the watch, veteran of both the previous voyages, was disrated to midshipman and sent on board the Discovery out of his sight; Mackay the midshipman turned before the mast; Morris the marine, the sentry, given a dozen strokes of the lash on three successive days.

By the end of the month Omai was installed in his new house, and again giving dinner parties to the officers, who were quite willing to help him 'drink his wine out.' Besides his New Zealanders he had accumulated retainers at Tahiti and Huahine, so he would not lack for company; and Cook, getting all the ships' belongings on board,

1 Journals III, 236.

page 563 left with him the horse and mare, a goat and an English boar and sows, as well as some powder and shot for his firearms. This made him happy, though Cook was not happy to see him with firearms at all. A method was devised by which, through sending coloured beads to the ships at Raiatea, he could signify whether his affairs went well or not. One object of the voyage had been accomplished. An inscription was cut on one end of the house recording the ships' visit. On the afternoon of 2 November they sailed with an easterly breeze. Cook conscientiously searched for the best he could say of Omai, as he recorded this last day. 'Whatever faults this Indian had they were more than over ballanced by his great good Nature and docile disposition, during the whole time he was with me I very seldom had reason to find fault with his conduct. His gratifull heart always retained the highest sence of the favours he received in England nor will he ever forget those who honoured him with their protection and friendship during his stay there. He had a tolerable share of understanding…. He was not a man of much observation….'1 He wanted to preserve his glory of being a great traveller; 'he frequently put me in mind that Lord Sandwich told him no more were to come.' Indeed Cook wanted no more visitors from the islands, though if he had been able to see the least chance of a ship going out to New Zealand he would gladly have taken the two boys, who both wished for it. The older, obviously a youth of parts, mild, friendly and dignified, accepted his fate with philosophical grief; the younger, that witty jackanapes and general favourite, had to be parted from the ship by force. As for Omai, he went round both ships bidding farewell—a 'very Afecting Scean', wrote Bayly; for after all he was a friend, manly sorrow did not scorn to weep, it was a weeping age. Omai, though a participant, maintained a measure of sobriety until he came to Cook, when his tears quite overmastered him. The ship was outside the reef before he left her.
Cook wanted to make a last call at Raiatea. He rounded its southern end as usual and was soon off his old harbour at Haamanino, at the northern end of the west coast. The wind blew right out of the entrance, as it always did for him, and it took the whole afternoon of 3 November to warp the ships in. While still anchored off the entrance he was visited by the chief Orio, accompanied by his young son and his son-in-law, husband of the beautiful and well-remembered 'princess', Poetua; and as soon as the ships were inside, there was the usual circle of canoes filled with people, hogs and

1 ibid., 240–1.

page 564 fruit, the promise of endless plenty. How long he expected to stay at this island we do not know, but he was to be there a full month and over, a period which could have been extremely pleasant had it not been cluttered up with two periods of desertion; and desertions always gave trouble which could be well done without. He began by repeating the rat operation he had tried at Moorea, mooring the ship head and stern close to the harbour shore on the north side and building a stage, while Clerke did the same opposite. Orio and his family, male and female, were entertained. Not merely did the chief take away presents, but the ladies rejoiced in red feathers, handkerchiefs, gauze, ribbands and beads. The instruments and observatories went on shore and a long series of observations were put in hand by Cook, Bayly and King. Two of Omai's people arrived bearing beads which signified that all was well with him, except that his goat had died in kidding, and he wanted two more, and two more axes. They were sent him. The hardened scoundrel from Huahine, Omai's enemy, turned up casually, announcing that all was now well between them, and pointed out one of the 'young gentlemen' who, he said, had released him from his irons on the night of his escape; the unfortunate sentry may have been too precipitately lashed. We do not know if this arrived at Cook's ears; he preferred to ignore the man. Ori the old friend more than once paid a call, with a train of followers though now 'a private gentleman' only and not a reigning chief. And, we learn from Samwell, 'great Numbers of fine Girls came on board.'

Fine girls on board were not, it seems, enough. Another sentry got into trouble. Just before midnight between the 12th and 13th, the time of his relief, John Harrison, marine, of the Resolution, vanished from his post at the observatories and took his arms with him. When morning came Cook got news which way he had gone and sent a party after him, unsuccessfully. The following morning Orio was asked, and promised, to apprehend him; but did not. That day some thefts were committed, and most of the people, including Orio, fled in fear of reprisals. This was the time, thought Cook, to insist on the delivery of the deserter and the following morning himself set off with two armed boats and a native guide for the other side of the island, where he heard that Harrison had taken refuge. He picked up Orio on the way, and leaving the boats, 'marched briskly' up to surprise the stronghold. Needless: the only person surprised was poor Harrison, at his ease in a native house in native dress between two women. It is possible that Cook did not find this little excursion unpleasant; for he uses calm language. The two women page 565 rose up to plead for their friend; 'but as it was necessary to descourage such proceedings, I frown'd upon them and bid them begone, at which they burst into tears and walked off.'1 The peace offering of the local chief was equally abruptly rejected, the captain immediately returned with his prisoner, and 'harmony was again restored.' Harrison, a simple person, explained himself to Cook, and at greater length to others. His particular trouble was, put briefly, 'the engaging females'.2 It will be recollected that Cook, though he would not tolerate desertion, was not altogether unsympathetic to deserters; and this time, considering that the man had stayed at his post almost until relieved, he inflicted only a moderate punishment.

Not every sailor was moved purely by female blandishments. The idyllic life had other aspects, and there were many invitations quite pressing. There must, after so many weeks in the islands, have been a great deal of talk—of what Alexander Home called 'the spirit of Desertion'. Cook felt it necessary to harangue his crew again. We have more than one witness to this occasion: perhaps the best is the admiring, slightly incoherent Home.

Upon the discovery of this spirit of desertion Captain Cook Turned his men up and Made a Long speech on that head. He Made use both of Entreateys and Threats and with a Deal of Art and Eloquence, for he could speak much to the purpose but this was but one of the Smallest Ackomplishments of that Excellent man. Amoungst Other things he told them they Might run off if they pleased. But they might Depend upon it he would Recover them again: that in Such a Case he had Nothing to do but to seize their Chiefs and although they Might like them very well to stay Amoungst them yet he knew for certain that they liked their Cheifs far better and Indeed with such a degree of partiality that they would Not give A Cheif for A Hundred of us, and they all Must know that his Authority over these Isles was so great that Never Man had a people More under his Command or At his Devotion. They Might fly if they pleased to Omiah King Ottou or to the Most distant Country known to these people. His authority would bring them back and Dead or Alive he'd have them.3
These arguments, hard upon the example of John Harrison, seemed unassailable. 'Every man was Convinced and how so ever great Our inclination Might be to taste of these Joys and Bliss that seemed More than Mortal all hopes was now given over.' All hopes in the Resolution, perhaps; but not in the Discovery, where Clerke had made no tremendous speech. On the night of the 23rd Alexander Mouat,

1 Journals III, 244.

2 The phrase is that of William Griffin, the Resolution's cooper.—ibid., 247, n. 1, in which note are quoted other tributes.

3 ibid., cxiii, from the Ms in the National Library of Australia, Canberra.

page 566 a romantic midshipman aged 16, and Thomas Shaw the gunner's mate went off in a canoe with a Tahitian, taking some provisions and a pistol; their idea seems to have been to get round the north of Raiatea to Huahine, the seat of Mouat's love, or even to Tahiti.

Mouat was the son of Captain Mouat of the navy, who had commanded one of Byron's ships, and to Cook's determination to recover a deserter were added both a wish to stop a young man, however foolish, from blasting his life and a sense of duty to a brother officer. Clerke, although ill, first went fruitlessly with two armed boats and a party of marines to the northern part of the island. Cook then took on the chase, having been told the two had moved to Tahaa, the island a mile or two north of Raiatea, and within the same reef. His expedition also was fruitless; they had fled to Borabora. It was now the 25th. Next morning Orio, his son, daughter and son-in-law came on board the Resolution. Cook passed word to Clerke, who was also there, to invite the young people on board his ship and make them hostages, and Orio was invited to secure their release by reclaiming the deserters. He was not, thought Cook, who suspected him of general enticement, being unduly put upon in thus being made responsible; and he did immediately despatch a canoe to Puni, the great chief of Borabora, with the request to seize the men, wherever they were, and send them back. To keep track of everybody else, the ships' companies were mustered morning and evening. Meanwhile a different drama had begun to centre on the Discovery. Poetua of the conquering charms, her husband and her brother were all three particular friends of Clerke, and in no fear for their safety settled down comfortably in the great cabin with a sentry at the door; but outside the forces of formal distress were released. It is imperative to use the words of Clerke.

The News of their Confinement of course was blaz'd instantaneously throughout the Isle; old Oreo was half mad, and within an hour afterwards we had a most numerous Congregation of Women under the Stern, cutting their Heads with Sharks Teeth and lamenting the Fate of the Prisoners, in so melancholy a howl, as render'd the Ship whilst it lasted, which was 2 or 3 Hours, a most wretched Habitation; nobody cou'd help in some measure being affected by it; it destroyed the spirits of the Prisoners altogether, who lost all their Chearfullness and joined in this cursed dismal Howl, I made use of every method I cou'd suggest to get them away, but all to no purpose, there they wou'd stand and bleed and cry, till their Strength was exhausted, and they cou'd act the farce no longer. When we got rid of these Tragedians, I soon recover'd my Friends and we set down to Dinner together very chearfully.1

1 Journals III, 1318.

page 567

Thereafter half a dozen old women came daily with 'a little serenade', but the main action was on shore, and principally on this first day.

If one could plot, thought Orio, another could counter-plot; hostages could be taken on both sides. He knew that Cook went unarmed every evening to bathe in fresh water, and that Clerke was then generally taking a walk. But Cook this day decided not to bathe, although invited to repeatedly by Orio; and Clerke, walking with Gore, was playing visibly, though idly, with a pistol, and even shot at a tree. The ambush retired. Suddenly the people about the harbour and in the canoes began to move off, on the assumption that somebody had been seized and there would be vengeance; while a Huahine girl, the mistress of an officer, 'a Fat Jolly good Natured gir' who had heard of the plot and disliked fighting, had warned the Discovery. Those on board called out to Cook on shore: he instantly sent an armed party to rescue Clerke and Gore, and ordered the boats to cut off fleeing canoes from leaving the bay.1 Within a few minutes the news that the tables had been thus turned was contradicted, the armed party and the boats were recalled, and the surprised and unsuspecting gentlemen returned from their walk. Orio then took seriously the return of the fugitives, and, a little alarmed at the delay, set out for Borabora himself. They had fled even further than that island, to the islet of Tupai, about seven miles north-west of it, where Puni's men had seized them. Orio returned with them on the 30th. Clerke gave Shaw two dozen lashes as soon as he came on board, sent Mouat before the mast, and put them both in irons for the time the ship should remain in harbour. Shaw was released earlier and excused from further punishment on the petition of his shipmates, who promised immaculate behaviour in return. The three hostages were presented to their rejoicing friends. There were threats that the Huahine girl would be killed; her friends therefore removed her from the ship one night and hid her until she could be sent back to her own island. The episode was over, after giving Cook, so he said, more trouble and vexation than the men were

1 We hear of another prospective desertion from Samwell.—‘It is something remarkable that at this time another of the Discovery's People was on the point of deserting and had just embarked in a Canoe for that purpose, when hearing our Boats firing after the Canoes which were paddling out of the Bay & seeing them pull after them immediately concluded they were in pursuit of him, & therefore paddled ashore as fast as he could where joining those people who were going to Captn Clerke's Assistance, he went on board the Ship again witht being in the least suspected of the Design he had just been attempting to put in Execution, & it was not till some time after that he informed his Shipmates of it.' A few days later Samwell himself and a friend, bathing alongside their vessel, took it into their heads to swim ashore, where they informed the people they had deserted, but received scant sympathy and were told to go back again.—ibid., 1077, 1078.

page 568 worth. Orio might have been inclined to say the same thing for himself. Clerke and his guests remained on the warmest terms of friendship.

The ships had already been moved from their moorings, and there was nothing but the wind to keep them longer in harbour. Hulls, masts, yards, rigging, sails had all been overhauled. The lamenting women—‘our Otaheite sweethearts’1—were all sent away, loaded with their lovers' gifts. The last presents had been given—the goats saved from Moorea, an English boar and sow to improve the native breed (before long the native breed all through the islands was improved out of existence). Never had a crew been better fed for weeks on end: until the last day the hogs and plantains came tumbling in—indeed so many hogs were here obtained that quantities had to be salted down. The ships' bread had already been picked over and the rotten part destroyed at Tahiti and Huahine. What could be done to drive away the vermin had been done. No complaints are extant on the deprivation of grog. Both ships' companies were not only well-fed but healthy, except for the wretched gonorrhea they had given and acquired from Tahiti, and a little 'yellow jaundice' which is hard to account for.2 There were two other exceptions to the clean bill of health, and in neither did the sensual island joys play a part: they were the doomed men Anderson and Clerke. Clerke's uncertainty of health was obvious; Anderson could tell very well what was wrong with him, and Anderson had no illusion about himself. We have a story, which there is no reason to disbelieve, from Burney, who had it from Anderson. At Tahiti, records Burney,

Anderson represented to Captain Clerke their inability to encounter the severities of a frozen climate, and they mutually agreed to ask leave of Captain Cook to resign their situations, that they might remain where they were, and trust themselves to the care of the natives, as the only hope left them of being restored to health. When the time approached for the ships to sail, Captain Clerke's papers and accounts were not in order; and as we were next bound to Huaheine, one of the Society Islands, it might answer their purpose as well to quit the ship there as at Otaheite. At Huaheine, the same thing happened, and the execution of their plan was deferred to our going to Ulietea, the next island. At Ulietea, the ships remained above a month; but that time did not suffice Captain Clerke for the settlement of his accounts. As Captain Cook proposed to stop at Bolabola, the last of

1 The phrase is Samwell's.—ibid., 1078.

2 Nor, probably, did it last long. The information comes from Bayly, 13 October, just after they had arrived at Huahine: 'Omi is very ill at present & Capt Cook is a little indisposed at present… We have 1/2 of our people ill with the fowl disease & 4 or 5 has had the Yallow jaundice.'—ibid., 233, n. 4. Nobody else mentions Omai's illness, and the nature of Cook's indisposition is undefined.

page 569 the Society Islands, Mr. Anderson consented to the postponement of their intention to our arrival at that place; and there I believe Captain Clerke, if the opportunity had not failed, would have really landed and settled.1

This is not a story of mutiny. Anderson, not yet thirty, able and clearsighted, might well have thought the chance of life and scientific work in the islands worth taking; Clerke might well have been moved by the arguments of so rational a man. Then why, in all those weeks, could Clerke not get his papers and accounts into order? The task could not have been so formidable; Gore, who would have succeeded him, would have had no difficulty in understanding them, and would have made an adequate commander of the Discovery. It is improbable, one feels, that Clerke was really willing to leave his ship: probable from what we know of him, that what he failed to master was not his accounts but his sense of duty and his loyalty to his own commander.

It is true that Cook intended to stay a day or two at Borabora, previously unvisited by him. He had heard that the chief Puni had one of the anchors lost by Bougainville at Hitiaa in Tahiti in 1768. This he hoped to acquire, not for use as an anchor, but as old iron which could be converted by the armourer into hatchets and other articles of trade. When, therefore, after a week of waiting, on 7 December a light north-easterly breeze at last sprang up, he set all the boats to towing and, once outside the harbour, steered for Borabora, high-peaked, steep and craggy.

He gave Orio and half-a-dozen other Raiateans a passage with him, most of them sorry they were not getting a passage to England. He tacked all night off the south end of Borabora, with its reef and breaking sea; and in the early morning the wind fell scant, so that, short as the passage was in miles, the day had well begun before he was off the harbour of Teavanui, on the westernside. It is a good, deep, and sheltered harbour, but tide as well as wind were against him. After some trial, he abandoned the idea of taking the ships in, and rowed in with the boats. Puni that great man was waiting on the beach in the midst of a large crowd. Cook, after paying his respects, came straight to the point; for, as he was not staying, he thought he had not time to lose. Borabora had been outside the lines of trade, and the variety of presents he set out produced a sensation; Puni positively refused to accept them until Cook had seen what he was getting in return. It was certainly only a portion of an anchor; nevertheless it was a lump of iron and he was glad to have it, and

1 Burney, Chronological History of North-Eastern Voyages of Discovery (London, 1819), 233–4.

page 570 going for it himself where it lay, he sent Puni the whole intended gift and returned at once on board. Having heard from young Mouat that a Spanish ram had somehow got to the island he put on shore also a ewe from the Cape of Good Hope, hoisted in the boats, and at once made sail to the north. So brief was the visit that we are left with no impression of Puni, the redoubtable conqueror, or his island. Neither Clerke nor Anderson landed; nor is it likely that Clerke, if he had not settled his accounts by the time he sailed from Raiatea, would have done so by the time he reached Borabora. He had his rendezvous on the coast of New Albion.

It may be that Cook was struck with a sudden impatience. He had lost a season, but he was early with the new season, and he would waste none of it. His men were refreshed. There was a great amount of ocean still to be crossed, and beyond it waited the coast of America. It may even be that as he gave the order to steer north, he had the sense of relief. That was not the sense that attended the generality of the ships' companies, if George Gilbert spoke truly for them: 'We left these Islands with the greatest regret, immaginable; as supposing all the pleasures of the voyage to be now at an end: Having nothing to expect in future but excess of cold, Hunger, and every kind of hardship, and distress … the Idea of which render'd us quite dejected.'1 There were pleasures yet stored up; but it was true, there were also miseries.

1 Journals III, 256, n. 1.