Letters from New Zealand 1857-1911
Sunday, 6.30 a.m.,
Not allowed to enter, what is in reality a fortress, till 7 a.m., and then, passing a sentry at a sort of funnel entrance cut through rock, warned that we cannot stay the night without a permit. I went up through steep streets to a large piazza, where the morning market is held,—such a medley of colour; Moors from Tangiers, brawny, picturesque fellows, with donkeys half hidden by broad fiat baskets, piled high with fruit and vegetables. Going a little further, I fell in with the morning parade service of a battalion of rifles, in a Square, flanked by lofty Spanish houses; a high flight of steps leading up to a doorway, serving as the pulpit for the chaplain; choral matins, supported by military band. Thence I found my way for an Early Celebration to a military church, where the chaplain invited me to breakfast. "Lucky fellow," he said, "on your way home; I'm stuck on this rock for months to come; good society, and not an uninteresting place, but little more than a rock." We had to be on board again by lunch time, towards which I contributed, as my purchase in the market, a basket shaped like a bucket, full of grapes, apricots, and pears, which had cost about two shillings.
That afternoon we steamed across the waters of Trafalgar Bay, with all its memories of Nelson, had a glimpse of Tarifa, and the fortifications on the page 235Spanish Coast, then across the Bay of Biscay to Plymouth. A lovely September morning, old England in all its autumn beauty. Early on deck, I met Captain Hector and a young Australian, who, during the voyage, with natural patriotism for the land of his birth, had been, as they say, "blowing" a good deal about the merits of Australia. The Captain, a silent sort of man, had noticed this, and, bidding him 'good morning,' pointed to the Devonshire Coast: "That, sir, you will find, is a country worth living in." We heard that, owing to a strike in the Thames, we were ordered to disembark at Southampton. A special train took the passengers up to London. At the Victoria Station I had a rather sad experience. One of our passengers, from Australia, had died on board, and it fell to my lot to bury him in the Red Sea. He had gone to Australia a year or two ago, hoping to ward off symptoms of consumption. He told me that he was returning, he felt sure, to die. He was found dead in his bunk one morning, and nothing could be discovered from his papers as to the address of his relatives at home, so that it was impossible for the Captain to telegraph or write to them. Standing in a crowd of people, welcoming their friends, and in a mass of luggage, looking for my own, I was accosted by an elderly couple, who asked me if their son had arrived by the Britannia. It flashed across me in a moment who they were, and then, in all the busy tumult of the Station, and the cheery voices of welcome to returning friends, I had to tell them of their son's death. I was glad to be able to be of some comfort to them in such a trouble.
H. W. H.