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3 July 1905

Started to build a storeroom near the kitchen - a long felt want. We've been suffering from
congestion of the kitchen for some time and the new house will relieve the situation somewhat. B
made a start for Oba at 6 am. Owing to wind, or lack of wind, he appeared to have some
difficulty clearing the Point.


4 July 1905

Went in "Goodhope" to have a look around our island - Lathi - Mr B reports having seen, from
his ship, quite a number of coconuts on the northern side. We found smooth water these but no
anchorage for small vessels there being from 8 to 10 fathoms of water close in shore.

B's coconuts have disappeared; not one on show today. And yet he was sure of it which only goes
to prove that one can never be sure of anything in this world.

After christening the place "Point Seclusion", we went on round to the South Western passage but
found it too rough to land so sailed away home.

Reading over some Australian history today, I came across a slight discrepancy speaking of the
Spanish navigators, de Quiros and Torres. The writer says that the former in 1606 sighted a land
to which he gave the name Terra Australis del Espiritu Santo (The Southern Land of the Holy
Spirits) believing it to be Australia. It turned out, however, that the land he had discovered was
Santo, the largest and most northerly of the Hebrides group.

The author goes on to say that de Quiros did not land, his crew having mutinied he was obliged to
return home etc. Now Quiros did land, not only landed but remained several months making a
sturdy but unsuccessful attempt to form a settlement on the banks of the River Jordan which runs
into that bay called by de Quiros "St James and St Phillip's" at the North of Espiritu Santo.

The natives of that vicinity make a rude kind of pottery somewhat after the style, it is said, of the
Spaniards of the 17th century. These are the only natives in the New Hebrides to attempt pottery
which would seem to suggest that they must have learned the art from strangers, these strangers
presumably de Quiros' Spaniards.


9 July 1905

An old identity of Lelak, one Nebrua by name, a chief, was shot by some of his former pals this

morning.
In native circles I'm afraid there'll be more rejoicing than mourning when they learn that the old
warrior has gone to the "happy hunting ground".

Certainly he was more feared than loved in this district and, if all accounts be true, there was
every reason why that should have been so for, it is said, he had taken or had caused to be taken
at least a score of lives before his own was taken.

Word reached us of another shooting affair, two being bagged this time. The affair took place up
at Marigonong's house and was briefly as follows:

Very early yesterday morning four men crept up to a house wherein three peacefully slept and
coming to the doorway and in an altogether one at a time fashion fired into the room, killing one
of the unfortunate sleepers. Then they turned and fled down the path with the remaining two in
hot chase, athirst for vengeance. This is just what the evil ones had calculated upon for they had
other men posted at a certain spot near the side of the road. As soon as they had reached this spot,
by arrangement, they suddenly cut off into the bush, leaving the pursuers at the mercy of the
hidden men.

Well why go into details; Another volley rang out and another soul sped heavenward. The third
man escaped with a singed beard and shaken nerves.

Why this cruel and senseless slaughter? Relics of tribal quarrels, blood feuds, vendetta - call them
what you will we all agreed that this "eye for an eye" and "tooth for a tooth" business has got to
stop. Otherwise there will be but few to carry it on ten years hence. Since we have been here, no
less that 15 men have been killed, innocent ones too often than guilty. Just for the sake of a
barbarous custom. "Lex talinis" is the only law known to these wild men of the woods. Someday,
perchance, they will know another.


12 July 1905

Finished cutting up stuff on the northern side of the road on top of the hill. I replanting millet
near the corn-shed, though the seed does not seem too good. The millet that was planted on April
28 is now coming Out in seed, but will scarcely be ready to cut for a week or more yet.


13 July 1905

Fien offers to exchange some land of his, the other side of Sol's for a piece of ours this side. The
idea is a good one - for him. He also agrees to find half the labour for running a fence from here
to Ridout Inlet along our joint boundary. Right!!
14 July 1905

Packing up and burning off on top. The stuff, being now thoroughly dry, burns well. Three men
cleaned up about half an acre today - a very satisfactory performance.


15 July 1905

I wrote out a short story for B, a disguised account of what actually happened out here last year.
The facts are briefly these:

An old beachcomber, finding he cannot get a wife by fair means, tries advertising. By distorting
the facts considerably he succeeded in luring a somewhat romantic but well-disposed shop-girl
down.

On seeing the man, however, who had represented himself as well-to-do, good looking, amiable
etc, she realises the impossibility of marrying such a creature and takes passage back to Sydney,
her dreams of waving palms and coral strands, well-kept yachts and sapphire tinted lagoons
rudely dispersed; her faith in mankind rudely shattered.


17 July 1905

B came in at noon today. Reports an attempt on the part of some other natives to shoot Trader
Joyce. The would-be murderers, having ascertained the exact position of his bed, waited until he
sat down and then, within a few feet of their man, fired.

The bullet passed within an inch of Mr Joyce's head, through various articles of flirniture and out
the other side.


19 July 1905

Clearing land near beach. Very heavily timbered. Noticed native peculiarities today, namely the
strength of the big toe and the thickness and toughness of the skull. In the first case, he will more
often use his toes for sticking a peg into hard ground than he will with his hands.

As for the second, should he wish to break a stick, he may first try it across his knee. Should it
prove too tough for that portion of his anatomy, he puts it across his head, gives a vicious jerk
and away it goes with a bang.


20 July 1905

Saw a strange caterpillar in the bush today. About an inch in length, covered with fine black hairs
which, if they touch the flesh, sting like a nettle and leave a nasty mark behind.


21 July 1905

Planting coconuts on top of the mountain. Good rain falling. Our tank has almost stopped
running. Although we use a deal of water since we have been here, we have found one 600 gallon
tank sufficient to keep us going, such is the rainfall.


24 July 1905

The schooner "Rosabel" has been dodging about the passage all day. At dusk she had just
disappeared around the point - two miles from the anchorage. Sailing, sailing, over the bounding
main - at the rate of two miles a day.


25 July 1905

I saw the bird that the natives call "na-mal" this afternoon for the first time. It is identical with the
mound raising turkey or mallee hen of Australia.

The French warship "Muerthe" passed, bound north at 4pm. Went into Port Olry. No sign of our
steamer yet.


26 July 1905

F and I went up to Port Olry early, thinking to learn something from the "Muerthe" of the
whereabouts of the Induna. We sailed up in a dinghy in an hour and a half but found that the
warship was gone.


1 August 1905

C came in with the "Doris" at 4 pm. Brings word that nothing has been heard of the steamer in
Vila as late as the 21st. We hope that nothing has happened to her. C also tells us of a bit of
fighting between the Malekulans and the French man-o-wars. Six natives were shot while the
French, on their side, had three mariners wounded.


2 August 1905

F went out with Mr B in "Helena-Martin" for a little nautical experience, and, at the same time, to
look out for a suitable craft (up to 10 tons) for ourselves.


3 August 1905

Cutting millet - that which was planted on April 28th. Very good sample and does not require as
much drying as we anticipated. If spread out on a road, or in the open air, one day's sun is
sufficient to dry it, leaving the straw at the same time with that green tinge required by broom
manufacturers.


4 August 1905

C went out very hurriedly this morning having got eight recruits aboard.

As is usually the case, each recruit had half a dozen friends and relatives trying to dissuade him
from going. The reason for this interference with the "liberty of the subject" is that the times
being somewhat troublous, the chiefs of the village naturally wish to keep all their followers with
them in order that they might more fully resist the attacks of rival villages or make attacks upon
them, as the case may be.

Weather has been very cool of late. The thermometer registered 64 Fah. last night. It rarely if
ever goes below 60 here and rarely goes over 90.


7 August 1905

No sign of the steamer yet. She is now two weeks overdue. I hope nothing has happened to her.
In the meantime we are running short of many of the necessities of life. I took an inventory of
stuff this morning: Navy biscuit 20 tins (14 recruits to share these); Flour 15 tins; sugar 50 tins;
Tinned meat 8; Fish 1; Tea - one halt, cocoa one halt, coffee - none; preserved fruits, currants,
raisins and other luxuries - none; Trade tobacco - 4 tins; cut tobacco (for our own use) 6 ozs
-hence our anxiety about the steamer.


9 August 1905

Paid "Lelak Castle" a visit this afternoon. Lady E was not in one of her cheerful moods and
greeted me at the door with "How dye do! Haven't a bit of anything in the house to eat".

On being assured that I had had a noble repast but a few hours past, I was asked to come in and
take a seat, which (having walked two miles under a hot sun) I did with alacrity and (in spite of
the fact that there was nothing in the house) found my self getting on the outside of a glass of
honey-mead and some excellent cake.


10 August 1905

Boys carrying water (in bamboo) from the beach for the household. This is the first time that the
tank has given out since we came two years ago. The bamboo (in length about six feet), by
having all the partitions knocked into one, make excellent receptacles for water and hold about 5
gallons each.




11 August 1905

"Zhonky", the half caste trading celebrity, came in with his ugly little cutter this evening, closely
followed by that other gentleman known as "Edward". We don't love these black and tan traders.
They invariably give higher prices for yam and other native foods than the acknowledged local
rates, which has a decided tendency to "spoil" those gentle sons of darkness.


12 August 1905

Last night I went out shooting flying foxes. After a considerable time I came back with one
"bird", and a belief that the average flying fox is possessed of more cunning than any animal I
know: not that they are wild. Half a dozen of them will flutter down into one tree - just out of
range. If by any chance they settle within gunshot, they first make sure that there are a few good
sturdy limbs between them and their would be destroyers.

And what wonderfully made creatures they are: the almost perfect miniature of a fox's head so
strangely out of keeping with their delicate gauzy wings and birdlike legs and feet. This strange
mixture of bat, bird and fox suckles its young, carrying it under the wing until the grotesque little
mite is old enough to mount up on its mothers back. But the most remarkable thing about the
flying fox is the smell, and that baffles description.

Natives are very fond of the "nagar", as they call him, and are happy so long as they can get one
or two of these weird creatures for their supper. They require no preparation. The ever-hungry
natives just singes the hair off in the course of roasting on the fire. The inside he leaves (that does
for "stuffing") explaining that the bird lives on clean things, fruit, leaves etc. The flesh, when
cooked, is fat and tender and juicy enough, but that ambrosial perfume!!

The native boy, ever ready to surprise me, one day placed a full flavoured beauty on a plate
before me. Being of an inquiring turn of mind I decided to try it, and after two ineffectual
attempts, by dint of tightly holding my nose, I managed to store one mouthfull away safely, but I
thought that the boy might like the rest for himself and so kindly let him have it.


17 August 1905

"Edward" went out this morning. Wells came in at 2pm, followed shortly afterwards by the
French recruiting schooner, "Julia". Wells has bought mail around from Vila. It was left there by
the Titus on her way to the Solomon Islands.

The papers received are old and contain nothing startling. We are surprised to learn that Russia
has declared her intention of fighting to the bitter end.


18 August 1905

Petersen came in at 10 am and the "Julia" went out at noon. Plenty of shipping about just now.
The rain keeps off in a marvellous manner - for Santo.
21 August 1905

"Black Game Shooting begins" (according to Letts diary).

Some of our local Bushmen must have mistaken the date and they made a start yesterday,
bagging four men. The circumstances connected with this little exchange of pleasantries are
interesting to the student of "human" nature. It seems that about a year ago some men of the
Requin Bay tribe shot one of our local gentry.

His friends have been treasuring up this little bit of misconduct ever since, waiting for an
opportunity to retaliate. Yesterday it came. Wandering along in the vicinity of the Requin Bay
village they observed some men in a yam garden, pulling out pigs. This was the golden
opportunity. Where the pigs got in would necessarily need repairing, so, nicely hidden, they
waited there and when the four men came along unsuspectingly to patch up the insecure portion
of the fence, our heroes quietly picked them off

And so it goes on, ad infinitum; always the same never-ending feud, to find its end only when
there are no more men to be killed and, at the present rate, that would not be more than fifty
years or until the Government steps in.


22 August 1905

Being short of most things, and especially short of meats, tobacco and flours on account of the
steamer failing us last month, Dr M and I decided to run down to Turtle Bay (where we expect
the Tambo would be working for 2 or 3 days), get what things we were most in need of and
return the next day.

We left at 8 am. Once round the point, we ran into as much seas as one could wish for, also a
very strong head wind, so strong that we had to double reef mainsail and jib. After ten hours
battling we reached Turtle Bay, to find the Tambo hadn't come    Had supper and a smoke and
then turned in.


23 August 1905

Woke up at daylight to see the steamer coming from just where we had come yesterday in search
of her. Left Turtle Bay for home at 7 am. We found the seas still running high and a stiff breeze
from south east. We ran before it with only ajib for most of the time. Got home before noon.


28 August 1905

Planting cocoa, which arrived per Tambo. Pods are not so large as some got from Vila last year
but contain more seeds, the average per pod being 30 against 25 ordinarily.
I have recently heard wattle recommended as shade for cocoa, on the grounds that it provide
sufficient shade, and by the time that the cocoa-tree has reached maturity, say 5 years, the wattle
can be stripped and turned for profit. A pamphlet on the subject says a wattle will give five half
cwt of bark (Sydney price 4/- to 10/- per cwt.)

But we have reason to believe that wattle once established here would be extraordinarily difficult
to eradicate; beside the bark grown in a warm climate would be thinner than that which a cold
climate would produce, and not nearly so valuable.

If shade be really necessary, the "bois-nior would perhaps, of all trees, to be the best for use. They
grow quickly and throw out a nice light spreading foliage; but it is because of the nitrogen
contained in its flowers as much as any other reason that the bois-noir is a desirable tree to plant,
for nitrogen is essential to the growth of the cocoa-tree.


1 September 1905

Got a good haul of fish down at the fresh water holes. Started back about dark and had some
experience getting through the bush, though the horses kept to the track pretty well.


3 September 1905

Planting garden seeds down on the flat: butter beans, parsley, lettuce, cabbage, water melon,
pumpkin etc.


4 September 1905

Got a rather embarrassing order from a coloured gentleman names Kreketh. He wants us to send
for a hat for his wife. It is "like one Sarah used to have". Of course that in itself is simple enough
but then Sarah's particular type of head dress may not be well known in the hat emporiums of
Sydney and the wrong thing might be sent. Again there is the chance that, by mentioning the
name of Sarah, these devoted shop people may take it for granted that we mean the divine Sara,
Madam Bernhardt, and then we would have to take 25 guineas out in pigs.

However, by way of apology for our vagueness and to show better what we mean, we have
decided to add the following postscript on our usual order:

"Re hat:

We've sent our order in, (and yet to tell you would be fairer), the sort of hat we want to get is the
sort that's worn by Sarah.

If the price be high you needn't fret, (these hats are getting rarer), just the sort of hat we want to
get is the sort that's worn by Sarah.
Be not afraid of tulle or net, (the style must suit the wearer), and the sort of hat we want to get is
the sort that's worn by Sarah."


12 September 1905

Found Lucy feeding her 3 day old infant on breadfruit this morning. The mode of preparation is
to say the least of it not appeti sing. The breadfruit, being first cooked, is well chewed by the
fond mother so that baby may be able to assimilate is the more readily. When baby cries, the fond
mother crams some braised breadfruit into the little one's mouth, and yet these babies thrive on
such homely fare. Komala, or sweet potato, is another choice article ofjuvenile diet highly
approved by native mothers. It is prepared in the same dainty fashion as the breadfruit.


13 September 1905

Two whales (large ones) came into the bay this morning. We could see their great wet bodies
glistening like silver - or a reef in the sunlight. Indeed, we mistook them at first for breakers on a
newly formed reef It is a fine sight to see these huge creatures at play. They seem to enjoy it so.


14 September 1905

The "Lily", a 15 ton French owned cutter, came in this morning recruiting. He got 3 recruits on
the western side of Malekula but had two of his own boat's crew shot at Espingle Bay.


15 September 1905

The weeks go by without rain. Certainly the driest stretch since we came to the New Hebrides.
The islands further south are just parched. Here everything is green, yet, and beyond the trifling
inconvenience caused by an ample tank, we have not felt the dry weather to any extent.


17 September 1905

A local magnate, Nebrua by name, terminated a very industrious existence early yesterday. He is
said to have 11 notches in his club. Last night, according to the cheerful custom of these parts, his
wife was duly and most amicably hanged in order that she might accompany her lord and master
to the native spirit-land, to grow yams and keep spirit house there for him.

The women themselves take it all as a matter of course, and not only offer no resistance but
voluntarily take part in the preliminary as well as final ceremony.
A narrow path, 50 yards or so in length, is cut at one end of which a noose hangs gracefully from
a drooping bough. This noose is rather higher than the average woman's head, but the chivalrous
onlookers, in order to save the lady unnecessary trouble, place a block of wood underneath for
the interested party to stand upon.

Then the ceremony begins. The doomed woman runs up and down until thoroughly exhausted,
then mounts the scaffold and slips the noose over her head (an obliging onlooker pushes the
block away from under her feet and she joins her husband).


21 September 1905

The new steamer, the "Malaita", ran in here early this morning. She is larger and better fitted out
that our old friend "Tambo".


25 September 1905

Dr M came up early this morning. He intends leaving for west Santo this afternoon and asks me
to accompany him. Of course I will.

4pm. Made a start. Got to Fort Olry just at dusk, just in time to get through the passage and
anchored just as the rose tints were giving place to purple and the stars were rushing out to see
who it was.

Then we had tea and a smoke and turned in. The night was warm and stuff' and under our close
awning we lay tossing and turning, unable to sleep. At 3 o'clock, we rose thankfully, had a hasty
breakfast and, by the light of the small moon, steered northwards.

Day was breaking when we reached Cape Quiros. The dawn of a glorious, though hot, day. The
breeze had died away for the time and we were comfortably steaming along at 5 or 6 miles an
hour. Before us lay a stretch of open water 40 miles or so across. We couldn't see Cape
Cumberland
on the other side but steered for it by compass. One may go across that bay a
hundred times without having such smooth water - just a long gentle swell from no'ard and, after
a while, a steady fresh wind to equalise matters.

As the sun rose higher the day grew hotter. By noon we were sweltering motionlessly on the
thwarts; motionlessly because experience taught us that that portion of the seat upon which we
sat was very much cooler than the surrounding timber. But still the breeze held good and by 2 pm
we had reached Cape Cumberland. When rounding the Cape, we sighted two whales between
ourselves and the shore. These huge creatures for some time kept along parallel to us, spurting,
turning somersaults and behaving generally in a very large manner but, at last, having sated
themselves with their elephantine sport, they made for the open sea much to our satisfaction.

Shortly afterwards, we ran into a place called Wunapath, where we pitched our nautical tent for
the night. The night turned out blustery and wild and we had to batten down that awning many
times before morning. The native boat's crew wisely slept ashore.
Next morning, the Doctor had a six or eight mile constitutional before breakfast. He
accompanied some of the local gentry up to the village which they assured him was not far.

I stopped behind and acquired merit - and incidentally an appetite - by having a swim in the fresh
water.

Shortly after breakfast we pulled up our mud-hook and set sail for Nogugu, 20 miles distant.

During the comparatively short run, we had the somewhat novel experience of getting the wind
from every quarter of the compass. On this coast the country is just a continuation of hill and
ravine and, at times, the wind comes whirling down the valleys with cyclonic suddenness and
force and "woe to the sailing man who stands not by sheets and halyards here".

We reached Noguru early in the afternoon and I had time to have a look around. A desolate
place, this West Coast, enjoying too, at present, quite a respectable drought.

There is no wealth of tropical foliage here to shade the ground as on the East. The barren lofty
mountains look hot and parched and altogether uninviting. The sands of the beaches are black
and hot like the cinders from some great fire. Everywhere it is ovenlike. On the sides of the
mountains, fires were raging through bamboo forest and cane grass and hot embers filled the air.

In the valleys, however, are running streams, clear and cool, the only thing which could make life
endurable on this parched up strip of volcanic coast.

Next morning, I went up to have a look at the "school", a very fine wooden building attended
daily by about 200 Christian natives.

To facilitate the rather unnecessary practice of hand shaking, a custom only too prevalent
throughout the group, the villagers face into line as if on parade; and their port arms in figuration.
Should the bashful stranger attempt to escape the honour by a flank movement, he is surrounded
by the enemy and detained until he has paid for his ransom by shaking 240 grimy hands.

After breakfast, I mounted the mission horse "Billy" and, accompanied by Lopego and Nonot and
some others, I rode up to have a look at the Taro gardens, a regular object lesson too, in the art of
irrigation.

From thence we journeyed to the local "Paddy's Market"; a strip of neutral territory at the foot of
the mountain where the bush tribes meet the "school" people for the purpose of exchanging their
wares (chiefly those earthenware pots for which they are famous) for tobacco, pipes and other
luxuries.

By mutual arrangement, as a guarantee of friendliness, before a general meeting can take place,
the head men of either party meet in conference. All being well, it is customary for a chief to
open the proceedings with a purchase. On this occasion, I was the privileged person and "gave
them a start". Then the bartering began and fast, and apparently flirious, was the bidding,
reminding one more of a corroboree that a sale.
This bush natives are a wild looking lot and, some of them, I was told, had never seen a horse
until they saw old Billy that day. Certainly they gave the peacefully disposed old fellow a wide
berth, evidently expecting him, at any moment, to break his moorings and club them with his
hooves. Once he was inconsiderate enough to snort, causing a stampede of biped by so doing.


27 September 1905

Next day, Saturday, we proceeded down the coast as far as Tasmate, calling at the villages of
Wunsuli and Versalia en route at both of which places the doctor held services and gave
encouraging address to a goodly number of natives.

At Versalia, we were treated by a late heathen chief to a very fine exhibition of drum beating.
These drums, some of which were 8 feet long and 5 deep, are regular sound marvels and must
have been hollowed out at the expense of much time and patience, the slit at the top being only 3
or 4 inches wide. Of the various calls, and there are many, the "call to arms" was to us the most
interesting. It is both fierce and inspiring and, as the old chief rolled out his weird tattoo, his
rugged kindly face became grave and stern and the fine dark eyes flashed defiance.

In those moments, the Christian chief was again the heathen "Moli", calling his warriors to battle.
Again he could hear the twang of the bow strings and the whizz of arrows speeding through the
air. His past wild life rose up before him through the mist of years and, maybe, for the time, he
felt a yearning for yet another savage war dance and a longing to grip once more his spear and his
club. But he had done with those things now and, as he finished beating the great drum, the fierce
light faded from the swarthy face and, for the moment, he seemed almost ashamed to have let
himself be carried away by his own savage emotions.

Reaching Tasmate later in the afternoon of the same day, we were met on the beach by a crowd
of natives and escorted by them to a delightfully cool and clean little house in their village where
we were treated right royally, the kind hearted villagers showering blessings on my head in the
shape of pork and yam, bananas and taro and even sacrificing on the altar of their devotion, the
most antiquated duck the village possessed. The chief characteristic of Tasmate, like Nogugu, we
found to be great mountains, black beaches, kind-hearted natives, much sun and sand and many
dogs, with the inevitable accompaniment, fleas.

 

 

 

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