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   Chapter 4 No.4

Three Years in Tristan da Cunha By K. M. Barrow Characters: 9159

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The last chapter has related some things that obviously came later to our knowledge. I now return to the order of my diary and letters.

Monday, April 9, 1906.-Betty Cotton came in early this morning to look after our wants. She was going to get us an early cup of tea, but at my suggestion made it breakfast. Later on Graham and I wandered on to the common. It was such a beautiful morning, and the sea like a mill-pond. We found many of the women washing clothes, and had a talk with several of them. The men had gone off early in three boats to fetch some of the luggage from where it had been landed about eight miles away. They were not back much before noon. Most of the women went down to meet them, and as each boat came in assisted in dragging it up. It was a most picturesque sight to see some half-dozen carts, each drawn by a pair of bullocks, wending their way down to the beach to fetch up the luggage which was lying on the shore. The small carts were slowly filled, and then the oxen were piloted up a most rough and rocky road by boys who guided them with their whips. Betty, Ellen and I watched it all from the cliff. A good deal of the luggage was piled in Betty's sitting-room, and the rest taken to John Glass's house.

Tuesday, April l0.-Today has been so wet and rough that it was impossible for the men to go for any more luggage. Happily, it is covered over with a tarpaulin from the Surrey, so we hope it will not get much damaged. That which was brought yesterday got rather wet, and we have had to unpack and dry pillows and other things. At present we are unpacking only what is absolutely necessary, which is but little.

It has been arranged for us to live in this house. Betty is kindly giving it up to us and is going to live in a room attached to the house opposite. One and another family is providing for our needs. One will come with a few eggs which are scarce now, another with apples, and a third with butter. Then at dinner-time is brought a plate of hot meat and potatoes. A plentiful supply of milk is provided, and we drink it at dinner. Although there is hardly any flour on the island they are using what little there is to make us bread.

The men have already set to to prepare the house which is to be used as church and school. A widow, Lucy Green, has generously offered it for this purpose, as she had done before in Mr. Dodgson's time.

Wednesday, April 11.-We went up this morning to the school-house and found men busy washing the painted ceiling. When we went again in the afternoon all their work was done and women were washing the floor. The Communion Table had been brought down from the loft-it needed only a little repairing. The Communion Cloth from St. Andrews [Footnote: Malvern Common, Great Malvern.] fits it almost exactly and looks so well. There is a small prayer-desk and a nice oak lectern, and we have brought from Mr. Dodgson the stone font he used. The church will be quite ready for Good Friday services.

The next work to be undertaken will be our house. The people love to come and see us, and we are not left much to ourselves. Repetto, who was shipwrecked here about fifteen years ago, was a sergeant in the Italian navy; he is an intelligent-looking man, short, with dark hair, pale face, and a slight squint. He married a Green, one of Betty's nieces, and has six children. Some of the men and women are fine-looking people. The weather has prevented any more luggage being fetched.

Thursday, April l2.-It has been the same today. The men have started on the house. To make our bedroom a little larger the partition has been moved back so as to take in a piece of the kitchen. Our cases are being used to re-floor the bedroom and passage, which had a large hole in it. A partition will be taken down in Ellen's room, which will then open out on to the front door, and a curtain is to be hung across the opening. The walls of the bedrooms are covered with illustrated papers, which here take the place of wallpaper. Two girls have been helping to tear these off, and the walls will be whitewashed. We brought lime and brushes from the Cape. The doors have the most primitive and varied fastenings, and one a bit of rope in the place of a handle. Many panes in the windows are cracked, and one or two have departed altogether. There is a front and a back entrance. Along the front of the house runs a path, on the other side of which, with a wall between, is the garden. This is fairly large and is bounded by stone walls and a hedge of flax. From its appearance it has had no cultivati

on for some years. As far as I can see the only sign of any crop besides weeds is an entangled strawberry patch. There is a good view of the sea from the house and garden. I spent most of the morning, which was a fine one, in a sheltered corner by the brook, where Ellen was washing a few clothes. I had previously done a little washing too. We already feel at home, and I am sure we shall settle down happily. We find Tristan far more beautiful than we expected; the mountains seem very near and are most imposing, and the light on them at times is very beautiful. Little rivulets are to be seen coursing down close to the houses. They have been diverted from the main stream-known as the "Big Watering." We have one just outside the back door, and not many yards away the Big Watering itself.

Good Friday, April 13.-We got up at 6.30. Ellen and I are sleeping in our deck-chairs in the sitting-room. Graham goes out first thing to fetch water for our baths, as we have not enough utensils to lay in a store the night before. Life is delightfully primitive here.

A man named John Glass is to be the church clerk, and he appeared about eight o'clock to carry the harmonium up to the church; service was at 10.30. No one went into church until we arrived; groups of men and women were waiting on the common in their Sunday clothes, the women looking so picturesque in bright garments. The church room was packed. We learnt afterwards that every man, woman and child was present except old Caroline Swain, who is an invalid; we were seventy-four in all. We had a very simple and short service, Graham explaining as he went along what we were to do. Every one was most reverent and all knelt. There were four hymns, and how they enjoyed the singing of them! It was surprising how well they got on. The women all said, "Good-morning, marm," as they entered the church. At first it was difficult to understand what they said, but now I am more able to do so. On our way home we met Betty Cotton, who said, "It's the best 'Sunday' I have had since Mr. Dodgson left." She is a dear old body, and is making it her mission to look after us.

[Illustration: THE WATERFALL]

People have been in and out most of the day. Graham proposed to some men who came to see him that they should take a walk up the mountain, so they went up the Goat Ridge, which is quite near, and climbed about nine hundred feet. Ellen and I went down to the seashore where there is a strong smell of seaweed. The sand is black, which is owing to the volcanic origin of Tristan. The cliffs at this spot are lovely with overhanging green, and with a very pretty waterfall, caused by the Big Watering finding its way over the cliff into the sea. This waterfall marks the settlement landing-place. Rebekah Swain, aged twenty-eight, came up and asked if it would be "insulting" if she came and sat by us. I had my hymn-book with tunes, and so we chose the hymns for Easter Sunday. She held the pages down as I turned them over, for the wind was blowing, and told me what hymns the people knew. She is the daughter of Mrs. Susan Swain, who has been teaching the children. She took us for a walk along the shore and by a new way up the cliff. Seeing Ellen was tired, she said, "If you will take my arm, I will take you along." She also said, "The missus can go quick," as she saw me clambering up the cliff. She invited us up to her mother's house, who insisted upon our having a cup of tea, which was drunk in the presence of many spectators, for the room soon began to fill. Mrs. Swain showed me letters which she had received from ladies in England. She herself cannot write. When I got home I found Graham entertaining Mr. and Mrs. Lavarello. They had come with milk and a loaf of bread. They bake the loaf in an iron pot with a lid, on which they light the fire. Lavarello is one of the shipwrecked Italians. Ruth Swain, a girl of seventeen, next came in, then two little boys, and finally Mrs. Repetto. The people have so intermarried, and there are so many of the same name, that it is difficult to distinguish one person from another, but we are learning to do so gradually. There is an intense eagerness among the elders that their children shall get some "larning." The remaining luggage has not yet come.

Saturday, April l4.-It has been a wet day. The men have been very busy in the sitting-room, so we spent most of our time in the bedroom, which is more than half-full of cases and baggage. Repetto has just had supper with us, and has been telling all about Captain Kerry's visit in the Pandora.

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