Chapter XXXII

By Mark Twain
From Following the Equator (1897).


The man with a new idea is a Crank until the idea succeeds.

--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

It was Junior England all the way to Christchurch--in fact, just a garden. And Christchurch is an English town, with an English-park annex, and a winding English brook just like the Avon--and named the Avon; but from a man, not from Shakespeare's river. Its grassy banks are bordered by the stateliest and most impressive weeping willows to be found in the world, I suppose. They continue the line of a great ancestor; they were grown from sprouts of the willow that sheltered Napoleon's grave in St. Helena. It is a settled old community, with all the serenities, the graces, the conveniences, and the comforts of the ideal home-life. If it had an established Church and social inequality it would be England over again with hardly a lack.

In the museum we saw many curious and interesting things; among others a fine native house of the olden time, with all the details true to the facts, and the showy colors right and in their proper places. All the details: the fine mats and rugs and things; the elaborate and wonderful wood carvings--wonderful, surely, considering who did them wonderful in design and particularly in execution, for they were done with admirable sharpness and exactness, and yet with no better tools than flint and jade and shell could furnish; and the totem-posts were there, ancestor above ancestor, with tongues protruded and hands clasped comfortably over bellies containing other people's ancestors--grotesque and ugly devils, every one, but lovingly carved, and ably; and the stuffed natives were present, in their proper places, and looking as natural as life; and the housekeeping utensils were there, too, and close at hand the carved and finely ornamented war canoe.

And we saw little jade gods, to hang around the neck--not everybody's, but sacred to the necks of natives of rank. Also jade weapons, and many kinds of jade trinkets--all made out of that excessively hard stone without the help of any tool of iron. And some of these things had small round holes bored through them--nobody knows how it was done; a mystery, a lost art. I think it was said that if you want such a hole bored in a piece of jade now, you must send it to London or Amsterdam where the lapidaries are.

Also we saw a complete skeleton of the giant Moa. It stood ten feet high, and must have been a sight to look at when it was a living bird. It was a kicker, like the ostrich; in fight it did not use its beak, but its foot. It must have been a convincing kind of kick. If a person had his back to the bird and did not see who it was that did it, he would think he had been kicked by a wind-mill.

There must have been a sufficiency of moas in the old forgotten days when his breed walked the earth. His bones are found in vast masses, all crammed together in huge graves. They are not in caves, but in the ground. Nobody knows how they happened to get concentrated there. Mind, they are bones, not fossils. This means that the moa has not been extinct very long. Still, this is the only New Zealand creature which has no mention in that otherwise comprehensive literature, the native legends. This is a significant detail, and is good circumstantial evidence that the moa has been extinct 500 years, since the Maori has himself--by tradition--been in New Zealand since the end of the fifteenth century. He came from an unknown land--the first Maori did--then sailed back in his canoe and brought his tribe, and they removed the aboriginal peoples into the sea and into the ground and took the land. That is the tradition. That that first Maori could come, is understandable, for anybody can come to a place when he isn't trying to; but how that discoverer found his way back home again without a compass is his secret, and he died with it in him. His language indicates that he came from Polynesia. He told where he came from, but he couldn't spell well, so one can't find the place on the map, because people who could spell better than he could, spelt the resemblance all out of it when they made the map. However, it is better to have a map that is spelt right than one that has information in it.

In New Zealand women have the right to vote for members of the legislature, but they cannot be members themselves. The law extending the suffrage to them event into effect in 1893. The population of Christchurch (census of 1891) was 31,454. The first election under the law was held in November of that year. Number of men who voted, 6,313; number of women who voted, 5,989. These figures ought to convince us that women are not as indifferent about politics as some people would have us believe. In New Zealand as a whole, the estimated adult female population was 139,915; of these 109,461 qualified and registered their names on the rolls 78.23 per cent. of the whole. Of these, 90,290 went to the polls and voted--85.18 per cent. Do men ever turn out better than that--in America or elsewhere? Here is a remark to the other sex's credit, too--I take it from the official report:

"A feature of the election was the orderliness and sobriety of the people. Women were in no way molested."

At home, a standing argument against woman suffrage has always been that women could not go to the polls without being insulted. The arguments against woman suffrage have always taken the easy form of prophecy. The prophets have been prophesying ever since the woman's rights movement began in 1848--and in forty-seven years they have never scored a hit.

Men ought to begin to feel a sort of respect for their mothers and wives and sisters by this time. The women deserve a change of attitude like that, for they have wrought well. In forty-seven years they have swept an imposingly large number of unfair laws from the statute books of America. In that brief time these serfs have set themselves free essentially. Men could not have done so much for themselves in that time without bloodshed--at least they never have; and that is argument that they didn't know how. The women have accomplished a peaceful revolution, and a very beneficent one; and yet that has not convinced the average man that they are intelligent, and have courage and energy and perseverance and fortitude. It takes much to convince the average man of anything; and perhaps nothing can ever make him realize that he is the average woman's inferior--yet in several important details the evidences seems to show that that is what he is. Man has ruled the human race from the beginning--but he should remember that up to the middle of the present century it was a dull world, and ignorant and stupid; but it is not such a dull world now, and is growing less and less dull all the time. This is woman's opportunity--she has had none before. I wonder where man will be in another forty-seven years?

In the New Zealand law occurs this: "The word person wherever it occurs throughout the Act includes woman."

That is promotion, you see. By that enlargement of the word, the matron with the garnered wisdom and experience of fifty years becomes at one jump the political equal of her callow kid of twenty-one. The white population of the colony is 626,000, the Maori population is 42,000. The whites elect seventy members of the House of Representatives, the Maoris four. The Maori women vote for their four members.

November 16. After four pleasant days in Christchurch, we are to leave at midnight to-night. Mr. Kinsey gave me an ornithorhynchus, and I am taming it.

Sunday, 17th. Sailed last night in the Flora, from Lyttelton.

So we did. I remember it yet. The people who sailed in the Flora that night may forget some other things if they live a good while, but they will not live long, enough to forget that. The Flora is about the equivalent of a cattle-scow; but when the Union Company find it inconvenient to keep a contract and lucrative to break it, they smuggle her into passenger service, and "keep the change."

They give no notice of their projected depredation; you innocently buy tickets for the advertised passenger boat, and when you get down to Lyttelton at midnight, you find that they have substituted the scow. They have plenty of good boats, but no competition--and that is the trouble. It is too late now to make other arrangements if you have engagements ahead.

It is a powerful company, it has a monopoly, and everybody is afraid of it--including the government's representative, who stands at the end of the stage-plank to tally the passengers and see that no boat receives a greater number than the law allows her to carry. This conveniently-blind representative saw the scow receive a number which was far in excess of its privilege, and winked a politic wink and said nothing. The passengers bore with meekness the cheat which had been put upon them, and made no complaint.

It was like being at home in America, where abused passengers act in just the same way. A few days before, the Union Company had discharged a captain for getting a boat into danger, and had advertised this act as evidence of its vigilance in looking after the safety of the passengers-- for thugging a captain costs the company nothing, but when opportunity offered to send this dangerously overcrowded tub to sea and save a little trouble and a tidy penny by it, it forgot to worry about the passenger's safety.

The first officer told me that the Flora was privileged to carry 125 passengers. She must have had all of 200 on board. All the cabins were full, all the cattle-stalls in the main stable were full, the spaces at the heads of companionways were full, every inch of floor and table in the swill-room was packed with sleeping men and remained so until the place was required for breakfast, all the chairs and benches on the hurricane deck were occupied, and still there were people who had to walk about all night!

If the Flora had gone down that night, half of the people on board would have been wholly without means of escape.

The owners of that boat were not technically guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, but they were morally guilty of it.

I had a cattle-stall in the main stable--a cavern fitted up with a long double file of two-storied bunks, the files separated by a calico partition--twenty men and boys on one side of it, twenty women and girls on the other. The place was as dark as the soul of the Union Company, and smelt like a kennel. When the vessel got out into the heavy seas and began to pitch and wallow, the cavern prisoners became immediately seasick, and then the peculiar results that ensued laid all my previous experiences of the kind well away in the shade. And the wails, the groans, the cries, the shrieks, the strange ejaculations--it was wonderful.

The women and children and some of the men and boys spent the night in that place, for they were too ill to leave it; but the rest of us got up, by and by, and finished the night on the hurricane-deck.

That boat was the foulest I was ever in; and the smell of the breakfast saloon when we threaded our way among the layers of steaming passengers stretched upon its floor and its tables was incomparable for efficiency.

A good many of us got ashore at the first way-port to seek another ship. After a wait of three hours we got good rooms in the Mahinapua, a wee little bridal-parlor of a boat--only 205 tons burthen; clean and comfortable; good service; good beds; good table, and no crowding. The seas danced her about like a duck, but she was safe and capable.

Next morning early she went through the French Pass--a narrow gateway of rock, between bold headlands--so narrow, in fact, that it seemed no wider than a street. The current tore through there like a mill-race, and the boat darted through like a telegram. The passage was made in half a minute; then we were in a wide place where noble vast eddies swept grandly round and round in shoal water, and I wondered what they would do with the little boat. They did as they pleased with her. They picked her up and flung her around like nothing and landed her gently on the solid, smooth bottom of sand--so gently, indeed, that we barely felt her touch it, barely felt her quiver when she came to a standstill. The water was as clear as glass, the sand on the bottom was vividly distinct, and the fishes seemed to be swimming about in nothing. Fishing lines were brought out, but before we could bait the hooks the boat was off and away again.








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