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clusion that commodity is not thought very precious in Fiji. After tea, we rounded the point, and the lights of Levuka were plainly visible. On the shore at Nasova, a short distance from the town, Government House was lit up, a sign of festivity. The Wolverene lay off here, the strains of the bands floating over the waters. Then a scene, as from fairy land, was before us. A dark background of hill and mountain silhouetted against the sky. The young moon, raising its crescent in the star-spangled heavens, seemed hanging over a hollow in the hill-top. Deep shadows were on the waters. On the shore, a long row of lights on a level with the sea, others higher, and still higher glimmered those on the mountain slope. “Hard a starboard !” The Gunga turned, and the two mean and miserable signal-lights being brought into line, we steamed stem on to the town. All hands were on deck and alert, for the entrance through the reefs is a narrow one. Piloted with unerring skill by the captain, we passed safely through this, and the anchor was dropped at 7.45 p.m.; seven days and three hours from Sydney. Then a gun was fired by the chief officer. The echoes reverberated round and round the hills. We waked them up, and let the people know we were here and no mistake! All portmanteaus and boxes were packed. We were anxious to be ashore, and anxiously awaited the arrival of the doctor; one of our number who had not had the measles being rather anxious as to whether he would be quarantined or not. Then a boat came alongside; the gangway was lowered, and the captain descended this with the bill-of-health. But the boat sheered off, and the following conversation took place :
“ I'm not coming on board. Have you any sickness ?”
“Oh! I don't care about that. Put up a green light, and stop there till morning, and then put a Sydney paper in a bottle washed out with vinegar, and let me have it when I come.”
Then the doctor rowed away. There was a hurried consultation on the poop, and three groans were given such as are seldom heard here. This was the assistant Medical Officer. His chief is a great man. He is Treasurer and Collector of Customs, as well as MedicalOfficer. His subordinate who questioned us for the night is also VOL. III.--No. 13.
“ Warden” of Levuka. Pluralities of offices are the rule here. And so all the exertions of Captain Saunders and the officers of the Gunga to make a quick passage were thrown away. This was my first experience of “the severe type” in a Crown Colony. We swore solemnly, when out of the ladies' hearing, cursing all the clans; then played nap, and to sleep, whilst the police-boat all night rowed around us, very anxious to get a case. But after the bath before daylight, and as the sun gilded the eastern horizon, those of us who took their first view of Levuka forgave the hardhearted doctor. There are few more beautiful places on God's earth. White bungalows are scattered up and down the mountain side. The main street runs along the beach. Above the low houses are towering cocoa-nut trees. Native huts are to be seen in the distance. It is like both Townsville and Hong Kong. But at this daybreak, the most wonderful thing is the various shades of green visible on the hills. Every imaginable tint is to be seen there. At 6.30 the doctor arrived again, and the bottle containing a newspaper being thrown to him, he perused this at his leisure, until being satisfied that neither cholera, small-pox, nor measles are decimating Sydney, he gave the word, and we steamed towards the wharf. It is a deuce of a place to land here. When we were alongside, I had my second experience of “severe rule” in a Crown colony. A trial of customs commenced. An officer of that department had come on board, and condescended to breakfast at the saloon table. Then some of the old hands sent their baggage ashore. There seemed to be no difficulty in getting one's things passed.
“Do you wish to look at my luggage ?” I asked.
"Oh, yes. I must go through it all. We don't search people who belong to the place; but you're a stranger. You might be a Jew pedlar for all I know.”
I intimated that if he had taken the trouble to inquire, it would easily have been ascertained that I am not a Jew pedlar, and then watched the man as he went through my portmanteaus most unscrupulously. I think he was disappointed that he did not find anything contraband. I thought of all the custom houses and douanes I have had experience of in the world. Certainly, I have never met with less civility than here. In New Caledonia, the officers allow you to walk ashore with all your personal effects without question. It is only in a Crown colony that one meets with officious boorishness. It was pleasant to be once more in the South
Seas, to see dusky skins, thick hair, and happy, smiling, childlike faces. But if the natives seem happy, the members of the white population certainly are not. Levuka is full of grievances. I trod on one as soon as I landed on the wharf or pier. This is Government property, and has only lately been erected. Vessels lying alongside pay so much a day for the accommodation, and consignees pay wharfage dues on every thing landed on the beach, whether the wharf is used or not. There was an outcry for a wharf, so the Government built one, and said, “Here it is, now you must use it; if you don't you'll have to pay all the same.” “But everything is taxed here, everything the individual does is considered to be as by favour. There are no rights here,” one old hand told me. It is considered to be a favour, if they let us breathe.”
After Gunga experiences, one certainly felt favoured at finding a good hotel, and a courteous host in Mr. Sturt, with civilised food and cooking once more. Although I have received the usual courtesies from the Club, where I write these lines, I prefer to camp at Mr. Sturt's; first because the bedrooms are better, and secondly, because one meets with people there, and my present state is receptive. I wish to be told things. I want to hear the truth from all sides, and from all sorts and conditions of men, and then I will form my own conclusions. In a club, in a Crown colony, the mernbers of which are sure to have a large sprinkling of Government officials amongst them, it is difficult to hear more than one side. Besides, one cannot take advantage of what he hears in a place where you are received as a guest. On what happens here, my pen is silent, other than to record my thanks to a body of hospitable and open-hearted gentlemen, who have formed as pleasant a little coterie as there is in the colonies.
But there are occasionally high old times at Sturt's, and characters are to be met there whose histories are worth recording. But leaving description to another letter, I must first report on the vexed questions which have brought me to the Cannibal Islands. The burning topic of the day is the proposed removal of the capital from Levuka to Suva. Whatever conflicting interests there may be amongst the residents here, they are all united on this point, and condemn the Government and the Governor for what it is alleged is an iniquitous piece of land jobbery. The plain facts are these. Messrs. James M'Ewan and Co., of Melbourne, are possessed of large tracts of land at Suva, on the island of Viti Levu. They have offered the Government alternate blocks at a certain site, on con
dition that the capital is removed there. It is a bribe to all intents and purposes. Of course, Messrs. M'Ewan are not to be blamed for trying to make a good bargain, but it will be an infamy if the people of Levuka are to be ruined for the profit of a private firm. The reasons alleged by the Governor, or Government—it is the same thing—are that sufficient land cannot be procured for public purposes, and that “the naval, military, and medical authorities” are in favour of such removal. Levuka, which is but beach and mountain background, is certainly circumscribed, but there is sufficient land for all purposes for generations to come. And the foreshore, a rough pebbly beach, can easily be reclaimed, without any danger to the public health. The statement that land owned by the missionary bodies has been refused to the Government has received an emphatic denial. As regards the opinion of naval, military, and medical authorities, Commodore Goodenough always favoured Levuka as the capital. The highest military man they ever had here was Colonel Proctor, of Louisiana, nephew of Beauregard, who saw more fighting in the civil war than all the soldiers in the islands together. He has said nothing in favour of Suva. And the medical opinion of Dr. Macgregor, who holds all those Government appointments, is to be accepted cum grano salis, on point on which the Governor has made up his mind. But for once open discontent is showing itself. The inhabitants, from beachcomber to Government House habitué, have said they will not, if they can help it, obey the Governor in this. The petition to the Queen, which was adopted at a public meeting on the 12th July last, is being extensively circulated in the islands, and will be signed by at least three-fourths of the white residents. And it is proposed to send this home by a gentleman, a resident of Levuka, who will leave for Europe by the mail after this. For Sir Arthur Gordon has put down his foot, and said this thing shall be. The petition to the Governor, printed in the Sydney Daily Telegrap! of 3rd August, praying that, until a reply could be received to the petition to the Queen, no further steps should be taken or funds expended re the removal of the capital, was presented to Sir Arthur by a deputation. His reply was a decided negative. So, unless speedy action is taken at home, the Government flock off to Suva.
I will write my opinion of Suva from the spot. Levuka is healthy; it has a good harbour, that is, the reef forms an immense natural basin, having two deep and safe entrances; there is a plentiful water supply; and it is in the centre of the group.
The earliest traders selected this as their port for island trading; and they knew as well as anyone the advantages or disadvantages of the other islands. The rateable property within town limits is valued at £210,000, owned by private individuals. This, if the seat of Government is removed, will be worth £20,000. To many people it will mean absolute ruin, for their capital being sunk here they will not be able to raise funds to commence business at Suva. The monoply of the trade there will be thrown into the hands of the land-owners, and importers and merchants will suffer severely. Yet so far away from any chance of making themselves heard at home, , people here have always considered themselves as being entirely at the mercy of the Governor. Now, they trust that the petition to the Queen will have good results, and the leading residents have also addressed a letter to the editor of the London Times, setting forth their case.
And discontent is loud in some quarters, and low and deep in others; for many here live in a continued state of nervousness for fear they should be thought as being of the malcontents. In which case, how about those land claims and the Government House balls and dinners ? Each man is afraid or suspicious of the other; none dare“ bell the cat,” and the press, liable I suppose to be gagged at any minute, can only be mildly sarcastic. Still, there is sometimes a hidden sting in this. I wonder if Sir Arthur Gordon read the following from the Fiji Times, of August 11th, as being complimentary. It refers to the nonfulfilment of some Government pledge, and is very amusing, worthy in fact of the journal in which the leader appears =
“This is the more to be regretted, because of the universally recognised appreciation of the extent to which any promise of Sir Arthur Gordon's, whether express or implied, may be relied on. When His Excellency has said a thing, its eventual consummation is assured. If it should so happen that the result is not exactly that which people wished or expected, that is clearly their own fault or misfortune, as the case may be. They should have plumbed the depths of the words uttered, and carefully examined the result. If they have chosen to accept the mere surface meaning, and found themselves disappointed, they have but themselves to blame. If they will not take the trouble to seek for and give the utterances all the various constructions of which they are capable, whose fault is that? Certainly not that of the single-minded, unsophisticated speaker. He is utterly without guile, and wears his heart upon his sleeve."
This is the exact character of the Governor, given me by an old Fijian before I reached these shores. We will see anon how it fits him.
LEVUKA, 12th August.