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Following The Equator

by Mark Twain

previous: CHAPTER XXXIII: The Town of Nelson-'The Mongatapu Murders,' the Great Event of the Town - Burgess' Confession - Summit of Mount Eden - Rotorua and the Hot Lakes and Geysers - Thermal Springs District - Kauri Gum - Tangariwa Mountains .

CHAPTER XXXIV: The Bay of Gisborne - Taking in Passengers by the Yard Arm - The Green Ballarat Fly - False Teeth - From Napier to Hastings by the Ballarat Fly Train - Kauri Trees - A Case of Mental Telegraphy

Let us not be too particular. It is better to have old second-hand diamonds than none at all.
- Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

November 27. To-day we reached Gisborne, and anchored in a big bay; there was a heavy sea on, so we remained on board.

We were a mile from shore; a little steam-tug put out from the land; she was an object of thrilling interest; she would climb to the summit of a billow, reel drunkenly there a moment, dim and gray in the driving storm of spindrift, then make a plunge like a diver and remain out of sight until one had given her up, then up she would dart again, on a steep slant toward the sky, shedding Niagaras of water from her forecastle - and this she kept up, all the way out to us. She brought twenty-five passengers in her stomach - men and women mainly a traveling dramatic company. In sight on deck were the crew, in sou'westers, yellow waterproof canvas suits, and boots to the thigh. The deck was never quiet for a moment, and seldom nearer level than a ladder, and noble were the seas which leapt aboard and went flooding aft. We rove a long line to the yard-arm, hung a most primitive basketchair to it and swung it out into the spacious air of heaven, and there it swayed, pendulum-fashion, waiting for its chance - then down it shot, skillfully aimed, and was grabbed by the two men on the forecastle. A young fellow belonging to our crew was in the chair, to be a protection to the lady-comers. At once a couple of ladies appeared from below, took seats in his lap, we hoisted them into the sky, waited a moment till the roll of the ship brought them in overhead, then we lowered suddenly away, and seized the chair as it struck the deck. We took the twenty-five aboard, and delivered twenty-five into the tug - among them several aged ladies, and one blind one - and all without accident. It was a fine piece of work.

Ours is a nice ship, roomy, comfortable, well-ordered, and satisfactory. Now and then we step on a rat in a hotel, but we have had no rats on shipboard lately; unless, perhaps in the Flora; we had more serious things to think of there, and did not notice. I have noticed that it is only in ships and hotels which still employ the odious Chinese gong, that you find rats. The reason would seem to be, that as a rat cannot tell the time of day by a clock, he won't stay where he cannot find out when dinner is ready.

November 29. The doctor tells me of several old drunkards, one spiritless loafer, and several far-gone moral wrecks who have been reclaimed by the Salvation Army and have remained staunch people and hard workers these two years. Wherever one goes, these testimonials to the Army's efficiency are forthcoming . . . . This morning we had one of those whizzing green Ballarat flies in the room, with his stunning buzzsaw noise - the swiftest creature in the world except the lightning-flash. It is a stupendous force that is stored up in that little body. If we had it in a ship in the same proportion, we could spin from Liverpool to New York in the space of an hour - the time it takes to eat luncheon. The New Zealand express train is called the Ballarat Fly . . . . Bad teeth in the colonies. A citizen told me they don't have teeth filled, but pull them out and put in false ones, and that now and then one sees a young lady with a full set. She is fortunate. I wish I had been born with false teeth and a false liver and false carbuncles. I should get along better.

December 2. Monday. Left Napier in the Ballarat Fly the one that goes twice a week. From Napier to Hastings, twelve miles; time, fifty-five minutes - not so far short of thirteen miles an hour . . . . A perfect summer day; cool breeze, brilliant sky, rich vegetation. Two or three times during the afternoon we saw wonderfully dense and beautiful forests, tumultuously piled skyward on the broken highlands - not the customary roof-like slant of a hillside, where the trees are all the same height. The noblest of these trees were of the Kauri breed, we were told the timber that is now furnishing the wood-paving for Europe, and is the best of all wood for that purpose. Sometimes these towering upheavals of forestry were festooned and garlanded with vine-cables, and sometimes the masses of undergrowth were cocooned in another sort of vine of a delicate cobwebby texture - they call it the "supplejack," I think. Tree ferns everywhere - a stem fifteen feet high, with a graceful chalice of fernfronds sprouting from its top - a lovely forest ornament. And there was a ten-foot reed with a flowing suit of what looked like yellow hair hanging from its upper end. I do not know its name, but if there is such a thing as a scalp-plant, this is it. A romantic gorge, with a brook flowing in its bottom, approaching Palmerston North.

Waitukurau. Twenty minutes for luncheon. With me sat my wife and daughter, and my manager, Mr. Carlyle Smythe. I sat at the head of the table, and could see the right-hand wall; the others had their backs to it. On that wall, at a good distance away, were a couple of framed pictures. I could not see them clearly, but from the groupings of the figures I fancied that they represented the killing of Napoleon III's son by the Zulus in South Africa. I broke into the conversation, which was about poetry and cabbage and art, and said to my wife -

"Do you remember when the news came to Paris - - "

"Of the killing of the Prince?"

(Those were the very words I had in my mind.) "Yes, but what Prince?"

"Napoleon. Lulu."

"What made you think of that?"

"I don't know."

There was no collusion. She had not seen the pictures, and they had not been mentioned. She ought to have thought of some recent news that came to Paris, for we were but seven months from there and had been living there a couple of years when we started on this trip; but instead of that she thought of an incident of our brief sojourn in Paris of sixteen years before.

Here was a clear case of mental telegraphy; of mind-transference; of my mind telegraphing a thought into hers. How do I know? Because I telegraphed an error. For it turned out that the pictures did not represent the killing of Lulu at all, nor anything connected with Lulu. She had to get the error from my head - it existed nowhere else.

Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER XXXV: Fifty Miles in Four Hours - Comfortable Cars - Town of Wauganui - Plenty of Maoris - On the Increase - Compliments to the Maoris - The Missionary Ways all Wrong - The Tabu among the Maoris - A Mysterious Sign - Curious Warmonuments - Wellington .

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