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Home -> Mark Twain -> Following the Equator -> Chapter 33

Following the Equator - Chapter 33

1. Contents

2. Chapter 1

3. Chapter 2

4. Chapter 3

5. Chapter 4

6. Chapter 5

7. Chapter 6

8. Chapter 7

9. Chapter 8

10. Chapter 9

11. Chapter 10

12. Chapter 11

13. Chapter 12

14. Chapter 13

15. Chapter 14

16. Chapter 15

17. Chapter 16

18. Chapter 17

19. Chapter 18

20. Chapter 19

21. Chapter 20

22. Chapter 21

23. Chapter 22

24. Chapter 23

25. Chapter 24

26. Chapter 25

27. Chapter 26

28. Chapter 27

29. Chapter 28

30. Chapter 29

31. Chapter 30

32. Chapter 31

33. Chapter 32

34. Chapter 33

35. Chapter 34

36. Chapter 35

37. Chapter 36

38. Chapter 37

39. Chapter 38

40. Chapter 39

41. Chapter 40

42. Chapter 41

43. Chapter 42

44. Chapter 43

45. Chapter 44

46. Chapter 45

47. Chapter 46

48. Chapter 47

49. Chapter 48

50. Chapter 49

51. Chapter 50

52. Chapter 51

53. Chapter 52

54. Chapter 53

55. Chapter 54

56. Chapter 55

57. Chapter 56

58. Chapter 57

59. Chapter 58

60. Chapter 59

61. Chapter 60

62. Chapter 61

63. Chapter 62

64. Chapter 63

65. Chapter 64

66. Chapter 65

67. Chapter 66

68. Chapter 67

69. Chapter 68

70. Chapter 69

71. Conclusion


Let us be grateful to Adam our benefactor. He cut us out of the
"blessing of idleness," and won for us the "curse of labor."
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

We soon reached the town of Nelson, and spent the most of the day there,
visiting acquaintances and driving with them about the garden--the whole
region is a garden, excepting the scene of the "Maungatapu Murders," of
thirty years ago. That is a wild place--wild and lonely; an ideal place
for a murder. It is at the base of a vast, rugged, densely timbered
mountain. In the deep twilight of that forest solitude four desperate
rascals--Burgess, Sullivan, Levy, and Kelley--ambushed themselves beside
the mountain-trail to murder and rob four travelers--Kempthorne, Mathieu,
Dudley, and De Pontius, the latter a New Yorker. A harmless old laboring
man came wandering along, and as his presence was an embarrassment, they
choked him, hid him, and then resumed their watch for the four. They had
to wait a while, but eventually everything turned out as they desired.

That dark episode is the one large event in the history of Nelson. The
fame of it traveled far. Burgess made a confession. It is a remarkable
paper. For brevity, succinctness, and concentration, it is perhaps
without its peer in the literature of murder. There are no waste words
in it; there is no obtrusion of matter not pertinent to the occasion, nor
any departure from the dispassionate tone proper to a formal business
statement--for that is what it is: a business statement of a murder, by
the chief engineer of it, or superintendent, or foreman, or whatever one
may prefer to call him.

"We were getting impatient, when we saw four men and a pack-horse
coming. I left my cover and had a look at the men, for Levy had
told me that Mathieu was a small man and wore a large beard, and
that it was a chestnut horse. I said, 'Here they come.' They were
then a good distance away; I took the caps off my gun, and put fresh
ones on. I said, 'You keep where you are, I'll put them up, and you
give me your gun while you tie them.' It was arranged as I have
described. The men came; they arrived within about fifteen yards
when I stepped up and said, 'Stand! bail up!' That means all of
them to get together. I made them fall back on the upper side of
the road with their faces up the range, and Sullivan brought me his
gun, and then tied their hands behind them. The horse was very
quiet all the time, he did not move. When they were all tied,
Sullivan took the horse up the hill, and put him in the bush; he cut
the rope and let the swags--[A "swag" is a kit, a pack, small
baggage.]--fall on the ground, and then came to me. We then marched
the men down the incline to the creek; the water at this time barely
running. Up this creek we took the men; we went, I daresay, five or
six hundred yards up it, which took us nearly half-an-hour to
accomplish. Then we turned to the right up the range; we went, I
daresay, one hundred and fifty yards from the creek, and there we
sat down with the men. I said to Sullivan, 'Put down your gun and
search these men,' which he did. I asked them their several names;
they told me. I asked them if they were expected at Nelson. They
said, 'No.' If such their lives would have been spared. In money
we took L60 odd. I said, 'Is this all you have? You had better
tell me.' Sullivan said, 'Here is a bag of gold.' I said, 'What's on
that pack-horse? Is there any gold ?' when Kempthorne said, 'Yes,
my gold is in the portmanteau, and I trust you will not take it
all.' 'Well,' I said, 'we must take you away one at a time, because
the range is steep just here, and then we will let you go.' They
said, 'All right,' most cheerfully. We tied their feet, and took
Dudley with us; we went about sixty yards with him. This was
through a scrub. It was arranged the night previously that it would
be best to choke them, in case the report of the arms might be heard
from the road, and if they were missed they never would be found.
So we tied a handkerchief over his eyes, when Sullivan took the sash
off his waist, put it round his neck, and so strangled him.
Sullivan, after I had killed the old laboring man, found fault with
the way he was choked. He said, 'The next we do I'll show you my
way.' I said, 'I have never done such a thing before. I have shot
a man, but never choked one.' We returned to the others, when
Kempthorne said, 'What noise was that?' I said it was caused by
breaking through the scrub. This was taking too much time, so it
was agreed to shoot them. With that I said, 'We'll take you no
further, but separate you, and then loose one of you, and he can
relieve the others.' So with that, Sullivan took De Pontius to the
left of where Kempthorne was sitting. I took Mathieu to the right.
I tied a strap round his legs, and shot him with a revolver. He
yelled, I ran from him with my gun in my hand, I sighted Kempthorne,
who had risen to his feet. I presented the gun, and shot him behind
the right ear; his life's blood welled from him, and he died
instantaneously. Sullivan had shot. De Pontius in the meantime,
and then came to me. I said, 'Look to Mathieu,' indicating the spot
where he lay. He shortly returned and said, 'I had to "chiv" that
fellow, he was not dead,' a cant word, meaning that he had to stab
him. Returning to the road we passed where De Pontius lay and was
dead. Sullivan said, 'This is the digger, the others were all
storekeepers; this is the digger, let's cover him up, for should the
others be found, they'll think he done it and sloped,' meaning he
had gone. So with that we threw all the stones on him, and then
left him. This bloody work took nearly an hour and a half from the
time we stopped the men."

Anyone who reads that confession will think that the man who wrote it was
destitute of emotions, destitute of feeling. That is partly true. As
regarded others he was plainly without feeling--utterly cold and
pitiless; but as regarded himself the case was different. While he cared
nothing for the future of the murdered men, he cared a great deal for his
own. It makes one's flesh creep to read the introduction to his
confession. The judge on the bench characterized it as "scandalously
blasphemous," and it certainly reads so, but Burgess meant no blasphemy.
He was merely a brute, and whatever he said or wrote was sure to expose
the fact. His redemption was a very real thing to him, and he was as
jubilantly happy on the gallows as ever was Christian martyr at the
stake. We dwellers in this world are strangely made, and mysteriously
circumstanced. We have to suppose that the murdered men are lost, and
that Burgess is saved; but we cannot suppress our natural regrets.

"Written in my dungeon drear this 7th of August, in the year of
Grace, 1866. To God be ascribed all power and glory in subduing the
rebellious spirit of a most guilty wretch, who has been brought,
through the instrumentality of a faithful follower of Christ, to see
his wretched and guilty state, inasmuch as hitherto he has led an
awful and wretched life, and through the assurance of this faithful
soldier of Christ, he has been led and also believes that Christ
will yet receive and cleanse him from all his deep-dyed and bloody
sins. I lie under the imputation which says, 'Come now and let us
reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson,
they shall be as wool.' On this promise I rely."

We sailed in the afternoon late, spent a few hours at New Plymouth, then
sailed again and reached Auckland the next day, November 20th, and
remained in that fine city several days. Its situation is commanding,
and the sea-view is superb. There are charming drives all about, and by
courtesy of friends we had opportunity to enjoy them. From the grassy
crater-summit of Mount Eden one's eye ranges over a grand sweep and
variety of scenery--forests clothed in luxuriant foliage, rolling green
fields, conflagrations of flowers, receding and dimming stretches of
green plain, broken by lofty and symmetrical old craters--then the blue
bays twinkling and sparkling away into the dreamy distances where the
mountains loom spiritual in their veils of haze.

It is from Auckland that one goes to Rotorua, the region of the renowned
hot lakes and geysers--one of the chief wonders of New Zealand; but I was
not well enough to make the trip. The government has a sanitorium there,
and everything is comfortable for the tourist and the invalid. The
government's official physician is almost over-cautious in his estimates
of the efficacy of the baths, when he is talking about rheumatism, gout,
paralysis, and such things; but when he is talking about the
effectiveness of the waters in eradicating the whisky-habit, he seems to
have no reserves. The baths will cure the drinking-habit no matter how
chronic it is--and cure it so effectually that even the desire to drink
intoxicants will come no more. There should be a rush from Europe and
America to that place; and when the victims of alcoholism find out what
they can get by going there, the rush will begin.

The Thermal-springs District of New Zealand comprises an area of upwards
of 600,000 acres, or close on 1,000 square miles. Rotorua is the
favorite place. It is the center of a rich field of lake and mountain
scenery; from Rotorua as a base the pleasure-seeker makes excursions.
The crowd of sick people is great, and growing. Rotorua is the Carlsbad
of Australasia.

It is from Auckland that the Kauri gum is shipped. For a long time now
about 8,000 tons of it have been brought into the town per year. It is
worth about $300 per ton, unassorted; assorted, the finest grades are
worth about $1,000. It goes to America, chiefly. It is in lumps, and is
hard and smooth, and looks like amber--the light-colored like new amber,
and the dark brown like rich old amber. And it has the pleasant feel of
amber, too. Some of the light-colored samples were a tolerably fair
counterfeit of uncut South African diamonds, they were so perfectly
smooth and polished and transparent. It is manufactured into varnish; a
varnish which answers for copal varnish and is cheaper.

The gum is dug up out of the ground; it has been there for ages. It is
the sap of the Kauri tree. Dr. Campbell of Auckland told me he sent a
cargo of it to England fifty years ago, but nothing came of the venture.
Nobody knew what to do with it; so it was sold at 15 a ton, to light
fires with.

November 26--3 P.M., sailed. Vast and beautiful harbor. Land all about
for hours. Tangariwa, the mountain that "has the same shape from every
point of view." That is the common belief in Auckland. And so it has
--from every point of view except thirteen. Perfect summer weather. Large
school of whales in the distance. Nothing could be daintier than the
puffs of vapor they spout up, when seen against the pink glory of the
sinking sun, or against the dark mass of an island reposing in the deep
blue shadow of a storm cloud . . . . Great Barrier rock standing up
out of the sea away to the left. Sometime ago a ship hit it full speed
in a fog--20 miles out of her course--140 lives lost; the captain
committed suicide without waiting a moment. He knew that, whether he was
to blame or not, the company owning the vessel would discharge him and
make a devotion--to--passengers' safety advertisement out of it, and his
chance to make a livelihood would be permanently gone.

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