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A Christmas Holliday
Photos by M. Priestley.
!» "^L, MOONLIGHT night, a cool, 11/7^^ wide verandah, four ■* l^L/ young men in flannels, smoking four fragrant Y)Lp> cigars. 3 " Isn't it about time, W^sb Thomson, for us to arfUhoj range about our annual j\J camp at Kare Kare ?" ft li By Jove, yes ! I wish we were there now. I can almost hear the boom of the breakers, and see the Lion Bock crouching in the moonlight/ " Are we to sling hammocks in the flax-mill, or to take tents ?" " Tents. And mind we take plenty of tobacco this year/ "And books !" "And girls I" piped an appealing voice from inside the open window. " Do take us !" There was a moment's questioning silence. " Why not ?" queried Thomson.
And so it was settled. The committee of four drew up an invitation list of twenty-four able-bodied young people, including a chaperon. Next, a list of necessaries, including a tripod, a camp-oven, and other cooking utensils, provisions, tents, and last, but not least, an organette, a violin, and a concertina. The invitations ran as follows :— " The Kare Kare Camping Committee request the pleasure of 's company from December 23rd, to January 6th. " Tennis, music, and Shakespeare at intervals/ ■» -2f * * Thus was inaugurated our now customary annual treat — the most ideal and enjoyable of holidays. Every invitation was accepted, and an extra one asked for and granted. This last was for our dear
old French Professor, who, although in the sixties, was as young at heart as any of us.
Portia retorted, " Good Bardolph, put thy face between the sheets and do the office of a warming-pan." " I am a tainted wether of the flock/ whined merry-faced Jack Blunt, most inappropriately appropriating 1 the character of Antonio. " Professor must be Prospero/' cried Portia. " I can call spirits from the mighty deep/ rumbled Prospero. " Good on you !" exclaimed Thomson, " I'll take a seltzogene." " Pray they be spirits of health, not goblets damned/ misquoted Frank Whyte, punster and prohibitionist, to a chorus of groans and cries of "Hamlet !" " Approach, my Ariel, come/
" Comment \" he exclaimed, " Shakespeare and Music ! Shall we then 'be each a character of Shakespeare V
This was at a meeting of prospective campers. The Professor's suggestion was received with acclamation.
" Her sunny locks hang on her temples like a golden fleece," quoted Thomson, apropos of the silky locks of his vis-a-vis, and thus was Portia christened.
Gazing saucily across at her sponsor's sun-kissed countenance (Thomson had been on the water all day), Vo.. IX.— No. 0.— 24.
continued the Professor, addressing Aston, his favourite student, whose delicate, almost feminine style of beauty had earned for him the name of Dolly.
" My affections are most humble, I have no ambition to see a goodlier man/ quoted the chaperon, with her hand on the shoulder of young Jim Thomson, the juvenile of the party.
Amid gay laughter and goodnatured badinage appropriate names were at last chosen for the whole party.
Men. — Prospero, Bardolph, Mercutio, Hamlet, Benedict, Bassanio, Gratiano, Antonio, Petruchio, Lorenzo, Gobbo, Ferdinand, Ariel.
Girls.— Ophelia, Portia, Katherine, Nerissa, Rosalind, Beatrice, Audrey, Titania, Diana, Viola, Cordelia.
The youthful chaperon insisted upon being Epilogue, " because/ said she, " my word, of course, will always be final."
On tlie twenty- third of December , away started a very merry party, some riding, others driving.
Over twenty-five miles of rugged road we travelled gaily — climbing bush-clad ranges, descending fernlined gullies, until at last we reached the Valley by the Sea, which was to be our holiday home.
The two waggons bringing provisions, tents, and luggage, had arrived before us, so the men at once set to work to pitch the tents on an ideal camping-ground — a green flat, bordered on two sides by limpid streams, which united and flowed to the sea. In front of us a bold, rocky headland ; behind, the bush-clad hills, a roaring waterfall and _ rippling cascades ■ to the left, a disused flax- mill, which wo aid serve as head-quarters if the weather should be wet.
Under the pohutukawas our Uiree tents were pitched—a large oblor.g tent for the girls, an octagonal one for the men 5< and the Professor's own little private tent.
Under the largest tree a fly was stretched for a dining-tent, delight-
fully uncertain seats were improvised, and, as Bardolph said : " There you are ! What more could you wish for ?" " Beds !" wailed The Epilogue, whose camping experience was nil. " Are we to sleep like ' Massa on the cold, cold ground V " But Bardolph had instructed the waggoners to cut ti-tree and mangemange for beds, and The Epilogue regained her cheerfulness. Bardolph had arranged everything — even to a plan of work— for we expected to be our own cooks and bottle-washers. Four campers — two men and two girls — were on duty for each meal. The Professor only was exempted. The Shakesperian time-table was interesting reading. Here is a sample : Kare Kare Camp, 29th December, 1900. Breakfast, Mercutio, G-obbo, Diana and Titan ia " I almost die for food, and let me have it." Dinner, - Portia, Audrey, Bardolph, and Ariel " What say you to a piece of beef and mustard." Tea, - Nerissa, Ophelia, Gratinno. and Hamlet " Say, sweet love, what thou desir'st to eat." Supper, ... - General Scramble " Let good digestion wait on appetite." Washing up Calibui Yes, we had found a Caliban in the shape of a deaf mute who inhabited a shanty behind the flaxmill, and who was glad to earn a few shillings: by gathering! wood, keeping up the fire, and washing the dishes. From a farm over the headland we obtained fresh meat and bread ; but as fresh meat meant much cooking, we did not have it every day. Tinned beef, tongue, fowls, or fish, served quite as well. Once, indeed, Bassanio killed a wild pig, which, with a commendable effort to appear modest over his achievement, he laid at the feet of Titania. " You pig \" screamed the ungrateful Fairy Queen — not apostrophising the inanimate carcase. " Comment/ exclaimed the Professor, " but this is too charming ! We can now have the historic dish
of which the great Lamb has written — the delicacy of whose flavour was accidentally discovered by the Chinese." Applause was not quite universal. "To smell pork/" scoffed Diana, who was on dinner duty next day, 4t to eat of the habitation which your prophet, the Nazarite, conjured the devil into \" Ariel, also on dinner duty, daintily held his nose. Ay, there was the rub — the cooking of it.
Mercutio tactfully, declared to be so good to look upon that none but barbarians would dream of devouring 1 them.
We were not barbarians. The cooks alone partook of those highly picturesque dishes. Bassanio implored them to desist, saying, "You forget that it is my holiday." Mercutio was for preserving samples ; but with unusual modesty the cooks declined, and Gobbo was observed silently stealing creek-wards with his culinary treasures, which were
Well, the. pig' was hung in a tree. For three days the cooks ignored it. The Hies discovered it, and — and— "We buried it! darkly at dead of night."
Bassanio was cautioned never to do it again.
Our staple breakfast dish was ham and eggs, but the menu was occasionally varied, notably when Gobbo and Titania arose with the dawn in order to make salmon rissoles and banana fritters, which
doubtless carried to the sea, where, as Diana suggested, they might " Suffer a sea change Into something rich and strange." *' Stranger they; could notj well become," said Petruchio. " And I am sure they couldn't he richer/ complained Titania, who had no sense of humour. " I used a whole pound and a half of butter." At mid-day dinner we had plumpudding galore, for every girl had
brought a pudding — by special request of Ariel, whose name and appearance were greatly belied by his appetite. Afternoon tea and supper were movable feasts, partaken of at all hours by sociable little groups. And how we did eat ! Appetite was universal and chronic. The jaded journalist (Hamlet), the pale divinity student (Petruchio), the over-worked medico (Bassanio), two anaemic-looking martyrs of the teachings profession, and even Titania, not to speak of the dainty. Ariel, proved themselves no mean trencher-men.
with the breakers, perfect freedom, close communion with Nature at her best, proved life-giving tonics. We were not an energetic party. Some explored the bush, climbed the head-land, walked for miles along the beach, or played tennis on the most perfect of courts— the level sands ; but most of us had come for rest, and an ideal rest we had.
Every morning, when the tide suited, we went down en masse to bathe in the breakers. Oh, the exhilaration of that tim© — the joy of battling with the waters, the delightful sensation of
The open-air life, the daily battle
being carried in ,on the bosom of the waves, the exhilarating sense of danger overcome ! A quarter of an hour was the limit for the girls— then a run :over the sands, a dash into the creek, and a rush up to the flax-mill— our temporary dressing-room. The men. stayed longer in the water, finishing up by wallowing, in a sun-warmed lagoon, where they were caught by a camera-fiend ., . After bathing, with pillows, and books we sought a shady' spot, where 'we read and talked, or— slept. _ •...;" Sometimes, the . Professor would
regale us with whole scenes from comedies of Moliere, or— better still —with his own personal experiences. He had travelled in nearly every quarter of the glote, and he had the gift of seeing, and the greater gift of. telling what he had seen. Dear old Professor ! He has since crossed the bourne whence no traveller returneth. Music we had galore, morning, noon and nigjit. It is marvellous what sweet strains the practised hand can draw even from an org'anette. The first morning, we were awakened by "Hail, .Smiling Morn/
and every night we were serenaded with " Good-night, Ladies."
At least eight of our number rejoiced in fine voices — almost all were musical.
" The man that hath not music in his soul," q,uoth Titania, "is fit only to assist Caliban."
On Christmas morning, we held service under the pohutukawas— the divinity student reading the prayers. The midsummer sun shone brightly in the cloudless sky, birds
formance of " A Midsummer Day's Dream/ born of a Christmas dinner in the Southern hemisphere.
The actors were Bardolph, Gobfoo, and Gratiano, and the dream was extremely suggestive of nightmare.
In the afternoon we had sports — a needle-th reading 1 race, a hurdle race, and a steeplechase.
Ere the New Year another tent was raised on our flat, and six stranger-men dared to walk on our sands, and to bathe in our sea.
filled the air with song — everything was as unlike an English Christmas as could possibly be, yet there we were, in a new land, under altogether changed conditions, worshipping as our forebears had done for centuries.
We had, too, the historic Christmas dinner— orthodox for the day, most unsuited to the climate.
Towards evening we were lured to a sequestered spot to view a per-
We resented it mightily at first, but The Epilogue pointed out that we had not yet purchased Kara Kare, and the Professor put us to shame by quotations from HenryGeorge, and finally wrung from us permission ta invite the interlopers to our dance in the flax-mill on New Year's Eve.
The mill was decorated with pohutukawa flowers, daisies, nikau palms and tree-ferns, and when
lighted by two lamps and manycandles, it looked like a scene in a play. The floor was not perfect, but if you remembered to jump over certain marked unevennesses, you broke no bones. Did I call it " our dance V It was a fancy-dress ball, no modest dance. And the visitors were all men ! " I have an idea I" said Ariel. " Never !" exclaimed an astounded audience. " Oh, bother ! Let three of us dress as girls." From the combined feminine wardrobe we managed to equip Mercutio, Ariel, and Gratiano, and with the aid of razors, powder, and burnt cork, to make of them good-looking girls ; but poor Mercutio could not manage his skirts, and was too painfully conscious of obtrusive feet. Ariel, however, played the coquette as to the manner born. He danced almost all the evening with a big, blushing, embarrassed young man, who was evidently quite eporis, and who did not realize the deception even when Ariel was called upon to sing tenor in " Springs Delights Are Now Returning." The flax-mill was fairy-land, the dancers looked charming. It is marvellous what can be done by a judicious use of blouses, robes de nuit, lace, and fcuttercloth. For the men— a panama hat with prairie grass plumes, and a mackintosh cape furnished forth a splendid Spanish cavalier, cycling stockings and a jersey suggested the athlete, a cravenette cloak and an old mor-tar-board equipped a college don, burnt cork and a blanket created a life-like Maori, and Mephistopheles was cunningly rigged out with, odds and ends. The show was quite imposing, I can assure you. At half-past eleven dancing stopped, and the merry-makers trooped down to the beach, Ariel in front singing :
" Come unto these yellow sands, And then take hands ; Curtsied when you have, and kissed (The wild waves whist), Foot it featly here and there ; And, sweet sprites, the burden bear. Hark, hark ! (Biirden) Bow-wow ! The watch-dogs bark ; (Burden) Bow-wow ! Hark, hark ! I hear The strain of strutting chanticleer (Burden) Cry cock-a-doodle-doo." Even the stranger-men chanted the burden, and Ariel's young- man was unrivalled as chanticleer. As we neared the sea, Mother Nature put her hand upon our lips and hushed them. The breakers boomed, the moon shone white and clear, the bold headland stood out in rockygrandeur, the Lion Rock lay crouching" in the distance, and the Old Year was dying ! Another year of our lives ! On the stroke of twelve, every man's head was bared, and the Te Deum rang out. "We praise Thee, 0 God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord/ Silently we turned from the sea. The solemnity of the night, of the occasion, was upon us. No word was spoken till we reached our tents, then with gentle iNew Year greetings we parted for the night, The end of our holiday came all too soon. "If you have tears, prepare to shed them now,'' said the Professor, as the brake and waggon appeared on the brow of the hill on the eve of our departure. However, we had a merry journey home. Our clean clothes, had given out, our hats were worse for wear, our sunbonnets resembled dish-rags, our- complexions werei " Bardolphian." With our rags and our rowdiness we might have passed for gipsies ; but our brake and our baggage waggon resembled rather the property- waggons of a travelling circus. At Nihotapu, we scandalized a proper city picnic party,
As we neared our destination, Bassanio sang " A great while ago the world begun With hey, ho, the wind and the rain ; But that's all one, cur play is done, And we've striven to please you every day." Yes, truly, " our play was done " — our play for the year. And, after all, " Home, Sweet Home " was all the sweeter for the sweetness of the holiday.
whose amazement was complete upon recognizing in the most dis-reputable-looking member of our troupe, a popular Auckland doctor.
There, too, we came upon a trac-tion-engine drawing a section of a huge kaiuri-tree— a veritable giant of the forest— out of the bush. "We joined with the proper City people in a ride on that. log. It held forty of us easily.
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