Monday, May 10, 2010

Transcription: Mott Memoir, Part 14

"The last and most important of the Ships of War that came to Honolulu during our sojourn there was the Flagship Independence having Commodore Stockton on board.  There was a reception and dance on the ship which was very pleasant.  As the Independence had stopped at Mazatlan while our mother was there she was acquainted with several of the officers.  One of them Lieutenant Henry Wise, wrote a book about Mexico called Las Gringos a nick name given to the Americans by the Mexicans.  When it was published he sent us a copy which we found very entertaining.  There was a Midshipman named J. Randolph Hamilton belonging to one of the "First Families of Virginia" who was often my partner at the dances given to the officers.  He was nice looking and well bred.  I regret to say that when the Civil War began he resigned from our Navy, went south and fought against the flag he had sworn to defend.  He wrote some rather absurd verses in my album.  Several of the officers wrote in it and Commodore Stockton was good enough to write his name.  I have the old album yet.  It is amusing to look over sometimes.

Mrs. Dominis decided to give a party also.  She told us it was on our account principally as she wished to have a party before we left and this would be a good time while the ships were in port.  She had everything very nicely arranged.  The side of the piazza upon which the dining room windows opened was enclosed with canvas.  With a long table, it made a fine room for the supper.  The dining table being removed and the double doors into the parlor kept open there was plenty of room for dancing.  Several of the officers of the Independence were among the guests, also a Spanish girl, Domatila Vida, whose family had lately arrived from Chile.  Fanny and I wore pink tarleton dresses with ribbons to match.  Tarleton of a fine quality was fashionable for evening dresses then.

The polka was a customary dance then but merely as a round dance, something like a waltz.  There were a number of figures that Evy and I had learned at dancing school and often practised together, Evy taking the boy's part as she was so tall.  When the music for the polka was played young Mr. Hamilton asked me if I knew the figures and as I did, would I dance them with him, which I was quite willing to do.  Miss Vida was the only other girl who was familiar with them.  (Evy could not dance then)  So the rest of the company went into the front room while Miss Vida with one of the officers, Mr. Hamilton and myself went through all the figures in the other.  The polka figures were very pretty and I enjoyed the dance.  Hamilton made a good partner and we all acquitted ourselves well and received much applause when we had finished.

I am afraid if anyone reads these reminiscences they will think me very conceited to write so much about myself, but little Essie Mott seems to me an entirely different person from the old Grandma who writes these lines and I should like the younger members of the family to realize that I was not always a forlorn old woman, but once actually young and lively and pretty enough to be pleasing.

The supper on the piazza was a great success.  There was no ice-cream in Honolulu as there was no ice there at that time, but Mrs. Dominis had cups of cold custard that were almost as good.

The young Princes were not allowed to come to the party as it was a dance, but Prince Alexander dressed like a common Kanaka and stood out in the garden and John passed him through the opening in the canvas as much as he could of the supper.  No one noticed this performance and I was much amused when John told me the next day.  It seemed such a funny thing for a Prince to do.  John said Prince Alexander was particularly pleased with the custards, he had about six.

(I read in a newspaper that the Independence was at Mare Island and there was some talk of breaking her up but others thought it would be better to keep her until after the Panama Festival as a relic of old times.  I feel much sympathy with the old ship, she is connected in my mid with so many pleasant memories.  Now alike, we have both outlived our usefulness and are lying quietly in port waiting for the end.)

A few weeks before we left a ship came into the harbor and a young man landed who told a very exciting story.  It is so long ago I cannot remember all the details, only the principal facts.  The ship had sailed from Mazatlan bound for China with three passengers, Mr. Cook, his wife and her maid, all English.  Mr. Cook had been in business in Mazatlan, but having better prospects in China was on his way there.  The merchants in Mazatlan often sent a considerable amount of money on the ships to China as there was so much traffic with that country.  After this vessel, I do not know her name, had been at sea for some days the crew mutinied, intending to seize the ship and the money and go to one of the Pacific Islands and divide their booty.  Taking the Captain by surprise they killed him, also the first mate and Mr. Cook and threw them overboard.  They told the second mate they would spare his life if he would agree to navigate the ship for them as none of them understood navigation.  He consented to this on condition they would not harm Mrs. Cook and her maid, and took charge of the ship.  He succeeded in bringing them to Honolulu, but how he managed to come ashore and tell his story to the authorities without the crew suspecting him I do not remember.  It seems quite improbable now, still it really happened.  The mutineers were arrested and Mrs. Cook and her maid brought ashore.  Our mother being already acquainted went to see her and took me with her.  The poor woman was in such distress she could hardly talk and I have only a confused idea of what she said.  This unfortunate woman had not only lost her husband but was left with very little means and no one to help her but her maid who was a middle aged woman evidently much attached to her mistress.

Our father having written that Mazatlan was in a peaceable condition now, and would be safe for us, our mother was trying to find a vessel that would take us.  But the ships that stopped at Honolulu had different destinations and did not want to go out of their way.  At last a whaler the John A. Robb, came into port for water on her way North to the whaling ground.  The Captain agreed to take us to Mazatlan on consideration of our father paying him $1,000, when we arrived.  This being settled we had to begin packing, which was a difficult task as there were so many of us.

Our sea chests and our mother's big camphor wood trunk were brought up from the cellar and we commenced.  Evy was not strong enough to do much.  Our mother superintended, but Fanny and I did most of the work.  We liked to pack, but were sorry to leave Honolulu where we had been so happy. Mrs. Dominis' house was more like a pleasant home than a boarding house.  She treated us as if we were her children not merely boarders. We went around the house and garden just as we pleased.  Captain Spencer put up a swing for us under a big tree which gave us much amusement.  The climate was delightful.  I sometimes hear people speaking of Honolulu as being dreadfully hot but we did not find it so.  It was warm but not oppressive.  We could always sleep comfortably.  The summers in New York were much hotter.

We were leaving many pleasant friends, Uncle Charlie and Kate were like dear relations, Lizzie Turrill and the other girls who had been very kind and friendly.  We had passed many happy hours with them but all things pass and the time came when we had to leave.

We spent our last evening with the Brewer's who gave us a farewell party.  The next day we said good-bye to Mrs. Dominis and accompanied by John, Uncle Charlie and Kate went on board the ship.  Kate seemed very much affected when she said good-bye to Evy.  I suppose she felt she would never see her again.  Mrs. Cook was going back with us to Mexico, now her husband was dead there was no reason to go to China and as she did not money for the long voyage back to England.

Uncle Charlie went out as far as the Pilot took us and returned to his boat.  We remained on deck watching the Islands until they were only a blur on the horizon.  Though I did not realize it then, I left my childhood there."

This ends the Honolulu section of the memoir, next up it The Whaler and Mazatlan.


The book mentioned can be read over at GoogleBooks.  Los Gringos: Or an inside view of Mexico and California, with wanderings in Peru, Chili and Polynesia by Henry Augustus Wise, U.S.N. includes this passage:
"The circle of our own countrymen was limited - the Consul, good Doctor Bevans - who gave us a grand feast on leaving, - and the Anglo-American house of Mott and Talbot.  From all these gentlemen we experienced the utmost civility; but to Mr. Mott and his amiable lady we stand indebted for many and repeated acts of kindness and hospitality, that never can be too gratefully remembered."

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