We had the company of the natives all day
who now laid aside
all manner of restraint,
if they ever had any,
and came on board the ships
and mixed with our people
with the greatest freedom.
And we soon found that they
were as light fingered as any people
we had before met with,
and were far more dangerous,
for with their knives
and other cutting instruments of iron
they would cut a hook from a tackle
or any other piece of iron
from a rope
the instant our backs were turned.
We lost a large hook
between 20 and 30 lb weight,
and as for our boats
they stripped them
of every article of iron
worth carrying away,
though we had always
men in them to guard them
at one end of the boat
while another was stealthily
pulling her to pieces at the other.
About noon an Indian
stole a small piece of iron
and went into his canoe with it
and refused to give it up for some time,
which exasperated Captain Cook
and he fired a musket full of small shot
into the canoe,
which wounded 3 or 4 men
in their backs and backsides,
which made the whole party leave us
rather apparently in an ill humour.
Mask.Nootka Sound. Cook Collection.
Meaning is value, the meaning of
the act rather than the act itself.
Cook, exasperated beyond control on this occasion, orders Molesworth Phillips
to fire off a round of shot into the canoe of one particularly obnoxious
member of the host community.
What does it mean?
Anger and resentment?
Future respect? Fear? Regret? Revenge biding its time?
Another day Cook will be more kindly.
What did it mean to Cook at that moment?
What did it mean to William Bayly, astronomer, who witnessed the event and
recorded it in his journal?
What do the star's positions have to do with the rock-salt and rusty nails
festering under the skin of three persons?
For Bayly the question is too obvious even for comment.
What does it mean?
In every case there is an important and separate answer.
What does it mean to me who reads of the event in Bayly's journal and
later treats it in a poem?
What does it mean to you, who read my words and
Bayly's quoted journal notes, at a time and place known only to yourself? |