By Reef and Palm
Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Col Choat email@example.com
By Reef and Palm
by Louis Becke
CHALLIS THE DOUBTER
"'TIS IN THE BLOOD"
THE REVENGE OF MACY O'SHEA
THE RANGERS OF TIA KAU
A BASKET OF BREAD-FRUIT
LONG CHARLEY'S GOOD LITTLE WIFE
THE METHODICAL MR BURR OF MAJURU
A TRULY GREAT MAN
THE DOCTOR'S WIFE
THE FATE OF THE ALIDA
THE CHILIAN BLUEJACKET
BRANTLEY OF VAHITAHI
When in October, 1870, I sailed into the harbour of Apia, Samoa, in the
ill-fated ALBATROSS, Mr Louis Becke was gaining his first experiences
of island life as a trader on his own account by running a cutter
between Apia and Savai'i.
It was rather a notable moment in Apia, for two reasons. In the first
place, the German traders were shaking in their shoes for fear of what
the French squadron might do to them, and we were the bearers of the
good news from Tahiti that the chivalrous Admiral Clouet, with a very
proper magnanimity, had decided not to molest them; and, secondly, the
beach was still seething with excitement over the departure on the
previous day of the pirate Pease, carrying with him the yet more
illustrious "Bully" Hayes.
It happened in this wise. A month or two before our arrival, Hayes had
dropped anchor in Apia, and some ugly stories of recent irregularities
in the labour trade had come to the ears of Mr Williams, the English
Consul. Mr Williams, with the assistance of the natives, very cleverly
seized his vessel in the night, and ran her ashore, and detained Mr
Hayes pending the arrival of an English man-of-war to which he could be
given in charge. But in those happy days there were no prisons in
Samoa, so that his confinement was not irksome, and his only hard
labour was picnics, of which he was the life and soul. All went
pleasantly until Mr Pease--a degenerate sort of pirate who made his
living by half bullying, half swindling lonely white men on small
islands out of their coconut oil, and unarmed merchantmen out of their
stores--came to Apia in an armed ship with a Malay crew. From that
moment Hayes' life became less idyllic. Hayes and Pease conceived a
most violent hatred of each other, and poor old Mr Williams was really
worried into an attack of elephantiasis (which answers to the gout in
those latitudes) by his continual efforts to prevent the two
desperadoes from flying at each other's throat. Heartily glad was he
when Pease--who was the sort of man that always observed LES
CONVENANCES when possible, and who fired a salute of twenty-one guns on
the Queen's Birthday--came one afternoon to get his papers "all
regular," and clear for sea. But lo! the next morning, when his vessel
had disappeared, it was found that his enemy Captain Hayes had
disappeared also, and the ladies of Samoa were left disconsolate at the
departure of the most agreeable man they had ever known.
However, all this is another story, as Mr Kipling says, and one which I
hope Mr Becke will tell us more fully some day, for he knew Hayes well,
having acted as supercargo on board his ship, and shared a shipwreck
and other adventures with him.
But even before this date Mr Becke had had as much experience as falls
to most men of adventures in the Pacific Ocean.
Born at Port Macquarrie in Australia, where his father was clerk of
petty sessions, he was seized at the age of fourteen with an intense
longing to go to sea. It is possible that he inherited this passion
through his mother, for her father, Charles Beilby, who was private
secretary to the Duke of Cumberland, invested a legacy that fell to him
in a small vessel, and sailed with his family to the then very new
world of Australia. However this may be, it was impossible to keep
Louis Becke at home; and, as an alternative, a uncle undertook to send
him, and a brother two years older, to a mercantile house in
California. His first voyage was a terrible one. There were no
steamers, of course, in those days, and they sailed for San Francisco
in a wretched old barque. For over a month they were drifting about the
stormy sea between Australia and New Zealand, a partially dismasted and
leaking wreck. The crew mutinied--they had bitter cause to--and only
after calling at Rurutu, in the Tubuai Group, and obtaining fresh food,
did they permit the captain to resume command of the half-sunken old
craft. They were ninety days in reaching Honolulu, and another forty in
making the Californian coast.
The two lads did not find the routine of a merchant's office at all to
their taste; and while the elder obtained employment on a sheep ranche
at San Juan, Louis, still faithful to the sea, got a berth as a clerk
in a steamship company, and traded to the Southern ports. In a year's
time he had money enough to take passage in a schooner bound on a
shark-catching cruise to the equatorial islands of the North Pacific.
The life was a very rough one, and full of incident and
adventure--which I hope he will relate some day. Returning to Honolulu,
he fell in with an old captain who had bought a schooner for a trading
venture amongst the Western Carolines. Becke put in $1000, and sailed
with him as supercargo, he and the skipper being the only white men on
board. He soon discovered that, though a good seaman, the old man knew
nothing of navigation. In a few weeks they were among the Marshall
Islands, and the captain went mad from DELIRIUM TREMENS. Becke and the
three native sailors ran the vessel into a little uninhabited atoll,
and for a week had to keep the captain tied up to prevent his killing
himself. They got him right at last, and stood to the westward. On
their voyage they were witnesses of a tragedy (in this instance
fortunately not complete), on which the pitiless sun of the Pacific has
looked down very often. They fell in with a big Marshall Island sailing
canoe that had been blown out of sight of land, and had drifted six
hundred miles to the westward. Out of her complement of fifty people,
thirty were dead. They gave them provisions and water, and left them to
make Strong's Island (Kusaie), which was in sight. Becke and the chief
swore Marshall Island BRUDERSCHAFT with each other. Years afterwards,
when he came to live in the Marshall Group, the chief proved his
friendship in a signal manner.
The cruise proved a profitable one, and from that time Mr Becke
determined to become a trader, and to learn to know the people of the
north-west Pacific; and returning to California, he made for Samoa, and
from thence to Sydney. But at this time the Palmer River gold rush had
just broken out in North Queensland, and a brother, who was a bank
manager on the celebrated Charters Towers goldfields, invited him to
come up, as every one seemed to be making his fortune. He wandered
between the rushes for two years, not making a fortune, but acquiring
much useful experience, learning, amongst other things, the art of a
blacksmith, and becoming a crack shot with a rifle. Returning to
Sydney, he sailed for the Friendly Islands (Tonga) in company with the
king of Tonga's yacht--the TAUFAAHAU. The Friendly Islanders
disappointed him (at which no one that knows them will wonder), and he
went on to Samoa, and set up as a trader on his own account for the
first time. He and a Manhiki half-caste--the "Allan" who so frequently
figures in his stories--bought a cutter, and went trading throughout
the group. This was the time of Colonel Steinberger's brief tenure of
power. The natives were fighting, and the cutter was seized on two
occasions. When the war was over he made a voyage to the north-west,
and became a great favourite with the natives, as indeed seems to have
been the case in most of the places he went to in Polynesia and
Micronesia. Later on he was sent away from Samoa in charge of a vessel
under sealed orders to the Marshall Islands. These orders were to hand
the vessel over to the notorious Captain "Bully" Hayes. (Some day he
promises that he will give us the details of this very curious
adventure). He found Hayes awaiting him in his famous brig LEONORA in
Milli Lagoon. He handed over his charge and took service with him as
supercargo. After some months' cruising in the Carolines they were
wrecked on Strong's Island (Kusaie). Hayes made himself the ruler of
the island, and Mr Becke and he had a bitter quarrel. The natives
treated the latter with great kindness, and gave him land on the lee
side of the island, where he lived happily enough for five months.
Hayes was captured by an English man-of-war, but escaped and went to
Guam. Mr Becke went back in the cruiser to the Colonies, and then again
sailed for Eastern Polynesia, trading in the Gambiers, Paumotus, and
Easter and Pitcairn Islands. In this part of the ocean he picked up an
abandoned French barque on a reef, floated her, and loaded her with
coconuts, intending to sail her to New Zealand with a native crew, but
they went ashore in a hurricane and lost everything. Meeting with Mr
Tom de Wolf, the managing partner of a Liverpool firm, he took service
with him as a trader in the Ellice and Tokelau Groups, finally settling
down as a residential trader. Then he took passage once more for the
Carolines, and was wrecked on Peru, one of the Gilbert Islands (lately
annexed), losing every dollar that he possessed. He returned to Samoa
and engaged as a "recruiter" in the labour trade. He got badly hurt in
an encounter with some natives, and went to New Zealand to recover.
Then he sailed to New Britain on a trading venture, and fell in with,
and had much to do with, the ill-fated colonising expedition of the
Marquis de Ray in New Ireland. A bad attack of malarial fever, and a
wound in the neck (labour recruiting or even trading among the blacks
of Melanesia seems to have been a much less pleasant business than
residence among the gentle brown folk of the Eastern Pacific) made him
leave and return to the Marshall Islands, where Lailik, the chief whom
he had succoured at sea years before, made him welcome. He left on a
fruitless quest after an imaginary guano island, and from then until
two years ago he has been living on various islands in both the North
and South Pacific, leading what he calls "a wandering and lonely but
not unhappy existence," "Lui," as they call him, being a man both liked
and trusted by the natives from lonely Easter Island to the faraway
Pelews. He is still in the prime of life, and whether he will now remain
within the bounds of civilisation, or whether some day he will return to
his wanderings, as Odysseus is fabled to have done in his old age, I fancy
that he hardly knows himself. But when once the charm of a wild roving
life has got into a man's blood, the trammels of civilisation are irksome
and its atmosphere is hard to breathe. It will be seen from this
all-too-condensed sketch of Mr Becke's career that he knows the Pacific
as few men alive or dead have ever known it. He is one of the rare men
who have led a very wild life, and have the culture and talent
necessary to give some account of it. As a rule, the men who know don't
write, and the men who write don't know.
Every one who has a taste for good stories will feel, I believe, the
force of these. Every one who knows the South Seas, and, I believe,
many who do not, will feel that they have the unmistakable stamp of
truth. And truth to nature is a great merit in a story, not only
because of that thrill of pleasure hard to analyse, but largely made up
of associations, memories, and suggestions that faithfulness of
representation in picture or book gives to the natural man; but because
of the fact that nature is almost infinitely rich, and the unassisted
imagination of man but a poor and sterile thing, tending constantly
towards some ossified convention. "Treasure Island" is a much better
story than "The Wreckers," yet I, for one, shall never cease to regret
that Mr Stevenson did not possess, when he wrote "Treasure Island,"
that knowledge of what men and schooners do in wild seas that was his
when he gave us "The Wreckers." The detail would have been so much
richer and more convincing.
It is open to any one to say that these tales are barbarous, and what
Mrs Meynell, in a very clever and amusing essay, has called
"decivilised." Certainly there is a wide gulf separating life on a
Pacific island from the accumulated culture of centuries of
civilisation in the midst of which such as Mrs Meynell move and have
their being. And if there can be nothing good in literature that does
not spring from that culture, these stories must stand condemned. But
such a view is surely too narrow. Much as I admire that lady's
writings, I never can think of a world from which everything was
eliminated that did not commend itself to the dainty taste of herself
and her friends, without a feeling of impatience and suffocation. It
takes a huge variety of men and things to make a good world. And
ranches and CANONS, veldts and prairies, tropical forests and coral
islands, and all that goes to make up the wild life in the face of
Nature or among primitive races, far and free from the artificial
conditions of an elaborate civilisation, form an element in the world,
the loss of which would be bitterly felt by many a man who has never
set foot outside his native land.
There is a certain monotony, perhaps, about these stories. To some
extent this is inevitable. The interest and passions of South Sea
Island life are neither numerous nor complex, and action is apt to be
rapid and direct. A novelist of that modern school that fills its
volumes, often fascinatingly enough, by refining upon the shadowy
refinements of civilised thought and feeling, would find it hard to ply
his trade in South Sea Island society. His models would always be
cutting short in five minutes the hesitations and subtleties that ought
to have lasted them through a quarter of a life-time. But I think it is
possible that the English reader might gather from this little book an
unduly strong impression of the uniformity of Island life. The loves of
white men and brown women, often cynical and brutal, sometimes
exquisitely tender and pathetic, necessarily fill a large space in any
true picture of the South Sea Islands, and Mr Becke, no doubt of set
artistic purpose, has confined himself in the collection of tales now
offered almost entirely to this facet of the life. I do not question
that he is right in deciding to detract nothing from the striking
effect of these powerful stories, taken as a whole, by interspersing
amongst them others of a different character. But I hope it may be
remembered that the present selection is only an instalment, and that,
if it finds favour with the British public, we may expect from him some
of those tales of adventure, and of purely native life and custom,
which no one could tell so well as he.
CHALLIS THE DOUBTER
The White Lady And The Brown Woman
Four years had come and gone since the day that Challis, with a dull
and savage misery in his heart, had, cursing the love-madness which
once possessed him, walked out from his house in an Australian city
with an undefined and vague purpose of going "somewhere" to drown his
sense of wrong and erase from his memory the face of the woman who, his
wife of not yet a year, had played with her honour and his. So he
* * * * *
You see, Challis was "a fool"--at least so his pretty, violet-eyed wife
had told him that afternoon with a bitter and contemptuous ring in her
voice when he had brought another man's letter--written to her--and
with impulsive and jealous haste had asked her to explain. He was a
fool, she had said, with an angry gleam in the violet eyes, to think
she could not "take care" of herself. Admit receiving that letter? Of
course! Did he think she could help other men writing silly letters to
her? Did he not think she could keep out of a mess? And she smiled the
self-satisfied smile of a woman conscious of many admirers and of her
own powers of intrigue.
Then Challis, with a big effort, gulping down the rage that stirred
him, made his great mistake. He spoke of his love for her. Fatuity! She
laughed at him, said that as she detested women, his love was too
exacting for her, if it meant that she should never be commonly
friendly with any other man.
* * * * *
Challis looked at her steadily for a few moments, trying to smother the
wild flood of black suspicion aroused in him by the discovery of the
letter, and confirmed by her sneering words, and then said quietly, but
with a dangerous inflection in his voice--
"Remember--you are my wife. If you have no regard for your own
reputation, you shall have some for mine. I don't want to entertain my
friends by thrashing R----, but I'm not such a fool as you think. And
if you go further in this direction you'll find me a bit of a brute."
Again the sneering laugh--"Indeed! Something very tragic will occur, I
"No," said Challis grimly, "something damned prosaic--common enough
among men with pretty wives--I'll clear out."
"I wish you would do that now," said his wife, "I hate you quite
Of course she didn't quite mean it. She really liked Challis in her own
small-souled way--principally because his money had given her the
social pleasures denied her during her girlhood. With an unmoved face
and without farewell he left her and went to his lawyer's.
A quarter of an hour later he arose to go, and the lawyer asked him
when he intended returning.
"That all depends upon her. If she wants me back again, she can write,
through you, and I'll come--if she has conducted herself with a
reasonable amount of propriety for such a pretty woman."
Then, with an ugly look on his face, Challis went out; next day he
embarked in the LADY ALICIA for a six months' cruise among the islands
of the North-west Pacific.
* * * * *
That was four years ago, and to-day Challis, who stands working at a
little table set in against an open window, hammering out a ring from a
silver coin on a marline-spike and vyce, whistles softly and
contentedly to himself as he raises his head and glances through the
vista of coconuts that surround his dwelling on this lonely and almost
"The devil!" he thinks to himself, "I must be turning into a native.
Four years! What an ass I was! And I've never written yet--that is,
never sent a letter away. Well, neither has she. Perhaps, after all,
there was little in that affair of R----'s. . . . By God! though, if
there was, I've been very good to them in leaving them a clear field.
Anyhow, she's all right as regards money. I'm glad I've done that. It's
a big prop to a man's conscience to feel he hasn't done anything mean;
and she likes money--most women do. Of course I'll go back--if she
writes. If not--well, then, these sinful islands can claim me for their
own; that is, Nalia can."
* * * * *
A native boy with shaven head, save for a long tuft on the left side,
came down from the village, and, seating himself on the gravelled space
inside the fence, gazed at the white man with full, lustrous eyes.
"Hallo, TAMA!" said Challis, "whither goest now?"
"Pardon, Tialli. I came to look at thee making the ring. Is it of soft
silver--and for Nalia, thy wife?"
"Ay, O shaven-head, it is. Here, take this MASI and go pluck me a young
nut to drink," and Challis threw him a ship-biscuit. Then he went on
tapping the little band of silver. He had already forgotten the violet
eyes, and was thinking with almost childish eagerness of the soft glow
in the black orbs of Nalia when she should see his finished handiwork.
The boy returned with a young coconut, unhusked. "Behold, Tialli. This
nut is a UTO GA'AU (sweet husk). When thou hast drunk the juice give it
me back, that I may chew the husk which is sweet as the sugar-cane of
Samoa," and he squatted down again on the gravel.
* * * * *
Challis drank, then threw him the husk and resumed his work. Presently
the boy, tearing off a strip of the husk with his white teeth, said,
"Tialli, how is it that there be no drinking-nuts in thy house?"
"Because, O turtle-head, my wife is away; and there are no men in the
village to-day; and because the women of this MOTU [Island or country.]
I have no thought that the PAPALAGI [Foreigner] may be parched with
thirst, and so come not near me with a coconut." This latter in jest.
"Nay, Tialli. Not so. True it is that to-day all the men are in the bush
binding FALA leaves around the coconut trees, else do the rats steal up
and eat the buds and clusters of little nuts. And because Nalia, thy
wife, is away at the other White Man's house no woman cometh inside the
Challis laughed. "O evil-minded people of Nukunono! And must I, thy
PAPALAGI, be parched with thirst because of this?"
"FAIAGA OE, Tialli, thou but playest with me. Raise thy hand and call
out 'I thirst!' and every woman in the village will run to thee, each
with a drinking-nut, and those that desire thee, but are afraid, will
give two. But to come inside when Nalia is away would be to put shame
* * * * *
The white man mused. The boy's solemn chatter entertained him. He knew
well the native customs; but, to torment the boy, he commenced again.
"O foolish custom! See how I trust my wife Nalia. Is she not even now
in the house of another white man?"
"True. But, then, he is old and feeble, and thou young and strong. None
but a fool desires to eat a dried flying-fish when a fresh one may be
"O wise man with the shaven crown," said Challis, with mocking good
nature, "thou art full of wisdom of the ways of women. And if I were
old and withered, would Nalia then be false to me in a house of another
and younger white man?"
"How could she? Would not he, too, have a wife who would watch her? And
if he had not, and were NOFO NOA (single), would he be such a fool to
steal that the like of which he can buy--for there are many girls
without husbands as good to look on as that Nalia of thine. And all
women are alike," and then, hearing a woman's voice calling his name,
he stood up.
"Farewell, O ULU TULA POTO (Wise Baldhead)," said Challis, as the boy,
still chewing his sweet husk, walked back to the native houses clustered
under the grove of PUA trees.
* * * * *
Ere dusk, Nalia came home, a slenderly-built girl with big dreamy eyes,
and a heavy mantle of wavy hair. A white muslin gown, fastened at the
throat with a small silver brooch, was her only garment, save the folds
of the navy-blue-and-white LAVA LAVA round her waist, which the
European-fashioned garment covered.
Challis was lying down when she came in. Two girls who came with her
carried baskets of cooked food, presents from old Jack Kelly, Challis's
fellow-trader. At a sign from Nalia the girls took one of the baskets
of food and went away. Then, taking off her wide-brimmed hat of FALA
leaf, she sat down beside Challis and pinched his cheek.
"O lazy one! To let me walk from the house of Tiaki all alone!"
"Alone! There were two others with thee."
"Tapa Could I talk to THEM! I, a white man's wife, must not be too
familiar with every girl, else they would seek to get presents from me
with sweet words. Besides, could I carry home the fish and cooked fowl
sent thee by old Tiaki? That would be unbecoming to me, even as it
would be if thou climbed a tree for a coconut,"--and the daughter of
the Tropics laughed merrily as she patted Challis on his sunburnt
Challis rose, and going to a little table, took from it the ring.
"See, Nalia, I am not lazy as thou sayest. This is thine."
The girl with an eager "AUE!" took the bauble and placed it on her
finger. She made a pretty picture, standing there in the last glow of
the sun as it sank into the ocean, her languorous eyes filled with a
Challis, sitting on the end of the table regarding her with half-amused
interest as does a man watching a child with a toy, suddenly flushed
hotly. "By God! I can't be such a fool as to begin to LOVE her in
reality, but yet . . . Come here, Nalia," and he drew her to him, and,
turning her face up so that he might look into her eyes, he asked:
"Nalia, hast thou ever told me any lies?"
The steady depths of those dark eyes looked back into his, and she
"Nay, I fear thee too much to lie. Thou mightst kill me."
"I do but ask thee some little things. It matters not to me what the
answer is. Yet see that thou keepest nothing hidden from me."
The girl, with parted lips and one hand on his, waited.
"Before thou became my wife, Nalia, hadst thou any lovers?"
"Yes, two--Kapua and Tafu-le-Afi."
"May I choke and perish here before thee if I lie! None."
Challis, still holding her soft brown chin in his hand, asked her one
more question--a question that only one of his temperament would have
dared to ask a girl of the Tokelaus.
"Nalia, dost thou love me?"
"Aye, ALOFA TUMAU (everlasting love). Am I a fool? Are there not Letia,
and Miriami, and Eline, the daughter of old Tiaki, ready to come to
this house if I love any but thee? Therefore my love is like the
suckers of the FA'E (octopus) in its strength. My mother has taught me
A curious feeling of satisfaction possessed the man, and next day
Letia, the "show" girl of the village, visiting Challis's store to buy
a tin of salmon, saw Nalia, the Lucky One, seated on a mat beneath the
seaward side of the trader's house, surrounded by a billowy pile of
yellow silk, diligently sewing.
"Ho, dear friend of my heart! Is that silken dress for thee? For the
love of God, let me but touch it. Four dollars a fathom it be priced
at. Thy husband is indeed the king of generosity. Art thou to become a
"Away, silly fool, and do thy buying and pester me not."
* * * * *
Challis, coming to the corner of the house, leant against a post, and
something white showed in his hand. It was a letter. His letter to the
woman of violet eyes, written a week ago, in the half-formed idea of
sending it some day. He read it through, and then paused and looked at
Nalia. She raised her head and smiled. Slowly, piece by piece, he tore
it into tiny little squares, and, with a dreamy hand-wave, threw them
away. The wind held them in mid-air for a moment, and then carried the
little white flecks to the beach.
"What is it?" said the bubbling voice of Letia, the Disappointed.
"Only a piece of paper that weighed as a piece of iron on my bosom. But
it is gone now."
"Even so," said Letia, smelling the gaudy label on the tin of salmon in
the anticipative ecstasy of a true Polynesian, "PE SE MEA
FA'AGOTOIMOANA (like a thing buried deep in ocean). May God send me a
white man as generous as thee--a whole tin of SAMANI for nothing! Now
do I know that Nalia will bear thee a son."
* * * * *
And that is why Challis the Doubter has never turned up again.
"'TIS IN THE BLOOD"
We were in Manton's Hotel at Levuka-Levuka in her palmy days. There
were Robertson, of the barque ROLUMAH; a fat German planter from the
Yasawa Group; Harry the Canadian, a trader from the Tokelaus, and
Presently a knock came to the door, and Allan, the boatswain of our
brig, stood hat in hand before us. He was a stalwart half-caste of
Manhiki, and, perhaps, the greatest MANAIA (Lothario) from Ponape to
"Captain say to come aboard, please. He at the Consul's for papers--he
meet you at boat," and Allan left.
"By shingo, dot's a big fellow," said Planter Oppermann.
"Ay," said Robertson, the trading skipper, "and a good man with his
mauleys, too. He's the champion knocker-out in Samoa, and is a match
for any Englishman in Polynesia, let alone foreigners"--with a sour
glance at the German.
"Well, good-bye all," I said. "I'm sorry, Oppermann, I can't stay for
another day for your wedding, but our skipper isn't to be got at
The trading captain and Harry walked with me part of the way, and then
began the usual Fiji GUP.
"Just fancy that fat-headed Dutchman going all the way to Samoa and
picking on a young girl and sending her to the Sisters to get educated
properly! As if any old beach-girl isn't good enough for a blessed
Dutchman. Have you seen her?"
"No," I said; "Oppermann showed me her photo. Pretty girl. Says she's
been three years with the Sisters in Samoa, and has got all the virtues
of her white father, and none of the vices of her Samoan mammy. Told me
he's spent over two thousand dollars on her already."
Robertson smiled grimly. "Ay, I don't doubt it. He's been all round
Levuka cracking her up. I brought her here last week, and the
Dutchman's been in a chronic state of silly ever since. She's an
almighty fine girl. She's staying with the Sisters here till the
marriage. By the Lord, here she is now coming along the street! Bet a
dollar she's been round Vagadace way, where there are some fast Samoan
women living. 'Tis in the blood, I tell you."
The future possessor of the Oppermann body and estate WAS a pretty
girl. Only those who have seen fair young Polynesian
half-castes--before they get married, and grow coarse, and drink beer,
and smoke like a factory chimney--know how pretty.
Our boat was at the wharf, and just as we stood talking Allan sauntered
up and asked me for a dollar to get a bottle of gin. Just then the
German's FIANCEE reached us. Robertson introduced Harry and myself to
her, and then said good-bye. She stood there in the broiling Fijian sun
with a dainty sunshade over her face, looking so lovely and cool in her
spotless muslin dress, and withal so innocent, that I no longer
wondered at the Dutchman's "chronic state of silly."
Allan the Stalwart stood by waiting for his dollar. The girl laughed
joyously when Harry the Canadian said he would be at the wedding and
have a high time, and held out her soft little hand as he bade her
adieu and strolled off for another drink.
The moment Harry had gone Allan was a new man. Pulling off his straw
hat, he saluted her in Samoan, and then opened fire.
"There are many TEINE LALELEI (beautiful girls) in the world, but there
is none so beautiful as thou. Only truth do I speak, for I have been to
all countries of the world. Ask him who is here--our supercargo--if I
lie. O maid with the teeth of pearl and face like FETUAO (the morning
star), my stomach is drying up with the fire of love."
The sunshade came a little lower, and the fingers played nervously with
the ivory handle. I leant against a coconut tree and listened.
"Thy name is Vaega. See that! How do I know? Aha, how do I? Because,
for two years or more, whenever I passed by the stone wall of the
Sisters' dwelling in Matafele, I climbed up and watched thee, O Star of
the Morning, and I heard the other girls call thee Vaega. Oho! and some
night I meant to steal thee away."
(The rascal! He told me two days afterwards that the only time he ever
climbed the Mission wall was to steal mangoes.)
The sunshade was tilted back, and displayed two big, black eyes,
luminous with admiring wonder.
"And so thou hast left Samoa to come here to be devoured by this fat
hog of a Dutchman! Dost thou not know, O foolish, lovely one, that she
who mates with a SIAMANI (German) grows old in quite a little time, and
thy face, which is now smooth and fair, will be coarse as the rind of a
half-ripe bread-fruit, because of the foul food these swine of Germans
"Allan," I called, "here's the captain!"
There was a quick clasp of hands as the Stalwart One and the Maid
hurriedly spoke again, this time in a whisper, and then the white
muslin floated away out of sight.
The captain was what he called "no' so dry"--viz. half-seas over, and
very jolly. He told Allan he could have an hour to himself to buy what
he wanted, and then told me that the captain of a steam collier had
promised to give us a tug out at daylight. "I'm right for the
wedding-feast after all," I thought.
* * * * *
But the wedding never came off. That night Oppermann, in a frantic
state, was tearing round Levuka hunting for his love, who had
disappeared. At daylight, as the collier steamed ahead and tautened our
tow-line, we could see the parties of searchers with torches scouring
the beach. Our native sailors said they had heard a scream about ten at
night and seen the sharks splashing, and the white liars of Levuka
shook their heads and looked solemn as they told tales of monster
sharks with eight-foot jaws always cruising close in to the shore at
* * * * *
Three days afterwards Allan came to me with stolid face and asked for a
bottle of wine, as Vaega was very sea-sick. I gave him the wine, and
threatened to tell the captain. He laughed, and said he would fight any
man, captain or no captain, who meddled with him. And, as a matter of
fact, he felt safe--the skipper valued him too much to bully him over
the mere stealing of a woman. So the limp and sea-sick Vaega was
carried up out of the sweating foc'sle and given a cabin berth, and
Allan planked down two twenty-dollar pieces for her passage to the
Union Group. When she got better she sang rowdy songs, and laughed all
day, and made fun of the holy Sisters. And one day Allan beat her with
a deal board because she sat down on a band-box in the trade-room and
ruined a hat belonging to a swell official's wife in Apia. And she
liked him all the better for it.
* * * * *
The fair Vaega was Mrs Allan for just six months, when his erratic
fancy was captivated by the daughter of Mauga, the chief of Tutuila,
and an elopement resulted to the mountains. The subsequent and
inevitable parting made Samoa an undesirable place of residence for
Allan, who shipped as boatsteerer in the NIGER of New Bedford. As for
Vaega, she drifted back to Apia, and there, right under the shadow of
the Mission Church, she flaunted her beauty. The last time I saw her
was in Charley the Russian's saloon, when she showed me a letter. It
was from the bereaved Oppermann, asking her to come back and marry him.
"Are you going?" I said.
"E PULE LE ATUA (if God so wills), but he only sent me twenty dollars,
and that isn't half enough. However, there's an American man-of-war
coming next week, and these other girls will see then. I'll make the
PAPALAGI [foriegn] officers shell out. TO FA, ALII [Good-bye]."
THE REVENGE OF MACY O'SHEA
A Story Of The Marquesas
Tikena the Clubfooted guided me to an open spot in the jungle-growth,
and, sitting down on the butt of a twisted TOA, indicated by a sweep of
his tattooed arm the lower course of what had once been the White Man's
"Like unto himself was this, his house," he said, puffing a dirty clay
pipe, "square-built and strong. And the walls were of great blocks made
of PANISINA--of coral and lime and sand mixed together; and around each
centre-post--posts that to lift one took the strength of fifty men--was
wound two thousand fathoms of thin plaited cinnet, stained red and
black. APA! he was a great man here in these MOTU (islands), although
he fled from prison in your land; and when he stepped on the beach the
marks of the iron bands that had once been round his ankles were yet
red to the sight. There be none such as he in these days. But he is now
This was the long-deferred funeral oration of Macy O'Shea, sometime
member of the chain-gang of Port Arthur, in Van Dieman's Land, and
subsequently runaway convict, beachcomber, cutter-off of whaleships,
and Gentleman of Leisure in Eastern Polynesia. And of his many known
crimes the deed done in this isolated spot was the darkest of all.
Judge of it yourself.
* * * * *
The arrowy shafts of sunrise had scarce pierced the deep gloom of the
silent forest ere the village woke to life. Right beside the
thatch-covered dwelling of Macy O'Shea, now a man of might, there
towers a stately TAMANU tree; and, as the first faint murmur of women's
voices arises from the native huts, there is a responsive twittering
and cooing in the thickly-leaved branches, and further back in the
forest the heavy, booming note of the red-crested pigeon sounds forth
like the beat of a muffled drum.
* * * * *
With slow, languid step, Sera, the wife of Macy O'Shea, comes to the
open door and looks out upon the placid lagoon, now just rippling
beneath the first breath of the trade-wind, and longs for courage to go
out there--there to the point of the reef--and spring over among the
sharks. The girl--she is hardly yet a woman--shudders a moment and
passes her white hand before her eyes, and then, with a sudden gust of
passion, the hand clenches. "I would kill him--kill him, if there was
but a ship here in which I could get away! I would sell myself over and
over again to the worst whaler's crew that ever sailed the Pacific if
it would bring me freedom from this cruel, cold-blooded devil!"
* * * * *
A heavy tread on the matted floor of the inner room and her face pales
to the hue of death. But Macy O'Shea is somewhat shy of his two years'
wife this morning, and she hears the heavy steps recede as he walks
over to his oil-shed. A flock of GOGO cast their shadow over the lagoon
as they fly westward, and the woman's eyes follow them--"Kill him, yes.
I am afraid to die, but not to kill. And I am a stranger here, and if I
ran a knife into his fat throat, these natives would make me work in
the taro-fields, unless one wanted me for himself." Then the heavy step
returns, and she slowly faces round to the blood-shot eyes and
drink-distorted face of the man she hates, and raises one hand to her
lips to hide a blue and swollen bruise.
The man throws his short, square-set figure on a rough native sofa,
and, passing one brawny hand meditatively over his stubbly chin, says,
in a voice like the snarl of a hungry wolf: "Here, I say, Sera, slew
round; I want to talk to you, my beauty."
The pale, set face flushed and paled again. "What is it, Macy O'Shea?"
"Ho, ho, 'Macy O'Shea,' is it? Well, just this. Don't be a fool. I was
a bit put about last night, else I wouldn't have been so quick with my
fist. Cut your lip, I see. Well, you must forget it; any way, it's the
first time I ever touched you. But you ought to know by now that I am
not a man to be trifled with; no man, let alone a woman, is going to
set a course for Macy O'Shea to steer by. And, to come to the point at
once, I want you to understand that Carl Ristow's daughter is coming
here. I want her, and that's all about it."
* * * * *
The woman laughed scornfully. "Yes, I know. That was why"--she pointed
to her lips. "Have you no shame? I know you have no pity. But listen. I
swear to you by the Mother of Christ that I will kill her--kill you, if
you do this."
O'Shea's cruel mouth twitched and his jaws set, then he uttered a
hoarse laugh. "By God! Has it taken you two years to get jealous?"
A deadly hate gleamed in the dark, passionate eyes. "Jealous, Mother of
God! jealous of a drunken, licentious wretch such as you! I hate
you--hate you! If I had courage enough I would poison myself to be free
O'Shea's eyes emitted a dull sparkle. "I wish you would, damn you! Yet
you are game enough, you say, to kill me--and Malia?"
"Yes. But not for love of you, but because of the white blood in me. I
can't--I won't be degraded by you bringing another woman here."
"'Por Dios,' as your dad used to say before the devil took his soul,
we'll see about that, my beauty. I suppose because your father was a
d----d garlic-eating, ear-ringed Dago, and your mother a
come-by-chance Tahiti half-caste, you think he was as good as me."
"As good as you, O bloody-handed dog of an English convict. He was a
man, and the only wrong he ever did was to let me become wife to a
devil like you."
The cruel eyes were close to hers now, and the rough, brawny hands
gripped her wrists. "You spiteful Portuguese quarter-bred ----! Call me
a convict again, and I'll twist your neck like a fowl's. You she-devil!
I'd have made things easy for you--but I won't now. Do you hear?" and
the grip tightened. "Ristow's girl will be here to-morrow, and if you
don't knuckle down to her it'll be a case of 'Vamos' for you--you can
go and get a husband among the natives," and he flung her aside and
went to the god that ran him closest for his soul, next to women--his
* * * * *
O'Shea kept his word, for two days later Malia, the half-caste daughter
of Ristow, the trader at Ahunui, stepped from out her father's
whaleboat in front of O'Shea's house. The transaction was a perfectly
legitimate one, and Malia did not allow any inconvenient feeling of
modesty to interfere with such a lucrative arrangement as this, whereby
her father became possessed of a tun of oil and a bag of Chilian
dollars, and she of much finery. In those days missionaries had not
made much head-way, and gentlemen like Messrs Ristow and O'Shea took
all the wind out of the Gospel drum.
And so Malia, dressed as a native girl, with painted cheeks and bare
bosom, walked demurely up from the boat to the purchaser of her
sixteen-years'-old beauty, who, with arms folded across his broad
chest, stood in the middle of the path that led from the beach to his
door. And within, with set teeth and a knife in the bosom of her blouse
bodice, Sera panted with the lust of Hate and Revenge.
* * * * *
The bulky form of O'Shea darkened the door-way. "Sera," he called in
English, with a mocking, insulting inflection in his voice, "come here
and welcome my new wife!"
Sera came, walking slowly, with a smile on her lips, and, holding out
her left hand to Malia, said in the native language, "Welcome!"
"Why," said O'Shea, with mocking jocularity, "that's a left-handed
"Aye," said the girl with the White Man's blood, "my right hand is for
this"--and the knife sank home into Malia's yellow bosom. "A cold bosom
for you to-night, Macy O'Shea," she laughed, as the value of a tun of
oil and a bag of Chilian dollars gasped out its life upon the matted
The native drum was beating. As the blood-quickening boom reverberated
through the village, the natives came out from their huts and gathered
around the House of the Old Men, where, with bound hands and feet,
Sera, the White Man's wife, sat, with her back to one of the
centre-posts. And opposite her, sitting like a native on a mat of
KAPAU, was the burly figure of O'Shea, with the demon of disappointed
passion eating away his reason, and a mist of blood swimming before his
The people all detested her, especially the soft-voiced, slender-framed
women. In that one thing savages resemble Christians--the deadly hatred
with which some women hate those of their sex whom they know to be
better and more pure than themselves. So the matter was decided
quickly. Mesi--so they called O'Shea--should have justice. If he
thought death, let it be death for this woman who had let out the blood
of his new wife. Only one man, Loloku the Boar Hunter, raised his voice
for her, because Sera had cured him of a bad wound when his leg had
been torn open by the tusk of a wild boar. But the dull glare from the
eyes of O'Shea fell on him, and he said no more. Then at a sign from
the old men the people rose from the mats, and two unbound the cords of
AFA from the girl, and led her out into the square, and looked at
"Take her to the boat," he said.
* * * * *
Ristow's boat had been hauled up, turned over, and covered with the
rough mats called KAPAU to keep off the heat of the sun. With
staggering feet, but undaunted heart, the girl Sera was led down. Only
once she turned her head and looked back. Perhaps Loloku would try
again. Then, as they came to the boat, a young girl, at a sign from
O'Shea, took off the loose blouse, and they placed her, face downwards,
across the bilge of the boat, and two pair of small, eager, brown hands
each seized one of hers and dragged the white, rounded arms well over
the keel of the boat. O'Shea walked round to that side, drawing through
his hands the long, heavy, and serrated tail of the FAI--the gigantic
stinging-ray of Oceana. He would have liked to wield it himself, but
then he would have missed part of his revenge--he could not have seen
her face. So he gave it to a native, and watched, with the smile of a
fiend, the white back turn black and then into bloody red as it was cut
to pieces with the tail of the FAI.
* * * * *
The sight of the inanimate thing that had given no sign of its agony
beyond the shudderings and twitchings of torn and mutilated flesh was,
perhaps, disappointing to the tiger who stood and watched the dark
stream that flowed down on both sides of the boat. Loloku touched his
arm--"Mesi, stay thy hand. She is dead else."
"Ah," said O'Shea, "that would be a pity; for with one hand shall she
live to plant taro."
And, hatchet in hand, he walked in between the two brown women who held
her hands. They moved aside and let go. Then O'Shea swung his arm; the
blade of the hatchet struck into the planking, and the right hand of
Sera fell on the sand.
A man put his arms around her, and lifted her off the boat. He placed
his hand on the blood-stained bosom and looked at Macy O'Shea.
"E MATE! [Dead!]" he said.
THE RANGERS OF THE TIA KAU
Between Nanomea and Nanomaga--two of the Ellice Group--but within a few
miles of the latter, is an extensive submerged shoal, on the charts
called the Grand Cocal Reef, but by the people of the two islands known
as Tia Kau (The Reef). On the shallowest part there are from four to
ten fathoms of water, and here in heavy weather the sea breaks. The
British cruiser BASILISK, about 1870, sought for the reef, but reported
it as non-existent. Yet the Tia Kati is well known to many a Yankee
whaler and trading schooner, and is a favourite fishing-ground of the
people of Nanomaga--when the sharks give them a chance.
* * * * *
One night Atupa, Chief of Nanomaga, caused a huge fire to be lit on the
beach as a signal to the people of Nanomea that a MALAGA, or party of
voyagers, was coming over. Both islands are low--not more than fifteen
feet above sea-level--and are distant from one another about
thirty-eight miles. The following night the reflection of the answering
fire on Nanomea was seen, and Atupa prepared to send away his people in
seven canoes. They would start at sundown, so as to avoid paddling in
the heat (the Nanomagans have no sailing canoes), and be guided to
Nanomea, which they expected to reach early in the morning, by the far
distant glare of the great fires of coconut and pandanus leaves kindled
at intervals of a few hours. About seventy people were to go, and all
that day the little village busied itself in preparing for the
Nanomeans gifts of foods--cooked PURAKA, fowls, pigs, and flying-fish.
* * * * *
Atupa, the heathen chief, was troubled in his mind in those days of
August 1872. The JOHN WILLIAMS had touched at the island and landed a
Samoan missionary, who had pressed him to accept Christianity. Atupa,
dreading a disturbing element in his little community, had, at first,
declined; but the ship had come again, and the chief having consented
to try the new religion, a teacher landed. But since then he and his
sub-chiefs had consulted the oracle, and had been told that the shades
of Maumau Tahori and Foilagi, their deified ancestors, had answered
that the new religion was unacceptable to them, and that the Samoan
teacher must be killed or sent away. And for this was Atupa sending off
some of his people to Nanomea with gifts of goodwill to the chiefs to
beseech them to consult their oracles also, so that the two islands
might take concerted action against this new foreign god, whose priests
said that all men were equal, that all were bad, and He and His Son
* * * * *
The night was calm when the seven canoes set out. Forty men and thirty
women and children were in the party, and the craft were too deeply
laden for any but the smoothest sea. On the AMA (outrigger) of each
canoe were the baskets of food and bundles of mats for their hosts, and
seated on these were the children, while the women sat with the men and
helped them to paddle. Two hours' quick paddling brought them to the
shoal-water of Tia Kau, and at the same moment they saw to the N.W. the
sky-glare of the first guiding fire.
* * * * *
It was then that the people in the first canoe, wherein was Palu, the
daughter of Atupa, called out to those behind to prepare their ASU
(balers), as a heavy squall was coming down from the eastward. Then
Laheu, an old warrior in another canoe, cried out that they should
return on their track a little and get into deep water; "for," said he,
"if we swamp, away from Tia Kau, it is but a little thing, but here--"
and he clasped his hands rapidly together and then tore them apart.
They knew what he meant--the sharks that, at night-time forsaking the
deep waters, patrolled in droves of thousands the shallow waters of the
reef to devour the turtle and the schools of TAFAU ULI and other fish.
In quick, alarmed silence the people headed back, but even then the
first fierce squall struck them, and some of the frail canoes began to
fill at once. "I MATAGI! I MATAGI! (head to the wind)" a man called
out; "head to the wind, or we perish! 'Tis but a puff and it is gone."
* * * * *
But it was more than a puff. The seven canoes, all abreast, were still
in shallow water, and the paddlers kept them dead in the teeth of the
whistling wind and stinging rain, and called out words of encouragement
to one another and to the women and children, as another black squall
burst upon them and the curling seas began to break. The canoe in which
was Atupa's daughter was the largest and best of all the seven, but was
much overladen, and on the outrigger grating were four children. These
the chief's daughter was endeavouring to shield from the rain by
covering them with a mat, when one of them, a little girl, endeavoured
to steady herself by holding to one of the thin pieces of grating; it
broke, and her arm fell through and struck the water, and in an instant
she gave a dull, smothered wail. Palu, the woman, seized her by her
hair and pulled the child up to a sitting posture, and then shrieked
with terror--the girl's arm was gone.
* * * * *
And then in the blackness of night, lightened now by the white,
seething, boiling surge, the people saw in the phosphorescent water
countless hundreds of the savage terrors of the Tia Kau darting hither
and thither amongst the canoes--for the smell of blood had brought them
together instantly. Presently a great grey monster tore the paddle from
out the hands of the steersman of the canoe wherein were the terrified
Palu and the four children, and then, before the man for'ard could
bring her head to the wind, she broached to and filled. Like ravening
wolves the sharks dashed upon their prey, and ere the people had time
to give more than a despairing cry, those hideous jaws and gleaming
cruel teeth had sealed their fate. Maddened with fear, the rest of the
people threw everything out of the six other canoes to lighten them,
and as the bundles of mats and baskets of food touched the water the
sharks seized and bit, tore and swallowed. Then, one by one, every
paddle was grabbed from the hands of the paddlers, and the canoes
broached to and filled in that sea of death--all save one, which was
carried by the force of the wind away from the rest. In this were the
only survivors--two men.
* * * * *
The agony could not have lasted long. "Were I to live as long as he
whom the FAIFEAU (missionary) tells us lived to be nine hundred and
sixty and nine, I shall hear the groans and cries and shrieks of that
PO MALAIA, that night of evil luck," said one of the two who lived, to
Denison, the white trader at Nanomea. "Once did I have my paddle fast
in the mouth of a little devil, and it drew me backwards, backwards,
over the stern till my head touched the water. TAH! but I was strong
with fear, and held on, for to lose it meant death by the teeth. And
Tulua--he who came out alive with me, seized my feet and held on, else
had I gone. But look thou at this"--and he pointed to his scarred neck
and back and shoulders "ere I could free my FOE (paddle) and raise my
head, I was bitten thus by others. Ah, PAPALAGI, some men are born to
wisdom, but most are fools. Had not Atupa been filled with vain fears,
he had killed the man who caused him to lose so many of our people."
"So," said the white man, "and wouldst thou have killed the man who
brought thee the new faith? Fie!"
"Aye, that would I--in those days when I was PO ULI ULI [Heathen, lit. "In
the blackest night"]. But not now, for I am Christian. Yet had Atupa
killed and buried the stranger, we could have lied and said he died of a
sickness when they of his people came to seek him. And then had I now my
son Tagipo with me, he who went into the bellies of the sharks at
A Memory Of The Paumotus
I stayed once at Rotoava--in the Low Archipelago, Eastern
Polynesia--while suffering from injuries received in a boat accident
one wild night. My host, the Rotoava trader, was a sociable old pirate,
whose convivial soul would never let him drink alone. He was by trade a
boat-builder, having had, in his early days, a shed at Miller's Point,
in Sydney, where he made money and married a wife. But this latter
event was poor Tom Oscott's undoing, and in the end he took his chest
of tools on board the THYRA trading brig, and sailed away to Polynesia.
Finally, after many years' wandering, he settled down at Rotoava as a
trader and boat-builder, and became a noted drinker of bottled beer.
The only method by which I could avoid his incessant invitations to
"have another" was to get his wife and children to carry me down to his
work-shed, built in a lovely spot surrounded by giant PUKA trees. Here,
under the shade, I had my mats spread, and with one of his children
sitting at my head to fan away the flies, I lay and watched, through
the belt of coconuts that lined the beach, the blue rollers breaking on
the reef and the snow-white boatswain-birds floating high overhead.
* * * * *
Tom was in the bush one morning when his family carried me to the
boat-shed. He had gone for a log of seasoned TOA wood [A hard wood much
used in boat building] to another village. At noon he returned, and I
heard him bawling for me. His little daughter, the fly-brusher, gave an
answering yell, and then Tom walked down the path, carrying two bottles of
beer; behind him Lucia, his eldest daughter, a monstrous creature of
giggles, adipose tissue, and warm heart, with glasses and a plate of
crackers; lastly, old Marie, the wife, with a little table.
"By ----, you've a lot more sense'n me. It's better lyin' here in the
cool, than foolin' around in the sun; so I've brought yer suthin' to
"Oh, Tom," I groaned, "I'm sure that beer's bad for me."
The Maker of Boats sat on his bench, and said that he knew of a
brewer's carter in Sydney who, at Merriman's "pub," on Miller's Point,
had had a cask of beer roll over him. Smashed seven ribs, one arm, and
one thigh. Doctors gave him up; undertaker's man called on his wife for
coffin order but a sailor chap said he'd pull him through. Got an
indiarubber tube and made him suck up as much beer as he could hold;
kept it up till all his bones "setted" again, and he recovered. Why
shouldn't I--if I only drank enough?
"Hurry up, old dark-skin!"--this to the faded Marie. Uttering merely
the word "Hog!" she drew the cork. I had to drink some, and every hour
or so Tom would say it was very hot, and open yet another bottle. At
last I escaped the beer by nearly dying, and then the kind old fellow
hurried away in his boat to Apatiki--another island of the group--and
came back with some bottles of claret, bought from the French trader
there. With him came two visitors--a big half-caste of middle age, and
his wife, a girl of twenty or there-about. This was Edward Pallou and
his wife Taloi.
* * * * *
I was in the house when Tom returned, enjoying a long-denied smoke.
Pallou and his wife entered and greeted me. The man was a fine,
well-set-up fellow, wiry and muscular, with deep-set eyes, and bearing
across his right cheek a heavy scar. His wife was a sweet, dainty
little creature with red lips, dazzling teeth, hazel eyes, and long
wavy hair. The first thing I noticed about her was, that instead of
squatting on a mat in native fashion, she sank into a wide chair, and
lying back enquired, with a pleasant smile and in perfect English,
whether I was feeling any better. She was very fair, even for a
Paumotuan half-caste, as I thought she must be, and I said to Pallou,
"Why, any one would take your wife to be an Englishwoman!"
"Not I," said Taloi, with a rippling laugh, as she commenced to make a
banana-leaf cigarette; "I am a full-blooded South Sea Islander. I
belong to Apatiki, and was born there. Perhaps I have white blood in
me. Who knows?--only my wise mother. But when I was twelve years old I
was adopted by a gentleman in Papeite, and he sent me to Sydney to
school. Do you know Sydney? Well, I was three years with the Misses
F----, in ---- Street. My goodness! I WAS glad to leave--and so were
the Misses F---- to see me go. They said I was downright wicked,
because one day I tore the dress off a girl who said my skin was
tallowy, like my name. When I came back to Tahiti my guardian took me
to Raiatea, where he had a business, and said I must marry him, the
"Oh, shut up, Taoi!" growled the deep-voiced Pallou, who sat beside me.
"What the deuce does this man care about your doings?"
"Shut up yourself, you brute! Can't I talk to any one I like, you
turtle-headed fool? Am I not a good wife to you, you great, over-grown
savage? Won't you let a poor devil of a woman talk a little? Look here,
Tom, do you see that flash jacket he's wearing? Well, I sat up two
nights making that--for him to come over here with, and show off before
the Rotoava girls. Go and die, you ----!"
The big half-caste looked at Tom and then at me. His lips twitched with
suppressed passion, and a dangerous gleam shone a moment in his dark
"Here, I say, Taloi," broke in Tom, good-humouredly, "just go easy a
bit with Ted. As for him a-looking at any of the girls here, I knows
better--and so do you."
Taloi's laugh, clear as the note of a bird, answered him, and then she
said she was sorry, and the lines around Pallou's rigid mouth softened
down. It was easy to see that this grim half-white loved, for all her
bitter tongue, the bright creature who sat in the big chair.
Presently Taloi and Lucia went out to bathe, and Pallou remained with
me. Tom joined us, and for a while no one spoke. Then the trader,
laying down his pipe on the table, drew his seat closer, and commenced,
in low tones, a conversation in Tahitian with Pallou. From the earnest
manner of old Tom and the sullen gloom that overspread Pallou's face, I
could discern that some anxiety possessed them.
At last Tom addressed me. "Look here, ----, Ted here is in a mess, and
we've just been a-talkin' of it over, and he says perhaps you'll do
what you can for him."
The half-caste turned his dark eyes on me and looked intently into
"What is it, Tom?"
"Well, you see, it come about this way. You heard this chap's
missus--Taloi--a-talkin' about the Frenchman that wanted to marry her.
He had chartered a little schooner in Papeite to go to Raiatea. Pallou
here was mate, and, o' course, he being from the same part of the group
as Taloi, she ups and tells him that the Frenchman wanted to marry her
straightaway; and then I s'pose, the two gets a bit chummy, and Pallou
tells her that if she didn't want the man he'd see as how she wasn't
forced agin' her will. So when the vessel gets to Raiatea it fell calm,
just about sunset. The Frenchman was in a hurry to get ashore, and
tells his skipper to put two men in the boat and some grub, as he meant
to pull ashore to his station. So they put the boat over the side, and
Frenchy and Taoi and Pallou and two native chaps gets in and pulls for
"They gets inside Uturoa about midnight. 'Jump out,' says the Frenchman
to Taloi as soon as the boat touches the beach; but the girl wouldn't,
but ties herself up around Pallou and squeals. 'Sakker!' says the
Frenchy, and he grabs her by the hair and tries to tear her away.
''Ere, stop that,' says Pallou; 'the girl ain't willin',' an' he pushes
Frenchy away. 'Sakker!' again, and Frenchy whips out his pistol and
nearly blows Pallou's face off'n him; and then, afore he knows how it
was done, Ted sends his knife chunk home into the other fellow's
throat. The two native sailors runned away ashore, and Pallou and Taloi
takes the oars and pulls out again until they drops. Then a breeze
comes along, and they up stick and sails away and gets clear o' the
group, and brings up, after a lot of sufferin', at Rurutu. And ever
since then there's been a French gunboat a-lookin' for Pallou, and he's
been hidin' at Apatiki for nigh on a twelvemonth, and has come over
here now to see if, when your ship comes back, you can't give him and
his missus a passage away somewhere to the westward, out o' the run of
that there gunboat, the VAUDREUIL."
* * * * *
I promised I would "work it" with the captain, and Pallou put out his
brawny hand--the hand that "drove it home into Frenchy's throat"--and
grasped mine in silence. Then he lifted his jacket and showed me his
"I don't want money," I said. "If you have told me the whole story, I
would help any man in such a fix as you." And then Taloi, fresh from
her bath, came in and sat down on the mat, whilst fat Lucia combed and
dressed her glossy hair and placed therein scarlet hisbiscus flowers;
and to show her returned good temper, she took from her lips the
cigarette she was smoking, and offered it to the grim Pallou.
A month later we all three left Rotoava, and Pallou and Taloi went
ashore at one of the Hervey Group, where I gave him charge of a station
with a small stock of trade, and we sailed away east-ward to Pitcairn
and Easter Islands.
* * * * *
Pallou did a good business, and was well liked; and some seven months
afterwards, when we were at Maga Reva, in the Gambier Group, I got a
letter from him. "Business goes well," he wrote, "but Taloi is ill; I
think she will die. You will find everything square, though, when you
But I was never to see that particular island again, as the firm sent
another vessel in place of ours to get Pallou's produce. When the
captain and the supercargo went ashore, a white trader met them, with a
roll of papers in his hand.
"Pallou's stock-list," he said.
"Why, where is he? gone away?"
"No, he's here still; planted alongside his missus."
"Yes. A few months after he arrived here, that pretty little wife of
his died. He came to me, and asked if I would come and take stock with
him. I said he seemed in a bit of a hurry to start stocktaking before
the poor thing was buried; but anyhow, I went, and we took stock, and
he counted his cash, and asked me to lock the place up if anything
happened to him. Then we had a drink, and he bade me good-day, and said
he was going to sit with Taloi awhile, before they took her away. He
sent the native women out of the bedroom, and the next minute I heard a
shot. He'd done it, right enough. Right through his brain, poor chap. I
can tell you he thought a lot of that girl of his. There's the two
graves, over there by that FETAU tree. Here's his stock-list and bag of
cash and keys. Would you mind giving me that pair of rubber sea-boots
A BASKET OF BREAD-FRUIT
It was in Steinberger's time [Colonel Steinberger, who in 1874 succeeded
in forming a government in Samoa]. A trader had come up to Apia in his
boat from the end of Savaii, the largest of the Samoan Group, and was on
his way home again, when the falling tide caused him to stop awhile at
Mulinu'u Point, about two miles from Apia. Here he designed to smoke and
talk, and drink kava at the great camp with some hospitable native
acquaintances, during the rising of the water. Soon he was taking his
ease on a soft mat, watching the bevy of AUA LUMA [The local girls] making
a bowl of kava.
Now this trader lived at Falealupo, at the extreme westerly end of
Savaii; but the Samoans, by reason of its isolation and extremity, have
for ages called it by another name--an unprintable one--and so some of
the people present began to jest with the trader for living in such a
place. He fell in with their humour, and said that if those present
would find for him a wife, a girl unseared by the breath of scandal, he
would leave Falealupo for Safune, where he had bought land.
"Malie!" said an old dame, with one eye and white hair, "the
PAPALAGI [foreigner] is inspired to speak wisdom to-night; for at Safune
grow the sweetest nuts and the biggest taro and bread-fruit; and lo! here
among the kava-chewers is a young maid from Safune--mine own
grand-daughter Salome. And against her name can no one in Samoa laugh in
the hollow of his hand," and the old creature, amid laughter and cries of
ISA! E LE MA LE LO MATUA (The old woman is without shame), crept over to
the trader, and, with one skinny hand on his knee, gazed steadily into his
face with her one eye.
* * * * *
The trader looked at the girl--at Salome. She had, at her grandmother's
speech, turned her head aside, and taking the "chaw" of kava-root from
her pretty mouth, dissolved into shame-faced tears. The trader was a
man of quick perceptions, and he made up his mind to do in earnest what
he had said in jest--this because of the tears of Salome. He quickly
whispered to the old woman, "Come to the boat before the full of the
tide, and we will talk."
When the kava was ready for drinking the others present had forgotten
all about the old woman and Salome, who had both crept away unobserved,
and an hour or two was passed in merriment, for the trader was a man
well liked. Then, when he rose and said TO FA, [good-bye] they begged him
not to attempt to pass down in his boat inside the reef, as he was sure to
be fired upon, for how were their people to tell a friend from an enemy in
the black night? But the white man smiled, and said his boat was too
heavily laden to face the ocean swell. So they bade him TO FA, and called
out MANUIA OE! [Bless you!] as he lifted the door of thatch and went.
* * * * *
The old woman awaited him, holding the girl by the hand. On the ground
lay a basket strongly tied up. Salome still wept, but the old woman
angrily bade her cease and enter the boat, which the crew had now
pushed bow-on to the beach. The old woman lifted the basket and
carefully put it on board.
"Be sure," she said to the crew, "not to sit on it for it is very ripe
bread-fruit that I am taking to my people in Manono."
"Give them here to me," said the trader, and he put the basket in the
stern out of the way. The old woman came aft, too, and crouched at his
feet and smoked a SULUI [a cigarette rolled in dried banana leaf]. The
cool land-breeze freshened as the sail was hoisted, and then
the crew besought the trader not to run down inside the reef. Bullets,
they said, if fired in plenty, always hit something, and the sea was
fairly smooth outside the reef. And old Lupetea grasped his hand and
muttered in his ear, "For the sake of this my little daughter go
outside. See, now, I am old, and to lie when so near death as I am is
foolish. Be warned by me and be wise; sail out into the ocean, and at
daylight we shall be at Salua in Manono. Then thou canst set my feet on
the shore--I and the basket. But the girl shall go with thee. Thou
canst marry her, if that be to thy mind, in the fashion of the
PAPALAGI, or take her FA'A SAMOA [Samoan fashion]. Thus will I keep faith
with thee. If the girl be false, her neck is but little and thy fingers
Now the trader thought in this wise: "This is well for me, for if I get
the girl away thus quietly from all her relations I shall save much in
presents," and his heart rejoiced, for although not mean he was a
careful man. So he steered his boat seaward, between the seething surf
that boiled and hissed on both sides of the boat passage.
* * * * *
As the boat sailed past the misty line of cloud-capped Upolu, the
trader lifted the girl up beside him and spoke to her. She was not
afraid of him, she said, for many had told her he was a good man, and
not an ULA VALE (scamp), but she wept because now, save her old
grandmother, all her kinsfolk were dead. Even but a day and a half ago
her one brother was killed with her cousin. They were strong men, but
the bullets were swift, and so they died. And their heads had been
shown at Matautu. For that she had grieved and wept and eaten nothing,
and the world was cold and dark to her.
"Poor little devil!" said the trader to himself--"hungry." Then he
opened a locker and found a tin of sardines. Not a scrap of biscuit.
There was plenty of biscuit, though, in the boat, in fifty-pound tins,
but on these mats were spread, where-on his crew were sleeping. He was
about to rouse them when he remembered the old dame's basket of ripe
bread-fruit. He laughed and looked at her. She, too, slept, coiled up
at his feet. But first he opened the sardines and placed them beside
the girl, and motioned her to steer. Her eyes gleamed like diamonds in
the darkness as she answered his glance, and her soft fingers grasped
the tiller. Very quickly, then, he felt among the packages aft till he
came to the basket.
A quick stroke of his knife cut the cinnet that lashed the sides
together. He felt inside. "Only two, after all, but big ones, and no
mistake. Wrapped in cloth, too! I wonder--Hell and Furies! what's
this?"--as his fingers came in contact with something that felt like a
human eye. Drawing his hand quickly back, he fumbled in his pockets for
a match, and struck it. Bread-fruit! No. Two heads with closed eyes and
livid lips blue with the pallor of death, showing their white teeth.
And Salome covered her face and slid down in the bottom of the boat
again, and wept afresh for her cousin and brother, and the boat came up
in the wind, but no one awoke.
* * * * *
The trader was angry. But after he had tied up the basket again he put
the boat on her course once more and called to the girl. She crept
close to him and nestled under his overcoat, for the morning air came
across the sea from the dew-laden forests, and she was chilled. Then
she told the story of how her granddam had begged the heads from those
of Malietoa's troops who had taken them at Matautu, and then gone to
the camp at Mulinu'u in the hope of getting a passage in some boat to
Manono, her country, where she would fain bury them. And that night he
had come, and old Lupetea had rejoiced, and sworn her to secrecy about
the heads in the basket. And that also was why Lupetea was afraid of
the boat going down inside the passage, for there were many enemies to
be met with, and they would have shot old Lupetea because she was of
Manono. That was all. Then she ate the sardines, and, leaning her head
against the trader's bosom, fell asleep.
* * * * *
As the first note of the great grey pigeon sounded the dawn, the
trader's boat sailed softly up to the Salua beach, and old Lupetea
rose, and, bidding the crew good-bye, and calling down blessings on the
head of the good and clever white man, as she rubbed his and the girl's
noses against her own, she grasped her Basket of Bread-fruit and went
ashore. Then the trader, with Salome nestling to his side, sailed out
again into the ocean towards his home.
The two ghastly creatures sat facing each other in their wordless
misery as the wind died away and the tattered remnants of the sail hung
motionless after a last faint flutter. The Thing that sat aft--for
surely so grotesquely horrible a vision could not be a Man--pointed
with hands like the talons of a bird of prey to the purple outline of
the island in the west, and his black, blood-baked lips moved, opened,
and essayed to speak. The other being that, with bare and skinny arms
clasped around its bony knees, sat crouched in the bottom of the boat,
leaned forward to listen.
"Ducie Island, Enderby," said the first in a hoarse, rattling whisper;
"no one on it; but water is there . . . and plenty of birds and turtle,
and a few coconuts."
At the word "water" the listener gave a curious gibbering chuckle,
unclasped his hands from his knees, and crept further towards the
"And the current is setting us down to it, wind or no wind. I believe
we'll see this pleasure-trip through, after all"--and the black lips
parted in a hideous grimace.
The man whom he called Enderby sank his head again upon his knees, and
his dulled and bloodshot eyes rested on something that lay at the
captain's feet--the figure of a woman enveloped from her shoulders down
in a ragged native mat. For some hours past she had lain thus, with the
grey shadows of coming dissolution hovering about her pallid face, and
only the faintest movement of lips and eyelids to show that she still
* * * * *
The black-whiskered man who steered looked down for a second upon the
face beneath him with the unconcern for others born of the agony of
thirst and despair, and again his gaunt face turned to the land. Yet
she was his wife, and not six weeks back he had experienced a cold sort
of satisfaction in the possession of so much beauty.
He remembered that day now. Enderby, the passenger from Sydney, and he
were walking the poop; his wife was asleep in a deck-chair on the other
side. An open book lay in her lap. As the two men passed and re-passed
her, the one noted that the other would glance in undisguised and
honest admiration at the figure in the chair. And Enderby, who was as
open as the day, had said to him, Langton, that the sleeping Mrs
Langton made as beautiful a picture as he had ever seen.
* * * * *
The sail stirred, filled out, and then drooped again, and the two
spectres, with the sleeping woman between, still sat with their hungry
eyes gazing over toward the land. As the sun sank, the outlines of the
verdure-clad summits and beetling cliffs stood forth clearly for a
short minute or two, as if to mock them with hope, and then became
enshrouded in the tenebrous night.
* * * * *
Another hour, and a faint sigh came from the ragged mat. Enderby, for
ever on the watch, had first seen a white hand silhouetted against the
blackness of the covering, and knew that she was still alive. And as he
was about to call Langton, who lay in the stern-sheets muttering in
hideous dreams, he heard the woman's voice calling HIM. With panting
breath and trembling limbs he crawled over beside her and gently
touched her hand.
"Thank God, you are alive, Mrs Langton. Shall I wake Captain Langton?
We must be nearing the land."
"No, don't. Let him sleep. But I called you, Mr Enderby, to lift me up.
I want to see where the rain is coming from."
Enderby groaned in anguish of spirit. "Rain? God has forgotten us, I
----," and then he stopped in shame at betraying his weakness before a
The soft, tender tones again--"Ah, do help me up, please, I can FEEL
the rain is near." Then the man, with hot tears of mingled weakness and
pity coursing down his cheeks, raised her up.
"Why, there it is, Mr Enderby--and the land as well! And it's a heavy
squall, too," and she pointed to a moving, inky mass that half
concealed the black shadow of the island. "Quick, take my mat; one end
of it is tight and will hold water."
"Langton, La-a-ngton! Here's a rain squall coming!" and Enderby pressed
the woman's hand to his lips and kissed it again and again. Then with
eager hands he took the mat from her, and staggering forward to the
bows stretched the sound end across and bellied it down. And then the
moving mass that was once black, and was now white, swept down upon
them, and brought them life and joy.
Langton, with an empty beef-tin in his hand, stumbled over his wife's
figure, plunged the vessel into the water and drank again and again.
"Curse you, you brute!" shouted Enderby through the wild noise of the
hissing rain, "where is your wife? Are you going to let her lie there
without a drink?"
Langton answered not, but drank once more. Then Enderby, with an oath,
tore the tin from his hand, filled it and took it to her, holding her
up while she drank. And as her eyes looked gratefully into his while he
placed her tenderly back in the stern-sheets, the madness of a moment
overpowered him, and he kissed her on the lips.
Concerned only with the nectar in the mat, Langton took no regard of
Enderby as he opened the little locker, pulled out a coarse dungaree
jumper, and wrapped it round the thinly-clad and drenched figure of the
She was weeping now, partly from the joy of knowing that she was not to
die of the agonies of thirst in an open boat in mid-Pacific, and partly
because the water had given her strength to remember that Langton had
cursed her when he had stumbled over her to get at the water in the
* * * * *
She had married him because of his handsome face and dashing manner for
one reason, and because her pious Scotch father, also a Sydney-Tahitian
trading captain, had pointed out to her that Langton had made and was
still making money in the island trade. Her ideal of a happy life was
to have her husband leave the sea and buy an estate either in Tahiti or
Chili. She knew both countries well: the first was her birthplace, and
between there and Valparaiso and Sydney her money-grubbing old father
had traded for years, always carrying with him his one daughter, whose
beauty the old man regarded as a "vara vain thing," but likely to
procure him a "weel-to-do mon" for a son-in-law.
Mrs Langton cared for her husband in a prosaic sort of way, but she
knew no more of his inner nature and latent utter selfishness a year
after her marriage than she had known a year before. Yet, because of
the strain of dark blood in her veins--her mother was a Tahitian
half-caste--she felt the mastery of his savage resolution in the face
of danger in the thirteen days of horror that had elapsed since the
brigantine crashed on an uncharted reef between Pitcairn and Ducie
Islands, and the other boat had parted company with them, taking most
of the provisions and water. And to hard, callous natures such as
Langton's women yield easily and admire--which is better, perhaps, than
loving, for both.
But that savage curse still sounded in her ears, and unconsciously made
her think of Enderby, who had always, ever since the eighth day in the
boat, given her half his share of water. Little did she know the agony
it cost him the day before when the water had given out, to bring her
the whole of his allowance. And as she drank, the man's heart had
beaten with a dull sense of pity, the while his baser nature called
out, "Fool! it is HIS place, not yours, to suffer for her."
* * * * *
At daylight the boat was close in to the land, and Langton, in his
cool, cynical fashion, told his wife and Enderby to finish up the last
of the meat and biscuit--for if they capsized getting through into the
lagoon, he said, they would never want any more. He had eaten all he
wanted unknown to the others, and looked with an unmoved face at
Enderby soaking some biscuit in the tin for his wife. Then, with the
ragged sail fluttering to the wind, Langton headed the boat through the
passage into the glassy waters of the lagoon, and the two tottering
men, leading the woman between them, sought the shelter of a thicket
scrub, impenetrable to the rays of the sun, and slept. And then for a
week Enderby went and scoured the reefs for food for her.
* * * * *
One day at noon Enderby awoke. The woman still slept heavily, the first
sign of returning strength showing as a faint tinge in the pallor of
her cheek. Langton was gone. A sudden chill passed over him--had
Langton taken the boat and left them to die on lonely Ducie? With hasty
step Enderby hurried to the beach. The boat was there, safe. And at the
farther end of the beach he saw Langton, sitting on the sand, eating.
"Selfish brute!" muttered Enderby. "I wonder what he's got?" just then
he saw, close overhead, a huge ripe pandanus, and, picking up a heavy,
flat piece of coral, he tried to ascend the triplicated bole of the
tree and hammer off some of the fruit. Langton looked up at him, and
showed his white teeth in a mocking smile at the futile effort. Enderby
walked over to him, stone in hand. He was not a vindictive man, but he
had grown to hate Langton fiercely during the past week for his selfish
neglect of his wife. And here was the fellow. gorging himself on
turtle-eggs, and his tender, delicate wife living on shell-fish and
* * * * *
"Langton," he said, speaking thickly and pretending not to notice the
remainder of the eggs, "the tide is out, and we may get a turtle in one
of the pools if you come with me. Mrs Langton needs something better
than that infernal pandanus fruit. Her lips are quite sore and bleeding
from eating it."
The Inner Nature came out. "Are they? My wife's lips seem to give you a
very great deal of concern. She has not said anything to me. And I have
an idea----" the look in Enderby's face shamed into silence the slander
he was about to utter. Then he added coolly--"But as for going with you
after a turtle, thanks, I won't. I've found a nest here, and have had a
good square feed. If the cursed man-o'-war hawks and boobies hadn't
been here before me I'd have got the whole lot." Then he tore the skin
off another egg with his teeth.
With a curious guttural voice Enderby asked--"How many eggs were left?"
"Thirty or so--perhaps forty."
"And you have eaten all but those?"--pointing with savage contempt to
five of the round, white balls; "give me those for your wife."
"My dear man, Louise has too much Island blood in her not to be able to
do better than I--or you--in a case like ours. And as you have kindly
constituted yourself her providore, you had better go and look for a
"You dog!"--and the sharp-edged coral stone crashed into his brain.
* * * * *
When Enderby returned, he found Mrs Langton sitting up on the
creeper-covered mound that over-looked the beach where he had left
"Come away from here," he said, "into the shade. I have found a few
They walked back a little and sat down. But for the wild riot in his
brain, Enderby would have noted that every vestige of colour had left
"You must be hungry," he thought he was saying to her, and he placed
the white objects in her lap.
She turned them slowly over and over in her hands, and then dropped
them with a shudder. Some were flecked with red.
"For God's sake," the man cried, "tell me what you know!"
"I saw it all," she answered.
"I swear to you, Mrs Lan----" (the name stuck in his throat) "I never
meant it. As God is my witness, I swear it. If we ever escape from here
I will give myself up to justice as a murderer."
The woman, with hands spread over her face, shook her head from side to
side and sobbed. Then she spoke. "I thought I loved him, once. . . .
Yet it was for me . . . and you saved my life over and over again in
the boat. All sinners are forgiven we are told. . . . Why should not
you be? . . . and it was for me you did it. And I won't let you give
yourself up to justice or any one. I'll say he died in the boat." And
then the laughter of hysterics.
* * * * *
When, some months later, the JOSEPHINE, whaler, of New London, picked
them up on her way to Japan, VIA the Carolines and Pelews, the captain
satisfactorily answered the query made by Enderby if he could marry
them. He "rayther thought he could. A man who was used ter ketchin' and
killin'whales, the powerfullest creature of Almighty Gawd's creation,
was ekal to marryin' a pair of unfortunit human beans in sich a
pre-carus situation as theirs."
* * * * *
And, by the irony of fate, the Enderbys (that isn't their name) are now
living in a group of islands where there's quite a trade done in
turtle, and whenever a ship's captain comes to dine with them they
never have the local dish--turtle eggs--for dinner. "We see them so
often," Enderby explains, "and my wife is quite tired of them."
LONG CHARLEY'S GOOD LITTLE WIFE
There was the island, only ten miles away, and there it had been for a
whole week. Sometimes we had got near enough to see Long Charley's
house and the figures of natives walking on the yellow beach; and then
the westerly current would set us away to leeward again. But that night
a squall came up, and in half an hour we were running down to the land.
When the lights on the beach showed up we hove-to until daylight, and
then found the surf too heavy to let us land.
* * * * *
We got in close to the reef, and could see that the trader's
copra-house was full, for there were also hundreds of bags outside,
awaiting our boats. It was clearly worth staying for. The trader, a
tall, thin, pyjama-clad man, came down to the water's edge, waved his
long arm, and then turned back and sat down on a bag of copra. We went
about and passed the village again, and once more the long man came to
the water's edge, waved his arm, and retired to his seat.
In the afternoon we saw a native and Charley together among the bags;
then the native left him, and, as it was now low tide, the kanaka was
able to walk to the edge of the reef, where he signalled to us. Seeing
that he meant to swim off, the skipper went in as close as possible,
and backed his foreyard. Watching his chance for a lull in the yet
fierce breakers, the native slid over the reef and swam out to us as
only a Line Islander or a Tokelau man can swim.
"How's Charley?" we asked, when the dark man reached the deck.
"Who? Charley? Oh, he fine, plenty copra. Tapa my bowels are filled
with the sea--for one dollar! Here ARIKI VAKA (captain) and you TUHI
TUHI (supercargo)," said the native, removing from his perforated and
pendulous ear-lobe a little roll of leaf, "take this letter from the
mean man that giveth but a dollar for facing such a GALU (surf). Hast
plenty tobacco on board, friends of my heart? Apa, the surf! Not a
canoe crew could the white man get to face it. Is it good twist
tobacco, friends, or the flat cakes? Know that I am a man of Nanomea,
not one of these dog-eating people here, and a strong swimmer, else the
letter had not come."
The supercargo took the note. It was rolled up in many thicknesses of
banana-leaf, which had kept it dry--
"DEAR FRIENDS,--I have Been waiting for you for near 5 months. I am
Chock full of Cobberah and Shark Fins one Ton. I am near Starved Out,
No Biscit, no Beef, no flour, not Enything to Eat. for god's Saik send
me a case of Gin ashore if you Don't mean to Hang on till the sea goes
Down or I shall Starve. Not a Woman comes Near me because I am Run out
of Traid, so please try also to Send a Peece of Good print, as there
are some fine Women here from Nukunau, and I think I can get one for a
wife if I am smart. If you Can't take my Cobberah, and mean to Go away,
send the Squair face [Square face--Hollands gin], for god's saik, and
something for the Woman,--Your obliged Friend, CHARLES."
We parcelled a bottle of gin round with a small coir line, and sent it
ashore by the Nanomea man. Charley and a number of natives came to the
edge of the reef to lend a hand in landing the bearer of the treasure.
Then they all waded back to the beach, headed by the white man in the
dirty pyjamas and sodden-looking FALA hat. Reaching his house, he
turned his following away, and shut the door.
"I bet a dollar that fellow wouldn't swap billets with the angel
Gabriel at this partikler moment," said our profane mate thoughtfully.
* * * * *
We started weighing and shipping the copra next day. After finishing
up, the solemn Charley invited the skipper and supercargo to remain
ashore till morning. His great trouble, he told us, was that he had not
yet secured a wife, "a reg'lar wife, y'know." He had, unluckily, "lost
the run" of the last Mrs Charley during his absence at another island
of the group, and negotiations with various local young women had been
broken off owing to his having run out of trade. In the South Seas, as
in the civilised world generally, to get the girl of your heart is
usually a mere matter of trade. There were, he told us with a
melancholy look, "some fine Nukunau girls here on a visit, but the one
I want don't seem to care much about stayin', unless all this new trade
"Who is she?" enquired the skipper.
"Let's have a look at her," said the skipper, a man of kind impulses,
who felt sorry at the intermittency of the Long One's connubial
relations. The tall, scraggy trader shambled to the door and bawled
out: "Tibakwa, Tibakwa, Tibakwa, O!" three times.
The people, singing in the big MONIEP or town-house, stopped their
monotonous droning, and the name of Tibakwa, was yelled vociferously
through-out the village in true Gilbert Group style. In the Gilberts,
if a native in one corner of a house speaks to another in the opposite,
he bawls loud enough to be heard a mile off.
* * * * *
Tibakwa (The Shark) was a short, squat fellow, with his broad back and
chest scored and seamed with an intricate and inartistic network of
cicatrices made by sharks' teeth swords. His hair, straight, coarse,
and jet-black, was cut away square from just above his eyebrows to the
top of his ears, leaving his fierce countenance in a sort of frame.
Each ear-lobe bore a load--one had two or three sticks of tobacco,
twined in and about the distended circle of flesh, and the other a
clasp-knife and wooden pipe. Stripped to the waist he showed his
muscular outlines to perfection, and he sat down unasked in the bold,
self-confident, half-defiant manner natural to the Line Islander.
* * * * *
"Where's Tirau?" asked the trader.
"Here," said the man of wounds, pointing outside, and he called out in
a voice like the bellow of a bull--"TIRAU O, NAKO MAI! (Come here!)"
Tirau came in timidly, clothed only in an AIRIRI or girdle, and slunk
into a far corner.
The melancholy trader and the father pulled her out, and she dumped
herself down in the middle of the room with a muttered "E PUAK ACARON;
KACARON; TE MALAN! (Bad white man)."
"Fine girl, Charley," said the skipper, digging him in the ribs. "Ought
to suit you, eh! Make a good little wife."
Negotiations then began anew. Father willing to part, girl
frightened--commenced to cry. The astute Charley brought out some new
trade. Tirau's eye here displayed a faint interest. Charley threw her,
with the air of a prince, a whole piece of turkey twill, 12
yards--value three dollars, cost about 2s. 3d. Tirau put out a little
hand and drew it gingerly toward her. Tibakwa gave us an atrocious
"She's cottoned!" exclaimed Charley.
* * * * *
And thus, without empty and hollow display, were two loving hearts made
to beat as one. As a practical proof of the solemnity of the occasion,
the bridegroom then and there gave Tirau his bunch of keys, which she
carefully tied to a strand of her AIRIRI, and, smoking one of the
captain's Manillas, she proceeded to bash out the mosquitoes from the
nuptial couch with a fan. We assisted her, an hour afterwards, to hoist
the sleeping body of Long Charley therein, and, telling her to bathe
his head in the morning with cold water, we rose to go.
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