By Reef and Palm
Part 2 out of 3
"Good-bye, Tirau!" we said.
"TIAKAPO [Good-night]", said the good Little Wife, as she rolled up an
empty square gin bottle in one of Charley's shirts for a pillow, and
disposed her graceful figure on the matted floor beside his bed, to fight
mosquitoes until daylight.
THE METHODICAL MR BURR OF MADURO
One day Ned Burr, a fellow trader, walked slowly up the path to my
station, and with a friendly nod sat down and watched intently as, with
native assistance, I set about salting some pork. Ned lived thirty
miles from my place, on a little island at the entrance to the lagoon.
He was a prosperous man, and only drank under the pressure of the
monotony caused by the non-arrival of a ship to buy his produce. He
would then close his store, and, aided by a number of friendly male
natives, start on a case of gin. But never a woman went into Ned's
house, though many visited the store, where Ned bought their produce,
paid for it in trade or cash, and sent them off, after treating them on
a strictly business basis.
Now, the Marshall Island women much resented this. Since Ned's wife had
died, ten years previously, the women, backed by the chiefs, had made
most decided, but withal diplomatic, assaults upon his celibacy. The
old men of his village had respectfully and repeatedly reminded him
that his state of singleness was not a direct slight to themselves as
leading men alone. If he refused to marry again he surely would not
cast such a reflection upon the personal characters of some two or
three hundred young girls as to refuse a few of them the position of
honorary wives PRO TEM., or until he found one whom he might think
worthy of higher honours. But the slow-thinking, methodical trader only
opened a bottle of gin, gave them fair words and a drink all round, and
absolutely declined to open any sort of matrimonial negotiations.
* * * * *
"I'm come to hev some talk with you when you've finished saltin'," he
said, as he rose and meditatively prodded a junk of meat with his
"Right, old man," I said. "I'll come now," and we went into the big
room and sat down.
"Air ye game ter come and see me get married?" he asked, looking away
past me, through the open door, to where the surf thundered and tumbled
on the outer reef.
"Ned," I said solemnly, "I know you don't joke, so you must mean it. Of
course I will. I'm sure all of us fellows will be delighted to hear
you're going to get some nice little CARAJZ [an unmarried girl] to lighten
up that big house of yours over there. Who's the girl, Ned?"
"Whew!" I said, "why, she's the daughter of the biggest chief on Arhnu.
I didn't think any white man could get her, even if he gave her people
a boat-load of dollars as a wedding-gift."
"Well, no," said Ned, stroking his beard meditatively, "I suppose I
SHOULD feel a bit set up; but two years ago her people said that,
because I stood to them in the matter of some rifles when they had
trouble with King Jibberick, I could take her. She was rather young
then, any way; but I've been over to Arhnu several times, and I've had
spies out, and damn me if I ever could hear a whisper agin' her. I'm
told for sure that her father and uncles would ha' killed any one that
came after her. So I'm a-goin' to take her and chance it."
"Ned," I said, "you know your own affairs and these people better than
I do. Yet are you really going to pin your faith on a Marshall Island
girl? You are not like any of us traders. You see, we know what to
expect sometimes, and our morals are a lot worse than those of the
natives. And it doesn't harrow our feelings much if any one of us has
to divorce a wife and get another; it only means a lot of new dresses
and some guzzling, drinking, and speechifying, and some bother in
teaching the new wife how to make bread. But your wife that died was a
Manhikian--another kind. They don't breed that sort here in the
Marshalls. Think of it twice, Ned, before you marry her."
* * * * *
The girl was a beauty. There are many like her in that far-away cluster
of coral atolls. That she was a chief's child it was easy to see; the
abject manner in which the commoner natives always behaved themselves
in her presence showed their respect for Le-jennabon. Of course we all
got very jolly. There were half a dozen of us traders there, and we
were, for a wonder, all on friendly terms. Le-jennabon sat on a fine
mat in the big room, and in a sweetly dignified manner received the
wedding-gifts. One of our number, Charlie de Buis, though in a state of
chronic poverty, induced by steadfast adherence to square gin at five
dollars a case, made his offerings--a gold locket covering a woman's
miniature, a heavy gold ring, and a pair of fat, cross-bred Muscovy
ducks. The bride accepted them with a smile.
"Who is this?" she asked, looking at the portrait--"your white wife?"
"No," replied the bashful Charles, "another man's. That's why I give it
away, curse her! But the ducks I bred myself on Madurocaron;."
* * * * *
A month or two passed. Then, on one Sunday afternoon, about dusk, I saw
Ned's whale-boat coming over across the lagoon. I met him on the beach.
Trouble was in his face, yet his hard, impassive features were such
that only those who knew him well could discover it. Instead of
entering the house, he silently motioned me to come further along the
sand, where we reached an open spot clear of coco palms. Ned sat down
and filled his pipe. I waited patiently. The wind had died away, and
the soft swish and swirl of the tide as the ripples lapped the beach
was the only sound that broke upon the silence of the night.
* * * * *
"You were right. But it doesn't matter now . . ." He laughed softly. "A
week ago a canoe-party arrived from Ebon. There were two chiefs. Of
course they came to my house to trade. They had plenty of money. There
were about a hundred natives belonging to them. The younger man was
chief of Likieb--a flash buck. The first day he saw Le-jennabon he had
a lot too much to say to her. I watched him. Next morning my
toddy-cutter came and told me that the flash young chief from Likieb
had stuck him up and drank my toddy, and had said something about my
wife--you know how they talk in parables when they mean mischief. I
would have shot him for the toddy racket, but I was waitin' for a
better reason. . . . The old hag who bosses my cook-shed said to me as
she passed, 'Go and listen to a song of cunning over there'--pointing
to a clump of bread-fruit trees. I walked over--quietly. Le-jennabon
and her girls were sitting down on mats. Outside the fence was a lad
singing this--in a low voice--
"'Marriage hides the tricks of lovers.'
"Le-jennabon and the girls bent their heads and said nothing. Then the
devil's imp commenced again--
"'Marriage hides the tricks of lovers.'
"Some of the girls laughed and whispered to Le-jennabon. She shook her
head, and looked around timorously. Plain enough, wasn't it? Presently
the boy creeps up to the fence, and drops over a wreath of yellow
blossoms. The girls laughed. One of them picked it up, and offered it
to Le-jennabon. She waved it away. Then, again, the cub outside sang
"'Marriage hides the tricks of lovers,'
"and they all laughed again, and Le-jennabon put the wreath on her head,
and I saw the brown hide of the boy disappear among the trees."
* * * * *
I went back to the house. I wanted to make certain she would follow the
boy first. After a few minutes some of Le-jennabon's women came to me,
and said they were going to the weather side of the island--it's narrer
across, as you know--to pick flowers. I said all right, to go, as I was
going to do something else, so couldn't come with them. Then I went to
the trade-room and got what I wanted. The old cook-hag showed me the
way they had gone, and grinned when she saw what I had slid down inside
my pyjamas. I cut round and got to the place. I had a right good idea
where it was.
* * * * *
"The girls soon came along the path, and then stopped and talked to
Le-jennabon and pointed to a clump of bread-fruit trees standing in an
arrow-root patch. She seemed frightened--but went. Half-way through she
stopped, and then I saw my beauty raise his head from the ground and
march over to her. I jest giv' him time ter enjoy a smile, and then I
stepped out and toppled him over. Right through his carcase--them
Sharp's rifle make a hole you could put your fist into.
"The girl dropped too--sheer funk. Old Lebauro, the cook, slid through
the trees and stood over him, and said, 'U, GUK! He's a fine-made man,'
and gave me her knife; and then I collared Le-jennabon, and ----"
"For God's sake, Ned, don't tell me you killed her too!"
He shook his head slowly.
"No, I couldn't hurt HER. But I held her with one hand, she feeling
dead and cold, like a wet deck-swab; then the old cook-woman undid my
flash man's long hair, and, twining her skinny old claws in it, pulled
it taut, while I sawed at the chap's neck with my right hand. The knife
was heavy and sharp, and I soon got the job through. Then I gave the
thing to Le-jennabon to carry.
* * * * *
"I made her walk in front of me. Every time she dropped the head I
slewed her round and made her lift it up again. And the old cook-devil
trotted astern o' us. When we came close to the town, I says to
"'Do you want to live?'
"'Yes,' says she, in a voice like a whisper.
"'Then sing,' says I, 'sing loud--
"'Marriage hides the tricks of lovers,'
And she sang it in a choky kind of quaver.
"There was a great rush o' people ter see the procession. They stood in
a line on both sides of the path, and stared and said nothin'.
"Presently we comes to where all the Likieb chief's people was
quartered. They knew the head and ran back for their rifles, but my
crowd in the village was too strong, and, o' course, sided with me, and
took away their guns. Then the crowd gathers round my place, and I
makes Le-jennabon hold up the head and sing again--sing that devil's
"'Listen,' I says to the people, 'listen to my wife singing a love
song.' Then I takes the thing, wet and bloody, and slings it into the
middle of the Likieb people, and gave Le-jennabon a shove and sent her
* * * * *
I was thinking what would be the best thing to say, and could only
manage "It's a bad business, Ned."
"Bad! That's where you're wrong," and, rising, Ned brushed the sand off
the legs of his pyjamas. "It's just about the luckiest thing as could
ha' happened. Ye see, it's given Le-jennabon a good idea of what may
happen to her if she ain't mighty correct. An' it's riz me a lot in the
esteem of the people generally as a man who hez business principles."
A TRULY GREAT MAN
A Mid-Pacific Sketch
Then the flag of "Bobby" Towns, of Sydney, was still mighty in the
South Seas. The days had not come in which steamers with brass-bound
supercargoes, carrying tin boxes and taking orders like merchants'
bagmen, for goods "to arrive," exploited the Ellice, Kingsmill, and
Gilbert Groups. Bluff-bowed old wave-punchers like the SPEC, the LADY
ALICIA and the E. K. BATESON plunged their clumsy hulls into the
rolling swell of the mid-Pacific, carrying their "trade" of knives,
axes, guns, bad rum, and good tobacco, instead of, as now, white
umbrellas, paper boots and shoes, German sewing-machines and fancy
prints--"zephyrs," the smartly-dressed paper-collared supercargo of
to-day calls them, as he submits a card of patterns to Emilia, the
native teacher's wife, who, as the greatest Lady in the Land, must have
* * * * *
In those days the sleek native missionary was an unknown quantity in
the Tokelaus and Kingsmills, and the local white trader answered all
requirements. He was generally a rough character--a runaway from some
Australian or American whaler, or a wandering Ishmael, who, for reasons
of his own, preferred living among the intractable, bawling, and
poverty-stricken people of the equatorial Pacific to dreaming away his
days in the monotonously happy valleys of the Society and Marquesas
* * * * *
Such a man was Probyn, who dwelt on one of the low atolls of the Ellice
Islands. He had landed there one day from a Sydney sperm whaler with a
chest of clothes, a musket or two, and a tierce of twist tobacco; with
him came a savage-eyed, fierce-looking native wife, over whose bared
shoulders and bosom fell long waves of black hair; with her was a child
about five years old.
The second mate of the whaler, who was in charge of the boat, not
liking the looks of the excited natives who swarmed around the
newcomer, bade him a hurried farewell, and pushed away to the ship,
which lay-to off the passage with her fore-yard aback. Then the
clamorous people pressed more closely around Probyn and his wife, and
assailed them with questions.
So far neither of them had spoken. Probyn, a tall, wiry, scanty-haired
man, with quiet, deep-set eyes, was standing with one foot on the
tierce of tobacco and his hands in his pockets. His wife glared
defiantly at some two or three score of reddish-brown women who crowded
eagerly around her to stare into her face; holding to the sleeve of her
dress was the child, paralysed into the silence of fright.
* * * * *
The deafening babble and frantic gesticulations were perfectly
explicable to Probyn, and he apprehended no danger. The head man of the
village had not yet appeared, and until he came this wild license of
behaviour would continue. At last the natives became silent and parted
to the right and left as Tahori, the head man, his fat body shining
with coconut oil, and carrying an ebony-wood club in his hand, stood in
front of the white man and eyed him up and down. The scrutiny seemed
satisfactory. He stretched out his huge, naked arm, and shook Probyn's
hand, uttering his one word of Samoan--"TALOFA!" [Lit., "My love to you",
the Samoan salutation] and then, in his own dialect, he asked: "What is
your name, and what do you want?"
"Sam," replied Probyn. And then, in the Tokelau language, which the
wild-eyed people around him fairly understood, "I have come here to
live with you and trade for oil"--and he pointed to the tierce of
"Where are you from?"
"From the land called Nukunono, in the Tokelau."
"Why come here?"
"Because I killed an enemy there."
"Good!" grunted the fat man; "there are no twists in thy tongue; but
why did the boat hasten away so quickly?"
"They were frightened because of the noise. He with the face like a
fowl's talked too much"--and he pointed to a long, hatchet-visaged
native, who had been especially turbulent and vociferous.
* * * * *
"Ha!" and the fat, bearded face of Tahori turned from the white man to
him of whom the white man had spoken--"is it thee, Makoi? And so thou
madest the strangers hasten away! That was wrong. Only for thee I had
gone to the ship and gotten many things. Come hither!"
Then he stooped and picked up one of Probyn's muskets, handed it to the
white man, and silently indicated the tall native with a nod. The other
natives fell back. Niabong, Probyn's wife, set her boy on his feet, put
her hand in her bosom and drew out a key, with which she opened the
chest. She threw back the lid, fixed her black eyes on Probyn, and
Probyn, holding the musket in his left hand, mused a moment. Then he
"Whose man is he?"
"Mine," said Tahori; "he is from Oaitupu, and my bondman."
"Hath he a wife?"
"Nay; he is poor, and works in my PURAKA [A coarse species of taro (ARUM
ESCULENTUM) growing on the low-lying atolls of the mid-Pacific.] field!"
"Good," said Probyn, and he motioned to his wife. She dived her hand
into the chest and handed him a tin of powder, then a bullet, a cap,
and some scraps of paper.
Slowly he loaded the musket, and Tahori, seizing the bondman by his
arm, led him out to the open, and stood by, club in hand, on the alert.
Probyn knew his reputation depended on the shot. He raised his musket
and fired. The ball passed through the chest of Makoi. Then four men
picked up the body and carried it into a house.
* * * * *
Probyn laid down the musket and motioned again to Niabong. She handed
him a hatchet and blunt chisel. Tahori smiled pleasantly, and, drawing
the little boy to him, patted his head.
Then, at a sign from him, a woman brought Niabong a shell of sweet
toddy. The chief sat cross-legged and watched Probyn opening the tierce
of tobacco. Niabong locked the box again and sat upon it.
"Who are you?" said Tahori, still caressing the boy, to the white man's
"Niabong. But my tongue twists with your talk here. I am of Naura
(Pleasant Island). By-and-by I shall understand it."
"True. He is a great man, thy man," said the chief, nodding at Probyn.
"A great man, truly. There is not one thing in the world but he can do
"E MOE [true]," said the fat man, approvingly; "I can see it. Look you, he
shall be as my brother, and thy child here shall eat of the best in the
Probyn came over with his two hands filled with sticks of tobacco.
"Bring a basket," he said.
A young native girl slid out from the coconut grove at Tahori's
bidding, and stood behind him holding a basket. Probyn counted out into
it two hundred sticks of tobacco.
"See, Tahori. I am a just man to thee because thou art a just man to
me. Here is the price of him that thou gavest to me."
Tahori rose and beckoned to the people to return. "Look at this man. He
is a truly great man. His heart groweth from his loins upwards to his
throat. Bring food to my house quickly, that he and his wife and child
may eat. And to-morrow shall every man cut wood for his house, a house
that shall be in length six fathoms, and four in width. Such men as he
come from the gods."
THE DOCTOR'S WIFE
Consanguinity--From A Polynesian Standpoint
"Oho!" said Lagisiva, the widow, tossing her hair back over her
shoulders, as she raised the heavy, fluted tappa mallet in her thick,
strong right hand, and dealt the rough cloth a series of quick
strokes--"Oho!" said the dark-faced Lagisiva, looking up at the White
Man, "because I be a woman dost think me a fool? I tell thee I know
some of the customs of the PAPALAGI (the white foreigners). Much wisdom
have ye in many things; but again I tell thee, O friend of my sons,
that in some other things the people of thy nation--ay, of all white
nations, they be as the beasts of the forest--the wild goat and
pig--without reason and without shame. TAH! Has not my eldest son, Tui
Fau, whom the white men call Bob, lived for seven years in Sini
(Sydney), when he returned from those places by New Guinea, where he
was diver? And he has filled my ears with the bad and shameless customs
of the PAPALAGI. ISA! I say again thy women have not the shame of ours.
The heat of desire devoureth chastity even in those of one blood!"
"In what do they offend, O my mother?"
"AUE! Life is short; and, behold, this piece of SIAPO [The tappa cloth of
the South Seas, made from the bark of the paper mulberry.] is for
a wedding present, and I must hurry; but yet put down thy gun and
bag, and we shall smoke awhile, and thou shalt feel shame while I tell
of one of the PAPALAGI customs--the marrying of brother and sister!"
"Nay, mother," said the White Man, "not brother and sister, but only
"ISA! [an expression of contempt]" and the big widow spat scornfully on
the ground, "those are words--words. It is the same; the same is the
blood, the same is the bone. Even in our heathen days we pointed the
finger at one who looked with the eye of love on the daughter of his
father's brother or sister--for such did we let his blood out upon the
sand. And I, old Lagisiva, have seen a white man brought to shame through
"Tell me," said the White Man.
* * * * *
"He was a FOMA'I (doctor), and rich, and came here because he desired
to see strange places, and was weary of his life in the land of the
PAPALAGI. So he remained with us, and hunted the wild boar with our
young men, and became strong and hardy, and like unto one of our
people. And then, because he was for ever restless, he sailed away once
and returned in a small ship, and brought back trade and built a store
and a fine house to dwell in. The chief of this town gave him, for
friendship, a piece of land over there by the Vai-ta-milo, and thus did
he become a still greater man. His store was full of rich goods, and he
kept many servants, and at night-time his house was as a blaze of fire,
for the young men and women would go there and sing and dance, and he
had many lovers amongst our young girls.
"I, old Lagisiva, who am now fat and dull, was one. Oho, he was a man
of plenty! Did a girl but look out between her eyelashes at a piece of
print in the store, lo! it was hers, even though it measured twenty
fathoms in length--and print was a dollar a fathom in those days. So
every girl--even those from parts far off--cast herself in his way,
that he might notice her. And he was generous to all alike--in that
alone was wisdom.
* * * * *
"Once or twice every year the ships brought him letters. And he would
count the marks on the paper, and tell us that they came from a woman
of the PAPALAGI--his cousin, as you would call her--whose picture was
hung over his table. She was for ever smiling down upon us, and her
eyes were his eyes, and if he but smiled then were the two alike--alike
as are two children of the same birth. When three years had come and
gone a ship brought him a letter, and that night there were many of us
at his house, men and women, to talk with the people from the ship.
When those had gone away to their sleep, he called to the chief, and
"'In two days, O my friend, I set out for my land again; but to return,
for much do I desire to remain with you always. In six months I shall
be here again. And there is one thing I would speak of. I shall bring
back a white wife, a woman of my own country, whom I have loved for
"Then Tamaali'i, the chief, who was my father's father, and very old,
said, 'She shall be my daughter, and welcome,' and many of us young
girls said also, 'She shall be welcome'--although we felt sorrowful to
lose a lover so good and open-handed. And then did the FOMA'I call to
the old chief and two others, and they entered the store and lighted
lamps, and presently a man went forth into the village, and cried
aloud: 'Come hither, all people, and listen!' So, many hundreds came,
and we all went in and found the floor covered with some of everything
that the white man possessed. And the chief spoke and said:
"'Behold, my people, this our good friend goeth away to his own country
that he may bring back a wife. And because many young unmarried girls
will say, "Why does he leave us? Are not we as good to look upon as
this other woman?" does he put these presents here on the ground and
these words into my mouth--"Out of his love to you, which must be a
thing that is past and forgotten, the wife that is coming must not know
of some little things--that is PAPALAGI custom.'"
"And then every girl that had a wish took whatever she fancied, and the
white man charged us to say naught that would arouse the anger of the
wife that was to come. And so he departed.
* * * * *
"One hundred and ten fat hogs killed we and roasted whole for the feast
of welcome. I swear it by the Holy Ones of God's Kingdom--one hundred
and ten. And yet this white lily of his never smiled--not even on us
young girls who danced and sang before her, only she clung to his arm,
and, behold, when we drew close to her we saw it was the woman in the
"And then one by one all those that had gathered to do him honour went
away in shame--shame that he should do this, wed his own sister, and
many women said worse of her. But yet the feast--the hogs, and yams,
and taro, and fish, and fowls--was brought and placed by his doorstep,
but no one spake, and at night-time he was alone with his wife, till he
sent for the old chief, and reproached him with bitter words for the
coldness of the people, and asked: 'Why is this?'
* * * * *
"And the old man pointed to the picture over the table, and said: 'Is
this she--thy wife?'
"'Ay,' said the White Man.
"'Is she not of the same blood as thyself?'
"'Even so,' said he.
"'Then shalt thou live alone in thy shame,' said the old man; and he
"So, for many months, these two lived. He found some to work for him,
and some young girls to tend his sister, whom he called his wife,
whilst she lay ill with her first child. And the day after it was born,
some one whispered: 'He is accursed! the child cries not--it is dumb.'
For a week it lived, yet never did it cry, for the curse of wickedness
was upon it. Then the white man nursed her tenderly, and took her away
to live in Fiji for six months. When they came back it was the same--no
one cared to go inside his house, and he cursed us, and said he would
bring men from Tokelau to work for him. We said naught. Then in time
another child was born, and it was hideous to look upon, and that also
* * * * *
"Now, there was a girl amongst us whose name was Suni, to whom the
white woman spoke much, for she was learning our tongue, and Suni, by
reason of the white woman's many presents, spoke openly to her, and
told her of the village talk. Then the white woman wept, and arose and
spoke to the man for a long while. And she came back to Suni, and said:
'What thou hast told me was in my own heart three years ago; yet,
because it is the custom of my people, I married this man, who is the
son of my father's brother. But now I shall go away.' Then the white
man came out and beat Suni with a stick. But yet was his sister, whom
he called his wife, eaten up with shame, and when a ship came they went
away, and we saw her not again. For about two years we heard no more of
our white man, till he returned and said the woman was dead. And he
took Suni for wife, who bore him three children, and then they went
away to some other country--I know not where.
* * * * *
"I thank thee many, many times, O friend of my sons. Four children of
mine here live in this village, yet not a one of them ever asketh me
when I last smoked. May God walk with thee always for this stick of
THE FATE OF THE ALIDA
Three years ago, in an Australian paper, I read something that set me
thinking of Taplin--of Taplin and his wife, and the fate of the ALIDA.
This is what I read:--
"News has reached Tahiti that a steamer had arrived at Toulon with two
noted prisoners on board. These men, who are brothers named Rorique,
long ago left Tahiti on an island-trading trip, and when the vessel got
to sea they murdered the captain, a passenger, the supercargo (Mr
Gibson, of Sydney), and two sailors, and threw their bodies overboard.
The movers in the affair were arrested at Ponape, in the Caroline
Islands. The vessel belonged to a Tahitian prince, and was called the
NUROAHITI, but its name had been changed after the tragedy. The accused
persons were sent to Manilla. From Manilla they appear now to have been
sent on to France."
[NOTE BY THE AUTHOR.--The brothers Rorique were sentenced to imprisonment
for life at Brest in 1895.]
In the year 1872 we were lying inside Funafuti Lagoon, in the Ellice
Group. The last cask of oil had been towed off to the brig and placed
under hatches, and we were to sail in the morning for our usual cruise
among the Gilbert and Kingsmill Islands.
Our captain, a white trader from the shore, and myself, were sitting on
deck "yarning" and smoking. We lay about a quarter of a mile from the
beach--such a beach, white as the driven snow, and sweeping in a great
curve for five long miles to the north and a lesser distance to the
south and west. Right abreast of the brig, nestling like huge birds'
nests in the shade of groves of coconut and bread-fruit trees, were the
houses of the principal village in Funafuti.
Presently the skipper picked up his glasses that lay beside him on the
skylight, and looked away down to leeward, where the white sails of a
schooner beating up to the anchorage were outlined against the line of
palms that fringed the beach of Funafala--the westernmost island that
forms one of the chain enclosing Funafuti Lagoon.
"It's Taplin's schooner, right enough," he said. "Let us go ashore and
give him and his pretty wife a hand to pack up."
* * * * *
Taplin was the name of the only other white trader on Funafuti besides
old Tom Humphreys, our own man. He had been two years on the island,
and was trading in opposition to our trader, as agent for a foreign
house--our owners were Sydney people--but his firm's unscrupulous
method of doing business had disgusted him. So one day he told the
supercargo of their vessel that he would trade for them no longer than
the exact time he had agreed upon--two years. He had come to Funafuti
from the Pelews, and was now awaiting the return of his firm's vessel
to take him back there again. Getting into our boat we were pulled
ashore and landed on the beach in front of the trader's house.
"Well, Taplin, here's your schooner at last," said old Tom, as we shook
hands and seated ourselves in the comfortable, pleasant-looking room.
"I see you're getting ready to go."
Taplin was a man of about thirty or so, with a quiet, impassive face,
and dark, deep-set eyes that gave to his features a somewhat gloomy
look, except when he smiled, which was not often. Men with that
curious, far-off look in their eyes are not uncommon among the lonely
islands of the wide Pacific. Sometimes it comes to a man with long,
long years of wandering to and fro; and you will see it deepen when, by
some idle, chance word, you move the memories of a forgotten past--ere
he had even dreamed of the existence of the South Sea Islands and for
ever dissevered himself from all links and associations of the outside
* * * * *
"Yes," he answered, "I am nearly ready. I saw the schooner at daylight,
and knew it was the ALIDA."
"Where do you think of going to, Taplin?" I asked.
"Back to the Carolines. Nerida belongs down that way, you know; and she
is fretting to get back again--otherwise I wouldn't leave this island.
I've done pretty well here, although the people I trade for are--well,
you know what they are."
"Aye," assented old Humphreys, "there isn't one of 'em but what is the
two ends and bight of a--scoundrel; and that supercargo with the yaller
moustache and womany hands is the worst of the lot. I wonder if he's
aboard this trip? I don't let him inside my house; I've got too many
daughters, and they all think him a fine man."
* * * * *
Nerida, Taplin's wife, came out to us from an inner room. She was a
native of one of the Pelew Islands, a tall, slenderly-built girl, with
pale, olive skin and big, soft eyes. A flowing gown of yellow
muslin--the favourite colour of the Portuguese-blooded natives of the
Pelews--buttoned high up to her throat, draped her graceful figure.
After putting her little hand in ours, and greeting us in the Funafuti
dialect, she went over to Taplin, and touching his arm, pointed out the
schooner that was now only a mile or so away, and a smile parted her
lips, and the star-like eyes glowed and filled with a tender light.
I felt Captain Warren touch my arm as he rose and went outside. I
* * * * *
"L----," said Warren, "can't we do something for Taplin ourselves?
Isn't there a station anywhere about Tonga or Wallis Island that would
"Would he come, Warren? He--or, rather, that pretty wife of his--seems
bent upon going away in the schooner to the Carolines."
"Aye," said the skipper, "that's it. If it were any other vessel I
wouldn't care." Then suddenly:
"That fellow Motley (the supercargo) is a damned scoundrel--capable of
any villainy where a woman is concerned. Did you ever hear about old
Raymond's daughter down at Mangareva?"
I had heard the story very often. By means of a forged letter
purporting to have been written by her father--an old English trader in
the Gambier Group--Motley had lured the beautiful young half-blood away
from a school in San Francisco, and six months afterwards turned her
adrift on the streets of Honolulu. Raymond was a lonely man, and
passionately attached to his only child; so no one wondered when,
reaching California a year after and finding her gone, he shot himself
in his room at an hotel.
* * * * *
"I will ask him, anyway," I said; and as we went back into the house
the ALIDA shot past our line of vision through the coco-palms, and
brought up inside the brig.
"Taplin," I said, "would you care about taking one of our stations to
the eastward? Name any island you fancy, and we will land you there
with the pick of our 'trade' room."
"Thank you. I would be only too glad, but I cannot. I have promised
Nerida to go back to Babelthouap, or somewhere in the Pelews, and
Motley has promised to land us at Ponape, in the Carolines. We can get
away from there in one of the Dutch firm's vessels."
"I am very sorry, Taplin----" I began, when old Captain Warren burst in
with--"Look here, Taplin, we haven't got much time to talk. Here's the
ALIDA'S boat coming, with that (blank blank) scoundrel Motley in it.
Take my advice. Don't go away in the ALIDA." And then he looked at
Nerida, and whispered something.
A red spark shone in Taplin's dark eyes, then he pressed Warren's hand.
"I know," he answered, "he's a most infernal villain--Nerida hates him
too. But you see how I am fixed. The ALIDA is our only chance of
getting back to the north-west. But he hasn't got old Raymond to deal
with in me. Here they are."
* * * * *
Motley came in first, hat and fan in hand. He was a fine-looking man,
with blue eyes and an unusually fair skin for an island supercargo,
with a long, drooping, yellow moustache. Riedermann, the skipper, who
followed, was stout, coarse, red-faced, and brutal.
"How are you, gentlemen?" said Motley affably, turning from Taplin and
his wife, and advancing towards us. "Captain Riedermann and I saw the
spars of your brig showing up over the coconuts yesterday, and
therefore knew we should have the pleasure of meeting you."
Warren looked steadily at him for a moment, and then glanced at his
"The pleasure isn't mutual, blarst you, Mr Motley," he said coldly, and
he put his hand in his pocket.
The supercargo took a step nearer to him with a savage glare in his
blue eyes. "What do you mean by this, Captain Warren?"
"Mean?" and the imperturbable Warren seated himself on a corner of the
table, and gazed stolidly first at the handsome Motley and then at the
heavy, vicious features of Riedermann. "Oh, anything you like. Perhaps
it's because it's not pleasant to see white men landing at a quiet
island like this with revolvers slung to their waists under their
pyjamas; looks a bit too much like Bully Hayes' style for me," and then
his tone of cool banter suddenly changed to that of studied insolence.
"I say, Motley, I was talking about you just now to Taplin AND Nerida.
Do you want to know what I was saying? Perhaps I had better tell you. I
was talking about Tita Raymond--and yourself."
* * * * *
Motley put his right hand under his pyjama jacket, but Taplin sprang
forward, seized his wrist in a grip of iron, and drew him aside.
"The man who draws a pistol in my house, Mr Motley, does a foolish
thing," he said, in quiet, contemptuous tones, as he threw the
supercargo's revolver into a corner.
With set teeth and clenched hands Motley flung himself into a chair,
unable to speak.
Warren, still seated on the table, swung his foot nonchalantly to and
fro, and then began at Riedermann.
"Why, how's this, Captain Ricdermann? Don't you back up your
supercargo's little quarrels, or have you left your pistol on board?
Ah, no, you haven't. I can see it there right enough. Modesty forbids
you putting a bullet into a man in the presence of a lady, eh?" Then
slewing round again, he addressed Motley: "By God! sir, it is well for
you that we are in a white man's house, and that that man is my friend
and took away that pistol from your treacherous hand. If you had fired
at me I would have booted you from one end of Funafuti beach to the
other--and I've a damned good mind to do it now, but won't, as Taplin
has to do some business with you."
"That will do, Warren," I said. "We don't want to make a scene in
Taplin's house. Let us go away and allow him to finish his business."
Still glaring angrily at Riedermann and Motley, Warren got down slowly
from the table. Then we bade Taplin and Nerida good-bye and went
At daylight we saw Taplin and his wife go off in the ALIDA'S boat. They
waved their hands to us in farewell as the boat pulled past the brig,
and then the schooner hove-up anchor, and with all sail set, stood away
down to the north-west passage of the lagoon.
A year or so afterward we were on a trading voyage to the islands of
the Tubuai Group, and were lying becalmed, in company with a New
Bedford whaler. Her skipper came on board the brig, and we started
talking of Taplin, whom the whale-ship captain knew.
"Didn't you hear?" he said. "The ALIDA never showed up again. 'Turned
turtle,' I suppose, somewhere in the islands, like all those slashing,
over-masted, 'Frisco-built schooners do, sooner or later."
"Poor Taplin," said Warren, "I thought somehow we would never see him
* * * * *
Five years had passed. Honest old Warren, fiery-tempered and
true-hearted, had long since died of fever in the Solomons, and I was
supercargo with a smart young American skipper in the brigantine
PALESTINE, when we one day sailed along the weather-side of a tiny
little atoll in the Caroline Islands.
The PALESTINE was leaking, and Packenham, tempted by the easy passage
into the beautiful lagoon, decided to run inside and discharge our
cargo of copra to get at the leak.
The island had but very few inhabitants--perhaps ten or twelve men and
double that number of women and children. No ship, they told us, had
ever entered the lagoon but Bully Hayes' brig, and that was nine years
before. There was nothing on the island to tempt a trading vessel, and
even the sperm whalers, as they lumbered lazily past from Strong's
Island to Guam, would not bother to lower a boat and "dicker" for
pearl-shell or turtle.
At the time of Hayes' visit the people were in sore straits, and on the
brink of actual starvation, for although there were fish and turtle in
plenty, they had not the strength to catch them. A few months before, a
cyclone had destroyed nearly all the coconut trees, and an epidemic
followed it, and carried off half the scanty population.
* * * * *
The jaunty sea-rover--than whom a kinder-hearted man to NATIVES never
sailed the South Seas--took pity on the survivors, especially the
youngest and prettiest girls, and gave them a passage in the famous
LEONORA to another island where food was plentiful. There they remained
for some years, till the inevitable MAL DU PAYS that is inborn to every
Polynesian and Micronesian, became too strong to be resisted; and so
one day a wandering sperm whaler brought them back again.
But in their absence strangers had come to the island. As the people
landed from the boats of the whale-ship, two brown men, a woman, and a
child, came out of one of the houses, and gazed at them. Then they fled
to the farthest end of the island and hid.
Some weeks passed before the returned islanders found out the retreat
of the strangers, who were armed with rifles, and called them to "come
out and be friends." They did so, and by some subtle treachery the two
men were killed during the night.
The woman, who was young and handsome, was spared, and, from what we
could learn, had been well treated ever since.
"Where did the strangers come from?" we asked.
That they could not tell us. But the woman had since told them that the
ship had anchored in the lagoon because she was leaking badly, and that
the captain and crew were trying to stop the leak when she began to
heel over, and they had barely time to save a few things when she sank.
In a few days the captain and crew left the island in the boat, and,
rather than face the dangers of a long voyage in such a small boat, the
two natives and the woman elected to remain on the island.
"That's a mighty fishy yarn," said Packenham to me. "I daresay these
fellows have been doing a little cutting-off business. But then I don't
know of any missing vessel. We'll go ashore to-morrow and have a look
A little after sunset the skipper and I were leaning over the rail,
watching the figures of the natives, as they moved to and fro in the
glare of the fires lighted here and there along the beach.
"Hallo!" said Packenham, "here's a canoe coming, with only a woman in
it. By thunder! she's travelling, too, and coming straight for the
A few minutes more and the canoe was alongside. The woman hastily
picked up a little girl that was sitting in the bottom, looked up, and
called out in English--
"Take my little girl, please."
A native sailor leant over the bulwarks and lifted up the child, and
the woman clambered after her. Then, seizing the child from the sailor,
she flew along the deck and into the cabin.
She was standing facing us as we followed and entered, holding the
child tightly to her bosom. The soft light of the cabin lamp fell full
upon her features, and we saw that she was very young, and seemed
"Who are you?" we said, when she advanced, put out a trembling hand to
us, and said: "Don't you know me, Mr Supercargo? I am Nerida, Taplin's
wife." Then she sank on a seat and sobbed violently.
* * * * *
We waited till she regained her composure somewhat, and then I said:
"Nerida, where is Taplin?"
"Dead," she said in a voice scarce above a whisper; "only us two are
left--I and little Teresa."
Packenham held out his hands to the child. With wondering, timid eyes,
she came, and for a moment or two looked doubtingly upwards into the
brown, handsome face of the skipper, and then nestled beside him.
For a minute or so the ticking of the cabin clock broke the silence,
ere I ventured to ask the one question uppermost in my mind.
"Nerida, how and where did Taplin die?"
"My husband was murdered at sea," she said and then she covered her
face with her hands.
"Don't ask her any more now," said Packenham pityingly; "let her tell
She raised her face. "Yes, I will tell you to-morrow. You will take me
away with you, will you not, gentlemen--for my child's sake?"
"Of course," said the captain promptly. And he stretched out his honest
hand to her.
* * * * *
"She's a wonderfully pretty woman," said Packenham, as we walked the
poop later on, and he glanced down through the open skylight to where
she and the child slept peacefully on the cushioned transoms. "How
prettily she speaks English, too. Do you think she was fond of her
husband, or was it merely excitement that made her cry?--native women
are as prone to be as hysterical as our own when under any violent
"I can only tell you, Packenham, that when I saw her last, five years
ago, she was a graceful girl of eighteen, and as full of happiness as a
bird is of song. She looks thirty now, and her face is thin and
drawn--but I don't say all for love of Taplin."
"That will all wear off by and by," said the skipper confidently.
"Yes," I thought, "and she won't be a widow long."
* * * * *
Next morning Nerida had an hour or two among the prints and muslin in
the trade-room, and there was something of the old beauty about her
when she sat down to breakfast with us. We were to sail at noon. The
leak had been stopped, and Packenham was in high good-humour.
"Nerida," I inquired unthinkingly, "do you know what became of the
ALIDA? She never turned up again."
"Yes," she answered; "she is here, at the bottom of the lagoon. Will
you come and look at her?"
After breakfast we lowered the dingy, the captain and I pulling. Nerida
steered us out to the north end of the lagoon till we reached a spot
where the water suddenly deepened. It was, in fact, a deep pool, some
three or four hundred feet in diameter, closed in by a continuous wall
of coral rock, the top of which, even at low water, would be perhaps
two or three fathoms under the surface.
She held up her hands for us to back water, then she gazed over the
side into the water.
"Look," she said, "there lies the ALIDA."
* * * * *
We bent over the side of the boat. The waters of the lagoon were as
smooth as glass and as clear. We saw two slender rounded columns that
seemed to shoot up in a slanting direction from out the vague, blue
depths beneath, to within four or five fathoms of the surface of the
water. Swarms of gorgeously-hued fish swam and circled in and about the
masses of scarlet and golden weed that clothed the columns from their
tops downward, and swayed gently to and fro as they glided in and out.
A hawk-bill turtle, huge, black, and misshapen, slid out from beneath
the dark ledge of the reef, and swam slowly across the pool, and then,
between the masts, sank to the bottom.
"'Twas six years ago," said Nerida, as we raised our heads.
That night, as the PALESTINE sped noiselessly before the trade wind to
the westward she told me, in the old Funafuti tongue, the tragedy of
* * * * *
"The schooner," she said, "sailed very quickly, for on the fifteenth
day out from Funafuti we saw the far-off peaks of Strong's Island. I
was glad, for Kusaie is not many days' sail from Ponape--and I hated to
be on the ship. The man with the blue eyes filled me with fear when he
looked at me; and he and the captain and mate were for ever talking
amongst themselves in whispers.
"There were five native sailors on board--two were countrymen of mine,
and three were Tafitos [Natives of the Gilbert Islands].
"One night we were close to a little island called Mokil [Duperrey's
Island],and Taplin and I were awakened by a loud cry on deck; my two
countrymen were calling on him to help them. He sprang on deck, pistol
in hand, and, behold! the schooner was laid to the wind with the land
close to, and the boat alongside, and the three white men were binding
my country-men with ropes, because they would not get into the boat.
"'Help us, O friend!' they called to my husband in their own tongue;
'the white men say that if we go not ashore here at Mokil they will
kill us. Help us--for they mean evil to thee and Nerida. He with the
yellow moustache wants her for his wife.'
"There were quick, fierce words, and then my husband struck Motley on
the head with his pistol and felled him, and then pointed it at the
mate and the captain, and made them untie the men, and called to the
two Tafito sailors who were in the boat to let her tow astern till
"His face was white with the rage that burned in him, and all that
night he walked to and fro and let me sleep on the deck near him.
"'To-morrow,' he said, 'I will make this captain land us on Mokil;' it
was for that he would not let the sailors come up from the boat.
"At dawn I slept soundly. Then I awoke with a cry of fear, for I heard
a shot, and then a groan, and my husband fell across me, and the blood
poured out of his mouth and ran down my arms and neck. I struggled to
rise, and he tried to draw his pistol, but the man with yellow hair and
blue eyes, who stood over him, stabbed him twice in the back. Then the
captain and mate seized him by the arms and lifted him up. As his head
fell back I saw there was blood streaming from a hole in his chest."
She ceased, and leant her cheek against the face of the little girl,
who looked in childish wonder at the tears that streamed down her
* * * * *
"They cast him over into the sea with life yet in him, and ere he sank,
Motley (that devil with the blue eyes) stood with one foot on the rail
and fired another shot, and laughed when he saw the bullet strike. Then
he and the other two talked.
"'Let us finish these Pelew men, ere mischief come of it,' said
Riedermann, the captain.
"But the others dissuaded him. There was time enough, they said, to
kill them. And if they killed them now, there would be but three
sailors to work the ship. And Motley looked at me and laughed, and said
he, for one, would do no sailor's work yet awhile.
"Then they all trooped below, and took me with them--me, with my
husband's blood not yet dried on my hands and bosom. They made me get
liquor for them to drink, and they drank and laughed, and Motley put
his bloodied hand around my waist and kissed me, and the others laughed
"In a little while Riedermann and the mate were so drunken that no
words came from them, and they fell on the cabin floor. Then Motley,
who could stand, but staggered as he walked, came and sat beside me and
kissed me again, and said he had always loved me; but I pointed to the
blood of my husband that stained my skin and clotted my hair together,
and besought him to first let me wash it away.
"'Wash it there,' he said, and pointed to his cabin.
"'Nay,' said I, 'see my hair. Let me then go on deck, and I can pour
water over my head.'
"But he held my hand tightly as we came up, and my heart died within
me; for it was in my mind to spring overboard and follow my husband.
"He called to one of the Tafito men to bring water, but none came; for
they, too, were drunken with liquor they had stolen from the hold,
where there was plenty in red cases and white cases--gin and brandy.
"But my two countrymen were sober; one of them steered the ship, and
the other stood beside him with an axe in his hand, for they feared the
Tafito men, who are devils when they drink grog.
"'Get some water,' said Motley, to Juan--he who held the axe; and as he
brought it, he said, 'How is it, tattooed dog, that thou art so slow to
move?' and he struck him in the teeth, and as he struck he fell.
"Ah! that was my time! Ere he could rise I sprang at him, and Juan
raised the axe and struck off his right foot; and then Liro, the man
who steered, handed me his knife. It was a sharp knife, and I stabbed
him, even as he had stabbed my husband, till my arm was tired, and all
my hate of him had died away in my heart.
* * * * *
"There was quick work then. My two countrymen went below into the cabin
and took Motley's pistol from the table; . . . then I heard two shots.
"GUK! He was a fat, heavy man, that Riedermann, the captain; the three
of us could scarce drag him up on deck and cast him over the side, with
the other two.
"Then Juan and Liro talked, and said: 'Now for these Tafito men; they,
too, must die.' They brought up rifles, and went to the forepart of the
schooner, where the Tafito men lay in a drunken sleep, and shot them
"In two more days we saw land--the island we have left but now, and
because that there were no people living there--only empty houses could
we see--Juan and Liro sailed the schooner into the lagoon.
"We took such things on shore as we needed, and then Juan and Liro cut
away the topmasts and towed the schooner to the deep pool, where they
made holes in her, so that she sank, away out of the sight of men.
* * * * *
"Juan and Liro were kind to me, and when my child was born, five months
after we landed, they cared for me tenderly, so that I soon became
strong and well.
"Only two ships did we ever see, but they passed far-off like clouds
upon the sea-rim; and we thought to live and die there by ourselves.
Then there came a ship, bringing back the people who had once lived
there. They killed Juan and Liro, but let me and the child live. The
rest I have told you. . . . How is this captain named? . . . He is a
handsome man, and I like him."
* * * * *
We landed Nerida at Yap, in the Western Carolines. A year afterwards,
when I left the PALESTINE, I heard that Packenham had given up the sea,
was trading in the Pelew Group, and was permanently married, and that
his wife was the only survivor of the ill-fated ALIDA.
THE CHILEAN BLUEJACKET
A Tale Of Easter Island
Alone, in the most solitary part of the Eastern Pacific, midway between
the earthquake-shaken littoral of Chili and Peru, and the thousand
palm-clad islets of the Low Archipelago, lies an island of the days
"when the world was young." By the lithe-limbed, soft-eyed descendants
of the forgotten and mysterious race that once quickened the land, this
lonely outlier of the isles of the Southern Seas is called in their
soft tongue Rapanui, or the Great Rapa.
* * * * *
A hundred and seventy years ago Roggewein, on the dawn of an Easter
Sunday, discerned through the misty, tropic haze the grey outlines of
an island under his lee beam, and sailed down upon it.
He landed, and even as the grim and hardy old navigator gazed upon and
wondered at the mysteries of the strange island, so this day do the
cunning men of science, who, perhaps once in thirty years, go thither
in the vain effort to read the secret of an all-but-perished race. And
they can tell us but vaguely that the stupendous existing evidences of
past glories are of immense and untold age, and show their designers to
have been coeval with the builders of the buried cities of Mexico and
Peru; beyond that, they can tell us nothing.
Who can solve the problem? What manner of an island king was he who
ruled the builders of the great terraced platforms of stone, the
carvers of the huge blocks of lava, the hewers-out with rudest tools of
the Sphinx-like images of trachyte, whose square, massive, and
disdainful faces have for unnumbered centuries gazed upwards and
outwards over the rolling, sailless swell of the mid-Pacific?
* * * * *
And the people of Rapa-nui of to-day? you may ask. Search the whole
Pacific--from Pylstaart, the southern sentinel of the Friendlies, to
the one-time buccaneer-haunted, far-away Pelews; thence eastward
through the white-beached coral atolls of the Carolines and Marshalls,
and southwards to the cloud-capped Marquesas and the sandy stretches of
the Paumotu--and you will find no handsomer men or more graceful women
than the light-skinned peqple of Rapa-nui.
* * * * *
Yet are they but the survivors of a race doomed--doomed from the day
that Roggewein in his clumsy, high-pooped frigate first saw their land,
and marvelled at the imperishable relics of a dead greatness. With
smiling faces they welcomed him--a stranger from an unknown, outside
world, with cutlass at waist and pistol in hand--as a god; he left them
a legacy of civilisation--a hideous and cruel disease that swept
through the amiable and unsuspicious race as an epidemic, and slew its
thousands, and scaled with the hand of Death and Silence the eager life
that had then filled the square houses of lava in many a town from the
wave-beaten cliffs of Terano Kau to Ounipu in the west.
* * * * *
Ask of the people now, "Whence came ye? and whose were the hands that
fashioned these mighty images and carved upon these stones?" and in
their simple manner they will answer, "From Rapa, under the setting
sun, came our fathers; and we were then a great people, even as the
ONEONE [sand] of the beach. . . . Our Great King was it, he whose name is
forgotten by us, that caused these temples and cemeteries and terraces to
be built; and it was in his time that the forgotten fathers of our fathers
carved from out of the stone of the quarries of Terano Kau the great
Silent Faces that gaze for ever upward to the sky. . . . AI-A-AH! . . .
But it was long ago. . . . Ah! a great people were we then in those
days, and the wild people to the West called us TE TAGATA TE PITO HENUA
(the people who live at the end of the world) . . . . and we know no
And here the knowledge and traditions of a broken people begin and end.
* * * * *
A soft, cool morning in November, 187-. Between Ducie and Pitcairn
Islands two American whale-ships cruise lazily along to the gentle
breath of the south-east trades, when the look-out from both vessels
see a third sail bearing down upon them. In a few hours she is close
enough to be recognised as one of the luckiest sperm whalers of the
fleet--the brig POCAHONTAS, of Martha's Vineyard.
Within a quarter of mile of the two ships--the NASSAU and the
DAGGET--the newcomer backs her foreyard and hauls up her mainsail. A
cheer rises from the ships. She wants to "gam," I.E. to gossip. With
eager hands four boats are lowered from the two ships, and the captains
and second mates of each are soon racing for the POCAHONTAS.
* * * * *
The skipper of the brig, after shaking hands with his visitors and
making the usual inquiries as to their luck, number of days out from
New Bedford, etc., led the way to his cabin, and, calling his
Portuguese steward, had liquor and a box of cigars brought out. The
captain of the POCAHONTAS was a little, withered-up old man with sharp,
deep-set eyes of brightest blue, and had the reputation of possessing
the most fiery and excitable temper of any of the captains of the sixty
or seventy American whale-ships that in those days cruised the Pacific
from the West Coast of South America to Gaum in the Ladrones.
After drinking some of his potent New England rum with his visitors,
and having answered all their queries, the master of the POCAHONTAS
inquired if they had seen anything of a Chilian man-of-war further to
the eastward. No, they had not.
* * * * *
"Then just settle down, gentlemen, for awhile, and I'll tell you one of
the curiousest things that I ever saw or heard of. I've logged
partiklars of the whole business, and when I get to Oahu (Honolulu) I
mean to nar-rate just all I do know to Father Damon of the Honolulu
FRIEND. Thar's nothing like a newspaper fur showin' a man up when he's
been up to any onnatural villainy, and thinks no one will ever know
anything about it. So just take hold and listen."
The two captains nodded, and he told them this.
* * * * *
Ten days previously, when close in to barren and isolated Sala-y-Gomez,
the POCAHONTAS had spoken the Chilian corvette O'HIGGINS, bound from
Easter Island to Valparaiso. The captain of the corvette entertained
the American master courteously, and explained his ship's presence so
far to the eastward, by stating that the Government had instructed him
to call at Easter Island, and pick up an Englishman in the Chilian
service, who had been sent there to examine and report on the colossal
statues and mysterious terraces of that lonely island. The Englishman,
as Commander Gallegos said, was a valued servant of the Republic, and
had for some years served in its Navy as a surgeon on board EL
ALMIRANTE COCHRANE, the flag-ship. He had left Valparaiso in the
whale-ship COMBOY with the intention of remaining three months on the
island. At the end of that time a war vessel was to call and convey him
back to Chili. But in less than two months the Republic was in the
throes of a deadly struggle with Peru--here the commander of the
O'HIGGINS bowed to the American captain, and, pointing to a huge scar
that traversed his bronzed face from temple to chin, said, "in which I
had the honour to receive this, and promotion"--and nearly two years
had elapsed ere the Government had time to think again of the English
scientist and his mission. Peace restored, the O'HIGGINS was ordered to
proceed to the island and bring him back; and as the character of the
natives was not well known, and it was feared he might have been
killed, Commander Gallegos was instructed to execute summary justice
upon the people of the island, if such was the case.
But, the Chilian officer said, on reaching the island he had found the
natives to be very peaceable and inoffensive, and, although much
alarmed at the appearance of his armed landing party from the corvette,
they had given him a letter from the Englishman, and had satisfied him
that Dr Francis ---- had remained with them for some twelve months
only, and had then left the island in a passing whale-ship, and
Commander Gallegos, making them suitable presents, bade them good-bye,
and steamed away to Valparaiso.
* * * * *
This was all the polite little commander had to say, and, after a
farewell glass of wine, his visitor rose to go, when the captain of the
corvette casually inquired if the POCAHONTAS was likely to call at the
"I ask you," he said in his perfect English, "because one of my ship's
company deserted there. You, senor, may possibly meet with him there.
Yet he is of no value, and he is no sailor, and but a lad. He was very
ill most of the time, and this was his first voyage. I took him ashore
with me in my boat, as he besought me eagerly to do so, and the little
devil ran away and hid, or was hidden by the natives."
"Why didn't you get him back?" asked the captain of the POCAHONTAS.
"That was easy enough, but"--and the commander raised his eyebrows and
shrugged his shoulders--"of what use? He was no use to the corvette.
Better for him to stay there, and perhaps recover, than to die on board
the O'HIGGINS and be thrown to the blue sharks. Possibly, senor, you
may find him well, and it may suit you to take him to your good ship,
and teach him the business of catching the whale. My trade is to show
my crew how to fight, and such as he are of no value for that."
Then the two captains bade each other farewell, and in another hour the
redoubtable O'HIGGINS, with a black trail of smoke streaming astern,
was ten miles away on her course to Valparaiso.
A week after the POCAHONTAS lay becalmed close in to the lee side of
Rapa-nui, and within sight of the houses of the principal village. The
captain, always ready to get a "green" hand, was thinking of the
chances of his securing the Chilian deserter, and decided to lower a
boat and try. Taking four men with him, he pulled ashore, and landed at
the village of Hagaroa.
* * * * *
Some sixty or seventy natives clustered round the boat as she touched
the shore. With smiling faces and outstretched hands they surrounded
the captain, and pressed upon him their simple gifts of ripe bananas
and fish baked in leaves, begging him to first eat a little and then
walk with them to Mataveri, their largest village, distant a mile,
where preparations were being made to welcome him formally. The
skipper, nothing loth, bade his crew not to go too far away in their
rambles, and, accompanied by his boatsteerer, was about to set off with
the natives, when he remembered the object of his visit, and asked a
big, well-made woman, the only native present that could speak English,
"Where is the man you hid from the man-of-war?"
* * * * *
There was a dead silence, and for nearly half a minute no one spoke.
The keen blue eyes of the American looked from one face to another
inquiringly, and then settled on the fat, good-natured features of
Varua, the big woman.
Holding her hands, palms upwards, to the captain, she endeavoured to
speak, and then, to his astonishment, he saw that her dark eyes were
filled with tears. And then, as if moved with some sudden and sorrowful
emotion, a number of other women and young girls, murmuring softly in
pitying tones, "E MATE! E MATE!" ["Dead! Dead!"] came to his side, and
held their hands out to him with the same supplicating gesture.
The captain was puzzled. For all his island wanderings and cruises he
had no knowledge of any Polynesian dialect, and the tearful muteness of
the fat Varua was still unbroken. At last she placed one hand on his
sleeve, and, pointing land-ward with the other, said, in her gentle
voice, "Come," and taking his hand in hers, she led the way, the rest
of the people following in silence.
For about half a mile they walked behind the captain and his
boatsteerer and the woman Varua without uttering a word. Presently
Varua stopped, and called out the name of "Taku" in a low voice.
A fine, handsome native, partly clothed in European sailor's dress,
stepped apart from the others and came to her.
Turning to the captain, she said, "This is Taku the Sailor. He can
speak a little English and much Spanish. I tell him now to come with
us, for he has a paper."
Although not understanding the relevancy of her remark, the captain
nodded, and then with gentle insistence Varua and the other women urged
him on, and they again set out.
* * * * *
A few minutes more, and they were at the foot of one of the
massive-stoned and ancient PAPAKU, or cemeteries, on the walls of which
were a number of huge images carved from trachyte, and representing the
trunk of the human body. Some of the figures bore on their heads crowns
of red tufa, and the aspect of all was towards the ocean. At the foot
of the wall of the PAPAKU were a number of prone figures, with hands
and arms sculptured in low relief, the outspread fingers clasping the
About a cable length from the wall stood two stone houses--memorials of
the olden time--and it was to these that Varua and the two white men,
attended now by women only, directed their steps.
* * * * *
The strange, unearthly stillness of the place, the low whispers of the
women, the array of colossal figures with sphinx-like faces set to the
sea, and the unutterable air of sadness that enwrapped the whole scene,
overawed even the unimaginative mind of the rough whaling captain, and
he experienced a curious feeling of relief when his gentle-voiced guide
entered through the open doorway the largest of the two houses, and, in
a whisper, bade him follow.
* * * * *
A delightful sense of coolness was his first sensation on entering, and
then with noiseless step the other women followed and seated themselves
on the ground.
Still clasping his hand, Varua led him to the farther end of the house,
and pointed to a motionless figure that lay on a couch of mats, covered
with a large piece of navy-blue calico. At each side of the couch sat a
young native girl, and their dark, luminous eyes, shining star-like
from out the wealth of black, glossy hair that fell upon their bronzed
shoulders, turned wonderingly upon the stranger who had broken in upon
* * * * *
Motioning the girls aside, Varua released her hold of the white man's
hand and drew the cloth from off the figure, and the seaman's pitying
glance fell upon the pale, sweet features of a young white girl.
But for the unmistakable pallid hue of death he thought at first that
she slept. In the thin, delicate hands, crossed upon her bosom, there
was placed, after the manner of those of her faith, a small metal
crucifix. Her hair, silky and jet black, was short like a man's, and
the exquisitely-modelled features, which even the coldness of death had
not robbed of their beauty, showed the Spanish blood that, but a few
hours before, had coursed through her veins.
Slowly the old seaman drew the covering over the still features, and,
with an unusual emotion stirring his rude nature, he rose, and,
followed by Varua, walked outside and sat upon a broken pillar of lava
that lay under the wall of the PAPAKU.
* * * * *
Calling his boatsteerer, he ordered him to return to the beach and go
off to the ship with instructions to the mate to have a coffin made as
quickly as possible and send it ashore; and then, at a glance from
Varua, who smiled a grave approval as she listened to his orders, he
followed her and the man she called Taku into the smaller of the two
Round about the inside walls of this ancient dwelling of a forgotten
race were placed a number of seamen's chests made of cedar and camphor
wood--the LARES and PENATES of most Polynesian houses. The gravelled
floor was covered with prettily-ornamented mats of FALA (the
Seating herself, with Taku the Sailor, on the mats, Varua motioned the
captain to one of the boxes, and then told him a tale that moved
him--rough, fierce, and tyrannical as was his nature--to the deepest
* * * * *
"It is not yet twenty days since the fighting PAHI AFI (steamer) came
here, and we of Mataveri saw the boat full of armed men land on the
beach at Hagaroa. Filled with fear were we; but yet as we had done no
wrong we stood on the beach to welcome. And, ere the armed men had left
the boat, we knew them to be the SIPANIOLA from Chili--the same as
those that came here ten years ago in three ships, and seized and bound
three hundred and six of our men, and carried them away for slaves to
the land of the Tae Manu, and of whom none but four ever returned to
Rapa-nui. And then we trembled again."
(She spoke of the cruel outrage of 1862, when three Peruvian
slave-ships took away over three hundred islanders to perish on the
guano-fields of the Chincha Islands).
"The chief of the ship was a little man, and he called out to us in the
tongue of Chili, 'Have no fear,' and took a little gun from out its
case of skin that hung by his side, and giving it to a man in the boat,
stepped over to us, and took our hands in his.
"'Is there none among ye that speak my tongue?' he said quickly.
"Now, this man here, Taku the Sailor, speaketh the tongue of Chili, but
he feared to tell it, lest they might take him away for a sailor; so he
held his lips tight.
"Then I, who for six years dwelt with English people at Tahiti, was
pushed forward by those behind me and made to talk in English; and lo!
the little man spoke in your tongue even as quick as he did in that of
Chili. And then he told us that he came for Farani [Frank].
* * * * *
"Now this Farani was a young white man of PERETANIA (England), big and
strong. He came to us a year and a half ago. He was rich, and had with
him chests filled with presents for us of Rapa-nui; and he told us that
he came to live a while among us, and look upon the houses of stone and
the Faces of the Silent that gaze out upon the sea. For a year he dwelt
with us and became as one of ourselves, and we loved him; and then,
because no ship came, he began to weary and be sad. At last a
ship--like thine, one that hunts for the whale--came, and Farani called
us together, and placed a letter in the hands of the chief at Mataveri,
and said: 'If it so be that a ship cometh from Chili, give these my
words to the captain, and all will be well.' Then he bade us farewell
and was gone.
* * * * *
"All this I said in quick words, and then we gave to the little
fighting chief the letter Farani had written. When he had counted the
words in the letter, he said: 'BUENO, it is well,' and called to his
men, and they brought out many gifts for us from the boat--cloth, and
garments for men and women, and two great bags of canvas filled with
tobacco. AI-A-AH! many presents he gave us--this because of the good
words Farani had set down in the letter. Then the little chief said to
me, 'Let these my men walk where they list, and I will go with thee to
Mataveri and talk with the chief.'
"So the sailors came out of the boats carrying their guns and swords in
their hands, but the little chief, whose AVAGUTU (moustache) stuck out
on each side of his face like the wings of a flying-fish when it leaps
in terror from the mouth of the hungry bonito, spoke angrily, and they
laid their guns and swords back in the boats.
"So the sailors went hither and thither with our young men and girls;
and, although at that time I knew it not, she, who now is not, was one
of them, and walked alone.
"Then I, and Taku the Sailor, and the little sea-chief came to the
houses of Mataveri, and he stayed awhile and spoke good words to us.
And we, although we fear the men of Chili for the wrong they once did
us, were yet glad to listen, for we also are of their faith.
* * * * *
"As we talked, there came inside the house a young girl named Temeteri,
whom, when Farani had been with us for two months, he had taken for
wife; and she bore him a son. But from the day that he had sailed away
she became sick with grief; and when, after many months, she told me
that Farani had said he would return to her, my heart was heavy, for I
know the ways of white men with us women of brown skins. Yet I feared
to tell her he lied and would return no more. Now, this girl Temeteri
was sought after by a man named Huarani, the son of Heremai, who
desired to marry her now that Farani had gone, and he urged her to
question the chief of the fighting ship, and ask him if Farani would
* * * * *
"So I spoke of Temeteri. He laughed and shook his head, and said: 'Nay,
Farani the Englishman will return no more; but yet one so beautiful as
she,' and he pointed to Temeteri, 'should have many lovers and know no
grief. Let her marry again and forget him, and this is my marriage gift
to her,' and he threw a big golden coin upon the mat on which the girl
"She took it in her hand and threw it far out through the doorway with
bitter words, and rose and went away to her child.
"Then the little captain went back to the boat and called his men to
him, and lo! one was gone. Ah! he was angry, and a great scar that ran
down one side of his face grew red with rage. But soon he laughed, and
said to us: 'See, there be one of my people hidden away from me. Yet he
is but a boy, and sick; and I care not to stay and search for him. Let
him be thy care so that he wanders not away and perishes among the
broken lava; he will be in good hands among the people of Rapa-nui.'
With that he bade us farewell, and in but a little time the great
fighting ship had gone away towards the rising sun.
* * * * *
"All that day and the next we searched, but found not him who had
hidden away; but in the night of the second day, when it rained
heavily, and Taku (who is my brother's son) and I and my two children
worked at the making of a KUPEGA (net), he whom we had sought came to
the door. And as we looked our hearts were filled with pity, for, as he
put out his hands to us, he staggered and fell to the ground.
"So Taku--who is a man of a good heart--and I lifted him up and carried
him to a bed of soft mats, and as I placed my hand on his bosom to see
if he was dead, lo! it was soft as a woman's, and I saw that the
stranger was a young girl!
"I took from her the wet garments and brought warm clothes of MAMOE
(blankets), and Taku made a great fire, and we rubbed her cold body and
her hands and feet till her life came back to her again, and she sat up
and ate a little beaten-up taro. When the night and the dawn touched
she slept again.
* * * * *
"The sun was high when the white girl awoke, and fear leapt into her
eyes when she saw the house filled with people who came to question
Taku and me about the stranger. With them came the girl Temeteri, whose
head was still filled with foolish thoughts of Farani, her white lover.
"I went to the strange girl, put my arm around her, and spoke, but
though she smiled and answered in a little voice, I understood her not,
for I know none of the tongue of Chili. But yet she leaned her head
against my bosom, and her eyes that were as big and bright as Fetuaho,
the star of the morning, looked up into mine and smiled through their
* * * * *
"There was a creat buzzing of talk among the women. Some came to her
and touched her hands and forehead, and said: 'Let thy trembling cease;
we of Rapa-nui will be kind to the white girl.'
"And as the people thronged about her and talked, she shook her head
and her eyes sought mine, and hot tears splashed upon my hand. Then the
mother of Temeteri raised her voice and called to Taku the Sailor, and
said: 'O Taku, thou who knowest her tongue, ask her of Farani, my white
son, the husband of my daughter.'
* * * * *
"The young girls in the house laughed scornfully at old Pohere, for
some of them had loved Farani, who yet had put them all aside for
Temeteri, whose beauty exceeded theirs; and so they hated her and
laughed at her mother. Then Taku, being pressed by old Pohere, spoke in
the tongue of Chili, but not of Temeteri.
"Ah! She sprang to her feet and talked then! and the flying words
chased one another from her lips; and these things told she to Taku:--
She had hidden among the broken lava and watched the little captain
come back to the boat and bid us farewell. Then when night came she had
crept out and gone far over to the great PAPAKU, and lay down to hide
again, for she feared the fighting ship might return to seek her. And
all that day she lay hidden in the lava till night fell upon her again,
and hunger drove her to seek the faces of men. In the rain she all but
perished, till God brought her feet to this, my house.
"Then said Taku the Sailor: 'Why didst thou flee from the ship?'
"The white girl put her hands to her face and wept, and said: 'Bring me
"I gave to her the blue sailor's jacket, and from inside of it she took
a little flat thing and placed it in her bosom.
* * * * *
"Again said old Pohere to Taku: 'O man of slow tongue, ask her of
Farani.' So he asked in this wise:
"'See, O White Girl, that is Pohere, the mother of Temeteri, who bore a
son to the white man that came here to look upon the Silent Faces; and
because he came from thy land, and because of the heart of Temeteri,
which is dried up for love of him, does this foolish old woman ask thee
if thou hast seen him; for long months ago he left Rapa-nui. In our
tongue we call him Farani.'
* * * * *
"The girl looked at Taku the Sailor, and her lips moved, but no words
came. Then from her bosom she took the little flat thing and held it to
him, but sickness was in her hand so that it trembled, and that which
she held fell to the ground. So Taku stooped and picked it up from
where it lay on the mat, and looked, and his eyes blazed, and he
shouted out 'AUE!' for it was the face of Farani that looked into his!
And as he held it up in his hand to the people, they, too, shouted in
wonder; and then the girl Temeteri cast aside those that stood about
her, and tore it from his hand and fled.
"'Who is she?' said the white girl, in a weak voice to Taku; 'and why
hath she robbed me of that which is dear to me?' and Taku was ashamed,
and turned his face away from her because of two things--his heart was
sore for Temeteri, who is a blood relation, and was shamed because her
white lover had deserted her; and he was full of pity for the white
girl's tears. So he said nought.
"The girl raised herself, and her hand caught Taku by the arm, and
these were her words: 'O man, for the love of Jesu Christ, tell me what
was this woman Temeteri to my husband?'
"Now Taku the Sailor was sore troubled, and felt it hard to hurt her
heart, yet he said: 'Was Farani, the Englishman, thy husband?'
"She wept again, 'He was my husband.'
"'Why left he one as fair as thee?' said Taku, in wonder.
"She shook her head. 'I know not, except he loved to look upon strange
lands; yet he loved me.'
"'He is a bad man,' said Taku. 'He loved others as well as thee. The
girl that fled but now with his picture was wife to him here. He loved
her, and she bore him a son.'
"The girl's head fell on my shoulder, and her eyes closed, and she
became as dead; and lo! in a little while, as she strove to speak,
blood poured from her mouth and ran down over her bosom.
"'It is the hand of Death,' said Taku the Sailor.
* * * * *
"Where she now lies, there died she, at about the hour when the people
of Vaihou saw the sails of thy ship.
"We have no priest here, for the good father that was here three years
ago is now silent [i.e. dead]; yet did Taku and I pray with her. And ere
she died she said she would set down some words on paper; so Alrema, my
little daughter, hastened to Mataveri, and the chief sent back some paper
and VAI TUHI (ink) that had belonged to the good priest. So with weak hand
she set down some words, but even as she wrote she rose up and threw out
her hands, and called out: 'Francisco! Francisco!' and fell back, and was
* * * * *
The captain of the POCAHONTAS dashed the now fast-falling tears from
his eyes, and with his rough old heart swelling with pity for the poor
wanderer, took from Taku the sheet of paper on which the heart-broken
girl's last words were traced.
Ere he could read it a low murmur of voices outside told him his crew
had returned. They carried a rude wooden shell, and then with bared
heads the captain and boatsteerer entered the house where she lay.
Again the old man raised the piece of navy blue cloth from off the
sweet, sad face, and a heavy tear dropped down upon her forehead. Then,
aided by the gentle, sympathetic women, his task was soon finished, and
two of his crew entered and carried their burden to its grave. Service
there was none--only the prayers and tears of the brown women of
* * * * *
Ere he said farewell the captain of the whale-ship placed money in the
hands of Varua and Taku. They drew back, hurt and mortified. Seeing his
mistake, the seaman desired Varua to give the money to the girl
"Nay, sir," said Varua, "she would but give me bitter words. Even when
she who is now silent was not yet cold, Temeteri came to the door of
the house where she lay and spat twice on the ground, and taking up
gravel in her hand cast it at her, and cursed her in the name of our
old heathen gods. And as for money, we here in Rapa-nui need it not.
May Christ protect thee on the sea. Farewell!"
* * * * *
The captain of the POCAHONTAS rose and came to the cabin table, and
motioning to his guests to fill their glasses, said--
"'Tis a real sad story, gentlemen, and if I should ever run across
Doctor Francis, I should talk some to him. But see here. Here is my
log; my mate, who is a fancy writist, wrote it at my dictation. I can't
show you the letter that the pore creature herself wrote; that I ain't
going to show to any one."
The two captains rose and stood beside him, and read the entry in the
log of the POCAHONTAS.
"November 28, 187-.
This day I landed at Easter Island, to try and obtain as a 'green' hand
a young Chilian seaman who, the captain of the Chilian corvette
O'HIGGINS informed me, had run away there. On landing I was shown the
body of a young girl, whom the natives stated to be the deserter. She
had died that morning. Buried her as decently as circumstances would
permit. From a letter she wrote on the morning of her death I learned
her name to be Senora Teresa T----. Her husband, Dr Francis T----, was
an Englishman in the service of the Chilian Republic. He was sent out
on a scientific mission to the island, and his wife followed him in the
O'HIGGINS disguised as a blue-jacket. I should take her to have been
about nineteen years of age.
"SPENCE ELDRIDGE, MASTER.
"MANUAL LEGASPE, 2ND OFFICER.
"Brig POCAHONTAS, of Martha's Vineyard, U.S.A."
"Well, that's curious now," said the skipper of the NASSAU; "why, I
knew that man. He left the island in the KING DARIUS, of New Bedford,
and landed at Ponape in the Caroline Group, whar those underground
ruins are at Metalanien Harbour. Guess he wanted to potter around there
a bit. But he got inter some sorter trouble among the natives there,
an' he got shot."
"Aye," said the captain of the DAGGET, "I remember the affair. I was
mate of the JOSEPHINE, and we were lying at Jakoits Harbour when he was
killed, and now I remember the name too. Waal, he wasn't much account,
* * * * *
Ten years ago a wandering white man stood, with Taku the Sailor, at the
base of the wall of the great PAPAKU, and the native pointed out the
last resting-place of the wanderer. There, under the shadow of the
Silent Faces of Stone, the brave and loving heart that dared so much is
at peace for ever.
BRANTLEY OF VAHITAHI
One day a trading vessel lay becalmed off Tatakoto, in the Paumotu
Archipelago, and the captain and supercargo, taking a couple of native
sailors with them, went ashore at dawn to catch some turtle. The turtle
were plentiful and easily caught, and after half a dozen had been put
in the boat, the two white men strolled along the white hard beach. The
captain--old, grizzled, and grim--seemed to know the place well, and
led the way.
* * * * *
The island is very narrow, and as they left the beach and gained the
shade of the forest of coconuts that grew to the margin of high-water
mark, they could see, between the tall, stately palms, the placid
waters of the lagoon, and a mile or so across, the inner beach of the
weather side of the island.
For a quarter of a mile or so the two men walked on till the widest
part of the island was reached. Here, under the shadow of some giant
PUKA trees, the old skipper stopped and sat down on a roughly hewn slab
of coral, the remains of one of those MARAE or heathen temples that are
to be found almost anywhere in the islands of Eastern Polynesia.
"I knew this place well, once," he said, as he pulled out his pipe. "I
used to come here when I was sailing one of Brander's vessels out of
Tahiti. As we have done now we did then--came here for turtle. No
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