By Rock and Pool on an Austral Shore, and Other Stories
Part 3 out of 4
the ocean at such depths as eighty or a hundred fathoms. And why is it
that the _palu,_ quiescent by day, and feeding only at night, so eagerly
seizes a hook baited with a flying-fish--a fish which never descends
more than a few fathoms below the surface, and which the _palu_ can
never possibly see except when it is lowered by human hands to, or sinks
to the bottom?
Of the marvellous efficacy of the _palu_-oil in a case of acute
rheumatism I can speak with knowledge. The second mate of an
island-trading schooner of which I was the supercargo, was landed at
Arorai, in the Line Islands, unable to move, and suffering great agony.
After two days' massaging with _palu_-oil he recovered and returned to
[Since this was written I have learned that Mr. E.R. Waite, of the
Sydney Museum, has described the _palu_ as the _Ruvettus pretiosus_,
"which hitherto was known only from the North Atlantic, and whose
recorded range is now enormously increased. The Escolar--to give it its
Atlantic name--has been taken at depths as great as three and four
hundred fathoms, but can only be taken at night in September and the
early part of October." I should very much like to learn how the _palu_
is taken at a depth of four hundred fathoms--eight hundred yards!]
_The Wily "Goanner"_
In the early part of the year 1899 a settler named Hardy, residing at
Glenowlan, in the Rylstone district of New South Wales, about 150 miles
from Sydney, lost numbers of his lambs during the lambing season.
Naturally enough, dingoes were suspected, but none were seen. Then other
sheep--men began to lose lambs, and a close watch was set, with the
result that iguanas, which are very numerous in this part of the
country, were discovered to be the murderers of the little "baa-baa's."
The cause of this new departure in the predatory habits of the
"goanner"--which hitherto had confined his evil deeds to nocturnal
visits to the fowl-yards--is stated to be the extermination of the
opossum, which has driven the cunning reptile to seek for another source
of food. And, as before the shooting of kangaroos, wallabies, and
opossums was resorted to as a means of livelihood by hundreds of bushmen
who had no other employment open to them, the young of these marsupials
furnished the iguana with an ample supply of food, the theory is very
probably correct. Poison will be the only method of destroying or
reducing the numbers of the iguana, who, robber as he is, yet has his
good points, as has even the sneaking, blood-loving native cat--for both
are merciless foes to snakes of all kinds; and 'tis better to have an
energetic and hungry native cat and a score of wily iguanas working
havoc among the tenants of your fowl-house than one brown or an equally
deadly "bandy-bandy" snake within half a mile.
In that part of New South Wales in which the writer was born--one of the
tidal rivers on the northern coast--both snakes and iguanas were
plentiful, and a source of continual worry to the settlers.
On one occasion some boyish companions and myself set to work to build a
raft for fishing purposes out of some old and discarded blue gum rails
which were lying along the bank of the river. Boy-like, we utterly
disregarded our parents' admonition to put on our boots, and, aided by a
couple of blackfellows, we moved about the long grass on our bare feet,
picking up the heavy rails and carrying them on our shoulders, one by
one, down to the sandy beach, where we were to lash them together.
Presently we came across a very heavy rail, about eight feet long,
twelve inches in width, and two inches thick. It was no sooner up-ended
than we saw half a dozen "bandy-bandies"--the smallest but most deadly
of Australian snakes, not even excepting the death-adder--lying beneath!
We gave a united yell of terror and fled as the black and yellow banded
reptiles--none of which were over eighteen inches in length nor thicker
than a man's little finger--wriggled between our feet into the long
grass around us. For some minutes we were too frightened at our escape
to speak; but soon set to work to complete the raft. Presently one of
the blackfellows pointed to a tall honeysuckle-tree about fifty feet
away, and said with a gleeful chuckle, "Hallo, you see him that 'pfeller
goanner been catch him bandy-bandy?"
Sure enough, an iguana, about three feet in length, was scurrying up the
rough, ridgy bark of the honeysuckle with a "bandy-bandy" in his jaws.
He had seized the snake by its head, I imagine, for we could see the
rest of its form twisting and turning about and enveloping the body of
its capturer. In a few seconds we saw the iguana ascend still higher,
then he disappeared with his hateful prey among the loftier branches. No
doubt he enjoyed his meal.
About a year or so later I was given another instance of the "cuteness"
of the wicked "goanner." My sister (aged twelve) and myself (two years
younger) were fishing with bamboo rods for mullet. We were standing, one
on each side, of the rocky edges of a tiny little bay on the coast near
Port Macquarie (New South Wales). The background was a short, steep
beach of soft, snow-white sand, fringed at the high-water margin with a
dense jungle of wild apple and pandanus-trees.
The mullet bit freely, and as we swung the gleaming, bright-silvered
fish out of the water on to the rocks on which we stood, we threw them
up on to the beach, and left them to kick about and coat themselves with
the clean, white sand--which they did in such an artistic manner that
one would imagine they considered it egg and breadcrumb, and were
preparing themselves to fulfil their ultimate and proper use to the
My sister had caught seven and I five, when, the sun being amidships, we
decided to boil the billy of tea and get something to eat; young mullet,
roasted on a glowing fire of honeysuckle cobs were, we knew, very nice.
So, laying down our rods on the rocks, we walked up to the beach--just
in time to see two "goanners"--one of them with a wriggling mullet in
his mouth--scamper off into the bush.
A careful search revealed the harrowing fact that nine of the twelve
fish were missing, and the multitudinous criss-cross tracks on the sand
showed the cause of their disappearance. My sister sat down on a hollow
log and wept, out of sheer vexation of spirit, while I lit a fire to
boil the billy and grill the three remaining mullet. Then after we had
eaten the fish and drank some tea, we concocted a plan of deadly
revenge. We took four large bream-hooks, bent them on to a piece of
fishing-line, baited each hook with a good-sized piece of octopus (our
mullet bait), and suspended the line between two saplings, about three
inches above the leaf-strewn ground. Then, feeling confident of the
success of our murderous device, we finished the billy of tea and went
back to our fishing. We caught a couple of dozen or more of fine mullet,
each one weighing not less than 1-1/2 lbs.; and then the incoming tide
with its sweeping seas drove us from the ledge of rocks to the beach,
where we changed our bamboo rods for hand-lines with sinkers, and flung
them, baited with chunks of mullet, out into the breaking surf for
sea-bream. By four in the afternoon we had caught more fish than we
could well carry home, five miles away; and after stringing the mullet
and bream through the gills with a strip of supple-jack cane, we went up
the beach to our camp for the billy can and basket.
And then we saw a sight that struck terror into our guilty souls--a
_Danse Macabre_ of three writhing black and yellow, long-tailed
"goanners," twisting, turning and lashing their sinuous and scaly tails
in agony as they sought to free their widely-opened jaws from the cruel
hooks. One had two hooks in his mouth. He was the quietest of the lot,
as he had less purchase than the other two upon the ground, and with one
hook in his lower and one in his upper jaw, glared upwards at us in his
torture and smote his sides with his long, thin tail.
"Oh, you wicked, wicked boy!" said my partner in guilt--at once shifting
the responsibility of the whole affair upon me--"you ought to be ashamed
of yourself for doing such a thing! You know well enough that we should
never hurt a poor, harmless iguana. Oh, _do_ take those horrible hooks
out of the poor things' mouths and let them go, you wicked, cruel boy!"
With my heart in my mouth I crept round through the scrub, knife in
"Go on, you horrible, horrible, coward!" screamed my sister; "one would
think that the poor things were alligators or sharks. Oh, my goodness,
if you're so frightened, I'll come and do it myself." With that she
clambered up into the branches of a pandanus-tree and looked at me
excitedly, mingled with considerable contempt and much fear.
Being quite wise enough not to attempt to take the hooks out of the
"goanners'" mouths, I cut the two ends of the line to which they hung.
They instantly sought refuge on the tree trunks around them; but as each
"goanner" selected his individual tree, and as they were still connected
to each other by the line and the hooks in their jaws, their attempts to
reach a higher plane was a failure. So they fell to upon one another
"Come away, you wicked, thoughtless boy," said my sister, weepingly. "I
shall never come out with you again; you cruel thing."
Then, overcoming my fear, I valiantly advanced, and gingerly extending
my arm, cut the tangled-up fishing line in a dozen places; and with my
bamboo fishing-rod disintegrated the combatants. They stood for a few
seconds, panting and open-mouthed, and then, with the hooks still fast
in their jaws, scurried away into the scrub.
_The Ta~nifa of Samoa_
Many years ago, at the close of an intensely hot day, I set out from
Apia, the principal port of Samoa, to walk to a village named Laulii, a
few miles along the coast. Passing through the semi-Europeanised town of
Matautu, I emerged out upon the open beach. I was bound on a
pigeon-shooting trip to the mountains, but intended sleeping that night
at Laulii with some native friends who were to accompany me. With me was
a young Manhiki half-caste named Allan Strickland; he was about
twenty-two years of age and one of the most perfect specimens of
athletic manhood in the South Pacific. For six months we had been
business partners and comrades in a small cutter in which we traded
between Apia and Sava'ii--the largest island of the Samoan group; and
now after some months of toil we were taking a week's holiday together,
and enjoying ourselves greatly, although at the time (1873) the country
was in the throes of an internecine war.
A walk of a mile brought us to the mouth of the Vaivasa River, a small
stream flowing into the sea from the littoral on our right. The tide was
high and we therefore hailed a picket who were stationed in the trenches
on the opposite bank and asked them in a jocular manner not to fire at
us while we were wading across. To our surprise, for we were both well
known to and on very friendly terms with the contending parties, half a
dozen of them sprang up and excitedly bade us not to attempt to cross.
"Go further up the bank and cross to our _olo_ (lines) in a canoe,"
added a young Manono chief whose family I knew well, "there is a
_ta~nifa_ about. We saw it last night."
That was quite enough for us--for the name _Ta~nifa_ sent a cold chill
down our backs. We turned to the right, and after walking a quarter of a
mile came to a hut on the bank at a spot regarded as neutral ground.
Here we found some women and children and a canoe, and in less than five
minutes we were landed on the other side, the women chorusing the
dreadful fate that would have befallen us had we attempted to cross at
the mouth of the river.
"_E lima gafa le umi!_" ("'Tis five fathoms long!") cried one old dame.
"And a fathom wide at the shoulders," said another bare-bosomed lady,
with a shudder. "It hath come to the mouth of the Vaivasa because it
hath smelt the blood of the three men who were killed in the river here
two days ago."
"We'll hear the true yarn presently," said my companion as we walked
down the left-hand bank of the river. "There must be a _ta~nifa_
cruising about, or else those Manono fellows wouldn't have been so
scared at us wanting to cross."
As soon as we reached the young chief's quarters, we were made very
welcome, and were obliged to accept his invitation to remain and share
supper with himself and his men--all stalwart young natives from the
little island of Manono--a lovely spot situated in the straits
separating Upolo from Savaii. Placing our guns and bags in the care of
one of the warriors, we took our seats on the matted floor, filled our
pipes anew, and, whilst a bowl of kava was being prepared, Li'o, the
young chief told us about the advent of the _ta~nifa_.
Let me first of all, however, explain that the _ta~nifa_ is a somewhat
rare and greatly-dreaded member of the old-established shark family. By
many white residents in Samoa it was believed to occasionally reach a
length of from twenty to twenty-five feet; as a matter of fact it seldom
exceeds ten feet, but its great girth, and its solitary, nocturnal habit
of haunting the mouths of shallow streams has invested it even to the
native mind with fictional powers of voracity and destruction. Yet,
despite the exaggerated accounts of the creature, it is really a
dreadful monster, rendered the more dangerous to human life by the
persistency with which it frequents muddied and shallow water,
particularly after a freshet caused by heavy rain, when its presence
cannot be discerned.
Into the port of Apia there fall two small streams--called "rivers" by
the local people--the Mulivai and the Vaisigago, and I was fortunate to
see specimens of the _ta~nifa_ on three occasions, twice at the
Vaisigago, and once at the mouth of the Mulivai, but I had never seen
one caught, or even sufficiently exposed to give me an idea of its
proportions. Many natives, however--particularly an old Rarotongan named
Hapai, who lived in Apia, and was the proud capturer of several
_ta~nifa_--gave me a reliable description, which I afterwards
A _ta~nifa_ ten feet long, they assured me, was an enormously bulky and
powerful creature with jaws and teeth much larger than an ocean-haunting
shark of double that length; the width across the shoulders was very
great, and although it generally swam slowly, it would, when it had once
sighted its prey, dart along under the water with great rapidity without
causing a ripple. At a village in Savaii, a powerfully built woman who
was incautiously bathing at the mouth of a stream was seized by one of
these sharks almost before she could utter a cry, so swiftly and
suddenly was she attacked. Several attempts were made to capture the
brute, which continued to haunt the scene of the tragedy for several
days, but it was too cunning to take a hook and was never caught.
This particular _ta~nifa_, which had been seen by the young Manono
chief and his men on the preceding evening had made its appearance soon
after darkness had fallen and had cruised to and fro across the mouth of
the Vaivasa till the tide began to fall, when it made its way seaward
through a passage in the reef. It was, so Li'o assured me, quite eight
feet in length and very wide across the head and shoulders. The water
was clear and by the bright starlight they had discerned its movements
very easily; once it came well into the river and remained stationary
for some minutes, lying under about two feet of water. Some of the
Manono men, hailing a picket of the enemy on the opposite bank of the
river, asked for a ten minutes' truce to try and shoot it; this was
granted, and standing on top of the sandy trench, half a dozen young
fellows fired a volley at the shark from their Sniders. None of the
bullets took effect and the _ta~nifa_ sailed slowly off again to
cruise to and fro for another hour, watching for any hapless person who
might cross the river.
Just as the kava was being handed round, some children who were on watch
cried out that the _ta~nifa_ had come. Springing to his feet, Li'o
again hailed the enemy's picket on the other side, and a truce was
agreed to, so that "the white men could have a look at the
Thirty or forty yards away was what seemed to be a huge, irregular and
waving mass of phosphorus which, as it drew nearer, revealed the
outlines of the dreaded fish. It came in straight for the mouth of the
creek, passed over the pebbly bar, and then swam leisurely about in the
brackish water, moving from bank to bank at less than a dozen feet from
the shore. The stream of bright phosphorescent light which had
surrounded its body when it first appeared had now, owing to there being
but a minor degree of phosphorus in the brackish water, given place to
a dulled, sickly, greenish reflection, accentuated however by thin,
vivid streaks, caused by the exudation from the gills of a streaming,
viscid matter, common to some species of sharks, and giving it a truly
terrifying and horrible appearance. Presently a couple of natives,
taking careful aim, fired at the creature's head; in an instant it
darted off with extraordinary velocity, rushing through the water like a
submerged comet--if I may use the illustration. Both of the men who had
fired were confident their bullets had struck and badly wounded the
shark, but were greatly disgusted when, ten minutes later, it again
appeared, swimming leisurely about, at ten fathoms from the beach.
Three days later, as we were returning to Apia, we were told by our
native friends that the shark still haunted the mouth of the Vaivasa;
and I determined to capture it. I sent Allan on board the cutter for our
one shark hook--a hook which had done much execution among the sea
prowlers. Although not of the largest size, being only ten inches in the
shank, it was made of splendid steel, and we had frequently caught
fifteen-feet sharks with it at sea. It was a cherished possession with
us and we always kept it--and the four feet of chain to which it was
attached--bright and clean.
In the evening Allan returned, accompanied by the local pilot (a Captain
Hamilton) and the fat, puffing, master of a German barque. They wanted
"to see the fun." We soon had everything in readiness; the hook, baited
with the belly-portion of a freshly-killed pig (which the Manono people
had commandeered from a bush village) was buoyed to piece of light _pua_
wood to keep it from sinking, and then with twenty fathoms of brand-new
whale line attached, we let it drift out into the centre of the passage.
Then making our end of the line fast to the trunk of a coconut tree, we
set some children to watch, and went into the trenches to drink some
kava, smoke, and gossip.
We had not long to wait--barely half an hour--when we heard a warning
yell from the watchers. The _ta~nifa_ was in sight.
Jumping up and tumbling over each other in our eagerness we rushed out;
but alas! too late for the shark; for instead of approaching in its
usual leisurely manner, it made a straight dart at the bait, and before
we could free our end of the line it was as taut as an iron bar, and the
creature, with the hook firmly fastened in his jaw, was ploughing the
water into foam, amid yells of excitement from the natives. Then
suddenly the line fell slack, and the half-a-dozen men who were holding
it went over on their backs, heels up.
In mournful silence we hauled it in, and then, oh woe! the hook, our
prized, our beautiful hook, was gone! and with it two feet of the chain,
which had parted at the centre swivel. That particular _ta~nifa_ was
seen no more.
Nearly two months later, two _ta~nifa_ of a much larger size, appeared
at the mouth of the Vaivasa. Several of the white residents tried, night
after night, to hook them, but the monsters refused to look at the
baits. Then appeared on the scene an old one-eyed Malay named 'Reo, who
asserted he could kill them easily. The way in which he set to work was
described to me by the natives who witnessed the operations. Taking a
piece of green bamboo, about four feet in length, he split from it two
strips each an inch wide. The ends of these he then, after charring the
points, sharpened carefully; then by great pressure he coiled them up
into as small a compass as possible, keeping the whole in position by
sewing the coil up in the fresh skin of a fish known as the _isuumu
moana_--a species of the "leather-jacket." Then he asked to be provided
with two dogs. A couple of curs were soon provided, killed, and the
viscera removed. The coils of bamboo were then placed in the vacancy and
the skin of the bellies stitched up with small wooden skewers. That
completed the preparation of the baits.
As soon as the two sharks made their appearance, one of the dead dogs
was thrown into the water. It was quickly swallowed. Then the second
followed, and was also seized by the other _ta~nifa_. The creatures
cruised about for some hours, then went off, as the tide began to fall.
On the following evening they did not turn up, nor on the next; but the
Malay insisted that within four or five days both would be dead. As soon
as the dogs were digested, he said, the thin fish-skin would follow, the
bamboo coil would fly apart, and the sharpened ends penetrate not only
the sharks' intestines, but protrude through the outer skin as well.
Quite a week afterwards, during which time neither of the _ta~nifa_
had been seen alive, the smaller of the two was found dead on the beach
at Vailele Plantation, about four miles from the Vaivasa. It was
examined by numbers of people, and presented an extremely interesting
sight; one end of the bamboo spring was protruding over a foot from the
belly, which was so cut and lacerated by the agonised efforts of the
monster to free itself from the instrument of torture, that much of the
intestines was gone.
That the larger of these dreaded fish had died in the same manner there
was no reason to doubt; but probably it had sunk in the deep water
outside the barrier reef.
_On Board the "_Tucopia_."
The little island trading barque _Tucopia_, Henry Robertson, master, lay
just below Garden Island in Sydney Harbour, ready to sail for the
Friendly Islands and Samoa as soon as the captain came on board. At nine
o'clock, as Bruce, the old, white-haired, Scotch mate, was pointing out
to Mrs. Lacy and the Reverend Wilfrid Lacy the many ships around, and
telling them from whence they came or where they were bound, the second
mate called out--
"Here's the captain's boat coming, sir."
Bruce touched his cap to the pale-faced, violet-eyed clergyman's wife,
and turning to the break of the poop, at once gave orders to "heave
short," leaving the field clear to Mr. Charles Otway, the supercargo of
the _Tucopia_, who was twenty-two years of age, had had seven years'
experience of general wickedness in the South Seas, thought he was in
love with Mrs. Lacy, and that, before the barque reached Samoa, he would
make the lady feel that the Reverend Wilfrid was a serious mistake, and
that he, Charles Otway, was the one man in the world whom she could love
and be happy with for ever. So, being a hot-blooded and irresponsible
young villain, though careful and decorous to all outward seeming, he
set himself to work, took exceeding care over his yellow, curly hair,
and moustache, and abstained from swearing in Mrs. Lacy's hearing.
* * * * *
A week before, Mr. and Mrs. Lacy had called at the owner's office and
inquired about a passage to Samoa in the _Tucopia_, and Otway was sent
"Otway," said the junior partner, "can you make room on the _Tucopia_
for two more passengers--nice people, a clergyman and his wife."
"D----all nice people, especially clergymen and their wives," he
answered promptly--for although the youngest supercargo in the firm, he
was considered, the smartest--and took every advantage of the fact. "I'm
sick of carting these confounded missionaries about, Mr. Harry. Last
trip we took two down to Tonga--beastly hymn-grinding pair, who wanted
the hands to come aft every night to prayers, and played-up generally
with the discipline of the ship. Robertson never interfered, and old
Bruce, who is one of the psalm-singing kidney himself, encouraged the
beasts to turn the ship into a floating Bethel."
"Mr. Harry" laughed good-naturedly. "Otway, my boy, you mustn't put on
so much side--the firm can't afford it. If you hadn't drunk so much
whisky last night you would be in a better temper this morning."
"Oh, if you've got some one else to take my billet on the _Tucopia_,
why don't you say so, instead of backing and filling about, like a
billy-goat in stays? _I_ don't care a damn if you load the schooner up
to her maintop with sky-pilots and their dowdy women-kind. I've had
enough of 'em, and I hereby tender you my resignation. I can get another
and a better ship to-morrow, if--"
"Sit down, you cock-a-hoopy young ass," and "Mr. Harry" hit the
supercargo a good-humoured but stiff blow in the chest. "These people
aren't missionaries; they're a cut above the usual breed. Man's a
gentleman; woman's as sweet as a rosebud. Now look here, Otway; we give
you a pretty free hand generally, but in this instance we want you to
stretch a point--you can give these people berths in the trade-room,
The supercargo considered a moment. "There's a lot returning this trip.
First, there's the French priest for Wallis Island--nice old buffer, but
never washes, and grinds his teeth in his sleep--he's in the cabin next
to mine; old Miss Wiedermann for Tonga--cabin on starboard side--fussy
old cat, who is always telling me that she can distinctly hear
Robertson's bad language on deck. But her brother is a good sort, and so
I put up with her. Then there's Captain Burr, in the skipper's cabin,
two Samoan half-caste girls in the deck-house--there's going to be
trouble over those women, old Bruce says, and I don't doubt it--and the
whole lot will have their meals in the beastly dog-kennel you call a
saloon, and I call a sweat-box."
"Thank you, Mr. Otway. Your elegant manner of speaking shows clearly
the refining influence of the charming people with whom you associate.
Just let me tell you this--you looked like a gentleman a year or two
ago, but become less like one every day."
"No wonder," replied Otway sullenly, "the Island trade is not calculated
to turn out Chesterfields. I'm sick enough of it, now we are carrying
passengers as well as cargo. I suppose the firm will be asking us
supercargoes to wear uniform and brass buttons soon, like the ticket
collector on a penny ferry."
"Quite likely, my sulky young friend--quite likely, if it will pay us to
"Then I'll clear out, and go nigger-catching again in the Solomons.
That's a lot better than having to be civil to people who worry the soul
out of you, are always in the way at sea, and a beastly nuisance in
port. Why, do you know what old Miss Weidermann did at Manono, in Samoa,
when we were there buying yams three months ago?"
"No; what did she do?"
"Got the skipper and myself into a howling mess through her infernal
interference; and if the chiefs and old Mataafa himself had not come to
our help there would have been some shooting, and this firm could never
have sent another ship to Manono again. It makes me mad when I think of
it--the silly old bundle of propriety and feminine spite."
"Tell me all about it, Otway. 'Twill do you good, I can see, to unburden
yourself of some of your bad temper. Shut that door, and we'll have a
"Well," said Otway, "this is what occurred. I was ashore in the village,
buying and weighing the yams, the skipper was lending me a hand, and
everything was going on bully, when Mataafa and his chiefs sent an
invitation to us to come up to his house and drink kava. Of course such
an invitation from the native point of view was a great honour; and
then, besides that, it was good business to keep in with old Mataafa,
who had just given the Germans a thrashing at Vailele, and was as proud
as a dog with two tails. So, although I hate kava, I accepted the
invitation with 'many expressions of pleasure,' and felt sure that as
the old fellow knew me of old, and I knew he wanted to buy some rifles,
that I should get the bulk of a bag of sovereigns his mongrel, low-down
American secretary was carrying around. So oft went the skipper and I,
letting the yams stand over till we returned; the barque was lying about
a mile off the beach. Mataafa was very polite to us, and during the kava
drinking I found out that he had about three hundred sovereigns, and
wanted to see the Martini-Henrys we had on board. Of course I told him
that it would be a serious business for the ship if he gave us
away--imprisonment in a dreadful dungeon in Fiji, if not hanging at the
yard-arm or a man-of-war--and the old cock winked his eye and laughed.
Then, as time was valuable, we at once concocted a plan to get the
rifles--fifty--ashore without making too much of a show. Well, among
some of the women present there were two great swells, one was the
_taupo_, or town maid, of Palaulae in Savaii, and the other was a niece
of Mataafa himself. These two, accompanied by a lot of young women of
Manono, were to go off on board the barque in our boats, ostensibly to
pay their respects to the white lady on board, and invite her on shore,
so as to get her out of the way; then I was to pass the arms out of the
stern ports into some canoes which would be waiting just as it became
dark. About five o'clock they started off in one boat, leaving me and
the skipper to follow in another. I had sent a note off to the mate
telling him all about the little game, and to be mighty polite to the
two chief women, who were to be introduced to Miss Weidermann, give the
old devil some presents of mats, fruits, and such things, and ask her to
come ashore as Mataafa's guest.
"Well, something had gone wrong with the Weidermann's temper; for when
the women came on board she was sulking in her cabin, and refused to
show her vinegary face outside her state-room door. Thinking she would
get over her tantrum in a few minutes, the mate invited the two Samoan
ladies and their attendants down into the cabin, where they awaited her
appearance, behaving themselves, of course, very decorously, it being a
visit of ceremony.
"Presently Old Cat-face opened her door, and then, without giving the
native ladies time to utter a word, she launched out at them in her
bastard-mongrel Samoan-Tongan. The first thing she said was that she
knew the kind of women they were, and what had brought them on board!
How dared such brazen, shameless cattle come into the cabin! Into the
same cabin as a white lady! The bold, half-naked, disgraceful hussies,
etc., etc. And then she capped the thing by calling to the steward to
come and drive them out!
"Not one of the native women could answer her. They were all simply
dumbfounded at such a gross insult, and left the cabin in silence. The
mate tried to smooth things over, but one of the women--Mataafa's
niece--gave him a look that told him to say no more. In half an hour the
whole lot of them were back on the beach, and came up to the chiefs
house, where the skipper and myself were having a final drink of kava
with old Mataafa and his _faipule_. The face of the elder of the two
women was blazing with anger, and then, pointing to the captain and
myself, she gave us such a tongue-lashing for sending her off to the
ship to be shamed and insulted, that made us blush. Old Mataafa waited
until she had finished, and then, with an ugly gleam in his eye but
speaking very quietly, asked us what it meant.
"What _could_ we say but that it was no fault of ours; and then, by a
happy inspiration, I added that although Miss Weidermann was generally
well-conducted enough, she sometimes got blazing drunk, and made a beast
of herself. This explanation satisfied the chiefs, if not the women, and
everything went on smoothly. And as it was then nearly dark, and I was
determined that Mataafa should get his rifles, half a dozen of his men
took us off in their canoes, and we went on board. The skipper and I had
fixed up as to what we should do with the Weidermann creature. She was
seated at the cabin table waiting to open out on us, but the skipper
didn't give her a chance.
"'Go to your cabin at once, madam,' he said solemnly, 'and I trust you
will not again leave it in your present condition. Your conduct is
simply astounding. _Steward, see that you give Miss Weidermann no more
"The poor old girl thought that either he or she herself was going mad,
but he gave her no time to talk. The captain opened her state-room door,
gently pushed her in, and put a man outside to see that she didn't come
out again. Then we handed out the rifles through the stern-ports to the
natives in the canoes, and sent them away rejoicing. And that's the end
of the yarn, and Miss Weidermann nearly went into a fit next morning
when we told her that no less than thirty respectable native women had
taken their oaths that she was mad drunk, and abused them vilely."
The junior partner laughed loudly at the story, and Otway, with a more
amiable look on his face, rose.
"Well, I'll do what I can for these people. I'll make room for them
somehow. Where are they going?"
"Samoa. They have an idea of settling down there, I think, for a few
months, and then going on to China. They have plenty of money,
"Oh, well, tell them to come on board to-morrow, and I'll show them what
can be done for them."
* * * * *
So the Rev. and Mrs. Lacy did come on board, and Mr. Charles Otway was
vanquished by just one single glance from the lady's violet eyes.
"It would have been such a dreadful disappointment to us if we could not
have obtained passages in the _Tucopia_," she said, in her soft, sweet
voice, as she sank back in the deck-chair he placed before her. "My
husband is so bent on making a tour through Samoa. Now, do tell me, Mr.
Otway, are these islands so very lovely?"
"Very, very lovely, Mrs. Lacy," replied Otway, leaning with his back
against the rail and regarding her with half-closed eyes; "as sweet and
fair to look upon as a lovely woman--a woman with violet eyes and lips
like a budding rose."
She gave him one swift glance, seemingly in anger, yet her eyes smiled
into his; then she bent her head and regarded the deck with intense
interest. Otway thought he had scored. She was sure _she_ had.
Otway had just shown her and her husband his own cabin, and had told
them that they could occupy it--he would make himself comfortable in the
trade-room, he said. This was after the first look from the violet eyes.
* * * * *
Robertson, the skipper, came aboard, shook hands with Mrs. Lacy and her
husband, nodded to the other passengers, dived below for a moment or
two, and then reappeared on deck, full of energy, blasphemy, and anxiety
to get under way. In less than an hour the smart barque was outside the
Heads, and heeling over to a brisk south-westerly breeze. Two days later
she was four hundred miles on her course.
The Rev. Wilfrid Lacy soon made himself very agreeable to the rest of
the passengers, who all agreed that he was a splendid type of parson,
and even Otway, who had as much principle as a rat and began making love
to his wife from the outset, liked him. First of all, he was not the
usual style of travelling clergyman. He didn't say grace at meals, he
smoked a pipe, drank whisky and brandy with Otway and Robertson, told
rattling good stories, and displayed an immediate interest when the
skipper mentioned that the second mate was a "bit of a bruiser," and
that there were gloves on board; and the second mate, a nuggety little
Tynesider, at once consented to a friendly mill as soon as he was off
"Wilfrid," said Mrs. Lacy, "you'll shock every one. I can see that
Captain Robertson wonders what sort of a clergyman you are."
Robertson saw the merry light in her dark eyes, and then laughed aloud
as he saw Miss Weidermann's face. It expressed the very strongest
disapproval, and during the rest of the meal the virgin lady preserved a
dismal silence. The rest of the passengers, however, "took" to the
clerical gentleman at once. With old Father Roget--the Marist
missionary who sat opposite him--he soon entered into an animated
conversation, while the two De Boos girls, vivacious Samoan half-castes,
attached themselves to his wife. Seated beside Otway was another
passenger, an American skipper named Burr, who was going to Apia to take
command of a vessel belonging to the same firm as the _Tucopia_. He was
a silent, good-looking man of about sixty, and possessed of much caustic
humour and a remarkable fund of smoking-room stories, which, on rare
occasions, he would relate in an inimitable, drawling manner, as if he
was tired. The chief mate was a deeply but not obtrusively religious
Scotsman; the second officer, Allen, was a young man of thirty, an
excellent seaman, but rough to the verge of brutality with the crew.
Bruce, on the other hand, was too easy-going and patient.
"I never want to raise my hand against a man," he said one day, as a
protest, when Allen gave one of the crew an unmerciful cuff which sent
him down as if he had been shot.
"Neither do I," replied Allen, "I prefer raising my foot. But it's
habit, Mr. Bruce, only habit."
For five days the barque ran steadily on an E.N.E. course, then on the
sixth day the wind hauled, and by sunset it was blowing hard from the
eastward with a fast-gathering sea. By two in the morning Robertson and
his officers knew that they were in for a three-days' easterly gale; a
few hours later it was decided to heave-to, as the sea had become
dangerous, and the little vessel was straining badly. Just after this
had been done, the gale set in with redoubled fury, and when Mrs. Lacy
came on deck shortly before breakfast, she shuddered at the wild
spectacle. Coming to the break of the poop, she clasped the iron rail
with both hands, and gazed fearfully about her.
"You had better go below, ma'am," said the second mate, who was standing
near, talking to Otway, "there's some nasty, lumpy seas."
Then he gave a yell.
"Look out there!"
Springing to Mrs. Lacy's side, he clasped his left arm around her waist,
and held on tightly to the iron rail with his right, just as a vast
mountain of water took the barque amidships, fell on her deck with
terrific force, and fairly buried her from the topgallant foc'scle to
the level of the poop. In less than half a minute the galley, for'ard
deck-house, long-boat, which was lying on the main hatch, and the port
bulwarks had vanished, together with three poor seamen who were asleep
in the deck-house. The fearful crash brought the captain flying on deck.
One glance showed him that there was no chance of saving the men--to
attempt to lower a boat in such a sea was utterly impossible, and would
be madness itself. He sighed, and then took off his cap. Allen and Otway
followed his example.
"Is there no hope for them?" Mrs. Lacy whispered to Otway.
"None," replied the supercargo in a low voice. "None." Then he urged her
to go below, as it was not safe for her to remain on deck. She went at
once, and met her husband just as he was leaving their cabin.
"What is the matter, Nell?" he asked, as he saw that tears were in her
"Three poor men have been carried overboard, Wilfrid. They were in the
deck-house asleep ten minutes ago--now they are gone! Oh, isn't it
dreadful, dreadful!" And then she sat down beside him and wept silently.
Breakfast was a forlorn meal--Robertson and his officers were not
present, and Otway took the captain's seat. He, too, only remained to
drink a cup of coffee, then hurriedly went on deck. Lacy rose at the
same time, but at the foot of the companion, Otway motioned him to stop.
"Don't come on deck awhile, if you please," he said, "and tell the
ladies to keep to the cabin."
"Anything fresh gone wrong?"
"Yes," replied the supercargo, looking steadily at the clergyman--"the
ship is making water badly. Don't you hear the pumps going? Tell the
ladies not to come on deck--say it is not safe. And if the old
Weidermann girl hears the pumps, and gets inquisitive, tell her that a
lot of water got into the hold when that big sea tumbled aboard. She's
an inquisitive old ass, and would be bound to tell the other ladies that
the ship is in danger."
Lacy nodded. "All right, I'll see to her. How long has the ship been
"For quite a long time. And there is fourteen inches in her, and it's as
much as we can do to keep it under."
"That is serious."
Otway nodded. "Yes, it is serious in weather like this. Now I must go.
Daresay we may give you a call in the course of the morning. Ever try a
spell at old-fashioned brake pumps? Fine exercise."
"I'm ready now if you want me," was the quiet answer.
The _Tucopia_ was indeed in a pretty bad case. Immediately after the
fatal sea had swept her decks the carpenter had sounded the well and
found fifteen inches of water, some little of which had got below
through the fore-scuttle, but the greater portion, it was soon evident,
was the result of a leak. The barque was a comparatively new vessel, and
Robertson and his officers, after two hours' pumping, came to the
conclusion that she had either strained herself badly or a butt-end had
For two hours the crew worked at the pumps, taking a spell of ten
minutes every half-hour, Otway, the American captain Burr, and Mr. Lacy
all lending a hand. Then the well was sounded, and showed two inches
Robertson ordered the men to come aft and get a glass of grog. They
trooped down into the cabin wet and exhausted, and the steward served
them each out half a tumblerful of good French brandy. They drank it
off, and then went on deck again to have a smoke before resuming
pumping. A quarter of an hour later the pumps choked. There were a
hundred tons of coal in the lower hold, and some of the small of it had
been drawn up. By the time the carpenter had them cleared the water had
gained seven inches, and the little barque was labouring heavily. Again,
however, the willing crew turned to and pumped steadily for another
hour, but only succeeded in reducing the water by an inch or two. Then
Robertson called his officers together and consulted.
"We can't keep on like this much longer," he said, "the water is gaining
on us too fast. And we can't run before such a sea as this, in our
condition; we should be pooped in less than five minutes. We shall have
to take to the boats in another couple of hours, unless a change takes
place. Mr. Allen, and you, Mr. Otway, see to the two boats, and get them
Then he went below to the passengers. They were all seated in the main
cabin, and looked anxiously at him as he entered.
"I am sorry to tell you, ladies," he said quietly, "that the ship is
leaking so badly that I fear we shall have to abandon her. The men
cannot keep on pumping much longer, now that we are three hands short.
Fortunately we have two good boats, and, if we must take to them, shall
have no trouble in reaching land."
They heard him in silence, then the old priest opened his state-room
door, and came out.
"That is bad news indeed, captain," he said gently. "Still we must bow
to God's will, and trust to His guidance and protection. And you and
your officers and crew are good and brave seamen."
"Thank you, father. We'll do all right if we have to take to the boats.
And you must try and cheer up the ladies. Now I must leave you all for
awhile. We will stick to the pumps for another hour or two."
"Captain," said Sarah de Boos, a tall, finely built young woman of
twenty, "let my sister and myself and our servant help the men at the
pump. _Do_, please. We are all three very strong, and our help is surely
Robertson patted her soft cheek with his big, sunburnt hand. "You are
your father's daughter, Sarah, and I thank you. Of course your help
would be something; three fine lusty young women"--he tried to
smile--"but it's too dangerous for you to be on deck. All the bulwarks
are gone, and nasty lumping seas come aboard every now and then."
"I'm not afraid of a life-line hurting my waist," was the prompt answer,
"and neither is Sukie--are you Sukie? Go on deck, captain, and Sukie and
I and Mina" (the servant) "will just kick off our boots and follow you."
"And I too," broke in old Father Roget. "Surely I am not too old to
In less than five minutes the two half-caste girls, the native woman
Mina, and the old priest, were working the starboard brake, three seamen
being on the lee side. Every now and then, as the barque took a heavy
roll to windward, the water would flood her deck up to the workers'
knees; but they stuck steadily to their task for half an hour, when they
gave place to Burr, the carpenter, the Rev. Wilfrid, and three native
In the cabin Mrs. Lacy sat with ashen-hued face beside Miss Weidermann,
their hands clasped together, and listening to the wild clamour of the
wind and sea. Presently the two De Boos girls, Lacy, Father Roget, and
Mina, came below to rest awhile, the water streaming from their sodden
garments. The old priest, thoroughly exhausted, threw himself down upon
the transom locker cushions.
"Wilfrid," said Mrs. Lacy coming over to him and placing her shaking
hand on his shoulder, "cannot I do something? Oh, Miss De Boos, I wish I
were brave, like you. But I am not--I am a coward, and I hate myself for
The Rev. Wilfrid smiled tenderly at her as he drew her to him for a
moment. "Don't worry, little woman. You can't do anything--yes, you can,
though! Get me my pipe and fill it for me. My hands are wet and
Sukie De Boos, whose firm, rounded bosom and strong square shoulders
made a startling contrast, as they revealed their shape under her
soddened blouse, to Mrs. Lacy's fragile figure, impulsively put her
hands out, and taking Mrs. Lacy's face between them, kissed her twice.
"Dear Mrs. Lacy," she said, "don't be frightened, please. Now get Mr.
Lacy's pipe, and I'll rummage the steward's pantry and get some food for
us all to eat. Mr. Otway told me to tell you and Miss Weidermann to eat
something, as maybe we may not get anything for some hours. So I'm just
going to stay here and see that every one _does_ eat. I'll set you a
In a few minutes she laid upon the table an assortment of tinned meats,
bread, and some bottled beer, and some brandy for Father Roget and Lacy.
Otway came down, followed by the steward, and nodded approval.
"That's right, Sukie. Eat as much as you can. I'll take a drink myself.
Here's luck to you, Sukie. Perhaps we won't have to make up a boating
party after all. But there's nothing like being ready. So will you, Mr.
Lacy, lend a hand here with the steward, and pass up our provisions to
the second mate? The captain will be down in a minute, and will tell you
ladies what clothing to get ready. For my part I'll be jolly glad if we
do have to take to the boats, where we shall be nice and comfy, instead
of rolling about in this beastly way--I'll be sea-sick in another ten
minutes. Old Bruce says he felt sick an hour ago. Come on, steward."
The assumed cheerfulness of his manner produced a good effect, and even
old Miss Weidermann plucked up heart a little as she saw him
nonchalantly light a cigar as he disappeared with the steward below into
On deck Robertson and the mate were talking in low tones, as they
assisted the second mate with the boats. There was now nearly three feet
of water in the hold, and every one knew that the barque could not keep
afloat much longer. Fortunately the violence of the wind had decreased
somewhat, though there was still a mountainous sea.
Both the old mate and the captain knew that the two small quarter boats
would be dangerously overladen, and their unspoken fears were shared by
the rest of the officers and crew. But another hour would perhaps make a
great difference; and then as the two men were speaking a savage sea
smote the _Tucopia_ on the starboard bow, with such violence that she
trembled in every timber, and as she staggered under the shock and then
rolled heavily to windward, she dipped the starboard quarter boat under
the water; it filled, and as she rose again, boat and davits went away
Robertson groaned and looked at the mate.
"It is God's will, sir," said the old Scotsman quietly.
Robertson nodded. "Tell Allen and the others to come here," he said.
The Tynesider, followed by Captain Burr, Otway, and the carpenter, came.
"Mr. Allen," said the captain, "you are the best man in such an
emergency as this. You handle a boat better than any man I know. There
is now only one boat left, and you must take charge of her. You will
have to take a big lot of people--the four women, the parson, the old
French priest, Mr. Otway, Captain Burr, the carpenter, and the five
"I guess I'll stand out, and stick to the ship," said Burr in a lazy,
drawling manner, "I don't like bein' crowded up with a lot of wimmen."
"Neither do I, said Otway.
"Same here, captain," said the carpenter, a little grizzled man of
Robertson shook hands with each of them in turn. "I knew you were
_men_," he said simply. "Come below and let's have a drink together, and
then see to the boat."
"What's all this, skipper?" said Allen, with an oath, "d'ye think I'm
going to save my carcase and let you men drown? I'll see you all damned
"You'll obey orders," growled the captain, "and my orders are that you
take charge of that boat. And don't give me any lip. You are a married
man and have children. None of us who are standing by the ship are
married men. By God, my joker, if you don't know your duty, I'll teach
you. Are you going to let these four women go adrift in a boat to perish
when you can save them?"
Allen looked the captain squarely in the face and then put out his hand.
"I understand you, sir. But I don't like doing it. The ship won't keep
afloat another hour. But, as you say, I've a wife and kids to consider."
* * * * *
Followed by the others, Robertson went below, and told his passengers to
get ready for the boat. The old French priest, exhausted by his labour
at the pumps, was still lying on the transom cushions, sleeping; the
Rev. Lacy was seated at the table smoking his pipe (all the ladies were
in their state-rooms). He rose as the men entered, and looked at them
"We're in a bit of a tight place," said the captain, as he coolly
poured out half a tumblerful of brandy, "but I'm sending you, Mr. Lacy,
and Father Roget, and the ladies away with Mr. Allen in one of the
boats. Allen is a man whom I rely upon. He'll bring you ashore safely.
He's a bit rough in his talk, but he's one of God's own chosen in a
boat, and a fine sailor man--better than the mate, Captain Burr, or
myself; isn't that so, Mr. Bruce?"
The white-haired old mate bent his head in acknowledgment. Then he stood
up stiff and stark, his rough bony hands clasped upon his chest.
"I'll no' deny but that Mr. Allen is far and awa' the best man to have
charge o' the boat. But as there is a meenister here, surely he will now
offer up a prayer to the Almighty for those in peril on the sea, and
especially implore Him to consider a sma' boat, deep to the gunwales."
He looked at the clergyman, who at first made no reply, but stood with
downcast eyes. The men looked at him expectantly; he put one hand on the
table, and then slowly raised his face.
"I think, gentlemen, that ... that Father Roget is the older man." He
spoke haltingly, and a flush dyed his smooth, clean-shaven face from
brow to chin. "Will you not ask him?" Then his eyes dropped again.
Robertson, who was in a hurry, and yet had a sincere but secret respect
for old Bruce's unobtrusive religious feelings, now backed up his mate's
"I think, sir, that as the mate says, a bit of a short prayer would not
be out of place just now, seeing the mess we are in. And that poor old
gentleman over there is too done up to stand on his feet. So will you
please begin, sir. Steward, call the ladies. We can no longer disguise
from them, Mr. Lacy, that we are in a bad way--as bad a way as I have
ever been in during my thirty years at sea."
In a couple of minutes the two De Boos girls, Miss Weidermann, and the
native girl Mina, came out of their cabins; and when the steward said
that Mrs. Lacy felt too ill to leave her berth, her husband could not
help giving an audible sigh of relief. Then he braced up and spoke with
"Please shut Mrs. Lacy's door, steward. Mr. Bruce, will you lend me your
church service--I do not want to go into my cabin for my own. My wife, I
fear, has given way."
The mate brought the church service, and then whilst the men stood with
bowed heads, and the women knelt, the clergyman, with strong,
unfaltering voice read the second of the prayers "To be used in Storms
at Sea." He finished, and then sitting down again, placed one hand over
"_The living, the living shall praise Thee_."
It was the old mate who spoke. He alone of the men had knelt beside the
women, and when he rose his face bore such an expression of calmness and
content, that Otway, who five minutes before had been silently cursing
him for his "damned idiotcy," looked at him with a sudden mingled
respect and wonder.
Stepping across to the clergyman, Bruce respectfully placed his hand on
his shoulder, and as he spoke his clear blue eyes smiled at the still
"Cheer up, sir. God will protect ye and your gude wife, and us all. You,
his meenister, have made supplication to Him, and He has heard. Dinna
weep, ladies. We are in the care of One who holds the sea in the hollow
of His hand."
Then he followed the captain and the others on deck, Otway alone
remaining to assist the steward.
"For God's sake give me some brandy," said Lacy to him, in a low voice.
Otway looked at him in astonishment. Was the man a coward after all?
He brought the brandy, and with ill-disguised contempt placed it before
him without a word. Lacy looked up at him, and his face flushed.
"Oh, I'm not funking--not a d----d bit, I can assure you."
Otway at once poured out a nip of brandy for himself, and clinked his
glass against that of the clergyman.
"Pon my soul, I couldn't make it out, and I apologise. But a man's
nerves go all at once sometimes--can't help himself, you know. Mine did
once when I was in the nigger-catching business in the Solomon Islands.
Natives opened fire on us when our boats were aground in a creek, and
some of our men got hit. I wasn't a bit scared of a smack from a bullet,
but when I got a scratch on my hand from an arrow, I dropped in a blue
funk, and acted like a cur. Knew it was poisoned, felt sure I'd die of
lockjaw, and began to weep internally. Then the mate called me a rotten
young cur, shook me up, and put my Snider into my hand. But I shall
always feel funky at the sight even of a child's twopenny bow and arrow.
Now I must go."
The clergyman nodded and smiled, and then rising from his seat, he
tapped at the door of his wife's state-room. She opened it, and then
Otway, who was helping the steward, heard her sob hysterically.
"Oh, Will, Will, why did you? How could you? I love you, Will dear, I
love you, and if death comes to us in another hour, another minute, I
shall die happily with your arms round me. But, Will dear, there is a
God, I'm sure there _is_ a God.... I feel it in my heart, I feel it. And
now that death is so near to us----"
Lacy put his arms around her, and lifted her trembling figure upon his
"There, rest yourself, my pet."
"Rest! Rest?" she said brokenly, as Lacy drew her to him. "How can I
rest when I think of how I have sinned, and how I shall die! Will dear,
when I heard you reading that prayer--"
"I _had_ to do it, Nell."
"Will, dear Will.... Perhaps God may forgive us both.... But as I sat
here in my dark cabin, and listened to you reading that prayer, my
husband's face came before me--the face that I thought was so dull and
stupid. And his eyes seemed so soft and kind--"
"For God's sake, my dear little woman, don't think of what is past. We
have made the plunge together----"
The woman uttered one last sobbing sigh. "I am not afraid to die, Will.
I am not afraid, but when I heard you begin to read that prayer, my
courage forsook me. I wanted to scream--to rush out and stop you, for it
seemed to me as if you were doing it in sheer mockery."
"I can only say again, Nell, that I could not help myself; made me feel
pretty sick, I assure you."
Their voices ceased, and presently Lacy stepped out into the main cabin,
and then went on deck again.
Robertson met him with a cheerful face. "Come on, Mr. Lacy. I've some
good news for you--we are making less water! The leak must be taking up
in some way." Then holding on to the rail with one hand, he shouted to
the men at the pumps.
"Shake her up, boys! shake her up. Here's Mr. Lacy come to lend a hand,
and the supercargo and steward will be with you in a minute. Now I'm
going below for a minute to tell the ladies, and mix you a bucket of
grog. Shake her up, you, Tom Tarbucket, my bully boy with a glass eye!
Shake her up, and when she sucks dry, I'll stand a sovereign all round."
The willing crew answered him with a cheer, and Tom Tarbucket, a
square-built, merry faced native of Savage Island, who was stripped to
the waist, shouted out, amid the laughter of his shipmates--
"Ay, ay, capt'in, we soon make pump suck dry if two Miss de Boos girl
Robertson laughed in response, and then picking up a wooden bucket from
under the fife rail, clattered down the companion way.
"Where are you, Otway? Up you get on deck, and you too, steward. The
leak is taken up and 'everything is lovely and the goose hangs high.' Up
you go to the pumps, and make 'em suck. I'll bring up some grog
Then as Otway and the steward sprang up on deck, the captain stamped
along the cabin in his sodden sea boots, banging at each door.
"Come out, Sarah, come out Sukie, my little chickabiddies--there's to be
no boat trip for you after all. Miss Weidermann, I've good news, good
news! Mrs. Lacy, cheer up, dear lady. The leak has taken up, and you can
go on deck and see your husband working at the pumps like a number one
chop Trojan. Ha! Father Roget, give me your hand. You're a white man,
sir, and ought to be a bishop."
As he spoke to the now awakened old priest, the two De Boos girls, Mrs.
Lacy and Miss Weidermann, all came out of their cabins, and Robertson
shook hands with them, and lifting Sukie de Boos up between his two
rough hands as if she were a little girl, he kissed her, and then made a
grab at Sarah, who dodged behind Mrs. Lacy.
"Now, father, don't you attempt to come on deck. Mrs. Lacy, just you
keep him here. Sukie, my chick, you and Sarah get a couple of bottles of
brandy, make this bucket full of half-and-half, and bring it on deck to
As he noisily stamped out of the cabin again, the old priest turned to
the ladies, and raised his hand--
"A brave, brave man--a very good English sailor. And now let us thank
God for His mercies to us."
The four ladies, with Mina, knelt, and then the good old man prayed
fervently for a few minutes. Then Sukie de Boos and her sister flung
their arms around Mrs. Lacy, and kissed her, and even Miss Weidermann,
now thoroughly unstrung, began to cry hysterically. She had at first
detested Mrs. Lacy as being altogether too scandalously young and pretty
for a clergyman's wife. Now she was ready to take her to her bosom (that
is, to her metaphorical bosom, as she had no other), for she believed
that Mr. Lacy's prayer had saved them all, he being a Protestant
clergyman, and therefore better qualified to avert imminent death than a
priest of Rome.
Sukie and Sally de Boos mixed the grog, took it on deck, and served it
out to the men at the pumps.
The carpenter sounded the well, and as he drew up the iron rod, the
second mate gave a shout.
"Only seven inches, captain."
"Right, my boy. Take a good spell now, Mr. Allen. Mr. Bruce, we can give
her a bit more lower canvas now. She'll stand it. Mr. Lacy, and you
Captain Burr, come aft and get into some dry togs. The glass is rising
steadily, and in a few hours we'll feel a bit more comfy."
He prophesied truly, for the violence of the gale decreased rapidly,
and when at the end of an hour the pumps sucked, the crew gave a cheer,
and tired out as they were, eagerly sprang aloft to repair damages and
then spread more sail, Sarah and Susan de Boos hauling and pulling at
the running gear from the deck below. They were both girls of splendid
physique, and, in a way, sailors, and had Robertson allowed them to do
so, would have gone aloft and handled the canvas with the men.
By four o'clock in the afternoon the little barque, with her wave-swept,
bulwarkless decks, now drying under a bright sun, was running before a
warm, good-hearted breeze, and the pumps were only attended to twice in
Mrs. Lacy, Miss Weidermann, the De Boos girls, and the French priest
were seated on the poop deck, on rugs and blankets spread out for them
by Otway and the steward. Lacy, with Captain Burr, was pacing to and fro
smoking his pipe, and laughing heartily at Sukie de Boos's attempts to
make his wife smoke a cigarette. Presently old Bruce came along with the
second mate and some men to set a new gaff-topsail, and the ladies rose
to go below, so as to be out of the way.
"Nae, nae, leddies, dinna go below," said the old mate cheerfully,
"ye'll no' hinder us. And the sight o' sae many sweet, bonny faces will
mak' us work a' the better. And how are ye now, Mrs. Lacy? Ah, the pink
roses are in your cheeks once mair." And then he stepped quickly up to
the young clergyman and took his hand.
"Mr. Lacy, ye must pardon me, but I'm an auld man, and must hae my way.
Ye're a gude, brave man;" then he added in a low voice, "and ye called
upon Him, and He heard us."
"Thank you, Mr. Bruce," Lacy answered nervously, as he saw his wife's
eyes droop, and a vivid blush dye her fair cheeks. Then he plucked the
American captain by the sleeve and went below, and Sukie de Boos laughed
loudly when in another minute they heard the pop of a bottle of soda
water. She ran to the skylight and bent down.
"You're a pair of exceedingly rude men. You might think of Father
Roget--even if you don't think of us poor women. Mr. Otway, come here,
you horrid, dirty-faced, ragged creature! Go below and get a glass of
port wine for Father Roget, a bottle of champagne for Mrs. Lacy and my
sister and myself, and a cup of tea for Mrs. Weidermann, and bring some
"Come and help me, then," said the supercargo, who was indeed
dirty-faced and ragged.
Sukie danced towards the companion way with him. Half-way down he put
his arms round her and kissed her vigorously. She returned his kisses
with interest, and laughingly smacked his cheek.
"Let me go, Charlie Otway, you horrid, bold fellow. Now, one, two,
three, or I'll call out and invoke the protection of the clergy, above
and below--those on board this ship I mean, not those who are in heaven
* * * * *
Ten days later the _Tucopia_ sailed into Apia Harbour and dropped
anchor inside Matautu Point just as the evening mists were closing their
fleecy mantle around the verdant slopes of Vailima Mountain.
The two half-caste girls, with their maid and Mr. and Mrs. Lacy, came to
bid Otway and the captain a brief farewell, before they went ashore in
the pilot boat to D'Acosta's hotel in Matafele.
"Now remember, Otway, and you, Captain Robertson, and you, Captain Burr,
you are all to dine with us at the hotel the day after to-morrow. And
perhaps you, too, Father Roget will reconsider your decision and come
too." It was Lacy who spoke.
The gentle-voiced old Frenchman shook his head and smiled--"Ah no, it
was impossible," he said. The bishop would not like him to so soon leave
the Mission. But the bishop and his brothers at the Mission would look
forward to have the good captain, and Mr. Burr, and Mr. Otway, and the
ladies to accept his hospitality.
Mrs. Lacy's soft little gloved hand was in Otway's.
"I thank you, Mr. Otway, very, very sincerely for your many kindnesses
to me. You have indeed been most generous to us both. It was cruel of us
to take your cabin and compel you to sleep in the trade-room. But I
shall never forget how kind you have been."
All that was good in Otway came into his vicious heart and voiced softly
through his lips.
"I am only too glad, Mrs. Lacy.... I am indeed. I didn't like giving up
my cabin to strangers at first, and was a bit of a beast when Mr. Harry
told me we were taking two extra passengers. But I am glad now."
He turned away, and went below with burning cheeks. Before the storm he
had tried his best, late on several nights, to make Lacy drunk, and to
keep him drunk; but Lacy could stand as much or more grog than he could
himself; and when he heard that passionate, sobbing appeal, "Oh, Will,
Will, how could you?" his better nature was stirred, and his fierce
sensual desire for her changed into a sentimental affection and respect.
He knew her secret, and now, instead of wishing to take advantage of it,
felt he was too much of a man to abuse his knowledge.
* * * * *
Supper was over, and as the skipper, Burr, and Otway paced the
quarter-deck before going ashore to play a game or two of billiards and
meet some friends, a boat came alongside, and a man stepped on deck and
inquired for the captain. As he followed Robertson down the companion,
Otway saw that he was a well-dressed, rather gentlemanly-looking young
man of about five and twenty.
"Who's that joker, I wonder?" he said to Burr; "not any one living in
Samoa, unless he's a new-comer. Hope he won't stay long--it's eight
Ten minutes later the steward came to him.
"The captain wishes to see you, sir."
Otway entered the cabin. Robertson, with frowning face, motioned him to
a seat. The strange gentleman sat near the captain smoking a cigar, and
with some papers in his hands.
"Mr. Otway, I have sent for you. This gentleman has a warrant for the
arrest of Mr. Lacy, issued by the New Zealand Government and initialled
by the British Consul here."
Otway rose to the occasion. He nodded to the stranger and sat down
"Yes, sir?" he asked inquiringly of Robertson.
"You will please tell my supercargo your business, mister," said the
captain gruffly to the stranger; "he can tell you all you wish to
know--that is, if he cares to do so. I don't see that your warrant holds
any force here in Samoa. You can't execute it. There's no government
here, no police, no anything, and the British Consul can't act on a
warrant issued from New Zealand. It is of no more use in Samoa than it
would be at Cape Horn."
"Now, sir, make haste," said Otway with a mingled and studied insolence
and politeness. He already began to detest the stranger.
"I am a detective of the police force of New Zealand, and I have come
from Auckland to arrest William Barton, alias the Rev. Wilfrid Lacy, on
a charge of stealing twenty thousand, five hundred pounds from the
National Bank of Christchurch, of which he was manager. I believe that
twenty thousand pounds of the money he has stolen is on board this
vessel at this moment, and I now demand access to his cabin."
"Do you? How are you going to enforce your demand, my cocksure friend?"
Otway rose, and placing his two hands on the table, looked insultingly
at the detective. "What rot you are talking, man!"
The detective drew back, alarmed and startled.
"The British Consul has endorsed my warrant to arrest this man," he
said, "and it will go hard with any one who attempts to interfere with
me in the performance of my duty."
Otway shot a quick, triumphant glance at the captain.
"The Consul is, and always was, a silly old ass. You have come on a
fool's errand; and are going on the wrong tack by making threats. That
idiotic warrant of yours is of no more use to you than a sheet of fly
paper--Samoa is outside British jurisdiction. The High Commissioner for
the Western Pacific would not have endorsed such a fool of a document,
and I'll report the matter to him.... Now, sit down and tell me what you
_do_ want, and I'll try and help you all I can. But don't try to bluff
us--it's only wasting your time. Steward, bring us something to drink."
As soon as the steward brought them "something to drink" Otway became
deeply sympathetic with the detective, and Robertson, who knew his
supercargo well, smiled inwardly at the manner he adopted.
"Now, just tell us, Mr.--O'Donovan, I think you said is your name--what
is all the trouble? I need hardly tell you that whilst both the captain
and myself felt annoyed at your dictatorial manner, we are both sensible
men, and will do all in our power to assist you. Our firm's reputation
has to be studied--has it not, captain? We don't want it to be
insinuated that we helped an embezzler to escape, do we?"
"Certainly not," replied Robertson, puffing slowly at his cigar,
watching Otway keenly through his half-closed eyelids, and wondering
what that astute young gentleman was driving at. "I guess that you, Mr.
Otway, will do all that is right and cor-rect."
"Thank you, sir," replied Otway humbly, and with great seriousness, "I
know my duty to my employers, and I know that this gentleman may be led
into very serious trouble through the dense stupidity of the British
He turned to Mr. O'Donovan--"Are you aware, Mr. O'Donikin--I beg your
pardon, O'Donovan--that the British Consul here is not, officially, the
British Consul. He is merely a commercial agent, like the United States
Consul. Neither are accredited by their Governments to act officially on
behalf of their respective countries, and even if they were, there is no
extradition treaty with the Samoan Islands, which is a country without a
recognised government. Of course, Mr. O'Donovan, you are acting in good
faith; but you have no more legal right nor the power to arrest a man in
Samoa, than you have to arrest one in Manchuria or Patagonia. Of course,
old Johns (the British Consul) doesn't know this, or he would not have
made such a fool of himself by endorsing a warrant from an irresponsible
judge of a New Zealand court. But as I told you, I shall aid you in
every possible way."
O'Donovan was no fool. He knew that all that Otway had said was
absolutely correct, but he braced himself up.
"I daresay what you say may be right, Mr. Supercargo. But I've come from
New Zealand to get this joker, and by blazes I mean to get him, and take
him back with me to New Zealand. And I mean to have those twenty
thousand sovereigns to take back as well."
"Well, then, why the devil don't you go and get your man? He's at Joe
D'Acosta's hotel with his wife."
"I don't want to be bothered with him just yet. I have no place to put
him into. The Californian mail boat from San Francisco is not due here
for another ten days. But I know that he hasn't taken his stolen money
ashore yet, and you had better hand it over to me at once. I can get
_him_ at any time."
Otway leant back in his chair and laughed.
"I don't doubt that, Mr. O'Donovan. If you have enough money to do it,
you can do as you say--get this man at any time. But you want to have
some guns behind you to enforce it; and then his capture won't affect
our custody of the money. If the Consul instigates you to make an attack
on the ship, you will do so at your peril, for we shall resist any
O'Donovan's face fell. "You said you would assist me?"
"So I will," replied Otway, lying genially, "But you must point out a
way. The High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, in Fiji, is the only
man who could give you power to arrest the man and convey him to New
Zealand, and the moment you show me the High or the Deputy High
Commissioner's order to hand over the money, and Lacy's other effects,
I'll do so."
The detective made his last stroke.
"I can take the law into my own hands and chance the consequences. The
Consul will supply me with a force--"
Robertson smiled grimly, and pointed to the rack of Snider rifles around
the mizen-mast at the head of the table.
"You and your force will have a bad time of it then, and be shot down
before you can put foot on my deck. I've never seen a shark eat a
policeman, but there seems a chance of it now."
O'Donovan laughed uneasily, then he changed his tactics.
"Now look here, gentlemen," he said confidentially, leaning across the
table, "I can see I'm in a bit of a hole, but I'm a business man, and
you are business men, and I think we understand one another, eh? As you
say, my warrant doesn't hold good here in Samoa. But the Consul will
back me up, and if I can take this chap back to New Zealand it means a
big thing for me. Now, what's your figure?"
"Two hundred each for the skipper and myself," answered Otway promptly.
"Done. You shall have it."
"Give me till to-morrow afternoon. I've only a hundred and fifty pounds
with me, and I'll have to raise the rest."
"Very well, it's a deal. But mind, you'll have to take care to be here
before the parson. He's coming off at eleven o'clock."
"Trust me for that, gentlemen."
"I'm sorry for his wife," said Otway meditatively.
O'Donovan grinned. "Ah, I haven't told you the yarn--she's not his wife!
She bolted from her husband, who is a big swell in Auckland, a Mr.----."
"How did you get on their tracks?"
"Sydney police found out that two people answering their description had
sailed for the Islands in the _Tucopia_, and cabled over to us. We
thought they had lit out for America. I only got here the day before
yesterday in the _Ryno_, from Auckland."
Otway paid him some very florid compliments on his smartness, and then
after another drink or two, the detective went on shore, highly pleased.
As soon as he was gone, Otway turned to Robertson.
"You won't stand in my way, Robertson, will you?" he asked--"I want to
see the poor devils get away."
"You take all the responsibility, then."
"I will," and then he rapidly told the skipper his plan, and set to
work by at once asking the second mate to get ready the boat and then
come back to the cabin.
"All ready," said Allen, five minutes later.
"Then come with the steward and help me with this gear."
He unlocked the door of Lacy's state-room, lit the swinging candle, and
quickly passed out Mr. and Mrs. Lacy's remaining luggage to the second
mate and steward. Three small leather trunks, marked "Books with Care,"
were especially heavy, and he guessed their contents.
"Stow them safely in the boat, Allen. Don't make more noise than you can
help. I'll be with you in a minute."
Going into his own cabin, he took a large handbag, threw into it his
revolver and two boxes of cartridges, then carried it into the
trade-room, and added half a dozen tins of the brand of tobacco which he
knew Lacy liked, and then filled the remaining space with pint bottles
of champagne. Then he whipped up a sheet or two of letter paper and an
envelope from the cabin-table, thrust them into his coat pocket, and,
bag in hand, stepped quickly on deck. The old mate was in his cabin, and
had not heard anything.
"Give it to her, boys," he said to the crew, taking the steer-oar in his
hand, and heading the boat towards a small fore-and-aft schooner lying
half a mile away in the Matafele horn of the reef encircling Apia
The four native seamen bent to their oars in silence, and sped swiftly
through the darkness over the calm waters of the harbour. The schooner
showed no riding light on her forestay, but, on the after deck under the
awning, a lamp was burning, and three men--the captain, mate, and
boatswain--were playing cards on the skylight.
Otway jumped on deck, just as the men rose to meet him.
"Great Ascensial Jehosophat! Why, it's you, Mr. Otway?" cried the
captain, a little clean-shaven man, as he shook hands with the
supercargo. "Well, now, I was just wondering whether I'd go ashore and
try and drop across you. Say, tell me now, hev you any good tinned beef
and a case of Winchesters you can sell me?"
"Yes, both," replied Otway, shaking hands with the three in turn--they
were all old acquaintances, especially Le Brun, the mate. "But come
below with me, Revels; I've important business, and it has to be done
right away--this very night."
Revels led the way below into the schooner's cabin, and at once produced
a bottle of Bourbon and a couple of glasses.
"No time to drink, Revels.... All right, just a little, then. Now, tell
me, do you want to make--and make it easy--five hundred pounds?"
"Guess I do."
"Are you ready for sea?"
"I was thinking of sailing on a cruise among the Tokelau Islands in a
day or two."
"Then don't think of it. If you put to sea to-night for a longer voyage,
I can guarantee you that you will get five hundred pounds--if you will
take two passengers on board, and put to sea as soon as they come
"Where do they want to go?"
"That I can't say. Manila or Hongkong, most likely. It'll pay you."
"Is the money safe?"
Otway struck his hand on the table. "Safe as rain, Revels. They have
plenty. I have it here alongside, and if you don't get five hundred
sovereigns paid you when you have dropped Samoa astern, you can come
back with your passengers, and I'll give you fifty pounds myself."
"Friends of yours?"
"That's enough fur me, Otway. Now, just tell me what to do."
"Tell your mate to get your boat ready to go ashore, while I write a
He took a sheet of paper, and hurriedly wrote in pencil:
"DEAR LACY,--Don't hesitate to follow my instructions. There's a man
here from New Zealand. Tried to get access to your cabin; bluffed
him. You and your wife must follow bearer of this note to his boat,
which will bring you to a schooner. The captain's name is Revels. He
expects you, and you can trust him. Have pledged him my word that
you will give him L500 to land you at Manila or thereabouts; also
that you will hand it to him as soon as the schooner is clear of the
land. _All_ your luggage is on board the schooner, awaiting you.
Allen helped me. You might send him a present by Revels. Goodbye,
and all good luck. One last word--_be quick, be quick_!"
"Boat is ready," said Revels.
"Right," and Otway closed the letter and handed it to the mate. "Here
you are, Le Brun. Now, listen. Pull in to the mouth of the creek at the
French Mission, just beside the bridge. Leave your boat there and then
take this letter to D'Acosta's Hotel and ask to see Mr. Lacy. If he and
his wife have gone out for a walk, you must follow them and give him the
letter; but I feel pretty sure you'll find them on the verandah. Bring
them off on board as quickly and as quietly as possible. No one will
take any notice of the boat in the creek. Oh! and tell Mr. Lacy to be
dead sure not to bring anything in the way of even a small bag with
him--Joe D'Acosta might wonder. I'll settle the hotel bill later on. Are
"Clear as mud," replied Le Brun, a big, black-whiskered Guernsey man.
The schooner's boat, manned by two hands only, pushed off, and then
Revels turned to Otway.
"Shall I heave short so as to be ready?"
"Heave short, be d----d!" replied Otway testily. "No, just lie nice and
quiet, and as soon as you have your passengers on board slip your cable.
I'll see that your anchor is fished up for you. And even if you lost
your anchor and a few fathoms of chain it doesn't matter against five
hundred sovereigns. The people on shore would be sure to hear the sound
of the windlass pawls, and there's a man here from Auckland--a
detective--who might make a bold stroke, get a dozen native bullies and
collar you. So slip, my boy, slip. There's a fine healthy breeze which
will take you clear of the reef in ten minutes."
The two men shook hands, and Otway stepped into his boat, which he
steered in towards the principal jetty.
Jumping out he walked along the roadway which led from Matafele to Apia.
As he passed the British Consul's house he saw Mr. O'Donovan standing on
the verandah talking to the Consul. He waved his hand to them, and
cheerfully invited the detective to come along to "Johnnie Hall's" and
play a game of billiards.
Mr. O'Donovan, little thinking that Otway had a purpose in view, took
the bait. The Consul knew Otway, and, in a measure, dreaded him, for the
supercargo's knowledge of certain transactions in connection with the
sale of arms to natives, in which he (the Consul) had taken a leading
and lucrative part. So when he saw the supercargo of the _Tucopia_
beckoning to O'Donovan he smiled genially at him, and hurriedly told the
detective to go.
"He's a most astute and clever young scoundrel, Mr. O'Donovan, and in a
way we are at his mercy. But you shall have the four hundred pounds in
the morning--not later than noon. This man Barton must be brought to
justice at any cost."
"Just so, sir; and you will get a hundred out of the business, any way,"
replied O'Donovan, who had gauged the Consul's morality pretty fairly.
As Otway and the detective walked towards the hotel known as "Johnny
Hall's" the former said lazily--
"Look here, Mr. O'Donovan. Are the skipper and myself to get those four
hundred sovs to-morrow or not? To tell you the exact truth, I have a
fair amount of doubt about your promise. Where are you going to get the
"That's all right, Mr. Otway. You're a business man. And you and the
skipper will have your two hundred each before one o'clock to-morrow.
The Consul is doing the necessary."
"Right, my boy," said Otway effusively. "Now we'll play a game or two at
Johnny's and have some fun with the girls."
By eleven o'clock Mr. O'Donovan was comfortably half drunk, and Otway
led him out on to the verandah to look at the harbour, shimmering under
the starlight. They sat down on two cane lounges, and the supercargo's
keen eye saw that Revel's schooner had gone. He breathed freely, and
then brought Mr. O'Donovan a large whisky and soda.
* * * * *
In the morning Mr. O'Donovan and Mr. William Johns, the British Consul,
were in a state of frenzy on discovering that Mr. and Mrs. Lacy had
escaped during the night in the schooner _Solafanua_. The Consul knew
that Otway was at the bottom of the matter, but dared not say so, but
O'Donovan, who had more pluck and nothing to lose, lost his temper and
came on board the _Tucopia_ just as she was being hauled up on the beach
to get at the leak.
"You're a dirty sweep," he said to Otway.
The supercargo hit him between the eyes, and sent him down. Allen picked
him up, dumped him into the boat alongside, and sent him ashore.
When the _Tucopia_ lay high and dry on Apia beach Otway and old Bruce
walked round under her counter and looked for the leak. As the skipper
had surmised, a butt-end had started, but the gaping orifice was now
choked and filled with a large piece of seaweed.
"The prayer of one of God's ain ministers has saved us," said the Scotch
mate, pointing upward.
"No doubt," replied Otway, who knew that the good old man had heard
nothing of what had happened.
_The Man in the Buffalo Hide_
Twelve years ago in a North Queensland town I was told the story of "The
Man in the Buffalo Hide" by Ned D----. He (D----) was then a prosperous
citizen, having made a small fortune by "striking it rich" on the
Gilbert and Etheridge Rivers goldfields. Returning from the arid wastes
of the Queensland back country to Sydney, he tired of leading an
inactive life, and hearing that gold had been discovered on one of the
Solomon Islands, he took passage thither in the Sydney whaling barque
_Costa Rica_ packet, and though he returned to Australia without
discovering gold in the islands, he had kept one of the most interesting
logs of a whaling cruise it has ever been my fortune to read. The master
of the whaleship was Captain J.Y. Carpenter, a man who is well known
and highly respected, not only in Sydney (where he now resides), but
throughout the East Indies and China, where he had lived for over thirty
years. And it was from Captain Carpenter who was one of the actors in
this twice-told tragedy, that D----heard this story of Chinese
vengeance. He (D----) related it to me in '88, and I wish I could write
the tale as well and vividly as he told it. However, I wrote it out for
him then and there. Much to our disgust the editor of the little journal
to whom we sent the MS., considered it a fairy tale, and cut it down to
some two or three hundred words. I mention these apparently unnecessary
details merely that the reader may not think that the tale is fiction,
for two years or so after, Captain Carpenter corroborated my friend's
* * * * *
It was after the Taeping rebellion had been stamped out in blood and
fire by Gordon and his "Ever Victorious Army," and the Viceroy (Li Hung
Chang) had taken up his quarters in Canton, and was secretly torturing
and beheading those prisoners whom he had sworn to the English
Government to spare.
Carpenter was in command of a Chinese Government despatch vessel--a
side-wheeler--which was immediately under the Viceroy's orders. She was
but lightly armed, but was very fast, as fast went in those days. His
ship had been lying in the filthy river for about a week, when, one
afternoon, a mandarin came off with a written order for him to get ready
to proceed to sea at daylight on the following morning. Previous
experience of his estimable and astute Chinese employers warned him not
to ask the fat-faced, almond-eyed mandarin any questions as to the
steamer's destination, or the duration of the voyage. He simply said
that he would be ready at the appointed time.
At daylight another mandarin, named Kwang--one of much higher rank than
his visitor of the previous day--came on board. He was attended by
thirty of the most ruffianly-looking scoundrels--even for Chinamen--that
the captain had ever seen. They were all well armed, and came off in a
large, well-appointed boat, which, the mandarin intimated with a polite
smile, was to be towed, if she was too heavy to be hoisted aboard. A
couple of hands were put in her, and she was veered astern. Then the
anchor was lifted, and the steamer started on her eighty miles trip down
the river to the sea, the mandarin informing the captain that he would
name the ship's destination as soon as they were clear of the land.
Most of Carpenter's officers were Europeans--Englishmen or
Americans--and one or two of them who spoke Chinese, attempted to enter
into conversation with the thirty braves, and endeavour to learn the
object of the steamer's mission. Their inquiries were met either with a
mocking jest or downright insult, and presently the mandarin, who
hitherto had preserved a smiling and affable demeanour as he sat on the
quarter-deck, turned to the captain with a sullen and ferocious aspect,
and bade him remind his officers that they had no business to question
the servants of the "high and excellent Viceroy."
But though neither Carpenter nor any of his officers could learn aught
about this sudden mission, one of their servants, a Chinese who was
deeply attached to his master, whispered tremblingly to him that the
mandarin and the thirty braves were in quest of one of the Viceroy's
most hated enemies--a noted leader of the Taepings who had escaped the
bloodied hands of Li Hung Chang, and whose retreat had been betrayed to
the cruel, merciless Li the previous day.
Once clear of the land, the mandarin, with a polite smile and many
compliments to Carpenter on the skilful and expeditious manner in which
he had navigated the steamer down the river, requested him to proceed to
a certain point on the western side of the island of Formosa.
"When you are within twenty miles of the land, captain," he said
suavely, "you will make the steamer stop, and my men and I will leave
you in the boat. You must await our return, which may be on the
following day, or the day after, or perhaps longer still. But whether I
am absent one, or two, or six days, you must keep your ship in the
position I indicate as nearly as possible. You must avoid observation
from the shore, you must be watchful, diligent, and patient, and, when
you see my boat returning, you must make your engines work quickly, and
come towards us with all speed. High commendation and a great reward
from the serene nobleness of our great Viceroy--who has already
condescended to notice your honourable ability and great integrity in
your profession--awaits you." Then with another smile and bow he went to
As soon as the steamer reached the place indicated by the mandarin the
engines were stopped. The boat, which was towing astern, was hauled
alongside, and the thirty truculent "braves," with a Chinese pilot and
the ever-smiling mandarin, got into her and pushed off for the shore.
That they were all picked men, who could handle an oar as well as a
rifle, was very evident from the manner in which they sent the big boat
along towards the blue outline of the distant shore.
* * * * *
For two days Carpenter and his officers waited and watched, the steamer
lying and rolling about upon a long swell, and under a hot and brazen
sun. Then, about seven o'clock in the morning, as the sea haze lifted, a
look-out on the foreyard hailed the deck and said the boat was in sight.
The steamer's head was at once put towards her under a full head of
steam, and in another hour the mandarin and his braves were alongside.
The mandarin clambered up on deck, his always-smiling face (which
Carpenter and his officers had come to detest) now darkly exultant.
"You have done well, sir," he said to the captain; "the Viceroy himself,
when my own miserable worthlessness abases itself before him, shall know
how truly and cleverly you and your officers (who shall be honoured for
countless ages in the future) have obeyed the behests which I have had
the never-to-be-extinguished honour to convey from him to you. There is
a prisoner in the boat--a prisoner who is to be tried before those high
and merciful judges whose Heaven-sent authority your valorous commander
of the Ever Victorious Army has upheld."
Carpenter, being a sailor man before all else, swallowed the mandarin's
compliments for all they were worth, and I can imagine him giving a
grumpy nod to the smiling minion of the Viceroy as he ordered "the
prisoner" to be brought on deck, and the boat to be veered astern for
The official interposed oilily. There was no need, he said, to tow the
boat to Canton if she could not be hoisted on board, and was likely to
impede the steamer's progress. Some of his braves could remain in her,
and the insignia of the Viceroy which they wore would ensure both their
and the boat's safety--no pirates would touch them.
The captain said that to tow such a heavy boat for such a long distance
would certainly delay the steamer's arrival in Canton by at least six or
eight hours. The mandarin smiled sweetly, and said that as speed was
everything the most honourable navigator, whom he now had the privilege
to address, and who was so soon to be distinguished by his mightiness
the Viceroy, could at once let the boat which had conveyed his worthless
self into the sunshine of his (the captain's) presence, go adrift.
At a sign from Kwang, six of his cutthroats clambered down the side into
the boat, which was at once cast oft; the steamer was sent along under a
full head of steam, and the captain was about to ascend the bridge when
the mandarin stayed him, and requested that a meal should be at once
prepared in the cabin for the prisoner, who, he said, was somewhat
exhausted, for his capture was only effected after he had killed three
and wounded half a dozen of "the braves." So courageous a man, he added
softly, whatever his offence might be, must not be allowed to suffer the
pangs of hunger and thirst.
Carpenter gave the necessary order to the steward with a sensation of
pleasure, feeling that he had done the suave and gentle-voiced Kwang an
injustice in imagining him to be like most Chinese officials--utterly
indifferent and callous to human suffering. Then he stepped along the
deck towards the bridge just as two of the braves lifted the prisoner to
his feet, which a third had freed from a thong of hide, bound so tightly
around them that it had literally cut into the flesh. His hands were
tied in the same manner, and round his neck was an iron collar, with a
chain about six feet in length which was secured at the end to another
band around the waist of one of the "braves."
As the prisoner stood erect, Carpenter saw that he was a man of
herculean proportions and over six feet three or four inches in height.
His arms and naked chest were cut, bleeding and bruised, and a bamboo
gag was in his mouth; but what at once attracted the captain's attention
and sympathy was the man's face.
So calm, steadfast, and serene were his clear, undaunted eyes; so proud,
lofty, and contemptuous and yet so dignified his bearing, as he glanced
at his guards when they bade him walk, that Carpenter, drawing back a
little, raised his hand in salute.
In an instant the deep, dark eyes lit up, and the tortured, distorted
mouth would have smiled had it not been for the cruel gag. But twice he
bent his head, and his eyes did that which was denied to his lips.
Captain Carpenter was deeply moved. The man's heroic fortitude, his
noble bearing under such physical suffering, the tender, woman-like
resignation in the eyes which could yet smile into his, affected him so
strongly that he could not help asking one of the "braves" the
An insolent, threatening gesture was the only answer. But the prisoner
had heard, and bent his head in acknowledgment. When he raised it again
and saw that Carpenter had now taken off his cap, tears trickled down
his cheeks. In another moment he was hurried along the deck into the
cabin, and half a dozen "braves" stood guard at the door to prevent
intrusion, whilst the gag was removed, and the victim of the Viceroy's
vengeance was urged to eat. Whether he did so or not was never known,
for half an hour afterwards he was removed to one of the state-rooms,
where he was closely guarded by Kwang's cutthroats. When he was next
seen by Carpenter and the officers of the steamer the gag was again in
his mouth, but the calm, resolute eyes met theirs as it trying to tell
them that the heroic soul within the tortured body knew no fear, and
felt and appreciated their sympathy.
On the afternoon of the third day after leaving Formosa the steamer
ploughed her way up the muddy waters of the river, and came to an anchor
off the city at a place which was within half a mile of the Viceroy's
residence. The mandarin requested the captain to fire three guns, and
hoist the Chinese flag at both the fore and main peaks.
This signal was, so Kwang condescended to say, to inform His
Illustriousness the Ever-Merciful Viceroy that he, Kwang, his crawling
dependent, guided by Carpenter's high intelligence, and supreme and
honoured skill as a navigator, had achieved the object which His
The captain listened to all this "flam," bowed his acknowledgments, and
then suddenly asked the mandarin the prisoner's name.
Again the fat, complacent face darkened, and almost scowled. "No," he
replied sullenly, he himself "was not permitted" to know the prisoner's
name. His crime? He did not know. When was he to be tried? To-morrow.
Then he rose and abruptly requested the captain to ask no more
questions. But, he added, with a smile, he could promise him that he
should at least see the captive again.
In a few minutes a boat came off, and the prisoner, closely guarded, and
with his face covered with a piece of cloth, was hurried ashore.
* * * * *
Four days had passed--days of heat so intense that even the Chinese crew
of the steamer lay about the decks under the awning, stripped to their
waists, and fanning themselves languidly. During this time the captain
and his officers, by careful inquiries, ascertained that the unfortunate
prisoner was a brother of one of the Wangs, or seven "Heavenly Kings,"
who had led the Taeping forces, and that for a long time past the
Viceroy had made most strenuous efforts to effect his capture, being
particularly exasperated with him, not only for his courage in the
field, and the influence he had wielded over the unfortunate Taepings,
who were wiped out by Gordon and the Ever-Victorious Army, but also
because he refused to accept Li Hung Chang's sworn word to spare his
life if he surrendered; for well he knew that a death by torture awaited
him. Gordon himself, it was said, revolver in hand, and with tears of
rage streaming down his face, had sought to find and shoot the Viceroy
for the cruel murder of other leaders who had surrendered to him under
the solemn promise of their lives being spared.
Late in the afternoon, a messenger came on board with a note to the
captain. It was from the mandarin Kwang, and contained but a line.
"Follow the bearer, who will guide you to the prisoner."
An hour later Carpenter was conducted through a narrow door which was
set in a very high wall of great thickness. He found himself in a garden
of the greatest beauty, and magnificent proportions. Temples and other
buildings of the most elaborate and artistic design and construction
showed here and there amid a profusion of gloriously-foliaged trees and
flowering shrubs. No sound broke the silence except the twittering of
birds; and not a single person was visible.
The guide, who had not yet uttered a single word, now turned and
motioned Carpenter to follow him along a winding path, paved with white
marble slabs, and bordered with gaily-hued flowers. Suddenly they
emerged upon a lovely sward of the brightest green, in the centre of
which a fountain played, sending its fine feathery spray high in air.
On one side of the fountain were a number of "braves" who stood in a
close circle, and, as Carpenter approached, two of them silently stepped
out of the cordon, brought their rifles to the salute, and the guide
whispered to him to enter.
Within the circle was Kwang, who was seated in his chair of office. He
rose and greeted the captain politely.
"I promised you that you should again see the criminal in whom you and
your officers took such a deep and benevolent interest. I now fulfil
that promise--and leave you." And, with a malevolent smile, he bowed and
The guide touched Carpenter's arm.
"Look," he said in a whisper.
* * * * *
Within a few inches of a wavering line of spray from the fountain,
purposely diverted so as to fall upon the grass, lay what appeared at
first sight to be a round bundle tied up in a buffalo hide. A black
swarm of flies buzzed and buzzed over and around it.
"Draw near and look," said the harsh voice of the officer who commanded
the grim, silent guard, as he stepped up to the strange-looking bundle,
and waved his fan quickly to and fro over a protuberance in the centre.
A black cloud of flies arose, and revealed a sight that will haunt
Carpenter to his dying day--the purpled, distorted face of a living man.
The eyelids had been cut off, and only two dreadful, bloodied, glaring
things of horror appealed mutely to God. The victim's knees had been
drawn up to his chin, and only his head was visible; for the fresh
buffalo hide in which his body had been sewn, fitted tightly around his
Shuddering with horror, and yet fascinated with the dreadful spectacle,
Carpenter asked the officer how long the prisoner had been tortured.
"Four days," was the reply.
For the buffalo, the hide of which was to be the prisoner's death-wrap,
was in readiness the moment the steamer arrived, and ten minutes after
the signal was hoisted, the creature was killed, the hide stripped off,
and the prisoner sewn up in it, only his head being left free.
Then he was carried to a heated room, so that the hide should contract
quickly. From there he was taken to the fountain, where his eyelids were
cut off, and then he was laid upon the ground, his mouth just within a
few inches of a spray from the fountain.
And the Viceroy came, saw, approved, and smiled, and assigned to Kwang
the honoured post of watching his hated enemy die under slow and
agonising torture. To attract the flies, honeyed water was applied to
the prisoner's shaven head and face. And the guards, now and then as his
thirst increased, offered him brine to drink.
"He is still alive," the brutal-faced Tartar officer said genially, as
he touched one of the dreadful eyeballs, and the poor, tortured
creature's lips moved slightly.
Sick at heart and almost overcome with horror, Captain Carpenter, with
quickened footsteps, passed through the cordon of guards, and followed
his guide from the dreadful spot.
In a few minutes he was without the wall, and a sigh of relief broke
from him as he set out towards the river.
A CRUISE IN THE SOUTH SEAS
(HINTS TO INTENDING TRAVELLERS)
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