In the South Seas
Robert Louis Stevenson

Part 5 out of 5

for the third. I was present when a certain merchant was turned
about his business, and was the means (having a considerable
influence ever since the bag) of patching up the dispute. Even on
the day of our arrival there was like to have been a hitch with
Captain Reid: the ground of which is perhaps worth recital. Among
goods exported specially for Tembinok' there is a beverage known
(and labelled) as Hennessy's brandy. It is neither Hennessy, nor
even brandy; is about the colour of sherry, but is not sherry;
tastes of kirsch, and yet neither is it kirsch. The king, at
least, has grown used to this amazing brand, and rather prides
himself upon the taste; and any substitution is a double offence,
being at once to cheat him and to cast a doubt upon his palate. A
similar weakness is to be observed in all connoisseurs. Now the
last case sold by the Equator was found to contain a different and
I would fondly fancy a superior distillation; and the conversation
opened very black for Captain Reid. But Tembinok' is a moderate
man. He was reminded and admitted that all men were liable to
error, even himself; accepted the principle that a fault handsomely
acknowledged should be condoned; and wound the matter up with this
proposal: 'Tuppoti I mi'take, you 'peakee me. Tuppoti you
mi'take, I 'peakee you. Mo' betta.'

After dinner and supper in the cabin, a glass or two of 'Hennetti'-
-the genuine article this time, with the kirsch bouquet,--and five
hours' lounging on the trade-room counter, royalty embarked for
home. Three tacks grounded the boat before the palace; the wives
were carried ashore on the backs of vassals; Tembinok' stepped on a
railed platform like a steamer's gangway, and was borne shoulder
high through the shallows, up the beach, and by an inclined plane,
paved with pebbles, to the glaring terrace where he dwells.


Our first sight of Tembinok' was a matter of concern, almost alarm,
to my whole party. We had a favour to seek; we must approach in
the proper courtly attitude of a suitor; and must either please him
or fail in the main purpose of our voyage. It was our wish to land
and live in Apemama, and see more near at hand the odd character of
the man and the odd (or rather ancient) condition of his island.
In all other isles of the South Seas a white man may land with his
chest, and set up house for a lifetime, if he choose, and if he
have the money or the trade; no hindrance is conceivable. But
Apemama is a close island, lying there in the sea with closed
doors; the king himself, like a vigilant officer, ready at the
wicket to scrutinise and reject intrenching visitors. Hence the
attraction of our enterprise; not merely because it was a little
difficult, but because this social quarantine, a curiosity in
itself, has been the preservative of others.

Tembinok', like most tyrants, is a conservative; like many
conservatives, he eagerly welcomes new ideas, and, except in the
field of politics, leans to practical reform. When the
missionaries came, professing a knowledge of the truth, he readily
received them; attended their worship, acquired the accomplishment
of public prayer, and made himself a student at their feet. It is
thus--it is by the cultivation of similar passing chances--that he
has learned to read, to write, to cipher, and to speak his queer,
personal English, so different from ordinary 'Beach de Mar,' so
much more obscure, expressive, and condensed. His education
attended to, he found time to become critical of the new inmates.
Like Nakaeia of Makin, he is an admirer of silence in the island;
broods over it like a great ear; has spies who report daily; and
had rather his subjects sang than talked. The service, and in
particular the sermon, were thus sure to become offences: 'Here,
in my island, _I_ 'peak,' he once observed to me. 'My chieps no
'peak--do what I talk.' He looked at the missionary, and what did
he see? 'See Kanaka 'peak in a big outch!' he cried, with a strong
ring of sarcasm. Yet he endured the subversive spectacle, and
might even have continued to endure it, had not a fresh point
arisen. He looked again, to employ his own figure; and the Kanaka
was no longer speaking, he was doing worse--he was building a
copra-house. The king was touched in his chief interests; revenue
and prerogative were threatened. He considered besides (and some
think with him) that trade is incompatible with the missionary
claims. 'Tuppoti mitonary think "good man": very good. Tuppoti
he think "cobra": no good. I send him away ship.' Such was his
abrupt history of the evangelist in Apemama.

Similar deportations are common: 'I send him away ship' is the
epitaph of not a few, his majesty paying the exile's fare to the
next place of call. For instance, being passionately fond of
European food, he has several times added to his household a white
cook, and one after another these have been deported. They, on
their side, swear they were not paid their wages; he, on his, that
they robbed and swindled him beyond endurance: both perhaps
justly. A more important case was that of an agent, despatched (as
I heard the story) by a firm of merchants to worm his way into the
king's good graces, become, if possible, premier, and handle the
copra in the interest of his employers. He obtained authority to
land, practised his fascinations, was patiently listened to by
Tembinok', supposed himself on the highway to success; and behold!
when the next ship touched at Apemama, the would-be premier was
flung into a boat--had on board--his fare paid, and so good-bye.
But it is needless to multiply examples; the proof of the pudding
is in the eating. When we came to Apemama, of so many white men
who have scrambled for a place in that rich market, one remained--a
silent, sober, solitary, niggardly recluse, of whom the king
remarks, 'I think he good; he no 'peak.'

I was warned at the outset we might very well fail in our design:
yet never dreamed of what proved to be the fact, that we should be
left four-and-twenty hours in suspense and come within an ace of
ultimate rejection. Captain Reid had primed himself; no sooner was
the king on board, and the Hennetti question amicably settled, than
he proceeded to express my request and give an abstract of my
claims and virtues. The gammon about Queen Victoria's son might do
for Butaritari; it was out of the question here; and I now figured
as 'one of the Old Men of England,' a person of deep knowledge,
come expressly to visit Tembinok's dominion, and eager to report
upon it to the no less eager Queen Victoria. The king made no
shadow of an answer, and presently began upon a different subject.
We might have thought that he had not heard, or not understood;
only that we found ourselves the subject of a constant study. As
we sat at meals, he took us in series and fixed upon each, for near
a minute at a time, the same hard and thoughtful stare. As he thus
looked he seemed to forget himself, the subject and the company,
and to become absorbed in the process of his thought; the look was
wholly impersonal; I have seen the same in the eyes of portrait-
painters. The counts upon which whites have been deported are
mainly four: cheating Tembinok', meddling overmuch with copra,
which is the source of his wealth, and one of the sinews of his
power, 'PEAKING, and political intrigue. I felt guiltless upon
all; but how to show it? I would not have taken copra in a gift:
how to express that quality by my dinner-table bearing? The rest
of the party shared my innocence and my embarrassment. They shared
also in my mortification when after two whole meal-times and the
odd moments of an afternoon devoted to this reconnoitring,
Tembinok' took his leave in silence. Next morning, the same
undisguised study, the same silence, was resumed; and the second
day had come to its maturity before I was informed abruptly that I
had stood the ordeal. 'I look your eye. You good man. You no
lie,' said the king: a doubtful compliment to a writer of romance.
Later he explained he did not quite judge by the eye only, but the
mouth as well. 'Tuppoti I see man,' he explained. 'I no tavvy
good man, bad man. I look eye, look mouth. Then I tavvy. Look
EYE, look mouth,' he repeated. And indeed in our case the mouth
had the most to do with it, and it was by our talk that we gained
admission to the island; the king promising himself (and I believe
really amassing) a vast amount of useful knowledge ere we left.

The terms of our admission were as follows: We were to choose a
site, and the king should there build us a town. His people should
work for us, but the king only was to give them orders. One of his
cooks should come daily to help mine, and to learn of him. In case
our stores ran out, he would supply us, and be repaid on the return
of the Equator. On the other hand, he was to come to meals with us
when so inclined; when he stayed at home, a dish was to be sent him
from our table; and I solemnly engaged to give his subjects no
liquor or money (both of which they are forbidden to possess) and
no tobacco, which they were to receive only from the royal hand. I
think I remember to have protested against the stringency of this
last article; at least, it was relaxed, and when a man worked for
me I was allowed to give him a pipe of tobacco on the premises, but
none to take away.

The site of Equator City--we named our city for the schooner--was
soon chosen. The immediate shores of the lagoon are windy and
blinding; Tembinok' himself is glad to grope blue-spectacled on his
terrace; and we fled the neighbourhood of the red conjunctiva, the
suppurating eyeball, and the beggar who pursues and beseeches the
passing foreigner for eye wash. Behind the town the country is
diversified; here open, sandy, uneven, and dotted with dwarfish
palms; here cut up with taro trenches, deep and shallow, and,
according to the growth of the plants, presenting now the
appearance of a sandy tannery, now of an alleyed and green garden.
A path leads towards the sea, mounting abruptly to the main level
of the island--twenty or even thirty feet, although Findlay gives
five; and just hard by the top of the rise, where the coco-palms
begin to be well grown, we found a grove of pandanus, and a piece
of soil pleasantly covered with green underbush. A well was not
far off under a rustic well-house; nearer still, in a sandy cup of
the land, a pond where we might wash our clothes. The place was
out of the wind, out of the sun, and out of sight of the village.
It was shown to the king, and the town promised for the morrow.

The morrow came, Mr. Osbourne landed, found nothing done, and
carried his complaint to Tembinok'. He heard it, rose, called for
a Winchester, stepped without the royal palisade, and fired two
shots in the air. A shot in the air is the first Apemama warning;
it has the force of a proclamation in more loquacious countries;
and his majesty remarked agreeably that it would make his labourers
'mo' bright.' In less than thirty minutes, accordingly, the men
had mustered, the work was begun, and we were told that we might
bring our baggage when we pleased.

It was two in the afternoon ere the first boat was beached, and the
long procession of chests and crates and sacks began to straggle
through the sandy desert towards Equator Town. The grove of
pandanus was practically a thing of the past. Fire surrounded and
smoke rose in the green underbush. In a wide circuit the axes were
still crashing. Those very advantages for which the place was
chosen, it had been the king's first idea to abolish; and in the
midst of this devastation there stood already a good-sized maniap'
and a small closed house. A mat was spread near by for Tembinok';
here he sat superintending, in cardinal red, a pith helmet on his
head, a meerschaum pipe in his mouth, a wife stretched at his back
with custody of the matches and tobacco. Twenty or thirty feet in
front of him the bulk of the workers squatted on the ground; some
of the bush here survived and in this the commons sat nearly to
their shoulders, and presented only an arc of brown faces, black
heads, and attentive eyes fixed on his majesty. Long pauses
reigned, during which the subjects stared and the king smoked.
Then Tembinok' would raise his voice and speak shrilly and briefly.
There was never a response in words; but if the speech were
jesting, there came by way of answer discreet, obsequious laughter-
-such laughter as we hear in schoolrooms; and if it were practical,
the sudden uprising and departure of the squad. Twice they so
disappeared, and returned with further elements of the city: a
second house and a second maniap'. It was singular to spy, far off
through the coco stems, the silent oncoming of the maniap', at
first (it seemed) swimming spontaneously in the air--but on a
nearer view betraying under the eaves many score of moving naked
legs. In all the affair servile obedience was no less remarkable
than servile deliberation. The gang had here mustered by the note
of a deadly weapon; the man who looked on was the unquestioned
master of their lives; and except for civility, they bestirred
themselves like so many American hotel clerks. The spectator was
aware of an unobtrusive yet invincible inertia, at which the
skipper of a trading dandy might have torn his hair.

Yet the work was accomplished. By dusk, when his majesty withdrew,
the town was founded and complete, a new and ruder Amphion having
called it from nothing with three cracks of a rifle. And the next
morning the same conjurer obliged us with a further miracle: a
mystic rampart fencing us, so that the path which ran by our doors
became suddenly impassable, the inhabitants who had business across
the isle must fetch a wide circuit, and we sat in the midst in a
transparent privacy, seeing, seen, but unapproachable, like bees in
a glass hive. The outward and visible sign of this glamour was no
more than a few ragged coco-leaf garlands round the stems of the
outlying palms; but its significance reposed on the tremendous
sanction of the tapu and the guns of Tembinok'.

We made our first meal that night in the improvised city, where we
were to stay two months, and which--so soon as we had done with it-
-was to vanish in a day as it appeared, its elements returning
whence they came, the tapu raised, the traffic on the path resumed,
the sun and the moon peering in vain between the palm-trees for the
bygone work, the wind blowing over an empty site. Yet the place,
which is now only an episode in some memories, seemed to have been
built, and to be destined to endure, for years. It was a busy
hamlet. One of the maniap's we made our dining-room, one the
kitchen. The houses we reserved for sleeping. They were on the
admirable Apemama plan: out and away the best house in the South
Seas; standing some three feet above the ground on posts; the sides
of woven flaps, which can be raised to admit light and air, or
lowered to shut out the wind and the rain: airy, healthy, clean,
and watertight. We had a hen of a remarkable kind: almost unique
in my experience, being a hen that occasionally laid eggs. Not far
off, Mrs. Stevenson tended a garden of salad and shalots. The
salad was devoured by the hen--which was her bane. The shalots
were served out a leaf at a time, and welcomed and relished like
peaches. Toddy and green cocoa-nuts were brought us daily. We
once had a present of fish from the king, and once of a turtle.
Sometimes we shot so-called plover along on the shore, sometimes
wild chicken in the bush. The rest of our diet was from tins.

Our occupations were very various. While some of the party would
be away sketching, Mr. Osbourne and I hammered away at a novel. We
read Gibbon and Carlyle aloud; we blew on flageolets, we strummed
on guitars; we took photographs by the light of the sun, the moon,
and flash-powder; sometimes we played cards. Pot-hunting engaged a
part of our leisure. I have myself passed afternoons in the
exciting but innocuous pursuit of winged animals with a revolver;
and it was fortunate there were better shots of the party, and
fortunate the king could lend us a more suitable weapon, in the
form of an excellent fowling-piece, or our spare diet had been
sparer still.

Night was the time to see our city, after the moon was up, after
the lamps were lighted, and so long as the fire sparkled in the
cook-house. We suffered from a plague of flies and mosquitoes,
comparable to that of Egypt; our dinner-table (lent, like all our
furniture, by the king) must be enclosed in a tent of netting, our
citadel and refuge; and this became all luminous, and bulged and
beaconed under the eaves, like the globe of some monstrous lamp
under the margin of its shade. Our cabins, the sides being propped
at a variety of inclinations, spelled out strange, angular patterns
of brightness. In his roofed and open kitchen, Ah Fu was to be
seen by lamp and firelight, dabbling among pots. Over all, there
fell in the season an extraordinary splendour of mellow moonshine.
The sand sparkled as with the dust of diamonds; the stars had
vanished. At intervals, a dusky night-bird, slow and low flying,
passed in the colonnade of the tree stems and uttered a hoarse
croaking cry.


The palace, or rather the ground which it includes, is several
acres in extent. A terrace encloses it toward the lagoon; on the
side of the land, a palisade with several gates. These are scarce
intended for defence; a man, if he were strong, might easily pluck
down the palisade; he need not be specially active to leap from the
beach upon the terrace. There is no parade of guards, soldiers, or
weapons; the armoury is under lock and key; and the only sentinels
are certain inconspicuous old women lurking day and night before
the gates. By day, these crones were often engaged in boiling
syrup or the like household occupation; by night, they lay ambushed
in the shadow or crouched along the palisade, filling the office of
eunuchs to this harem, sole guards upon a tyrant life.

Female wardens made a fit outpost for this palace of many women.
Of the number of the king's wives I have no guess; and but a loose
idea of their function. He himself displayed embarrassment when
they were referred to as his wives, called them himself 'my
pamily,' and explained they were his 'cutcheons'--cousins. We
distinguished four of the crowd: the king's mother; his sister, a
grave, trenchant woman, with much of her brother's intelligence;
the queen proper, to whom (and to whom alone) my wife was formally
presented; and the favourite of the hour, a pretty, graceful girl,
who sat with the king daily, and once (when he shed tears) consoled
him with caresses. I am assured that even with her his relations
are platonic. In the background figured a multitude of ladies, the
lean, the plump, and the elephantine, some in sacque frocks, some
in the hairbreadth ridi; high-born and low, slave and mistress;
from the queen to the scullion, from the favourite to the scraggy
sentries at the palisade. Not all of these of course are of 'my
pamily,'--many are mere attendants; yet a surprising number shared
the responsibility of the king's trust. These were key-bearers,
treasurers, wardens of the armoury, the napery, and the stores.
Each knew and did her part to admiration. Should anything be
required--a particular gun, perhaps, or a particular bolt of
stuff,--the right queen was summoned; she came bringing the right
chest, opened it in the king's presence, and displayed her charge
in perfect preservation--the gun cleaned and oiled, the goods duly
folded. Without delay or haste, and with the minimum of speech,
the whole great establishment turned on wheels like a machine.
Nowhere have I seen order more complete and pervasive. And yet I
was always reminded of Norse tales of trolls and ogres who kept
their hearts buried in the ground for the mere safety, and must
confide the secret to their wives. For these weapons are the life
of Tembinok'. He does not aim at popularity; but drives and braves
his subjects, with a simplicity of domination which it is
impossible not to admire, hard not to sympathise with. Should one
out of so many prove faithless, should the armoury be secretly
unlocked, should the crones have dozed by the palisade and the
weapons find their way unseen into the village, revolution would be
nearly certain, death the most probable result, and the spirit of
the tyrant of Apemama flit to rejoin his predecessors of Mariki and
Tapituea. Yet those whom he so trusts are all women, and all

There is indeed a ministry and staff of males: cook, steward,
carpenter, and supercargoes: the hierarchy of a schooner. The
spies, 'his majesty's daily papers,' as we called them, come every
morning to report, and go again. The cook and steward are
concerned with the table only. The supercargoes, whose business it
is to keep tally of the copra at three pounds a month and a
percentage, are rarely in the palace; and two at least are in the
other islands. The carpenter, indeed, shrewd and jolly old Rubam--
query, Reuben?--promoted on my last visit to the greater dignity of
governor, is daily present, altering, extending, embellishing,
pursuing the endless series of the king's inventions; and his
majesty will sometimes pass an afternoon watching and talking with
Rubam at his work. But the males are still outsiders; none seems
to be armed, none is entrusted with a key; by dusk they are all
usually departed from the palace; and the weight of the monarchy
and of the monarch's life reposes unshared on the women.

Here is a household unlike, indeed, to one of ours; more unlike
still to the Oriental harem: that of an elderly childless man, his
days menaced, dwelling alone amid a bevy of women of all ages,
ranks, and relationships,--the mother, the sister, the cousin, the
legitimate wife, the concubine, the favourite, the eldest born, and
she of yesterday; he, in their midst, the only master, the only
male, the sole dispenser of honours, clothes, and luxuries, the
sole mark of multitudinous ambitions and desires. I doubt if you
could find a man in Europe so bold as to attempt this piece of tact
and government. And seemingly Tembinok' himself had trouble in the
beginning. I hear of him shooting at a wife for some levity on
board a schooner. Another, on some more serious offence, he slew
outright; he exposed her body in an open box, and (to make the
warning more memorable) suffered it to putrefy before the palace
gate. Doubtless his growing years have come to his assistance; for
upon so large a scale it is more easy to play the father than the
husband. And to-day, at least to the eye of a stranger, all seems
to go smoothly, and the wives to be proud of their trust, proud of
their rank, and proud of their cunning lord.

I conceived they made rather a hero of the man. A popular master
in a girls' school might, perhaps, offer a figure of his
preponderating station. But then the master does not eat, sleep,
live, and wash his dirty linen in the midst of his admirers; he
escapes, he has a room of his own, he leads a private life; if he
had nothing else, he has the holidays, and the more unhappy
Tembinok' is always on the stage and on the stretch.

In all my coming and going, I never heard him speak harshly or
express the least displeasure. An extreme, rather heavy,
benignity--the benignity of one sure to be obeyed--marked his
demeanour; so that I was at times reminded of Samual Richardson in
his circle of admiring women. The wives spoke up and seemed to
volunteer opinions, like our wives at home--or, say, like doting
but respectable aunts. Altogether, I conclude that he rules his
seraglio much more by art than terror; and those who give a
different account (and who have none of them enjoyed my
opportunities of observation) perhaps failed to distinguish between
degrees of rank, between 'my pamily' and the hangers-on,
laundresses, and prostitutes.

A notable feature is the evening game of cards when lamps are set
forth upon the terrace, and 'I and my pamily' play for tobacco by
the hour. It is highly characteristic of Tembinok' that he must
invent a game for himself; highly characteristic of his worshipping
household that they should swear by the absurd invention. It is
founded on poker, played with the honours out of many packs, and
inconceivably dreary. But I have a passion for all games, studied
it, and am supposed to be the only white who ever fairly grasped
its principle: a fact for which the wives (with whom I was not
otherwise popular) admired me with acclamation. It was impossible
to be deceived; this was a genuine feeling: they were proud of
their private game, had been cut to the quick by the want of
interest shown in it by others, and expanded under the flattery of
my attention. Tembinok' puts up a double stake, and receives in
return two hands to choose from: a shallow artifice which the
wives (in all these years) have not yet fathomed. He himself, when
talking with me privately, made not the least secret that he was
secure of winning; and it was thus he explained his recent
liberality on board the Equator. He let the wives buy their own
tobacco, which pleased them at the moment. He won it back at
cards, which made him once more, and without fresh expense, that
which he ought to be,--the sole fount of all indulgences. And he
summed the matter up in that phrase with which he almost always
concludes any account of his policy: 'Mo' betta.'

The palace compound is laid with broken coral, excruciating to the
eyes and the bare feet, but exquisitely raked and weeded. A score
or more of buildings lie in a sort of street along the palisade and
scattered on the margin of the terrace; dwelling-houses for the
wives and the attendants, storehouses for the king's curios and
treasures, spacious maniap's for feast or council, some on pillars
of wood, some on piers of masonry. One was still in hand, a new
invention, the king's latest born: a European frame-house built
for coolness inside a lofty maniap': its roof planked like a
ship's deck to be a raised, shady, and yet private promenade. It
was here the king spent hours with Rubam; here I would sometimes
join them; the place had a most singular appearance; and I must say
I was greatly taken with the fancy, and joined with relish in the
counsels of the architects.

Suppose we had business with his majesty by day: we strolled over
the sand and by the dwarfish palms, exchanged a 'Konamaori' with
the crone on duty, and entered the compound. The wide sheet of
coral glared before us deserted; all having stowed themselves in
dark canvas from the excess of room. I have gone to and fro in
that labyrinth of a place, seeking the king; and the only breathing
creature I could find was when I peered under the eaves of a
maniap', and saw the brawny body of one of the wives stretched on
the floor, a naked Amazon plunged in noiseless slumber. If it were
still the hour of the 'morning papers' the quest would be more
easy, the half-dozen obsequious, sly dogs squatting on the ground
outside a house, crammed as far as possible in its narrow shadow,
and turning to the king a row of leering faces. Tembinok' would be
within, the flaps of the cabin raised, the trade blowing through,
hearing their report. Like journalists nearer home, when the day's
news were scanty, these would make the more of it in words; and I
have known one to fill up a barren morning with an imaginary
conversation of two dogs. Sometimes the king deigns to laugh,
sometimes to question or jest with them, his voice sounding shrilly
from the cabin. By his side he may have the heir-apparent, Paul,
his nephew and adopted son, six years old, stark naked, and a model
of young human beauty. And there will always be the favourite and
perhaps two other wives awake; four more lying supine under mats
and whelmed in slumber. Or perhaps we came later, fell on a more
private hour, and found Tembinok' retired in the house with the
favourite, an earthenware spittoon, a leaden inkpot, and a
commercial ledger. In the last, lying on his belly, he writes from
day to day the uneventful history of his reign; and when thus
employed he betrayed a touch of fretfulness on interruption with
which I was well able to sympathise. The royal annalist once read
me a page or so, translating as he went; but the passage being
genealogical, and the author boggling extremely in his version, I
own I have been sometimes better entertained. Nor does he confine
himself to prose, but touches the lyre, too, in his leisure
moments, and passes for the chief bard of his kingdom, as he is its
sole public character, leading architect, and only merchant.

His competence, however, does not reach to music; and his verses,
when they are ready, are taught to a professional musician, who
sets them and instructs the chorus. Asked what his songs were
about, Tembinok' replied, 'Sweethearts and trees and the sea. Not
all the same true, all the same lie.' For a condensed view of
lyrical poetry (except that he seems to have forgot the stars and
flowers) this would be hard to mend. These multifarious
occupations bespeak (in a native and an absolute prince) unusual
activity of mind.

The palace court at noon is a spot to be remembered with awe, the
visitor scrambling there, on the loose stones, through a splendid
nightmare of light and heat; but the sweep of the wind delivers it
from flies and mosquitoes; and with the set of sun it became
heavenly. I remember it best on moonless nights. The air was like
a bath of milk. Countless shining stars were overhead, the lagoon
paved with them. Herds of wives squatted by companies on the
gravel, softly chatting. Tembinok' would doff his jacket, and sit
bare and silent, perhaps meditating songs; the favourite usually by
him, silent also. Meanwhile in the midst of the court, the palace
lanterns were being lit and marshalled in rank upon the ground--six
or eight square yards of them; a sight that gave one strange ideas
of the number of 'my pamily': such a sight as may be seen about
dusk in a corner of some great terminus at home. Presently these
fared off into all corners of the precinct, lighting the last
labours of the day, lighting one after another to their rest that
prodigious company of women. A few lingered in the middle of the
court for the card-party, and saw the honours shuffled and dealt,
and Tembinok' deliberating between his two; hands, and the queens
losing their tobacco. Then these also were scattered and
extinguished; and their place was taken by a great bonfire, the
night-light of the palace. When this was no more, smaller fires
burned likewise at the gates. These were tended by the crones,
unseen, unsleeping--not always unheard. Should any approach in the
dark hours, a guarded alert made the circuit of the palisade; each
sentry signalled her neighbour with a stone; the rattle of falling
pebbles passed and died away; and the wardens of Tembinok' crouched
in their places silent as before.


Five persons were detailed to wait upon us. Uncle Parker, who
brought us toddy and green nuts, was an elderly, almost an old man,
with the spirits, the industry, and the morals of a boy of ten.
His face was ancient, droll, and diabolical, the skin stretched
over taut sinews, like a sail on the guide-rope; and he smiled with
every muscle of his head. His nuts must be counted every day, or
he would deceive us in the tale; they must be daily examined, or
some would prove to be unhusked; nothing but the king's name, and
scarcely that, would hold him to his duty. After his toils were
over he was given a pipe, matches, and tobacco, and sat on the
floor in the maniap' to smoke. He would not seem to move from his
position, and yet every day, when the things fell to be returned
the plug had disappeared; he had found the means to conceal it in
the roof, whence he could radiantly produce it on the morrow.
Although this piece of legerdemain was performed regularly before
three or four pairs of eyes, we could never catch him in the fact;
although we searched after he was gone, we could never find the
tobacco. Such were the diversions of Uncle Parker, a man nearing
sixty. But he was punished according unto his deeds: Mrs.
Stevenson took a fancy to paint him, and the sufferings of the
sitter were beyond description.

Three lasses came from the palace to do our washing and racket with
Ah Fu. They were of the lowest class, hangers-on kept for the
convenience of merchant skippers, probably low-born, perhaps out-
islanders, with little refinement whether of manner or appearance,
but likely and jolly enough wenches in their way. We called one
Guttersnipe, for you may find her image in the slums of any city;
the same lean, dark-eyed, eager, vulgar face, the same sudden,
hoarse guffaws, the same forward and yet anxious manner, as with a
tail of an eye on the policeman: only the policeman here was a
live king, and his truncheon a rifle. I doubt if you could find
anywhere out of the islands, or often there, the parallel of Fatty,
a mountain of a girl, who must have weighed near as many stones as
she counted summers, could have given a good account of a life-
guardsman, had the face of a baby, and applied her vast mechanical
forces almost exclusively to play. But they were all three of the
same merry spirit. Our washing was conducted in a game of romps;
and they fled and pursued, and splashed, and pelted, and rolled
each other in the sand, and kept up a continuous noise of cries and
laughter like holiday children. Indeed, and however strange their
own function in that austere establishment, were they not escaped
for the day from the largest and strictest Ladies' School in the
South Seas?

Our fifth attendant was no less a person than the royal cook. He
was strikingly handsome both in face and body, lazy as a slave, and
insolent as a butcher's boy. He slept and smoked on our premises
in various graceful attitudes; but so far from helping Ah Fu, he
was not at the pains to watch him. It may be said of him that he
came to learn, and remained to teach; and his lessons were at times
difficult to stomach. For example, he was sent to fill a bucket
from the well. About half-way he found my wife watering her
onions, changed buckets with her, and leaving her the empty,
returned to the kitchen with the full. On another occasion he was
given a dish of dumplings for the king, was told they must be eaten
hot, and that he should carry them as fast as possible. The wretch
set off at the rate of about a mile in the hour, head in air, toes
turned out. My patience, after a month of trial, failed me at the
sight. I pursued, caught him by his two big shoulders, and
thrusting him before me, ran with him down the hill, over the
sands, and through the applauding village, to the Speak House,
where the king was then holding a pow-wow. He had the impudence to
pretend he was internally injured by my violence, and to profess
serious apprehensions for his life.

All this we endured; for the ways of Tembinok' are summary, and I
was not yet ripe to take a hand in the man's death. But in the
meanwhile, here was my unfortunate China boy slaving for the pair,
and presently he fell sick. I was now in the position of Cimondain
Lantenac, and indeed all the characters in Quatre-Vingt-Treize: to
continue to spare the guilty, I must sacrifice the innocent. I
took the usual course and tried to save both, with the usual
consequence of failure. Well rehearsed, I went down to the palace,
found the king alone, and obliged him with a vast amount of
rigmarole. The cook was too old to learn: I feared he was not
making progress; how if we had a boy instead?--boys were more
teachable. It was all in vain; the king pierced through my
disguises to the root of the fact; saw that the cook had
desperately misbehaved; and sat a while glooming. 'I think he
tavvy too much,' he said at last, with grim concision; and
immediately turned the talk to other subjects. The same day
another high officer, the steward, appeared in the cook's place,
and, I am bound to say, proved civil and industrious.

As soon as I left, it seems the king called for a Winchester and
strolled outside the palisade, awaiting the defaulter. That day
Tembinok' wore the woman's frock; as like as not, his make-up was
completed by a pith helmet and blue spectacles. Conceive the
glaring stretch of sandhills, the dwarf palms with their noon-day
shadows, the line of the palisade, the crone sentries (each by a
small clear fire) cooking syrup on their posts--and this chimaera
waiting with his deadly engine. To him, enter at last the cook,
strolling down the sandhill from Equator Town, listless, vain and
graceful; with no thought of alarm. As soon as he was well within
range, the travestied monarch fired the six shots over his head, at
his feet, and on either hand of him: the second Apemama warning,
startling in itself, fatal in significance, for the next time his
majesty will aim to hit. I am told the king is a crack shot; that
when he aims to kill, the grave may be got ready; and when he aims
to miss, misses by so near a margin that the culprit tastes six
times the bitterness of death. The effect upon the cook I had an
opportunity of seeing for myself. My wife and I were returning
from the sea-side of the island, when we spied one coming to meet
us at a very quick, disordered pace, between a walk and a run. As
we drew nearer we saw it was the cook, beside himself with some
emotion, his usual warm, mulatto colour declined into a bluish
pallor. He passed us without word or gesture, staring on us with
the face of a Satan, and plunged on across the wood for the
unpeopled quarter of the island and the long, desert beach, where
he might rage to and fro unseen, and froth out the vials of his
wrath, fear, and humiliation. Doubtless in the curses that he
there uttered to the bursting surf and the tropic birds, the name
of the Kaupoi--the rich man--was frequently repeated. I had made
him the laughing-stock of the village in the affair of the king's
dumplings; I had brought him by my machinations into disgrace and
the immediate jeopardy of his days; last, and perhaps bitterest, he
had found me there by the way to spy upon him in the hour of his

Time passed, and we saw no more of him. The season of the full
moon came round, when a man thinks shame to lie sleeping; and I
continued until late--perhaps till twelve or one in the morning--to
walk on the bright sand and in the tossing shadow of the palms. I
played, as I wandered, on a flageolet, which occupied much of my
attention; the fans overhead rattled in the wind with a metallic
chatter; and a bare foot falls at any rate almost noiseless on that
shifting soil. Yet when I got back to Equator Town, where all the
lights were out, and my wife (who was still awake, and had been
looking forth) asked me who it was that followed me, I thought she
spoke in jest. 'Not at all,' she said. 'I saw him twice as you
passed, walking close at your heels. He only left you at the
corner of the maniap'; he must be still behind the cook-house.'
Thither I ran--like a fool, without any weapon--and came face to
face with the cook. He was within my tapu-line, which was death in
itself; he could have no business there at such an hour but either
to steal or to kill; guilt made him timorous; and he turned and
fled before me in the night in silence. As he went I kicked him in
that place where honour lies, and he gave tongue faintly like an
injured mouse. At the moment I daresay he supposed it was a deadly
instrument that touched him.

What had the man been after? I have found my music better
qualified to scatter than to collect an audience. Amateur as I
was, I could not suppose him interested in my reading of the
Carnival of Venice, or that he would deny himself his natural rest
to follow my variations on The Ploughboy. And whatever his design,
it was impossible I should suffer him to prowl by night among the
houses. A word to the king, and the man were not, his case being
far beyond pardon. But it is one thing to kill a man yourself;
quite another to bear tales behind his back and have him shot by a
third party; and I determined to deal with the fellow in some
method of my own. I told Ah Fu the story, and bade him fetch me
the cook whenever he should find him. I had supposed this would be
a matter of difficulty; and far from that, he came of his own
accord: an act really of desperation, since his life hung by my
silence, and the best he could hope was to be forgotten. Yet he
came with an assured countenance, volunteered no apology or
explanation, complained of injuries received, and pretended he was
unable to sit down. I suppose I am the weakest man God made; I had
kicked him in the least vulnerable part of his big carcase; my foot
was bare, and I had not even hurt my foot. Ah Fu could not control
his merriment. On my side, knowing what must be the nature of his
apprehensions, I found in so much impudence a kind of gallantry,
and secretly admired the man. I told him I should say nothing of
his night's adventure to the king; that I should still allow him,
when he had an errand, to come within my tapu-line by day; but if
ever I found him there after the set of the sun I would shoot him
on the spot; and to the proof showed him a revolver. He must have
been incredibly relieved; but he showed no sign of it, took himself
off with his usual dandy nonchalance, and was scarce seen by us

These five, then, with the substitution of the steward for the
cook, came and went, and were our only visitors. The circle of the
tapu held at arm's-length the inhabitants of the village. As for
'my pamily,' they dwelt like nuns in their enclosure; only once
have I met one of them abroad, and she was the king's sister, and
the place in which I found her (the island infirmary) was very
likely privileged. There remains only the king to be accounted
for. He would come strolling over, always alone, a little before a
meal-time, take a chair, and talk and eat with us like an old
family friend. Gilbertine etiquette appears defective on the point
of leave-taking. It may be remembered we had trouble in the matter
with Karaiti; and there was something childish and disconcerting in
Tembinok's abrupt 'I want go home now,' accompanied by a kind of
ducking rise, and followed by an unadorned retreat. It was the
only blot upon his manners, which were otherwise plain, decent,
sensible, and dignified. He never stayed long nor drank much, and
copied our behaviour where he perceived it to differ from his own.
Very early in the day, for instance, he ceased eating with his
knife. It was plain he was determined in all things to wring
profit from our visit, and chiefly upon etiquette. The quality of
his white visitors puzzled and concerned him; he would bring up
name after name, and ask if its bearer were a 'big chiep,' or even
a 'chiep' at all--which, as some were my excellent good friends,
and none were actually born in the purple, became at times
embarrassing. He was struck to learn that our classes were
distinguishable by their speech, and that certain words (for
instance) were tapu on the quarter-deck of a man-of-war; and he
begged in consequence that we should watch and correct him on the
point. We were able to assure him that he was beyond correction.
His vocabulary is apt and ample to an extraordinary degree. God
knows where he collected it, but by some instinct or some accident
he has avoided all profane or gross expressions. 'Obliged,'
'stabbed,' 'gnaw,' 'lodge,' 'power,' 'company,' 'slender,'
'smooth,' and 'wonderful,' are a few of the unexpected words that
enrich his dialect. Perhaps what pleased him most was to hear
about saluting the quarter-deck of a man-of-war. In his gratitude
for this hint he became fulsome. 'Schooner cap'n no tell me,' he
cried; 'I think no tavvy! You tavvy too much; tavvy 'teama', tavvy
man-a-wa'. I think you tavvy everything.' Yet he gravelled me
often enough with his perpetual questions; and the false Mr. Barlow
stood frequently exposed before the royal Sandford. I remember
once in particular. We were showing the magic-lantern; a slide of
Windsor Castle was put in, and I told him there was the 'outch' of
Victoreea. 'How many pathom he high?' he asked, and I was dumb
before him. It was the builder, the indefatigable architect of
palaces, that spoke; collector though he was, he did not collect
useless information; and all his questions had a purpose. After
etiquette, government, law, the police, money, and medicine were
his chief interests--things vitally important to himself as a king
and the father of his people. It was my part not only to supply
new information, but to correct the old. 'My patha he tell me,' or
'White man he tell me,' would be his constant beginning; 'You think
he lie?' Sometimes I thought he did. Tembinok' once brought me a
difficulty of this kind, which I was long of comprehending. A
schooner captain had told him of Captain Cook; the king was much
interested in the story; and turned for more information--not to
Mr. Stephen's Dictionary, not to the Britannica, but to the Bible
in the Gilbert Island version (which consists chiefly of the New
Testament and the Psalms). Here he sought long and earnestly; Paul
he found, and Festus and Alexander the coppersmith: no word of
Cook. The inference was obvious: the explorer was a myth. So
hard it is, even for a man of great natural parts like Tembinok',
to grasp the ideas of a new society and culture.


We saw but little of the commons of the isle. At first we met them
at the well, where they washed their linen and we drew water for
the table. The combination was distasteful; and, having a tyrant
at command, we applied to the king and had the place enclosed in
our tapu. It was one of the few favours which Tembinok' visibly
boggled about granting, and it may be conceived how little popular
it made the strangers. Many villagers passed us daily going
afield; but they fetched a wide circuit round our tapu, and seemed
to avert their looks. At times we went ourselves into the village-
-a strange place. Dutch by its canals, Oriental by the height and
steepness of the roofs, which looked at dusk like temples; but we
were rarely called into a house: no welcome, no friendship, was
offered us; and of home life we had but the one view: the waking
of a corpse, a frigid, painful scene: the widow holding on her lap
the cold, bluish body of her husband, and now partaking of the
refreshments which made the round of the company, now weeping and
kissing the pale mouth. ('I fear you feel this affliction deeply,'
said the Scottish minister. 'Eh, sir, and that I do!' replied the
widow. 'I've been greetin' a' nicht; an' noo I'm just gaun to sup
this bit parritch, and then I'll begin an' greet again.') In our
walks abroad I have always supposed the islanders avoided us,
perhaps from distaste, perhaps by order; and those whom we met we
took generally by surprise. The surface of the isle is diversified
with palm groves, thickets, and romantic dingles four feet deep,
relics of old taro plantation; and it is thus possible to stumble
unawares on folk resting or hiding from their work. About pistol-
shot from our township there lay a pond in the bottom of a jungle;
here the maids of the isle came to bathe, and were several times
alarmed by our intrusion. Not for them are the bright cold rivers
of Tahiti or Upolu, not for them to splash and laugh in the hour of
the dusk with a villageful of gay companions; but to steal here
solitary, to crouch in a place like a cow-wallow, and wash (if that
can be called washing) in lukewarm mud, brown as their own skins.
Other, but still rare, encounters occur to my memory. I was
several times arrested by a tender sound in the bush of voices
talking, soft as flutes and with quiet intonations. Hope told a
flattering tale; I put aside the leaves; and behold! in place of
the expected dryads, a pair of all too solid ladies squatting over
a clay pipe in the ungraceful ridi. The beauty of the voice and
the eye was all that remained to those vast dames; but that of the
voice was indeed exquisite. It is strange I should have never
heard a more winning sound of speech, yet the dialect should be one
remarkable for violent, ugly, and outlandish vocables; so that
Tembinok' himself declared it made him weary, and professed to find
repose in talking English.

The state of this folk, of whom I saw so little, I can merely guess
at. The king himself explains the situation with some art. 'No; I
no pay them,' he once said. 'I give them tobacco. They work for
me ALL THE SAME BROTHERS.' It is true there was a brother once in
Arden! But we prefer the shorter word. They bear every servile
mark,--levity like a child's, incurable idleness, incurious
content. The insolence of the cook was a trait of his own; not so
his levity, which he shared with the innocent Uncle Parker. With
equal unconcern both gambolled under the shadow of the gallows, and
took liberties with death that might have surprised a careless
student of man's nature. I wrote of Parker that he behaved like a
boy of ten: what was he else, being a slave of sixty? He had
passed all his years in school, fed, clad, thought for, commanded;
and had grown familiar and coquetted with the fear of punishment.
By terror you may drive men long, but not far. Here, in Apemama,
they work at the constant and the instant peril of their lives; and
are plunged in a kind of lethargy of laziness. It is common to see
one go afield in his stiff mat ungirt, so that he walks elbows-in
like a trussed fowl; and whatsoever his right hand findeth to do,
the other must be off duty holding on his clothes. It is common to
see two men carrying between them on a pole a single bucket of
water. To make two bites of a cherry is good enough: to make two
burthens of a soldier's kit, for a distance of perhaps half a
furlong, passes measure. Woman, being the less childish animal, is
less relaxed by servile conditions. Even in the king's absence,
even when they were alone, I have seen Apemama women work with
constancy. But the outside to be hoped for in a man is that he may
attack his task in little languid fits, and lounge between-whiles.
So I have seen a painter, with his pipe going, and a friend by the
studio fireside. You might suppose the race to lack civility, even
vitality, until you saw them in the dance. Night after night, and
sometimes day after day, they rolled out their choruses in the
great Speak House--solemn andantes and adagios, led by the clapped
hand, and delivered with an energy that shook the roof. The time
was not so slow, though it was slow for the islands; but I have
chosen rather to indicate the effect upon the hearer. Their music
had a church-like character from near at hand, and seemed to
European ears more regular than the run of island music. Twice I
have heard a discord regularly solved. From farther off, heard at
Equator Town for instance, the measures rose and fell and
crepitated like the barking of hounds in a distant kennel.

The slaves are certainly not overworked--children of ten do more
without fatigue--and the Apemama labourers have holidays, when the
singing begins early in the afternoon. The diet is hard; copra and
a sweetmeat of pounded pandanus are the only dishes I observed
outside the palace; but there seems no defect in quantity, and the
king shares with them his turtles. Three came in a boat from Kuria
during our stay; one was kept for the palace, one sent to us, one
presented to the village. It is the habit of the islanders to cook
the turtle in its carapace; we had been promised the shells, and we
asked a tapu on this foolish practice. The face of Tembinok'
darkened and he answered nothing. Hesitation in the question of
the well I could understand, for water is scarce on a low island;
that he should refuse to interfere upon a point of cookery was more
than I had dreamed of; and I gathered (rightly or wrongly) that he
was scrupulous of touching in the least degree the private life and
habits of his slaves. So that even here, in full despotism, public
opinion has weight; even here, in the midst of slavery, freedom has
a corner.

Orderly, sober, and innocent, life flows in the isle from day to
day as in a model plantation under a model planter. It is
impossible to doubt the beneficence of that stern rule. A curious
politeness, a soft and gracious manner, something effeminate and
courtly, distinguishes the islanders of Apemama; it is talked of by
all the traders, it was felt even by residents so little beloved as
ourselves, and noticeable even in the cook, and even in that
scoundrel's hours of insolence. The king, with his manly and plain
bearing, stood out alone; you might say he was the only Gilbert
Islander in Apemama. Violence, so common in Butaritari, seems
unknown. So are theft and drunkenness. I am assured the
experiment has been made of leaving sovereigns on the beach before
the village; they lay there untouched. In all our time on the
island I was but once asked for drink. This was by a mighty
plausible fellow, wearing European clothes and speaking excellent
English--Tamaiti his name, or, as the whites have now corrupted it,
'Tom White': one of the king's supercargoes at three pounds a
month and a percentage, a medical man besides, and in his private
hours a wizard. He found me one day in the outskirts of the
village, in a secluded place, hot and private, where the taro-pits
are deep and the plants high. Here he buttonholed me, and, looking
about him like a conspirator, inquired if I had gin.

I told him I had. He remarked that gin was forbidden, lauded the
prohibition a while, and then went on to explain that he was a
doctor, or 'dogstar' as he pronounced the word, that gin was
necessary to him for his medical infusions, that he was quite out
of it, and that he would be obliged to me for some in a bottle. I
told him I had passed the king my word on landing; but since his
case was so exceptional, I would go down to the palace at once, and
had no doubt that Tembinok' would set me free. Tom White was
immediately overwhelmed with embarrassment and terror, besought me
in the most moving terms not to betray him, and fled my
neighbourhood. He had none of the cook's valour; it was weeks
before he dared to meet my eye; and then only by the order of the
king and on particular business.

The more I viewed and admired this triumph of firm rule, the more I
was haunted and troubled by a problem, the problem (perhaps) of to-
morrow for ourselves. Here was a people protected from all serious
misfortune, relieved of all serious anxieties, and deprived of what
we call our liberty. Did they like it? and what was their
sentiment toward the ruler? The first question I could not of
course ask, nor perhaps the natives answer. Even the second was
delicate; yet at last, and under charming and strange
circumstances, I found my opportunity to put it and a man to reply.
It was near the full of the moon, with a delicious breeze; the isle
was bright as day--to sleep would have been sacrilege; and I walked
in the bush, playing my pipe. It must have been the sound of what
I am pleased to call my music that attracted in my direction
another wanderer of the night. This was a young man attired in a
fine mat, and with a garland on his hair, for he was new come from
dancing and singing in the public hall; and his body, his face, and
his eyes were all of an enchanting beauty. Every here and there in
the Gilberts youths are to be found of this absurd perfection; I
have seen five of us pass half an hour in admiration of a boy at
Mariki; and Te Kop (my friend in the fine mat and garland) I had
already several times remarked, and long ago set down as the
loveliest animal in Apemama. The philtre of admiration must be
very strong, or these natives specially susceptible to its effects,
for I have scarce ever admired a person in the islands but what he
has sought my particular acquaintance. So it was with Te Kop. He
led me to the ocean side; and for an hour or two we sat smoking and
talking on the resplendent sand and under the ineffable brightness
of the moon. My friend showed himself very sensible of the beauty
and amenity of the hour. 'Good night! Good wind!' he kept
exclaiming, and as he said the words he seemed to hug myself. I
had long before invented such reiterated expressions of delight for
a character (Felipe, in the story of Olalla) intended to be partly
bestial. But there was nothing bestial in Te Kop; only a childish
pleasure in the moment. He was no less pleased with his companion,
or was good enough to say so; honoured me, before he left, by
calling me Te Kop; apostrophised me as 'My name!' with an
intonation exquisitely tender, laying his hand at the same time
swiftly on my knee; and after we had risen, and our paths began to
separate in the bush, twice cried to me with a sort of gentle
ecstasy, 'I like you too much!' From the beginning he had made no
secret of his terror of the king; would not sit down nor speak
above a whisper till he had put the whole breadth of the isle
between himself and his monarch, then harmlessly asleep; and even
there, even within a stone-cast of the outer sea, our talk covered
by the sound of the surf and the rattle of the wind among the
palms, continued to speak guardedly, softening his silver voice
(which rang loud enough in the chorus) and looking about him like a
man in fear of spies. The strange thing is that I should have
beheld him no more. In any other island in the whole South Seas,
if I had advanced half as far with any native, he would have been
at my door next morning, bringing and expecting gifts. But Te Kop
vanished in the bush for ever. My house, of course, was
unapproachable; but he knew where to find me on the ocean beach,
where I went daily. I was the Kaupoi, the rich man; my tobacco and
trade were known to be endless: he was sure of a present. I am at
a loss how to explain his behaviour, unless it be supposed that he
recalled with terror and regret a passage in our interview. Here
it is:

'The king, he good man?' I asked.

'Suppose he like you, he good man,' replied Te Kop: 'no like, no

That is one way of putting it, of course. Te Kop himself was
probably no favourite, for he scarce appealed to my judgment as a
type of industry. And there must be many others whom the king (to
adhere to the formula) does not like. Do these unfortunates like
the king? Or is not rather the repulsion mutual? and the
conscientious Tembinok', like the conscientious Braxfield before
him, and many other conscientious rulers and judges before either,
surrounded by a considerable body of 'grumbletonians'? Take the
cook, for instance, when he passed us by, blue with rage and
terror. He was very wroth with me; I think by all the old
principles of human nature he was not very well pleased with his
sovereign. It was the rich man he sought to waylay: I think it
must have been by the turn of a hair that it was not the king he
waylaid instead. And the king gives, or seems to give, plenty of
opportunities; day and night he goes abroad alone, whether armed or
not I can but guess; and the taro-patches, where his business must
so often carry him, seem designed for assassination. The case of
the cook was heavy indeed to my conscience. I did not like to kill
my enemy at second-hand; but had I a right to conceal from the
king, who had trusted me, the dangerous secret character of his
attendant? And suppose the king should fall, what would be the
fate of the king's friends? It was our opinion at the time that we
should pay dear for the closing of the well; that our breath was in
the king's nostrils; that if the king should by any chance be
bludgeoned in a taro-patch, the philosophical and musical
inhabitants of Equator Town might lay aside their pleasant
instruments, and betake themselves to what defence they had, with a
very dim prospect of success. These speculations were forced upon
us by an incident which I am ashamed to betray. The schooner H. L.
Haseltine (since capsized at sea, with the loss of eleven lives)
put into Apemama in a good hour for us, who had near exhausted our
supplies. The king, after his habit, spent day after day on board;
the gin proved unhappily to his taste; he brought a store of it
ashore with him; and for some time the sole tyrant of the isle was
half-seas-over. He was not drunk--the man is not a drunkard, he
has always stores of liquor at hand, which he uses with
moderation,--but he was muzzy, dull, and confused. He came one day
to lunch with us, and while the cloth was being laid fell asleep in
his chair. His confusion, when he awoke and found he had been
detected, was equalled by our uneasiness. When he was gone we sat
and spoke of his peril, which we thought to be in some degree our
own; of how easily the man might be surprised in such a state by
grumbletonians; of the strange scenes that would follow--the royal
treasures and stores at the mercy of the rabble, the palace
overrun, the garrison of women turned adrift. And as we talked we
were startled by a gun-shot and a sudden, barbaric outcry. I
believe we all changed colour; but it was only the king firing at a
dog and the chorus striking up in the Speak House. A day or two
later I learned the king was very sick; went down, diagnosed the
case; and took at once the highest medical degree by the exhibition
of bicarbonate of soda. Within the hour Richard was himself again;
and I found him at the unfinished house, enjoying the double
pleasure of directing Rubam and making a dinner of cocoa-nut
dumplings, and all eagerness to have the formula of this new sort
of pain-killer--for pain-killer in the islands is the generic name
of medicine. So ended the king's modest spree and our anxiety.

On the face of things, I ought to say, loyalty appeared unshaken.
When the schooner at last returned for us, after much experience of
baffling winds, she brought a rumour that Tebureimoa had declared
war on Apemama. Tembinok' became a new man; his face radiant; his
attitude, as I saw him preside over a council of chiefs in one of
the palace maniap's, eager as a boy's; his voice sounding abroad,
shrill and jubilant, over half the compound. War is what he wants,
and here was his chance. The English captain, when he flung his
arms in the lagoon, had forbidden him (except in one case) all
military adventures in the future: here was the case arrived. All
morning the council sat; men were drilled, arms were bought, the
sound of firing disturbed the afternoon; the king devised and
communicated to me his plan of campaign, which was highly elaborate
and ingenious, but perhaps a trifle fine-spun for the rough and
random vicissitudes of war. And in all this bustle the temper of
the people appeared excellent, an unwonted animation in every face,
and even Uncle Parker burning with military zeal.

Of course it was a false alarm. Tebureimoa had other fish to fry.
The ambassador who accompanied us on our return to Butaritari found
him retired to a small island on the reef, in a huff with the Old
Men, a tiff with the traders, and more fear of insurrection at home
than appetite for wars abroad. The plenipotentiary had been placed
under my protection; and we solemnly saluted when we met. He
proved an excellent fisherman, and caught bonito over the ship's
side. He pulled a good oar, and made himself useful for a whole
fiery afternoon, towing the becalmed Equator off Mariki. He went
to his post and did no good. He returned home again, having done
no harm. O si sic omnes!


The ocean beach of Apemama was our daily resort. The coast is
broken by shallow bays. The reef is detached, elevated, and
includes a lagoon about knee-deep, the unrestful spending-basin of
the surf. The beach is now of fine sand, now of broken coral. The
trend of the coast being convex, scarce a quarter of a mile of it
is to be seen at once; the land being so low, the horizon appears
within a stone-cast; and the narrow prospect enhances the sense of
privacy. Man avoids the place--even his footprints are uncommon;
but a great number of birds hover and pipe there fishing, and leave
crooked tracks upon the sand. Apart from these, the only sound
(and I was going to say the only society), is that of the breakers
on the reef.

On each projection of the coast, the bank of coral clinkers
immediately above the beach has been levelled, and a pillar built,
perhaps breast-high. These are not sepulchral; all the dead being
buried on the inhabited side of the island, close to men's houses,
and (what is worse) to their wells. I was told they were to
protect the isle against inroads from the sea--divine or diabolical
martellos, probably sacred to Taburik, God of Thunder.

The bay immediately opposite Equator Town, which we called Fu Bay,
in honour of our cook, was thus fortified on either horn. It was
well sheltered by the reef, the enclosed water clear and tranquil,
the enclosing beach curved like a horseshoe, and both steep and
broad. The path debouched about the midst of the re-entrant angle,
the woods stopping some distance inland. In front, between the
fringe of the wood and the crown of the beach, there had been
designed a regular figure, like the court for some new variety of
tennis, with borders of round stones imbedded, and pointed at the
angles with low posts, likewise of stone. This was the king's Pray
Place. When he prayed, what he prayed for, and to whom he
addressed his supplications I could never learn. The ground was

In the angle, by the mouth of the path, stood a deserted maniap'.
Near by there had been a house before our coming, which was now
transported and figured for the moment in Equator Town. It had
been, and it would be again when we departed, the residence of the
guardian and wizard of the spot--Tamaiti. Here, in this lone
place, within sound of the sea, he had his dwelling and uncanny
duties. I cannot call to mind another case of a man living on the
ocean side of any open atoll; and Tamaiti must have had strong
nerves, the greater confidence in his own spells, or, what I
believe to be the truth, an enviable scepticism. Whether Tamaiti
had any guardianship of the Pray Place I never heard. But his own
particular chapel stood farther back in the fringe of the wood. It
was a tree of respectable growth. Around it there was drawn a
circle of stones like those that enclosed the Pray Place; in front,
facing towards the sea, a stone of a much greater size, and
somewhat hollowed, like a piscina, stood close against the trunk;
in front of that again a conical pile of gravel. In the hollow of
what I have called the piscina (though it proved to be a magic
seat) lay an offering of green cocoa-nuts; and when you looked up
you found the boughs of the tree to be laden with strange fruit:
palm-branches elaborately plaited, and beautiful models of canoes,
finished and rigged to the least detail. The whole had the
appearance of a mid-summer and sylvan Christmas-tree al fresco.
Yet we were already well enough acquainted in the Gilberts to
recognise it, at the first sight, for a piece of wizardry, or, as
they say in the group, of Devil-work.

The plaited palms were what we recognised. We had seen them before
on Apaiang, the most christianised of all these islands; where
excellent Mr. Bingham lived and laboured and has left golden
memories; whence all the education in the northern Gilberts traces
its descent; and where we were boarded by little native Sunday-
school misses in clean frocks, with demure faces, and singing hymns
as to the manner born.

Our experience of Devil-work at Apaiang had been as follows:- It
chanced we were benighted at the house of Captain Tierney. My wife
and I lodged with a Chinaman some half a mile away; and thither
Captain Reid and a native boy escorted us by torch-light. On the
way the torch went out, and we took shelter in a small and lonely
Christian chapel to rekindle it. Stuck in the rafters of the
chapel was a branch of knotted palm. 'What is that?' I asked. 'O,
that's Devil-work,' said the Captain. 'And what is Devil-work?' I
inquired. 'If you like, I'll show you some when we get to
Johnnie's,' he replied. 'Johnnie's' was a quaint little house upon
the crest of the beach, raised some three feet on posts, approached
by stairs; part walled, part trellised. Trophies of advertisement-
photographs were hung up within for decoration. There was a table
and a recess-bed, in which Mrs. Stevenson slept; while I camped on
the matted floor with Johnnie, Mrs. Johnnie, her sister, and the
devil's own regiment of cockroaches. Hither was summoned an old
witch, who looked the part to horror. The lamp was set on the
floor; the crone squatted on the threshold, a green palm-branch in
her hand, the light striking full on her aged features and picking
out behind her, from the black night, timorous faces of spectators.
Our sorceress began with a chanted incantation; it was in the old
tongue, for which I had no interpreter; but ever and again there
ran among the crowd outside that laugh which every traveller in the
islands learns so soon to recognise,--the laugh of terror.
Doubtless these half-Christian folk were shocked, these half-
heathen folk alarmed. Chench or Taburik thus invoked, we put our
questions; the witch knotted the leaves, here a leaf and there a
leaf, plainly on some arithmetical system; studied the result with
great apparent contention of mind; and gave the answers. Sidney
Colvin was in robust health and gone a journey; and we should have
a fair wind upon the morrow: that was the result of our
consultation, for which we paid a dollar. The next day dawned
cloudless and breathless; but I think Captain Reid placed a secret
reliance on the sibyl, for the schooner was got ready for sea. By
eight the lagoon was flawed with long cat's-paws, and the palms
tossed and rustled; before ten we were clear of the passage and
skimming under all plain sail, with bubbling scuppers. So we had
the breeze, which was well worth a dollar in itself; but the
bulletin about my friend in England proved, some six months later,
when I got my mail, to have been groundless. Perhaps London lies
beyond the horizon of the island gods.

Tembinok', in his first dealings, showed himself sternly averse
from superstition: and had not the Equator delayed, we might have
left the island and still supposed him an agnostic. It chanced one
day, however, that he came to our maniap', and found Mrs. Stevenson
in the midst of a game of patience. She explained the game as well
as she was able, and wound up jocularly by telling him this was her
devil-work, and if she won, the Equator would arrive next day.
Tembinok' must have drawn a long breath; we were not so high-and-
dry after all; he need no longer dissemble, and he plunged at once
into confessions. He made devil-work every day, he told us, to
know if ships were coming in; and thereafter brought us regular
reports of the results. It was surprising how regularly he was
wrong; but he always had an explanation ready. There had been some
schooner in the offing out of view; but either she was not bound
for Apemama, or had changed her course, or lay becalmed. I used to
regard the king with veneration as he thus publicly deceived
himself. I saw behind him all the fathers of the Church, all the
philosophers and men of science of the past; before him, all those
that are to come; himself in the midst; the whole visionary series
bowed over the same task of welding incongruities. To the end
Tembinok' spoke reluctantly of the island gods and their worship,
and I learned but little. Taburik is the god of thunder, and deals
in wind and weather. A while since there were wizards who could
call him down in the form of lightning. 'My patha he tell me he
see: you think he lie?' Tienti--pronounced something like
'Chench,' and identified by his majesty with the devil--sends and
removes bodily sickness. He is whistled for in the Paumotuan
manner, and is said to appear; but the king has never seen him.
The doctors treat disease by the aid of Chench: eclectic Tembinok'
at the same time administering 'pain-killer' from his medicine-
chest, so as to give the sufferer both chances. 'I think mo'
betta,' observed his majesty, with more than his usual self-
approval. Apparently the gods are not jealous, and placidly enjoy
both shrine and priest in common. On Tamaiti's medicine-tree, for
instance, the model canoes are hung up ex voto for a prosperous
voyage, and must therefore be dedicated to Taburik, god of the
weather; but the stone in front is the place of sick folk come to
pacify Chench.

It chanced, by great good luck, that even as we spoke of these
affairs, I found myself threatened with a cold. I do not suppose I
was ever glad of a cold before, or shall ever be again; but the
opportunity to see the sorcerers at work was priceless, and I
called in the faculty of Apemama. They came in a body, all in
their Sunday's best and hung with wreaths and shells, the insignia
of the devil-worker. Tamaiti I knew already: Terutak' I saw for
the first time--a tall, lank, raw-boned, serious North-Sea
fisherman turned brown; and there was a third in their company
whose name I never heard, and who played to Tamaiti the part of
famulus. Tamaiti took me in hand first, and led me, conversing
agreeably, to the shores of Fu Bay. The famulus climbed a tree for
some green cocoa-nuts. Tamaiti himself disappeared a while in the
bush and returned with coco tinder, dry leaves, and a spray of
waxberry. I was placed on the stone, with my back to the tree and
my face to windward; between me and the gravel-heap one of the
green nuts was set; and then Tamaiti (having previously bared his
feet, for he had come in canvas shoes, which tortured him) joined
me within the magic circle, hollowed out the top of the gravel-
heap, built his fire in the bottom, and applied a match: it was
one of Bryant and May's. The flame was slow to catch, and the
irreverent sorcerer filled in the time with talk of foreign places-
-of London, and 'companies,' and how much money they had; of San
Francisco, and the nefarious fogs, 'all the same smoke,' which had
been so nearly the occasion of his death. I tried vainly to lead
him to the matter in hand. 'Everybody make medicine,' he said
lightly. And when I asked him if he were himself a good
practitioner--'No savvy,' he replied, more lightly still. At
length the leaves burst in a flame, which he continued to feed; a
thick, light smoke blew in my face, and the flames streamed against
and scorched my clothes. He in the meanwhile addressed, or
affected to address, the evil spirit, his lips moving fast, but
without sound; at the same time he waved in the air and twice
struck me on the breast with his green spray. So soon as the
leaves were consumed the ashes were buried, the green spray was
imbedded in the gravel, and the ceremony was at an end.

A reader of the Arabian Nights felt quite at home. Here was the
suffumigation; here was the muttering wizard; here was the desert
place to which Aladdin was decoyed by the false uncle. But they
manage these things better in fiction. The effect was marred by
the levity of the magician, entertaining his patient with small
talk like an affable dentist, and by the incongruous presence of
Mr. Osbourne with a camera. As for my cold, it was neither better
nor worse.

I was now handed over to Terutak', the leading practitioner or
medical baronet of Apemama. His place is on the lagoon side of the
island, hard by the palace. A rail of light wood, some two feet
high, encloses an oblong piece of gravel like the king's Pray
Place; in the midst is a green tree; below, a stone table bears a
pair of boxes covered with a fine mat; and in front of these an
offering of food, a cocoa-nut, a piece of taro or a fish, is placed
daily. On two sides the enclosure is lined with maniap's; and one
of our party, who had been there to sketch, had remarked a daily
concourse of people and an extraordinary number of sick children;
for this is in fact the infirmary of Apemama. The doctor and
myself entered the sacred place alone; the boxes and the mat were
displaced; and I was enthroned in their stead upon the stone,
facing once more to the east. For a while the sorcerer remained
unseen behind me, making passes in the air with a branch of palm.
Then he struck lightly on the brim of my straw hat; and this blow
he continued to repeat at intervals, sometimes brushing instead my
arm and shoulder. I have had people try to mesmerise me a dozen
times, and never with the least result. But at the first tap--on a
quarter no more vital than my hat-brim, and from nothing more
virtuous than a switch of palm wielded by a man I could not even
see--sleep rushed upon me like an armed man. My sinews fainted, my
eyes closed, my brain hummed, with drowsiness. I resisted, at
first instinctively, then with a certain flurry of despair, in the
end successfully; if that were indeed success which enabled me to
scramble to my feet, to stumble home somnambulous, to cast myself
at once upon my bed, and sink at once into a dreamless stupor.
When I awoke my cold was gone. So I leave a matter that I do not

Meanwhile my appetite for curiosities (not usually very keen) had
been strangely whetted by the sacred boxes. They were of pandanus
wood, oblong in shape, with an effect of pillaring along the sides
like straw work, lightly fringed with hair or fibre and standing on
four legs. The outside was neat as a toy; the inside a mystery I
was resolved to penetrate. But there was a lion in the path. I
might not approach Terutak', since I had promised to buy nothing in
the island; I dared not have recourse to the king, for I had
already received from him more gifts than I knew how to repay. In
this dilemma (the schooner being at last returned) we hit on a
device. Captain Reid came forward in my stead, professed an
unbridled passion for the boxes, and asked and obtained leave to
bargain for them with the wizard. That same afternoon the captain
and I made haste to the infirmary, entered the enclosure, raised
the mat, and had begun to examine the boxes at our leisure, when
Terutak's wife bounced out of one of the nigh houses, fell upon us,
swept up the treasures, and was gone. There was never a more
absolute surprise. She came, she took, she vanished, we had not a
guess whither; and we remained, with foolish looks and laughter on
the empty field. Such was the fit prologue of our memorable

Presently Terutak' came, bringing Tamaiti along with him, both
smiling; and we four squatted without the rail. In the three
maniap's of the infirmary a certain audience was gathered: the
family of a sick child under treatment, the king's sister playing
cards, a pretty girl, who swore I was the image of her father; in
all perhaps a score. Terutak's wife had returned (even as she had
vanished) unseen, and now sat, breathless and watchful, by her
husband's side. Perhaps some rumour of our quest had gone abroad,
or perhaps we had given the alert by our unseemly freedom:
certain, at least, that in the faces of all present, expectation
and alarm were mingled.

Captain Reid announced, without preface or disguise, that I was
come to purchase; Terutak', with sudden gravity, refused to sell.
He was pressed; he persisted. It was explained we only wanted one:
no matter, two were necessary for the healing of the sick. He was
rallied, he was reasoned with: in vain. He sat there, serious and
still, and refused. All this was only a preliminary skirmish;
hitherto no sum of money had been mentioned; but now the captain
brought his great guns to bear. He named a pound, then two, then
three. Out of the maniap's one person after another came to join
the group, some with mere excitement, others with consternation in
their faces. The pretty girl crept to my side; it was then that--
surely with the most artless flattery--she informed me of my
likeness to her father. Tamaiti the infidel sat with hanging head
and every mark of dejection. Terutak' streamed with sweat, his eye
was glazed, his face wore a painful rictus, his chest heaved like
that of one spent with running. The man must have been by nature
covetous; and I doubt if ever I saw moral agony more tragically
displayed. His wife by his side passionately encouraged his

And now came the charge of the old guard. The captain, making a
skip, named the surprising figure of five pounds. At the word the
maniap's were emptied. The king's sister flung down her cards and
came to the front to listen, a cloud on her brow. The pretty girl
beat her breast and cried with wearisome iteration that if the box
were hers I should have it. Terutak's wife was beside herself with
pious fear, her face discomposed, her voice (which scarce ceased
from warning and encouragement) shrill as a whistle. Even Terutak'
lost that image-like immobility which he had hitherto maintained.
He rocked on his mat, threw up his closed knees alternately, and
struck himself on the breast after the manner of dancers. But he
came gold out of the furnace; and with what voice was left him
continued to reject the bribe.

And now came a timely interjection. 'Money will not heal the
sick,' observed the king's sister sententiously; and as soon as I
heard the remark translated my eyes were unsealed, and I began to
blush for my employment. Here was a sick child, and I sought, in
the view of its parents, to remove the medicine-box. Here was the
priest of a religion, and I (a heathen millionaire) was corrupting
him to sacrilege. Here was a greedy man, torn in twain betwixt
greed and conscience; and I sat by and relished, and lustfully
renewed his torments. Ave, Caesar! Smothered in a corner, dormant
but not dead, we have all the one touch of nature: an infant
passion for the sand and blood of the arena. So I brought to an
end my first and last experience of the joys of the millionaire,
and departed amid silent awe. Nowhere else can I expect to stir
the depths of human nature by an offer of five pounds; nowhere
else, even at the expense of millions, could I hope to see the evil
of riches stand so legibly exposed. Of all the bystanders, none
but the king's sister retained any memory of the gravity and danger
of the thing in hand. Their eyes glowed, the girl beat her breast,
in senseless animal excitement. Nothing was offered them; they
stood neither to gain nor to lose; at the mere name and wind of
these great sums Satan possessed them.

From this singular interview I went straight to the palace; found
the king; confessed what I had been doing; begged him, in my name,
to compliment Terutak' on his virtue, and to have a similar box
made for me against the return of the schooner. Tembinok', Rubam,
and one of the Daily Papers--him we used to call 'the Facetiae
Column'--laboured for a while of some idea, which was at last
intelligibly delivered. They feared I thought the box would cure
me; whereas, without the wizard, it was useless; and when I was
threatened with another cold I should do better to rely on pain-
killer. I explained I merely wished to keep it in my 'outch' as a
thing made in Apemama and these honest men were much relieved.

Late the same evening, my wife, crossing the isle to windward, was
aware of singing in the bush. Nothing is more common in that hour
and place than the jubilant carol of the toddy-cutter, swinging
high overhead, beholding below him the narrow ribbon of the isle,
the surrounding field of ocean, and the fires of the sunset. But
this was of a graver character, and seemed to proceed from the
ground-level. Advancing a little in the thicket, Mrs. Stevenson
saw a clear space, a fine mat spread in the midst, and on the mat a
wreath of white flowers and one of the devil-work boxes. A woman--
whom we guess to have been Mrs. Terutak'--sat in front, now
drooping over the box like a mother over a cradle, now lifting her
face and directing her song to heaven. A passing toddy-cutter told
my wife that she was praying. Probably she did not so much pray as
deprecate; and perhaps even the ceremony was one of disenchantment.
For the box was already doomed; it was to pass from its green
medicine-tree, reverend precinct, and devout attendants; to be
handled by the profane; to cross three seas; to come to land under
the foolscap of St. Paul's; to be domesticated within the hail of
Lillie Bridge; there to be dusted by the British housemaid, and to
take perhaps the roar of London for the voice of the outer sea
along the reef. Before even we had finished dinner Chench had
begun his journey, and one of the newspapers had already placed the
box upon my table as the gift of Tembinok'.

I made haste to the palace, thanked the king, but offered to
restore the box, for I could not bear that the sick of the island
should be made to suffer. I was amazed by his reply. Terutak', it
appeared, had still three or four in reserve against an accident;
and his reluctance, and the dread painted at first on every face,
was not in the least occasioned by the prospect of medical
destitution, but by the immediate divinity of Chench. How much
more did I respect the king's command, which had been able to
extort in a moment and for nothing a sacrilegious favour that I had
in vain solicited with millions! But now I had a difficult task in
front of me; it was not in my view that Terutak' should suffer by
his virtue; and I must persuade the king to share my opinion, to
let me enrich one of his subjects, and (what was yet more delicate)
to pay for my present. Nothing shows the king in a more becoming
light than the fact that I succeeded. He demurred at the
principle; he exclaimed, when he heard it, at the sum. 'Plenty
money!' cried he, with contemptuous displeasure. But his
resistance was never serious; and when he had blown off his ill-
humour--'A' right,' said he. 'You give him. Mo' betta.'

Armed with this permission, I made straight for the infirmary. The
night was now come, cool, dark, and starry. On a mat hard by a
clear fire of wood and coco shell, Terutak' lay beside his wife.
Both were smiling; the agony was over, the king's command had
reconciled (I must suppose) their agitating scruples; and I was
bidden to sit by them and share the circulating pipe. I was a
little moved myself when I placed five gold sovereigns in the
wizard's hand; but there was no sign of emotion in Terutak' as he
returned them, pointed to the palace, and named Tembinok'. It was
a changed scene when I had managed to explain. Terutak', long,
dour Scots fisherman as he was, expressed his satisfaction within
bounds; but the wife beamed; and there was an old gentleman
present--her father, I suppose--who seemed nigh translated. His
eyes stood out of his head; 'Kaupoi, Kaupoi--rich, rich!' ran on
his lips like a refrain; and he could not meet my eye but what he
gurgled into foolish laughter.

I might now go home, leaving that fire-lit family party gloating
over their new millions, and consider my strange day. I had tried
and rewarded the virtue of Terutak'. I had played the millionaire,
had behaved abominably, and then in some degree repaired my
thoughtlessness. And now I had my box, and could open it and look
within. It contained a miniature sleeping-mat and a white shell.
Tamaiti, interrogated next day as to the shell, explained it was
not exactly Chench, but a cell, or body, which he would at times
inhabit. Asked why there was a sleeping-mat, he retorted
indignantly, 'Why have you mats?' And this was the sceptical
Tamaiti! But island scepticism is never deeper than the lips.


Thus all things on the island, even the priests of the gods, obey
the word of Tembinok'. He can give and take, and slay, and allay
the scruples of the conscientious, and do all things (apparently)
but interfere in the cookery of a turtle. 'I got power' is his
favourite word; it interlards his conversation; the thought haunts
him and is ever fresh; and when be has asked and meditates of
foreign countries, he looks up with a smile and reminds you, '_I_
got POWER.' Nor is his delight only in the possession, but in the
exercise. He rejoices in the crooked and violent paths of kingship
like a strong man to run a race, or like an artist in his art. To
feel, to use his power, to embellish his island and the picture of
the island life after a private ideal, to milk the island
vigorously, to extend his singular museum--these employ
delightfully the sum of his abilities. I never saw a man more
patently in the right trade.

It would be natural to suppose this monarchy inherited intact
through generations. And so far from that, it is a thing of
yesterday. I was already a boy at school while Apemama was yet
republican, ruled by a noisy council of Old Men, and torn with
incurable feuds. And Tembinok' is no Bourbon; rather the son of a
Napoleon. Of course he is well-born. No man need aspire high in
the isles of the Pacific unless his pedigree be long and in the
upper regions mythical. And our king counts cousinship with most
of the high families in the archipelago, and traces his descent to
a shark and a heroic woman. Directed by an oracle, she swam beyond
sight of land to meet her revolting paramour, and received at sea
the seed of a predestined family. 'I think lie,' is the king's
emphatic commentary; yet he is proud of the legend. From this
illustrious beginning the fortunes of the race must have declined;
and Tenkoruti, the grandfather of Tembinok', was the chief of a
village at the north end of the island. Kuria and Aranuka were yet
independent; Apemama itself the arena of devastating feuds.
Through this perturbed period of history the figure of Tenkoruti
stalks memorable. In war he was swift and bloody; several towns
fell to his spear, and the inhabitants were butchered to a man. In
civil life this arrogance was unheard of. When the council of Old
Men was summoned, he went to the Speak House, delivered his mind,
and left without waiting to be answered. Wisdom had spoken: let
others opine according to their folly. He was feared and hated,
and this was his pleasure. He was no poet; he cared not for arts
or knowledge. 'My gran'patha one thing savvy, savvy pight,'
observed the king. In some lull of their own disputes the Old Men
of Apemama adventured on the conquest of Apemama; and this unlicked
Caius Marcius was elected general of the united troops. Success
attended him; the islands were reduced, and Tenkoruti returned to
his own government, glorious and detested. He died about 1860, in
the seventieth year of his age and the full odour of unpopularity.
He was tall and lean, says his grandson, looked extremely old, and
'walked all the same young man.' The same observer gave me a
significant detail. The survivors of that rough epoch were all
defaced with spearmarks; there was none on the body of this skilful
fighter. 'I see old man, no got a spear,' said the king.

Tenkoruti left two sons, Tembaitake and Tembinatake. Tembaitake,
our king's father, was short, middling stout, a poet, a good
genealogist, and something of a fighter; it seems he took himself
seriously, and was perhaps scarce conscious that he was in all
things the creature and nursling of his brother. There was no
shadow of dispute between the pair: the greater man filled with
alacrity and content the second place; held the breach in war, and
all the portfolios in the time of peace; and, when his brother
rated him, listened in silence, looking on the ground. Like
Tenkoruti, he was tall and lean and a swift talker--a rare trait in
the islands. He possessed every accomplishment. He knew sorcery,
he was the best genealogist of his day, he was a poet, he could
dance and make canoes and armour; and the famous mast of Apemama,
which ran one joint higher than the mainmast of a full-rigged ship,
was of his conception and design. But these were avocations, and
the man's trade was war. 'When my uncle go make wa', he laugh,'
said Tembinok'. He forbade the use of field fortification, that
protractor of native hostilities; his men must fight in the open,
and win or be beaten out of hand; his own activity inspired his
followers; and the swiftness of his blows beat down, in one
lifetime, the resistance of three islands. He made his brother
sovereign, he left his nephew absolute. 'My uncle make all
smooth,' said Tembinok'. 'I mo' king than my patha: I got power,'
he said, with formidable relish.

Such is the portrait of the uncle drawn by the nephew. I can set
beside it another by a different artist, who has often--I may say
always--delighted me with his romantic taste in narrative, but not
always--and I may say not often--persuaded me of his exactitude. I
have already denied myself the use of so much excellent matter from
the same source, that I begin to think it time to reward good
resolution; and his account of Tembinatake agrees so well with the
king's, that it may very well be (what I hope it is) the record of
a fact, and not (what I suspect) the pleasing exercise of an
imagination more than sailorly. A., for so I had perhaps better
call him, was walking up the island after dusk, when he came on a
lighted village of some size, was directed to the chief's house,
and asked leave to rest and smoke a pipe. 'You will sit down, and
smoke a pipe, and wash, and eat, and sleep,' replied the chief,
'and to-morrow you will go again.' Food was brought, prayers were
held (for this was in the brief day of Christianity), and the chief
himself prayed with eloquence and seeming sincerity. All evening
A. sat and admired the man by the firelight. He was six feet high,
lean, with the appearance of many years, and an extraordinary air
of breeding and command. 'He looked like a man who would kill you
laughing,' said A., in singular echo of one of the king's
expressions. And again: 'I had been reading the Musketeer books,
and he reminded me of Aramis.' Such is the portrait of
Tembinatake, drawn by an expert romancer.

We had heard many tales of 'my patha'; never a word of my uncle
till two days before we left. As the time approached for our
departure Tembinok' became greatly changed; a softer, a more
melancholy, and, in particular, a more confidential man appeared in
his stead. To my wife he contrived laboriously to explain that
though he knew he must lose his father in the course of nature, he
had not minded nor realised it till the moment came; and that now
he was to lose us he repeated the experience. We showed fireworks
one evening on the terrace. It was a heavy business; the sense of
separation was in all our minds, and the talk languished. The king
was specially affected, sat disconsolate on his mat, and often
sighed. Of a sudden one of the wives stepped forth from a cluster,
came and kissed him in silence, and silently went again. It was
just such a caress as we might give to a disconsolate child, and
the king received it with a child's simplicity. Presently after we
said good-night and withdrew; but Tembinok' detained Mr. Osbourne,
patting the mat by his side and saying: 'Sit down. I feel bad, I
like talk.' Osbourne sat down by him. 'You like some beer?' said
he; and one of the wives produced a bottle. The king did not
partake, but sat sighing and smoking a meerschaum pipe. 'I very
sorry you go,' he said at last. 'Miss Stlevens he good man, woman
he good man, boy he good man; all good man. Woman he smart all the
same man. My woman' (glancing towards his wives) 'he good woman,
no very smart. I think Miss Stlevens he is chiep all the same
cap'n man-o-wa'. I think Miss Stlevens he rich man all the same
me. All go schoona. I very sorry. My patha he go, my uncle he
go, my cutcheons he go, Miss Stlevens he go: all go. You no see
king cry before. King all the same man: feel bad, he cry. I very

In the morning it was the common topic in the village that the king
had wept. To me he said: 'Last night I no can 'peak: too much
here,' laying his hand upon his bosom. 'Now you go away all the
same my pamily. My brothers, my uncle go away. All the same.'
This was said with a dejection almost passionate. And it was the
first time I had heard him name his uncle, or indeed employ the
word. The same day he sent me a present of two corselets, made in
the island fashion of plaited fibre, heavy and strong. One had
been worn by Tenkoruti, one by Tembaitake; and the gift being
gratefully received, he sent me, on the return of his messengers, a
third--that of Tembinatake. My curiosity was roused; I begged for
information as to the three wearers; and the king entered with
gusto into the details already given. Here was a strange thing,
that he should have talked so much of his family, and not once
mentioned that relative of whom he was plainly the most proud.
Nay, more: he had hitherto boasted of his father; thenceforth he
had little to say of him; and the qualities for which he had
praised him in the past were now attributed where they were due,--
to the uncle. A confusion might be natural enough among islanders,
who call all the sons of their grandfather by the common name of
father. But this was not the case with Tembinok'. Now the ice was
broken the word uncle was perpetually in his mouth; he who had been
so ready to confound was now careful to distinguish; and the father
sank gradually into a self-complacent ordinary man, while the uncle
rose to his true stature as the hero and founder of the race.

The more I heard and the more I considered, the more this mystery
of Tembinok's behaviour puzzled and attracted me. And the
explanation, when it came, was one to strike the imagination of a
dramatist. Tembinok' had two brothers. One, detected in private
trading, was banished, then forgiven, lives to this day in the
island, and is the father of the heir-apparent, Paul. The other
fell beyond forgiveness. I have heard it was a love-affair with
one of the king's wives, and the thing is highly possible in that
romantic archipelago. War was attempted to be levied; but
Tembinok' was too swift for the rebels, and the guilty brother
escaped in a canoe. He did not go alone. Tembinatake had a hand
in the rebellion, and the man who had gained a kingdom for a
weakling brother was banished by that brother's son. The fugitives
came to shore in other islands, but Tembinok' remains to this day
ignorant of their fate.

So far history. And now a moment for conjecture. Tembinok'
confused habitually, not only the attributes and merits of his
father and his uncle, but their diverse personal appearance.
Before he had even spoken, or thought to speak, of Tembinatake, he
had told me often of a tall, lean father, skilled in war, and his
own schoolmaster in genealogy and island arts. How if both were
fathers, one natural, one adoptive? How if the heir of Tembaitake,
like the heir of Tembinok' himself, were not a son, but an adopted
nephew? How if the founder of the monarchy, while he worked for
his brother, worked at the same time for the child of his loins?
How if on the death of Tembaitake, the two stronger natures, father
and son, king and kingmaker, clashed, and Tembinok', when he drove
out his uncle, drove out the author of his days? Here is at least
a tragedy four-square.

The king took us on board in his own gig, dressed for the occasion
in the naval uniform. He had little to say, he refused
refreshments, shook us briefly by the hand, and went ashore again.
That night the palm-tops of Apemama had dipped behind the sea, and
the schooner sailed solitary under the stars.


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