Omoo: Adventures in the South Seas
Part 3 out of 6
At the time, I was quite amazed to hear of press-gangs in a day of
comparative peace; but the anomaly is accounted for by the fact that,
of late, the French have been building up a great military marine, to
take the place of that which Nelson gave to the waves of the sea at
Trafalgar. But it is to be hoped that they are not building their
ships for the people across the channel to take. In case of a war,
what a fluttering of French ensigns there would be!
Though I say the French are no sailors, I am far from seeking to
underrate them as a people. They are an ingenious and right gallant
nation. And, as an American, I take pride in asserting it.
THEY TAKE US ASHORE--WHAT HAPPENED THERE
FIVE days and nights, if I remember right, we were aboard the frigate.
On the afternoon of the fifth, we were told that the next morning she
sailed for Valparaiso. Rejoiced at this, we prayed for a speedy
passage. But, as it turned out, the consul had no idea of letting us
off so easily. To our no small surprise, an officer came along toward
night, and ordered us out of irons. Being then mustered in the
gangway, we were escorted into a cutter alongside, and pulled ashore.
Accosted by Wilson as we struck the beach, he delivered us up to a
numerous guard of natives, who at once conducted us to a house near
by. Here we were made to sit down under a shade without; and the
consul and two elderly European residents passed by us, and entered.
After some delay, during which we were much diverted by the hilarious
good-nature of our guard--one of our number was called out for,
followed by an order for him to enter the house alone.
On returning a moment after, he told us we had little to encounter. It
had simply been asked whether he still continued of the same mind; on
replying yes, something was put down upon a piece of paper, and he
was waved outside. All being summoned in rotation, my own turn came
Within, Wilson and his two friends were seated magisterially at a
table--an inkstand, a pen, and a sheet of paper lending quite a
business-like air to the apartment. These three gentlemen, being
arrayed in coats and pantaloons, looked respectable, at least in a
country where complete suits of garments are so seldom met with. One
present essayed a solemn aspect; but having a short neck and full
face, only made out to look stupid.
It was this individual who condescended to take a paternal interest in
myself. After declaring my resolution with respect to the ship
unalterable, I was proceeding to withdraw, in compliance with a sign
from the consul, when the stranger turned round to him, saying, "Wait
a minute, if you please, Mr. Wilson; let me talk to that youth. Come
here, my young friend: I'm extremely sorry to see you associated with
these bad men; do you know what it will end in?"
"Oh, that's the lad that wrote the Round Robin," interposed the
consul. "He and that rascally doctor are at the bottom of the whole
affair--go outside, sir."
I retired as from the presence of royalty; backing out with many
The evident prejudice of Wilson against both the doctor and myself was
by no means inexplicable. A man of any education before the mast is
always looked upon with dislike by his captain; and, never mind how
peaceable he may be, should any disturbance arise, from his
intellectual superiority, he is deemed to exert an underhand
influence against the officers.
Little as I had seen of Captain Guy, the few glances cast upon me
after being on board a week or so were sufficient to reveal his
enmity--a feeling quickened by my undisguised companionship with Long
Ghost, whom he both feared and cordially hated. Guy's relations with
the consul readily explains the latter's hostility.
The examination over, Wilson and his friends advanced to the doorway;
when the former, assuming a severe expression, pronounced our
perverseness infatuation in the extreme. Nor was there any hope left:
our last chance for pardon was gone. Even were we to become contrite
and crave permission to return to duty, it would not now be
"Oh! get along with your gammon, counsellor," exclaimed Black Dan,
absolutely indignant that his understanding should be thus insulted.
Quite enraged, Wilson bade him hold his peace; and then, summoning a
fat old native to his side, addressed him in Tahitian, giving
directions for leading us away to a place of safe keeping.
Hereupon, being marshalled in order, with the old man at our head, we
were put in motion, with loud shouts, along a fine pathway, running
far on through wide groves of the cocoa-nut and bread-fruit.
The rest of our escort trotted on beside us in high good-humour;
jabbering broken English, and in a hundred ways giving us to
understand that Wilson was no favourite of theirs, and that we were
prime, good fellows for holding out as we did. They seemed to know
our whole history.
The scenery around was delightful. The tropical day was fast drawing
to a close; and from where we were, the sun looked like a vast red
fire burning in the woodlands--its rays falling aslant through the
endless ranks of trees, and every leaf fringed with flame. Escaped
from the confined decks of the frigate, the air breathed spices to
us; streams were heard flowing; green boughs were rocking; and far
inland, all sunset flushed, rose the still, steep peaks of the
As we proceeded, I was more and more struck by the picturesqueness of
the wide, shaded road. In several places, durable bridges of wood
were thrown over large water-courses; others were spanned by a single
arch of stone. In any part of the road, three horsemen might have
This beautiful avenue--by far the best thing which civilization has
done for the island--is called by foreigners "the Broom Road," though
for what reason I do not know. Originally planned for the convenience
of the missionaries journeying from one station to another, it almost
completely encompasses the larger peninsula; skirting for a distance
of at least sixty miles along the low, fertile lands bordering the
sea. But on the side next Taiarboo, or the lesser peninsula, it
sweeps through a narrow, secluded valley, and thus crosses the island
in that direction.
The uninhabited interior, being almost impenetrable from the
densely-wooded glens, frightful precipices, and sharp mountain ridges
absolutely inaccessible, is but little known, even to the natives
themselves; and so, instead of striking directly across from one
village to another, they follow the Broom Road round and round.
It is by no means, however, altogether travelled on foot; horses being
now quite plentiful. They were introduced from Chili; and possessing
all the gaiety, fleetness, and docility of the Spanish breed, are
admirably adapted to the tastes of the higher classes, who as
equestrians have become very expert. The missionaries and chiefs
never think of journeying except in the saddle; and at all hours of
the day you see the latter galloping along at full speed. Like the
Sandwich Islanders, they ride like Pawnee-Loups.
For miles and miles I have travelled the Broom Road, and never wearied
of the continual change of scenery. But wherever it leads
you--whether through level woods, across grassy glens, or over hills
waving with palms--the bright blue sea on one side, and the green
mountain pinnacles on the other, are always in sight.
THE CALABOOZA BERETANEE
ABOUT a mile from the village we came to a halt.
It was a beautiful spot. A mountain stream here flowed at the foot of
a verdant slope; on one hand, it murmured along until the waters,
spreading themselves upon a beach of small, sparkling shells,
trickled into the sea; on the other was a long defile, where the eye
pursued a gleaming, sinuous thread, lost in shade and verdure.
The ground next the road was walled in by a low, rude parapet of
stones; and, upon the summit of the slope beyond, was a large, native
house, the thatch dazzling white, and in shape an oval.
"Calabooza! Calabooza Beretanee!" (the English Jail), cried our
conductor, pointing to the building.
For a few months past, having been used by the consul as a house of
confinement for his refractory sailors, it was thus styled to
distinguish it from similar places in and about Papeetee.
Though extremely romantic in appearance, on a near approach it proved
hut ill adapted to domestic comfort. In short, it was a mere shell,
recently built, and still unfinished. It was open all round, and
tufts of grass were growing here and there under the very roof. The
only piece of furniture was the "stocks," a clumsy machine for
keeping people in one place, which, I believe, is pretty much out of
date in most countries. It is still in use, however, among the
Spaniards in South America; from whom, it seems, the Tahitians have
borrowed the contrivance, as well as the name by which all places of
confinement are known among them.
The stocks were nothing more than two stout timbers, about twenty feet
in length, and precisely alike. One was placed edgeways on the
ground, and the other, resting on top, left, at regular intervals
along the seam, several round holes, the object of which was evident
at a glance.
By this time, our guide had informed us that he went by the name of
"Capin Bob" (Captain Bob); and a hearty old Bob he proved. It was
just the name for him. From the first, so pleased were we with the
old man that we cheerfully acquiesced in his authority.
Entering the building, he set us about fetching heaps of dry leaves to
spread behind the stocks for a couch. A trunk of a small cocoa-nut
tree was then placed for a bolster--rather a hard one, but the
natives are used to it. For a pillow, they use a little billet of
wood, scooped out, and standing on four short legs--a sort of
These arrangements completed, Captain Bob proceeded to "hanna-par," or
secure us, for the night. The upper timber of the machine being
lifted at one end, and our ankles placed in the semicircular spaces
of the lower one, the other beam was then, dropped; both being
finally secured together by an old iron hoop at either extremity.
This initiation was performed to the boisterous mirth of the natives,
and diverted ourselves not a little.
Captain Bob now bustled about, like an old woman seeing the children
to bed. A basket of baked "taro," or Indian turnip, was brought in,
and we were given a piece all round. Then a great counterpane of
coarse, brown "tappa," was stretched over the whole party; and, after
sundry injunctions to "moee-moee," and be "maitai"--in other words,
to go to sleep, and be good boys--we were left to ourselves, fairly
put to bed and tucked in.
Much talk was now had concerning our prospects in life; but the doctor
and I, who lay side by side, thinking the occasion better adapted to
meditation, kept pretty silent; and, before long, the rest ceased
conversing, and, wearied with loss of rest on board the frigate, were
soon sound asleep.
After sliding from one reverie into another, I started, and gave the
doctor a pinch. He was dreaming, however; and, resolved to follow his
example, I troubled him no more.
How the rest managed, I know not; but for my own part, I found it very
hard to get to sleep. The consciousness of having one's foot pinned;
and the impossibility of getting it anywhere else than just where it
was, was most distressing.
But this was not all: there was no way of lying but straight on your
back; unless, to be sure, one's limb went round and round in the
ankle, like a swivel. Upon getting into a sort of doze, it was no
wonder this uneasy posture gave me the nightmare. Under the delusion
that I was about some gymnastics or other, I gave my unfortunate
member such a twitch that I started up with the idea that someone was
dragging the stocks away.
Captain Bob and his friends lived in a little hamlet hard by; and when
morning showed in the East, the old gentleman came forth from that
direction likewise, emerging from a grove, and saluting us loudly as
Finding everybody awake, he set us at liberty; and, leading us down to
the stream, ordered every man to strip and bathe.
"All han's, my boy, hanna-hanna, wash!" he cried. Bob was a linguist,
and had been to sea in his day, as he many a time afterwards told us.
At this moment, we were all alone with him; and it would have been the
easiest thing in the world to have given him the slip; but he seemed
to have no idea of such a thing; treating us so frankly and
cordially, indeed, that even had we thought of running, we should
have been ashamed of attempting it. He very well knew, nevertheless
(as we ourselves were not slow in finding out), that, for various
reasons, any attempt of the kind, without some previously arranged
plan for leaving the island, would be certain to fail.
As Bob was a rare one every way, I must give some account of him.
There was a good deal of "personal appearance" about him; in short,
he was a corpulent giant, over six feet in height, and literally as
big round as a hogshead. The enormous bulk of some of the Tahitians
has been frequently spoken of by voyagers.
Beside being the English consul's jailer, as it were, he carried on a
little Tahitian farming; that is to say, he owned several groves of
the bread-fruit and palm, and never hindered their growing. Close by
was a "taro" patch of his which he occasionally visited.
Bob seldom disposed of the produce of his lands; it was all needed for
domestic consumption. Indeed, for gormandizing, I would have matched
him against any three common-council men at a civic feast.
A friend of Bob's told me that, owing to his voraciousness, his visits
to other parts of the island were much dreaded; for, according to
Tahitian customs, hospitality without charge is enjoined upon
everyone; and though it is reciprocal in most cases, in Bob's it was
almost out of the question. The damage done to a native larder in one
of his morning calls was more than could be made good by his
entertainer's spending the holidays with them.
The old man, as I have hinted, had, once upon a time, been a cruise or
two in a whaling-vessel; and, therefore, he prided himself upon his
English. Having acquired what he knew of it in the forecastle, he
talked little else than sailor phrases, which sounded whimsically
I asked him one day how old he was. "Olee?" he exclaimed, looking very
profound in consequence of thoroughly understanding so subtile a
question--"Oh! very olee--'tousand 'ear--more--big man when Capin
Tootee (Captain Cook) heavey in sight." (In sea parlance, came into
This was a thing impossible; but adapting my discourse to the man, I
rejoined--"Ah! you see Capin Tootee--well, how you like him?"
"Oh! he maitai: (good) friend of me, and know my wife."
On my assuring him strongly that he could not have been born at the
time, he explained himself by saying that he was speaking of his
father, all the while. This, indeed, might very well have been.
It is a curious fact that all these people, young and old, will tell
you that they have enjoyed the honour of a personal acquaintance with
the great navigator; and if you listen to them, they will go on and
tell anecdotes without end. This springs from nothing but their great
desire to please; well knowing that a more agreeable topic for a
white man could not be selected. As for the anachronism of the thing,
they seem to have no idea of it: days and years are all the same to
After our sunrise bath, Bob once more placed us in the stocks, almost
moved to tears at subjecting us to so great a hardship; but he could
not treat us otherwise, he said, on pain of the consul's displeasure.
How long we were to be confined, he did not know; nor what was to be
done with us in the end.
As noon advanced, and no signs of a meal were visible, someone
inquired whether we were to be boarded, as well as lodged, at the
Hotel de Calabooza?
"Vast heavey" (avast heaving, or wait a bit)--said Bob--"kow-kow"
(food) "come ship by by."
And, sure enough, along comes Rope Tarn with a wooden bucket of the
Julia's villainous biscuit. With a grin, he said it was a present
from Wilson: it was all we were to get that day. A great cry was now
raised; and well was it for the land-lubber that lie had a pair of
legs, and the men could not use theirs. One and all, we resolved not
to touch the bread, come what come might; and so we told the natives.
Being extravagantly fond of ship-biscuit--the harder the better--they
were quite overjoyed; and offered to give us, every day, a small
quantity of baked bread-fruit and Indian turnip in exchange for the
bread. This we agreed to; and every morning afterward, when the
bucket came, its contents were at once handed over to Bob and his
friends, who never ceased munching until nightfall.
Our exceedingly frugal meal of bread-fruit over, Captain Bob waddled
up to us with a couple of long poles hooked at one end, and several
large baskets of woven cocoa-nut branches.
Not far off was an extensive grove of orange-trees in full bearing;
and myself and another were selected to go with him, and gather a
supply for the party. When we went in among the trees, the
sumptuousness of the orchard was unlike anything I had ever seen;
while the fragrance shaken from the gently waving boughs regaled our
senses most delightfully.
In many places the trees formed a dense shade, spreading overhead a
dark, rustling vault, groined with boughs, and studded here and there
with the ripened spheres, like gilded balls. In several places, the
overladen branches were borne to the earth, hiding the trunk in a
tent of foliage. Once fairly in the grove, we could see nothing else;
it was oranges all round.
To preserve the fruit from bruising, Bob, hooking the twigs with his
pole, let them fall into his basket. But this would not do for us.
Seizing hold of a bough, we brought such a shower to the ground that
our old friend was fain to run from under. Heedless of remonstrance,
we then reclined in the shade, and feasted to our heart's content.
Heaping up the baskets afterwards, we returned to our comrades, by
whom our arrival was hailed with loud plaudits; and in a marvellously
short time, nothing was left of the oranges we brought but the rinds.
While inmates of the Calabooza, we had as much of the fruit as we
wanted; and to this cause, and others that might be mentioned, may be
ascribed the speedy restoration of our sick to comparative health.
The orange of Tahiti is delicious--small and sweet, with a thin, dry
rind. Though now abounding, it was unknown before Cook's time, to
whom the natives are indebted for so great a blessing. He likewise
introduced several other kinds of fruit; among these were the fig,
pineapple, and lemon, now seldom met with. The lime still grows, and
some of the poorer natives express the juice to sell to the shipping.
It is highly valued as an anti-scorbutic. Nor was the variety of
foreign fruits and vegetables which were introduced the only benefit
conferred by the first visitors to the Society group. Cattle and
sheep were left at various places. More of them anon.
Thus, after all that of late years has been done for these islanders,
Cook and Vancouver may, in one sense at least, be considered their
PROCEEDINGS OF THE FRENCH AT TAHITI
AS I happened to arrive at the island at a very interesting period in
its political affairs, it may be well to give some little account
here of the proceedings of the French, by way of episode to the
narrative. My information was obtained at the time from the general
reports then rife among the natives, as well as from what I learned
upon a subsequent visit, and reliable accounts which I have seen
since reaching home.
It seems that for some time back the French had been making repeated
ineffectual attempts to plant a Roman Catholic mission here. But,
invariably treated with contumely, they sometimes met with open
violence; and, in every case, those directly concerned in the
enterprise were ultimately forced to depart. In one instance, two
priests, Laval and Caset, after enduring a series of persecutions,
were set upon by the natives, maltreated, and finally carried aboard
a small trading schooner, which eventually put them ashore at Wallis'
island--a savage place--some two thousand miles to the westward.
Now, that the resident English missionaries authorized the banishment
of these priests is a fact undenied by themselves. I was also
repeatedly informed that by their inflammatory harangues they
instigated the riots which preceded the sailing of the schooner. At
all events, it is certain that their unbounded influence with the
natives would easily have enabled them to prevent everything that
took place on this occasion, had they felt so inclined.
Melancholy as such an example of intolerance on the part of Protestant
missionaries must appear, it is not the only one, and by no means the
most flagrant, which might be presented. But I forbear to mention any
others; since they have been more than hinted at by recent voyagers,
and their repetition here would perhaps be attended with no good
effect. Besides, the conduct of the Sandwich Island missionaries in
particular has latterly much amended in this respect.
The treatment of the two priests formed the principal ground (and the
only justifiable one) upon which Du Petit Thouars demanded
satisfaction; and which subsequently led to his seizure of the
island. In addition to other things, he also charged that the flag of
Merenhout, the consul, had been repeatedly insulted, and the property
of a certain French resident violently appropriated by the
government. In the latter instance, the natives were perfectly in the
right. At that time, the law against the traffic in ardent spirits
(every now and then suspended and revived) happened to be in force;
and finding a large quantity on the premises of Victor, a low,
knavish adventurer from Marseilles, the Tahitians pronounced it
For these, and similar alleged outrages, a large pecuniary restitution
was demanded (10,000 dollars), which there being no exchequer to
supply, the island was forthwith seized, under cover of a mock
treaty, dictated to the chiefs on the gun-deck of Du Petit Thouars'
But, notwithstanding this formality, there seems now little doubt that
the downfall of the Pomarees was decided upon at the Tuilleries.
After establishing the Protectorate, so called, the rear-admiral
sailed; leaving M. Bruat governor, assisted by Reine and Carpegne,
civilians, named members of the Council of Government, and Merenhout,
the consul, now made Commissioner Royal. No soldiers, however, were
landed until several months afterward. As men, Reine and Carpegne
were not disliked by the natives; but Bruat and Merenhout they
bitterly detested. In several interviews with the poor queen, the
unfeeling governor sought to terrify her into compliance with his
demands; clapping his hand upon his sword, shaking his fist in her
face, and swearing violently. "Oh, king of a great nation," said
Pomaree, in her letter to Louis Philippe, "fetch away this man; I and
my people cannot endure his evil doings. He is a shameless man."
Although the excitement among the natives did not wholly subside upon
the rear-admiral's departure, no overt act of violence immediately
followed. The queen had fled to Imeeo; and the dissensions among the
chiefs, together with the ill-advised conduct of the missionaries,
prevented a union upon some common plan of resistance. But the great
body of the people, as well as their queen, confidently relied upon
the speedy interposition of England--a nation bound to them by many
ties, and which, more than once, had solemnly guaranteed their
As for the missionaries, they openly defied the French governor,
childishly predicting fleets and armies from Britain. But what is the
welfare of a spot like Tahiti to the mighty interests of France and
England! There was a remonstrance on one side, and a reply on the
other; and there the matter rested. For once in their brawling lives,
St. George and St. Denis were hand and glove; and they were not
going to cross sabres about Tahiti.
During my stay upon the island, so far as I could see, there was
little to denote that any change had taken place in the government.
Such laws as they had were administered the same as ever; the
missionaries went about unmolested, and comparative tranquillity
everywhere prevailed. Nevertheless, I sometimes heard the natives
inveighing against the French (no favourites, by the bye, throughout
Polynesia), and bitterly regretting that the queen had not, at the
outset, made a stand.
In the house of the chief Adeea, frequent discussions took place
concerning the ability of the island to cope with the French: the
number of fighting men and muskets among the natives were talked of,
as well as the propriety of fortifying several heights overlooking
Papeetee. Imputing these symptoms to the mere resentment of a recent
outrage, and not to any determined spirit of resistance, I little
anticipated the gallant, though useless warfare, so soon to follow my
At a period subsequent to my first visit, the island, which before was
divided into nineteen districts, with a native chief over each, in
capacity of governor and judge, was, by Bruat, divided into four.
Over these he set as many recreant chiefs, Kitoti, Tati, Utamai, and
Paraita; to whom he paid 1000 dollars each, to secure their
assistance in carrying out his evil designs.
The first blood shed, in any regular conflict, was at Mahanar, upon
the peninsula of Taraiboo. The fight originated in the seizure of a
number of women from the shore by men belonging to one of the French
vessels of war. In this affair, the islanders fought desperately,
killing about fifty of the enemy, and losing ninety of their own
number. The French sailors and marines, who, at the time, were
reported to be infuriated with liquor, gave no quarter; and the
survivors only saved themselves by fleeing to the mountains.
Subsequently, the battles of Hararparpi and Fararar were fought, in
which the invaders met with indifferent success.
Shortly after the engagement at Hararparpi, three Frenchmen were
waylaid in a pass of the valleys, and murdered by the incensed
natives. One was Lefevre, a notorious scoundrel, and a spy, whom
Bruat had sent to conduct a certain Major Fergus (said to be a Pole)
to the hiding-place of four chiefs, whom the governor wished to seize
and execute. This circumstance violently inflamed the hostility of
About this time, Kitoti, a depraved chief, and the pliant tool of
Bruat, was induced by him to give a great feast in the Vale of Paree,
to which all his countrymen were invited. The governor's object was
to gain over all he could to his interests; he supplied an abundance
of wine and brandy, and a scene of bestial intoxication was the
natural consequence. Before it came to this, however, several speeches
were made by the islanders. One of these, delivered by an aged
warrior, who had formerly been at the head of the celebrated Aeorai
Society, was characteristic. "This is a very good feast," said the
reeling old man, "and the wine also is very good; but you evil-minded
Wee-Wees (French), and you false-hearted men of Tahiti, are all very
By the latest accounts, most of the islanders still refuse to submit
to the French; and what turn events may hereafter take, it is hard to
predict. At any rate, these disorders must accelerate the final
extinction of their race.
Along with the few officers left by Du Petit Thouars were several
French priests, for whose unobstructed exertions in the dissemination
of their faith, the strongest guarantees were provided by an article
of the treaty. But no one was bound to offer them facilities; much
less a luncheon, the first day they went ashore. True, they had
plenty of gold; but to the natives it was anathema--taboo--and, for
several hours and some odd minutes, they would not touch it.
Emissaries of the Pope and the devil, as the strangers were
considered--the smell of sulphur hardly yet shaken out of their
canonicals--what islander would venture to jeopardize his soul, and
call down a blight on his breadfruit, by holding any intercourse with
them! That morning the priests actually picknicked in grove of
cocoa-nut trees; but, before night, Christian hospitality--in
exchange for a commercial equivalent of hard dollars--was given them
in an adjoining house.
Wanting in civility, as the conduct of the English missionaries may be
thought, in withholding a decent reception to these persons, the
latter were certainly to blame in needlessly placing themselves in
so unpleasant a predicament. Under far better auspices, they might
have settled upon some one of the thousand unconverted isles of the
Pacific, rather than have forced themselves thus upon a people
already professedly Christians.
WE RECEIVE CALLS AT THE HOTEL DE CALABOOZA
OUR place of confinement being open all round, and so near the Broom
Road, of course we were in plain sight of everybody passing; and,
therefore, we had no lack of visitors among such an idle, inquisitive
set as the Tahitians. For a few days, they were coming and going
continually; while, thus ignobly fast by the foot, we were fain to
give passive audience.
During this period, we were the lions of the neighbourhood; and, no
doubt, strangers from the distant villages were taken to see the
"Karhowrees" (white men), in the same way that countrymen, in a city,
are gallanted to the Zoological Gardens.
All this gave us a fine opportunity of making observations. I was
painfully struck by the considerable number of sickly or deformed
persons; undoubtedly made so by a virulent complaint, which, under
native treatment, almost invariably affects, in the end, the muscles
and bones of the body. In particular, there is a distortion of the
back, most unsightly to behold, originating in a horrible form of the
Although this, and other bodily afflictions, were unknown before the
discovery of the islands by the whites, there are several cases found
of the Pa-Fa, or Elephantiasis--a native disease, which seems to have
prevailed among them from the earliest antiquity. Affecting the legs
and feet alone, it swells them, in some instances, to the girth of a
man's body, covering the skin with scales. It might be supposed that
one, thus afflicted, would be incapable of walking; but, to all
appearance, they seem to be nearly as active as anybody; apparently
suffering no pain, and bearing the calamity with a degree of
cheerfulness truly marvellous.
The Fa-Fa is very gradual in its approaches, and years elapse before
the limb is fully swollen. Its origin is ascribed by the natives to
various causes; but the general impression seems to be that it
arises, in most cases, from the eating of unripe bread-fruit and
Indian turnip. So far as I could find out, it is not hereditary. In no
stage do they attempt a cure; the complaint being held incurable.
Speaking of the Fa-Fa reminds me of a poor fellow, a sailor, whom I
afterward saw at Roorootoo, a lone island, some two days' sail from
The island is very small, and its inhabitants nearly extinct. We sent
a boat off to see whether any yams were to be had, as, formerly, the
yams of Roorootoo were as famous among the islands round about, as
Sicily oranges in the Mediterranean. Going ashore, to my surprise, I
was accosted, near a little shanty of a church, by a white man, who
limped forth from a wretched hut. His hair and beard were unshorn,
his face deadly pale and haggard, and one limb swelled with the Fa-Fa
to an incredible bigness. This was the first instance of a foreigner
suffering from it that I had ever seen, or heard of; and the
spectacle shocked me accordingly.
He had been there for years. From the first symptoms, he could not
believe his complaint to be what it really was, and trusted it would
soon disappear. But when it became plain that his only chance for
recovery was a speedy change of climate, no ship would receive him as
a sailor: to think of being taken as a passenger was idle. This
speaks little for the humanity of sea captains; but the truth is that
those in the Pacific have little enough of the virtue; and, nowadays,
when so many charitable appeals are made to them, they have become
I pitied the poor fellow from the bottom of my heart; but nothing
could I do, as our captain was inexorable. "Why," said he, "here we
are--started on a six months' cruise--I can't put back; and he is
better off on the island than at sea. So on Roorootoo he must die."
And probably he did.
I afterwards heard of this melancholy object, from two seamen. His
attempts to leave were still unavailing, and his hard fate was fast
Notwithstanding the physical degeneracy of the Tahitians as a people,
among the chiefs, individuals of personable figures are still
frequently met with; and, occasionally, majestic-looking men, and
diminutive women as lovely as the nymphs who, nearly a century ago,
swam round the ships of Wallis. In these instances, Tahitian beauty
is quite as seducing as it proved to the crew of the Bounty; the
young girls being just such creatures as a poet would picture in the
tropics--soft, plump, and dreamy-eyed.
The natural complexion of both sexes is quite light; but the males
appear much darker, from their exposure to the sun. A dark
complexion, however, in a man, is highly esteemed, as indicating
strength of both body and soul. Hence there is a saying, of great
antiquity among them,
"If dark the cheek of the mother, The son will sound the war-conch; If
strong her frame, he will give laws."
With this idea of manliness, no wonder the Tahitians regarded all pale
and tepid-looking Europeans as weak and feminine; whereas, a sailor,
with a cheek like the breast of a roast turkey, is held a lad of
brawn: to use their own phrase, a "taata tona," or man of bones.
Speaking of bones recalls an ugly custom of theirs, now obsolete--that
of making fish-hooks and gimlets out of those of their enemies. This
beats the Scandinavians turning people's skulls into cups and
But to return to the Calabooza Beretanee. Immense was the interest we
excited among the throngs that called there; they would stand talking
about us by the hour, growing most unnecessarily excited too, and
dancing up and down with all the vivacity of their race. They
invariably sided with us; flying out against the consul, and
denouncing him as "Ita maitai nuee," or very bad exceedingly. They
must have borne him some grudge or other.
Nor were the women, sweet souls, at all backward in visiting. Indeed,
they manifested even more interest than the men; gazing at us with
eyes full of a thousand meanings, and conversing with marvellous
rapidity. But, alas! inquisitive though they were, and, doubtless,
taking some passing compassion on us, there was little real feeling
in them after all, and still less sentimental sympathy. Many of them
laughed outright at us, noting only what was ridiculous in our
I think it was the second day of our confinement that a wild,
beautiful girl burst into the Calabooza, and, throwing herself into
an arch attitude, stood afar off, and gazed at us. She was a
heartless one:--tickled to death with Black Dan's nursing his chafed
ankle, and indulging in certain moral reflections on the consul and
Captain Guy. After laughing her fill at him, she condescended to
notice the rest; glancing from one to another in the most methodical
and provoking manner imaginable. Whenever anything struck her
comically, you saw it like a flash--her finger levelled
instantaneously, and, flinging herself back, she gave loose to
strange, hollow little notes of laughter, that sounded like the bass
of a music-box, playing a lively air with the lid down.
Now, I knew not that there was anything in my own appearance
calculated to disarm ridicule; and indeed, to have looked at all
heroic, under the circumstances, would have been rather difficult.
Still, I could not but feel exceedingly annoyed at the prospect of
being screamed at, in turn, by this mischievous young witch, even
though she were but an islander. And, to tell a secret, her beauty
had something to do with this sort of feeling; and, pinioned as I was
to a log, and clad most unbecomingly, I began to grow sentimental.
Ere her glance fell upon me, I had, unconsciously, thrown myself into
the most graceful attitude I could assume, leaned my head upon my
hand, and summoned up as abstracted an expression as possible. Though
my face was averted, I soon felt it flush, and knew that the glance
was on me; deeper and deeper grew the flush, and not a sound of
Delicious thought! she was moved at the sight of me. I could stand it
no longer, but started up. Lo! there she was; her great hazel eyes
rounding and rounding in her head, like two stars, her whole frame in
a merry quiver, and an expression about the mouth that was sudden and
violent death to anything like sentiment.
The next moment she spun round, and, bursting from peal to peal of
laughter, went racing out of the Calabooza; and, in mercy to me,
LIFE AT THE CALABOOZA
A FEW days passed; and, at last, our docility was rewarded by some
indulgence on the part of Captain Bob.
He allowed the entire party to be at large during the day; only
enjoining upon us always to keep within hail. This, to be sure, was
in positive disobedience to Wilson's orders; and so, care had to be
taken that he should not hear of it. There was little fear of the
natives telling him; but strangers travelling the Broom Road might. By
way of precaution, boys were stationed as scouts along the road. At
sight of a white man, they sounded the alarm! when we all made for
our respective holes (the stocks being purposely left open): the beam
then descended, and we were prisoners. As soon as the traveller was
out of sight, of course, we were liberated.
Notwithstanding the regular supply of food which we obtained from
Captain Bob and his friends, it was so small that we often felt most
intolerably hungry. We could not blame them for not bringing us more,
for we soon became aware that they had to pinch themselves in order
to give us what they did; besides, they received nothing for their
kindness but the daily bucket of bread.
Among a people like the Tahitians, what we call "hard times" can only
be experienced in the scarcity of edibles; yet, so destitute are many
of the common people that this most distressing consequence of
civilization may be said, with them, to be ever present. To be sure,
the natives about the Calabooza had abundance of limes and oranges;
but what were these good for, except to impart a still keener edge to
appetites which there was so little else to gratify? During the height
of the bread-fruit season, they fare better; but, at other times, the
demands of the shipping exhaust the uncultivated resources of the
island; and the lands being mostly owned by the chiefs, the inferior
orders have to suffer for their cupidity. Deprived of their nets, many
of them would starve.
As Captain Bob insensibly remitted his watchfulness, and we began to
stroll farther and farther from the Calabooza, we managed, by a
systematic foraging upon the country round about, to make up some of
our deficiencies. And fortunate it was that the houses of the
wealthier natives were just as open to us as those of the most
destitute; we were treated as kindly in one as the other.
Once in a while, we came in at the death of a chiefs pig; the noise of
whose slaughtering was generally to be heard at a great distance. An
occasion like this gathers the neighbours together, and they have a
bit of a feast, where a stranger is always welcome. A good loud
squeal, therefore, was music in our ears. It showed something going
on in that direction.
Breaking in upon the party tumultuously, as we did, we always created
a sensation. Sometimes, we found the animal still alive and
struggling; in which case, it was generally dropped at our approach.
To provide for these emergencies, Flash Jack generally repaired to the
scene of operations with a sheath-knife between his teeth, and a club
in his hand. Others were exceedingly officious in singeing off the
bristles, and disembowelling. Doctor Long Ghost and myself, however,
never meddled with these preliminaries, but came to the feast itself
with unimpaired energies.
Like all lank men, my long friend had an appetite of his own. Others
occasionally went about seeking what they might devour, but he was
always on the alert.
He had an ingenious way of obviating an inconvenience which we all
experienced at times. The islanders seldom use salt with their food;
so he begged Rope Yarn to bring him some from the ship; also a little
pepper, if he could; which, accordingly, was done. This he placed in
a small leather wallet--a "monkey bag" (so called by sailors)
--usually worn as a purse about the neck.
"In my opinion," said Long Ghost, as he tucked the wallet out of
sight, "it behooves a stranger, in Tahiti, to have his knife in
readiness, and his castor slung."
VISIT FROM AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE
WE had not been many days ashore, when Doctor Johnson was espied
coming along the Broom Road.
We had heard that he meditated a visit, and suspected what he was
after. Being upon the consul's hands, all our expenses were of course
payable by him in his official capacity; and, therefore, as a friend
of Wilson, and sure of good pay, the shore doctor had some idea of
allowing us to run up a bill with him. True, it was rather awkward to
ask us to take medicines which, on board the ship, he told us were
not needed. However, he resolved to put a bold face on the matter, and
give us a call.
His approach was announced by one of the scouts, upon which someone
suggested that we should let him enter, and then put him in the
stocks. But Long Ghost proposed better sport. What it was, we shall
Very bland and amiable, Doctor Johnson advanced, and, resting his cane
on the stocks, glanced to right and left, as we lay before him.
"Well, my lads"--he began--"how do you find yourselves to-day?"
Looking very demure, the men made some rejoinder; and he went on.
"Those poor fellows I saw the other day--the sick, I mean--how are
they?" and he scrutinized the company. At last, he singled out one
who was assuming a most unearthly appearance, and remarked that he
looked as if he were extremely ill. "Yes," said the sailor dolefully,
"I'm afeard, doctor, I'll soon be losing the number of my mess!" (a
sea phrase, for departing this life) and he closed his eyes, and
"What does he say?" said Johnson, turning round eagerly.
"Why," exclaimed Flash Jack, who volunteered as interpreter, "he
means he's going to croak" (die).
"Croak! and what does that mean, applied to a patient?"
"Oh! I understand," said he, when the word was explained; and he
stepped over the stocks, and felt the man's pulse.
"What's his name?" he asked, turning this time to old Navy Bob.
"We calls him Jingling Joe," replied that worthy.
"Well then, men, you must take good care of poor Joseph; and I will
send him a powder, which must be taken according to the directions.
Some of you know how to read, I presume?"
"That ere young cove does," replied Bob, pointing toward the place
where I lay, as if he were directing attention to a sail at sea.
After examining the rest--some of whom were really invalids, but
convalescent, and others only pretending to be labouring under divers
maladies, Johnson turned round, and addressed the party.
"Men," said he, "if any more of you are ailing, speak up, and let me
know. By order of the consul, I'm to call every day; so if any of you
are at all sick, it's my duty to prescribe for you. This sudden
change from ship fare to shore living plays the deuce with you
sailors, so be cautious about eating fruit. Good-day! I'll send you
the medicines the first thing in the morning."
Now, I am inclined to suspect that with all his want of understanding,
Johnson must have had some idea that we were quizzing him. Still,
that was nothing, so long as it answered his purpose; and therefore,
if he did see through us, he never showed it.
Sure enough, at the time appointed, along came a native lad with a
small basket of cocoa-nut stalks, filled with powders, pill-boxes,
and-vials, each with names and directions written in a large, round
hand. The sailors, one and all, made a snatch at the collection,
under the strange impression that some of the vials were seasoned
with spirits. But, asserting his privilege as physician to the first
reading of the labels, Doctor Long Ghost was at last permitted to
take possession of the basket.
The first thing lighted upon was a large vial, labelled--"For William
--rub well in."
This vial certainly had a spirituous smell; and upon handing it to the
patient, he made a summary internal application of its contents. The
doctor looked aghast.
There was now a mighty commotion. Powders and pills were voted mere
drugs in the market, and the holders of vials were pronounced lucky
dogs. Johnson must have known enough of sailors to make some of his
medicines palatable--this, at least, Long Ghost suspected. Certain it
was, everyone took to the vials; if at all spicy, directions were
unheeded, their contents all going one road.
The largest one of all, quite a bottle indeed, and having a sort of
burnt brandy odour, was labelled--"For Daniel, drink freely, and
until relieved." This Black Dan proceeded to do; and would have made
an end of it at once, had not the bottle, after a hard struggle, been
snatched from his hands, and passed round, like a jovial decanter.
The old tar had complained of the effects of an immoderate eating of
Upon calling the following morning, our physician found his precious
row of patients reclining behind the stocks, and doing "as well as
could be expected."
But the pills and powders were found to have been perfectly inactive:
probably because none had been taken. To make them efficacious, it
was suggested that, for the future, a bottle of Pisco should be sent
along with them. According to Flash Jack's notions, unmitigated
medical compounds were but dry stuff at the best, and needed
something good to wash them down.
Thus far, our own M.D., Doctor Long Ghost, after starting the frolic,
had taken no further part in it; but on the physician's third visit,
he took him to one side, and had a private confabulation. What it
was, exactly, we could not tell; but from certain illustrative signs
and gestures, I fancied that he was describing the symptoms of some
mysterious disorganization of the vitals, which must have come on
within the hour. Assisted by his familiarity with medical terms, he
seemed to produce a marked impression. At last, Johnson went his way,
promising aloud that he would send Long Ghost what he desired.
When the medicine boy came along the following morning, the doctor was
the first to accost him, walking off with a small purple vial. This
time, there was little else in the basket but a case-bottle of the
burnt brandy cordial, which, after much debate, was finally disposed
of by someone pouring the contents, little by little, into the half of
a cocoa-nut shell, and so giving all who desired a glass. No further
medicinal cheer remaining, the men dispersed.
An hour or two passed, when Flash Jack directed attention to my long
friend, who, since the medicine boy left, had not been noticed till
now. With eyes closed, he was lying behind the stocks, and Jack was
lifting his arm and letting it fall as if life were extinct. On
running up with the rest, I at once connected the phenomenon with the
mysterious vial. Searching his pocket, I found it, and holding it up,
it proved to be laudanum. Flash Jack, snatching it from my hand in a
rapture, quickly informed all present what it was; and with much
glee, proposed a nap for the company. Some of them not comprehending
him exactly, the apparently defunct Long Ghost--who lay so still that
I a little suspected the genuineness of his sleep--was rolled about as
an illustration of the virtues of the vial's contents. The idea
tickled everybody mightily; and throwing themselves down, the magic
draught was passed from hand to hand. Thinking that, as a matter of
course, they must at once become insensible, each man, upon taking
his sip, fell back, and closed his eyes.
There was little fear of the result, since the narcotic was equally
distributed. But, curious to see how it would operate, I raised
myself gently after a while, and looked around. It was about noon,
and perfectly still; and as we all daily took the siesta, I was not
much surprised to find everyone quiet. Still, in one or two instances,
I thought I detected a little peeping.
Presently, I heard a footstep, and saw Doctor Johnson approaching.
And perplexed enough did he look at the sight of his prostrate file of
patients, plunged, apparently, in such unaccountable slumbers.
"Daniel," he cried, at last, punching in the side with his cane the
individual thus designated--"Daniel, my good fellow, get up! do you
But Black Dan was immovable; and he poked the next sleeper.
"Joseph, Joseph! come, wake up! it's me, Doctor Johnson."
But Jingling Joe, with mouth open, and eyes shut, was not to be
"Bless my soul!" he exclaimed, with uplifted hands and cane, "what's
got into 'em? I say, men"--he shouted, running up and down--"come to
life, men! what under the sun's the matter with you?" and he struck
the stocks, and bawled with increased vigour.
At last he paused, folded his hands over the head of his cane, and
steadfastly gazed upon us. The notes of the nasal orchestra were
rising and falling upon his ear, and a new idea suggested itself.
"Yes, yes; the rascals must have been getting boozy. Well, it's none
of my business--I'll be off;" and off he went.
No sooner was he out of sight, than nearly all started to their feet,
and a hearty laugh ensued.
Like myself, most of them had been watching the event from under a sly
eyelid. By this time, too, Doctor Long Ghost was as wide awake as
anybody. What were his reasons for taking laudanum,--if, indeed, he
took any whatever,--is best known to himself; and, as it is neither
mine nor the reader's business, we will say no more about it.
WE ARE CARRIED BEFORE THE CONSUL AND CAPTAIN
WE HAD been inmates of the Calabooza Beretanee about two weeks, when,
one morning, Captain Bob, coming from the bath, in a state of utter
nudity, brought into the building an armful of old tappa, and began
to dress to go out.
The operation was quite simple. The tappa--of the coarsest kind--was
in one long, heavy piece; and, fastening one end to a column of
Habiscus wood supporting the Calabooza, he went off a few paces, and
putting the other about his waist, wound himself right up to the
post. This unique costume, in rotundity something like a farthingale,
added immensely to his large hulk; so much so that he fairly waddled
in his gait. But he was only adhering to the fashion of his fathers;
for, in the olden time, the "Kihee," or big girdle, was quite the
mode for both sexes. Bob, despising recent innovations, still clung
to it. He was a gentleman of the old school--one of the last of the
He now told us that he had orders to take us before the consul.
Nothing loth, we formed in procession; and, with the old man at our
head, sighing and labouring like an engine, and flanked by a guard of
some twenty natives, we started for the village.
Arrived at the consular office, we found Wilson there, and four or
five Europeans, seated in a row facing us; probably with the view of
presenting as judicial an appearance as possible.
On one side was a couch, where Captain Guy reclined. He looked
convalescent; and, as we found out, intended soon to go aboard his
ship. He said nothing, but left everything to the consul.
The latter now rose, and, drawing forth a paper from a large roll tied
with red tape, commenced reading aloud.
It purported to be, "the affidavit of John Jennin, first officer of
the British Colonial Barque Julia; Guy, Master;" and proved to be a
long statement of matters, from the time of leaving Sydney, down to
our arrival in the harbour. Though artfully drawn up so as to bear
hard against every one of us, it was pretty correct in the de-.
tails; excepting that it was wholly silent as to the manifold
derelictions of the mate himself--a fact which imparted unusual
significance to the concluding sentence, "And furthermore, this
deponent sayeth not."
No comments were made, although we all looked round for the mate to
see whether it was possible that he could have authorized this use of
his name. But he was not present.
The next document produced was the deposition of the captain himself.
As on all other occasions, however, he had very little to say for
himself, and it was soon set aside.
The third affidavit was that of the seamen remaining aboard the
vessel, including the traitor Bungs, who, it seemed, had turned
ship's evidence. It was an atrocious piece of exaggeration, from
beginning to end; and those who signed it could not have known what
they were about. Certainly Wymontoo did not, though his mark was
there. In vain the consul commanded silence during the reading of this
paper; comments were shouted out upon every paragraph.
The affidavits read, Wilson, who, all the while, looked as stiff as a
poker, solemnly drew forth the ship's articles from their tin case.
This document was a discoloured, musty, bilious-looking affair, and
hard to read. When finished, the consul held it up; and, pointing to
the marks of the ship's company, at the bottom, asked us, one by one,
whether we acknowledged the same for our own.
"What's the use of asking that?" said Black Dan; "Captain Guy there
knows as well as we they are."
"Silence, sir!" said Wilson, who, intending to produce a suitable
impression by this ridiculous parade, was not a little mortified by
the old sailor's bluntness.
A pause of a few moments now ensued; during which the bench of judges
communed with Captain Guy, in a low tone, and the sailors canvassed
the motives of the consul in having the affidavits taken.
The general idea seemed to be that it was done with a view of
"bouncing," or frightening us into submission. Such proved to be the
case; for Wilson, rising to his feet again, addressed us as
"You see, men, that every preparation has been made to send you to
Sydney for trial. The Rosa (a small Australian schooner, lying in
the harbour) will sail for that place in the course of ten days, at
farthest. The Julia sails on a cruise this day week. Do you still
Hereupon the consul and captain exchanged glances; and the latter
looked bitterly disappointed.
Presently I noticed Guy's eye upon me; and, for the first time, he
spoke, and told me to come near. I stepped forward.
"Was it not you that was taken off the island?"
"It was you then who owe your life to my humanity. Yet this is the
gratitude of a sailor, Mr. Wilson!"
"Not so, sir." And I at once gave him to understand that I was
perfectly acquainted with his motives in sending a boat into the bay;
his crew was reduced, and he merely wished to procure the sailor whom
he expected to find there. The ship was the means of my deliverance,
and no thanks to the benevolence of its captain.
Doctor Long Ghost also had a word to say. In two masterly sentences he
summed up Captain Guy's character, to the complete satisfaction of
every seaman present.
Matters were now growing serious; especially as the sailors became
riotous, and talked about taking the consul and the captain back to
the Calabooza with them.
The other judges fidgeted, and loudly commanded silence. It was at
length restored; when Wilson, for the last time addressing us, said
something more about the Rose and Sydney, and concluded by reminding
us that a week would elapse ere the Julia sailed.
Leaving these hints to operate for themselves, he dismissed the party,
ordering Captain Bob and his friends to escort us back whence we
THE FRENCH PRIESTS PAY THEIR RESPECTS
A DAY or two after the events just related, we were lounging in the
Calabooza Beretanee, when we were honoured by a visit from three of
the French Priests; and as about the only notice ever taken of us by
the English missionaries was their leaving their cards for us, in the
shape of a package of tracts, we could not help thinking that the
Frenchmen, in making a personal call, were at least much better bred.
By this time they had settled themselves down quite near our
habitation. A pleasant little stroll down the Broom Road, and a
rustic cross peeped through the trees; and soon you came to as
charming a place as one would wish to see: a soft knoll, planted with
old breadfruit trees; in front, a savannah, sloping to a grove of
palms, and, between these, glimpses of blue, sunny waves.
On the summit of the knoll was a rude chapel, of bamboos; quite small,
and surmounted by the cross. Between the canes, at nightfall, the
natives stole peeps at a small portable altar; a crucifix to
correspond, and gilded candlesticks and censers. Their curiosity
carried them no further; nothing could induce them to worship there.
Such queer ideas as they entertained of the hated strangers. Masses
and chants were nothing more than evil spells. As for the priests
themselves, they were no better than diabolical sorcerers; like those
who, in old times, terrified their fathers.
Close by the chapel was a range of native houses; rented from a chief,
and handsomely furnished. Here lived the priests; and very
comfortably, too. They looked sanctimonious enough abroad; but that
went for nothing; since, at home, in their retreat, they were a club
of Friar Tucks; holding priestly wassail over many a good cup of red
brandy, and rising late in the morning.
Pity it was they couldn't marry--pity for the ladies of the island, I
mean, and the cause of morality; for what business had the
ecclesiastical old bachelors with such a set of trim little native
handmaidens? These damsels were their first converts; and devoted
ones they were.
The priests, as I have said before, were accounted necromancers: the
appearance of two of our three visitors might have justified the
They were little, dried-up Frenchmen, in long, straight gowns of black
cloth, and unsightly three-cornered hats--so preposterously big that,
in putting them on, the reverend fathers seemed to extinguish
Their companion was dressed differently. He wore a sort of yellow,
flannel morning gown, and a broad-brimmed Manilla hat. Large and
portly, he was also hale and fifty; with a complexion like an
autumnal leaf--handsome blue eyes--fine teeth, and a racy Milesian
brogue. In short, he was an Irishman; Father Murphy, by name; and, as
such, pretty well known, and very thoroughly disliked, throughout all
the Protestant missionary settlements in Polynesia. In early youth,
he had been sent to a religious seminary in France; and, taking
orders there, had but once or twice afterwards revisited his native
Father Murphy marched up to us briskly; and the first words he uttered
were, to ask whether there were any of his countrymen among us.
There were two of them; one, a lad of sixteen--a bright, curly-headed
rascal--and, being a young Irishman, of course, his name was Pat. The
other was an ugly, and rather melancholy-looking scamp; one M'Gee,
whose prospects in life had been blasted by a premature
transportation to Sydney. This was the report, at least, though it
might have been scandal.
In most of my shipmates were some redeeming qualities; but about
M'Gee, there was nothing of the kind; and forced to consort with him,
I could not help regretting, a thousand times, that the gallows had
been so tardy. As if impelled, against her will, to send him into the
world, Nature had done all she could to insure his being taken for
what he was. About the eyes there was no mistaking him; with a
villainous cast in one, they seemed suspicious of each other.
Glancing away from him at once, the bluff priest rested his gaze on
the good-humoured face of Pat, who, with a pleasant roguishness, was
"twigging" the enormous hats (or "Hytee Belteezers," as land beavers
are called by sailors), from under which, like a couple of snails,
peeped the two little Frenchmen.
Pat and the priest were both from the same town in Meath; and, when
this was found out, there was no end to the questions of the latter.
To him, Pat seemed a letter from home, and said a hundred times as
After a long talk between these two, and a little broken English from
the Frenchmen, our visitors took leave; but Father Murphy had hardly
gone a dozen rods when back he came, inquiring whether we were in
want of anything.
"Yes," cried one, "something to eat." Upon this he promised to send us
some fresh wheat bread, of his own baking; a great luxury in Tahiti.
We all felicitated Pat upon picking up such a friend, and told him his
fortune was made.
The next morning, a French servant of the priest's made his appearance
with a small bundle of clothing for our young Hibernian; and the
promised bread for the party. Pat being out at the knees and elbows,
and, like the rest of us, not full inside, the present was acceptable
In the afternoon, Father Murphy himself came along; and, in addition
to his previous gifts, gave Pat a good deal of advice: said he was
sorry to see him in limbo, and that he would have a talk with the
consul about having him set free.
We saw nothing more of him for two or three days; at the end of which
time he paid us another call, telling Pat that Wilson was inexorable,
having refused to set him at liberty, unless to go aboard the ship.
This, the priest now besought him to do forthwith; and so escape the
punishment which, it seems, Wilson had been hinting at to his
intercessor. Pat, however, was staunch against entreaties; and, with
all the ardour of a sophomorean sailor, protested his intention to
hold out to the last. With none of the meekness of a good little boy
about him, the blunt youngster stormed away at such a rate that it
was hard to pacify him; and the priest said no more.
How it came to pass--whether from Murphy's speaking to the consul, or
otherwise, we could not tell--but the next day, Pat was sent for by
Wilson, and being escorted to the village by our good old keeper,
three days elapsed before he returned.
Bent upon reclaiming him, they had taken him on board the ship;
feasted him in the cabin; and, finding that of no avail, down they
thrust him into the hold, in double irons, and on bread and water.
All would not do; and so he was sent back to the Calabooza. Boy that
he was, they must have counted upon his being more susceptible to
discipline than the rest.
The interest felt in Pat's welfare, by his benevolent countryman, was
very serviceable to the rest of us; especially as we all turned
Catholics, and went to mass every morning, much to Captain Bob's
consternation. Upon finding it out, he threatened to keep us in the
stocks if we did not desist. He went no farther than this, though;
and so, every few days, we strolled down to the priest's residence,
and had a mouthful to eat, and something generous to drink. In
particular, Dr. Long Ghost and myself became huge favourites with
Pat's friend; and many a time he regaled us from a quaint-looking
travelling case for spirits, stowed away in one corner of his
dwelling. It held four square flasks, which, somehow or other, always
contained just enough to need emptying. In truth, the fine old
Irishman was a rosy fellow in canonicals. His countenance and his
soul were always in a glow. It may be ungenerous to reveal his
failings, but he often talked thick, and sometimes was perceptibly
eccentric in his gait.
I never drink French brandy but I pledge Father Murphy. His health
again! And many jolly proselytes may he make in Polynesia!
LITTLE JULIA SAILS WITHOUT US
TO MAKE good the hint thrown out by the consul upon the conclusion of
the Farce of the Affidavits, we were again brought before him within
the time specified.
It was the same thing over again: he got nothing out of us, and we
were remanded; our resolute behaviour annoying him prodigiously.
What we observed led us to form the idea that, on first learning the
state of affairs on board the Julia, Wilson must have addressed his
invalid friend, the captain, something in the following style:
"Guy, my poor fellow, don't worry yourself now about those rascally
sailors of yours. I'll dress them out for you--just leave it all to
me, and set your mind at rest."
But handcuffs and stocks, big looks, threats, dark hints, and
depositions, had all gone for nought.
Conscious that, as matters now stood, nothing serious could grow out
of what had happened; and never dreaming that our being sent home for
trial had ever been really thought of, we thoroughly understood
Wilson, and laughed at him accordingly.
Since leaving the Julia, we had caught no glimpse of the mate; but we
often heard of him.
It seemed that he remained on board, keeping house in the cabin for
himself and Viner; who, going to see him according to promise, was
induced to remain a guest. These two cronies now had fine times;
tapping the captain's quarter-casks, playing cards on the transom,
and giving balls of an evening to the ladies ashore. In short, they
cut up so many queer capers that the missionaries complained of them
to the consul; and Jermin received a sharp reprimand.
This so affected him that he still drank more freely than before; and
one afternoon, when mellow as a grape, he took umbrage at a canoe
full of natives, who, on being hailed from the deck to come aboard
and show their papers, got frightened, and paddled for the shore.
Lowering a boat instantly, he equipped Wymontoo and the Dane with a
cutlass apiece, and seizing another himself, off they started in
pursuit, the ship's ensign flying in the boat's stern. The alarmed
islanders, beaching their canoe, with loud cries fled through the
village, the mate after them, slashing his naked weapon to right and
left. A crowd soon collected; and the "Karhowree toonee," or crazy
stranger, was quickly taken before Wilson.
Now, it so chanced that, in a native house hard by, the consul and
Captain Guy were having a quiet game at cribbage by themselves, a
decanter on the table standing sentry. The obstreperous Jermin was
brought in; and finding the two thus pleasantly occupied, it had a
soothing effect upon him; and he insisted upon taking a hand at the
cards, and a drink of the brandy. As the consul was nearly as tipsy as
himself, and the captain dared not object for fear of giving offence,
at it they went--all three of them--and made a night of it; the
mate's delinquencies being summarily passed over, and his captors
An incident worth relating grew out of this freak.
There wandered about Papeetee, at this time, a shrivelled little
fright of an Englishwoman, known among sailors as "Old Mother Tot."
From New Zealand to the Sandwich Islands, she had been all over the
South Seas; keeping a rude hut of entertainment for mariners, and
supplying them with rum and dice. Upon the missionary islands, of
course, such conduct was severely punishable; and at various places,
Mother Tot's establishment had been shut up, and its proprietor made
to quit in the first vessel that could be hired to land her
elsewhere. But, with a perseverance invincible, wherever she went she
always started afresh; and so became notorious everywhere.
By some wicked spell of hers, a patient, one-eyed little cobbler
followed her about, mending shoes for white men, doing the old
woman's cooking, and bearing all her abuse without grumbling. Strange
to relate, a battered Bible was seldom out of his sight; and whenever
he had leisure, and his mistress' back was turned, he was forever
poring over it. This pious propensity used to enrage the old crone
past belief; and oftentimes she boxed his ears with the book, and
tried to burn it. Mother Tot and her man Josy were, indeed, a curious
But to my story.
A week or so after our arrival in the harbour, the old lady had once
again been hunted down, and forced for the time to abandon her
nefarious calling. This was brought about chiefly by Wilson, who, for
some reason unknown, had contracted the most violent hatred for her;
which, on her part, was more than reciprocated.
Well: passing, in the evening, where the consul and his party were
making merry, she peeped through the bamboos of the house; and
straightway resolved to gratify her spite.
The night was very dark; and providing herself with a huge ship's
lantern, which usually swung in her hut, she waited till they came
forth. This happened about midnight; Wilson making his appearance,
supported by two natives, holding him up by the arms. These three
went first; and just as they got under a deep shade, a bright light
was thrust within an inch of Wilson's nose. The old hag was kneeling
before him, holding the lantern with uplifted hands.
"Ha, ha! my fine counsellor," she shrieked; "ye persecute a lone old
body like me for selling rum--do ye? And here ye are, carried home
drunk--Hoot! ye villain, I scorn ye!" And she spat upon him.
Terrified at the apparition, the poor natives--arrant believers in
ghosts--dropped the trembling consul, and fled in all directions.
After giving full vent to her rage, Mother Tot hobbled away, and left
the three revellers to stagger home the best way they could.
The day following our last interview with Wilson, we learned that
Captain Guy had gone on board his vessel for the purpose of shipping
a new crew. There was a round bounty offered; and a heavy bag of
Spanish dollars, with the Julia's articles ready for signing, were
laid on the capstan-head.
Now, there was no lack of idle sailors ashore, mostly "Beachcombers,"
who had formed themselves into an organized gang, headed by one Mack,
a Scotchman, whom they styled the Commodore. By the laws of the
fraternity, no member was allowed to ship on board a vessel unless
granted permission by the rest. In this way the gang controlled the
port, all discharged seamen being forced to join them.
To Mack and his men our story was well known; indeed, they had several
times called to see us; and of course, as sailors and congenial
spirits, they were hard against Captain Guy.
Deeming the matter important, they came in a body to the Calabooza,
and wished to know whether, all things considered, we thought it best
for any of them to join the Julia.
Anxious to pack the ship off as soon as possible, we answered, by all
means. Some went so far as to laud the Julia to the skies as the best
and fastest of ships. Jermin too, as a good fellow, and a sailor
every inch, came in for his share of praise; and as for the
captain--quiet man, he would never trouble anyone. In short, every
inducement we could think of was presented; and Plash Jack ended by
assuring the beachcombers solemnly that, now we were all well and
hearty, nothing but a regard to principle prevented us from returning
on board ourselves.
The result was that a new crew was finally obtained, together with a
steady New Englander for second mate, and three good whalemen for
harpooners. In part, what was wanting for the ship's larder was also
supplied; and as far as could be done in a place like Tahiti, the
damages the vessel had sustained were repaired. As for the Mowree,
the authorities refusing to let him be put ashore, he was carried to
sea in irons, down in the hold. What eventually became of him we
Ropey, poor poor Ropey, who a few days previous had fallen sick, was
left ashore at the sailor hospital at Townor, a small place upon the
beach between Papeetee and Matavai. Here, some time after, he
breathed his last. No one knew his complaint: he must have died of
hard times. Several of us saw him interred in the sand, and I planted
a rude post to mark his resting-place.
The cooper, and the rest who had remained aboard from the first, of
course, composed part of the Julia's new crew.
To account for the conduct, all along, of the consul and captain, in
trying so hard to alter our purpose with respect to the ship, the
following statement is all that is requisite. Beside an advance of
from fifteen to twenty-five dollars demanded by every sailor shipping
at Tahiti, an additional sum for each man so shipped has to be paid
into the hands of the government, as a charge of the port. Beside
this, the men--with here and there an exception--will only ship for
one cruise, thus becoming entitled to a discharge before the vessel
reaches home; which, in time, creates the necessity of obtaining
other men, at a similar cost. Now, the Julia's exchequer was at
low-water mark, or rather, it was quite empty; and to meet these
expenses, a good part of what little oil there was aboard had to be
sold for a song to a merchant of Papeetee.
It was Sunday in Tahiti and a glorious morning, when Captain Bob,
waddling into the Calabooza, startled us by announcing "Ah--my
boy--shippy you, harre--maky sail!" In other words, the Julia was
The beach was quite near, and in this quarter altogether uninhabited;
so down we ran, and, at cable's length, saw little Jule gliding
past--top-gallant-sails hoisting, and a boy aloft with one leg thrown
over the yard, loosing the fore-royal. The decks were all life and
commotion; the sailors on the forecastle singing "Ho, cheerly men!"
as they catted the anchor; and the gallant Jennin, bare-headed as his
wont, standing up on the bowsprit, and issuing his orders. By the man
at the helm stood Captain Guy, very quiet and gentlemanly, and
smoking a cigar.
Soon the ship drew near the reef, and, altering her course, glided out
through the break, and went on her way.
Thus disappeared little Jule, about three weeks after entering the
harbour: and nothing more have I ever heard of her.
JERMIN SERVES US A GOOD TURN--FRIENDSHIPS IN POLYNESIA
THE ship out of the way, we were quite anxious to know what was going
to be done with us. On this head, Captain Bob could tell us nothing;
no further, at least, than that he still considered himself
responsible for our safe-keeping. However, he never put us to bed any
more; and we had everything our own way.
The day after the Julia left, the old man came up to us in great
tribulation, saying that the bucket of bread was no longer
forthcoming, and that Wilson had refused to send anything in its
place. One and all, we took this for a hint to disperse quietly, and
go about our business. Nevertheless, we were not to be shaken off so
easily; and taking a malicious pleasure in annoying our old enemy, we
resolved, for the present, to stay where we were. For the part he had
been acting, we learned that the consul was the laughing-stock of all
the foreigners ashore, who frequently twitted him upon his hopeful
proteges of the Calabooza Beretanee.
As we were wholly without resources, so long as we remained on the
island no better place than Captain Bob's could be selected for an
abiding-place. Beside, we heartily loved the old gentleman, and could
not think of leaving him; so, telling him to give no thought as to
wherewithal we should be clothed and fed, we resolved, by extending
and systematizing our foraging operations, to provide for ourselves.
We were greatly assisted by a parting legacy of Jermin's. To him we
were indebted for having all our chests sent ashore, and everything
left therein. They were placed in the custody of a petty chief living
near by, who was instructed by the consul not to allow them to be
taken away; but we might call and make our toilets whenever we
We went to see Mahinee, the old chief; Captain Bob going along, and
stoutly insisting upon having the chattels delivered up. At last this
was done; and in solemn procession the chests were borne by the
natives to the Calabooza. Here, we disposed them about quite
tastefully; and made such a figure that, in the eyes of old Bob and
his friends, the Calabooza Beretanee was by far the most sumptuously
furnished saloon in Tahiti.
Indeed, so long as it remained thus furnished, the native courts of
the district were held there; the judge, Mahinee, and his associates,
sitting upon one of the chests, and the culprits and spectators
thrown at full length upon the ground, both inside of the building
and under the shade of the trees without; while, leaning over the
stocks as from a gallery, the worshipful crew of the Julia looked on,
and canvassed the proceedings.
I should have mentioned before that, previous to the vessel's
departure, the men had bartered away all the clothing they could
possibly spare; but now, it was resolved to be more provident.
The contents of the chests were of the most miscellaneous
description:--sewing utensils, marling-spikes, strips of calico, bits
of rope, jack-knives; nearly everything, in short, that a seaman
could think of. But of wearing apparel, there was little but old
frocks, remnants of jackets, and legs of trousers, with now and then
the foot of a stocking.
These, however, were far from being valueless; for, among the poorer
Tahitians, everything European is highly esteemed. They come from
"Beretanee, Fenooa Pararee" (Britain, Land of Wonders), and that is
The chests themselves were deemed exceedingly precious, especially
those with unfractured looks, which would absolutely click, and
enable the owner to walk off with the key. Scars, however, and
bruises, were considered great blemishes. One old fellow, smitten
with the doctor's large mahogany chest (a well-filled one, by the
bye), and finding infinite satisfaction in merely sitting thereon,
was detected in the act of applying a healing ointment to a shocking
scratch which impaired the beauty of the lid.
There is no telling the love of a Tahitian for a sailor's trunk. So
ornamental is it held as an article of furniture in the hut, that the
women are incessantly tormenting their husbands to bestir themselves
and make them a present of one. When obtained, no pier-table just
placed in a drawing-room is regarded with half the delight. For these
reasons, then, our coming into possession of our estate at this time
was an important event.
The islanders are much like the rest of the world; and the news of our
good fortune brought us troops of "tayos," or friends, eager to form
an alliance after the national custom, and do our slightest bidding.
The really curious way in which all the Polynesians are in the habit
of making bosom friends at the shortest possible notice is deserving
of remark. Although, among a people like the Tahitians, vitiated as
they are by sophisticating influences, this custom has in most cases
degenerated into a mere mercenary relation, it nevertheless had its
origin in a fine, and in some instances, heroic sentiment, formerly
entertained by their fathers.
In the annals of the island are examples of extravagant friendships,
unsurpassed by the story of Damon and Pythias: in truth, much more
wonderful; for, notwithstanding the devotion--even of life in some
cases--to which they led, they were frequently entertained at first
sight for some stranger from another island.
Filled with love and admiration for the first whites who came among
them, the Polynesians could not testify the warmth of their emotions
more strongly than by instantaneously making their abrupt proffer of
friendship. Hence, in old voyages we read of chiefs coming off from
the shore in their canoes, and going through with strange antics,
expressive of the desire. In the same way, their inferiors accosted
the seamen; and thus the practice has continued in some islands down
to the present day.
There is a small place, not many days' sail from Tahiti, and seldom
visited by shipping, where the vessel touched to which I then
happened to belong.
Of course, among the simple-hearted natives, We had a friend all
round. Mine was Poky, a handsome youth, who never could do enough for
me. Every morning at sunrise, his canoe came alongside loaded with
fruits of all kinds; upon being emptied, it was secured by a line to
the bowsprit, under which it lay all day long, ready at any time to
carry its owner ashore on an errand.
Seeing him so indefatigable, I told Poky one day that I was a virtuoso
in shells and curiosities of all kinds. That was enough; away he
paddled for the head of the bay, and I never saw him again for
twenty-four hours. The next morning, his canoe came gliding slowly
along the shore with the full-leaved bough of a tree for a sail. For
the purpose of keeping the things dry, he had also built a sort of
platform just behind the prow, railed in with green wicker-work; and
here was a heap of yellow bananas and cowree shells; young cocoa-nuts
and antlers of red coral; two or three pieces of carved wood; a
little pocket-idol, black as jet, and rolls of printed tappa.
We were given a holiday; and upon going ashore, Poky, of course, was
my companion and guide. For this, no mortal could be better
qualified; his native country was not large, and he knew every inch
of it. Gallanting me about, everyone was stopped and ceremoniously
introduced to Poty's "tayo karhowree nuee" or his particular white
He showed me all the lions; but more than all, he took me to see a
charming lioness--a young damsel--the daughter of a chief--the
reputation of whose charms had spread to the neighbouring islands,
and even brought suitors therefrom. Among these was Tooboi, the heir
of Tamatory, King of Eaiatair, one of the Society Isles. The girl was
certainly fair to look upon. Many heavens were in her sunny eyes; and
the outline of that arm of hers, peeping forth from a capricious
tappa robe, was the very curve of beauty.
Though there was no end to Poky's attentions, not a syllable did he
ever breathe of reward; but sometimes he looked very knowing. At last
the day came for sailing, and with it, also, his canoe, loaded down
to the gunwale with a sea stock of fruits. Giving him all I could
spare from my chest, I went on deck to take my place at the windlass;
for the anchor was weighing. Poky followed, and heaved with me at the
The anchor was soon up; and away we went out of the bay with more than
twenty shallops towing astern. At last they left us; but long as I
could see him at all, there was Poky, standing alone and motionless
in the bow of his canoe.
WE TAKE UNTO OURSELVES FRIENDS
THE arrival of the chests made my friend, the doctor, by far the
wealthiest man of the party. So much the better for me, seeing that I
had little or nothing myself; though, from our intimacy, the natives
courted my favour almost as much as his.
Among others, Kooloo was a candidate for my friendship; and being a
comely youth, quite a buck in his way, I accepted his overtures. By
this, I escaped the importunities of the rest; for be it known that,
though little inclined to jealousy in love matters, the Tahitian will
hear of no rivals in his friendship.
Kooloo, running over his qualifications as a friend, first of all
informed me that he was a "Mickonaree," thus declaring his communion
with the church.
The way this "tayo" of mine expressed his regard was by assuring me
over and over again that the love he bore me was "nuee, nuee, nuee,"
or infinitesimally extensive. All over these seas, the word "nuee"
is significant of quantity. Its repetition is like placing ciphers at
the right hand of a numeral; the more places you carry it out to, the
greater the sum. Judge, then, of Kooloo's esteem. Nor is the allusion
to the ciphers at all inappropriate, seeing that, in themselves,
Kooloo's profession turned out to be worthless. He was, alas! as
sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal; one of those who make no music
unless the clapper be silver.
In the course of a few days, the sailors, like the doctor and myself,
were cajoled out of everything, and our "tayos," all round, began to
cool off quite sensibly. So remiss did they become in their
attentions that we could no longer rely upon their bringing us the
daily supply of food, which all of them had faithfully promised.
As for Kooloo, after sponging me well, he one morning played the part
of a retrograde lover; informing me that his affections had undergone
a change; he had fallen in love at first sight with a smart sailor,
who had just stepped ashore quite flush from a lucky whaling-cruise.
It was a touching interview, and with it, our connection dissolved.
But the sadness which ensued would soon have been dissipated, had not
my sensibilities been wounded by his indelicately sporting some of my
gifts very soon after this transfer of his affections. Hardly a day
passed that I did not meet him on the Broom Road, airing himself in a
regatta shirt which I had given him in happier hours.
He went by with such an easy saunter too, looking me pleasantly in the
eye, and merely exchanging the cold salute of the road:--"Yar onor,
boyoee," a mere sidewalk how d'ye do. After several experiences like
this, I began to entertain a sort of respect for Kooloo, as quite a
man of the world. In good sooth, he turned out to be one; in one
week's time giving me the cut direct, and lounging by without even
nodding. He must have taken me for part of the landscape.
Before the chests were quite empty, we had a grand washing in the
stream of our best raiment, for the purpose of looking tidy, and
visiting the European chapel in the village. Every Sunday morning it
is open for divine service, some member of the mission officiating.
This was the first time we ever entered Papeetee unattended by an
In the chapel there were about forty people present, including the
officers of several ships in harbour. It was an energetic discourse,
and the pulpit cushion was well pounded. Occupying a high seat in the
synagogue, and stiff as a flagstaff, was our beloved guardian,
Wilson. I shall never forget his look of wonder when his interesting
wards filed in at the doorway, and took up a seat directly facing
Service over, we waited outside in hopes of seeing more of him; but
sorely annoyed at the sight of us, he reconnoitred from the window,
and never came forth until we had started for home.
WE LEVY CONTRIBUTIONS ON THE SHIPPING
SCARCELY a week went by after the Julia's sailing, when, with the
proverbial restlessness of sailors, some of the men began to grow
weary of the Calabooza Beretanee, and resolved to go boldly among the
vessels in the bay, and offer to ship.
The thing was tried; but though strongly recommended by the commodore
of the beachcombers, in the end they were invariably told by the
captains to whom they applied that they bore an equivocal character
ashore, and would not answer. So often were they repulsed that we
pretty nearly gave up all thoughts of leaving the island in this way;
and growing domestic again, settled down quietly at Captain Bob's.
It was about this time that the whaling-ships, which have their
regular seasons for cruising, began to arrive at Papeetee; and of
course their crews frequently visited us. This is customary all over
the Pacific. No sailor steps ashore, but he straightway goes to the
"Calabooza," where he is almost sure to find some poor fellow or other
in confinement for desertion, or alleged mutiny, or something of that
sort. Sympathy is proffered, and if need be, tobacco. The latter,
however, is most in request; as a solace to the captive, it is
Having fairly carried the day against both consul and captain, we were
objects of even more than ordinary interest to these philanthropists;
and they always cordially applauded our conduct. Besides, they
invariably brought along something in the way of refreshments;
occasionally smuggling in a little Pisco. Upon one occasion, when
there was quite a number present, a calabash was passed round, and a
pecuniary collection taken up for our benefit.
One day a newcomer proposed that two or three of us should pay him a
sly, nocturnal visit aboard his ship; engaging to send us away well
freighted with provisions. This was not a bad idea; nor were we at
all backward in acting upon it. Right after night every vessel in
the harbour was visited in rotation, the foragers borrowing Captain
Bob's canoe for the purpose. As we all took turns at this--two by two
--in due course it came to Long Ghost and myself, for the sailors
invariably linked us together. In such an enterprise, I somewhat
distrusted the doctor, for he was no sailor, and very tall; and a
canoe is the most ticklish of navigable things. However, it could
not be helped; and so we went.
But a word about the canoes before we go any further. Among the
Society Islands, the art of building them, like all native
accomplishments, has greatly deteriorated; and they are now the most
inelegant, as well as the most insecure of any in the South Seas. In
Cook's time, according to his account, there was at Tahiti a royal
fleet of seventeen hundred and twenty large war canoes, handsomely
carved, and otherwise adorned. At present, those used are quite
small; nothing more than logs hollowed out, sharpened at one end, and
then launched into the water.
To obviate a certain rolling propensity, the Tahitians, like all
Polynesians, attach to them what sailors call an "outrigger." It
consists of a pole floating alongside, parrallel to the canoe, and
connected with it by a couple of cross sticks, a yard or more in
length. Thus equipped, the canoe cannot be overturned, unless you
overcome the buoyancy of the pole, or lift it entirely out of the
Now, Captain Bob's "gig" was exceedingly small; so small, and of such
a grotesque shape, that the sailors christened it the Pill Box; and
by this appellation it always went. In fact, it was a sort of
"sulky," meant for a solitary paddler, but, on an emergency, capable
of floating two or three. The outrigger was a mere switch, alternately
rising in air, and then depressed in the water.
Assuming the command of the expedition, upon the strength of my being
a sailor, I packed the Long Doctor with a paddle in the bow, and then
shoving off, leaped into the stern; thus leaving him to do all the
work, and reserving to myself the dignified sinecure of steering. All
would have gone on well, were it not that my paddler made such clumsy
work that the water spattered, and showered down upon us without
ceasing. Continuing to ply his tool, however, quite energetically, I
thought he would improve after a while, and so let him alone. But by
and bye, getting wet through with this little storm we were raising,
and seeing no signs of its clearing off, I conjured him, in mercy's
name, to stop short, and let me wring myself out. Upon this, he
suddenly turned round, when the canoe gave a roll, the outrigger flew
overhead, and the next moment came rap on the doctor's skull, and we
were both in the water.
Fortunately, we were just over a ledge of coral, not half-a-fathom
under the surface. Depressing one end of the filled canoe, and
letting go of it quickly, it bounced up, and discharged a great part
of its contents; so that we easily baled out the remainder, and again
embarked. This time, my comrade coiled himself away in a very small
space; and enjoining upon him not to draw a single unnecessary
breath, I proceeded to urge the canoe along by myself. I was
astonished at his docility, never speaking a word, and stirring
neither hand nor foot; but the secret was, he was unable to swim, and
in case we met with a second mishap, there were no more ledges
beneath to stand upon. "Crowning's but a shabby way of going out of
the world," he exclaimed, upon my rallying him; "and I'm not going to
be guilty of it."
At last, the ship was at hand, and we approached with much caution,
wishing to avoid being hailed by anyone from the quarter-deck.
Dropping silently under her bows, we heard a low whistle--the signal
agreed upon--and presently a goodly-sized bag was lowered over to us.
We cut the line, and then paddled away as fast as we could, and made
the best of our way home. Here, we found the rest waiting
The bag turned out to be well filled with sweet potatoes boiled, cubes
of salt beef and pork, and a famous sailors' pudding, what they call
"duff," made of flour and water, and of about the consistence of an
underdone brick. With these delicacies, and keen appetites, we went
out into the moonlight, and had a nocturnal picnic.
MOTOO-OTOO A TAHITIAN CASUIST
THE Pill Box was sometimes employed for other purposes than that
described in the last chapter. We sometimes went a-pleasuring in it.
Right in the middle of Papeetee harbour is a bright, green island, one
circular grove of waving palms, and scarcely a hundred yards across.
It is of coral formation; and all round, for many rods out, the bay
is so shallow that you might wade anywhere. Down in these waters, as
transparent as air, you see coral plants of every hue and shape
imaginable :--antlers, tufts of azure, waving reeds like stalks of
grain, and pale green buds and mosses. In some places, you look
through prickly branches down to a snow-white floor of sand,
sprouting with flinty bulbs; and crawling among these are strange
shapes:--some bristling with spikes, others clad in shining coats of
mail, and here and there, round forms all spangled with eyes.
The island is called Hotoo-Otoo; and around Hotoo-Otoo have I often
paddled of a white moonlight night, pausing now and then to admire
the marine gardens beneath.
The place is the private property of the queen, who has a residence
there--a melancholy-looking range of bamboo houses--neglected and
falling to decay among the trees.
Commanding the harbour as it does, her majesty has done all she could
to make a fortress of the island. The margin has been raised and
levelled, and built up with a low parapet of hewn Hocks of coral.
Behind the parapet are ranged, at wide intervals, a number of rusty
old cannon, of all fashions and calibres. They are mounted upon lame,
decrepit-looking carriages, ready to sink under the useless burden of
bearing them up. Indeed, two or three have given up the ghost
altogether, and the pieces they sustained lie half buried among their
bleaching bones. Several of the cannon are spiked; probably with a
view of making them more formidable; as they certainly must be to
anyone undertaking to fire them off.
Presented to Pomaree at various times by captains of British armed
ships, these poor old "dogs of war," thus toothless and turned out to
die, formerly bayed in full pack as the battle-hounds of Old England.
There was something about Hotoo-Otoo that struck my fancy; and I
registered a vow to plant my foot upon its soil, notwithstanding an
old bareheaded sentry menaced me in the moonlight with an unsightly
musket. As my canoe drew scarcely three inches of water, I could
paddle close up to the parapet without grounding; but every time I
came near, the old man ran toward me, pushing his piece forward, but
never clapping it to his shoulder. Thinking he only meant to frighten
me, I at last dashed the canoe right Up to the wall, purposing a
leap. It was the rashest act of my life; for never did cocoa-nut come
nearer getting demolished than mine did then. With the stock of his
gun, the old warder fetched a tremendous blow, which I managed to
dodge; and then falling back, succeeded in paddling out of harm's
He must have been dumb; for never a word did he utter; but grinning
from ear to ear, and with his white cotton robe streaming in the
moonlight, he looked more like the spook of the island than anything
I tried to effect my object by attacking him in the rear--but he was
all front; running about the place as I paddled, and presenting his
confounded musket wherever I went. At last I was obliged to retreat;
and to this day my vow remains unfulfilled.
It was a few days after my repulse from before the walls of Hotoo-Otoo
that I heard a curious case of casuistry argued between one of the
most clever and intelligent natives I ever saw in Tahiti, a man by
the name of Arheetoo, and our learned Theban of a doctor.
It was this:--whether it was right and lawful for anyone, being a
native, to keep the European Sabbath, in preference to the day set
apart as such by the missionaries, and so considered by the islanders
It must be known that the missionaries of the good ship Duff, who more
than half-a-century ago established the Tahitian reckoning, came
hither by the way of the Cape of Good Hope; and by thus sailing to
the eastward, lost one precious day of their lives all round, getting
about that much in advance of Greenwich time. For this reason,
vessels coming round Cape Horn--as they most all do nowadays--find it
Sunday in Tahiti, when, according to their own view of the matter, it
ought to be Saturday. But as it won't do to alter the log, the
sailors keep their Sabbath, and the islanders theirs.
This confusion perplexes the poor natives mightily; and it is to no
purpose that you endeavour to explain so incomprehensible a
phenomenon. I once saw a worthy old missionary essay to shed some
light on the subject; and though I understood but a few of the words
employed, I could easily get at the meaning of his illustrations.
They were something like the following:
"Here," says he, "you see this circle" (describing a large one on the
ground with a stick); "very good; now you see this spot here"
(marking a point in the perimeter): "well; this is Beretanee
(England), and I'm going to sail round to Tahiti. Here I go, then
(following the circle round), and there goes the sun (snatching up
another stick, and commissioning a bandy-legged native to travel
round with it in a contrary direction). Now then, we are both off,
and both going away from each other; and here you see I have arrived
at Tahiti (making a sudden stop); and look now where Bandy Legs is!"
But the crowd strenuously maintained that Bandy Legs ought to be
somewhere above them in the atmosphere; for it was a traditionary
fact that the people from the Duff came ashore when the sun was high
overhead. And here the old gentleman, being a very good sort of man,
doubtless, but no astronomer, was obliged to give up.
Arheetoo, the casuist alluded to, though a member of the church, and
extremely conscientious about what Sabbath he kept, was more liberal
in other matters. Learning that I was something of a "mick-onaree"
(in this sense, a man able to read, and cunning in the use of the
pen), he desired the slight favour of my forging for him a set of
papers; for which, he said, he would be much obliged, and give me a
good dinner of roast pig and Indian turnip in the bargain.
Now, Arheetoo was one of those who board the shipping for their
washing; and the competition being very great (the proudest chiefs
not disdaining to solicit custom in person, though the work is done
by their dependants), he had decided upon a course suggested by a
knowing sailor, a friend of his. He wished to have manufactured a set
of certificates, purporting to come from certain man-of-war and
merchant captains, known to have visited the island; recommending him
as one of the best getters up of fine linen in all Polynesia.
At this time, Arheetoo had known me but two hours; and, as he made the
proposition very coolly, I thought it rather presumptuous, and told
him so. But as it was quite impossible to convey a hint, and there
was a slight impropriety in the thing, I did not resent the insult,
but simply declined.
ONE IS JUDGED BY THE COMPANY HE KEEPS
ALTHOUGH, from its novelty, life at Captain Bob's was pleasant enough,
for the time; there were some few annoyances connected with it
anything but agreeable to a "soul of sensibility."
Prejudiced against us by the malevolent representations of the consul
and others, many worthy foreigners ashore regarded us as a set of
lawless vagabonds; though, truth to speak, better behaved sailors
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