South Sea Tales
Part 3 out of 3
close-and-by were insoluble mysteries. Couldn't ever tell the
difference between a sheet and a tackle, simply couldn't. The
fore-throat-jig and the jib-jig were all one to him. Tell him to slack
off the mainsheet, and before you know it, he'd drop the peak. He fell
overboard three times, and he couldn't swim. But he was always
cheerful, never seasick, and he was the most willing man I ever knew.
He was an uncommunicative soul. Never talked about himself. His
history, so far as we were concerned, began the day he signed on the
DUCHESS. Where he learned to shoot, the stars alone can tell. He was a
Yankee--that much we knew from the twang in his speech. And that was
all we ever did know.
"And now we begin to get to the point. We had bad luck in the New
Hebrides, only fourteen boys for five weeks, and we ran up before the
southeast for the Solomons. Malaita, then as now, was good recruiting
ground, and we ran into Malu, on the northwestern corner. There's a
shore reef and an outer reef, and a mighty nervous anchorage; but we
made it all right and fired off our dynamite as a signal to the
niggers to come down and be recruited. In three days we got not a boy.
The niggers came off to us in their canoes by hundreds, but they only
laughed when we showed them beads and calico and hatchets and talked
of the delights of plantation work in Samoa.
"On the fourth day there came a change. Fifty-odd boys signed on and
were billeted in the main-hold, with the freedom of the deck, of
course. And of course, looking back, this wholesale signing on was
suspicious, but at the time we thought some powerful chief had removed
the ban against recruiting. The morning of the fifth day our two boats
went ashore as usual--one to cover the other, you know, in case of
trouble. And, as usual, the fifty niggers on board were on deck,
loafing, talking, smoking, and sleeping. Saxtorph and myself, along
with four other sailors, were all that were left on board. The two
boats were manned with Gilbert Islanders. In the one were the captain,
the supercargo, and the recruiter. In the other, which was the
covering boat and which lay off shore a hundred yards, was the second
mate. Both boats were well-armed, though trouble was little expected.
"Four of the sailors, including Saxtorph, were scraping the poop rail.
The fifth sailor, rifle in hand, was standing guard by the water-tank
just for'ard of the mainmast. I was for'ard, putting in the finishing
licks on a new jaw for the fore-gaff. I was just reaching for my pipe
where I had laid it down, when I heard a shot from shore. I
straightened up to look. Something struck me on the back of the head,
partially stunning me and knocking me to the deck. My first thought
was that something had carried away aloft; but even as I went down,
and before I struck the deck, I heard the devil's own tattoo of rifles
from the boats, and twisting sidewise, I caught a glimpse of the
sailor who was standing guard. Two big niggers were holding his arms,
and a third nigger from behind was braining him with a tomahawk.
"I can see it now, the water-tank, the mainmast, the gang hanging on
to him, the hatchet descending on the back of his head, and all under
the blazing sunlight. I was fascinated by that growing vision of
death. The tomahawk seemed to take a horribly long time to come down.
I saw it land, and the man's legs give under him as he crumpled. The
niggers held him up by sheer strength while he was hacked a couple of
times more. Then I got two more hacks on the head and decided that I
was dead. So did the brute that was hacking me. I was too helpless to
move, and I lay there and watched them removing the sentry's head. I
must say they did it slick enough. They were old hands at the
"The rifle firing from the boats had ceased, and I made no doubt that
they were finished off and that the end had come to everything. It was
only a matter of moments when they would return for my head. They were
evidently taking the heads from the sailors aft. Heads are valuable on
Malaita, especially white heads. They have the place of honor in the
canoe houses of the salt-water natives. What particular decorative
effect the bushmen get out of them I didn't know, but they prize them
just as much as the salt-water crowd.
"I had a dim notion of escaping, and I crawled on hands and knees to
the winch, where I managed to drag myself to my feet. From there I
could look aft and see three heads on top the cabin--the heads of
three sailors I had given orders to for months. The niggers saw me
standing, and started for me. I reached for my revolver, and found
they had taken it. I can't say that I was scared. I've been near to
death several times, but it never seemed easier than right then. I was
half-stunned, and nothing seemed to matter.
"The leading nigger had armed himself with a cleaver from the galley,
and he grimaced like an ape as he prepared to slice me down. But the
slice was never made. He went down on the deck all of a heap, and I
saw the blood gush from his mouth. In a dim way I heard a rifle go off
and continue to go off. Nigger after nigger went down. My senses began
to clear, and I noted that there was never a miss. Every time that the
rifle went off a nigger dropped. I sat down on deck beside the winch
and looked up. Perched in the crosstrees was Saxtorph. How he had
managed it I can't imagine, for he had carried up with him two
Winchesters and I don't know how many bandoliers of ammunition; and he
was now doing the one only thing in this world that he was fitted to
"I've seen shooting and slaughter, but I never saw anything like that.
I sat by the winch and watched the show. I was weak and faint, and it
seemed to be all a dream. Bang, bang, bang, bang, went his rifle, and
thud, thud, thud, thud, went the niggers to the deck. It was amazing
to see them go down. After their first rush to get me, when about a
dozen had dropped, they seemed paralyzed; but he never left off
pumping his gun. By this time canoes and the two boats arrived from
shore, armed with Sniders, and with Winchesters which they had
captured in the boats. The fusillade they let loose on Saxtorph was
tremendous. Luckily for him the niggers are only good at close range.
They are not used to putting the gun to their shoulders. They wait
until they are right on top of a man, and then they shoot from the
hip. When his rifle got too hot, Saxtorph changed off. That had been
his idea when he carried two rifles up with him.
"The astounding thing was the rapidity of his fire. Also, he never
made a miss. If ever anything was inevitable, that man was. It was the
swiftness of it that made the slaughter so appalling. The niggers did
not have time to think. When they did manage to think, they went over
the side in a rush, capsizing the canoes of course. Saxtorph never let
up. The water was covered with them, and plump, plump, plump, he
dropped his bullets into them. Not a single miss, and I could hear
distinctly the thud of every bullet as it buried in human flesh.
"The niggers spread out and headed for the shore, swimming. The water
was carpeted with bobbing heads, and I stood up, as in a dream, and
watched it all--the bobbing heads and the heads that ceased to bob.
Some of the long shots were magnificent. Only one man reached the
beach, but as he stood up to wade ashore, Saxtorph got him. It was
beautiful. And when a couple of niggers ran down to drag him out of
the water, Saxtorph got them, too.
"I thought everything was over then, when I heard the rifle go off
again. A nigger had come out of the cabin companion on the run for the
rail and gone down in the middle of it. The cabin must have been full
of them. I counted twenty. They came up one at a time and jumped for
the rail. But they never got there. It reminded me of trapshooting. A
black body would pop out of the companion, bang would go Saxtorph's
rifle, and down would go the black body. Of course, those below did
not know what was happening on deck, so they continued to pop out
until the last one was finished off.
"Saxtorph waited a while to make sure, and then came down on deck. He
and I were all that were left of the DUCHESS'S complement, and I was
pretty well to the bad, while he was helpless now that the shooting
was over. Under my direction he washed out my scalp wounds and sewed
them up. A big drink of whiskey braced me to make an effort to get
out. There was nothing else to do. All the rest were dead. We tried to
get up sail, Saxtorph hoisting and I holding the turn. He was once
more the stupid lubber. He couldn't hoist worth a cent, and when I
fell in a faint, it looked all up with us.
"When I came to, Saxtorph was sitting helplessly on the rail, waiting
to ask me what he should do. I told him to overhaul the wounded and
see if there were any able to crawl. He gathered together six. One, I
remember, had a broken leg; but Saxtorph said his arms were all right.
I lay in the shade, brushing the flies off and directing operations,
while Saxtorph bossed his hospital gang. I'll be blessed if he didn't
make those poor niggers heave at every rope on the pin-rails before he
found the halyards. One of them let go the rope in the midst of the
hoisting and slipped down to the deck dead; but Saxtorph hammered the
others and made them stick by the job. When the fore and main were up,
I told him to knock the shackle out of the anchor chain and let her
go. I had had myself helped aft to the wheel, where I was going to
make a shift at steering. I can't guess how he did it, but instead of
knocking the shackle out, down went the second anchor, and there we
were doubly moored.
"In the end he managed to knock both shackles out and raise the
staysail and jib, and the Duchess filled away for the entrance. Our
decks were a spectacle. Dead and dying niggers were everywhere. They
were wedged away some of them in the most inconceivable places. The
cabin was full of them where they had crawled off the deck and cashed
in. I put Saxtorph and his graveyard gang to work heaving them
overside, and over they went, the living and the dead. The sharks had
fat pickings that day. Of course our four murdered sailors went the
same way. Their heads, however, we put in a sack with weights, so that
by no chance should they drift on the beach and fall into the hands of
"Our five prisoners I decided to use as crew, but they decided
otherwise. They watched their opportunity and went over the side.
Saxtorph got two in mid-air with his revolver, and would have shot the
other three in the water if I hadn't stopped him. I was sick of the
slaughter, you see, and besides, they'd helped work the schooner out.
But it was mercy thrown away, for the sharks got the three of them.
"I had brain fever or something after we got clear of the land.
Anyway, the DUCHESS lay hove to for three weeks, when I pulled myself
together and we jogged on with her to Sydney. Anyway those niggers of
Malu learned the everlasting lesson that it is not good to monkey with
a white man. In their case, Saxtorph was certainly inevitable."
Charley Roberts emitted a long whistle and said:
"Well I should say so. But whatever became of Saxtorph?"
"He drifted into seal hunting and became a crackerjack. For six years
he was high line of both the Victoria and San Francisco fleets. The
seventh year his schooner was seized in Bering Sea by a Russian
cruiser, and all hands, so the talk went, were slammed into the
Siberian salt mines. At least I've never heard of him since."
"Farming the world," Roberts muttered. "Farming the world. Well here's
to them. Somebody's got to do it--farm the world, I mean."
Captain Woodward rubbed the criss-crosses on his bald head.
"I've done my share of it," he said. "Forty years now. This will be my
last trip. Then I'm going home to stay."
"I'll wager the wine you don't," Roberts challenged. "You'll die in
the harness, not at home."
Captain Woodward promptly accepted the bet, but personally I think
Charley Roberts has the best of it.
THE SEED OF McCOY
The Pyrenees, her iron sides pressed low in the water by her cargo of
wheat, rolled sluggishly, and made it easy for the man who was
climbing aboard from out a tiny outrigger canoe. As his eyes came
level with the rail, so that he could see inboard, it seemed to him
that he saw a dim, almost indiscernible haze. It was more like an
illusion, like a blurring film that had spread abruptly over his eyes.
He felt an inclination to brush it away, and the same instant he
thought that he was growing old and that it was time to send to San
Francisco for a pair of spectacles.
As he came over the rail he cast a glance aloft at the tall masts,
and, next, at the pumps. They were not working. There seemed nothing
the matter with the big ship, and he wondered why she had hoisted the
signal of distress. He thought of his happy islanders, and hoped it
was not disease. Perhaps the ship was short of water or provisions. He
shook hands with the captain whose gaunt face and care-worn eyes made
no secret of the trouble, whatever it was. At the same moment the
newcomer was aware of a faint, indefinable smell. It seemed like that
of burnt bread, but different.
He glanced curiously about him. Twenty feet away a weary-faced sailor
was calking the deck. As his eyes lingered on the man, he saw suddenly
arise from under his hands a faint spiral of haze that curled and
twisted and was gone. By now he had reached the deck. His bare feet
were pervaded by a dull warmth that quickly penetrated the thick
calluses. He knew now the nature of the ship's distress. His eyes
roved swiftly forward, where the full crew of weary-faced sailors
regarded him eagerly. The glance from his liquid brown eyes swept over
them like a benediction, soothing them, rapping them about as in the
mantle of a great peace. "How long has she been afire, Captain?" he
asked in a voice so gentle and unperturbed that it was as the cooing
of a dove.
At first the captain felt the peace and content of it stealing in upon
him; then the consciousness of all that he had gone through and was
going through smote him, and he was resentful. By what right did this
ragged beachcomber, in dungaree trousers and a cotton shirt, suggest
such a thing as peace and content to him and his overwrought,
exhausted soul? The captain did not reason this; it was the
unconscious process of emotion that caused his resentment.
"Fifteen days," he answered shortly. "Who are you?"
"My name is McCoy," came the answer in tones that breathed tenderness
"I mean, are you the pilot?"
McCoy passed the benediction of his gaze over the tall,
heavy-shouldered man with the haggard, unshaven face who had joined
"I am as much a pilot as anybody," was McCoy's answer. "We are all
pilots here, Captain, and I know every inch of these waters."
But the captain was impatient.
"What I want is some of the authorities. I want to talk with them, and
"Then I'll do just as well."
Again that insidious suggestion of peace, and his ship a raging
furnace beneath his feet! The captain's eyebrows lifted impatiently
and nervously, and his fist clenched as if he were about to strike a
blow with it.
"Who in hell are you?" he demanded.
"I am the chief magistrate," was the reply in a voice that was still
the softest and gentlest imaginable.
The tall, heavy-shouldered man broke out in a harsh laugh that was
partly amusement, but mostly hysterical. Both he and the captain
regarded McCoy with incredulity and amazement. That this barefooted
beachcomber should possess such high-sounding dignity was
inconceivable. His cotton shirt, unbuttoned, exposed a grizzled chest
and the fact that there was no undershirt beneath.
A worn straw hat failed to hide the ragged gray hair. Halfway down his
chest descended an untrimmed patriarchal beard. In any slop shop, two
shillings would have outfitted him complete as he stood before them.
"Any relation to the McCoy of the Bounty?" the captain asked.
"He was my great-grandfather."
"Oh," the captain said, then bethought himself. "My name is Davenport,
and this is my first mate, Mr. Konig."
They shook hands.
"And now to business." The captain spoke quickly, the urgency of a
great haste pressing his speech. "We've been on fire for over two
weeks. She's ready to break all hell loose any moment. That's why I
held for Pitcairn. I want to beach her, or scuttle her, and save the
"Then you made a mistake, Captain," said McCoy. "You should have
slacked away for Mangareva. There's a beautiful beach there, in a
lagoon where the water is like a mill pond."
"But we're here, ain't we?" the first mate demanded. "That's the
point. We're here, and we've got to do something."
McCoy shook his head kindly.
"You can do nothing here. There is no beach. There isn't even
"Gammon!" said the mate. "Gammon!" he repeated loudly, as the captain
signaled him to be more soft spoken. "You can't tell me that sort of
stuff. Where d'ye keep your own boats, hey--your schooner, or cutter,
or whatever you have? Hey? Answer me that."
McCoy smiled as gently as he spoke. His smile was a caress, an embrace
that surrounded the tired mate and sought to draw him into the
quietude and rest of McCoy's tranquil soul.
"We have no schooner or cutter," he replied. "And we carry our canoes
to the top of the cliff."
"You've got to show me," snorted the mate. "How d'ye get around to the
other islands, heh? Tell me that."
"We don't get around. As governor of Pitcairn, I sometimes go. When I
was younger, I was away a great deal--sometimes on the trading
schooners, but mostly on the missionary brig. But she's gone now, and
we depend on passing vessels. Sometimes we have had as high as six
calls in one year. At other times, a year, and even longer, has gone
by without one passing ship. Yours is the first in seven months."
"And you mean to tell me--" the mate began.
But Captain Davenport interfered.
"Enough of this. We're losing time. What is to be done, Mr. McCoy?"
The old man turned his brown eyes, sweet as a woman's, shoreward, and
both captain and mate followed his gaze around from the lonely rock of
Pitcairn to the crew clustering forward and waiting anxiously for the
announcement of a decision. McCoy did not hurry. He thought smoothly
and slowly, step by step, with the certitude of a mind that was never
vexed or outraged by life.
"The wind is light now," he said finally. "There is a heavy current
setting to the westward."
"That's what made us fetch to leeward," the captain interrupted,
desiring to vindicate his seamanship.
"Yes, that is what fetched you to leeward," McCoy went on. "Well, you
can't work up against this current today. And if you did, there is no
beach. Your ship will be a total loss."
He paused, and captain and mate looked despair at each other.
"But I will tell you what you can do. The breeze will freshen tonight
around midnight--see those tails of clouds and that thickness to
windward, beyond the point there? That's where she'll come from, out
of the southeast, hard. It is three hundred miles to Mangareva. Square
away for it. There is a beautiful bed for your ship there."
The mate shook his head.
"Come in to the cabin, and we'll look at the chart," said the captain.
McCoy found a stifling, poisonous atmosphere in the pent cabin. Stray
waftures of invisible gases bit his eyes and made them sting. The deck
was hotter, almost unbearably hot to his bare feet. The sweat poured
out of his body. He looked almost with apprehension about him. This
malignant, internal heat was astounding. It was a marvel that the
cabin did not burst into flames. He had a feeling as if of being in a
huge bake oven where the heat might at any moment increase
tremendously and shrivel him up like a blade of grass.
As he lifted one foot and rubbed the hot sole against the leg of his
trousers, the mate laughed in a savage, snarling fashion.
"The anteroom of hell," he said. "Hell herself is right down there
under your feet."
"It's hot!" McCoy cried involuntarily, mopping his face with a bandana
"Here's Mangareva," the captain said, bending over the table and
pointing to a black speck in the midst of the white blankness of the
chart. "And here, in between, is another island. Why not run for
McCoy did not look at the chart.
"That's Crescent Island," he answered. "It is uninhabited, and it is
only two or three feet above water. Lagoon, but no entrance. No,
Mangareva is the nearest place for your purpose."
"Mangareva it is, then," said Captain Davenport, interrupting the
mate's growling objection. "Call the crew aft, Mr. Konig."
The sailors obeyed, shuffling wearily along the deck and painfully
endeavoring to make haste. Exhaustion was evident in every movement.
The cook came out of his galley to hear, and the cabin boy hung about
When Captain Davenport had explained the situation and announced his
intention of running for Mangareva, an uproar broke out. Against a
background of throaty rumbling arose inarticulate cries of rage, with
here and there a distinct curse, or word, or phrase. A shrill Cockney
voice soared and dominated for a moment, crying: "Gawd! After bein' in
ell for fifteen days--an' now e wants us to sail this floatin' ell to
The captain could not control them, but McCoy's gentle presence seemed
to rebuke and calm them, and the muttering and cursing died away,
until the full crew, save here and there an anxious face directed at
the captain, yearned dumbly toward the green clad peaks and beetling
coast of Pitcairn.
Soft as a spring zephyr was the voice of McCoy:
"Captain, I thought I heard some of them say they were starving."
"Ay," was the answer, "and so we are. I've had a sea biscuit and a
spoonful of salmon in the last two days. We're on whack. You see, when
we discovered the fire, we battened down immediately to suffocate the
fire. And then we found how little food there was in the pantry. But
it was too late. We didn't dare break out the lazarette. Hungry? I'm
just as hungry as they are."
He spoke to the men again, and again the throat rumbling and cursing
arose, their faces convulsed and animal-like with rage. The second and
third mates had joined the captain, standing behind him at the break
of the poop. Their faces were set and expressionless; they seemed
bored, more than anything else, by this mutiny of the crew. Captain
Davenport glanced questioningly at his first mate, and that person
merely shrugged his shoulders in token of his helplessness.
"You see," the captain said to McCoy, "you can't compel sailors to
leave the safe land and go to sea on a burning vessel. She has been
their floating coffin for over two weeks now. They are worked out, and
starved out, and they've got enough of her. We'll beat up for
But the wind was light, the Pyrenees' bottom was foul, and she could
not beat up against the strong westerly current. At the end of two
hours she had lost three miles. The sailors worked eagerly, as if by
main strength they could compel the PYRENEES against the adverse
elements. But steadily, port tack and starboard tack, she sagged off
to the westward. The captain paced restlessly up and down, pausing
occasionally to survey the vagrant smoke wisps and to trace them back
to the portions of the deck from which they sprang. The carpenter was
engaged constantly in attempting to locate such places, and, when he
succeeded, in calking them tighter and tighter.
"Well, what do you think?" the captain finally asked McCoy, who was
watching the carpenter with all a child's interest and curiosity in
McCoy looked shoreward, where the land was disappearing in the
"I think it would be better to square away for Mangareva. With that
breeze that is coming, you'll be there tomorrow evening."
"But what if the fire breaks out? It is liable to do it any moment."
"Have your boats ready in the falls. The same breeze will carry your
boats to Mangareva if the ship burns out from under."
Captain Davenport debated for a moment, and then McCoy heard the
question he had not wanted to hear, but which he knew was surely
"I have no chart of Mangareva. On the general chart it is only a fly
speck. I would not know where to look for the entrance into the
lagoon. Will you come along and pilot her in for me?"
McCoy's serenity was unbroken.
"Yes, Captain," he said, with the same quiet unconcern with which he
would have accepted an invitation to dinner; "I'll go with you to
Again the crew was called aft, and the captain spoke to them from the
break of the poop.
"We've tried to work her up, but you see how we've lost ground. She's
setting off in a two-knot current. This gentleman is the Honorable
McCoy, Chief Magistrate and Governor of Pitcairn Island. He will come
along with us to Mangareva. So you see the situation is not so
dangerous. He would not make such an offer if he thought he was going
to lose his life. Besides, whatever risk there is, if he of his own
free will come on board and take it, we can do no less. What do you
say for Mangareva?"
This time there was no uproar. McCoy's presence, the surety and calm
that seemed to radiate from him, had had its effect. They conferred
with one another in low voices. There was little urging. They were
virtually unanimous, and they shoved the Cockney out as their
spokesman. That worthy was overwhelmed with consciousness of the
heroism of himself and his mates, and with flashing eyes he cried:
"By Gawd! If 'e will, we will!"
The crew mumbled its assent and started forward.
"One moment, Captain," McCoy said, as the other was turning to give
orders to the mate. "I must go ashore first."
Mr. Konig was thunderstruck, staring at McCoy as if he were a madman.
"Go ashore!" the captain cried. "What for? It will take you three
hours to get there in your canoe."
McCoy measured the distance of the land away, and nodded.
"Yes, it is six now. I won't get ashore till nine. The people cannot
be assembled earlier than ten. As the breeze freshens up tonight, you
can begin to work up against it, and pick me up at daylight tomorrow
"In the name of reason and common sense," the captain burst forth,
"what do you want to assemble the people for? Don't you realize that
my ship is burning beneath me?"
McCoy was as placid as a summer sea, and the other's anger produced
not the slightest ripple upon it.
"Yes, Captain," he cooed in his dove-like voice. "I do realize that
your ship is burning. That is why I am going with you to Mangareva.
But I must get permission to go with you. It is our custom. It is an
important matter when the governor leaves the island. The people's
interests are at stake, and so they have the right to vote their
permission or refusal. But they will give it, I know that."
"Are you sure?"
"Then if you know they will give it, why bother with getting it?
Think of the delay--a whole night."
"It is our custom," was the imperturbable reply. "Also, I am the
governor, and I must make arrangements for the conduct of the island
during my absence."
"But it is only a twenty-four hour run to Mangareva," the captain
objected. "Suppose it took you six times that long to return to
windward; that would bring you back by the end of a week."
McCoy smiled his large, benevolent smile.
"Very few vessels come to Pitcairn, and when they do, they are usually
from San Francisco or from around the Horn. I shall be fortunate if I
get back in six months. I may be away a year, and I may have to go to
San Francisco in order to find a vessel that will bring me back. My
father once left Pitcairn to be gone three months, and two years
passed before he could get back. Then, too, you are short of food. If
you have to take to the boats, and the weather comes up bad, you may
be days in reaching land. I can bring off two canoe loads of food in
the morning. Dried bananas will be best. As the breeze freshens, you
beat up against it. The nearer you are, the bigger loads I can bring
He held out his hand. The captain shook it, and was reluctant to let
go. He seemed to cling to it as a drowning sailor clings to a life
"How do I know you will come back in the morning?" he asked.
"Yes, that's it!" cried the mate. "How do we know but what he's
skinning out to save his own hide?"
McCoy did not speak. He looked at them sweetly and benignantly, and it
seemed to them that they received a message from his tremendous
certitude of soul.
The captain released his hand, and, with a last sweeping glance that
embraced the crew in its benediction, McCoy went over the rail and
descended into his canoe.
The wind freshened, and the Pyrenees, despite the foulness of her
bottom, won half a dozen miles away from the westerly current. At
daylight, with Pitcairn three miles to windward, Captain Davenport
made out two canoes coming off to him. Again McCoy clambered up the
side and dropped over the rail to the hot deck. He was followed by
many packages of dried bananas, each package wrapped in dry leaves.
"Now, Captain," he said, "swing the yards and drive for dear life. You
see, I am no navigator," he explained a few minutes later, as he stood
by the captain aft, the latter with gaze wandering from aloft to
overside as he estimated the Pyrenees' speed. "You must fetch her to
Mangareva. When you have picked up the land, then I will pilot her in.
What do you think she is making?"
"Eleven," Captain Davenport answered, with a final glance at the water
"Eleven. Let me see, if she keeps up that gait, we'll sight Mangareva
between eight and nine o'clock tomorrow morning. I'll have her on the
beach by ten or by eleven at latest. And then your troubles will be
It almost seemed to the captain that the blissful moment had already
arrived, such was the persuasive convincingness of McCoy.
Captain Davenport had been under the fearful strain of navigating his
burning ship for over two weeks, and he was beginning to feel that he
had had enough.
A heavier flaw of wind struck the back of his neck and whistled by his
ears. He measured the weight of it, and looked quickly overside.
"The wind is making all the time," he announced. "The old girl's doing
nearer twelve than eleven right now. If this keeps up, we'll be
shortening down tonight."
All day the Pyrenees, carrying her load of living fire, tore across
the foaming sea. By nightfall, royals and topgallantsails were in, and
she flew on into the darkness, with great, crested seas roaring after
her. The auspicious wind had had its effect, and fore and aft a
visible brightening was apparent. In the second dog-watch some
careless soul started a song, and by eight bells the whole crew was
Captain Davenport had his blankets brought up and spread on top the
"I've forgotten what sleep is," he explained to McCoy. "I'm all in.
But give me a call at any time you think necessary."
At three in the morning he was aroused by a gentle tugging at his arm.
He sat up quickly, bracing himself against the skylight, stupid yet
from his heavy sleep. The wind was thrumming its war song in the
rigging, and a wild sea was buffeting the PYRENEES. Amidships she was
wallowing first one rail under and then the other, flooding the waist
more often than not. McCoy was shouting something he could not hear.
He reached out, clutched the other by the shoulder, and drew him close
so that his own ear was close to the other's lips.
"It's three o'clock," came McCoy's voice, still retaining its dovelike
quality, but curiously muffled, as if from a long way off. "We've run
two hundred and fifty. Crescent Island is only thirty miles away,
somewhere there dead ahead. There's no lights on it. If we keep
running, we'll pile up, and lose ourselves as well as the ship."
"What d' ye think--heave to?"
"Yes; heave to till daylight. It will only put us back four hours."
So the Pyrenees, with her cargo of fire, was hove to, bitting the
teeth of the gale and fighting and smashing the pounding seas. She was
a shell, filled with a conflagration, and on the outside of the shell,
clinging precariously, the little motes of men, by pull and haul,
helped her in the battle.
"It is most unusual, this gale," McCoy told the captain, in the lee of
the cabin. "By rights there should be no gale at this time of the
year. But everything about the weather has been unusual. There has
been a stoppage of the trades, and now it's howling right out of the
trade quarter." He waved his hand into the darkness, as if his vision
could dimly penetrate for hundreds of miles. "It is off to the
westward. There is something big making off there somewhere--a
hurricane or something. We're lucky to be so far to the eastward. But
this is only a little blow," he added. "It can't last. I can tell you
By daylight the gale had eased down to normal. But daylight revealed a
new danger. It had come on thick. The sea was covered by a fog, or,
rather, by a pearly mist that was fog-like in density, in so far as it
obstructed vision, but that was no more than a film on the sea, for
the sun shot it through and filled it with a glowing radiance.
The deck of the Pyrenees was making more smoke than on the preceding
day, and the cheerfulness of officers and crew had vanished. In the
lee of the galley the cabin boy could be heard whimpering. It was his
first voyage, and the fear of death was at his heart. The captain
wandered about like a lost soul, nervously chewing his mustache,
scowling, unable to make up his mind what to do.
"What do you think?" he asked, pausing by the side of McCoy, who was
making a breakfast off fried bananas and a mug of water.
McCoy finished the last banana, drained the mug, and looked slowly
around. In his eyes was a smile of tenderness as he said:
"Well, Captain, we might as well drive as burn. Your decks are not
going to hold out forever. They are hotter this morning. You haven't a
pair of shoes I can wear? It is getting uncomfortable for my bare
The Pyrenees shipped two heavy seas as she was swung off and put once
more before it, and the first mate expressed a desire to have all that
water down in the hold, if only it could be introduced without taking
off the hatches. McCoy ducked his head into the binnacle and watched
the course set.
"I'd hold her up some more, Captain," he said. "She's been making
drift when hove to."
"I've set it to a point higher already," was the answer. "Isn't that
"I'd make it two points, Captain. This bit of a blow kicked that
westerly current ahead faster than you imagine."
Captain Davenport compromised on a point and a half, and then went
aloft, accompanied by McCoy and the first mate, to keep a lookout for
land. Sail had been made, so that the Pyrenees was doing ten knots.
The following sea was dying down rapidly. There was no break in the
pearly fog, and by ten o'clock Captain Davenport was growing nervous.
All hands were at their stations, ready, at the first warning of land
ahead, to spring like fiends to the task of bringing the Pyrenees up
on the wind. That land ahead, a surf-washed outer reef, would be
perilously close when it revealed itself in such a fog.
Another hour passed. The three watchers aloft stared intently into the
pearly radiance. "What if we miss Mangareva?" Captain Davenport asked
McCoy, without shifting his gaze, answered softly:
"Why, let her drive, captain. That is all we can do. All the Paumotus
are before us. We can drive for a thousand miles through reefs and
atolls. We are bound to fetch up somewhere."
"Then drive it is." Captain Davenport evidenced his intention of
descending to the deck. "We've missed Mangareva. God knows where the
next land is. I wish I'd held her up that other half-point," he
confessed a moment later. "This cursed current plays the devil with a
"The old navigators called the Paumotus the Dangerous Archipelago,"
McCoy said, when they had regained the poop. "This very current was
partly responsible for that name."
"I was talking with a sailor chap in Sydney, once," said Mr. Konig.
"He'd been trading in the Paumotus. He told me insurance was eighteen
per cent. Is that right?"
McCoy smiled and nodded.
"Except that they don't insure," he explained. "The owners write off
twenty per cent of the cost of their schooners each year."
"My God!" Captain Davenport groaned. "That makes the life of a
schooner only five years!" He shook his head sadly, murmuring, "Bad
waters! Bad waters!"
Again they went into the cabin to consult the big general chart; but
the poisonous vapors drove them coughing and gasping on deck.
"Here is Moerenhout Island," Captain Davenport pointed it out on the
chart, which he had spread on the house. "It can't be more than a
hundred miles to leeward."
"A hundred and ten." McCoy shook his head doubtfully. "It might be
done, but it is very difficult. I might beach her, and then again I
might put her on the reef. A bad place, a very bad place."
"We'll take the chance," was Captain Davenport's decision, as he set
about working out the course.
Sail was shortened early in the afternoon, to avoid running past in
the night; and in the second dog-watch the crew manifested its
regained cheerfulness. Land was so very near, and their troubles would
be over in the morning.
But morning broke clear, with a blazing tropic sun. The southeast
trade had swung around to the eastward, and was driving the PYRENEES
through the water at an eight-knot clip. Captain Davenport worked up
his dead reckoning, allowing generously for drift, and announced
Moerenhout Island to be not more than ten miles off. The Pyrenees
sailed the ten miles; she sailed ten miles more; and the lookouts at
the three mastheads saw naught but the naked, sun-washed sea.
"But the land is there, I tell you," Captain Davenport shouted to them
from the poop.
McCoy smiled soothingly, but the captain glared about him like a
madman, fetched his sextant, and took a chronometer sight.
"I knew I was right," he almost shouted, when he had worked up the
observation. "Twenty-one, fifty-five, south; one-thirty-six, two,
west. There you are. We're eight miles to windward yet. What did you
make it out, Mr. Konig?"
The first mate glanced at his own figures, and said in a low voice:
"Twenty-one, fifty-five all right; but my longitude's one-thirty-six,
forty-eight. That puts us considerably to leeward--"
But Captain Davenport ignored his figures with so contemptuous a
silence as to make Mr. Konig grit his teeth and curse savagely under
"Keep her off," the captain ordered the man at the wheel. "Three
points--steady there, as she goes!"
Then he returned to his figures and worked them over. The sweat poured
from his face. He chewed his mustache, his lips, and his pencil,
staring at the figures as a man might at a ghost. Suddenly, with a
fierce, muscular outburst, he crumpled the scribbled paper in his fist
and crushed it under foot. Mr. Konig grinned vindictively and turned
away, while Captain Davenport leaned against the cabin and for half an
hour spoke no word, contenting himself with gazing to leeward with an
expression of musing hopelessness on his face.
"Mr. McCoy," he broke silence abruptly. "The chart indicates a group
of islands, but not how many, off there to the north'ard, or
nor'-nor'westward, about forty miles--the Acteon Islands. What about
"There are four, all low," McCoy answered. "First to the southeast is
Matuerui--no people, no entrance to the lagoon. Then comes Tenarunga.
There used to be about a dozen people there, but they may be all gone
now. Anyway, there is no entrance for a ship--only a boat entrance,
with a fathom of water. Vehauga and Teua-raro are the other two. No
entrances, no people, very low. There is no bed for the Pyrenees in
that group. She would be a total wreck."
"Listen to that!" Captain Davenport was frantic. "No people! No
entrances! What in the devil are islands good for?
"Well, then," he barked suddenly, like an excited terrier, "the chart
gives a whole mess of islands off to the nor'west. What about them?
What one has an entrance where I can lay my ship?"
McCoy calmly considered. He did not refer to the chart. All these
islands, reefs, shoals, lagoons, entrances, and distances were marked
on the chart of his memory. He knew them as the city dweller knows his
buildings, streets, and alleys.
"Papakena and Vanavana are off there to the westward, or
west-nor'westward a hundred miles and a bit more," he said. "One is
uninhabited, and I heard that the people on the other had gone off to
Cadmus Island. Anyway, neither lagoon has an entrance. Ahunui is
another hundred miles on to the nor'west. No entrance, no people."
"Well, forty miles beyond them are two islands?" Captain Davenport
queried, raising his head from the chart.
McCoy shook his head.
"Paros and Manuhungi--no entrances, no people. Nengo-Nengo is forty
miles beyond them, in turn, and it has no people and no entrance. But
there is Hao Island. It is just the place. The lagoon is thirty miles
long and five miles wide. There are plenty of people. You can usually
find water. And any ship in the world can go through the entrance."
He ceased and gazed solicitously at Captain Davenport, who, bending
over the chart with a pair of dividers in hand, had just emitted a low
"Is there any lagoon with an entrance anywhere nearer than Hao
Island?" he asked.
"No, Captain; that is the nearest."
"Well, it's three hundred and forty miles." Captain Davenport was
speaking very slowly, with decision. "I won't risk the responsibility
of all these lives. I'll wreck her on the Acteons. And she's a good
ship, too," he added regretfully, after altering the course, this time
making more allowance than ever for the westerly current.
An hour later the sky was overcast. The southeast trade still held,
but the ocean was a checker board of squalls.
"We'll be there by one o'clock," Captain Davenport announced
confidently. "By two o'clock at the outside. McCoy, you put her ashore
on the one where the people are."
The sun did not appear again, nor, at one o'clock, was any land to be
seen. Captain Davenport looked astern at the Pyrenees' canting wake.
"Good Lord!" he cried. "An easterly current? Look at that!"
Mr. Konig was incredulous. McCoy was noncommittal, though he said that
in the Paumotus there was no reason why it should not be an easterly
current. A few minutes later a squall robbed the Pyrenees temporarily
of all her wind, and she was left rolling heavily in the trough.
"Where's that deep lead? Over with it, you there!" Captain Davenport
held the lead line and watched it sag off to the northeast. "There,
look at that! Take hold of it for yourself."
McCoy and the mate tried it, and felt the line thrumming and vibrating
savagely to the grip of the tidal stream.
"A four-knot current," said Mr. Konig.
"An easterly current instead of a westerly," said Captain "Davenport,
glaring accusingly at McCoy, as if to cast the blame for it upon him.
"That is one of the reasons, Captain, for insurance being eighteen per
cent in these waters," McCoy answered cheerfully. "You can never tell.
The currents are always changing. There was a man who wrote books, I
forget his name, in the yacht Casco. He missed Takaroa by thirty miles
and fetched Tikei, all because of the shifting currents. You are up to
windward now, and you'd better keep off a few points."
"But how much has this current set me?" the captain demanded irately.
"How am I to know how much to keep off?"
"I don't know, Captain," McCoy said with great gentleness.
The wind returned, and the PYRENEES, her deck smoking and shimmering
in the bright gray light, ran off dead to leeward. Then she worked
back, port tack and starboard tack, crisscrossing her track, combing
the sea for the Acteon Islands, which the masthead lookouts failed to
Captain Davenport was beside himself. His rage took the form of sullen
silence, and he spent the afternoon in pacing the poop or leaning
against the weather shrouds. At nightfall, without even consulting
McCoy, he squared away and headed into the northwest. Mr. Konig,
surreptitiously consulting chart and binnacle, and McCoy, openly and
innocently consulting the binnacle, knew that they were running for
Hao Island. By midnight the squalls ceased, and the stars came out.
Captain Davenport was cheered by the promise of a clear day.
"I'll get an observation in the morning," he told McCoy, "though what
my latitude is, is a puzzler. But I'll use the Sumner method, and
settle that. Do you know the Sumner line?"
And thereupon he explained it in detail to McCoy.
The day proved clear, the trade blew steadily out of the east, and the
Pyrenees just as steadily logged her nine knots. Both the captain and
mate worked out the position on a Sumner line, and agreed, and at noon
agreed again, and verified the morning sights by the noon sights.
"Another twenty-four hours and we'll be there," Captain Davenport
assured McCoy. "It's a miracle the way the old girl's decks hold out.
But they can't last. They can't last. Look at them smoke, more and
more every day. Yet it was a tight deck to begin with, fresh-calked in
Frisco. I was surprised when the fire first broke out and we battened
down. Look at that!"
He broke off to gaze with dropped jaw at a spiral of smoke that coiled
and twisted in the lee of the mizzenmast twenty feet above the deck.
"Now, how did that get there?" he demanded indignantly.
Beneath it there was no smoke. Crawling up from the deck, sheltered
from the wind by the mast, by some freak it took form and visibility
at that height. It writhed away from the mast, and for a moment
overhung the captain like some threatening portent. The next moment
the wind whisked it away, and the captain's jaw returned to place.
"As I was saying, when we first battened down, I was surprised. It
was a tight deck, yet it leaked smoke like a sieve. And we've calked
and calked ever since. There must be tremendous pressure underneath to
drive so much smoke through."
That afternoon the sky became overcast again, and squally, drizzly
weather set in. The wind shifted back and forth between southeast and
northeast, and at midnight the Pyrenees was caught aback by a sharp
squall from the southwest, from which point the wind continued to blow
"We won't make Hao until ten or eleven," Captain Davenport complained
at seven in the morning, when the fleeting promise of the sun had been
erased by hazy cloud masses in the eastern sky. And the next moment he
was plaintively demanding, "And what are the currents doing?"
Lookouts at the mastheads could report no land, and the day passed in
drizzling calms and violent squalls. By nightfall a heavy sea began to
make from the west. The barometer had fallen to 29.50. There was no
wind, and still the ominous sea continued to increase. Soon the
Pyrenees was rolling madly in the huge waves that marched in an
unending procession from out of the darkness of the west. Sail was
shortened as fast as both watches could work, and, when the tired crew
had finished, its grumbling and complaining voices, peculiarly
animal-like and menacing, could be heard in the darkness. Once the
starboard watch was called aft to lash down and make secure, and the
men openly advertised their sullenness and unwillingness. Every slow
movement was a protest and a threat. The atmosphere was moist and
sticky like mucilage, and in the absence of wind all hands seemed to
pant and gasp for air. The sweat stood out on faces and bare arms, and
Captain Davenport for one, his face more gaunt and care-worn than
ever, and his eyes troubled and staring, was oppressed by a feeling of
"It's off to the westward," McCoy said encouragingly. "At worst, we'll
be only on the edge of it."
But Captain Davenport refused to be comforted, and by the light of a
lantern read up the chapter in his Epitome that related to the
strategy of shipmasters in cyclonic storms. From somewhere amidships
the silence was broken by a low whimpering from the cabin boy.
"Oh, shut up!" Captain Davenport yelled suddenly and with such force
as to startle every man on board and to frighten the offender into a
wild wail of terror.
"Mr. Konig," the captain said in a voice that trembled with rage and
nerves, "will you kindly step for'ard and stop that brat's mouth with
a deck mop?"
But it was McCoy who went forward, and in a few minutes had the boy
comforted and asleep.
Shortly before daybreak the first breath of air began to move from out
the southeast, increasing swiftly to a stiff and stiffer breeze. All
hands were on deck waiting for what might be behind it. "We're all
right now, Captain," said McCoy, standing close to his shoulder. "The
hurricane is to the west'ard, and we are south of it. This breeze is
the in-suck. It won't blow any harder. You can begin to put sail on
"But what's the good? Where shall I sail? This is the second day
without observations, and we should have sighted Hao Island yesterday
morning. Which way does it bear, north, south, east, or what? Tell me
that, and I'll make sail in a jiffy."
"I am no navigator, Captain," McCoy said in his mild way.
"I used to think I was one," was the retort, "before I got into these
At midday the cry of "Breakers ahead!" was heard from the lookout. The
Pyrenees was kept off, and sail after sail was loosed and sheeted
home. The Pyrenees was sliding through the water and fighting a
current that threatened to set her down upon the breakers. Officers
and men were working like mad, cook and cabin boy, Captain Davenport
himself, and McCoy all lending a hand. It was a close shave. It was a
low shoal, a bleak and perilous place over which the seas broke
unceasingly, where no man could live, and on which not even sea birds
could rest. The PYRENEES was swept within a hundred yards of it before
the wind carried her clear, and at this moment the panting crew, its
work done, burst out in a torrent of curses upon the head of McCoy--of
McCoy who had come on board, and proposed the run to Mangareva, and
lured them all away from the safety of Pitcairn Island to certain
destruction in this baffling and terrible stretch of sea. But McCoy's
tranquil soul was undisturbed. He smiled at them with simple and
gracious benevolence, and, somehow, the exalted goodness of him seemed
to penetrate to their dark and somber souls, shaming them, and from
very shame stilling the curses vibrating in their throats.
"Bad waters! Bad waters!" Captain Davenport was murmuring as his ship
forged clear; but he broke off abruptly to gaze at the shoal which
should have been dead astern, but which was already on the PYRENEES'
weather-quarter and working up rapidly to windward.
He sat down and buried his face in his hands. And the first mate saw,
and McCoy saw, and the crew saw, what he had seen. South of the shoal
an easterly current had set them down upon it; north of the shoal an
equally swift westerly current had clutched the ship and was sweeping
"I've heard of these Paumotus before," the captain groaned, lifting
his blanched face from his hands. "Captain Moyendale told me about
them after losing his ship on them. And I laughed at him behind his
back. God forgive me, I laughed at him. What shoal is that?" he broke
off, to ask McCoy.
"I don't know, Captain."
"Why don't you know?"
"Because I never saw it before, and because I have never heard of it.
I do know that it is not charted. These waters have never been
"Then you don't know where we are?"
"No more than you do," McCoy said gently.
At four in the afternoon cocoanut trees were sighted, apparently
growing out of the water. A little later the low land of an atoll was
raised above the sea.
"I know where we are now, Captain." McCoy lowered the glasses from his
eyes. "That's Resolution Island. We are forty miles beyond Hao Island,
and the wind is in our teeth."
"Get ready to beach her then. Where's the entrance?"
"There's only a canoe passage. But now that we know where we are, we
can run for Barclay de Tolley. It is only one hundred and twenty miles
from here, due nor'-nor'west. With this breeze we can be there by nine
o'clock tomorrow morning."
Captain Davenport consulted the chart and debated with himself.
"If we wreck her here," McCoy added, "we'd have to make the run to
Barclay de Tolley in the boats just the same."
The captain gave his orders, and once more the Pyrenees swung off for
another run across the inhospitable sea.
And the middle of the next afternoon saw despair and mutiny on her
smoking deck. The current had accelerated, the wind had slackened, and
the Pyrenees had sagged off to the west. The lookout sighted Barclay
de Tolley to the eastward, barely visible from the masthead, and
vainly and for hours the PYRENEES tried to beat up to it. Ever, like a
mirage, the cocoanut trees hovered on the horizon, visible only from
the masthead. From the deck they were hidden by the bulge of the
Again Captain Davenport consulted McCoy and the chart. Makemo lay
seventy-five miles to the southwest. Its lagoon was thirty miles long,
and its entrance was excellent. When Captain Davenport gave his
orders, the crew refused duty. They announced that they had had enough
of hell fire under their feet. There was the land. What if the ship
could not make it? They could make it in the boats. Let her burn,
then. Their lives amounted to something to them. They had served
faithfully the ship, now they were going to serve themselves.
They sprang to the boats, brushing the second and third mates out of
the way, and proceeded to swing the boats out and to prepare to lower
away. Captain Davenport and the first mate, revolvers in hand, were
advancing to the break of the poop, when McCoy, who had climbed on top
of the cabin, began to speak.
He spoke to the sailors, and at the first sound of his dovelike,
cooing voice they paused to hear. He extended to them his own
ineffable serenity and peace. His soft voice and simple thoughts
flowed out to them in a magic stream, soothing them against their
wills. Long forgotten things came back to them, and some remembered
lullaby songs of childhood and the content and rest of the mother's
arm at the end of the day. There was no more trouble, no more danger,
no more irk, in all the world. Everything was as it should be, and it
was only a matter of course that they should turn their backs upon the
land and put to sea once more with hell fire hot beneath their feet.
McCoy spoke simply; but it was not what he spoke. It was his
personality that spoke more eloquently than any word he could utter.
It was an alchemy of soul occultly subtile and profoundly deep--a
mysterious emanation of the spirit, seductive, sweetly humble, and
terribly imperious. It was illumination in the dark crypts of their
souls, a compulsion of purity and gentleness vastly greater than that
which resided in the shining, death-spitting revolvers of the
The men wavered reluctantly where they stood, and those who had loosed
the turns made them fast again. Then one, and then another, and then
all of them, began to sidle awkwardly away.
McCoy's face was beaming with childlike pleasure as he descended from
the top of the cabin. There was no trouble. For that matter there had
been no trouble averted. There never had been any trouble, for there
was no place for such in the blissful world in which he lived.
"You hypnotized em," Mr. Konig grinned at him, speaking in a low
"Those boys are good," was the answer. "Their hearts are good. They
have had a hard time, and they have worked hard, and they will work
hard to the end."
Mr. Konig had not time to reply. His voice was ringing out orders, the
sailors were springing to obey, and the PYRENEES was paying slowly off
from the wind until her bow should point in the direction of Makemo.
The wind was very light, and after sundown almost ceased. It was
insufferably warm, and fore and aft men sought vainly to sleep. The
deck was too hot to lie upon, and poisonous vapors, oozing through the
seams, crept like evil spirits over the ship, stealing into the
nostrils and windpipes of the unwary and causing fits of sneezing and
coughing. The stars blinked lazily in the dim vault overhead; and the
full moon, rising in the east, touched with its light the myriads of
wisps and threads and spidery films of smoke that intertwined and
writhed and twisted along the deck, over the rails, and up the masts
"Tell me," Captain Davenport said, rubbing his smarting eyes, "what
happened with that BOUNTY crowd after they reached Pitcairn? The
account I read said they burnt the Bounty, and that they were not
discovered until many years later. But what happened in the meantime?
I've always been curious to know. They were men with their necks in
the rope. There were some native men, too. And then there were women.
That made it look like trouble right from the jump."
"There was trouble," McCoy answered. "They were bad men. They
quarreled about the women right away. One of the mutineers, Williams,
lost his wife. All the women were Tahitian women. His wife fell from
the cliffs when hunting sea birds. Then he took the wife of one of the
native men away from him. All the native men were made very angry by
this, and they killed off nearly all the mutineers. Then the mutineers
that escaped killed off all the native men. The women helped. And the
natives killed each other. Everybody killed everybody. They were
"Timiti was killed by two other natives while they were combing his
hair in friendship. The white men had sent them to do it. Then the
white men killed them. The wife of Tullaloo killed him in a cave
because she wanted a white man for husband. They were very wicked. God
had hidden His face from them. At the end of two years all the native
men were murdered, and all the white men except four. They were Young,
John Adams, McCoy, who was my great-grandfather, and Quintal. He was a
very bad man, too. Once, just because his wife did not catch enough
fish for him, he bit off her ear."
"They were a bad lot!" Mr. Konig exclaimed.
"Yes, they were very bad," McCoy agreed and went on serenely cooing of
the blood and lust of his iniquitous ancestry. "My great-grandfather
escaped murder in order to die by his own hand. He made a still and
manufactured alcohol from the roots of the ti-plant. Quintal was his
chum, and they got drunk together all the time. At last McCoy got
delirium tremens, tied a rock to his neck, and jumped into the sea.
"Quintal's wife, the one whose ear he bit off, also got killed by
falling from the cliffs. Then Quintal went to Young and demanded his
wife, and went to Adams and demanded his wife. Adams and Young were
afraid of Quintal. They knew he would kill them. So they killed him,
the two of them together, with a hatchet. Then Young died. And that
was about all the trouble they had."
"I should say so," Captain Davenport snorted. "There was nobody left
"You see, God had hidden His face," McCoy said.
By morning no more than a faint air was blowing from the eastward,
and, unable to make appreciable southing by it, Captain Davenport
hauled up full-and-by on the port track. He was afraid of that
terrible westerly current which had cheated him out of so many ports
of refuge. All day the calm continued, and all night, while the
sailors, on a short ration of dried banana, were grumbling. Also, they
were growing weak and complaining of stomach pains caused by the
straight banana diet. All day the current swept the PYRENEES to the
westward, while there was no wind to bear her south. In the middle of
the first dogwatch, cocoanut trees were sighted due south, their
tufted heads rising above the water and marking the low-lying atoll
"That is Taenga Island," McCoy said. "We need a breeze tonight, or
else we'll miss Makemo."
"What's become of the southeast trade?" the captain demanded. "Why
don't it blow? What's the matter?"
"It is the evaporation from the big lagoons--there are so many of
them," McCoy explained. "The evaporation upsets the whole system of
trades. It even causes the wind to back up and blow gales from the
southwest. This is the Dangerous Archipelago, Captain."
Captain Davenport faced the old man, opened his mouth, and was about
to curse, but paused and refrained. McCoy's presence was a rebuke to
the blasphemies that stirred in his brain and trembled in his larynx.
McCoy's influence had been growing during the many days they had been
together. Captain Davenport was an autocrat of the sea, fearing no
man, never bridling his tongue, and now he found himself unable to
curse in the presence of this old man with the feminine brown eyes and
the voice of a dove. When he realized this, Captain Davenport
experienced a distinct shock. This old man was merely the seed of
McCoy, of McCoy of the BOUNTY, the mutineer fleeing from the hemp that
waited him in England, the McCoy who was a power for evil in the early
days of blood and lust and violent death on Pitcairn Island.
Captain Davenport was not religious, yet in that moment he felt a mad
impulse to cast himself at the other's feet--and to say he knew not
what. It was an emotion that so deeply stirred him, rather than a
coherent thought, and he was aware in some vague way of his own
unworthiness and smallness in the presence of this other man who
possessed the simplicity of a child and the gentleness of a woman.
Of course he could not so humble himself before the eyes of his
officers and men. And yet the anger that had prompted the blasphemy
still raged in him. He suddenly smote the cabin with his clenched hand
"Look here, old man, I won't be beaten. These Paumotus have cheated
and tricked me and made a fool of me. I refuse to be beaten. I am
going to drive this ship, and drive and drive and drive clear through
the Paumotus to China but what I find a bed for her. If every man
deserts, I'll stay by her. I'll show the Paumotus. They can't fool me.
She's a good girl, and I'll stick by her as long as there's a plank to
stand on. You hear me?"
"And I'll stay with you, Captain," McCoy said.
During the night, light, baffling airs blew out of the south, and the
frantic captain, with his cargo of fire, watched and measured his
westward drift and went off by himself at times to curse softly so
that McCoy should not hear.
Daylight showed more palms growing out of the water to the south.
"That's the leeward point of Makemo," McCoy said. "Katiu is only a few
miles to the west. We may make that."
But the current, sucking between the two islands, swept them to the
northwest, and at one in the afternoon they saw the palms of Katiu
rise above the sea and sink back into the sea again.
A few minutes later, just as the captain had discovered that a new
current from the northeast had gripped the Pyrenees, the masthead
lookouts raised cocoanut palms in the northwest.
"It is Raraka," said McCoy. "We won't make it without wind. The
current is drawing us down to the southwest. But we must watch out. A
few miles farther on a current flows north and turns in a circle to
the northwest. This will sweep us away from Fakarava, and Fakarava is
the place for the Pyrenees to find her bed."
"They can sweep all they da--all they well please," Captain Davenport
remarked with heat. "We'll find a bed for her somewhere just the
But the situation on the Pyrenees was reaching a culmination. The
deck was so hot that it seemed an increase of a few degrees would
cause it to burst into flames. In many places even the heavy-soled
shoes of the men were no protection, and they were compelled to step
lively to avoid scorching their feet. The smoke had increased and
grown more acrid. Every man on board was suffering from inflamed eyes,
and they coughed and strangled like a crew of tuberculosis patients.
In the afternoon the boats were swung out and equipped. The last
several packages of dried bananas were stored in them, as well as the
instruments of the officers. Captain Davenport even put the
chronometer into the longboat, fearing the blowing up of the deck at
All night this apprehension weighed heavily on all, and in the first
morning light, with hollow eyes and ghastly faces, they stared at one
another as if in surprise that the Pyrenees still held together and
that they still were alive.
Walking rapidly at times, and even occasionally breaking into an
undignified hop-skip-and-run, Captain Davenport inspected his ship's
"It is a matter of hours now, if not of minutes," he announced on his
return to the poop.
The cry of land came down from the masthead. From the deck the land
was invisible, and McCoy went aloft, while the captain took advantage
of the opportunity to curse some of the bitterness out of his heart.
But the cursing was suddenly stopped by a dark line on the water which
he sighted to the northeast. It was not a squall, but a regular
breeze--the disrupted trade wind, eight points out of its direction
but resuming business once more.
"Hold her up, Captain," McCoy said as soon as he reached the poop.
"That's the easterly point of Fakarava, and we'll go in through the
passage full-tilt, the wind abeam, and every sail drawing."
At the end of an hour, the cocoanut trees and the low-lying land were
visible from the deck. The feeling that the end of the PYRENEES'
resistance was imminent weighed heavily on everybody. Captain
Davenport had the three boats lowered and dropped short astern, a man
in each to keep them apart. The Pyrenees closely skirted the shore,
the surf-whitened atoll a bare two cable lengths away.
And a minute later the land parted, exposing a narrow passage and the
lagoon beyond, a great mirror, thirty miles in length and a third as
For the last time the yards of the Pyrenees swung around as she obeyed
the wheel and headed into the passage. The turns had scarcely been
made, and nothing had been coiled down, when the men and mates swept
back to the poop in panic terror. Nothing had happened, yet they
averred that something was going to happen. They could not tell why.
They merely knew that it was about to happen. McCoy started forward to
take up his position on the bow in order to con the vessel in; but the
captain gripped his arm and whirled him around.
"Do it from here," he said. "That deck's not safe. What's the matter?"
he demanded the next instant. "We're standing still."
"You are bucking a seven-knot current, Captain," he said. "That is the
way the full ebb runs out of this passage."
At the end of another hour the Pyrenees had scarcely gained her
length, but the wind freshened and she began to forge ahead.
"Better get into the boats, some of you," Captain Davenport commanded.
His voice was still ringing, and the men were just beginning to move
in obedience, when the amidship deck of the Pyrenees, in a mass of
flame and smoke, was flung upward into the sails and rigging, part of
it remaining there and the rest falling into the sea. The wind being
abeam, was what had saved the men crowded aft. They made a blind rush
to gain the boats, but McCoy's voice, carrying its convincing message
of vast calm and endless time, stopped them.
"Take it easy," he was saying. "Everything is all right. Pass that boy
down somebody, please."
The man at the wheel had forsaken it in a funk, and Captain Davenport
had leaped and caught the spokes in time to prevent the ship from
yawing in the current and going ashore.
"Better take charge of the boats," he said to Mr. Konig. "Tow one of
them short, right under the quarter. . . . When I go over, it'll be on
Mr. Konig hesitated, then went over the rail and lowered himself into
"Keep her off half a point, Captain."
Captain Davenport gave a start. He had thought he had the ship to
"Ay, ay; half a point it is," he answered.
Amidships the Pyrenees was an open flaming furnace, out of which
poured an immense volume of smoke which rose high above the masts and
completely hid the forward part of the ship. McCoy, in the shelter of
the mizzen-shrouds, continued his difficult task of conning the ship
through the intricate channel. The fire was working aft along the deck
from the seat of explosion, while the soaring tower of canvas on the
mainmast went up and vanished in a sheet of flame. Forward, though
they could not see them, they knew that the head-sails were still
"If only she don't burn all her canvas off before she makes inside,"
the captain groaned.
"She'll make it," McCoy assured him with supreme confidence. "There
is plenty of time. She is bound to make it. And once inside, we'll put
her before it; that will keep the smoke away from us and hold back the
fire from working aft."
A tongue of flame sprang up the mizzen, reached hungrily for the
lowest tier of canvas, missed it, and vanished. From aloft a burning
shred of rope stuff fell square on the back of Captain Davenport's
neck. He acted with the celerity of one stung by a bee as he reached
up and brushed the offending fire from his skin.
"How is she heading, Captain?"
"Nor'west by west."
"Keep her west-nor-west."
Captain Davenport put the wheel up and steadied her.
"West by north, Captain."
"West by north she is."
"And now west."
Slowly, point by point, as she entered the lagoon, the PYRENEES
described the circle that put her before the wind; and point by point,
with all the calm certitude of a thousand years of time to spare,
McCoy chanted the changing course.
"Another point, Captain."
"A point it is."
Captain Davenport whirled several spokes over, suddenly reversing and
coming back one to check her.
"Steady she is--right on it."
Despite the fact that the wind was now astern, the heat was so intense
that Captain Davenport was compelled to steal sidelong glances into
the binnacle, letting go the wheel now with one hand, now with the
other, to rub or shield his blistering cheeks.
McCoy's beard was crinkling and shriveling and the smell of it, strong
in the other's nostrils, compelled him to look toward McCoy with
sudden solicitude. Captain Davenport was letting go the spokes
alternately with his hands in order to rub their blistering backs
against his trousers. Every sail on the mizzenmast vanished in a rush
of flame, compelling the two men to crouch and shield their faces.
"Now," said McCoy, stealing a glance ahead at the low shore, "four
points up, Captain, and let her drive."
Shreds and patches of burning rope and canvas were falling about them
and upon them. The tarry smoke from a smouldering piece of rope at the
captain's feet set him off into a violent coughing fit, during which
he still clung to the spokes.
The Pyrenees struck, her bow lifted and she ground ahead gently to a
stop. A shower of burning fragments, dislodged by the shock, fell
about them. The ship moved ahead again and struck a second time. She
crushed the fragile coral under her keel, drove on, and struck a third
"Hard over," said McCoy. "Hard over?" he questioned gently, a minute
"She won't answer," was the reply.
"All right. She is swinging around." McCoy peered over the side.
"Soft, white sand. Couldn't ask better. A beautiful bed."
As the Pyrenees swung around her stern away from the wind, a fearful
blast of smoke and flame poured aft. Captain Davenport deserted the
wheel in blistering agony. He reached the painter of the boat that lay
under the quarter, then looked for McCoy, who was standing aside to
let him go down.
"You first," the captain cried, gripping him by the shoulder and
almost throwing him over the rail. But the flame and smoke were too
terrible, and he followed hard after McCoy, both men wriggling on the
rope and sliding down into the boat together. A sailor in the bow,
without waiting for orders, slashed the painter through with his
sheath knife. The oars, poised in readiness, bit into the water, and
the boat shot away.
"A beautiful bed, Captain," McCoy murmured, looking back.
"Ay, a beautiful bed, and all thanks to you," was the answer.
The three boats pulled away for the white beach of pounded coral,
beyond which, on the edge of a cocoanut grove, could be seen a half
dozen grass houses and a score or more of excited natives, gazing
wide-eyed at the conflagration that had come to land.
The boats grounded and they stepped out on the white beach.
"And now," said McCoy, "I must see about getting back to Pitcairn."
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