The Coral Island A Tale of the Pacific Ocean
Part 5 out of 6
This question silenced me, while I considered what I should do in
such a case. At length I laid my hand an his arm, and said, "Bill,
when a man has done all that he CAN do, he ought to leave the rest
"Oh, Ralph," said my companion, in a faint voice, looking anxiously
into my face, "I wish that I had the feelin's about God that you
seem to have, at this hour. I'm dyin', Ralph; yet I, who have
braved death a hundred times, am afraid to die. I'm afraid to
enter the next world. Something within tells me there will be a
reckoning when I go there. But it's all over with me, Ralph. I
feel that there's no chance o' my bein' saved."
"Don't say that, Bill," said I, in deep compassion, "don't say
that. I'm quite sure there's hope even for you, but I can't
remember the words of the Bible that make me think so. Is there
not a Bible on board, Bill?"
"No; the last that was in the ship belonged to a poor boy that was
taken aboard against his will. He died, poor lad, I think, through
ill treatment and fear. After he was gone the captain found his
Bible and flung it overboard."
I now reflected, with great sadness and self-reproach, on the way
in which I had neglected my Bible; and it flashed across me that I
was actually in the sight of God a greater sinner than this blood-
stained pirate; for, thought I, he tells me that he never read the
Bible, and was never brought up to care for it; whereas I was
carefully taught to read it by my own mother, and had read it daily
as long as I possessed one, yet to so little purpose that I could
not now call to mind a single text that would meet this poor man's
case, and afford him the consolation he so much required. I was
much distressed, and taxed my memory for a long time. At last a
text did flash into my mind, and I wondered much that I had not
thought of it before.
"Bill," said I, in a low voice, "'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ
and thou shalt be saved.'"
"Ay, Ralph, I've heard the missionaries say that before now, but
what good can it do me? It's not for me that. It's not for the
likes o' me."
I knew not now what to say, for, although I felt sure that that
word was for him as well as for me, I could not remember any other
word whereby I could prove it.
After a short pause, Bill raised his eyes to mine and said, "Ralph,
I've led a terrible life. I've been a sailor since I was a boy,
and I've gone from bad to worse ever since I left my father's roof.
I've been a pirate three years now. It is true I did not choose
the trade, but I was inveigled aboard this schooner and kept here
by force till I became reckless and at last joined them. Since
that time my hand has been steeped in human blood again and again.
Your young heart would grow cold if I - ; but why should I go on?
'Tis of no use, Ralph; my doom is fixed."
"Bill," said I, "'Though your sins be red like crimson, they shall
be white as snow.' 'Only believe.'"
"Only believe!" cried Bill, starting up on his elbow; "I've heard
men talk o' believing as if it was easy. Ha! 'tis easy enough for
a man to point to a rope and say, 'I believe that would bear my
weight;' but 'tis another thing for a man to catch hold o' that
rope, and swing himself by it over the edge of a precipice!"
The energy with which he said this, and the action with which it
was accompanied, were too much for Bill. He sank back with a deep
groan. As if the very elements sympathized with this man's
sufferings, a low moan came sweeping over the sea.
"Hist! Ralph," said Bill, opening his eves; "there's a squall
coming, lad. Look alive, boy. Clew up the fore-sail. Drop the
main-sail peak. Them squalls come quick sometimes."
I had already started to my feet, and saw that a heavy squall was
indeed bearing down on us. It had hitherto escaped my notice,
owing to my being so much engrossed by our conversation. I
instantly did as Bill desired, for the schooner was still lying
motionless on the glassy sea. I observed with some satisfaction
that the squall was bearing down on the larboard bow, so that it
would strike the vessel in the position in which she would be best
able to stand the shock. Having done my best to shorten sail, I
returned aft, and took my stand at the helm.
"Now, boy," said Bill, in a faint voice, "keep her close to the
A few seconds afterwards he said, "Ralph, let me hear those two
I repeated them.
"Are ye sure, lad, ye saw them in the Bible?"
"Quite sure," I replied.
Almost before the words had left my lips the wind burst upon us,
and the spray dashed over our decks. For a time the schooner stood
it bravely, and sprang forward against the rising sea like a war-
horse. Meanwhile clouds darkened the sky, and the sea began to
rise in huge billows. There was still too much sail on the
schooner, and, as the gale increased, I feared that the masts would
be torn out of her or carried away, while the wind whistled and
shrieked through the strained rigging. Suddenly the wind shifted a
point, a heavy sea struck us on the bow, and the schooner was
almost laid on her beam-ends, so that I could scarcely keep my
legs. At the same moment Bill lost his hold of the belaying-pin
which had served to steady him, and he slid with stunning violence
against the sky-light. As he lay on the deck close beside me, I
could see that the shock had rendered him insensible, but I did not
dare to quit the tiller for an instant, as it required all my
faculties, bodily and mental, to manage the schooner. For an hour
the blast drove us along, while, owing to the sharpness of the
vessel's bow and the press of canvass, she dashed through the waves
instead of breasting over them, thereby drenching the decks with
water fore and aft. At the end of that time the squall passed
away, and left us rocking on the bosom of the agitated sea.
My first care, the instant I could quit the helm, was to raise Bill
from the deck and place him on the couch. I then ran below for the
brandy bottle and rubbed his face and hands with it, and
endeavoured to pour a little down his throat. But my efforts,
although I continued them long and assiduously, were of no avail;
as I let go the hand which I had been chafing it fell heavily on
the deck. I laid my hand over his heart, and sat for some time
quite motionless, but there was no flutter there - the pirate was
Alone on the deep - Necessity the mother of invention - A valuable
book discovered - Natural phenomenon - A bright day in my history.
IT was with feelings of awe, not unmingled with fear, that I now
seated myself on the cabin sky-light and gazed upon the rigid
features of my late comrade, while my mind wandered over his past
history and contemplated with anxiety my present position. Alone!
in the midst of the wide Pacific, having a most imperfect knowledge
of navigation, and in a schooner requiring at least eight men as
her proper crew. But I will not tax the reader's patience with a
minute detail of my feelings and doings during the first few days
that followed the death of my companion. I will merely mention
that I tied a cannon ball to his feet and, with feelings of the
deepest sorrow, consigned him to the deep.
For fully a week after that a steady breeze blew from the east,
and, as my course lay west-and-by-north, I made rapid progress
towards my destination. I could not take an observation, which I
very much regretted, as the captain's quadrant was in the cabin;
but, from the day of setting sail from the island of the savages, I
had kept a dead reckoning, and as I knew pretty well now how much
lee-way the schooner made, I hoped to hit the Coral Island without
much difficulty. In this I was the more confident that I knew its
position on the chart (which I understood was a very good one), and
so had its correct bearings by compass.
As the weather seemed now quite settled and fine, and as I had got
into the trade-winds, I set about preparations for hoisting the
top-sails. This was a most arduous task, and my first attempts
were complete failures, owing, in a great degree, to my
reprehensible ignorance of mechanical forces. The first error I
made was in applying my apparatus of blocks and pulleys to a rope
which was too weak, so that the very first heave I made broke it in
two, and sent me staggering against the after-hatch, over which I
tripped, and, striking against the main-boom, tumbled down the
companion ladder into the cabin. I was much bruised and somewhat
stunned by this untoward accident. However, I considered it
fortunate that I was not killed. In my next attempt I made sure of
not coming by a similar accident, so I unreeved the tackling and
fitted up larger blocks and ropes. But although the principle on
which I acted was quite correct, the machinery was now so massive
and heavy that the mere friction and stiffness of the thick cordage
prevented me from moving it at all. Afterwards, however, I came to
proportion things more correctly; but I could not avoid reflecting
at the time how much better it would have been had I learned all
this from observation and study, instead of waiting till I was
forced to acquire it through the painful and tedious lessons of
After the tackling was prepared and in good working order, it took
me the greater part of a day to hoist the main-top sail. As I
could not steer and work at this at the same time, I lashed the
helm in such a position that, with a little watching now and then,
it kept the schooner in her proper course. By this means I was
enabled also to go about the deck and down below for things that I
wanted, as occasion required; also to cook and eat my victuals.
But I did not dare to trust to this plan during the three hours of
rest that I allowed myself at night, as the wind might have
shifted, in which case I should have been blown far out of my
course ere I awoke. I was, therefore, in the habit of heaving-to
during those three hours; that is, fixing the rudder and the sails
in such a position as that by acting against each other, they would
keep the ship stationary. After my night's rest, therefore, I had
only to make allowance for the lee-way she had made, and so resume
Of course I was to some extent anxious lest another squall should
come, but I made the best provision I could in the circumstances,
and concluded that by letting go the weather-braces of the top-
sails and the top-sail halyards at the same time, I should thereby
render these sails almost powerless. Besides this, I proposed to
myself to keep a sharp look-out on the barometer in the cabin, and
if I observed at any time a sudden fall in it, I resolved that I
would instantly set about my multiform appliances for reducing
sail, so as to avoid being taken at unawares. Thus I sailed
prosperously for two weeks, with a fair wind, so that I calculated
I must be drawing near to the Coral Island; at the thought of which
my heart bounded with joyful expectation.
The only book I found on board, after a careful search, was a
volume of Captain Cook's voyages. This, I suppose, the pirate
captain had brought with him in order to guide him, and to furnish
him with information regarding the islands of these seas. I found
this a most delightful book indeed, and I not only obtained much
interesting knowledge about the sea in which I was sailing, but I
had many of my own opinions, derived from experience, corroborated;
and not a few of them corrected. Besides the reading of this
charming book, and the daily routine of occupations, nothing of
particular note happened to me during this voyage, except once,
when on rising one night, after my three hours' nap, while it was
yet dark, I was amazed and a little alarmed to find myself floating
in what appeared to be a sea of blue fire! I had often noticed the
beautiful appearance of phosphorescent light, but this far exceeded
anything of the sort I ever saw before. The whole sea appeared
somewhat like milk and was remarkably luminous.
I rose in haste, and, letting down a bucket into the sea, brought
some of the water on board and took it down to the cabin to examine
it; but no sooner did I approach the light than the strange
appearance disappeared, and when I removed the cabin lamp the
luminous light appeared again. I was much puzzled with this, and
took up a little of the water in the hollow of my hand and then let
it run off, when I found that the luminous substance was left
behind on my palm. I ran with it to the lamp; but when I got there
it was gone. I found, however, that when I went into the dark my
hand shone again; so I took the large glass of the ship's telescope
and examined my hand minutely, when I found that there were on it
one or two small patches of a clear, transparent substance like
jelly, which were so thin as to be almost invisible to the naked
eye. Thus I came to know that the beautiful phosphoric light,
which I had so often admired before, was caused by animals, for I
had no doubt that these were of the same kind as the medusae or
jelly-fish which are seen in all parts of the world.
On the evening of my fourteenth day, I was awakened out of a nap
into which I had fallen by a loud cry, and starting up, I gazed
around me. I was surprised and delighted to see a large albatross
soaring majestically over the ship. I immediately took it into my
head that this was the albatross I had seen at Penguin Island. I
had, of course, no good reason for supposing this, but the idea
occurred to me, I know not why, and I cherished it, and regarded
the bird with as much affection as if he had been an old friend.
He kept me company all that day and left me as night fell.
Next morning as I stood motionless and with heavy eyes at the helm,
for I had not slept well, I began to weary anxiously for day-light,
and peered towards the horizon, where I thought I observed
something like a black cloud against the dark sky. Being always on
the alert for squalls, I ran to the bow. There could be no doubt
it was a squall, and as I listened I thought I heard the murmur of
the coming gale. Instantly I began to work might and main at my
cumbrous tackle for shortening sail, and in the course of an hour
and a half had the most of it reduced, - the top-sail yards down on
the caps, the top-sails clewed up, the sheets hauled in, the main
and fore peaks lowered, and the flying-jib down. While thus
engaged the dawn advanced, and I cast an occasional furtive glance
ahead in the midst of my labour. But now that things were prepared
for the worst, I ran forward again and looked anxiously over the
bow. I now heard the roar of the waves distinctly, and as a single
ray of the rising sun gleamed over the ocean I saw - what! could it
be that I was dreaming? - that magnificent breaker with its
ceaseless roar! - that mountain top! - yes, once more I beheld the
The effect of a cannon-shot - A happy reunion of a somewhat moist
nature - Retrospects and explanations - An awful dive - New plans -
The last of the Coral Island.
I ALMOST fell upon the deck with the tumult of mingled emotions
that filled my heart, as I gazed ardently towards my beautiful
island. It was still many miles away, but sufficiently near to
enable me to trace distinctly the well-remembered outlines of the
two mountains. My first impulse was to utter an exclamation of
gratitude for being carried to my former happy home in safety; my
second, to jump up, clap my hands, shout, and run up and down the
deck, with no other object in view than that of giving vent to my
excited feelings. Then I went below for the telescope, and spent
nearly ten minutes of the utmost impatience in vainly trying to get
a focus, and in rubbing the skin nearly off my eyes, before I
discovered that having taken off the large glass to examine the
phosphoric water with I had omitted to put it on again.
After that I looked up impatiently at the sails, which I now
regretted having lowered so hastily, and for a moment thought of
hoisting the main-top sail again; but recollecting that it would
take me full half a day to accomplish, and that, at the present
rate of sailing, two hours would bring me to the island, I
immediately dismissed the idea.
The remainder of the time I spent in making feverish preparations
for arriving and seeing my dear comrades. I remembered that they
were not in the habit of rising before six, and, as it was now only
three, I hoped to arrive before they were awake. Moreover, I set
about making ready to let go the anchor, resolving in my own mind
that, as I knew the depth of water in the passage of the reef and
within the lagoon, I would run the schooner in and bring up
opposite the bower. Fortunately the anchor was hanging at the cat-
head, otherwise I should never have been able to use it. Now, I
had only to cut the tackling, and it would drop of its own weight.
After searching among the flags, I found the terrible black one,
which I ran up to the peak. While I was doing this, a thought
struck me. I went to the powder magazine, brought up a blank
cartridge and loaded the big brass gun, which, it will be
remembered, was unhoused when we set sail, and, as I had no means
of housing it, there it had stood, bristling alike at fair weather
and foul all the voyage. I took care to grease its mouth well,
and, before leaving the fore part of the ship, thrust the poker
into the fire.
All was now ready. A steady five-knot breeze was blowing, so that
I was now not more than quarter of a mile from the reef. I was
soon at the entrance, and, as the schooner glided quietly through,
I glanced affectionately at the huge breaker, as if it had been the
same one I had seen there when I bade adieu, as I feared for ever,
to the island. On coming opposite the Water Garden, I put the helm
hard down. The schooner came round with a rapid, graceful bend,
and lost way just opposite the bower. Running forward, I let go
the anchor, caught up the red-hot poker, applied it to the brass
gun, and the mountains with a BANG, such as had only once before
broke their slumbering echoes!
Effective although it was, however, it was scarcely equal to the
bang with which, instantly after, Peterkin bounded from the bower,
in scanty costume, his eye-balls starting from his head with
surprise and terror. One gaze he gave, one yell, and then fled
into the bushes like a wild cat. The next moment Jack went through
exactly the same performance, the only difference being, that his
movements were less like those of Jack-in-the-box, though not less
vigorous and rapid than those of Peterkin.
"Hallo!" I shouted, almost mad with joy, "what, ho! Peterkin!
Jack! hallo! it's me!"
My shout was just in time to arrest them. They halted and turned
round, and, the instant I repeated the cry, I saw that they
recognised my voice, by both of them running at full speed towards
the beach. I could no longer contain myself. Throwing off my
jacket, I jumped overboard at the same moment that Jack bounded
into the sea. In another moment we met in deep water, clasped each
other round the neck, and sank, as a matter of course, to the
bottom! We were well-nigh choked, and instantly struggled to the
surface, where Peterkin was spluttering about like a wounded duck,
laughing and crying by turns, and choking himself with salt water!
It would be impossible to convey to my reader, by description, an
adequate conception of the scene that followed my landing on the
beach, as we stood embracing each other indiscriminately in our
dripping garments, and giving utterance to incoherent rhapsodies,
mingled with wild shouts. It can be more easily imagined than
described, so I will draw a curtain over this part of my history,
and carry the reader forward over an interval of three days.
During the greater part of that period Peterkin did nothing but
roast pigs, taro, and bread-fruit, and ply me with plantains,
plums, potatoes, and cocoa-nuts, while I related to him and Jack
the terrible and wonderful adventures I had gone through since we
last met. After I had finished the account, they made me go all
over it again; and, when I had concluded the second recital, I had
to go over it again, while they commented upon it piecemeal. They
were much affected by what I told them of the probable fate of
Avatea, and Peterkin could by no means brook the idea of the poor
girl being converted into a LONG PIG! As for Jack, he clenched his
teeth, and shook his fist towards the sea, saying at the same time,
that he was sorry he had not broken Tararo's head, and he only
hoped that one day he should be able to plant his knuckles on the
bridge of that chief's nose! After they had "pumped me dry," as
Peterkin said, I begged to be informed of what had happened to them
during my long absence, and particularly as to how they got out of
the Diamond Cave.
"Well, you must know," began Jack, "after you had dived out of the
cave, on the day you were taken away from us, we waited very
patiently for half an hour, not expecting you to return before the
end of that time. Then we began to upbraid you for staying so
long, when you knew we would be anxious; but when an hour passed,
we became alarmed, and I resolved at all hazards to dive out, and
see what had become of you, although I felt for poor Peterkin,
because, as he truly said, 'If you never come back, I'm shut up
here for life.' However, I promised not to run any risk, and he
let me go; which, to say truth, I thought very courageous of him!"
"I should just think it was!" interrupted Peterkin, looking at Jack
over the edge of a monstrous potato which he happened to be
devouring at the time.
"Well," continued Jack, "you may guess my consternation when you
did not answer to my halloo. At first I imagined that the pirates
must have killed you, and left you in the bush, or thrown you into
the sea; then it occurred to me that this would have served no end
of theirs, so I came to the conclusion that they must have carried
you away with them. As this thought struck me, I observed the
pirate schooner standing away to the nor'ard, almost hull-down on
the horizon, and I sat down on the rocks to watch her as she slowly
sank from my sight. And I tell you, Ralph, my boy, that I shed
more tears that time, at losing you, than I have done, I verify
believe, all my life before - "
"Pardon me, Jack, for interrupting," said Peterkin; "surely you
must be mistaken in that; you've often told me that, when you were
a baby, you used to howl and roar from morning to - "
"Hold your tongue, Peterkin," cried Jack. "Well, after the
schooner had disappeared, I dived back into the cave, much to
Peterkin's relief, and told him what I had seen. We sat down and
had a long talk over this matter, and then we agreed to make a
regular, systematic search through the woods, so as to make sure,
at least, that you had not been killed. But now we thought of the
difficulty of getting out of the cave without your help. Peterkin
became dreadfully nervous when he thought of this; and I must
confess that I felt some alarm, for, of course, I could not hope
alone to take him out so quickly as we two together had brought him
in; and he himself vowed that, if we had been a moment longer with
him that time, he would have had to take a breath of salt water.
However, there was no help for it, and I endeavoured to calm his
fears as well as I could: 'for,' said I, 'you can't live here,
Peterkin;' to which he replied, 'Of course not, Jack, I can only
die here, and, as that's not at all desirable, you had better
propose something.' So I suggested that he should take a good long
breath, and trust himself to me.
"'Might we not make a large bag of cocoa-nut cloth, into which I
could shove my head, and tie it tight round my neck?' he asked,
with a haggard smile. 'It might let me get one breath under
"'No use,' said I; 'it would fill in a moment and suffocate you. I
see nothing for it, Peterkin, if you really can't keep your breath
so long, but to let me knock you down, and carry you out while in a
state of insensibility.'
"But Peterkin didn't relish this idea. He seemed to fear that I
could not be able to measure the exact force of the blow, and
might, on the one hand, hit him so softly as to render a second or
third blow necessary, which would be very uncomfortable; or, on the
other hand, give him such a smash as would entirely spoil his
figure-head, or, mayhap, knock the life out of him altogether! At
last I got him persuaded to try to hold his breath, and commit
himself to me; so he agreed, and down we went. But I had not got
him half way through, when he began to struggle and kick like a
wild bull, burst from my grasp, and hit against the roof of the
tunnel. I was therefore, obliged to force him violently back into
the cave gain, where he rose panting to the surface. In short, he
had lost his presence of mind, and - "
"Nothing of the sort," cried Peterkin, indignantly, "I had only
lost my wind; and if I had not had presence of mind enough to kick
as I did, I should have bu'st in your arms!"
"Well, well, so be it," resumed Jack, with a smile, "but the upshot
of it was, that we had to hold another consultation on the point,
and I really believe that, had it not been for a happy thought of
mine, we should have been consulting there yet."
"I wish we had," again interrupted Peterkin with a sigh. "I'm
sure, Ralph, if I had thought that you were coming back again, I
would willingly have awaited your return for months, rather than
have endured the mental agony which I went through! But proceed."
"The thought was this," continued Jack, "that I should tie
Peterkin's hands and feet with cords, and then lash him firmly to a
stout pole about five feet long, in order to render him quite
powerless, and keep him straight and stiff. You should have seen
his face of horror, Ralph, when I suggested this: but he came to
see that it was his only chance, and told me to set about it as
fast as I could; 'for,' said he, 'this is no jokin', Jack, I can
tell you, and the sooner it's done the better.' I soon procured
the cordage and a suitable pole, with which I returned to the cave,
and lashed him as stiff and straight as an Egyptian mummy; and, to
say truth, he was no bad representation of what an English mummy
would be, if there were such things, for he was as white as a dead
"'Now,' said Peterkin, in a tremulous voice, 'swim with me as near
to the edge of the hole as you can before you dive, then let me
take a long breath, and, as I sha'nt be able to speak after I've
taken it, you'll watch my face, and the moment you see me wink -
dive! And oh!' he added, earnestly, 'pray don't be long!'
"I promised to pay the strictest attention to his wishes, and swam
with him to the outlet of the cave. Here I paused. 'Now then,'
said I, 'pull away at the wind, lad.'"
Peterkin drew in a breath so long that I could not help thinking of
the frog in the fable, that wanted to swell itself as big as the
ox. Then I looked into his face earnestly. Slap went the lid of
his right eye; down went my head, and up went my heels. We shot
through the passage like an arrow, and rose to the surface of the
open sea before you could count twenty!
"Peterkin had taken in such an awful load of wind that, on reaching
the free air, he let it out with a yell loud enough to have been
heard a mile off, and then, the change in his feelings was so
sudden and great, that he did not wait till we landed, but began,
tied up as he was, to shout and sing for joy as I supported him
with my left arm to the shore. However, in the middle of a laugh
that a hyaena might have envied, I let him accidentally slip, which
extinguished him in a moment.
"After this happy deliverance, we immediately began our search for
your dead body, Ralph, and you have no idea how low our hearts sank
as we set off, day after day, to examine the valleys and mountain
sides with the utmost care. In about three weeks we completed the
survey of the whole island, and had at least the satisfaction of
knowing that you had not been killed. But it occurred to us that
you might have been thrown into the sea, so we examined the sands
and the lagoon carefully, and afterwards went all round the outer
reef. One day, while we were upon the reef, Peterkin espied a
small dark object lying among the rocks, which seemed to be quite
different from the surrounding stones. We hastened towards the
spot, and found it to be a small keg. On knocking out the head we
discovered that it was gunpowder."
"It was I who sent you that, Jack," said I, with a smile.
"Fork out!" cried Peterkin, energetically, starting to his feet and
extending his open hand to Jack. "Down with the money, sir, else
I'll have you shut up for life in a debtor's prison the moment we
return to England!"
"I'll give you an I.O.U. in the meantime," returned Jack, laughing,
"so sit down and be quiet. The fact is, Ralph, when we discovered
this keg of powder, Peterkin immediately took me a bet of a
thousand pounds that you had something to do with it, and I took
him a bet of ten thousand that you had not.
"Peterkin was right then," said I, explaining how the thing had
"Well, we found it very useful," continued Jack; "although some of
it had got a little damp; and we furbished up the old pistol, with
which Peterkin is a crack shot now. But, to continue. We did not
find any other vestige of you on the reef, and, finally, gave up
all hope of ever seeing you again. After this the island became a
dreary place to us, and we began to long for a ship to heave in
sight and take us off. But now that you're back again, my dear
fellow, it looks as bright and cheerful as it used to do, and I
love it as much as ever."
"And now," continued Jack, "I have a great desire to visit some of
the other islands of the South Seas. Here we have a first-rate
schooner at our disposal, so I don't see what should hinder us."
"Just the very thing I was going to propose," cried Peterkin; "I
vote for starting at once."
"Well, then," said Jack, "it seems to me that we could not do
better than shape our course for the island on which Avatea lives,
and endeavour to persuade Tararo to let her marry the black fellow
to whom she is engaged, instead of making a long pig of her. If he
has a spark of gratitude in him he'll do it. Besides, having
become champions for this girl once before, it behoves us, as true
knights, not to rest until we set her free; at least, all the
heroes in all the story-books I have ever read would count it foul
disgrace to leave such a work unfinished."
"I'm sure I don't know, or care, what your knights in story-books
would do," said Peterkin, "but I'm certain that it would be capital
fun, so I'm your man whenever you want me."
This plan of Jack's was quite in accordance with his romantic,
impulsive nature; and, having made up his mind to save this black
girl, he could not rest until the thing was commenced.
"But there may be great danger in this attempt," he said, at the
end of a long consultation on the subject; "will you, lads, go with
me in spite of this?"
"Go with you?" we repeated in the same breath.
"Can you doubt it?" said I.
"For a moment," added Peterkin.
I need scarcely say that, having made up our minds to go on this
enterprise, we lost no time in making preparations to quit the
island; and as the schooner was well laden with stores of every
kind for a long cruise, we had little to do except to add to our
abundant supply a quantity of cocoa-nuts, bread-fruit, taro, yams,
plums, and potatoes, chiefly with the view of carrying the
fragrance of our dear island along with us as long as we could.
When all was ready, we paid a farewell visit to the different
familiar spots where most of our time had been spent. We ascended
the mountain top, and gazed for the last time at the rich green
foliage in the valleys, the white sandy beach, the placid lagoon,
and the barrier coral-reef with its crested breakers. Then we
descended to Spouting Cliff, and looked down at the pale-green
monster which we had made such fruitless efforts to spear in days
gone by. From this we hurried to the Water Garden and took a last
dive into its clear waters, and a last gambol amongst its coral
groves. I hurried out before my companions, and dressed in haste,
in order to have a long examination of my tank, which Peterkin, in
the fulness of his heart, had tended with the utmost care, as being
a vivid remembrancer of me, rather than out of love for natural
history. It was in superb condition; - the water as clear and
pellucid as crystal; the red and green sea-weed of the most
brilliant hues; the red, purple, yellow, green, and striped
anemones fully expanded, and stretching out their arms as if to
welcome and embrace their former master; the starfish, zoophytes,
sea-pens, and other innumerable marine insects, looking fresh and
beautiful; and the crabs, as Peterkin said, looking as wide awake,
impertinent, rampant, and pugnacious as ever. It was indeed so
lovely and so interesting that I would scarcely allow myself to be
torn away from it.
Last of all, we returned to the bower and collected the few
articles we possessed, such as the axe, the pencil-case, the broken
telescope, the pen-knife, the hook made from the brass ring, and
the sail-needle, with which we had landed on the island; - also,
the long boots and the pistol, besides several curious articles of
costume which we had manufactured from time to time.
These we conveyed on board in our little boat, after having carved
our names on a chip of iron-wood, thus:-
which we fixed up inside of the bower. The boat was then hoisted
on board and the anchor weighed; which latter operation cost us
great labour and much time, as the anchor was so heavy that we
could not move it without the aid of my complex machinery of blocks
and pulleys. A steady breeze was blowing off shore when we set
sail, at a little before sunset. It swept us quickly past the reef
and out to sea. The shore grew rapidly more indistinct as the
shades of evening fell, while our clipper bark bounded lightly over
the waves. Slowly the mountain top sank on the horizon, until it
became a mere speck. In another moment the sun and the Coral
Island sank together into the broad bosom of the Pacific.
The voyage - The island, and a consultation in which danger is
scouted as a thing unworthy of consideration - Rats and cats - The
native teacher - Awful revelations - Wonderful effects of
OUR voyage during the next two weeks was most interesting and
prosperous. The breeze continued generally fair, and at all times
enabled us to lie our course; for being, as I have said before,
clipper-built, the pirate schooner could lie very close to the
wind, and made little lee-way. We had no difficulty now in
managing our sails, for Jack was heavy and powerful, while Peterkin
was active as a kitten. Still, however, we were a very
insufficient crew for such a vessel, and if any one had proposed to
us to make such a voyage in it before we had been forced to go
through so many hardships from necessity, we would have turned away
with pity from the individual making such proposal as from a
madman. I pondered this a good deal, and at last concluded that
men do not know how much they are capable of doing till they try,
and that we should never give way to despair in any undertaking,
however difficult it may seem:- always supposing, however, that our
cause is a good one, and that we can ask the divine blessing on it.
Although, therefore, we could now manage our sails easily, we
nevertheless found that my pulleys were of much service to us in
some things; though Jack did laugh heartily at the uncouth
arrangement of ropes and blocks, which had, to a sailor's eye, a
very lumbering and clumsy appearance. But I will not drag my
reader through the details of this voyage. Suffice it to say,
that, after an agreeable sail of about three weeks, we arrived off
the island of Mango, which I recognised at once from the
description that the pirate, Bill, had given me of it during one of
As soon as we came within sight of it we hove the ship to, and held
a council of war.
"Now, boys," said Jack, as we seated ourselves beside him on the
cabin sky-light, "before we go farther in this business, we must go
over the pros and cons of it; for, although you have so generously
consented to stick by me through thick and thin, it would be unfair
did I not see that you thoroughly understand the danger of what we
are about to attempt."
"Oh! bother the danger," cried Peterkin; "I wonder to hear YOU,
Jack, talk of danger. When a fellow begins to talk about it, he'll
soon come to magnify it to such a degree that he'll not be fit to
face it when it comes, no more than a suckin' baby!"
"Nay, Peterkin," replied Jack, gravely, "I won't be jested out of
it. I grant you, that, when we've once resolved to act, and have
made up our minds what to do, we should think no more of danger.
But, before we have so resolved, it behoves us to look at it
straight in the face, and examine into it, and walk round it; for
if we flinch at a distant view, we're sure to run away when the
danger is near. Now, I understand from you, Ralph, that the island
is inhabited by thorough-going, out-and-out cannibals, whose
principal law is - 'Might is right, and the weakest goes to the
"Yes," said I, "so Bill gave me to understand. He told me,
however, that, at the southern side of it, the missionaries had
obtained a footing amongst an insignificant tribe. A native
teacher had been sent there by the Wesleyans, who had succeeded in
persuading the chief at that part to embrace Christianity. But
instead of that being of any advantage to our enterprise, it seems
the very reverse; for the chief Tararo is a determined heathen, and
persecutes the Christians, - who are far too weak in numbers to
offer any resistance, - and looks with dislike upon all white men,
whom he regards as propagators of the new faith."
"'Tis a pity," said Jack, "that the Christian tribe is so small,
for we shall scarcely be safe under their protection, I fear. If
Tararo takes it into his head to wish for our vessel, or to kill
ourselves, he could take us from them by force. You say that the
native missionary talks English?"
"So I believe."
"Then, what I propose is this," said Jack: "We will run round to
the south side of the island, and cut anchor off the Christian
village. We are too far away just now to have been descried by any
of the savages, so we shall get there unobserved, and have time to
arrange our plans before the heathen tribes know of our presence.
But, in doing this, we run the risk of being captured by the ill-
disposed tribes, and being very ill used, if not - a - "
"Roasted alive and eaten," cried Peterkin. "Come, out with it,
Jack; according to your own showing, it's well to look the danger
straight in the face!"
"Well, that is the worst of it, certainly. Are you prepared, then,
to take your chance of that?"
"I've been prepared and had my mind made up long ago," cried
Peterkin, swaggering about the deck with his hands thrust into his
breeches' pockets. "The fact is, Jack, I don't believe that Tararo
will be so ungrateful as to eat us; and I'm, quite sure that he'll
be too happy to grant us whatever we ask: so the sooner we go in
and win the better."
Peterkin was wrong, however, in his estimate of savage gratitude,
as the sequel will show.
The schooner was now put before the wind, and, after making a long
run to the south'ard, we put about and beat up for the south side
of Mango, where we arrived before sunset, and hove-to off the coral
reef. Here we awaited the arrival of a canoe, which immediately
put off on our rounding to. When it arrived, a mild-looking
native, of apparently forty years of age, came on board, and,
taking off his straw hat, made us a low bow. He was clad in a
respectable suit of European clothes; and the first words he
uttered, as he stepped up to Jack and shook hands with him, were, -
"Good day, gentlemen; we are happy to see you at Mango - you are
After returning his salutation, Jack exclaimed, "You must be the
native missionary teacher of whom I have heard - are you not?"
"I am. I have the joy to be a servant of the Lord Jesus at this
"You're the very man I want to see, then," replied Jack; "that's
lucky. Come down to the cabin, friend, and have a glass of wine.
I wish particularly to speak with you. My men there" (pointing to
Peterkin and me) "will look after your people."
"Thank you," said the teacher, as he followed Jack to the cabin, "I
do not drink wine or any strong drink."
"Oh! then, there's lots of water, and you can have biscuit."
"Now, 'pon my word, that's cool!" said Peterkin; "his MEN,
forsooth! Well, since we are to be men, we may as well come it as
strong over these black chaps as we can. Hallo, there!" he cried
to the half dozen of natives who stood upon the deck, gazing in
wonder at all they saw, "here's for you;" and he handed them a tray
of broken biscuit and a can of water. Then, thrusting his hands
into his pockets, he walked up and down the deck with an enormous
swagger, whistling vociferously.
In about half an hour Jack and the teacher came on deck, and the
latter, bidding us a cheerful good evening, entered his canoe and
paddled to the shore. When he was gone, Peterkin stepped up to
Jack, and, touching his cap, said, -
"Well, captain, have you any communications to make to your MEN?"
"Yes," cried Jack; "ready about, mind the helm and clew up your
tongue, while I con the schooner through the passage in the reef.
The teacher, who seems a first-rate fellow, says it's quite deep,
and good anchorage within the lagoon close to the shore."
While the vessel was slowly advancing to her anchorage, under a
light breeze, Jack explained to us that Avatea was still on the
island, living amongst the heathens; that she had expressed a
strong desire to join the Christians, but Tararo would not let her,
and kept her constantly in close confinement.
"Moreover," continued Jack, "I find that she belongs to one of the
Samoan Islands, where Christianity had been introduced long before
her capture by the heathens of a neighbouring island; and the very
day after she was taken, she was to have joined the church which
had been planted there by that excellent body, the London
Missionary Society. The teacher tells me, too, that the poor girl
has fallen in love with a Christian chief, who lives on an island
some fifty miles or so to the south of this one, and that she is
meditating a desperate attempt at escape. So, you see, we have
come in the nick of time. I fancy that this chief is the fellow
whom you heard of, Ralph, at the Island of Emo. Besides all this,
the heathen savages are at war among themselves, and there's to be
a battle fought the day after to-morrow, in which the principal
leader is Tararo; so that we'll not be able to commence our
negotiations with the rascally chief till the day after."
The village off which we anchored was beautifully situated at the
head of a small bay, from the margin of which trees of every
description peculiar to the tropics rose in the richest luxuriance
to the summit of a hilly ridge, which was the line of demarcation
between the possessions of the Christians and those of the
neighbouring heathen chief.
The site of the settlement was an extensive plot of flat land,
stretching in a gentle slope from the sea to the mountain. The
cottages stood several hundred yards from the beach, and were
protected from the glare of the sea by the rich foliage of rows of
large Barringtonia and other trees, which girt the shore. The
village was about a mile in length, and perfectly straight, with a
wide road down the middle, on either side of which were rows of the
tufted-topped ti tree, whose delicate and beautiful blossoms,
hanging beneath their plume-crested tops, added richness to the
scene. The cottages of the natives were built beneath these trees,
and were kept in the most excellent order, each having a little
garden in front, tastefully laid out and planted, while the walks
were covered with black and white pebbles.
Every house had doors and Venetian windows, painted partly with
lamp black made from the candle-nut, and partly with red ochre,
which contrasted powerfully with the dazzling coral lime that
covered the walls. On a prominent position stood a handsome
church, which was quite a curiosity in its way. It was a hundred
feet long by fifty broad, and was seated throughout to accommodate
upwards of two thousand persons. It had six large folding doors
and twelve windows with Venetian blinds; and, although a large and
substantial edifice, it had been built, we were told by the
teacher, in the space of two months! There was not a single iron
nail in the fabric, and the natives had constructed it chiefly with
their stone and bone axes and other tools, having only one or two
axes or tools of European manufacture. Everything around this
beautiful spot wore an aspect of peace and plenty, and, as we
dropped our anchor within a stone's cast of the substantial coral
wharf, I could not avoid contrasting it with the wretched village
of Emo, where I had witnessed so many frightful scenes. When the
teacher afterwards told me that the people of this tribe had become
converts only a year previous to our arrival, and that they had
been living before that in the practice of the most bloody system
of idolatry, I could not refrain from exclaiming, "What a
convincing proof that Christianity is of God!"
On landing from our little boat, we were received with a warm
welcome by the teacher and his wife; the latter being also a
native, clothed in a simple European gown and straw bonnet. The
shore was lined with hundreds of natives, whose persons were all
more or less clothed with native cloth. Some of the men had on a
kind of poncho formed of this cloth, their legs being uncovered.
Others wore clumsily-fashioned trousers, and no upper garment
except hats made of straw and cloth. Many of the dresses, both of
women and men, were grotesque enough, being very bad imitations of
the European garb; but all wore a dress of some sort or other.
They seemed very glad to see us, and crowded round us as the
teacher led the way to his dwelling, where we were entertained, in
the most sumptuous manner, on baked pig and all the varieties of
fruits and vegetables that the island produced. We were much
annoyed, however, by the rats: they seemed to run about the house
like domestic animals. As we sat at table, one of them peeped up
at us over the edge of the cloth, close to Peterkin's elbow, who
floored it with a blow on the snout from his knife, exclaiming as
he did so -
"I say, Mister Teacher, why don't you set traps for these brutes? -
surely you are not fond of them!"
"No," replied the teacher, with a smile; "we would be glad to get
rid of them if we could; but if we were to trap all the rats on the
island, it would occupy our whole time."
"Are they, then, so numerous?" inquired Jack.
"They swarm everywhere. The poor heathens on the north side eat
them, and think them very sweet. So did my people formerly; but
they do not eat so many now, because the missionary who was last
here expressed disgust at it. The poor people asked if it was
wrong to eat rats; and he told them that it was certainly not
wrong, but that the people of England would be much disgusted were
they asked to eat rats."
We had not been an hour in the house of this kind-hearted man when
we were convinced of the truth of his statement as to their
numbers, for the rats ran about the floors in dozens, and, during
our meal, two men were stationed at the table to keep them off!
"What a pity you have no cats," said Peterkin, as he aimed a blow
at another reckless intruder, and missed it.
"We would, indeed, be glad to have a few," rejoined the teacher,
"but they are difficult to be got. The hogs, we find, are very
good rat-killers, but they do not seem to be able to keep the
numbers down. I have heard that they are better than cats."
As the teacher said this, his good-natured black face was wrinkled
with a smile of merriment. Observing that I had noticed it, he
"I smiled just now when I remembered the fate of the first cat that
was taken to Raratonga. This is one of the stations of the London
Missionary Society. It, like our own, is infested with rats, and a
cat was brought at last to the island. It was a large black one.
On being turned loose, instead of being content to stay among men,
the cat took to the mountains, and lived in a wild state, sometimes
paying visits during the night to the houses of the natives; some
of whom, living at a distance from the settlement, had not heard of
the cat's arrival, and were dreadfully frightened in consequence,
calling it a 'monster of the deep,' and flying in terror away from
it. One night the cat, feeling a desire for company, I suppose,
took its way to the house of a chief, who had recently been
converted to Christianity, and had begun to learn to read and pray.
The chief's wife, who was sitting awake at his side while he slept,
beheld with horror two fires glistening in the doorway, and heard
with surprise a mysterious voice. Almost petrified with fear, she
awoke her husband, and began to upbraid him for forsaking his old
religion, and burning his god, who, she declared, was now come to
be avenged of them. 'Get up and pray! get up and pray!' she cried.
The chief arose, and, on opening his eyes, beheld the same glaring
lights, and heard the same ominous sound. Impelled by the extreme
urgency of the case, he commenced, with all possible vehemence, to
vociferate the alphabet, as a prayer to God to deliver them from
the vengeance of Satan! On hearing this, the cat, as much alarmed
as themselves, fled precipitately away, leaving the chief and his
wife congratulating themselves on the efficacy of their prayer."
We were much diverted with this anecdote, which the teacher related
in English so good, that we certainly could not have supposed him a
native but for the colour of his face and the foreign accent in his
tone. Next day we walked out with this interesting man, and were
much entertained and instructed by his conversation, as we rambled
through the cool shady groves of bananas, citrons, limes, and other
trees, or sauntered among the cottages of the natives, and watched
them while they laboured diligently in the taro beds, or
manufactured the tapa or native cloth. To some of these Jack put
questions through the medium of the missionary; and the replies
were such as to surprise us at the extent of their knowledge.
Indeed, Peterkin very truly remarked that "they seemed to know a
considerable deal more than Jack himself!"
Among other pieces of interesting information that we obtained was
the following, in regard to coral formations:-
"The islands of the Pacific," said our friend, "are of three
different kinds or classes. Those of the first class are volcanic,
mountainous, and wild; some shooting their jagged peaks into the
clouds at an elevation of ten and fifteen thousand feet. Those of
the second class are of crystalized limestone, and vary in height
from one hundred to five hundred feet. The hills on these are not
so wild or broken as those of the first class, but are richly
clothed with vegetation, and very beautiful. I have no doubt that
the Coral Island on which you were wrecked was one of this class.
They are supposed to have been upheaved from the bottom of the sea
by volcanic agency, but they are not themselves volcanic in their
nature, neither are they of coral formation. Those of the third
class are the low coralline islands usually having lagoons of water
in their midst; they are very numerous.
"As to the manner in which coral islands and reefs are formed;
there are various opinions on this point. I will give you what
seems to me the most probable theory, - a theory, I may add, which
is held by some of the good and scientific missionaries. It is
well known that there is much lime in salt water; it is also known
that coral is composed of lime. It is supposed that the polypes,
or coral insects, have the power of attracting this lime to their
bodies; and with this material they build their little cells or
habitations. They choose the summit of a volcano, or the top of a
submarine mountain, as a foundation on which to build; for it is
found that they never work at any great depth below the surface.
On this they work; the polypes on the mountain top, of course,
reach the surface first, then those at the outer edges reach the
top sooner than the others between them and the centre, thus
forming the coral reef surrounding the lagoon of water and the
central island; after that the insects within the lagoon cease
working. When the surface of the water is reached, these myriads
of wonderful creatures die. Then birds visit the spot, and seeds
are thus conveyed thither, which take root, and spring up, and
flourish. Thus are commenced those coralline islets of which you
have seen so many in these seas. The reefs round the large islands
are formed in a similar manner. When we consider," added the
missionary, "the smallness of the architects used by our heavenly
Father in order to form those lovely and innumerable islands, we
are filled with much of that feeling which induced the ancient king
to exclaim, 'How manifold, O God, are thy works! in wisdom thou
hast made them all.'"
We all heartily agreed with the missionary in this sentiment, and
felt not a little gratified to find that the opinions which Jack
and I had been led to form from personal observation on our Coral
Island were thus to a great extent corroborated.
The missionary also gave us an account of the manner in which
Christianity had been introduced among them. He said: "When
missionaries were first sent here, three years ago, a small vessel
brought them; and the chief, who is now dead, promised to treat
well the two native teachers who were left with their wives on the
island. But scarcely had the boat which landed them returned to
the ship, than the natives began to maltreat their guests, taking
away all they possessed, and offering them further violence, so
that, when the boat was sent in haste to fetch them away, the
clothes of both men and women were torn nearly off their backs.
"Two years after this the vessel visited them again, and I, being
in her, volunteered to land alone, without any goods whatever;
begging that my wife might be brought to me the following year, -
that is, THIS year; and, as you see, she is with me. But the surf
was so high that the boat could not land me; so with nothing on but
my trousers and shirt, and with a few catechisms and a Bible,
besides some portions of the Scripture translated into the Mango
tongue, I sprang into the sea, and swam ashore on the crest of a
breaker. I was instantly dragged up the beach by the natives; who,
on finding I had nothing worth having upon me, let me alone. I
then made signs to my friends in the ship to leave me; which they
did. At fist the natives listened to me in silence, but laughed at
what I said while I preached the gospel of our blessed Saviour
Jesus Christ to them. Afterwards they treated me ill sometimes;
but I persevered, and continued to dwell among them, and dispute,
and exhort them to give up their sinful ways of life, burn their
idols, and come to Jesus.
"About a month after I landed, I heard that the chief was dead. He
was the father of the present chief, who is now a most consistent
member of the church. It is a custom here that, when a chief dies,
his wives are strangled and buried with him. Knowing this, I
hastened to his house to endeavour to prevent such cruelty if
possible. When I arrived, I found two of the wives had already
been killed, while another was in the act of being strangled. I
pleaded hard for her, but it was too late; she was already dead. I
then entreated the son to spare the fourth wife; and, after much
hesitation, my prayer was granted: but, in half an hour
afterwards, this poor woman repented of being unfaithful, as she
termed it, to her husband, and insisted on being strangled; which
was accordingly done.
"All this time the chief's son was walking up and down before his
father's house with a brow black as thunder. When he entered, I
went in with him, and found, to my surprise, that his father was
not dead! The old man was sitting on a mat in a corner, with an
expression of placid resignation on his face.
"'Why,' said I, 'have you strangled your father's wives before he
"To this the son replied, 'He is dead. That is no longer my
father. He is as good as dead now. He is to be BURIED ALIVE.'
"I now remembered having heard that it is a custom among the Feejee
islanders, that when the reigning chief grows old or infirm, the
heir to the chieftainship has a right to depose his father; in
which case he is considered as dead, and is buried alive. The
young chief was now about to follow this custom, and, despite my
earnest entreaties and pleadings, the old chief was buried that day
before my eyes in the same grave with his four strangled wives!
Oh! my heart groaned when I saw this, and I prayed to God to open
the hearts of these poor creatures, as he had already opened mine,
and pour into them the light and the love of the gospel of Jesus.
My prayer was answered very soon. A week afterwards, the son, who
was now chief of the tribe, came to me, bearing his god on his
shoulders, and groaning beneath its weight. Flinging it down at my
feet, he desired me to burn it!
"You may conceive how overjoyed I was at this. I sprang up and
embraced him, while I shed tears of joy. Then we made a fire, and
burned the god to ashes, amid an immense concourse of the people,
who seemed terrified at what was being done, and shrank back when
we burned the god, expecting some signal vengeance to be taken upon
us; but seeing that nothing happened, they changed their minds, and
thought that our God must be the true one after all. From that
time the mission prospered steadily, and now, while there is not a
single man in the tribe who has not burned his household gods, and
become a convert to Christianity, there are not a few, I hope, who
are true followers of the Lamb, having been plucked as brands from
the burning by Him who can save unto the uttermost. I will not
tell you more of our progress at this time, but you see," he said,
waving his hand around him, "the village and the church did not
exist a year ago!"
We were indeed much interested in this account, and I could not
help again in my heart praying God to prosper those missionary
societies that send such inestimable blessings to these islands of
dark and bloody idolatry. The teacher also added that the other
tribes were very indignant at this one for having burned its gods,
and threatened to destroy it altogether, but they had done nothing
yet; "and if they should," said the teacher, "the Lord is on our
side; of whom shall we be afraid?"
"Have the missionaries many stations in these seas?" inquired Jack.
"Oh, yes. The London Missionary Society have a great many in the
Tahiti group, and other islands in that quarter. Then the
Wesleyans have the Feejee Islands all to themselves, and the
Americans have many stations in other groups. But still, my
friend, there are hundreds of islands here the natives of which
have never heard of Jesus, or the good word of God, or the Holy
Spirit; and thousands are living and dying in the practice of those
terrible sins and bloody murders of which you have already heard.
I trust, my friends," he added, looking earnestly into our faces,
"I trust that if you ever return to England, you will tell your
Christian friends that the horrors which they hear of in regard to
these islands are LITERALLY TRUE, and that when they have heard the
worst, the 'HALF HAS NOT BEEN TOLD THEM;' for there are perpetrated
here foul deeds of darkness of which man may not speak. You may
also tell them," he said, looking around with a smile, while a tear
of gratitude trembled in his eye and rolled down his coal-black
cheek, - "tell them of the blessings that the gospel has wrought
We assured our friend that we would certainly not forget his
request. On returning towards the village, about noon, we remarked
on the beautiful whiteness of the cottages.
"That is owing to the lime with which they are plastered," said the
teacher. "When the natives were converted, as I have described, I
set them to work to build cottages for themselves, and also this
handsome church which you see. When the framework and other parts
of the houses were up, I sent the people to fetch coral from the
sea. They brought immense quantities. Then I made them cut wood,
and, piling the coral above it, set it on fire.
"'Look! look!' cried the poor people, in amazement; 'what wonderful
people the Christians are! He is roasting stones. We shall not
need taro or bread-fruit any more; we may eat stones!'
"But their surprise was still greater when the coral was reduced to
a fine soft white powder. They immediately set up a great shout,
and, mingling the lime with water, rubbed their faces and their
bodies all over with it, and ran through the village screaming with
delight. They were also much surprised at another thing they saw
me do. I wished to make some household furniture, and constructed
a turning-lathe to assist me. The first thing that I turned was
the leg of a sofa; which was no sooner finished than the chief
seized it with wonder and delight, and ran through the village
exhibiting it to the people, who looked upon it with great
admiration. The chief then, tying a string to it, hung it round
his neck as an ornament! He afterwards told me that if he had seen
it before he became a Christian he would have made it his god!"
As the teacher concluded this anecdote we reached his door. Saying
that he had business to attend to, he left us to amuse ourselves as
we best could.
"Now, lads," said Jack, turning abruptly towards us, and buttoning
up his jacket as he spoke, "I'm off to see the battle. I've no
particular fondness for seein' blood-shed, but I must find out the
nature o' these fellows and see their customs with my own eyes, so
that I may be able to speak of it again, if need be,
authoritatively. It's only six miles off, and we don't run much
more risk than that of getting a rap with a stray stone or an over-
shot arrow. Will you go?"
"To be sure we will," said Peterkin.
"If they chance to see us we'll cut and run for it," added Jack.
"Dear me!" cried Peterkin, - "YOU run! thought you would scorn to
run from any one."
"So I would, if it were my duty to fight," returned Jack, coolly;
"but as I don't want to fight, and don't intend to fight, if they
offer to attack us I'll run away like the veriest coward that ever
went by the name of Peterkin. So come along."
A strange and bloody battle - The lion bearded in his den -
Frightful scenes of cruelty, and fears for the future.
WE had ascertained from the teacher the direction to the spot on
which the battle was to be fought, and after a walk of two hours
reached it. The summit of a bare hill was the place chosen; for,
unlike most of the other islanders, who are addicted to bush-
fighting, those of Mango are in the habit of meeting on open
ground. We arrived before the two parties had commenced the deadly
struggle, and, creeping as close up as we dared among the rocks, we
lay and watched them.
The combatants were drawn up face to face, each side ranged in rank
four deep. Those in the first row were armed with long spears; the
second, with clubs to defend the spearmen; the third row was
composed of young men with slings; and the fourth consisted of
women, who carried baskets of stones for the slingers, and clubs
and spears with which to supply the warriors. Soon after we
arrived, the attack was made with great fury. There was no science
displayed. The two bodies of savages rushed headlong upon each
other and engaged in a general MELEE, and a more dreadful set of
men I have never seen. They wore grotesque war-caps made of
various substances and decorated with feathers. Their faces and
bodies were painted so as to make them look as frightful as
possible; and as they brandished their massive clubs, leaped,
shouted, yelled, and dashed each other to the ground, I thought I
had never seen men look so like demons before.
We were much surprised at the conduct of the women, who seemed to
be perfect furies, and hung about the heels of their husbands in
order to defend them. One stout young women we saw, whose husband
was hard pressed and about to be overcome: she lifted a large
stone, and throwing it at his opponent's head, felled him to the
earth. But the battle did not last long. The band most distant
from us gave way and were routed, leaving eighteen of their
comrades dead upon the field. These the victors brained as they
lay; and putting some of their brains on leaves went off with them,
we were afterwards informed, to their temples, to present them to
their gods as an earnest of the human victims who were soon to be
We hastened back to the Christian village with feelings of the
deepest sadness at the sanguinary conflict which we had just
Next day, after breakfasting with our friend the teacher, we made
preparations for carrying out our plan. At first the teacher
endeavoured to dissuade us.
"You do not know," said he, turning to Jack, "the danger you run in
venturing amongst these ferocious savages. I feel much pity for
poor Avatea; but you are not likely to succeed in saving her, and
you may die in the attempt."
"Well," said Jack, quietly, "I am not afraid to die in a good
The teacher smiled approvingly at him as he said this, and after a
little further conversation agreed to accompany us as interpreter;
saying that, although Tararo was unfriendly to him, he had hitherto
treated him with respect.
We now went on board the schooner, having resolved to sail round
the island and drop anchor opposite the heathen village. We manned
her with natives, and hoped to overawe the savages by displaying
our brass gun to advantage. The teacher soon after came on board,
and setting our sails we put to sea. In two hours more we made the
cliffs reverberate with the crash of the big gun, which we fired by
way of salute, while we ran the British ensign up to the peak and
cast anchor. The commotion on shore showed us that we had struck
terror into the hearts of the natives; but seeing that we did not
offer to molest them, a canoe at length put off and paddled
cautiously towards us. The teacher showed himself, and explaining
that we were friends and wished to palaver with the chief, desired
the native to go and tell him to come on board.
We waited long and with much impatience for an answer. During this
time the native teacher conversed with us again, and told us many
things concerning the success of the gospel among those islands;
and perceiving that we were by no means so much gratified as we
ought to have been at the hearing of such good news, he pressed us
more closely in regard to our personal interest in religion, and
exhorted us to consider that our souls were certainly in as great
danger as those of the wretched heathen whom we pitied so much, if
we had not already found salvation in Jesus Christ. "Nay,
further," he added, "if such be your unhappy case, you are, in the
sight of God, much worse than these savages (forgive me, my young
friends, for saying so); for they have no knowledge, no light, and
do not profess to believe; while you, on the contrary, have been
brought up in the light of the blessed gospel and call yourselves
Christians. These poor savages are indeed the enemies of our Lord;
but you, if ye be not true believers, are traitors!"
I must confess that my heart condemned me while the teacher spoke
in this earnest manner, and I knew not what to reply. Peterkin,
too, did not seem to like it, and I thought would willingly have
escaped; but Jack seemed deeply impressed, and wore an anxious
expression on his naturally grave countenance, while he assented to
the teacher's remarks and put to him many earnest questions.
Meanwhile the natives who composed our crew, having nothing
particular to do, had squatted down on the deck and taken out their
little books containing the translated portions of the New
Testament, along with hymns and spelling-books, and were now busily
engaged, some vociferating the alphabet, others learning prayers
off by heart, while a few sang hymns, - all of them being utterly
unmindful of our presence. The teacher soon joined them, and soon
afterwards they all engaged in a prayer which was afterwards
translated to us, and proved to be a petition for the success of
our undertaking and for the conversion of the heathen.
While we were thus engaged a canoe put off from shore and several
savages leaped on deck, one of whom advanced to the teacher and
informed him that Tararo could not come on board that day, being
busy with some religious ceremonies before the gods, which could on
no account be postponed. He was also engaged with a friendly chief
who was about to take his departure from the island, and therefore
begged that the teacher and his friends would land and pay a visit
to him. To this the teacher returned answer that we would land
"Now, lads," said Jack, as we were about to step into our little
boat, "I'm not going to take any weapons with me, and I recommend
you to take none either. We are altogether in the power of these
savages, and the utmost we could do, if they were to attack us,
would be to kill a few of them before we were ourselves
overpowered. I think that our only chance of success lies in mild
measures. Don't you think so?"
To this I assented gladly, and Peterkin replied by laying down a
huge bell-mouthed blunderbuss, and divesting himself of a pair of
enormous horse-pistols with which he had purposed to overawe the
natives! We then jumped into our boat and rowed ashore.
On reaching the beach we were received by a crowd of naked savages,
who shouted a rude welcome, and conducted us to a house or shed
where a baked pig and a variety of vegetables were prepared for us.
Having partaken of these, the teacher begged to be conducted to the
chief; but there seemed some hesitation, and after some
consultation among themselves, one of the men stood forward and
spoke to the teacher.
"What says he?" inquired Jack when the savage had concluded.
"He says that the chief is just going to the temple of his god and
cannot see us yet; so we must be patient, my friend."
"Well," cried Jack, rising; "if he won't come to see me, I'll e'en
go and see him. Besides, I have a great desire to witness their
proceedings at this temple of theirs. Will you go with me,
"I cannot," said the teacher, shaking his head; "I must not go to
the heathen temples and witness their inhuman rites, except for the
purpose of condemning their wickedness and folly."
"Very good," returned Jack; "then I'll go alone, for I cannot
condemn their doings till I have seen them."
Jack arose, and we, having determined to go also, followed him
through the banana groves to a rising ground immediately behind the
village, on the top of which stood the Bure, or temple, under the
dark shade of a group of iron-wood trees. As we went through the
village, I was again led to contrast the rude huts and sheds, and
their almost naked savage-looking inhabitants, with the natives of
the Christian village, who, to use the teacher's scriptural
expression, were now "clothed and in their right mind."
As we turned into a broad path leading towards the hill, we were
arrested by the shouts of an approaching multitude in the rear.
Drawing aside into the bushes we awaited their coming up, and as
they drew near we observed that it was a procession of the natives,
many of whom were dancing and gesticulating in the most frantic
manner. They had an exceedingly hideous aspect, owing to the
black, red, and yellow paints with which their faces and naked
bodies were bedaubed. In the midst of these came a band of men
carrying three or four planks, on which were seated in rows upwards
of a dozen men. I shuddered involuntarily as I recollected the
sacrifice of human victims at the island of Emo, and turned with a
look of fear to Jack as I said, -
"Oh, Jack! I have a terrible dread that they are going to commit
some of their cruel practices on these wretched men. We had better
not go to the temple. We shall only be horrified without being
able to do any good, for I fear they are going to kill them."
Jack's face wore an expression of deep compassion as he said, in a
low voice, "No fear, Ralph; the sufferings of these poor fellows
are over long ago."
I turned with a start as he spoke, and, glancing at the men, who
were now quite near to the spot where we stood, saw that they were
all dead. They were tied firmly with ropes in a sitting posture on
the planks, and seemed, as they bent their sightless eye-balls and
grinning mouths over the dancing crew below, as if they were
laughing in ghastly mockery at the utter inability of their enemies
to hurt them now. These, we discovered afterwards, were the men
who had been slain in the battle of the previous day, and were now
on their way to be first presented to the gods, and then eaten.
Behind these came two men leading between them a third, whose hands
were pinioned behind his back. He walked with a firm step, and
wore a look of utter indifference on his face, as they led him
along; so that we concluded he must be a criminal who was about to
receive some slight punishment for his faults. The rear of the
procession was brought up by a shouting crowd of women and
children, with whom we mingled and followed to the temple.
Here we arrived in a few minutes. The temple was a tall circular
building, open at one side. Around it were strewn heaps of human
bones and skulls. At a table inside sat the priest, an elderly
man, with a long gray beard. He was seated on a stool, and before
him lay several knives, made of wood, bone, and splinters of
bamboo, with which he performed his office of dissecting dead
bodies. Farther in lay a variety of articles that had been
dedicated to the god, and among them were many spears and clubs. I
observed among the latter some with human teeth sticking in them,
where the victims had been clubbed in their mouths.
Before this temple the bodies, which were painted with vermilion
and soot, were arranged in a sitting posture; and a man, called a
"dan-vosa" (orator), advanced, and, laying his hands on their
heads, began to chide them, apparently, in a low bantering tone.
What he said we knew not, but, as he went on, he waxed warm, and at
last shouted to them at the top of his lungs, and finally finished
by kicking the bodies over and running away, amid the shouts and
laughter of the people, who now rushed forward. Seizing the bodies
by a leg, or an arm, or by the hair of the head, they dragged them
over stumps and stones and through sloughs, until they were
exhausted. The bodies were then brought back to the temple and
dissected by the priest, after which they were taken out to be
Close to the temple a large fire was kindled, in which stones were
heated red hot. When ready these were spread out on the ground,
and a thick coating of leaves strewn over them to slack the heat.
On this "lovo," or oven, the bodies were then placed, covered over,
and left to bake.
The crowd now ran, with terrible yells, towards a neighbouring hill
or mound, on which we observed the frame-work of a house lying
ready to be erected. Sick with horror, yet fascinated by
curiosity, we staggered after them mechanically, scarce knowing
where we were going or what we did, and feeling a sort of
impression that all we saw was a dreadful dream.
Arrived at the place, we saw the multitude crowding round a certain
spot. We pressed forward and obtained a sight of what they were
doing. A large wooden beam or post lay on the ground, beside the
other parts of the frame-work of the house, and close to the end of
it was a hole about seven feet deep and upwards of two feet wide.
While we looked, the man whom we had before observed with his hands
pinioned, was carried into the circle. His hands were now free,
but his legs were tightly strapped together. The post of the house
was then placed in the hole, and the man put in beside it. His
head was a good way below the surface of the hole, and his arms
were clasped round the post. Earth was now thrown in until all was
covered over and stamped down; and this, we were afterwards told,
was a CEREMONY usually performed at the dedication of a new temple,
or the erection of a chief's house
"Come, come," cried Jack, on beholding this horrible tragedy, "we
have seen enough, enough, far more than enough! Let us go."
Jack's face looked ghastly pale and haggard as we hurried back to
rejoin the teacher, and I have no doubt that he felt terrible
anxiety when he considered the number and ferocity of the savages,
and the weakness of the few arms which were ready indeed to essay,
but impotent to effect, Avatea's deliverance from these ruthless
An unexpected discovery, and a bold, reckless defiance, with its
consequences - Plans of escape, and heroic resolves.
WHEN we returned to the shore, and related to our friend what had
passed, he was greatly distressed, and groaned in spirit; but we
had not sat long in conversation, when we were interrupted by the
arrival of Tararo on the beach, accompanied by a number of
followers bearing baskets of vegetables and fruits on their heads.
We advanced to meet him, and he expressed, through our interpreter,
much pleasure in seeing us.
"And what is it that my friends wish to say to me?" he inquired.
The teacher explained that we came to beg that Avatea might be
"Tell him," said Jack, "that I consider that I have a right to ask
this of him, having not only saved the girl's life, but the lives
of his own people also; and say that I wish her to be allowed to
follow her own wishes, and join the Christians."
While this was being translated, the chiefs brow lowered, and we
could see plainly that our request met with no favourable
reception. He replied with considerable energy, and at some
"What says he?" inquired Jack.
"I regret to say that he will not listen to the proposal. He says
he has pledged his word to his friend that the girl shall be sent
to him, and a deputy is even now on this island awaiting the
fulfilment of the pledge."
Jack bit his lip in suppressed anger. "Tell Tararo," he exclaimed
with flashing eye, "that if he does not grant my demand, it will be
worse for him. Say I have a big gun on board my schooner that will
blow his village into the sea, if he does not give up the girl."
"Nay, my friend," said the teacher, gently, "I will not tell him
that; we must overcome evil with good.'"
"What does my friend say?" inquired the chief, who seemed nettled
by Jack's looks of defiance.
"He is displeased," replied the teacher.
Tararo turned away with a smile of contempt, and walked towards the
men who carried the baskets of vegetables, and who had now emptied
the whole on the beach in an enormous pile.
"What are they doing there?" I inquired.
"I think that they are laying out a gift which they intend to
present to some one," said the teacher.
At this moment a couple of men appeared leading a young girl
between them; and, going towards the heap of fruits and vegetables,
placed her on the top of it. We started with surprise and fear,
for in the young female before us we recognised the Samoan girl,
We stood rooted to the earth with surprise and thick coming fears.
"Oh! my dear young friend," whispered the teacher, in a voice of
deep emotion, while he seized Jack by the arm, "she is to be made a
sacrifice even now!"
"Is she?" cried Jack, with a vehement shout, spurning the teacher
aside, and dashing over two natives who stood in his way, while he
rushed towards the heap, sprang up its side, and seized Avatea by
the arm. In another moment he dragged her down, placed her back to
a large tree, and, wrenching a war-club from the hand of a native
who seemed powerless and petrified with surprise, whirled it above
his head, and yelled, rather than shouted, while his face blazed
with fury, "Come on, the whole nation of you, an ye like it, and do
It seemed as though the challenge had been literally accepted; for
every savage on the ground ran precipitately at Jack with club and
spear, and, doubtless, would speedily have poured out his brave
blood on the sod, had not the teacher rushed in between them, and,
raising his voice to its utmost, cried. -
"Stay your hands, warriors! It is not your part to judge in this
matter. It is for Tararo, the chief, to say whether or not the
young man shall live or die."
The natives were arrested; and I know not whether it was the
gratifying acknowledgment of his superiority thus made by the
teacher, or some lingering feeling of gratitude for Jack's former
aid in time of need, that influenced Tararo, but he stepped
forward, and, waving his hand, said to his people, - "Desist. The
young man's life is mine." Then, turning to Jack, he said, "You
have forfeited your liberty and life to me. Submit yourself, for
we are more numerous than the sand upon the shore. You are but
one; why should you die?"
"Villain!" exclaimed Jack, passionately, "I may die, but,
assuredly, I shall not perish alone. I will not submit until you
promise that this girl shall not be injured."
"You are very bold," replied the chief, haughtily, "but very
foolish. Yet I will say that Avatea shall not be sent away, at
least for three days."
"You had better accept these terms," whispered the teacher,
entreatingly. "If you persist in this mad defiance, you will be
slain, and Avatea will be lost. Three days are worth having."
Jack hesitated a moment, then lowered his club, and, throwing it
moodily to the ground, crossed his arms on his breast, and hung
down his head in silence.
Tararo seemed pleased by his submission, and told the teacher to
say that he did not forget his former services, and, therefore,
would leave him free as to his person, but that the schooner would
be detained till he had further considered the matter.
While the teacher translated this, he approached as near to where
Avatea was standing as possible, without creating suspicion, and
whispered to her a few words in the native language. Avatea, who,
during the whole of the foregoing scene, had stood leaning against
the tree perfectly passive, and seemingly quite uninterested in all
that was going on, replied by a single rapid glance of her dark
eye, which was instantly cast down again on the ground at her feet.
Tararo now advanced, and taking the girl by the hand, led her
unresistingly away, while Jack, Peterkin, and I returned with the
teacher on board the schooner.
On reaching the deck, we went down to the cabin, where Jack threw
himself, in a state of great dejection, on a couch; but the teacher
seated himself by his side, and, laying his hand upon his shoulder,
"Do not give way to anger, my young friend. God has given us three
days, and we must use the means that are in our power to free this
poor girl from slavery. We must not sit in idle disappointment, we
must act" -
"Act!" cried Jack, raising himself, and tossing back his hair
wildly; "it is mockery to balk of acting when one is bound hand and
foot. How can I act? I cannot fight a whole nation of savages
single-handed. Yes," he said, with a bitter smile, "I can fight
them, but I cannot conquer them, or save Avatea."
"Patience, my friend; your spirit is not a good one just now. You
cannot expect that blessing which alone can insure success, unless
you are more submissive. I will tell you my plans if you will
"Listen!" cried Jack, eagerly, "of course I will, my good fellow; I
did not know you had any plans. Out with them. I only hope you
will show me how I can get the girl on board of this schooner, and
I'd up anchor and away in no time. But proceed with your plans."
The teacher smiled sadly: "Ah! my friend, if one fathom of your
anchor chain were to rattle, as you drew it in, a thousand warriors
would be standing on your deck. No, no, that could not be done.
Even now, your ship would be taken from you were it not that Tararo
has some feeling of gratitude toward you. But I know Tararo well.
He is a man of falsehood, as all the unconverted savages are. The
chief to whom he has promised this girl is very powerful, and
Tararo MUST fulfil his promise. He has told you that he would do
nothing to the girl for three days; but that is because the party
who are to take her away will not be ready to start for three days.
Still, as he might have made you a prisoner during those three
days, I say that God has given them to us."
"Well, but what do you propose to do?" said Jack, impatiently.
"My plan involves much danger, but I see no other, and I think you
have courage to brave it. It is this: There is an island about
fifty miles to the south of this, the natives of which are
Christians, and have been so for two years or more, and the
principal chief is Avatea's lover. Once there, Avatea would be
safe. Now, I suggest that you should abandon your schooner. Do
you think that you can make so great a sacrifice?"
"Friend," replied Jack, "when I make up my mind to go through with
a thing of importance, I can make any sacrifice."
The teacher smiled. "Well, then, the savages could not conceive it
possible that, for the sake of a girl, you would voluntarily lose
your fine vessel; therefore as long as she lies here they think
they have you all safe: so I suggest that we get a quantity of
stores conveyed to a sequestered part of the shore, provide a small
canoe, put Avatea on board, and you three would paddle to the
"Bravo!" cried Peterkin, springing up and seizing the teacher's
hand. "Missionary, you're a regular brick. I didn't think you had
so much in you."
"As for me," continued the teacher, "I will remain on board till
they discover that you are gone. Then they will ask me where you
are gone to, and I will refuse to tell."
"And what'll be the result of that?" inquired Jack.
"I know not. Perhaps they will kill me; but," he added, looking at
Jack with a peculiar smile, "I too am not afraid to die in a good
"But how are we to get hold of Avatea?" inquired Jack.
"I have arranged with her to meet us at a particular spot, to which
I will guide you to-night. We shall then arrange about it. She
will easily manage to elude her keepers, who are not very strict in
watching her, thinking it impossible that she could escape from the
island. Indeed, I am sure that such an idea will never enter their
heads. But, as I have said, you run great danger. Fifty miles in
a small canoe, on the open sea, is a great voyage to make. You may
miss the island, too, in which case there is no other in that
direction for a hundred miles or more; and if you lose your way and
fall among other heathens, you know the law of Feejee - a cast-away
who gains the shore is doomed to die. You must count the cost, my
"I have counted it," replied Jack. "If Avatea consents to run the
risk, most certainly I will; and so will my comrades also.
Besides," added Jack, looking seriously into the teacher's face,
"your Bible, - OUR Bible, tells of ONE who delivers those who call
on Him in the time of trouble; who holds the winds in his fists and
the waters in the hollow of his hand."
We now set about active preparations for the intended voyage;
collected together such things as we should require, and laid out
on the deck provisions sufficient to maintain us for several weeks,
purposing to load the canoe with as much as she could hold
consistently with speed and safety. These we covered with a
tarpaulin, intending to convey them to the canoe only a few hours
before starting. When night spread her sable curtain over the
scene, we prepared to land; but, first, kneeling along with the
natives and the teacher, the latter implored a blessing on our
enterprise. Then we rowed quietly to the shore and followed our
sable guide, who led us by a long detour, in order to avoid the
village, to the place of rendezvous. We had not stood more than
five minutes under the gloomy shade of the thick foliage when a
dark figure glided noiselessly up to us.
"Ah! here you are," said Jack, as Avatea approached. "Now, then,
tell her what we've come about, and don't waste time."
"I understan' leetl English," said Avatea, in a low voice.
"Why, where did you pick up English?" exclaimed Jack, in amazement;
"you were dumb as a stone when I saw you last."
"She has learned all she knows of it from me," said the teacher,
"since she came to the island."
We now gave Avatea a full explanation of our plans, entering into
all the details, and concealing none of the danger, so that she
might be fully aware of the risk she ran. As we had anticipated,
she was too glad of the opportunity thus afforded her to escape
from her persecutors to think of the danger or risk.
"Then you're willing to go with us, are you?" said Jack.
"Yis, I am willing to go."
"And you're not afraid to trust yourself out on the deep sea so
"No, I not 'fraid to go. Safe with Christian."
After some further consultation, the teacher suggested that it was
time to return, so we bade Avatea good night, and having appointed
to meet at the cliff where the canoe lay, on the following night,
just after dark, we hastened away - we to row on board the schooner
with muffled oars - Avatea to glide back to her prison-hut among
the Mango savages.
The flight - The pursuit - Despair and its results - The lion
bearded in his den again - Awful danger threatened and wonderfully
averted - A terrific storm.
AS the time for our meditated flight drew near, we became naturally
very fearful lest our purpose should be discovered, and we spent
the whole of the following day in a state of nervous anxiety. We
resolved to go a-shore and ramble about the village, as if to
observe the habits and dwellings of the people, as we thought that
an air of affected indifference to the events of the previous day
would be more likely than any other course of conduct to avert
suspicion as to our intentions. While we were thus occupied, the
teacher remained on board with the Christian natives, whose
powerful voices reached us ever and anon as they engaged in singing
hymns or in prayer.
At last the long and tedious day came to a close, the sank into the
sea, and the short-lived twilight of those regions, to which I have
already referred, ended abruptly in a dark night. Hastily throwing
a few blankets into our little boat, we stepped into it, and,
whispering farewell to the natives in the schooner, rowed gently
over the lagoon, taking care to keep as near to the beach as
possible. We rowed in the utmost silence and with muffled oars, so
that had any one observed us at the distance of a few yards, he
might have almost taken us for a phantom-boat or a shadow on the
dark water. Not a breath of air was stirring; but fortunately the
gentle ripple of the sea upon the shore, mingled with the soft roar
of the breaker on the distant reef, effectually drowned the slight
plash that we unavoidably made in the water by the dipping of our
Quarter of an hour sufficed to bring us to the over-hanging cliff
under whose black shadow our little canoe lay, with her bow in the
water ready to be launched, and most of her cargo already stowed
away. As the keel of our little boat grated on the sand, a hand
was laid upon the bow, and a dim form was seen.
"Ha!" said Peterkin in a whisper, as he stepped upon the beach, "is
that you, Avatea?"
"Yis, it am me," was the reply.
"All right! Now, then, gently. Help me to shove off the canoe,"
whispered Jack to the teacher; "and Peterkin, do you shove these
blankets aboard, we may want them before long. Avatea, step into
the middle; - that's right."
"Is all ready?" whispered the teacher.
"Not quite," replied Peterkin. "Here, Ralph, lay hold o' this pair
of oars, and stow them away if you can. I don't like paddles.
After we're safe away I'll try to rig up rollicks for them."
"Now, then, in with you and shove off."
One more earnest squeeze of the kind teacher's hand, and, with his
whispered blessing yet sounding in our ears, we shot like an arrow
from the shore, sped over the still waters of the lagoon, and
paddled as swiftly as strong arms and willing hearts could urge us
over the long swell of the open sea.
All that night and the whole of the following day we plied our
paddles in almost total silence and without halt, save twice to
recruit our failing energies with a mouthful of food and a draught
of water. Jack had taken the bearing of the island just after
starting, and laying a small pocket-compass before him, kept the
head of the canoe due south, for our chance of hitting the island
depended very much on the faithfulness of our steersman in keeping
our tiny bark exactly and constantly on its proper course.
Peterkin and I paddled in the bow, and Avatea worked untiringly in
As the sun's lower limb dipped on the gilded edge of the sea Jack
ceased working, threw down his paddle, and called a halt.
"There," he cried, heaving a deep, long-drawn sigh, "we've put a
considerable breadth of water between us and these black rascals,
so now we'll have a hearty supper and a sound sleep."
"Hear, hear," cried Peterkin. "Nobly spoken, Jack. Hand me a drop
water, Ralph. Why, girl what's wrong with you? You look just like
a black owl blinking in the sunshine."
Avatea smiled. "I sleepy," she said; and as if to prove the truth
of this, she laid her head on the edge of the canoe and fell fast
"That's uncommon sharp practice," said Peterkin, with a broad grin.
"Don't you think we should awake her to make her eat something
first? or, perhaps," he added, with a grave, meditative look,
"perhaps we might put some food in her mouth, which is so elegantly
open at the present moment, and see if she'd swallow it while
asleep. If so, Ralph, you might come round to the front here and
feed her quietly, while Jack and I are tucking into the victuals.
It would be a monstrous economy of time."
I could not help smiling at Peterkin's idea, which, indeed, when I
pondered it, seemed remarkably good in theory; nevertheless I
declined to put it in practice, being fearful of the result should
the victual chance to go down the wrong throat. But, on suggesting
this to Peterkin, he exclaimed -
"Down the wrong throat, man! why, a fellow with half an eye might
see that if it went down Avatea's throat it could not go down the
wrong throat! - unless, indeed, you have all of a sudden become
inordinately selfish, and think that all the throats in the world
are wrong ones except your own. However, don't talk so much, and
hand me the pork before Jack finishes it. I feel myself entitled
to at least one minute morsel."
"Peterkin, you're a villain. A paltry little villain," said Jack,
quietly, as he tossed the hind legs (including the tail) of a cold
roast pig to his comrade; "and I must again express my regret that
unavoidable circumstances have thrust your society upon me, and
that necessity has compelled me to cultivate your acquaintance.
Were it not that you are incapable of walking upon the water, I
would order you, sir, out of the canoe."
"There! you've wakened Avatea with your long tongue," retorted
Peterkin, with a frown, as the girl gave vent to a deep sigh.
"No," he continued, "it was only a snore. Perchance she dreameth
of her black Apollo. I say, Ralph, do leave just one little slice
of that yam. Between you and Jack I run a chance of being put on
short allowance, if not - yei - a - a - ow!"
Peterkin's concluding remark was a yawn of so great energy that
Jack recommended him to postpone the conclusion of his meal till
next morning, - a piece of advice which he followed so quickly,
that I was forcibly reminded of his remark, a few minutes before,
in regard to the sharp practice of Avatea.
My readers will have observed, probably, by this time, that I am
much given to meditation; they will not, therefore, be surprised to
learn that I fell into a deep reverie on the subject of sleep,
which was continued without intermission into the night, and
prolonged without interruption into the following morning. But I
cannot feel assured that I actually slept during that time,
although I am tolerably certain that I was not awake.
Thus we lay like a shadow on the still bosom of the ocean, while
the night closed in, and all around was calm, dark, and silent.
A thrilling cry of alarm from Peterkin startled us in the morning,
just as the gray dawn began to glimmer in the east.
"What's wrong?" cried Jack, starting up.
Peterkin replied by pointing with a look of anxious dread towards
the horizon; and a glance sufficed to show us that one of the
largest sized war-canoes was approaching us!
With a groan of mingled despair and anger Jack seized his paddle,
glanced at the compass, and, in a suppressed voice, commanded us to
But we did not require to be urged. Already our four paddles were
glancing in the water, and the canoe bounded over the glassy sea
like a dolphin, while a shout from our pursuers told that they had
observed our motions.
"I see something like land ahead," said Jack, in a hopeful tone.
"It seems impossible that we could have made the island yet; still,
if it is so, we may reach it before these fellows can catch us, for
our canoe is light and our muscles are fresh."
No one replied; for, to say truth, we felt that, in a long chase,
we had no chance whatever with a canoe which held nearly a hundred
warriors. Nevertheless, we resolved to do our utmost to escape,
and paddled with a degree of vigour that kept us well in advance of
our pursuers. The war-canoe was so far behind us that it seemed
but a little speck on the sea, and the shouts, to which the crew
occasionally gave vent, came faintly towards us on the morning
breeze. We therefore hoped that we should be able to keep in
advance for an hour or two, when we might, perhaps, reach the land
ahead. But this hope was suddenly crushed by the supposed land,
not long after, rising up into the sky; thus proving itself to be a
A bitter feeling of disappointment filled each heart, and was
expressed on each countenance, as we beheld this termination to our
hopes. But we had little time to think of regret. Our danger was
too great and imminent to permit of a moment's relaxation from our
exertions. No hope now animated our bosoms; but a feeling of
despair, strange to say, lent us power to work, and nerved our arms
with such energy, that it was several hours ere the savages
overtook us. When we saw that there was indeed no chance of
escape, and that paddling any longer would only serve to exhaust
our strength, without doing any good, we turned the side of our
canoe towards the approaching enemy, and laid down our paddles.
Silently, and with a look of bitter determination on his face, Jack
lifted one of the light boat-oars that we had brought with us, and,
resting it on his shoulder, stood up in an attitude of bold
defiance. Peterkin took the other oar and also stood up, but there
was no anger visible on his countenance. When not sparkling with
fun, it usually wore a mild, sad expression, which was deepened on
the present occasion, as he glanced at Avatea, who sat with her
face resting in her hands upon her knees. Without knowing very
well what I intended to do, I also arose and grasped my paddle with
On came the large canoe like a war-horse of the deep, with the foam
curling from its sharp bow, and the spear-heads of the savages
glancing the beams of the rising sun. Perfect silence was
maintained on both sides, and we could hear the hissing water, and
see the frowning eyes of the warriors, as they came rushing on.
When about twenty yards distant, five or six of the savages in the
bow rose, and, laying aside their paddles, took up their spears.
Jack and Peterkin raised their oars, while, with a feeling of
madness whirling in my brain, I grasped my paddle and prepared for
the onset. But, before any of us could strike a blow, the sharp
prow of the war-canoe struck us like a thunderbolt on the side, and
hurled us into the sea!
What occurred after this I cannot tell, for I was nearly drowned;
but when I recovered from the state of insensibility into which I
had been thrown, I found myself stretched on my back, bound hand
and foot between Jack and Peterkin, in the bottom of the large
In this condition we lay the whole day, during which time the
savages only rested one hour. When night came, they rested again
for another hour, and appeared to sleep just as they sat. But we
were neither unbound nor allowed to speak to each other during the
voyage, nor was a morsel of food or a draught of water given to us.
For food, however, we cared little; but we would have given much
for a drop of water to cool our parched lips, and we would have
been glad, too, had they loosened the cords that bound us, for they
were tightly fastened and occasioned us much pain. The air, also,
was unusually hot, so much so that I felt convinced that a storm
was brewing. This also added to our sufferings. However, these
were at length relieved by our arrival at the island from which we
While we were being led ashore, we caught a glimpse of Avatea, who
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