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´╗┐Title: The Coral Island - A Tale of the Pacific Ocean
Author: Ballantyne, R. M. (Robert Michael), 1825-1894
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Coral Island - A Tale of the Pacific Ocean" ***

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Transcribed from the 1884 Thomas Nelson and Sons edition by David Price,
email ccx074@pglaf.org

{Book cover: cover.jpg}



The Coral Island:
A Tale of the Pacific Ocean


{A coral island: p0.jpg}

BY

ROBERT MICHAEL BALLANTYNE,
AUTHOR OF "HUDSON'S BAY; OR, EVERY-DAY LIFE IN THE WILDS OF NORTH
AMERICA;
"SNOW-FLAKES AND SUN-BEAMS; OR, THE YOUNG FUR-TRADERS;"
"UNGAVA: A TALE OF THE ESQUIMAUX," ETC., ETC.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY DALZIEL.

London:
THOMAS NELSON AND SONS, PATERNOSTER ROW.
EDINBURGH; AND NEW YORK.
1884.



Preface


I was a boy when I went through the wonderful adventures herein set down.
With the memory of my boyish feelings strong upon me, I present my book
specially to boys, in the earnest hope that they may derive valuable
information, much pleasure, great profit, and unbounded amusement from
its pages.

One word more.  If there is any boy or man who loves to be melancholy and
morose, and who cannot enter with kindly sympathy into the regions of
fun, let me seriously advise him to shut my book and put it away.  It is
not meant for him.

RALPH ROVER



CHAPTER I.


The beginning--My early life and character--I thirst for adventure in
foreign lands and go to sea.

Roving has always been, and still is, my ruling passion, the joy of my
heart, the very sunshine of my existence.  In childhood, in boyhood, and
in man's estate, I have been a rover; not a mere rambler among the woody
glens and upon the hill-tops of my own native land, but an enthusiastic
rover throughout the length and breadth of the wide wide world.

It was a wild, black night of howling storm, the night in which I was
born on the foaming bosom of the broad Atlantic Ocean.  My father was a
sea-captain; my grandfather was a sea-captain; my great-grandfather had
been a marine.  Nobody could tell positively what occupation _his_ father
had followed; but my dear mother used to assert that he had been a
midshipman, whose grandfather, on the mother's side, had been an admiral
in the royal navy.  At anyrate we knew that, as far back as our family
could be traced, it had been intimately connected with the great watery
waste.  Indeed this was the case on both sides of the house; for my
mother always went to sea with my father on his long voyages, and so
spent the greater part of her life upon the water.

Thus it was, I suppose, that I came to inherit a roving disposition.  Soon
after I was born, my father, being old, retired from a seafaring life,
purchased a small cottage in a fishing village on the west coast of
England, and settled down to spend the evening of his life on the shores
of that sea which had for so many years been his home.  It was not long
after this that I began to show the roving spirit that dwelt within me.
For some time past my infant legs had been gaining strength, so that I
came to be dissatisfied with rubbing the skin off my chubby knees by
walking on them, and made many attempts to stand up and walk like a man;
all of which attempts, however, resulted in my sitting down violently and
in sudden surprise.  One day I took advantage of my dear mother's absence
to make another effort; and, to my joy, I actually succeeded in reaching
the doorstep, over which I tumbled into a pool of muddy water that lay
before my father's cottage door.  Ah, how vividly I remember the horror
of my poor mother when she found me sweltering in the mud amongst a group
of cackling ducks, and the tenderness with which she stripped off my
dripping clothes and washed my dirty little body!  From this time forth
my rambles became more frequent, and, as I grew older, more distant,
until at last I had wandered far and near on the shore and in the woods
around our humble dwelling, and did not rest content until my father
bound me apprentice to a coasting vessel, and let me go to sea.

For some years I was happy in visiting the sea-ports, and in coasting
along the shores of my native land.  My Christian name was Ralph, and my
comrades added to this the name of Rover, in consequence of the passion
which I always evinced for travelling.  Rover was not my real name, but
as I never received any other I came at last to answer to it as naturally
as to my proper name; and, as it is not a bad one, I see no good reason
why I should not introduce myself to the reader as Ralph Rover.  My
shipmates were kind, good-natured fellows, and they and I got on very
well together.  They did, indeed, very frequently make game of and banter
me, but not unkindly; and I overheard them sometimes saying that Ralph
Rover was a "queer, old-fashioned fellow."  This, I must confess,
surprised me much, and I pondered the saying long, but could come at no
satisfactory conclusion as to that wherein my old-fashionedness lay.  It
is true I was a quiet lad, and seldom spoke except when spoken to.
Moreover, I never could understand the jokes of my companions even when
they were explained to me: which dulness in apprehension occasioned me
much grief; however, I tried to make up for it by smiling and looking
pleased when I observed that they were laughing at some witticism which I
had failed to detect.  I was also very fond of inquiring into the nature
of things and their causes, and often fell into fits of abstraction while
thus engaged in my mind.  But in all this I saw nothing that did not seem
to be exceedingly natural, and could by no means understand why my
comrades should call me "an old-fashioned fellow."

Now, while engaged in the coasting trade, I fell in with many seamen who
had travelled to almost every quarter of the globe; and I freely confess
that my heart glowed ardently within me as they recounted their wild
adventures in foreign lands,--the dreadful storms they had weathered, the
appalling dangers they had escaped, the wonderful creatures they had seen
both on the land and in the sea, and the interesting lands and strange
people they had visited.  But of all the places of which they told me,
none captivated and charmed my imagination so much as the Coral Islands
of the Southern Seas.  They told me of thousands of beautiful fertile
islands that had been formed by a small creature called the coral insect,
where summer reigned nearly all the year round,--where the trees were
laden with a constant harvest of luxuriant fruit,--where the climate was
almost perpetually delightful,--yet where, strange to say, men were wild,
bloodthirsty savages, excepting in those favoured isles to which the
gospel of our Saviour had been conveyed.  These exciting accounts had so
great an effect upon my mind, that, when I reached the age of fifteen, I
resolved to make a voyage to the South Seas.

I had no little difficulty at first in prevailing on my dear parents to
let me go; but when I urged on my father that he would never have become
a great captain had he remained in the coasting trade, he saw the truth
of what I said, and gave his consent.  My dear mother, seeing that my
father had made up his mind, no longer offered opposition to my wishes.
"But oh, Ralph," she said, on the day I bade her adieu, "come back soon
to us, my dear boy, for we are getting old now, Ralph, and may not have
many years to live."

I will not take up my reader's time with a minute account of all that
occurred before I took my final leave of my dear parents.  Suffice it to
say, that my father placed me under the charge of an old mess-mate of his
own, a merchant captain, who was on the point of sailing to the South
Seas in his own ship, the Arrow.  My mother gave me her blessing and a
small Bible; and her last request was, that I would never forget to read
a chapter every day, and say my prayers; which I promised, with tears in
my eyes, that I would certainly do.

Soon afterwards I went on board the Arrow, which was a fine large ship,
and set sail for the islands of the Pacific Ocean.



CHAPTER II.


The departure--The sea--My companions--Some account of the wonderful
sights we saw on the great deep--A dreadful storm and a frightful wreck.

It was a bright, beautiful, warm day when our ship spread her canvass to
the breeze, and sailed for the regions of the south.  Oh, how my heart
bounded with delight as I listened to the merry chorus of the sailors,
while they hauled at the ropes and got in the anchor!  The captain
shouted--the men ran to obey--the noble ship bent over to the breeze, and
the shore gradually faded from my view, while I stood looking on with a
kind of feeling that the whole was a delightful dream.

The first thing that struck me as being different from anything I had yet
seen during my short career on the sea, was the hoisting of the anchor on
deck, and lashing it firmly down with ropes, as if we had now bid adieu
to the land for ever, and would require its services no more.

"There, lass," cried a broad-shouldered jack-tar, giving the fluke of the
anchor a hearty slap with his hand after the housing was
completed--"there, lass, take a good nap now, for we shan't ask you to
kiss the mud again for many a long day to come!"

And so it was.  That anchor did not "kiss the mud" for many long days
afterwards; and when at last it did, it was for the last time!

There were a number of boys in the ship, but two of them were my special
favourites.  Jack Martin was a tall, strapping, broad-shouldered youth of
eighteen, with a handsome, good-humoured, firm face.  He had had a good
education, was clever and hearty and lion-like in his actions, but mild
and quiet in disposition.  Jack was a general favourite, and had a
peculiar fondness for me.  My other companion was Peterkin Gay.  He was
little, quick, funny, decidedly mischievous, and about fourteen years
old.  But Peterkin's mischief was almost always harmless, else he could
not have been so much beloved as he was.

"Hallo! youngster," cried Jack Martin, giving me a slap on the shoulder,
the day I joined the ship, "come below and I'll show you your berth.  You
and I are to be mess-mates, and I think we shall be good friends, for I
like the look o' you."

Jack was right.  He and I and Peterkin afterwards became the best and
stanchest friends that ever tossed together on the stormy waves.

I shall say little about the first part of our voyage.  We had the usual
amount of rough weather and calm; also we saw many strange fish rolling
in the sea, and I was greatly delighted one day by seeing a shoal of
flying fish dart out of the water and skim through the air about a foot
above the surface.  They were pursued by dolphins, which feed on them,
and one flying-fish in its terror flew over the ship, struck on the
rigging, and fell upon the deck.  Its wings were just fins elongated, and
we found that they could never fly far at a time, and never mounted into
the air like birds, but skimmed along the surface of the sea.  Jack and I
had it for dinner, and found it remarkably good.

When we approached Cape Horn, at the southern extremity of America, the
weather became very cold and stormy, and the sailors began to tell
stories about the furious gales and the dangers of that terrible cape.

"Cape Horn," said one, "is the most horrible headland I ever doubled.
I've sailed round it twice already, and both times the ship was a'most
blow'd out o' the water."

"An' I've been round it once," said another, "an' that time the sails
were split, and the ropes frozen in the blocks, so that they wouldn't
work, and we wos all but lost."

"An' I've been round it five times," cried a third, "an' every time wos
wuss than another, the gales wos so tree-mendous!"

"And I've been round it no times at all," cried Peterkin, with an
impudent wink of his eye, "an' _that_ time I wos blow'd inside out!"

Nevertheless, we passed the dreaded cape without much rough weather, and,
in the course of a few weeks afterwards, were sailing gently, before a
warm tropical breeze, over the Pacific Ocean.  Thus we proceeded on our
voyage, sometimes bounding merrily before a fair breeze, at other times
floating calmly on the glassy wave and fishing for the curious
inhabitants of the deep,--all of which, although the sailors thought
little of them, were strange, and interesting, and very wonderful to me.

At last we came among the Coral Islands of the Pacific, and I shall never
forget the delight with which I gazed,--when we chanced to pass one,--at
the pure, white, dazzling shores, and the verdant palm-trees, which
looked bright and beautiful in the sunshine.  And often did we three long
to be landed on one, imagining that we should certainly find perfect
happiness there!  Our wish was granted sooner than we expected.

One night, soon after we entered the tropics, an awful storm burst upon
our ship.  The first squall of wind carried away two of our masts; and
left only the foremast standing.  Even this, however, was more than
enough, for we did not dare to hoist a rag of sail on it.  For five days
the tempest raged in all its fury.  Everything was swept off the decks
except one small boat.  The steersman was lashed to the wheel, lest he
should be washed away, and we all gave ourselves up for lost.  The
captain said that he had no idea where we were, as we had been blown far
out of our course; and we feared much that we might get among the
dangerous coral reefs which are so numerous in the Pacific.  At day-break
on the sixth morning of the gale we saw land ahead.  It was an island
encircled by a reef of coral on which the waves broke in fury.  There was
calm water within this reef, but we could only see one narrow opening
into it.  For this opening we steered, but, ere we reached it, a
tremendous wave broke on our stern, tore the rudder completely off, and
left us at the mercy of the winds and waves.

"It's all over with us now, lads," said the captain to the men; "get the
boat ready to launch; we shall be on the rocks in less than half an
hour."

The men obeyed in gloomy silence, for they felt that there was little
hope of so small a boat living in such a sea.

"Come boys," said Jack Martin, in a grave tone, to me and Peterkin, as we
stood on the quarterdeck awaiting our fate;--"Come boys, we three shall
stick together.  You see it is impossible that the little boat can reach
the shore, crowded with men.  It will be sure to upset, so I mean rather
to trust myself to a large oar, I see through the telescope that the ship
will strike at the tail of the reef, where the waves break into the quiet
water inside; so, if we manage to cling to the oar till it is driven over
the breakers, we may perhaps gain the shore.  What say you; will you join
me?"

We gladly agreed to follow Jack, for he inspired us with confidence,
although I could perceive, by the sad tone of his voice, that he had
little hope; and, indeed, when I looked at the white waves that lashed
the reef and boiled against the rocks as if in fury, I felt that there
was but a step between us and death.  My heart sank within me; but at
that moment my thoughts turned to my beloved mother, and I remembered
those words, which were among the last that she said to me--"Ralph, my
dearest child, always remember in the hour of danger to look to your Lord
and Saviour Jesus Christ.  He alone is both able and willing to save your
body and your soul."  So I felt much comforted when I thought thereon.

The ship was now very near the rocks.  The men were ready with the boat,
and the captain beside them giving orders, when a tremendous wave came
towards us.  We three ran towards the bow to lay hold of our oar, and had
barely reached it when the wave fell on the deck with a crash like
thunder.  At the same moment the ship struck, the foremast broke off
close to the deck and went over the side, carrying the boat and men along
with it.  Our oar got entangled with the wreck, and Jack seized an axe to
cut it free, but, owing to the motion of the ship, he missed the cordage
and struck the axe deep into the oar.  Another wave, however, washed it
clear of the wreck.  We all seized hold of it, and the next instant we
were struggling in the wild sea.  The last thing I saw was the boat
whirling in the surf, and all the sailors tossed into the foaming waves.
Then I became insensible.

On recovering from my swoon, I found myself lying on a bank of soft
grass, under the shelter of an overhanging rock, with Peterkin on his
knees by my side, tenderly bathing my temples with water, and
endeavouring to stop the blood that flowed from a wound in my forehead.



CHAPTER III.


The Coral Island--Our first cogitations after landing, and the result of
them--We conclude that the island is uninhabited.

There is a strange and peculiar sensation experienced in recovering from
a state of insensibility, which is almost indescribable; a sort of
dreamy, confused consciousness; a half-waking half-sleeping condition,
accompanied with a feeling of weariness, which, however, is by no means
disagreeable.  As I slowly recovered and heard the voice of Peterkin
inquiring whether I felt better, I thought that I must have overslept
myself, and should be sent to the mast-head for being lazy; but before I
could leap up in haste, the thought seemed to vanish suddenly away, and I
fancied that I must have been ill.  Then a balmy breeze fanned my cheek,
and I thought of home, and the garden at the back of my father's cottage,
with its luxuriant flowers, and the sweet-scented honey-suckle that my
dear mother trained so carefully upon the trellised porch.  But the
roaring of the surf put these delightful thoughts to flight, and I was
back again at sea, watching the dolphins and the flying-fish, and reefing
topsails off the wild and stormy Cape Horn.  Gradually the roar of the
surf became louder and more distinct.  I thought of being wrecked far far
away from my native land, and slowly opened my eyes to meet those of my
companion Jack, who, with a look of intense anxiety, was gazing into my
face.

"Speak to us, my dear Ralph," whispered Jack, tenderly, "are you better
now?"

I smiled and looked up, saying, "Better; why, what do you mean, Jack?  I'm
quite well."

"Then what are you shamming for, and frightening us in this way?" said
Peterkin, smiling through his tears; for the poor boy had been really
under the impression that I was dying.

I now raised myself on my elbow, and putting my hand to my forehead,
found that it had been cut pretty severely, and that I had lost a good
deal of blood.

"Come, come, Ralph," said Jack, pressing me gently backward, "lie down,
my boy; you're not right yet.  Wet your lips with this water, it's cool
and clear as crystal.  I got it from a spring close at hand.  There now,
don't say a word, hold your tongue," said he, seeing me about to speak.
"I'll tell you all about it, but you must not utter a syllable till you
have rested well."

"Oh! don't stop him from speaking, Jack," said Peterkin, who, now that
his fears for my safety were removed, busied himself in erecting a
shelter of broken branches in order to protect me from the wind; which,
however, was almost unnecessary, for the rock beside which I had been
laid completely broke the force of the gale.  "Let him speak, Jack; it's
a comfort to hear that he's alive, after lying there stiff and white and
sulky for a whole hour, just like an Egyptian mummy.  Never saw such a
fellow as you are, Ralph; always up to mischief.  You've almost knocked
out all my teeth and more than half choked me, and now you go shamming
dead!  It's very wicked of you, indeed it is."

While Peterkin ran on in this style, my faculties became quite clear
again, and I began to understand my position.  "What do you mean by
saying I half choked you, Peterkin?" said I.

"What do I mean?  Is English not your mother tongue, or do you want me to
repeat it in French, by way of making it clearer?  Don't you remember--"

"I remember nothing," said I, interrupting him, "after we were thrown
into the sea."

{Slowly recovering: p24.jpg}

"Hush, Peterkin," said Jack, "you're exciting Ralph with your nonsense.
I'll explain it to you.  You recollect that after the ship struck, we
three sprang over the bow into the sea; well, I noticed that the oar
struck your head and gave you that cut on the brow, which nearly stunned
you, so that you grasped Peterkin round the neck without knowing
apparently what you were about.  In doing so you pushed the
telescope,--which you clung to as if it had been your life,--against
Peterkin's mouth--"

"Pushed it against his mouth!" interrupted Peterkin, "say crammed it down
his throat.  Why, there's a distinct mark of the brass rim on the back of
my gullet at this moment!"

"Well, well, be that as it may," continued Jack, "you clung to him,
Ralph, till I feared you really would choke him; but I saw that he had a
good hold of the oar, so I exerted myself to the utmost to push you
towards the shore, which we luckily reached without much trouble, for the
water inside the reef is quite calm."

"But the captain and crew, what of them?" I inquired anxiously.

Jack shook his head.

"Are they lost?"

"No, they are not lost, I hope, but I fear there is not much chance of
their being saved.  The ship struck at the very tail of the island on
which we are cast.  When the boat was tossed into the sea it fortunately
did not upset, although it shipped a good deal of water, and all the men
managed to scramble into it; but before they could get the oars out the
gale carried them past the point and away to leeward of the island.  After
we landed I saw them endeavouring to pull towards us, but as they had
only one pair of oars out of the eight that belong to the boat, and as
the wind was blowing right in their teeth, they gradually lost ground.
Then I saw them put about and hoist some sort of sail,--a blanket, I
fancy, for it was too small for the boat,--and in half an hour they were
out of sight."

"Poor fellows," I murmured sorrowfully.

"But the more I think about it, I've better hope of them," continued
Jack, in a more cheerful tone.  "You see, Ralph, I've read a great deal
about these South Sea Islands, and I know that in many places they are
scattered about in thousands over the sea, so they're almost sure to fall
in with one of them before long."

"I'm sure I hope so," said Peterkin, earnestly.  "But what has become of
the wreck, Jack?  I saw you clambering up the rocks there while I was
watching Ralph.  Did you say she had gone to pieces?"

"No, she has not gone to pieces, but she has gone to the bottom," replied
Jack.  "As I said before, she struck on the tail of the island and stove
in her bow, but the next breaker swung her clear, and she floated away to
leeward.  The poor fellows in the boat made a hard struggle to reach her,
but long before they came near her she filled and went down.  It was
after she foundered that I saw them trying to pull to the island."

There wan a long silence after Jack ceased speaking, and I have no doubt
that each was revolving in his mind our extraordinary position.  For my
part I cannot say that my reflections were very agreeable.  I knew that
we were on an island, for Jack had said so, but whether it was inhabited
or not I did not know.  If it should be inhabited, I felt certain, from
all I had heard of South Sea Islanders, that we should be roasted alive
and eaten.  If it should turn out to be uninhabited, I fancied that we
should be starved to death.  "Oh!" thought I, "if the ship had only stuck
on the rocks we might have done pretty well, for we could have obtained
provisions from her, and tools to enable us to build a shelter, but
now--alas! alas! we are lost!"  These last words I uttered aloud in my
distress.

"Lost!  Ralph?" exclaimed Jack, while a smile overspread his hearty
countenance. "Saved, you should have said.  Your cogitations seem to have
taken a wrong road, and led you to a wrong conclusion."

"Do you know what conclusion _I_ have come to?" said Peterkin.  "I have
made up my mind that it's capital,--first rate,--the best thing that ever
happened to us, and the most splendid prospect that ever lay before three
jolly young tars.  We've got an island all to ourselves.  We'll take
possession in the name of the king; we'll go and enter the service of its
black inhabitants.  Of course we'll rise, naturally, to the top of
affairs.  White men always do in savage countries.  You shall be king,
Jack; Ralph, prime minister, and I shall be--"

"The court jester," interrupted Jack.

"No," retorted Peterkin, "I'll have no title at all.  I shall merely
accept a highly responsible situation under government, for you see,
Jack, I'm fond of having an enormous salary and nothing to do."

"But suppose there are no natives?"

"Then we'll build a charming villa, and plant a lovely garden round it,
stuck all full of the most splendiferous tropical flowers, and we'll farm
the land, plant, sow, reap, eat, sleep, and be merry."

"But to be serious," said Jack, assuming a grave expression of
countenance, which I observed always had the effect of checking
Peterkin's disposition to make fun of everything, "we are really in
rather an uncomfortable position.  If this is a desert island, we shall
have to live very much like the wild beasts, for we have not a tool of
any kind, not even a knife."

"Yes, we have _that_," said Peterkin, fumbling in his trousers pocket,
from which he drew forth a small penknife with only one blade, and that
was broken.

"Well, that's better than nothing; but come," said Jack, rising, "we are
wasting our time in _talking_ instead of _doing_.  You seem well enough
to walk now, Ralph, let us see what we have got in our pockets, and then
let us climb some hill and ascertain what sort of island we have been
cast upon, for, whether good or bad, it seems likely to be our home for
some time to come."



CHAPTER IV.


We examine into our personal property, and make a happy discovery--Our
island described--Jack proves himself to be learned and sagacious above
his fellows--Curious discoveries--Natural lemonade!

We now seated ourselves upon a rock and began to examine into our
personal property.  When we reached the shore, after being wrecked, my
companions had taken off part of their clothes and spread them out in the
sun to dry, for, although the gale was raging fiercely, there was not a
single cloud in the bright sky.  They had also stripped off most part of
my wet clothes and spread them also on the rocks.  Having resumed our
garments, we now searched all our pockets with the utmost care, and laid
their contents out on a flat stone before us; and, now that our minds
were fully alive to our condition, it was with no little anxiety that we
turned our several pockets inside out, in order that nothing might escape
us.  When all was collected together we found that our worldly goods
consisted of the following articles:--

First, A small penknife with a single blade broken off about the middle
and very rusty, besides having two or three notches on its edge.
(Peterkin said of this, with his usual pleasantry, that it would do for a
saw as well as a knife, which was a great advantage.)  Second, An old
German-silver pencil-case without any lead in it.  Third, A piece of whip-
cord about six yards long.  Fourth, A sailmaker's needle of a small size.
Fifth, A ship's telescope, which I happened to have in my hand at the
time the ship struck, and which I had clung to firmly all the time I was
in the water.  Indeed it was with difficulty that Jack got it out of my
grasp when I was lying insensible on the shore.  I cannot understand why
I kept such a firm hold of this telescope.  They say that a drowning man
will clutch at a straw.  Perhaps it may have been some such feeling in
me, for I did not know that it was in my hand at the time we were
wrecked.  However, we felt some pleasure in having it with us now,
although we did not see that it could be of much use to us, as the glass
at the small end was broken to pieces.  Our sixth article was a brass
ring which Jack always wore on his little finger.  I never understood why
he wore it, for Jack was not vain of his appearance, and did not seem to
care for ornaments of any kind.  Peterkin said "it was in memory of the
girl he left behind him!"  But as he never spoke of this girl to either
of us, I am inclined to think that Peterkin was either jesting or
mistaken.  In addition to these articles we had a little bit of tinder,
and the clothes on our backs.  These last were as follows:--

Each of us had on a pair of stout canvass trousers, and a pair of
sailors' thick shoes.  Jack wore a red flannel shirt, a blue jacket, and
a red Kilmarnock bonnet or night-cap, besides a pair of worsted socks,
and a cotton pocket-handkerchief, with sixteen portraits of Lord Nelson
printed on it, and a union Jack in the middle.  Peterkin had on a striped
flannel shirt,--which he wore outside his trousers, and belted round his
waist, after the manner of a tunic,--and a round black straw hat.  He had
no jacket, having thrown it off just before we were cast into the sea;
but this was not of much consequence, as the climate of the island proved
to be extremely mild; so much so, indeed, that Jack and I often preferred
to go about without our jackets.  Peterkin had also a pair of white
cotton socks, and a blue handkerchief with white spots all over it.  My
own costume consisted of a blue flannel shirt, a blue jacket, a black
cap, and a pair of worsted socks, besides the shoes and canvass trousers
already mentioned.  This was all we had, and besides these things we had
nothing else; but, when we thought of the danger from which we had
escaped, and how much worse off we might have been had the ship struck on
the reef during the night, we felt very thankful that we were possessed
of so much, although, I must confess, we sometimes wished that we had had
a little more.

While we were examining these things, and talking about them, Jack
suddenly started and exclaimed--

"The oar! we have forgotten the oar."

"What good will that do us?" said Peterkin; "there's wood enough on the
island to make a thousand oars."

"Ay, lad," replied Jack, "but there's a bit of hoop iron at the end of
it, and that may be of much use to us."

"Very true," said I, "let us go fetch it;" and with that we all three
rose and hastened down to the beach.  I still felt a little weak from
loss of blood, so that my companions soon began to leave me behind; but
Jack perceived this, and, with his usual considerate good nature, turned
back to help me.  This was now the first time that I had looked well
about me since landing, as the spot where I had been laid was covered
with thick bushes which almost hid the country from our view.  As we now
emerged from among these and walked down the sandy beach together, I cast
my eyes about, and, truly, my heart glowed within me and my spirits rose
at the beautiful prospect which I beheld on every side.  The gale had
suddenly died away, just as if it had blown furiously till it dashed our
ship upon the rocks, and had nothing more to do after accomplishing that.
The island on which we stood was hilly, and covered almost everywhere
with the most beautiful and richly coloured trees, bushes, and shrubs,
none of which I knew the names of at that time, except, indeed, the cocoa-
nut palms, which I recognised at once from the many pictures that I had
seen of them before I left home.  A sandy beach of dazzling whiteness
lined this bright green shore, and upon it there fell a gentle ripple of
the sea.  This last astonished me much, for I recollected that at home
the sea used to fall in huge billows on the shore long after a storm had
subsided.  But on casting my glance out to sea the cause became apparent.
About a mile distant from the shore I saw the great billows of the ocean
rolling like a green wall, and falling with a long, loud roar, upon a low
coral reef, where they were dashed into white foam and flung up in clouds
of spray.  This spray sometimes flew exceedingly high, and, every here
and there, a beautiful rainbow was formed for a moment among the falling
drops.  We afterwards found that this coral reef extended quite round the
island, and formed a natural breakwater to it.  Beyond this the sea rose
and tossed violently from the effects of the storm; but between the reef
and the shore it was as calm and as smooth as a pond.

My heart was filled with more delight than I can express at sight of so
many glorious objects, and my thoughts turned suddenly to the
contemplation of the Creator of them all.  I mention this the more
gladly, because at that time, I am ashamed to say, I very seldom thought
of my Creator, although I was constantly surrounded by the most beautiful
and wonderful of His works.  I observed from the expression of my
companion's countenance that he too derived much joy from the splendid
scenery, which was all the more agreeable to us after our long voyage on
the salt sea.  There, the breeze was fresh and cold, but here it was
delightfully mild; and, when a puff blew off the land, it came laden with
the most exquisite perfume that can be imagined.  While we thus gazed, we
were startled by a loud "Huzza!" from Peterkin, and, on looking towards
the edge of the sea, we saw him capering and jumping about like a monkey,
and ever and anon tugging with all his might at something that lay upon
the shore.

"What an odd fellow he is, to be sure," said Jack, taking me by the arm
and hurrying forward; "come, let us hasten to see what it is."

"Here it is, boys, hurrah! come along.  Just what we want," cried
Peterkin, as we drew near, still tugging with all his power.  "First
rate; just the very ticket!"

I need scarcely say to my readers that my companion Peterkin was in the
habit of using very remarkable and peculiar phrases.  And I am free to
confess that I did not well understand the meaning of some of them,--such,
for instance, as "the very ticket;" but I think it my duty to recount
everything relating to my adventures with a strict regard to truthfulness
in as far as my memory serves me; so I write, as nearly as possible, the
exact words that my companions spoke.  I often asked Peterkin to explain
what he meant by "ticket," but he always answered me by going into fits
of laughter.  However, by observing the occasions on which he used it, I
came to understand that it meant to show that something was remarkably
good, or fortunate.

On coming up we found that Peterkin was vainly endeavouring to pull the
axe out of the oar, into which, it will be remembered, Jack struck it
while endeavouring to cut away the cordage among which it had become
entangled at the bow of the ship.  Fortunately for us the axe had
remained fast in the oar, and even now, all Peterkin's strength could not
draw it out of the cut.

"Ah! that is capital indeed," cried Jack, at the same time giving the axe
a wrench that plucked it out of the tough wood.  "How fortunate this is!
It will be of more value to us than a hundred knives, and the edge is
quite new and sharp."

"I'll answer for the toughness of the handle at any rate," cried
Peterkin; "my arms are nearly pulled out of the sockets.  But see here,
our luck is great.  There is iron on the blade."  He pointed to a piece
of hoop iron, as he spoke, which had been nailed round the blade of the
oar to prevent it from splitting.

This also was a fortunate discovery.  Jack went down on his knees, and
with the edge of the axe began carefully to force out the nails.  But as
they were firmly fixed in, and the operation blunted our axe, we carried
the oar up with us to the place where we had left the rest of our things,
intending to burn the wood away from the iron at a more convenient time.

"Now, lads," said Jack, after we had laid it on the stone which contained
our little all, "I propose that we should go to the tail of the island,
where the ship struck, which is only a quarter of a mile off, and see if
anything else has been thrown ashore.  I don't expect anything, but it is
well to see.  When we get back here it will be time to have our supper
and prepare our beds."

"Agreed!" cried Peterkin and I together, as, indeed, we would have agreed
to any proposal that Jack made; for, besides his being older and much
stronger and taller than either of us, he was a very clever fellow, and I
think would have induced people much older than himself to choose him for
their leader, especially if they required to be led on a bold enterprise.

Now, as we hastened along the white beach, which shone so brightly in the
rays of the setting sun that our eyes were quite dazzled by its glare, it
suddenly came into Peterkin's head that we had nothing to eat except the
wild berries which grew in profusion at our feet.

"What shall we do, Jack?" said he, with a rueful look; "perhaps they may
be poisonous!"

"No fear," replied Jack, confidently; "I have observed that a few of them
are not unlike some of the berries that grow wild on our own native
hills.  Besides, I saw one or two strange birds eating them just a few
minutes ago, and what won't kill the birds won't kill us.  But look up
there, Peterkin," continued Jack, pointing to the branched head of a
cocoa-nut palm.  "There are nuts for us in all stages."

"So there are!" cried Peterkin, who being of a very unobservant nature
had been too much taken up with other things to notice anything so high
above his head as the fruit of a palm tree.  But, whatever faults my
young comrade had, he could not be blamed for want of activity or animal
spirits.  Indeed, the nuts had scarcely been pointed out to him when he
bounded up the tall stem of the tree like a squirrel, and, in a few
minutes, returned with three nuts, each as large as a man's fist.

"You had better keep them till we return," raid Jack.  "Let us finish our
work before eating."

"So be it, captain, go ahead," cried Peterkin, thrusting the nuts into
his trousers pocket.  "In fact I don't want to eat just now, but I would
give a good deal for a drink.  Oh that I could find a spring! but I don't
see the smallest sign of one hereabouts.  I say, Jack, how does it happen
that you seem to be up to everything?  You have told us the names of half-
a-dozen trees already, and yet you say that you were never in the South
Seas before."

"I'm not up to _everything_, Peterkin, as you'll find out ere long,"
replied Jack, with a smile; "but I have been a great reader of books of
travel and adventure all my life, and that has put me up to a good many
things that you are, perhaps, not acquainted with."

"Oh, Jack, that's all humbug.  If you begin to lay everything to the
credit of books, I'll quite lose my opinion of you," cried Peterkin, with
a look of contempt.  "I've seen a lot o' fellows that were _always_
poring over books, and when they came to try to _do_ anything, they were
no better than baboons!"

"You are quite right," retorted Jack; "and I have seen a lot of fellows
who never looked into books at all, who knew nothing about anything
except the things they had actually seen, and very little they knew even
about these.  Indeed, some were so ignorant that they did not know that
cocoa-nuts grew on cocoa-nut trees!"

I could not refrain from laughing at this rebuke, for there was much
truth in it, as to Peterkin's ignorance.

"Humph! maybe you're right," answered Peterkin; "but I would not give
_tuppence_ for a man of books, if he had nothing else in him."

"Neither would I," said Jack; "but that's no reason why you should run
books down, or think less of me for having read them.  Suppose, now,
Peterkin, that you wanted to build a ship, and I were to give you a long
and particular account of the way to do it, would not that be very
useful?"

"No doubt of it," said Peterkin, laughing.

"And suppose I were to write the account in a letter instead of telling
you in words, would that be less useful?"

"Well--no, perhaps not."

"Well, suppose I were to print it, and send it to you in the form of a
book, would it not be as good and useful as ever?"

"Oh, bother! Jack, you're a philosopher, and that's worse than anything!"
cried Peterkin, with a look of pretended horror.

"Very well, Peterkin, we shall see," returned Jack, halting under the
shade of a cocoa-nut tree.  "You said you were thirsty just a minute ago;
now, jump up that tree and bring down a nut,--not a ripe one, bring a
green, unripe one."

Peterkin looked surprised, but, seeing that Jack was in earnest, he
obeyed.

"Now, cut a hole in it with your penknife, and clap it to your mouth, old
fellow," said Jack.

Peterkin did as he was directed, and we both burst into uncontrollable
laughter at the changes that instantly passed over his expressive
countenance.  No sooner had he put the nut to his mouth, and thrown back
his head in order to catch what came out of it, than his eyes opened to
twice their ordinary size with astonishment, while his throat moved
vigorously in the act of swallowing.  Then a smile and look of intense
delight overspread his face, except, indeed, the mouth, which, being
firmly fixed to the hole in the nut, could not take part in the
expression; but he endeavoured to make up for this by winking at us
excessively with his right eye.  At length he stopped, and, drawing a
long breath, exclaimed--

"Nectar! perfect nectar!  I say, Jack, you're a Briton--the best fellow I
ever met in my life.  Only taste that!" said he, turning to me and
holding the nut to my mouth.  I immediately drank, and certainly I was
much surprised at the delightful liquid that flowed copiously down my
throat.  It was extremely cool, and had a sweet taste, mingled with acid;
in fact, it was the likest thing to lemonade I ever tasted, and was most
grateful and refreshing.  I handed the nut to Jack, who, after tasting
it, said, "Now, Peterkin, you unbeliever, I never saw or tasted a cocoa
nut in my life before, except those sold in shops at home; but I once
read that the green nuts contain that stuff, and you see it is true!"

"And pray," asked Peterkin, "what sort of 'stuff' does the ripe nut
contain?"

"A hollow kernel," answered Jack, "with a liquid like milk in it; but it
does not satisfy thirst so well as hunger.  It is very wholesome food I
believe."

"Meat and drink on the same tree!" cried Peterkin; "washing in the sea,
lodging on the ground,--and all for nothing!  My dear boys, we're set up
for life; it must be the ancient Paradise,--hurrah!" and Peterkin tossed
his straw hat in the air, and ran along the beach hallooing like a madman
with delight.

We afterwards found, however, that these lovely islands were very unlike
Paradise in many things.  But more of this in its proper place.

We had now come to the point of rocks on which the ship had struck, but
did not find a single article, although we searched carefully among the
coral rocks, which at this place jutted out so far as nearly to join the
reef that encircled the island.  Just as we were about to return,
however, we saw something black floating in a little cove that had
escaped our observation.  Running forward, we drew it from the water, and
found it to be a long thick leather boot, such as fishermen at home wear;
and a few paces farther on we picked up its fellow.  We at once
recognised these as having belonged to our captain, for he had worn them
during the whole of the storm, in order to guard his legs from the waves
and spray that constantly washed over our decks.  My first thought on
seeing them was that our dear captain had been drowned; but Jack soon put
my mind more at rest on that point, by saying that if the captain had
been drowned with the boots on, he would certainly have been washed
ashore along with them, and that he had no doubt whatever he had kicked
them off while in the sea, that he might swim more easily.

Peterkin immediately put them on, but they were so large that, as Jack
said, they would have done for boots, trousers, and vest too.  I also
tried them, but, although I was long enough in the legs for them, they
were much too large in the feet for me; so we handed them to Jack, who
was anxious to make me keep them, but as they fitted his large limbs and
feet as if they had been made for him, I would not hear of it, so he
consented at last to use them.  I may remark, however, that Jack did not
use them often, as they were extremely heavy.

It was beginning to grow dark when we returned to our encampment; so we
put off our visit to the top of a hill till next day, and employed the
light that yet remained to us in cutting down a quantity of boughs and
the broad leaves of a tree, of which none of us knew the name.  With
these we erected a sort of rustic bower, in which we meant to pass the
night.  There was no absolute necessity for this, because the air of our
island was so genial and balmy that we could have slept quite well
without any shelter; but we were so little used to sleeping in the open
air, that we did not quite relish the idea of lying down without any
covering over us: besides, our bower would shelter us from the night dews
or rain, if any should happen to fall.  Having strewed the floor with
leaves and dry grass, we bethought ourselves of supper.

But it now occurred to us, for the first time, that we had no means of
making a fire.

"Now, there's a fix!--what shall we do?" said Peterkin, while we both
turned our eyes to Jack, to whom we always looked in our difficulties.
Jack seemed not a little perplexed.

"There are flints enough, no doubt, on the beach," said he, "but they are
of no use at all without a steel.  However, we must try."  So saying, he
went to the beach, and soon returned with two flints.  On one of these he
placed the tinder, and endeavoured to ignite it; but it was with great
difficulty that a very small spark was struck out of the flints, and the
tinder, being a bad, hard piece, would not catch.  He then tried the bit
of hoop iron, which would not strike fire at all; and after that the back
of the axe, with no better success.  During all these trials Peterkin sat
with his hands in his pockets, gazing with a most melancholy visage at
our comrade, his face growing longer and more miserable at each
successive failure.

"Oh dear!" he sighed, "I would not care a button for the cooking of our
victuals,--perhaps they don't need it,--but it's so dismal to eat one's
supper in the dark, and we have had such a capital day, that it's a pity
to finish off in this glum style.  Oh, I have it!" he cried, starting up;
"the spy-glass,--the big glass at the end is a burning-glass!"

"You forget that we have no sun," said I.

Peterkin was silent.  In his sudden recollection of the telescope he had
quite overlooked the absence of the sun.

"Ah, boys, I've got it now!" exclaimed Jack, rising and cutting a branch
from a neighbouring bush, which be stripped of its leaves.  "I recollect
seeing this done once at home.  Hand me the bit of whip-cord."  With the
cord and branch Jack soon formed a bow.  Then he cut a piece, about three
inches long, off the end of a dead branch, which he pointed at the two
ends.  Round this he passed the cord of the bow, and placed one end
against his chest, which was protected from its point by a chip of wood;
the other point he placed against the bit of tinder, and then began to
saw vigorously with the bow, just as a blacksmith does with his drill
while boring a hole in a piece of iron.  In a few seconds the tinder
began to smoke; in less than a minute it caught fire; and in less than a
quarter of an hour we were drinking our lemonade and eating cocoa nuts
round a fire that would have roasted an entire sheep, while the smoke,
flames, and sparks, flew up among the broad leaves of the overhanging
palm trees, and cast a warm glow upon our leafy bower.

That night the starry sky looked down through the gently rustling trees
upon our slumbers, and the distant roaring of the surf upon the coral
reef was our lullaby.



CHAPTER V.


Morning, and cogitations connected therewith--We luxuriate in the sea,
try our diving powers, and make enchanting excursions among the coral
groves at the bottom of the ocean--The wonders of the deep enlarged upon.

What a joyful thing it is to awaken, on a fresh glorious morning, and
find the rising sun staring into your face with dazzling brilliancy!--to
see the birds twittering in the bushes, and to hear the murmuring of a
rill, or the soft hissing ripples as they fall upon the sea-shore!  At
any time and in any place such sights and sounds are most charming, but
more especially are they so when one awakens to them, for the fist time,
in a novel and romantic situation, with the soft sweet air of a tropical
climate mingling with the fresh smell of the sea, and stirring the
strange leaves that flutter overhead and around one, or ruffling the
plumage of the stranger birds that fly inquiringly around, as if to
demand what business we have to intrude uninvited on their domains.  When
I awoke on the morning after the shipwreck, I found myself in this most
delightful condition; and, as I lay on my back upon my bed of leaves,
gazing up through the branches of the cocoa-nut trees into the clear blue
sky, and watched the few fleecy clouds that passed slowly across it, my
heart expanded more and more with an exulting gladness, the like of which
I had never felt before.  While I meditated, my thoughts again turned to
the great and kind Creator of this beautiful world, as they had done on
the previous day, when I first beheld the sea and the coral reef, with
the mighty waves dashing over it into the calm waters of the lagoon.

While thus meditating, I naturally bethought me of my Bible, for I had
faithfully kept the promise, which I gave at parting to my beloved
mother, that I would read it every morning; and it was with a feeling of
dismay that I remembered I had left it in the ship.  I was much troubled
about this.  However, I consoled myself with reflecting that I could keep
the second part of my promise to her, namely, that I should never omit to
say my prayers.  So I rose quietly, lest I should disturb my companions,
who were still asleep, and stepped aside into the bushes for this
purpose.

On my return I found them still slumbering, so I again lay down to think
over our situation.  Just at that moment I was attracted by the sight of
a very small parrot, which Jack afterwards told me was called a paroquet.
It was seated on a twig that overhung Peterkin's head, and I was speedily
lost in admiration of its bright green plumage, which was mingled with
other gay colours.  While I looked I observed that the bird turned its
head slowly from side to side and looked downwards, fist with the one
eye, and then with the other.  On glancing downwards I observed that
Peterkin's mouth was wide open, and that this remarkable bird was looking
into it.  Peterkin used to say that I had not an atom of fun in my
composition, and that I never could understand a joke.  In regard to the
latter, perhaps he was right; yet I think that, when they were explained
to me, I understood jokes as well as most people: but in regard to the
former he must certainly have been wrong, for this bird seemed to me to
be extremely funny; and I could not help thinking that, if it should
happen to faint, or slip its foot, and fall off the twig into Peterkin's
mouth, he would perhaps think it funny too!  Suddenly the paroquet bent
down its head and uttered a loud scream in his face.  This awoke him,
and, with a cry of surprise, he started up, while the foolish bird flew
precipitately away.

"Oh you monster!" cried Peterkin, shaking his fist at the bird.  Then he
yawned and rubbed his eyes, and asked what o'clock it was.

I smiled at this question, and answered that, as our watches were at the
bottom of the sea, I could not tell, but it was a little past sunrise.

Peterkin now began to remember where we were.  As he looked up into the
bright sky, and snuffed the scented air, his eyes glistened with delight,
and he uttered a faint "hurrah!" and yawned again.  Then he gazed slowly
round, till, observing the calm sea through an opening in the bushes, he
started suddenly up as if he had received an electric shock, uttered a
vehement shout, flung off his garments, and, rushing over the white
sands, plunged into the water.  The cry awoke Jack, who rose on his elbow
with a look of grave surprise; but this was followed by a quiet smile of
intelligence on seeing Peterkin in the water.  With an energy that he
only gave way to in moments of excitement, Jack bounded to his feet,
threw off his clothes, shook back his hair, and with a lion-like spring,
dashed over the sands and plunged into the sea with such force as quite
to envelop Peterkin in a shower of spray.  Jack was a remarkably good
swimmer and diver, so that after his plunge we saw no sign of him for
nearly a minute; after which he suddenly emerged, with a cry of joy, a
good many yards out from the shore.  My spirits were so much raised by
seeing all this that I, too, hastily threw off my garments and
endeavoured to imitate Jack's vigorous bound; but I was so awkward that
my foot caught on a stump, and I fell to the ground; then I slipped on a
stone while running over the mud, and nearly fell again, much to the
amusement of Peterkin, who laughed heartily, and called me a "slow
coach," while Jack cried out, "Come along, Ralph, and I'll help you."
However, when I got into the water I managed very well, for I was really
a good swimmer, and diver too.  I could not, indeed, equal Jack, who was
superior to any Englishman I ever saw, but I infinitely surpassed
Peterkin, who could only swim a little, and could not dive at all.

While Peterkin enjoyed himself in the shallow water and in running along
the beach, Jack and I swam out into the deep water, and occasionally
dived for stones.  I shall never forget my surprise and delight on first
beholding the bottom of the sea.  As I have before stated, the water
within the reef was as calm as a pond; and, as there was no wind, it was
quite clear, from the surface to the bottom, so that we could see down
easily even at a depth of twenty or thirty yards.  When Jack and I dived
in shallower water, we expected to have found sand and stones, instead of
which we found ourselves in what appeared really to be an enchanted
garden.  The whole of the bottom of the lagoon, as we called the calm
water within the reef, was covered with coral of every shape, size, and
hue.  Some portions were formed like large mushrooms; others appeared
like the brain of a man, having stalks or necks attached to them; but the
most common kind was a species of branching coral, and some portions were
of a lovely pale pink colour, others pure white.  Among this there grew
large quantities of sea-weed of the richest hues imaginable, and of the
most graceful forms; while innumerable fishes--blue, red, yellow, green,
and striped--sported in and out amongst the flower-beds of this submarine
garden, and did not appear to be at all afraid of our approaching them.

On darting to the surface for breath, after our first dive, Jack and I
rose close to each other.

"Did you ever in your life, Ralph, see anything so lovely?" said Jack, as
he flung the spray from his hair.

"Never," I replied.  "It appears to me like fairy realms.  I can scarcely
believe that we are not dreaming."

"Dreaming!" cried Jack, "do you know, Ralph, I'm half tempted to think
that we really are dreaming.  But if so, I am resolved to make the most
of it, and dream another dive; so here goes,--down again, my boy!"

We took the second dive together, and kept beside each other while under
water; and I was greatly surprised to find that we could keep down much
longer than I ever recollect having done in our own seas at home.  I
believe that this was owing to the heat of the water, which was so warm
that we afterwards found we could remain in it for two and three hours at
a time without feeling any unpleasant effects such as we used to
experience in the sea at home.  When Jack reached the bottom, he grasped
the coral stems, and crept along on his hands and knees, peeping under
the sea-weed and among the rocks.  I observed him also pick up one or two
large oysters, and retain them in his grasp, as if he meant to take them
up with him, so I also gathered a few.  Suddenly he made a grasp at a
fish with blue and yellow stripes on its back, and actually touched its
tail, but did not catch it.  At this he turned towards me and attempted
to smile; but no sooner had he done so than he sprang like an arrow to
the surface, where, on following him, I found him gasping and coughing,
and spitting water from his mouth.  In a few minutes he recovered, and we
both turned to swim ashore.

"I declare, Ralph," said he, "that I actually tried to laugh under
water."

"So I saw," I replied; "and I observed that you very nearly caught that
fish by the tail.  It would have done capitally for breakfast if you
had."

"Breakfast enough here," said he, holding up the oysters, as we landed
and ran up the beach.  "Hallo!  Peterkin, here you are, boy.  Split open
these fellows while Ralph and I put on our clothes.  They'll agree with
the cocoa nuts excellently, I have no doubt."

Peterkin, who was already dressed, took the oysters, and opened them with
the edge of our axe, exclaiming, "Now, that _is_ capital.  There's
nothing I'm so fond of."

"Ah! that's lucky," remarked Jack.  "I'll be able to keep you in good
order now, Master Peterkin.  You know you can't dive any better than a
cat.  So, sir, whenever you behave ill, you shall have no oysters for
breakfast."

"I'm very glad that our prospect of breakfast is so good," said I, "for
I'm very hungry."

"Here, then, stop your mouth with that, Ralph," said Peterkin, holding a
large oyster to my lips.  I opened my mouth and swallowed it in silence,
and really it was remarkably good.

We now set ourselves earnestly about our preparations for spending the
day.  We had no difficulty with the fire this morning, as our burning-
glass was an admirable one; and while we roasted a few oysters and ate
our cocoa nuts, we held a long, animated conversation about our plans for
the future.  What those plans were, and how we carried them into effect,
the reader shall see hereafter.



CHAPTER VI.


An excursion into the interior, in which we make many valuable and
interesting discoveries--We get a dreadful fright--The bread-fruit
tree--Wonderful peculiarity of some of the fruit trees--Signs of former
inhabitants.

Our first care, after breakfast, was to place the few articles we
possessed in the crevice of a rock at the farther end of a small cave
which we discovered near our encampment.  This cave, we hoped, might be
useful to us afterwards as a store-house.  Then we cut two large clubs
off a species of very hard tree which grew near at hand.  One of these
was given to Peterkin, the other to me, and Jack armed himself with the
axe.  We took these precautions because we purposed to make an excursion
to the top of the mountains of the interior, in order to obtain a better
view of our island.  Of course we knew not what dangers might befall us
by the way, so thought it best to be prepared.

Having completed our arrangements and carefully extinguished our fire, we
sallied forth and walked a short distance along the sea-beach, till we
came to the entrance of a valley, through which flowed the rivulet before
mentioned.  Here we turned our backs on the sea and struck into the
interior.

The prospect that burst upon our view on entering the valley was truly
splendid.  On either side of us there was a gentle rise in the land,
which thus formed two ridges about a mile apart on each side of the
valley.  These ridges,--which, as well as the low grounds between them,
were covered with trees and shrubs of the most luxuriant kind--continued
to recede inland for about two miles, when they joined the foot of a
small mountain.  This hill rose rather abruptly from the head of the
valley, and was likewise entirely covered even to the top with trees,
except on one particular spot near the left shoulder, where was a bare
and rocky place of a broken and savage character.  Beyond this hill we
could not see, and we therefore directed our course up the banks of the
rivulet towards the foot of it, intending to climb to the top, should
that be possible, as, indeed, we had no doubt it was.

Jack, being the wisest and boldest among us, took the lead, carrying the
axe on his shoulder.  Peterkin, with his enormous club, came second, as
he said he should like to be in a position to defend me if any danger
should threaten.  I brought up the rear, but, having been more taken up
with the wonderful and curious things I saw at starting than with
thoughts of possible danger, I had very foolishly left my club behind me.
Although, as I have said the trees and bushes were very luxuriant, they
were not so thickly crowded together as to hinder our progress among
them.  We were able to wind in and out, and to follow the banks of the
stream quite easily, although, it is true, the height and thickness of
the foliage prevented us from seeing far ahead.  But sometimes a jutting-
out rock on the hill sides afforded us a position whence we could enjoy
the romantic view and mark our progress towards the foot of the hill.  I
wag particularly struck, during the walk, with the richness of the
undergrowth in most places, and recognised many berries and plants that
resembled those of my native land, especially a tall, elegantly-formed
fern, which emitted an agreeable perfume.  There were several kinds of
flowers, too, but I did not see so many of these as I should have
expected in such a climate.  We also saw a great variety of small birds
of bright plumage, and many paroquets similar to the one that awoke
Peterkin so rudely in the morning.

Thus we advanced to the foot of the hill without encountering anything to
alarm us, except, indeed, once, when we were passing close under a part
of the hill which was hidden from our view by the broad leaves of the
banana trees, which grew in great luxuriance in that part.  Jack was just
preparing to force his way through this thicket, when we were startled
and arrested by a strange pattering or rumbling sound, which appeared to
us quite different from any of the sounds we had heard during the
previous part of our walk.

"Hallo!" cried Peterkin, stopping short and grasping his club with both
hands, "what's that?"

Neither of us replied; but Jack seized his axe in his right hand, while
with the other he pushed aside the broad leaves and endeavoured to peer
amongst them.

"I can see nothing," he said, after a short pause.

"I think it--"

Again the rumbling sound came, louder than before, and we all sprang back
and stood on the defensive.  For myself, having forgotten my club, and
not having taken the precaution to cut another, I buttoned my jacket,
doubled my fists, and threw myself into a boxing attitude.  I must say,
however, that I felt somewhat uneasy; and my companions afterwards
confessed that their thoughts at this moment had been instantly filled
with all they had ever heard or read of wild beasts and savages,
torturings at the stake, roastings alive, and such like horrible things.
Suddenly the pattering noise increased with tenfold violence.  It was
followed by a fearful crash among the bushes, which was rapidly repeated,
as if some gigantic animal were bounding towards us.  In another moment
an enormous rock came crashing through the shrubbery, followed by a cloud
of dust and small stones, flew close past the spot where we stood,
carrying bushes and young trees along with it.

"Pooh! is that all?" exclaimed Peterkin, wiping the perspiration off his
forehead.  "Why, I thought it was all the wild men and beasts in the
South Sea Islands galloping on in one grand charge to sweep us off the
face of the earth, instead of a mere stone tumbling down the mountain
side."

"Nevertheless," remarked Jack, "if that same stone had hit any of us, it
would have rendered the charge you speak of quite unnecessary, Peterkin."

This was true, and I felt very thankful for our escape.  On examining the
spot more narrowly, we found that it lay close to the foot of a very
rugged precipice, from which stones of various sizes were always tumbling
at intervals.  Indeed, the numerous fragments lying scattered all around
might have suggested the cause of the sound, had we not been too suddenly
alarmed to think of anything.

We now resumed our journey, resolving that, in our future excursions into
the interior, we would be careful to avoid this dangerous precipice.

Soon afterwards we arrived at the foot of the hill and prepared to ascend
it.  Here Jack made a discovery which caused us all very great joy.  This
was a tree of a remarkably beautiful appearance, which Jack confidently
declared to be the celebrated bread-fruit tree.

"Is it celebrated?" inquired Peterkin, with a look of great simplicity.

"It is," replied Jack

"That's odd, now," rejoined Peterkin; "never heard of it before."

"Then it's not so celebrated as I thought it was," returned Jack, quietly
squeezing Peterkin's hat over his eyes; "but listen, you ignorant boobie!
and hear of it now."

Peterkin re-adjusted his hat, and was soon listening with as much
interest as myself, while Jack told us that this tree is one of the most
valuable in the islands of the south; that it bears two, sometimes three,
crops of fruit in the year; that the fruit is very like wheaten bread in
appearance, and that it constitutes the principal food of many of the
islanders.

"So," said Peterkin, "we seem to have everything ready prepared to our
hands in this wonderful island,--lemonade ready bottled in nuts, and loaf-
bread growing on the trees!"

Peterkin, as usual, was jesting; nevertheless, it is a curious fact that
he spoke almost the literal truth.  "Moreover," continued Jack, "the
bread-fruit tree affords a capital gum, which serves the natives for
pitching their canoes; the bark of the young branches is made by them
into cloth; and of the wood, which is durable and of a good colour, they
build their houses.  So you see, lads, that we have no lack of material
here to make us comfortable, if we are only clever enough to use it."

"But are you sure that that's it?" asked Peterkin.

"Quite sure," replied Jack; "for I was particularly interested in the
account I once read of it, and I remember the description well.  I am
sorry, however, that I have forgotten the descriptions of many other
trees which I am sure we have seen to-day, if we could but recognise
them.  So you see, Peterkin, I'm not up to everything yet."

"Never mind, Jack," said Peterkin, with a grave, patronizing expression
of countenance, patting his tall companion on the shoulder,--"never mind,
Jack; you know a good deal for your age.  You're a clever boy, sir,--a
promising young man; and if you only go on as you have begun, sir, you
will--"

The end of this speech was suddenly cut short by Jack tripping up
Peterkin's heels and tumbling him into a mass of thick shrubs, where,
finding himself comfortable, he lay still basking in the sunshine, while
Jack and I examined the bread-tree.

We were much struck with the deep, rich green colour of its broad leaves,
which were twelve or eighteen inches long, deeply indented, and of a
glossy smoothness, like the laurel.  The fruit, with which it was loaded,
was nearly round, and appeared to be about six inches in diameter, with a
rough rind, marked with lozenge-shaped divisions.  It was of various
colours, from light pea-green to brown and rich yellow.  Jack said that
the yellow was the ripe fruit.  We afterwards found that most of the
fruit-trees on the island were evergreens, and that we might, when we
wished, pluck the blossom and the ripe fruit from the same tree.  Such a
wonderful difference from the trees of our own country surprised us not a
little.  The bark of the tree was rough and light-coloured; the trunk was
about two feet in diameter, and it appeared to be twenty feet high, being
quite destitute of branches up to that height, where it branched off into
a beautiful and umbrageous head.  We noticed that the fruit hung in
clusters of twos and threes on the branches; but as we were anxious to
get to the top of the hill, we refrained from attempting to pluck any at
that time.

Our hearts were now very much cheered by our good fortune, and it was
with light and active steps that we clambered up the steep sides of the
hill.  On reaching the summit, a new, and if possible a grander, prospect
met our gaze.  We found that this was not the highest part of the island,
but that another hill lay beyond, with a wide valley between it and the
one on which we stood.  This valley, like the first, was also full of
rich trees, some dark and some light green, some heavy and thick in
foliage, and others light, feathery, and graceful, while the beautiful
blossoms on many of them threw a sort of rainbow tint over all, and gave
to the valley the appearance of a garden of flowers.  Among these we
recognised many of the bread-fruit trees, laden with yellow fruit, and
also a great many cocoa-nut palms.  After gazing our fill we pushed down
the hill side, crossed the valley, and soon began to ascend the second
mountain.  It was clothed with trees nearly to the top, but the summit
was bare, and in some places broken.

While on our way up we came to an object which filled us with much
interest.  This was the stump of a tree that had evidently been cut down
with an axe!  So, then, we were not the first who had viewed this
beautiful isle.  The hand of man had been at work there before us.  It
now began to recur to us again that perhaps the island was inhabited,
although we had not seen any traces of man until now; but a second glance
at the stump convinced us that we had not more reason to think so now
than formerly; for the surface of the wood was quite decayed, and partly
covered with fungus and green matter, so that it must have been cut many
years ago.

"Perhaps," said Peterkin, "some ship or other has touched here long ago
for wood, and only taken one tree."

We did not think this likely, however, because, in such circumstances,
the crew of a ship would cut wood of small size, and near the shore,
whereas this was a large tree and stood near the top of the mountain.  In
fact it was the highest large tree on the mountain, all above it being
wood of very recent growth.

"I can't understand it," said Jack, scratching the surface of the stump
with his axe.  "I can only suppose that the savages have been here and
cut it for some purpose known only to themselves.  But, hallo! what have
we here?"

As he spoke, Jack began carefully to scrape away the moss and fungus from
the stump, and soon laid bare three distinct traces of marks, as if some
inscription or initials had been cut thereon.  But although the traces
were distinct, beyond all doubt, the exact form of the letters could not
be made out.  Jack thought they looked like J. S. but we could not be
certain.  They had apparently been carelessly cut, and long exposure to
the weather had so broken them up that we could not make out what they
were.  We were exceedingly perplexed at this discovery, and stayed a long
time at the place conjecturing what these marks could have been, but
without avail; so, as the day was advancing, we left it and quickly
reached the top of the mountain.

We found this to be the highest point of the island, and from it we saw
our kingdom lying, as it were, like a map around us.  As I have always
thought it impossible to get a thing properly into one's understanding
without comprehending it, I shall beg the reader's patience for a little
while I describe our island, thus, shortly:--

It consisted of two mountains; the one we guessed at 500 feet; the other,
on which we stood, at 1000.  Between these lay a rich, beautiful valley,
as already said.  This valley crossed the island from one end to the
other, being high in the middle and sloping on each side towards the sea.
The large mountain sloped, on the side farthest from where we had been
wrecked, gradually towards the sea; but although, when viewed at a
glance, it had thus a regular sloping appearance, a more careful
observation showed that it was broken up into a multitude of very small
vales, or rather dells and glens, intermingled with little rugged spots
and small but abrupt precipices here and there, with rivulets tumbling
over their edges and wandering down the slopes in little white streams,
sometimes glistening among the broad leaves of the bread-fruit and cocoa-
nut trees, or hid altogether beneath the rich underwood.  At the base of
this mountain lay a narrow bright green plain or meadow, which terminated
abruptly at the shore.  On the other side of the island, whence we had
come, stood the smaller hill, at the foot of which diverged three
valleys; one being that which we had ascended, with a smaller vale on
each side of it, and separated from it by the two ridges before
mentioned.  In these smaller valleys there were no streams, but they were
clothed with the same luxuriant vegetation.

The diameter of the island seemed to be about ten miles, and, as it was
almost circular in form, its circumference must have been thirty
miles;--perhaps a little more, if allowance be made for the numerous bays
and indentations of the shore.  The entire island was belted by a beach
of pure white sand, on which laved the gentle ripples of the lagoon.  We
now also observed that the coral reef completely encircled the island;
but it varied its distance from it here and there, in some places being a
mile from the beach, in others, a few hundred yards, but the average
distance was half a mile.  The reef lay very low, and the spray of the
surf broke quite over it in many places.  This surf never ceased its
roar, for, however calm the weather might be, there is always a gentle
swaying motion in the great Pacific, which, although scarce noticeable
out at sea, reaches the shore at last in a huge billow.  The water within
the lagoon, as before said, was perfectly still.  There were three narrow
openings in the reef; one opposite each end of the valley which I have
described as crossing the island; the other opposite our own valley,
which we afterwards named the Valley of the Wreck.  At each of these
openings the reef rose into two small green islets, covered with bushes
and having one or two cocoa-nut palms on each.  These islets were very
singular, and appeared as if planted expressly for the purpose of marking
the channel into the lagoon.  Our captain was making for one of these
openings the day we were wrecked, and would have reached it too, I doubt
not, had not the rudder been torn away.  Within the lagoon were several
pretty, low coral islands, just opposite our encampment; and, immediately
beyond these, out at sea, lay about a dozen other islands, at various
distances, from half a mile to ten miles; all of them, as far as we could
discern, smaller than ours and apparently uninhabited.  They seemed to be
low coral islands, raised but little above the sea, yet covered with
cocoa-nut trees.

All this we noted, and a great deal more, while we sat on the top of the
mountain.  After we had satisfied ourselves we prepared to return; but
here again we discovered traces of the presence of man.  These were a
pole or staff and one or two pieces of wood which had been squared with
an axe.  All of these were, however, very much decayed, and they had
evidently not been touched for many years.

Full of these discoveries we returned to our encampment.  On the way we
fell in with the traces of some four-footed animal, but whether old or of
recent date none of us were able to guess.  This also tended to raise our
hopes of obtaining some animal food on the island, so we reached home in
good spirits, quite prepared for supper, and highly satisfied with our
excursion.

After much discussion, in which Peterkin took the lead, we came to the
conclusion that the island was uninhabited, and went to bed.



CHAPTER VII.


Jack's ingenuity--We get into difficulties about fishing, and get out of
them by a method which gives us a cold bath--Horrible encounter with a
shark.

For several days after the excursion related in the last chapter we did
not wander far from our encampment, but gave ourselves up to forming
plans for the future and making our present abode comfortable.

There were various causes that induced this state of comparative
inaction.  In the first place, although everything around us was so
delightful, and we could without difficulty obtain all that we required
for our bodily comfort, we did not quite like the idea of settling down
here for the rest of our lives, far away from our friends and our native
land.  To set energetically about preparations for a permanent residence
seemed so like making up our minds to saying adieu to home and friends
for ever, that we tacitly shrank from it and put off our preparations,
for one reason and another, as long as we could.  Then there was a little
uncertainty still as to there being natives on the island, and we
entertained a kind of faint hope that a ship might come and take us off.
But as day after day passed, and neither savages nor ships appeared, we
gave up all hope of an early deliverance and set diligently to work at
our homestead.

During this time, however, we had not been altogether idle.  We made
several experiments in cooking the cocoa-nut, most of which did not
improve it.  Then we removed our goods, and took up our abode in the
cave, but found the change so bad that we returned gladly to the bower.
Besides this we bathed very frequently, and talked a great deal; at least
Jack and Peterkin did,--I listened.  Among other useful things, Jack, who
was ever the most active and diligent, converted about three inches of
the hoop-iron into an excellent knife.  First he beat it quite flat with
the axe.  Then he made a rude handle, and tied the hoop-iron to it with
our piece of whip-cord, and ground it to an edge on a piece of
sand-stone.  When it was finished he used it to shape a better handle, to
which he fixed it with a strip of his cotton handkerchief;--in which
operation he had, as Peterkin pointed out, torn off one of Lord Nelson's
noses.  However, the whip-cord, thus set free, was used by Peterkin as a
fishing line.  He merely tied a piece of oyster to the end of it.  This
the fish were allowed to swallow, and then they were pulled quickly
ashore.  But as the line was very short and we had no boat, the fish we
caught were exceedingly small.

One day Peterkin came up from the beach, where he had been angling, and
said in a very cross tone, "I'll tell you what, Jack, I'm not going to be
humbugged with catching such contemptible things any longer.  I want you
to swim out with me on your back, and let me fish in deep water!"

"Dear me, Peterkin," replied Jack, "I had no idea you were taking the
thing so much to heart, else I would have got you out of that difficulty
long ago.  Let me see,"--and Jack looked down at a piece of timber on
which he had been labouring, with a peculiar gaze of abstraction, which
he always assumed when trying to invent or discover anything.

"What say you to building a boat?" he inquired, looking up hastily.

"Take far too long," was the reply; "can't be bothered waiting.  I want
to begin at once!"

Again Jack considered.  "I have it!" he cried.  "We'll fell a large tree
and launch the trunk of it in the water, so that when you want to fish
you've nothing to do but to swim out to it."

"Would not a small raft do better?" said I.

"Much better; but we have no ropes to bind it together with.  Perhaps we
may find something hereafter that will do as well, but, in the meantime,
let us try the tree."

This was agreed on, so we started off to a spot not far distant, where we
knew of a tree that would suit us, which grew near the water's edge.  As
soon as we reached it Jack threw off his coat, and, wielding the axe with
his sturdy arms, hacked and hewed at it for a quarter of an hour without
stopping.  Then he paused, and, while he sat down to rest, I continued
the work.  Then Peterkin made a vigorous attack on it, so that when Jack
renewed his powerful blows, a few minutes cutting brought it down with a
terrible crash.

"Hurrah! now for it," cried Jack; "let us off with its head."

So saying he began to cut through the stem again, at about six yards from
the thick end.  This done, he cut three strong, short poles or levers
from the stout branches, with which to roll the log down the beach into
the sea; for, as it was nearly two feet thick at the large end, we could
not move it without such helps.  With the levers, however, we rolled it
slowly into the sea.

Having been thus successful in launching our vessel, we next shaped the
levers into rude oars or paddles, and then attempted to embark.  This was
easy enough to do; but, after seating ourselves astride the log, it was
with the utmost difficulty we kept it from rolling round and plunging us
into the water.  Not that we minded that much; but we preferred, if
possible, to fish in dry clothes.  To be sure, our trousers were
necessarily wet, as our legs were dangling in the water on each side of
the log; but, as they could be easily dried, we did not care.  After half
an hour's practice, we became expert enough to keep our balance pretty
steadily.  Then Peterkin laid down his paddle, and having baited his line
with a whole oyster, dropt it into deep water.

"Now, then, Jack," said he, "be cautious; steer clear o' that sea-weed.
There; that's it; gently, now, gently.  I see a fellow at least a foot
long down there, coming to--ha! that's it!  Oh! bother, he's off."

"Did he bite?" said Jack, urging the log onwards a little with his
paddle.

"Bite? ay!  He took it into his mouth, but the moment I began to haul he
opened his jaws and let it out again."

"Let him swallow it next time," said Jack, laughing at the melancholy
expression of Peterkin's visage.

"There he's again," cried Peterkin, his eyes flashing with excitement.
"Look out!  Now then!  No!  Yes!  No!  Why, the brute _won't_ swallow
it!"

"Try to haul him up by the mouth, then," cried Jack.  "Do it gently."

A heavy sigh and a look of blank despair showed that poor Peterkin had
tried and failed again.

"Never mind, lad," said Jack, in a voice of sympathy; "we'll move on, and
offer it to some other fish."  So saying, Jack plied his paddle; but
scarcely had he moved from the spot, when a fish with an enormous head
and a little body darted from under a rock and swallowed the bait at
once.

"Got him this time,--that's a fact!" cried Peterkin, hauling in the line.
"He's swallowed the bait right down to his tail, I declare.  Oh what a
thumper!"

As the fish came struggling to the surface, we leaned forward to see it,
and overbalanced the log.  Peterkin threw his arms round the fish's neck;
and, in another instant, we were all floundering in the water!

A shout of laughter burst from us as we rose to the surface like three
drowned rats, and seized hold of the log.  We soon recovered our
position, and sat more warily, while Peterkin secured the fish, which had
well-nigh escaped in the midst of our struggles.  It was little worth
having, however; but, as Peterkin remarked, it was better than the smouts
he had been catching for the last two or three days; so we laid it on the
log before us, and having re-baited the line, dropt it in again for
another.

Now, while we were thus intent upon our sport, our attention was suddenly
attracted by a ripple on the sea, just a few yards away from us.  Peterkin
shouted to us to paddle in that direction, as he thought it was a big
fish, and we might have a chance of catching it.  But Jack, instead of
complying, said, in a deep, earnest tone of voice, which I never before
heard him use,--

"Haul up your line, Peterkin; seize your paddle; quick,--it's a shark!"

The horror with which we heard this may well be imagined, for it must be
remembered that our legs were hanging down in the water, and we could not
venture to pull them up without upsetting the log.  Peterkin instantly
hauled up the line; and, grasping his paddle, exerted himself to the
utmost, while we also did our best to make for shore.  But we were a good
way off, and the log being, as I have before said, very heavy, moved but
slowly through the water.  We now saw the shark quite distinctly swimming
round and round us, its sharp fin every now and then protruding above the
water.  From its active and unsteady motions, Jack knew it was making up
its mind to attack us, so he urged us vehemently to paddle for our lives,
while he himself set us the example.  Suddenly he shouted "Look
out!--there he comes!" and in a second we saw the monstrous fish dive
close under us, and turn half over on his side.  But we all made a great
commotion with our paddles, which no doubt frightened it away for that
time, as we saw it immediately after circling round us as before.

"Throw the fish to him," cried Jack, in a quick, suppressed voice; "we'll
make the shore in time yet if we can keep him off for a few minutes."

Peterkin stopped one instant to obey the command, and then plied his
paddle again with all his might.  No sooner had the fish fallen on the
water than we observed the shark to sink.  In another second we saw its
white breast rising; for sharks always turn over on their sides when
about to seize their prey, their mouths being not at the point of their
heads like those of other fish, but, as it were, under their chins.  In
another moment his snout rose above the water,--his wide jaws, armed with
a terrific double row of teeth, appeared.  The dead fish was engulfed,
and the shark sank out of sight.  But Jack was mistaken in supposing that
it would be satisfied.  In a very few minutes it returned to us, and its
quick motions led us to fear that it would attack us at once.

"Stop paddling," cried Jack suddenly.  "I see it coming up behind us.
Now, obey my orders quickly.  Our lives may depend on it Ralph.  Peterkin,
do your best to _balance the log_.  Don't look out for the shark.  Don't
glance behind you.  Do nothing but balance the log."

{A dreadful adventure: p77.jpg}

Peterkin and I instantly did as we were ordered, being only too glad to
do anything that afforded us a chance or a hope of escape, for we had
implicit confidence in Jack's courage and wisdom.  For a few seconds,
that seemed long minutes to my mind, we sat thus silently; but I could
not resist glancing backward, despite the orders to the contrary.  On
doing so, I saw Jack sitting rigid like a statue, with his paddle raised,
his lips compressed, and his eye-brows bent over his eyes, which glared
savagely from beneath them down into the water.  I also saw the shark, to
my horror, quite close under the log, in the act of darting towards
Jack's foot.  I could scarce suppress a cry on beholding this.  In
another moment the shark rose.  Jack drew his leg suddenly from the
water, and threw it over the log.  The monster's snout rubbed against the
log as it passed, and revealed its hideous jaws, into which Jack
instantly plunged the paddle, and thrust it down its throat.  So violent
was the act that Jack rose to his feet in performing it; the log was
thereby rolled completely over, and we were once more plunged into the
water.  We all rose, spluttering and gasping, in a moment.

"Now then, strike out for shore," cried Jack.  "Here, Peterkin, catch
hold of my collar, and kick out with a will."

Peterkin did as he was desired, and Jack struck out with such force that
he cut through the water like a boat; while I, being free from all
encumbrance, succeeded in keeping up with him.  As we had by this time
drawn pretty near to the shore, a few minutes more sufficed to carry us
into shallow water; and, finally, we landed in safety, though very much
exhausted, and not a little frightened by our terrible adventure.



CHAPTER VIII.


The beauties of the bottom of the sea tempt Peterkin to dive--How he did
it--More difficulties overcome--The water garden--Curious creatures of
the sea--The tank--Candles missed very much, and the candle-nut tree
discovered--Wonderful account of Peterkin's first voyage--Cloth found
growing on a tree--A plan projected, and arms prepared for offence and
defence--A dreadful cry.

Our encounter with the shark was the first great danger that had befallen
us since landing on this island, and we felt very seriously affected by
it, especially when we considered that we had so often unwittingly
incurred the same danger before while bathing.  We were now forced to
take to fishing again in the shallow water, until we should succeed in
constructing a raft.  What troubled us most, however, was, that we were
compelled to forego our morning swimming excursions.  We did, indeed,
continue to enjoy our bathe in the shallow water, but Jack and I found
that one great source of our enjoyment was gone, when we could no longer
dive down among the beautiful coral groves at the bottom of the lagoon.
We had come to be so fond of this exercise, and to take such an interest
in watching the formations of coral and the gambols of the many beautiful
fish amongst the forests of red and green sea-weeds, that we had become
quite familiar with the appearance of the fish and the localities that
they chiefly haunted.  We had also become expert divers.  But we made it
a rule never to stay long under water at a time.  Jack told me that to do
so often was bad for the lungs, and, instead of affording us enjoyment,
would ere long do us a serious injury.  So we never stayed at the bottom
as long as we might have done, but came up frequently to the top for
fresh air, and dived down again immediately.  Sometimes, when Jack
happened to be in a humorous frame, he would seat himself at the bottom
of the sea on one of the brain corals, as if he were seated on a large
paddock-stool, and then make faces at me, in order, if possible, to make
me laugh under water.  At first, when he took me unawares, he nearly
succeeded, and I had to shoot to the surface in order to laugh; but
afterwards I became aware of his intentions, and, being naturally of a
grave disposition, I had no difficulty in restraining myself.  I used
often to wonder how poor Peterkin would have liked to be with us; and he
sometimes expressed much regret at being unable to join us.  I used to do
my best to gratify him, poor fellow, by relating all the wonders that we
saw; but this, instead of satisfying, seemed only to whet his curiosity
the more, so one day we prevailed on him to try to go down with us.  But,
although a brave boy in every other way, Peterkin was very nervous in the
water, and it was with difficulty we got him to consent to be taken down,
for he could never have managed to push himself down to the bottom
without assistance.  But no sooner had we pulled him down a yard or so
into the deep clear water, than he began to struggle and kick violently,
so we were forced to let him go, when he rose out of the water like a
cork, gave a loud gasp and a frightful roar, and struck out for the land
with the utmost possible haste.

Now, all this pleasure we were to forego, and when we thought thereon,
Jack and I felt very much depressed in our spirits.  I could see, also,
that Peterkin grieved and sympathized with us, for, when talking about
this matter, he refrained from jesting and bantering us upon it.

As, however, a man's difficulties usually set him upon devising methods
to overcome them, whereby he often discovers better things than those he
may have lost, so this our difficulty induced us to think of searching
for a large pool among the rocks, where the water should be deep enough
for diving yet so surrounded by rocks as to prevent sharks from getting
at us.  And such a pool we afterwards found, which proved to be very much
better than our most sanguine hopes anticipated.  It was situated not
more than ten minutes' walk from our camp, and was in the form of a small
deep bay or basin, the entrance to which, besides being narrow, was so
shallow that no fish so large as a shark could get in, at least not
unless he should be a remarkably thin one.

Inside of this basin, which we called our Water Garden, the coral
formations were much more wonderful, and the sea-weed plants far more
lovely and vividly coloured, than in the lagoon itself.  And the water
was so clear and still, that, although very deep, you could see the
minutest object at the bottom.  Besides this, there was a ledge of rock
which overhung the basin at its deepest part, from which we could dive
pleasantly and whereon Peterkin could sit and see not only all the
wonders I had described to him, but also see Jack and me creeping amongst
the marine shrubbery at the bottom, like, as--he expressed it,--"two
great white sea-monsters."  During these excursions of ours to the bottom
of the sea, we began to get an insight into the manners and customs of
its inhabitants, and to make discoveries of wonderful things, the like of
which we never before conceived.  Among other things, we were deeply
interested with the operations of the little coral insect which, I was
informed by Jack, is supposed to have entirely constructed many of the
numerous islands in Pacific Ocean.  And, certainly, when we considered
the great reef which these insects had formed round the island on which
we were cast, and observed their ceaseless activity in building their
myriad cells, it did at first seem as if this might be true; but then,
again, when I looked at the mountains of the island, and reflected that
there were thousands of such, many of them much higher, in the South
Seas, I doubted that there must be some mistake here.  But more of this
hereafter.

I also became much taken up with the manners and appearance of the
anemones, and star-fish, and crabs, and sea-urchins, and such-like
creatures; and was not content with watching those I saw during my dives
in the Water Garden, but I must needs scoop out a hole in the coral rock
close to it, which I filled with salt water, and stocked with sundry
specimens of anemones and shell-fish, in order to watch more closely how
they were in the habit of passing their time.  Our burning-glass also now
became a great treasure to me, as it enabled me to magnify, and so to
perceive more clearly the forms and actions of these curious creatures of
the deep.

Having now got ourselves into a very comfortable condition, we began to
talk of a project which we had long had in contemplation,--namely, to
travel entirely round the island; in order, first, to ascertain whether
it contained any other productions which might be useful to us; and,
second, to see whether there might be any place more convenient and
suitable for our permanent residence than that on which we were now
encamped.  Not that we were in any degree dissatisfied with it; on the
contrary, we entertained quite a home-feeling to our bower and its
neighbourhood; but if a better place did exist, there was no reason why
we should not make use of it.  At any rate, it would be well to know of
its existence.

We had much earnest talk over this matter.  But Jack proposed that,
before undertaking such an excursion, we should supply ourselves with
good defensive arms, for, as we intended not only to go round all the
shore, but to ascend most of the valleys, before returning home, we
should be likely to meet in with, he would not say dangers, but, at
least, with everything that existed on the island, whatever that might
be.

"Besides," said Jack, "it won't do for us to live on cocoa-nuts and
oysters always.  No doubt they are very excellent in their way, but I
think a little animal food, now and then, would be agreeable as well as
good for us; and as there are many small birds among the trees, some of
which are probably very good to eat, I think it would be a capital plan
to make bows and arrows, with which we could easily knock them over."

"First rate!" cried Peterkin.  "You will make the bows, Jack, and I'll
try my hand at the arrows.  The fact is, I'm quite tired of throwing
stones at the birds.  I began the very day we landed, I think, and have
persevered up to the present time, but I've never hit anything yet."

"You forget," said I, "you hit me one day on the shin."

"Ah, true," replied Peterkin, "and a precious shindy you kicked up in
consequence.  But you were at least four yards away from the impudent
paroquet I aimed at; so you see what a horribly bad shot I am."

"But," said I, "Jack, you cannot make three bows and arrows before to-
morrow, and would it not be a pity to waste time, now that we have made
up our minds to go on this expedition?  Suppose that you make one bow and
arrow for yourself, and we can take our clubs?"

"That's true, Ralph.  The day is pretty far advanced, and I doubt if I
can make even one bow before dark.  To be sure I might work by
fire-light, after the sun goes down."

We had, up to this time, been in the habit of going to bed with the sun,
as we had no pressing call to work o' nights; and, indeed, our work
during the day was usually hard enough,--what between fishing, and
improving our bower, and diving in the Water Garden, and rambling in the
woods; so that, when night came, we were usually very glad to retire to
our beds.  But now that we had a desire to work at night, we felt a wish
for candles.

"Won't a good blazing fire give you light enough?" inquired Peterkin.

"Yes," replied Jack, "quite enough; but then it will give us a great deal
more than enough of heat in this warm climate of ours."

"True," said Peterkin; "I forgot that.  It would roast us."

"Well, as you're always doing that at any rate," remarked Jack, "we could
scarcely call it a change.  But the fact is, I've been thinking over this
subject before.  There is a certain nut growing in these islands which is
called the candle-nut, because the natives use it instead of candles, and
I know all about it, and how to prepare it for burning--"

"Then why don't you do it?" interrupted Peterkin.  "Why have you kept us
in the dark so long, you vile philosopher?"

"Because," said Jack, "I have not seen the tree yet, and I'm not sure
that I should know either the tree or the nuts if I did see them.  You
see, I forget the description."

"Ah! that's just the way with me," said Peterkin with a deep sigh.  "I
never could keep in my mind for half an hour the few descriptions I ever
attempted to remember.  The very first voyage I ever made was caused by
my mistaking a description, or forgetting it, which is the same thing.
And a horrible voyage it was.  I had to fight with the captain the whole
way out, and made the homeward voyage by swimming!"

"Come, Peterkin," said I, "you can't get even _me_ to believe that."

"Perhaps not, but it's true, notwithstanding," returned Peterkin,
pretending to be hurt at my doubting his word.

"Let us hear how it happened," said Jack, while a good-natured smile
overspread his face.

"Well, you must know," began Peterkin, "that the very day before I went
to sea, I was greatly taken up with a game at hockey, which I was playing
with my old school-fellows for the last time before leaving them.  You
see I was young then, Ralph."  Peterkin gazed, in an abstracted and
melancholy manner, out to sea!  "Well, in the midst of the game, my
uncle, who had taken all the bother and trouble of getting me bound
'prentice and rigged out, came and took me aside, and told me that he was
called suddenly away from home, and would not be able to see me aboard,
as he had intended.  'However,' said he, 'the captain knows you are
coming, so that's not of much consequence; but as you'll have to find the
ship yourself, you must remember her name and description.  D'ye hear,
boy?'  I certainly did hear, but I'm afraid I did not understand, for my
mind was so taken up with the game, which I saw my side was losing, that
I began to grow impatient, and the moment my uncle finished his
description of the ship, and bade me good-bye, I bolted back to my game,
with only a confused idea of three masts, and a green painted tafferel,
and a gilt figure-head of Hercules with his club at the bow.  Next day I
was so much cast down with everybody saying good-bye, and a lot o' my
female friends cryin' horribly over me, that I did not start for the
harbour, where the ship was lying among a thousand others, till it was
almost too late.  So I had to run the whole way.  When I reached the
pier, there were so many masts, and so much confusion, that I felt quite
humblebumbled in my faculties.  'Now,' said I to myself, 'Peterkin,
you're in a fix.'  Then I fancied I saw a gilt figure-head and three
masts, belonging to a ship just about to start; so I darted on board, but
speedily jumped on shore again, when I found that two of the masts
belonged to another vessel, and the figurehead to a third!  At last I
caught sight of what I made sure was it,--a fine large vessel just
casting off her moorings.  The tafferel was green.  Three masts,--yes,
that must be it,--and the gilt figure-head of Hercules.  To be sure it
had a three-pronged pitchfork in its hand instead of a club; but that
might be my uncle's mistake; or perhaps Hercules sometimes varied his
weapons.  'Cast off!' roared a voice from the quarter-deck.  'Hold on!'
cried I, rushing frantically through the crowd.  'Hold on! hold on!'
repeated some of the bystanders, while the men at the ropes delayed for a
minute.  This threw the captain into a frightful rage; for some of his
friends had come down to see him off, and having his orders contradicted
so flatly was too much for him.  However, the delay was sufficient.  I
took a race and a good leap; the ropes were cast off; the steam-tug gave
a puff, and we started.  Suddenly the captain was up to me: 'Where did
you come from, you scamp, and what do you want here?'

"'Please, sir,' said I, touching my cap, 'I'm you're new 'prentice come
aboard.'

"'New 'Prentice,' said he, stamping, 'I've got no new 'prentice.  My boys
are all aboard already.  This is a trick, you young blackguard.  You've
run away, you have;' and the captain stamped about the deck and swore
dreadfully; for, you see, the thought of having to stop the ship and
lower a boat and lose half an hour, all for the slake of sending a small
boy ashore, seemed to make him very angry.  Besides, it was blowin' fresh
outside the harbour, so that, to have let the steamer alongside to put me
into it was no easy job.  Just as we were passing the pier-head, where
several boats were rowing into harbour, the captain came up to me,--

"'You've run away, you blackguard,' he said, giving me a box on the ear.

"'No I haven't,' said I, angrily; for the box was by no means a light
one.

"Hark'ee, boy, can you swim?'

"'Yes,' said I.

"'Then do it,' and, seizing me by my trousers and the nape of my neck, he
tossed me over the side into the sea.  The fellows in the boats at the
end of the pier, backed their oars on seeing this; but observing that I
could swim, they allowed me to make the best of my way to the pier-head.
So, you see, Ralph, that I really did swim my first homeward voyage."

Jack laughed and patted Peterkin on the shoulder.  "But tell us about the
candle-nut tree," said I; "you were talking about it."

"Very true," said Jack, "but I fear I can remember little about it.  I
believe the nut is about the size of a walnut; and I think that the
leaves are white, but I am not sure."

"Eh! ha! hum!" exclaimed Peterkin, "I saw a tree answering to that
description this very day."

"Did you?" cried Jack.  "Is it far from this?"

"No, not half a mile."

"Then lead me to it," said Jack, seizing his axe.

In a few minutes we were all three pushing through the underwood of the
forest, headed by Peterkin.

We soon came to the tree in question, which, after Jack had closely
examined it, we concluded must be the candle-nut tree.  Its leaves were
of a beautiful silvery white, and formed a fine contrast to the
dark-green foliage of the surrounding trees.  We immediately filled our
pockets with the nuts, after which Jack said,--

"Now, Peterkin, climb that cocoa-nut tree and cut me one of the long
branches."

This was soon done, but it cost some trouble, for the stem was very high,
and as Peterkin usually pulled nuts from the younger trees, he was not
much accustomed to climbing the high ones.  The leaf or branch was a very
large one, and we were surprised at its size and strength.  Viewed from a
little distance, the cocoa-nut tree seems to be a tall, straight stem,
without a single branch except at the top, where there is a tuft of
feathery-looking leaves, that seem to wave like soft plumes in the wind.
But when we saw one of these leaves or branches at our feet, we found it
to be a strong stalk, about fifteen feet long, with a number of narrow,
pointed leaflets ranged alternately on each side.  But what seemed to us
the most wonderful thing about it was a curious substance resembling
cloth, which was wrapped round the thick end of the stalk, where it had
been cut from the tree.  Peterkin told us that he had the greatest
difficulty in separating the branch from the stem, on account of this
substance, as it was wrapped quite round the tree, and, he observed,
round all the other branches, thus forming a strong support to the large
leaves while exposed to high winds.  When I call this substance cloth I
do not exaggerate.  Indeed, with regard to all the things I saw during my
eventful career in the South Seas, I have been exceedingly careful not to
exaggerate, or in any way to mislead or deceive my readers.  This cloth,
I say, was remarkably like to coarse brown cotton cloth.  It had a seam
or fibre down the centre of it, from which diverged other fibres, about
the size of a bristle.  There were two layers of these fibres, very long
and tough, the one layer crossing the other obliquely, and the whole was
cemented together with a still finer fibrous and adhesive substance.  When
we regarded it attentively, we could with difficulty believe that it had
not been woven by human hands.  This remarkable piece of cloth we
stripped carefully off, and found it to be above two feet long, by a foot
broad, and we carried it home with us as a great prize.

Jack now took one of the leaflets, and, cutting out the central spine or
stalk, hurried back with it to our camp.  Having made a small fire, he
baked the nuts slightly, and then pealed off the husks.  After this he
wished to bore a hole in them, which, not having anything better at hand
at the time, he did with the point of our useless pencil-case.  Then he
strung them on the cocoa-nut spine, and on putting a light to the topmost
nut, we found to our joy that it burned with a clear, beautiful flame;
upon seeing which, Peterkin sprang up and danced round the fire for at
least five minutes in the excess of his satisfaction.

"Now lads," said Jack, extinguishing our candle, the sun will set in an
hour, so we have no time to lose.  "I shall go and cut a young tree to
make my bow out of, and you had better each of you go and select good
strong sticks for clubs, and we'll set to work at them after dark."

So saying he shouldered his axe and went off, followed by Peterkin, while
I took up the piece of newly discovered cloth, and fell to examining its
structure.  So engrossed was I in this that I was still sitting in the
same attitude and occupation when my companions returned.

"I told you so!" cried Peterkin, with a loud laugh.  "Oh, Ralph, you're
incorrigible.  See, there's a club for you.  I was sure, when we left you
looking at that bit of stuff, that we would find you poring over it when
we came back, so I just cut a club for you as well as for myself."

"Thank you, Peterkin," said I.  "It was kind of you to do that, instead
of scolding me for a lazy fellow, as I confess I deserve."

"Oh! as to that," returned Peterkin, "I'll blow you up yet, if you wish
it--only it would be of no use if I did, for you're a perfect mule!"

As it was now getting dark we lighted our candle, and placing it in a
holder made of two crossing branches, inside of our bower, we seated
ourselves on our leafy beds and began to work.

"I intend to appropriate the bow for my own use," said Jack, chipping the
piece of wood he had brought with his axe.  "I used to be a pretty fair
shot once.  But what's that you're doing?" he added, looking at Peterkin,
who had drawn the end of a long pole into the tent, and was endeavouring
to fit a small piece of the hoop-iron to the end of it.

"I'm going to enlist into the Lancers," answered Peterkin.  "You see,
Jack, I find the club rather an unwieldy instrument for my delicately-
formed muscles, and I flatter myself I shall do more execution with a
spear."

"Well, if length constitutes power," said Jack, "you'll certainly be
invincible."

The pole which Peterkin had cut was full twelve feet long, being a very
strong but light and tough young tree, which merely required thinning at
the butt to be a serviceable weapon.

"That's a very good idea," said I.

"Which--this?" inquired Peterkin, pointing to the spear.

"Yes;" I replied.

"Humph!" said he; "you'd find it a pretty tough and matter-of-fact idea,
if you had it stuck through your gizzard, old boy!"

"I mean the idea of making it is a good one," said I, laughing.  "And,
now I think of it, I'll change my plan, too.  I don't think much of a
club, so I'll make me a sling out of this piece of cloth.  I used to be
very fond of slinging, ever since I read of David slaying Goliath the
Philistine, and I was once thought to be expert at it."

So I set to work to manufacture a sling.  For a long time we all worked
very busily without speaking.  At length Peterkin looked up: "I say,
Jack, I'm sorry to say I must apply to you for another strip of your
handkerchief, to tie on this rascally head with.  It's pretty well torn
at any rate, so you won't miss it."

Jack proceeded to comply with this request when Peterkin suddenly laid
his hand on his arm and arrested him.

"Hist, man," said he, "be tender; you should never be needlessly cruel if
you can help it.  Do try to shave past Lord Nelson's mouth without
tearing it, if possible!  Thanks.  There are plenty more handkerchiefs on
the cocoa-nut trees."

Poor Peterkin! with what pleasant feelings I recall and record his jests
and humorous sayings now!

While we were thus engaged, we were startled by a distant but most
strange and horrible cry.  It seemed to come from the sea, but was so far
away that we could not clearly distinguish its precise direction.  Rushing
out of our bower, we hastened down to the beach and stayed to listen.
Again it came quite loud and distinct on the night air,--a prolonged,
hideous cry, something like the braying of an ass.  The moon had risen,
and we could see the islands in and beyond the lagoon quite plainly, but
there was no object visible to account for such a cry.  A strong gust of
wind was blowing from the point whence the sound came, but this died away
while we were gazing out to sea.

"What can it be?" said Peterkin, in a low whisper, while we all
involuntarily crept closer to each other.

"Do you know," said Jack, "I have heard that mysterious sound twice
before, but never so loud as to-night.  Indeed it was so faint that I
thought I must have merely fancied it, so, as I did not wish to alarm
you, I said nothing about it."

We listened for a long time for the sound again, but as it did not come,
we returned to the bower and resumed our work.

"Very strange," said Peterkin, quite gravely.  "Do you believe in ghosts,
Ralph?"

"No," I answered, "I do not.  Nevertheless I must confess that strange,
unaccountable sounds, such as we have just heard, make me feel a little
uneasy."

"What say you to it, Jack?"

"I neither believe in ghosts nor feel uneasy," he replied.  "I never saw
a ghost myself, and I never met with any one who had; and I have
generally found that strange and unaccountable things have almost always
been accounted for, and found to be quite simple, on close examination.  I
certainly can't imagine what _that_ sound is; but I'm quite sure I shall
find out before long,--and if it's a ghost I'll--"

"Eat it," cried Peterkin.

"Yes, I'll eat it!  Now, then, my bow and two arrows are finished; so if
you're ready we had better turn in."

By this time Peterkin had thinned down his spear and tied an iron point
very cleverly to the end of it; I had formed a sling, the lines of which
were composed of thin strips of the cocoa-nut cloth, plaited; and Jack
had made a stout bow, nearly five feet long, with two arrows, feathered
with two or three large plumes which some bird had dropt.  They had no
barbs, but Jack said that if arrows were well feathered, they did not
require iron points, but would fly quite well if merely sharpened at the
point; which I did not know before.

"A feathered arrow without a barb," said he, "is a good weapon, but a
barbed arrow without feathers is utterly useless."

The string of the bow was formed of our piece of whip-cord, part of
which, as he did not like to cut it, was rolled round the bow.

Although thus prepared for a start on the morrow, we thought it wise to
exercise ourselves a little in the use of our weapons before starting, so
we spent the whole of the next day in practising.  And it was well we did
so, for we found that our arms were very imperfect, and that we were far
from perfect in the use of them.  First, Jack found that the bow was much
too strong, and he had to thin it.  Also the spear was much too heavy,
and so had to be reduced in thickness, although nothing would induce
Peterkin to have it shortened.  My sling answered very well, but I had
fallen so much out of practice that my first stone knocked off Peterkin's
hat, and narrowly missed making a second Goliath of him.  However, after
having spent the whole day in diligent practice, we began to find some of
our former expertness returning--at least Jack and I did.  As for
Peterkin, being naturally a neat-handed boy, he soon handled his spear
well, and could run full tilt at a cocoa nut, and hit it with great
precision once out of every five times.

But I feel satisfied that we owed much of our rapid success to the
unflagging energy of Jack, who insisted that, since we had made him
Captain, we should obey him; and he kept us at work from morning till
night, perseveringly, at the same thing.  Peterkin wished very much to
run about and stick his spear into everything he passed; but Jack put up
a cocoa nut, and would not let him leave off running at that for a
moment, except when he wanted to rest.  We laughed at Jack for this, but
we were both convinced that it did us much good.

That night we examined and repaired our arms ere we lay down to rest,
although we were much fatigued, in order that we might be in readiness to
set out on our expedition at daylight on the following morning.



CHAPTER IX.


Prepare for a journey round the island--Sagacious reflections--Mysterious
appearances and startling occurrences.

Scarcely had the sun shot its first ray across the bosom of the broad
Pacific, when Jack sprang to his feet, and, hallooing in Peterkin's ear
to awaken him, ran down the beach to take his customary dip in the sea.
We did not, as was our wont, bathe that morning in our Water Garden, but,
in order to save time, refreshed ourselves in the shallow water just
opposite the bower.  Our breakfast was also despatched without loss of
time, and in less than an hour afterwards all our preparations for the
journey were completed.

In addition to his ordinary dress, Jack tied a belt of cocoa-nut cloth
round his waist, into which he thrust the axe.  I was also advised to put
on a belt and carry a short cudgel or bludgeon in it; for, as Jack truly
remarked, the sling would be of little use if we should chance to come to
close quarters with any wild animal.  As for Peterkin, notwithstanding
that he carried such a long, and I must add, frightful-looking spear over
his shoulder, we could not prevail on him to leave his club behind;
"for," said he, "a spear at close quarters is not worth a button."  I
must say that it seemed to me that the club was, to use his own style of
language, not worth a button-hole; for it was all knotted over at the
head, something like the club which I remember to have observed in
picture-books of Jack the Giant Killer, besides being so heavy that he
required to grasp it with both hands in order to wield it at all.
However, he took it with him, and, in this manner we set out upon our
travels.

We did not consider it necessary to carry any food with us, as we knew
that wherever we went we should be certain to fall in with cocoa-nut
trees; having which, we were amply supplied, as Peterkin said, with meat
and drink and pocket-handkerchiefs!  I took the precaution, however, to
put the burning-glass into my pocket, lest we should want fire.

The morning was exceeding lovely.  It was one of that very still and
peaceful sort which made the few noises that we heard seem to be _quiet_
noises.  I know no other way of expressing this idea.  Noises which so
far from interrupting the universal tranquillity of earth, sea, and
sky--rather tended to reveal to us how quiet the world around us really
was.  Such sounds as I refer to were, the peculiarly melancholy--yet, it
seemed to me, cheerful--plaint of sea-birds floating on the glassy water,
or sailing in the sky, also the subdued twittering of little birds among
the bushes, the faint ripples on the beach, and the solemn boom of the
surf upon the distant coral reef.  We felt very glad in our hearts as we
walked along the sands side by side.  For my part, I felt so deeply
overjoyed, that I was surprised at my own sensations, and fell into a
reverie upon the causes of happiness.  I came to the conclusion that a
state of profound peace and repose, both in regard to outward objects and
within the soul, is the happiest condition in which man can be placed;
for, although I had many a time been most joyful and happy when engaged
in bustling, energetic, active pursuits or amusements, I never found that
such joy or satisfaction was so deep or so pleasant to reflect upon as
that which I now experienced.  And I was the more confirmed in this
opinion when I observed, and, indeed, was told by himself, that
Peterkin's happiness was also very great; yet he did not express this by
dancing, as was his wont, nor did he give so much as a single shout, but
walked quietly between us with his eye sparkling, and a joyful smile upon
his countenance.  My reader must not suppose that I thought all this in
the clear and methodical manner in which I have set it down here.  These
thoughts did, indeed, pass through my mind, but they did so in a very
confused and indefinite manner, for I was young at that time, and not
much given to deep reflections.  Neither did I consider that the peace
whereof I write is not to be found in this world--at least in its
perfection, although I have since learned that by religion a man may
attain to a very great degree of it.

I have said that Peterkin walked along the sands between us.  We had two
ways of walking together about our island.  When we travelled through the
woods, we always did so in single file, as by this method we advanced
with greater facility, the one treading in the other's footsteps.  In
such cases Jack always took the lead, Peterkin followed, and I brought up
the rear.  But when we travelled along the sands, which extended almost
in an unbroken line of glistening white round the island, we marched
abreast, as we found this method more sociable, and every way more
pleasant.  Jack, being the tallest, walked next the sea, and Peterkin
marched between us, as by this arrangement either of us could talk to him
or he to us, while if Jack and I happened to wish to converse together,
we could conveniently do so over Peterkin's head.  Peterkin used to say,
in reference to this arrangement, that had he been as tall as either of
us, our order of march might have been the same, for, as Jack often used
to scold him for letting everything we said to him pass in at one ear and
out at the other, his head could of course form no interruption to our
discourse.

We were now fairly started.  Half a mile's walk conveyed us round a bend
in the land which shut out our bower from view, and for some time we
advanced at a brisk pace without speaking, though our eyes were not idle,
but noted everything, in the woods, on the shore, or in the sea, that was
interesting.  After passing the ridge of land that formed one side of our
valley--the Valley of the Wreck--we beheld another small vale lying
before us in all the luxuriant loveliness of tropical vegetation.  We
had, indeed, seen it before from the mountain-top, but we had no idea
that it would turn out to be so much more lovely when we were close to
it.  We were about to commence the exploration of this valley, when
Peterkin stopped us, and directed our attention to a very remarkable
appearance in advance along the shore.

"What's yon, think you?" said he, levelling his spear, as if he expected
an immediate attack from the object in question, though it was full half
a mile distant.

As he spoke, there appeared a white column above the rocks, as if of
steam or spray.  It rose upwards to a height of several feet, and then
disappeared.  Had this been near the sea, we would not have been so
greatly surprised, as it might in that case have been the surf, for at
this part of the coast the coral reef approached so near to the island
that in some parts it almost joined it.  There was therefore no lagoon
between, and the heavy surf of the ocean beat almost up to the rocks.  But
this white column appeared about fifty yards inland.  The rocks at the
place were rugged, and they stretched across the sandy beach into the
sea.  Scarce had we ceased expressing our surprise at this sight, when
another column flew upwards for a few seconds, not far from the spot
where the first had been seen, and disappeared; and so, at long irregular
intervals, these strange sights recurred.  We were now quite sure that
the columns were watery or composed of spray, but what caused them we
could not guess, so we determined to go and see.

In a few minutes we gained the spot, which was very rugged and
precipitous, and, moreover, quite damp with the falling of the spray.  We
had much ado to pass over dry-shod.  The ground also was full of holes
here and there.  Now, while we stood anxiously waiting for the
re-appearance of these water-spouts, we heard a low, rumbling sound near
us, which quickly increased to a gargling and hissing noise, and a moment
afterwards a thick spout of water burst upwards from a hole in the rock,
and spouted into the air with much violence, and so close to where Jack
and I were standing that it nearly touched us.  We sprang to one side,
but not before a cloud of spray descended, and drenched us both to the
skin.

Peterkin, who was standing farther off, escaped with a few drops, and
burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter on beholding our miserable
plight.

"Mind your eye!" he shouted eagerly, "there goes another!"  The words
were scarcely out of his mouth when there came up a spout from another
hole, which served us exactly in the same manner as before.

Peterkin now shrieked with laughter; but his merriment was abruptly put a
stop to by the gurgling noise occurring close to where he stood.

"Where'll it spout this time, I wonder?" he said, looking about with some
anxiety, and preparing to run.  Suddenly there came a loud hiss or snort;
a fierce spout of water burst up between Peterkin's legs, blew him off
his feet, enveloped him in its spray, and hurled him to the ground.  He
fell with so much violence that we feared he must have broken some of his
bones, and ran anxiously to his assistance; but fortunately he had fallen
on a clump of tangled herbage, in which he lay sprawling in a most
deplorable condition.

It was now our turn to laugh; but as we were not yet quite sure that he
was unhurt, and as we knew not when or where the next spout might arise,
we assisted him hastily to jump up and hurry from the spot.

I may here add, that although I am quite certain that the spout of water
was very strong, and that it blew Peterkin completely off his legs, I am
not quite certain of the exact height to which it lifted him, being
somewhat startled by the event, and blinded partially by the spray, so
that my power of observation was somewhat impaired for the moment.

"What's to be done now?" inquired Peterkin ruefully.

"Make a fire, lad, and dry ourselves," replied Jack.

"And here is material ready to our hand," said I, picking up a dried
branch of a tree, as we hurried up to the woods.

In about an hour after this mishap our clothes were again dried.  While
they were hanging up before the fire, we walked down to the beach, and
soon observed that these curious spouts took place immediately after the
fall of a huge wave, never before it; and, moreover, that the spouts did
not take place excepting when the billow was an extremely large one.  From
this we concluded that there must be a subterraneous channel in the rock
into which the water was driven by the larger waves, and finding no way
of escape except through these small holes, was thus forced up violently
through them.  At any rate, we could not conceive any other reason for
these strange water-spouts, and as this seemed a very simple and probable
one, we forthwith adopted it.

"I say, Ralph, what's that in the water? is it a shark?" said Jack, just
as we were about to quit the place.

I immediately ran to the overhanging ledge of rock, from which he was
looking down into the sea, and bent over it.  There I saw a very faint
pale object of a greenish colour, which seemed to move slightly while I
looked at it.

"It's like a fish of some sort," said I.

"Hallo, Peterkin!" cried Jack, "fetch your spear; here's work for it."

But when we tried to reach the object, the spear proved to be too short.

"There, now," said Peterkin with a sneer, "you were always telling me it
was too long."

Jack now drove the spear forcibly towards the object, and let go his
hold; but, although it seemed to be well aimed, he must have missed, for
the handle soon rose again; and when the spear was drawn up, there was
the pale green object in exactly the same spot, slowly moving its tail.

"Very odd," said Jack.

But although it was undoubtedly very odd, and, although Jack and all of
us plunged the spear at it repeatedly, we could neither hit it nor drive
it away, so we were compelled to continue our journey without discovering
what it was.  I was very much perplexed at this strange appearance in the
water, and could not get it out of my mind for a long time afterwards.
However, I quieted myself by resolving that I would pay a visit to it
again at some more convenient season.



CHAPTER X.


Make discovery of many excellent roots and fruits--The resources of the
Coral Island gradually unfolded--The banian-tree--Another tree which is
supported by natural planks--Water-fowl found--A very remarkable
discovery, and a very peculiar murder--We luxuriate on the fat of the
land.

Our examination of the little valley proved to be altogether most
satisfactory.  We found in it not only similar trees to those we had
already seen in our own valley, but also one or two others of a different
species.  We had also the satisfaction of discovering a peculiar
vegetable, which Jack concluded must certainly be that of which he had
read as being very common among the South Sea islanders, and which was
named _taro_.  Also we found a large supply of yams, and another root
like a potato in appearance.  As these were all quite new to us, we
regarded our lot as a most fortunate one, in being thus cast on an island
which was so prolific and so well stored with all the necessaries of
life.  Long afterwards we found out that this island of ours was no
better in these respects than thousands of other islands in those seas.
Indeed, many of them were much richer and more productive; but that did
not render us the less grateful for our present good fortune.  We each
put one of these roots in our pocket, intending to use them for our
supper; of which more hereafter.  We also saw many beautiful birds here,
and traces of some four-footed animal again.  Meanwhile the sun began to
descend, so we returned to the shore, and pushed on round the spouting
rocks into the next valley.  This was that valley of which I have spoken
as running across the entire island.  It was by far the largest and most
beautiful that we had yet looked upon.  Here were trees of every shape
and size and hue which it is possible to conceive of, many of which we
had not seen in the other valleys; for, the stream in this valley being
larger, and the mould much richer than in the Valley of the Wreck, it was
clothed with a more luxuriant growth of trees and plants.  Some trees
were dark glossy green, others of a rich and warm hue, contrasting well
with those of a pale light green, which were everywhere abundant.  Among
these we recognised the broad dark heads of the bread-fruit, with its
golden fruit; the pure, silvery foliage of the candle-nut, and several
species which bore a strong resemblance to the pine; while here and
there, in groups and in single trees, rose the tall forms of the cocoa-
nut palms, spreading abroad, and waving their graceful plumes high above
all the rest, as if they were a superior race of stately giants keeping
guard over these luxuriant forests.  Oh! it was a most enchanting scene,
and I thanked God for having created such delightful spots for the use of
man.

Now, while we were gazing around us in silent admiration, Jack uttered an
exclamation of surprise, and, pointing to an object a little to one side
of us, said,--

"That's a banian-tree."

"And what's a banian-tree?" inquired Peterkin, as we walked towards it.

"A very curious one, as you shall see presently," replied Jack.  "It is
called the _aoa_ here, if I recollect rightly, and has a wonderful
peculiarity about it.  What an enormous one it is, to be sure."

"_It_!" repeated Peterkin; "why, there are dozens of banians here!  What
do you mean by talking bad grammar?  Is your philosophy deserting you,
Jack?"

"There is but one tree here of this kind," returned Jack, "as you will
perceive if you will examine it."  And, sure enough, we did find that
what we had supposed was a forest of trees was in reality only one.  Its
bark was of a light colour, and had a shining appearance, the leaves
being lance-shaped, small, and of a beautiful pea-green.  But the
wonderful thing about it was, that the branches, which grew out from the
stem horizontally, sent down long shoots or fibres to the ground, which,
taking root, had themselves become trees, and were covered with bark like
the tree itself.  Many of these fibres had descended from the branches at
various distances, and thus supported them on natural pillars, some of
which were so large and strong, that it was not easy at first to
distinguish the offspring from the parent stem.  The fibres were of all
sizes and in all states of advancement, from the pillars we have just
mentioned to small cords which hung down and were about to take root, and
thin brown threads still far from the ground, which swayed about with
every motion of wind.  In short, it seemed to us that, if there were only
space afforded to it, this single tree would at length cover the whole
island.

Shortly after this we came upon another remarkable tree, which, as its
peculiar formation afterwards proved extremely useful to us, merits
description.  It was a splendid chestnut, but its proper name Jack did
not know.  However, there were quantities of fine nuts upon it, some of
which we put in our pockets.  But its stem was the wonderful part of it.
It rose to about twelve feet without a branch, and was not of great
thickness; on the contrary, it was remarkably slender for the size of the
tree; but, to make up for this, there were four or five wonderful
projections in this stem, which I cannot better describe than by asking
the reader to suppose that five planks of two inches thick and three feet
broad had been placed round the trunk of the tree, with their _edges_
closely fixed to it, from the ground up to the branches, and that these
planks bad been covered over with the bark of the tree and incorporated
with it.  In short, they were just natural buttresses, without which the
stem could not have supported its heavy and umbrageous top.  We found
these chestnuts to be very numerous.  They grew chiefly on the banks of
the stream, and were of all sizes.

While we were examining a small tree of this kind, Jack chipped a piece
off a buttress with his axe, and found the wood to be firm and easily
cut.  He then struck the axe into it with all his force, and very soon
split it off close to the tree, first, however, having cut it across
transversely above and below.  By this means he satisfied himself that we
could now obtain short planks, as it were all ready sawn, of any size and
thickness that we desired; which was a very great discovery indeed,
perhaps the most important we had yet made.

We now wended our way back to the coast, intending to encamp near the
beach, as we found that the mosquitoes were troublesome in the forest.  On
our way we could not help admiring the birds which flew and chirped
around us.  Among them we observed a pretty kind of paroquet, with a
green body, a blue head, and a red breast; also a few beautiful
turtledoves, and several flocks of wood-pigeons.  The hues of many of
these birds were extremely vivid,--bright green, blue, and scarlet, being
the prevailing tints.  We made several attempts throughout the day to
bring down one of these, both with the bow and the sling,--not for mere
sport, but to ascertain whether they were good for food.  But we
invariably missed, although once or twice we were very near hitting.  As
evening drew on, however, a flock of pigeons flew past.  I slung a stone
into the midst of them at a venture, and had the good fortune to kill
one.  We were startled, soon after, by a loud whistling noise above our
heads; and on looking up, saw a flock of wild ducks making for the coast.
We watched these, and, observing where they alighted, followed them up
until we came upon a most lovely blue lake, not more than two hundred
yards long, imbosomed in verdant trees.  Its placid surface, which
reflected every leaf and stem, as if in a mirror, was covered with
various species of wild ducks, feeding among the sedges and broad-leaved
water-plants which floated on it, while numerous birds like water-hens
ran to and fro most busily on its margin.  These all with one accord flew
tumultuously away the instant we made our appearance.  While walking
along the margin we observed fish in the water, but of what sort we could
not tell.

Now, as we neared the shore, Jack and I said we would go a little out of
our way to see if we could procure one of those ducks; so, directing
Peterkin to go straight to the shore and kindle a fire, we separated,
promising to rejoin him speedily.  But we did not find the ducks,
although we made a diligent search for half an hour.  We were about to
retrace our steps, when we were arrested by one of the strangest sights
that we had yet beheld.

Just in front of us, at the distance of about ten yards, grew a superb
tree, which certainly was the largest we had yet seen on the island.  Its
trunk was at least five feet in diameter, with a smooth gray bark; above
this the spreading branches were clothed with light green leaves, amid
which were clusters of bright yellow fruit, so numerous as to weigh down
the boughs with their great weight.  This fruit seemed to be of the plum
species, of an oblong form, and a good deal larger than the magnum bonum
plum.  The ground at the foot of this tree was thickly strewn with the
fallen fruit, in the midst of which lay sleeping, in every possible
attitude, at least twenty hogs of all ages and sizes, apparently quite
surfeited with a recent banquet.

Jack and I could scarce restrain our laughter as we gazed at these
coarse, fat, ill-looking animals, while they lay groaning and snoring
heavily amid the remains of their supper.

"Now, Ralph," said Jack, in a low whisper, "put a stone in your sling,--a
good big one,--and let fly at that fat fellow with his back toward you.
I'll try to put an arrow into yon little pig."

"Don't you think we had better put them up first?" I whispered; "it seems
cruel to kill them while asleep."

"If I wanted _sport_, Ralph, I would certainly set them up; but as we
only want _pork_, we'll let them lie.  Besides, we're not sure of killing
them; so, fire away."

Thus admonished, I slung my stone with so good aim that it went bang
against the hog's flank as if against the head of a drum; but it had no
other effect than that of causing the animal to start to its feet, with a
frightful yell of surprise, and scamper away.  At the same instant Jack's
bow twanged, and the arrow pinned the little pig to the ground by the
ear.

"I've missed, after all," cried Jack, darting forward with uplifted axe,
while the little pig uttered a loud squeal, tore the arrow from the
ground, and ran away with it, along with the whole drove, into the bushes
and disappeared, though we heard them screaming long afterwards in the
distance.

"That's very provoking, now," said Jack, rubbing the point of his nose.

"Very," I replied, stroking my chin.

"Well, we must make haste and rejoin Peterkin," said Jack.  "It's getting
late."  And, without further remark, we threaded our way quickly through
the woods towards the shore.

When we reached it, we found wood laid out, the fire lighted and
beginning to kindle up, with other signs of preparation for our
encampment, but Peterkin was nowhere to be found.  We wondered very much
at this; but Jack suggested that he might have gone to fetch water; so he
gave a shout to let him know that we had arrived, and sat down upon a
rock, while I threw off my jacket and seized the axe, intending to split
up one or two billets of wood.  But I had scarce moved from the spot
when, in the distance, we heard a most appalling shriek, which was
followed up by a chorus of yells from the hogs, and a loud "hurrah!"

"I do believe," said I, "that Peterkin has met with the hogs."

"When Greek meets Greek," said Jack, soliloquizing, "then comes the tug
of--"

"Hurrah!" shouted Peterkin in the distance.

We turned hastily towards the direction whence the sound came, and soon
descried Peterkin walking along the beach towards us with a little pig
transfixed on the end of his long spear!

"Well done, my boy!" exclaimed Jack, slapping him on the shoulder when he
came up, "you're the best shot amongst us."

"Look here Jack!" cried Peterkin, as he disengaged the animal from his
spear.  "Do you recognise that hole?" said he, pointing to the pig's ear;
"and are you familiar with this arrow, eh?"

"Well, I declare!" said Jack.

"Of course you do," interrupted Peterkin; "but, pray, restrain your
declarations at this time, and let's have supper, for I'm uncommonly
hungry, I can tell you; and it's no joke to charge a whole herd of swine
with their great-grandmother bristling like a giant porcupine at the head
of them!"

We now set about preparing supper; and, truly, a good display of viands
we made, when all was laid out on a flat rock in the light of the blazing
fire.  There was, first of all, the little pig; then there was the taro-
root, and the yam, and the potato, and six plums; and, lastly, the wood-
pigeon.  To these Peterkin added a bit of sugar-cane, which he had cut
from a little patch of that plant which he had found not long after
separating from us; "and," said he, "the patch was somewhat in a square
form, which convinces me it must have been planted by man."

"Very likely," replied Jack.  "From all we have seen, I'm inclined to
think that some of the savages must have dwelt here long ago."

We found no small difficulty in making up our minds how we were to cook
the pig.  None of us had ever cut up one before, and we did not know
exactly how to begin; besides, we had nothing but the axe to do it with,
our knife having been forgotten.  At last Jack started up and said,--

"Don't let us waste more time talking about it, boys.  Hold it up,
Peterkin.  There, lay the hind leg on this block of wood, so;" and he cut
it off, with a large portion of the haunch, at a single blow of the axe.
"Now the other,--that's it."  And having thus cut off the two hind legs,
he made several deep gashes in them, thrust a sharp-pointed stick through
each, and stuck them up before the blaze to roast.  The wood-pigeon was
then split open, quite flat, washed clean in salt water, and treated in a
similar manner.  While these were cooking, we scraped a hole in the sand
and ashes under the fire, into which we put our vegetables, and covered
them up.

The taro-root was of an oval shape, about ten inches long and four or
five thick.  It was of a mottled-gray colour, and had a thick rind.  We
found it somewhat like an Irish potato, and exceedingly good.  The yam
was roundish, and had a rough brown skin.  It was very sweet and well-
flavoured.  The potato, we were surprised to find, was quite sweet and
exceedingly palatable, as also were the plums; and, indeed, the pork and
pigeon too, when we came to taste them.  Altogether this was decidedly
the most luxurious supper we had enjoyed for many a day; and Jack said it
was out-of-sight better than we ever got on board ship; and Peterkin said
he feared that if we should remain long on the island he would infallibly
become a glutton or an epicure: whereat Jack remarked that he need not
fear that, for he was _both_ already!  And so, having eaten our fill, not
forgetting to finish off with a plum, we laid ourselves comfortably down
to sleep upon a couch of branches under the overhanging ledge of a coral
rock.



CHAPTER XI.


Effects of over-eating, and reflections thereon--Humble advice regarding
cold water--The "horrible cry" accounted for--The curious birds called
penguins--Peculiarity of the cocoa nut palm--Questions on the formation
of coral islands--Mysterious footsteps--Strange discoveries and sad
sights.

When we awoke on the following morning, we found that the sun was already
a good way above the horizon, so I came to the conclusion that a heavy
supper is not conducive to early rising.  Nevertheless, we felt
remarkably strong and well, and much disposed to have our breakfast.
First, however, we had our customary morning bathe, which refreshed us
greatly.

I have often wondered very much in after years that the inhabitants of my
own dear land did not make more frequent use of this most charming
element, water.  I mean in the way of cold bathing.  Of course, I have
perceived that it is not convenient for them to go into the sea or the
rivers in winter, as we used to do on the Coral Island; but then, I knew
from experience that a large washing-tub and a sponge do form a most
pleasant substitute.  The feelings of freshness, of cleanliness, of
vigour, and extreme hilarity, that always followed my bathes in the sea,
and even, when in England, my ablutions in the wash-tub, were so
delightful, that I would sooner have gone without my breakfast than
without my bathe in cold water.  My readers will forgive me for asking
whether they are in the habit of bathing thus every morning; and if they
answer "No," they will pardon me for recommending them to begin at once.
Of late years, since retiring from the stirring life of adventure which I
have led so long in foreign climes, I have heard of a system called the
cold-water-cure.  Now, I do not know much about that system, so I do not
mean to uphold it, neither do I intend to run it down.  Perhaps, in
reference to it, I may just hint that there may be too much of a good
thing.  I know not; but of this I am quite certain, that there may also
be too little of a good thing; and the great delight I have had in cold
bathing during the course of my adventurous career inclines me to think
that it is better to risk taking too much than to content one's self with
too little.  Such is my opinion, derived from much experience; but I put
it before my readers with the utmost diffidence and with profound
modesty, knowing that it may possibly jar with their feelings of
confidence in their own ability to know and judge as to what is best and
fittest in reference to their own affairs.  But, to return from this
digression, for which I humbly crave forgiveness.

We had not advanced on our journey much above a mile or so, and were just
beginning to feel the pleasant glow that usually accompanies vigorous
exercise, when, on turning a point that revealed to us a new and
beautiful cluster of islands, we were suddenly arrested by the appalling
cry which had so alarmed us a few nights before.  But this time we were
by no means so much alarmed as on the previous occasion, because, whereas
at that time it was night, now it was day; and I have always found,
though I am unable to account for it, that daylight banishes many of the
fears that are apt to assail us in the dark.

On hearing the sound, Peterkin instantly threw forward his spear.

"Now, what can it be?" said he, looking round at Jack.  "I tell you what
it is, if we are to go on being pulled up in a constant state of horror
and astonishment, as we have been for the last week, the sooner we're out
o' this island the better, notwithstanding the yams and lemonade, and
pork and plums!"

Peterkin's remark was followed by a repetition of the cry, louder than
before.

"It comes from one of these islands," said Jack.

"It must be the ghost of a jackass, then," said Peterkin, "for I never
heard anything so like."

We all turned our eyes towards the cluster of islands, where, on the
largest, we observed curious objects moving on the shore.

"Soldiers they are,--that's flat!" cried Peterkin, gazing at them in the
utmost amazement.

And, in truth, Peterkin's remark seemed to me to be correct; for, at the
distance from which we saw them, they appeared to be an army of soldiers.
There they stood, rank and file, in lines and in squares, marching and
countermarching, with blue coats and white trousers.  While we were
looking at them, the dreadful cry came again over the water, and Peterkin
suggested that it must be a regiment sent out to massacre the natives in
cold blood.  At this remark Jack laughed and said,--

"Why, Peterkin, they are penguins!"

"Penguins?" repeated Peterkin.

"Ay, penguins, Peterkin, penguins,--nothing more or less than big sea-
birds, as you shall see one of these days, when we pay them a visit in
our boat, which I mean to set about building the moment we return to our
bower."

"So, then, our dreadful yelling ghosts and our murdering army of
soldiers," remarked Peterkin, "have dwindled down to penguins,--big sea-
birds!  Very good.  Then I propose that we continue our journey as fast
as possible, lest our island should be converted into a dream before we
get completely round it."

Now, as we continued on our way, I pondered much over this new discovery,
and the singular appearance of these birds, of which Jack could only give
us a very slight and vague account; and I began to long to commence to
our boat, in order that we might go and inspect them more narrowly.  But
by degrees these thoughts left me, and I began to be much taken up again
with the interesting peculiarities of the country which we were passing
through.

The second night we passed in a manner somewhat similar to the first, at
about two-thirds of the way round the island, as we calculated, and we
hoped to sleep on the night following at our bower.  I will not here note
so particularly all that we said and saw during the course of this second
day, as we did not make any further discoveries of great importance.  The
shore along which we travelled, and the various parts of the woods
through which we passed, were similar to those which have been already
treated of.  There were one or two observations that we made, however,
and these were as follows:--

We saw that, while many of the large fruit-bearing trees grew only in the
valleys, and some of them only near the banks of the streams, where the
soil was peculiarly rich, the cocoa-nut palm grew in every place
whatsoever,--not only on the hill sides, but also on the sea shore, and
even, as has been already stated, on the coral reef itself, where the
soil, if we may use the name, was nothing better than loose sand mingled
with broken shells and coral rock.  So near to the sea, too, did this
useful tree grow, that in many places its roots were washed by the spray
from the breakers.  Yet we found the trees growing thus on the sands to
be quite as luxuriant as those growing in the valleys, and the fruit as
good and refreshing also.  Besides this, I noticed that, on the summit of
the high mountain, which we once more ascended at a different point from
our first ascent, were found abundance of shells and broken coral
formations, which Jack and I agreed proved either that this island must
have once been under the sea, or that the sea must once have been above
the island.  In other words, that as shells and coral could not possibly
climb to the mountain top, they must have been washed upon it while the
mountain top was on a level with the sea.  We pondered this very much;
and we put to ourselves the question, "What raised the island to its
present height above the sea?"  But to this we could by no means give to
ourselves a satisfactory reply.  Jack thought it might have been blown up
by a volcano; and Peterkin said he thought it must have jumped up of its
own accord!  We also noticed, what had escaped us before, that the solid
rocks of which the island was formed were quite different from the live
coral rocks on the shore, where the wonderful little insects were
continually working.  They seemed, indeed, to be of the sauce material,--a
substance like limestone; but, while the coral rocks were quite full of
minute cells in which the insects lived, the other rocks inland were hard
and solid, without the appearance of cells at all.  Our thoughts and
conversations on this subject were sometimes so profound that Peterkin
said we should certainly get drowned in them at last, even although we
were such good divers!  Nevertheless we did not allow his pleasantry on
this and similar points to deter us from making our notes and
observations as we went along.

We found several more droves of hogs in the woods, but abstained from
killing any of them, having more than sufficient for our present
necessities.  We saw also many of their foot-prints in this
neighbourhood.  Among these we also observed the footprints of a smaller
animal, which we examined with much care, but could form no certain
opinion as to them.  Peterkin thought they were those of a little dog,
but Jack and I thought differently.  We became very curious on this
matter, the more so that we observed these foot-prints to lie scattered
about in one locality, as if the animal which had made them was wandering
round about in a very irregular manner, and without any object in view.
Early in the forenoon of our third day we observed these footprints to be
much more numerous than ever, and in one particular spot they diverged
off into the woods in a regular beaten track, which was, however, so
closely beset with bushes, that we pushed through it with difficulty.  We
had now become so anxious to find out what animal this was, and where it
went to, that we determined to follow the track, and, if possible, clear
up the mystery.  Peterkin said, in a bantering tone, that he was sure it
would be cleared up as usual in some frightfully simple way, and prove to
be no mystery at all!

The beaten track seemed much too large to have been formed by the animal
itself, and we concluded that some larger animal had made it, and that
the smaller one made use of it.  But everywhere the creeping plants and
tangled bushes crossed our path, so that we forced our way along with
some difficulty.  Suddenly, as we came upon an open space, we heard a
faint cry, and observed a black animal standing in the track before us.

"A wild-cat!" cried Jack, fitting an arrow to his bow, and discharging it
so hastily that he missed the animal, and hit the earth about half a foot
to one side of it.  To our surprise the wild-cat did not fly, but walked
slowly towards the arrow, and snuffed at it.

"That's the most comical wild-cat I ever saw!" cried Jack.

"It's a tame wild-cat, I think," said Peterkin, levelling his spear to
make a charge.

"Stop!" cried I, laying my hand on his shoulder; "I do believe the poor
beast is blind.  See, it strikes against the branches as it walks along.
It must be a very old one;" and I hastened towards it.

"Only think," said Peterkin, with a suppressed laugh, "of a superannuated
wild-cat!"

We now found that the poor cat was not only blind, or nearly so, but
extremely deaf, as it did not hear our footsteps until we were quite
close behind it.  Then it sprang round, and, putting up its back and
tail, while the black hair stood all on end, uttered a hoarse mew and a
fuff.

"Poor thing," said Peterkin, gently extending his hand, and endeavouring
to pat the cat's head.  "Poor pussy; chee, chee, chee; puss, puss, puss;
cheetie pussy!"

No sooner did the cat hear these sounds than all signs of anger fled,
and, advancing eagerly to Peterkin, it allowed itself to be stroked, and
rubbed itself against his legs, purring loudly all the time, and showing
every symptom of the most extreme delight.

"It's no more a wild cat than I am!" cried Peterkin, taking it in his
arms.  "It's quite tame.  Poor pussy, cheetie pussy!"

We now crowded around Peterkin, and were not a little surprised, and, to
say truth, a good deal affected, by the sight of the poor animal's
excessive joy.  It rubbed its head against Peterkin's cheek, licked his
chin, and thrust its head almost violently into his neck, while it purred
more loudly than I ever heard a cat purr before, and appeared to be so
much overpowered by its feelings, that it occasionally mewed and purred
almost in the same breath.  Such demonstrations of joy and affection led
us at once to conclude that this poor cat must have known man before, and
we conjectured that it had been left either accidentally or by design on
the island many years ago, and was now evincing its extreme joy at
meeting once more with human beings.  While we were fondling the cat and
talking about it, Jack glanced round the open space in the midst of which
we stood.

"Hallo!" exclaimed he; "this looks something like a clearing.  The axe
has been at work here.  Just look at these tree-stumps."

We now turned to examine these, and, without doubt, we found trees that
had been cut down here and there, also stumps and broken branches; all of
which, however, were completely covered over with moss, and bore evidence
of having been in this condition for some years.  No human foot-prints
were to be seen, either on the track or among the bushes; but those of
the cat were found everywhere.  We now determined to follow up the track
as far as it went, and Peterkin put the cat down; but it seemed to be so
weak, and mewed so very pitifully, that he took it up again and carried
it in his arms, where, in a few minutes, it fell sound asleep.

About ten yards farther on, the felled trees became more numerous, and
the track, diverging to the right, followed for a short space the banks
of a stream.  Suddenly we came to a spot where once must have been a rude
bridge, the stones of which were scattered in the stream, and those on
each bank entirely covered over with moss.  In silent surprise and
expectancy we continued to advance, and, a few yards farther on, beheld,
under the shelter of some bread-fruit trees, a small hut or cottage.  I
cannot hope to convey to my readers a very correct idea of the feelings
that affected us on witnessing this unexpected sight.  We stood for a
long time in silent wonder, for there was a deep and most melancholy
stillness about the place that quite overpowered us; and when we did at
length speak, it was in subdued whispers, as if we were surrounded by
some awful or supernatural influence.  Even Peterkin's voice, usually so
quick and lively on all occasions, was hushed now; for there was a
dreariness about this silent, lonely, uninhabited cottage,--so strange in
its appearance, so far away from the usual dwellings of man, so old,
decayed, and deserted in its aspect,--that fell upon our spirits like a
thick cloud, and blotted out as with a pall the cheerful sunshine that
had filled us since the commencement of our tour round the island.

The hut or cottage was rude and simple in its construction.  It was not
more than twelve feet long by ten feet broad, and about seven or eight
feet high.  It had one window, or rather a small frame in which a window
might, perhaps, once have been, but which was now empty.  The door was
exceedingly low, and formed of rough boards, and the roof was covered
with broad cocoa-nut and plantain leaves.  But every part of it was in a
state of the utmost decay.  Moss and green matter grew in spots all over
it.  The woodwork was quite perforated with holes; the roof had nearly
fallen in, and appeared to be prevented from doing so altogether by the
thick matting of creeping-plants and the interlaced branches which years
of neglect had allowed to cover it almost entirely; while the thick,
luxuriant branches of the bread-fruit and other trees spread above it,
and flung a deep, sombre shadow over the spot, as if to guard it from the
heat and the light of day.  We conversed long and in whispers about this
strange habitation ere we ventured to approach it; and when at length we
did so it was, at least on my part, with feelings of awe.

At first Jack endeavoured to peep in at the window, but from the deep
shadow of the trees already mentioned, and the gloom within, he could not
clearly discern objects; so we lifted the latch and pushed open the door.
We observed that the latch was made of iron, and almost eaten away with
rust.  In the like condition were also the hinges, which creaked as the
door swung back.  On entering, we stood still and gazed around us, while
we were much impressed with the dreary stillness of the room.  But what
we saw there surprised and shocked us not a little.  There was no
furniture in the apartment save a little wooden stool and an iron pot,
the latter almost eaten through with rust.  In the corner farthest from
the door was a low bedstead, on which lay two skeletons, imbedded in a
little heap of dry dust.  With beating hearts we went forward to examine
them.  One was the skeleton of a man, the other that of a dog, which was
extended close beside that of the man, with its head resting on his bosom

Now we were very much concerned about this discovery, and could scarce
refrain from tears on beholding these sad remains.  After some time, we
began to talk about what we had seen, and to examine in and around the
hut, in order to discover some clue to the name or history of this poor
man, who had thus died in solitude, with none to mourn his loss save his
cat and his faithful dog.  But we found nothing,--neither a book nor a
scrap of paper.  We found, however, the decayed remnants of what appeared
to have been clothing, and an old axe.  But none of these things bore
marks of any kind; and, indeed, they were so much decayed as to convince
us that they had lain in the condition in which we found them for many
years.

This discovery now accounted to us for the tree stump at the top of the
mountain with the initials cut on it; also for the patch of sugar-cane
and other traces of man which we had met with in the course of our
rambles over the island.  And we were much saddened by the reflection
that the lot of this poor wanderer might possibly be our own, after many
years' residence on the island, unless we should be rescued by the visit
of some vessel or the arrival of natives.  Having no clue whatever to
account for the presence of this poor human being in such a lonely spot,
we fell to conjecturing what could have brought him there.  I was
inclined to think that he must have been a shipwrecked sailor, whose
vessel had been lost here, and all the crew been drowned except himself
and his dog and cat.  But Jack thought it more likely that he had run
away from his vessel, and had taken the dog and cat to keep him company.
We were also much occupied in our minds with the wonderful difference
between the cat and the dog.  For here we saw that while the one
perished, like a loving friend, by its master's side, with its head
resting on his bosom, the other had sought to sustain itself by prowling
abroad in the forest, and had lived in solitude to a good old age.
However, we did not conclude from this that the cat was destitute of
affection, for we could not forget its emotions on first meeting with us;
but we saw from this, that the dog had a great deal more of generous love
in its nature than the cat, because it not only found it impossible to
live after the death of its master, but it must needs, when it came to
die, crawl to his side and rest its head upon his lifeless breast.

While we were thinking on these things, and examining into everything
about the room, we were attracted by an exclamation from Peterkin.

"I say, Jack," said he, "here is something that will be of use to us."

"What is it?" said Jack, hastening across the room.

"An old pistol," replied Peterkin, holding up the weapon, which he had
just pulled from under a heap of broken wood and rubbish that lay in a
corner.

"That, indeed, might have been useful," said Jack, examining it, "if we
had any powder; but I suspect the bow and the sling will prove more
serviceable."

"True, I forgot that," said Peterkin; "but we may as well take it with
us, for the flint will serve to strike fire with when the sun does not
shine."

{A saddening discovery: p136.jpg}

After having spent more than an hour at this place without discovering
anything of further interest, Peterkin took up the old cat, which had
lain very contentedly asleep on the stool whereon he had placed it, and
we prepared to take our departure.  In leaving the hut, Jack stumbled
heavily against the door-post, which was so much decayed as to break
across, and the whole fabric of the hut seemed ready to tumble about our
ears.  This put into our heads that we might as well pull it down, and so
form a mound over the skeleton.  Jack, therefore, with his axe, cut down
the other door-post, which, when it was done, brought the whole hut in
ruins to the ground, and thus formed a grave to the bones of the poor
recluse and his dog.  Then we left the spot, having brought away the iron
pot, the pistol, and the old axe, as they might be of much use to us
hereafter.

During the rest of this day we pursued our journey, and examined the
other end of the large valley, which we found to be so much alike to the
parts already described, that I shall not recount the particulars of what
we saw in this place.  I may, however, remark, that we did not quite
recover our former cheerful spirits until we arrived at our bower, which
we did late in the evening, and found everything just in the same
condition as we had left it three days before.



CHAPTER XII.


Something wrong with the tank--Jack's wisdom and Peterkin's
impertinence--Wonderful behaviour of a crab--Good wishes for those who
dwell far from the sea--Jack commences to build a little boat.

Rest is sweet as well for the body as for the mind.  During my long
experience, amid the vicissitudes of a chequered life, I have found that
periods of profound rest at certain intervals, in addition to the
ordinary hours of repose, are necessary to the wellbeing of man.  And the
nature as well as the period of this rest varies, according to the
different temperaments of individuals, and the peculiar circumstances in
which they may chance to be placed.  To those who work with their minds,
bodily labour is rest.  To those who labour with the body, deep sleep is
rest.  To the downcast, the weary, and the sorrowful, joy and peace are
rest.  Nay, further, I think that to the gay, the frivolous, the
reckless, when sated with pleasures that cannot last, even sorrow proves
to be rest of a kind, although, perchance, it were better that I should
call it relief than rest.  There is, indeed, but one class of men to whom
rest is denied.  There is no rest to the wicked.  At this I do but hint,
however, as I treat not of that rest which is spiritual, but, more
particularly, of that which applies to the mind and to the body.

Of this rest we stood much in need on our return home, and we found it
exceedingly sweet, when we indulged in it, after completing the journey
just related.  It had not, indeed, been a very long journey, nevertheless
we had pursued it so diligently that our frames were not a little
prostrated.  Our minds were also very much exhausted in consequence of
the many surprises, frequent alarms, and much profound thought, to which
they had been subjected; so that when we lay down on the night of our
return under the shelter of the bower, we fell immediately into very deep
repose.  I can state this with much certainty, for Jack afterwards
admitted the fact, and Peterkin, although he stoutly denied it, I heard
snoring loudly at least two minutes after lying down.  In this condition
we remained all night and the whole of the following day without awaking
once, or so much as moving our positions.  When we did awake it was near
sunset, and we were all in such a state of lassitude that we merely rose
to swallow a mouthful of food.  As Peterkin remarked, in the midst of a
yawn, we took breakfast at tea-time, and then went to bed again, where we
lay till the following forenoon.

After this we arose very greatly refreshed, but much alarmed lest we had
lost count of a day.  I say we were much alarmed on this head, for we had
carefully kept count of the days since we were cast upon our island, in
order that we might remember the Sabbath-day, which day we had hitherto
with one accord kept as a day of rest, and refrained from all work
whatsoever.  However, on considering the subject, we all three
entertained the same opinion as to how long we had slept, and so our
minds were put at ease.

We now hastened to our Water Garden to enjoy a bathe, and to see how did
the animals which I had placed in the tank.  We found the garden more
charming, pelucid, and inviting than ever, and Jack and I plunged into
its depth, and gambolled among its radiant coral groves; while Peterkin
wallowed at the surface, and tried occasionally to kick us as we passed
below.  Having dressed, I then hastened to the tank; but what was my
surprise and grief to find nearly all the animals dead, and the water in
a putrid condition!  I was greatly distressed at this, and wondered what
could be the cause of it.

"Why, you precious humbug," said Peterkin, coming up to me, "how could
you expect it to be otherwise?  When fishes are accustomed to live in the
Pacific Ocean, how can you expect them to exist in a hole like that?"

"Indeed, Peterkin," I replied, "there seems to be truth in what you say.
Nevertheless, now I think of it, there must be some error in your
reasoning; for, if I put in but a few very small animals, they will bear
the same proportion to this pond that the millions of fish bear to the
ocean."

"I say, Jack," cried Peterkin, waving his hand, "come here, like a good
fellow.  Ralph is actually talking philosophy.  Do come to our
assistance, for he's out o' sight beyond me already!"

"What's the matter?" inquired Jack, coming up, while he endeavoured to
scrub his long hair dry with a towel of cocoa-nut cloth.

I repeated my thoughts to Jack, who, I was happy to find, quite agreed
with me.  "Your best plan," he said, "will be to put very few animals at
first into your tank, and add more as you find it will bear them.  And
look here," he added, pointing to the sides of the tank, which, for the
space of two inches above the water-level, were incrusted with salt, "you
must carry your philosophy a little farther, Ralph.  That water has
evaporated so much that it is too salt for anything to live in.  You will
require to add _fresh_ water now and then, in order to keep it at the
same degree of saltness as the sea."

"Very true, Jack, that never struck me before," said I.

"And, now I think of it," continued Jack, "it seems to me that the surest
way of arranging your tank so as to get it to keep pure and in good
condition, will be to imitate the ocean in it.  In fact make it a
miniature Pacific.  I don't see how you can hope to succeed unless you do
that."

"Most true," said I, pondering what my companion said.  "But I fear that
that will be very difficult."

"Not at all," cried Jack, rolling his towel up into a ball, and throwing
it into the face of Peterkin, who had been grinning and winking at him
during the last five minutes.  "Not at all.  Look here.  There is water
of a certain saltness in the sea; well, fill your tank with sea water,
and keep it at that saltness by marking the height at which the water
stands on the sides.  When it evaporates a little, pour in _fresh_ water
from the brook till it comes up to the mark, and then it will be right,
for the salt does not evaporate with the water.  Then, there's lots of
sea-weed in the sea;--well, go and get one or two bits of sea-weed, and
put them into your tank.  Of course the weed must be alive, and growing
to little stones; or you can chip a bit off the rocks with the weed
sticking to it.  Then, if you like, you can throw a little sand and
gravel into your tank, and the thing's complete."

"Nay, not quite," said Peterkin, who had been gravely attentive to this
off-hand advice, "not quite; you must first make three little men to dive
in it before it can be said to be perfect, and that would be rather
difficult, I fear, for two of them would require to be philosophers.  But
hallo! what's this?  I say, Ralph, look here.  There's one o' your crabs
up to something uncommon.  It's performing the most remarkable operation
for a crab I ever saw,--taking off its coat, I do believe, before going
to bed!"

We hastily stooped over the tank, and certainly were not a little amused
at the conduct of one of the crabs which still survived it companions.  It
was one of the common small crabs, like to those that are found running
about everywhere on the coasts of England.  While we gazed at it, we
observed its back to split away from the lower part of its body, and out
of the gap thus formed came a soft lump which moved and writhed
unceasingly.  This lump continued to increase in size until it appeared
like a bunch of crab's legs: and, indeed, such it proved in a very few
minutes to be; for the points of the toes were at length extricated from
this hole in its back, the legs spread out, the body followed, and the
crab walked away quite entire, even to the points of its nipper-claws,
leaving a perfectly entire shell behind it, so that, when we looked, it
seemed as though there were two complete crabs instead of one!

"Well!" exclaimed Peterkin, drawing a long breath, "I've _heard_ of a man
jumping out of his skin and sitting down in his skeleton in order to cool
himself, but I never expected to _see_ a crab do it!"

We were, in truth, much amazed at this spectacle, and the more so when we
observed that the new crab was larger than the crab that it came out of.
It was also quite soft, but by next morning its skin had hardened into a
good shell.  We came thus to know that crabs grow in this way, and not by
the growing of their shells, as we had always thought before we saw this
wonderful operation.

Now I considered well the advice which Jack had given me about preparing
my tank, and the more I thought of it, the more I came to regard it as
very sound and worthy of being acted on.  So I forthwith put his plan in
execution, and found it to answer excellently well, indeed much beyond my
expectation; for I found that after a little experience had taught me the
proper proportion of sea-weed and animals to put into a certain amount of
water, the tank needed no farther attendance; and, moreover, I did not
require ever afterwards to renew or change the sea-water, but only to add
a very little fresh water from the brook, now and then, as the other
evaporated.  I therefore concluded that if I had been suddenly conveyed,
along with my tank, into some region where there was no salt sea at all,
my little sea and my sea-fish would have continued to thrive and to
prosper notwithstanding.  This made me greatly to desire that those
people in the world who live far inland might know of my wonderful tank,
and, by having materials like to those of which it was made conveyed to
them, thus be enabled to watch the habits of those most mysterious
animals that reside in the sea, and examine with their own eyes the
wonders of the great deep.

For many days after this, while Peterkin and Jack were busily employed in
building a little boat out of the curious natural planks of the chestnut
tree, I spent much of my time in examining with the burning-glass the
marvellous operations that were constantly going on in my tank.  Here I
saw those anemones which cling, like little red, yellow, and green blobs
of jelly, to the rocks, put forth, as it were, a multitude of arms and
wait till little fish or other small animalcules unwarily touched them,
when they would instantly seize them, fold arm after arm around their
victims, and so engulf them in their stomachs.  Here I saw the ceaseless
working of those little coral insects whose efforts have encrusted the
islands of the Pacific with vast rocks, and surrounded them with enormous
reefs.  And I observed that many of these insects, though extremely
minute, were very beautiful, coming out of their holes in a circle of
fine threads, and having the form of a shuttle-cock.  Here I saw curious
little barnacles opening a hole in their backs and constantly putting out
a thin feathery hand, with which, I doubt not, they dragged their food
into their mouths.  Here, also, I saw those crabs which have shells only
on the front of their bodies, but no shell whatever on their remarkably
tender tails, so that, in order to find a protection to them, they thrust
them into the empty shells of wilks, or some such fish, and when they
grow too big for one, change into another.  But, most curious of all, I
saw an animal which had the wonderful power, when it became ill, of
casting its stomach and its teeth away from it, and getting an entirely
new set in the course of a few months!  All this I saw, and a great deal
more, by means of my tank and my burning-glass, but I refrain from
setting down more particulars here, as I have still much to tell of the
adventures that befell us while we remained on this island.



CHAPTER XIII.


Notable discovery at the spouting cliffs--The mysterious green monster
explained--We are thrown into unutterable terror by the idea that Jack is
drowned--The Diamond Cave.

"Come, Jack," cried Peterkin, one morning about three weeks after our
return from our long excursion, "let's be jolly to-day, and do something
vigorous.  I'm quite tired of hammering and hammering, hewing and
screwing, cutting and butting, at that little boat of ours, that seems as
hard to build as Noah's ark; let us go on an excursion to the mountain
top, or have a hunt after the wild ducks, or make a dash at the pigs.  I'm
quite flat--flat as bad ginger-beer--flat as a pancake; in fact, I want
something to rouse me, to toss me up, as it were.  Eh! what do you say to
it?"

"Well," answered Jack, throwing down the axe with which he was just about
to proceed towards the boat, "if that's what you want, I would recommend
you to make an excursion to the water-spouts; the last one we had to do
with tossed you up a considerable height, perhaps the next will send you
higher, who knows, if you're at all reasonable or moderate in your
expectations!"

"Jack, my dear boy," said Peterkin, gravely, "you are really becoming too
fond of jesting.  It's a thing I don't at all approve of, and if you
don't give it up, I fear that, for our mutual good, we shall have to
part."

"Well, then, Peterkin," replied Jack, with a smile, "what would you
have?"

"Have?" said Peterkin, "I would _have_ nothing.  I didn't say I wanted to
_have_; I said that I wanted to _do_."

"By the by," said I, interrupting their conversation, "I am reminded by
this that we have not yet discovered the nature of yon curious appearance
that we saw near the water-spouts, on our journey round the island.
Perhaps it would be well to go for that purpose."

"Humph!" ejaculated Peterkin, "I know the nature of it well enough."

"What was it?" said I.

"It was of a _mysterious_ nature to be sure!" said he, with a wave of his
hand, while he rose from the log on which he had been sitting, and
buckled on his belt, into which he thrust his enormous club.

"Well then, let us away to the water-spouts," cried Jack, going up to the
bower for his bow and arrows; "and bring your spear, Peterkin.  It may be
useful."

We now, having made up our minds to examine into this matter, sallied
forth eagerly in the direction of the water-spout rocks, which, as I have
before mentioned, were not far from our present place of abode.  On
arriving there we hastened down to the edge of the rocks, and gazed over
into the sea, where we observed the pale-green object still distinctly
visible, moving its tail slowly to and fro in the water.

"Most remarkable!" said Jack.

"Exceedingly curious," said I.

"Beats everything!" said Peterkin.

"Now, Jack," he added, "you made such a poor figure in your last attempt
to stick that object, that I would advise you to let me try it.  If it
has got a heart at all, I'll engage to send my spear right through the
core of it; if it hasn't got a heart, I'll send it through the spot where
its heart ought to be."

"Fire away, then, my boy," replied Jack with a laugh.

Peterkin immediately took the spear, poised it for a second or two above
his head, then darted it like an arrow into the sea.  Down it went
straight into the centre of the green object, passed quite through it,
and came up immediately afterwards, pure and unsullied, while the
mysterious tail moved quietly as before!

"Now," said Peterkin, gravely, "that brute is a heartless monster; I'll
have nothing more to do with it."

"I'm pretty sure now," said Jack, "that it is merely a phosphoric light;
but I must say I'm puzzled at its staying always in that exact spot."

I also was much puzzled, and inclined to think with Jack that it must be
phosphoric light; of which luminous appearance we had seen much while on
our voyage to these seas.  "But," said I, "there is nothing to hinder us
from diving down to it, now that we are sure it is not a shark."

"True," returned Jack, stripping off his clothes; "I'll go down, Ralph,
as I'm better at diving than you are.  Now then, Peterkin, out o' the
road!"  Jack stepped forward, joined his hands above his head, bent over
the rocks, and plunged into the sea.  For a second or two the spray
caused by his dive hid him from view, then the water became still, and we
saw him swimming far down in the midst of the green object.  Suddenly he
sank below it, and vanished altogether from our sight!  We gazed
anxiously down at the spot where he had disappeared, for nearly a minute,
expecting every moment to see him rise again for breath; but fully a
minute passed, and still he did not reappear.  Two minutes passed! and
then a flood of alarm rushed in upon my soul, when I considered that
during all my acquaintance with him, Jack had never stayed underwater
more than a minute at a time; indeed seldom so long.

"Oh, Peterkin!" I said, in a voice that trembled with increasing anxiety,
"something has happened.  It is more than three minutes now!"  But
Peterkin did not answer and I observed that he was gazing down into the
water with a look of intense fear mingled with anxiety, while his face
was overspread with a deadly paleness.  Suddenly he sprang to his feet
and rushed about in a frantic state, wringing his hands, and exclaiming,
"Oh, Jack, Jack! he is gone!  It must have been a shark, and he is gone
for ever!"

For the next five minutes I know not what I did.  The intensity of my
feelings almost bereft me of my senses.  But I was recalled to myself by
Peterkin seizing me by the shoulder and staring wildly into my face,
while he exclaimed, "Ralph! Ralph! perhaps he has only fainted.  Dive for
him, Ralph!"

It seemed strange that this did not occur to me sooner.  In a moment I
rushed to the edge of the rocks, and, without waiting to throw off my
garments, was on the point to spring into the waves, when I observed
something black rising up through the green object.  In another moment
Jack's head rose to the surface, and he gave a wild shout, flinging back
the spray from his locks, as was his wont after a dive.  Now we were
almost as much amazed at seeing him reappear, well and strong, as we had
been at first at his non-appearance; for, to the best of our judgment, he
had been nearly ten minutes under water, perhaps longer, and it required
no exertion of our reason to convince us that this was utterly impossible
for mortal man to do and retain his strength and faculties.  It was
therefore with a feeling akin to superstitious awe that I held down my
hand and assisted him to clamber up the steep rocks.  But no such feeling
affected Peterkin.  No sooner did Jack gain the rocks and seat himself on
one, panting for breath, than he threw his arms round his neck, and burst
into a flood of tears.  "Oh, Jack, Jack!" said he, "where were you?  What
kept you so long?"

After a few moments Peterkin became composed enough to sit still and
listen to Jack's explanation, although he could not restrain himself from
attempting to wink every two minutes at me, in order to express his joy
at Jack's safety.  I say he attempted to wink, but I am bound to add that
he did not succeed, for his eyes were so much swollen with weeping, that
his frequent attempts only resulted in a series of violent and altogether
idiotical contortions of the face, that were very far from expressing
what he intended.  However, I knew what the poor fellow meant by it, so I
smiled to him in return, and endeavoured to make believe that he was
winking.

"Now, lads," said Jack, when we were composed enough to listen to him,
"yon green object is not a shark; it is a stream of light issuing from a
cave in the rocks.  Just after I made my dive, I observed that this light
came from the side of the rock above which we are now sitting; so I
struck out for it, and saw an opening into some place or other that
appeared to be luminous within.  For one instant I paused to think
whether I ought to venture.  Then I made up my mind, and dashed into it.
For you see, Peterkin, although I take some time to tell this, it
happened in the space of a few seconds, so that I knew I had wind enough
in me to serve to bring me out o' the hole and up to the surface again.
Well, I was just on the point of turning,--for I began to feel a little
uncomfortable in such a place,--when it seemed to me as if there was a
faint light right above me.  I darted upwards, and found my head out of
water.  This relieved me greatly, for I now felt that I could take in air
enough to enable me to return the way I came.  Then it all at once
occurred to me that I might not be able to find the way out again; but,
on glancing downwards, my mind was put quite at rest by seeing the green
light below me streaming into the cave, just like the light that we had
seen streaming out of it, only what I now saw was much brighter.

"At first I could scarcely see anything as I gazed around me, it was so
dark; but gradually my eyes became accustomed to it, and I found that I
was in a huge cave, part of the walls of which I observed on each side of
me.  The ceiling just above me was also visible, and I fancied that I
could perceive beautiful glittering objects there, but the farther end of
the cave was shrouded in darkness.  While I was looking around me in
great wonder, it came into my head that you two would think I was
drowned; so I plunged down through the passage again in a great hurry,
rose to the surface, and--here I am!"

When Jack concluded his recital of what he had seen in this remarkable
cave, I could not rest satisfied till I had dived down to see it; which I
did, but found it so dark, as Jack had said, that I could scarcely see
anything.  When I returned, we had a long conversation about it, during
which I observed that Peterkin had a most lugubrious expression on his
countenance.

"What's the matter, Peterkin?" said I.

"The matter?" he replied.  "It's all very well for you two to be talking
away like mermaids about the wonders of this cave, but you know I must be
content to hear about it, while you are enjoying yourselves down there
like mad dolphins.  It's really too bad."

"I'm very sorry for you, Peterkin, indeed I am," said Jack, "but we
cannot help you.  If you would only learn to dive--"

"Learn to fly, you might as well say!" retorted Peterkin, in a very sulky
tone.

"If you would only consent to keep still," said I, "we would take you
down with us in ten seconds."

"Hum!" returned Peterkin; "suppose a salamander was to propose to you
'only to keep still,' and he would carry you through a blazing fire in a
few seconds, what would you say?"

We both laughed and shook our heads, for it was evident that nothing was
to be made of Peterkin in the water.  But we could not rest satisfied
till we had seen more of this cave; so, after further consultation, Jack
and I determined to try if we could take down a torch with us, and set
fire to it in the cavern.  This we found to be an undertaking of no small
difficulty; but we accomplished it at last by the following means:--First,
we made a torch of a very inflammable nature out of the bark of a certain
tree, which we cut into strips, and, after twisting, cemented together
with a kind of resin or gum, which we also obtained from another tree;
neither of which trees, however, was known by name to Jack.  This, when
prepared, we wrapped up in a great number of plies of cocoa-nut cloth, so
that we were confident it could not get wet during the short time it
should be under water.  Then we took a small piece of the tinder, which
we had carefully treasured up lest we should require it, as before said,
when the sun should fail us; also, we rolled up some dry grass and a few
chips, which, with a little bow and drill, like those described before,
we made into another bundle, and wrapped it up in cocoa-nut cloth.  When
all was ready we laid aside our garments, with the exception of our
trousers, which, as we did not know what rough scraping against the rocks
we might be subjected to, we kept on.

Then we advanced to the edge of the rocks, Jack carrying one bundle, with
the torch; I the other, with the things for producing fire.

"Now don't weary for us, Peterkin, should we be gone some time," said
Jack; "we'll be sure to return in half-an-hour at the very latest,
however interesting the cave should be, that we may relieve your mind."

"Farewell!" said Peterkin, coming up to us with a look of deep but
pretended solemnity, while he shook hands and kissed each of us on the
cheek.  "Farewell! and while you are gone I shall repose my weary limbs
under the shelter of this bush, and meditate on the changefulness of all
things earthly, with special reference to the forsaken condition of a
poor ship-wrecked sailor boy!"  So saying, Peterkin waved his hand,
turned from us, and cast himself upon the ground with a look of
melancholy resignation, which was so well feigned, that I would have
thought it genuine had he not accompanied it with a gentle wink.  We both
laughed, and, springing from the rocks together, plunged head first into
the sea.

We gained the interior of the submarine cave without difficulty, and, on
emerging from the waves, supported ourselves for some time by treading-
water, while we held the two bundles above our heads.  This we did in
order to let our eyes become accustomed to the obscurity.  Then, when we
could see sufficiently, we swam to a shelving rock, and landed in safety.
Having wrung the water from our trousers, and dried ourselves as well as
we could under the circumstances, we proceeded to ignite the torch.  This
we accomplished without difficulty in a few minutes; and no sooner did it
flare up than we were struck dumb with the wonderful objects that were
revealed to our gaze.  The roof of the cavern just above us seemed to be
about ten feet high, but grew higher as it receded into the distance,
until it was lost in darkness.  It seemed to be made of coral, and was
supported by massive columns of the same material.  Immense icicles (as
they appeared to us) hung from it in various places.  These, however,
were formed, not of ice, but of a species of limestone, which seemed to
flow in a liquid form towards the point of each, where it became solid.  A
good many drops fell, however, to the rock below, and these formed little
cones, which rose to meet the points above.  Some of them had already
met, and thus we saw how the pillars were formed, which at first seemed
to us as if they had been placed there by some human architect to support
the roof.  As we advanced farther in, we saw that the floor was composed
of the same material as the pillars; and it presented the curious
appearance of ripples, such as are formed on water when gently ruffled by
the wind.  There were several openings on either hand in the walls, that
seemed to lead into other caverns; but these we did not explore at this
time.  We also observed that the ceiling was curiously marked in many
places, as if it were the fret-work of a noble cathedral; and the walls,
as well as the roof, sparkled in the light of our torch, and threw back
gleams and flashes, as if they were covered with precious stones.
Although we proceeded far into this cavern, we did not come to the end of
it; and we were obliged to return more speedily than we would otherwise
have done, as our torch was nearly expended.  We did not observe any
openings in the roof, or any indications of places whereby light might
enter; but near the entrance to the cavern stood an immense mass of pure
white coral rock, which caught and threw back the little light that found
an entrance through the cave's mouth, and thus produced, we conjectured,
the pale-green object which had first attracted our attention.  We
concluded, also, that the reflecting power of this rock was that which
gave forth the dim light that faintly illumined the first part of the
cave.

Before diving through the passage again we extinguished the small piece
of our torch that remained, and left it in a dry spot; conceiving that we
might possibly stand in need of it, if at any future time we should
chance to wet our torch while diving into the cavern.  As we stood for a
few minutes after it was out, waiting till our eyes became accustomed to
the gloom, we could not help remarking the deep, intense stillness and
the unutterable gloom of all around us; and, as I thought of the
stupendous dome above, and the countless gems that had sparkled in the
torch-light a few minutes before, it came into my mind to consider how
strange it is that God should make such wonderful and extremely-beautiful
works never to be seen at all, except, indeed, by chance visitors such as
ourselves.

I afterwards found that there were many such caverns among the islands of
the South Seas, some of them larger and more beautiful than the one I
have just described.

"Now, Ralph, are you ready?" said Jack, in a low voice, that seemed to
echo up into the dome above.

"Quite ready."

"Come along, then," said he; and, plunging off the ledge of the rock into
the water, we dived through the narrow entrance.  In a few seconds we
were panting on the rocks above, and receiving the congratulations of our
friend Peterkin.



CHAPTER XIV.


Strange peculiarity of the tides--Also of the twilight--Peterkin's
remarkable conduct in embracing a little pig and killing a big sow--Sage
remarks on jesting--Also on love.

It was quite a relief to us to breathe the pure air and to enjoy the glad
sunshine after our long ramble in the Diamond Cave, as we named it; for,
although we did not stay more than half an hour away, it seemed to us
much longer.  While we were dressing, and during our walk home, we did
our best to satisfy the curiosity of poor Peterkin, who seemed to regret,
with lively sincerity, his inability to dive.

There was no help for it, however, so we condoled with him as we best
could.  Had there been any great rise or fall in the tide of these seas,
we might perhaps have found it possible to take him down with us at low
water; but as the tide never rose or fell more than eighteen inches or
two feet, this was impossible.

This peculiarity of the tide--its slight rise and fall--had not attracted
our observation till some time after our residence on the island.  Neither
had we observed another curious circumstance until we had been some time
there.  This was the fact, that the tide rose and fell with constant
regularity, instead of being affected by the changes of the moon as in
our own country, and as it is in most other parts of the world,--at least
in all those parts with which I am acquainted.  Every day and every
night, at twelve o'clock precisely, the tide is at the full; and at six
o'clock every morning and evening it is ebb.  I can speak with much
confidence on this singular circumstance, as we took particular note of
it, and never found it to alter.  Of course, I must admit, we had to
guess the hour of twelve midnight, and I think we could do this pretty
correctly; but in regard to twelve noon we are quite positive, because we
easily found the highest point that the sun reached in the sky by placing
ourselves at a certain spot whence we observed the sharp summit of a
cliff resting against the sky, just where the sun passed.

Jack and I were surprised that we had not noticed this the first few days
of our residence here, and could only account for it by our being so much
taken up with the more obvious wonders of our novel situation.  I have
since learned, however, that this want of observation is a sad and very
common infirmity of human nature, there being hundreds of persons before
whose eyes the most wonderful things are passing every day, who
nevertheless are totally ignorant of them.  I therefore have to record my
sympathy with such persons, and to recommend to them a course of conduct
which I have now for a long time myself adopted,--namely, the habit of
forcing my attention upon _all_ things that go on around me, and of
taking some degree of interest in them, whether I feel it naturally or
not.  I suggest this the more earnestly, though humbly, because I have
very frequently come to know that my indifference to a thing has
generally been caused by my ignorance in regard to it.

We had much serious conversation on this subject of the tides; and Jack
told us, in his own quiet, philosophical way, that these tides did great
good to the world in many ways, particularly in the way of cleansing the
shores of the land, and carrying off the filth that was constantly poured
into the sea there-from; which, Peterkin suggested, was remarkably _tidy_
of it to do.  Poor Peterkin could never let slip an opportunity to joke,
however inopportune it might be: which at first we found rather a
disagreeable propensity, as it often interrupted the flow of very
agreeable conversation; and, indeed, I cannot too strongly record my
disapprobation of this tendency in general: but we became so used to it
at last that we found it no interruption whatever; indeed, strange to
say, we came to feel that it was a necessary part of our enjoyment (such
is the force of habit), and found the sudden outbursts of mirth,
resulting from his humorous disposition, quite natural and refreshing to
us in the midst of our more serious conversations.  But I must not
misrepresent Peterkin.  We often found, to our surprise, that he knew
many things which we did not; and I also observed that those things which
he learned from experience were never forgotten.  From all these things I
came at length to understand that things very opposite and dissimilar in
themselves, when united, do make an agreeable whole; as, for example, we
three on this our island, although most unlike in many things, when
united, made a trio so harmonious that I question if there ever met
before such an agreeable triumvirate.  There was, indeed, no note of
discord whatever in the symphony we played together on that sweet Coral
Island; and I am now persuaded that this was owing to our having been all
tuned to the same key, namely, that of _love_!  Yes, we loved one another
with much fervency while we lived on that island; and, for the matter of
that, we love each other still.

And while I am on this subject, or rather the subject that just preceded
it--namely, the tides--I may here remark on another curious natural
phenomenon.  We found that there was little or no twilight in this
island.  We had a distinct remembrance of the charming long twilight at
home, which some people think the most delightful part of the day, though
for my part I have always preferred sunrise; and when we first landed, we
used to sit down on some rocky point or eminence, at the close of our
day's work, to enjoy the evening breeze; but no sooner had the sun sunk
below the horizon than all became suddenly dark.  This rendered it
necessary that we should watch the sun when we happened to be out
hunting, for to be suddenly left in the dark while in the woods was very
perplexing, as, although the stars shone with great beauty and
brilliancy, they could not pierce through the thick umbrageous boughs
that interlaced above our heads.

But, to return: After having told all we could to Peterkin about the
Diamond Cave under Spouting Cliff, as we named the locality, we were
wending our way rapidly homewards, when a grunt and a squeal were borne
down by the land breeze to our ears.

"That's the ticket!" was Peterkin's remarkable exclamation, as he started
convulsively, and levelled his spear.

"Hist!" cried Jack; "these are your friends, Peterkin.  They must have
come over expressly to pay you a friendly visit, for it is the first time
we have seen them on this side the island."

"Come along!" cried Peterkin, hurrying towards the wood, while Jack and I
followed, smiling at his impatience.

Another grunt and half a dozen squeals, much louder than before, came
down the valley.  At this time we were just opposite the small vale which
lay between the Valley of the Wreck and Spouting Cliff.

"I say, Peterkin," cried Jack, in a hoarse whisper.

"Well, what is't?"

"Stay a bit, man.  These grunters are just up there on the hill side.  If
you go and stand with Ralph in the lee of yon cliff, I'll cut round
behind and drive them through the gorge, so that you'll have a better
chance of picking out a good one.  Now, mind you pitch into a fat young
pig, Peterkin," added Jack, as he sprang into the bushes.

"Won't I, just!" said Peterkin, licking his lips, as we took our station
beside the cliff.  "I feel quite a tender affection for young pigs in my
heart.  Perhaps it would be more correct to say in my s--."

"There they come!" cried I, as a terrific yell from Jack sent the whole
herd screaming down the hill.  Now, Peterkin, being unable to hold back,
crept a short way up a very steep grassy mound, in order to get a better
view of the hogs before they came up; and just as he raised his head
above its summit, two little pigs, which had outrun their companions,
rushed over the top with the utmost precipitation.  One of these brushed
close past Peterkin's ear; the other, unable to arrest its headlong
flight, went, as Peterkin himself afterwards expressed it, "bash" into
his arms with a sudden squeal, which was caused more by the force of the
blow than the will of the animal, and both of them rolled violently down
to the foot of the mound.  No sooner was this reached than the little pig
recovered its feet, tossed up its tail, and fled shrieking from the spot.
But I slang a large stone after it, which, being fortunately well aimed,
hit it behind the ear, and felled it to the earth.

"Capital, Ralph! that's your sort!" cried Peterkin, who, to my surprise
and great relief, had risen to his feet.  Apparently unhurt, though much
dishevelled, he rushed franticly towards the gorge, which the yells of
the hogs told us they were now approaching.  I had made up my mind that I
would abstain from killing another, as, if Peterkin should be successful,
two were more than sufficient for our wants at the present time.  Suddenly
they all burst forth,--two or three little round ones in advance, and an
enormous old sow with a drove of hogs at her heels.

"Now, Peterkin," said I, "there's a nice little fat one; just spear it."

But Peterkin did not move; he allowed it to pass unharmed.  I looked at
him in surprise, and saw that his lips were compressed and his eyebrows
knitted, as if he were about to fight with some awful enemy.

"What is it?" I inquired, with some trepidation.

Suddenly he levelled his spear, darted forward, and, with a yell that
nearly froze the blood in my veins, stabbed the old sow to the heart.
Nay, so vigorously was it done that the spear went in at one side and
came out at the other!

"Oh, Peterkin!" said I, going up to him, "what have you done?"

"Done?  I've killed their great-great-grandmother, that's all," said he,
looking with a somewhat awe-struck expression at the transfixed animal.

"Hallo! what's this?" said Jack, as he came up.  "Why, Peterkin, you must
be fond of a tough chop.  If you mean to eat this old hog, she'll try
your jaws, I warrant.  What possessed you to stick _her_, Peterkin?"

"Why, the fact is I want a pair of shoes."

"What have your shoes to do with the old hog?' said I, smiling.

"My present shoes have certainly nothing to do with her," replied
Peterkin; "nevertheless she will have a good deal to do with my future
shoes.  The fact is, when I saw you floor that pig so neatly, Ralph, it
struck me that there was little use in killing another.  Then I
remembered all at once that I had long wanted some leather or tough
substance to make shoes of, and this old grandmother seemed so tough that
I just made up my mind to stick her, and you see I've done it!"

"That you certainly have, Peterkin," said Jack, as he was examining the
transfixed animal.

We now considered how we were to carry our game home, for, although the
distance was short, the hog was very heavy.  At length we hit on the plan
of tying its four feet together, and passing the spear handle between
them.  Jack took one end on his shoulder, I took the other on mine, and
Peterkin carried the small pig.

Thus we returned in triumph to our bower, laden, as Peterkin remarked,
with the glorious spoils of a noble hunt.  As he afterwards spoke in
similarly glowing terms in reference to the supper that followed, there
is every reason to believe that we retired that night to our leafy beds
in a high state of satisfaction.



CHAPTER XV.


Boat-building extraordinary--Peterkin tries his hand at cookery and fails
most signally--The boat finished--Curious conversation with the cat, and
other matters.

For many days after this Jack applied himself with unremitting assiduity
to the construction of our boat, which at length began to look somewhat
like one.  But those only who have had the thing to do can entertain a
right idea of the difficulty involved in such an undertaking, with no
other implements than an axe, a bit of hoop-iron, a sail-needle, and a
broken pen-knife.  But Jack did it.  He was of, that disposition which
_will_ not be conquered.  When he believed himself to be acting rightly,
he overcame all obstacles.  I have seen Jack, when doubtful whether what
he was about to do were right or wrong, as timid and vacillating as a
little girl,--and I honour him for it!

As this boat was a curiosity in its way, a few words here relative to the
manner of its construction may not be amiss.

I have already mentioned the chestnut tree with its wonderful buttresses
or planks.  This tree, then, furnished us with the chief part of our
material.  First of all Jack sought out a limb of a tree of such a form
and size as, while it should form the keel a bend at either end should
form the stem and stern posts.  Such a piece, however, was not easy to
obtain, but at last he procured it, by rooting up a small tree which had
a branch growing at the proper angle about ten feet up its stem, with two
strong roots growing in such a form as enabled him to make a flat-sterned
boat.  This placed, he procured three branching roots of suitable size,
which he fitted to the keel at equal distances, thus forming three strong
ribs.  Now, the squaring and shaping of these, and the cutting of the
grooves in the keel, was an easy enough matter, as it was all work for
the axe, in the use of which Jack was become wonderfully expert; but it
was quite a different affair when he came to nailing the ribs to the
keel, for we had no instrument capable of boring a large hole, and no
nails to fasten them with.  We were, indeed, much perplexed here; but
Jack at length devised an instrument that served very well.  He took the
remainder of our hoop-iron and beat it into the form of a pipe or
cylinder, about as thick as a man's finger.  This he did by means of our
axe and the old rusty axe we had found at the house of the poor man at
the other side of the island.  This, when made red hot, bored slowly
though the timbers; and, the better to retain the heat, Jack shut up one
end of it and filled it with sand.  True, the work was very slowly done,
but it mattered not--we had little else to do.  Two holes were bored in
each timber, about an inch and a half apart, and also down into the keel,
but not quite through.  Into these were placed stout pegs made of a tree
called iron-wood; and, when they were hammered well home, the timbers
were as firmly fixed as if they had been nailed with iron.  The gunwales,
which were very stout, were fixed in a similar manner.  But, besides the
wooden nails, they were firmly lashed to the stem and stern posts and
ribs by means of a species of cordage which we had contrived to make out
of the fibrous husk of the cocoa nut.  This husk was very tough, and when
a number of the threads were joined together they formed excellent
cordage.  At first we tied the different lengths together, but this was
such a clumsy and awkward complication of knots, that we contrived, by
careful interlacing of the ends together before twisting, to make good
cordage of any size or length we chose.  Of course it cost us much time
and infinite labour, but Jack kept up our spirits when we grew weary, and
so all that we required was at last constructed.

Planks were now cut off the chestnut trees of about an inch thick.  These
were dressed with the axe,--but clumsily, for an axe is ill adapted for
such work.  Five of these planks on each side were sufficient, and we
formed the boat in a very rounded, barrel-like shape, in order to have as
little twisting of the planks as possible; for, although we could easily
bend them, we could not easily twist them.  Having no nails to rivet the
planks with, we threw aside the ordinary fashion of boat building and
adopted one of our own.  The planks were therefore placed on each other's
edges, and sewed together with the tough cordage already mentioned.  They
were also thus sewed to the stem, the stern, and the keel.  Each stitch
or tie was six inches apart, and was formed thus: Three holes were bored
in the upper plank and three in the lower,--the holes being above each
other, that is, in a vertical line.  Through these holes the cord was
passed, and, when tied, formed a powerful stitch of three ply.  Besides
this, we placed between the edges of the planks, layers of cocoa-nut
fibre, which, as it swelled when wetted, would, we hoped, make our little
vessel water-tight.  But in order further to secure this end, we
collected a large quantity of pitch from the bread-fruit tree, with
which, when boiled in our old iron pot, we payed the whole of the inside
of the boat, and, while it was yet hot, placed large pieces of cocoa-nut
cloth on it, and then gave it another coat above that.  Thus the interior
was covered with a tough water-tight material; while the exterior, being
uncovered, and so exposed to the swelling action of the water, was we
hoped, likely to keep the boat quite dry.  I may add that our hopes were
not disappointed.

While Jack was thus engaged, Peterkin and I sometimes assisted him, but,
as our assistance was not much required, we more frequently went
a-hunting on the extensive mud-flats at the entrance of the long valley
which lay nearest to our bower.  Here we found large flocks of ducks of
various kinds, some of them bearing so much resemblance to the wild ducks
of our own country that I think they must have been the same.  On these
occasions we took the bow and the sling, with both of which we were often
successful, though I must confess I was the least so.  Our suppers were
thus pleasantly varied, and sometimes we had such a profusion spread out
before us that we frequently knew not with which of the dainties to
begin.

I must also add, that the poor old cat which we had brought home had
always a liberal share of our good things, and so well was it looked
after, especially by Peterkin, that it recovered much of its former
strength, and seemed to improve in sight as well as hearing.

{Leaving for the "mud-flats": p175.jpg}

The large flat stone, or rock of coral, which stood just in front of the
entrance to our bower, was our table.  On this rock we had spread out the
few articles we possessed the day we were shipwrecked; and on the same
rock, during many a day afterwards, we spread out the bountiful supply
with which we had been blessed on our Coral Island.  Sometimes we sat
down at this table to a feast consisting of hot rolls,--as Peterkin
called the newly baked bread fruit,--a roast pig, roast duck, boiled and
roasted yams, cocoa nuts, taro, and sweet potatoes; which we followed up
with a dessert of plums, apples, and plantains,--the last being a large-
sized and delightful fruit, which grew on a large shrub or tree not more
than twelve feet high, with light-green leaves of enormous length and
breadth.  These luxurious feasts were usually washed down with cocoa-nut
lemonade.

Occasionally Peterkin tried to devise some new dish,--"a conglomerate,"
as he used to say; but these generally turned out such atrocious
compounds that he was ultimately induced to give up his attempts in
extreme disgust.  Not forgetting, however, to point out to Jack that his
failure was a direct contradiction to the proverb which he, Jack, was
constantly thrusting down his throat, namely, that "where there's a will
there's a way."  For he had a great will to become a cook, but could by
no means find a way to accomplish that end.

One day, while Peterkin and I were seated beside our table on which
dinner was spread, Jack came up from the beach, and, flinging down his
axe, exclaimed,--

"There, lads, the boat's finished at last! so we've nothing to do now but
shape two pair of oars, and then we may put to sea as soon as we like."

This piece of news threw us into a state of great joy; for although we
were aware that the boat had been gradually getting near its completion,
it had taken so long that we did not expect it to be quite ready for at
least two or three weeks.  But Jack had wrought hard and said nothing, in
order to surprise us.

"My dear fellow," cried Peterkin, "you're a perfect trump.  But why did
you not tell us it was so nearly ready? won't we have a jolly sail to-
morrow? eh?"

"Don't talk so much, Peterkin," said Jack; "and, pray, hand me a bit of
that pig."

"Certainly, my dear," cried Peterkin, seizing the axe; "what part will
you have? a leg, or a wing, or a piece of the breast; which?"

"A hind leg, if you please," answered Jack; "and, pray, be so good as to
include the tail."

"With all my heart," said Peterkin, exchanging the axe for his hoop-iron
knife, with which he cut off the desired portion.  "I'm only too glad, my
dear boy, to see that your appetite is so wholesale; and there's no
chance whatever of its dwindling down into re-tail again, at least in so
far as this pig is concerned.  Ralph, lad, why don't you laugh?--eh?" he
added turning suddenly to me with a severe look of inquiry.

"Laugh?" said I; "what at, Peterkin? why should I laugh?"

Both Jack and Peterkin answered this inquiry by themselves laughing so
immoderately that I was induced to believe I had missed noticing some
good joke, so I begged that it might be explained to me; but as this only
produced repeated roars of laughter, I smiled and helped myself to
another slice of plantain.

"Well, but," continued Peterkin, "I was talking of a sail to-morrow.
Can't we have one, Jack?"

"No," replied Jack, "we can't have a sail, but I hope we shall have a
row, as I intend to work hard at the oars this afternoon, and, if we
can't get them finished by sunset we'll light our candle-nuts, and turn
them out of hands before we turn into bed."

"Very good," said Peterkin, tossing a lump of pork to the cat, who
received it with a mew of satisfaction.  "I'll help you, if I can."

"Afterwards," continued Jack, "we will make a sail out of the cocoa-nut
cloth, and rig up a mast, and then we shall be able to sail to some of
the other islands, and visit our old friends the penguins."

The prospect of being so soon in a position to extend our observations to
the other islands, and enjoy a sail over the beautiful sea, afforded us
much delight, and, after dinner, we set about making the oars in good
earnest.  Jack went into the woods and blocked them roughly out with the
axe, and I smoothed them down with the knife, while Peterkin remained in
the bower, spinning, or, rather, twisting some strong thick cordage with
which to fasten them to the boat.

We worked hard and rapidly, so that, when the sun went down, Jack and I
returned to the bower with four stout oars, which required little to be
done to them save a slight degree of polishing with the knife.  As we
drew near we were suddenly arrested by the sound of a voice!  We were not
a little surprised at this--indeed I may almost say alarmed--for,
although Peterkin was undoubtedly fond of talking, we had never, up to
this time, found him talking to himself.  We listened intently, and still
heard the sound of a voice as if in conversation.  Jack motioned me to be
silent, and, advancing to the bower on tip-toe, we peeped in.

The sight that met our gaze was certainly not a little amusing.  On the
top of a log which we sometimes used as a table, sat the black cat, with
a very demure expression on its countenance; and in front of it, sitting
on the ground, with his legs extended on either side of the log, was
Peterkin.  At the moment we saw him he was gazing intently into the cat's
face, with his nose about four inches from it,--his hands being thrust
into his breeches pockets.

"Cat," said Peterkin, turning his head a little on one side, "I love
you!"

There was a pause, as if Peterkin awaited a reply to this affectionate
declaration but the cat said nothing.

"Do you hear me?" cried Peterkin, sharply.  "I love you--I do.  Don't you
love me?"

To this touching appeal the cat said "Mew," faintly.

"Ah! that's right.  You're a jolly old rascal.  Why did you not speak at
once? eh?" and Peterkin put forward his mouth and kissed the cat on the
nose!

"Yes," continued Peterkin, after a pause, "I love you.  D'you think I'd
say so if I didn't, you black villain?  I love you because I've got to
take care of you, and to look after you, and to think about you, and to
see that you don't die--"

"Mew, me-a-w!" said the cat.

"Very good," continued Peterkin, "quite true, I have no doubt; but you've
no right to interrupt me, sir.  Hold your tongue till I have done
speaking.  Moreover, cat, I love you because you came to me the first
time you ever saw me, and didn't seem to be afraid, and appeared to be
fond of me, though you didn't know that I wasn't going to kill you.  Now,
that was brave, that was bold, and very jolly, old boy, and I love you
for it--I do!"

Again there was a pause of a few minutes, during which the cat looked
placid, and Peterkin dropped his eyes upon its toes as if in
contemplation.  Suddenly he looked up.

"Well, cat, what are you thinking about now? won't speak? eh?  Now, tell
me; don't you think it's a monstrous shame that these two scoundrels,
Jack and Ralph, should keep us waiting for our supper so long?"

Here the cat arose, put up its back and stretched itself; yawned
slightly, and licked the point of Peterkin's nose!

"Just so, old boy, you're a clever fellow,--I really do believe the brute
understands me!" said Peterkin, while a broad grin overspread his face,
as he drew back and surveyed the cat.

At this point Jack burst into a loud fit of laughter.  The cat uttered an
angry fuff and fled, while Peterkin sprang up and exclaimed,--

"Bad luck to you, Jack! you've nearly made the heart jump out of my body,
you have."

"Perhaps I have," replied Jack, laughing, as we entered the bower, "but,
as I don't intend to keep you or the cat any longer from your supper, I
hope that you'll both forgive me."

Peterkin endeavoured to turn this affair off with a laugh, but I observed
that he blushed very deeply at the time we discovered ourselves, and he
did not seem to relish any allusion to the subject afterwards; so we
refrained from remarking on it ever after,--though it tickled us not a
little at the time.

After supper we retired to rest and to dream of wonderful adventures in
our little boat, and distant voyages upon the sea.



CHAPTER XVI.


The boat launched--We visit the coral reef--The great breaker that never
goes down--Coral insects--The way in which coral islands are made--The
boat's sail--We tax our ingenuity to form fish-hooks--Some of the fish we
saw--And a monstrous whale--Wonderful shower of little fish--Water-spouts.

It was a bright, clear, beautiful morning, when we first launched our
little boat and rowed out upon the placid waters of the lagoon.  Not a
breath of wind ruffled the surface of the deep.  Not a cloud spotted the
deep blue sky.  Not a sound that was discordant broke the stillness of
the morning, although there were many sounds, sweet, tiny, and melodious,
that mingled in the universal harmony of nature.  The sun was just rising
from the Pacific's ample bosom and tipping the mountain tops with a red
glow.  The sea was shining like a sheet of glass, yet heaving with the
long deep swell that, all the world round, indicates the life of ocean;
and the bright sea-weeds and the brilliant corals shone in the depths of
that pellucid water, as we rowed over it, like rare and precious gems.
Oh! it was a sight fitted to stir the soul of man to its profoundest
depths, and, if he owned a heart at all, to lift that heart in adoration
and gratitude to the great Creator of this magnificent and glorious
universe.

At first, in the strength of our delight, we rowed hither and thither
without aim or object.  But after the effervescence of our spirits was
abated, we began to look about us and to consider what we should do.

"I vote that we row to the reef," cried Peterkin.

"And I vote that we visit the islands within the lagoon," said I.

"And I vote we do both," cried Jack, "so pull away, boys."

As I have already said, we had made four oars, but our boat was so small
that only two were necessary.  The extra pair were reserved in case any
accident should happen to the others.  It was therefore only needful that
two of us should row, while the third steered, by means of an oar, and
relieved the rowers occasionally.

First we landed on one of the small islands and ran all over it, but saw
nothing worthy of particular notice.  Then we landed on a larger island,
on which were growing a few cocoa-nut trees.  Not having eaten anything
that morning, we gathered a few of the nuts and breakfasted.  After this
we pulled straight out to sea and landed on the coral reef.

This was indeed a novel and interesting sight to us.  We had now been so
long on shore that we had almost forgotten the appearance of breakers,
for there were none within the lagoon; but now, as we stood beside the
foam-crested billow of the open sea, all the enthusiasm of the sailor was
awakened in our breasts; and, as we gazed on the wide-spread ruin of that
single magnificent breaker that burst in thunder at our feet, we forgot
the Coral Island behind us; we forgot our bower and the calm repose of
the scented woods; we forgot all that had passed during the last few
months, and remembered nothing but the storms, the calms, the fresh
breezes and the surging billows of the open sea.

This huge, ceaseless breaker, to which I have so often alluded, was a
much larger and more sublime object than we had at all imagined it to be.
It rose many yards above the level of the sea, and could be seen
approaching at some distance from the reef.  Slowly and majestically it
came on, acquiring greater volume and velocity as it advanced, until it
assumed the form of a clear watery arch, which sparkled in the bright
sun.  On it came with resistless and solemn majesty,--the upper edge
lipped gently over, and it fell with a roar that seemed as though the
heart of Ocean were broken in the crash of tumultuous water, while the
foam-clad coral reef appeared to tremble beneath the mighty shock!

We gazed long and wonderingly at this great sight, and it was with
difficulty we could tear ourselves away from it.  As I have once before
mentioned, this wave broke in many places over the reef and scattered
some of its spray into the lagoon, but in most places the reef was
sufficiently broad and elevated to receive and check its entire force.  In
many places the coral rocks were covered with vegetation,--the beginning,
as it appeared to us, of future islands.  Thus, on this reef, we came to
perceive how most of the small islands of those seas are formed.  On one
part we saw the spray of the breaker washing over the rocks, and millions
of little, active, busy creatures continuing the work of building up this
living rampart.  At another place, which was just a little too high for
the waves to wash over it, the coral insects were all dead; for we found
that they never did their work above water.  They had faithfully
completed the mighty work which their Creator had given them to do, and
they were now all dead.  Again, in other spots the ceaseless lashing of
the sea had broken the dead coral in pieces, and cast it up in the form
of sand.  Here sea-birds had alighted, little pieces of sea-weed and
stray bits of wood had been washed up, seeds of plants had been carried
by the wind and a few lovely blades of bright green had already sprung
up, which, when they died, would increase the size and fertility of these
emeralds of Ocean.  At other places these islets had grown apace, and
were shaded by one or two cocoa-nut trees, which grew, literally, in the
sand, and were constantly washed by the ocean spray; yet, as I have
before remarked, their fruit was most refreshing and sweet to our taste.

Again at this time Jack and I pondered the formation of the large coral
islands.  We could now understand how the low ones were formed, but the
larger islands cost us much consideration, yet we could arrive at no
certain conclusion on the subject.

Having satisfied our curiosity and enjoyed ourselves during the whole
day, in our little boat, we returned, somewhat wearied, and, withal,
rather hungry, to our bower.

"Now," said Jack, "as our boat answers so well, we will get a mast and
sail made immediately."

"So we will," cried Peterkin, as we all assisted to drag the boat above
high-water mark; "we'll light our candle and set about it this very
night.  Hurrah, my boys, pull away!"

As we dragged our boat, we observed that she grated heavily on her keel;
and, as the sands were in this place mingled with broken coral rocks, we
saw portions of the wood being scraped off.

"Hallo!" cried Jack, on seeing this.  "That won't do.  Our keel will be
worn off in no time at this rate."

"So it will," said I, pondering deeply as to how this might be prevented.
But I am not of a mechanical turn, naturally, so I could conceive no
remedy save that of putting a plate of iron on the keel, but as we had no
iron I knew not what was to be done.  "It seems to me, Jack," I added,
"that it is impossible to prevent the keel being worn off thus."

"Impossible!" cried Peterkin, "my dear Ralph, you are mistaken, there is
nothing so easy--"

"How?" I inquired, in some surprise.

"Why, by not using the boat at all!" replied Peterkin.

"Hold your impudent tongue, Peterkin," said Jack, as he shouldered the
oars, "come along with me and I'll give you work to do.  In the first
place, you will go and collect cocoa-nut fibre, and set to work to make
sewing twine with it--"

"Please, captain," interrupted Peterkin, "I've got lots of it made
already,--more than enough, as a little friend of mine used to be in the
habit of saying every day after dinner."

"Very well," continued Jack; "then you'll help Ralph to collect cocoa-nut
cloth, and cut it into shape, after which we'll make a sail of it.  I'll
see to getting the mast and the gearing; so let's to work."

And to work we went right busily, so that in three days from that time we
had set up a mast and sail, with the necessary rigging, in our little
boat.  The sail was not, indeed, very handsome to look at, as it was
formed of a number of oblong patches of cloth; but we had sewed it well
by means of our sail-needle, so that it was strong, which was the chief
point.  Jack had also overcome the difficulty about the keel, by pinning
to it a _false_ keel.  This was a piece of tough wood, of the same length
and width as the real keel, and about five inches deep.  He made it of
this depth because the boat would be thereby rendered not only much more
safe, but more able to beat against the wind; which, in a sea where the
trade-winds blow so long and so steadily in one direction, was a matter
of great importance.  This piece of wood was pegged very firmly to the
keel; and we now launched our boat with the satisfaction of knowing that
when the false keel should be scraped off we could easily put on another;
whereas, should the real keel have been scraped away, we could not have
renewed it without taking our boat to pieces, which Peterkin said made
his "marrow quake to think upon."

The mast and sail answered excellently; and we now sailed about in the
lagoon with great delight, and examined with much interest the appearance
of our island from a distance.  Also, we gazed into the depths of the
water, and watched for hours the gambols of the curious and
bright-coloured fish among the corals and sea-weed.  Peterkin also made a
fishing line, and Jack constructed a number of hooks, some of which were
very good, others remarkably bad.  Some of these hooks were made of iron-
wood, which did pretty well, the wood being extremely hard, and Jack made
them very thick and large.  Fish there are not particular.  Some of the
crooked bones in fish-heads also answered for this purpose pretty well.
But that which formed our best and most serviceable hook was the brass
finger-ring belonging to Jack.  It gave him not a little trouble to
manufacture it.  First he cut it with the axe; then twisted it into the
form of a hook.  The barb took him several hours to cut.  He did it by
means of constant sawing with the broken pen-knife.  As for the point, an
hour's rubbing on a piece of sandstone made an excellent one.

It would be a matter of much time and labour to describe the appearance
of the multitudes of fish that were day after day drawn into our boat by
means of the brass hook.  Peterkin always caught them,--for we observed
that he derived much pleasure from fishing,--while Jack and I found ample
amusement in looking on, also in gazing down at the coral groves, and in
baiting the hook.  Among the fish that we saw, but did not catch, were
porpoises and sword-fish, whales and sharks.  The porpoises came
frequently into our lagoon in shoals, and amused us not a little by their
bold leaps into the air, and their playful gambols in the sea.  The sword-
fish were wonderful creatures; some of them apparently ten feet in
length, with an ivory spear, six or eight feet long, projecting from
their noses.  We often saw them darting after other fish, and no doubt
they sometimes killed them with their ivory swords.  Jack remembered
having heard once of a sword-fish attacking a ship,--which seemed strange
indeed; but, as they are often in the habit of attacking whales, perhaps
it mistook the ship for one.  This sword-fish ran against the vessel with
such force, that it drove its sword quite through the thick planks; and
when the ship arrived in harbour, long afterwards, the sword was found
still sticking in it!

Sharks did not often appear; but we took care never again to bathe in
deep water without leaving one of our number in the boat to give us
warning, if he should see a shark approaching.  As for the whales, they
never came into our lagoon, but we frequently saw them spouting in the
deep water beyond the reef.  I shall never forget my surprise the first
day I saw one of these huge monsters close to me.  We had been rambling
about on the reef during the morning, and were about to re-embark in our
little boat, to return home, when a loud blowing sound caused us to wheel
rapidly round.  We were just in time to see a shower of spray falling,
and the flukes or tail of some monstrous fish disappear in the sea a few
hundred yards off.  We waited some time to see if he would rise again.  As
we stood, the sea seemed to open up at our very feet; an immense spout of
water was sent with a snort high into the air, and the huge blunt head of
a sperm whale arose before us.  It was so large that it could easily have
taken our little boat, along with ourselves, into its mouth!  It plunged
slowly back into the sea, like a large ship foundering, and struck the
water with its tail so forcibly as to cause a sound like a cannon shot.
We also saw a great number of flying fish, although we caught none; and
we noticed that they never flew out of the water except when followed by
their bitter foe, the dolphin, from whom they thus endeavoured to escape.
But of all the fish that we saw, none surprised us so much as those that
we used to find in shallow pools after a shower of rain; and this not on
account of their appearance, for they were ordinary-looking and very
small, but on account of their having descended in a shower of rain!  We
could account for them in no other way, because the pools in which we
found these fish were quite dry before the shower, and at some distance
above high-water mark.  Jack, however, suggested a cause which seemed to
me very probable.  We used often to see water-spouts in the sea.  A water-
spout is a whirling body of water, which rises from the sea like a sharp-
pointed pillar.  After rising a good way, it is met by a long tongue,
which comes down from the clouds; and when the two have joined, they look
something like an hour-glass.  The water-spout is then carried by the
wind, sometimes gently, sometimes with violence, over the sea, sometimes
up into the clouds, and then, bursting asunder, it descends in a deluge.
This often happens over the land as well as over the sea; and it
sometimes does much damage, but frequently it passes gently away.  Now,
Jack thought that the little fish might perhaps have been carried up in a
water-spout, and so sent down again in a shower of rain.  But we could
not be certain as to this point; yet we thought it likely.

During these delightful fishing and boating excursions we caught a good
many eels, which we found to be very good to eat.  We also found turtles
among the coral rocks, and made excellent soup in our iron kettle.
Moreover, we discovered many shrimps and prawns, so that we had no lack
of variety in our food; and, indeed, we never passed a week without
making some new and interesting discovery of some sort or other, either
on the land or in the sea.



CHAPTER XVII.


A monster wave and its consequences--The boat lost and found--Peterkin's
terrible accident--Supplies of food for a voyage in the boat--We visit
Penguin Island, and are amazed beyond measure--Account of the penguins.

One day, not long after our little boat was finished, we were sitting on
the rocks at Spouting Cliff, and talking of an excursion which we
intended to make to Penguin Island the next day.

"You see," said Peterkin, "it might be all very well for a stupid fellow
like me to remain here and leave the penguins alone, but it would be
quite inconsistent with your characters as philosophers to remain any
longer in ignorance of the habits and customs of these birds; so the
sooner we go the better."

"Very true," said I; "there is nothing I desire so much as to have a
closer inspection of them."

"And I think," said Jack, "that you had better remain at home, Peterkin,
to take care of the cat; for I'm sure the hogs will be at it in your
absence, out of revenge for your killing their great-grandmother so
recklessly."

"Stay at home?" cried Peterkin; "my dear fellow, you would certainly lose
your way, or get upset, if I were not there to take care of you."

"Ah, true," said Jack, gravely, "that did not occur to me; no doubt you
must go.  Our boat does require a good deal of ballast; and all that you
say, Peterkin, carries so much weight with it, that we won't need stones
if you go."

Now, while my companions were talking, a notable event occurred, which,
as it is not generally known, I shall be particular in recording here.

While we were talking, as I have said, we noticed a dark line, like a low
cloud or fog-bank, on the seaward horizon.  The day was a fine one,
though cloudy, and a gentle breeze was blowing, but the sea was not
rougher, or the breaker on the reef higher, than usual.  At first we
thought that this looked like a thunder-cloud; and, as we had had a good
deal of broken weather of late, accompanied by occasional peals of
thunder, we supposed that a storm must be approaching.  Gradually,
however, this line seemed to draw nearer, without spreading up over the
sky, as would certainly have been the case if it had been a storm-cloud.
Still nearer it came, and soon we saw that it was moving swiftly towards
the island; but there was no sound till it reached the islands out at
sea.  As it passed these islands, we observed, with no little anxiety,
that a cloud of white foam encircled them, and burst in spray into the
air: it was accompanied by a loud roar.  This led us to conjecture that
the approaching object was an enormous wave of the sea; but we had no
idea how large it was till it came near to ourselves.  When it approached
the outer reef, however, we were awe-struck with its unusual magnitude;
and we sprang to our feet, and clambered hastily up to the highest point
of the precipice, under an indefinable feeling of fear.

I have said before that the reef opposite Spouting Cliff was very near to
the shore, while, just in front of the bower, it was at a considerable
distance out to sea.  Owing to this formation, the wave reached the reef
at the latter point before it struck at the foot of Spouting Cliff.  The
instant it touched the reef we became aware, for the first time, of its
awful magnitude.  It burst completely over the reef at all points, with a
roar that seemed louder to me than thunder; and this roar continued for
some seconds, while the wave rolled gradually along towards the cliff on
which we stood.  As its crest reared before us, we felt that we were in
great danger, and turned to flee; but we were too late.  With a crash
that seemed to shake the solid rocks the gigantic billow fell, and
instantly the spouting-holes sent up a gush of water-spouts with such
force that they shrieked on issuing from their narrow vents.  It seemed
to us as if the earth had been blown up with water.  We were stunned and
confused by the shock, and so drenched and blinded with spray, that we
knew not for a few moments whither to flee for shelter.  At length we all
three gained an eminence beyond the reach of the water; but what a scene
of devastation met our gaze as we looked along the shore!  This enormous
wave not only burst over the reef, but continued its way across the
lagoon, and fell on the sandy beach of the island with such force that
passed completely over it and dashed into the woods, levelling the
smaller trees and bushes in its headlong course!

On seeing this, Jack said he feared our bower must have been swept away,
and that the boat, which was on the beach, must have been utterly
destroyed.  Our hearts sank within us as we thought of this, and we
hastened round through the woods towards our home.  On reaching it we
found, to our great relief of mind, that the force of the wave had been
expended just before reaching the bower; but the entrance to it was
almost blocked up by the torn-up bushes and tangled heaps of sea-weed.
Having satisfied ourselves as to the bower, we hurried to the spot where
the boat had been left; but no boat was there!  The spot on which it had
stood was vacant, and no sign of it could we see on looking around us.

"It may have been washed up into the woods," said Jack, hurrying up the
beach as he spoke.  Still, no boat was to be seen, and we were about to
give ourselves over to despair, when Peterkin called to Jack and said,--

"Jack, my friend, you were once so exceedingly sagacious and wise as to
make me acquainted with the fact that cocoa nuts grow upon trees; will
you now be so good as to inform me what sort of fruit that is growing on
the top of yonder bush? for I confess to being ignorant, or, at least,
doubtful on the point."

We looked towards the bush indicated, and there, to our surprise, beheld
our little boat snugly nestled among the leaves!  We were very much
overjoyed at this, for we would have suffered any loss rather than the
loss of our boat.  We found that the wave had actually borne the boat on
its crest from the beach into the woods, and there launched it into the
heart of this bush; which was extremely fortunate, for had it been tossed
against a rock or a tree, it would have been dashed to pieces, whereas it
had not received the smallest injury.  It was no easy matter, however, to
get it out of the bush and down to the sea again.  This cost us two days
of hard labour to accomplish.

We had also much ado to clear away the rubbish from before the bower, and
spent nearly a week in constant labour ere we got the neighbourhood to
look as clean and orderly as before; for the uprooted bushes and sea-weed
that lay on the beach formed a more dreadfully confused-looking mass than
one who had not seen the place after the inundation could conceive.

Before leaving the subject I may mention, for the sake of those who
interest themselves in the curious natural phenomena of our world, that
this gigantic wave occurs regularly on some of the islands of the
Pacific, once, and sometimes twice in the year.  I heard this stated by
the missionaries during my career in those seas.  They could not tell me
whether it visited all of the islands, but I was certainly assured that
it occurred periodically in some of them.

After we had got our home put to rights and cleared of the _debris_ of
the inundation, we again turned our thoughts to paying the penguins a
visit.  The boat was therefore overhauled and a few repairs done.  Then
we prepared a supply of provisions, for we intended to be absent at least
a night or two, perhaps longer.  This took us some time to do, for while
Jack was busy with the boat, Peterkin was sent into the woods to spear a
hog or two, and had to search long, sometimes, ere he found them.
Peterkin was usually sent on this errand, when we wanted a pork chop
(which was not seldom), because he was so active, and could run so
wonderfully fast that he found no difficulty in overtaking the hogs; but,
being dreadfully reckless, he almost invariably tumbled over stumps and
stones in the course of his wild chase, and seldom returned home without
having knocked the skin off his shins.  Once, indeed, a more serious
accident happened to him.  He had been out all morning alone and did not
return at the usual time to dinner.  We wondered at this, for Peterkin
was always very punctual at the dinner hour.  As supper-time drew near we
began to be anxious about him, and at length sallied forth to search the
woods.  For a long time we sought in vain, but a little before dark we
came upon the tracks of the hogs, which we followed up until we came to
the brow of a rather steep bank or precipice.  Looking over this we
beheld Peterkin lying in a state of insensibility at the foot, with his
cheek resting on the snout of a little pig, which was pinned to the earth
by the spear!  We were dreadfully alarmed, but hastened to bathe his
forehead with water, and had soon the satisfaction of seeing him revive.
After we had carried him home he related to as how the thing had
happened.

"You must know," said he, "I walked about all the forenoon, till I was as
tired as an old donkey, without seeing a single grunter, not so much as a
track of one; but, as I was determined not to return empty-handed, I
resolved to go without my dinner and--"

"What!" exclaimed Jack, "did you _really_ resolve to do that?"

"Now, Jack, hold your tongue," returned Peterkin; "I say that I resolved
to forego my dinner and to push to the head of the small valley, where I
felt pretty sure of discovering the hogs.  I soon found that I was on the
right scent, for I had scarcely walked half a mile in the direction of
the small plum tree we found there the other day, when a squeak fell on
my ear.  'Ho, ho,' said I, 'there you go, my boys;' and I hurried up the
glen.  I soon started them, and singling out a fat pig, ran tilt at him.
In a few seconds I was up with him, and stuck my spear right through his
dumpy body.  Just as I did so, I saw that we were on the edge of a
precipice, whether high or low I knew not, but I had been running at such
a pace that I could not stop, so the pig and I gave a howl in concert and
went plunging over together.  I remembered nothing more after that, till
I came to my senses and found you bathing my temples, and Ralph wringing
his hands over me."

But although Peterkin was often unfortunate, in the way of getting
tumbles, he was successful on the present occasion in hunting, and
returned before evening with three very nice little hogs.  I, also, was
successful in my visit to the mud-flats, where I killed several ducks.  So
that, when we launched and loaded our boat at sunrise the following
morning, we found our store of provisions to be more than sufficient.
Part had been cooked the night before, and, on taking note of the
different items, we found the account to stand thus:--

10 Bread-fruits, (two baked, eight unbaked.)
20 Yams, (six roasted, the rest raw.)
6 Taro roots.
50 Fine large plums.
6 Cocoa nuts, ripe.
6 Ditto green, (for drinking.)
4 Large ducks and two small ones, raw.
3 Cold roast pigs, with stuffing.

I may here remark that the stuffing had been devised by Peterkin
specially for the occasion.  He kept the manner of its compounding a
profound secret, so I cannot tell what it was; but I can say, with much
confidence, that we found it to be atrociously bad, and, after the first
tasting, scraped it carefully out and threw it overboard.  We calculated
that this supply would last us for several days, but we afterwards found
that it was much more than we required, especially in regard to the cocoa
nuts, of which we found large supplies wherever we went.  However, as
Peterkin remarked, it was better to have too much than too little, as we
knew not to what straits we might be put during our voyage.

It was a very calm sunny morning when we launched forth and rowed over
the lagoon towards the outlet in the reef, and passed between the two
green islets that guard the entrance.  We experienced some difficulty and
no little danger in passing the surf of the breaker, and shipped a good
deal of water in the attempt; but, once past the billow, we found
ourselves floating placidly on the long oily swell that rose and fell
slowly as it rolled over the wide ocean.

Penguin Island lay on the other side of our own island, at about a mile
beyond the outer reef, and we calculated that it must be at least twenty
miles distant by the way we should have to go.  We might, indeed, have
shortened the way by coasting round our island inside of the lagoon, and
going out at the passage in the reef nearly opposite to Penguin Island,
but we preferred to go by the open sea; first, because it was more
adventurous; and, secondly, because we should have the pleasure of again
feeling the motion of the deep, which we all loved very much, not being
liable to sea sickness.

"I wish we had a breeze," said Jack.

"So do I," cried Peterkin, resting on his oar and wiping his heated brow;
"pulling is hard work.  Oh dear, if we could only catch a hundred or two
of these gulls, tie them to the boat with long strings, and make them fly
as we want them, how capital it would be!"

"Or bore a hole through a shark's tail, and reeve a rope through it, eh?"
remarked Jack.  "But, I say, it seems that my wish is going to be
granted, for here comes a breeze.  Ship your oar, Peterkin.  Up with the
mast, Ralph; I'll see to the sail.  Mind your helm; look out for
squalls!"

This last speech was caused by the sudden appearance of a dark blue line
on the horizon, which, in an incredibly short space of time, swept down
on us, lashing up the sea in white foam as it went.  We presented the
stern of the boat to its first violence, and, in a few seconds, it
moderated into a steady breeze, to which we spread our sail and flew
merrily over the waves.  Although the breeze died away soon afterwards,
it had been so stiff while it lasted, that we were carried over the
greater part of our way before it fell calm again; so that, when the
flapping of the sail against the mast told us that it was time to resume
the oars, we were not much more than a mile from Penguin Island.

"There go the soldiers!" cried Peterkin as we came in sight of it; "how
spruce their white trousers look, this morning!  I wonder if they will
receive us kindly.  D'you think they are hospitable, Jack?"

"Don't talk, Peterkin, but pull away, and you shall see shortly."

As we drew near to the island we were much amused by the manoeuvres and
appearance of these strange birds.  They seemed to be of different
species, for some had crests on their heads while others had none, and
while some were about the size of a goose others appeared nearly as large
as a swan.  We also saw a huge albatross soaring above the heads of the
penguins.  It was followed and surrounded by numerous flocks of
sea-gulls.  Having approached to within a few yards of the island, which
was a low rock, with no other vegetation on it than a few bushes, we lay
on our oars and gazed at the birds with surprise and pleasure, they
returning our gaze with interest.  We now saw that their soldier-like
appearance was owing to the stiff, erect manner in which they sat on
their short legs,--"Bolt-up-right," as Peterkin expressed it.  They had
black heads, long sharp beaks, white breasts, and bluish backs.  Their
wings were so short that they looked more like the fins of a fish, and,
indeed, we soon saw that they used them for the purpose of swimming under
water.  There were no quills on these wings, but a sort of scaly
feathers; which also thickly covered their bodies.  Their legs were
short, and placed so far back that the birds, while on land, were obliged
to stand quite upright in order to keep their balance; but in the water
they floated like other water-fowl.  At first we were so stunned with the
clamour which they and other sea-birds kept up around us, that we knew
not which way to look,--for they covered the rocks in thousands; but, as
we continued to gaze, we observed several quadrupeds (as we thought)
walking in the midst of the penguins.

"Pull in a bit," cried Peterkin, "and let's see what these are.  They
must be fond of noisy company, to consort with such creatures."

To our surprise we found that these were no other than penguins which had
gone down on all fours, and were crawling among the bushes on their feet
and wings, just like quadrupeds.  Suddenly one big old bird, that had
been sitting on a point very near to us, gazing in mute astonishment,
became alarmed, and, scuttling down the rocks, plumped or fell, rather
than ran, into the sea.  It dived in a moment, and, a few seconds
afterwards, came out of the water far a-head, with such a spring, and
such a dive back into the sea again, that we could scarcely believe it
was not a fish that had leaped in sport.

"That beats everything," said Peterkin, rubbing his nose, and screwing up
his face with an expression of exasperated amazement.  "I've heard of a
thing being neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, but I never did expect to live
to see a brute that was all three together,--at once--in one!  But look
there!" he continued, pointing with a look of resignation to the shore,
"look there! there's no end to it.  What _has_ that brute got under its
tail?"

We turned to look in the direction pointed out, and there saw a penguin
walking slowly and very sedately along the shore with an egg under its
tail.  There were several others, we observed, burdened in the same way;
and we found afterwards that these were a species of penguins that always
carried their eggs so.  Indeed, they had a most convenient cavity for the
purpose, just between the tail and the legs.  We were very much impressed
with the regularity and order of this colony.  The island seemed to be
apportioned out into squares, of which each penguin possessed one, and
sat in stiff solemnity in the middle of it, or took a slow march up and
down the spaces between.  Some were hatching their eggs, but others were
feeding their young ones in a manner that caused us to laugh not a
little.  The mother stood on a mound or raised rock, while the young one
stood patiently below her on the ground.  Suddenly the mother raised her
head and uttered a series of the most discordant cackling sounds.

"She's going to choke," cried Peterkin.

But this was not the case, although, I confess, she looked like it.  In a
few seconds she put down her head and opened her mouth, into which the
young one thrust its beak and seemed to suck something from her throat.
Then the cackling was renewed, the sucking continued, and so the
operation of feeding was carried on till the young one was satisfied; but
what she fed her little one with, we could not tell.

"Now, just look yonder!" said Peterkin, in an excited tone; "if that
isn't the most abominable piece of maternal deception I ever saw.  That
rascally old lady penguin has just pitched her young one into the sea,
and there's another about to follow her example."

This indeed seemed to be the cue, for, on the top of a steep rock close
to the edge of the sea, we observed an old penguin endeavouring to entice
her young one into the water; but the young one seemed very unwilling to
go, and, notwithstanding the enticements of its mother, moved very slowly
towards her.  At last she went gently behind the young bird and pushed it
a little towards the water, but with great tenderness, as much as to say,
'Don't be afraid, darling!  I won't hurt you, my pet!' but no sooner did
she get it to the edge of the rock, where it stood looking pensively down
at the sea, than she gave it a sudden and violent push, sending it
headlong down the slope into the water, where its mother left it to
scramble ashore as it best could.  We observed many of them employed in
doing this, and we came to the conclusion that this is the way in which
old penguins teach their children to swim.

Scarcely had we finished making our remarks on this, when we were
startled by about a dozen of the old birds hopping in the most clumsy and
ludicrous manner towards the sea.  The beach, here, was a sloping rock,
and when they came to it, some of them succeeded in hopping down in
safety, but others lost their balance and rolled and scrambled down the
slope in the most helpless manner.  The instant they reached the water,
however, they seemed to be in their proper element.  They dived and
bounded out of it and into it again with the utmost agility; and so,
diving and bounding and spluttering, for they could not fly, they went
rapidly out to sea.

On seeing this, Peterkin turned with a grave face to us and said, "It's
my opinion that these birds are all stark, staring mad, and that this is
an enchanted island.  I therefore propose that we should either put about
ship and fly in terror from the spot, or land valorously on the island,
and sell our lives as dearly as we can."

"I vote for landing, so pull in, lads," said Jack, giving a stroke with
his oar that made the boat spin.  In a few seconds we ran the boat into a
little creek where we made her fast to a projecting piece of coral, and,
running up the beach, entered the ranks of the penguins armed with our
cudgels and our spear.  We were greatly surprised to find that, instead
of attacking us or showing signs of fear at our approach, these curious
birds did not move from their places until we laid hands on them, and
merely turned their eyes on us in solemn, stupid wonder as we passed.
There was one old penguin, however, that began to walk slowly toward the
sea, and Peterkin took it into his head that he would try to interrupt
its progress, so he ran between it and the sea and brandished his cudgel
in its face.  But this proved to be a resolute old bird.  It would not
retreat; nay, more, it would not cease to advance, but battled with
Peterkin bravely and drove him before it until it reached the sea.  Had
Peterkin used his club he could easily have felled it, no doubt; but, as
he had no wish to do so cruel an act merely out of sport, he let the bird
escape.

We spent fully three hours on this island in watching the habits of these
curious birds, and, when we finally left them, we all three concluded,
after much consultation, that they were the most wonderful creatures we
had ever seen; and further, we thought it probable that they were the
most wonderful creatures in the world!



CHAPTER XVIII.


An awful storm and its consequences--Narrow escape--A rock proves a sure
foundation--A fearful night and a bright morning--Deliverance from
danger.

It was evening before we left the island of the penguins.  As we had made
up our minds to encamp for the night on a small island, whereon grew a
few cocoa-nut trees, which was about two miles off, we lay to our oars
with some energy.  But a danger was in store for us which we had not
anticipated.  The wind, which had carried us so quickly to Penguin
Island, freshened as evening drew on, to a stiff breeze, and, before we
had made half the distance to the small island, it became a regular gale.
Although it was not so directly against us as to prevent our rowing in
the course we wished to go, yet it checked us very much; and although the
force of the sea was somewhat broken by the island, the waves soon began
to rise, and to roll their broken crests against our small craft, so that
she began to take in water, and we had much ado to keep ourselves afloat.
At last the wind and sea together became so violent that we found it
impossible to make the island, so Jack suddenly put the head of the boat
round and ordered Peterkin and me to hoist a corner of the sail,
intending to run back to Penguin Island.

"We shall at least have the shelter of the bushes," he said, as the boat
flew before the wind, "and the penguins will keep us company."

As Jack spoke, the wind suddenly shifted, and blew so much against us
that we were forced to hoist more of the sail in order to beat up for the
island, being by this change thrown much to leeward of it.  What made
matters worse was, that the gale came in squalls, so that we were more
than once nearly upset.

"Stand by, both of you," cried Jack, in a quick, earnest tone; "be ready
to dowse the sail.  I very much fear we won't make the island after all."

Peterkin and I were so much in the habit of trusting everything to Jack
that we had fallen into the way of not considering things, especially
such things as were under Jack's care.  We had, therefore, never doubted
for a moment that all was going well, so that it was with no little
anxiety that we heard him make the above remark.  However, we had no time
for question or surmise, for, at the moment he spoke, a heavy squall was
bearing down upon us, and, as we were then flying with our lee gunwale
dipping occasionally under the waves, it was evident that we should have
to lower our sail altogether.  In a few seconds the squall struck the
boat, but Peterkin and I had the sail down in a moment, so that it did
not upset us; but, when it was past, we were more than half full of
water.  This I soon baled out, while Peterkin again hoisted a corner of
the sail; but the evil which Jack had feared came upon us.  We found it
quite impossible to make Penguin Island.  The gale carried us quickly
past it towards the open sea, and the terrible truth flashed upon us that
we should be swept out and left to perish miserably in a small boat in
the midst of the wide ocean.

This idea was forced very strongly upon us because we saw nothing in the
direction whither the wind was blowing us save the raging billows of the
sea; and, indeed, we trembled as we gazed around us, for we were now
beyond the shelter of the islands, and it seemed as though any of the
huge billows, which curled over in masses of foam, might swallow us up in
a moment.  The water, also, began to wash in over our sides, and I had to
keep constantly baling, for Jack could not quit the helm nor Peterkin the
sail for an instant, without endangering our lives.  In the midst of this
distress Jack uttered an exclamation of hope, and pointed towards a low
island or rock which lay directly ahead.  It had been hitherto
unobserved, owing to the dark clouds that obscured the sky and the
blinding spray that seemed to fill the whole atmosphere.

As we neared this rock we observed that it was quite destitute of trees
and verdure, and so low that the sea broke completely over it.  In fact
it was nothing more than the summit of one of the coral formations, which
rose only a few feet above the level of the water, and was, in stormy
weather, all but invisible.  Over this island the waves were breaking in
the utmost fury, and our hearts sank within us as we saw that there was
not a spot where we could thrust our little boat without its being dashed
to pieces.

"Show a little bit more sail," cried Jack, as we swept past the weather
side of the rock with fearful speed.

"Ay, ay," answered Peterkin, hoisting about a foot more of our sail.

Little though the addition was it caused the boat to lie over and creak
so loudly, as we cleft the foaming waves, that I expected to be upset
every instant; and I blamed Jack in my heart for his rashness.  But I did
him injustice, for, although during two seconds the water rushed in-board
in a torrent, he succeeded in steering us sharply round to the leeward
side of the rock, where the water was comparatively calm, and the force
of the breeze broken.

"Out your oars now, lads; that's well done.  Give way!"  We obeyed
instantly.  The oars splashed into the waves together.  One good hearty
pull, and we were floating in a comparatively calm creek that was so
narrow as to be barely able to admit our boat.  Here we were in perfect
safety, and, as we leaped on shore and fastened our cable to the rocks, I
thanked God in my heart for our deliverance from so great danger.  But,
although I have said we were now in safety, I suspect that few of my
readers would have envied our position.  It is true we had no lack of
food, but we were drenched to the skin; the sea was foaming round us and
the spray flying over our heads, so that we were completely enveloped, as
it were, in water; the spot on which we had landed was not more than
twelve yards in diameter, and from this spot we could not move without
the risk of being swept away by the storm.  At the upper end of the creek
was a small hollow or cave in the rock, which sheltered us from the fury
of the winds and waves; and as the rock extended in a sort of ledge over
our heads, it prevented the spray from falling upon us.

"Why," said Peterkin, beginning to feel cheery again, "it seems to me
that we have got into a mermaid's cave, for there is nothing but water
all round us; and as for earth or sky, they are things of the past."

Peterkin's idea was not inappropriate, for, what with the sea roaring in
white foam up to our very feet, and the spray flying in white sheets
continually over our heads, and the water dripping heavily from the ledge
above like a curtain in front of our cave, it did seem to us very much
more like being below than above water.

"Now, boys," cried Jack, "bestir yourselves, and let's make ourselves
comfortable.  Toss out our provisions, Peterkin; and here, Ralph, lend a
hand to haul up the boat.  Look sharp."

"Ay, ay, captain," we cried, as we hastened to obey, much cheered by the
hearty manner of our comrade.

Fortunately the cave, although not very deep, was quite dry, so that we
succeeded in making ourselves much more comfortable than could have been
expected.  We landed our provisions, wrung the water out of our garments,
spread our sail below us for a carpet, and, after having eaten a hearty
meal, began to feel quite cheerful.  But as night drew on, our spirits
sank again, for with the daylight all evidence of our security vanished
away.  We could no longer see the firm rock on which we lay, while we
were stunned with the violence of the tempest that raged around us.  The
night grew pitchy dark, as it advanced, so that we could not see our
hands when we held them up before our eyes, and were obliged to feel each
other occasionally to make sure that we were safe, for the storm at last
became so terrible that it was difficult to make our voices audible.  A
slight variation of the wind, as we supposed, caused a few drops of spray
ever and anon to blow into our faces; and the eddy of the sea, in its mad
boiling, washed up into our little creek until it reached our feet and
threatened to tear away our boat.  In order to prevent this latter
calamity, we hauled the boat farther up and held the cable in our hands.
Occasional flashes of lightning shone with a ghastly glare through the
watery curtains around us, and lent additional horror to the scene.  Yet
we longed for those dismal flashes, for they were less appalling than the
thick blackness that succeeded them.  Crashing peals of thunder seemed to
tear the skies in twain, and fell upon our ears through the wild yelling
of the hurricane as if it had been but a gentle summer breeze; while the
billows burst upon the weather side of the island until we fancied that
the solid rock was giving way, and, in our agony, we clung to the bare
ground, expecting every moment to be whirled away and whelmed in the
black howling sea!  Oh! it was a night of terrible anxiety, and no one
can conceive the feelings of intense gratitude and relief with which we
at last saw the dawn of day break through the vapory mists around us.

For three days and three nights we remained on this rock, while the storm
continued to rage with unabated fury.  On the morning of the fourth day
it suddenly ceased, and the wind fell altogether; but the waves still ran
so high that we did not dare to put off in our boat.  During the greater
part of this period we scarcely slept above a few minutes at a time, but
on the third night we slept soundly and awoke early on the fourth morning
to find the sea very much down, and the sun shining brightly again in the
clear blue sky.

It was with light hearts that we launched forth once more in our little
boat and steered away for our island home, which, we were overjoyed to
find, was quite visible on the horizon, for we had feared that we had
been blown out of sight of it altogether.  As it was a dead calm we had
to row during the greater part of the day; but towards the afternoon a
fair breeze sprang up, which enabled us to hoist our sail.  We soon
passed Penguin Island, and the other island which we had failed to reach
on the day the storm commenced; but as we had still enough of provisions,
and were anxious to get home, we did not land, to the great
disappointment of Peterkin, who seemed to entertain quite an affection
for the penguins.

Although the breeze was pretty fresh for several hours, we did not reach
the outer reef of our island till night-fall, and before we had sailed
more than a hundred yards into the lagoon, the wind died away altogether,
so that we had to take to our oars again.  It was late and the moon and
stars were shining brightly when we arrived opposite the bower and leaped
upon the strand.  So glad were we to be safe back again on our beloved
island, that we scarcely took time to drag the boat a short way up the
beach, and then ran up to see that all was right at the bower.  I must
confess, however, that my joy was mingled with a vague sort of fear lest
our home had been visited and destroyed during our absence; but on
reaching it we found everything just as it had been left, and the poor
black cat curled up, sound asleep, on the coral table in front of our
humble dwelling.



CHAPTER XIX.


Shoemaking--The even tenor of our way suddenly interrupted--An unexpected
visit and an appalling battle--We all become warriors, and Jack proves
himself be a hero.

For many months after this we continued to live on our island in
uninterrupted harmony and happiness.  Sometimes we went out a-fishing in
the lagoon, and sometimes went a-hunting in the woods, or ascended to the
mountain top, by way of variety, although Peterkin always asserted that
we went for the purpose of hailing any ship that might chance to heave in
sight.  But I am certain that none of us wished to be delivered from our
captivity, for we were extremely happy, and Peterkin used to say that as
we were very young we should not feel the loss of a year or two.
Peterkin, as I have said before, was thirteen years of age, Jack
eighteen, and I fifteen.  But Jack was very tall, strong, and manly for
his age, and might easily have been mistaken for twenty.

The climate was so beautiful that it seemed to be a perpetual summer, and
as many of the fruit-trees continued to bear fruit and blossom all the
year round, we never wanted for a plentiful supply of food.  The hogs,
too, seemed rather to increase than diminish, although Peterkin was very
frequent in his attacks on them with his spear.  If at any time we failed
in finding a drove, we had only to pay a visit to the plum-tree before
mentioned, where we always found a large family of them asleep under its
branches.

We employed ourselves very busily during this time in making various
garments of cocoa-nut cloth, as those with which we had landed were
beginning to be very ragged.  Peterkin also succeeded in making excellent
shoes out of the skin of the old hog, in the following manner:--He first
cut a piece of the hide, of an oblong form, a few inches longer than his
foot.  This he soaked in water, and, while it was wet, he sewed up one
end of it, so as to form a rough imitation of that part of the heel of a
shoe where the seam is.  This done, he bored a row of holes all round the
edge of the piece of skin, through which a tough line was passed.  Into
the sewed-up part of this shoe he thrust his heel, then, drawing the
string tight, the edges rose up and overlapped his foot all round.  It is
true there were a great many ill-looking puckers in these shoes, but we
found them very serviceable notwithstanding, and Jack came at last to
prefer them to his long boots.  We ago made various other useful
articles, which added to our comfort, and once or twice spoke of building
us a house, but we had so great an affection for the bower, and, withal,
found it so serviceable, that we determined not to leave it, nor to
attempt the building of a house, which, in such a climate, might turn out
to be rather disagreeable than useful.

We often examined the pistol that we had found in the house on the other
side of the island, and Peterkin wished much that we had powder and shot,
as it would render pig-killing much easier; but, after all, we had become
so expert in the use of our sling and bow and spear, that we were
independent of more deadly weapons.

Diving in the Water Garden also continued to afford us as much pleasure
as ever; and Peterkin began to be a little more expert in the water from
constant practice.  As for Jack and I, we began to feel as if water were
our native element, and revelled in it with so much confidence and
comfort that Peterkin said he feared we would turn into fish some day,
and swim off and leave him; adding, that he had been for a long time
observing that Jack was becoming more and more like a shark every day.
Whereupon Jack remarked, that if he, Peterkin, were changed into a fish,
he would certainly turn into nothing better or bigger than a shrimp.  Poor
Peterkin did not envy us our delightful excursions under water, except,
indeed, when Jack would dive down to the bottom of the Water Garden, sit
down on a rock and look up and make faces at him.  Peterkin did feel
envious then, and often said he would give anything to be able to do
that.  I was much amused when Peterkin said this; for if he could only
have seen his own face when he happened to take a short dive, he would
have seen that Jack's was far surpassed by it.  The great difference
being, however, that Jack made faces on purpose--Peterkin couldn't help
it!

Now, while we were engaged with these occupations and amusements, an
event occurred one day which was as unexpected as it was exceedingly
alarming and very horrible.

Jack and I were sitting, as we were often wont to do, on the rocks at
Spouting Cliff, and Peterkin was wringing the water from his garments,
having recently fallen by accident into the sea,--a thing he was
constantly doing,--when our attention was suddenly arrested by two
objects which appeared on the horizon.

"What are yon, think you?" I said, addressing Jack.

"I can't imagine," answered he; "I've noticed them for some time, and
fancied they were black sea-gulls, but the more I look at them the more I
feel convinced they are much larger than gulls."

"They seem to be coming towards us," said I.

"Hallo! what's wrong?" inquired Peterkin, coming up.

"Look there," said Jack.

"Whales!" cried Peterkin, shading his eyes with his hand.  "No! eh! can
they be boats, Jack?"

Our hearts beat with excitement at the very thought of seeing human faces
again.

"I think you are about right, Peterkin;--but they seem to me to move
strangely for boats," said Jack, in a low tone, as if he were talking to
himself.

I noticed that a shade of anxiety crossed Jack's countenance as he gazed
long and intently at the two objects, which were now nearing us fast.  At
last he sprang to his feet.  "They are canoes, Ralph! whether war-canoes
or not I cannot tell, but this I know, that all the natives of the South
Sea Islands are fierce cannibals, and they have little respect for
strangers.  We must hide if they land here, which I earnestly hope they
will not do."

I was greatly alarmed at Jack's speech, but I confess I thought less of
what he said than of the earnest, anxious manner in which he said it, and
it was with very uncomfortable feelings that Peterkin and I followed him
quickly into the woods.

"How unfortunate," said I, as we gained the shelter of the bushes, "that
we have forgotten our arms."

"It matters not," said Jack; "here are clubs enough and to spare."  As he
spoke, he laid his hand on a bundle of stout poles of various sizes,
which Peterkin's ever-busy hands had formed, during our frequent visits
to the cliff, for no other purpose, apparently, than that of having
something to do.

We each selected a stout club according to our several tastes, and lay
down behind a rock, whence we could see the canoes approach, without
ourselves being seen.  At first we made an occasional remark on their
appearance, but after they entered the lagoon, and drew near the beach,
we ceased to speak, and gazed with intense interest at the scene before
us.

We now observed that the foremost canoe was being chased by the other,
and that it contained a few women and children, as well as men,--perhaps
forty souls altogether; while the canoe which pursued it contained only
men.  They seemed to be about the same in number, but were better armed,
and had the appearance of being a war party.  Both crews were paddling
with all their might, and it seemed as if the pursuers exerted themselves
to overtake the natives ere they could land.  In this, however, they
failed.  The foremost canoe made for the beach close beneath the rocks
behind which we were concealed.  Their short paddles flashed like meteors
in the water, and sent up a constant shower of spray.  The foam curled
from the prow, and the eyes of the rowers glistened in their black faces
as they strained every muscle of their naked bodies; nor did they relax
their efforts till the canoe struck the beach with a violent shock; then,
with a shout of defiance, the whole party sprang, as if by magic, from
the canoe to the shore.  Three women, two of whom carried infants in
their arms, rushed into the woods; and the men crowded to the water's
edge, with stones in their hands, spears levelled, and clubs brandished,
to resist the landing of their enemies.

The distance between the two canoes had been about half a mile, and, at
the great speed they were going, this was soon passed.  As the pursuers
neared the shore, no sign of fear or hesitation was noticeable.  On they
came like a wild charger,--received but recked not of a shower of stones.
The canoe struck, and, with a yell that seemed to issue from the throats
of incarnate fiends, they leaped into the water, and drove their enemies
up the beach.

The battle that immediately ensued was frightful to behold.  Most of the
men wielded clubs of enormous size and curious shapes, with which they
dashed out each other's brains.  As they were almost entirely naked, and
had to bound, stoop, leap, and run, in their terrible hand-to-hand
encounters, they looked more like demons than human beings.  I felt my
heart grow sick at the sight of this bloody battle, and would fain have
turned away, but a species of fascination seemed to hold me down and glue
my eyes upon the combatants.  I observed that the attacking party was led
by a most extraordinary being, who, from his size and peculiarity, I
concluded was a chief.  His hair was frizzed out to an enormous extent,
so that it resembled a large turban.  It was of a light-yellow hue, which
surprised me much, for the man's body was as black as coal, and I felt
convinced that the hair must have been dyed.  He was tattooed from head
to foot; and his face, besides being tattooed, was besmeared with red
paint, and streaked with white.  Altogether, with his yellow turban-like
hair, his Herculean black frame, his glittering eyes and white teeth, he
seemed the most terrible monster I ever beheld.  He was very active in
the fight, and had already killed four men.

Suddenly the yellow-haired chief was attacked by a man quite as strong
and large as himself.  He flourished a heavy club something like an
eagle's beak at the point.  For a second or two these giants eyed each
other warily, moving round and round, as if to catch each other at a
disadvantage, but seeing that nothing was to be gained by this caution,
and that the loss of time might effectually turn the tide of battle
either way, they apparently made up their minds to attack at the same
instant, for, with a wild shout and simultaneous spring, they swung their
heavy clubs, which met with a loud report.  Suddenly the yellow-haired
savage tripped, his enemy sprang forward, the ponderous club was swung,
but it did not descend, for at that moment the savage was felled to the
ground by a stone from the hand of one who had witnessed his chief's
danger.  This was the turning-point in the battle.  The savages who
landed first turned and fled towards the bush, on seeing the fall of
their chief.  But not one escaped.  They were all overtaken and felled to
the earth.  I saw, however, that they were not all killed.  Indeed, their
enemies, now that they were conquered, seemed anxious to take them alive;
and they succeeded in securing fifteen, whom they bound hand and foot
with cords, and, carrying them up into the woods, laid them down among
the bushes.  Here they left them, for what purpose I knew not, and
returned to the scene of the late battle, where the remnant of the party
were bathing their wounds.

Out of the forty blacks that composed the attacking party, only twenty-
eight remained alive, two of whom were sent into the bush to hunt for the
women and children.  Of the other party, as I have said, only ten
survived, and these were lying bound and helpless on the grass.

Jack and Peterkin and I now looked at each other, and whispered our fears
that the savages might clamber up the rocks to search for fresh water,
and so discover our place of concealment; but we were so much interested
in watching their movements that we agreed to remain where we were; and,
indeed, we could not easily have risen without exposing ourselves to
detection.  One of the savages now went up to the wood and soon returned
with a bundle of fire-wood, and we were not a little surprised to see him
set fire to it by the very same means used by Jack the time we made our
first fire,--namely, with the bow and drill.  When the fire was kindled,
two of the party went again to the woods and returned with one of the
bound men.  A dreadful feeling of horror crept over my heart, as the
thought flashed upon me that they were going to burn their enemies.  As
they bore him to the fire my feelings almost overpowered me.  I gasped
for breath, and seizing my club, endeavoured to spring to my feet; but
Jack's powerful arm pinned me to the earth.  Next moment one of the
savages raised his club, and fractured the wretched creature's skull.  He
must have died instantly, and, strange though it may seem, I confess to a
feeling of relief when the deed was done, because I now knew that the
poor savage could not be burned alive.  Scarcely had his limbs ceased to
quiver when the monsters cut slices of flesh from his body, and, after
roasting them slightly over the fire, devoured them.

Suddenly there arose a cry from the woods, and, in a few seconds, the two
savages hastened towards the fire dragging the three women and their two
infants along with them.  One of those women was much younger than her
companions, and we were struck with the modesty of her demeanour and the
gentle expression of her face, which, although she had the flattish nose
and thick lips of the others, was of a light-brown colour, and we
conjectured that she must be of a different race.  She and her companions
wore short petticoats and a kind of tippet on their shoulders.  Their
hair was jet black, but instead of being long, was short and
curly,--though not woolly--somewhat like the hair of a young boy.  While
we gazed with interest and some anxiety at these poor creatures, the big
chief advanced to one of the elder females and laid his hand upon the
child.  But the mother shrank from him, and clasping the little one to
her bosom, uttered a wail of fear.  With a savage laugh, the chief tore
the child from her arms and tossed it into the sea.  A low groan burst
from Jack's lips as we witnessed this atrocious act and heard the
mother's shriek, as she fell insensible on the sand.  The rippling waves
rolled the child on the beach, as if they refused to be a party in such a
foul murder, and we could observe that the little one still lived.

The young girl was now brought forward, and the chief addressed her; but
although we heard his voice, and even the words distinctly, of course we
could not understand what he said.  The girl made no answer to his fierce
questions, and we saw by the way in which he pointed to the fire that he
threatened her life.

"Peterkin," said Jack in a hoarse whisper, "have you got your knife?"

"Yes," replied Peterkin, whose face was pale as death.

"That will do.  Listen to me, and do my bidding quick.  Here is the small
knife, Ralph.  Fly both of you through the bush, cut the cords that bind
the prisoners and set them free.  There! quick, ere it be too late."  Jack
sprang up, and seized a heavy but short bludgeon, while his strong frame
trembled with emotion, and large drops rolled down his forehead.

At this moment the man who had butchered the savage a few minutes before
advanced towards the girl with his heavy club.  Jack uttered a yell that
rang like a death-shriek among the rocks.  With one bound he leaped over
a precipice full fifteen feet high, and, before the savages had recovered
from their surprise, was in the midst of them; while Peterkin and I
dashed through the bushes towards the prisoners.  With one blow of his
staff Jack felled the man with the club, then, turning round with a look
of fury, he rushed upon the big chief with the yellow hair.  Had the blow
which Jack aimed at his head taken effect, the huge savage would have
needed no second stroke; but he was agile as a cat, and avoided it by
springing to one side, while, at the same time, he swung his ponderous
club at the head of his foe.  It was now Jack's turn to leap aside, and
well was it for him that the first outburst of his blind fury was over,
else he had become an easy prey to his gigantic antagonist; but Jack was
cool now.  He darted his blows rapidly and well, and the superiority of
his light weapon was strikingly proved in this combat, for while he could
easily evade the blows of the chief's heavy club, the chief could not so
easily evade those of his light one.  Nevertheless, so quick was he, and
so frightfully did he fling about the mighty weapon, that, although Jack
struck him almost every blow, the strokes had to be delivered so quickly
that they wanted force to be very effectual.

It was lucky for Jack that the other savages considered the success of
their chief in this encounter to be so certain that they refrained from
interfering.  Had they doubted it, they would have probably ended the
matter at once by felling him.  But they contented themselves with
awaiting the issue.

The force which the chief expended in wielding his club now began to be
apparent.  His movements became slower, his breath hissed through his
clenched teeth, and the surprised savages drew nearer in order to render
assistance.  Jack observed this movement.  He felt that his fate was
sealed, and resolved to cast his life upon the next blow.  The chiefs
club was again about to descend on his head.  He might have evaded it
easily, but instead of doing so, he suddenly shortened his grasp of his
own club, rushed in under the blow, struck his adversary right between
the eyes with all his force and fell to the earth, crushed beneath the
senseless body of the chief.  A dozen clubs flew high in air ready to
descend on the head of Jack, but they hesitated a moment, for the massive
body of the chief completely covered him.  That moment saved his life.
Ere the savages could tear the chief's body away, seven of their number
fell prostrate beneath the clubs of the prisoners whom Peterkin and I had
set free, and two others fell under our own hand.  We could never have
accomplished this had not our enemies been so engrossed with the fight
between Jack and their chief that they had failed to observe us until we
were upon them.  They still out-numbered our party by three, but we were
flushed with victory while they were taken by surprise and dispirited by
the fall of their chief.  Moreover, they were awe-struck by the sweeping
fury of Jack, who seemed to have lost his senses altogether, and had no
sooner shaken himself free of the chief's body than he rushed into the
midst of them, and in three blows equalized our numbers.  Peterkin and I
flew to the rescue, the savages followed us, and, in less than ten
minutes, the whole of our opponents were knocked down or made prisoners,
bound hand and foot, and extended side by side upon the sea shore.



CHAPTER XX.


Intercourse with the savages--Cannibalism prevented--The slain are buried
and the survivors depart, leaving us again alone on our Coral Island.

After the battle was over, the savages crowded round us and gazed at us
in surprise, while they continued to pour upon us a flood of questions,
which, being wholly unintelligible, of course we could not answer.
However, by way of putting an end to it, Jack took the chief (who had
recovered from the effects of his wound) by the hand and shook it warmly.
No sooner did the blacks see that this was meant to express good-will
than they shook hands with us all round.  After this ceremony was gone
through Jack went up to the girl, who had never once moved from the rock
where she had been left, but had continued an eager spectator of all that
had passed.  He made signs to her to follow him and then, taking the
chief by the hand, was about to conduct him to the bower when his eye
fell on the poor infant which had been thrown into the sea and was still
lying on the shore.  Dropping the chief's hand he hastened towards it,
and, to his great joy, found it to be still alive.  We also found that
the mother was beginning to recover slowly.

"Here, get out o' the way," said Jack, pushing us aside, as we stooped
over the poor woman and endeavoured to restore her, "I'll soon bring her
round."  So saying, he placed the infant on her bosom and laid its warm
cheek on hers.  The effect was wonderful.  The woman opened her eyes,
felt the child, looked at it, and with a cry of joy clasped it in her
arms, at the same time endeavouring to rise, for the purpose, apparently,
of rushing into the woods.

"There, that's all right," said Jack, once more taking the chief by the
hand.  "Now Ralph and Peterkin, make the women and these fellows follow
me to the bower.  Well entertain them as hospitably as we can."

In a few minutes the savages were all seated on the ground in front of
the bower making a hearty meal off a cold roast pig, several ducks, and a
variety of cold fish, together with an unlimited supply of cocoa-nuts,
bread-fruits, yams, taro, and plums; with all of which they seemed to be
quite familiar and perfectly satisfied.

Meanwhile, we three being thoroughly knocked up with our day's work, took
a good draught of cocoa-nut lemonade, and throwing ourselves on our beds
fell fast asleep.  The savages it seems followed our example, and in half-
an-hour the whole camp was buried in repose.

How long we slept I cannot tell, but this I know, that when we lay down
the sun was setting and when we awoke it was high in the heavens.  I
awoke Jack, who started up in surprise, being unable at first to
comprehend our situation.  "Now, then," said he, springing up, "let's see
after breakfast.  Hallo!  Peterkin, lazy fellow, how long do you mean to
lie there?"

Peterkin yawned heavily.  "Well!" said he, opening his eyes and looking
up after some trouble, "if it isn't to-morrow morning, and me thinking it
was to-day all this time.  Hallo!  Venus, where did you come from? you
seem tolerably at home, any how.  Bah! might as well speak to the cat as
to you--better, in fact, for it understands me, and you don't."

This remark was called forth by the sight of one of the elderly females,
who had seated herself on the rock in front of the bower, and, having
placed her child at her feet, was busily engaged in devouring the remains
of a roast pig.

By this time the natives outside were all astir, and breakfast in an
advanced state of preparation.  During the course of it we made sundry
attempts to converse with the natives by signs, but without effect.  At
last we hit upon a plan of discovering their names.  Jack pointed to his
breast and add "Jack," very distinctly; then he pointed to Peterkin and
to me, repeating our names at the same time.  Then he pointed to himself
again, and said "Jack," and laying his finger on the breast of the chief,
looked inquiringly into his face.  The chief instantly understood him and
said "Tararo," twice, distinctly.  Jack repeated it after him, and the
chief, nodding his head approvingly, said "Chuck."  On hearing which,
Peterkin exploded with laughter; but Jack turned and with a frown rebuked
him, saying, "I must look even more indignantly at you than I feel,
Peterkin, you rascal, for these fellows don't like to be laughed at."
Then turning towards the youngest of the women, who was seated at the
door of the bower, he pointed to her; whereupon the chief said, "Avatea;"
and pointing towards the sun, raised his finger slowly towards the
zenith, where it remained steadily for a minute or two.

"What can that mean, I wonder," said Jack, looking puzzled.

"Perhaps," said Peterkin, "the chief means she is an angel come down to
stay here for a while.  If so, she's an uncommonly black one!"

We did not feel quite satisfied with this explanation, so Jack went up to
her and said, "Avatea."  The woman smiled sadly, and nodded her head, at
the same time pointing to her breast and then to the sun, in the same
manner as the chief had done.  We were much puzzled to know what this
could signify, but as there was no way of solving our difficulty we were
obliged to rest content.

Jack now made signs to the natives to follow him, and, taking up his axe,
he led them to the place where the battle had been fought.  Here we found
the prisoners, who had passed the night on the beach having been totally
forgotten by us, as our minds had been full of our guests, and were
ultimately overcome by sleep.  They did not seem the worse for their
exposure, however, as we judged by the hearty appetite with which they
devoured the breakfast that was soon after given to them.  Jack then
began to dig a hole in the sand, and, after working a few seconds, he
pointed to it and to the dead bodies that lay exposed on the beach.  The
natives immediately perceived what he wanted, and, running for their
paddles, dug a hole in the course of half an hour that was quite large
enough to contain all the bodies of the slain.  When it was finished they
tossed their dead enemies into it with so much indifference that we felt
assured they would not have put themselves to this trouble had we not
asked them to do so.  The body of the yellow-haired chief was the last
thrown in.  This wretched man would have recovered from the blow with
which Jack felled him, and, indeed, he did endeavour to rise during the
melee that followed his fall, but one of his enemies, happening to notice
the action, dealt him a blow with his club that killed him on the spot.

While they were about to throw the sand over this chief, one of the
savages stooped over him, and with a knife, made apparently of stone, cut
a large slice of flesh from his thigh.  We knew at once that he intended
to make use of this for food, and could not repress a cry of horror and
disgust.

"Come, come, you blackguard," cried Jack, starting up and seizing the man
by the arm, "pitch that into the hole.  Do you hear?"

The savage of course did not understand the command, but he perfectly
understood the look of disgust with which Jack regarded the flesh, and
his fierce gaze as he pointed towards the hole.  Nevertheless he did not
obey.  Jack instantly turned to Tararo and made signs to him to enforce
obedience.  The chief seemed to understand the appeal, for he stepped
forward, raised his club, and was on the point of dashing out the brains
of his offending subject, when Jack sprang forward and caught his
uplifted arm.

"Stop!" he shouted, "you blockhead, I don't want you to kill the man."  He
then pointed again to the flesh and to the hole.  The chief uttered a few
words, which had the desired effect; for the man threw the flesh into the
hole, which was immediately filled up.  This man was of a morose, sulky
disposition, and, during all the time he remained on the island, regarded
us, especially Jack, with a scowling visage.  His name, we found, was
Mahine.

The next three or four days were spent by the savages in mending their
canoe, which had been damaged by the violent shock it had sustained on
striking the shore.  This canoe was a very curious structure.  It was
about thirty feet long, and had a high towering stern.  The timbers, of
which it was partly composed, were fastened much in the same way as those
of our little boat were put together; but the part that seemed most
curious to us was a sort of out-rigger, or long plank, which was attached
to the body of the canoe by means of two stout cross beams.  These beams
kept the plank parallel with the canoe, but not in contact with it, for
it floated in the water with an open space between; thus forming a sort
of double canoe.  This we found was intended to prevent the upsetting of
the canoe, which was so narrow that it could not have maintained an
upright position without the out-rigger.  We could not help wondering
both at the ingenuity and the clumsiness of this contrivance.

When the canoe was ready, we assisted the natives to carry the prisoners
into it, and helped them to load it with provisions and fruit.  Peterkin
also went to the plum-tree for the purpose of making a special onslaught
upon the hogs, and killed no less than six of them.  These we baked and
presented to our friends on the day of their departure.  On that day
Tararo made a great many energetic signs to us, which, after much
consideration, we came to understand were proposals that we should go
away with him to his island; but, having no desire to do so, we shook our
heads very decidedly.  However, we consoled him by presenting him with
our rusty axe, which we thought we could spare, having the excellent one
which had been so providentially washed ashore to us the day we were
wrecked.  We also gave him a piece of wood with our names carved on it,
and a piece of string to hang it round his neck as an ornament.

In a few minutes more we were all assembled on the beach.  Being unable
to speak to the savages, we went through the ceremony of shaking hands,
and expected they would depart; but, before doing so, Tararo went up to
Jack and rubbed noses with him, after which he did the same with Peterkin
and me!  Seeing that this was their mode of salutation, we determined to
conform to their custom, so we rubbed noses heartily with the whole
party, women and all!  The only disagreeable part of the process was,
when we came to rub noses with Mahine, and Peterkin afterwards said, that
when he saw his wolfish eyes glaring so close to his face, he felt much
more inclined to _bang_ than to _rub_ his nose.  Avatea was the last to
take leave of us, and we experienced a feeling of real sorrow when she
approached to bid us farewell.  Besides her modest air and gentle manners
she was the only one of the party who exhibited the smallest sign of
regret at parting from us.  Going up to Jack, she put out her flat little
nose to be rubbed, and thereafter paid the same compliment to Peterkin
and me.

An hour later the canoe was out of sight, and we, with an indefinable
feeling of sadness creeping round our hearts, were seated in silence
beneath the shadow of our bower, meditating on the wonderful events of
the last few days.



CHAPTER XXI.


Sagacious and moral remarks in regard to life--A sail!--An unexpected
salute--The end of the black cat--A terrible dive--An incautious
proceeding and a frightful catastrophe.

Life is a strange compound.  Peterkin used to say of it, that it beat a
druggist's shop all to sticks; for, whereas the first is a compound of
good and bad, the other is a horrible compound of all that is utterly
detestable.  And indeed the more I consider it the more I am struck with
the strange mixture of good and evil that exists not only in the material
earth but in our own natures.  In our own Coral Island we had experienced
every variety of good that a bountiful Creator could heap on us.  Yet on
the night of the storm we had seen how almost, in our case,--and
altogether, no doubt, in the case of others less fortunate--all this good
might be swept away for ever.  We had seen the rich fruit-trees waving in
the soft air, the tender herbs shooting upwards under the benign
influence of the bright sun; and, the next day, we had seen these good
and beautiful trees and plants uprooted by the hurricane, crushed and
hurled to the ground in destructive devastation.  We had lived for many
months in a clime for the most part so beautiful, that we had often
wondered whether Adam and Eve had found Eden more sweet; and we had seen
the quiet solitudes of our paradise suddenly broken in upon by ferocious
savages, and the white sands stained with blood and strewed with lifeless
forms; yet, among these cannibals, we had seen many symptoms of a kindly
nature.  I pondered these things much, and, while I considered them,
there recurred to my memory those words which I had read in my Bible,--the
works of God are wonderful, and his ways past finding out.

After these poor savages had left us, we used to hold long and frequent
conversations about them, and I noticed that Peterkin's manner was now
much altered.  He did not, indeed, jest less heartily than before, but he
did so less frequently, and often there was a tone of deep seriousness in
his manner, if not in his words, which made him seem to Jack and me as if
he had grown two years older within a few days.  But indeed I was not
surprised at this, when I reflected on the awful realities which we had
witnessed so lately.  We could by no means shake off a tendency to gloom
for several weeks afterwards; but, as time wore away, our usual good
spirits returned somewhat, and we began to think of the visit of the
savages with feelings akin to those with which we recall a terrible
dream.

One day we were all enjoying ourselves in the Water Garden, preparatory
to going on a fishing excursion; for Peterkin had kept us in such
constant supply of hogs that we had become quite tired of pork, and
desired a change.  Peterkin was sunning himself on the ledge of rock,
while we were creeping among the rocks below.  Happening to look up, I
observed Peterkin cutting the most extraordinary capers and making
violent gesticulations for us to come up; so I gave Jack a push, and rose
immediately.

"A sail! a sail!  Ralph, look!  Jack, away on the horizon there, just
over the entrance to the lagoon!" cried Peterkin, as we scrambled up the
rocks.

"So it is, and a schooner, too!" said Jack, as he proceeded hastily to
dress.

Our hearts were thrown into a terrible flutter by this discovery, for if
it should touch at our island we had no doubt the captain would be happy
to give us a passage to some of the civilized islands, where we could
find a ship sailing for England, or some other part of Europe.  Home,
with all its associations, rushed in upon my heart like a flood, and,
much though I loved the Coral Island and the bower which had now been our
home so long, I felt that I could have quitted all at that moment without
a sigh.  With joyful anticipations we hastened to the highest point of
rock near our dwelling, and awaited the arrival of the vessel, for we now
perceived that she was making straight for the island, under a steady
breeze.

In less than an hour she was close to the reef, where she rounded to, and
backed her topsails in order to survey the coast.  Seeing this, and
fearing that they might not perceive us, we all three waved pieces of
cocoa-nut cloth in the air, and soon had the satisfaction of seeing them
beginning to lower a boat and bustle about the decks as if they meant to
land.  Suddenly a flag was run up to the peak, a little cloud of white
smoke rose from the schooner's side, and, before we could guess their
intentions, a cannon-shot came crashing through the bushes, carried away
several cocoa-nut trees in its passage, and burst in atoms against the
cliff a few yards below the spot on which we stood.

With feelings of terror we now observed that the flag at the schooner's
peak was black, with a Death's head and cross bones upon it.  As we gazed
at each other in blank amazement, the word "pirate" escaped our lips
simultaneously.

"What is to be done?" cried Peterkin, as we observed a boat shoot from
the vessel's side, and make for the entrance of the reef.  "If they take
us off the island, it will either be to throw us overboard for sport, or
to make pirates of us."

I did not reply, but looked at Jack, as being our only resource in this
emergency.  He stood with folded arms, and his eyes fixed with a grave,
anxious expression on the ground.  "There is but one hope," said he,
turning with a sad expression of countenance to Peterkin; "perhaps, after
all, we may not have to resort to it.  If these villains are anxious to
take us, they will soon overrun the whole island.  But come, follow me."

Stopping abruptly in his speech, Jack bounded into the woods, and led us
by a circuitous route to Spouting Cliff.  Here he halted, and, advancing
cautiously to the rocks, glanced over their edge.  We were soon by his
side, and saw the boat, which was crowded with armed men, just touching
the shore.  In an instant the crew landed, formed line, and rushed up to
our bower.

In a few seconds we saw them hurrying back to the boat, one of them
swinging the poor cat round his head by the tail.  On reaching the
water's edge, he tossed it far into the sea, and joined his companions,
who appeared to be holding a hasty council.

"You see what we may expect," said Jack bitterly.  "The man who will
wantonly kill a poor brute for sport will think little of murdering a
fellow-creature.  Now, boys, we have but one chance left,--the Diamond
Cave."

"The Diamond Cave!" cried Peterkin, "then my chance is a poor one, for I
could not dive into it if all the pirates on the Pacific were at my
heels."

"Nay, but," said I, "we will take you down, Peterkin, if you will only
trust us."

As I spoke, we observed the pirates scatter over the beach, and radiate,
as if from a centre, towards the woods and along shore.

"Now, Peterkin," said Jack, in a solemn tone, "you must make up your mind
to do it, or we must make up our minds to die in your company."

"Oh, Jack, my dear friend," cried Peterkin, turning pale, "leave me; I
don't believe they'll think it worth while to kill me.  Go, you and
Ralph, and dive into the cave."

"That will not I," answered Jack quietly, while he picked up a stout
cudgel from the ground.  "So now, Ralph, we must prepare to meet these
fellows.  Their motto is, 'No quarter.'  If we can manage to floor those
coming in this direction, we may escape into the woods for a while."

"There are five of them," said I; "we have no chance."

"Come, then," cried Peterkin, starting up, and grasping Jack convulsively
by the arm, "let us dive; I will go."

Those who are not naturally expert in the water know well the feelings of
horror that overwhelm them, when in it, at the bare idea of being held
down, even for a few seconds,--that spasmodic, involuntary recoil from
compulsory immersion which has no connection whatever with cowardice; and
they will understand the amount of resolution that it required in
Peterkin to allow himself to be dragged down to a depth of ten feet, and
then, through a narrow tunnel, into an almost pitch-dark cavern.  But
there was no alternative.  The pirates had already caught sight of us,
and were now within a short distance of the rocks.

Jack and I seized Peterkin by the arms.

"Now, keep quite still, no struggling," said Jack, "or we are lost."

Peterkin made no reply, but the stern gravity of his marble features, and
the tension of his muscles, satisfied us that he had fully made up his
mind to go through with it.  Just as the pirates gained the foot of the
rocks, which hid us for a moment from their view, we bent over the sea,
and plunged down together head foremost.  Peterkin behaved like a hero.
He floated passively between us like a log of wood, and we passed the
tunnel and rose into the cave in a shorter space of time than I had ever
done it before.

Peterkin drew a long, deep breath on reaching the surface; and in a few
seconds we were all standing on the ledge of rock in safety.  Jack now
searched for the tinder and torch, which always lay in the cave.  He soon
found them, and, lighting the torch, revealed to Peterkin's wondering
gaze the marvels of the place.  But we were too wet to waste much time in
looking about us.  Our first care was to take off our clothes, and wring
them as dry as we could.  This done, we proceeded to examine into the
state of our larder, for, as Jack truly remarked, there was no knowing
how long the pirates might remain on the island.

"Perhaps," said Peterkin, "they may take it into their heads to stop here
altogether, and so we shall be buried alive in this place."

"Don't you think, Peterkin, that it's the nearest thing to being drowned
alive that you ever felt?" said Jack with a smile.  "But I've no fear of
that.  These villains never stay long on shore.  The sea is their home,
so you may depend upon it that they won't stay more than a day or two at
the furthest."

We now began to make arrangements for spending the night in the cavern.
At various periods Jack and I had conveyed cocoa nuts and other fruits,
besides rolls of cocoa-nut cloth, to this submarine cave, partly for
amusement, and partly from a feeling that we might possibly be driven one
day to take shelter here from the savages.  Little did we imagine that
the first savages who would drive us into it would be white savages,
perhaps our own countrymen.  We found the cocoa-nuts in good condition,
and the cooked yams, but the bread-fruits were spoiled.  We also found
the cloth where we had left it; and, on opening it out, there proved to
be sufficient to make a bed; which was important, as the rock was damp.
Having collected it all together, we spread out our bed, placed our torch
in the midst of us, and ate our supper.  It was indeed a strange chamber
to feast in; and we could not help remarking on the cold, ghastly
appearance of the walls, and the black water at our side, with the thick
darkness beyond, and the sullen sound of the drops that fell at long
intervals from the roof of the cavern into the still water; and the
strong contrast between all this and our bed and supper, which, with our
faces, were lit up with the deep red flame of the torch.

We sat long over our meal, talking together in subdued voices, for we did
not like the dismal echoes that rang through the vault above when we
happened to raise them.  At last the faint light that came through the
opening died away, warning us that it was night and time for rest.  We
therefore put out our torch and lay down to sleep.

On awaking, it was some time ere we could collect our faculties so as to
remember where we were, and we were in much uncertainty as to whether it
was early or late.  We saw by the faint light that it was day, but could
not guess at the hour; so Jack proposed that he should dive out and
reconnoitre.

"No, Jack," said I, "do you rest here.  You've had enough to do during
the last few days.  Rest yourself now, and take care of Peterkin, while I
go out to see what the pirates are about.  I'll be very careful not to
expose myself, and I'll bring you word again in a short time."

"Very well, Ralph," answered Jack, "please yourself, but don't be long;
and if you'll take my advice you'll go in your clothes, for I would like
to have some fresh cocoa nuts, and climbing trees without clothes is
uncomfortable, to say the least of it."

"The pirates will be sure to keep a sharp lookout," said Peterkin, "so,
pray, be careful."

"No fear," said I; "good-bye."

"Good-bye," answered my comrades.

And while the words were yet sounding in my ears, I plunged into the
water, and in a few seconds found myself in the open air.  On rising, I
was careful to come up gently and to breathe softly, while I kept close
in beside the rocks; but, as I observed no one near me, I crept slowly
out, and ascended the cliff a step at a time, till I obtained a full view
of the shore.  No pirates were to be seen,--even their boat was gone; but
as it was possible they might have hidden themselves, I did not venture
too boldly forward.  Then it occurred to me to look out to sea, when, to
my surprise, I saw the pirate schooner sailing away almost hull-down on
the horizon!  On seeing this I uttered a shout of joy.  Then my first
impulse was to dive back to tell my companions the good news; but I
checked myself, and ran to the top of the cliff, in order to make sure
that the vessel I saw was indeed the pirate schooner.  I looked long and
anxiously at her, and, giving vent to a deep sigh of relief, said aloud,
"Yes, there she goes; the villains have been baulked of their prey this
time at least."

"Not so sure of that!" said a deep voice at my side; while, at the same
moment, a heavy hand grasped my shoulder, and held it as if in a vice.



CHAPTER XXII.


I fall into the hands of pirates--How they treated me, and what I said to
them--The result of the whole ending in a melancholy separation and in a
most unexpected gift.

My heart seemed to leap into my throat at the words; and, turning round,
I beheld a man of immense stature, and fierce aspect regarding me with a
smile of contempt.  He was a white man,--that is to say, he was a man of
European blood, though his face, from long exposure to the weather, was
deeply bronzed.  His dress was that of a common seaman, except that he
had on a Greek skull-cap, and wore a broad shawl of the richest silk
round his waist.  In this shawl were placed two pair of pistols and a
heavy cutlass.  He wore a beard and moustache, which, like the locks on
his head, were short, curly, and sprinkled with gray hairs.

"So, youngster," he said, with a Sardonic smile, while I felt his grasp
tighten on my shoulder, "the villains have been baulked of their prey,
have they?  We shall see, we shall see.  Now, you whelp, look yonder."  As
he spoke, the pirate uttered a shrill whistle.  In a second or two it was
answered, and the pirate-boat rowed round the point at the Water Garden,
and came rapidly towards us.  "Now, go, make a fire on that point; and
hark'ee, youngster, if you try to run away, I'll send a quick and sure
messenger after you," and he pointed significantly at his pistols.

I obeyed in silence, and as I happened to have the burning-glass in my
pocket, a fire was speedily kindled, and a thick smoke ascended into the
air.  It had scarcely appeared for two minutes when the boom of a gun
rolled over the sea, and, looking up, I saw that the schooner was making
for the island again.  It now flashed across me that this was a ruse on
the part of the pirates, and that they had sent their vessel away,
knowing that it would lead us to suppose that they had left altogether.
But there was no use of regret now.  I was completely in their power, so
I stood helplessly beside the pirate watching the crew of the boat as
they landed on the beach.  For an instant I contemplated rushing over the
cliff into the sea, but this I saw I could not now accomplish, as some of
the men were already between me and the water.

There was a good deal of jesting at the success of their scheme, as the
crew ascended the rocks and addressed the man who had captured me by the
title of captain.  They were a ferocious set of men, with shaggy beards
and scowling brows.  All of them were armed with cutlasses and pistols,
and their costumes were, with trifling variations, similar to that of the
captain.  As I looked from one to the other, and observed the low,
scowling brows, that never unbent, even when the men laughed, and the
mean, rascally expression that sat on each face, I felt that my life hung
by a hair.

"But where are the other cubs?" cried one of the men, with an oath that
made me shudder.  "I'll swear to it there were three, at least, if not
more."

"You hear what he says, whelp; where are the other dogs?" said the
captain.

"If you mean my companions," said I, in a low voice, "I won't tell you."

A loud laugh burst from the crew at this answer.

The pirate captain looked at me in surprise.  Then drawing a pistol from
his belt, he cocked it and said, "Now, youngster, listen to me.  I've no
time to waste here.  If you don't tell me all you know, I'll blow your
brains out!  Where are your comrades?"

For an instant I hesitated, not knowing what to do in this extremity.
Suddenly a thought occurred to me.

"Villain," said I, shaking my clenched fist in his face, "to blow my
brains out would make short work of me, and be soon over.  Death by
drowning is as sure, and the agony prolonged, yet, I tell you to your
face, if you were to toss me over yonder cliff into the sea, I would not
tell you where my companions are, and I dare you to try me!"

The pirate captain grew white with rage as I spoke.  "Say you so?" cried
he, uttering a fierce oath.  "Here, lads, take him by the legs and heave
him in,--quick!"

The men, who were utterly silenced with surprise at my audacity,
advanced, and seized me, and, as they carried me towards the cliff, I
congratulated myself not a little on the success of my scheme, for I knew
that once in the water I should be safe, and could rejoin Jack and
Peterkin in the cave.  But my hopes were suddenly blasted by the captain
crying out, "Hold on, lads, hold on.  We'll give him a taste of the thumb-
screws before throwing him to the sharks.  Away with him into the boat.
Look alive! the breeze is freshening."

The men instantly raised me shoulder high, and, hurrying down the rocks,
tossed me into the bottom of the boat, where I lay for some time stunned
with the violence of my fall.

On recovering sufficiently to raise myself on my elbow, I perceived that
we were already outside the coral reef, and close alongside the schooner,
which was of small size and clipper built.  I had only time to observe
this much, when I received a severe kick on the side from one of the men,
who ordered me, in a rough voice, to jump aboard.  Rising hastily I
clambered up the side.  In a few minutes the boat was hoisted on deck,
the vessel's head put close to the wind, and the Coral Island dropped
slowly astern as we beat up against a head sea.

Immediately after coming aboard, the crew were too busily engaged in
working the ship and getting in the boat to attend to me, so I remained
leaning against the bulwarks close to the gangway, watching their
operations.  I was surprised to find that there were no guns or
carronades of any kind in the vessel, which had more of the appearance of
a fast-sailing trader than a pirate.  But I was struck with the neatness
of everything.  The brass work of the binnacle and about the tiller, as
well as the copper belaying-pins, were as brightly polished as if they
had just come from the foundry.  The decks were pure white, and smooth.
The masts were clean-scraped and varnished, except at the cross-trees and
truck, which were painted black.  The standing and running rigging was in
the most perfect order, and the sails white as snow.  In short,
everything, from the single narrow red stripe on her low black hull to
the trucks on her tapering masts, evinced an amount of care and strict
discipline that would have done credit to a ship of the Royal Navy.  There
was nothing lumbering or unseemly about the vessel, excepting, perhaps, a
boat, which lay on the deck with its keel up between the fore and main
masts.  It seemed disproportionately large for the schooner; but, when I
saw that the crew amounted to between thirty and forty men, I concluded
that this boat was held in reserve, in case of any accident compelling
the crew to desert the vessel.

As I have before said, the costumes of the men were similar to that of
the captain.  But in head gear they differed not only from him but from
each other, some wearing the ordinary straw hat of the merchant service,
while others wore cloth caps and red worsted night-caps.  I observed that
all their arms were sent below; the captain only retaining his cutlass
and a single pistol in the folds of his shawl.  Although the captain was
the tallest and most powerful man in the ship, he did not strikingly
excel many of his men in this respect, and the only difference that an
ordinary observer would have noticed was, a certain degree of open
candour, straightforward daring, in the bold, ferocious expression of his
face, which rendered him less repulsive than his low-browed associates,
but did not by any means induce the belief that he was a hero.  This look
was, however, the indication of that spirit which gave him the
pre-eminence among the crew of desperadoes who called him captain.  He
was a lion-like villain; totally devoid of personal fear, and utterly
reckless of consequences, and, therefore, a terror to his men, who
individually hated him, but unitedly felt it to be their advantage to
have him at their head.

But my thoughts soon reverted to the dear companions whom I had left on
shore, and as I turned towards the Coral Island, which was now far away
to leeward, I sighed deeply, and the tears rolled slowly down my cheeks
as I thought that I might never see them more.

"So you're blubbering, are you, you obstinate whelp?" said the deep voice
of the captain, as he came up and gave me a box on the ear that nearly
felled me to the deck.  "I don't allow any such weakness aboard o' this
ship.  So clap a stopper on your eyes or I'll give you something to cry
for."

I flushed with indignation at this rough and cruel treatment, but felt
that giving way to anger would only make matters worse, so I made no
reply, but took out my handkerchief and dried my eyes.

"I thought you were made of better stuff," continued the captain,
angrily; "I'd rather have a mad bull-dog aboard than a water-eyed puppy.
But I'll cure you, lad, or introduce you to the sharks before long.  Now
go below, and stay there till I call you."

As I walked forward to obey, my eye fell on a small keg standing by the
side of the main-mast, on which the word _gunpowder_ was written in
pencil.  It immediately flashed across me that, as we were beating up
against the wind, anything floating in the sea would be driven on the
reef encircling the Coral Island.  I also recollected--for thought is
more rapid than the lightning--that my old companions had a pistol.
Without a moment's hesitation, therefore, I lifted the keg from the deck
and tossed it into the sea!  An exclamation of surprise burst from the
captain and some of the men who witnessed this act of mine.

Striding up to me, and uttering fearful imprecations, the captain raised
his hand to strike me, while he shouted, "Boy! whelp! what mean you by
that?"

"If you lower your hand," said I, in a loud voice, while I felt the blood
rush to my temples, "I'll tell you.  Until you do so I'm dumb!"

The captain stepped back and regarded me with a look of amazement.

"Now," continued I, "I threw that keg into the sea because the wind and
waves will carry it to my friends on the Coral Island, who happen to have
a pistol, but no powder.  I hope that it will reach them soon, and my
only regret is that the keg was not a bigger one.  Moreover, pirate, you
said just now that you thought I was made of better stuff!  I don't know
what stuff I am made of,--I never thought much about that subject; but
I'm quite certain of this, that I am made of such stuff as the like of
you shall never tame, though you should do your worst."

To my surprise the captain, instead of flying into a rage, smiled, and,
thrusting his hand into the voluminous shawl that encircled his waist,
turned on his heel and walked aft, while I went below.

Here, instead of being rudely handled, as I had expected, the men
received me with a shout of laughter, and one of them, patting me on the
back, said, "Well done, lad! you're a brick, and I have no doubt will
turn out a rare cove.  Bloody Bill, there, was just such a fellow as you
are, and he's now the biggest cut-throat of us all."

"Take a can of beer, lad," cried another, "and wet your whistle after
that speech o' your'n to the captain.  If any one o' us had made it,
youngster, he would have had no whistle to wet by this time."

"Stop your clapper, Jack," vociferated a third; "give the boy a junck o'
meat.  Don't you see he's a'most goin' to kick the bucket?"

"And no wonder," said the first speaker, with an oath, "after the tumble
you gave him into the boat.  I guess it would have broke _your_ neck if
you had got it."

I did indeed feel somewhat faint; which was owing, doubtless, to the
combined effects of ill-usage and hunger; for it will be recollected that
I had dived out of the cave that morning before breakfast, and it was now
near mid-day.  I therefore gladly accepted a plate of boiled pork and a
yam, which were handed to me by one of the men from the locker on which
some of the crew were seated eating their dinner.  But I must add that
the zest with which I ate my meal was much abated in consequence of the
frightful oaths and the terrible language that flowed from the lips of
these godless men, even in the midst of their hilarity and good-humour.
The man who had been alluded to as Bloody Bill was seated near me, and I
could not help wondering at the moody silence he maintained among his
comrades.  He did indeed reply to their questions in a careless, off-hand
tone, but he never volunteered a remark.  The only difference between him
and the others was his taciturnity and his size, for he was nearly, if
not quite, as large a man as the captain.

During the remainder of the afternoon I was left to my own reflections,
which were anything but agreeable, for I could not banish from my mind
the threat about the thumb-screws, of the nature and use of which I had a
vague but terrible conception.  I was still meditating on my unhappy fate
when, just after night-fall, one of the watch on deck called down the
hatchway,--

"Hallo there! one o' you, tumble up and light the cabin lamp, and send
that boy aft to the captain--sharp!"

"Now then, do you hear, youngster? the captain wants you.  Look alive,"
said Bloody Bill, raising his huge frame from the locker on which he had
been asleep for the last two hours.  He sprang up the ladder and I
instantly followed him, and, going aft, was shown into the cabin by one
of the men, who closed the door after me.

A small silver lamp which hung from a beam threw a dim soft light over
the cabin, which was a small apartment, and comfortably but plainly
finished.  Seated on a camp-stool at the table, and busily engaged in
examining a chart of the Pacific, was the captain, who looked up as I
entered, and, in a quiet voice, bade me be seated, while he threw down
his pencil, and, rising from the table, stretched himself on a sofa at
the upper end of the cabin.

"Boy," said he, looking me full in the face, "what is your name?"

"Ralph Rover," I replied.

"Where did you come from, and how came you to be on that island?  How
many companions had you on it?  Answer me, now, and mind you tell no
lies."

"I never tell lies," said I, firmly.

The captain received this reply with a cold sarcastic smile, and bade me
answer his questions.

I then told him the history of myself and my companions from the time we
sailed till the day of his visit to the island, taking care, however, to
make no mention of the Diamond Cave.  After I had concluded, he was
silent for a few minutes; then, looking up, he said--"Boy, I believe
you."

I was surprised at this remark, for I could not imagine why he should not
believe me.  However, I made no reply.

"And what," continued the captain, "makes you think that this schooner is
a pirate?"

"The black flag," said I, "showed me what you are; and if any further
proof were wanting I have had it in the brutal treatment I have received
at your hands."

The captain frowned as I spoke, but subduing his anger he continued--"Boy,
you are too bold.  I admit that we treated you roughly, but that was
because you made us lose time and gave us a good deal of trouble.  As to
the black flag, that is merely a joke that my fellows play off upon
people sometimes in order to frighten them.  It is their humour, and does
no harm.  I am no pirate, boy, but a lawful trader,--a rough one, I grant
you, but one can't help that in these seas, where there are so many
pirates on the water and such murderous blackguards on the land.  I carry
on a trade in sandal-wood with the Feejee Islands; and if you choose,
Ralph, to behave yourself and be a good boy, I'll take you along with me
and give you a good share of the profits.  You see I'm in want of an
honest boy like you, to look after the cabin and keep the log, and
superintend the traffic on shore sometimes.  What say you, Ralph, would
you like to become a sandal-wood trader?"

I was much surprised by this explanation, and a good deal relieved to
find that the vessel, after all, was not a pirate; but instead of
replying I said, "If it be as you state, then why did you take me from my
island, and why do you not now take me back?"

The captain smiled as he replied, "I took you off in anger, boy, and I'm
sorry for it.  I would even now take you back, but we are too far away
from it.  See, there it is," he added, laying his finger on the chart,
"and we are now here,--fifty miles at least.  It would not be fair to my
men to put about now, for they have all an interest in the trade."

I could make no reply to this; so, after a little more conversation, I
agreed to become one of the crew, at least until we could reach some
civilized island where I might be put ashore.  The captain assented to
this proposition, and after thanking him for the promise, I left the
cabin and went on deck with feelings that ought to have been lighter, but
which were, I could not tell why, marvellously heavy and uncomfortable
still.



CHAPTER XXIII.


Bloody Bill--Dark surmises--A strange sail, and a strange crew, and a
still stranger cargo--New reasons for favouring missionaries--A murderous
massacre, and thoughts thereon.

Three weeks after the conversation narrated in the last chapter, I was
standing on the quarter-deck of the schooner watching the gambols of a
shoal of porpoises that swam round us.  It was a dead calm.  One of those
still, hot, sweltering days, so common in the Pacific, when Nature seems
to have gone to sleep, and the only thing in water or in air that proves
her still alive, is her long, deep breathing, in the swell of the mighty
sea.  No cloud floated in the deep blue above; no ripple broke the
reflected blue below.  The sun shone fiercely in the sky, and a ball of
fire blazed, with almost equal power, from out the bosom of the water.  So
intensely still was it, and so perfectly transparent was the surface of
the deep, that had it not been for the long swell already alluded to, we
might have believed the surrounding universe to be a huge blue liquid
ball, and our little ship the one solitary material speck in all
creation, floating in the midst of it.

No sound broke on our ears save the soft puff now and then of a porpoise,
the slow creak of the masts, as we swayed gently on the swell, the patter
of the reef-points, and the occasional flap of the hanging sails.  An
awning covered the fore and after parts of the schooner, under which the
men composing the watch on deck lolled in sleepy indolence, overcome with
excessive heat.  Bloody Bill, as the men invariably called him, was
standing at the tiller, but his post for the present was a sinecure, and
he whiled away the time by alternately gazing in dreamy abstraction at
the compass in the binnacle, and by walking to the taffrail in order to
spit into the sea.  In one of these turns he came near to where I was
standing, and, leaning over the side, looked long and earnestly down into
the blue wave.

This man, although he was always taciturn and often surly, was the only
human being on board with whom I had the slightest desire to become
better acquainted.  The other men, seeing that I did not relish their
company, and knowing that I was a protege of the captain, treated me with
total indifference.  Bloody Bill, it is true, did the same; but as this
was his conduct towards every one else, it was not peculiar in reference
to me.  Once or twice I tried to draw him into conversation, but he
always turned away after a few cold monosyllables.  As he now leaned over
the taffrail close beside me, I said to him,--

"Bill, why is it that you are so gloomy?  Why do you never speak to any
one?"

Bill smiled slightly as he replied, "Why, I s'pose it's because I haint
got nothin' to say!"

"That's strange," said I, musingly; "you look like a man that could
think, and such men can usually speak."

"So they can, youngster," rejoined Bill, somewhat sternly; "and I could
speak too if I had a mind to, but what's the use o' speakin' here!  The
men only open their mouths to curse and swear, an' they seem to find it
entertaining; but I don't, so I hold my tongue."

"Well, Bill, that's true, and I would rather not hear you speak at all
than hear you speak like the other men; but _I_ don't swear, Bill, so you
might talk to me sometimes, I think.  Besides, I'm weary of spending day
after day in this way, without a single soul to say a pleasant word to.
I've been used to friendly conversation, Bill, and I really would take it
kind if you would talk with me a little now and then."

Bill looked at me in surprise, and I thought I observed a sad expression
pass across his sun-burnt face.

"An' where have you been used to friendly conversation," said Bill,
looking down again into the sea; "not on that Coral Island, I take it?"

"Yes, indeed," said I energetically; "I have spent many of the happiest
months in my life on that Coral Island;" and without waiting to be
further questioned, I launched out into a glowing account of the happy
life that Jack and Peterkin and I had spent together, and related
minutely every circumstance that befell us while on the island.

"Boy, boy," said Bill, in a voice so deep that it startled me, "this is
no place for you."

"That's true," said I; "I'm of little use on board, and I don't like my
comrades; but I can't help it, and at anyrate I hope to be free again
soon."

"Free?" said Bill, looking at me in surprise.

"Yes, free," returned I; "the captain said he would put me ashore after
this trip was over."

"_This trip_!  Hark'ee, boy," said Bill, lowering his voice, "what said
the captain to you the day you came aboard?"

"He said that he was a trader in sandal-wood and no pirate, and told me
that if I would join him for this trip he would give me a good share of
the profits or put me on shore in some civilized island if I chose."

Bill's brows lowered savagely as he muttered, "Ay, he said truth when he
told you he was a sandal-wood trader, but he lied when--"

"Sail ho!" shouted the look-out at the masthead.

"Where, away?" cried Bill, springing to the tiller; while the men,
startled by the sudden cry jumped up and gazed round the horizon.

"On the starboard quarter, hull down, sir," answered the look-out.

At this moment the captain came on deck, and mounting into the rigging,
surveyed the sail through the glass.  Then sweeping his eye round the
horizon he gazed steadily at a particular point.

"Take in top-sails," shouted the captain, swinging himself down on the
deck by the main-back stay.

"Take in top-sails," roared the first mate.

"Ay, ay, sir-r-r," answered the men as they sprang into the rigging and
went aloft like cats.

Instantly all was bustle on board the hitherto quiet schooner.  The top-
sails were taken in and stowed, the men stood by the sheets and halyards,
and the captain gazed anxiously at the breeze which was now rushing
towards us like a sheet of dark blue.  In a few seconds it struck us.  The
schooner trembled as if in surprise at the sudden onset, while she fell
away, then bending gracefully to the wind, as though in acknowledgment of
her subjection, she cut through the waves with her sharp prow like a
dolphin, while Bill directed her course towards the strange sail.

In half an hour we neared her sufficiently to make out that she was a
schooner, and, from the clumsy appearance of her masts and sails we
judged her to be a trader.  She evidently did not like our appearance,
for, the instant the breeze reached her, she crowded all sail and showed
us her stern.  As the breeze had moderated a little our top-sails were
again shaken out, and it soon became evident,--despite the proverb, "A
stern chase is a long one," that we doubled her speed and would overhaul
her speedily.  When within a mile we hoisted British colours, but
receiving no acknowledgment, the captain ordered a shot to be fired
across her bows.  In a moment, to my surprise, a large portion of the
bottom of the boat amidships was removed, and in the hole thus exposed
appeared an immense brass gun.  It worked on a swivel and was elevated by
means of machinery.  It was quickly loaded and fired.  The heavy ball
struck the water a few yards ahead of the chase, and, ricochetting into
the air, plunged into the sea a mile beyond it.

This produced the desired effect.  The strange vessel backed her
top-sails and hove-to, while we ranged up and lay-to, about a hundred
yards off.

"Lower the boat," cried the captain.

In a second the boat was lowered and manned by a part of the crew, who
were all armed with cutlasses and pistols.  As the captain passed me to
get into it, he said, "jump into the stern sheets, Ralph, I may want
you."  I obeyed, and in ten minutes more we were standing on the
stranger's deck.  We were all much surprised at the sight that met our
eyes.  Instead of a crew of such sailors as we were accustomed to see,
there were only fifteen blacks standing on the quarter-deck and regarding
us with looks of undisguised alarm.  They were totally unarmed and most
of them unclothed; one or two, however, wore portions of European attire.
One had on a pair of duck trousers which were much too large for him and
stuck out in a most ungainly manner.  Another wore nothing but the common
scanty native garment round the loins, and a black beaver hat.  But the
most ludicrous personage of all, and one who seemed to be chief, was a
tall middle-aged man, of a mild, simple expression of countenance, who
wore a white cotton shirt, a swallow-tailed coat, and a straw hat, while
his black brawny legs were totally uncovered below the knees.

"Where's the commander of this ship?" inquired our captain, stepping up
to this individual.

"I is capin," he answered, taking off his straw hat and making a low bow.

"You!" said our captain, in surprise.  "Where do you come from, and where
are you bound?  What cargo have you aboard?"

"We is come," answered the man with the swallow-tail, "from Aitutaki; we
was go for Rarotonga.  We is native miss'nary ship; our name is de _Olive
Branch_; an' our cargo is two tons cocoa-nuts, seventy pigs, twenty cats,
and de Gosp'l."

This announcement was received by the crew of our vessel with a shout of
laughter, which, however, was peremptorily checked by the captain, whose
expression instantly changed from one of severity to that of frank
urbanity as he advanced towards the missionary and shook him warmly by
the hand.

"I am very glad to have fallen in with you," said he, "and I wish you
much success in your missionary labours.  Pray take me to your cabin, as
I wish to converse with you privately."

The missionary immediately took him by the hand, and as he led him away I
heard him saying, "Me most glad to find you trader; we t'ought you be
pirate.  You very like one 'bout the masts."

What conversation the captain had with this man I never heard, but he
came on deck again in a quarter of an hour, and, shaking hands cordially
with the missionary, ordered us into our boat and returned to the
schooner, which was immediately put before the wind.  In a few minutes
the _Olive Branch_ was left far behind us.

That afternoon, as I was down below at dinner, I heard the men talking
about this curious ship.

"I wonder," said one, "why our captain looked so sweet on yon swallow-
tailed super-cargo o' pigs and Gospels.  If it had been an ordinary
trader, now, he would have taken as many o' the pigs as he required and
sent the ship with all on board to the bottom."

"Why, Dick, you must be new to these seas if you don't know that," cried
another.  "The captain cares as much for the gospel as you do (an' that's
precious little), but he knows, and everybody knows, that the only place
among the southern islands where a ship can put in and get what she wants
in comfort, is where the gospel has been sent to.  There are hundreds o'
islands, at this blessed moment, where you might as well jump straight
into a shark's maw as land without a band o' thirty comrades armed to the
teeth to back you."

"Ay," said a man with a deep scar over his right eye, "Dick's new to the
work.  But if the captain takes us for a cargo o' sandal-wood to the
Feejees he'll get a taste o' these black gentry in their native
condition.  For my part I don't know, an' I don't care, what the gospel
does to them; but I know that when any o' the islands chance to get it,
trade goes all smooth an' easy; but where they ha'nt got it, Beelzebub
himself could hardly desire better company."

"Well, you ought to be a good judge," cried another, laughing, "for
you've never kept any company but the worst all your life!"

"Ralph Rover!" shouted a voice down the hatchway.  "Captain wants you,
aft."

Springing up the ladder I hastened to the cabin, pondering as I went the
strange testimony borne by these men to the effect of the gospel on
savage natures;--testimony which, as it was perfectly disinterested, I
had no doubt whatever was strictly true.

On coming again on deck I found Bloody Bill at the helm, and as we were
alone together I tried to draw him into conversation.  After repeating to
him the conversation in the forecastle about the missionaries, I said,--

"Tell me, Bill, is this schooner really a trader in sandal-wood?"

"Yes, Ralph, she is; but she's just as really a pirate.  The black flag
you saw flying at the peak was no deception."

"Then how can you say she's a trader?" asked I.

"Why, as to that, she trades when she can't take by force, but she takes
by force, when she can, in preference.  Ralph," he added, lowering his
voice, "if you had seen the bloody deeds that I have witnessed done on
these decks you would not need to ask if we were pirates.  But you'll
find it out soon enough.  As for the missionaries, the captain favours
them because they are useful to him.  The South-Sea islanders are such
incarnate fiends that they are the better of being tamed, and the
missionaries are the only men who can do it."

Our track after this lay through several clusters of small islets, among
which we were becalmed more than once.  During this part of our voyage
the watch on deck and the look-out at the mast-head were more than
usually vigilant, as we were not only in danger of being attacked by the
natives, who, I learned from the captain's remarks, were a bloody and
deceitful tribe at this group, but we were also exposed to much risk from
the multitudes of coral reefs that rose up in the channels between the
islands, some of them just above the surface, others a few feet below it.
Our precautions against the savages I found were indeed necessary.

One day we were becalmed among a group of small islands, most of which
appeared to be uninhabited.  As we were in want of fresh water the
captain sent the boat ashore to bring off a cask or two.  But we were
mistaken in thinking there were no natives; for scarcely had we drawn
near to the shore when a band of naked blacks rushed out of the bush and
assembled on the beach, brandishing their clubs and spears in a
threatening manner.  Our men were well armed, but refrained from showing
any signs of hostility, and rowed nearer in order to converse with the
natives; and I now found that more than one of the crew could imperfectly
speak dialects of the language peculiar to the South Sea islanders.  When
within forty yards of the shore, we ceased rowing, and the first mate
stood up to address the multitude; but, instead of answering us, they
replied with a shower of stones, some of which cut the men severely.
Instantly our muskets were levelled, and a volley was about to be fired,
when the captain hailed us in a loud voice from the schooner, which lay
not more than five or six hundred yards off the shore.

"Don't fire," he shouted, angrily.  "Pull off to the point ahead of you."

The men looked surprised at this order, and uttered deep curses as they
prepared to obey, for their wrath was roused and they burned for revenge.
Three or four of them hesitated, and seemed disposed to mutiny.

"Don't distress yourselves, lads," said the mate, while a bitter smile
curled his lip.  "Obey orders.  The captain's not the man to take an
insult tamely.  If Long Tom does not speak presently I'll give myself to
the sharks."

The men smiled significantly as they pulled from the shore, which was now
crowded with a dense mass of savages, amounting, probably, to five or six
hundred.  We had not rowed off above a couple of hundred yards when a
loud roar thundered over the sea, and the big brass gun sent a withering
shower of grape point blank into the midst of the living mass, through
which a wide lane was cut, while a yell, the like of which I could not
have imagined, burst from the miserable survivors as they fled to the
woods.  Amongst the heaps of dead that lay on the sand, just where they
had fallen, I could distinguish mutilated forms writhing in agony, while
ever and anon one and another rose convulsively from out the mass,
endeavoured to stagger towards the wood, and ere they had taken a few
steps, fell and wallowed on the bloody sand.  My blood curdled within me
as I witnessed this frightful and wanton slaughter; but I had little time
to think, for the captain's deep voice came again over the water towards
us: "Pull ashore, lads, and fill your water casks."  The men obeyed in
silence, and it seemed to me as if even their hard hearts were shocked by
the ruthless deed.  On gaining the mouth of the rivulet at which we
intended to take in water, we found it flowing with blood, for the
greater part of those who were slain had been standing on the banks of
the stream, a short way above its mouth.  Many of the wretched creatures
had fallen into it, and we found one body, which had been carried down,
jammed between two rocks, with the staring eyeballs turned towards us and
his black hair waving in the ripples of the blood-red stream.  No one
dared to oppose our landing now, so we carried our casks to a pool above
the murdered group, and having filled them, returned on board.
Fortunately a breeze sprang up soon afterwards and carried us away from
the dreadful spot; but it could not waft me away from the memory of what
I had seen.

"And this," thought I, gazing in horror at the captain, who, with a quiet
look of indifference, leaned upon the taffrail smoking a cigar and
contemplating the fertile green islets as they passed like a lovely
picture before our eyes--"this is the man who favours the missionaries
because they are useful to him and can tame the savages better than any
one else can do it!"  Then I wondered in my mind whether it were possible
for any missionary to tame _him_!



CHAPTER XXIV.


Bloody Bill is communicative and sagacious--Unpleasant
prospects--Retrospective meditations interrupted by volcanic agency--The
pirates negotiate with a Feejee chief--Various etceteras that are
calculated to surprise and horrify.

It was many days after the events just narrated ere I recovered a little
of my wonted spirits.  I could not shake off the feeling for a long time
that I was in a frightful dream, and the sight of our captain filled me
with so much horror that I kept out of his way as much as my duties about
the cabin would permit.  Fortunately he took so little notice of me that
he did not observe my changed feelings towards him, otherwise it might
have been worse for me.

But I was now resolved that I would run away the very first island we
should land at, and commit myself to the hospitality of the natives
rather than remain an hour longer than I could help in the pirate
schooner.  I pondered this subject a good deal, and at last made up my
mind to communicate my intention to Bloody Bill; for, during several
talks I had had with him of late, I felt assured that he too would
willingly escape if possible.  When I told him of my design he shook his
head.  "No, no, Ralph," said he, "you must not think of running away
here.  Among some of the groups of islands you might do so with safety,
but if you tried it here you would find that you had jumped out of the
fryin' pan into the fire."

"How so, Bill?" said I, "would the natives not receive me?"

"That they would, lad; but they would eat you too."

"Eat me!" said I in surprise, "I thought the South Sea islanders never
ate anybody except their enemies."

"Humph!" ejaculated Bill.  "I s'pose 'twas yer tender-hearted friends in
England that put that notion into your head.  There's a set o'
soft-hearted folk at home that I knows on, who don't like to have their
feelin's ruffled, and when you tell them anything they don't like--that
shocks them, as they call it--no matter how true it be, they stop their
ears and cry out, 'Oh, that is _too_ horrible!  We can't believe that!'
An' they say truth.  They can't believe it 'cause they won't believe it.
Now, I believe there's thousands o' the people in England who are sich
born drivellin' _won't-believers_ that they think the black fellows
hereaway, at the worst, eat an enemy only now an' then, out o' spite;
whereas, I know for certain, and many captains of the British and
American navies know as well as me, that the Feejee islanders eat not
only their enemies but one another; and they do it not for spite, but for
pleasure.  It's a _fact_ that they prefer human flesh to any other.  But
they don't like white men's flesh so well as black.  They say it makes
them sick."

"Why, Bill," said I, "you told me just now that they would eat _me_ if
they caught me."

"So I did; and so I think they would.  I've only heard some o' them say
they don't like white men _so well_ as black; but if they was hungry they
wouldn't be particular.  Anyhow, I'm sure they would kill you.  You see,
Ralph, I've been a good while in them parts, and I've visited the
different groups of islands oftentimes as a trader.  And thorough goin'
blackguards some o' them traders are.  No better than pirates, I can tell
you.  One captain that I sailed with was not a chip better than the one
we're with now.  He was tradin' with a friendly chief one day, aboard his
vessel.  The chief had swam off to us with the things for trade tied a-
top of his head, for them chaps are like otters in the water.  Well, the
chief was hard on the captain, and would not part with some o' his
things.  When their bargainin' was over they shook hands, and the chief
jumped over board to swim ashore; but before he got forty yards from the
ship the captain seized a musket and shot him dead.  He then hove up
anchor and put to sea, and as we sailed along shore, he dropped six black-
fellows with his rifle, remarkin' that 'that would spoil the trade for
the next comers.'  But, as I was sayin', I'm up to the ways o' these
fellows.  One o' the laws o' the country is, that every shipwrecked
person who happens to be cast ashore, be he dead or alive, is doomed to
be roasted and eaten.  There was a small tradin' schooner wrecked off one
of these islands when we were lyin' there in harbour during a storm.  The
crew was lost, all but three men, who swam ashore.  The moment they
landed they were seized by the natives and carried up into the woods.  We
knew pretty well what their fate would be, but we could not help them,
for our crew was small, and if we had gone ashore they would likely have
killed us all.  We never saw the three men again; but we heard frightful
yelling, and dancing, and merry-making that night; and one of the
natives, who came aboard to trade with us next day, told us that the
_long pigs_, as he called the men, had been roasted and eaten, and their
bones were to be converted into sail needles.  He also said that white
men were bad to eat, and that most o' the people on shore were sick."

I was very much shocked and cast down in my mind at this terrible account
of the natives, and asked Bill what he would advise me to do.  Looking
round the deck to make sure that we were not overheard, he lowered his
voice and said, "There are two or three ways that we might escape, Ralph,
but none o' them's easy.  If the captain would only sail for some o' the
islands near Tahiti, we might run away there well enough, because the
natives are all Christians; an' we find that wherever the savages take up
with Christianity they always give over their bloody ways, and are safe
to be trusted.  I never cared for Christianity myself," he continued, in
a soliloquising voice, "and I don't well know what it means; but a man
with half an eye can see what it does for these black critters.  However,
the captain always keeps a sharp look out after us when we get to these
islands, for he half suspects that one or two o' us are tired of his
company.  Then, we might manage to cut the boat adrift some fine night
when it's our watch on deck, and clear off before they discovered that we
were gone.  But we would run the risk o' bein' caught by the blacks.  I
wouldn't like to try that plan.  But you and I will think over it, Ralph,
and see what's to be done.  In the meantime it's our watch below, so I'll
go and turn in."

Bill then bade me good night, and went below, while a comrade took his
place at the helm; but, feeling no desire to enter into conversation with
him, I walked aft, and, leaning over the stern, looked down into the
phosphorescent waves that gargled around the ladder, and streamed out
like a flame of blue light in the vessel's wake.  My thoughts were very
sad, and I could scarce refrain from tears as I contrasted my present
wretched position with the happy, peaceful time, I had spent on the Coral
Island with my dear companions.  As I thought upon Jack and Peterkin
anxious forebodings crossed my mind, and I pictured to myself the grief
and dismay with which they would search every nook and corner of the
island, in a vain attempt to discover my dead body; for I felt assured
that if they did not see any sign of the pirate schooner or boat, when
they came out of the cave to look for me, they would never imagine that I
had been carried away.  I wondered, too, how Jack would succeed in
getting Peterkin out of the cave without my assistance; and I trembled
when I thought that he might lose presence of mind, and begin to kick
when he was in the tunnel!  These thoughts were suddenly interrupted and
put to flight by a bright red blaze which lighted up the horizon to the
southward, and cut a crimson glow far over the sea.  This appearance was
accompanied by a low growling sound, as of distant thunder, and, at the
same time, the sky above us became black, while a hot stifling wind blew
around us in fitful gusts.

The crew assembled hastily on deck, and most of them were under the
belief that a frightful hurricane was pending; but the captain coming on
deck, soon explained the phenomena.

"It's only a volcano," said he.  "I knew there was one hereabouts, but
thought it was extinct.  Up there and furl top-gallant-sails; we'll
likely have a breeze, and it's well to be ready."

As he spoke, a shower began to fall, which we quickly observed was not
rain, but fine ashes.  As we were many miles distant from the volcano,
these must have been carried to us from it by the wind.  As the captain
had predicted, a stiff breeze soon afterwards sprang up, under the
influence of which we speedily left the volcano far behind us; but during
the greater part of the night we could see its lurid glare and hear its
distant thunder.  The shower did not cease to fall for several hours, and
we must have sailed under it for nearly forty miles, perhaps farther.
When we emerged from the cloud, our decks and every part of the rigging
were completely covered with a thick coat of ashes.  I was much
interested in this, and recollected that Jack had often spoken of many of
the islands of the Pacific as being volcanoes, either active or extinct,
and had said that the whole region was more or less volcanic, and that
some scientific men were of opinion that the islands of the Pacific were
nothing more or less than the mountain tops of a huge continent which had
sunk under the influence of volcanic agency.

Three days after passing the volcano, we found ourselves a few miles to
windward of an island of considerable size and luxuriant aspect.  It
consisted of two mountains, which seemed to be nearly four thousand feet
high.  They were separated from each other by a broad valley, whose thick-
growing trees ascended a considerable distance up the mountain sides; and
rich level plains, or meadow-land, spread round the base of the
mountains, except at the point immediately opposite the large valley,
where a river seemed to carry the trees, as it were, along with it down
to the white sandy shore.  The mountain tops, unlike those of our Coral
Island, were sharp, needle-shaped, and bare, while their sides were more
rugged and grand in outline than anything I had yet seen in those seas.
Bloody Bill was beside me when the island first hove in sight.

"Ha!" he exclaimed, "I know that island well.  They call it Emo."

"Have you been here before, then?" I inquired.

"Ay, that I have, often, and so has this schooner.  'Tis a famous island
for sandal-wood.  We have taken many cargoes off it already, and have
paid for them too; for the savages are so numerous that we dared not try
to take it by force.  But our captain has tried to cheat them so often,
that they're beginnin' not to like us overmuch now.  Besides, the men
behaved ill the last time we were here; and I wonder the captain is not
afraid to venture.  But he's afraid o' nothing earthly, I believe."

We soon ran inside the barrier coral-reef, and let go our anchor in six
fathoms water, just opposite the mouth of a small creek, whose shores
were densely covered with mangroves and tall umbrageous trees.  The
principal village of the natives lay about half a mile from this point.
Ordering the boat out, the captain jumped into it, and ordered me to
follow him.  The men, fifteen in number, were well armed; and the mate
was directed to have Long Tom ready for emergencies.

"Give way, lads," cried the captain.

The oars fell into the water at the word, the boat shot from the
schooner's side, and in a few minutes reached the shore.  Here, contrary
to our expectation, we were met with the utmost cordiality by Romata, the
principal chief of the island, who conducted us to his house, and gave us
mats to sit upon.  I observed in passing that the natives, of whom there
were two or three thousand, were totally unarmed.

After a short preliminary palaver, a feast of baked pigs and various
roots was spread before us; of which we partook sparingly, and then
proceeded to business.  The captain stated his object in visiting the
island, regretted that there had been a slight misunderstanding during
the last visit, and hoped that no ill-will was borne by either party, and
that a satisfactory trade would be accomplished.

Romata answered that he had forgotten there had been any differences
between them, protested that he was delighted to see his friends again,
and assured them they should have every assistance in cutting and
embarking the wood.  The terms were afterwards agreed on, and we rose to
depart.  All this conversation was afterwards explained to me by Bill,
who understood the language pretty well.

Romata accompanied us on board, and explained that a great chief from
another island was then on a visit to him, and that he was to be
ceremoniously entertained on the following day.  After begging to be
allowed to introduce him to us, and receiving permission, he sent his
canoe ashore to bring him off.  At the same time he gave orders to bring
on board his two favourites, a cock and a paroquet.  While the canoe was
gone on this errand, I had time to regard the savage chief attentively.
He was a man of immense size, with massive but beautifully moulded limbs
and figure, only parts of which, the broad chest and muscular arms, were
uncovered; for, although the lower orders generally wore no other
clothing than a strip of cloth called _maro_ round their loins, the
chief, on particular occasions, wrapped his person in voluminous folds of
a species of native cloth made from the bark of the Chinese
paper-mulberry.  Romata wore a magnificent black beard and moustache, and
his hair was frizzed out to such an extent that it resembled a large
turban, in which was stuck a long wooden pin!  I afterwards found that
this pin served for scratching the head, for which purpose the fingers
were too short without disarranging the hair.  But Romata put himself to
much greater inconvenience on account of his hair, for we found that he
slept with his head resting on a wooden pillow, in which was cut a hollow
for the neck, so that the hair of the sleeper might not be disarranged.

In ten minutes the canoe returned, bringing the other chief, who
certainly presented a most extraordinary appearance, having painted one
half of his face red and the other half yellow, besides ornamenting it
with various designs in black!  Otherwise he was much the same in
appearance as Romata, though not so powerfully built.  As this chief had
never seen a ship before, except, perchance, some of the petty traders
that at long intervals visit these remote islands, he was much taken up
with the neatness and beauty of all the fittings of the schooner.  He was
particularly struck with a musket which was shown to him, and asked where
the white men got hatchets hard enough to cut the tree of which the
barrel was made!  While he was thus engaged, his brother chief stood
aloof, talking with the captain, and fondling a superb cock and a little
blue-headed paroquet, the favourites of which I have before spoken.  I
observed that all the other natives walked in a crouching posture while
in the presence of Romata.  Before our guests left us, the captain
ordered the brass gun to be uncovered and fired for their gratification;
and I have every reason to believe he did so for the purpose of showing
our superior power, in case the natives should harbour any evil designs
against us.  Romata had never seen this gun before, as it had not been
uncovered on previous visits, and the astonishment with which he viewed
it was very amusing.  Being desirous of knowing its power, he begged that
the captain would fire it.  So a shot was put into it.  The chiefs were
then directed to look at a rock about two miles out at sea, and the gun
was fired.  In a second the top of the rock was seen to burst asunder,
and to fall in fragments into the sea.

Romata was so delighted with the success of this shot, that he pointed to
a man who was walking on the shore, and begged the captain to fire at
him, evidently supposing that his permission was quite sufficient to
justify the captain in such an act.  He was therefore surprised, and not
a little annoyed, when the captain refused to fire at the native, and
ordered the gun to be housed.

Of all the things, however, that afforded matter of amusement to these
savages, that which pleased Romata's visitor most was the ship's pump.  He
never tired of examining it, and pumping up the water.  Indeed, so much
was he taken up with this pump, that he could not be prevailed on to
return on shore, but sent a canoe to fetch his favourite stool, on which
he seated himself, and spent the remainder of the day in pumping the
bilge-water out of the ship!

Next day the crew went ashore to cut sandal-wood, while the captain, with
one or two men, remained on board, in order to be ready, if need be, with
the brass gun, which was unhoused and conspicuously elevated, with its
capacious muzzle directed point blank at the chief's house.  The men were
fully armed as usual; and the captain ordered me to go with them, to
assist in the work.  I was much pleased with this order, for it freed me
from the captain's company, which I could not now endure, and it gave me
an opportunity of seeing the natives.

As we wound along in single file through the rich fragrant groves of
banana, cocoa-nut, bread-fruit, and other trees, I observed that there
were many of the plum and banian trees, with which I had become familiar
on the Coral Island.  I noticed also large quantities of taro-roots,
yams, and sweet potatoes, growing in enclosures.  On turning into an open
glade of the woods, we came abruptly upon a cluster of native houses.
They were built chiefly of bamboos, and were thatched with the large
thick leaves of the pandanus; but many of them had little more than a
sloping roof and three sides with an open front, being the most simple
shelter from the weather that could well be imagined.  Within these, and
around them, were groups of natives--men, women, and children--who all
stood up to gaze at us as we marched along, followed by the party of men
whom the chief had sent to escort us.  About half a mile inland we
arrived at the spot where the sandal-wood grew, and, while the men set to
work, I clambered up an adjoining hill to observe the country.

About mid-day, the chief arrived with several followers, one of whom
carried a baked pig on a wooden platter, with yams and potatoes on
several plantain leaves, which he presented to the men, who sat down
under the shade of a tree to dine.  The chief sat down to dine also; but,
to my surprise, instead of feeding himself, one of his wives performed
that office for him!  I was seated beside Bill, and asked him the reason
of this.

"It is beneath his dignity, I believe, to feed himself," answered Bill;
"but I daresay he's not particular, except on great occasions.  They've a
strange custom among them, Ralph, which is called _tabu_, and they carry
it to great lengths.  If a man chooses a particular tree for his god, the
fruit o' that tree is tabued to him; and if he eats it, he is sure to be
killed by his people, and eaten, of course, for killing means eating
hereaway.  Then, you see that great mop o' hair on the chief's head?
Well, he has a lot o' barbers to keep it in order; and it's a law that
whoever touches the head of a living chief or the body of a dead one, his
hands are tabued; so, in that way, the barbers' hands are always tabued,
and they daren't use them for their lives, but have to be fed like big
babies, as they are, sure enough!"

"That's odd, Bill.  But look there," said I, pointing to a man whose skin
was of a much lighter colour than the generality of the natives.  "I've
seen a few of these light-skinned fellows among the Fejeeans.  They seem
to me to be of quite a different race."

"So they are," answered Bill.  "These fellows come from the Tongan
Islands, which lie a long way to the eastward.  They come here to build
their big war-canoes; and as these take two, and sometimes four years, to
build, there's always some o' the brown-skins among the black sarpents o'
these islands."

"By the way, Bill," said I, "your mentioning serpents, reminds me that I
have not seen a reptile of any kind since I came to this part of the
world."

"No more there are any," said Bill, "if ye except the niggers themselves,
there's none on the islands, but a lizard or two and some sich harmless
things.  But I never seed any myself.  If there's none on the land,
however, there's more than enough in the water, and that minds me of a
wonderful brute they have here.  But, come, I'll show it to you."  So
saying, Bill arose, and, leaving the men still busy with the baked pig,
led me into the forest.  After proceeding a short distance we came upon a
small pond of stagnant water.  A native lad had followed us, to whom we
called and beckoned him to come to us.  On Bill saying a few words to
him, which I did not understand, the boy advanced to the edge of the
pond, and gave a low peculiar whistle.  Immediately the water became
agitated and an enormous eel thrust its head above the surface and
allowed the youth to touch it.  It was about twelve feet long, and as
thick round the body as a man's thigh.

"There," said Bill, his lip curling with contempt, "what do you think of
that for a god, Ralph?  This is one o' their gods, and it has been fed
with dozens o' livin' babies already.  How many more it'll get afore it
dies is hard to say."

"Babies?" said I, with an incredulous look

"Ay, babies," returned Bill.  "Your soft-hearted folk at home would say,
'Oh, horrible! impossible!' to that, and then go away as comfortable and
unconcerned as if their sayin' 'horrible! impossible!' had made it a lie.
But I tell you, Ralph, it's a _fact_.  I've seed it with my own eyes the
last time I was here, an' mayhap if you stop a while at this accursed
place, and keep a sharp look out, you'll see it too.  They don't feed it
regularly with livin' babies, but they give it one now and then as a
treat.  Bah! you brute!' cried Bill, in disgust, giving the reptile a
kick on the snout with his heavy boot, that sent it sweltering back in
agony into its loathsome pool.  I thought it lucky for Bill, indeed for
all of us, that the native youth's back happened to be turned at the
time, for I am certain that if the poor savages had come to know that we
had so rudely handled their god, we should have had to fight our way back
to the ship.  As we retraced our steps I questioned my companion further
on this subject.

"How comes it, Bill, that the mothers allow such a dreadful thing to be
done?"

"Allow it? the mothers _do_ it!  It seems to me that there's nothing too
fiendish or diabolical for these people to do.  Why, in some of the
islands they have an institution called the _Areoi_, and the persons
connected with that body are ready for any wickedness that mortal man can
devise.  In fact they stick at nothing; and one o' their customs is to
murder their infants the moment they are born.  The mothers agree to it,
and the fathers do it.  And the mildest ways they have of murdering them
is by sticking them through the body with sharp splinters of bamboo,
strangling them with their thumbs, or burying them alive and stamping
them to death while under the sod."

I felt sick at heart while my companion recited these horrors.

"But it's a curious fact," he continued, after a pause, during which we
walked in silence towards the spot where we had left our comrades,--"it's
a curious fact, that wherever the missionaries get a footin' all these
things come to an end at once, an' the savages take to doin' each other
good, and singin' psalms, just like Methodists."

"God bless the missionaries!" said I, while a feeling of enthusiasm
filled my heart, so that I could speak with difficulty.  "God bless and
prosper the missionaries till they get a footing in every island of the
sea!"

"I would say Amen to that prayer, Ralph, if I could," said Bill, in a
deep, sad voice; "but it would be a mere mockery for a man to ask a
blessing for others who dare not ask one for himself.  But, Ralph," he
continued, "I've not told you half o' the abominations I have seen durin'
my life in these seas.  If we pull long together, lad, I'll tell you
more; and if times have not changed very much since I was here last, it's
like that you'll have a chance o' seeing a little for yourself before
long."



CHAPTER XXV.


The Sandal-wood party--Native children's games, somewhat
surprising--Desperate amusements suddenly and fatally brought to a
close--An old friend recognised--News--Romata's mad conduct.

Next day the wood-cutting party went ashore again, and I accompanied them
as before.  During the dinner hour I wandered into the woods alone, being
disinclined for food that day.  I had not rambled far when I found myself
unexpectedly on the sea-shore, having crossed a narrow neck of land which
separated the native village from a large bay.  Here I found a party of
the islanders busy with one of their war-canoes, which was almost ready
for launching.  I stood for a long time watching this party with great
interest, and observed that they fastened the timbers and planks to each
other very much in the same way in which I had seen Jack fasten those of
our little boat.  But what surprised me most was its immense length,
which I measured very carefully, and found to be a hundred feet long; and
it was so capacious that it could have held three hundred men.  It had
the unwieldy out-rigger and enormously high stern-posts which I had
remarked on the canoe that came to us while I was on the Coral Island.
Observing some boys playing at games a short way along the beach, I
resolved to go and watch them; but as I turned from the natives who were
engaged so busily and cheerfully at their work, I little thought of the
terrible event that hung on the completion of that war-canoe.

Advancing towards the children, who were so numerous that I began to
think this must be the general play-ground of the village, I sat down on
a grassy bank under the shade of a plantain-tree, to watch them.  And a
happier or more noisy crew I have never seen.  There were at least two
hundred of them, both boys and girls, all of whom were clad in no other
garments than their own glossy little black skins, except the maro, or
strip of cloth round the loins of the boys, and a very short petticoat or
kilt on the girls.  They did not all play at the same game, but amused
themselves in different groups.

One band was busily engaged in a game exactly similar to our blind-man's-
buff.  Another set were walking on stilts, which raised the children
three feet from the ground.  They were very expert at this amusement and
seldom tumbled.  In another place I observed a group of girls standing
together, and apparently enjoying themselves very much; so I went up to
see what they were doing, and found that they were opening their eye-lids
with their fingers till their eyes appeared of an enormous size, and then
thrusting pieces of straw between the upper and lower lids, across the
eye-ball, to keep them in that position!  This seemed to me, I must
confess, a very foolish as well as dangerous amusement.  Nevertheless the
children seemed to be greatly delighted with the hideous faces they made.
I pondered this subject a good deal, and thought that if little children
knew how silly they seem to grown-up people when they make faces, they
would not be so fond of doing it.  In another place were a number of boys
engaged in flying kites, and I could not help wondering that some of the
games of those little savages should be so like to our own, although they
had never seen us at play.  But the kites were different from ours in
many respects, being of every variety of shape.  They were made of very
thin cloth, and the boys raised them to a wonderful height in the air by
means of twine made from the cocoa-nut husk.  Other games there were,
some of which showed the natural depravity of the hearts of these poor
savages, and made me wish fervently that missionaries might be sent out
to them.  But the amusement which the greatest number of the children of
both sexes seemed to take chief delight in, was swimming and diving in
the sea; and the expertness which they exhibited was truly amazing.  They
seemed to have two principal games in the water, one of which was to dive
off a sort of stage which had been erected near a deep part of the sea,
and chase each other in the water.  Some of them went down to an
extraordinary depth; others skimmed along the surface, or rolled over and
over like porpoises, or diving under each other, came up unexpectedly and
pulled each other down by a leg or an arm.  They never seemed to tire of
this sport, and, from the great heat of the water in the South Seas, they
could remain in it nearly all day without feeling chilled.  Many of these
children were almost infants, scarce able to walk; yet they staggered
down the beach, flung their round fat little black bodies fearlessly into
deep water, and struck out to sea with as much confidence as ducklings.

The other game to which I have referred was swimming in the surf.  But as
this is an amusement in which all engage, from children of ten to gray-
headed men of sixty, and as I had an opportunity of witnessing it in
perfection the day following, I shall describe it more minutely.

I suppose it was in honour of their guest that this grand swimming-match
was got up, for Romata came and told the captain that they were going to
engage in it, and begged him to "come and see."

"What sort of amusement is this surf swimming?" I inquired of Bill, as we
walked together to a part of the shore on which several thousands of the
natives were assembled.

"It's a very favourite lark with these 'xtr'or'nary critters," replied
Bill, giving a turn to the quid of tobacco that invariably bulged out his
left cheek.  "Ye see, Ralph, them fellows take to the water as soon
a'most as they can walk, an' long before they can do that anything
respectably, so that they are as much at home in the sea as on the land.
Well, ye see, I 'spose they found swimmin' for miles out to sea, and
divin' fathoms deep, wasn't exciting enough, so they invented this game
o' the surf.  Each man and boy, as you see, has got a short board or
plank, with which he swims out for a mile or more to sea, and then,
gettin' on the top o' yon thundering breaker, they come to shore on the
top of it, yellin' and screechin' like fiends.  It's a marvel to me that
they're not dashed to shivers on the coral reef, for sure an' sartin am I
that if any o' us tried it, we wouldn't be worth the fluke of a broken
anchor after the wave fell.  But there they go!"

As he spoke, several hundreds of the natives, amongst whom we were now
standing, uttered a loud yell, rushed down the beach, plunged into the
surf, and were carried off by the seething foam of the retreating wave.

At the point where we stood, the encircling coral reef joined the shore,
so that the magnificent breakers, which a recent stiff breeze had
rendered larger than usual, fell in thunder at the feet of the multitudes
who lined the beach.  For some time the swimmers continued to strike out
to sea, breasting over the swell like hundreds of black seals.  Then they
all turned, and, watching an approaching billow, mounted its white crest,
and, each laying his breast on the short flat board, came rolling towards
the shore, careering on the summit of the mighty wave, while they and the
onlookers shouted and yelled with excitement.  Just as the monster wave
curled in solemn majesty to fling its bulky length upon the beach, most
of the swimmers slid back into the trough behind; others, slipping off
their boards, seized them in their hands, and, plunging through the
watery waste, swam out to repeat the amusement; but a few, who seemed to
me the most reckless, continued their career until they were launched
upon the beach, and enveloped in the churning foam and spray.  One of
these last came in on the crest of the wave most manfully, and landed
with a violent bound almost on the spot where Bill and I stood.  I saw by
his peculiar head-dress that he was the chief whom the tribe entertained
as their guest.  The sea-water had removed nearly all the paint with
which his face had been covered; and, as he rose panting to his feet, I
recognised, to my surprise, the features of Tararo, my old friend of the
Coral Island!

Tararo at the same moment recognised me, and, advancing quickly, took me
round the neck and rubbed noses; which had the effect of transferring a
good deal of the moist paint from his nose to mine.  Then, recollecting
that this was not the white man's mode of salutation, he grasped me by
the hand and shook it violently.

"Hallo, Ralph!" cried Bill, in surprise, "that chap seems to have taken a
sudden fancy to you, or he must be an old acquaintance."

"Right, Bill," I replied, "he is indeed an old acquaintance;" and I
explained in a few words that he was the chief whose party Jack and
Peterkin and I had helped to save.

Tararo having thrown away his surf-board, entered into an animated
conversation with Bill, pointing frequently during the course of it to
me; whereby I concluded he must be telling him about the memorable
battle, and the part we had taken in it.  When he paused, I begged of
Bill to ask him about the woman Avatea, for I had some hope that she
might have come with Tararo on this visit.  "And ask him," said I, "who
she is, for I am persuaded she is of a different race from the
Feejeeans."  On the mention of her name the chief frowned darkly, and
seemed to speak with much anger.

"You're right, Ralph," said Bill, when the chief had ceased to talk;
"she's not a Feejee girl, but a Samoan.  How she ever came to this place
the chief does not very clearly explain, but he says she was taken in
war, and that he got her three years ago, an' kept her as his daughter
ever since.  Lucky for her, poor girl, else she'd have been roasted and
eaten like the rest."

"But why does Tararo frown and look so angry?" said I.

"Because the girl's somewhat obstinate, like most o' the sex, an' won't
marry the man he wants her to.  It seems that a chief of some other
island came on a visit to Tararo and took a fancy to her, but she
wouldn't have him on no account, bein' already in love, and engaged to a
young chief whom Tararo hates, and she kicked up a desperate shindy; so,
as he was going on a war expedition in his canoe, he left her to think
about it, sayin' he'd be back in six months or so, when he hoped she
wouldn't be so obstropolous.  This happened just a week ago; an' Tararo
says that if she's not ready to go, when the chief returns, as his bride,
she'll be sent to him as a _long pig_."

"As a long pig!" I exclaimed in surprise; "why what does he mean by
that?"

"He means somethin' very unpleasant," answered Bill with a frown.  "You
see these blackguards eat men an' women just as readily as they eat pigs;
and, as baked pigs and baked men are very like each other in appearance,
they call men _long_ pigs.  If Avatea goes to this fellow as a long pig,
it's all up with her, poor thing."

"Is she on the island now?" I asked eagerly.

"No, she's at Tararo's island."

"And where does it lie?"

"About fifty or sixty miles to the south'ard o' this," returned Bill;
"but I--"

At this moment we were startled by the cry of "Mao! mao!--a shark! a
shark!" which was immediately followed by a shriek that rang clear and
fearfully loud above the tumult of cries that arose from the savages in
the water and on the land.  We turned hastily towards the direction
whence the cry came, and had just time to observe the glaring eye-balls
of one of the swimmers as he tossed his arms in the air.  Next instant he
was pulled under the waves.  A canoe was instantly launched, and the hand
of the drowning man was caught, but only half of his body was dragged
from the maw of the monster, which followed the canoe until the water
became so shallow that it could scarcely swim.  The crest of the next
billow was tinged with red as it rolled towards the shore.

In most countries of the world this would have made a deep impression on
the spectators, but the only effect it had upon these islanders was to
make them hurry with all speed out of the sea, lest a similar fate should
befall some of the others; but, so utterly reckless were they of human
life, that it did not for a moment suspend the progress of their
amusements.  It is true the surf-swimming ended for that time somewhat
abruptly, but they immediately proceeded with other games.  Bill told me
that sharks do not often attack the surf-swimmers, being frightened away
by the immense numbers of men and boys in the water, and by the shouting
and splashing that they make.  "But," said he, "such a thing as you have
seen just now don't frighten them much.  They'll be at it again to-morrow
or next day, just as if there wasn't a single shark between Feejee and
Nova Zembla."

After this the natives had a series of wrestling and boxing matches; and
being men of immense size and muscle, they did a good deal of injury to
each other, especially in boxing, in which not only the lower orders, but
several of the chiefs and priests engaged.  Each bout was very quickly
terminated, for they did not pretend to a scientific knowledge of the
art, and wasted no time in sparring, but hit straight out at each other's
heads, and their blows were delivered with great force.  Frequently one
of the combatants was knocked down with a single blow; and one gigantic
fellow hit his adversary so severely that he drove the skin entirely off
his forehead.  This feat was hailed with immense applause by the
spectators.

During these exhibitions, which were very painful to me, though I confess
I could not refrain from beholding them, I was struck with the beauty of
many of the figures and designs that were tattooed on the persons of the
chiefs and principal men.  One figure, that seemed to me very elegant,
was that of a palm-tree tattooed on the back of a man's leg, the roots
rising, as it were, from under his heel, the stem ascending the tendon of
the ankle, and the graceful head branching out upon the calf.  I
afterwards learned that this process of tattooing is very painful, and
takes long to do, commencing at the age of ten, and being continued at
intervals up to the age of thirty.  It is done by means of an instrument
made of bone, with a number of sharp teeth with which the skin is
punctured.  Into these punctures a preparation made from the kernel of
the candle-nut, mixed with cocoa-nut oil, is rubbed, and the mark thus
made is indelible.  The operation is performed by a class of men whose
profession it is, and they tattoo as much at a time, as the person on
whom they are operating can bear; which is not much, the pain and
inflammation caused by tattooing being very great, sometimes causing
death.  Some of the chiefs were tattooed with an ornamental stripe down
the legs, which gave them the appearance of being clad in tights.  Others
had marks round the ankles and insteps, which looked like tight-fitting
and elegant boots.  Their faces were also tattooed, and their breasts
were very profusely marked with every imaginable species of
device,--muskets, dogs, birds, pigs, clubs, and canoes, intermingled with
lozenges, squares, circles, and other arbitrary figures.

The women were not tattooed so much as the men, having only a few marks
on their feet and arms.  But I must say, however objectionable this
strange practice may be, it nevertheless had this good effect, that it
took away very much from their appearance of nakedness.

Next day, while we were returning from the woods to our schooner, we
observed Romata rushing about in the neighbourhood of his house,
apparently mad with passion.

"Ah!" said Bill to me, "there he's at his old tricks again.  That's his
way when he gets drink.  The natives make a sort of drink o' their own,
and it makes him bad enough; but when he gets brandy he's like a wild
tiger.  The captain, I suppose, has given him a bottle, as usual, to keep
him in good humour.  After drinkin' he usually goes to sleep, and the
people know it well and keep out of his way, for fear they should waken
him.  Even the babies are taken out of ear-shot; for, when he's waked up,
he rushes out just as you see him now, and spears or clubs the first
person he meets."

It seemed at the present time, however, that no deadly weapon had been in
his way, for the infuriated chief was raging about without one.  Suddenly
he caught sight of an unfortunate man who was trying to conceal himself
behind a tree.  Rushing towards him, Romata struck him a terrible blow on
the head, which knocked out the poor man's eye and also dislocated the
chief's finger.  The wretched creature offered no resistance; he did not
even attempt to parry the blow.  Indeed, from what Bill said, I found
that he might consider himself lucky in having escaped with his life,
which would certainly have been forfeited had the chief been possessed of
a club at the time.

"Have these wretched creatures no law among themselves," said I, "which
can restrain such wickedness?"

"None," replied Bill.  "The chief's word is law.  He might kill and eat a
dozen of his own subjects any day for nothing more than his own pleasure,
and nobody would take the least notice of it."

This ferocious deed took place within sight of our party as we wended our
way to the beach, but I could not observe any other expression on the
faces of the men than that of total indifference or contempt.  It seemed
to me a very awful thing that it should be possible for men to come to
such hardness of heart and callousness to the sight of bloodshed and
violence; but, indeed, I began to find that such constant exposure to
scenes of blood was having a slight effect upon myself, and I shuddered
when I came to think that I, too, was becoming callous.

I thought upon this subject much that night while I walked up and down
the deck during my hours of watch; and I came to the conclusion that if
I, who hated, abhorred, and detested such bloody deeds as I had witnessed
within the last few weeks, could so soon come to be less sensitive about
them, how little wonder that these poor ignorant savages, who were born
and bred in familiarity therewith, should think nothing of them at all,
and should hold human life in so very slight esteem.



CHAPTER XXVI.


Mischief brewing--My blood is made to run cold--Evil consultations and
wicked resolves--Bloody Bill attempts to do good and fails--The
attack--Wholesale murder--The flight--The escape.

Next morning I awoke with a feverish brow and a feeling of deep
depression at my heart; and the more I thought on my unhappy fate, the
more wretched and miserable did I feel.

I was surrounded on all sides by human beings of the most dreadful
character, to whom the shedding of blood was mere pastime.  On shore were
the natives, whose practices were so horrible that I could not think of
them without shuddering.  On board were none but pirates of the blackest
dye, who, although not cannibals, were foul murderers, and more
blameworthy even than the savages, inasmuch as they knew better.  Even
Bill, with whom I had, under the strange circumstances of my lot, formed
a kind of intimacy, was so fierce in his nature as to have acquired the
title of "Bloody" from his vile companions.  I felt very much cast down
the more I considered the subject and the impossibility of delivery, as
it seemed to me, at least for a long time to come.  At last, in my
feeling of utter helplessness, I prayed fervently to the Almighty that he
would deliver me out of my miserable condition; and when I had done so I
felt some degree of comfort.

When the captain came on deck, before the hour at which the men usually
started for the woods, I begged of him to permit me to remain aboard that
day, as I did not feel well; but he looked at me angrily, and ordered me,
in a surly tone, to get ready to go on shore as usual.  The fact was that
the captain had been out of humour for some time past.  Romata and he had
had some differences, and high words had passed between them, during
which the chief had threatened to send a fleet of his war-canoes, with a
thousand men, to break up and burn the schooner; whereupon the captain
smiled sarcastically, and going up to the chief gazed sternly in his
face, while he said, "I have only to raise my little finger just now, and
my big gun will blow your whole village to atoms in five minutes!"
Although the chief was a bold man, he quailed before the pirate's glance
and threat, and made no reply; but a bad feeling had been raised and old
sores had been opened.

I had, therefore, to go with the wood-cutters that day.  Before starting,
however, the captain called me into the cabin, and said,--

"Here, Ralph, I've got a mission for you, lad.  That blackguard Romata is
in the dumps, and nothing will mollify him but a gift; so do you go up to
his house and give him these whales' teeth, with my compliments.  Take
with you one of the men who can speak the language."

I looked at the gift in some surprise, for it consisted of six white
whales' teeth, and two of the same dyed bright red, which seemed to me
very paltry things.  However, I did not dare to hesitate or ask any
questions; so, gathering them up, I left the cabin and was soon on my way
to the chief's house, accompanied by Bill.  On expressing my surprise at
the gift, he said,--

"They're paltry enough to you or me, Ralph, but they're considered of
great value by them chaps.  They're a sort o' cash among them.  The red
ones are the most prized, one of them bein' equal to twenty o' the white
ones.  I suppose the only reason for their bein' valuable is that there
ain't many of them, and they're hard to be got."

On arriving at the house we found Romata sitting on a mat, in the midst
of a number of large bales of native cloth and other articles, which had
been brought to him as presents from time to time by inferior chiefs.  He
received us rather haughtily, but on Bill explaining the nature of our
errand he became very condescending, and his eyes glistened with
satisfaction when he received the whales' teeth, although he laid them
aside with an assumption of kingly indifference.

"Go," said he, with a wave of the hand,--"go, tell your captain that he
may cut wood to-day, but not to-morrow.  He must come ashore,--I want to
have a palaver with him."

As we left the house to return to the woods, Bill shook his head:

"There's mischief brewin' in that black rascal's head.  I know him of
old.  But what comes here?"

As he spoke, we heard the sound of laughter and shouting in the wood, and
presently there issued from it a band of savages, in the midst of whom
were a number of men bearing burdens on their shoulders.  At first I
thought that these burdens were poles with something rolled round them,
the end of each pole resting on a man's shoulder.  But on a nearer
approach I saw that they were human beings, tied hand and foot, and so
lashed to the poles that they could not move.  I counted twenty of them
as they passed.

"More murder!" said Bill, in a voice that sounded between a hoarse laugh
and a groan.

"Surely they are not going to murder them?" said I, looking anxiously
into Bill's face.

"I don't know, Ralph," replied Bill, "what they're goin' to do with them;
but I fear they mean no good when they tie fellows up in that way."

As we continued our way towards the wood-cutters, I observed that Bill
looked anxiously over his shoulder, in the direction where the procession
had disappeared.  At last he stopped, and turning abruptly on his heel,
said,--

"I tell ye what it is, Ralph, I must be at the bottom o' that affair.  Let
us follow these black scoundrels and see what they're goin' to do."

I must say I had no wish to pry further into their bloody practices; but
Bill seemed bent on it, so I turned and went.  We passed rapidly through
the bush, being guided in the right direction by the shouts of the
savages.  Suddenly there was a dead silence, which continued for some
time, while Bill and I involuntarily quickened our pace until we were
running at the top of our speed across the narrow neck of land previously
mentioned.  As we reached the verge of the wood, we discovered the
savages surrounding the large war-canoe, which they were apparently on
the point of launching.  Suddenly the multitude put their united strength
to the canoe; but scarcely had the huge machine begun to move, when a
yell, the most appalling that ever fell upon my ear, rose high above the
shouting of the savages.  It had not died away when another and another
smote upon my throbbing ear; and then I saw that these inhuman monsters
were actually launching their canoe over the living bodies of their
victims.  But there was no pity in the breasts of these men.  Forward
they went in ruthless indifference, shouting as they went, while high
above their voices rang the dying shrieks of those wretched creatures,
as, one after another, the ponderous canoe passed over them, burst the
eyeballs from their sockets, and sent the life's blood gushing from their
mouths.  Oh, reader, this is no fiction.  I would not, for the sake of
thrilling you with horror, invent so terrible a scene.  It was witnessed.
It is true; true as that accursed sin which has rendered the human heart
capable of such diabolical enormities!

When it was over I turned round and fell upon the grass with a deep
groan; but Bill seized me by the arm, and lifting me up as if I had been
a child, cried,--

"Come along, lad; let's away!"--and so, staggering and stumbling over the
tangled underwood, we fled from the fatal spot.

During the remainder of that day I felt as if I were in a horrible dream.
I scarce knew what was said to me, and was more than once blamed by the
men for idling my time.  At last the hour to return aboard came.  We
marched down to the beach, and I felt relief for the first time when my
feet rested on the schooner's deck.

In the course of the evening I overheard part of a conversation between
the captain and the first mate, which startled me not a little.  They
were down in the cabin, and conversed in an under-tone, but the sky-light
being off, I overheard every word that was said.

"I don't half like it," said the mate.  "It seems to me that we'll only
have hard fightin' and no pay."

"No pay!" repeated the captain, in a voice of suppressed anger.  "Do you
call a good cargo all for nothing no pay?"

"Very true," returned the mate; "but we've got the cargo aboard.  Why not
cut your cable and take French leave o' them?  What's the use o' tryin'
to lick the blackguards when it'll do us no manner o' good?"

"Mate," said the captain, in a low voice, "you talk like a fresh-water
sailor.  I can only attribute this shyness to some strange delusion; for
surely" (his voice assumed a slightly sneering tone as he said this)
"surely I am not to suppose that _you_ have become soft-hearted!  Besides,
you are wrong in regard to the cargo being aboard; there's a good quarter
of it lying in the woods, and that blackguard chief knows it and won't
let me take it off.  He defied us to do our worst, yesterday."

"Defied us! did he?" cried the mate, with a bitter laugh.  "Poor
contemptible thing!"

"And yet he seems not so contemptible but that you are afraid to attack
him."

"Who said I was afraid?" growled the mate, sulkily.  "I'm as ready as any
man in the ship.  But, captain, what is it that you intend to do?"

"I intend to muffle the sweeps and row the schooner up to the head of the
creek there, from which point we can command the pile of sandal-wood with
our gun.  Then I shall land with all the men except two, who shall take
care of the schooner and be ready with the boat to take us off.  We can
creep through the woods to the head of the village, where these cannibals
are always dancing round their suppers of human flesh, and if the
carbines of the men are loaded with a heavy charge of buck-shot, we can
drop forty or fifty at the first volley.  After that the thing will be
easy enough.  The savages will take to the mountains in a body, and we
shall take what we require, up anchor, and away."

To this plan the mate at length agreed.  As he left the cabin I heard the
captain say,--

"Give the men an extra glass of grog, and don't forget the buck-shot."

The reader may conceive the horror with which I heard this murderous
conversation.  I immediately repeated it to Bill, who seemed much
perplexed about it.  At length he said,--

"I'll tell you what I'll do, Ralph: I'll swim ashore after dark and fix a
musket to a tree not far from the place where we'll have to land, and
I'll tie a long string to the trigger, so that when our fellows cross it
they'll let it off, and so alarm the village in time to prevent an
attack, but not in time to prevent us gettin' back to the boat; so,
master captain," added Bill with a smile that for the first time seemed
to me to be mingled with good-natured cheerfulness, "you'll be baulked at
least for once in your life by Bloody Bill."

After it grew dark, Bill put this resolve in practice.  He slipped over
the side with a musket in his left hand, while with his right he swam
ashore and entered the woods.  He soon returned, having accomplished his
purpose, and got on board without being seen,--I being the only one on
deck.

When the hour of midnight approached the men were mustered on deck, the
cable was cut and the muffled sweeps got out.  These sweeps were
immensely large oars, each requiring a couple of men to work it.  In a
few minutes we entered the mouth of the creek, which was indeed the mouth
of a small river, and took about half an hour to ascend it, although the
spot where we intended to land was not more than six hundred yards from
the mouth, because there was a slight current against us, and the
mangroves which narrowed the creek, impeded the rowers in some places.
Having reached the spot, which was so darkened by overhanging trees that
we could see with difficulty, a small kedge anchor attached to a thin
line was let softly down over the stern.

"Now, lads," whispered the captain, as he walked along the line of men,
who were all armed to the teeth, "don't be in a hurry, aim low, and don't
waste your first shots."

He then pointed to the boat, into which the men crowded in silence.  There
was no room to row, but oars were not needed, as a slight push against
the side of the schooner sent the boat gliding to the shore.

"There's no need of leaving two in the boat," whispered the mate, as the
men stepped out; "we shall want all our hands.  Let Ralph stay."

The captain assented, and ordered me to stand in readiness with the boat-
hook, to shove ashore at a moment's notice if they should return, or to
shove off if any of the savages should happen to approach.  He then threw
his carbine into the hollow of his arm and glided through the bushes
followed by his men.  With a throbbing head I awaited the result of our
plan.  I knew the exact locality where the musket was placed, for Bill
had described it to me, and I kept my straining eyes fixed upon the spot.
But no sound came, and I began to fear that either they had gone in
another direction or that Bill had not fixed the string properly.
Suddenly I heard a faint click, and observed one or two bright sparks
among the bushes.  My heart immediately sank within me, for I knew at
once that the trigger had indeed been pulled but that the priming had not
caught.  The plan, therefore, had utterly failed.  A feeling of dread now
began to creep over me as I stood in the boat, in that dark, silent spot,
awaiting the issue of this murderous expedition.  I shuddered as I
glanced at the water that glided past like a dark reptile.  I looked back
at the schooner, but her hull was just barely visible, while her tapering
masts were lost among the trees which overshadowed her.  Her lower sails
were set, but so thick was the gloom that they were quite invisible.

Suddenly I heard a shot.  In a moment a thousand voices raised a yell in
the village; again the cry rose on the night air, and was followed by
broken shouts as of scattered parties of men bounding into the woods.
Then I heard another shout loud and close at hand.  It was the voice of
the captain cursing the man who had fired the premature shot.  Then came
the order, "Forward," followed by the wild hurrah of our men, as they
charged the savages.  Shots now rang in quick succession, and at last a
loud volley startled the echoes of the woods.  It was followed by a
multitude of wild shrieks, which were immediately drowned in another
"hurrah" from the men; the distance of the sound proving that they were
driving their enemies before them towards the sea.

While I was listening intently to these sounds, which were now mingled in
confusion, I was startled by the rustling of the leaves not far from me.
At first I thought it was a party of savages who had observed the
schooner, but I was speedily undeceived by observing a body of
natives--apparently several hundreds, as far as I could guess in the
uncertain light--bounding through the woods towards the scene of battle.
I saw at once that this was a party who had out-flanked our men, and
would speedily attack them in the rear.  And so it turned out, for, in a
short time, the shouts increased ten-fold, and among them I thought I
heard a death-cry uttered by voices familiar to my ear.

At length the tumult of battle ceased, and, from the cries of exultation
that now arose from the savages, I felt assured that our men had been
conquered.  I was immediately thrown into dreadful consternation.  What
was I now to do?  To be taken by the savages was too horrible to be
thought of; to flee to the mountains was hopeless, as I should soon be
discovered; and to take the schooner out of the creek without assistance
was impossible.  I resolved, however, to make the attempt, as being my
only hope, and was on the point of pushing off when my hand was stayed
and my blood chilled by an appalling shriek in which I recognised the
voice of one of the crew.  It was succeeded by a shout from the savages.
Then came another, and another shriek of agony, making my ears to tingle,
as I felt convinced they were murdering the pirate crew in cold blood.
With a bursting heart and my brain whirling as if on fire, I seized the
boat-hook to push from shore when a man sprang from the bushes.

"Stop! Ralph, stop!--there now, push off," he cried, and bounded into the
boat so violently as nearly to upset her.  It was Bill's voice!  In
another moment we were on board,--the boat made fast, the line of the
anchor cut, and the sweeps run out.  At the first stroke of Bill's giant
arm the schooner was nearly pulled ashore, for in his haste he forgot
that I could scarcely move the unwieldy oar.  Springing to the stern he
lashed the rudder in such a position as that, while it aided me, it acted
against him, and so rendered the force of our strokes nearly equal.  The
schooner now began to glide quickly down the creek, but before we reached
its mouth, a yell from a thousand voices on the bank told that we were
discovered.  Instantly a number of the savages plunged into the water and
swam towards us; but we were making so much way that they could not
overtake us.  One, however, an immensely powerful man, succeeded in
laying hold of the cut rope that hung from the stern, and clambered
quickly upon deck.  Bill caught sight of him the instant his head
appeared above the taffrail.  But he did not cease to row, and did not
appear even to notice the savage until he was within a yard of him; then,
dropping the sweep, he struck him a blow on the forehead with his
clenched fist that felled him to the deck.  Lifting him up he hurled him
overboard and resumed the oar.  But now a greater danger awaited us, for
the savages had outrun us on the bank and were about to plunge into the
water ahead of the schooner.  If they succeeded in doing so our fate was
sealed.  For one moment Bill stood irresolute.  Then, drawing a pistol
from his belt, he sprang to the brass gun, held the pan of his pistol
over the touch-hole and fired.  The shot was succeeded by the hiss of the
cannon's priming, then the blaze and the crashing thunder of the
monstrous gun burst upon the savages with such deafening roar that it
seemed as if their very mountains had been rent asunder.

This was enough.  The moment of surprise and hesitation caused by the
unwonted sound, gave us time to pass the point; a gentle breeze, which
the dense foliage had hitherto prevented us from feeling, bulged out our
sails; the schooner bent before it, and the shouts of the disappointed
savages grew fainter and fainter in the distance as we were slowly wafted
out to sea.



CHAPTER XXVII.


Reflections--The wounded man--The squall--True consolation--Death.

There is a power of endurance in human beings, both in their bodies and
in their minds, which, I have often thought, seems to be wonderfully
adapted and exactly proportioned to the circumstances in which
individuals may happen to be placed,--a power which, in most cases, is
sufficient to carry a man through and over every obstacle that may happen
to be thrown in his path through life, no matter how high or how steep
the mountain may be, but which often forsakes him the moment the summit
is gained, the point of difficulty passed; and leaves him prostrated,
with energies gone, nerves unstrung, and a feeling of incapacity
pervading the entire frame that renders the most trifling effort almost
impossible.

During the greater part of that day I had been subjected to severe mental
and much physical excitement, which had almost crushed me down by the
time I was relieved from duty in the course of the evening.  But when the
expedition, whose failure has just been narrated, was planned, my
anxieties and energies had been so powerfully aroused that I went through
the protracted scenes of that terrible night without a feeling of the
slightest fatigue.  My mind and body were alike active and full of
energy.  No sooner was the last thrilling fear of danger past, however,
than my faculties were utterly relaxed; and, when I felt the cool breezes
of the Pacific playing around my fevered brow, and heard the free waves
rippling at the schooner's prow, as we left the hated island behind us,
my senses forsook me and I fell in a swoon upon the deck.

From this state I was quickly aroused by Bill, who shook me by the arm,
saying,--

"Hallo! Ralph, boy, rouse up, lad, we're safe now.  Poor thing, I believe
he's fainted."  And raising me in his arms he laid me on the folds of the
gaff-top-sail, which lay upon the deck near the tiller.  "Here, take a
drop o' this, it'll do you good, my boy," he added, in a voice of
tenderness which I had never heard him use before, while he held a brandy-
flask to my lips.

I raised my eyes gratefully, as I swallowed a mouthful; next moment my
head sank heavily upon my arm and I fell fast asleep.  I slept long, for
when I awoke the sun was a good way above the horizon.  I did not move on
first opening my eyes, as I felt a delightful sensation of rest pervading
me, and my eyes were riveted on and charmed with the gorgeous splendour
of the mighty ocean, that burst upon my sight.  It was a dead calm; the
sea seemed a sheet of undulating crystal, tipped and streaked with the
saffron hues of sunrise, which had not yet merged into the glowing heat
of noon; and there was a deep calm in the blue dome above, that was not
broken even by the usual flutter of the sea-fowl.  How long I would have
lain in contemplation of this peaceful scene I know not, but my mind was
recalled suddenly and painfully to the past and the present by the sight
of Bill, who was seated on the deck at my feet with his head reclining,
as if in sleep, on his right arm, which rested on the tiller.  As he
seemed to rest peacefully I did not mean to disturb him, but the slight
noise I made in raising myself on my elbow caused him to start and look
round.

"Well, Ralph, awake at last, my boy; you have slept long and soundly," he
said, turning towards me.

On beholding his countenance I sprang up in anxiety.  He was deadly pale,
and his hair, which hung in dishevelled locks over his face, was clotted
with blood.  Blood also stained his hollow cheeks and covered the front
of his shirt, which, with the greater part of dress, was torn and soiled
with mud.

"Oh, Bill!" said I, with deep anxiety, "what is the matter with you?  You
are ill.  You must have been wounded."

"Even so, lad," said Bill in a deep soft voice, while he extended his
huge frame on the couch from which I had just risen.  "I've got an ugly
wound, I fear, and I've been waiting for you to waken, to ask you to get
me a drop o' brandy and a mouthful o' bread from the cabin lockers.  You
seemed to sleep so sweetly, Ralph, that I didn't like to disturb you.  But
I don't feel up to much just now."

I did not wait till he had done talking, but ran below immediately, and
returned in a few seconds with a bottle of brandy and some broken
biscuit.  He seemed much refreshed after eating a few morsels and
drinking a long draught of water mingled with a little of the spirits.
Immediately afterwards he fell asleep, and I watched him anxiously until
he awoke, being desirous of knowing the nature and extent of his wound.

"Ha!" he exclaimed, on awaking suddenly, after a slumber of an hour, "I'm
the better of that nap, Ralph; I feel twice the man I was;" and he
attempted to rise, but sank back again immediately with a deep groan.

"Nay, Bill you must not move, but lie still while I look at your wound.
I'll make a comfortable bed for you here on deck, and get you some
breakfast.  After that you shall tell me how you got it.  Cheer up,
Bill," I added, seeing that he turned his head away; "you'll be all right
in a little, and I'll be a capital nurse to you though I'm no doctor."

I then left him, and lighted a fire in the caboose.  While it was
kindling, I went to the steward's pantry and procured the materials for a
good breakfast, with which, in little more than half an hour, I returned
to my companion.  He seemed much better, and smiled kindly on me as I set
before him a cup of coffee and a tray with several eggs and some bread on
it.

"Now then, Bill," said I, cheerfully, sitting down beside him on the
deck, "let's fall to.  I'm very hungry myself, I can tell you; but--I
forgot--your wound," I added, rising; "let me look at it."

I found that the wound was caused by a pistol shot in the chest.  It did
not bleed much, and, as it was on the right side, I was in hopes that it
might not be very serious.  But Bill shook his head.  "However," said he,
"sit down, Ralph, and I'll tell you all about it."

"You see, after we left the boat an' began to push through the bushes, we
went straight for the line of my musket, as I had expected; but by some
unlucky chance it didn't explode, for I saw the line torn away by the
men's legs, and heard the click o' the lock; so I fancy the priming had
got damp and didn't catch.  I was in a great quandary now what to do, for
I couldn't concoct in my mind, in the hurry, any good reason for firin'
off my piece.  But they say necessity's the mother of invention; so, just
as I was givin' it up and clinchin' my teeth to bide the worst o't, and
take what should come, a sudden thought came into my head.  I stepped out
before the rest, seemin' to be awful anxious to be at the savages,
tripped my foot on a fallen tree, plunged head foremost into a bush, an',
ov coorse, my carbine exploded!  Then came such a screechin' from the
camp as I never heard in all my life.  I rose at once, and was rushin' on
with the rest when the captain called a halt.

{The dying pirate: p334.jpg}

"'You did that a-purpose, you villain!' he said, with a tremendous oath,
and, drawin' a pistol from his belt, let fly right into my breast.  I
fell at once, and remembered no more till I was startled and brought
round by the most awful yell I ever heard in my life, except, maybe, the
shrieks o' them poor critters that were crushed to death under yon big
canoe.  Jumpin' up, I looked round, and, through the trees, saw a fire
gleamin' not far off, the light o' which showed me the captain and men
tied hand and foot, each to a post, and the savages dancin' round them
like demons.  I had scarce looked for a second, when I saw one o' them go
up to the captain flourishing a knife, and, before I could wink, he
plunged it into his breast, while another yell, like the one that roused
me, rang upon my ear.  I didn't wait for more, but, bounding up, went
crashing through the bushes into the woods.  The black fellows caught
sight of me, however, but not in time to prevent me jumpin' into the
boat, as you know."

Bill seemed to be much exhausted after this recital, and shuddered
frequently during the narrative, so I refrained from continuing the
subject at that time, and endeavoured to draw his mind to other things.

"But now, Bill," said I, "it behoves us to think about the future, and
what course of action we shall pursue.  Here we are, on the wide Pacific,
in a well-appointed schooner, which is our own,--at least no one has a
better claim to it than we have,--and the world lies before us.  Moreover,
here comes a breeze, so we must make up our minds which way to steer."

"Ralph, boy," said my companion, "it matters not to me which way we go.  I
fear that my time is short now.  Go where you will.  I'm content."

"Well then, Bill, I think we had better steer to the Coral Island, and
see what has become of my dear old comrades, Jack and Peterkin.  I
believe the island has no name, but the captain once pointed it out to me
on the chart, and I marked it afterwards; so, as we know pretty well our
position just now, I think I can steer to it.  Then, as to working the
vessel, it is true I cannot hoist the sails single-handed, but luckily we
have enough of sail set already, and if it should come on to blow a
squall, I could at least drop the peaks of the main and fore sails, and
clew them up partially without help, and throw her head close into the
wind, so as to keep her all shaking till the violence of the squall is
past.  And if we have continued light breezes, I'll rig up a complication
of blocks and fix them to the top-sail halyards, so that I shall be able
to hoist the sails without help.  'Tis true I'll require half a day to
hoist them, but we don't need to mind that.  Then I'll make a sort of
erection on deck to screen you from the sun, Bill; and if you can only
manage to sit beside the tiller and steer for two hours every day, so as
to let me get a nap, I'll engage to let you off duty all the rest of the
twenty-four hours.  And if you don't feel able for steering, I'll lash
the helm and heave to, while I get you your breakfasts and dinners; and
so we'll manage famously, and soon reach the Coral Island."

Bill smiled faintly as I ran on in this strain.

"And what will you do," said he, "if it comes on to blow a storm?"

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 to God."

"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 wind."

A few seconds afterwards he said, "Ralph, let me hear those two texts
again."

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 dead!



CHAPTER XXVIII.


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 experience.

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 my course.

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 Coral Island!



CHAPTER XXIX.


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.

{A terrible surprise: p352.jpg}

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 water!'

"'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 man."

"'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 occurred.

"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:--

   JACK MARTIN,
   RALPH ROVER,
   PETERKIN GAY,

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.



CHAPTER XXX.


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 Christianity.

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 our conversations.

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 wall?'"

"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 heartily
welcome."

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
station."

"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 said:--

"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 is
dead?'

"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 _here_!"

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."



CHAPTER XXXI.


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 brought there.

We hastened back to the Christian village with feelings of the deepest
sadness at the sanguinary conflict which we had just witnessed.

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 cause."

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 immediately.

"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, friend?"

"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 baked.

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 men.



CHAPTER XXXII.


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 spared.

"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 length.

"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, Avatea!

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 your worst!"

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,
said,--

"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."

"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 Christian island."

"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 cause!"

"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 young friend."

"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 far?"

"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.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


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
oars.

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 the middle.

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 asleep.

"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 "give way."

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 fog-
bank!

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 both hands.

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 canoe.

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 had fled.

While we were being led ashore, we caught a glimpse of Avatea, who was
seated in the hinder part of the canoe.  She was not fettered in any way.
Our captors now drove us before them towards the hut of Tararo, at which
we speedily arrived, and found the chief seated with an expression on his
face that boded us no good.  Our friend the teacher stood beside him,
with a look of anxiety on his mild features.

"How comes it," said Tararo, turning to the teacher, "that these youths
have abused our hospitality?"

"Tell him," replied Jack, "that we have not abused his hospitality, for
his hospitality has not been extended to us.  I came to the island to
deliver Avatea, and my only regret is that I have failed to do so.  If I
get another chance, I will try to save her yet."

The teacher shook his head.  "Nay, my young friend, I had better not tell
him that.  It will only incense him."

"Fear not," replied Jack.  "If you don't tell him that, you'll tell him
nothing, for I won't say anything softer."

On hearing Jack's speech, Tararo frowned and his eye flashed with anger.

"Go," he said, "presumptuous boy.  My debt to you is cancelled.  You and
your companions shall die."

As he spoke he rose and signed to several of his attendants, who seized
Jack, and Peterkin, and me, violently by the collars, and, dragging us
from the hut of the chief, led us through the wood to the outskirts of
the village.  Here they thrust us into a species of natural cave in a
cliff, and, having barricaded the entrance, left us in total darkness.

After feeling about for some time--for our legs were unshackled, although
our wrists were still bound with thongs--we found a low ledge of rock
running along one side of the cavern.  On this we seated ourselves, and
for a long time maintained unbroken silence.

At last I could restrain my feelings no longer.  "Alas! dear Jack and
Peterkin," said I, "what is to become of us?  I fear that we are doomed
to die."

"I know not," replied Jack, in a tremulous voice, "I know not; Ralph, I
regret deeply the hastiness of my violent temper, which, I must confess,
has been the chief cause of our being brought to this sad condition.
Perhaps the teacher may do something for us.  But I have little hope."

"Ah! no," said Peterkin, with a heavy sigh; "I am sure he can't help us.
Tararo doesn't care more for him than for one of his dogs."

"Truly," said I, "there seems no chance of deliverance, unless the
Almighty puts forth his arm to save us.  Yet I must say that I have great
hope, my comrades, for we have come to this dark place by no fault of
ours--unless it be a fault to try to succour a woman in distress."

I was interrupted in my remarks by a noise at the entrance to the cavern,
which was caused by the removal of the barricade.  Immediately after,
three men entered, and, taking us by the collars of our coats, led us
away through the forest.  As we advanced, we heard much shouting and
beating of native drums in the village, and at first we thought that our
guards were conducting us to the hut of Tararo again.  But in this we
were mistaken.  The beating of drums gradually increased, and soon after
we observed a procession of the natives coming towards us.  At the head
of this procession we were placed, and then we all advanced together
towards the temple where human victims were wont to be sacrificed!

A thrill of horror ran through my heart as I recalled to mind the awful
scenes that I had before witnessed at that dreadful spot.  But
deliverance came suddenly from a quarter whence we little expected it.
During the whole of that day there had been an unusual degree of heat in
the atmosphere, and the sky assumed that lurid aspect which portends a
thunder-storm.  Just as we were approaching the horrid temple, a growl of
thunder burst overhead and heavy drops of rain began to fall.

Those who have not witnessed gales and storms in tropical regions can
form but a faint conception of the fearful hurricane that burst upon the
island of Mango at this time.  Before we reached the temple, the storm
burst upon us with a deafening roar, and the natives, who knew too well
the devastation that was to follow, fled right and left through the woods
in order to save their property, leaving us alone in the midst of the
howling storm.  The trees around us bent before the blast like willows,
and we were about to flee in order to seek shelter, when the teacher ran
toward us with a knife in his hand.

"Thank the Lord," he said, cutting our bonds, "I am in time!  Now, seek
the shelter of the nearest rock."

This we did without a moment's hesitation, for the whistling wind burst,
ever and anon, like thunder-claps among the trees, and, tearing them from
their roots, hurled them with violence to the ground.  Rain cut across
the land in sheets, and lightning played like forked serpents in the air;
while, high above the roar of the hissing tempest, the thunder crashed,
and burst, and rolled in awful majesty.

In the village the scene was absolutely appalling.  Roofs were blown
completely off the houses in many cases; and in others, the houses
themselves were levelled with the ground.  In the midst of this, the
natives were darting to and fro, in some instances saving their goods,
but in many others seeking to save themselves from the storm of
destruction that whirled around them.  But, terrific although the tempest
was on land, it was still more tremendous on the mighty ocean.  Billows
sprang, as it were, from the great deep, and while their crests were
absolutely scattered into white mist, they fell upon the beach with a
crash that seemed to shake the solid land.  But they did not end there.
Each successive wave swept higher and higher on the beach, until the
ocean lashed its angry waters among the trees and bushes, and at length,
in a sheet of white curdled foam, swept into the village and upset and
carried off, or dashed into wreck, whole rows of the native dwellings!  It
was a sublime, an awful scene, calculated, in some degree at least, to
impress the mind of beholders with the might and the majesty of God.

We found shelter in a cave that night and all the next day, during which
time the storm raged in fury; but on the night following it abated
somewhat, and in the morning we went to the village to seek for food,
being so famished with hunger that we lost all feeling of danger and all
wish to escape in our desire to satisfy the cravings of nature.  But no
sooner had we obtained food than we began to wish that we had rather
endeavoured to make our escape into the mountains.  This we attempted to
do soon afterwards, but the natives were now able to look after us, and
on our showing a disposition to avoid observation and make towards the
mountains, we were seized by three warriors, who once more bound our
wrists and thrust us into our former prison.

It is true Jack made a vigorous resistance, and knocked down the first
savage who seized him, with a well-directed blow of his fist, but he was
speedily overpowered by others.  Thus we were again prisoners, with the
prospect of torture and a violent death before us.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


Imprisonment--Sinking hopes--Unexpected freedom to more than one, and in
more senses than one.

For a long long month we remained in our dark and dreary prison, during
which dismal time we did not see the face of a human being, except that
of the silent savage who brought us our daily food.

There have been one or two seasons in my life during which I have felt as
if the darkness of sorrow and desolation that crushed my inmost heart
could never pass away, until death should make me cease to feel the
present was such a season.

During the first part of our confinement we felt a cold chill at our
hearts every time we heard a foot-fall near the cave--dreading lest it
should prove to be that of our executioner.  But as time dragged heavily
on, we ceased to feel this alarm, and began to experience such a deep,
irrepressible longing for freedom, that we chafed and fretted in our
confinement like tigers.  Then a feeling of despair came over us, and we
actually longed for the time when the savages would take us forth to die!
But these changes took place very gradually, and were mingled sometimes
with brighter thoughts; for there were times when we sat in that dark
cavern on our ledge of rock and conversed almost pleasantly about the
past, until we well-nigh forgot the dreary present.  But we seldom
ventured to touch upon the future.

A few decayed leaves and boughs formed our bed; and a scanty supply of
yams and taro, brought to us once a-day, constituted our food.

"Well, Ralph, how have you slept?" said Jack, in a listless tone, on
rising one morning from his humble couch.  "Were you much disturbed by
the wind last night?"

"No," said I; "I dreamed of home all night, and I thought that my mother
smiled upon me, and beckoned me to go to her; but I could not, for I was
chained."

"And I dreamed, too," said Peterkin; "but it was of our happy home on the
Coral Island.  I thought we were swimming in the Water Garden; then the
savages gave a yell, and we were immediately in the cave at Spouting
Cliff, which, somehow or other, changed into this gloomy cavern; and I
awoke to find it true."

Peterkin's tone was so much altered by the depressing influence of his
long imprisonment, that, had I not known it was he who spoke, I should
scarcely have recognised it, so sad was it, and so unlike to the merry,
cheerful voice we had been accustomed to hear.  I pondered this much, and
thought of the terrible decline of happiness that may come on human
beings in so short a time; how bright the sunshine in the sky at one
time, and, in a short space, how dark the overshadowing cloud!  I had no
doubt that the Bible would have given me much light and comfort on this
subject, if I had possessed one, and I once more had occasion to regret
deeply having neglected to store my memory with its consoling truths.

While I meditated thus, Peterkin again broke the silence of the cave, by
saying, in a melancholy tone, "Oh, I wonder if we shall ever see our dear
island more."

His voice trembled, and, covering his face with both hands, he bent down
his head and wept.  It was an unusual sight for me to see our once joyous
companion in tears, and I felt a burning desire to comfort him; but,
alas! what could I say?  I could hold out no hope; and although I essayed
twice to speak, the words refused to pass my lips.  While I hesitated,
Jack sat down beside him, and whispered a few words in his ear, while
Peterkin threw himself on his friend's breast, and rested his head on his
shoulder.

Thus we sat for some time in deep silence.  Soon after, we heard
footsteps at the entrance of the cave, and immediately our jailer
entered.  We were so much accustomed to his regular visits, however, that
we paid little attention to him, expecting that he would set down our
meagre fare, as usual, and depart.  But, to our surprise, instead of
doing so, he advanced towards us with a knife in his hand, and, going up
to Jack, he cut the thongs that bound his wrists, then he did the same to
Peterkin and me!  For fully five minutes we stood in speechless
amazement, with our freed hands hanging idly by our sides.  The first
thought that rushed into my mind was, that the time had come to put us to
death; and although, as I have said before, we actually wished for death
in the strength of our despair, now that we thought it drew really near I
felt all the natural love of life revive in my heart, mingled with a
chill of horror at the suddenness of our call.

But I was mistaken.  After cutting our bonds, the savage pointed to the
cave's mouth, and we marched, almost mechanically, into the open air.
Here, to our surprise, we found the teacher standing under a tree, with
his hands clasped before him, and the tears trickling down his dark
cheeks.  On seeing Jack, who came out first, he sprang towards him, and
clasping him in his arms, exclaimed,--

"Oh! my dear young friend, through the great goodness of God you are
free!"

"Free!" cried Jack.

"Ay, free," repeated the teacher, shaking us warmly by the hands again
and again; "free to go and come as you will.  The Lord has unloosed the
bands of the captive and set the prisoners free.  A missionary has been
sent to us, and Tararo has embraced the Christian religion!  The people
are even now burning their gods of wood!  Come, my dear friends, and see
the glorious sight."

We could scarcely credit our senses.  So long had we been accustomed in
our cavern to dream of deliverance, that we imagined for a moment this
must surely be nothing more than another vivid dream.  Our eyes and minds
were dazzled, too, by the brilliant sunshine, which almost blinded us
after our long confinement to the gloom of our prison, so that we felt
giddy with the variety of conflicting emotions that filled our throbbing
bosoms; but as we followed the footsteps of our sable friend, and beheld
the bright foliage of the trees, and heard the cries of the paroquets,
and smelt the rich perfume of the flowering shrubs, the truth, that we
were really delivered from prison and from death, rushed with
overwhelming power into our souls, and, with one accord, while tears
sprang to our eyes, we uttered a loud long cheer of joy.

It was replied to by a shout from a number of the natives who chanced to
be near.  Running towards us, they shook us by the hand with every
demonstration of kindly feeling.  They then fell behind, and, forming a
sort of procession, conducted us to the dwelling of Tararo.

The scene that met our eyes here was one that I shall never forget.  On a
rude bench in front of his house sat the chief.  A native stood on his
left hand, who, from his dress, seemed to be a teacher.  On his right
stood an English gentleman, who, I at once and rightly concluded, was a
missionary.  He was tall, thin, and apparently past forty, with a bald
forehead, and thin gray hair.  The expression of his countenance was the
most winning I ever saw, and his clear gray eye beamed with a look that
was frank, fearless, loving, and truthful.  In front of the chief was an
open space, in the centre of which lay a pile of wooden idols, ready to
be set on fire; and around these were assembled thousands of natives, who
had come to join in or to witness the unusual sight.  A bright smile
overspread the missionary's face as he advanced quickly to meet us, and
he shook us warmly by the hands.

"I am overjoyed to meet you, my dear young friends," he said.  "My
friend, and your friend, the teacher, has told me your history; and I
thank our Father in heaven, with all my heart, that he has guided me to
this island, and made me the instrument of saving you."

We thanked the missionary most heartily, and asked him in some surprise
how he had succeeded in turning the heart of Tararo in our favour.

"I will tell you that at a more convenient time," he answered, "meanwhile
we must not forget the respect due to the chief.  He waits to receive
you."

In the conversation that immediately followed between us and Tararo, the
latter said that the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ had been sent to
the island, and that to it we were indebted for our freedom.  Moreover,
he told us that we were at liberty to depart in our schooner whenever we
pleased, and that we should be supplied with as much provision as we
required.  He concluded by shaking hands with us warmly, and performing
the ceremony of rubbing noses.

This was indeed good news to us, and we could hardly find words to
express our gratitude to the chief and to the missionary.

"And what of Avatea?" inquired Jack.

The missionary replied by pointing to a group of natives in the midst of
whom the girl stood.  Beside her was a tall, strapping fellow, whose
noble mien and air of superiority bespoke him a chief of no ordinary
kind.

"That youth is her lover.  He came this very morning in his war-canoe to
treat with Tararo for Avatea.  He is to be married in a few days, and
afterwards returns to his island home with his bride!"

"That's capital," said Jack, as he stepped up to the savage and gave him
a hearty shake of the hand.  "I wish you joy, my lad;--and you too,
Avatea."

As Jack spoke, Avatea's lover took him by the hand and led him to the
spot where Tararo and the missionary stood, surrounded by most of the
chief men of the tribe.  The girl herself followed, and stood on his left
hand while her lover stood on his right, and, commanding silence, made
the following speech, which was translated by the missionary:--

"Young friend, you have seen few years, but your head is old.  Your heart
also is large and very brave.  I and Avatea are your debtors, and we
wish, in the midst of this assembly, to acknowledge our debt, and to say
that it is one which we can never repay.  You have risked your life for
one who was known to you only for a few days.  But she was a woman in
distress, and that was enough to secure to her the aid of a Christian
man.  We, who live in these islands of the sea, know that the true
Christians always act thus.  Their religion is one of love and kindness.
We thank God that so many Christians have been sent here--we hope many
more will come.  Remember that I and Avatea will think of you and pray
for you and your brave comrades when you are far away."

To this kind speech Jack returned a short sailor-like reply, in which he
insisted that he had only done for Avatea what he would have done for any
woman under the sun.  But Jack's forte did not lie in speech-making, so
he terminated rather abruptly by seizing the chief's hand and shaking it
violently, after which he made a hasty retreat.

"Now, then, Ralph and Peterkin," said Jack, as we mingled with the crowd,
"it seems to me that the object we came here for having been
satisfactorily accomplished, we have nothing more to do but get ready for
sea as fast as we can, and hurrah for dear old England!"

"That's my idea precisely," said Peterkin, endeavouring to wink, but he
had wept so much of late, poor fellow, that he found it difficult;
"however, I'm not going away till I see these fellows burn their gods."

Peterkin had his wish, for, in a few minutes afterwards, fire was put to
the pile, the roaring flames ascended, and, amid the acclamations of the
assembled thousands, the false gods of Mango were reduced to ashes!



CHAPTER XXXV.


Conclusion.

To part is the lot of all mankind.  The world is a scene of constant
leave-taking, and the hands that grasp in cordial greeting to-day, are
doomed ere long to unite for the last time, when the quivering lips
pronounce the word--"Farewell."  It is a sad thought, but should we on
that account exclude it from our minds?  May not a lesson worth learning
be gathered in the contemplation of it?  May it not, perchance, teach us
to devote our thoughts more frequently and attentively to that land where
we meet, but part no more?

How many do we part from in this world with a light "Good-bye," whom we
never see again!  Often do I think, in my meditations on this subject,
that if we realized more fully the shortness of the fleeting intercourse
that we have in this world with many of our fellow-men, we would try more
earnestly to do them good, to give them a friendly smile, as it were, in
passing (for the longest intercourse on earth is little more than a
passing word and glance), and show that we have sympathy with them in the
short quick struggle of life, by our kindly words and looks and action.

The time soon drew near when we were to quit the islands of the South
Seas; and, strange though it may appear, we felt deep regret at parting
with the natives of the island of Mango; for, after they embraced the
Christian faith, they sought, by showing us the utmost kindness, to
compensate for the harsh treatment we had experienced at their hands; and
we felt a growing affection for the native teachers and the missionary,
and especially for Avatea and her husband.

Before leaving, we had many long and interesting conversations with the
missionary, in one of which he told us that he had been making for the
island of Raratonga when his native-built sloop was blown out of its
course, during a violent gale, and driven to this island.  At first the
natives refused to listen to what he had to say; but, after a week's
residence among them, Tararo came to him and said that he wished to
become a Christian, and would burn his idols.  He proved himself to be
sincere, for, as we have seen, he persuaded all his people to do
likewise.  I use the word persuaded advisedly; for, like all the other
Feejee chiefs, Tararo was a despot and might have commanded obedience to
his wishes; but he entered so readily into the spirit of the new faith
that he perceived at once the impropriety of using constraint in the
propagation of it.  He set the example, therefore; and that example was
followed by almost every man of the tribe.

During the short time that we remained at the island, repairing our
vessel and getting her ready for sea, the natives had commenced building
a large and commodious church, under the superintendence of the
missionary, and several rows of new cottages were marked out; so that the
place bid fair to become, in a few months, as prosperous and beautiful as
the Christian village at the other end of the island.

After Avatea was married, she and her husband were sent away, loaded with
presents, chiefly of an edible nature.  One of the native teachers went
with them, for the purpose of visiting still more distant islands of the
sea, and spreading, if possible, the light of the glorious gospel there.

As the missionary intended to remain for several weeks longer, in order
to encourage and confirm his new converts, Jack and Peterkin and I held a
consultation in the cabin of our schooner,--which we found just as we had
left her, for everything that had been taken out of her was restored.  We
now resolved to delay our departure no longer.  The desire to see our
beloved native land was strong upon us, and we could not wait.

Three natives volunteered to go with us to Tahiti, where we thought it
likely that we should be able to procure a sufficient crew of sailors to
man our vessel; so we accepted their offer gladly.

It was a bright clear morning when we hoisted the snow-white sails of the
pirate schooner and left the shores of Mango.  The missionary, and
thousands of the natives, came down to bid us God-speed, and to see us
sail away.  As the vessel bent before a light fair wind, we glided
quickly over the lagoon under a cloud of canvass.

Just as we passed through the channel in the reef the natives gave us a
loud cheer; and as the missionary waved his hat, while he stood on a
coral rock with his gray hairs floating in the wind, we heard the single
word "Farewell" borne faintly over the sea.

That night, as we sat on the taffrail, gazing out upon the wide sea and
up into the starry firmament, a thrill of joy, strangely mixed with
sadness, passed through our hearts,--for we were at length "homeward
bound," and were gradually leaving far behind us the beautiful, bright,
green, coral islands of the Pacific Ocean.





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