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Title: Gabrielle of the Lagoon - A Romance of the South Seas
Author: Safroni-Middleton, A.
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.

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                        GABRIELLE OF THE LAGOON


                      A ROMANCE OF THE SOUTH SEAS



                                   BY

                          A. SAFRONI-MIDDLETON


                               AUTHOR OF
                        “SAILOR AND BEACHCOMBER”



                        PHILADELPHIA AND LONDON
                        J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
                                  1919



              COPYRIGHT 1919, BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY

                  PRINTED BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
                     AT THE WASHINGTON SQUARE PRESS
                         PHILADELPHIA, U. S. A



                                PROLOGUE


Though it was night and there was no moon, a dim, weird light lay over
the isle and pierced to the depths of the forests. It was in the
Solomons, where the dark, picturesque surroundings of palm and reef, the
noise of the distant surfs, made a suitable setting for anything
unexpected. Even the silver sea-birds had weird, startled-looking eyes
down Felisi beach way. And when the wild brown men crept away from the
grave-side of one whom they had just buried in the forest, the winds
sighed a fitting music across the primeval heights. But there was
nothing strange in that; men must die wherever one goes, and it was a
common enough occurrence in that heathen land where the ocean boomed on
the one side and inland to the south-west stood the mountains, looking
like mighty monuments erected in memory of the first dark ages. Across
the skies of Bougainville the stars had been marshalled in the millions.
It seemed a veritable heathen faeryland as the night echoed a hollow
“_Tarabab!_” But even that heathenish word was only the tribal chief’s
yell as he stood under the palms conducting the semi-religious tambu
ceremony. The tawny maidens and high chiefs, with their feather
head-dresses, all in full festival costume, were squatting in front of
the secret tambu stage, some mumbling prayer, others beating their hands
together as an accompaniment. And still the dusky tambu dancer moved her
perfect limbs rhythmically to the rustling of her sarong-like attire,
swaying first to the right then to the left as she chanted to the
wailings of the bamboo fifes and bone flutes. The orchestral-like moan
of the huge bread-fruits, as odorous drifts of hot wind swept in from
the tropic seas, seemed to murmur in complete sympathy with the pretty
dancer. One might easily have concluded that Oom Pa, the aged high
priest, was the “star turn” of the evening as he stood there enjoying
his thoughts and performing magnificently on the monster tribal drum.

There was something fascinating and super-primitive about the whole
scene. The very scents from decaying forest frangipani and hibiscus
blossoms seemed to drift out of the damp gloom of the dark ages. The
presence of civilisation in any form seemed the remotest of
possibilities. Even the fore-and-aft schooner, with yellowish, hanging
canvas sails, lying at anchor just beyond the shore lagoons, looked like
some strange-rigged craft that sailed mysterious seas.

But as the assembled tribe once again wildly clamoured for the next
dancer to come forward and exhibit her charms, a murmur of surprise rose
from the back rows of stalwart, tattooed chiefs—a white girl suddenly
ran out of the forest and jumped on to the tambu stage!

One aged chiefess who was busy mumbling her prayers looked up and gave a
frightened scream. Even the aged philosophical head-hunter Ra-mai, who
had one hundred and eighty skulls hanging to his credit in his palavana
hard by, gave a mellow grunt, so great was his surprise. A white girl,
lips red as coral, hair like the sunset’s gold, standing by his old _pae
pae_! It was something that he had never dreamed of. The tawny maidens
squatting beneath the coco-nut-oil-lamp-lit shades on the right of the
buttressed banyans, lifted their hands in astonishment. For a moment the
white girl stood perfectly still. All eyes were upon her. She stared
vacantly as though she were in a trance. Then she moved forward a few
steps, her feet lightly touching the forest floor as if she were a
visionary figure veiled in moonlight. Only the sudden renewal of the
wild clamouring and guttural cries of “_O la Maramam tambu, papalaga!_”
(“A white girl will dance before us!”) seemed to rouse her to her
senses, reminding her of the reason she had responded to the swelling
chorus of tribal drums.

The barbarian musicians had begun to bang and blow on their flutes in an
inspired way as they urged her to dance. Her sudden hesitation was very
evident to every onlooker. And as she stood there by the monster tambu
idol, its big glass eyes agog and wooden lips stretched in hideous
laughter, she had a strange, unearthly beauty. The winds sighed in the
palms; she wavered like a blown spirit-girl that had been suddenly swept
out of the night of stars into the midst of those Pharaoh-like chiefs.
Some of those warriors watched with chin on hand, others stared upon her
with burning eyes.

Those old chiefs and their women-kind had seen many strange sights and
experienced many shocks since German, British, Malayan, Hindoo, Chinese
and Dutch settlers had set foot on their shores; but still they were
quite unprepared for the sight they witnessed that night. The handsome
Malayo-Polynesian half-castes nudged their comrades in the ribs and
murmured the native equivalent to “What-o!” To their delight, the white
girl had mounted the _pae pae_ and had begun to dance and sing. The
whole tribe watched and listened, spellbound. The haunting sweetness of
the melody seemed to bring all ears under its influence. It was
something in the way of song that those wild people had never heard
before.

Only the pretty faded blue robe falling down to her brown-stockinged
ankles and the long tortoise-shell comb stuck in the rich folds of her
golden-bronze hair told of her mortal origin. And there was no mistaking
the reality of that indisputable bang on the heathen bandmaster’s drum.
That dusky virtuoso was certainly inspired by human passion.

Ra-mai, who was a kind of religious genius, dropped his festival
calabash and rubbed his eyes, for the girl was swaying as though she
were fastened on to the winds, her eyes wide open, staring upon him. The
old priestly warrior swore, long after, that she was a spirit-maid whom
he had loved a thousand years ago, and who had returned that night, as
white as a deep-sea pearl, to show men how great a priest and warrior he
really was. But he was a poetical old fellow and had a high opinion of
himself where female beauty and frailty were concerned. But if there was
an element of surprise over her sudden appearance before them, the
astonishment of these natives was intensified by her dramatic exit from
their midst. Just as the guttural cries of the chiefs and the weird
monotones of the chanting tambu maidens had caught the _tempo_ of her
dance, she gave a scream, stood perfectly still and stared on those wild
men with a terrified look in her eyes. Then, before anyone could realise
her intentions, she had leapt from the _pae pae_, had run away into the
forest and vanished like a wraith!

The whole tribal assemblage looked into each other’s eyes in
astonishment. Such an exhibition of red betel-nut-stained teeth had
never been seen in a midnight forest festival before, for they all
stared open-mouthed.

“Tabaran [a spirit] from shadow-land!” said one.

“Not so. Didst see the light of vanity in her wondrous eyes as the young
chiefs praised her beauty?” said another.

“’Tis a white girl suddenly up-grown and full of fever for love,” said
an old chief with wise wrinkles on his brow. And then yet another said:
“Had it been a full-moon sacred festival, ’twould have been well to slay
her for such boldness, the cursed papalagi!”

Then the festival broke up. And that night the handsome chiefs, and even
the aged priests, tossed restlessly on their bed-mats as they lay in
their village huts dreaming of a goddess-like creature who had flitted
through their tambu ceremony like a dream.



CHAPTER I—ROMANCE’S FIRST THRILL


On the day following the tribal festival when the white girl had so
astonished the heathen priests in the village called Ackra-Ackra a
runaway ship’s apprentice emerged from his half-caste landlady’s wooden
lodging-house. He was off for a stroll, for the tenth time or so, over
the slopes that divided the banyan forests from the small township of
Rokeville. He was stagnating and so had little else to do except to make
the colour of the picturesque scenery harmonise with his meditations. He
was a tall, handsome fellow, about twenty years of age. His brass-bound
suit looked decidedly faded by the hot tropical sun, and the flannel
collar of his only shirt had begun to look slightly grimy. All the same,
he had that look of refinement which is inherited from good ancestors. A
romantically inclined maid would have thought him extremely attractive.
A bronze-hued lock seemed to ooze from beneath the rim of his
cheese-cutter cap, for when funds were low in distant lands, and
scissors scarce on ships at sea, his hair grew quite curly. One of his
eyes was a deep blue and the other a golden-brown. This eccentric
combination of colour may have had something to do with the romantic
adventures that fell to his lot through his leaving ship in
Bougainville. It was quite three weeks since he had made a bolt from his
full-rigged sailing-ship in the harbour, consequently his cash in hand
had seriously diminished. He had already become terribly sane whilst
pondering over the natural consequences of being cashless.

Hillary L——, for that was his name, hated plantation work and all
muscular endeavours that did not contain some element of romance. But
still, he had long since realised, through his many adversities at the
end of long voyages, that wherever one goes one must toil for a living,
however romantic the scenery may appear.

“Blasted wicked world this! Wish white men could dress like the natives
and chew nourishing nuts for a living!” he murmured, as he thoughtfully
saluted the German official who was leaning against a dead screw-pine,
on the top of which blew the Double Eagle flag.

Hillary was no fool; he could always be polite at the right time and
place. He’d been stranded, with fourpence-halfpenny or so in his
possession, in about ten islands during the last twelve months, and he
knew that if things got to the worst he could apply to the German consul
for a free passage to British New Guinea or to Samoa. Hence his
politeness. He was British to the backbone, and as the Teutonic official
murmured that it was a nice day Hillary nodded and then lifted a cloud
of the finest coral-dust with his offside boot. He could hear the German
spluttering and coughing in a fearful rage, wondering why the hot wind
had suddenly lifted so much dust. Hillary’s contempt for anything in the
German line was quite unaffected. The natives whispered: “Germhony mans
nicer feller when he looker one way, but all-e-samee, he belonga debil
mans.”

The young apprentice was one of a type that commercially was not worth a
tinker’s dam. If he were a party to any scheme connected with finance,
one could safely predict that that scheme was predestined to complete
failure. But in the imaginative world Hillary could be pronounced a
decided success.

It was the same wherever he went. The old sea-boots on the shelf of the
seaport’s slop-shop danced a jig on some ship far at sea; the oilskins
swelled to visionary limbs as sailormen opened their bearded mouths and
climbed aloft, singing the chanteys that he could distinctly hear as he
placed his ear to the shop’s dirty window!

The silk, blue-fringed chemise hanging on a nail by the oil lamp clung,
as he gazed, to the limbs of some laughing girl; fingers travelling down
the yellow keys of the second-hand piano mysteriously strummed out some
melody that told of the briefness of life, youth and beauty. This
poetical weakness was a veritable Old Man of the Sea on his back. But
still, he was no fool, and, like most of his type, he could be strong
where most men are weak.

As he turned round and looked on the desolate scene, and stared at the
sunset out at sea, his face expressed an emotion that words cannot
describe. The parrots rose in a glittering cloud as he stood their
meditating, gazing on the small burial ground that he had suddenly
stumbled across. It was where a few white men had been buried on the
lonely beach-side, miles from the township. The crosses of coral stone
were sunken very deep, the names nearly oblitered. “What a godforsaken,
tragic place,” he muttered as he read:

                            TO THE MEMORY OF
                         BILL LARGO, BOATSWAIN
                           DIED JUNE 3RD 1860

            SPEARED BY HEAD-HUNTERS IN TRYING TO SAVE SHIP’S
                 COOK—THIS STONE IS RAISED BY THE CREW
                     OF THE S.S. “SALAMANDER” BOUND

                               FOR CALLAO

Everything seemed tragic in those parts. For as he wandered along the
beach a voice startled him as a weird face suddenly poked out of the
mangroves:

“Noice even’ng, matey?”

“Yes,” responded the apprentice as he looked into the face of a
sun-tanned remnant of a white man who stood by a fern-sheltered,
thatched den. It was only old Adams, an ex-sailor, leading his
Mormon-like existence. He was a kind of Solomon Island aristocrat of
independent means. He was apparently attired in a wide-brimmed hat and
beard only, for the climate is muggy in the Solomons. He _did_ wear thin
cotton pants, but they were so drenched with perspiration that they
clung to his legs like a skin. He borrowed a shilling from the
apprentice, shot a stream of tobacco juice seaward, then entered his
hut, but before slamming the door behind him he looked back and said:
“I’d git back to me ship if I was you; the Kai-Kai chiefs are on the
b——taboo lay round ’ere, and they’d give their ears for that curly mop
of yourn!” The door slammed. Once more Hillary was alone. As he walked
away he could distinctly hear old Adams swearing at his four wives, who
was apparently rushing round the hut looking for his clean shirt. They
were dusky women, probably the daughters of tribal kings, and had given
their birthrights to Adams so that they could be the wives of a noble
papalagi. Such was the queer, mixed population of that solitary locality
where the apprentice mooched along. And Rokeville, the shore township,
was not much more dignified; but what it lacked socially was amply made
up for by its Arabian-Nights-like atmosphere. Its one street, a silvery
track made of coral dust, went winding down to the shore. And when the
full moon peered over the ocean rim, touching with dim light the
feathery palms that sheltered the tin roofs of the scattered coral-built
houses, it looked like some staged faery town of a South Sea isle. Often
by night some strange-rigged ship would hug the coast-line for hours
while its crew of blackbirders crept ashore and kidnapped native men and
women from the villages. Before dawn that stealthy craft had sailed
away, crammed up to the hatches with cheap labour for the plantations
and heathen seraglios of nowhere. By day things looked as real as
possible. There was nothing faery-like about Parsons’ wooden grog
shanty, that stood, sheltered by three tall palms, at the head of the
township. Through its ever-open doorway by day and night passed the
German, Scandinavian, Norwegian and Yankee shell-backs, who drank strong
rum at the bar, banged their fists and narrated their Homeric deeds.
That shanty was the commercial centre and stock exchange of
Bougainville. It was haunted by about a dozen nondescript, aged Chinese,
Dutch and Japanese seamen who wore pigtails, pointed beards or scraggy
whiskers: on the brightest tropic day _they_ succeeded in adding a touch
of romance to the shore landscape, for when rum was scarce they leant
their ragged backs against the palm stems and looked like old
figure-heads from Chinese junks and Spanish galleons stuck up on end,
till they spoilt the picture by pulling their tangled beards as they
spat seaward. They also drank rum and existed, apparently, by watching
the white seahorses charge the purple-ridged line of coral reefs that
made the natural pier of that seaside resort. Consequently the young
apprentice preferred the wild scenery of the mahogany forests and the
blue lagoons where the brown maids dived, to the mixed society of that
delectable township. To him there was something fascinating, almost
poetic, about the mahogany-hued Papuans and Polynesians. But his ideals
quite saved him from falling in love with a brown maid. And it must be
confessed that the Solomon Isles was not an Olympian locality, where
dwelt cold, passionless Hellenic beauties, and many a dusky Nausicaa and
luring Circe had tempted bold sailormen to destruction by their songs
and demonstrative exhibitions of their charms. But some of the maids
were innocent enough, for as Hillary wandered by Felisi beach he caught
sight of a tiny Polynesian baby girl. She was busy pulling wild flowers
that grew amongst the thick tavu-grass. Her tiny body shone with a hue
like a new Australian sovereign as sunset bathed her little figure with
its hot light. Her alert, savage ears heard the apprentice’s footsteps
in the scrub. Just for a moment her thick curls tossed and sparkled
among the tall fern-grass as she sped away into the forest as though she
quite expected a white man to shoot her at sight!

“I wonder what I’ll sight next; why, it’s like some fairy spot,” Hillary
murmured as he watched the child disappear. Then he climbed over the
reefs till he came right opposite the shore islets, where the natives
swore their gods danced under the stars.

At this spot there happened to be a wide lagoon, and on the still
waters, just where the mighty banyans leaned over and made a delightful
shade, floated a canoe. “The very thing!” Hillary exclaimed. In a moment
he was paddling about on the lagoon in the small primitive craft.
Strange birds shrieked over his head, their crimson and blue wings
flashing along as they resented his intrusion into their lovely
solitude. Some had eyes like sparkling jewels and long, hanging
coral-red legs and feet.

“What a bit of luck! I could paddle about here for ever!” was his
comment as he swished the paddle, turned the prow of his canoe and went
off full speed down the narrow creek-like passage that led to the wider
stretch of water inland. “It’s like being alone on an uninhabited
island,” he thought. Suddenly a hush came over the waters. Only the
solitary “Kai koo-seeeek!” of a parakeet disturbed the silence. So still
was the water of the lagoon that he seemed to float about on a mighty
mirror. The huge buttressed banyans reflected in the deep, clear water
by the banks hung upside down, twisted shapes in an abyss of blue. He
could even discern the flock of shrieking, sky-winging lories as their
images went wheeling silently over the wooded heights, so clearly was
the forest fringe reflected in the depths.

“Good Lord!” he gasped, as he stared on that shadow-world; and no
wonder, for on the rim of the hanging cloud, high over the leaning trees
of the reflected sky, sped an ornamental canoe! Its paddle was swiftly
curling, like a fast-flying bird’s wing. He nearly upset his small
craft, so great was his astonishment, for, looking towards the bend
where the banyans hid the expanse of inland water from view, he saw that
the reflected figure in the canoe was real.

It wasn’t the canoe but the paddler that made him exclaim. “It can’t be
an apparition with those hibiscus blossoms stuck in her hair,” he
thought as he rubbed his eyes and stared again. The blue robe, open low
at the neck, was the apprentice’s only excuse for his ridiculous idea in
thinking that a beautiful princess of some unknown white race had
suddenly appeared on the lagoon. She softly dipped her paddle and,
shattering the blue sky and twisted boughs with one blow, came speeding
towards him!

“Am I awake?” he muttered. She had waved her paddle, welcoming his
presence as though she had known him for years. At first he hesitated,
thinking that one word, one sign of recognition from him would make her
vanish back into her native skies. But at length he too lifted his
paddle and waved most enthusiastically!

As Hillary came closer he saw that there was sorrow in the girl’s blue
eyes, as needs there must be, since Beauty is Sorrow’s legitimate child.
A far-off gleam shone in them and glinted in her hair, which tumbled
down to the warm white curves of her neck and round to her throat.

It was the pretty _retroussé_ nose that looked so human.

Hillary took a deep breath and gazed again.

“Fancy meeting you here!” he said as in his embarrassment he pulled his
dirty kerchief out of his pocket and wiped his face to hide his
confusion; then, remembering, he hastily replaced the rag-like kerchief
in his pocket.

“Fancy meeting you!” said the girl as she gave a silvery peal of
laughter.

The young apprentice’s heart began to thump. He stared into the girl’s
eyes as though she had mesmerised him. A wild desire thrilled his soul
as she leaned forward, still paddling softly as she returned his gaze.

“Do you live here?—out here in the South Seas?” he murmured as he almost
dropped his cheese-cutter midshipman’s cap into the water.

“Of course I do! Do you think I live up in the sky?”

“Shouldn’t be surprised if you did,” he responded, gaining his nerve.
Then he told the girl that he thought she might have been a princess
migrating or on tour in one of the intermediate steamers.

The girl stared at hearing this sally. The look that came into her eyes
made the apprentice understand the cause of the girl’s apparently bold
familiarity. She was quite unworldly. She seemed to read his thoughts,
for she ceased paddling and, looking almost seriously into his face,
said: “I’m Gabrielle Everard. I’ve lived in these islands with Dad since
I was a child. Dad took me away to Ysabel and Gualdacanar about a year
ago.”

“Did he really?” said Hillary as he metaphorically nudged himself to
find her so pleasant and confidential.

“Mother dead?” he murmured as the sea-wind drifted across the waters,
sighed in the shore banyans and blew the girl’s tresses about her
throat.

“Mother’s dead, of course! Always has been so far as I can remember,”
she responded, looking into the young man’s face intently, wondering why
on earth his voice should sound so tender and concerned when he asked
about her long-dead parent.

They paddled side by side. The strange girl’s eyes had done a grievous
thing to Hillary’s soul. The feathery palms and old trees, catching the
sea-winds, seemed to whisper cherished things of romance and
long-forgotten lover to his ears. It took him that way because he was an
amateur musician.

“What a beautiful voice you’ve got!” said he, as she dipped her paddle
in perfect _tempo_ to some wild melody that she sang in a minor key.

“Have I? Why, Dad says I’ve got a voice like a cockatoo!” she responded
merrily.

“The wicked, unmusical old bounder!” said the apprentice; then he
swiftly apologised.

“Oh, you needn’t be so sorry that you’ve said that. I don’t care a
cuss!”

Once more Hillary metaphorically rubbed his hands. “Jove! What an
original, fascinating creature the girl is, to be sure,” was his secret
comment. Had the young apprentice known that the girl before him had
danced on a heathen _pae pae_ (stage) and sang before those
cannibalistic tribal warriors the night before, he would most probably
have been more fascinated by her presence than ever!

“Gabrielle! Gabrielle! What a name! Beautiful!” he murmured to himself
as the girl dipped the paddle and sang on. By now they had arrived near
the sandy shore of the inland lagoon.

“Must you go?” he said.

“Well, yes; but I can easily see you again, can’t I?” Hillary L—— made
no articulate response. “And this is the Solomon Isles, remote from
civilisation, far away in the cannibalistic South Seas!” he murmured
deep within his happy soul.

But mad as Hillary was, he half realised that the girl before him was
more of a child than a woman. She laughed, even giggled a little, like a
happy child. Only five years had passed since she had played with the
native kiddies, who many times had persuaded her to dance and sing their
heathen songs as they pretended to be heathen chiefs and chiefesses
performing on a toy _pae pae_. She had revelled in those dances. But no
one would have dreamed by looking at her that she was not a pure-blooded
white girl. Her father had married a beautiful three-quarter caste girl
in Honolulu, so Gabrielle had a strain of dark blood in her veins!

The young apprentice couldn’t fathom the look in her eyes as he stared.
Passion was just awakening in her soul, stealing like a tropical sunrise
over the hills of childhood. To him she appeared like some
spirit-creation that might at any moment take wings and fly away; so
when she turned the prow of her canoe dead on to the soft sand and
jumped ashore, he made a frantic dash and jumped, landing just behind
her. He was determined to know when and where she would meet him again.
But he had no need to fear; she did not fly away. She simply tied her
canoe to a bamboo stem and, turning round, looked him full in the face
with those glorious eyes that were to be for him two stars of the first
magnitude. Then she placed her fingers in the folds of her hair and
taking out one of the hibiscus blossoms, handed it to him, much to his
surprise. He realised that it was more the act of a child than a woman
of the world.

“I’ve read in books that girls give men flowers that have been fastened
in their hair,” she said. This remark and act of the girl’s, and the
look in her eyes, had a strange effect on Hillary’s susceptible mind. He
almost felt the tears well into his eyes. It was all so unexpected, and
told him in some great poetry of silence what the girl’s heart was made
of, the utter loneliness of her existence and the way her childish
dreams were flowing out to the great realities of life. He placed the
flower in his buttonhole, then gazed on the girl as only an infatuated
youth can gaze, and said: “Will you meet me here again, by this lagoon?
Any day and time will do for me.”

“I’m sure to be this way again,” she said, and before the young
apprentice could stop her she had flitted away under the coco-palms.

Before she got out of sight she turned and waved her hand. In his
excitement he responded by waving his cap. Then she disappeared under
the thick belt of dark mangroves by the swamp track that led inland in
the direction of her father’s bungalow.

“What a girl!” That was the only audible comment he made as the girl
went out of sight. And where did she go? She ran away over the slopes
that lay just behind the township of Rokeville, back to her home and her
trader father.

Old Everard, her parent, was a kind of freak too. He was a tall,
clean-shaved, thin-faced man, with blue-grey eyes and a beaked nose; his
mouth had a melancholy droop about it; the face in repose looked strong
at times, but when he grinned and revealed his tobacco-blackened teeth
it looked characterless, almost weak. At times he was extremely
garrulous, at other times either reticent or insulting to anyone who
might be unfortunate enough to come near him. Gabrielle seemed to be the
only person in Bougainville who understood him. He didn’t take much
interest in his daughter, though she might have done so in him. All he
did was religiously to exercise his parental control by sending the girl
on his selfish errands, mostly for rum and whisky. At other times he
demanded that she should attend to his comforts when delirium tremens
shook his spine. He was an ex-sailor. Trailing from the mainyard of his
ship whilst anchored off the Solomon Group, he had lost a leg, and
during his convalescence in Honolulu had married, finally settling down
in Bougainville.

His homestead was a three-roomed bungalow, and he kept things going by
the money he had saved during his seafaring life; he was also interested
in copra plantations at Bougainville and at Ysabel. His temperament was
choleric. He was known in the vicinity by the nickname
“Shiver-me-timbers.” This cognomen was derived from the fact that he
always stamped his wooden leg, making it shiver in his impatience, when
he wanted a drink, consequently his wooden leg was never at rest. He
looked like some wooden-legged Nemesis as he sat there that evening; and
if any glamour still lingered in Gabrielle’s brain from her chance
meeting with the young apprentice, it was swiftly dispelled by the
stumping of that wooden member as she rushed indoors.

Even a wooden leg would seem to have its part to play in the universe:
there was something imperative about its tapping voice. That fate-like
tapping had smashed up many of Gabrielle’s young dreams; possibly that
wooden leg was a soulless agent of the devil.

“Here’s the whisky, Dad,” said she, as the cockatoo looked down from its
perch and shrieked: “Gabby-ell! Gabby-ell! Kai-kai-too!”

In a moment that weird symbol in wood, that represented all that was
unromantic to her ardent soul, ceased its ominous “tip-e-te-tap-tap” as
the old sailor looked up and spied his daughter.

“Thankee, thankee, kid!” he growled as he put forth his hand. Such was
the domestic atmosphere that the girl had rushed back to.

After the young apprentice had waved his farewell to Gabrielle he
strolled away under the palms. “Well, she’s a beautiful creature. Who’d
have thought of meeting her in this wild place? She’s ethereal, too
beautiful to make love to,” he sighed.

Possibly the contrast between Gabrielle Everard and the Solomon Island
mop-headed girls etherealised her natural beauty in his eyes. This was a
fatal outlook for Hillary, considering the girl’s impulsive nature and
his chances in the love affair that he had unknowingly embarked upon.
And possibly this outlook of his was the result of outward glamour
having greatly influenced his indwelling life. He had succeeded in
making himself the more unfitted to cope with his immediate surroundings
by poring over such writers as Tolstoy, Walt Whitman, Rousseau and
Ruskin. But still, these writers, with their mad denunciations and
rhapsodies, had helped to awaken in Hillary’s soul that adoration for
the beautiful, that love for living art that nourishes a delight in
God’s work. The young apprentice did not digest the whole contents of
those volumes; he was too young to grasp their full meaning, but his
mind had grasped enough to make him a kind of derelict missionary of the
beautiful. When the moods came to him he would bury his nose in the
pages of Byron, Shelley, Keats, etc. And the influence gathered from
those poets possibly filled his head with vague imaginings over beauty
and innocence, feeding the fires of wild aspiration that cannot be
realised in this world, and were never realised and acted up to by the
poets who wrote the poems.

As he walked on thoughts of the strange girl on the lagoon _would_ haunt
his brain. He had quite made up his mind to secure a berth on the
sailing-ship that was leaving for New South Wales in a few days, but
Gabrielle Everard’s eyes seemed to have magically changed the future for
him.

It was almost with relief that he gave his arm to the drunken shellback
who suddenly appeared from nowhere, struck him on the back and spat a
stream of tobacco juice across Hillary’s poetic vision, taking him
completely away from himself. Then the shellback faded away, went off
shouting some wild sea chantey as he rolled over the slopes, bound for
the sailor’s Morning and Evening Star—the distant light of Parsons’s
grog shanty. It was getting dark. That night Hillary seemed inspired. He
sat outside the wooden building where he lodged and played his violin to
the shellback, traders and natives who came over the slopes to listen.
Mango Pango, the pretty Polynesian servant, grinned from ear to ear,
showing her pearly teeth, as she danced beneath the palms that grew
right up to the verandah of his landlady’s homestead. Even the
congregated sailormen ceased their unmelodious oaths as they pulled
their beards and listened to his playing.

Hillary wasn’t a master on the violin; his career had been too erratic
for him to get the necessary practice to accomplish great things in
instrumental playing. But still he could perform the _Poet and Peasant_
overture and most of the stock pieces, besides playing heathen melodies
that sent the natives into ecstasies of delight. His sailor critics
swore that his extemporised sea-jigs were the most classical of
compositions that they had ever heard. For when he played the South Sea
maids threw their limbs about in rhythmical swerves, till the soles of
their pretty bare feet sometimes seemed turned toward the South Sea
moon! Mango Pango, Marga Maroo and Topsy Turvy were dancing to their
heart’s content as the hills re-echoed the shellbacks’ laughter and the
wild chorus of _O, For Rio Grande_ when the concert was disturbed. For
notwithstanding the wild surroundings, the hilarity and awful oaths,
piety roamed those savage isles.

As the strains of the _Poet and Peasant_ overture trembled from
Hillary’s violin a tall, handsome savage, attired in European clothes,
stepped out from beneath the palms and complimented the young Englishman
on his artistic performance. He was an educated savage, and naturally
conducted himself in public just as a late missionary from the
North-West Mission School at Honolulu should do. He was certainly an
attractive-looking being, possibly through his mother being a Papuan and
his father a handsome Malayan. Even the shellbacks pulled their whiskers
and beards, and put on their best behaviour as he stood there and spoke
as becomes a Rajah and late missionary who has “saved” thousands of
souls; for he studied the philosophy of the Psalms so that they might
fit in with his views. And it might be mentioned at once that he did not
allow idealistic views to disturb the nice equilibrium of his earthly
requirements. When he was excited his speech lapsed into the native
pidgin-English. But he spoke perfectly as he addressed Hillary, saying:
“You play exceedingly well, young man, and your rendering of Spohr’s
concerto strikes me as superb. For perfect intonation and verve your
performance outrivals the rendering by Monsieur De T——, whom I heard
play it at the Tivoli, Honolulu.” So spake the civilised heathen.

“’Ark at ’im! an ole kanaka missionary!” whispered Bunky Lory, the
ordinary seaman.

“’Andsome cove with his whiskers on,” said another, a Cockney.

There is no doubt that Rajah Koo Macka was a handsome type of man so far
as the world’s idea of what’s handsome goes. He wore a fine moustache
curled artistically at the ends; had fine teeth, ivory-white; and full,
sensual, curved lips that were not a libel on his character. But his
greatest asset was his magnetic, telescope-like eyes that could sight a
sinfully inclined girl or woman miles off! Indeed he was a splendid
example of a christianised heathen doing his best to be religious
notwithstanding his inherently antagonistic principles. He had plenty of
cash; he owned two or three schooners, and received a Government bounty
for hunting down the white miscreants, those skippers who indulged in
all the horrors of the black-birding slave traffic. He wore three medals
on his ample breast, and besides the aforementioned bounty received a
pension from some missionary society in London which had heard of his
self-sacrifice whilst converting his heathen brothers from cannibalistic
orgy and lust. And more, it was discovered, after many days, that he was
a good and dutiful son to his old father Bapa, who still dwelt in the
Rajah’s native village in far-away Tumba-Tumba, on the wild,
God-forsaken coast of New Guinea. Such is a rough summary of the Rajah
Koo Macka, whose ways were mysterious, more so than the wily Chinee! And
though dead men may turn in their graves over the doings of men on
earth, the apprentice only pulled the end of his virgin moustache, no
prophetic breath of all that was destined to happen disturbing his
equanimity.



CHAPTER II—THE CALL OF THE BLOOD


The day after the young apprentice had played his violin to the
shellbacks and listened to the Papuan Rajah’s eulogies over his playing,
old Everard was sitting in his bungalow swearing like the much-maligned
trooper. He was holding out his gouty foot whilst his daughter poured
cool water upon it.

“What the devil are yer doing!” he yelled, as the girl, who had done
exactly as she had been told to do, stood half-paralysed with fear over
her parent’s outburst. Then the ex-sailor picked the ointment pot up and
rubbed the swollen foot himself. As Gabrielle looked on and mentally
thanked her Maker that her father had only one foot, he finished up by
grabbing a chair and pitching it across the room, careless as to what it
might hit. A fierce look came into the girl’s eyes, her face was hotly
flushed. For a moment the old man opened his mouth in surprise, really
thinking she meant to hurl the chair back at him. She looked for a
moment like a beautiful young savage. Then she turned and rushed from
the bungalow.

“Come back, you blasted little heathen!” roared old Everard as he stood
up on his wooden leg; then he gave a fearful howl as his gouty foot gave
him another twinge. His face was purple with passion. “I’ll break her
b—— neck when she comes back, I will. She’s like her mother, that’s what
she is.”

The ex-sailor’s wild sayings meant nothing. He had been genuinely fond
of his wife. Like most men who have choleric tempers, his hot words had
no relation to his true feelings. Gabrielle’s mother had been dead for
many years. Although she had dark blood in her veins, she had been a
very beautiful woman. Indeed an eerie kind of beauty seems to be the
natural heritage of women who are remotely descended from a mixture of
the dark and white races. And this striking beauty is most noticeable in
those half-castes who are descended from the Malayan types, a
superstitious people, of wild, poetic, passionate temperament. There was
some mystery concerning Gabrielle’s mother: she had flown from Haiti to
Honolulu in some great fear. Everard had met her because it was on his
ship that she had stowed away; but she had never divulged the cause of
her flight from the land where she had been born. All that Gabrielle
knew was that her mother’s photograph hung on her bedroom wall, a sad,
beautiful face that gave no hint of her dark ancestry. Gabrielle had
been the tiny guest who had unconsciously caused her natural host to
depart from this life—for her mother had died during confinement.
Gabrielle Everard felt that loss as she walked beneath the palms; but,
still, she felt glad that her father’s violence had inspired her with
sufficient courage to beat a hasty retreat, careless of the parental
wrath when she at length returned home again. “Perhaps he’ll be so full
of rum when I get back that he’ll have forgotten,” was her sanguine
reflection. Then she pulled her pretty, washed-out blue robe tight with
the sash, and murmured: “The old devil! Good job if he pegged out!”

As the girl’s temper subsided the savage look on her face faded away.
Like a gleam of sunrise across the lagoons at dawn, the laughing
expression of her blue eyes slowly returned. The firm resolve of the
lips also disappeared. Her mouth was again a rosebud of the warm,
impassioned South, a mouth that easily claimed twinship with the beauty
of the luring eyes, which looked warm with desire as the lips
themselves. She wore her loose blouse very low at the neck, so low that
the sun had delicately touched the curve of her breast. But she was only
an undeveloped woman as yet. Her ideas of the great world were vague and
shadowy. She knew little of what lay beyond her own surroundings, of
men’s ways, the terror of cities, human frailty, and the force and
passion of human tragedies. All the ribaldry, the hints thrust upon her
by the rough sailors since she had entered her teens, had been quite
lost on her undeveloped mind. Her whole idea of life and its mysteries
had come to her out of a few old books. They were books that had been
left at her father’s homestead by a ship’s captain when Gabrielle was a
child. This captain’s ship had gone ashore in a typhoon off
Bougainville, and its wreck could still be seen lying on the barrier
reefs about a mile from the shore.

Who could foresee the wondrous potentialities that lay within the pages
of those books which the old skipper had carelessly thrown aside?—what
dreams they would some day awaken in a girl’s heart, giving her strength
to combat the desires that came with volcanic-like force on the
threshold of womanhood? For, true enough, the heroes and heroines of
those old books mysteriously leapt from the thumb-torn, yellow pages and
seemed to struggle in their effort to help her regain her better self.

One book was Bunyan’s _Pilgrim’s Progress_; another, Christina
Rossetti’s poems; _The Arabian Nights_ and Hans Andersen’s fairy tales.
That old captain (he must have been old by the dates in the books) had
brought many valuable cargoes across the world, but he dreamed not that
his most wonderful cargo was the magic in the books that he was destined
one day to leave behind him in the Solomon Isles!

To a great extent old Everard’s daughter was the embodiment of the
principles and idealisms that were in those faded volumes: in her
imagination Bunyan stood there beneath the palms, seeing God in those
tropic skies; Hans Andersen drank in the mystery of sunset on the
mountains, and Christina Rossetti laid a visionary hand on the tiny,
shaggy heads of the native children who had rushed from the forest’s
depths and had started gambolling at Gabrielle’s feet. She hastened on.
“Awaie!” she cried to the dusky little creatures, who looked up at her
in a bewildered way, as though they had seen a ghost. “Ma Soo!” they
wailed, as they sped away, frightened, into the shadows of the forest. A
wild desire entered Gabrielle’s heart; she half bounded forward, as
though to rush after those tiny forest ragamuffins. She felt like
casting aside her civilised attire, so that she too might race off,
untrammelled, into those happy leafy glooms. The cry of the
yellow-crested cockatoo, the deep moaning of the bronze pigeons and iris
doves in the bread-fruits seemed to feed her soul with unfathomable
music. As she passed by a lagoon she saw her reflection in the still
depths. The dark-toning water made her appear almost swarthy; her
bronze-gold hair looked quite black. It was only a momentary glance, but
that glimpse was enough to strike a wild feeling of terror into her
heart, reminding her that she was connected by blood to the dark races.

At that thought her heart trembled: to her it was as though God had
suddenly thumped it in some inscrutable spite. In a moment she had
recovered. The strange dread of she knew not what vanished. Once more
she gave a peal of silvery laughter, and even went so far as to wave her
hand to the crowd of dark, handsome native men who were hurrying by on
their way back from the plantations.

As she meandered along she began to think over all that had happened on
the festival night when she had suddenly felt that strange impulse and
astonished the natives by jumping on to the festival _pae pae_ and
dancing before them all. She rubbed her eyes. “I can’t think that I
really did such a thing; I feel sure it must have been a dream.” Then
she remembered that her gown was torn and one of her slippers lost when
she had arrived home in her father’s bungalow. “It must have been true.
Fancy me doing such a thing! I wonder what _he_ would have thought.” So
she reflected over all she had done. Then she began to reassure herself
by recalling how she had often, when only ten years of age, danced on
the _pae pae_ with the pretty tambu maidens. And, as she remembered it
all, she gave an instinctive high kick and burst into a fit of laughter;
then she said to herself: “I’m a woman now and really must not do such
things!” She started running down the forest track, and as she passed by
the native village the handsome emigrant Polynesian youths waved their
hands and cried: “Talofa Madimselle!” One handsome young Polynesian,
gifted with superb effrontery, ran forward and stuck a frangipani
blossom in her hair. This by-play made the tawny maids who were
squatting on their mats by the village huts jump to their feet and give
a hop, skip and a jump through sheer jealousy.

Once more Gabrielle had passed on and entered the depths of the forest.
Passing along by the banyan groves on the outskirts of the villages she
suddenly came across a cleared space surrounded by giant
mahogany-trees—a kind of natural amphitheatre. Between the tree trunks
stood several huge wooden idols with glass boss eyes and hideous carved
mouths. They seemed to grin with extreme delight at the adoration they
were receiving from the twelve skinny hags and three chiefs who knelt
and chanted at their wooden feet. Gabrielle stood still, fascinated by
the weirdness of that pagan scene. Again and again the hags and chiefs
jumped to their feet and prostrated themselves before the carved
deities. “_Tan woomba! Te woomba, tarabaran, woomba woomba!_” they
seemed to moan and mumble as the stalwart chieftains jumped to their
feet, wagged their feathered head-dresses, thrust forth their arms and
chanted into the idols’ wooden ears. The largest centre idol seemed
actually to grin with delight as it listened to the mumbling of the
chiefs. Gabrielle stared, awestruck, as she listened, and the hags,
leaping to their feet, danced wildly and shook their shell-ornamented
_ramis_ (loin chemises), making a weird, jingling music as the shells
tinkled. Then they lifted their skinny arms and bony chins to the forest
height and mumbled weird chants of death. Gabrielle had seen many
similar sights in Bougainville, but never before had she quite realised
the full meaning of that strange chanting, or of the sorrow that impels
heathens to fashion an effigy with a fate-like grin on its curved wooden
lips so that it could stand before them as some material symbol of the
Unknown Power! As Gabrielle watched, two of the chiefs turned their
heads, recognised her, and gave their sombre salutation: “Maino
tepiake!” And still the hags chanted on.

Then Gabriello heard a faint mumbling coming from the belt of mangroves
that grew by the lagoons near by. She was astonished to see six tambu
maids appear, attired in full festival costume, which consisted of a
kind of sarong fashioned from the thinnest tappa cloth. The girls had
large red and black feathers stuck in their head-mops and Gabrielle knew
by this that someone had died in the village and was being borne to the
grave. They were walking slowly, carrying their mournful burden between
them. It was an old-time tribal funeral. As the coffin-bearers arrived
in front of the idols they laid their burden down. Gabrielle
instinctively crossed herself when she saw the wan face of the dead
mahogany-hued Broka girl. It was a sad, curiously beautiful face, for
death had toned down the old wildness of the living features. The
reddish, coral-dyed hair had fallen forward on to the pallid brown brow
and gave a pathetic touch to that silent figure. On the forehead was the
plastered scarlet mud cross, a sign that the girl had died in
maidenhood. She was stretched out on a long, narrow death-mat that had
handles, something after the style of an ambulance stretcher, but
fashioned in such a way that when the primitive hearse of dusky arms
moved forward the corpse regained a sitting posture. The effect was
gruesome in the extreme, for the head of the corpse, being limp, fell
forward or wobbled as the mourners passed along the narrow mossy track.
Through entering into the spirit of the proceedings Gabrielle at once
gained the sympathy of those pagan mourners. For she too crept behind
the procession as it moved along among the pillars of the vast primitive
cathedral. The thick foliage of the giant bread-fruits, the buttressed
banyans and towering vines, that ran here and there like symphonies of
green, scented the forest depth. And when the wind sighed it seemed to
be some moan from infinity, as though that moving procession and the
forest itself stood on the deep inward slopes of some vast sea. Only the
remote wide window, through which the stars shone by night and the
sunsets marked the close of each tropic day, was visible between the
colonnades of tree trunks, as there it shone—the far-away western
horizon. Suddenly the procession stopped. The six tambu maidens had
begun to chant an eerie but beautiful pagan psalm as they approached the
grave-side; then they laid their burden gently down. The weeping hags
and chiefs stood looking up into the branches of the tall coco-palm. It
was there that the girl’s body was to rest till her bones whitened to
the hot tropic winds. Along one of the lower branches they had fashioned
a grave-mattress of twigs and leaves, jungle grass and tough seaweed,
the whole being fastened on to the branch by strong sennet. It was a
weirdly fascinating sight as they stood there voiceless and began
hurriedly to perform the last sacred rites over the dead girl. The
tallest of the mourners, an aged chief, who had a naturally melancholy
aspect, besides both his ears being missing, took a bone flute from his
lava-lava and began to blow a weird _Te Deum_. Gabrielle could hardly
believe her eyes as the tambu maidens started to whirl their bodies in
perfect silence to the sound of the wild man’s piping. Only the jingle
of the _rami_ shells, tinkling in exact _tempo_ to the wailing fife
(made out of the thigh-bone of some dead high priest), told her that
those girls were whirling rapidly in the forest shadows. The hags and
chiefs had already fallen prone on their stomachs, so that they could
perform the lost mysterious rite. This rite necessitated them rising
repeatedly to their knees so that they might take in a deep breath and
blow their stomachs out, balloon-like, to enormous proportions. The
contrast was weird in the extreme when their bodies receded and subsided
into a mass of wrinkles. This strange rite took about five minutes to
perform. It was a rite that was supposed to blow the sins of the dead
away ere the spirit entered shadow-land.

As soon as this ritual was completed two of the chiefs climbed the
grave-palm and then, hanging in a marvellous way by their feet, they
leaned earthwards and gripped the dead girl’s coffin-mat by the sennet
handles. One old woman (the mother probably) rushed hastily forward, and
lifting the corpse’s hand kissed it. Then the living limbs of the weird
grave-elevators went taut as, still with their heads hanging downwards,
they clutched the coffin-mat and slowly pulled the dead figure foot by
foot off _terra firma_ towards the sky! In a few moments the dead girl
lay lashed to the bough of her strange grave, high up in the forest
coco-palm. Suddenly the mourners had all vanished! Even Gabrielle felt
some of the fright that haunted the souls of those wild people. They had
hurried away because it was known that directly the forest wind blew
across the new-made grave the soul of the dead departed for shadow-land
and must not be tainted by the breath of the living. After seeing that
sight Gabrielle hurried away also. She trembled as she stepped at last
out of the forest shadows into the glory of the sunlight. She seemed to
realise at that moment that the sun was the visible god of the universe,
the rolling orb that woos the world, creating the green happiness of the
woods and bills. She saw the migrating birds going south as she lifted
her eyes. Perhaps she felt the winged poetry of the birds on their
flight to the southward, hurrying away like symbols of our own brief
days. Her eyes were very concentrated as she sighed and then jumped
carelessly on to a springy banyan bough and began to sing one of her
peculiar songs. Suddenly she ceased to sing, and a startled look leapt
into her eyes as she turned her head. She had even let her swinging legs
fall stiff so that the old blue robe might fall and hide her pretty
ankles. Then she gave a merry peal of laughter that frightened the life
out of a decrepit cockatoo. “Cah-eah! Whoo-cah!” it shrieked as it left
its high perch and flapped away. Hillary looked up and threw a coco-nut
at it and missed by a hundred yards. It was he who had disturbed the
girl. As the apprentice stood before her she blushed softly, as though
her bright eyes and face mysteriously reflected the sunset fire that
shone on the sea horizon to the westward.

Hillary metaphorically rubbed his hands over his luck. He had strolled
over the hills for no other reason than to get clear of his growling
landlady, who had begun to give hints over delayed rent. Nor was the old
half-caste woman to be blamed, for many white youths from “Peretania”
arrived in the Solomon Isles crammed with hopes and promises and little
cash! Besides, the evening was the only time fit for a quiet stroll
without being charged by myriads of sand-flies and other winged,
tropical things. Though Gabrielle had hinted to him that she generally
took her walks by the lagoons, he had gathered that she was usually busy
at the twilight hours getting her father’s tea, polishing his wooden
leg, etc. Consequently, Hillary’s face was aglow with pleasure as he
approached the girl. In his confusion he lifted his cap and bowed as men
bow to maids in civilised communities. Gabrielle, who was unused to such
gallant manners, was delighted. She even gave a little nod in response.
It was a most fascinating bit of “court etiquette” on her part, for she
had learnt it from her French novels. Hillary, who had especially
noticed and loved the girl’s wild, rough, fascinating ways, was charmed
at Gabrielle’s tiny bit of “put-on.” It would have been impossible to
reproduce the expression of his face as he flung himself down in the
fern-grass close to Gabrielle.

The girl who was again swinging to and fro on the banyan bough, looked
sideways like a parrot on the apprentice’s face, wondering why he looked
so confused. Hillary always felt shy when she looked at him with those
childish, big eyes.

“I’m going to clear out of this God-forsaken place soon,” he said, as he
found his voice. Then he continued: “It’s marvellous how a girl like you
can exist in this infernal hole, full of tattooed savages.”

She only stared at him as he rambled on, and wondered why he attracted
her so. Then she laughed like a child, and looking him straight in the
face said: “You are very different to the other men I’ve seen round
these parts.” Hillary felt himself redden as she stared into his eyes;
she looked critically for a moment and said: “Different coloured eyes
too!” Then she added artlessly: “Do you drink rum?”

“On cold nights at sea,” Hillary responded, as he stroked his chin and
felt amused at the girl’s remarks.

And still the girl sang on as he watched her. She looked like a faery
child as she sat there swinging on the banyan bough, the music of her
voice ringing some elfin tune into his ears. There was a look that
reminded him of Keats’s _La Belle Dame Sans Merci_. Indeed, the
apprentice half fancied that she was some visionary girl sitting there
singing to him from a banyan bough in the Solomon Isles. And as the
sea-winds drifted in and made a kind of moaning music in the ivory-nut
palms their murmurings seemed to sing:

    “I met a lady in the meads,
    Full beautiful—a faery’s child;
    Her hair was long, her foot was light,
    And her eyes were wild.

    “I set her on my pacing steed,
    And nothing else saw all day long,
    For sidelong would she bend, and sing
    A faery’s song.

    “I saw pale kings and princes too,
    Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
    They cried: ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
    Hath thee in thrall!’”

A strange bird that neither knew the name of began to whistle its
evening song and broke the spell. “I wish that damned bird hadn’t come
and spoilt everything,” was Hillary’s most emphatic mental comment.
Gabrielle had stopped singing. “Do you love the songs of birds, Miss
Everard?” he said as he looked at her and gave an inane smile.

“I do this evening,” she replied, then quickly added: “It’s the tribal
drums, that horrible booming and banging in the mountains, that I hate
to hear!”

“Fancy that!” said Hillary, somewhat surprised, as he listened to the
distant echoes—it was the tribal drums up in the native village beating
the stars in.

“I was just thinking how romantic that distant drumming sounded; the
people in the far-off cities of the world would give something to hear
that primitive overture to the night, I can tell you,” said he.

“Fancy that! Why——” said Gabrielle, as she over-balanced and fell from
the bough in considerable confusion at his feet. Hillary made a grab as
though she had yet another sheer depth to fall.

“Oh, allow me!” he exclaimed, as he picked her novel up. The girl
whipped her robe down swiftly and hid the brown, ornamental-stockinged
calves that a few months before had been exposed by short skirts to the
gaze of all those who might wish to stare. Gabrielle blushed as she
rearranged her crimson sash. She was dressed in a kind of Oriental
style, in a sarong, opened at the sleeves to about one inch above the
elbows. The crimson sash was tied bow-wise at the left hip; a large
hibiscus blossom was stuck coquettishly in the folds of her hair, making
her small white ear peep out like a pearly shell. Her _retroussé_ nose
had a tiny scratch on it where a bee had stung her the day before.

“Why, you’ve scratched your arm!” exclaimed Hillary, taking advantage of
the delicate situation by gently pulling back the sleeve of her sarong
and boldly wiping a tiny speck of blood away from the soft whiteness
that had been pricked by a cactus thorn. Gabrielle put on a look of
extreme modesty, notwithstanding that she had danced on a heathen _pae
pae_ a few nights before.

“Your eyes are different colours, one brown and one a beautiful blue!”
she suddenly exclaimed for the second time as she burst into a merry
peal of laughter.

The young apprentice reddened slightly. “I can’t help that I did not
make my own eyes, did I?” he said.

For a moment the girl stared earnestly at his face, then said: “Well,
you needn’t mind, really. I reckon they look fine!”

“Don’t you get full up of wandering about this heathen locality?” said
Hillary, changing the conversation. “Nothing but palm-trees, parrots,
and brown men and tattooed women roaming about gabbling _tabak_ and
worshipping idols.”

Gabrielle laughed. “Don’t you care for the natives? I think they’re
amusing; especially at the festival dances,” she added after a pause.

“Well, I don’t object to the festivals; they’re original and decidedly
attractive. I was charmed by seeing a Polynesian maid dance like a
goddess over a Buka village two nights ago.”

“Fancy you liking to see native girls dance!” said Gabrielle, giving a
roguish glance.

“Well, I do; there’s something so fascinating and poetic in the way they
do it all,” Hillary responded.

Gabrielle readjusted the flowers in her hair, then said: “Would you like
to see me dance?”

“Dear me, I certainly should!” exclaimed the young apprentice, his eyes
betraying the astonishment he felt over her question.

“Shall I dance?” Gabrielle repeated.

“What! Now!” he exclaimed. He lit his cigarette twice over, wondering if
she were laughing at him or really meant that she would dance there on
the spot.

Before he could say another word Gabrielle had risen to her feet and was
dancing before him. He blew his nose, coughed, put on an inane smile and
then fairly gasped in his astonishment and admiration. Her tripping feet
softly brushed the blue forest flowers and tall, ferny grass that
swished against her loose robe. Hillary’s embarrassment had changed to a
tremendous interest in the originality of the dancer before him. He
clapped his hands in a kind of obsequious way for an encore as she
swayed in a most fascinating manner, her hair tumbling over her
shoulders, her eyes shining, one hand holding up the fold of her
sarong-like robe, just revealing her brown stocking above the left
ankle. “Well, I’m blessed!” he breathed. She had begun to hum a weird
melody; her right hand was outstretched, uplifted as though she held a
goblet of wine and would drink a toast to some pagan deity.

He looked at the sunset; he half fancied that it had always been staring
from the ocean rim, and would never set! And as he looked at the dancing
figure she really did seem to hold a goblet in her outstretched
hand—full to the brim—with the gold of sunset that touched the landscape
and was glinting over her tumbling hair and eyes.

“The Solomon Isles! The Solomon Isles!” was all that he could breathe to
himself as she stared at him, a strange fixed look in her eyes. A
cockatoo fluttered down to the lowest bough of the bread-fruit tree,
looked sideways on her swaying figure, slowly flapped its blue-tipped
wings in surprise and chuckled discordantly.

“Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay!” chimed in Hillary, as he clapped his hands,
stared idiotically and felt like hiding behind the thick trunk of the
bread-fruit.

“Well now! You dance perfectly!” he gasped. Gabrielle had ceased
tripping. She looked embarrassed and had begun to coil up her tumbling
tresses.

“Worth chewing salt-horse and hard-tack on a dozen voyages to have seen
what I’ve seen!” was the apprentice’s inward reflection.

“Do the girls in England dance like that?” she said in an eager,
frightened way.

“Oh no, not as well as you’ve danced. Blest if they do!” said he. That
last remark of hers made him realise that girl before him was half-wild
and had danced before him as a child might ere it became self-conscious.
“Fancy meeting a beautiful white girl, half-wild! It’s thrilling! I
wonder what will be the end of it,” mused Hillary, as he stared on that
strange maid whom he had chanced upon so suddenly.

Suddenly she said: “I’m no good at all; you may think I am, but I’m
not.”

“Aren’t you?” murmured Hillary, somewhat taken aback.

“You’re a clever girl. Not many girls can quote the poets and rattle off
verses as you can. I suppose your father’s an educated kind of man and
has a good library?” he added after a pause.

Gabrielle’s hearty peal of laughter at the idea of her father possessing
a library made the frightened parrots flutter in a wheel-like procession
over the belt of shoreward mangroves. Then she said: “Well, my father
has got a lot of books, but they really belonged to a ship’s captain—a
nice old man who lived with us years ago, when I was a child.” Then she
added: “His ship was blown ashore here in a typhoon and when he went
away he left all his books behind him in Dad’s bungalow. I’ve learned
almost all I know from those books.” Saying this, she pointed with her
finger towards the shore, and said: “From the top of that hill you can
see the old captain’s ship to-day: it’s a big wreck with three masts.
Father told me that the old captain often got sentimental and went up on
the hills to stare through a telescope at his old ship lying on the
reefs.”

“How romantic! So I’ve to thank the old captain that you can quote the
works of the poets to me,” said Hillary. Then he added: “But still,
you’re a clever girl, there’s no doubt about it.”

“I’m secretly wicked, down in the very depths of me.”

“No! Surely not!” gasped the apprentice as he stared at the girl.

Then he smiled and said quickly: “What you’ve just said is proof enough
that you’re not wicked. You’re imaginative, and so you imagine that you
have limitations that no one else has. If anyone’s wicked it’s me, I
know,” he added, laughing quietly.

“I’ve got the limitations right enough, that’s why I feel so strange and
miserable at times.”

“Don’t feel miserable, please don’t,” said Hillary softly as he blessed
the silence of the primitive spot and the opportunity that had arisen
for his direct sympathy.

“You must remember that we all have our besetting sins, and that the
majority of us think our besetting sin is our prime virtue,” he said.
“I’ve been all over the world but never met a girl like you before,” he
added in a sentimental way.

“I can take that as the reverse of a compliment,” said Gabrielle,
laughing musically.

“Believe me, Gabrielle, I would not say things to you that I might say
in a bantering way to other girls I’ve met. I dreamed of you when I was
a child, so to speak. It seems strange that I should at last have met
you out here in the Solomon Isles, that we should be sitting here by a
blue lagoon in which our shadows seem to swim together.”

“Look into those dark waters,” he added after a pause.

Gabrielle looked, and as she looked Hillary became bold and placed his
hand softly on her shoulder, amongst her golden tresses that tumbled
about her neck. And Gabrielle, who could see every act as she stared on
their images in the water, smiled.

“It’s a pity you’re so wicked,” said Hillary jokingly. Then he added
suddenly: “Ah! I could fall madly in love with a girl, like you if only
I thought I were worthy of you.—What’s the matter?”

“Oh, nothing,” said Gabrielle. Hillary noticed that she had become pale
and trembling.

“Why, you’ve caught a chill!” he said in monstrous concern, though it
was 100° in the shade and the heat-blisters were ripe to burst on his
neck.

“Dad thinks everything that he does is quite perfect,” Gabrielle said,
just to change the conversation, for the look she saw in the young
apprentice’s eyes strangely smote her heart.

“Of course he does,” said Hillary absently.

The girl, looking eagerly into his face, said: “You know quite well that
you play your violin beautifully, I suppose?”

“I’m the rottenest player in the world.”

The girl at this gave a merry ripple of laughter and said: “Now I _do_
believe in your theory, for I’ve heard you play beautifully in the grog
bar by Rokeville. You played this”—here she closed her lips and hummed a
melody from _Il Trovatore_.

“Good gracious! you don’t mean to tell me that you hover about the
Rokeville grog shanty after dark?” exclaimed Hillary.

Gabrielle seemed surprised at his serious look, then she burst into
another silvery peal of laughter that echoed to the mountains.

Hillary looked into her eyes, and seeing that eerie light of witchery
which so fascinated him, felt that he had met his fate.

“If I can’t get her to love me I’m as good as dead,” was his mental
comment. Even the music of her laughter thrilled him. Then she rose from
the ferns, and sitting on the banyan bough again started to swing to and
fro, singing some weird strain that she had evidently learnt from the
tambu dancers in the tribal villages.

“It seems like some wonderful dream, she a beautiful girl with flowers
in her hair, sitting there singing to me,” thought the apprentice.

Then she looked down at him, gave a mischievous peal of laughter, and
said: “Oh, I say, you are a flatterer! I almost forgot who I really was
while you were saying those poetic things about me!”

“Don’t laugh at me, I’m serious enough,” Hillary responded, as he looked
earnestly at the swaying figure. Heaven knows how far Hillary might have
progressed in his love affair had not the usual noisy interruption
occurred at the usual crucial moment. Just as he felt the true hero of a
South Sea romance—sitting there in a perfect picture of ferns and forest
flowers, sunset fading on a sea horizon, dark-fingered palms bending
tenderly over his beloved by a lagoon—with a rude rush out of the forest
it came! It was not a ferocious boar, or revengeful elephant; it was a
bulky, heavily breathing figure that seemed the embodiment of prosaic
reality. It was attired in large, loose pantaloons, belted at the waist,
a vandyke beard and mighty, viking-like moustachios drooping down to the
Herculean shoulder curves.

“What the blazes!” gasped Hillary, as he looked over his shoulder and
saw that massive personality step out from underneath the forest palms.
The strange being wore an antediluvian topee and an extraordinary,
old-fashioned, long-tailed coat. The atmosphere of another age hung
about him. A colt revolver stuck in his leather belt seemed to have some
strong link of kinship with the grim determination of its owner’s mouth.

“What-o, chum! How’s the gal?” Saying this, the new-comer put forth his
huge, thorny palm and emphasised his monstrous presence by bringing it
down smash!—nearly fracturing Hillary’s spine.

“What-o, friend from the great unknown!” came like an obsequious echo
from the young apprentice’s lips as, recovering his breath, he saw the
humour of the situation. Hillary well knew that it was wise to return
such Solomon Island civility as affably as possible. At that first
onslaught Gabrielle had jumped behind Hillary’s back when he had sprung
to his feet. No one knows how long that new-comer had stood hidden
behind the palm stems before he came forth. Anyhow, he rubbed his big
hands together in a mighty good temper, chuckling to himself to think
his presence should be so little desired. He bowed to the girl with
massive, Homeric gallantry. Then, as they both stared with open-mouthed
wonder, he put his hand up and, twisting his enormous moustache-end on
the starboard side, courteously inquired the route for the equivalent of
the South Sea halls of Olympus. It was then, and with the most
consummate impertinence imaginable, that he gave them both the full view
of his Herculean back and put forth his mighty feet to go once more on
his way, bound for the wooden halls of Bacchus—the nearest grog shanty.

Such a being as that intruder on Gabrielle’s and Hillary’s privacy might
well seem to exist in the imagination only, but he was real enough. That
remarkable individual was only one of many of his kind who, having left
their ship on some drunken spree, roamed the islands, seeking the
nearest grog shanty, after some drunken carousal in the inland tribal
villages.

As that massive figure passed away he left his breath, so to speak,
behind him. It seemed to pervade all things, sending a pungent flavour
of adventure over forest, hill and lagoon. Indeed, the faery-like
creation into which Hillary’s imagination had so beautifully transmuted
Gabrielle—vanished. “Well, I’m jiggered!” he muttered. As for Gabrielle,
she looked as though she was half sorry to see that handsome personality
go. His big, grey eyes had gazed at her with an unmistakable, yet not
rude, look of admiration. Indeed, before he strode away he gazed at
Hillary as though with a mighty concern, as though he would not hesitate
to redress wrongs done to fair maids who had been lured into a South Sea
forest by such as he.

“Do you know him?” gasped the apprentice as the man went off; but the
astonished look in the girl’s eyes at once convinced him that the late
visitor was a stranger to Gabrielle as well as to himself. It all
happened so suddenly that he wondered if he had dreamed of that
remarkable presence. But the frightened cockatoos still giving their
ghostly “Cah! Cah!” over the palms were real enough. And as they both
listened they could still hear the fading crash of the travelling feet
that accompanied some rollicking song, as the big sea-boots of that
extraordinary being beat down the scrubby forest growth as they
travelled due south-west.

Gabrielle little dreamed as she stood there listening how one day she
would hear that intruder’s big voice again, and with what welcome music
it would ring in her ears.

Gabrielle laughed quietly to herself as the intruder passed away and
seemingly left a mighty silence behind him. She had seen many men of his
type in her short day, not only in Rokeville, but out on the ships that
anchored in the harbour. She had also seen stranded sailors at
Gualdacanar, at Ysabel and at Malaita, where her father had taken her on
a trip a year or so before. Such men stood out of the ruck, quite
distinct from the ordinary run of beachcombers, who were usually
stranded scallawags, seeking out the tenderfoots who would stand them
drinks in the nearest grog bar. Hillary saw that new-comer as some
mighty novelty in the way of man; to the young apprentice the late
intruder was something between a Ulysses and a Don Quixote. And
Hillary’s conception of the man’s character was not far wrong. Anyway,
he did not express his private opinion, for he looked up at Gabrielle
and said: “Good Lord, what an awful being. Glad to see the back of him!”

It may have been that the late stranger’s presence had turned Hillary’s
thoughts to his sailor life, for that massive being positively smelt of
the high seas, of tornadoes and sea-board life on buffeting voyages to
distant lands. Looking up at Gabrielle, he suddenly said: “I’m going
aboard the schooner that is due to leave for Apia next week. I’m on the
look-out for a berth. I suppose I sha’n’t see you any more if I get a
job?”

Everard’s daughter gazed at the apprentice for a moment as though she
did not quite know her own mind concerning his query. Then she sighed
and said: “Must you go away to sea again?”

Hillary looked steadily into the girl’s face. He could not express his
thoughts, tell her that he would wish to stay with her always. What
would she do were he to spring towards her, clutch her tenderly, fold
her in his arms, rain impassioned kisses on her lips, look into her eyes
and behave in general like an escaped lunatic? She might think he was
mad!—race from him, screaming with fright, seeking her father’s
assistance, or even hasten for the native police. Such were the thoughts
that flashed through Hillary’s mind. And so, although he longed to do
all these things, he only stood half-ashamed over the passionate
thoughts that flamed in his brain as he gazed into the half-laughing
eyes of the girl.

They sat and talked of many things. Hillary forgot the outside world. He
half fancied he had been sitting there for thousands of years with that
strange girl by his side. He spoke to her of scenes that were remote
from Bougainville: of England, of London and the wide bridges over the
Thames, and of the deep, dark waters that bore the tall ships away from
the white Channel cliffs, taking wanderers to other lands. And as the
girl listened she saw old London as some city of enchantment and
romance, where cold-eyed men and women tramped down labyrinthine streets
by dark walls. In her imagination she even fancied she heard the mighty
clock chime the hour over that far-off city of wonder and romance.

“Fancy! And you’ve lived there! Actually seen the great palaces, the
spires and towers that I’ve read of and dreamed about!” said Gabrielle.
Then she added: “And you’ve seen the queen and the beautiful
princesses?”

“Yes, Gabrielle, I have.”

Then she said artlessly: “Weren’t they sorry when you left England for
the Solomon Isles?”

For a moment Hillary was grimly silent, then he said: “Well, they were,
rather!”

Gabrielle’s innocence and his own mendacity had broken the spell that
home-sickness and distance had cast over him, the spell that had enabled
him to picture to Gabrielle’s mind the atmosphere of old London in such
true perspective. Indeed, as he talked, Bougainville, with all its
novelty and heathenish atmosphere, became some dull, drab reality and
London a great modern Babylon of his own hungry-souled century. His
voice as well as Gabrielle’s became hushed. He was so carried away by
his own vivid imagination that he fancied he _had_ dwelt in some ancient
city of smoky romance, and had seen a Semiramis on her throne, and
Pharaoh-like peoples of a past age. It was only the eerie beauty of
Gabrielle’s eyes that awakened him to the reality that blurs man’s
inward vision. The girl had handed him a small flower which she had
taken from her hair.

“Could anything be more innocent and beautiful,” he thought as he placed
that first symbol of the girl’s awakening affection for him in the
buttonhole of his brass-bound jacket.

Night had fallen over the island. “I must go,” said Gabrielle. “It’s
terribly late.”

“So it is!” Hillary moaned regretfully. Gabrielle hastily jumped into
her canoe, fear in her heart over the coming wrath of her father.
Hillary had intended to place his arms about her and embrace her before
she went, but his chance had gone!

As he stood beneath the tamuni-trees and watched, she looked more like
an elf-girl than ever, as her canoe shot out into the shadows of the
moon-lit lagoon and was paddled swiftly away.



CHAPTER III—SOUTH SEA OPERA BOUFFE


Hillary hardly knew where he was going as he walked back round the
coast, thinking of Gabrielle Everard and all that had upset his mind.
When he at last arrived at his lodgings, the old wooden shack near
Rokeville, he was tired out. Even pretty Mango Pango, the half-caste
Polynesian servant-maid, wondered why on earth he looked so solemn as
she gave her usual salutation: “Tolafa! Monsieur Hilly-aire!”

“Nasty face no belonger you!” said the cheeky girl as the young
apprentice forced a smile to his lips, chucked her under her pretty,
dimpled brown chin, and then went off into his room. It wouldn’t have
been called a room in a civilised city, unless a small trestle bed, a
tub and fourteen calabashes and wooden walls ornamented with
grotesque-looking Kai-kai clubs and native spears deserved that name. He
could even see the stars twinkling through the roof chinks on windy
nights, when the palms swayed inland to the breath of the typhoon and no
longer let their dark-fingered leaves hide the cracks half across the
wooden ceiling. But still, that mattered nothing to him; the
companionship of his own reflections, away from the oaths of grog-shanty
men, beachcombers on the shores, and surly skippers, and jabbering
natives, made up amply for all the apparent discomfort of his
apartments.

Pretty Mango Pango, the housemaid, was singing some weird native melody;
it seemed to soothe his nerves as the strains, from somewhere in the
outbuildings, came to his ears while he sat there reflecting. He thought
of England, and wondered what his people thought over his long silence.
He knew that they must by then know the truth, for his ship must have
arrived back in the old country long, long ago without him. He thought
of the wild life he was leading as compared with life in London. “It’s
like being in another world.” Standing there by the window listening to
the tribal drums beating in the mountains, he thought he saw the dark
firs and palms for miles over the inland hills. And as he stared he felt
the eeriness of the scene, and he remembered the ghostly figures that
sailors swore they saw on those moon-lit nights, even when rum was
scarce. As he thought of Gabrielle his brain became etherealised with
dreams. He took out his dilapidated volume of Shelley’s poems and read
_The Ode to the West Wind_, and finally became so sentimental that he
sat down and wrote this letter home:

    Dear Mater,—Forgive me for not writing before this. I ran away
    from my ship. Though the skipper smiled like an angel when you
    saw him, he turned out a fiend incarnate. I’m out here in the
    Solomon Isles. I often think of you.... You’d never believe the
    wonderful things I’ve seen, the experiences I’ve gone through,
    since I left you all. I couldn’t stand Australia.

    First of all I must tell you that the natives here are
    inveterate cannibals, but still they’re not likely to eat me.
    I’ve got tough. The wonderful part of it all is this: I’ve met a
    most beautiful, eerie kind of girl here in the Solomon Isles.
    She comes up to all that I ever dreamed of in the way of beauty
    and innocence in human shape. I know, dear, that you will smile,
    that thousands of men have thought they had come across the one
    perfect woman; but it seems to me something to be thankful to
    God for that I should _really_ find her! And living out here in
    these God-forsaken isles, too! Her father’s not much of a catch
    in the way of prospects. But he’s a retired captain and, I
    believe, is well respected by the population. I’m sure you would
    like Gabrielle if you saw her, and you will see her if I can
    manage it all.... It seems gross to have to mention business
    prospects after mentioning her.

    Well, I’m making fine progress with my music. I’ve mastered
    Paganini’s twenty-four Caprices. I’ve also composed some
    wonderful pieces. I know they’re good....

    I’m reading Shelley, Byron and Swinburne and Tolstoy’s _Kreutzer
    Sonata_. The people here seem strangely to lack poetic vision.
    They are wonderful men, though, brave and truthful in their
    forcible expression at the concerts outside the Beach Hotel.
    It’s a kind of Brighton Hotel, but the _prima donnas_ are dusky.
    I was knighted by a tribal king the other night.

    Kiss dear sister Bertha for me. Tell her to read Balzac’s _Wild
    Ass’s Skin_. It’s a beautiful book. She must skip the chapters
    where the woman’s silken knee comes in, etc., etc. Your
    affectionate, loving son,

                                                            Hillary.

Having penned the foregoing epistle, Hillary placed it in his sea-chest.
Like many of his temperament, he wrote more letters under the impulse of
the moment than he ever posted.

“It’s early yet,” he said to himself as he stared out of the window and
saw the moonlight stealing across the rows of mountain palms to the
south-west. He could hear the faint rattling of the derrick, where some
schooner was being unloaded by night. That noise seemed to rouse him
from his dreams. He lit his pipe and crept out of the door. A puff of
cool ocean breeze came like a draught of scented wine to his nostrils;
for it had passed over the pine-apple plantations and drifted down the
orange and lemon groves. The pungent odours seemed to intoxicate him.
But still he was feeling moody, so he started off over the slopes. He
was off to the grog shanty. He knew that originality abounded in that
drinking saloon and in the neighborhood of its wooden walls.

The grog shanty of Bougainville harbour was known by sailormen as far as
the four corners of the world as the finest pick-me-up and dispeller of
fits of the blues in existence. Indeed, that shanty was a kind of
medicine chest, the magical chemist’s shop of the Pacific. It was the
_opéra bouffe_ of South Sea life: it made the cynic smile, the poet
philosophical, the madman feel that he must surely be deadly sane, and
the ne’er-do-wells drunk with happiness. Indeed, the consequential,
heavily moustached German consul, Arn Von de Sixth, had crept down the
Rokeville highroad one night and seen such sights that German culture
received a shock! He at once issued an edict that no native girls were
to visit the precincts of the grog shanties after sunset.

But notwithstanding his strict orders the dances still went on. Indeed,
as Hillary arrived in sight of the dead screw-pine that flew the Double
Eagle flag the scene that met his gaze fairly astonished him. It was as
though he was witnessing some phantom-like cinematograph show. A small
cloud that traversed the clear tropic sky suddenly blurred the moon,
sending lines of shadows over the shining spaces outside the grog
shanty. This made the scenic effect look as though a covey of dusky
female ghosts had rushed from the jungle and were whirling their
semi-robed limbs in wild delight beneath the coco-palms. If the
apprentice had any idea that the scene was supernatural it must have
been swiftly dispelled by the sound of the wild chorus of a chantey
coming from the hoarse-throated sailormen assembled outside Parsons’s
bar. Then the moon seemed to burst into a silvery flood of silent
laughter that went tumbling over the dark palm groves, drenched the
distant shore forests with pale light, and touched the dim horizon of
the sea; it even lit up the bearded mouths of the shellbacks and
revealed the brilliant eyes of the dusky ballet girls who had stolen
down from the mountain villages. They had their chaperon with them in
the shape of old High Chief Bango Seru. Those brown girls were his prize
gamal-house, or tambu dancers. A mighty calabash was by his side. It was
in that handy receptacle that he carefully placed the accumulating
bribes that he demanded as payment for all that his dusky protégé
did—and ought not to do! Parsons, the bar-keeper, poked his elongated,
bald cranium out of the shanty’s doorway and shook his towel violently.
(It was the signal that no German official was in sight.)

Once more pretty Singa Mavoo and Loa Mog-wog lifted their _ramis_
(chemises), revealed their nut-brown knees and swerved with inimitable
grace. The Yankee nudged the German half-caste in the ribs till they
both so roared with laughter that they fell down. It was a kind of
miniature representation of the wine of the European music hall and
_opéra bouffe_ poured into one goblet so that the onlooker might swallow
the draught at a gulp! Oom Pa, the aged high priest, was there. That
fervent ecclesiastic had been unable to resist the temptation thrown out
to him by the half-caste German sailors and grog-bar keepers. There he
stood, as plain as plain could be, his eyes alive with avarice, as he
too winked, begged for a drink and solemnly pointed out the attractions
of his two pretty, semi-nude granddaughters, who danced ecstatically, so
that he might add his mite to the collection-box for the heathen temple
fund down at Ackra-Ackra.

The most unimaginative of those onlookers breathed a sigh of admiration
when two Malayo-Polynesian youths stepped out of the shadows and put
forth their arms, looking at first like dusky statues, not only because
of their perfect terra-cotta limbs and artistic pose, but because of
their graceful erectness as their arms and legs moved with marvellous
symmetrical precision. Even the night seemed astonished as a breath of
wind came in from the seas and ran across the island trees. For now it
seemed like a shadow-world peopled with puppets. The youths put forth
their arms and dived up, up between the palms, coming down on their bare
feet like dusky marionettes dropping softly from the moon-lit sky! Then
the tambu maids began to chant and dance. Only the weird jingling of
their armlets and leglets showed that they were really there in the
shadows, as the shellbacks in their wide-brimmed hats looked on in
silence.

“Tavoo! Malloot!” suddenly said a voice. The effect of those two words
was magical. Every maid, dancer and onlooker had vanished! Only the
palms sighed as though in sorrow of it all as a German official’s white
helmet hat came into sight far along the beach.

“Did I dream it all?” murmured Hillary. He rubbed his eyes; then he went
across the sands to the spot where the dancers had done such wondrous
feats. He stamped with his foot to see if there was some subterranean
outlet through which the dancers could so mysteriously disappear. But
all was solid enough. The moon still shone with its silent, religious
light. Parsons flapped his towel three times from the grog-bar doorway.
One could have sworn that the rough men in his bar-room had never left
their drinks as they stood there solemnly pulling their beards,
discussing old grievances in hushed voices. Not a breath of wind stirred
the phantom-like palm groves outside; only the chants of the cicalas
were faintly audible as they clacked down in the tall bamboo grass of
the swamps and shore lagoons. Those old sailors and shellbacks looked
the picture of honesty _till_ they gazed meaningly into each other’s
eyes and drank on, sighed and sent the flames of the roof oil lamps
flickering over their wide-brimmed hats. But even they gave a startled
jump as something out in the silent night went “Bang!” It might have
been the signal that any kind of horror was being perpetrated. But it
was only a mighty thump on a tribal drum, somewhere up in a mountain
village, telling the frightened inhabitants that all was well, that the
last of the tambu maids had arrived safely, had entered the stockade
gates and that their pagan world might rest in peace for the remainder
of the night.

Even Hillary responded to the far-off voice of the tribal drum, for he
turned away and strolled back to his humble lodging-house. As he went
over the slopes he saw Oom Pa staggering homeward with his mighty
calabashes, minus his granddaughters, who had come down from the
mountain villages. All was silent as he crept beneath the palms, passed
under the verandah and entered his room. Even Mango Pango was snoring on
her sleeping-mat in the kitchen, so late was it. And yet, as he looked
out of his open window and yawned, he could distinctly hear the sounds
of muffled drums beating across the slopes.

“Damned if there is not another heathen festival on somewhere,” he
muttered. It was true enough: the full-moon festivals were in progress,
and down at Ackra-Ackra they were chanting and banging, and their sacred
maids were dancing to the discordant music. Had Hillary known _who_ was
dancing at that moment on a tambu stage only two miles away he wouldn’t
have slept much that night. But he was oblivious to all that happened,
so he fell asleep and dreamed of dusky whirling ghosts and fate-like
drums that swept dancing maidens away into a shadowy pageant of
swift-footed figures that bolted into the mountains and were seen no
more.



CHAPTER IV—THE SOUL’S RIVAL


As soon as Gabrielle Everard had paddled across the lagoon and passed
from Hillary’s enraptured sight she pulled her little craft up on the
sandy beach, hid it amongst the tall rushes and started off home. She
stood for a moment hidden beneath the mangoes till three jabbering,
hurrying native chiefs had passed by.

As she watched them recede from sight down into the gloom of the sylvan
glades, she gave a sigh. “I hate to see those big tatooed chiefs; it’s
through them that I feel so wild at times, I’m sure. I simply curse that
ancestor of mine who married a dark woman. Why, I’d sooner die than
marry a dark man!” Then she added: “Pooh! Why should I worry? I’m white
enough, since I feel such a dislike for them—but, still, I do like
dancing and singing at times, I admit.”

Then she thought of the young apprentice; his bronzed, frank face and
earnest eyes rose before her memory. “He does look handsome; those
odd-coloured eyes of his do fascinate me; but it’s a pity he’s not a
passionate kind, who would make love like those handsome chiefs do when
they sing to their brides on the _pae paes_ and tambu stages. But there,
they’re wild and can’t control their passions as we do!” she added. She
looked down into the lagoon at her image and blushed deeply at her own
thoughts. “I’m getting quite a pretty girl—almost a beautiful woman,”
was her next reflection, as she noticed her large shadowy eyes and her
full throat in the still water.

“Hallo, Ramai!” she exclaimed, as a graceful native girl suddenly
stepped out of the bamboo thickets, stared with large dark eyes at her,
then made as if to pass on. “Don’t go, Ramai,” said Gabrielle. The girl
stared sphinx-like for a second, then moved on. “I go, Madesi, to pray,
tabaran! Must go or die!” answered the strange maid as she turned round,
then pointed her dark finger in the direction of the god-house that was
situated somewhere in the taboo mountains.

“Your old god-houses! Do you really believe in them?” said Gabrielle,
looking earnestly into the strange maid’s serious eyes. For a moment
Ramai stared, put her brown knee forward, made a magic pass with her
hands above her head, and said: “The gods have spoken more than once to
Ramai when the stars did shine in the lagoons and the caves by
Temeroesi, and told the future. And am I not sacred in the eyes of the
gods? For I am head singer at the tambu festivals, so are my love
affairs good, and chiefs have died for that look from my eyes that would
tell all that a woman may say.”

“If I danced on the _pae paes_ would I be loved too?” said Gabrielle
almost eagerly.

“Pale-faced Marama, you no dance; the gods like not your kind!” Ramai
answered almost scornfully. Then she glided away into the shadows on the
other side of the track and disappeared.

Gabrielle burst into a merry peal of laughter. Once more she looked at
her image in the lagoon and began to chant and sway and clap her hands
rhythmically, just as she had seen the natives do. The deep boom of the
bronze pigeon recalled her to herself as she stood throwing her shapely
limbs softly to and fro. The songs of the birds seemed to remind her
that she was no longer a child, and that such antics were a bit out of
place now that she wore long dresses. She stopped dead, and put her
hands into the folds of her hair that had fallen in a glinting mass to
her shoulders as she shuffled her sandalled feet in the long jungle
grass.

“I’m really getting awful,” was her next reflection. The sun was lying
broad on the western sea-line; it looked like an enormous, dissipated,
blood-splashed face that would hurry to hide itself below the rim of the
ocean, away from the violent wooing of the hot, impassioned, tropic day.

Gabrielle stared across the seas from the hill-top and half fancied that
that great hot face grinned from ear to ear over all it had seen. A
peculiar feeling of fright seized her heart. In a moment she had turned
and hurried away. She felt quite relieved as she sighted her father’s
bungalow beneath the shade of the bread-fruits. “It’s late. Won’t Dad
swear! I don’t care; men must swear, I suppose,” she muttered as she
plucked up courage and entered the small door of the solitary homestead.

The shadows of evening had fallen; the last cockatoo had chimed its
discordant vesper from the banyans near by. The room was nearly dark as
she opened the door; only a faint stream of light crept through the
wide-open casement that was thickly covered with twining tropic vine and
sickly yellowish blossoms. To her astonishment, she was received by her
father with a broad smile of welcome. “Come in, deary, don’t stand
there! What yer frightened of—you _beauty_?” said old Everard, as his
lean, clean-shaven face looked up at the girl in a warning way and he
placed a forcible accent on the last two words.

“Who’s here that he should be so affable?” thought Gabrielle.

Turning round, she was startled to see a tall figure standing by the
window. In a moment she hurried to the mantel piece and, striking a
match, lit the small oil lamp, scolding her father all the time for his
discourtesy in allowing a stranger to stand in the darkness. As she
turned and gazed at the visitor she almost gave a cry, so impressed was
she by the appearance of the man before her. It was the handsome Rajah
Koo Macka, the half-caste Malayo-Papuan missionary. He was attired in
semi-European clothes, but with this difference—round his waist was
twined a large red sash and on his head the tribal insignia of the Malay
Archipelago Rajahship, which consisted of coils of richly coloured
material swathed round and round to resemble a turban. He looked like a
handsome Corsair who had suddenly stepped out of an Eastern seraglio.
For a moment the girl stared in astonishment; the Rajah corresponded
with her conception of what the grand old heroes of romance were like.

The Rajah took in the whole situation and the impression he had made at
this first glance at the father and daughter. He swelled his chest and
assumed his most majestic attitude, and then behaved as though he knew
he had befriended the girl by being at her homestead at that opportune
moment.

“My darter!” said old Everard, inclining his lean face and introducing
the girl with a grin.

“Your daughter!” gasped the Rajah as he stared with all the boldness and
brazen admiration that Hillary’s eyes had lacked into Gabrielle’s face.
He was taking no risks, had no idealistic views about innocence and
beauty to thwart his heart’s desires—in a sense he had already captured
her!

Gabrielle, recovering from that thrilling glance, blushed deeply. She
stared at the dark moustache; it was waxed, and curled artistically at
the tips. “What eyes!—luminous, warm-looking, alive with romantic
dreams!” she thought.

The Rajah looked again at the girl. That second swift glance made her
heart tremble with fright, but somehow she liked to see a man stare so.

“My darter ’andsome girl,” gurgled old Everard, stumping his wooden leg
twenty times in swift succession, as Gabrielle brought out the rum
bottle. The business confab that had been going on between Everard and
his guest ceased abruptly. The old ex-sailor took the Rajah’s proffered
cigar, stuck it in his mouth and gripped the ex-missionary’s hand, with
secret delight bubbling in his heart. That grip said to Everard:
“Everard, old pal, I never knew you had such a bonny daughter. Never
mind the business I came here about, I’ll supply you with cash for rum!”
The old sailor rubbed his hands. He knew that the man before him was
wealthy, owned a schooner, and was boss of two plantations in Honolulu,
where he had first met him. He put forth his horny fist and gave the
Rajah the first familiar nudge of equality.

Everard was altogether worldly, but utterly unworldly in the great human
sense of that phrase. He lacked the swift instincts that should have
made him discern the truth and see how the wind might blow. His drunken
eyes could not read the deeper meaning in the Rajah’s eyes as that
worthy glanced at his daughter. He could see nothing of the passion and
lust that is so often in the hearts of the men of mixed blood in the
dark races.

Even Gabrielle’s half-fledged instincts of womanhood made her realise
that the man before her did not exactly represent her preconceived ideas
of what the old heroes of romance would look like could they stand
before her in the flesh; the look in the Rajah’s eyes as he gazed on her
was rather too obvious.

That night as the three of them sat at the table and Everard roared with
laughter over Rajah Macka’s jokes, and giggled in delight at discovering
that the Papuan potentate was such a fine fellow after all, Gabrielle’s
heart fluttered like a caught bird. Rajah Koo Macka had leaned across
the table once and stared into her eyes in such a way that even old
Everard had ceased his narrative concerning his own astuteness and, like
the idiot he was, stared at the Rajah, the rum goblet still between his
lips and the table. But the Rajah, noticing that swift look in the old
ex-sailor’s face, immediately recovered his mental equilibrium, and with
astute cunning swiftly turned to his host and said: “I really couldn’t
help staring so. Why, bless me, Everard, this Miss Gabrielle is the dead
spit of the Madonna, the glorious painting that adorned the sacred walls
of my missionary home when I studied Christianity’s holy precepts.”

“Damn it! Is she?” wailed old Everard, as the artful heathen gent shaded
his eyes archwise with one dusky hand and, staring unabashed with a
long, reflective glance at Gabrielle, murmured in holiest tones:
“Virginity! Virginity! O blessed word!”

Gabrielle certainly _did_ look beautiful: the dying flowers in her
bronze-golden hair and her _negligé_ attire (a much-renovated,
washed-out blue robe and scarlet sash) added to the mystery of that
sordid bungalow, as the dim candles and oil lamp burnt humbly before the
unfathomable eyes of sapphire-blue. The deep golden gleam in their
pupils seemed to expand as the night grew old. What a night of magic it
was for her! The strange man from the seas thrilled her.

The old bungalow, lit up by two tallow candles and one oil lamp, the
smell of rum, all vanished, and the dilapidated furniture and walls
shone with a beautiful light, a light that came from that romantic
presence! By an inscrutable paradox Macka was abnormally sensual and
selfish, and yet truly religious! He spoke in low, sombre tones about
Christ, of innocence, of the hopes of the living and of men when they
are dead. Old Everard looked almost sane as he leaned his Dantesque face
across the table and murmured “Amen.” And as the girl listened the Rajah
loomed before her imagination as some glorious representative of the
chivalric ages who had stolen into their bungalow out of the hush of the
great starry night. The very walls of the room faded away as she watched
his eyes flash. It was the sudden tiny pinch on her leg as he stooped to
pick up his fallen cigar that she couldn’t quite place. It most
certainly had no Biblical import in the books she had read. But still,
“Why worry?” she thought, as she once more came under the spell of that
look. And still old Everard looked round with insane eyes and thanked
God for a Rajah’s friendship; and still Gabrielle struggled against the
fascination of that man of mystery. Though nature has fixed indisputable
danger signals in the eyes of voluptuaries, liars, rogues and old
_roués_ so that they give themselves away in a thousand acts, women’s
blind eyes _will_ not see!

All the old idolatry, the belief in his heathen gods, returned to Rajah
Koo Macka that night. His mind was fired with superstition, much as
Gabrielle’s was by romance, as he stared upon her. Had not the gods of
his boyhood far away in New Guinea spoken of such a one with
midnight-blue eyes and the hue of the stars in her hair? And was she not
before him drinking to his eyes as she held the goblet at his wish? Had
not their lips met in secret before the white man’s blinded eyes?

He even made a further advance in that predestined courtship, as planned
by the gods, when he left the bungalow that night. In a way that is the
special gift of voluptuaries, he managed to squeeze by her in the
doorway, passing his arm about her with heathen artistry till she felt a
strange thrill. Old Everard also received monstrous pressures of
friendship as he put forth his hand and opened his insane-looking mouth
at being so flattered. Then the old ex-sailor fell down in the doorway,
dead drunk.

As soon as the Rajah got outside the bungalow he stood under the palms
and looked back at that little homestead, a terrible fire gleaming in
his eyes. The old superstition, deep in his heart’s blood, asserted
itself with that full strength that is always triumphant when invested
with the power of two creeds. “She’s mine!” he muttered in the old
Malayan language. He looked like an agent of the devil as he waved his
arms and made magical passes. Then he gave a low whistle. Two stalwart
Kanakas, with mop-heads and glassy eyes like dead fish, stepped out of
the shadows and saluted the Rajah. “Talofa Alii, Sah!” said one, as he
softly swung his strangling rope to and fro and muttered, “Oner, twoer,
threer, fourer,” at the same time ticking off each number with his dusky
finger. They were kidnappers, members of his crew. In a moment they were
all hurrying down towards the shore. As they stood by the coral reefs,
the waves singing up to their feet, the Rajah rubbed his hands with
delight, for there were five dark girls lying prone, half strangled, in
his waiting boat.

They had just been caught while swimming in the enchanted lagoons at
Felisi, where native maidens, at the tribal witchman’s bidding, went in
the dead of night to wash their bodies in the charm-waters that made
girls so beautiful. Even as the Rajah and his kidnappers stood on the
shore they heard the sound of a sharp, terrified scream come faintly on
the hot winds across the hills. They knew that another victim had been
caught in the thug-nets. It was easy enough too; for it was a happy
hunting ground for the “recruiters” down Felisi beach way. In the dead
of night native girls often ran along the soft, moon-lit sands like
coveys of dishevelled mermaids, placing sea-shells to their ears that
they might hear the songs of dead sailors and the far-off voices of
their unborn children humming and moaning in the great spirit-land that
is under the sea.


Gabrielle’s heart thumped like a drum as she softly closed the door of
the bungalow. She thought she must have dreamed it all. A handsome,
god-like Rajah had gazed upon her as though she were a
goddess—impossible! So thought the girl as she stumbled over a sordid
reality—her father’s recumbent form on the bungalow door-mat. He still
lay where he had fallen. He was a big man, and so it was with much
difficulty that she at length managed to pick him up and lay him down on
the old settee. Then she sat down in the big arm-chair. She heard her
father gurgling out some old-time sea-chantey, so faint that it sounded
a long way off. The two tallow candles were burning low in their
coco-nut-shell candlesticks. But still she sat there. The idea of going
to bed seemed ridiculous after the wonderful thing that had happened.
She was still trembling to her very soul over the Rajah’s flatteries.

She thought of that secret pressure, the hot kiss, the deep meaning look
in the flashing eyes. “He even spoke of God. Men seem to think more of
God than women,” she muttered absently. “I’m dark, a heathen at heart;
I’d like to marry a handsome, dark man like that,” she continued, as she
began to beat her hands to and fro. Suddenly she felt a pang at her
heart, for she had begun quite unconsciously to hum a melody that she
had heard the young apprentice play to her on his violin. Her limbs
started to tremble; the old look came back to her eyes; the swarthy,
half-fierce look had vanished. She tried to change her thoughts by
humming on in that weird way. “I’m heathenish, I’m sure I am,” she
almost sobbed. Then a fierce feeling took possession of her as she
realised her own unstable thoughts over the two men she had just met.
For a moment she sat perfectly still, thinking—then she burst into
tears.

Everard still snored on. Gabrielle ceased her tears, clapped her hands
and laughed softly to herself. She had drunk a little rum and stuff that
she knew not the name of that night. How could she help doing so. Had
not the Rajah placed his lips at the goblet’s edge and looked sideways
in deep meaning at her as he drank a toast to her father? But it wasn’t
the rum that filled the bungalow parlour with mystery and changed the
universe for her. She forgot the armchair in which she sat: it seemed
that she sat on a lonely shore by night and stared at a blood-red sun
that peered at her over the ocean horizon. Perhaps the Rajah had done
this mysterious thing to her through his tender pressure. He knew! He
knew! But still, he had no hint in his mind of the witchery of that
girl’s soul.

She rose from the arm-chair, her shadow dodged about the walls of the
bungalow, then she peeped through the open casement. Night lay with its
tropical mystery drenched with stars as she stared upward and then again
across that silent land. She withdrew her head and placed a pillow under
her sleeping father’s head, then crept from the room, passing up the
three steps that separated her from her own chamber. Her room was
faintly lit up by the tint of moonrise on the distant mountains. “How
silly of me to feel frightened like this,” she murmured, as she swiftly
lit the oil lamp. Her limbs still trembled. A feeling of intense sorrow
had come over her. The apprentice’s eyes rose before her memory again;
she thought of the tryst by the lagoon, and it all seemed like some
memory of a romantic opera she had seen and heard long years ago. Then
she gave a startled cry: a shadow had run across the room. “How foolish
of me to be frightened of my own shadow!” she said almost loudly to
herself, as though she would seek courage by hearing her own voice.
“I’ve heard that mother had nights of madness, when she thought a dark
woman, blind, deaf and dumb, crouched under her bed and begged
forgiveness for something she’d done.” So she thought as she rushed to
the window to get away from her thought.

But Gabrielle could not escape from that presence. She looked out on the
wide landscape of feathery palms and pyramid-shaped hills to the
south-east in a strange fear. Then she stared seaward in the direction
of the dark-armed promontory, where she knew the native girls stood on
their great god-nights, coiled their tresses up and dived into the
moon-lit seas, so that they might swim and beat their hands at the
cavern doors where Quat and his vassal-gods moaned.

“I’m going mad too,” she murmured, as she pulled her head in through the
open window and began to undress. One by one she pulled off her sandals
and ribbons. Then she heard a queer kind of sawing noise. “What’s that?”
she wondered. But it was only the regular intervals between Everard’s
snores in the silent parlour below. “It’s Dad!” she murmured; and the
sound of that deep bass snore soothed her soul as though it were the
music of the singing spheres. She took off her blouse, undid the lace
corsage, loosened the sash swathing till her semi-oriental attire fell
rustling to her knees. “Am I so beautiful?” she murmured, as she looked
half in fright and guilt at herself in the oval bamboo mirror. Her eyes
sparkled like stars in the gloom as she peeped through her bronze-gold
tresses. And still she swerved and swayed, so that the cataract of
golden hair fell to her throat and again below the sun-tanned flush of
her bosom. She thought of the Rajah, the warm look of his dark eyes. A
strange thrill went through her. As though a dark figure ran across the
moon-lit space just outside her window once again, a shadow whipped
across the room. She hastily wrapped a robe about her, rushed across the
room and stared through the vine-clad bamboo casement. The sight of the
masts in the bay and the dim light of the far-off grog shanty by Felisi,
where she knew sunburnt men from the seas spent the nights in wild
carousal, dispelled her fears. She looked round her; then in some
unaccountable fascination she stared in the mirror again. “I’m growing
into a woman, getting quite beautiful!”

“I’m growing into a woman, getting quite beautiful!” came some exact
echo of her words. She was startled; she swiftly glanced round the room;
she could almost swear that she was not alone.

“What’s that?” she muttered, as she heard the muffled sounds of beaten
drums, so faint that it seemed that the barbarian rumbling came across
the centuries.

“What’s that!” re-echoed her own query. The echoes startled her more
than the reality would have done. Thoughts of Ra-mai, the tambu dancer,
of her gods and the terrors of the phantoms that haunted those whom the
_tabaran_ high priests had tabooed flashed through her brain. Her
bedroom was faintly lit up by the light of the oil lamp that fell over
the dilapidated furniture and on to her old settee bed. A swarm of
fire-flies whirled and sparkled beneath the palms outside and then were
blown through the open casement, right into the room! She swiftly placed
her hands over her eyes, as one might at the sight of vivid lightning—a
ghostly flash leapt across the room and seared her very soul! The hot
night winds swept through the palms outside; she heard them moan as
something leapt out of the night and clutched her heart with its shadowy
fingers! In her terror she swiftly looked up at her mother’s photograph,
as though she would rush to the dead for companionship. No help there.
The faded eyes of that sad face only stared in immutable silence down
from the frame on the wall, as though in some twinship of misery.
Gabrielle dared not turn her head. She knew that something stood there
watching her. Another gust of wind seemed to come from the stars and
burst the half-closed casement open.

“Dad!” she cried in her terror, as she felt a hot breath against her
face.

“Dad!” echoed the walls of her room in mockery.

“Who are you?” she managed to wail out.

“Who are you?” came the relentless echo.

She had just caught sight of her face in the mirror. Even the fear of
that presence in the room was somewhat subdued, so unbounded was her
astonishment at seeing the reflection that stared back at her from the
bright glass—it was not her own face that she saw, but the face of a
wildly beautiful, dark-blooded woman!

She stared again, paralysed with horror. The fiery eyes mocked her
fright and astonishment. Then the expression changed: the face seemed to
appeal and smile half sadly at the girl.

It was not a monstrous Nothing that gazed upon her. She turned to flee
from the terrible presence. But in a second it had leapt out of the
mirror—had sprung at her! So it seemed to the terrified girl; but the
figure was standing _behind_ her, staring into the mirror over her
shoulders like some relentless, cruel Nemesis from her helpless past, a
hideous thing that had searched for centuries—and found her at last!

Old Everard slept on. He heard nothing of the terrible conflict in the
room three steps up, where his daughter struggled in the awful grip of
that temptress who had found her—a woman from some long-forgotten forest
grave in the Malay Archipelago.

It was not madness; nor did the struggle exist only in her imagination.
The sheets were torn, the counterpane rent in twain, as that merciless
phantom tried to overpower the girl.

Only those who have been true worshippers in the great Papuan tambu
temples who have seen and heard the magic of the heritage rites, can
guess what really happened in the girl’s room. Only those who have
experienced a like experience secretly know how she felt as she
attempted to overthrow that deadly visitant. For a few seconds their two
figures swayed in the dark. The oil lamp had been knocked over! Then the
small door of the bungalow suddenly opened: Gabrielle had escaped. She
ran out into the moon-lit night! Just for a second she stood under the
windless palms, staring first one way and then another, as though she
longed to leap over her own shoulders—escape from herself. Up the slopes
she ran, and down into the distant hollows by Fallamboco. She passed the
derelict hut where the high priest dreamed before he died and was buried
just in front of his front door. The broken, crumbling wooden idol still
stood on his grave, its bulged glass eyes staring in immutable insolence
as Gabrielle rushed by. She stopped by the lagoons at Felisi, where the
huddled waters lay, the sacred waters that washed the beautiful bodies
of the dead brides ere they were buried safe in the highest
mahogany-tree of Bougainville.

She was not surprised when she stooped and gazed on her reflection in
the waters and saw a second image beside her own in those silent depths.
Standing there in her hastily donned night attire, her hair outblown,
her chemise torn to rags at one shoulder, her blue robe clinging to her
delicate figure, she looked around in despair. Only the mountains looked
on silently as their giant stone heads seemed to stare like Fate across
the desolate landscape and out to the moon-lit seas. She looked at the
sky and groped in some blindness, lifting her hands in mute appeal. Some
past heathen life possessed her. A crawling, half-human-shaped cloud
blurred the moon’s face, failing suddenly, like a dark hand. It was not
a cloud to Gabrielle’s changed eyes as the shadow fell over the weird
landscape; it was a big thumb busily tattooing the sky, as one by one
the dim constellations rebrightened on their darkened background.

She stood alert and peered over her shoulder, her face and eyes bright
with startled delight—she heard the tribal drums beating.

Those sounds were real enough. Even the young apprentice in his room
over the hills jumped as he heard the booming, then put his head out of
his window and bobbed it back, startled like a frightened child.

Gabrielle recognised those sounds. The long, low-drawn chant was
familiar to her ears. Softly they came, weird undertones drifting across
the silence. Like a monstrous rat that had wings, something whirred
across the sky and gave a wretched groan as it swept out of sight.

“Ta Savoo! Ta Savoo!” (“Come on! Come on!”) said a voice beside her. A
shadowy hand was laid upon her shoulder. The horror of that presence had
already vanished. She startled the hills by bursting into a silvery peal
of laughter; then away she ran, on, on, into the depths of the forest.

On the brightest tropic night the forest depths were dark with lurking
mystery; the multitudinous twistings of the giant trees and their
gnarled limbs, all thickly lichened with serpent-like vines, made a
wonderful depth of brooding silence and unfathomable light, and in the
moonlight looked like some mighty forest of twisted coral miles down
under the sea.

White men would sooner walk miles than pass through those depths by
night. “No, thank ye! No tabooed b—— heathen forest for me!” they said,
as they gave a knowing glance. And none could persuade them. Old Sour
Von Craut simply shrugged his shoulders, spread out his fat hands and
intimated by raised eyebrows that it was the most natural thing on earth
to have found the dead beachcomber, with ears and eyes missing, in the
forests behind Felisi beach.

Even Gabrielle stopped running, gave a startled moan and looked up in
the dim light. Something screamed and gave a mocking laugh; it was a
red-striped vulture. The girl saw the whitened bones of its eyrie as it
stood up and flapped its wings. For it had made its nest amongst a dead
man’s bones, a grave up there in the palms of the tabooed forest. Just
for a moment she crouched in fear, but not because of that sight over
her head. An aged dark man with a large nose was passing along, not ten
yards off, chanting to himself. It was Oom Pa, hurrying back from the
festival outside Parsons’s grog shanty. He had a bamboo rod across his
shoulders, Chinese fashion, wherefrom his calabashes swung as he
disappeared in the depth beyond. In a few seconds Gabrielle was off
again. She had been that way before, so knew the near cuts to the
villages and tambu temples. As she ran out of the bamboo thickets she
caught a first glimpse of the hanging lamps. A breath of wind had swept
through the forest, blowing the thick, dark leaves aside that made the
natural taboo curtain to the festival spot. She saw the whirling figures
of the tambu maiden dancers. She heard the weird music of the flutes and
twanging stringed gourds. The chants only increased the wild feeling of
savagery that was delighting her soul. She did not hesitate, but
deliberately pushed aside the bamboo stems and stood in the presence of
that secret midnight throng of sacred worshippers and the great tambu
priests. For a moment the dark heathen men and affrighted women stared
from their squatting mats in astonishment, the expression on their faces
strangely resembling the carved surprise of the big wooden, one-toothed
idol that stood six feet high, staring with glass eyes from behind the
taboo stage. Even the dancing tambu maidens swerved slightly in their
sacred movements, their steps put out of gear as Gabrielle, with hands
uplifted, and eyes staring strangely, appeared before that _pae pae_.

The head priest coughed in astonishment; then he rose and wailed out:
“Taboo! She is white, and such are tabooed by the gods!”

As he brought his club down with a crash, anger come into the dark eyes
of the sacred chiefesses, who had leapt to their feet, all disturbed
while they had been paying obeisance to the wooden Idol Quat (chief god
of the skies). It was a specially private occasion, only the greatly
trusted allowed to attend. One stalwart chief stepped forward as though
he intended slaying the girl on the spot. Old Oom Pa, who had barely
wiped the perspiration from his brow and flung down his calabashes of
bribes, gazed with as much surprise as anyone on Gabrielle. Then, seeing
that harm might come to the girl, he hastily stepped forward and said:
“Hold, O chiefs; this papalagi has that in her eyes which tells she is
under the influence of our gods. And, therefore, is she not one of us?”
He swiftly turned and said something in the guttural language of his
tribe. Whatever he said was for Gabrielle’s benefit, for it greatly
calmed the fears of the huddled dark men and their women-kind. In a
moment the fierce resentment towards Gabrielle changed to wild grunts of
welcome. One aged priest who was grovelling on his stomach before the
dwarf taboo idols that were receiving the sacred slanting moonbeams
through the palms prostrated himself at Gabrielle’s feet. The white girl
looked round her like one who stared in a dream, then she gave a merry
peal of laughter. The handsome, tattooed braves who stood leaning on the
palm stems gave a hushed cry of admiration as they saw the girl
standing, bathed in moonbeams, her hair wildly dishevelled, her eyes
like stars, her arms as white as coral as she made mystical movements in
a dance they did not know. The old priest, who was at her feet lifted
his face and chanted some prayer to her eyes.

This act of the priest made the chiefs and chiefesses think that the
girl was there by special decree of their _kai-kai_ (sacred moon gods).
In a moment the whole tribe had followed the priest’s act, hod
surrounded the girl and were moaning and grovelling at her feet.

“Tala Marama Taraban!” (“’Tis a spirit-girl!”) they whispered in an
awestruck voice as they lifted their chins and stared at the girl’s
vacant eyes. The peculiar stare of those wonderful blue eyes intensified
their superstitious belief.

Two of the chiefs rose, nodded their heads, wailed, and said: “She has
been here before, O brothers!”

The tambu maidens had now stopped dancing. The barbarian flutes had
ceased their wailings, not a drum note disturbed the hush as the wild,
swarthy men gazed on Gabrielle and the aged priest chanted into her
ears.

The girl seemed to be dimly conscious of the reverent homage those wild
men and women paid her as they fell on their faces before her. She
looked down with a dream-like stare on their muscular brown bodies, on
their richly shelled _ramis_, their red-feathered headgear.

“Savoo! Savoo!” (“Go on! Go on! Dance for us!”) they almost whispered,
as they turned their shaggy heads and peered into the depths of the
forest, half in terror and pleasurable anticipation of what the girl
might do.

For a moment Gabrielle swayed, clapped her hands softly as a prelude,
then chanted. Then she swiftly glided towards the tambu elevation. In a
moment the tambu maidens had jumped down, soft-footed, on to the mossy
floor before the sacred erection. Gabrielle had leapt on to the stage!
The skulls and skeleton bones and other gruesome ritual objects that
dangled on boughs just above her head swayed to the hot night breeze,
all tinkling weirdly as she stood for a moment in dreamy hesitation.
Then she gave a silvery peal of laughter. She had begun to move hither
and thither as though in a dream, swaying to and fro with marvellous
delicacy and grace. Never before had those chiefs seen so weird, so
wonderful a sight or heard a voice chant their wild melodies with such
strange effect. They all stared. Even the tambu maidens stood as though
riveted to the forest floor in envious wonder. A drum began softly to
beat out the tribal notes, “Too Woomb! Too Woomb!” in perfect _tempo_ to
the girl’s shifting faery-like footsteps. Suddenly the aged high priest,
Pooma Malo, fell prostrate before his tambu idol and began to chant, so
great was his fear. The whole assemblage were trembling like wind-blown
shadows. They had all noticed the silent, shadowy woman who stood beside
the white girl on the _pae pae_ mimicking her every movement, as it,
too, bobbed rhythmically to and fro, moving its feet noiselessly behind
her across that _pae pae_ before them all.

Two of the tambu maidens and one dusky youth jumped to their feet and
bolted off into the forest in fright. The giant wooden idol just behind
the shadow-figure gave a wide carven grin from ear to ear as a shaft of
moonlight fell across its hideous face. A handsome, plucky young chief
stepped forward. He was adorned with the insignias and decorations of
the fetish rites. He leapt straight on to the _pae pae_. Under the
influence of the white girl’s dance he too swayed his arms and chanted,
as only men of his race can dance and chant.

Gabrielle looked up at him, a strange light in her eyes. He reminded her
of the Rajah. She lifted her arms in response to the handsome young
chief’s gesticulations as he careened by her in the mystical
cross-passes of the ritual dance. She lifted her mouth to his. The
tribal chiefs saw the strange look of the girl’s eyes and at once
smothered the cry of “Awai! O lao Mia!” the old tribal exclamation that
would express their innermost feelings. The elder priests stood
open-mouthed, leaning against their idols in fear and trembling, as
though they would ask their protection.

The impassioned warrior chief grew bolder, and held Gabrielle’s delicate
figure in a swerving embrace. His dark mouth came close to her ear,
murmuring words of magic that she could not understand. Even the idol
seemed to stare its surprise as he lifted one white arm and touched the
soft flesh with his lips. And still the tambu flute-players blew on, for
they too had come under the spell of that strange sight, where the two
races clung together and chanted mysteriously to each other. Then the
chief untwined his swarthy arms from that embrace and, falling forward
on one knee, placed his lips to her feet. He was eager to press his
extraordinary advantage. To kiss a maid’s feet is the first act the
happy warrior performs when a maid favours his presence on a tambu
stage. But he found that her feet were covered. In a moment he had
pushed her robe aside and had begun to remove one of her small,
blue-bowed sandals.

Just for a moment the white girl’s face seemed to betray the light of
vanity over this act of the young chief. Then he lifted her foot once
again, to his lips, and immediately Gabrielle’s expression changed. She
stared around her in astonishment, looked with a dream-like stare back
into the eyes of the giant warrior who was caressing her and at the
swarthy men and women who stood under the coco-nut-oil lamps watching in
front of the _pae pae_ stage. They knew that the cry she gave was one of
terror, for Gabrielle had awakened; her soul had been asleep.

The young chief who had danced with her suddenly cowered away from her
side; then he jumped in the opposite direction as she leapt from the
_pae pae_.

“Taboo!” whispered the astonished chiefesses as the wind sighed
mournfully across the forest height and flickered the bluish flames of
the hanging lamps.

“She would tempt our menkind!” yelled a deep-bosomed chiefess as she
leapt forward, her head-dress feathers swaying violently.

One or two of the older chiefs put forth their dusky hands as though
they would clutch her in their anger. In a moment Oom Pa lifted his dark
fist and bade none touch her. Placing his tawny hand on his tattooed
chest, just where his sun-tanned skin encased his thumping heart, he
muttered solemn-sounding undertones that told the assembled tambu
watchers to leave the girl to him.

Gabrielle looked round on those fierce-eyed men and women in terror. She
saw that look in the eyes of old Oom Pa which told her that he, at
least, had her welfare deep in his heart. The lines of tambu maidens
divided, and moved back half in fright as Gabrielle made a dash and
passed by them.

“Stay, O papalagi maid,” said Oom Pa, as he too moved back into the
recesses of the forest and, staying her flight, said: “O white maid, you
come to tambu dance before, I knower you. I know, too, that you no
belonger to our race.” Then he rubbed his wrinkled face, looked at her
sternly and proceeded: “Remember that great trouble may come to one who
comer to our full-moon rites unasked. Savvy?”

Gabrielle nodded. She could not speak as she stood there trembling from
head to feet. Then the old priest looked quietly in her eyes and said:
“Tell me, O white maid, who was she with skin dark as the night, eyes
like unto stars and cloudy, flowing hair as she dance on _pae pae_ stage
with you, mimicking you like a spirit-shadow?”

“With me!” exclaimed the girl in a startled, hushed voice, as she looked
round into the forest depth in a great fear.

“Wither you!” reiterated Oom Pa. Then he said: “You knower not that such
a spirit-shadow dancer with you and laugher when you place your lips
’gainst those of our taboo warrior? La Umano?”

So spake old Oom Pa, as the light of the moon and superstition lit up
his wrinkled face. Before he could say more Gabrielle had fled in fear
from his presence.

She had no recollection of the way of her flight back to her father’s
bungalow. Her feet went swiftly, like pattering rain, over the forest
floor as she ran from her fear and shame. And only God knows the
thoughts of her sad heart as she entered her father’s homestead in the
dead of night and crept into her little civilised bed to sleep.

Was it imagination? Well, whoever you may be, go to Bougainville, look
into the wonderful eyes of those half-caste women who happen to have the
blood of the white, Papuan and Polynesian races mixed in their veins,
fall in love with such a one, hold her in your arms by night and watch
for the shadow!—listen for the rustle of the old life that revelled in
the magic of the tambu and maidia temples, the altars of heathen passion
and enchantment.



CHAPTER V—MUSIC OF ROMANCE


On the morning following Gabrielle’s terrible experience old Everard sat
bathing his head in a calabash of sea-water. It considerably revived his
numbed sense. Then he blew his nose fiercely and, stumping his wooden
leg with tremendous irritability, sat down to breakfast. Suddenly, as he
was munching, he looked up, wondering what on earth was the matter with
his daughter. Her dress was torn, her face looked pale and haggard, her
eyes full of drowsy fright and some haunting fear. She looked years
older than when she had retired the night before. The expression on her
face was one of infinite sorrow. The lips kept trembling. The old man,
completely lacking in imagination, could see nothing of the pathos, the
absolute wretchedness of the girl’s expression. He summed up the whole
business according to his own feelings.

“Did you drink rum last night?—get drunk? What’s the matter?” said he,
as he concluded by munching fast at his bread and toasted cheese.

“_You_ were drunk,” said the girl, squeezing the words out with an
effort as her voice cracked.

“Wha’ you think of Rajah Koo Macka, gal, eh?”

“Not much,” she responded. Her mouth visibly twitched as she turned her
eyes from the stupid, inquiring parental gaze.

“Nice fellow ’im; believes in God, Christ and in virginity. Rajahs ain’t
knocking about everywhere, Gabby old gal, either,” he continued, as he
gave a wink. Then he added: “It’s wonderful how people who was once
’eathens seems to be the most relygous folk; they seems to ’ave a real
faith in goodness ’o things, that’s what it is.”

Gabrielle still kept silent, hardly hearing at all as the old idiot
rambled on in this wise: “’E’s got ther brass too! Going to ’ire me to
go on a pearl-hunting scheme in the Admiralty Group. ’E knows _I_ know
where the pearls are found. He he!”

Suddenly the man ceased his wild talk and looked at the girl quizzically
for a second, then said: “Gabrielle, you’re a woman now, don’t yer feel
like one?”

At this, to the old man’s astonishment, the girl burst into tears.

“What on earth ’ave I said,” he mumbled, as his eyes lost the bleared,
rum-dim look, and he tapped his wooden leg. Something that slept deep
down in his heart stirred in its long slumber: “Don’t cry, girlie.
Aren’t you well?”

Even he saw the faint appeal of those violet-blue eyes.

“Who’s torn your dress?” he said, as he struggled against the impulse
that he felt, for he had put forth his arms to draw the girl to him. But
he didn’t do so.

Pouring a little more Jamaica rum into his tea, he swallowed it, smacked
his lips and said: “Don’t grissel. I’m not going to bully you for
tearing your clothes. S’pose you’ve been arambling ’bout ther scrub at
yer old games, admiring ther beauties of Nathure?” He pursed his lips
and gave a cynical grin as he made the foregoing remark. Then he
continued: “I saw you t’other day talking to that blasted runaway ship’s
apprentice, ’Illary, I think they call ’im. Do yer want to disgrace your
old father by talking to ther likes of ’im, a damned penniless, stranded
runaway apprentice, nothing but a fiddler with a shabby, brass-bound
suit on!”

Then the old evangelical zealot of vagabon gospel and the best Jamaica
rum put his big-rimmed hat on, looked at the clock and went stumping
down the track by the palms to look after the Kanakas who were employed
on the copra, coffee and pine-apple plantations.

As soon as the sounds of his stumping footsteps had died away the pretty
native girl, “Wanga-woo,” from Setiwao village, made her characteristic
somersault through the front door. She had come to tidy the bungalow in
her usual way. Even that nymph-like creature looked sideways at
Gabrielle, noticed the pallor of her face and wondered at the absence of
the usual cheery salutation that had always greeted her. It took the
native child no time to tidy up. Then she ran outside the homestead and
returned with her big market basket full of luscious tropical fruits:
mangoes, two big over-ripe pine-apples, limes and reddish oranges lying
on their own dark green leaves.

“You liker them, Misser Gaberlel? They belonger nicer you!”

The native child’s voice and action cheered up Everard’s daughter
wonderfully. Then, as she lay down on the parlour settee to rest her
aching head, she heard the little maid running away into the forest,
back to her village, singing:

    “Willy-wa noo, Woo-le woo wail-o,
    Cowana te o le suva, mango-te ma bak!”

Then the sound died away and Gabrielle felt glad to hear it no longer,
and lying there thinking and thinking, and softly crying to herself, she
fell fast asleep, and slept through most of the hot tropical day. When
she awoke sunset had already fired the mountain palms. As she sat on the
bamboo seat by the door she heard her father’s voice. She knew he was
drunk; the rollicking, hoarse intonation of, his song was unmistakable
as the sounds came nearer. He had been away to the plantations to see
Rajah Koo Macka, who was supposed to be purchasing a lot of copra for
cargo for his ship that lay off Bougainville.

In a moment the girl had made up her mind, had risen and run off into
the forest. Sunset was sending its golden streams across the banyan
groves as she passed under the giant trees that were smothered with huge
scarlet blossoms. Already the koo-koo owl had stolen from the deeper
shadows and was hooting forth its “To woo—to-woo-woo!”

“I wish I hadn’t overslept,” she murmured to herself as she felt a
longing to see one of her own sex. For she had made up her mind to go
around the coast to see Mrs. S——, the German missionary’s wife. She was
a cold-eyed white woman, this missionary’s wife, but still, she was
white. Gabrielle had thought to tell her of the terrible shadow that had
come to her in the night, and had hoped for her sympathy and advice. She
would have gone even then, but she knew that the white woman’s residence
was miles round the coast and it would be quite dark before she arrived
there. She also remembered that Mrs. S—— was a terrible coward and would
not venture from her husband’s bungalow after dark on account of the
rumours going about that _tabarans_ (evil spirits) lurked in the forests
when the tambu worshippers were chanting their sacred rites.

Even Gabrielle shivered in fright when she thought of the tambu
worshippers and the strange look of fear on the faces of the dead who
were found in the mountain forests after certain festivals. It was some
kind of religious sect who offered terrible sacrifices to the _tabarans_
and the ceremony was something after the style of the Vaudoux worship as
described by M. de St. Mery in his work on Vaudoux cannibalistic
fetishes in Haiti.

When those fetishes were in full swing they could hear the chanting away
down in Rokeville during the silence of the night. “Ach!” the Germans
would say as they listened to the far-away shrieks in the mountain
citadels: children being clubbed and offered up in thanksgiving song and
frenzied dances at the altars of indescribable orgy. And the knowledge
that such things happened within easy walking distance from her bungalow
made Gabrielle careful about roaming too far after dark. She turned from
the denser forest and made up her mind to go through the light jungle
that separated her from the picturesque shores and lagoons to the
south-west. As she ran along the silvery track she looked fearfully into
the shadows of the huge buttressed banyans. Her imagination, vividly
alive through her terrible experience the night before, made her fancy
she heard something running swiftly beside her in the jungle. She
suddenly stopped and trembled from head to feet as the sounds of running
footsteps stopped also. “Dear God, what have I done?” she wailed out in
terror. In a moment she had rushed off, and bounding over the logs of
the deserted _dobos_ (huts) came to the cleared spaces where the
scattered ivory-nut palms grew. She looked round with relief as she
thought of that dreadful hollow that had so strangely re-echoed her
_own_ footsteps. Again she ran off; her fears left her and she began to
sing. The sight of the dotted huts of the native homestead on the
far-away shore revived her spirits. The rich blue of the departing day
shone on the horizon and seemed strangely to influence her thoughts. The
sough of the winds in the palms near by had rich music for her ears as
she listened. “What’s that?” she murmured, as she stood perfectly still.
It was not the sound of beating tribal drums this time: she leaned
forward and listened again, as though her very soul would drink in that
faint, far-off sound. It came again, softly, a wailing, silvery sound
moving on the warm sea wind. No fear leapt into her eyes, no agitation
came to her limbs. An intensely beautiful expression seemed to light up
her face as her heart as well as her ears heard those sweet sounds. The
very palms just over her head moaned a tender _con anima tenerezza_
accompaniment as it came, a sweet-throbbing, long-drawn tremulous wail.
Tears sprang into her eyes as she listened to the strain of melancholy
in the thin silvery voice that drifted beneath the tropic stars. It was
the “Miserere” from _Il Trovatore_.

It was Hillary who felt the embarrassment of the moment as she ran out
from beneath the palms. He had not really expected the girl to turn up
that evening, although she had asked him to play his violin at that very
spot so that she might chance to hear him. The apprentice felt a trifle
foolish as he dropped his instrument and gazed at the girl. It struck
him that he had been a party to a sentimental by-play out of some
romantic novel or scene on the stage. He gave a sheepish grin that would
have been quite out of place even had it been a stage performance. As
for Gabrielle, she revelled in the romance of that meeting. She gazed
into Hillary’s eyes, more like a child than ever, as she sat there on
the same banyan bough where she had first sung to Hillary when the
Homeric intruder had so suddenly disturbed them. As the apprentice
looked at the girl he noticed how haggard she was. As though to ward off
his critical gaze, she swiftly turned her head and murmured: “How
romantic to hear you play your violin in the distance like that.” Then
she added coyly: “It’s as though we are two passionate lovers meeting,
just like they meet in Spain and Italy—you know, in the books,” she
added, as she gazed half sadly in the apprentice’s face. Hillary tried
to hide his true feelings by joking about her brown stocking. She
laughed. Then as the darkness deepened Hillary became bolder and pressed
his lips on her hand. The girl responded by pressing his fingers. He
gazed steadily into her eyes; he wondered why they looked so beautiful
and wild. He had noticed the same expression before. He did not stare
with vulgar surprise; he simply pressed the girl’s hand in instinctive
sympathy. He knew that some fear haunted her soul. His love for
Gabrielle had strangely blinded him to worldly things, but had gifted
him with an inward sight that made him wonderfully sympathetic. Just for
a second he felt a tremendous premonition of all that was coming to pass
in his life through his affection for the girl by his side. In another
moment his natural gaiety had returned. He half laughed to himself as he
felt the wonder of all that he was experiencing in a place where white
girls wore two expressions, laughed in one breath and stared in fright
in the next.

Gabrielle was staring into his eyes as though she were asleep and yet
had her eyes open. Her face was pallid; she had released her hand from
his; she was still singing the song she had begun when her expression
changed before the apprentice’s astonished eyes.

“God! what is that weird, beautiful melody that you are singing,
Gabrielle?” said he, as he came under the influence of her voice. All
the European music that he knew was as nothing compared to the painful
soul of melody that lingered in the strain that the girl extemporised.

As she still sang and swayed by him in the shadows he swiftly opened his
violin-case, but very softly, as though he feared to frighten the song
away from her lips. He drew the bow gently, caressingly, _con
tenerezza_, across the responsive strings and played.

    [Transcriber’s Note: Lyrics]

    Mis Ta-lo-fa, the chiefs are sleep-ing,
    The seas in moon-light sing,
    My eyes are dream-ing, the winds art creep-ing,
    Dead shad-ows round me spring.

    Winds sigh-ing by me, my Ma-la-bar maid,
    Un-der the co-co palms.
    Here thro’ the night on my breast in the ... Etc.

    A. S.-M.

It was very late when Hillary walked back with Gabrielle to see her
home. Even the shouts from the festivals of the heathen villages had
subsided, only coming to their ears in dismal wails and tom-tom
beatings. Gabrielle felt no fear of the dark forest as they hurried
along the silver track with the big-trunked trees clearly outlined in
the brilliant moonlight.

“You mustn’t get nervous and allow your brain to have such curious
fancies, Gabrielle,” said the young apprentice as the girl clung tightly
to his arm at the dodgings of their own monstrous silhouettes.

At length they arrived outside old Everard’s bungalow. All was quiet.

“Good-night, Gabrielle,” said Hillary, as he leaned forward, half
inclined to say: “Dearest, may I kiss you?” During the last two hours,
however, he had been too much worried about something that he knew not
of to have made such headway in his advances. Notwithstanding his wish,
he only took her hand and gazed into her eyes, and made her promise to
keep the next appointment without fail. And she promised. Then he said:
“Don’t look so scared, he’s asleep. Surely you’re not afraid of your
father like this?” Then he added: “I’ll wait outside here and have a
snooze beneath the palms till I think that you are fast asleep!”

Gabrielle didn’t laugh at such a suggestion, as she might have done two
nights before! Indeed, she pressed his hand in almost hysterical
thankfulness. Hillary wondered why she should be so frightened, why she
should look so delighted after looking so scared. “God in heaven! the
girl’s madly in love with me!” was the delighted thought that flashed
through his brain.

Gabrielle crept indoors. She heard her father’s snoring as she softly
opened her bedroom door and entered the room. She went straight to the
small casement that opened on the feathery palms and distant moon-lit
seas. She pushed aside the big hibiscus blossoms and peered down. Her
heart fluttered with some half-fierce delight as she saw that form
reclining beneath the palms: it was the penniless, stranded sea
apprentice watching outside his South Sea princess’s castle.

With some great light warming her heart Gabrielle crept into bed and
fell fast asleep, and so another night passed. It was only in the
morning that old Everard said: “Where the ’ell were yer last night? I
wish ter blazes ye’d come back before it’s dark. I’m damned if there
wasn’t a shadder a-knocking about ’ere last night!”

“No, Dad!” said Gabrielle.

“Yus!” said the old man with terrible vehemence. Then he added: “That
old barman up at Parsons’s is a blamed liar; he swore that the last case
I bought was the best Jamaica rum. And yer don’t see shadders after
drinking ther best Jamaica, that yer don’t!”

The old ex-sailor rambled on as he beat a violent tattoo on the floor of
the bungalow with his wooden leg.

As for Hillary, he didn’t get home till sunrise, so he slept till near
midday.

“Papalagi! Maser Hill-e-ary!” roared Madame Tamboo, his landlady, as she
banged his bedroom door with a ponderous bamboo stick.

“All ri’!” answered the sleepy young apprentice. Then he jumped up. He
was out and about in two ticks, for he had slept “all-standing.”

He couldn’t keep calm that day. Mango Pango the maid-of-all-work, opened
her bright eyes with delight as he paid her pretty compliments over her
beauty. “Ah, what nice papalagi!” she said, as she looked sideways in
the German mirror at her image. True enough, she had fine eyes and
features that were quite different from those of the full-blooded
Solomon natives. Like most Polynesian girls, she was extremely romantic
and imaginative. She lifted her eyes towards the roof in childish
ecstasy when Hillary laughingly admired her yellow stockings and told
her that she reminded him of Cleopatra.

“Who Cleopatra?” Mango Pango said. Then Hillary told her a lot about the
doings of Antony, who loved Cleopatra.

“She and nicer Antony still liver in Peratania England?”

“No, they’re both dead,” said Hillary mournfully.

“Oh dear! poor tings!” said Mango Pango sympathetically. Then she looked
into the apprentice’s eyes and said coquettishly: “Was Cleopatra a bery
beautifuls woman, Mounsieur?”

“Most beautiful woman in the whole world, just like you,” said Hillary.

So would they talk together; and the pretty native girl would laugh and
smirk with the apprentice and wonder if she was as beautiful as he said
she was, and if he really meant it when he told her that he longed to
elope with her so that they could live on a desert isle together.
Hillary little dreamed how one day he and that little native girl
_would_ travel across the seas together—in a stranger fashion than he
jokingly anticipated.

After the noon sun had dropped and the fire-flies had begun to dance in
the mangroves the apprentice put his cap on and strolled out on to the
slopes to kill time. And pretty Mango Pango peeled potatoes, sang a
melancholy Samoan song, dreamed of the handsome white papalagis and
nearly wept to think she was so brown.



CHAPTER VI—THE DERELICT


Hillary was impatient during the interminable hours that passed ere he
saw Gabrielle again. “Don’t worry me, Mango,” he said, as the pretty
native girl stood on the verandah and blew kisses from her coral-red
lips.

“He go mad soon; man who no get drunk am no gooder at all!” murmured
Mango Pango as she ran off to obey the orders of her mistress.

It was the next night when Hillary was to reach the zenith of his dreams
and happiness. Gabrielle had promised to meet him at sunset and go off
in a canoe for a paddle round the coral reefs off Felisi beach. He was
on fire with the idea. He could not sleep. His brain teemed with the
thoughts of all he would say to Gabrielle when he declared his love. He
determined to act his part well and be a worthy lover. She should not be
disappointed in him. “I’ll paddle her out to that derelict three-masted
ship; that old wreck’s the very place. I’ll take her on board so that we
shall be quite alone.”

He thought of the light in Gabrielle’s eyes. “Fancy me being the lucky
one to receive her kisses! Wonderful! I know men get exaggerated ideas
about the _one_ woman who appeals to them—but Gabrielle!—it’s excusable
in me.” So Hillary reflected as he heard the ocean surfs beating against
the barrier reefs. It pleased him to hear the winds sighing mournfully
through the tracts of coco-palms beyond his bedroom window. His brain
became confused as he thought of the ecstasy of holding her in his arms.
He sat down by the bamboo table and wrote off a poem. He was so much in
love that even the poem was good. He proudly read the verses over and
over again, till they seemed more wonderful than anything he had read in
the works of the great poets. “I’m a poet,” said he. Then he stared in
the mirror at his haggard face, just to see what the world’s greatest
lyric poet looked like. Placing his scribbled lyric amongst his valued
property in his sea-chest, he once more continued to think over all that
he would do when the sublime moment arrived. He thought of how he would
hold Gabrielle in his arms. He would be no ordinary lover. He would rain
impassioned kisses on her sweet mouth as he held her in his strong
embrace. She should not escape him: the very fright that might leap into
her eyes through his impassioned vehemence would only serve to feed the
fires of all that he felt for her. He looked in the corner on his
violin—his old love. How insignificant it seemed when compared to his
new love. Yet he felt a slight pang of remorse as he realised how its
strings had always responded to his moods. Would Gabrielle’s
heart-strings respond as readily? Are the heart-strings of women as
perfectly in tune with a lover’s ideals as violins are to the touch of
the _maestro_? He heard the faint booming of the far-off seas sounding
through his reflections as they stole across the quiet night. Then he
opened his sea-chest and took out Balzac’s _Wild Ass’s Skin_. He gazed
on the faded flower that had lain in the pages. Though it was limp and
withered, it was glorified because Gabrielle had worn it in her hair.
After that he fell asleep.

Next day the young apprentice became terribly impatient as the hours
slowly passed. He was to meet Gabrielle at sunset by the old lagoon. It
wanted half-an-hour before the sun fell behind the peaks of Yuraka when
he eventually started off. Mango Pango wondered why he was so full of
song, so carefully dressed. He chucked her under the chin, even praised
her eyes, as he said, “Good-bye, O beauteous golden-skinned Mango
Pango,” then hurried out under the palms.

“He fool; he go meet dark-skinned, frizzly Papuan girl, I know! O
foolish mans!” murmured pretty Mango as she readjusted the hibiscus
blossoms in her bunched tresses and looked quite spiteful.

As the young apprentice hurried on, his Byronic neckerchief fluttering
from his throat like a flag, his eyes twinkled with delight. The glamour
Gabrielle had created in his head threw a poetic gleam over the rugged
island landscape and on the brooding wealth of nature around him. The
blue lagoons, nestled by the lines of ivory-nut palms, looked like
petrified patches of fallen tropic sky that had been mysteriously frozen
into bright mirrors. Then they seemed to break up into musical ripples
of laughter, for a covey of bronze-hued, pretty native girls had
modestly dived down into their blue depths as he suddenly emerged into
the open. He distinctly saw the bubbles where they had disappeared, and
he knew that they were all standing on the sandy bottom of the lagoon
hastily slipping on their loin-cloths before they boldly reappeared on
the surface.

“Talofa! Papalagi!” said one as her shiny head bobbed on the surface,
her eyes sparkling as she gazed shoreward and blew the apprentice a kiss
as he was passing out of sight. Then he arrived on the lonely shore
tracks. The Papuan birds of paradise looked like fragments of feathered
rainbows haunting old shores as they floated over the sea. The
orange-striped cockatoos, sitting high in the tall flamboyants and
tamuni-trees, seemed to shout “Cockatoo-e whoo! Cock-a-too whoo! Make
haste! Make haste!” as he approached. They rose in a glittering shower
from their roosts, gave dismal muttering as they fluttered over his
head, till, hanging their coral-red feet loosely, they resettled on the
boughs of the tasselled breadfruits. It was a wildly desolate spot; not
a sail specked the horizon as Hillary tramped along, singing to himself.
Except for the solitary dark man who lay fast asleep in his outrigger
canoe, that was becalmed a few yards beyond the coral reefs, he wandered
in a world alone. Only the bright-plumaged birds populated the wooded
promontories, cheeks and slopes.

As the young apprentice walked slowly along, making time, he repeatedly
glanced seaward to see how low the sun was setting. Arriving opposite
the alligator-shaped promontory at Nu-poa, he sighted the scattered
palavanas of the small hut citadel, Ko-Koa. It was a fishing village;
quite a score of canoes floated hard by on the lagoons. The romping
heathen kiddies waved their paddles as he passed by. Their alert eyes
seldom missed the passing of a papalagi. From out the thatched
beehive-shaped homesteads, under the mangoes and mahogany-trees, rushed
several old chiefs and their women-kind, who at once began loudly to
lament the dearth of tobacco and gin and loose cash.

Attractive girls offered him their fabulous wealth of shells and fish in
exchange for a silk handkerchief. “You got nice lady fren, papalagi?—one
who ’av’ gotter old pair stocking she no wanter?” said one coy maid
whose soul yearned to attract some dusky Lothario’s waning glances. But
it was all innocent enough in a way. “Women are the same the world over,
blest if they aren’t!” he murmured, as he gave a bashful maid a small
piece of red ribbon in exchange for her beautifully carved bone
hair-comb, which she handed him with inimitable grace, for brown maids
are very ambitious for the love of a white man. Some of the youths and
maids were half-caste and three-quarter caste, a mixture of Polynesian
and Melanesian. Armlets and leglets fashioned from the pretty treduca
shells jingled as the girls romped round the apprentice.

Those girls of mixed blood were mostly of graceful deportment, many
having fine, intellectual eyes. Neither did they possess the ungainly
head-mop. Indeed, standing there under the distant palms of the lower
shore, their wavy hair tossing to the sea-winds, they made a picturesque
sight. And one might easily have imagined that they were tawny mermaids
who had crept up the sands so as to stand under the green-leafed palms
to comb their tresses and wail luring songs. Hillary stood still for a
moment and gazed on that enchanting scene of primitive life, fascinated.
Out on the edge of the promontory sat yet another covey of semi-Papuan
and Polynesian maids. It was not fancy; they were really singing
mysterious songs as they sought to lure the sun-varnished native
fishermen who paddled or sailed their buoyant catamarans over the
wine-dark waters. Hillary bolted under the palms to escape the
embarrassing attentions of both the cadging chiefs and those Solomon
Island Nausicaas and Circes. It was not long after that he arrived by
the side of the wide lagoon that Gabrielle would cross in her canoe if
she kept the appointment. She would come by water, whereas he had
travelled three miles, the long way round by the coast. As he stood by
the lagoon it seemed to stretch before him like a beautiful mirror that
reflected tall fern and palm trees. Even the bright-winged lories were
distinctly visible as their shadows flitted across the sky. “Will she
come? Is it all a dream?” thought he as his heart thumped heavily.

It seemed incredible to Hillary that he should really be standing there
by that lagoon in the cannibalistic Solomon Isles, waiting to see a
beautiful white girl paddle towards him across the blue waters. He had
not waited long before round the bend of the lagoon, far off, came a
ripple, quite visible on the waters; in another moment the curved,
ornamental prow of a canoe appeared as the moving paddle leapt into full
view. The sun was setting and the blaze shot right across the Pacific
and touched the mountains to the south-east, sending transcendent hues
and shadows down on to the lagoon waters and again into the forests.

Women play all sorts of tricks with credulous men and their instinctive
love of beauty. True enough, Gabrielle was an artist in the delicate
business of self-attire. She knew exactly where to place the blue ribbon
at her throat and the crushed crimson flower in the crown of her hair so
that it might appeal to the senses of a mere man. The blue and white
flowers stuck in her tresses looked unreal, for her hair shone as though
it had been set on fire by the hues of the sunset. Her robe might have
been cut out of some burnished cloud material such as the angels wear.
“Fancy! She’s come!” murmured Hillary as the prow of the canoe softly
swerved broadside on to the sandy shore. “Come on, dearest,” he said.
Gabrielle looked tired and was breathing fast through her haste in
paddling across the wide lagoon. She looked very pale. “What’s the
matter, dear?”

“Father’s drunk.”

“Is he?” said Hillary, as he metaphorically brought his fist down and
swept such an unromantic nuisance as a father off the face of the earth.
Even Gabrielle looked up quickly as she heard him take a deep breath as
he swept old Everard to dust, pulverised. He hadn’t rehearsed through
the feverish night all that he intended to do at that moment, and
written a mighty poem, to be finally thwarted by a drunken father.

Something kin to the fire that shone in the apprentice’s eyes shone in
Gabrielle’s eyes also. She trembled, and obediently did all that he bade
her do. In a moment they had taken hold of the prow of the canoe and
between them dragged it for thirty yards over the shallows that
separated the deeper lagoon waters from the sea. They were right
opposite to where the Pacific waves gambol into a thousand creeks and
coral caves. Without a moment’s hesitation Gabrielle jumped into the
canoe. “Be careful, dear,” whispered the apprentice.

They lost no time in embarking. A trader was likely to pass at any
moment, and Everard had threatened to “kick Hillary into the middle of
next week” if he found that villainous apprentice hanging around his
daughter. They could just hear the faint echoes of the tribal drums in
the Buka-Buka mountains as their canoe shot silently out into the bay.
They were off, paddling away together into the unknown seas of romance.
Such was that world of rugged shore and dark blue waters to Hillary as
he gazed up at the darkening sky. God had just lit the first star, and
as he gazed upward it flashed into sight.

Gabrielle really _did_ look like some beautiful visionary creature
sitting there; and she was voiceless, as befits those who travel across
tropic seas of love. The apprentice paddled a long time, then at last he
could hear the faint monotones of the seas that were ceaselessly beating
against the reefs and the big bulk of the wreck.

“Allow me!” he said. His voice trembled as he took hold of her hand
firmly, as though he thought she might escape. The prow bumped gently
against the hulks’ side near the gangway. That big, three-masted
derelict looked like some huge phantom ship as it loomed up there in the
silent waters off Bougainville. “Come on, dear.” Very carefully he
placed his arms around her and step by step carried her up the ragged
rope gangway.

Their heads were nearly up to the level of the deck, but there were
still two more steps to climb. “Hold tight, dear,” he whispered. His
voice seemed to travel like an echo across the silence of the tropic
night. Just for a second he gazed into Gabrielle’s eyes, then he gently
dropped her down on to the deck. At that moment reality returned; things
took some definite shape; Hillary recalled time, the world and the
far-off cities.

A drove of frightened rats went shrieking and squeaking down the
alleyway towards the forecastle. The remnants of torn sail and tangled
rigging flapped mournfully to the winds as they both slipped hurriedly
across the warped deck. Hillary felt the ecstasy that is the highest
attainment of mortal happiness. Had she wholly belonged to him, body and
soul, he would not have been half so happy. He stared aloft at the tall
masts and felt a mighty sympathy for that vessel lying there by the
desolate shores of its last anchorage, for the jib-boom at the bow
seemed to point helplessly at the far-away horizon, to which it could
never sail. “This way! Come on!” he whispered, as he gazed around in
some mad thought that the ghosts of the old crew were enviously hanging
round in their great off-watch.

They sat down in silence on the old form that was close against the
poop, just by the entrance to the saloon. Immediately over their heads,
by the deck rails of the now rotting poop, was the spot where the old
captain had stood when he sailed the seas. As the apprentice looked
upwards he suddenly remembered that he was on the very derelict that had
once been the ship of the old skipper who had left the books at
Everard’s bungalow, the books from which Gabrielle had gathered her
romance.

In his mind he saw that old derelict when it sailed the seas in its
prime, when the figure-head with outstretched hands at the bows (now
with one arm broken off and its emblematic, once beautiful face fast
rotting) had bounded across the waves like a living thing, long before
Hillary was born. The influence of the surroundings and the girl beside
him stirred his fancy. In imagination he saw the old skipper standing on
the poop watching the blue horizons and the starlight and moonlight that
shone in another age, so far as his own brief run of years were
concerned. In a flash he realised that out of all the cargoes the
captain had jealously guarded in his long voyages it was the old books
that had brought him solace in his cabin that had proved the most
wonderful merchandise after all. Where were the imported pianos that had
been shipped for the Australasian colonies, Fiji, Java, Callao and
Shanghai? What had been their fate? They had been thumped and thumped to
distraction and destruction while men drank their grog. Where were the
cargoes of old grandfather clocks and German-made alarms? But more
wonderful than all was the fact that Gabrielle sat beside him on that
very ship, her heart aglow with the romance that she had gathered out of
the pages of the old captain’s books. True enough, that skipper never
wrote the books, but he lived an adventurous life in the big world, and
who will say that he may not have been wiser than the authors?

Hillary looked through the saloon port-hole just behind them and half
fancied he saw a ghostly glimmer of the oil lamps that had shone in that
saloon in the dusk of other days; he even saw the shadows of men moving
about the cuddy table. But it was no ghostly pageant of the post at all,
simply a stream of moonlight on the torn sail that waved to and fro as
it hung from the main-yard and sent its shadow into the dark saloon.

The atmosphere that surrounded the wreck and the music of the wind in
the decaying rigging affected Gabrielle also. Her old tom-boy demeanor,
had completely vanished. Hillary only said, “Well Gabrielle,” and she
heard the music in those two words. For a moment they both forgot the
world beyond that hulk. Only the stars existed, and they shone into
Gabrielle’s eyes as their lips met. The passionate phrases that he had
so carefully rehearsed, all the poetic vehemence of the night before,
had faded. Not one mad vow escaped his lips. He only held her tenderly,
as though he were afraid that she might crumble in his arms—fall as dust
to his feet. Not an atom of passion come to ruffle the poetry of his
feelings. For the young apprentice was _really_ in love. Her hair
touched his face. It thrilled him as music thrills dreaming men.
“Gabrielle, you are very beautiful How strange that no man has claimed
you before. For that, at least, I thank God.”

The girl was silent. “Don’t you believe me?” he added. He glanced
swiftly at her face. It was deathly white. Hillary thought it was the
rats scampering across the deck that had brought that startled look.
Then Gabrielle burst into tears.

The apprentice thought little about those tears. He had felt a little
like that too when he was really happy. If there was a wrong
construction to be placed on Gabrielle’s actions, Hillary was sure to
hit on it. It was a natural consequence, since he had gathered all his
knowledge of women from his books. To him all women were beautiful and
good. He thought of them as leading sheltered lives. They were perfectly
different from men. It had never occurred to him to try and explain the
differences. His views about women, in fact, were quite conventional,
touched with the theatrical glamour that is common enough in extreme
youth.

And still the tears lingered in Gabrielle’s eyes. No one can tell what
the girl really thought and felt, excepting that she heard the simple
note of sincerity in all that the young apprentice said and which cannot
be written down. As for Hillary, the material world had passed from his
sight. Gabrielle wept, but what did it matter? Weeping must be some
natural attribute to real happiness. So he thought.

It may have been the noisy rats or the creak of the blown rigging that
slightly dispelled the romantic atmosphere. “Even the ecstasy of
insanity is denied men,” thought Hillary as a haunting thought suddenly
disturbed him. “She is weeping because I’ve frightened her. That’s what
it is. She’s only a child after all—does not understand! I’m too
passionate, too headlong in my way of making love. She’s frightened of
me and so she weeps.” Suddenly his manner altered. He led her to the
bulwark’s side. The moon had already risen, and as they both leaned
over, looking down into the dark waters, they could see their shadows in
the silent depths below. Neither spoke; some fascination held them. As
the apprentice looked at the girl’s face her shadow-eyes seemed to
glance sideways at him. He fancied that he saw something distorted in
the movement of her shadow. A puff of wind seemed to drift down from the
stars; the hair was outblown, the features unfamiliar. But it was only
for a second; in another moment Gabrielle’s full outline developed in
the light of the tropic moon. There they were, Hillary with his arm on
the shoulder of the girl, who was still staring intently into the still
water.

“Why did you sigh like that, Gabrielle?” he said. Then he looked on the
western sky-line. The ghostly flush, the pale aftermath of the departed
day, still lingered. Hillary vaguely recalled how near human happiness
is to sorrow; he felt sure there was some sorrow in the girl’s heart.
Rajah Koo Macka had looked into Gabrielle’s eyes; but he knew that there
are many different ways in which a woman may look at a man. None knew
better than he.

Gabrielle’s eyes to-night held a different expression as she again
scrutinised the young apprentice.

“Do you love me, Gabrielle?”

She responded by clasping his hand tightly and looking at him in some
fright. Her voice was hushed and trembling as she replied: “I’ve got a
feeling for you that I’ve never had before for anyone. I think I could
die with someone like you.” Saying this, she looked steadily into his
eyes, and then added in a half-sorrowful way: “I wouldn’t care if we
jumped into the sea and died together; I’d be much happier if I were
dead.”

“Well now,” said Hillary as she continued: “I’m a hateful girl; I’ve
already told you I’m wicked; besides, I’m haunted by a shadow-woman: she
follows me, curses me, but I can’t explain it to anyone.”

She became excited and raised her voice as he had never heard her raise
it before. The apprentice rubbed his eyes. “Jump into the seas and die!”
he gasped as he realised all that the girl had so passionately poured
forth. “Not if I know it.” Then he added: “What do you mean about a
shadow-woman and being haunted by her?”

He looked steadily into the girl’s pallid face, then gently pulled her
towards him and folded her to his heart.

“You’re only a romantic child. _I’ve_ made you ill through my
love-making. You don’t understand. Some day, when you are a woman,
you’ll know how a fellow must feel, how he can really love such a one as
you. Forgive me, Gabrielle, will you?”

The girl gently took hold of his hand and, looking steadily into his
eyes, said: “Perhaps you are only a boy and it’s _you_ who do not
understand. You are too good a fellow for me. Don’t you believe it;
you’ve not made me ill. It’s something that I don’t quite understand.”

“But why be ill at all?” was Hillary’s brief summing up after she had
rattled this off. But still she ran on: “You’d never believe what
happened the other night. I went mad, I think.”

“Good Lord! You must not encourage such ideas. You’ve been dwelling with
your own thoughts too much.”

“I’m not mad, though you may think I am. I could easily prove to you
that I’m haunted; you don’t know the horrible things that happen to
people of the Papuan race. I’m afraid that even you would turn against
me if you knew of my terrible heritage.”

“Terrible heritage!” gasped the apprentice, as he leaned over the side
and hardly knew what he was saying or doing as he followed Gabrielle’s
stare as she too leaned over and looked down into the deep, silent
waters. “Is she mad? Perhaps she is.” Then he thrust the thought from
his mind. “Phew! Rubbish! She’s beautifully eccentric; if anyone’s mad
it’s me!”

“Gabrielle, your father’s continual bullying has made you ill—and a bit
neurotic. Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.” For a moment he was silent;
the father had given him the pluck and the opportunity to say what he
longed to say. “Gabrielle, why put up with a father’s bullying? Let’s
both clear out of Bougainville; come with me! We can go away to
Honolulu. I’ll swear that I’ll look after you well, never say one word
that you may not wish me to say. I can easily make money by my violin
playing.”

Having blurted out the foregoing, Hillary almost trembled as he waited
to see the impression his outburst had made on the girl. He watched
Gabrielle’s eyes. “I’ve gone too far again. How rash I am!” was his
miserable reflection as she nearly swooned into his arms.

“I’ll go anywhere in the wide world with you, Hillary,” she said, to his
unbounded delight and astonishment.

“Will you!” His eyes shone, his voice was almost shrill, like a happy
schoolboy’s over the possibilities of some childish scheme.

“How can we manage all these things you’ve mentioned?” said Gabrielle
softly, as she glanced earnestly at the young apprentice.

It was not Hillary’s imagination, it was all true enough; Gabrielle
wanted to go at once—no delay!

Hillary knew nothing, guessed nothing of the cause of the girl’s desire
for hasty flight. He only saw that the light in here eyes was as sincere
as death.

“The Solomon Isles! And now an elopement with a haunted, beautiful white
girl,” was his mental ejaculation.

If he had had the slightest hint of the real reason of Gabrielle’s
hurry, would he have hesitated? No! He would have flown with her that
very night and never let her go back to the homestead behind the beach
at Felisi. Neither the wreck, the stars nor the whisper of the beating
seas hinted the truth to him. He looked shoreward across the straits.
The night was so clear that he fancied he could see the smoke rising
from the crater of Bangana, fifty miles away.

“Gabrielle, will you meet me by the lagoon again to-morrow night? We
will then arrange everything, and you can tell me if you will come.”
Then he added: “I can manage everything splendidly.” He spoke
enthusiastically and with assurance, as though he had had a large and
successful experience of this kind of thing. Then he continued: “We can
fly away to Honolulu, or anywhere you like from this cursed place—even
to England.”

Gabrielle was so affected and dazed by the apprentice’s enthusiasm that
she could only stare in the dusk at his flushed face and brightening
eyes as he continued with his emotional tirade: “You don’t know what
I’ll be to you, how I’ll love you, dear. I’ll write songs and music and
dedicate all to you! I’ll write poems——” Then he paused and exclaimed:
“Gabrielle, I’m a poet—you don’t know what I am! You don’t know what I’m
capable of achieving in this world if I had someone like you to
encourage me.”

Even Gabrielle forgot her vanity and felt some sad sense of shame over
her own unworthiness, as he swore that the veriest vagabonds of the
streets would aspire to fame if they had someone to inspire them beyond
their unambitious selves. Hillary poured forth a flood of impassioned
words; his eyes shone in his earnestness, and his lips trembled. Then he
suddenly realised that his overwhelming flood of words might appear
foolish to the girl. He stopped short. He watched her half in fright,
wondering what impression he had made upon her.

Gabrielle replied by falling into his arms. She could not help feeling
something of his almighty boyish sincerity. There in the friendly
shadows she told Hillary that he had beautiful eyes. She laid her head
on his lap so that he could gaze down into her eyes as their lips met
over and over again. How it thrilled him when she said: “Hillary, my
Hillary!” And while the torn rigging wailed and the deep waters boomed
and resolved into gentle monotones against the derelict’s wooden side
she sat by him and sang. A silver sea-bird swooped over the deck and,
sighting them there, gave a startled cry as it sped away.

“Gabrielle,” he whispered, as he thought of all that he had rehearsed in
his mind and of how little he had accomplished now that the girl was
quite alone with him on that wreck. Then he softly pulled down the
delicate blue neck-fringe of her blouse and exposed the whiteness of her
warm throat. And Gabrielle, with an artless vanity that inspired his
waning courage, gently let her head fall back so that he might touch,
just once, the soft whiteness of her throat with his lips.

The apprentice reddened to the ears and blessed the darkness as he
thought of his boldness and softly pulled the delicate folds together
again. “I’ve done it now! She’ll think I’m a terrible fellow,” was
Hillary’s hasty reflection as the girl remained silent. Then he tried to
excuse himself. “I’ve read of men doing that in novels and poems,” he
said in a semi-apologetic tone.

“So have I,” replied Gabrielle; then she laughed softly. And Hillary
wondered what wondrous deed of virtue he had done that God should shower
such unbounded happiness on his head.

It was a perfect night in Gabrielle Everard’s life. No shadow came to
haunt the silence of those moments as she sat by Hillary’s side. Only
the shadows of the torn sails waving to and fro in the warm tropic wind
fell from aloft to touch their happy faces. The soft confusion of
Gabrielle’s hair harmonised with the bright thoughts that floated in his
mind. The smell of the rotting tarred ropes and the palmy fragrance of
the south wind over the sea mingled together and formed a part of his
sensations.

It was close on midnight when the apprentice remembered the flight of
time, which passes with greater swiftness over the heads of lovers than
of sad old men and women. Even the rats seemed to scamper and squeak in
regret as they both rose and reluctantly crept across the silent deck. A
slight breeze had sprung up from the south-east

“Make haste!” Hillary whispered as they arrived by the rotting bulwark
near the risky rope gangway. The apprentice looked with apprehension out
to sea when he noticed that the former calm expanse of ocean was
slightly ruffled. “Quick! Quick!” he said, and then Gabrielle went over
the side and trusted her weight to the taut gangway rope. “Thank God!”
murmured Hillary, as she stepped from the swinging gangway into the
canoe. Then to his infinite relief he noticed that the wind had dropped.
Though she had embarked, he had still stood hesitating as to whether it
was safe to venture back to the shore.

“I don’t think it will blow, and it’s only a mile to the shore,” he
thought, as the girl carefully took her place in the prow. The moon was
just setting as the gangway swung back and Hillary stepped into the
fragile craft. Then, like two ghosts, they paddled away, back to the
mainland.



CHAPTER VII—WHEN THE STARS DANCED


The day after Hillary and Gabrielle’s love tryst on the derelict off
Bougainville old Everard sat in his bungalow rubbing his hands with
delight. He had been over the slope in Rokeville “celebrating” at the
grog bar, had been to the store and flirted with the trader’s pretty
half-caste daughters, and had tapped his wooden leg significantly as the
schooner skippers heard how he’d done things in his day; then he had
returned home, full of the best Jamaica rum. It wasn’t the rum, or the
praise and encores of the shellbacks in Parsons’s grog bar, or the
surreptitious kiss he’d given pretty Mango Pango on his way home that
made him so jovial; it was because he’d met Rajah Koo Macka, who was
calling at the bungalow that evening. Already the shadows were falling
over the mountains. He was still busily shouting directions to his
daughter as though he stood on the fore-deck of that wondrous ship that
had sailed all seas and found all that is considered impossible and
absurd in this new day. He had artfully enticed Gabrielle to dress
herself up, so that she might appear at her very best when Rajah Macka
arrived.

“Put the flowers in yer ’air, and don’t forget to put thet blue robe
thing on,” said the ex-sailor, as he critically surveyed his daughter
and tapped his wooden leg to punctuate his appreciation. “That’s it!
That’s it! You do look nice!”

Gabrielle’s eyes were shining with pleasure as she listened to her Dad’s
praise. He so seldom praised her. Then she gazed into the bamboo
looking-glass. Her vanity was excusable, for the scarlet and white
hibiscus blossoms made the bronze-gold tresses shine as the sunset
shines on a mountain lagoon.

“You’re a good gal when yer like,” said old Everard, little dreaming for
whose eyes Gabrielle had so tastefully arrayed herself.

“Mitia, savee! Nicer ladie!” said the tiny Papuan maid, who at that
moment arrived with her basket of fish at the door. The fish were all
alive, splashing about in the grass-plaited basket, as frisky as the
little savage maiden, who took her purchase money and sped away under
the palms like a nymph of the wilds.

“You’re as beautiful-looking as your mother was,” said the white man as
he sighed. Then he followed his sigh by taking a good pull at the rum
bottle. Possibly the memory of his dead wife impelled the weak ex-sailor
to take so many extra drops, for he was known to sit for hours like a
man in a trance when folk sang certain old songs.

“That’s right, tidy the place up! Put the green cloth on. Macka’s mighty
particular. Those civilised ’eathens like things just so,” said the
fuddled, idiotic old man. He was expecting the Rajah at any moment, for
it was past seven o’clock and he had promised Everard to be at the
bungalow before eight. It seemed incredible that the old ex-sailor could
not see through such a one as the Rajah. But sailormen are not very wise
when it comes to judging human nature. And it didn’t want twenty-four
jurymen to discern the sort of glance that lurked in the Rajah’s eyes
when he gazed at his women converts. Had the Rajah been correctly placed
in an ethnographical classification, he would have been placed somewhere
between the orang-outang and the lowest negro type. But circumstances
had invested him with the power to act as a mediator between God and the
souls of decent men and women. His outward life, his fleshy, handsome
face were splendid assets. They stood him in good stead, giving him an
extra distinction in the eyes of ignorant natives and even low-caste
whites. Not the least of his stock-in-trade were the frock-coat, top
hat, kid gloves, spotless patent boots, scarlet waistcoat and the turban
swathing, the purchasing value of the lot being about twelve dollars in
Beratania Street, Honolulu.

Old Everard gazed eagerly at the clock. “Time’s getting on,” he mumbled.
And was Everard’s daughter as eager over the Rajah’s expected visit as
her father? Not a bit of it! She hadn’t the slightest idea of being in
that dismal parlour when Macka arrived. She had made up her mind to make
a surreptitious departure as soon as she had tidied up the room. She
longed to meet Hillary again. She had been more than thinking about his
proposal to fly to Honolulu, for she had planned everything in her mind.
And if anyone could have peeped under her bed at that moment they would
have seen a small carpet bag packed with those things that she valued.
She had so often rehearsed the whole business and her sudden flight that
she had several times looked fondly on her wicked parent, as she
imagined his oats and distress to find her gone for ever.

“Where yer hoff to?” suddenly yelled old Everard. The girl had quickly
snatched up her cloak and had bolted.

Her inward knowledge of Hillary’s love for her tremendously minimised
her fears over her father’s wrath if he managed to catch her.

It was just dusk. One or two stars were already out when she opened the
door and made the final bolt out of the front door into the night. She
gave a startled cry—she had rushed straight in Rajah Koo Macka’s
outstretched arms!

Fate seemed to have planned that it should be so. The Rajah held the
girl’s hand tightly, almost fiercely, in his swarthy grip. A strange
fire was burning in his terrible eyes.

“Miss Everard, Gabri-arle! Langi, O ke mako,” he murmured, lapsing into
his native lingo as he gazed steadily into the frightened girl’s eyes.
It was a masterful gaze, serpent-like in its malignant fascination. The
girl bravely returned that gaze. The Rajah realised the struggle that
was going on in her soul. His instincts told him the truth. Gabrielle
wasn’t the first. He knew why her face was pallid, why the cold beads of
perspiration stood out on her brow, distinctly revealed to his gaze, as
though the moon would shed its beams and show the pity of it all.

“Let me go! Do! Do!” she murmured in an appealing voice.

“Gabrie-arle! I’ve come, not to see your father but to see you, you, my
lovelier whiter girl, lovelier, nicer!” he whispered, as in his emotion
he reverted to the old pidgin-English of his boyhood, before he had
joined the first missionary society in Honolulu. And still Gabrielle
stared into those terrible eyes. Her lips half smiled as she struggled
with herself. It was a terrible moment for her as she stood there, her
frame trembling as she felt those two terrible rivals struggling to
strangle each other—the struggle of the white and the dark woman in her
soul.

He whispered swift, passionate words: “I lover you, wine of my heart,
stars of my soul, O voice of the waves, seas, night storm and darkness!
O stars that are like the children of our souls to be!” he wailed, as he
switched off into his beloved _verse libre_, so popular with his kind.
He still held her in his clasp, just as so many helpless women had been
held by the devil who reigns in tropic climes.

Gabrielle felt that the struggle was coming to an end. The cold
perspiration stood in beads on her brow. She felt faint. And the devil,
who always helps his own, sent a shadow across the silvery track by the
ivory-nut palms. That shadow touched the small vine-clad verandah of the
bungalow. Gabrielle’s heart nearly stopped as she saw it, and its
darkness fell over her own soul. Her horror was not to be wondered at,
for the silhouette had taken human form as something rushed out of the
thick jungle-growth hard by.

There was no real cause for Gabrielle’s terror at seeing this particular
object. It was nothing more than one of the Rajah’s native servants, who
had rushed from the bamboo thickets, thinking he had heard the Rajah
call him.

All the foregoing and the Rajah’s successful domination over the girl
occupied about two minutes. He had rained kisses on her face, had
whispered impassioned words in her ears, using the names of the Apostles
and even the name of Christ to lure the girl back into the bungalow and
her soul into darkness. Gabrielle felt as though she had had a paralytic
stroke as he gripped her hand and pushed her into the front doorway of
the bungalow. She could hardly believe her senses as she went half
willingly forward. He was an old bird at the game; years older than
Hillary. He had the father on his side too, and that was natural enough
when one thinks of the way the world wags. Most men of the Rajah’s type,
by means of their successful hypocrisy, secure the father’s help to
buttress up their desires. Besides, the Rajah had no personal drawbacks,
for he had no idealistic views, no sensitiveness about girlish innocence
and what might be considered impropriety. So he was strongly equipped
for furthering his requirements; moreover, he had the mighty power of
the Christian creed and the glory of its apostles on his side, so far as
hypocritical protestations could make them useful to him.

Old Everard was leaning over the table, swearing like a genuine ’Frisco
shellback, as they entered the parlour.

“Thought you’d cleared out for the evening,” said he, as he stared
querulously into his daughter’s face. He was too drunk to notice her
terrified, helpless expression as he staggered to his feet. He had
suddenly sighted Koo Macka, who stood erect, standing with all his grand
insignias of Rajahship behind the girl. “Glad to see you, bully boy!
Bless me soul, I thought that the girl had made a bolt, and blowed if
she hadn’t rushed out at hearing yer footsteps. She’s a bit gone on you
already, eh? Nothing like a woman’s ears when they want to hear!”

The old man gave Macka a friendly nudge and at once lifted a bottle and
began to pour out a tumblerful of Parsons’s best Bougainville Three
Star.

So did the Rajah once more enter Gabrielle’s home and gaze with his
magnetic eyes at the girl on that very night when she had promised to
meet Hillary!

The three of them sat down at the parlour table. For quite a long time
Gabrielle sat like a sphinx, a dazed look in her eyes. The Rajah, who
sat opposite her, noticed that look. But was he embarrassed? Not he! He
simply rubbed his hands and gave an extra curl to his moustache. He had
tackled very obstinate ladies in his time down in the native villages.
And it was immensely gratifying to him to think that Everard was a
kindly disposed white man and did not dine with a war-club by his
side—as old chief Mackeroo did when the Rajah sought his wife for a
convert. Blowing his hose in his handkerchief, he at once began
business. Gabrielle quailed before his sinuous, reptilian-like glances.
She was trembling, for she knew that she had met her master—and he knew
that she had too. He was watching her as a cat watches a mouse. He saw
her eyes roam in a furtive way to the door more than once. He knew that
she was ready to spring at the first unguarded moment and fly out into
the night.

Old Everard wondered why they both sat staring at each other. He
suddenly burst into speech, and brought his fist down with a bang on the
table. “Why the h—— don’t you speak, blind me eyes?” he roared. He was
decidedly drunk. Macka lifted his eyebrows and then looked at the old
sailor and began to quote applicable Scriptural texts. His voice took on
quite a melancholy wail, the old ecclesiastical drawl habit, as he
remonstrated with the ex-sailor for roaring in such a rough manner at so
sweet a girl. Everard relented, even apologised. Macka stretched forth
his hand in a grandiloquent manner and forgave! About half-an-hour later
the Rajah’s hopes had returned: the girl was his!

For the stars had begun to dance before Gabrielle’s eyes. She felt that
he wasn’t so wicked after all. And the reason for this sudden change in
her was not far to seek. The Rajah had slipped some rum and opium into
her tea, some kind of mixture that is still used prolifically by the
natives who wish to dope artless girls, and sailormen too! “Tea’s the
thing! Good old papalagi’s tea, wholesome drink,” he had chuckled
beneath his virile moustache.

“Whisky, I say!” Everard had wailed, as he stared with bleary eyes. But
the Rajah would have none of it. He dearly loved tea, nothing to beat
tea, he swore. That settled it. Everard told Gabrielle to make a pot of
tea at once. But Gabrielle still sat at the table and wouldn’t move, so
Everard got up and made the tea himself and thought of how he would get
his own back on his daughter when the Rajah had gone. Let it, however,
be said that old Everard would never have made that pot of tea had he
had the slightest hint of the consequences. But he was a fool. The
ex-sailor was not so much to blame: civilisation has shrivelled up the
white man’s God-given weapons of instinct, and so he stands to-day a
slave to dull reason, and is positively nowhere when a native’s cunning
is concerned. It was only natural, therefore, that sinful old Everard
should fall into every trap that the wily Malayan-Papuan, made for his
daughter’s destruction. As the hours passed things began to look
brighter to Gabrielle. She forgot the night and all that she had
intended to do. As for Everard, he got quite boisterous when she
laughed, at last, at one of his antiquated jokes. And then, as the old
man listened to the Rajah’s mellifluous voice, he became so emotional
that he forgot and wiped his nose on the edge of the best green
tablecloth. “Dad!” whispered Gabrielle, in an awestruck voice over her
parent’s preposterous act in front of the twelve-dollar suit of clothes
and jewellery from the Honolulu slop-shop.

The ex-sailor lifted his grizzled face and, staring with his bleary blue
eyes, gave his daughter a half-apologetic look. Gabrielle reddened to
the ears at the thought of her sudden good fortune. It seemed that the
impossible was occurring. A Rajah of holiest soul looked fondly upon her
and her late swearing old father sat there gazing into her face
apologetically! It was more wonderful than any fairy tale or any novel
she had read. She could have risen from her chair and sung; could even
have snapped her fingers with derision at the phantom-woman who she half
fancied was lurking outside the bungalow.

Gabrielle hardly spoke as the Papuan Rajah waved his hand and glorified
himself in the eyes of his host and his daughter, expatiating on the
virtues of Christianity and his own true belief. Old Everard said
“Amen,” opened his mouth in surprise and hung his head for shame as
Macka chided him over his habitual drunkenness. The Rajah pointed his
dark finger at the daughter, and said: “See yon sacred maid. White is
she as the spotless snow on the mountains of Kaue. Art not ashamed, O
white man, to set so bad example?” Saying this, the Rajah opened his
prettily bound pocket Bible and in sombre tones read Scriptural passages
till the old ex-sailor’s heart quaked in fear of God’s wrath and his own
remorse over his treatment of his daughter. And still the dark
missionary proceeded with his exhortations. “Art not ashamed, O man
Everard?” “Yus, I ham,” almost wailed the derelict representative of the
great white races, as Macka continued his Scriptural denunciations in a
sombre voice. Thus did Macka the half-caste missionary further his
desires. But why record all that really happened that night? It is
sufficient to say that Everard’s eyes brightened as Macka’s heart
softened, until the brown man quite forgave the white man for his sins.
Indeed that dim-lit parlour became a kind of confessional-box, whilst
Everard fell on his knees and Gabrielle trembled in mighty trouble at
her former wicked thoughts over so noble, so holy a missionary.

Then the Rajah bode Everard rise, and said: “O white Everard, think no
more of thy sorrows and thy sins; frailty is the great inheritance, it
is the dark shadow that maketh the light to shine and so doth beautify
human existence.” Then Everard took another swill at the whisky bottle
and most foolishly mixed his drinks. And still the heathen man meandered
on, and murmured into the ex-sailor’s ears: “O heed not the great pearl
scheme that I wished you to venture upon; for I say unto these that I’ve
other business on hand. And more, for the sake of thy friendship and
contrite heart, and thy hallowed daughter” (he pointed with outstretched
finger at Gabrielle), “I’ll give thee double the sum that any pearl
scheme may have brought thee.”

So spoke Macka as he dropped into the Kanaka’s usual Biblical style,
since it was from the Bible that most of them derived their first
lessons in our tongue. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the
heathen was considerably overcome by his own self-glorification. As for
the white man, he said holy things, wailed out that he believed in the
Holy Ghost, the holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints and the
sacramental drink of the best rum! Then the aged drunken idiot swallowed
another tumblerful of whisky and fell forward on his knees.

Gabrielle began to think that she must be dreaming it all: that scene as
she sat in the wicker chair watching. Then the noble Rajah sang weird
songs. His voice was mellow and pathetically sweet, nicely tinged with
tragedian-like sadness that lingered in Gabrielle’s ears. It was all
strangely blasphemous. Old Everard simply fell forward on the floor,
holding the rum bottle tightly in his hand. Gabrielle and Macka laid him
down comfortably on his settee. There he lay, his head forward, mouth
dribbling, one arm dangling to the floor, so drunk was he.

Gabrielle cried softly to herself as she placed his head in a more
comfortable position and bunched the pillow up. Then she turned aside in
a terrible despair and gazed in mute appeal into those masterful eyes.
“Let me escape,” her lips mumbled, and her voice sounded far off.

It was no good; the man was relentless. He still moaned his beautiful
words, whispering warm Malayan phrases into her ear. She did not
understand his native tongue, but her instincts heard. The hour was
late.

Gabrielle half heard the rustling of swift-moving feet outside the
bungalow. A thick mist seemed to lie over the furniture. She felt that
something had crept into the room, something terrible and not to be
denied. A swarthy expression passed over her face as she leaned forward
and listened, for once more she could hear the tribal drums beating
somewhere across the centuries. It did not horrify her as before. Macka
was there and his eyes had an all-powerful look: why be frightened in
his masterful presence? But still she tried to struggle to her feet and
rush out of the parlour door. For a moment she forgot and fancied she
was standing on the derelict out in the straits. “Hillary! Hillary!” she
wailed, as she thought of the stranded apprentice and fancied she still
looked into his eyes. Slowly the fumes did their work, fumes of opium
and the drink slipped into her tea. She still heard the Papuan’s voice;
it was not a voice near her, it was a call coming across distant spaces.
And still she struggled, as she called out the long-forgotten name of
the missionary, one who had taught her in the mission-room from her
earliest childhood. But no answer came, only the snores of her drunken
father and the sounds of tribal drums a hundred years away. Then the
lights burned low. Even the Rajah was overcome with heathenish emotion
as she stood by the window and, lifting her face, looked out on the
stars and in a strange way scraped her pale hands up and down the glass,
as though she would tear aside the veil that divided her from freedom
and the outer world.

And Hillary, who waited by the lagoon, walked up and down, up and down,
full of hope, full of faith. And he was still walking silently on the
silvery sands by the tossing seas, like a pale figure of romance, as
dawn crept over the mountains and the stars went home. And still
Gabrielle did not come.



CHAPTER VIII—HEATHEN LAND


In the morning old Everard awoke with a swollen head.

“Gabby! Gabrielle!” He shouted. Then, wondering why on earth the girl
did not reply, he struggled to his feet, opened the door and went up the
three steps that led into her bedroom. Her bed was neatly made—it had
not been slept in. He was so puzzled about it all that he looked out of
the small open window to see if she’d fallen out—notwithstanding that
the window was six feet from the ground. Then he passed his hand across
his brow and remembered Rajah Macka’s visit. “Rajah Koo Macka!” he
shouted.

“God damn it! I don’t remember ’im going,” he mumbled, as he stumped his
wooden leg about the room till the bungalow shook, and began whimpering
like a fretful child, nearly falling down with sudden dizziness.
Recovering himself, he got into a frightful rage and began to roar
mighty oaths. “Gabby! Gabby! I’ll a-murder you! Where are you? Damn! My
eyes! Ter ’ell with Macka! Ter ’ell with everything! Where are you?”
Then he swung his wooden leg round, poked it right through the
velvet-lined screen that Gabrielle had so neatly lined, and gave a
terrible oath.

Then he cooled down. The reaction had begun to set in. His brain began
to reason over it all. He rushed outside, stumped about and stumped back
again. “Where is she? What’s it all mean? She’s not the kind of girl to
go off by night with Macka,” were his reflections. All day long he
called and called. Then he left the bungalow and roamed away to the
native villages in search of her. He kicked up an awful commotion. The
natives for miles thought a new kind of spirit with a wooden leg had
escaped from shadow-land, for as they peeped from their hut doors they
saw old Everard frantically waving his arms, shouting vehemently,
swearing and calling out: “Gabby! Gabby!” He arrived back at his
bungalow at dusk. “Gab!” he shouted. But she was still missing. The old
ex-sailor realised all that Gabrielle had been to him in his desolate
life.

He wept. He got terribly drunk and kept calling out: “Gabrielle! My Gab!
Come back to your old father!” Then he mumbled in a self-soothing way:
“She ain’t really gone. Macka’s so relygious. ’E wouldn’t take ’er from
me. No! P’r’aps she’s gone to the b—— German’s wife at K——, or the
mission-room at Tomba-kao.” Once more he got up and began to stump
about. He seemed to go mad. He rushed again and again into the girl’s
bedroom, caught his peg-leg in the fibre mats and fell down. “It’s ’er
gown, ’er pretty gown,” he wailed. The tears rolled down his cheeks. He
actually put his lips to the girl’s washed-out, torn garment and kissed
it. Poor old man! He had never really found his true self. All the
chances and virtues that might have been his had been shattered by gross
surroundings.

After a while he cooled down again. “Who’d ’ave thought it! Who’d ’ave
thought it!” he wailed. He returned to his parlour. The room looked dark
and comfortless. A terrible suspicion was haunting his mind. But it was
too late. His faith in Macka’s supreme holiness had begun to slacken
slightly. Old remembrances and God-given instincts that had been his in
the long-ago, pre-rum days came back to him. But he sought the weak
man’s support, and poured fiery liquid between his trembling lips.

“Gabby! Gabby! Come to me! I’m ill, so ill!”

Then he jumped, and looked quite startled and sober. He’d never hurried
so much in his life as he put the bottle down and, with his eyes
gleaming with half-fearful delight, stumped towards the front door.
Someone had knocked.

So great was his hurry that he stumbled as he rushed from the room.
“She’s come back, me dear gal, come to ’er old pa!”

He opened the door and stared at the form in the gloom for a moment,
then swayed and fell down—fell in sheer misery and disappointment, for
it wasn’t Gabrielle who stood there—it was Hillary.

Hillary did not gasp or say one word that would suit the pages of a
novel; he simply brought out the unromantic words: “God, what luck! He’s
drunk!”

The young apprentice swiftly leaned forward and picked up the old
ex-sailor.

Hillary’s whole soul was bursting to know why Gabrielle hadn’t kept the
appointment by the lagoon. He was delighted to see Everard drunk. It had
flashed through his sanguine, hopeful soul that there had been a
domestic rumpus and that was the cause of Gabrielle not turning up at
the trysting-place, where he had waited all night.

He carried the old man as tenderly as possible into the parlour. The
thought that he was really Gabrielle’s father made him feel quite tender
towards the drunken man. He’d never been in that parlour before. He
looked round. Where was she?

“Gabrielle, your poor father’s taken ill—it’s Hillary who calls!” And
then he stood holding the old man up, his heart thumping with the mighty
expectation of seeing the girl enter the room, with secret joy at her
father’s blind, drunken eyes at such an opportune moment.

Hillary had come straight to Everard’s bungalow determined to risk all,
to defy the old man outright and get one glimpse of the girl’s face and
some kind of an explanation, even if he had to fight his way in. He
called again: “Gabrielle! Gabrielle! Why don’t you come?” But the
expected rustle of her dress, the glorious look of surprise in her eyes
at seeing him as she rushed into the room, all that his imagination
anticipated, was only mocked by the echo of his own voice.

He sat the old man in the big arm-chair. Everard opened his eyes and
stared like an imbecile at the youth.

“Where’s my Gabby? Who the ’ell are you?” moaned the ex-sailor.

“I’m Hillary, Gabrielle’s friend. I’m teaching her to play the violin;
it will be a great help to her. She can make money by teaching, and be
able to help you too,” blurted forth the apprentice in that inspiration
that comes to lovers who have rehearsed a thousand excuses for suddenly
appearing before a prospective father-in-law.

Old Everard was too far gone with rum and grief to be interested in the
commercial side of a prospective son-in-law.

“You’re ’Illary! Violin! Play musick! You b—— villainous scoundrel! What
have you done with ’er?” yelled the old man, as he struggled to his
feet, a terribly vicious look in his eyes.

“Done with who? Where’s Gabrielle?” Hillary shouted out in a voice that
somehow managed to tell the old man that the youth before him thought
that he _too_ had a right to know where Gabrielle was.

In a moment the ex-sailor’s mad passion subsided. He leaned forward and
stared into Hillary’s eyes and saw the despair, the appeal, the light of
sincerity and truth, everything that he had not seen in Koo Macka’s
eyes. In a moment the old man relented.

“Ain’t yer seen ’er, kid? She’s gone! Bolted with Macka, the Rajah! Find
’er, boy, find ’er for me. You can ’ave her, she’s my Gabby!” wailed the
despairing father.

Hillary’s heart nearly stopped beating. He couldn’t sum up courage
enough to ask the old man to explain what he meant. He dreaded to hear
something, he knew not what. Then the old man continued:

“God forgive me for thinking ill of you. _He_ sent you ’ere ter-night to
comfort ’er ole father.”

Hillary still held the man’s hand, to give _himself_ courage as well as
to comfort the old man.

“’Ave a drop er rum, boy?” said the old man. Hillary did not hesitate.
He held the tumblerful of liquid to his lips and swallowed the lot.
Everard clutched the youth’s trembling hand and almost shed tears as the
rum loosened the apprentice’s lips and he told the ex-sailor all that he
felt for his daughter. Even Hillary was astonished to find that
saturnine old drunkard so tender-hearted, so friendly towards him.

After Everard had taken terrible oaths and sworn vengeance against the
Rajah, he finished up by yelling into Hillary’s ears that he would give
Hillary, or anyone else, two hundred pounds if they could trace
Gabrielle’s whereabouts. Hillary took the distracted father’s hand and
said: “I don’t want money; I only want to see Gabrielle, to bring your
daughter back to you, and take her away from that man.” The apprentice
couldn’t persuade himself to mention the name of the man who had
apparently done him this great injury. Hillary had only seen the Papuan
Rajah twice, but the man’s face was as vividly before him as if he had
known him for a thousand years.

At that moment he did not want Gabrielle’s father to see his eyes. He
felt ashamed that they should be dimmed with emotion. He was overcome by
the feeling that he was the first to love and have faith in woman; the
first to have idealistic views about honour and the ways of men; the
first to run away to sea with fourpence in his pocket to fight the
world, to aspire for fame and wealth, only to find himself sleeping out
in a strange land—in a dust-bin with the lid on! But at the thought of
Gabrielle’s manner on the wreck, her tears, her eagerness to fly to
Honolulu with him, the look in her eyes, his dark thoughts fled like
bats from his brain, and once again hope reasserted itself.

Hillary took the old ex-sailor’s hand and promised to stop the night
with him. “Don’t let us waste the time, it will be dark soon,” said the
apprentice. After a little rebellious talk Everard promised to drink no
more, then putting on his cap he went off as obediently as a child to
make inquiries. And so Everard went down to Rokeville, while Hillary
went off on a voyage of discovery into the surrounding villages. His
faith in Gabrielle had by now completely returned. He knew that she had
strange notions, and had many girl friends among the Polynesian natives
who dwelt with the native tribes. He so far recovered his spirits that
he even whistled as he went off down the track. He made straight for the
native village of Ackra Ackra, where the great head-hunter chief Ingrova
dwelt. It was near to sunset when he at length passed through the great
forest of giant bread-fruits that divided the native villages from the
south-east shore. As he entered the tiny pagan citadel the women and
girls greeted him with their friendly salutations and the usual cries
for _tam-bak_ (tobacco).

The unlit coco-nut-oil lamps were swinging from the banyan boughs and
flamboyants that sheltered the small huts and palavanas as he strode
across the _rara_ (cleared space). The shaggy-headed native women
clapped their hands as he passed. Some of the elder tattooed men and
chiefesses puffed their short clay pipes and stared stolidly upon him.
Just by the village patch Maga Maroo, pretty Silva Sula and some more
dusky flappers threw their brown-stockinged legs skyward with delight as
the dusky Lotharios gave wild encores in a strange barbarian tongue.
Even Hillary smiled as he saw the artless, picturesque vanity of the
girls as they sported their fine clothes on the tiny promenade that was
the lamp-lit Strand of their little forest city. He saw at a glance by
those demonstrative exhibitions of European toilets, and fringed
swathings of yellow and scarlet sashes, that the artful traders had been
that way exchanging their trumpery jewellery and gaudy silks for copra
and shells.

Arriving before the Chief Ingrova’s palatial palavana, Hillary was
pleased to find that the great chief was at home. As the big, muscular,
mop-headed islander stood before him, he made numerous stealthy
inquiries to find out if the chief had the slightest hint of the girl’s
whereabouts. But seeing that the chief was quite sincere in his
protestations that he hadn’t seen her for quite two weeks, Hillary at
once told him that she was missing from home. Hillary had persistently
had the idea in his head that Gabrielle might be hiding in one of the
villages in fear of her father’s wrath, for he could not help thinking
that the old man had had a row with the girl and had deliberately kept
that fact from him. The aged chief, who was a fine example of his race,
swayed his war-club and wanted to go off in search of the missing girl
at once. His eyes blazed with delight at the prospect of obtaining the
head of the miscreant who had lured the girl from her home. The chief
had a fierce idea of equity and justice; he was a stern disciplinarian
in following the tenets of his religion, the code of morals laid down by
his tribal ancestors. Indeed it was well known that he would not deviate
from his ideas of honest finance by one shell or coco-nut. And it can be
recorded that the mythological gods and legendary personages who were
the great apostles of his creed were more to him in his inborn faith
than the Biblical wonders of the Christian creed are to nine-tenths of
the Sunday church-goers who worship at its altars.

Hillary listened silently to the chief’s moralising and his loud
lamentations over Gabrielle’s absence from home and felt assured that
the chief knew nothing about it. It was true enough, Ingrova had never
heard of Macka, otherwise Hillary might have been considerably
enlightened, for the old chief was usually friendly to the white men.
The apprentice gave the chief a plug of ship’s tobacco, then implored
him to kill no one and secure no head for the adornment of his hut till
he was quite certain that it was the head of the real culprit. Though
Hillary was convinced that Ingrova had spoken the truth, he still nursed
the idea that Gabrielle was somewhere in the vicinity of her father’s
home. He could not bring himself to believe that Gabrielle had really
bolted or been carried off by the Rajah. The idea of such a thing had
left his mind. He had thought of her manner on the wreck only an hour
before. “A girl so innocent that I wouldn’t utter a coarse word in her
presence—she—go off with an abomination like that—a dark
man—impossible!” had been his final summing up, and then in his
vehemence he had kicked his Panama hat sky-high.

Hillary’s face was flushed with the thoughts that surged through his
head as he turned back and, gazing at Ingrova, said: “Look here,
Ingrova, old pal, if you can find any trace whatsoever of the girl I’ll
give you a lot of money and my best grey suit of clothes, see?” The
apprentice knew that he was offering the chief inexhaustible wealth by
promising him a suit of clothes. For if a Solomon Islander has one
weakness it is a heartaching desire to possess European clothes.

In a moment Ingrova’s ears were alert; his deep-set eyes twinkled with
avarice. He immediately rubbed his dusky hands together and, lifting one
hand, swore allegiance to Hillary’s cause. “I find girler if she bouter
’ere!” said he, bringing his war-club down with a terrific whack on the
fallen bread-fruit trunk as they stood there in the silence of the
forest.

“What’s that?” The apprentice could hear approaching footsteps.

He rubbed his eyes. What on earth had happened to Ingrova? There he
stood, stiff and erect, his arms crooked; he had suddenly undergone a
wonderful transformation—looked like some gnarled old tree trunk that
had been carved so as to resemble a man. For only the eyes blinked. At
the sound of approaching footsteps he had swiftly succumbed to the old
primitive instincts, and become, as it were, a part of the silent
tropical forest.

Looking swiftly round, Hillary observed a dusky, wrinkled face and
bright eyes peeping cautiously through the tall, thick ferns that grew
around the spot where they stood. Ingrova’s form immediately relaxed; it
was no enemy who sought to club him; it was only the friendly face of
old Oom Pa. It was very evident that Oom Pa had heard the speech of the
Englishman, and knowing that the white missionaries disapproved of very
many of the things his priesthood called on him to do in the performance
of heathen rites, he had approached warily. Seeing that only one white
papalagi was there, Oom Pa stepped forth from the thickets and forced
his finest deceitful smile to his thin lips.

“Nice day,” quoth Hillary.

“Verra nicer, papalagi,” muttered the heathen ecclesiastic, after
looking up at Ingrova, who winked and raised his tattooed brows to
reassure the suspicious priest. Oom Pa prostrated himself in his most
gracious manner before Hillary. In a moment he had risen to his feet,
and standing with head inclined he listened to Ingrova, who had begun to
tell him the cause of the white man’s visit.

“Oo woomba!” said the priest, rubbing his chin reflectively, then said:
“Nicer white girl’s goner? She who gotter eyes like sky when stars
walker ’bout, and gotter hair liker sunset on rivers?”

“That’s her!” ejaculated Hillary dramatically. His heart thumped with
hope. Oom Pa’s manner made him think that Gabrielle was somewhere close
behind him, hiding in the palms. The old priest winked and put on a wise
look. Then he looked up and, shaking his head all the while that he
spoke, he told Hillary that he had not the slightest idea as to the
girl’s whereabouts.

“I not know where girl is, but I knower you mean white girl who comes
and jumper on _pae pae_ and dance at festival, one, two nights. But she
did fly away like beautiful _tabarab_ (spirit) in forest.”

“Dance on _pae pae_ and run away into the forest!” said Hillary in
surprise. “Good gracious! She’s not the girl I’m looking for. It’s a
white girl I’m after, one who wears a blue dress, coiled-up tresses of
gold that fall over her brow; she’s white and beautiful. Dance on your
damned _pae pae_! Phew!” said Hillary, putting his foot out and kicking
vigorously.

Oom Pa also metaphorically kicked himself. He wondered what trouble his
incautious remarks might cause both to himself and the girl. He swiftly
realised that it was an unusual thing for a white girl to do a jig on a
_pae pae_; he also knew that the white men might think that he had
something to do with the girl’s strange leaning towards his heathenish
creed, and so would blame him for anything that might have happened to
her. Consequently he at once put his hand to his brow, shook his head
and intimated that he was “old fool” to make such a mistake.

Ingrova, who had immediately realised how near the priest had been to
letting out that he knew something about Gabrielle, astutely changed the
conversation and begged Hillary and the priest to enter his palavana. In
a moment Ingrova had bent his stalwart figure and entered the low
doorway of his rather palatial hut. Hillary and priest followed.

The apprentice, who had never been inside a primitive homestead, was
surprised as he entered the gloomy, tightly thatched dwelling-place of
Ingrova. It was sheltered by the branches of two huge bread-fruits, was
conical-shaped and had a large domed roof. The rooms were spacious,
about twelve feet from wall to wall. Each room was lit up by primitive
window holes. These windows had no glass in them, but were fashioned of
twisted, interlaced bamboo twigs in a clever ornamental style, making
them look like casements that opened on to feathery palm-trees. Indeed,
often by night one could have peeped through those casements and seen
the festival maidens dancing on the village green while rows of
coco-nut-oil lamps twinkled from the palm and bread-fruit boughs. As the
apprentice stared round the room, the dim light intensified the
surroundings. They _were_ strange ornaments, no mistake about that. On
the wooden walls hung the human skulls and bones of the sad departed.
Noticing Hillary’s curious stare as he regarded the beautifully polished
skulls, many of which still had hair clinging to the bone, Ingrova waxed
sentimental, stepped forward and took the smallest skull down from its
nail. Pointing to the empty sockets with his dusky finger, the chief
murmured in sombre tones: “Ah papalagi, ’twas in these holes where once
sparkled like unto stars in the wind-blown lagoon the eyes of her who
was my first _parumpuan_ (wife).” Then he sighed, and continued: “’Tis
true, O papalagi, that those eyes did once gaze and look kindly on him
whom I did hate overmuch. But ’tis over now, these many years; and
moreover, man, too, doth much which he no ought to do. And I say, O
papalagi, does not the moon stare with kindness on more lagoons than
one?”

As he said this the old chief made several magic passes with his
forefinger, pushing it across and within the sockets as he sighed
deeply. Then he proceeded: “Here, between these teeth, was the tongue
that sang to me when my head was weary and mucher trouble did come to my
peoples.” At this moment the old warrior looked sadly through the
doorway and sighed. Once more he put forth his hands and took down the
remaining portion of that delicate skeleton. Hillary gazed in intense
wonder. He noticed that the white bones were fastened together with
finest sennet, joined with great artistic dexterity, not a bone being
out of place. His thoughts about Gabrielle for the time being had
vanished, as the mystery of that hut clung like a shroud about him.
“What’s that?” he murmured, as he gazed on the gruesome object that
Ingrova held up before him. He felt shivery in the gloom,
notwithstanding the tropical heat and the buzzing sand-flies.

As the two old hags who were squated on mats in the far corner of the
room revealed their presence by giving a deep sigh, Ingrova proceeded:
“Tis all that remains of her form, which I did lover overmuch. Look, O
papalagi, here was her bosom; ’twas here that she gave unto my children
nicer nourishing milk, children who now am great chiefs and chiefesses.”

Saying this, the warrior ran his fingers down the curves of the dead
woman’s throat bones till he arrived at the tiny bones of the breast,
then his finger swerved to the right, passed round by the ribs and moved
downward towards the sharp white bones of the thighs.

“Good heavens!” was Hillary’s only audible comment, as he inwardly
thanked God that white people did not keep their dead so that they could
be inspected like grim photo albums on visiting days.

Ingrova gently hung up those sad heirlooms of his past affections on
their several nails again. Hillary, who by now had entered into the
tragic spirit of the weird homestead, pointed to the various gruesome
remains and asked Ingrova whose were the fourteen skulls that hung on a
kind of clothes-line that ran across the room, close to the roof. Even
old Oom Pa sighed as he watched Ingrova take down each bleached skull
and solemnly point to the empty sockets, telling of bright eyes and
gabbling tongues that once made music, sang songs, and knew laughter and
tears. One had been a great high priest who had died at the hands of the
white men sooner than swerve from the spiritual path that he deemed the
right one. He was one of the old Solomon Island martyrs. Hillary noticed
that this special skull was high-domed, revealing by its protuberance
the reverence that man has for higher things, and also imagination. The
teeth were perfect. Another was quite flat-headed, the hair woolly and
the eye-sockets small. After much preamble on Ingrova’s part, Hillary
gathered that this skull belonged to the social reformer of the tribe.
Yet another high-domed remnant had bulging bone brows, the skull being
altogether curiously shaped. “Who was he, O mighty Ingrova?” said
Hillary with a good deal of reverence.

Ingrova answered in this wise: “He was, O papalagi, the great
witch-singer of these lands. It was in that little skull-hole where
flamed the magic that sang unto us, telling the sorrow of the dying
moons, and of the voices of wandering rivers and ocean caves. He looked
through those holes” (here the chief pointed to the empty eye-sockets),
“where stare the light of the stars, the sunsets and moonsets, when he
did once stand beneath these very palms, by that doorway, and say to my
tribe: ‘Man am no long to live, and, too, his love and joy oft depart
ere his body go its way. All things must die, though the corals rise and
the palms stand for ever before the eyes of day, man’s songs must cease
and he got to sleep.’”

“Dear me! What a nice old fellow he must have been,” muttered Hillary.

Ingrova had gesticulated and spoken in such a way that he almost saw the
sorrow of the poet’s long-dead eyes looking through the sockets of the
skull.

“Well, if this is a typical Solomon Island homestead, I’d sooner go out
visiting in dear old England,” thought the apprentice, as Oom Pa
suddenly prostrated himself on the prayer-mat and, turning over on his
back, blew his stout, wrinkled stomach out with enormous breaths in some
religious rite. Hillary made a solemn face and, responding to Ingrova’s
appeal, placed his brow against a dead man’s beard that hung by the
window hole. It was with a feeling of considerable relief that he so
graciously bowed when two pretty native girls suddenly rushed into the
room and stared at him with wonder-struck eyes. His white face
fascinated them. They were attractive-looking maids, their massive
crowns of hair tastefully ornamented with frangipani and scarlet
hibiscus blossoms. Threaded shells dangled from their arms. One had
large earrings hanging from her artificially distended lobes. They were
two of Ingrova’s granddaughters. They at once proceeded to flirt with
the apprentice, giving captivating glances from their fine dark eyes.
And when he accepted a flower from pretty Noma, the tallest girl, he
swiftly accepted a like offering from her companion, who had shot a
jealous glance at her sister from her warm dark eyes. In the meantime,
Oom Pa and Ingrova had met under the palms just outside the palavana.

Ingrova’s eyes flashed with fire as old Oom Pa spoke close to his ear,
for they liked not a white man to call in their village without asking.
Though Ingrova was a brave chief, he too was a religious bigot, and his
heart swelled with much devotion as he thought of what his gods would
think to see the apprentice’s skull hanging amongst his most sacred
religious trophies. He felt that a skull adorned with dark bronze curls
would be a prize worth securing. Oom Pa placed his dusky hand to his
mouth, coughed and looked around to see that none heard; then he said:
“I say, O mighty Ingrova, this white papalagi may seek our hidden idols
and be after no maid at all. What think you?”

And Ingrova replied: “O mighty Oom Pa, favoured of the gods, did I not
hear you say that you had seen such a one as this white maid?”

Oom Pa puckered up his wrinkled eyebrows and swiftly told Ingrova how a
white girl had danced unbidden on his great tambu _pae pae_ and then run
away into the forest. On hearing this much Ingrova looked towards the
palavan to see that the white man was not within earshot, and then,
swelling his majestic, tattooed chest and shoulders, said scornfully:
“It seemeth a grievous thing for a white maid to be missing, yet, I say,
do not these cursed papalagi come into our bays on their ships and steal
those we love, our wives, our sons and daughters, taking them to
slavery, O Oom Pa?”

“’Tis as thou sayest,” responded the priest. For a moment he reflected,
then he looked up into Ingrova’s eyes with deep meaning and said:
“Methinks ’tis true that he seeks a white maid, for he who hath a leg of
wood did pass this way, calling in strange tones to all whom he met; and
mark you, O Ingrova, this papalagi who is there in your palavana hath
one eye that is the colour of the day and one the hue of the night.”

Ingrova at this wisely nodded, as though to say that he too had noticed
this strange thing. Then Oom Pa continued: “To have such eyes must mean
that he is favoured by the gods of his own race, and so ’twere well that
he should receive our friendship. And maybe, after all, ’tis the white
man’s god who tattoos the skies!”

Ingrova sighed deeply as he thought of the exquisite skull that might
have adorned the walls of his palavana. Then he said: “’Tis well, Oom
Pa, for the youth is to my liking.” And as they both stooped and
re-entered the palavana doorway the young apprentice little dreamed how
inscrutable Fate had given him one eye blue and the other brown so that
he might not be killed that day by a Solomon Island chief. Fondest
affection seemed to beam forth from Ingrova’s eyes as he looked at the
apprentice. “Nice old heathen,” thought Hillary, as the big warrior
sighed in deep thought and then placed his hands with regret among the
rare bronze curls of the apprentice’s skull that _might_ have been his.
But to give them their due, both Oom Pa and Ingrova were relieved that
things were running smoothly. Together they took Hillary outside that he
might inspect the wonders of the village. As he crossed the tiny _raras_
(village greens) the dusky maids placed their hands where their hearts
beat and sighed over the beauty of his eyes and the wondrous whiteness
of his face.

“Damn it all! I could take an interest in all this if I only knew where
Gabrielle was,” thought Hillary, as he looked on the strange scene of
native life around him. Notwithstanding his sorrows, he could not help
thinking how akin primitive life was to civilised life. “One blows his
nose on a palm leaf and the other on a silk handkerchief,” he murmured
to himself. “Bless me, though it is a heathen village in the Solomon
Isles, its dusky, tattooed inhabitants seem imbued with the same ideas
and aspirations as my own people.”

It was true enough: some of the tiny streets under the trees were clean
and had large, well-built huts that were covered artistically with
flowers of tropical vines. Other huts were small and very slovenly. Some
of the maids had flowers in their hair and shining traduca shells
hanging on their arms. Others wore tappa gowns, a few some remnant of
European clothing, such as cast-off skirts, blouses, bodices and
stockings. One or two wore only those undergarments that are frilled at
the knees and succeeded in showing off their terra-cotta limbs in a most
conspicuous fashion. Some had made real doors to their palavanas, whilst
others still had doors that were made of old sacking. One played a cheap
German fiddle while the kiddies on the _rara_ danced with glee. In front
of the native temple stood a monstrous idol, its big glass eyes
apparently agog with laughter. And on a stump, facing it, stood the
embryo parliamentary genius, Hank-koo, waving his skinny arms,
beseeching the high chiefs to pass a law that would compel all the other
chiefs to make their hut doors so that they opened inwards. “Why not
have doors that open inwards when ’tis as well as opening towards?” he
yelled, as he wiped his brow with a palm leaf. It was then that another
fierce-looking being jumped on to a stump. He too swore by Quat (first
god of heathen land) that for a door to open outwards was indeed
beautiful. “Can not a dying man’s soul take flight with ease to
shadow-land instead of being compelled to pull the door back ere
departing hence?” And so the chiefs were always busy remaking doors that
opened inwards or outwards, as they continually changed their minds over
the virtues of such great things.

“Comer, papalagi!” said Ingrova, as he beckoned Hillary to return
towards his palatial palavana. “All is wonderful that I have seen, O
great Ingrova,” said Hillary, as he stood once more outside the chief’s
homestead.

And then, as the chief leaned on his war-club, swelling his massive
chest and bowing graciously, Hillary intimated that he must depart at
once.

Indeed the apprentice was getting impatient. “It’s no good hanging about
here; this won’t find Gabrielle,” he thought, as he cursed the old
skulls and the atmosphere of gloom that Ingrova’s gruesome exhibition
had cast over him. “Why should I be made melancholy through Ingrova’s
dead relatives? I don’t bring out the bones of my dead aunts and old
uncles to make men miserable.” Such was his inward comment as he left
the chief and hurried away. Thoughts of Gabrielle’s strange
disappearance returned to him with redoubled force. He recalled how she
had touched his hand for the first time. And as Hillary passed along by
the forest banyans and saw the deep indigo of the far distant ocean, he
stared on the rose-pearl flush of the sea horizon. “What a fool I was! I
could have easily persuaded her to bolt that night on the derelict,” he
thought, as he once more started on his way back to Everard’s.

In due course he arrived back at Everard’s bungalow. The old man was
terribly upset when Hillary told him that he had heard nothing about his
daughter’s whereabouts. He trembled violently as he looked up at Hillary
and said: “I’ve been up to Parsons’s shanty: no one has seen Gabby, or
heard of her. What can it all mean?”

Hillary made no reply. He did his best to cheer the old sailorman up.
His unbounded faith in Gabrielle had returned. He recalled her innocent
manner when she had offered him the little flower out of her hair when
he had first met her on the lagoon. “No girl who gave a flower like that
could do wrong,” he thought. Not only would he not entertain the idea
that a dark Papuan man could have influence over Gabrielle, but he also
persuaded the father to make no inquiries about the Rajah.

“What proof have you got that the Rajah is the kind of man who would
take advantage of any woman?” he inquired of Everard. Possibly he was
influenced to make these remarks by a kind of Dutch courage. He imagined
that there was far less chance of Everard’s suspicions being true if he
himself blinded his own eyes to the possibilities of what a dark man
might persuade a white girl to do. Over and over again he had recalled
to memory Gabrielle’s eyes as she had gazed into his own on the derelict
ship. “No! Impossible!” thought he. “I’ve got boundless faith in
Gabrielle; I feel certain she’s only gone up to K——. She’s probably
stopping with the German missionary’s wife and will be back to-morrow.”

“Why the blazing h—— didn’t you go there to K—— and see?” said the old
sailor in a petulant voice, as he suddenly looked apologetically at the
apprentice. He had gripped Hillary’s hand gratefully in the thought that
a strange youth should have such unbounded faith in his daughter.

“I’ve only just thought of Gabrielle’s friendship with the missionary’s
wife at K——,” said Hillary.

Then Everard suddenly remembered that he had already sent a native
servant up to K—— to inquire.

All that night the old ex-sailor sat huddled in his arm-chair, crying
softly to himself. He swore that he’d never drink again or hurt a hair
of the girl’s head if she returned safely home.

Hillary slept little. Once he walked into Gabrielle’s bedroom, gazed on
her tiny trestle bed and thought of all she had said to him. Then he was
obliged to go out of doors and walk up and down under the palms in an
attempt to stifle his grief. In the morning he helped Everard to get the
breakfast. The old man spoke kindly to him and repeatedly muttered to
himself about his foolishness in thinking the youth was such a villain
because he happened to be stranded in Bougainville and hadn’t a cent to
bless himself with.

“What did old Ingrova say?” suddenly asked the old man, as he swallowed
some hot tea.

“Oh, he had never even heard of Gabrielle.”

“Never heard of her! The old liar!” almost yelled the old man.

Hillary turned beetroot-red. He swallowed some hot tea and nearly fell
on the floor. “You don’t mean to say Ingrova’s fooling us?”

“Don’t worry, boy, Ingrova’s all right. I know ’im!” said Everard.

“Thank God!” muttered Hillary. For he had suddenly called up terrible
visions of ferocious head-hunters dancing round Gabrielle’s dying form.

Anyway, his fears were quite dispelled by Everard’s manner and all that
he proceeded to tell him. As the ex-sailor and the apprentice talked and
then lapsed into silence over their own thoughts, the visitors began to
arrive. It appeared that the grief-stricken father had been about
telling all his friends that Gabrielle was missing from home. The first
one to arrive at the bungalow after breakfast was Mango Pango. When
Hillary opened the bungalow door she pretended to faint. Then she lifted
her hands above her head and went on in a most dramatic fashion as
Hillary explained to her that Gabrielle was still missing.

“Whater you do ’ere?” said the pretty Polynesian girl, as she looked out
of the corner of her eye as only a Polynesian maid can look without
squinting. “I never knew that you knew Misser Gaberlielle,” she added,
as Hillary smiled. Then she went on in a terrible style, for she had
known Gabrielle since she was a child. “O Master Hill-e-aire, she kill!
Some one fiercer head-hunter gotter her and cutter her head off!” she
wailed, as she rolled her pretty eyes and then looked at Hillary in a
swift flash that said “No gooder you loving girler without head—eh?”
Giving this parting shot, Mango Pango ran off home to follow her
domestic duties. And then a batch of native women and two white men
arrived outside the bungalow to inquire if Gabrielle had returned. After
a deal of jabbering and unheard-of ideas as to the cause of the girl’s
absence, they put the coins in their pockets and went off mumbling. And
still the old man gabbled on, saying: “How kind people are when folk are
in trouble.”

Hillary at last put on his hat and went off to make further inquiries.
As he stood shaving himself before the mirror in the bungalow parlour,
he thought of all that Gabrielle had told him about the haunting
shadow-woman. He was half-inclined to tell the father of the girl’s
strange talk on the derelict ship out in the bay. Then he decided not to
do so, thinking that the old sailor had quite enough trouble on his
shoulders. Somehow the thought of all that Gabrielle had told him about
that shadow-woman eased Hillary’s mind. It gave him greater faith in the
girl. He remembered the look in her eyes when she had sung the weird
songs to him by the lagoon, and also in the forest once when they were
parting. “Perhaps she’s a bit eccentric, and that accounts for her
strange absence,” he thought. And the thought eased his mind and was
more pleasant than the thoughts that had begun to haunt him. He recalled
Rajah Koo Macka’s handsome face. He also recalled how he had read that
dark men had strange and terrible influence over romantic girls. He knew
very well that Gabrielle was terribly impressionable. Hillary gave
himself a gash with his razor as he thought of this, and his hands began
to tremble. Then he hastily dressed himself and told Everard that he was
off to make inquiries about Macka. “We don’t know _who_ he is; he might
be anyone, and villainous enough to lure your daughter deliberately
away, after all,” said the apprentice, as he lit his pipe, said good-bye
to the old man and went off to search and make inquiries.

It was nearly dusk when Hillary returned from the villages and going
down to the beach by the grog bar came across a Papuan sailor who, he
had been told, was an old deck-hand off one of the Rajah’s ships.

The artful Papuan at first swore that he did not know Macka, shook his
head and said: “Me no savee!”

Then Hillary took a handful of silver from his pocket and shook it
before the Papuan’s eyes and hinted that if he could tell him of anyone
who _did_ know about Macka’s social position he would get well rewarded.
In a moment the native’s manner changed. He took Hillary under the palms
and told him a tale that fairly made the young apprentice gasp. And it
was a story that would make anyone gasp.

It was from this native’s lips that Hillary heard for the first time
that Macka was an ex-missionary from Honolulu, and that he was a native
from one of the coastal tribal villages of New Guinea, a tribal race who
were the most ferocious and god-forsaken heathens in the Pacific world.
The half-caste native sailor turned out to be a rather intelligent man.
Indeed it appeared that he too was a converted heathen and had first got
acquainted with Macka while attending mission-rooms in New Britain.

“Do you mean to tell me that the Rajah Koo Macka is a member of a
religious society?” gasped Hillary, as the native took a nip of his
tobacco plug and then grinned from ear to ear.

“It am so, boss!” said the man. Then the native continued: “’E am Rajah
Makee and belonger misselinaries everywheres. ’E kidnapper too, and
often taker Papuan girls, boys, men and women by nighter when no one
looker!”

“What do you mean?” said the apprentice with astonishment, only vaguely
realising what “kidnapper” meant. Then the native calmly proceeded to
enlighten him, and in a few moments Hillary had heard enough to convince
him that the noble Rajah would not only be likely to abduct Gabrielle
from her home, but old Everard and himself too if he thought they’d
fetch a few dollars in the slave markets of the Bismarck Archipelago or
elsewhere.

So did Hillary discover that Rajah Macka was an inveterate cannibal,
living on the flesh and weakness of people of his own race. For it
appeared that he had sailed the Pacific for years, creeping into the
bays of remote isles and kidnapping girls, boys, men and women till his
schooner’s hold was crammed up to the hatchways with a terrified human
merchandise. He usually sold the girls to chiefs in the Bismarck
Archipelago and New Guinea; the boys and men he disposed of in New
Guinea for plantation work or to be fattened up for sacrificial
festivals, the _pièce de résistance_ of some mighty chief’s
cannibalistic orgy. Macka was not the only one who dealt in the terrible
blackbirding trade; Germans, Dutchmen and even English skippers made it
their prime stock-in-trade.

Hillary could hardly believe his ears as he listened to the character of
the man who had been Everard’s welcome guest. He took the native sailor
into Parsons’s grog bar, primed him well with drink and finally got all
the information necessary to follow on the Rajah’s track. He discovered
that he was a native of New Guinea, that he possessed a tambu temple
there and was known as the “great Rajah” for hundreds of miles in Dutch
New Guinea because he had been well educated by his heathen parents, who
had sent him to Honolulu to be initiated into the virtues of
Christianity.

Though the sun was blazing down with terrific vigour from the cloudless
sky, Hillary half ran as he stumbled across the tangled jungle growth on
his way back to tell Everard all that he had heard about the Rajah. The
native girls ran out of the little doors of the huts and begged him to
give them one brass button from his apprenticeship suit. Crowds of
native children, quite nude but for the hibiscus blossoms in their
mop-heads and a wisp of a loin-cloth, rushed by the palms with loaded
calabashes, crammed with fish caught in the shore lagoons. They were
flying onward to the market village, the Billingsgate of the Solomon
Isles; a place where shaggy-headed, sun-browned women exchanged shells
for the fresh, shining fish. But Hillary had no eye for the scenes
around him. He steamed like a wet shirt stuck out in the tropic sunlight
as he hurried on; and the constellations of jungle mosquitoes and fat
yellow sand-flies made their presence felt, driving their proboscis
spears deep into his flesh, buzzing their musical appreciation to find
he ate so well. The apprentice’s heart was beating like a drum; already
the tale that he had heard had upset his ideas over the cause of
Gabrielle’s absence. “Did she go off voluntarily with the Rajah, or had
he kidnapped her?” That thought haunted him, tortured him. He stared
towards the summits of the distant smoking volcanic ranges to the
north-west and thought how they resembled his own heart, that was near
to bursting with emotion, and how he too would like suddenly to shout
his passionate desires to the sky. He sighed as he cut across the silver
sands by the beach. He was going the long way round, for he dare not
pass by the lagoon where Gabrielle had once sung to him.

He was nearly dead with fatigue when he arrived at the bungalow. “Found
’er, boy?” came the dismal query that always smote his ears when he
returned to Gabrielle’s home. Hillary simply shook his head and stared
into the glassy eyes of the old man. Then he sat down and told the
ex-sailor every word he had heard about Macka’s schooner and his
reputation as a clever kidnapper of native girls and men in the Pacific
isles.

Old Everard jumped to his feet and hopped about on his wooden leg like a
raving madman. Hillary tried to hold him down.

Crash! The old man had stabbed the screen four times with his wooden
member. Crash! He had picked up his spare, best Sunday wooden leg and
smashed all the crockery off the shelf.

“Don’t be a fool! Everard! Everard! Don’t go mad!” yelled Hillary at the
top of his voice, as the demented sailor still smashed away.

“I’ll save your daughter! I know where she is!” yelled the apprentice,
as he endeavoured to stop the ex-sailor’s demented yells.

The furniture of the bungalow and all the crockery were smashed before
the mad old man calmed down. Then he took a pull at the rum bottle, sat
down on the settee and recovering his breath stood up again and shouted:
“Where’s the _Bird of Paradise_, ’is ship? ’Is ship—has it sailed?”
yelled the old man. Then he shouted: “He’s got her on the _Paradise_!
He’s got ’er, my Gabby! I see it all now! He’s an old blackbirder. Not a
Rajah! Not a godly missionary! By the holy Virgin, forgive me, forgive
me for being a damned fool!” the old fellow moaned, as he recalled Rajah
Macka’s sombre voice and his exhortations when he had hesitated as to
whether he’d give up drinking rum or no.

Then the ex-sailor looked at Hillary and yelled: “Go, you blamed fool!
Go and see if the _Bird of Paradise_ has sailed from the harbour.”

In a moment Hillary rushed away over the hills. In an hour he returned
to the bungalow and told Everard that the _Bird of Paradise_ had not
been seen in the bay of Bougainville since the night when Gabrielle had
been first missing.

“She’s sailed in the night! ’E’s got ’er! ’E’s got ’er! She’s gone! She
wasn’t willing! ’E stole ’er, just like ’e steals native girls! Boy,
don’t worry. She’s a good girl, she is—one of the best,” said the
distracted father, his voice lowering to a wailing monotone as he
steadily beat his wooden leg on the floor in despair and hope.

“Of course she’s a good girl,” said Hillary. His heart nearly stopped
beating at _that_, a thought he would not allow to haunt him.

“There’s no time to lose, Mr. Everard. I’ll get a berth on some ship
that’s bound to New Guinea. I’ll find a ship. I’ll stow away, I’ll do
anything to get there and find his tambu house and rescue Gabrielle from
his grasp. I’ll steal, I’ll rob anyone if it is necessary.” And as the
apprentice said those things his eyes flashed fire, his face flushed
with all the hope and the emotion that was in him.

“I’ve got money, I’ve been saving for years, saving for ’er, but she
didn’t know!” Everard suddenly exclaimed. Then he looked at Hillary and
continued: “Get a schooner; hire one; I’ll pay! I’ll spend a thousand to
get Gabby back and smash Macka up!” As he finished he brought his spare
wooden leg down crash on the table. Then he gripped the apprentice by
the hand. “Don’t leave me yet, boy, I’m nervous. In the morning you can
go out into the bay and see if you can ’ire a schooner. It’s three
weeks’ sail to the New Guinea coast. Find out exactly where his blasted
coastal village is. Get all perticulars about ’im.”

“Do you really think he’s kidnapped Gabrielle? It seems extraordinary in
these enlightened times!” gasped the young apprentice, as he thought of
Gabrielle on a three weeks’ voyage with Rajah Macka, the ex-missionary.

“Don’t think! She’s gone! Where is she?” Then the old man roared with
dreadful vehemence: “Why, damn it all, _I’ve_ been in the slave-trading
line! _I’ve_ crept into the native villages by night and stolen the
girls as they slept beneath the palms! Cloryformed ’em! Smothered ’em!
Tied ’em hup! Shot the b—— chiefs as they rushed from their dens to save
their darters and wives! _I_ ’ave! _I_ ’ave!”

“No!” That monosyllable expressed all the horror of which Hillary was
capable over Everard’s sudden confession and his private thoughts as to
Gabrielle’s fate on that schooner with Macka.

“It’s retribution—that’s what it is,” wailed the old man.

Hillary took his hand and did his best to soothe him. Then he lit the
oil lamp and sat down by the weeping ex-sailor.

“My Gabby’s like ’er mother, beautiful gal, but she’s ’aunted in ’er
’eart by them spirits of the Papuan race. ’Er mother seed a spirit-woman
spring out from under the bed one night afore she died!”

“A spirit-woman!” gasped Hillary. Then he continued: “Do you mean to
tell me that there are such things as spirit-women running about
Bougainville?”

The old man looked vacantly into the apprentice’s eyes for a second,
then said languidly, as though, he was too grieved to talk: “I seed a
shadder meself ther other night, ’ere in this very room!”

Hillary looked sideways at the empty rum bottles in the corner of the
room, then back again at the old man’s bleary eyes. “He’s got a touch of
the D.T.’s,” thought the young apprentice.

Before midnight Everard lay in a drunken sleep. Hillary had made up a
bed by the couch, but he couldn’t sleep. The idea of the girl being
really abducted nearly sent him mad. Then he thought of Gabrielle’s
strange talk on the hulk about shadow-women and of all that Everard had
just told him about his wife’s being haunted by similar shadows. The
idea of the shadow-woman haunted his mind in an unaccountable way,
although he was naturally sceptical about such things as ghosts and
enchantments.

He sat by the small open window of the bungalow and, as the scents of
the orange-trees drifted in on the cool night zephyrs, thought over all
he had read about sorcerers, of the haunting shadow-figures that played
such a prominent part in the love affairs of the medieval ages. Then he
looked out of the window on to the moon-lit landscape and saw the tall,
feathery palms; he even heard the rattling of the derrick of some
schooner that was leaving before dawn. He thought of Mango Pango singing
her old legendary songs in a chanting voice as she peeled spuds and
chopped up the indigestible bread-fruit and tough yams for dinner, and
finally summed up his belief in spirits in the one word “Rot!”

And as old Everard lay just by him, snoring with a mighty bass snore, he
felt half sorry that he couldn’t bring himself to believe implicitly
that a shadowwoman _had_ lured the girl away from her home and had
stopped her from keeping the tryst.

“A shadow leaping about—preposterous! Sounds like Doctor Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde. Perhaps she’s been reading that book, and told her father about it
while he was under the influence of drink,” reflected Hillary. He even
brightened up as he persuaded himself that the girl’s wild sayings and
her evident terror had all been brought about through reading that book.
“She’s under the influence of Jekyll—that’s what’s the matter with this
Everard family. Why, bless me, it’s all natural enough. I myself am out
here in the Solomon Isles through reading books. I’d never have met
Gabrielle, never heard of strangling shadows and that cursed Rajah Macka
if it hadn’t been for Captain Marryat, Fenimore Cooper and Stevenson.”

The young apprentice began to brighten up considerably as he reflected
over the whole business. Everard’s snores sounded quite musical. He even
began to think that if a terrible tragedy _had_ occurred and Gabrielle
was abducted and he was destined to go off and search for her across the
seas, it was not so dreadful as nothing happening at all.

So he thanked God that he was in the Solomon Isles, living amongst
tattooed natives and strange old ex-sailormen who saw shadows and evil
enchantresses dodging about their bungalow verandahs or racing under the
moon-lit palms.

And as he pondered and listened to the faint, far-off thunder of the
surf on the coral reefs off Felisi beach he heard the guttural voices of
the German sailors singing a chantey as their grey tramp-steamer went
out on the tide, bound for the Bismarck Archipelago. Old Everard was
still wheezing heavily, and at last Hillary too fell asleep to the sound
of that steady snore.



CHAPTER IX—THE HOMERIC SPIRIT


When Hillary awoke in the morning he found Everard in a most sober
condition. “Boy, thank God you’re here; I’m down in the mouth. I’ve been
thinking.” Then the old man looked wistfully at the apprentice and said:
“You can’t go off to New Guinea and rescue my Gabrielle from that damned
villain on your own, can you?”

“No, I don’t suppose I can,” responded the apprentice, as he sipped his
tea and eagerly drank in the old ex-sailor’s words. He knew that Everard
was a man of the world and a seafarer, although he was such a fool in
his domestic affairs. He also knew that Everard knew more about hiring
schooners than he did. Indeed Hillary had found it a hard enough job to
secure the most menial berth on board the boats. So he felt that to get
a schooner to sail specially out of port on his behalf was a dubious
prospect, to say the least.

“Look you here, boy, directly you’re feeling fit go up to Parsons’s bar
and see if you can get in with some of the shellbacks. They’re the men
for us. Tell them you want to negotiate with a skipper who would go to
New Guinea, and don’t forget to say that you’ve got a man behind you
who’ll pay the necessary expenses for the whole business.”

“Bless you! How good of you!” replied Hillary, as he gripped the old
sailorman’s hand, quite forgetting that he was Gabrielle’s father and
was thinking of his daughter and not of Hillary’s prospects.

“Don’t thank me, boy; it’s my daughter, ain’t it?”

“Yes; but it’s good of you to give me the chance to hire a schooner to
help get your daughter back again,” said Hillary, as he realised the
exact position and all that the girl’s future welfare meant to him.

The old man took his hand and said: “You’re a good lad, and I can see
that you’re as much interested in my daughter as I am.”

“I am!” exclaimed Hillary fervently. Then at the old man’s request he
put his cap on and went off to seek some kindred spirit, someone who
would help him to negotiate with a skipper who was likely to let his
schooner out on hire. It wanted some negotiating too! Skippers don’t let
their ships out on hire every day.

“I’ll make for the grog shanty; that’s the only likely spot where
something that no one expects to happen will happen,” was his comment as
he walked off.

Hillary seldom visited the grog shanty at Rokeville. Once or twice, as
the reader may recall, he had gone to the shanty after dusk just to hear
the sunburnt men from the seas sing their rollicking sea-chanteys.

The German consul, Arm Von de Sixt’s edict that native girls were not to
go near the grog shanties after dark was still being strictly ignored.
Only the night before old Parsons had waved his signal towel and
chuckled with delight at the bar door as the brown maids from the
mountains performed Tapriata and Siva dances under the moon-lit palms in
front of his secluded shanty. As everyone knows, this drew custom; and
the sights the sailormen saw—the wild dances and rhythmical swerves of
the girls—gripped their imaginations. Indeed the festivals outside
Parsons’s grog bar were so well known that as far away as ’Frisco,
Callao and London sailors could be heard to remark after leaving some
music hall: “Pretty fair show, but nothing like the dancing brown girls
outside Parsons’s grog bar in Bougainville!”

As Hillary came within three hundred yards of the grog shanty he could
hear the faint halloas and chorus of oaths that mingled with the sounds
of drunken revelry in the shanty. Someone was playing an accordion that
accompanied some hoarse voice that roared forth: “White wings they never
grow weary.” For a moment the young apprentice lingered beneath the
palms, then realising that he had the whole afternoon before him, he
turned away and went down to the beach. After walking about for some
time he managed to get a native to row him out to some of the schooners
that were lying at anchor in the bay. He went aboard two of them and
asked to see the mate or skipper; but, as luck would have it, they were
both ashore.

“Where’s she bound for?” he asked of a sailor who was holystoning the
schooner’s deck.

“Barnd fer ’Frisco,” said the man, as he stared at Hillary, and then
asked him if he wanted a job.

“Not on a boat that’s going to ’Frisco,” said Hillary, as he looked over
the side and beckoned the native to come alongside with the canoe.

Then he went over to the tramp steamer that lay near the promontory, and
after a good deal of trouble managed to see the skipper, who, when he
found that Hillary wanted a job, roared out: “If yer don’t git off this
b—— ship in two seconds I’ll pitch yer off!”

And so Hillary bowed his thanks and gracefully withdrew into his native
canoe. He had made up his mind to go back and visit the grog shanty.
“Perhaps I’ll see some skipper there, or at least someone who knows the
way to get in with a captain who might sail for a price to New Guinea,”
was his reflection.

When he arrived once more on the beach off Rokeville he could hear the
sounds of revelry in Parsons’s grog bar going strong. It was getting
near sunset, the busy drinking time. For the Solomon Island climate is
terribly hot and muggy at times.

“I shall be glad to go into the bar and see men that laugh; it’s better
than mooching about in company with my own reflections,” thought
Hillary, as he walked up the grove of palm-trees that led to the beach
hotel. As he approached the entry to the rough wooden saloon he was
startled by hearing a mighty voice—a voice that sounded like the voice
of some Olympian god. It was the voice of some man who was singing,
someone gifted with a vibrant, melodious utterance. It was strangely
mellow, for distance softened the gigantic hoarse-throated rumbling till
it sounded peculiarly attractive, as though a woman sang in a man’s
heart.

As Hillary listened he felt confused. Where had he heard that voice
before? Then he strode beneath the two bread-fruit trees that stood just
in front of the shanty and, with strange eagerness, entered the little
doorway, anxious to see the one who sang so loud and inspired the
shellbacks to yell so vociferously.

As the young apprentice came into the presence of that motley throng of
drinking seamen he stared with astonishment at the big figure of the man
who had just finished singing. Hillary had seen him before; there he
stood, the Homeric personality who had so rudely intruded when he had
been listening to Gabrielle’s song by the lagoon. It was the huge
sailorman who had disturbed him by inquiring for the nearest Solomon
Island gin palace.

Hillary almost forgot his troubles as he stared on the scene before him.
The big man was waiting for the chorus to cease before he proudly took
up the solo with his vibrant voice. Heaven knows why the apprentice
dubbed him “Ulysses” in his mind, for by his own account he was anything
but an example of the Homeric hero—that is, if his own accounts of his
faithlessness to his absent spouse, whoever she might be, were true.
There he stood, one muscular arm outstretched, his helmet hat tilted off
his fine brow, revealing his bronze curls, his eyes sentimentally lifted
to the low roof of the shanty. He looked like some forlorn, derelict
knight as, with one hand at his van-dyke beard, he began to roar forth
the fourth verse:

    “For I went down south for to see my Sal,
    Singing Polly-wolly-doodle all the day.
    For I’m off to Lousianna for to see my Susiannah,
    Singing Polly-wolly-doodle all the way!”

And all the while he made gallant signs to the two pretty Polynesian
girls who had rushed from the store hard by to see who sang so loudly
and well. At the close of each verse he placed his hand on his heart and
bowed to the girls in such a way that their awestruck eyes fairly shone
in the sudden glory of it all. Heaven knows what land and among what
people he had been reared in his youth, but it was certainly a bow that
would not have shamed an actor in any courtly love scene. The traders
and sunburnt shellbacks—a mixture of various nationalities, yellowish,
whitish, greenish and olive-hued men, decorated with a multitudinous
variety of whiskers and beards—stamped their sea-booted feet and thumped
their rum mugs till the shanty vibrated to their hilarious appreciation.

Suddenly Ulysses caught sight of Hillary. For a moment he stared at the
apprentice in surprise. Hillary became the cynosure of all eyes as the
shellbacks looked over their shoulders at him. “You! You here!” he
yelled. Then he strode forward and, bending himself with laughter,
struck Hillary on the back with his open hand, nearly fracturing his
collar bone.

“How’s the gal! By the heathen gods of these sun-boiled Solomon Isles,
she was a real bewt!” Saying this, he gave a massive wink, pushed his
antediluvian helmet hat on one side, stood upright till his head bashed
against the grog bar’s roof and shouted: “Give the boy a drink. Hey
there, you son of a gorilla potman, bring us a _deep sea_ for two!”

In a moment the bar-keeper disappeared to obey that mighty voice.
Bringing the drinks, he obsequiously placed them on the counter and
asked for the wherewithal. The onlooking shellbacks rubbed their eyes
and chuckled in their glee as Ulysses yelled: “Money! Damn yer cheek to
think I pay drink by drink!” Saying that, he brought his fist down with
such a crash on the bar that old Parsons without more hesitation ticked
off the drinks on his big account slate that hung behind the bar and
trembled in some fear.

Hillary buried his nose in the cool liquor. He wanted a drink badly, but
not so much to quench his thirst as to drown his thoughts.

No presence in the world could be more welcome to the young apprentice
than that of the big man standing amongst the motley crew of shellbacks.
Those men were all Hillary’s opposites, so far as temperament goes, and
so all the more welcome to him in his sorrow. Nothing worried them. They
were the grand philosophers of Bougainville, for each night they summed
up the whole mystery of life and creation with an infallible certainty.

The supreme personality inside that grog bar was the giant stranger who
had disturbed Gabrielle and Hillary in the forest and had now recognised
the apprentice. Hillary’s new-found friend, for such he turned out to
be, had an individuality worth a thousand ordinary people. The very
expression of his face was infectious as his eyes roamed over the bar
and fathomed the weakness and strength of the faces round the room. Yes,
Ulysses was a judge; only one glance and he knew which man was likely to
stand a drink with the least argument. He had only been a visitor to the
bar for a few days when Hillary appeared on the scene, and yet he was
the acknowledged king of beachcomber-land. Parsons’s bar echoed with
wild songs, laughter and impromptu oaths of glee as he sang. Neither
Hillary nor the shellbacks had ever heard or seen anything like him
before. And the tales he told! He’d been everywhere! He swallowed
half-a-pint of rum at one gulp. Then he took a large parchment chart
from his capacious inside pocket, unfolded it on the bar and made the
shellbacks and traders turn green with envy as he ran his huge
forefinger along the curves and lines of the latitudes and longitudes of
endless seas. He told of remote isles where pearls lay hidden that he
alone knew. Millions of them! Then he looked unblushingly into the faces
of those grizzly, sunburnt men as they stuck their goatee whiskers out
in astonishment and, bending over his map once more, ran his huge
forefinger up to the north-west, right up to Sumatra in the Malay
Archipelago, and switched off to the Loo-choo Isles in the Yellow Sea.
“Treasure hidden there,” said he, giving a potent sidelong wink before
he ran his finger, bang! right across the wide Pacific Ocean down to the
Paumotu Group and onward south-west to the tropic of Capricorn. His
descriptive ability was marvellous: with upraised forefinger and
laughing eyes he described the weird inhabitants of remote uncharted
isles and the beauty of their native women. Even the astounded
Polynesian maids sighed when his countenance flushed in some rapturous
thought as he re-described the wondrous beauty of maids who dwelt on
those remote isles of the wine-dark seas. He hinted of tattooed queens
who had favoured his presence! He had ascended thrones! Discarded kings
had sat, and still sat, forlorn in their isolation, cursing their
heathen queens and the melancholy hour when Ulysses entered their
barbarian halls. Not _one_ Penelope but a score awaited _his_ return.

“Well now! Who’d ’a’ thought it!” was the solitary comment of the most
garrulous shellback to be found within a hundred miles south of the
line. That remark was followed by a critical glance at Ulysses’ massive
frame, his rugged, handsome face, the virile moustache and
fierce-looking vandyke beard, to say nothing of the omniscient-looking
eyes that flatly challenged anyone who would dare doubt their owner’s
veracity. Hillary took to him like a shot. He made up his mind to keep
him in sight or die in the attempt. The young apprentice felt that it
had been almost worth his while to have travelled the world if only to
run across that magnificent vagabond. “He’s the man! He’ll find Macka,
polish him off the earth and save Gabrielle. He’ll hire a schooner if a
schooner’s to be hired on this planet!” reflected Hillary, and he wasn’t
far wrong in his swift summary of Ulysses’ character. Then he took a
moderate sip of his rum, for he had laid a half-crown on the bar and
called for drinks, and Ulysses with inimitable grace had gazed
admiringly into the apprentice’s eyes, pocketed the change and treated
him! This natural courtesy of the South Seas amused Hillary immensely.
To him it was a true act of brotherhood; in its liberality it vividly
illustrated the divine creed of “One-man-as-good-as-another.”

As the night wore on the shellbacks and traders began to roll off from
the precincts of the bar, some to their ships in the bay and some to
their native wives. As the last stragglers went out of the doorway and
the oil lamps began to burn low Ulysses lay down on the long settee. He
had taken up his abode in the shanty—never asked the bar-keeper’s
permission, not he. He had simply taken possession of the bar by day and
the settee by night. Hillary, who had lurked by his side through the
whole evening, had quite thought to follow him home to his lodgings or
back to his ship, for though Ulysses told much of his past he was
extremely reticent about his present affairs, where he had come from or
where he was bound for. Hillary was disheartened to find that he was
stopping in the shanty for the night, but his need of that mighty
personage made him determine not to be outdone.

A few old sea-dogs were still lurking about and arguing over their quart
pots, talking softly as they saw Ulysses settle himself for the night.
Hillary did not heed them, they were mostly muddled and not curious.
Going straight up to the big man, he said softly: “I say, I’d like to
speak to you outside for a moment, if you’ve no objection.”

It wanted a bit of pluck to make a bold bid to that huge adventurer.

Ulysses had nicely settled his recumbent form and closed his eyes when
Hillary thus addressed him. For a moment the big face rested on the
settee pillow, then slowly the head turned, the unflinching eyes stared
hard at the young apprentice, the massive, curly head slowly lifted. Did
the young whipper-snapper have the cursed cheek to want his change back?
Such was the apparent thought that flashed through Ulysses’ mind as his
eyes fixed themselves on Hillary. But in a moment he saw the earnest
expression in the young apprentice’s face and with marvellous instinct
gathered that Hillary’s request was worth granting. “Any money in it?”
he whispered in a thunderous undertone. For a moment Hillary looked
abashed and rubbed his smooth chin thoughtfully. It was the last thing
on earth he had expected to hear from that hero of the seas.

“Maybe there’s a lot of money in it,” he quietly replied. That reply
acted like magic on Ulysses’ weary limbs. In less than two minutes they
had passed outside the shanty.

When they arrived outside the wooden South Sea pub the large, low yellow
moon lay on the horizon, staring across the wide Pacific. The scene
could not have been staged with better effect. The background of the
mountains in Bougainville, the tin roofs of the township, moonlight
falling on the sheltering palms and over the small doors of the huts,
gave an individual touch to the whole scene. The landscape looked like
some mighty oil-painting showing two men standing on a silent shore
staring out to sea at the full moon. Then the two figures, engaging in
deep conversation, once more began to walk to and fro.

As Hillary walked up and down with Ulysses he told the man all that
troubled him, and begged his assistance in rescuing Gabrielle from the
hands of a kidnapper.

“You don’t mean that golden-haired girl that I caught yer with? The girl
I saw swinging on the banyan-tree when I first had the enormous pleasure
of spying on ye?” said Ulysses, as he towered over the apprentice till
Hillary’s five feet eleven inches appeared quite diminutive.

“Yes, that was Gabrielle, that’s whom I’m talking about. She’s missing!
Gone! Stolen! He’s got her, a blasted heathen missionary! He’ll take her
away to New Guinea and put her in his tambu harem in some devilish
coastal town! He will sacrifice her purity to his filthy desires! God in
heaven!”

For a moment his companion stared at the flushed face of the youth, who
had waxed so grandiloquent as emotion got the better of him. Then he
said:

“Are ye drunk, boy?” Then, without waiting for an answer, he smacked the
apprentice on the back and looked into his eyes. Then he gave a loud
guffaw that echoed to the hills and made Hillary look round in
apprehension. Next he swelled his chest, tugged his mighty moustachios
and said: “Don’t ye worry, lad, I’m yer man!”

Hillary was not wrong in his hasty summing up of that big man’s
character. Ulysses had a large heart notwithstanding his own strange
confessions of far-off isles, discarded queens and melancholy kings.

“Blow me soul, by the heart of God, you’ve got it bad; it’s in love you
are,” said he, as he laid his huge hand across his waistcoat, over his
vagabond heart. Then, continuing he said: “So this Rajah Macka’s boss of
a plantation and owns a ship?”

“That’s so,” ejaculated the apprentice.

Ulysses immediately took from the folds of his red shirt a large
parchment-like scroll, presumably his mysterious chart, and then opening
it out at a spare page wrote down: “A b—— heathen Kanaka missionary owns
a ship, got plantations, and most probably in possession of money too
through being a black-birder, and it is now herein written down, stated
and agreed, between Samuel Bilbao and myself, that all the aforesaid
cash and goods are due to the aforesaid Samuel Bilbao, by God;” And as
the giant sailorman wrote on, he accompanied each word with a musical
chuckle.

Hillary gazed at the man in incredulous wonder; but still, odd as it may
seem, he began to feel a vast confidence in Ulysses’ ability for doing
anything that he set out to do. “Heavens, who ever saw such a human
phenomenon off the stage?” was his reflection as he realised that the
original being before him was certainly a master of his own actions. The
apprentice instinctively saw that his new-found friend was invaluable as
a leader in a forlorn hope, whereas a practical man who carefully
weighed all possibilities to a nicety would be a “dead horse” and a
bugbear to boot.

“What kind of a maid is this glorious girl of yours?” said Samuel Bilbao
after a pause.

“Why, she’s as white a girl as ever lived; only the vilely suspicious
would think ill of her. I’ve never met a girl like her before!”

“Ho! Ho!” roared the sailor, who had been mightily in love on more than
one occasion. Then, looking straight into the apprentice’s face, he said
in a hushed, sympathetic voice: “That all ye got to say for the poor
girl?” Seeing how the wind blew, he at once became sympathetic. He too
had loved and sorrowed, he said; and then he spoke soothingly and,
patting the apprentice on the shoulder, said with tremendous solemnity:
“How sad! Tell me everything, lad.”

Hillary, who had imbibed rather liberally, became emotional, and after
going into many details about Gabrielle and her disappearance suddenly
blurted out: “She’s a strange kind of girl too; she says she’s haunted
by a shadow thing, a woman, I think, some sort of a ghost.”

Just for a moment Bilboa renewed his intense scrutiny of the
apprentice’s face, then roared: “By God! Abducted by a Rajah, whipped
off to a tambu temple to be sacrificed at the altar of one by name Macka
Koo Raja—and she’s haunted!” The big man roared the foregoing so loudly
that Hillary thought he would awaken the whole township! But still the
sailorman yelled on: “God damn it, youngster, I’ve cuddled queens and
princesses on a hundred heathen isles, but never has such a strange
story come out of my wooing.” Then he added swiftly: “Cheer up! I’ve had
numerous abduction jobs both for and against: kings and queens have paid
me in pearl and gold for such things, and never yet did I fail in
finding a pretty maid’s hiding-place or the weakness in a queen’s
virtue! I tell ye this—your Rajah Macka’s done for! I’m his man.” Saying
this, he gave Hillary a quizzical look and continued: “You’re sure the
girl’s not stealing a march on ye? She didn’t run off on the abduction
night in front of the Rajah, eh?” Before Hillary could give his emphatic
assurance in reply to this query the sailorman gave a huge grin and
said: “What’s the dear old pa think of it all? Worried much? Got cash?”
Whereupon Hillary at once told Bilbao how old Everard had promised to
give anything up to a thousand pounds to anyone who would go to New
Guinea in search of the girl.

The effect was magical: Bilbao’s face flushed with rapturous thoughts;
he blew clouds of tobacco smoke from his lips and chuckled: “I’m bound
for New Guinea! Bound for a heathen, a Macka Rajah! Good old Macka—he’s
mine! He’s destined to meet one by name Samuel Bilbao. I’ll find him!
I’ll claim the girl too!” he added, as he nudged Hillary in the ribs and
winked. Following this sally, he gave the apprentice a tremendous thump
on the back and said: “Youngster, don’t get down in the mug; come to
Parsons’s parlour in the morning and we’ll see what’s best to be done to
secure the girl.”

Then he took the apprentice back into the grog bar and called for
drinks. “Git it down,” said he, as Hillary hesitated over the fiery
liquor. And there for quite one hour the huge man told of his mighty
deeds far and near, and multiplied his credentials, so that Hillary
might not go off seeking someone else for the position which he,
Ulysses, knew he was especially suited for.

Before Hillary departed for home Bilbao impressed upon him to be at the
grog bar on the following morning.

Hillary could never remember how he got back to his lodgings that night.
All that he ever did know was that when he arrived in his small bedroom
he imagined that Koo Macka lay helpless on the floor before his window.
Mango Pango, and two natives who slept just by, and the landlady rushed
in in their night attire to see what was the matter, and found Hillary
singing, “O! O! for Rio Grande!” as he swayed a big war-club and smashed
an imaginary Rajah Macka’s head into pulp.

In the morning Hillary made a thousand apologies to his native landlady
and to pretty Mango Pango. Mango Pango graciously accepted each apology,
and grinned with delight to think that at last the young Englishman had
taken to drink, and that fun was going to begin as the craving
strengthened.

As soon as Mango Pango had given Hillary his clean shirt and breakfast
he got ready and then once more left his diggings, bound for Parsons’s
grog bar. When he arrived the shellbacks were very numerous, for a
schooner had just put into Bougainville, and the crews were standing
treat.

Samuel Bilbao met the apprentice in his usual volcanic style.

“Where’s yer fiddle, youngster,” said he, as though Hillary had come to
perform violin solos.

“Damn it! Left it at yer lodgings?” Then he continued: “Why, bless me,
you ask me to help you find a Macka, and rescue a beautiful——” He
stopped short, thinking it would not do to let the bystanders know
everything, and continued: “Go and fetch your fiddle, boy.”

Hillary felt little inclination to play a fiddle, but there was
something about the personality of that man that told him that if he
asked a favour he expected it granted.

He soon returned with his violin, and it was a sight worth seeing to
watch Samuel Bilbao’s face as Hillary obediently performed the songs
that he asked him to play. And as Hillary played that strange man lifted
and moved his hands in rhythmic style, half closed his big-lidded eyes,
looking most sentimental, as he drank in the melody and huge sips of
rum.

“Play that again! Bewtif-ool! You’re a genius,” he ejaculated, as the
shellbacks who stood round looked into one another’s eyes in wonder to
see a man who had confessed to such a past almost weep over an English
song.

All was going merrily as a marriage bell in heathen-land when one by
name Bill Bark appeared on the scene. He was a big gawk of a fellow, and
lived mostly by cadging drinks. Going up to Hillary as he stood in the
grog parlour playing his instrument, he deliberately knocked his bowing
arm upwards.

“That’s a silly joke,” said the apprentice quietly. Then, as the
aggressor used several foul epithets, Hillary continued: “You’re an
awful fool if you really think that your disgusting language is more
attractive to these men standing here than my violin playing.”

At this gracious compliment, paid to the listening shellbacks, traders
and the three pretty native girls, the rough audience blushed. It really
_was_ said so politely, so courteously, and reflected such credit on
their musical taste that one or two of them took a huge sip from their
glasses and bowed to Hillary.

Bill Bark felt extremely wild at the laughter that followed that
invisible blush, and then once more knocked Hillary’s bow-arm up, just
as he had begun to play again.

“Why not be pleasant, friendly like?—though you’re not much of a catch,
even to look at,” said Hillary in quiet tones as he stopped playing once
more.

“’Ain’t ’e soft-o!” said Bill Bark, _sotto voce_, to three
boiled-looking sailormen who sat on tubs itching to see a fight.

As for Ulysses, who was watching the whole proceeding quietly, his face
was a study. He had not travelled the South Seas for nothing; he saw
further ahead than all the brains of Bougainville put together. He was
peering steadfastly into Hillary’s eyes. He seemed to be quite satisfied
with what he found there, for he gave a tremendous guffaw, smacked his
big knee and chuckled inwardly. He knew! Old Samuel Bilbao knew; “Knock
the ass’s bow arm up again, Bill Bark! How dare he think your oaths are
worse than his damned fiddling!”

Hillary noted the deep undertone of Ulysses’s voice as he roared forth
that demand to the loafer, and the apprentice felt gratified to hear the
subtle note, for it told him that Ulysses, at least, knew that true
pluck is always humble.

To Samuel Bilbao’s immense delight, the loafer, Bill Bark, once more
knocked Hillary’s bow arm up again.

It seemed incredible! The audience in the grog bar had never seen
anything so sudden before—Bill Bark’s two front teeth were missing! The
scene inside the shanty reminded one of an exhibition of statuary done
in marble and terra-cotta clays, so thunderstruck were they all. It was
the beards and whiskers that spoilt the statuesque effect. For who ever
saw marble statues with soft whiskers?—or smoke issuing from
black-teethed mouths that gripped short clay pipes? The shellbacks,
traders, Polynesian maids, indeed all had sprung to their feet and were
staring in astonishment at the crimson fluid that poured from Bill
Bark’s wide-open, astonished mouth.

Hillary was the only one who appeared calm. He was methodically placing
his violin carefully by the bar counter so that it should not get
damaged in the coming fray. He thought of Gabrielle, and cursed his
luck, as he slowly took off his coat. It seemed terrible to him that he
had to conform to the ways of a materialistic world when he believed
Gabrielle was a prisoner in a slave-ship on the high seas. So bitter
were his feelings that he could have picked his violin up before them
all and smashed it to smithereens on the bar, just to relieve his
feelings.

Ulysses solemnly led the way as the whole company followed in glee to
see the fight between the apprentice and Bill Bark under the palms
outside the bar. At last the giant umpire tossed his antediluvian helmet
hat right over the highest bread-fruit tree and shouted: “Time, gents,
time!” Bill Bark lay stiff on his back and looked straight up at the
soft blue of the sky. And it was good to see the rapturous light in
Ulysses’ eyes as he stood there pulling his vandyke beard, his
outstretched moustachios stiff with pride. It is certain that the
apprentice had successfully revealed to Bill Bark the force of one great
truth, a truth that no travelled man will deny: that often quiet-looking
young men in the South Seas have been found to be endowed with a
wonderful gift for fist repartee and a fine ability for getting their
own back and keeping their features intact.

Had the apprentice accepted all the drink that was about after that
fight he would have undoubtedly died of alcoholic poisoning and gone out
of the story altogether. As it was, he seemed to have entered the realms
of enchantment. He played the fiddle as the shellbacks and beachcombers
danced. He had never seen such a strange lot of men dance together
before. They were certainly a mixed crew, and represented the
adventurous, rum-loving individuals of all nationalities. They blessed
Hillary’s generous soul as he shouted: “Rum for six!” As they danced a
jig on the bar floor they looked like some peculiar human rainbow of
faded hues that had suddenly come out of the night of storm-stricken
seas. It wasn’t so much their eyes and rum-coloured noses as their skins
that gave that peculiar impression. Yellow-skinned, tawny-skinned,
greenish, brownish and bilious, saffron-hued reprobates they were. Some
wore grizzled beards, some scarf-shaped beards knotted thickly at the
throat and tasselled at the ears; billy-goatee whiskers abounded—and
couldn’t they dance too!

“Tumpt-er-te-tumper-te tump-te tump!” the sea-boots went, as Hillary,
bunched up in the corner, fiddled away and the beards and caps tossed in
the dim light of the oil lamps. Then the chorus came:

    “Blow! blow! and damn yer eyes!
    Haul the old gal by the leg!
    And that’s the way the money flies
    When we’re out with Joan and Meg!”

And still they danced on, their chests and brawny arms visible, for they
had long since cast their coats aside, owing to the terrific heat. The
native men and women peeped through the open doorway in delighted
astonishment to watch the dancing sailormen with the tattoo on their
arms and chests.

Sarahs, Betsy Janes and romantic maids of Shanghai and Tokio were deeply
engraved on their sunburnt skin: women they had loved and who had jilted
them. One old man danced mournfully, his chin bent forward as he
contemplated the pretty tattooed maid on his own chest and hummed in a
melancholy fashion as he thought of—what? The apprentice continued to
play, inspired by the shifting scene. Slowly the room became obscured as
though by a ghostly mist. Then a puff of wind came through the door and
blew three of the dancers away!—old beards, sea-boots, legs and
melancholy eyes suddenly crumpled up, all blown away! Even the big
substantial wooden bar faded and vanished like a dream!

When the apprentice awoke an hour or two later he found that most of his
comrades slept. He took a deep drink from the water-jug, after which he
realised that he must have had a good deal more to drink than was good
for him.



CHAPTER X—THE WINE-DARK SEAS


On the evening of the day that followed Hillary’s stand-up fight at the
shanty he went off with Samuel Bilbao to visit Gabrielle’s father.

“Must see the old man first, you know,” said Ulysses, as he chuckled
over the immense possibilities that loomed before his all-embracing
vision. He saw money as well as wild adventure ahead: “A coastal native
town in New Guinea! A beautiful maiden stolen, hidden away, abducted by
a damned Macka Koo Rajah—and Samuel Bilbao hired to find her and pound
old Macka to dust—splendid!” he chuckled, as he walked on under the
palms, pulling his large viking-like moustachios.

Hillary glanced at the big man’s flushed, happy face and thanked God
that such hearts still existed, that men with Herculean frames longed to
do unheard-of things quite outside the ordinary business of life.

Then, as Bilbao tugged his vandyke beard, chuckled and continued to roar
over his own thoughts, Hillary said: “Do be quiet; don’t for heaven’s
sake mention anything about your discarded queens and melancholy kings.
You know Everard has been an old sailor and he consequently knows what
men are.” Then the apprentice added, in soft tones: “He might draw wrong
conclusions as to your character and not be willing to trust you, you
know.”

The big face expressed massive disgust that such an ignoramus of a youth
should dare advise such a one as he.

Hillary only smiled at seeing that look. He had read Ulysses like a
book, and knew exactly how far to go.

“So here’s where the old man’s put up,” suddenly said Bilbao, as they
stopped. They had arrived outside Everard’s bungalow and Hillary softly
opened the door.

Old Everard struggled from his chair and immediately lit the oil lamp,
for it was nearly dark.

“Well, boy, ’eard anything about my Gabby?” he mumbled, as he struck
matches, never looking behind him, since he thought that Hillary had
returned alone. Then, getting no reply, he turned round and looked
straight into Samuel Bilbao’s eyes. He stared at the giant sailorman for
quite ten seconds, as though a vision had suddenly come before him. Then
he said: “You!”

Bilbao stared also for ten seconds, then roared out: “By thunder, it’s
you!”

“Who?” echoed Hillary’s lips, as he surveyed the two men and wondered
what next was going to happen. The two men, Bilbao and old Everard, had
gripped hands!

It appeared that Samuel Bilbao had sailed as boatswain under Everard
when he had been chief mate of a full-rigged ship in the Australian
clipper line, about eleven years before.

Hillary almost cursed that sudden recognition as the two men rambled on,
and Bilbao shook his fist, bent himself double with glee and took
monstrous nips of rum and whisky as he discussed everything, of the past
and future, but the vital matter in hand.

But it turned out a good thing, for before the night grew old the big
sailor had lifted his hand to the roof and in a thunderous voice had
called all the tropic stars to witness that he would find Gabrielle and
scatter Rajah Koo Macka’s dust to the four winds of heaven. He swore to
Everard and Hillary that he knew Macka (whether he really did know him
at that time was something that was never known for a certainty).

“I know him, the old heathen kidnapper!” he roared, as Hillary and old
Everard stared at the massive face with its vikingesque moustache stuck
out like spears from the corner of his grim mouth. “Seen ’im off
Tai-o-hae five years ago, when he abducted two princesses—twins—from O
le Mopiu’s royal seraglio!”

It was marvellous the change of atmosphere Bilbao made in Gabrielle’s
old home, as he thought over his plans, consulted his chart, ran his
finger down the degrees and murmured: “Easy as winking!” Indeed, he made
everything look so rosy that instead of Gabrielle’s abduction being a
tragedy it appeared a blessing in disguise.

And it can be truthfully recorded that though Samuel Bilbao held the
advance of two hundred pounds in gold and notes in his mighty palm, and
said that he didn’t like taking money from an old pal, he really _meant_
what he said. All the same, he gave a huge sigh of relief when he felt a
mass of gold coins and notes safe in his capacious pocket. But it must
again be admitted, in all fairness to Bilbao, that he could not go off
and hire a schooner for a voyage to the coast of New Guinea to search
for Gabrielle without some cash in hand.

After that little business matter was settled to the satisfaction of
both parties, Bilbao looked at the old man and said: “Ah, pal Everard,
she was a beautiful maid, well worth the money, this Gabrielle of
yours.” Then he continued: “I had great pleasure in meeting the girl,
and introduced myself to her as she sat swinging on a bough in the
forest not far from here: and didn’t she sing to me! Lord! I think the
girl fell madly in love with my handsome face. I little dreamed that I
was being passionately wooed by my old shipmate’s daughter.”

Everard at hearing this large contortion of the truth only looked
absently at the big man and said nothing. Then Ulysses said in a soft,
sympathetic voice: “Ah, pal Everard, I can easily imagine how ye loved
the gal, soothed her pretty face and made her love ye—eh, pal?”

“I did! I did!” wailed the distracted old man, his wretched heart
quaking as he looked for a moment into Bilbao’s keen blue eyes and
dropped his own in shame.

Hillary, who had told Ulysses a good deal about Gabrielle’s home life
while he was under the influence of about four whiskies that Ulysses
pressed upon him, gave his comrade a hasty pinch in the leg as he
wondered what Bilbao might say next.

Ulysses only replied by a ponderous wink, right in front of Everard’s
eyes too! But the ex-sailor was too far gone to notice that. It took a
good deal of persuasion to stop him from going on the voyage to New
Guinea himself, if they were successful in hiring a schooner. “You’d
better stay at home; the poor girl may return while we’re away at sea,
and what would she say at missing her dear old father,” said Bilbao
sympathetically.

The big man looked at the apprentice and gave another wink, and said:
“We don’t want no old pa with us, eh?”

Hillary responded by a vacant look; then, seeing Ulysses’s broad,
friendly smile, lifted his hand and smacked the giant on the back
uproariously. Alas! even the apprentice was under the influence of
drink.

Gabrielle’s father sat huddled in his arm-chair; his wooden leg shivered
pathetically as he mumbled: “So she’s on the _Bird of Paradise_, my
daughter, my Gabby.”

As for Ulysses, when he heard the name of the ship he smacked his mighty
knees and roared out: “Ho! ho! for a bottle of rum! The _Bird of
Paradise_!” The adventurous sailorman had made all possible inquiries
about the aforesaid vessel when it sailed from the straits, etc., and
had calculated to a nicety when it would arrive in New Guinea. “There’s
no time to lose, by heaven!” he thundered, as he swallowed his ninth
whisky and looked at the parlour clock. Then he shook Hillary, woke him
up with a start and said: “Come on, lad, let’s put the old man to bed;
he’s tired; it’s the least we can do for him.”

Before Everard fell to the floor they both lifted him and placed him
comfortably on his settee. Drunk as the prematurely aged ex-sailor was,
he looked like some bedraggled apostle as he lay there on his couch, his
hands crossed, a smile on his lips, as though he still laughed to
himself over Ulysses’ wild jokes.

Then they both left the bungalow. If Hillary staggered slightly as he
gripped Bilbao’s arm, and thought that the coco-palms were doing a
hushed step-dance on the moon-lit slopes of Bougainville, it must be
taken into account that he had to be sociable. He could not very well
stand like a mute as those reunited shipmates drank to the sprees of
other days and finished up in wild farewells and sanguine toasts to the
success of the venture they were engaged upon. As the apprentice softly
closed the front door of the bungalow Bilboa said, “Wait a tick,” and
hurriedly returning into the parlour he picked up the whisky bottle and
swallowed the remaining contents. He excused himself before Hillary by
saying: “Ah! youngster, I had to drink once again to the success of our
venture and to the pretty eyes of that girl; we’ll find her, don’t you
fear.”

“I know we will,” replied the apprentice, as he clutched the big man’s
arm.

As they stole along under the palms Bilbao’s heart fairly bubbled with
mirth as he realised the possibilities of this new adventure. It would
take him out on the seas again! It was evident that his present quiet
life was palling upon him. No one knew why he was hiding from the arm of
the law in Bougainville, and no one cared. All that can positively be
stated here is that his heart was bursting to escape from the rough
settlement where Germans drank lager and beach combers slept between
their drinks. Such happiness was too much for him.

“Splendid!” he reiterated, as he brought his open hand down on Hillary’s
back. But Hillary cared not; his heart sang within him like a bird:
whisky and his comrade’s mighty belief in the success of all that they
might undertake had made him entirely careless of the moment. “Go it,
boy!” said Ulysses to the young apprentice, rattling the money in his
capacious pocket, and Hillary joined lustily in the rollicking chorus of
some Spanish chantey.

When they eventually arrived outside Hillary’s lodgings Samuel Bilbao
swore that _he_ lived there. And Hillary? Well, he was so confused that
he obsequiously followed Ulysses in at that worthy’s kind invitation.
And Mango Pango lay on her little bed-mat in the outhouse and could not
believe her ears that night, as she mumbled to herself: “Surely not
nicer Hill-eary shouting wilder song in ze middle night, up dere in his
bedrooms?” And then the astounded Mango Pango heard no more, for Ulysses
was comfortably fast asleep in Hillary’s bed—while the apprentice slept
on the floor.

In the morning Hillary’s landlady fairly gasped to see so big and so
handsome a man in her quiet young lodger’s company. And as for pretty
Mango Pango, she opened her eyes and stared at Ulysses as though God sat
there in front of her. And when Ulysses swallowed a quart of boiling tea
and then sat her on his massive lap, her eyes shone like diamonds.
Though Hillary’s head felt a bit heavy after the preceding night’s
libations he could not help smiling as Samuel Bilbao kissed the
Polynesian maid’s dusky ear and whispered pretty things to her. And was
Mango Pango abashed? Not in the least. It was very evident that Samuel
Bilbao was smitten with that dusky maid’s charms.

But all these recorded things are small enough compared with the great
venture that they were entering upon. Even Ulysses realised that time
was valuable and that many difficulties might beset their path before
they could hire a schooner and keep their promise to Everard. And more,
the young apprentice quickly gave Bilbao a hint that they’d better be
off, and that Mango Pango’s charms could wait till a later date.

That same day Ulysses went down to the beach and tried to get round all
the schooners’ skippers off Bougainville. But it turned out that none
was willing to accept the fee Bilbao offered for the hire of a schooner,
or to take him as passenger to the coast of New Guinea.

Just as Hillary and his comrade were getting dubious about their chances
they heard that a schooner, the _Sea Foam_, was about to sail for New
Britain and then on to Dutch New Guinea. In a moment Bilbao had hired a
boat and was rowed out to the _Sea Foam_, which lay a quarter of a mile
off, by the barrier reefs. Bilbao at once went aboard and interviewed
the skipper, and found that he was a mean man and wanted more money than
Ulysses possessed to alter his course or take Ulysses for a passage at
all.

When Bilbao returned to Parsons’s grog bar, where he had arranged to
meet Hillary, he looked worried. It was evident to the young apprentice
that he had entered heart and soul into the whole business. The fact was
that he was anxious to clear out of Bougainville, and so the scheme in
hand offered him all that he wanted: money, a change, and the forlorn
hope and excitement that were meat and drink to his volcanic
temperament.

“Don’t despair, boy,” said he to Hillary, “Bilbao never caved in yet
while the world went round the sun.” Then they both went back to
Hillary’s lodgings. Ulysses seemed deep in thought as they passed under
the palms. Then he said to Hillary: “The chief mate of that _Sea Foam_
is an old pal of mine.”

“Is he?” said the apprentice, wondering what Ulysses was driving at.

“Yes, he is,” responded Bilbao. Then he added: “I’m going out to see
that mate, and I wouldn’t wonder if the _Sea Foam_ doesn’t sail
to-morrow night with you and me on board.”

“Really?” said Hillary.

“Yes, really!” responded Bilbao, as he told his surprised comrade to get
his traps packed ready to sail the next night.

“But didn’t you say the skipper wanted eight hundred pounds?” said
Hillary after a pause.

“We don’t get all we want in this world,” replied Ulysses, as he gave a
massive wink.

When they eventually got back to Hillary’s lodgings, the apprentice was
so sanguine over Bilbao’s hopeful outlook that he too felt quite
cheerful. He opened his sea-chest and showed his big comrade Gabrielle’s
photograph. Ulysses stared at the face, smacked Hillary on the back,
then kissed the photograph gallantly.

After that Hillary sat down in his room and fell into deep reflections
over the mysterious disappearance of Gabrielle. Then he played his
violin so as to soothe his own feelings. He was quite undisturbed by
Bilbao. For that worthy had sneaked off outside beneath the palms so
that he could woo pretty Mango Pango. Hillary heard shrieks of laughter
coming from the dusky maiden’s lips as Ulysses whispered heaven only
knows what pretty things into her ears. Anyhow, Mango Pango fell
desperately in love with Samuel Bilbao. And when he and Hillary left
Mango Pango’s kitchen that evening the young apprentice noticed that his
comrade was full of glee over some new scheme that had originated in his
versatile brain.

Mango Pango’s eyes shone like fire as she waved her hand to Bilbao and
behaved as though she’d known the giant sailorman since her earliest
childhood.

“She’s mine!—mine for ever!” chuckled Bilbao.

Hillary took little notice of Bilbao’s wild utterances, but it was not
long before he discovered that there was a good deal of meaning in all
that Ulysses said, and also in the humour of his chuckles.

It would be a mass of wearying detail to tell all that occurred before
Ulysses secured the _Sea Foam_ so that they might sail straight for the
coast of New Guinea without the charge for her hire unduly diminishing
his private exchequer. It is sufficient to say that Ulysses made the
very best of his old friendship with the chief mate of the _Sea Foam_.
And perhaps it will enlighten the reader a good deal to know that the
chief mate came ashore that night and had a long private conversation
and multitudinous mixed drinks with Bilbao in Parsons’s grog bar.
Hillary stood aside as the two men spoke in very low undertones and
Ulysses poked the mate in the ribs and showed him a handful of gold.
Then the mate began to get jovial and gave Ulysses a receipt for several
of the golden coins. Of course it was none of Hillary’s business as to
_how_ the _Sea Foam_ was to be hired. Ulysses had taken that part of the
job on, and as an innocent girl’s very life was at stake, what might
appear to be a shady transaction in getting hold of the schooner was
only a necessary part of the day’s work, so far as Ulysses was
concerned. He chuckled inwardly to see the mate’s delight over the bribe
he’d given him. But his success with the mate of the _Sea Foam_ was as
nothing when he discovered that the _Sea Foam’s_ skipper was a terrible
drunkard; and to make things easier still the skipper himself came into
that very bar and, seeing Ulysses flush of cash, swallowed several good
strong nips of rum at his expense.

“No, never!” said Skipper Long John (for such was the _Sea Foam_
captain’s name), as good old Samuel Bilbao spun his mighty yarns,
telling of the wondrous deeds in his seafaring career. Still the skipper
continued to drink, so that when at last he fell down on the floor of
Parsons’s saloon bar after drinking his nineteenth rum no one was
surprised. What may have been the surprising matter of the whole
business was this: That _same_ skipper was arrested that _same_ night
for using bad language and insulting two Polynesian girls on the beach!
No one _saw_ the girls who had been so grossly insulted; all that was
known about the matter was that the skipper was seen staggering about
the beach that night, trying to hire some natives to paddle him out to
his schooner, when he was suddenly seized from behind by two
Herculean-framed members of the native police and taken off to the
Bougainville _calaboose_ (jail). It was rumoured long after that he was
fined fifty dollars or two weeks’ solitary confinement. How the poor old
skipper took his hard luck is not known. Anyway, one can rest assured
that he never dreamed that Samuel Bilbao knew the head of the native
police force in Rokeville, and that whilst he languished in jail that
worthy chuckled with delight over the success of his scheme; and the
head of the native police was mightily pleased with the bribe he had
received from Samuel Bilbao! So was the schooner secured.

It may seem wonderful how the thing was done. But the civil authorities
in those parts and the owners in Sydney can vouch for it that the _Sea
Foam_, with Samuel Bilbao on board as captain, sailed out of
Bougainville harbour at midnight on 10th February, and no one knew for
what port she had sailed.

Hillary half wondered if he was in the throes of some marvellous dream
as he stood on the _Sea Foam’s_ deck just before she sailed. Ulysses was
walking about the deck shouting orders to his willing crew. And the crew
were singing their chanteys cheerfully as they thought over the
conviviality of their new skipper, who had so generously primed them up
with the best Jamaica rum. Not one tear was shed when they heard that
their late skipper, Long John, had broken his leg and was lying helpless
in the tin-roofed hospital at Silbar, in Bougainville. For such was the
sad news Ulysses imparted when he had mustered them on deck and told
them that he and the chief mate had orders to sail at once. There was
not the slightest need to tell them verbally that he was henceforth
their captain. The old boatswain saw the imperative command of those
eyes and saluted the new skipper, and every man on board instinctively
straightened his backbone. In a moment Ulysses had cast off his faded
coat and pants and old boots. None wondered when he appeared on deck in
the late captain’s best sea-going clothes, and on his head the
brass-bound, badged peak-cap that he had found in the skipper’s large
sea-chest. Everything went well. The south-west trades were blowing
steadily; no night could be more favourable for setting sail and
clearing the harbour. “Set to! Haul the anchor up!” he roared.

When Hillary heard the rattling of the chain and saw the men aloft
fisting the sail he rubbed his eyes. “It’s another hopeless dream,” he
said.

Ulysses all this time was leaning over the gangway, peering down into
the gloom, as he tugged at a rope. And as Hillary watched he saw that he
was pulling something up that dangled in space; he had distinctly heard
a musical voice that he was astonished to recognise. “Hold hard! Gently
there, you son of a gun!” yelled Ulysses, as the deck-hands and the
boatswain stood by grinning from ear to ear. And still three of the crew
and Ulysses hauled carefully at the taut tackle, as they repeatedly
looked over the vessel’s side. “God damn it, slew her up! Mind her
starboard leg! Over! Over there! Right-o! Up she comes! Gently, lads;
gently does the trick! Let go!”

“God in heaven!” gasped Hillary, for out of the basket hauled up from
the outrigger canoe that had just arrived alongside, plomp! down on the
deck jumped pretty Mango Pango!

Hillary did not dream. There she stood, her pearly teeth visible by the
light of the oil lamp in the gangway, her eyes sparkling as she laughed
with glee, like some happy child. Ulysses had persuaded her to bolt from
her mistress’s kitchen and accompany him on that voyage out to New
Guinea.

“Well, I’m blest! He can do anything he undertakes,” said Hillary to
himself, as he realised why Bilbao had chuckled so much when the two of
them had last said good-bye to Mango Pango.

Before the moon was well up the _Sea Foam_ had sailed, disappearing
silently out of Bougainville harbour, bound for the great unknown, so
far as the crew were concerned. Not a soul aboard the _Sea Foam_ slept
that night. When everything was snug aloft, and they were tacking before
a steady breeze for the coral seas, Ulysses called all hands aft and
served out rum. Several of the crew were Britishers, three were Kanakas,
one a Jap and the other a nondescript nigger. The crew wondered what was
going to happen next when they saw Ulysses at the cuddy table and Mango
Pango installed at the head. And they too joined in the songs and
laughter, as the glasses clinked and the late skipper’s champagne
disappeared. It was only the mate who did not seem to appreciate the
wild hilarity on board. He was a bilious-looking fellow and looked
terribly nervous as Ulysses roared at the top of his voice. The mate had
already regretted his share in the scheme that had cast his late skipper
into jail and installed Ulysses in his stead. He was unable to persuade
himself that he would be acquitted by any jury when they learnt that he
had sailed under the jovial orders of Captain Samuel Bilbao. Bilbao had
smacked him on the back and sworn that everything would be all right.
“You’ve nothing to worry about; all you’ve got to do is to say that I
came aboard this ship and proved my legitimate right to install myself
as the new skipper.” Saying this, Ulysses tried to ease the mate’s mind
by pulling from his pocket the late skipper’s pocket-book and papers,
also a note-of-hand that was presumably written in the late skipper’s
handwriting. This note stated that the care of the _Sea Foam_ was to be
given over to Captain Samuel Bilbao, who had instructions to sail at
once. Such was the whole scheme, so far as Hillary could make it out.
Anyway, though the mate became gloomy and sallow-looking as the days
went by, Ulysses got redder in the face and even perceptibly fatter. It
would have pleased the devoutest hearts could they have seen the modest
decorum of Mango Pango’s private cabin on the cuddy’s port side. Ulysses
had made the cabin-boy fix it up in quite artistic style. A little
German bronze mirror swung to and fro by the small port-hole, pictures
of Biblical subjects decorated the low roof and walls, and all the
niceties that a maid might require were to be found in the quickly
extemporised apartment.

It must be admitted that the first few days were monotonous and quite
unromantic. For a bit of a wind came up and made the _Sea Foam_ heave
and lurch. This instability caused poor Mango Pango suddenly to rush
from her chamber and groan with anguish as she knelt by the port-side
scuppers. She was terribly seasick. Ulysses would give a ponderous,
sympathetic wink as she rushed back to her bunk and closed the door of
her cabin. Then the little Papuan cabin-boy, Tombo Nuvolo, would stand
sentinel just by the saloon port-hole to see that no one quizzed or came
near the modest maiden’s abode. But Mango Pango soon recovered from her
illness, and attired in her pretty blue robe, scarlet and yellow ribbon
in her mass of coral-dyed hair, came out on deck to bask in the hot
sunshine.

When Hillary sat down by her side and told her that the _Sea Foam_ was
bound for New Guinea, and that Ulysses and he were going in search of
Gabrielle Everard, she opened her pretty eyes and mouth in unbounded
astonishment and said: “Awaie!—Wearly! Going in searcher of poor
Gabberlel who ams in New Ginner! Never!” And then, while she lifted her
hands and uttered her quaint Samoan exclamations (she was born in Apia,
Samoa) Hillary told her as much about the reason of the voyage and of
all they had heard about Rajah Macka as he thought advisable.

Mango Pango was a real blessing to the apprentice; she was so full of
childish vivacity, song and laughter that she dispelled his gloomy
thoughts and made him quite cheerful at times. “Thank heaven that she
was fool enough to be persuaded to come on this extraordinary venture,”
thought Hillary, as the girl performed a native step-dance while he
fiddled, and didn’t appear to trouble about her position in the least.
Samuel Bilbao would stand by, his mighty viking moustachios rippling to
the sea-breeze as he sang some romantic strain and gazed admiringly on
the dancing Mango Pango, who revelled in his praise. Heaven knows what
Bilbao’s alleged harem of island Penelopes would have thought could they
have seen their absent Ulyssess’ massive gallantry and the glance of his
eyes as Mango danced by the galley amidships. It is true that several of
the sailors made eyes at Mango Pango when Ulysses was having his
afternoon nap in the late captain’s cosy bunk. And it must be confessed
that she didn’t seem to take the sailors’ advances as though she thought
them amiss. But still, she behaved with considerable propriety, and only
very slyly blew surreptitious kisses back to the aged bottle-nosed
boatswain, Jonathan Snooks, who looked at the dusky maid and said more
with his eyes than he should have done, considering that he had a wife
in Shanghai and two more in ’Frisco!

What a voyage it was! Hillary thought of England, of his home. “What
would the mater, the governor, my sisters and Uncle William think could
they see me sailing across the coral seas to rescue a white girl from
the heathen temple of a Papuan Rajah?” He would incline his eyes from
the sky-line and look back on the deck of the _Sea Foam_ to convince
himself of the reality of it all.

“Don’t stand there mooching about with that mournful look on yer ugly
mug!” yelled Samuel Bilbao, as he stood there, nearly seven feet high,
watching Mango Pango’s five feet five inches dancing exquisitely beneath
the shaded awning that he’d ordered to be rigged up by the cuddy’s
private deck. Then he yelled for the cook, demanding that worthy’s
presence aft to play the accordion and make up the _Sea Foam’s_ scratch
orchestra for a song and dance. Ulysses began to play his bone clappers
(he was a crack hand at the clappers). And it was a sight worth seeing
as the crew stood obediently in a semi-circle, opened their bearded
mouths and exercised their big, hoarse-throated voices to the full
extent as they all roared the chorus of old Malayan sea-chanteys till
far into the night. And if the pretty Samoan maid, Mango Pango, couldn’t
dance like a sea-faery, or mermaid, on the _Sea Foam’s_ deck, under the
full brilliance of the tropic moon, then no one on the seas ever will be
able to do so.

Even the remorseful, bilious chief mate opened his mouth, mumbling a
belated melody when Ulysses put forth his long arm and conducted the
chorus of—

    “For I went down South for to see my Sal,
    Singing Polly-wolly-doodle all the way.”

Then he inclined his massive, curly head and, gazing sideways into Mango
Pango’s delighted eyes, he continued bellowing forth in such tones that
the startled sea-birds far out of the night gave a frightened wail:

    “Fare thee well, fare thee well,
    Fare thee well, my Faery Fay;
    For I’m off to Lousianna for to see my Susiannah,
    Singing Polly-wolly-doodle all the way!”

So did Samuel Bilbao pass his spare time on board the _Sea Foam_. There
were only one or two cases of insubordination amongst the crew. Ulysses
discovered that they’d had several stand-up fights on grog nights. And
he was in a fearful rage when he heard of it. For if he had one
weakness, it was his mad love of being umpire at a stand-up fight.

Excitement did not always prevail on the _Sea Foam_; sometimes the
atmosphere became quite subdued. Hillary would sit for hours dreaming of
Gabrielle, Mango Pango dreaming of her late mistress and Ulysses
presumably thinking about his melancholy heathen kings and forlorn
queens. The weather became terrifically hot. Even the crew became
subdued in the heat of that tropic sea. It was only when the stars came
out and a tiny breath of wind swept across the calm sea that things
began to liven up on board. The sound of a faint, far-off song of
England would come from the forecastle. Then Bully Beef, the boatswain’s
pet dog, would look through the scuppers and bark like a fiend at the
mirrored stars that twinkled in the ocean as the _Sea Foam_ plopped and
the rigging wailed. It was on such nights that Hillary, Mango and Bilbao
would sit together and talk or sing.

One night as the sun was sinking and throwing magic colours over the
western sky-line, and the hot winds flapped the sails, making a far-away
musical clamour, Hillary sat by the cuddy door reading poems to Ulysses
and Mango Pango. As the apprentice read out Byron’s _Don Juan_, Ulysses
stamped his mighty feet for an encore. Then he read them passages from
_The Corsair_, till Samuel Bilbao, with hand arched over his blue eyes,
fell into a poetic mood, as Hillary’s musical voice rippled off:

    “She rose, she sprung, she clung to his embrace
    Till his heart heaved beneath her hidden face,
    He dared not raise to his that deep-blue eye.”

And when he read out the description of Medora and Conrad’s sad
farewell—

    “Her long fair hair lay floating o’er his arms
    In all the wildness of dishevell’d charms”—

Ulysses almost wept. Hillary seemed to draw the romance of the sea out
of those sparkling stanzas.

“Wish we had the cove who wrote those things on this venture,” said
Bilbao; then he added: “Is it all true? Who wrote ’em?”

“It’s all written by Byron; and it’s as true as gospel!”

“Byron? Is that the cove’s name? I wish we had him here; he and I would
hit it well, I know,” muttered Ulysses. Then he leaned forward and sang
a song to Mango Pango’s pretty eyes, as the youth read on. It was a
strange sight to see that romantic swashbuckler of the seas so
interested in all that Hillary read, and to hear his critical comments.
The highly coloured, rebellions poetry, written mostly by anæmic youth,
did not appeal to Samuel Bilbao at all.

To him adventures came as a matter of course. To be on that vessel bound
for New Guinea to rescue a maid in distress did not excite his emotions
unduly; it was all in the day’s work. Hillary often noticed this fact
about Bilbao. The apprentice was astonished at the calm way he spoke of
rescuing Gabrielle from the heathen’s clutches; of killing Macka and
sending his bleached skull, carefully packed up, to old Everard in
Bougainville, as a substantial proof that he’d killed the man and
rescued the daughter, and so had fulfilled the contract according to
terms.

Hillary, as time went on, was inclined to be nervous and impatient, and
Mango Pango became extremely superstitious and swore that every shadow
was a ghost. As for Ulysses, he roared with laughter about Solomon
Island shadows, and when Mango spoke about such things he told her she
was “potty.” It may have been Bilbao’s liberality with the cases of
champagne that were found down in the lazaret that upset Hillary’s
nervous system. And if he did take a little more than was good for him
he was to be excused, for the weather was terribly muggy and hot at
times. Anyhow, Bilbao often cheered him up when he was down in the
mouth.

“Don’t get down in the mug, boy; we’re making headway quick enough. The
Rajah and his damned ship are not so far ahead. We’ll be in New Guinea
before him yet.”

But Hillary knew that Ulysses did not control the winds of heaven. And
yet at times it seemed to him that these same winds were blowing in
perfect sympathy with his wishes as the _Sea Foam_ went racing before
the steady breeze.

On the evening of the eighth day out from Bougainville a typhoon blew
the _Sea Foam_ leagues out of her course to the north-west. Ulysses
roared forth his oaths as only _he_ could roar, while the crew slashed
away at the tackle, endeavouring to relieve the thunderous flappings of
the torn sails. Two boats were washed away. The boatswain nearly wept
when the huge sea came and washed Bully Beef, his pet dog, overboard.

“Lower the only boat we’ve got left to save your b—— dog,” roared
Bilbao, as he stood on deck, his vandyke beard and moustache stiff, and
rippling to port as the wind struck him and mountainous seas rose level
with the bulwark side to windward. The chief mate, gazing aloft with
sunken, socket-like eyes, seemed almost pleased with the idea that the
_Sea Foam_ might any moment turn turtle and so cut short his eternal
fear about the jury’s verdict if ever his duplicity got him into the
clutches of the law. He was slowly fading to a shadow through all the
worry that Bilbao had brought on to his trembling shoulders. Even at
that early date a decided looseness in his brass-bound reefer packet was
noticeable, clearly indicating the shrinkage of his once plump form.

Mango Pango, hearing the seas beating against the schooner’s side,
looked through the cuddy’s port-hole, and seeing the wild confusion, as
the crew slashed at the wreckage aloft while the schooner heeled over,
cried aloud: “Awaie! Awaie! O tellible _matagai_ (storm)! O Bilbalos,
saver poor Mango Pango!”

“Don’t cry, Mango, it’s all right now,” said Hillary, who had just crept
into the cuddy from the deck, for he too had been taking a hand in the
desperate work of that buffeted crew. In half-an-hour every man on board
was thanking his lucky stars that the _Sea Foam_ was still plunging
along on her keel. Her storm-sails had been set and the taut jib-sails
were just keeping her steady with head on to the seas after the first
great onslaught of the elements. Though the wind had blown across the
heavens with inconceivable velocity, not a cloud had smudged the face of
the sky.

An hour before dawn the typhoon had quite blown itself out. Only the
universal heave and tumble of the ocean swell told of the tremendous
buffeting an hour before. The moon was sinking to the south-west.
Ulysses, Hillary and the melancholy mate stood on the poop.

“Glad that blow’s over,” said Samuel Bilbao, as the mate’s obsequious
voice echoed his own thankfulness. Then they all stared seaward, for the
look-out man on the forecastle head roared out: “Land on the starboard
bow!” That cry caused tremendous consternation amongst all on board. It
was evident that the _Sea Foam_ had got many leagues out of her course.
The mate put it down to the typhoon, and swore that it wasn’t the fault
of his navigation. Anyway, Ulysses gave him the benefit of the doubt.
Even Mango Pango stood amidships on deck with the crew as they all
huddled together and stared at the foam-flecked reefs of some strange
isle that loomed up about a mile away to the south-south-west.

“What isle’s that, for God’s sake?” said Bilbao, as he got his chart
out. For he had quite thought that he was far away from any islands.

“Can’t make its reckoning; must be some small island off the Admiralty
Group,” said the mate in a hollow voice, as he leaned over Bilbao’s arm
and stared at the chart. Half-an-hour after that all hands stood by the
anchor, for the _Sea Foam_ was plunging dead on for the mighty burst of
spray that rose high over the barrier reefs. Then they once more stared
in surprise, for quite visible to the naked eye lay the wreck of a ship,
a steamer, on the reefs, over which the thundering seas were still
breaking. It was easy enough to see that she wasn’t lying calmly at
anchor, because of the great white-ridged line of curling breakers that
rose and went right over her listed decks.

“It’s some tramp steamer run ashore,” said the mate in a hollow,
sepulchral voice; “a Dutch or a German boat, I think,” he added, as he
looked through the telescope.

An hour after Bilbao shouted: “Stand by! Let go!” and in a few moments
the _Sea Foam_ swung safely at anchor in a few fathoms of water to the
north-west of the strange isle.

Hillary looked mournful enough as he thought of the delay.

“Don’t you worry, it’s all right; besides, there’s sure to be a dead
calm after that blow last night, and we may just as well lie here as
anywhere else, eh?” said Bilbao as he rubbed his hands with delight. For
his all-embracing mind had already conjured up visions of that wreck
being possibly crammed up to the hatches with chests full of gold and a
valuable cargo of pearls. All day long the _Sea Foam_ lay off the
island, as Ulysses stared through his telescope to see if he could
discover signs of life on the derelict, or on the island. He wasn’t
taking any risks by going ashore, or going on that wreck before he was
quite certain that no one was about. He knew it was quite possible that
the original skipper of the _Sea Foam_ had been released from the
_calaboose_ by the German consulate, and that he and the missing _Sea
Foam_ were already being followed up by the skipper in another hired
schooner.

The sallow mate clutched Ulysses’s arm and nearly dropped with fear as
he too looked through the telescope. Then he wailed: “You know, Captain
Bilbao, they might be after us and would just as likely be there on that
island in wait, knowing what you are.”

Ulysses only responded by shouting the irrelevant lines of some
sea-chantey. Then he said, as he stared once more through the glass:
“Must have all gone away in the ship’s boats. There’s no one aboard that
wreck, I’ll swear.” His eyes brightened over his prospects.

Then he smacked Hillary on the back and shouted: “Don’t be downhearted!
I’m damned if we haven’t anchored off a treasure-trove wreck! You and
yer pretty Gabrielle will be able to keep one of the finest seraglios in
the South Seas if all goes well.”

Hillary couldn’t help smiling at the big man’s levity as he too looked
towards the derelict and watched the grandly picturesque sight of the
curling breakers beating against the hulk.

Every now and again, as dawn stole over the seas, they could hear the
long, low swelling roar and thunder as a big swell collided with the
far-off barrier reefs.

“P’r’aps it’s the _Bird of Paradise_ run ashore, and cursed Macka’s on
that isle with Gabrielle, hidden in those palms,” was the thought that
struck Hillary. He was certainly impressionable, and if there was a
peculiar construction to be placed on a commonplace incident, Hillary
was just the person to do it. Even he realised the foolishness of his
thoughts, for the wreck was that of a steamer, not a sailing ship.
Samuel Bilbao got terribly impatient; the long tropic day seemed
endless. He was awaiting the friendly dusk of evening before he lowered
the boat and went forth to overhaul the wreck.

A quarter of an hour after sunset a boat left the _Sea Foam_. In it were
Ulysses, the mate, two sailors and Hillary. After half-an-hour’s hard
rowing they softly beached on the silver sand of the isle, just where
the wreck lay.

“_Salier!_ A German steamer!” whispered the mate in subdued, frightened
tone, as he slowly made out the big black letters on the grey-painted
stern. Then the five of them softly walked round the sands on the
shoreward side, where the sprays and seas would no longer drench them.
All was perfectly quiet on the shore; only the noise of the incoming sea
swell and the soughing of the high winds in the belt of mangoes and
coco-palms disturbed the silence.

The derelict lay right over, her deck like a wooden wall on the
shoreward side. In a moment Ulysses, the mate and Hillary had clambered
over the reefs and climbed over the listed bulwarks. There was something
uncanny about the silence of the mouldy-smelling saloon as the three of
them crept into it and climbed along the listed floor. Ulysses went
about his job as though he had done little else all his life than search
wrecks on uncharted isles in the South Seas. Flash! flash! went his
lantern as he went down into the lazaret hold and began to peer into all
the likely places for treasure.

“What’s that, O Maker of the Universe?” wailed the mate, as he nearly
fainted and fell forward so abruptly that he almost knocked Hillary off
his feet.

“What’s what?” said Samuel Bilbao, as he flashed his lantern in the
direction of the mate’s pointing finger. “Why, it’s a derned old tom
cat!” said Ulysses as he flashed his bull’s-eye lantern on a monster
fluffy black cat. It looked at them all with its green, flashing eyes
that had so frightened the mate and yawned! It was the ship’s cat. There
it lay, as plump as might be, and all round it were the bones of mice
and rats that had evidently made the beast decide to stop on its old
ship in preference to going ashore to catch the fierce, sharp-beaked
cockatoos that swarmed on the isle.

As soon as the mate had taken a pull at his brass whisky flask and
recovered his self-possession they continued their search. Bilbao went
down into the main hold. Hillary and the mate held the taut rope as he
swung himself down, down into those inky depths. After a deal of hunting
and swearing Ulysses yelled out: “Haul me up!” In a few moments his
curly head appeared above the rim of the hatchway. Then he uttered a
tremendous oath that harmonised with the look of disgust on his face. He
had discovered that someone had been there before them and had evidently
searched the hulk in a most drastic fashion, for they had emptied the
hold and had cleared off almost every movable article of value. All
Ulysses managed to find was one case of Bass’s pale ale, a pair of the
late skipper’s sea-boots and a few mouldy articles of clothing under the
bunks in the forecastle.

“By thunder, let’s clear out of this!” said Ulysses as he looked into
the eyes of the sallow mate and breathed his disappointment. Samuel
Bilbao had really thought that at last he’d come across a prize. It was
only natural he should think that a ship sailing across the South Seas
should have some kind of valuable cargo on board. So many times had he
sat in grog shanties and listened to wonderful tales told by old sailors
who had found “treasure troves” lying about on the reefs of uncharted
isles of the Southern Seas.

“Blimey! waiting all day long to search a bloomin’ wryck hon an hiland,
and only faund a five-shilling case of Bass’s ale—and sour at that—and a
bob’s worth of old clothes,” groaned the Cockney boatswain, as he
expectorated viciously over the mate’s head. They were standing on the
shore again, almost ankle-deep in the shining coral sands. Bilbao and
the two sailors who had watched on the shore while the search was on
were looking up at the rigging, and the huge listed funnel when they
received a shock.

“God in heaven, what’s that!” said the mate so suddenly that everyone
instinctively turned to make a bolt from some unspeakable horror.

Even Ulysses looked a bit startled as they all stood stiff, like
chiselled figures, staring inland. There, before their eyes, not three
hundred yards away, on a little hill, a dark figure was jumping about,
whirling and waving its hands.

“Holy Moses!” said one.

“Gawd forgive me sins!” breathed another.

“It’s a phantom of the seas—a nigger phantom,” wailed the mate.

The figure was certainly a dark man, and perfectly nude; he was quite
visible, for the moon was just coming up over the horizon to the
south-west, sending ghostly fires on the wreck’s broken masts and torn
rigging and canvas.

“It’s Macka!—gone mad! He’s got Gabrielle Everard somewhere back there
in those palms!” gasped Hillary.

“No!” said Samuel Bilbao before he had recovered from his astonishment
and realised the obvious absurdity of the young apprentice’s remark.

“Why, it’s a maniac Kanaka!” said Bilbao, who had started coolly to walk
up the shore so that he could discern the features of the leaping
figure, that was still waving its hands and behaving generally like a
frenzied lunatic.

“What the ’ell’s the matter with ye?” roared Bilbao.

Still the figure danced, and only the echoes of Ulysses’ big voice and
the screech of disturbed cockatoos in the banyans responded.

In a moment the dark figure had bolted. In another moment Ulysses,
Hillary, the boatswain and the two sailors had joined in the chase, all
rushing like mad after the flying figure. Only the sorrowful mate stood
still on the sands just by the wreck, his loose clothing flapping over
his shrunken figure as though he was some mysterious scarecrow left
there by the late crew.

Hillary led the way in that chase, Bilbao following just behind, yelling
forth mighty bets as to the winner, his big, sea-booted feet stirring
the silvery sands into clouds of moon-lit sparkle as he thundered behind
the apprentice.

“It’s Macka! It’s Macka Rajah!” Bilbao roared, as he stopped a second
and held his stomach, that heaved with a mirth which seemed considerably
out of place at such a time. Suddenly the flying figure fell down. The
white men, who were rushing down a steep incline, could not stay
themselves, and in a moment they had all fallen on top of the gasping,
terrified figure.

“O papalagi! Talofa! No kille me! Me nicer Samoan mans. Me shipwreck;
savee mee!” yelled the frightened native, as he felt the full weight of
the white men on his recumbent form. There was something so appealing
and sincere in his voice and broken English that they all realised in a
moment that the poor devil was not to blame for his lonely position on
the island.

When all was safe, and they had led the trembling Samoan castaway back
to the sands, the chief mate breathed a sigh of relief and gave the poor
castaway a drink from his whisky flask.

It turned out that he was a Samoan sailor, one of the crew of the wreck
that lay on the reefs. She had left Apia about six months before, bound
for the Bismarck Archipelago, and had run ashore in a typhoon. The
German crew had taken to the boats whilst the Samoan sailor had lain ill
under the palms (just like Germans). And so he had awakened to find
himself alone on the island.

“Where’s all the cargo, and the skipper’s property?” said Bilbao, as a
great hope sprang up in his breast, for he thought that perhaps the
native had taken them off the wreck and hidden them on the island. Then
the native told them that about two moons after the wreck had been lying
on the shore a fleet of canoes sighted her and came out of their course
to the islands.

“They came one day, again next days and next days, for a longer times,”
said the castaway.

It appeared that Tampo, the Samoan, for that was his name, was too
frightened to show himself to the Malabar natives, who toiled from
sunrise to sunset in robbing the wreck of her cargo. The poor native
well knew that many of the natives of the isles in the coral seas were
inveterate cannibals. And he didn’t feel inclined to take any risk of
being cooked and eaten. He preferred to hide in the tropical growth till
a white man’s ship sighted him or the wreck. And certainly he was wise
in taking this course.

The castaway was delighted when Ulysses said: “Come along, old Talofa,
get yer traps together, pack yer fig-leaf up and come aboard.”

A few minutes after that the lonely isle was once more uninhabited.
There was no trace of humanity excepting the wreck on the shore. And
long before dawn flushed the east with its silver radiance the _Sea
Foam_ was flying with all possible sail set for the coast of New Guinea.

“It wasn’t old Macka Rajah gone mad after all,” said Bilbao to Hillary,
as the apprentice stood dreaming on the deck in the morning.

“It wasn’t a treasure trove on the reefs, crammed up to the hatchway
with chests of golden doubloons and pieces of eight,” Hillary retorted
quietly. Even Mango Pango, that rival of how many sad heathen Penelopes,
revealed her pearly teeth when she understood the meaning of Hillary’s
sally.

Samuel Bilbao only laughed, then said: “Boy, we’re only about three or
four days’ sail from the coastal village where your Rajah Macka has
bolted.”

“Only three or four days before I know! Only three or four days before I
see Gabrielle, and find out—what?” were some of the thoughts that
flashed through Hillary’s brain as Bilbao made that momentous
announcement. And it was true enough: the _Sea Foam_ was slowly but
surely nearing the god-forsaken barbarian forest coast of the land where
the ex-missionary and kidnapper was supposed to have taken Gabrielle
Everard.



CHAPTER XI—KIDNAPPED


On the night when Rajah Koo Macka sat in old Everard’s bungalow parlour
and successfully threw dust in the ex-sailor’s eyes and opium and rum in
Gabrielle’s tea, the Papuan half-caste’s ship lay out in the bay of
Bougainville, ready to sail at a moment’s notice.

It may be difficult to believe that a white girl could be successfully
kidnapped from her father’s homestead, carried half-a-mile across thick
jungle to the shore, thrown into a boat and rowed out to a ship that was
ready to carry her off to New Guinea; but however incredible it may
seem, that’s exactly what did happen. And this business was accomplished
by swarthy half-caste sailors who were experts at the kidnapping game.
These kidnappers were men who had devoted their lives to stealing and
enticing ignorant native girls, youths, children and native men from the
Solomon Isles and elsewhere by hundreds, nay, thousands, carrying the
boys and men off to be sold as cheap plantation labour, and the girls
for the seraglios of heathen chiefs (and sometimes seraglios of white
men) in remote isles of the North and South Pacific. And it was easy
enough to carry on the slave trade in those parts, for the German
officials of Bougainville cared little for their prestige so long as
they received a sufficiently large bribe from the slave skippers who
prowled along the coasts of Bougainville and Gualdacanar, etc. The old
white-whiskered German missionary round at B—— made a tremendous fuss
about the depredations of the tribal head-hunters who went off to the
mountain villages to secure their terrible trophies, but the
depredations of the kidnapping thugs, as they crept ashore and stole
girls and youths from the villages, were broadly winked at.

And these remarks do not apply only to the Solomon Group, but also to
islands as civilised as Samoa and Fiji. So Rajah Koo Macka and his type
calmly carried on their hideous traffic almost in broad daylight. But
still the Rajah, on the present occasion, felt that it would be a bit
too risky to attempt to kidnap Gabrielle while the sun was up, since she
was a sacred white maid. Old Everard was therefore honoured by that last
visit from him under cover of night. For the Rajah was an experienced
hand at the game. He had prowled round the isles of the Pacific from the
Coral Sea to the tropic of Capricorn for years looking for good-looking
native girls and men who would make profitable merchandise, and so had
had many narrow squeaks, although he always carried a large assortment
of religious tracts about with him to allay suspicion. One may easily
imagine, therefore, that the Rajah did not look upon the kidnapping of a
white girl as something very much outside the ordinary routine of his
profession. Indeed, he well knew that white men by scores indulged in
the blackbirding trade, sailing under the slave flag as they too prowled
the Southern Seas kidnapping people of his race. And so, as far as the
actual kidnapping of a white girl is concerned, he was only doing what
the white men did themselves.

When at last old Everard lay in drunken insensibility on his settee the
Rajah was master of the situation. His hired kidnappers were within
call.

In the little that he had seen of Gabrielle he had realised perfectly
that his old game of impassioned looks and hypocritical phrases were
utterly useless where she was concerned. He soon realised that it was
one thing to succeed in making a white girl fascinated by his handsome
presence, but quite another to make her cast aside the elementary
principles of her race. And so he had formulated his plans.

All that evening, while old Everard had been sitting in his arm-chair
listening to the Papuan Rajah’s sombre denunciations of his sinful
habits, and Gabrielle stared at his swarthy, handsome face, fascinated
by its assumed noble expression, three stalwart Kanakas squatted
patiently, as they smoked, not twenty yards from Everard’s bungalow.
They were the forcible part of the Rajah’s go-ashore retinue, all
muscular men. And as they sat there they wondered how much longer the
Rajah was going to keep them waiting for one cursed Christian white
girl, when they had kidnapped hundreds of native girls and strong men in
half the time. But their patience, that greatest of virtues, was at last
rewarded. First the solitary heathen kidnapping thugs saw shadows slip
across the dim-lit bungalow window. “Ugh! Me savoo!” said the big man of
giant mirth, as he got his strangling rope ready in case the expected
victim was obstreperous. As the three thugs got ready for the fray the
first act of the wicked drama was in full progress inside the parlour.
Gabrielle was already swaying and clutching at the air as she felt the
influence of some terrible sleep creeping over her. She fell towards the
window and clutched at the curtains in her endeavour to awaken her
father. But it was too late! The old ex-sailor only smiled in his sleep;
but he must have heard the terrified cry of “Father! Father!” since he
muttered “Gabby, go ter sleep!” And she did go to sleep!

The Rajah had fixed things up in no time and then appeared outside the
bungalow with the unconscious girl in his arms. As he laid her gently
down beneath the palms, the kidnappers crept out of the jungle thickets,
stretched out their neat little rope ambulance (always carried for
intractable patients) and bundled Gabrielle into its folds.

While this was going on Gob, a dwarf, kept watch, and Rajah Macka kept
his eyes on his Papuan retinue. They were men of his own race, and he
knew their vile instincts, for was he not one of them? And so he took
good care not to let the girl out of his sight. When all was settled,
and Gabrielle lay insensible, secure in the thug-ambulance, they lifted
her carefully and hurried across the slopes, passing by the lagoon where
she and Hillary had embarked in the canoe to go out to the three-masted
derelict. It was on that very night that Hillary and Gabrielle were to
meet each other, and the apprentice had kept the appointment, only to
wait in vain for the girl’s appearance. But had he not in his usual
impatience, walked a mile up the shore away from the trysting-place he
could not have failed to see the kidnappers pass and so might have saved
Gabrielle in a most dramatic fashion.

When Macka and his crew arrived on the shore they flung the girl into
the waiting boat, and in less than an hour Gabrielle was a prisoner on
board the _Bird of Paradise_.

Not even the violent bump of the boat against the vessel’s side
disturbed Gabrielle ere they carried her helpless form up the rope
gangway and on to the deck of the Rajah’s ship. When she awoke, that
same night, she could hardly believe her senses. She looked across the
gloomy, dim-lit room and thought she’d overslept herself. She fancied
she had fallen asleep in her father’s parlour, for there was the settee
in the corner—but why was he not on the settee? She noticed that it was
still dark, only a dim oil-lamp burning, hanging strangely, it seemed,
from the ceiling when it should have been standing on the table.

She rubbed her eyes and stared once more. Her bed seemed to move. What
did it all mean? The settee was lined with blue plush; it should really
have been a very shabby brown. She jumped to her feet and gave a scream
as she spied the little port-holes on the starboard side just opposite
her—she had realised the truth, that she was in the cuddy (saloon) of
some vessel that was rolling along away at sea!

“Don’t, Gabriel-ar-le, solawa soo!” said a voice very softly.

It was the skipper of the _Bird of Paradise_—Rajah Koo Macka. He had
been asleep in the cabin just near and had leapt from his bunk at
hearing Gabrielle’s frightened scream.

“Where am I? Oh dear! Save me! What’s it all mean?” Even Gabrielle laid
her hand on her fluttering heart as she muttered those words in a weak
voice at finding herself out at sea in a ship’s cuddy instead of in the
security of her home.

There was an intense note of appeal in the girl’s voice, such a note as
would have touched the heart of the vilest of men, but Macka never moved
a muscle. He had stolen so many girls, men and youths, watched their
tears, heard their heartrending appeals, and thrown their bodies over
the vessel’s side when they had died of terror and malaria down in the
stinking, hot-fevered hold, that it seemed nothing awful to him to see a
girl kneel before him and weep.

He was overjoyed that the girl was awake. He had quite thought that she
had been doped too much and that there was a possibility of her never
recovering sensibility again. As she stood before him, with the oil lamp
swinging to and fro to the heave and roll of the flying ship,
Gabrielle’s eyes, which had been agleam with fright, suddenly changed,
and shone with a new strength. She had realised, with a woman’s unerring
instinct, the uselessness of appealing to the man before her. As she
steadily returned his gaze, the dark man saw the courage of her father’s
race.

A cowed look leapt into his face. Even in that swift glance he had
realised that all would not go as smoothly as he had anticipated. To
steal helpless Papuans, Samoans, Marquesans, Tahitian maids, to defile
them, pitch them overboard when they were dead or dying, and amuse
himself by revolver shots at the poor, floating, bobbing bodies was one
thing; but to steal a white girl and defile her was quite another. That
much he realised most forcibly, for before he could realise anything
more than that Gabrielle had rushed out of the cabin and bolted.

She raced along the ship’s rolling deck. She looked about her and called
loudly in the dark, still hoping that one of the crew might be a white
man. When she saw the fierce, mop-headed, dark-faced men rush out of the
forecastle at hearing her terrified screams she almost collapsed in her
despair. For one moment she stood still and gazed up at the bellying
sails as they swayed along beneath the high moon. Nothing but the
illimitable sky-lines gleamed around her. She heard the moan of the dark
tossing ocean. She did not hesitate, not the slightest indecision
preceded her act—splash! she had leapt overboard! It all happened in a
few seconds. The Rajah and the mulatto mate at once gave orders for the
crew to heave to and lower a boat. It seemed ages to the Rajah as the
swarthy crew climbed slowly about like dusky ghosts, as though they had
a century in which to fulfil his orders. At this moment the captain of
the blackbirder (to give him his correct title) revealed his solitary
virtue; he could see the girl’s struggling form in the dark waters
astern. Not a sound came from the girl’s lips, only the tossing white
hands were visible on the moon-lit waters—then they vanished—she had
gone! In a second he had pulled off his coat and boots and plunged into
the sea. The men of his race could swim like fish, and dive too, for
they took to the water before they could toddle. Even as it was, the
Rajah had to dive twice before he could grip hold of Everard’s daughter.
He had a tremendous struggle to get the girl back on board, for the sea
was a bit heavy that night. When he did get her on deck the half-caste
mate and the crew stared on her prostrate figure in astonishment. She
had been kept from their sight till then.

Lying there on the hatchway, her white face turned towards the sky, she
looked like some angel who had mysteriously fallen from heaven and lay
dead before them. They were a superstitious lot, and several of them
began to moan some heathen death chant. Even the Rajah was strangely
influenced at seeing that pallid face, the drenched, dishevelled hair,
the curved, pale lips. The bluish tropical moonlight bathed her form
like a wonderful halo. He looked at the watching crew, a fierce light in
his eyes. In a moment they had all gone, slinking away. “Awaie!” he said
to one who, bolder than the rest, looked back over his shoulder. And
then, as the crew obeyed the mulatto mate’s orders to get the vessel
under way once more, the Rajah lifted Gabrielle’s prostrate form and
carrying her into the cuddy laid her down on the low saloon table.
Grabbing a decanter, he poured a small drop of spirit between her lips.
Then he closed the door so softly that only the sudden disappearance of
the stream of light on the deck from the lamp inside told that the door
_had_ been closed.

They were alone, he and she—the frail, helpless girl in the vile power
of passion and hypocrisy. For a second the Papuan Rajah gazed around the
saloon. Even he was startled by the look on the swarthy face that gazed
back on him from the long mirror—his own reflection. Stooping over the
recumbent form, he gently rubbed her hands. They were cold and very
limp. He began to think that it was too late, that she was dead. Gently
pulling the wet bodice open, he slowly unfastened the blue strings of
her underclothing. He gazed in silence on the curves of her breasts,
which were faintly revealed to his eyes by the dim, swaying oil lamp.
That fragile whiteness seemed to appeal even to him; the mute lips, the
closed eyelids, the helpless attitude paralysed the dark cruelty of his
natural self. And it is only, we must think, because God made all men,
be they black or white, that he was loyal to the great trust that the
irony of inscrutable Fate had placed in his hands—he of all men on
earth.

The seas were beating against the vessel’s side as she lay there. The
vessel pitched and rolled as once more it started on its course, and as
it rolled the girl’s recumbent form moved and swayed to the lurch of the
table. Her drenched bronze-gold hair fell in a mass to the cuddy floor,
the brown-stockinged ankles fully revealed through the disarrangement of
the soaking skirt.

Could anyone have peeped from the deck through the cuddy port-hole they
would have seen the Rajah bending over the helpless girl. A strange fire
flashed in his eyes as he gazed and gazed and gently rubbed where her
heart lay. The gleam in his eyes died away, but still he watched,
waiting anxiously. His face was set and wild looking. “Ar-a va loo!”
(“She’s gone!”) he muttered. He tried to feel the pulse of the wrist,
but he dropped it with a sigh. At last it came! His hand visibly
trembled as he lifted her arms up and gently spread them away from her
body. Then he put his ear to her heart and listened—there was a sound
like a tiny echo coming from the remotest distance. Throb! throb! it
came—Gabrielle’s soul was hovering between heaven and earth—in more
senses than one. Then the throb ceased as though for an eternity of
time, but once more it came—throb! throb! throb! And before the Rajah
was prepared for it Gabrielle’s eyes were staring at him!

Instinctually the girl’s helpless fingers half clutched the wet fringe
of her loosened bodice. And, strange as it may seem, the heathen Papuan
even _helped_ her cold fingers to close the delicate folds.

The instinctive action of the girl told him more of her true character
than a thousand dissertations on racial codes, morals and inherent
virtue could have done. In a flash he had realised that if he wanted to
gain her respect it had to be gained by astute cunning based on strict
emotional principles. Recovering his embarrassment, he rolled his eyes
and blinked—which is the equivalent of a blush in New Guinea folk. He
was really pleased to see that she was recovering. Immediately flinging
himself on his knees, he sobbed out: “Oh Gabriel-ar-le, Marsoo cowan,
nicer beauty voumna!” In his excitement he had lapsed into execrable
pidgin-English. He heard her sigh. He fondled her hand. “’Tis I who
saved you,” he murmured. He fancied that he was a hero. In his perverted
ignorance he saw Gabrielle no longer a kidnapped girl on his ship, but a
maiden whom he had saved from the cruel seas. He was bold enough to
press her hand to his lips.

Gabrielle watched him. She was terribly ill, too dazed to protest. She
was alone on the seas with this man and what could she do? Her final
response to his miserable hypocrisy was to burst into a violent fit of
weeping.

For three or four days she was quite unable to move. It was only through
the careful nursing of the Malayan cabin-boy, a frizzly headed,
bright-eyed little fellow, that she was at last encouraged to take food.
He was a child, and so he appealed to Gabrielle. The very innocence of
his eyes as he stared in delightful curiosity at her golden hair and
white arms when he crept in with the food to her bunk cheered her as
much as she _could_ be cheered under such circumstances.

Sometimes she would lie there helpless and think that she was mad,
strange fancies floating through her brain. And sometimes Macka would
step softly into the dingy saloon and play on the melancholy organ that
he had once used in his tribal mission-rooms. His voice would tremble
with passionate appeal and subtle seductiveness as he breathed forth
Malayan melodies that haunted Gabrielle’s ears. Those melodies had a
terrible influence over the girl, and one night when the vessel was
rolling wildly, being buffeted along before a typhoon, the girl screamed
out from her bunk: “Stop! Stop! I’ll go mad if you sing that strange
thing again!”

Then the Rajah ceased as obediently as a scolded child and softly crept
away. He knew the potent magic of those heathen Malayan melodies! He
knew! He knew! And when he had passed out on to the vessel’s deck
Gabrielle called out: “Tombo! Tombo!” In a moment the little Papuan boy
rushed into her cabin.

“Whater you wanter? Whater matter, nicer vovams?”

“Tombo, what’s that shadow-thing that runs about the deck at night? I
saw it through the port-hole last night.” Then she said: “And I heard
faint cries, wails. What was it? What does it all mean, Tombo?”

Tombo made no reply with his lips, but he softly nestled up against the
girl and looked up into her eyes with terrible earnestness. Then he
shook his head and said: “I looker after you, Misser Gaberlelle.”
Suddenly the boy rushed from the girl’s side and out of the cuddy in
fright.

Gabrielle listened and heard a scream: the Rajah had called the boy and,
meeting him on the deck, had kicked him. The Papuan skipper had noticed
that the kid was a bit too communicative with his kidnapped prisoner.
Possibly he thought that the boy might let out the truth about the ship
and give Gabrielle some hint as to why it sailed by night with all
lights out, as it tacked on its course far off the beaten track of
trading ships.

It was quite a week before Gabrielle ventured out of the small cuddy’s
berth and entered the saloon. Even when she did so she was apparently so
weak that she was obliged to secure the assistance of little Tombo, who
held her hand as she wandered about. The Rajah immediately began his
sinuous overtures and muttered violent protestations of love into her
ears. At times the Papuan could hardly conceal his temper when the girl
persistently pestered him with questions, asking him where the _Bird of
Paradise_ was bound for.

“You noa worry. You are all right. I take you across the seas and some
days you go back to your peoples—when you lover me!” he would say, as he
gave a look of deep meaning that the girl persistently pretended not to
understand. He would not allow her to walk out on deck unless he were
close by. His hungry eyes seemed ever on the alert. Probably he had a
fixed idea in his brain that the girl would make another attempt to take
her life. And still he swore most earnestly by the virtue of the
Christian apostles that he had only kidnapped her from her father’s
homestead because of his overpowering love for her.

“You know not what men of my race love like, what we would do for a
white girl such as you, Gabri-ar-le,” he muttered, as he glanced
sideways at her.

Gabrielle saw the look in those flashing eyes of his. She trembled as
she realised how completely she was in his power, and how once she had
been fascinated by his voice and his handsome mien. Even then, at times,
she half believed that he had repented the wrong he had done her. And
the girl was hardly to blame for her credulity, for he never tired of
pouring his flamboyant rhetoric in Malayan _vers libre_ into her ears.
He had some mighty faith in his maudlin Mohammedanistic babblings over
love, winds, seas, stars, night, God and death. He was as crammed with
pretended artlessness as he was of villainy.

Sometimes the girl felt strangely calm. The religious element that
brings faith and comfort to men and women in the direst moments of life
was part of her special birthright. She became more resigned to her lot
and even went so far as to read some of the old books that she had
discovered in the cuddy locker. So did she endeavour to stifle her
thoughts. Many, many times she thought of the apprentice. What did he
think of her sudden absence from Bougainville, of her not turning up at
the trysting-place by the lagoon? She thought of his impulsive nature.
She guessed that he must have gone straight to her home to see what had
become of her. She thought of a thousand things that he would do in his
attempt to discover her whereabouts. She imagined how her father raved,
and must still be raving, perhaps grieving over her disappearance. But
she never dreamed of all that really happened after she had left
Bougainville in the blackbirding ship. When she recalled the incidents
of the old derelict lying on the rocks off Bougainville and of Hillary’s
boyish but earnest declaration of love she trembled in her anguish. She
remembered the look in his eyes, the wild, fond sayings that had come
spontaneously to his lips. Then she laid her head down on the cuddy
table and wept bitterly.

One night when the _Bird of Paradise_ had been at sea about two weeks
the heat was so terrific that she implored the Rajah to let her sit out
on deck. He was obdurate and would not hear of such a thing. “No, no,
_putih bunga_ (white flower)” was his only reply, as he lapsed into the
Malayan tongue, speaking as though to himself. Then he walked away and
disappeared forward. In a moment Gabrielle made up her mind and had
slipped out of the cuddy, determined to go on deck and breathe the cool
night air. She almost cried out as she rushed, plomp! into the arms of
the half-caste mate. “Savo, maro, Cowan, bunga,” whispered the burly
mulatto, as he lost his mental balance at seeing the beauty of the girl.
He caught her in his arms, clutched her flesh like some fierce animal,
put his vile lips to her white throat and breathed hotly on her face. He
tried to press his blubbery lips against her own. In a moment the girl
had managed to release herself from that hateful clasp.

“What’s the matter, my pretty putih bunga, marva awaya?” said Koo Macka,
suddenly coming up, as the mulatto mate slipped hastily along the deck
out of sight.

“Nothing is the matter; I simply felt ill, faint; I’m better now,” said
Gabrielle fearfully, as she swiftly realised that it would not do to
make an enemy of the mulatto mate. For a moment the Rajah looked
suspiciously around him, then he sternly ordered her to go back at once
into the saloon.

And so it was that Gabrielle sat in her bunk that night and stared
through the port-hole so that she might get a breath of the cool
midnight breeze that drifted at intervals across the hot tropic seas.

The stars were shining in their thousands as she sat there watching and
crying softly to herself. She could plainly see the bluish, ghost-like
gleam of the horizon, far away, as she stared out of the cabin
port-hole. It was then that she once more heard a mysterious wail coming
from somewhere out in the silence of the night. Her lips went dry with
fright as she gazed and listened in her terror. She distinctly observed
a shadow slip across the deck. Then the wail came again and was followed
by a deep, retching moaning and sounds of the hushed voices of men who
were speaking in a strange language. “What does it all mean?” she
muttered to herself, as once more her ears caught the indistinct
utterances of agony. And still she listened and felt quite sure that
what she heard was no trick of her imagination, but was some last appeal
of helplessness to relentless men ere they strangled their victim. In
the terror of all that she felt her overwrought brain became strangely
calm. She sat quite still and watched in a dazed way, crouching in her
bunk, her eyes peering through the port-hole. She gazed up at the
swaying sails as they glided on beneath the stars. The wind had shifted
to the south-west, for she saw the canvas veer and darken patches of
starry sky as the yards went round and the crew aloft chanted some
Malayan chantey. So weirdly bright was the tropic sky that the rigging
and the forms of the toiling crew were distinctly outlined with the
decks, sails, spars. She could even discern the long cracks of the deck
planks as the ethereal light of far-off worlds pulsed in the sky and
sent a glimmer down between the masts and sails. A fearful curiosity
overcame the fright she first felt as she saw three stalwart, mop-headed
men standing by the lifted hatchway amidships. The scene was directly
along the deck facing the cuddy’s cabin port-hole from which she stared.
The sight that met her astonished eyes made her tremble: the three
swarthy, demon-like men were grabbing the bodies of the dead which were
being passed up from the vessel’s fetid hold! Some of the crew were down
below busily pushing those limp, pathetic figures up to the outstretched
hands of those on deck. Gabrielle knew they were dead bodies, there was
no mistaking their limpness as the heads of the silent forms fell first
in one direction then in another. And still they pushed up the limp
bodies of dead native girls and youths, and one by one passed them along
to that crew of sea-thugs, who carelessly pushed them over the bulwarks
into the sea! Gabrielle distinctly heard the splash as they fell.

She half fancied that she heard long-drawn groans coming from the
direction of the sea. Nor was she mistaken, for they pitched the dying
overboard too! The crew of slavers were not over-sensitive in such
matters.

The girl was still staring, dumbfounded, when the men softly closed the
hatchway over that terrible drama of life below. Then she heard the dull
thuds of the locks being secured and rammed home. They even placed the
thick canvas covering over the hatchway again and so closed the cracks
that mercifully had let a breath of fresh air into that breathing mass
of shrieking merchandise—kidnapped native girls, men and women! As soon
as Gabrielle saw those demon undertakers steal away into the shadows
towards the forecastle she realised that it was no nightmare, no horror
of an imaginary world that she had felt and witnessed. It was all real
enough. In a flash her brain had realised all that it really meant. She
remembered how her own father had talked about the horrors of the
blackbirding ships, and how the huddled victims died in the fetid hold.
She recalled how he had even confessed that he too had once dabbled in
the slave traffic. And as she remembered she saw herself as a child
again, listening in wonder at her father’s knees as he proudly told his
beachcomber guests of the “glorious good old blackbirding days.”

After seeing that sight Gabrielle became seriously ill, mentally as well
as physically. She lay sleepless through the night and longed for
forgetfulness. The scene she had witnessed as they cast the kidnapped
dead into the sea had completely horrified her. In her mind over and
over again she found herself counting the dead bodies she had seen
thrown overboard. It took her that way. She had often heard the mission
men talk about the cruelty of the kidnapping business, but it required
such a sight as she had witnessed to make her realise the truth of what
she had heard. True enough, it is hard for anyone to realise the horrors
of the slave traffic till they see the actual results with their own
eyes.

Possibly the great poet will never be born who could write the poem that
would adequately describe the Brown Man’s Burden so that the Western
world could read and realise that the White Man’s Burden is not the only
one that men have to bear through spreading Western principles among the
islands of remote seas.

Gabrielle got out of her bunk that same night and pushed every available
article of furniture against her cabin door. She realised what she was
in for. It was the first hint she had had that she was not the only
wretched victim that trembled in fear on that ship. And as she lay
sleepless, thinking of everything and of those trembling,
terror-stricken girls and youths that made the cargo in the airless,
fevered hold not twenty feet from her bunk, she half envied her own
terrible position.

Next day when the Rajah noticed the look of horror in the girl’s eyes as
he rattled off his _vers libre_ he retired as gracefully as possible and
quickly arrayed himself in his most attractive attire of Rajahship.

He placed the rich, scarlet-hued turban on his skull. He tied the yellow
waist-sash about him so that the bow fell coquettishly down at his left
hip. He even cleaned his teeth with cigar ash and manipulated an
artistic curl at the ends of his dark moustache. Then he proceeded to
haunt Gabrielle again. He read the Bible aloud; he put such
well-simulated sincerity into his melodious voice that Gabrielle rubbed
her eyes and half wondered if she had dreamed that terrible sight of the
night before. As she sat at the low cuddy table and the dark man sat
right opposite her with the knees of his long, thin legs bunched beneath
the table, she listened to his splendid lies. He went so far as to tell
her how he had a great reputation for good works, of how he roamed the
seas searching to redress the wrongs done to helpless girls, men and
native women! He swore that his ship roamed the South Seas expressly to
attempt to put down slave traffic! He knew! he knew! that the girl had
some inkling of the kind of vessel she was on.

“Gabrielle,” said he, “you knower not my troubles, and how when I do
capture slave-ship I have to rescue the victims and put them down in the
hold of this vessel till sucher time as I can take them to some isle
where they can be safe till they are returned to their own people!”

“Could it be true?” was Gabrielle’s inward thought, as she watched the
man’s face and saw nothing but the light of a proud achievement in his
eyes. And it must be admitted that there was some truth in all that he
told the girl about his reputation. For was it not well known from Apia
to Dutch New Guinea that Rajah Koo Macka was a great Christian Rajah?
And was it not true that he had been in receipt of thousands of pounds
that had been collected through the kind medium of Christian societies
who were interested in the noble endeavour to put down slave traffic in
the South Seas? And who can deny the fact that thousands of men and
women in England had unconsciously contributed towards the expenses
incurred by the Rajah in fitting out his ship, the _Bird of Paradise_,
for the sole purpose of abducting natives and for following his
monstrous inclinations.

And there he sat in his cosy cuddy, a splendid example of the civilised,
converted Papuan invested with a hideous power by weak-minded
charity-givers who saw no just cause for their charity in their own
country.

The Rajah was a living libel on true missionary work and on the
reputation of the missionaries themselves. With others of his
profession, he had often let his helpless merchandise out on hire into
the hands of wealthy half-caste and sensual white men. And when native
girls gave birth to half-caste children soon after their arrival on the
sugar plantations as far away as Brisbane, the innocent missionaries got
the blame for what had happened to the girls who had been contaminated
after leaving their native isles. But all this is only a detail in the
Rajah’s life. He was a genius in his way. No man living would have had
the patience to talk and talk, and sing and chant as he did to his
beautiful, helpless prisoner. God only knows how he got Gabrielle to
believe in him again. Perhaps it wasn’t so strange when one thinks of
her tender years and the mighty pretence of the astute Rajah. Night
after night he came to her and went on his bended knees. Sometimes he
held the Bible in his hand, babbled over its pages and said: “O
Gabri-ar-le, give thy purest love unto me and I swear on this divine
book that I will take thee back unto thy father.”

On hearing this Gabrielle’s heart leapt with hope. “Perhaps he isn’t all
bad and has relented,” she thought. Then she glanced steadily into the
Papuan’s eyes and said: “I swear that I will bear no ill-feeling towards
you if you will only take me home again.” Then with that wonderful
instinct that women reveal when in such a grievous pass, she added: “I
can easily say that I was washed out to sea in a canoe that night and
that your ship picked me up, and then no blame will be attached to you;
you may even be rewarded. Will you take me back to Bougainville?” Saying
this, she looked earnestly into the heathen’s eyes and continued:
“Father was very drunk that night, you know; he heard or guessed nothing
of all that happened; he wouldn’t dream of the truth.”

The man sat there silent, chin on hand, as he gazed steadily upon the
girl. It was evident by the look in his eyes that he admired the clever
way she had put the whole matter before him. Gabrielle mistook that
look. Her heart fluttered. She felt like screaming in the ecstasy of
hope that thrilled her in the thought that she might yet get back to
Bougainville and see the young apprentice again. The man sat opposite
her for a long while in thought, then he shook his head as though in
response to his own reflections. He gave a cruel smile as he noticed the
expression of delight in the girl’s eyes at the thought of getting out
of his clutches. He rose to his feet and, giving her one of his
lascivious looks, walked slowly out of the cuddy.

Gabrielle’s hopes faded. The reaction set in. Her despair was terrible
as loneliness came to her heart. She went into her dismal berth. She was
now left quite alone, for little sympathetic Tombo had ceased to come
near her. She well knew that it wasn’t the little cabin-boy’s fault; he
was ordered to keep out of the way.

“He’s a murderer, a cruel villain, a heathen—and once I thought he was a
god among men, an apostle of beauty and truth.” So ran Gabrielle’s
reflections as she sat alone and thought critically about the Rajah. She
looked out of the port-hole. It was a brilliant moon-lit night. She saw
the dark crew climbing aloft to reef the sails. She knew that the vessel
had altered its course. The sight of everything depressed her terribly.
There was something weird in the sight of those dark men toiling aloft
as they sang their strange Malayan chanteys. She saw the shining
clasp-knives between their teeth as their shadows dropped softly down
onto the deck. Once more she heard the whistle blown to call the next
watch. Then complete silence reigned. She had nearly gone off to sleep
when once more she heard the wails and muffled screams. Though terrified
at those sounds, she again peeped through the port-hole and watched.
Again she heard the heart-rending moans. Again the awful dragging
silence came as the hatchway was lifted. “Plomp! plomp! plomp! plomp!”
She knew then that four more victims had been cast into the deep. She
strained her neck and put her head right out of the port-hole. She saw
the dusk of the burning tropic seas and the stars as the vessel kept
steadily on its course, leaving the floating bodies in its wake.

The next day the Rajah came into the dismal cuddy several times and
spoke to her, but she shrank instinctively from his presence. He noticed
her manner and wondered. The girl’s uncongenial attitude did not rhyme
in with the plans he had so nicely mapped out. But determination was his
great virtue. He made many attempts to ingratiate himself. “Why you no
liker me now?” he said, as he looked at her. She made no reply. In his
excitement he mixed his language up so much that Gabrielle could hardly
understand what he said. His mixture of pidgin-English and broken
Biblical phrases made a kind of musical potpourri of exotic sensuousness
that haunted the girl’s ears, reviving vivid memories of her own people
and at the same time reminding her how far away she was from their
protection.

“Gabri-ar-le, allow me,” he murmured in his soft, insinuating voice, as
he leaned forward and stuck a small red frangipani blossom in the folds
of her hair. It was a bloom from the pots of flowers that swung to and
fro from the cuddy ceiling.

Gabrielle looked steadily at the man. A strange gleam was in his eyes.
It was just after sunset. Already the eight members of the crew, who
were devout sun-worshippers, had lain prone on the forecastle deck and
murmured their dolorous chants to the last gold and purple glow of the
departed day.

The stars were shining over the sea. It was almost calm. Every now and
again came the muffled drum-like sounds of the heavy canvas sails that
bellied out to the breath of the sleepy night wind, flopped, and fell
loosely as the halyards rattled and the ship rolled to the glassy swell.

The Rajah had sat down at the low table, right opposite Gabrielle. His
turban was tilted rakishly on one side. As he looked sideways, glancing
poetically towards the deck roof, his firm, handsome, curved throat was
certainly shown to advantage. He looked like some Byronic corsair. There
was no denying that he was a handsome man of his type. He leaned gently
towards Gabrielle, one hand on chin, continuing to gaze as though in
sorrowful reflection over his shortcomings and the white girl’s sorrow
resulting therefrom.

“Gabri-ar-le, I lover thee. You know not the ocean of my soul, how dark
it is since your eyes should be the stars to shine over its darkness.
Wilt love me a little, O white maiden?”

He still had his eyes fixed upon her in rapt admiration, eyes that moved
up and down her form.

She looked beautiful indeed as she suddenly rose, stood there in the dim
light, attired in her sarong-like bluish robe, the divided sleeves of
which revealed her rounded arms. The broad scarlet sash, tied bow-wise
at the left hip, fell negligently almost down to her ankle. A hot breath
of sleepy wind crept through the cabin doorway, wafting the rich odours
of exotic flowers that hung all along by the cuddy port-holes on the
starboard side. The ship’s black cat suddenly whipped across the saloon,
looked up into its master’s face with its yellow, burning orbs and then
disappeared like a shadow.

Gabrielle trembled as she sought to answer the Rajah’s questions. She
could faintly hear the tinkle of the weird _zeirung_ as some dark man
forward in the forecastle accompanied the mellow voice of someone who
was singing a Malayan chantey.

“I felt that I liked you once, but I hate you now!” said Gabrielle
impulsively. Then she added: “How could you expect me to like such as
you, after all you’ve done?”

The Rajah gave a grin.

“I want you to take me back to my people,” the girl almost sobbed. Then
she rose and began stealthily to move away from his presence; she had
noticed the flushed, half-wild expression on his handsome face. She saw
the fixed look of resolve in his eyes.

He swiftly put forth his hand and, catching hold of her fingers firmly,
softly forced her to sit down once more in front of him.

For a moment he looked at her as though he was about to clasp her in his
arms. Gabrielle’s heart thumped. She noticed that he sat on the side
near the open door and so barred her progress should she attempt to make
a bolt. She heard the voice of the man at the wheel humming words of an
unknown tongue just over her head out on the poop. She knew that the
Rajah’s mate was laid up with fever in the deckhouse amidships, and so
she was quite alone with the Rajah.

“I know that I am only Pa-ooan. You no’ like me ’cause I dark man, eh?
Wilt lover me, canst thou deny me, O maid of mine heart?”

Gabrielle knew by his lapse into Biblical pidgin-English that he was in
an excited, treacherous state of mind; she also realised that it was
wiser for her to attempt to mollify him.

“I don’t dislike the people of your race at all; it’s the wicked way
that you kidnapped me that makes me hate you. Won’t you take me back to
my people?”

Though she spoke with apparent calmness, her heart was thumping so
violently that she half fancied he heard it beat. She instinctively knew
why the man stared at her so. She noticed that he had not lit the
hanging lamp in the usual way, either. Only the faint, flickering
glimmers from the lantern that swung by the saloon door and the deck
sent its gleams towards them. She could just discern the shadowy-like
face of the Rajah sitting opposite her. His voice had become strangely
soft and seductive, almost musical: “Do you lover me, one little much,
pretty whiter girl?”

“I don’t know,” she whispered hastily in a hushed, frightened voice,
hardly knowing what she _did_ say, as she swiftly glanced around and
realised her terrible helplessness in that cabin far away on the coral
seas. No escape there for her! The glimmer of the seas outside the
port-holes only gave her a deeper sense of loneliness, if that were
possible. She heard the tramp! tramp! of the watch walking the poop just
over their heads as they sat there.

“Let me go to my berth, I’m tired, I want to sleep,” she said softly, as
she hastily rose to her feet. The state of her feelings was obvious. The
Rajah could almost hear the fluttering of the girl’s heart in that soft,
tremulous voice. Standing there with flushed face and her eyes staring
with fright, she looked very beautiful. He put his hand out gently and
leaned across the table towards her. In her fright she gripped his
extended hand. Her hair had fallen down to her neck and shoulders,
tumbling in a golden mass, as she lifted her hand and glanced wildly
about her. It had been loosened from its neat coil by the flowers that
the Rajah had stuck in the glossy folds. The heathen corsair’s vanity
was so profound that he imagined the girl had deliberately made her
tresses tumble in luring deshabille for _his_ eyes.

A great fire leapt like a blown flame into the man’s eyes. And Gabrielle
noticed it. She began to move backwards, very slowly, step by step, in
the direction of her cabin door. One of her hands clutched her robe
tightly against her trembling figure, as though she would not have him
see the way her stealthy feet were moving from his presence. He too had
swiftly risen from the cuddy table and was moving with a stealthy,
cat-like step towards her. It was like some tragic scene in a drama as
she moved backward, her eyes fixed on him, and he followed step by step
over the cuddy floor. The girl’s pale face and frightened, alert eyes
were reflected in the large saloon mirror as she crept round the table.
His taller form sent a monstrous silhouette over the panelled walls, his
turbaned head going right across the ceiling. And still she moved on.

Gabrielle had sought to mislead him as to her exact intentions. She made
a rush, whipped into her cabin and slammed the door. Not till then did
the Rajah realise his mistake in thinking that her tresses had fallen
for his benefit.

A look of rage swept across his swarthy face at the way Gabrielle had
baffled him. But he knew the way to play the game. In a second he had
placed his mouth to the small grating circle that was in the top of her
cabin door. “Gabri-ar-le, beloved mine, I do swear not to hurt you; let
me comer in,” he whispered. “Why you rush away from me like that?” he
added in an injured tone. He did not wish to raise his voice. He knew
there was a possibility of the girl screaming when she realised the full
import of his wishes. He had no desire that the crew should know that he
was a rank outsider so far as the white girl’s affections were
concerned. He had loved to walk the schooner’s deck, his chest swelling
with that pride that dark men feel when a white woman is theirs; he also
knew that his Kanaka crew envied him his saloon quarters, where they
knew the lovely white girl dwelt.

“Don’t try to come in! You dare not! Leave me alone. I want to sleep,”
replied Gabrielle, as he continued softly and persistently to knock at
the cabin door.

He heard the trembling note of appeal in her voice. “I swear by the gods
of my land and the stars of your own that should you open the door and
let me kiss your hand no harm shall come to you.”

He heard Gabrielle smash something heavy against the door. It was the
reply to his appeal. His voice took on a rougher tone, he was evidently
getting impatient. “If you don’t let me in I’ll smash the door down;
it’s my ship!” he said in a threatening undertone, then swiftly added:
“But, sweeter girl, if you let me in I swear to keep my promise.”

Gabrielle glanced round her berth. Not a weapon was handy. She was
trembling. “Perhaps he speaks the truth,” she thought.

“Won’t you go? We’ll speak to-morrow!” she said softly, as though she
would appeal to his heart. Again he swore that he would not harm her.

Gabrielle looked in despair through the port-hole. For a moment she was
half inclined to put her head out and scream. Then she thought of the
hideous mulatto mate and the fierce Kanaka crew. She shuddered. What
hope had she? Even as she realised the hopelessness of her position the
Rajah’s booted foot crashed at the door.

Gabrielle hardly knew what she was doing as she flung the door open. “I
believe you,” she said, as she stood there, just inside her cabin and
gazed courageously into the man’s eyes. For a moment he was taken aback,
but in another moment he had responded by hastily stepping forward.

Gabrielle was quite unprepared for his sudden outburst, notwithstanding
all that had happened. He took her hand in his own. He pressed warm
kisses on the soft white fingers. He became almost incoherent as he
talked and told her how he had dreamed of her and seen her image in the
great magical lagoons in his native land.

“The gods said that such as you would be mine. Yes, Gabri-ar-le, long
years ago before you were born.”

He had seized her in a passionate clasp. The terrible magic of his vile
personality began to work on the girl’s overwrought mind. “Go away! Go
away!” she pleaded. But still he wailed on about his old gods, their
magic and the wonders of his country. For a moment he leaned against the
frame of the cabin door as though he were about to depart, but he did
not go. He leaned forward and began to murmur a weird Papuan chant. His
voice was peculiarly mellow and sweet. There was something melodiously
caressing in the strain. Just for a moment his eyes softened, as though
his heart was influenced by the music of his lips. It was only for a
second, though, ere the tiger beast of his nature returned and once more
he gazed unabashed at the girl, as only the low order of the dark races
can gaze. He touched her fingers. His dark hands had begun to creep in a
caressing way up her arms. His burning eyes still stared relentlessly
into the terrified eyes of the girl. He would not vary that glance, no,
not for one second, as he stared on triumphant, magnetising her soul by
the eerie fire of his own.

“My beloved, putih bunga!” he murmured, as he noticed the look of terror
fading away from the eyes that had looked up so appealingly into his.

Gabrielle’s face, ghastly pale but a moment before, now appeared
strangely flushed, almost swarthy-looking. But even the Rajah looked
startled as he saw the change in her expression, as she stood there
dimly revealed by the light of the stars that gleamed through the little
cabin’s port-hole. Standing there framed between her bunk and the
slanting beam of the bulwark, her tumbled hair about her neck, she
looked like some wonderful emblematic figure of spiritual beauty
struggling against the temptation of passion. But still his hands stole
stealthily up her arms and about her: now he softly touched the silky
material of her blouse, his face within three inches of her own. His
arms curved snake-wise over her shoulders. “Marlino sa wean, placer your
lips to mine—quick, quick!” he whispered. His voice was hoarse with
passion as he drew her near to him. “Putih bunga, mine! Ola savoo,
beautiful!” he babbled. He felt the sighing heave and fall of her bosom.
Gently but firmly he pressed her head slowly backwards, so that her face
should be uplifted to his own. Even in the gloom he noticed that her
eyes stared up at him as though in sleep. He leaned half fearfully
forward and let his mouth touch her lips.

“Go! Go!” she wailed, as she tried to overcome the darkness that was
sweeping her very life away. She fancied that a shadow had slipped out
of the night to torture her soul. Again in some terrible rivalship of
dark and mystery it sought to strangle her. She fancied she saw strange,
wild eyes appealing to her, peering over the Rajah’s shoulder; but it
was only the Rajah’s eyes she really saw.

He saw her eyelids quiver. He felt the wild throb of her bosom still;
but he noticed that the limbs had ceased to tremble.

“She hath given herself unto me!” so ran a thought through his mind. He
lost control of his acquired civilised astuteness and began to press
impassioned kisses on her upturned mouth. He felt her arms clasp him in
a responsive embrace.

“Putih! Mine!” he whispered, his voice hoarse with passion. Her scented
tresses fell about his face. He fiercely pulled the fringe of her bodice
open at the neck and pressed burning kisses on the whiteness of her
throat.

“Don’t! Don’t!” she cried softly. But he held her the tighter; it was a
merciless grip. She had begun to struggle. He was surprised at her
strength as she suddenly put forth her arms, clutched him by the throat
with one hand and with the other caught him by the shoulder and pushed.
For a moment he made little effort to ward her off. Slowly, to her
delight, she felt him going back, backwards towards her cabin door as
she pushed in her frenzy. And still she struggled and still she felt his
big form receding till his turbaned head was half-an-inch out of the
door. She gave a smothered cry of delight; she was winning in that
terrible encounter that was a struggle of life and death to her. Alas!
she had not reckoned with the cunning of that Papuan kidnapper. He
almost smiled as he allowed her to force him back yet a little more.
Even she half wondered why she was winning so easily. Then out shot his
hand; at last she had enabled him to reach and grip hold of the handle
of the cabin-door that opened _outwards_ into the saloon; in a moment he
had pulled it to; crash! it went as he slammed it and pushed the bolt!

She and he were alone, shut in the cabin. They stood facing one another
in the dusk, like two half-baffled figures. Only the stars faintly
visible through the port-hole told of the ocean world outside as
Gabrielle looked first at the dark form before her and then out into the
night. She could not scream as he seized her in a tight clasp. Only a
moment and she had ceased to struggle, was crying softly to herself as
he pressed burning kisses on her face and drew her towards him.

He continued his love-making ill far into the night. Although the girl
was completely in the Rajah’s power, he still showed an unaccustomed
restraint. Heathen though he was, he could, when occasion demanded, hold
his passions in reserve. They would be gratified later, he told himself,
as he gloated over the defenceless girl. She would be even more at his
mercy in his native coastal village, in his own private dwelling.

And still the stars shone over the wide ocean-way of night. Only the
sounds of the swelling sails and their muffled flop! flop! broke the
silence, as the vessel rose to the swell and rolled like a helpless
derelict on the silent tropic seas. Tramp! tramp! went the watch over
head. Then someone in the forecastle began to sing; it came faint but
distinct, some old Malayan chantey drifting aft as the wide wings of the
wind moved across that great world of waters.


It was night-time, and three days after the Rajah’s cowardly attack,
when Gabrielle heard the Malayan sailors singing one of their weird
chanteys in a cheerful voice. She at once looked through the port-hole
of her berth, wherein she had made herself a willing prisoner, only
allowing the Malayan cabin-boy Tombo to enter with her meals. She stared
aloft. The vessel at that very moment was altering its course. She
distinctly noticed the apparent movement of the stars as the dark canvas
sails veered. Again she heard the gabble and hustle as the helm was put
hard over. It looked just as though the moon had given a frightened skid
across the sky. They had just let the hatchway down with a bang, had
finished pitching the dead victims of the hold overboard. But still the
Rajah shouted his orders. He was calling in a strange language. She
tried to understand, but not a word was familiar to her. “What’s it all
mean? Are we there?” she wondered, as she looked round her in despair.
She gazed to the southward. Her heart gave a tremendous thump as she
sighted, a long, low line of dark coast to the starboard. Then she knew
that at last the _Bird of Paradise_ lay off the dreaded coast of wild
New Guinea.

Words cannot describe the misery of Gabrielle’s heart as she saw the
coast-line of that strange, rugged land and realised that when once she
was ashore there she would be completely in the Rajah’s power. It seemed
to her that a great shadow from that mountainous world swept across the
sea and struck her soul with despair as a solitary cloud, like a
castaway’s raft, crept under the moon. Her hair fluttered to the cool
night breeze, her fingers clutched the rim of the port-hole as she still
stared towards that desolate, terrible coast-line. But had Gabrielle
Everard been able to look astern and see across half-a-thousand miles
what a sight would have cheered her despairing heart. She would have
seen the _Sea Foam_ dipping gracefully, bounding onward, travelling
south-south-west across the coral sea beneath the tropic moon with all
sail set, and Mango Pango dancing on deck, while the great Ulysses, with
hand placed sentimentally on his heart, thundered out:

    “Oh, I went down South for to see my Sal,
    Singing Polly-wolly-doodle all the way!”

and Hillary, still full of romance and hope, playing the violin like
some pagan god, accompanying each song the big man sang.



CHAPTER XII—IN NEW GUINEA


It was close on midnight when the _Bird of Paradise_ dropped anchor off
the coastal township of Tumba-Tumba. It was the Papuan kidnapper’s
native home on the coast of New Guinea, north-west of Astrolabe
mountains.

“Keep near me, dear Tombo,” whispered Gabrielle, as the little cabin-boy
ran into the cuddy full of excitement at hearing the anchor go. Before
the little fellow could make any response to Gabrielle the Rajah lifted
his foot and with a straight kick impelled the boy forcibly out on deck
again. Then he went away forward to give orders to the bustling crew.
Two or three Herculean Dyaks stood with revolvers in their hands by the
main hatchway. They had apparently thrown over all the dead bodies of
the victims who had died in the hold. Gabrielle looked through the
port-hole and saw half-a-dozen terror-stricken brown faces peep over the
rim of the hatchway. She saw the clutching brown fingers of old men,
girls and youths curled on the hatchway rim as the slaves struggled to
get a purchase and stare up at the blue, star-lit sky before the hatch
was slammed down again.

She ran out on deck and stared shoreward in her despair. They were
anchored about a quarter of a mile from the line of coral reefs that
loomed afar, looking like grim, gnarled monsters of the sea, where the
ridges lifted their wave-washed backs for miles and miles. There, before
Gabrielle’s eyes, were the wild coastal forests and mountains of a
strange land. Away to sea on the starboard side she saw strange figures
with mop-haired heads; some had curly, dishevelled hair, and their heads
sticking out of the moon-lit water made them look like dusky mermaids,
distinctly visible, as they crawled about searching for pearls on the
reefs. They were not mermaids. They were simply Papuan women and girls
and men searching for bêche-de-mer in the shallow waters.

“Solo bungo mass!” (“My flower of life!”) whispered the Papuan skipper
into her ear. He had approached her silently. She looked up into his
face. The pallor of her own face, the despair in her blue eyes as they
shone with intense beauty of sorrow, had no effect on the man before
her. Indeed, her despair only increased his desire to get her completely
in his power.

“Cannot I stay here? Must I go?” she said in a voice the appeal of which
cannot be described. The swarthy man was staring shoreward at his native
land, a half-wild look in his fiery eyes as he thought of the
helplessness of the trembling victim who stood beside him. He only shook
his head in reply, then gazed into her eyes in a way that struck terror
to her soul. She knew that she must obey. She had no belongings to pack,
and so in a few moments she was ready, standing like some helpless
_condamné_ awaiting the fall of the guillotine.

It was almost a relief to the girl’s mind to hear the sudden clamouring
just over the vessel’s side. And as she looked over she saw dozens of
strangely ornamented canoes and outriggers crammed with mop-headed,
tattooed savages.

“Sowan! Tiki, soo, Rajah!” shouted the barbarian horde, as the Rajah
looked down upon them, bowing grandiloquently in response to their
savage salutations. For the Rajah was the one “quite civilised” man of
their primitive heathen coastal township, and so looked upon with
almighty respect by his fellows. It was a momentous event in the life of
the population of the coastal village when the _Bird of Paradise_ came
in. The Rajah usually dropped anchor leagues away to the north, near the
Bismarck Archipelago. It was there that he usually got the biggest
prices for his freightage of trembling captives, destined for the slave
markets of German and Dutch New Guinea. But the Rajah on the present
occasion was in a mighty hurry to get ashore, so he had decided to take
Gabrielle with him and leave his mulatto mate to sail the _Bird of
Paradise_ to the next port and dispose of his terrified human cargo.

When Gabrielle arrived under the cover of night on the shores of that
barbarian hut city, and saw the savage-looking women and men staring at
her, as tattooed _ridi_-clad chiefs shouted, “Cowan! to mita putih
purumpuan! (‘Welcome to the white girl!’) she trembled in her terror,
and even felt glad of the Rajah’s presence as they mobbed her and
pinched her white flesh deliciously. The population rushed out of their
huts by hundreds. Hideous old tattooed chiefs (bare as eggs down to the
loins, bone ornaments in their ears) moaned and blew with their blubbery
lips as they spotted her whiteness. The deep-bosomed tawny women who
stood beneath the sheltering ivory-nut palms by their huts stopped their
unintelligible hubbub as the Rajah hurried her past.

“Cowan! The Rajah! The Soo Rajaaah!” they shouted, as they recognised
that cultured heathen in civilised attire, the great squire, the lord of
the manor in Tumba-Tumba. The news spread like wildfire. “Cowan!”
(“Friend!”) gabbled the girls, women and youths, as they rushed out of
their small thatched homesteads to see the great Rajah and the beautiful
_putih purumpuan_. The thick-haired half-caste Malayan girls, dancing
beneath the festival palms, jingling their leglets and shell-threaded
armlets, stopped chanting to see so unusual a sight. They laid their
hands in a romantic way on their hearts and sighed out, “O wean soo
loo,” as a white girl with wondrous golden hair tossing to the breezes
was hurried along a prisoner in the Rajah’s loving grip.

On, on he hurried. The tropic moon cast a weird light over the barbarian
world that was framed by distant mountains. Nothing but mighty brooding
forest haunted with mystery and uncouth sounds came into view for miles
and miles as Gabrielle was hustled along. And still she heard the low
chanting salutations of “Cowan le soo!” floating to her ears. Then came
the weird sounds of the tribal bone flutes and beating drums, and the
sudden hush as she passed beneath the rows of hanging coco-nut-oil lamps
of some festival ceremony. Those wild people had often seen the Rajah
arrive from his blackbirding schooner with many a trembling victim
looking up into his eyes for mercy, but never had they seen such a one
as they saw that night. They marvelled at the glory of her eyes, the
cataract of dishevelled hair, like the sunset on their mountains off
Tumba-Tumba (so they said). Besides, all the previous victims were
tawny-hued like themselves and had dark eyes, eyes that shone,
delightedly sometimes, to hear the acclamations of admiring chiefs in
the slave markets. But the girl before them looked wildly beautiful with
some fright that they knew nothing of.

As Gabrielle Everard saw their repulsive, blubbery lips, the yellowish,
hot-looking eyes, the animalistic bodies of the huge,
pendulous-breasted, over-fed chiefesses, she felt a tremendous pang
strike her heart, in the thought that somewhere back in the past she had
kinship with them. As she heard the distant drums in the mountains a
strange feeling came over her. She even clutched the man’s hand beside
her: she half fancied that those beating drums were the drums that she
had heard in the bungalow away in Bougainville when the shadow crept
into her bedroom.

As they passed under the banyan groves they came to a large group of
huts of various shapes and sizes. It was the Rajah’s native village.

“Helaka!” murmured the _taubadus_ (chiefs), and when they saw Gabrielle
they looked with surprise and said: “Dimdim Wovou!” (“White
foreigner!”).

Gabrielle’s bare feet were bleeding through contact with the sharp
shingle by the shore reefs. But that didn’t worry the Rajah, his only
response to her appeal that he would go slower was to hurry faster than
ever. He crossed the cleared village space and took the girl straight to
his domestic tambu temple. “Tepiake!” grunted the _taubadas_ as he
passed through the thickly overgrown bamboo stockade. He had now arrived
at his parental residence, a kind of palatial heathen hall, where his
own people resided and held semi-Malayan fetishes and all that would
remind them of their past in the Malay Archipelago. As Gabrielle stood
before that big wooden building her heart sank. She was too weary to say
much to the man beside her. She hardly noticed the fiendish-looking
children about her and the ape-like being who ran out from the palms and
danced with glee before her. She trembled as she looked at the Rajah’s
flushed face and noticed the change in his manner. She saw a look of
command in his eyes, that she had only vaguely felt was there before.
His walk had become majestic. The pleading obeisance she had received
from him aboard the vessel had disappeared. He behaved like one who had
complete authority over all around him and over her also. Her feminine
instincts awoke, came to her assistance immediately. She felt that she
was utterly alone in that awful haunt of barbarism.

“I’ll die first!” was the secret resolution of her heart. She half hated
herself to think she had once had her arms about him and had returned
his embrace. He had looked so handsome, so god-like, as he swore by the
Christian apostles and Jesus Christ. The tears started to her eyes as
she looked at that sinister heathen homestead as it loomed before her by
the light of a hundred tiny hanging coco-nut lamps. She thought of her
father, the old bungalow in Bougainville and of Hillary.

The sounds of the barbarian drums seemed to make her realise with
terrible vividness the almighty simplicity of the apprentice’s love for
her. She instinctively felt that, though the stranded apprentice had
never mentioned the apostles or Christ’s name, or even God, that he did
not do so because God and Christ spoke for him in the great silence of
his own actions. And as she remembered these things she stood still, her
thoughts far away across the seas. She forgot the presence of the wild,
staring people around her. Her spirit leapt into Hillary’s arms, she
looked into his eyes and asked him to die with her. The hordes of
savages, the pagan huts, the feathery palms and distant moon-lit
mountains slowly dissolved, vanishing like the fabric of a dream. She
did not hear the voice of the heathen missionary beside her as he spoke
in his own tongue to the clamouring hordes, so intense were her thoughts
as she dreamed of Hillary and all that she had lost.

Her despair was so bitter that she hardly cared what might happen as,
like one awakening from a dream into the light of miserable reality, she
mechanically turned her head as Koo Macka spoke to her.

“Solan putih bunga, my Gabri-ar-le,” he muttered. Then he gripped her by
the arm and led her under the thatched verandah and into his wooden
ancestral halls.

A hideous, baboon-like woman fell on her knees before the Rajah and
moaned out: “Solan, soo wa eala!” Then she gazed upon the girl and
lifted her claw-like hands as though in approval. It was Macka’s old
mother. Then a ferocious-looking half-caste (Malayo Papuan) mop-headed
old man rose from his stinking squatting-mat, hobbled forward and stared
keenly at the girl as she stood beneath the tiny hanging lamps. He made
hideous grimaces as he inspected her, touched her smooth arms, smelt her
golden hair, put his dirty fingers between the folds of her torn blue
blouse and stared at the whiteness revealed to his eyes through the
divided material. And all the time that he gazed his mouth emitted
betel-nut juice that dropped down on to his tattooed, hairy breast.

“Le putih purumpuan bunga!” (“O flower of beautiful whiteness!”) he
groaned out in his Malayan lingo. Then he too turned to Macka, and by
his gesticulations revealed the enormous pride he felt that the Rajah
should return to the palatial homestead with so wonderful a prize. The
old Malayan chieftain was the Rajah’s esteemed _bapa_ (father). Though
he was old and wrinkled, it was evident that he too had been handsome in
his day. From that old _bapa_ Macka had inherited the indescribable
sensualism that had placed Gabrielle in her awful position.

“Cowan, wanoo, wanoo wooloo!” he seemed to shout, as he gazed with pride
on his hopeful son. Even the Rajah recognised the results of his own
virtues and swelled his chest, put his arms half up and gaped to hide
the embarrassment of an invisible blush. And why shouldn’t old _bapa_ be
proud of his son? Had he not listened to the pleadings of the German
missionary at Astrolabe, who had come over from the isles of the
Bismarck Archipelago?

“O great _bapa_,” said the missionary, “take thee this little Macka,
this small son of thine, teach unto him the Word of God, rear him up in
the path of righteousness, so that he may follow the divine calling and
teach thy people the beauty of the Western creed!”

And old _bapa_, listening to that good German missionary’s advice, took
his hand and said: “O white papalagi from over the _moan ali_ (seas) I
have listened. And I say unto thee, that it shall be as thy godly words
have said.” Then immediately he called his son, little Macka, from his
idol worship in the tambu temple, and, laying his tawny hand on the
boy’s head, said: “O my son, the Fates have willed on thy behalf that
thou shalt go hence across the big waters to Honolulu and be educated
like unto a noble white man. For, I say, it beseemeth good that thou
shalt grow up and be one good missionary, so that thou mayst guide thy
people in the path of the new righteousness.”

So spake proud old _bapa_, who truly had his son’s interest deep in his
heart. The result was that soon after the German tramp steamer _Lubeck_
sailed from Aru, up the coast, taking the boy Macka across the seas to
Honolulu. And as the boy’s years increased the missionaries marvelled
that so bright a youth had come amongst them, for he was clever and
became as one of them in learning. Soon Macka became head of one of the
biggest missionary classes at K—— O——. But alas! with the development of
manhood the old instincts, the passions developed in his race through
centuries of tropical desire, burst into flame. They were not to be
overthrown by the sad aspirations of a few old missionaries at Honolulu.
Those kind, well-meaning men had endeavoured to change the spots on the
leopard’s back—in vain! For what was the inevitable result of their
life-long pilgrimage away from their native lands? This—there stood
Macka once more, after all those years, back in his native village, the
personification of the full-blooded heathen attired in Western garb,
with a white girl trembling beside him, looking first into the eyes of
the son, then into the eyes of the father. And still the drums beat on.
And still far away over the seas old Pa Everard wailed through his
delirium, “My Gabby! My Gabby!” till the asylum-keepers at Ysabel
soothed his rum-stricken nerves.

“Ah! ah! koola, Cowan! my faithful son! Thou art indeed the joy of old
_bapa’s_ soul!” And as the old father’s eyes filled with tears of pride,
and the hideous, bloated mother waved her skinny arms with joy, the
Rajah bowed. For the Rajah was a good and faithful son, and had repaid
his parents well from the proceeds of his exertions in the dangerous
slave traffic.

The civilised blackbirding skipper well knew that the girl was now
utterly in his power. He was in no hurry to further his wishes. Indeed
he was the first to suggest to his old _bapa_ that Gabrielle should stay
with them till the final arrangements could be made that would chime in
with his secret desires.

So Gabrielle Everard actually found herself living in the squalor of a
Malayo-Papuan homestead on the coast of New Guinea. She was down with
fever for the first three days. Then the Rajah came into her thickly
matted chamber (mats denoted that the visitor was an honoured guest) and
wailed forth his hypocritical vows.

He sobbed to see her lying ill. He said that if anything should happen
to her he would fade to a shadow and die. Then he rubbed his eyes with
his big coat-sleeve, and opened a little bottle of medicine. The foolish
girl, sick and weak, felt that perhaps the man had a heart after all—she
drank! Then he whispered soft words into her ears, but she did not
listen.

“Come on, putih bunga!” said he. She rose like one in a dream, and he
led her away to the great tambu temple that stood right opposite Macka’s
ancestral halls. It was a wooden building, sheltered by enormous
mahogany-trees.

Only the devil himself could adequately describe the deeper meanings of
the ritual of the tambu houses in New Guinea.

The tambu house in which Gabrielle found herself was a low-roofed
apartment about forty feet long and thirty wide, not more than twelve
feet in height. Its rows of windows consisted of small circles cut in
the wooden walls, something after the style of port-holes in a ship. It
was lit by the artificial glimmer of coconut-oil hanging lamps, which
seemed only to add to its shadowy mystery. These innumerable oil lamps,
hanging from beams over the wide _pae pae_ (stage platform), were for
the prime purpose of revealing the attractions of the half-caste girls
who regularly performed at the tambu fetishes. These girls were mostly
Polynesians, Arafuras, Bugis, Dyaks and a bastard type of Chinese and
Melanesian, mostly girls who had been brought to the coast of New Guinea
by the blackbirding ships when they had been children. Such was the
mixed group of feminine frailty that was performing and dancing when
Gabrielle entered the tambu temple. The stage walls were richly
decorated with scarlet and white hibiscus blossom that hung on woven
threads. The floors were thickly covered with ornamental matting. On the
walls hung the revered fetish ceremonial implements and sacred taboo
remnants, such as—skulls, old men’s beards, dead maidens’ hair, threaded
human teeth and all that was weirdly suggestive of death and orgyism.
The front of the wide stage was adorned by the hideous fetish idols. The
middle figure was about eight feet high, had four arms, and seemed to be
carved out of one solid lump of wood. It had one mighty yellow tooth
issuing from the carven mouth, which leered in an everlasting grin that
did not seem out of place when the grotesque dances were in full swing.
A serpent-like thing was twined about its wooden arms and again round
the waists of the two somewhat smaller images that stood one on each
side of it. A look of agony was wonderfully expressed by the swollen
veins on the chest, arms and forehead, as the fanged mouth of the strong
embracing reptile gripped the right ear of that symbolical piece of New
Guinea sculptural art. It represented some tragic legendary Malayan
episode; indeed it was a kind of Laocoon of heathen-land; but instead of
being clothed with those symbols of beauty that exalt a lump of carven
insensate wood to a higher state, it was clothed with symbols of
ugliness and lust. And the barbarian sculptor who had achieved this
revolting but still artistic result had fashioned the idol on the
left-hand side with feminine attributes that were physically expressed
from the full wooden lips down to the twisted ivory-nailed toes of the
delicate feet. Notwithstanding the allegorical hint of sexuality in the
huge middle figure (its hideous character was intensified by Nature’s
artless handiwork, for fat-bodied green palm worms crawled in and out of
its stretched wooden lips), it was a truly wonderful bit of work; it
stood there telling with an indisputable voice how strong a force man’s
passions often are.

Even the Rajah had the grace to stand between Gabrielle and that
monstrous wooden trio as they passed them by. The Rajah was getting
wary. A look in Gabrielle’s eyes at times had told him that a fire
smouldered in her soul. And once while on board his schooner she had
lifted his set of crockery presented to him by the Astrolabe German
Missionary Society (together with an illuminated address) and smashed
them to atoms at his feet, calling him such names as he deserved. As for
the tambu dancers who stood by the idols in a semi-nude state, armlets
and leglets and threaded shells jingling on their moving limbs, they
were as wonderful in their way as the South Sea Laocoon. For in some
unexplainable way they did the very things that the idol so hideously
expressed; yet they did not inspire an observer with that artistic
admiration and feeling of terror which the idol inspired. Had it not
been for the love of life that burns so fiercely in youth and her newly
awakened love for Hillary—for Gabrielle still believed that he would
cross her path again—she would have snatched up one of the barbarian
scimitars that lay by the floor-mats of that hellish abode and
dramatically ended her existence.

Koo Macka had fiercely gripped her by the arm as he led her along the
centre transept. The rich scents that came from the abundant wreaths of
exotic flowers on the walls and in calabashes on the floor made
Gabrielle feel sick. A large, black-winged cockatoo, with its right foot
chained to a small pedestal on which it stood, looked sideways at
Gabrielle and started to yell its discordant language in a most vicious
way as it snapped its big curved beak. It was evidently some sacred
tambu bird, for the high priest gazed in horror as the bird flapped its
wings, and glanced up and down at Gabrielle’s white face and
golden-bronze tresses that tumbled over her shoulders.

“Shut up!” yelled the Rajah. In a moment the bird closed its wings and
seemed subdued. This obedience of the bird to the will of the Rajah made
a great impression among the superstitious throng. The chanting maids
and tambu chiefesses lifted their thick-lipped faces and shouted:
“Cowan! Lao Rajahah! a loca Laki, putih bunga bini!” (“The Rajah has
brought unto his people a beautiful flower-like wife!”)

Hideous stout old cannibals lifted coco-nut goblets to their blubbery
lips and forcibly expressed by hideous winks and squints their inward
thoughts about the white girl’s beauty.

It must indeed have been a novel sight to see that bronze-golden-haired
girl led towards the festival altars by their mighty Rajah Koo Macka. As
to what the girl herself was thinking, she was utterly ignorant of the
cause of the hubbub and the barbarian cheering around her. The liquor
that had been forced between her lips had quite dazed her brain. As
Macka’s old _bapa_ came forward from the front row of the squatting
audience and led the tambu dancers up to the stage, Gabrielle only
stared as one stares on a strange scene in a dream. She didn’t move a
muscle as rows of mop-headed Papuan, Malayan and half-caste girls stood
in a row and then threw their limbs about till the treduca shells made
music that harmonised with the lewdness displayed before her happily
unconscious eyes.

It was only when the Rajah stepped forward, attired in full civilised
costume that proclaimed him a member of New Guinea Rajahship, that the
girl began to tremble. The large scarlet waist-sash, the magnificent,
coiled-up turban and the robe that fell to his feet only made him appear
the more terrifying to her eyes.

In a moment he had seized her by the wrist. And in her helpless terror
she did all that he demanded of her—lifted her arms to the roof, chanted
and sang a song with strange words in a strange tongue. Just by her side
sat a raving old _tiki_-priest; he was the finest bit of hideousness
extant; even the big wooden idol before which he repeatedly prostrated
himself had pleasant features compared to that living representative of
the tambu temple creed.

Directly he had finished his weird incantations and hollow-voiced
acclamations he made the tribal sign to the handsome Rajah, who
thereupon immediately stooped and kissed Gabrielle, first on the mouth,
then on her feet, as he fell prone before her. Then he rose, looked into
her eyes and began to chant. To his astonishment the girl looked up at
him, a half smile on her sad face as she swayed her flower-bedecked form
and began to swerve with inimitable grace to the tum-tum of the
barbarian orchestra. She lifted her hands to the wooden ceiling, softly
chanting an old Malayan melody that neither they nor she had ever heard
before. The music of her voice seemed to hold the wild audience
spellbound. And when the girl put forth her hands and responded in a
wonderful way to the mystical passes of the Rajah’s small, womanish
hands, the whole motley crew waved their dusky arms in delight. The
dancing maidens threw their limbs in envious rapture, and tried in vain
to imitate the rhythmical grace of Gabrielle’s trance-like movements.
For all their wild acts, and the jingle of their brass and bone leglets
and armlets as they made their wretched limb-tossings, their performance
was as nothing compared to the white girl’s wondrous grace.

As Gabrielle stopped and stared at the dusky horde of raised faces and
tossing limbs beneath rows of hanging lamps, she seemed to awaken from
her trance-like state. She raised her hands and gave a cry. The whole
audience, who thought that cry was an exclamation expressing some
ecstasy of the moment, renewed their volleys of applause. Only the Rajah
knew the truth, the meaning of that cry. He hurried forward, gripped the
girl’s hand, breathed hotly in her face and murmured, “Come, Bini, mine!
Wife!” Then the Rajah gave a start. Above the guttural cries of the
tambu marriage assembly one voice had begun to ring out shrill and
clear. It was the voice of Maroshe, the Rajah’s long-cast-off tribal
wife. She had been a beautiful Koiari maid when the Rajah, who was ten
years her senior, had first wooed her. But her feminine attractions had
been cruelly brief. The girls of the Papuan races leap into full-blown
womanhood at fourteen, and at twenty-five, sometimes earlier, have
apparently reached old age, their brows and cheeks being seared with
wrinkles. But Maroshe still had a remnant of the old fire gleaming in
her fine eyes. But it was a fire that boded no good for the amorous
Macka as she stood amidst the motley audience and yelled: “_Tao se
cowana tumbi!_” (May the gods send thee twins!)

Macka heard that voice. It was the one voice on earth that could echo
into the depths of his soul and awaken a tinge of remorse in him.
Indeed, as he gripped Gabrielle’s wrist he looked against his will
across the tiers of uplifted dusky faces till his eyes met the magnetic
glance of the scorned Maroshe. Again she held her hand mockingly aloft,
and once more yelled: “_Tao se cowana tumbi!_” The tambu maidens ceased
dancing, and stood with fingers to lips beneath the rows of hanging
lamps. They knew Maroshe, and also knew that something in her voice
revealed the fact that, after all, she still retained her old love for
the Rajah. The huge wooden idol, its big eyes agog, was the only face
that did not express the horror that seemed to transfix every heathen
countenance.

Suddenly Maroshe waved her skinny hand thrice. Then at the sight of her
late husband standing there with a new bride, and a white girl to boot,
she lowered her wrinkled but still half-beautiful face and disappeared.
Macka gave a sigh of relief to see her go.

Suddenly the audience seemed to be awakened from their horrified stupor.
“Bang! To woomb!” It was the sound of a monstrous heathen drum banged
twice only, somewhere in a mountain village.

Once more the Rajah gripped Gabrielle by the wrist. “Come, my pretty
putih bunga!”

According to the ceremonial rites of the creeds of Tumba-Tumba,
Gabrielle Everard was now Macka’s wife. That orgy of lust, toddy and
heathen seraglio chanting and dances was a genuine old-time New Guinea
marriage ceremony.

Gabrielle hardly realised all that it meant for her. She placed her hand
to her brow and stared as though she gazed on some strange sight afar
off. The village priests and _darah tiki-tiki_ enchanters and
enchantresses beat their skinny breasts to show their appreciation of
the bride’s beauty. Such an honour had never been theirs before; for had
they not been the means of binding a beautiful white maid in marriage
bonds to one of their own race.

Directly the Rajah got Gabrielle outside the tambu house he pressed hot
kisses on her face. She struggled in that embrace. Her cries brought
hordes of dusky, imp-like girls and mop-headed youths on to the scene.
He desisted in his matrimonial advances. In a moment he had decided to
take her to his old _bapa_.

As Gabrielle once more prepared to enter the Rajah’s homestead, old
_bapa_, and his hideous, baboon-like wife, rushed forth from the palms
just behind, and threw wedding gifts of a suggestive nature upon the
trembling girl. After they had been in the presence of old _bapa_ for
some little time, the Rajah altered his mind, and throwing his body on
the sacred mats of his father’s home expressed a wish to leave the
parental roof and take his bride up to his own private establishment in
the mountains (two miles off), a place where he had taken so many
victims who had fallen under the lure of his university education and
the glory of the Christian apostles.

As the Rajah once more went forth, taking his pretty _putih bini_ up the
little village track that led under the feathery palms and ivory-nut
trees, he gazed upon Gabrielle’s form as only Macka the ex-missionary
could gaze. At last they arrived outside a large wooden building (made
of thick, rough-hewn mahogany logs) situated on the lower slopes of the
Tomba-Tomba Mountains.

The Rajah at once took Gabrielle within. Heaven only knows what the
white girl went through before the Rajah realised that it was no brown
woman he had in his vile power. There had been considerable trouble
before he was finally vanquished and sent about his business; he had
done his best before leaving to become friendly with the girl again. He
knew by her desperate act in jumping overboard on the _Bird of Paradise_
that she was quite likely to attempt to take her life again. The look in
her eyes spoke volumes to him. He told off two of the old ki-ki chiefs,
ordering them to keep strict watch over that wooden building where she
was imprisoned. So the two barbarian sentinels grunted and smoked by the
door and Gabrielle lay down on the thick sleeping mats and tried to
rest.

On the second night the Rajah once more crept into her chamber. He fell
on his knees. He swore she was his beloved spouse in the eyes of God and
the heathen apostles of his own heathen land. He began chanting and
making weird passes, swearing all the while that the idols of the tambu
temple had been placed in the glow of the moonbeams and had spoken.

“They have teller me to come to thee. They say that you must giver
yourself up to me and to my gods. You understand?”

Gabrielle looked in wonder at the man as he fell at her feet, groaning
and wailing. He even wept. She saw the tears in his eyes.

“Gabri-e-arle. I lover th-ee. Thou art my own, my putih bunga,” he
repeated over and over again. He pressed hot kisses on her face. But the
girl struggled and overcame him. Then he diverted her attention and
swiftly placed his old ki-ki drugs in her water goblet. Drugging was,
and is, the highest art in New Guinea, and so he had little fear of the
results not being according to his requirements. Then he went away. He
had not been gone an hour before Gabrielle was startled by hearing the
sound of jabbering outside the tambu door. She could distinctly hear a
pleading voice, as though some native woman wailed and talked to the
sentinels. Then the silence returned, but to her surprise the tappa
curtains of her little chamber were suddenly thrown aside, and a
strange-looking native woman stood before her. It was Maroshe, the late
divorced! She held no stiletto in her hand. No malignant gleam of hatred
shone in her eyes; only a weary look of sorrow as she stood before
Gabrielle. The unexpected visitor fell on her knees and at once began to
chant and mumble mysteriously, as though she thought Gabrielle
understood all the magic of her land.

Gabrielle noticed the note of appeal in her voice. She at once took
heart and bade her rise.

“What’s the matter? What you want?” said Gabrielle, as she tried to
speak to the wailing woman in pidgin-English and made many
gesticulations. At last the white girl seemed to understand.

It was wonderful how swiftly the souls of two women of different races
fathomed each other’s secrets, peered into each other’s eyes and read
all that they wanted to read.

Gabrielle’s sorrow had probably brought to the fore the old instincts
with which Nature originally endowed the human races so that they might
scent danger before it was actually upon them.

Maroshe it seemed could speak a little pidgin-English, and so the two
women were able before long to understand the exact position of things.
Then the native girl, for she was not much more than a girl, kissed
Gabrielle’s hands, fell prone and touched her feet in grovelling
subjection. Tears came into Gabrielle’s eyes as she realised the woman’s
sorrow and observed the swift glance of delight in her eyes as she heard
that she, the white girl, was a most unwilling prisoner in the tambu
marriage chamber. “I comer gain. Me goer now, nicer, whi ladi. You no
putih bunga. Ah!” she said.

Before Gabrielle had realised that the woman was going, Maroshe had
slipped out of the door. But she came again, and under circumstances
that Gabrielle never cared to recall.

The next night the Rajah returned again to the solitary building by the
mountains of Tomba-Tomba. He sent his chieftain sentinels away to their
huts. He stooped his turbaned head as he entered the low doorway, and
approached the girl with the old fascinating look in his fiery eyes.
With the almighty deceit of his race he told her he had relented, and
would take her back to Bougainville. He made her heart leap with hidden
delight as he talked. His voice seemed tender as a woman’s as he poured
forth his semi-Mohammedanistic _vers libre_. Again he knelt before her,
as a bigot heathen might kneel before an idol, and stared into her blue,
frightened eyes.

Gabrielle, as though in a trance, felt his caressing hands; they seemed
shadow hands as his burning words crept into her ears. She heard the
winds sigh outside in the mountain palms. She and he were alone.

“Gabri-ar-le! thou art more than life itself; the moon, the stars, thou
art; and like unto the stars shall our children be!” he murmured in
Biblical tones as he returned to the lingo of the old mission-room. Only
the chantings of the cicalas in the ivory-nut palms disturbed the
silence. Gabrielle felt the strength of those strong hands, the warm
breath of those terrible lips. A mist came before her eyes; she heard
the wild tribal drums beating across the centuries! The Papuan’s voice
sounded far off; a shadowy figure had whipped across the rush-matted
floor as the lamps burnt dimly with a magic light. And still the drums
were beating as though in impatient haste across the centuries. And
still her soul struggled as she fearfully watched for that which her
eyes had surely seen; then, once again, the tappa curtains that
separated her chamber from the door that led straight to the jungle
outside seemed to divide softly. She could not scream as that terrible
thing peeped between the divided curtains, its burning eyes staring upon
her. Its beautiful woman’s head was faintly visible. The eyes gleamed
with rapture as the enchantress from the past stared appealingly,
beckoned to the white girl, nodded her dusky head and besought Gabrielle
to do her bidding! Gabrielle stared wildly round. Only she and the
terrible enchantress faced one another whichever way her eyes turned.
She still peeped beneath the uplifted curtains—now she had begun to
crawl on her belly like unto a serpent. Tears were in the shadow woman’s
eyes! And still Gabrielle heard the drums beating across the mountains,
coming across the silent hills of sleep. And still the struggle went on.
The phantom woman crawled slowly beneath the tappa curtain as the white
girl watched. She noticed the beauty of the smooth, oily,
terra-cotta-hued limbs, the curved, sensuous thighs. At last the
visitant lifted her beautiful shadowy head, and began slowly to rise to
her feet as the tappa curtain fell softly. She had entered Gabrielle’s
chamber! A shadow fell across the girl’s pallid, terror-stricken face,
darkening her eyes. She groped in terrible blindness, just for a moment,
then pushed it from her. She recognised the terrible presence and
recalled in a flash how she had mastered it when it had come to her in
the dead of night in her bedroom, at her old home in Bougainville. She
fell on her knees and prayed. She wrestled with the evil presence in an
indescribable agony of spirit. And then, quite suddenly, the enchantress
who had crept out of the jungle of the past gave a wail—and vanished.

Gabrielle stared round her. The perspiration was dropping from her brow;
she was trembling from head to foot. She was alone! The Rajah, too, had
seen that look in her eyes and had disappeared. In a moment she had
recovered her senses. She rushed into the little off-room where she
slept, and in two seconds was hastily piling up the mahogany boxes and
huge native clubs against the door, so that none could enter without her
knowledge. Then she lay on her rush-matted bed and thanked God.

For now she realised instinctively, with a force amounting to certainty,
that never again would she be haunted by this shadow woman—her dark
ancestress from the past. Gabrielle knew that that struggle in the tambu
house had meant for her a complete spiritual victory. The evil spirit
had been exorcised.

Perhaps also it meant something more. Perhaps it symbolised a physical
triumph over Rajah Macka and his heathen desires. Strange as it may
seem, she no longer felt the same fear of him which had possessed her on
board the ship. She was trying to persuade herself that, after all, he
was only a grotesque heathen, eaten up with his own conceit. And these
thoughts, or something like them, were stirring in her mind when she
finally fell asleep.


Gabrielle had been a close prisoner in the private tambu house for just
eight days before the Rajah came to her again. The girl had almost
recovered from the shock of that terrible visitant from the past and the
Rajah’s advances. Indeed, she had bribed one of the sentinel chiefs by
giving him a tortoise-shell comb from her hair, and so had received
valuable information. She had discovered that there were several white
settlers residing in the villages by Astrolabe Bay, some twenty-five
miles round the coast. And so she had resolved to take flight at the
first opportunity, and risk death in the wild coastal forest in a last
attempt to secure the help of civilised men.

Sunset had sunk over the mountains as she sat hollow-eyed and miserable
in her prison chamber. Gabrielle could hear the terrible tiki priests
chanting and beating drums to their great god Urio Moquru, whose mortal
power was represented in monstrous carven wood somewhere near the sacred
banyans at the foot of the mountains.

Suddenly the Rajah entered her chamber. A fierce, unearthly look gleamed
in his eyes. He did not approach her in his usual oblique fashion; he
caught her by the arm and began to whisper fierce words in her ears:

“Bini mine! You are mine! I curse your race, curse your apostles, your
Christ and all that you damnable Christians believe in!”

The girl stood trembling. What had happened, she wondered. A new feeling
of hope flashed through her misery as the man continued to blaspheme and
rave.

Gabrielle knew nothing about the schooner that had anchored off the
village of Tumba-Tumba that afternoon. But the Rajah knew. He had
watched the obstinate tacking of the schooner for three hours that
afternoon as it persistently hugged the coast. And his apprehensions had
been increased when it had finally anchored within a quarter of a mile
from the shore where his own vessel the _Bird of Paradise_ lay. For the
blackbirding craft had returned the day before from the Bismarck
Archipelago, after disposing of its remaining living freight in the
various slave markets. There was little doubt in Macka’s mind as to
_why_ that craft was hugging the coast. He knew what white men were like
in their wrath, and what they were likely to do when they discovered
that a girl of their own race had been kidnapped in the same manner that
they themselves had kidnapped thousands of natives. He knew that old
Everard, drunkard though he was, would develop a mighty virtue when he
discovered that his own daughter had met a kidnapping fate! He knew also
that many of the Papuans and half-castes of the Solomon Isles had sailed
with him on his blackbirding voyages, and so knew him for a blackbirder
by night and a noble missionary by day. And, realising that those old
shipmates of his would give him away for a bribe, he had come to
Gabrielle with the intention of taking her farther along the coast. He
was determined not to give her up after all his trouble and scheming.

“Gabri-ar-le, I comer you, for I wanter you to fly away from here. I go
forth before dawn, we go together to Arfu where I have many friends and
can make you great princess,” said he, lapsing in his fright into the
old pidgin-English.

A look of horror leapt into the girl’s eyes.

“You promised—you know what you’ve promised about my going home to my
father again?” she murmured.

The man turned his face away. Even he seemed ashamed as he turned aside
and looked through the door out into the night. He put forth his hands
in a pleading way: “Gabri-ar-le, you must, must come, I will——”

He said no more. He turned his head and then rushed to the door. What
was that gabbling? A mob of curious natives, all excited and murmuring
in a hubbub of expectation, were evidently coming up the track that led
to the quiet tambu house.

“What’s that noise? Who are you fetching here?” shouted Gabrielle, as
she heard the sounds coming nearer and nearer.

Then he heard it again—it was a sound that came to Macka’s ears like the
trump of doom!—and to the girl’s ears like the voice of an angel. It was
the sound of a big voice shouting in her own tongue, the English
language:

“By the gods of this b—— cannibal isle, I’ll pulverise him to dust!
Macka! Macka! Where art thou, old missionary of the South Seas? I’m yer
man!”

The Rajah turned a ghastly yellowish hue. He made a rush but he was too
late—Gabrielle caught him by the coat and tripped him up. He fell
headlong to the floor.

A mighty wind like the first breath of warning from a tornado seemed to
blow as a hoarse voice, vibrant with pent-up emotion, said: “In there,
say ye! You god-damned heathen!”

Gabrielle stared, petrified with astonishment; there before her stood
the big rude man who had disturbed Hillary and herself when she sat
singing on the banyan bough by the lagoon in Bougainville. If she was
surprised, it is certain that Rajah Koo Macka was. He thought that the
world had tumbled on his turbaned head as he fell. He struggled to his
feet, and rushed outside the door of the tambu house.

“Stand up!” said Samuel Bilbao, confronting him quite calmly as he began
to tuck up his coat sleeves. Hillary, who had made a rush for Macka, was
stayed by Gabrielle’s hand. She had rushed forward and leapt into his
arms. The attitude of the big Britisher as he stood there, cool as a
cucumber, as calm as though he stood on a village green in England
preparing to exchange fisticuffs in a five minutes’ contest, made every
onlooker step back and form a half-circle behind Ulysses’s back.

“Put your fists up, Macka mine! Old Macka the missionary!” yelled
Ulysses, as he struck the clasp-knife from the man’s hand and threw it,
plop! like a tennis ball into the cook’s hand. The rest of the _Sea
Foam’s_ crew stood just behind, fronting the huddled natives in the
shade of the stunted ivory-nut palms. Some had revolvers in hand ready
to obey Bilbao their esteemed skipper’s wishes.

The Rajah made a desperate rush towards the white man. He saw that his
only chance was to escape through the throng that had encircled him as
he stood there hesitating.

No mercy shone in the depths of those clear, grey, English eyes; no
sympathetic gleam for the swarthy coward who defiled girls, kidnapped
husbands, wives, lovers and children, yet had not the courage to stand
up and protect himself from the fists of a white man.

Ulysses stood with shoulders thrown back, and as the winds from the
mountains blew his yellowish moustache-ends backwards, till they almost
touched his shoulder curves, he looked a veritable Nemesis in dungaree
pants and dilapidated helmet-hat. But a more relentless Nemesis lurked
in the shadows of the jungle, waiting to put the finishing touch to the
Papuan Rajah’s sinister career. It was Maroshe, his long-ago, cast-off
wife, the Koiari maid into whose ears he had once breathed the sacred
ritual vows, when he was in love with her.

She had been the most eager to give Bilbao the information he and
Hillary sought on first coming ashore in that village at sunset. She had
quickly understood why the white men were so anxious to get information
concerning the Rajah’s whereabouts. She knew that they were seeking the
white girl—her rival! The sudden turn of affairs had made her chuckle
with delight. “The gods are kind to me,” she had said to herself. She
had intended that very night to creep into the Rajah’s sleeping-chamber
and deal with him according to the old prescribed rites of her creed,
which had a special punishment for those who dare trample on a maiden’s
vows. She had followed Bilbao and the crew stealthily up the track. She
even heard Gabrielle’s astonished cry before she rushed into her own hut
and made her secret preparations. And now she lay close in the shade of
the jungle, prone on her belly like some half-reptilian, half-human
creature, as she watched her old lover tremble before the glance of the
stern papalagi. She held a goblet in her skinny hand; it was half filled
with a dark fluid. On she crawled, hand over hand and knee over knee,
nearer and nearer to the spot where Macka and Ulysses faced one another.
She chuckled, half-woefully, at the thought of this dramatic opportunity
which would give her her long-desired revenge. The Fates had willed it
so. She had once really loved that man, and it would have been hard to
have approached him whilst he slept in his old _bapa’s_ tambu house. And
there he was, standing in the presence of the white girl whose beauty
inspired her with courage to give him the sacred draught.

“Calre!” (Splendid!) she murmured, as her stiff limbs twinged and she
began to hurry on, seeing the beautiful white girl standing there, her
pretty month open, her blue eyes staring as the men of two races faced
each other. Once more her wrinkled body moved on, softly brushing aside
the scented frangipani blossoms and cinnamon grass. She was now within
twelve yards of the trembling Macka. In a moment she had leapt to her
feet, and made a running jump across the hollow village ditch that
separated her from the two men.

“Holy Moses!” yelled Ulysses, as an apparition seemed to appear before
him. He dodged, making sure that Maroshe was going for him.

Gabrielle, recognising the strange native woman who had come to her in
the tambu house a few nights before, gave a cry of astonishment.

Hillary, who still held his coat in his hand, itching to get at Macka,
and had just begged Gabrielle to let him go, gasped in wonder. He made
sure that the figure that had leapt out of the jungle was the phantom
creature whom he had heard Gabrielle talk about.

All the huddled Papuan, Malayan and Hindu bastard natives made a rush
backwards into the thick jungle groves, and then stuck their chins out
between the thick dark leaves, peering with awestruck eyes, half in
fright and half in curious anticipation. They alone knew the true
history of Macka’s connection with the Koiari woman and of the awful
potency of the sacred goblet that she held in her outstretched hand. As
for Macka, he stood transfixed with terror. His swarthy face had gone
yellowish-brown! Indeed, as his eyes met those of the brown woman, he
gazed with even greater despair into the savage, still half-beautiful
face than he felt when he gazed upon Ulysses. Maroshe, standing there by
the tall palm, her finger pointing towards the crescent moon, that
looked like a gold feather over the mountains, her body clad in the
ornamental shelled, _rami_, looked the part she had come to play in that
night drama by the Tomba Tomba ranges. Her eyes shone like living fire.
She lifted her dusky face till her chin stuck out. One hand held the
goblet slightly aloft, with the other hand she pulled the wrinkled skin
of her shrunken bosom and let it go back, click! and looked sideways at
Gabrielle’s full white throat in a meaning way. The venom of her hatred
for the man before her made her appear terribly old.

Ulysses stepped backwards. He instinctively knew that that weird-looking
woman had the prior right to deal with the Rajah at that particular
moment. Step by step she approached, putting her knees far forward in a
peculiar way. Even the night winds seemed hushed; not a leaf stirred on
the tree-tops. She had begun the old tambu death chant. “Le rami lakai
Putih se lao, darah! Cowan ma saloe!” she wailed, as she chanted the
words of an eerie Malayan fetish melody.

The crew of the _Sea Foam_, the natives, children and
feather-head-dressed chiefs, all watched, spellbound; yellowish faces,
brown faces, white faces looking like some dilapidated collection of men
dumped down there haphazard. The Rajah seemed the only living, movable
presence; his limbs shook violently as he stood in the Fate-like
presence of the faded, half-wild woman who had come in so dramatically
for the final act.

She was swaying her body, making mystical passes with one hand; her
voice trembled in an emotional way as she chanted. The only audible sigh
from all that watching throng came from Gabrielle’s lips. The shells of
the Koiari woman’s _rami_ made a faint tinkle-tinkle as she moved
another step forward.

Macka listened. He understood the meaning of that mumbling song and
heathenish incantation. He did not appeal for mercy. Strange as it may
seem, he looked half sadly on the faded beauty of the Koiari woman who
had once lain in his arms, had felt the passion of his caresses long
ago. For a moment she stood perfectly still before him, not in
hesitation, but with a look in her eyes as though she would recall some
old memory before she did that which the gods had decreed.

It was only a moment’s respite. Up went her hand, taking the goblet
right up against the Rajah’s chin quite gently, as though she would bid
him drink once again of some old love-token—before he died! She tossed
her hand up, very carefully, so that there should be no mistake—she had
thrown the contents of the goblet!

The terribly potent vitriol smoked on his face!

A cry of horror went up from Ulysses’ lips and from all the watching
crew. The natives yelled out in anguish. Even the mangy Papuan tribal
dog, sitting close to the idol’s wooden feet, lifted its nose to the
crescent moon and howled. The sight of the Rajah’s eyes had gone!
Standing there, blind, his face seared with fire, the fumes from the
goblet issuing from the top of his tilted turban and rising in a
shivering vapour to the palms above his head, he made a terrible
picture! He violently clapped his hands to his face. He began to dance
in a wild frenzy. His mind was shattered with pain. He jumped and
jumped, stamping on the ground as though he would crush his very soul
out with his feet.

Notwithstanding all that the man had done to Hillary the young
apprentice felt some sympathy for the afflicted Rajah. It was so
unexpected. Ulysses, who had sworn to do so much when he had Macka in
his grasp, re-echoed the horror, the murmur that went up from the
huddled, onlooking crew. And no wonder, for as they watched a woman’s
scream of anguish echoed to the mountains. In a moment they all moved
back as the Rajah, hearing that scream, put his hand forth in mute
appeal. _He_ heard the sympathetic wail in that blood-curdling cry. The
final act of the terrible drama, enacted before Ulysses and his crew,
was strangely in harmony with its wild setting. None expected that final
act, the thrilling exit from the stage when Maroshe the Koiari woman
forgave and became united to the Rajah! Mango Pango jumped with fright
and clutched Bilbao’s arm. “Saver me, poor Mango,” she wailed. Bilbao
dispelled the tense silence by yelling out: “By thunder!”

The hollow-eyed mate stood like a spectre of misery who saw retribution
ahead as he lifted his shrunken hands and stared upward at the stars.

The hubbub of the cowardly natives had suddenly ceased as they too
watched Macka’s exit from his old life. Gabrielle clutched Hillary in
fear; indeed, every onlooker drew in a mighty breath as they saw them
go—Macka, a blind, groping figure, looking like some demon of the night
flying onward, and shouting in his Malayan tongue, one hand waving in
the air, Maroshe clinging to his other arm. They were reunited at last,
and she was leading him away to watch over him in his eternal darkness.

For quite twenty seconds Ulysses and all the crew stared after them.

By now the cowardly natives, who had sought to give no help to one of
their own kind, had begun their infernal hubbub and were clamouring
round Ulysses, begging for the several bribes he had promised should
they lead him to the place where the Rajah had taken the white girl.

Bilbao, who had lived with the natives from Dampier Strait to Sarawak,
Borneo, knew they were a treacherous lot and liable to turn on him and
his scanty crew at any moment, so he was anxious to get back to the _Sea
Foam_. He wiped the perspiration from his brow. His voice was almost
gentle as he turned to Hillary and Gabrielle and said, with evidently
simulated calm: “I say, we’d better clear out of this at once.” Then he
turned to the crew: “Hurry up, boys; let’s get back to the boats.” The
sallow mate, who had fallen down in a kind of fit, rose to his feet, and
stood swaying like a branch in a wind as he brushed the dust from his
brass-bound, peaked cap.

In a moment Hillary, Gabrielle, Mango Pango and the crew had started
off, hurrying down the track as Ulysses led the way; the natives came
clamouring behind them, whirling and humming in guttural appeals like
bunches of monstrous two-legged stalk-flies.

It all seemed like a wonderful dream to Hillary as Gabrielle once more
walked by his side, her hair blowing against his face. Even dusky Mango
Pango had a shadowy look as she clung to Gabrielle’s arm, her broad
showy yellow sash blowing out behind her as the two girls kept close to
the heels of the hurrying crew.

“Don’t tremble, dear. I’ve come, you see. I never thought to see you
again,” said Hillary, as he realised that he did not move through a
shadow world of phantoms and dreams.

“I knew you’d come,” said Gabrielle, as she looked him in the eyes.

Hillary half noticed that strange look of her in the hurry and bustle of
the flight back to the boats—a bustle and hurry that Gabrielle
appreciated. At last they arrived on the beach. In a moment the natives
who were waiting paddled their canoes to the shore. A tremendous hubbub
had begun just behind them. What was it?

Gabrielle gasped as she heard that loud, terrible voice yelling from far
off: “Butih Bunga, my kali bini!”

It was the enraged voice of old _bapa_ (Macka’s father) hurrying through
the jungle. He wanted to know where his son was, and so he called aloud
for the beautiful white wife (_putih bini_).

The natives whom Ulysses had bribed had rushed straight away to Macka’s
people and told them all that had occurred.

“Hurry up, you damned niggers,” yelled Ulysses, as he looked behind him.
He was busy undoing the knotted tackle that held the ship’s boat.

“Now we shan’t be long!” he said, as he gave a low whistle. For he had
spotted the huddled masses of dusky figures who had just rushed out of
the forest of mahogany-trees, as old _bapa_ drove them on, keeping
warily behind them! Old _bapa_ could distinctly be seen waving his arms
as he came into sight just round the edge of the belt of mangroves; he
was following closely behind the heathen horde who were rushing down to
the beach. From the loud shouts, and the courage of the pursuers, it was
every evident that old _bapa_ was yelling forth mighty promises of
prizes for those who could clutch hold of the Rajah’s _putih bini_.

“Jump into the boat, never mind me,” whispered Hillary. In a moment
Gabrielle was safely sitting just behind Mango Pango in the ship’s one
boat, as the rest of the crew embarked in the unstable canoes in which
they had come ashore.

Hillary and Ulysses still stood on the shore. As the apprentice turned
his head he saw a dusky Papuan crouch down by the reefs just up the
shore. Swish! A spear was thrown.

“Crack! crack!” Hillary had fired his revolver to make sure. He was
taking no risks. Old _bapa’s_ voice was still shouting lustily, till his
words echoed in the mountains: “Putih bini! The Rajah’s beautiful bunga
bini!” And though the top of the dusky Papuan’s head had been blown off,
and Ulysses had given a muffled oath and told Hillary to jump into the
canoe and not stand there on the beach writing poetry, those dreadful
words echoed in the young apprentice’s brain—for he knew the meaning of
them.

Hillary, recovering his mental equilibrium, turned to embark, and was
helped by a shove from the irritated Ulysses into the canoe.

In a moment the paddles were splashing. They were off! The covey of
canoes shot out into the silent waters of the forest-locked bay! In a
quarter of an hour they had all safely reached the decks of the
hospitable _Sea Foam_.

“Clear off, you niggers,” said Ulysses, as the clamouring natives
received payment for the job in tins of condensed milk, sugar, tea and
tobacco plug. But still they clamoured for more! In no time Ulysses had
picked up a deck broom and cleared them over the side, back into their
canoes. In less than an hour the _Sea Foam_ was stealing along the coast
to the north-west.

It appeared that Samuel Bilbao had got wind that the North German
steamer _Lubeck_ was about due from Apia, bound for the ports of German
New Guinea along the western coast. The _Sea Foam_ was right dead in the
trading course. He was anxious to get Hillary and Gabrielle off the _Sea
Foam_ in case of trouble. Ulysses was no fool: he well knew that the
original skipper of the _Sea Foam_ would not stagnate in Bougainville,
but would make a hue-and-cry and seek Government help to trace the
whereabouts of his vessel. Bilbao loved liberty, and the idea of
languishing for five or ten years in some island _calaboose_ (jail) or
in Darlinghurst, New South Wales, a punishment that would not be out of
place in the verdict of the kindest judge and jury extant, made him
anxious to seek the outer seas. Consequently, before dawn the _Sea Foam_
once more dropped anchor, under the cover of dark, some miles to the
east of Astrolabe Bay.

“Come along, boy, now’s yer chance. Bring the gal forward,” said
Ulysses, as he put his hand to his brow and scanned the sea horizon.

“What’s the matter?” whispered Gabrielle, as she stepped forward, half
recovering from the stupor that had made her fall asleep as she had
sobbed in Hillary’s arms under the awning aft. Hillary, who had hardly
spoken a word to her during the three hours they had been on board the
_Sea Foam_, said: “We are going to leave the _Sea Foam_. Our friend here
has got to fly, to go a voyage that we cannot take.” Hillary said no
more. He could not very well explain to the girl, especially in her
distressed condition, _how_ Samuel Bilbao had obtained possession of the
_Sea Foam_ and that now that Gabrielle had been rescued from the
kidnapper, Macka, he must sail her to remote isles where he could strand
her, make a bolt, or do anything he liked except go back to
Bougainville. Indeed, Ulysses, Hillary and the bilious, haunted mate had
planned the whole programme before they had first dropped anchor off
Tumba-Tumba. Ulysses knew that Hillary could easily obtain a passage
from Astrolabe Bay for the Admiralty Isles, and then again ship for
Bougainville. And so it happened that at the first flush of dawn, when
all the stars were taking flight, Samuel Bilbao put forth his big hand
and gripped Hillary affectionately by the wrist: “Farewell, pal; good
luck to ye.”

“Good-bye, Bilbao; and may good luck come to you,” said Hillary, with
deep meaning and sincerity in his voice as he looked into the clear eyes
of the Homeric sailorman.

“Awaie! O le Sona Gaberlel,” wailed sad Mango Pango, as she threw her
arms affectionately round the white girl’s neck. She had known Gabrielle
as a child in Bougainville. For a moment the two girls wept. It was a
strange sight to see Mango Pango’s brown arms entwined with Gabrielle’s
white arms as they bade each other farewell and wept together. They were
only girls after all. Then the mate crept out of the shadows of the
awning aft; he had worried so much over his share in stealing the _Sea
Foam_ and in helping to install Ulysses as skipper, and he had so
reduced his frame, that he seemed to consist only of clothes and bones,
a veritable skeleton of sorrow with a cheese-cutter on its skull.
“Farewell, for ever, friends; farewell!” he almost sobbed, as his bones
creaked. At hearing that melancholy voice, Samuel Bilbao, in his
thunderous, inconsequential style, gave a loud guffaw and brought his
fist down with wonderful artistic gentleness on the mate’s bowed form.
Had Ulysses struck the mate with his usual forcible exuberance he would
have surely doubled up as though he were no more than a bit of muslin
wrapped round an upright skeleton.

Then Ulysses gently took hold of Gabrielle’s hand and said: “I knew yer
brave old father years ago!” Then he added: “Good-bye, girl; he’s a good
boy, he is.”

Hillary felt truly sorry to say farewell to that strange man of the
seas. Samuel Bilbao still held the girl’s hand. His voice had gone as
tender as the girl’s. And Mango Pango’s eyes looked very fierce as
Ulysses, stooping forward, bent one knee with a massive gallantry that
belonged to another age:

“Farewell, Miss Gabrielle; farewell!”

Even the huddled crew seemed to come under the spell of Bilbao’s
personality as the first pallid hint of dawn swept across the seas. A
hot wind from the inland forests on the starboard side stirred Ulysses’
magnificent moustache as he slowly rose to his feet, and with his hand
arched over his clear blue eyes stared seaward. Then he lifted his
dilapidated helmet-hat. The soft sea winds fluttered the bronze-hued
curls that hung like an insignia of chivalry over his lofty brow. With a
magnificent gesture he gently pulled the disheveled golden head towards
his big bosom, then softly kissed Gabrielle’s upturned face as though he
had loved her a thousand years ago, and now, once again, they must part,
each going their separate ways.

Gabrielle couldn’t help coming under the influence of that extraordinary
man: she too felt a definite sorrow over the parting. And as she looked
up into the flushed, honest countenance, half in wonder at her own
thoughts, and caught one glimpse from those fine eyes, she saw the
_real_ Ulysses—all that he might have been.

“Captain, it’s a-getting loight, dye’s a-coming!” came like a rasp from
the Cockney seaman. But even that voice could hardly break the romance
of the farewell scene.

Then a mist seemed to come over the silent world as Ulysses, standing
like a giant on deck amidst his wondering crew, dissolved into the
shadows.

“Dip, dip,” went the splashing oars as Gabrielle and Hillary looked into
each other’s eyes. They were in the ship’s boat being rowed hurriedly
ashore at Aufurao.

Half-an-hour after they both stood on the beach of a strange, desolate
land. Sunrise had just begun to throw ineffable hues over the mountain
peaks just behind them. Once more they stared seaward and saw the _Sea
Foam_ fading away on the wine-dark seas, the sails fast disappearing
like a grey bird, taking Ulysses, his remorseful mate and crew, and
laughing Mango Pango, beyond the horizon, out of sight, far from their
aching, watching eyes.


It was a wild god-forsaken spot where Hillary and Gabrielle found
themselves stranded. They were miles away from A——, where a scanty
population of white men, half-a-dozen in all, owned copra, coffee and
sugar plantations. But though it was the wildest spot in the whole of
New Guinea, the young apprentice preferred it to any other. Even the
great loneliness, that seemed to come out of the wide, endless seas into
which the _Sea Foam_ had faded, was more welcome than his own thoughts.

“Come on, Gabrielle,” he said, as he sighed, and looked seaward. He
thought how he was seeing the great world with a vengeance, reaping
life’s full meed of romance and sorrow. He realised how one by one his
old ideals had disappeared, receding into the past like frightened
birds. But who can tell what thoughts haunted the young apprentice as
the tropic sun blazed over the wild coast of New Guinea and as
Gabrielle, exhausted, slept beneath the mountain trees.

As she lay there in the leafy glooms of the dwarf ivory-nut palms, he
looked down on her sleeping face till the soft-lashed eyelids seemed to
be two tiny graves wherein lay buried all the purest passion of his
dreams.

Up in the tall, dark-green-fingered palms a strange yellow iris bird was
singing. And it seemed to him that it had come to serenade him in his
loneliness and whistle some hope into his heart. Then it flew away, and
he, too, lay down and slept till once more the great tropic night crept
with stars over that wild, godforsaken forest coast. He heard the call
of the red-wings in the jungle and the forest that ran sheer to the
rugged mountains that overlooked the shore. It seemed that he and she
dwelt alone in all that primitive world of sombre forest lands and
interminable gullies.

“Gabrielle, we must get away from here,” he said, as she stood beside
him trembling. She had just awakened from a dream that had given her
Hillary’s love and the security of civilisation far from the unreal
world of jungle that met her eyes.

“Come on, Gabrielle.” The girl took his hand like an obedient child, and
then walked with him out on to the reefs where the waves came hurrying
in, tossing their white, foamy hands by the caves and coral bars.
Neither spoke one word about the arranged trip up the coast to the
settlements, and of the _Lubeck_, N.G.L. steamer, and all that Ulysses
had so carefully planned, so that they might not be stranded on that
dreadful, fever-stricken coast. It seemed that they had read each
other’s souls and by instinctive communion stood there caring not where
their steps might take them so long as they were together.

As they stood there at the edge of the promontory, beneath the bright
stars, Hillary half imagined he stood again on the old hulk off
Bougainville; the two dead screw-pines ahead of them looked just like
the rotting masts of an old wreck.

“Come nearer, dearest,” said the young apprentice, just as he had done
on the derelict hulk. Then he said: “Gabrielle, don’t cry, dearest. I
love you with all my heart and soul. I realise now how you must have
felt that night on the old hulk off Bougainville, when you wanted me to
jump into the sea and die with you.”

He pulled her softly towards him, rained impassioned kisses on her mouth
and once more looked down into the depths of her eyes. Their lips met
again and again. He placed his fingers in the folds of her glorious hair
and breathed the music of his soul into her ears.

Like some herald of a phantom day, a great radiance flushed the
horizon—it was the moon rising far out to sea. It was then that Hillary
looked into the girl’s eyes and said tenderly: “Is this to be the end,
dearest?”

“I’ll go anywhere with you,” said Gabrielle.

A soft drift of wind came across the hot seas, ruffled the glassy deep
swell of the ocean, blowing Gabrielle’s tresses out as she stood there.
Nor did the torn blue blouse, the dilapidated shoes and her
jungle-scratched face impair her beauty.

Gabrielle simply pressed her lips to his and repeated: “I’ll go wherever
you go.”

It was not till then that Hillary realised the soundness of Ulysses’
advice. A moment before in his dreamy, melancholy mood he had thought of
putting out to sea with Gabrielle in an old canoe which he had found
among the reefs. It would make so romantic a climax to their adventure:
he had thought of the mysterious and wonderful shores on which they
might find themselves driven by the sea, without chart or compass.
Gabrielle said she would go wherever he went. Well, after all, they
would make their way to the small white settlement, and see what turned
up then. Hillary would probably be able to find a ship to take him and
Gabrielle away. And then—and then.

He turned again to the girl who was still staring out to sea.

“Are you ready?” he said, rousing himself. “For it seems to me the first
thing we’ve got to do is a good long tramp. That’ll bring us to the
settlement. Don’t you want to see people who are more or less civilised
once again?”

“Of course I do. But when you said that about going away with you
wherever you went, I thought—I thought you meant——” She hesitated.

“Oh! so you thought that,” said Hillary. “Well, never mind. Come, we
ought to make a move. And as we go you can tell me of everything that’s
happened.” His face darkened. “Gabrielle,” he added a moment later, “you
know that I always believed in you.”

“Yes,” she added simply. “And—and, Hillary, thank God you _were_ in time
to rescue me from that Rajah Macka. Oh, if you had been too late!”

Hillary for a moment turned away, his eyes wet with emotion. He had
feared such unutterable things.

“Yes,” he said, his voice hardly steady; “thank God, we were in time.
What an adventure it has been. But now everything seems to have come
right again. And I’ve got you for always, haven’t I?” he added. And the
wind, singing in the palms, drifted a tress of Gabrielle’s hair against
his face as they stood there gazing on the great moonlit ocean before
them.





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