Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

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

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

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE CORAL ISLAND

_A Tale Of The Pacific Ocean_



BY

R. M. BALLANTYNE



PREFACE


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

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

                                       RALPH ROVER.



CONTENTS

CHAP.

     I. MY EARLY LIFE AND CHARACTER
    II. THE DEPARTURE--A DREADFUL STORM
   III. THE CORAL ISLAND
    IV. OUR ISLAND DESCRIBED--CURIOUS DISCOVERIES
     V. ENCHANTING EXCURSIONS AMONG THE CORAL GROVES
    VI. AN EXCURSION INTO THE INTERIOR
   VII. HORRIBLE ENCOUNTER WITH A SHARK
  VIII. THE BEAUTIES OF THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA TEMPT PETERKIN TO DIVE
    IX. PREPARE FOR A JOURNEY ROUND THE ISLAND
     X. MAKE DISCOVERY OF MANY EXCELLENT ROOTS AND FRUITS
    XI. EFFECTS OF OVER-EATING, AND REFLECTIONS THEREON
   XII. SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE TANK
  XIII. NOTABLE DISCOVERY AT THE SPOUTING CLIFFS
   XIV. STRANGE PECULIARITY OF THE TIDES
    XV. BOAT-BUILDING EXTRAORDINARY
   XVI. THE BOAT LAUNCHED--WE VISIT THE CORAL REEF
  XVII. A MONSTER WAVE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
 XVIII. AN AWFUL STORM AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
  XVIX. AN UNEXPECTED VISIT AND AN APPALLING BATTLE
    XX. INTERCOURSE WITH THE SAVAGES--CANNIBALISM PREVENTED
   XXI. A SAIL!--AN UNEXPECTED SALUTE
  XXII. I FALL INTO THE HANDS OF PIRATES
 XXIII. A STRANGE SAIL, AND A STRANGE CREW
  XXIV. UNPLEASANT PROSPECTS
   XXV. THE SANDAL-WOOD PARTY
  XXVI. MISCHIEF BREWING--MY BLOOD IS MADE TO RUN COLD
 XXVII. REFLECTIONS--THE WOUNDED MAN
XXVIII. ALONE ON THE DEEP--NECESSITY THE MOTHER OF INVENTION
  XXIX. THE EFFECT OF A CANNON-SHOT
   XXX. THE VOYAGE
  XXXI. A STRANGE AND BLOODY BATTLE
 XXXII. AN UNEXPECTED DISCOVERY
XXXIII. THE FLIGHT--THE PURSUIT
 XXXIV. IMPRISONMENT--SINKING HOPES
  XXXV. CONCLUSION



THE CORAL ISLAND



Chapter I

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter II

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter III

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack shook his head.

"Are they lost?"

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

"Poor fellows!" I murmured sorrowfully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The court-jester," interrupted Jack.

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

"But suppose there are no natives?"

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

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

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

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



Chapter IV

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


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

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

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

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

"The oar! We have forgotten the oar."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Well--no, perhaps not."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter V

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter VI

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We now resumed our journey, resolving that, in our future excursions
into the interior, we would be careful to avoid this dangerous
precipice. Soon afterwards we arrived at the foot of the hill and
prepared to ascend it. Here Jack made a discovery which caused us all
very great joy. This was a tree of a remarkably beautiful appearance,
which Jack confidently declared to be the celebrated bread-fruit tree.

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

"It is," replied Jack.

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

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

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

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


Peterkin, as usual, was jesting; nevertheless, it is a curious fact
that he spoke almost the literal truth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter VII

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter VIII

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



Our encounter with the shark was the first great danger that had
befallen us since landing on this island, and we felt very seriously
affected by it, especially when we considered that we had so often
unwittingly incurred the same danger before while bathing. We were now
forced to take to fishing again in the shallow water, until we should
succeed in constructing a raft. What troubled us most, however, was,
that we were compelled to forego our morning swimming excursions. We
did, indeed, continue to enjoy our bathe in the shallow water, but Jack
and I found that one great source of our enjoyment was gone, when we
could no longer dive down among the beautiful coral groves at the
bottom of the lagoon. We had come to be so fond of this exercise, and
to take such an interest in watching the formations of coral and the
gambols of the many beautiful fish amongst the forest of red and green
seaweeds, that we had become quite familiar with the appearance of the
fish and the localities that they chiefly haunted. We had also become
expert divers. But we made it a rule never to stay long under water at
a time.

Jack told me that to do so often was bad for the lungs, and, instead of
affording us enjoyment, would ere long do us a serious injury. So we
never stayed at the bottom as long as we might have done, but came up
frequently to the top for fresh air, and dived down again immediately.
Sometimes, when Jack happened to be in a humorous frame, he would seat
himself at the bottom of the sea on one of the brain-corals, as if he
were seated on a large paddock-stool, and then make faces at me, in
order, if possible, to make me laugh under water. At first, when he
took me unawares, he nearly succeeded, and I had to shoot to the
surface in order to laugh; but afterwards I became aware of his
intentions, and being naturally of a grave disposition, I had no
difficulty in restraining myself. I used often to wonder how poor
Peterkin would have liked to be with us; and he sometimes expressed
much regret at being unable to join us. I used to do my best to gratify
him, poor fellow, by relating all the wonders that we saw; but this,
instead of satisfying, seemed only to whet his curiosity the more, so
one day we prevailed on him to try to go down with us. But although a
brave boy in every other way, Peterkin was very nervous in the water,
and it was with difficulty we got him to consent to be taken down, for
he could never have managed to push himself down to the bottom without
assistance. But no sooner had we pulled him down a yard or so into the
deep clear water, than he began to struggle and kick violently; so we
were forced to let him go, when he rose out of the water like a cork,
gave a loud gasp and a frightful roar, and struck out for the land with
the utmost possible haste. Now all this pleasure we were to forego, and
when we thought thereon, Jack and I felt very much depressed in our
spirits. I could see, also, that Peterkin grieved and sympathised with
us, for when talking about this matter he refrained from jesting and
bantering us upon it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"'Yes,' said I.

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

Jack laughed, and patted Peterkin on the shoulder.

"But tell us about the candle-nut tree," said I; "you were talking
about it."

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

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

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

"No, not half a mile."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes," I replied.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What say you to it, Jack?"

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

"Eat it," cried Peterkin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter IX

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Very odd," said Jack.

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



Chapter X

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


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

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

"That's a banyan tree."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Very," I replied, stroking my chin.

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

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

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

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

"Hurrah!" shouted Peterkin in the distance.

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

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

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

"Well, I declare!" said Jack.

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter XI

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why, Peterkin, they are penguins!"

"Penguins?" repeated Peterkin.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter XII

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter XII

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


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

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

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

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

"Have?" said Peterkin; "I would _have_ nothing. I didn't say I wanted
to _have;_ I said that I wanted to _do."_

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

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

"What was it?" said I.

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

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

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

"Most remarkable!" said Jack.

"Exceedingly curious!" said I.

"Beats everything!" said Peterkin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Quite ready."

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



Chapter XIV

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Well, what is't?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



Chapter XV

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Certainly, my dear," cried Peterkin, seizing the axe. "What part will
you have? A leg, or a wing, or a piece of the breast--which?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter XVI

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Impossible!" cried Peterkin. "My dear Ralph, you are mistaken; there
is nothing so easy."

"How?" I inquired, in some surprise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharks did not often appear, but we took care never again to bathe in
deep water without leaving one of our number in the boat to give us
warning, if he should see a shark approaching. As for the whales, they
never came into our lagoon, but we frequently saw them spouting in the
deep water beyond the reef. I shall never forget my surprise the first
day I saw one of these huge monsters close to me. We had been rambling
about on the reef during the morning, and were about to re-embark in
our little boat to return home, when a loud blowing sound caused us to
wheel rapidly round. We were just in time to see a shower of spray
falling, and the flukes or tail of some monstrous fish disappear in the
sea a few hundred yards off. We waited some time to see if he would
rise again. As we stood, the sea seemed to open up at our very feet; an
immense spout of water was sent with a snort high into the air, and the
huge, blunt head of a sperm whale rose before us. It was so large that
it could easily have taken our little boat, along with ourselves, into
its mouth! It plunged slowly back into the sea, like a large ship
foundering, and struck the water with its tail so forcibly as to cause
a sound like a cannon shot.

We also saw a great number of flying-fish, although we caught none; and
we noticed that they never flew out of the water except when followed
by their bitter foe the dolphin, from whom they thus endeavoured to
escape. But of all the fish that we saw, none surprised us so much as
those that we used to find in shallow pools after a shower of rain; and
this not on account of their appearance, for they were ordinary-looking
and very small, but on account of their having descended in a shower of
rain! We could account for them in no other way, because the pools in
which we found these fish were quite dry before the shower, and at some
distance above high-water mark. Jack, however, suggested a cause which
seemed to me very probable. We used often to see water-spouts in the
sea. A water-spout is a whirling body of water, which rises from the
sea like a sharp-pointed pillar. After rising a good way, it is met by
a long tongue, which comes down from the clouds; and when the two have
joined, they look something like an hour-glass. The water-spout is then
carried by the wind, sometimes gently, sometimes with violence, over
the sea, sometimes up into the clouds, and then, bursting asunder, it
descends in a deluge. This often happens over the land as well as over
the sea; and it sometimes does much damage, but frequently it passes
gently away. Now, Jack thought that the little fish might perhaps have
been carried up in a water-spout, and so sent down again in a shower of
rain. But we could not be certain as to this point, yet we thought it
likely.

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



Chapter XVII

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter XVIII

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fortunately the cave, although not very deep, was quite dry, so that we
succeeded in making ourselves much more comfortable than could have
been expected. We landed our provisions, wrung the water out of our
garments, spread our sail below us for a carpet, and, after having
eaten a hearty meal, began to feel quite cheerful. But as night drew on
our spirits sank again, for with the daylight all evidence of our
security vanished away. We could no longer see the firm rock on which
we lay, while we were stunned with the violence of the tempest that
raged around us. The night grew pitchy dark as it advanced, so that we
could not see our hands when we held them up before our eyes, and were
obliged to feel each other occasionally to make sure that we were safe,
for the storm at last became so terrible that it was difficult to make
our voices audible. A slight variation of the wind, as we supposed,
caused a few drops of spray ever and anon to blow into our faces; and
the eddy of the sea, in its mad boiling, washed up into our little
creek until it reached our feet and threatened to tear away our boat.

In order to prevent this latter calamity, we hauled the boat farther up
and held the cable in our hands. Occasional flashes of lightning shone
with a ghastly glare through the watery curtains around us, and lent
additional horror to the scene. Yet we longed for those dismal flashes,
for they were less appalling than the thick blackness that succeeded
them. Crashing peals of thunder seemed to tear the skies in twain, and
fell upon our ears through the wild yelling of the hurricane as if it
had been but a gentle summer breeze; while the billows burst upon the
weather side of the island until we fancied that the solid rock was
giving way, and in our agony we clung to the bare ground, expecting
every moment to be whirled away and whelmed in the black howling sea.
Oh, it was a night of terrible anxiety! and no one can conceive the
feelings of intense gratitude and relief with which we at last saw the
dawn of day break through the vapoury mists around us.

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

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

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



Chapter XIX

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Look there," said Jack.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter XX

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter XXI

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack and I seized Peterkin by the arms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Good-bye," answered my comrades.

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

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



Chapter XXII

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A loud laugh burst from the crew at this answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Stop your clapper, Jack," vociferated a third. "Give the boy a junk o'
meat. Don't you see he's a'most going to kick the bucket?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Ralph Rover," I replied.

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

"I never tell lies." said I firmly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter XXIII

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


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

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

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

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

Bill smiled slightly as he replied, "Why, I s'pose it's because I
hain't got nothin' to say!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Lower the boat," cried the captain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Ay," said a man with a deep scar over his right eye, "Dick's new to
the work. But if the captain takes us for a cargo o' sandal-wood to the
Feejees, he'll get a taste o' these black gentry in their native
condition. For my part, I don't know and I don't care what the Gospel
does to them, but I know that when any o' the islands chance to get it,
trade goes all smooth and easy; but where they ha'nt got it, Beelzebub
himself could hardly desire better company."

"Well, you ought to be a good judge," cried another, laughing, "for
you've never kept any company but the worst all your life!"

"Ralph Rover!" shouted a voice down the hatchway, "captain wants you,
aft."

Springing up the ladder, I hastened to the cabin, pondering as I went
the strange testimony borne by these men to the effect of the Gospel on
savage natures--testimony which, as it was perfectly disinterested, I
had no doubt whatever was strictly true.

On coming again on deck, I found Bloody Bill at the helm, and as we
were alone together, I tried to draw him into conversation. After
repeating to him the conversation in the forecastle about the
missionaries, I said--

"Tell me, Bill, is this schooner really a trader in sandal-wood?"

"Yes, Ralph, she is; but she's just as really a pirate. The black flag
you saw flying at the peak was no deception."

"Then how can you say she's a trader?" asked I.

"Why, as to that, she trades when she can't take by force; but she
takes by force when she can, in preference. Ralph," he added, lowering
his voice, "if you had seen the bloody deeds that I have witnessed done
on these decks, you would not need to ask if we were pirates. But
you'll find it out soon enough. As for the missionaries, the captain
favours them because they are useful to him. The South Sea Islanders
are such incarnate fiends that they are the better of being tamed, and
the missionaries are the only men who can do it."

Our track after this lay through several clusters of small islets,
among which we were becalmed more than once. During this part of our
voyage the watch on deck and the look-out at the masthead were more
than usually vigilant, as we were not only in danger of being attacked
by the natives (who, I learned from the captain's remarks, were a
bloody and deceitful tribe at this group), but we were also exposed to
much risk from the multitudes of coral reefs that rose up in the
channels between the islands, some of them just above the surface,
others a few feet below it. Our precautions against the savages, I
found, were indeed necessary.

One day we were becalmed among a group of small islands, most of which
appeared to be uninhabited. As we were in want of fresh water, the
captain sent the boat ashore to bring off a cask or two. But we were
mistaken in thinking there were no natives; for scarcely had we drawn
near to the shore when a band of naked blacks rushed out of the bush
and assembled on the beach, brandishing their clubs and spears in a
threatening manner. Our men were well armed, but refrained from showing
any signs of hostility, and rowed nearer in order to converse with the
natives; and I now found that more than one of the crew could
imperfectly speak dialects of the language peculiar to the South Sea
Islanders. When within forty yards of the shore, we ceased rowing, and
the first mate stood up to address the multitude; but instead of
answering us, they replied with a shower of stones, some of which cut
the men severely. Instantly our muskets were levelled, and a volley was
about to be fired, when the captain hailed us in a loud voice from the
schooner, which lay not more than five or six hundred yards off the
shore.

"Don't fire!" he shouted angrily. "Pull off to the point ahead of you."

The men looked surprised at this order, and uttered deep curses as they
prepared to obey, for their wrath was roused and they burned for
revenge. Three or four of them hesitated, and seemed disposed to mutiny.

"Don't distress yourselves, lads," said the mate, while a bitter smile
curled his lip. "Obey orders. The captain's not the man to take an
insult tamely. If Long Tom does not speak presently I'll give myself to
the sharks."

The men smiled significantly as they pulled from the shore, which was
now crowded with a dense mass of savages, amounting probably to five or
six hundred. We had not rowed off above a couple of hundred yards when
a loud roar thundered over the sea, and the big brass gun sent a
withering shower of grape point-blank into the midst of the living
mass, through which a wide lane was cut, while a yell, the like of
which I could not have imagined, burst from the miserable survivors as
they fled to the woods. Amongst the heaps of dead that lay on the sand
just where they had fallen, I could distinguish mutilated forms
writhing in agony, while ever and anon one and another rose
convulsively from out the mass, endeavoured to stagger towards the
wood, and ere they had taken a few steps, fell and wallowed on the
bloody sand. My blood curdled within me as I witnessed this frightful
and wanton slaughter; but I had little time to think, for the captain's
deep voice came again over the water towards us: "Pull ashore, lads,
and fill your water-casks." The men obeyed in silence, and it seemed to
me as if even their hard hearts were shocked by the ruthless deed. On
gaining the mouth of the rivulet at which we intended to take in water,
we found it flowing with blood, for the greater part of those who were
slain had been standing on the banks of the stream, a short way above
its mouth. Many of the wretched creatures had fallen into it, and we
found one body, which had been carried down, jammed between two rocks,
with the staring eyeballs turned towards us, and his black hair waving
in the ripples of the blood-red stream. No one dared to oppose our
landing now, so we carried our casks to a pool above the murdered
group, and having filled them, returned on board. Fortunately, a breeze
sprang up soon afterwards, and carried us away from the dreadful spot;
but it could not waft me away from the memory of what I had seen.

"And this," thought I, gazing in horror at the captain, who, with a
quiet look of indifference, leaned upon the taffrail smoking a cigar
and contemplating the fertile green islets as they passed like a lovely
picture before our eyes--"this is the man who favours the missionaries
because they are useful to him and can tame the savages better than any
one else can do it!" Then I wondered in my mind whether it were
possible for any missionary to tame _him_!



Chapter XXIV

Bloody Bill is communicative and sagacious--Unpleasant
prospects--Retrospective meditations interrupted by volcanic
agency--The pirates negotiate with a Feejee chief--Various etceteras
that are calculated to surprise and horrify.


It was many days after the events just narrated ere I recovered a
little of my wonted spirits. I could not shake off the feeling for a
long time that I was in a frightful dream, and the sight of our captain
filled me with so much horror that I kept out of his way as much as my
duties about the cabin would permit. Fortunately he took so little
notice of me that he did not observe my changed feelings towards him,
otherwise it might have been worse for me.

But I was now resolved that I would run away the very first island we
should land at, and commit myself to the hospitality of the natives
rather than remain an hour longer than I could help in the pirate
schooner. I pondered this subject a good deal, and at last made up my
mind to communicate my intention to Bloody Bill; for during several
talks I had had with him of late, I felt assured that he too would
willingly escape if possible. When I told him of my design he shook his
head. "No, no, Ralph," said he, "you must not think of running away
here. Among some of the groups of islands you might do so with safety,
but if you tried it here you would find that you had jumped out of the
fryin'-pan into the fire."

"How so, Bill?" said I; "would the natives not receive me?"

"That they would, lad; but they would eat you too."

"Eat me!" said I in surprise; "I thought the South Sea Islanders never
ate anybody except their enemies."

"Humph!" ejaculated Bill. "I s'pose 'twas yer tender-hearted friends in
England that put that notion into your head. There's a set o'
soft-hearted folk at home that I knows on who don't like to have their
feelin's ruffled, and when you tell them anything they don't like--that
shocks them, as they call it--no matter how true it be, they stop their
ears and cry out, 'Oh, that is _too_ horrible! We can't believe that!'
An' they say truth. They can't believe it 'cause they won't believe it.
Now, I believe there's thousands o' the people in England who are sich
born drivellin' _won't-believers_ that they think the black fellows
hereaways at the worst eat an enemy only now an' then, out o' spite;
whereas I know for certain, and many captains of the British and
American navies know as well as me, that the Feejee Islanders eat not
only their enemies but one another; and they do it not for spite, but
for pleasure. It's _fact_ that they prefer human flesh to any other.
But they don't like white men's flesh so well as black; they say it
makes them sick."

"Why, Bill," said I, "you told me just now that they would eat me if
they caught me."

"So I did, and so I think they would. I've only heard some o' them say
they don't like white men _so well_ as black; but if they was hungry
they wouldn't be particular. Anyhow, I'm sure they would kill you. You
see, Ralph, I've been a good while in them parts, and I've visited the
different groups of islands oftentimes as a trader. And thorough-goin'
blackguards some o' them traders are; no better than pirates, I can
tell you. One captain that I sailed with was not a chip better than the
one we're with now. He was trading with a friendly chief one day,
aboard his vessel. The chief had swum off to us with the thing for
trade tied atop of his head, for them chaps are like otters in the
water. Well, the chief was hard on the captain, and would not part with
some o' his things. When their bargainin' was over they shook hands,
and the chief jumped overboard to swim ashore; but before he got forty
yards from the ship the captain seized a musket and shot him dead. He
then hove up anchor and put to sea, and as we sailed along the shore,
he dropped six black fellows with his rifle, remarkin' that 'that would
spoil the trade for the next comers.' But, as I was sayin', I'm up to
the ways o' these fellows. One o' the laws o' the country is, that
every shipwrecked person who happens to be cast ashore, be he dead or
alive, is doomed to be roasted and eaten. There was a small tradin'
schooner wrecked off one of these islands when we were lyin' there in
harbour during a storm. The crew was lost, all but three men, who swam
ashore. The moment they landed they were seized by the natives and
carried up into the woods. We knew pretty well what their fate would
be, but we could not help them, for our crew was small, and if we had
gone ashore they would likely have killed us all. We never saw the
three men again; but we heard frightful yelling and dancing and
merrymaking that night; and one of the natives, who came aboard to
trade with us next day, told us that the _long pigs_, as he called the
men, had been roasted and eaten, and their bones were to be converted
into sail-needles. He also said that white men were bad to eat, and
that most o' the people on shore were sick."

I was very much shocked and cast down in my mind at this terrible
account of the natives, and asked Bill what he would advise me to do.
Looking round the deck to make sure that we were not overheard, he
lowered his voice and said, "There are two or three ways that we might
escape, Ralph, but none o' them's easy. If the captain would only sail
for some o' the islands near Tahiti, we might run away there well
enough, because the natives are all Christians; an' we find that
wherever the savages take up with Christianity they always give over
their bloody ways, and are safe to be trusted. I never cared for
Christianity myself," he continued in a soliloquising voice, "and I
don't well know what it means; but a man with half an eye can see what
it does for these black critters. However, the captain always keeps a
sharp lookout after us when we get to these islands, for he half
suspects that one or two o' us are tired of his company. Then we might
manage to cut the boat adrift some fine night when it's our watch on
deck, and clear off before they discovered that we were gone.' But we
would run the risk o' bein' caught by the blacks, I wouldn't like to
try that plan. But you and I will think over it, Ralph, and see what's
to be done. In the meantime it's our watch below, so I'll go and turn
in."

Bill then bade me good-night, and went below, while a comrade took his
place at the helm; but feeling no desire to enter into conversation
with him, I walked aft, and leaning over the stern, looked down into
the phosphorescent waves that gurgled around the rudder, and streamed
out like a flame of blue light in the vessel's wake. My thoughts were
very sad, and I could scarce refrain from tears as I contrasted my
present wretched position with the happy, peaceful time I had spent on
the Coral Island with my dear companions. As I thought upon Jack and
Peterkin, anxious forebodings crossed my mind, and I pictured to myself
the grief and dismay with which they would search every nook and corner
of the island, in a vain attempt to discover my dead body; for I felt
assured that if they did not see any sign of the pirate schooner or
boat when they came out of the cave to look for me, they would never
imagine that I had been carried away. I wondered, too, how Jack would
succeed in getting Peterkin out of the cave without my assistance; and
I trembled when I thought that he might lose presence of mind, and
begin to kick when he was in the tunnel! These thoughts were suddenly
interrupted and put to flight by a bright red blaze which lighted up
the horizon to the southward and cast a crimson glow far over the sea.
This appearance was accompanied by a low growling sound, as of distant
thunder, and at the same time the sky above us became black, while a
hot, stifling wind blew around us in fitful gusts.

The crew assembled hastily on deck, and most of them were under the
belief that a frightful hurricane was pending; but the captain, coming
on deck, soon explained the phenomena.

"It's only a volcano," said he. "I knew there was one hereabouts, but
thought it was extinct. Up there and furl top-gallant sails; we'll
likely have a breeze, and it's well to be ready."

As he spoke a shower began to fall, which we quickly observed was not
rain but fine ashes. As we were many miles distant from the volcano,
these must have been carried to us from it by the wind. As the captain
had predicted, a stiff breeze soon afterwards sprang up, under the
influence of which we speedily left the volcano far behind us; but
during the greater part of the night we could see its lurid glare and
hear its distant thunder. The shower did not cease to fall for several
hours, and we must have sailed under it for nearly forty miles, perhaps
farther. When we emerged from the cloud, our decks and every part of
the rigging were completely covered with a thick coat of ashes. I was
much interested in this, and recollected that Jack had often spoken of
many of the islands of the Pacific as being volcanoes, either active or
extinct, and had said that the whole region was more or less volcanic,
and that some scientific men were of opinion that the islands of the
Pacific were nothing more or less than the mountain tops of a huge
continent which had sunk under the influence of volcanic agency.

Three days after passing the volcano, we found ourselves a few miles to
windward of an island of considerable size and luxuriant aspect. It
consisted of two mountains, which seemed to be nearly four thousand
feet high. They were separated from each other by a broad valley, whose
thick-growing trees ascended a considerable distance up the mountain
sides; and rich, level plains, or meadow-land, spread round the base of
the mountains, except at the point immediately opposite the large
valley, where a river seemed to carry the trees, as it were, along with
it down to the white, sandy shore. The mountain tops, unlike those of
our Coral Island, were sharp, needle-shaped, and bare, while their
sides were more rugged and grand in outline than anything I had yet
seen in those seas. Bloody Bill was beside me when the island first
hove in sight.

"Ha!" he exclaimed, "I know that island well. They call it Emo."

"Have you been there before, then?" I inquired.

"Ay, that I have, often, and so has this schooner. 'Tis a famous island
for sandal-wood. We have taken many cargoes of it already, and have
paid for them, too; for the savages are so numerous that we dared not
try to take it by force. But our captain has tried to cheat them so
often, that they're beginnin' not to like us overmuch now. Besides, the
men behaved ill the last time we were here, and I wonder the captain is
not afraid to venture. But he's afraid o' nothing earthly, I believe."

We soon ran inside the barrier coral-reef, and let go our anchor in six
fathoms water, just opposite the mouth of a small creek, whose shores
were densely covered with mangroves and tall umbrageous trees. The
principal village of the natives lay about half a mile from this point.
Ordering the boat out, the captain jumped into it, and ordered me to
follow him. The men, fifteen in number, were well armed, and the mate
was directed to have Long Tom ready for emergencies.

"Give way, lads," cried the captain.

The oars fell into the water at the word, the boat shot from the
schooner's side, and in a few minutes reached the shore. Here, contrary
to our expectation, we were met with the utmost cordiality by Romata,
the principal chief of the island, who conducted us to his house and
gave us mats to sit upon. I observed in passing that the natives, of
whom there were two or three thousand, were totally unarmed.

After a short preliminary palaver, a feast of baked pigs and various
roots was spread before us; of which we partook sparingly, and then
proceeded to business. The captain stated his object in visiting the
island, regretted that there had been a slight misunderstanding during
the last visit, and hoped that no ill-will was borne by either party,
and that a satisfactory trade would be accomplished.

Romata answered that he had forgotten there had been any differences
between them, protested that he was delighted to see his friends again,
and assured them they should have every assistance in cutting and
embarking the wood. The terms were afterwards agreed on, and we rose to
depart. All this conversation was afterwards explained to me by Bill,
who understood the language pretty well.

Romata accompanied us on board, and explained that a great chief from
another island was then on a visit to him, and that he was to be
ceremoniously entertained on the following day. After begging to be
allowed to introduce him to us, and receiving permission, he sent his
canoe ashore to bring him off. At the same time, he gave orders to
bring on board his two favourites, a cock and a paroquet. While the
canoe was gone on this errand, I had time to regard the savage chief
attentively. He was a man of immense size, with massive but beautifully
moulded limbs and figure, only parts of which, the broad chest, and
muscular arms, were uncovered; for although the lower orders generally
wore no other clothing than a strip of cloth called _maro_ round their
loins, the chief, on particular occasions, wrapped his person hi
voluminous folds of a species of native cloth, made from the bark of
the Chinese paper-mulberry. Romata wore a magnificent black beard and
moustache, and his hair was frizzed out to such an extent that it
resembled a large turban, in which was stuck a long wooden pin! I
afterwards found that this pin served for scratching the head, for
which purpose the fingers were too short without disarranging the hair.
But Romata put himself to much greater inconvenience on account of his
hair, for we found that he slept with his head resting on a wooden
pillow, in which was cut a hollow for the neck, so that the hair of the
sleeper might not be disarranged.

In ten minutes the canoe returned, bringing the other chief, who
certainly presented a most extraordinary appearance, having painted one
half of his face red and the other half yellow, besides ornamenting it
with various designs in black! Otherwise he was much the same in
appearance as Romata, though not so powerfully built. As this chief had
never seen a ship before, except, perchance, some of the petty traders
that at long intervals visit these remote islands, he was much taken up
with the neatness and beauty of all the fittings of the schooner. He
was particularly struck with a musket which was shown to him, and asked
where the white men got hatchets hard enough to cut the tree of which
the barrel was made! While he was thus engaged, his brother chief stood
aloof, talking with the captain, and fondling a superb cock and a
little blue-headed paroquet, the favourites of which I have before
spoken. I observed that all the other natives walked in a crouching
posture while in the presence of Romata. Before our guests left us, the
captain ordered the brass gun to be uncovered and fired for their
gratification; and I have every reason to believe he did so for the
purpose of showing our superior power, in case the natives should
harbour any evil designs against us. Romata had never seen this gun
before, as it had not been uncovered on previous visits, and the
astonishment with which he viewed it was very amusing. Being desirous
of knowing its power, he begged that the captain would fire it; so a
shot was put into it. The chiefs were then directed to look at a rock
about two miles out at sea, and the gun was fired. In a second the top
of the rock was seen to burst asunder, and to fall in fragments into
the sea.

Romata was so delighted with the success of this shot that he pointed
to a man who was walking on the shore and begged the captain to fire at
him, evidently supposing that his permission was quite sufficient to
justify the captain in such an act. He was therefore surprised, and not
a little annoyed, when the captain refused to fire at the native, and
ordered the gun to be housed.

Of all the things, however, that afforded matter of amusement to these
savages, that which pleased Romata's visitor most was the ship's pump.
He never tired of examining it and pumping up the water. Indeed, so
much was he taken up with this pump, that he could not be prevailed on
to return on shore, but sent a canoe to fetch his favourite stool, on
which he seated himself, and spent the remainder of the day in pumping
the bilge-water out of the ship!

Next day the crew went ashore to cut sandal-wood, while the captain,
with one or two men, remained on board, in order to be ready, if need
be, with the brass gun, which was unhoused and conspicuously elevated,
with its capacious muzzle directed point-blank at the chiefs house. The
men were fully armed, as usual; and the captain ordered me to go with
them, to assist in the work. I was much pleased with this order, for it
freed me from the captain's company, which I could not now endure, and
it gave me an opportunity of seeing the natives.

As we wound along in single file through the rich, fragrant groves of
banana, cocoa-nut, bread-fruit, and other trees, I observed that there
were many of the plum and banyan trees, with which I had become
familiar on the Coral Island. I noticed also large quantities of
taro-roots, yams, and sweet potatoes growing in enclosures. On turning
into an open glade of the woods, we came abruptly upon a cluster of
native houses. They were built chiefly of bamboos, and were thatched
with the large, thick leaves of the pandanus; but many of them had
little more than a sloping roof and three sides with an open front,
being the most simple shelter from the weather that could well be
imagined. Within these and around them were groups of natives--men,
women, and children--who all stood up to gaze at us as we marched
along, followed by the party of men whom the chief had sent to escort
us. About half a mile inland we arrived at the spot where the
sandal-wood grew, and while the men set to work I clambered up an
adjoining hill to observe the country.

About mid-day the chief arrived with several followers, one of whom
carried a baked pig on a wooden platter, with yams and potatoes on
several plantain leaves, which he presented to the men, who sat down
under the shade of a tree to dine. The chief sat down to dine also;
but, to my surprise, instead of feeding himself, one of his wives
performed that office for him! I was seated beside Bill, and asked him
the reason of this.

"It is beneath his dignity, I believe, to feed himself," answered Bill;
"but I daresay he's not particular, except on great occasions. They've
a strange custom among them, Ralph, which is called _tabu_, and they
carry it to great lengths. If a man chooses a particular tree for his
god, the fruit o' that tree is tabued to him; and if he eats it, he is
sure to be killed by his people, and eaten, of course, for killing
means eating hereaway. Then, you see that great mop o' hair on the
chief's head? Well, he has a lot o' barbers to keep it in order; and
it's a law that whoever touches the head of a living chief or the body
of a dead one, his hands are tabued; so in that way the barbers' hands
are always tabued, and they daren't use them for their lives, but have
to be fed like big babies, as they are, sure enough!"

"That's odd, Bill. But look there," said I, pointing to a man whose
skin was of a much lighter colour than the generality of the natives.
"I've seen a few of these light-skinned fellows among the Feejeeans.
They seem to me to be of quite a different race."

"So they are," answered Bill. "These fellows come from the Tongan
Islands, which lie a long way to the eastward. They come here to build
their big war-canoes; and, as these take two and sometimes four years
to build, there's always some o' the brown-skins among the black
sarpents o' these islands."

"By the way, Bill," said I, "your mentioning serpents reminds me that I
have not seen a reptile of any kind since I came to this part of the
world."

"No more there are any," said Bill, "if ye except the niggers
themselves; there's none on the islands but a lizard or two, and some
sich harmless things. But I never seed any myself. If there's none on
the land, however, there's more than enough in the water, and that
reminds me of a wonderful brute they have here. But come, I'll show it
to you." So saying, Bill arose, and, leaving the men still busy with
the baked pig, led me into the forest. After proceeding a short
distance, we came upon a small pond of stagnant water. A native lad had
followed us, to whom we called and beckoned him to come to us. On Bill
saying a few words to him which I did not understand, the boy advanced
to the edge of the pond and gave a low, peculiar whistle. Immediately
the water became agitated, and an enormous eel thrust its head above
the surface and allowed the youth to touch it. It was about twelve feet
long, and as thick round the body as a man's thigh.

"There!" said Bill, his lip curling with contempt; "what do you think
of that for a god, Ralph? This is one o' their gods, and it has been
fed with dozens o' livin' babies already. How many more it'll get afore
it dies is hard to say."

"Babies!" said I, with an incredulous look.

"Ay, babies," returned Bill. "Your soft-hearted folk at home would say,
'Oh, horrible! impossible!' to that, and then go away as comfortable
and unconcerned as if their sayin' 'Horrible! impossible!' had made it
a lie. But I tell you, Ralph, it's a _fact_. I've seed it with my own
eyes the last time I was here, an' mayhap if you stop a while at this
accursed place, and keep a sharp look-out, you'll see it too. They
don't feed it regularly with livin' babies, but they give it one now
and then as a treat. Bah, you brute!" cried Bill in disgust, giving the
reptile a kick on the snout with his heavy boot that sent it sweltering
back in agony into its loathsome pool. I thought it lucky for Bill,
indeed for all of us, that the native youth's back happened to be
turned at the time; for I am certain that if the poor savages had come
to know that we had so rudely handled their god, we should have had to
fight our way back to the ship. As we retraced our steps I questioned
my companion further on this subject.

"How comes it, Bill, that the mothers allow such a dreadful thing to be
done?"

"Allow it? the mothers _do_ it! It seems to me that there's nothing too
fiendish or diabolical for these people to do. Why, in some of the
islands they have an institution called the _Aréoi_, and the persons
connected with that body are ready for any wickedness that mortal man
can devise. In fact they stick at nothing; and one o' their customs is
to murder their infants the moment they are born. The mothers agree to
it, and the fathers do it. And the mildest ways they have of murdering
them is by sticking them through the body with sharp splinters of
bamboo, strangling them with their thumbs, or burying them alive and
stamping them to death while under the sod."

I felt sick at heart while my companion recited these horrors.

"But it's a curious fact," he continued after a pause, during which we
walked in silence towards the spot where we had left our
comrades--"it's a curious fact, that wherever the missionaries get a
footin' all these things come to an end at once, an' the savages take
to doin' each other good and singin' psalms, just like Methodists."

"God bless the missionaries!" said I, while a feeling of enthusiasm
filled my heart, so that I could speak with difficulty. "God bless and
prosper the missionaries till they get a footing in every island of the
sea!"

"I would say Amen to that prayer, Ralph, if I could," said Bill, in a
deep, sad voice; "but it would be a mere mockery for a man to ask a
blessing for others who dare not ask one for himself. But, Ralph," he
continued, "I've not told you half o' the abominations I have seen
durin' my life in these seas. If we pull long together, lad, I'll tell
you more; and if times have not changed very much since I was here
last, it's like that you'll have a chance o' seeing a little for
yourself before long."



Chapter XXV

The sandal-wood party--Native children's games somewhat
surprising--Desperate amusements suddenly and fatally brought to a
close--An old friend recognised--News--Romata's mad conduct.


Next day the wood-cutting party went ashore again, and I accompanied
them as before. During the dinner-hour I wandered into the woods alone,
being disinclined for food that day. I had not rambled far when I found
myself unexpectedly on the sea-shore, having crossed a narrow neck of
land which separated the native village from a large bay. Here I found
a party of the islanders busy with one of their war-canoes, which was
almost ready for launching. I stood for a long time watching this party
with great interest, and observed that they fastened the timbers and
planks to each other very much in the same way in which I had seen Jack
fasten those of our little boat. But what surprised me most was its
immense length, which I measured carefully, and found to be a hundred
feet long; and it was so capacious that it could have held three
hundred men. It had the unwieldy outrigger and enormously high
stern-posts which I had remarked on the canoe that came to us while I
was on the Coral Island. Observing some boys playing at games a short
way along the beach, I resolved to go and watch them; but as I turned
from the natives who were engaged so busily and cheerfully at their
work, I little thought of the terrible event that hung on the
completion of that war-canoe.

Advancing towards the children, who were so numerous that I began to
think this must be the general playground of the village, I sat down on
a grassy bank under the shade of a plantain tree to watch them. And a
happier or more noisy crew I have never seen. There were at least two
hundred of them, both boys and girls, all of whom were clad in no other
garments than their own glossy little black skins, except the maro, or
strip of cloth round the loins of the boys, and a very short petticoat
or kilt on the girls. They did not all play at the same game, but
amused themselves in different groups.

One band was busily engaged in a game exactly similar to our blind
man's buff. Another set were walking on stilts, which raised the
children three feet from the ground. They were very expert at this
amusement, and seldom tumbled. In another place I observed a group of
girls standing together, and apparently enjoying themselves very much;
so I went up to see what they were doing, and found that they were
opening their eyelids with their fingers till their eyes appeared of an
enormous size, and then thrusting pieces of straw between the upper and
lower lids, across the eyeball, to keep them in that position! This
seemed to me, I must confess, a very foolish as well as dangerous
amusement. Nevertheless the children seemed to be greatly delighted
with the hideous faces they made. I pondered this subject a good deal,
and thought that if little children knew how silly they seemed to
grown-up people when they make faces, they would not be so fond of
doing it. In another place were a number of boys engaged in flying
kites, and I could not help wondering that some of the games of those
little savages should be so like to our own, although they had never
seen us at play. But the kites were different from ours in many
respects, being of every variety of shape. They were made of very thin
cloth, and the boys raised them to a wonderful height in the air by
means of twine made from the cocoa-nut husk. Other games there were,
some of which showed the natural depravity of the hearts of these poor
savages, and made me wish fervently that missionaries might be sent out
to them. But the amusement which the greatest number of the children of
both sexes seemed to take chief delight in was swimming and diving in
the sea, and the expertness which they exhibited was truly amazing.
They seemed to have two principal games in the water, one of which was
to dive off a sort of stage which had been erected near a deep part of
the sea, and chase each other in the water. Some of them went down to
an extraordinary depth; others skimmed along the surface, or rolled
over and over like porpoises, or diving under each other, came up
unexpectedly and pulled each other down by a leg or an arm. They never
seemed to tire of this sport, and from the great heat of the water in
the South Seas, they could remain in it nearly all day without feeling
chilled. Many of these children were almost infants, scarce able to
walk; yet they staggered down the beach, flung their round, fat little
black bodies fearlessly into deep water, and struck out to sea with as
much confidence as ducklings.

The other game to which I have referred was swimming in the surf. But
as this is an amusement in which all engage, from children of ten to
grey-headed men of sixty, and as I had an opportunity of witnessing it
in perfection the day following, I shall describe it more minutely.

I suppose it was in honour of their guest that this grand
swimming-match was got up, for Romata came and told the captain that
they were going to engage in it, and begged him to "come and see."

"What sort of amusement is this surf-swimming?" I inquired of Bill, as
we walked together to a part of the shore on which several thousands of
the natives were assembled.

"It's a very favourite lark with these 'xtr'or'nary critters," replied
Bill, giving a turn to the quid of tobacco that invariably bulged out
of his left cheek. "Ye see, Ralph, them fellows take to the water as
soon a'most as they can walk, an' long before they can do that anything
respectably, so that they are as much at home in the sea as on the
land. Well, ye see, I s'pose they found swimmin' for miles out to sea,
and divin' fathoms deep, wasn't exciting enough, so they invented this
game o' swimmin' on the surf. Each man and boy, as you see, has got a
short board or plank, with which he swims out for a mile or more to
sea, and then, gettin' on the top o' yon thunderin' breaker, they come
to shore on the top of it, yellin' and screechin' like fiends. It's a
marvel to me that they're not dashed to shivers on the coral reef, for
sure an' sartin' am I that if any o' us tried it, we wouldn't be worth
the fluke of a broken anchor after the wave fell. But there they go!"

As he spoke, several hundreds of the natives, amongst whom we were now
standing, uttered a loud yell, rushed down the beach, plunged into the
surf, and were carried off by the seething foam of the retreating wave.

At the point where we stood, the encircling coral reef joined the
shore, so that the magnificent breakers, which a recent stiff breeze
had rendered larger than usual, fell in thunder at the feet of the
multitudes who lined the beach. For some time the swimmers continued to
strike out to sea, breasting over the swell like hundreds of black
seals. Then they all turned, and watching an approaching billow,
mounted its white crest, and each laying his breast on the short, flat
board, came rolling towards the shore, careering on the summit of the
mighty wave, while they and the onlookers shouted and yelled with
excitement. Just as the monster wave curled in solemn majesty to fling
its bulky length upon the beach, most of the swimmers slid back into
the trough behind; others, slipping off their boards, seized them in
their hands, and plunging through the watery waste, swam out to repeat
the amusement; but a few, who seemed to me the most reckless, continued
their career until they were launched upon the beach, and enveloped in
the churning foam and spray. One of these last came in on the crest of
the wave most manfully, and landed with a violent bound almost on the
spot where Bill and I stood. I saw by his peculiar head-dress that he
was the chief whom the tribe entertained as their guest. The sea-water
had removed nearly all the paint with which his face had been covered,
and as he rose panting to his feet, I recognised, to my surprise, the
features of Tararo, my old friend of the Coral Island!

Tararo at the same moment recognised me, and advancing quickly, took me
round the neck and rubbed noses; which had the effect of transferring a
good deal of the moist paint from his nose to mine. Then, recollecting
that this was not the white man's mode of salutation, he grasped me by
the hand and shook it violently.

"Hallo, Ralph!" cried Bill in surprise, "that chap seems to have taken
a sudden fancy to you, or he must be an old acquaintance."

"Right, Bill," I replied; "he is indeed an old acquaintance;" and I
explained in a few words that he was the chief whose party Jack and
Peterkin and I had helped to save.

Tararo haying thrown away his surf-board, entered into an animated
conversation with Bill, pointing frequently during the course of it to
me; whereby I concluded he must be telling him about the memorable
battle and the part we had taken in it. When he paused, I begged of
Bill to ask him about the woman Avatea, for I had some hope that she
might have come with Tararo on this visit. "And ask him," said I, "who
she is, for I am persuaded she is of a different race from the
Feejeeans." On the mention of her name the chief frowned darkly, and
seemed to speak with much anger.

"You're right, Ralph," said Bill, when the chief had ceased to talk;
"she's not a Feejee girl, but a Samoan. How she ever came to this place
the chief does not very clearly explain, but he says she was taken in
war, and that he got her three years ago, an' kept her as his daughter
ever since. Lucky for her, poor girl, else she'd have been roasted and
eaten like the rest."

"But why does Tararo frown and look so angry?" said I.

"Because the girl's somewhat obstinate, like most o' the sex, an' won't
marry the man he wants her to. It seems that a chief of some other
island came on a visit to Tararo and took a fancy to her, but she
wouldn't have him on no account, bein' already in love, and engaged to
a young chief whom Tararo hates, and she kicked up a desperate shindy;
so, as he was going on a war-expedition in his canoe, he left her to
think about it, sayin' he'd be back in six months or so, when he hoped
she wouldn't be so obstropolous. This happened just a week ago; an'
Tararo says that if she's not ready to go when the chief returns, as
his bride, she'll be sent to him as a _long pig_."

"As a long pig!" I exclaimed in surprise; "why, what does he mean by
that?"

"He means somethin' very unpleasant," answered Bill with a frown. "You
see these blackguards eat men an' women just as readily as they eat
pigs; and as baked pigs and baked men are very like each other in
appearance, they call men _long_ pigs. If Avatea goes to this fellow as
a long pig, it's all up with her, poor thing."

"Is she on the island now?" I asked eagerly.

"No; she's at Tararo's island."

"And where does it lie!"

"About fifty or sixty miles to the south'ard o' this," returned Bill;
"but I--"

At this moment we were startled by the cry of "Mao! mao!--a shark! a
shark!" which was immediately followed by a shriek that rang clear and
fearfully loud above the tumult of cries that arose from the savages in
the water and on the land. We turned hastily towards the direction
whence the cry came, and had just time to observe the glaring eyeballs
of one of the swimmers as he tossed his arms in the air. Next instant
he was pulled under the waves. A canoe was instantly launched, and the
hand of the drowning man was caught, but only half of his body was
dragged from the maw of the monster, which followed the canoe until the
water became so shallow that it could scarcely swim. The crest of the
next billow was tinged with red as it rolled towards the shore.

In most countries of the world this would have made a deep impression
on the spectators, but the only effect it had upon these islanders was
to make them hurry with all speed out of the sea, lest a similar fate
should befall some of the others; but so utterly reckless were they of
human life, that it did not for a moment suspend the progress of their
amusements. It is true the surf-swimming ended for that time somewhat
abruptly, but they immediately proceeded with other games. Bill told me
that sharks do not often attack the surf-swimmers, being frightened
away by the immense numbers of men and boys in the water, and by the
shouting and splashing that they make. "But," said he, "such a thing as
you have seen just now don't frighten them much. They'll be at it again
to-morrow or next day, just as if there wasn't a single shark between
Feejee and Nova Zembla."

After this the natives had a series of wrestling and boxing matches;
and being men of immense size and muscle, they did a good deal of
injury to each other, especially in boxing, in which not only the lower
orders but several of the chiefs and priests engaged. Each bout was
very quickly terminated, for they did not pretend to a scientific
knowledge of the art, and wasted no time in sparring, but hit straight
out at each other's heads, and their blows were delivered with great
force. Frequently one of the combatants was knocked down with a single
blow; and one gigantic fellow hit his adversary so severely that he
drove the skin entirely off his forehead. This feat was hailed with
immense applause by the spectators.

During these exhibitions, which were very painful to me, though I
confess I could not refrain from beholding them, I was struck with the
beauty of many of the figures and designs that were tattooed on the
persons of the chiefs and principal men. One figure, that seemed to me
very elegant, was that of a palm tree tattooed on the back of a man's
leg, the roots rising, as it were, from under his heel, the stem
ascending the tendon of the ankle, and the graceful head branching out
upon the calf. I afterwards learned that this process of tattooing is
very painful, and takes long to do, commencing at the age of ten, and
being continued at intervals up to the age of thirty. It is done by
means of an instrument made of bone, with a number of sharp teeth with
which the skin is punctured. Into these punctures a preparation made
from the kernel of the candle-nut, mixed with cocoa-nut oil, is rubbed,
and the mark thus made is indelible. The operation is performed by a
class of men whose profession it is, and they tattoo as much at a time
as the person on whom they are operating can bear; which is not much,
the pain and inflammation caused by tattooing being very great,
sometimes causing death. Some of the chiefs were tattooed with an
ornamental stripe down the legs, which gave them the appearance of
being clad in tights; others had marks round the ankles and insteps
which looked like tight-fitting and elegant boots. Their faces were
also tattooed, and their breasts were very profusely marked with every
imaginable species of device--muskets, dogs, birds, pigs, clubs, and
canoes, intermingled with lozenges, squares, circles, and other
arbitrary figures.

The women were not tattooed so much as the men, having only a few marks
on their feet and arms. But I must say, however objectionable this
strange practice may be, it nevertheless had this good effect, that it
took away very much from their appearance of nakedness.

Next day, while we were returning from the woods to our schooner, we
observed Romata rushing about in the neighbourhood of his house,
apparently mad with passion.

"Ah!" said Bill to me, "there he's at his old tricks again. That's his
way when he gets drink. The natives make a sort of drink o' their own,
and it makes him bad enough; but when he gets brandy he's like a wild
tiger. The captain, I suppose, has given him a bottle, as usual, to
keep him in good humour. After drinkin' he usually goes to sleep, and
the people know it well, and keep out of his way, for fear they should
waken him. Even the babies are taken out of ear-shot; for when he's
waked up he rushes out just as you see him now, and spears or clubs the
first person he meets."

It seemed at the present time, however, that no deadly weapon had been
in his way, for the infuriated chief was raging about without one.
Suddenly he caught sight of an unfortunate man who was trying to
conceal himself behind a tree. Bushing towards him, Romata struck him a
terrible blow on the head, which knocked out the poor man's eye and
also dislocated the chief's finger. The wretched creature offered no
resistance; he did not even attempt to parry the blow. Indeed, from
what Bill said, I found that he might consider himself lucky in having
escaped with his life, which would certainly have been forfeited had
the chief been possessed of a club at the tune.

"Have these wretched creatures no law among themselves," said I, "which
can restrain such wickedness?"

"None," replied Bill. "The chiefs word is law. He might kill and eat a
dozen of his own subjects any day for nothing more than his own
pleasure, and nobody would take the least notice of it."

This ferocious deed took place within sight of our party as we wended
our way to the beach, but I could not observe any other expression on
the faces of the men than that of total indifference or contempt. It
seemed to me a very awful thing that it should be possible for men to
come to such hardness of heart and callousness to the sight of
bloodshed and violence; but, indeed, I began to find that such constant
exposure to scenes of blood was having a slight effect upon myself, and
I shuddered when I came to think that I too was becoming callous.

I thought upon this subject much that night while I walked up and down
the deck during my hours of watch, and I came to the conclusion that if
I, who hated, abhorred, and detested such bloody deeds as I had
witnessed within the last few weeks, could so soon come to be less
sensitive about them, how little wonder that these poor ignorant
savages, who were born and bred in familiarity therewith, should think
nothing of them at all, and should hold human life in so very slight
esteem!



Chapter XXVI

Mischief brewing--My blood is made to ran cold--Evil consultations and
wicked resolves--Bloody Bill attempts to do good, and fails--The
attack--Wholesale murder--The flight--The escape.


Next morning I awoke with a feverish brow and a feeling of deep
depression at my heart, and the more I thought on my unhappy fate, the
more wretched and miserable did I feel.

I was surrounded on all sides by human beings of the most dreadful
character, to whom the shedding of blood was mere pastime. On shore
were the natives, whose practices were so horrible that I could not
think of them without shuddering. On board were none but pirates of the
blackest dye, who, although not cannibals, were foul murderers, and
more blameworthy even than the savages, inasmuch as they knew better.
Even Bill, with whom I had, under the strange circumstances of my lot,
formed a kind of intimacy, was so fierce in his nature as to have
acquired the title of "Bloody" from his vile companions. I felt very
much cast down the more I considered the subject and the impossibility
of delivery, as it seemed to me--at least, for a long time to come. At
last, in my feeling of utter helplessness, I prayed fervently to the
Almighty that He would deliver me out of my miserable condition; and
when I had done so I felt some degree of comfort.

When the captain came on deck, before the hour at which the men usually
started for the woods, I begged of him to permit me to remain aboard
that day, as I did not feel well; but he looked at me angrily, and
ordered me, in a surly tone, to get ready to go on shore as usual. The
fact was that the captain had been out of humour for some time past.
Romata and he had had some differences, and high words had passed
between them, during which the chief had threatened to send a fleet of
his war-canoes, with a thousand men, to break up and burn the schooner;
whereupon the captain smiled sarcastically, and, going up to the chief,
gazed sternly in his face, while he said, "I have only to raise my
little finger just now, and my big gun will blow your whole village to
atoms in five minutes!" Although the chief was a bold man, he quailed
before the pirate's glance and threat, and made no reply; but a bad
feeling had been raised, and old sores had been opened.

I had, therefore, to go with the wood-cutters that day. Before
starting, however, the captain called me into the cabin, and said--

"Here, Ralph; I've got a mission for you, lad. That blackguard Romata
is in the dumps, and nothing will mollify him but a gift; so do you go
up to his house and give him these whale's teeth, with my compliments.
Take with you one of the men who can speak the language."

I looked at the gift in some surprise, for it consisted of six white
whale's teeth, and two of the same dyed bright red, which seemed to me
very paltry things. However, I did not dare to hesitate or ask any
questions; so, gathering them up, I left the cabin, and was soon on my
way to the chiefs house, accompanied by Bill. On expressing my surprise
at the gift, he said--"They're paltry enough to you or me, Ralph, but
they're considered of great value by them chaps. They're a sort o' cash
among them. The red ones are the most prized, one of them bein' equal
to twenty o' the white ones. I suppose the only reason for their bein'
valuable is that there ain't many of them, and they're hard to be got."

On arriving at the house, we found Romata sitting on a mat, in the
midst of a number of large bales of native cloth and other articles,
which had been brought to him as presents from time to time by inferior
chiefs. He received us rather haughtily; but on Bill explaining the
nature of our errand, he became very condescending, and his eyes
glistened with satisfaction when he received the whale's teeth,
although he laid them aside with an assumption of kingly indifference.

"Go," said he, with a wave of the hand--"go tell your captain that he
may cut wood to-day, but not to-morrow. He must come ashore; I want to
have a palaver with him."

As we left the house to return to the woods, Bill shook his head.

"There's mischief brewin' in that black rascal's head. I know him of
old. But what comes here?"

As he spoke, we heard the sound of laughter and shouting in the wood,
and presently there issued from it a band of savages, in the midst of
whom were a number of men bearing burdens on their shoulders. At first
I thought that these burdens were poles with something rolled round
them, the end of each pole resting on a man's shoulder; but on a nearer
approach I saw that they were human beings, tied hand and foot, and so
lashed to the poles that they could not move. I counted twenty of them
as they passed.

"More murder!" said Bill, in a voice that sounded between a hoarse
laugh and a groan.

"Surely they are not going to murder them?" said I, looking anxiously
into Bill's face.

"I don't know, Ralph," replied Bill, "what they're goin' to do with
them; but I fear they mean no good when they tie fellows up in that
way."

As we continued our way towards the wood-cutters, I observed that Bill
looked anxiously over his shoulder in the direction where the
procession had disappeared. At last he stopped, and turning abruptly on
his heel, said--

"I tell ye what it is, Ralph: I must be at the bottom o' that affair.
Let us follow these black scoundrels and see what they're goin' to do."

I must say I had no wish to pry further into their bloody practices;
but Bill seemed bent on it, so I turned and went. We passed rapidly
through the bush, being guided in the right direction by the shouts of
the savages. Suddenly there was a dead silence, which continued for
some time, while Bill and I involuntarily quickened our pace until we
were running at the top of our speed across the narrow neck of land
previously mentioned. As we reached the verge of the wood, we
discovered the savages surrounding the large war-canoe, which they were
apparently on the point of launching. Suddenly the multitude put their
united strength to the canoe; but scarcely had the huge machine begun
to move, when a yell, the most appalling that ever fell upon my ear,
rose high above the shouting of the savages. It had not died away when
another and another smote upon my throbbing ear; and then I saw that
these inhuman monsters were actually launching their canoe over the
living bodies of their victims. But there was no pity in the breasts of
these men. Forward they went in ruthless indifference, shouting as they
went, while high above their voices rang the dying shrieks of those
wretched creatures, as, one after another, the ponderous canoe passed
over them, burst the eyeballs from their sockets, and sent the
life-blood gushing from their mouths. O reader, this is no fiction. I
would not, for the sake of thrilling you with horror, invent so
terrible a scene. It was witnessed. It is true--true as that accursed
sin which has rendered the human heart capable of such diabolical
enormities!

When it was over, I turned round and fell upon the grass with a deep
groan; but Bill seized me by the arm, and lifting me up as if I had
been a child, cried--

"Come along, lad; let's away!"--and so, staggering and stumbling over
the tangled underwood, we fled from the fatal spot.

During the remainder of that day, I felt as if I were in a horrible
dream. I scarce knew what was said to me, and was more than once blamed
by the men for idling my time. At last the hour to return aboard came.
We marched down to the beach, and I felt relief for the first time when
my feet rested on the schooner's deck.

In the course of the evening I overheard part of a conversation between
the captain and the first mate, which startled me not a little. They
were down in the cabin, and conversed in an undertone; but the skylight
being off, I overheard every word that was said.

"I don't half like it," said the mate, "It seems to me that we'll only
have hard fightin' and no pay."

"No pay!" repeated the captain, in a voice of suppressed anger, "Do you
call a good cargo all for nothing no pay?"

"Very true," returned the mate; "but we've got the cargo aboard. Why
not cut your cable and take French leave o' them? What's the use o'
tryin' to kill the blackguards when it'll do us no manner o' good?"

"Mate," said the captain in a low voice, "you talk like a fresh-water
sailor. I can only attribute this shyness to some strange delusion; for
surely" (his voice assumed a slightly sneering tone as he said this),
"surely I am not to suppose that _you_ have become soft-hearted!
Besides, you are wrong in regard to the cargo being aboard; there's a
good quarter of it lying in the woods, and that blackguard chief knows
it and won't let me take it off. He defied us to do our worst
yesterday."

"Defied us! did he?" cried the mate with a bitter laugh. "Poor,
contemptible thing!"

"And yet he seems not so contemptible but that you are afraid to attack
him."

"Who said I was afraid?" growled the mate sulkily. "I'm as ready as any
man in the ship. But, captain, what is it that you intend to do?"

"I intend to muffle the sweeps and row the schooner up to the head of
the creek there, from which point we can command the pile of
sandal-wood with our gun. Then I shall land with all the men except
two, who shall take care of the schooner and be ready with the boat to
take us off. We can creep through the woods to the head of the village,
where these cannibals are always dancing round their suppers of human
flesh, and if the carbines of the men are loaded with a heavy charge of
buck-shot we can drop forty or fifty at the first volley. After that
the thing will be easy enough. The savages will take to the mountains
in a body, and we shall take what we require, up anchor, and away."

To this plan the mate at length agreed. As he left the cabin I heard
the captain say--

"Give the men an extra glass of grog, and don't forget the buck-shot."

The reader may conceive the horror with which I heard this murderous
conversation. I immediately repeated it to Bill, who seemed much
perplexed about it. At length he said--

"I'll tell you what I'll do, Ralph. I'll swim ashore after dark and fix
a musket to a tree not far from the place where we'll have to land, and
I'll tie a long string to the trigger, so that when our fellows cross
it they'll let it off, and so alarm the village in time to prevent an
attack, but not in time to prevent us gettin' back to the boat. So,
Master Captain," added Bill, with a smile that for the first time
seemed to me to be mingled with good-natured cheerfulness, "you'll be
balked at least for once in your life by Bloody Bill."

After it grew dark, Bill put this resolve in practice. He slipped over
the side with a musket in his left hand, while with his right he swam
ashore and entered the woods. He soon returned, having accomplished his
purpose, and got on board without being seen, I being the only one on
deck.

When the hour of midnight approached the men were mustered on deck, the
cable was cut, and the muffled sweeps got out. These sweeps were
immensely large oars, each requiring a couple of men to work it. In a
few minutes we entered the mouth of the creek, which was indeed the
mouth of a small river, and took about half-an-hour to ascend it,
although the spot where we intended to land was not more than six
hundred yards from the mouth, because there was a slight current
against us, and the mangroves which narrowed the creek impeded the
rowers in some places. Having reached the spot, which was so darkened
by overhanging trees that we could see with difficulty, a small kedge
anchor attached to a thin line was let softly down over the stern.

"Now, lads," whispered the captain, as he walked along the line of men,
who were all armed to the teeth, "don't be in a hurry, aim low, and
don't waste your first shots."

He then pointed to the boat, into which the men crowded in silence.
There was no room to row; but oars were not needed, as a slight push
against the side of the schooner sent the boat gliding to the shore.

"There's no need of leaving two in the boat," whispered the mate, as
the men stepped out; "we shall want all our hands. Let Ralph stay."

The captain assented, and ordered me to stand in readiness with the
boat-hook, to shove ashore at a moment's notice if they should return,
or to shove off if any of the savages should happen to approach. He
then threw his carbine into the hollow of his arm and glided through
the bushes, followed by his men. With a throbbing heart I awaited the
result of our plan. I knew the exact locality where the musket was
placed, for Bill had described it to me, and I kept my straining eyes
fixed upon the spot. But no sound came, and I began to fear that either
they had gone in another direction or that Bill had not fixed the
string properly. Suddenly I heard a faint click, and observed one or
two bright sparks among the bushes. My heart immediately sank within
me, for I knew at once that the trigger had indeed been pulled, but
that the priming had not caught. The plan, therefore, had utterly
failed. A feeling of dread now began to creep over me as I stood in the
boat, in that dark, silent spot, awaiting the issue of this murderous
expedition. I shuddered as I glanced at the water that glided past like
a dark reptile. I looked back at the schooner, but her hull was just
barely visible, while her tapering masts were lost among the trees
which overshadowed her. Her lower sails were set, but so thick was the
gloom that they were quite invisible.

Suddenly I heard a shot. In a moment a thousand voices raised a yell in
the village; again the cry rose on the night air, and was followed by
broken shouts as of scattered parties of men bounding into the woods.
Then I heard another shout loud and close at hand. It was the voice of
the captain cursing the man who had fired the premature shot. Then came
the order, "Forward!" followed by a wild hurrah of our men as they
charged the savages. Shots now rang in quick succession, and at last a
loud volley startled the echoes of the woods. It was followed by a
multitude of wild shrieks, which were immediately drowned in another
hurrah from the men; the distance of the sound proving that they were
driving their enemies before them towards the sea.

While I was listening intently to these sounds, which were now mingled
in confusion, I was startled by the rustling of the leaves not far from
me. At first I thought it was a party of savages who had observed the
schooner, but I was speedily undeceived by observing a body of
natives--apparently several hundreds, as far as I could guess in the
uncertain light--bounding through the woods towards the scene of
battle. I saw at once that this was a party who had outflanked our men,
and would speedily attack them in the rear. And so it turned out; for
in a short time the shouts increased tenfold, and among them I thought
I heard a death-cry uttered by voices familiar to my ear.

At length the tumult of battle ceased, and from the cries of exultation
that now arose from the savages, I felt assured that our men had been
conquered. I was immediately thrown into dreadful consternation. What
was I now to do? To be taken by the savages was too horrible to be
thought of; to flee to the mountains was hopeless, as I should soon be
discovered; and to take the schooner out of the creek without
assistance was impossible. I resolved, however, to make the attempt, as
being my only hope, and was on the point of pushing off, when my hand
was stayed, and my blood chilled by an appalling shriek, in which I
recognised the voice of one of the crew. It was succeeded by a shout
from the savages. Then came another and another shriek of agony, making
my ears to tingle, as I felt convinced they were murdering the pirate
crew in cold blood. With a bursting heart and my brain whirling as if
on fire, I seized the boat-hook to push from shore, when a man sprang
from the bushes.

"Stop! Ralph, stop!--there now, push off," he cried, and bounded into
the boat so violently as nearly to upset her. It was Bill's voice! In
another moment we were on board--the boat made fast, the line of the
anchor cut, and the sweeps run out. At the first stroke of Bill's giant
arm the schooner was nearly pulled ashore, for in his haste he forgot
that I could scarcely move the unwieldy oar. Springing to the stern, he
lashed the rudder in such a position as that, while it aided me, it
acted against him, and so rendered the force of our strokes nearly
equal. The schooner now began to glide quickly down the creek; but
before we reached its mouth, a yell from a thousand voices on the bank
told that we were discovered. Instantly a number of the savages plunged
into the water and swam towards us; but we were making so much way that
they could not overtake us. One, however, an immensely powerful man,
succeeded in laying hold of the cut rope that hung from the stern, and
clambered quickly upon deck. Bill caught sight of him the instant his
head appeared above the taffrail; but he did not cease to row, and did
not appear even to notice the savage until he was within a yard of him.
Then, dropping the sweep, he struck him a blow on the forehead with his
clenched fist that felled him to the deck. Lifting him up, he hurled
him overboard, and resumed the oar. But now a greater danger awaited
us, for the savages had outrun us on the bank, and were about to plunge
into the water ahead of the schooner. If they succeeded in doing so,
our fate was sealed. For one moment Bill stood irresolute. Then,
drawing a pistol from his belt, he sprang to the brass gun, held the
pan of his pistol over the touch-hole, and fired. The shot was
succeeded by the hiss of the cannon's priming; then the blaze and the
crushing thunder of the monstrous gun burst upon the savages with such
deafening roar that it seemed as if their very mountains had been rent
asunder.

This was enough. The moment of surprise and hesitation caused by the
unwonted sound gave us time to pass the point; a gentle breeze, which
the dense foliage had hitherto prevented us from feeling, bulged out
our sails; the schooner bent before it, and the shouts of the
disappointed savages grew fainter and fainter in the distance as we
were slowly wafted out to sea.



Chapter XXVII

Reflections--The wounded man--The squall--True consolation--Death.


There is a power of endurance in human beings, both in their bodies and
in their minds, which, I have often thought, seems to be wonderfully
adapted and exactly proportioned to the circumstances in which
individuals may happen to be placed--a power which, in most cases, is
sufficient to carry a man through and over every obstacle that may
happen to be thrown in his path through life, no matter how high or how
steep the mountain may be, but which often forsakes him the moment the
summit is gained, the point of difficulty passed, and leaves him
prostrated, with energies gone, nerves unstrung, and a feeling of
incapacity pervading the entire frame that renders the most trifling
effort almost impossible.

During the greater part of that day I had been subjected to severe
mental and much physical excitement, which had almost crushed me down
by the time I was relieved from duty in the course of the evening. But
when the expedition whose failure has just been narrated was planned,
my anxieties and energies had been so powerfully aroused that I went
through the protracted scenes of that terrible night without a feeling
of the slightest fatigue. My mind and body were alike active and full
of energy. No sooner was the last thrilling fear of danger past,
however, than my faculties went utterly relaxed; and when I felt the
cool breezes of the Pacific playing around my fevered brow, and heard
the free waves rippling at the schooner's prow, as we left the hated
island behind us, my senses forsook me, and I fell in a swoon upon the
deck.

From this state I was quickly aroused by Bill, who shook me by the arm,
saying--

"Hallo, Ralph boy! rouse up, lad; we're safe now. Poor thing! I believe
he's fainted." And, raising me in his arms, he laid me on the folds of
the gaff top-sail, which lay upon the deck near the tiller. "Here, take
a drop o' this; it'll do you good, my boy," he added, in a voice of
tenderness which I had never heard him use before, while he held a
brandy-flask to my lips.

I raised my eyes gratefully as I swallowed a mouthful; next moment my
head sank heavily upon my arm, and I fell fast asleep. I slept long,
for when I awoke the sun was a good way above the horizon, I did not
move on first opening my eyes, as I felt a delightful sensation of rest
pervading me, and my eyes were riveted on and charmed with the gorgeous
splendour of the mighty ocean that burst upon my sight. It was a dead
calm; the sea seemed a sheet of undulating crystal, tipped and streaked
with the saffron hues of sunrise, which had not yet merged into the
glowing heat of noon; and there was a deep calm in the blue dome above
that was not broken even by the usual flutter of the sea-fowl. How long
I would have lain in contemplation of this peaceful scene I know not,
but my mind was recalled suddenly and painfully to the past and the
present by the sight of Bill, who was seated on the deck at my feet,
with his head reclining, as if in sleep, on his right arm, which rested
on the tiller. As he seemed to rest peacefully, I did not mean to
disturb him, but the slight noise I made in raising myself on my elbow
caused him to start and look round.

"Well, Ralph, awake at last, my boy? You have slept long and soundly,"
he said, turning towards me.

On beholding his countenance I sprang up in anxiety. He was deadly
pale, and his hair, which hung in dishevelled locks over his face, was
clotted with blood. Blood also stained his hollow cheeks and covered
the front of his shirt, which, with the greater part of his dress, was
torn and soiled with mud.

"O Bill!" said I with deep anxiety, "what is the matter with you? You
are ill. You must have been wounded."

"Even so, lad," said Bill in a deep, soft voice, while he extended his
huge frame on the couch from which I had just risen. "I've got an ugly
wound, I fear, and I've been waiting for you to waken, to ask you to
get me a drop o' brandy and a mouthful o' bread from the cabin lockers.
You seemed to sleep so sweetly, Ralph, that I didn't like to disturb
you. But I don't feel up to much just now."

I did not wait till he had done talking, but ran below immediately, and
returned in a few seconds with a bottle of brandy and some broken
biscuit. He seemed much refreshed after eating a few morsels and
drinking a long draught of water mingled with a little of the spirits.
Immediately afterwards he fell asleep, and I watched him anxiously
until he awoke, being desirous of knowing the nature and extent of his
wound.

"Ha!" he exclaimed, on awaking suddenly after a slumber of an hour,
"I'm the better of that nap, Ralph; I feel twice the man I was;" and he
attempted to rise, but sank back again immediately with a deep groan.

"Nay, Bill, you must not move, but lie still while I look at your
wound. I'll make a comfortable bed for you here on deck, and get you
some breakfast. After that you shall tell me how you got it. Cheer up,
Bill," seeing that he turned his head away; "you'll be all right in a
little, and I'll be a capital nurse to you, though I'm no doctor."

I then left him, and lighted a fire in the caboose. While it was
kindling, I went to the steward's pantry and procured the materials for
a good breakfast, with which, in little more than half-an-hour, I
returned to my companion. He seemed much better, and smiled kindly on
me as I set before him a cup of coffee and a tray with several eggs and
some bread on it.

"Now then, Bill," said I cheerfully, sitting down beside him on the
deck, "let's fall to. I'm very hungry myself, I can tell you; but--I
forgot--your wound," I added, rising; "let me look at it."

I found that the wound was caused by a pistol-shot in the chest. It did
not bleed much, and as it was on the right side, I was in hopes that it
might not be very serious. But Bill shook his head. "However," said he,
"sit down, Ralph, and I'll tell you all about it.

"You see, after we left the boat an' began to push through the bushes,
we went straight for the line of my musket, as I had expected; but by
some unlucky chance it didn't explode, for I saw the line torn away by
the men's legs, and heard the click o' the lock; so I fancy the priming
had got damp and didn't catch. I was in a great quandary now what to
do, for I couldn't concoct in my mind, in the hurry, any good reason
for firin' off my piece. But they say necessity's the mother of
invention; so just as I was givin' it up and clinchin' my teeth to bide
the worst o't and take what should come, a sudden thought came into my
head. I stepped out before the rest, seemin' to be awful anxious to be
at the savages, tripped my foot on a fallen tree, plunged head foremost
into a bush, an of coorse, my carbine exploded! Then came such a
screechin' from the camp as I never heard in all my life. I rose at
once, and was rushing on with the rest, when the captain called a halt.

"'You did that a-purpose, you villain!' he said with a tremendous oath,
and drawin' a pistol from his belt, let fly right into my breast. I
fell at once, and remembered no more till I was startled and brought
round by the most awful yell I ever heard in my life--except, maybe,
the shrieks o' them poor critters that were crushed to death under yon
big canoe. Jumpin' up, I looked round, and through the trees saw a fire
gleamin' not far off, the light of which showed me the captain and men
tied hand and foot, each to a post, and the savages dancin' round them
like demons. I had scarce looked for a second, when I saw one o' them
go up to the captain flourishing a knife, and before I could wink he
plunged it into his breast, while another yell, like the one that
roused me, rang upon my ear. I didn't wait for more, but bounding up,
went crashing through the bushes into the woods. The black fellows
caught sight of me, however, but not in time to prevent me jumpin' into
the boat, as you know."

Bill seemed to be much exhausted after this recital, and shuddered
frequently during the narrative, so I refrained from continuing the
subject at that time, and endeavoured to draw his mind to other things.

"But now, Bill," said I, "it behoves us to think about the future, and
what course of action we shall pursue. Here we are, on the wide
Pacific, in a well-appointed schooner, which is our own--at least no
one has a better claim to it than we have--and the world lies before
us, Moreover, here comes a breeze, so we must make up our minds which
way to steer."

"Ralph, boy," said my companion; "it matters not to me which way we go.
I fear that my time is short now. Go where you will; I'm content."

"Well then, Bill, I think we had better steer to the Coral Island, and
see what has become of my dear old comrades, Jack and Peterkin. I
believe the island has no name, but the captain once pointed it out to
me on the chart, and I marked it afterwards; so, as we know pretty well
our position just now, I think I can steer to it. Then, as to working
the vessel, it is true I cannot hoist the sails single-handed, but
luckily we have enough of sail set already; and if it should come on to
blow a squall, I could at least drop the peaks of the main and fore
sails, and clew them up partially without help, and throw her head
close into the wind, so as to keep her all shaking till the violence of
the squall is past. And if we have continued light breezes, I'll rig up
a complication of blocks and fix them to the top-sail halyards, so that
I shall be able to hoist the sails without help. 'Tis true I'll require
half a day to hoist them, but we don't need to mind that. Then I'll
make a sort of erection on deck to screen you from the sun, Bill; and
if you can only manage to sit beside the tiller and steer for two hours
every day, so as to let me get a nap, I'll engage to let you off duty
all the rest of the twenty-four hours. And if you don't feel able for
steering, I'll lash the helm and heave-to, while I get you your
breakfasts and dinners; and so we'll manage famously, and soon reach
the Coral Island."

Bill smiled faintly as I ran on in this strain.

"And what will you do," said he, "if it comes on to blow a storm?"

This question silenced me, while I considered what I should do in such
a case. At length I laid my hand on his arm, and said, "Bill, when a
man has done all that he can do, he ought to leave the rest to God."

"O Ralph," said my companion in a faint voice, looking anxiously into
my face, "I wish that I had the feelin's about God that you seem to
have, at this hour. I'm dyin', Ralph; yet I, who have braved death a
hundred times, am afraid to die. I'm afraid to enter the next world.
Something within tells me there will be a reckoning when I go there.
But it's all over with me, Ralph. I feel that there's no chance o' my
bein' saved."

"Don't say that, Bill," said I in deep compassion; "don't say that. I'm
quite sure there's hope even for you, but I can't remember the words of
the Bible that make me think so. Is there not a Bible on board, Bill?"

"No; the last that was in the ship belonged to a poor boy that was
taken aboard against his will. He died, poor lad--I think through
ill-treatment and fear. After he was gone the captain found his Bible
and flung it overboard."

I now reflected, with great sadness and self-reproach, on the way in
which I had neglected my Bible; and it flashed across me that I was
actually in the sight of God a greater sinner than this blood-stained
pirate; for, thought I, he tells me that he never read the Bible, and
was never brought up to care for it; whereas I was carefully taught to
read it by my own mother, and had read it daily as long as I possessed
one, yet to so little purpose that I could not now call to mind a
single text that would meet this poor man's case, and afford him the
consolation he so much required. I was much distressed, and taxed my
memory for a long time. At last a text did flash into my mind, and I
wondered much that I had not thought of it before.

"Bill," said I in a low voice, "'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and
thou shalt be saved.'"

"Ay, Ralph, I've heard the missionaries say that before now, but what
good can it do me? It's not for me, that; it's not for the likes o' me."

I knew not now what to say, for although I felt sure that that word was
for him as well as for me, I could not remember any other word whereby
I could prove it.

After a short pause, Bill raised his eyes to mine and said, "Ralph,
I've led a terrible life. I've been a sailor since I was a boy, and
I've gone from bad to worse ever since I left my father's roof. I've
been a pirate three years now. It is true I did not choose the trade,
but I was inveigled aboard this schooner and kept here by force till I
became reckless and at last joined them. Since that time my hand has
been steeped in human blood again and again. Your young heart would
grow cold if I--But why should I go on? 'Tis of no use, Ralph; my doom
is fixed."

"Bill," said I, "'Though your sins be red like crimson, they shall be
white as snow.' Only believe."

"Only believe!" cried Bill, starting up on his elbow. "I've heard men
talk o' believing as if it was easy. Ha! 'tis easy enough for a man to
point to a rope and my, 'I believe that would bear my weight;' but 'tis
another thing for a man to catch hold o' that rope and swing himself by
it over the edge of a precipice!"

The energy with which he said this, and the action with which it was
accompanied, were too much for Bill. He sank back with a deep groan. As
if the very elements sympathised with this man's sufferings, a low moan
came sweeping over the sea.

"Hist, Ralph!" said Bill, opening his eyes; "there's a squall coming,
lad. Look alive, boy! Clew up the fore-sail. Drop the main-sail peak.
Them squalls come quick sometimes."

I had already started to my feet, and saw that a heavy squall was
indeed bearing down on us. It had hitherto escaped my notice, owing to
my being so much engrossed by our conversation. I instantly did as Bill
desired, for the schooner was lying motionless on the glassy sea. I
observed with some satisfaction that the squall was bearing down on the
larboard bow, so that it would strike the vessel in the position in
which she would be best able to stand the shock. Having done my best to
shorten sail, I returned aft, and took my stand at the helm.

"Now, boy," said Bill in a faint voice, "keep her close to the wind."

A few seconds afterwards he said, "Ralph, let me hear those two texts
again."

I repeated them.

"Are ye sure, lad, ye saw them in the Bible?"

"Quite sure," I replied.

Almost before the words had left my lips the wind burst upon us, and
the spray dashed over our decks. For a time the schooner stood it
bravely, and sprang forward against the rising sea like a war-horse.
Meanwhile clouds darkened the sky, and the sea began to rise in huge
billows. There was still too much sail on the schooner, and as the gale
increased, I feared that the masts would be torn out of her or carried
away, while the wind whistled and shrieked through the strained
rigging. Suddenly the wind shifted a point, a heavy sea struck us on
the bow, and the schooner was almost laid on her beam ends, so that I
could scarcely keep my legs. At the same moment Bill lost his hold of
the belaying-pin which had served to steady him, and he slid with
stunning violence against the skylight. As he lay on the deck close
beside me, I could see that the shock had rendered him insensible; but
I did not dare to quit the tiller for an instant, as it required all my
faculties, bodily and mental, to manage the schooner. For an hour the
blast drove us along, while, owing to the sharpness of the vessel's bow
and the press of canvas, she dashed through the waves instead of
breasting over them, thereby drenching the decks with water fore and
aft. At the end of that time the squall passed away, and left us
rocking on the bosom of the agitated sea.

My first care, the instant I could quit the helm, was to raise Bill
from the deck and place him on the couch. I then ran below for the
brandy bottle, and rubbed his face and hands with it, and endeavoured
to pour a little down his throat. But my efforts, although I continued
them long and assiduously, were of no avail; as I let go the hand which
I had been chafing, it fell heavily on the deck. I laid my hand over
his heart, and sat for some time quite motionless; but there was no
flutter there--the pirate was dead!



Chapter XXVIII

Alone on the deep--Necessity the mother of invention--A valuable book
discovered--Natural phenomenon--A bright day in my history.


It was with feelings of awe, not unmingled with fear, that I now seated
myself on the cabin skylight and gazed upon the rigid features of my
late comrade, while my mind wandered over his past history and
contemplated with anxiety my present position. Alone, in the midst of
the wide Pacific, having a most imperfect knowledge of navigation, and
in a schooner requiring at least eight men as her proper crew! But I
will not tax the reader's patience with a minute detail of my feelings
and doings during the first few days that followed the death of my
companion. I will merely mention that I tied a cannon-ball to his feet,
and, with feelings of the deepest sorrow, consigned him to the deep.

For fully a week after that a steady breeze blew from the east, and as
my course lay west and by north, I made rapid progress towards my
destination. I could not take an observation, which I very much
regretted, as the captain's quadrant was in the cabin; but from the day
of setting sail from the island of the savages I had kept a dead
reckoning, and as I knew pretty well now how much leeway the schooner
made, I hoped to hit the Coral Island without much difficulty. In this
I was the more confident that I knew its position on the chart (which I
understood was a very good one), and so had its correct bearings by
compass.

As the weather seemed now quite settled and fine, and as I had got into
the trade-winds, I set about preparations for hoisting the top-sails.
This was a most arduous task, and my first attempts were complete
failures, owing, in a great degree, to my reprehensible ignorance of
mechanical forces. The first error I made was in applying my apparatus
of blocks and pulleys to a rope which was too weak, so that the very
first heave I made broke it in two, and sent me staggering against the
after-hatch, over which I tripped, and, striking against the main-boom,
tumbled down the companion-ladder into the cabin. I was much bruised
and somewhat stunned by this untoward accident. However, I considered
it fortunate that I was not killed. In my next attempt I made sure of
not coming by a similar accident, so I unreeved the tackling and fitted
up larger blocks and ropes. But although the principle on which I acted
was quite correct, the machinery was now so massive and heavy that the
mere friction and stiffness of the thick cordage prevented me from
moving it at all. Afterwards, however, I came to proportion things more
correctly; but I could act avoid reflecting at the time how much better
it would have been had I learned all this from observation and study,
instead of waiting till I was forced to acquire it through the painful
and tedious lessons of experience.

After the tackling was prepared and in good working order, it took me
the greater part of a day to hoist the main top-sail. As I could not
steer and work at this at the same time, I lashed the helm in such a
position that, with a little watching now and then, it kept the
schooner in her proper course. By this means I was enabled also to go
about the deck and down below for things that I wanted, as occasion
required; also to cook and eat my victuals. But I did not dare to trust
to this plan during the three hours of rest that I allowed myself at
night, as the wind might have shifted, in which case I should have been
blown far out of my course ere I awoke. I was, therefore, in the habit
of _heaving-to_ during those three hours--that is, fixing the rudder
and the sails in such a position as that, by acting against each other,
they would keep the ship stationary. After my night's rest, therefore,
I had only to make allowance for the leeway she had made, and so resume
my course.

Of course I was to some extent anxious lest another squall should come,
but I made the best provision I could in the circumstances, and
concluded that by letting go the weather-braces of the top-sails and
the top-sail halyards at the same time, I should thereby render these
sails almost powerless. Besides this, I proposed to myself to keep a
sharp look-out on the barometer in the cabin, and if I observed at any
time a sudden fall in it, I resolved that I would instantly set about
my multiform appliances for reducing sail, so as to avoid being taken
unawares. Thus I sailed prosperously for two weeks, with a fair wind,
so that I calculated I must be drawing near to the Coral Island; at the
thought of which my heart bounded with joyful expectation.

The only book I found on board, after a careful search, was a volume of
Captain Cook's voyages. This, I suppose, the pirate captain had brought
with him in order to guide him, and to furnish him with information
regarding the islands of these seas. I found this a most delightful
book indeed, and I not only obtained much interesting knowledge about
the sea in which I was sailing, but I had many of my own opinions,
derived from experience, corroborated, and not a few of them corrected.
Besides the reading of this charming book, and the daily routine of
occupations, nothing of particular note happened to me during this
voyage, except once, when on rising one night, after my three hours'
nap, while it was yet dark, I was amazed and a little alarmed to find
myself floating in what appeared to be a sea of blue fire. I had often
noticed the beautiful appearance of phosphorescent light, but this far
exceeded anything of the sort I ever saw before. The whole sea appeared
somewhat like milk, and was remarkably luminous.

I rose in haste, and letting down a bucket into the sea, brought some
of the water on board and took it down to the cabin to examine it; but
no sooner did I approach the light than the strange appearance
disappeared, and when I removed the cabin lamp the luminous light
appeared again. I was much puzzled with this, and took up a little of
the water in the hollow of my hand and then let it run off, when I
found that the luminous substance was left behind on my palm. I ran
with it to the lamp, but when I got there it was gone. I found,
however, that when I went into the dark my hand shone again; so I took
the large glass of the ship's telescope and examined my hand minutely,
when I found that there were on it one or two small patches of a clear,
transparent substance like jelly, which were so thin as to be almost
invisible to the naked eye. Thus I came to know that the beautiful
phosphoric light, which I had so often admired before, was caused by
animals, for I had no doubt that these were of the same kind as the
medusae or jelly-fish which are seen in all parts of the world.

On the evening of my fourteenth day I was awakened out of a nap into
which I had fallen by a loud cry, and starting up I gazed around me. I
was surprised and delighted to see a large albatross soaring
majestically over the ship. I immediately took it into my head that
this was the albatross I had seen at Penguin Island. I had, of course,
no good reason for supposing this, but the idea occurred to me, I know
not why, and I cherished it, and regarded the bird with as much
affection as if he had been an old friend. He kept me company all that
day, and left me as night fell.

Next morning, as I stood motionless and with heavy eyes at the
helm--for I had not slept well--I began to weary anxiously for
daylight, and peered towards the horizon, where I thought I observed
something like a black cloud against the dark sky. Being always on the
alert for squalls, I ran to the bow. There could be no doubt it was a
squall, and as I listened I thought I heard the murmur of the coming
gale. Instantly I began to work might and main at my cumbrous tackle
for shortening sail, and in the course of an hour and a half had the
most of it reduced--the top-sail yards down on the caps, the top-sails
clewed up, the sheets hauled in, the main and fore peaks lowered, and
the flying-jib down. While thus engaged the dawn advanced, and I cast
an occasional furtive glance ahead in the midst of my labour. But now
that things were prepared for the worst, I ran forward again and looked
anxiously over the bow. I now heard the roar of the waves distinctly,
and as a single ray of the rising sun gleamed over the ocean I
saw--what! could it be that I was dreaming?--that magnificent breaker
with its ceaseless roar!--that mountain top!--yes, once more I beheld
the Coral Island!



Chapter XXIX

The effect of a cannon-shot--A happy reunion of a somewhat moist
nature--Retrospect and explanations--An awful dive--New plans--The last
of the Coral Island.


I almost fell upon the deck with the tumult of mingled emotions that
filled my heart as I gazed ardently towards my beautiful island. It was
still many miles away, but sufficiently near to enable me to trace
distinctly the well-remembered outlines of the two mountains. My first
impulse was to utter an exclamation of gratitude for being carried to
my former happy home in safety; my second, to jump up, clap my hands,
shout, and run up and down the deck, with no other object in view than
that of giving vent to my excited feelings. Then I went below for the
telescope, and spent nearly ten minutes of the utmost impatience in
vainly trying to get a focus, and in rubbing the skin nearly off my
eyes, before I discovered that having taken off the large glass to
examine the phosphoric water with I had omitted to put it on again.

After that I looked up impatiently at the sails, which I now regretted
having lowered so hastily, and for a moment thought of hoisting the
main top-sail again; but recollecting that it would take me full half a
day to accomplish, and that, at the present rate of sailing, two hours
would bring me to the island, I immediately dismissed the idea.

The remainder of the time I spent in making feverish preparations for
arriving and seeing my dear comrades. I remembered that they were not
in the habit of rising before six, and as it was now only three, I
hoped to arrive before they were awake. Moreover, I set about making
ready to let go the anchor, resolving in my own mind that, as I knew
the depth of water in the passage of the reef and within the lagoon, I
would run the schooner in and bring up opposite the bower. Fortunately
the anchor was hanging at the cat-head, otherwise I should never have
been able to use it. Now, I had only to cut the tackling, and it would
drop of its own weight. After searching among the flags, I found the
terrible black one, which I ran up to the peak. While I was doing this
a thought struck me. I went to the powder-magazine, brought up a blank
cartridge and loaded the big brass gun, which, it will be remembered,
was unhoused when we set sail, and as I had no means of housing it,
there it had stood, bristling alike at fair weather and foul all the
voyage. I took care to grease its mouth well, and before leaving the
fore part of the ship, thrust the poker into the fire.

All was now ready. A steady five-knot breeze was blowing, so that I was
now not more than quarter of a mile from the reef. I was soon at the
entrance, and as the schooner glided quickly through, I glanced
affectionately at the huge breaker, as if it had been the same one I
had seen there when I bade adieu, as I feared for ever, to the island.
On coming opposite the Water Garden, I put the helm hard down. The
schooner came round with a rapid, graceful bend, and lost way just
opposite the bower. Running forward, I let go the anchor, caught up the
red-hot poker, applied it to the brass gun, and saluted the mountains
with a _bang_ such as had only once before broke their slumbering
echoes!

Effective although it was, however, it was scarcely equal to the bang
with which, instantly after, Peterkin bounded from the bower, in scanty
costume, his eyeballs starting from his head with surprise and terror.
One gaze he gave, one yell, and then fled into the bushes like a wild
cat. The next moment Jack went through exactly the same performance,
the only difference being that his movements were less like those of
Jack-in-the-box, though not less vigorous and rapid than those of
Peterkin.

"Hallo!" I shouted, almost mad with joy, "what ho! Peterkin! Jack I
hallo! it's _me_!"

My shout was just in time to arrest them. They halted and turned round,
and the instant I repeated the cry I saw that they recognised my voice,
by both of them running at full speed towards the beach. I could no
longer contain myself. Throwing off my jacket, I jumped overboard at
the same moment that Jack bounded into the sea. In another moment we
met in deep water, clasped each other round the neck, and sank, as a
matter of course, to the bottom! We were well-nigh choked, and
instantly struggled to the surface, where Peterkin was sputtering about
like a wounded duck, laughing and crying by turns, and choking himself
with salt water!

It would be impossible to convey to my reader, by description, an
adequate conception of the scene that followed my landing on the beach,
as we stood embracing each other indiscriminately in our dripping
garments, and giving utterance to incoherent rhapsodies, mingled with
wild shouts. It can be more easily imagined than described, so I will
draw a curtain over this part of my history, and carry the reader
forward over an interval of three days.

During the greater part of that period Peterkin did nothing but roast
pigs, taro, and bread-fruit, and ply me with plantains, plums,
potatoes, and cocoa-nuts, while I related to him and Jack the terrible
and wonderful adventures I had gone through since we last met. After I
had finished the account, they made me go all over it again; and when I
had concluded the second recital, I had to go over it again, while they
commented upon it piecemeal. They were much affected by what I told
them of the probable fate of Avatea, and Peterkin could by no means
brook the idea of the poor girl being converted into a _long pig_! As
for Jack, he clinched his teeth, and shook his fist towards the sea,
saying at the same time that he was sorry he had not broken Tararo's
head, and he only hoped that one day he should be able to plant his
knuckles on the bridge of that chiefs nose! After they had "pumped me
dry," as Peterkin said, I begged to be informed of what had happened to
them during my long absence, and particularly as to how they got out of
the Diamond Cave.

"Well, you must know," began Jack, "after you had dived out of the
cave, on the day you were taken away from us, we waited very patiently
for half-an-hour, not expecting you to return before the end of that
time. Then we began to upbraid you for staying so long, when you knew
we would be anxious; but when an hour passed, we became alarmed, and I
resolved at all hazards to dive out, and see what had become of you,
although I felt for poor Peterkin, because, as he truly said, 'If you
never come back I'm shut up here for life.' However, I promised not to
run any risk, and he let me go; which, to say truth, I thought very
courageous of him!"

"I should just think it was," interrupted Peterkin, looking at Jack
over the edge of a monstrous potato which he happened to be devouring
at the time.

"Well," continued Jack, "you may guess my consternation when you did
not answer to my halloo. At first I imagined that the pirates must have
killed you, and left you in the bush or thrown you into the sea; then
it occurred to me that this would have served no end of theirs, so I
came to the conclusion that they must have carried you away with them.
As this thought struck me, I observed the pirate schooner standing away
to the nor'ard, almost hull down on the horizon, and I sat down on the
rocks to watch her as she slowly sank from my sight. And I tell you,
Ralph my boy, that I shed more tears that time at losing you than I
have done, I verily believe, all my life before--"

"Pardon me, Jack, for interrupting," said Peterkin; "surely you must be
mistaken in that: you've often told me that when you were a baby you
used to howl and roar from morning to--"

"Hold your tongue, Peterkin," cried Jack. "Well, after the schooner had
disappeared, I dived back into the cave, much to Peterkin's relief, and
told him what I had seen. We sat down and had a long talk over this
matter, and then we agreed to make a regular, systematic search through
the woods, so as to make sure at least that you had not been killed.
But now we thought of the difficulty of getting out of the cave without
your help. Peterkin became dreadfully nervous when he thought of this;
and I must confess I felt some alarm, for, of course, I could not hope
alone to take him out so quickly as we two together had brought him in;
and he himself vowed that, if we had been a moment longer with him that
time, he would have had to take a breath of salt water. However, there
was no help for it, and I endeavoured to calm his fears as well as I
could; 'For,' said I, 'you can't live here, Peterkin;' to which he
replied,' Of course not, Jack, I can only die here, and as that's not
at all desirable, you had better propose something.' So I suggested
that he should take a good long breath, and trust himself to me.

"'Might we not make a large bag of cocoa-nut cloth, into which I could
shove my head, and tie it tight round my neck?' he asked with a haggard
smile. 'It might let me get one breath under water!'

"'No use,' said I, 'it would fill in a moment and suffocate you. I see
nothing for it, Peterkin, if you really can't keep your breath so long,
but to let me knock you down, and carry you out while in a state of
insensibility.'

"But Peterkin didn't relish this idea. He seemed to fear that I would
not be able to measure the exact force of the blow, and might, on the
one hand, hit him so softly as to render a second or third blow
necessary, which would be very uncomfortable; or, on the other hand,
give him such a smash as would entirely spoil his figure-head, or
mayhap knock the life out of him altogether! At last I got him
persuaded to try to hold his breath, and commit himself to me; so he
agreed, and down we went. But I had not got half-way through, when he
began to struggle and kick like a wild bull, burst from my grasp, and
hit against the roof of the tunnel. I was therefore obliged to force
him violently back into the cave again, where he rose panting to the
surface. In short, he had lost his presence of mind, and--"

"Nothing of the sort," cried Peterkin indignantly, "I only lost my
wind; and if I had not had presence of mind enough to kick as I did, I
should have bu'st in your arms!"

"Well, well, so be it," resumed Jack with a smile; "but the upshot of
it was, that we had to hold another consultation on the point, and I
really believe that, had it not been for a happy thought of mine, we
should have been consulting there yet."

"I wish we had," again interrupted Peterkin with a sigh.--"I'm sure,
Ralph, if I had thought that you were coming back again, I would
willingly have awaited your return for months rather than have endured
the mental agony which I went through. But proceed."

"The thought was this," continued Jack, "that I should tie Peterkin's
hands and feet with cords, and then lash him firmly to a stout pole
about five feet long, in order to render him quite powerless, and keep
him straight and stiff. You should have seen his face of horror, Ralph,
when I suggested this; but he came to see that it was his only chance,
and told me to set about it as fast as I could; 'For,' said he, 'this
is no jokin', Jack, _I_ can tell you, and the sooner it's done the
better.' I soon procured the cordage and a suitable pole, with which I
returned to the cave, and lashed him as stiff and straight as an
Egyptian mummy; and, to say truth, he was no bad representation of what
an English mummy would be, if there were such things, for he was as
white as a dead man."

"'Now,' said Peterkin in a tremulous voice, 'swim with me as near to
the edge of the hole as you can before you dive, then let me take a
long breath, and as I shan't be able to speak after I've taken it,
you'll watch my face, and the moment you see me wink--dive! And oh,' he
added earnestly, 'pray don't be long!'

"I promised to pay the strictest attention to his wishes, and swam with
him to the outlet of the cave. Here I paused. 'Now then', said I, 'pull
away at the wind, lad.'

"Peterkin drew in a breath so long that I could not help thinking of
the frog in the fable, that wanted to swell itself as big as the ox.
Then I looked into his face earnestly. Slap went the lid of his right
eye; down went my head, and up went my heels. We shot through the
passage like an arrow, and rose to the surface of the open sea before
you could count twenty.

"Peterkin had taken in such an awful load of wind that, on reaching the
free air, he let it out with a yell loud enough to have been heard a
mile off, and then the change in his feelings was so sudden and great,
that he did not wait till we landed, but began, tied up as he was, to
shout and sing for joy as I supported him, with my left arm, to the
shore. However, in the middle of a laugh that a hyena might have
envied, I let him accidentally slip, which extinguished him in a moment.

"After this happy deliverance, we immediately began our search for your
dead body, Ralph; and you have no idea how low our hearts sank as we
set off, day after day, to examine the valleys and mountain sides with
the utmost care. In about three weeks we completed the survey of the
whole island, and had at least the satisfaction of knowing that you had
not been killed. But it occurred to us that you might have been thrown
into the sea, so we examined the sands and the lagoon carefully, and
afterwards went all round the outer reef. One day, while we were upon
the reef, Peterkin espied a small, dark object lying among the rocks,
which seemed to be quite different from the surrounding stones. We
hastened towards the spot, and found it to be a small keg. On knocking
out the head we discovered that it was gunpowder."

"It was I who sent you that, Jack," said I with a smile.

"Fork out!" cried Peterkin energetically, starting to his feet and
extending his open hand to Jack. "Down with the money, sir, else I'll
have you shut up for life in a debtor's prison the moment we return to
England!"

"I'll give you an I O U in the meantime," returned Jack, laughing, "so
sit down and be quiet.--The fact is, Ralph, when we discovered this keg
of powder, Peterkin immediately took me a bet of a thousand pounds that
you had something to do with it, and I took him a bet of ten thousand
that you had not."

"Peterkin was right then," said I, explaining how the thing had
occurred.

"Well, we found it very useful," continued Jack, "although some of it
had got a little damp; and we furbished up the old pistol, with which
Peterkin is a crack shot now. But to continue. We did not find any
other vestige of you on the reef, and finally gave up all hope of ever
seeing you again. After this the island became a dreary place to us,
and we began to long for a ship to heave in sight and take us off. But
now that you're back again, my dear fellow, it looks as bright and
cheerful as it used to do, and I love it as much as ever.

"And now," continued Jack, "I have a great desire to visit some of the
other islands of the South Seas. Here we have a first-rate schooner at
our disposal, so I don't see what should hinder us."

"Just the very thing I was going to propose," cried Peterkin. "I vote
for starting at once."

"Well, then," said Jack, "it seems to me that we could not do better
than shape our course for the island on which Avatea lives, and
endeavour to persuade Tararo to let her marry the black fellow to whom
she is engaged, instead of making a long pig of her. If he has a spark
of gratitude in him, he'll do it. Besides, having become champions for
this girl once before, it behoves us, as true knights, not to rest
until we set her free; at least, all the heroes in all the story-books
I have ever read would count it foul disgrace to leave such a work
unfinished."

"I'm sure I don't know or care what your knights in story-books would
do," said Peterkin; "but I'm certain that it would be capital fun, so
I'm your man whenever you want me."

This plan of Jack's was quite in accordance with his romantic,
impulsive nature; and having made up his mind to save this black girl,
he could not rest until the thing was commenced.

"But there may be great danger in this attempt," he said, at the end of
a long consultation on the subject. "Will you, lads, go with me in
spite of this?"

"Go with you!" we repeated in the same breath.

"Can you doubt it?" said I.

"For a moment," added Peterkin.

I need scarcely say that, having made up our minds to go on this
enterprise, we lost no time in making preparations to quit the island;
and as the schooner was well laden with stores of every kind for a long
cruise, we had little to do except to add to our abundant supply a
quantity of cocoa-nuts, bread-fruit, taro, yams, plums, and potatoes,
chiefly with the view of carrying the fragrance of our dear island
along with us as long as we could.

When all was ready, we paid a farewell visit to the different familiar
spots where most of our time had been spent. We ascended the mountain
top, and gazed for the last time at the rich green foliage in the
valleys, the white sandy beach, the placid lagoon, and the barrier
coral reef with its crested breakers. Then we descended to Spouting
Cliff, and looked down at the pale-green monster which we had made such
fruitless efforts to spear in days gone by. From this we hurried to the
Water Garden, and took a last dive into its clear waters, and a last
gambol amongst its coral groves. I hurried out before my companions,
and dressed in haste, in order to have a long examination of my tank,
which Peterkin, in the fulness of his heart, had tended with the utmost
care, as being a vivid remembrancer of me, rather than out of love for
natural history. It was in superb condition--the water as clear and
pellucid as crystal; the red and green seaweed of the most brilliant
hues; the red, purple, yellow, green, and striped anemones fully
expanded, and stretching out their arms as if to welcome and embrace
their former master; the star-fish, zoophytes, sea-pens, and other
innumerable marine insects looking fresh and beautiful; and the crabs,
as Peterkin said, looking as wide awake, impertinent, rampant, and
pugnacious as ever. It was, indeed, so lovely and so interesting that I
would scarcely allow myself to be torn away from it.

Last of all, we returned to the bower and collected the few articles we
possessed, such as the axe, the pencil-case, the broken telescope, the
penknife, the hook made from the brass ring, and the sail-needle, with
which we had landed on the island; also the long boots and the pistol,
besides several curious articles of costume which we had manufactured
from time to time.

These we conveyed on board in our little boat, after having carved our
names on a chip of ironwood, thus:--

JACK MARTIN, RALPH ROVER, PETERKIN GAY,

which we fixed up inside of the bower. The boat was then hoisted on
board and the anchor weighed; which latter operation cost us great
labour and much time, as the anchor was so heavy that we could not move
it without the aid of my complex machinery of blocks and pulleys. A
steady breeze was blowing off shore when we set sail, at a little
before sunset. It swept us quickly past the reef and out to sea. The
shore grew rapidly more indistinct as the shades of evening fell, while
our clipper bark bounded lightly over the waves. Slowly the mountain
top sank on the horizon, until it became a mere speck. In another
moment the sun and the Coral Island sank together into the broad bosom
of the Pacific.



Chapter XXX

The voyage--The island, and a consultation in which danger is scouted
as a thing unworthy of consideration--Rats and cats--The native
teacher--Awful revelations--Wonderful effects of Christianity.


Our voyage during the next two weeks was most interesting and
prosperous. The breeze continued generally fair, and at all times
enabled us to lie our course; for being, as I have said before,
clipper-built, the pirate schooner could lie very close to the wind and
make little leeway. We had no difficulty now in managing our sails, for
Jack was heavy and powerful, while Peterkin was active as a kitten.
Still, however, we were a very insufficient crew for such a vessel, and
if any one had proposed to us to make such a voyage in it before we had
been forced to go through so many hardships from necessity, we would
have turned away with pity from the individual making such proposal as
from a madman. I pondered this a good deal, and at last concluded that
men do not know how much they are capable of doing till they try, and
that we should never give way to despair in any undertaking, however
difficult it may seem--always supposing, however, that our cause is a
good one, and that we can ask the Divine blessing on it.

Although, therefore, we could now manage our sails easily, we
nevertheless found that my pulleys were of much service to us in some
things; though Jack did laugh heartily at the uncouth arrangement of
ropes and blocks, which had, to a sailor's eye, a very lumbering and
clumsy appearance. But I will not drag my reader through the details of
this voyage. Suffice it to say that, after an agreeable sail of about
three weeks, we arrived off the island of Mango, which I recognised at
once from the description that the pirate Bill had given me of it
during one of our conversations.

As soon as we came within sight of it we hove the ship to and held a
council of war.

"Now, boys," said Jack, as we seated ourselves beside him on the cabin
skylight, "before we go further in this business, we must go over the
pros and cons of it; for although you have so generously consented to
stick by me through thick and thin, it would be unfair did I not see
that you thoroughly understand the danger of what we are about to
attempt."

"Oh, bother the danger!" cried Peterkin. "I wonder to hear you, Jack,
talk of danger. When a fellow begins to talk about it, he'll soon come
to magnify it to such a degree that he'll not be fit to face it when it
comes, no more than a suckin' baby."

"Nay, Peterkin," replied Jack gravely, "I won't be jested out of it. I
grant you that when we've once resolved to act, and have made up our
minds what to do, we should think no more of danger. But before we have
so resolved it behoves us to look it straight in the face, and examine
into it, and walk round it; for if we flinch at a distant view, we're
sure to run away when the danger is near.--Now, I understand from you,
Ralph, that the island is inhabited by thorough-going, out-and-out
cannibals, whose principal law is, 'Might is right, and the weakest
goes to the wall'?"

"Yes," said I; "so Bill gave me to understand. He told me, however,
that at the southern side of it the missionaries had obtained a footing
amongst an insignificant tribe. A native teacher had been sent there by
the Wesleyans, who had succeeded in persuading the chief at that part
to embrace Christianity. But instead of that being of any advantage to
our enterprise, it seems the very reverse; for the chief Tararo is a
determined heathen, and persecutes the Christians--who are far too weak
in numbers to offer any resistance--and looks with dislike upon all
white men, whom he regards as propagators of the new faith."

"Tis a pity," said Jack, "that the Christian tribe is so small, for we
shall scarcely be safe under their protection, I fear. If Tararo takes
it into his head to wish for our vessel, or to kill ourselves, he could
take us from them by force. You say that the native missionary talks
English?"

"So I believe."

"Then, what I propose is this," said Jack. "We will run round to the
south side of the island, and cast anchor off the Christian village. We
are too far away just now to have been descried by any of the savages,
so we shall get there unobserved, and have time to arrange our plans
before the heathen tribes know of our presence. But in doing this we
run the risk of being captured by the ill-disposed tribes, and being
very ill used, if not-a--"

"Roasted alive and eaten," cried Peterkin. "Come, out with it, Jack.
According to your own showing, it's well to look the danger straight in
the face!"

"Well, that is the worst of it, certainly. Are you prepared, then, to
take your chance of that?"

"I've been prepared and had my mind made up long ago," cried Peterkin,
swaggering about the deck with his hands thrust into his breeches
pockets. "The fact is, Jack, I don't believe that Tararo will be so
ungrateful as to eat us; and I'm quite sure that he'll be too happy to
grant us whatever we ask, so the sooner we go in and win the better."

Peterkin was wrong, however, in his estimate of savage gratitude, as
the sequel will show.

The schooner was now put before the wind, and after making a long run
to the southward, we put about and beat up for the south side of Mango,
where we arrived before sunset, and hove-to off the coral reef. Here we
awaited the arrival of a canoe, which immediately put off on our
rounding-to. When it arrived, a mild-looking native, of apparently
forty years of age, came on board, and, taking off his straw hat, made
us a low bow. He was clad in a respectable suit of European clothes;
and the first words he uttered, as he stepped up to Jack and shook
hands with him, were--

"Good day, gentlemen. We are happy to see you at Mango; you are
heartily welcome."

After returning his salutation, Jack exclaimed, "You must be the native
missionary teacher of whom I have heard; are you not?"

"I am. I have the joy to be a servant of the Lord Jesus at this
station."

"You're the very man I want to see, then," replied Jack; "that's lucky.
Come down to the cabin, friend, and have a glass of wine. I wish
particularly to speak with you. My men there," pointing to Peterkin and
me, "will look after your people."

"Thank you," said the teacher, as he followed Jack to the cabin; "I do
not drink wine, or any strong drink."

"Oh! then there's lots of water, and you can have biscuit."


"Now, 'pon my word, that's cool!" said Peterkin; "his _men_, forsooth!
Well, since we are to be men, we may as well come it as strong over
these black chaps as we can.--Hallo, there!" he cried to the half-dozen
of natives who stood upon the deck, gazing in wonder at all they saw,
"here's for you;" and he handed them a tray of broken biscuit and a can
of water. Then, thrusting his hands into his pockets, he walked up and
down the deck with an enormous swagger, whistling vociferously.

In about half-an-hour Jack and the teacher came on deck, and the
latter, bidding us a cheerful good-evening, entered his canoe and
paddled to the shore. When he was gone, Peterkin stepped up to Jack,
and, touching his cap, said--

"Well, captain, have you any communications to make to your _men?_"

"Yes," cried Jack; "ready about, mind the helm, and clew up your
tongue, while I con the schooner through the passage in the reef. The
teacher, who seems a first-rate fellow, says it's quite deep, and good
anchorage within the lagoon close to the shore."

While the vessel was slowly advancing to her anchorage, under a light
breeze, Jack explained to us that Avatea was still on the island,
living amongst the heathens; that she had expressed a strong desire to
join the Christians, but Tararo would not let her, and kept her
constantly in close confinement.

"Moreover," continued Jack, "I find that she belongs to one of the
Samoan Islands, where Christianity had been introduced long before her
capture by the heathens of a neighbouring island; and the very day
after she was taken she was to have joined the Church which had been
planted there by that excellent body the London Missionary Society. The
teacher tells me, too, that the poor girl has fallen in love with a
Christian chief, who lives on an island some fifty miles or so to the
south of this one, and that she is meditating a desperate attempt at
escape. So, you see, we have come in the nick of time. I fancy that
this chief is the fellow whom you heard of, Ralph, at the Island of
Emo. Besides all this, the heathen savages are at war among themselves,
and there's to be a battle fought the day after to-morrow, in which the
principal leader is Tararo; so that we'll not be able to commence our
negotiations with the rascally chief till the day after."

The village off which we anchored was beautifully situated at the head
of a small bay, from the margin of which trees of every description
peculiar to the tropics rose in the richest luxuriance to the summit of
a hilly ridge, which was the line of demarcation between the
possessions of the Christians and those of the neighbouring heathen
chief.

The site of the settlement was an extensive plot of flat land,
stretching in a gentle slope from the sea to the mountain. The cottages
stood several hundred yards from the beach, and were protected from the
glare of the sea by the rich foliage of rows of large Barringtonia and
other trees which girt the shore. The village was about a mile in
length, and perfectly straight, with a wide road down the middle, on
either side of which were rows of the tufted-topped ti tree, whose
delicate and beautiful blossoms, hanging beneath their plume-crested
tops, added richness to the scene. The cottages of the natives were
built beneath these trees, and were kept in the most excellent order,
each having a little garden in front, tastefully laid out and planted,
while the walks were covered with black and white pebbles.

Every house had doors and Venetian windows, painted partly with
lamp-black made from the candle-nut, and partly with red ochre, which
contrasted powerfully with the dazzling coral lime that covered the
walls. On a prominent position stood a handsome church, which was quite
a curiosity in its way. It was a hundred feet long by fifty broad, and
was seated throughout to accommodate upwards of two thousand persons.
It had six large folding doors, and twelve windows with Venetian
blinds; and although a large and substantial edifice, it had been
built, we were told by the teacher, in the space of two months! There
was not a single iron nail in the fabric, and the natives had
constructed it chiefly with their stone and bone axes and other tools,
having only one or two axes or tools of European manufacture.
Everything around this beautiful spot wore an aspect of peace and
plenty; and as we dropped our anchor within a stone's cast of the
substantial coral wharf, I could not avoid contrasting it with the
wretched village of Emo, where I had witnessed so many frightful
scenes. When the teacher afterwards told me that the people of this
tribe had become converts only a year previous to our arrival, and that
they had been living before that in the practice of the most bloody
system of idolatry, I could not refrain from exclaiming, "What a
convincing proof that Christianity is of God!"

On landing from our little boat, we were received with a warm welcome
by the teacher and his wife; the latter being also a native, clothed in
a simple European gown and a straw bonnet. The shore was lined with
hundreds of natives, whose persons were all more or less clothed with
native cloth. Some of the men had on a kind of poncho formed of this
cloth, their legs being uncovered; others wore clumsily fashioned
trousers, and no upper garment except hats made of straw and cloth.
Many of the dresses, both of women and men, were grotesque enough,
being very bad imitations of the European garb; but all wore a dress of
some sort or other. They seemed very glad to see us, and crowded round
us as the teacher led the way to his dwelling, where we were
entertained, in the most sumptuous manner, on baked pig and all the
varieties of fruits and vegetables that the island produced. We were
much annoyed, however, by the rats: they seemed to run about the house
like domestic animals. As we sat at table, one of them peeped up at us
over the edge of the cloth, close to Peterkin's elbow, who floored it
with a blow on the snout from his knife, exclaiming as he did so--

"I say, Mister Teacher, why don't you set traps for these brutes?
Surely you are not fond of them!"

"No," replied the teacher with a smile; "we would be glad to get rid of
them if we could; but if we were to trap all the rats on the island, it
would occupy our whole time."

"Are they, then, so numerous?" inquired Jack.

"They swarm everywhere. The poor heathens on the north side eat them,
and think them very sweet. So did my people formerly; but they do not
eat so many now, because the missionary who was last here expressed
disgust at it. The poor people asked if it was wrong to eat rats; and
he told them that it was certainly not wrong, but that the people of
England would be much disgusted were they asked to eat rats."

We had not been an hour in the house of this kind-hearted man when we
were convinced of the truth of his statement as to their numbers; for
the rats ran about the floors in dozens, and during our meal two men
were stationed at the table to keep them off!

"What a pity you have no cats!" said Peterkin, and he aimed a blow at
another reckless intruder, and missed it.

"We would indeed be glad to have a few," rejoined the teacher, "but
they are difficult to be got. The hogs, we find, are very good
rat-killers, but they do not seem to be able to keep the numbers down.
I have heard that they are better than cats."

As the teacher said this, his good-natured black face was wrinkled with
a smile of merriment. Observing that I had noticed it, he said--

"I smiled just now when I remembered the fate of the first cat that was
taken to Rarotonga. This is one of the stations of the London
Missionary Society. It, like our own, is infested with rats, and a cat
was brought at last to the island. It was a large black one. On being
turned loose, instead of being content to stay among men, the cat took
to the mountains, and lived in a wild state, sometimes paying visits
during the night to the houses of the natives; some of whom, living at
a distance from the settlement, had not heard of the cat's arrival, and
were dreadfully frightened in consequence, calling it a 'monster of the
deep,' and flying in terror away from it. One night the cat--feeling a
desire for company, I suppose--took its way to the house of a chief who
had recently been converted to Christianity, and had begun to learn to
read and pray. The chief's wife, who was sitting awake at his side
while he slept, beheld with horror two fires glistening in the doorway,
and heard with surprise a mysterious voice. Almost petrified with fear,
she awoke her husband, and began to upbraid him for forsaking his old
religion and burning his god, who, she declared, was now come to be
avenged of them. 'Get up and pray! get up and pray!' she cried. The
chief arose, and on opening his eyes beheld the same glaring lights and
heard the same ominous sound. Impelled by the extreme urgency of the
case, he commenced, with all possible vehemence, to vociferate the
alphabet, as a prayer to God to deliver them from the vengeance of
Satan! On hearing this, the cat, as much alarmed as themselves, fled
precipitately away, leaving the chief and his wife congratulating
themselves on the efficacy of their prayer."

We were much diverted with this anecdote, which the teacher related in
English so good that we certainly could not have supposed him a native
but for the colour of his face and the foreign accent in his tone. Next
day we walked out with this interesting man, and were much entertained
and instructed by his conversation, as we rambled through the cool,
shady groves of bananas, citrons, limes, and other trees, or sauntered
among the cottages of the natives, and watched them while they laboured
diligently in the taro beds or manufactured the tapa or native cloth.
To some of these Jack put questions through the medium of the
missionary; and the replies were such as to surprise us at the extent
of their knowledge. Indeed, Peterkin very truly remarked that "they
seemed to know a considerable deal more than Jack himself!"

Among other pieces of interesting information that we obtained was the
following, in regard to coral formations:--

"The islands of the Pacific," said our friend, "are of three different
kinds or classes. Those of the first class are volcanic, mountainous,
and wild; some shooting their jagged peaks into the clouds at an
elevation of ten and fifteen thousand feet. Those of the second class
are of crystallised limestone, and vary in height from one hundred to
five hundred feet. The hills on these are not so wild or broken as
those of the first class, but are richly clothed with vegetation, and
very beautiful. I have no doubt that the Coral Island on which you were
wrecked was one of this class. They are supposed to have been upheaved
from the bottom of the sea by volcanic agency, but they are not
themselves volcanic in their nature, neither are they of coral
formation. Those of the third class are the low coralline islands,
usually having lagoons of water in their midst; they are very numerous.

"As to the manner in which coral islands and reefs are formed, there
are various opinions on this point. I will give you what seems to me
the most probable theory--a theory, I may add, which is held by some of
the good and scientific missionaries. It is well known that there is
much lime in salt water; it is also known that coral is composed of
lime. It is supposed that the polypes, or coral insects, have the power
of attracting this lime to their bodies; and with this material they
build their little cells or habitations. They choose the summit of a
volcano, or the top of a submarine mountain, as a foundation on which
to build; for it is found that they never work at any great depth below
the surface. On this they work; the polypes on the mountain top, of
course, reach the surface first, then those at the outer edges reach
the top sooner than the others between them and the centre, thus
forming the coral reef surrounding the lagoon of water and the central
island; after that the insects within the lagoon cease working. When
the surface of the water is reached, these myriads of wonderful
creatures die. Then birds visit the spot, and seeds are thus conveyed
thither, which take root, and spring up, and flourish. Thus are
commenced those coralline islets of which you have seen so many in
these seas. The reefs round the large islands are formed in a similar
manner. When we consider," added the missionary, "the smallness of the
architects used by our heavenly Father in order to form those lovely
and innumerable islands, we are filled with much of that feeling which
induced the ancient king to exclaim, 'How manifold, O Lord, are Thy
works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all.'"

We all heartily agreed with the missionary in this sentiment, and felt
not a little gratified to find that the opinions which Jack and I had
been led to form from personal observation on our Coral Island were
thus to a great extent corroborated.

The missionary also gave us an account of the manner in which
Christianity had been introduced among them. He said: "When
missionaries were first sent here, three years ago, a small vessel
brought them; and the chief, who is now dead, promised to treat well
the two native teachers who were left with their wives on the island.
But scarcely had the boat which landed them returned to the ship, than
the natives began to maltreat their guests, taking away all they
possessed, and offering them further violence, so that, when the boat
was sent in haste to fetch them away, the clothes of both men and women
were torn nearly off their backs.

"Two years after this the vessel visited them again, and I, being in
her, volunteered to land alone, without any goods whatever, begging
that my wife might be brought to me the following year--that is, _this_
year; and, as you see, she is with me. But the surf was so high that
the boat could not land me; so with nothing on but my trousers and
shirt, and with a few catechisms and a Bible, besides some portions of
the Scripture translated into the Mango tongue, I sprang into the sea,
and swam ashore on the crest of a breaker. I was instantly dragged up
the beach by the natives; who, on finding I had nothing worth having
upon me, let me alone. I then made signs to my friends in the ship to
leave me; which they did. At first the natives listened to me in
silence, but laughed at what I said while I preached the Gospel of our
blessed Saviour Jesus Christ to them. Afterwards they treated me ill
sometimes; but I persevered, and continued to dwell among them, and
dispute, and exhort them to give up their sinful ways of life, burn
their idols, and come to Jesus.

"About a month after I landed, I heard that the chief was dead. He was
the father of the present chief, who is now a most consistent member of
the Church. It is a custom here that when a chief dies his wives are
strangled and buried with him. Knowing this, I hastened to his house to
endeavour to prevent such cruelty if possible. When I arrived, I found
two of the wives had already been killed, while another was in the act
of being strangled. I pleaded hard for her, but it was too late; she
was already dead. I then entreated the son to spare the fourth wife,
and after much hesitation my prayer was granted; but in half-an-hour
afterwards this poor woman repented of being unfaithful, as she termed
it, to her husband, and insisted on being strangled; which was
accordingly done.

"All this time the chief's son was walking up and down before his
father's house with a brow black as thunder. When he entered I went in
with him, and found, to my surprise, that his father was _not_ dead!
The old man was sitting on a mat in a corner, with an expression of
placid resignation on his face.

"'Why,' said I, 'have you strangled your father's wives before he is
dead?'

"To this the son replied, 'He is dead. That is no longer my father. He
is as good as dead now. He is to be _buried alive_.'

"I now remembered having heard that it is a custom among the Feejee
Islanders, that when the reigning chief grows old or infirm, the heir
to the chieftainship has a right to depose his father; in which case he
is considered as dead, and is buried alive. The young chief was now
about to follow this custom, and despite my earnest entreaties and
pleadings, the old chief was buried that day before my eyes in the same
grave with his four strangled wives! Oh, my heart groaned when I saw
this! and I prayed to God to open the hearts of these poor creatures,
as He had already opened mine, and pour into them the light and the
love of the Gospel of Jesus. My prayer was answered very soon. A week
afterwards, the son, who was now chief of the tribe, came to me,
bearing his god on his shoulders, and groaning beneath its weight.
Flinging it down at my feet, he desired me to burn it!

"You may conceive how overjoyed I was at this. I sprang up and embraced
him, while I shed tears of joy. Then we made a fire, and burned the god
to ashes, amid an immense concourse of the people, who seemed terrified
at what was being done, and shrank back when we burned the god,
expecting some signal vengeance to be taken upon us; but seeing that
nothing happened, they changed their minds, and thought that our God
must be the true one after all. From that time the mission prospered
steadily; and now, while there is not a single man in the tribe who has
not burned his household gods and become a convert to Christianity,
there are not a few, I hope, who are true followers of the Lamb, having
been plucked as brands from the burning by Him who can save unto the
uttermost. I will not tell you more of our progress at this time; but
you see," he said, waving his hand around him, "the village and the
church did not exist a year ago!"

We were indeed much interested in this account, and I could not help
again in my heart praying to God to prosper those missionary societies
that send such inestimable blessings to these islands of dark and
bloody idolatry. The teacher also added that the other tribes were very
indignant at this one for having burned its gods, and threatened to
destroy it altogether, but they had done nothing yet. "And if they
should," said the teacher, "the Lord is on our side; of whom shall we
be afraid?"

"Have the missionaries many stations in these seas?" inquired Jack.

"Oh yes. The London Missionary Society have a great many in the Tahiti
group, and other islands in that quarter. Then the Wesleyans have the
Feejee Islands all to themselves, and the Americans have many stations
in other groups. But still, my friend, there are hundreds of islands
here the natives of which have never heard of Jesus, or the good word
of God, or the Holy Spirit; and thousands are living and dying in the
practice of those terrible sins and bloody murders of which you have
already heard. I trust, my friends," he added, looking earnestly into
our faces--"I trust that if you ever return to England, you will tell
your Christian friends that the horrors which they hear of in regard to
these islands are _literally true,_ and that when they have heard the
worst, the _'half has not been told them;'_ for there are perpetrated
here foul deeds of darkness of which man may not speak. You may also
tell them," he said, looking around with a smile, while a tear of
gratitude trembled in his eye and rolled down his coal-black
cheek--"tell them of the blessings that the Gospel has wrought _here_!"

We assured our friend that we would certainly not forget his request.
On returning towards the village, about noon, we remarked on the
beautiful whiteness of the cottages.

"That is owing to the lime with which they are plastered," said the
teacher. "When the natives were converted, as I have described, I set
them to work to build cottages for themselves, and also this handsome
church which you see. When the framework and other parts of the house
were up, I sent the people to fetch coral from the sea. They brought
immense quantities. Then I made them cut wood, and piling the coral
above it, set it on fire.

"'Look! look!' cried the poor people in amazement, 'what wonderful
people the Christians are! He is roasting stones. We shall not need
taro or bread-fruit any more; we may eat stones!'

"But their surprise was still greater when the coral was reduced to a
fine, soft white powder. They immediately set up a great shout, and
mingling the lime with water, rubbed their faces and their bodies all
over with it, and ran through the village screaming with delight. They
were also much surprised at another thing they saw me do. I wished to
make some household furniture, and constructed a turning-lathe to
assist me. The first thing that I turned was the leg of a sofa; which
was no sooner finished than the chief seized it with wonder and
delight, and ran through the village exhibiting it to the people, who
looked upon it with great admiration. The chief then, tying a string to
it, hung it round his neck as an ornament! He afterwards told me that
if he had seen it before he became a Christian, he would have made it
his god!"

As the teacher concluded this anecdote we reached his door. Saying that
he had business to attend to, he left us to amuse ourselves as we best
could.

"Now, lads," said Jack, turning abruptly towards us, and buttoning up
his jacket as he spoke, "I'm off to see the battle. I've no particular
fondness for seein' bloodshed, but I must find out the nature o' these
fellows and see their customs with my own eyes, so that I may be able
to speak of it again, if need be, authoritatively. It's only six miles
off, and we don't run much more risk than that of getting a rap with a
stray stone or an overshot arrow. Will you go?"

"To be sure we will," said Peterkin.

"If they chance to see us we'll cut and run for it," added Jack.

"Dear me!" cried Peterkin--"_you_ run! I thought you would scorn to run
from any one."

"So I would, if it were my duty to fight," returned Jack coolly; "but
as I don't want to fight, and don't intend to fight, if they offer to
attack us I'll run away like the veriest coward that ever went by the
name of Peterkin. So come along."



Chapter XXXI

A strange and bloody battle--The lion bearded in his den--Frightful
scenes of cruelty, and fear for the future.


We had ascertained from the teacher the direction to the spot on which
the battle was to be fought, and after a walk of two hours, reached it.
The summit of a bare hill was the place chosen; for, unlike most of the
other islanders who are addicted to bush fighting, those of Mango are
in the habit of meeting on open ground. We arrived before the two
parties had commenced the deadly struggle, and, creeping as close up as
we dared among the rocks, we lay and watched them.

The combatants were drawn up face to face, each side ranged in rank
four deep. Those in the first row were armed with long spears; the
second with clubs to defend the spearmen; the third row was composed of
young men with slings; and the fourth consisted of women, who carried
baskets of stones for the slingers, and clubs and spears with which to
supply the warriors. Soon after we arrived the attack was made with
great fury. There was no science displayed. The two bodies of savages
rushed headlong upon each other and engaged in a general _mêlée_, and a
more dreadful set of men I have never seen. They wore grotesque
war-caps made of various substances and decorated with feathers. Their
faces and bodies were painted so as to make them look as frightful as
possible; and as they brandished their massive clubs, leaped, shouted,
jelled, and dashed each other to the ground, I thought I had never seen
men look so like demons before.

We were much surprised at the conduct of the women, who seemed to be
perfect furies, and hung about the heels of their husbands in order to
defend them. One stout young woman we saw whose husband was hard
pressed and about to be overcome she lifted a large stone, and throwing
it at his opponent's head, felled him to the earth. But the battle did
not last long. The band most distant from us gave way and were routed,
leaving eighteen of their comrades dead upon the field. These the
victors brained as they lay; and, putting some of their brains on
leaves, went off with them, we were afterwards informed, to their
temples to present them to their gods as an earnest of the human
victims who were soon to be brought there.

We hastened back to the Christian village with feelings of the deepest
sadness at the sanguinary conflict which we had just witnessed.

Next day, after breakfasting with our friend the teacher, we made
preparations for carrying out our plan. At first the teacher
endeavoured to dissuade us.

"You do not know," said he, turning to Jack, "the danger you run in
venturing amongst these ferocious savages. I feel much pity for poor
Avatea; but you are not likely to succeed in saving her, and you may
die in the attempt."

"Well," said Jack quietly, "I am not afraid to die in a good cause."

The teacher smiled approvingly at him as he said this, and, after a
little further conversation, agreed to accompany us as interpreter;
saying that, although Tararo was unfriendly to him, he had hitherto
treated him with respect.

We now went on board the schooner, having resolved to sail round the
island and drop anchor opposite the heathen village. We manned her with
natives, and hoped to overawe the savages by displaying our brass gun
to advantage. The teacher soon after came on board, and, setting our
sails, we put to sea. In two hours more we made the cliffs reverberate
with the crash of the big gun, which we fired by way of salute, while
we ran the British ensign up to the peak and cast anchor. The commotion
on shore showed us that we had struck terror into the hearts of the
natives; but, seeing that we did not offer to molest them, a canoe at
length put off and paddled cautiously towards us. The teacher showed
himself, and, explaining that we were friends and wished to palaver
with the chief, desired the native to go and tell him to come on board.

We waited long and with much impatience for an answer. During this time
the native teacher conversed with us again, and told us many things
concerning the success of the Gospel among those islands; and,
perceiving that we were by no means so much gratified as we ought to
have been at the hearing of such good news, he pressed us more closely
in regard to our personal interest in religion, and exhorted us to
consider that our souls were certainly in as great danger as those of
the wretched heathen whom we pitied so much, if we had not already
found salvation in Jesus Christ. "Nay, further," he added, "if such be
your unhappy case, you are, in the sight of God, much worse than these
savages (forgive me, my young friends, for saying so): for they have no
knowledge, no light, and do not profess to believe; while you, on the
contrary, have been brought up in the light of the blessed Gospel, and
call yourselves Christians. These poor savages are indeed the enemies
of our Lord; but you, if ye be not true believers, are traitors!"

I must confess that my heart condemned me while the teacher spoke in
this earnest manner, and I knew not what to reply. Peterkin, too, did
not seem to like it, and I thought would willingly have escaped. But
Jack seemed deeply impressed, and wore an anxious expression on his
naturally grave countenance; while he assented to the teacher's
remarks, and put to him many earnest questions. Meanwhile, the natives
who composed our crew, having nothing particular to do, had squatted
down on the deck and taken out their little books containing the
translated portions of the New Testament, along with hymns and
spelling-books, and were now busily engaged, some vociferating the
alphabet, others learning prayers off by heart, while a few sang
hymns--all of them being utterly unmindful of our presence. The teacher
soon joined them, and soon afterwards they all engaged in a prayer,
which was afterwards translated to us, and proved to be a petition for
the success of our undertaking, and for the conversion of the heathen.

While we were thus engaged, a canoe put off from shore and several
savages leaped on deck, one of whom advanced to the teacher and
informed him that Tararo could not come on board that day, being busy
with some religious ceremonies before the gods, which could on no
account be postponed. He was also engaged with a friendly chief who was
about to take his departure from the island, and therefore begged that
the teacher and his friends would land and pay a visit to him. To this
the teacher returned answer that we would land immediately.

"Now, lads," said Jack, as we were about to step into our little boat,
"I'm not going to take any weapons with me, and I recommend you to take
none either. We are altogether in the power of these savages, and the
utmost we could do, if they were to attack us, would be to kill a few
of them before we were ourselves overpowered. I think that our only
chance of success lies in mild measures; don't you think so?"

To this I assented gladly, and Peterkin replied by laying down a huge
bell-mouthed blunderbuss, and divesting himself of a pair of enormous
horse-pistols with which he had purposed to overawe the natives! We
then jumped into our boat and rowed ashore.

On reaching the beach we were received by a crowd of naked savages, who
shouted a rude welcome, and conducted us to a house or shed where a
baked pig and a variety of vegetables were prepared for us. Having
partaken of these, the teacher begged to be conducted to the chief; but
there seemed some hesitation, and after some consultation among
themselves one of the men stood forward and spoke to the teacher.

"What says he?" inquired Jack when the savage had concluded.

"He says that the chief is just going to the temple of his god and
cannot see us yet; so we must be patient, my friend."

"Well," cried Jack, rising, "if he won't come to see me, I'll e'en go
and see him. Besides, I have a great desire to witness their
proceedings at this temple of theirs. Will you go with me, friend?"

"I cannot," said the teacher, shaking his head; "I must not go to the
heathen temples and witness their inhuman rites, except for the purpose
of condemning their wickedness and folly."

"Very good," returned Jack; "then I'll go alone, for I cannot condemn
their doings till I have seen them."

Jack arose, and we, having determined to go also, followed him through
the banana groves to a rising ground immediately behind the village, on
the top of which stood the Buré, or temple, under the dark shade of a
group of iron-wood trees. As we went through the village, I was again
led to contrast the rude huts and sheds and their almost naked,
savage-looking inhabitants with the natives of the Christian village,
who, to use the teacher's scriptural expression, were now "clothed and
in their right mind."

As we turned into a broad path leading towards the hill, we were
arrested by the shouts of an approaching multitude in the rear. Drawing
aside into the bushes, we awaited their coming up, and as they drew
near we observed that it was a procession of the natives, many of whom
were dancing and gesticulating in the most frantic manner. They had an
exceedingly hideous aspect, owing to the black, red, and yellow paints
with which their faces and naked bodies were bedaubed. In the midst of
these came a band of men carrying three or four planks, on which were
seated in rows upwards of a dozen men. I shuddered involuntarily as I
recollected the sacrifice of human victims at the island of Emo, and
turned with a look of fear to Jack as I said--

"O Jack! I have a terrible dread that they are going to commit some of
their cruel practices on these wretched men. We had better not go to
the temple. We shall only be horrified without being able to do any
good, for I fear they are going to kill them."

Jack's face wore an expression of deep compassion as he said in a low
voice, "No fear, Ralph; the sufferings of these poor fellows are over
long ago."

I turned with a start as he spoke, and glancing at the men, who were
now quite near to the spot where we stood, saw that they were all dead.
They were tied firmly with ropes in a sitting posture on the planks,
and seemed, as they bent their sightless eyeballs and grinning mouths
over the dancing crew below, as if they were laughing in ghastly
mockery at the utter inability of their enemies to hurt them now.
These, we discovered afterwards, were the men who had been slain in the
battle of the previous day, and were now on their way to be first
presented to the gods and then eaten, Behind these came two men leading
between them a third, whose hands were pinioned behind his back. He
walked with a firm step, and wore a look of utter indifference on his
face as they led him along; so that we concluded he must be a criminal
who was about to receive some slight punishment for his faults. The
rear of the procession was brought up by a shouting crowd of women and
children, with whom we mingled and followed to the temple.

Here we arrived in a few minutes. The temple was a tall circular
building, open at one side. Around it were strewn heaps of human bones
and skulls. At a table inside sat the priest, an elderly man with a
long grey beard. He was seated on a stool, and before him lay several
knives, made of wood, bone, and splinters of bamboo, with which he
performed his office of dissecting dead bodies. Farther in lay a
variety of articles that had been dedicated to the god, and among them
were many spears and clubs. I observed among the latter some with human
teeth sticking in them, where the victims had been clubbed in their
mouths.

Before this temple the bodies, which were painted with vermilion and
soot, were arranged in a sitting posture; and a man called a "dan-vosa"
(orator), advanced, and laying his hands on their heads, began to chide
them, apparently in a low, bantering tone. What he said we knew not,
but as he went on he waxed warm, and at last shouted to them at the top
of his lungs, and finally finished by kicking the bodies over and
running away, amid the shouts and laughter of the people, who now
rushed forward. Seizing the bodies by a leg or an arm, or by the hair
of the head, they dragged them over stumps and stones and through
sloughs until they were exhausted. The bodies were then brought back to
the temple and dissected by the priest, after which they were taken out
to be baked.

Close to the temple a large fire was kindled, in which stones were
heated red hot. When ready these were spread out on the ground, and a
thick coating of leaves strewn over them to slack the heat. On this
"lovo," or oven, the bodies were then placed, covered over, and left to
bake.

The crowd now ran with terrible yells towards a neighbouring hill or
mound, on which we observed the framework of a house lying ready to be
erected. Sick with horror, yet fascinated by curiosity, we staggered
after them mechanically, scarce knowing where we were going or what we
did, and feeling a sort of impression that all we saw was a dreadful
dream.

Arrived at the place, we saw the multitude crowding round a certain
spot. We pressed forward and obtained a sight of what they were doing.
A large wooden beam or post lay on the ground, beside the other parts
of the frame-work of the house, and close to the end of it was a hole
about seven feet deep and upwards of two feet wide. While we looked,
the man whom we had before observed with his hands pinioned was carried
into the circle. His hands were now free, but his legs were tightly
strapped together. The post of the house was then placed in the hole,
and the man put in beside it. His head was a good way below the surface
of the hole, and his arms were clasped round the post. Earth was now
thrown in until all was covered over and stamped down; and this, we
were afterwards told, was a ceremony usually performed at the
dedication of a new temple or the erection of a chiefs house!

"Come, come," cried Jack, on beholding this horrible tragedy; "we have
seen enough, enough--far more than enough! Let us go."

Jack's face looked ghastly pale and haggard as we hurried back to
rejoin the teacher, and I have no doubt that he felt terrible anxiety
when he considered the number and ferocity of the savages, and the
weakness of the few arms which were ready indeed to essay, but impotent
to effect, Avatea's deliverance from these ruthless men.



Chapter XXXII

An unexpected discovery, and a bold, reckless defiance, with its
consequences--Plans of escape, and heroic resolve.


When we returned to the shore and related to our friend what had
passed, he was greatly distressed, and groaned in spirit; but we had
not sat long in conversation, when we were interrupted by the arrival
of Tararo on the beach, accompanied by a number of followers bearing
baskets of vegetables and fruits on their heads.

We advanced to meet him, and he expressed, through our interpreter,
much pleasure in seeing us.

"And what is it that my friends wish to say to me?" he inquired.

The teacher explained that we came to beg that Avatea might be spared.

"Tell him," said Jack, "that I consider that I have a right to ask this
of him, having not only saved the girl's life, but the lives of his own
people also; and say that I wish her to be allowed to follow her own
wishes, and join the Christians."

While this was being translated, the chiefs brow lowered, and we could
see plainly that our request met with no favourable reception. He
replied with considerable energy, and at some length.

"What says he?" inquired Jack.

"I regret to say that he will not listen to the proposal. He says he
has pledged his word to his friend that the girl shall be sent to him,
and a deputy is even now on this island awaiting the fulfilment of the
pledge."

Jack bit his lip in suppressed anger. "Tell Tararo," he exclaimed with
a flashing eye, "that if he does not grant my demand it will be worse
for him. Say I have a big gun on board my schooner that will blow his
village into the sea, if he does not give up the girl."

"Nay, my friend," said the teacher gently, "I will not tell him that;
we must 'overcome evil with good.'"

"What does my friend say?" inquired the chief, who seemed nettled by
Jack's looks of defiance.

"He is displeased," replied the teacher.

Tararo turned away with a smile of contempt, and walked towards the men
who carried the baskets of vegetables, and who had now emptied the
whole on the beach in an enormous pile.

"What are they doing there?" I inquired.

"I think that they are laying out a gift which they intend to present
to some one," said the teacher.

At this moment a couple of men appeared, leading a young girl between
them, and, going towards the heap of fruits and vegetables, placed her
on top of it. We started with surprise and fear, for in the young
female before us we recognised the Samoan girl Avatea.

We stood rooted to the earth with surprise and thick-coming fears.

"Oh my dear young friend," whispered the teacher in a voice of deep
emotion, while he seized Jack by the arm, "she is to be made a
sacrifice even now!"

"Is she?" cried Jack with a vehement shout, spurning the teacher aside,
and dashing over two natives who stood in his way, while he rushed
towards the heap, sprang up its side, and seized Avatea by the arm. In
another moment he dragged her down, placed her back to a large tree,
and, wrenching a war-club from the hand of a native who seemed
powerless and petrified with surprise, whirled it above his head, and
yelled, rather than shouted, while his face blazed with fury, "Come on,
the whole nation of you, an ye like it, and do your worst!"

It seemed as though the challenge had been literally accepted; for
every savage on the ground ran precipitately at Jack with club and
spear, and doubtless would speedily have poured out his brave blood on
the sod, had not the teacher rushed in between them, and, raising his
voice to its utmost, cried--

"Stay your hands, warriors! It is not your part to judge in this
matter. It is for Tararo, the chief, to say whether or not the young
man shall live, or die."

The natives were arrested; and I know not whether it was the gratifying
acknowledgment of his superiority thus made by the teacher, or some
lingering feeling of gratitude for Jack's former aid in time of need,
that influenced Tararo, but he stepped forward, and, waving his hand,
said to his people, "Desist. The young man's life is mine." Then,
turning to Jack, he said, "You have forfeited your liberty and life to
me. Submit yourself, for we are more numerous than the sand upon the
shore. You are but one; why should you die?"

"Villain!" exclaimed Jack passionately, "I may die, but assuredly I
shall not perish alone. I will not submit until you promise that this
girl shall not be injured."

"You are very bold," replied the chief haughtily, "but very foolish.
Yet I will say that Avatea shall not be sent away--at least, for three
days."

"You had better accept these terms," whispered the teacher
entreatingly. "If you persist in this mad defiance, you will be slain,
and Avatea will be lost. Three days are worth having."

Jack hesitated a moment, then lowered his club, and throwing it moodily
to the ground, crossed his arms on his breast and hung down his head in
silence.

Tararo seemed pleased by his submission, and told the teacher to say
that he did not forget his former services, and therefore would leave
him free as to his person, but that the schooner would be detained till
he had further considered the matter.

While the teacher translated this, he approached as near to where
Avatea was standing as possible, without creating suspicion, and
whispered to her a few words in the native language. Avatea, who during
the whole of the foregoing scene had stood leaning against the tree
perfectly passive, and seemingly quite uninterested in all that was
going on, replied by a single rapid glance of her dark eye, which was
instantly cast down again on the ground at her feet.

Tararo now advanced, and taking the girl by the hand, led her
unresistingly away; while Jack, Peterkin, and I returned with the
teacher on board the schooner.

On reaching the deck, we went down to the cabin, where Jack threw
himself, in a state of great dejection, on a couch; but the teacher
seated himself by his side, and laying his hand upon his shoulder,
said--

"Do not give way to anger, my young friend. God has given us three
days, and we must use the means that are In our power to free this poor
girl from slavery. We must not sit in idle disappointment, we must
act--"

"Act!" cried Jack, raising himself and tossing back his hair wildly;
"it is mockery to talk of acting when one is bound hand and foot. How
can I act? I cannot fight a whole nation of savages single-handed.
Yes," he said with a bitter smile, "I _can_ fight them, but I cannot
conquer them, or save Avatea."

"Patience, my friend; your spirit is not a good one just now. You
cannot expect that blessing which alone can ensure success unless you
are more submissive. I will tell you my plans if you will listen."

"Listen!" cried Jack eagerly: "of course I will, my good fellow; I did
not know you had any plans. Out with them. I only hope you will show me
how I can get the girl on board of this schooner, and I'd up anchor and
away in no time. But proceed with your plans."

The teacher smiled sadly. "Ah, my friend! if one fathom of your anchor
chain were to rattle as you drew it in, a thousand warriors would be
standing on your deck. No, no, that could not be done. Even now your
ship would be taken from you were it not that Tararo has some feeling
of gratitude towards you. But I know Tararo well. He is a man of
falsehood, as all the unconverted savages are. The chief to whom he has
promised this girl is very powerful, and Tararo _must_ fulfil his
promise. He has told you that he would do nothing to the girl for three
days, but that is because the party who are to take her away will not
be ready to start for three days. Still, as he might have made you a
prisoner during those three days, I say that God has given them to us."

"Well, but what do you propose to do?" said Jack impatiently.

"My plan involves much danger, but I see no other, and I think you have
courage to brave it. It is this. There is an island about fifty miles
to the south of this, the natives of which are Christians, and have
been so for two years or more, and the principal chief is Avatea's
lover. Once there, Avatea would be safe. Now, I suggest that you should
abandon your schooner. Do you think that you can make so great a
sacrifice?"

"Friend," replied Jack, "when I make up my mind to go through with a
thing of importance, I can make any sacrifice."

The teacher smiled. "Well, then, the savages could not conceive it
possible that for the sake of a girl you would voluntarily lose your
fine vessel; therefore as long as she lies here they think they have
you all safe: so I suggest that we get a quantity of stores conveyed to
a sequestered part of the shore, provide a small canoe, put Avatea on
board, and you three would paddle to the Christian island."

"Bravo!" cried Peterkin, springing up and seizing the teacher's hand.
"Missionary, you're a regular brick. I didn't think you had so much in
you."

"As for me," continued the teacher, "I will remain on board till they
discover that you are gone. Then they will ask me where you are gone
to, and I will refuse to tell."

"And what'll be the result of that?" inquired Jack.

"I know not. Perhaps they will kill me; but," he added, looking at Jack
with a peculiar smile, "I, too, am not afraid to die in a good cause!"

"But how are we to get hold of Avatea?" inquired Jack.

"I have arranged with her to meet us at a particular spot, to which I
will guide you to-night. We shall then arrange about it. She will
easily manage to elude her keepers, who are not very strict in watching
her, thinking it impossible that she could escape from the island.
Indeed, I am sure that such an idea will never enter their heads. But,
as I have said, you run great danger. Fifty miles in a small canoe, on
the open sea, is a great voyage to make. You may miss the island, too,
in which case there is no other in that direction for a hundred miles
or more; and if you lose your way and fall among other heathens, you
know the law of Feejee--a castaway who gains the shore is doomed to
die. You must count the cost, my young friend."

"I have counted it," replied Jack. "If Avatea consents to run the risk,
most certainly I will; and so will my comrades also. Besides," added
Jack, looking seriously into the teacher's face, "your Bible--_our_
Bible--tells of ONE who delivers those who call on Him in the time of
trouble; who holds the winds in His fists, and the waters in the hollow
of His hand."

We now set about active preparations for the intended voyage; collected
together such things as we should require, and laid out on the deck
provisions sufficient to maintain us for several weeks, purposing to
load the canoe with as much as she could hold consistently with speed
and safety. These we covered with a tarpaulin, intending to convey them
to the canoe only a few hours before starting. When night spread her
sable curtain over the scene, we prepared to land; but first kneeling
along with the natives and the teacher, the latter implored a blessing
on our enterprise. Then we rowed quietly to the shore and followed our
sable guide, who led us by a long detour, in order to avoid the
village, to the place of rendezvous. We had not stood more than five
minutes under the gloomy shade of the thick foliage when a dark figure
glided noiselessly up to us.

"Ah! here you are," said Jack, as Avatea approached.--"Now, then, tell
her what we've come about, and don't waste time."

"I understan' leetl English," said Avatea in a low voice.

"Why, where did you pick up English?" exclaimed Jack in amazement; "you
were dumb as a stone when I saw you last."

"She has learned all she knows of it from me," said the teacher, "since
she came to the island."

We now gave Avatea a full explanation of our plans, entering into all
the details, and concealing none of the danger, so that she might be
fully aware of the risk she ran. As we had anticipated, she was too
glad of the opportunity thus afforded her to escape from her
persecutors to think of the danger or risk.

"Then you're willing to go with us, are you?" said Jack.

"Yis, I willing to go."

"And you're not afraid to trust yourself out on the deep sea so far?"

"No, I not 'fraid to go. Safe with Christian."

After some further consultation, the teacher suggested that it was time
to return, so we bade Avatea good-night, and having appointed to meet
at the cliff where the canoe lay on the following night, just after
dark, we hastened away--we to row on board the schooner with muffled
oars, Avatea to glide back to her prison-hut among the Mango savages.



Chapter XXXIII

The flight--The pursuit--Despair and its results--The lion bearded in
his den again--Awful danger threatened and wonderfully averted--A
terrific storm.


As the time for our meditated flight drew near, we became naturally
very fearful lest our purpose should be discovered, and we spent the
whole of the following day in a state of nervous anxiety. We resolved
to go ashore and ramble about the village, as if to observe the habits
and dwellings of the people, as we thought that an air of affected
indifference to the events of the previous day would be more likely
than any other course of conduct to avert suspicion as to our
intentions. While we were thus occupied, the teacher remained on board
with the Christian natives, whose powerful voices reached us ever and
anon as they engaged in singing hymns or in prayer.

At last the long and tedious day came to a close, the sun sank into the
sea, and the short-lived twilight of those regions, to which I have
already referred, ended abruptly in a dark night. Hastily throwing a
few blankets into our little boat, we stepped into it, and whispering
farewell to the natives in the schooner, rowed gently over the lagoon,
taking care to keep as near to the beach as possible. We rowed in the
utmost silence, and with muffled oars, so that had any one observed us
at the distance of a few yards, he might have almost taken us for a
phantom-boat, or a shadow on the dark water. Not a breath of air was
stirring; but, fortunately, the gentle ripple of the sea upon the
shore, mingled with the soft roar of the breaker on the distant reef,
effectually drowned the slight plash that we unavoidably made in the
water by the dipping of our oars.

A quarter of an hour sufficed to bring us to the overhanging cliff
under whose black shadow our little canoe lay, with her bow in the
water ready to be launched, and most of her cargo already stowed away.
As the keel of our little boat grated on the sand, a hand was laid upon
the bow, and a dim form was seen.

"Ha!" said Peter kin in a whisper, as he stepped upon the beach, "is
that you, Avatea?"

"Yis, it am me," was the reply.

"All right! Now, then, gently. Help me to shove off the canoe,"
whispered Jack to the teacher; "and, Peterkin, do you shove these
blankets aboard--we may want them before long. Avatea, step into the
middle--that's right."

"Is all ready?" whispered the teacher.

"Not quite," replied Peterkin.--"Here, Ralph, lay hold o' this pair of
oars, and stow them away if you can. I don't like paddles. After we're
safe away I'll try to rig up rollicks for them."

"Now, then, in with you and shove off."

One more earnest squeeze of the kind teacher's hand, and with his
whispered blessing yet sounding in our ears, we shot like an arrow from
the shore, sped over the still waters of the lagoon, and paddled as
swiftly as strong arms and willing hearts could urge us over the long
swell of the open sea.

All that night and the whole of the following day we plied our paddles
in almost total silence and without a halt, save twice to recruit our
failing energies with a mouthful of food and a draught of water. Jack
had taken the bearing of the island just after starting, and, laying a
small pocket-compass before him, kept the head of the canoe due south,
for our chance of hitting the island depended very much on the
faithfulness of our steersman in keeping our tiny bark exactly and
constantly on its proper course. Peterkin and I paddled in the bow, and
Avatea worked untiringly in the middle.

As the sun's lower limb dipped on the gilded edge of the sea, Jack
ceased working, threw down his paddle, and called a halt.

"There!" he cried, heaving a deep, long-drawn sigh, "we've put a
considerable breadth of water between us and these black rascals, so
now we'll have a hearty supper and a sound sleep."

"Heat, hear!" cried Peterkin. "Nobly spoken, Jack.--Hand me a drop of
water, Ralph.--Why, girl, what's wrong with you? You look just like a
black owl blinking in the sunshine."

Avatea smiled. "I sleepy," she said; and as if to prove the truth of
this, she laid her head on the edge of the canoe and fell fast asleep.

"That's uncommon sharp practice," said Peterkin with a broad grin.
"Don't you think we should awake her to make her eat something first?
Or perhaps," he added, with a grave, meditative look--"perhaps we might
put some food in her mouth, which is so elegantly open at the present
moment, and see if she'd swallow it while asleep. If so, Ralph, you
might come round to the front here and feed her quietly, while Jack and
I are tucking into the victuals. It would be a monstrous economy of
time."

I could not help smiling at Peterkin's idea, which indeed, when I
pondered it, seemed remarkably good in theory; nevertheless I declined
to put it in practice, being fearful of the result should the victual
chance to go down the wrong throat. But on suggesting this to Peterkin,
he exclaimed--

"Down the wrong throat, man! why, a fellow with half an eye might see
that if it went down Avatea's throat it could not go down the wrong
throat!--unless, indeed, you have all of a sudden become inordinately
selfish, and think that all the throats in the world are wrong ones
except your own. However, don't talk so much, and hand me the pork
before Jack finishes it. I feel myself entitled to at least one minute
morsel."

"Peterkin, you're a villain--a paltry little villain," said Jack
quietly, as he tossed the hind-legs (including the tail) of a cold
roast pig to his comrade; "and I must again express my regret that
unavoidable circumstances have thrust your society upon me, and that
necessity has compelled me to cultivate your acquaintance. Were it not
that you are incapable of walking upon the water, I would order you,
sir, out of the canoe."

"There! you've awakened Avatea with your long tongue," retorted
Peterkin with a frown, as the girl gave vent to a deep sigh. "No," he
continued, "it was only a snore. Perchance she dreameth of her black
Apollo.--I say, Ralph, do leave just one little slice of that yam.
Between you and Jack I run a chance of being put on short allowance, if
not--yei--a--a--ow!"

Peterkin's concluding remark was a yawn of so great energy that Jack
recommended him to postpone the conclusion of his meal till next
morning--a piece of advice which he followed so quickly that I was
forcibly reminded of his remark, a few minutes before, in regard to the
sharp practice of Avatea.

My readers will have observed, probably, by this time that I am much
given to meditation; they will not, therefore, be surprised to learn
that I fell into a deep reverie on the subject of sleep, which was
continued without intermission into the night, and prolonged without
interruption into the following morning. But I cannot feel assured that
I actually slept during that time, although I am tolerably certain that
I was not awake.

Thus we lay like a shadow on the still bosom of the ocean, while the
night closed in, and all around was calm, dark, and silent.

A thrilling cry of alarm from Peterkin startled us in the morning, just
as the grey dawn began to glimmer in the east.

"What's wrong?" cried Jack, starting up.

Peterkin replied by pointing with a look of anxious dread towards the
horizon; and a glance sufficed to show us that one of the largest-sized
war-canoes was approaching us!

With a groan of mingled despair and anger Jack seized his paddle,
glanced at the compass, and in a suppressed voice commanded us to "give
way." But we did not require to be urged. Already our four paddles were
glancing in the water, and the canoe bounded over the glassy sea like a
dolphin, while a shout from our pursuers told that they had observed
our motions.

"I see something like land ahead," said Jack in a hopeful tone. "It
seems impossible that we could have made the island yet; still, if it
is so, we may reach it before these fellows can catch us, for our canoe
is light and our muscles are fresh."

No one replied; for, to say truth, we felt that in a long chase we had
no chance whatever with a canoe which held nearly a hundred warriors.
Nevertheless, we resolved to do our utmost to escape, and paddled with
a degree of vigour that kept us well in advance of our pursuers. The
war-canoe was so far behind us that it seemed but a little speck on the
sea, and the shouts, to which the crew occasionally gave vent, came
faintly towards us on the morning breeze. We therefore hoped that we
should be able to keep in advance for an hour or two, when we might
perhaps reach the land ahead. But this hope was suddenly crushed by the
supposed land not long after rising up into the sky, thus proving
itself to be a fog-bank!

A bitter feeling of disappointment filled each heart, and was expressed
on each countenance, as we beheld this termination to our hopes. But we
had little time to think of regret. Our danger was too great and
imminent to permit of a moment's relaxation from our exertions. No hope
now animated our bosoms; but a feeling of despair, strange to say, lent
us power to work, and nerved our arms with such energy that it was
several hours ere the savages overtook us. When we saw that there was
indeed no chance of escape, and that paddling any longer would only
serve to exhaust our strength, without doing any good, we turned the
side of our canoe towards the approaching enemy, and laid down our
paddles.

Silently, and with a look of bitter determination on his face, Jack
lifted one of the light boat-oars that we had brought with us, and
resting it on his shoulder, stood up in an attitude of bold defiance.
Peterkin took the other oar and also stood up, but there was no anger
visible on his countenance. When not sparkling with fun, it usually
wore a mild, sad expression, which was deepened on the present
occasion, as he glanced at Avatea, who sat with her face resting in her
hands upon her knees. Without knowing very well what I intended to do,
I also arose and grasped my paddle with both hands.

On came the large canoe like a war-horse of the deep, with the foam
curling from its sharp bow, and the spearheads of the savages glancing
in the beams of the rising sun. Perfect silence was maintained on both
sides, and we could hear the hissing water, and see the frowning eyes
of the warriors, as they came rushing on. When about twenty yards
distant, five or six of the savages in the bow rose, and, laying aside
their paddles, took up their spears. Jack and Peterkin raised their
oars, while, with a feeling of madness whirling in my brain, I grasped
my paddle and prepared for the onset. But before any of us could strike
a blow, the sharp prow of the war-canoe struck us like a thunderbolt on
the side, and hurled us into the sea!

What occurred after this I cannot tell, for I was nearly drowned; but
when I recovered from the state of insensibility into which I had been
thrown, I found myself stretched on my back, bound hand and foot
between Jack and Peterkin, in the bottom of the large canoe.

In this condition we lay the whole day, during which time the savages
only rested one hour. When night came, they rested again for another
hour, and appeared to sleep just as they sat. But we were neither
unbound nor allowed to speak to each other during the voyage, nor was a
morsel of food or a draught of water given to us. For food, however, we
cared little; but we would have given much for a drop of water to cool
our parched lips, and we would have been glad, too, had they loosened
the cords that bound us, for they were tightly fastened and occasioned
us much pain. The air, also, was unusually hot, so much so that I felt
convinced that a storm was brewing. This also added to our sufferings.
However, these were at length relieved by our arrival at the island
from which we had fled.

While we were being led ashore, we caught a glimpse of Avatea, who was
seated in the hinder part of the canoe. She was not fettered in any
way. Our captors now drove us before them towards the hut of Tararo, at
which we speedily arrived, and found the chief seated with an
expression on his face that boded us no good. Our friend the teacher
stood beside him, with a look of anxiety on his mild features.

"How comes it," said Tararo, turning to the teacher, "that these youths
have abused our hospitality?"

"Tell him," replied Jack, "that we have not abused his hospitality, for
his hospitality has not been extended to us. I came to the island to
deliver Avatea, and my only regret is that I have failed to do so. If I
get another chance, I will try to save her yet."

The teacher shook his head. "Nay, my young friend, I had better not
tell him that; it will only incense him."

"I care not," replied Jack. "If you don't tell him that, you'll tell
him nothing, for I won't say anything softer."

On hearing Jack's speech, Tararo frowned and his eye flashed with anger.

"Go," he said, "presumptuous boy. My debt to you is cancelled. You and
your companions shall die."

As he spoke he rose and signed to several of his attendants, who seized
Jack and Peterkin and me violently by the collars, and dragging us from
the hut of the chief, led us through the wood to the outskirts of the
village. Here they thrust us into a species of natural cave in a cliff,
and having barricaded the entrance, left us in total darkness.

After feeling about for some time--for our legs were unshackled,
although our wrists were still bound with thongs--we found a low ledge
of rock running along one side of the cavern. On this we seated
ourselves, and for a long time maintained unbroken silence.

At last I could restrain my feelings no longer. "Alas! dear Jack and
Peterkin," said I, "what is to become of us?--I fear that we are doomed
to die."

"I know not," replied Jack in a tremulous voice, "I know not. Ralph, I
regret deeply the hastiness of my violent temper, which, I must
confess, has been the chief cause of our being brought to this sad
condition. Perhaps the teacher may do something for us. But I have
little hope."

"Ah no!" said Peterkin with a heavy sigh, "I am sure he can't help us.
Tararo doesn't care more for him than for one of his dogs."

"Truly," said I, "there seems no chance of deliverance, unless the
Almighty puts forth His arm to save us. Yet I must say that I have
great hope, my comrades; for we have come to this dark place by no
fault of ours--unless it be a fault to try to succour a woman in
distress."

I was interrupted in my remarks by a noise at the entrance to the
cavern, which was caused by the removal of the barricade. Immediately
after, three men entered, and taking us by the collars of our coats,
led us away through the forest. As we advanced, we heard much shouting
and beating of native drums in the village, and at first we thought
that our guards were conducting us to the hut of Tararo again. But in
this we were mistaken. The beating of drums gradually increased, and
soon after we observed a procession of the natives coming towards us.
At the head of this procession we were placed, and then we all advanced
together towards the temple where human victims were wont to be
sacrificed!

A thrill of horror ran through my heart as I recalled to mind the awful
scenes that I had before witnessed at that dreadful spot. But
deliverance came suddenly from a quarter whence we little expected it.
During the whole of that day there had been an unusual degree of heat
in the atmosphere, and the sky assumed that lurid aspect which portends
a thunder-storm. Just as we were approaching the horrid temple, a growl
of thunder burst overhead and heavy drops of rain began to fall.

Those who have not witnessed gales and storms in tropical regions can
form but a faint conception of the fearful hurricane that burst upon
the island of Mango at this time. Before we reached the temple, the
storm burst upon us with a deafening roar, and the natives, who knew
too well the devastation that was to follow, fled right and left
through the woods in order to save their property, leaving us alone in
the midst of the howling storm. The trees around us bent before the
blast like willows, and we were about to flee in order to seek shelter,
when the teacher ran towards us with a knife in his hand.

"Thank the Lord," he said, cutting our bonds, "I am in time! Now, seek
the shelter of the nearest rock."

This we did without a moment's hesitation, for the whistling wind
burst, ever and anon, like thunder-claps among the trees, and tearing
them from their roots, hurled them with violence to the ground. Rain
cut across the land in sheets, and lightning played like forked
serpents in the air, while high above the roar of the hissing tempest
the thunder crashed and burst and rolled in awful majesty.

In the village the scene was absolutely appalling. Roofs were blown
completely off the houses in many cases, and in others the houses
themselves were levelled with the ground. In the midst of this the
natives were darting to and fro, in some instances saving their goods,
but in many others seeking to save themselves from the storm of
destruction that whirled around them. But terrific although the tempest
was on land, it was still more tremendous on the mighty ocean. Billows
sprang, as it were, from the great deep, and while their crests were
absolutely scattered into white mist, they fell upon the beach with a
crash that seemed to shake the solid land. But they did not end there.
Each successive wave swept higher and higher on the beach, until the
ocean lashed its angry waters among the trees and bushes, and at
length, in a sheet of white curdled foam, swept into the village and
upset and carried off, or dashed into wreck, whole rows of the native
dwellings! It was a sublime, an awful scene, calculated, in some degree
at least, to impress the mind of beholders with the might and majesty
of God.

We found shelter in a cave that night and all the next day, during
which time the storm raged in fury; but on the night following it
abated somewhat, and in the morning we went to the village to seek for
food, being so famished with hunger that we lost all feeling of danger
and all wish to escape in our desire to satisfy the cravings of nature.
But no sooner had we obtained food than we began to wish that we had
rather endeavoured to make our escape into the mountains. This we
attempted to do soon afterwards; but the natives were now able to look
after us, and on our showing a disposition to avoid observation and
make towards the mountains, we were seized by three warriors, who once
more bound our wrists and thrust us into our former prison.

It is true Jack made a vigorous resistance, and knocked down the first
savage who seized him with a well-directed blow of his fist, but he was
speedily overpowered by others. Thus we were again prisoners, with the
prospect of torture and a violent death before us.



Chapter XXXIV

Imprisonment--Sinking hopes--Unexpected freedom to more than one, and
in more senses than one.


For a long, long month we remained in our dark and dreary prison,
during which dismal time we did not see the face of a human being,
except that of the silent savage who brought us our daily food.

There have been one or two seasons in my life during which I have felt
as if the darkness of sorrow and desolation that crushed my inmost
heart could never pass away until death should make me cease to feel.
The present was such a season.

During the first part of our confinement we felt a cold chill at our
hearts every time we heard a footfall near the cave--dreading lest it
should prove to be that of our executioner. But as time dragged heavily
on, we ceased to feel this alarm, and began to experience such a deep,
irrepressible longing for freedom, that we chafed and fretted in our
confinement like tigers. Then a feeling of despair came over us, and we
actually longed for the time when the savages would take us forth to
die! But these changes took place very gradually, and were mingled
sometimes with brighter thoughts; for there were times when we sat in
that dark cavern on our ledge of rock and conversed almost pleasantly
about the past, until we well-nigh forgot the dreary present. But we
seldom ventured to touch upon the future.

A few decayed leaves and boughs formed our bed, and a scanty supply of
yams and taro, brought to us once a day, constituted our food.

"Well, Ralph, how have you slept?" said Jack in a listless tone, on
rising one morning from his humble couch. "Were you much disturbed by
the wind last night?"

"No," said I; "I dreamed of home all night, and I thought that my
mother smiled upon me, and beckoned me to go to her; but I could not,
for I was chained."

"And I dreamed, too," said Peterkin; "but it was of our happy home on
the Coral Island. I thought we were swimming in the Water Garden; then
the savages gave a yell, and we were immediately in the cave at
Spouting Cliff, which, somehow or other, changed into this gloomy
cavern; and I awoke to find it true."

Peterkin's tone was so much altered by the depressing influence of his
long imprisonment that, had I not known it was he who spoke, I should
scarcely have recognised it, so sad was it, and so unlike to the merry,
cheerful voice we had been accustomed to hear. I pondered this much,
and thought of the terrible decline of happiness that may come on human
beings in so short a time; how bright the sunshine in the sky at one
time, and in a short space how dark the overshadowing cloud! I had no
doubt that the Bible would have given me much light and comfort on this
subject, if I had possessed one, and I once more had occasion to regret
deeply having neglected to store my memory with its consoling truths.

While I meditated thus, Peterkin again broke the silence of the cave by
saying, in a melancholy tone, "Oh, I wonder if we shall ever see our
dear island more!"

His voice trembled, and covering his face with both hands, he bent down
his head and wept. It was an unusual sight for me to see our once
joyous companion in tears, and I felt a burning desire to comfort him;
but alas! what could I say? I could hold out no hope; and although I
essayed twice to speak, the words refused to pass my lips. While I
hesitated, Jack sat down beside him, and whispered a few words in his
ear; while Peterkin threw himself on his friend's breast, and rested
his head on his shoulder.

Thus we sat for some time in deep silence. Soon after we heard
footsteps at the entrance of the cave, and immediately our jailer
entered. We were so much accustomed to his regular visits, however,
that we paid little attention to him, expecting that he would set down
our meagre fare, as usual, and depart. But to our surprise, instead of
doing so, he advanced towards us with a knife in his hand, and, going
up to Jack, he cut the thongs that bound his wrists, then he did the
same to Peterkin and me! For fully five minutes we stood in speechless
amazement, with our freed hands hanging idly by our sides. The first
thought that rushed into my mind was that the time had come to put us
to death; and although, as I have said before, we actually wished for
death in the strength of our despair, now that we thought it drew
really near, I felt all the natural love of life revive in my heart,
mingled with a chill of horror at the suddenness of our call.

But I was mistaken. After cutting our bonds, the savage pointed to the
cave's mouth, and we marched, almost mechanically, into the open air.
Here, to our surprise, we found the teacher standing under a tree, with
his hands clasped before him, and the tears trickling down his dark
cheeks. On seeing Jack, who came out first, he sprang towards him, and,
clasping him in his arms, exclaimed--"Oh, my dear young friend, through
the great goodness of God you are free!"

"Free?" cried Jack.

"Ay, free," repeated the teacher, shaking us warmly by the hands again
and again--"free to go and come as you will. The Lord has unloosed the
bonds of the captive, and set the prisoners free, A missionary has been
sent to us, and Tararo has embraced the Christian religion! The people
are even now burning their gods of wood! Come, my dear friends, and see
the glorious sight."

We could scarcely credit our senses. So long had we been accustomed in
our cavern to dream of deliverance, that we imagined for a moment this
must surely be nothing more than another vivid dream. Our eyes and
minds were dazzled, too, by the brilliant sunshine, which almost
blinded us after our long confinement to the gloom of our prison, so
that we felt giddy with the variety of conflicting emotions that filled
our throbbing bosoms; but as we followed the footsteps of our sable
friend, and beheld the bright foliage of the trees, and heard the cries
of the paroquets, and smelt the rich perfume of the flowering shrubs,
the truth, that we were really delivered from prison and from death,
rushed with overwhelming power into our souls, and with one accord,
while tears sprang to our eyes, we uttered a loud, long cheer of joy.

It was replied to by a shout from a number of the natives who chanced
to be near. Running towards us, they shook us by the hand with every
demonstration of kindly feeling. They then fell behind, and forming a
sort of procession, conducted us to the dwelling of Tararo.

The scene that met our eyes here was one that I shall never forget. On
a rude bench in front of his house sat the chief. A native stood on his
left hand, who from his dress seemed to be a teacher. On his right
stood an English gentleman, who I at once and rightly concluded was a
missionary. He was tall, thin, and apparently past forty, with a bald
forehead and thin grey hair. The expression of his countenance was the
most winning I ever saw, and his clear grey eye beamed with a look that
was frank, fearless, loving, and truthful. In front of the chief was an
open space, in the centre of which lay a pile of wooden idols, ready to
be set on fire; and around these were assembled thousands of natives,
who had come to join in or to witness the unusual sight. A bright smile
overspread the missionary's face as he advanced quickly to meet us, and
he shook us warmly by the hands.

"I am overjoyed to meet you, my dear young friends," he said. "My
friend and _your_ friend, the teacher, has told me your history; and I
thank our Father in heaven, with all my heart, that He has guided me to
this island, and made me the instrument of saving you."

We thanked the missionary most heartily, and asked him in some surprise
how he had succeeded in turning the heart of Tararo in our favour.

"I will tell you that at a more convenient time," he answered;
"meanwhile we must not forget the respect due to the chief. He waits to
receive you."

In the conversation that immediately followed between us and Tararo,
the latter said that the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ had been
sent to the island, and that to it we were indebted for our freedom.
Moreover, he told us that we were at liberty to depart in our schooner
whenever we pleased, and that we should be supplied with as much
provision as we required. He concluded by shaking hands with us warmly,
and performing the ceremony of rubbing noses.

This was indeed good news to us, and we could hardly find words to
express our gratitude to the chief and to the missionary.

"And what of Avatea?" inquired Jack.

The missionary replied by pointing to a group of natives in the midst
of whom the girl stood. Beside her was a tall, strapping fellow, whose
noble mien and air of superiority bespoke him a chief of no ordinary
kind.

"That youth is her lover. He came this very morning in his war-canoe to
treat with Tararo for Avatea. He is to be married in a few days, and
afterwards returns to his island home with his bride!"

"That's capital," said Jack, as he stepped up to the savage and gave
him a hearty shake of the hand. "I wish you joy, my lad; and you too,
Avatea."

As Jack spoke, Avatea's lover took him by the hand and led him to the
spot where Tararo and the missionary stood, surrounded by most of the
chief men of the tribe. The girl herself followed, and stood on his
left hand while her lover stood on his right, and, commanding silence,
made the following speech, which was translated by the missionary:--

"Young friend, you have seen few years, but your head is old. Your
heart also is large and very brave. I and Avatea are your debtors, and
we wish, in the midst of this assembly, to acknowledge our debt, and to
say that it is one which we can never repay. You have risked your life
for one who was known to you only for a few days. But she was a woman
in distress, and that was enough to secure to her the aid of a
Christian man. We, who live in these islands of the sea, know that the
true Christians always act thus. Their religion is one of love and
kindness. We thank God that so many Christians have been sent here; we
hope many more will come. Remember that I and Avatea will think of you
and pray for you and your brave comrades when you are far away."

To this kind speech Jack returned a short, sailor-like reply, in which
he insisted that he had only done for Avatea what he would have done
for any woman under the sun. But Jack's forte did not lie in
speech-making, so he terminated rather abruptly by seizing the chief's
hand and shaking it violently, after which he made a hasty retreat.

"Now then, Ralph and Peterkin," said Jack, as we mingled with the
crowd, "it seems to me that the object we came here for having been
satisfactorily accomplished, we have nothing more to do but get ready
for sea as fast as we can, and hurrah for dear old England!"

"That's my idea precisely," said Peterkin, endeavouring to wink; but he
had wept so much of late, poor fellow, that he found it difficult.
"However, I'm not going away till I see these fellows burn their gods."

Peterkin had his wish, for in a few minutes afterwards fire was put to
the pile, the roaring flames ascended, and amid the acclamations of the
assembled thousands the false gods of Mango were reduced to ashes!



Chapter XXXV

CONCLUSION


To part is the lot of all mankind. The world is a scene of constant
leave-taking, and the hands that grasp in cordial greeting to-day are
doomed ere long to unite for the last time, when the quivering lips
pronounce the word--"Farewell." It is a sad thought, but should we on
that account exclude it from our minds? May not a lesson worth learning
be gathered in the contemplation of it? May it not, perchance, teach us
to devote our thoughts more frequently and attentively to that land
where we meet, but part no more?

How many do we part from in this world with a light good-bye whom we
never see again! Often do I think, in my meditations on this subject,
that if we realised more fully the shortness of the fleeting
intercourse that we have in this world with many of our fellow-men, we
would try more earnestly to do them good, to give them a friendly
smile, as it were, in passing (for the longest intercourse on earth is
little more than a passing word and glance), and show that we have
sympathy with them in the short, quick struggle of life, by our kindly
words and looks and actions.

The time soon drew near when we were to quit the islands of the South
Seas; and strange though it may appear, we felt deep regret at parting
with the natives of the island of Mango: for after they embraced the
Christian faith, they sought, by showing us the utmost kindness, to
compensate for the harsh treatment we had experienced at their hands:
and we felt a growing affection for the native teachers and the
missionary, and especially for Avatea and her husband.

Before leaving we had many long and interesting conversations with the
missionary, in one of which he told us that he had been making for the
island of Rarotonga, when his native-built sloop was blown out of its
course, during a violent gale, and driven to this island. At first the
natives refused to listen to what he had to say; but after a week's
residence among them, Tararo came to him and said that he wished to
become a Christian, and would burn his idols. He proved himself to be
sincere, for, as we have seen, he persuaded all his people to do
likewise. I use the word "persuaded" advisedly; for, like all the other
Feejee chiefs, Tararo was a despot, and might have commanded obedience
to his wishes; but he entered so readily into the spirit of the new
faith, that he perceived at once the impropriety of using constraint in
the propagation of it. He set the example, therefore; and that example
was followed by almost every man of the tribe.

During the short time that we remained at the island, repairing our
vessel and getting her ready for sea, the natives had commenced
building a large and commodious church, under the superintendence of
the missionary, and several rows of new cottages were marked out; so
that the place bid fair to become, in a few months, as prosperous and
beautiful as the Christian village at the other end of the island.

After Avatea was married, she and her husband were sent away loaded
with presents, chiefly of an edible nature. One of the native teachers
went with them, for the purpose of visiting still more distant islands
of the sea, and spreading, if possible, the light of the glorious
Gospel there.

As the missionary intended to remain for several weeks longer, in order
to encourage and confirm his new converts, Jack and Peterkin and I held
a consultation in the cabin of our schooner--which we found just as we
had left her, for everything that had been taken out of her was
restored. We now resolved to delay our departure no longer. The desire
to see our beloved native land was strong upon us, and we could not
wait.

Three natives volunteered to go with us to Tahiti, where we thought it
likely that we should be able to procure a sufficient crew of sailors
to man our vessel, so we accepted their offer gladly.

It was a bright, clear morning when we hoisted the snow-white sails of
the pirate schooner and left the shores of Mango. The missionary and
thousands of the natives came down to bid us God-speed, and to see us
sail away. As the vessel bent before a light, fair wind, we glided
quickly over the lagoon under a cloud of canvas.

Just as we passed through the channel in the reef the natives gave us a
loud cheer; and as the missionary waved his hat, while he stood on a
coral rock with his grey hairs floating in the wind, we heard the
single word "Farewell" borne faintly over the sea.

That night, as we sat on the taffrail gazing out upon the wide sea and
up into the starry firmament, a thrill of joy, strangely mixed with
sadness, passed through our hearts; for we were at length "homeward
bound," and were gradually leaving far behind us the beautiful, bright
green coral islands of the Pacific Ocean.



THE END





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

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home