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Title: The Ebb-Tide: A Trio And Quartette
Author: Osbourne, Lloyd, Stevenson, Robert Louis
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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By Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyde Osbourne

          ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men.’

Part I.


Throughout the island world of the Pacific, scattered men of many
European races and from almost every grade of society carry activity and
disseminate disease. Some prosper, some vegetate. Some have mounted the
steps of thrones and owned islands and navies. Others again must marry
for a livelihood; a strapping, merry, chocolate-coloured dame supports
them in sheer idleness; and, dressed like natives, but still retaining
some foreign element of gait or attitude, still perhaps with some relic
(such as a single eye-glass) of the officer and gentleman, they sprawl
in palm-leaf verandahs and entertain an island audience with memoirs of
the music-hall. And there are still others, less pliable, less capable,
less fortunate, perhaps less base, who continue, even in these isles of
plenty, to lack bread.

At the far end of the town of Papeete, three such men were seated on the
beach under a purao tree.

It was late. Long ago the band had broken up and marched musically home,
a motley troop of men and women, merchant clerks and navy officers,
dancing in its wake, arms about waist and crowned with garlands. Long
ago darkness and silence had gone from house to house about the tiny
pagan city. Only the street lamps shone on, making a glow-worm halo in
the umbrageous alleys or drawing a tremulous image on the waters of the
port. A sound of snoring ran among the piles of lumber by the Government
pier. It was wafted ashore from the graceful clipper-bottomed schooners,
where they lay moored close in like dinghies, and their crews were
stretched upon the deck under the open sky or huddled in a rude tent
amidst the disorder of merchandise.

But the men under the purao had no thought of sleep. The same
temperature in England would have passed without remark in summer; but
it was bitter cold for the South Seas. Inanimate nature knew it, and the
bottle of cocoanut oil stood frozen in every bird-cage house about
the island; and the men knew it, and shivered. They wore flimsy cotton
clothes, the same they had sweated in by day and run the gauntlet of the
tropic showers; and to complete their evil case, they had no breakfast
to mention, less dinner, and no supper at all.

In the telling South Sea phrase, these three men were ON THE BEACH.
Common calamity had brought them acquainted, as the three most miserable
English-speaking creatures in Tahiti; and beyond their misery, they knew
next to nothing of each other, not even their true names. For each had
made a long apprenticeship in going downward; and each, at some stage of
the descent, had been shamed into the adoption of an alias. And yet not
one of them had figured in a court of justice; two were men of kindly
virtues; and one, as he sat and shivered under the purao, had a tattered
Virgil in his pocket.

Certainly, if money could have been raised upon the book, Robert Herrick
would long ago have sacrificed that last possession; but the demand
for literature, which is so marked a feature in some parts of the South
Seas, extends not so far as the dead tongues; and the Virgil, which he
could not exchange against a meal, had often consoled him in his hunger.
He would study it, as he lay with tightened belt on the floor of the
old calaboose, seeking favourite passages and finding new ones only less
beautiful because they lacked the consecration of remembrance. Or he
would pause on random country walks; sit on the path side, gazing over
the sea on the mountains of Eimeo; and dip into the Aeneid, seeking
sortes. And if the oracle (as is the way of oracles) replied with no
very certain nor encouraging voice, visions of England at least
would throng upon the exile’s memory: the busy schoolroom, the green
playing-fields, holidays at home, and the perennial roar of London, and
the fireside, and the white head of his father. For it is the destiny of
those grave, restrained and classic writers, with whom we make enforced
and often painful acquaintanceship at school, to pass into the blood and
become native in the memory; so that a phrase of Virgil speaks not so
much of Mantua or Augustus, but of English places and the student’s own
irrevocable youth.

Robert Herrick was the son of an intelligent, active, and ambitious man,
small partner in a considerable London house. Hopes were conceived
of the boy; he was sent to a good school, gained there an Oxford
scholarship, and proceeded in course to the Western University. With all
his talent and taste (and he had much of both) Robert was deficient
in consistency and intellectual manhood, wandered in bypaths of study,
worked at music or at metaphysics when he should have been at Greek, and
took at last a paltry degree. Almost at the same time, the London house
was disastrously wound up; Mr Herrick must begin the world again as
a clerk in a strange office, and Robert relinquish his ambitions and
accept with gratitude a career that he detested and despised. He had
no head for figures, no interest in affairs, detested the constraint of
hours, and despised the aims and the success of merchants. To grow rich
was none of his ambitions; rather to do well. A worse or a more bold
young man would have refused the destiny; perhaps tried his future with
his pen; perhaps enlisted. Robert, more prudent, possibly more timid,
consented to embrace that way of life in which he could most readily
assist his family. But he did so with a mind divided; fled the
neighbourhood of former comrades; and chose, out of several positions
placed at his disposal, a clerkship in New York.

His career thenceforth was one of unbroken shame. He did not drink,
he was exactly honest, he was never rude to his employers, yet was
everywhere discharged. Bringing no interest to his duties, he brought
no attention; his day was a tissue of things neglected and things done
amiss; and from place to place and from town to town, he carried the
character of one thoroughly incompetent. No man can bear the word
applied to him without some flush of colour, as indeed there is
none other that so emphatically slams in a man’s face the door
of self-respect. And to Herrick, who was conscious of talents and
acquirements, who looked down upon those humble duties in which he was
found wanting, the pain was the more exquisite. Early in his fall, he
had ceased to be able to make remittances; shortly after, having nothing
but failure to communicate, he ceased writing home; and about a year
before this tale begins, turned suddenly upon the streets of San
Francisco by a vulgar and infuriated German Jew, he had broken the last
bonds of self-respect, and upon a sudden Impulse, changed his name and
invested his last dollar in a passage on the mail brigantine, the City
of Papeete. With what expectation he had trimmed his flight for the
South Seas, Herrick perhaps scarcely knew. Doubtless there were fortunes
to be made in pearl and copra; doubtless others not more gifted than
himself had climbed in the island world to be queen’s consorts and
king’s ministers. But if Herrick had gone there with any manful purpose,
he would have kept his father’s name; the alias betrayed his moral
bankruptcy; he had struck his flag; he entertained no hope to reinstate
himself or help his straitened family; and he came to the islands (where
he knew the climate to be soft, bread cheap, and manners easy) a skulker
from life’s battle and his own immediate duty. Failure, he had said, was
his portion; let it be a pleasant failure.

It is fortunately not enough to say ‘I will be base.’ Herrick continued
in the islands his career of failure; but in the new scene and under the
new name, he suffered no less sharply than before. A place was got, it
was lost in the old style; from the long-suffering of the keepers of
restaurants he fell to more open charity upon the wayside; as time went
on, good nature became weary, and after a repulse or two, Herrick became
shy. There were women enough who would have supported a far worse and a
far uglier man; Herrick never met or never knew them: or if he did both,
some manlier feeling would revolt, and he preferred starvation. Drenched
with rains, broiling by day, shivering by night, a disused and ruinous
prison for a bedroom, his diet begged or pilfered out of rubbish heaps,
his associates two creatures equally outcast with himself, he had
drained for months the cup of penitence. He had known what it was to
be resigned, what it was to break forth in a childish fury of rebellion
against fate, and what it was to sink into the coma of despair. The time
had changed him. He told himself no longer tales of an easy and perhaps
agreeable declension; he read his nature otherwise; he had proved
himself incapable of rising, and he now learned by experience that he
could not stoop to fall. Something that was scarcely pride or strength,
that was perhaps only refinement, withheld him from capitulation; but
he looked on upon his own misfortune with a growing rage, and sometimes
wondered at his patience.

It was now the fourth month completed, and still there was no change
or sign of change. The moon, racing through a world of flying clouds
of every size and shape and density, some black as ink stains, some
delicate as lawn, threw the marvel of her Southern brightness over the
same lovely and detested scene: the island mountains crowned with the
perennial island cloud, the embowered city studded with rare lamps, the
masts in the harbour, the smooth mirror of the lagoon, and the mole of
the barrier reef on which the breakers whitened. The moon shone too,
with bull’s-eye sweeps, on his companions; on the stalwart frame of the
American who called himself Brown, and was known to be a master
mariner in some disgrace; and on the dwarfish person, the pale eyes
and toothless smile of a vulgar and bad-hearted cockney clerk. Here was
society for Robert Herrick! The Yankee skipper was a man at least: he
had sterling qualities of tenderness and resolution; he was one whose
hand you could take without a blush. But there was no redeeming grace
about the other, who called himself sometimes Hay and sometimes Tomkins,
and laughed at the discrepancy; who had been employed in every store in
Papeete, for the creature was able in his way; who had been discharged
from each in turn, for he was wholly vile; who had alienated all his old
employers so that they passed him in the street as if he were a dog, and
all his old comrades so that they shunned him as they would a creditor.

Not long before, a ship from Peru had brought an influenza, and it now
raged in the island, and particularly in Papeete. From all round the
purao arose and fell a dismal sound of men coughing, and strangling
as they coughed. The sick natives, with the islander’s impatience of a
touch of fever, had crawled from their houses to be cool and, squatting
on the shore or on the beached canoes, painfully expected the new day.
Even as the crowing of cocks goes about the country in the night from
farm to farm, accesses of coughing arose, and spread, and died in
the distance, and sprang up again. Each miserable shiverer caught the
suggestion from his neighbour, was torn for some minutes by that cruel
ecstasy, and left spent and without voice or courage when it passed. If
a man had pity to spend, Papeete beach, in that cold night and in that
infected season, was a place to spend it on. And of all the sufferers,
perhaps the least deserving, but surely the most pitiable, was the
London clerk. He was used to another life, to houses, beds, nursing,
and the dainties of the sickroom; he lay there now, in the cold open,
exposed to the gusting of the wind, and with an empty belly. He was
besides infirm; the disease shook him to the vitals; and his companions
watched his endurance with surprise. A profound commiseration filled
them, and contended with and conquered their abhorrence. The disgust
attendant on so ugly a sickness magnified this dislike; at the same
time, and with more than compensating strength, shame for a sentiment so
inhuman bound them the more straitly to his service; and even the evil
they knew of him swelled their solicitude, for the thought of death is
always the least supportable when it draws near to the merely sensual
and selfish. Sometimes they held him up; sometimes, with mistaken
helpfulness, they beat him between the shoulders; and when the poor
wretch lay back ghastly and spent after a paroxysm of coughing, they
would sometimes peer into his face, doubtfully exploring it for any
mark of life. There is no one but has some virtue: that of the clerk was
courage; and he would make haste to reassure them in a pleasantry not
always decent.

‘I’m all right, pals,’ he gasped once: ‘this is the thing to strengthen
the muscles of the larynx.’

‘Well, you take the cake!’ cried the captain.

‘O, I’m good plucked enough,’ pursued the sufferer with a broken
utterance. ‘But it do seem bloomin’ hard to me, that I should be the
only party down with this form of vice, and the only one to do the funny
business. I think one of you other parties might wake up. Tell a fellow

‘The trouble is we’ve nothing to tell, my son,’ returned the captain.

‘I’ll tell you, if you like, what I was thinking,’ said Herrick.

‘Tell us anything,’ said the clerk, ‘I only want to be reminded that I
ain’t dead.’

Herrick took up his parable, lying on his face and speaking slowly and
scarce above his breath, not like a man who has anything to say, but
like one talking against time.

‘Well, I was thinking this,’ he began: ‘I was thinking I lay on Papeete
beach one night--all moon and squalls and fellows coughing--and I was
cold and hungry, and down in the mouth, and was about ninety years of
age, and had spent two hundred and twenty of them on Papeete beach. And
I was thinking I wished I had a ring to rub, or had a fairy godmother,
or could raise Beelzebub. And I was trying to remember how you did it. I
knew you made a ring of skulls, for I had seen that in the Freischutz:
and that you took off your coat and turned up your sleeves, for I had
seen Formes do that when he was playing Kaspar, and you could see (by
the way he went about it) it was a business he had studied; and that you
ought to have something to kick up a smoke and a bad smell, I dare say
a cigar might do, and that you ought to say the Lord’s Prayer backwards.
Well, I wondered if I could do that; it seemed rather a feat, you see.
And then I wondered if I would say it forward, and I thought I did.
Well, no sooner had I got to WORLD WITHOUT END, than I saw a man in a
pariu, and with a mat under his arm, come along the beach from the town.
He was rather a hard-favoured old party, and he limped and crippled, and
all the time he kept coughing. At first I didn’t cotton to his looks,
I thought, and then I got sorry for the old soul because he coughed so
hard. I remembered that we had some of that cough mixture the American
consul gave the captain for Hay. It never did Hay a ha’porth of service,
but I thought it might do the old gentleman’s business for him, and
stood up. “Yorana!” says I. “Yorana!” says he. “Look here,” I said,
“I’ve got some first-rate stuff in a bottle; it’ll fix your cough,
savvy? Harry my and I’ll measure you a tablespoonful in the palm of my
hand, for all our plate is at the bankers.” So I thought the old party
came up, and the nearer he came, the less I took to him. But I had
passed my word, you see.’

‘Wot is this bloomin’ drivel?’ interrupted the clerk. ‘It’s like the rot
there is in tracts.’

‘It’s a story; I used to tell them to the kids at home,’ said Herrick.
‘If it bores you, I’ll drop it.’

‘O, cut along!’ returned the sick man, irritably. ‘It’s better than

‘Well,’ continued Herrick, ‘I had no sooner given him the cough mixture
than he seemed to straighten up and change, and I saw he wasn’t a
Tahitian after all, but some kind of Arab, and had a long beard on his
chin. “One good turn deserves another,” says he. “I am a magician out
of the Arabian Nights, and this mat that I have under my arm is the
original carpet of Mohammed Ben Somebody-or-other. Say the word, and you
can have a cruise upon the carpet.” “You don’t mean to say this is the
Travelling Carpet?” I cried. “You bet I do,” said he. “You’ve been
to America since last I read the Arabian Nights,” said I, a little
suspicious. “I should think so,” said he. “Been everywhere. A man with a
carpet like this isn’t going to moulder in a semi-detached villa.” Well,
that struck me as reasonable. “All right,” I said; “and do you mean to
tell me I can get on that carpet and go straight to London, England?” I
said, “London, England,” captain, because he seemed to have been so long
in your part of the world. “In the crack of a whip,” said he. I
figured up the time. What is the difference between Papeete and London,

‘Taking Greenwich and Point Venus, nine hours, odd minutes and seconds,’
replied the mariner.

‘Well, that’s about what I made it,’ resumed Herrick, ‘about nine hours.
Calling this three in the morning, I made out I would drop into London
about noon; and the idea tickled me immensely. “There’s only one
bother,” I said, “I haven’t a copper cent. It would be a pity to go
to London and not buy the morning Standard.” “O!” said he, “you don’t
realise the conveniences of this carpet. You see this pocket? you’ve
only got to stick your hand in, and you pull it out filled with

‘Double-eagles, wasn’t iff inquired the captain.

‘That was what it was!’ cried Herrick. ‘I thought they seemed unusually
big, and I remember now I had to go to the money-changers at Charing
Cross and get English silver.’

‘O, you went there?’ said the clerk. ‘Wot did you do? Bet you had a B.
and S.!’

‘Well, you see, it was just as the old boy said--like the cut of a
whip,’ said Herrick. ‘The one minute I was here on the beach at three in
the morning, the next I was in front of the Golden Cross at midday.
At first I was dazzled, and covered my eyes, and there didn’t seem the
smallest change; the roar of the Strand and the roar of the reef were
like the same: hark to it now, and you can hear the cabs and buses
rolling and the streets resound! And then at last I could look about,
and there was the old place, and no mistake! With the statues in
the square, and St Martin’s-in-the-Fields, and the bobbies, and the
sparrows, and the hacks; and I can’t tell you what I felt like. I felt
like crying, I believe, or dancing, or jumping clean over the Nelson
Column. I was like a fellow caught up out of Hell and flung down into
the dandiest part of Heaven. Then I spotted for a hansom with a spanking
horse. “A shilling for yourself, if you’re there in twenty minutes!”
 said I to the jarvey. He went a good pace, though of course it was a
trifle to the carpet; and in nineteen minutes and a half I was at the

‘What door?’ asked the captain.

‘Oh, a house I know of,’ returned Herrick.

‘But it was a public-house!’ cried the clerk--only these were not his
words. ‘And w’y didn’t you take the carpet there instead of trundling in
a growler?’

‘I didn’t want to startle a quiet street,’ said the narrator.

‘Bad form. And besides, it was a hansom.’

‘Well, and what did you do next?’ inquired the captain.

‘Oh, I went in,’ said Herrick.

‘The old folks?’ asked the captain.

‘That’s about it,’ said the other, chewing a grass.

‘Well, I think you are about the poorest ‘and at a yarn!’ cried the
clerk. ‘Crikey, it’s like Ministering Children! I can tell you there
would be more beer and skittles about my little jaunt. I would go and
have a B. and S. for luck. Then I would get a big ulster with astrakhan
fur, and take my cane and do the la-de-la down Piccadilly. Then I would
go to a slap-up restaurant, and have green peas, and a bottle of fizz,
and a chump chop--Oh! and I forgot, I’d ‘ave some devilled whitebait
first--and green gooseberry tart, and ‘ot coffee, and some of that form
of vice in big bottles with a seal--Benedictine--that’s the bloomin’
nyme! Then I’d drop into a theatre, and pal on with some chappies,
and do the dancing rooms and bars, and that, and wouldn’t go ‘ome
till morning, till daylight doth appear. And the next day I’d have
water-cresses, ‘am, muffin, and fresh butter; wouldn’t I just, O my!’

The clerk was interrupted by a fresh attack of coughing.

‘Well, now, I’ll tell you what I would do,’ said the captain: ‘I would
have none of your fancy rigs with the man driving from the mizzen
cross-trees, but a plain fore-and-aft hack cab of the highest registered
tonnage. First of all, I would bring up at the market and get a turkey
and a sucking-pig. Then I’d go to a wine merchant’s and get a dozen of
champagne, and a dozen of some sweet wine, rich and sticky and strong,
something in the port or madeira line, the best in the store. Then I’d
bear up for a toy-store, and lay out twenty dollars in assorted toys
for the piccaninnies; and then to a confectioner’s and take in cakes and
pies and fancy bread, and that stuff with the plums in it; and then to
a news-agency and buy all the papers, all the picture ones for the kids,
and all the story papers for the old girl about the Earl discovering
himself to Anna-Mariar and the escape of the Lady Maude from the private
madhouse; and then I’d tell the fellow to drive home.’

‘There ought to be some syrup for the kids,’ suggested Herrick; ‘they
like syrup.’

‘Yes, syrup for the kids, red syrup at that!’ said the captain. ‘And
those things they pull at, and go pop, and have measly poetry inside.
And then I tell you we’d have a thanksgiving day and Christmas tree
combined. Great Scott, but I would like to see the kids! I guess they
would light right out of the house, when they saw daddy driving up. My
little Adar--’

The captain stopped sharply.

‘Well, keep it up!’ said the clerk.

‘The damned thing is, I don’t know if they ain’t starving!’ cried the

‘They can’t be worse off than we are, and that’s one comfort,’ returned
the clerk. ‘I defy the devil to make me worse off.’

It seemed as if the devil heard him. The light of the moon had been
some time cut off and they had talked in darkness. Now there was heard a
roar, which drew impetuously nearer; the face of the lagoon was seen to
whiten; and before they had staggered to their feet, a squall burst in
rain upon the outcasts. The rage and volume of that avalanche one must
have lived in the tropics to conceive; a man panted in its assault, as
he might pant under a shower-bath; and the world seemed whelmed in night
and water.

They fled, groping for their usual shelter--it might be almost called
their home--in the old calaboose; came drenched into its empty chambers;
and lay down, three sops of humanity on the cold coral floors, and
presently, when the squall was overpast, the others could hear in the
darkness the chattering of the clerk’s teeth.

‘I say, you fellows,’ he walled, ‘for God’s sake, lie up and try to warm
me. I’m blymed if I don’t think I’ll die else!’

So the three crept together into one wet mass, and lay until day came,
shivering and dozing off, and continually re-awakened to wretchedness by
the coughing of the clerk.


The clouds were all fled, the beauty of the tropic day was spread upon
Papeete; and the wall of breaking seas upon the reef, and the palms upon
the islet, already trembled in the heat. A French man-of-war was going
out, homeward bound; she lay in the middle distance of the port, an ant
heap for activity. In the night a schooner had come in, and now lay far
out, hard by the passage; and the yellow flag, the emblem of pestilence,
flew on her. From up the coast, a long procession of canoes headed
round the point and towards the market, bright as a scarf with the
many-coloured clothing of the natives and the piles of fruit. But not
even the beauty and the welcome warmth of the morning, not even these
naval movements, so interesting to sailors and to idlers, could engage
the attention of the outcasts. They were still cold at heart, their
mouths sour from the want of steep, their steps rambling from the
lack of food; and they strung like lame geese along the beach in a
disheartened silence. It was towards the town they moved; towards the
town whence smoke arose, where happier folk were breakfasting; and as
they went, their hungry eyes were upon all sides, but they were only
scouting for a meal.

A small and dingy schooner lay snug against the quay, with which it was
connected by a plank. On the forward deck, under a spot of awning, five
Kanakas who made up the crew, were squatted round a basin of fried feis,
and drinking coffee from tin mugs.

‘Eight bells: knock off for breakfast!’ cried the captain with a
miserable heartiness. ‘Never tried this craft before; positively my
first appearance; guess I’ll draw a bumper house.’

He came close up to where the plank rested on the grassy quay; turned
his back upon the schooner, and began to whistle that lively air, ‘The
Irish Washerwoman.’ It caught the ears of the Kanaka seamen like a
preconcerted signal; with one accord they looked up from their meal and
crowded to the ship’s side, fei in hand and munching as they looked.
Even as a poor brown Pyrenean bear dances in the streets of English
towns under his master’s baton; even so, but with how much more
of spirit and precision, the captain footed it in time to his own
whistling, and his long morning shadow capered beyond him on the grass.
The Kanakas smiled on the performance; Herrick looked on heavy-eyed,
hunger for the moment conquering all sense of shame; and a little
farther off, but still hard by, the clerk was torn by the seven devils
of the influenza.

The captain stopped suddenly, appeared to perceive his audience for the
first time, and represented the part of a man surprised in his private
hour of pleasure.

‘Hello!’ said he.

The Kanakas clapped hands and called upon him to go on.

‘No, SIR!’ said the captain. ‘No eat, no dance. Savvy?’

‘Poor old man!’ returned one of the crew. ‘Him no eat?’

‘Lord, no!’ said the captain. ‘Like-um too much eat. No got.’

‘All right. Me got,’ said the sailor; ‘you tome here. Plenty toffee,
plenty fei. Nutha man him tome too.’

‘I guess we’ll drop right in,’ observed the captain; and he and his
companions hastened up the plank. They were welcomed on board with the
shaking of hands; place was made for them about the basin; a sticky
demijohn of molasses was added to the feast in honour of company, and
an accordion brought from the forecastle and significantly laid by the
performer’s side.

‘Ariana,’ said he lightly, touching the instrument as he spoke; and
he fell to on a long savoury fei, made an end of it, raised his mug of
coffee, and nodded across at the spokesman of the crew. ‘Here’s your
health, old man; you’re a credit to the South Pacific,’ said he.

With the unsightly greed of hounds they glutted themselves with the hot
food and coffee; and even the clerk revived and the colour deepened in
his eyes. The kettle was drained, the basin cleaned; their entertainers,
who had waited on their wants throughout with the pleased hospitality of
Polynesians, made haste to bring forward a dessert of island tobacco and
rolls of pandanus leaf to serve as paper; and presently all sat about
the dishes puffing like Indian Sachems.

‘When a man ‘as breakfast every day, he don’t know what it is,’ observed
the clerk.

‘The next point is dinner,’ said Herrick; and then with a passionate
utterance: ‘I wish to God I was a Kanaka!’

‘There’s one thing sure,’ said the captain. ‘I’m about desperate, I’d
rather hang than rot here much longer.’ And with the word he took the
accordion and struck up. ‘Home, sweet home.’

‘O, drop that!’ cried Herrick, ‘I can’t stand that.’

‘No more can I,’ said the captain. ‘I’ve got to play something though:
got to pay the shot, my son.’ And he struck up ‘John Brown’s Body’ in
a fine sweet baritone: ‘Dandy Jim of Carolina,’ came next; ‘Rorin the
Bold,’ ‘Swing low, Sweet Chariot,’ and ‘The Beautiful Land’ followed.
The captain was paying his shot with usury, as he had done many a
time before; many a meal had he bought with the same currency from the
melodious-minded natives, always, as now, to their delight.

He was in the middle of ‘Fifteen Dollars in the Inside Pocket,’ singing
with dogged energy, for the task went sore against the grain, when a
sensation was suddenly to be observed among the crew.

‘Tapena Tom harry my,’ said the spokesman, pointing.

And the three beachcombers, following his indication, saw the figure of
a man in pyjama trousers and a white jumper approaching briskly from the

‘Captain Tom is coming.’

‘That’s Tapena Tom, is it?’ said the captain, pausing in his music. ‘I
don’t seem to place the brute.’

‘We’d better cut,’ said the clerk. ‘’E’s no good.’

‘Well,’ said the musician deliberately, ‘one can’t most generally always
tell. I’ll try it on, I guess. Music has charms to soothe the savage
Tapena, boys. We might strike it rich; it might amount to iced punch in
the cabin.’

‘Hiced punch? O my!’ said the clerk. ‘Give him something ‘ot, captain.
“Way down the Swannee River”; try that.’

‘No, sir! Looks Scotch,’ said the captain; and he struck, for his life,
into ‘Auld Lang Syne.’

Captain Tom continued to approach with the same business-like alacrity;
no change was to be perceived in his bearded face as he came swinging up
the plank: he did not even turn his eyes on the performer.

    ‘We twa hae paidled in the burn
     Frae morning tide till dine,’

went the song.

Captain Tom had a parcel under his arm, which he laid on the house roof,
and then turning suddenly to the strangers: ‘Here, you!’ he bellowed,
‘be off out of that!’

The clerk and Herrick stood not on the order of their going, but fled
incontinently by the plank. The performer, on the other hand, flung down
the instrument and rose to his full height slowly.

‘What’s that you say?’ he said. ‘I’ve half a mind to give you a lesson
in civility.’

‘You set up any more of your gab to me,’ returned the Scotsman, ‘and
I’ll show ye the wrong side of a jyle. I’ve heard tell of the three
of ye. Ye’re not long for here, I can tell ye that. The Government has
their eyes upon ye. They make short work of damned beachcombers, I’ll
say that for the French.’

‘You wait till I catch you off your ship!’ cried the captain: and
then, turning to the crew, ‘Good-bye, you fellows!’ he said. ‘You’re
gentlemen, anyway! The worst nigger among you would look better upon a
quarter-deck than that filthy Scotchman.’

Captain Tom scorned to reply; he watched with a hard smile the departure
of his guests; and as soon as the last foot was off the plank; turned to
the hands to work cargo.

The beachcombers beat their inglorious retreat along the shore; Herrick
first, his face dark with blood, his knees trembling under him with
the hysteria of rage. Presently, under the same purao where they had
shivered the night before, he cast himself down, and groaned aloud, and
ground his face into the sand.

‘Don’t speak to me, don’t speak to me. I can’t stand it,’ broke from

The other two stood over him perplexed.

‘Wot can’t he stand now?’ said the clerk. ‘’Asn’t he ‘ad a meal? I’M
lickin’ my lips.’

Herrick reared up his wild eyes and burning face. ‘I can’t beg!’ he
screamed, and again threw himself prone.

‘This thing’s got to come to an end,’ said the captain with an intake of
the breath.

‘Looks like signs of an end, don’t it?’ sneered the clerk.

‘He’s not so far from it, and don’t you deceive yourself,’ replied the
captain. ‘Well,’ he added in a livelier voice, ‘you fellows hang on
here, and I’ll go and interview my representative.’

Whereupon he turned on his heel, and set off at a swinging sailor’s walk
towards Papeete.

It was some half hour later when he returned. The clerk was dozing with
his back against the tree: Herrick still lay where he had flung himself;
nothing showed whether he slept or waked.

‘See, boys!’ cried the captain, with that artificial heartiness of his
which was at times so painful, ‘here’s a new idea.’ And he produced note
paper, stamped envelopes, and pencils, three of each. ‘We can all write
home by the mail brigantine; the consul says I can come over to his
place and ink up the addresses.’

‘Well, that’s a start, too,’ said the clerk. ‘I never thought of that.’

‘It was that yarning last night about going home that put me up to it,’
said the captain.

‘Well, ‘and over,’ said the clerk. ‘I’ll ‘ave a shy,’ and he retired a
little distance to the shade of a canoe.

The others remained under the purao. Now they would write a word or two,
now scribble it out; now they would sit biting at the pencil end and
staring seaward; now their eyes would rest on the clerk, where he sat
propped on the canoe, leering and coughing, his pencil racing glibly on
the paper.

‘I can’t do it,’ said Herrick suddenly. ‘I haven’t got the heart.’

‘See here,’ said the captain, speaking with unwonted gravity; ‘it may be
hard to write, and to write lies at that; and God knows it is; but it’s
the square thing. It don’t cost anything to say you’re well and happy,
and sorry you can’t make a remittance this mail; and if you don’t, I’ll
tell you what I think it is--I think it’s about the high-water mark of
being a brute beast.’

‘It’s easy to talk,’ said Herrick. ‘You don’t seem to have written much
yourself, I notice.’

‘What do you bring in me for?’ broke from the captain. His voice was
indeed scarce raised above a whisper, but emotion clanged in it. ‘What
do you know about me? If you had commanded the finest barque that ever
sailed from Portland; if you had been drunk in your berth when she
struck the breakers in Fourteen Island Group, and hadn’t had the wit to
stay there and drown, but came on deck, and given drunken orders, and
lost six lives--I could understand your talking then! There,’ he said
more quietly, ‘that’s my yarn, and now you know it. It’s a pretty one
for the father of a family. Five men and a woman murdered. Yes, there
was a woman on board, and hadn’t no business to be either. Guess I sent
her to Hell, if there is such a place. I never dared go home again; and
the wife and the little ones went to England to her father’s place. I
don’t know what’s come to them,’ he added, with a bitter shrug.

‘Thank you, captain,’ said Herrick. ‘I never liked you better.’

They shook hands, short and hard, with eyes averted, tenderness swelling
in their bosoms.

‘Now, boys! to work again at lying!’ said the captain.

‘I’ll give my father up,’ returned Herrick with a writhen smile. ‘I’ll
try my sweetheart instead for a change of evils.’

And here is what he wrote:

‘Emma, I have scratched out the beginning to my father, for I think I
can write more easily to you. This is my last farewell to all, the last
you will ever hear or see of an unworthy friend and son. I have failed
in life; I am quite broken down and disgraced. I pass under a false
name; you will have to tell my father that with all your kindness. It is
my own fault. I know, had I chosen, that I might have done well; and yet
I swear to you I tried to choose. I could not bear that you should think
I did not try. For I loved you all; you must never doubt me in that,
you least of all. I have always unceasingly loved, but what was my love
worth? and what was I worth? I had not the manhood of a common clerk,
I could not work to earn you; I have lost you now, and for your sake I
could be glad of it. When you first came to my father’s house--do you
remember those days? I want you to--you saw the best of me then, all
that was good in me. Do you remember the day I took your hand and would
not let it go--and the day on Battersea Bridge, when we were looking at
a barge, and I began to tell you one of my silly stories, and broke off
to say I loved you? That was the beginning, and now here is the end.
When you have read this letter, you will go round and kiss them all
good-bye, my father and mother, and the children, one by one, and poor
uncle; And tell them all to forget me, and forget me yourself. Turn
the key in the door; let no thought of me return; be done with the poor
ghost that pretended he was a man and stole your love. Scorn of myself
grinds in me as I write. I should tell you I am well and happy, and want
for nothing. I do not exactly make money, or I should send a remittance;
but I am well cared for, have friends, live in a beautiful place and
climate, such as we have dreamed of together, and no pity need be wasted
on me. In such places, you understand, it is easy to live, and live
well, but often hard to make sixpence in money. Explain this to my
father, he will understand. I have no more to say; only linger, going
out, like an unwilling guest. God in heaven bless you. Think of me to
the last, here, on a bright beach, the sky and sea immoderately blue,
and the great breakers roaring outside on a barrier reef, where a little
isle sits green with palms. I am well and strong. It is a more pleasant
way to die than if you were crowding about me on a sick-bed. And yet I
am dying. This is my last kiss. Forgive, forget the unworthy.’

So far he had written, his paper was all filled, when there returned a
memory of evenings at the piano, and that song, the masterpiece of love,
in which so many have found the expression of their dearest thoughts.
‘Einst, O wunder!’ he added. More was not required; he knew that in his
love’s heart the context would spring up, escorted with fair images and
harmony; of how all through life her name should tremble in his ears,
her name be everywhere repeated in the sounds of nature; and when death
came, and he lay dissolved, her memory lingered and thrilled among his

    ‘Once, O wonder! once from the ashes of my heart
     Arose a blossom--’

Herrick and the captain finished their letters about the same time; each
was breathing deep, and their eyes met and were averted as they closed
the envelopes.

‘Sorry I write so big,’ said the captain gruffly. ‘Came all of a rush,
when it did come.’

‘Same here,’ said Herrick. ‘I could have done with a ream when I got
started; but it’s long enough for all the good I had to say.’

They were still at the addresses when the clerk strolled up, smirking
and twirling his envelope, like a man well pleased. He looked over
Herrick’s shoulder.

‘Hullo,’ he said, ‘you ain’t writing ‘ome.’

‘I am, though,’ said Herrick; ‘she lives with my father. Oh, I see what
you mean,’ he added. ‘My real name is Herrick. No more Hay’--they had
both used the same alias--‘no more Hay than yours, I dare say.’

‘Clean bowled in the middle stump!’ laughed the clerk. ‘My name’s ‘Uish
if you want to know. Everybody has a false nyme in the Pacific. Lay you
five to three the captain ‘as.’

‘So I have too,’ replied the captain; ‘and I’ve never told my own since
the day I tore the title page out of my Bowditch and flung the damned
thing into the sea. But I’ll tell it to you, boys. John Davis is my
name. I’m Davis of the Sea Ranger.’

‘Dooce you are!’ said Hush. ‘And what was she? a pirate or a slyver?’

‘She was the fastest barque out of Portland, Maine,’ replied the
captain; ‘and for the way I lost her, I might as well have bored a hole
in her side with an auger.’

‘Oh, you lost her, did you?’ said the clerk. ‘’Ope she was insured?’

No answer being returned to this sally, Huish, still brimming over with
vanity and conversation, struck into another subject.

‘I’ve a good mind to read you my letter,’ said he. ‘I’ve a good fist
with a pen when I choose, and this is a prime lark. She was a barmaid
I ran across in Northampton; she was a spanking fine piece, no end
of style; and we cottoned at first sight like parties in the play. I
suppose I spent the chynge of a fiver on that girl. Well, I ‘appened to
remember her nyme, so I wrote to her, and told her ‘ow I had got rich,
and married a queen in the Hislands, and lived in a blooming palace.
Such a sight of crammers! I must read you one bit about my opening the
nigger parliament in a cocked ‘at. It’s really prime.’

The captain jumped to his feet. ‘That’s what you did with the paper that
I went and begged for you?’ he roared.

It was perhaps lucky for Huish--it was surely in the end unfortunate for
all--that he was seized just then by one of his prostrating accesses of
cough; his comrades would have else deserted him, so bitter was their
resentment. When the fit had passed, the clerk reached out his hand,
picked up the letter, which had fallen to the earth, and tore it into
fragments, stamp and all.

‘Does that satisfy you?’ he asked sullenly.

‘We’ll say no more about it,’ replied Davis.


The old calaboose, in which the waifs had so long harboured, is a low,
rectangular enclosure of building at the corner of a shady western
avenue and a little townward of the British consulate. Within was
a grassy court, littered with wreckage and the traces of vagrant
occupation. Six or seven cells opened from the court: the doors, that
had once been locked on mutinous whalermen, rotting before them in the
grass. No mark remained of their old destination, except the rusty bars
upon the windows.

The floor of one of the cells had been a little cleared; a bucket (the
last remaining piece of furniture of the three caitiffs) stood full of
water by the door, a half cocoanut shell beside it for a drinking cup;
and on some ragged ends of mat Huish sprawled asleep, his mouth open,
his face deathly. The glow of the tropic afternoon, the green of
sunbright foliage, stared into that shady place through door and window;
and Herrick, pacing to and fro on the coral floor, sometimes paused
and laved his face and neck with tepid water from the bucket. His long
arrears of suffering, the night’s vigil, the insults of the morning, and
the harrowing business of the letter, had strung him to that point when
pain is almost pleasure, time shrinks to a mere point, and death and
life appear indifferent. To and fro he paced like a caged brute; his
mind whirling through the universe of thought and memory; his eyes, as
he went, skimming the legends on the wall. The crumbling whitewash was
all full of them: Tahitian names, and French, and English, and rude
sketches of ships under sail and men at fisticuffs.

It came to him of a sudden that he too must leave upon these walls the
memorial of his passage. He paused before a clean space, took the pencil
out, and pondered. Vanity, so hard to dislodge, awoke in him. We call it
vanity at least; perhaps unjustly. Rather it was the bare sense of his
existence prompted him; the sense of his life, the one thing wonderful,
to which he scarce clung with a finger. From his jarred nerves there
came a strong sentiment of coming change; whether good or ill he could
not say: change, he knew no more--change, with inscrutable veiled face,
approaching noiseless. With the feeling, came the vision of a concert
room, the rich hues of instruments, the silent audience, and the loud
voice of the symphony. ‘Destiny knocking at the door,’ he thought; drew
a stave on the plaster, and wrote in the famous phrase from the Fifth
Symphony. ‘So,’ thought he, ‘they will know that I loved music and had
classical tastes. They? He, I suppose: the unknown, kindred spirit that
shall come some day and read my memor querela. Ha, he shall have Latin
too!’ And he added: terque quaterque beati Queis ante ora patrum.

He turned again to his uneasy pacing, but now with an irrational and
supporting sense of duty done. He had dug his grave that morning; now he
had carved his epitaph; the folds of the toga were composed, why should
he delay the insignificant trifle that remained to do? He paused and
looked long in the face of the sleeping Huish, drinking disenchantment
and distaste of life. He nauseated himself with that vile countenance.
Could the thing continue? What bound him now? Had he no rights?--only
the obligation to go on, without discharge or furlough, bearing the
unbearable? Ich trage unertragliches, the quotation rose in his mind; he
repeated the whole piece, one of the most perfect of the most perfect of
poets; and a phrase struck him like a blow: Du, stolzes Herz, A hast
es ja gewolit. Where was the pride of his heart? And he raged against
himself, as a man bites on a sore tooth, in a heady sensuality of scorn.
‘I have no pride, I have no heart, no manhood,’ he thought, ‘or why
should I prolong a life more shameful than the gallows? Or why should I
have fallen to it? No pride, no capacity, no force. Not even a bandit!
and to be starving here with worse than banditti--with this trivial
hell-hound!’ His rage against his comrade rose and flooded him, and he
shook a trembling fist at the sleeper.

A swift step was audible. The captain appeared upon the threshold of the
cell, panting and flushed, and with a foolish face of happiness. In his
arms he carried a loaf of bread and bottles of beer; the pockets of his
coat were bulging with cigars.

He rolled his treasures on the floor, grasped Herrick by both hands, and
crowed with laughter.

‘Broach the beer!’ he shouted. ‘Broach the beer, and glory hallelujah!’

‘Beer?’ repeated Huish, struggling to his feet. ‘Beer it is!’ cried
Davis. ‘Beer and plenty of it. Any number of persons can use it (like
Lyon’s tooth-tablet) with perfect propriety and neatness. Who’s to

‘Leave me alone for that,’ said the clerk. He knocked the necks off with
a lump of coral, and each drank in succession from the shell.

‘Have a weed,’ said Davis. ‘It’s all in the bill.’

‘What is up?’ asked Herrick.

The captain fell suddenly grave. ‘I’m coming to that,’ said he. ‘I want
to speak with Herrick here. You, Hay--or Huish, or whatever your name
is--you take a weed and the other bottle, and go and see how the wind is
down by the purao. I’ll call you when you’re wanted!’

‘Hay? Secrets? That ain’t the ticket,’ said Huish.

‘Look here, my son,’ said the captain, ‘this is business, and don’t you
make any mistake about it. If you’re going to make trouble, you can
have it your own way and stop right here. Only get the thing right: if
Herrick and I go, we take the beer. Savvy?’

‘Oh, I don’t want to shove my oar in,’ returned Huish. ‘I’ll cut right
enough. Give me the swipes. You can jaw till you’re blue in the face for
what I care. I don’t think it’s the friendly touch: that’s all.’ And he
shambled grumbling out of the cell into the staring sun.

The captain watched him clear of the courtyard; then turned to Herrick.

‘What is it?’ asked Herrick thickly.

‘I’ll tell you,’ said Davis. ‘I want to consult you. It’s a chance we’ve
got. What’s that?’ he cried, pointing to the music on the wall.

‘What?’ said the other. ‘Oh, that! It’s music; it’s a phrase of
Beethoven’s I was writing up. It means Destiny knocking at the door.’

‘Does it?’ said the captain, rather low; and he went near and studied
the inscription; ‘and this French?’ he asked, pointing to the Latin.

‘O, it just means I should have been luckier if I had died at horne,’
returned Herrick impatiently. ‘What is this business?’

‘Destiny knocking at the door,’ repeated the captain; and then, looking
over his shoulder. ‘Well, Mr Herrick, that’s about what it comes to,’ he

‘What do you mean? Explain yourself,’ said Herrick.

But the captain was again staring at the music. ‘About how long ago
since you wrote up this truck?’ he asked.

‘What does it matter?’ exclaimed Herrick. ‘I dare say half an hour.’

‘My God, it’s strange!’ cried Davis. ‘There’s some men would call that
accidental: not me. That--’ and he drew his thick finger under the
music--‘that’s what I call Providence.’

‘You said we had a chance,’ said Herrick.

‘Yes, SIR!’ said the captain, wheeling suddenly face to face with
his companion. ‘I did so. If you’re the man I take you for, we have a

‘I don’t know what you take me for,’ was the reply. ‘You can scarce take
me too low.’

‘Shake hands, Mr Herrick,’ said the captain. ‘I know you. You’re a
gentleman and a man of spirit. I didn’t want to speak before that bummer
there; you’ll see why. But to you I’ll rip it right out. I got a ship.’

‘A ship?’ cried Herrick. ‘What ship?’

‘That schooner we saw this morning off the passage.’

‘The schooner with the hospital flag?’

‘That’s the hooker,’ said Davis. ‘She’s the Farallone, hundred and
sixty tons register, out of ‘Frisco for Sydney, in California champagne.
Captain, mate, and one hand all died of the smallpox, same as they had
round in the Paumotus, I guess. Captain and mate were the only white
men; all the hands Kanakas; seems a queer kind of outfit from a
Christian port. Three of them left and a cook; didn’t know where they
were; I can’t think where they were either, if you come to that;
Wiseman must have been on the booze, I guess, to sail the course he did.
However, there HE was, dead; and here are the Kanakas as good as lost.
They bummed around at sea like the babes in the wood; and tumbled
end-on upon Tahiti. The consul here took charge. He offered the berth to
Williams; Williams had never had the smallpox and backed down. That was
when I came in for the letter paper; I thought there was something up
when the consul asked me to look in again; but I never let on to you
fellows, so’s you’d not be disappointed. Consul tried M’Neil; scared of
smallpox. He tried Capirati, that Corsican and Leblue, or whatever his
name is, wouldn’t lay a hand on it; all too fond of their sweet lives.
Last of all, when there wasn’t nobody else left to offer it to, he
offers it to me. “Brown, will you ship captain and take her to Sydney?”
 says he. “Let me choose my own mate and another white hand,” says I,
“for I don’t hold with this Kanaka crew racket; give us all two months’
advance to get our clothes and instruments out of pawn, and I’ll take
stock tonight, fill up stores, and get to sea tomorrow before dark!”
 That’s what I said. “That’s good enough,” says the consul, “and you
can count yourself damned lucky, Brown,” says he. And he said it pretty
meaningful-appearing, too. However, that’s all one now. I’ll ship Huish
before the mast--of course I’ll let him berth aft--and I’ll ship you
mate at seventy-five dollars and two months’ advance.’

‘Me mate? Why, I’m a landsman!’ cried Herrick.

‘Guess you’ve got to learn,’ said the captain. ‘You don’t fancy I’m
going to skip and leave you rotting on the beach perhaps? I’m not that
sort, old man. And you’re handy anyway; I’ve been shipmates with worse.’

‘God knows I can’t refuse,’ said Herrick. ‘God knows I thank you from my

‘That’s all right,’ said the captain. ‘But it ain’t all.’ He turned
aside to light a cigar.

‘What else is there?’ asked the other, with a pang of undefinable alarm.

‘I’m coming to that,’ said Davis, and then paused a little. ‘See here,’
he began, holding out his cigar between his finger and thumb, ‘suppose
you figure up what this’ll amount to. You don’t catch on? Well, we
get two months’ advance; we can’t get away from Papeete--our creditors
wouldn’t let us go--for less; it’ll take us along about two months
to get to Sydney; and when we get there, I just want to put it to you
squarely: What the better are we?’

‘We’re off the beach at least,’ said Herrick.

‘I guess there’s a beach at Sydney,’ returned the captain; ‘and I’ll
tell you one thing, Mr Herrick--I don’t mean to try. No, SIR! Sydney
will never see me.’

‘Speak out plain,’ said Herrick.

‘Plain Dutch,’ replied the captain. ‘I’m going to own that schooner.
It’s nothing new; it’s done every year in the Pacific. Stephens stole a
schooner the other day, didn’t he? Hayes and Pease stole vessels all
the time. And it’s the making of the crowd of us. See here--you think of
that cargo. Champagne! why, it’s like as if it was put up on purpose. In
Peru we’ll sell that liquor off at the pier-head, and the schooner after
it, if we can find a fool to buy her; and then light out for the mines.
If you’ll back me up, I stake my life I carry it through.’

‘Captain,’ said Herrick, with a quailing voice, ‘don’t do it!’

‘I’m desperate,’ returned Davis. ‘I’ve got a chance; I may never get
another. Herrick, say the word; back me up; I think we’ve starved
together long enough for that.’

‘I can’t do it. I’m sorry. I can’t do it. I’ve not fallen as low as
that,’ said Herrick, deadly pale.

‘What did you say this morning?’ said Davis. ‘That you couldn’t beg?
It’s the one thing or the other, my son.’

‘Ah, but this is the jail!’ cried Herrick. ‘Don’t tempt me. It’s the

‘Did you hear what the skipper said on board that schooner?’ pursued the
captain. ‘Well, I tell you he talked straight. The French have let us
alone for a long time; It can’t last longer; they’ve got their eye on
us; and as sure as you live, in three weeks you’ll be in jail whatever
you do. I read it in the consul’s face.’

‘You forget, captain,’ said the young man. ‘There is another way. I can
die; and to say truth, I think I should have died three years ago.’

The captain folded his arms and looked the other in the face. ‘Yes,’
said he, ‘yes, you can cut your throat; that’s a frozen fact; much good
may it do you! And where do I come in?’

The light of a strange excitement came in Herrick’s face. ‘Both of us,’
said he, ‘both of us together. It’s not possible you can enjoy this
business. Come,’ and he reached out a timid hand, ‘a few strokes in the
lagoon--and rest!’

‘I tell you, Herrick, I’m ‘most tempted to answer you the way the man
does in the Bible, and say, “Get thee behind me, Satan!”’ said the
captain. ‘What! you think I would go drown myself, and I got children
starving? Enjoy it? No, by God, I do not enjoy it! but it’s the row
I’ve got to hoe, and I’ll hoe it till I drop right here. I have three of
them, you see, two boys and the one girl, Adar. The trouble is that you
are not a parent yourself. I tell you, Herrick, I love you,’ the man
broke out; ‘I didn’t take to you at first, you were so anglified and
tony, but I love you now; it’s a man that loves you stands here and
wrestles with you. I can’t go to sea with the bummer alone; it’s not
possible. Go drown yourself, and there goes my last chance--the last
chance of a poor miserable beast, earning a crust to feed his family.
I can’t do nothing but sail ships, and I’ve no papers. And here I get
a chance, and you go back on me! Ah, you’ve no family, and that’s where
the trouble is!’

‘I have indeed,’ said Herrick.

‘Yes, I know,’ said the captain, ‘you think so. But no man’s got
a family till he’s got children. It’s only the kids count. There’s
something about the little shavers... I can’t talk of them. And if
you thought a cent about this father that I hear you talk of, or that
sweetheart you were writing to this morning, you would feel like me. You
would say, What matters laws, and God, and that? My folks are hard up,
I belong to them, I’ll get them bread, or, by God! I’ll get them wealth,
if I have to burn down London for it. That’s what you would say. And
I’ll tell you more: your heart is saying so this living minute. I can
see it in your face. You’re thinking, Here’s poor friendship for the man
I’ve starved along of, and as for the girl that I set up to be in love
with, here’s a mighty limp kind of a love that won’t carry me as far
as ‘most any man would go for a demijohn of whisky. There’s not much
ROmance to that love, anyway; it’s not the kind they carry on about in
songbooks. But what’s the good of my carrying on talking, when it’s all
in your inside as plain as print? I put the question to you once for
all. Are you going to desert me in my hour of need?--you know if I’ve
deserted you--or will you give me your hand, and try a fresh deal, and
go home (as like as not) a millionaire? Say no, and God pity me! Say
yes, and I’ll make the little ones pray for you every night on their
bended knees. “God bless Mr Herrick!” that’s what they’ll say, one after
the other, the old girl sitting there holding stakes at the foot of the
bed, and the damned little innocents.. . He broke off. ‘I don’t often
rip out about the kids,’ he said; ‘but when I do, there’s something
fetches loose.’

‘Captain,’ said Herrick faintly, ‘is there nothing else?’

‘I’ll prophesy if you like,’ said the captain with renewed vigour.
‘Refuse this, because you think yourself too honest, and before a
month’s out you’ll be jailed for a sneak-thief. I give you the word
fair. I can see it, Herrick, if you can’t; you’re breaking down.
Don’t think, if you refuse this chance, that you’ll go on doing the
evangelical; you’re about through with your stock; and before you know
where you are, you’ll be right out on the other side. No, it’s either
this for you; or else it’s Caledonia. I bet you never were there, and
saw those white, shaved men, in their dust clothes and straw hats,
prowling around in gangs in the lamplight at Noumea; they look like
wolves, and they look like preachers, and they look like the sick; Hulsh
is a daisy to the best of them. Well, there’s your company. They’re
waiting for you, Herrick, and you got to go; and that’s a prophecy.’

And as the man stood and shook through his great stature, he seemed
indeed like one in whom the spirit of divination worked and might utter
oracles. Herrick looked at him, and looked away; It seemed not decent to
spy upon such agitation; and the young man’s courage sank.

‘You talk of going home,’ he objected. ‘We could never do that.’

‘WE could,’ said the other. ‘Captain Brown couldn’t, nor Mr Hay, that
shipped mate with him couldn’t. But what’s that to do with Captain Davis
or Mr Herrick, you galoot?’

‘But Hayes had these wild islands where he used to call,’ came the next
fainter objection.

‘We have the wild islands of Peru,’ retorted Davis. ‘They were wild
enough for Stephens, no longer agone than just last year. I guess
they’ll be wild enough for us.’

‘And the crew?’

‘All Kanakas. Come, I see you’re right, old man. I see you’ll stand by.’
And the captain once more offered his hand.

‘Have it your own way then,’ said Herrick. ‘I’ll do it: a strange thing
for my father’s son. But I’ll do it. I’ll stand by you, man, for good or

‘God bless you!’ cried the captain, and stood silent. ‘Herrick,’ he
added with a smile, ‘I believe I’d have died in my tracks, if you’d
said, No!’

And Herrick, looking at the man, half believed so also.

‘And now we’ll go break it to the bummer,’ said Davis.

‘I wonder how he’ll take it,’ said Herrick.

‘Him? Jump at it!’ was the reply.


The schooner Farallone lay well out in the jaws of the pass, where the
terrified pilot had made haste to bring her to her moorings and escape.
Seen from the beach through the thin line of shipping, two objects stood
conspicuous to seaward: the little isle, on the one hand, with its palms
and the guns and batteries raised forty years before in defence of Queen
Pomare’s capital; the outcast Farallone, upon the other, banished to the
threshold of the port, rolling there to her scuppers, and flaunting the
plague-flag as she rolled. A few sea birds screamed and cried about the
ship; and within easy range, a man-of-war guard boat hung off and on and
glittered with the weapons of marines. The exuberant daylight and the
blinding heaven of the tropics picked out and framed the pictures.

A neat boat, manned by natives in uniform, and steered by the doctor
of the port, put from shore towards three of the afternoon, and pulled
smartly for the schooner. The fore-sheets were heaped with sacks of
flour, onions, and potatoes, perched among which was Huish dressed as
a foremast hand; a heap of chests and cases impeded the action of the
oarsmen; and in the stern, by the left hand of the doctor, sat Herrick,
dressed in a fresh rig of slops, his brown beard trimmed to a point, a
pile of paper novels on his lap, and nursing the while between his feet
a chronometer, for which they had exchanged that of the Farallone, long
since run down and the rate lost.

They passed the guard boat, exchanging hails with the boat-swain’s
mate in charge, and drew near at last to the forbidden ship. Not a cat
stirred, there was no speech of man; and the sea being exceeding high
outside, and the reef close to where the schooner lay, the clamour of
the surf hung round her like the sound of battle.

‘Ohe la goelette!’ sang out the doctor, with his best voice.

Instantly, from the house where they had been stowing away stores, first
Davis, and then the ragamuffin, swarthy crew made their appearance.

‘Hullo, Hay, that you?’ said the captain, leaning on the rail. ‘Tell the
old man to lay her alongside, as if she was eggs. There’s a hell of a
run of sea here, and his boat’s brittle.’

The movement of the schooner was at that time more than usually violent.
Now she heaved her side as high as a deep sea steamer’s, and showed the
flashing of her copper; now she swung swiftly toward the boat until her
scuppers gurgled.

‘I hope you have sea legs,’ observed the doctor. ‘You will require

Indeed, to board the Farallone, in that exposed position where she lay,
was an affair of some dexterity. The less precious goods were hoisted
roughly in; the chronometer, after repeated failures, was passed gently
and successfully from hand to hand; and there remained only the more
difficult business of embarking Huish. Even that piece of dead weight
(shipped A.B. at eighteen dollars, and described by the captain to the
consul as an invaluable man) was at last hauled on board without mishap;
and the doctor, with civil salutations, took his leave.

The three co-adventurers looked at each other, and Davis heaved a breath
of relief.

‘Now let’s get this chronometer fixed,’ said he, and led the way
into the house. It was a fairly spacious place; two staterooms and a
good-sized pantry opened from the main cabin; the bulkheads were
painted white, the floor laid with waxcloth. No litter, no sign of
life remained; for the effects of the dead men had been disinfected and
conveyed on shore. Only on the table, in a saucer, some sulphur burned,
and the fumes set them coughing as they entered. The captain peered into
the starboard stateroom, where the bed-clothes still lay tumbled in
the bunk, the blanket flung back as they had flung it back from the
disfigured corpse before its burial.

‘Now, I told these niggers to tumble that truck overboard,’ grumbled
Davis. ‘Guess they were afraid to lay hands on it. Well, they’ve hosed
the place out; that’s as much as can be expected, I suppose. Huish, lay
on to these blankets.’

‘See you blooming well far enough first,’ said Huish, drawing back.

‘What’s that?’ snapped the captain. ‘I’ll tell you, my young friend, I
think you make a mistake. I’m captain here.’

‘Fat lot I care,’ returned the clerk.

‘That so?’ said Davis. ‘Then you’ll berth forward with the niggers! Walk
right out of this cabin.’

‘Oh, I dessay!’ said Huish. ‘See any green in my eye? A lark’s a lark.’

‘Well, now, I’ll explain this business, and you’ll see (once for all)
just precisely how much lark there is to it,’ said Davis. ‘I’m captain,
and I’m going to be it. One thing of three. First, you take my orders
here as cabin steward, in which case you mess with us. Or second, you
refuse, and I pack you forward--and you get as quick as the word’s said.
Or, third and last, I’ll signal that man-of-war and send you ashore
under arrest for mutiny.’

‘And, of course, I wouldn’t blow the gaff? O no!’ replied the jeering

‘And who’s to believe you, my son?’ inquired the captain. ‘No, sir!
There ain’t no lark about my captainising. Enough said. Up with these

Huish was no fool, he knew when he was beaten; and he was no coward
either, for he stepped to the bunk, took the infected bed-clothes
fairly in his arms, and carried them out of the house without a check or

‘I was waiting for the chance,’ said Davis to Herrick. ‘I needn’t do the
same with you, because you understand it for yourself.’

‘Are you going to berth here?’ asked Herrick, following the captain into
the stateroom, where he began to adjust the chronometer in its place at
the bed-head.

‘Not much!’ replied he. ‘I guess I’ll berth on deck. I don’t know as I’m
afraid, but I’ve no immediate use for confluent smallpox.’

‘I don’t know that I’m afraid either,’ said Herrick. ‘But the thought of
these two men sticks in my throat; that captain and mate dying here, one
opposite to the other. It’s grim. I wonder what they said last?’

‘Wiseman and Wishart?’ said the captain. ‘Probably mighty small
potatoes. That’s a thing a fellow figures out for himself one way, and
the real business goes quite another. Perhaps Wiseman said, “Here old
man, fetch up the gin, I’m feeling powerful rocky.” And perhaps Wishart
said, “Oh, hell!”’

‘Well, that’s grim enough,’ said Herrick.

‘And so it is,’ said Davis. ‘There; there’s that chronometer fixed. And
now it’s about time to up anchor and clear out.’

He lit a cigar and stepped on deck.

‘Here, you! What’s YOUR name?’ he cried to one of the hands, a
lean-flanked, clean-built fellow from some far western island, and of a
darkness almost approaching to the African.

‘Sally Day,’ replied the man.

‘Devil it is,’ said the captain. ‘Didn’t know we had ladies on board.
Well, Sally, oblige me by hauling down that rag there. I’ll do the same
for you another time.’ He watched the yellow bunting as it was eased
past the cross-trees and handed down on deck. ‘You’ll float no more
on this ship,’ he observed. ‘Muster the people aft, Mr Hay,’ he added,
speaking unnecessarily loud, ‘I’ve a word to say to them.’

It was with a singular sensation that Herrick prepared for the first
time to address a crew. He thanked his stars indeed, that they were
natives. But even natives, he reflected, might be critics too quick
for such a novice as himself; they might perceive some lapse from that
precise and cut-and-dry English which prevails on board a ship; it was
even possible they understood no other; and he racked his brain, and
overhauled his reminiscences of sea romance for some appropriate words.

‘Here, men! tumble aft!’ he said. ‘Lively now! All hands aft!’

They crowded in the alleyway like sheep.

‘Here they are, sir,’ said Herrick.

For some time the captain continued to face the stern; then turned with
ferocious suddenness on the crew, and seemed to enjoy their shrinking.

‘Now,’ he said, twisting his cigar in his mouth and toying with the
spokes of the wheel, ‘I’m Captain Brown. I command this ship. This is
Mr Hay, first officer. The other white man is cabin steward, but he’ll
stand watch and do his trick. My orders shall be obeyed smartly. You
savvy, “smartly”? There shall be no growling about the kaikai, which
will be above allowance. You’ll put a handle to the mate’s name, and
tack on “sir” to every order I give you. If you’re smart and quick, I’ll
make this ship comfortable for all hands.’ He took the cigar out of his
mouth. ‘If you’re not,’ he added, in a roaring voice, ‘I’ll make it a
floating hell. Now, Mr Hay, we’ll pick watches, if you please.’

‘All right,’ said Herrick.

‘You will please use “sir” when you address me, Mr Hay,’ said the
captain. ‘I’ll take the lady. Step to starboard, Sally.’ And then he
whispered in Herrick’s ear: ‘take the old man.’

‘I’ll take you, there,’ said Herrick.

‘What’s your name?’ said the captain. ‘What’s that you say? Oh, that’s
no English; I’ll have none of your highway gibberish on my ship. We’ll
call you old Uncle Ned, because you’ve got no wool on the top of your
head, just the place where the wool ought to grow. Step to port, Uncle.
Don’t you hear Mr Hay has picked you? Then I’ll take the white man.
White Man, step to starboard. Now which of you two is the cook? You?
Then Mr Hay takes your friend in the blue dungaree. Step to port,
Dungaree. There, we know who we all are: Dungaree, Uncle Ned, Sally Day,
White Man, and Cook. All F.F.V.’s I guess. And now, Mr Hay, we’ll up
anchor, if you please.’

‘For Heaven’s sake, tell me some of the words,’ whispered Herrick.

An hour later, the Farallone was under all plain sail, the rudder hard
a-port, and the cheerfully clanking windlass had brought the anchor

‘All clear, sir,’ cried Herrick from the bow.

The captain met her with the wheel, as she bounded like a stag from
her repose, trembling and bending to the puffs. The guard boat gave a
parting hail, the wake whitened and ran out; the Farallone was under

Her berth had been close to the pass. Even as she forged ahead Davis
slewed her for the channel between the pier ends of the reef, the
breakers sounding and whitening to either hand. Straight through the
narrow band of blue, she shot to seaward: and the captain’s heart
exulted as he felt her tremble underfoot, and (looking back over the
taffrail) beheld the roofs of Papeete changing position on the shore and
the island mountains rearing higher in the wake.

But they were not yet done with the shore and the horror of the yellow
flag. About midway of the pass, there was a cry and a scurry, a man was
seen to leap upon the rail, and, throwing his arms over his head, to
stoop and plunge into the sea.

‘Steady as she goes,’ the captain cried, relinquishing the wheel to

The next moment he was forward in the midst of the Kanakas, belaying pin
in hand.

‘Anybody else for shore?’ he cried, and the savage trumpeting of his
voice, no less than the ready weapon in his hand, struck fear in all.
Stupidly they stared after their escaped companion, whose black head
was visible upon the water, steering for the land. And the schooner
meanwhile slipt like a racer through the pass, and met the long sea of
the open ocean with a souse of spray.

‘Fool that I was, not to have a pistol ready!’ exclaimed Davis. ‘Well,
we go to sea short-handed, we can’t help that. You have a lame watch of
it, Mr Hay.’

‘I don’t see how we are to get along,’ said Herrick.

‘Got to,’ said the captain. ‘No more Tahiti for me.’

Both turned instinctively and looked astern. The fair island was
unfolding mountain top on mountain top; Eimeo, on the port board, lifted
her splintered pinnacles; and still the schooner raced to the open sea.

‘Think!’ cried the captain with a gesture, ‘yesterday morning I danced
for my breakfast like a poodle dog.’


The ship’s head was laid to clear Eimeo to the north, and the captain
sat down in the cabin, with a chart, a ruler, and an epitome.

‘East a half no’the,’ said he, raising his face from his labours. ‘Mr
Hay, you’ll have to watch your dead reckoning; I want every yard she
makes on every hair’s-breadth of a course. I’m going to knock a hole
right straight through the Paumotus, and that’s always a near touch.
Now, if this South East Trade ever blew out of the S.E., which it don’t,
we might hope to lie within half a point of our course. Say we lie
within a point of it. That’ll just about weather Fakarava. Yes, sir,
that’s what we’ve got to do, if we tack for it. Brings us through this
slush of little islands in the cleanest place: see?’ And he showed
where his ruler intersected the wide-lying labyrinth of the Dangerous
Archipelago. ‘I wish it was night, and I could put her about right now;
we’re losing time and easting. Well, we’ll do our best. And if we don’t
fetch Peru, we’ll bring up to Ecuador. All one, I guess. Depreciated
dollars down, and no questions asked. A remarkable fine institootion,
the South American don.’

Tahiti was already some way astern, the Diadem rising from among broken
mountains--Eimeo was already close aboard, and stood black and strange
against the golden splendour of the west--when the captain took his
departure from the two islands, and the patent log was set.

Some twenty minutes later, Sally Day, who was continually leaving
the wheel to peer in at the cabin clock, announced in a shrill cry
‘Fo’bell,’ and the cook was to be seen carrying the soup into the cabin.

‘I guess I’ll sit down and have a pick with you,’ said Davis to Herrick.
‘By the time I’ve done, it’ll be dark, and we’ll clap the hooker on the
wind for South America.’

In the cabin at one corner of the table, immediately below the lamp, and
on the lee side of a bottle of champagne, sat Huish. ‘What’s this? Where
did that come from?’ asked the captain.

‘It’s fizz, and it came from the after-’old, if you want to know,’ said
Huish, and drained his mug.

‘This’ll never do,’ exclaimed Davis, the merchant seaman’s horror of
breaking into cargo showing incongruously forth on board that stolen
ship. ‘There was never any good came of games like that.’

‘You byby!’ said Huish. ‘A fellow would think (to ‘ear him) we were
on the square! And look ‘ere, you’ve put this job up ‘ansomely for me,
‘aven’t you? I’m to go on deck and steer while you two sit and guzzle,
and I’m to go by nickname, and got to call you “sir” and “mister.” Well,
you look here, my bloke: I’ll have fizz ad lib., or it won’t wash. I
tell you that. And you know mighty well, you ain’t got any man-of-war to
signal now.’

Davis was staggered. ‘I’d give fifty dollars this had never happened,’
he said weakly.

‘Well, it ‘as ‘appened, you see,’ returned Huish. ‘Try some; it’s
devilish good.’

The Rubicon was crossed without another struggle. The captain filled a
mug and drank.

‘I wish it was beer,’ he said with a sigh. ‘But there’s no denying it’s
the genuine stuff and cheap at the money. Now, Huish, you clear out and
take your wheel.’

The little wretch had gained a point, and he was gay. ‘Ay, ay, sir,’
said he, and left the others to their meal.

‘Pea soup!’ exclaimed the captain. ‘Blamed if I thought I should taste
pea soup again!’

Herrick sat inert and silent. It was impossible after these months of
hopeless want to smell the rough, high-spiced sea victuals without
lust, and his mouth watered with desire of the champagne. It was no less
impossible to have assisted at the scene between Huish and the captain,
and not to perceive, with sudden bluntness, the gulf where he had
fallen. He was a thief among thieves. He said it to himself. He could
not touch the soup. If he had moved at all, it must have been to leave
the table, throw himself overboard, and drown--an honest man.

‘Here,’ said the captain, ‘you look sick, old man; have a drop of this.’

The champagne creamed and bubbled in the mug; its bright colour, its
lively effervescence, seized his eye. ‘It is too late to hesitate,’
he thought; his hand took the mug instinctively; he drank, with
unquenchable pleasure and desire of more; drained the vessel dry, and
set it down with sparkling eyes.

‘There is something in life after all!’ he cried. ‘I had forgot what it
was like. Yes, even this is worth while. Wine, food, dry clothes--why,
they’re worth dying, worth hanging, for! Captain, tell me one thing: why
aren’t all the poor folk foot-pads?’

‘Give it up,’ said the captain.

‘They must be damned good,’ cried Herrick. ‘There’s something here
beyond me. Think of that calaboose! Suppose we were sent suddenly back.’
He shuddered as though stung by a convulsion, and buried his face in his
clutching hands.

‘Here, what’s wrong with you?’ cried the captain. There was no reply;
only Herrick’s shoulders heaved, so that the table was shaken. ‘Take
some more of this. Here, drink this. I order you to. Don’t start crying
when you’re out of the wood.’

‘I’m not crying,’ said Herrick, raising his face and showing his dry
eyes. ‘It’s worse than crying. It’s the horror of that grave that we’ve
escaped from.’

‘Come now, you tackle your soup; that’ll fix you,’ said Davis kindly.
‘I told you you were all broken up. You couldn’t have stood out another

‘That’s the dreadful part of it!’ cried Herrick. ‘Another week and I’d
have murdered someone for a dollar! God! and I know that? And I’m still
living? It’s some beastly dream.’

‘Quietly, quietly! Quietly does it, my son. Take your pea soup. Food,
that’s what you want,’ said Davis.

The soup strengthened and quieted Herrick’s nerves; another glass of
wine, and a piece of pickled pork and fried banana completed what the
soup began; and he was able once more to look the captain in the face.

‘I didn’t know I was so much run down,’ he said.

‘Well,’ said Davis, ‘you were as steady as a rock all day: now you’ve
had a little lunch, you’ll be as steady as a rock again.’

‘Yes,’ was the reply, ‘I’m steady enough now, but I’m a queer kind of a
first officer.’

‘Shucks!’ cried the captain. ‘You’ve only got to mind the ship’s course,
and keep your slate to half a point. A babby could do that, let alone
a college graduate like you. There ain’t nothing TO sailoring, when you
come to look it in the face. And now we’ll go and put her about. Bring
the slate; we’ll have to start our dead reckoning right away.’

The distance run since the departure was read off the log by the
binnacle light and entered on the slate.

‘Ready about,’ said the captain. ‘Give me the wheel, White Man, and you
stand by the mainsheet. Boom tackle, Mr Hay, please, and then you can
jump forward and attend head sails.’

‘Ay, ay, sir,’ responded Herrick.

‘All clear forward?’ asked Davis.

‘All clear, sir.’

‘Hard a-lee!’ cried the captain. ‘Haul in your slack as she comes,’ he
called to Huish. ‘Haul in your slack, put your back into it; keep your
feet out of the coils.’ A sudden blow sent Huish flat along the deck,
and the captain was in his place. ‘Pick yourself up and keep the wheel
hard over!’ he roared. ‘You wooden fool, you wanted to get killed, I
guess. Draw the jib,’ he cried a moment later; and then to Huish, ‘Give
me the wheel again, and see if you can coil that sheet.’

But Huish stood and looked at Davis with an evil countenance. ‘Do you
know you struck me?’ said he.

‘Do you know I saved your life?’ returned the other, not deigning to
look at him, his eyes travelling instead between the compass and the
sails. ‘Where would you have been, if that boom had swung out and
you bundled in the clack? No, SIR, we’ll have no more of you at the
mainsheet. Seaport towns are full of mainsheet-men; they hop upon one
leg, my son, what’s left of them, and the rest are dead. (Set your boom
tackle, Mr Hay.) Struck you, did I? Lucky for you I did.’

‘Well,’ said Huish slowly, ‘I daresay there may be somethink in that.
‘Ope there is.’ He turned his back elaborately on the captain, and
entered the house, where the speedy explosion of a champagne cork showed
he was attending to his comfort.

Herrick came aft to the captain. ‘How is she doing now?’ he asked.

‘East and by no’the a half no’the,’ said Davis. ‘It’s about as good as I

‘What’ll the hands think of it?’ said Herrick.

‘Oh, they don’t think. They ain’t paid to,’ says the captain.

‘There was something wrong, was there not? between you and--’ Herrick

‘That’s a nasty little beast, that’s a biter,’ replied the captain,
shaking his head. ‘But so long as you and me hang in, it don’t matter.’

Herrick lay down in the weather alleyway; the night was cloudless, the
movement of the ship cradled him, he was oppressed besides by the first
generous meal after so long a time of famine; and he was recalled from
deep sleep by the voice of Davis singing out: ‘Eight bells!’

He rose stupidly, and staggered aft, where the captain gave him the

‘By the wind,’ said the captain. ‘It comes a little puffy; when you get
a heavy puff, steal all you can to windward, but keep her a good full.’

He stepped towards the house, paused and hailed the forecastle.

‘Got such a thing as a concertina forward?’ said he. ‘Bully for you,
Uncle Ned. Fetch it aft, will you?’

The schooner steered very easy; and Herrick, watching the moon-whitened
sails, was overpowered by drowsiness. A sharp report from the cabin
startled him; a third bottle had been opened; and Herrick remembered
the Sea Ranger and Fourteen Island Group. Presently the notes of the
accordion sounded, and then the captain’s voice:

  ‘O honey, with our pockets full of money,

  We will trip, trip, trip, we will trip it on the quay,

  And I will dance with Kate, and Tom will dance with Sall,

  When we’re all back from South Amerikee.’

So it went to its quaint air; and the watch below lingered and listened
by the forward door, and Uncle Ned was to be seen in the moonlight
nodding time; and Herrick smiled at the wheel, his anxieties a while
forgotten. Song followed song; another cork exploded; there were voices
raised, as though the pair in the cabin were in disagreement; and
presently it seemed the breach was healed; for it was now the voice of
Huish that struck up, to the captain’s accompaniment--

     ‘Up in a balloon, boys,

      Up in a balloon,

     All among the little stars

      And round about the moon.’

A wave of nausea overcame Herrick at the wheel. He wondered why the air,
the words (which were yet written with a certain knack), and the voice
and accent of the singer, should all jar his spirit like a file on a
man’s teeth. He sickened at the thought of his two comrades drinking
away their reason upon stolen wine, quarrelling and hiccupping and
waking up, while the doors of the prison yawned for them in the near
future. ‘Shall I have sold my honour for nothing?’ he thought; and
a heat of rage and resolution glowed in his bosom--rage against his
comrades--resolution to carry through this business if it might be
carried; pluck profit out of shame, since the shame at least was now
inevitable; and come home, home from South America--how did the song
go?--‘with his pockets full of money’:

‘O honey, with our pockets full of money,

We will trip, trip, trip, we will trip it on the quay:’

so the words ran in his head; and the honey took on visible form, the
quay rose before him and he knew it for the lamplit Embankment, and
he saw the lights of Battersea bridge bestride the sullen river. All
through the remainder of his trick, he stood entranced, reviewing the
past. He had been always true to his love, but not always sedulous
to recall her. In the growing calamity of his life, she had swum
more distant, like the moon in mist. The letter of farewell, the
dishonourable hope that had surprised and corrupted him in his distress,
the changed scene, the sea, the night and the music--all stirred him
to the roots of manhood. ‘I WILL win her,’ he thought, and ground his
teeth. ‘Fair or foul, what matters if I win her?’

‘Fo’ bell, matey. I think um fo’ bell’--he was suddenly recalled by
these words in the voice of Uncle Ned.

‘Look in at the clock, Uncle,’ said he. He would not look himself, from
horror of the tipplers.

‘Him past, matey,’ repeated the Hawaiian.

‘So much the better for you, Uncle,’ he replied; and he gave up the
wheel, repeating the directions as he had received them.

He took two steps forward and remembered his dead reckoning. ‘How has
she been heading?’ he thought; and he flushed from head to foot. He had
not observed or had forgotten; here was the old incompetence; the slate
must be filled up by guess. ‘Never again!’ he vowed to himself in silent
fury, ‘never again. It shall be no fault of mine if this miscarry.’ And
for the remainder of his watch, he stood close by Uncle Ned, and read
the face of the compass as perhaps he had never read a letter from his

All the time, and spurring him to the more attention, song, loud talk,
fleering laughter and the occasional popping of a cork, reached his ears
from the interior of the house; and when the port watch was relieved
at midnight, Huish and the captain appeared upon the quarter-deck with
flushed faces and uneven steps, the former laden with bottles, the
latter with two tin mugs. Herrick silently passed them by. They hailed
him in thick voices, he made no answer, they cursed him for a churl,
he paid no heed although his belly quivered with disgust and rage. He
closed-to the door of the house behind him, and cast himself on a locker
in the cabin--not to sleep he thought--rather to think and to despair.
Yet he had scarce turned twice on his uneasy bed, before a drunken voice
hailed him in the ear, and he must go on deck again to stand the morning

The first evening set the model for those that were to follow. Two cases
of champagne scarce lasted the four-and-twenty hours, and almost the
whole was drunk by Huish and the captain. Huish seemed to thrive on the
excess; he was never sober, yet never wholly tipsy; the food and the sea
air had soon healed him of his disease, and he began to lay on flesh.
But with Davis things went worse. In the drooping, unbuttoned figure
that sprawled all day upon the lockers, tippling and reading novels;
in the fool who made of the evening watch a public carouse on the
quarter-deck, it would have been hard to recognise the vigorous seaman
of Papeete roads. He kept himself reasonably well in hand till he had
taken the sun and yawned and blotted through his calculations; but from
the moment he rolled up the chart, his hours were passed in slavish
self-indulgence or in hoggish slumber. Every other branch of his duty
was neglected, except maintaining a stern discipline about the dinner
table. Again and again Herrick would hear the cook called aft, and see
him running with fresh tins, or carrying away again a meal that had been
totally condemned. And the more the captain became sunk in drunkenness,
the more delicate his palate showed itself. Once, in the forenoon, he
had a bo’sun’s chair rigged over the rail, stripped to his trousers,
and went overboard with a pot of paint. ‘I don’t like the way this
schooner’s painted,’ said he, ‘and I’ve taken a down upon her name.’ But
he tired of it in half an hour, and the schooner went on her way with
an incongruous patch of colour on the stern, and the word Farallone part
obliterated and part looking through. He refused to stand either the
middle or the morning watch. It was fine-weather sailing, he said;
and asked, with a laugh, ‘Who ever heard of the old man standing watch
himself?’ To the dead reckoning which Herrick still tried to keep, he
would pay not the least attention nor afford the least assistance.

‘What do we want of dead reckoning?’ he asked. ‘We get the sun all
right, don’t we?’

‘We mayn’t get it always though,’ objected Herrick. ‘And you told me
yourself you weren’t sure of the chronometer.’

‘Oh, there ain’t no flies in the chronometer!’ cried Davis.

‘Oblige me so far, captain,’ said Herrick stiffly. ‘I am anxious to keep
this reckoning, which is a part of my duty; I do not know what to allow
for current, nor how to allow for it. I am too inexperienced; and I beg
of you to help me.’

‘Never discourage zealous officer,’ said the captain, unrolling the
chart again, for Herrick had taken him over his day’s work and while he
was still partly sober. ‘Here it is: look for yourself; anything from
west to west no’the-west, and anyways from five to twenty-five miles.
That’s what the A’m’ralty chart says; I guess you don’t expect to get on
ahead of your own Britishers?’

‘I am trying to do my duty, Captain Brown,’ said Herrick, with a dark
flush, ‘and I have the honour to inform you that I don’t enjoy being
trifled with.’

‘What in thunder do you want?’ roared Davis. ‘Go and look at the blamed
wake. If you’re trying to do your duty, why don’t you go and do it? I
guess it’s no business of mine to go and stick my head over the ship’s
rump? I guess it’s yours. And I’ll tell you what it is, my fine fellow,
I’ll trouble you not to come the dude over me. You’re insolent, that’s
what’s wrong with you. Don’t you crowd me, Mr Herrick, Esquire.’

Herrick tore up his papers, threw them on the floor, and left the cabin.

‘He’s turned a bloomin’ swot, ain’t he?’ sneered Huish.

‘He thinks himself too good for his company, that’s what ails Herrick,
Esquire,’ raged the captain. ‘He thinks I don’t understand when he comes
the heavy swell. Won’t sit down with us, won’t he? won’t say a civil
word? I’ll serve the son of a gun as he deserves. By God, Huish, I’ll
show him whether he’s too good for John Davis!’

‘Easy with the names, cap’,’ said Huish, who was always the more sober.
‘Easy over the stones, my boy!’

‘All right, I will. You’re a good sort, Huish. I didn’t take to you at
first, but I guess you’re right enough. Let’s open another bottle,’
said the captain; and that day, perhaps because he was excited by the
quarrel, he drank more recklessly, and by four o’clock was stretched
insensible upon the locker.

Herrick and Huish supped alone, one after the other, opposite his
flushed and snorting body. And if the sight killed Herrick’s hunger, the
isolation weighed so heavily on the clerk’s spirit, that he was scarce
risen from table ere he was currying favour with his former comrade.

Herrick was at the wheel when he approached, and Huish leaned
confidentially across the binnacle.

‘I say, old chappie,’ he said, ‘you and me don’t seem to be such pals

Herrick gave her a spoke or two in silence; his eye, as it skirted
from the needle to the luff of the foresail, passed the man by without
speculation. But Huish was really dull, a thing he could support with
difficulty, having no resources of his own. The idea of a private talk
with Herrick, at this stage of their relations, held out particular
inducements to a person of his character. Drink besides, as it renders
some men hyper-sensitive, made Huish callous. And it would almost have
required a blow to make him quit his purpose.

‘Pretty business, ain’t it?’ he continued; ‘Dyvis on the lush? Must say
I thought you gave it ‘im A1 today. He didn’t like it a bit; took on
hawful after you were gone.--“‘Ere,” says I, “‘old on, easy on the
lush,” I says. “‘Errick was right, and you know it. Give ‘im a chanst,”
 I says.--“Uish,” sezee, “don’t you gimme no more of your jaw, or I’ll
knock your bloomin’ eyes out.” Well, wot can I do, ‘Errick? But I tell
you, I don’t ‘arf like it. It looks to me like the Sea Rynger over

Still Herrick was silent.

‘Do you hear me speak?’ asked Huish sharply. ‘You’re pleasant, ain’t

‘Stand away from that binnacle,’ said Herrick.

The clerk looked at him, long and straight and black; his figure seemed
to writhe like that of a snake about to strike; then he turned on his
heel, went back to the cabin and opened a bottle of champagne. When
eight bells were cried, he slept on the floor beside the captain on the
locker; and of the whole starboard watch, only Sally Day appeared upon
the summons. The mate proposed to stand the watch with him, and let
Uncle Ned lie down; it would make twelve hours on deck, and probably
sixteen, but in this fair-weather sailing, he might safely sleep between
his tricks of wheel, leaving orders to be called on any sign of squalls.
So far he could trust the men, between whom and himself a close relation
had sprung up. With Uncle Ned he held long nocturnal conversations, and
the old man told him his simple and hard story of exile, suffering, and
injustice among cruel whites. The cook, when he found Herrick messed
alone, produced for him unexpected and sometimes unpalatable dainties,
of which he forced himself to eat. And one day, when he was forward,
he was surprised to feel a caressing hand run down his shoulder, and to
hear the voice of Sally Day crooning in his ear: ‘You gootch man!’ He
turned, and, choking down a sob, shook hands with the negrito. They were
kindly, cheery, childish souls. Upon the Sunday each brought forth
his separate Bible--for they were all men of alien speech even to each
other, and Sally Day communicated with his mates in English only, each
read or made believe to read his chapter, Uncle Ned with spectacles on
his nose; and they would all join together in the singing of missionary
hymns. It was thus a cutting reproof to compare the islanders and the
whites aboard the Farallone. Shame ran in Herrick’s blood to remember
what employment he was on, and to see these poor souls--and even Sally
Day, the child of cannibals, in all likelihood a cannibal himself--so
faithful to what they knew of good. The fact that he was held in
grateful favour by these innocents served like blinders to his
conscience, and there were times when he was inclined, with Sally Day,
to call himself a good man. But the height of his favour was only now to
appear. With one voice, the crew protested; ere Herrick knew what they
were doing, the cook was aroused and came a willing volunteer; all hands
clustered about their mate with expostulations and caresses; and he was
bidden to lie down and take his customary rest without alarm.

‘He tell you tlue,’ said Uncle Ned. ‘You sleep. Evely man hae he do all
light. Evely man he like you too much.’

Herrick struggled, and gave way; choked upon some trivial words of
gratitude; and walked to the side of the house, against which he leaned,
struggling with emotion.

Uncle Ned presently followed him and begged him to lie down.

‘It’s no use, Uncle Ned,’ he replied. ‘I couldn’t sleep. I’m knocked
over with all your goodness.’

‘Ah, no call me Uncle Ned no mo’!’ cried the old man. ‘No my name! My
name Taveeta, all-e-same Taveeta King of Islael. Wat for he call that
Hawaii? I think no savvy nothing--all-e-same Wise-a-mana.’

It was the first time the name of the late captain had been mentioned,
and Herrick grasped the occasion. The reader shall be spared Uncle Ned’s
unwieldy dialect, and learn in less embarrassing English, the sum of
what he now communicated. The ship had scarce cleared the Golden Gates
before the captain and mate had entered on a career of drunkenness,
which was scarcely interrupted by their malady and only closed by death.
For days and weeks they had encountered neither land nor ship; and
seeing themselves lost on the huge deep with their insane conductors,
the natives had drunk deep of terror.

At length they made a low island, and went in; and Wiseman and Wishart
landed in the boat.

There was a great village, a very fine village, and plenty Kanakas in
that place; but all mighty serious; and from every here and there in
the back parts of the settlement, Taveeta heard the sounds of island
lamentation. ‘I no savvy TALK that island,’ said he. ‘I savvy hear
um CLY. I think, Hum! too many people die here!’ But upon Wiseman and
Wishart the significance of that barbaric keening was lost. Full of
bread and drink, they rollicked along unconcerned, embraced the girls
who had scarce energy to repel them, took up and joined (with drunken
voices) in the death wail, and at last (on what they took to be
an invitation) entered under the roof of a house in which was a
considerable concourse of people sitting silent. They stooped below the
eaves, flushed and laughing; within a minute they came forth again with
changed faces and silent tongues; and as the press severed to make way
for them, Taveeta was able to perceive, in the deep shadow of the house,
the sick man raising from his mat a head already defeatured by disease.
The two tragic triflers fled without hesitation for their boat,
screaming on Taveeta to make haste; they came aboard with all speed
of oars, raised anchor and crowded sail upon the ship with blows and
curses, and were at sea again--and again drunk--before sunset. A week
after, and the last of the two had been committed to the deep. Herrick
asked Taveeta where that island was, and he replied that, by what he
gathered of folks’ talk as they went up together from the beach, he
supposed it must be one of the Paumotus. This was in itself probable
enough, for the Dangerous Archipelago had been swept that year from east
to west by devastating smallpox; but Herrick thought it a strange course
to lie from Sydney. Then he remembered the drink.

‘Were they not surprised when they made the island?’ he asked.

‘Wise-a-mana he say “dam! what this?”’ was the reply.

‘O, that’s it then,’ said Herrick. ‘I don’t believe they knew where they

‘I think so too,’ said Uncle Ned. ‘I think no savvy. This one mo’
betta,’ he added, pointing to the house where the drunken captain
slumbered: ‘Take-a-sun all-e-time.’

The implied last touch completed Herrick’s picture of the life and death
of his two predecessors; of their prolonged, sordid, sodden sensuality
as they sailed, they knew not whither, on their last cruise. He held but
a twinkling and unsure belief in any future state; the thought of one
of punishment he derided; yet for him (as for all) there dwelt a horror
about the end of the brutish man. Sickness fell upon him at the image
thus called up; and when he compared it with the scene in which himself
was acting, and considered the doom that seemed to brood upon the
schooner, a horror that was almost superstitious fell upon him. And
yet the strange thing was, he did not falter. He who had proved his
incapacity in so many fields, being now falsely placed amid duties
which he did not understand, without help, and it might be said without
countenance, had hitherto surpassed expectation; and even the shameful
misconduct and shocking disclosures of that night seemed but to nerve
and strengthen him. He had sold his honour; he vowed it should not be in
vain; ‘it shall be no fault of mine if this miscarry,’ he repeated. And
in his heart he wondered at himself. Living rage no doubt supported him;
no doubt also, the sense of the last cast, of the ships burned, of all
doors closed but one, which is so strong a tonic to the merely weak, and
so deadly a depressant to the merely cowardly.

For some time the voyage went otherwise well. They weathered Fakarava
with one board; and the wind holding well to the southward and
blowing fresh, they passed between Ranaka and Ratiu, and ran some days
north-east by east-half-east under the lee of Takume and Honden, neither
of which they made. In about 14 degrees South and between 134 and 135
degrees West, it fell a dead calm with rather a heavy sea. The captain
refused to take in sail, the helm was lashed, no watch was set, and the
Farallone rolled and banged for three days, according to observation, in
almost the same place. The fourth morning, a little before day, a breeze
sprang up and rapidly freshened. The captain had drunk hard the night
before; he was far from sober when he was roused; and when he came on
deck for the first time at half-past eight, it was plain he had already
drunk deep again at breakfast. Herrick avoided his eye; and resigned the
deck with indignation to a man more than half-seas over.

By the loud commands of the captain and the singing out of fellows at
the ropes, he could judge from the house that sail was being crowded on
the ship; relinquished his half-eaten breakfast; and came on deck again,
to find the main and the jib topsails set, and both watches and the cook
turned out to hand the staysail. The Farallone lay already far over;
the sky was obscured with misty scud; and from the windward an ominous
squall came flying up, broadening and blackening as it rose.

Fear thrilled in Herrick’s vitals. He saw death hard by; and if not
death, sure ruin. For if the Farallone lived through the coming squall,
she must surely be dismasted. With that their enterprise was at an end,
and they themselves bound prisoners to the very evidence of their crime.
The greatness of the peril and his own alarm sufficed to silence him.
Pride, wrath, and shame raged without issue in his mind; and he shut his
teeth and folded his arms close.

The captain sat in the boat to windward, bellowing orders and insults,
his eyes glazed, his face deeply congested; a bottle set between his
knees, a glass in his hand half empty. His back was to the squall, and
he was at first intent upon the setting of the sail. When that was done,
and the great trapezium of canvas had begun to draw and to trail the
lee-rail of the Farallone level with the foam, he laughed out an empty
laugh, drained his glass, sprawled back among the lumber in the boat,
and fetched out a crumpled novel.

Herrick watched him, and his indignation glowed red hot. He glanced to
windward where the squall already whitened the near sea and heralded its
coming with a singular and dismal sound. He glanced at the steersman,
and saw him clinging to the spokes with a face of a sickly blue. He saw
the crew were running to their stations without orders. And it seemed
as if something broke in his brain; and the passion of anger, so long
restrained, so long eaten in secret, burst suddenly loose and shook him
like a sail. He stepped across to the captain and smote his hand heavily
on the drunkard’s shoulder.

‘You brute,’ he said, in a voice that tottered, ‘look behind you!’

‘Wha’s that?’ cried Davis, bounding in the boat and upsetting the

‘You lost the Sea Ranger because you were a drunken sot,’ said Herrick.
‘Now you’re going to lose the Farallone. You’re going to drown here the
same way as you drowned others, and be damned. And your daughter shall
walk the streets, and your sons be thieves like their father.’

For the moment, the words struck the captain white and foolish. ‘My
God!’ he cried, looking at Herrick as upon a ghost; ‘my God, Herrick!’

‘Look behind you, then!’ reiterated the assailant.

The wretched man, already partly sobered, did as he was told, and in the
same breath of time leaped to his feet. ‘Down staysail!’ he trumpeted.
The hands were thrilling for the order, and the great sail came with
a run, and fell half overboard among the racing foam. ‘Jib
topsail-halyards! Let the stays’l be,’ he said again.

But before it was well uttered, the squall shouted aloud and fell, in
a solid mass of wind and rain commingled, on the Farallone; and she
stooped under the blow, and lay like a thing dead. From the mind of
Herrick reason fled; he clung in the weather rigging, exulting; he was
done with life, and he gloried in the release; he gloried in the wild
noises of the wind and the choking onslaught of the rain; he gloried to
die so, and now, amid this coil of the elements. And meanwhile, in the
waist up to his knees in water--so low the schooner lay--the captain
was hacking at the foresheet with a pocket knife. It was a question of
seconds, for the Farallone drank deep of the encroaching seas. But the
hand of the captain had the advance; the foresail boom tore apart the
last strands of the sheet and crashed to leeward; the Farallone leaped
up into the wind and righted; and the peak and throat halyards, which
had long been let go, began to run at the same instant.

For some ten minutes more she careered under the impulse of the squall;
but the captain was now master of himself and of his ship, and all
danger at an end. And then, sudden as a trick change upon the stage, the
squall blew by, the wind dropped into light airs, the sun beamed forth
again upon the tattered schooner; and the captain, having secured the
foresail boom and set a couple of hands to the pump, walked aft, sober,
a little pale, and with the sodden end of a cigar still stuck between
his teeth even as the squall had found it. Herrick followed him; he
could scarce recall the violence of his late emotions, but he felt
there was a scene to go through, and he was anxious and even eager to go
through with it.

The captain, turning at the house end, met him face to face, and averted
his eyes. ‘We’ve lost the two tops’ls and the stays’l,’ he gabbled.
‘Good business, we didn’t lose any sticks. I guess you think we’re all
the better without the kites.’

‘That’s not what I’m thinking,’ said Herrick, in a voice strangely
quiet, that yet echoed confusion in the captain’s mind.

‘I know that,’ he cried, holding up his hand. ‘I know what you’re
thinking. No use to say it now. I’m sober.’

‘I have to say it, though,’ returned Herrick.

‘Hold on, Herrick; you’ve said enough,’ said Davis. ‘You’ve said what I
would take from no man breathing but yourself; only I know it’s true.’

‘I have to tell you, Captain Brown,’ pursued Herrick, ‘that I resign my
position as mate. You can put me in irons or shoot me, as you please; I
will make no resistance--only, I decline in any way to help or to obey
you; and I suggest you should put Mr Huish in my place. He will make a
worthy first officer to your captain, sir.’ He smiled, bowed, and turned
to walk forward.

‘Where are you going, Herrick?’ cried the captain, detaining him by the

‘To berth forward with the men, sir,’ replied Herrick, with the same
hateful smile. ‘I’ve been long enough aft here with you--gentlemen.

‘You’re wrong there,’ said Davis. ‘Don’t you be too quick with me; there
ain’t nothing wrong but the drink--it’s the old story, man! Let me get
sober once, and then you’ll see,’ he pleaded.

‘Excuse me, I desire to see no more of you,’ said Herrick.

The captain groaned aloud. ‘You know what you said about my children?’
he broke out.

‘By rote. In case you wish me to say it you again?’ asked Herrick.

‘Don’t!’ cried the captain, clapping his hands to his ears. ‘Don’t make
me kill a man I care for! Herrick, if you see me put glass to my lips
again till we’re ashore, I give you leave to put bullet through me;
I beg you to do it! You’re the only man aboard whose carcase is worth
losing; do you think I don’t know that? do you think I ever went back on
you? I always knew you were in the right of it--drunk or sober, I knew
that. What do you want?--an oath? Man, you’re clever enough to see that
this is sure-enough earnest.’

‘Do you mean there shall be no more drinking?’ asked Herrick, ‘neither
by you nor Huish? that you won’t go on stealing my profits and drinking
my champagne that I gave my honour for? and that you’ll attend to your
duties, and stand watch and watch, and bear your proper share of the
ship’s work, instead of leaving it all on the shoulders of a landsman,
and making yourself the butt and scoff of native seamen? Is that what
you mean? If it is, be so good as to say it categorically.’

‘You put these things in a way hard for a gentleman to swallow,’ said
the captain. ‘You wouldn’t have me say I was ashamed of myself? Trust me
this once; I’ll do the square thing, and there’s my hand on it.’

‘Well, I’ll try it once,’ said Herrick. ‘Fail me again...’

‘No more now!’ interrupted Davis. ‘No more, old man! Enough said. You’ve
a riling tongue when your back’s up, Herrick. Just be glad we’re friends
again, the same as what I am; and go tender on the raws; I’ll see as you
don’t repent it. We’ve been mighty near death this day--don’t say whose
fault it was!--pretty near hell, too, I guess. We’re in a mighty bad
line of life, us two, and ought to go easy with each other.’

He was maundering; yet it seemed as if he were maundering with some
design, beating about the bush of some communication that he feared to
make, or perhaps only talking against time in terror of what Herrick
might say next. But Herrick had now spat his venom; his was a kindly
nature, and, content with his triumph, he had now begun to pity. With
a few soothing words, he sought to conclude the interview, and proposed
that they should change their clothes.

‘Not right yet,’ said Davis. ‘There’s another thing I want to tell you
first. You know what you said about my children? I want to tell you why
it hit me so hard; I kind of think you’ll feel bad about it too. It’s
about my little Adar. You hadn’t ought to have quite said that--but of
course I know you didn’t know. She--she’s dead, you see.’

‘Why, Davis!’ cried Herrick. ‘You’ve told me a dozen times she was
alive! Clear your head, man! This must be the drink.’

‘No, SIR,’ said Davis. ‘She’s dead. Died of a bowel complaint. That was
when I was away in the brig Oregon. She lies in Portland, Maine. “Adar,
only daughter of Captain John Davis and Mariar his wife, aged five.”
 I had a doll for her on board. I never took the paper off’n that doll,
Herrick; it went down the way it was with the Sea Ranger, that day I was

The Captain’s eyes were fixed on the horizon, he talked with an
extraordinary softness but a complete composure; and Herrick looked upon
him with something that was almost terror.

‘Don’t think I’m crazy neither,’ resumed Davis. ‘I’ve all the cold sense
that I know what to do with. But I guess a man that’s unhappy’s like a
child; and this is a kind of a child’s game of mine. I never could act
up to the plain-cut truth, you see; so I pretend. And I warn you square;
as soon as we’re through with this talk, I’ll start in again with
the pretending. Only, you see, she can’t walk no streets,’ added the
captain, ‘couldn’t even make out to live and get that doll!’

Herrick laid a tremulous hand upon the captain’s shoulder.

‘Don’t do that,’ cried Davis, recoiling from the touch. ‘Can’t you see
I’m all broken up the way it is? Come along, then; come along, old
man; you can put your trust in me right through; come along and get dry

They entered the cabin, and there was Huish on his knees prising open a
case of champagne.

‘’Vast, there!’ cried the captain. ‘No more of that. No more drinking on
this ship.’

‘Turned teetotal, ‘ave you?’ inquired Hu’sh. ‘I’m agreeable. About time,
eh? Bloomin’ nearly lost another ship, I fancy.’ He took out a bottle
and began calmly to burst the wire with the spike of a corkscrew.

‘Do you hear me speak?’ cried Davis.

‘I suppose I do. You speak loud enough,’ said Huish. ‘The trouble is
that I don’t care.’

Herrick plucked the captain’s sleeve. ‘Let him free now,’ he said.
‘We’ve had all we want this morning.’

‘Let him have it then,’ said the captain. ‘It’s his last.’

By this time the wire was open, the string was cut, the head of glided
paper was torn away; and Huish waited, mug in hand, expecting the usual
explosion. It did not follow. He eased the cork with his thumb; still
there was no result. At last he took the screw and drew it. It came out
very easy and with scarce a sound.

‘’Illo!’ said Huish. ‘’Ere’s a bad bottle.’

He poured some of the wine into the mug; it was colourless and still. He
smelt and tasted it.

‘W’y, wot’s this?’ he said. ‘It’s water!’

If the voice of trumpets had suddenly sounded about the ship in the
midst of the sea, the three men in the house could scarcely have been
more stunned than by this incident. The mug passed round; each sipped,
each smelt of it; each stared at the bottle in its glory of gold paper
as Crusoe may have stared at the footprint; and their minds were swift
to fix upon a common apprehension. The difference between a bottle of
champagne and a bottle of water is not great; between a shipload of one
or the other lay the whole scale from riches to ruin.

A second bottle was broached. There were two cases standing ready in a
stateroom; these two were brought out, broken open, and tested. Still
with the same result: the contents were still colourless and tasteless,
and dead as the rain in a beached fishing-boat.

‘Crikey!’ said Huish.

‘Here, let’s sample the hold!’ said the captain, mopping his brow with
a back-handed sweep; and the three stalked out of the house, grim and

All hands were turned out; two Kanakas were sent below, another
stationed at a purchase; and Davis, axe in hand, took his place beside
the coamings.

‘Are you going to let the men know?’ whispered Herrick.

‘Damn the men!’ said Davis. ‘It’s beyond that. We’ve got to know

Three cases were sent on deck and sampled in turn; from each bottle,
as the captain smashed it with the axe, the champagne ran bubbling and

‘Go deeper, can’t you?’ cried Davis to the Kanakas in the hold.

The command gave the signal for a disastrous change. Case after case
came up, bottle after bottle was burst and bled mere water. Deeper
yet, and they came upon a layer where there was scarcely so much as
the intention to deceive; where the cases were no longer branded, the
bottles no longer wired or papered, where the fraud was manifest and
stared them in the face.

‘Here’s about enough of this foolery!’ said Davis. ‘Stow back the cases
in the hold, Uncle, and get the broken crockery overboard. Come with
me,’ he added to his co-adventurers, and led the way back into the


Each took a side of the fixed table; it was the first time they had sat
down at it together; but now all sense of incongruity, all memory of
differences, was quite swept away by the presence of the common ruin.

‘Gentlemen,’ said the captain, after a pause, and with very much the air
of a chairman opening a board-meeting, ‘we’re sold.’

Huish broke out in laughter. ‘Well, if this ain’t the ‘ighest old rig!’
he cried. ‘And Dyvis, ‘ere, who thought he had got up so bloomin’ early
in the mornin’! We’ve stolen a cargo of spring water! Oh, my crikey!’
and he squirmed with mirth.

The captain managed to screw out a phantom smile.

‘Here’s Old Man Destiny again,’ said he to Herrick, ‘but this time I
guess he’s kicked the door right in.’

Herrick only shook his head.

‘O Lord, it’s rich!’ laughed Huish. ‘It would really be a scrumptious
lark if it ‘ad ‘appened to somebody else! And wot are we to do next? Oh,
my eye! with this bloomin’ schooner, too?’

‘That’s the trouble,’ said Davis. ‘There’s only one thing certain: it’s
no use carting this old glass and ballast to Peru. No, SIR, we’re in a

‘O my, and the merchand’ cried Huish; ‘the man that made this shipment!
He’ll get the news by the mail brigantine; and he’ll think of course
we’re making straight for Sydney.’

‘Yes, he’ll be a sick merchant,’ said the captain. ‘One thing: this
explains the Kanaka crew. If you’re going to lose a ship, I would ask
no better myself than a Kanaka crew. But there’s one thing it don’t
explain; it don’t explain why she came down Tahiti ways.’

‘Wy, to lose her, you byby!’ said Huish.

‘A lot you know,’ said the captain. ‘Nobody wants to lose a schooner;
they want to lose her ON HER COURSE, you skeericks! You seem to think
underwriters haven’t got enough sense to come in out of the rain.’

‘Well,’ said Herrick, ‘I can tell you (I am afraid) why she came so
far to the eastward. I had it of Uncle Ned. It seems these two unhappy
devils, Wiseman and Wishart, were drunk on the champagne from the
beginning--and died drunk at the end.’

The captain looked on the table.

‘They lay in their two bunks, or sat here in this damned house,’ he
pursued, with rising agitation, ‘filling their skins with the accursed
stuff, till sickness took them. As they sickened and the fever rose,
they drank the more. They lay here howling and groaning, drunk and
dying, all in one. They didn’t know where they were, they didn’t care.
They didn’t even take the sun, it seems.’

‘Not take the sun?’ cried the captain, looking up. ‘Sacred Billy! what a

‘Well, it don’t matter to Joe!’ said Huish. ‘Wot are Wiseman and the
t’other buffer to us?’

‘A good deal, too,’ says the captain. ‘We’re their heirs, I guess.’

‘It is a great inheritance,’ said Herrick.

‘Well, I don’t know about that,’ returned Davis. ‘Appears to me as if it
might be worse. ‘Tain’t worth what the cargo would have been of course,
at least not money down. But I’ll tell you what it appears to figure up
to. Appears to me as if it amounted to about the bottom dollar of the
man in ‘Frisco.’

‘’Old on,’ said Huish. ‘Give a fellow time; ‘ow’s this, umpire?’

‘Well, my sons,’ pursued the captain, who seemed to have recovered his
assurance, ‘Wiseman and Wishart were to be paid for casting away this
old schooner and its cargo. We’re going to cast away the schooner right
enough; and I’ll make it my private business to see that we get paid.
What were W. and W. to get? That’s more’n I can tell. But W. and W. went
into this business themselves, they were on the crook. Now WE’RE on
the square, we only stumbled into it; and that merchant has just got to
squeal, and I’m the man to see that he squeals good. No, sir! there’s
some stuffing to this Farallone racket after all.’

‘Go it, cap!’ cried Huish. ‘Yoicks! Forrard! ‘Old ‘ard! There’s your
style for the money! Blow me if I don’t prefer this to the hother.’

‘I do not understand,’ said Herrick. ‘I have to ask you to excuse me; I
do not understand.’

‘Well now, see here, Herrick,’ said Davis, ‘I’m going to have a word
with you anyway upon a different matter, and it’s good that Huish should
hear it too. We’re done with this boozing business, and we ask your
pardon for it right here and now. We have to thank you for all you did
for us while we were making hogs of ourselves; you’ll find me turn-to
all right in future; and as for the wine, which I grant we stole from
you, I’ll take stock and see you paid for it. That’s good enough, I
believe. But what I want to point out to you is this. The old game was
a risky game. The new game’s as safe as running a Vienna Bakery. We just
put this Farallone before the wind, and run till we’re well to looard
of our port of departure and reasonably well up with some other place,
where they have an American Consul. Down goes the Farallone, and
good-bye to her! A day or so in the boat; the consul packs us home,
at Uncle Sam’s expense, to ‘Frisco; and if that merchant don’t put the
dollars down, you come to me!’

‘But I thought,’ began Herrick; and then broke out; ‘oh, let’s get on to

‘Well, if you’re going to Peru for your health, I won’t say no!’
replied the captain. ‘But for what other blame’ shadow of a reason you
should want to go there, gets me clear. We don’t want to go there with
this cargo; I don’t know as old bottles is a lively article anywheres;
leastways, I’ll go my bottom cent, it ain’t Peru. It was always a doubt
if we could sell the schooner; I never rightly hoped to, and now I’m
sure she ain’t worth a hill of beans; what’s wrong with her, I don’t
know; I only know it’s something, or she wouldn’t be here with this
truck in her inside. Then again, if we lose her, and land in Peru, where
are we? We can’t declare the loss, or how did we get to Peru? In that
case the merchant can’t touch the insurance; most likely he’ll go bust;
and don’t you think you see the three of us on the beach of Callao?’

‘There’s no extradition there,’ said Herrick.

‘Well, my son, and we want to be extraded,’ said the captain.

‘What’s our point? We want to have a consul extrade us as far as San
Francisco and that merchant’s office door. My idea is that Samoa would
be found an eligible business centre. It’s dead before the wind; the
States have a consul there, and ‘Frisco steamers call, so’s we could
skip right back and interview the merchant.’

‘Samoa?’ said Herrick. ‘It will take us for ever to get there.’

‘Oh, with a fair wind!’ said the captain.

‘No trouble about the log, eh?’ asked Huish.

‘No, SIR,’ said Davis. ‘Light airs and baffling winds. Squalls and
calms. D. R.: five miles. No obs. Pumps attended. And fill in the
barometer and thermometer off of last year’s trip.’ ‘Never saw such a
voyage,’ says you to the consul. ‘Thought I was going to run short...’
He stopped in mid career. ‘Say,’ he began again, and once more stopped.
‘Beg your pardon, Herrick,’ he added with undisguised humility, ‘but did
you keep the run of the stores?’

‘Had I been told to do so, it should have been done, as the rest was
done, to the best of my little ability,’ said Herrick. ‘As it was, the
cook helped himself to what he pleased.’

Davis looked at the table.

‘I drew it rather fine, you see,’ he said at last. ‘The great thing was
to clear right out of Papeete before the consul could think better of
it. Tell you what: I guess I’ll take stock.’

And he rose from table and disappeared with a lamp in the lazarette.

‘’Ere’s another screw loose,’ observed Huish.

‘My man,’ said Herrick, with a sudden gleam of animosity, ‘it is still
your watch on deck, and surely your wheel also?’

‘You come the ‘eavy swell, don’t you, ducky?’ said Huish.

‘Stand away from that binnacle. Surely your w’eel, my man. Yah.’

He lit a cigar ostentatiously, and strolled into the waist with his
hands in his pockets.

In a surprisingly short time, the captain reappeared; he did not look at
Herrick, but called Huish back and sat down.

‘Well,’ he began, ‘I’ve taken stock--roughly.’ He paused as if for
somebody to help him out; and none doing so, both gazing on him instead
with manifest anxiety, he yet more heavily resumed. ‘Well, it won’t
fight. We can’t do it; that’s the bed rock. I’m as sorry as what you can
be, and sorrier. We can’t look near Samoa. I don’t know as we could get
to Peru.’

‘Wot-ju mean?’ asked Huish brutally.

‘I can’t ‘most tell myself,’ replied the captain. ‘I drew it fine; I
said I did; but what’s been going on here gets me! Appears as if the
devil had been around. That cook must be the holiest kind of fraud. Only
twelve days, too! Seems like craziness. I’ll own up square to one thing:
I seem to have figured too fine upon the flour. But the rest--my land!
I’ll never understand it! There’s been more waste on this twopenny
ship than what there is to an Atlantic Liner.’ He stole a glance at his
companions; nothing good was to be gleaned from their dark faces; and he
had recourse to rage. ‘You wait till I interview that cook!’ he roared
and smote the table with his fist. ‘I’ll interview the son of a gun so’s
he’s never been spoken to before. I’ll put a bead upon the--’

‘You will not lay a finger on the man,’ said Herrick. ‘The fault is
yours and you know it. If you turn a savage loose in your store-room,
you know what to expect. I will not allow the man to be molested.’

It is hard to say how Davis might have taken this defiance; but he was
diverted to a fresh assailant.

‘Well!’ drawled Huish, ‘you’re a plummy captain, ain’t you? You’re a
blooming captain! Don’t you, set up any of your chat to me, John Dyvis:
I know you now, you ain’t any more use than a bloomin’ dawl! Oh, you
“don’t know”, don’t you? Oh, it “gets you”, do it? Oh, I dessay! W’y,
we en’t you ‘owling for fresh tins every blessed day? ‘Ow often ‘ave I
‘eard you send the ‘ole bloomin’ dinner off and tell the man to chuck it
in the swill tub? And breakfast? Oh, my crikey! breakfast for ten, and
you ‘ollerin’ for more! And now you “can’t ‘most tell”! Blow me, if it
ain’t enough to make a man write an insultin’ letter to Gawd! You dror
it mild, John Dyvis; don’t ‘andle me; I’m dyngerous.’

Davis sat like one bemused; it might even have been doubted if he heard,
but the voice of the clerk rang about the cabin like that of a cormorant
among the ledges of the cliff.

‘That will do, Huish,’ said Herrick.

‘Oh, so you tyke his part, do you? you stuck-up sneerin’ snob! Tyke it
then. Come on, the pair of you. But as for John Dyvis, let him look out!
He struck me the first night aboard, and I never took a blow yet but
wot I gave as good. Let him knuckle down on his marrow bones and beg my
pardon. That’s my last word.’

‘I stand by the Captain,’ said Herrick. ‘That makes us two to one, both
good men; and the crew will all follow me. I hope I shall die very soon;
but I have not the least objection to killing you before I go. I should
prefer it so; I should do it with no more remorse than winking. Take
care--take care, you little cad!’

The animosity with which these words were uttered was so marked in
itself, and so remarkable in the man who uttered them that Huish stared,
and even the humiliated Davis reared up his head and gazed at his
defender. As for Herrick, the successive agitations and disappointments
of the day had left him wholly reckless; he was conscious of a pleasant
glow, an agreeable excitement; his head seemed empty, his eyeballs
burned as he turned them, his throat was dry as a biscuit; the least
dangerous man by nature, except in so far as the weak are always
dangerous, at that moment he was ready to slay or to be slain with equal

Here at least was the gage thrown down, and battle offered; he who
should speak next would bring the matter to an issue there and then; all
knew it to be so and hung back; and for many seconds by the cabin clock,
the trio sat motionless and silent.

Then came an interruption, welcome as the flowers in May.

‘Land ho!’ sang out a voice on deck. ‘Land a weatha bow!’

‘Land!’ cried Davis, springing to his feet. ‘What’s this? There ain’t no
land here.’

And as men may run from the chamber of a murdered corpse, the three ran
forth out of the house and left their quarrel behind them, undecided.

The sky shaded down at the sea level to the white of opals; the sea
itself, insolently, inkily blue, drew all about them the uncompromising
wheel of the horizon. Search it as they pleased, not even the practisect
eye of Captain Davis could descry the smallest interruption. A few filmy
clouds were slowly melting overhead; and about the schooner, as around
the only point of interest, a tropic bird, white as a snowflake, hung,
and circled, and displayed, as it turned, the long vermilion feather of
its tall. Save the sea and the heaven, that was all.

‘Who sang out land?’ asked Davis. ‘If there’s any boy playing funny dog
with me, I’ll teach him skylarking!’

But Uncle Ned contentedly pointed to a part of the horizon, where a
greenish, filmy iridescence could be discerned floating like smoke on
the pale heavens.

Davis applied his glass to it, and then looked at the Kanaka. ‘Call that
land?’ said he. ‘Well, it’s more than I do.’

‘One time long ago,’ said Uncle Ned, ‘I see Anaa all-e-same that, four
five hours befo’ we come up. Capena he say sun go down, sun go up again;
he say lagoon all-e-same milla.’

‘All-e-same WHAT?’ asked Davis.

‘Milla, sah,’ said Uncle Ned.

‘Oh, ah! mirror,’ said Davis. ‘I see; reflection from the lagoon. Well,
you know, it is just possible, though it’s strange I never heard of it.
Here, let’s look at the chart.’

They went back to the cabin, and found the position of the schooner well
to windward of the archipelago in the midst of a white field of paper.

‘There! you see for yourselves,’ said Davis.

‘And yet I don’t know,’ said Herrick, ‘I somehow think there’s something
in it. I’ll tell you one thing too, captain; that’s all right about the
reflection; I heard it in Papeete.’

‘Fetch up that Findlay, then!’ said Davis. ‘I’ll try it all ways. An
island wouldn’t come amiss, the way we’re fixed.’

The bulky volume was handed up to him, broken-backed as is the way with
Findlay; and he turned to the place and began to run over the text,
muttering to himself and turning over the pages with a wetted finger.

‘Hullo!’ he exclaimed. ‘How’s this?’ And he read aloud. ‘New Island.
According to M. Delille this island, which from private interests would
remain unknown, lies, it is said, in lat. 12 degrees 49’ 10” S. long.
113 degrees 6’ W. In addition to the position above given Commander
Matthews, H.M.S. Scorpion, states that an island exists in lat. 12
degrees 0’ S. long. 13 degrees 16’ W. This must be the same, if such
an island exists, which is very doubtful, and totally disbelieved in by
South Sea traders.’

‘Golly!’ said Huish.

‘It’s rather in the conditional mood,’ said Herrick.

‘It’s anything you please,’ cried Davis, ‘only there it is! That’s our
place, and don’t you make any mistake.’

“‘Which from private interests would remain unknown,”’ read Herrick,
over his shoulder. ‘What may that mean?’

‘It should mean pearls,’ said Davis. ‘A pearling island the government
don’t know about? That sounds like real estate. Or suppose it don’t mean
anything. Suppose it’s just an island; I guess we could fill up with
fish, and cocoanuts, and native stuff, and carry out the Samoa scheme
hand over fist. How long did he say it was before they raised Anaa? Five
hours, I think?’

‘Four or five,’ said Herrick.

Davis stepped to the door. ‘What breeze had you that time you made Anaa,
Uncle Ned?’ said he.

‘Six or seven knots,’ was the reply.

‘Thirty or thirty-five miles,’ said Davis. ‘High time we were shortening
sail, then. If it is an island, we don’t want to be butting our head
against it in the dark; and if it isn’t an island, we can get through it
just as well by daylight. Ready about!’ he roared.

And the schooner’s head was laid for that elusive glimmer in the sky,
which began already to pale in lustre and diminish in size, as the stain
of breath vanishes from a window pane. At the same time she was reefed
close down.

Part II



About four in the morning, as the captain and Herrick sat together on
the rail, there arose from the midst of the night in front of them the
voice of breakers. Each sprang to his feet and stared and listened. The
sound was continuous, like the passing of a train; no rise or fall
could be distinguished; minute by minute the ocean heaved with an equal
potency against the invisible isle; and as time passed, and Herrick
waited in vain for any vicissitude in the volume of that roaring, a
sense of the eternal weighed upon his mind. To the expert eye the isle
itself was to be inferred from a certain string of blots along the
starry heaven. And the schooner was laid to and anxiously observed till

There was little or no morning bank. A brightening came in the east;
then a wash of some ineffable, faint, nameless hue between crimson and
silver; and then coals of fire. These glimmered a while on the sea line,
and seemed to brighten and darken and spread out, and still the night
and the stars reigned undisturbed; it was as though a spark should
catch and glow and creep along the foot of some heavy and almost
incombustible wall-hanging, and the room itself be scarce menaced. Yet
a little after, and the whole east glowed with gold and scarlet, and the
hollow of heaven was filled with the daylight.

The isle--the undiscovered, the scarce believed-in--now lay before them
and close aboard; and Herrick thought that never in his dreams had he
beheld anything more strange and delicate. The beach was excellently
white, the continuous barrier of trees inimitably green; the land
perhaps ten feet high, the trees thirty more. Every here and there, as
the schooner coasted northward, the wood was intermitted; and he could
see clear over the inconsiderable strip of land (as a man looks over a
wall) to the lagoon within--and clear over that again to where the far
side of the atoll prolonged its pencilling of trees against the morning
sky. He tortured himself to find analogies. The isle was like the rim
of a great vessel sunken in the waters; it was like the embankment of
an annular railway grown upon with wood: so slender it seemed amidst the
outrageous breakers, so frail and pretty, he would scarce have wondered
to see it sink and disappear without a sound, and the waves close
smoothly over its descent.

Meanwhile the captain was in the forecross-trees, glass in hand, his
eyes in every quarter, spying for an entrance, spying for signs of
tenancy. But the isle continued to unfold itself in joints, and to run
out in indeterminate capes, and still there was neither house nor
man, nor the smoke of fire. Here a multitude of sea-birds soared and
twinkled, and fished in the blue waters; and there, and for miles
together, the fringe of cocoa-palm and pandanus extended desolate, and
made desirable green bowers for nobody to visit, and the silence of
death was only broken by the throbbing of the sea.

The airs were very light, their speed was small; the heat intense. The
decks were scorching underfoot, the sun flamed overhead, brazen, out
of a brazen sky; the pitch bubbled in the seams, and the brains in the
brain-pan. And all the while the excitement of the three adventurers
glowed about their bones like a fever. They whispered, and nodded, and
pointed, and put mouth to ear, with a singular instinct of secrecy,
approaching that island underhand like eavesdroppers and thieves; and
even Davis from the cross-trees gave his orders mostly by gestures. The
hands shared in this mute strain, like dogs, without comprehending it;
and through the roar of so many miles of breakers, it was a silent ship
that approached an empty island.

At last they drew near to the break in that interminable gangway. A spur
of coral sand stood forth on the one hand; on the other a high and thick
tuft of trees cut off the view; between was the mouth of the huge laver.
Twice a day the ocean crowded in that narrow entrance and was heaped
between these frail walls; twice a day, with the return of the ebb, the
mighty surplusage of water must struggle to escape. The hour in which
the Farallone came there was the hour of flood. The sea turned (as
with the instinct of the homing pigeon) for the vast receptacle, swept
eddying through the gates, was transmuted, as it did so, into a wonder
of watery and silken hues, and brimmed into the inland sea beyond. The
schooner looked up close-hauled, and was caught and carried away by the
influx like a toy. She skimmed; she flew; a momentary shadow touched her
decks from the shore-side trees; the bottom of the channel showed up for
a moment and was in a moment gone; the next, she floated on the bosom of
the lagoon, and below, in the transparent chamber of waters, a myriad
of many-coloured fishes were sporting, a myriad pale-flowers of coral
diversified the floor.

Herrick stood transported. In the gratified lust of his eye, he forgot
the past and the present; forgot that he was menaced by a prison on the
one hand and starvation on the other; forgot that he was come to that
island, desperately foraging, clutching at expedients. A drove of
fishes, painted like the rainbow and billed like parrots, hovered up in
the shadow of the schooner, and passed clear of it, and glinted in the
submarine sun. They were beautiful, like birds, and their silent passage
impressed him like a strain of song.

Meanwhile, to the eye of Davis in the cross-trees, the lagoon continued
to expand its empty waters, and the long succession of the shore-side
trees to be paid out like fishing line off a reel. And still there was
no mark of habitation. The schooner, immediately on entering, had been
kept away to the nor’ard where the water seemed to be the most deep; and
she was now skimming past the tall grove of trees, which stood on that
side of the channel and denied further view. Of the whole of the low
shores of the island, only this bight remained to be revealed. And
suddenly the curtain was raised; they began to open out a haven, snugly
elbowed there, and beheld, with an astonishment beyond words, the roofs
of men.

The appearance, thus ‘instantaneously disclosed’ to those on the deck of
the Farallone, was not that of a city, rather of a substantial country
farm with its attendant hamlet: a long line of sheds and store-houses;
apart, upon the one side, a deep-verandah’ed dwelling-house; on the
other, perhaps a dozen native huts; a building with a belfry and some
rude offer at architectural features that might be thought to mark it
out for a chapel; on the beach in front some heavy boats drawn up, and
a pile of timber running forth into the burning shallows of the
lagoon. From a flagstaff at the pierhead, the red ensign of England was
displayed. Behind, about, and over, the same tall grove of palms,
which had masked the settlement in the beginning, prolonged its root
of tumultuous green fans, and turned and ruffled overhead, and sang its
silver song all day in the wind. The place had the indescribable but
unmistakable appearance of being in commission; yet there breathed from
it a sense of desertion that was almost poignant, no human figure was to
be observed going to and fro about the houses, and there was no sound of
human industry or enjoyment. Only, on the top of the beach and hard by
the flagstaff, a woman of exorbitant stature and as white as snow was to
be seen beckoning with uplifted arm. The second glance identified her
as a piece of naval sculpture, the figure-head of a ship that had long
hovered and plunged into so many running billows, and was now brought
ashore to be the ensign and presiding genius of that empty town.

The Farallone made a soldier’s breeze of it; the wind, besides, was
stronger inside than without under the lee of the land; and the stolen
schooner opened out successive objects with the swiftness of a panorama,
so that the adventurers stood speechless. The flag spoke for itself; it
was no frayed and weathered trophy that had beaten itself to pieces on
the post, flying over desolation; and to make assurance stronger, there
was to be descried in the deep shade of the verandah, a glitter of
crystal and the fluttering of white napery. If the figure-head at the
pier end, with its perpetual gesture and its leprous whiteness, reigned
alone in that hamlet as it seemed to do, it would not have reigned long.
Men’s hands had been busy, men’s feet stirring there, within the circuit
of the clock. The Farallones were sure of it; their eyes dug in the deep
shadow of the palms for some one hiding; if intensity of looking might
have prevailed, they would have pierced the walls of houses; and there
came to them, in these pregnant seconds, a sense of being watched and
played with, and of a blow impending, that was hardly bearable.

The extreme point of palms they had just passed enclosed a creek, which
was thus hidden up to the last moment from the eyes of those on board;
and from this, a boat put suddenly and briskly out, and a voice hailed.

‘Schooner ahoy!’ it cried. ‘Stand in for the pier! In two cables’
lengths you’ll have twenty fathoms water and good holding ground.’

The boat was manned with a couple of brown oarsmen in scanty kilts of
blue. The speaker, who was steering, wore white clothes, the full dress
of the tropics; a wide hat shaded his face; but it could be seen that he
was of stalwart size, and his voice sounded like a gentleman’s. So much
could be made out. It was plain, besides, that the Farallone had been
descried some time before at sea, and the inhabitants were prepared for
its reception.

Mechanically the orders were obeyed, and the ship berthed; and the three
adventurers gathered aft beside the house and waited, with galloping
pulses and a perfect vacancy of mind, the coming of the stranger who
might mean so much to them. They had no plan, no story prepared; there
was no time to make one; they were caught red-handed and must stand
their chance. Yet this anxiety was chequered with hope. The island being
undeclared, it was not possible the man could hold any office or be in a
position to demand their papers. And beyond that, if there was any truth
in Findlay, as it now seemed there should be, he was the representative
of the ‘private reasons,’ he must see their coming with a profound
disappointment; and perhaps (hope whispered) he would be willing and
able to purchase their silence.

The boat was by that time forging alongside, and they were able at last
to see what manner of man they had to do with. He was a huge fellow,
six feet four in height, and of a build proportionately strong, but
his sinews seemed to be dissolved in a listlessness that was more than
languor. It was only the eye that corrected this impression; an eye
of an unusual mingled brilliancy and softness, sombre as coal and
with lights that outshone the topaz; an eye of unimpaired health and
virility; an eye that bid you beware of the man’s devastating anger.
A complexion, naturally dark, had been tanned in the island to a hue
hardly distinguishable from that of a Tahitian; only his manners and
movements, and the living force that dwelt in him, like fire in flint,
betrayed the European. He was dressed in white drill, exquisitely made;
his scarf and tie were of tender-coloured silks; on the thwart beside
him there leaned a Winchester rifle.

‘Is the doctor on board?’ he cried as he came up. ‘Dr Symonds, I mean?
You never heard of him? Nor yet of the Trinity Hall? Ah!’

He did not look surprised, seemed rather to affect it in politeness;
but his eye rested on each of the three white men in succession with a
sudden weight of curiosity that was almost savage. ‘Ah, THEN!’ said he,
‘there is some small mistake, no doubt, and I must ask you to what I am
indebted for this pleasure?’

He was by this time on the deck, but he had the art to be quite
unapproachable; the friendliest vulgarian, three parts drunk, would have
known better than take liberties; and not one of the adventurers so much
as offered to shake hands.

‘Well,’ said Davis, ‘I suppose you may call it an accident. We had heard
of your island, and read that thing in the Directory about the PRIVATE
REASONS, you see; so when we saw the lagoon reflected in the sky, we put
her head for it at once, and so here we are.’

‘’Ope we don’t intrude!’ said Huish.

The stranger looked at Huish with an air of faint surprise, and looked
pointedly away again. It was hard to be more offensive in dumb show.

‘It may suit me, your coming here,’ he said. ‘My own schooner is
overdue, and I may put something in your way in the meantime. Are you
open to a charter?’

‘Well, I guess so,’ said Davis; ‘it depends.’

‘My name is Attwater,’ continued the stranger. ‘You, I presume, are the

‘Yes, sir. I am the captain of this ship: Captain Brown,’ was the reply.

‘Well, see ‘ere!’ said Huish, ‘better begin fair! ‘E’s skipper on deck
right enough, but not below. Below, we’re all equal, all got a lay in
the adventure; when it comes to business, I’m as good as ‘e; and what I
say is, let’s go into the ‘ouse and have a lush, and talk it over among
pals. We’ve some prime fizz,’ he said, and winked.

The presence of the gentleman lighted up like a candle the vulgarity of
the clerk; and Herrick instinctively, as one shields himself from pain,
made haste to interrupt.

‘My name is Hay,’ said he, ‘since introductions are going. We shall be
very glad if you will step inside.’

Attwater leaned to him swiftly. ‘University man?’ said he.

‘Yes, Merton,’ said Herrick, and the next moment blushed scarlet at his

‘I am of the other lot,’ said Attwater: ‘Trinity Hall, Cambridge. I
called my schooner after the old shop. Well! this is a queer place and
company for us to meet in, Mr Hay,’ he pursued, with easy incivility to
the others. ‘But do you bear out ... I beg this gentleman’s pardon, I
really did not catch his name.’

‘My name is ‘Uish, sir,’ returned the clerk, and blushed in turn.

‘Ah!’ said Attwater. And then turning again to Herrick, ‘Do you bear out
Mr Whish’s description of your vintage? or was it only the unaffected
poetry of his own nature bubbling up?’

Herrick was embarrassed; the silken brutality of their visitor made
him blush; that he should be accepted as an equal, and the others thus
pointedly ignored, pleased him in spite of himself, and then ran through
his veins in a recoil of anger.

‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘It’s only California; it’s good enough, I

Attwater seemed to make up his mind. ‘Well then, I’ll tell you what: you
three gentlemen come ashore this evening and bring a basket of wine with
you; I’ll try and find the food,’ he said. ‘And by the by, here is a
question I should have asked you when I come on board: have you had

‘Personally, no,’ said Herrick. ‘But the schooner had it.’

‘Deaths?’ from Attwater.

‘Two,’ said Herrick.

‘Well, it is a dreadful sickness,’ said Attwater.

‘’Ad you any deaths?’ asked Huish, ‘’ere on the island?’

‘Twenty-nine,’ said Attwater. ‘Twenty-nine deaths and thirty-one cases,
out of thirty-three souls upon the island.--That’s a strange way to
calculate, Mr Hay, is it not? Souls! I never say it but it startles me.’

‘Oh, so that’s why everything’s deserted?’ said Huish.

‘That is why, Mr Whish,’ said Attwater; ‘that is why the house is empty
and the graveyard full.’

‘Twenty-nine out of thirty-three!’ exclaimed Herrick, ‘Why, when it came
to burying--or did you bother burying?’

‘Scarcely,’ said Attwater; ‘or there was one day at least when we gave
up. There were five of the dead that morning, and thirteen of the dying,
and no one able to go about except the sexton and myself. We held a
council of war, took the... empty bottles... into the lagoon, and buried
them.’ He looked over his shoulder, back at the bright water. ‘Well,
so you’ll come to dinner, then? Shall we say half-past six. So good of

His voice, in uttering these conventional phrases, fell at once into
the false measure of society; and Herrick unconsciously followed the

‘I am sure we shall be very glad,’ he said. ‘At half-past six? Thank you
so very much.’

     ‘“For my voice has been tuned to the note of the gun

     That startles the deep when the combat’s begun,”’

quoted Attwater, with a smile, which instantly gave way to an air
of funereal solemnity. ‘I shall particularly expect Mr Whish,’ he
continued. ‘Mr Whish, I trust you understand the invitation?’

‘I believe you, my boy!’ replied the genial Huish.

‘That is right then; and quite understood, is it not?’ said Attwater.
‘Mr Whish and Captain Brown at six-thirty without fault--and you, Hay,
at four sharp.’

And he called his boat.

During all this talk, a load of thought or anxiety had weighed upon the
captain. There was no part for which nature had so liberally endowed
him as that of the genial ship captain. But today he was silent and
abstracted. Those who knew him could see that he hearkened close to
every syllable, and seemed to ponder and try it in balances. It
would have been hard to say what look there was, cold, attentive, and
sinister, as of a man maturing plans, which still brooded over the
unconscious guest; it was here, it was there, it was nowhere; it was now
so little that Herrick chid himself for an idle fancy; and anon it was
so gross and palpable that you could say every hair on the man’s head
talked mischief.

He woke up now, as with a start. ‘You were talking of a charter,’ said

‘Was I?’ said Attwater. ‘Well, let’s talk of it no more at present.’

‘Your own schooner is overdue, I understand?’ continued the captain.

‘You understand perfectly, Captain Brown,’ said Attwater; ‘thirty-three
days overdue at noon today.’

‘She comes and goes, eh? plies between here and...?’ hinted the captain.

‘Exactly; every four months; three trips in the year,’ said Attwater.

‘You go in her, ever?’ asked Davis.

‘No, one stops here,’ said Attwater, ‘one has plenty to attend to.’

‘Stop here, do you?’ cried Davis. ‘Say, how long?’

‘How long, O Lord,’ said Attwater with perfect, stern gravity. ‘But it
does not seem so,’ he added, with a smile.

‘No, I dare say not,’ said Davis. ‘No, I suppose not. Not with all your
gods about you, and in as snug a berth as this. For it is a pretty snug
berth,’ said he, with a sweeping look.

‘The spot, as you are good enough to indicate, is not entirely
intolerable,’ was the reply.

‘Shell, I suppose?’ said Davis.

‘Yes, there was shell,’ said Attwater.

‘This is a considerable big beast of a lagoon, sir,’ said the captain.
‘Was there a--was the fishing--would you call the fishing anyways GOOD?’

‘I don’t know that I would call it anyways anything,’ said Attwater, ‘if
you put it to me direct.’

‘There were pearls too?’ said Davis.

‘Pearls, too,’ said Attwater.

‘Well, I give out!’ laughed Davis, and his laughter rang cracked like a
false piece. ‘If you’re not going to tell, you’re not going to tell, and
there’s an end to it.’

‘There can be no reason why I should affect the least degree of secrecy
about my island,’ returned Attwater; ‘that came wholly to an end with
your arrival; and I am sure, at any rate, that gentlemen like you and Mr
Whish, I should have always been charmed to make perfectly at home. The
point on which we are now differing--if you can call it a difference--is
one of times and seasons. I have some information which you think I
might impart, and I think not. Well, we’ll see tonight! By-by, Whish!’
He stepped into his boat and shoved off. ‘All understood, then?’ said
he. ‘The captain and Mr Whish at six-thirty, and you, Hay, at four
precise. You understand that, Hay? Mind, I take no denial. If you’re not
there by the time named, there will be no banquet; no song, no supper,
Mr Whish!’

White birds whisked in the air above, a shoal of parti-coloured fishes
in the scarce denser medium below; between, like Mahomet’s coffin, the
boat drew away briskly on the surface, and its shadow followed it over
the glittering floor of the lagoon. Attwater looked steadily back
over his shoulders as he sat; he did not once remove his eyes from the
Farallone and the group on her quarter-deck beside the house, till
his boat ground upon the pier. Thence, with an agile pace, he hurried
ashore, and they saw his white clothes shining in the chequered dusk of
the grove until the house received him.

The captain, with a gesture and a speaking countenance, called the
adventurers into the cabin.

‘Well,’ he said to Herrick, when they were seated, ‘there’s one good job
at least. He’s taken to you in earnest.’

‘Why should that be a good job?’ said Herrick.

‘Oh, you’ll see how it pans out presently,’ returned Davis. ‘You go
ashore and stand in with him, that’s all! You’ll get lots of pointers;
you can find out what he has, and what the charter is, and who’s the
fourth man--for there’s four of them, and we’re only three.’

‘And suppose I do, what next?’ cried Herrick. ‘Answer me that!’

‘So I will, Robert Herrick,’ said the captain. ‘But first, let’s see all
clear. I guess you know,’ he said with an imperious solemnity, ‘I guess
you know the bottom is out of this Farallone speculation? I guess you
know it’s RIGHT out? and if this old island hadn’t been turned up right
when it did, I guess you know where you and I and Huish would have

‘Yes, I know that,’ said Herrick. ‘No matter who’s to blame, I know it.
And what next?’

‘No matter who’s to blame, you know it, right enough,’ said the captain,
‘and I’m obliged to you for the reminder. Now here’s this Attwater: what
do you think of him?’

‘I do not know,’ said Herrick. ‘I am attracted and repelled. He was
insufferably rude to you.’

‘And you, Huish?’ said the captain.

Huish sat cleaning a favourite briar root; he scarce looked up from that
engrossing task. ‘Don’t ast me what I think of him!’ he said. ‘There’s a
day comin’, I pray Gawd, when I can tell it him myself.’

‘Huish means the same as what I do,’ said Davis. ‘When that man came
stepping around, and saying “Look here, I’m Attwater”--and you knew it
was so, by God!--I sized him right straight up. Here’s the real
article, I said, and I don’t like it; here’s the real, first-rate,
copper-bottomed aristocrat. ‘AW’ I DON’T KNOW YE, DO I? GOD DAMN YE, DID
GOD MAKE YE?’ No, that couldn’t be nothing but genuine; a man got to be
born to that, and notice! smart as champagne and hard as nails; no kind
of a fool; no, SIR! not a pound of him! Well, what’s he here upon this
beastly island for? I said. HE’S not here collecting eggs. He’s a palace
at home, and powdered flunkies; and if he don’t stay there, you bet he
knows the reason why! Follow?’

‘O yes, I ‘ear you,’ said Huish.

‘He’s been doing good business here, then,’ continued the captain. ‘For
ten years, he’s been doing a great business. It’s pearl and shell, of
course; there couldn’t be nothing else in such a place, and no doubt
the shell goes off regularly by this Trinity Hall, and the money for it
straight into the bank, so that’s no use to us. But what else is there?
Is there nothing else he would be likely to keep here? Is there nothing
else he would be bound to keep here? Yes, sir; the pearls! First,
because they’re too valuable to trust out of his hands. Second, because
pearls want a lot of handling and matching; and the man who sells his
pearls as they come in, one here, one there, instead of hanging back and
holding up--well, that man’s a fool, and it’s not Attwater.’

‘Likely,’ said Huish, ‘that’s w’at it is; not proved, but likely.’

‘It’s proved,’ said Davis bluntly.

‘Suppose it was?’ said Herrick. ‘Suppose that was all so, and he had
these pearls--a ten years’ collection of them?--Suppose he had? There’s
my question.’

The captain drummed with his thick hands on the board in front of him;
he looked steadily in Herrick’s face, and Herrick as steadily looked
upon the table and the pattering fingers; there was a gentle oscillation
of the anchored ship, and a big patch of sunlight travelled to and fro
between the one and the other.

‘Hear me!’ Herrick burst out suddenly.

‘No, you better hear me first,’ said Davis. ‘Hear me and understand me.
WE’VE got no use for that fellow, whatever you may have. He’s your kind,
he’s not ours; he’s took to you, and he’s wiped his boots on me and
Huish. Save him if you can!’

‘Save him?’ repeated Herrick.

‘Save him, if you’re able!’ reiterated Davis, with a blow of his
clenched fist. ‘Go ashore, and talk him smooth; and if you get him and
his pearls aboard, I’ll spare him. If you don’t, there’s going to be a
funeral. Is that so, Huish? does that suit you?’

‘I ain’t a forgiving man,’ said Huish, ‘but I’m not the sort to spoil
business neither. Bring the bloke on board and bring his pearls along
with him, and you can have it your own way; maroon him where you
like--I’m agreeable.’

‘Well, and if I can’t?’ cried Herrick, while the sweat streamed upon his
face. ‘You talk to me as if I was God Almighty, to do this and that! But
if I can’t?’

‘My son,’ said the captain, ‘you better do your level best, or you’ll
see sights!’

‘O yes,’ said Huish. ‘O crikey, yes!’ He looked across at Herrick with
a toothless smile that was shocking in its savagery; and his ear caught
apparently by the trivial expression he had used, broke into a piece of
the chorus of a comic song which he must have heard twenty years before
in London: meaningless gibberish that, in that hour and place, seemed
hateful as a blasphemy: ‘Hikey, pikey, crikey, fikey, chillingawallaba

The captain suffered him to finish; his face was unchanged.

‘The way things are, there’s many a man that wouldn’t let you go
ashore,’ he resumed. ‘But I’m not that kind. I know you’d never go back
on me, Herrick! Or if you choose to--go, and do it, and be damned!’ he
cried, and rose abruptly from the table.

He walked out of the house; and as he reached the door, turned and
called Huish, suddenly and violently, like the barking of a dog. Huish
followed, and Herrick remained alone in the cabin.

‘Now, see here!’ whispered Davis. ‘I know that man. If you open your
mouth to him again, you’ll ruin all.’


The boat was gone again, and already half-way to the Farallone, before
Herrick turned and went unwillingly up the pier. From the crown of
the beach, the figure-head confronted him with what seemed irony,
her helmeted head tossed back, her formidable arm apparently hurling
something, whether shell or missile, in the direction of the anchored
schooner. She seemed a defiant deity from the island, coming forth to
its threshold with a rush as of one about to fly, and perpetuated in
that dashing attitude. Herrick looked up at her, where she towered above
him head and shoulders, with singular feelings of curiosity and romance,
and suffered his mind to travel to and fro in her life-history. So long
she had been the blind conductress of a ship among the waves; so long
she had stood here idle in the violent sun, that yet did not avail
to blister her; and was even this the end of so many adventures? he
wondered, or was more behind? And he could have found in his heart to
regret that she was not a goddess, nor yet he a pagan, that he might
have bowed down before her in that hour of difficulty.

When he now went forward, it was cool with the shadow of many well-grown
palms; draughts of the dying breeze swung them together overhead; and on
all sides, with a swiftness beyond dragon-flies or swallows, the spots
of sunshine flitted, and hovered, and returned. Underfoot, the sand was
fairly solid and quite level, and Herrick’s steps fell there noiseless
as in new-fallen snow. It bore the marks of having been once weeded like
a garden alley at home; but the pestilence had done its work, and the
weeds were returning. The buildings of the settlement showed here and
there through the stems of the colonnade, fresh painted, trim and dandy,
and all silent as the grave. Only, here and there in the crypt, there
was a rustle and scurry and some crowing of poultry; and from behind the
house with the verandahs, he saw smoke arise and heard the crackling of
a fire.

The stone houses were nearest him upon his right. The first was locked;
in the second, he could dimly perceive, through a window, a certain
accumulation of pearl-shell piled in the far end; the third, which stood
gaping open on the afternoon, seized on the mind of Herrick with its
multiplicity and disorder of romantic things. Therein were cables,
windlasses and blocks of every size and capacity; cabin windows and
ladders; rusty tanks, a companion hutch; a binnacle with its brass
mountings and its compass idly pointing, in the confusion and dusk of
that shed, to a forgotten pole; ropes, anchors, harpoons, a blubber
dipper of copper, green with years, a steering wheel, a tool chest with
the vessel’s name upon the top, the Asia: a whole curiosity-shop of sea
curios, gross and solid, heavy to lift, ill to break, bound with brass
and shod with iron. Two wrecks at the least must have contributed to
this random heap of lumber; and as Herrick looked upon it, it seemed to
him as if the two ships’ companies were there on guard, and he heard
the tread of feet and whisperings, and saw with the tail of his eye the
commonplace ghosts of sailor men.

This was not merely the work of an aroused imagination, but had
something sensible to go upon; sounds of a stealthy approach were no
doubt audible; and while he still stood staring at the lumber, the voice
of his host sounded suddenly, and with even more than the customary
softness of enunciation, from behind.

‘Junk,’, it said, ‘only old junk! And does Mr Hay find a parable?’

‘I find at least a strong impression,’ replied Herrick, turning quickly,
lest he might be able to catch, on the face of the speaker, some
commentary on the words.

Attwater stood in the doorway, which he almost wholly filled; his hands
stretched above his head and grasping the architrave. He smiled when
their eyes Met, but the expression was inscrutable.

‘Yes, a powerful impression. You are like me; nothing so affecting as
ships!’ said he. ‘The ruins of an empire would leave me frigid, when a
bit of an old rail that an old shellback leaned on in the middle watch,
would bring me up all standing. But come, let’s see some more of the
island. It’s all sand and coral and palm trees; but there’s a kind of a
quaintness in the place.’

‘I find it heavenly,’ said Herrick, breathing deep, with head bared in
the shadow.

‘Ah, that’s because you’re new from sea,’ said Attwater. ‘I dare say,
too, you can appreciate what one calls it. It’s a lovely name. It has
a flavour, it has a colour, it has a ring and fall to it; it’s like its
author--it’s half Christian! Remember your first view of the island, and
how it’s only woods and water; and suppose you had asked somebody for
the name, and he had answered--nemorosa Zacynthos!’

‘Jam medio apparet fluctu!’ exclaimed Herrick. ‘Ye gods, yes, how good!’

‘If it gets upon the chart, the skippers will make nice work of it,’
said Attwater. ‘But here, come and see the diving-shed.’

He opened a door, and Herrick saw a large display of apparatus neatly
ordered: pumps and pipes, and the leaded boots, and the huge snouted
helmets shining in rows along the wall; ten complete outfits.

‘The whole eastern half of my lagoon is shallow, you must understand,’
said Attwater; ‘so we were able to get in the dress to great advantage.
It paid beyond belief, and was a queer sight when they were at it,
and these marine monsters’--tapping the nearest of the helmets--‘kept
appearing and reappearing in the midst of the lagoon. Fond of parables?’
he asked abruptly.

‘O yes!’ said Herrick.

‘Well, I saw these machines come up dripping and go down again, and come
up dripping and go down again, and all the while the fellow inside as
dry as toast!’ said Attwater; ‘and I thought we all wanted a dress to
go down into the world in, and come up scatheless. What do you think the
name was?’ he inquired.

‘Self-conceit,’ said Herrick.

‘Ah, but I mean seriously!’ said Attwater.

‘Call it self-respect, then!’ corrected Herrick, with a laugh.

‘And why not Grace? Why not God’s Grace, Hay?’ asked Attwater. ‘Why
not the grace of your Maker and Redeemer, He who died for you, He
who upholds you, He whom you daily crucify afresh? There is nothing
here,’--striking on his bosom--‘nothing there’--smiting the wall--‘and
nothing there’--stamping--‘nothing but God’s Grace! We walk upon it, we
breathe it; we live and die by it; it makes the nails and axles of the
universe; and a puppy in pyjamas prefers self-conceit!’ The huge dark
man stood over against Herrick by the line of the divers’ helmets, and
seemed to swell and glow; and the next moment the life had gone from
him. ‘I beg your pardon,’ said he; ‘I see you don’t believe in God?’

‘Not in your sense, I am afraid,’ said Herrick.

‘I never argue with young atheists or habitual drunkards,’ said Attwater
flippantly. ‘Let us go across the island to the outer beach.’

It was but a little way, the greatest width of that island scarce
exceeding a furlong, and they walked gently. Herrick was like one in
a dream. He had come there with a mind divided; come prepared to study
that ambiguous and sneering mask, drag out the essential man from
underneath, and act accordingly; decision being till then postponed.
Iron cruelty, an iron insensibility to the suffering of others, the
uncompromising pursuit of his own interests, cold culture, manners
without humanity; these he had looked for, these he still thought he
saw. But to find the whole machine thus glow with the reverberation of
religious zeal, surprised him beyond words; and he laboured in vain, as
he walked, to piece together into any kind of whole his odds and ends
of knowledge--to adjust again into any kind of focus with itself, his
picture of the man beside him.

‘What brought you here to the South Seas?’ he asked presently.

‘Many things,’ said Attwater. ‘Youth, curiosity, romance, the love of
the sea, and (it will surprise you to hear) an interest in missions.
That has a good deal declined, which will surprise you less. They go the
wrong way to work; they are too parsonish, too much of the old wife, and
even the old apple wife. CLOTHES, CLOTHES, are their idea; but clothes
are not Christianity, any more than they are the sun in heaven, or could
take the place of it! They think a parsonage with roses, and church
bells, and nice old women bobbing in the lanes, are part and parcel
of religion. But religion is a savage thing, like the universe it
illuminates; savage, cold, and bare, but infinitely strong.’

‘And you found this island by an accident?’ said Herrick.

‘As you did!’ said Attwater. ‘And since then I have had a business, and
a colony, and a mission of my own. I was a man of the world before I was
a Christian; I’m a man of the world still, and I made my mission pay.
No good ever came of coddling. A man has to stand up in God’s sight
and work up to his weight avoirdupois; then I’ll talk to him, but not
before. I gave these beggars what they wanted: a judge in Israel, the
bearer of the sword and scourge; I was making a new people here; and
behold, the angel of the Lord smote them and they were not!’

With the very uttering of the words, which were accompanied by a
gesture, they came forth out of the porch of the palm wood by the margin
of the sea and full in front of the sun which was near setting. Before
them the surf broke slowly. All around, with an air of imperfect wooden
things inspired with wicked activity, the crabs trundled and scuttled
into holes. On the right, whither Attwater pointed and abruptly turned,
was the cemetery of the island, a field of broken stones from the
bigness of a child’s hand to that of his head, diversified by many
mounds of the same material, and walled by a rude rectangular enclosure.
Nothing grew there but a shrub or two with some white flowers; nothing
but the number of the mounds, and their disquieting shape, indicated the
presence of the dead.

  ‘The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep!’

quoted Attwater as he entered by the open gateway into that unholy
close. ‘Coral to coral, pebbles to pebbles,’ he said, ‘this has been the
main scene of my activity in the South Pacific. Some were good, and some
bad, and the majority (of course and always) null. Here was a fellow,
now, that used to frisk like a dog; if you had called him he came like
an arrow from a bow; if you had not, and he came unbidden, you should
have seen the deprecating eye and the little intricate dancing
step. Well, his trouble is over now, he has lain down with kings and
councillors; the rest of his acts, are they not written in the book
of the chronicles? That fellow was from Penrhyn; like all the Penrhyn
islanders he was ill to manage; heady, jealous, violent: the man with
the nose! He lies here quiet enough. And so they all lie.

 “And darkness was the burier of the dead!”’

He stood, in the strong glow of the sunset, with bowed head; his voice
sounded now sweet and now bitter with the varying sense.

‘You loved these people?’ cried Herrick, strangely touched.

‘I?’ said Attwater. ‘Dear no! Don’t think me a philanthropist. I dislike
men, and hate women. If I like the islands at all, it is because you see
them here plucked of their lendings, their dead birds and cocked hats,
their petticoats and coloured hose. Here was one I liked though,’ and he
set his foot upon a mound. ‘He was a fine savage fellow; he had a dark
soul; yes, I liked this one. I am fanciful,’ he added, looking hard at
Herrick, ‘and I take fads. I like you.’

Herrick turned swiftly and looked far away to where the clouds were
beginning to troop together and amass themselves round the obsequies of
day. ‘No one can like me,’ he said.

‘You are wrong there,’ said the other, ‘as a man usually is about
himself. You are attractive, very attractive.’

‘It is not me,’ said Herrick; ‘no one can like me. If you knew how I
despised myself--and why!’ His voice rang out in the quiet graveyard.

‘I knew that you despised yourself,’ said Attwater. ‘I saw the blood
come into your face today when you remembered Oxford. And I could have
blushed for you myself, to see a man, a gentleman, with these two vulgar

Herrick faced him with a thrill. ‘Wolves?’ he repeated.

‘I said wolves and vulgar wolves,’ said Attwater. ‘Do you know that
today, when I came on board, I trembled?’

‘You concealed it well,’ stammered Herrick.

‘A habit of mine,’ said Attwater. ‘But I was afraid, for all that: I was
afraid of the two wolves.’ He raised his hand slowly. ‘And now, Hay, you
poor lost puppy, what do you do with the two wolves?’

‘What do I do? I don’t do anything,’ said Herrick. ‘There is nothing
wrong; all is above board; Captain Brown is a good soul; he is a... he
is...’ The phantom voice of Davis called in his ear: ‘There’s going to
be a funeral’ and the sweat burst forth and streamed on his brow. ‘He
is a family man,’ he resumed again, swallowing; ‘he has children at
home--and a wife.’

‘And a very nice man?’ said Attwater. ‘And so is Mr Whish, no doubt?’

‘I won’t go so far as that,’ said Herrick. ‘I do not like Huish. And
yet... he has his merits too.’

‘And, in short, take them for all in all, as good a ship’s company as
one would ask?’ said Attwater.

‘O yes,’ said Herrick, ‘quite.’

‘So then we approach the other point of why you despise yourself?’ said

‘Do we not all despise ourselves?’ cried Herrick. ‘Do not you?’

‘Oh, I say I do. But do I?’ said Attwater. ‘One thing I know at least:
I never gave a cry like yours. Hay! it came from a bad conscience! Ah,
man, that poor diving dress of self-conceit is sadly tattered! Today,
now, while the sun sets, and here in this burying place of brown
innocents, fall on your knees and cast your sins and sorrows on the
Redeemer. Hay--’

‘Not Hay!’ interrupted the other, strangling. ‘Don’t call me that! I
mean... For God’s sake, can’t you see I’m on the rack?’

‘I see it, I know it, I put and keep you there, my fingers are on the
screws!’ said Attwater. ‘Please God, I will bring a penitent this
night before His throne. Come, come to the mercy-seat! He waits to be
gracious, man--waits to be gracious!’

He spread out his arms like a crucifix, his face shone with the
brightness of a seraph’s; in his voice, as it rose to the last word, the
tears seemed ready.

Herrick made a vigorous call upon himself. ‘Attwater,’ he said, ‘you
push me beyond bearing. What am I to do? I do not believe. It is living
truth to you; to me, upon my conscience, only folk-lore. I do not
believe there is any form of words under heaven by which I can lift the
burthen from my shoulders. I must stagger on to the end with the pack of
my responsibility; I cannot shift it; do you suppose I would not, if I
thought I could? I cannot--cannot--cannot--and let that suffice.’

The rapture was all gone from Artwater’s countenance; the dark apostle
had disappeared; and in his place there stood an easy, sneering
gentleman, who took off his hat and bowed. It was pertly done, and the
blood burned in Herrick’s face.

‘What do you mean by that?’ he cried.

‘Well, shall we go back to the house?’ said Attwater. ‘Our guests will
soon be due.’

Herrick stood his ground a moment with clenched fists and teeth; and as
he so stood, the fact of his errand there slowly swung clear in front of
him, like the moon out of clouds. He had come to lure that man on board;
he was failing, even if it could be said that he had tried; he was sure
to fail now, and knew it, and knew it was better so. And what was to be

With a groan he turned to follow his host, who was standing with polite
smile, and instantly and somewhat obsequiously led the way in the now
darkened colonnade of palms. There they went in silence, the earth
gave up richly of her perfume, the air tasted warm and aromatic in the
nostrils; and from a great way forward in the wood, the brightness of
lights and fire marked out the house of Attwater.

Herrick meanwhile resolved and resisted an immense temptation to go up,
to touch him on the arm and breathe a word in his ear: ‘Beware, they are
going to murder you.’ There would be one life saved; but what of the two
others? The three lives went up and down before him like buckets in a
well, or like the scales of balances. It had come to a choice, and one
that must be speedy. For certain invaluable minutes, the wheels of life
ran before him, and he could still divert them with a touch to the one
side or the other, still choose who was to live and who was to die. He
considered the men. Attwater intrigued, puzzled, dazzled, enchanted and
revolted him; alive, he seemed but a doubtful good; and the thought of
him lying dead was so unwelcome that it pursued him, like a vision, with
every circumstance of colour and sound. Incessantly, he had before him
the image of that great mass of man stricken down in varying attitudes
and with varying wounds; fallen prone, fallen supine, fallen on his
side; or clinging to a doorpost with the changing face and the relaxing
fingers of the death-agony. He heard the click of the trigger, the thud
of the ball, the cry of the victim; he saw the blood flow. And this
building up of circumstance was like a consecration of the man, till he
seemed to walk in sacrificial fillets. Next he considered Davis, with
his thick-fingered, coarse-grained, oat-bread commonness of nature, his
indomitable valour and mirth in the old days of their starvation, the
endearing blend of his faults and virtues, the sudden shining forth of a
tenderness that lay too deep for tears; his children, Adar and her bowel
complaint, and Adar’s doll. No, death could not be suffered to approach
that head even in fancy; with a general heat and a bracing of his
muscles, it was borne in on Herrick that Adar’s father would find in him
a son to the death. And even Huish showed a little in that sacredness;
by the tacit adoption of daily life they were become brothers; there was
an implied bond of loyalty in their cohabitation of the ship and their
passed miseries, to which Herrick must be a little true or wholly
dishonoured. Horror of sudden death for horror of sudden death, there
was here no hesitation possible: it must be Attwater. And no sooner was
the thought formed (which was a sentence) than his whole mind of man ran
in a panic to the other side: and when he looked within himself, he was
aware only of turbulence and inarticulate outcry.

In all this there was no thought of Robert Herrick. He had complied with
the ebb-tide in man’s affairs, and the tide had carried him away; he
heard already the roaring of the maelstrom that must hurry him under.
And in his bedevilled and dishonoured soul there was no thought of self.

For how long he walked silent by his companion Herrick had no guess.
The clouds rolled suddenly away; the orgasm was over; he found himself
placid with the placidity of despair; there returned to him the power of
commonplace speech; and he heard with surprise his own voice say: ‘What
a lovely evening!’

‘Is it not?’ said Attwater. ‘Yes, the evenings here would be very
pleasant if one had anything to do. By day, of course, one can shoot.’

‘You shoot?’ asked Herrick.

‘Yes, I am what you would call a fine shot,’ said Attwater. ‘It is
faith; I believe my balls will go true; if I were to miss once, it would
spoil me for nine months.’

‘You never miss, then?’ said Herrick.

‘Not unless I mean to,’ said Attwater. ‘But to miss nicely is the art.
There was an old king one knew in the western islands, who used to empty
a Winchester all round a man, and stir his hair or nick a rag out of his
clothes with every ball except the last; and that went plump between the
eyes. It was pretty practice.’

‘You could do that?’ asked Herrick, with a sudden chill.

‘Oh, I can do anything,’ returned the other. ‘You do not understand:
what must be, must.’

They were now come near to the back part of the house. One of the men
was engaged about the cooking fire, which burned with the clear, fierce,
essential radiance of cocoanut shells. A fragrance of strange meats was
in the air. All round in the verandahs lamps were lighted, so that
the place shone abroad in the dusk of the trees with many complicated
patterns of shadow.

‘Come and wash your hands,’ said Attwater, and led the way into a clean,
matted room with a cot bed, a safe, or shelf or two of books in a glazed
case, and an iron washing-stand. Presently he cried in the native, and
there appeared for a moment in the doorway a plump and pretty young
woman with a clean towel.

‘Hullo!’ cried Herrick, who now saw for the first time the fourth
survivor of the pestilence, and was startled by the recollection of the
captain’s orders.

‘Yes,’ said Attwater, ‘the whole colony lives about the house, what’s
left of it. We are all afraid of devils, if you please! and Taniera and
she sleep in the front parlour, and the other boy on the verandah.’

‘She is pretty,’ said Herrick.

‘Too pretty,’ said Attwater. ‘That was why I had her married. A man
never knows when he may be inclined to be a fool about women; so when we
were left alone, I had the pair of them to the chapel and performed the
ceremony. She made a lot of fuss. I do not take at all the romantic view
of marriage,’ he explained.

‘And that strikes you as a safeguard?’ asked Herrick with amazement.

‘Certainly. I am a plain man and very literal. WHOM GOD HATH JOINED
TOGETHER, are the words, I fancy. So one married them, and respects the
marriage,’ said Attwater.

‘Ah!’ said Herrick.

‘You see, I may look to make an excellent marriage when I go home,’
began Attwater, confidentially. ‘I am rich. This safe alone’--laying his
hand upon it--‘will be a moderate fortune, when I have the time to place
the pearls upon the market. Here are ten years’ accumulation from a
lagoon, where I have had as many as ten divers going all day long; and I
went further than people usually do in these waters, for I rotted a lot
of shell, and did splendidly. Would you like to see them?’

This confirmation of the captain’s guess hit Herrick hard, and he
contained himself with difficulty. ‘No, thank you, I think not,’ said
he. ‘I do not care for pearls. I am very indifferent to all these...’

‘Gewgaws?’ suggested Attwater. ‘And yet I believe you ought to cast an
eye on my collection, which is really unique, and which--oh! it is the
case with all of us and everything about us!--hangs by a hair. Today
it groweth up and flourisheth; tomorrow it is cut down and cast into the
oven. Today it is here and together in this safe; tomorrow--tonight!--it
may be scattered. Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of

‘I do not understand you,’ said Herrick.

‘Not?’ said Attwater.

‘You seem to speak in riddles,’ said Herrick, unsteadily. ‘I do not
understand what manner of man you are, nor what you are driving at.’

Attwater stood with his hands upon his hips, and his head bent forward.
‘I am a fatalist,’ he replied, ‘and just now (if you insist on it)
an experimentalist. Talking of which, by the bye, who painted out the
schooner’s name?’ he said, with mocking softness, ‘because, do you know?
one thinks it should be done again. It can still be partly read; and
whatever is worth doing, is surely worth doing well. You think with
me? That is so nice! Well, shall we step on the verandah? I have a dry
sherry that I would like your opinion of.’

Herrick followed him forth to where, under the light of the hanging
lamps, the table shone with napery and crystal; followed him as the
criminal goes with the hangman, or the sheep with the butcher; took the
sherry mechanically, drank it, and spoke mechanical words of praise. The
object of his terror had become suddenly inverted; till then he had seen
Attwater trussed and gagged, a helpless victim, and had longed to run in
and save him; he saw him now tower up mysterious and menacing, the angel
of the Lord’s wrath, armed with knowledge and threatening judgment. He
set down his glass again, and was surprised to see it empty.

‘You go always armed?’ he said, and the next moment could have plucked
his tongue out.

‘Always,’ said Attwater. ‘I have been through a mutiny here; that was
one of my incidents of missionary life.’

And just then the sound of voices reached them, and looking forth from
the verandah they saw Huish and the captain drawing near.


They sat down to an island dinner, remarkable for its variety and
excellence; turtle soup and steak, fish, fowls, a sucking pig, a
cocoanut salad, and sprouting cocoanut roasted for dessert. Not a tin
had been opened; and save for the oil and vinegar in the salad, and some
green spears of onion which Attwater cultivated and plucked with his own
hand, not even the condiments were European. Sherry, hock, and claret
succeeded each other, and the Farallone champagne brought up the rear
with the dessert.

It was plain that, like so many of the extremely religious in the
days before teetotalism, Attwater had a dash of the epicure. For such
characters it is softening to eat well; doubly so to have designed and
had prepared an excellent meal for others; and the manners of their host
were agreeably mollified in consequence.

A cat of huge growth sat on his shoulders purring, and occasionally,
with a deft paw, capturing a morsel in the air. To a cat he might be
likened himself, as he lolled at the head of his table, dealing
out attentions and innuendoes, and using the velvet and the claw
indifferently. And both Huish and the captain fell progressively under
the charm of his hospitable freedom.

Over the third guest, the incidents of the dinner may be said to have
passed for long unheeded. Herrick accepted all that was offered him, ate
and drank without tasting, and heard without comprehension. His mind
was singly occupied in contemplating the horror of the circumstances in
which he sat. What Attwater knew, what the captain designed, from which
side treachery was to be first expected, these were the ground of his
thoughts. There were times when he longed to throw down the table and
flee into the night. And even that was debarred him; to do anything,
to say anything, to move at all, were only to precipitate the barbarous
tragedy; and he sat spellbound, eating with white lips. Two of his
companions observed him narrowly, Attwater with raking, sidelong glances
that did not interrupt his talk, the captain with a heavy and anxious

‘Well, I must say this sherry is a really prime article,’ said Huish.
‘’Ow much does it stand you in, if it’s a fair question?’

‘A hundred and twelve shillings in London, and the freight to
Valparaiso, and on again,’ said Attwater. ‘It strikes one as really not
a bad fluid.’

‘A ‘undred and twelve!’ murmured the clerk, relishing the wine and the
figures in a common ecstasy: ‘O my!’

‘So glad you like it,’ said Attwater. ‘Help yourself, Mr Whish, and keep
the bottle by you.’

‘My friend’s name is Huish and not Whish, sit,’ said the captain with a

‘I beg your pardon, I am sure. Huish and not Whish, certainly,’ said
Attwater. ‘I was about to say that I have still eight dozen,’ he added,
fixing the captain with his eye.

‘Eight dozen what?’ said Davis.

‘Sherry,’ was the reply. ‘Eight dozen excellent sherry. Why, it seems
almost worth it in itself; to a man fond of wine.’

The ambiguous words struck home to guilty consciences, and Huish and the
captain sat up in their places and regarded him with a scare.

‘Worth what?’ said Davis.

‘A hundred and twelve shillings,’ replied Attwater.

The captain breathed hard for a moment. He reached out far and wide to
find any coherency in these remarks; then, with a great effort, changed
the subject.

‘I allow we are about the first white men upon this island, sir,’ said

Attwater followed him at once, and with entire gravity, to the new
ground. ‘Myself and Dr Symonds excepted, I should say the only ones,’ he
returned. ‘And yet who can tell? In the course of the ages someone may
have lived here, and we sometimes think that someone must. The cocoa
palms grow all round the island, which is scarce like nature’s planting.
We found besides, when we landed, an unmistakable cairn upon the beach;
use unknown; but probably erected in the hope of gratifying some mumbo
jumbo whose very name is forgotten, by some thick-witted gentry whose
very bones are lost. Then the island (witness the Directory) has been
twice reported; and since my tenancy, we have had two wrecks, both
derelict. The rest is conjecture.’

‘Dr Symonds is your partner, I guess?’ said Davis.

‘A dear fellow, Symonds! How he would regret it, if he knew you had been
here!’ said Attwater.

‘’E’s on the Trinity ‘All, ain’t he?’ asked Huish.

‘And if you could tell me where the Trinity ‘All was, you would confer a
favour, Mr Whish!’ was the reply.

‘I suppose she has a native crew?’ said Davis.

‘Since the secret has been kept ten years, one would suppose she had,’
replied Attwater.

‘Well, now, see ‘ere!’ said Huish. ‘You have everything about you in
no end style, and no mistake, but I tell you it wouldn’t do for me. Too
much of “the old rustic bridge by the mill”; too retired, by ‘alf. Give
me the sound of Bow Bells!’

‘You must not think it was always so,’ replied Attwater, ‘This was once
a busy shore, although now, hark! you can hear the solitude. I find it
stimulating. And talking of the sound of bells, kindly follow a little
experiment of mine in silence.’ There was a silver bell at his right
hand to call the servants; he made them a sign to stand still, struck
the bell with force, and leaned eagerly forward. The note rose clear and
strong; it rang out clear and far into the night and over the deserted
island; it died into the distance until there only lingered in the
porches of the ear a vibration that was sound no longer. ‘Empty houses,
empty sea, solitary beaches!’ said Attwater. ‘And yet God hears the
bell! And yet we sit in this verandah on a lighted stage with all heaven
for spectators! And you call that solitude?’

There followed a bar of silence, during which the captain sat

Then Attwater laughed softly. ‘These are the diversions of a lonely,
man,’ he resumed, ‘and possibly not in good taste. One tells oneself
these little fairy tales for company. If there SHOULD happen to be
anything in folk-lore, Mr Hay? But here comes the claret. One does not
offer you Lafitte, captain, because I believe it is all sold to the
railroad dining cars in your great country; but this Brine-Mouton is of
a good year, and Mr Whish will give me news of it.’

‘That’s a queer idea of yours!’ cried the captain, bursting with a sigh
from the spell that had bound him. ‘So you mean to tell me now, that
you sit here evenings and ring up... well, ring on the angels... by

‘As a matter of historic fact, and since you put it directly, one does
not,’ said Attwater. ‘Why ring a bell, when there flows out from oneself
and everything about one a far more momentous silence? the least beat of
my heart and the least thought in my mind echoing into eternity for ever
and for ever and for ever.’

‘O look ‘ere,’ said Huish, ‘turn down the lights at once, and the Band
of ‘Ope will oblige! This ain’t a spiritual seance.’

‘No folk-lore about Mr Whish--I beg your pardon, captain: Huish not
Whish, of course,’ said Attwater.

As the boy was filling Huish’s glass, the bottle escaped from his hand
and was shattered, and the wine spilt on the verandah floor. Instant
grimness as of death appeared on the face of Attwater; he smote the
bell imperiously, and the two brown natives fell into the attitude
of attention and stood mute and trembling. There was just a moment of
silence and hard looks; then followed a few savage words in the native;
and, upon a gesture of dismissal, the service proceeded as before.

None of the party had as yet observed upon the excellent bearing of the
two men. They were dark, undersized, and well set up; stepped softly,
waited deftly, brought on the wines and dishes at a look, and their eyes
attended studiously on their master.

‘Where do you get your labour from anyway?’ asked Davis.

‘Ah, where not?’ answered Attwater.

‘Not much of a soft job, I suppose?’ said the captain.

‘If you will tell me where getting labour is!’ said Attwater with a
shrug. ‘And of course, in our case, as we could name no destination,
we had to go far and wide and do the best we could. We have gone as far
west as the Kingsmills and as far south as Rapa-iti. Pity Symonds isn’t
here! He is full of yarns. That was his part, to collect them. Then
began mine, which was the educational.’

‘You mean to run them?’ said Davis.

‘Ay! to run them,’ said Attwater.

‘Wait a bit,’ said Davis, ‘I’m out of my depth. How was this? Do you
mean to say you did it single-handed?’

‘One did it single-handed,’ said Attwater, ‘because there was nobody to
help one.’

‘By God, but you must be a holy terror!’ cried the captain, in a glow of

‘One does one’s best,’ said Attwater.

‘Well, now!’ said Davis, ‘I have seen a lot of driving in my time and
been counted a good driver myself; I fought my way, third mate, round
the Cape Horn with a push of packet rats that would have turned the
devil out of hell and shut the door on him; and I tell you, this racket
of Mr Attwater’s takes the cake. In a ship, why, there ain’t nothing to
it! You’ve got the law with you, that’s what does it. But put me down on
this blame’ beach alone, with nothing but a whip and a mouthful of bad
words, and ask me to... no, SIR! it’s not good enough! I haven’t got the
sand for that!’ cried Davis. ‘It’s the law behind,’ he added; ‘it’s the
law does it, every time!’

‘The beak ain’t as black as he’s sometimes pynted,’ observed Huish,

‘Well, one got the law after a fashion,’ said Attwater. ‘One had to be a
number of things. It was sometimes rather a bore.’

‘I should smile!’ said Davis. ‘Rather lively, I should think!’

‘I dare say we mean the same thing,’ said Attwater. ‘However, one way
or another, one got it knocked into their heads that they MUST work, and
they DID... until the Lord took them!’

‘’Ope you made ‘em jump,’ said Huish.

‘When it was necessary, Mr Whish, I made them jump,’ said Attwater.

‘You bet you did,’ cried the captain. He was a good deal flushed, but
not so much with wine as admiration; and his eyes drank in the huge
proportions of the other with delight. ‘You bet you did, and you bet
that I can see you doing it! By God, you’re a man, and you can say I
said so.’

‘Too good of you, I’m sure,’ said Attwater.

‘Did you--did you ever have crime here?’ asked Herrick, breaking his
silence with a pungent voice.

‘Yes,’ said Attwater, ‘we did.’

‘And how did you handle that, sir?’ cried the eager captain.

‘Well, you see, it was a queer case,’ replied Attwater, ‘it was a case
that would have puzzled Solomon. Shall I tell it you? yes?’

The captain rapturously accepted.

‘Well,’ drawled Attwater, ‘here is what it was. I dare say you know two
types of natives, which may be called the obsequious and the sullen?
Well, one had them, the types themselves, detected in the fact; and one
had them together. Obsequiousness ran out of the first like wine out
of a bottle, sullenness congested in the second. Obsequiousness was all
smiles; he ran to catch your eye, he loved to gabble; and he had about
a dozen words of beach English, and an eighth-of-an-inch veneer of
Christianity. Sullens was industrious; a big down-looking bee. When
he was spoken to, he answered with a black look and a shrug of one
shoulder, but the thing would be done. I don’t give him to you for a
model of manners; there was nothing showy about Sullens; but he was
strong and steady, and ungraciously obedient. Now Sullens got into
trouble; no matter how; the regulations of the place were broken, and
he was punished accordingly--without effect. So, the next day, and the
next, and the day after, till I began to be weary of the business, and
Sullens (I am afraid) particularly so. There came a day when he was in
fault again, for the--oh, perhaps the thirtieth time; and he rolled a
dull eye upon me, with a spark in it, and appeared to speak. Now
the regulations of the place are formal upon one point: we allow no
explanations; none are received, none allowed to be offered. So one
stopped him instantly; but made a note of the circumstance. The next
day, he was gone from the settlement. There could be nothing more
annoying; if the labour took to running away, the fishery was wrecked.
There are sixty miles of this island, you see, all in length like the
Queen’s Highway; the idea of pursuit in such a place was a piece of
single-minded childishness, which one did not entertain. Two days later,
I made a discovery; it came in upon me with a flash that Sullens had
been unjustly punished from beginning to end, and the real culprit
throughout had been Obsequiousness. The native who talks, like the woman
who hesitates, is lost. You set him talking and lying; and he talks, and
lies, and watches your face to see if he has pleased you; till at
last, out comes the truth! It came out of Obsequiousness in the regular
course. I said nothing to him; I dismissed him; and late as it was, for
it was already night, set off to look for Sullens. I had not far to go:
about two hundred yards up the island, the moon showed him to me. He was
hanging in a cocoa palm--I’m not botanist enough to tell you how--but
it’s the way, in nine cases out of ten, these natives commit suicide.
His tongue was out, poor devil, and the birds had got at him; I spare
you details, he was an ugly sight! I gave the business six good hours of
thinking in this verandah. My justice had been made a fool of; I don’t
suppose that I was ever angrier. Next day, I had the conch sounded and
all hands out before sunrise. One took one’s gun, and led the way, with
Obsequiousness. He was very talkative; the beggar supposed that all was
right now he had confessed; in the old schoolboy phrase, he was
plainly ‘sucking up’ to me; full of protestations of goodwill and
good behaviour; to which one answered one really can’t remember what.
Presently the tree came in sight, and the hanged man. They all burst out
lamenting for their comrade in the island way, and Obsequiousness was
the loudest of the mourners. He was quite genuine; a noxious creature,
without any consciousness of guilt. Well, presently--to make a long
story short--one told him to go up the tree. He stared a bit, looked at
one with a trouble in his eye, and had rather a sickly smile; but went.
He was obedient to the last; he had all the pretty virtues, but the
truth was not in him. So soon as he was up, he looked down, and there
was the rifle covering him; and at that he gave a whimper like a dog.
You could bear a pin drop; no more keening now. There they all crouched
upon the ground, with bulging eyes; there was he in the tree top, the
colour of the lead; and between was the dead man, dancing a bit in the
air. He was obedient to the last, recited his crime, recommended his
soul to God. And then...’

Attwater paused, and Herrick, who had been listening attentively, made a
convulsive movement which upset his glass.

‘And then?’ said the breathless captain.

‘Shot,’ said Attwater. ‘They came to ground together.’

Herrick sprang to his feet with a shriek and an insensate gesture.

‘It was a murder,’ he screamed. ‘A cold-hearted, bloody-minded
murder! You monstrous being! Murderer and hypocrite--murderer and
hypocrite--murderer and hypocrite--’ he repeated, and his tongue
stumbled among the words.

The captain was by him in a moment. ‘Herrick!’ he cried, ‘behave
yourself! Here, don’t be a blame’ fool!’

Herrick struggled in his embrace like a frantic child, and suddenly
bowing his face in his hands, choked into a sob, the first of many,
which now convulsed his body silently, and now jerked from him
indescribable and meaningless sounds.

‘Your friend appears over-excited,’ remarked Attwater, sitting unmoved
but all alert at table.

‘It must be the wine,’ replied the captain. ‘He ain’t no drinking
man, you see. I--I think I’ll take him away. A walk’ll sober him up, I

He led him without resistance out of the verandah and into the night, in
which they soon melted; but still for some time, as they drew away,
his comfortable voice was to be heard soothing and remonstrating, and
Herrick answering, at intervals, with the mechanical noises of hysteria.

‘’E’s like a bloomin’ poultry yard!’ observed Huish, helping himself to
wine (of which he spilled a good deal) with gentlemanly ease. ‘A man
should learn to beyave at table,’ he added.

‘Rather bad form, is it not?’ said Attwater. ‘Well, well, we are left
tete-a-tete. A glass of wine with you, Mr Whish!’

Chapter 10. THE OPEN DOOR

The captain and Herrick meanwhile turned their back upon the lights in
Attwater’s verandah, and took a direction towards the pier and the beach
of the lagoon.

The isle, at this hour, with its smooth floor of sand, the pillared roof
overhead, and the prevalent illumination of the lamps, wore an air of
unreality like a deserted theatre or a public garden at midnight. A man
looked about him for the statues and tables. Not the least air of wind
was stirring among the palms, and the silence was emphasised by the
continuous clamour of the surf from the seashore, as it might be of
traffic in the next street.

Still talking, still soothing him, the captain hurried his patient on,
brought him at last to the lagoon-side, and leading him down the beach,
laved his head and face with the tepid water. The paroxysm gradually
subsided, the sobs became less convulsive and then ceased; by an odd but
not quite unnatural conjunction, the captain’s soothing current of
talk died away at the same time and by proportional steps, and the
pair remained sunk in silence. The lagoon broke at their feet in petty
wavelets, and with a sound as delicate as a whisper; stars of all
degrees looked down on their own images in that vast mirror; and the
more angry colour of the Farallone’s riding lamp burned in the middle
distance. For long they continued to gaze on the scene before them, and
hearken anxiously to the rustle and tinkle of that miniature surf, or
the more distant and loud reverberations from the outer coast. For long
speech was denied them; and when the words came at last, they came to
both simultaneously. ‘Say, Herrick...’the captain was beginning.

But Herrick, turning swiftly towards his companion, bent him down with
the eager cry: ‘Let’s up anchor, captain, and to sea!’

‘Where to, my son?’ said the captain. ‘Up anchor’s easy saying. But
where to?’

‘To sea,’ responded Herrick. ‘The sea’s big enough! To sea--away from
this dreadful island and that, oh! that sinister man!’

‘Oh, we’ll see about that,’ said Davis. ‘You brace up, and we’ll see
about that. You’re all run down, that’s what’s wrong with you; you’re
all nerves, like Jemimar; you’ve got to brace up good and be yourself
again, and then we’ll talk.’

‘To sea,’ reiterated Herrick, ‘to sea tonight--now--this moment!’

‘It can’t be, my son,’ replied the captain firmly. ‘No ship of mine puts
to sea without provisions, you can take that for settled.’

‘You don’t seem to understand,’ said Herrick. ‘The whole thing is over,
I tell you. There is nothing to do here, when he knows all. That man
there with the cat knows all; can’t you take it in?’

‘All what?’ asked the captain, visibly discomposed. ‘Why, he received us
like a perfect gentleman and treated us real handsome, until you began
with your foolery--and I must say I seen men shot for less, and nobody
sorry! What more do you expect anyway?’

Herrick rocked to and fro upon the sand, shaking his head.

‘Guying us,’ he said, ‘he was guying us--only guying us; it’s all we’re
good for.’

‘There was one queer thing, to be sure,’ admitted the captain, with a
misgiving of the voice; ‘that about the sherry. Damned if I caught on to
that. Say, Herrick, you didn’t give me away?’

‘Oh! give you away!’ repeated Herrick with weary, querulous scorn. ‘What
was there to give away? We’re transparent; we’ve got rascal branded
on us: detected rascal--detected rascal! Why, before he came on board,
there was the name painted out, and he saw the whole thing. He made sure
we would kill him there and then, and stood guying you and Huish on the
chance. He calls that being frightened! Next he had me ashore; a fine
time I had! THE TWO WOLVES, he calls you and Huish.--WHAT IS THE PUPPY
DOING WITH THE TWO WOLVES? he asked. He showed me his pearls; he said
they might be dispersed before morning, and ALL HUNG BY A HAIr--and
smiled as he said it, such a smile! O, it’s no use, I tell you! He knows
all, he sees through all; we only make him laugh with our pretences--he
looks at us and laughs like God!’

There was a silence. Davis stood with contorted brows, gazing into the

‘The pearls?’ he said suddenly. ‘He showed them to you? he has them?’

‘No, he didn’t show them; I forgot: only the safe they were in,’ said
Herrick. ‘But you’ll never get them!’

‘I’ve two words to say to that,’ said the captain.

‘Do you think he would have been so easy at table, unless he was
prepared?’ cried Herrick. ‘The servants were both armed. He was armed
himself; he always is; he told me. You will never deceive his vigilance.
Davis, I know it! It’s all up; all up. There’s nothing for it, there’s
nothing to be done: all gone: life, honour, love. Oh, my God, my God,
why was I born?’

Another pause followed upon this outburst.

The captain put his hands to his brow.

‘Another thing!’ he broke out. ‘Why did he tell you all this? Seems like
madness to me!’

Herrick shook his head with gloomy iteration. ‘You wouldn’t understand
if I were to tell you,’ said he.

‘I guess I can understand any blame’ thing that you can tell me,’ said
the captain.

‘Well, then, he’s a fatalist,’ said Herrick.

‘What’s that, a fatalist?’ said Davis.

‘Oh, it’s a fellow that believes a lot of things,’ said Herrick,
‘believes that his bullets go true; believes that all falls out as God
chooses, do as you like to prevent it; and all that.’

‘Why, I guess I believe right so myself,’ said Davis.

‘You do?’ said Herrick.

‘You bet I do!’ says Davis.

Herrick shrugged his shoulders. ‘Well, you must be a fool,’ said he, and
he leaned his head upon his knees.

The captain stood biting his hands.

‘There’s one thing sure,’ he said at last. ‘I must get Huish out of
that. HE’S not fit to hold his end up with a man like you describe.’

And he turned to go away. The words had been quite simple; not so the
tone; and the other was quick to catch it.

‘Davis!’ he cried, ‘no! Don’t do it. Spare ME, and don’t do it--spare
yourself, and leave it alone--for God’s sake, for your children’s sake!’

His voice rose to a passionate shrillness; another moment, and he might
be overheard by their not distant victim. But Davis turned on him with a
savage oath and gesture; and the miserable young man rolled over on his
face on the sand, and lay speechless and helpless.

The captain meanwhile set out rapidly for Attwater’s house. As he went,
he considered with himself eagerly, his thoughts racing. The man had
understood, he had mocked them from the beginning; he would teach him
to make a mockery of John Davis! Herrick thought him a god; give him a
second to aim in, and the god was overthrown. He chuckled as he felt the
butt of his revolver. It should be done now, as he went in. From behind?
It was difficult to get there. From across the table? No, the captain
preferred to shoot standing, so as you could be sure to get your hand
upon your gun. The best would be to summon Huish, and when Attwater
stood up and turned--ah, then would be the moment. Wrapped in his ardent
prefiguration of events, the captain posted towards the house with his
head down.

‘Hands up! Halt!’ cried the voice of Attwater.

And the captain, before he knew what he was doing, had obeyed. The
surprise was complete and irremediable. Coming on the top crest of his
murderous intentions, he had walked straight into an ambuscade, and now
stood, with his hands impotently lifted, staring at the verandah.

The party was now broken up. Attwater leaned on a post, and kept Davis
covered with a Winchester. One of the servants was hard by with a
second at the port arms, leaning a little forward, round-eyed with eager
expectancy. In the open space at the head of the stair, Huish was partly
supported by the other native; his face wreathed in meaningless smiles,
his mind seemingly sunk in the contemplation of an unlighted cigar.

‘Well,’ said Attwater, ‘you seem to me to be a very twopenny pirate!’

The captain uttered a sound in his throat for which we have no name;
rage choked him.

‘I am going to give you Mr Whish--or the wine-sop that remains of him,’
continued Attwater. ‘He talks a great deal when he drinks, Captain
Davis of the Sea Ranger. But I have quite done with him--and return the
article with thanks. Now,’ he cried sharply. ‘Another false movement
like that, and your family will have to deplore the loss of an
invaluable parent; keep strictly still, Davis.’

Attwater said a word in the native, his eye still undeviatingly fixed on
the captain; and the servant thrust Huish smartly forward from the
brink of the stair. With an extraordinary simultaneous dispersion of
his members, that gentleman bounded forth into space, struck the earth,
ricocheted, and brought up with his arms about a palm. His mind was
quite a stranger to these events; the expression of anguish that
deformed his countenance at the moment of the leap was probably
mechanical; and he suffered these convulsions in silence; clung to the
tree like an infant; and seemed, by his dips, to suppose himself engaged
in the pastime of bobbing for apples. A more finely sympathetic mind or
a more observant eye might have remarked, a little in front of him on
the sand, and still quite beyond reach, the unlighted cigar.

 ‘There is your Whitechapel carrion!’ said Attwater. ‘And now
you might very well ask me why I do not put a period to you at once, as
you deserve. I will tell you why, Davis. It is because I have nothing to
do with the Sea Ranger and the people you drowned, or the Farallone and
the champagne that you stole. That is your account with God, He keeps
it, and He will settle it when the clock strikes. In my own case, I have
nothing to go on but suspicion, and I do not kill on suspicion, not even
vermin like you. But understand! if ever I see any of you again, it is
another matter, and you shall eat a bullet. And now take yourself off.
March! and as you value what you call your life, keep your hands up as
you go!’

The captain remained as he was, his hands up, his mouth open: mesmerised
with fury.

‘March!’ said Attwater. ‘One--two--three!’

And Davis turned and passed slowly away. But even as he went, he was
meditating a prompt, offensive return. In the twinkling of an eye,
he had leaped behind a tree; and was crouching there, pistol in hand,
peering from either side of his place of ambush with bared teeth; a
serpent already poised to strike. And already he was too late. Attwater
and his servants had disappeared; and only the lamps shone on the
deserted table and the bright sand about the house, and threw into the
night in all directions the strong and tall shadows of the palms.

Davis ground his teeth. Where were they gone, the cowards? to what hole
had they retreated beyond reach? It was in vain he should try anything,
he, single and with a second-hand revolver, against three persons,
armed with Winchesters, and who did not show an ear out of any of the
apertures of that lighted and silent house? Some of them might have
already ducked below it from the rear, and be drawing a bead upon him at
that moment from the low-browed crypt, the receptacle of empty bottles
and broken crockery. No, there was nothing to be done but to bring away
(if it were still possible) his shattered and demoralised forces.

‘Huish,’ he said, ‘come along.’

‘’S lose my ciga’,’ said Huish, reaching vaguely forward.

The captain let out a rasping oath. ‘Come right along here,’ said he.

‘’S all righ’. Sleep here ‘th Atty-Attwa. Go boar’ t’morr’,’ replied the
festive one.

‘If you don’t come, and come now, by the living God, I’ll shoot you!’
cried the captain.

It is not to be supposed that the sense of these words in any way
penetrated to the mind of Hulsh; rather that, in a fresh attempt upon
the cigar, he overbalanced himself and came flying erratically forward:
a course which brought him within reach of Davis.

‘Now you walk straight,’ said the captain, clutching him, ‘or I’ll know
why not!’

‘’S lose my ciga’,’ replied Huish.

The captain’s contained fury blazed up for a moment. He twisted Huish
round, grasped him by the neck of the coat, ran him in front of him to
the pier end, and flung him savagely forward on his face.

‘Look for your cigar then, you swine!’ said he, and blew his boat call
till the pea in it ceased to rattle.

An immediate activity responded on board the Farallone; far away voices,
and soon the sound of oars, floated along the surface of the lagoon; and
at the same time, from nearer hand, Herrick aroused himself and strolled
languidly up. He bent over the insignificant figure of Huish, where it
grovelled, apparently insensible, at the base of the figure-head.

‘Dead?’ he asked.

‘No, he’s not dead,’ said Davis.

‘And Attwater?’ asked Herrick.

‘Now you just shut your head!’ replied Davis. ‘You can do that, I fancy,
and by God, I’ll show you how! I’ll stand no more of your drivel.’

They waited accordingly in silence till the boat bumped on the furthest
piers; then raised Huish, head and heels, carried him down the gangway,
and flung him summarily in the bottom. On the way out he was heard
murmuring of the loss of his cigar; and after he had been handed up the
side like baggage, and cast down in the alleyway to slumber, his last
audible expression was: ‘Splen’l fl’ Attwa’!’ This the expert construed
into ‘Splendid fellow, Attwater’; with so much innocence had this great
spirit issued from the adventures of the evening.

The captain went and walked in the waist with brief, irate turns;
Herrick leaned his arms on the taffrail; the crew had all turned in. The
ship had a gentle, cradling motion; at times a block piped like a bird.
On shore, through the colonnade of palm stems, Attwater’s house was to
be seen shining steadily with many lamps. And there was nothing else
visible, whether in the heaven above or in the lagoon below, but the
stars and their reflections. It might have been minutes or it might have
been hours, that Herrick leaned there, looking in the glorified water
and drinking peace. ‘A bath of stars,’ he was thinking; when a hand was
laid at last on his shoulder.

‘Herrick,’ said the captain, ‘I’ve been walking off my trouble.’

A sharp jar passed through the young man, but he neither answered nor so
much as turned his head.

‘I guess I spoke a little rough to you on shore,’ pursued the captain;
‘the fact is, I was real mad; but now it’s over, and you and me have to
turn to and think.’

‘I will NOT think,’ said Herrick.

‘Here, old man!’ said Davis, kindly; ‘this won’t fight, you know! You’ve
got to brace up and help me get things straight. You’re not going back
on a friend? That’s not like you, Herrick!’

‘O yes, it is,’ said Herrick.

‘Come, come!’ said the captain, and paused as if quite at a loss. ‘Look
here,’ he cried, ‘you have a glass of champagne. I won’t touch it, so
that’ll show you if I’m in earnest. But it’s just the pick-me-up for
you; it’ll put an edge on you at once.’

‘O, you leave me alone!’ said Herrick, and turned away.

The captain caught him by the sleeve; and he shook him off and turned on
him, for the moment, like a demoniac.

‘Go to hell in your own way!’ he cried.

And he turned away again, this time unchecked, and stepped forward to
where the boat rocked alongside and ground occasionally against the
schooner. He looked about him. A corner of the house was interposed
between the captain and himself; all was well; no eye must see him in
that last act. He slid silently into the boat; thence, silently, into
the starry water.

Instinctively he swam a little; it would be time enough to stop by and

The shock of the immersion brightened his mind immediately. The events
of the ignoble day passed before him in a frieze of pictures, and he
thanked ‘whatever Gods there be’ for that open door of suicide. In such
a little while he would be done with it, the random business at an end,
the prodigal son come home. A very bright planet shone before him and
drew a trenchant wake along the water. He took that for his line and
followed it. That was the last earthly thing that he should look upon;
that radiant speck, which he had soon magnified into a City of Laputa,
along whose terraces there walked men and women of awful and benignant
features, who viewed him with distant commiseration. These imaginary
spectators consoled him; he told himself their talk, one to another; it
was of himself and his sad destiny.

From such flights of fancy, he was aroused by the growing coldness of
the water. Why should he delay? Here, where he was now, let him drop the
curtain, let him seek the ineffable refuge, let him lie down with all
races and generations of men in the house of sleep. It was easy to say,
easy to do. To stop swimming: there was no mystery in that, if he could
do it. Could he? And he could not. He knew it instantly. He was aware
instantly of an opposition in his members, unanimous and invincible,
clinging to life with a single and fixed resolve, finger by finger,
sinew by sinew; something that was at once he and not he--at once within
and without him;--the shutting of some miniature valve in his brain,
which a single manly thought should suffice to open--and the grasp of an
external fate ineluctable as gravity. To any man there may come at times
a consciousness that there blows, through all the articulations of his
body, the wind of a spirit not wholly his; that his mind rebels; that
another girds him and carries him whither he would not. It came now
to Herrick, with the authority of a revelation. There was no escape
possible. The open door was closed in his recreant face. He must go back
into the world and amongst men without illusion. He must stagger on to
the end with the pack of his responsibility and his disgrace, until
a cold, a blow, a merciful chance ball, or the more merciful hangman,
should dismiss him from his infamy. There were men who could commit
suicide; there were men who could not; and he was one who could not.

For perhaps a minute, there raged in his mind the coil of this
discovery; then cheerless certitude followed; and, with an incredible
simplicity of submission to ascertained fact, he turned round and
struck out for shore. There was a courage in this which he could not
appreciate; the ignobility of his cowardice wholly occupying him. A
strong current set against him like a wind in his face; he contended
with it heavily, wearily, without enthusiasm, but with substantial
advantage; marking his progress the while, without pleasure, by the
outline of the trees. Once he had a moment of hope. He heard to the
southward of him, towards the centre of the lagoon, the wallowing of
some great fish, doubtless a shark, and paused for a little, treading
water. Might not this be the hangman? he thought. But the wallowing died
away; mere silence succeeded; and Herrick pushed on again for the shore,
raging as he went at his own nature. Ay, he would wait for the shark;
but if he had heard him coming!... His smile was tragic. He could have
spat upon himself.

About three in the morning, chance, and the set of the current, and the
bias of his own right-handed body, so decided it between them that he
came to shore upon the beach in front of Attwater’s. There he sat down,
and looked forth into a world without any of the lights of hope. The
poor diving dress of self-conceit was sadly tattered! With the fairy
tale of suicide, of a refuge always open to him, he had hitherto
beguiled and supported himself in the trials of life; and behold!
that also was only a fairy tale, that also was folk-lore. With the
consequences of his acts he saw himself implacably confronted for the
duration of life: stretched upon a cross, and nailed there with the iron
bolts of his own cowardice. He had no tears; he told himself no stories.
His disgust with himself was so complete that even the process of
apologetic mythology had ceased. He was like a man cast down from a
pillar, and every bone broken. He lay there, and admitted the facts, and
did not attempt to rise.

Dawn began to break over the far side of the atoll, the sky brightened,
the clouds became dyed with gorgeous colours, the shadows of the night
lifted. And, suddenly, Herrick was aware that the lagoon and the trees
wore again their daylight livery; and he saw, on board the Farallone,
Davis extinguishing the lantern, and smoke rising from the galley.

Davis, without doubt, remarked and recognised the figure on the beach;
or perhaps hesitated to recognise it; for after he had gazed a long
while from under his hand, he went into the house and fetched a glass.
It was very powerful; Herrick had often used it. With an instinct of
shame, he hid his face in his hands.

‘And what brings you here, Mr Herrick-Hay, or Mr Hay-Herrick?’ asked
the voice of Attwater. ‘Your back view from my present position is
remarkably fine, and I would continue to present it. We can get on very
nicely as we are, and if you were to turn round, do you know? I think it
would be awkward.’

Herrick slowly rose to his feet; his heart throbbed hard, a hideous
excitement shook him, but he was master of himself. Slowly he turned,
and faced Attwater and the muzzle of a pointed rifle. ‘Why could I not
do that last night?’ he thought.

‘Well, why don’t you fire?’ he said aloud, with a voice that trembled.

Attwater slowly put his gun under his arm, then his hands in his

‘What brings you here?’ he repeated.

‘I don’t know,’ said Herrick; and then, with a cry: ‘Can you do anything
with me?’

‘Are you armed?’ said Attwater. ‘I ask for the form’s sake.’

‘Armed? No!’ said Herrick. ‘O yes, I am, too!’ And he flung upon the
beach a dripping pistol.

‘You are wet,’ said Attwater.

‘Yes, I am wet,’ said Herrick. ‘Can you do anything with me?’

Attwater read his face attentively.

‘It would depend a good deal upon what you are,’ said he.

‘What I am? A coward!’ said Herrick.

‘There is very little to be done with that,’ said Attwater. ‘And yet the
description hardly strikes one as exhaustive.’

‘Oh, what does it matter?’ cried Herrick. ‘Here I am. I am broken
crockery; I am a burst drum; the whole of my life is gone to water; I
have nothing left that I believe in, except my living horror of myself.
Why do I come to you? I don’t know; you are cold, cruel, hateful; and
I hate you, or I think I hate you. But you are an honest man, an honest
gentleman. I put myself, helpless, in your hands. What must I do? If I
can’t do anything, be merciful and put a bullet through me; it’s only a
puppy with a broken leg!’

‘If I were you, I would pick up that pistol, come up to the house, and
put on some dry clothes,’ said Attwater.

‘If you really mean it?’ said Herrick. ‘You know they--we--they. .. But
you know all.’

‘I know quite enough,’ said Attwater. ‘Come up to the house.’

And the captain, from the deck of the Farallone, saw the two men pass
together under the shadow of the grove.


Huish had bundled himself up from the glare of the day--his face to the
house, his knees retracted. The frail bones in the thin tropical raiment
seemed scarce more considerable than a fowl’s; and Davis, sitting on the
rail with his arm about a stay, contemplated him with gloom, wondering
what manner of counsel that insignificant figure should contain. For
since Herrick had thrown him off and deserted to the enemy, Huish, alone
of mankind, remained to him to be a helper and oracle.

He considered their position with a sinking heart. The ship was a stolen
ship; the stores, either from initial carelessness or ill administration
during the voyage, were insufficient to carry them to any port except
back to Papeete; and there retribution waited in the shape of a
gendarme, a judge with a queer-shaped hat, and the horror of distant
Noumea. Upon that side, there was no glimmer of hope. Here, at the
island, the dragon was roused; Attwater with his men and his Winchesters
watched and patrolled the house; let him who dare approach it. What else
was then left but to sit there, inactive, pacing the decks--until the
Trinity Hall arrived and they were cast into irons, or until the food
came to an end, and the pangs of famine succeeded? For the Trinity
Hall Davis was prepared; he would barricade the house, and die there
defending it, like a rat in a crevice. But for the other? The cruise of
the Farallone, into which he had plunged only a fortnight before, with
such golden expectations, could this be the nightmare end of it? The
ship rotting at anchor, the crew stumbling and dying in the scuppers? It
seemed as if any extreme of hazard were to be preferred to so grisly a
certainty; as if it would be better to up-anchor after all, put to sea
at a venture, and, perhaps, perish at the hands of cannibals on one of
the more obscure Paumotus. His eye roved swiftly over sea and sky in
quest of any promise of wind, but the fountains of the Trade were empty.
Where it had run yesterday and for weeks before, a roaring blue river
charioting clouds, silence now reigned; and the whole height of
the atmosphere stood balanced. On the endless ribbon of island that
stretched out to either hand of him its array of golden and green and
silvery palms, not the most volatile frond was to be seen stirring;
they drooped to their stable images in the lagoon like things carved of
metal, and already their long line began to reverberate heat. There was
no escape possible that day, none probable on the morrow. And still the
stores were running out!

Then came over Davis, from deep down in the roots of his being, or at
least from far back among his memories of childhood and innocence, a
wave of superstition. This run of ill luck was something beyond natural;
the chances of the game were in themselves more various; it seemed as
if the devil must serve the pieces. The devil? He heard again the clear
note of Attwater’s bell ringing abroad into the night, and dying away.
How if God...?

Briskly, he averted his mind. Attwater: that was the point. Attwater
had food and a treasure of pearls; escape made possible in the present,
riches in the future. They must come to grips, with Attwater; the man
must die. A smoky heat went over his face, as he recalled the impotent
figure he had made last night and the contemptuous speeches he must bear
in silence. Rage, shame, and the love of life, all pointed the one way;
and only invention halted: how to reach him? had he strength enough? was
there any help in that misbegotten packet of bones against the house?

His eyes dwelled upon him with a strange avidity, as though he would
read into his soul; and presently the sleeper moved, stirred uneasily,
turned suddenly round, and threw him a blinking look. Davis maintained
the same dark stare, and Huish looked away again and sat up.

‘Lord, I’ve an ‘eadache on me!’ said he. ‘I believe I was a bit swipey
last night. W’ere’s that cry-byby ‘Errick?’

‘Gone,’ said the captain.

‘Ashore?’ cried Huish. ‘Oh, I say! I’d ‘a gone too.’

‘Would you?’ said the captain.

‘Yes, I would,’ replied Huish. ‘I like Attwater. ‘E’s all right; we
got on like one o’clock when you were gone. And ain’t his sherry in it,
rather? It’s like Spiers and Ponds’ Amontillado! I wish I ‘ad a drain of
it now.’ He sighed.

‘Well, you’ll never get no more of it--that’s one thing,’ said Davis,

‘’Ere! wot’s wrong with you, Dyvis? Coppers ‘ot? Well, look at me! I
ain’t grumpy,’ said Huish; ‘I’m as plyful as a canary-bird, I am.’

‘Yes,’ said Davis, ‘you’re playful; I own that; and you were playful
last night, I believe, and a damned fine performance you made of it.’

‘’Allo!’ said Huish. ‘’Ow’s this? Wot performance?’

‘Well, I’ll tell you,’ said the captain, getting slowly off the rail.

And he did: at full length, with every wounding epithet and absurd
detail repeated and emphasised; he had his own vanity and Huish’s upon
the grill, and roasted them; and as he spoke, he inflicted and endured
agonies of humiliation. It was a plain man’s masterpiece of the

‘What do you think of it?’ said he, when he had done, and looked down at
Huish, flushed and serious, and yet jeering.

‘I’ll tell you wot it is,’ was the reply, ‘you and me cut a pretty dicky

‘That’s so,’ said Davis, ‘a pretty measly figure, by God! And, by God, I
want to see that man at my knees.’

‘Ah!’ said Huish. ‘’Ow to get him there?’

‘That’s it!’ cried Davis. ‘How to get hold of him! They’re four to two;
though there’s only one man among them to count, and that’s Attwater.
Get a bead on Attwater, and the others would cut and run and sing out
like frightened poultry--and old man Herrick would come round with
his hat for a share of the pearls. No, SIR! it’s how to get hold of
Attwater! And we daren’t even go ashore; he would shoot us in the boat
like dogs.’

‘Are you particular about having him dead or alive?’ asked Huish.

‘I want to see him dead,’ said the captain.

‘Ah, well!’ said Huish, ‘then I believe I’ll do a bit of breakfast.’

And he turned into the house.

The captain doggedly followed him.

‘What’s this?’ he asked. ‘What’s your idea, anyway?’

‘Oh, you let me alone, will you?’ said Huish, opening a bottle of
champagne. ‘You’ll ‘ear my idea soon enough. Wyte till I pour some
chain on my ‘ot coppers.’ He drank a glass off, and affected to listen.
‘’Ark!’ said he, ‘’ear it fizz. Like ‘am fryin’, I declyre. ‘Ave a
glass, do, and look sociable.’

‘No!’ said the captain, with emphasis; ‘no, I will not! there’s

‘You p’ys your money and you tykes your choice, my little man,’ returned
Huish. ‘Seems rather a shyme to me to spoil your breakfast for wot’s
really ancient ‘istory.’

He finished three parts of a bottle of champagne, and nibbled a corner
of biscuit, with extreme deliberation; the captain sitting opposite and
champing the bit like an impatient horse. Then Huish leaned his arms on
the table and looked Davis in the face.

‘W’en you’re ready!’ said he.

‘Well, now, what’s your idea?’ said Davis, with a sigh.

‘Fair play!’ said Huish. ‘What’s yours?’

‘The trouble is that I’ve got none,’ replied Davis; and wandered for
some time in aimless discussion of the difficulties in their path, and
useless explanations of his own fiasco.

‘About done?’ said Huish.

‘I’ll dry up right here,’ replied Davis.

‘Well, then,’ said Huish, ‘you give me your ‘and across the table, and
say, “Gawd strike me dead if I don’t back you up.”’

His voice was hardly raised, yet it thrilled the hearer. His face seemed
the epitome of cunning, and the captain recoiled from it as from a blow.

‘What for?’ said he.

‘Luck,’ said Huish. ‘Substantial guarantee demanded.’

And he continued to hold out his hand.

‘I don’t see the good of any such tomfoolery,’ said the other.

‘I do, though,’ returned Huish. ‘Gimme your ‘and and say the words; then
you’ll ‘ear my view of it. Don’t, and you won’t.’

The captain went through the required form, breathing short, and gazing
on the clerk with anguish. What to fear, he knew not; yet he feared
slavishly what was to fall from the pale lips.

‘Now, if you’ll excuse me ‘alf a second,’ said Huish, ‘I’ll go and fetch
the byby.’

‘The baby?’ said Davis. ‘What’s that?’

‘Fragile. With care. This side up,’ replied the clerk with a wink, as he

He returned, smiling to himself, and carrying in his hand a silk
handkerchief. The long stupid wrinkles ran up Davis’s brow, as he saw
it. What should it contain? He could think of nothing more recondite
than a revolver.

Huish resumed his seat.

‘Now,’ said he, ‘are you man enough to take charge of ‘Errick and the
niggers? Because I’ll take care of Hattwater.’

‘How?’ cried Davis. ‘You can’t!’

‘Tut, tut!’ said the clerk. ‘You gimme time. Wot’s the first point? The
first point is that we can’t get ashore, and I’ll make you a present of
that for a ‘ard one. But ‘ow about a flag of truce? Would that do the
trick, d’ye think? or would Attwater simply blyze aw’y at us in the
bloomin’ boat like dawgs?’

‘No,’ said Davis, ‘I don’t believe he would.’

‘No more do I,’ said Huish; ‘I don’t believe he would either; and I’m
sure I ‘ope he won’t! So then you can call us ashore. Next point is
to get near the managin’ direction. And for that I’m going to ‘ave you
write a letter, in w’ich you s’y you’re ashamed to meet his eye, and
that the bearer, Mr J. L. ‘Uish, is empowered to represent you. Armed
with w’ich seemin’ly simple expedient, Mr J. L. ‘Uish will proceed to

He paused, like one who had finished, but still held Davis with his eye.

‘How?’ said Davis. ‘Why?’

‘Well, you see, you’re big,’ returned Huish; ‘’e knows you ‘ave a gun in
your pocket, and anybody can see with ‘alf an eye that you ain’t the
man to ‘esitate about usin’ it. So it’s no go with you, and never was;
you’re out of the runnin’, Dyvis. But he won’t be afryde of me, I’m such
a little un! I’m unarmed--no kid about that--and I’ll hold my ‘ands up
right enough.’ He paused. ‘If I can manage to sneak up nearer to him as
we talk,’ he resumed, ‘you look out and back me up smart. If I don’t, we
go aw’y again, and nothink to ‘urt. See?’

The captain’s face was contorted by the frenzied effort to comprehend.

‘No, I don’t see,’ he cried, ‘I can’t see. What do you mean?’

‘I mean to do for the Beast!’ cried Huish, in a burst of venomous
triumph. ‘I’ll bring the ‘ulkin’ bully to grass. He’s ‘ad his larks out
of me; I’m goin’ to ‘ave my lark out of ‘im, and a good lark too!’

‘What is it?’ said the captain, almost in a whisper.

‘Sure you want to know?’ asked Huish.

Davis rose and took a turn in the house.

‘Yes, I want to know,’ he said at last with an effort.

‘We’n you’re back’s at the wall, you do the best you can, don’t you?’
began the clerk. ‘I s’y that, because I ‘appen to know there’s a
prejudice against it; it’s considered vulgar, awf’ly vulgar.’ He
unrolled the handkerchief and showed a four-ounce jar. ‘This ‘ere’s
vitriol, this is,’ said he.

The captain stared upon him with a whitening face.

‘This is the stuff!’ he pursued, holding it up. ‘This’ll burn to the
bone; you’ll see it smoke upon ‘im like ‘ell fire! One drop upon ‘is
bloomin’ heyesight, and I’ll trouble you for Attwater!’

‘No, no, by God!’ exclaimed the captain.

‘Now, see ‘ere, ducky,’ said Huish, ‘this is my bean feast, I believe?
I’m goin’ up to that man single-’anded, I am. ‘E’s about seven foot
high, and I’m five foot one. ‘E’s a rifle in his ‘and, ‘e’s on the
look-out, ‘e wasn’t born yesterday. This is Dyvid and Goliar, I tell
you! If I’d ast you to walk up and face the music I could understand.
But I don’t. I on’y ast you to stand by and spifflicate the niggers.
It’ll all come in quite natural; you’ll see, else! Fust thing, you know,
you’ll see him running round and owling like a good un...’

‘Don’t!’ said Davis. ‘Don’t talk of it!’

‘Well, you ARE a juggins!’ exclaimed Huish. ‘What did you want? You
wanted to kill him, and tried to last night. You wanted to kill the ‘ole
lot of them and tried to, and ‘ere I show you ‘ow; and because there’s
some medicine in a bottle you kick up this fuss!’

‘I suppose that’s so,’ said Davis. ‘It don’t seem someways reasonable,
only there it is.’

‘It’s the happlication of science, I suppose?’ sneered Huish.

‘I don’t know what it is,’ cried Davis, pacing the floor; ‘it’s there!
I draw the line at it. I can’t put a finger to no such piggishness. It’s
too damned hateful!’

‘And I suppose it’s all your fancy pynted it,’ said Huish, ‘w’en you
take a pistol and a bit o’ lead, and copse a man’s brains all over him?
No accountin’ for tystes.’

‘I’m not denying it,’ said Davis, ‘It’s something here, inside of me.
It’s foolishness; I dare say it’s dam foolishness. I don’t argue, I just
draw the line. Isn’t there no other way?’

‘Look for yourself,’ said Huish. ‘I ain’t wedded to this, if you think I
am; I ain’t ambitious; I don’t make a point of playin’ the lead; I offer
to, that’s all, and if you can’t show me better, by Gawd, I’m goin’ to!’

‘Then the risk!’ cried Davis.

‘If you ast me straight, I should say it was a case of seven to one and
no takers,’ said Huish. ‘But that’s my look-out, ducky, and I’m gyme,
that’s wot I am: gyme all through.’

The captain looked at him. Huish sat there, preening his sinister
vanity, glorying in his precedency in evil; and the villainous courage
and readiness of the creature shone out of him like a candle from a
lantern. Dismay and a kind of respect seized hold on Davis in his own
despite. Until that moment, he had seen the clerk always hanging
back, always listless, uninterested, and openly grumbling at a word of
anything to do; and now, by the touch of an enchanter’s wand, he beheld
him sitting girt and resolved, and his face radiant. He had raised the
devil, he thought; and asked who was to control him? and his spirits

‘Look as long as you like,’ Huish was going on. ‘You don’t see any green
in my eye! I ain’t afryde of Attwater, I ain’t afryde of you, and I
ain’t afryde of words. You want to kill people, that’s wot YOU want; but
you want to do it in kid gloves, and it can’t be done that w’y. Murder
ain’t genteel, it ain’t easy, it ain’t safe, and it tykes a man to do
it. ‘Ere’s the man.’

‘Huish!’ began the captain with energy; and then stopped, and remained
staring at him with corrugated brows.

‘Well, hout with it!’ said Huish. ‘’Ave you anythink else to put up? Is
there any other chanst to try?’

The captain held his peace.

‘There you are then!’ said Huish with a shrug.

Davis fell again to his pacing.

‘Oh, you may do sentry-go till you’re blue in the mug, you won’t find
anythink else,’ said Huish.

There was a little silence; the captain, like a man launched on a swing,
flying dizzily among extremes of conjecture and refusal.

‘But see,’ he said, suddenly pausing. ‘Can you? Can the thing be done?
It--it can’t be easy.’

‘If I get within twenty foot of ‘im it’ll be done; so you look out,’
said Huish, and his tone of certainty was absolute.

‘How can you know that?’ broke from the captain in a choked cry. ‘You
beast, I believe you’ve done it before!’

‘Oh, that’s private affyres,’ returned Huish, ‘I ain’t a talking man.’

A shock of repulsion struck and shook the captain; a scream rose almost
to his lips; had he uttered it, he might have cast himself at the same
moment on the body of Huish, might have picked him up, and flung him
down, and wiped the cabin with him, in a frenzy of cruelty that seemed
half moral. But the moment passed; and the abortive crisis left the man
weaker. The stakes were so high--the pearls on the one hand--starvation
and shame on the other. Ten years of pearls! The imagination of Davis
translated them into a new, glorified existence for himself and his
family. The seat of this new life must be in London; there were deadly
reasons against Portland, Maine; and the pictures that came to him were
of English manners. He saw his boys marching in the procession of a
school, with gowns on, an usher marshalling them and reading as he
walked in a great book. He was installed in a villa, semi-detached;
the name, Rosemore, on the gateposts. In a chair on the gravel walk, he
seemed to sit smoking a cigar, a blue ribbon in his buttonhole, victor
over himself and circumstances, and the malignity of bankers. He saw the
parlour with red curtains and shells on the mantelpiece--and with the
fine inconsistency of visions, mixed a grog at the mahogany table ere he
turned in. With that the Farallone gave one of the aimless and nameless
movements which (even in an anchored ship and even in the most profound
calm) remind one of the mobility of fluids; and he was back again under
the cover of the house, the fierce daylight besieging it all round and
glaring in the chinks, and the clerk in a rather airy attitude, awaiting
his decision.

He began to walk again. He aspired after the realisation of these
dreams, like a horse nickering for water; the lust of them burned in his
inside. And the only obstacle was Attwater, who had insulted him from
the first. He gave Herrick a full share of the pearls, he insisted on
it; Huish opposed him, and he trod the opposition down; and praised
himself exceedingly. He was not going to use vitriol himself; was he
Huish’s keeper? It was a pity he had asked, but after all!... he saw the
boys again in the school procession, with the gowns he had thought to be
so ‘tony’ long since... And at the same time the incomparable shame of
the last evening blazed up in his mind.

‘Have it your own way!’ he said hoarsely.

‘Oh, I knew you would walk up,’ said Huish. ‘Now for the letter. There’s
paper, pens and ink. Sit down and I’ll dictyte.’

The captain took a seat and the pen, looked a while helplessly at the
paper, then at Huish. The swing had gone the other way; there was a blur
upon his eyes. ‘It’s a dreadful business,’ he said, with a strong twitch
of his shoulders.

‘It’s rather a start, no doubt,’ said Huish. ‘Tyke a dip of ink. That’s
it. William John Hattwater, Esq., Sir’: he dictated.

‘How do you know his name is William John?’ asked Davis.

‘Saw it on a packing case,’ said Huish. ‘Got that?’

‘No,’ said Davis. ‘But there’s another thing. What are we to write?’

‘O my golly!’ cried the exasperated Huish. ‘Wot kind of man do YOU call
yourself? I’M goin’ to tell you wot to write; that’s my pitch; if you’ll
just be so bloomin’ condescendin’ as to write it down! WILLIAM JOHN
ATTWATER, ESQ., SIR’: he reiterated. And the captain at last beginning
half mechanically to move his pen, the dictation proceeded:

It is with feelings of shyme and ‘artfelt contrition that I approach you
after the yumiliatin’ events of last night. Our Mr ‘Errick has left
the ship, and will have doubtless communicated to you the nature of our
‘opes. Needless to s’y, these are no longer possible: Fate ‘as declyred
against us, and we bow the ‘ead. Well awyre as I am of the just
suspicions with w’ich I am regarded, I do not venture to solicit the
fyvour of an interview for myself, but in order to put an end to a
situytion w’ich must be equally pyneful to all, I ‘ave deputed my friend
and partner, Mr J. L. Huish, to l’y before you my proposals, and w’ich
by their moderytion, Will, I trust, be found to merit your attention.
Mr J. L. Huish is entirely unarmed, I swear to Gawd! and will ‘old ‘is
‘ands over ‘is ‘ead from the moment he begins to approach you. I am your
fytheful servant, John Davis.

Huish read the letter with the innocent joy of amateurs, chuckled
gustfully to himself, and reopened it more than once after it was
folded, to repeat the pleasure; Davis meanwhile sitting inert and
heavily frowning.

Of a sudden he rose; he seemed all abroad. ‘No!’ he cried. ‘No! it can’t
be! It’s too much; it’s damnation. God would never forgive it.’

‘Well, and ‘oo wants Him to?’ returned Huish, shrill with fury. ‘You
were damned years ago for the Sea Rynger, and said so yourself. Well
then, be damned for something else, and ‘old your tongue.’

The captain looked at him mistily. ‘No,’ he pleaded, ‘no, old man! don’t
do it.’

‘’Ere now,’ said Huish, ‘I’ll give you my ultimytum. Go or st’y w’ere you
are; I don’t mind; I’m goin’ to see that man and chuck this vitriol in
his eyes. If you st’y I’ll go alone; the niggers will likely knock me
on the ‘ead, and a fat lot you’ll be the better! But there’s one thing
sure: I’ll ‘ear no more of your moonin’, mullygrubbin’ rot, and tyke it

The captain took it with a blink and a gulp. Memory, with phantom
voices, repeated in his cars something similar, something he had once
said to Herrick--years ago it seemed.

‘Now, gimme over your pistol,’ said Huish. ‘I ‘ave to see all clear. Six
shots, and mind you don’t wyste them.’

The captain, like a man in a nightmare, laid down his revolver on the
table, and Huish wiped the cartridges and oiled the works.

It was close on noon, there was no breath of wind, and the heat was
scarce bearable, when the two men came on deck, had the boat manned, and
passed down, one after another, into the stern-sheets. A white shirt at
the end of an oar served as a flag of truce; and the men, by direction,
and to give it the better chance to be observed, pulled with extreme
slowness. The isle shook before them like a place incandescent; on
the face of the lagoon blinding copper suns, no bigger than sixpences,
danced and stabbed them in the eyeballs; there went up from sand and
sea, and even from the boat, a glare of scathing brightness; and as they
could only peer abroad from between closed lashes, the excess of light
seemed to be changed into a sinister darkness, comparable to that of a
thundercloud before it bursts.

The captain had come upon this errand for any one of a dozen reasons,
the last of which was desire for its success. Superstition rules all
men; semi-ignorant and gross natures, like that of Davis, it rules
utterly. For murder he had been prepared; but this horror of the
medicine in the bottle went beyond him, and he seemed to himself to be
parting the last strands that united him to God. The boat carried him
on to reprobation, to damnation; and he suffered himself to be carried
passively consenting, silently bidding farewell to his better self
and his hopes. Huish sat by his side in towering spirits that were not
wholly genuine. Perhaps as brave a man as ever lived, brave as a weasel,
he must still reassure himself with the tones of his own voice; he must
play his part to exaggeration, he must out-Herod Herod, insult all
that was respectable, and brave all that was formidable, in a kind of
desperate wager with himself.

‘Golly, but it’s ‘ot!’ said he. ‘Cruel ‘ot, I call it. Nice d’y to get
your gruel in! I s’y, you know, it must feel awf’ly peculiar to get
bowled over on a d’y like this. I’d rather ‘ave it on a cowld and frosty
morning, wouldn’t you? (Singing) “‘Ere we go round the mulberry bush
on a cowld and frosty mornin’.” (Spoken) Give you my word, I ‘aven’t
thought o’ that in ten year; used to sing it at a hinfant school in
‘Ackney, ‘Ackney Wick it was. (Singing) “This is the way the tyler does,
the tyler does.” (Spoken) Bloomin’ ‘umbug. ‘Ow are you off now, for the
notion of a future styte? Do you cotton to the tea-fight views, or the
old red ‘ot boguey business?’

‘Oh, dry up!’ said the captain.

‘No, but I want to know,’ said Huish. ‘It’s within the sp’ere of
practical politics for you and me, my boy; we may both be bowled over,
one up, t’other down, within the next ten minutes. It would be rather a
lark, now, if you only skipped across, came up smilin’ t’other side,
and a hangel met you with a B. and S. under his wing. ‘Ullo, you’d s’y:
come, I tyke this kind.’

The captain groaned. While Huish was thus airing and exercising his
bravado, the man at his side was actually engaged in prayer. Prayer,
what for? God knows. But out of his inconsistent, illogical, and
agitated spirit, a stream of supplication was poured forth, inarticulate
as himself, earnest as death and judgment.

‘Thou Gawd seest me!’ continued Huish. ‘I remember I had that written
in my Bible. I remember the Bible too, all about Abinadab and parties.
Well, Gawd!’ apostrophising the meridian, ‘you’re goin’ to see a rum
start presently, I promise you that!’

The captain bounded.

‘I’ll have no blasphemy!’ he cried, ‘no blasphemy in my boat.’

‘All right, cap,’ said Huish. ‘Anythink to oblige. Any other topic you
would like to sudgest, the rynegyge, the lightnin’ rod, Shykespeare, or
the musical glasses? ‘Ere’s conversation on a tap. Put a penny in the
slot, and... ‘ullo! ‘ere they are!’ he cried. ‘Now or never is ‘e goin’
to shoot?’

And the little man straightened himself into an alert and dashing
attitude, and looked steadily at the enemy. But the captain rose half up
in the boat with eyes protruding.

‘What’s that?’ he cried.

‘Wot’s wot?’ said Huish.

‘Those--blamed things,’ said the captain.

And indeed it was something strange. Herrick and Attwater, both armed
with Winchesters, had appeared out of the grove behind the figure-head;
and to either hand of them, the sun glistened upon two metallic objects,
locomotory like men, and occupying in the economy of these creatures the
places of heads--only the heads were faceless. To Davis between wind
and water, his mythology appeared to have come alive, and Tophet to be
vomiting demons. But Huish was not mystified a moment.

‘Divers’ ‘elmets, you ninny. Can’t you see?’ he said.

‘So they are,’ said Davis, with a gasp. ‘And why? Oh, I see, it’s for

‘Wot did I tell you?’ said Huish. ‘Dyvid and Goliar all the w’y and

The two natives (for they it was that were equipped in this unusual
panoply of war) spread out to right and left, and at last lay down
in the shade, on the extreme flank of the position. Even now that the
mystery was explained, Davis was hatefully preoccupied, stared at the
flame on their crests, and forgot, and then remembered with a smile, the

Attwater withdrew again into the grove, and Herrick, with his gun under
his arm, came down the pier alone.

About half-way down he halted and hailed the boat.

‘What do you want?’ he cried.

‘I’ll tell that to Mr Attwater,’ replied Huish, stepping briskly on the
ladder. ‘I don’t tell it to you, because you played the trucklin’ sneak.
Here’s a letter for him: tyke it, and give it, and be ‘anged to you!’

‘Davis, is this all right?’ said Herrick.

Davis raised his chin, glanced swiftly at Herrick and away again, and
held his peace. The glance was charged with some deep emotion, but
whether of hatred or of fear, it was beyond Herrick to divine.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’ll give the letter.’ He drew a score with his foot
on the boards of the gangway. ‘Till I bring the answer, don’t move a
step past this.’

And he returned to where Attwater leaned against a tree, and gave him
the letter. Attwater glanced it through.

‘What does that mean?’ he asked, passing it to Herrick.


‘Oh, I suppose so!’ said Herrick.

‘Well, tell him to come on,’ said Attwater. ‘One isn’t a fatalist for
nothing. Tell him to come on and to look out.’

Herrick returned to the figure-head. Half-way down the pier the clerk
was waiting, with Davis by his side.

‘You are to come along, Huish,’ said Herrick. ‘He bids you look out, no

Huish walked briskly up the pier, and paused face to face with the young

‘W’ere is ‘e?’ said he, and to Herrick’s surprise, the low-bred,
insignificant face before him flushed suddenly crimson and went white

‘Right forward,’ said Herrick, pointing. ‘Now your hands above your

The clerk turned away from him and towards the figure-head, as though he
were about to address to it his devotions; he was seen to heave a deep
breath; and raised his arms. In common with many men of his unhappy
physical endowments, Huish’s hands were disproportionately long and
broad, and the palms in particular enormous; a four-ounce jar was
nothing in that capacious fist. The next moment he was plodding steadily
forward on his mission.

Herrick at first followed. Then a noise in his rear startled him, and he
turned about to find Davis already advanced as far as the figure-head.
He came, crouching and open-mouthed, as the mesmerised may follow the
mesmeriser; all human considerations, and even the care of his own life,
swallowed up in one abominable and burning curiosity.

‘Halt!’ cried Herrick, covering him with his rifle. ‘Davis, what are you
doing, man? YOU are not to come.’

Davis instinctively paused, and regarded him with a dreadful vacancy of

‘Put your back to that figure-head, do you hear me? and stand fast!’
said Herrick.

The captain fetched a breath, stepped back against the figure-head, and
instantly redirected his glances after Huish.

There was a hollow place of the sand in that part, and, as it were,
a glade among the cocoa palms in which the direct noonday sun blazed
intolerably. At the far end, in the shadow, the tall figure of Attwater
was to be seen leaning on a tree; towards him, with his hands over his
head, and his steps smothered in the sand, the clerk painfully waded.
The surrounding glare threw out and exaggerated the man’s smallness; it
seemed no less perilous an enterprise, this that he was gone upon, than
for a whelp to besiege a citadel.

‘There, Mr Whish. That will do,’ cried Attwater. ‘From that distance,
and keeping your hands up, like a good boy, you can very well put me in
possession of the skipper’s views.’

The interval betwixt them was perhaps forty feet; and Huish measured
it with his eye, and breathed a curse. He was already distressed with
labouring in the loose sand, and his arms ached bitterly from their
unnatural position. In the palm of his right hand, the jar was ready;
and his heart thrilled, and his voice choked as he began to speak.

‘Mr Hattwater,’ said he, ‘I don’t know if ever you ‘ad a mother...’

‘I can set your mind at rest: I had,’ returned Attwater; ‘and
henceforth, if I might venture to suggest it, her name need not recur in
our communications. I should perhaps tell you that I am not amenable to
the pathetic.’

‘I am sorry, sir, if I ‘ave seemed to tresparse on your private
feelin’s,’ said the clerk, cringing and stealing a step. ‘At least, sir,
you will never pe’suade me that you are not a perfec’ gentleman; I
know a gentleman when I see him; and as such, I ‘ave no ‘esitation in
throwin’ myself on your merciful consideration. It IS ‘ard lines, no
doubt; it’s ‘ard lines to have to hown yourself beat; it’s ‘ard lines to
‘ave to come and beg to you for charity.’

‘When, if things had only gone right, the whole place was as good as
your own?’ suggested Attwater. ‘I can understand the feeling.’

‘You are judging me, Mr Attwater,’ said the clerk, ‘and God knows how
unjustly! THOU GAWD SEEST ME, was the tex’ I ‘ad in my Bible, w’ich my
father wrote it in with ‘is own ‘and upon the fly leaft.’

‘I am sorry I have to beg your pardon once more,’ said Attwater; ‘but,
do you know, you seem to me to be a trifle nearer, which is entirely
outside of our bargain. And I would venture to suggest that you take
one--two--three--steps back; and stay there.’

The devil, at this staggering disappointment, looked out of Huish’s
face, and Attwater was swift to suspect. He frowned, he stared on the
little man, and considered. Why should he be creeping nearer? The next
moment, his gun was at his shoulder.

‘Kindly oblige me by opening your hands. Open your hands wide--let me
see the fingers spread, you dog--throw down that thing you’re holding!’
he roared, his rage and certitude increasing together.

And then, at almost the same moment, the indomitable Huish decided to
throw, and Attwater pulled the trigger. There was scarce the difference
of a second between the two resolves, but it was in favour of the man
with the rifle; and the jar had not yet left the clerk’s hand, before
the ball shattered both. For the twinkling of an eye the wretch was in
hell’s agonies, bathed in liquid flames, a screaming bedlamite; and then
a second and more merciful bullet stretched him dead.

The whole thing was come and gone in a breath. Before Herrick could turn
about, before Davis could complete his cry of horror, the clerk lay in
the sand, sprawling and convulsed.

Attwater ran to the body; he stooped and viewed it; he put his finger in
the vitriol, and his face whitened and hardened with anger.

Davis had not yet moved; he stood astonished, with his back to the
figure-head, his hands clutching it behind him, his body inclined
forward from the waist.

Attwater turned deliberately and covered him with his rifle.

‘Davis,’ he cried, in a voice like a trumpet, ‘I give you sixty seconds
to make your peace with God!’

Davis looked, and his mind awoke. He did not dream of self-defence, he
did not reach for his pistol. He drew himself up instead to face death,
with a quivering nostril.

‘I guess I’ll not trouble the Old Man,’ he said; ‘considering the job I
was on, I guess it’s better business to just shut my face.’

Attwater fired; there came a spasmodic movement of the victim, and
immediately above the middle of his forehead, a black hole marred the
whiteness of the figure-head. A dreadful pause; then again the report,
and the solid sound and jar of the bullet in the wood; and this time the
captain had felt the wind of it along his cheek. A third shot, and he
was bleeding from one ear; and along the levelled rifle Attwater smiled
like a Red Indian.

The cruel game of which he was the puppet was now clear to Davis; three
times he had drunk of death, and he must look to drink of it seven times
more before he was despatched. He held up his hand.

‘Steady!’ he cried; ‘I’ll take your sixty seconds.’

‘Good!’ said Attwater.

The captain shut his eyes tight like a child: he held his hands up at
last with a tragic and ridiculous gesture.

‘My God, for Christ’s sake, look after my two kids,’ he said; and then,
after a pause and a falter, ‘for Christ’s sake, Amen.’

And he opened his eyes and looked down the rifle with a quivering mouth.

‘But don’t keep fooling me long!’ he pleaded.

‘That’s all your prayer?’ asked Attwater, with a singular ring in his

‘Guess so,’ said Davis.

So?’ said Attwater, resting the butt of his rifle on the ground, ‘is
that done? Is your peace made with Heaven? Because it is with me. Go,
and sin no more, sinful father. And remember that whatever you do to
others, God shall visit it again a thousand-fold upon your innocents.’

The wretched Davis came staggering forward from his place against the
figure-head, fell upon his knees, and waved his hands, and fainted.

When he came to himself again, his head was on Attwater’s arm, and close
by stood one of the men in divers’ helmets, holding a bucket of water,
from which his late executioner now laved his face. The memory of that
dreadful passage returned upon him in a clap; again he saw Huish lying
dead, again he seemed to himself to totter on the brink of an unplumbed
eternity. With trembling hands he seized hold of the man whom he had
come to slay; and his voice broke from him like that of a child among
the nightmares of fever: ‘O! isn’t there no mercy? O! what must I do to
be saved?’

‘Ah!’ thought Attwater, ‘here’s the true penitent.’

Chapter 12. TAIL-PIECE

On a very bright, hot, lusty, strongly blowing noon, a fortnight after
the events recorded, and a month since the curtain rose upon this
episode, a man might have been spied, praying on the sand by the lagoon
beach. A point of palm trees isolated him from the settlement; and from
the place where he knelt, the only work of man’s hand that interrupted
the expanse, was the schooner Farallone, her berth quite changed, and
rocking at anchor some two miles to windward in the midst of the lagoon.
The noise of the Trade ran very boisterous in all parts of the island;
the nearer palm trees crashed and whistled in the gusts, those farther
off contributed a humming bass like the roar of cities; and yet, to any
man less absorbed, there must have risen at times over this turmoil
of the winds, the sharper note of the human voice from the settlement.
There all was activity. Attwater, stripped to his trousers and lending
a strong hand of help, was directing and encouraging five Kanakas; from
his lively voice, and their more lively efforts, it was to be gathered
that some sudden and joyful emergency had set them in this bustle; and
the Union Jack floated once more on its staff. But the suppliant on the
beach, unconscious of their voices, prayed on with instancy and fervour,
and the sound of his voice rose and fell again, and his countenance
brightened and was deformed with changing moods of piety and terror.

Before his closed eyes, the skiff had been for some time tacking towards
the distant and deserted Farallone; and presently the figure of Herrick
might have been observed to board her, to pass for a while into the
house, thence forward to the forecastle, and at last to plunge into the
main hatch. In all these quarters, his visit was followed by a coil of
smoke; and he had scarce entered his boat again and shoved off, before
flames broke forth upon the schooner. They burned gaily; kerosene had
not been spared, and the bellows of the Trade incited the conflagration.
About half way on the return voyage, when Herrick looked back, he beheld
the Farallone wrapped to the topmasts in leaping arms of fire, and
the voluminous smoke pursuing him along the face of the lagoon. In one
hour’s time, he computed, the waters would have closed over the stolen

It so chanced that, as his boat flew before the wind with much vivacity,
and his eyes were continually busy in the wake, measuring the progress
of the flames, he found himself embayed to the northward of the point
of palms, and here became aware at the same time of the figure of Davis
immersed in his devotion. An exclamation, part of annoyance, part of
amusement, broke from him: and he touched the helm and ran the prow
upon the beach not twenty feet from the unconscious devotee. Taking the
painter in his hand, he landed, and drew near, and stood over him. And
still the voluble and incoherent stream of prayer continued unabated. It
was not possible for him to overhear the suppliant’s petitions, which he
listened to some while in a very mingled mood of humour and pity: and
it was only when his own name began to occur and to be conjoined with
epithets, that he at last laid his hand on the captain’s shoulder.

‘Sorry to interrupt the exercise,’ said he; ‘but I want you to look at
the Farallone.’

The captain scrambled to his feet, and stood gasping and staring. ‘Mr
Herrick, don’t startle a man like that!’ he said. ‘I don’t seem someways
rightly myself since...’ he broke off. ‘What did you say anyway? O, the
Farallone,’ and he looked languidly out.

‘Yes,’ said Herrick. ‘There she burns! and you may guess from that what
the news is.’

‘The Trinity Hall, I guess,’ said the captain.

‘The same,’ said Herrick; ‘sighted half an hour ago, and coming up hand
over fist.’

‘Well, it don’t amount to a hill of beans,’ said the captain with a

‘O, come, that’s rank ingratitude!’ cried Herrick.

‘Well,’ replied the captain, meditatively, ‘you mayn’t just see the way
that I view it in, but I’d ‘most rather stay here upon this island. I
found peace here, peace in believing. Yes, I guess this island is about
good enough for John Davis.’

‘I never heard such nonsense!’ cried Herrick. ‘What! with all turning
out in your favour the way it does, the Farallone wiped out, the crew
disposed of, a sure thing for your wife and family, and you, yourself,
Attwater’s spoiled darling and pet penitent!’

‘Now, Mr Herrick, don’t say that,’ said the captain gently; ‘when you
know he don’t make no difference between us. But, O! why not be one of
us? why not come to Jesus right away, and let’s meet in yon beautiful
land? That’s just the one thing wanted; just say, Lord, I believe, help
thou mine unbelief! And He’ll fold you in His arms. You see, I know!
I’ve been a sinner myself!’

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Ebb-Tide: A Trio And Quartette" ***

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