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Title: South Sea Tales
Author: London, Jack
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "South Sea Tales" ***

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By Jack London


The House of Mapuhi

The Whale Tooth


“Yah! Yah! Yah!”

The Heathen

The Terrible Solomons

The Inevitable White Man

The Seed of McCoy


Despite the heavy clumsiness of her lines, the Aorai handled easily in
the light breeze, and her captain ran her well in before he hove to just
outside the suck of the surf. The atoll of Hikueru lay low on the water,
a circle of pounded coral sand a hundred yards wide, twenty miles in
circumference, and from three to five feet above high-water mark. On the
bottom of the huge and glassy lagoon was much pearl shell, and from the
deck of the schooner, across the slender ring of the atoll, the divers
could be seen at work. But the lagoon had no entrance for even a trading
schooner. With a favoring breeze cutters could win in through the
tortuous and shallow channel, but the schooners lay off and on outside
and sent in their small boats.

The Aorai swung out a boat smartly, into which sprang half a dozen
brown-skinned sailors clad only in scarlet loincloths. They took the
oars, while in the stern sheets, at the steering sweep, stood a young
man garbed in the tropic white that marks the European. The golden
strain of Polynesia betrayed itself in the sun-gilt of his fair skin
and cast up golden sheens and lights through the glimmering blue of his
eyes. Raoul he was, Alexandre Raoul, youngest son of Marie Raoul,
the wealthy quarter-caste, who owned and managed half a dozen trading
schooners similar to the Aorai. Across an eddy just outside the
entrance, and in and through and over a boiling tide-rip, the boat
fought its way to the mirrored calm of the lagoon. Young Raoul leaped
out upon the white sand and shook hands with a tall native. The man’s
chest and shoulders were magnificent, but the stump of a right arm,
beyond the flesh of which the age-whitened bone projected several
inches, attested the encounter with a shark that had put an end to his
diving days and made him a fawner and an intriguer for small favors.

“Have you heard, Alec?” were his first words. “Mapuhi has found a
pearl--such a pearl. Never was there one like it ever fished up in
Hikueru, nor in all the Paumotus, nor in all the world. Buy it from him.
He has it now. And remember that I told you first. He is a fool and you
can get it cheap. Have you any tobacco?”

Straight up the beach to a shack under a pandanus tree Raoul headed.
He was his mother’s supercargo, and his business was to comb all the
Paumotus for the wealth of copra, shell, and pearls that they yielded

He was a young supercargo, it was his second voyage in such capacity,
and he suffered much secret worry from his lack of experience in pricing
pearls. But when Mapuhi exposed the pearl to his sight he managed to
suppress the startle it gave him, and to maintain a careless, commercial
expression on his face. For the pearl had struck him a blow. It was
large as a pigeon egg, a perfect sphere, of a whiteness that reflected
opalescent lights from all colors about it. It was alive. Never had
he seen anything like it. When Mapuhi dropped it into his hand he was
surprised by the weight of it. That showed that it was a good pearl. He
examined it closely, through a pocket magnifying glass. It was without
flaw or blemish. The purity of it seemed almost to melt into the
atmosphere out of his hand. In the shade it was softly luminous,
gleaming like a tender moon. So translucently white was it, that when
he dropped it into a glass of water he had difficulty in finding it. So
straight and swiftly had it sunk to the bottom that he knew its weight
was excellent.

“Well, what do you want for it?” he asked, with a fine assumption of

“I want--” Mapuhi began, and behind him, framing his own dark face, the
dark faces of two women and a girl nodded concurrence in what he wanted.
Their heads were bent forward, they were animated by a suppressed
eagerness, their eyes flashed avariciously.

“I want a house,” Mapuhi went on. “It must have a roof of galvanized
iron and an octagon-drop-clock. It must be six fathoms long with a porch
all around. A big room must be in the centre, with a round table in the
middle of it and the octagon-drop-clock on the wall. There must be four
bedrooms, two on each side of the big room, and in each bedroom must be
an iron bed, two chairs, and a washstand. And back of the house must be
a kitchen, a good kitchen, with pots and pans and a stove. And you must
build the house on my island, which is Fakarava.”

“Is that all?” Raoul asked incredulously.

“There must be a sewing machine,” spoke up Tefara, Mapuhi’s wife.

“Not forgetting the octagon-drop-clock,” added Nauri, Mapuhi’s mother.

“Yes, that is all,” said Mapuhi.

Young Raoul laughed. He laughed long and heartily. But while he laughed
he secretly performed problems in mental arithmetic. He had never built
a house in his life, and his notions concerning house building were
hazy. While he laughed, he calculated the cost of the voyage to Tahiti
for materials, of the materials themselves, of the voyage back again
to Fakarava, and the cost of landing the materials and of building the
house. It would come to four thousand French dollars, allowing a margin
for safety--four thousand French dollars were equivalent to twenty
thousand francs. It was impossible. How was he to know the value of such
a pearl? Twenty thousand francs was a lot of money--and of his mother’s
money at that.

“Mapuhi,” he said, “you are a big fool. Set a money price.”

But Mapuhi shook his head, and the three heads behind him shook with

“I want the house,” he said. “It must be six fathoms long with a porch
all around--”

“Yes, yes,” Raoul interrupted. “I know all about your house, but it
won’t do. I’ll give you a thousand Chili dollars.”

The four heads chorused a silent negative.

“And a hundred Chili dollars in trade.”

“I want the house,” Mapuhi began.

“What good will the house do you?” Raoul demanded. “The first hurricane
that comes along will wash it away. You ought to know.”

“Captain Raffy says it looks like a hurricane right now.”

“Not on Fakarava,” said Mapuhi. “The land is much higher there. On this
island, yes. Any hurricane can sweep Hikueru. I will have the house on
Fakarava. It must be six fathoms long with a porch all around--”

And Raoul listened again to the tale of the house. Several hours he
spent in the endeavor to hammer the house obsession out of Mapuhi’s
mind; but Mapuhi’s mother and wife, and Ngakura, Mapuhi’s daughter,
bolstered him in his resolve for the house. Through the open doorway,
while he listened for the twentieth time to the detailed description of
the house that was wanted, Raoul saw his schooner’s second boat draw up
on the beach. The sailors rested on the oars, advertising haste to be
gone. The first mate of the Aorai sprang ashore, exchanged a word with
the one-armed native, then hurried toward Raoul. The day grew suddenly
dark, as a squall obscured the face of the sun. Across the lagoon Raoul
could see approaching the ominous line of the puff of wind.

“Captain Raffy says you’ve got to get to hell outa here,” was the mate’s
greeting. “If there’s any shell, we’ve got to run the risk of
picking it up later on--so he says. The barometer’s dropped to

The gust of wind struck the pandanus tree overhead and tore through the
palms beyond, flinging half a dozen ripe cocoanuts with heavy thuds to
the ground. Then came the rain out of the distance, advancing with the
roar of a gale of wind and causing the water of the lagoon to smoke in
driven windrows. The sharp rattle of the first drops was on the leaves
when Raoul sprang to his feet.

“A thousand Chili dollars, cash down, Mapuhi,” he said. “And two hundred
Chili dollars in trade.”

“I want a house--” the other began.

“Mapuhi!” Raoul yelled, in order to make himself heard. “You are a

He flung out of the house, and, side by side with the mate, fought his
way down the beach toward the boat. They could not see the boat. The
tropic rain sheeted about them so that they could see only the beach
under their feet and the spiteful little waves from the lagoon that
snapped and bit at the sand. A figure appeared through the deluge. It
was Huru-Huru, the man with the one arm.

“Did you get the pearl?” he yelled in Raoul’s ear.

“Mapuhi is a fool!” was the answering yell, and the next moment they
were lost to each other in the descending water.

Half an hour later, Huru-Huru, watching from the seaward side of the
atoll, saw the two boats hoisted in and the Aorai pointing her nose
out to sea. And near her, just come in from the sea on the wings of the
squall, he saw another schooner hove to and dropping a boat into the
water. He knew her. It was the OROHENA, owned by Toriki, the half-caste
trader, who served as his own supercargo and who doubtlessly was even
then in the stern sheets of the boat. Huru-Huru chuckled. He knew that
Mapuhi owed Toriki for trade goods advanced the year before.

The squall had passed. The hot sun was blazing down, and the lagoon was
once more a mirror. But the air was sticky like mucilage, and the weight
of it seemed to burden the lungs and make breathing difficult.

“Have you heard the news, Toriki?” Huru-Huru asked. “Mapuhi has found
a pearl. Never was there a pearl like it ever fished up in Hikueru, nor
anywhere in the Paumotus, nor anywhere in all the world. Mapuhi is a
fool. Besides, he owes you money. Remember that I told you first. Have
you any tobacco?”

And to the grass shack of Mapuhi went Toriki. He was a masterful man,
withal a fairly stupid one. Carelessly he glanced at the wonderful
pearl--glanced for a moment only; and carelessly he dropped it into his

“You are lucky,” he said. “It is a nice pearl. I will give you credit on
the books.”

“I want a house,” Mapuhi began, in consternation. “It must be six

“Six fathoms your grandmother!” was the trader’s retort. “You want to
pay up your debts, that’s what you want. You owed me twelve hundred
dollars Chili. Very well; you owe them no longer. The amount is squared.
Besides, I will give you credit for two hundred Chili. If, when I get
to Tahiti, the pearl sells well, I will give you credit for another
hundred--that will make three hundred. But mind, only if the pearl sells
well. I may even lose money on it.”

Mapuhi folded his arms in sorrow and sat with bowed head. He had been
robbed of his pearl. In place of the house, he had paid a debt. There
was nothing to show for the pearl.

“You are a fool,” said Tefara.

“You are a fool,” said Nauri, his mother. “Why did you let the pearl
into his hand?”

“What was I to do?” Mapuhi protested. “I owed him the money. He knew I
had the pearl. You heard him yourself ask to see it. I had not told him.
He knew. Somebody else told him. And I owed him the money.”

“Mapuhi is a fool,” mimicked Ngakura.

She was twelve years old and did not know any better. Mapuhi relieved
his feelings by sending her reeling from a box on the ear; while Tefara
and Nauri burst into tears and continued to upbraid him after the manner
of women.

Huru-Huru, watching on the beach, saw a third schooner that he knew
heave to outside the entrance and drop a boat. It was the Hira, well
named, for she was owned by Levy, the German Jew, the greatest pearl
buyer of them all, and, as was well known, Hira was the Tahitian god of
fishermen and thieves.

“Have you heard the news?” Huru-Huru asked, as Levy, a fat man with
massive asymmetrical features, stepped out upon the beach. “Mapuhi has
found a pearl. There was never a pearl like it in Hikueru, in all the
Paumotus, in all the world. Mapuhi is a fool. He has sold it to Toriki
for fourteen hundred Chili--I listened outside and heard. Toriki is
likewise a fool. You can buy it from him cheap. Remember that I told you
first. Have you any tobacco?”

“Where is Toriki?”

“In the house of Captain Lynch, drinking absinthe. He has been there an

And while Levy and Toriki drank absinthe and chaffered over the pearl,
Huru-Huru listened and heard the stupendous price of twenty-five
thousand francs agreed upon.

It was at this time that both the OROHENA and the Hira, running in close
to the shore, began firing guns and signalling frantically. The three
men stepped outside in time to see the two schooners go hastily about
and head off shore, dropping mainsails and flying jibs on the run in
the teeth of the squall that heeled them far over on the whitened water.
Then the rain blotted them out.

“They’ll be back after it’s over,” said Toriki. “We’d better be getting
out of here.”

“I reckon the glass has fallen some more,” said Captain Lynch.

He was a white-bearded sea-captain, too old for service, who had learned
that the only way to live on comfortable terms with his asthma was on
Hikueru. He went inside to look at the barometer.

“Great God!” they heard him exclaim, and rushed in to join him at
staring at a dial, which marked twenty-nine-twenty.

Again they came out, this time anxiously to consult sea and sky.
The squall had cleared away, but the sky remained overcast. The two
schooners, under all sail and joined by a third, could be seen making
back. A veer in the wind induced them to slack off sheets, and five
minutes afterward a sudden veer from the opposite quarter caught all
three schooners aback, and those on shore could see the boom-tackles
being slacked away or cast off on the jump. The sound of the surf was
loud, hollow, and menacing, and a heavy swell was setting in. A terrible
sheet of lightning burst before their eyes, illuminating the dark day,
and the thunder rolled wildly about them.

Toriki and Levy broke into a run for their boats, the latter ambling
along like a panic-stricken hippopotamus. As their two boats swept out
the entrance, they passed the boat of the Aorai coming in. In the stern
sheets, encouraging the rowers, was Raoul. Unable to shake the vision of
the pearl from his mind, he was returning to accept Mapuhi’s price of a

He landed on the beach in the midst of a driving thunder squall that was
so dense that he collided with Huru-Huru before he saw him.

“Too late,” yelled Huru-Huru. “Mapuhi sold it to Toriki for fourteen
hundred Chili, and Toriki sold it to Levy for twenty-five thousand
francs. And Levy will sell it in France for a hundred thousand francs.
Have you any tobacco?”

Raoul felt relieved. His troubles about the pearl were over. He need not
worry any more, even if he had not got the pearl. But he did not believe
Huru-Huru. Mapuhi might well have sold it for fourteen hundred Chili,
but that Levy, who knew pearls, should have paid twenty-five thousand
francs was too wide a stretch. Raoul decided to interview Captain Lynch
on the subject, but when he arrived at that ancient mariner’s house, he
found him looking wide-eyed at the barometer.

“What do you read it?” Captain Lynch asked anxiously, rubbing his
spectacles and staring again at the instrument.

“Twenty-nine-ten,” said Raoul. “I have never seen it so low before.”

“I should say not!” snorted the captain. “Fifty years boy and man on all
the seas, and I’ve never seen it go down to that. Listen!”

They stood for a moment, while the surf rumbled and shook the house.
Then they went outside. The squall had passed. They could see the
Aorai lying becalmed a mile away and pitching and tossing madly in
the tremendous seas that rolled in stately procession down out of the
northeast and flung themselves furiously upon the coral shore. One of
the sailors from the boat pointed at the mouth of the passage and shook
his head. Raoul looked and saw a white anarchy of foam and surge.

“I guess I’ll stay with you tonight, Captain,” he said; then turned to
the sailor and told him to haul the boat out and to find shelter for
himself and fellows.

“Twenty-nine flat,” Captain Lynch reported, coming out from another look
at the barometer, a chair in his hand.

He sat down and stared at the spectacle of the sea. The sun came out,
increasing the sultriness of the day, while the dead calm still held.
The seas continued to increase in magnitude.

“What makes that sea is what gets me,” Raoul muttered petulantly.

“There is no wind, yet look at it, look at that fellow there!”

Miles in length, carrying tens of thousands of tons in weight, its
impact shook the frail atoll like an earthquake. Captain Lynch was

“Gracious!” he bellowed, half rising from his chair, then sinking back.

“But there is no wind,” Raoul persisted. “I could understand it if there
was wind along with it.”

“You’ll get the wind soon enough without worryin’ for it,” was the grim

The two men sat on in silence. The sweat stood out on their skin in
myriads of tiny drops that ran together, forming blotches of moisture,
which, in turn, coalesced into rivulets that dripped to the ground. They
panted for breath, the old man’s efforts being especially painful. A
sea swept up the beach, licking around the trunks of the cocoanuts and
subsiding almost at their feet.

“Way past high water mark,” Captain Lynch remarked; “and I’ve been here
eleven years.” He looked at his watch. “It is three o’clock.”

A man and woman, at their heels a motley following of brats and curs,
trailed disconsolately by. They came to a halt beyond the house, and,
after much irresolution, sat down in the sand. A few minutes later
another family trailed in from the opposite direction, the men and women
carrying a heterogeneous assortment of possessions. And soon several
hundred persons of all ages and sexes were congregated about the
captain’s dwelling. He called to one new arrival, a woman with a nursing
babe in her arms, and in answer received the information that her house
had just been swept into the lagoon.

This was the highest spot of land in miles, and already, in many places
on either hand, the great seas were making a clean breach of the slender
ring of the atoll and surging into the lagoon. Twenty miles around
stretched the ring of the atoll, and in no place was it more than fifty
fathoms wide. It was the height of the diving season, and from all the
islands around, even as far as Tahiti, the natives had gathered.

“There are twelve hundred men, women, and children here,” said Captain
Lynch. “I wonder how many will be here tomorrow morning.”

“But why don’t it blow?--that’s what I want to know,” Raoul demanded.

“Don’t worry, young man, don’t worry; you’ll get your troubles fast

Even as Captain Lynch spoke, a great watery mass smote the atoll.

The sea water churned about them three inches deep under the chairs. A
low wail of fear went up from the many women. The children, with clasped
hands, stared at the immense rollers and cried piteously. Chickens and
cats, wading perturbedly in the water, as by common consent, with flight
and scramble took refuge on the roof of the captain’s house. A Paumotan,
with a litter of new-born puppies in a basket, climbed into a cocoanut
tree and twenty feet above the ground made the basket fast. The mother
floundered about in the water beneath, whining and yelping.

And still the sun shone brightly and the dead calm continued. They sat
and watched the seas and the insane pitching of the Aorai. Captain Lynch
gazed at the huge mountains of water sweeping in until he could gaze
no more. He covered his face with his hands to shut out the sight; then
went into the house.

“Twenty-eight-sixty,” he said quietly when he returned.

In his arm was a coil of small rope. He cut it into two-fathom lengths,
giving one to Raoul and, retaining one for himself, distributed the
remainder among the women with the advice to pick out a tree and climb.

A light air began to blow out of the northeast, and the fan of it on
his cheek seemed to cheer Raoul up. He could see the Aorai trimming her
sheets and heading off shore, and he regretted that he was not on her.
She would get away at any rate, but as for the atoll--A sea breached
across, almost sweeping him off his feet, and he selected a tree. Then
he remembered the barometer and ran back to the house. He encountered
Captain Lynch on the same errand and together they went in.

“Twenty-eight-twenty,” said the old mariner. “It’s going to be fair hell
around here--what was that?”

The air seemed filled with the rush of something. The house quivered and
vibrated, and they heard the thrumming of a mighty note of sound. The
windows rattled. Two panes crashed; a draught of wind tore in, striking
them and making them stagger. The door opposite banged shut, shattering
the latch. The white door knob crumbled in fragments to the floor.
The room’s walls bulged like a gas balloon in the process of sudden
inflation. Then came a new sound like the rattle of musketry, as the
spray from a sea struck the wall of the house. Captain Lynch looked
at his watch. It was four o’clock. He put on a coat of pilot cloth,
unhooked the barometer, and stowed it away in a capacious pocket.
Again a sea struck the house, with a heavy thud, and the light building
tilted, twisted, quarter around on its foundation, and sank down, its
floor at an angle of ten degrees.

Raoul went out first. The wind caught him and whirled him away. He noted
that it had hauled around to the east. With a great effort he threw
himself on the sand, crouching and holding his own. Captain Lynch,
driven like a wisp of straw, sprawled over him. Two of the Aorai’s
sailors, leaving a cocoanut tree to which they had been clinging, came
to their aid, leaning against the wind at impossible angles and fighting
and clawing every inch of the way.

The old man’s joints were stiff and he could not climb, so the sailors,
by means of short ends of rope tied together, hoisted him up the trunk,
a few feet at a time, till they could make him fast, at the top of the
tree, fifty feet from the ground. Raoul passed his length of rope
around the base of an adjacent tree and stood looking on. The wind was
frightful. He had never dreamed it could blow so hard. A sea breached
across the atoll, wetting him to the knees ere it subsided into the
lagoon. The sun had disappeared, and a lead-colored twilight settled
down. A few drops of rain, driving horizontally, struck him. The impact
was like that of leaden pellets. A splash of salt spray struck his face.
It was like the slap of a man’s hand. His cheeks stung, and involuntary
tears of pain were in his smarting eyes. Several hundred natives had
taken to the trees, and he could have laughed at the bunches of human
fruit clustering in the tops. Then, being Tahitian-born, he doubled his
body at the waist, clasped the trunk of his tree with his hands, pressed
the soles of his feet against the near surface of the trunk, and began
to walk up the tree. At the top he found two women, two children, and a
man. One little girl clasped a housecat in her arms.

From his eyrie he waved his hand to Captain Lynch, and that doughty
patriarch waved back. Raoul was appalled at the sky. It had approached
much nearer--in fact, it seemed just over his head; and it had turned
from lead to black. Many people were still on the ground grouped about
the bases of the trees and holding on. Several such clusters were
praying, and in one the Mormon missionary was exhorting. A weird sound,
rhythmical, faint as the faintest chirp of a far cricket, enduring but
for a moment, but in the moment suggesting to him vaguely the thought
of heaven and celestial music, came to his ear. He glanced about him and
saw, at the base of another tree, a large cluster of people holding on
by ropes and by one another. He could see their faces working and their
lips moving in unison. No sound came to him, but he knew that they were
singing hymns.

Still the wind continued to blow harder. By no conscious process could
he measure it, for it had long since passed beyond all his experience of
wind; but he knew somehow, nevertheless, that it was blowing harder. Not
far away a tree was uprooted, flinging its load of human beings to
the ground. A sea washed across the strip of sand, and they were gone.
Things were happening quickly. He saw a brown shoulder and a black head
silhouetted against the churning white of the lagoon. The next
instant that, too, had vanished. Other trees were going, falling and
criss-crossing like matches. He was amazed at the power of the wind. His
own tree was swaying perilously, one woman was wailing and clutching the
little girl, who in turn still hung on to the cat.

The man, holding the other child, touched Raoul’s arm and pointed. He
looked and saw the Mormon church careering drunkenly a hundred feet
away. It had been torn from its foundations, and wind and sea were
heaving and shoving it toward the lagoon. A frightful wall of water
caught it, tilted it, and flung it against half a dozen cocoanut trees.
The bunches of human fruit fell like ripe cocoanuts. The subsiding wave
showed them on the ground, some lying motionless, others squirming and
writhing. They reminded him strangely of ants. He was not shocked.
He had risen above horror. Quite as a matter of course he noted the
succeeding wave sweep the sand clean of the human wreckage. A third
wave, more colossal than any he had yet seen, hurled the church into
the lagoon, where it floated off into the obscurity to leeward,
half-submerged, reminding him for all the world of a Noah’s ark.

He looked for Captain Lynch’s house, and was surprised to find it gone.
Things certainly were happening quickly. He noticed that many of the
people in the trees that still held had descended to the ground. The
wind had yet again increased. His own tree showed that. It no longer
swayed or bent over and back. Instead, it remained practically
stationary, curved in a rigid angle from the wind and merely vibrating.
But the vibration was sickening. It was like that of a tuning-fork or
the tongue of a jew’s-harp. It was the rapidity of the vibration that
made it so bad. Even though its roots held, it could not stand the
strain for long. Something would have to break.

Ah, there was one that had gone. He had not seen it go, but there it
stood, the remnant, broken off half-way up the trunk. One did not know
what happened unless he saw it. The mere crashing of trees and wails
of human despair occupied no place in that mighty volume of sound. He
chanced to be looking in Captain Lynch’s direction when it happened. He
saw the trunk of the tree, half-way up, splinter and part without
noise. The head of the tree, with three sailors of the Aorai and the old
captain sailed off over the lagoon. It did not fall to the ground, but
drove through the air like a piece of chaff. For a hundred yards he
followed its flight, when it struck the water. He strained his eyes, and
was sure that he saw Captain Lynch wave farewell.

Raoul did not wait for anything more. He touched the native and made
signs to descend to the ground. The man was willing, but his women were
paralyzed from terror, and he elected to remain with them. Raoul passed
his rope around the tree and slid down. A rush of salt water went over
his head. He held his breath and clung desperately to the rope. The
water subsided, and in the shelter of the trunk he breathed once more.
He fastened the rope more securely, and then was put under by another
sea. One of the women slid down and joined him, the native remaining by
the other woman, the two children, and the cat.

The supercargo had noticed how the groups clinging at the bases of the
other trees continually diminished. Now he saw the process work out
alongside him. It required all his strength to hold on, and the woman
who had joined him was growing weaker. Each time he emerged from a sea
he was surprised to find himself still there, and next, surprised to
find the woman still there. At last he emerged to find himself alone.
He looked up. The top of the tree had gone as well. At half its original
height, a splintered end vibrated. He was safe. The roots still held,
while the tree had been shorn of its windage. He began to climb up. He
was so weak that he went slowly, and sea after sea caught him before he
was above them. Then he tied himself to the trunk and stiffened his soul
to face the night and he knew not what.

He felt very lonely in the darkness. At times it seemed to him that it
was the end of the world and that he was the last one left alive. Still
the wind increased. Hour after hour it increased. By what he calculated
was eleven o’clock, the wind had become unbelievable. It was a horrible,
monstrous thing, a screaming fury, a wall that smote and passed on but
that continued to smite and pass on--a wall without end. It seemed to
him that he had become light and ethereal; that it was he that was in
motion; that he was being driven with inconceivable velocity through
unending solidness. The wind was no longer air in motion. It had become
substantial as water or quicksilver. He had a feeling that he could
reach into it and tear it out in chunks as one might do with the meat in
the carcass of a steer; that he could seize hold of the wind and hang on
to it as a man might hang on to the face of a cliff.

The wind strangled him. He could not face it and breathe, for it rushed
in through his mouth and nostrils, distending his lungs like bladders.
At such moments it seemed to him that his body was being packed and
swollen with solid earth. Only by pressing his lips to the trunk of the
tree could he breathe. Also, the ceaseless impact of the wind exhausted
him. Body and brain became wearied. He no longer observed, no
longer thought, and was but semiconscious. One idea constituted
his consciousness: SO THIS WAS A HURRICANE. That one idea persisted
irregularly. It was like a feeble flame that flickered occasionally.
From a state of stupor he would return to it--SO THIS WAS A HURRICANE.
Then he would go off into another stupor.

The height of the hurricane endured from eleven at night till three in
the morning, and it was at eleven that the tree in which clung Mapuhi
and his women snapped off. Mapuhi rose to the surface of the lagoon,
still clutching his daughter Ngakura. Only a South Sea islander could
have lived in such a driving smother. The pandanus tree, to which he
attached himself, turned over and over in the froth and churn; and it
was only by holding on at times and waiting, and at other times shifting
his grips rapidly, that he was able to get his head and Ngakura’s to the
surface at intervals sufficiently near together to keep the breath in
them. But the air was mostly water, what with flying spray and sheeted
rain that poured along at right angles to the perpendicular.

It was ten miles across the lagoon to the farther ring of sand. Here,
tossing tree trunks, timbers, wrecks of cutters, and wreckage of houses,
killed nine out of ten of the miserable beings who survived the passage
of the lagoon. Half-drowned, exhausted, they were hurled into this mad
mortar of the elements and battered into formless flesh. But Mapuhi was
fortunate. His chance was the one in ten; it fell to him by the freakage
of fate. He emerged upon the sand, bleeding from a score of wounds.

Ngakura’s left arm was broken; the fingers of her right hand were
crushed; and cheek and forehead were laid open to the bone. He clutched
a tree that yet stood, and clung on, holding the girl and sobbing for
air, while the waters of the lagoon washed by knee-high and at times

At three in the morning the backbone of the hurricane broke. By five no
more than a stiff breeze was blowing. And by six it was dead calm and
the sun was shining. The sea had gone down. On the yet restless edge of
the lagoon, Mapuhi saw the broken bodies of those that had failed in the
landing. Undoubtedly Tefara and Nauri were among them. He went along the
beach examining them, and came upon his wife, lying half in and half out
of the water. He sat down and wept, making harsh animal noises after the
manner of primitive grief. Then she stirred uneasily, and groaned. He
looked more closely. Not only was she alive, but she was uninjured. She
was merely sleeping. Hers also had been the one chance in ten.

Of the twelve hundred alive the night before but three hundred remained.
The Mormon missionary and a gendarme made the census. The lagoon was
cluttered with corpses. Not a house nor a hut was standing. In the whole
atoll not two stones remained one upon another. One in fifty of the
cocoanut palms still stood, and they were wrecks, while on not one of
them remained a single nut.

There was no fresh water. The shallow wells that caught the surface
seepage of the rain were filled with salt. Out of the lagoon a few
soaked bags of flour were recovered. The survivors cut the hearts out of
the fallen cocoanut trees and ate them. Here and there they crawled
into tiny hutches, made by hollowing out the sand and covering over with
fragments of metal roofing. The missionary made a crude still, but he
could not distill water for three hundred persons. By the end of the
second day, Raoul, taking a bath in the lagoon, discovered that his
thirst was somewhat relieved. He cried out the news, and thereupon three
hundred men, women, and children could have been seen, standing up to
their necks in the lagoon and trying to drink water in through their
skins. Their dead floated about them, or were stepped upon where they
still lay upon the bottom. On the third day the people buried their dead
and sat down to wait for the rescue steamers.

In the meantime, Nauri, torn from her family by the hurricane, had been
swept away on an adventure of her own. Clinging to a rough plank that
wounded and bruised her and that filled her body with splinters, she
was thrown clear over the atoll and carried away to sea. Here, under the
amazing buffets of mountains of water, she lost her plank. She was an
old woman nearly sixty; but she was Paumotan-born, and she had never
been out of sight of the sea in her life. Swimming in the darkness,
strangling, suffocating, fighting for air, she was struck a heavy blow
on the shoulder by a cocoanut. On the instant her plan was formed,
and she seized the nut. In the next hour she captured seven more. Tied
together, they formed a life-buoy that preserved her life while at the
same time it threatened to pound her to a jelly. She was a fat woman,
and she bruised easily; but she had had experience of hurricanes, and
while she prayed to her shark god for protection from sharks, she waited
for the wind to break. But at three o’clock she was in such a stupor
that she did not know. Nor did she know at six o’clock when the dead
calm settled down. She was shocked into consciousness when she was
thrown upon the sand. She dug in with raw and bleeding hands and feet
and clawed against the backwash until she was beyond the reach of the

She knew where she was. This land could be no other than the tiny islet
of Takokota. It had no lagoon. No one lived upon it.

Hikueru was fifteen miles away. She could not see Hikueru, but she
knew that it lay to the south. The days went by, and she lived on the
cocoanuts that had kept her afloat. They supplied her with drinking
water and with food. But she did not drink all she wanted, nor eat all
she wanted. Rescue was problematical. She saw the smoke of the rescue
steamers on the horizon, but what steamer could be expected to come to
lonely, uninhabited Takokota?

From the first she was tormented by corpses. The sea persisted in
flinging them upon her bit of sand, and she persisted, until her
strength failed, in thrusting them back into the sea where the sharks
tore at them and devoured them. When her strength failed, the bodies
festooned her beach with ghastly horror, and she withdrew from them as
far as she could, which was not far.

By the tenth day her last cocoanut was gone, and she was shrivelling
from thirst. She dragged herself along the sand, looking for cocoanuts.
It was strange that so many bodies floated up, and no nuts. Surely,
there were more cocoanuts afloat than dead men! She gave up at last, and
lay exhausted. The end had come. Nothing remained but to wait for death.

Coming out of a stupor, she became slowly aware that she was gazing at a
patch of sandy-red hair on the head of a corpse. The sea flung the body
toward her, then drew it back. It turned over, and she saw that it had
no face. Yet there was something familiar about that patch of
sandy-red hair. An hour passed. She did not exert herself to make the
identification. She was waiting to die, and it mattered little to her
what man that thing of horror once might have been.

But at the end of the hour she sat up slowly and stared at the corpse.
An unusually large wave had thrown it beyond the reach of the lesser
waves. Yes, she was right; that patch of red hair could belong to but
one man in the Paumotus. It was Levy, the German Jew, the man who had
bought the pearl and carried it away on the Hira. Well, one thing was
evident: The Hira had been lost. The pearl buyer’s god of fishermen and
thieves had gone back on him.

She crawled down to the dead man. His shirt had been torn away, and she
could see the leather money belt about his waist. She held her breath
and tugged at the buckles. They gave easier than she had expected, and
she crawled hurriedly away across the sand, dragging the belt after her.
Pocket after pocket she unbuckled in the belt and found empty. Where
could he have put it? In the last pocket of all she found it, the first
and only pearl he had bought on the voyage. She crawled a few feet
farther, to escape the pestilence of the belt, and examined the pearl.
It was the one Mapuhi had found and been robbed of by Toriki. She
weighed it in her hand and rolled it back and forth caressingly. But in
it she saw no intrinsic beauty. What she did see was the house Mapuhi
and Tefara and she had builded so carefully in their minds. Each time
she looked at the pearl she saw the house in all its details, including
the octagon-drop-clock on the wall. That was something to live for.

She tore a strip from her ahu and tied the pearl securely about her
neck. Then she went on along the beach, panting and groaning, but
resolutely seeking for cocoanuts. Quickly she found one, and, as she
glanced around, a second. She broke one, drinking its water, which was
mildewy, and eating the last particle of the meat. A little later she
found a shattered dugout. Its outrigger was gone, but she was hopeful,
and, before the day was out, she found the outrigger. Every find was an
augury. The pearl was a talisman. Late in the afternoon she saw a wooden
box floating low in the water. When she dragged it out on the beach its
contents rattled, and inside she found ten tins of salmon. She opened
one by hammering it on the canoe. When a leak was started, she drained
the tin. After that she spent several hours in extracting the salmon,
hammering and squeezing it out a morsel at a time.

Eight days longer she waited for rescue. In the meantime she fastened
the outrigger back on the canoe, using for lashings all the cocoanut
fibre she could find, and also what remained of her ahu. The canoe was
badly cracked, and she could not make it water-tight; but a calabash
made from a cocoanut she stored on board for a bailer. She was hard put
for a paddle. With a piece of tin she sawed off all her hair close to
the scalp. Out of the hair she braided a cord; and by means of the cord
she lashed a three-foot piece of broom handle to a board from the salmon

She gnawed wedges with her teeth and with them wedged the lashing.

On the eighteenth day, at midnight, she launched the canoe through the
surf and started back for Hikueru. She was an old woman. Hardship had
stripped her fat from her till scarcely more than bones and skin and a
few stringy muscles remained. The canoe was large and should have been
paddled by three strong men.

But she did it alone, with a make-shift paddle. Also, the canoe leaked
badly, and one-third of her time was devoted to bailing. By clear
daylight she looked vainly for Hikueru. Astern, Takokota had sunk
beneath the sea rim. The sun blazed down on her nakedness, compelling
her body to surrender its moisture. Two tins of salmon were left, and in
the course of the day she battered holes in them and drained the liquid.
She had no time to waste in extracting the meat. A current was setting
to the westward, she made westing whether she made southing or not.

In the early afternoon, standing upright in the canoe, she sighted
Hikueru. Its wealth of cocoanut palms was gone. Only here and there, at
wide intervals, could she see the ragged remnants of trees. The sight
cheered her. She was nearer than she had thought. The current was
setting her to the westward. She bore up against it and paddled on. The
wedges in the paddle lashing worked loose, and she lost much time, at
frequent intervals, in driving them tight. Then there was the bailing.
One hour in three she had to cease paddling in order to bail. And all
the time she drifted to the westward.

By sunset Hikueru bore southeast from her, three miles away. There was
a full moon, and by eight o’clock the land was due east and two miles
away. She struggled on for another hour, but the land was as far away as
ever. She was in the main grip of the current; the canoe was too large;
the paddle was too inadequate; and too much of her time and strength
was wasted in bailing. Besides, she was very weak and growing weaker.
Despite her efforts, the canoe was drifting off to the westward.

She breathed a prayer to her shark god, slipped over the side, and began
to swim. She was actually refreshed by the water, and quickly left the
canoe astern. At the end of an hour the land was perceptibly nearer.
Then came her fright. Right before her eyes, not twenty feet away, a
large fin cut the water. She swam steadily toward it, and slowly it
glided away, curving off toward the right and circling around her. She
kept her eyes on the fin and swam on. When the fin disappeared, she
lay face downward in the water and watched. When the fin reappeared she
resumed her swimming. The monster was lazy--she could see that. Without
doubt he had been well fed since the hurricane. Had he been very hungry,
she knew he would not have hesitated from making a dash for her. He was
fifteen feet long, and one bite, she knew, could cut her in half.

But she did not have any time to waste on him. Whether she swam or not,
the current drew away from the land just the same. A half hour went
by, and the shark began to grow bolder. Seeing no harm in her he drew
closer, in narrowing circles, cocking his eyes at her impudently as
he slid past. Sooner or later, she knew well enough, he would get up
sufficient courage to dash at her. She resolved to play first. It was a
desperate act she meditated. She was an old woman, alone in the sea and
weak from starvation and hardship; and yet she, in the face of this sea
tiger, must anticipate his dash by herself dashing at him. She swam on,
waiting her chance. At last he passed languidly by, barely eight feet
away. She rushed at him suddenly, feigning that she was attacking him.
He gave a wild flirt of his tail as he fled away, and his sandpaper
hide, striking her, took off her skin from elbow to shoulder. He swam
rapidly, in a widening circle, and at last disappeared.

In the hole in the sand, covered over by fragments of metal roofing,
Mapuhi and Tefara lay disputing.

“If you had done as I said,” charged Tefara, for the thousandth time,
“and hidden the pearl and told no one, you would have it now.”

“But Huru-Huru was with me when I opened the shell--have I not told you
so times and times and times without end?”

“And now we shall have no house. Raoul told me today that if you had not
sold the pearl to Toriki--”

“I did not sell it. Toriki robbed me.”

“--that if you had not sold the pearl, he would give you five thousand
French dollars, which is ten thousand Chili.”

“He has been talking to his mother,” Mapuhi explained. “She has an eye
for a pearl.”

“And now the pearl is lost,” Tefara complained.

“It paid my debt with Toriki. That is twelve hundred I have made,

“Toriki is dead,” she cried. “They have heard no word of his schooner.
She was lost along with the Aorai and the Hira. Will Toriki pay you the
three hundred credit he promised? No, because Toriki is dead. And had
you found no pearl, would you today owe Toriki the twelve hundred? No,
because Toriki is dead, and you cannot pay dead men.”

“But Levy did not pay Toriki,” Mapuhi said. “He gave him a piece of
paper that was good for the money in Papeete; and now Levy is dead and
cannot pay; and Toriki is dead and the paper lost with him, and the
pearl is lost with Levy. You are right, Tefara. I have lost the pearl,
and got nothing for it. Now let us sleep.”

He held up his hand suddenly and listened. From without came a noise,
as of one who breathed heavily and with pain. A hand fumbled against the
mat that served for a door.

“Who is there?” Mapuhi cried.

“Nauri,” came the answer. “Can you tell me where is my son, Mapuhi?”

Tefara screamed and gripped her husband’s arm.

“A ghost!” she chattered. “A ghost!”

Mapuhi’s face was a ghastly yellow. He clung weakly to his wife.

“Good woman,” he said in faltering tones, striving to disguise his vice,
“I know your son well. He is living on the east side of the lagoon.”

From without came the sound of a sigh. Mapuhi began to feel elated. He
had fooled the ghost.

“But where do you come from, old woman?” he asked.

“From the sea,” was the dejected answer.

“I knew it! I knew it!” screamed Tefara, rocking to and fro.

“Since when has Tefara bedded in a strange house?” came Nauri’s voice
through the matting.

Mapuhi looked fear and reproach at his wife. It was her voice that had
betrayed them.

“And since when has Mapuhi, my son, denied his old mother?” the voice
went on.

“No, no, I have not--Mapuhi has not denied you,” he cried. “I am not
Mapuhi. He is on the east end of the lagoon, I tell you.”

Ngakura sat up in bed and began to cry. The matting started to shake.

“What are you doing?” Mapuhi demanded.

“I am coming in,” said the voice of Nauri.

One end of the matting lifted. Tefara tried to dive under the blankets,
but Mapuhi held on to her. He had to hold on to something. Together,
struggling with each other, with shivering bodies and chattering teeth,
they gazed with protruding eyes at the lifting mat. They saw Nauri,
dripping with sea water, without her ahu, creep in. They rolled over
backward from her and fought for Ngakura’s blanket with which to cover
their heads.

“You might give your old mother a drink of water,” the ghost said

“Give her a drink of water,” Tefara commanded in a shaking voice.

“Give her a drink of water,” Mapuhi passed on the command to Ngakura.

And together they kicked out Ngakura from under the blanket. A minute
later, peeping, Mapuhi saw the ghost drinking. When it reached out
a shaking hand and laid it on his, he felt the weight of it and was
convinced that it was no ghost. Then he emerged, dragging Tefara after
him, and in a few minutes all were listening to Nauri’s tale. And when
she told of Levy, and dropped the pearl into Tefara’s hand, even she was
reconciled to the reality of her mother-in-law.

“In the morning,” said Tefara, “you will sell the pearl to Raoul for
five thousand French.”

“The house?” objected Nauri.

“He will build the house,” Tefara answered. “He ways it will cost four
thousand French. Also will he give one thousand French in credit, which
is two thousand Chili.”

“And it will be six fathoms long?” Nauri queried.

“Ay,” answered Mapuhi, “six fathoms.”

“And in the middle room will be the octagon-drop-clock?”

“Ay, and the round table as well.”

“Then give me something to eat, for I am hungry,” said Nauri,
complacently. “And after that we will sleep, for I am weary. And
tomorrow we will have more talk about the house before we sell the
pearl. It will be better if we take the thousand French in cash. Money
is ever better than credit in buying goods from the traders.”


It was in the early days in Fiji, when John Starhurst arose in the
mission house at Rewa Village and announced his intention of carrying
the gospel throughout all Viti Levu. Now Viti Levu means the “Great
Land,” it being the largest island in a group composed of many large
islands, to say nothing of hundreds of small ones. Here and there on
the coasts, living by most precarious tenure, was a sprinkling of
missionaries, traders, bêche-de-mer fishers, and whaleship deserters.
The smoke of the hot ovens arose under their windows, and the bodies of
the slain were dragged by their doors on the way to the feasting.

The Lotu, or the Worship, was progressing slowly, and, often, in
crablike fashion. Chiefs, who announced themselves Christians and
were welcomed into the body of the chapel, had a distressing habit of
backsliding in order to partake of the flesh of some favorite enemy. Eat
or be eaten had been the law of the land; and eat or be eaten promised
to remain the law of the land for a long time to come. There were
chiefs, such as Tanoa, Tuiveikoso, and Tuikilakila, who had literally
eaten hundreds of their fellow men. But among these gluttons Ra
Undreundre ranked highest. Ra Undreundre lived at Takiraki. He kept a
register of his gustatory exploits. A row of stones outside his house
marked the bodies he had eaten. This row was two hundred and thirty
paces long, and the stones in it numbered eight hundred and seventy-two.
Each stone represented a body. The row of stones might have been longer,
had not Ra Undreundre unfortunately received a spear in the small of his
back in a bush skirmish on Somo Somo and been served up on the table of
Naungavuli, whose mediocre string of stones numbered only forty-eight.

The hard-worked, fever-stricken missionaries stuck doggedly to their
task, at times despairing, and looking forward for some special
manifestation, some outburst of Pentecostal fire that would bring a
glorious harvest of souls. But cannibal Fiji had remained obdurate. The
frizzle-headed man-eaters were loath to leave their fleshpots so long as
the harvest of human carcases was plentiful. Sometimes, when the harvest
was too plentiful, they imposed on the missionaries by letting the word
slip out that on such a day there would be a killing and a barbecue.
Promptly the missionaries would buy the lives of the victims with stick
tobacco, fathoms of calico, and quarts of trade beads. Natheless the
chiefs drove a handsome trade in thus disposing of their surplus live
meat. Also, they could always go out and catch more.

It was at this juncture that John Starhurst proclaimed that he would
carry the Gospel from coast to coast of the Great Land, and that he
would begin by penetrating the mountain fastnesses of the headwaters of
the Rewa River. His words were received with consternation.

The native teachers wept softly. His two fellow missionaries strove to
dissuade him. The King of Rewa warned him that the mountain dwellers
would surely kai-kai him--kai-kai meaning “to eat”--and that he, the
King of Rewa, having become Lotu, would be put to the necessity of going
to war with the mountain dwellers. That he could not conquer them he
was perfectly aware. That they might come down the river and sack Rewa
Village he was likewise perfectly aware. But what was he to do? If John
Starhurst persisted in going out and being eaten, there would be a war
that would cost hundreds of lives.

Later in the day a deputation of Rewa chiefs waited upon John Starhurst.
He heard them patiently, and argued patiently with them, though he
abated not a whit from his purpose. To his fellow missionaries he
explained that he was not bent upon martyrdom; that the call had come
for him to carry the Gospel into Viti Levu, and that he was merely
obeying the Lord’s wish.

To the traders who came and objected most strenuously of all, he said:
“Your objections are valueless. They consist merely of the damage that
may be done your businesses. You are interested in making money, but
I am interested in saving souls. The heathen of this dark land must be

John Starhurst was not a fanatic. He would have been the first man to
deny the imputation. He was eminently sane and practical.

He was sure that his mission would result in good, and he had
private visions of igniting the Pentecostal spark in the souls of the
mountaineers and of inaugurating a revival that would sweep down out of
the mountains and across the length and breadth of the Great Land from
sea to sea and to the isles in the midst of the sea. There were no
wild lights in his mild gray eyes, but only calm resolution and an
unfaltering trust in the Higher Power that was guiding him.

One man only he found who approved of his project, and that was Ra Vatu,
who secretly encouraged him and offered to lend him guides to the first
foothills. John Starhurst, in turn, was greatly pleased by Ra Vatu’s
conduct. From an incorrigible heathen, with a heart as black as his
practices, Ra Vatu was beginning to emanate light. He even spoke of
becoming Lotu. True, three years before he had expressed a similar
intention, and would have entered the church had not John Starhurst
entered objection to his bringing his four wives along with him. Ra
Vatu had had economic and ethical objections to monogamy. Besides, the
missionary’s hair-splitting objection had offended him; and, to prove
that he was a free agent and a man of honor, he had swung his huge war
club over Starhurst’s head. Starhurst had escaped by rushing in under
the club and holding on to him until help arrived. But all that was now
forgiven and forgotten. Ra Vatu was coming into the church, not merely
as a converted heathen, but as a converted polygamist as well. He was
only waiting, he assured Starhurst, until his oldest wife, who was very
sick, should die.

John Starhurst journeyed up the sluggish Rewa in one of Ra Vatu’s
canoes. This canoe was to carry him for two days, when, the head of
navigation reached, it would return. Far in the distance, lifted
into the sky, could be seen the great smoky mountains that marked the
backbone of the Great Land. All day John Starhurst gazed at them with
eager yearning.

Sometimes he prayed silently. At other times he was joined in prayer by
Narau, a native teacher, who for seven years had been Lotu, ever since
the day he had been saved from the hot oven by Dr. James Ellery Brown
at the trifling expense of one hundred sticks of tobacco, two cotton
blankets, and a large bottle of painkiller. At the last moment, after
twenty hours of solitary supplication and prayer, Narau’s ears had
heard the call to go forth with John Starhurst on the mission to the

“Master, I will surely go with thee,” he had announced.

John Starhurst had hailed him with sober delight. Truly, the Lord was
with him thus to spur on so broken-spirited a creature as Narau.

“I am indeed without spirit, the weakest of the Lord’s vessels,” Narau
explained, the first day in the canoe.

“You should have faith, stronger faith,” the missionary chided him.

Another canoe journeyed up the Rewa that day. But it journeyed an
hour astern, and it took care not to be seen. This canoe was also the
property of Ra Vatu. In it was Erirola, Ra Vatu’s first cousin and
trusted henchman; and in the small basket that never left his hand was
a whale tooth. It was a magnificent tooth, fully six inches long,
beautifully proportioned, the ivory turned yellow and purple with age.
This tooth was likewise the property of Ra Vatu; and in Fiji, when such
a tooth goes forth, things usually happen. For this is the virtue of
the whale tooth: Whoever accepts it cannot refuse the request that may
accompany it or follow it. The request may be anything from a human life
to a tribal alliance, and no Fijian is so dead to honor as to deny the
request when once the tooth has been accepted. Sometimes the request
hangs fire, or the fulfilment is delayed, with untoward consequences.

High up the Rewa, at the village of a chief, Mongondro by name, John
Starhurst rested at the end of the second day of the journey. In the
morning, attended by Narau, he expected to start on foot for the smoky
mountains that were now green and velvety with nearness. Mongondro was
a sweet-tempered, mild-mannered little old chief, short-sighted
and afflicted with elephantiasis, and no longer inclined toward the
turbulence of war. He received the missionary with warm hospitality,
gave him food from his own table, and even discussed religious matters
with him. Mongondro was of an inquiring bent of mind, and pleased
John Starhurst greatly by asking him to account for the existence and
beginning of things. When the missionary had finished his summary of
the Creation according to Genesis, he saw that Mongondro was deeply
affected. The little old chief smoked silently for some time. Then he
took the pipe from his mouth and shook his head sadly.

“It cannot be,” he said. “I, Mongondro, in my youth, was a good workman
with the adze. Yet three months did it take me to make a canoe--a small
canoe, a very small canoe. And you say that all this land and water was
made by one man--”

“Nay, was made by one God, the only true God,” the missionary

“It is the same thing,” Mongondro went on, “that all the land and all
the water, the trees, the fish, and bush and mountains, the sun, the
moon, and the stars, were made in six days! No, no. I tell you that in
my youth I was an able man, yet did it require me three months for one
small canoe. It is a story to frighten children with; but no man can
believe it.”

“I am a man,” the missionary said.

“True, you are a man. But it is not given to my dark understanding to
know what you believe.”

“I tell you, I do believe that everything was made in six days.”

“So you say, so you say,” the old cannibal murmured soothingly.

It was not until after John Starhurst and Narau had gone off to bed
that Erirola crept into the chief’s house, and, after diplomatic speech,
handed the whale tooth to Mongondro.

The old chief held the tooth in his hands for a long time. It was a
beautiful tooth, and he yearned for it. Also, he divined the request
that must accompany it. “No, no; whale teeth were beautiful,” and
his mouth watered for it, but he passed it back to Erirola with many


In the early dawn John Starhurst was afoot, striding along the bush
trail in his big leather boots, at his heels the faithful Narau, himself
at the heels of a naked guide lent him by Mongondro to show the way to
the next village, which was reached by midday. Here a new guide showed
the way. A mile in the rear plodded Erirola, the whale tooth in the
basket slung on his shoulder. For two days more he brought up the
missionary’s rear, offering the tooth to the village chiefs. But village
after village refused the tooth. It followed so quickly the missionary’s
advent that they divined the request that would be made, and would have
none of it.

They were getting deep into the mountains, and Erirola took a secret
trail, cut in ahead of the missionary, and reached the stronghold of the
Buli of Gatoka. Now the Buli was unaware of John Starhurst’s imminent
arrival. Also, the tooth was beautiful--an extraordinary specimen, while
the coloring of it was of the rarest order. The tooth was presented
publicly. The Buli of Gatoka, seated on his best mat, surrounded by his
chief men, three busy fly-brushers at his back, deigned to receive from
the hand of his herald the whale tooth presented by Ra Vatu and carried
into the mountains by his cousin, Erirola. A clapping of hands went up
at the acceptance of the present, the assembled headman, heralds, and
fly-brushers crying aloud in chorus:

“A! woi! woi! woi! A! woi! woi! woi! A tabua levu! woi! woi! A mudua,
mudua, mudua!’

“Soon will come a man, a white man,” Erirola began, after the proper
pause. “He is a missionary man, and he will come today. Ra Vatu is
pleased to desire his boots. He wishes to present them to his good
friend, Mongondro, and it is in his mind to send them with the feet
along in them, for Mongondro is an old man and his teeth are not good.
Be sure, O Buli, that the feet go along in the boots. As for the rest of
him, it may stop here.”

The delight in the whale tooth faded out of the Buli’s eyes, and he
glanced about him dubiously. Yet had he already accepted the tooth.

“A little thing like a missionary does not matter,” Erirola prompted.

“No, a little thing like a missionary does not matter,” the Buli
answered, himself again. “Mongondro shall have the boots. Go, you young
men, some three or four of you, and meet the missionary on the trail. Be
sure you bring back the boots as well.”

“It is too late,” said Erirola. “Listen! He comes now.”

Breaking through the thicket of brush, John Starhurst, with Narau close
on his heels, strode upon the scene. The famous boots, having filled in
wading the stream, squirted fine jets of water at every step. Starhurst
looked about him with flashing eyes. Upborne by an unwavering trust,
untouched by doubt or fear, he exulted in all he saw. He knew that
since the beginning of time he was the first white man ever to tread the
mountain stronghold of Gatoka.

The grass houses clung to the steep mountain side or overhung the
rushing Rewa. On either side towered a mighty precipice. At the best,
three hours of sunlight penetrated that narrow gorge. No cocoanuts
nor bananas were to be seen, though dense, tropic vegetation overran
everything, dripping in airy festoons from the sheer lips of the
precipices and running riot in all the crannied ledges. At the far end
of the gorge the Rewa leaped eight hundred feet in a single span, while
the atmosphere of the rock fortress pulsed to the rhythmic thunder of
the fall.

From the Buli’s house, John Starhurst saw emerging the Buli and his

“I bring you good tidings,” was the missionary’s greeting.

“Who has sent you?” the Buli rejoined quietly.


“It is a new name in Viti Levu,” the Buli grinned. “Of what islands,
villages, or passes may he be chief?”

“He is the chief over all islands, all villages, all passes,” John
Starhurst answered solemnly. “He is the Lord over heaven and earth, and
I am come to bring His word to you.”

“Has he sent whale teeth?” was the insolent query.

“No, but more precious than whale teeth is the--”

“It is the custom, between chiefs, to send whale teeth,” the Buli

“Your chief is either a niggard, or you are a fool, to come empty-handed
into the mountains. Behold, a more generous than you is before you.”

So saying, he showed the whale tooth he had received from Erirola.

Narau groaned.

“It is the whale tooth of Ra Vatu,” he whispered to Starhurst. “I know
it well. Now are we undone.”

“A gracious thing,” the missionary answered, passing his hand through
his long beard and adjusting his glasses. “Ra Vatu has arranged that we
should be well received.”

But Narau groaned again, and backed away from the heels he had dogged so

“Ra Vatu is soon to become Lotu,” Starhurst explained, “and I have come
bringing the Lotu to you.”

“I want none of your Lotu,” said the Buli, proudly. “And it is in my
mind that you will be clubbed this day.”

The Buli nodded to one of his big mountaineers, who stepped forward,
swinging a club. Narau bolted into the nearest house, seeking to hide
among the woman and mats; but John Starhurst sprang in under the club
and threw his arms around his executioner’s neck. From this point of
vantage he proceeded to argue. He was arguing for his life, and he knew
it; but he was neither excited nor afraid.

“It would be an evil thing for you to kill me,” he told the man. “I have
done you no wrong, nor have I done the Buli wrong.”

So well did he cling to the neck of the one man that they dared not
strike with their clubs. And he continued to cling and to dispute for
his life with those who clamored for his death.

“I am John Starhurst,” he went on calmly. “I have labored in Fiji for
three years, and I have done it for no profit. I am here among you for
good. Why should any man kill me? To kill me will not profit any man.”

The Buli stole a look at the whale tooth. He was well paid for the deed.

The missionary was surrounded by a mass of naked savages, all struggling
to get at him. The death song, which is the song of the oven, was
raised, and his expostulations could no longer be heard. But so
cunningly did he twine and wreathe his body about his captor’s that the
death blow could not be struck. Erirola smiled, and the Buli grew angry.

“Away with you!” he cried. “A nice story to go back to the coast--a
dozen of you and one missionary, without weapons, weak as a woman,
overcoming all of you.”

“Wait, O Buli,” John Starhurst called out from the thick of the scuffle,
“and I will overcome even you. For my weapons are Truth and Right, and
no man can withstand them.”

“Come to me, then,” the Buli answered, “for my weapon is only a poor
miserable club, and, as you say, it cannot withstand you.”

The group separated from him, and John Starhurst stood alone, facing the
Buli, who was leaning on an enormous, knotted warclub.

“Come to me, missionary man, and overcome me,” the Buli challenged.

“Even so will I come to you and overcome you,” John Starhurst made
answer, first wiping his spectacles and settling them properly, then
beginning his advance.

The Buli raised the club and waited.

“In the first place, my death will profit you nothing,” began the

“I leave the answer to my club,” was the Buli’s reply.

And to every point he made the same reply, at the same time watching the
missionary closely in order to forestall that cunning run-in under the
lifted club. Then, and for the first time, John Starhurst knew that his
death was at hand. He made no attempt to run in. Bareheaded, he stood in
the sun and prayed aloud--the mysterious figure of the inevitable white
man, who, with Bible, bullet, or rum bottle, has confronted the amazed
savage in his every stronghold. Even so stood John Starhurst in the rock
fortress of the Buli of Gatoka.

“Forgive them, for they know not what they do,” he prayed. “O Lord! Have
mercy upon Fiji. Have compassion for Fiji. O Jehovah, hear us for His
sake, Thy Son, whom Thou didst give that through Him all men might also
become Thy children. From Thee we came, and our mind is that to Thee
we may return. The land is dark, O Lord, the land is dark. But Thou art
mighty to save. Reach out Thy hand, O Lord, and save Fiji, poor cannibal

The Buli grew impatient.

“Now will I answer thee,” he muttered, at the same time swinging his
club with both hands.

Narau, hiding among the women and the mats, heard the impact of the
blow and shuddered. Then the death song arose, and he knew his beloved
missionary’s body was being dragged to the oven as he heard the words:

“Drag me gently. Drag me gently.”

“For I am the champion of my land.”

“Give thanks! Give thanks! Give thanks!”

Next, a single voice arose out of the din, asking:

“Where is the brave man?”

A hundred voices bellowed the answer:

“Gone to be dragged into the oven and cooked.”

“Where is the coward?” the single voice demanded.

“Gone to report!” the hundred voices bellowed back. “Gone to report!
Gone to report!”

Narau groaned in anguish of spirit. The words of the old song were true.
He was the coward, and nothing remained to him but to go and report.


He weighed one hundred and ten pounds. His hair was kinky and negroid,
and he was black. He was peculiarly black. He was neither blue-black nor
purple-black, but plum-black. His name was Mauki, and he was the son
of a chief. He had three tambos. Tambo is Melanesian for taboo, and
is first cousin to that Polynesian word. Mauki’s three tambos were
as follows: First, he must never shake hands with a woman, nor have a
woman’s hand touch him or any of his personal belongings; secondly, he
must never eat clams nor any food from a fire in which clams had been
cooked; thirdly, he must never touch a crocodile, nor travel in a canoe
that carried any part of a crocodile even if as large as a tooth.

Of a different black were his teeth, which were deep black, or, perhaps
better, LAMP-black. They had been made so in a single night, by his
mother, who had compressed about them a powdered mineral which was
dug from the landslide back of Port Adams. Port Adams is a salt-water
village on Malaita, and Malaita is the most savage island in the
Solomons--so savage that no traders or planters have yet gained a
foothold on it; while, from the time of the earliest bêche-de-mer
fishers and sandalwood traders down to the latest labor recruiters
equipped with automatic rifles and gasolene engines, scores of white
adventurers have been passed out by tomahawks and soft-nosed Snider
bullets. So Malaita remains today, in the twentieth century, the
stamping ground of the labor recruiters, who farm its coasts for
laborers who engage and contract themselves to toil on the plantations
of the neighboring and more civilized islands for a wage of thirty
dollars a year. The natives of those neighboring and more civilized
islands have themselves become too civilized to work on plantations.

Mauki’s ears were pierced, not in one place, nor two places, but in a
couple of dozen places. In one of the smaller holes he carried a clay
pipe. The larger holes were too large for such use. The bowl of the pipe
would have fallen through. In fact, in the largest hole in each ear
he habitually wore round wooden plugs that were an even four inches in
diameter. Roughly speaking, the circumference of said holes was twelve
and one-half inches. Mauki was catholic in his tastes. In the various
smaller holes he carried such things as empty rifle cartridges,
horseshoe nails, copper screws, pieces of string, braids of sennit,
strips of green leaf, and, in the cool of the day, scarlet hibiscus
flowers. From which it will be seen that pockets were not necessary to
his well-being. Besides, pockets were impossible, for his only wearing
apparel consisted of a piece of calico several inches wide. A pocket
knife he wore in his hair, the blade snapped down on a kinky lock. His
most prized possession was the handle of a china cup, which he suspended
from a ring of turtle-shell, which, in turn, was passed through the
partition-cartilage of his nose.

But in spite of embellishments, Mauki had a nice face. It was really
a pretty face, viewed by any standard, and for a Melanesian it was a
remarkably good-looking face. Its one fault was its lack of strength. It
was softly effeminate, almost girlish. The features were small, regular,
and delicate. The chin was weak, and the mouth was weak. There was no
strength nor character in the jaws, forehead, and nose. In the eyes only
could be caught any hint of the unknown quantities that were so large a
part of his make-up and that other persons could not understand. These
unknown quantities were pluck, pertinacity, fearlessness, imagination,
and cunning; and when they found expression in some consistent and
striking action, those about him were astounded.

Mauki’s father was chief over the village at Port Adams, and thus, by
birth a salt-water man, Mauki was half amphibian. He knew the way of the
fishes and oysters, and the reef was an open book to him. Canoes, also,
he knew. He learned to swim when he was a year old. At seven years he
could hold his breath a full minute and swim straight down to bottom
through thirty feet of water. And at seven years he was stolen by
the bushmen, who cannot even swim and who are afraid of salt water.
Thereafter Mauki saw the sea only from a distance, through rifts in the
jungle and from open spaces on the high mountain sides. He became the
slave of old Fanfoa, head chief over a score of scattered bush-villages
on the range-lips of Malaita, the smoke of which, on calm mornings,
is about the only evidence the seafaring white men have of the teeming
interior population. For the whites do not penetrate Malaita. They tried
it once, in the days when the search was on for gold, but they always
left their heads behind to grin from the smoky rafters of the bushmen’s

When Mauki was a young man of seventeen, Fanfoa got out of tobacco. He
got dreadfully out of tobacco. It was hard times in all his villages.
He had been guilty of a mistake. Suo was a harbor so small that a large
schooner could not swing at anchor in it. It was surrounded by mangroves
that overhung the deep water. It was a trap, and into the trap sailed
two white men in a small ketch. They were after recruits, and they
possessed much tobacco and trade goods, to say nothing of three rifles
and plenty of ammunition. Now there were no salt-water men living at
Suo, and it was there that the bushmen could come down to the sea. The
ketch did a splendid traffic. It signed on twenty recruits the first
day. Even old Fanfoa signed on. And that same day the score of new
recruits chopped off the two white men’s head, killed the boat’s crew,
and burned the ketch. Thereafter, and for three months, there was
tobacco and trade goods in plenty and to spare in all the bush villages.
Then came the man-of-war that threw shells for miles into the hills,
frightening the people out of their villages and into the deeper bush.
Next the man-of-war sent landing parties ashore. The villages were all
burned, along with the tobacco and trade stuff.

The cocoanuts and bananas were chopped down, the taro gardens uprooted,
and the pigs and chickens killed.

It taught Fanfoa a lesson, but in the meantime he was out of tobacco.
Also, his young men were too frightened to sign on with the recruiting
vessels. That was why Fanfoa ordered his slave, Mauki, to be carried
down and signed on for half a case of tobacco advance, along with
knives, axes, calico, and beads, which he would pay for with his toil
on the plantations. Mauki was sorely frightened when they brought him on
board the schooner. He was a lamb led to the slaughter. White men were
ferocious creatures. They had to be, or else they would not make a
practice of venturing along the Malaita coast and into all harbors, two
on a schooner, when each schooner carried from fifteen to twenty blacks
as boat’s crew, and often as high as sixty or seventy black recruits. In
addition to this, there was always the danger of the shore population,
the sudden attack and the cutting off of the schooner and all hands.
Truly, white men must be terrible. Besides, they were possessed of such
devil-devils--rifles that shot very rapidly many times, things of iron
and brass that made the schooners go when there was no wind, and boxes
that talked and laughed just as men talked and laughed.

Ay, and he had heard of one white man whose particular devil-devil was
so powerful that he could take out all his teeth and put them back at

Down into the cabin they took Mauki. On deck, the one white man kept
guard with two revolvers in his belt. In the cabin the other white man
sat with a book before him, in which he inscribed strange marks and
lines. He looked at Mauki as though he had been a pig or a fowl, glanced
under the hollows of his arms, and wrote in the book. Then he held out
the writing stick and Mauki just barely touched it with his hand, in so
doing pledging himself to toil for three years on the plantations of the
Moongleam Soap Company. It was not explained to him that the will of
the ferocious white men would be used to enforce the pledge, and that,
behind all, for the same use, was all the power and all the warships of
Great Britain.

Other blacks there were on board, from unheard-of far places, and when
the white man spoke to them, they tore the long feather from Mauki’s
hair, cut that same hair short, and wrapped about his waist a lava-lava
of bright yellow calico.

After many days on the schooner, and after beholding more land and
islands than he had ever dreamed of, he was landed on New Georgia, and
put to work in the field clearing jungle and cutting cane grass. For the
first time he knew what work was. Even as a slave to Fanfoa he had not
worked like this. And he did not like work. It was up at dawn and in at
dark, on two meals a day. And the food was tiresome. For weeks at a time
they were given nothing but sweet potatoes to eat, and for weeks at
a time it would be nothing but rice. He cut out the cocoanut from the
shells day after day; and for long days and weeks he fed the fires
that smoked the copra, till his eyes got sore and he was set to
felling trees. He was a good axe-man, and later he was put in the
bridge-building gang. Once, he was punished by being put in the
road-building gang. At times he served as boat’s crew in the whale
boats, when they brought in copra from distant beaches or when the white
men went out to dynamite fish.

Among other things he learned beche-de-mer English, with which he could
talk with all white men, and with all recruits who otherwise would have
talked in a thousand different dialects. Also, he learned certain things
about the white men, principally that they kept their word. If they told
a boy he was going to receive a stick of tobacco, he got it. If they
told a boy they would knock seven bells out of him if he did a certain
thing, when he did that thing, seven bells invariably were knocked out
of him. Mauki did not know what seven bells were, but they occurred
in beche-de-mer, and he imagined them to be the blood and teeth that
sometimes accompanied the process of knocking out seven bells. One other
thing he learned: no boy was struck or punished unless he did wrong.
Even when the white men were drunk, as they were frequently, they never
struck unless a rule had been broken.

Mauki did not like the plantation. He hated work, and he was the son
of a chief. Furthermore, it was ten years since he had been stolen from
Port Adams by Fanfoa, and he was homesick. He was even homesick for the
slavery under Fanfoa. So he ran away. He struck back into the bush, with
the idea of working southward to the beach and stealing a canoe in which
to go home to Port Adams.

But the fever got him, and he was captured and brought back more dead
than alive.

A second time he ran away, in the company of two Malaita boys. They got
down the coast twenty miles, and were hidden in the hut of a Malaita
freeman, who dwelt in that village. But in the dead of night two white
men came, who were not afraid of all the village people and who knocked
seven bells out of the three runaways, tied them like pigs, and
tossed them into the whale boat. But the man in whose house they had
hidden--seven times seven bells must have been knocked out of him from
the way the hair, skin, and teeth flew, and he was discouraged for the
rest of his natural life from harboring runaway laborers.

For a year Mauki toiled on. Then he was made a house-boy, and had good
food and easy times, with light work in keeping the house clean and
serving the white men with whiskey and beer at all hours of the day and
most hours of the night. He liked it, but he liked Port Adams more. He
had two years longer to serve, but two years were too long for him in
the throes of homesickness. He had grown wiser with his year of service,
and, being now a house-boy, he had opportunity. He had the cleaning of
the rifles, and he knew where the key to the store room was hung. He
planned to escape, and one night ten Malaita boys and one boy from San
Cristoval sneaked from the barracks and dragged one of the whale boats
down to the beach. It was Mauki who supplied the key that opened the
padlock on the boat, and it was Mauki who equipped the boat with a dozen
Winchesters, an immense amount of ammunition, a case of dynamite with
detonators and fuse, and ten cases of tobacco.

The northwest monsoon was blowing, and they fled south in the night
time, hiding by day on detached and uninhabited islets, or dragging
their whale boat into the bush on the large islands. Thus they gained
Guadalcanar, skirted halfway along it, and crossed the Indispensable
Straits to Florida Island. It was here that they killed the San
Cristoval boy, saving his head and cooking and eating the rest of him.
The Malaita coast was only twenty miles away, but the last night a
strong current and baffling winds prevented them from gaining across.
Daylight found them still several miles from their goal. But daylight
brought a cutter, in which were two white men, who were not afraid of
eleven Malaita men armed with twelve rifles. Mauki and his companions
were carried back to Tulagi, where lived the great white master of all
the white men. And the great white master held a court, after which,
one by one, the runaways were tied up and given twenty lashes each,
and sentenced to a fine of fifteen dollars. They were sent back to New
Georgia, where the white men knocked seven bells out of them all around
and put them to work. But Mauki was no longer house-boy. He was put in
the road-making gang. The fine of fifteen dollars had been paid by the
white men from whom he had run away, and he was told that he would have
to work it out, which meant six months’ additional toil. Further, his
share of the stolen tobacco earned him another year of toil.

Port Adams was now three years and a half away, so he stole a canoe one
night, hid on the islets in Manning Straits, passed through the
Straits, and began working along the eastern coast of Ysabel, only to
be captured, two-thirds of the way along, by the white men on Meringe
Lagoon. After a week, he escaped from them and took to the bush. There
were no bush natives on Ysabel, only salt-water men, who were all
Christians. The white men put up a reward of five-hundred sticks of
tobacco, and every time Mauki ventured down to the sea to steal a canoe
he was chased by the salt-water men. Four months of this passed, when,
the reward having been raised to a thousand sticks, he was caught and
sent back to New Georgia and the road-building gang. Now a thousand
sticks are worth fifty dollars, and Mauki had to pay the reward himself,
which required a year and eight months’ labor. So Port Adams was now
five years away.

His homesickness was greater than ever, and it did not appeal to him to
settle down and be good, work out his four years, and go home. The
next time, he was caught in the very act of running away. His case was
brought before Mr. Haveby, the island manager of the Moongleam Soap
Company, who adjudged him an incorrigible. The Company had plantations
on the Santa Cruz Islands, hundreds of miles across the sea, and there
it sent its Solomon Islands’ incorrigibles. And there Mauki was sent,
though he never arrived. The schooner stopped at Santa Anna, and in the
night Mauki swam ashore, where he stole two rifles and a case of tobacco
from the trader and got away in a canoe to Cristoval. Malaita was now to
the north, fifty or sixty miles away. But when he attempted the passage,
he was caught by a light gale and driven back to Santa Anna, where
the trader clapped him in irons and held him against the return of the
schooner from Santa Cruz. The two rifles the trader recovered, but the
case of tobacco was charged up to Mauki at the rate of another year. The
sum of years he now owed the Company was six.

On the way back to New Georgia, the schooner dropped anchor in Marau
Sound, which lies at the southeastern extremity of Guadalcanar. Mauki
swam ashore with handcuffs on his wrists and got away to the bush. The
schooner went on, but the Moongleam trader ashore offered a thousand
sticks, and to him Mauki was brought by the bushmen with a year and
eight months tacked on to his account. Again, and before the schooner
called in, he got away, this time in a whale boat accompanied by a case
of the trader’s tobacco. But a northwest gale wrecked him upon Ugi,
where the Christian natives stole his tobacco and turned him over to the
Moongleam trader who resided there. The tobacco the natives stole meant
another year for him, and the tale was now eight years and a half.

“We’ll send him to Lord Howe,” said Mr. Haveby. “Bunster is there, and
we’ll let them settle it between them. It will be a case, I imagine, of
Mauki getting Bunster, or Bunster getting Mauki, and good riddance in
either event.”

If one leaves Meringe Lagoon, on Ysabel, and steers a course due north,
magnetic, at the end of one hundred and fifty miles he will lift the
pounded coral beaches of Lord Howe above the sea. Lord Howe is a ring of
land some one hundred and fifty miles in circumference, several hundred
yards wide at its widest, and towering in places to a height of ten feet
above sea level. Inside this ring of sand is a mighty lagoon studded
with coral patches. Lord Howe belongs to the Solomons neither
geographically nor ethnologically. It is an atoll, while the Solomons
are high islands; and its people and language are Polynesian, while the
inhabitants of the Solomons are Melanesian.

Lord Howe has been populated by the westward Polynesian drift which
continues to this day, big outrigger canoes being washed upon its
beaches by the southeast trade. That there has been a slight Melanesian
drift in the period of the northwest monsoon, is also evident.

Nobody ever comes to Lord Howe, or Ontong-Java as it is sometimes
called. Thomas Cook & Son do not sell tickets to it, and tourists do not
dream of its existence. Not even a white missionary has landed on its
shore. Its five thousand natives are as peaceable as they are primitive.
Yet they were not always peaceable. The Sailing Directions speak of
them as hostile and treacherous. But the men who compile the Sailing
Directions have never heard of the change that was worked in the hearts
of the inhabitants, who, not many years ago, cut off a big bark and
killed all hands with the exception of the second mate. The survivor
carried the news to his brothers. The captains of three trading
schooners returned with him to Lord Howe. They sailed their vessels
right into the lagoon and proceeded to preach the white man’s gospel
that only white men shall kill white men and that the lesser breeds must
keep hands off. The schooners sailed up and down the lagoon, harrying
and destroying. There was no escape from the narrow sand-circle, no
bush to which to flee. The men were shot down at sight, and there was
no avoiding being sighted. The villages were burned, the canoes smashed,
the chickens and pigs killed, and the precious cocoanut trees chopped
down. For a month this continued, when the schooner sailed away; but the
fear of the white man had been seared into the souls of the islanders
and never again were they rash enough to harm one.

Max Bunster was the one white man on Lord Howe, trading in the pay of
the ubiquitous Moongleam Soap Company. And the Company billeted him
on Lord Howe, because, next to getting rid of him, it was the most
out-of-the-way place to be found. That the Company did not get rid of
him was due to the difficulty of finding another man to take his place.
He was a strapping big German, with something wrong in his brain.
Semi-madness would be a charitable statement of his condition. He was
a bully and a coward, and a thrice-bigger savage than any savage on the

Being a coward, his brutality was of the cowardly order. When he
first went into the Company’s employ, he was stationed on Savo. When a
consumptive colonial was sent to take his place, he beat him up with his
fists and sent him off a wreck in the schooner that brought him.

Mr. Haveby next selected a young Yorkshire giant to relieve Bunster. The
Yorkshire man had a reputation as a bruiser and preferred fighting to
eating. But Bunster wouldn’t fight. He was a regular little lamb--for
ten days, at the end of which time the Yorkshire man was prostrated by a
combined attack of dysentery and fever. Then Bunster went for him, among
other things getting him down and jumping on him a score or so of times.
Afraid of what would happen when his victim recovered. Bunster fled away
in a cutter to Guvutu, where he signalized himself by beating up a young
Englishman already crippled by a Boer bullet through both hips.

Then it was that Mr. Haveby sent Bunster to Lord Howe, the falling-off
place. He celebrated his landing by mopping up half a case of gin and by
thrashing the elderly and wheezy mate of the schooner which had brought
him. When the schooner departed, he called the kanakas down to the beach
and challenged them to throw him in a wrestling bout, promising a case
of tobacco to the one who succeeded. Three kanakas he threw, but was
promptly thrown by a fourth, who, instead of receiving the tobacco, got
a bullet through his lungs.

And so began Bunster’s reign on Lord Howe. Three thousand people lived
in the principal village; but it was deserted, even in broad day, when
he passed through. Men, women, and children fled before him. Even the
dogs and pigs got out of the way, while the king was not above hiding
under a mat. The two prime ministers lived in terror of Bunster, who
never discussed any moot subject, but struck out with his fists instead.

And to Lord Howe came Mauki, to toil for Bunster for eight long years
and a half. There was no escaping from Lord Howe. For better or worse,
Bunster and he were tied together. Bunster weighed two hundred pounds.
Mauki weighed one hundred and ten. Bunster was a degenerate brute. But
Mauki was a primitive savage. While both had wills and ways of their

Mauki had no idea of the sort of master he was to work for. He had had
no warnings, and he had concluded as a matter of course that Bunster
would be like other white men, a drinker of much whiskey, a ruler and a
lawgiver who always kept his word and who never struck a boy undeserved.
Bunster had the advantage. He knew all about Mauki, and gloated over the
coming into possession of him. The last cook was suffering from a broken
arm and a dislocated shoulder, so Bunster made Mauki cook and general

And Mauki soon learned that there were white men and white men. On the
very day the schooner departed he was ordered to buy a chicken from
Samisee, the native Tongan missionary. But Samisee had sailed across
the lagoon and would not be back for three days. Mauki returned with
the information. He climbed the steep stairway (the house stood on piles
twelve feet above the sand), and entered the living room to report.
The trader demanded the chicken. Mauki opened his mouth to explain the
missionary’s absence. But Bunster did not care for explanations. He
struck out with his fist. The blow caught Mauki on the mouth and lifted
him into the air. Clear through the doorway he flew, across the narrow
veranda, breaking the top railing, and down to the ground.

His lips were a contused, shapeless mass, and his mouth was full of
blood and broken teeth.

“That’ll teach you that back talk don’t go with me,” the trader shouted,
purple with rage, peering down at him over the broken railing.

Mauki had never met a white man like this, and he resolved to walk small
and never offend. He saw the boat boys knocked about, and one of
them put in irons for three days with nothing to eat for the crime of
breaking a rowlock while pulling. Then, too, he heard the gossip of the
village and learned why Bunster had taken a third wife--by force, as was
well known. The first and second wives lay in the graveyard, under the
white coral sand, with slabs of coral rock at head and feet. They had
died, it was said, from beatings he had given them. The third wife was
certainly ill-used, as Mauki could see for himself.

But there was no way by which to avoid offending the white man who
seemed offended with life. When Mauki kept silent, he was struck and
called a sullen brute. When he spoke, he was struck for giving back
talk. When he was grave, Bunster accused him of plotting and gave him a
thrashing in advance; and when he strove to be cheerful and to smile,
he was charged with sneering at his lord and master and given a taste of
stick. Bunster was a devil.

The village would have done for him, had it not remembered the lesson
of the three schooners. It might have done for him anyway, if there had
been a bush to which to flee. As it was, the murder of the white men,
of any white man, would bring a man-of-war that would kill the offenders
and chop down the precious cocoanut trees. Then there were the boat
boys, with minds fully made up to drown him by accident at the first
opportunity to capsize the cutter. Only Bunster saw to it that the boat
did not capsize.

Mauki was of a different breed, and escape being impossible while
Bunster lived, he was resolved to get the white man. The trouble was
that he could never find a chance. Bunster was always on guard. Day
and night his revolvers were ready to hand. He permitted nobody to pass
behind his back, as Mauki learned after having been knocked down several
times. Bunster knew that he had more to fear from the good-natured, even
sweet-faced, Malaita boy than from the entire population of Lord Howe;
and it gave added zest to the programme of torment he was carrying out.
And Mauki walked small, accepted his punishments, and waited.

All other white men had respected his tambos, but not so Bunster.

Mauki’s weekly allowance of tobacco was two sticks. Bunster passed them
to his woman and ordered Mauki to receive them from her hand. But this
could not be, and Mauki went without his tobacco. In the same way he was
made to miss many a meal, and to go hungry many a day. He was ordered to
make chowder out of the big clams that grew in the lagoon. This he could
not do, for clams were tambo. Six times in succession he refused to
touch the clams, and six times he was knocked senseless. Bunster knew
that the boy would die first, but called his refusal mutiny, and would
have killed him had there been another cook to take his place.

One of the trader’s favorite tricks was to catch Mauki’s kinky locks and
bat his head against the wall. Another trick was to catch Mauki unawares
and thrust the live end of a cigar against his flesh. This Bunster
called vaccination, and Mauki was vaccinated a number of times a week.
Once, in a rage, Bunster ripped the cup handle from Mauki’s nose,
tearing the hole clear out of the cartilage.

“Oh, what a mug!” was his comment, when he surveyed the damage he had

The skin of a shark is like sandpaper, but the skin of a ray fish is
like a rasp. In the South Seas the natives use it as a wood file in
smoothing down canoes and paddles. Bunster had a mitten made of ray fish
skin. The first time he tried it on Mauki, with one sweep of the hand
it fetched the skin off his back from neck to armpit. Bunster was
delighted. He gave his wife a taste of the mitten, and tried it out
thoroughly on the boat boys. The prime ministers came in for a stroke
each, and they had to grin and take it for a joke.

“Laugh, damn you, laugh!” was the cue he gave.

Mauki came in for the largest share of the mitten. Never a day passed
without a caress from it. There were times when the loss of so much
cuticle kept him awake at night, and often the half-healed surface
was raked raw afresh by the facetious Mr. Bunster. Mauki continued his
patient wait, secure in the knowledge that sooner or later his time
would come. And he knew just what he was going to do, down to the
smallest detail, when the time did come.

One morning Bunster got up in a mood for knocking seven bells out of
the universe. He began on Mauki, and wound up on Mauki, in the interval
knocking down his wife and hammering all the boat boys. At breakfast he
called the coffee slops and threw the scalding contents of the cup into
Mauki’s face. By ten o’clock Bunster was shivering with ague, and half
an hour later he was burning with fever. It was no ordinary attack. It
quickly became pernicious, and developed into black-water fever. The
days passed, and he grew weaker and weaker, never leaving his bed. Mauki
waited and watched, the while his skin grew intact once more. He ordered
the boys to beach the cutter, scrub her bottom, and give her a general
overhauling. They thought the order emanated from Bunster, and they
obeyed. But Bunster at the time was lying unconscious and giving no
orders. This was Mauki’s chance, but still he waited.

When the worst was past, and Bunster lay convalescent and conscious, but
weak as a baby, Mauki packed his few trinkets, including the china
cup handle, into his trade box. Then he went over to the village and
interviewed the king and his two prime ministers.

“This fella Bunster, him good fella you like too much?” he asked.

They explained in one voice that they liked the trader not at all. The
ministers poured forth a recital of all the indignities and wrongs
that had been heaped upon them. The king broke down and wept. Mauki
interrupted rudely.

“You savve me--me big fella marster my country. You no like ‘m this
fella white marster. Me no like ‘m. Plenty good you put hundred
cocoanut, two hundred cocoanut, three hundred cocoanut along cutter.
Him finish, you go sleep ‘m good fella. Altogether kanaka sleep m good
fella. Bime by big fella noise along house, you no savve hear ‘m that
fella noise. You altogether sleep strong fella too much.”

In like manner Mauki interviewed the boat boys. Then he ordered
Bunster’s wife to return to her family house. Had she refused, he would
have been in a quandary, for his tambo would not have permitted him to
lay hands on her.

The house deserted, he entered the sleeping room, where the trader lay
in a doze. Mauki first removed the revolvers, then placed the ray fish
mitten on his hand. Bunster’s first warning was a stroke of the mitten
that removed the skin the full length of his nose.

“Good fella, eh?” Mauki grinned, between two strokes, one of which swept
the forehead bare and the other of which cleaned off one side of his
face. “Laugh, damn you, laugh.”

Mauki did his work throughly, and the kanakas, hiding in their houses,
heard the “big fella noise” that Bunster made and continued to make for
an hour or more.

When Mauki was done, he carried the boat compass and all the rifles and
ammunition down to the cutter, which he proceeded to ballast with cases
of tobacco. It was while engaged in this that a hideous, skinless thing
came out of the house and ran screaming down the beach till it fell in
the sand and mowed and gibbered under the scorching sun. Mauki looked
toward it and hesitated. Then he went over and removed the head, which
he wrapped in a mat and stowed in the stern locker of the cutter.

So soundly did the kanakas sleep through that long hot day that they
did not see the cutter run out through the passage and head south,
close-hauled on the southeast trade. Nor was the cutter ever sighted on
that long tack to the shores of Ysabel, and during the tedious head-beat
from there to Malaita. He landed at Port Adams with a wealth of rifles
and tobacco such as no one man had ever possessed before. But he did
not stop there. He had taken a white man’s head, and only the bush could
shelter him. So back he went to the bush villages, where he shot old
Fanfoa and half a dozen of the chief men, and made himself the chief
over all the villages. When his father died, Mauki’s brother ruled
in Port Adams, and joined together, salt-water men and bushmen, the
resulting combination was the strongest of the ten score fighting tribes
of Malaita.

More than his fear of the British government was Mauki’s fear of the
all-powerful Moongleam Soap Company; and one day a message came up
to him in the bush, reminding him that he owed the Company eight and
one-half years of labor. He sent back a favorable answer, and then
appeared the inevitable white man, the captain of the schooner, the
only white man during Mauki’s reign, who ventured the bush and came out
alive. This man not only came out, but he brought with him seven hundred
and fifty dollars in gold sovereigns--the money price of eight years
and a half of labor plus the cost price of certain rifles and cases of

Mauki no longer weighs one hundred and ten pounds. His stomach is
three times its former girth, and he has four wives. He has many
other things--rifles and revolvers, the handle of a china cup, and an
excellent collection of bushmen’s heads. But more precious than the
entire collection is another head, perfectly dried and cured, with sandy
hair and a yellowish beard, which is kept wrapped in the finest of fibre
lava-lavas. When Mauki goes to war with villages beyond his realm,
he invariably gets out this head, and alone in his grass palace,
contemplates it long and solemnly. At such times the hush of death falls
on the village, and not even a pickaninny dares make a noise. The
head is esteemed the most powerful devil-devil on Malaita, and to the
possession of it is ascribed all of Mauki’s greatness.


He was a whiskey-guzzling Scotchman, and he downed his whiskey neat,
beginning with his first tot punctually at six in the morning, and
thereafter repeating it at regular intervals throughout the day till
bedtime, which was usually midnight. He slept but five hours out of the
twenty-four, and for the remaining nineteen hours he was quietly and
decently drunk. During the eight weeks I spent with him on Oolong Atoll,
I never saw him draw a sober breath. In fact, his sleep was so short
that he never had time to sober up. It was the most beautiful and
orderly perennial drunk I have ever observed.

McAllister was his name. He was an old man, and very shaky on his pins.
His hand trembled as with a palsy, especially noticeable when he poured
his whiskey, though I never knew him to spill a drop. He had been
twenty-eight years in Melanesia, ranging from German New Guinea to the
German Solomons, and so thoroughly had he become identified with that
portion of the world, that he habitually spoke in that bastard lingo
called “bech-de-mer.” Thus, in conversation with me, SUN HE COME UP
meant sunrise; KAI-KAI HE STOP meant that dinner was served; and BELLY
BELONG ME WALK ABOUT meant that he was sick at his stomach. He was
a small man, and a withered one, burned inside and outside by ardent
spirits and ardent sun. He was a cinder, a bit of a clinker of a man, a
little animated clinker, not yet quite cold, that moved stiffly and by
starts and jerks like an automaton. A gust of wind would have blown him
away. He weighed ninety pounds.

But the immense thing about him was the power with which he ruled.
Oolong Atoll was one hundred and forty miles in circumference. One
steered by compass course in its lagoon. It was populated by five
thousand Polynesians, all strapping men and women, many of them standing
six feet in height and weighing a couple of hundred pounds. Oolong was
two hundred and fifty miles from the nearest land. Twice a year a
little schooner called to collect copra. The one white man on Oolong was
McAllister, petty trader and unintermittent guzzler; and he ruled Oolong
and its six thousand savages with an iron hand. He said come, and they
came, go, and they went. They never questioned his will nor judgment.
He was cantankerous as only an aged Scotchman can be, and interfered
continually in their personal affairs. When Nugu, the king’s daughter,
wanted to marry Haunau from the other end of the atoll, her father said
yes; but McAllister said no, and the marriage never came off. When the
king wanted to buy a certain islet in the lagoon from the chief priest,
McAllister said no. The king was in debt to the Company to the tune of
180,000 cocoanuts, and until that was paid he was not to spend a single
cocoanut on anything else.

And yet the king and his people did not love McAllister. In truth, they
hated him horribly, and, to my knowledge, the whole population, with the
priests at the head, tried vainly for three months to pray him to death.
The devil-devils they sent after him were awe-inspiring, but since
McAllister did not believe in devil-devils, they were without power over
him. With drunken Scotchmen all signs fail. They gathered up scraps of
food which had touched his lips, an empty whiskey bottle, a cocoanut
from which he had drunk, and even his spittle, and performed all kinds
of deviltries over them. But McAllister lived on. His health was superb.
He never caught fever; nor coughs nor colds; dysentery passed him by;
and the malignant ulcers and vile skin diseases that attack blacks and
whites alike in that climate never fastened upon him. He must have been
so saturated with alcohol as to defy the lodgment of germs. I used to
imagine them falling to the ground in showers of microscopic cinders as
fast as they entered his whiskey-sodden aura. No one loved him, not even
germs, while he loved only whiskey, and still he lived.

I was puzzled. I could not understand six thousand natives putting up
with that withered shrimp of a tyrant. It was a miracle that he had not
died suddenly long since. Unlike the cowardly Melanesians, the people
were high-stomached and warlike. In the big graveyard, at head and feet
of the graves, were relics of past sanguinary history--blubber-spades,
rusty old bayonets and cutlasses, copper bolts, rudder-irons, harpoons,
bomb guns, bricks that could have come from nowhere but a whaler’s
trying-out furnace, and old brass pieces of the sixteenth century that
verified the traditions of the early Spanish navigators. Ship after
ship had come to grief on Oolong. Not thirty years before, the whaler
BLENNERDALE, running into the lagoon for repair, had been cut off with
all hands. In similar fashion had the crew of the GASKET, a sandalwood
trader, perished. There was a big French bark, the TOULON, becalmed off
the atoll, which the islanders boarded after a sharp tussle and wrecked
in the Lipau Passage, the captain and a handful of sailors escaping in
the longboat. Then there were the Spanish pieces, which told of the
loss of one of the early explorers. All this, of the vessels named, is
a matter of history, and is to be found in the SOUTH PACIFIC SAILING
DIRECTORY. But that there was other history, unwritten, I was yet to
learn. In the meantime I puzzled why six thousand primitive savages let
one degenerate Scotch despot live.

One hot afternoon McAllister and I sat on the veranda looking out over
the lagoon, with all its wonder of jeweled colors. At our backs, across
the hundred yards of palm-studded sand, the outer surf roared on the
reef. It was dreadfully warm. We were in four degree south latitude and
the sun was directly overhead, having crossed the Line a few days before
on its journey south. There was no wind--not even a catspaw. The season
of the southeast trade was drawing to an early close, and the northwest
monsoon had not yet begun to blow.

“They can’t dance worth a damn,” said McAllister.

I had happened to mention that the Polynesian dances were superior to
the Papuan, and this McAllister had denied, for no other reason than
his cantankerousness. But it was too hot to argue, and I said nothing.
Besides, I had never seen the Oolong people dance.

“I’ll prove it to you,” he announced, beckoning to the black New Hanover
boy, a labor recruit, who served as cook and general house servant.
“Hey, you, boy, you tell ‘m one fella king come along me.”

The boy departed, and back came the prime minister, perturbed, ill at
ease, and garrulous with apologetic explanation. In short, the king
slept, and was not to be disturbed.

“King he plenty strong fella sleep,” was his final sentence.

McAllister was in such a rage that the prime minister incontinently
fled, to return with the king himself. They were a magnificent pair,
the king especially, who must have been all of six feet three inches in
height. His features had the eagle-like quality that is so frequently
found in those of the North American Indian. He had been molded and born
to rule. His eyes flashed as he listened, but right meekly he obeyed
McAllister’s command to fetch a couple of hundred of the best dancers,
male and female, in the village. And dance they did, for two mortal
hours, under that broiling sun. They did not love him for it, and little
he cared, in the end dismissing them with abuse and sneers.

The abject servility of those magnificent savages was terrifying. How
could it be? What was the secret of his rule? More and more I puzzled
as the days went by, and though I observed perpetual examples of his
undisputed sovereignty, never a clew was there as to how it was.

One day I happened to speak of my disappointment in failing to trade for
a beautiful pair of orange cowries. The pair was worth five pounds
in Sydney if it was worth a cent. I had offered two hundred sticks
of tobacco to the owner, who had held out for three hundred. When I
casually mentioned the situation, McAllister immediately sent for the
man, took the shells from him, and turned them over to me. Fifty sticks
were all he permitted me to pay for them. The man accepted the tobacco
and seemed overjoyed at getting off so easily. As for me, I resolved to
keep a bridle on my tongue in the future. And still I mulled over the
secret of McAllister’s power. I even went to the extent of asking
him directly, but all he did was to cock one eye, look wise, and take
another drink.

One night I was out fishing in the lagoon with Oti, the man who had
been mulcted of the cowries. Privily, I had made up to him an additional
hundred and fifty sticks, and he had come to regard me with a respect
that was almost veneration, which was curious, seeing that he was an old
man, twice my age at least.

“What name you fella kanaka all the same pickaninny?” I began on him.
“This fella trader he one fella. You fella kanaka plenty fella too
much. You fella kanaka just like ‘m dog--plenty fright along that fella
trader. He no eat you, fella. He no get ‘m teeth along him. What name
you too much fright?”

“S’pose plenty fella kanaka kill ‘m?” he asked.

“He die,” I retorted. “You fella kanaka kill ‘m plenty fella white man
long time before. What name you fright this fella white man?”

“Yes, we kill ‘m plenty,” was his answer. “My word! Any amount! Long
time before. One time, me young fella too much, one big fella ship he
stop outside. Wind he no blow. Plenty fella kanaka we get ‘m canoe,
plenty fella canoe, we go catch ‘m that fella ship. My word--we catch ‘m
big fella fight. Two, three white men shoot like hell. We no fright.
We come alongside, we go up side, plenty fella, maybe I think fifty-ten
(five hundred). One fella white Mary (woman) belong that fella ship.
Never before I see ‘m white Mary. Bime by plenty white man finish. One
fella skipper he no die. Five fella, six fella white man no die. Skipper
he sing out. Some fella white man he fight. Some fella white man he
lower away boat. After that, all together over the side they go. Skipper
he sling white Mary down. After that they washee (row) strong fella
plenty too much. Father belong me, that time he strong fella. He throw
‘m one fella spear. That fella spear he go in one side that white Mary.
He no stop. My word, he go out other side that fella Mary. She finish.
Me no fright. Plenty kanaka too much no fright.”

Old Oti’s pride had been touched, for he suddenly stripped down his
lava-lava and showed me the unmistakable scar of a bullet. Before I
could speak, his line ran out suddenly. He checked it and attempted to
haul in, but found that the fish had run around a coral branch. Casting
a look of reproach at me for having beguiled him from his watchfulness,
he went over the side, feet first, turning over after he got under and
following his line down to bottom. The water was ten fathoms. I leaned
over and watched the play of his feet, growing dim and dimmer, as they
stirred the wan phosphorescence into ghostly fires. Ten fathoms--sixty
feet--it was nothing to him, an old man, compared with the value of a
hook and line. After what seemed five minutes, though it could not have
been more than a minute, I saw him flaming whitely upward. He broke
surface and dropped a ten pound rock cod into the canoe, the line and
hook intact, the latter still fast in the fish’s mouth.

“It may be,” I said remorselessly. “You no fright long ago. You plenty
fright now along that fella trader.”

“Yes, plenty fright,” he confessed, with an air of dismissing the
subject. For half an hour we pulled up our lines and flung them out in
silence. Then small fish-sharks began to bite, and after losing a hook
apiece, we hauled in and waited for the sharks to go their way.

“I speak you true,” Oti broke into speech, “then you savve we fright

I lighted up my pipe and waited, and the story that Oti told me in
atrocious bech-de-mer I here turn into proper English. Otherwise, in
spirit and order of narrative, the tale is as it fell from Oti’s lips.

“It was after that that we were very proud. We had fought many times
with the strange white men who live upon the sea, and always we had
beaten them. A few of us were killed, but what was that compared with
the stores of wealth of a thousand thousand kinds that we found on the
ships? And then one day, maybe twenty years ago, or twenty-five, there
came a schooner right through the passage and into the lagoon. It was a
large schooner with three masts. She had five white men and maybe forty
boat’s crew, black fellows from New Guinea and New Britain; and she
had come to fish beche-de-mer. She lay at anchor across the lagoon from
here, at Pauloo, and her boats scattered out everywhere, making camps
on the beaches where they cured the beche-de-mer. This made them weak
by dividing them, for those who fished here and those on the schooner at
Pauloo were fifty miles apart, and there were others farther away still.

“Our king and headmen held council, and I was one in the canoe that
paddled all afternoon and all night across the lagoon, bringing word
to the people of Pauloo that in the morning we would attack the fishing
camps at the one time and that it was for them to take the schooner. We
who brought the word were tired with the paddling, but we took part
in the attack. On the schooner were two white men, the skipper and the
second mate, with half a dozen black boys. The skipper with three boys
we caught on shore and killed, but first eight of us the skipper killed
with his two revolvers. We fought close together, you see, at hand

“The noise of our fighting told the mate what was happening, and he put
food and water and a sail in the small dingy, which was so small that
it was no more than twelve feet long. We came down upon the schooner, a
thousand men, covering the lagoon with our canoes. Also, we were blowing
conch shells, singing war songs, and striking the sides of the canoes
with our paddles. What chance had one white man and three black boys
against us? No chance at all, and the mate knew it.

“White men are hell. I have watched them much, and I am an old man now,
and I understand at last why the white men have taken to themselves all
the islands in the sea. It is because they are hell. Here are you in
the canoe with me. You are hardly more than a boy. You are not wise,
for each day I tell you many things you do not know. When I was a little
pickaninny, I knew more about fish and the ways of fish than you know
now. I am an old man, but I swim down to the bottom of the lagoon, and
you cannot follow me. What are you good for, anyway? I do not know,
except to fight. I have never seen you fight, yet I know that you are
like your brothers and that you will fight like hell. Also, you are a
fool, like your brothers. You do not know when you are beaten. You will
fight until you die, and then it will be too late to know that you are

“Now behold what this mate did. As we came down upon him, covering the
sea and blowing our conches, he put off from the schooner in the small
boat, along with the three black boys, and rowed for the passage. There
again he was a fool, for no wise man would put out to sea in so small
a boat. The sides of it were not four inches above the water. Twenty
canoes went after him, filled with two hundred young men. We paddled
five fathoms while his black boys were rowing one fathom. He had no
chance, but he was a fool. He stood up in the boat with a rifle, and he
shot many times. He was not a good shot, but as we drew close many of us
were wounded and killed. But still he had no chance.

“I remember that all the time he was smoking a cigar. When we were forty
feet away and coming fast, he dropped the rifle, lighted a stick of
dynamite with the cigar, and threw it at us. He lighted another and
another, and threw them at us very rapidly, many of them. I know now
that he must have split the ends of the fuses and stuck in match heads,
because they lighted so quickly. Also, the fuses were very short.
Sometimes the dynamite sticks went off in the air, but most of them went
off in the canoes. And each time they went off in a canoe, that canoe
was finished. Of the twenty canoes, the half were smashed to pieces. The
canoe I was in was so smashed, and likewise the two men who sat next
to me. The dynamite fell between them. The other canoes turned and ran
away. Then that mate yelled, Yah! Yah! Yah!’ at us. Also he went at us
again with his rifle, so that many were killed through the back as they
fled away. And all the time the black boys in the boat went on rowing.
You see, I told you true, that mate was hell.

“Nor was that all. Before he left the schooner, he set her on fire,
and fixed up all the powder and dynamite so that it would go off at one
time. There were hundreds of us on board, trying to put out the fire,
heaving up water from overside, when the schooner blew up. So that all
we had fought for was lost to us, besides many more of us being killed.
Sometimes, even now, in my old age, I have bad dreams in which I hear
that mate yell, Yah! Yah! Yah!’ In a voice of thunder he yells, Yah!
Yah! Yah!’ But all those in the fishing camps were killed.

“The mate went out of the passage in his little boat, and that was the
end of him we made sure, for how could so small a boat, with four men in
it, live on the ocean? A month went by, and then, one morning, between
two rain squalls, a schooner sailed in through our passage and dropped
anchor before the village. The king and the headmen made big talk, and
it was agreed that we would take the schooner in two or three days. In
the meantime, as it was our custom always to appear friendly, we went
off to her in canoes, bringing strings of cocoanuts, fowls, and pigs, to
trade. But when we were alongside, many canoes of us, the men on board
began to shoot us with rifles, and as we paddled away I saw the mate who
had gone to sea in the little boat spring upon the rail and dance and
yell, Yah! Yah! Yah!’

“That afternoon they landed from the schooner in three small boats
filled with white men. They went right through the village, shooting
every man they saw. Also they shot the fowls and pigs. We who were not
killed got away in canoes and paddled out into the lagoon. Looking back,
we could see all the houses on fire. Late in the afternoon we saw many
canoes coming from Nihi, which is the village near the Nihi Passage in
the northeast. They were all that were left, and like us their village
had been burned by a second schooner that had come through Nihi Passage.

“We stood on in the darkness to the westward for Pauloo, but in the
middle of the night we heard women wailing and then we ran into a big
fleet of canoes. They were all that were left of Pauloo, which likewise
was in ashes, for a third schooner had come in through the Pauloo
Passage. You see, that mate, with his black boys, had not been drowned.
He had made the Solomon Islands, and there told his brothers of what we
had done in Oolong. And all his brothers had said they would come and
punish us, and there they were in the three schooners, and our three
villages were wiped out.

“And what was there for us to do? In the morning the two schooners from
windward sailed down upon us in the middle of the lagoon. The trade wind
was blowing fresh, and by scores of canoes they ran us down. And the
rifles never ceased talking. We scattered like flying fish before the
bonita, and there were so many of us that we escaped by thousands, this
way and that, to the islands on the rim of the atoll.

“And thereafter the schooners hunted us up and down the lagoon. In the
nighttime we slipped past them. But the next day, or in two days or
three days, the schooners would be coming back, hunting us toward
the other end of the lagoon. And so it went. We no longer counted nor
remembered our dead. True, we were many and they were few. But what
could we do? I was in one of the twenty canoes filled with men who were
not afraid to die. We attacked the smallest schooner. They shot us down
in heaps. They threw dynamite into the canoes, and when the dynamite
gave out, they threw hot water down upon us. And the rifles never ceased
talking. And those whose canoes were smashed were shot as they swam
away. And the mate danced up and down upon the cabin top and yelled,
‘Yah! Yah! Yah!’”

“Every house on every smallest island was burned. Not a pig nor a fowl
was left alive. Our wells were defiled with the bodies of the slain, or
else heaped high with coral rock. We were twenty-five thousand on Oolong
before the three schooners came. Today we are five thousand. After the
schooners left, we were but three thousand, as you shall see.

“At last the three schooners grew tired of chasing us back and forth. So
they went, the three of them, to Nihi, in the northeast. And then they
drove us steadily to the west. Their nine boats were in the water as
well. They beat up every island as they moved along. They drove us,
drove us, drove us day by day. And every night the three schooners and
the nine boats made a chain of watchfulness that stretched across the
lagoon from rim to rim, so that we could not escape back.

“They could not drive us forever that way, for the lagoon was only so
large, and at last all of us that yet lived were driven upon the last
sand bank to the west. Beyond lay the open sea. There were ten thousand
of us, and we covered the sand bank from the lagoon edge to the pounding
surf on the other side. No one could lie down. There was no room. We
stood hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder. Two days they kept us there,
and the mate would climb up in the rigging to mock us and yell, Yah!
Yah! Yah!’ till we were well sorry that we had ever harmed him or his
schooner a month before. We had no food, and we stood on our feet two
days and nights. The little babies died, and the old and weak died,
and the wounded died. And worst of all, we had no water to quench our
thirst, and for two days the sun beat down on us, and there was no
shade. Many men and women waded out into the ocean and were drowned, the
surf casting their bodies back on the beach. And there came a pest of
flies. Some men swam to the sides of the schooners, but they were shot
to the last one. And we that lived were very sorry that in our pride we
tried to take the schooner with the three masts that came to fish for

“On the morning of the third day came the skippers of the three
schooners and that mate in a small boat. They carried rifles, all of
them, and revolvers, and they made talk. It was only that they were
weary of killing us that they had stopped, they told us. And we told
them that we were sorry, that never again would we harm a white man, and
in token of our submission we poured sand upon our heads. And all the
women and children set up a great wailing for water, so that for some
time no man could make himself heard. Then we were told our punishment.
We must fill the three schooners with copra and beche-de-mer. And we
agreed, for we wanted water, and our hearts were broken, and we knew
that we were children at fighting when we fought with white men who
fight like hell. And when all the talk was finished, the mate stood up
and mocked us, and yelled, Yah! Yah! Yah!’ After that we paddled away in
our canoes and sought water.

“And for weeks we toiled at catching beche-de-mer and curing it, in
gathering the cocoanuts and turning them into copra. By day and night
the smoke rose in clouds from all the beaches of all the islands of
Oolong as we paid the penalty of our wrongdoing. For in those days of
death it was burned clearly on all our brains that it was very wrong to
harm a white man.

“By and by, the schooners full of copra and beche-de-mer and our trees
empty of cocoanuts, the three skippers and that mate called us all
together for a big talk. And they said they were very glad that we had
learned our lesson, and we said for the ten-thousandth time that we were
sorry and that we would not do it again. Also, we poured sand upon our
heads. Then the skippers said that it was all very well, but just to
show us that they did not forget us, they would send a devil-devil that
we would never forget and that we would always remember any time we
might feel like harming a white man. After that the mate mocked us
one more time and yelled, Yah! Yah! Yah!’ Then six of our men, whom we
thought long dead, were put ashore from one of the schooners, and the
schooners hoisted their sails and ran out through the passage for the

“The six men who were put ashore were the first to catch the devil-devil
the skippers sent back after us.”

“A great sickness came,” I interrupted, for I recognized the trick.
The schooner had had measles on board, and the six prisoners had been
deliberately exposed to it.

“Yes, a great sickness,” Oti went on. “It was a powerful devil-devil.
The oldest man had never heard of the like. Those of our priests that
yet lived we killed because they could not overcome the devil-devil.
The sickness spread. I have said that there were ten thousand of us
that stood hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder on the sandbank. When the
sickness left us, there were three thousand yet alive. Also, having made
all our cocoanuts into copra, there was a famine.

“That fella trader,” Oti concluded, “he like ‘m that much dirt. He like
‘m clam he die KAI-KAI (meat) he stop, stink ‘m any amount. He like ‘m
one fella dog, one sick fella dog plenty fleas stop along him. We no
fright along that fella trader. We fright because he white man. We savve
plenty too much no good kill white man. That one fella sick dog trader
he plenty brother stop along him, white men like ‘m you fight like hell.
We no fright that damn trader. Some time he made kanaka plenty cross
along him and kanaka want ‘m kill m, kanaka he think devil-devil and
kanaka he hear that fella mate sing out, Yah! Yah! Yah!’ and kanaka no
kill ‘m.”

Oti baited his hook with a piece of squid, which he tore with his teeth
from the live and squirming monster, and hook and bait sank in white
flames to the bottom.

“Shark walk about he finish,” he said. “I think we catch ‘m plenty fella

His line jerked savagely. He pulled it in rapidly, hand under hand, and
landed a big gasping rock cod in the bottom of the canoe.

“Sun he come up, I make ‘m that dam fella trader one present big fella
fish,” said Oti.


I met him first in a hurricane; and though we had gone through the
hurricane on the same schooner, it was not until the schooner had gone
to pieces under us that I first laid eyes on him. Without doubt I
had seen him with the rest of the kanaka crew on board, but I had not
consciously been aware of his existence, for the Petite Jeanne was
rather overcrowded. In addition to her eight or ten kanaka seamen, her
white captain, mate, and supercargo, and her six cabin passengers,
she sailed from Rangiroa with something like eighty-five deck
passengers--Paumotans and Tahitians, men, women, and children each with
a trade box, to say nothing of sleeping mats, blankets, and clothes

The pearling season in the Paumotus was over, and all hands were
returning to Tahiti. The six of us cabin passengers were pearl buyers.
Two were Americans, one was Ah Choon (the whitest Chinese I have ever
known), one was a German, one was a Polish Jew, and I completed the half

It had been a prosperous season. Not one of us had cause for complaint,
nor one of the eighty-five deck passengers either. All had done well,
and all were looking forward to a rest-off and a good time in Papeete.

Of course, the Petite Jeanne was overloaded. She was only seventy tons,
and she had no right to carry a tithe of the mob she had on board.
Beneath her hatches she was crammed and jammed with pearl shell and
copra. Even the trade room was packed full with shell. It was a miracle
that the sailors could work her. There was no moving about the decks.
They simply climbed back and forth along the rails.

In the night time they walked upon the sleepers, who carpeted the deck,
I’ll swear, two deep. Oh! And there were pigs and chickens on deck, and
sacks of yams, while every conceivable place was festooned with strings
of drinking cocoanuts and bunches of bananas. On both sides, between the
fore and main shrouds, guys had been stretched, just low enough for
the foreboom to swing clear; and from each of these guys at least fifty
bunches of bananas were suspended.

It promised to be a messy passage, even if we did make it in the two
or three days that would have been required if the southeast trades had
been blowing fresh. But they weren’t blowing fresh. After the first
five hours the trade died away in a dozen or so gasping fans. The calm
continued all that night and the next day--one of those glaring, glassy,
calms, when the very thought of opening one’s eyes to look at it is
sufficient to cause a headache.

The second day a man died--an Easter Islander, one of the best divers
that season in the lagoon. Smallpox--that is what it was; though how
smallpox could come on board, when there had been no known cases ashore
when we left Rangiroa, is beyond me. There it was, though--smallpox, a
man dead, and three others down on their backs.

There was nothing to be done. We could not segregate the sick, nor could
we care for them. We were packed like sardines. There was nothing to do
but rot and die--that is, there was nothing to do after the night that
followed the first death. On that night, the mate, the supercargo, the
Polish Jew, and four native divers sneaked away in the large whale boat.
They were never heard of again. In the morning the captain promptly
scuttled the remaining boats, and there we were.

That day there were two deaths; the following day three; then it
jumped to eight. It was curious to see how we took it. The natives,
for instance, fell into a condition of dumb, stolid fear. The
captain--Oudouse, his name was, a Frenchman--became very nervous and
voluble. He actually got the twitches. He was a large fleshy man,
weighing at least two hundred pounds, and he quickly became a faithful
representation of a quivering jelly-mountain of fat.

The German, the two Americans, and myself bought up all the Scotch
whiskey, and proceeded to stay drunk. The theory was beautiful--namely,
if we kept ourselves soaked in alcohol, every smallpox germ that came
into contact with us would immediately be scorched to a cinder. And the
theory worked, though I must confess that neither Captain Oudouse nor Ah
Choon were attacked by the disease either. The Frenchman did not drink
at all, while Ah Choon restricted himself to one drink daily.

It was a pretty time. The sun, going into northern declination, was
straight overhead. There was no wind, except for frequent squalls, which
blew fiercely for from five minutes to half an hour, and wound up by
deluging us with rain. After each squall, the awful sun would come out,
drawing clouds of steam from the soaked decks.

The steam was not nice. It was the vapor of death, freighted with
millions and millions of germs. We always took another drink when we saw
it going up from the dead and dying, and usually we took two or three
more drinks, mixing them exceptionally stiff. Also, we made it a rule
to take an additional several each time they hove the dead over to the
sharks that swarmed about us.

We had a week of it, and then the whiskey gave out. It is just as well,
or I shouldn’t be alive now. It took a sober man to pull through what
followed, as you will agree when I mention the little fact that only two
men did pull through. The other man was the heathen--at least, that was
what I heard Captain Oudouse call him at the moment I first became aware
of the heathen’s existence. But to come back.

It was at the end of the week, with the whiskey gone, and the pearl
buyers sober, that I happened to glance at the barometer that hung in
the cabin companionway. Its normal register in the Paumotus was 29.90,
and it was quite customary to see it vacillate between 29.85 and 30.00,
or even 30.05; but to see it as I saw it, down to 29.62, was sufficient
to sober the most drunken pearl buyer that ever incinerated smallpox
microbes in Scotch whiskey.

I called Captain Oudouse’s attention to it, only to be informed that he
had watched it going down for several hours. There was little to do, but
that little he did very well, considering the circumstances. He took
off the light sails, shortened right down to storm canvas, spread life
lines, and waited for the wind. His mistake lay in what he did after the
wind came. He hove to on the port tack, which was the right thing to do
south of the Equator, if--and there was the rub--IF one were NOT in the
direct path of the hurricane.

We were in the direct path. I could see that by the steady increase of
the wind and the equally steady fall of the barometer. I wanted him
to turn and run with the wind on the port quarter until the barometer
ceased falling, and then to heave to. We argued till he was reduced to
hysteria, but budge he would not. The worst of it was that I could not
get the rest of the pearl buyers to back me up. Who was I, anyway, to
know more about the sea and its ways than a properly qualified captain?
was what was in their minds, I knew.

Of course, the sea rose with the wind frightfully; and I shall never
forget the first three seas the Petite Jeanne shipped. She had fallen
off, as vessels do at times when hove to, and the first sea made a clean
breach. The life lines were only for the strong and well, and little
good were they even for them when the women and children, the bananas
and cocoanuts, the pigs and trade boxes, the sick and the dying, were
swept along in a solid, screeching, groaning mass.

The second sea filled the Petite Jeanne’s decks flush with the rails;
and, as her stern sank down and her bow tossed skyward, all the
miserable dunnage of life and luggage poured aft. It was a human
torrent. They came head first, feet first, sidewise, rolling over and
over, twisting, squirming, writhing, and crumpling up. Now and again
one caught a grip on a stanchion or a rope; but the weight of the bodies
behind tore such grips loose.

One man I noticed fetch up, head on and square on, with the starboard
bitt. His head cracked like an egg. I saw what was coming, sprang on top
of the cabin, and from there into the mainsail itself. Ah Choon and one
of the Americans tried to follow me, but I was one jump ahead of them.
The American was swept away and over the stern like a piece of chaff.
Ah Choon caught a spoke of the wheel, and swung in behind it. But a
strapping Raratonga vahine (woman)--she must have weighed two hundred
and fifty--brought up against him, and got an arm around his neck. He
clutched the kanaka steersman with his other hand; and just at that
moment the schooner flung down to starboard.

The rush of bodies and sea that was coming along the port runway between
the cabin and the rail turned abruptly and poured to starboard. Away
they went--vahine, Ah Choon, and steersman; and I swear I saw Ah Choon
grin at me with philosophic resignation as he cleared the rail and went

The third sea--the biggest of the three--did not do so much damage. By
the time it arrived nearly everybody was in the rigging. On deck perhaps
a dozen gasping, half-drowned, and half-stunned wretches were rolling
about or attempting to crawl into safety. They went by the board, as
did the wreckage of the two remaining boats. The other pearl buyers and
myself, between seas, managed to get about fifteen women and children
into the cabin, and battened down. Little good it did the poor creatures
in the end.

Wind? Out of all my experience I could not have believed it possible
for the wind to blow as it did. There is no describing it. How can one
describe a nightmare? It was the same way with that wind. It tore the
clothes off our bodies. I say TORE THEM OFF, and I mean it. I am not
asking you to believe it. I am merely telling something that I saw and
felt. There are times when I do not believe it myself. I went through
it, and that is enough. One could not face that wind and live. It was
a monstrous thing, and the most monstrous thing about it was that it
increased and continued to increase.

Imagine countless millions and billions of tons of sand. Imagine this
sand tearing along at ninety, a hundred, a hundred and twenty, or
any other number of miles per hour. Imagine, further, this sand to be
invisible, impalpable, yet to retain all the weight and density of sand.
Do all this, and you may get a vague inkling of what that wind was like.

Perhaps sand is not the right comparison. Consider it mud, invisible,
impalpable, but heavy as mud. Nay, it goes beyond that. Consider every
molecule of air to be a mudbank in itself. Then try to imagine the
multitudinous impact of mudbanks. No; it is beyond me. Language may
be adequate to express the ordinary conditions of life, but it cannot
possibly express any of the conditions of so enormous a blast of wind.
It would have been better had I stuck by my original intention of not
attempting a description.

I will say this much: The sea, which had risen at first, was beaten down
by that wind. More: it seemed as if the whole ocean had been sucked up
in the maw of the hurricane, and hurled on through that portion of space
which previously had been occupied by the air.

Of course, our canvas had gone long before. But Captain Oudouse had
on the Petite Jeanne something I had never before seen on a South Sea
schooner--a sea anchor. It was a conical canvas bag, the mouth of
which was kept open by a huge loop of iron. The sea anchor was bridled
something like a kite, so that it bit into the water as a kite bites
into the air, but with a difference. The sea anchor remained just under
the surface of the ocean in a perpendicular position. A long line, in
turn, connected it with the schooner. As a result, the Petite Jeanne
rode bow on to the wind and to what sea there was.

The situation really would have been favorable had we not been in the
path of the storm. True, the wind itself tore our canvas out of the
gaskets, jerked out our topmasts, and made a raffle of our running gear,
but still we would have come through nicely had we not been square in
front of the advancing storm center. That was what fixed us. I was in a
state of stunned, numbed, paralyzed collapse from enduring the impact of
the wind, and I think I was just about ready to give up and die when the
center smote us. The blow we received was an absolute lull. There was
not a breath of air. The effect on one was sickening.

Remember that for hours we had been at terrific muscular tension,
withstanding the awful pressure of that wind. And then, suddenly,
the pressure was removed. I know that I felt as though I was about
to expand, to fly apart in all directions. It seemed as if every atom
composing my body was repelling every other atom and was on the verge of
rushing off irresistibly into space. But that lasted only for a moment.
Destruction was upon us.

In the absence of the wind and pressure the sea rose. It jumped, it
leaped, it soared straight toward the clouds. Remember, from every point
of the compass that inconceivable wind was blowing in toward the center
of calm. The result was that the seas sprang up from every point of
the compass. There was no wind to check them. They popped up like corks
released from the bottom of a pail of water. There was no system to
them, no stability. They were hollow, maniacal seas. They were eighty
feet high at the least. They were not seas at all. They resembled no sea
a man had ever seen.

They were splashes, monstrous splashes--that is all. Splashes that were
eighty feet high. Eighty! They were more than eighty. They went over our
mastheads. They were spouts, explosions. They were drunken. They fell
anywhere, anyhow. They jostled one another; they collided. They rushed
together and collapsed upon one another, or fell apart like a thousand
waterfalls all at once. It was no ocean any man had ever dreamed of,
that hurricane center. It was confusion thrice confounded. It was
anarchy. It was a hell pit of sea water gone mad.

The Petite Jeanne? I don’t know. The heathen told me afterwards that
he did not know. She was literally torn apart, ripped wide open, beaten
into a pulp, smashed into kindling wood, annihilated. When I came to I
was in the water, swimming automatically, though I was about two-thirds
drowned. How I got there I had no recollection. I remembered seeing the
Petite Jeanne fly to pieces at what must have been the instant that my
own consciousness was buffeted out of me. But there I was, with nothing
to do but make the best of it, and in that best there was little
promise. The wind was blowing again, the sea was much smaller and more
regular, and I knew that I had passed through the center. Fortunately,
there were no sharks about. The hurricane had dissipated the ravenous
horde that had surrounded the death ship and fed off the dead.

It was about midday when the Petite Jeanne went to pieces, and it must
have been two hours afterwards when I picked up with one of her hatch
covers. Thick rain was driving at the time; and it was the merest chance
that flung me and the hatch cover together. A short length of line was
trailing from the rope handle; and I knew that I was good for a day,
at least, if the sharks did not return. Three hours later, possibly
a little longer, sticking close to the cover, and with closed eyes,
concentrating my whole soul upon the task of breathing in enough air to
keep me going and at the same time of avoiding breathing in enough water
to drown me, it seemed to me that I heard voices. The rain had ceased,
and wind and sea were easing marvelously. Not twenty feet away from me,
on another hatch cover were Captain Oudouse and the heathen. They were
fighting over the possession of the cover--at least, the Frenchman was.
“Paien noir!” I heard him scream, and at the same time I saw him kick
the kanaka.

Now, Captain Oudouse had lost all his clothes, except his shoes, and
they were heavy brogans. It was a cruel blow, for it caught the heathen
on the mouth and the point of the chin, half stunning him. I looked for
him to retaliate, but he contented himself with swimming about forlornly
a safe ten feet away. Whenever a fling of the sea threw him closer, the
Frenchman, hanging on with his hands, kicked out at him with both feet.
Also, at the moment of delivering each kick, he called the kanaka a
black heathen.

“For two centimes I’d come over there and drown you, you white beast!” I

The only reason I did not go was that I felt too tired. The very thought
of the effort to swim over was nauseating. So I called to the kanaka to
come to me, and proceeded to share the hatch cover with him. Otoo, he
told me his name was (pronounced o-to-o ); also, he told me that he
was a native of Bora Bora, the most westerly of the Society Group. As
I learned afterward, he had got the hatch cover first, and, after some
time, encountering Captain Oudouse, had offered to share it with him,
and had been kicked off for his pains.

And that was how Otoo and I first came together. He was no fighter.
He was all sweetness and gentleness, a love creature, though he stood
nearly six feet tall and was muscled like a gladiator. He was no
fighter, but he was also no coward. He had the heart of a lion; and in
the years that followed I have seen him run risks that I would never
dream of taking. What I mean is that while he was no fighter, and while
he always avoided precipitating a row, he never ran away from trouble
when it started. And it was “Ware shoal!” when once Otoo went into
action. I shall never forget what he did to Bill King. It occurred
in German Samoa. Bill King was hailed the champion heavyweight of the
American Navy. He was a big brute of a man, a veritable gorilla, one of
those hard-hitting, rough-housing chaps, and clever with his fists as
well. He picked the quarrel, and he kicked Otoo twice and struck him
once before Otoo felt it to be necessary to fight. I don’t think it
lasted four minutes, at the end of which time Bill King was the unhappy
possessor of four broken ribs, a broken forearm, and a dislocated
shoulder blade. Otoo knew nothing of scientific boxing. He was merely a
manhandler; and Bill King was something like three months in recovering
from the bit of manhandling he received that afternoon on Apia beach.

But I am running ahead of my yarn. We shared the hatch cover between us.
We took turn and turn about, one lying flat on the cover and resting,
while the other, submerged to the neck, merely held on with his hands.
For two days and nights, spell and spell, on the cover and in the water,
we drifted over the ocean. Towards the last I was delirious most of the
time; and there were times, too, when I heard Otoo babbling and raving
in his native tongue. Our continuous immersion prevented us from dying
of thirst, though the sea water and the sunshine gave us the prettiest
imaginable combination of salt pickle and sunburn.

In the end, Otoo saved my life; for I came to lying on the beach twenty
feet from the water, sheltered from the sun by a couple of cocoanut
leaves. No one but Otoo could have dragged me there and stuck up the
leaves for shade. He was lying beside me. I went off again; and the next
time I came round, it was cool and starry night, and Otoo was pressing a
drinking cocoanut to my lips.

We were the sole survivors of the Petite Jeanne. Captain Oudouse must
have succumbed to exhaustion, for several days later his hatch cover
drifted ashore without him. Otoo and I lived with the natives of the
atoll for a week, when we were rescued by the French cruiser and taken
to Tahiti. In the meantime, however, we had performed the ceremony of
exchanging names. In the South Seas such a ceremony binds two men closer
together than blood brothership. The initiative had been mine; and Otoo
was rapturously delighted when I suggested it.

“It is well,” he said, in Tahitian. “For we have been mates together for
two days on the lips of Death.”

“But death stuttered,” I smiled.

“It was a brave deed you did, master,” he replied, “and Death was not
vile enough to speak.”

“Why do you ‘master’ me?” I demanded, with a show of hurt feelings.
“We have exchanged names. To you I am Otoo. To me you are Charley. And
between you and me, forever and forever, you shall be Charley, and I
shall be Otoo. It is the way of the custom. And when we die, if it does
happen that we live again somewhere beyond the stars and the sky, still
shall you be Charley to me, and I Otoo to you.”

“Yes, master,” he answered, his eyes luminous and soft with joy.

“There you go!” I cried indignantly.

“What does it matter what my lips utter?” he argued. “They are only my
lips. But I shall think Otoo always. Whenever I think of myself, I shall
think of you. Whenever men call me by name, I shall think of you. And
beyond the sky and beyond the stars, always and forever, you shall be
Otoo to me. Is it well, master?”

I hid my smile, and answered that it was well.

We parted at Papeete. I remained ashore to recuperate; and he went on
in a cutter to his own island, Bora Bora. Six weeks later he was back.
I was surprised, for he had told me of his wife, and said that he was
returning to her, and would give over sailing on far voyages.

“Where do you go, master?” he asked, after our first greetings.

I shrugged my shoulders. It was a hard question.

“All the world,” was my answer--“all the world, all the sea, and all the
islands that are in the sea.”

“I will go with you,” he said simply. “My wife is dead.”

I never had a brother; but from what I have seen of other men’s
brothers, I doubt if any man ever had a brother that was to him what
Otoo was to me. He was brother and father and mother as well. And this
I know: I lived a straighter and better man because of Otoo. I cared
little for other men, but I had to live straight in Otoo’s eyes. Because
of him I dared not tarnish myself. He made me his ideal, compounding
me, I fear, chiefly out of his own love and worship and there were times
when I stood close to the steep pitch of hell, and would have taken
the plunge had not the thought of Otoo restrained me. His pride in me
entered into me, until it became one of the major rules in my personal
code to do nothing that would diminish that pride of his.

Naturally, I did not learn right away what his feelings were toward me.
He never criticized, never censured; and slowly the exalted place I held
in his eyes dawned upon me, and slowly I grew to comprehend the hurt I
could inflict upon him by being anything less than my best.

For seventeen years we were together; for seventeen years he was at
my shoulder, watching while I slept, nursing me through fever and
wounds--ay, and receiving wounds in fighting for me. He signed on the
same ships with me; and together we ranged the Pacific from Hawaii to
Sydney Head, and from Torres Straits to the Galapagos. We blackbirded
from the New Hebrides and the Line Islands over to the westward clear
through the Louisades, New Britain, New Ireland, and New Hanover. We
were wrecked three times--in the Gilberts, in the Santa Cruz group, and
in the Fijis. And we traded and salved wherever a dollar promised in
the way of pearl and pearl shell, copra, beche-de-mer, hawkbill turtle
shell, and stranded wrecks.

It began in Papeete, immediately after his announcement that he was
going with me over all the sea, and the islands in the midst thereof.
There was a club in those days in Papeete, where the pearlers, traders,
captains, and riffraff of South Sea adventurers forgathered. The play
ran high, and the drink ran high; and I am very much afraid that I kept
later hours than were becoming or proper. No matter what the hour was
when I left the club, there was Otoo waiting to see me safely home.

At first I smiled; next I chided him. Then I told him flatly that I
stood in need of no wet-nursing. After that I did not see him when
I came out of the club. Quite by accident, a week or so later, I
discovered that he still saw me home, lurking across the street among
the shadows of the mango trees. What could I do? I know what I did do.

Insensibly I began to keep better hours. On wet and stormy nights, in
the thick of the folly and the fun, the thought would persist in coming
to me of Otoo keeping his dreary vigil under the dripping mangoes.
Truly, he made a better man of me. Yet he was not strait-laced. And he
knew nothing of common Christian morality. All the people on Bora
Bora were Christians; but he was a heathen, the only unbeliever on the
island, a gross materialist, who believed that when he died he was dead.
He believed merely in fair play and square dealing. Petty meanness, in
his code, was almost as serious as wanton homicide; and I do believe
that he respected a murderer more than a man given to small practices.

Concerning me, personally, he objected to my doing anything that was
hurtful to me. Gambling was all right. He was an ardent gambler himself.
But late hours, he explained, were bad for one’s health. He had seen men
who did not take care of themselves die of fever. He was no teetotaler,
and welcomed a stiff nip any time when it was wet work in the boats. On
the other hand, he believed in liquor in moderation. He had seen many
men killed or disgraced by square-face or Scotch.

Otoo had my welfare always at heart. He thought ahead for me, weighed my
plans, and took a greater interest in them than I did myself. At first,
when I was unaware of this interest of his in my affairs, he had to
divine my intentions, as, for instance, at Papeete, when I contemplated
going partners with a knavish fellow-countryman on a guano venture. I
did not know he was a knave. Nor did any white man in Papeete. Neither
did Otoo know, but he saw how thick we were getting, and found out for
me, and without my asking him. Native sailors from the ends of the seas
knock about on the beach in Tahiti; and Otoo, suspicious merely,
went among them till he had gathered sufficient data to justify his
suspicions. Oh, it was a nice history, that of Randolph Waters. I
couldn’t believe it when Otoo first narrated it; but when I sheeted it
home to Waters he gave in without a murmur, and got away on the first
steamer to Aukland.

At first, I am free to confess, I couldn’t help resenting Otoo’s poking
his nose into my business. But I knew that he was wholly unselfish; and
soon I had to acknowledge his wisdom and discretion. He had his
eyes open always to my main chance, and he was both keen-sighted and
far-sighted. In time he became my counselor, until he knew more of my
business than I did myself. He really had my interest at heart more than
I did. Mine was the magnificent carelessness of youth, for I preferred
romance to dollars, and adventure to a comfortable billet with all night
in. So it was well that I had some one to look out for me. I know that
if it had not been for Otoo, I should not be here today.

Of numerous instances, let me give one. I had had some experience in
blackbirding before I went pearling in the Paumotus. Otoo and I were on
the beach in Samoa--we really were on the beach and hard aground--when
my chance came to go as recruiter on a blackbird brig. Otoo signed on
before the mast; and for the next half-dozen years, in as many ships, we
knocked about the wildest portions of Melanesia. Otoo saw to it that he
always pulled stroke-oar in my boat. Our custom in recruiting labor was
to land the recruiter on the beach. The covering boat always lay on its
oars several hundred feet off shore, while the recruiter’s boat, also
lying on its oars, kept afloat on the edge of the beach. When I landed
with my trade goods, leaving my steering sweep apeak, Otoo left his
stroke position and came into the stern sheets, where a Winchester lay
ready to hand under a flap of canvas. The boat’s crew was also armed,
the Sniders concealed under canvas flaps that ran the length of the

While I was busy arguing and persuading the woolly-headed cannibals to
come and labor on the Queensland plantations Otoo kept watch. And often
and often his low voice warned me of suspicious actions and impending
treachery. Sometimes it was the quick shot from his rifle, knocking a
nigger over, that was the first warning I received. And in my rush to
the boat his hand was always there to jerk me flying aboard. Once, I
remember, on SANTA ANNA, the boat grounded just as the trouble began.
The covering boat was dashing to our assistance, but the several score
of savages would have wiped us out before it arrived. Otoo took a flying
leap ashore, dug both hands into the trade goods, and scattered tobacco,
beads, tomahawks, knives, and calicoes in all directions.

This was too much for the woolly-heads. While they scrambled for the
treasures, the boat was shoved clear, and we were aboard and forty feet
away. And I got thirty recruits off that very beach in the next four

The particular instance I have in mind was on Malaita, the most savage
island in the easterly Solomons. The natives had been remarkably
friendly; and how were we to know that the whole village had been taking
up a collection for over two years with which to buy a white man’s head?
The beggars are all head-hunters, and they especially esteem a white
man’s head. The fellow who captured the head would receive the whole
collection. As I say, they appeared very friendly; and on this day I was
fully a hundred yards down the beach from the boat. Otoo had cautioned
me; and, as usual when I did not heed him, I came to grief.

The first I knew, a cloud of spears sailed out of the mangrove swamp
at me. At least a dozen were sticking into me. I started to run,
but tripped over one that was fast in my calf, and went down. The
woolly-heads made a run for me, each with a long-handled, fantail
tomahawk with which to hack off my head. They were so eager for the
prize that they got in one another’s way. In the confusion, I avoided
several hacks by throwing myself right and left on the sand.

Then Otoo arrived--Otoo the manhandler. In some way he had got hold of a
heavy war club, and at close quarters it was a far more efficient weapon
than a rifle. He was right in the thick of them, so that they could
not spear him, while their tomahawks seemed worse than useless. He was
fighting for me, and he was in a true Berserker rage. The way he handled
that club was amazing.

Their skulls squashed like overripe oranges. It was not until he had
driven them back, picked me up in his arms, and started to run, that
he received his first wounds. He arrived in the boat with four spear
thrusts, got his Winchester, and with it got a man for every shot. Then
we pulled aboard the schooner, and doctored up.

Seventeen years we were together. He made me. I should today be a
supercargo, a recruiter, or a memory, if it had not been for him.

“You spend your money, and you go out and get more,” he said one day.
“It is easy to get money now. But when you get old, your money will be
spent, and you will not be able to go out and get more. I know, master.
I have studied the way of white men. On the beaches are many old men
who were young once, and who could get money just like you. Now they are
old, and they have nothing, and they wait about for the young men like
you to come ashore and buy drinks for them.

“The black boy is a slave on the plantations. He gets twenty dollars a
year. He works hard. The overseer does not work hard. He rides a horse
and watches the black boy work. He gets twelve hundred dollars a year.
I am a sailor on the schooner. I get fifteen dollars a month. That
is because I am a good sailor. I work hard. The captain has a double
awning, and drinks beer out of long bottles. I have never seen him haul
a rope or pull an oar. He gets one hundred and fifty dollars a month.
I am a sailor. He is a navigator. Master, I think it would be very good
for you to know navigation.”

Otoo spurred me on to it. He sailed with me as second mate on my first
schooner, and he was far prouder of my command than I was myself. Later
on it was:

“The captain is well paid, master; but the ship is in his keeping,
and he is never free from the burden. It is the owner who is better
paid--the owner who sits ashore with many servants and turns his money

“True, but a schooner costs five thousand dollars--an old schooner at
that,” I objected. “I should be an old man before I saved five thousand

“There be short ways for white men to make money,” he went on, pointing
ashore at the cocoanut-fringed beach.

We were in the Solomons at the time, picking up a cargo of ivory nuts
along the east coast of Guadalcanar.

“Between this river mouth and the next it is two miles,” he said.

“The flat land runs far back. It is worth nothing now. Next year--who
knows?--or the year after, men will pay much money for that land. The
anchorage is good. Big steamers can lie close up. You can buy the land
four miles deep from the old chief for ten thousand sticks of tobacco,
ten bottles of square-face, and a Snider, which will cost you, maybe,
one hundred dollars. Then you place the deed with the commissioner; and
the next year, or the year after, you sell and become the owner of a

I followed his lead, and his words came true, though in three years,
instead of two. Next came the grasslands deal on Guadalcanar--twenty
thousand acres, on a governmental nine hundred and ninety-nine years’
lease at a nominal sum. I owned the lease for precisely ninety days,
when I sold it to a company for half a fortune. Always it was Otoo who
looked ahead and saw the opportunity. He was responsible for the
salving of the Doncaster--bought in at auction for a hundred pounds, and
clearing three thousand after every expense was paid. He led me into the
Savaii plantation and the cocoa venture on Upolu.

We did not go seafaring so much as in the old days. I was too well off.
I married, and my standard of living rose; but Otoo remained the same
old-time Otoo, moving about the house or trailing through the office,
his wooden pipe in his mouth, a shilling undershirt on his back, and a
four-shilling lava-lava about his loins. I could not get him to spend
money. There was no way of repaying him except with love, and God knows
he got that in full measure from all of us. The children worshipped
him; and if he had been spoilable, my wife would surely have been his

The children! He really was the one who showed them the way of their
feet in the world practical. He began by teaching them to walk. He sat
up with them when they were sick. One by one, when they were scarcely
toddlers, he took them down to the lagoon, and made them into
amphibians. He taught them more than I ever knew of the habits of fish
and the ways of catching them. In the bush it was the same thing. At
seven, Tom knew more woodcraft than I ever dreamed existed. At six, Mary
went over the Sliding Rock without a quiver, and I have seen strong men
balk at that feat. And when Frank had just turned six he could bring up
shillings from the bottom in three fathoms.

“My people in Bora Bora do not like heathen--they are all Christians;
and I do not like Bora Bora Christians,” he said one day, when I, with
the idea of getting him to spend some of the money that was rightfully
his, had been trying to persuade him to make a visit to his own island
in one of our schooners--a special voyage which I had hoped to make a
record breaker in the matter of prodigal expense.

I say one of OUR schooners, though legally at the time they belonged to
me. I struggled long with him to enter into partnership.

“We have been partners from the day the Petite Jeanne went down,”
 he said at last. “But if your heart so wishes, then shall we become
partners by the law. I have no work to do, yet are my expenses large. I
drink and eat and smoke in plenty--it costs much, I know. I do not pay
for the playing of billiards, for I play on your table; but still the
money goes. Fishing on the reef is only a rich man’s pleasure. It is
shocking, the cost of hooks and cotton line. Yes; it is necessary that
we be partners by the law. I need the money. I shall get it from the
head clerk in the office.”

So the papers were made out and recorded. A year later I was compelled
to complain.

“Charley,” said I, “you are a wicked old fraud, a miserly skinflint,
a miserable land crab. Behold, your share for the year in all our
partnership has been thousands of dollars. The head clerk has given me
this paper. It says that in the year you have drawn just eighty-seven
dollars and twenty cents.”

“Is there any owing me?” he asked anxiously.

“I tell you thousands and thousands,” I answered.

His face brightened, as with an immense relief.

“It is well,” he said. “See that the head clerk keeps good account
of it. When I want it, I shall want it, and there must not be a cent

“If there is,” he added fiercely, after a pause, “it must come out of
the clerk’s wages.”

And all the time, as I afterwards learned, his will, drawn up by
Carruthers, and making me sole beneficiary, lay in the American consul’s

But the end came, as the end must come to all human associations.

It occurred in the Solomons, where our wildest work had been done in the
wild young days, and where we were once more--principally on a holiday,
incidentally to look after our holdings on Florida Island and to look
over the pearling possibilities of the Mboli Pass. We were lying at
Savo, having run in to trade for curios.

Now, Savo is alive with sharks. The custom of the woolly-heads of
burying their dead in the sea did not tend to discourage the sharks from
making the adjacent waters a hangout. It was my luck to be coming aboard
in a tiny, overloaded, native canoe, when the thing capsized. There
were four woolly-heads and myself in it, or rather, hanging to it. The
schooner was a hundred yards away.

I was just hailing for a boat when one of the woolly-heads began to
scream. Holding on to the end of the canoe, both he and that portion of
the canoe were dragged under several times. Then he loosed his clutch
and disappeared. A shark had got him.

The three remaining niggers tried to climb out of the water upon the
bottom of the canoe. I yelled and cursed and struck at the nearest with
my fist, but it was no use. They were in a blind funk. The canoe could
barely have supported one of them. Under the three it upended and rolled
sidewise, throwing them back into the water.

I abandoned the canoe and started to swim toward the schooner, expecting
to be picked up by the boat before I got there. One of the niggers
elected to come with me, and we swam along silently, side by side, now
and again putting our faces into the water and peering about for sharks.
The screams of the man who stayed by the canoe informed us that he was
taken. I was peering into the water when I saw a big shark pass directly
beneath me. He was fully sixteen feet in length. I saw the whole thing.
He got the woolly-head by the middle, and away he went, the poor devil,
head, shoulders, and arms out of the water all the time, screeching in
a heart-rending way. He was carried along in this fashion for several
hundred feet, when he was dragged beneath the surface.

I swam doggedly on, hoping that that was the last unattached shark.
But there was another. Whether it was one that had attacked the natives
earlier, or whether it was one that had made a good meal elsewhere, I do
not know. At any rate, he was not in such haste as the others. I could
not swim so rapidly now, for a large part of my effort was devoted to
keeping track of him. I was watching him when he made his first attack.
By good luck I got both hands on his nose, and, though his momentum
nearly shoved me under, I managed to keep him off. He veered clear,
and began circling about again. A second time I escaped him by the same
manoeuvre. The third rush was a miss on both sides. He sheered at the
moment my hands should have landed on his nose, but his sandpaper hide
(I had on a sleeveless undershirt) scraped the skin off one arm from
elbow to shoulder.

By this time I was played out, and gave up hope. The schooner was still
two hundred feet away. My face was in the water, and I was watching him
manoeuvre for another attempt, when I saw a brown body pass between us.
It was Otoo.

“Swim for the schooner, master!” he said. And he spoke gayly, as though
the affair was a mere lark. “I know sharks. The shark is my brother.”

I obeyed, swimming slowly on, while Otoo swam about me, keeping always
between me and the shark, foiling his rushes and encouraging me.

“The davit tackle carried away, and they are rigging the falls,” he
explained, a minute or so later, and then went under to head off another

By the time the schooner was thirty feet away I was about done for. I
could scarcely move. They were heaving lines at us from on board, but
they continually fell short. The shark, finding that it was receiving no
hurt, had become bolder. Several times it nearly got me, but each time
Otoo was there just the moment before it was too late. Of course, Otoo
could have saved himself any time. But he stuck by me.

“Good-by, Charley! I’m finished!” I just managed to gasp.

I knew that the end had come, and that the next moment I should throw up
my hands and go down.

But Otoo laughed in my face, saying:

“I will show you a new trick. I will make that shark feel sick!”

He dropped in behind me, where the shark was preparing to come at me.

“A little more to the left!” he next called out. “There is a line there
on the water. To the left, master--to the left!”

I changed my course and struck out blindly. I was by that time barely
conscious. As my hand closed on the line I heard an exclamation from on
board. I turned and looked. There was no sign of Otoo. The next instant
he broke surface. Both hands were off at the wrist, the stumps spouting

“Otoo!” he called softly. And I could see in his gaze the love that
thrilled in his voice.

Then, and then only, at the very last of all our years, he called me by
that name.

“Good-by, Otoo!” he called.

Then he was dragged under, and I was hauled aboard, where I fainted in
the captain’s arms.

And so passed Otoo, who saved me and made me a man, and who saved me in
the end. We met in the maw of a hurricane, and parted in the maw of
a shark, with seventeen intervening years of comradeship, the like of
which I dare to assert has never befallen two men, the one brown and the
other white. If Jehovah be from His high place watching every sparrow
fall, not least in His kingdom shall be Otoo, the one heathen of Bora


There is no gainsaying that the Solomons are a hard-bitten bunch of
islands. On the other hand, there are worse places in the world. But to
the new chum who has no constitutional understanding of men and life in
the rough, the Solomons may indeed prove terrible.

It is true that fever and dysentery are perpetually on the walk-about,
that loathsome skin diseases abound, that the air is saturated with a
poison that bites into every pore, cut, or abrasion and plants malignant
ulcers, and that many strong men who escape dying there return as wrecks
to their own countries. It is also true that the natives of the Solomons
are a wild lot, with a hearty appetite for human flesh and a fad for
collecting human heads. Their highest instinct of sportsmanship is to
catch a man with his back turned and to smite him a cunning blow with a
tomahawk that severs the spinal column at the base of the brain. It is
equally true that on some islands, such as Malaita, the profit and loss
account of social intercourse is calculated in homicides. Heads are a
medium of exchange, and white heads are extremely valuable. Very often a
dozen villages make a jack-pot, which they fatten moon by moon, against
the time when some brave warrior presents a white man’s head, fresh and
gory, and claims the pot.

All the foregoing is quite true, and yet there are white men who have
lived in the Solomons a score of years and who feel homesick when they
go away from them. A man needs only to be careful--and lucky--to live
a long time in the Solomons; but he must also be of the right sort.
He must have the hallmark of the inevitable white man stamped upon his
soul. He must be inevitable. He must have a certain grand carelessness
of odds, a certain colossal self-satisfaction, and a racial egotism that
convinces him that one white is better than a thousand niggers every
day in the week, and that on Sunday he is able to clean out two
thousand niggers. For such are the things that have made the white man
inevitable. Oh, and one other thing--the white man who wishes to be
inevitable, must not merely despise the lesser breeds and think a lot
of himself; he must also fail to be too long on imagination. He must not
understand too well the instincts, customs, and mental processes of the
blacks, the yellows, and the browns; for it is not in such fashion that
the white race has tramped its royal road around the world.

Bertie Arkwright was not inevitable. He was too sensitive, too finely
strung, and he possessed too much imagination. The world was too much
with him. He projected himself too quiveringly into his environment.
Therefore, the last place in the world for him to come was the Solomons.
He did not come, expecting to stay. A five weeks’ stop-over between
steamers, he decided, would satisfy the call of the primitive he felt
thrumming the strings of his being. At least, so he told the lady
tourists on the MAKEMBO, though in different terms; and they worshipped
him as a hero, for they were lady tourists and they would know only
the safety of the steamer’s deck as she threaded her way through the

There was another man on board, of whom the ladies took no notice. He
was a little shriveled wisp of a man, with a withered skin the color of
mahogany. His name on the passenger list does not matter, but his other
name, Captain Malu, was a name for niggers to conjure with, and to
scare naughty pickaninnies to righteousness from New Hanover to the
New Hebrides. He had farmed savages and savagery, and from fever and
hardship, the crack of Sniders and the lash of the overseers, had
wrested five millions of money in the form of bêche-de-mer, sandalwood,
pearl-shell and turtle-shell, ivory nuts and copra, grasslands, trading
stations, and plantations. Captain Malu’s little finger, which was
broken, had more inevitableness in it than Bertie Arkwright’s whole
carcass. But then, the lady tourists had nothing by which to judge save
appearances, and Bertie certainly was a fine-looking man.

Bertie talked with Captain Malu in the smoking room, confiding to him
his intention of seeing life red and bleeding in the Solomons. Captain
Malu agreed that the intention was ambitious and honorable. It was not
until several days later that he became interested in Bertie, when that
young adventurer insisted on showing him an automatic 44-caliber pistol.
Bertie explained the mechanism and demonstrated by slipping a loaded
magazine up the hollow butt.

“It is so simple,” he said. He shot the outer barrel back along the
inner one. “That loads it and cocks it, you see. And then all I have to
do is pull the trigger, eight times, as fast as I can quiver my finger.
See that safety clutch. That’s what I like about it. It is safe. It is
positively fool-proof.” He slipped out the magazine. “You see how safe
it is.”

As he held it in his hand, the muzzle came in line with Captain Malu’s
stomach. Captain Malu’s blue eyes looked at it unswervingly.

“Would you mind pointing it in some other direction?” he asked.

“It’s perfectly safe,” Bertie assured him. “I withdrew the magazine.
It’s not loaded now, you know.”

“A gun is always loaded.”

“But this one isn’t.”

“Turn it away just the same.”

Captain Malu’s voice was flat and metallic and low, but his eyes never
left the muzzle until the line of it was drawn past him and away from

“I’ll bet a fiver it isn’t loaded,” Bertie proposed warmly.

The other shook his head.

“Then I’ll show you.”

Bertie started to put the muzzle to his own temple with the evident
intention of pulling the trigger.

“Just a second,” Captain Malu said quietly, reaching out his hand. “Let
me look at it.”

He pointed it seaward and pulled the trigger. A heavy explosion
followed, instantaneous with the sharp click of the mechanism that
flipped a hot and smoking cartridge sidewise along the deck.

Bertie’s jaw dropped in amazement.

“I slipped the barrel back once, didn’t I?” he explained. “It was silly
of me, I must say.”

He giggled flabbily, and sat down in a steamer chair. The blood had
ebbed from his face, exposing dark circles under his eyes. His hands
were trembling and unable to guide the shaking cigarette to his lips.
The world was too much with him, and he saw himself with dripping brains
prone upon the deck.

“Really,” he said, “... really.”

“It’s a pretty weapon,” said Captain Malu, returning the automatic to

The Commissioner was on board the Makembo, returning from Sydney, and by
his permission a stop was made at Ugi to land a missionary. And at Ugi
lay the ketch ARLA, Captain Hansen, skipper. Now the Arla was one of
many vessels owned by Captain Malu, and it was at his suggestion and
by his invitation that Bertie went aboard the Arla as guest for a four
days’ recruiting cruise on the coast of Malaita. Thereafter the ARLA
would drop him at Reminge Plantation (also owned by Captain Malu), where
Bertie could remain for a week, and then be sent over to Tulagi, the
seat of government, where he would become the Commissioner’s guest.
Captain Malu was responsible for two other suggestions, which given, he
disappears from this narrative. One was to Captain Hansen, the other
to Mr. Harriwell, manager of Reminge Plantation. Both suggestions were
similar in tenor, namely, to give Mr. Bertram Arkwright an insight into
the rawness and redness of life in the Solomons. Also, it is whispered
that Captain Malu mentioned that a case of Scotch would be
coincidental with any particularly gorgeous insight Mr. Arkwright might

“Yes, Swartz always was too pig-headed. You see, he took four of his
boat’s crew to Tulagi to be flogged--officially, you know--then started
back with them in the whaleboat. It was pretty squally, and the boat
capsized just outside. Swartz was the only one drowned. Of course, it
was an accident.”

“Was it? Really?” Bertie asked, only half-interested, staring hard at
the black man at the wheel.

Ugi had dropped astern, and the ARLA was sliding along through a summer
sea toward the wooded ranges of Malaita. The helmsman who so attracted
Bertie’s eyes sported a ten penny nail, stuck skewerwise through his
nose. About his neck was a string of pants buttons. Thrust through holes
in his ears were a can opener, the broken handle of a toothbrush, a clay
pipe, the brass wheel of an alarm clock, and several Winchester rifle

On his chest, suspended from around his neck hung the half of a china
plate. Some forty similarly appareled blacks lay about the deck, fifteen
of which were boat’s crew, the remainder being fresh labor recruits.

“Of course it was an accident,” spoke up the ARLA’S mate, Jacobs,
a slender, dark-eyed man who looked more a professor than a sailor.
“Johnny Bedip nearly had the same kind of accident. He was bringing back
several from a flogging, when they capsized him. But he knew how to swim
as well as they, and two of them were drowned. He used a boat stretcher
and a revolver. Of course it was an accident.”

“Quite common, them accidents,” remarked the skipper. “You see that man
at the wheel, Mr. Arkwright? He’s a man eater. Six months ago, he and
the rest of the boat’s crew drowned the then captain of the ARLA. They
did it on deck, sir, right aft there by the mizzen-traveler.”

“The deck was in a shocking state,” said the mate.

“Do I understand--?” Bertie began.

“Yes, just that,” said Captain Hansen. “It was an accidental drowning.”

“But on deck--?”

“Just so. I don’t mind telling you, in confidence, of course, that they
used an axe.”

“This present crew of yours?”

Captain Hansen nodded.

“The other skipper always was too careless,” explained the mate. “He but
just turned his back, when they let him have it.”

“We haven’t any show down here,” was the skipper’s complaint. “The
government protects a nigger against a white every time. You can’t shoot
first. You’ve got to give the nigger first shot, or else the government
calls it murder and you go to Fiji. That’s why there’s so many drowning

Dinner was called, and Bertie and the skipper went below, leaving the
mate to watch on deck.

“Keep an eye out for that black devil, Auiki,” was the skipper’s parting
caution. “I haven’t liked his looks for several days.”

“Right O,” said the mate.

Dinner was part way along, and the skipper was in the middle of his
story of the cutting out of the Scottish Chiefs.

“Yes,” he was saying, “she was the finest vessel on the coast. But when
she missed stays, and before ever she hit the reef, the canoes started
for her. There were five white men, a crew of twenty Santa Cruz boys
and Samoans, and only the supercargo escaped. Besides, there were sixty
recruits. They were all kai-kai’d. Kai-kai?--oh, I beg your pardon.
I mean they were eaten. Then there was the James Edwards, a

But at that moment there was a sharp oath from the mate on deck and a
chorus of savage cries. A revolver went off three times, and then was
heard a loud splash. Captain Hansen had sprung up the companionway on
the instant, and Bertie’s eyes had been fascinated by a glimpse of him
drawing his revolver as he sprang.

Bertie went up more circumspectly, hesitating before he put his head
above the companionway slide. But nothing happened. The mate was
shaking with excitement, his revolver in his hand. Once he startled, and
half-jumped around, as if danger threatened his back.

“One of the natives fell overboard,” he was saying, in a queer tense
voice. “He couldn’t swim.”

“Who was it?” the skipper demanded.

“Auiki,” was the answer.

“But I say, you know, I heard shots,” Bertie said, in trembling
eagerness, for he scented adventure, and adventure that was happily over

The mate whirled upon him, snarling:

“It’s a damned lie. There ain’t been a shot fired. The nigger fell

Captain Hansen regarded Bertie with unblinking, lack-luster eyes.

“I--I thought--” Bertie was beginning.

“Shots?” said Captain Hansen, dreamily. “Shots? Did you hear any shots,
Mr. Jacobs?”

“Not a shot,” replied Mr. Jacobs.

The skipper looked at his guest triumphantly, and said:

“Evidently an accident. Let us go down, Mr. Arkwright, and finish

Bertie slept that night in the captain’s cabin, a tiny stateroom off the
main cabin. The for’ard bulkhead was decorated with a stand of rifles.
Over the bunk were three more rifles. Under the bunk was a big drawer,
which, when he pulled it out, he found filled with ammunition, dynamite,
and several boxes of detonators. He elected to take the settee on the
opposite side. Lying conspicuously on the small table, was the Arla’s
log. Bertie did not know that it had been especially prepared for the
occasion by Captain Malu, and he read therein how on September 21, two
boat’s crew had fallen overboard and been drowned. Bertie read between
the lines and knew better. He read how the Arla’s whale boat had
been bushwhacked at Su’u and had lost three men; of how the skipper
discovered the cook stewing human flesh on the galley fire--flesh
purchased by the boat’s crew ashore in Fui; of how an accidental
discharge of dynamite, while signaling, had killed another boat’s crew;
of night attacks; ports fled from between the dawns; attacks by bushmen
in mangrove swamps and by fleets of salt-water men in the larger
passages. One item that occurred with monotonous frequency was death by
dysentery. He noticed with alarm that two white men had so died--guests,
like himself, on the Arla.

“I say, you know,” Bertie said next day to Captain Hansen. “I’ve been
glancing through your log.”

The skipper displayed quick vexation that the log had been left lying

“And all that dysentery, you know, that’s all rot, just like the
accidental drownings,” Bertie continued. “What does dysentery really
stand for?”

The skipper openly admired his guest’s acumen, stiffened himself to make
indignant denial, then gracefully surrendered.

“You see, it’s like this, Mr. Arkwright. These islands have got a bad
enough name as it is. It’s getting harder every day to sign on white
men. Suppose a man is killed. The company has to pay through the nose
for another man to take the job. But if the man merely dies of sickness,
it’s all right. The new chums don’t mind disease. What they draw the
line at is being murdered. I thought the skipper of the Arla had died of
dysentery when I took his billet. Then it was too late. I’d signed the

“Besides,” said Mr. Jacobs, “there’s altogether too many accidental
drownings anyway. It don’t look right. It’s the fault of the government.
A white man hasn’t a chance to defend himself from the niggers.”

“Yes, look at the Princess and that Yankee mate,” the skipper took up
the tale. “She carried five white men besides a government agent. The
captain, the agent, and the supercargo were ashore in the two boats.
They were killed to the last man. The mate and boson, with about fifteen
of the crew--Samoans and Tongans--were on board. A crowd of niggers came
off from shore. First thing the mate knew, the boson and the crew were
killed in the first rush. The mate grabbed three cartridge belts and two
Winchesters and skinned up to the cross-trees. He was the sole survivor,
and you can’t blame him for being mad. He pumped one rifle till it got
so hot he couldn’t hold it, then he pumped the other. The deck was black
with niggers. He cleaned them out. He dropped them as they went over the
rail, and he dropped them as fast as they picked up their paddles. Then
they jumped into the water and started to swim for it, and being mad, he
got half a dozen more. And what did he get for it?”

“Seven years in Fiji,” snapped the mate.

“The government said he wasn’t justified in shooting after they’d taken
to the water,” the skipper explained.

“And that’s why they die of dysentery nowadays,” the mate added.

“Just fancy,” said Bertie, as he felt a longing for the cruise to be

Later on in the day he interviewed the black who had been pointed out
to him as a cannibal. This fellow’s name was Sumasai. He had spent three
years on a Queensland plantation. He had been to Samoa, and Fiji, and
Sydney; and as a boat’s crew had been on recruiting schooners through
New Britain, New Ireland, New Guinea, and the Admiralties. Also, he was
a wag, and he had taken a line on his skipper’s conduct. Yes, he had
eaten many men. How many? He could not remember the tally. Yes, white
men, too; they were very good, unless they were sick. He had once eaten
a sick one.

“My word!” he cried, at the recollection. “Me sick plenty along him. My
belly walk about too much.”

Bertie shuddered, and asked about heads. Yes, Sumasai had several hidden
ashore, in good condition, sun-dried, and smoke-cured. One was of the
captain of a schooner. It had long whiskers. He would sell it for
two quid. Black men’s heads he would sell for one quid. He had some
pickaninny heads, in poor condition, that he would let go for ten bob.

Five minutes afterward, Bertie found himself sitting on the
companionway-slide alongside a black with a horrible skin disease. He
sheered off, and on inquiry was told that it was leprosy. He hurried
below and washed himself with antiseptic soap. He took many antiseptic
washes in the course of the day, for every native on board was afflicted
with malignant ulcers of one sort or another.

As the Arla drew in to an anchorage in the midst of mangrove swamps,
a double row of barbed wire was stretched around above her rail. That
looked like business, and when Bertie saw the shore canoes alongside,
armed with spears, bows and arrows, and Sniders, he wished more
earnestly than ever that the cruise was over.

That evening the natives were slow in leaving the ship at sundown. A
number of them checked the mate when he ordered them ashore. “Never
mind, I’ll fix them,” said Captain Hansen, diving below.

When he came back, he showed Bertie a stick of dynamite attached to a
fish hook. Now it happens that a paper-wrapped bottle of chlorodyne with
a piece of harmless fuse projecting can fool anybody. It fooled Bertie,
and it fooled the natives. When Captain Hansen lighted the fuse and
hooked the fish hook into the tail end of a native’s loin cloth, that
native was smitten with so an ardent a desire for the shore that he
forgot to shed the loin cloth. He started for’ard, the fuse sizzling and
spluttering at his rear, the natives in his path taking headers over the
barbed wire at every jump. Bertie was horror-stricken. So was Captain
Hansen. He had forgotten his twenty-five recruits, on each of which he
had paid thirty shillings advance. They went over the side along with
the shore-dwelling folk and followed by him who trailed the sizzling
chlorodyne bottle.

Bertie did not see the bottle go off; but the mate opportunely
discharging a stick of real dynamite aft where it would harm nobody,
Bertie would have sworn in any admiralty court to a nigger blown to
flinders. The flight of the twenty-five recruits had actually cost the
Arla forty pounds, and, since they had taken to the bush, there was no
hope of recovering them. The skipper and his mate proceeded to drown
their sorrow in cold tea.

The cold tea was in whiskey bottles, so Bertie did not know it was cold
tea they were mopping up. All he knew was that the two men got very
drunk and argued eloquently and at length as to whether the exploded
nigger should be reported as a case of dysentery or as an accidental
drowning. When they snored off to sleep, he was the only white man left,
and he kept a perilous watch till dawn, in fear of an attack from shore
and an uprising of the crew.

Three more days the Arla spent on the coast, and three more nights the
skipper and the mate drank overfondly of cold tea, leaving Bertie
to keep the watch. They knew he could be depended upon, while he was
equally certain that if he lived, he would report their drunken conduct
to Captain Malu. Then the Arla dropped anchor at Reminge Plantation, on
Guadalcanar, and Bertie landed on the beach with a sigh of relief and
shook hands with the manager. Mr. Harriwell was ready for him.

“Now you mustn’t be alarmed if some of our fellows seem downcast,” Mr.
Harriwell said, having drawn him aside in confidence. “There’s been talk
of an outbreak, and two or three suspicious signs I’m willing to admit,
but personally I think it’s all poppycock.”

“How--how many blacks have you on the plantation?” Bertie asked, with a
sinking heart.

“We’re working four hundred just now,” replied Mr. Harriwell,
cheerfully; “but the three of us, with you, of course, and the skipper
and mate of the Arla, can handle them all right.”

Bertie turned to meet one McTavish, the storekeeper, who scarcely
acknowledged the introduction, such was his eagerness to present his

“It being that I’m a married man, Mr. Harriwell, I can’t very well
afford to remain on longer. Trouble is working up, as plain as the
nose on your face. The niggers are going to break out, and there’ll be
another Hohono horror here.”

“What’s a Hohono horror?” Bertie asked, after the storekeeper had been
persuaded to remain until the end of the month.

“Oh, he means Hohono Plantation, on Ysabel,” said the manager. “The
niggers killed the five white men ashore, captured the schooner, killed
the captain and mate, and escaped in a body to Malaita. But I always
said they were careless on Hohono. They won’t catch us napping here.
Come along, Mr. Arkwright, and see our view from the veranda.”

Bertie was too busy wondering how he could get away to Tulagi to the
Commissioner’s house, to see much of the view. He was still wondering,
when a rifle exploded very near to him, behind his back. At the same
moment his arm was nearly dislocated, so eagerly did Mr. Harriwell drag
him indoors.

“I say, old man, that was a close shave,” said the manager, pawing him
over to see if he had been hit. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am. But it
was broad daylight, and I never dreamed.”

Bertie was beginning to turn pale.

“They got the other manager that way,” McTavish vouchsafed. “And a
dashed fine chap he was. Blew his brains out all over the veranda. You
noticed that dark stain there between the steps and the door?”

Bertie was ripe for the cocktail which Mr. Harriwell pitched in and
compounded for him; but before he could drink it, a man in riding
trousers and puttees entered.

“What’s the matter now?” the manager asked, after one look at the
newcomer’s face. “Is the river up again?”

“River be blowed--it’s the niggers. Stepped out of the cane grass, not
a dozen feet away, and whopped at me. It was a Snider, and he shot from
the hip. Now what I want to know is where’d he get that Snider?--Oh, I
beg pardon. Glad to know you, Mr. Arkwright.”

“Mr. Brown is my assistant,” explained Mr. Harriwell. “And now let’s
have that drink.”

“But where’d he get that Snider?” Mr. Brown insisted. “I always objected
to keeping those guns on the premises.”

“They’re still there,” Mr. Harriwell said, with a show of heat.

Mr. Brown smiled incredulously.

“Come along and see,” said the manager.

Bertie joined the procession into the office, where Mr. Harriwell
pointed triumphantly at a big packing case in a dusty corner.

“Well, then where did the beggar get that Snider?” harped Mr. Brown.

But just then McTavish lifted the packing case. The manager started,
then tore off the lid. The case was empty. They gazed at one another in
horrified silence. Harriwell drooped wearily.

Then McVeigh cursed.

“What I contended all along--the house-boys are not to be trusted.”

“It does look serious,” Harriwell admitted, “but we’ll come through it
all right. What the sanguinary niggers need is a shaking up. Will you
gentlemen please bring your rifles to dinner, and will you, Mr. Brown,
kindly prepare forty or fifty sticks of dynamite. Make the fuses good
and short. We’ll give them a lesson. And now, gentlemen, dinner is

One thing that Bertie detested was rice and curry, so it happened that
he alone partook of an inviting omelet. He had quite finished his plate,
when Harriwell helped himself to the omelet. One mouthful he tasted,
then spat out vociferously.

“That’s the second time,” McTavish announced ominously.

Harriwell was still hawking and spitting.

“Second time, what?” Bertie quavered.

“Poison,” was the answer. “That cook will be hanged yet.”

“That’s the way the bookkeeper went out at Cape March,” Brown spoke up.
“Died horribly. They said on the Jessie that they heard him screaming
three miles away.”

“I’ll put the cook in irons,” sputtered Harriwell. “Fortunately we
discovered it in time.”

Bertie sat paralyzed. There was no color in his face. He attempted to
speak, but only an inarticulate gurgle resulted. All eyed him anxiously.

“Don’t say it, don’t say it,” McTavish cried in a tense voice.

“Yes, I ate it, plenty of it, a whole plateful!” Bertie cried
explosively, like a diver suddenly regaining breath.

The awful silence continued half a minute longer, and he read his fate
in their eyes.

“Maybe it wasn’t poison after all,” said Harriwell, dismally.

“Call in the cook,” said Brown.

In came the cook, a grinning black boy, nose-spiked and ear-plugged.

“Here, you, Wi-wi, what name that?” Harriwell bellowed, pointing
accusingly at the omelet.

Wi-wi was very naturally frightened and embarrassed.

“Him good fella kai-kai,” he murmured apologetically.

“Make him eat it,” suggested McTavish. “That’s a proper test.”

Harriwell filled a spoon with the stuff and jumped for the cook, who
fled in panic.

“That settles it,” was Brown’s solemn pronouncement. “He won’t eat it.”

“Mr. Brown, will you please go and put the irons on him?” Harriwell
turned cheerfully to Bertie. “It’s all right, old man, the Commissioner
will deal with him, and if you die, depend upon it, he will be hanged.”

“Don’t think the government’ll do it,” objected McTavish.

“But gentlemen, gentlemen,” Bertie cried. “In the meantime think of me.”

Harriwell shrugged his shoulders pityingly.

“Sorry, old man, but it’s a native poison, and there are no known
antidotes for native poisons. Try and compose yourself and if--”

Two sharp reports of a rifle from without, interrupted the discourse,
and Brown, entering, reloaded his rifle and sat down to table.

“The cook’s dead,” he said. “Fever. A rather sudden attack.”

“I was just telling Mr. Arkwright that there are no antidotes for native

“Except gin,” said Brown.

Harriwell called himself an absent-minded idiot and rushed for the gin

“Neat, man, neat,” he warned Bertie, who gulped down a tumbler
two-thirds full of the raw spirits, and coughed and choked from the
angry bite of it till the tears ran down his cheeks.

Harriwell took his pulse and temperature, made a show of looking out for
him, and doubted that the omelet had been poisoned. Brown and McTavish
also doubted; but Bertie discerned an insincere ring in their voices.
His appetite had left him, and he took his own pulse stealthily under
the table. There was no question but what it was increasing, but he
failed to ascribe it to the gin he had taken. McTavish, rifle in hand,
went out on the veranda to reconnoiter.

“They’re massing up at the cook-house,” was his report. “And they’ve no
end of Sniders. My idea is to sneak around on the other side and take
them in flank. Strike the first blow, you know. Will you come along,

Harriwell ate on steadily, while Bertie discovered that his pulse had
leaped up five beats. Nevertheless, he could not help jumping when the
rifles began to go off. Above the scattering of Sniders could be
heard the pumping of Brown’s and McTavish’s Winchesters--all against a
background of demoniacal screeching and yelling.

“They’ve got them on the run,” Harriwell remarked, as voices and
gunshots faded away in the distance.

Scarcely were Brown and McTavish back at the table when the latter

“They’ve got dynamite,” he said.

“Then let’s charge them with dynamite,” Harriwell proposed.

Thrusting half a dozen sticks each into their pockets and equipping
themselves with lighted cigars, they started for the door. And just then
it happened. They blamed McTavish for it afterward, and he admitted
that the charge had been a trifle excessive. But at any rate it went
off under the house, which lifted up cornerwise and settled back on
its foundations. Half the china on the table was shattered, while the
eight-day clock stopped. Yelling for vengeance, the three men rushed out
into the night, and the bombardment began.

When they returned, there was no Bertie. He had dragged himself away
to the office, barricaded himself in, and sunk upon the floor in a
gin-soaked nightmare, wherein he died a thousand deaths while the
valorous fight went on around him. In the morning, sick and headachey
from the gin, he crawled out to find the sun still in the sky and God
presumable in heaven, for his hosts were alive and uninjured.

Harriwell pressed him to stay on longer, but Bertie insisted on sailing
immediately on the Arla for Tulagi, where, until the following steamer
day, he stuck close by the Commissioner’s house. There were lady
tourists on the outgoing steamer, and Bertie was again a hero, while
Captain Malu, as usual, passed unnoticed. But Captain Malu sent back
from Sydney two cases of the best Scotch whiskey on the market, for he
was not able to make up his mind as to whether it was Captain Hansen or
Mr Harriwell who had given Bertie Arkwright the more gorgeous insight
into life in the Solomons.


“The black will never understand the white, nor the white the black, as
long as black is black and white is white.”

So said Captain Woodward. We sat in the parlor of Charley Roberts’ pub
in Apia, drinking long Abu Hameds compounded and shared with us by the
aforesaid Charley Roberts, who claimed the recipe direct from Stevens,
famous for having invented the Abu Hamed at a time when he was spurred
on by Nile thirst--the Stevens who was responsible for “With Kitchener
to Kartoun,” and who passed out at the siege of Ladysmith.

Captain Woodward, short and squat, elderly, burned by forty years of
tropic sun, and with the most beautiful liquid brown eyes I ever saw in
a man, spoke from a vast experience. The crisscross of scars on his bald
pate bespoke a tomahawk intimacy with the black, and of equal intimacy
was the advertisement, front and rear, on the right side of his neck,
where an arrow had at one time entered and been pulled clean through. As
he explained, he had been in a hurry on that occasion--the arrow impeded
his running--and he felt that he could not take the time to break off
the head and pull out the shaft the way it had come in. At the present
moment he was commander of the SAVAII, the big steamer that recruited
labor from the westward for the German plantations on Samoa.

“Half the trouble is the stupidity of the whites,” said Roberts,
pausing to take a swig from his glass and to curse the Samoan bar-boy
in affectionate terms. “If the white man would lay himself out a bit
to understand the workings of the black man’s mind, most of the messes
would be avoided.”

“I’ve seen a few who claimed they understood niggers,” Captain Woodward
retorted, “and I always took notice that they were the first to be
kai-kai’d (eaten). Look at the missionaries in New Guinea and the New
Hebrides--the martyr isle of Erromanga and all the rest. Look at the
Austrian expedition that was cut to pieces in the Solomons, in the bush
of Guadalcanar. And look at the traders themselves, with a score of
years’ experience, making their brag that no nigger would ever get them,
and whose heads to this day are ornamenting the rafters of the canoe
houses. There was old Johnny Simons--twenty-six years on the raw edges
of Melanesia, swore he knew the niggers like a book and that they’d
never do for him, and he passed out at Marovo Lagoon, New Georgia, had
his head sawed off by a black Mary (woman) and an old nigger with only
one leg, having left the other leg in the mouth of a shark while diving
for dynamited fish. There was Billy Watts, horrible reputation as
a nigger killer, a man to scare the devil. I remember lying at Cape
Little, New Ireland you know, when the niggers stole half a case of
trade-tobacco--cost him about three dollars and a half. In retaliation
he turned out, shot six niggers, smashed up their war canoes and burned
two villages. And it was at Cape Little, four years afterward, that
he was jumped along with fifty Buku boys he had with him fishing
bêche-de-mer. In five minutes they were all dead, with the exception of
three boys who got away in a canoe. Don’t talk to me about understanding
the nigger. The white man’s mission is to farm the world, and it’s a
big enough job cut out for him. What time has he got left to understand
niggers anyway?”

“Just so,” said Roberts. “And somehow it doesn’t seem necessary, after
all, to understand the niggers. In direct proportion to the white man’s
stupidity is his success in farming the world--”

“And putting the fear of God into the nigger’s heart,” Captain Woodward
blurted out. “Perhaps you’re right, Roberts. Perhaps it’s his stupidity
that makes him succeed, and surely one phase of his stupidity is his
inability to understand the niggers. But there’s one thing sure, the
white has to run the niggers whether he understands them or not. It’s
inevitable. It’s fate.”

“And of course the white man is inevitable--it’s the niggers’ fate,”
 Roberts broke in. “Tell the white man there’s pearl shell in some lagoon
infested by ten-thousand howling cannibals, and he’ll head there all by
his lonely, with half a dozen kanaka divers and a tin alarm clock for
chronometer, all packed like sardines on a commodious, five-ton ketch.
Whisper that there’s a gold strike at the North Pole, and that same
inevitable white-skinned creature will set out at once, armed with pick
and shovel, a side of bacon, and the latest patent rocker--and what’s
more, he’ll get there. Tip it off to him that there’s diamonds on the
red-hot ramparts of hell, and Mr. White Man will storm the ramparts
and set old Satan himself to pick-and-shovel work. That’s what comes of
being stupid and inevitable.”

“But I wonder what the black man must think of the--the inevitableness,”
 I said.

Captain Woodward broke into quiet laughter. His eyes had a reminiscent

“I’m just wondering what the niggers of Malu thought and still must be
thinking of the one inevitable white man we had on board when we visited
them in the DUCHESS,” he explained.

Roberts mixed three more Abu Hameds.

“That was twenty years ago. Saxtorph was his name. He was certainly the
most stupid man I ever saw, but he was as inevitable as death. There was
only one thing that chap could do, and that was shoot. I remember the
first time I ran into him--right here in Apia, twenty years ago. That
was before your time, Roberts. I was sleeping at Dutch Henry’s hotel,
down where the market is now. Ever heard of him? He made a tidy stake
smuggling arms in to the rebels, sold out his hotel, and was killed in
Sydney just six weeks afterward in a saloon row.

“But Saxtorph. One night I’d just got to sleep, when a couple of cats
began to sing in the courtyard. It was out of bed and up window, water
jug in hand. But just then I heard the window of the next room go up.
Two shots were fired, and the window was closed. I fail to impress you
with the celerity of the transaction. Ten seconds at the outside. Up
went the window, bang bang went the revolver, and down went the window.
Whoever it was, he had never stopped to see the effect of his shots. He
knew. Do you follow me?--he KNEW. There was no more cat concert, and in
the morning there lay the two offenders, stone dead. It was marvelous
to me. It still is marvelous. First, it was starlight, and Saxtorph shot
without drawing a bead; next, he shot so rapidly that the two reports
were like a double report; and finally, he knew he had hit his marks
without looking to see.

“Two days afterward he came on board to see me. I was mate, then, on
the Duchess, a whacking big one-hundred-and fifty-ton schooner, a
blackbirder. And let me tell you that blackbirders were blackbirders in
those days. There weren’t any government protection for US, either. It
was rough work, give and take, if we were finished, and nothing said,
and we ran niggers from every south sea island they didn’t kick us off
from. Well, Saxtorph came on board, John Saxtorph was the name he gave.
He was a sandy little man, hair sandy, complexion sandy, and eyes sandy,
too. Nothing striking about him. His soul was as neutral as his color
scheme. He said he was strapped and wanted to ship on board. Would go
cabin boy, cook, supercargo, or common sailor. Didn’t know anything
about any of the billets, but said that he was willing to learn. I
didn’t want him, but his shooting had so impressed me that I took him as
common sailor, wages three pounds per month.

“He was willing to learn all right, I’ll say that much. But he was
constitutionally unable to learn anything. He could no more box the
compass than I could mix drinks like Roberts here. And as for steering,
he gave me my first gray hairs. I never dared risk him at the wheel when
we were running in a big sea, while full-and-by and close-and-by were
insoluble mysteries. Couldn’t ever tell the difference between a sheet
and a tackle, simply couldn’t. The fore-throat-jig and the jib-jig were
all one to him. Tell him to slack off the mainsheet, and before you know
it, he’d drop the peak. He fell overboard three times, and he couldn’t
swim. But he was always cheerful, never seasick, and he was the most
willing man I ever knew. He was an uncommunicative soul. Never talked
about himself. His history, so far as we were concerned, began the day
he signed on the DUCHESS. Where he learned to shoot, the stars alone can
tell. He was a Yankee--that much we knew from the twang in his speech.
And that was all we ever did know.

“And now we begin to get to the point. We had bad luck in the New
Hebrides, only fourteen boys for five weeks, and we ran up before the
southeast for the Solomons. Malaita, then as now, was good recruiting
ground, and we ran into Malu, on the northwestern corner. There’s a
shore reef and an outer reef, and a mighty nervous anchorage; but we
made it all right and fired off our dynamite as a signal to the niggers
to come down and be recruited. In three days we got not a boy. The
niggers came off to us in their canoes by hundreds, but they only
laughed when we showed them beads and calico and hatchets and talked of
the delights of plantation work in Samoa.

“On the fourth day there came a change. Fifty-odd boys signed on and
were billeted in the main-hold, with the freedom of the deck, of course.
And of course, looking back, this wholesale signing on was suspicious,
but at the time we thought some powerful chief had removed the ban
against recruiting. The morning of the fifth day our two boats went
ashore as usual--one to cover the other, you know, in case of trouble.
And, as usual, the fifty niggers on board were on deck, loafing,
talking, smoking, and sleeping. Saxtorph and myself, along with four
other sailors, were all that were left on board. The two boats were
manned with Gilbert Islanders. In the one were the captain, the
supercargo, and the recruiter. In the other, which was the covering boat
and which lay off shore a hundred yards, was the second mate. Both boats
were well-armed, though trouble was little expected.

“Four of the sailors, including Saxtorph, were scraping the poop rail.
The fifth sailor, rifle in hand, was standing guard by the water-tank
just for’ard of the mainmast. I was for’ard, putting in the finishing
licks on a new jaw for the fore-gaff. I was just reaching for my pipe
where I had laid it down, when I heard a shot from shore. I straightened
up to look. Something struck me on the back of the head, partially
stunning me and knocking me to the deck. My first thought was that
something had carried away aloft; but even as I went down, and before
I struck the deck, I heard the devil’s own tattoo of rifles from the
boats, and twisting sidewise, I caught a glimpse of the sailor who
was standing guard. Two big niggers were holding his arms, and a third
nigger from behind was braining him with a tomahawk.

“I can see it now, the water-tank, the mainmast, the gang hanging on to
him, the hatchet descending on the back of his head, and all under the
blazing sunlight. I was fascinated by that growing vision of death.
The tomahawk seemed to take a horribly long time to come down. I saw it
land, and the man’s legs give under him as he crumpled. The niggers held
him up by sheer strength while he was hacked a couple of times more.
Then I got two more hacks on the head and decided that I was dead. So
did the brute that was hacking me. I was too helpless to move, and I lay
there and watched them removing the sentry’s head. I must say they did
it slick enough. They were old hands at the business.

“The rifle firing from the boats had ceased, and I made no doubt that
they were finished off and that the end had come to everything. It was
only a matter of moments when they would return for my head. They were
evidently taking the heads from the sailors aft. Heads are valuable on
Malaita, especially white heads. They have the place of honor in the
canoe houses of the salt-water natives. What particular decorative
effect the bushmen get out of them I didn’t know, but they prize them
just as much as the salt-water crowd.

“I had a dim notion of escaping, and I crawled on hands and knees to
the winch, where I managed to drag myself to my feet. From there I
could look aft and see three heads on top the cabin--the heads of three
sailors I had given orders to for months. The niggers saw me standing,
and started for me. I reached for my revolver, and found they had taken
it. I can’t say that I was scared. I’ve been near to death several
times, but it never seemed easier than right then. I was half-stunned,
and nothing seemed to matter.

“The leading nigger had armed himself with a cleaver from the galley,
and he grimaced like an ape as he prepared to slice me down. But the
slice was never made. He went down on the deck all of a heap, and I saw
the blood gush from his mouth. In a dim way I heard a rifle go off and
continue to go off. Nigger after nigger went down. My senses began to
clear, and I noted that there was never a miss. Every time that the
rifle went off a nigger dropped. I sat down on deck beside the winch and
looked up. Perched in the crosstrees was Saxtorph. How he had managed
it I can’t imagine, for he had carried up with him two Winchesters and
I don’t know how many bandoliers of ammunition; and he was now doing the
one only thing in this world that he was fitted to do.

“I’ve seen shooting and slaughter, but I never saw anything like that.
I sat by the winch and watched the show. I was weak and faint, and it
seemed to be all a dream. Bang, bang, bang, bang, went his rifle, and
thud, thud, thud, thud, went the niggers to the deck. It was amazing to
see them go down. After their first rush to get me, when about a dozen
had dropped, they seemed paralyzed; but he never left off pumping his
gun. By this time canoes and the two boats arrived from shore, armed
with Sniders, and with Winchesters which they had captured in the boats.
The fusillade they let loose on Saxtorph was tremendous. Luckily for him
the niggers are only good at close range. They are not used to putting
the gun to their shoulders. They wait until they are right on top of
a man, and then they shoot from the hip. When his rifle got too hot,
Saxtorph changed off. That had been his idea when he carried two rifles
up with him.

“The astounding thing was the rapidity of his fire. Also, he never
made a miss. If ever anything was inevitable, that man was. It was the
swiftness of it that made the slaughter so appalling. The niggers did
not have time to think. When they did manage to think, they went over
the side in a rush, capsizing the canoes of course. Saxtorph never let
up. The water was covered with them, and plump, plump, plump, he dropped
his bullets into them. Not a single miss, and I could hear distinctly
the thud of every bullet as it buried in human flesh.

“The niggers spread out and headed for the shore, swimming. The water
was carpeted with bobbing heads, and I stood up, as in a dream, and
watched it all--the bobbing heads and the heads that ceased to bob. Some
of the long shots were magnificent. Only one man reached the beach, but
as he stood up to wade ashore, Saxtorph got him. It was beautiful. And
when a couple of niggers ran down to drag him out of the water, Saxtorph
got them, too.

“I thought everything was over then, when I heard the rifle go off
again. A nigger had come out of the cabin companion on the run for the
rail and gone down in the middle of it. The cabin must have been full
of them. I counted twenty. They came up one at a time and jumped for the
rail. But they never got there. It reminded me of trapshooting. A black
body would pop out of the companion, bang would go Saxtorph’s rifle, and
down would go the black body. Of course, those below did not know what
was happening on deck, so they continued to pop out until the last one
was finished off.

“Saxtorph waited a while to make sure, and then came down on deck. He
and I were all that were left of the DUCHESS’S complement, and I was
pretty well to the bad, while he was helpless now that the shooting was
over. Under my direction he washed out my scalp wounds and sewed them
up. A big drink of whiskey braced me to make an effort to get out. There
was nothing else to do. All the rest were dead. We tried to get up sail,
Saxtorph hoisting and I holding the turn. He was once more the stupid
lubber. He couldn’t hoist worth a cent, and when I fell in a faint, it
looked all up with us.

“When I came to, Saxtorph was sitting helplessly on the rail, waiting to
ask me what he should do. I told him to overhaul the wounded and see if
there were any able to crawl. He gathered together six. One, I remember,
had a broken leg; but Saxtorph said his arms were all right. I lay
in the shade, brushing the flies off and directing operations, while
Saxtorph bossed his hospital gang. I’ll be blessed if he didn’t make
those poor niggers heave at every rope on the pin-rails before he found
the halyards. One of them let go the rope in the midst of the hoisting
and slipped down to the deck dead; but Saxtorph hammered the others and
made them stick by the job. When the fore and main were up, I told him
to knock the shackle out of the anchor chain and let her go. I had had
myself helped aft to the wheel, where I was going to make a shift at
steering. I can’t guess how he did it, but instead of knocking the
shackle out, down went the second anchor, and there we were doubly

“In the end he managed to knock both shackles out and raise the staysail
and jib, and the Duchess filled away for the entrance. Our decks were a
spectacle. Dead and dying niggers were everywhere. They were wedged away
some of them in the most inconceivable places. The cabin was full of
them where they had crawled off the deck and cashed in. I put Saxtorph
and his graveyard gang to work heaving them overside, and over they
went, the living and the dead. The sharks had fat pickings that day.
Of course our four murdered sailors went the same way. Their heads,
however, we put in a sack with weights, so that by no chance should they
drift on the beach and fall into the hands of the niggers.

“Our five prisoners I decided to use as crew, but they decided
otherwise. They watched their opportunity and went over the side.
Saxtorph got two in mid-air with his revolver, and would have shot the
other three in the water if I hadn’t stopped him. I was sick of the
slaughter, you see, and besides, they’d helped work the schooner out.
But it was mercy thrown away, for the sharks got the three of them.

“I had brain fever or something after we got clear of the land. Anyway,
the DUCHESS lay hove to for three weeks, when I pulled myself together
and we jogged on with her to Sydney. Anyway those niggers of Malu
learned the everlasting lesson that it is not good to monkey with a
white man. In their case, Saxtorph was certainly inevitable.”

Charley Roberts emitted a long whistle and said:

“Well I should say so. But whatever became of Saxtorph?”

“He drifted into seal hunting and became a crackerjack. For six years he
was high line of both the Victoria and San Francisco fleets. The seventh
year his schooner was seized in Bering Sea by a Russian cruiser, and all
hands, so the talk went, were slammed into the Siberian salt mines. At
least I’ve never heard of him since.”

“Farming the world,” Roberts muttered. “Farming the world. Well here’s
to them. Somebody’s got to do it--farm the world, I mean.”

Captain Woodward rubbed the criss-crosses on his bald head.

“I’ve done my share of it,” he said. “Forty years now. This will be my
last trip. Then I’m going home to stay.”

“I’ll wager the wine you don’t,” Roberts challenged. “You’ll die in the
harness, not at home.”

Captain Woodward promptly accepted the bet, but personally I think
Charley Roberts has the best of it.


The Pyrenees, her iron sides pressed low in the water by her cargo of
wheat, rolled sluggishly, and made it easy for the man who was climbing
aboard from out a tiny outrigger canoe. As his eyes came level with the
rail, so that he could see inboard, it seemed to him that he saw a dim,
almost indiscernible haze. It was more like an illusion, like a blurring
film that had spread abruptly over his eyes. He felt an inclination to
brush it away, and the same instant he thought that he was growing old
and that it was time to send to San Francisco for a pair of spectacles.

As he came over the rail he cast a glance aloft at the tall masts, and,
next, at the pumps. They were not working. There seemed nothing the
matter with the big ship, and he wondered why she had hoisted the signal
of distress. He thought of his happy islanders, and hoped it was not
disease. Perhaps the ship was short of water or provisions. He shook
hands with the captain whose gaunt face and care-worn eyes made no
secret of the trouble, whatever it was. At the same moment the newcomer
was aware of a faint, indefinable smell. It seemed like that of burnt
bread, but different.

He glanced curiously about him. Twenty feet away a weary-faced sailor
was calking the deck. As his eyes lingered on the man, he saw suddenly
arise from under his hands a faint spiral of haze that curled and
twisted and was gone. By now he had reached the deck. His bare feet were
pervaded by a dull warmth that quickly penetrated the thick calluses.
He knew now the nature of the ship’s distress. His eyes roved swiftly
forward, where the full crew of weary-faced sailors regarded him
eagerly. The glance from his liquid brown eyes swept over them like a
benediction, soothing them, rapping them about as in the mantle of a
great peace. “How long has she been afire, Captain?” he asked in a voice
so gentle and unperturbed that it was as the cooing of a dove.

At first the captain felt the peace and content of it stealing in upon
him; then the consciousness of all that he had gone through and was
going through smote him, and he was resentful. By what right did this
ragged beachcomber, in dungaree trousers and a cotton shirt, suggest
such a thing as peace and content to him and his overwrought, exhausted
soul? The captain did not reason this; it was the unconscious process of
emotion that caused his resentment.

“Fifteen days,” he answered shortly. “Who are you?”

“My name is McCoy,” came the answer in tones that breathed tenderness
and compassion.

“I mean, are you the pilot?”

McCoy passed the benediction of his gaze over the tall, heavy-shouldered
man with the haggard, unshaven face who had joined the captain.

“I am as much a pilot as anybody,” was McCoy’s answer. “We are all
pilots here, Captain, and I know every inch of these waters.”

But the captain was impatient.

“What I want is some of the authorities. I want to talk with them, and
blame quick.”

“Then I’ll do just as well.”

Again that insidious suggestion of peace, and his ship a raging
furnace beneath his feet! The captain’s eyebrows lifted impatiently and
nervously, and his fist clenched as if he were about to strike a blow
with it.

“Who in hell are you?” he demanded.

“I am the chief magistrate,” was the reply in a voice that was still the
softest and gentlest imaginable.

The tall, heavy-shouldered man broke out in a harsh laugh that was
partly amusement, but mostly hysterical. Both he and the captain
regarded McCoy with incredulity and amazement. That this barefooted
beachcomber should possess such high-sounding dignity was inconceivable.
His cotton shirt, unbuttoned, exposed a grizzled chest and the fact that
there was no undershirt beneath.

A worn straw hat failed to hide the ragged gray hair. Halfway down his
chest descended an untrimmed patriarchal beard. In any slop shop, two
shillings would have outfitted him complete as he stood before them.

“Any relation to the McCoy of the Bounty?” the captain asked.

“He was my great-grandfather.”

“Oh,” the captain said, then bethought himself. “My name is Davenport,
and this is my first mate, Mr. Konig.”

They shook hands.

“And now to business.” The captain spoke quickly, the urgency of a great
haste pressing his speech. “We’ve been on fire for over two weeks.
She’s ready to break all hell loose any moment. That’s why I held for
Pitcairn. I want to beach her, or scuttle her, and save the hull.”

“Then you made a mistake, Captain,” said McCoy. “You should have slacked
away for Mangareva. There’s a beautiful beach there, in a lagoon where
the water is like a mill pond.”

“But we’re here, ain’t we?” the first mate demanded. “That’s the point.
We’re here, and we’ve got to do something.”

McCoy shook his head kindly.

“You can do nothing here. There is no beach. There isn’t even

“Gammon!” said the mate. “Gammon!” he repeated loudly, as the captain
signaled him to be more soft spoken. “You can’t tell me that sort of
stuff. Where d’ye keep your own boats, hey--your schooner, or cutter, or
whatever you have? Hey? Answer me that.”

McCoy smiled as gently as he spoke. His smile was a caress, an embrace
that surrounded the tired mate and sought to draw him into the quietude
and rest of McCoy’s tranquil soul.

“We have no schooner or cutter,” he replied. “And we carry our canoes to
the top of the cliff.”

“You’ve got to show me,” snorted the mate. “How d’ye get around to the
other islands, heh? Tell me that.”

“We don’t get around. As governor of Pitcairn, I sometimes go. When
I was younger, I was away a great deal--sometimes on the trading
schooners, but mostly on the missionary brig. But she’s gone now, and we
depend on passing vessels. Sometimes we have had as high as six calls in
one year. At other times, a year, and even longer, has gone by without
one passing ship. Yours is the first in seven months.”

“And you mean to tell me--” the mate began.

But Captain Davenport interfered.

“Enough of this. We’re losing time. What is to be done, Mr. McCoy?”

The old man turned his brown eyes, sweet as a woman’s, shoreward, and
both captain and mate followed his gaze around from the lonely rock of
Pitcairn to the crew clustering forward and waiting anxiously for the
announcement of a decision. McCoy did not hurry. He thought smoothly and
slowly, step by step, with the certitude of a mind that was never vexed
or outraged by life.

“The wind is light now,” he said finally. “There is a heavy current
setting to the westward.”

“That’s what made us fetch to leeward,” the captain interrupted,
desiring to vindicate his seamanship.

“Yes, that is what fetched you to leeward,” McCoy went on. “Well, you
can’t work up against this current today. And if you did, there is no
beach. Your ship will be a total loss.”

He paused, and captain and mate looked despair at each other.

“But I will tell you what you can do. The breeze will freshen tonight
around midnight--see those tails of clouds and that thickness to
windward, beyond the point there? That’s where she’ll come from, out of
the southeast, hard. It is three hundred miles to Mangareva. Square away
for it. There is a beautiful bed for your ship there.”

The mate shook his head.

“Come in to the cabin, and we’ll look at the chart,” said the captain.

McCoy found a stifling, poisonous atmosphere in the pent cabin. Stray
waftures of invisible gases bit his eyes and made them sting. The deck
was hotter, almost unbearably hot to his bare feet. The sweat poured
out of his body. He looked almost with apprehension about him. This
malignant, internal heat was astounding. It was a marvel that the cabin
did not burst into flames. He had a feeling as if of being in a huge
bake oven where the heat might at any moment increase tremendously and
shrivel him up like a blade of grass.

As he lifted one foot and rubbed the hot sole against the leg of his
trousers, the mate laughed in a savage, snarling fashion.

“The anteroom of hell,” he said. “Hell herself is right down there under
your feet.”

“It’s hot!” McCoy cried involuntarily, mopping his face with a bandana

“Here’s Mangareva,” the captain said, bending over the table and
pointing to a black speck in the midst of the white blankness of the
chart. “And here, in between, is another island. Why not run for that?”

McCoy did not look at the chart.

“That’s Crescent Island,” he answered. “It is uninhabited, and it
is only two or three feet above water. Lagoon, but no entrance. No,
Mangareva is the nearest place for your purpose.”

“Mangareva it is, then,” said Captain Davenport, interrupting the mate’s
growling objection. “Call the crew aft, Mr. Konig.”

The sailors obeyed, shuffling wearily along the deck and painfully
endeavoring to make haste. Exhaustion was evident in every movement. The
cook came out of his galley to hear, and the cabin boy hung about near

When Captain Davenport had explained the situation and announced his
intention of running for Mangareva, an uproar broke out. Against a
background of throaty rumbling arose inarticulate cries of rage, with
here and there a distinct curse, or word, or phrase. A shrill Cockney
voice soared and dominated for a moment, crying: “Gawd! After bein’ in
ell for fifteen days--an’ now e wants us to sail this floatin’ ell to
sea again?”

The captain could not control them, but McCoy’s gentle presence seemed
to rebuke and calm them, and the muttering and cursing died away, until
the full crew, save here and there an anxious face directed at the
captain, yearned dumbly toward the green clad peaks and beetling coast
of Pitcairn.

Soft as a spring zephyr was the voice of McCoy:

“Captain, I thought I heard some of them say they were starving.”

“Ay,” was the answer, “and so we are. I’ve had a sea biscuit and a
spoonful of salmon in the last two days. We’re on whack. You see, when
we discovered the fire, we battened down immediately to suffocate the
fire. And then we found how little food there was in the pantry. But it
was too late. We didn’t dare break out the lazarette. Hungry? I’m just
as hungry as they are.”

He spoke to the men again, and again the throat rumbling and cursing
arose, their faces convulsed and animal-like with rage. The second and
third mates had joined the captain, standing behind him at the break of
the poop. Their faces were set and expressionless; they seemed bored,
more than anything else, by this mutiny of the crew. Captain Davenport
glanced questioningly at his first mate, and that person merely shrugged
his shoulders in token of his helplessness.

“You see,” the captain said to McCoy, “you can’t compel sailors to leave
the safe land and go to sea on a burning vessel. She has been their
floating coffin for over two weeks now. They are worked out, and starved
out, and they’ve got enough of her. We’ll beat up for Pitcairn.”

But the wind was light, the Pyrenees’ bottom was foul, and she could not
beat up against the strong westerly current. At the end of two hours she
had lost three miles. The sailors worked eagerly, as if by main strength
they could compel the PYRENEES against the adverse elements. But
steadily, port tack and starboard tack, she sagged off to the westward.
The captain paced restlessly up and down, pausing occasionally to survey
the vagrant smoke wisps and to trace them back to the portions of the
deck from which they sprang. The carpenter was engaged constantly in
attempting to locate such places, and, when he succeeded, in calking
them tighter and tighter.

“Well, what do you think?” the captain finally asked McCoy, who was
watching the carpenter with all a child’s interest and curiosity in his

McCoy looked shoreward, where the land was disappearing in the
thickening haze.

“I think it would be better to square away for Mangareva. With that
breeze that is coming, you’ll be there tomorrow evening.”

“But what if the fire breaks out? It is liable to do it any moment.”

“Have your boats ready in the falls. The same breeze will carry your
boats to Mangareva if the ship burns out from under.”

Captain Davenport debated for a moment, and then McCoy heard the
question he had not wanted to hear, but which he knew was surely coming.

“I have no chart of Mangareva. On the general chart it is only a fly
speck. I would not know where to look for the entrance into the lagoon.
Will you come along and pilot her in for me?”

McCoy’s serenity was unbroken.

“Yes, Captain,” he said, with the same quiet unconcern with which
he would have accepted an invitation to dinner; “I’ll go with you to

Again the crew was called aft, and the captain spoke to them from the
break of the poop.

“We’ve tried to work her up, but you see how we’ve lost ground. She’s
setting off in a two-knot current. This gentleman is the Honorable
McCoy, Chief Magistrate and Governor of Pitcairn Island. He will
come along with us to Mangareva. So you see the situation is not so
dangerous. He would not make such an offer if he thought he was going
to lose his life. Besides, whatever risk there is, if he of his own free
will come on board and take it, we can do no less. What do you say for

This time there was no uproar. McCoy’s presence, the surety and calm
that seemed to radiate from him, had had its effect. They conferred with
one another in low voices. There was little urging. They were virtually
unanimous, and they shoved the Cockney out as their spokesman. That
worthy was overwhelmed with consciousness of the heroism of himself and
his mates, and with flashing eyes he cried:

“By Gawd! If ‘e will, we will!”

The crew mumbled its assent and started forward.

“One moment, Captain,” McCoy said, as the other was turning to give
orders to the mate. “I must go ashore first.”

Mr. Konig was thunderstruck, staring at McCoy as if he were a madman.

“Go ashore!” the captain cried. “What for? It will take you three hours
to get there in your canoe.”

McCoy measured the distance of the land away, and nodded.

“Yes, it is six now. I won’t get ashore till nine. The people cannot be
assembled earlier than ten. As the breeze freshens up tonight, you
can begin to work up against it, and pick me up at daylight tomorrow

“In the name of reason and common sense,” the captain burst forth, “what
do you want to assemble the people for? Don’t you realize that my ship
is burning beneath me?”

McCoy was as placid as a summer sea, and the other’s anger produced not
the slightest ripple upon it.

“Yes, Captain,” he cooed in his dove-like voice. “I do realize that your
ship is burning. That is why I am going with you to Mangareva. But I
must get permission to go with you. It is our custom. It is an important
matter when the governor leaves the island. The people’s interests
are at stake, and so they have the right to vote their permission or
refusal. But they will give it, I know that.”

“Are you sure?”

“Quite sure.”

“Then if you know they will give it, why bother with getting it? Think
of the delay--a whole night.”

“It is our custom,” was the imperturbable reply. “Also, I am the
governor, and I must make arrangements for the conduct of the island
during my absence.”

“But it is only a twenty-four hour run to Mangareva,” the captain
objected. “Suppose it took you six times that long to return to
windward; that would bring you back by the end of a week.”

McCoy smiled his large, benevolent smile.

“Very few vessels come to Pitcairn, and when they do, they are usually
from San Francisco or from around the Horn. I shall be fortunate if I
get back in six months. I may be away a year, and I may have to go to
San Francisco in order to find a vessel that will bring me back. My
father once left Pitcairn to be gone three months, and two years passed
before he could get back. Then, too, you are short of food. If you have
to take to the boats, and the weather comes up bad, you may be days in
reaching land. I can bring off two canoe loads of food in the morning.
Dried bananas will be best. As the breeze freshens, you beat up against
it. The nearer you are, the bigger loads I can bring off. Goodby.”

He held out his hand. The captain shook it, and was reluctant to let go.
He seemed to cling to it as a drowning sailor clings to a life buoy.

“How do I know you will come back in the morning?” he asked.

“Yes, that’s it!” cried the mate. “How do we know but what he’s skinning
out to save his own hide?”

McCoy did not speak. He looked at them sweetly and benignantly, and
it seemed to them that they received a message from his tremendous
certitude of soul.

The captain released his hand, and, with a last sweeping glance that
embraced the crew in its benediction, McCoy went over the rail and
descended into his canoe.

The wind freshened, and the Pyrenees, despite the foulness of her
bottom, won half a dozen miles away from the westerly current. At
daylight, with Pitcairn three miles to windward, Captain Davenport made
out two canoes coming off to him. Again McCoy clambered up the side and
dropped over the rail to the hot deck. He was followed by many packages
of dried bananas, each package wrapped in dry leaves.

“Now, Captain,” he said, “swing the yards and drive for dear life. You
see, I am no navigator,” he explained a few minutes later, as he
stood by the captain aft, the latter with gaze wandering from aloft to
overside as he estimated the Pyrenees’ speed. “You must fetch her to
Mangareva. When you have picked up the land, then I will pilot her in.
What do you think she is making?”

“Eleven,” Captain Davenport answered, with a final glance at the water
rushing past.

“Eleven. Let me see, if she keeps up that gait, we’ll sight Mangareva
between eight and nine o’clock tomorrow morning. I’ll have her on the
beach by ten or by eleven at latest. And then your troubles will be all

It almost seemed to the captain that the blissful moment had already
arrived, such was the persuasive convincingness of McCoy.

Captain Davenport had been under the fearful strain of navigating his
burning ship for over two weeks, and he was beginning to feel that he
had had enough.

A heavier flaw of wind struck the back of his neck and whistled by his
ears. He measured the weight of it, and looked quickly overside.

“The wind is making all the time,” he announced. “The old girl’s
doing nearer twelve than eleven right now. If this keeps up, we’ll be
shortening down tonight.”

All day the Pyrenees, carrying her load of living fire, tore across the
foaming sea. By nightfall, royals and topgallantsails were in, and she
flew on into the darkness, with great, crested seas roaring after her.
The auspicious wind had had its effect, and fore and aft a visible
brightening was apparent. In the second dog-watch some careless soul
started a song, and by eight bells the whole crew was singing.

Captain Davenport had his blankets brought up and spread on top the

“I’ve forgotten what sleep is,” he explained to McCoy. “I’m all in. But
give me a call at any time you think necessary.”

At three in the morning he was aroused by a gentle tugging at his arm.
He sat up quickly, bracing himself against the skylight, stupid yet from
his heavy sleep. The wind was thrumming its war song in the rigging, and
a wild sea was buffeting the PYRENEES. Amidships she was wallowing first
one rail under and then the other, flooding the waist more often than
not. McCoy was shouting something he could not hear. He reached out,
clutched the other by the shoulder, and drew him close so that his own
ear was close to the other’s lips.

“It’s three o’clock,” came McCoy’s voice, still retaining its dovelike
quality, but curiously muffled, as if from a long way off. “We’ve
run two hundred and fifty. Crescent Island is only thirty miles away,
somewhere there dead ahead. There’s no lights on it. If we keep running,
we’ll pile up, and lose ourselves as well as the ship.”

“What d’ ye think--heave to?”

“Yes; heave to till daylight. It will only put us back four hours.”

So the Pyrenees, with her cargo of fire, was hove to, bitting the teeth
of the gale and fighting and smashing the pounding seas. She was a
shell, filled with a conflagration, and on the outside of the shell,
clinging precariously, the little motes of men, by pull and haul, helped
her in the battle.

“It is most unusual, this gale,” McCoy told the captain, in the lee of
the cabin. “By rights there should be no gale at this time of the year.
But everything about the weather has been unusual. There has been a
stoppage of the trades, and now it’s howling right out of the trade
quarter.” He waved his hand into the darkness, as if his vision could
dimly penetrate for hundreds of miles. “It is off to the westward. There
is something big making off there somewhere--a hurricane or something.
We’re lucky to be so far to the eastward. But this is only a little
blow,” he added. “It can’t last. I can tell you that much.”

By daylight the gale had eased down to normal. But daylight revealed
a new danger. It had come on thick. The sea was covered by a fog, or,
rather, by a pearly mist that was fog-like in density, in so far as it
obstructed vision, but that was no more than a film on the sea, for the
sun shot it through and filled it with a glowing radiance.

The deck of the Pyrenees was making more smoke than on the preceding
day, and the cheerfulness of officers and crew had vanished. In the lee
of the galley the cabin boy could be heard whimpering. It was his first
voyage, and the fear of death was at his heart. The captain wandered
about like a lost soul, nervously chewing his mustache, scowling, unable
to make up his mind what to do.

“What do you think?” he asked, pausing by the side of McCoy, who was
making a breakfast off fried bananas and a mug of water.

McCoy finished the last banana, drained the mug, and looked slowly
around. In his eyes was a smile of tenderness as he said:

“Well, Captain, we might as well drive as burn. Your decks are not going
to hold out forever. They are hotter this morning. You haven’t a pair of
shoes I can wear? It is getting uncomfortable for my bare feet.”

The Pyrenees shipped two heavy seas as she was swung off and put once
more before it, and the first mate expressed a desire to have all that
water down in the hold, if only it could be introduced without taking
off the hatches. McCoy ducked his head into the binnacle and watched the
course set.

“I’d hold her up some more, Captain,” he said. “She’s been making drift
when hove to.”

“I’ve set it to a point higher already,” was the answer. “Isn’t that

“I’d make it two points, Captain. This bit of a blow kicked that
westerly current ahead faster than you imagine.”

Captain Davenport compromised on a point and a half, and then went
aloft, accompanied by McCoy and the first mate, to keep a lookout for
land. Sail had been made, so that the Pyrenees was doing ten knots. The
following sea was dying down rapidly. There was no break in the pearly
fog, and by ten o’clock Captain Davenport was growing nervous. All hands
were at their stations, ready, at the first warning of land ahead, to
spring like fiends to the task of bringing the Pyrenees up on the wind.
That land ahead, a surf-washed outer reef, would be perilously close
when it revealed itself in such a fog.

Another hour passed. The three watchers aloft stared intently into the
pearly radiance. “What if we miss Mangareva?” Captain Davenport asked

McCoy, without shifting his gaze, answered softly:

“Why, let her drive, captain. That is all we can do. All the Paumotus
are before us. We can drive for a thousand miles through reefs and
atolls. We are bound to fetch up somewhere.”

“Then drive it is.” Captain Davenport evidenced his intention of
descending to the deck. “We’ve missed Mangareva. God knows where
the next land is. I wish I’d held her up that other half-point,” he
confessed a moment later. “This cursed current plays the devil with a

“The old navigators called the Paumotus the Dangerous Archipelago,”
 McCoy said, when they had regained the poop. “This very current was
partly responsible for that name.”

“I was talking with a sailor chap in Sydney, once,” said Mr. Konig.
“He’d been trading in the Paumotus. He told me insurance was eighteen
per cent. Is that right?”

McCoy smiled and nodded.

“Except that they don’t insure,” he explained. “The owners write off
twenty per cent of the cost of their schooners each year.”

“My God!” Captain Davenport groaned. “That makes the life of a schooner
only five years!” He shook his head sadly, murmuring, “Bad waters! Bad

Again they went into the cabin to consult the big general chart; but the
poisonous vapors drove them coughing and gasping on deck.

“Here is Moerenhout Island,” Captain Davenport pointed it out on the
chart, which he had spread on the house. “It can’t be more than a
hundred miles to leeward.”

“A hundred and ten.” McCoy shook his head doubtfully. “It might be done,
but it is very difficult. I might beach her, and then again I might put
her on the reef. A bad place, a very bad place.”

“We’ll take the chance,” was Captain Davenport’s decision, as he set
about working out the course.

Sail was shortened early in the afternoon, to avoid running past in
the night; and in the second dog-watch the crew manifested its regained
cheerfulness. Land was so very near, and their troubles would be over in
the morning.

But morning broke clear, with a blazing tropic sun. The southeast trade
had swung around to the eastward, and was driving the PYRENEES through
the water at an eight-knot clip. Captain Davenport worked up his dead
reckoning, allowing generously for drift, and announced Moerenhout
Island to be not more than ten miles off. The Pyrenees sailed the
ten miles; she sailed ten miles more; and the lookouts at the three
mastheads saw naught but the naked, sun-washed sea.

“But the land is there, I tell you,” Captain Davenport shouted to them
from the poop.

McCoy smiled soothingly, but the captain glared about him like a madman,
fetched his sextant, and took a chronometer sight.

“I knew I was right,” he almost shouted, when he had worked up the
observation. “Twenty-one, fifty-five, south; one-thirty-six, two, west.
There you are. We’re eight miles to windward yet. What did you make it
out, Mr. Konig?”

The first mate glanced at his own figures, and said in a low voice:

“Twenty-one, fifty-five all right; but my longitude’s one-thirty-six,
forty-eight. That puts us considerably to leeward--”

But Captain Davenport ignored his figures with so contemptuous a silence
as to make Mr. Konig grit his teeth and curse savagely under his breath.

“Keep her off,” the captain ordered the man at the wheel. “Three
points--steady there, as she goes!”

Then he returned to his figures and worked them over. The sweat poured
from his face. He chewed his mustache, his lips, and his pencil, staring
at the figures as a man might at a ghost. Suddenly, with a fierce,
muscular outburst, he crumpled the scribbled paper in his fist and
crushed it under foot. Mr. Konig grinned vindictively and turned away,
while Captain Davenport leaned against the cabin and for half an
hour spoke no word, contenting himself with gazing to leeward with an
expression of musing hopelessness on his face.

“Mr. McCoy,” he broke silence abruptly. “The chart indicates a group
of islands, but not how many, off there to the north’ard, or
nor’-nor’westward, about forty miles--the Acteon Islands. What about

“There are four, all low,” McCoy answered. “First to the southeast is
Matuerui--no people, no entrance to the lagoon. Then comes Tenarunga.
There used to be about a dozen people there, but they may be all gone
now. Anyway, there is no entrance for a ship--only a boat entrance,
with a fathom of water. Vehauga and Teua-raro are the other two. No
entrances, no people, very low. There is no bed for the Pyrenees in that
group. She would be a total wreck.”

“Listen to that!” Captain Davenport was frantic. “No people! No
entrances! What in the devil are islands good for?

“Well, then,” he barked suddenly, like an excited terrier, “the chart
gives a whole mess of islands off to the nor’west. What about them? What
one has an entrance where I can lay my ship?”

McCoy calmly considered. He did not refer to the chart. All these
islands, reefs, shoals, lagoons, entrances, and distances were marked
on the chart of his memory. He knew them as the city dweller knows his
buildings, streets, and alleys.

“Papakena and Vanavana are off there to the westward, or
west-nor’westward a hundred miles and a bit more,” he said. “One is
uninhabited, and I heard that the people on the other had gone off to
Cadmus Island. Anyway, neither lagoon has an entrance. Ahunui is another
hundred miles on to the nor’west. No entrance, no people.”

“Well, forty miles beyond them are two islands?” Captain Davenport
queried, raising his head from the chart.

McCoy shook his head.

“Paros and Manuhungi--no entrances, no people. Nengo-Nengo is forty
miles beyond them, in turn, and it has no people and no entrance. But
there is Hao Island. It is just the place. The lagoon is thirty miles
long and five miles wide. There are plenty of people. You can usually
find water. And any ship in the world can go through the entrance.”

He ceased and gazed solicitously at Captain Davenport, who, bending over
the chart with a pair of dividers in hand, had just emitted a low groan.

“Is there any lagoon with an entrance anywhere nearer than Hao Island?”
 he asked.

“No, Captain; that is the nearest.”

“Well, it’s three hundred and forty miles.” Captain Davenport was
speaking very slowly, with decision. “I won’t risk the responsibility of
all these lives. I’ll wreck her on the Acteons. And she’s a good ship,
too,” he added regretfully, after altering the course, this time making
more allowance than ever for the westerly current.

An hour later the sky was overcast. The southeast trade still held, but
the ocean was a checker board of squalls.

“We’ll be there by one o’clock,” Captain Davenport announced
confidently. “By two o’clock at the outside. McCoy, you put her ashore
on the one where the people are.”

The sun did not appear again, nor, at one o’clock, was any land to be
seen. Captain Davenport looked astern at the Pyrenees’ canting wake.

“Good Lord!” he cried. “An easterly current? Look at that!”

Mr. Konig was incredulous. McCoy was noncommittal, though he said that
in the Paumotus there was no reason why it should not be an easterly
current. A few minutes later a squall robbed the Pyrenees temporarily of
all her wind, and she was left rolling heavily in the trough.

“Where’s that deep lead? Over with it, you there!” Captain Davenport
held the lead line and watched it sag off to the northeast. “There, look
at that! Take hold of it for yourself.”

McCoy and the mate tried it, and felt the line thrumming and vibrating
savagely to the grip of the tidal stream.

“A four-knot current,” said Mr. Konig.

“An easterly current instead of a westerly,” said Captain “Davenport,
glaring accusingly at McCoy, as if to cast the blame for it upon him.

“That is one of the reasons, Captain, for insurance being eighteen per
cent in these waters,” McCoy answered cheerfully. “You can never tell.
The currents are always changing. There was a man who wrote books, I
forget his name, in the yacht Casco. He missed Takaroa by thirty miles
and fetched Tikei, all because of the shifting currents. You are up to
windward now, and you’d better keep off a few points.”

“But how much has this current set me?” the captain demanded irately.
“How am I to know how much to keep off?”

“I don’t know, Captain,” McCoy said with great gentleness.

The wind returned, and the PYRENEES, her deck smoking and shimmering in
the bright gray light, ran off dead to leeward. Then she worked back,
port tack and starboard tack, crisscrossing her track, combing the sea
for the Acteon Islands, which the masthead lookouts failed to sight.

Captain Davenport was beside himself. His rage took the form of sullen
silence, and he spent the afternoon in pacing the poop or leaning
against the weather shrouds. At nightfall, without even consulting
McCoy, he squared away and headed into the northwest. Mr. Konig,
surreptitiously consulting chart and binnacle, and McCoy, openly and
innocently consulting the binnacle, knew that they were running for Hao
Island. By midnight the squalls ceased, and the stars came out. Captain
Davenport was cheered by the promise of a clear day.

“I’ll get an observation in the morning,” he told McCoy, “though what
my latitude is, is a puzzler. But I’ll use the Sumner method, and settle
that. Do you know the Sumner line?”

And thereupon he explained it in detail to McCoy.

The day proved clear, the trade blew steadily out of the east, and the
Pyrenees just as steadily logged her nine knots. Both the captain and
mate worked out the position on a Sumner line, and agreed, and at noon
agreed again, and verified the morning sights by the noon sights.

“Another twenty-four hours and we’ll be there,” Captain Davenport
assured McCoy. “It’s a miracle the way the old girl’s decks hold out.
But they can’t last. They can’t last. Look at them smoke, more and
more every day. Yet it was a tight deck to begin with, fresh-calked in
Frisco. I was surprised when the fire first broke out and we battened
down. Look at that!”

He broke off to gaze with dropped jaw at a spiral of smoke that coiled
and twisted in the lee of the mizzenmast twenty feet above the deck.

“Now, how did that get there?” he demanded indignantly.

Beneath it there was no smoke. Crawling up from the deck, sheltered from
the wind by the mast, by some freak it took form and visibility at that
height. It writhed away from the mast, and for a moment overhung the
captain like some threatening portent. The next moment the wind whisked
it away, and the captain’s jaw returned to place.

“As I was saying, when we first battened down, I was surprised. It was
a tight deck, yet it leaked smoke like a sieve. And we’ve calked and
calked ever since. There must be tremendous pressure underneath to drive
so much smoke through.”

That afternoon the sky became overcast again, and squally, drizzly
weather set in. The wind shifted back and forth between southeast and
northeast, and at midnight the Pyrenees was caught aback by a sharp
squall from the southwest, from which point the wind continued to blow

“We won’t make Hao until ten or eleven,” Captain Davenport complained
at seven in the morning, when the fleeting promise of the sun had been
erased by hazy cloud masses in the eastern sky. And the next moment he
was plaintively demanding, “And what are the currents doing?”

Lookouts at the mastheads could report no land, and the day passed in
drizzling calms and violent squalls. By nightfall a heavy sea began
to make from the west. The barometer had fallen to 29.50. There was no
wind, and still the ominous sea continued to increase. Soon the
Pyrenees was rolling madly in the huge waves that marched in an unending
procession from out of the darkness of the west. Sail was shortened as
fast as both watches could work, and, when the tired crew had finished,
its grumbling and complaining voices, peculiarly animal-like and
menacing, could be heard in the darkness. Once the starboard watch was
called aft to lash down and make secure, and the men openly advertised
their sullenness and unwillingness. Every slow movement was a protest
and a threat. The atmosphere was moist and sticky like mucilage, and in
the absence of wind all hands seemed to pant and gasp for air. The sweat
stood out on faces and bare arms, and Captain Davenport for one, his
face more gaunt and care-worn than ever, and his eyes troubled and
staring, was oppressed by a feeling of impending calamity.

“It’s off to the westward,” McCoy said encouragingly. “At worst, we’ll
be only on the edge of it.”

But Captain Davenport refused to be comforted, and by the light of a
lantern read up the chapter in his Epitome that related to the strategy
of shipmasters in cyclonic storms. From somewhere amidships the silence
was broken by a low whimpering from the cabin boy.

“Oh, shut up!” Captain Davenport yelled suddenly and with such force as
to startle every man on board and to frighten the offender into a wild
wail of terror.

“Mr. Konig,” the captain said in a voice that trembled with rage and
nerves, “will you kindly step for’ard and stop that brat’s mouth with a
deck mop?”

But it was McCoy who went forward, and in a few minutes had the boy
comforted and asleep.

Shortly before daybreak the first breath of air began to move from out
the southeast, increasing swiftly to a stiff and stiffer breeze. All
hands were on deck waiting for what might be behind it. “We’re all
right now, Captain,” said McCoy, standing close to his shoulder. “The
hurricane is to the west’ard, and we are south of it. This breeze is the
in-suck. It won’t blow any harder. You can begin to put sail on her.”

“But what’s the good? Where shall I sail? This is the second day without
observations, and we should have sighted Hao Island yesterday morning.
Which way does it bear, north, south, east, or what? Tell me that, and
I’ll make sail in a jiffy.”

“I am no navigator, Captain,” McCoy said in his mild way.

“I used to think I was one,” was the retort, “before I got into these

At midday the cry of “Breakers ahead!” was heard from the lookout. The
Pyrenees was kept off, and sail after sail was loosed and sheeted home.
The Pyrenees was sliding through the water and fighting a current that
threatened to set her down upon the breakers. Officers and men were
working like mad, cook and cabin boy, Captain Davenport himself, and
McCoy all lending a hand. It was a close shave. It was a low shoal, a
bleak and perilous place over which the seas broke unceasingly, where no
man could live, and on which not even sea birds could rest. The PYRENEES
was swept within a hundred yards of it before the wind carried her
clear, and at this moment the panting crew, its work done, burst out
in a torrent of curses upon the head of McCoy--of McCoy who had come on
board, and proposed the run to Mangareva, and lured them all away from
the safety of Pitcairn Island to certain destruction in this baffling
and terrible stretch of sea. But McCoy’s tranquil soul was undisturbed.
He smiled at them with simple and gracious benevolence, and, somehow,
the exalted goodness of him seemed to penetrate to their dark and somber
souls, shaming them, and from very shame stilling the curses vibrating
in their throats.

“Bad waters! Bad waters!” Captain Davenport was murmuring as his ship
forged clear; but he broke off abruptly to gaze at the shoal which
should have been dead astern, but which was already on the PYRENEES’
weather-quarter and working up rapidly to windward.

He sat down and buried his face in his hands. And the first mate saw,
and McCoy saw, and the crew saw, what he had seen. South of the shoal
an easterly current had set them down upon it; north of the shoal an
equally swift westerly current had clutched the ship and was sweeping
her away.

“I’ve heard of these Paumotus before,” the captain groaned, lifting
his blanched face from his hands. “Captain Moyendale told me about them
after losing his ship on them. And I laughed at him behind his back. God
forgive me, I laughed at him. What shoal is that?” he broke off, to ask

“I don’t know, Captain.”

“Why don’t you know?”

“Because I never saw it before, and because I have never heard of it. I
do know that it is not charted. These waters have never been thoroughly

“Then you don’t know where we are?”

“No more than you do,” McCoy said gently.

At four in the afternoon cocoanut trees were sighted, apparently growing
out of the water. A little later the low land of an atoll was raised
above the sea.

“I know where we are now, Captain.” McCoy lowered the glasses from his
eyes. “That’s Resolution Island. We are forty miles beyond Hao Island,
and the wind is in our teeth.”

“Get ready to beach her then. Where’s the entrance?”

“There’s only a canoe passage. But now that we know where we are, we can
run for Barclay de Tolley. It is only one hundred and twenty miles
from here, due nor’-nor’west. With this breeze we can be there by nine
o’clock tomorrow morning.”

Captain Davenport consulted the chart and debated with himself.

“If we wreck her here,” McCoy added, “we’d have to make the run to
Barclay de Tolley in the boats just the same.”

The captain gave his orders, and once more the Pyrenees swung off for
another run across the inhospitable sea.

And the middle of the next afternoon saw despair and mutiny on her
smoking deck. The current had accelerated, the wind had slackened, and
the Pyrenees had sagged off to the west. The lookout sighted Barclay de
Tolley to the eastward, barely visible from the masthead, and vainly and
for hours the PYRENEES tried to beat up to it. Ever, like a mirage, the
cocoanut trees hovered on the horizon, visible only from the masthead.
From the deck they were hidden by the bulge of the world.

Again Captain Davenport consulted McCoy and the chart. Makemo lay
seventy-five miles to the southwest. Its lagoon was thirty miles long,
and its entrance was excellent. When Captain Davenport gave his orders,
the crew refused duty. They announced that they had had enough of hell
fire under their feet. There was the land. What if the ship could not
make it? They could make it in the boats. Let her burn, then. Their
lives amounted to something to them. They had served faithfully the
ship, now they were going to serve themselves.

They sprang to the boats, brushing the second and third mates out of the
way, and proceeded to swing the boats out and to prepare to lower away.
Captain Davenport and the first mate, revolvers in hand, were advancing
to the break of the poop, when McCoy, who had climbed on top of the
cabin, began to speak.

He spoke to the sailors, and at the first sound of his dovelike,
cooing voice they paused to hear. He extended to them his own ineffable
serenity and peace. His soft voice and simple thoughts flowed out
to them in a magic stream, soothing them against their wills. Long
forgotten things came back to them, and some remembered lullaby songs of
childhood and the content and rest of the mother’s arm at the end of the
day. There was no more trouble, no more danger, no more irk, in all
the world. Everything was as it should be, and it was only a matter of
course that they should turn their backs upon the land and put to sea
once more with hell fire hot beneath their feet.

McCoy spoke simply; but it was not what he spoke. It was his personality
that spoke more eloquently than any word he could utter. It was an
alchemy of soul occultly subtile and profoundly deep--a mysterious
emanation of the spirit, seductive, sweetly humble, and terribly
imperious. It was illumination in the dark crypts of their souls, a
compulsion of purity and gentleness vastly greater than that which
resided in the shining, death-spitting revolvers of the officers.

The men wavered reluctantly where they stood, and those who had loosed
the turns made them fast again. Then one, and then another, and then all
of them, began to sidle awkwardly away.

McCoy’s face was beaming with childlike pleasure as he descended from
the top of the cabin. There was no trouble. For that matter there had
been no trouble averted. There never had been any trouble, for there was
no place for such in the blissful world in which he lived.

“You hypnotized em,” Mr. Konig grinned at him, speaking in a low voice.

“Those boys are good,” was the answer. “Their hearts are good. They have
had a hard time, and they have worked hard, and they will work hard to
the end.”

Mr. Konig had not time to reply. His voice was ringing out orders, the
sailors were springing to obey, and the PYRENEES was paying slowly off
from the wind until her bow should point in the direction of Makemo.

The wind was very light, and after sundown almost ceased. It was
insufferably warm, and fore and aft men sought vainly to sleep. The deck
was too hot to lie upon, and poisonous vapors, oozing through the seams,
crept like evil spirits over the ship, stealing into the nostrils and
windpipes of the unwary and causing fits of sneezing and coughing.
The stars blinked lazily in the dim vault overhead; and the full moon,
rising in the east, touched with its light the myriads of wisps and
threads and spidery films of smoke that intertwined and writhed and
twisted along the deck, over the rails, and up the masts and shrouds.

“Tell me,” Captain Davenport said, rubbing his smarting eyes, “what
happened with that BOUNTY crowd after they reached Pitcairn? The account
I read said they burnt the Bounty, and that they were not discovered
until many years later. But what happened in the meantime? I’ve always
been curious to know. They were men with their necks in the rope. There
were some native men, too. And then there were women. That made it look
like trouble right from the jump.”

“There was trouble,” McCoy answered. “They were bad men. They quarreled
about the women right away. One of the mutineers, Williams, lost his
wife. All the women were Tahitian women. His wife fell from the cliffs
when hunting sea birds. Then he took the wife of one of the native men
away from him. All the native men were made very angry by this, and they
killed off nearly all the mutineers. Then the mutineers that escaped
killed off all the native men. The women helped. And the natives killed
each other. Everybody killed everybody. They were terrible men.

“Timiti was killed by two other natives while they were combing his hair
in friendship. The white men had sent them to do it. Then the white
men killed them. The wife of Tullaloo killed him in a cave because she
wanted a white man for husband. They were very wicked. God had hidden
His face from them. At the end of two years all the native men were
murdered, and all the white men except four. They were Young, John
Adams, McCoy, who was my great-grandfather, and Quintal. He was a very
bad man, too. Once, just because his wife did not catch enough fish for
him, he bit off her ear.”

“They were a bad lot!” Mr. Konig exclaimed.

“Yes, they were very bad,” McCoy agreed and went on serenely cooing of
the blood and lust of his iniquitous ancestry. “My great-grandfather
escaped murder in order to die by his own hand. He made a still and
manufactured alcohol from the roots of the ti-plant. Quintal was his
chum, and they got drunk together all the time. At last McCoy got
delirium tremens, tied a rock to his neck, and jumped into the sea.

“Quintal’s wife, the one whose ear he bit off, also got killed by
falling from the cliffs. Then Quintal went to Young and demanded his
wife, and went to Adams and demanded his wife. Adams and Young were
afraid of Quintal. They knew he would kill them. So they killed him,
the two of them together, with a hatchet. Then Young died. And that was
about all the trouble they had.”

“I should say so,” Captain Davenport snorted. “There was nobody left to

“You see, God had hidden His face,” McCoy said.

By morning no more than a faint air was blowing from the eastward, and,
unable to make appreciable southing by it, Captain Davenport hauled up
full-and-by on the port track. He was afraid of that terrible westerly
current which had cheated him out of so many ports of refuge. All day
the calm continued, and all night, while the sailors, on a short ration
of dried banana, were grumbling. Also, they were growing weak and
complaining of stomach pains caused by the straight banana diet. All day
the current swept the PYRENEES to the westward, while there was no wind
to bear her south. In the middle of the first dogwatch, cocoanut trees
were sighted due south, their tufted heads rising above the water and
marking the low-lying atoll beneath.

“That is Taenga Island,” McCoy said. “We need a breeze tonight, or else
we’ll miss Makemo.”

“What’s become of the southeast trade?” the captain demanded. “Why don’t
it blow? What’s the matter?”

“It is the evaporation from the big lagoons--there are so many of them,”
 McCoy explained. “The evaporation upsets the whole system of trades. It
even causes the wind to back up and blow gales from the southwest. This
is the Dangerous Archipelago, Captain.”

Captain Davenport faced the old man, opened his mouth, and was about to
curse, but paused and refrained. McCoy’s presence was a rebuke to
the blasphemies that stirred in his brain and trembled in his larynx.
McCoy’s influence had been growing during the many days they had been
together. Captain Davenport was an autocrat of the sea, fearing no man,
never bridling his tongue, and now he found himself unable to curse in
the presence of this old man with the feminine brown eyes and the
voice of a dove. When he realized this, Captain Davenport experienced a
distinct shock. This old man was merely the seed of McCoy, of McCoy
of the BOUNTY, the mutineer fleeing from the hemp that waited him in
England, the McCoy who was a power for evil in the early days of blood
and lust and violent death on Pitcairn Island.

Captain Davenport was not religious, yet in that moment he felt a mad
impulse to cast himself at the other’s feet--and to say he knew not
what. It was an emotion that so deeply stirred him, rather than
a coherent thought, and he was aware in some vague way of his own
unworthiness and smallness in the presence of this other man who
possessed the simplicity of a child and the gentleness of a woman.

Of course he could not so humble himself before the eyes of his officers
and men. And yet the anger that had prompted the blasphemy still raged
in him. He suddenly smote the cabin with his clenched hand and cried:

“Look here, old man, I won’t be beaten. These Paumotus have cheated and
tricked me and made a fool of me. I refuse to be beaten. I am going
to drive this ship, and drive and drive and drive clear through the
Paumotus to China but what I find a bed for her. If every man deserts,
I’ll stay by her. I’ll show the Paumotus. They can’t fool me. She’s a
good girl, and I’ll stick by her as long as there’s a plank to stand on.
You hear me?”

“And I’ll stay with you, Captain,” McCoy said.

During the night, light, baffling airs blew out of the south, and
the frantic captain, with his cargo of fire, watched and measured his
westward drift and went off by himself at times to curse softly so that
McCoy should not hear.

Daylight showed more palms growing out of the water to the south.

“That’s the leeward point of Makemo,” McCoy said. “Katiu is only a few
miles to the west. We may make that.”

But the current, sucking between the two islands, swept them to the
northwest, and at one in the afternoon they saw the palms of Katiu rise
above the sea and sink back into the sea again.

A few minutes later, just as the captain had discovered that a new
current from the northeast had gripped the Pyrenees, the masthead
lookouts raised cocoanut palms in the northwest.

“It is Raraka,” said McCoy. “We won’t make it without wind. The current
is drawing us down to the southwest. But we must watch out. A few miles
farther on a current flows north and turns in a circle to the northwest.
This will sweep us away from Fakarava, and Fakarava is the place for the
Pyrenees to find her bed.”

“They can sweep all they da--all they well please,” Captain Davenport
remarked with heat. “We’ll find a bed for her somewhere just the same.”

But the situation on the Pyrenees was reaching a culmination. The deck
was so hot that it seemed an increase of a few degrees would cause it to
burst into flames. In many places even the heavy-soled shoes of the
men were no protection, and they were compelled to step lively to avoid
scorching their feet. The smoke had increased and grown more acrid.
Every man on board was suffering from inflamed eyes, and they coughed
and strangled like a crew of tuberculosis patients. In the afternoon the
boats were swung out and equipped. The last several packages of dried
bananas were stored in them, as well as the instruments of the officers.
Captain Davenport even put the chronometer into the longboat, fearing
the blowing up of the deck at any moment.

All night this apprehension weighed heavily on all, and in the first
morning light, with hollow eyes and ghastly faces, they stared at one
another as if in surprise that the Pyrenees still held together and that
they still were alive.

Walking rapidly at times, and even occasionally breaking into an
undignified hop-skip-and-run, Captain Davenport inspected his ship’s

“It is a matter of hours now, if not of minutes,” he announced on his
return to the poop.

The cry of land came down from the masthead. From the deck the land was
invisible, and McCoy went aloft, while the captain took advantage of the
opportunity to curse some of the bitterness out of his heart. But
the cursing was suddenly stopped by a dark line on the water which he
sighted to the northeast. It was not a squall, but a regular breeze--the
disrupted trade wind, eight points out of its direction but resuming
business once more.

“Hold her up, Captain,” McCoy said as soon as he reached the poop.
“That’s the easterly point of Fakarava, and we’ll go in through the
passage full-tilt, the wind abeam, and every sail drawing.”

At the end of an hour, the cocoanut trees and the low-lying land
were visible from the deck. The feeling that the end of the PYRENEES’
resistance was imminent weighed heavily on everybody. Captain Davenport
had the three boats lowered and dropped short astern, a man in each
to keep them apart. The Pyrenees closely skirted the shore, the
surf-whitened atoll a bare two cable lengths away.

And a minute later the land parted, exposing a narrow passage and the
lagoon beyond, a great mirror, thirty miles in length and a third as

“Now, Captain.”

For the last time the yards of the Pyrenees swung around as she obeyed
the wheel and headed into the passage. The turns had scarcely been made,
and nothing had been coiled down, when the men and mates swept back to
the poop in panic terror. Nothing had happened, yet they averred that
something was going to happen. They could not tell why. They merely
knew that it was about to happen. McCoy started forward to take up
his position on the bow in order to con the vessel in; but the captain
gripped his arm and whirled him around.

“Do it from here,” he said. “That deck’s not safe. What’s the matter?”
 he demanded the next instant. “We’re standing still.”

McCoy smiled.

“You are bucking a seven-knot current, Captain,” he said. “That is the
way the full ebb runs out of this passage.”

At the end of another hour the Pyrenees had scarcely gained her length,
but the wind freshened and she began to forge ahead.

“Better get into the boats, some of you,” Captain Davenport commanded.

His voice was still ringing, and the men were just beginning to move in
obedience, when the amidship deck of the Pyrenees, in a mass of flame
and smoke, was flung upward into the sails and rigging, part of it
remaining there and the rest falling into the sea. The wind being abeam,
was what had saved the men crowded aft. They made a blind rush to gain
the boats, but McCoy’s voice, carrying its convincing message of vast
calm and endless time, stopped them.

“Take it easy,” he was saying. “Everything is all right. Pass that boy
down somebody, please.”

The man at the wheel had forsaken it in a funk, and Captain Davenport
had leaped and caught the spokes in time to prevent the ship from yawing
in the current and going ashore.

“Better take charge of the boats,” he said to Mr. Konig. “Tow one of
them short, right under the quarter.... When I go over, it’ll be on the

Mr. Konig hesitated, then went over the rail and lowered himself into
the boat.

“Keep her off half a point, Captain.”

Captain Davenport gave a start. He had thought he had the ship to

“Ay, ay; half a point it is,” he answered.

Amidships the Pyrenees was an open flaming furnace, out of which
poured an immense volume of smoke which rose high above the masts and
completely hid the forward part of the ship. McCoy, in the shelter of
the mizzen-shrouds, continued his difficult task of conning the ship
through the intricate channel. The fire was working aft along the deck
from the seat of explosion, while the soaring tower of canvas on the
mainmast went up and vanished in a sheet of flame. Forward, though they
could not see them, they knew that the head-sails were still drawing.

“If only she don’t burn all her canvas off before she makes inside,” the
captain groaned.

“She’ll make it,” McCoy assured him with supreme confidence. “There is
plenty of time. She is bound to make it. And once inside, we’ll put her
before it; that will keep the smoke away from us and hold back the fire
from working aft.”

A tongue of flame sprang up the mizzen, reached hungrily for the lowest
tier of canvas, missed it, and vanished. From aloft a burning shred of
rope stuff fell square on the back of Captain Davenport’s neck. He acted
with the celerity of one stung by a bee as he reached up and brushed the
offending fire from his skin.

“How is she heading, Captain?”

“Nor’west by west.”

“Keep her west-nor-west.”

Captain Davenport put the wheel up and steadied her.

“West by north, Captain.”

“West by north she is.”

“And now west.”

Slowly, point by point, as she entered the lagoon, the PYRENEES
described the circle that put her before the wind; and point by point,
with all the calm certitude of a thousand years of time to spare, McCoy
chanted the changing course.

“Another point, Captain.”

“A point it is.”

Captain Davenport whirled several spokes over, suddenly reversing and
coming back one to check her.


“Steady she is--right on it.”

Despite the fact that the wind was now astern, the heat was so intense
that Captain Davenport was compelled to steal sidelong glances into the
binnacle, letting go the wheel now with one hand, now with the other, to
rub or shield his blistering cheeks.

McCoy’s beard was crinkling and shriveling and the smell of it, strong
in the other’s nostrils, compelled him to look toward McCoy with sudden
solicitude. Captain Davenport was letting go the spokes alternately with
his hands in order to rub their blistering backs against his trousers.
Every sail on the mizzenmast vanished in a rush of flame, compelling the
two men to crouch and shield their faces.

“Now,” said McCoy, stealing a glance ahead at the low shore, “four
points up, Captain, and let her drive.”

Shreds and patches of burning rope and canvas were falling about them
and upon them. The tarry smoke from a smouldering piece of rope at the
captain’s feet set him off into a violent coughing fit, during which he
still clung to the spokes.

The Pyrenees struck, her bow lifted and she ground ahead gently to a
stop. A shower of burning fragments, dislodged by the shock, fell about
them. The ship moved ahead again and struck a second time. She crushed
the fragile coral under her keel, drove on, and struck a third time.

“Hard over,” said McCoy. “Hard over?” he questioned gently, a minute

“She won’t answer,” was the reply.

“All right. She is swinging around.” McCoy peered over the side. “Soft,
white sand. Couldn’t ask better. A beautiful bed.”

As the Pyrenees swung around her stern away from the wind, a fearful
blast of smoke and flame poured aft. Captain Davenport deserted the
wheel in blistering agony. He reached the painter of the boat that lay
under the quarter, then looked for McCoy, who was standing aside to let
him go down.

“You first,” the captain cried, gripping him by the shoulder and almost
throwing him over the rail. But the flame and smoke were too terrible,
and he followed hard after McCoy, both men wriggling on the rope and
sliding down into the boat together. A sailor in the bow, without
waiting for orders, slashed the painter through with his sheath knife.
The oars, poised in readiness, bit into the water, and the boat shot

“A beautiful bed, Captain,” McCoy murmured, looking back.

“Ay, a beautiful bed, and all thanks to you,” was the answer.

The three boats pulled away for the white beach of pounded coral, beyond
which, on the edge of a cocoanut grove, could be seen a half dozen grass
houses and a score or more of excited natives, gazing wide-eyed at the
conflagration that had come to land.

The boats grounded and they stepped out on the white beach.

“And now,” said McCoy, “I must see about getting back to Pitcairn.”

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