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Title: A Son Of The Sun
Author: London, Jack
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A SON OF THE SUN

BY JACK LONDON


1912



CONTENTS

     I. A Son of the Sun

     II. The Proud Goat of Aloysius Pankburn

     III.  The Devils of Fuatino

     IV.  The Jokers of New Gibbon

     V. A Little Account With Swithin Hall

     VI. A Goboto Night

     VII. The Feathers of the Sun

     VIII. The Peabls of Parlay



A SON OF THE SUN



Chapter One--A SON OF THE SUN



I

The _Willi-Waw_ lay in the passage between the shore-reef and the
outer-reef. From the latter came the low murmur of a lazy surf, but the
sheltered stretch of water, not more than a hundred yards across to the
white beach of pounded coral sand, was of glass-like smoothness. Narrow
as was the passage, and anchored as she was in the shoalest place that
gave room to swing, the _Willi-Waw’s_ chain rode up-and-down a clean
hundred feet. Its course could be traced over the bottom of living
coral. Like some monstrous snake, the rusty chain’s slack wandered
over the ocean floor, crossing and recrossing itself several times and
fetching up finally at the idle anchor. Big rock-cod, dun and mottled,
played warily in and out of the coral. Other fish, grotesque of form and
colour, were brazenly indifferent, even when a big fish-shark drifted
sluggishly along and sent the rock-cod scuttling for their favourite
crevices.

On deck, for’ard, a dozen blacks pottered clumsily at scraping the teak
rail. They were as inexpert at their work as so many monkeys. In fact
they looked very much like monkeys of some enlarged and prehistoric
type. Their eyes had in them the querulous plaintiveness of the monkey,
their faces were even less symmetrical than the monkey’s, and, hairless
of body, they were far more ungarmented than any monkey, for clothes
they had none. Decorated they were as no monkey ever was. In holes in
their ears they carried short clay pipes, rings of turtle shell, huge
plugs of wood, rusty wire nails, and empty rifle cartridges. The calibre
of a Winchester rifle was the smallest hole an ear bore; some of the
largest holes were inches in diameter, and any single ear averaged from
three to half a dozen holes. Spikes and bodkins of polished bone or
petrified shell were thrust through their noses. On the chest of one
hung a white doorknob, on the chest of another the handle of a china
cup, on the chest of a third the brass cogwheel of an alarm clock. They
chattered in queer, falsetto voices, and, combined, did no more work
than a single white sailor.

Aft, under an awning, were two white men. Each was clad in a six-penny
undershirt and wrapped about the loins with a strip of cloth. Belted
about the middle of each was a revolver and tobacco pouch. The sweat
stood out on their skin in myriads of globules. Here and there the
globules coalesced in tiny streams that dripped to the heated deck and
almost immediately evaporated. The lean, dark-eyed man wiped his fingers
wet with a stinging stream from his forehead and flung it from him with
a weary curse. Wearily, and without hope, he gazed seaward across the
outer-reef, and at the tops of the palms along the beach.

“Eight o’clock, an’ hell don’t get hot till noon,” he complained. “Wisht
to God for a breeze. Ain’t we never goin’ to get away?”

The other man, a slender German of five and twenty, with the massive
forehead of a scholar and the tumble-home chin of a degenerate, did not
trouble to reply. He was busy emptying powdered quinine into a cigarette
paper. Rolling what was approximately fifty grains of the drug into a
tight wad, he tossed it into his mouth and gulped it down without the
aid of water.

“Wisht I had some whiskey,” the first man panted, after a fifteen-minute
interval of silence.

Another equal period elapsed ere the German enounced, relevant of
nothing:

“I’m rotten with fever. I’m going to quit you, Griffiths, when we get to
Sydney. No more tropics for me. I ought to known better when I signed on
with you.”

“You ain’t been much of a mate,” Griffiths replied, too hot himself to
speak heatedly. “When the beach at Guvutu heard I’d shipped you, they
all laughed. ‘What? Jacobsen?’ they said. ‘You can’t hide a square
face of trade gin or sulphuric acid that he won’t smell out!’ You’ve
certainly lived up to your reputation. I ain’t had a drink for a
fortnight, what of your snoopin’ my supply.”

“If the fever was as rotten in you as me, you’d understand,” the mate
whimpered.

“I ain’t kickin’,” Griffiths answered. “I only wisht God’d send me a
drink, or a breeze of wind, or something. I’m ripe for my next chill
to-morrow.”

The mate proffered him the quinine. Rolling a fifty-grain dose, he
popped the wad into his mouth and swallowed it dry.

“God! God!” he moaned. “I dream of a land somewheres where they ain’t no
quinine. Damned stuff of hell! I’ve scoffed tons of it in my time.”

Again he quested seaward for signs of wind. The usual trade-wind clouds
were absent, and the sun, still low in its climb to meridian, turned all
the sky to heated brass. One seemed to see as well as feel this heat,
and Griffiths sought vain relief by gazing shoreward. The white beach
was a searing ache to his eyeballs. The palm trees, absolutely still,
outlined flatly against the unrefreshing green of the packed jungle,
seemed so much cardboard scenery. The little black boys, playing
naked in the dazzle of sand and sun, were an affront and a hurt to the
sun-sick man. He felt a sort of relief when one, running, tripped and
fell on all-fours in the tepid sea-water.

An exclamation from the blacks for’ard sent both men glancing seaward.
Around the near point of land, a quarter of a mile away and skirting the
reef, a long black canoe paddled into sight.

“Gooma boys from the next bight,” was the mate’s verdict.

One of the blacks came aft, treading the hot deck with the unconcern of
one whose bare feet felt no heat. This, too, was a hurt to Griffiths,
and he closed his eyes. But the next moment they were open wide.

“White fella marster stop along Gooma boy,” the black said.

Both men were on their feet and gazing at the canoe. Aft could be seen
the unmistakable sombrero of a white man. Quick alarm showed itself on
the face of the mate.

“It’s Grief,” he said.

Griffiths satisfied himself by a long look, then ripped out a wrathful
oath.

“What’s he doing up here?” he demanded of the mate, of the aching sea
and sky, of the merciless blaze of sun, and of the whole superheated and
implacable universe with which his fate was entangled.

The mate began to chuckle.

“I told you you couldn’t get away with it,” he said.

But Griffiths was not listening.

“With all his money, coming around like a rent collector,” he chanted
his outrage, almost in an ecstasy of anger. “He’s loaded with money,
he’s stuffed with money, he’s busting with money. I know for a fact he
sold his Yringa plantations for three hundred thousand pounds. Bell
told me so himself last time we were drunk at Guvutu. Worth millions and
millions, and Shylocking me for what he wouldn’t light his pipe with.”
 He whirled on the mate. “Of course you told me so. Go on and say it, and
keep on saying it. Now just what was it you did tell me so?”

“I told you you didn’t know him, if you thought you could clear the
Solomons without paying him. That man Grief is a devil, but he’s
straight. I know. I told you he’d throw a thousand quid away for the fun
of it, and for sixpence fight like a shark for a rusty tin, I tell you I
know. Didn’t he give his _Balakula_ to the Queensland Mission when they
lost their _Evening Star_ on San Cristobal?--and the _Balakula_ worth
three thousand pounds if she was worth a penny? And didn’t he beat up
Strothers till he lay abed a fortnight, all because of a difference of
two pound ten in the account, and because Strothers got fresh and tried
to make the gouge go through?”

“God strike me blind!” Griffiths cried in im-potency of rage.

The mate went on with his exposition.

“I tell you only a straight man can buck a straight man like him, and
the man’s never hit the Solomons that could do it. Men like you and me
can’t buck him. We’re too rotten, too rotten all the way through. You’ve
got plenty more than twelve hundred quid below. Pay him, and get it over
with.”

But Griffiths gritted his teeth and drew his thin lips tightly across
them.

“I’ll buck him,” he muttered--more to himself and the brazen ball of sun
than to the mate. He turned and half started to go below, then turned
back again. “Look here, Jacob-sen. He won’t be here for quarter of an
hour. Are you with me? Will you stand by me?”

“Of course I’ll stand by you. I’ve drunk all your whiskey, haven’t I?
What are you going to do?”

“I’m not going to kill him if I can help it. But I’m not going to pay.
Take that flat.”

Jacobsen shrugged his shoulders in calm acquiescence to fate, and
Griffiths stepped to the companionway and went below.



II

Jacobsen watched the canoe across the low reef as it came abreast and
passed on to the entrance of the passage. Griffiths, with ink-marks on
right thumb and forefinger, returned on deck Fifteen minutes later the
canoe came alongside. The man with the sombrero stood up.

“Hello, Griffiths!” he said. “Hello, Jacobsen!” With his hand on the
rail he turned to his dusky crew. “You fella boy stop along canoe
altogether.”

As he swung over the rail and stepped on deck a hint of catlike
litheness showed in the apparently heavy body. Like the other two, he
was scantily clad. The cheap undershirt and white loin-cloth did not
serve to hide the well put up body. Heavy muscled he was, but he was
not lumped and hummocked by muscles. They were softly rounded, and, when
they did move, slid softly and silkily under the smooth, tanned skin.
Ardent suns had likewise tanned his face till it was swarthy as a
Spaniard’s. The yellow mustache appeared incongruous in the midst of
such swarthiness, while the clear blue of the eyes produced a feeling of
shock on the beholder. It was difficult to realize that the skin of this
man had once been fair.

“Where did you blow in from?” Griffiths asked, as they shook hands. “I
thought you were over in the Santa Cruz.”

“I was,” the newcomer answered. “But we made a quick passage. The
_Wonder’s_ just around in the bight at Gooma, waiting for wind. Some
of the bushmen reported a ketch here, and I just dropped around to see.
Well, how goes it?”

“Nothing much. Copra sheds mostly empty, and not half a dozen tons of
ivory nuts. The women all got rotten with fever and quit, and the men
can’t chase them back into the swamps. They’re a sick crowd. I’d ask you
to have a drink, but the mate finished off my last bottle. I wisht to
God for a breeze of wind.”

Grief, glancing with keen carelessness from one to the other, laughed.

“I’m glad the calm held,” he said. “It enabled me to get around to see
you. My supercargo dug up that little note of yours, and I brought it
along.”

The mate edged politely away, leaving his skipper to face his trouble.

“I’m sorry, Grief, damned sorry,” Griffiths said, “but I ain’t got it.
You’ll have to give me a little more time.”

Grief leaned up against the companionway, surprise and pain depicted on
his face.

“It does beat hell,” he communed, “how men learn to lie in the Solomons.
The truth’s not in them. Now take Captain Jensen. I’d sworn by his
truthfulness. Why, he told me only five days ago--do you want to know
what he told me?”

Griffiths licked his lips.

“Go on.”

“Why, he told me that you’d sold out--sold out everything, cleaned up,
and was pulling out for the New Hebrides.”

“He’s a damned liar!” Griffiths cried hotly.

Grief nodded.

“I should say so. He even had the nerve to tell me that he’d bought two
of your stations from you--Mauri and Kahula. Said he paid you seventeen
hundred gold sovereigns, lock, stock and barrel, good will, trade-goods,
credit, and copra.”

Griffiths’s eyes narrowed and glinted. The action was involuntary, and
Grief noted it with a lazy sweep of his eyes.

“And Parsons, your trader at Hickimavi, told me that the Fulcrum Company
had bought that station from you. Now what did he want to lie for?”

Griffiths, overwrought by sun and sickness, exploded. All his bitterness
of spirit rose up in his face and twisted his mouth into a snarl.

“Look here, Grief, what’s the good of playing with me that way? You
know, and I know you know. Let it go at that. I _have_ sold out, and I
_am_ getting away. And what are you going to do about it?”

Grief shrugged his shoulders, and no hint of resolve shadowed itself in
his own face. His expression was as of one in a quandary.

“There’s no law here,” Griffiths pressed home his advantage. “Tulagi is
a hundred and fifty miles away. I’ve got my clearance papers, and I’m
on my own boat. There’s nothing to stop me from sailing. You’ve got no
right to stop me just because I owe you a little money. And by God! you
can’t stop me. Put that in your pipe.”

The look of pained surprise on Grief’s face deepened.

“You mean you’re going to cheat me out of that twelve hundred,
Griffiths?”

“That’s just about the size of it, old man. And calling hard names won’t
help any. There’s the wind coming. You’d better get overside before I
pull out, or I’ll tow your canoe under.”

“Really, Griffiths, you sound almost right. I can’t stop you.” Grief
fumbled in the pouch that hung on his revolver-belt and pulled out a
crumpled official-looking paper. “But maybe this will stop you. And it’s
something for _your_ pipe. Smoke up.”

“What is it?”

“An admiralty warrant. Running to the New Hebrides won’t save you. It
can be served anywhere.”

Griffiths hesitated and swallowed, when he had finished glancing at the
document. With knit brows he pondered this new phase of the situation.
Then, abruptly, as he looked up, his face relaxed into all frankness.

“You were cleverer than I thought, old man,” he said. “You’ve got me
hip and thigh. I ought to have known better than to try and beat you.
Jacobsen told me I couldn’t, and I wouldn’t listen to him. But he was
right, and so are you. I’ve got the money below. Come on down and we’ll
settle.”

He started to go down, then stepped aside to let his visitor precede
him, at the same time glancing seaward to where the dark flaw of wind
was quickening the water.

“Heave short,” he told the mate. “Get up sail and stand ready to break
out.”

As Grief sat down on the edge of the mate’s bunk, close against and
facing the tiny table, he noticed the butt of a revolver just projecting
from under the pillow. On the table, which hung on hinges from the
for’ard bulkhead, were pen and ink, also a battered log-book.

“Oh, I don’t mind being caught in a dirty trick,” Griffiths was saying
defiantly. “I’ve been in the tropics too long. I’m a sick man, a damn
sick man. And the whiskey, and the sun, and the fever have made me sick
in morals, too. Nothing’s too mean and low for me now, and I can
understand why the niggers eat each other, and take heads, and such
things. I could do it myself. So I call trying to do you out of that
small account a pretty mild trick. Wisht I could offer you a drink.”

Grief made no reply, and the other busied himself in attempting to
unlock a large and much-dented cash-box. From on deck came falsetto
cries and the creak and rattle of blocks as the black crew swung up
mainsail and driver. Grief watched a large cockroach crawling over the
greasy paintwork. Griffiths, with an oath of irritation, carried the
cash-box to the companion-steps for better light. Here, on his feet, and
bending over the box, his back to his visitor, his hands shot out to
the rifle that stood beside the steps, and at the same moment he whirled
about.

“Now don’t you move a muscle,” he commanded.

Grief smiled, elevated his eyebrows quizzically, and obeyed. His left
hand rested on the bunk beside him; his right hand lay on the table.

His revolver hung on his right hip in plain sight. But in his mind was
recollection of the other revolver under the pillow.

“Huh!” Griffiths sneered. “You’ve got everybody in the Solomons
hypnotized, but let me tell you you ain’t got me. Now I’m going to throw
you off my vessel, along with your admiralty warrant, but first you’ve
got to do something. Lift up that log-book.”

The other glanced curiously at the log-book, but did not move.

“I tell you I’m a sick man, Grief; and I’d as soon shoot you as smash a
cockroach. Lift up that log-book, I say.”

Sick he did look, his lean face working nervously with the rage that
possessed him. Grief lifted the book and set it aside. Beneath lay a
written sheet of tablet paper.

“Read it,” Griffiths commanded. “Read it aloud.”

Grief obeyed; but while he read, the fingers of his left hand began an
infinitely slow and patient crawl toward the butt of the weapon under
the pillow.

“On board the ketch Willi-Waw, Bombi Bight, Island of Anna, Solomon
Islands,” he read. “Know all men by these presents that I do hereby sign
off and release in full, for due value received, all debts whatsoever
owing to me by Harrison J. Griffiths, who has this day paid to me twelve
hundred pounds sterling.”

“With that receipt in my hands,” Griffiths grinned, “your admiralty
warrant’s not worth the paper it’s written on. Sign it.”

“It won’t do any good, Griffiths,” Grief said. “A document signed under
compulsion won’t hold before the law.”

“In that case, what objection have you to signing it then?”

“Oh, none at all, only that I might save you heaps of trouble by not
signing it.”

Grief’s fingers had gained the revolver, and, while he talked, with his
right hand he played with the pen and with his left began slowly and
imperceptibly drawing the weapon to his side. As his hand finally closed
upon it, second finger on trigger and forefinger laid past the cylinder
and along the barrel, he wondered what luck he would have at left-handed
snap-shooting.

“Don’t consider me,” Griffiths gibed. “And just remember Jacobsen will
testify that he saw me pay the money over. Now sign, sign in full, at
the bottom, David Grief, and date it.”

From on deck came the jar of sheet-blocks and the rat-tat-tat of
the reef-points against the canvas. In the cabin they could feel the
_Willi-Waw_ heel, swing into the wind, and right. David Grief still
hesitated. From for’ard came the jerking rattle of headsail halyards
through the sheaves. The little vessel heeled, and through the cabin
walls came the gurgle and wash of water.

“Get a move on!” Griffiths cried. “The anchor’s out.”

The muzzle of the rifle, four feet away, was bearing directly on him,
when Grief resolved to act. The rifle wavered as Griffiths kept his
balance in the uncertain puffs of the first of the wind. Grief took
advantage of the wavering, made as if to sign the paper, and at the same
instant, like a cat, exploded into swift and intricate action. As he
ducked low and leaped forward with his body, his left hand flashed from
under the screen of the table, and so accurately-timed was the single
stiff pull on the self-cocking trigger that the cartridge discharged as
the muzzle came forward. Not a whit behind was Griffiths. The muzzle
of his weapon dropped to meet the ducking body, and, shot at snap
direction, rifle and revolver went off simultaneously.

Grief felt the sting and sear of a bullet across the skin of his
shoulder, and knew that his own shot had missed. His forward rush
carried him to Griffiths before another shot could be fired, both of
whose arms, still holding the rifle, he locked with a low tackle about
the body. He shoved the revolver muzzle, still in his left hand, deep
into the other’s abdomen. Under the press of his anger and the sting of
his abraded skin, Grief’s finger was lifting the hammer, when the wave
of anger passed and he recollected himself. Down the companion-way came
indignant cries from the Gooma boys in his canoe.

Everything was happening in seconds. There was apparently no pause in
his actions as he gathered Griffiths in his arms and carried him up the
steep steps in a sweeping rush. Out into the blinding glare of sunshine
he came. A black stood grinning at the wheel, and the _Willi-Waw_,
heeled over from the wind, was foaming along. Rapidly dropping astern
was his Gooma canoe. Grief turned his head. From amidships, revolver in
hand, the mate was springing toward him. With two jumps, still holding
the helpless Griffiths, Grief leaped to the rail and overboard.

Both men were grappled together as they went down; but Grief, with
a quick updraw of his knees to the other’s chest, broke the grip and
forced him down. With both feet on Griffiths’s shoulder, he forced him
still deeper, at the same time driving himself to the surface. Scarcely
had his head broken into the sunshine when two splashes of water, in
quick succession and within a foot of his face, advertised that Jacobsen
knew how to handle a revolver. There was a chance for no third shot, for
Grief, filling his lungs with air, sank down. Under water he struck
out, nor did he come up till he saw the canoe and the bubbling paddles
overhead. As he climbed aboard, the _Wlli-Waw_ went into the wind to
come about.

“Washee-washee!” Grief cried to his boys. “You fella make-um beach quick
fella time!”

In all shamelessness, he turned his back on the battle and ran for
cover. The _Willi-Waw_, compelled to deaden way in order to pick up its
captain, gave Grief his chance for a lead. The canoe struck the beach
full-tilt, with every paddle driving, and they leaped out and ran across
the sand for the trees. But before they gained the shelter, three times
the sand kicked into puffs ahead of them. Then they dove into the green
safety of the jungle.

Grief watched the _Willi-Waw_ haul up close, go out the passage, then
slack its sheets as it headed south with the wind abeam. As it went out
of sight past the point he could see the topsail being broken out. One
of the Gooma boys, a black, nearly fifty years of age, hideously marred
and scarred by skin diseases and old wounds, looked up into his face and
grinned.

“My word,” the boy commented, “that fella skipper too much cross along
you.”

Grief laughed, and led the way back across the sand to the canoe.



III

How many millions David Grief was worth no man in the Solomons knew, for
his holdings and ventures were everywhere in the great South Pacific.
From Samoa to New Guinea and even to the north of the Line his
plantations were scattered. He possessed pearling concessions in the
Paumotus. Though his name did not appear, he was in truth the German
company that traded in the French Marquesas. His trading stations were
in strings in all the groups, and his vessels that operated them were
many. He owned atolls so remote and tiny that his smallest schooners and
ketches visited the solitary agents but once a year.

In Sydney, on Castlereagh Street, his offices occupied three floors.
But he was rarely in those offices. He preferred always to be on the go
amongst the islands, nosing out new investments, inspecting and shaking
up old ones, and rubbing shoulders with fun and adventure in a thousand
strange guises. He bought the wreck of the great steamship _Gavonne_
for a song, and in salving it achieved the impossible and cleaned up a
quarter of a million. In the Louisiades he planted the first commercial
rubber, and in Bora-Bora he ripped out the South Sea cotton and put the
jolly islanders at the work of planting cacao. It was he who took the
deserted island of Lallu-Ka, colonized it with Polynesians from the
Ontong-Java Atoll, and planted four thousand acres to cocoanuts. And it
was he who reconciled the warring chief-stocks of Tahiti and swung the
great deal of the phosphate island of Hikihu.

His own vessels recruited his contract labour. They brought Santa
Cruz boys to the New Hebrides, New Hebrides boys to the Banks, and the
head-hunting cannibals of Malaita to the plantations of New Georgia.
From Tonga to the Gilberts and on to the far Louisiades his recruiters
combed the islands for labour. His keels plowed all ocean stretches. He
owned three steamers on regular island runs, though he rarely elected to
travel in them, preferring the wilder and more primitive way of wind and
sail.

At least forty years of age, he looked no more than thirty. Yet
beachcombers remembered his advent among the islands a score of years
before, at which time the yellow mustache was already budding silkily on
his lip. Unlike other white men in the tropics, he was there because he
liked it. His protective skin pigmentation was excellent. He had
been born to the sun. One he was in ten thousand in the matter of
sun-resistance. The invisible and high-velocity light waves failed to
bore into him. Other white men were pervious. The sun drove through
their skins, ripping and smashing tissues and nerves, till they became
sick in mind and body, tossed most of the Decalogue overboard, descended
to beastliness, drank themselves into quick graves, or survived so
savagely that war vessels were sometimes sent to curb their license.

But David Grief was a true son of the sun, and he flourished in all its
ways. He merely became browner with the passing of the years, though
in the brown was the hint of golden tint that glows in the skin of the
Polynesian. Yet his blue eyes retained their blue, his mustache its
yellow, and the lines of his face were those which had persisted through
the centuries in his English race. English he was in blood, yet those
that thought they knew contended he was at least American born. Unlike
them, he had not come out to the South Seas seeking hearth and saddle of
his own. In fact, he had brought hearth and saddle with him. His advent
had been in the Paumotus. He arrived on board a tiny schooner yacht,
master and owner, a youth questing romance and adventure along the
sun-washed path of the tropics. He also arrived in a hurricane, the
giant waves of which deposited him and yacht and all in the thick of a
cocoanut grove three hundred yards beyond the surf. Six months later he
was rescued by a pearling cutter. But the sun had got into his blood.
At Tahiti, instead of taking a steamer home, he bought a schooner,
outfitted her with trade-goods and divers, and went for a cruise through
the Dangerous Archipelago.

As the golden tint burned into his face it poured molten out of the ends
of his fingers. His was the golden touch, but he played the game, not
for the gold, but for the game’s sake. It was a man’s game, the rough
contacts and fierce give and take of the adventurers of his own blood
and of half the bloods of Europe and the rest of the world, and it was a
good game; but over and beyond was his love of all the other things
that go to make up a South Seas rover’s life--the smell of the reef;
the infinite exquisiteness of the shoals of living coral in the
mirror-surfaced lagoons; the crashing sunrises of raw colours spread
with lawless cunning; the palm-tufted islets set in turquoise deeps;
the tonic wine of the trade-winds; the heave and send of the orderly,
crested seas; the moving deck beneath his feet, the straining canvas
overhead; the flower-garlanded, golden-glowing men and maids of
Polynesia, half-children and half-gods; and even the howling savages of
Melanesia, head-hunters and man-eaters, half-devil and all beast.

And so, favoured child of the sun, out of munificence of energy and
sheer joy of living, he, the man of many millions, forbore on his far
way to play the game with Harrison J. Griffiths for a paltry sum. It was
his whim, his desire, his expression of self and of the sun-warmth that
poured through him. It was fun, a joke, a problem, a bit of play on
which life was lightly hazarded for the joy of the playing.



IV

The early morning found the _Wonder_ laying close-hauled along the coast
of Guadalcanal She moved lazily through the water under the dying breath
of the land breeze. To the east, heavy masses of clouds promised a
renewal of the southeast trades, accompanied by sharp puffs and rain
squalls. Ahead, laying along the coast on the same course as the
_Wonder_, and being slowly overtaken, was a small ketch. It was not the
_Willi-Waw_, however, and Captain Ward, on the _Wonder_, putting down
his glasses, named it the _Kauri_.

Grief, just on deck from below, sighed regretfully.

“If it had only been the _Willi-Waw_” he said.

“You do hate to be beaten,” Denby, the supercargo, remarked
sympathetically.

“I certainly do.” Grief paused and laughed with genuine mirth. “It’s my
firm conviction that Griffiths is a rogue, and that he treated me quite
scurvily yesterday. ‘Sign,’ he says, ‘sign in full, at the bottom, and
date it,’ And Jacobsen, the little rat, stood in with him. It was rank
piracy, the days of Bully Hayes all over again.”

“If you weren’t my employer, Mr. Grief, I’d like to give you a piece of
my mind,” Captain Ward broke in.

“Go on and spit it out,” Grief encouraged.

“Well, then--” The captain hesitated and cleared his throat. “With all
the money you’ve got, only a fool would take the risk you did with those
two curs. What do you do it for?”

“Honestly, I don’t know, Captain. I just want to, I suppose. And can you
give any better reason for anything you do?”

“You’ll get your bally head shot off some fine day,” Captain Ward
growled in answer, as he stepped to the binnacle and took the bearing
of a peak which had just thrust its head through the clouds that covered
Guadalcanar.

The land breeze strengthened in a last effort, and the _Wonder_,
slipping swiftly through the water, ranged alongside the _Kauri_ and
began to go by. Greetings flew back and forth, then David Grief called
out:

“Seen anything of the _Willi-Waw_?”

The captain, slouch-hatted and barelegged, with a rolling twist hitched
the faded blue _lava-lava_ tighter around his waist and spat tobacco
juice overside.

“Sure,” he answered. “Griffiths lay at Savo last night, taking on pigs
and yams and filling his water-tanks. Looked like he was going for a
long cruise, but he said no. Why? Did you want to see him?”

“Yes; but if you see him first don’t tell him you’ve seen me.”

The captain nodded and considered, and walked for’ard on his own deck to
keep abreast of the faster vessel.

“Say!” he called. “Jacobsen told me they were coming down this afternoon
to Gabera. Said they were going to lay there to-night and take on sweet
potatoes.”

“Gabera has the only leading lights in the Solomons,” Grief said, when
his schooner had drawn well ahead. “Is that right, Captain Ward?”

The captain nodded.

“And the little bight just around the point on this side, it’s a rotten
anchorage, isn’t it?”

“No anchorage. All coral patches and shoals, and a bad surf. That’s
where the _Molly_ went to pieces three years ago.”

Grief stared straight before him with lustreless eyes for a full minute,
as if summoning some vision to his inner sight. Then the corners of his
eyes wrinkled and the ends of his yellow mustache lifted in a smile.

“We’ll anchor at Gabera,” he said. “And run in close to the little bight
this side. I want you to drop me in a whaleboat as you go by. Also,
give me six boys, and serve out rifles. I’ll be back on board before
morning.”

The captain’s face took on an expression of suspicion, which swiftly
slid into one of reproach.

“Oh, just a little fun, skipper,” Grief protested with the apologetic
air of a schoolboy caught in mischief by an elder.

Captain Ward grunted, but Denby was all alertness.

“I’d like to go along, Mr. Grief,” he said.

Grief nodded consent.

“Bring some axes and bush-knives,” he said. “And, oh, by the way, a
couple of bright lanterns. See they’ve got oil in them.”



V

An hour before sunset the _Wonder_ tore by the little bight. The wind
had freshened, and a lively sea was beginning to make. The shoals
toward the beach were already white with the churn of water, while those
farther out as yet showed no more sign than of discoloured water. As
the schooner went into the wind and backed her jib and staysail the
whaleboat was swung out. Into it leaped six breech-clouted Santa Cruz
boys, each armed with a rifle. Denby, carrying the lanterns, dropped
into the stern-sheets. Grief, following, paused on the rail.

“Pray for a dark night, skipper,” he pleaded.

“You’ll get it,” Captain Ward answered. “There’s no moon anyway, and
there won’t be any sky. She’ll be a bit squally, too.”

The forecast sent a radiance into Grief’s face, making more pronounced
the golden tint of his sunburn. He leaped down beside the supercargo.

“Cast off!” Captain Ward ordered. “Draw the headsails! Put your wheel
over! There! Steady! Take that course!”

The _Wonder_ filled away and ran on around the point for Gabera, while
the whaleboat, pulling six oars and steered by Grief, headed for the
beach. With superb boatmanship he threaded the narrow, tortuous channel
which no craft larger than a whaleboat could negotiate, until the shoals
and patches showed seaward and they grounded on the quiet, rippling
beach.

The next hour was filled with work. Moving about among the wild
cocoanuts and jungle brush, Grief selected the trees.

“Chop this fella tree; chop that fella tree,” he told his blacks. “No
chop that other fella,” he said, with a shake of head.

In the end, a wedge-shaped segment of jungle was cleared. Near to the
beach remained one long palm. At the apex of the wedge stood another.
Darkness was falling as the lanterns were lighted, carried up the two
trees, and made fast.

“That outer lantern is too high.” David Grief studied it critically.
“Put it down about ten feet, Denby.”



VI

The _Willi-Waw_ was tearing through the water with a bone in her teeth,
for the breath of the passing squall was still strong. The blacks were
swinging up the big mainsail, which had been lowered on the run when the
puff was at its height. Jacobsen, superintending the operation, ordered
them to throw the halyards down on deck and stand by, then went for’ard
on the lee-bow and joined Griffiths. Both men stared with wide-strained
eyes at the blank wall of darkness through which they were flying, their
ears tense for the sound of surf on the invisible shore. It was by this
sound that they were for the moment steering.

The wind fell lighter, the scud of clouds thinned and broke, and in the
dim glimmer of starlight loomed the jungle-clad coast. Ahead, and well
on the lee-bow, appeared a jagged rock-point. Both men strained to it.

“Amboy Point,” Griffiths announced. “Plenty of water close up. Take the
wheel, Jacobsen, till we set a course. Get a move on!”

Running aft, barefooted and barelegged, the rainwater dripping from his
scant clothing, the mate displaced the black at the wheel.

“How’s she heading?” Griffiths called.

“South-a-half-west!”

“Let her come up south-by-west! Got it?”

“Right on it!”

Griffiths considered the changed relation of Amboy Point to the
_Willi-Waw_‘s course.

“And a-half-west!” he cried.

“And a-half-west!” came the answer. “Right on it!”

“Steady! That’ll do!”

“Steady she is!” Jacobsen turned the wheel over to the savage. “You
steer good fella, savve?” he warned. “No good fella, I knock your damn
black head off.”

Again he went for’ard and joined the other, and again the cloud-scud
thickened, the star-glimmer vanished, and the wind rose and screamed in
another squall.

“Watch that mainsail!” Griffiths yelled in the mate’s ear, at the same
time studying the ketch’s behaviour.

Over she pressed, and lee-rail under, while he measured the weight of
the wind and quested its easement. The tepid sea-water, with here and
there tiny globules of phosphorescence, washed about his ankles and
knees. The wind screamed a higher note, and every shroud and stay
sharply chorused an answer as the _Willi-Waw_ pressed farther over and
down.

“Down mainsail!” Griffiths yelled, springing to the peak-halyards,
thrusting away the black who held on, and casting off the turn.

Jacobsen, at the throat-halyards, was performing the like office. The
big sail rattled down, and the blacks, with shouts and yells, threw
themselves on the battling canvas. The mate, finding one skulking in the
darkness, flung his bunched knuckles into the creature’s face and drove
him to his work.

The squall held at its high pitch, and under her small canvas the
_Willi-Waw_ still foamed along. Again the two men stood for’ard and
vainly watched in the horizontal drive of rain.

“We’re all right,” Griffiths said. “This rain won’t last. We can hold
this course till we pick up the lights. Anchor in thirteen fathoms.
You’d better overhaul forty-five on a night like this. After that get
the gaskets on the mainsail. We won’t need it.”

Half an hour afterward his weary eyes were rewarded by a glimpse of two
lights.

“There they are, Jacobsen. I’ll take the wheel. Run down the
fore-staysail and stand by to let go. Make the niggers jump.”

Aft, the spokes of the wheel in his hands, Griffiths held the course
till the two lights came in line, when he abruptly altered and headed
directly in for them. He heard the tumble and roar of the surf, but
decided it was farther away--as it should be, at Gabera.

He heard the frightened cry of the mate, and was grinding the wheel down
with all his might, when the _Willi-Waw_ struck. At the same instant
her mainmast crashed over the bow. Five wild minutes followed. All hands
held on while the hull upheaved and smashed down on the brittle
coral and the warm seas swept over them. Grinding and crunching, the
_Willi-Waw_ worked itself clear over the shoal patch and came solidly to
rest in the comparatively smooth and shallow channel beyond.

Griffiths sat down on the edge of the cabin, head bowed on chest, in
silent wrath and bitterness. Once he lifted his face to glare at the two
white lights, one above the other and perfectly in line.

“There they are,” he said. “And this isn’t Gabera. Then what the hell is
it?”

Though the surf still roared and across the shoal flung its spray
and upper wash over them, the wind died down and the stars came out.
Shoreward came the sound of oars.

“What have you had?--an earthquake?” Griffiths called out. “The bottom’s
all changed. I’ve anchored here a hundred times in thirteen fathoms. Is
that you, Wilson?”

A whaleboat came alongside, and a man climbed over the rail. In the
faint light Griffiths found an automatic Colt’s thrust into his face,
and, looking up, saw David Grief.

“No, you never anchored here before,” Grief laughed. “Gabera’s just
around the point, where I’ll be as soon as I’ve collected that little
sum of twelve hundred pounds. We won’t bother for the receipt. I’ve your
note here, and I’ll just return it.”

“You did this!” Griffiths cried, springing to his feet in a sudden gust
of rage. “You faked those leading lights! You’ve wrecked me, and by--”

“Steady! Steady!” Grief’s voice was cool and menacing. “I’ll trouble you
for that twelve hundred, please.”

To Griffiths, a vast impotence seemed to descend upon him. He was
overwhelmed by a profound disgust--disgust for the sunlands and the
sun-sickness, for the futility of all his endeavour, for this blue-eyed,
golden-tinted, superior man who defeated him on all his ways.

“Jacobsen,” he said, “will you open the cash-box and pay this--this
bloodsucker--twelve hundred pounds?”



Chapter Two--THE PROUD GOAT OF ALOYSIUS PANKBURN



I

Quick eye that he had for the promise of adventure, prepared always for
the unexpected to leap out at him from behind the nearest cocoanut
tree, nevertheless David Grief received no warning when he laid eyes on
Aloysius Pankburn. It was on the little steamer _Berthe_. Leaving his
schooner to follow, Grief had taken passage for the short run across
from Raiatea to Papeete. When he first saw Aloysius Pankburn, that
somewhat fuddled gentleman was drinking a lonely cocktail at the tiny
bar between decks next to the barber shop. And when Grief left the
barber’s hands half an hour later Aloysius Pankburn was still hanging
over the bar still drinking by himself.

Now it is not good for man to drink alone, and Grief threw sharp
scrutiny into his pass-ing glance. He saw a well-built young man of
thirty, well-featured, well-dressed, and evidently, in the world’s
catalogue, a gentleman. But in the faint hint of slovenliness, in
the shaking, eager hand that spilled the liquor, and in the nervous,
vacillating eyes, Grief read the unmistakable marks of the chronic
alcoholic.

After dinner he chanced upon Pankburn again. This time it was on deck,
and the young man, clinging to the rail and peering into the distance
at the dim forms of a man and woman in two steamer chairs drawn closely
together, was crying, drunkenly. Grief noted that the man’s arm was
around the woman’s waist. Aloysius Pankburn looked on and cried.

“Nothing to weep about,” Grief said genially.

Pankburn looked at him, and gushed tears of profound self-pity.

“It’s hard,” he sobbed. “Hard. Hard. That man’s my business manager. I
employ him. I pay him a good screw. And that’s how he earns it.”

“In that case, why don’t you put a stop to it?” Grief advised.

“I can’t. She’d shut off my whiskey. She’s my trained nurse.”

“Fire _her_, then, and drink your head off.”

“I can’t. He’s got all my money. If I did, he wouldn’t give me sixpence
to buy a drink with.”

This woful possibility brought a fresh wash of tears. Grief was
interested. Of all unique situations he could never have imagined such a
one as this.

“They were engaged to take care of me,” Pankburn was blubbering, “to
keep me away from the drink. And that’s the way they do it, lollygagging
all about the ship and letting me drink myself to death. It isn’t right,
I tell you. It isn’t right. They were sent along with me for the express
purpose of not letting me drink, and they let me drink to swinishness
as long as I leave them alone. If I complain they threaten not to let me
have another drop. What can a poor devil do? My death will be on their
heads, that’s all. Come on down and join me.”

He released his clutch on the rail, and would have fallen had Grief
not caught his arm. He seemed to undergo a transformation, to stiffen
physically, to thrust his chin forward aggressively, and to glint
harshly in his eyes.

“I won’t let them kill me. And they’ll be sorry. I’ve offered them fifty
thousand--later on, of course. They laughed. They don’t know. But I
know.” He fumbled in his coat pocket and drew forth an object that
flashed in the faint light. “They don’t know the meaning of that. But I
do.” He looked at Grief with abrupt suspicion. “What do you make out of
it, eh? What do you make out of it?”

David Grief caught a swift vision of an alcoholic degenerate putting
a very loving young couple to death with a copper spike, for a
copper spike was what he held in his hand, an evident old-fashioned
ship-fastening.

“My mother thinks I’m up here to get cured of the booze habit. She
doesn’t know. I bribed the doctor to prescribe a voyage. When we get to
Papeete my manager is going to charter a schooner and away we’ll sail.
But they don’t dream. They think it’s the booze. I know. I only know.
Good night, sir. I’m going to bed--unless--er--you’ll join me in a night
cap. One last drink, you know.”



II

In the week that followed at Papeete Grief caught numerous and bizarre
glimpses of Aloysius Pankburn. So did everybody else in the little
island capital; for neither the beach nor Lavina’s boarding house
had been so scandalized in years. In midday, bareheaded, clad only
in swimming trunks, Aloysius Pankburn ran down the main street from
Lavina’s to the water front. He put on the gloves with a fireman from
the _Berthe_ in a scheduled four-round bout at the _Folies Bergères_,
and was knocked out in the second round. He tried insanely to drown
himself in a two-foot pool of water, dived drunkenly and splendidly from
fifty feet up in the rigging of the _Mariposa_ lying at the wharf, and
chartered the cutter _Toerau_ at more than her purchase price and was
only saved by his manager’s refusal financially to ratify the agreement.
He bought out the old blind leper at the market, and sold breadfruit,
plantains, and sweet potatoes at such cut-rates that the gendarmes
were called out to break the rush of bargain-hunting natives. For that
matter, three times the gendarmes arrested him for riotous behaviour,
and three times his manager ceased from love-making long enough to pay
the fines imposed by a needy colonial administration.

Then the _Mariposa_ sailed for San Francisco, and in the bridal suite
were the manager and the trained nurse, fresh-married. Before departing,
the manager had thoughtfully bestowed eight five-pound banknotes on
Aloysius, with the foreseen result that Aloysius awoke several days
later to find himself broke and perilously near to delirium tremens.
Lavina, famed for her good heart even among the driftage of South
Pacific rogues and scamps, nursed him around and never let it filter
into his returning intelligence that there was neither manager nor money
to pay his board.

It was several evenings after this that David Grief, lounging under
the after deck awning of the _Kittiwake_ and idly scanning the meagre
columns of the Papeete _Avant-Coureur_, sat suddenly up and almost
rubbed his eyes. It was unbelievable, but there it was. The old South
Seas Romance was not dead. He read:

     WANTED--To exchange a half interest in buried treasure,
     worth five million francs, for transportation for one to an
     unknown island in the Pacific and facilities for carrying
     away the loot.   Ask for FOLLY, at Lavina’s.

Grief looked at his watch. It was early yet, only eight o’clock.

“Mr. Carlsen,” he called in the direction of a glowing pipe. “Get the
crew for the whale-boat. I’m going ashore.”

The husky voice of the Norwegian mate was raised for’ard, and half a
dozen strapping Rapa Islanders ceased their singing and manned the boat.

“I came to see Folly, Mr. Folly, I imagine,” David Grief told Lavina.

He noted the quick interest in her eyes as she turned her head and flung
a command in native across two open rooms to the outstanding kitchen. A
few minutes later a barefooted native girl padded in and shook her head.

Lavina’s disappointment was evident.

“You’re stopping aboard the _Kittiwake_, aren’t you?” she said. “I’ll
tell him you called.”

“Then it is a _he?_” Grief queried.

Lavina nodded.

“I hope you can do something for him, Captain Grief. I’m only a
good-natured woman. I don’t know. But he’s a likable man, and he may be
telling the truth; I don’t know. You’ll know. You’re not a soft-hearted
fool like me. Can’t I mix you a cocktail?”



III

Back on board his schooner and dozing in a deck chair under a
three-months-old magazine, David Grief was aroused by a sobbing,
slubbering noise from overside. He opened his eyes. From the Chilian
cruiser, a quarter of a mile away, came the stroke of eight bells. It
was midnight. From overside came a splash and another slubbering noise.
To him it seemed half amphibian, half the sounds of a man crying to
himself and querulously chanting his sorrows to the general universe.

A jump took David Grief to the low rail. Beneath, centred about the
slubbering noise, was an area of agitated phosphorescence. Leaning over,
he locked his hand under the armpit of a man, and, with pull and heave
and quick-changing grips, he drew on deck the naked form of Aloysius
Pankburn.

“I didn’t have a sou-markee,” he complained. “I had to swim it, and I
couldn’t find your gangway. It was very miserable. Pardon me. If you
have a towel to put about my middle, and a good stiff drink, I’ll be
more myself. I’m Mr. Folly, and you’re the Captain Grief, I presume,
who called on me when I was out. No, I’m not drunk. Nor am I cold. This
isn’t shivering. Lavina allowed me only two drinks to-day. I’m on the
edge of the horrors, that’s all, and I was beginning to see things
when I couldn’t find the gangway. If you’ll take me below I’ll be very
grateful. You are the only one that answered my advertisement.”

He was shaking pitiably in the warm night, and down in the cabin, before
he got his towel, Grief saw to it that a half-tumbler of whiskey was in
his hand.

“Now fire ahead,” Grief said, when he had got his guest into a shirt
and a pair of duck trousers. “What’s this advertisement of yours? I’m
listening.”

Pankburn looked at the whiskey bottle, but Grief shook his head.

“All right, Captain, though I tell you on whatever is left of my honour
that I am not drunk--not in the least. Also, what I shall tell you is
true, and I shall tell it briefly, for it is clear to me that you are
a man of affairs and action. Likewise, your chemistry is good. To you
alcohol has never been a million maggots gnawing at every cell of you.
You’ve never been to hell. I am there now. I am scorching. Now listen.

“My mother is alive. She is English. I was born in Australia. I
was educated at York and Yale. I am a master of arts, a doctor of
philosophy, and I am no good. Furthermore, I am an alcoholic. I have
been an athlete. I used to swan-dive a hundred and ten feet in the
clear. I hold several amateur records. I am a fish. I learned the
crawl-stroke from the first of the Cavilles. I have done thirty miles
in a rough sea. I have another record. I have punished more whiskey than
any man of my years. I will steal sixpence from you for the price of a
drink. Finally, I will tell you the truth.

“My father was an American--an Annapolis man. He was a midshipman in the
War of the Rebellion. In ‘66 he was a lieutenant on the _Suwanee_. Her
captain was Paul Shirley. In ‘66 the Suwanee coaled at an island in the
Pacific which I do not care to mention, under a protectorate which did
not exist then and which shall be nameless. Ashore, behind the bar of a
public house, my father saw three copper spikes--ship’s spikes.”

David Grief smiled quietly.

“And now I can tell you the name of the coaling station and of the
protectorate that came afterward,” he said.

“And of the three spikes?” Pankburn asked with equal quietness. “Go
ahead, for they are in my possession now.”

“Certainly. They were behind German Oscar’s bar at Peenoo-Peenee. Johnny
Black brought them there from off his schooner the night he died. He was
just back from a long cruise to the westward, fishing beche-de-mer and
sandalwood trading. All the beach knows the tale.”

Pankburn shook his head.

“Go on,” he urged.

“It was before my time, of course,” Grief explained. “I only tell what
I’ve heard. Next came the Ecuadoran cruiser, of all directions, in from
the westward, and bound home. Her officers recognized the spikes. Johnny
Black was dead. They got hold of his mate and logbook. Away to the
westward went she. Six months after, again bound home, she dropped in at
Peenoo-Peenee. She had failed, and the tale leaked out.”

“When the revolutionists were marching on Guayaquil,” Pankburn took it
up, “the federal officers, believing a defence of the city hopeless,
salted down the government treasure chest, something like a million
dollars gold, but all in English coinage, and put it on board the
American schooner _Flirt_. They were going to run at daylight. The
American captain skinned out in the middle of the night. Go on.”

“It’s an old story,” Grief resumed. “There was no other vessel in the
harbour. The federal leaders couldn’t run. They put their backs to the
wall and held the city. Rohjas Salced, making a forced march from Quito,
raised the siege. The revolution was broken, and the one ancient steamer
that constituted the Ecuadoran navy was sent in pursuit of the _Flirt_.
They caught her, between the Banks Group and the New Hebrides, hove
to and flying distress signals. The captain had died the day
before--blackwater fever.”

“And the mate?” Pankburn challenged.

“The mate had been killed a week earlier by the natives on one of the
Banks, when they sent a boat in for water. There were no navigators
left. The men were put to the torture. It was beyond international law.
They wanted to confess, but couldn’t. They told of the three spikes in
the trees on the beach, but where the island was they did not know. To
the westward, far to the westward, was all they knew. The tale now goes
two ways. One is that they all died under the torture. The other is that
the survivors were swung at the yardarm. At any rate, the Ecuadoran
cruiser went home without the treasure. Johnny Black brought the three
spikes to Peenoo-Peenee, and left them at German Oscar’s, but how and
where he found them he never told.”

Pankburn looked hard at the whiskey bottle.

“Just two fingers,” he whimpered.

Grief considered, and poured a meagre drink. Pankburn’s eyes sparkled,
and he took new lease of life.

“And this is where I come in with the missing details,” he said. “Johnny
Black did tell. He told my father. Wrote him from Levuka, before he came
on to die at Peenoo-Peenee. My father had saved his life one rough-house
night in Valparaiso. A Chink pearler, out of Thursday Island,
prospecting for new grounds to the north of New Guinea, traded for the
three spikes with a nigger. Johnny Black bought them for copper weight.
He didn’t dream any more than the Chink, but coming back he stopped for
hawksbill turtle at the very beach where you say the mate of the
_Flirt_ was killed. Only he wasn’t killed. The Banks Islanders held
him prisoner, and he was dying of necrosis of the jawbone, caused by an
arrow wound in the fight on the beach. Before he died he told the yarn
to Johnny Black. Johnny Black wrote my father from Levuka. He was at the
end of his rope--cancer. My father, ten years afterward, when captain of
the _Perry_, got the spikes from German Oscar. And from my father, last
will and testament, you know, came the spikes and the data. I have the
island, the latitude and longitude of the beach where the three spikes
were nailed in the trees. The spikes are up at Lavina’s now. The
latitude and longitude are in my head. Now what do you think?”

“Fishy,” was Grief’s instant judgment. “Why didn’t your father go and
get it himself?”

“Didn’t need it. An uncle died and left him a fortune. He retired from
the navy, ran foul of an epidemic of trained nurses in Boston, and my
mother got a divorce. Also, she fell heir to an income of something like
thirty thousand dollars, and went to live in New Zealand. I was divided
between them, half-time New Zealand, half-time United States, until my
father’s death last year. Now my mother has me altogether. He left me
his money--oh, a couple of millions--but my mother has had guardians
appointed on account of the drink. I’m worth all kinds of money, but I
can’t touch a penny save what is doled out to me. But the old man, who
had got the tip on my drinking, left me the three spikes and the data
thereunto pertaining. Did it through his lawyers, unknown to my mother;
said it beat life insurance, and that if I had the backbone to go and
get it I could drink my back teeth awash until I died. Millions in the
hands of my guardians, slathers of shekels of my mother’s that’ll be
mine if she beats me to the crematory, another million waiting to be dug
up, and in the meantime I’m cadging on Lavina for two drinks a day. It’s
hell, isn’t it?--when you consider my thirst.”

“Where’s the island?”

“It’s a long way from here.”

“Name it.”

“Not on your life, Captain Grief. You’re making an easy half-million out
of this. You will sail under my directions, and when we’re well to sea
and on our way I’ll tell you and not before.”

Grief shrugged his shoulders, dismissing the subject.

“When I’ve given you another drink I’ll send the boat ashore with you,”
 he said.

Pankburn was taken aback. For at least five minutes he debated with
himself, then licked his lips and surrendered.

“If you promise to go, I’ll tell you now.”

“Of course I’m willing to go. That’s why I asked you. Name the island.”

Pankburn looked at the bottle.

“I’ll take that drink now, Captain.”

“No you won’t. That drink was for you if you went ashore. If you are
going to tell me the island, you must do it in your sober senses.”

“Francis Island, if you will have it. Bougainville named it Barbour
Island.”

“Off there all by its lonely in the Little Coral Sea,” Grief said. “I
know it. Lies between New Ireland and New Guinea. A rotten hole now,
though it was all right when the _Flirt_ drove in the spikes and the
Chink pearler traded for them. The steamship _Castor_, recruiting labour
for the Upolu plantations, was cut off there with all hands two years
ago. I knew her captain well. The Germans sent a cruiser, shelled the
bush, burned half a dozen villages, killed a couple of niggers and a lot
of pigs, and--and that was all. The niggers always were bad there, but
they turned really bad forty years ago. That was when they cut off a
whaler. Let me see? What was her name?”

He stepped to the bookshelf, drew out the bulky “South Pacific
Directory,” and ran through its pages.

“Yes. Here it is. Francis, or Barbour,” he skimmed. “Natives warlike and
treacherous--Melanesian--cannibals. Whaleship _Western_ cut off--that
was her name. Shoals--points--anchorages--ah, Redscar, Owen Bay,
Likikili Bay, that’s more like it; deep indentation, mangrove
swamps, good holding in nine fathoms when white scar in bluff bears
west-southwest.” Grief looked up. “That’s your beach, Pankburn, I’ll
swear.”

“Will you go?” the other demanded eagerly.

Grief nodded.

“It sounds good to me. Now if the story had been of a hundred millions,
or some such crazy sum, I wouldn’t look at it for a moment. We’ll sail
to-morrow, but under one consideration. You are to be absolutely under
my orders.”

His visitor nodded emphatically and joyously.

“And that means no drink.”

“That’s pretty hard,” Pankburn whined.

“It’s my terms. I’m enough of a doctor to see you don’t come to harm.
And you are to work--hard work, sailor’s work. You’ll stand regular
watches and everything, though you eat and sleep aft with us.”

“It’s a go.” Pankburn put out his hand to ratify the agreement. “If it
doesn’t kill me,” he added.

David Grief poured a generous three-fingers into the tumbler and
extended it.

“Then here’s your last drink. Take it.”

Pankburn’s hand went halfway out. With a sudden spasm of resolution, he
hesitated, threw back his shoulders, and straightened up his head.

“I guess I won’t,” he began, then, feebly surrendering to the gnaw of
desire, he reached hastily for the glass, as if in fear that it would be
withdrawn.



IV

It is a long traverse from Papeete in the Societies to the Little Coral
Sea--from 100 west longitude to 150 east longitude--as the crow flies
the equivalent to a voyage across the Atlantic. But the _Kittiwake_ did
not go as the crow flies. David Grief’s numerous interests diverted
her course many times. He stopped to take a look-in at uninhabited Rose
Island with an eye to colonizing and planting cocoa-nuts. Next, he paid
his respects to Tui Manua, of Eastern Samoa, and opened an intrigue for
a share of the trade monopoly of that dying king’s three islands. From
Apia he carried several relief agents and a load of trade goods to the
Gilberts. He peeped in at Ontong-Java Atoll, inspected his plantations
on Ysabel, and purchased lands from the salt-water chiefs of
northwestern Malaita. And all along this devious way he made a man of
Aloysius Pankburn.

That thirster, though he lived aft, was compelled to do the work of a
common sailor. And not only did he take his wheel and lookout, and heave
on sheets and tackles, but the dirtiest and most arduous tasks were
appointed him. Swung aloft in a bosun’s chair, he scraped the masts and
slushed down. Holystoning the deck or scrubbing it with fresh limes
made his back ache and developed the wasted, flabby muscles. When
the _Kittiwake_ lay at anchor and her copper bottom was scrubbed with
cocoa-nut husks by the native crew, who dived and did it under water,
Pankburn was sent down on his shift and as many times as any on the
shift.

“Look at yourself,” Grief said. “You are twice the man you were when you
came on board. You haven’t had one drink, you didn’t die, and the poison
is pretty well worked out of you. It’s the work. It beats trained nurses
and business managers. Here, if you’re thirsty. Clap your lips to this.”

With several deft strokes of his heavy-backed sheath-knife, Grief
clipped a triangular piece of shell from the end of a husked
drinking-cocoa-nut. The thin, cool liquid, slightly milky and
effervescent, bubbled to the brim. With a bow, Pankburn took the natural
cup, threw his head back, and held it back till the shell was empty. He
drank many of these nuts each day. The black steward, a New Hebrides boy
sixty years of age, and his assistant, a Lark Islander of eleven, saw to
it that he was continually supplied.

Pankburn did not object to the hard work. He devoured work, never
shirking and always beating the native sailors in jumping to obey a
command. But his sufferings during the period of driving the alcohol out
of his system were truly heroic. Even when the last shred of the poison
was exuded, the desire, as an obsession, remained in his head. So it
was, when, on his honour, he went ashore at Apia, that he attempted to
put the public houses out of business by drinking up their stocks in
trade. And so it was, at two in the morning, that David Grief found him
in front of the Tivoli, out of which he had been disorderly thrown by
Charley Roberts. Aloysius, as of old, was chanting his sorrows to the
stars. Also, and more concretely, he was punctuating the rhythm with
cobbles of coral stone, which he flung with amazing accuracy through
Charley Roberts’s windows.

David Grief took him away, but not till next morning did he take him
in hand. It was on the deck of the _Kittiwake_, and there was nothing
kindergarten about it. Grief struck him, with bare knuckles, punched him
and punished him--gave him the worst thrashing he had ever received.

“For the good of your soul, Pankburn,” was the way he emphasized his
blows. “For the good of your mother. For the progeny that will come
after. For the good of the world, and the universe, and the whole race
of man yet to be. And now, to hammer the lesson home, we’ll do it all
over again. That, for the good of your soul; and that, for your mother’s
sake; and that, for the little children, undreamed of and unborn, whose
mother you’ll love for their sakes, and for love’s sake, in the lease
of manhood that will be yours when I am done with you. Come on and take
your medicine. I’m not done with you yet. I’ve only begun. There are
many other reasons which I shall now proceed to expound.” The brown
sailors and the black stewards and cook looked on and grinned. Far from
them was the questioning of any of the mysterious and incomprehensible
ways of white men. As for Carlsen, the mate, he was grimly in accord
with the treatment his employer was administering; while Albright, the
supercargo, merely played with his mustache and smiled. They were men
of the sea. They lived life in the rough. And alcohol, in themselves as
well as in other men, was a problem they had learned to handle in ways
not taught in doctors’ schools.

“Boy! A bucket of fresh water and a towel,” Grief ordered, when he had
finished. “Two buckets and two towels,” he added, as he surveyed his own
hands.

“You’re a pretty one,” he said to Pankburn. “You’ve spoiled everything.
I had the poison completely out of you. And now you are fairly reeking
with it. We’ve got to begin all over again. Mr. Albright! You know that
pile of old chain on the beach at the boat-landing. Find the owner, buy
it, and fetch it on board. There must be a hundred and fifty fathoms of
it. Pankburn! To-morrow morning you start in pounding the rust off of
it. When you’ve done that, you’ll sandpaper it. Then you’ll paint it.
And nothing else will you do till that chain is as smooth as new.”

Aloysius Pankburn shook his head.

“I quit. Francis Island can go to hell for all of me. I’m done with your
slave-driving. Kindly put me ashore at once. I’m a white man. You can’t
treat me this way.”

“Mr. Carlsen, you will see that Mr. Pankburn remains on board.”

“I’ll have you broken for this!” Aloysius screamed. “You can’t stop me.”

“I can give you another licking,” Grief answered. “And let me tell you
one thing, you besotted whelp, I’ll keep on licking you as long as my
knuckles hold out or until you yearn to hammer chain rust. I’ve taken
you in hand, and I’m going to make a man out of you if I have to kill
you to do it. Now go below and change your clothes. Be ready to turn
to with a hammer this afternoon. Mr. Albright, get that chain aboard
pronto. Mr. Carlsen, send the boats ashore after it. Also, keep your eye
on Pankburn. If he shows signs of keeling over or going into the shakes,
give him a nip--a small one. He may need it after last night.”



V

For the rest of the time the _Kittiwake_ lay in Apia Aloysius Pankburn
pounded chain rust. Ten hours a day he pounded. And on the long stretch
across to the Gilberts he still pounded.

Then came the sandpapering. One hundred and fifty fathoms is nine
hundred feet, and every link of all that length was smoothed and
polished as no link ever was before. And when the last link had received
its second coat of black paint, he declared himself.

“Come on with more dirty work,” he told Grief. “I’ll overhaul the other
chains if you say so. And you needn’t worry about me any more. I’m not
going to take another drop. I’m going to train up. You got my proud
goat when you beat me, but let me tell you, you only got it temporarily.
Train! I’m going to train till I’m as hard all the way through, and
clean all the way through, as that chain is. And some day, Mister David
Grief, somewhere, somehow, I’m going to be in such shape that I’ll lick
you as you licked me. I’m going to pulp your face till your own niggers
won’t know you.”

Grief was jubilant.

“Now you’re talking like a man,” he cried. “The only way you’ll ever
lick me is to become a man. And then, maybe--”

He paused in the hope that the other would catch the suggestion.
Aloysius groped for it, and, abruptly, something akin to illumination
shone in his eyes.

“And then I won’t want to, you mean?”

Grief nodded.

“And that’s the curse of it,” Aloysius lamented. “I really believe I
won’t want to. I see the point. But I’m going to go right on and shape
myself up just the same.”

The warm, sunburn glow in Grief’s face seemed to grow warmer. His hand
went out.

“Pankburn, I love you right now for that.”

Aloysius grasped the hand, and shook his head in sad sincerity.

“Grief,” he mourned, “you’ve got my goat, you’ve got my proud goat, and
you’ve got it permanently, I’m afraid.”



VI

On a sultry tropic day, when the last flicker of the far southeast trade
was fading out and the seasonal change for the northwest monsoon was
coming on, the _Kittiwake_ lifted above the sea-rim the jungle-clad
coast of Francis Island.

Grief, with compass bearings and binoculars, identified the volcano that
marked Redscar, ran past Owen Bay, and lost the last of the breeze at
the entrance to Likikili Bay. With the two whaleboats out and towing,
and with Carl-sen heaving the lead, the _Kittiwake_ sluggishly entered a
deep and narrow indentation. There were no beaches. The mangroves began
at the water’s edge, and behind them rose steep jungle, broken here and
there by jagged peaks of rock. At the end of a mile, when the white scar
on the bluff bore west-southwest, the lead vindicated the “Directory,”
 and the anchor rumbled down in nine fathoms.

For the rest of that day and until the afternoon of the day following
they remained on the _Kittiwake_ and waited. No canoes appeared. There
were no signs of human life. Save for the occasional splash of a fish or
the screaming of cockatoos, there seemed no other life. Once, however, a
huge butterfly, twelve inches from tip to tip, fluttered high over their
mastheads and drifted across to the opposing jungle.

“There’s no use in sending a boat in to be cut up,” Grief said.

Pankburn was incredulous, and volunteered to go in alone, to swim it if
he couldn’t borrow the dingey.

“They haven’t forgotten the German cruiser,” Grief explained. “And I’ll
wager that bush is alive with men right now. What do you think, Mr.
Carlsen?”

That veteran adventurer of the islands was emphatic in his agreement.

In the late afternoon of the second day Grief ordered a whaleboat into
the water. He took his place in the bow, a live cigarette in his mouth
and a short-fused stick of dynamite in his hand, for he was bent on
shooting a mess of fish. Along the thwarts half a dozen Winchesters were
placed. Albright, who took the steering-sweep, had a Mauser within reach
of hand. They pulled in and along the green wall of vegetation. At times
they rested on the oars in the midst of a profound silence.

“Two to one the bush is swarming with them--in quids,” Albright
whispered.

Pankburn listened a moment longer and took the bet. Five minutes later
they sighted a school of mullet. The brown rowers held their oars. Grief
touched the short fuse to his cigarette and threw the stick. So short
was the fuse that the stick exploded in the instant after it struck the
water. And in that same instant the bush exploded into life. There were
wild yells of defiance, and black and naked bodies leaped forward like
apes through the mangroves.

In the whaleboat every rifle was lifted. Then came the wait. A hundred
blacks, some few armed with ancient Sniders, but the greater portion
armed with tomahawks, fire-hardened spears, and bone-tipped arrows,
clustered on the roots that rose out of the bay. No word was spoken.
Each party watched the other across twenty feet of water. An old,
one-eyed black, with a bristly face, rested a Snider on his hip, the
muzzle directed at Albright, who, in turn, covered him back with the
Mauser. A couple of minutes of this tableau endured. The stricken fish
rose to the surface or struggled half-stunned in the clear depths.

“It’s all right, boys,” Grief said quietly. “Put down your guns and
over the side with you. Mr. Albright, toss the tobacco to that one-eyed
brute.”

While the Rapa men dived for the fish, Albright threw a bundle of
trade tobacco ashore. The one-eyed man nodded his head and writhed his
features in an attempt at amiability. Weapons were lowered, bows unbent,
and arrows put back in their quivers.

“They know tobacco,” Grief announced, as they rowed back aboard. “We’ll
have visitors. You’ll break out a case of tobacco, Mr. Albright, and a
few trade-knives. There’s a canoe now.”

Old One-Eye, as befitted a chief and leader, paddled out alone, facing
peril for the rest of the tribe. As Carlsen leaned over the rail to help
the visitor up, he turned his head and remarked casually:

“They’ve dug up the money, Mr. Grief. The old beggar’s loaded with it.”

One-Eye floundered down on deck, grinning appeasingly and failing to
hide the fear he had overcome but which still possessed him. He was lame
of one leg, and this was accounted for by a terrible scar, inches deep,
which ran down the thigh from hip to knee. No clothes he wore whatever,
not even a string, but his nose, perforated in a dozen places and each
perforation the setting for a carved spine of bone, bristled like a
porcupine. Around his neck and hanging down on his dirty chest was a
string of gold sovereigns. His ears were hung with silver half-crowns,
and from the cartilage separating his nostrils depended a big English
penny, tarnished and green, but unmistakable.

“Hold on, Grief,” Pankburn said, with perfectly assumed carelessness.
“You say they know only beads and tobacco. Very well. You follow my
lead. They’ve found the treasure, and we’ve got to trade them out of it.
Get the whole crew aside and lecture them that they are to be interested
only in the pennies. Savve? Gold coins must be beneath contempt, and
silver coins merely tolerated. Pennies are to be the only desirable
things.”

Pankburn took charge of the trading. For the penny in One-Eye’s nose he
gave ten sticks of tobacco. Since each stick cost David Grief a cent,
the bargain was manifestly unfair. But for the half-crowns Pankburn gave
only one stick each. The string of sovereigns he refused to consider.
The more he refused, the more One-Eye insisted on a trade. At last, with
an appearance of irritation and anger, and as a palpable concession,
Pankburn gave two sticks for the string, which was composed of ten
sovereigns.

“I take my hat off to you,” Grief said to Pankburn that night at dinner.
“The situation is patent. You’ve reversed the scale of value. They’ll
figure the pennies as priceless possessions and the sovereigns as
beneath price. Result: they’ll hang on to the pennies and force us to
trade for sovereigns. Pankburn, I drink your health! Boy!--another cup
of tea for Mr. Pankburn.”



VII

Followed a golden week. From dawn till dark a row of canoes rested
on their paddles two hundred feet away. This was the deadline. Rapa
sailors, armed with rifles, maintained it. But one canoe at a time was
permitted alongside, and but one black at a time was permitted to come
over the rail. Here, under the awning, relieving one another in hourly
shifts, the four white men carried on the trade. The rate of exchange
was that established by Pankburn with One-Eye. Five sovereigns fetched
a stick of tobacco; a hundred sovereigns, twenty sticks. Thus, a
crafty-eyed cannibal would deposit on the table a thousand dollars in
gold, and go back over the rail, hugely-satisfied, with forty cents’
worth of tobacco in his hand.

“Hope we’ve got enough tobacco to hold out,” Carlsen muttered dubiously,
as another case was sawed in half.

Albright laughed.

“We’ve got fifty cases below,” he said, “and as I figure it, three cases
buy a hundred thousand dollars. There was only a million dollars buried,
so thirty cases ought to get it. Though, of course, we’ve got to allow
a margin for the silver and the pennies. That Ecuadoran bunch must have
salted down all the coin in sight.”

Very few pennies and shillings appeared, though Pankburn continually and
anxiously inquired for them. Pennies were the one thing he seemed to
desire, and he made his eyes flash covetously whenever one was produced.
True to his theory, the savages concluded that the gold, being of slight
value, must be disposed of first. A penny, worth fifty times as much as
a sovereign, was something to retain and treasure. Doubtless, in their
jungle-lairs, the wise old gray-beards put their heads together and
agreed to raise the price on pennies when the worthless gold was all
worked off. Who could tell? Mayhap the strange white men could be made
to give even twenty sticks for a priceless copper.

By the end of the week the trade went slack. There was only the
slightest dribble of gold. An occasional penny was reluctantly disposed
of for ten sticks, while several thousand dollars in silver came in.

On the morning of the eighth day no trading was done. The gray-beards
had matured their plan and were demanding twenty sticks for a penny,
One-Eye delivered the new rate of exchange. The white men appeared to
take it with great seriousness, for they stood together debating in low
voices. Had One-Eye understood English he would have been enlightened.

“We’ve got just a little over eight hundred thousand, not counting the
silver,” Grief said. “And that’s about all there is. The bush tribes
behind have most probably got the other two hundred thousand. Return
in three months, and the salt-water crowd will have traded back for it;
also they will be out of tobacco by that time.”

“It would be a sin to buy pennies,” Albright grinned. “It goes against
the thrifty grain of my trader’s soul.”

“There’s a whiff of land-breeze stirring,” Grief said, looking at
Pankburn. “What do you say?”

Pankburn nodded.

“Very well.” Grief measured the faintness and irregularity of the wind
against his cheek.

“Mr. Carlsen, heave short, and get off the gaskets. And stand by with
the whaleboats to tow. This breeze is not dependable.”

He picked up a part case of tobacco, containing six or seven hundred
sticks, put it in One-Eye’s hands, and helped that bewildered savage
over the rail. As the foresail went up the mast, a wail of consternation
arose from the canoes lying along the dead-line. And as the anchor
broke out and the _Kittiwake’s_ head paid off in the light breeze, old
One-Eye, daring the rifles levelled on him, paddled alongside and
made frantic signs of his tribe’s willingness to trade pennies for ten
sticks.

“Boy!--a drinking nut,” Pankburn called.

“It’s Sydney Heads for you,” Grief said. “And then what?”

“I’m coming back with you for that two hundred thousand,” Pankburn
answered. “In the meantime I’m going to build an island schooner. Also,
I’m going to call those guardians of mine before the court to show cause
why my father’s money should not be turned over to me. Show cause? I’ll
show them cause why it should.”

He swelled his biceps proudly under the thin sleeve, reached for the two
black stewards, and put them above his head like a pair of dumbbells.

“Come on! Swing out on that fore-boom-tackle!” Carlsen shouted from aft,
where the mainsail was being winged out.

Pankburn dropped the stewards and raced for it, beating a Rapa sailor by
two jumps to the hauling part.



Chapter Three--THE DEVILS OF FUATINO



I

Of his many schooners, ketches and cutters that nosed about among the
coral isles of the South Seas, David Grief loved most the _Rattler_--a
yacht-like schooner of ninety tons with so swift a pair of heels that
she had made herself famous, in the old days, opium-smuggling from San
Diego to Puget Sound, raiding the seal-rookeries of Bering Sea, and
running arms in the Far East. A stench and an abomination to government
officials, she had been the joy of all sailormen, and the pride of the
shipwrights who built her. Even now, after forty years of driving, she
was still the same old _Rattler_, fore-reaching in the same marvellous
manner that compelled sailors to see in order to believe and that
punctuated many an angry discussion with words and blows on the beaches
of all the ports from Valparaiso to Manila Bay.

On this night, close-hauled, her big mainsail preposterously flattened
down, her luffs pulsing emptily on the lift of each smooth swell, she
was sliding an easy four knots through the water on the veriest whisper
of a breeze. For an hour David Grief had been leaning on the rail at the
lee fore-rigging, gazing overside at the steady phosphorescence of her
gait. The faint back-draught from the headsails fanned his cheek and
chest with a wine of coolness, and he was in an ecstasy of appreciation
of the schooner’s qualities.

“Eh!--She’s a beauty, Taute, a beauty,” he said to the Kanaka lookout,
at the same time stroking the teak of the rail with an affectionate
hand.

“Ay, skipper,” the Kanaka answered in the rich, big-chested tones of
Polynesia. “Thirty years I know ships, but never like ‘this. On Raiatea
we call her _Fanauao_.”

“The Dayborn,” Grief translated the love-phrase. “Who named her so?”

About to answer, Taute peered ahead with sudden intensity. Grief joined
him in the gaze.

“Land,” said Taute.

“Yes; Fuatino,” Grief agreed, his eyes still fixed on the spot where
the star-luminous horizon was gouged by a blot of blackness. “It’s all
right. I’ll tell the captain.”

The _Rattler_ slid along until the loom of the island could be seen as
well as sensed, until the sleepy roar of breakers and the blatting of
goats could be heard, until the wind, off the land, was flower-drenched
with perfume.

“If it wasn’t a crevice, she could run the passage a night like this,”
 Captain Glass remarked regretfully, as he watched the wheel lashed hard
down by the steersman.

The _Rattler_, run off shore a mile, had been hove to to wait until
daylight ere she attempted the perilous entrance to Fuatino. It was a
perfect tropic night, with no hint of rain or squall. For’ard, wherever
their tasks left them, the Raiatea sailors sank down to sleep on deck.
Aft, the captain and mate and Grief spread their beds with similar
languid unconcern. They lay on their blankets, smoking and murmuring
sleepy conjectures about Mataara, the Queen of Fuatino, and about the
love affair between her daughter, Naumoo, and Motuaro.

“They’re certainly a romantic lot,” Brown, the mate, said. “As romantic
as we whites.”

“As romantic as Pilsach,” Grief laughed, “and that is going some. How
long ago was it, Captain, that he jumped you?”

“Eleven years,” Captain Glass grunted resentfully.

“Tell me about it,” Brown pleaded. “They say he’s never left Fuatino
since. Is that right?”

“Right O,” the captain rumbled. “He’s in love with his wife--the little
hussy! Stole him from me, and as good a sailorman as the trade has ever
seen--if he is a Dutchman.”

“German,” Grief corrected.

“It’s all the same,” was the retort. “The sea was robbed of a good man
that night he went ashore and Notutu took one look at him. I reckon they
looked good to each other. Before you could say skat, she’d put a wreath
of some kind of white flowers on his head, and in five minutes they were
off down the beach, like a couple of kids, holding hands and laughing. I
hope he’s blown that big coral patch out of the channel. I always start
a sheet or two of copper warping past.”

“Go on with the story,” Brown urged.

“That’s all. He was finished right there. Got married that night. Never
came on board again. I looked him up next day. Found him in a straw
house in the bush, barelegged, a white savage, all mixed up with flowers
and things and playing a guitar. Looked like a bally ass. Told me to
send his things ashore. I told him I’d see him damned first. And that’s
all. You’ll see her to-morrow. They’ve got three kiddies now--wonderful
little rascals. I’ve a phonograph down below for him, and about a
million records.”

“And then you made him trader?” the mate inquired of Grief.

“What else could I do? Fuatino is a love island, and Filsach is a lover.
He knows the native, too--one of the best traders I’ve got, or ever had.
He’s responsible. You’ll see him to-morrow.”

“Look here, young man,” Captain Glass rumbled threateningly at his mate.
“Are you romantic? Because if you are, on board you stay. Fuatino’s the
island of romantic insanity. Everybody’s in love with somebody. They
live on love. It’s in the milk of the cocoa-nuts, or the air, or the
sea. The history of the island for the last ten thousand years is
nothing but love affairs. I know. I’ve talked with the old men. And if I
catch you starting down the beach hand in hand--”

His sudden cessation caused both the other men to look at him. They
followed his gaze, which passed across them to the main rigging, and saw
what he saw, a brown hand and arm, muscular and wet, being joined from
overside by a second brown hand and arm. A head followed, thatched with
long elfin locks, and then a face, with roguish black eyes, lined with
the marks of wildwood’s laughter.

“My God!” Brown breathed. “It’s a faun--a sea-faun.”

“It’s the Goat Man,” said Glass.

“It is Mauriri,” said Grief. “He is my own blood brother by sacred
plight of native custom. His name is mine, and mine is his.”

Broad brown shoulders and a magnificent chest rose above the rail, and,
with what seemed effortless ease, the whole grand body followed over
the rail and noiselessly trod the deck. Brown, who might have been other
things than the mate of an island schooner, was enchanted. All that he
had ever gleaned from the books proclaimed indubitably the faun-likeness
of this visitant of the deep. “But a sad faun,” was the young man’s
judgment, as the golden-brown woods god strode forward to where David
Grief sat up with outstretched hand.

“David,” said David Grief.

“Mauriri, Big Brother,” said Mauriri.

And thereafter, in the custom of men who have pledged blood brotherhood,
each called the other, not by the other’s name, but by his own. Also,
they talked in the Polynesian tongue of Fuatino, and Brown could only
sit and guess.

“A long swim to say _talofa_,” Grief said, as the other sat and streamed
water on the deck.

“Many days and nights have I watched for your coming, Big Brother,”
 Mauriri replied. “I have sat on the Big Rock, where the dynamite
is kept, of which I have been made keeper. I saw you come up to the
entrance and run back into darkness. I knew you waited till morning, and
I followed. Great trouble has come upon us. Mataara has cried these many
days for your coming. She is an old woman, and Motauri is dead, and she
is sad.”

“Did he marry Naumoo?” Grief asked, after he had shaken his head and
sighed by the custom.

“Yes. In the end they ran to live with the goats, till Mataara forgave,
when they returned to live with her in the Big House. But he is now
dead, and Naumoo soon will die. Great is our trouble, Big Brother. Tori
is dead, and Tati-Tori, and Petoo, and Nari, and Pilsach, and others.”

“Pilsach, too!” Grief exclaimed. “Has there been a sickness?”

“There has been much killing. Listen, Big Brother, Three weeks ago a
strange schooner came. From the Big Rock I saw her topsails above the
sea. She towed in with her boats, but they did not warp by the big
patch, and she pounded many times. She is now on the beach, where they
are strengthening the broken timbers. There are eight white men on
board. They have women from some island far to the east. The women
talk a language in many ways like ours, only different. But we can
understand. They say they were stolen by the men on the schooner. We do
not know, but they sing and dance and are happy.”

“And the men?” Grief interrupted.

“They talk French. I know, for there was a mate on your schooner who
talked French long ago. There are two chief men, and they do not look
like the others. They have blue eyes like you, and they are devils. One
is a bigger devil than the other. The other six are also devils. They do
not pay us for our yams, and taro, and breadfruit. They take everything
from us, and if we complain they kill us. Thus was killed Tori, and
Tati-Tori, and Petoo, and others. We cannot fight, for we have no
guns--only two or three old guns.

“They ill-treat our women. Thus was killed Motuaro, who made defence of
Naumoo, whom they have now taken on board their schooner. It was because
of this that Pilsach was killed. Him the chief of the two chief men, the
Big Devil, shot once in his whaleboat, and twice when he tried to crawl
up the sand of the beach. Pilsach was a brave man, and Notutu now sits
in the house and cries without end. Many of the people are afraid, and
have run to live with the goats. But there is not food for all in the
high mountains. And the men will not go out and fish, and they work no
more in the gardens because of the devils who take all they have. And we
are ready to fight.

“Big Brother, we need guns, and much ammunition. I sent word before I
swam out to you, and the men are waiting. The strange white men do not
know you are come. Give me a boat, and the guns, and I will go back
before the sun. And when you come to-morrow we will be ready for the
word from you to kill the strange white men. They must be killed. Big
Brother, you have ever been of the blood with us, and the men and women
have prayed to many gods for your coming. And you are come.”

“I will go in the boat with you,” Grief said.

“No, Big Brother,” was Mauriri’s reply. “You must be with the schooner.
The strange white men will fear the schooner, not us. We will have the
guns, and they will not know. It is only when they see your schooner
come that they will be alarmed. Send the young man there with the boat.”

So it was that Brown, thrilling with all the romance and adventure he
had read and guessed and never lived, took his place in the sternsheets
of a whaleboat, loaded with rifles and cartridges, rowed by four Baiatea
sailors, steered by a golden-brown, sea-swimming faun, and directed
through the warm tropic darkness toward the half-mythical love island of
Fuatino, which had been invaded by twentieth century pirates.



II

If a line be drawn between Jaluit, in the Marshall Group, and
Bougainville, in the Solomons, and if this line be bisected at two
degrees south of the equator by a line drawn from Ukuor, in the
Carolines, the high island of Fuatino will be raised in that sun-washed
stretch of lonely sea. Inhabited by a stock kindred to the Hawaiian,
the Samoan, the Tahitian, and the Maori, Fuatino becomes the apex of the
wedge driven by Polynesia far to the west and in between Melanesia and
Micronesia. And it was Fuatino that David Grief raised next morning,
two miles to the east and in direct line with the rising sun. The same
whisper of a breeze held, and the _Rattler_ slid through the smooth sea
at a rate that would have been eminently proper for an island schooner
had the breeze been thrice as strong.

Fuatino was nothing else than an ancient crater, thrust upward from the
sea-bottom by some primordial cataclysm. The western portion, broken
and crumbled to sea level, was the entrance to the crater itself, which
constituted the harbour. Thus, Fuatino was like a rugged horseshoe, the
heel pointing to the west. And into the opening at the heel the Rattler
steered. Captain Glass, binoculars in hand and peering at the chart made
by himself, which was spread on top the cabin, straightened up with an
expression on his face that was half alarm, half resignation.

“It’s coming,” he said. “Fever. It wasn’t due till to-morrow. It always
hits me hard, Mr. Grief. In five minutes I’ll be off my head. You’ll
have to con the schooner in. Boy! Get my bunk ready! Plenty of blankets!
Fill that hot-water bottle! It’s so calm, Mr. Grief, that I think you
can pass the big patch without warping. Take the leading wind and shoot
her. She’s the only craft in the South Pacific that can do it, and I
know you know the trick. You can scrape the Big Rock by just watching
out for the main boom.”

He had talked rapidly, almost like a drunken man, as his reeling brain
battled with the rising shock of the malarial stroke. When he stumbled
toward the companionway, his face was purpling and mottling as if
attacked by some monstrous inflammation or decay. His eyes were setting
in a glassy bulge, his hands shaking, his teeth clicking in the spasms
of chill.

“Two hours to get the sweat,” he chattered with a ghastly grin. “And a
couple more and I’ll be all right. I know the damned thing to the last
minute it runs its course. Y-y-you t-t-take ch-ch-ch-ch----”

His voice faded away in a weak stutter as he collapsed down into the
cabin and his employer took charge. The _Rattler_ was just entering the
passage. The heels of the horseshoe island were two huge mountains of
rock a thousand feet high, each almost broken off from the mainland and
connected with it by a low and narrow peninsula. Between the heels was
a half-mile stretch, all but blocked by a reef of coral extending across
from the south heel. The passage, which Captain Glass had called a
crevice, twisted into this reef, curved directly to the north heel, and
ran along the base of the perpendicular rock. At this point, with the
main-boom almost grazing the rock on the port side, Grief, peering down
on the starboard side, could see bottom less than two fathoms beneath
and shoaling steeply. With a whaleboat towing for steerage and as a
precaution against back-draughts from the cliff, and taking advantage of
a fan of breeze, he shook the Rattler full into it and glided by the big
coral patch without warping. As it was, he just scraped, but so softly
as not to start the copper.

The harbour of Fuatino opened before him. It was a circular sheet of
water, five miles in diameter, rimmed with white coral beaches, from
which the verdure-clad slopes rose swiftly to the frowning crater walls.
The crests of the walls were saw-toothed, volcanic peaks, capped and
halo’d with captive trade-wind clouds. Every nook and crevice of the
disintegrating lava gave foothold to creeping, climbing vines and
trees--a green foam of vegetation. Thin streams of water, that were
mere films of mist, swayed and undulated downward in sheer descents
of hundreds of feet. And to complete the magic of the place, the warm,
moist air was heavy with the perfume of the yellow-blossomed _cassi_.

Fanning along against light, vagrant airs, the _Rattler_ worked in.
Calling the whale-boat on board, Grief searched out the shore with his
binoculars. There was no life. In the hot blaze of tropic sun the place
slept. There was no sign of welcome. Up the beach, on the north shore,
where the fringe of cocoanut palms concealed the village, he could see
the black bows of the canoes in the canoe-houses. On the beach, on even
keel, rested the strange schooner. Nothing moved on board of her or
around her. Not until the beach lay fifty yards away did Grief let go
the anchor in forty fathoms. Out in the middle, long years before, he
had sounded three hundred fathoms without reaching bottom, which was to
be expected of a healthy crater-pit like Fuatino. As the chain roared
and surged through the hawse-pipe he noticed a number of native women,
lusciously large as only those of Polynesia are, in flowing _ahu’s_,
flower-crowned, stream out on the deck of the schooner on the beach.
Also, and what they did not see, he saw from the galley the squat figure
of a man steal for’ard, drop to the sand, and dive into the green screen
of bush.

While the sails were furled and gasketed, awnings stretched, and sheets
and tackles coiled harbour fashion, David Grief paced the deck and
looked vainly for a flutter of life elsewhere than on the strange
schooner. Once, beyond any doubt, he heard the distant crack of a rifle
in the direction of the Big Rock. There were no further shots, and he
thought of it as some hunter shooting a wild goat.

At the end of another hour Captain Glass, under a mountain of blankets,
had ceased shivering and was in the inferno of a profound sweat.

“I’ll be all right in half an hour,” he said weakly.

“Very well,” Grief answered. “The place is dead, and I’m going ashore to
see Mataara and find out the situation.”

“It’s a tough bunch; keep your eyes open,” the captain warned him. “If
you’re not back in an hour, send word off.”

Grief took the steering-sweep, and four of his Raiatea men bent to the
oars. As they landed on the beach he looked curiously at the women under
the schooner’s awning. He waved his hand tentatively, and they, after
giggling, waved back.

“_Talofa!_” he called.

They understood the greeting, but replied, “_Iorana_,” and he knew they
came from the Society Group.

“Huahine,” one of his sailors unhesitatingly named their island. Grief
asked them whence they came, and with giggles and laughter they replied,
“Huahine.”

“It looks like old Dupuy’s schooner,” Grief said, in Tahitian, speaking
in a low voice. “Don’t look too hard. What do you think, eh? Isn’t it
the _Valetta?_”

As the men climbed out and lifted the whale-boat slightly up the beach
they stole careless glances at the vessel.

“It is the _Valetta_,” Taute said. “She carried her topmast away seven
years ago. At Papeete they rigged a new one. It was ten feet shorter.
That is the one.”

“Go over and talk with the women, you boys. You can almost see Huahine
from Raiatea, and you’ll be sure to know some of them. Find out all you
can. And if any of the white men show up, don’t start a row.”

An army of hermit crabs scuttled and rustled away before him as he
advanced up the beach, but under the palms no pigs rooted and grunted.
The cocoanuts lay where they had fallen, and at the copra-sheds there
were no signs of curing. Industry and tidiness had vanished. Grass
house after grass house he found deserted. Once he came upon an old
man, blind, toothless, prodigiously wrinkled, who sat in the shade and
babbled with fear when he spoke to him. It was as if the place had been
struck with the plague, was Grief’s thought, as he finally approached
the Big House. All was desolation and disarray. There were no
flower-crowned men and maidens, no brown babies rolling in the shade of
the avocado trees. In the doorway, crouched and rocking back and forth,
sat Mataara, the old queen. She wept afresh at sight of him, divided
between the tale of her woe and regret that no follower was left to
dispense to him her hospitality.

“And so they have taken Naumoo,” she finished. “Motauri is dead. My
people have fled and are starving with the goats. And there is no one to
open for you even a drinking cocoa-nut. O Brother, your white brothers
be devils.”

“They are no brothers of mine, Mataara,” Grief consoled. “They are
robbers and pigs, and I shall clean the island of them----”

He broke off to whirl half around, his hand flashing to his waist and
back again, the big Colt’s levelled at the figure of a man, bent double,
that rushed at him from out of the trees. He did not pull the trigger,
nor did the man pause till he had flung himself headlong at Grief’s
feet and begun to pour forth a stream of uncouth and awful noises. He
recognized the creature as the one he had seen steal from the _Valetta_
and dive into the bush; but not until he raised him up and watched
the contortions of the hare-lipped mouth could he understand what he
uttered.

“Save me, master, save me!” the man yammered, in English, though he was
unmistakably a South Sea native. “I know you! Save me!”

And thereat he broke into a wild outpour of incoherence that did
not cease until Grief seized him by the shoulders and shook him into
silence.

“I know you,” Grief said. “You were cook in the French Hotel at Papeete
two years ago. Everybody called you ‘Hare-Lip.’”

The man nodded violently.

“I am now cook of the _Valetta_,” he spat and spluttered, his mouth
writhing in a fearful struggle with its defect. “I know you. I saw you
at the hotel. I saw you at Lavina’s. I saw you on the _Kittiwake_. I saw
you at the _Mariposa_ wharf. You are Captain Grief, and you will save
me. Those men are devils. They killed Captain Dupuy. Me they made kill
half the crew. Two they shot from the cross-trees. The rest they shot
in the water. I knew them all. They stole the girls from Huahine. They
added to their strength with jail-men from Noumea. They robbed the
traders in the New Hebrides. They killed the trader at Vanikori, and
stole two women there. They----”

But Grief no longer heard. Through the trees, from the direction of
the harbour, came a rattle of rifles, and he started on the run for the
beach. Pirates from Tahiti and convicts from New Caledonia! A pretty
bunch of desperadoes that even now was attacking his schooner. Hare-Lip
followed, still spluttering and spitting his tale of the white devils’
doings.

The rifle-firing ceased as abruptly as it had begun, but Grief ran
on, perplexed by ominous conjectures, until, in a turn of the path, he
encountered Mauriri running toward him from the beach.

“Big Brother,” the Goat Man panted, “I was too late. They have taken
your schooner. Come! For now they will seek for you.”

He started back up the path away from the beach.

“Where is Brown?” Grief demanded.

“On the Big Rock. I will tell you afterward. Come now!”

“But my men in the whaleboat?”

Mauriri was in an agony of apprehension.

“They are with the women on the strange schooner. They will not be
killed. I tell you true. The devils want sailors. But you they will
kill. Listen!” From the water, in a cracked tenor voice, came a French
hunting song. “They are landing on the beach. They have taken your
schooner--that I saw. Come!”



III

Careless of his own life and skin, nevertheless David Grief was
possessed of no false hardihood. He knew when to fight and when to run,
and that this was the time for running he had no doubt. Up the path,
past the old men sitting in the shade, past Mataara crouched in the
doorway of the Big House, he followed at the heels of Mauriri. At his
own heels, doglike, plodded Hare-Lip. From behind came the cries of the
hunters, but the pace Mauriri led them was heartbreaking. The broad path
narrowed, swung to the right, and pitched upward. The last grass house
was left, and through high thickets of _cassi_ and swarms of great
golden wasps the way rose steeply until it became a goat-track. Pointing
upward to a bare shoulder of volcanic rock, Mauriri indicated the trail
across its face.

“Past that we are safe, Big Brother,” he said. “The white devils never
dare it, for there are rocks we roll down on their heads, and there
is no other path. Always do they stop here and shoot when we cross the
rock. Come!”

A quarter of an hour later they paused where the trail went naked on the
face of the rock.

“Wait, and when you come, come quickly,” Mauriri cautioned.

He sprang into the blaze of sunlight, and from below several rifles
pumped rapidly. Bullets smacked about him, and puffs of stone-dust
flew out, but he won safely across. Grief followed, and so near did
one bullet come that the dust of its impact stung his cheek. Nor was
Hare-Lip struck, though he essayed the passage more slowly.

For the rest of the day, on the greater heights, they lay in a lava glen
where terraced taro and _papaia_ grew. And here Grief made his plans and
learned the fulness of the situation.

“It was ill luck,” Mauriri said. “Of all nights this one night was
selected by the white devils to go fishing. It was dark as we came
through the passage. They were in boats and canoes. Always do they have
their rifles with them. One Raiatea man they shot. Brown was very brave.
We tried to get by to the top of the bay, but they headed us off, and we
were driven in between the Big Rock and the village. We saved the guns
and all the ammunition, but they got the boat. Thus they learned of your
coming. Brown is now on this side of the Big Rock with the guns and the
ammunition.”

“But why didn’t he go over the top of the Big Rock and give me warning
as I came in from the sea?” Grief criticised.

“They knew not the way. Only the goats and I know the way. And this I
forgot, for I crept through the bush to gain the water and swim to you.
But the devils were in the bush shooting at Brown and the Raiatea men;
and me they hunted till daylight, and through the morning they hunted
me there in the low-lying land. Then you came in your schooner, and they
watched till you went ashore, and I got away through the bush, but you
were already ashore.”

“You fired that shot?”

“Yes; to warn you. But they were wise and would not shoot back, and it
was my last cartridge.”

“Now you, Hare-Lip?” Grief said to the _Valetta’s_ cook.

His tale was long and painfully detailed. For a year he had been sailing
out of Tahiti and through the Paumotus on the _Valetta_. Old Dupuy was
owner and captain. On his last cruise he had shipped two strangers in
Tahiti as mate and supercargo. Also, another stranger he carried to be
his agent on Fanriki. Raoul Van Asveld and Carl Lepsius were the names
of the mate and supercargo.

“They are brothers, I know, for I have heard them talk in the dark, on
deck, when they thought no one listened,” Hare-Lip explained.

The _Valetta_ cruised through the Low Islands, picking up shell and
pearls at Dupuy’s stations. Frans Amundson, the third stranger, relieved
Pierre Gollard at Fanriki. Pierre Gollard came on board to go back to
Tahiti. The natives of Fanriki said he had a quart of pearls to turn
over to Dupuy. The first night out from Fanriki there was shooting
in the cabin. Then the bodies of Dupuy and Pierre Gollard were thrown
overboard. The Tahitian sailors fled to the forecastle. For two days,
with nothing to eat and the _Valetta_ hove to, they remained below. Then
Raoul Van Asveld put poison in the meal he made Hare-Lip cook and carry
for’ard. Half the sailors died.

“He had a rifle pointed at me, master; what could I do?” Hare-Lip
whimpered. “Of the rest, two went up the rigging and were shot. Fanriki
was ten miles away. The others went overboard to swim. They were shot
as they swam. I, only, lived, and the two devils; for me they wanted to
cook for them. That day, with the breeze, they went back to Fanrika and
took on Frans Amundson, for he was one of them.”

Then followed Hare-Lip’s nightmare experiences as the schooner wandered
on the long reaches to the westward. He was the one living witness and
knew they would have killed him had he not been the cook. At Noumea five
convicts had joined them. Hare-Lip was never permitted ashore at any of
the islands, and Grief was the first outsider to whom he had spoken.

“And now they will kill me,” Hare-Lip spluttered, “for they will know
I have told you. Yet am I not all a coward, and I will stay with you,
master, and die with you.”

The Goat Man shook his head and stood up.

“Lie here and rest,” he said to Grief. “It will be a long swim to-night.
As for this cook-man, I will take him now to the higher places where my
brothers live with the goats.”



IV

“It is well that you swim as a man should, Big Brother,” Mauriri
whispered.

From the lava glen they had descended to the head of the bay and taken
to the water. They swam softly, without splash, Mauriri in the lead. The
black walls of the crater rose about them till it seemed they swam
on the bottom of a great bowl. Above was the sky of faintly luminous
star-dust. Ahead they could see the light which marked the Rattler, and
from her deck, softened by distance, came a gospel hymn played on the
phonograph intended for Pilsach.

The two swimmers bore to the left, away from the captured schooner.
Laughter and song followed on board after the hymn, then the phonograph
started again. Grief grinned to himself at the appositeness of it as
“Lead, Kindly Light,” floated out over the dark water.

“We must take the passage and land on the Big Rock,” Mauriri whispered.
“The devils are holding the low land. Listen!”

Half a dozen rifle shots, at irregular intervals, attested that Brown
still held the Rock and that the pirates had invested the narrow
peninsula.

At the end of another hour they swam under the frowning loom of the Big
Rock. Mauriri, feeling his way, led the landing in a crevice, up which
for a hundred feet they climbed to a narrow ledge.

“Stay here,” said Mauriri. “I go to Brown. In the morning I shall
return.”

“I will go with you, Brother,” Grief said.

Mauriri laughed in the darkness.

“Even you, Big Brother, cannot do this thing. I am the Goat Man, and
I only, of all Fuatino, can go over the Big Rock in the night.
Furthermore, it will be the first time that even I have done it. Put out
your hand. You feel it? That is where Pilsach’s dynamite is kept. Lie
close beside the wall and you may sleep without falling. I go now.”

And high above the sounding surf, on a narrow shelf beside a ton of
dynamite, David Grief planned his campaign, then rested his cheek on his
arm and slept.

In the morning, when Mauriri led him over the summit of the Big Rock,
David Grief understood why he could not have done it in the night.
Despite the accustomed nerve of a sailor for height and precarious
clinging, he marvelled that he was able to do it in the broad light of
day. There were places, always under minute direction of Mauriri, that
he leaned forward, falling, across hundred-foot-deep crevices, until his
outstretched hands struck a grip on the opposing wall and his legs could
then be drawn across after. Once, there was a ten-foot leap, above half
a thousand feet of yawning emptiness and down a fathom’s length to a
meagre foothold. And he, despite his cool head, lost it another time on
a shelf, a scant twelve inches wide, where all hand-holds seemed to fail
him. And Mauriri, seeing him sway, swung his own body far out and over
the gulf and passed him, at the same time striking him sharply on the
back to brace his reeling brain. Then it was, and forever after, that he
fully knew why Mauriri had been named the Goat Man.



V

The defence of the Big Rock had its good points and its defects.
Impregnable to assault, two men could hold it against ten thousand.
Also, it guarded the passage to open sea. The two schooners, Raoul Van
Asveld, and his cutthroat following were bottled up. Grief, with the ton
of dynamite, which he had removed higher up the rock, was master. This
he demonstrated, one morning, when the schooners attempted to put to
sea. The _Valetta_ led, the whaleboat towing her manned by captured
Fuatino men. Grief and the Goat Man peered straight down from a safe
rock-shelter, three hundred feet above. Their rifles were beside them,
also a glowing fire-stick and a big bundle of dynamite sticks with fuses
and decanators attached. As the whaleboat came beneath, Mauriri shook
his head.

“They are our brothers. We cannot shoot.”

For’ard, on the _Valetta_, were several of Grief’s own Raiatea sailors.
Aft stood another at the wheel. The pirates were below, or on the other
schooner, with the exception of one who stood, rifle in hand, amidships.
For protection he held Naumoo, the Queen’s daughter, close to him.

“That is the chief devil,” Mauriri whispered, “and his eyes are blue
like yours. He is a terrible man. See! He holds Naumoo that we may not
shoot him.”

A light air and a slight tide were making into the passage, and the
schooner’s progress was slow.

“Do you speak English?” Grief called down.

The man startled, half lifted his rifle to the perpendicular, and looked
up. There was something quick and catlike in his movements, and in his
burned blond face a fighting eagerness. It was the face of a killer.

“Yes,” he answered. “What do you want?”

“Turn back, or I’ll blow your schooner up,” Grief warned. He blew on the
fire-stick and whispered, “Tell Naumoo to break away from him and run
aft.”

From the _Rattler_, close astern, rifles cracked, and bullets spatted
against the rock. Van Asveld laughed defiantly, and Mauriri called
down in the native tongue to the woman. When directly beneath, Grief,
watching, saw her jerk away from the man. On the instant Grief touched
the fire-stick to the match-head in the split end of the short fuse,
sprang into view on the face of the rock, and dropped the dynamite. Van
Asveld had managed to catch the girl and was struggling with her. The
Goat Man held a rifle on him and waited a chance. The dynamite struck
the deck in a compact package, bounded, and rolled into the port
scupper. Van Asveld saw it and hesitated, then he and the girl ran aft
for their lives. The Goat Man fired, but splintered the corner of the
galley. The spattering of bullets from the _Rattler_ increased, and the
two on the rock crouched low for shelter and waited. Mauriri tried to
see what was happening below, but Grief held him back.

“The fuse was too long,” he said. “I’ll know better next time.”

It was half a minute before the explosion came. What happened afterward,
for some little time, they could not tell, for the Rattler’s marksmen
had got the range and were maintaining a steady fire. Once, fanned by a
couple of bullets, Grief risked a peep. The _Valetta_, her port deck
and rail torn away, was listing and sinking as she drifted back into the
harbour. Climbing on board the _Rattler_ were the men and the Huahine
women who had been hidden in the _Valetta’s_ cabin and who had swum for
it under the protecting fire. The Fuatino men who had been towing in the
whaleboat had cast off the line, dashed back through the passage, and
were rowing wildly for the south shore.

From the shore of the peninsula the discharges of four rifles announced
that Brown and his men had worked through the jungle to the beach and
were taking a hand. The bullets ceased coming, and Grief and Mauriri
joined in with their rifles. But they could do no damage, for the men of
the _Rattler_ were firing from the shelter of the deck-houses, while the
wind and tide carried the schooner farther in.

There was no sign of the _Valetta_, which had sunk in the deep water of
the crater.

Two things Raoul Van Asveld did that showed his keenness and coolness
and that elicited Grief’s admiration. Under the _Rattler’s_ rifle fire
Raoul compelled the fleeing Fuatino men to come in and surrender. And at
the same time, dispatching half his cutthroats in the _Rattler’s_ boat,
he threw them ashore and across the peninsula, preventing Brown from
getting away to the main part of the island. And for the rest of the
morning the intermittent shooting told to Grief how Brown was being
driven in to the other side of the Big Rock. The situation was
unchanged, with the exception of the loss of the _Valetta_.



VI

The defects of the position on the Big Rock were vital. There was
neither food nor water. For several nights, accompanied by one of the
Raiatea men, Mauriri swam to the head of the bay for supplies. Then came
the night when lights flared on the water and shots were fired. After
that the water-side of the Big Rock was invested as well.

“It’s a funny situation,” Brown remarked, who was getting all the
adventure he had been led to believe resided in the South Seas. “We’ve
got hold and can’t let go, and Raoul has hold and can’t let go. He can’t
get away, and we’re liable to starve to death holding him.”

“If the rain came, the rock-basins would fill,” said Mauriri. It was
their first twenty-four hours without water. “Big Brother, to-night you
and I will get water. It is the work of strong men.”

That night, with cocoanut calabashes, each of quart capacity and tightly
stoppered, he led Grief down to the water from the peninsula side of the
Big Rock. They swam out not more than a hundred feet. Beyond, they could
hear the occasional click of an oar or the knock of a paddle against
a canoe, and sometimes they saw the flare of matches as the men in the
guarding boats lighted cigarettes or pipes.

“Wait here,” whispered Mauriri, “and hold the calabashes.”

Turning over, he swam down. Grief, face downward, watched his
phosphorescent track glimmer, and dim, and vanish. A long minute
afterward Mauriri broke surface noiselessly at Grief’s side.

“Here! Drink!”

The calabash was full, and Grief drank sweet fresh water which had come
up from the depths of the salt.

“It flows out from the land,” said Mauriri.

“On the bottom?”

“No. The bottom is as far below as the mountains are above. Fifty feet
down it flows. Swim down until you feel its coolness.”

Several times filling and emptying his lungs in diver fashion, Grief
turned over and went down through the water. Salt it was to his lips,
and warm to his flesh; but at last, deep down, it perceptibly chilled
and tasted brackish. Then, suddenly, his body entered the cold,
subterranean stream. He removed the small stopper from the calabash,
and, as the sweet water gurgled into it, he saw the phosphorescent
glimmer of a big fish, like a sea ghost, drift sluggishly by.

Thereafter, holding the growing weight of the calabashes, he remained on
the surface, while Mauriri took them down, one by one, and filled them.

“There are sharks,” Grief said, as they swam back to shore.

“Pooh!” was the answer. “They are fish sharks. We of Fuatino are
brothers to the fish sharks.”

“But the tiger sharks? I have seen them here.”

“When they come, Big Brother, we will have no more water to
drink--unless it rains.”



VII

A week later Mauriri and a Raiatea man swam back with empty calabashes.
The tiger sharks had arrived in the harbour. The next day they thirsted
on the Big Rock.

“We must take our chance,” said Grief. “Tonight I shall go after water
with Mautau. Tomorrow night, Brother, you will go with Tehaa.”

Three quarts only did Grief get, when the tiger sharks appeared and
drove them in. There were six of them on the Rock, and a pint a day, in
the sweltering heat of the mid-tropics, is not sufficient moisture for a
man’s body. The next night Mauriri and Tehaa returned with no water. And
the day following Brown learned the full connotation of thirst, when the
lips crack to bleeding, the mouth is coated with granular slime, and the
swollen tongue finds the mouth too small for residence.

Grief swam out in the darkness with Mautau. Turn by turn, they went down
through the salt, to the cool sweet stream, drinking their fill while
the calabashes were filling. It was Mau-tau’s turn to descend with the
last calabash, and Grief, peering down from the surface, saw the glimmer
of sea-ghosts and all the phosphorescent display of the struggle. He
swam back alone, but without relinquishing the precious burden of full
calabashes.

Of food they had little. Nothing grew on the Rock, and its sides,
covered with shellfish at sea level where the surf thundered in, were
too precipitous for access. Here and there, where crevices permitted, a
few rank shellfish and sea urchins were gleaned. Sometimes frigate birds
and other sea birds were snared. Once, with a piece of frigate bird,
they succeeded in hooking a shark. After that, with jealously guarded
shark-meat for bait, they managed on occasion to catch more sharks.

But water remained their direst need. Mauriri prayed to the Goat
God for rain. Taute prayed to the Missionary God, and his two fellow
islanders, backsliding, invoked the deities of their old heathen days.
Grief grinned and considered. But Brown, wild-eyed, with protruding
blackened tongue, cursed. Especially he cursed the phonograph that
in the cool twilights ground out gospel hymns from the deck of the
_Rattler_. One hymn in particular, “Beyond the Smiling and the Weeping,”
 drove him to madness. It seemed a favourite on board the schooner, for
it was played most of all. Brown, hungry and thirsty, half out of
his head from weakness and suffering, could lie among the rocks with
equanimity and listen to the tinkling of ukuleles and guitars, and
the hulas and himines of the Huahine women. But when the voices of the
Trinity Choir floated over the water he was beside himself. One evening
the cracked tenor took up the song with the machine:

     “Beyond the smiling and the weeping,
        I shall be soon.
     Beyond the waking and the sleeping,
     Beyond the sowing and the reaping,
        I shall be soon,
        I shall be soon.”

Then it was that Brown rose up. Again and again, blindly, he emptied his
rifle at the schooner. Laughter floated up from the men and women, and
from the peninsula came a splattering of return bullets; but the cracked
tenor sang on, and Brown continued to fire, until the hymn was played
out.

It was that night that Grief and Mauriri came back with but one calabash
of water. A patch of skin six inches long was missing from Grief’s
shoulder in token of the scrape of the sandpaper hide of a shark whose
dash he had eluded.



VIII

In the early morning of another day, before the sun-blaze had gained its
full strength, came an offer of a parley from Raoul Van Asveld.

Brown brought the word in from the outpost among the rocks a hundred
yards away. Grief was squatted over a small fire, broiling a strip of
shark-flesh. The last twenty-four hours had been lucky. Seaweed and sea
urchins had been gathered. Tehaa had caught a shark, and Mauriri had
captured a fair-sized octopus at the base of the crevice where the
dynamite was stored. Then, too, in the darkness they had made two
successful swims for water before the tiger sharks had nosed them out.

“Said he’d like to come in and talk with you,” Brown said. “But I know
what the brute is after. Wants to see how near starved to death we are.”

“Bring him in,” Grief said.

“And then we will kill him,” the Goat Man cried joyously.

Grief shook his head.

“But he is a killer of men, Big Brother, a beast and a devil,” the Goat
Man protested.

“He must not be killed, Brother. It is our way not to break our word.”

“It is a foolish way.”

“Still it is our way,” Grief answered gravely, turning the strip of
shark-meat over on the coals and noting the hungry sniff and look of
Tehaa. “Don’t do that, Tehaa, when the Big Devil comes. Look as if you
and hunger were strangers. Here, cook those sea urchins, you, and you,
Big Brother, cook the squid. We will have the Big Devil to feast with
us. Spare nothing. Cook all.”

And, still broiling meat, Grief arose as Raoul Van Asveld, followed by a
large Irish terrier, strode into camp. Raoul did not make the mistake of
holding out his hand.

“Hello!” he said. “I’ve heard of you.”

“I wish I’d never heard of you,” Grief answered.

“Same here,” was the response. “At first, before I knew who it was,
I thought I had to deal with an ordinary trading captain. That’s why
you’ve got me bottled up.”

“And I am ashamed to say that I underrated you,” Grief smiled. “I took
you for a thieving beachcomber, and not for a really intelligent pirate
and murderer. Hence, the loss of my schooner. Honours are even, I fancy,
on that score.”

Raoul flushed angrily under his sunburn, but he contained himself. His
eyes roved over the supply of food and the full water-calabashes, though
he concealed the incredulous surprise he felt. His was a tall, slender,
well-knit figure, and Grief, studying him, estimated his character
from his face. The eyes were keen and strong, but a bit too close
together--not pinched, however, but just a trifle near to balance the
broad forehead, the strong chin and jaw, and the cheekbones wide apart.
Strength! His face was filled with it, and yet Grief sensed in it the
intangible something the man lacked.

“We are both strong men,” Raoul said, with a bow. “We might have been
fighting for empires a hundred years ago.”

It was Grief’s turn to bow.

“As it is, we are squalidly scrapping over the enforcement of the
colonial laws of those empires whose destinies we might possibly have
determined a hundred years ago.”

“It all comes to dust,” Raoul remarked sen-tentiously, sitting down. “Go
ahead with your meal. Don’t let me interrupt.”

“Won’t you join us?” was Grief’s invitation.

The other looked at him with sharp steadiness, then accepted.

“I’m sticky with sweat,” he said. “Can I wash?”

Grief nodded and ordered Mauriri to bring a calabash. Raoul looked into
the Goat Man’s eyes, but saw nothing save languid uninterest as the
precious quart of water was wasted on the ground.

“The dog is thirsty,” Raoul said.

Grief nodded, and another calabash was presented to the animal.

Again Raoul searched the eyes of the natives and learned nothing.

“Sorry we have no coffee,” Grief apologized. “You’ll have to drink plain
water. A calabash, Tehaa. Try some of this shark. There is squid to
follow, and sea urchins and a seaweed salad. I’m sorry we haven’t any
frigate bird. The boys were lazy yesterday, and did not try to catch
any.”

With an appetite that would not have stopped at wire nails dipped in
lard, Grief ate perfunctorily, and tossed the scraps to the dog.

“I’m afraid I haven’t got down to the primitive diet yet,” he sighed,
as he sat back. “The tinned goods on the _Rattler_, now I could make a
hearty meal off of them, but this muck----” He took a half-pound strip
of broiled shark and flung it to the dog. “I suppose I’ll come to it if
you don’t surrender pretty soon.”

Raoul laughed unpleasantly.

“I came to offer terms,” he said pointedly.

Grief shook his head.

“There aren’t any terms. I’ve got you where the hair is short, and I’m
not going to let go.”

“You think you can hold me in this hole!” Raoul cried.

“You’ll never leave it alive, except in double irons.” Grief surveyed
his guest with an air of consideration. “I’ve handled your kind before.
We’ve pretty well cleaned it out of the South Seas. But you are a--how
shall I say?--a sort of an anachronism. You’re a throwback, and we’ve
got to get rid of you. Personally, I would advise you to go back to the
schooner and blow your brains out. It is the only way to escape what
you’ve got coming to you.”

The parley, so far as Raoul was concerned, proved fruitless, and he went
back into his own lines convinced that the men on the Big Rock could
hold out for years, though he would have been swiftly unconvinced could
he have observed Tehaa and the Raiateans, the moment his back was
turned and he was out of sight, crawling over the rocks and sucking and
crunching the scraps his dog had left uneaten.



IX

“We hunger now, Brother,” Grief said, “but it is better than to hunger
for many days to come. The Big Devil, after feasting and drinking good
water with us in plenty, will not stay long in Fuatino. Even to-morrow
may he try to leave. To-night you and I sleep over the top of the Rock,
and Tehaa, who shoots well, will sleep with us if he can dare the Rock.”

Tehaa, alone among the Raiateans, was cragsman enough to venture the
perilous way, and dawn found him in a rock-barricaded nook, a hundred
yards to the right of Grief and Mauriri.

The first warning was the firing of rifles from the peninsula, where
Brown and his two Raiateans signalled the retreat and followed the
besiegers through the jungle to the beach. From the eyrie on the face
of the rock Grief could see nothing for another hour, when the _Rattler_
appeared, making for the passage. As before, the captive Fuatino men
towed in the whaleboat. Mauriri, under direction of Grief, called down
instructions to them as they passed slowly beneath. By Grief’s side
lay several bundles of dynamite sticks, well-lashed together and with
extremely short fuses.

The deck of the _Rattler_ was populous. For’ard, rifle in hand, among
the Raiatean sailors, stood a desperado whom Mauriri announced was
Raoul’s brother. Aft, by the helmsman, stood another. Attached to him,
tied waist to waist, with slack, was Mataara, the old Queen. On the
other side of the helmsman, his arm in a sling, was Captain Glass.
Amidships, as before, was Raoul, and with him, lashed waist to waist,
was Naumoo.

“Good morning, Mister David Grief,” Raoul called up.

“And yet I warned you that only in double irons would you leave the
island,” Grief murmured down with a sad inflection.

“You can’t kill all your people I have on board,” was the answer.

The schooner, moving slowly, jerk by jerk, as the men pulled in the
whaleboat, was almost directly beneath. The rowers, without ceasing,
slacked on their oars, and were immediately threatened with the rifle of
the man who stood for’ard.

“Throw, Big Brother!” Naumoo called up in the Fuatino tongue. “I am
filled with sorrow and am willed to die. His knife is ready with which
to cut the rope, but I shall hold him tight. Be not afraid, Big Brother.
Throw, and throw straight, and good-bye.”

Grief hesitated, then lowered the fire-stick which he had been blowing
bright.

“Throw!” the Goat Man urged.

Still Grief hesitated.

“If they get to sea, Big Brother, Naumoo dies just the same. And there
are all the others. What is her life against the many?”

“If you drop any dynamite, or fire a single shot, we’ll kill all on
board,” Raoul cried up to them. “I’ve got you, David Grief. You can’t
kill these people, and I can. Shut up, you!”

This last was addressed to Naumoo, who was calling up in her native
tongue and whom Raoul seized by the neck with one hand to choke
to silence. In turn, she locked both arms about him and looked up
beseechingly to Grief.

“Throw it, Mr. Grief, and be damned to them,” Captain Glass rumbled
in his deep voice. “They’re bloody murderers, and the cabin’s full of
them.”

The desperado who was fastened to the old Queen swung half about to
menace Captain Glass with his rifle, when Tehaa, from his position
farther along the Rock, pulled trigger on him. The rifle dropped from
the man’s hand, and on his face was an expression of intense surprise as
his legs crumpled under him and he sank down on deck, dragging the Queen
with him.

“Port! Hard a port!” Grief cried.

Captain Glass and the Kanaka whirled the wheel over, and the bow of the
_Rattler_ headed in for the Rock. Amidships Raoul still struggled with
Naumoo. His brother ran from for’ard to his aid, being missed by the
fusillade of quick shots from Tehaa and the Goat Man. As Raoul’s brother
placed the muzzle of his rifle to Naumoo’s side Grief touched the
fire-stick to the match-head in the split end of the fuse. Even as with
both hands he tossed the big bundle of dynamite, the rifle went off,
and Naumoo’s fall to the deck was simultaneous with the fall of the
dynamite. This time the fuse was short enough. The explosion occurred
at the instant the deck was reached, and that portion of the _Rattler_,
along with Raoul, his brother, and Naumoo, forever disappeared.

The schooner’s side was shattered, and she began immediately to settle.
For’ard, every Raiatean sailor dived overboard. Captain Glass met the
first man springing up the com-panionway from the cabin, with a kick
full in the face, but was overborne and trampled on by the rush.
Following the desperadoes came the Huahine women, and as they went
overboard, the _Rattler_ sank on an even keel close to the base of the
Rock. Her cross-trees still stuck out when she reached bottom.

Looking down, Grief could see all that occurred beneath the surface. He
saw Mataara, a fathom deep, unfasten herself from the dead pirate and
swim upward. As her head emerged she saw Captain Glass, who could not
swim, sinking several yards away. The Queen, old woman that she was,
but an islander, turned over, swam down to him, and held him up as she
struck out for the unsubmerged cross-trees.

Five heads, blond and brown, were mingled with the dark heads of
Polynesia that dotted the surface. Grief, rifle in hand, watched for a
chance to shoot. The Goat Man, after a minute, was successful, and they
saw the body of one man sink sluggishly. But to the Raiatean sailors,
big and brawny, half fish, was the vengeance given. Swimming swiftly,
they singled out the blond heads and the brown. Those from above watched
the four surviving desperadoes, clutched and locked, dragged far down
beneath and drowned like curs.

In ten minutes everything was over. The Huahine women, laughing and
giggling, were holding on to the sides of the whaleboat which had done
the towing. The Raiatean sailors, waiting for orders, were about the
cross-tree to which Captain Glass and Mataara clung.

“The poor old _Rattler_,” Captain Glass lamented.

“Nothing of the sort,” Grief answered. “In a week we’ll have her raised,
new timbers amidships, and we’ll be on our way.” And to the Queen, “How
is it with you, Sister?”

“Naumoo is gone, and Motauri, Brother, but Fuatino is ours again. The
day is young. Word shall be sent to all my people in the high places
with the goats. And to-night, once again, and as never before, we shall
feast and rejoice in the Big House.”

“She’s been needing new timbers abaft the beam there for years,” quoth
Captain Glass. “But the chronometers will be out of commission for the
rest of the cruise.”



Chapter Four--THE JOKERS OF NEW GIBBON



I

“I’m almost afraid to take you in to New Gibbon,” David Grief said. “It
wasn’t until you and the British gave me a free hand and let the place
alone that any results were accomplished.”

Wallenstein, the German Resident Commissioner from Bougainville, poured
himself a long Scotch and soda and smiled.

“We take off our hats to you, Mr. Grief,” he said in perfectly good
English. “What you have done on the devil island is a miracle. And we
shall continue not to interfere. It _is_ a devil island, and old Koho is
the big chief devil of them all. We never could bring him to terms. He
is a liar, and he is no fool. He is a black Napoleon, a head-hunting,
man-eating Talleyrand. I remember six years ago, when I landed there in
the British cruiser. The niggers cleared out for the bush, of course,
but we found several who couldn’t get away. One was his latest wife. She
had been hung up by one arm in the sun for two days and nights. We
cut her down, but she died just the same. And staked out in the fresh
running water, up to their necks, were three more women. All their bones
were broken and their joints crushed. The process is supposed to make
them tender for the eating. They were still alive. Their vitality was
remarkable. One woman, the oldest, lingered nearly ten days. Well, that
was a sample of Koho’s diet. No wonder he’s a wild beast. How you ever
pacified him is our everlasting puzzlement.”

“I wouldn’t call him exactly pacified,” Grief answered. “Though he comes
in once in a while and eats out of the hand.”

“That’s more than we accomplished with our cruisers. Neither the German
nor the English ever laid eyes on him. You were the first.”

“No; McTavish was the first,” Grief disclaimed.

“Ah, yes, I remember him--the little, dried-up Scotchman.” Wallenstein
sipped his whiskey. “He’s called the Trouble-mender, isn’t he?”

Grief nodded.

“And they say the screw you pay him is bigger than mine or the British
Resident’s?”

“I’m afraid it is,” Grief admitted. “You see, and no offence, he’s
really worth it. He spends his time wherever the trouble is. He is a
wizard. He’s the one who got me my lodgment on New Gibbon. He’s down on
Malaita now, starting a plantation for me.”

“The first?”

“There’s not even a trading station on all Malaita. The recruiters still
use covering boats and carry the old barbed wire above their rails.
There’s the plantation now. We’ll be in in half an hour.” He handed the
binoculars to his guest. “Those are the boat-sheds to the left of the
bungalow. Beyond are the barracks. And to the right are the copra-sheds.
We dry quite a bit already. Old Koho’s getting civilized enough to make
his people bring in the nuts. There’s the mouth of the stream where you
found the three women softening.”

The _Wonder_, wing-and-wing, was headed directly in for the anchorage.
She rose and fell lazily over a glassy swell flawed here and there by
catspaws from astern. It was the tail-end of the monsoon season, and the
air was heavy and sticky with tropic moisture, the sky a florid, leaden
muss of formless clouds. The rugged land was swathed with cloud-banks
and squall wreaths, through which headlands and interior peaks thrust
darkly. On one promontory a slant of sunshine blazed torridly, on
another, scarcely a mile away, a squall was bursting in furious downpour
of driving rain.

This was the dank, fat, savage island of New Gibbon, lying fifty miles
to leeward of Choiseul. Geographically, it belonged to the Solomon
Group. Politically, the dividing line of German and British
influence cut it in half, hence the joint control by the two Resident
Commissioners. In the case of New Gibbon, this control existed only on
paper in the colonial offices of the two countries. There was no real
control at all, and never had been. The bêche de mer fishermen of
the old days had passed it by. The sandalwood traders, after stern
experiences, had given it up. The blackbirders had never succeeded in
recruiting one labourer on the island, and, after the schooner _Dorset_
had been cut off with all hands, they left the place severely alone.
Later, a German company had attempted a cocoanut plantation, which was
abandoned after several managers and a number of contract labourers had
lost their heads. German cruisers and British cruisers had failed to
get the savage blacks to listen to reason. Four times the missionary
societies had essayed the peaceful conquest of the island, and four
times, between sickness and massacre, they had been driven away, More
cruisers, more pacifications, had followed, and followed fruitlessly.
The cannibals had always retreated into the bush and laughed at the
screaming shells. When the warships left it was an easy matter
to rebuild the burned grass houses and set up the ovens in the
old-fashioned way.

New Gibbon was a large island, fully one hundred and fifty miles long
and half as broad.

Its windward coast was iron-bound, without anchorages or inlets, and it
was inhabited by scores of warring tribes--at least it had been,
until Koho had arisen, like a Kamehameha, and, by force of arms and
considerable statecraft, firmly welded the greater portion of the tribes
into a confederation. His policy of permitting no intercourse with white
men had been eminently right, so far as survival of his own people was
concerned; and after the visit of the last cruiser he had had his own
way until David Grief and McTavish the Trouble-mender landed on the
deserted beach where once had stood the German bungalow and barracks and
the various English mission-houses.

Followed wars, false peaces, and more wars. The weazened little
Scotchman could make trouble as well as mend it, and, not content with
holding the beach, he imported bushmen from Malaita and invaded the
wild-pig runs of the interior jungle. He burned villages until Koho
wearied of rebuilding them, and when he captured Koho’s eldest son he
compelled a conference with the old chief. It was then that McTavish
laid down the rate of head-exchange. For each head of his own people
he promised to take ten of Koho’s. After Koho had learned that the
Scotchman was a man of his word, the first true peace was made. In
the meantime McTavish had built the bungalow and barracks, cleared the
jungle-land along the beach, and laid out the plantation. After that
he had gone on his way to mend trouble on the atoll of Tasman, where
a plague of black measles had broken out and been ascribed to Grief’s
plantation by the devil-devil doctors. Once, a year later, he had been
called back again to straighten up New Gibbon; and Koho, after paying a
forced fine of two hundred thousand cocoanuts, decided it was cheaper
to keep the peace and sell the nuts. Also, the fires of his youth
had burned down. He was getting old and limped of one leg where a
Lee-Enfield bullet had perforated the calf.



II

“I knew a chap in Hawaii,” Grief said, “superintendent of a sugar
plantation, who used a hammer and a ten-penny nail.”

They were sitting on the broad bungalow veranda, and watching Worth, the
manager of New Gibbon, doctoring the sick squad. They were New Georgia
boys, a dozen of them, and the one with the aching tooth had been put
back to the last. Worth had just failed in his first attempt. He wiped
the sweat from his forehead with one hand and waved the forceps with the
other.

“And broke more than one jaw,” he asserted grimly.

Grief shook his head. Wallenstein smiled and elevated his brows.

“He said not, at any rate,” Grief qualified. “He assured me,
furthermore, that he always succeeded on the first trial.”

“I saw it done when I was second mate on a lime-juicer,” Captain Ward
spoke up. “The old man used a caulking mallet and a steel marlin-spike.
He took the tooth out with the first stroke, too, clean as a whistle.”

“Me for the forceps,” Worth muttered grimly, inserting his own pair in
the mouth of the black. As he pulled, the man groaned and rose in the
air. “Lend a hand, somebody, and hold him down,” the manager appealed.

Grief and Wallenstein, on either side, gripped the black and held him.
And he, in turn, struggled against them and clenched his teeth on the
forceps. The group swayed back and forth. Such exertion, in the stagnant
heat, brought the sweat out on all of them. The black sweated, too, but
his was the sweat of excruciating pain. The chair on which he sat was
overturned. Captain Ward paused in the act of pouring himself a drink,
and called encouragement. Worth pleaded with his assistants to hang
on, and hung on himself, twisting the tooth till it crackled and then
attempting a straightaway pull.

Nor did any of them notice the little black man who limped up the steps
and stood looking on. Koho was a conservative. His fathers before him
had worn no clothes, and neither did he, not even a gee-string. The many
empty perforations in nose and lips and ears told of decorative passions
long since dead. The holes on both ear-lobes had been torn out, but
their size was attested by the strips of withered flesh that hung down
and swept his shoulders. He cared now only for utility, and in one of
the half dozen minor holes in his right ear he carried a short clay
pipe. Around his waist was buckled a cheap trade-belt, and between the
imitation leather and the naked skin was thrust the naked blade of a
long knife. Suspended from the belt was his bamboo betel-nut and lime
box. In his hand was a short-barrelled, large-bore Snider rifle. He
was indescribably filthy, and here and there marred by scars, the worst
being the one left by the Lee-Enfield bullet, which had withered the
calf to half the size of its mate. His shrunken mouth showed that few
teeth were left to serve him. Face and body were shrunken and withered,
but his black, bead-like eyes, small and close together, were very
bright, withal they were restless and querulous, and more like a
monkey’s than a man’s.

He looked on, grinning like a shrewd little ape. His joy in the torment
of the patient was natural, for the world he lived in was a world of
pain. He had endured his share of it, and inflicted far more than his
share on others. When the tooth parted from its locked hold in the jaw
and the forceps raked across the other teeth and out of the mouth with a
nerve-rasping sound, old Koho’s eyes fairly sparkled, and he looked
with glee at the poor black, collapsed on the veranda floor and groaning
terribly as he held his head in both his hands.

“I think he’s going to faint,” Grief said, bending over the victim.
“Captain Ward, give him a drink, please. You’d better take one yourself,
Worth; you’re shaking like a leaf.”

“And I think I’ll take one,” said Wallenstein, wiping the sweat from his
face. His eye caught the shadow of Koho on the floor and followed it up
to the old chief himself. “Hello! who’s this?”

“Hello, Koho!” Grief said genially, though he knew better than to offer
to shake hands.

It was one of Koho’s _tambos_, given him by the devil-devil doctors when
he was born, that never was his flesh to come in contact with the flesh
of a white man. Worth and Captain Ward, of the _Wonder_, greeted Koho,
but Worth frowned at sight of the Snider, for it was one of his _tambos_
that no visiting bushman should carry a weapon on the plantation. Rifles
had a nasty way of going off at the hip under such circumstances. The
manager clapped his hands, and a black house-boy, recruited from San
Cristobal, came running. At a sign from Worth, he took the rifle from
the visitor’s hand and carried it inside the bungalow.

“Koho,” Grief said, introducing the German Resident, “this big fella
marster belong Bougainville--my word, big fella marster too much.”

Koho, remembering the visits of the various German cruisers, smiled with
a light of unpleasant reminiscence in his eyes.

“Don’t shake hands with him, Wallenstein,” Grief warned. “_Tambo_, you
know.” Then to Koho, “My word, you get ‘m too much fat stop along you.
Bime by you marry along new fella Mary, eh?”

“Too old fella me,” Koho answered, with a weary shake of the head. “Me
no like ‘m Mary. Me no like ‘m _kai-kai_ (food). Close up me die along
altogether.” He stole a significant glance at Worth, whose head was
tilted back to a long glass. “Me like ‘m rum.”

Grief shook his head.

“_Tambo_ along black fella.”

“He black fella no tambo,” Koho retorted, nodding toward the groaning
labourer.

“He fella sick,” Grief explained.

“Me fella sick.”

“You fella big liar,” Grief laughed. “Rum tambo, all the time tambo.
Now, Koho, we have big fella talk along this big fella mar-ster.”

And he and Wallenstein and the old chief sat down on the veranda to
confer about affairs of state. Koho was complimented on the peace he
had kept, and he, with many protestations of his aged decrepitude, swore
peace again and everlasting. Then was discussed the matter of starting a
German plantation twenty miles down the coast. The land, of course, was
to be bought from Koho, and the price was arranged in terms of tobacco,
knives, beads, pipes, hatchets, porpoise teeth and shell-money--in terms
of everything except rum. While the talk went on, Koho, glancing through
the window, could see Worth mixing medicines and placing bottles back in
the medicine cupboard. Also, he saw the manager complete his labours by
taking a drink of Scotch. Koho noted the bottle carefully. And, though
he hung about for an hour after the conference was over, there was never
a moment when some one or another was not in the room. When Grief and
Worth sat down to a business talk, Koho gave it up.

“Me go along schooner,” he announced, then turned and limped out.

“How are the mighty fallen,” Grief laughed. “To think that used to be
Koho, the fiercest red-handed murderer in the Solomons, who defied all
his life two of the greatest world powers. And now he’s going aboard to
try and cadge Denby for a drink.”



III

For the last time in his life the supercargo of the _Wonder_ perpetrated
a practical joke on a native. He was in the main cabin, checking off the
list of goods being landed in the whaleboats, when Koho limped down the
com-panionway and took a seat opposite him at the table.

“Close up me die along altogether,” was the burden of the old chief’s
plaint. All the delights of the flesh had forsaken him. “Me no like
‘m Mary. Me no like ‘m _kai-kai_. Me too much sick fella. Me close up
finish.” A long, sad pause, in which his face expressed unutterable
concern for his stomach, which he patted gingerly and with an assumption
of pain. “Belly belong me too much sick.” Another pause, which was an
invitation to Denby to make suggestions. Then followed a long, weary,
final sigh, and a “Me like ‘m rum.”

Denby laughed heartlessly. He had been cadged for drinks before by the
old cannibal, and the sternest _tambo_ Grief and McTavish had laid down
was the one forbidding alcohol to the natives of New Gibbon.

The trouble was that Koho had acquired the taste. In his younger days
he had learned the delights of drunkenness when he cut off the schooner
_Dorset_, but unfortunately he had learned it along with all his
tribesmen, and the supply had not held out long. Later, when he led his
naked warriors down to the destruction of the German plantation, he was
wiser, and he appropriated all the liquors for his sole use. The result
had been a gorgeous mixed drunk, on a dozen different sorts of drink,
ranging from beer doctored with quinine to absinthe and apricot brandy.
The drunk had lasted for months, and it had left him with a thirst that
would remain with him until he died. Predisposed toward alcohol, after
the way of savages, all the chemistry of his flesh clamoured for it.
This craving was to him expressed in terms of tingling and sensation, of
maggots crawling warmly and deliciously in his brain, of good feeling,
and well being, and high exultation. And in his barren old age, when
women and feasting were a weariness, and when old hates had smouldered
down, he desired more and more the revivifying fire that came liquid out
of bottles--out of all sorts of bottles--for he remembered them well.
He would sit in the sun for hours, occasionally drooling, in mournful
contemplation of the great orgy which had been his when the German
plantation was cleaned out.

Denby was sympathetic. He sought out the old chief’s symptoms and
offered him dyspeptic tablets from the medicine chest, pills, and
a varied assortment of harmless tabloids and capsules. But Koho
steadfastly declined. Once, when he cut the _Dorset_ off, he had bitten
through a capsule of quinine; in addition, two of his warriors had
partaken of a white powder and laid down and died very violently in a
very short time. No; he did not believe in drugs. But the liquids from
bottles, the cool-flaming youth-givers and warm-glowing dream-makers. No
wonder the white men valued them so highly and refused to dispense them.

“Rum he good fella,” he repeated over and over, plaintively and with the
weary patience of age.

And then Denby made his mistake and played his joke. Stepping around
behind Koho, he unlocked the medicine closet and took out a four-ounce
bottle labelled _essence of mustard_. As he made believe to draw the
cork and drink of the contents, in the mirror on the for’ard bulkhead he
glimpsed Koho, twisted half around, intently watching him. Denby smacked
his lips and cleared his throat appreciatively as he replaced the
bottle. Neglecting to relock the medicine closet, he returned to his
chair, and, after a decent interval, went on deck. He stood beside the
companionway and listened. After several moments the silence below was
broken by a fearful, wheezing, propulsive, strangling cough. He smiled
to himself and returned leisurely down the companionway. The bottle was
back on the shelf where it belonged, and the old man sat in the same
position. Denby marvelled at his iron control. Mouth and lips and
tongue, and all sensitive membranes, were a blaze of fire. He gasped
and nearly coughed several times, while involuntary tears brimmed in
his eyes and ran down his cheeks. An ordinary man would have coughed and
strangled for half an hour. But old Koho’s face was grimly composed. It
dawned on him that a trick had been played, and into his eyes came an
expression of hatred and malignancy so primitive, so abysmal, that it
sent the chills up and down Denby’s spine. Koho arose proudly.

“Me go along,” he said. “You sing out one fella boat stop along me.”



IV

Having seen Grief and Worth start for a ride over the plantation,
Wallenstein sat down in the big living-room and with gun-oil and old
rags proceeded to take apart and clean his automatic pistol. On the
table beside him stood the inevitable bottle of Scotch and numerous soda
bottles. Another bottle, part full, chanced to stand there. It was also
labelled Scotch, but its content was liniment which Worth had mixed for
the horses and neglected to put away.

As Wallenstein worked, he glanced through the window and saw Koho coming
up the compound path. He was limping very rapidly, but when he came
along the veranda and entered the room his gait was slow and dignified.
He sat down and watched the gun-cleaning, Though mouth and lips and
tongue were afire, he gave no sign. At the end of five minutes he spoke.

“Rum he good fella. Me like ‘m rum.” Wallenstein smiled and shook his
head, and then it was that his perverse imp suggested what was to be his
last joke on a native. The similarity of the two bottles was the real
suggestion. He laid his pistol parts on the table and mixed himself
a long drink. Standing as he did between Koho and the table, he
interchanged the two bottles, drained his glass, made as if to search
for something, and left the room. From outside he heard the surprised
splutter and cough; but when he returned the old chief sat as before.
The liniment in the bottle, however, was lower, and it still oscillated.

Koho stood up, clapped his hands, and, when the house-boy answered,
signed that he desired his rifle. The boy fetched the weapon, and
according to custom preceded the visitor down the pathway. Not
until outside the gate did the boy turn the rifle over to its owner.
Wallenstein, chuckling to himself, watched the old chief limp along the
beach in the direction of the river.

A few minutes later, as he put his pistol together, Wallenstein heard
the distant report of a gun. For the instant he thought of Koho, then
dismissed the conjecture from his mind. Worth and Grief had taken
shotguns with them, and it was probably one of their shots at a pigeon.
Wallenstein lounged back in his chair, chuckled, twisted his yellow
mustache, and dozed. He was aroused by the excited voice of Worth,
crying out:

“Ring the big fella bell! Ring plenty too much! Ring like hell!”

Wallenstein gained the veranda in time to see the manager jump his horse
over the low fence of the compound and dash down the beach after Grief,
who was riding madly ahead. A loud crackling and smoke rising through
the cocoanut trees told the story. The boat-houses and the barracks
were on fire. The big plantation bell was ringing wildly as the German
Resident ran down the beach, and he could see whaleboats hastily putting
off from the schooner.

Barracks and boat-houses, grass-thatched and like tinder, were wrapped
in flames. Grief emerged from the kitchen, carrying a naked black child
by the leg. Its head was missing.

“The cook’s in there,” he told Worth. “Her head’s gone, too. She was too
heavy, and I had to clear out.”

“It was my fault,” Wallenstein said. “Old Koho did it. But I let him
take a drink of Worth’s horse liniment.”

“I guess he’s headed for the bush,” Worth said, springing astride his
horse and starting. “Oliver is down there by the river. Hope he didn’t
get _him_.”

The manager galloped away through the trees. A few minutes later, as
the charred wreck of the barracks crashed in, they heard him calling and
followed. On the edge of the river bank they came upon him. He still sat
on his horse, very white-faced, and gazed at something on the ground. It
was the body of Oliver, the young assistant manager, though it was hard
to realize it, for the head was gone. The black labourers, breathless
from their run in from the fields, were now crowding around, and under
conches to-night, and the war-drums, “all merry hell will break loose.
They won’t rush us, but keep all the boys close up to the house, Mr.
Worth. Come on!”

As they returned along the path they came upon a black who whimpered and
cried vociferously.

“Shut up mouth belong you!” Worth shouted. “What name you make ‘m
noise?”

“Him fella Koho finish along two fella bulla-macow,” the black answered,
drawing a forefinger significantly across his throat.

“He’s knifed the cows,” Grief said. “That means no more milk for some
time for you, Worth. I’ll see about sending a couple up from Ugi.”

Wallenstein proved inconsolable, until Denby, coming ashore, confessed
to the dose of essence of mustard. Thereat the German Resident became
even cheerful, though he twisted his yellow mustache up more fiercely
and continued to curse the Solomons with oaths culled from four
languages.

Next morning, visible from the masthead of the _Wonder_, the bush
was alive with signal-smokes. From promontory to promontory, and back
through the solid jungle, the smoke-pillars curled and puffed and
talked. Remote villages on the higher peaks, beyond the farthest raids
McTavish had ever driven, joined in the troubled conversation. From
across the river persisted a bedlam of conches; while from everywhere,
drifting for miles along the quiet air, came the deep, booming
reverberations of the great war-drums--huge tree trunks, hollowed by
fire and carved with tools of stone and shell. “You’re all right as long
as you stay close,” Grief told his manager. “I’ve got to get along
to Guvutu. They won’t come out in the open and attack you. Keep the
work-gangs close. Stop the clearing till this blows over. They’ll get
any detached gangs you send out. And, whatever you do, don’t be fooled
into going into the bush after Koho. If you do, he’ll get you. All
you’ve got to do is wait for McTavish. I’ll send him up with a bunch of
his Malaita bush-men. He’s the only man who can go inside. Also, until
he comes, I’ll leave Denby with you. You don’t mind, do you, Mr. Denby?
I’ll send McTavish up with the _Wanda_, and you can go back on her and
rejoin the _Wonder_. Captain Ward can manage without you for a trip.”

“It was just what I was going to volunteer,” Denby answered. “I never
dreamed all this muss would be kicked up over a joke. You see, in a way
I consider myself responsible for it.”

“So am I responsible,” Wallenstein broke in.

“But I started it,” the supercargo urged.

“Maybe you did, but I carried it along.”

“And Koho finished it,” Grief said.

“At any rate, I, too, shall remain,” said the German.

“I thought you were coming to Guvutu with me,” Grief protested.

“I was. But this is my jurisdiction, partly, and I have made a fool of
myself in it completely. I shall remain and help get things straight
again.”

At Guvutu, Grief sent full instructions to McTavish by a recruiting
ketch which was just starting for Malaita. Captain Ward sailed in the
_Wonder_ for the Santa Cruz Islands; and Grief, borrowing a whaleboat
and a crew of black prisoners from the British Resident, crossed the
channel to Guadalcanar, to examine the grass lands back of Penduffryn.

Three weeks later, with a free sheet and a lusty breeze, he threaded the
coral patches and surged up the smooth water to Guvutu anchorage. The
harbour was deserted, save for a small ketch which lay close in to the
shore reef. Grief recognized it as the _Wanda_. She had evidently just
got in by the Tulagi Passage, for her black crew was still at work
furling the sails. As he rounded alongside, McTavish himself extended a
hand to help him over the rail.

“What’s the matter?” Grief asked. “Haven’t you started yet?”

McTavish nodded. “And got back. Everything’s all right on board.”

“How’s New Gibbon?”

“All there, the last I saw of it, barrin’ a few inconsequential frills
that a good eye could make out lacking from the landscape.”

He was a cold flame of a man, small as Koho, and as dried up, with a
mahogany complexion and small, expressionless blue eyes that were more
like gimlet-points than the eyes of a Scotchman. Without fear, without
enthusiasm, impervious to disease and climate and sentiment, he was lean
and bitter and deadly as a snake. That his present sour look boded ill
news, Grief was well aware.

“Spit it out!” he said. “What’s happened?”

“‘Tis a thing severely to be condemned, a damned shame, this joking with
heathen niggers,” was the reply. “Also, ‘tis very expensive. Come below,
Mr. Grief. You’ll be better for the information with a long glass in
your hand. After you.”

“How did you settle things?” his employer demanded as soon as they were
seated in the cabin.

The little Scotchman shook his head. “There was nothing to settle. It
all depends how you look at it. The other way would be to say it was
settled, entirely settled, mind you, before I got there.”

“But the plantation, man? The plantation?”

“No plantation. All the years of our work have gone for naught. ‘Tis
back where we started, where the missionaries started, where the Germans
started--and where they finished. Not a stone stands on another at the
landing pier. The houses are black ashes. Every tree is hacked down, and
the wild pigs are rooting out the yams and sweet potatoes. Those boys
from New Georgia, a fine bunch they were, five score of them, and they
cost you a pretty penny. Not one is left to tell the tale.”

He paused and began fumbling in a large locker under the
companion-steps.

“But Worth? And Denby? And Wallenstein?”

“That’s what I’m telling you. Take a look.”

McTavish dragged out a sack made of rice matting and emptied its
contents on the floor. David Grief pulled himself together with a jerk,
for he found himself gazing fascinated at the heads of the three men he
had left at New Gibbon. The yellow mustache of Wallenstein had lost its
fierce curl and drooped and wilted on the upper lip.

“I don’t know how it happened,” the Scotchman’s voice went on drearily.
“But I surmise they went into the bush after the old devil.”

“And where is Koho?” Grief asked.

“Back in the bush and drunk as a lord. That’s how I was able to recover
the heads. He was too drunk to stand. They lugged him on their backs out
of the village when I rushed it. And if you’ll relieve me of the heads,
I’ll be well obliged.” He paused and sighed. “I suppose they’ll have
regular funerals over them and put them in the ground. But in my way of
thinking they’d make excellent curios. Any respectable museum would pay
a hundred quid apiece. Better have another drink. You’re looking a bit
pale---- There, put that down you, and if you’ll take my advice, Mr.
Grief, I would say, set your face sternly against any joking with
the niggers. It always makes trouble, and it is a very expensive
divertisement.”



Chapter Five--A LITTLE ACCOUNT WITH SWITHIN HALL



I

With a last long scrutiny at the unbroken circle of the sea, David Grief
swung out of the cross-trees and slowly and dejectedly descended the
ratlines to the deck.

“Leu-Leu Atoll is sunk, Mr. Snow,” he said to the anxious-faced young
mate. “If there is anything in navigation, the atoll is surely under the
sea, for we’ve sailed clear over it twice--or the spot where it ought to
be. It’s either that or the chronometer’s gone wrong, or I’ve forgotten
my navigation.”

“It must be the chronometer, sir,” the mate reassured his owner. “You
know I made separate sights and worked them up, and that they agreed
with yours.”

“Yes,” Grief muttered, nodding glumly, “and where your Summer lines
crossed, and mine, too, was the dead centre of Leu-Leu Atoll. It must be
the chronometer--slipped a cog or something.”

He made a short pace to the rail and back, and cast a troubled eye at
the _Uncle Toby’s_ wake. The schooner, with a fairly strong breeze on
her quarter, was logging nine or ten knots.

“Better bring her up on the wind, Mr. Snow. Put her under easy sail and
let her work to windward on two-hour legs. It’s thickening up, and I
don’t imagine we can get a star observation to-night; so we’ll just hold
our weather position, get a latitude sight to-morrow, and run Leu-Leu
down on her own latitude. That’s the way all the old navigators did.”

Broad of beam, heavily sparred, with high freeboard and bluff, Dutchy
bow, the _Uncle Toby_ was the slowest, tubbiest, safest, and most
fool-proof schooner David Grief possessed. Her run was in the Banks and
Santa Cruz groups and to the northwest among the several isolated atolls
where his native traders collected copra, hawksbill turtle, and
an occasional ton of pearl shell. Finding the skipper down with a
particularly bad stroke of fever, Grief had relieved him and taken the
_Uncle Toby_ on her semiannual run to the atolls. He had elected to make
his first call at Leu-Leu, which lay farthest, and now found himself
lost at sea with a chronometer that played tricks.



II

No stars showed that night, nor was the sun visible next day. A stuffy,
sticky calm obtained, broken by big wind-squalls and heavy downpours.
From fear of working too far to windward, the Uncle Toby was hove to,
and four days and nights of cloud-hidden sky followed. Never did the sun
appear, and on the several occasions that stars broke through they were
too dim and fleeting for identification. By this time it was patent to
the veriest tyro that the elements were preparing to break loose. Grief,
coming on deck from consulting the barometer, which steadfastly remained
at 29.90, encountered Jackie-Jackie, whose face was as brooding
and troublous as the sky and air. Jackie-Jackie, a Tongan sailor of
experience, served as a sort of bosun and semi-second mate over the
mixed Kanaka crew.

“Big weather he come, I think,” he said. “I see him just the same before
maybe five, six times.”

Grief nodded. “Hurricane weather, all right, Jackie-Jackie. Pretty soon
barometer go down--bottom fall out.”

“Sure,” the Tongan concurred. “He goin’ to blow like hell.”

Ten minutes later Snow came on deck.

“She’s started,” he said; “29.85, going down and pumping at the same
time. It’s stinking hot--don’t you notice it?” He brushed his forehead
with his hands. “It’s sickening. I could lose my breakfast without
trying.”

Jackie-Jackie grinned. “Just the same me. Everything inside walk about.
Always this way before big blow. But _Uncle Toby_ all right. He go
through anything.”

“Better rig that storm-trysail on the main, and a storm-jib,” Grief said
to the mate. “And put all the reefs into the working canvas before you
furl down. No telling what we may need. Put on double gaskets while
you’re about it.”

In another hour, the sultry oppressiveness steadily increasing and the
stark calm still continuing, the barometer had fallen to 29.70. The
mate, being young, lacked the patience of waiting for the portentous. He
ceased his restless pacing, and waved his arms.

“If she’s going to come let her come!” he cried. “There’s no use
shilly-shallying this way! Whatever the worst is, let us know it and
have it! A pretty pickle--lost with a crazy chronometer and a hurricane
that won’t blow!”

The cloud-mussed sky turned to a vague copper colour, and seemed to
glow as the inside of a huge heated caldron. Nobody remained below. The
native sailors formed in anxious groups amidships and for’ard, where
they talked in low voices and gazed apprehensively at the ominous
sky and the equally ominous sea that breathed in long, low, oily
undulations.

“Looks like petroleum mixed with castor oil,” the mate grumbled, as he
spat his disgust overside. “My mother used to dose me with messes like
that when I was a kid. Lord, she’s getting black!”

The lurid coppery glow had vanished, and the sky thickened and lowered
until the darkness was as that of a late twilight. David Grief, who
well knew the hurricane rules, nevertheless reread the “Laws of Storms,”
 screwing his eyes in the faint light in order to see the print. There
was nothing to be done save wait for the wind, so that he might know
how he lay in relation to the fast-flying and deadly centre that from
somewhere was approaching out of the gloom.

It was three in the afternoon, and the glass had sunk to 29:45, when
the wind came. They could see it on the water, darkening the face of the
sea, crisping tiny whitecaps as it rushed along. It was merely a stiff
breeze, and the _Uncle Toby_, filling away under her storm canvas till
the wind was abeam, sloshed along at a four-knot gait.

“No weight to that,” Snow sneered. “And after such grand preparation!”

“Pickaninny wind,” Jackie-Jackie agreed. “He grow big man pretty quick,
you see.”

Grief ordered the foresail put on, retaining the reefs, and the _Uncle
Toby_ mended her pace in the rising breeze. The wind quickly grew to
man’s size, but did not stop there. It merely blew hard, and harder, and
kept on blowing harder, advertising each increase by lulls followed by
fierce, freshening gusts. Ever it grew, until the _Uncle Toby’s_ rail
was more often pressed under than not, while her waist boiled with
foaming water which the scuppers could not carry off. Grief studied the
barometer, still steadily falling.

“The centre is to the southward,” he told Snow, “and we’re running
across its path and into it. Now we’ll turn about and run the other way.
That ought to bring the glass up. Take in the foresail--it’s more than
she can carry already--and stand by to wear her around.”

The maneuver was accomplished, and through the gloom that was almost
that of the first darkness of evening the _Uncle Toby_ turned and raced
madly north across the face of the storm.

“It’s nip and tuck,” Grief confided to the mate a couple of hours
later. “The storm’s swinging a big curve--there’s no calculating that
curve--and we may win across or the centre may catch us. Thank the Lord,
the glass is holding its own. It all depends on how big the curve is.
The sea’s too big for us to keep on. Heave her to! She’ll keep working
along out anyway.”

“I thought I knew what wind was,” Snow shouted in his owner’s ear next
morning. “This isn’t wind. It’s something unthinkable. It’s impossible.
It must reach ninety or a hundred miles an hour in the gusts. That don’t
mean anything. How could I ever tell it to anybody? I couldn’t. And look
at that sea! I’ve run my Easting down, but I never saw anything like
that.”

Day had come, and the sun should have been up an hour, yet the best
it could produce was a sombre semi-twilight. The ocean was a stately
procession of moving mountains. A third of a mile across yawned the
valleys between the great waves. Their long slopes, shielded somewhat
from the full fury of the wind, were broken by systems of smaller
whitecapping waves, but from the high crests of the big waves themselves
the wind tore the whitecaps in the forming. This spume drove masthead
high, and higher, horizontally, above the surface of the sea.

“We’re through the worst,” was Grief’s judgment. “The glass is coming
along all the time. The sea will get bigger as the wind eases down. I’m
going to turn in. Watch for shifts in the wind. They’ll be sure to come.
Call me at eight bells.”

By mid-afternoon, in a huge sea, with the wind after its last shift no
more than a stiff breeze, the Tongan bosun sighted a schooner bottom
up. The _Uncle Toby’s_ drift took them across the bow and they could
not make out the name; but before night they picked up with a small,
round-bottom, double-ender boat, swamped but with white lettering
visible on its bow. Through the binoculars, Gray made out: _Emily L No.
3_.

“A sealing schooner,” Grief said. “But what a sealer’s doing in these
waters is beyond me.”

“Treasure-hunters, maybe?” Snow speculated. “The _Sophie Sutherland_ and
the _Herman_ were sealers, you remember, chartered out of San Francisco
by the chaps with the maps who can always go right to the spot until
they get there and don’t.”



III

After a giddy night of grand and lofty tumbling, in which, over a big
and dying sea, without a breath of wind to steady her, the Uncle Toby
rolled every person on board sick of soul, a light breeze sprang up
and the reefs were shaken out. By midday, on a smooth ocean floor, the
clouds thinned and cleared and sights of the sun were obtained. Two
degrees and fifteen minutes south, the observation gave them. With a
broken chronometer longitude was out of the question.

“We’re anywhere within five hundred and a thousand miles along that
latitude line,” Grief remarked, as he and the mate bent over the chart.

“Leu-Leu is to the south’ard somewhere, and this section of ocean is all
blank. There is neither an island nor a reef by which we can regulate
the chronometer. The only thing to do--”

“Land ho, skipper!” the Tongan called down the companionway.

Grief took a quick glance at the empty blank of the chart, whistled his
surprise, and sank back feebly in a chair.

“It gets me,” he said. “There can’t be land around here. We never
drifted or ran like that. The whole voyage has been crazy. Will you
kindly go up, Mr. Snow, and see what’s ailing Jackie.”

“It’s land all right,” the mate called down a minute afterward. “You can
see it from the deck--tops of cocoanuts--an atoll of some sort. Maybe
it’s Leu-Leu after all.”

Grief shook his head positively as he gazed at the fringe of palms, only
the tops visible, apparently rising out of the sea.

“Haul up on the wind, Mr. Snow, close-and-by, and we’ll take a look.
We can just reach past to the south, and if it spreads off in that
direction we’ll hit the southwest corner.”

Very near must palms be to be seen from the low deck of a schooner, and,
slowly as the _Uncle Toby_ sailed, she quickly raised the low land above
the sea, while more palms increased the definition of the atoll circle.

“She’s a beauty,” the mate remarked. “A perfect circle.... Looks as if
it might be eight or nine miles across.... Wonder if there’s an entrance
to the lagoon.... Who knows? Maybe it’s a brand new find.”

They coasted up the west side of the atoll, making short tacks in to
the surf-pounded coral rock and out again. From the masthead, across
the palm-fringe, a Kanaka announced the lagoon and a small island in the
middle.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Grief said to his mate.

Snow, who had been muttering and shaking his head, looked up with quick
and challenging incredulity.

“You’re thinking the entrance will be on the northwest.” Grief went on,
as if reciting.

“Two cable lengths wide, marked on the north by three separated
cocoanuts, and on the south by pandanus trees. Eight miles in diameter,
a perfect circle, with an island in the dead centre.”

“I _was_ thinking that,” Snow acknowledged.

“And there’s the entrance opening up just where it ought to be----”

“And the three palms,” Snow almost whispered, “and the pandanus trees.
If there’s a windmill on the island, it’s it--Swithin Hall’s island. But
it can’t be. Everybody’s been looking for it for the last ten years.”

“Hall played you a dirty trick once, didn’t he?” Grief queried.

Snow nodded. “That’s why I’m working for you. He broke me flat. It was
downright robbery. I bought the wreck of the _Cascade_, down in Sydney,
out of a first instalment of a legacy from home.”

“She went on Christmas Island, didn’t she?”

“Yes, full tilt, high and dry, in the night. They saved the passengers
and mails. Then I bought a little island schooner, which took the rest
of my money, and I had to wait the final payment by the executors to fit
her out. What did Swithin Hall do--he was at Honolulu at the time--but
make a straightaway run for Christmas Island. Neither right nor title
did he have. When I got there, the hull and engines were all that was
left of the _Cascade_. She had had a fair shipment of silk on board,
too. And it wasn’t even damaged. I got it afterward pretty straight from
his supercargo. He cleared something like sixty thousand dollars.”

Snow shrugged his shoulders and gazed bleakly at the smooth surface of
the lagoon, where tiny wavelets danced in the afternoon sun.

“The wreck was mine. I bought her at public auction. I’d gambled big,
and I’d lost. When I got back to Sydney, the crew, and some of the
tradesmen who’d extended me credit, libelled the schooner. I pawned
my watch and sextant, and shovelled coal one spell, and finally got a
billet in the New Hebrides on a screw of eight pounds a month. Then I
tried my luck as independent trader, went broke, took a mate’s billet on
a recruiter down to Tanna and over to Fiji, got a job as overseer on a
German plantation back of Apia, and finally settled down on the _Uncle
Toby_.”

“Have you ever met Swithin Hall?”

Snow shook his head.

“Well, you’re likely to meet him now. There’s the windmill.”

In the centre of the lagoon, as they emerged from the passage, they
opened a small, densely wooded island, among the trees of which a large
Dutch windmill showed plainly.

“Nobody at home from the looks of it,” Grief said, “or you might have a
chance to collect.”

The mate’s face set vindictively, and his fists clenched.

“Can’t touch him legally. He’s got too much money now. But I can take
sixty thousand dollars’ worth out of his hide. I hope he is at home.”

“Then I hope he is, too,” Grief said, with an appreciative smile. “You
got the description of his island from Bau-Oti, I suppose?”

“Yes, as pretty well everybody else has. The trouble is that Bau-Oti
can’t give latitude or longitude. Says they sailed a long way from the
Gilberts--that’s all he knows. I wonder what became of him.”

“I saw him a year ago on the beach at Tahiti. Said he was thinking about
shipping for a cruise through the Paumotus. Well, here we are, getting
close in. Heave the lead, Jackie-Jackie. Stand by to let go, Mr. Snow.
According to Bau-Oti, anchorage three hundred yards off the west shore
in nine fathoms, coral patches to the southeast. There are the patches.
What do you get, Jackie?”

“Nine fadom.”

“Let go, Mr. Snow.”

The _Uncle Toby_ swung to her chain, head-sails ran down, and the Kanaka
crew sprang to fore and main-halyards and sheets.



IV

The whaleboat laid alongside the small, coral-stone landing-pier, and
David Grief and his mate stepped ashore.

“You’d think the place deserted,” Grief said, as they walked up a sanded
path to the bungalow. “But I smell a smell that I’ve often smelled.
Something doing, or my nose is a liar. The lagoon is carpeted with
shell. They’re rotting the meat out not a thousand miles away. Get that
whiff?”

Like no bungalow in the tropics was this bungalow of Swithin Hall. Of
mission architecture, when they had entered through the unlatched screen
door they found decoration and furniture of the same mission style. The
floor of the big living-room was covered with the finest Samoan mats.
There were couches, window seats, cozy corners, and a billiard table. A
sewing table, and a sewing-basket, spilling over with sheer linen in the
French embroidery of which stuck a needle, tokened a woman’s presence.
By screen and veranda the blinding sunshine was subdued to a cool, dim
radiance. The sheen of pearl push-buttons caught Grief’s eye.

“Storage batteries, by George, run by the windmill!” he exclaimed as he
pressed the buttons. “And concealed lighting!”

Hidden bowls glowed, and the room was filled with diffused golden light.
Many shelves of books lined the walls. Grief fell to running over
their titles. A fairly well-read man himself, for a sea-adventurer, he
glimpsed a wide-ness of range and catholicity of taste that were beyond
him. Old friends he met, and others that he had heard of but never read.
There were complete sets of Tolstoy, Turgenieff, and Gorky; of Cooper
and Mark Twain; of Hugo, and Zola, and Sue; and of Flaubert, De
Maupassant, and Paul de Koch. He glanced curiously at the pages of
Metchnikoff, Weininger, and Schopenhauer, and wonderingly at those
of Ellis, Lydston, Krafft-Ebbing, and Forel. Woodruff’s “Expansion of
Races” was in his hands when Snow returned from further exploration of
the house.

“Enamelled bath-tub, separate room for a shower, and a sitz-bath!” he
exclaimed. “Fitted up for a king! And I reckon some of my money went to
pay for it. The place must be occupied. I found fresh-opened butter and
milk tins in the pantry, and fresh turtle-meat hanging up. I’m going to
see what else I can find.”

Grief, too, departed, through a door that led out of the opposite end
of the living-room. He found himself in a self-evident woman’s bedroom.
Across it, he peered through a wire-mesh door into a screened and
darkened sleeping porch. On a couch lay a woman asleep. In the soft
light she seemed remarkably beautiful in a dark Spanish way. By her
side, opened and face downward, a novel lay on a chair. From the
colour in her cheeks, Grief concluded that she had not been long in the
tropics. After the one glimpse he stole softly back, in time to see Snow
entering the living-room through the other door. By the naked arm he was
clutching an age-wrinkled black who grinned in fear and made signs of
dumbness.

“I found him snoozing in a little kennel out back,” the mate said. “He’s
the cook, I suppose. Can’t get a word out of him. What did you find?”

“A sleeping princess. S-sh! There’s somebody now.”

“If it’s Hall,” Snow muttered, clenching his fist.

Grief shook his head. “No rough-house. There’s a woman here. And if it
is Hall, before we go I’ll maneuver a chance for you to get action.”

The door opened, and a large, heavily built man entered. In his belt was
a heavy, long-barrelled Colt’s. One quick, anxious look he gave them,
then his face wreathed in a genial smile and his hand was extended.

“Welcome, strangers. But if you don’t mind my asking, how, by all that’s
sacred, did you ever manage to find my island?”

“Because we were out of our course,” Grief answered, shaking hands.

“My name’s Hall, Swithin Hall,” the other said, turning to shake Snow’s
hand. “And I don’t mind telling you that you’re the first visitors I’ve
ever had.”

“And this is your secret island that’s had all the beaches talking for
years?” Grief answered. “Well, I know the formula now for finding it.”

“How’s that?” Hall asked quickly.

“Smash your chronometer, get mixed up with a hurricane, and then keep
your eyes open for cocoanuts rising out of the sea.”

“And what is your name?” Hall asked, after he had laughed perfunctorily.

“Anstey--Phil Anstey,” Grief answered promptly. “Bound on the _Uncle
Toby_ from the Gilberts to New Guinea, and trying to find my longitude.
This is my mate, Mr. Gray, a better navigator than I, but who has lost
his goat just the same to the chronometer.”

Grief did not know his reason for lying, but he had felt the prompting
and succumbed to it. He vaguely divined that something was wrong, but
could not place his finger on it. Swithin Hall was a fat, round-faced
man, with a laughing lip and laughter-wrinkles in the corners of his
eyes. But Grief, in his early youth, had learned how deceptive this type
could prove, as well as the deceptiveness of blue eyes that screened the
surface with fun and hid what went on behind.

“What are you doing with my cook?--lost yours and trying to shanghai
him?” Hall was saying. “You’d better let him go, if you’re going to have
any supper. My wife’s here, and she’ll be glad to meet you--dinner, she
calls it, and calls me down for misnaming it, but I’m old fashioned. My
folks always ate dinner in the middle of the day. Can’t get over early
training. Don’t you want to wash up? I do. Look at me. I’ve been working
like a dog--out with the diving crew--shell, you know. But of course you
smelt it.”



V

Snow pleaded charge of the schooner, and went on board. In addition to
his repugnance at breaking salt with the man who had robbed him, it was
necessary for him to impress the in-violableness of Grief’s lies on the
Kanaka crew. By eleven o’clock Grief came on board, to find his mate
waiting up for him.

“There’s something doing on Swithin Hall’s island,” Grief said, shaking
his head. “I can’t make out what it is, but I get the feel of it. What
does Swithin Hall look like?”

Snow shook his head.

“That man ashore there never bought the books on the shelves,” Grief
declared with conviction. “Nor did he ever go in for concealed lighting.
He’s got a surface flow of suavity, but he’s rough as a hoof-rasp
underneath. He’s an oily bluff. And the bunch he’s got with him--Watson
and Gorman their names are; they came in after you left--real sea-dogs,
middle-aged, marred and battered, tough as rusty wrought-iron nails and
twice as dangerous; real ugly customers, with guns in their belts, who
don’t strike me as just the right sort to be on such comradely terms
with Swithin Hall. And the woman! She’s a lady. I mean it. She knows a
whole lot of South America, and of China, too. I’m sure she’s Spanish,
though her English is natural. She’s travelled. We talked bull-fights.
She’s seen them in Guayaquil, in Mexico, in Seville. She knows a lot
about sealskins.

“Now here’s what bothers me. She knows music. I asked her if she played.
And he’s fixed that place up like a palace. That being so, why hasn’t
he a piano for her? Another thing: she’s quick and lively and he watches
her whenever she talks. He’s on pins and needles, and continually
breaking in and leading the conversation. Say, did you ever hear that
Swithin Hall was married?”

“Bless me, I don’t know,” the mate replied. “Never entered my head to
think about it.”

“He introduced her as Mrs. Hall. And Watson and Gorman call him Hall.
They’re a precious pair, those two men. I don’t understand it at all.”

“What are you going to do about it?” Snow asked.

“Oh, hang around a while. There are some books ashore there I want to
read. Suppose you send that topmast down in the morning and generally
overhaul. We’ve been through a hurricane, you know. Set up the rigging
while you’re about it. Get things pretty well adrift, and take your
time.”



VI

The next day Grief’s suspicions found further food. Ashore early,
he strolled across the little island to the barracks occupied by the
divers.

They were just boarding the boats when he arrived, and it struck him
that for Kanakas they behaved more like chain-gang prisoners. The three
white men were there, and Grief noted that each carried a rifle. Hall
greeted him jovially enough, but Gorman and Watson scowled as they
grunted curt good mornings.

A moment afterward one of the Kanakas, as he bent to place his oar,
favoured Grief with a slow, deliberate wink. The man’s face was
familiar, one of the thousands of native sailors and divers he had
encountered drifting about in the island trade.

“Don’t tell them who I am,” Grief said, in Tahitian. “Did you ever sail
for me?”

The man’s head nodded and his mouth opened, but before he could speak
he was suppressed by a savage “Shut up!” from Watson, who was already in
the sternsheets.

“I beg pardon,” Grief said. “I ought to have known better.”

“That’s all right,” Hall interposed. “The trouble is they’re too much
talk and not enough work. Have to be severe with them, or they wouldn’t
get enough shell to pay their grub.”

Grief nodded sympathetically. “I know them. Got a crew of them
myself--the lazy swine. Got to drive them like niggers to get a
half-day’s work out of them.”

“What was you sayin’ to him?” Gorman blurted in bluntly.

“I was asking how the shell was, and how deep they were diving.”

“Thick,” Hall took over the answering. “We’re working now in about ten
fathom. It’s right out there, not a hundred yards off. Want to come
along?”

Half the day Grief spent with the boats, and had lunch in the bungalow.
In the afternoon he loafed, taking a siesta in the big living-room,
reading some, and talking for half an hour with Mrs. Hall. After dinner,
he played billiards with her husband. It chanced that Grief had never
before encountered Swithin Hall, yet the latter’s fame as an expert at
billiards was the talk of the beaches from Levuka to Honolulu. But the
man Grief played with this night proved most indifferent at the game.
His wife showed herself far cleverer with the cue.

When he went on board the _Uncle Toby_ Grief routed Jackie-Jackie out of
bed. He described the location of the barracks, and told the Tongan
to swim softly around and have talk with the Kanakas. In two hours
Jackie-Jackie was back. He shook his head as he stood dripping before
Grief.

“Very funny t’ing,” he reported. “One white man stop all the time. He
has big rifle. He lay in water and watch. Maybe twelve o’clock, other
white man come and take rifle. First white man go to bed. Other man stop
now with rifle. No good. Me cannot talk with Kanakas. Me come back.”

“By George!” Grief said to Snow, after the Tongan had gone back to his
bunk. “I smell something more than shell. Those three men are standing
watches over their Kanakas. That man’s no more Swithin Hall than I am.”

Snow whistled from the impact of a new idea.

“I’ve got it!” he cried.

“And I’ll name it,” Grief retorted, “It’s in your mind that the _Emily
L._ was their schooner?”

“Just that. They’re raising and rotting the shell, while she’s gone for
more divers, or provisions, or both.”

“And I agree with you.” Grief glanced at the cabin clock and evinced
signs of bed-going. “He’s a sailor. The three of them are. But they’re
not island men. They’re new in these waters.”

Again Snow whistled.

“And the _Emily L._ is lost with all hands,” he said. “We know that.
They’re marooned here till Swithin Hall comes. Then he’ll catch them
with all the shell.”

“Or they’ll take possession of his schooner.”

“Hope they do!” Snow muttered vindictively. “Somebody ought to rob him.
Wish I was in their boots. I’d balance off that sixty thousand.”



VII

A week passed, during which time the _Uncle Toby_ was ready for sea,
while Grief managed to allay any suspicion of him by the shore crowd.

Even Gorman and Watson accepted him at his self-description. Throughout
the week Grief begged and badgered them for the longitude of the island.

“You wouldn’t have me leave here lost,” he finally urged. “I can’t get a
line on my chronometer without your longitude.”

Hall laughingly refused.

“You’re too good a navigator, Mr. Anstey, not to fetch New Guinea or
some other high land.”

“And you’re too good a navigator, Mr. Hall,” Grief replied, “not to know
that I can fetch your island any time by running down its latitude.”

On the last evening, ashore, as usual, to dinner, Grief got his first
view of the pearls they had collected. Mrs. Hall, waxing enthusiastic,
had asked her husband to bring forth the “pretties,” and had spent half
an hour showing them to Grief. His delight in them was genuine, as well
as was his surprise that they had made so rich a haul.

“The lagoon is virgin,” Hall explained. “You saw yourself that most
of the shell is large and old. But it’s funny that we got most of the
valuable pearls in one small patch in the course of a week. It was a
little treasure house. Every oyster seemed filled--seed pearls by the
quart, of course, but the perfect ones, most of that bunch there, came
out of the small patch.”

Grief ran his eye over them and knew their value ranged from one hundred
to a thousand dollars each, while the several selected large ones went
far beyond.

“Oh, the pretties! the pretties!” Mrs. Hall cried, bending forward
suddenly and kissing them.

A few minutes later she arose to say good-night.

“It’s good-bye,” Grief said, as he took her hand. “We sail at daylight.”

“So suddenly!” she cried, while Grief could not help seeing the quick
light of satisfaction in her husband’s eyes.

“Yes,” Grief continued. “All the repairs are finished. I can’t get the
longitude of your island out of your husband, though I’m still in hopes
he’ll relent.”

Hall laughed and shook his head, and, as his wife left the room,
proposed a last farewell nightcap. They sat over it, smoking and
talking.

“What do you estimate they’re worth?” Grief asked, indicating the spread
of pearls on the table. “I mean what the pearl-buyers would give you in
open market?”

“Oh, seventy-five or eighty thousand,” Hall said carelessly.

“I’m afraid you’re underestimating. I know pearls a bit. Take that
biggest one. It’s perfect. Not a cent less than five thousand dollars.
Some multimillionaire will pay double that some day, when the dealers
have taken their whack. And never minding the seed pearls, you’ve got
quarts of baroques there. And baroques are coming into fashion. They’re
picking up and doubling on themselves every year.”

Hall gave the trove of pearls a closer and longer scrutiny, estimating
the different parcels and adding the sum aloud.

“You’re right,” he admitted. “They’re worth a hundred thousand right
now.”

“And at what do you figure your working expenses?” Grief went on. “Your
time, and your two men’s, and the divers’?”

“Five thousand would cover it.”

“Then they stand to net you ninety-five thousand?”

“Something like that. But why so curious?”

“Why, I was just trying----” Grief paused and drained his glass. “Just
trying to reach some sort of an equitable arrangement. Suppose I should
give you and your people a passage to Sydney and the five thousand
dollars--or, better, seven thousand five hundred. You’ve worked hard.”

Without commotion or muscular movement the other man became alert and
tense. His round-faced geniality went out like the flame of a snuffed
candle. No laughter clouded the surface of the eyes, and in their
depths showed the hard, dangerous soul of the man. He spoke in a low,
deliberate voice.

“Now just what in hell do you mean by that?”

Grief casually relighted his cigar.

“I don’t know just how to begin,” he said. “The situation is--er--is
embarrassing for you. You see, I’m trying to be fair. As I say, you’ve
worked hard. I don’t want to confiscate the pearls. I want to pay you
for your time and trouble, and expense.”

Conviction, instantaneous and absolute, froze on the other’s face.

“And I thought you were in Europe,” he muttered. Hope flickered for
a moment. “Look here, you’re joking me. How do I know you’re Swithin
Hall?”

Grief shrugged his shoulders. “Such a joke would be in poor taste, after
your hospitality. And it is equally in poor taste to have two Swithin
Halls on the island.”

“Since you’re Swithin Hall, then who the deuce am I? Do you know that,
too?”

“No,” Grief answered airily. “But I’d like to know.”

“Well, it’s none of your business.”

“I grant it. Your identity is beside the point. Besides, I know your
schooner, and I can find out who you are from that.”

“What’s her name?”

“The _Emily L._

“Correct. I’m Captain Raffy, owner and master.”

“The seal-poacher? I’ve heard of you. What under the sun brought you
down here on my preserves?”

“Needed the money. The seal herds are about finished.”

“And the out-of-the-way places of the world are better policed, eh?”

“Pretty close to it. And now about this present scrape, Mr. Hall. I can
put up a nasty fight. What are you going to do about it?”

“What I said. Even better. What’s the _Emily L._ worth?”

“She’s seen her day. Not above ten thousand, which would be robbery.
Every time she’s in a rough sea I’m afraid she’ll jump her ballast
through her planking.”

“She has jumped it, Captain Raffy. I sighted her bottom-up after the
blow. Suppose we say she was worth seven thousand five hundred. I’ll
pay over to you fifteen thousand and give you a passage. Don’t move your
hands from your lap.” Grief stood up, went over to him, and took his
revolver. “Just a necessary precaution, Captain. Now you’ll go on board
with me. I’ll break the news to Mrs. Raffy afterward, and fetch her out
to join you.”

“You’re behaving handsomely, Mr. Hall, I must say,” Captain Raffy
volunteered, as the whaleboat came alongside the _Uncle Toby_. “But
watch out for Gorman and Watson. They’re ugly customers. And, by the
way, I don’t like to mention it, but you’ve seen my wife. I’ve given her
four or five pearls. Watson and Gorman were willing.”

“Say no more, Captain. Say no more. They shall remain hers. Is that you,
Mr. Snow? Here’s a friend I want you to take charge of--Captain Raffy.
I’m going ashore for his wife.”



VIII

David Grief sat writing at the library table in the bungalow
living-room. Outside, the first pale of dawn was showing. He had had a
busy night. Mrs. Raffy had taken two hysterical hours to pack her and
Captain Raffy’s possessions. Gorman had been caught asleep, but Watson,
standing guard over the divers, had shown fight. Matters did not reach
the shooting stage, but it was only after it had been demonstrated to
him that the game was up that he consented to join his companions on
board. For temporary convenience, he and Gorman were shackled in the
mate’s room, Mrs. Raffy was confined in Grief’s, and Captain Raffy made
fast to the cabin table.

Grief finished the document and read over what he had written:

  To   Swithin   Hall,
  for   pearls   taken from his lagoon (estimated)             $100,000

  To Herbert Snow, paid in full for salvage from
  steamship Cascade in pearls (estimated)             $60,000

  To Captain Raffy, salary and expenses for
  collecting pearls                                     7,500

  To  Captain  Raffy,  reimbursement for
  schooner  Emily  L.,  lost  in hurricane              7,500

  To Mrs. Raffy, for good will, five fair
  pearls (estimated)                                    1,100

  To passage to Syndey, four persons,
  at $120.                                                480

  To  white  lead for painting  Swithin
  Hall’s two whaleboats                                     9

  To  Swithin Hall,  balance  in pearls (estimated)
  which are to be found in drawer of library table     23,411

                                                     $100,000--$100,000

Grief signed and dated, paused, and added at the bottom:

     _P. S.--Still owing to Swithin Hall three books, borrowed
     from library: Hudson’s “Law of Psychic Phenomena,” Zola’s
     “Paris,” and Mahan’s “Problem of Asia.” These books, or full
     value, can be collected of said David Griefs Sydney office_.

He shut off the electric light, picked up the bundle of books, carefully
latched the front door, and went down to the waiting whaleboat.



Chapter Six--A GOBOTO NIGHT



I

At Goboto the traders come off their schooners and the planters drift
in from far, wild coasts, and one and all they assume shoes, white duck
trousers, and various other appearances of civilization. At Goboto mail
is received, bills are paid, and newspapers, rarely more than five weeks
old, are accessible; for the little island, belted with its coral reefs,
affords safe anchorage, is the steamer port of call, and serves as the
distributing point for the whole wide-scattered group.

Life at Goboto is heated, unhealthy, and lurid, and for its size it
asserts the distinction of more cases of acute alcoholism than any other
spot in the world. Guvutu, over in the Solomons, claims that it drinks
between drinks. Goboto does not deny this. It merely states, in passing,
that in the Goboton chronology no such interval of time is known. It
also points out its import statistics, which show a far larger per
capita consumption of spiritous liquors. Guvutu explains this on the
basis that Goboto does a larger business and has more visitors. Goboto
retorts that its resident population is smaller and that its visitors
are thirstier. And the discussion goes on interminably, principally
because of the fact that the disputants do not live long enough to
settle it.

Goboto is not large. The island is only a quarter of a mile in diameter,
and on it are situated an admiralty coal-shed (where a few tons of coal
have lain untouched for twenty years), the barracks for a handful of
black labourers, a big store and warehouse with sheet-iron roofs, and a
bungalow inhabited by the manager and his two clerks. They are the white
population. An average of one man out of the three is always to be found
down with fever. The job at Goboto is a hard one. It is the policy of
the company to treat its patrons well, as invading companies have found
out, and it is the task of the manager and clerks to do the treating.
Throughout the year traders and recruiters arrive from far, dry cruises,
and planters from equally distant and dry shores, bringing with them
magnificent thirsts. Goboto is the mecca of sprees, and when they have
spread they go back to their schooners and plantations to recuperate.

Some of the less hardy require as much as six months between visits. But
for the manager and his assistants there are no such intervals. They are
on the spot, and week by week, blown in by monsoon or southeast
trade, the schooners come to anchor, cargo’d with copra, ivory nuts,
pearl-shell, hawksbill turtle, and thirst.

It is a very hard job at Goboto. That is why the pay is twice that on
other stations, and that is why the company selects only courageous and
intrepid men for this particular station. They last no more than a year
or so, when the wreckage of them is shipped back to Australia, or the
remains of them are buried in the sand across on the windward side of
the islet. Johnny Bassett, almost the legendary hero of Goboto, broke
all records. He was a remittance man with a remarkable constitution,
and he lasted seven years. His dying request was duly observed by his
clerks, who pickled him in a cask of trade-rum (paid for out of
their own salaries) and shipped him back to his people in England.
Nevertheless, at Goboto, they tried to be gentlemen. For that matter,
though something was wrong with them, they were gentlemen, and had been
gentlemen. That was why the great unwritten rule of Goboto was that
visitors should put on pants and shoes. Breech-clouts, lava-lavas, and
bare legs were not tolerated. When Captain Jensen, the wildest of the
Blackbirders though descended from old New York Knickerbocker stock,
surged in, clad in loin-cloth, undershirt, two belted revolvers and
a sheath-knife, he was stopped at the beach. This was in the days of
Johnny Bassett, ever a stickler in matters of etiquette. Captain Jensen
stood up in the sternsheets of his whaleboat and denied the existence of
pants on his schooner. Also, he affirmed his intention of coming ashore.
They of Goboto nursed him back to health from a bullet-hole through his
shoulder, and in addition handsomely begged his pardon, for no pants
had they found on his schooner. And finally, on the first day he sat up,
Johnny Bassett kindly but firmly assisted his guest into a pair of pants
of his own. This was the great precedent. In all the succeeding years it
had never been violated. White men and pants were undivorce-able. Only
niggers ran naked. Pants constituted caste.



II

On this night things were, with one exception, in nowise different from
any other night. Seven of them, with glimmering eyes and steady legs,
had capped a day of Scotch with swivel-sticked cocktails and sat down to
dinner. Jacketed, trousered, and shod, they were: Jerry McMurtrey, the
manager; Eddy Little and Jack Andrews, clerks; Captain Stapler, of the
recruiting ketch _Merry_; Darby Shryleton, planter from Tito-Ito; Peter
Gee, a half-caste Chinese pearl-buyer who ranged from Ceylon to the
Paumotus, and Alfred Deacon, a visitor who had stopped off from the last
steamer. At first wine was served by the black servants to those that
drank it, though all quickly shifted back to Scotch and soda, pickling
their food as they ate it, ere it went into their calcined, pickled
stomachs.

Over their coffee, they heard the rumble of an anchor-chain through a
hawse-pipe, tokening the arrival of a vessel.

“It’s David Grief,” Peter Gee remarked.

“How do you know?” Deacon demanded truculently, and then went on to deny
the half-caste’s knowledge. “You chaps put on a lot of side over a new
chum. I’ve done some sailing myself, and this naming a craft when
its sail is only a blur, or naming a man by the sound of his
anchor--it’s--it’s unadulterated poppycock.”

Peter Gee was engaged in lighting a cigarette, and did not answer.

“Some of the niggers do amazing things that way,” McMurtrey interposed
tactfully.

As with the others, this conduct of their visitor jarred on the manager.
From the moment of Peter Gee’s arrival that afternoon Deacon had
manifested a tendency to pick on him. He had disputed his statements and
been generally rude.

“Maybe it’s because Peter’s got Chink blood in him,” had been Andrews’
hypothesis. “Deacon’s Australian, you know, and they’re daffy down there
on colour.”

“I fancy that’s it,” McMurtrey had agreed. “But we can’t permit any
bullying, especially of a man like Peter Gee, who’s whiter than most
white men.”

In this the manager had been in nowise wrong. Peter Gee was that rare
creature, a good as well as clever Eurasian. In fact, it was the
stolid integrity of the Chinese blood that toned the recklessness and
licentiousness of the English blood which had run in his father’s veins.
Also, he was better educated than any man there, spoke better English
as well as several other tongues, and knew and lived more of their own
ideals of gentlemanness than they did themselves. And, finally, he was
a gentle soul. Violence he deprecated, though he had killed men in his
time. Turbulence he abhorred.

He always avoided it as he would the plague.

Captain Stapler stepped in to help McMurtrey:

“I remember, when I changed schooners and came into Altman, the niggers
knew right off the bat it was me. I wasn’t expected, either, much less
to be in another craft. They told the trader it was me. He used the
glasses, and wouldn’t believe them. But they did know. Told me afterward
they could see it sticking out all over the schooner that I was running
her.”

Deacon ignored him, and returned to the attack on the pearl-buyer.

“How do you know from the sound of the anchor that it was this
whatever-you-called-him man?” he challenged.

“There are so many things that go to make up such a judgment,” Peter
Gee answered. “It’s very hard to explain. It would require almost a text
book.”

“I thought so,” Deacon sneered. “Explanation that doesn’t explain is
easy.”

“Who’s for bridge?” Eddy Little, the second clerk, interrupted, looking
up expectantly and starting to shuffle. “You’ll play, won’t you, Peter?”

“If he does, he’s a bluffer,” Deacon cut back. “I’m getting tired of all
this poppycock. Mr. Gee, you will favour me and put yourself in a
better light if you tell how you know who that man was that just dropped
anchor. After that I’ll play you piquet.”

“I’d prefer bridge,” Peter answered. “As for the other thing,
it’s something like this: By the sound it was a small craft--no
square-rigger. No whistle, no siren, was blown--again a small craft. It
anchored close in--still again a small craft, for steamers and big ships
must drop hook outside the middle shoal. Now the entrance is tortuous.
There is no recruiting nor trading captain in the group who dares to run
the passage after dark. Certainly no stranger would. There _were_ two
exceptions. The first was Margonville. But he was executed by the High
Court at Fiji. Remains the other exception, David Grief. Night or
day, in any weather, he runs the passage. This is well known to all. A
possible factor, in case Grief were somewhere else, would be some young
dare-devil of a skipper. In this connection, in the first place, I don’t
know of any, nor does anybody else. In the second place, David Grief is
in these waters, cruising on the _Gunga_, which is shortly scheduled to
leave here for Karo-Karo. I spoke to Grief, on the _Gunga_, in Sandfly
Passage, day before yesterday. He was putting a trader ashore on a new
station. He said he was going to call in at Babo, and then come on to
Goboto. He has had ample time to get here. I have heard an anchor drop.
Who else than David Grief can it be? Captain Donovan is skipper of the
_Gunga_, and him I know too well to believe that he’d run in to Goboto
after dark unless his owner were in charge. In a few minutes David
Grief will enter through that door and say, ‘In Guvutu they merely drink
between drinks.’ I’ll wager fifty pounds he’s the man that enters and
that his words will be, ‘In Guvutu they merely drink between drinks. ’”
 Deacon was for the moment crushed. The sullen blood rose darkly in his
face.

“Well, he’s answered you,” McMurtrey laughed genially. “And I’ll back
his bet myself for a couple of sovereigns.”

“Bridge! Who’s going to take a hand?” Eddy Little cried impatiently.
“Come on, Peter!”

“The rest of you play,” Deacon said. “He and I are going to play
piquet.”

“I’d prefer bridge,” Peter Gee said mildly.

“Don’t you play piquet?”

The pearl-buyer nodded.

“Then come on. Maybe I can show I know more about that than I do about
anchors.”

“Oh, I say----” McMurtrey began.

“You can play bridge,” Deacon shut him off. “We prefer piquet.”

Reluctantly, Peter Gee was bullied into a game that he knew would be
unhappy.

“Only a rubber,” he said, as he cut for deal.

“For how much?” Deacon asked.

Peter Gee shrugged his shoulders. “As you please.”

“Hundred up--five pounds a game?”

Peter Gee agreed.

“With the lurch double, of course, ten pounds?”

“All right,” said Peter Gee.

At another table four of the others sat in at bridge. Captain Stapler,
who was no card-player, looked on and replenished the long glasses
of Scotch that stood at each man’s right hand. McMurtrey, with poorly
concealed apprehension, followed as well as he could what went on at
the piquet table. His fellow Englishmen as well were shocked by the
behaviour of the Australian, and all were troubled by fear of some
untoward act on his part. That he was working up his animosity against
the half-caste, and that the explosion might come any time, was apparent
to all.

“I hope Peter loses,” McMurtrey said in an undertone.

“Not if he has any luck,” Andrews answered. “He’s a wizard at piquet. I
know by experience.”

That Peter Gee was lucky was patent from the continual badgering of
Deacon, who filled his glass frequently. He had lost the first game,
and, from his remarks, was losing the second, when the door opened and
David Grief entered.

“In Guvutu they merely drink between drinks,” he remarked casually to
the assembled company, ere he gripped the manager’s hand. “Hello, Mac!
Say, my skipper’s down in the whaleboat. He’s got a silk shirt, a tie,
and tennis shoes, all complete, but he wants you to send a pair of pants
down. Mine are too small, but yours will fit him. Hello, Eddy! How’s
that _ngari-ngari?_ You up, Jock? The miracle has happened. No one down
with fever, and no one remarkably drunk.” He sighed, “I suppose the
night is young yet. Hello, Peter! Did you catch that big squall an hour
after you left us? We had to let go the second anchor.”

While he was being introduced to Deacon, McMurtrey dispatched a
house-boy with the pants, and when Captain Donovan came in it was as a
white man should--at least in Goboto.

Deacon lost the second game, and an outburst heralded the fact. Peter
Gee devoted himself to lighting a cigarette and keeping quiet.

“What?--are you quitting because you’re ahead?” Deacon demanded.

Grief raised his eyebrows questioningly to McMurtrey, who frowned back
his own disgust.

“It’s the rubber,” Peter Gee answered.

“It takes three games to make a rubber. It’s my deal. Come on!”

Peter Gee acquiesced, and the third game was on.

“Young whelp--he needs a lacing,” McMurtrey muttered to Grief. “Come on,
let us quit, you chaps. I want to keep an eye on him. If he goes too far
I’ll throw him out on the beach, company instructions or no.”

“Who is he?” Grief queried.

“A left-over from last steamer. Company’s orders to treat him nice. He’s
looking to invest in a plantation. Has a ten-thousand-pound letter of
credit with the company. He’s got ‘all-white Australia’ on the brain.
Thinks because his skin is white and because his father was once
Attorney-General of the Commonwealth that he can be a cur. That’s why
he’s picking on Peter, and you know Peter’s the last man in the world
to make trouble or incur trouble. Damn the company. I didn’t engage
to wet-nurse its infants with bank accounts. Come on, fill your glass,
Grief. The man’s a blighter, a blithering blighter.”

“Maybe he’s only young,” Grief suggested.

“He can’t contain his drink--that’s clear.” The manager glared his
disgust and wrath. “If he raises a hand to Peter, so help me, I’ll give
him a licking myself, the little overgrown cad!”

The pearl-buyer pulled the pegs out of the cribbage board on which he
was scoring and sat back. He had won the third game. He glanced across
to Eddy Little, saying:

“I’m ready for the bridge, now.”

“I wouldn’t be a quitter,” Deacon snarled.

“Oh, really, I’m tired of the game,” Peter Gee assured him with his
habitual quietness.

“Come on and be game,” Deacon bullied. “One more. You can’t take my
money that way. I’m out fifteen pounds. Double or quits.”

McMurtrey was about to interpose, but Grief restrained him with his
eyes.

“If it positively is the last, all right,” said Peter Gee, gathering up
the cards. “It’s my deal, I believe. As I understand it, this final is
for fifteen pounds. Either you owe me thirty or we quit even?”

“That’s it, chappie. Either we break even or I pay you thirty.”

“Getting blooded, eh?” Grief remarked, drawing up a chair.

The other men stood or sat around the table, and Deacon played again
in bad luck. That he was a good player was clear. The cards were merely
running against him. That he could not take his ill luck with equanimity
was equally clear. He was guilty of sharp, ugly curses, and he snapped
and growled at the imperturbable half-caste. In the end Peter Gee
counted out, while Deacon had not even made his fifty points. He
glowered speechlessly at his opponent.

“Looks like a lurch,” said Grief.

“Which is double,” said Peter Gee.

“There’s no need your telling me,” Deacon snarled. “I’ve studied
arithmetic. I owe you forty-five pounds. There, take it!”

The way in which he flung the nine five-pound notes on the table was
an insult in itself. Peter Gee was even quieter, and flew no signals of
resentment.

“You’ve got fool’s luck, but you can’t play cards, I can tell you that
much,” Deacon went on. “I could teach you cards.”

The half-caste smiled and nodded acquiescence as he folded up the money.

“There’s a little game called casino--I wonder if you ever heard of
it?--a child’s game.”

“I’ve seen it played,” the half-caste murmured gently.

“What’s that?” snapped Deacon. “Maybe you think you can play it?”

“Oh, no, not for a moment. I’m afraid I haven’t head enough for it.”

“It’s a bully game, casino,” Grief broke in pleasantly. “I like it very
much.”

Deacon ignored him.

“I’ll play you ten quid a game--thirty-one points out,” was the
challenge to Peter Gee. “And I’ll show you how little you know about
cards. Come on! Where’s a full deck?”

“No, thanks,” the half-caste answered. “They are waiting for me in order
to make up a bridge set.”

“Yes, come on,” Eddy Little begged eagerly. “Come on, Peter, let’s get
started.”

“Afraid of a little game like casino,” Deacon girded. “Maybe the stakes
are too high. I’ll play you for pennies--or farthings, if you say so.”

The man’s conduct was a hurt and an affront to all of them. McMurtrey
could stand it no longer.

“Now hold on, Deacon. He says he doesn’t want to play. Let him alone.”

Deacon turned raging upon his host; but before he could blurt out his
abuse, Grief had stepped into the breach.

“I’d like to play casino with you,” he said.

“What do you know about it?”

“Not much, but I’m willing to learn.”

“Well, I’m not teaching for pennies to-night.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” Grief answered. “I’ll play for almost any
sum--within reason, of course.”

Deacon proceeded to dispose of this intruder with one stroke.

“I’ll play you a hundred pounds a game, if that will do you any good.”

Grief beamed his delight. “That will be all right, very right. Let us
begin. Do you count sweeps?”

Deacon was taken aback. He had not expected a Goboton trader to be
anything but crushed by such a proposition.

“Do you count sweeps?” Grief repeated.

Andrews had brought him a new deck, and he was throwing out the joker.

“Certainly not,” Deacon answered. “That’s a sissy game.”

“I’m glad,” Grief coincided. “I don’t like sissy games either.”

“You don’t, eh? Well, then, I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll play for
five hundred pounds a game.”

Again Deacon was taken aback.

“I’m agreeable,” Grief said, beginning to shuffle. “Cards and spades go
out first, of course, and then big and little casino, and the aces in
the bridge order of value. Is that right?”

“You’re a lot of jokers down here,” Deacon laughed, but his laughter was
strained. “How do I know you’ve got the money?”

“By the same token I know you’ve got it. Mac, how’s my credit with the
company?”

“For all you want,” the manager answered.

“You personally guarantee that?” Deacon demanded.

“I certainly do,” McMurtrey said. “Depend upon it, the company will
honour his paper up and past your letter of credit.”

“Low deals,” Grief said, placing the deck before Deacon on the table.

The latter hesitated in the midst of the cut and looked around with
querulous misgiving at the faces of the others. The clerks and captains
nodded.

“You’re all strangers to me,” Deacon complained. “How am I to know?
Money on paper isn’t always the real thing.”

Then it was that Peter Gee, drawing a wallet from his pocket and
borrowing a fountain pen from McMurtrey, went into action.

“I haven’t gone to buying yet,” the half-caste explained, “so the
account is intact. I’ll just indorse it over to you, Grief. It’s for
fifteen thousand. There, look at it.”

Deacon intercepted the letter of credit as it was being passed across
the table. He read it slowly, then glanced up at McMurtrey.

“Is that right?”

“Yes. It’s just the same as your own, and just as good. The company’s
paper is always good.”

Deacon cut the cards, won the deal, and gave them a thorough shuffle.
But his luck was still against him, and he lost the game.

“Another game,” he said. “We didn’t say how many, and you can’t quit
with me a loser. I want action.”

Grief shuffled and passed the cards for the cut.

“Let’s play for a thousand,” Deacon said, when he had lost the second
game. And when the thousand had gone the way of the two five hundred
bets he proposed to play for two thousand.

“That’s progression,” McMurtrey warned, and was rewarded by a glare
from Deacon. But the manager was insistent. “You don’t have to play
progression, Grief, unless you’re foolish.”

“Who’s playing this game?” Deacon flamed at his host; and then, to
Grief: “I’ve lost two thousand to you. Will you play for two thousand?”

Grief nodded, the fourth game began, and Deacon won. The manifest
unfairness of such betting was known to all of them. Though he had lost
three games out of four, Deacon had lost no money. By the child’s device
of doubling his wager with each loss, he was bound, with the first game
he won, no matter how long delayed, to be even again.

He now evinced an unspoken desire to stop, but Grief passed the deck to
be cut.

“What?” Deacon cried. “You want more?”

“Haven’t got anything yet,” Grief murmured whimsically, as he began the
deal. “For the usual five hundred, I suppose?”

The shame of what he had done must have tingled in Deacon, for he
answered, “No, we’ll play for a thousand. And say! Thirty-one points is
too long. Why not twenty-one points out--if it isn’t too rapid for you?”

“That will make it a nice, quick, little game,” Grief agreed.

The former method of play was repeated. Deacon lost two games, doubled
the stake, and was again even. But Grief was patient, though the thing
occurred several times in the next hour’s play. Then happened what he
was waiting for--a lengthening in the series of losing games for Deacon.
The latter doubled to four thousand and lost, doubled to eight thousand
and lost, and then proposed to double to sixteen thousand.

Grief shook his head. “You can’t do that, you know. You’re only ten
thousand credit with the company.”

“You mean you won’t give me action?” Deacon asked hoarsely. “You mean
that with eight thousand of my money you’re going to quit?”

Grief smiled and shook his head.

“It’s robbery, plain robbery,” Deacon went on. “You take my money and
won’t give me action.”

“No, you’re wrong. I’m perfectly willing to give you what action you’ve
got coming to you. You’ve got two thousand pounds of action yet.”

“Well, we’ll play it,” Deacon took him up. “You cut.”

The game was played in silence, save for irritable remarks and curses
from Deacon. Silently the onlookers filled and sipped their long
Scotch glasses. Grief took no notice of his opponent’s outbursts, but
concentrated on the game. He was really playing cards, and there were
fifty-two in the deck to be kept track of, and of which he did keep
track. Two thirds of the way through the last deal he threw down his
hand.

“Cards put me out,” he said. “I have twenty-seven.”

“If you’ve made a mistake,” Deacon threatened, his face white and drawn.

“Then I shall have lost. Count them.”

Grief passed over his stack of takings, and Deacon, with trembling
fingers, verified the count. He half shoved his chair back from the
table and emptied his glass. He looked about him at unsympathetic faces.

“I fancy I’ll be catching the next steamer for Sydney,” he said, and for
the first time his speech was quiet and without bluster.

As Grief told them afterward: “Had he whined or raised a roar I wouldn’t
have given him that last chance. As it was, he took his medicine like a
man, and I had to do it.”

Deacon glanced at his watch, simulated a weary yawn, and started to
rise.

“Wait,” Grief said. “Do you want further action?”

The other sank down in his chair, strove to speak, but could not, licked
his dry lips, and nodded his head.

“Captain Donovan here sails at daylight in the _Gunga_ for Karo-Karo,”
 Grief began with seeming irrelevance. “Karo-Karo is a ring of sand in
the sea, with a few thousand cocoa-nut trees. Pandanus grows there, but
they can’t grow sweet potatoes nor taro. There aremabout eight hundred
natives, a king and two prime ministers, and the last three named are
the only ones who wear any clothes. It’s a sort of God-forsaken little
hole, and once a year I send a schooner up from Goboto. The drinking
water is brackish, but old Tom Butler has survived on it for a dozen
years. He’s the only white man there, and he has a boat’s crew of five
Santa Cruz boys who would run away or kill him if they could. That is
why they were sent there. They can’t run away. He is always supplied
with the hard cases from the plantations. There are no missionaries.
Two native Samoan teachers were clubbed to death on the beach when they
landed several years ago.

“Naturally, you are wondering what it is all about. But have patience.
As I have said, Captain Donovan sails on the annual trip to Karo-Karo at
daylight to-morrow. Tom Butler is old, and getting quite helpless. I’ve
tried to retire him to Australia, but he says he wants to remain and
die on Karo-Karo, and he will in the next year or so. He’s a queer old
codger. Now the time is due for me to send some white man up to take the
work off his hands. I wonder how you’d like the job. You’d have to stay
two years.

“Hold on! I’ve not finished. You’ve talked frequently of action this
evening. There’s no action in betting away what you’ve never sweated
for. The money you’ve lost to me was left you by your father or some
other relative who did the sweating. But two years of work as trader on
Karo-Karo would mean something. I’ll bet the ten thousand I’ve won from
you against two years of your time. If you win, the money’s yours. If
you lose, you take the job at Karo-Karo and sail at daylight. Now that’s
what might be called real action. Will you play?”

Deacon could not speak. His throat lumped and he nodded his head as he
reached for the cards.

“One thing more,” Grief said. “I can do even better. If you lose, two
years of your time are mine--naturally without wages. Nevertheless,
I’ll pay you wages. If your work is satisfactory, if you observe all
instructions and rules, I’ll pay you five thousand pounds a year for two
years. The money will be deposited with the company, to be paid to you,
with interest, when the time expires. Is that all right?”

“Too much so,” Deacon stammered. “You are unfair to yourself. A trader
only gets ten or fifteen pounds a month.”

“Put it down to action, then,” Grief said, with an air of dismissal.
“And before we begin, I’ll jot down several of the rules. These you will
repeat aloud every morning during the two years--if you lose. They
are for the good of your soul. When you have repeated them aloud seven
hundred and thirty Karo-Karo mornings I am confident they will be in
your memory to stay. Lend me your pen, Mac. Now, let’s see----”

He wrote steadily and rapidly for some minutes, then proceeded to read
the matter aloud:

“_I must always remember that one man is as good as another, save and
except when he thinks he is better._

“_No matter how drunk I am I must not fail to be a gentleman. A
gentleman is a man who is gentle. Note: It would be better not to get
drunk_.

“_When I play a man’s game with men, I must play like a man_.

“_A good curse, rightly used and rarely, is an efficient thing. Too many
curses spoil the cursing. Note: A curse cannot change a card seguence
nor cause the wind to blow._

“_There is no license for a man to be less than a man. Ten thousand
pounds cannot purchase such a license._”

At the beginning of the reading Deacon’s face had gone white with anger.
Then had arisen, from neck to forehead, a slow and terrible flush that
deepened to the end of the reading.

“There, that will be all,” Grief said, as he folded the paper and tossed
it to the centre of the table. “Are you still ready to play the game?”

“I deserve it,” Deacon muttered brokenly. “I’ve been an ass. Mr. Gee,
before I know whether I win or lose, I want to apologize. Maybe it was
the whiskey, I don’t know, but I’m an ass, a cad, a bounder--everything
that’s rotten.”

He held out his hand, and the half-caste took it beamingly.

“I say, Grief,” he blurted out, “the boy’s all right. Call the whole
thing off, and let’s forget it in a final nightcap.”

Grief showed signs of debating, but Deacon cried:

“No; I won’t permit it. I’m not a quitter. If it’s Karo-Karo, it’s
Karo-Karo. There’s nothing more to it.”

“Right,” said Grief, as he began the shuffle. “If he’s the right stuff
to go to Karo-Karo, Karo-Karo won’t do him any harm.”

The game was close and hard. Three times they divided the deck between
them and “cards” was not scored. At the beginning of the fifth and
last deal, Deacon needed three points to go out, and Grief needed four.
“Cards” alone would put Deacon out, and he played for “cards”. He no
longer muttered or cursed, and played his best game of the evening.
Incidentally he gathered in the two black aces and the ace of hearts.

“I suppose you can name the four cards I hold,” he challenged, as the
last of the deal was exhausted and he picked up his hand.

Grief nodded.

“Then name them.”

“The knave of spades, the deuce of spades, the tray of hearts, and the
ace of diamonds,” Grief answered.

Those behind Deacon and looking at his hand made no sign. Yet the naming
had been correct.

“I fancy you play casino better than I,” Deacon acknowledged. “I can
name only three of yours, a knave, an ace, and big casino.”

“Wrong. There aren’t five aces in the deck. You’ve taken in three and
you hold the fourth in your hand now.”

“By Jove, you’re right,” Deacon admitted. “I did scoop in three. Anyway,
I’ll make ‘cards’ on you. That’s all I need.”

“I’ll let you save little casino----” Grief paused to calculate. “Yes,
and the ace as well, and still I’ll make ‘cards’ and go out with big
casino. Play.”

“No ‘cards’ and I win!” Deacon exulted as the last of the hand was
played. “I go out on little casino and the four aces. ‘Big casino’ and
‘spades’ only bring you to twenty.”

Grief shook his head. “Some mistake, I’m afraid.”

“No,” Deacon declared positively. “I counted every card I took in.
That’s the one thing I was correct on. I’ve twenty-six, and you’ve
twenty-six.”

“Count again,” Grief said.

Carefully and slowly, with trembling fingers, Deacon counted the cards
he had taken. There were twenty-five. He reached over to the corner of
the table, took up the rules Grief had written, folded them, and put
them in his pocket. Then he emptied his glass, and stood up. Captain
Donovan looked at his watch, yawned, and also arose.

“Going aboard, Captain?” Deacon asked.

“Yes,” was the answer. “What time shall I send the whaleboat for you?”

“I’ll go with you now. We’ll pick up my luggage from the _Billy_ as we
go by, I was sailing on her for Babo in the morning.”

Deacon shook hands all around, after receiving a final pledge of good
luck on Karo-Karo.

“Does Tom Butler play cards?” he asked Grief.

“Solitaire,” was the answer.

“Then I’ll teach him double solitaire.” Deacon turned toward the door,
where Captain Donovan waited, and added with a sigh, “And I fancy he’ll
skin me, too, if he plays like the rest of you island men.”



Chapter Seven--THE FEATHERS OF THE SUN



I

It was the island of Fitu-Iva--the last independent Polynesian
stronghold in the South Seas. Three factors conduced to Fitu-Iva’s
independence. The first and second were its isolation and the
warlikeness of its population. But these would not have saved it in
the end had it not been for the fact that Japan, France, Great
Britain, Germany, and the United States discovered its desirableness
simultaneously. It was like gamins scrambling for a penny. They got
in one another’s way. The war vessels of the five Powers cluttered
Fitu-Iva’s one small harbour. There were rumours of war and threats of
war. Over its morning toast all the world read columns about Fitu-Iva.
As a Yankee blue jacket epitomized it at the time, they all got their
feet in the trough at once.

So it was that Fitu-Iva escaped even a joint protectorate, and King
Tulifau, otherwise Tui Tulifau, continued to dispense the high justice
and the low in the frame-house palace built for him by a Sydney trader
out of California redwood. Not only was Tui Tulifau every inch a king,
but he was every second a king. When he had ruled fifty-eight years and
five months, he was only fifty-eight years and three months old. That
is to say, he had ruled over five million seconds more than he had
breathed, having been crowned two months before he was born.

He was a kingly king, a royal figure of a man, standing six feet and
a half, and, without being excessively fat, weighing three hundred and
twenty pounds. But this was not unusual for Polynesian “chief stock.”
 Sepeli, his queen, was six feet three inches and weighed two hundred
and sixty, while her brother, Uiliami, who commanded the army in the
intervals of resignation from the premiership, topped her by an inch and
notched her an even half-hundredweight. Tui Tulifau was a merry soul, a
great feaster and drinker. So were all his people merry souls, save in
anger, when, on occasion, they could be guilty even of throwing dead
pigs at those who made them wroth. Nevertheless, on occasion, they could
fight like Maoris, as piratical sandalwood traders and Blackbirders in
the old days learned to their cost.



II

Grief’s schooner, the _Cantani_, had passed the Pillar Rocks at the
entrance two hours before and crept up the harbour to the whispering
flutters of a breeze that could not make up its mind to blow. It was
a cool, starlight evening, and they lolled about the poop waiting till
their snail’s pace would bring them to the anchorage. Willie Smee, the
supercargo, emerged from the cabin, conspicuous in his shore clothes.
The mate glanced at his shirt, of the finest and whitest silk, and
giggled significantly.

“Dance, to-night, I suppose?” Grief observed.

“No,” said the mate. “It’s Taitua. Willie’s stuck on her.”

“Catch me,” the supercargo disclaimed.

“Then she’s stuck on you, and it’s all the same,” the mate went on. “You
won’t be ashore half an hour before you’ll have a flower behind your
ear, a wreath on your head, and your arm around Taitua.”

“Simple jealousy,” Willie Smee sniffed. “You’d like to have her
yourself, only you can’t.”

“I can’t find shirts like that, that’s why. I’ll bet you half a crown
you won’t sail from Fitu-Iva with that shirt.”

“And if Taitua doesn’t get it, it’s an even break Tui Tulifau does,”
 Grief warned. “Better not let him spot that shirt, or it’s all day with
it.”

“That’s right,” Captain Boig agreed, turning his head from watching the
house lights on the shore. “Last voyage he fined one of my Kanakas out
of a fancy belt and sheath-knife.” He turned to the mate. “You can let
go any time, Mr. Marsh. Don’t give too much slack. There’s no sign of
wind, and in the morning we may shift opposite the copra-sheds.”

A minute later the anchor rumbled down. The whaleboat, already hoisted
out, lay alongside, and the shore-going party dropped into it. Save for
the Kanakas, who were all bent for shore, only Grief and the supercargo
were in the boat. At the head of the little coral-stone pier Willie
Smee, with an apologetic gurgle, separated from his employer and
disappeared down an avenue of palms. Grief turned in the opposite
direction past the front of the old mission church. Here, among
the graves on the beach, lightly clad in _ahu’s_ and _lava-lavas_,
flower-crowned and garlanded, with great phosphorescent hibiscus
blossoms in their hair, youths and maidens were dancing. Farther on,
Grief passed the long, grass-built _himine_ house, where a few score
of the elders sat in long rows chanting the old hymns taught them by
forgotten missionaries. He passed also the palace of Tui Tulifau, where,
by the lights and sounds, he knew the customary revelry was going
on. For of the happy South Sea isles, Fitu-Iva was the happiest. They
feasted and frolicked at births and deaths, and the dead and the unborn
were likewise feasted.

Grief held steadily along the Broom Road, which curved and twisted
through a lush growth of flowers and fern-like algarobas. The warm air
was rich with perfume, and overhead, outlined against the stars, were
fruit-burdened mangoes, stately avocado trees, and slender-tufted palms.
Every here and there were grass houses. Voices and laughter rippled
through the darkness. Out on the water flickering lights and soft-voiced
choruses marked the fishers returning from the reef.

At last Grief stepped aside from the road, stumbling over a pig that
grunted indignantly. Looking through an open door, he saw a stout and
elderly native sitting on a heap of mats a dozen deep. From time to
time, automatically, he brushed his naked legs with a cocoa-nut-fibre
fly-flicker. He wore glasses, and was reading methodically in what Grief
knew to be an English Bible. For this was Ieremia, his trader, so named
from the prophet Jeremiah.

Ieremia was lighter-skinned than the Fitu-Ivans, as was natural in a
full-blooded Samoan. Educated by the missionaries, as lay teacher he had
served their cause well over in the cannibal atolls to the westward. As
a reward, he had been sent to the paradise of Fitu-Iva, where all were
or had been good converts, to gather in the backsliders. Unfortunately,
Ieremia had become too well educated. A stray volume of Darwin, a
nagging wife, and a pretty Fitu-Ivan widow had driven him into the ranks
of the backsliders. It was not a case of apostasy. The effect of Darwin
had been one of intellectual fatigue. What was the use of trying to
understand this vastly complicated and enigmatical world, especially
when one was married to a nagging woman? As Ieremia slackened in his
labours, the mission board threatened louder and louder to send him back
to the atolls, while his wife’s tongue grew correspondingly sharper. Tui
Tulifau was a sympathetic monarch, whose queen, on occasions when he was
particularly drunk, was known to beat him. For political reasons--the
queen belonging to as royal stock as himself and her brother commanding
the army--Tui Tulifau could not divorce her, but he could and did
divorce Ieremia, who promptly took up with commercial life and the lady
of his choice. As an independent trader he had failed, chiefly because
of the disastrous patronage of Tui Tulifau. To refuse credit to that
merry monarch was to invite confiscation; to grant him credit was
certain bankruptcy. After a year’s idleness on the beach, leremia had
become David Grief’s trader, and for a dozen years his service had
been honourable and efficient, for Grief had proven the first man who
successfully refused credit to the king or who collected when it had
been accorded.

Ieremia looked gravely over the rims of his glasses when his employer
entered, gravely marked the place in the Bible and set it aside, and
gravely shook hands.

“I am glad you came in person,” he said.

“How else could I come?” Grief laughed.

But Ieremia had no sense of humour, and he ignored the remark.

“The commercial situation on the island is damn bad,” he said with great
solemnity and an unctuous mouthing of the many-syllabled words. “My
ledger account is shocking.”

“Trade bad?”

“On the contrary. It has been excellent. The shelves are empty,
exceedingly empty. But----” His eyes glistened proudly. “But there are
many goods remaining in the storehouse; I have kept it carefully
locked.”

“Been allowing Tui Tulifau too much credit?”

“On the contrary. There has been no credit at all. And every old account
has been settled up.”

“I don’t follow you, Ieremia,” Grief confessed. “What’s the
joke?--shelves empty, no credit, old accounts all square, storehouse
carefully locked--what’s the answer?”

Ieremia did not reply immediately. Reaching under the rear corner of the
mats, he drew forth a large cash-box. Grief noted and wondered that
it was not locked. The Samoan had always been fastidiously cautious in
guarding cash. The box seemed filled with paper money. He skinned off
the top note and passed it over.

“There is the answer.”

Grief glanced at a fairly well executed banknote. “_The First Royal Bank
of Fitu-Iva will pay to bearer on demand one pound sterling_,” he read.
In the centre was the smudged likeness of a native face. At the bottom
was the signature of Tui Tulifau, and the signature of Fulualea, with
the printed information appended, “_Chancellor of the Exchequer._”

“Who the deuce is Fulualea?” Grief demanded. “It’s Fijian, isn’t
it?--meaning the feathers of the sun?”

“Just so. It means the feathers of the sun. Thus does this base
interloper caption himself. He has come up from Fiji to turn Fitu-Iva
upside down--that is, commercially.”

“Some one of those smart Levuka boys, I suppose?”

Ieremia shook his head sadly. “No, this low fellow is a white man and
a scoundrel. He has taken a noble and high-sounding Fijian name and
dragged it in the dirt to suit his nefarious purposes. He has made Tui
Tulifau drunk. He has made him very drunk. He has kept him very drunk
all the time. In return, he has been made Chancellor of the Exchequer
and other things. He has issued this false paper and compelled the
people to receive it. He has levied a store tax, a copra tax, and a
tobacco tax. There are harbour dues and regulations, and other taxes.
But the people are not taxed--only the traders. When the copra tax was
levied, I lowered the purchasing price accordingly. Then the people
began to grumble, and Feathers of the Sun passed a new law, setting
the old price back and forbidding any man to lower it. Me he fined two
pounds and five pigs, it being well known that I possessed five pigs.
You will find them entered in the ledger. Hawkins, who is trader for
the Fulcrum Company, was fined first pigs, then gin, and, because he
continued to make loud conversation, the army came and burned his store.
When I declined to sell, this Feathers of the Sun fined me once more and
promised to burn the store if again I offended. So I sold all that was
on the shelves, and there is the box full of worthless paper. I shall
be chagrined if you pay me my salary in paper, but it would be just, no
more than just. Now, what is to be done?”

Grief shrugged his shoulders. “I must first see this Feathers of the Sun
and size up the situation.”

“Then you must see him soon,” Ieremia advised. “Else he will have an
accumulation of many fines against you. Thus does he absorb all the
coin of the realm. He has it all now, save what has been buried in the
ground.”



III

On his way back along the Broom Road, under the lighted lamps that
marked the entrance to the palace grounds, Grief encountered a short,
rotund gentleman, in unstarched ducks, smooth-shaven and of florid
complexion, who was just emerging. Something about his tentative,
saturated gait was familiar. Grief knew it on the instant. On the
beaches of a dozen South Sea ports had he seen it before.

“Of all men, Cornelius Deasy!” he cried.

“If it ain’t Grief himself, the old devil,” was the return greeting, as
they shook hands.

“If you’ll come on board I’ve some choice smoky Irish,” Grief invited.

Cornelius threw back his shoulders and stiffened.

“Nothing doin’, Mr. Grief. ‘Tis Fulualea I am now. No blarneyin’ of
old times for me. Also, and by the leave of his gracious Majesty King
Tulifau, ‘tis Chancellor of the Exchequer I am, an’ Chief Justice I am,
save in moments of royal sport when the king himself chooses to toy with
the wheels of justice.”

Grief whistled his amazement. “So you’re Feathers of the Sun!”

“I prefer the native idiom,” was the correction. “Fulualea, an’ it
please you. Not forgettin’ old times, Mr. Grief, it sorrows the heart
of me to break you the news. You’ll have to pay your legitimate import
duties same as any other trader with mind intent on robbin’ the gentle
Polynesian savage on coral isles implanted. ----Where was I? Ah! I
remember. You’ve violated the regulations. With malice intent have you
entered the port of Fitu-Iva after sunset without sidelights burnin’.
Don’t interrupt. With my own eyes did I see you. For which offence are
you fined the sum of five pounds. Have you any gin? ‘Tis a serious
offence. Not lightly are the lives of the mariners of our commodious
port to be risked for the savin’ of a penny’orth of oil. Did I ask: have
you any gin? Tis the harbour master that asks.”

“You’ve taken a lot on your shoulders,” Grief grinned.

“‘Tis the white man’s burden. These rapscallion traders have been
puttin’ it all over poor Tui Tulif, the best-hearted old monarch
that ever sat a South Sea throne an’ mopped grog-root from the imperial
calabash. ‘Tis I, Cornelius--Fulualea, rather--that am here to see
justice done. Much as I dislike the doin’ of it, as harbour master ‘tis
my duty to find you guilty of breach of quarantine.”

“Quarantine?”

“‘Tis the rulin’ of the port doctor. No intercourse with the shore till
the ship is passed. What dire calamity to the confidin’ native if
chicken pox or whoopin’ cough was aboard of you! Who is there to protect
the gentle, confidin’ Polynesian? I, Fulualea, the Feathers of the Sun,
on my high mission.”

“Who in hell is the port doctor?” Grief queried.

“‘Tis me, Fulualea. Your offence is serious. Consider yourself fined
five cases of first-quality Holland gin.”

Grief laughed heartily. “We’ll compromise, Cornelius. Come aboard and
have a drink.”

The Feathers of the Sun waved the proffer aside grandly. “‘Tis bribery.
I’ll have none of it--me faithful to my salt. And wherefore did you not
present your ship’s papers? As chief of the custom house you are fined
five pounds and two more cases of gin.”

“Look here, Cornelius. A joke’s a joke, but this one has gone far
enough. This is not Levuka. I’ve half a mind to pull your nose for you.
You can’t buck me.”

The Feathers of the Sun retreated unsteadily and in alarm.

“Lay no violence on me,” he threatened. “You’re right. This is not
Levuka. And by the same token, with Tui Tulifau and the royal army
behind me, buck you is just the thing I can and will. You’ll pay them
fines promptly, or I’ll confiscate your vessel. You’re not the first.
What does that Chink pearl-buyer, Peter Gee, do but slip into harbour,
violatin’ all regulations an’ makin’ rough house for the matter of a
few paltry fines. No; he wouldn’t pay ‘em, and he’s on the beach now
thinkin’ it over.”

“You don’t mean to say----”

“Sure an’ I do. In the high exercise of office I seized his schooner. A
fifth of the loyal army is now in charge on board of her. She’ll be sold
this day week. Some ten tons of shell in the hold, and I’m wonderin’
if I can trade it to you for gin. I can promise you a rare bargain. How
much gin did you say you had?”

“Still more gin, eh?”

“An’ why not? ‘Tis a royal souse is Tui Tulifau. Sure it keeps my wits
workin’ overtime to supply him, he’s that amazin’ liberal with it. The
whole gang of hanger-on chiefs is perpetually loaded to the guards. It’s
disgraceful. Are you goin’ to pay them fines, Mr. Grief, or is it to
harsher measures I’ll be forced?”

Grief turned impatiently on his heel.

“Cornelius, you’re drunk. Think it over and come to your senses. The
old rollicking South Sea days are gone. You can’t play tricks like that
now.”

“If you think you’re goin’ on board, Mr. Grief, I’ll save you the
trouble. I know your kind, I foresaw your stiff-necked stubbornness. An’
it’s forestalled you are. ‘Tis on the beach you’ll find your crew. The
vessel’s seized.”

Grief turned back on him in the half-belief still that he was joking.
Fulualea again retreated in alarm. The form of a large man loomed beside
him in the darkness.

“Is it you, Uiliami?” Fulualea crooned. “Here is another sea pirate.
Stand by me with the strength of thy arm, O Herculean brother.”

“Greeting, Uiliami,” Grief said. “Since when has Fitu-Iva come to be
run by a Levuka beachcomber? He says my schooner has been seized. Is it
true?”

“It is true,” Uiliami boomed from his deep chest. “Have you any more
silk shirts like Willie Smee’s? Tui Tulifau would like such a shirt. He
has heard of it.”

“‘Tis all the same,” Fulualea interrupted. “Shirts or schooners, the
king shall have them.”

“Rather high-handed, Cornelius,” Grief murmured. “It’s rank piracy. You
seized my vessel without giving me a chance.”

“A chance is it? As we stood here, not five minutes gone, didn’t you
refuse to pay your fines?”

“But she was already seized.”

“Sure, an’ why not? Didn’t I know you’d refuse? ‘Tis all fair, an’ no
injustice done--Justice, the bright, particular star at whose shining
altar Cornelius Deasy--or Fulualea, ‘tis the same thing--ever worships.
Get thee gone, Mr. Trader, or I’ll set the palace guards on you.
Uiliami, ‘tis a desperate character, this trader man. Call the guards.”

Uiliami blew the whistle suspended on his broad bare chest by a cord
of cocoanut sennit. Grief reached out an angry hand for Cornelius, who
titubated into safety behind Uiliami’s massive bulk. A dozen strapping
Polynesians, not one under six feet, ran down the palace walk and ranged
behind their commander.

“Get thee gone, Mr. Trader,” Cornelius ordered. “The interview is
terminated. We’ll try your several cases in the mornin’. Appear promptly
at the palace at ten o’clock to answer to the followin’ charges, to
wit: breach of the peace; seditious and treasonable utterance; violent
assault on the chief magistrate with intent to cut, wound, maim, an’
bruise; breach of quarantine; violation of harbour regulations; and
gross breakage of custom house rules. In the mornin’, fellow, in the
mornin’, justice shall be done while the breadfruit falls. And the Lord
have mercy on your soul.”



III

Before the hour set for the trial Grief, accompanied by Peter Gee, won
access to Tui Tulifau. The king, surrounded by half a dozen chiefs, lay
on mats under the shade of the avocados in the palace compound. Early
as was the hour, palace maids were industriously serving squarefaces of
gin. The king was glad to see his old friend Davida, and regretful
that he had run foul of the new regulations. Beyond that he steadfastly
avoided discussion of the matter in hand. All protests of the
expropriated traders were washed away in proffers of gin. “Have a
drink,” was his invariable reply, though once he unbosomed himself
enough to say that Feathers of the Sun was a wonderful man. Never had
palace affairs been so prosperous. Never had there been so much money
in the treasury, nor so much gin in circulation. “Well pleased am I with
Fulualea,” he concluded. “Have a drink.”

“We’ve got to get out of this _pronto_,” Grief whispered to Peter Gee a
few minutes later, “or we’ll be a pair of boiled owls. Also, I am to be
tried for arson, or heresy, or leprosy, or something, in a few minutes,
and I must control my wits.”

As they withdrew from the royal presence, Grief caught a glimpse of
Sepeli, the queen. She was peering out at her royal spouse and his
fellow tipplers, and the frown on her face gave Grief his cue. Whatever
was to be accomplished must be through her.

In another shady corner of the big compound Cornelius was holding court.
He had been at it early, for when Grief arrived the case of Willie Smee
was being settled. The entire royal army, save that portion in charge of
the seized vessels, was in attendance.

“Let the defendant stand up,” said Cornelius, “and receive the just and
merciful sentence of the Court for licentious and disgraceful conduct
unbecomin’ a supercargo. The defendant says he has no money. Very well.
The Court regrets it has no calaboose. In lieu thereof, and in view
of the impoverished condition of the defendant, the Court fines said
defendant one white silk shirt of the same kind, make and quality at
present worn by defendant.”

Cornelius nodded to several of the soldiers, who led the supercargo away
behind an avocado tree. A minute later he emerged, minus the garment in
question, and sat down beside Grief.

“What have you been up to?” Grief asked.

“Blessed if I know. What crimes have you committed?”

“Next case,” said Cornelius in his most extra-legal tones. “David Grief,
defendant, stand up. The Court has considered the evidence in the case,
or cases, and renders the following judgment, to wit:--Shut up!” he
thundered at Grief, who had attempted to interrupt. “I tell you the
evidence has been considered, deeply considered. It is no wish of the
Court to lay additional hardship on the defendant, and the Court takes
this opportunity to warn the defendant that he is liable for contempt.
For open and wanton violation of harbour rules and regulations, breach
of quarantine, and disregard of shipping laws, his schooner, the
_Cantani_, is hereby declared confiscated to the Government of
Fitu-Iva, to be sold at public auction, ten days from date, with
all appurtenances, fittings, and cargo thereunto pertaining. For the
personal crimes of the defendant, consisting of violent and turbulent
conduct and notorious disregard of the laws of the realm, he is fined in
the sum of one hundred pounds sterling and fifteen cases of gin. I will
not ask you if you have anything to say. But will you pay? That is the
question.”

Grief shook his head.

“In the meantime,” Cornelius went on, “consider yourself a prisoner at
large. There is no calaboose in which to confine you. And finally, it
has come to the knowledge of the Court, that at an early hour of this
morning, the defendant did wilfully and deliberately send Kanakas in his
employ out on the reef to catch fish for breakfast. This is distinctly
an infringement of the rights of the fisherfolk of Fitu-Iva. Home
industries must be protected. This conduct of the defendant is severely
reprehended by the Court, and on any repetition of the offence the
offender and offenders, all and sundry, shall be immediately put to hard
labour on the improvement of the Broom Road. The court is dismissed.”

As they left the compound, Peter Gee nudged Grief to look where Tui
Tulifau reclined on the mats. The supercargo’s shirt, stretched and
bulged, already encased the royal fat.



IV

“The thing is clear,” said Peter Gee, at a conference in Ieremia’s
house. “Deasy has about gathered in all the coin. In the meantime he
keeps the king going on the gin he’s captured, on our vessels. As soon
as he can maneuver it he’ll take the cash and skin out on your craft or
mine.”

“He is a low fellow,” Ieremia declared, pausing in the polishing of his
spectacles. “He is a scoundrel and a blackguard. He should be struck by
a dead pig, by a particularly dead pig.”

“The very thing,” said Grief. “He shall be struck by a dead pig.
Ieremia, I should not be surprised if you were the man to strike him
with the dead pig. Be sure and select a particularly dead one. Tui
Tulifau is down at the boat house broaching a case of my Scotch. I’m
going up to the palace to work kitchen politics with the queen. In the
meantime you get a few things on your shelves from the store-room. I’ll
lend you some, Hawkins. And you, Peter, see the German store. Start in
all of you, selling for paper. Remember, I’ll back the losses. If
I’m not mistaken, in three days we’ll have a national council or a
revolution. You, Ieremia, start messengers around the island to the
fishers and farmers, everywhere, even to the mountain goat-hunters. Tell
them to assemble at the palace three days from now.”

“But the soldiers,” Ieremia objected.

“I’ll take care of them. They haven’t been paid for two months. Besides,
Uiliami is the queen’s brother. Don’t have too much on your shelves at a
time. As soon as the soldiers show up with paper, stop selling.”

“Then will they burn the stores,” said Ieremia.

“Let them. King Tulifau will pay for it if they do.”

“Will he pay for my shirt?” Willie Smee demanded.

“That is purely a personal and private matter between you and Tui
Tulifau,” Grief answered.

“It’s beginning to split up the back,” the supercargo lamented. “I
noticed that much this morning when he hadn’t had it on ten minutes. It
cost me thirty shillings and I only wore it once.”

“Where shall I get a dead pig?” Ieremia asked.

“Kill one, of course,” said Grief. “Kill a small one.”

“A small one is worth ten shillings.”

“Then enter it in your ledger under operating expenses.” Grief paused a
moment. “If you want it particularly dead, it would be well to kill it
at once.”



V

“You have spoken well, Davida,” said Queen Sepeli. “This Fulualea has
brought a madness with him, and Tui Tulifau is drowned in gin. If he
does not grant the big council, I shall give him a beating. He is easy
to beat when he is in drink.”

She doubled up her fist, and such were her Amazonian proportions and the
determination in her face that Grief knew the council would be called.
So akin was the Fitu-Ivan tongue to the Samoan that he spoke it like a
native.

“And you, Uiliami,” he said, “have pointed out that the soldiers have
demanded coin and refused the paper Fulualea has offered them. Tell them
to take the paper and see that they be paid to-morrow.”

“Why trouble?” Uiliami objected. “The king remains happily drunk. There
is much money in the treasury. And I am content. In my house are two
cases of gin and much goods from Hawkins’s store.”

“Excellent pig, O my brother!” Sepeli erupted. “Has not Davida spoken?
Have you no ears? When the gin and the goods in your house are gone, and
no more traders come with gin and goods, and Feathers of the Sun has run
away to Levuka with all the cash money of Fitu-Iva, what then will you
do? Cash money is silver and gold, but paper is only paper. I tell you
the people are grumbling. There is no fish in the palace. Yams and
sweet potatoes seem to have fled from the soil, for they come not. The
mountain dwellers have sent no wild goat in a week. Though Feathers of
the Sun compels the traders to buy copra at the old price, the people
sell not, for they will have none of the paper money. Only to-day have I
sent messengers to twenty houses. There are no eggs. Has Feathers of the
Sun put a blight upon the hens? I do not know. All I know is that there
are no eggs. Well it is that those who drink much eat little, else would
there be a palace famine. Tell your soldiers to receive their pay. Let
it be in his paper money.”

“And remember,” Grief warned, “though there be selling in the stores,
when the soldiers come with their paper it will be refused. And in three
days will be the council, and Feathers of the Sun will be as dead as a
dead pig.”



VI

The day of the council found the population of the island crowded into
the capital. By canoe and whaleboat, on foot and donkey-back, the five
thousand inhabitants of Fitu-Iva had trooped in. The three intervening
days had had their share of excitement. At first there had been much
selling from the sparse shelves of the traders. But when the soldiers
appeared, their patronage was declined and they were told to go to
Fulualea for coin. “Says it not so on the face of the paper,” the
traders demanded, “that for the asking the coin will be given in
exchange?”

Only the strong authority of Uiliami had prevented the burning of the
traders’ houses. As it was, one of Grief’s copra-sheds went up in smoke
and was duly charged by Ieremia to the king’s account. Ieremia himself
had been abused and mocked, and his spectacles broken. The skin was
off Willie Smee’s knuckles. This had been caused by three boisterous
soldiers who violently struck their jaws thereon in quick succession.
Captain Boig was similarly injured. Peter Gee had come off undamaged,
because it chanced that it was bread-baskets and not jaws that struck
him on the fists.

Tui Tulifau, with Sepeli at his side and surrounded by his convivial
chiefs, sat at the head of the council in the big compound. His
right eye and jaw were swollen as if he too had engaged in assaulting
somebody’s fist. It was palace gossip that morning that Sepeli had
administered a conjugal beating. At any rate, her spouse was sober,
and his fat bulged spiritlessly through the rips in Willie Smee’s silk
shirt. His thirst was prodigious, and he was continually served with
young drinking nuts. Outside the compound, held back by the army, was
the mass of the common people. Only the lesser chiefs, village maids,
village beaux, and talking men with their staffs of office were
permitted inside. Cornelius Deasy, as befitted a high and favoured
official, sat near to the right hand of the king. On the left of the
queen, opposite Cornelius and surrounded by the white traders he was
to represent, sat Ieremia. Bereft of his spectacles, he peered
short-sightedly across at the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In turn, the talking man of the windward coast, the talking man of the
leeward coast, and the talking man of the mountain villages, each backed
by his group of lesser talking men and chiefs, arose and made oration.
What they said was much the same. They grumbled about the paper money.
Affairs were not prosperous. No more copra was being smoked. The people
were suspicious. To such a pass had things come that all people wanted
to pay their debts and no one wanted to be paid. Creditors made a
practice of running away from debtors. The money was cheap. Prices were
going up and commodities were getting scarce. It cost three times the
ordinary price to buy a fowl, and then it was tough and like to die
of old age if not immediately sold. The outlook was gloomy. There were
signs and omens. There was a plague of rats in some districts. The crops
were bad. The custard apples were small. The best-bearing avocado on the
windward coast had mysteriously shed all its leaves. The taste had
gone from the mangoes. The plantains were eaten by a worm. The fish had
forsaken the ocean and vast numbers of tiger-sharks appeared. The wild
goats had fled to inaccessible summits. The poi in the poi-pits had
turned bitter. There were rumblings in the mountains, night-walking
of spirits; a woman of Punta-Puna had been struck speechless, and a
five-legged she-goat had been born in the village of Eiho. And that all
was due to the strange money of Fulualea was the firm conviction of the
elders in the village councils assembled.

Uiliami spoke for the army. His men were discontented and mutinous.
Though by royal decree the traders were bidden accept the money, yet did
they refuse it. He would not say, but it looked as if the strange money
of Fulualea had something to do with it.

Ieremia, as talking man of the traders, next spoke. When he arose, it
was noticeable that he stood with legs spraddled over a large grass
basket. He dwelt upon the cloth of the traders, its variety and beauty
and durability, which so exceeded the Fitu-Ivan wet-pounded tapa,
fragile and coarse. No one wore tapa any more. Yet all had worn
tapa, and nothing but tapa, before the traders came. There was the
mosquito-netting, sold for a song, that the cleverest Fitu-Ivan
net-weaver could not duplicate in a thousand years. He enlarged on the
incomparable virtues of rifles, axes, and steel fishhooks, down through
needles, thread and cotton fish-lines to white flour and kerosene oil.

He expounded at length, with firstlies and secondlies and all minor
subdivisions of argument, on organization, and order, and civilization.
He contended that the trader was the bearer of civilization, and that
the trader must be protected in his trade else he would not come. Over
to the westward were islands which would not protect the traders. What
was the result? The traders would not come, and the people were like
wild animals. They wore no clothes, no silk shirts (here he peered and
blinked significantly at the king), and they ate one another.

The queer paper of the Feathers of the Sun was not money. The traders
knew what money was, and they would not receive it. If Fitu-Iva
persisted in trying to make them receive it they would go away and never
come back. And then the Fitu-Ivans, who had forgotten how to make tapa,
would run around naked and eat one another.

Much more he said, talking a solid hour, and always coming back to what
their dire condition would be when the traders came no more. “And in
that day,” he perorated, “how will the Fitu-Ivan be known in the great
world? _Kai-kanak_* will men call him. ‘_Kiakanak! Kai-kanak!_”

     * Man-eater.

Tui Tulifau spoke briefly. The case had been presented, he said, for the
people, the army, and the traders. It was now time for Feathers of the
Sun to present his side. It could not be denied that he had wrought
wonders with his financial system. “Many times has he explained to me
the working of his system,” Tui Tulif au concluded. “It is very simple.
And now he will explain it to you.”

It was a conspiracy of the white traders, Cornelius contended. Ieremia
was right so far as concerned the manifold blessings of white flour
and kerosene oil. Fitu-Iva did not want to become _kai-kanak_. Fitu-Iva
wanted civilization; it wanted more and more civilization. Now that was
the very point, and they must follow him closely. Paper money was an
earmark of higher civilization. That was why he, the Feathers of the
Sun, had introduced it. And that was why the traders opposed it. They
did not want to see Fitu-Iva civilized. Why did they come across the far
ocean stretches with their goods to Fitu-Iva? He, the Feathers of the
Sun, would tell them why, to their faces, in grand council assembled. In
their own countries men were too civilized to let the traders make the
immense profits that they made out of the Fitu-Ivans. If the Fitu-Ivans
became properly civilized, the trade of the traders would be gone. In
that day every Fitu-Ivan could become a trader if he pleased.

That was why the white traders fought the system of paper money, that
he, the Feathers of the Sun, had brought. Why was he called the Feathers
of the Sun? Because he was the Light-Bringer from the World Beyond the
Sky. The paper money was the light. The robbing white traders could not
flourish in the light. Therefore they fought the light.

He would prove it to the good people of Fitu-Iva, and he would prove
it out of the mouths of his enemies. It was a well-known fact that all
highly civilized countries had paper-money systems. He would ask Ieremia
if this was not so.

Ieremia did not answer.

“You see,” Cornelius went on, “he makes no answer. He cannot deny what
is true. England, France, Germany, America, all the great _Papalangi_
countries, have the paper-money system. It works. From century to
century it works. I challenge you, Ieremia, as an honest man, as one
who was once a zealous worker in the Lord’s vineyard, I challenge you to
deny that in the great _Papalangi_ countries the system works.”

Ieremia could not deny, and his fingers played nervously with the
fastening of the basket on his knees.

“You see, it is as I have said,” Cornelius continued. “Ieremia agrees
that it is so. Therefore, I ask you, all good people of Fitu-Iva, if
a system is good for the _Papalangi_ countries, why is it not good for
Fitu-Iva?”

“It is not the same!” Ieremia cried. “The paper of the Feathers of the
Sun is different from the paper of the great countries.”

That Cornelius had been prepared for this was evident. He held up a
Fitu-Ivan note that was recognized by all.

“What is that?” he demanded.

“Paper, mere paper,” was Ieremia’s reply.

“And that?”

This time Cornelius held up a Bank of England note.

“It is the paper money of the English,” he explained to the Council,
at the same time extending it for Ieremia to examine. “Is it not true,
Ieremia, that it is paper money of the English?”

Ieremia nodded reluctantly.

“You have said that the paper money of Fitu-Iva was paper, now how about
this of the English? What is it?.... You must answer like a true man...
All wait for your answer, Ieremia.”

“It is--it is----” the puzzled Ieremia began, then spluttered
helplessly, the fallacy beyond his penetration.

“Paper, mere paper,” Cornelius concluded for him, imitating his halting
utterance.

Conviction sat on the faces of all. The king clapped his hands
admiringly and murmured, “It is most clear, very clear.”

“You see, he himself acknowledges it.” Assured triumph was in Deasy’s
voice and bearing. “He knows of no difference. There is no difference.
‘Tis the very image of money. ‘Tis money itself.”

In the meantime Grief was whispering in Ieremia’s ear, who nodded and
began to speak.

“But it is well known to all the _Papalangi_ that the English Government
will pay coin money for the paper.”

Deasy’s victory was now absolute. He held aloft a Fitu-Ivan note.

“Is it not so written on this paper as well?”

Again Grief whispered.

“That Fitu-Iva will pay coin money?” asked Ieremia

“It is so written.”

A third time Grief prompted.

“On demand?” asked Ieremia.

“On demand,” Cornelius assured him.

“Then I demand coin money now,” said Ieremia, drawing a small package of
notes from the pouch at his girdle.

Cornelius scanned the package with a quick, estimating eye.

“Very well,” he agreed. “I shall give you the coin money now. How much?”

“And we will see the system work,” the king proclaimed, partaking in his
Chancellor’s triumph.

“You have heard!--He will give coin money now!” Ieremia cried in a loud
voice to the assemblage.

At the same time he plunged both hands in the basket and drew forth many
packages of Fitu-Ivan notes. It was noticed that a peculiar odour was
adrift about the council.

“I have here,” Ieremia announced, “one thousand and twenty-eight pounds
twelve shillings and sixpence. Here is a sack to put the coin money in.”

Cornelius recoiled. He had not expected such a sum, and everywhere about
the council his uneasy eyes showed him chiefs and talking men drawing
out bundles of notes. The army, its two months’ pay in its hands,
pressed forward to the edge of the council, while behind it the
populace, with more money, invaded the compound.

“‘Tis a run on the bank you’ve precipitated,” he said reproachfully to
Grief.

“Here is the sack to put the coin money in,” Ieremia urged.

“It must be postponed,” Cornelius said desperately, “‘Tis not in banking
hours.”

Ieremia flourished a package of money. “Nothing of banking hours is
written here. It says on demand, and I now demand.”

“Let them come to-morrow, O Tui Tulifau,” Cornelius appealed to the
king. “They shall be paid to-morrow.”

Tui Tulifau hesitated, but his spouse glared at him, her brawny arm
tensing as the fist doubled into a redoubtable knot, Tui Tulifau tried
to look away, but failed. He cleared his throat nervously.

“We will see the system work,” he decreed. “The people have come far.”

“‘Tis good money you’re asking me to pay out,” Deasy muttered in a low
voice to the king.

Sepeli caught what he said, and grunted so savagely as to startle the
king, who involuntarily shrank away from her.

“Forget not the pig,” Grief whispered to Ieremia, who immediately stood
up.

With a sweeping gesture he stilled the babel of voices that was
beginning to rise.

“It was an ancient and honourable custom of Fitu-Iva,” he said, “that
when a man was proved a notorious evildoer his joints were broken with
a club and he was staked out at low water to be fed upon alive by the
sharks. Unfortunately, that day is past. Nevertheless another ancient
and honourable custom remains with us. You all know what it is. When a
man is a proven thief and liar he shall be struck with a dead pig.”

His right hand went into the basket, and, despite the lack of his
spectacles, the dead pig that came into view landed accurately on
Deasy’s neck. With such force was it thrown that the Chancellor, in
his sitting position, toppled over sidewise. Before he could recover,
Sepeli, with an agility unexpected of a woman who weighed two hundred
and sixty pounds, had sprung across to him. One hand clutched his shirt
collar, the other hand brandished the pig, and amid the vast uproar of a
delighted kingdom she royally swatted him.

There remained nothing for Tui Tulifau but to put a good face on his
favourite’s disgrace, and his mountainous fat lay back on the mats and
shook in a gale of Gargantuan laughter.

When Sepeli dropped both pig and Chancellor, a talking man from the
windward coast picked up the carcass. Cornelius was on his feet and
running, when the pig caught him on the legs and tripped him. The people
and the army, with shouts and laughter, joined in the sport.

Twist and dodge as he would, everywhere the ex-Chancellor of the
Exchequer was met or overtaken by the flying pig. He scuttled like a
frightened rabbit in and out among the avocados and the palms. No hand
was laid upon him, and his tormentors made way before him, but ever they
pursued, and ever the pig flew as fast as hands could pick it up.

As the chase died away down the Broom Road, Grief led the traders to the
royal treasury, and the day was well over ere the last Fitu-Ivan bank
note had been redeemed with coin.



VII

Through the mellow cool of twilight a man paddled out from a clump of
jungle to the _Cantani_. It was a leaky and abandoned dugout, and he
paddled slowly, desisting from time to time in order to bale. The
Kanaka sailors giggled gleefully as he came alongside and painfully
drew himself over the rail. He was bedraggled and filthy, and seemed
half-dazed.

“Could I speak a word with you, Mr. Grief?” he asked sadly and humbly.

“Sit to leeward and farther away,” Grief answered. “A little farther
away. That’s better.”

Cornelius sat down on the rail and held his head in both his hands.

“‘Tis right,” he said. “I’m as fragrant as a recent battlefield. My head
aches to burstin’. My neck is fair broken. The teeth are loose in my
jaws. There’s nests of hornets buzzin’ in my ears. My medulla oblongata
is dislocated. I’ve been through earthquake and pestilence, and the
heavens have rained pigs.” He paused with a sigh that ended in a groan.
“‘Tis a vision of terrible death. One that the poets never dreamed. To
be eaten by rats, or boiled in oil, or pulled apart by wild horses--that
would be unpleasant. But to be beaten to death with a dead pig!”
 He shuddered at the awfulness of it. “Sure it transcends the human
imagination.”

Captain Boig sniffed audibly, moved his canvas chair farther to
windward, and sat down again.

“I hear you’re runnin’ over to Yap, Mr. Grief,” Cornelius went on. “An’
two things I’m wantin’ to beg of you: a passage an’ the nip of the old
smoky I refused the night you landed.”

Grief clapped his hands for the black steward and ordered soap and
towels.

“Go for’ard, Cornelius, and take a scrub first,” he said. “The boy will
bring you a pair of dungarees and a shirt. And by the way, before you
go, how was it we found more coin in the treasury than paper you had
issued?”

“‘Twas the stake of my own I’d brought with me for the adventure.”

“We’ve decided to charge the demurrage and other expenses and loss to
Tui Tulifau,” Grief said. “So the balance we found will be turned over
to you. But ten shillings must be deducted.”

“For what?”

“Do you think dead pigs grow on trees? The sum of ten shillings for that
pig is entered in the accounts.”

Cornelius bowed his assent with a shudder.

“Sure it’s grateful I am it wasn’t a fifteen-shilling pig or a
twenty-shilling one.”



Chapter Eight--THE PEARLS OF PARLAY



I

The Kanaka helmsman put the wheel down, and the _Malahini_ slipped into
the eye of the wind and righted to an even keel. Her head-sails emptied,
there was a rat-tat of reef-points and quick shifting of boom-tackles,
and she was heeled over and filled away on the other tack. Though it was
early morning and the wind brisk, the five white men who lounged on
the poop-deck were scantily clad. David Grief, and his guest, Gregory
Mulhall, an Englishman, were still in pajamas, their naked feet thrust
into Chinese slippers. The captain and mate were in thin undershirts and
unstarched duck pants, while the supercargo still held in his hands
the undershirt he was reluctant to put on. The sweat stood out on his
forehead, and he seemed to thrust his bare chest thirstily into the wind
that did not cool.

“Pretty muggy, for a breeze like this,” he complained.

“And what’s it doing around in the west? That’s what I want to know,”
 was Grief’s contribution to the general plaint.

“It won’t last, and it ain’t been there long,” said Hermann, the Holland
mate. “She is been chop around all night--five minutes here, ten minutes
there, one hour somewhere other quarter.”

“Something makin ‘, something makin ‘,” Captain Warfield croaked,
spreading his bushy beard with the fingers of both hands and shoving
the thatch of his chin into the breeze in a vain search for coolness.
“Weather’s been crazy for a fortnight. Haven’t had the proper trades in
three weeks. Everything’s mixed up. Barometer was pumping at sunset last
night, and it’s pumping now, though the weather sharps say it don’t mean
anything. All the same, I’ve got a prejudice against seeing it pump.
Gets on my nerves, sort of, you know. She was pumping that way the time
we lost the _Lancaster_. I was only an apprentice, but I can remember
that well enough. Brand new, four-masted steel ship; first voyage; broke
the old man’s heart. He’d been forty years in the company. Just faded
way and died the next year.”

Despite the wind and the early hour, the heat was suffocating. The wind
whispered coolness, but did not deliver coolness. It might have blown
off the Sahara, save for the extreme humidity with which it was laden.
There was no fog nor mist, nor hint of fog or mist, yet the dimness of
distance produced the impression. There were no defined clouds, yet
so thickly were the heavens covered by a messy cloud-pall that the sun
failed to shine through.

“Ready about!” Captain Warfield ordered with slow sharpness.

The brown, breech-clouted Kanaka sailors moved languidly but quickly to
head-sheets and boom-tackles.

“Hard a-lee!”

The helmsman ran the spokes over with no hint of gentling, and the
_Malahini_ darted prettily into the wind and about.

“Jove! she’s a witch!” was Mulhall’s appreciation. “I didn’t know you
South Sea traders sailed yachts.”

“She was a Gloucester fisherman originally,” Grief explained, “and
the Gloucester boats are all yachts when it comes to build, rig, and
sailing.”

“But you’re heading right in--why don’t you make it?” came the
Englishman’s criticism.

“Try it, Captain Warfield,” Grief suggested. “Show him what a lagoon
entrance is on a strong ebb.”

“Close-and-by!” the captain ordered.

“Close-and-by,” the Kanaka repeated, easing half a spoke.

The _Malahini_ laid squarely into the narrow passage which was the
lagoon entrance _of_ a large, long, and narrow oval of an atoll. The
atoll was shaped as if three atolls, in the course of building, had
collided and coalesced and failed to rear the partition walls. Cocoanut
palms grew in spots on the circle of sand, and there were many gaps
where the sand was too low to the sea for cocoanuts, and through which
could be seen the protected lagoon where the water lay flat like the
ruffled surface of a mirror. Many square miles of water were in the
irregular lagoon, all of which surged out on the ebb through the one
narrow channel. So narrow was the channel, so large the outflow of
water, that the passage was more like the rapids of a river than the
mere tidal entrance to an atoll. The water boiled and whirled and
swirled and drove outward in a white foam of stiff, serrated waves. Each
heave and blow on her bows of the upstanding waves of the current swung
the Malahini off the straight lead and wedged her as with wedges of
steel toward the side of the passage. Part way in she was, when her
closeness to the coral edge compelled her to go about. On the opposite
tack, broadside to the current, she swept seaward with the current’s
speed.

“Now’s the time for that new and expensive engine of yours,” Grief
jeered good-naturedly.

That the engine was a sore point with Captain Warfield was patent. He
had begged and badgered for it, until in the end Grief had given his
consent.

“It will pay for itself yet,” the captain retorted, “You wait and
see. It beats insurance and you know the underwriters won’t stand for
insurance in the Paumotus.”

Grief pointed to a small cutter beating up astern of them on the same
course.

“I’ll wager a five-franc piece the little Nuhiva beats us in.”

“Sure,” Captain Warfield agreed. “She’s overpowered. We’re like a liner
alongside of her, and we’ve only got forty horsepower. She’s got ten
horse, and she’s a little skimming dish. She could skate across the
froth of hell, but just the same she can’t buck this current. It’s
running ten knots right now.”

And at the rate of ten knots, buffeted and jerkily rolled, the
_Malahini_ went out to sea with the tide.

“She’ll slacken in half an hour--then we’ll make headway,” Captain
Warfield said, with an irritation explained by his next words. “He has
no right to call it Parlay. It’s down on the admiralty charts, and the
French charts, too, as Hikihoho. Bougainville discovered it and named it
from the natives.”

“What’s the name matter?” the supercargo demanded, taking advantage of
speech to pause with arms shoved into the sleeves of the undershirt.
“There it is, right under our nose, and old Parlay is there with the
pearls.”

“Who see them pearl?” Hermann queried, looking from one to another.

“It’s well known,” was the supercargo’s reply. He turned to the
steersman: “Tai-Hotauri, what about old Parlay’s pearls?”

The Kanaka, pleased and self-conscious, took and gave a spoke.

“My brother dive for Parlay three, four month, and he make much talk
about pearl. Hikihoho very good place for pearl.”

“And the pearl-buyers have never got him to part with a pearl,” the
captain broke in.

“And they say he had a hatful for Armande when he sailed for Tahiti,”
 the supercargo carried on the tale. “That’s fifteen years ago, and he’s
been adding to it ever since--stored the shell as well. Everybody’s seen
that--hundreds of tons of it. They say the lagoon’s fished clean now.
Maybe that’s why he’s announced the auction.”

“If he really sells, this will be the biggest year’s output of pearls in
the Paumotus,” Grief said.

“I say, now, look here!” Mulhall burst forth, harried by the humid
heat as much as the rest of them. “What’s it all about? Who’s the old
beachcomber anyway? What are all these pearls? Why so secretious about
it?”

“Hikihoho belongs to old Parlay,” the supercargo answered. “He’s got a
fortune in pearls, saved up for years and years, and he sent the word
out weeks ago that he’d auction them off to the buyers to-morrow. See
those schooners’ masts sticking up inside the lagoon?”

“Eight, so I see,” said Hermann.

“What are they doing in a dinky atoll like this?” the supercargo went
on. “There isn’t a schooner-load of copra a year in the place. They’ve
come for the auction. That’s why we’re here. That’s why the little
_Nuhiva’s_ bumping along astern there, though what she can buy is beyond
me. Narii Herring--he’s an English Jew half-caste--owns and runs her,
and his only assets are his nerve, his debts, and his whiskey bills.
He’s a genius in such things. He owes so much that there isn’t a
merchant in Papeete who isn’t interested in his welfare. They go out of
their way to throw work in his way. They’ve got to, and a dandy stunt it
is for Narii. Now I owe nobody. What’s the result? If I fell down in
a fit on the beach they’d let me lie there and die. They wouldn’t lose
anything. But Narii Herring?--what wouldn’t they do if he fell in a fit?
Their best wouldn’t be too good for him. They’ve got too much money
tied up in him to let him lie. They’d take him into their homes and
hand-nurse him like a brother. Let me tell you, honesty in paying bills
ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.”

“What’s this Narii chap got to do with it?” was the Englishman’s
short-tempered demand. And, turning to Grief, he said, “What’s all this
pearl nonsense? Begin at the beginning.”

“You’ll have to help me out,” Grief warned the others, as he began. “Old
Parlay is a character. From what I’ve seen of him I believe he’s partly
and mildly insane. Anyway, here’s the story: Parlay’s a full-blooded
Frenchman. He told me once that he came from Paris. His accent is the
true Parisian. He arrived down here in the old days. Went to trading
and all the rest. That’s how he got in on Hikihoho. Came in trading when
trading was the real thing. About a hundred miserable Paumotans lived
on the island. He married the queen--native fashion. When she died,
everything was his. Measles came through, and there weren’t more than a
dozen survivors. He fed them, and worked them, and was king. Now before
the queen died she gave birth to a girl. That’s Armande. When she was
three he sent her to the convent at Papeete. When she was seven or eight
he sent her to France. You begin to glimpse the situation. The best
and most aristocratic convent in France was none too good for the only
daughter of a Paumotan island king and capitalist, and you know the old
country French draw no colour line. She was educated like a princess,
and she accepted herself in much the same way. Also, she thought she was
all-white, and never dreamed of a bar sinister.

“Now comes the tragedy. The old man had always been cranky and erratic,
and he’d played the despot on Hikihoho so long that he’d got the idea
in his head that there was nothing wrong with the king--or the princess
either. When Armande was eighteen he sent for her. He had slews and
slathers of money, as Yankee Bill would say. He’d built the big house on
Hikihoho, and a whacking fine bungalow in Papeete. She was to arrive on
the mail boat from New Zealand, and he sailed in his schooner to meet
her at Papeete. And he might have carried the situation off, despite the
hens and bull-beasts of Papeete, if it hadn’t been for the hurricane.
That was the year, wasn’t it, when Manu-Huhi was swept and eleven
hundred drowned?”

The others nodded, and Captain Warfield said: “I was in the _Magpie_
that blow, and we went ashore, all hands and the cook, _Magpie_ and all,
a quarter of a mile into the cocoanuts at the head of Taiohae Bay--and
it a supposedly hurricane-proof harbour.”

“Well,” Grief continued, “old Parlay got caught in the same blow, and
arrived in Papeete with his hatful of pearls three weeks too late. He’d
had to jack up his schooner and build half a mile of ways before he
could get her back into the sea.

“And in the meantime there was Armande at Papeete. Nobody called on her.
She did, French fashion, make the initial calls on the Governor and the
port doctor. They saw her, but neither of their hen-wives was at home to
her nor returned the call. She was out of caste, without caste, though
she had never dreamed it, and that was the gentle way they broke the
information to her. There was a gay young lieutenant on the French
cruiser. He lost his heart to her, but not his head. You can imagine
the shock to this young woman, refined, beautiful, raised like an
aristocrat, pampered with the best of old France that money could buy.
And you can guess the end.” He shrugged his shoulders. “There was a
Japanese servant in the bungalow. He saw it. Said she did it with the
proper spirit of the Samurai. Took a stiletto--no thrust, no drive,
no wild rush for annihilation--took the stiletto, placed the point
carefully against her heart, and with both hands, slowly and steadily,
pressed home.

“Old Parlay arrived after that with his pearls. There was one single one
of them, they say, worth sixty thousand francs. Peter Gee saw it, and
has told me he offered that much for it. The old man went clean off for
a while. They had him strait-jacketed in the Colonial Club two days----”

“His wife’s uncle, an old Paumotan, cut him out of the jacket and turned
him loose,” the supercargo corroborated.

“And then old Parlay proceeded to eat things up,” Grief went on. “Pumped
three bullets into the scalawag of a lieutenant----”

“Who lay in sick bay for three months,” Captain Warfield contributed.

“Flung a glass of wine in the Governor’s face; fought a duel with the
port doctor; beat up his native servants; wrecked the hospital; broke
two ribs and the collarbone of a man nurse, and escaped; and went down
to his schooner, a gun in each hand, daring the chief of police and all
the gendarmes to arrest him, and sailed for Hikihoho. And they say he’s
never left the island since.”

The supercargo nodded. “That was fifteen years ago, and he’s never
budged.”

“And added to his pearls,” said the captain. “He’s a blithering old
lunatic. Makes my flesh creep. He’s a regular Finn.”

“What’s that?” Mulhall inquired.

“Bosses the weather--that’s what the natives believe, at any rate. Ask
Tai-Hotauri there. Hey, Tai-Hotauri! what you think old Parlay do along
weather?”

“Just the same one big weather devil,” came the Kanaka’s answer. “I
know. He want big blow, he make big blow. He want no wind, no wind
come.”

“A regular old Warlock,” said Mulhall.

“No good luck them pearl,” Tai-Hotauri blurted out, rolling his head
ominously. “He say he sell. Plenty schooner come. Then he make big
hurricane, everybody finish, you see. All native men say so.”

“It’s hurricane season now,” Captain War-field laughed morosely.
“They’re not far wrong. It’s making for something right now, and I’d
feel better if the _Malahini_ was a thousand miles away from here.”

“He is a bit mad,” Grief concluded. “I’ve tried to get his point of
view. It’s--well, it’s mixed. For eighteen years he’d centred everything
on Armande. Half the time he believes she’s still alive, not yet come
back from France. That’s one of the reasons he held on to the pearls.
And all the time he hates white men. He never forgets they killed her,
though a great deal of the time he forgets she’s dead. Hello! Where’s
your wind?”

The sails bellied emptily overhead, and Captain Warfield grunted his
disgust. Intolerable as the heat had been, in the absence of wind it
was almost overpowering. The sweat oozed out on all their faces, and now
one, and again another, drew deep breaths, involuntarily questing for
more air.

“Here she comes again--an eight point haul! Boom-tackles across! Jump!”

The Kanakas sprang to the captain’s orders, and for five minutes the
schooner laid directly into the passage and even gained on the current.
Again the breeze fell flat, then puffed from the old quarter, compelling
a shift back of sheets and tackles.

“Here comes the _Nuhiva_” Grief said. “She’s got her engine on. Look at
her skim.”

“All ready?” the captain asked the engineer, a Portuguese half-caste,
whose head and shoulders protruded from the small hatch just for’ard of
the cabin, and who wiped the sweat from his face with a bunch of greasy
waste.

“Sure,” he replied.

“Then let her go.”

The engineer disappeared into his den, and a moment later the exhaust
muffler coughed and spluttered overside. But the schooner could not hold
her lead. The little cutter made three feet to her two and was quickly
alongside and forging ahead. Only natives were on her deck, and the man
steering waved his hand in derisive greeting and farewell.

“That’s Narii Herring,” Grief told Mulhall. “The big fellow at the
wheel--the nerviest and most conscienceless scoundrel in the Paumotus.”

Five minutes later a cry of joy from their own Kanakas centred all eyes
on the _Nuhiva_. Her engine had broken down and they were overtaking
her. The _Malahini’s_ sailors sprang into the rigging and jeered as they
went by; the little cutter heeled over by the wind with a bone in her
teeth, going backward on the tide.

“Some engine that of ours,” Grief approved, as the lagoon opened before
them and the course was changed across it to the anchorage.

Captain Warfield was visibly cheered, though he merely grunted, “It’ll
pay for itself, never fear.”

The _Malahini_ ran well into the centre of the little fleet ere she
found swinging room to anchor.

“There’s Isaacs on the _Dolly_,” Grief observed, with a hand wave of
greeting. “And Peter Gee’s on the _Roberta_. Couldn’t keep him away from
a pearl sale like this. And there’s Francini on the _Cactus_. They’re
all here, all the buyers. Old Parlay will surely get a price.”

“They haven’t repaired the engine yet,” Captain Warfield grumbled
gleefully.

He was looking across the lagoon to where the _Nuhiva’s_ sails showed
through the sparse cocoa-nuts.



II

The house of Parlay was a big two-story frame affair, built of
California lumber, with a galvanized iron roof. So disproportionate
was it to the slender ring of the atoll that it showed out upon the
sand-strip and above it like some monstrous excrescence. They of the
_Malahini_ paid the courtesy visit ashore immediately after anchoring.
Other captains and buyers were in the big room examining the pearls that
were to be auctioned next day. Paumotan servants, natives of Hikihoho,
and relatives of the owner, moved about dispensing whiskey and absinthe.
And through the curious company moved Parlay himself, cackling and
sneering, the withered wreck of what had once been a tall and powerful
man. His eyes were deep sunken and feverish, his cheeks fallen in and
cavernous. The hair of his head seemed to have come out in patches, and
his mustache and imperial had shed in the same lopsided way.

“Jove!” Mulhall muttered under his breath. “A long-legged Napoleon the
Third, but burnt out, baked, and fire-crackled. And mangy! No wonder he
crooks his head to one side. He’s got to keep the balance.”

“Goin’ to have a blow,” was the old man’s greeting to Grief. “You must
think a lot of pearls to come a day like this.”

“They’re worth going to inferno for,” Grief laughed genially back,
running his eyes over the surface of the table covered by the display.

“Other men have already made that journey for them,” old Parlay cackled.
“See this one!” He pointed to a large, perfect pearl the size of a small
walnut that lay apart on a piece of chamois. “They offered me sixty
thousand francs for it in Tahiti. They’ll bid as much and more for it
to-morrow, if they aren’t blown away. Well, that pearl, it was found by
my cousin, my cousin by marriage. He was a native, you see. Also, he
was a thief. He hid it. It was mine. His cousin, who was also my
cousin--we’re all related here--killed him for it and fled away in a
cutter to Noo-Nau. I pursued, but the chief of Noo-Nau had killed him
for it before I got there. Oh, yes, there are many dead men represented
on the table there. Have a drink, Captain. Your face is not familiar.
You are new in the islands?”

“It’s Captain Robinson of the _Roberta_,” Grief said, introducing them.

In the meantime Mulhall had shaken hands with Peter Gee.

“I never fancied there were so many pearls in the world,” Mulhall said.

“Nor have I ever seen so many together at one time,” Peter Gee admitted.

“What ought they to be worth?”

“Fifty or sixty thousand pounds--and that’s to us buyers. In
Paris----” He shrugged his shoulders and lifted his eyebrows at the
incommunicableness of the sum.

Mulhall wiped the sweat from his eyes. All were sweating profusely
and breathing hard. There was no ice in the drink that was served, and
whiskey and absinthe went down lukewarm.

“Yes, yes,” Parlay was cackling. “Many dead men lie on the table
there. I know those pearls, all of them. You see those three! Perfectly
matched, aren’t they? A diver from Easter Island got them for me inside
a week. Next week a shark got him; took his arm off and blood poison did
the business. And that big baroque there--nothing much--if I’m
offered twenty francs for it to-morrow I’ll be in luck; it came out of
twenty-two fathoms of water. The man was from Raratonga. He broke all
diving records. He got it out of twenty-two fathoms. I saw him. And he
burst his lungs at the same time, or got the ‘bends,’ for he died in two
hours. He died screaming. They could hear him for miles. He was the most
powerful native I ever saw. Half a dozen of my divers have died of the
bends. And more men will die, more men will die.”

“Oh, hush your croaking, Parlay,” chided one of the captains. “It ain’t
going to blow.”

“If I was a strong man, I couldn’t get up hook and get out fast enough,”
 the old man retorted in the falsetto of age. “Not if I was a strong man
with the taste for wine yet in my mouth. But not you. You’ll all stay, I
wouldn’t advise you if I thought you’d go, You can’t drive buzzards away
from the carrion. Have another drink, my brave sailor-men. Well, well,
what men will dare for a few little oyster drops! There they are, the
beauties! Auction to-morrow, at ten sharp. Old Parlay’s selling out, and
the buzzards are gathering--old Parlay who was a stronger man in his day
than any of them and who will see most of them dead yet.”

“If he isn’t a vile old beast!” the supercargo of the _Malahini_
whispered to Peter Gee.

“What if she does blow?” said the captain of the _Dolly_. “Hikihoho’s
never been swept.”

“The more reason she will be, then,” Captain Warfield answered back. “I
wouldn’t trust her.”

“Who’s croaking now?” Grief reproved.

“I’d hate to lose that new engine before it paid for itself,” Captain
Warfield replied gloomily.

Parlay skipped with astonishing nimbleness across the crowded room to
the barometer on the wall.

“Take a look, my brave sailormen!” he cried exultantly.

The man nearest read the glass. The sobering effect showed plainly on
his face.

“It’s dropped ten,” was all he said, yet every face went anxious, and
there was a look as if every man desired immediately to start for the
door.

“Listen!” Parlay commanded.

In the silence the outer surf seemed to have become unusually loud.
There was a great rumbling roar.

“A big sea is beginning to set,” some one said; and there was a movement
to the windows, where all gathered.

Through the sparse cocoanuts they gazed seaward. An orderly succession
of huge smooth seas was rolling down upon the coral shore. For some
minutes they gazed on the strange sight and talked in low voices, and in
those few minutes it was manifest to all that the waves were increasing
in size. It was uncanny, this rising sea in a dead calm, and their
voices unconsciously sank lower. Old Parlay shocked them with his abrupt
cackle.

“There is yet time to get away to sea, brave gentlemen. You can tow
across the lagoon with your whaleboats.”

“It’s all right, old man,” said Darling, the mate of the _Cactus_, a
stalwart youngster of twenty-five. “The blow’s to the southward and
passing on. We’ll not get a whiff of it.”

An air of relief went through the room. Conversations were started, and
the voices became louder. Several of the buyers even went back to the
table to continue the examination of the pearls.

Parlay’s shrill cackle rose higher.

“That’s right,” he encouraged. “If the world was coming to an end you’d
go on buying.”

“We’ll buy these to-morrow just the same,” Isaacs assured him.

“Then you’ll be doing your buying in hell.”

The chorus of incredulous laughter incensed the old man. He turned
fiercely on Darling.

“Since when have children like you come to the knowledge of storms? And
who is the man who has plotted the hurricane-courses of the Paumotus?
What books will you find it in? I sailed the Paumotus before the oldest
of you drew breath. I know. To the eastward the paths of the hurricanes
are on so wide a circle they make a straight line. To the westward here
they make a sharp curve. Remember your chart. How did it happen the
hurricane of ‘91 swept Auri and Hiolau? The curve, my brave boy, the
curve! In an hour, or two or three at most, will come the wind. Listen
to that!”

A vast rumbling crash shook the coral foundations of the atoll. The
house quivered to it. The native servants, with bottles of whiskey and
absinthe in their hands, shrank together as if for protection and stared
with fear through the windows at the mighty wash of the wave lapping far
up the beach to the corner of a copra-shed.

Parlay looked at the barometer, giggled, and leered around at his
guests. Captain War-field strode across to see.

“29:75,” he read. “She’s gone down five more. By God! the old devil’s
right. She’s a-coming, and it’s me, for one, for aboard.”

“It’s growing dark,” Isaacs half whispered.

“Jove! it’s like a stage,” Mulhall said to Grief, looking at his watch.
“Ten o’clock in the morning, and it’s like twilight. Down go the lights
for the tragedy. Where’s the slow music!”

In answer, another rumbling crash shook the atoll and the house. Almost
in a panic the company started for the door. In the dim light their
sweaty faces appeared ghastly. Isaacs panted asthmatically in the
suffocating heat.

“What’s your haste?” Parlay chuckled and girded at his departing guests.
“A last drink, brave gentlemen.” No one noticed him. As they took the
shell-bordered path to the beach he stuck his head out the door and
called, “Don’t forget, gentlemen, at ten to-morrow old Parlay sells his
pearls.”



III

On the beach a curious scene took place. Whaleboat after whaleboat was
being hurriedly manned and shoved off. It had grown still darker. The
stagnant calm continued, and the sand shook under their feet with each
buffet of the sea on the outer shore. Narii Herring walked leisurely
along the sand. He grinned at the very evident haste of the captains and
buyers. With him were three of his Kanakas, and also Tai-Hotauri.

“Get into the boat and take an oar,” Captain Warfield ordered the
latter.

Tai-Hotauri came over jauntily, while Narii Herring and his three
Kanakas paused and looked on from forty feet away.

“I work no more for you, skipper,” Tai-Hotauri said insolently and
loudly. But his face belied his words, for he was guilty of a
prodigious wink. “Fire me, skipper,” he huskily whispered, with a second
significant wink.

Captain Warfield took the cue and proceeded to do some acting himself.
He raised his fist and his voice.

“Get into that boat,” he thundered, “or I’ll knock seven bells out of
you!”

The Kanaka drew back truculently, and Grief stepped between to placate
his captain.

“I go to work on the _Nuhiva_,” Tai-Hotauri said, rejoining the other
group.

“Come back here!” the captain threatened.

“He’s a free man, skipper,” Narii Herring spoke up. “He’s sailed with me
in the past, and he’s sailing again, that’s all.”

“Come on, we must get on board,” Grief urged. “Look how dark it’s
getting.”

Captain Warfield gave in, but as the boat shoved off he stood up in the
sternsheets and shook his fist ashore.

“I’ll settle with you yet, Narii,” he cried. “You’re the only skipper in
the group that steals other men’s sailors,” He sat down, and in lowered
voice queried: “Now what’s Tai-Hotauri up to? He’s on to something, but
what is it?”



IV

As the boat came alongside the _Malahini_, Hermann’s anxious face
greeted them over the rail.

“Bottom out fall from barometer,” he announced. “She’s goin’ to blow. I
got starboard anchor overhaul.”

“Overhaul the big one, too,” Captain Warfield ordered, taking charge.
“And here, some of you, hoist in this boat. Lower her down to the deck
and lash her bottom up.”

Men were busy at work on the decks of all the schooners. There was a
great clanking of chains being overhauled, and now one craft, and
now another, hove in, veered, and dropped a second anchor. Like the
_Malahini_, those that had third anchors were preparing to drop them
when the wind showed what quarter it was to blow from.

The roar of the big surf continually grew though the lagoon lay in the
mirror-like calm.

There was no sign of life where Parlay’s big house perched on the sand.
Boat and copra-sheds and the sheds where the shell was stored were
deserted.

“For two cents I’d up anchors and get out,” Grief said. “I’d do it
anyway if it were open sea. But those chains of atolls to the north and
east have us pocketed. We’ve a better chance right here. What do you
think, Captain Warfield?”

“I agree with you, though a lagoon is no mill-pond for riding it out.
I wonder where she’s going to start from? Hello! There goes one of
Parlay’s copra-sheds.”

They could see the grass-thatched shed lift and collapse, while a froth
of foam cleared the crest of the sand and ran down to the lagoon.

“Breached across!” Mulhall exclaimed. “That’s something for a starter.
There she comes again!”

The wreck of the shed was now flung up and left on the sand-crest, A
third wave buffeted it into fragments which washed down the slope toward
the lagoon.

“If she blow I would as be cooler yet,” Hermann grunted. “No longer can
I breathe. It is damn hot. I am dry like a stove.”

He chopped open a drinking cocoanut with his heavy sheath-knife and
drained the contents. The rest of them followed his example, pausing
once to watch one of Parlay’s shell sheds go down in ruin. The barometer
now registered 29:50.

“Must be pretty close to the centre of the area of low pressure,” Grief
remarked cheerfully. “I was never through the eye of a hurricane before.
It will be an experience for you, too, Mulhall. From the speed the
barometer’s dropped, it’s going to be a big one.”

Captain Warfield groaned, and all eyes drew to him. He was looking
through the glasses down the length of the lagoon to the southeast.

“There she comes,” he said quietly.

They did not need glasses to see. A flying film, strangely marked,
seemed drawing over the surface of the lagoon. Abreast of it, along the
atoll, travelling with equal speed, was a stiff bending of the cocoanut
palms and a blur of flying leaves. The front of the wind on the water
was a solid, sharply defined strip of dark-coloured, wind-vexed water.
In advance of this strip, like skirmishers, were flashes of windflaws.
Behind this strip, a quarter of a mile in width, was a strip of what
seemed glassy calm. Next came another dark strip of wind, and behind
that the lagoon was all crisping, boiling whiteness.

“What is that calm streak?” Mulhall asked.

“Calm,” Warfield answered.

“But it travels as fast as the wind,” was the other’s objection.

“It has to, or it would be overtaken and it wouldn’t be any calm. It’s
a double-header, I saw a big squall like that off Savaii once. A regular
double-header. Smash! it hit us, then it lulled to nothing, and smashed
us a second time. Stand by and hold on! Here she is on top of us. Look
at the _Roberta!_”

The Roberta, lying nearest to the wind at slack chains, was swept off
broadside like a straw. Then her chains brought her up, bow on to the
wind, with an astonishing jerk. Schooner after schooner, the _Malahini_
with them, was now sweeping away with the first gust and fetching up
on taut chains. Mulhall and several of the Kanakas were taken off their
feet when the _Malahini_ jerked to her anchors.

And then there was no wind. The flying calm streak had reached
them. Grief lighted a match, and the unshielded flame burned without
flickering in the still air. A very dim twilight prevailed. The
cloud-sky, lowering as it had been for hours, seemed now to have
descended quite down upon the sea.

The Roberta tightened to her chains when the second head of the
hurricane hit, as did schooner after schooner in swift succession. The
sea, white with fury, boiled in tiny, spitting wavelets. The deck of the
_Malahini_ vibrated under the men’s feet. The taut-stretched halyards
beat a tattoo against the masts, and all the rigging, as if smote by
some mighty hand, set up a wild thrumming. It was impossible to face the
wind and breathe. Mulhall, crouching with the others behind the shelter
of the cabin, discovered this, and his lungs were filled in an instant
with so great a volume of driven air which he could not expel that he
nearly strangled ere he could turn his head away.

“It’s incredible,” he gasped, but no one heard him.

Hermann and several Kanakas were crawling for’ard on hands and knees to
let go the third anchor. Grief touched Captain Warfield and pointed to
the _Roberta_. She was dragging down upon them. Warfield put his mouth
to Grief’s ear and shouted:

“We’re dragging, too!”

Grief sprang to the wheel and put it hard over, veering the _Mahhini_
to port. The third anchor took hold, and the _Roberta_ went by,
stern-first, a dozen yards away. They waved their hands to Peter Gee
and Captain Robinson, who, with a number of sailors, were at work on the
bow.

“He’s knocking out the shackles!” Grief shouted. “Going to chance the
passage! Got to! Anchors skating!”

“We’re holding now!” came the answering shout. “There goes the _Cactus_
down on the _Misi_. That settles them!”

The _Misi_ had been holding, but the added windage of the _Cactus_
was too much, and the entangled schooners slid away across the boiling
white. Their men could be seen chopping and fighting to get them apart.
The _Roberta_, cleared of her anchors, with a patch of tarpaulin set
for’ard, was heading for the passage at the northwestern end of the
lagoon. They saw her make it and drive out to sea. But the _Misi_ and
_Cactus_, unable to get clear of each other, went ashore on the atoll
half a mile from the passage. The wind merely increased on itself and
continued to increase. To face the full blast of it required all one’s
strength, and several minutes of crawling on deck against it tired a man
to exhaustion. Hermann, with his Kanakas, plodded steadily, lashing and
making secure, putting ever more gaskets on the sails. The wind ripped
and tore their thin undershirts from their backs. They moved slowly, as
if their bodies weighed tons, never releasing a hand-hold until another
had been secured. Loose ends of rope stood out stiffly horizontal, and,
when a whipping gave, the loose end frazzled and blew away.

Mulhall touched one and then another and pointed to the shore. The
grass-sheds had disappeared, and Parlay’s house rocked drunkenly,
Because the wind blew lengthwise along the atoll, the house had been
sheltered by the miles of cocoanut trees. But the big seas, breaking
across from outside, were undermining it and hammering it to pieces.
Already tilted down the slope of sand, its end was imminent. Here and
there in the cocoanut trees people had lashed themselves. The trees did
not sway or thresh about. Bent over rigidly from the wind, they remained
in that position and vibrated monstrously. Underneath, across the sand,
surged the white spume of the breakers. A big sea was likewise making
down the length of the lagoon. It had plenty of room to kick up in
the ten-mile stretch from the windward rim of the atoll, and all the
schooners were bucking and plunging into it. The _Malahini_ had begun
shoving her bow and fo’c’sle head under the bigger ones, and at times
her waist was filled rail-high with water.

“Now’s the time for your engine!” Grief bellowed; and Captain Warfield,
crawling over to where the engineer lay, shouted emphatic commands.

Under the engine, going full speed ahead, the _Malahini_ behaved better.
While she continued to ship seas over her bow, she was not jerked down
so fiercely by her anchors. On the other hand, she was unable to get any
slack in the chains. The best her forty horsepower could do was to ease
the strain.

Still the wind increased. The little _Nuhiva_, lying abreast of the
_Malahini_ and closer in to the beach, her engine still unrepaired and
her captain ashore, was having a bad time of it. She buried herself so
frequently and so deeply that they wondered each time if she could clear
herself of the water. At three in the afternoon buried by a second sea
before she could free herself of the preceding one, she did not come up.

Mulhall looked at Grief.

“Burst in her hatches,” was the bellowed answer.

Captain Warfield pointed to the _Winifred_, a little schooner plunging
and burying outside of them, and shouted in Grief’s ear. His voice came
in patches of dim words, with intervals of silence when whisked away by
the roaring wind.

“Rotten little tub... Anchors hold... But how she holds together... Old
as the ark----”

An hour later Hermann pointed to her. Her for’ard bitts, foremast, and
most of her bow were gone, having been jerked out of her by her anchors.
She swung broadside, rolling in the trough and settling by the head, and
in this plight was swept away to leeward.

Five vessels now remained, and of them the _Malahini_ was the only one
with an engine. Fearing either the _Nuhiva’s_ or the _Winifdred’s_
fate, two of them followed the _Roberta’s_ example, knocking out the
chain-shackles and running for the passage. The _Dolly_ was the first,
but her tarpaulin was carried away, and she went to destruction on the
lee-rim of the atoll near the _Misi_ and the _Cactus_. Undeterred by
this, the _Moana_ let go and followed with the same result.

“Pretty good engine that, eh?” Captain Warfield yelled to his owner.

Grief put out his hand and shook. “She’s paying for herself!” he yelled
back. “The wind’s shifting around to the southward, and we ought to lie
easier!”

Slowly and steadily, but with ever-increasing velocity, the wind veered
around to the south and the southwest, till the three schooners that
were left pointed directly in toward the beach. The wreck of Parlay’s
house was picked up, hurled into the lagoon, and blown out upon them.
Passing the _Malahini_, it crashed into the _Papara_, lying a quarter of
a mile astern. There was wild work for’ard on her, and in a quarter of
an hour the house went clear, but it had taken the _Papara’s_ foremast
and bowsprit with it.

Inshore, on their port bow, lay the _Tahaa_, slim and yacht-like,
but excessively oversparred. Her anchors still held, but her captain,
finding no abatement in the wind, proceeded to reduce windage by
chopping down his masts.

“Pretty good engine that,” Grief congratulated his skipper, “It will
save our sticks for us yet.”

Captain Warfield shook his head dubiously.

The sea on the lagoon went swiftly down with the change of wind, but
they were beginning to feel the heave and lift of the outer sea breaking
across the atoll. There were not so many trees remaining. Some had been
broken short off, others uprooted. One tree they saw snap off halfway
up, three persons clinging to it, and whirl away by the wind into the
lagoon. Two detached themselves from it and swam to the Tahaa. Not
long after, just before darkness, they saw one jump overboard from that
schooner’s stern and strike out strongly for the Malahini through the
white, spitting wavelets.

“It’s Tai-Hotauri,” was Grief’s judgment. “Now we’ll have the news.”

The Kanaka caught the bobstay, climbed over the bow, and crawled aft.
Time was given him to breathe, and then, behind the part shelter of the
cabin, in broken snatches and largely by signs, he told his story.

“Narii... damn robber... He want steal... pearls... Kill Parlay... One
man kill Parlay... No man know what man... Three Kanakas, Narii, me...
Five beans... hat... Narii say one bean black... Nobody know... Kill
Parlay... Narii damn liar... All beans black... Five black... Copra-shed
dark... Every man get black bean... Big wind come... No chance...
Everybody get up tree... No good luck them pearls... I tell you
before... No good luck.”

“Where’s Parlay?” Grief shouted.

“Up tree... Three of his Kanakas same tree. Narii and one Kanaka’nother
tree... My tree blow to hell, then I come on board.”

“Where’s the pearls?”

“Up tree along Parlay. Mebbe Narii get them pearl yet.”

In the ear of one after another Grief passed on Tai-Hotauri’s story.
Captain Warfield was particularly incensed, and they could see him
grinding his teeth.

Hermann went below and returned with a riding light, but the moment it
was lifted above the level of the cabin wall the wind blew it out. He
had better success with the binnacle lamp, which was lighted only after
many collective attempts.

“A fine night of wind!” Grief yelled in Mulhall’s ear. “And blowing
harder all the time.”

“How hard?”

“A hundred miles an hour... two hundred... I don’t know... Harder than
I’ve ever seen it.”

The lagoon grew more and more troubled by the sea that swept across
the atoll. Hundreds of leagues of ocean was being backed up by the
hurricane, which more than overcame the lowering effect of the ebb tide.
Immediately the tide began to rise the increase in the size of the seas
was noticeable. Moon and wind were heaping the South Pacific on Hikihoho
atoll.

Captain Warfield returned from one of his periodical trips to the engine
room with the word that the engineer lay in a faint.

“Can’t let that engine stop!” he concluded helplessly.

“All right!” Grief said, “Bring him on deck. I’ll spell him.”

The hatch to the engine room was battened down, access being gained
through a narrow passage from the cabin. The heat and gas fumes were
stifling. Grief took one hasty, comprehensive examination of the engine
and the fittings of the tiny room, then blew out the oil-lamp. After
that he worked in darkness, save for the glow from endless cigars which
he went into the cabin to light. Even-tempered as he was, he soon began
to give evidences of the strain of being pent in with a mechanical
monster that toiled, and sobbed, and slubbered in the shouting dark.
Naked to the waist, covered with grease and oil, bruised and skinned
from being knocked about by the plunging, jumping vessel, his head
swimming from the mixture of gas and air he was compelled to breathe,
he laboured on hour after hour, in turns petting, blessing, nursing, and
cursing the engine and all its parts. The ignition began to go bad. The
feed grew worse. And worst of all, the cylinders began to heat. In
a consultation held in the cabin the half-caste engineer begged and
pleaded to stop the engine for half an hour in order to cool it and
to attend to the water circulation. Captain Warfield was against any
stopping. The half-caste swore that the engine would ruin itself and
stop anyway and for good. Grief, with glaring eyes, greasy and battered,
yelled and cursed them both down and issued commands. Mulhall,
the supercargo, and Hermann were set to work in the cabin at
double-straining and triple-straining the gasoline. A hole was chopped
through the engine room floor, and a Kanaka heaved bilge-water over the
cylinders, while Grief continued to souse running parts in oil.

“Didn’t know you were a gasoline expert,” Captain Warfield admired when
Grief came into the cabin to catch a breath of little less impure air.

“I bathe in gasoline,” he grated savagely through his teeth. “I eat it.”

What other uses he might have found for it were never given, for at that
moment all the men in the cabin, as well as the gasoline being strained,
were smashed forward against the bulkhead as the _Malahini_ took an
abrupt, deep dive. For the space of several minutes, unable to gain
their feet, they rolled back and forth and pounded and hammered from
wall to wall. The schooner, swept by three big seas, creaked and groaned
and quivered, and from the weight of water on her decks behaved logily.
Grief crept to the engine, while Captain Warfield waited his chance to
get through the companion-way and out on deck.

It was half an hour before he came back.

“Whaleboat’s gone!” he reported. “Galley’s gone! Everything gone except
the deck and hatches! And if that engine hadn’t been going we’d be gone!
Keep up the good work!”

By midnight the engineer’s lungs and head had been sufficiently cleared
of gas fumes to let him relieve Grief, who went on deck to get his own
head and lungs clear. He joined the others, who crouched behind
the cabin, holding on with their hands and made doubly secure by
rope-lashings. It was a complicated huddle, for it was the only place
of refuge for the Kanakas. Some of them had accepted the skipper’s
invitation into the cabin but had been driven out by the fumes. The
_Malahini_ was being plunged down and swept frequently, and what they
breathed was air and spray and water commingled.

“Making heavy weather of it, Mulhall!” Grief shouted to his guest
between immersions.

Mulhall, strangling and choking, could only nod. The scuppers could not
carry off the burden of water on the schooner’s deck. She rolled it out
and took it in over one rail and the other; and at times, nose thrown
skyward, sitting down on her heel, she avalanched it aft. It surged
along the poop gangways, poured over the top of the cabin, submerging
and bruising those that clung on, and went out over the stern-rail.

Mulhall saw him first, and drew Grief’s attention. It was Narii Herring,
crouching and holding on where the dim binnacle light shone upon him. He
was quite naked, save for a belt and a bare-bladed knife thrust between
it and the skin.

Captain Warfield untied his lashings and made his way over the bodies of
the others. When his face became visible in the light from the binnacle
it was working with anger. They could see him speak, but the wind tore
the sound away. He would not put his lips to Narii’s ear. Instead, he
pointed over the side. Narii Herring understood. His white teeth showed
in an amused and sneering smile, and he stood up, a magnificent figure
of a man.

“It’s murder!” Mulhall yelled to Grief.

“He’d have murdered Old Parlay!” Grief yelled back.

For the moment the poop was clear of water and the _Malahini_ on an even
keel. Narii made a bravado attempt to walk to the rail, but was flung
down by the wind. Thereafter he crawled, disappearing in the darkness,
though there was certitude in all of them that he had gone over the
side. The Malahini dived deep, and when they emerged from the flood that
swept aft, Grief got Mulhall’s ear.

“Can’t lose him! He’s the Fish Man of Tahiti! He’ll cross the lagoon and
land on the other rim of the atoll if there’s any atoll left!”

Five minutes afterward, in another submergence, a mess of bodies poured
down on them over the top of the cabin. These they seized and held
till the water cleared, when they carried them below and learned their
identity. Old Parlay lay oh his back on the floor, with closed eyes and
without movement. The other two were his Kanaka cousins. All three were
naked and bloody. The arm of one Kanaka hung helpless and broken at his
side. The other man bled freely from a hideous scalp wound.

“Narii did that?” Mulhall demanded.

Grief shook his head. “No; it’s from being smashed along the deck and
over the house!”

Something suddenly ceased, leaving them in dizzying uncertainty. For
the moment it was hard to realize there was no wind. With the absolute
abruptness of a sword slash, the wind had been chopped off. The schooner
rolled and plunged, fetching up on her anchors with a crash which for
the first time they could hear. Also, for the first time they could hear
the water washing about on deck. The engineer threw off the propeller
and eased the engine down.

“We’re in the dead centre,” Grief said. “Now for the shift. It will come
as hard as ever.” He looked at the barometer. “29:32,” he read.

Not in a moment could he tone down the voice which for hours had battled
against the wind, and so loudly did he speak that in the quiet it hurt
the others’ ears.

“All his ribs are smashed,” the supercargo said, feeling along Parlay’s
side. “He’s still breathing, but he’s a goner.”

Old Parlay groaned, moved one arm impotently, and opened his eyes. In
them was the light of recognition.

“My brave gentlemen,” he whispered haltingly. “Don’t forget... the
auction... at ten o’clock... in hell.”

His eyes dropped shut and the lower jaw threatened to drop, but he
mastered the qualms of dissolution long enough to omit one final, loud,
derisive cackle.

Above and below pandemonium broke out.

The old familiar roar of the wind was with them. The _Malahini_, caught
broadside, was pressed down almost on her beam ends as she swung the
arc compelled by her anchors. They rounded her into the wind, where she
jerked to an even keel. The propeller was thrown on, and the engine took
up its work again.

“Northwest!” Captain Warfield shouted to Grief when he came on deck.
“Hauled eight points like a shot!”

“Narii’ll never get across the lagoon now!” Grief observed.

“Then he’ll blow back to our side, worse luck!”



V

After the passing of the centre the barometer began to rise. Equally
rapid was the fall of the wind. When it was no more than a howling
gale, the engine lifted up in the air, parted its bed-plates with a last
convulsive effort of its forty horsepower, and lay down on its side.
A wash of water from the bilge sizzled over it and the steam arose in
clouds. The engineer wailed his dismay, but Grief glanced over the wreck
affectionately and went into the cabin to swab the grease off his chest
and arms with bunches of cotton waste.

The sun was up and the gentlest of summer breezes blowing when he came
on deck, after sewing up the scalp of one Kanaka and setting the other’s
arm. The _Malahini_ lay close in to the beach. For’ard, Hermann and the
crew were heaving in and straightening out the tangle of anchors. The
_Papara_ and the _Tahaa_ were gone, and Captain Warfield, through the
glasses, was searching the opposite rim of the atoll.

“Not a stick left of them,” he said. “That’s what comes of not having
engines. They must have dragged across before the big shift came.”

Ashore, where Parlay’s house had been, was no vestige of any house. For
the space of three hundred yards, where the sea had breached, no tree or
even stump was left. Here and there, farther along, stood an occasional
palm, and there were numbers which had been snapped off above the
ground. In the crown of one surviving palm Tai-Hotauri asserted he saw
something move. There were no boats left to the _Malahini_, and they
watched him swim ashore and climb the tree.

When he came back, they helped over the rail a young native girl of
Parley’s household. But first she passed up to them a battered basket.
In it was a litter of blind kittens--all dead save one, that feebly
mewed and staggered on awkward legs.

“Hello!” said Mulhall. “Who’s that?”

Along the beach they saw a man walking. He moved casually, as if out
for a morning stroll. Captain Warfield gritted his teeth. It was Narii
Herring.

“Hello, skipper!” Narii called, when he was abreast of them. “Can I come
aboard and get some breakfast?”

Captain Warfield’s face and neck began to swell and turn purple. He
tried to speak, but choked.

“For two cents--for two cents----” was all he could manage to
articulate.


THE END





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