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Title: Sailor and beachcomber - Confessions of a life at sea, in Australia, and amid the - islands of the Pacific
Author: Safroni-Middleton, Arnold
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was silently corrected.
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      when a predominant form was found in this book.
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                          MUSICAL COMPOSITIONS

                        By A. SAFRONI-MIDDLETON


    “Our Fleet” War March of the Allied Sailors and Soldiers. Dedicated
by special permission of Lady Jellicoe to Admiral Sir John Jellicoe and
the British Fleet, 1915. Pianoforte and Military Band.


    “The Monk’s Dream” (Full Military)


    “Song of the Night” (Full Military)


    “Firenze” (Military)

Regimental Marches—

       “By Order of the King”         Also Pianoforte Solo
       “Imperial Echoes”              Also Pianoforte Solo
       “The Colours”                  Also Pianoforte Solo
       “Salute the Standard”          Also Pianoforte Solo
       “Under the Old Flag”           Also Pianoforte Solo
       “Our Fleet”                    Also Pianoforte Solo
       “Sierra Leone”                 Also Pianoforte Solo
       “The Relief”                   Also Pianoforte Solo
       “The Night Riders”             Also Pianoforte Solo
       “Rough Diamonds”               Also Pianoforte Solo
       “The Stronghold”               Also Pianoforte Solo
       “Half Seas Over”               Also Pianoforte Solo
       “House of Hanover”             Also Pianoforte Solo
       “Light of the Regiment”        Also Pianoforte Solo
       “The Dashing British”          Also Pianoforte Solo
       “The Scottish Chief”           Also Pianoforte Solo
       “The Dandy Fifth”              Also Pianoforte Solo
       “The Long Bright Line”
       “Old Castille”
       “Il Cavaliere”
       “The Military Call”            Also Pianoforte Solo
       “The Boundary Riders”          Also Pianoforte Solo



    “Samoan Love Song and Waltz”
    “A Soldier’s Dream”
    “By the Delawar”
    “South Sea Melodies”
    “Alabama Way”
        Etc., etc.


         Published by BOOSEY & Co., London, Aldershot and New York
         _Played by Military Regimental Bands throughout the World_


    Lieutenant J. ORD HUME, L. F., the distinguished Composer,
    Bandmaster and Contest Adjudicator of the British Empire, says: “I
    consider Safroni-Middleton’s rousing Military Marches the finest of
    recent years, and unique productions, coming as they do from the pen
    of a sailor.”


                         SAILOR AND BEACHCOMBER


    [Illustration: TREE CLIMBING]


                           SAILOR AND BEACHCOMBER


                            A. SAFRONI-MIDDLETON



                            GRANT RICHARDS LTD.
                             ST MARTIN’S STREET
                              LEICESTER SQUARE




                            I DEDICATE THIS BOOK

                              TO THE MEMORY OF
                                 MY BROTHER

                          MORTIMER HUGH MIDDLETON

                             AGED SIXTEEN YEARS

                 Lost overboard in mid-ocean while serving
                        before the mast of a sailing
                             ship outbound for

                           ALSO TO THE MEMORY OF

                               CAPTAIN POPPY

                   Of the sailing ship _Aristides_, lost
                               with all hands

                            AND TO THE MEMORY OF

                                MY COMRADES

                         Of the Australian Bush and
                           the South Sea Islands

                Old comrades, by my fire in dreams
                    Your hands I clasp to-night;
                Heaven starlit o’er the forest gleams
                    As ’neath the blood-wood’s height
                You lie with folded hands asleep
                    By shores of tumbling waves,
                As I creep up each silent steep
                    To kiss forgotten graves.

                The soul of all the songs I sing,
                    Whatever sounds most true,
                I dedicate each wild true ring,
                    Inspired, old chums, by you.
                The world grieves not that you are dead—
                    Brave, reckless men who died,
                Crept from their camp-fires back to bed
                    Along the wild hill-side.

                But, comrades, ’neath the hills or waves,
                    Could one sad song of mine
                Reveal dead souls of far-off graves,
                    ’Twould be a song divine.
                As pure and sweet as flowers that grow
                    Where once with wild delight
                You sang, where bush-flowers, bursting, blow
                    Thro’ dead fire-ash to-night.

                And so in dreams I take your hands,
                    In long-dead eyes I gaze,
                And half in tears from other lands
                    Bring back the dear old days.
                In other lands ’neath greyer skies
                    Wild rides again recall,
                Your songs, your laughing, manly eyes—
                    The boy who loved you all.

                Lies in my sea-chest ’neath my bed
                    The fiddle, stringless, still;
                Old chums, since all of you are dead,
                    ’Neath forest steep and hill,
                I cannot play the songs you loved;
                    But with tired eyes and pen
                I strive to tell the truth, who roved,
                    And found you—God’s best men.



    IN the following chapters, wherein I have endeavoured to write down
    my experiences at sea, in Australia and on the South Sea Islands, I
    have not gone beyond the first four or five years of my life abroad,
    but later on I hope to do so, if I get the chance. I have made no
    attempt to moralise in my book, and if I appear to have been guilty
    of doing so, be assured it was a spasm of the intellect and quite
    forgotten all about a few minutes after I had written it down.

    All I have attempted in this book is to endeavour to tell exactly my
    experiences as they occurred in my travels in many lands; also I
    have wished to reveal a little of the usual experiences, the ups and
    downs, that youths pass through when they go to sea and are left
    completely on their own in other lands, seeking to see the world,
    often ambitious to find a fortune, but generally succeeding in only
    gathering heaps of grim experiences. Unfortunately no one can buy
    his experience first, and so the general rule of green
    fortune-seekers overseas is to end in failure, and to be honest, I
    was no exception to the rule. Nevertheless my loss of all that might
    have been was amply compensated by the rough brave men whom I met,
    seafarers and otherwise, who revealed to me the best side of
    humanity and the value of good comradeship: devil-may-care fellows
    with hearts that were blazing hearth-fires of welcome in the coldest
    days of adversity of long ago, ere I, crammed up with experience and
    nothing much else, down in the stokehold of a tramp steamer,
    returned across the ocean to my native land, eventually to get the
    roving fever and again go seaward.

                  Pom-pe-te, pom-pe-te, pom, pom,
                    All thro’ the burning night
                  Shovelling coal for the engine’s heart
                    Down in the blinding light.
                  Working my passage, penniless,
                    Over the western main,—
                  And I know they’ll all be sorry
                    To see me home again.

                  Pom-pe-te, pom-pe-te, pom, pom,
                    Shiver and shake and bang;
                  Thundering seas lifting us up,
                    Making the screw-shaft clang.
                  Unshaven faces thrust to the flame,
                    Washed by the furnace bright,
                  And England thousands of miles away
                    In the middle watch to-night.

                  Oh! what would they say could they see me
                    Mask’d thick with oil and dirt,
                  Shovelling deep down under the sea?
                    This sweater for a shirt,
                  With the funnel’s red flame blowing
                    Out in the windy sky,
                  And the family pride perspiring
                    To keep the steam-gauge high!

                  I can hear the wild green chargers
                    Pounding the boat’s iron side—
                  Old Death, impatient, knocking away
                    All night to get inside!
                  Where haggard men like shadows move,
                    Toil in the flame-lit gloom.
                  Oh, it’s just the whole world over
                    Sailing the wave of Doom.

                  For the aristocrats are sleeping
                    Snug in their bunks, I know,
                  All on the upper deck, while we,
                    Are sweating away below!
                  Hard-feeding the white heat’s fury,
                    Piling the wake with foam,
                  Unravelling all the knots that wind
                    The way that takes them home.

                  I’ve clung on an old wind-jammer,
                    I’ve done things—best untold;
                  Hump’d the swag on many a rush,
                    Found everything—but gold!
                  But oh! for the flashlight homeward!
                    The anchor’s running chain,
                  And the sight of their dear old faces—
                    To see me home again!

    Be assured that I have given no artificial colouring in my book,
    neither have I seriously set out to describe what I have seen,
    though I am confident that I must have succeeded in giving some
    local atmosphere, since all that I have written is drawn from true
    experience, but I cannot be certain that all the events followed
    exactly in the order that I have written them, for with the flight
    of time the dates of days, months and years fade away. I have left
    to silence almost one year of my South Sea Island life, especially
    of that period when I, with a kindred spirit of my own age, lived
    for several months in a hut of our own fashioning on the shore side
    near Pangopango harbour off the Isle of Tutuela; also I have passed
    over several months of my Australian bush experiences, and I have
    done this for reasons of my own. Later on I hope to record the
    experiences of my sea life that followed my twentieth birthday.

    All I say of the South Sea missionaries is said in good-fellowship.
    Some of the best men are missionaries and sacrifice years of their
    life in a hopeless quest. So bear with the honesty of one who has
    fought side by side with the best and worst, and face to face with
    the grim realities of existence. For the present I hope someone will
    like what I have written in this, my book—one more ambitious plunge
    of a failure.

                                                                A. S.-M.



              I. I RUN AWAY TO SEA                           17

             II. STRANDED IN BRISBANE                        25

            III. SLEEPING OUT AND BUSHED                     36

             IV. I LEAVE FOR THE SOUTH SEA ISLANDS           42

              V. I PLAY VIOLIN AT NATIVE WEDDINGS            51

             VI. SOUTH SEA BAR-ROOM                          57

            VII. I GO CRUISING                               68

           VIII. WITH R.L.S. AND OTHERS                      78

             IX. CANNIBALISM                                 90

              X. A FIJIAN BRIDE                             105

             XI. BACK IN SAMOA                              116

            XII. TRAMPING THE SOUTH SEA BUSH                120

           XIII. STILL TRAMPING                             133

            XIV. SOUTH SEA DOMESTIC LIFE, ETC.              139

             XV. TAHITIAN MORALS                            148

            XVI. MARQUESAN QUEENS. THAKAMBAU                157

           XVII. R.L.S. AT SAMOA. NATIVE MUSIC              174

          XVIII. R.L.S. IN THE STORM                        193

            XIX. FATHER DAMIEN                              203

             XX. I RECEIVE A KNIGHTHOOD                     211

            XXI. LITTLE DAMIEN’S GRAVE                      218

           XXII. BOUND FOR AUSTRALIA                        228

          XXIII. I STOW AWAY                                244

           XXIV. IN THE BUSH                                255

            XXV. BEFORE THE MAST. MAN OVERBOARD             260

           XXVI. IN SAN FRANCISCO                           273

          XXVII. LOST IN THE AUSTRALIAN BUSH                280

         XXVIII. ON THE GOLD FIELDS                         290



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

              1. Tree-Climbing                            _Frontispiece_

              2. River Scene, Queensland                     24

              3. Forest Track, Out Back                      40

              4. Coco-nut Palm in Full Fruit                 52

              5. Native Girl, Samoa                          64

              6. View of Apia from Mulinu                    74

              7. Planting Coco-nuts                          84

              8. Preparing Copra                            104

              9. Native Coast Village near Apia             116

             10. Low-Caste Native Girl                      126

             11. Native Bamboo Bridge                       138

             12. Rarotongan Scenery                         150

             13. South Sea Lagoon                           166

             14. Native Girls making Kava                   170

             15. Para Rubber-Tree                           182

             16. Native Pottery                             192

             17. Loading Bananas                            200

             18. Coco-nut Palms and Pasture-land            210

             19. Native Homestead                           220

             20. Native Canoes, Fiji                        226

             21. Homestead Scene, Queensland                236

             22. Cabbage-Palm and Bush Land                 250

             23. Pastoral Scenery, N.S.W.                   258

             24. Modern Sheep-Shearers                      280

     _The author is indebted to the Agent-General for Queensland for the
     photographs reproduced as plates 1, 2 and 3; to the High
     Commissioner for Australia for plates 21, 22, 23 and 24; to the
     Director of the Imperial Institute for plates 4, 7, 8, 11, 14, 15,
     16, 17, 18, 19 and 20; and to Messrs W. A. Mansell & Co. for plates
     5, 10, 12 and 13._



I run away to Sea—Outbound for Australia—Appointed Solo Violinist in the
    Saloon—I watch Sailors asleep

I WILL write you that which no man has written before. I will tell you
the truth as I found it. I will tell you of the aspirations of rough but
brave men in distant lands and on the ships of distant tropic seas. I
will tell you the truth of many thrills that buoyed me up with hope in
my wanderings, and also of the chills that crushed in the last forlorn
stand on the field of adversity. Aye, you shall hear of those things
that men dream of in silence. I will pour them out of my soul for the
calm eyes of stern reality.

MY pages of romance have long since been shrivelled up in tropic seas,
under blinding suns, on the plains and in the primeval bush lands, but
still I am the living book of all that has been in the dear old dead
romance of passionate boyhood. The glorious poems, the dreams of what
should be, the flinchless fight for right, have all faded away and left
in the secret pages of life the withered flowers of old friendship, tied
up with magic threads of women’s kisses, the memories of dead, brave
comrades, some under the seas and others under the bush flowers of
Australian steeps or beneath the tropic jungle of the South Sea Islands.
There they sleep with the memories of savage native men singing by their
tiny huts which have long ago vanished before the tramp of the white
men. All these things are in this book, with the poetry of life which is
mine, mingled with the memories of haunting dreams of that world of
Romance which so many of us sail away to but never, never find.

I cannot promise that in the chapters to follow I can tell all that
befell me in the exact order in which the events happened, for it must
be that after the flight of years I should stumble a bit in the days and
months of a life that was lived in the midst of wild adventure and
incessant travel from land to land; but it will be enough to assure you
that the characters that I tell you of really lived and for all I know
many are still living. When I tell you that an old cockatoo dropped down
from the tropic sky on to a blue gum twig overhead and surveyed me with
a sideways melancholy eye as I sat alone by my camp fire, be quite sure
that that cockatoo lived and breathed, took stock of me and flew away
into the sunset, and has doubtlessly dropped into the scrub, a small
bunch of dead feather and bone, years ago.

At school I read more from the pages of romance than from school-books.
At fourteen years of age the opportunity arrived, and secretly, with the
help of an older friend, I succeeded in securing a berth on a
full-rigged sailing ship, and, within four hours of my trembling carcass
creeping up the gangway and down on to the great decks, I was before the
masts going down Channel bound for Australia.

My recollections of the first few days are dim. The skies bobbed about,
I swayed on deck, the brave old heroes of ages past flew out of my brain
into the stormy moonlight and shrieked in the sails overhead, as my head
swelled to the size of the dome of St Paul’s and I vomited. I longed to
be home again. Alas! deep-sea sailing ships do not turn round and speed
with haste for their native port in response to the feeble schoolboy’s
tearful voice. I was done for! Hopes, glories, vast ambitions, all
vanished! My thin legs trembled along on the decks till I staggered
through a little cabin door and fell into my bunk. By some great
oversight in the sea discipline I was allowed to sleep for five hours; I
cannot remember to a certainty now, but I think I was drowned and died
about a thousand times in that first off-watch sleep.

I soon recovered, and discovered that sea captains do not stand on the
poop cracking jokes and shying oranges and coco-nuts up at the crew, as
they laughingly toil among the sails. I also found that the Bo’sun wore
very stout boots, and I have never met a man in my life who could kick
so true and aim with such precision. Five years after, whilst I was in
’Frisco, I called on a phrenologist and speculated one dollar, and
discovered that the contusion and everlasting bump formed at the back of
my head by a Bo’sun’s belaying-pin was an inherited taint derived from
the over-burdened brains of my passionate ancestors!

Well, I recovered my equilibrium, secured good sea-legs, went aloft,
crawled along the yards, and helped to reef the sails. Often in the wild
nights the sailors cursed and swore as I clung with might and main, my
hands and teeth clinging to the rolling rigging up in the foremast
top-gallants. My comrades shouted orders to me, their voices blown away
on the thundering night gales, but I only heard the instinctive cry of
self-preservation within me as the moon and the great beast-like clouds
swayed like mighty pendulums across the night skies, swept from skyline
to skyline, while the masts shivered to the roll and thunder of the
broadside swell as the ship flew along at eighteen knots before the
gale. Often I would gaze down deckwards, watching the praying
figurehead’s lifted hands heaving skywards when the tropic moonlight
made wonderfully brilliant the hills of bubbling foam over the bows as
she dived and plunged along. I loved that figurehead, for often as I
gazed from aloft on moon-bright nights it seemed to wear a strong
resemblance to my dear mother, and with my legs curled round the yards
aloft in the lonely sea-nights I would often look down and fancy in my
dreams that her shadow ever moved along over the waters below the
swaying jib-boom with extended hands, praying for me, as no one ever
prayed for me before or since!

I slept amidships with the cook and three other apprentices. I was a
favourite with them all, being of a cheerful temperament and a good
fiddle player. Often in the off watches I would play old familiar
strains while they joined in the rollicking chorus, awaking the silence
of the lonely calm tropic nights in moving waters that belted the whole
world, when the sails swayed silently along beneath strange stars,
filled out at intervals like drums, then flopped, as the lazy tropic
breeze once more sighed and fell asleep.

The old Scotch Captain heard me playing one night; he was a religious
man and taught me some beautiful sea-hymns, and in due course I played
in the cabin aft during Sunday service, when all the crew mustered, and
John the cook, who swore and cursed most fearfully all day long in his
galley, opened his big-bearded mouth and sung most expressively those
old pious hymns, knocking even the Skipper out in melodious reverential

The dear old Skipper had brought his daughter with him. She was a pretty
Scotch girl—a crew of thirty-six men, and one pretty girl and me! Well,
I combed my hair, cleaned my teeth, gazed in my little bit of cracked
mirror-glass fifty times an hour, for alas! the family failing asserted
itself; I had fallen in love! I have never been what you would call
really lucky in love, like some happy men; trouble always arose after
the first embarrassment had worn off and I felt truly happy, and blessed
the universe. And it was so in this my first love affair. One dark night
as she stood in shelter by the bulwarks near the saloon door I was
admiring her eyes and swearing eternal love, calling all the bright
stars to be witnesses to my unchangeable fidelity, and just as I kissed
her sweet white ear and, in my madness of love, breathed secretly
through her beautiful dishevelled, scented hair, as it waved in the
moonlight over her lovely curved shoulders, I received a tremendous
clump from the old Skipper! That night I also received stern orders from
the Chief Mate never to be seen near the saloon again after dark!

I crept into my bunk heartsick and wretched. The affair got about the
ship. I was chaffed a good deal by the whole crew. Real old sea-salts
they were. I can see them now as I dream, walking across the decks by
moonlight, muffled up to the teeth in oilskins, some with big crooked
noses, all with weary sea-beaten faces. Up aloft they go. Again I see
their big figures move up the ratlings as they reach the moonlit sails,
and climbing, vanish in the sky. All around is sky and water and stars,
fenced in by eternal skylines, as the ship travels silently onward, a
tiny grey-winged world under blue days, starry and stormy skies, towards
a skyline that for ever fades, following sunset after sunset across
boundless seas. They were a motley crew those sailors. Some read books,
some believed in spirits, and some in beer, and one would tell us over
and over again of his experiences in distant lands and his brave deeds
and his wonderful self-sacrifices and many other virtues, not one of
which he really possessed.

There was one old sailor who on arriving home on his last voyage found
that his wife was dead. He would sit on a little empty salt-beef tub and
tell me about his courting days and his “old girl who was one of the
best,” the tears rolling down his coarse-looking face all the time. He
was an extraordinary mixture; in one breath he would almost curse his
wife’s memory, and in the next ask me if I thought there was really
another world. He could not read or write, and seeing me play the violin
and read music as well as books made me almost omnipotent to his sad old
eyes. I remember well enough how my heart was touched by his manner and
questions as I put on a wise air and convinced him of the soul’s
immortality. I even went so far as to tell him that my dead relations
had returned to my family as shadows from the other world, and the poor
old fellow perched on his tub listened eagerly, believing all I said,
and then went off and found his comrades, who sat playing cards by the
fo’c’sle door, and laughed the loudest, till they all snored in the
fo’c’sle bunks, half stupefied by the smoke and smell of ship’s plug
tobacco. I have often seen them by the dingy fo’c’sle oil-lamp fast
asleep, seared unshaved faces, all their worldly passions asleep,
looking like big children, so innocent, as they snored away, and some of
them who had fallen asleep whilst they were chewing tobacco dribbled
black juice from the corners of their mouths, their big chests upheaving
at each slumbering breath. Outside, just overhead, the night winds
wailed and whistled weirdly in the rigging as the jib-boom swayed along,
and at regular intervals came the thunder of the diving bows as the ship
dipped and heaved and plunged along over the primeval waters.

Five months passed away on that ship. Storms blew from all directions
and sometimes dead ahead and then we never slept. Hauling the mainsail
up and tacking is more nuisance than flying before a thousand gales. To
stand by the top-gallant halyards as comes the wind; to clew the main
sky-sails up, singing chanteys, as you cling to the yards with a
thundering gale smashing the highways of the water world into a myriad
travelling hills as the wild poetry of the sea singing to the ears of
the sailor, and I was never so happy as when the green chargers ramped
across the world.

I shall never forget my delight as we were towed down Brisbane River,
with the everlasting hills all around. I will not weary you with any
more details beyond telling you that when we lay alongside the next
night I hired a wharf loafer and got my sea-chest secretly ashore and




Stranded in Brisbane—I look for a Shop—Meet typical House Agent—The
    Vanity of Youth—I stock my Shop—Alone in the Bush—House Agent calls
    for Agreement Money and the Rent—I do a Moonlight Flit

AS I have previously told you, all I am writing is the truth, so I must
tell you that I never saw the Captain’s daughter again, but in my chest
of old letters and unaccepted manuscripts I still keep her little notes,
dropped near me on the deck of the ship that took me to Australia.

The atmosphere of a new world sparkled in my head as I stood in the old
colonial town of Brisbane. It was a sweltering hot night, and as I stood
by the river and gazed up the gas-lamp-lit streets, watching the passing
Australian girls in many-coloured attires and the colonial “corn-stalks”
in big hats slouching about, I felt a tremendous loneliness come over
me, a strange homesick longing crept and crept, and from my heart to my
eyes a mist arose. I have had many homesick breakdowns in my time, but
never one as deep and sincere as I experienced standing there alone in
that strange country. I was not yet fifteen years of age, and the
thought of my being absolutely dependent on my own exertions was
naturally a big oppression to a boy of my inexperience. I was tall for
my age and looked two or three years older than I was. A good comrade by
my side at that moment would have been untold wealth to me. Under a
lamp-post I counted my money. I had just three pounds ten shillings!
That night I slept in a little low lodging-house by North Quay. With
daylight and a good breakfast my courage returned and I sat up in bed
and played several old operatic airs on my violin. A week after I pawned
it for three pounds.

I had made no friends. My money was going. I knew that I must get a job
or meet disaster. The idea of starting work was most distasteful to me,
and yet what was I to do? Walking along Queen Street one night I stood
by a tea shop. I gazed at the window. My old school-chum’s father was a
tea merchant and I had helped them to blend the teas in England, and as
I stood there thinking, the thought suddenly occurred to me that I would
start a shop and be a tea merchant.

The next day I tramped my legs off looking for a likely shop. I found
the rents too high and moreover I had no references and the agents gazed
suspiciously at my cheese-cutter hat. I at once bought a large
big-rimmed straw hat in a second-hand shop, and on the advice of a more
sympathetic agent than the rest I made for the outskirts of Brisbane.
Here and there on the scrub-covered slopes were scattered wooden houses
raised on posts. Upon a post board just off the main track I saw written
“Jonathan Bayly, House Agent.” Taking my handkerchief out I carefully
dusted my boots, wiped the sweat from my sunburnt face, walked into the
little office room, and there came face to face with the gentleman whose
name appeared on the board outside. I did not like the look of him at
all. He had a long goat-like face and grew pointed whiskers on the chin

“Are you the House and Shop Agent?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said as he eyed me attentively.

“Oh,” I said, “I am looking out for a small shop which would be suitable
for a tea shop.”

I had observed business men in London put on important voices and cough
in an affluent way, and as he once more eyed me I made a bold effort,
placed my hand in an affected way to my mouth and coughed in two little
important jerks, swayed slightly on one leg and gazed round his office.

In a moment his manner changed. I had impressed him with the sense of my
own assumed importance, and to clinch the coming deal, I dropped my
remaining three sovereigns on the floor, picking them up carelessly as
though they were buttons.

I have travelled the world over since, made deals with moneyed men,
bought gold claims worth thousands of pounds, which I sold for a
dollar—and glad to get it!—and done many more strange and unfortunate
things in my time, but never since did I so completely gull a human
being as I did that old colonial house agent—but nevertheless he did me

Taking down his big white helmet hat from a solitary peg, he placed it
carefully over the three remaining hairs of his cranium, and bowed me
out of the door to view the proposed shop. Walking off the main track he
led me across the bush, and after walking for about one hour, he
apologised for the distance and the solitary bush surroundings, telling
me that the shop I was about to view was in an excellent position,
inasmuch as it was in the centre of a proposed Township, and indeed when
at last I stood by its little shanty-like front door I inwardly realised
that it needed a good deal of apology on its behalf. A small broken-down
shanty was the only other habitation in view for miles! The description
of this shop’s position would sound like a silly attempt to be humorous.
I only wish it were, for I took that shop! I listened to that old
Agent’s palaver; I was only a boy and I had some dim idea in my head
that gold-miners and bushrangers passed by it at regular intervals, and
when he waved his arms about and pointed out the proposed spot for the
Church, the Bank and the main streets, I choked down my misgivings and
clinched the bargain. I took the place on a “seven years’ agreement with
the option of a renewal of fourteen more years at the expiration of the
aforesaid term.” Of course, all this long lease was proposed by the old
Agent. I knew no more about agreements and expirations of leases than a
baby, but as I signed the long important-looking document in his office
that same afternoon, I carefully read it through and through as though I
were taking my ninety-fifth shop, and did not intend to be taken in as I
had been taken in before! Well, I signed it.

Next day I obtained the key and went into Brisbane, bought a pair of
scales, some paper bags, a bottle of ink, a pen and one chest of cheap
tea—I think it was fourpence a pound by the thirty-six-pound chest. I
also got the manager of the wholesale department to send me ninety-five
empty chests for show purposes. I was full of business. I kept thinking
of my old father’s advice to my elder brothers when he said, “My sons,
do not go in for professions, nothing succeeds like business; sell and
trade in something that the world must have. Who wants poets, musicians
and authors?—with their men and women made of moonrise!” And well was he
able to speak on the subject, since he had reared a large family up by
his pen, which is in no wise mightier than the sword in many cases,
excepting when you sit concocting letters to your immediate creditors
for kind consideration and more time before you pay up!

Well, I will proceed and tell you all about that shop, and you must
remember that it is only a very minor detail in the story of my
experiences to follow, as I slowly but deliberately unfold my travels
and troubles, my love affairs and losses in Australia and the South Sea

Oh, the vanity and pride of youth! As I turned the key of my shop door
and entered beyond the portals, placing carefully on the floor my
parcel, which contained a cup and saucer, a small oil lamp and the few
absolutely necessary things to sustain a decent domestic life, a thrill
of extreme pride went through me. I gazed around the spacious room, my
hands were itching to get hold of the ninety-five empty tea-chests and
place them in commercial rows in the two large shop windows that gazed
at the sunset like two mammoth glass eyes of melancholy and fate-like
loneliness across the silent Australian Bush. Behind lay my back garden
which also extended to the skyline!

I took a stroll around, and you can imagine my delight as I stumbled
across some foundations already half dug out, which no doubt were for
the future homesteads of the coming Township! They looked pretty old and
I noticed that a young gum-tree had grown to a considerable height in
one of them, but I did not stop to criticise; time, growth of gums and
Townships were outside my experiences of life. I simply lent my
imagination to the future scenery and saw myself a prosperous tea
merchant; around me rose in the dreamy rays of the dying sunset the grey
terraces of splendid villas; I heard the hum of human voices, the
laughter of the bush children romping on the streets-to-be of that
Unbuilt Township. Like a grey old pioneer of the desert, uncharted on
the map of civilisation, stood my shop, and I the proud landlord,
stroking the first sprout of down on my upper lip, gazed innocently
around, and wondered what my kind old father would think of my first
business move up the steps into the portals of the grim commercial
world. I felt considerably bucked up at the splendid outlook, I even
felt a tenderness springing up in my heart for that old Agent. He had
patted me on the shoulder too, and told me that I was a plucky young
chap with real business ability in my head!

Next morning, standing under my piazza, I spied a large carrier van
rapidly moving across the thin track that divided the immense grey
slopes of the outstretching country. It was my ninety-five empty
tea-chests and one full one approaching me! The old colonial carrier
grinned from ear to ear as he dumped the lot in my shop, smelt my
sixpence twice, and placing it in his pocket, drove away leaving me once
more alone in the vast solitudes.

Profiting by my memories of a tea shop in the Old Kent Road, I at once
set to work and wrote on white cards, “Genuine Pekoe Ceylon Tea, 2/ per
pound,” and underneath, in very bold letters, “The cup that cheers but
does not inebriate.” Of course, in those days I knew nothing whatever of
the Australian Bushman’s temperament; had I done so I should, of course,
have written, “The cup that inebriates and cheers!”

Ah, how I remember my pride as I stood on the slope and gazed at my
solitary shop window. Sunset was once more sinking into its saffron sea
out westward, and sent over the hills a dying beam that touched as
though with tenderness those words, written in big chalk letters over
the doorway of my shop, “Middleton & Co., Tea Merchants.” As I gazed up
at it I climbed once more on the old tub and added this after-thought,
“late of London,” and the sunbeam died away as my eyes instinctively
turned westward. I knew that that same sun was stealing round the world
and those beams would steal likewise over the lattice windows of my
sleeping parents, my brothers and my sisters, all dreaming and snoring
in velvet comfort, and I wondered if they dreamed of me, and whether
their wildest dreams could picture my shop and my heroic ignorance as
the shadow of the Australian night crept over me and the parrots stirred
in the leafy gums, and the innumerable frogs and locusts in the swamps
hard by chanted a fit accompaniment to my retrospective dreams.

I tell you, I felt pretty lonely in that old place. I would stand at the
shop door and watch the fleets of parrots and magpies sail away into the
sunset, day after day. And oh, the lonely nights! I often would climb up
to the extreme tip of a hill near by and stare across the scrub to catch
the last gleam of the old Agent’s house; its slim brows far off would
twinkle with good comradeship and cheered me up wonderfully.

Well, I think it was just about three weeks after my first opening of
the shop that I was standing one evening at the door feeling pretty
downcast; the sun was setting over the blue hills and the thickening
shadows made the landscape look for all the world like a dried-up
primeval ocean bed, and the weird scattered gums like the masts of old
sunken wrecks, that through some strange freak of nature had burst into
leaf. Suddenly on the distant range I saw a moving speck; my astonished
eyes gazed steadily and then brightened with enthusiasm; it was a lonely
horseman! Surely he would not pass by my shop without buying a pound of
tea, thought I. What on earth could I do to attract him? A happy thought
struck me. I rushed to my old sea-chest, out came my old bugle-horn, and
placing it to my lips, I stood at that lonely shop door and gave three
tremendous blasts, then watched. To my huge delight, as the echoes
reverberating faded away over the silent steppes, the horseman altered
his course; he was coming towards me!

He was a burly, brick-coloured, dusty-looking fellow, and as he sat
astride by my shop door gazing first at me, then at my shop, and then
again on the surrounding country, he coughed twice and spat over his
shoulder. I felt extremely riled by his manner. Then he said, “How’s
biz?” With good business forethought I replied, “Pretty good the last
two days!” Then suddenly making a bold effort I asked, “Would you like
to try a pound of my Pekoe?”

With a kindly look in his grey eyes he said, “Good tea I ’spose?”
“Nothing to beat it,” I answered quickly.

Looking quietly across the country he remarked, “No complaints about its
quality round these parts I bet.” Without another word he gave me two
shillings, took the tea and galloped away.

I think it was about four days after selling that pound of tea that I
spotted the Agent coming down the hill-side track right opposite my
shop. The month was up, and the rent due!

“Well,” he said as I stood at the door and boldly faced him, “I’ve
called for the rent.”

For a moment I fumbled in my pocket. I knew, to be an honourable
citizen, I should pay my way and let all earthly considerations of
sustaining existence and thoughts of the future go to the winds, but I
had only fifteen shillings in the world, and the month’s rent was four
pounds, and the cost of the agreement two pounds ten shillings. Pulling
myself together I said, “Can you give me another month?”

“Not a day,” he answered hotly, and then looking up quickly asked,
“Where’s the agreement money?”

Then I saw that my first boyish instincts were to be relied upon—the man
was a hard-hearted scoundrel. I answered quickly, “Where’s the Township
you spoke of?” At this he almost spat with rage, and thrusting his
pointed whiskered chin in my face said, “Do you expect me to supply you
with a Town as well as with a shop?”

I pretended to see some fine logic in that remark, quieted myself down,
and then said, “Parrots, magpies, ’possums and mosquitoes do not buy
tea, so how can I pay the rent?”

His temper now got the upper hand of him. “You’ve taken the shop,” he
snarled; “where the hell’s your capital?”

On hearing him say this, the sudden inspiration that has stood me in
such good stead in the sorrows and joys which I am going to tell you of,
flashed in my brain, and I quickly answered, “You cannot supply a Town,
and yet you expect me to supply capital. Put your Township here and I’ll
soon show you the capital.” And then I trembled and forced a smile to my
lips. He looked so dangerous that I did not know what might occur to me
in those lonely parts. But he was only a bully after all. For a moment
he looked me up and down with interest, and then said, “Can you pay me

Pointing my trembling hand to my rows of empty tea-chests, I said, “Look
here, I’ll go to Brisbane to-morrow, sell that tea at cost price, and
you shall have your rent and the agreement money.” At this he turned and
went away. That night I hastened off to Brisbane, hired a van, got my
sea-chest out of that wretched shop and was never seen in any shop in
those parts or anywhere else on earth again.



No Money—Sleeping Out—Bushed!—The Stockman’s Shanty

STRANDED in Brisbane without a cent I slept down on the wharfs and
sometimes curled my half-starved body up by the warm funnel of the
deep-sea tramp boats. I will not weary you with the details of those
days and nights, excepting to tell you that hundreds of English boys,
and the pluckiest boys of your country too, go through all that I went
through in the land of the Golden Fleece. I was soon in rags, sunburnt
and miserable. I mixed with English and Colonial tramps, some good men
and some no good; most of them wore shaggy beards and others tried to
keep shaved and had forgotten their names in the attempt to lose their
identity—sad “ne’er-do-wells” of the civilised world, who had hurried
across the world to save their necks or preserve their liberty!

It is wonderfully easy to sink into the depths of Failure’s Hell. The
human relics that make up the sad side of existence are fascinating
folk, full of sarcastic wit and most of them of a sentimental turn of
mind, and strange as it may seem, deep in their hearts better men than
those who climb the heights of ambition on one leg—instead of crawling
up on all-fours and dying of old age half-way up.

I remember one night while we were all sitting huddled in our rags round
the funnel of the English Mail Boat, one old chap (at least he seemed
old to me as I was only fifteen years of age) would sit by moonlight
reading and writing poetry. He had fine eyes, and he and I got
interested in each other, and I found out gradually that he was a
University man, who in a moment of mental aberration had signed a cheque
and passed it. He had travelled the South Seas, lived in Fiji, Samoa and
Tonga, could quote all the poets and as far as I was able to judge wrote
beautiful poems. When he read one of them to me, inspired by memories of
his boyhood, I was quite touched and he noticed it by my eyes, and I
with my impulsive temperament could have kissed that sad old mouth as
the beautiful words trembled out of it and his face lit up to find that
at last in the cold old world he had found an appreciative listener. Out
of the big tail pocket of his ragged coat he pulled a dirty old bundle
which was all of his poetic work. He read all the poems to me; the
longer ones I could not understand, as they were on Greek subjects, but
nevertheless I listened attentively, and now that I am older I thank God
that I did. We slept for nights and nights in a wharf dust-bin together,
and one night I waited and waited and he never came. I know he would
have come if he were able to. I never saw him again; he and his poetry
left me for ever—God bless him wherever he is.

After that I spent days and days trying to get a berth on one of the
homebound ships, but there were so many looking for the same post that I
gave it up as hopeless and eventually got a job in a tanning yard where
they cured sheep and cow skins. Even after all these years I can still
smell that yard under the tropic sun and the terrible odours of advanced
putrefaction. My wages were thirty-five shillings a week. I stayed just
three weeks, got my violin out of pawn and started fiddling on the
public streets. After the second day I chummed in with an Italian
harp-player. He taught me a lot of fine Italian melodies, and in a week
we were the talk of Queensland capital. I used to stand by his side at
night when all the streets were lighted up and put my whole soul into my
playing as I thought of my proud old father and my sisters, and then
with my big-rimmed Australian hat in my hand bowed to the street
audience as they shied in the silver pieces. In two weeks I had eight
pounds in my pocket, and as it always does happen, and will happen till
the world ends, when I went to the post office there was a letter from
home with four five-pound notes in it! How I would have jumped to get
that a week before; but my heart was touched nevertheless by those
kindly hands and tender thoughts across the world, heedful of my

Bidding my wizened dark-eyed old Italian harpist “Good-bye,” I made for
the bush, and travelled north. I had a comrade with me. He was not a bad
fellow—hailed from the East End of London, was utterly devoid of
romance, and swore fearfully. As we slept out in the bush at night I
cheered him up by playing the fiddle, till we both lay down side by
side, our feet towards the camp fire, and slept.

I shall never forget that bush tramp. For three weeks we toiled along,
our swags on our backs, from steep to steep, and from plain to plain,
nothing but vast solitude and sweltering silence broken at intervals by
the fleets of large parrots migrating across the tropic skies; as they
passed overhead we would hear their dismal mutterings, till their
curling wings faded away over the gum clumps on the everlasting skylines
of the oceans of hills and plains around us.

Brisbane was about one hundred miles away. Day after day we continued
our voyage across those everlasting seas of grey scrub and rock. The
tropic sun belching down with full vigour raised blisters as big as soap
bubbles on our bare necks; they would often burst and bring us great
relief. Our supplies were running short, and we had got off the track
and were completely bushed! The stiff bush grass tore the ends of our
trouser legs completely away, and we looked terrible scarecrows, and got
thin too. Often we would climb the highest steeps and gaze around in the
hope of seeing some sign of human habitation. We were indeed two sad
castaways on seas of desolation, moving slowly onward on sore feet under
the tropic sun. As we sat by our camp fire at night my comrade would
curse me for bringing him to such a God-forsaken country, indeed all my
own valour vanished as we lay curled together in the darkness of that
endless bush and heard the dingo’s wail as its creeping feet explored
the waste far away.

One night, over the hills far off on the skyline, regiments of ragged
gum-trees suddenly burst into view, as up crept the white Australian
moonrise. We sat up and stared into each other’s eyes for company. I
shall never forget the terror that made our teeth chatter. I gripped my
revolver (I had bought it and a tin of one hundred cartridges before
starting off from Brisbane). There far away on the steeps, like a
monstrous human shadow, moved something, leaping from steep to steep
like some ghastly spring-heeled Jack. The perspiration rolled down our
faces. We were both speechless as we stood up and gazed at that terrible
sight. Instinctively we clutched each other, as that terrible Aboriginal
came towards us; up went our trembling hands in the moonlight. We shook
visibly as we leaned against each other for support, and fired the six
chambers of our revolvers in rapid succession. The hills echoed and
re-echoed that cannonade; the enemy fell and we fainted! I poured some
water down my comrade’s throat and half raised him up.

At daybreak, crestfallen and miserable that we had killed it, my chum
and I buried the fallen enemy, a poor old man kangaroo!

[Illustration: FOREST TRACK, “OUT-BACK”]

Two days after that incident we were both hard at work pulling pumpkins
and stacking straw on the cleared bush ground of a shanty. The stockman
was a good fellow, he treated us kindly and rigged us both out in decent
trousers. I had fine times at that lonely bush homestead. The stockman’s
wife took a great fancy to me, and they would sit together by their
shanty door, after the day’s work, and listen to my playing on the
violin as though an angel had fallen from the clouds specially to
entertain them. They had three little girls, plump little sunburnt girls
too. They all loved me. How they romped with me, and how they cried when
I went away! The stockman’s wife shed tears, and the old fellow’s voice
sounded husky as he wished me “Good luck,” and those three little girls,
with their bright eyes, wet with tears, are still looking up into my
boyish sunburnt face, and their dear little hands still wave on the
ridge of the steep as I ride away for ever, fading from their sight.

My companion got work on another station and found another comrade more
suitable to his temperament than I. He swore that I was mad.



My first Whiskies and Sodas—And after!—Secure Position as a Violinist in
    Orchestra—We stow away—Sight the South Sea Islands—Samoa

ONCE again I arrived in Brisbane, and walking up the main street,
feeling rather down in the mouth, I was suddenly thrilled by meeting an
old school chum out from England. We almost fell into each other’s arms.
As soon as we had both recovered from our mutual astonishment, I
inquired and learnt that he was working as a clerk in one of the
Brisbane wholesale establishments. I had seven pounds in my pocket when
we met that night. I went with him into my first public-house, and
started on whisky and soda! I have made up my mind to tell the whole
truth, in this the book of my life, and so I must tell you to my utter
shame that I got fearfully drunk.

How it really occurred I do not know. My comrade was evidently used to
intoxicating refreshments and showed huge delight as I got more and more
excited. I did not know what had come over me. After the third whisky I
felt an intense tenderness creep over me for everyone in the bar. The
whole street got to know I was in that wretched place. I smacked my old
school chum on the back over and over again, and as the old sailors and
cunning old Colonial loafers poured into the bar and called me a fine
and splendid young fellow, I shouted hurriedly for “deep seas,”
“schooners,” “whiskies,” and all the thousand orders which they poured
into my ears. I was not too far gone not to notice the “old salts” wink
at each other as they lifted their tremendous glasses and clinked them
one against the other, drinking my health and long life, as with pride I
paid. That night, when I eventually got on to my bed, the room whirled
round and round, and slowly sank into vast depths of infinity, and I
became insensible. I will not describe my feelings the next morning, as
it would make woeful reading, but I will tell you this, I have never
drunk whiskies and sodas since, and so the “ill wind” blew into me a
deal of good.

In the next room to me lodged a violinist, and he could play too. I
introduced myself to him and he gave me several good lessons and
recommended me to some good studies. I told him my tale, and to my
delight he got me a job as violin player in the Brisbane Theatre. It was
an easy matter for him to do this, as he was the leader of the
orchestra. I shall never forget the novelty of those first nights, and
the sights as the stage beauties whirled round and round, cocked their
legs skyward, and bowed with blushing modesty as the audience loudly
cheered. I have never seen anything like those sights, not even in the
Fiji and Samoan Islands, where I met women attired in half of a coco-nut
shell, and stalwart brown men standing under beautiful blue skies as
nude as Grecian statues, and yet not half so nude as white women wearing
only about a quarter of their clothes.

Sickening of orchestral life, I bade my few friends farewell, and sailed
for Sydney. The harbour struck me as very beautiful, also the city
itself, with its long streets—Pit Street, George Street and the parallel
streets—along which thundered, in those days, the big engines of the
steam trams.

Alas! ill luck befell me, my money was soon all spent. I strove to get
into the theatre again; but the whole of Italy was standing at the door
offering their services for a macaroni-living wage, and I was done for,
as they were mostly good players and old in experience. I hastily wrote
home to England, begging them to send me some cash. In those days
however it took quite three months to get a reply, and long before the
letter-due period was near I was once more stranded and sleeping on
North Shore Ferry boats and on the Domain, chummy with the old
unfortunates again, as like mammoth rats we crept through cracks and
slept the sleep of the downcast and weary.

One day I made the acquaintance of two more lads who were about my own
age. They had been sleeping out in sheds for weeks, and were both
half-starved, and that afternoon we went down on the wharf of Circular
Quay together, and watched a ship unloading fruit and bananas. Taking
our opportunity, we stole a fine bunch of the latter. I shall never
forget how we enjoyed that gorgeous feed, as we sat in the Domain hard
by and shared out our stolen meal. My comrades were both English
fellows. That same afternoon we decided to stow away on a large tramp
steamer—I believe it was a “Blue Anchor Boat.” At dusk that very night,
as she lay alongside, getting up steam so as to sail next morning, we
three crept up the gangway, and after asking the chief steward and the
chief officer if there was a chance of “working our passages home” we
waited our opportunity and stole down the stokehold ladder at dark, as
quiet as three mice, right down into the big ship’s depth, and lay by
the coal bunkers all curled up together on some old sacks. For a long
time we whispered together, full of glee at the thought of such easy
success in getting away from Sydney, all Homeward Bound!

About midnight, we fell asleep. Suddenly I was awakened by footsteps,
and coming down the iron ladder right over our heads I saw the big boots
of a man. Quickly pulling the peak of my cheese-cutter cap over my eyes
I pretended to sleep. My chums were both snoring beside me, and, as I
once again peeped under the rim of my cap, I saw by the figure’s uniform
that it was the Chief Engineer. He struck a match and looked at a
steam-gauge, and just as I thought that he was going up again on deck,
and that we were undiscovered and safe, he turned and spotted us three
boys curled there upon the old sacks, all asleep as he thought. For a
moment he gazed down upon us, and then without a word crept away. I
quickly awakened my two comrades, and told them. They would not believe
me at first, but eventually I convinced them, and we all quietly climbed
up the ladder and bolted. He had seen us there, three pale-faced starved
boys curled together, and it had touched him, and now that I am older I
know that he would never have split, wishing to give us a chance to get
away back to our native land. And though we did not profit by his
kindness, I often think of the tenderness that made that rough
sea-engineer creep up to the decks and keep a still tongue for the sake
of the three little stowaways.

Next morning we saw the ship sail away half steam ahead across the Bay;
round the Point her stern passed out of sight as we three stood gazing
wistfully close together on the wharf. Away she went, with the white
hands of the passengers waving farewells, and in my dreams I saw her
pass through Sydney Heads, and heard her thundering screw start as she
passed out into the ocean and rolled away full speed ahead on the long,
long track Homeward Bound for England—and I cried myself to sleep that

I soon sickened of that life, I can tell you, and one day out at
“Miller’s Point” I saw alongside the wharf a schooner which I had been
told was bound for the South Sea Islands. I was lucky and secured a
berth before the mast, and next morning as dawn crept over Sydney I was
aboard her, flying through the “Heads” into the Pacific Ocean before a
stiff breeze, with all sails set, bound for the Islands.

That night it blew like hell, and the ship almost turned upside down. I
was not used to the tumbling of small craft, which is very different to
the roll and heave of big ships, and so became terribly sea-sick. While
I was aloft that night I brought up my dinner and tea, the whole of
which was caught by the terrific wind and slashed on to the deck into
the face of the skipper and the man at the wheel. By Jove! they did
swear! But sailors are rough and forgiving, especially when you play the
fiddle to them, as I did in the calms that followed that cursed gale and
my illness.

In three weeks we sighted the first Island. At first it looked like a
huge coco-nut sticking out of the calm shining sea afar, and as we got
nearer we saw that it was quite a decent little world about 300 yards
across and 100 wide. A big crag, its population consisted of one hut, an
old man and two daughters. They were quite nude, and running out to the
extreme end of a small promontory they waved their thin long brown arms,
and showed their white teeth, as we flew by with full sails set, 300
yards off.

It was a most novel sight to me to see those lonely people on that old
rock out there in the wide Pacific. How they lived, and what they lived
there for, heaven only knows—I don’t.

As sunset faded into saffron and crimson lines along the skyline that
tiny isle faded away into the infinity of travelling darkness for ever
following the sunsets around the globe, and I and the crew of eight, all
told, lit our pipes and sat on deck as the schooner, urged by the
increasing wind which always sprang up after nightfall, crept over the
primeval waters, the sails filling out and flopping at longer intervals.
The crew were rough sailormen, two were Englishmen and four came from
“Frisco,” the cook was a mixture of Chinese and nigger blood,—a most
extraordinary-looking being he was too, with his frizzly dark hair,
slit-almond eyes, and thin yellow teeth dividing the lips which
incessantly gripped a long pipe. He and I had no love for each other. I
caught him spitting in a tin pannikin, and wiping it clean with his
claw-like hand as he put my dinner on and handed it to me. I took it,
and turning on my heel gave my arm a full-length swing and over the side
it went into the Pacific! By Jove! he did glare viciously at me. After
that I always carried my own plate to the galley and placed my food
carefully upon it myself.

Daybreak was stealing over the seas as the steep mountainous shores of
Samoa burst through the skyline ahead.

At midday the anchor dropped into the calm waters of the Bay. Out from
the beach, where the thundering surf leaped over the barrier reefs in
the sunlight like showers of broken rainbows, came the out-rigged
catamarans, swarming with savage faces. I shall never forget that
strange sight of wild men dressed in their own skins, and rough-haired
women too, bare as eggs. Along they came paddling and singing weird
tunes that sounded like the dark ages in dismal song to my trained ears.
Behind the strings of those canoes swam the mothers. On their
wave-washed backs clung their tiny brown babies. The bright maternal
eyes gleamed, and the wistful tiny bright frightened eyes of the infants
shone, as they rode securely on the brown soft backs of those original
old mothers of the sea-nursed South!

Behind them stretched the shores of their island home, thickly clad with
big tropical trees, big fan-like leaves shimmering in the distance. In a
few moments their naked feet were pattering on the deck of our ship. We
all made a rush to save our belongings from their thieving hands, as
they rushed under our very noses, like big children, to collar all that
attracted their bright alert eyes.

That night off I went in one of the catamarans with the rest of the
crew. On the beach we met half-castes and white traders loafing and
spitting by the sweltering grog shanties and Samoan women were also
loafing around. I eyed them with great curiosity. They were nearly
naked; some were dressed in cloth loin-strips only; others, leaning
against posts smoking and chewing, were dressed in some sailor’s old
discarded shirt.

Never in my life have I seen such handsome women and men as some of
those Samoans were—fine eyes, splendid physiques, the men standing
nearly six feet in their skins. Beautiful heads of hair they had too,
both the men and the women, and they were full of song; and when I
thought of the white men of my own country, with pimply, dough-coloured
skins, bald heads and stumbling gait, with pens behind shrivelled-up
ears and eyes gleaming worlds of woe, as they were pulled up to London
Town in the train every morning and every night pulled back again, my
heart was touched over the sadness of the lot of the working people of
the British Isles.



I extemporise Stirring Music on my Violin at Native Weddings—Dethroned
    Queens and Kings—Meet Papoo

I AM now going to tell you about Samoa and Samoan folk just as my eyes
saw them. My ship sailed away, but I was not on board of it. The Samoan
climate suited my health, and I found decent fellows living there who
made jolly companions. One of them was a reformed German missionary who
had mended his ways, left off the drink and toiled honestly on a
coco-nut plantation which helped him to eke out a living for his
accepted wife and family. They were pretty little children too—I knew
them all well, thirteen altogether, some with blue-black eyes and some
grey-black eyes. All had a tiny splash of white on their tiny plump
bodies; their mothers were as brown as pheasants’ eggs and mostly
fine-looking women.

For a week I lodged with a dark old Samoan who had a kind of bungalow on
the beach. The walls were lined with the most beautiful South Sea
shells. He traded with them, and I believe did a good business with
sailors and traders. He certainly made more headway than I ever did in
my tea shop. Well, I found my violin was a real fortune to me. I got in
with all the wealthy Samoan chiefs and attended Samoan weddings; far
away in the depths of the forest it was I who played and composed on the
violin at those South Sea forest festivals. Stirring music! The hotly
blushing bride, dressed in her bridal robe—her hair only!—which ruffled
as the breeze of the cool forest kissed her innocent nakedness, was
given away to the modest Samoan happy youth, and you must forgive me,
dear reader, whoever you are, and remember I was only a romantic boy,
when I tell you that my whole soul envied that youth! I was young and
inexperienced in the ways of Western and Southern life, and I at first
thought that the Samoan ladies were rather loose in their morals. I am
older now, and I tell you this—the morals of the South Sea men and women
place the morals of our Western life completely in the shade.

Certain phases of life in London could never occur in the South Seas,
and even were the women inclined to traffic with their comeliness, the
South Sea Samoan chief’s war-club never misses!


At night I would steal up the steep shore hills under the mangroves and
coco-palms and creep into the tiny dome-shaped dens, which were the
homesteads of the native men and women of those South Sea isles. They
all got to know me and trust me, and I often would share their meals as
they sat squatting around their big earthen steaming pots wherein they
cooked fish and peculiar-smelling vegetables. The heat of those dens was
terribly stifling to me with my clothes on, and I would very soon make
tracks and get outside, and from those steeps I would gaze out seaward
at the vast calm Pacific trembling into silver under the South Sea moon,
as the phosphorus-sparkling waters at intervals curled and broke to
silvery waves up the shore, by the mirroring palm-sheltered lagoons. On
the beach through patches of moonlight passed the loafing half-caste
traders and huddled groups of Samoan women with their tiny black
children running round and round them like big black rats.

Laoleo, a Marquesan, was my special comrade on those nights out. He was
the son of one of the South Sea queens who had seen her day—far away on
one of the lonely Atolls, her beauty faded and mouth mumbling and
toothless, she sat dreaming of her glorious past, and found life still
sweet in living over the memories of all that had been. Laoleo’s father
was in my time a dethroned king. I saw him once as he sat by his den. He
was fat and squatty, only had one big yellow tooth, a large head, cute
twinkling eyes and fearfully wrinkled brows, and when he wrinkled them
up, as he thought of his past, he looked like some grim personification
of the dark ages cast into human frame.

I shall never forget the great prayer-chanting night. Laoleo took me
into the inland scrub one night, and there, in the forest by their dens,
chanting to their ancient gods, sat the old naked chief and his big
brown wives and daughters, some with their ridis on, but most of them
attired only in their hair and modest smiles.

It was a beautifully calm night. Overhead from seaward crept cooling
winds, drifting damp odours from wild flowers and orange-tree scents
from the shore lagoons and palm-forest glooms. Round and round whirled
the nude maidens of that strange world, swaying their bodies in lyrical
beauty and over their heads in rhythmic movement their long curved brown
arms. The men squatting around slowly moved their big brown bodies to
and fro, chanting weirdly all the time. By his big domed den sat the
dethroned king, Laoleo’s father. There he sat rehearsing his grand past,
his large thin feet on a little mat, his chin pointing towards heaven,
his face once more alive with revived majesty as his warrior chiefs
around him swayed their clubs, calling down the spirits of the mighty
dead to bless that old king and their own brave selves. Young Laoleo and
I stood in the shadows watching them all. As for me, I felt a bit
nervous—they all looked so different sitting round there with inspired
eyes bright with memories of their glorious past, wondrous battles and
beautiful cannibalistic feasts, memories of the bygone days when they
nibbled their choice old friends, found them of sweet dispositions and
wept over tender memories.

Through the spread tree-tops gleamed pale stars, and peeping through the
hut doors hard by, among the coco-palms, through big leaves gazed the
wistful eyes of their small brown naked babies—like tiny shadows of
unborn children peeping from infinity into the dim regions of moonlit

How the memories return to me as I write on. It was on that very night
which I have just described that I, the son of a proud English gentleman
of ancient family, fell in love with a South Sea Island woman, ten years
older than myself. You shall hear something of my downfall. I loved and
lost, and cried in my heart as I lay alone in my hut on a lone Pacific
isle over the grief, the breakdown that has stricken men since the days
of our first grief-stricken parents, old Adam and sad Eve. I have not
told you before, but several days preceding the events which I have just
spoken of, Laoleo and I were down in one of the shore grog shanties,
talking and yarning to the batches of beachcombers, as they loafed in
the sultry glooms by the coco-palms, smoking and spitting and playing
cards—some of them the black sheep of the civilised world, who were
never known to be really sober—when an exceedingly beautiful Samoan girl
of twenty-six years of age came in and sat just by my seat as I played
the fiddle. She was accompanied by her father, an old chief. She had an
attractive, insinuating face, and as she sat there, half-leaning against
a post, her brown naked soft velvet figure looked like some beautiful
sculptural work of art. Silently she sat as I played on, her shining
eyes gazing astonished at my white sunburnt face, and not till I had
finished the fiddling, and the drunken old half-caste trader had
finished his jig and swaggered up to the bar for another dose of stuff
called brandy, did her eyes blink and her lips part in a smile of
pleasure that revealed her white teeth. She gave me such a look as she
sat there, dressed only in a narrow tappa loin-strip, that I quickly
riveted all my attention on an attempt to tune up my violin, so as to
hide the hot blush that flamed to my ear tips.



Contrasts—A South Sea Bar-room—I meet Robert Louis Stevenson—An Old Time
    Trader’s Morals—Shell-backs

ALAS, a good many of those brown men and women of the old days have
passed away for ever, and in their place, over the islands of the South
Seas, roam the varied offspring of men from many lands, the half-caste
children of white traders, Chinese mongrels, Polynesian niggers,
descendants of wandering, adventurous viciousness, mixed up with the
outcasts of civilisation, and more often than quite enough the puny
offspring of touring American and German missionaries, and English too.
I don’t know which has won in the race to populate the lonely and
beautifully secret-keeping isles of those far-away seas, but I think the
good old flag is still to the front, flying to the breeze, represented
in the sparkling, dancing eyes of the romping children on the wooded
South Sea slopes—pretty violet eyes they have too, some grey and some
grey-brown, little laughing angels of innocence, as they gaze up at you
and go tumbling head over heels, revealing their tiny plump
white-splashed backs, and the good old missionary sprees hidden in the
dark of the unrecorded! For true it is that sometimes the virtuous and
the good have their weak moments, those sad lapses which are not on any
account recorded in the delightfully innocent autobiography of the
returned, weary but still earnest traveller, beautifully written, and
sold for ten shillings and sixpence net, circulated among the numerous
British, German, and American Christian Societies, and read by the
benevolent old gentlemen and ladies of their native land, which is so
overrun with poverty and misery.

I knew one old Samoan chief, who was a cute, intellectual fellow, and
could speak “pigeon English” well enough to ply me with numerous
questions concerning my native English land. I often remember how his
bright eyes lit up with astonishment when I told him of the far-away
sorrows of London Town, so different to the warm moonlit forest of his
own Island. I told him how men slept on door-steps, shivering, clothed
in verminous rags which fluttered in the cold night winds as they half
covered starved skin and bone of dead men who still breathed—men who had
dropped out of the fighting ranks of life, lost the forlorn hope, and
did not believe in God, for they had sorrowed in life and found hell in
the death of breathing-despair. I told him of tiny wistful eyes of
children starving as they gazed into shop windows watching the mist rise
from the steaming foods, and yet nothing in their little pinched
bellies. I told him of vast cathedrals pointing their steeples up to the
grey English skies, costing millions of money to build, while far below
their stone walls, stealing along the wet cold streets, those tiny
trembling prayers, God’s helpless children, crept without food and
clothing. I told him of women, dishevelled and weary, sleeping out on
the Embankment and huddled in dark corners and ditches, some fallen
through drink, and some through loving too well the man who had betrayed
their trust; and I told him of their more fortunate sisters who had
loved and been unbetrayed by the object of their lucky trust, and how
terribly bitter those very women were towards their fallen, lost
sisters. I was young then, otherwise how much more could I have told the
astonished old chap as he raised his eyes and hands to heaven and wiped
the perspiration from his heathen brow!

Yes, to hear how we lived under the banner of the sign of the Cross,
wherefrom only the shadow falls over the pale-faced multitudes as they
tramp to the clank of the chains of conventionality, chains gold-plated
with eighteen-carat hypocrisy.

“And then Englis come to here,” he said, as he opened his South Sea
mouth in astonishment. He was an unmarried man, and having no
fine-looking daughters had not suffered as some of the Samoans had, the
why and the wherefore I leave the reader to guess. I also leave the
reader of my autobiography to remember that the South Sea Islands’
so-called savages are men just like ourselves, with inclinations and
dreams and religions based on mythology and the gods of their ancient
histories, and were they a powerful and mighty race, owning three parts
of the world, with all the advantages of climatic conditions and
education that the Western world has had, they would most assuredly
emigrate from their Isles and seek to reform men to their ways of
thinking, and doubtless they would find a good harvest in our modern
cities for their pious endeavours. I am sure we should all, under their
influence, make a grand stride towards that far-off goal of perfect
good. I know that there are many men stealing across the earth who do
not think as I think, but this is the autobiography of my life, and not
of another life.

I was a lad in the days that I am telling you of, and had the
opportunities that other men who were older and more respected did not
get. I have often rushed in where the angel feared to tread, and the
devil also. R.L.S. and others only saw the traders, the Samoans and
other tribes, as they stood before him in one light, and the
missionaries with the halo of feverish goodness to reform shining around
their brows. I was a boy, my opinion unrespected, a young beachcomber
who knew more than they thought he did, so they let go, and out came the
true man, glorious and joyous in the wild sprees of those long-ago
Samoan nights! Mind you, there were good men in the South Seas of those
days, but over most of their heads, in the cemetery where the whites
were buried, the flowers grew. I have stood gazing on those forgotten
graves at sunset and wondered what dead desires lay beneath those
crosses and stones, what sad crimes and what memories of their native
lands, for the Islands, as well as Australia, were the happy hiding
places of men who were flying from justice, and were I to tell you the
yarns, the terrible tales of escaped innocence being hunted and cursed
through miscarriages of justice, I should have to fill a book with
nothing else but those tales.

I will now return to where I left the South Sea Island girl Papoo, for
that I discovered was her name. As the drunken trader swayed to his tub
and her frizzly-headed brown father rolled a tobacco leaf into a
cigarette with two fingers and stood by the one-roomed Samoan Hotel I
spoke to the girl who had so attracted my attention.

“You like music,” I said.

“Nein spoke,” she answered, but her eyes spoke for her, and I shifted my
seat and got closer and read that poem of curves and shoulders, bright
eyes and hair, yes, all the mystery of a woman’s eyes, lit by the magic
light of sincerity.

I will not tell you all the many details of my romantic love affair; but
I can often hear in my dreams the cry of the night bird and the hushed
intervals, as the sea-surf rose and thundered over the shore barrier by
the forest track near Vaea Mountain’s thickly wooded slopes as I sat by
Papoo and made love to her, just the very same as English boys do to the
girls in the London suburbs to-day. Papoo was just the same in her
manner, modest to a fault, betraying her modesty by adding another
garment over her ridi, which looked to me very much like the half of a
discarded red nightshirt of some cranky old skipper. I played the violin
to Papoo by the thatched hut where she lived and she sang weird Samoan
songs, which stealing into my ears from her lips trembled with lyrical
beauty, the soul of which was in my own head. Nights followed nights and
I would creep behind her thatched hut on all-fours and meet her
secretly. I got so deeply in love with her that I asked her to clear
from the Island and go with me to Australia; and then the end came, in
the sense that we could not meet so often. Her father found us out! I
thought he would kill me at first, but the anger in his dark eyes sank
down and he jabbered in South Sea lingo tremendously for a time. I hung
my head and pretended to be heartily ashamed of myself, and so he
forgave me, but kept his weather eye on me just the same; and my dear
Papoo crept in the hut door, gazed over her shoulder at me as she
disappeared, and pointed to the shore, and I knew that she would meet me
and bolt at the first opportunity.

It was the day after that episode that I was sitting by a dead
banyan-tree, when a white man, whom I thought was a rather respectable
trader, emerged from the forest just by. It was Robert Louis Stevenson.
He had intellectual keen eyes and a sad emotional-looking face, and
looked a bit of a dreamer. Of course I did not know him then, nor can I
remember much what he said at that moment. I know that I had climbed a
tree and was looking at a bird’s egg when he came up to me and asked me
what bird’s egg it was; I could not tell him, but I did as he requested,
climbed up the tree and placed it back into the nest. Had I known he was
a great author and poet I should have taken more stock of him. I
remember that we strolled across the slope together and I gave him some
tobacco and climbed several more trees as he stood below calling up to
me to show him the eggs. It was not till nearly a week after, when I was
on the beach talking to a trader friend who said to me “That’s
Stevenson, the writer,” that I asked about him, but even then I did not
gather that he was as famous as he was. I remember the very next day as
I and Papoo lay hidden by some coco-palms we saw him lying full length,
leaning half on his elbow gazing seaward, writing now and again on a
slip of paper that he held in his hand. He had his boots off, for they
stood beside him. I think he must have been bathing in one of the creeks
by the Bay and afterwards crept up to the seclusion of the banyan-trees
to dream and write down his thoughts. Papoo and I watched him for a
moment, and then arose and stole away, as she had the household duties
to attend to and I did not want her father to catch her again.

Almost every night I would go down by the beach and mix with sailors and
traders—men from all countries they were, a good many Germans among
them, especially when the _Lubeck_ arrived from Sydney, bringing
passengers and a varied cargo. The crew would come ashore and have a
regular spree, some of them drinking the vile concoction sold at a
shanty bar by the beach. There was one old chap who hailed from “Nuka
Hiva.” He would sit drinking and smoking and yarning away for hours,
telling us his experiences; he knew all the Islands, had been married
over and over again, and as he was growing old and infirm through drink
and temper (for he had a terribly fiery head) he would sit and curse the
memory of his numerous family, not one of whom would help him. He had
grown-up sons and daughters on most of the Isles of the South Seas round
about; some of his children were as blackish as their mothers, and some
half white and half brown. He would sit for hours while I played and
strummed on the violin, telling me of the strange habits of the
different tribes and their marriage customs. We would sit together and
roar with laughter as he (half drunk) crawled on the shanty floor
illustrating the way he solemnised the marriage of his eighth wife in
Fiji, describing how he kissed her feet, and how he went through
ceremonies of a most extraordinary kind in the many weddings that he had
attended as bridegroom. I could not very well write here the tales he
told, and moreover I do not believe all that he said was true, though he
would pull his billy-goat whiskers, lift his hat from his extraordinary
high bald head, and seal every detail with a blasphemous oath of “God’s
truth.” He was interesting at first, but I soon wearied of his
adventures, for he told the same yarn night after night, and as I slept
in the same room with him my life became a burden to me. Just as I was
going off to sleep he would suddenly sit up, half drunk, and say: “Did I
ever tell you of my marriage with Betsy Brownlegs, the Fiji chief’s
daughter?” And then, notwithstanding that I quickly answered “Yes, you
have told me and everyone else in Samoa,” he would sit up and start off,
pouring out the old tales.

[Illustration: NATIVE GIRL, SAMOA]

One night I got him in a decent mood, played him some old English songs,
and then he revealed the best side of his character, that all men have,
and with tears in his eyes looked up at me and said, “Matey, that ’ere
old song makes me remember—she sang that, and I killed her!” And then
out came the sorrow of his life, why he was a drunken exile in the South
Seas. As a young man when in England, for he was an Englishman, he had
fallen madly in love with a pretty girl in a Kent village. All went well
for a time; then a rival came on the scene who was more polished than
poor Hornecastle, and the object of his affections cooled down towards
him and gave every encouragement to the suitor who wore a top hat and
white cuffs. I can still see the gleaming of Hornecastle’s eyes as he
told me of that rival of his, how he caught his village sweetheart one
night sitting on a stile with the top hat hanging on a post beside her
and the cuffs round her neck. “I did for her,” he said; “I meant the
shot for him.” And then, though many years had passed since that tragedy
which had made him fly from his native land, the tears of remorse crept
up to his eyes, but they quickly brightened as he told me that he had
read in an old newspaper that the second shot had succeeded, and his
rival had died in the hospital. So ended my strange comrade’s
courtship—the girl and the rival in the grave, and Hornecastle an exile
in the South Seas, and on the slopes his many wives and children romping
with glee, brought into existence by the top hat and white cuffs
episode. How strange and inscrutable are the ways of Fate.

I made the acquaintance of another old chap who had a mania for eating
hard-boiled eggs. He had been a sailor, travelled the world over, done
many misdeeds and many good ones. He spoke with a Yankee twang and I
believe was an American. He would sit in the grog shanty telling all the
traders and sailors in the bar, when his turn came round, of other
lands, and invariably finished up by condemning the country in question
or praising it according to the quality of the hard-boiled eggs that he
had eaten while residing there. They were real old “Shell-backs,” the
men of those days, had sailed the seas, lived on “hard tack,” slept “all
standing” in wind and rain, and as the various yarns were told they
would listen and quietly sip their beer, spitting over their shoulders
out of the grog shanty windows without missing, in a way that struck me
as wonderful. They were wild times, those that I am writing of, not so
long ago either, as I am still a young man. You see I started young and
saw more of life before I reached man’s estate (which is the only estate
I ever possessed) than a good many men see in their threescore and ten
years. As I write and dream on I can see those Isles glittering under
the tropic sun, with the shoreward surfs rising and breaking into
rainbow-flushed colours, thundering over the reefs. They are still
breaking and curling to spray out there, as on the beach through the
tracks of moonlight pass and repass the semi-savage-looking figures of
Samoan men and women, and still I can hear the songs of those who fish
in the Bay as they glide along from shore to shore in the strange
outrigged canoes, while the half-caste and white traders loaf, lean,
smoke and spit by the shore shanties, tugging at their short beards.

Time went on till Papoo and I drifted apart, and since I must tell the
truth, this being no romance, one of her own tribe courted her. She
still had her eye on me, but the novelty was wearing off, and I went off
to Tonga in a small trading schooner. When I returned to Samoa after
about six months, I found that Papoo and her family had left the Island.
I never saw her again, and so ended my second love affair.



I go cruising amongst the Islands—Arrive in Sydney—Wharfers looking for
    Work—I go off hunting for Gold—Meet R. L. Stevenson at Sea

ONCE more the wandering fever came over me, and wishing old Hornecastle
good-bye and my few other friends, I shipped in a schooner bound for the
Fijis. For two or three months I roamed with her from isle to isle, saw
the various tribes of original mankind of all the South Seas, heard
their songs and squatted with them in their little huts as the children
of past bloodthirsty cannibals said grace over their meals to the great
pride of the onlooking missionaries, who have done a deal of good
notwithstanding their own sins.

After a week’s stay at Vanua-Levu we proceeded for the Australian coast,
and I arrived once more in Sydney Harbour and there once again I fell in
with sailors. There they were, a ragged chain of shoulders on the wharf,
mostly men of forty to fifty years of age, stalwart and sunburnt relics
of better, or worse, days. Still they stood, watching with weary eyes
for work, tugging grizzly beards and moustaches, smoking plug tobacco or
fiercely chewing in the hot sunshine, arguing the point over the latest
trade union grievance, spitting over their shoulders with the same
wonderful precision and fate-like persistence. And still they stand
there, at least the younger ones; the older ones are now dead, asleep in
the “Necropolis” out at “Rookwood,” with all their grievances at rest
and their dried-up chewing gums silent for ever, the cry for higher
wages for ever entombed!—while their pals stand down by Sydney Bay and
now and again in the long silent watch of many years wipe their noses
with their outstretched thumb and forefinger and break the silence by
some brief remark, such as “Poor pal Bill, whenever I sees the old
windjammers being tugged out across the Bay I thinks of ’im and the good
old days before the mast, before we joined the trade union, and now he’s
dead, I wonder where he is.” Then, by way of punctuation, the
reminiscent loafer spits out a thin swift stream of black tobacco juice.

I soon tired of the wharf monotony, and finally, hearing of the gold
discoveries of those times, the fever got hold of me and I resolved with
a friend, whose spirit seemed very much like my own, to go up country
and see if we could find gold ourselves. The gold discoveries were far
away in Western Australia, but I got an idea in my head that gold was to
be found in New South Wales. I bought a blanket, a billy can and other
necessaries for bush exploitation, and we started off by taking tickets
on the Newcastle night boat. It took one night to get round, and next
morning we started off. I remember we passed some old coal-mine shafts
and then tramped along a main track with tall gums each side of us. We
were happy together. My comrade was a Scotch fellow, stolid and full of
dry humour, and I believe he would have marched on for years without
complaining so long as he could smoke. At midday, both tired and hungry,
we hailed the driver of a cart that came across some paddocks to the
right of us. He was an Australian farmer and a kind fellow we found him.
I shall never forget his jolly laughter and the twinkle of his eyes when
I told him we were “travelling up country in search of gold,” as we sat
up there beside him and the Australian buck-jumper galloped along at
about four miles an hour. He put us down about four miles outside of
Maitland. It was an old-fashioned, sleepy-looking place, and as we
tramped through the main street, with our cheese-cutter caps on and
swags on our backs, the Australian youths opened their big mouths and
grinned from ear to ear, as they stood in groups by the roadside.

That night we left Maitland behind and slept on the scrub by the Hunter
River and then tramped across country. The heat was terrific and
reminded me of my Queensland experience. We got work at homesteads and
pulled pumpkins, examined creeks carefully, dug holes, gazed for
sparkling running water that might reveal the precious metal as it ran
over the pockets in the hills; but we found no gold, only hard work and
toil. We soon sickened of the life, only suitable to the Chinamen who
toiled about us on the stations. Grim, rum-looking things these men
were. They looked so stolid and emotionless as they tramped in Indian
file across the slopes at sunset back to their sweltering huts that it
would require very little imagination to dream that they were stuffed
mummies of the Pyramids walking in some long sleep, exiled to the
dried-up Australian Bush, and they smelt so strong that when the wind
blew from their direction my comrade and I at once lit our pipes!

We soon made tracks for Sydney, where once more I tried to get a berth
on an English ship. I had received several letters from home and longed
to see them all again; but it was not to be, all the home boats were
full up that week and money was getting scarce. My comrade and I
determined to get a job somewhere, and going on board the _Lubeck_, a
German ship, I was taken on as mess-room steward, and my mate secured a
job in the saloon. We were delighted at such a companionable bit of
luck. Next morning she sailed, and as I was walking along the deck next
day I saw the Pacific Ocean all around us, and gazing over the bulwark
side by the saloon leaned Robert Louis Stevenson. He did not notice me
as I stood there by the engine-room door, and I stared on and had a good
opportunity of examining the man who had just begun to be interesting to
me, as I had a faint idea that he stood apart from ordinary mortals and
wrote books of poetry, and so I examined him with interest. He was a
good deal like the photographs which I have since seen of him in books
and elsewhere, though he looked somewhat older. His face seemed very
much sunburnt, and its outline struck me as though it expressed Jewish

The voyage to Samoa, as far as I can now remember, only took about a
week or ten days. We called at Tonga and stayed, I think, only a few
hours. I slept among the sailors in the fo’c’sle. They were all Germans
and they spoke very little English. I discovered that one of them had a
violin and, mine being in pawn in Sydney, I borrowed it from him and
started to entertain the crew by playing old English songs, and some sea
chanteys, one of which was the good stirring old Capstan song “Blow the
Man Down.” As I sat on the hatchway at night and two German sea-salts
shouted songs in German as I played, Robert Louis Stevenson came and
spoke to me, and seemed very much interested in my playing. He
remembered seeing me in the Islands and asked me if I was an Australian.
I told him I came from England. He became interested in me and just as I
was losing my first embarrassment, and had played him once again a
Scottish melody which seemed to please him very much, I heard the
wretched German chief steward shouting for me, and I had to make a bolt.
I did not see him again till we arrived near the Islands, then one night
as I was sitting on the hatchway picking the fiddle strings, sweating a
good deal, for it was a sweltering hot night, Stevenson came through the
alley-way by the engine-room, and sat beside me and another sailor who
was humming as I strummed away. I saw his face outlined distinctly; it
was a calm night, the moon right overhead flooded the sea with a silver
sheen as the screw whirled steadily round and the vessel sped along
leaving a long silver wake which could easily be seen for miles behind
as the sparkling foam drifted with the glassy swell.

Stevenson was one of those men with a keen face that made you feel a bit
reticent until he spoke, and then you discovered a human note in the
voice that put you thoroughly at your ease, and as he spoke to a German
sailor he picked my violin up and started to try and play some old folk
melody. I told him how to hold the bow correctly and hold the head of
the violin level with his chin, which he at once attempted to do and
made several efforts to perform, upon which I smiled approvingly at my
illustrious pupil! He had long delicate fingers and looked well as he
stood in the Maestro fashion and did all I told him to do in an obedient
way as though I were Stevenson and he the humble sailor-lad. He asked me
many questions about music and seemed to know more about the history of
celebrated violinists and the history of musical notation than I did,
but he spoke modestly and did not take the least advantage of my
inferior knowledge as he walked to and fro restlessly and then sat down
again. He seemed fond of looking over the ship’s side, gazing out to
sea, and up at the stars. He was very friendly with all the sailors,
went into the fo’c’sle, talked to the crew and was greatly interested in
ship life. I did not see him again till I arrived on the Islands. I did
not care about travelling with Germans whom I could not speak to, my
knowledge of German being no more than “nein,” and “jah,” and so I left
the _Lubeck_ and once more came in contact with old Hornecastle. My
chum, though I did all I could to persuade him to leave the boat, would
not do so, and so we parted, and the last I heard of him was that he had
shipped before the mast of a sailing ship bound for San Francisco and
during terrible weather got lost overboard. Poor Ned, I often think of
him and even regret leaving the _Lubeck_, otherwise he might not have
gone off on the ill-fated ship, for she too got lost later on with “All

Hornecastle[1] had also been away from the Islands somewhere or other, I
forget now where, but I remember his pleasure at seeing me again as he
smacked me on the back, and shouted “Hello, my hearty.”

Footnote 1:

  Hornecastle was a successful trader and always gave me employment if I
  required it, and paid well.

It was about that time that I spent a good deal of my time in practising
the fiddle and studying music, and Hornecastle and another old
shell-back would sit on a chest and say, “Shut it, youngster, give us a
toon!” I had got hold of Kreutzer’s violin studies, and some of the
double-stopping strains, I must admit, got very monotonous even to me as
I played them over and over again hundreds of times, and when I think of
the old chap’s temper at my persistence, and the way he got out of his
bed one night, as I was practising, and said, “By Christ, if yer don’t
stop that hell of a row, I’ll smash yer fiddle,” I can hardly blame him.


One night a schooner arrived from Honolulu and the crew came ashore and
had a fine spree. She brought as passengers two missionaries. I do not
remember their names, only that we all called them the “reverends”; the
elder one of the two, who looked like a German, was a real “knock-out”;
he had succumbed to more women, and had made more devoted mothers on
that Isle than Hornecastle had in all his populating career! But he was
a good fellow withal, and after he had been to the missionary school and
done his duties he would come to us and talk about our evil ways, and
try to reform old Hornecastle, who was dead against the Church.
Hornecastle would listen to him, blinking his grey eyes all the time. He
would tug his beard, put his finger to his beak-like nose and say, “Look
ye here, Missy” (which was an abbreviation for missionary). “It’s no
good yer trying to come your old swank over me, you’d best start to
reform yerself, old cock.” But that missionary was oblivious, and used
to the sarcasm and genial observations of his own kind, and took it all
in good part. Half comic and half in earnest, he would raise his pious
hands above his head, as old Hornecastle would let go and curse
missionaries and all creation in general. This missionary meanwhile
would sit quietly gazing around, taking notes down, asking questions,
the names of trees, flowers, and Isle afar and near, busily engaged in
compiling his memoirs, to be published when he returned to his native
land in a grand volume chock-full of extreme virtue and self-sacrifice,
and the sad ways of the children of the South Seas, and the little bit
of good white men had circulated in the children who would grow up
pious. I have read a good many books written by men who have presumably
travelled and lived in the parts they have written about, but I can most
earnestly assure my readers of this autobiography that black men of
India and on the Gold Coast of West Africa and in the South Seas do not
speak as I have read that they do speak.

The copper-coloured man of Ceylon and Bombay, as soon as you step
ashore, speeds towards you and says, “Me show you where live, me good
man, carry parcel and nebber steal,” points viciously to his rival—who
is clamouring in pigeon English for your patronage—and swears that “He’s
bad man, steal all, and been pison” (meaning prison), as the
aristocratic dark-turbaned gentleman, with long black naked legs, white
shoes and no socks, grins, shows his white teeth, pulls his black hand
from under his shirt tail, and tries to entice you to scan his splendid
selection of photographs—photographs that, not to put too fine a point
upon it, even a Turk, on looking at them, would blow his nose and blush!
The South Sea Islanders accost you in a more innocent way; naturally a
virtuous race, and living in isolation from civilised Europe, they have
watched the White askance, and gradually discovered that the godliness
he clothes himself with sometimes covers a deal of vice! So they strive
to sell you corals and fruit, as they patter over the ship’s deck with
naked feet, and when they see the white man’s eyes wandering over their
lithe figures, the women, who have been schooled in Western ways, glide
up to you with speaking eyes, stroke your hand with their soft brown
fingers, stand with their curved nude brown bodies, clothed only in a
string of beads, and like a big greedy child say, “You like me? give me
money, eh?”

This, of course, sounds very different to the books I have read, but
whoever you are, go to the South Seas, and keep your weather-eye open
and you will not contradict me when I say that the money spent by
Christian Societies in England and America to polish up the South Sea
Island daughters and men, who were far more innocent than Europe ever
remembers being, could be spent in our own countries with far greater
advantage. The South Sea Islanders would be happier and the English poor
and starving children better looked after.



An Old Time Marquesan Queen—Forced Teetotalism and the Result—With
    R.L.S. watching Native Dance—A German Missionary—A Medley of

THERE was an old Marquesan Queen who lived near Samoa. Years ago in the
zenith of her beauty and fame she sang and danced at the cannibalistic
feasts, was the belle of the Isles and a kind of Helen of Troy of the
South Seas. She was taken prisoner by various tribes, bought by the big
tattooed chiefs and, when they sickened of her, sold again and again
until at last she emerged from the door of a South Sea Divorce Court,
and fell into the arms of one of the Island Kings and, becoming a Queen,
became virtuous, in so far as she possibly could be after being reformed
to the Christian religion. Hornecastle called at her lonely Isle once,
while we were cruising around in a sloop. He, of course, knew her well,
and after introducing me to her as his son, I brought the fiddle out at
“Castle’s” request, and played to her, as she sat old and wrinkled by
her hut door. She was a most extraordinary-looking old woman; when she
smiled her face puckered up into a map of wrinkles and her small
shrunken black eyes twinkled as though through the dark came back old
memories of those lusty stalwart chiefs of long ago. Then she readjusted
her pince-nez and I saw the tears in her eyes as her black fingers
nervously turned over leaf after leaf of the big English Bible which she
had on her bony knees. She had grown very pious and sedate and no one on
earth would have guessed her past history as she sat there, with nothing
on except an old bustle skirt, which only reached to her knees, and
stuck on her head a large Parisian hat of the fashion about the time of
the French Revolution.

I suppose she’s dead now and gone to the land of her fathers. I often
think of her and the way she gazed at my white face as I dropped on one
knee, with all the respect due to a Queen, and kissed that shrivelled
hand. I can still see the faint, majestic smile flickering on those aged
lips that had received in the bloom of maidenhood how many kisses on
their soft amorous curves—and the lithe brown body’s outline of
breathing beauty, how often had it been folded in the arms of brief
paradise? There she sat, a wrinkled-up bit of humanity, jealous and
fretful of those who had not seen their day, for all the world like some
old ladies of my own country, as she surveyed with approval, the decorum
of the future race romping about her, tumbling head over heels on the
plantation slopes, partially clothed in palm-leaf hats, and lava-lava,
extending from the waist to the knees.

Hornecastle could speak the “Island lingo” like a native and many were
the modest blushes she gave as the old chap went over reminiscences of
the glorious past, telling her of her past beauty and swearing that she
had but slightly changed, and that for the better, giving me a vigorous
side wink as he told that thundering lie with its inner meaning. Poor
old Castle, he may be still alive. I never met a more knowing and yet
sentimental old shell-back and he grafted into my mind more than any
other man the knowledge of South Sea Island life and the inefficacy of
white men of religious aspirations. I would not even be surprised to
hear that he was now pious and sobered down. I never met a man like
Castle for strength. I’ve seen him pick up a tree trunk that weighed
three hundredweight and handle it as though it were a one-seater canoe.
He once told me that he had only had two illnesses in his life and they,
he said, were “Bronshitus and Pew-Monja.” He was born in the early days
of old England when they did not teach the boys and girls Latin, French,
German and Euclid, long before children looked upon their parents as
fools, and held the candle while their old mother fetched up a ton of

There was one other eccentric old man whom I have forgotten to mention;
his name was Bodey, he’d travelled the world over and had spent ten
years of peace and rest in Darlinghurst Gaol, Sydney. I never saw him
sober, so that I cannot tell you anything of his real character,
excepting that he was extremely devoted to his Samoan wife, who likewise
struck me as very fond of him. She was a tall, fine-looking woman of
about forty years of age. Her original beauty had long since departed;
her front teeth also had gone; her plump, full lips were much shrunken,
but her eyes still remained cheerful-looking and moved quickly and
intelligently as she spoke. Bodey gave her a terrible shock once. He
broke his ankle and, being utterly helpless, could not get down to the
beach drinking shanty, and so got quite sober. For two days running, his
manner was so different that his wife gazed upon him as a stranger, and
he too gazed upon her, as she nursed him and bathed his foot, with
suspicion, quizzing her with astonishment, but I took mercy on him, went
and got a bottle of Samoan whisky and the couple in half-an-hour were
once more united and happy. Three weeks after that he died of shock.

Hornecastle and I went to his grave, to place a large cross on it, which
we had made ourselves. When we got there Hornecastle cried like a child,
and I gave a Samoan who was lying asleep near by a large silk
handkerchief and one “mark” to dig a hole after we had gone, and place
that cross over our dead friend. I remember well how Hornecastle in his
drunken grief stuck the cross in and kept poking down and down, as
though he was searching for his old comrade, and when I pulled him away
he staggered back, fell on his knees and kissed the earth with his lips,
crying out, “Bodey, old mate, can yer hear me?”

It upset me terribly at the time; I did not know Castle had such deep
feeling in his nature. I pulled him off and told the Samoan to make the
grave neat and he bowed his brown face fourteen times reverently to show
me that he understood my wishes. As soon as we had gone he bolted off
with the tombstone; what he wanted it for only heaven knows.

It was about that time that the Islanders had some great festive ball
and I and Hornecastle went inland and had a fine spree. Hornecastle got
fearfully drunk, and I played the violin as the Samoan men, boys and
girls, dressed up in a very picturesque way, flowers in their hair, and
grasses and leaves clinging to their brown bodies, went through their
ancient dances, in the shade of the banyans and mangroves. It was a
great meeting; the old fighting chiefs were all there, dethroned kings
and discarded queens, claimants to fallen dynasties of the Islands
around. Robert Louis Stevenson was there. Hornecastle smacked him on the
back to let me see that he was in with the best society. Stevenson took
it all in good part and laughed heartily as the half-naked Island women
danced and whirled around and threw up their legs while Hornecastle kept
shouting “Hen-core! Hen-core!” He was a low old scoundrel, but I
couldn’t help liking him; he was most sincere in all his likes and
dislikes and never put on any side. Stevenson liked him too, for while
he was gazing interestedly on the weird moonlit forest scene of that
primeval ballroom I noticed he often gazed sideways with intense
amusement at Hornecastle, who kept getting enthusiastic about the
various nude figures of the Samoan women, and made critical remarks
about their limbs and beauty, slapping me on the shoulder every now and
again, and poking me in the ribs as he noticed some especial point about
them that interested him. The presence of Robert Louis Stevenson
standing close by made me feel a bit uncomfortable in my association
with Hornecastle, especially as the old reprobate would appeal to me at
every incident, as though he thought I was as bad as himself. It was
almost dawn before the Tribes finished their grand war dances. All the
little children, tired out, lay huddled in groups under the scattered
palms and coco-nut trees fast asleep, their tiny dark faces revealed by
the moonbeams which crept over their pretty eyelids and tiny parted
sleeping lips, as the night wind blew aside the long-fingered
palm-leaves just above them.

The few whites, Robert Louis Stevenson and his friends, went off home
some time before the grand finale, which consisted of the banging of
drums and the kicking of legs and movement of bodies in a manner
something resembling the modern “cakewalk,” except that it was a deal
more rhythmical and fascinating to gaze upon. Hornecastle fell madly in
love with a fat old dark woman of about sixty years of age; round and
round the two of them went together, and the old chap, I’ll swear,
cocked his legs quite as high as the South Sea maid of sixty summers. In
the morning he looked pretty bad and kept sticking his head in a tub of
cold seawater to keep it cool, and till he got a few more drinks down
him he looked a bit ashamed of himself, and well he ought to,
considering I have only told you half the truth with regard to his

[Illustration: PLANTING COCO-NUTS]

I must tell you, before I go on, about the German missionary “Von
Sour-Craut.” One night he was caught out with one of the high caste
chieftain’s daughters; what he had been really doing I don’t know, but
there was a terrible rumpus. One of the old Inland tribes who were
staying on for some feast at Satufa and were on the warpath (for at that
time there was always some trouble about over-chief jealousy) got hold
of him and took him off into the forest. The whites, English and
American missionaries, got wind of his predicament and off we all went
and succeeded in finding him trussed up like a fowl. Hornecastle swore
that they were an emigrant tribe of Solomon Islanders and that their
intention was to roast him on a cannibalistic spit; he even told me
afterwards that he saw the oil basting pot; anyway, true or not true, we
all had a terrible fighting scramble to rescue Sour-Craut. Hornecastle
knocked six of them over with a log. I got in a blow on one of them and
had my knuckle dislocated as I put my hand up to protect my head as a
warrior lifted his club and brought it down with a crash! We won the day
though and released the trussed-up victim, and the whole tribe of
outraged mothers and fathers, who had attempted to get their own back,
scampered off into the moonlit forest like a pack of mammoth rats. We
tried to get the truth out of Sour-Craut the missionary as to what he
had done to cause such wrath among the natives, but he insisted that
divine prayer was his only object in seeking out the dusky maid, but we
all had our suspicions and Sour-Craut got the sack by the authorities
and left those parts. Hornecastle had a nasty wound in the back and one
of his ears was partly chewed off. He had good blood though and it soon
healed. The way he swore over that wound was something terrible, in fact
I really think he used worse language than he did when we went to
Nuka-Hiva and slept side by side in a hut that had previously been
inhabited by a half-caste Chinaman. We were just going off to sleep when
out they came from their hungry vigil and running in all directions
started to taste the two of us—for they were bugs as big as hornets! We
did smash them up too, and I’ll swear that they were more tenacious in
their death struggles than the New York species that came down the walls
in vast regiments and nearly ate my eyelids away, but I will tell you of
all that terrible time later on.

One night soon after the first-mentioned event, a German sailor gave me
a copy of A. Lindsay Gordon’s poems. I read the “Sick Stockrider” and
felt like leaving the Islands for a pilgrimage to the author’s grave. I
at once came under the influence of the unfortunate Omar Khayyam of the
Australian Bush and wrote off yards of quatrains. I think if they had
been published they would have made me famous as the author of the
world’s worst poems; anyway I liked them, and when I read them to
Hornecastle and he smacked me on the back and said I was a genius I
almost put them in an envelope to send to the Poet Laureate of England.
I dedicated the poems to Hornecastle, and that’s the only part of it
that I wish to remember.

Mr Castle introduced me to a real poet; he wore long shaggy hair,
unfortunately he was a Dane and wrote in his own language, but I knew
that he was a real poet by the way he gazed at the pretty brown Samoan
girls as they passed by us on the beach, their arms round each other’s
naked shoulders, crimson flowers in their rough hair, and their ridis
adorned with leaves and blossoms that dangled to their bare knees. The
poet came under the influence of Castle’s loose ways and one night while
half intoxicated fell on his knees and attempted to embrace a beautiful
Samoan wife of about twenty-five years of age. I knew the husband
intimately and quickly explained matters to him, told him that he was
only a poet, otherwise there would, I am sure, have been another rumpus.
The Dane and I became very friendly after that episode and, to my
delight, I found that he could play the violin, and had a lot of fine
duets for two fiddles. We went to the native hut villages and borrowed a
disused hut, and sat there together playing for all we were worth. The
native children, men and women stood by their small doors and huddled
round us delighted and astonished as we scraped away in the twilight by
the border of the forest. Old Hornecastle got quite jealous of my
friendship with that Danish poet, but I soon stroked him down the right
way, and took him down to a grog shanty and gave him several “splashes.”
A touring party came across the Bay one day, four of them altogether;
they were English and had come across from New South Wales. One of them
was a retired judge; he had a head without much front to it, and the
back stuck up like a large walnut with a few hairs gummed on it. His son
spent the whole day in taking photos; he took snap-shots of everything
for miles, also of Hornecastle in all positions, and the old chap was

“Castle” and I persuaded that judge’s son to sail across to the Isle
where that old Marquesan Queen lived with the sole purpose of taking her
photo. I was an innocent party to the whole business, but they took
several hundreds of photographs of Castle’s friends, etc., and the old
judge discovered them among his son’s belongings and there was a row! I
never saw such wrath, such virtuous indignation as that man was capable
of. I don’t know what became of the son, but I have a suspicion that he
is on the Bench in England to-day, a good and prosperous man, and if he
ever reads these memoirs of mine he need not be frightened as I have not
the slightest intention of giving him away over that photo business. How
sad is life when you think of things, but the best thing to do is not to
think too much. I have seen men become prematurely old through worrying
over the inevitable things of civilised life. Why try and improve things
or make them worse? “Socialism,” “Trade Unionism” and all the other
thousand “isms” if they are for the betterment of the race will come,
or, if not, fall away. Universal approval will guide the laws of mankind
as well as the laws of nature, and so things fall into their places or
fall from their assumed places as sure as the stars of heaven roll and
fall to the universal laws of gravitation. And so I jog along doing my
best for my immediate circle and do not get excited over the awful event
that will never happen.

I must tell you of a gentleman I met one night who came across the
Pacific from the Island of Pitcairn where the mutinous crew of the
_Bounty_ landed years ago. They are all dead now, but their children are
still living there; in fact, the whole race are now partly descendants
of the sailors of that long-ago ship. I have met in my later musical
rambles many of the blue-blooded folk of different lands and I think if
God makes Peers and Knights of dead men in heaven, very few of them will
be able to go on with their title, but if that son of the old mutineer
of the _Bounty_ does not get a title when he’s dead it will be a shame.
He was a splendid fellow, brave, sincere in his conversation. He
tolerated Hornecastle’s numerous repetitions of past loyal deeds, etc.,
like a hero, and gave me my first lesson in astronomy. With a quick
soulful ear he heard the note of pathos as I played some old folk songs
to him; he gave me a long and wonderful account of the beauty of life
and the sadness of death, and when he told me who he was I could have
fallen over with astonishment. I had thought he was at least the head of
some English University on tour. I was of course young then, and the
astonishment would be, now I am more in with the world, more on the side
of finding a University man who had some really original information to
impart. Some men think too much learning kills originality and makes men
become automatic penny-in-the-slot machines. Ask the question of them
and their memory reverts back to the fourteenth chapter of the _Odyssey_
or Plato’s _Ethics_ to seek for the reply and so their faculties through
long disuse slowly fade away and they die from the head downwards. I
don’t know if it’s true or not, but I have heard that some great
theoretical men always when just dead cool off at the head first, their
feet being warm long after stiffness has set in, but this is a gloomy
topic and quite out of my province, so I will ask my reader’s
forgiveness and change the subject at once.



Descendants of Mutineers—Cannibalism—I play a Violin Overture at what I
    fear is a Cannibalistic Feast—A Samoan Chief’s Philosophy—Musings

BEFORE I proceed I will tell you about the crew of the _Bounty_ just as
I heard it from the lips of one of the descendants of the old mutineers
whom I have awhile back spoken of.

The _Bounty_ left England considerably more than a hundred years ago,
and made a voyage to the South Seas, calling at the Isle of Tahiti. No
one knows exactly what the mutiny was about; anyway there certainly was
a mutiny and the crew cast the Captain and one or two officers adrift,
then ran the ship ashore in the Pacific and hid themselves in the Isles
among the savage Tahitian men and women. The latter being beautiful to
look upon, the sailors took them to wife, and with my knowledge of
seafaring men of my own day I can assure you that they did not grieve
much over their exile and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The Government
sent out a search for them and some of them got collared and were taken
home to England and executed. The remainder, who had gone off to another
Isle taking their wives with them, eluded their pursuers, lived and
ended their lives on the Isle of “Pitcairn” and left behind them
hundreds of half-caste children, who turned out to be anything but what
one would have expected, being an intelligent and upright race. It
appears that the mutineers went in for debauchery; fought over each
other’s wives, and even their comrades’ daughters as the years rolled
by. Eventually they all died excepting Adams, the mutineer ring-leader,
who, seeing all his old comrades dead, grew pious and remorseful over
his wild career, and being king of the Island race brought the whole
family up to be strictly upright and honest in all their ways, and he
succeeded too; and there they are out there to-day in the South Seas,
happy and industrious. By the irony of fate old Adams proved to be the
best and most successful missionary that ever reared a brood in the
South Seas, and all men who have been that way will agree with all I
have said and tell you that even to this generation the Island children
of those parts are brave sailors, and their faces resemble the long dead
lineaments of those sailors of long ago, and most of the families have
English names, such as Johnson, Noble, etc.

I am now going to tell you about cannibalism in the Pacific Islands just
as I saw it and heard of it. Of course, a lot has been written on the
subject by many travellers, but you may be interested to know my views
and experiences on this gruesome but interesting matter.

I knew two Islanders who still hungered after the flesh of man; they
were not the true natives of Samoa, for the Samoans were not at all
addicted to cannibalism. One night they listened to me as I sat playing
the violin under the shade of some banyan-trees, and invited me into the
forest village to their den. Well, when I arrived inside their snug
little homestead I noticed a grizzled old man and woman nibbling away at
the remains of a thigh bone of some departed enemy whom they had roasted
and eaten. As I looked across at them sitting there enjoying that awful
meal they swiftly hid the bone behind them. The man was a simple-looking
fellow; his shrunken gleaming eyes gazed kindly upon me, but I could not
conjure up in my heart much love for him, especially when he grinned and
revealed his yellowish front teeth that had chewed up the remains of who
knows who? Some missing white trader, or someone of his own race, or
even a missionary with M.A. after his name. They were very fond of
missionaries, as I’ve heard that they eat well, being nicely nourished,
and not being addicted to too much drink they have not the rum-flavour
that traders have had who have met the awful fate of supplying the
cannibalistic festive board with meat.

I felt rather nervous as I caught sight of that awful remainder of
departed woe, but I took good care not to let them see that I had
noticed, as they knew what would happen to them if they were found out,
and consequently, I being at that moment in their power, they might have
thought it advisable to put an end to my existence and make me into
provisions for their secret larder! I was very young, white and tender
in those days and would have eaten well.

I am quite sure these remarks of mine may make you think I treat such
things as cannibalism lightly, but it is not so; good and bad are
comparative, and when I sit here and write and see life with sadder and
more earnest eyes I simply think what a lucky fellow I was not to have
been born in the South Seas. Had my parents been South Sea Islanders,
and I born in Fiji instead of Kent, doubtless someone would have already
recorded in their autobiography my own cannibalistic revels and terrible
sins, for I am adventurous and wayward enough now with all the
advantages of birth and education—so what would I have been if I had
crept into the world and seen the first light and heard the first sounds
in some Fijian moonlit forest? And you too, reader, what would you have
been? Probably both happier than we are now—who knows?

Well, I looked over at that grim couple and smiled pleasantly to let
them see I had noticed nothing, and as I spoke to them and the woman
picked her teeth with her finger and nearly choked as she swallowed the
mouthful that she sought to conceal, and said, “No savee,” I heard a
noise outside in the forest and they both jumped up. I looked outside
and saw a group of the savages passing along through the forest. It was
already twilight, yet I could see most of their swarthy faces distinctly
and I at once recognised an old Tongan friend of mine whom I had long
since thought had gone back to Tonga. The four of us left the den and
went across the clearing and met the group as they hurried along,
dragging behind them a heavy load. What I am going to tell you is
absolute truth, and I will tell you the details just as I saw them with
my own eyes. That load which they dragged behind them was a body, and
they were off into the forest depth bound for the grand cannibalistic

As I came up to them they all looked startled and frightened and made as
though to go for me, and I believe now that I look back that had not my
Tongan friend appealed on my behalf I should have been immediately
killed. I had my fiddle with me, and they looked upon my violin as some
kind of enchanter, some spirit of the dead, and after a hurried
consultation, standing there under the trees with fierce faces and
frizzly heads, muttering in guttural tones, they all turned toward me,
and one said, “Ova lu-lu,” and made signs that I should follow them into
the forest and play music to them, their intention being not to kill me
but to entice me on with them so that I could not return and give them
away, and so I was commandeered.

At that moment I had not the slightest suspicion that the load that
bumped behind them, tightly wrapped up, as it parted the tall grasses
and flowers as they hurried along, was the dead body of some fallen
enemy, otherwise I am quite sure that I should have made a bolt for it,
but possibly my slow comprehension saved my life, for however fast I ran
I doubt if I could have out-run a South Sea savage.

How well do I remember that terrible journey through the forest, as
overhead sang the trade-wind in the palms and giant trees, and the
sunset died away and the mysterious glooms around became deeper
mysteries. Hot and dejected I followed those stalwart bare men, twenty
behind me and twenty in front, as their naked feet hurried in single
file toward the terrible “place” where that “thing” was to be cooked!
And I, the hired musician, trembled as the hot breath of the tall savage
just behind me blew down my neck as he dragged his burden along on that
sweltering hot night. I have played the violin in many ball-rooms and
fêtes since that long-ago night, but never once have I played without
that terrible picture (which I am now going to tell you of) rising
before my eyes. It seemed miles to me before they stopped. Great heaven,
they were dressed up for the occasion! Some of them were smeared with
whitish stuff, and three of them—women!—were got up like idols. One was
a young and attractive-looking type of South Sea womanhood. She walked
two ahead of me and I remember her well as she did not look so fierce as
the others and the thought came to my mind that I could look to her for
sympathy if they wanted to kill me. Women are women the world over, and
down in my heart I blessed the soft curves of that female frame as she
moved along in front of me, turning her head from time to time to gaze
steadfastly into my eyes. Several times I thought of making a sudden
dive into the forest. If I had done so I feel quite sure the reader
would never have read this autobiography.

In between two great plateaux they stopped and the chief that led them
gave two bird-like calls among the hills, and presently the bush parted
gently and out poked frizzly heads. More of them to attend that feast!
One was a terrible-looking fellow; his head looked like a huge coco-nut
with fat lips on it and a tuft of quills on the top. He glared at me and
spoke viciously to the others. How my heart thumped! I felt my face turn
grey and my lips go dry as I gave a sickly smile to that awful man to
let him see that I was perfectly agreeable to all that they were doing
and to all that they might do, and in an inspiration I started to play
the fiddle and laughed hysterically. I do not mind telling you that I
was in a terrible funk and to this day I do not like the look of men who
have coco-nut-shaped heads, so horrified and cowed was I by that chief
who muttered to the others and swayed his club to and fro and several
times half lifted it as though to brain me! And all this I am telling
you is so terribly true that I don’t know how to proceed with all that
happened, whether to describe my feelings or what my eyes saw. But
there, whoever you are, you can place yourself in my predicament, and if
you have a good imagination feel a faint echo of my despair of that
night of long ago.

Overhead hung the bright moon in the vault of night as the busy hands of
that fierce tribe gathered and piled up the wood fire as in the hot
embers frizzled the “Long Pig.” There are some details of cooking odours
which I must leave out. I cannot describe all, it was too hellish to
describe. Round and round that terrible fire they whirled like some
ghastly nightmare of the dead in hell, lifting their chins skywards and
chanting thanksgiving to their ancient gods, and I heard the rattle of
the threaded shells that adorned the bodies of the wild women as they
too sang in shrill voices. I played away as fast as I could on my violin
the repeated intervals of those minor strains, keeping time to that
terrible dance, the perspiration pouring down my face as I tore away at
the only two strings on my instrument. There they were, a ring of
swarthy faces around me, as they suddenly stopped all hushed as the
nightbird in the forest said “Wail-wail-tu-tu-wail-wail,” and they
started on their haunches to devour their “meal.” And as the forest wind
blew the dying, flickering firelight over their faces I thought I would
presently awake from some ghastly nightmare, so terrible was the sight
and so unreal-looking were the surroundings conjured up in my own brain
by the knowledge of what that big dish joint consisted of, for they
themselves as they sat there swallowing away looked quite innocent and
peaceful, and they even offered up a prayer to their gods in devoted
thanks for that supper, just the very same as tiny white children who
put their hands together and thank God for their feast of the poor
murdered four-legged creatures of the field. I pretended to join in the
prayer and muttered out some noises, but I could not under any pretence
eat. I really think that I would have died sooner than eat of that
joint. How I got out of it I don’t know, but I did, and I put down my
escape to the quantity of diners at the festivity and their greediness.

As I sat there in that den of the forest I thought of my people in
England, in a respectable London suburban home, calmly going about their
household duties, singing and playing the piano, and the afternoon “At
Home,” small talk and whispering, while I sat on a little dead tree
stump in the South Sea Isle with my heart thumping like a funeral march
drum, as about fifty naked savage cannibals gnawed the bones of that
inhuman and yet human feast! I thought of my father’s offices in London,
as he sat editing the adventurous books for that publishing house
wherefrom sprang out to the hands of the schoolboys the _Highway Men_,
_Red Indians_ and _Spring Heeled Jacks_, etc.,[2] that fired the heads
of the boys of my schooldays with the mad adventurous spirit to go to
sea and seek adventure in far lands, and I cursed these books, for it
was through them that I was sitting there, wondering every moment if
those terrible men would suddenly take a fancy to me, knock my skull in
and prepare me for the next meal!

Footnote 2:

  Work which was very distasteful to my father. He, having a refined
  literary taste, was a critic of poetry, and wrote several critical
  works, including _Shelley and his Writings_.

But no such thing happened. As soon as they had finished they all crept
silently away into the forest to their several homes to sleep off the
effects of that orgy. They were men of the interior, and even the true
Samoans do not agree with cannibalism, but the Island was in a fever
then; they had been prepared for war some time before and those
cannibals had come over from some other group.

I took my first opportunity and leapt away into the wooded country and
arrived next day at Hornecastle’s hut. I kept my mouth closed, for had I
told of that terrible night they would have known that I had split and I
should have been doomed; and so I followed the good old proverb that “a
still tongue shows a wise head.” And I was pleased that I did hold my
tongue, for while I was drinking in a saloon in Apia with Hornecastle,
the night following my terrible fright and dread of being eaten, a
German started cursing and told us how he had hung a prize pig up in his
store and, when he went in the morning, to cut it up for joints, he
found it missing; the natives had stolen it, and crept into the forest,
and probably roasted it and had a glorious feast, and as I listened to
his details I started to wonder if the load that my friends of the night
before had dragged through the forest to the midnight feast could have
possibly been his stolen pig!—and all the horror of that secret feast
the outcome of my own suspicions. I said nothing, and to this day my
suspicions each way are equal.

Thank goodness that under the influence of education and the work of the
missionaries the terrible appetite which I have just described has long
since died out. The white man in the South Seas has done that much good.
You must remember that I am writing under the still clinging atmosphere
that my mind inhaled when I was a lad, of an age when we are apt to look
upon those who are mediators with the Supreme as men who are, or should
be, very different to other men, and consequently their natural failings
were greatly magnified to my onlooking eyes. And so my remarks and
musings, considered from this aspect, do not treat harshly the men who
went out to the South Seas to reform their brethren, but simply show the
futility, the uselessness of mortals attempting to reform, to better the
spiritual conditions of those who are born of Mother Earth as they
themselves are. After all we are all of us only like little children
clambering and crying at the skirts of creation, some with white faces
and some with black faces, and if the black-faced children, in their
innocence, laugh and cry over their little idol-dolls and are pleased
with them, why should the white-faced children try to steal their dolls
and smash the lot up and make them unhappy by offering them an idol in
exchange which they cannot see and which is too big for them to carry if
they could see it. And moreover, what more do the white children know
than the black ones?

I knew a Samoan chief who was a kind of philosopher of his race, and I
was much struck by his remarks and wisdom as he used to sit squatting by
his hut and talk to me of the old days. He was not a true-blooded
Samoan, but came from the Marquesan group and had once been a king
before the heavy tramp of civilisation came his way. He would tell me
wonderful tales of his time, many of which, when I think of them now,
seem almost incredible, but they were true enough and some day I intend
to devote my time to writing them down for publication. They alluded a
good deal to cannibalistic orgies and terrible battles for the love of
the women of those times, wild dances round their monstrous idols, idols
that sang and voiced forth terrible prophecies, that made the warriors
of those Isles do most outrageous things to their enemies and to their
children and daughters. As he sat there squatting and told me many
things I would turn “all chicken flesh,” as people say, and watch his
grim wrinkled face and twinkling eyes reveal the smouldering passions
that flamed in the dark age of his time. Under the influence of that old
king’s memories I wrote the following poem just as he would have written
it, and approved of it too if he could only see it; in fact it is just
what he really said, word for word, but I have rhymed it in my own way.

        Let him shout on, pass me the full nut-bowl,
        I’m old, would I trust to his wretched creed?
        I, with my fifty gods, that soothe my soul,
        Must fail them all—trust to one god—indeed!
        Look you—I’m wise, a dead white man is dead
        Should he offend his Heav’n while ’neath the sun—And
        we?—well, at the worst, when our soul’s fled,
        If fifty fail, we’ve still his Mighty One!

        He’d steal our souls, curse him, his lying race
        Claimed my blue seas and this my ancient isle!
        Remember well do I that first white face
        That blessed my head, with hand t’wards heaven did smile,
        Pah! I believed that grin!—had I known then
        Those eyes gazed from the spirit heart of Hell
        I’d slain him!—faith, ’tis true these strange white men
        One virtue have when cooked—yes, they eat well!

        Pass me the bowl, time ’tis to grieve, at most,
        When in sick dying eyes the last stars sleep.
        We’ve won our battles too, enjoyed the roast
        Of what sweet foes! ’tis even so we reap
        Sweet vengeance! They, those prating white men skunks,
        Our wives defiled, our land made one vile hell;
        Cursed missionaries, and traders on night-drunks—
        Ah! I’ve a tale, when dead, their God to tell!

He’s dead now and the day is not far off when the whole race will have
passed away before the tramp of the Western whites, vanished for ever,
for all men know that as soon as the white race creeps into the
household of the dark race of the South Seas race extinction commences,
and so the Fijians, Marquesans, Samoans, Tongans, indeed all the
original inhabitants of the South Sea Isles, are diminishing before the
civilisation and Christianising work of the whites, which means
annihilation of the brown race and brings before us the inevitable
thought that it would have been better for the race and its posterity
for the Islanders to have eaten all the whites instead of cohabiting
with them. But it is too late, they are now completely in the power of
the “great white hand,” as I heard an old chief express it, and soon the
half-caste of Chinese, niggers, exconvicts and the ne’er-do-wells of the
Australian cities will tramp over the graves of the dead men and women
who sang by forest huts and danced by the glimmering fires in the days
when the white surfs ran up the shores singing into foams and silence.

Personally I do not believe that the drastic change to other conditions
has anything to do with the diminishing population of the varied races
of the South Seas, and all men who have experienced life in those
clinics know that rum and syphilis, putrefying the milk of the South Sea
babies, and the preventives to motherhood are the sole causes of race
extinction, and these causes have of course been introduced by the
whites and all the other semi-civilised races. I am simply stating facts
as I know them, and I have not the slightest idea in my mind that
railing against those evils will better things; indeed to attempt to
better the conditions might lead to more disastrous complications, like
the sailor who went down into the hold of the ship’s magazine to find
where the leak was, struck a match and blew the ship up. And so things
are best left as they are; as useless to attempt to change them as to
seek to revise a man’s temperament. I myself have made many attempts to
change my own temperament, but I think till I die I shall dream and
dream and always be under the control of that unfortunate impulse that
does the very thing which at that particular time I should not have
done. How often do we embrace with affectionate trust our enemy and
scorn the advice of our best friend! And so the world jogs along, always
busy righting the wrongs of life and more often than enough writing
beautiful epitaphs on the tombstones of men who cannot read them.

Such is my experience of life, and I have been obliged to be pretty
observant and have not travelled this world over without noticing the
special points that influence existence. It is really wonderful how
observant some men are and how unobservant other men are. I knew a man
who had done nothing but roam his life away over the seven seas to the
mountain peaks of the world. “What is Rio like?” I said, “and the
Amazon?” “All right I guess,” he answered. “What’s it like in Pekin?” I
ventured to ask again. “All right I guess,” was the growled reply as he
squirted out of his grizzly mouth an eggcupful of tobacco juice. I
probed him all ways to get a glimpse of his views of the world and
experience, but never got him beyond the “all right I guess.” Another
time I came across a young fellow who had passed through the same places
like a race-horse. “What’s Rio like?” I asked him. At once his face lit
up and we had to hold him down as the flood of description he poured
into our ears overwhelmed us. So you see it’s a matter of the observant
temperament that makes the tale-teller and it’s ridiculous for anyone to
think that a man has to camp on the top of a mountain or up a palm-tree
for twenty years before he can describe the surrounding country or the
height and character of the tree. Nature is very easy to scan and
appreciate; it’s only men and women that it takes years to understand
thoroughly, and then you may be wrong.

[Illustration: PREPARING COPRA]



A Cockney and his Fijian Bride—Nature’s Lady—South Sea Dress
    Fashions—Idol Worship

AFTER the exciting experience which I related to you in the last
chapter, when I think I was within an ace of being eaten by that
cannibal tribe, I started off cruising with “Castle” and my friend the
Danish poet. We made a happy trio and many were the subsequent
adventures which we had together. Hornecastle hired a sloop and made a
good bit of cash at times by trading around the Islands, and I was
delighted to go off with him. It took us several days to reach the Fiji
Islands. I shall never forget the times we had together and the strange
people we came in contact with. The Fijians struck me as a very
different type of people from the Samoans, who are much more
intellectual-looking, and when Hornecastle and the poet and I went
ashore we soon found plenty to interest us. There were plenty of whites
there, half-castes and Indians who worked on the plantations.

I chummed in with an Australian fellow and we went up towards the
mountains and saw the Fijians in their homesteads. They were neat little
thatched homes; some of them shaped something like a haystack as seen in
English fields. I and my friend, who could speak a bit of their
language, went inside one or two of these and watched them squatting on
their haunches at dinner eating steaming stuff out of earthen bowls,
using their fingers as knives and forks. I made friendly signs to a
Fijian mother and her eyes quickly brightened up as I took her baby in
my arms and examined its tiny wild face, its jewel-like eyes twinkling
with fright. I never saw such pretty babies anywhere in the world as the
mites of the South Seas. Their little plump bodies are as soft as velvet
and the expression on the face like that of a baby kitten, and the
mothers are as proud as Punch when you admire and kiss them, as I have
often done, but you have to be careful that you kiss them all—I mean the
babies—because mothers are just as jealous in the South Seas as in the
Isles of the English seas. And so after I had committed myself and held
up that little Fijian kid, I went from one mother to the other and did
likewise to their offspring, and those dark naked mothers (for they were
only dressed in a loin-cloth) all admired me and even the eyes of the
men looked pleased as they offered me food, and the native youths
clambered around us as we crept out of the door, and tried to steal the
buttons off our clothes. They are all terrible thieves and the thieving
instinct is so strong in all of the Islanders of the Pacific that they
only place half the value on goods which are given them and jealously
guard and over-estimate all that they steal.

I shall always remember vividly that ramble in the mountains of Fiji,
because we came across a white man who had married a native woman. I
suppose the marriage was something after the wild bird marriage act,
anyway there he was sitting by his dusky beauty on the slopes that
rolled seaward, quite as proud as any English father of his two tiny
half-caste brats. His wife, dressed only in an old red flannel skirt,
smoked a cigarette by the hut door, and every now and again gave the
little whitish beggars as they romped and quarrelled with each other a
terrible spank. I never saw children turn head over heels as those two
nippers did; over and over they went down the slope like two big brown
balls, uncurled themselves and came racing up to us again and then off
once more as I stood sweltering under the tropic sun fanning myself with
a large palm leaf speaking to their proud father. He was a Cockney from
Mile End! You can imagine my astonishment when he asked all sorts of
questions about my own birthplace and sighed as he said, “The dear old
smoke,” meaning London Town. From the little that he let out I could see
that he had previously been to sea as a coal trimmer on a tramp steamer.
He was a man of about thirty-eight to forty years of age, but looked
older through growing a scrubby beard, possibly to disguise himself from
the English police! He seemed happy enough sitting there under his big
umbrella hat, with white pants to his waist, and beyond those two
articles of dress quite bare and cool.

His wife could speak English very well indeed and I must say I admired
her husband’s taste, for though she was the descendant of South Sea
savages, cannibals, she would have put nearly all the Mile End women of
his native land into the shade, and the West End ones too! She had a
fine head for a woman, a voluptuous soft curved body, earnest dark eyes,
darkish high-bunched hair, and a freedom of manner and modest exposure
of the upper part of her body and lower limbs which was very
fascinating. She would have created an enormous sensation could she have
been transported just as she was to Piccadilly or the Strand. I am quite
sure that the Mile End Cockney would have been envied and would have had
to keep his weather-eye open too, as the Christians of London Town came
into contact with the innocence of the heathen South Seas.

“You come England?” she said, as I spoke to her husband. “Yes,” I said,
“same country,” and she smiled with approval that such as I should have
had the honour of hailing from the same country as her children’s
father, and going into the hut brought my chum and me both a drink. I
don’t know what it was, but English beer tastes like poison compared to
it. I have been to many afternoon teas since that time, but never have I
had a sweeter hostess or seen softer eyes, and all those things that
make Nature’s lady. I have heard a lot about “Nature’s gentleman,” but I
tell you this, Nature’s lady is nicer to meet and as rare, and I’ve
found her just as she was turned out of the Garden of Eden and just as
beautiful and innocent, as she sat on that little stump, bare as at her
birth, excepting for her lava-lava, with her pretty one-month-old baby’s
tiny mouth toiling away at her breast for all it was worth. As the
sunset faded out seaward the Cockney sailor, his “savage” wife, my chum
and I sang all together, to the sailor’s accordion, “The Old Rustic
Bridge by the Mill,” also “White Wings they never Grow Weary,” and I can
never hear those songs now but I see that scene again, the half-dressed
sailor, my freckled lanky Australian chum, the Fijian beauty, singing at
the top of her voice on the Pacific slope by the Island hut.

We only stayed at that Island two days and then sailed off to Lakemba
and other Isles of the same group. We carried Hornecastle on board and
dropped him in his bunk when we left Suva. I do not know what he had
been drinking, but it made him pretty bad. We set the jibs and big
mutton sail and the trade-wind took us along at a splendid pace. I was
the second in command, and though she was a rotten old tub I was the
proudest officer on the high seas! Hornecastle kept me awake that night.
The poet and I got a bit worried; we thought he’d got a touch of the
d.t.’s, and from what I could gather by his delirious mutterings he’d
actually got married during that short stay and was frightened out of
his life of being pursued by his irate bride!

Next day he was on his legs again and looked better than ever. I tried
to pump him and find out what he had done to get so drunk and look so
worried, but he would not budge an inch, and to all my innocent queries
only told me to mind my own business and look after the wind!

I cannot for the life of me tell you the correct name of the Isle we
next called at; they all had native names and I never could understand
half of them. I think it was called Mulooka; anyway it was a fine place
and well wooded. I shall never forget the beautiful sight of the
forest-clad country and the intense loneliness of the wooded depths away
from the tracks. I stood in the wood alone and gazed up at the branches
overhead. They were covered with big breathing blossoms that had beaks
on them; they were big fat parrot-birds chuckling away to themselves as
the trade-wind swept across, blew the top branches aside and revealed
the deep blue skies. I turned round and looked west; there through the
trees far away stretched the dark blue crinkling Pacific, dotted here
and there with native canoes, paddled along swiftly from shore to shore.
On the beach far below were groups of dark men and half-castes by our
little sloop.

I must tell you of the fashions of those times. Some of the chiefs wore
a dirty white collar only, and a waistbelt wherein was stuck an
old-fashioned revolver and rusty knife. Another stood on the shore as
proud as possible attired in a waistcoat. Men and women seemed to vie
with one another at making themselves look ridiculous and outrageous
too. Of course, most people were amused by them. I shall never forget
how the Dane laughed; he was a real good fellow that poet. I laughed
too, but not like him; I was getting a bit used to sights of that kind.
As for Hornecastle he simply looked on and yawned. Finding that he was
staying the night and did not intend leaving till late the next day, I
made up my mind to have a look round and go into the interior, so off I
went alone. I am constituted that way and am never so happy as when I am
completely alone with no one to ply me with questions or tell me their
experiences while I am keenly interested in my own at that precise

About a mile from the shore I came across a village of native homesteads
built on a beautiful spot shaped out and shaded by the hand of instinct.
There they stood dotting the landscape by the cooling shade of palms,
yams, orange and other trees of luxuriant tropic foliage. In the cleared
spaces by those huts squatted the tribes of powerful mothers and men,
all of them dressed in no clothes excepting their hair, which sprouted
upwards on the top of their heads and shone in the sunlight. As I
emerged from the forest trees into full view the tiny children stopped
from their gambolling, stared at me for a moment and then all raced off
towards the village homesteads as though for dear life. They ran so fast
that I could only see their legs twinkling in the sun-gleam. Then uprose
the wild mothers and stalwart forest men, and between their bare legs,
with little wistful demon-like faces, those frightened children peeped
at me as I walked across the scrub and waved my hand, smiling as I
approached them.

I found them a very hospitable people; they gave me food and drink and I
well repaid those wild mothers for their kind thoughtfulness as I
stroked the small frizzing heads of their babes and raced the little
naked beggars, boys and girls, across the track and gave the winners
buttons for prizes. “Moora, moora,” they shouted as I gave the last
button away, and then I held on to myself tightly as they scrambled
around me and tried to steal the buttons off my clothes! “No, no,” I
shouted to one persevering little imp, and his mother, seeing my
annoyance, picked up a large plank and struck him over the head with a
terrible crash! By Jove, I was astonished when she did that, but the
poor little devil simply looked a bit crestfallen, looked up to me for
sympathy, instead of his mother, and I rubbed the top of his head and
made him happy. I found out afterwards that the top of their heads is
the safest place to hit, the South Sea Island skull being very thick

I don’t know how those natives lived or what employment they followed. I
suppose some of them worked at copra gathering or some other work which
was useful to the white traders; anyway they all looked fat and well and
their native villages like little bits of paradise compared with
European cities. Away further in the interior were living (so I heard)
tribes that still encouraged the cannibalistic tendency. I suppose they
were still under the influence of the older men and women who had
memories in their heads of the olden days when they dined off their
enemies and discovered the good points of old rivals at the festive
board. I never went off into the interior to see if it was so; my past
experience was quite sufficient for me and I did not intend to take any
more risks.

Before I leave that native village I must tell you of their idol
worship. Before sunset I went back to the beach, and loitering about got
in with some sailors, and together that night we went over the hills and
down into the village and strolled among the natives, and going behind
one of the larger huts there stood before us monstrous effigies with
hideous faces and eyes bulging out like unburst soap-bubbles, and before
them on little mats knelt the elder native men bowing and chanting
prayers at the top of their voices, throwing their long arms up over
their heads all the time. They were earnest enough in those fetish
rites, and as we stood there, white-faced men of the Western world,
watching, they took not the slightest notice of us, so deeply were they
engrossed in their pleadings to those dirty wooden deaf idols. Of course
I could not understand a word they were saying, but the note of the
chant had grief in it and sounded to me like “Winga-wonga, wonga-winga,”
repeated over and over again to a minor cadence that fell and rose as
their bodies and arms moved up and down.

My comrades and I were somehow impressed by that strange sight of
religious old-world grief which sounded the same note and showed the
same earnestness as the creed expression of the modern civilised world.
The missionaries were, and are, of course, dead against the idol
worship, and so as time goes on and the methods of Christianity get hold
of the people the idols rot away or are touched up and hidden in the
secret depths of the forest, safe from the destroying hands of those who
have gone over to the new creed. Often the wanderer among the primeval
woods will come across the relics of those gods standing in some
secluded gully under the shade of banyan-trees and rotting tropic
trunks, covered with wild vines, vividly coloured with gorgeous flowers,
still upright, with perhaps one eye missing and the face thus
obliterated by decaying rot made more hideous than ever. Yet some
indefinable awe still clings to them as they stand there deserted by the
poor heathen children who once appealed to them with their whole hearts,
sorrowing over “the giant agony of the world,” now long dead in their
forest graves.

I have told you all this because I once saw it, just as I have attempted
to describe it to you, and as I stood gazing, quite alone, I looked up
over the rotting, eyeless head and saw a branch with about twenty human
skulls hanging in a row. The tropic rains had washed them quite white
and as they swayed and clinked one against the other as the wind swept
mournfully through the trees I became nervous and made off from the spot
as quickly as I could. I am very fond of music, but the funereal notes
of those tinkling skulls did not appeal to me and make me brave.



Back in Samoa—My Friend the Missionary—Musings

NEXT day we sailed away, and being lucky with a fair wind blowing
steadily behind us we soon arrived back safely at the Samoan Islands. It
was a long trip and I was jolly glad to see my berth ashore again as I
did not get much sleep at sea—room being scarce I had slept on deck the
whole time, and I had to sleep in the sloop scupper as she lay over with
so great a list. Everything was just about the same, and very quiet. The
_Lubeck_ had been in and left again for Sydney. Hornecastle had a heavy
drinking bout. There were several American sailors hanging round who had
been left stranded by the wrecks of the man-o’-war ships that were blown
ashore. I once more felt a longing to get away to the civilised world.
Our comrade the poet got a job on a schooner and went away, and I was
sorry to see him go. I still had my violin and started practising again
in the evenings and often went into my old friend the shell-seller’s big
den on the beach and yarned to him in “pigeon-English,” and it was there
that I met Mrs Stevenson. I was playing the violin and she took a great
interest in me. She was a real Bohemian and invited me to her home at
once, but I was young and nervous, and at that time I was getting pretty
shabby too—my blue serge suit had almost turned yellow through fading
under the tropic sun—so I pretended to have an important job on that
very night and got out of that invitation. I played several melodies at
her request and I well remember playing “Alice, where art thou?” to her,
to which she sang the refrain quietly as I played. She was
attractive-looking and looked as though she had spent her life exploring
the tropics. At first I thought she was some passenger just arrived on
one of the boats till she introduced herself and told me her name.


There were a good many whites about at that time and also a lot of
buildings going up for them, and for a time I had a job looking after
the natives who did all the hard graft, but had to be kept watch over by
the whites. I do not think a brown man has ever been known to work
industriously in the South Seas when no one was looking, unless, of
course, he was doing something completely on his own account. I got to
know many of the Americans, English and Germans who were there at that
time, some staying only a day or two before going off to the Marquesan
group, Fijis, etc. Some I think were missionaries, others were
travellers sight-seeing. One of the missionaries I got to know well and
he struck me as a very decent fellow, had a fine sense of humour, was
devoid of hypocrisy, and though earnest enough in his mission he could
see quite vividly the light and dark shades of the whole of the
Christianising schemes. We often smoked and yarned together, and though
I was much younger than he, he seemed to prefer my companionship to the
society of the men of his own profession. I taught him to play tunes on
the violin by ear, and a very good ear he had too, as well as a refined
taste for melodies with something in them, and if he ever reads my
autobiography he is sure to remember me.

A “Man-o’-War” ship called in at Samoa about that time. When the crew
got ashore that night it sounded like civilised Europe and home again. I
must say that the Samoan ladies are nearly as bad over sailormen as the
English middle-class girls are, and the jolly Jack Tars had a fine time
of it roaming about the beach, on terra-firma again after so long a sea
voyage. They bolted off in all directions, visiting the native huts
along the shore, most of them in the hands of a cute-looking native
guide who knew all the ropes and also all those Samoan ladies who were
mostly addicted to easy virtue. These men guides work on commission, and
some of them claim half of the proceeds as the foreign ships arrive, and
so they do very well, and you can well imagine that Berlin, London,
Paris and New York to-day are well represented in the South Seas as far
as the different stock of the world’s sailormen is concerned. There they
are out there to-day (the half-castes I mean), while the fathers,
pensioned-off sailors in the civilised cities of the world, are bringing
up legitimate families, respectable young men and women who do not dream
of their half sisters and brothers toiling on the plantations lashed by
the overseers’ whip in the far-away Pacific, and many a cosy vicarage
retreat of Puritan England, standing like the very emblem of sedateness
and purity by the village roadside, is the ancestral hall of some savage
South Sea man or woman with eyes that gaze longingly seaward from their
native Isle, knowing not why. And so the world jogs along and I suppose
all for the best.

It was about this time that I am speaking of that Mataafa and Laupepa
were enjoying their resumed power over the Island. Laupepa had been
exiled by the German Government, and had at last been allowed to return.
There had been a good deal of fighting going on among the German and
American sailors, and Samoans, but all seemed pretty quiet in my time. A
terrible hurricane had struck the Islands, lifted the warships up on
tremendous waves and tossed them ashore as though they were canoes. Many
lives were lost, and the storm did more damage in a couple of hours than
all the warships and threatening natives.



Tramping the South Sea Bush—Native Homes, Scandal and Jealousy—Samoan
    Children—Samoan Girls attired in European Cast-off Clothes—Another
    South Sea Chief

I THINK that you might like to hear something of the suburban life in
the South Sea Islands, of the native villages inland, and so I will now
tell you of my strolls and visits to Marano’s hut and his wife
“Taloffora.” One morning quite alone I set out to go inland to the
village of Safata. It was a lovely morning; I walked along under the
tamanu-trees that skirted the borders of the forest where thousands of
screaming parakeets passed over by the seashore, disturbing the tropical
silence as they wheeled away.

Before starting on the main track I made my way down to the beach to
have a swim in the cool waters and refresh myself. I was then several
miles from Upolu, and as I crept from the forest and gazed shoreward,
where by the palms shone a lagoon, I suddenly surprised a covey of
native girls who were all having their morning bath. Some were still in
the water and others on the shore; all of them, of course, perfectly
nude. I shall never forget how some of them ran up the shore to get
their “ridis” while others modestly bent themselves in the shallow
waters, their heads and chins just poking out, watching their
opportunity to bolt up the shore. This they did one after the other,
their brown legs splashing out as they raced to the palm-trees, each
plucking a big leaf to hold in front of her for modesty’s sake. There
they stood in a huddled group just as God’s first thought had moulded
them, the jungle grass brushing to their knees, in their hair the lovely
wild red flowers plucked from the plants around them, their rows of
pearly teeth gleaming as they smiled.

I tramped enviously onward. I was very happy that day. Somehow the scent
of the sea-winds stirring the forest flowers intoxicated my brain as I
trudged along and I felt as though I and those forest trees had been
friends for ages. There is nothing under the heavens like a South Sea
forest to make the atmosphere of true poetry, to lift you out of and
above your fleshy self, and as I tramped along I sang to myself through
sheer delirium of happiness.

Before the sun had climbed over the western hills I arrived at “Safata”
and old Marmona’s wife came from her hut door with her big mouth open so
wide with welcome and astonishment that I saw the brown roof and her
three back teeth. “Marmona!” she shouted with delight as she called for
her husband, “White man’s,” “Siva,” and across the track from behind the
scattered shed-like huts of the village that stood beneath the palms and
South Sea bamboo-trees came running Marmona, my old friend, whom I had
got acquainted with in Apia. He was delighted to see that I had my
fiddle with me and though he was getting old he clapped his hands and
started chanting and did a double shuffle round me as the native girls
came running across the clearings to see the white man. Round me they
stood gazing into my face in regiments, their thick dark hair smothered
in grass; some wore hibiscus flowers stuck behind their pretty brown
ears, others a palm leaf twisted hat-shape to fit their curly heads,
others were perfectly naked excepting for a tiny strip of tappa-cloth
tied round the thighs into a bow at the back and in front a large
blushing hibiscus blossom.

It was a sweltering hot afternoon and by their huts sat the Samoan
parents watching their “Fainetoa” (little children) play. Some of them
were very old, dark, hairless-headed grandfathers and grandmothers, and
they all sat cross-legged, each on a little mat. Marmona led me up to a
group of them and introduced me with pride, very much the same as an
English draper would introduce an earl who suddenly claimed his
friendship, to his tradesmen acquaintances, for I was a white man, and
moreover my violin-playing made me something of a god in his eyes. I
fully appreciated his great impression of me, saluted the village folk
in lordly style and smacked Marmona familiarly on the back afterwards,
and he nearly fainted with sheer pride and delight as the awestruck
village _élite_ followed us across the cleared patch towards his hut,
where his wife Taloffora was busily laying the cloth on the ground for
dinner. Her back stuck high up as she stooped and stirred the hot baked
fish food and plantains, all got ready especially for me, and I sat
there cross-legged on the special visiting mat and thoroughly enjoyed
that meal. As I was sitting munching away, thinking how peaceful
everything was in that native village, I suddenly heard a loud jabbering
in a hut close by. It was a jealous neighbour of Mr and Mrs Marmona’s;
they had long since been at loggerheads with my friend and his family,
and now to see me there dining with them had riled them till their
jealousy knew no bounds, and to make things worse old Madam Taloffora
kept talking loudly to me in her own language as she walked round me
filling my platter up with more hot fish. I could not understand all
that she was saying, but I guessed she was having “one off” her jealous
neighbour. Crash! came a coco-nut from the enemy’s hut and caught my
hostess a terrible whack on that back part which the South Sea Islanders
often reveal when they stoop. With a yell she placed her skinny fingers
on the insulted part, and then the outraged husband came rushing under
the palms towards her and gazed up into her face. She jabbered
hysterically and the old fellow’s brown-skinned face shrunk into a map
of scheming wrinkles that denoted intense concentration on the way for
the best and speediest revenge! For the brown man is much the same as
the white man—he believes all his wife tells him, never dreaming that
she is possibly the cause of the whole trouble. Often the tribes of
those wild lands meet in bloodthirsty warfare, kings are dethroned,
queens murdered and unmentionable cruelties occur through no greater
cause than that a woman was spitefully jealous of another woman’s tappa
waist sash!

I knew old Marmona’s wife well, and in truth I could have sworn that she
had scandalised the irate owner of the hand that had shied the coco-nut;
anyway the deed was done, and I was at my wit’s end to know what to do
to avert disaster. As quickly as possible I appealed to the old chap and
by many signs and deftly used Samoan words I let him see that the best
way to have revenge was not to imitate the injury, but to let me smile
on and treat him and his wife with lordly respect. He was a clever old
fellow and quickly fathomed the depths of my meaning, and I was so
delighted to see how things were going that when he fetched the hut oil
pot out in his hand, which the South Sea Islanders always keep ready for
bruises, I myself held it as that wretched old scandalous wife stooped
and he applied the lotion with his tender hand, and across the track,
under the palms through a small hut door, gleamed the envious jealous
eyes of the woman who had thrown the coco-nut. Had I not appeased the
murderous wrath of my host and hostess they would have attacked that hut
and the friends of each would have taken sides and a pitched battle
commenced, which would in all probability have ended in the taking of my
life. Evidently the jealous neighbour thought she had been sufficiently
revenged, for with the cessation of Mrs Marmona’s groans the feud

Samoans are not given to vendetta vindictiveness, and mortal enemies by
day are often great friends by night; and so it was in this case, for
that night, as I played the fiddle, the enemy crept from her camp,
sneaked through the circles of native girls and boys who sat all around
delighted as they watched me, and fell into the arms of my hostess, each
wailing loudly as I played away. Two grim-looking aged chiefs of many
past battles chanted some old idol song as their friends sat round with
frizzly heads and merry eyes listening to the awful noise. They sang in
any key but the one I was trying to accompany them in, but it did not
matter—they were all happy enough and so were the audience as they
listened and smoked at their ease, tired after working on the yam
plantations or on the buildings that were being erected for German
Government officials far away by the beach.

In the huts hard by I heard the poor brown kiddies being spanked as they
were put to bed screaming with disappointment that they must sleep while
the chiefs sang and the funny white man scraped the spirit wood with the
magic long thin finger, for that was the way those natives described my
violin and bow.

I shall never forget the strangeness of those times in those primeval
forests and native villages. As the moon sailed overhead that night
after the concert had ceased I carefully hid my violin in my hostess’s
hut and took a stroll around under the shadow of the palms. Among the
yellow bamboos I saw the native girls in the arms of the Samoan youths,
their eyes shining in the moonlight, while the innocent old mothers and
fathers squatting cross-legged by their huts smoked peacefully away,
thinking those very lovers were fast asleep in the next hut bedroom.


As I strolled by with Marmona by my side they each saluted us with the
exclamation of “Talafa!” and “Good white mans.” In the branched moonlit
forest by the narrow pathways that lead from house to house, I saw dark
figures pass; they were the natives passing and repassing along the
silent forest tracks as they hurried each to his home in the woods or
other distant villages. Many of them had stayed late in the village
where I was staying, and suddenly remembering the domestic
establishment, their lonely hut in the forest afar and the waiting wife,
they one by one went off running at full speed, and often in those
lonely South Sea hills you could hear yells and excited jabberings as
the wretched wife screamed and the semi-savage husband endeavoured to
explain the why and wherefore of his lateness. Indeed the traveller in
the South Seas invariably is astonished by the sameness of the native
and the European character. As men say, “civilisation is only skin
deep,” and very often so is the difference between the white and brown
man. I particularly noticed the manners of those who had better clothes
on than their neighbours. They would walk along with a trader’s cast-off
long-tailed shirt flapping behind them and gaze with a scorn-like glance
upon their brown brothers who wore only a native “ridi,” and the native
girls nearly burst with pride and vanity as they creep from their hut
attired in a red sash only, a banana-leaf hat and white flower behind
their ear, and others with a yellow pair of high-heeled shoes on and a
white woman’s cast-off night-shirt. The traders call in at the villages
and bring all kinds of cast-off European clothing, which they exchange
with the natives for copra, yarns and many other things, and so you
often are surprised by suddenly meeting a native creeping from the
forest wearing some lady’s under-garments, or a pretty Samoan girl
attired in a sailor’s cast-off pants, cut off close to the thighs and
buttoning under her pretty curved chin!

The women struck me as being very industrious. They sit for hours and
hours singing and making cloth stuff out of leaves and bark which they
keep hammering and weaving. By their side lies the stupendous bamboo
stick which every now and again they swiftly lift up and strike their
children over the heads with—as they keep pestering them with questions
and mischief the whole time that they are working, the bamboo rod gives
forth a hollow sound on the tiny native skull, and seems to have no
effect beyond checking the infantile activity for a few minutes, after
which the mothers, without ceasing the song which is always flowing from
their lips, lift the bamboo and strike once again. Out of the forest
into the village often come the quick-footed youths and maidens with
small baskets full of jumping fish which they have been catching down on
the shore side in the lagoons and in the sea, and as they go along the
tiny baby urchins run from under their mothers’ legs, steal the fish
through cracks in the basket and eat them “all alive O.”

Round some of the hut dens sit the old stagers of other days, stalwart
old men, brown as mahogany, their naked limbs striped with tattoo marks
and scarred with spear wounds. Squatting under the shade of the palms
they tell the younger men of ancient battles and of the old idols and
the wonderful things those idols foretold and how it all came to pass.
Those old warriors still believed in the old heathen gods, and when they
were dubious about anything crept away into the forest depths and
consulted some monstrous armless wooden image, rotting away in secrecy,
staring with a big boss eye as it had stared for years through the
shadows of the forest, till the superstitious chief crept behind the
ancient tree trunks up to it and fell on his knees, lifted his hands and
chanted the prayers of his heart to its wooden outstretched ears.

There was one aged chief in that village who looked as though he were a
thousand years old; he had arched eye sockets and so deep were his eyes
set that you seldom saw them, excepting now and again when a tiny gleam
of the sunlight struck across his face through the palms as he spoke and
lifted his head and finger skyward, telling of cannibalistic feasts of
long ago. One of his ears was missing; he had once been hideous, but age
had softened the wicked features and expressions down, and his wrinkled
brown parchment-like face expressed only a death-like awfulness, and
made you feel as though you saw life, distorted and wretched, gazing
through a human skull which death had long since claimed but which would
not die. That wretched old chief told me that he could remember quite
well the first white man who had visited his Island, and as he gazed
upon me I saw a gleam sparkle out from his hidden eyes and I
instinctively wondered what might have happened to that white brother of
mine who had fallen into the clutches of that fearful cannibal when he
was lusty, strong, glowing with hunger and lust of blood. I do not think
he was a Samoan. Many of the older inhabitants of those days were chiefs
from other Isles who had fallen through some great tribal battle or had
committed some crime and so sought the refuge of another Island where
they could dwell in safety, away from the hot vengeance of their own

I stayed for two nights with Marmona and his wife; they made me up a
soft bed in one of their spare huts, but I did not sleep very well for
my brain had an annoying knack of starting to think whenever I was left
alone. As it happened it was a good thing that I was sleepless on those
two nights. As I lay the second night turning over and over on my
matting bed, I got so sick of it that I arose and lit a cigarette, and
without standing up I pulled myself towards the hole that served as a
door, and pushing the sacking back I gazed out on to the moonlit
village. The winds were all asleep and the shadows of the tropic trees
and palms thrown by the moonlight on the wattle huts and roofs of the
sleeping village lay perfectly still, and it all seemed as though it
were some tremendous painted picture of a tropic South Sea village done
in glimmering silver oils. As I gazed I felt that I was the only living
creature in that ghost-like sleeping village, and then to my surprise a
shadow moved across the moonlit patch, almost just opposite my hut door.
Turning my head quickly I saw the frizzly head of a Samoan poke up out
of the jungle ferns to the right of me. In a moment I dodged back and
watched with one of my eyes fixed to a crack in my bedroom wall; my
heart began to beat rapidly, for on all-fours he slowly moved along,
stirring the grass aside silently with snake-like stealth as he came
straight towards my hut! Every now and again he stopped and looked
around to see if all was silent and unperceived. I began to feel in a
terrible state of mind, and looking round I swiftly caught hold of an
old club to protect myself with, for I saw that it was my sleeping place
that his eye was on! He looked a great strong fellow and for a moment I
wondered if I should wait and see what it all meant or go to the door
and let him see that I had seen him, but extreme funk sent curiosity to
the devil and I put my head out of the hut door and shouted Hallo! For a
part of a second his eyes stared astonished, and then like a startled
kangaroo he arose on his feet with one hop and ran off with the
swiftness of a race-horse.

Marmona and I talked it over next day and we both agreed that my
midnight visitor was an envious thief, who was after my violin and
thought to steal it from my hut whilst I slept. As I have told you
before, the whole of the Pacific Islanders are born thieves, and I
noticed that as Marmona told me his suspicions and waxed indignant over
that midnight thief his own dark eyes gave one avaricious gleam as he
caught sight of my violin, which he would have stolen in five seconds if
he had thought I should never suspect him. For the brown men are no
better than the whites, and will, in due course, all be virtuous and
honest, valuing their neighbour’s opinion more than the article which
their hearts long to steal. When I look back and think of the native
villages and the peace, with no police patrolling the village road with
truncheons and bull’s-eye lanterns to quell the courage of the
evil-doer, I really believe the South Sea Island heart is not half so
evil as it has been painted, and though I have travelled the South Sea
villages, mixed with the native men and women, drank and laughed with
them, separated them in their childish squabbles, I have never seen
their women creeping about with smashed noses or swollen lips and
blackened eyes, as I have seen the women of the white men on the cold
streets of London Town.

The morning after my night fright I intimated to Marmona that I must
leave the village, and he arranged to go with me with the idea of
showing me the way through the forest to the village of Maffo, as far as
I can remember that was the name, but so many of the village names were
similar and extraordinary that I cannot be certain of my exactness in
pronouncing them now. It was situated near to the sea. Mrs Marmona
almost embraced me as I bade her farewell, and I held up her hand, bowed
and gently kissed it in courtly fashion. I then did likewise to her late
enemy who stood beside her; for I knew that had I not done so trouble
would crop up as soon as Marmona and I were out of sight. Old Marmona’s
daughter, whom I have not mentioned before, but who nevertheless was a
great deal by my side during that visit, came forward and gave me a
beautiful native-made comb from her hair, and by the way she gave it I
should think that it was the greatest compliment that a native girl can
pay a youth. I kissed her hand twice and with sorrow in my heart waved
my hands as I passed away into the forest. Poor old Marmona crept along
in front carrying my portmanteau, which was a large silk handkerchief
that held my violin and bow, a small tooth-comb, brush, and a clean



I tramp through the South Sea Forest alone—Play my Violin to the
    Natives—The Trader’s Vision—The Rivals

MARMONA was a faithful friend, and led me through the forest, down the
mountainous steep with the certain instinct of a blood-hound. Once on
the track we called at a tiny South Sea home wherein lived some friends
of Marmona’s and to please him I took the violin out and played to them
all. There were two daughters and several sons, and as they stood
listening they jabbered and eyed me with wonder, for I made the violin
wail and scream hideously as I found that, notwithstanding their love of
natural song, the shrill notes pleased them the best. They gave us a
good feed of baked plantains and other mixed food, and we could easily
have lodged there for a week had I wished to do so. I cannot describe to
you the beauty of the landscape that we tramped across. The bright
winged birds whirred overhead, and often perched on the tropic trees
around us and preened their blossom-like feathers, making strange
noises, as though their beaks touched tinkling bells.

At sunset through the trees we saw the Pacific heaving far away and the
white rising breakers for ever charging the shoreward reefs. It was a
lovely spot, and nestled below in the hollow, between the shore and the
forest, was a small native village and the homes of a few traders. A
little distance from the shore, by the promontory, a schooner lay
anchored, and hovering around it the natives paddled in their out-rigged
canoes. Arriving in the village, Marmona introduced me to some friends
of his and I was glad of a rest; I had tramped a long way and my feet
were a bit blistered, for my boots were getting rather thin. That night
Marmona bade me farewell, and I gave him several shillings and he was
very delighted indeed. Though I have read that the natives are very
proud, and scorn to take money in return for a kindness, I never had the
pleasure of running across those refined temperaments; indeed they all
seemed to be true brothers to the white man in that respect, and the
only little disagreements I ever had with my brown friends were in my
“hard-up times,” but I generally got into their good graces when the
wherewithal was once more in my possession.

I stayed in that shore village for three days and four nights. There
were several white traders living there, and I also got into
conversation with the crew of the schooner that lay outside. It was an
isolated little village and I got to know almost every one of the
inhabitants during my short stay there, and I especially remember that
little village because of the old white trader I met there. He lived
alone in a small den hut by the sea; he had earnest thoughtful eyes, and
as I sat and talked to him in the shadow of his one room I could see by
his face that he had been a very handsome man in his time. There was
something in his voice that was musical and emotional, and as I played
to him on the violin he made remarks about the operatic selections that
told me he had seen better days and in a sense was originally a refined
and educated man. Whether he was mad or not I cannot say, but when the
village was all asleep that night he gazed in a frightened way all about
him and told me to play certain old tunes, and as the moonlight crept
over the sleeping village and perfect stillness lay over everything,
excepting for the noise of the breakers beating down on the shore reefs
at intervals, he would put his finger up to his grey-bearded mouth and
say “Play softly, mate, they are coming!” Then with staring eyes he
would gaze towards the forest and down shorewards, begging me not to
stop playing as he stood by his hut door with eager eyes watching
something going on that I could not see. After it was all over, and the
terrible look had gone from his face, to my relief he bent his head on
to his knee and cried like a child. So intense was his sorrow as I stood
there by him that I almost felt the tears rise in my own eyes. I could
not make it all out, for though his manner seemed insane yet there was
something so earnest and manly in his eyes and in his actions that I
felt safe with him by that lonely hut as the village slept. Then he told
me the history of his life; and till I die I will remember that old
white trader of the South Seas, and from the poem that I have written,
inspired by that strange sight and the tale he told me, you, reader, may
gather all that I heard, which he swore before his Maker was absolute

 In my wattle hut by Maffalo I lie nor can I sleep,
 Deep waters beat against my heart, thro’ my head the night winds sweep,
 For the brown one sleeps by the forest track with the banyans overhead,
 And the white girl sleeps by the channel cliffs where the white men
    bury their dead.
 And the tin roofs shine, as the traders rest by the beach and still
 Where the shore-line huts in silence stand by the waveless straight
 And when the moonlight whitely falls slantwise across the hill,
 And the palms and shore lagoons for miles, with the sleeping winds, are
 The brown one from the forest runs, the white girl from the sea—
 With shining eyes by my hut door in silence gaze on me.
 And I cannot sleep as the dead eyes meet, fierce eyes of ebon-flame!
 The grey eyes gleam thro’ shadowy hair, as of old she moans my name.
 In moonlight struggling silently they glimmer in the gloom,
 As wails the native dead child far in the forest deep of doom;
 And the wistful unborn children rise down by the shoreward palms,
 Peep from the sea with anxious eyes, and toss their small white arms!
 But deep in my heart the dead one screams—from its grave across the
 And I know it will with frightened eyes soon out of the forest creep!
 As I watch the figures, ebon and gold, oft brighten by moonlight,
 Till the white one wins and the brown one runs back to the forest
 And, in vain, I leap to shadowy arms, as she crying flees from me,
 Down shoreward runs, in a flash of flame dives back to the moonlit sea.
 So, I drink and drink as the nights go by and the schooners day by day
 Taking my heart with the white sails home where the sunsets fade away.
 Till the sea-winds cease and the trees all sleep, and the hushed waves
    are all still,
 And the moonlight slantwise falls across the forest track and hill
 As I listening wait for the rustling sound with my dreaming
 Till out in the night by the pale moonlight their shadows seek my hut—
 Out of the forest depth one runs, and the white girl up the shore
 Till the dead child screams and the unborn watch the shadows by my

I stayed in that village all the next day, and at sunset I bade
Marmona’s friends good-bye. Also I bade that sad trader farewell, and he
held my hand for a long time before he said good-bye.

It seemed like some enchanted village of fairyland as I looked back over
the slopes and saw the sun like a large ball of blood sink into the sea
and the moon rise over the mountainous country inland, peeping through
the heavens of shadow and stars that brightened out in the east. I
passed away from the place with a strange feeling in my heart for that
lonely man and all that would happen when the sea-shore village lay once
more asleep in the moonlight. I have heard many strange tales of spirits
and “ju-jus” from men in my travels, but never one so strangely sad and
impressive as his, and I have often wondered if all that that old man
told me was the outcome of a delirious brain or really some haunting
truth that can be seen by the eyes of those hearts that sorrow.




South Sea Domestic Life—I attend another South Sea Wedding—Meet Men
    flying from Justice—Bound for Tahiti

AT that time I was about eight miles from Apia, and though I was alone,
and a bit depressed, I soon regained my spirits and tramped along
whistling. To my right moved the deep blue Pacific waters, as the
cooling wind gently stirred them and crept up the shore and fanned my
perspiring face. No artist could paint in words or colour the beauty of
the romantic scenery that lay all around me. The ocean’s tremendous
voice murmured wavy songs as it kissed the shore reef in snatches of
whitened wave; the slope trees expressed the silent green utterance of
mother earth, beautiful with sunset-coloured flowers in the piled carpet
of jungle grass and blossoms of crimson and white wherein settled
gorgeous butterflies. A native girl, standing in her brown velvety skin,
waist deep in the grass, laughed and revealed her pearly teeth as I
tramped by, expressing in her sparkling eyes the joy of the conscious
universe. I waved my hand and smiled as her lynx-eyed bush mother
watched her from a hut door just under three large coco-trees a little
higher up where were several more huts. I saw a white man by one of
them, leaning against a tamnu-tree smoking, so I altered my course and
went up the rocky slope and introduced myself. He turned out to be a
deck-hand on one of the trading schooners that traded from Isle to Isle,
and I saw by his face and complexion that he was a half-caste, his wife
was a full-blooded Samoan. His name was Adams, he seemed mighty proud of
it, as he told me that he was a descendant of one of the old _Bounty_
mutineers and a high chief who had previously reigned in the Solomon

“Come you, Papeteo,” he shouted, and up came his daughter. I do not
think I ever saw a more beautiful native girl than she was as she stood
in front of me with raised shining eyes and a wealth of waving dark
chestnut hair.

“Pappy, go in and get him some grub,” he said, and off she bounded, and
his wife, who spoke broken English, welcomed me, saying, “White mans,
plenty eat sooner,” and so saying folded her brown hands over her
stomach to hide the tear in her tappa-cloth robe which ended at her

Inside their home I sat, talked and ate a splendid meal of grilled
chops, cooked over their camp fire, as Papeteo’s tiny brothers and
sisters romped around my stool, looked up at me with tiny demon eyes,
and tried to feel in my pockets. When I had finished we both sat outside
under the tall tropic trees, where high up droves of doves moaned and
cooed as the sea-winds swayed the tops.

That half-caste trader was the bravest man and the most fortunate man on
earth, for as soon as he had lit his big pipe and crossed his legs
comfortably he started off telling me of his narrow escapes in storms
and in fights with the natives of the various Isles. I very soon saw
that he was a swanker (they mostly are, the half-castes of the South
Seas), but to be quite friendly I encouraged him and often looked up
with assumed surprise and admiration to hear how he had saved my
countrymen from being murdered by the Solomon Islanders, Fijians and
other tribes by his own wonderful courage and herculean strength, and
just as he was gazing into my face as much as to say “What do you think
of a deed like that?” the red-hot ash from his pipe fell on to his
wife’s bare knee. Up she jumped with a howl and caught him a terrible
crash on the head with a bamboo club, as she started to beat her thin
dress with her hands, for it was all on fire. I leapt forward and tore
the dress from her, otherwise I am sure she would have been seriously
burned. All the husband did was to look horror-struck, and his
half-caste skin went greyish-white. She had given him a terrible whack
with the club, and I suppose he felt spiteful, for I noticed that his
half-caste eyes looked at her with hidden pleasure as she wailed.

Papeteo came running up from the shore sparkling with sea-water, for she
had been bathing in a tiny lagoon a few yards inland, and she quickly
ran into the homestead den and got a large piece of cloth and wrapped it
round her skinny-bosomed parent, and all was soon peace again. I learnt
from that half-caste trader that he was in the employ of the missionary
society and often went off on lecturing tours to the many Islands, as he
could, of course, speak the native language perfectly, as well as being
able to talk English and a smattering of German.

My foot was so blistered and sore on the heel that I altered my mind
about getting back to Apia and stayed there the night, and old Mother
Adams was delighted when she heard I would do so and kept saying “A loo,
O swa,” or something that sounded like it, as her eyes gazed amorously
at me. When her husband had gone across the slope to one of the other
huts, to see some natives who were having a great feast over a wedding,
she made violent love to me, jabbering something to Papeteo. She told
her to get off, and as soon as she had gone she started stroking my hand
and face softly and did many more embarrassing things of Samoan custom,
till I was beside myself with worry, and I can tell you that when
suddenly the half-caste husband returned, and she sat down quickly, I
was extremely pleased.

That night I went with them all over the slope to see the wedding party.
A pretty young Samoan girl had just been married to a stalwart
fierce-looking native, and when we arrived the “Siva dance” was in full
swing. By the rows of huts of the small seaside village the inhabitants
stood and squatted, all singing in unison as the chief dancers, dressed
in flowers and native muslin, and parakeet wings in their hair, whirled
about and around like ghosts in the brilliant moonshine that came
glimpsing through the palm leaves. It revealed the faces and shining
eyes of native maidens as they lifted their long arms and contorted
their bodies, sometimes till their noses touched the forest floor. From
time to time the squatting men, enjoying the scene as they stared in a
circle around those night-dancers, shouted out the equivalent to an
English “Encore!” as one fat native woman succeeded in doing things
which seemed impossible, bending slightly forward, giving a sudden bound
and for a second standing on her head with one leg pointing one way and
the other in the opposite direction. And then she stood on her head in
the moonlight till with another bound she regained her feet and started
hopping and whirling away once more in full swing with nothing on, as,
laughing merrily, revealing pearly teeth and clapping their hands, the
chorus girls of that midnight stage kept strict time with their feet and
bodies on the forest floor.

It was one of the most weirdly impressive scenes that I have ever seen,
more fascinating than any I had seen before with Hornecastle. As I stood
there with old Mrs Adams and her daughter Papeteo by my side, just
behind the husband smoking, I turned and saw two more white men gazing
on the scene. I was astonished to see them, as I had not seen any of my
race about during the day, and thought I was there quite alone. They
were terribly scrubby-looking and had a hunted look in their eyes, and
as they noticed me they quickly said something to the half-caste, and he
in turn quickly reassured them. They were two fugitives from justice,
who had committed some crime and were wanted by the Commissioners.
Probably they had killed someone, and it appeared that my half-caste
friend was doing his best to hide them till they could get away from the
coast on some outbound schooner. One of them was a very decent fellow to
speak to, and I gave him some plug tobacco and hinted to him that he had
nothing to fear from me, and neither had he, for I was sorry for them;
whatever they had done they had already done, and they were my
countrymen. They had at first thought I was a young missionary, and when
they found out that I was a wanderer only they were deeply relieved, and
when the dance was over I went back with them, and found that they were
staying in a hut just by my hosts. They laughed and told me that they
had peeped through a crack and seen the whole of the episode when old
Mother Adams had caught on fire, and chaffed me about her too. They were
both thickly bearded and looked rather haggard and worried, and
evidently had done something serious, but as the night wore on, and they
drank from the large stone jar which stood in the corner of the hut,
they became exceedingly cheerful, and seeing that I had a violin got me
to play, and when I struck up a familiar strain actually started to sing
loudly. Adams the half-caste came rushing in to us in a fearful rage and
called them damned madmen, and everything he could lay his tongue to. I
am sure he would have been expelled from the missionary society had they
heard the way he swore and used God’s name. He managed to sober the two
fugitives and would not leave the hut till they were both lying down. Of
course had they been caught while being harboured by Adams he himself
would have got into serious trouble.

At daybreak they were both awake and tremulously sober. “Good-bye,
matey,” they said to me as I too got quickly to my feet; “Good-bye,” I
said, “and God bless you,” and then the taller one turned and put out
his hairy sunburnt hand. I quickly clasped it and, saying “Good luck to
you youngster,” they both walked quickly down the slope shoreward;
evidently there was an outbound schooner lying in the bay and they were
taking their best chance.

It was a beautiful morning. Round the bend, sunrise was bathing the sea
with crimson and gold, and the parakeets in flocks, screaming off
seaward, passed over my head, and the damp scent of the bread-fruit
trees and orange groves gave the place the atmosphere of fairyland. I
caught sight of those two hunted men hurrying across the white beach far
away, and that was the last I ever saw of them. I hope they got safely
off and were better men afterwards.

That same day I bade Adams and his wife farewell, and pretty Papeteo
gave me a tortoise-shell with a native engraving on it as a memento, and
once more I started on my wanderings.

I eventually arrived at Apia, and going on to a trading cutter with a
sailor, whom I had got to know in the town, I saw an opportunity of
sailing as a deck hand, and so on the _Polly Smith_ I sailed away bound
for Tahiti. We had on board several native passengers, two young girls,
and several Samoan men with their wives and children who were going off
to the other Islands to secure work on plantations. We had a fine time
on those moonlight nights, as we crept along the equatorial Pacific Seas
with all sails set, and on the decks the sailors danced with the native
women while I fiddled away, delighted to be at sea again. The little
Samoan children were the life of that boat; one tiny girl would stand on
the deck by the galley and go through all the fantastic Samoan dances,
throw her little legs about, stand on her head, wave her legs and hands
about while upside down with as much ease as though she were on her
feet. There was an English passenger with us, I think his name was
Wallace. We became very friendly with each other; he was going to Tahiti
on some Government business and came from Sydney. For many days we lay
becalmed, and then a fine breeze sprang up and we raced away with full
sail set for some days. As a rule the wind slackened by day and
strengthened by night, and they _were_ nights too, the fine tropic stars
shining away overhead, the clear crystal skies imaged in the waters all
around us as the small cutter drifted along, far away out on the lonely
Pacific track. There were no islands in that part of the ocean, but we
were all happy enough. The native passengers would loaf all day long
looking over the vessel’s side singing to themselves, and at night we
all congregated and had a sing-song. I would play the violin and do my
best to keep time to the natives as they danced and rolled about as the
boat heeled over. Mr Wallace sang songs and the half-caste cook got
drunk on sly grog, did jigs and afforded us great amusement.



Tahitian Morals and Duplicity—I play the Violin at Government
    Concert—Death of M’Neil—The Black Slave Traffic

ARRIVING at Tahiti our passengers went off to the plantations and I went
off also as I wanted to see what kind of a place it was. The capital,
Papeite, was a much larger and livelier place than Apia. The population
consisted of all kinds of half-castes, Chinese, French, and Tahitian
brigands. I went inland and tramped around the sugar plantations whereon
worked the natives and Chinese. A good deal of the country was under
cultivation. I shall never forget the awful-looking people that I came
in contact with or forget the debauchery that I witnessed. The sole
occupation of a good many of the natives was to drink as much as they
could get down them and the women sold their bodies to the first-comer
for the price of a drink. The missionaries were there by hundreds, it
seemed; they were a mixture of French and English and had exciting times
reforming those native women and men. I went into several of the native
homes and found them very hospitable people. Some of the women had
Chinese husbands and their half-caste children had tiny almond eyes,
jet-black and sparkling. The Chinese of Society Islands impressed me as
being much more wholesome in their way of living than the Australian
Chinamen, and they did not smell half so disagreeable. A Chinaman got
jealous of his native wife whilst I was there and struck her with a
knife. The Tahitians went for him and when I saw him you could hardly
tell which was his head and which his feet; anyway his brother Chinamen
came into the village, rolled him up and gave him a decent burial, and
his wife screamed and wailed away till I was glad to clear out, for it
was a most painful sight to see her grief. She was a pretty woman, in
fact all the young women were handsome, and the men too, but as soon as
the women get over twenty they start to fade. A South Sea Island girl of
ten years of age is as matured as a European girl of sixteen.

I found human nature was just the same there as everywhere else—everyone
wanted as much as they could get out of you, and those who were better
clothed than their sisters and brothers were vain-glorious and looked
down on the others. Girls and boys made love to each other and eloped
into the forest with the missionaries after them at full speed, and the
brave old chiefs strolled about and spoke of the old times and smacked
their lips and spoke on the sly of the missionaries, saying “they were
the children of the devil” but addressing them to their faces with some
such jargon as, “Me Christian man now. One God. Good God, who no eat
other God,” whereupon they would gravely walk away to sell their soul
for a drink. They loved their old customs deep down in their heart and
rubbed noses with each other and cherished hopes that some day the gods
would help them to drive the white men into the sea. But the older ones
were even then fast disappearing, and drink and prostitution were
raising the death rate of the native children, and so there, as
elsewhere all over the South Seas, the race was fast dying out.

There were many traders there, and they all seemed to make plenty of
money. You could always recognise a trader by his big hat smashed on his
head and his slouching walk and his very often warty nose, that had
started to blossom after drinking some oceans of beer. They were
generally married men and often got into awful trouble when they were
quite unsober by mistaking their Tahitian wife for their Marquesan wife,
and mentioning the wrong name to their bride during the night brought
down her wrath on to their wicked heads. I have often seen them with a
black eye or a terribly scratched, clawed face, for women in Tahiti are
as jealous as the European ladies, and will brook no rival; but of
course when their husband is away with his other bride on some far-off
Isle they do not let the grass grow under their feet, and often a white
trader leaves his home in disgust when his native wife presents him with
a half-caste baby with slit-almond eyes and a face showing strong
Mongolian origin, or a little fair-skinned mite with pretty violet dark
eyes that looks suspiciously like the village missionary.


In Papeite I made the acquaintance of René, a Frenchman, who was a
clever violin-player. He was at that time working as a clerk in the
Tahitian Commissioner’s offices and played at the Papeite opera house
which was something on the lines of a bush town music hall in Australia.
He was very kind to me and gave me several good lessons on playing the
violin, for he had studied under some of the best French masters. He had
some splendid duets for two violins and one night, when they had a ball
on at the Papeite Government House, he recommended me and I got the
engagement to go with him, and we played the duets together. He was a
much better performer than I was, but he gave me the solo part and did
all he could to get me the credit of the concert. All went off very well
indeed till, when René and I were having supper with all the high folk
of Papeite and I was feeling in very high spirits at the turn my luck
had taken, for I was nearly on my beam ends when René got me that job, I
bent over from my chair and looked out of the door and saw that my
violin which I had left by the hat-rack had disappeared! I got up and
rushed off like a shot, and as I did so I saw one of the Tahitian
servants bolting through the door with the violin. Shouting at the top
of my voice I ran after him, cleared the steps with one jump, and there
up the moonlit street ran the thief holding my violin in one hand. I had
no revolver with me, otherwise I would have fired, for I was desperate.
My violin was my all, and the fear of losing it put renewed vigour in my
feet and I was gaining on the cursed thief. “Stop or I fire!” I shouted,
and as he was leaving the straight track he turned, and I held my hand
up, as he thought, to shoot. In the moonlight he saw my white hand
upheld, and thinking it held a gun he threw the fiddle down and rushed
off into the scrub. My fiddle was none the worse for the adventure, but
I was, for the night was close and sweltering hot, and I arrived back to
the supper-table bathed in sweat and half dead.

I was at that time lodging in the north of the town with a storekeeper.
In the same room where I was also slept a trader; his name was M’Neil,
and he had been very ill and was at that time convalescent. He admitted
to me that he had been drinking too heavily and had made up his mind to
be a teetotaller, and, as he told me what a curse drink was, he kept
lifting a bottle of whisky from under his bed and taking a pull at it,
saying, “Man, jist a wee snack for the gude time’s sake.” He was really
trying to break himself of the habit, and instead of drinking
half-a-bottle at a time was just taking it in sips. By midnight he was
quite drunk, and started weeping over his past sins, and kept me awake
nearly all night saying over and over again—“Ma lad, keep off th’ drink,
’twill be your ruin.” He was not a bad man at all, and when he was sober
during the day, and I played him old Scotch songs, for he would not for
one moment let me play anything but Scotch melodies, the tears would
rise in his eyes. He died two days after and I felt very much cut up,
for I saw him die and he gave me an old purse, saying, “Take it, guid
lad, and think of me.” His old comrade, a Scotchman, came in from up the
street, held his hand and completely broke down, crying like a little
child as M’Neil closed his eyes for ever. I still remember how that
Scotch friend rose up, looked under poor M’Neil’s bed, and gently pulled
the half-full whisky bottle out, put it under his coat and left the
room, still sobbing, for M’Neil and he had had many good times together
and many a long talk and deep drink in that room as they lived over
their old days in Bonny Scotland.

I was naturally very depressed after the death of M’Neil; I had only
known him a few days, but in those few days I seemed to know more of his
true character than you could see through in another man in ten years. I
remember after a day or so I got in with a Dutch fellow named “Van
Blank.” He was also a lodger in my dwelling-place and he had held the
Scotchman’s arm as he stood by M’Neil’s grave; otherwise I think poor
old Mac (I cannot remember his name) would have fallen in. He had
imbibed considerably, and it took Van Blank and I the whole afternoon to
get him back to his room and put him to bed.

René, my violin friend, went off to Matahiva on some business, and I was
at my wit’s end to know how to get some cash and get away from Papeite.
I was offered a job by some missionaries to go off to Rarotonga to help
in mission work for awhile. I considered seriously becoming a missionary
myself, as it seemed a paying game, and I never saw a mission man of any
sect on the beach hard up. Van Blank had long since joined the mission
and he introduced me to several young Tahitian mission girls who were
devout Christians. They were mostly very good-looking, wore more
clothing than the inland natives, were splendid dancers, and down in the
thatched homesteads of the village of Tetua I went and stayed with Van
Blank, and those mission girls, good gracious me! stood on their heads,
screamed with laughter, waved their legs as I played the fiddle and all
went back to the barbarian stage in five seconds, and after the dance I
had to fly with Van Blank as twenty of them strove to embrace us, all at
once! Next day Blank and I saw them in the mission-room teaching the
native children to sing “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” or a tune of that
type, and as we looked in the school door they looked up at us gravely
with their earnest dark eyes as though we were absolute strangers to the
wild carousal of the night before. You could tramp the world over and
never find people so clever in their cunning as the Tahitian Islanders,
and yet they are, as I found, staunch friends in adversity and would
never give a white man away to his superiors. And so all the creed
denominations go swimmingly along, safe and happy in the giant hypocrisy
of reformation that has brought such changes to the Pacific Isle, such
happiness to the reformers, and such deceit into the hearts of the

A large trading schooner, the _Austral_, at this time arrived in Tahiti
and I once more secured a job as second mate and left the island. I
heard that her final destination was Samoa and Tonga; she was then bound
for the Marquesas Islands. Before leaving the “Society Group” she called
at “Fakarava,” “Raiatea” and “Takaroa,” beautiful Isles they were too,
standing lonely out there in the wide Pacific, covered with luxurious
tropical trees that sheltered the velvety skinned natives, many of whom
were as wild as the savages of Captain Cook’s days. Indeed, all the
races that I came in contact with were as wild at heart as ever their
ancestors were; but they were clever, and they soon discovered the best
policy, which was hammered into them by the arrival of a warship and a
gun battery to smash them up and let them see the white man’s power and
the wisdom of following all his desires and ceasing all their own
desires. Then the missionaries came and the traders brought the rum, and
the money to buy the rum, and gave the women the opportunity to obtain
the money, for it was the women of the South Seas that started to get
the money and shared it with their native husbands. I think that must be
the origin of the name “White Slave Traffic” of modern England. I know
from my own eyes and from the lips of the sufferers of those far-off
Isles that the Black Slave Traffic was a monstrous traffic beside which
the English “White Slave Traffic” is a kind of sacred concert,
comparatively speaking.

As far as I could judge and criticise the civilising influence of
Christianity in the South Seas was this—the English, French and Germans
discovered a beautiful land in the South Seas; a few months after
arriving they blew the heads of some of the natives off, cowed them
completely, took a battalion of sailors inland to the wild native
village and those sailors all fell madly in love with the beautiful
dark-eyed women who stood trembling before them, and by the time they
were due to become mothers the fathers were in England, being paid their
leave money at Chatham, while the missionaries, hot with haste, were
outbound for the same Islands to reform the grieving mothers and make
them more upright in their morals. When those missionaries arrived they
put a “penny in the slot machine” on the shore, nailed a large tract on
each wall of the heathen village homesteads, and then called the people
Christianised as they knelt in their nudeness and penitence at their
feet in chanting rows, repeating the Lord’s Prayer with bowed heads, as
the missionaries lifted their eyes heavenward and did not miss their
boot-laces till long after the reformed heathen had departed.



Hafiao—Rival Marquesan Queens—Behind the Veil—Vaca Mountain—I meet
    R.L.S.—Thakambau the Last of the Fijian Kings—Apia

AFTER a monotonous voyage of adverse winds and a typhoon that brought
seas over and washed me out of my bunk, smashed our deck in and carried
away all the cordage and boats, we arrived at “Hivaoa.” The natives swam
out to us in shoals; on they came as the anchor dropped, lines and lines
of bobbing frizzly heads with swimming eyes, gliding along to the
paddling hands level with the water, while racing along in front of them
came canoes heavily laden with cargoes of natives evidently more
successful in life than the poverty-stricken swimmers who only possessed
their own skins. We threw ropes over the ship’s side and up they came,
clambering, and danced over the decks. Stalwart, fine fellows they were,
with large lustrous eyes, and as soon as they leapt to the deck and
shook themselves as dogs do after a swim, they started rushing about
singing and jabbering for a job to take us ashore in their canoes, and
the skipper stood by his cabin aft with a big cigar in his mouth,
shouting, “Keep yer eye on the God-damned devils,” for he had turned his
head for one moment and with native alertness one of them had dived into
his cabin and collared his best white duck suit. Down came a large
wooden plank over the poor devil’s head as he dropped the suit on deck
and with a bound went over the side into the sea.

It was after sunset before I went ashore, and with several of the crew
we roamed about visiting the natives in their thatched homes and saw the
native children romping around as they sneaked out of their beds to peep
at us and the swarthy mothers and fathers, squatting on the floor,
cross-legged, invited us to drink and eat. All about us as we walked
under the palms from one home to another we saw the shadows moving as
the men and women roamed about, passing from clump to clump of
palm-trees which shaded the Marquesan homesteads. It was just like some
fairyland, as over the clear skies shone the Southern stars, and often
came the singing of the natives and the beating of their wooden drums
from where some of the families were giving parties over a birthday or
the anniversary of a wedding, enjoying themselves in the same spirit as
they do in the suburban homes of English towns.

I saw a lot of old chiefs and wrinkled dethroned kings and queens during
my stay there. The girls were nearly all dressed in leafy girdles and
the youths likewise. I had heard a lot about Hivaoa from Hornecastle and
I remembered that he had several wives there and large grown-up
families, but I did not meet any of them to my knowledge. I only stayed
there two or three days and then joined the boat again and we left for
Nuka Hiva. The natives there I found were very similar to those of
Hivaoa, but the Island itself struck me as very prosperous, being a good
deal under cultivation. Whilst there I went inland alone and made
friends with a Marquesan chief named Hafiao. He could speak English
fairly well, also a little French. I remember him well, because he was
such an intellectual-looking old fellow and looked very much like
Gladstone, but he was more powerfully built and of course brown skinned.
He told me he was over a hundred years old, and he looked it too. He had
a nice house and three pretty native women looked after him. I am not so
sure that they were not his wives. He told me that nearly all the whites
that called at Nuka Hiva came especially inland to see him, and he was
as proud as anything when I told him that Robert Louis Stevenson was
greatly impressed by him and his kingly bearing. Of course I made that
all up, but while he puckered his wrinkled old face up and tried to tell
me of the “great white people” that had called upon him, he mentioned
the name of “Stessen” and from what he said I should imagine that he
meant “Stevenson,” for he described him to me at my request, and most
impressively told me that he was “good white mans who saw that he the
great Hafiao was no ordinary man, but a brave and mighty king of men.”
He also told me that R.L.S. had come especially across the seas from the
great “white country” to see him and kneel at his feet; and as he told
those tales of his proud imagination he lifted his intelligent eyes to
the skies and his shrivelled lips trembled with emotional pride at the
thought that, though he was no longer a ruler of men, there were white
men living who had bowed the knee to him and assured him that he still
lived in the memory of men as great as ever, though humbled by advancing
civilisation and the wrecking hand of cruel Time. And, to tell the
truth, that deserted forgotten old chief of barbarian Marquesan tribes
had more of the look of born kingship in his stalwart shrivelled
anatomy, as he sat there almost in tears over revived memories, than all
the kings of Europe bunched together; and I shall never regret going on
my knee before him and bowing my head in a moment of emotional impulse
as I bade him farewell and pressed a plug of ship’s tobacco into his
majestic hand, which gift so delighted him that he forgot the great
majesty that for a moment had crowned him, and with an aged shrill voice
shouted, “Good mans, white boy,” and stood upright and gave a kind of
delighted double shuffle at such a stroke of luck.

In that same village I also met wrinkled old native women who gazed with
scorn on the young native girls who wore tappa girdles from their waists
to their knees. One of them told me she had been the most beautiful
woman of the Islands and much loved by the bravest warriors of her day.
She was not unlike the old Marquesan Queen whom Hornecastle introduced
me to, who had had her photograph taken by the Judge’s son whom I met at
Samoa, but she had not the queenly bearing, and when I crept into the
next hut I learned from another dethroned queen that it was really she
who was once the most beautiful of queens and the envy of all brave
warriors, and she tried to get out of me what the “bad no good woman”
next door had told me; but I kept a still tongue, for I saw how things
were between them and did not wish them to murder each other over the
awful jealousy that I saw each had for the other. I can still see their
brown wrinkled faces under the starlit palms peeping from their den
doors as I bade them farewell and passed away. I never saw such evil
looks as they sideways gave each other as I crept quietly on. They each
thought they had succeeded in proving they were old-time queens. I did
not particularly like either of them, for each had gazed at me with odd
looks and stroked my white hand with their shrivelled dark paws,
smacking their remnants of lips, as though remembering old days and
cannibalistic feasts.

Of course it may have been purely imagination on my part, but I could
not help feeling as I did, for I had seen a good deal in my wanderings
among the South Sea Islanders, much more than I have told you in these
reminiscences—for there are things which I must leave out, things which
are too dreadful to describe in cold print to civilised eyes of the home
country, but are well known to the travellers of the days when I was a
boy and saw the smouldering out of the true savage races of the South
Seas. I lived on the Islands and mixed with the people as though I were
one of them, and though the outside world lived under the impression
that all the old savage instincts had died out, I knew that they had
not. The natives knew they would be punished for cannibalism and other
crimes of a bloodthirsty heathenish character, and so it was all
practised in secrecy, and to this day I will swear terrible things are
done on the quiet! Do not the civilised polished towns of Europe harbour
in their very midst men who are dangerous criminals and addicted to
heinous crimes? Often those very men mingle with you and even gain your
admiration and respect, for you do not dream of their true character,
and yet men think that the whole of the aboriginal South Sea races have
completely changed their old instincts, and all are now Christian, just
as they profess they are, and nothing is done under cover as it is done
under cover in European cities!

I remember how Hornecastle got hold of a book which praised the
reformation of the South Sea savage and the glorious work of the
American missionaries. The old fellow was eating an orange as he read,
and as he roared with laughter he swallowed the whole of the half
orange, turned purple in the face, and when the native put his fingers
down and cleared the throat passage the old chap sat upright, put his
hand on his stomach and, to my astonishment, still continued to explode
with laughter, roaring out at intervals as he nearly choked, “God help
the damned heathens,” “Holy Moses and Missionaries,” and then buried his
nose in the book and started to read again with extreme delight and
twinkling eyes, for I think of all men he knew the stealthy lives that
were being lived behind the veil of native life in the South Seas, where
often men disappeared and were never heard of again, as the Polynesians,
Melanesians and the half-castes saw the longed-for chance occur and got
their own back! Aye, there are hundreds of skeletons whitening in the
forest of those Pacific Isles, skeletons of men who fell by the stealthy
war club or had their heads blown off by the old-fashioned
breech-loading pistols given to the natives by traders for shiploads of
copra, palm oil, and sometimes for help in kidnapping girls, who often
disappeared from their homes and were never seen again.

I believe if a man like Hornecastle had written a book telling all that
he had seen in his own time and the time when I was on those Islands it
would have been one of the most terrible human documents ever read by
the eyes of men, so terrible in its revelations of bloodshed, trickery
and lust, both on the white and native side, that very few people would
have believed a quarter of the truth told. There are no more
undiscovered shores to be found in the world now, and never again in the
history of the world will the wanderers from a highly civilised race
suddenly come across primeval races in far seas, who will leap from the
forest and gaze with astonished eyes into the eyes of men who are their
brothers of long ago, lost in the dark of ages and returned to reform
the ways of the old, and heartily enjoy the change from the new.

After a stay of about two weeks I sailed on the _Austral_ away from the
beautiful shores of “Nuka Hiva.” Far away the whitening waves, tossing
on the reefs, faded as the sunset struck the inland forest palms and
mountain ranges, and then the stars came out and overhead the song of
the sails started to sing and once more I was at sea. It was a long
voyage; we called at the Caroline Islands, and after an absence of quite
five months I once more arrived at Samoa, and got paid off by the
skipper and stopped in Apia, resting myself for several weeks, spending
my days in violin-studying and calling on the storekeepers. Afterwards I
went to Upolu, and while strolling by the cedar-trees that skirted the
shore forest I met Robert Louis Stevenson. “Hello, young man,” he said,
as I looked up and recognised him, “are you still living here?” “No,” I
answered, “I’ve been to the Marquesas, and Fiji, in fact all over the
place.” I told him of the chieftain Hafiao who had told me that
Stevenson had bowed the knee to him. He was extremely amused at all I
told him, and I got to like him exceedingly as he began to talk in an
earnest way about the Island customs and what the home folks would think
of life in the South Seas and the women, for as we strolled along some
pretty native girls went by with baskets of fish, their lava-lavas on,
their bare brown bodies shining in the sunlight. We stopped them and
R.L.S. bought one of the baskets of fish and invited me to his friend’s
house, and I went with him and stayed and had supper and entertained
them with the violin. I think the gentleman whom he was staying with
then was an American, and had something to do with the Legation offices.
I had a very pleasant time, and felt extremely at home with the earnest
kind-faced man who has added such interest to the sad romance of Samoa,
for as the world knows he died there and was buried on the top of Vaea
Mountain, and to this day that mountain is looked upon as a sacred spot
by the Samoans who loved R. L. Stevenson, and the natives never hunt or
fire guns or shoot the birds that roam and sing by that mighty
sepulchre, for it is their faith that his songs are still being sung by
the birds as the years go by and he sleeps on that mountain top.

But to go back to the invitation which I had to supper.

I had a most enjoyable evening; there was a Mr Herd also in the party.
The house was only a one-storey dwelling-place, and the room wherein we
dined a large dim-lit place with two windows facing seaward. The
overhead hanging lamp-glass had been smashed through the clumsiness of
the native girls who waited at the table, and I was deeply thankful that
they had done so, for I was pretty shabby and threadbare at that time,
and the gloom made me feel more at ease as I sipped my wine and had very
little to say, having no confidence in myself through the knowledge that
R.L.S. was a writer of books. He seemed in a good mood as he sat at the
other side of the table in his white duck suit, his lean bare throat
moving above his loose low shirt collar as he and his friends spoke of
their experiences in the Islands and bubbled over with laughter. The
native girls, attired in fringed ridis and tappu cloth reaching from
their breasts, and down to their bare knees, rushed round the table
waving palm leaves to create a breeze, and repulse the mosquito droves
that made desperate attempts to get their share by dining off us. The
American Legation gentleman seemed to be a jolly customer, and partook
frequently of the whisky.

Robert Louis Stevenson seemed very temperate; he smoked cigarettes and
drank the pure juice of limes, holding them over a glass he squeezed
them in his hand till the glass was nearly full, added whisky and drank
at a gulp, throwing the skins of the limes over the heads of his
friends, out of the open window, only just missing them, and seemed
greatly amused as they dodged. He treated the native girls and boys who
stood around with great kindness, speaking to them as though they were
little children. I think he spoke to them in the native language. They
seemed to know him; after the supper was over, I noticed their good
behaviour and respectfulness, as they crossed their brown hands, closed
their eyes and repeated word for word after R.L.S., as he bowed his head
and said grace.

[Illustration: SOUTH SEA LAGOON]

“Well, Middleton,” he said, as our host sat down to an old American
organ and started playing softly, his feet going up and down ten
revolutions a second, as he pedalled the leaky bellows, “which do you
like the best, the Old Country or the South Seas?”

“Well, for climate and novelty, I like this place, but I often have a
longing for the homeland.”

“So do I. We all love our native land the best at heart,” he said, and I
could see by his expression that his dreams were often overseas, for he
lapsed into silence, threw the cigarette away that he had only just lit,
and placed another one in his mouth, and walked up and down, as was his
habit at times when in conversation with anyone.

I remember that he asked me if I was going back to England again, also
if I liked sea life, and when I told him of some of my bush experiences
he seemed deeply interested, and asked me a good deal about the
Australian blacks. He was greatly interested in their habits, and seemed
to know a lot about their history and wandering instincts, and remarked
upon the great difference between the intellects of the blacks and the
Islanders of the South Seas, as he sat there gazing with his keen
inquiring eyes, fingering his chin as the cool wind drifted through the
open window. I can still vividly remember the delight in his face as he
watched the native servants. I played the violin, accompanied by our
host on the organ, who played by ear, and made up for his indifferent
accompaniment by singing at intervals, as I did my best to entertain.
R.L.S. joined in by humming. We were suddenly disturbed by a jabbering
noise outside, and then the door opened and a native woman, with barely
anything on except the ridi, poked her head and body half in the room
and said something to our host the American, in the Samoan language. It
appeared that he was a medical man, and had been attending her child who
was suffering through influenza, which had become suddenly worse, so she
and a gathering of friends had rushed hurriedly to our host for help.
R.L.S. and I accompanied him, as he quickly shut down the organ lid, and
off we all went out into the night.

Across the forest track we hurried. Like big children, Samoan mothers,
men, and their naked little ones, went running along the moonlit track
in front of us, the wailing mother and father of the sick child
pattering beside us, looking with relieved eyes, because we were white
men, thinking that our different skin made us potent and that all would
be well when the doctor reached their child. We had to walk almost
half-a-mile, and then they all turned off the forest track to the left,
and under the palms, to where stood their large hut homes; bending down
we all entered the sick-room. It was a sweet little mite, emaciated
through chest trouble. Its tiny bones seemed to be all out of place,
protruding under its soft velvety brown skin, as it gazed wistfully up
with small bright fevered eyes, as we all leaned over its small mat bed.

The American tenderly picked her up, gave her physic, and did all that
was best for the infant, then whispered some hopeless opinion to R.L.S.,
who tenderly bent over the little patient, as concerned as though it
were his own child, as he chuckled with his lips, and touched it softly
on the chin with his finger playfully, till it actually looked up at him
and gave a wan smile. The parents fell on their knees delighted, and
started rapidly to say the Lord’s Prayer together as others shouted
“Folofa-Mio,” which meant “better to-morrow.” It was a weird sad sight,
and when we passed out under the coco-palms into the brilliantly lit
moonlit space I noticed Stevenson and the doctor were very quiet, for we
felt pretty sadly as our medical friend had very dubious hopes as to its
recovery. A Samoan quack medicine man had been practising on the sick
mite, and the disease, through improper treatment, had got the upper
hand. Stevenson went off soon after we reached the house again, and
though it was very late, I would not accept the invitation to stay the
night, and went back to my lodging by the shore side, near Apia Town, a
little shanty place of a young trader, who had let me share his home.
When I arrived back I felt a bit depressed, but my friend cheered me up.
He was a lively fellow, crammed full up with reminiscences, having been
for some years trading among the Islanders, and he would tell me in
vivid language about his experiences in the Fijian group. He had known
and lived with the son of Thakambau,[3] the last of the great Cannibal
Kings, who had then been dead some two or three years or more, and
terrible were the deeds of that old king before he became
Christianised[4] and handed over the Fiji Isles to the British
Government. I had personally met old men chiefs whose sisters had been
roasted in the “Bokai Ovens” at the grand cannibal festivities of their
young days.

Footnote 3:

  Thakambau went on a visit to N.S.W. and brought measles back to Fiji,
  which carried of a quarter of the population.

Footnote 4:

  The Fijian race is fast dying out. Thousands of Indians arrive yearly,
  and the result is that Mohammedanism is secretly over-throwing
  Christianity and the noble, if futile, efforts of many true
  missionaries in Fiji and elsewhere.


My comrade kept me up nearly the whole night cheerily telling me of the
wild escapades of those days, and was extremely amusing as he described
Fijian weddings, which were conducted something after the Samoan fashion
as far as the fantastic dancing went, but there the similarity ended. By
night most of the weddings were performed, the king or head chief of the
tribe taking a seat on the throne, solemnly gazing on as a kind of
spiritual figure-head, as from the forest for miles around came leaping
the natives, attracted by the boomed notes of the lais (wooden drum),
all to assemble and witness the wedding, as the native bride, flushed
with pleasure, attired in the scant robe of the period, danced the wild
fantastic can-can of the South Seas before the assembled encoring tribe,
dressed only in a string of shells that jingled at her sulu-cloth. There
on the chosen moonlit night under the tamnu and bread-fruit trees she
swayed and swerved in all the postures that would reveal her beauty to
the bridegroom’s eyes, and the ring of natives would make the forest and
hills re-echo as their voices extolled her female charms, as the old
high priest chanting the special service gazed enviously, nudging the
bride as an encore hint whenever she did anything especially pleasing to
the dusky onlookers. “Mbula! Mbula!” they would shout when at last,
perspiring, trembling and excited, she stood at rest. “Mbula! Mbula!”
they would still cry, which meant “may the gods send thee many
children,” and then the bridegroom also danced as the old king or chief
descended from his throne to welcome the bashful bride, and to bow her
into his home before the great wedding feast, for it was the custom of
certain tribes that the bride should receive the king’s kiss first. More
I cannot say, excepting for the grim rumour and respect for the
first-born, whose lineaments often resembled those of the old king who
officiated at the wedding, and such was the great respect held for those
children who were the first born, and consequently of blood-royal, that
the unloved maidens of those wild Isles, as innocent as in the Garden of
Eden, and of the ways of the Western world, would often ambitiously
throw themselves across the path of the royal favour.

              Oft sought the king the unloved forlorn maid
              With witnesses to prove she’d been betrayed!

On the other hand some of the tribes outdid the high standard of the
morals of advanced civilisation, and it was considered the height of
impropriety for a maid to eat in the presence of a marriageable man, and
everlasting disgrace lay on the head of the native girl who had once
touched a bed mat whereon had slept a man, and many of the old customs
of the South Seas are still practised secretly, and this was, and is,
common knowledge to the white residents of the Pacific.

But to go back to my comrade the trader, I stayed at his homestead for
some time. It was a romantic spot; by our front door curled the waves up
the shore, and by night across the moonlit bay in canoes paddled the
natives, singing as they fished.

We made a neat galley cooking stove just outside by the door, whereby we
sat at night, as the fire blazed and the cooking fish spluttered in the
frying-pan. My chum was a splendid cook, and served up many dishes of
yams and bread fruit, entrées, done in native fashion. From the village
a mile away, inland, the natives would come every morning and clean our
one-roomed dwelling out. On the wooden walls above our bunks were
photographs of our relations and friends in England. I was very happy
there with my amiable chum, who was always in a joking mood, and would
cheerily sing as I played the fiddle.

He was a bit gone on a half-caste Samoan girl, and the only little hitch
that disturbed our friendship was through my foolishness in responding
to the native girl’s wish to learn to play the violin. I was innocent
enough, and as soon as I saw the way the wind blew I shut right down,
and the fiddle lessons ceased, and so the sulky look on my comrade’s
face faded and once more the cheery smile returned; and by the crackling
fire and spluttering stews, into my ears was poured the lore of the
South Seas, with the human note of reality in it, till we retired to
bed, and the warm wind in moonlight waved the shadows of the palm leaves
outside over our faces as we lay unsleeping in our coffin-shaped bunks,
my chum one side and I the other side, talking and dreaming till “Are
you asleep, Middy?” sounded far away, as I sleepily answered, “Yes” over
and over again as he talked on, till at last even the sound of the waves
outside faded away and we both slept.

The natives got very friendly with us two, and extremely jealous of each
other if we hired one of them more than another, and terrible were the
tales we had to hear about the one whom we had hired.

“He not Christian man. Sin much, and steal ‘nother man’s wife” and so
on, till we thought it advisable, before there was a murder in the camp,
to make a bargain with the lot, and hire them all at regular intervals
to do our cooking, wood collecting and the rough general work.



Apia—R.L.S. visits Samoan Homesteads—Apia Beach Incident—Samoan Music
    and Dancing—I am nearly drowned—Native Song—Native Music and my own
    Compositions, which reproduce South Sea Characteristic Music and
    Atmosphere—I sleep in Cannibalistic Cooling-off Larder—“Barney Dear”
    and Old Naylor

ON the beach about a mile from Apia, in our ramblings together, we came
across Robert Louis Stevenson. He was paddling in a shallow by the
shore, his pants tucked up to his knees, his legs sun-scorched and
browned. It was fearfully hot, and at first he did not recognise me, for
I was as brown as a nut, and had on a tremendous umbrella hat; the rim
was a foot wide and dipped downwards. I had told him when I last saw him
that I was going away to South America, as at the time I thought I had
secured a berth on a “Frisco” schooner that lay in the Bay, and so he
was somewhat surprised to see me.

I had just caught a monster sea-eel, and as he gazed upon it I offered
it to him. He would not take it till I convinced him that I did not want
it. His friend plucked a palm leaf and gingerly grabbed the slippery
victim, and as he did so, we were all suddenly startled by hearing
shouts and the sounds of pistol shots along the shore.

“What’s that?” said R.L.S. He seemed pleasurably excited at the idea of
some adventure coming, and we all went off together in the direction of
the noise. At that time there was often a feud between the various
native tribes who differed on some political matter; also there were
often fights between the natives, some who were adherents to King
Malieatoa Laupepa, and others who swore by Mataafa. It so happened that
it was only a squabble of a minor kind, and when we arrived near the
scene of the conflict, the ambushed natives bolted.

Stevenson seemed somewhat disappointed. I gathered from his manner that
he would have loved to have seen a real native battle, for his eyes
flashed with excitement at the prospect of what might be happening as we
went up the steep shore, and his friend, who was a careful and
jovial-looking man, about Stevenson’s own age, warned him to be careful
as he heedlessly went forward.

Out came the native children rushing excitedly from among the forest
trees; Stevenson spoke to them half in pigeon-English and half in
Samoan, as they excitedly pointed toward the direction in which the
guilty natives had gone. All being quiet, and the prospect of more
excitement from that quarter disappearing, we went back to the shore,
and searching about found the eel which Stevenson’s friend had dropped
at the sound of the pistol firing. Having found it, we all went off into
a native homestead some distance away from the shore, wherein lived a
family who appeared to be on very good terms with R.L.S.

They were all dressed in the “upper ten” native fashion of Samoa. One of
them was wearing an old American naval officer’s cast-off suit. The
women had their hair done in fashionable style with red and white
blossoms stuck in at the bunched sides, also on their native girdles,
and what with their plump handsome faces and intelligent eyes, looked
strikingly attractive. There were several children, and they all
welcomed him and rolloped around us with delight.

Stevenson was soon engaged with the elder, who, I think, was a Mataafa
chief, who could not speak English; but R.L.S. seemed to understand all
he said, and by the way he made him repeat phrases over and over again,
I should think the chief was correcting Stevenson’s pronunciation of
some Samoan words.

The native boys and girls were dressed neatly in ridis, and tappu-cloth
blouses, their hair parted and combed smoothly, and very polite, too,
they were, as they brought Stevenson their school-books, wherein they
had written their English lessons. Stevenson seemed to take a deep
interest in their efforts, patted them on the heads approvingly as he
examined their books and this greatly delighted them. In the corner of
the large shed-like place, wherein we all stood, the youngest son of
about six years of age, quite naked, stood on his head singing with
gusto, as R.L.S. gave him a lead pencil as a gift, for he seemed to be
very fond of children and greatly enjoyed seeing their delight. Lifting
the little girls up, he held them high over his head, as the parents
smiled approval at his antics to make them laugh, and Samoan children
are never so pleasing and pretty as when their cheery little brown faces
laugh, as their mouths stretch, and all their pearly teeth are exposed
to view.

As we said good-bye to the chief and his wife, Stevenson put the
youngest girl on his back as though to take her away with him. Although
she was only a mite of about three years old, she seemed to see the
joke, and waved her hands towards the homestead as we all walked away:
then when he put her to the ground she scampered off so fast homeward
that you couldn’t see her tiny legs going!

I am telling you all this so as to attempt to give an idea of
Stevenson’s character, as he appeared to my eyes as a lad. It was then
evening time, and the sun was setting over the hills as we all went down
the forest track, and in the distance two white women and a native were
coming up towards us. It was R.L.S.’s wife and a friend. Mrs Stevenson
affectionately greeted him with a loud kiss! And then started to give
him a dressing-down for going off and not keeping some domestic

She was a vivacious amiable lady, without any side whatever; dressed
like an Australian squatter’s wife, and bare throated like Stevenson
himself, and they both wore white shoes without wearing socks, in sandal

As we walked along the track Stevenson was very observant and asked the
natives the names of various tropical trees. He had a cheery musical
laugh, and a pronounced habit of gazing abstractedly in front of him
while anyone was talking to him, a habit which was especially noticeable
when his wife was with him, for he seemed to look upon her as a sort of
helpmate to relieve him and take the burden off his shoulders, by
answering and apologising to those who interrupted his meditations. At
other times he was just the reverse and strangely talkative, and could
not talk fast enough to his friends, whom he seemed very much attached
to, as he took down notes in a pocket-book. He had the appearance of a
man of very strong character, affectionate and tender to children and
all those about him.

I should think he was one of those who would show great courage if he
were called on to do so, for once on Apia beach a white man was
thrashing a Samoan boy who had been stealing fruit and fish from a
basket which he had left outside a grog saloon. Stevenson, who happened
to be strolling down the beach to take a boat out to a schooner anchored
in the bay, caught sight of the coward blows being inflicted on the
frightened lad, and as the trader did not cease, Stevenson went straight
up to him and pushed him aside, and heatedly expostulated with him about
his brutality. The ruffian stared astonished at R.L.S. and then used
some offensive epithet, at which Stevenson’s face went rigid as he
stared at him with flashing eyes, and almost lost control of himself. I
saw that had not the man had the instinct to see that Stevenson was not
the slightest bit frightened of him and gone away muttering to himself,
Stevenson would have knocked him down.

I think it was that same evening that I went to a native feast at Satoa
village. The guests were mostly of the Samoan best-class natives. It was
a lovely night. Overhead sailed the full moon in the dark blue vault of
a cloudless heaven, as by the huddled native village homes the assembled
privileged guests squatted around, forming a ring of dark bodies as they
watched the weird fantastic dance which celebrated the birth of a child
to a celebrated chief. The stage of the forest floor was adorned with
the Samoan professional dancers and singers. I shall always remember the
weird beauty of that romantic scene as they swayed and danced, chanting
strange ear-haunting melodies, all their faces alight with animation and
the joy of being alive as they sang old South Sea love songs, suddenly
stopping in their wild dances as the words of the choruses breathed
thoughts of love and impassioned vows of plighted lovers. They would
stop perfectly still and gaze for a few moments, staring in each other’s
eyes like statues, or the figures of romantic love pictures, only their
lips moving as they sang the words of delight into the listening maids’
ears, then once more suddenly start off whirling round with their arms,
swaying rhythmically, their faces gazing upwards, and sometimes over
their shoulders.

I can truly say that I have never seen anything so really romantic, or
heard music that so truly expressed human emotions, excepting perhaps
when, some years after, I was troubadouring on the frontier of Spain,
and played the violin, accompanying the Spanish peasants as they sang in
parts the romantic “Estudiantina.” The Spanish maids gazed into their
lovers’ eyes, as they sang, much the same as the savages of the South
Seas did on that night of which I am now telling you.

A day or so after the preceding incidents, I made the acquaintance of a
Mr Powell, who was a friend of Stevenson’s. I was playing the violin on
an American ship that had put into Apia harbour, and he was on board. He
was one of the head missionaries, and struck me as a very pleasant
gentleman. I was trying to get a berth on the boat, which was going to
San Francisco, but I did not succeed. The night before she left I was in
the fo’c’sle, playing the fiddle, with the sailors who had accordions
and banjos, and as we were playing “Down by the Swanee River” R.L.S.
peeped in at the door. I could just see him by the dim oil lamp, as he
gazed over the shoulder of Mr Powell, his friend, who was with him. His
face lit up with a gleam of pleasure as he listened to the rough sailor
concert as one of the crew danced a jig.

Though Stevenson at the time must have been in consumption, he never
struck me as delicate, but, on the other hand, looked one of the thin
wiry kind, always alert, and boyishly curious in all that was going on
around him; when he laughed it was as though to himself over some
pleasant memory, and his eyes gazed with a feminine gleam, half
revealing the emotional strain of the woman and the firmness of the man
in his intellectual face—the mixture that all brave men are made up of.
I was unusually observant at that time through my increased knowledge
that he was a writer far above the average, and I also noticed the
respect with which he was treated by those around him, and especially
the natives, who were comical in their unconcealed pride when he spoke
to them.

If I had seen and spoken to R.L.S. without knowing who he was, I should
have thought he was a skipper or mate of some American or English ship;
his manner was easy, in fact, almost rollicking at times.

I met Mrs Stevenson again later, and she asked me to come up to their
home and bring the violin, and chided me for not keeping an appointment
I had made before. I promised to go, but never went; unfortunately I
went off in the morning of the appointed day, on a cruise with my
comrade. A hurricane came and blew us out to sea, several times we
nearly turned upside down and once a sea went right over the boat, and
away went my comrade. I leaned over the side to drag him back, and he
grabbed hold of me and over I went also. We could both swim, but I went
under, came up and found I was under the boat. It was a terrible feeling
of despair and fright that went through me as my head bobbed under the
keel; the universe seemed to be a tremendous black grip that had got me
into its death-clutch. All the life in my body seemed to wrench my bones
apart as I swallowed water and gave a desperate plunge downward in my
last bit of consciousness, and came up to the surface just by the boat’s

My comrade clutched my head by the hair, and when I was in the boat
again safe I almost hugged him with affection, the wind and the flying
clouds overhead, all sunlit, made me feel delirious as I thought how
near I had been to never seeing them again! At last, after a terrible
struggle, we landed some miles round the coast. Our hands were bleeding
and blistered through straining at the oars to keep the boat’s head to
the seas, and desperate bailing to stop us from being swamped.

As we landed on the beach and pulled our boat safely up the shore, an
old native man came running down from the palm patch and offered us
shelter, which we gladly accepted. He turned out to be an old servant of
some Mataafa chief, full of spite for being out of favour with his late
illustrious master, but proud of being a late vassal to Samoan royal
blood. He had a nice roomy homestead, two large rooms. Though he was
old, his wife looked only twenty. They had one child, a few months old.
My chum and I kissed it affectionately and drank bowls of kava which our
host kindly gave us. We stayed the night, slept on sleeping mats. All
night torrents of rain fell, the hurricane and wind nearly blew the
house down and lifted me off my mat, for the room was open three feet
from the ground all round in the Samoan style. It was a warm wind; with
the moan of the seas breaking on the shore below, the moaning of the
bending coco-palms and the wailing cry of the baby at regular intervals,
I had no sleep.

[Illustration: PARA RUBBER-TREE]

In the morning we went down to the boat; our fishing tackle, revolver
and my coat had vanished from the locker. I had my suspicions about our
host, and we felt very much annoyed, for we could not go back and accuse
him after his hospitality, as we were only absolutely certain in our
suspicions, and had no witnesses to prove we had been betrayed—like the
astute Fijian maids about whom I told you some pages back. I deeply
regretted the incidents of that cruise, which caused my not being able
to keep the appointment with Mrs Stevenson.

When I arrived back I went to their home, but they were all away on a
cruising trip, I think. I stayed with Holders, my comrade, for some
little time after that, long enough to teach him to play simple melodies
on the fiddle, and on those nights I composed some of the melodies of my
“Entr’actes,” “Song of the Night,” “The Monk’s Dream” and many others
which have since been embodied in my compositions for pianoforte,
orchestra and military bands.[5] I also composed at that time my waltz,
“A Soldier’s Dream,” which was played at Government House, Sydney. I
received a letter of praise from Sir Henry Parkes and felt very pleased;
that waltz became popular all over New South Wales, although it was
unpublished, and played from manuscript.

Footnote 5:

  Published by Boosey & Co., London.

Holders was not one of the polished kind, but he was better, being a
brave good-hearted fellow, and I liked his companionship all the more
because he did not drink. Though I found drunken men amusing in my
travels of the South Seas, my instincts secretly detested them, and gave
me a kind of sorrow akin to sympathy for men so affflicted.

Eventually we both secured berths on a large schooner, bound for Fiji.
On board was an American missionary who had not been long out from Home.
He became very friendly with me, and I liked him very well, and there
was a link of comradeship between us for we were both homesick. The crew
were nearly all Samoans who cheerily sang the whole day and night. I
slept in the deck-house with them as there was no room aft, where I
should have slept, as we had four passengers. The skipper was never
sober, and came to the deck-house one night and continued to sing. I
think he had got the delirium tremens. He made us crowd sail on when it
was blowing a gale and take sail in when a four-knot breeze was on;
swore that he saw spirits dancing on the deck, and that the natives had
put evil spirits and demons on his track. He went off to sleep at last,
and I and the mate took charge of the ship and the passengers were much
relieved, and the Samoans started off on their old idol songs _ad

Two of them had fine voices; their songs were old folk-lore chants
telling of South Sea heroes. I would get them to sing to me and so
learnt them off by heart and played them on the violin, but the melodies
all seemed to lose their wild atmosphere when played as simple strains
and divided into bars, unwedded to the Samoan words and the intonation
of the wild childlike voices of the Islanders. Most of the South Sea
strains are in minor keys; I give you here as near as possible my own
impression of the melodies as I heard them sung.

[Music: _Andante._    _Chant Style._    Composed by A.S.M.
_mp_  Lais
(Drums)    _ff_    lais ... lais ...

When we arrived at Viti-Levu, I went ashore and stayed for several days
and had the pleasure of hearing a Fijian princess sing native songs. She
was a granddaughter of King Thakambau, and resided in one of the best
houses in Suva, was a good hand at playing the guitar and took an
interest in me, as I was a musician; her husband, a Fijian chief, had a
deep mellow voice which was astonishingly musical for a Fijian, and they
sang together to me in their native home, squatting on their mats side
by side. The princess was a beautiful-looking woman for a full-blooded
native, and I spent a good deal of time with them, and really
appreciated her songs and playing. Some of the melodies she sang had the
Western note in them. As near as I can I reproduce here one of my own
impressions of a characteristic Samoan song’s note.

_Moderato._    _mp_    Words and Music by A.S.M.
Mia Ta - lo - fa, The chiefs are sleep - ing, the
seas in moon - light sing. The
REFRAIN,    _Moderato_.    _con expressione_.
night-winds are sing - ing my Ma - la - boo maid
Un - der the co - - - co - palms.

Footnote 6:

  “Mia Talofa”: Samoan waltz, for pianoforte and as a song. Also for
  orchestra and military band. Published in London.

I could not stand the skipper of the boat which we had come across by (I
think the name of the schooner was the _Nelson_) and so I left, and my
friend Holders with me. We got into pretty low water in about a week,
and both eventually secured a berth on another ship, a small barque,
which was going to the Marquesas Islands. The mate was ill, and went
into hospital at Suva, and I secured the berth. She was not sailing for
two or three days, and so we were still stranded, beachcombers and
cashless, but I met a Mr Fisher, who was a wealthy trader and had
settled on the Islands. I went up to his house with my comrade and took
the violin for an evening’s pleasure. We arrived a few minutes before
the dining hour (in the true poet and musician style of the South Seas
and Western Seas) because we had not a cent between us and on the
Islands it was a great breach of etiquette not to treat the host before
the meal hour. Mr and Mrs Fisher were on the look-out for us and our
programme went off well, for we sat down to dinner almost immediately.
We had a splendid time, received some cash in hand, warmly shook our
host’s hand, and departed late at night in a misty dream, for we were
not used to the strong wine which our host was so liberal with, and
seemed to walk on air as our legs went up the white moonlit forest track
as we tramped along together merrily singing years ago.

Next morning we were aboard the boat and stopped on her till she sailed,
and I think we put in about six weeks of cruising, calling at Samoa and
then going to the Marquesas Islands. I went ashore at nearly all the old
places. In Hiva-oa, my comrade and I saw the old cannibal courts wherein
the grand “Long Pig” feasts had taken place as the natives ate the
bodies of their dead who had been slain in battle. It was sunset as we
stood by the big banyans gazing on the terrible arena and the
sacrificial altar, whereon the mortally wounded, still lingering,
received the last club smash, that sent their souls to Eternity and
their bodies to the stomachs of mortality, and as I watched the natives,
who with childlike eyes stood by us cadging for money, sunset blazed on
the primeval ruins of that terrible amphitheatre and before my eyes the
vision of the dying sun-fused twilight lay over everything. I saw the
tiers of long-ago cannibal guests arise in the mist, with their hideous
faces aglow with hunger as the mangled victims fizzed on the
cannibalistic spits. I heard the sounds of the long-dead laughter as the
coco-palms and banyans around sighed into silence as a gust of wind came
in from the sea, and with the horror of what must have been, I kicked
the native and pushed him away as he clambered, begging for money all
the time that I was watching and dreaming.

We then went to the native village, and became acquainted with a
half-caste Marquesan. He was a convivial old fellow and followed us
wherever we went. We could not get rid of him; we gave him many hints,
and even told him at last that we wanted to kneel and pray together and
would he please depart and leave us to our devotion; but no, he was as
relentless as Fate and immovable, and so, not being able to kill him, we
put up with him. He took us miles away to show us another old arena
where the Marquesans had in the past fought their historic duels, till
the victim fell and was eaten.

Tired out we slept in a little stone house till daybreak; it was a snug
little room, with stone shelves in it. On one of these I slept, out of
the reach of tropical lizards and other odious insects. In the morning I
asked our “old man of the sea” what the house was, and found that it was
an old dead-house, a kind of cooling place where the bodies had been
kept before they were cooked. I had slept soundly on that shelf. I
didn’t even dream! And how many thousands of dead men, dead girls, dead
mothers and children had slept their last cold sleep on the spot whereon
I had innocently lay, breathing and warm? I had a cold chill on me the
whole morning as I thought of the dead of the past, and how I had warmed
that last bed. At last we were rid of the half-caste and rambled about
on our own, and saw hundreds of natives at a village near Taapauku. It
was a beautiful spot by the mountain. Banyans, tropic palms, coco-nuts
and gorgeous-coloured flowers swarmed everywhere, as between the patches
of trees, across tracks passed the natives, almost naked, singing and
carrying loads of fruit, etc., as they stooped and went into their
native dens that stood in the cleared spaces.

That night we saw two Marquesans fighting with clubs. They were jealous
over a woman; there were no other whites (excepting some Chinamen) near
at the time, and we could do nothing. The fight did not last long. They
held their clubs in a firm grip, and swayed and ran round each other
seeking a weak spot. They were swarthy men, and very powerful-looking,
and as we watched under the verandah of a native house, down came the
club on the head of the smaller man and the blood and brain matter
splashed all over the place as the skull flattened like an egg-shell: I
will say no more, excepting that I felt sick for some days. On the way
back we met our “old man of the sea” again, but managed to give him the
slip as we ran down a side forest track as fast as we could go.

Telling you of him reminds me of an experience I had in Sydney once. I
had met by chance, in a saloon in George Street, an old man who had been
a sailor. He had been drinking, and I treated him, as he kept imploring
me to do so, and at length he became very confidential. I gathered from
all he said that he was a social outcast; but nevertheless I liked him.
He was really a most queer character and in the end became an
intolerable nuisance. He managed to know where I lived, and wherever I
would go he would go, and if I got ahead of him, and was remorsefully
pleased that I was at last rid of him, up he would come! He had the
instinct of a bloodhound, I think.

I lived in a little two-roomed wooden house near the bush beyond
Leichardt, off the Paramatta Road, Sydney. He was homeless, and so I
took him in and gave him a bed on the floor, but I was down on him if he
was drunk. His name was Naylor and I think he was a Welshman; he had a
beautiful voice, and though he was an old villain, he would sing most
pathetically as I played the violin by night in our little home. He was
so drunk repeatedly, and caused me such sorrow, that at last I turned
him out. I thought I had got rid of him, but as I lay asleep at midnight
I was suddenly awakened by hearing the sound of singing coming toward my
home, down the road—it was Naylor! for I recognised the voice. He was
singing “Barney, take me Home again!” and, notwithstanding my stern
resolution to have no more to do with him, my heart was touched and made
me follow my impulses as the silence of the night was broken by the song
of appeal. I crept to my window and peeped through a chink; there he
stood white bearded and drunk in the moonlight, appealing to me with his
song over and over again. Of course I let him in, and night after night
I was disturbed by that old song.

One night the crisis arrived. I was suddenly awakened by a terrible
crash at my front door, and the old “Barney Dear” was being sung with
ferocious energy. I had overslept; he was outside terribly drunk,
imploring to be let in. I was obdurate; and would not stir. At last his
voice as he shouted, “Dear old Middy, let me in, I’ve got a roasted fowl
here for you,” woke my curiosity, so anguish-stricken and appealing was
his voice that I jumped up at once and looked out of the window. A large
fire was blazing in my yard, and over it, spluttering and fizzling on an
extemporised spit, was a fowl cooking! Unplucked, entrails and all,
there it steamed, just as he had stolen it off the roost of my
neighbour’s fowl-house, a hundred yards off.

As I opened the door I gazed sternly at him. He seemed surprised that I
was not as pleased as he was with himself. I positively refused to eat
of the fowl, and at this he got into a fearful rage, and kicked it as it
hung on the spit. Well, I even forgave him for that night’s work. He’s
dead now, and I always feel a bit sad when anyone sings, “Barney, take
me Home again.” I remember years after, when in England, I sat by the
fire telling my mother and sisters of old Naylor, and how relieved they
seemed when I told them I had let the old man in, when he had sung,
“Barney, take me Home again.”

It is strange how secretly in our hearts we have a world of sympathy for
the villain, especially old ones, and had Naylor been a good pious old
man he would have never been heard of.

A very strange thing happened some years after, when I was mate on a
Clipper boat. A Welsh sailor by the name of Naylor, a member of my crew,
showed a strong resemblance to the old Naylor of my Sydney experience,
so much so that, one night while I was on the poop, I called him up and
said, “Are you any relation to a Lloyd Naylor, an old man whom I had the
pleasure of knowing in Australia?”

“That must have been my father,” he said, and he was delighted to know
that I had known his father. I did not tell him of my experiences with
his father, but said, “Naylor, your father was a fine man, a great
friend of mine,” and sneaking the fellow into my cabin, I opened a
bottle of whisky, poured him out a tumbler full to the brim, and by the
way he smacked his lips I perceived that he was a real chip of the old

[Illustration: NATIVE POTTERY]



Back in Apia—Robert Louis Stevenson—Chief Mate Herberts lost
    Overboard—Savage Island—Thoughts of the Workman’s Train to London
    and back to the Suburbs

FROM Hiva-oa we went to Fatou Hiva, then to the Paumotu group that
sparkled like Isles of Eden in the vast shining water-tracks of the
Pacific; for miles and miles there are islands dotted, and I felt some
of the enthusiasm that R.L.S. felt when he visited the same Islands, and
he did not exaggerate about the beauty and novelty of the Marquesas and
Paumotus group. I heard him telling some friends of his experiences at
Hiva-oa and elsewhere as he delightedly told them anecdotes of Marquesan
etiquette, and I daresay I saw him writing some of the experiences which
he gave to the world in his books, for one day in Apia, while I was
having some dinner in the German Hotel, I sauntered around and, gazing
through one of the doors, saw Stevenson quite alone, sitting at a little
table with a bundle of paper by him, writing; he stooped very much while
he was writing, which must have been very bad for anyone who suffered
from chest complaint.

By his side was a glass of something; he was quite oblivious to all
around him, and did not notice anything. I think he often went to that
silent hotel room so as to get away from everyone and write.

A gentleman came into the bar while I was there, and walking towards the
door of the room wherein Stevenson was writing he was spotted by the
hotel manager, who shouted to him that the room was engaged, and I
believe Stevenson tipped the manager of the hotel so as to be left to

After calling at Society Islands we left for Samoa, where once again I
met the incorrigible Hornecastle. He had been away to the Solomon Group,
and as I strolled out the next morning after my arrival, I met him on
the beach in a hot argument with two Samoan sailors, who were demanding
their wages.

“Not a God-damned cent,” Hornecastle was shouting, as I came up. It
appeared they had contracted to do a week’s job and had done one day of
it and then demanded the full week’s money. That was real Samoan all
over, especially those who were Christianised; they were terrible
hypocrites; would do you by tricks, and then go off to the mission class
and shout “Me good Samoan mans, all good, no steal. Halee, hal-ee
ju-ja!” rolling their eyes skyward terrifically the whole time. Some of
them are really serious in their belief and they are then very
dangerous. I met a fierce-looking fellow one night and he started to try
and reform me. I was sitting talking to Hornecastle and two Americans at
the time, and they had been giving him a drink or two and then they
started to chaff him about the missionaries, and I laughed at something
Hornecastle said about a missionary who had married; in a moment he
lifted a knife, and if I had not dodged swiftly I should have had it in
my ribs up to the hilt.

He was not a full-blooded Samoan. I have never seen a Samoan who had
once accepted your friendship turn traitor afterwards. But even the true
Samoans are not so trustworthy when they have got the religious mania on
them; they are a superstitious people, and the solemn-voiced
missionaries chanting into their childish ears create extraordinary
illusions in their minds. Some go raving mad and others go off to the
other Isles and live a life of isolation and devote all their remaining
days to begging the one great white God to save them from hell fire. I
have seen them myself in this miserable state, deserted by all their
relatives, and when they become dangerous they often suddenly disappear,
for the Samoans quietly finish them off on dark nights! They club them
and bury them with sorrow in their hearts, just the same as Europeans
do, only our methods are perhaps the unkindest—we bury our insane in an
asylum and they bury them under the forest earth and flowers. They do
have lunatic asylums in the Islands, but they are for the milder cases,
and the Government found that the incarcerating principle was very much
abused, for the Samoans soon got to know of the free food, lodgings and
comforts of the asylums of the South Seas, and drastic measures had to
be taken to end the numerous cases of mild madness that kept seizing
Samoans and Fijians who were down on their luck and wanted a rest. I do
not know what the South Sea Islands are like now, but when I was there
penal servitude was one of the greatest honours that could be conferred
on the middle-class Fijians, Tongans, and Samoans, for they got food in
the prisons that they only smelt outside, also warm comfortable beds,
and when the discharge day arrived they could be seen leaving the prison
gate wailing bitterly over the cruel flight of time! Nor is this an
attempt of mine to be funny. I have seen the natives deliberately come
on to a schooner’s deck, and right in front of my eyes start to unscrew
the cabin skylight to steal it, so that they could get, as they say, “in
pison place.”

Again I fell in with a “new chum” who had just arrived and cleared from
a schooner. Together we secured positions as superintendent post-diggers
for the German Commissioners.

We had several natives under us. It was a look-out job; we had to watch
and see that they toiled without cessation. At first we were kind to
them, but it did not pay; the natives were very much like children, they
soon took advantage, and so we soon changed our manner, looked stern as
charity organisation officials, and once more obtained the approval of
Van Haustein, the head overseer.

We had been extremely short of cash. The storekeepers required the
wherewithal down (as elsewhere) before parting with necessaries which we
had not got, and which we anxiously needed to make us respectable Samoan
citizens. We did not stick the job more than two weeks. It was squally
weather the whole time, and my eyes often inclined seaward as longing
thoughts came to me of home and England.

About this time I once more met Stevenson. It was a wild night. I had
just returned from a short cruise to one of the off Isles of the main
Samoan group; rain was falling heavily, in true South Sea style. I had
taken refuge in a native bungalow by Apia beach. Close by lived my
friend the Samoan shell-seller, whom I have before mentioned. We were
almost drenched to the skin, and were talking with some natives and an
old shell-back who also had taken shelter, when out of the darkness,
across the open track, came hurrying Stevenson. He was dressed in a
large extemporised hood of sail-canvas to protect him from the torrent
of rain, probably lent to him by some friendly trading skipper.
Breathless he stood beside us, was quite chummy with the natives, and
seemed in a most amiable mood; he was smoking, talking to the natives
one side in Samoan and joking with the shell-back, who “sir-ed” him, the
other side. It was a terrible night. As we stood there we could hear the
seas thundering against the barrier-reefs as they rebounded heavily and
threw their manes of spray shoreward, where lay the wrecked warship
_Adler_ with a broken back, high and dry, thrown up by the hurricane of
some time back. Overhead moaned the bending coco-palms that stood
scattered about amongst the native bungalows. Soon the roof of our
shelter started to badly leak, whereupon we all decided to make a dive
for the old shell-seller’s home, hard by. Stevenson led the way,
enjoying the venture, laughing and running like a schoolboy. Though the
distance was only a hundred yards or so, we all received a good soaking,
Stevenson excepted, who held his canvas sail-sheet with arms
outstretched as he ran, making a sheltering roof over his head. The
shell-seller was asleep on his mat, but upon our arrival at once got up.
He slept “all standing,” in the middle-class South Sea style, and was
not overburdened with clothes. Lighting his candles, he did his best to
welcome and entertain us. As I have before said, the walls, indeed his
home itself, seemed composed of shining shells, all the varieties of the
South Seas, pearl, red, white and glittering rows, small ones and some
weighing half-a-hundredweight, made up the length and breadth of his
walls, beautiful shapes and curves, glittering as they reflected the
candle gleams. As we all stood gazing in the gloom, Stevenson forgot the
late hour and the rain, and with enthusiasm went off into natural
history as the old fellow, who was an enthusiast in his art, got very
delighted to be able to expatiate over the various specimens, the depths
and dangers he had encountered whilst gathering together his vast shell
tribe. He was overjoyed when Stevenson bargained with him for a
quantity, and salaamed in a ridiculous way, till Stevenson’s mouth
curved with humour as he strove to be polite to the old chap every time
that his garment, a torn sailor’s shirt, touched the ground in front as
he bowed! I do not know if that particular shell-house has been
described by visitors to Apia of that time; if not, it should certainly
have been numbered amongst the curio sights, both for its ingenious
construction and for the combined artistic and commercial instinct of
the Polynesians that it revealed. As we stood smoking in the doorway
that faced inland, we could hear the songs and laughter of traders and
sailors who drank deeply in the small grog shanty not far off. I have no
doubt that Stevenson did not seek its shelter because of its extra
gloomy side rooms kept by dubious Samoan women, and to be seen going in
or out on a dark night would not enhance the reputation of anyone. It
must have then been close on midnight; the rain suddenly ceased
sufficiently to encourage us all to go out and venture on a run for it.
Between the squalls we all made headway, tacking from bungalow to
bungalow; some of the inhabitants we found awake, squatting just inside
the door-hole. As we dodged from shelter to shelter Stevenson seemed to
enjoy the whole thing as much as a boy on a truant night out. Of course,
we all were familiar enough with native homes, but the late hour, the
rain-dodging, the jovial receptions we had as we suddenly all scrambled
into them without ceremony, was an experience that had a deal of novelty
in it, and at times whilst we were on flight strikingly weird, for as
the moon overhead burst through the flying scud, Stevenson with his
oilskin canvas sail stretched out by his extended arms flapping looked
like some forest fiend running, only his long tight-breeched legs
revealed as he flew ahead of us all across the moonlit track to the next
shelter. As I write it seems like a dream to me that the lively
boyish-mannered man of that stormy night in Apia years ago was the now
idealised poet and author, Robert Louis Stevenson.

[Illustration: LOADING BANANAS]

Before I left the Islands I went off on a schooner to Ellice Islands and
then on to Santa Cruz and called at the Islands of the Solomon Group. In
a typhoon that struck us fifty miles north of Rotuma we lost the chief
mate, Herberts, and a Chinaman who was a deck hand. I was asleep on deck
at the time right aft, snug by the stern sheets. Before I went to sleep
the night was calm and clear, the stars shining brilliantly all around,
and we were just drifting to a lazy breeze at about four knots an hour.
Suddenly I was awakened by a terrible crash and an awful typhoon was on;
the seas were rising rapidly and it seemed that hail and rain were
falling in a deluge, but the sky was quite clear overhead, for it was
the rifts of the waves all around being whipped off by the wind. I
scrambled along the deck, the skipper was calling me. “Hi, hi, sir,” I
shouted, and in a trice we got the sails in, and then, as I stood by the
skipper holding on to some cordage for dear life as she lay over, the
seas lifted their heads to windward and as their tops hissed and foamed
a tremendous sea came over. I distinctly felt the boat sink under the
weight of that ocean of water. The skipper grabbed hold of me and I
grabbed hold of him; the sailors forward by the fo’c’sle saved
themselves by rushing in the fo’c’sle alley-way. We heard a cry above
the thundering of the waves and then the vessel righted; the skipper was
overboard head and shoulders, half through poop bulwark bars and
cordage! I had hold of his leg! I was holding on to save myself, and so
saved my life and his too! Two sailors came to our assistance; we were
both half insensible but scrambled to our feet as Alf, the bos’n,
shouted “Sir, the mate and the Chinese hand have gone overboard.” I
shall never forget those words, and the sudden realisation of what it
meant, as we all stood and gazed out across the black waters as the
mountainous seas arose slowly and grandly, blazing with phosphorous
foams, and as they travelled onward the typhoon blew with such terrific
force that our clothes were ripped up! It was impossible to attempt to
save them, our boats were all washed away; once we all thought we heard
a faint cry across the waters, and that was the last of John Herberts,
chief mate, and Ching the deck hand.

I stuck to that skipper and eventually arrived back at Vanua Levu, and
went over on a cutter to Samoa again, and for a long time I was
despondent and had sleepless nights, as I would lay awake and remember.

Before I left Samoa I went over to Savage Island with Castle, who seemed
at that time mighty pleased with himself over some contract he had got
to take a cargo of copra and other stuff to Tonga. It was at Savage
Island that I stayed with an Englishman who had married a native woman.
He had several children and they seemed very happy. I stayed with him
for two weeks before returning to Apia with Castle. He would often talk
to me about England in a sentimental way and knock the ash out of his
pipe and sigh, and yet he seemed, as I have said, happy in his free
life, for he had a beautiful plantation and grew all kinds of tropic
fruit, and his wife was a most pleasant woman; indeed I think he was
much happier than thousands of English people in old England who live in
the London suburbs and toil their lives away to bring up their children,

                   And for their sakes eternally
                     Ride up to London Town,
                   Each morning pulled up in the train
                     And each night pulled back down!



Father Damien and the Leper Girl, as told to me by Raeltoa the Samoan

I WILL now tell you of one of those missionaries who were sincere in
their faith, unselfish in their ambition and moreover suffered in
sympathy over the sorrows of the sick. In a village home about eight
miles inland from Apia, I had the good fortune to come across a
pure-blooded Polynesian who was a poet and musician. I think I stayed
with him for about five or six weeks, but in that little time we became
the best of friends. I well remember his intelligent brown eyes gazing
delightedly around as I played the violin to him and his pretty
daughter, a child of eight years, as she sat on a mat by the door and
clapped her little brown hands with hysterical pleasure at the sweet
noise of the “piddle,” as she called my fiddle. I would extemporise a
chanting accompaniment to his native compositions as he sat beside me,
and his wife sang away in the shadows of the homestead, like a wild
bird. She, too, had a beautiful face; her eyes were very
earnest-looking. They had four children altogether, and as I sat by
night in their snug little room, I could see the four little brown heads
lying fast asleep in a row in the next room, all stretched out on one
large sleeping mat.

Raeltoa, for that was his name, was a Catholic and had known Father
Damien, who lived and died just about that time on Molokai, the leper
island of the Hawaiian Group. As a boy he had lived with Damien in
Honolulu, and had been a servant to him, and so I heard first hand from
Raeltoa little incidents of Damien’s life and character, the man who has
since those days become famous the world over for his devotion to the
lepers and who sacrificed his own life so that he could minister to
their needs and brighten their lives of living death with the hope of
another life beyond their own loathsome existence. All lepers were
searched for and caught as though they were escaped convicts, and then
exiled for ever to Molokai, a bare lonely isle of the Pacific, whereon
they lived in wretched huts, wailing their days away as the dreadful
scourge ate deeper into their wasting bodies. One by one as the months
and years crept by they died and were buried by the solitary missionary
Damien, who lived alone with them and buried thousands with his own
hands. Eventually he contracted the dreadful scourge himself and died,
but not till he had caught the ear of civilisation afar and had vastly
improved the conditions of the leper isle and built better huts and made
the lepers more contented with their lot.

Well, as I was saying, Raeltoa knew him well, and told me that, though
Damien was very morose and would get at times into a terrible rage with
him, he was a good master and would treat him and all the natives who
were under his care as though they were his own children, “and he most
true to God,” said Raeltoa, as the tears crept into his eyes over old
memories. Then he told me how Damien would sit up all night long
“talking to great God playing and playing” (meaning praying). It
appeared that Raeltoa had a relative who had signs of leprosy. She was a
Samoan girl of about twenty years of age, and when the Government
announced that all the lepers were to be exiled to Molokai she was
broken-hearted, for she was “nice happy and much love my brother,” said
Raeltoa. One night, about three months after the search parties had been
in force, she came to Raeltoa’s home, and flinging her arms about him,
wailed and appealed to him to save her. The tears were in the Samoan’s
eyes as he told me all this. It appeared that a jealous woman, who was
also in love with the man that the poor leper girl loved, had told the
missionaries or the authorities that Loloa, for that was her name, had
signs of the leprosy patch on her shoulders, and so they were after her.
For several weeks she had been hiding in the forest, trembling and
frightened out of her life, till at last, hungry and nearly dead with
grief, she suddenly appeared at Raeltoa’s home. He had hidden her for
several days, and then she agreed to go with him to Damien and ask for
his protection. One night, with Raeltoa, she came out into the forest,
almost resigned to her fate—for it had come to her ears that her lover
was paying attention to the woman who had put the leper-hunters on her
track, and now she felt that she had nothing much to live for—and the
poor forsaken leper girl took the risk and appeared in the doorway of
Damien’s room at midnight with her one true friend by her side. In her
childish native language, she told Damien the truth as he sat in his
hut, gazing steadily in front of him, for it was his duty to give her up
to the authorities. As she knelt before him with uplifted hands, her
eyes made more beautiful through the earnestness of despair, Damien
still gazed upon her as though fascinated by her sorrow and helpless
loveliness, and then he bade her rise, and told Raeltoa to take her home
again, and hide her before he was tempted to do that which he ought to
do. So Raeltoa took her away again and Damien and he built her a little
hut by the forest, where she could be isolated and cared for, “and she
was there for many many moons,” said Raeltoa to me, as I listened.

“And what happened then?” I asked Raeltoa, and he bowed his head and
said: “Loloa was happy, and she loved the white missionary, ‘Father
Damien,’ more than she loved the man whom her rival had stolen from her,
and so she was happy,” and as he said this he sighed and dropped his
eyes, and I knew that he had also loved the beautiful leper girl Loloa.
“And what became of Loloa?” I asked again.

“They came one night when all was silent, excepting the sighing of the
coco-palms by the voice of the sea. I was alone at my home dreaming,
when I heard the scream far off in the forest, and I knew then that they
had found her, and they took her away, and I never saw her again, and
Father Damien prayed for many days and many nights and did eat of no
food, and I saw the white missionary cry, and cry, to himself many
times, and a long time after he too went to Molokai and one year after
Loloa died and Damien buried her,” and saying this the Samoan placed his
arm gently round his wife, who had sat listening in a wondering way. She
could not understand all the language which we were speaking in, but she
nestled closer to him as he spoke, for his manner was earnest, and his
eyes had tears in them. I also was touched, for I knew I had heard the
sad truth of a terrible drama of life, and I saw it all in vivid mental
flashes as Raeltoa eagerly told me the secret of his heart and the truth
that he had known, and I read the affection and compassion in his eyes
for the woman he had loved and the splendid friendship for the man who
had befriended her in her terrible sorrow, and who afterwards shared her
fate, and lies buried near her on the lonely leper Isle of Molokai. I am
glad that now, years after, I am able to tell to the world through my
book that which I heard from the lips of Raeltoa the Samoan.[7]

Footnote 7:

  Raeltoa lived at Honolulu for eight years before he returned to Samoa
  with his parents.

I made his little daughter “Damien,” for he had called her after the
leper missionary, a small violin and bow. I sat all day over the job,
and made it from a cigar-box, and fixed two wire strings on it. It was
not much of a success, but the child and parents were delighted, and as
the tiny brown girl toddled about with nothing on, grinding away
mimicking me, as she pulled the stick to and fro over the strings, I was
very much amused and pleased that I had done it, but I was extremely
sorry after, for the poor mite became fond of me and followed me into
the forest, and as I lifted her up to carry her over a fallen tree, my
foot slipped and, falling with her in my arms, I broke her leg. I was in
a terrible state as I carried her home to Raeltoa. As tenderly as I
could I held her, and when I took her into the hut I told them what had
happened. Instead of them both flying at me in a rage, as I thought they
would surely do, they both quickly reassured me, and Raeltoa went to
Apia, got a German doctor, and in a fortnight she was rapidly
recovering, and I would often sit by her and pick at the fiddle-strings
and amuse her. I taught her to say several English words which she soon
picked up and laughed delightedly as she repeated them over and over

Raeltoa would take me away to the coco-nut plantations where he worked,
and the natives collected and dried the heaps of copra which was bought
by the traders and taken away to Australia. The scenery round his home
was very beautiful. The slopes by Vaea Mountain ran down to his
homestead, thickly covered with jungle, mangroves, guavas and bananas,
banyan and many other tropical trees, the names of which I did not know.
There were at that time several other bungalows hard by, wherein lived
married native couples and some of the white traders with Samoan wives.
They were the real old beachcombers and “black-birders” who had made and
were still making good incomes by stealing natives, and selling them to
the stealthy slavers that called in Apia harbours presumably for cargoes
of copra, but really for natives, whom they enticed on board by splendid
promises of a glorious sea-trip. They baited their promises with
spoonfuls of condensed milk and cabin-biscuits, and while the natives
stood on deck smacking their lips with delight, up went the anchor, and
before the wretched natives realised what it was to really leave their
native land, they were powerless and far at sea. I’ve seen many a Samoan
mother rocking herself to and fro wailing and lamenting the loss of her
bonny son and very often lamenting the loss of a daughter too.

Raeltoa and I went to the top of Vaea Mountain once; when you are
half-way up you can look right across Apia and see the beautiful bay and
farther across the sea. The jungle at some parts was so thick that we
had to cut our way through it. I found some pretty tropical bird-nests,
and as we climbed up the frigate birds flew over our heads. We
eventually got to the top of the seaward side, right up against the sky.
It was very silent and beautiful, almost noiseless, excepting for a bird
singing now and again in the big-leafed dark green scrub that grew
thickly just below. I did not dream as I stood up there that I was
standing on the spot which was to be the silent and beautiful tomb of
the man who was living miles away down by the river that ran seaward,
for that is where R.L.S. lived in his secluded home, “Vailima.” I am
sure that no poet who ever lived has found such a grand silent spot for
his long rest as R.L.S. found on the top of that mountain that stands
for ever staring seaward. I often look up at the moon on stormy nights
under other skies, and fancy I see it shining over Vailima Mountain,
dropping its silver tide over that lonely tomb, and on the jungle and
forest trees of the slopes all around, and over the highways of the sea
where now thunder the mail steamers bound for South America.

It was about that time that I made the acquaintance of a gentleman named
Joyce, who had been a chemist in Sydney. He was a remarkable-looking old
fellow and was touring for his health. He had small grey quick eyes, and
a monstrous beard, and having no hair on his head he had managed in a
most clever way to lift his heavy grey side whiskers up over his eyes
and on to his bald head, so that when his hat was on the whiskers
protruded and looked as though they were genuine locks in large quantity
under his hat.




Mr Joyce and Mythologies—Numea and the Convicts—I play Violin to Native
    King and get a Knighthood!!—I lead a Native Orchestra of Barbarian

JOYCE took a great fancy to me and I to him, and I was eventually
engaged as his travelling secretary. He was very fond of music and would
get me to play his favourite melodies, and as I entertained him he would
sit by his bungalow with his hands on his knees, and often would give me
a gracious smile as he gazed through his big-rimmed spectacles. He took
a passage on the schooner _Barcoo_, bound for Rarotonga, and I went with
him. We had some terrible weather on the voyage and poor old Joyce was
sea-sick the whole time, and as we skimmed along with all sails set
heaving to a broadside swell he looked the picture of woe as he spewed
in the schooner’s scuppers. In his sorrow he forgot his hat, and his
whiskers pulled up and tied in a knot on top of his head doing duty as
hair gave him a woeful look and I felt very tenderly for him; for he
could not help being old and bald—could he?

Rarotonga was a lovely Island. As they loosed the anchor ready to drop I
gazed shoreward and saw the grand mountainous country brilliant under
the tropical sun and covered with vegetation. Close to the shore stood
the coco-palms, and by the sheds on the beach under the shelter of the
palms stood the natives, fine-looking men and women they were, some
half-dressed and some only in their lava-lavas. As soon as we dropped
the anchor they swarmed round the schooner in their catamarans, bringing
us corals and other curios of the South Seas. That night we enjoyed
ourselves ashore, and were specially entertained by the King and Queen.
They were both dressed in old dressing-gowns, and as they sat on the
throne I played them a selection on the violin and the King knighted me
on the spot.

Joyce was delighted with all that he saw and kept saying that his health
was improving rapidly, and to tell the truth he got badly smitten with
love over a Rarotongan girl, and under very suspicious circumstances
disappeared for twenty-four hours. Next day he took me inland and up in
the hills he visited the natives in their primeval homes. There were a
lot of missionaries about and they all looked happy and prosperous.
Joyce was deeply interested in the mythologies and genealogies of the
Island races, and would go inland for miles so as to investigate native
manners and characteristics. I remember well how he would see a fine
specimen of the Polynesian fair sex walk out from her forest home, and
rush up to her, take his rule from his waistcoat pocket, start to
measure her from head to foot, open her mouth wide and examine her
teeth, all the time taking notes down in his pocket-book, while the
astounded native stood like a machine, obedient as a statue, knowing
that a good tip would end the examination. “Of decided Maori origin,” he
would mutter to himself as he lifted the limbs up and examined the soles
of the patient’s feet.

I must say I enjoyed Joyce’s society, for he was immensely amusing and
so serious in all that he did. Sometimes he would run across a native
with a face that suggested the palæolithic period, or a terrible
Mongolian-nigger mixture, and then out came his camera and he would
snapshot them with delight. He would measure their limbs and turning to
me point at the hideous nose, or extraordinary pot-belly, and say, “My
boy, this is a fine specimen of the neolithic age.” Then he would start
to give me a lecture as to the reasons of certain abnormal conditions,
while the grinning native showed his big teeth and did the right about
turn and stooped to show to Joyce the different parts of his anatomy.

The next day Joyce made me tramp right up to the forest that lay at the
ridge of the inland mountains and that night we slept in a native
bungalow with two old Rarotongan men who had promised to take Joyce into
the hills and show him an Island South Sea god. It was a beautiful
moonlight night. Joyce lay on the bed of leaves beside me asleep, his
beard tied in a knot over his head so as to keep it well trained, and as
I lay sleepless, watching and thinking, a shadow fell across the tiny
room. “Look out, Mr Joyce,” I shouted and not a moment too soon either,
for there stood one of the Rarotongan old men with a war-club upraised.
I sprang to my feet and gave him a tremendous shove. He was a strong
fellow, and as I fell he got hold of me with a firm grip, but I was
desperate and strong too, and I made a great effort and got him under
me, and then he fixed his teeth in a fleshy part of my shoulder as I
gripped him by the throat with all my might. In the meantime Joyce had
rubbed his eyes and was hastily searching around for something to strike
the native with and then down came his camera, crash on the old man’s
head! His teeth at once relaxed their grip from my flesh and up he
jumped and ran off out into the moonlit night, running fast with Joyce’s
camera in his hand, for that no doubt was what he was after.

We never saw him again, and poor old Joyce was so nervous, and so was I,
over the night’s experience that we gave up searching for old idols and
left the inland solitudes and went back to the bay and, knocking about
for a week or so, finally sailed for Numea, where Joyce spent days among
the “libres” (time-expired convicts). He also took me into the prisons,
where we saw the most wretched men and women in existence, suffering
transportation for life, the map of despair seared on their faces as
they gazed through the bars of their small whitewashed cells as Joyce
and I were taken down the hushed corridors of the gaol wherein men were
incarcerated and brooded till they died. We also saw the guillotine
whereon the refractory convicts often met their end and man’s inhumanity
to man finished in sudden deep sleep.

I do not know what Numea is like now, but it was a kind of mortal hell
in those days, and I was sorry that Joyce had taken me there as I lost a
good deal of respect for human beings and all my faith in a fatherly
overwatching Providence. Joyce for a while gloated over all that he saw
and heard, but in a week he too sickened of Numea and ended the trip by
taking a passage and paying mine also to Suva. There was a schooner just
about to leave, so off we went, and after staying at Suva for a
fortnight proceeded by another boat to Tonga and finally went across to
Apia, where Joyce intended shipping for Sydney.

Once more I fell in with traders, and stayed at and around Samoa for
another three months, during which time I went off roving and stumbled
across the village where lived King Mataafa. I was introduced to him by
one of the chiefs, a fine-looking Samoan of six feet, who turned out a
good friend to me. Mataafa honoured me with his friendship, and I gave
him great pleasure by my violin playing as I sat on a mat in the royal
native house, and he sat in front of me drinking “kava,” while his
retinue, following the laws of Samoan etiquette, imitated the royal
gestures. I stayed in the village for several days and I saw the chiefs
and other Samoan royalty go through many weird court dances, dressed up
in picturesque fashion, robed in stitched palm leaves, flowers and
tappu-cloth lava-lavas. At all those functions I played the violin, and
indeed I was the court musician and conductor of the primitive orchestra
of South Sea bone-clappers, with instruments of jingling shells and
weird bamboo flutes and barbarian war-drums. All these were played,
screamed and banged at full speed as I too fired away on my violin,
doing my best to keep the _tempo_ going, as the dancers did high-step
kicks and flings that would have sent any European to the hospital with
dislocated joints, but which did not even make those strange dancers
perspire, with such ease and elegance did they perform the original
dances of those climes. One old native woman with a big red blossom in
her dark shaggy hair kept bowing to the ground and with pride revealed
the tattooed descriptions of fighting warriors brandishing war-clubs,
and other strange inscriptions which were deeply engraved from her
shoulders to the lower part of her broad bare back!

I became acquainted at that feast with a young Island princess, the
daughter of one of the Samoan or Tonga kings, I really forget which. She
was very beautiful, and was one of the dance leaders, and as I watched
her dance, attired in a robe of flowers, and broad tasselled ridi, she
gave me many interesting glances and I must admit that I was extremely
flattered and swiftly returned the compliment. When all was over I got
Pomby, my friendly chief, to lead me to her and we gazed into each
other’s eyes with interest and embarrassment as we met, and that night
by moonlight I had the pleasure of escorting her across the mangrove
swamps which lay across the track. I often saw her during my stay. She
was the most English-looking South Sea Island girl I ever saw and had a
voice like a musical bird and eyes that breathed the tender light of
poetry, and I have often wondered what became of that beautiful princess
of the Samoan Isles.



Little Damien’s Grave in the Forest—I go peddling in the South Seas—The
    Art of Tattooing—About Apia and Samoan Life

I MET Raeltoa in Apia one afternoon. He caught hold of my hand and
kissed it, and was full of grief, for poor little Damien, his daughter,
was dead. I felt terribly cut up at hearing about it. She had caught
influenza. Poor Raeltoa, I did my best to soothe him, and at his intense
wish went out with him to the little grave. It was a terribly lonely
pathetic spot—a tiny mound under a small coco-palm; the flowers were
dying over my little dead friend, and Raeltoa and I stood there side by
side and both felt very unhappy. I stayed with Raeltoa that night, and
the next night, but did not sleep, for on the wall just by my bed hung
the toy fiddle I had made and the bow. The strings were broken and the
little warm hands that had held it lay in the grave. We were a sad
family, Raeltoa, his wife, the children and I, and when I bade them
good-bye they had tears in their eyes, and I also felt sad.

After bidding Raeltoa good-bye I found myself once more on my
“beam-ends” and was extremely pleased to fall in with a young trader who
hired me for canvassing purposes. He had purchased a quantity of
trinkets and gaudy underclothing with the intention of travelling inland
to the native villages, and so for some time I was employed in bartering
with the Samoan men and youths. I often watched their delight as they
attired themselves, as soon as they had purchased our goods, in old
shirts of various shades. The dusky maidens danced and whirled with
hysterical pleasure as they pulled on the yellow stockings or stood
smiling in white shoes, on their arms tin bracelets sparkling with
jewels made of coloured glass, while my friend the Cockney trader
perspired with delight over his bargains, and the sights that we saw.
“Gaud lummy ducks!” and “Ain’t this all right?” he would say as we
watched the different youths and maidens doing double shuffles and
turning head over heels as we dressed them up. Then we passed on under
the tropic palms and mangroves to the forest track that led to the next

After I gave up peddling in the South Seas I became acquainted with a
young apprentice who had left a ship at Apia, and he and I went off
miles away to Tutuela and camped by Pangopango harbour and on the shore
side we built a little hut and lived Robinson Crusoe lives. My comrade
was a most cheerful companion and came from ’Frisco. We had fine times
in that hut under the coco-nut trees, and lived mostly by fishing; the
ports and lagoons below were crammed with small and big fish. We had an
old catamaran and sailed around dressed in shirt and pants only, and we
got so sunburnt that we were very nearly as brown as the natives. I
could almost write a book about those times, so varied and delightful
they were. Arthur Pink, for that was my comrade’s name, got a berth on
the American steamer and went back to ’Frisco. He was a manly fellow, a
staunch friend, and I was grieved to lose him. Before he went he got in
with a Samoan tatau (tattooer) and had the history of Samoa tattooed on
his back and legs, chiefs, women, birds and flowers, etc.; he tried to
persuade me to get tattooed but I declined. Tattooing is a great art in
the South Seas and the natives go through a deal of pain during the
operations. Some of the flesh engravings are exceedingly well done; they
perform the operation with an instrument something like a small tooth
comb made of bone. The women try to outrival each other in the beauty of
the tattooing which is mostly done on the lower part of the back and the
thighs and hips, wonderful schemes of tattoo art.

[Illustration: NATIVE HOMESTEAD]

Before closing this chapter I will give a few details about the Samoan
and South Sea groups and the people thereon. The chief Isles of Samoa
are Upolu, Savaii, Tutuela and Manua. They are all of volcanic origin,
are surrounded by coral reefs and palm-shaded lagoons; from the shore
side to the mountain slopes inland grow the dark coco-palms, the
beautiful bread-fruit trees, mangroves, plantains and other wild
tropical bush and fern-trees, wherein sparkle and flit gorgeous-coloured
butterflies, green parrots and cooing droves of Samoan doves. In the
shades of the forest and thick scrubby vegetation grow scented flowers
and over the forest paths as you pass along in the cool evenings the
winds from seaward, hovering in the thickets steal out in whiffs to your
nostrils, whiffs that smell like honey mixed with the ripe breath of
decaying bush flowers; on the slopes grows the beautiful hibiscus.

The mountain peaks, just inland, rise to the height of four thousand and
five thousand feet. Dotted with forest they stand in rugged grandeur
against the sky, and when the trade winds are blowing thick clouds come
sweeping in from seaward, smash against the peaks on their swift flight,
twisting and curling into a thousand magical shapes that fade away like
monstrous herds of phantom elephants and distorted mammoth things as
moonlight steals over the flying mist. Some of the mountains have
enormous craters wherein grow baby forests, haunted by singing birds. In
the gullies far below and miles beyond are native villages, homesteads
that look like sheds, open all round so that the wind blows through and
keeps them cool. From the forest up there you can see the heaving
Pacific Ocean twinkling in the moonlight.

Apia is the capital of Upolu and has a very mixed population. The white
buildings are mostly stores kept by Germans; nearly all the large
buildings are missionary halls and churches, German, American and
English chapels, wherein they teach the natives hypocrisy and the misery
of hell, and they are such adept pupils that they soon outrival their
teachers in the great art of artfulness. A good many of the Samoans can
read and write English much better than the poorer class of England can.
No Samoan would eat or even smell the food that the middle classes of
England live on.

The main trade of Samoa is in copra. Copra is dried coco-nut and is
exported to Australia and elsewhere. It is picked and cured and packed
by the natives under the supervision of the whites, Germans and
Americans, who get good profits and often make a fortune. It has never
been known or recorded in any book that a Samoan ever made a fortune,
which seems remarkable when we consider that it is his own country.
There was a Samoan chief in the old days who endeavoured to make money
out of his copra plantation, and bought up a lot of territory for
coco-nut growing, but the missionaries, acting for the traders,
frightened him out of his life, told him he would go to hell for putting
his heathen mind into mundane things, and for his sins they fined him
heavily and pinched all his copra plantation. He turned out to be a good
chief and went into the building line and built many fine houses for the
missionaries wherein were many rooms and great comforts. For this work
he was given one tin of condensed milk a week and at the completion of
the contract a paper-covered hymnbook.

The Samoans, Tongans and Tahitians are a handsome race, the men standing
nearly six feet; they are well built and of a sunburnt colour, have dark
bright eyes, thick curly hair which they dye to a golden hue, their
temperament is cheerful, and they are always singing. The women are very
good-looking, with roundish faces and full lips; their noses are
inclined to get flat as they get old; they have earnest kind-looking
eyes, well-shaped bodies and good limbs whereon the tattoo of ancient
pictorial Samoa is beautifully engraved so as to show off the curves of
the back and thighs and give them an antique appearance. In fact when
they stand quite still under the coco-palms you could almost imagine
they were beautifully finished statues if it were not for the flies
buzzing round their eyes making them blink.

The native children are wistful, plump little mites; much prettier than
European infants and very intelligent. They can swim at three months
old; talk, run and sing at a year old, and if a Samoan had a child that
sucked a dummy at six years old and wailed drivelling along in its pram
at an advanced age, as the children of the wealthy class of England do,
they would look upon it as a great curio and smother it for shame on the
first starless night.

They are a clean race, and, except for the odour of the scented coco-nut
oil which they polish their velvet skins with, do not smell of
perspiration as the clothed white do in hot weather. A Samoan could not
sleep or rest if a flea found him lying on his bed mat; if a flea is
discovered in a Samoan house they know that a new-chum missionary has
been hovering near. The native girls and women are naturally modest and
they will blush at any coarse words or suggestions from white men; but
they are very fond of finery, and so often fall before the lure of the
whites, who are generally thousands of miles away when the victim
becomes a mother. At heart they are extremely religious and innately
feel that some great Power watches over them, but this feeling is
gradually dying away under the influence of the missionaries, who look
so human to their eyes as they live in luxury and wax fat in the best
Samoan houses. The Samoan has seen everything as it is and knows that
the white missionaries and traders are human beings like himself,
looking for all they can get and enjoying life to the uttermost, and so
the glamour is fading in the South Seas as it has faded in the West,
where many still believe all they hear and read about the converted
heathen who would rather die than sell his honour.

The whites consist chiefly of tourists, traders and missionaries of
various sects. Many of the missionaries are honest in their profession,
really believing all they teach, have weary eyes and remind one of those
bedraggled flies that crawl up the windowpane looking for light. The
traders are mostly rough, sunburnt, crooked-nosed men and do their best
to do well and work hard at their various trades. Some are a strange
mixture of the bushman and pirate. The honest ones toil hard to make
money and settle down prosperous in a shanty, furnished with a large
spittoon, pipes and cases of the best imported whisky, and a shakedown
bed, as close as possible to the ground, so that they can crawl by night
on their hands and knees from the nearest Apia bar-room straight into
bed. Stolid, square-headed Germans abound and speak as though they
helped to create the universe, drink a deal on the sly, are very coarse
when drunk, and it does not matter how well a thing is done they are
sure to say “But you should see the way they do that in Germany.” Most
of the Europeans wear white duck pants and broad-brimmed straw hats, and
do a deal of leaning against palm-trees, smoking and spitting, also
loafing by Apia saloon-bars, where they stand in huddled groups beneath
the coco-palms and watch the Samoans toddling by to the mission-rooms
with Bibles under their arms.

As the steamers and schooners call into the harbour, tourists and
sailors come ashore; some go on the spree, some get drunk and others go
curio-hunting. Sometimes the élite of Australian towns arrive on tour
and gaze on everyone with patronising eyes. I saw one lot from Sydney
arrive, people of high standing too; they had receding chins and staring
eyes like bits of glass rubbed over with fat and spoke with very
conventional voices. The natives, scantily clothed, go shuffling through
the streets, singing and jabbering. Apia smells of ripe bananas and
tropical vegetation. It is the modern Garden of Eden; the ghosts of Adam
and Eve roam the forest by night and listen to the laughter and wails of
their fallen children as they eat of the forbidden fruit and the ships
creep into the bays and again go seaward back to the shadows of the

[Illustration: NATIVE CANOES, FIJI]

Sailors and rovers settle down in the South Sea capitals, talk all day
of Rio, Shanghai, and Japanese girls that did the Eastern can-can,
drunken sprees in ’Frisco, phantom ships and wonderful fifty-day voyages
from London to Sydney on the _Cutty’s Ark_; old sea captains, mates with
master certificates, disappointed men, wrinkled and sea-beaten Scotch
engineers, dreaming of Glasgow, engine-rooms, donkey boilers and sea
bilges, and that beautiful young woman at Marseilles who lay in their
bunk berth so drunk that they could not wake her when the anchor was
going up, so kept her aboard in secret the whole voyage out to
Melbourne, where she went ashore and became a lady governess, taught
French, eventually married a vicar in the suburbs and became “Visiting
lady” and was beloved by all for her purity and winning ways. The
ancient old man from the Solomon Isles with sad eyes is to be seen there
too, still laughless and grim over the tragedy of that long-ago night
when his white wife disappeared, and after exploring the Island forest
the cannibalistic natives found him starving, gave him drink and meat,
and next day by the strangest coincidence possible he discovered that he
had eaten his own wife. The great truth of truth being stranger than
fiction is vividly revealed in all you see and hear in the Islands of
the far-away Pacific, where the good men brush aside the
conventionalities and go the whole hog, and the old sinners of the
European cities, seeking a haven of rest from the law, with all their
passions withered and asleep, become virtuous and moralise. They are
strange old fellows, good company and extremely interesting as they sit
by their bungalows and talk at night by South Sea shores. The waves
steal over the coral reefs and murmur mysteriously by the lagoons of
magic lands, dark with forest branches; midnight stars are reflected in
the clear harbour waters as the blue vault of heaven over your head
gleams with worlds that are twinkling and flashing and you dream you
hear them singing, and see writ on the wonderful canvas of starry space
the bright eternal words, expressing the tremendous loneliness of
Infinity that swallows up human imagination, leaving us only wonder and



I leave the South Sea for Australia—Arrive in Sydney—I get hard up and
    take a Partnership in a Flower Seed Business—The Stockman’s Daughter
    Ethel—I meet an old-fashioned Australian Bushman—He gives me a
    Night’s Lodging—I meet with Queensland Blacks—Alone in the

WITH regret I now leave the South Seas and once more start off on my
wanderings accompanied by my modest and faithful friend who always sang
happily or sadly in response to my own feelings—my violin.

Hornecastle was sorry to see me go. He and several comrades saw me off
as the anchor went up and I sailed away. I felt sad enough, for I had
seen some strange times and a good deal of life in those lovely Isles of
the Pacific.

I can still see the outrigged canoes following our ship across the bay
out to sea; they were filled with Samoans waving their hands and crying
bitterly as their departing relatives, all huddled round me on the deck,
sobbed loudly as they too waved their farewells, wiping their eyes with
their hands and tail ends of their scanty clothes, old sailor shirts and
cast-off European underclothes. It was a sad sight to see them moaning
by the ship’s rail and those who saw them off paddling away to keep in
sight as long as possible—daughters and sons, fathers and mothers,
bobbing about in the sunset water, some with their babies perched on
their backs, as the ship’s screw thundered full speed ahead and they
faded away.

Those emigrants were innocent Islanders, who I have no doubt had been
promised fine rewards to entice them to leave their native Isle for a
term of three years, where to go I did not know. Some of the sailors
said their destination was New Guinea, others the Queensland sugar
plantations; anyhow I am quite sure the best of the bargain was not on
their side. One of the women made an attempt to leap over the ship’s
side and escape, but her friends held her back, but they all continued
to wail and howl like children as they fully realised that they were
really off on the big ship bound for other lands! Some of them lay on
the deck flat on their bellies, beating it with their hands; the elder
men gazed with tears in their eyes across the wake at their home-staying
friends, till the following canoes and their native shores died away. I
doubt if many of them ever saw their native Isle again. I hope they did.
They were stuffed down in the forepeak just by the fo’c’sle all
together, women and men.

In a few days they were all themselves again, pattering along the decks
singing away, cursing the cook’s life as they took their food to him to
cook, bread-fruit, stuff which he baked for them in the galley, also
jams which tasted something like dried-up baked turnips. I shall never
forget the surprise of those Samoans as we entered Sydney Harbour. As
soon as Circular Quay came in sight round the bend they lost control of
themselves completely, waving their arms about in their excitement
pointing to the big buildings, opening their mouths, showing their white
teeth and shining eyes agog, just like little children at their first
Lord Mayor’s Show.

Two days after I met them walking down George Street dressed up in robes
and sandals, all close together looking at the shops. They stay in
Sydney a few days and then they are shipped off to their final

I was glad to be in Sydney again, where I met chief-mate Poppy, who
afterwards was an officer on one of the clipper ships whereon I too
voyaged. He was a fine fearless sailor, square built, and had merry grey
eyes. I spent a lot of time with him for I had a little cash left and
took things easy for a few days.[8] I went to the post office and found
two letters from home and some cash. I immediately wrote to England
asking forgiveness for not writing before and assured them all that I
was getting on well. I forget now what I really said in that letter, but
I know that I gave myself a leg-up, as they say, and did a bit of
blowing on my own account. Anyway whether all I said was true or not it
made them happy and I was very pleased also when the reply came telling
me how proud they all were at my success in life, and two or three pages
of good advice how to keep the success going.

Footnote 8:

  Mr Poppy later became captain on a clipper ship, and was lost with all
  hands off Cape Horn.

Ah! dear English people, do not believe all the wonderful things you
hear from your children abroad. Did you hear the real truth you would
not call round on your relatives reading that letter over and over till
your voice got husky, but it may be that you would sit on your bed and
weep your heart out. I’ve seen your successful sons, have sat by them in
the dirty lodging-house attic and watched them write those things that
made you happy. I have also been their solitary visitor in the hospital
as they died of disease and then I have sent the last letter home and
felt too wretched to write home myself. Of course some _do_ get on and
do very well, but some of the adventurous boys are weak with their
passions, and so go to the wall. I could say a good deal on this
subject, but I will leave it for someone else. But while I am on the
subject I must say it would be well if fathers took their sons aside and
told them of those temptations and the awful results before they sent
them across the world alone. I will tell you this much—hundreds of fine
young fellows have found themselves stranded in the colonial cities,
slept out, got into bad company and yielding to the temptations of
despair have never been heard of again for five or even ten years, as
most of the Australian gaols are away in the bush many miles up country
and the prison notepaper arriving in England would tell the tale. So
time goes on and the bright English lad, the pride of the school and the
mother’s joy, emerges from the gaol door, embittered by confinement, his
only comrades the convicts who were released before him and whom he
naturally seeks in sympathy and so becomes that which he never in his
wildest dreams dreamed of becoming. But I must not get into the habit of
moralising over the downfalls and temptations that meet the emigrant
youth who arrives in the colonies as I did, expecting to see a workless
world and a life before him of charming adventure. So I will proceed
with my own immediate experiences.

I am by nature very lazy while I have got money in my pocket, and this
failing impeded my progress in the times I am telling you about.
Nevertheless I enjoyed myself, went up George Street and purchased a
good rig-out, and then went round sight-seeing and very soon I was on my
beam ends again. I was lucky enough to fall in with an English fellow
who lodged with me in a side street out at “The Glebe.” He and I became
good comrades and as soon as he got to understand my position and
dubious future he took me also into his confidence and we eventually
became partners in the flower seed business which he carried on from an
office in “The Royal Arcade.” It sounds a big address, but it was only a
small office. I think the rent was eight shillings a week. In that
little office we packed up the flower seeds together and I myself
blossomed into a real business youth once again, but it was not half as
lonely as that teashop of mine which I have told you about.

Off we would go each morning out into Sydney suburbs, each with a little
bag crammed to the brim with choice seeds of English flowers. I at once
wrote home a letter pouring over with enthusiasm about my dreams of
future wealth, coming from a prosperous business, but the hard work soon
began to tell on my temperament, and my resolution to get on in the
world by doing work oozed away as I perspired at the doors of the wooden
houses out in Burwood and Paramatta, while my chum stood illustrating to
the open-mouthed colonial women the height and beauty of the flowers
that would glorify their gardens if they bought our seed.

Well, to cut it short, my comrade went off to Melbourne to some
relatives and handed me over the whole show. This turn of affairs
renewed my old trust in the business, and though I was sorry to lose my
friend I bucked up and kept on with the business. Indeed, it was my only
hope; my best clothes were in pawn, also my violin. I went next morning
to the office and filled up hundreds of bags with seed which I thought
corresponded with the flowers illustrated upon them and off I went,
taking a book with me full of the names of customers, and very soon I
ingratiated myself into their favour and they all promised to deal with
me as they had done with my comrade.

How it all happened I don’t know, but I had made a mistake and placed a
hundredweight of turnip and cabbage seed into the choice flower packets,
and when I went off to Paramatta, my best district, a week or so after,
I was met at the doors by irate men and women who swore that I had
deliberately played a trick upon them, and when I arrived at the house
of a nursery garden manager who had bought a whole year’s stock from me
and found that the whole of the specially laid flower beds were
producing nothing else but cabbages and turnips, I had to fly for my
life. One old woman raced after me down the Paramatta main road swearing
that she would do for me; by Jove, I did run as she waddled shouting far
behind! And that was the end of the flower seed business. All of those
people knew my business address, as it was on the packets in large
crimson lettering, so I crept into the office early next morning, packed
the scales up, locked the door and bolted off. The scales were the only
things in the office that I could raise money on and I sold them for
fifteen shillings and that same day I took a berth on a coaster for

I think it took three days to get round. I was delighted to see the old
place again. I had taken my violin out of pawn and the day after I
arrived I went away up country and got a job on a ranch about fifty
miles from Cooktown, and there I blossomed into a real “boundary rider,”
as they call them out there. My boss was an Irishman, his wife was
English, and a dear creature she was too. There was an old Chinaman
working for them and he got fearfully jealous of me as soon as I became
a favourite with the girls, for Kelly, that was my boss’s name, had
three daughters and one son. I did not like the son, he was a grumpy
ignorant chap, and I had as little to do with him as possible.

Ethel, the eldest daughter, and I became good friends and I taught her
to play the violin; she was not what the world would call good-looking,
but I saw something in her face that put good looks in the shade. She
had fine grey eyes, and one evening when we were sitting by the
homestead in the bush, and the parrots were settling to roost in the
gums and orange-trees around us, I leaned over her to show her how to
hold the violin bow in professional style, and she gazed up at me with
an earnest look, and before I could help myself I held her closely to me
and kissed her. She blushed and we forgot all about the violin practice
and many were the nights that she and I went out into the beautiful
bushlands together and I made her happy. I knew that she loved me; her
mother was in the secret and gave me every encouragement, and though I
got to hate the monotony of bush life I put up with it all gladly so as
to keep near that simple bush girl. I thank God that I did too, for the
first great sorrow of my life came out of my affection for her. Suddenly
she became sick; to our horror she developed typhoid fever and I was the
last to kiss her dead face. I cannot tell you any more about it even
after all these years; a part of my heart is in that lonely bush grave
away across the world in Queensland.

I was terribly cut up over that sorrow, and though that homestead of the
bush became more lonesome to me than ever, I stayed on for nearly two
months for the sake of the stockman’s wife whom I became very fond of as
she knew my feelings and I knew hers. I am not ashamed to tell you that
when at last I wished her good-bye I broke down and kissed her as a boy
would his mother. I often wrote to her afterwards and I have some of her
letters now, and beautiful letters they are too.

I did not care much where I went at that time. On an old Australian hack
I rode away intending to go to Cooktown so that I could get round to
Brisbane, but the spirit of adventure was in my blood and I altered my
course and left the track and travelled north-west. I had a good swag of
provisions made up for me by the stockman’s wife, and so I felt secure
as far as food was concerned as I rode over the scrub-covered rolling
hills of that lonely country. That night I made a fire just to keep me
company and camping there alone with the birds and trees around me I
slept with my heart in that bush grave.


Next morning I rose early and started off again and before sunset I came
across a shanty wherein lived an old bushman. He was very kind to me and
asked me to stay the night, which I did. I slept on a trestle bed by him
in the one dingy small room. He was an old man, and as the moonlight
crept through the small window-pane and revealed his sleeping face I
noticed that he had lost all his teeth, and every time he breathed his
lips would puff out and then go inwards, making a ghostly chanting noise
at regular intervals throughout the whole night. I got quite nervous and
never slept a wink till daylight crept across the tree-tops outside and
a kind of sweet reality stole over the hut-bedroom as I closed my weary
eyes and slumbered, but only for about ten minutes, for he had slept
well and waking up with the light he started to make a deuce of a row,
chopping wood. I left early that morning and from that day to this I
have never slept with toothless old men.

He was a real Australian bushman, I could tell that by his conversation,
which consisted of about twelve words during my stay, the longest
sentence of all was the first at our meeting by his hut door when he
looked at me for a minute and then said, “Want some tucker?” meaning
food. “Yes, thanks,” I answered, and when I had eaten up ravenously all
he put before me he sat and smoked by the door, and after an hour’s
silence said, “Turn in?” Again I answered “Yes,” and when I left in the
morning he simply said, “Good luck, chum,” and closed the door on me.
This sounds a bit far-fetched, but it’s true enough! Through living in
the bush they all get taken that way and almost forget their own
language and look upon you as a nuisance if you ask more than one
question a day.

Once more on my own, as they say out there, I started off. It was
sweltering hot. I did my best to keep in the shelter of the tall gum
forest that covered the hills for miles around me, and seeing no more
signs of houses about the whole day I began to consider it would be best
for me to alter my course and make for Cooktown as I originally intended
doing. I did so, and camping on the steeps that night I saw a ring of
smoke curling up almost opposite to the side of the slope whereon I had
camped. Leading my horse I went over the rim of the hill expecting to
see a homestead, and as I looked down a swarm of black awful-looking
faces huddled around a bush fire looked up at me with startled eyes. I
had stumbled across a camp of the roving Queensland blacks! There they
sat, black, pot-bellied, nude women and men, some of them holding short
clay pipes between their thick protruding lips. I had heard that they
were quite harmless, and so I bravely walked down the slopes and
introduced myself. The head of the band was a stalwart ferocious-looking
fellow and tried to speak to me. “White fella all lone,” he said. I
shook my head and said “No,” at the same time pointing behind me over
the hills so as to let him think that I was not alone. There is nothing
like being too careful with blacks; they are harmless enough, so I had
heard, but I did not want to give them a chance to profit over their old
instincts. There are even white men in lonely bush lands who would crack
you over the head if their exchequer was getting low and the addition of
another man’s would make the outlook brighter, and so I was wise in my

I shall never forget the sight of those aboriginals and their startled
eyes as, squatting there, some huddled in dirty Government blankets,
they watched their meal cooking, which consisted of green frog and fat
lizards that bubbled and squeaked in the glowing fire ash. One fat,
awful-looking woman asked me in broken English if “white man got baccy.”
I felt relieved to think I could do her a good turn, and quickly gave
her a small piece of ship’s plug tobacco, which she snatched out of my
hand without a word of thanks. They were all nearly naked; there were
four women and about a dozen men and they all continued to stare up at
me as I stood by them, their bright dark eyes shining through their
thick matted hair. The old woman to whom I had given the tobacco quickly
tore it up with her long fingers and sat there with her chin on her
knees puffing at her short clay pipe, her lips dribbling and smacking
together like the flapping wet sails of a becalmed ship as she puffed

It was terribly hot, and as the sunset died away behind the gum clump on
the skyline I took off my coat and vest and kept only my pants on, tied
the legs of my horse so that she would not roam too far off and sat down
by those wild bush blacks and taking my violin out of my swag I started
to play a jig. Their eyes lit up at once with wonder and I was obliged
to let them all carefully examine the instrument. They looked inside of
it, turned the pegs and even smelt it, but could not understand where
the music came from, and the one baby that clung by its mother looked at
me as though it would have a fit each time that I started to play. They
had no idea of melody but a good idea of time, and all started to move
their bodies to and fro as I extemporised a strain which I thought would
suit the occasion. One old fellow with extraordinary thin legs and a big
protruding belly started off in one of their native dances. Up went his
legs skyward and once or twice he almost turned a somersault, and his
shadow in the moonlight mimicked him on the slope side as its head
bobbed out of the gum-tree tops that towered just over him. I did not
like the idea of sleeping with them, so I packed my violin in my swag
and pointed to the hills and intimated to them by nods and signs that I
must go and join my comrades, and off I went over the slope, and as soon
as I thought I was clear away from them I camped at the bottom of a
steep gully and, tired out, I fell asleep.

When I awoke the sun was blazing through the trees at the side of the
gully height, and I sat up, and looking round I missed my swag. Running
to the top of the slope I looked around; my horse too had vanished. As
quickly as I could hurry along I went down to where I had left the
blacks. There was the fire ash and round it a circle of naked foot
prints, but not a sign of them in sight. They had crept over the hills
while I had slept and stolen my swag and horse and left me standing
alone in that wild country perfectly helpless with nothing on but a pair
of pants!

I gazed like one in a dream on those footprints and the camp fire ash. I
was terribly thirsty and at once started off to find water. I was soon
successful and on my knees I blew the scum off the creek pool and drank.
I don’t know how I got through that day, but I did, and before nightfall
I had reached a wooden house on top of a hill. I crawled round to the
side door and knocked. A young girl opened it and seeing me in such a
state quickly slammed it and the stockman came rushing to the door to
see what was the matter, a gun in his hand, and if I hadn’t been quick,
as it was nearly dark, I really think I should have been shot. I soon
explained matters to him and he proved a kind fellow, gave me an old
suit and I stayed there for three weeks and helped him to build an
outhouse. He paid me well and I arrived back in Brisbane with nearly
five pounds in my pocket.

I had had enough of the Australian bush and made up my mind to get
employment in the towns. Before my money had gone again I started to
look for work, but only succeeded in getting a job in a restaurant in
Queen’s Street. My duty was to wash the dishes and wait on the
customers. It was not at all in my line, and I could not get any sleep.

The first night was an unpleasant one; my bed was one of a number in a
dirty top room and up till about two in the morning the door would keep
opening as those who were partially sober carried in men who were blind
drunk and placed them on the beds by me. I sat up in my bed utterly
miserable and watched one red-nosed, black-bearded besotted-looking man
drivel at the mouth, swear and groan as he made vain attempts to get his
boots off, and once or twice he looked round at me with an idiot-like
stare and said, “Hello, maish, s-how are you?” and bending towards me
affectionately, tumbled on the floor. And another one in the far corner
would often stick his head out of the dirty sheets and shout, “Wash’s
the time?” So no one will blame me when I tell you that I crept
downstairs at daybreak and bolted. About a week after I was covered with
a tremendous rash and was the most miserable youth in Australia. I took
a motherly woman into my confidence and I soon got rid of them: bugs and
fleas are real comrades compared to those terrible things that I took
away with me when I left that restaurant bedroom. I can assure you that
I never worked in a restaurant again and even now I am nervous in the
presence of drunken men whom I do not know well. Hornecastle was bad
enough, but there was something about him that inspired confidence as
well as disgust.

I always found the motherly women were my best friends when I was in
trouble, for though I had not got a cent they generally took me in and
waited till I obtained employment. I suppose they saw that I was young
and respectable, and in the colonies, in those days, there were hundreds
of young fellows on their beam ends who were trying to make a way for
themselves, and as they always paid up at the first opportunity these
women generally had faith in the derelicts that tramped about the towns
of “the land of the golden fleece” looking for work.

I got a job in a furniture warehouse and stayed there for quite three
months until business got slack. I being a new hand received the “sack.”
My roaming instincts took me down to the wharf and I was in with the
seafaring men again, heard once more the wonderful tales of adventure on
the seas and in far countries, but I was not quite so interested as I
had previously been, for I too had seen a bit of the world and no longer
believed all that those sea-beaten old salts told me. Nevertheless I
liked their companionship; they were so frank and jovial in their
narratives. I came across two or three of the men whom I had known when
I was first stranded in Brisbane and several of us got a job painting
the side of a large sailing ship that lay alongside. I slept on board
with the crew in the fo’c’sle and got in with a young German who had
worked his way out at “a shilling a month” and had not got the pluck to
leave the ship, and so intended to work his passage back to London.
Influenced by me, however, he altered his mind and stayed behind. He was
a steady fellow, older than I was, I think about twenty years of age. He
had one failing which I well remember: he was always running after the
girls and thought of little else.



I stow away—Rescued by Sailors—Emigrant Derelicts—I go up

THERE was a large tramp steamer alongside of the wharf; she was getting
up steam to go away and was bound for London. I thought it was a fine
opportunity to try and get a berth together, but it was no go, as they
say, so my German friend and I made up our minds to stow away. I had
about two shillings in my pocket, so went up into the town and bought
two loaves of bread and one pound of cheese, and that night without any
trouble we stole aboard and went down the stokehold and hid away in a
coal bunker, and being young and optimistic we both slept well. In the
morning we sat side by side in the blackness of that ship’s hold and
heard the noise overhead as they hammered the main hatch down and the
rusty rattle of chains as the tug boat took her in tow.

“Do you think they will lock us down?” my friend said, and I began to
feel in a bit of a funk; she was still alongside, and we both crawled
out of our hiding-place to see if the bunker lid where we had crawled
through was still open. It was shut! I am sure that we both turned white
at that moment, but we were feeling desperate and my comrade climbed up
and, pushing the bunker lid, to our intense relief it opened and let in
the light.

“Let’s get out of it,” I said, and in a moment we both crawled out on to
the deck. We were then on the starboard side; the funnel was smoking
away and the crew all on the port side drawing in the tackling;
otherwise we should have been noticed. Quickly creeping along the deck I
saw the forward hatchway open.

“Let’s get down here,” I said, and in a trice I jumped down and falling
on a bale of cargo slipped to the lower hold. She was carrying a light
cargo and was evidently going to call somewhere else before fastening
down for the long voyage across the world. I had fallen with a fearful
smash, and looking up to see what had become of my chum I saw his face
peep over the hatch-side and then dodge away as the crew overhead lifted
up the hatchway covering and down it came with a crash. All was at once
dark. I was then alone, a prisoner at the bottom of that ship’s hold.

At first I felt dazed and strangely calm; then I suddenly realised my
position and cried out at the top of my voice and scrambled about in the
dark over the bales of cargo trying to get up to the hatchway and make
myself heard. What happened to my friend I don’t know; he certainly
never told the crew about me, and though I hoped he had done so I hoped
on in vain and lay there almost breathless with horror as the time went
on. Then I felt the motion of the vessel as she moved away and before
nightfall I heard the seas beating against the ship’s iron side as I sat
imprisoned in the dark below the water line in the worst predicament
that I ever was in in my life. To make things worse out came the rats!
It seemed to me that there were thousands of them scampering about the
cargo as I shouted myself hoarse, praying to God that I should at last
be heard, and when everything seemed hopeless I sat for a time and felt
pretty bad.

Presently a reaction set in and I started exploring, thinking that if I
could get up forward toward the fo’c’sle I could thump on the deck and
the sailors in the off watch would hear me. I began to feel terribly
sick as the vessel pitched and rolled and the smell of the cargo
thickened the already stifling atmosphere till I heard myself breathing

Crawling slowly along I managed to get to between-decks, and to my
intense relief I saw a wisp of light through a chink. You can imagine my
delight at that moment as I made towards it. It was the forepeak
hatchway. I heard voices; someone was sitting on it! Placing my mouth
against that crack I shouted “Hello!” and I heard the voices suddenly
cease and someone jump; as quickly as possible I shouted once more
through the crack. “It’s all right, I’m a stowaway! Don’t give me away.”
“Who are you, matey?” came the answer. All my old courage returned to me
when I heard that gruff kindly voice, and I quickly enlightened the
questioner, and in ten minutes I was out and snug in the fo’c’sle
sitting on a sea-chest, the crew around me. They were English sailors
and you can bet they did not give me away. I discovered that we were
calling in at Sydney. It was an easy matter to keep me hidden for two
days in there among them. The only one I had to keep out of sight from
was the bos’n.

We had a fine time that night; one of the men had a banjo and another a
fiddle. I borrowed it from them and we had a concert to ourselves. They
fed me up too, I can assure you that sailors are the finest men in the
world to fall in with when you are down on your luck. It was an easy
matter when we arrived in Sydney Harbour for me to get away, and they
managed it. As soon as the anchor dropped and we got alongside they gave
me the tip, down the gangway I went, and some of them stood grinning on
the deck as I stood on the wharf safe and waved my hand back to them.

I had a good wash and brush up and soon looked very different to what I
did when those sailors first discovered me, begrimed, smothered in coal
dust and perspiration. There I was, once more thrown up on the beach in

I will draw a veil over a good many of the days of my life after that
time. I fell in with the ne’er-do-wells of the Australian cities, the
happy-go-lucky castaways of “better times,” who slept out on the
“Domain,” in dustbins and in the cave holes of the rocky shore round by
the Botanical Gardens, where you could sleep and hear the waters
creeping, singing up the shore by your pillow all night long, as you
slept a penniless beggar far from your native land. You could open your
eyes in the silent hours of the night and see the outbound sailing ships
as the rigging flitted across the moonlight and the crew sang some
homebound song as the ship met the outer foams and started on the long,
long track home. The awful stench from Woolloomoolloo Bay came on the
wind round the bend at intervals, like the hot breath of reality across
your dreams.

I read some wonderful poems in those days, sad ones too, poems with
weary eyes that told the remorse, the long remembering, but not the tale
itself. Dressed in rags I have seen them sleeping on “the rocks” as the
white Australian moonlight revealed pinched refined faces; men they were
from the cities of the world, who were hiding from their homeland
disgrace, and some who had believed the Arabian Night tales from the
Land of the Golden Fleece, sold up their all in England to sink to the
lowest depths of poverty and humiliation in the country where it is
every man for himself and God for the lot.

How well I remember that time and those nights among the Lost Brigade,
as they slept huddled around me on the matting of the “Donkey’s
Breakfast,” as they call the bunk mattresses which are thrown away and
piled up in wharf sheds when emigrant ships arrive. Snoring wrecks, a
few with low-bred faces who could not read or write and others with
refined-looking faces notwithstanding the scrubby beard that half hid
them, many boys also around, too shabby to get work and too wretched to
want it. One young fellow, through starvation and homesickness, went off
his head. He had an emotional, girlish face and was not more than
eighteen years of age. We cheered him up and I’m sure I did my best, but
he would keep muttering to himself and swore that spirits were charging
him in regiments all night long as he howled and brandished his arms
about fighting them. One night he got up and ran off; we heard a splash
in the bay. He was buried out at “Rookwood” with the hundreds of others
who sleep in nameless graves, forgotten for years, till _Lloyd’s Weekly_
says, “Wanted, the whereabouts of A. B.; left home in the year ——.
Mother inquires.”

I have been telling you the seamy side of the life of the seaboard
cities. Of course it is not all seamy. Sydney flourishes and is happy,
with her big streets, her skirts dipping into the bay, her bright
Botanical Gardens, a kind of tropical Hyde Park kissed by curling sea
waves, and near those gardens is the wide Domain. What a happy
hunting-ground for an Australian Charles Dickens that Domain would have
been, and still is! The emigrants still go seaward and are dumped down
to scramble to hell or dubious fame and fortune, while the ships go
flying homeward to old England full up with the remnants who landed on
the preceding voyage out!

                  *       *       *       *       *

After coming ashore from my stowaway trip, I lodged in a small top room
in Lower George Street, which was very different to Upper George Street.
By my dwelling-house the Chinese lived in their opium dens. Some of them
were very well off and had managed to secure white wives. How those
white women could stand them I don’t know. At sundown they would stand
by their den doors and looked like mummies peeping from their upright
coffins with twinkling eyes! Wrinkled yellow faces they had, and you
could always tell their presence by the peculiar smell that came in
faint whiffs from their shop doors mingled with the odour of orange
pekoe, for they mostly sold tea or pretended to, but really played
“fan-tan” in those gambling dens, and did other awful things as the
innocent old shrivelled spy stood at the door watching, picking his
yellow teeth with a long skewer. No one in Australia has ever seen a
Chinaman drunk; he takes his opium and nectar in an arm-chair in the
stuffy room at the back of his shop, and with his long opium pipe in his
mouth goes off back to China in dreams, when his stupefied head no
longer hears the traffic outside as the crowds hurry by and the Jack
Tars from the men-o’-war boats in the bay go rollicking up the street
“half seas over,” singing, arm in arm, and inside that innocent-looking
den the white wife goes through the celestial’s pockets as the
Australian “bum” stands up at the street corner waiting with greedy hand
to receive his half. Five hundred yards up the street stood the splendid
post office and all the business shops of the commercial world of


After a month’s stay in the town I once more went up country and secured
work on a station, staying there nearly nine months. I became quite
colonised as I toiled in the pumpkin fields, rode for miles over the
slopes behind the flying sheep, and slept in a little outhouse by the
stockman’s homestead. I would sit and dream of home as over my head the
parrots wheeled away toward the sunset and the station children romped
and screamed with laughter. Sometimes as I sat thinking and remembering
my mind wandered back to Queensland and Ethel’s grave in the bush. I
often lay in that little hut unable to sleep till dawn crept over the
gum tops and the lyre-bird’s song chimed the first peeps of sunrise over
the hills. Two miles away was another station whereon worked two other
young Englishmen. I often rode across the bush at sundown to see them
and we would sit and yarn together about England, and all get homesick
over our dreams. Dell, the youngest of the two, was thrown from his
horse and killed. His friend William and I often went across at evening
time and placed flowers on his grave and then walked away with thick
throats, unable to speak to each other.

The Australian bush is the most melancholy place in the world to brood
over sorrows. The music of most of the bush birds has a prophetic note
in it—they wail away as though foretelling dire disaster; after sunset
myriads of frogs and locusts start to chant and chirrup mournfully; over
the solitude comes at long intervals the wail of the dingo, and often
like the phantom of some lost dead child from the gullies a wailful
scream from a bird that no one ever sees. I have often lain in my bunk
by night and looked through the little window hole and watched the
migrating cranes and other birds with long outstretched necks pass under
the moon, bound southward; they looked just like skeletons on wings,
their bones tinkling together as they passed swiftly across the moonlit
sky right overhead. I devoted a good deal of my time to music and
violin-playing in those quiet bush nights, and some of the very melodies
which are in the strains of my military band solos were composed at that

William and I became close friends, linked together by the sorrow over
our dead comrade, and eventually we gave notice to our employers and
both went off “on the Wallaby” and “humped the bluey,” as they say in
the bush.

We followed that life for a long time and became real “sundowners.” The
atmosphere of that roving life has never wholly left my mind; the songs
of the birds in the gums and the winds moaning and bending the leafy
clump tips overhead during the nights, as we slept below, still echo
through my memories. He and I were happy together, and I found him a
beautiful friend. I can see his sky-blue eyes now, as he wondered and
listened to me when I told him of my adventures in the South Sea
Islands. Night after night we would sit by our camp fire and stare, side
by side, into the glowing embers as overhead sang some sweet night bird,
serenading our memories as we dreamed of home. My chum had a quiet
earnest voice and would sit there and sing wild sea chanteys as I played
an accompaniment on the violin.

                    And often in the night I hear,
                    Above the wind and rain,
                    My old chum singing in the hills
                    Those wild sea songs again.

He had an old bent-up cornet in his swag, and I took a few lessons from
him, and while I practised the scales in the silence of the night the
very hills seemed astonished as the echoes answered one another and died
away across the solitude, and away the frightened bush animals scampered
as though the devil was after them! And sometimes in the daytime as the
parrots passed overhead across the blinding sky they would hear those
notes and croak dismally and hurry faster on their skyward voyage.

One evening, just as we were camping for the night, we sighted over the
slope a genuine old bushman tramping along with his swag on his back. We
invited him to stay the night; it took a long time to wake him up, but
we succeeded, and his scrubby sunburnt face lit up with delight as my
comrade sang and I played the fiddle. I never before or since saw such a
dried-up old relic as he was. He had a big broken nose and black teeth
through chewing tobacco plug for many years. I never saw him spit; he
swallowed the juice. We managed to draw a few remarks out of him, and I
remember him saying that he had known Ned Kelly the bushranger in the
early days and mumbled a deal about how the times had changed and the
meanness of the station bosses, for he seemed to get his living by
cadging at the stations as he tramped along from day to day and month by
month, looking for work. He seemed very methodical in his habits, for as
we sat by the fire talking, and darkness came swiftly across the slopes,
he at once carefully took his boots off—he did not wear socks—and,
placing them side by side under his dirty blanket swag, put his feet
toward the camp fire, laid flat on his back, bit a large bit of black
tobacco plug off, and chewing the end fell asleep.

He left us in the morning at daybreak, went across the scrub with his
swag on his back and disappeared under the gums and never looked back

Some of those old swagsmen are wise old men with venerable grey beards,
mouths that seldom speak, and their grey eyes gaze steadily as though
they can see through you, for they have wonderful instinct developed
through years of practice.



The Deserted Hut—Visiting in the Bush—Stockriders

THERE were a lot of lonely men in those days, tramping the ocean-wide
bush lands, real helmless derelicts of humanity, as they staggered on
the currents of luck into the stockman’s farm at sunset, wailed their
pitiful tales of better days behind, mumbled their thanks over the tea
and sugar given by a kindly hand for their billy-can, and tramped away
once more into the solitude of gums and scrub. On and on they go that
way till they die.

One afternoon, while we were both sitting under the shade of a gum clump
out of the stare of the flashing eye of the sun, I noticed some white
bones gleaming in the dried-up grass and scrub. It was the skeleton of
some bushman; a rotten swag blanket lay under the white skull and the
knee bones were drawn up to the chest, showing the way he died out there
alone. As the white night mists crept over the hollows and the winds
stirred the gums over that relic of loneliness, both sad at heart, we
turned away and did not camp till we were miles away from that spot. The
impression left after that sight hung on us for a long time.

Once we came across an old bush shanty by a river side. We crept in its
little doorless room; through chinks overhead we saw the blue sky and
the blossoms of wild vines that clung over the rotting roof. The old
chair was still there velveted all over with grey moss, and the hearth
was thick with bush flowers. On the wall still hung the photo of a young
girl; the face though nearly faded away was a strikingly sweet one; we
felt instinctively that some sorrow, some long-ago romance, was
connected with that photograph. There was the mouldy bunk-bed wherein
the bushman had slept, and outside under an old gum, surrounded by
wattle bush in full bloom, was a grave, a small roughly made cross over
it, and that told us all as we stood by it while the frogs chanted in
the marsh just below. I can tell you that the sight of that tiny
ancestral hall, rotting out there in the silence, and the grave hard by,
affected me much more than if I had stood among the ruins of Imperial

A day or so after we arrived at the station, about twenty miles from
Arrawatta, and both tired out fell asleep on a bank just below a
stockman’s big wooden house and were both suddenly awakened by a loud,
gruff, but kindly voice saying, “Hello, youngsters, would you like some
tucker?” We sat up quickly and did not require any persuasion as that
big bearded fellow astride his horse told us to follow him up the slope.
When we arrived inside his wife had the table already laid; they had
noticed us both asleep on the slope outside and there is no place in the
world that can beat the colonial squatter for helping the bush wanderers
who are down on their luck. By Jove! we did have a feed, and as my
friend and I told the tall daughter, the squatter and his wife our
adventures and all we had seen they seemed to admire our pluck and did
all they could to cheer us up and invited us to stay the night, which we
did. There was a vineyard on the next slope, and in a shed close by
enormous bins full of the new season’s wine. I think we must have drunk
about two quarts each; I know that it livened us up, and that night
before going to bed we all sang and my comrade and I sang and played to
them some homeland songs. They had a visitor over from the next ranch.
He was an Irishman with merry blue eyes and a large pug nose. He owned
the world’s largest feet; I never saw such feet, and though he got drunk
and did step dances and jigs and swayed dangerously about, he never
fell, for as soon as he lost his mental balance his feet came to the
rescue; on them he swayed often with a terrible port or starboard list,
but always just in the nick of time slowly righted himself. Irishmen are
like Englishmen out in Australia. When they hear that you are from the
“Old Country” out comes their hand and in a firm grip you are sworn
friends. The Irishman will give you anything you ask for, will half
undress himself and place his clothes on your back, even though you
don’t want them; you are liable, however, to be sworn enemies at
daybreak when the reaction sets in, but if you know the way to manage
them they are soon smoothed over and you will find that you can keep
about half of the clothes without further threats.

We were near the border line that separates New South Wales and
Queensland then, and when we left next day we came across the drovers
marching across the country behind their cattle, bound south I think. I
can still see them in my mind as they passed away from us over the
sweltering hot plains, sitting astride their horses and cracking their
stock whips over their heads as the long ring of dancing flies that
wheeled round and round their big-rimmed hats parted in two and then
joined itself again, started to dine viciously off the eyes, necks and
steam that rose from the stockrider and his steed. It’s not all honey
(except for the flies), but nevertheless the bush drovers in their wild
life on the plains have happy lives; always on the move, they camp,
yarn, smoke and sing across the bushlands, always many miles away from
the spot where they camped the night before, and they have supplied the
Australian poets with any amount of inspired work in the songs of the
bush and of the rollicking men of the plains.

[Illustration: PASTORAL SCENERY, N.S.W.]

About a week after seeing those drovers pass by we arrived at a place
called “Bummer’s Creek” and stayed there for several days, helping Riley
the boss to build some outhouses. There seemed a good many loafers
hanging about that small township, for the Australian bush climate does
not inspire men to work. We were offered two horses at five shillings
each and I at once bought them. We sat astride, William and I, and
proudly waving our hands bade the men of the township farewell as we
started up the slope. I plied the stock whip and in less than
half-an-hour we had almost travelled three hundred yards! I was not much
of a judge of horse-flesh at that time, and I felt pretty wild at being
so sucked in. Two of the bushmen crept up the slope and then suddenly
discharged their revolvers close to the ears of those two horses of
ours, and that seemed to wake them up and off we went! Before sunset we
looked back and were out of sight of the township. I got terribly sore
through the protruding backbone of that stubborn beast; sometimes
William would dismount and laughing get behind and push it as its big
eyes stared like soap bubbles with fright. I felt sorry for it though,
especially when its underlip protruded as though through extreme nausea
it yearned to be sick and couldn’t. My comrade’s horse was nearly as
broken up as mine. We held a consultation together and decided to turn
them adrift. Away they went across the bush that night; we saw their
delighted tail stumps sticking up as they galloped across a patch of
moonlight and disappeared and became wild horses of the boundless



Before the Mast—Bound for San Francisco—Man Overboard—I see ’Frisco High
    Life—My first Funeral Expenses—Joss Houses—Guest my Friend

I WILL now leave my next three months of bush life unrecorded, as it
would be very much the same as I have already written about. William and
I got South Sea Island mad. It was my fault. I used to tell him about my
experiences and as I told him of Papoo and various other Samoan and
Fijian beauties, his eyes would gleam as he listened, until at last his
sole ambition in life was to go to the South Seas. Indeed I got a bit of
the fever on me to go out there again, and when we at length arrived in
Sydney I tried to get away with him, but as luck would have it he
managed to secure a billet on the German boat as messroom steward. I was
very sorry indeed to see him go, and he too when I said good-bye to him.
We had been happy and seen a lot together in our twelve months’
friendship. I stood on the wharf and waved good-bye to him. Dear old
William, I often wonder what became of him; I never saw him again.

A week after he left me I shipped before the mast on the _Cairnbulg_, a
large sailing ship bound for ’Frisco and then round the Horn home. We
had a terrible spell of bad weather. About two weeks after leaving
Sydney, one evening just as sunset faded a typhoon began to blow. We
were all sent aloft to take in sail; but it was too late, the mainmast
split and went overboard, taking and throwing one of the crew into the
raging sea. He still clung on to the tackle of the broken mast as it
floated overside, and then a big sea came down and he was washed off. We
hove her to and lowered the lifeboat; over came the seas like huge
icebergs, crashing to the decks as she shivered and groaned and pitched
with her broken masts and torn sails, swaying and screaming beneath the
storm-swept sky. There was no slackness of volunteers to man the
lifeboat as those white-faced sailors with the soul of pluck in their
eyes stood by and the chief mate took the helm. They lowered away; three
times they were nearly upset and thrown into the sea as the ship lay
right over and the big iron side seemed to lay under the lifeboat’s
keel. At last they got her safely on the water; the skipper stood on the
poop, the hurricane whipping his shouted orders away like pistol shots
as a sea came over and washed three of us along the deck. We all came
crash against the bulwark side, scrambled to our feet and rushed back
again to see if we could catch sight of the lifeboat that was out on the
pitch-black waters. How she lived in that sea was a marvel. They came
back, but without our comrade: he had gone for ever, and that night we
sat in the fo’c’sle on our sea-chests puffing our pipes deep in thought,
feeling very sad and wretched, and I heard the drowned sailor’s special
chum crying in his bunk opposite me for a long time as overhead the
look-out tramped to and fro and the fixed-up wind-jammer once more tore
along on her voyage. The empty bunk of the lost sailor which was just
below mine got on my nerves, and often when I was tired out and turned
in I lay sleeplessly thinking of the poor fellow away in his ocean grave
behind us, and would get up and go on deck and finish by sleeping on the
forepeak hatchway.

When we arrived in San Francisco our ship had to go into dry dock to
have a new mast fixed in and I got in with some American fellows ashore,
and what with the beautiful climate and congenial society and being sick
of living on “hard tack,” “soup and bully” and salt junk, I resolved to
leave the ship and stay behind. One of those shore friends of mine was
the manager of a dancing saloon in the north of the city, and he told me
that if I could play dance music on the violin he could offer me a good
salary. I got hold of a good book of dance music and, taking a small
room near Kearney Street, I practised the whole day long for nearly a
week, and soon got my hand in and eventually became a crack hand at the
job. The orchestra for that dancing establishment consisted of two
violins, a banjo and a harpist. The ladies who visited that secluded
hall were painted up to the eyes, some of them were pretty old stagers
painted and dressed up; whirling round the ballroom they passed off as
girls in their teens.

I had a good opportunity of observing the visitors of that ’Frisco
“high-class dancing saloon.” I found out after a little while that it
was used for various different crimes, and one night just as we had
finished the overture and the old Californian roués were taking their
partners, a fashionably dressed lady burst into the room and shot her
husband in the neck. I heard one of the bullets from her revolver whiz
by my head. The painted lady who had been hanging on the wounded man’s
arm fainted away and there was a terrible scene altogether, but the
whole matter never reached the public, it was all hushed up as the
victim was a gentleman who held a high position on the Bench. I think he
was a judge. I did not even care to play the fiddle to that crowd, but I
persevered and sawed away night after night. I received exceedingly good
money for the job and had no need to mix with the crew that danced to
the strains of music, as those wicked-looking members of the Californian
“elite” revelled in the atmosphere of freedom and all the dubious games
that caused the downfall of their old ancestors Adam and Eve.

I was then living in apartments in F—— Street; it was not a very
fashionable residence, but my comrade, whose name was “Crane,” lived
there, and persuaded me to live near him. He told me that he was an
Englishman and talked a good deal about dear old London, thinking that
it pleased me. There also lived a man in the same building who I was
told was the captain of a large sailing vessel. He was a suave-speaking
man, and spoke with a strong Yankee twang, wore side-whiskers, and every
time I chanced to meet him on the stairway, he was most genial in his
remarks and would praise my violin-playing, for I would play a good deal
during the daytime, not having much else to do. One morning my friend
Crane opened my room door and, coming in with a long face, sat opposite
me and said, “I say, Middleton, the Captain’s in great sorrow, his
wife’s dead, and if he can’t raise fifty dollars she will have to be
buried in a pauper’s grave.” I was very much touched as he continued the
tale, and told me several distressing details of the affection between
that captain and the poor wife, and when at last he described the death
scene the tears came into my eyes, and I at once volunteered to advance
the necessary cash, so as to give the poor fellow’s wife a decent

Crane knew that I had nearly eighty dollars in the bank, and when I
stood up and said I would go and get the money forthwith, he wiped his
own eyes, so touched was he by my impulsive kindness. I went off and got
the money, and coming back I said to Crane, “Where is he? Is he in his

“Yes,” Crane answered, “but he’s so broken up, and moreover he’s so
sensitive about borrowing money from anyone, that you had better leave
it on the toilet in his room, when he goes out, and I will explain all
to him.” I at once accepted his idea and understood, as I too would have
been sensitive in those days at borrowing fifty dollars.

That same night as I walked down the street on the way to the dancing
saloon, I met Crane and the bereaved Captain. I felt a bit uncomfortable
at first, and so did the Captain as he turned his face sideways, pulled
his whiskers and exchanged a quick glance with Crane and then nearly
tumbled over. I saw that he was “half seas over,” but I forgave him; I
knew that sorrow had driven better men than the Captain to take an extra
glass. Well, to cut a sad story short, I went over to the Captain’s
house next day to attend the funeral. I had not been invited, but I
wanted to do the thing properly. I had got the address out of Crane, and
the time, and about ten minutes before the procession was to start for
the cemetery I respectfully touched the knocker with a mournful tap,
tap. I shall never forget the face of the awful virago who opened the
door, and as soon as I mentioned the Captain’s name and told her the
purpose of my visit she glared at me and then roared with laughter. I
lost my temper at last and said, “I’ve paid fifty dollars for the
funeral.” That finished it, and then I heard the truth. The Captain was
a card-sharper and I had been done! Even the little ’Frisco kid of about
ten years of age looked up into my face with a partly sorrowful and
partly contemptuous expression that I was such an ass. I never knew
which one really had my fifty dollars, Crane or the Captain. I suppose
they shared it. I never saw the Captain again, but one night as I was
going to leave my room to go off to work I saw Crane dodge on the
staircase of the next floor. He had called to see if there were any
letters for him. I said, “Hi, Crane, I want to speak to you.” He came
into the room smiling. He had a white-livered face. “Where is my fifty
dollars?” I said. And then I had my first and last fight. The look in
his eyes broke the last thread of control in my temper, and I let out
and gave him a terrible smash in the jaw. He hardly defended himself; he
was such a coward, and so ended my friendship with Mr Crane and my trust
in “confidence men.” I have met many well-dressed men since that time
who agreed profoundly with all my ideas, and ended by telling me of
their rich old uncle who was waiting round the corner for ten dollars to
get back to his exchequer, but I’ve had my lesson, and if I met another
man who wanted money to bury his wife I would not advance it till I saw
the coffin, and even then I should respectfully lift the lid before I
left the room.

I never saw such a wild place as ’Frisco was in those days. Seafaring
men from all parts of the world congregated there much the same as in
the Australian sea-board cities. I know not if they were trade union
men, but they all looked very independent, chewed and spat much the same
as the sailors of my previous experience, excepting they were virtuosos
in the art and could send a stream of tobacco juice over their left
shoulder without moving the face from its frontward stare. Most of them
had billygoat whiskers, and cadaverous faces whereon was written
“recklessness”; they mostly lived on beer which was handed to them in
vast glasses which they called “deep seas,” “schooners” and “shea-oak.”
Those who are on the rocks never bother about food, but live on free
luncheons which you can help yourself to if you buy a drink; the food is
sometimes “hot sausages, roast beef, cheese and biscuits.”

I found the ’Frisco restaurants Oriental palaces compared with the
Australian dining-rooms. The Chinese were there by thousands, smoking
their opium and sleeping in awful hovels, such as damp underground
cellars, like rats in a hole, and often as you walked by Jackson Street
you knew they were under the pavement because the hot, fevered stench
came up through the paving stone cracks that let in air to their
subterranean dens. As in Sydney they live by gambling and pray for luck
in their “Joss-houses,” and you would always know that the “Fan-tan” was
on by the yellow nose and alert small eyes of the old spy peeping at the
door, keeping “tiggy” in case of a police raid.

At this time I got in with an elderly fellow named Guest. He was a real
“knock-out” for yarning and told me many thrilling tales of adventure as
we sat or walked out together. He had lived a good deal in Australia. He
and I went out through the Golden Gate together, and visited Farallon
Islands. He was hard up and I paid the expenses; he was a good chap and
thankful too, and would have done the same for me I knew if I had run
short. He seemed to know a lot about Australian gaol life and I think he
had lodged in one of them against his wish, and so I have not told you
his right name. He would tell me many of his experiences and I think
that he had escaped from penal servitude at one time or other, for he
always, when dwelling on his bush life, let out in some way or other
that he nearly stumbled across a township during his wanderings, which
was strange considering he should, from my own experience, have been
very pleased to do so.

One night we sat together in my little room in Kearney Street. I was
strumming on the fiddle and he sat by the window smoking and started one
of his yarns. He had a mysterious face, and a quiet earnest voice, and
whenever he was serious I would listen carefully to him, and that night
he seemed more serious than usual.

“Put your fiddle down, Middleton,” he said, “and I’ll tell you about my
hut experience.”

I was so impressed by that tale of his that I think I will tell it you
here, as nearly as possible the way he told it to me, as I sat there by
the window. Slowly he began: “I was fairly bushed once in North
Queensland; it was the time of the great drought. I hadn’t even a swag
and it was that sweltering hot that I lay stark naked in a swamp by a
gully for half the day. I felt pretty sick too, for I had drunk nearly a
quart of the frog-spawned water which was nearly black with ooze and
dead reptiles, and I got the fever in my blood that bad that I kept
seeing faces swim over me in the steam that rose from the two-inch-deep
scum as I lay flat on my back. Phew! it makes me sweat now as I think of

“Well, that night as soon as the sun sank like a clot of blood below the
skyline, I rose up, full of aches and pains and nearly dead, wiped
myself down, put on my pants and shirt, which I had used for a towel,
and started staggering off determined to make a last attempt to get to
some township or shanty. I think I must have lost my head a bit then,
for I got shouting and tearing at my throat as I stumbled along. The
moon was up, and for miles over the flat country I could see the gum
clumps standing perfectly still, for there was not a breath of wind.
Presently I heard a dingo wailing and then silence again as a wind
sprang up and over my head the gums’ leaves stirred a bit and the cool
air washed my parched body over as though dead fingers were caressing
me. Then I could hardly believe my eyes, for across the grey slopes far
away I saw a small light. By God, didn’t that light buck me up as I
scrambled along and crawling up a small slope on all-fours, for I was
then too weak to walk up anything, I found myself standing before a
small hut. Outside was a large rain-water tub. I gave the hut door a
crash with my foot and then head first went for that tub. ‘Who’s there?’
someone said as I heard the bolt drawn. It was a woman’s voice. ‘It’s
only me,’ I answered as she stood at the door gazing astonished as I
wiped my mouth. I looked a terrible guy standing there bare-headed and
steaming, for I had ducked my head in that water butt; my boots were
open at the ends like an alligator’s jaws and I only had my pants on, so
you can imagine I did not look the kind of visitor that a woman longed
to see at a lonely bush hut at midnight. Anyway she soon saw that I was
genuine enough, and in no time I was sitting inside feeling wonderfully
refreshed as I drank a large pannikin of hot tea and washed down some
food. She was a wistful-looking wench, and I wondered a bit where the
boss was, as she sat there white-faced and the open door let the
midnight wind in and the moonbeams and shadowed leaves crept over the
walls and on to her face and knees from the trees outside. I told her my
tale, and then she told hers. Her husband lay in the next room dead, and
the young fellow who worked for him had gone off nearly fifty miles to
get a coffin for the body. I felt that I was dreaming as I sat there and
the night wind blew at intervals and sighed across the forest gums.

“‘When will he be back?’ I asked her.

“‘Not till to-morrow,’ she said, and as the hour was getting late and I
started to yawn and nearly fell asleep as I sat on the wooden bench, she
asked me if I would mind sleeping in the next room where that thing was!
At first I hesitated a bit, but not liking to look a coward I pulled
myself together and said, ‘Well, I don’t mind,’ for I saw that I should
have to sleep outside if I didn’t, as there was only one room besides
the small kitchen where we were, and just by where she sat twitching her
fingers on her knees was her own bed made up. She gave me a small bit of
candle and pointed to the long couch as I entered that hushed room and
quietly closed the door behind me. It was a large room and as I looked
around I caught sight of a long trestle up against the farther wall
right opposite the small window across which hung wild vines. I began to
feel pretty bad; my past experience had a bit unnerved me. Placing the
candle on a little stool beside me, I settled myself on the couch,
inwardly cursing my luck at being given only one inch of tallow candle.
By faith, I could not keep my eyes off that thing. I heard my own breath
as I lay there all of a sweat, and then the candle spluttered and went
out, and as the wind blew outside, and the shadow of the boughs through
the window moved to and fro on the walls just above the shrouded
six-foot figure, my eyes stared and stared and it seemed as though the
protruding feet moved as the moonlight crept in patches over the
trestle. And then a terrible thing happened.

“I swear by all that’s holy I tell the truth—the top of the white shroud
moved back and revealed a long grey-bearded face! My feet also slowly
moved off that couch to make a bolt from the room, and likewise those
dead feet moved slowly towards the floor to stay my flight! I was
paralysed with terror. I tried to shout, but something gripped my
throat. Up rose that dead man’s finger as with bright eyes gleaming he
said, ‘Hush, I’m not dead!’ Outside, as he said that, I heard a whisper
and the crackling of twigs and a shadow whipped across the wall as
someone passed by the window. In a moment I recovered. ‘Not dead?’
thought I. ‘I’ll show you to play this trick on me,’ and I leapt to my
feet, but the old bounder was too quick for me. Crash over my head went
something, and before I could get out of the door he had vanished,
shutting it with a bang behind him. I heard a scream. Taking a woodman’s
axe from the wall I crashed away at that door to get to the woman who
had befriended me. Down it came as I smashed away.

“Rushing into the room I looked round. I was too late. I stumbled over
something huddled on the floor, and saw that the worst had happened. I
turned round and looked through the hut door over the moonlit slopes;
with the jaw-rag flapping behind him ran that monstrous man who had
feigned death; in front flew a little man. I heard a scream as he
uplifted his gun and shot him and then turning it on himself blew the
top of his own head off. It all seemed to happen in an instant, and
there was I left alone by that hut. By the door stood a coffin and that
told me that the second victim was the man who had gone off to do the
undertaking job. I at once started off from that cursed place, for I
knew that were I found there the whole tragedy would be fastened on to
me,” and saying this he knocked the ashes out of his pipe and wished me
good-night and went off.”



I play the Violin at Fashionable Concerts, etc.—Ship before the Mast for
    Sydney—Go Up Country—Sheep-shearing—The Shearers’ good Resolutions
    and the Fall

I NEVER knew what to make of Guest; he certainly believed all that he
told me. He eventually came to my lodging and lived in the next room; he
had an old duck, I think he said it was eighteen years old; he carried
it about much the same as folks do a pet poodle. I never saw such a wise
and affectionate thing as that duck was. By his bed in a large
collar-box it would sit the whole night long and follow him and me about
the room like a kitten. How he got it and why he was so fond of it was a
mystery to me; he was the last man in the world one would have thought
to have a pet duck and put up with the nuisance of it, but he had the
duck right enough, and when we sat having our meals together it would
push its beak under our arms and steal the dainty bits off our plates.
That was nuisance enough, but the smell of it was outrageous and I very
seldom had luncheon with Guest afterwards, but had most of my meals in a
restaurant hard by.

I was still engaged at playing the fiddle at the dancing hall, and now
and again I accepted engagements to go out to balls, etc., among the
“élite” of San Francisco. It was at the palatial residence of a ’Frisco
nabob out at Menbo Park that I played my first public solo. I was
terribly nervous. The solo I played was Rode’s “Air in G,” and I gave as
an encore the “Cavatina” by Raff. Guest was there that night; I had
managed to get him a ticket and borrowed a decent suit for him. I was
sorry after that I had invited him. He got drinking too much, and though
I had warned him to behave himself he shouted at the top of his voice as
soon as I had finished my solo, “Good old Middleton! Give us another.” I
turned hot all over and the perspiration whisked off my brow as I bowed
to the applause of the audience and the pretty girl at the piano gazed
up into my face and quickly placed the music of the “Cavatina” on the
pianoforte and I was glad to start off playing again. I made several
mistakes but I don’t think anyone noticed them; my name on the programme
was not Middleton but Signor Marrionette! and everyone, of course, had
great faith in the playing of a gentleman with that name.

Through my musical ability and enterprise I saw a good deal of ’Frisco
“high life,” and after a deal of experience I came to the conclusion
that low life was only the crude essence of high life. One set wiped
their noses with a silk pocket handkerchief and the other with the thumb
and forefinger, but both acted under the same impulse. The real curse of
those early engagements was that after I had played the ladies would
circle round me, quizz me up and down, old and young plying me with
questions, telling me how they would love to spend their lives listening
to delicious strains of music; they thought I was a soft sentimental
poetical youth, green to the ways of life, and little dreamed that I had
seen them all, so to speak, dancing in the South Seas with nothing on!

I was very homesick about that time and as Guest had made up his mind to
go to Alaska I made up my mind to get out of ’Frisco and home to
England. I threw my job up and not having enough money to pay my fare
home I set about trying to get a berth on a ship. I will not weary you
with my disappointments, but I eventually after many hardships got a job
as deck-hand on the _Alameda_ bound for Sydney. I had made up my mind to
get to Sydney first and then get a berth on a ship that went by the Suez
Canal route. After a rotten trip across tropic seas, working like a
nigger, and sleeping in quarters that would have made the ’Frisco
Chinamen sniff with disgust, I arrived at Woolloomoolloo Bay, was paid
off and wandered about for several days.

I could not discover any of my old acquaintances that I would like to
have seen. The _Lubeck_ was in dock, but though I tried all I could to
see if William my friend had returned, I could get no information. There
were hundreds of English fellows trying to work their passages back to
England and every week the deep-sea boats came through Sydney Heads with
hundreds of passengers on deck gazing with admiring eyes at the
beautiful scrub-covered hills of Sydney Harbour, their hearts beating
happily as the relatives and friends waved their hands on the wharf. I
often stood and watched the sisters, brothers, and lovers meet, and as
the ships left the wharf for England once more I stood and watched the
farewell hands waving as the great P. & O. or Orient liners sailed away,
taking the hearts of the pinched white-faced, ragged brigade with her.

Failing to get a berth or a job at violin-playing, I availed myself of
an opportunity offered me to go up country sheep-shearing. The new
friends I had fallen in with told me that I could earn a splendid wage
at the job, and though I knew nothing about the work, I believed them
and went off.

We went a hundred miles by rail and tramped the rest, and when I
eventually reached the sheep-station I had no boots to my feet, and my
trouser legs were torn away through tramping through stiff scrub. I
never had such a rough job in my life as on that sheep-shearing station.
Hundreds of men arrived day after day from different parts of New South
Wales, and clamoured for work. They were men of all degrees, swagsmen of
long experience, and men of no experience, new chums and old chums. I
got in just in time to get a job as a “rouse-about,” and then became a

Many of us slept in camp tents and I made a good bit of money by
fiddle-playing. I extemporised a small orchestra, which consisted of a
concertina, two banjos and a bone clapper, and when the work was done we
would sit under the blue gums and, as the sun twinkled on the skyline
and disappeared, start the concert, and never did I have such an
appreciative audience as they stood, those rough unshaved men leaning
against the trees or sitting on stumps smoking and listening to the
melodies that took their hearts back to the homeland, and as we played
away and the marsh frogs croaked they would join in the chorus of some
old song and put their whole soul in it. “Play that again, matey,” they
would say as some strain touched them and awoke memories of long ago.
I’ve often seen the tears in the eyes of those men, and I liked them;
some of them were old enough to be my father. They were mostly men of a
sentimental turn of mind and good men, as far as their intentions went,
but they all found it so hard to make their actions harmonise with their
intentions. They work hard when they do work, and after the shearing
season go off with a big cheque and a firm resolve to start a little
business or go back across the seas to see the old faces again.

With their billy-can swinging in their hand and their swag on their back
they start across the bush, outbound to the new life of quiet and
sweetness, and then the dreadful fall comes. Hot and tired they all
stumble across the grog shanty in the bush town, outside of its wooden
door they drop their swags to the ground, gaze in each other’s eyes with
that querying look that says in silent language, “Well, I don’t think
just one drink would hurt us,” and then each one carefully looks at the
other, as though to say, “Mind, Bill, only one this time,” for they have
all been through the same old fiasco before, made the same good
resolutions and alas, then do as they will always do, for that one drink
resolves into two. Each one looks once more at the other and each one
relents and grants his comrade one more drink. “Yes, Bill, but mind you
that’s the last,” and then one poking his head out of the grog shanty
sees the sun setting and remarks to the others, “It’s getting late,
chums; we’d better camp here for the night.” They all agree, and again
all agree that another drink could not possibly hurt any of them. By
that time they are getting half-seas over with the extra drinks in
between which they each swallowed while the other wasn’t looking! Then
the loud songs commence, and the yarns of past brave deeds, and the grog
seller rubs his hands, delighted to see them getting affectionate one
with the other as each finds his appreciative listener. By this time
their voices can be heard at the township homesteads two miles over the
hills, and the folk come from far and near to hear the songs, and to see
the drunken spree of the homebound shearers. Already the dance has
commenced, and the banjo is going full speed, “pink-a-tee-pink,” and
then a space is cleared for the grand fight over the awful insult to the
man from Stony Creek who has been doubted when he said he knew where
gold could be found by the ton, and he found it but it was so heavy that
he couldn’t carry it into town.

By midnight all the money is nearly spent, and on the slopes by the grog
shanty most of them are sprawling fast asleep, the more excitable ones
lifting their hatless heads up now and again, gurgling out some
spasmodic strain of the last drunken song which they were singing just
before they fell down.

At daybreak they are standing outside of the grog seller’s door kicking
it with their boots, their mouths fevered and parched by the awful
poison which they drank the night before, and so the great resolution
ends once more. With their billy-cans and swags they depart across the
bush on their several ways sad men on the “Wallaby track” homeless and
penniless. And so they go on till they die, and I can well tell you all
this because I was with those men, heard the good resolutions, saw the
tears rise in their fearless eyes as they spoke with emotion of the
happy-to-be future, and then witnessed their fall. With four of them I
tramped away across the bush solitudes to look for work in a world of
stern reality, for wherever you go in this world you will find that you
cannot live on dreams.



Lost in the Bush—The Drought—We find dead Comrades together—Horse and

IT was my luck to be on the lonely track humping the swag when a great
drought swept its burning wave across the whole of Australia. On the
borders of Queensland I had been with two more English emigrants working
on a selector’s ranch at “Sunrise Creek.” Dorrell was the boss’s name
and he had a splendid stock of sheep and many acres of land under
cultivation. He proved a fine man to us lads and treated us as though we
were his own sons. I taught his daughter to play the violin and he was
so proud when she was first able to play “Home, Sweet Home” that he
smacked me on the back and gave me a week’s holiday. But life in a
selector’s homestead is extremely monotonous, and after staying there
six months I bade them all farewell, and with a kindred spirit started
off to tramp to Maranoa with the idea of getting across to Queensland
and into more lively surroundings.


It was on that tramp that the great drought struck the country; forests
that were green shrivelled to grey and then to brown, as the fiery blast
from the white hot sun day after day crept over the sky as we tramped
along. The wind blew like the hot blasts from some volcano; the swamps
and creeks and pools soon became baked and cracked shallows, wherein the
very frogs stuck in the dry ooze, died and stank. While we passed by,
half dead ourselves, searching for water, overhead across the cloudless
blue passed swarms of parrots. As my comrade and I staggered along we
heard the dismal mutterings of those birds as they sped away overhead
and faded away leaving a greater loneliness after they disappeared, tiny
specks on the Southern skyline. To the south-west of us rose some hills,
and at nightfall we came across a pool of water at the bottom of a deep
gully. It was hot-fevered stuff, but we knelt side by side and drank it
as on the scorched blue gums the carrion crows wept, and yet, with that
same hope that springs eternally in the human breast, sharpened up their
beaks with the forlorn hope that we might yet die and our rotting
carcasses supply them with food. By the swamp we slept that night, and
once more at daybreak started off. Over us on the eucalyptus trees the
carrion crows had slept and over our heads they croaked and flapped
lazily along, following us, and often they would stay by the trackless
track to feed on the dead birds in the mulga-scrub, birds that had
fallen from their perch during the night, dead through the want of
water. For miles and miles the bush lay around us, nothing but a
leafless, waterless drought-stricken ocean, and often as the migrating
birds passed over, some would half fall from the blazing sky and settle
on the tree-tops to die, just the same as swallows do far out at sea as
the stragglers fly to the rigging of the lonely ship, and fall dead on
the deck during the night through hunger.

My comrade was English, and was a splendid friend; he was three or four
years older than I, and when we sat down together and shared out the
food we had in our swag, we would almost quarrel because he would deny
himself and give me the largest share. He was uneducated, but that did
not matter. God had amply repaid him in the making for all that his
education might lack when he was a man, and twelve months after, when I
read in a newspaper that I had been drowned at sea on the schooner
_Alice_ that was lost with all hands, I felt terribly upset. I had given
him one of my “Very good” discharges so that he could secure a berth; he
got the berth, and my name being on his discharge he had to sail under
my name, and died bearing my name. Many beautiful things were said of me
when my old acquaintances also read the account, and thought it was I
who was drowned; but when the truth came out, and I appeared and was
once more known to be living in common flesh, I became commonplace, and
the beautiful things that only survive in the memory for those who are
dead, faded and my sins once more awoke and peeped through my good
reputation like the slit-mouths of those frogs that protrude among the
pure white lilies of a crystal lake. But I must return to that tramp
across those drought-stricken plains.

I think it was three weeks before we reached civilisation again, though
we were not more than two hundred miles from Warrego. I sprained my
ankle while crossing a gully, and found it a terrible job to get along,
but Ned Shipley, my comrade, made me lean on his shoulder as he
staggered along with the swag, which was nearly empty. We had thrown all
the blankets away and kept just one small rug to wrap our little
remaining food in. Several times I gave in and told him to go on and
take care of himself, but he was not made that way and simply lifted me
up and dragged me along. Just when we were both nearly roasted up to
dried skin and bone and despairing, we came across a deep cleft in a
gully, and in its shaded glooms we found dozens of juicy prickly pears
growing on the huge boughs. I lay at full length on my back utterly
exhausted as Ned knocked the prickles off the rind with his boots and
placed the crimson fruit in my parched mouth. That night was the first
night that we really slept soundly, and when we awoke the sun had
already fired the eastern sky with blood-red streaks. As we lay on our
backs under the tall dried-up blood-wood trees, we saw the flocks of
cockatoos and migrating spoonbills pass in hurrying fleets across the
sky. All was hushed on the slopes around us, excepting for the chanting
noise of the locusts and the surviving tree-frogs. I remember well that
particular morning; the long sleep had considerably refreshed us both,
and my comrade even started to sing and I to dream of home and England.
I lay by his side and I seemed to realise with a deeper intensity all
that had happened. And as the scent of the parched sea-scrub blew in
whiffs around my nostrils, and my chum stood up and gazed dreamily
across the plains with his hand arched over his sky-blue eyes, I felt
the atmosphere of wild romance come over me. Notwithstanding all the
misery of that tramp and my helplessness, the spirit of adventure seemed
to thrill me with a strange happiness. Even now after all the years I
can still see the rolling plains around us, our homeless camp under the
blood-wood trees, and the big bird that fluttered just overhead, with
crimson underwings and one of its legs hanging down as though it was
broken, as it gave a lonely wail and passed away. On we tramped that day
and towards nightfall, by the side of a dried-up creek, we both stood
and gazed on one of the saddest sights of loneliness and helplessness
that I ever saw or may ever see again. There by a dead stunted palm on
the desert lay the skeleton of a horse; the bones were bleached white
and so was the relic of humanity beside it, and as we both gazed on that
sad sight, we instinctively drew closer to each other.

           The last lone ride I live it again,
           Lost, alone on the drought-swept plain,
           The grey-green gone from the scattered scrub;
           The frogs stink, dead in the dry creek mud;
           Away in the sky on southward flight,
           Far specking the waste of blinding light,
           The parrots are curling their glittering wings,
           Soft-croaking their dismal mutterings;
           By the small hot sun in fleets they pass
           Where the wide sky flames like molten glass,
           On crawls the horse o’er the trackless track,
           The rider scorched on its blistered back!
           A castaway on wide, waveless seas.
           Miles, miles away rise gaunt gum-trees,
           Like derelicts old, with sailless mast,
           Cast on the rocks by the drought’s hot blast
           The sun dies down—on the dim skyline
           Faint-twinkles once like a goblet of wine
           Held over that dead world’s hazy rim,
           And the lost man’s eyes far gaze aswim
           As the tide of dark rolls over him!
           There’s hope! for a tiny cloud doth rise,
           Toils slowly across the noiseless skies,
           Creeps down to a speck on the other side,
           To leave him alone on the desert wide;
           ’Tis night—overhead the bright stars creep.
           He lies with his one friend down to sleep:—
           And the months and the years have since rolled by,
           And the horse and the master still there lie;
           Where those sad eyes of hope peered thro’
           The green shoot peeped—a bush flower blew,
           For we found them there, yes, side by side—
           Two skeletons white—just as they died.
           Our hearts were heavy as on we went,
           For his thin bone arm was softly bent—
           Curled round the neck of his big comrade
           There, telling us how two friends had laid
           Their tired heads under the drought-swept sky.
           And still out there the white bones lie.[9]

Footnote 9:

  Reproduced from the author’s _Bush Songs and Oversea Voices_.

It was a long time before the first influence left on our minds by that
sight passed away. As darkness crept over the cloudless skies and the
bright Australian stars flashed out, we lay together behind some large
boulders and dead scrubwood as nervous as two children, and often my
heart leapt as the jewel-like eyes of the big lizards darted up the dead
scrub and grass twigs by our heads, as they slipped and squeaked and
scampered away. We were only about three or four hundred yards from that
spot, and as night wore on and moonrise burst out over the trackless
plains, the wind-blown shadows seemed to move to and fro by the steeps
and gullies, as though the ghosts of dead men crept from their unknown
graves and wailed while the hot night wind cried through the leafless
gum clumps. I almost feared to see my tired-out chum’s face in repose,
as he lay by me fast asleep, with his mouth open, breathing out God’s
sad music of humanity as with each breath his chest heaved up and down,
while the moonbeams on his unshaved thin face sea-sawed with his snores.

It was with intense relief that, when still staggering along three days
after, we stumbled across a track and following it for some miles came
to a homestead, and almost fell down by the verandah as we knocked at
the door. The old Irishwoman almost wept over us and ran about with her
pots muttering and saying, “Sure and begorra the poor bhoys have
suffered.” The dear soul kept pushing broths from her stockpot down our
throats with a long wooden spoon till at last I had to beg of her to
desist, otherwise I am sure I should have brought the whole gift up
again. Her husband was also very kind to us and they gave up their own
bed for us to sleep in that night. In two days we were almost fit again.
I had devoted all my spare time to bathing my ankle and the swelling
soon went down, and when Riley rode off, bound in his shaky old bush
cart for a place called Indrapilly, he took us with him, for though we
were welcome to stay there at his homestead, we had had quite enough of
the bush and both of us longed to get to the town again. Here I will end
this short narrative of my experience with that true comrade of mine in
the Australian bush and the lonely tramp across solitudes where many men
in times gone by have gone and passed away for ever; for often the
traveller comes across bleached bones in those wastes, and sometimes
lonely graves, with the name cut in the bark of a tree just by or on
some roughly extemporised cross.

                 In the never-never land they sleep,
                   Where the parrots o’er them fly,
                 Winged-flowers across some sombre steep
                   And monumental sky.
                 Fenced by stretched skylines far around
                   Where thro’ the bushman creeps,
                 Finds some lone long-forgotten mound
                   Upon the nameless steeps;
                 Ay, by its cross may dreaming stand
                   Then, swag upon his back,
                 Fade far across the scrub and sand
                   Out on the lonely track.

For two or three months my chum and I stuck together and secured
employment on the farm stations near Toowoomba and then tramped on
again. With several pounds saved up we eventually arrived at Port Bowen
and from there went by boat to Brisbane, and then I bade him good-bye,
for he secured a berth on a ship bound for New Zealand and the next I
heard of him was from a newspaper report that he was drowned, as I have
previously told you. I stayed for about two months in Brisbane and made
an attempt to get into the theatre orchestra again, but could not manage
it; I secured several concert engagements, however, as I was then an
expert violinist and could play by heart several of Spohr’s concertos
and the tricky variations of Paganini’s “Carnaval de Venice.”

About this time the rumours of great gold finds were being discussed,
believed and doubted in all of the Australian cities, and I got hold of
a newspaper article which had evidently been written by some imaginative
journalist. Had the account of the discoveries and immense fortunes that
were picked up day by day been believed by the author of that story he
would have been a terrible ass to have sat there writing articles for a
provincial paper, wasting valuable time when fortunes were awaiting men
who cared to take the trouble to get them by strolling through the bush
north of Perth. Anyway I believed a good deal that he wrote, and got the
gold fever, which was raving pretty strongly all over, like an echo of
“the roaring fifties,” when gold was first discovered by Hargraves. The
exiled convicts of those days in Sydney threw their shovels and crowbars
down on to the Government land allotted to them, went across country,
made fortunes and returned to Sydney and Melbourne prosperous men,
elevated from the convicts’ chains to the peaks of fame, their pedigrees
forgotten, the past swallowed up for ever. Their late enemies became
their firmest friends, as it was, is now and ever shall be, world
without end, to those who have plenty of gold; and so by one stroke of
fortune men from the condemned cell who had grinned through prison bars
attained to velvet comfort and applause, became notable officials, ay,
and rose to be judges on the Bench, and so by the irony of fate often
got their own back! But I must not digress and go so far back, as that
time is now history and all happened long before I emigrated from my
sleep in eternity into the realms of time to creep across the
“Never-never land” on my futile search for gold to help me to keep
comfortable and warm.



Off to the Gold Fields—The Great Rush—Digging for Gold—Various
    Characters—I find an Old Pair of Boots and am thankful

I WILL now tell you of my own experiences in that gold rush. I left
Brisbane by boat and landed at Perth, West Australia, and found myself
one of a wild crew of some hundreds bound for the newly discovered
Eldorado. I had little money with me and so, with many fellows who were
likewise in desperate financial circumstances, we went as far as we
could by train and then tramped the remainder, bound for Coolgardie and
Kalgoorlie. By Jove, they were a mixed lot those gold seekers, the
children of Israel crossing the desert were nowhere in it. Some were old
men, pushing wheelbarrows with their future homesteads in them, others
rode bicycles, and the remainder, big unshaved men, scoundrels and
angels side by side, all with swags on their backs, tramped along across
those desert lands each surrounded by a small ring of flies, as our eyes
blinked and we moved along in the blinding sun, ever onward, pulled by
the magnet that draws the hearts of men towards desolation and gives
extraordinary energy to weary blistering feet as it pulls them onward to
fame and fortune or, very often, to a grave in the desert. For as we
tramped along sweating, and cursing our swollen feet, we often
discovered off the track the whitening bones of horses and camels and
their long-dead riders as the remains lay stretched, half hidden in the
mulga-scrub, the bush grass sprouting through the white ribs; men who
had died in delirium, tearing their parched throats with maddened thirst
under the blinding sun of those parched lands. Sometimes we discovered a
tiny rough cross where the comrades had hurriedly buried the delicate
youth who could not battle with the bush hardships, taken his last
scribbled letter with them, and passed away; sometimes those letters
were posted months, even years, afterwards in the cities, and often
never posted at all, not intentionally but the trusted ones would lose
them or die themselves.

One of my companions on that tramp was an old man with yellow teeth. I
did not seek his company but he sought mine and fastened himself on me
like some old man of the sea, borrowed my food, my tobacco, my matches,
and water, which was terribly scarce. I do not think that old fellow had
had a bath for many years; deep in the forest of his shaggy beard
cracked the dirt and dry tobacco juice of other days, and often as an
extra strong gust of wind blew the lower part back that hung over his
chest, I saw his neck all marked like a zebra where the perspiration had
rolled the dirt from his head downwards, and so you can imagine that I
was not delighted to find that he had become so attached to me, all
through my being, as he said, “the dead spit of his son who had died in
a Melbourne lunatic asylum.” I was a bit soft-hearted and did not like
to snub the old chap, and so I kept to the windward side of him and
tramped along. I called him “dad” and made out that I was listening
eagerly to all the yarns he told me. I do not remember much of what he
said, as I was too much occupied with my own thoughts. I think he had
been a bit of a bushranger in his time, for his conversation turned
mostly that way as we camped and sat all together round the tent fire
till the billy boiled and we ate food which would have made me sick
under normal conditions, but when you are young and have tramped across
twenty miles of red rock and stones on half-a-pint of swamp water and
four ounces of stale bread, putrid tinned meat is a real godsend, and
even that we borrowed from the men who were wealthy men compared to us.
Men of all classes they were; some had aristocratic-looking noses, and
refined faces under their scrubby short beards; some had pug noses and
looked fierce and spoke with an underbred twang, while others spoke like
polished university men, and many of them were too, as they sat with
hungry eyes in the moonlight dreaming of the past and hoping about the
future and the prizes Chance might give in the great school of Adversity
wherein men learn so much.

It rained one night and never stopped for twenty-four hours. I awoke
with many others soaked to the skin and shivering. The wind at night
blew quite cold. Those who were fortunate enough to have tents stayed in
them, and some of them were so crowded that feet and legs protruded in
circles around them as the rain beat down the whole day. I managed to
get my head and one shoulder into one of those shelters. When the rain
ceased and we all packed up and moved on again I got a shivering fit on
me and was nearly dead by the time I reached Kalgoorlie. An Irishman and
his wife took me in and gave me a room over their shop near the end of
Hannan Street; I lay in bed a week before I was well enough to walk out
to get my fortune of gold as quickly as possible and clear off to Perth
and go home to England.

For miles men were pegging out their claims and prospecting the country;
the claim was usually named after some peculiarity of the spot where it
was situated or through something peculiar about the man who owned it.
The next claim to where I with others dug a hole twenty feet deep for no
purpose whatever, excepting to make it soppy with our perspiration, was
called “Apples’ Claim.” The miner who owned it was always taking oaths
and saying “As sure as God made little apples.” And so it got its name.
My old man of the sea’s claim was called “The Great Unwashed Neck Reef.”
Some had poetical titles named after the anxious girl in some far-off
land who waited the return of her lover with the great fortune, which
generally arrived with a thousand kisses in a long letter and an earnest
request for her to make a collection, send out the amount for a fare
home by steerage passage, and a postscript imploring for no delay as
death might end the suspense.

On my claim worked three others, a Scotch fellow named Burns, and
“Smith” and “Birth Mark.” Smith and Burns were quiet plodding men, who
breathed heavily with hope as they shovelled away. “Birth Mark” (which
was only a nickname) was a kind of Don Quixote and swashbuckler mixture,
and as he turned the windlass over our heads and drew the buckets of
earth up as we toiled in the shaft below, he would talk to us for hours
without stopping, telling us of his grand pedigree, how he was of Norman
blood and the soul of honour; so honourable was he that he was only a
poor man through scorning to be a party to a dishonourable action. It
was wonderful to hear of the great opportunities that had come his way
and how he had let them all go by through his conscience dwelling upon
some tiny point bearing on the question as to whether it would be right
and proper for him to take the fortune offered, or to toil as a poor
man. He would blow his chest out and gaze upon us as though we were much
beneath him. I put up with his vulgarity because he had lent me the ten
shillings for my “Claim” licence and taken my violin as security.

He would sit by the camp fire by night and tell us all the details of
his home life in England. He had left his wife in the old country and
seemed terribly spiteful about it. “Middy,” he would say to me, “she was
a real bitch, my wife was. What would you have done with a wife that
wanted all the say and never got up till twelve o’clock in the day, and
when you complained over the late breakfast struck you over the head
with her boots?” I pitied him and told him so, and so did all the miners
as he gabbled on, though we all envied that English woman comfortably
tucked up in bed till midday in old cold England. A lot of the fellows
looked shocked at such laziness and it would have done your hearts good
to have seen the tremendous indignation on the faces of those miners
when he told us that he crept home rather suddenly one day and caught
the young lodger on the top attic examining the blue birth-mark under
his wife’s knee. He told us of his rage and of his wife’s indignation
over his rage, till the whole camp roared with laughter and from that
night he was known as “Birth Mark” and was so thick-skinned and
thick-headed that he answered to the rude sallies and that nickname with
pride, firmly believing that they all sympathised with him over that
story. I got to like him somewhat, for his mighty swagger was intensely
amusing and harmless enough. He camped with me for a long time, helped
us in digging the shafts, and also in the dry blowing, as we prospected
for surface gold in the bush for miles around.

Many men struck rich on the Great Boulder, but no luck came our way. Day
after day we toiled and I think we must have dug hundreds of shafts. I
often fancied myself sailing home to England as a saloon passenger a
millionaire!—and thrilled at the thought of my family’s delight as I
pensioned each one off for life; but I soon had not boots to my feet and
we sold the claims that we valued the week before at two thousand pounds
for one pound each to new chums greener than ourselves, and in the end
had to live on tick, and then Birth Mark suddenly one night disappeared
taking with him my razor and all that he could lay his hands on, which
included the little gold we had given him to mind. We never saw him
again; he would have suffered from ill health for a long time if we had
come across him, but he was of Norman blood and had too much respect for
his aristocratic skin to expose it to our plebeian wrath.

I do not think we should have had such bad luck if we had worked
completely on our own and not listened to the advice of men who knew
everything and kept pegging out claims according to the rules of theory
and found nothing, while often the new chum came on the “fields” and
struck gold almost the first day. We got excited and went farther up
country prospecting, camped out and endured all the hardships that
follow the life of the unsuccessful gold seeker whose capital consists
of his enthusiasm, his greenness and the one suit of shabby clothes that
he lives and sleeps in.

Often out on those lonely tracks my comrades and I passed deserted
shafts and heaps of empty meat tins with the weeds already covering up
the remains of recent mushroom civilisation and the blasted hopes of
mining men. We too drifted into the hopeless stage, built a tent by the
deserted camps and rested before we started off back to the towns again.
One of the men, an old sailor, who had left a ship at Perth and had come
up country, thinking to make his fortune and surprise his Polly Beck of
London Town by arriving home a wealthy man, had a gun with him, was an
excellent shot, and early in the morning he would shoot the green
parrots that fluttered and stirred the grass on the hills by thousands.
On these birds some of them lived. My friend Smith and I gave up gold
seeking utterly and sat down and slept in the sun by day and strolled
over the bush to break the monotony. The country struck me as very
desolate-looking, but it was considerably relieved by the beautiful
everlasting bush flowers that grew on the hills, with all the colours of
the rainbow sparkling in them. In those parts also grew the lovely green
Kurrajong trees, and the sombre blue and white gums. At night, we heard
the melancholy note of the mopoke in the bush and wailing things that I
never caught sight of.

I well remember the tramp back to Kalgoorlie with my friend Smith by my
side. He too was despondent, for we had both dreamed of making vast
fortunes, and smacked each other on the back as we chuckled over our
prodigal return to England as wealthy men. I was delighted before
nightfall of that day as we tramped back to leave the gold fields for
ever, for I found a pair of old boots by a deserted shaft, and they
fitted me just a treat, and the comfort to my bleeding, blistered feet
that had been prodded with nails that stuck through my old ones made me
feel quite happy.



Playing the Violin to the Gold Miners—My Friend the Late Missionary—The
    Great Concert in Coolgardie, under the Direction of “Carl Rosa De

I STILL had my violin when we arrived back in Kalgoorlie, and after a
deal of trouble I got some strings and started playing to the miners,
for Smith and I were desperate for money and decent clothes. In an old
shanty place on the skirts of the town I played the violin and a sailor
played the banjo as Smith took his hat round collecting and in two hours
we had more money in our pockets than we could have earned on the gold
fields in twelve months. My accompanist, the sailor, was a splendid
vamper, and I played all those melodies which I knew would touch the
hearts of those miners; old English songs, sea songs, and finished up
with the “Ah che La Morte” from _Il Trovatore_. They were delighted as
we finished each selection. Smith’s face beamed with satisfaction and so
did mine, as he repeatedly came up to me, while I played on, and emptied
the coins into my pocket; the sailor played away as though he was going
mad with delight, nudged me in the ribs and kept whispering into my ear
“Shares, mate, mind you shares.”

From far and near they came to hear the grand concert. Some sang solos,
and we accompanied, others called for dance music. Hard by was a
drinking saloon, and I can still see those rough-bearded men with their
eyes shining with delight as “All went merry as a marriage bell” and
they drank deeper and became from “Half-seas over to dead drunk over.”

And then a strange thing happened. A tall, stooping, broad-shouldered
man came towards us, and gazed steadily in my face for a moment. I too
gazed at him. We had met before! For the moment I could not think who he
was, and then in a flash, just as he was turning his face aside as
though to let the past go by, I remembered. It was the “Reverend” whom I
had seen in the South Seas, the very man whom Hornecastle had chaffed
when he visited our shanty by the beach in Samoa. Staying my
violin-playing for a moment, I lifted the bow and saluted him to let him
know quickly that I remembered him, notwithstanding that he was growing
a beard and was dressed in a red-striped shirt and shabby miner’s pants.
“Well, I’m blessed, Middleton,” he said, as he at once came forward and
took hold of my hand. “What on earth brought you this way?”

“Gold hunting like the rest of them,” I answered, and then I turned and
said, “What about you? What are you this way for?”

“Never mind that,” he answered quickly, and I also quickly saw that his
business and retirement from the missionary profession was nothing
whatever to do with me, and minded my tongue. He turned out to be a
splendid friend to me, and in his rôle of gold seeker and common miner
he was a man every inch of him. He had heard of the gold finds in West
Australia out there in the Islands and had taken the first opportunity
to clear out. He was quite frank with me about everything and told me
that he had done well, much better work and pay than the old missionary
humbugging tour, he said to me as he told me how he had bought a claim
for a few shillings from a young fellow and it turned out rich and he
eventually sold it for three thousand pounds.

I introduced Smith to him and he took rooms for us and paid all of our
expenses, notwithstanding the fact that I told him we had made more
money than we ever dreamed of making out of our extemporised concerts. I
will not tell you that converted missionary’s name, because he is now in
England, and it’s almost a dead certainty that he will read my book, and
it’s not because I think he will do so that I say here that he turned
out one of the best of men, and often by his conversation revealed to me
that he saw through the mockery of his previous profession and the
hypocrisy of many of those who followed it. He would sit rubbing his
sprouting chin and tell me many of his opinions of those who had been
his comrades as he sat by me in the evenings at the hotel rooms where we
both stayed.

Eventually we went to Coolgardie together and stayed for some days, and
he got a concert up for my special benefit, and I was billed all over
the place as “Signor Marrionette, the celebrated violinist.” He hired
the hall, and made all the arrangements. Indeed, he cracked me up in
such a manner that long before the concert night came off I was as
nervous as a kitten over it all, and spent the whole day practising the
fiddle so that my performance would not put my great reputation to
shame, but nevertheless I framed my programme to suit my audience and
put down Paganini’s “Carnaval de Venice” and the Adagio of his “Concerto
in D.” and light operatic selections. I discovered that he had a fine
tenor voice and we rehearsed “Good-bye, Sweetheart, Good-bye” and one or
two other songs which I have now forgotten the names of, and when the
concert came off and he sang as I played the _obbligato_, he brought the
house down, and gave the audience as an encore a rollicking drinking
song. The young women that he had got hold of to sing and make up our
programme were so fascinated with him that they looked like embracing
and kissing him. After the concert we both went off to their home, for
they were sisters, and spent the whole night, very nearly, singing,
playing and feasting. They were Melbourne people and their father kept a
general goods store; he was a genial-looking old chap and seemed hugely
delighted to be honoured with our company, and thinking that I was of
Italian origin he kept praising Italy and the Italians up to the skies,
saying, “Where are better musicians than those Italians?” and many other
like things, till at last I was obliged to confess that my Italian name
was an assumed one, and then he ceased drinking health to the “land of
song” and started off expressing his real feelings and finished up by
cursing the whole Italian race, saying they were the dirtiest set of
mongrels that ever sniffed the sunlight.

My comrade the missionary often winked at me, and we were both intensely
amused, and when at daybreak we carried the old chap into his bedroom
and placed him on the bed, he kept lifting his head up as I took his
boots off and called me a “dirshy Ishalon,” meaning a dirty Italian. His
pretty daughters were very much upset about the old man’s behaviour, but
the missionary and I soon put them at their ease, and when the old man
was up sober again, and once more the personification of assumed
politeness, we were all the best of friends and the girls blushed to
their ears, screamed with laughter, and hid their faces in their hands,
and the old man and his thin wizened wife opened their eyes and mouth
wide with delight and fright mixed up, not knowing what next we might
say, as we told them of our adventures on the South Sea Islands!

I have often thought of those girls since, and I am quite certain they
have not forgotten the young violinist Signor Marrionette, or the
handsome debonair missionary Carl Rosa de Bonne, for that was his _nom
de plume_ which appeared in big letters on the bills that announced the
great concert in Coolgardie years ago.

Now my early travels and adventures are drawing to their close, for we
left the gold fields and the new friends we had made very soon after the
episode of which I have just told you. I had plenty of spare cash which
I had saved through my violin-playing, and so I went off in
companionship with the missionary, who had made himself a general
favourite with many of the miners and authorities of the fast-growing
city. The old storekeeper drove us in his cart up to where the train
started, and the girls looked terribly crestfallen as we waved our hands
and they waved sadly back, as we passed away from them for ever.
Arriving in Perth we stayed at St George’s Terrace.

Here I will end my boyhood days, for the down of my upper lip had
stiffened and sprouted to a virgin moustache and I was getting homesick
and weary of hunting for fortunes. After several days’ stay in Perth my
friend the missionary and I went round to Sydney, and from there he took
a passage for England and I shipped before the mast on a sailing ship
bound for South America.

So ends this narrative of my boyhood wanderings, wherein I have tried to
describe to you some of those experiences that stand out vividly in my
memory of all that happened in my travels in distant lands. I had
thought to tell you more than I have done, but many things must remain
buried with the secrets of my heart, for a while at least, since those
who are intimately connected with them still live. I would not wish to
write in my humble autobiography of things which they may not care to be
revealed to the eyes of the world. And so, dear reader, whoever you are,
and whatever you may think of me, I wish you good luck and farewell.

                  *       *       *       *       *

              I’ve travelled strange lands far and wide,
              I dived ‘mong mirror’d moons
              In waters where the catamarans glide
              By palms and reef-lagoons;
              I gazed in a dusky maiden’s eyes
              By a wild man’s tiny tent,
              Then packed my swag, as the black crow flies
              To another land I went.

              I lay all night on the homeless plain,
              To the skies I prayed in bed
              For life’s wild romance, but prayed in vain,
              As the stars crept overhead.
              But often in the lone bush night
              Bright eyes came, leaned o’er me,
              Then glimmering in the pale moonlight
              Ran back into the sea.

              And in those waters o’er and o’er
              I’ve dived in vain, then cried
              For misery on some lone shore
              With no one by my side.
              And so for years I wandered, friend,
              Sought love and wealth, alack!
              Roamed distant lands, and in the end
              Brought this one sad song back.

                                The End

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