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Title: Wine-Dark Seas and Tropic Skies - Reminiscences and a Romance of the South Seas
Author: Safroni-Middleton, A. (Arnold)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                    WINE-DARK SEAS AND TROPIC SKIES



------------------------------------------------------------------------


[Illustration: LAGOON SCENE, APIA]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             WINE-DARK SEAS
                                  AND
                              TROPIC SKIES

                     REMINISCENCES AND A ROMANCE OF
                             THE SOUTH SEAS


                                   BY
                          A. SAFRONI-MIDDLETON

                                   ❦

                                NEW YORK
                         DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
                                  1918


------------------------------------------------------------------------



        PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY THE RIVERSIDE PRESS LIMITED
                               EDINBURGH



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                   _I dedicate this book to you,
                     To your wild songs and laughter,
                   And to the half-remembered light
                     Here in my dreams years after;
                   To you, the men who sailed with me
                     Beyond each far sky-line,
                   And my dead self—the boy I knew
                     In days of auld lang syne._



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                CONTENTS


                                                     PAGE
               FOREWORD                                11
               CHAPTER I                               19
               CHAPTER II                              28
               CHAPTER III                             43
               CHAPTER IV                              50
               CHAPTER V                               54
               CHAPTER VI                              59
               CHAPTER VII                             74
               CHAPTER VIII                            80
               CHAPTER IX                              83
               CHAPTER X                               93
               CHAPTER XI                             104
               CHAPTER XII                            112
               CHAPTER XIII                           128
               CHAPTER XIV                            138
               CHAPTER XV                             142
               CHAPTER XVI                            150
               CHAPTER XVII                           167
               CHAPTER XVIII                          179
               CHAPTER XIX                            196
               CHAPTER XX                             201
               CHAPTER XXI                            205
               CHAPTER XXII                           223
               CHAPTER XXIII                          246
               CHAPTER XXIV                           258
               CHAPTER XXV                            271
               CHAPTER XXVI                           291
               EPILOGUE                               299


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


               LAGOON SCENE, APIA                  _Frontispiece_

               MOUNTAIN SCENERY, NUKA HIVA             24

               NATIVE TATTOOED WITH ARMORIAL           80
                 BEARINGS

               FOREST SCENE, MARQUESAS GROUP          114

               PINEAPPLE PLANTATION, FIJI             198

               BANANA PLANTATION, FIJI                220

               BY APIA HARBOUR                        268

               HALF-CASTE SAMOAN CHIEF                294


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                FOREWORD


IN this volume of reminiscences and impressions I have endeavoured to
express some of the elements of romance that remain in my memory of
wanderings in the South Seas.

My characters are all taken from life, both the settlers and the
natives. I have striven to give an account of native life, modes and
codes, and to describe the general characteristics of certain island
tribes that are now extinct.

My attempt is not so much the wanderer’s usual book with its inevitable
blemishes, for the reason that it is one voluminous blemish, but I’m
hoping that, after a lapse of years, my mind has retained the
_something_ that’s worth the recording. Besides, I’ve smashed about so
much in this grey, swashbuckling world of Grand Old Liars, knighted
thieves, rogues and successful hypocrites, that the background of my
life in early boyhood seems a dim fairyland, whereover I roamed at will
from wonder to wonder, laden with the wealth of cheek and impudence
enormous. Reaping such wonders I fail to find in pages of romance
experiences that outrival those of my boyhood, which leads me to imagine
that I can paint down, out of the Past, some of the sparkling atmosphere
that buoyed me up in the wide travels of my youth.

Wonderful and unsuspected are the unheard harmonies that guide the
footsteps of romantic vagabonds. They know not that deep in the heart of
their existence bubble the eternal springs of beauty, and, as they tramp
on, their footsteps beat to the rhythm of the song they will not
hear—until they be older! And stranger still have been my own immediate
experiences. I once officiated as chief mourner at the burial of a
romantic old trader who had suddenly died through the effects of a great
spree! He had a wooden leg, a limb that he had extemporised from good,
green wood. We stuck that sad heritage (it was all that he could leave
us) over his grave in the forest, having made a cross of it. On visiting
the spot about three months afterwards I observed that the old wooden
leg had burst into leaf—had blossomed forth into pretty blue flowers!
Sure am I that neither our old dead pal, in his wildest and most
romantic moods, nor indeed one of us, had dreamed of the hidden
potentialities of that wooden leg—how one day it would once more come to
the poor body’s assistance, making his very grave in the solitude
beautiful.

Well, in a way, I would think that my book is like unto that wooden leg;
for, as that artificial member—being green—did not snap as it helped our
stumbling pal along, so has the romance in these pages helped me along
on my travels, buoying me up in my weakest hours. And now I feel that,
like my old pal’s wooden leg, my half-remembered romance, reviving, may
blossom over the long-buried light of other days.

So, should anyone notice that I sometimes write in a reflective strain
when describing my experiences and those of my characters, it is because
it is in that way the past is now presented to my mind. All that I wish
to attempt is to throw my different characters into clear relief, and
bring to the surface a hint of the undercurrents that moved them on
their wandering ways.

Looking back, it seems like some wild dream that I arrived in that
romantic world of islands when a boy; that I once stood in the presence
of tawny, majestic, tattooed potentates who loved to hear me play the
violin. Yet ’tis true enough. I have lingered by the side of dethroned
kings and romantic queens, taken their hands in fellowship, lending a
willing ear to their griefs. For I was in at the death of that
tottering, barbarian dynasty of mythological splendour—the aristocratic
world of force—which has now faded into the historic pages of romantic,
far-off, forgotten things.

Not only those chiefs and chiefesses of the forests impressed my
imagination, but also the white men, the settlers of those days. They
were self-exiled men. Some belonged to the lost brigade, drifting to the
security of those palmy isles.

When I think of that wild crew, their manly ways, keen eyes and strong,
sunburnt faces, their diversified types, their brave, strangely original
characters, it almost seems that I went away ages ago to another world,
where I explored the regions of wonderful minds. And now I stare across
the years into the nebulous memories of far-off, bright constellations
of friendly eyes and hopes. Such hopes!

I now recall those rough men revealed to me the best and most
interesting phases of the human mind roaming the plains of life, some
staring at the stars with earnest wonder, and some searching for the
lights of distant grog shanties!

Much of my apparently strained philosophical reflections may appear like
strange digressions and slightly unbalanced rhapsodies. My excuse for
this is, that I am endowed with a strange mixture of misanthropy and
misplaced humour. Humour is like poetry, it cannot be defined. The
humour that I possess is something of an unrecognisable quality, and I
have often spent sleepless nights laughing convulsively over my own
jokes! Often have I sat in some South Sea grog shanty telling my most
exquisite joke, only to look up to see all the rough men burst into
tears! On one occasion I told what I thought to be the most pathetic
incident I knew—lo! men smacked me on the back and were seized with
paroxysms of ecstatic laughter!

When I dwelt for a brief period in England I listened to many thousands
of British jokes, but I cannot recall that I laughed more than twice.
This fact alone convinces me that I am incorrigibly dull and devoid of
recognised mirth. So, whoever takes up my book with the idea of
gathering laughter will lay it down disappointed. I feel that it is
better to make this confession at the outset.

Well, the men who travelled the South Seas in the days when I was a boy
will vouch for the truth of what I say about the strange characters who
lived in those wild parts—and they _were_ wild in those days. I
guarantee that, as I proceed with my chapters, my only artificial
colouring will be introduced to enable me to touch up some of my
characters so that they may be presented to polite readers in polite
form.

When I think of those castaways from civilised lands, how I tramped
across vast plains in their company, sat by their camp-fires far away in
the Australian and New Zealand bush, I feel that I once met humanity in
its most blessed state. Often they would sit and sing some old English,
Irish or Scots song, as the whimpering ’possums leapt across the moonlit
branches of our roof. Listening to their tales of better days, it seemed
incredible that there really _was_ a civilised world thousands of miles
across the seas. The memories of the great cities appeared like far-off
_opéra bouffe_, where the actors rushed across the phantom limelight in
some terrified fright from their own dreams. The thought of vigilant
policemen on London’s streets, the cataclysm of running wheels, crowds
of huddled women and men staring in lamp-lit, serrated shop windows,
pale-faced street arabs shouting “_Evening News_! _Star_ and _Echo_!”
swearing bus-men, shrieking engines, trains pulling back to the suburbs
cargoes of wretched people who thought they were intensely happy—seemed
something absurd, something that I dreamed before my soul fledged its
wings and flew away from the homestead surrounded by the windy poplar
trees—away to the steppes of another world.

Yet—and strange it is—had an English thrush, in some mysterious way,
commenced to sing somewhere down the wide groves of banyans and
karri-karri trees, our hearts’ blood would have pulsed to the soul of
England!

One may ask, in this sceptical old world, why such fine fellows as my
old beachcombers and shellbacks turned out such apparent rogues. I must
say that I, too, have pondered on the mystery of it all. The only
conclusion that I can arrive at is, that they were, very often, men who
had been spirited, courageous, romantic-minded boys, and so had once
aspired beyond the beaten track and made a bold plunge into pioneer
life.

All men have some besetting sin, and it is so easy to slip and fall by
the wayside, to wrap one’s robe of shattered dreams about one, and tell
the civilised communities to go and hang themselves.

In reference to the half-caste girl and the white girl, Waylaos and
Paulines exist in this grey old world by millions, and will do so as
long as skies are blue and fields are green. Waylao was a half-caste
Marquesan girl; and Pauline—well, she _was_ Pauline! Neither are the
leper lovers introduced for scenic effects. They, too, were terribly
real. Their whitened bones still lie clasped together in the island cave
in the lone Pacific. Terrible as their fate may appear, believe me, the
terror, the horror of the leper dramas enacted on the desolate seas by
Hawaii are only faintly touched upon in my book.

Old Matafa and his wife I number amongst my dearest Samoan comrades. It
was with them that I stayed during my last two sojourns in Apia. The
grog shanty near Tai-o-hae has possibly vanished. Could I be convinced
that it still stands beneath the plumed palms, with its little door
facing the moonlit sea, the dead men, out of their graves, roaring their
rollicking sea chanteys, what should I do? I would long to speed across
the seas, to become some swift, silent old sea-gull. Yes, to be numbered
with the dead so that I might rejoin those ghosts and find such good
company again.

As for Abduh Allah, the Malay Indian, I have expressed my opinion of
that worthy in the book. I have no personal grudge against Mohammedanism
in the South Seas, any more than I have for the Mohammedans and their
white converts in the Western Seas. The islands—especially Fiji—through
the immigration of men from the Indian, China, and Malay archipelagos
are rapidly becoming South Sea India, the white man’s creed being
converted into a kind of pot-pourri of Eastern, Southern and Western
theology, doing the can-can.

When I, as a lad, arrived at the islands, the Marquesan race was fast
ebbing to the grave. So my readers may take these incidents, of their
dances, songs, ideas and laughter, as the last record of the Marquesans.

We are but wandering bundles of dreams!—Swagmen tramping across the
drought-stricken track on the great, gold rush of this life’s
NEVER-NEVER-LAND.

I recall to mind how I once met a derelict old sundowner. I was quite a
lad then, tramping alone across the Australian bush on the borders of
Queensland. He hove into sight as a real godsend to me, and looked an
awe-inspiring being. His ancient wardrobe, his enormous bushy grey
beard, made him appear like a wonderful, emblematical ship’s figurehead
from some wreck on the coast with all the crew lost; an apostolic
figurehead, that had in some mysterious way become endowed with life and
was curiously roaming inland. Approaching IT with considerable
trepidation, I played a tender, conciliatory strain on my violin. Having
the desired effect, we chummed together, and, notwithstanding his
peculiarities, he became a boon and a blessing to me. His enormous grey
beard, clotted with spittle and tobacco juice of other years, attracted
all the irritating bush flies, and gyrating bunches of hungry, fierce
mosquitoes. And as I kept to leeward of him, I travelled on quite
untormented by the buzz of his mighty beard. Indeed I felt like some
Pied Piper of Hamelin as I fiddled away by his side, happy as one could
well be, all the flies dancing, like the singing spheres, to the leeward
of that beard, as we tramped southward bound for Bummer’s Creek!

I recall that strange old sundowner because I cannot help feeling that
his old beard, hoarding all the flies, bringing me intense relief
beneath the scorching, tropical suns, resembled the vast cities of the
world, which are like dirty, old, tangled, smelling beards that collect
hungry, aspiring humanity, whilst the happy, musical vagabond, tramps
along untormented by flies or men, out in the wide spaces of the world,
breathing the transcendent beauty of God’s blue heaven. And now I could
half imagine that that old man was like unto God Himself as he tramped
across the spaces, his monstrous beard followed by the singing
spheres—the fireflies by night—till, with his swag on his back, he
disappears for ever from my sight, passing away into the silence of the
ragged gum-trees on the sky-line.

So one may perceive that I have had more advantages than most men in
this world where men stare fiercely, or kindly, at each other as they
express their own opinions, and then depart!

Thus do I—by reviewing the shadowy pageantry of the sympathetic period
of my career—apologise to myself for my book.

Gone the mediæval, heroic age of my existence, when chivalry’s wondrous
light glistened in the deep eyes and on the tangled, kingly beards of
strange, apostolic old men, and on the bronzed faces of hairy-chested
sailormen. But the ineffable, eternal glory of romantic beauty still
shines in the sad eyes of mysterious, homeless women and girls, men and
yearning boys, who are, to me, the lost, wandering children of some
far-off Israel of the great, glorious Bible of Youth—the shrivelled,
fingered pages of the unforgotten light of other days—the light that
warms the world.

                                                                A. S. M.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                    I cast my bread on the waters
                    In dreams of feverish haste,
                    But it came back after many days
                    Buttered with phosphorous paste!

                                                          _New Proverb._


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER I

Impecunious Youth—In Sydney—Once more I go Seaward—In Fiji—Lose my
  Comrade—I arrive off Tai-o-hae—The Isles of Romance—French
  Officials and Convicts—I am welcomed by a Pretty Chiefess—The
  Brown Maids’ Preference for English Sailormen—Nuka Hiva by
  Night—Ranjo’s Grog Shanty—I sleep beneath the Palms—My First
  Meeting with Waylao, the Half-caste Girl—The Passing of the Great
  Mohammed—I feel a bit fascinated by the Half-caste Girl—Planting
  Nuts for a Living


I HAD been travelling a good deal when at length I left a ship and was
stranded for the fourth time in Sydney. In those days the Australian
seaboard cities seemed to have come into existence by special grace of
Providence. They were kind harbours where Fate could dump, at leisure,
impecunious, hopeful youths on the various wharves. Nor do I claim to
have been the least hopeful of the multitudinous youths who in my day
arrived fresh and green from other lands.

I do not think I was “on the rocks” for more than three weeks before the
opportunity presented itself, and once more I secured a berth on a
schooner that happened to be bound for the islands of the South Seas. I
recall that I met an old pal at this period. We had been several voyages
together and had shared many exciting adventures, through a deep faith
in the impossible and absurd. This pal of mine secured a job on the same
ship.

I was about sixteen years of age at this time. Crammed with the
enthusiasm of romantic youth, nothing seemed improbable, and all that
which was hopelessly absurd to the matured mind of man was to me
something that glowed with inexhaustible possibilities. And all this
notwithstanding the fact that I had already travelled the Australian and
New Zealand bush, lived with deported Chinamen in ’Frisco and exiled
wild, white men from civilised cities, besides roughing it before the
mast on voyages across the world. Also, and not least, I had lived on
nuts, green bananas, hard tack and the dubious “locusts and wild honey”
of the wildernesses, and much suspicious-looking soup in the cities.

One fine morning, as sunrise imparadised the clean waters of beautiful
Sydney harbour, off we went. I was delighted to see the steam-tug
dragging our schooner from the miserable wharf near Miller’s Point. In
due course we arrived at Fiji, where my comrade and I “jumped the ship,”
as they say in sea parlance. A few days after arriving in Suva my pal
came to me with melancholy aspect and told me that he had fallen in love
with a nut-brown lassie.

I condoled with him and made strenuous efforts to restore his mental
balance, but to no purpose whatsoever.

Fiji was a wild enough, God-forsaken, missionary-stricken township in
those days, and to finish my last hopes my pal, on the third day, in a
paroxysm of grief, eloped into the mountains with a celebrated high
chief’s faithless partner—and I saw him no more.

A few days after, being quite fed up with Suva, I secured a berth on a
schooner and again went seaward across the Pacific. We called at many
wonderful isles, which suddenly loomed on the sky-line like enchanted
lands of untravelled seas. I could devote chapters to the wonders of
that voyage, the strange peoples I met, people wild and romantic, clad
in no clothes, beautifully varnished by the tropical sunlight of ages.
How they laughed and sang their wonderful songs to the sailors—songs
that seemed to have been composed in deep ocean caves and blown into
their heathenish brains on patches of moonlight. But I digress. The
climax arrived when we reached Nuka Hiva—the shores of the gloriously
romantic Marquesan Isles.

Though I was penniless, I felt as happy as a sand-boy when at last we
dropped anchor in the bay off Tai-o-hae.

I was entranced as I stood on deck, and with all the fevered imagination
of boyhood drank in the natural beauties of that land-locked bay. The
inland mountain slopes, that reached their zenith in the peak of Ua Pu,
were clad with feathery palms and beautiful pauroas. Peeping beneath the
shore palms were the birdcage-shaped bamboo homes of the native village.
It was silent and deserted on that “Pious Morn,” but its inhabitants
would return. For lo! floundering in the ocean waters around the
schooner, and clambering on the deck, were the handsome, mahogany-hued,
scantily attired people of that little village. No wonder that I felt
that I had, at last, arrived at the wonderful isles of dim Romance.

I made no delay in getting ashore. A large silk handkerchief contained
my worldly goods, which consisted of a violin and bow, two flannel
shirts, a small-tooth comb and one flask of bug-powder. It was
terrifically hot. Leaving the curious traders loafing on the beach, I
made my way up a track that led to the jungle-like scenery that
overlooked the bay. I longed to be alone. I yearned to think out of
earshot, away from the oaths and grousing of the crew who had been
informed that the beer in the shore shanty had gone quite sour through
the hot weather.

As I went up the track I was enthusiastically welcomed by vast crowds of
sandflies. How happy I was! Turning seaward I saw the unrivalled blaze
of the sun’s dying splendour flood the horizon.

I vividly recall the beauty of that sunset when, a romantic lad, I
watched the tremulous stains of the western sea-line. Standing beneath
the interlacing boughs of scarlet-flowered tropical trees, I seemed to
be staring down upon some enchanted hamlet of romance that was nestling
at the rugged feet of the mountains. That hamlet, the small, semi-pagan
city of old Tai-o-hae, lay silent, like some little sculptured city
beautifully engraved on a slope that fronted the sea. Its one little
shore street of wooden houses stood out in clear relief in the light of
the low sunset. The green jungle pauroas and feathery palm groves that
sheltered the township of tin roofs were unstirred by one breath of
wind. Out in the bay lay two schooners, their canvas hanging as
motionless as though they were painted ships on an oil-painted bay of
the deepest indigo-blue water.

But it was no painting, for the group of huddled Chinamen who toiled on
the pineapple plantations by Prison Hill moved, and their pigtails
tossed, and the grog shanty door by the shore-side opened as two traders
emerged and spat violently seaward.

Such was the scene that met my eyes as I stood alone by that capital of
Nuka Hiva. With the approaching coolness of night Tai-o-hae awoke from
its lethargy, for only the Chinese worked in the heat of the tropic day.
The French officials spent the day in a deep siesta, dreaming of La
Belle France and sipping absinthe between their yawns.

Walking down the rugged slopes I met a white settler, who dwelt in a
neat bungalow near an old mission-room.

“Where yer hail from, mate?” said he.

I told him.

“Any chance of getting a living if I stick here?” said I to him.

Hitching his trousers up he regarded me almost fiercely, as he
scornfully ejaculated: “Why, don’t yer know this is God’s own country?”

“Oh yes, I quite forgot,” I said, half to myself as I smiled, for at
every Australian and American port that I had entered I had never failed
to meet some shore loafer who enthusiastically welcomed me to “God’s own
Country.”

But still, Tai-o-hae certainly looked as though the Hand of the Creator
had succeeded in making it the most picturesque and romantic-looking
isle that one could well wish to come across.

For a time I wandered about like an inquisitive schoolboy. I went up to
Prison Hill and watched some native convicts sweep the roads. A gendarme
kindly pointed out Queen Vaekehu’s palace. He enlightened me as to
Vaekehu’s past. I had already heard of that queen’s barbarian fame as a
multitudinous lover and cannibal.

“Is she a cannibal now?” said I, as I stared beneath the palms and spied
the old queen and her obsequious retinue of dusky chiefs on the verandah
of her wooden palace. She had been a kind of Helen of Troy in the
pre-Christian times of Tai-o-hae.

“Ah, no, monsieur, she is not zee cannibal now.” So saying, the
gendarme, as he smiled and shrugged his shoulders, banged a native
convict over the head with his bamboo truncheon by way of harmless
digression. At this moment several natives, handsome youths and
Marquesan maids, went laughing by. As they passed me they called out,
“Aloah, monsieur!” One pretty chiefess, who had a figure like a goddess,
arrayed in hibiscus blossoms and weaved grass, threw me a kiss.

“I’m going to stop on this isle,” murmured I to myself as I walked on.
The shadows fell over the mountain range and hid the pinnacles of Ua Pu.
I was still tramping inland, once more alone. The scene, as night fell,
changed to one of magical beauty. Such a change! I heard the wild shouts
of laughter, and the musical cries of approval, as the sailors and
native girls met and whirled under the palms by the shanties. Those
maids seemed to prefer English sailors. I recall that I often heard the
Frenchmen say: “Ze Englese sailors are ze very deevils when they are
tousand of miles from Londres.”

Often when the French officials were sipping their light wines and
absinthe and gave out their toast: “Vive la France,” those sinful maids
would gaze into the English sailors’ eyes and murmur (out of earshot):
“Vive la Angleese!”

The missionaries had a great deal of trouble to keep them away from
those old sea salts, and the French authorities passed all sorts of
peculiar Acts to keep them in order. It was a sight worth seeing when a
missionary suddenly appeared on the scene where they all danced with the
white men: off they bolted into the forest like frightened rabbits! I
suppose the missionaries had gone over to Hatiheu that night, for as I
passed the shanty the laughter and wild song was in full swing.

The deserted schooners lay out in the bay, not a soul aboard. I saw a
canoe shoot across the still waters, paddled by frizzly-headed savages.
The darkened lagoons, fringed by feathery palms, mangroves and guavas,
loomed into view for miles along the shore, looking like a natural
stockade that protected the approaches to fairyland.

Even when the moon hung out in the vault of heaven, the weird beauty of
that island scene was not dispelled; for, like miniature starry
constellations, swarms of fireflies danced and twinkled in the spaces
for miles along the lagoons of the wooded coast.

I observed this from my bedroom, which, that night, was beneath a
palm-tree by the shore. I awoke late, considerably refreshed and happy.
As I looked about me, I saw several beachcombers still sleeping by me.
They were genuine beachcombers, and only left their resting-places when
the schooners arrived. These schooners brought in the generous
sailormen, who lavishly spent their wages in the grog shanty, which was
the economic centre of Tai-o-hae, for, believe me, beachcomberism in
full swing—cadging drinks in exchange for fearsome tales, punctuated by
mighty oaths—was the staple product and commercial stock exchange of
that semi-heathen-land.


[Illustration: MOUNTAIN SCENERY, NUKA HIVA]


Though I had travelled through Samoa, Fiji, Solomon Isles, Tahiti, New
Caledonia, also through the wilds of savage London town, I waxed
enthusiastic over the wild life and primeval beauty of these scenes and
wondrous folk. Touring inland, alone with my violin, I entered little
villages that were tiny pagan cities of the forest. The inhabitants, a
fine race of handsome, semi-savage people, lived in primitive splendour,
nursing their old traditions and secretly practising heathen rites that
were supposed to be extinct. Nature’s mysterious grace had given them a
palatial home of natural warmth, beauty and plenty. Fertile hills,
mountain slopes giving forth abundance of glorious fruits to the gaze of
the kind sun, surrounded me. By the hut towns mighty sheltering trees,
bending their gnarled, sympathetic arms, threw tawny bunches of
coco-nuts and delicious foods into the hands of her wild children.
Beneath the forest floor for ever toiled that patient eremite, Dame
Nature, pushing up through the mossy earth the clothes that so well
suited her children’s modest requirements: bright bows, green-fringed
kerchiefs, weaved loin-cloths, stiff grass-threads for sewing fibrous
materials into cheap scented suits, also debonair hats for their fierce
heads! I liked those fierce heads. I found them crammed with kindness.
They applauded my violin solos, and brought me sweet foods when I slept
beneath the trees, untroubled by man! Yet how wealthy was I, lying
beneath the coco-palms, counting my wealth in the numberless stars of
strange constellations till I fell asleep. It was whilst I was hard up,
sleeping beneath the friendly trees, that I first came across a native
woman, Madame Lydia. She spied me from her bungalow window hole, as,
lying on my cheap mossy sheet, I counted the clouds that crawled like
monstrous spiders across my vast, blue ceiling.

“Aloah, monsieur,” she said, as she poked her sun-varnished physiognomy
through the bamboos and handed me a pannikin of hot tea. I accepted the
gift with alacrity and thanks, and I unconsciously ingratiated myself
into her good graces. She turned out to be the kind old wife of B— —, an
English sailor and trader. She was a full-blooded Marquesan, decidedly
handsome, notwithstanding the expressive wrinkles mapped on her face. I
discovered that she dwelt in a small bungalow that stood in a most
picturesque spot on the slopes that fronted the sea. I was soon quite
chummy with this native woman, told her who I was, and finally
discovered that she was the mother of the beautiful half-caste girl,
Waylao, whom I had met the day before on the beach. So much for old
Lydia. But as my reminiscences will deal at times with the daughter, I
will introduce her.

She was an attractive girl, about sixteen years of age. When I first saw
her standing on the slopes she decidedly enhanced the scenery of
Tai-o-hae, and that’s saying something for the beauty of Waylao.

As I vividly recall her, Tai-o-hae, its romantic scenery, its background
of pinnacled mountains and dim blue ocean horizons once more surround
me. Waylao stands on the ferny slopes by the pomegranates and flamboyant
trees. She has not yet perceived me. I hold my breath as I catch sight
of her and stare with all the ardour of sanguine youth. The softest,
warm sea wind creeps through the giant bread-fruits; her loose tappa
robe stirs, lifted by the winds, and twines about the perfect limbs of
the girl’s delicate figure. Standing there, with hand held archwise at
her brow, her massive, bronzed hair uplifting to the breeze as she
stares seaward, I half fancy that the dusky heroine of a romantic South
Sea novel has suddenly stepped from the pages of my book and stands
before me, smiling in the materialised beauty of reality.

“Aloah, monsieur!”—it is a salutation in French official fashion. Her
speech rings in my ears like music. She seems even more beautiful than
she appeared yesterday when listening to my violin solo in the grog
shanty by the beach.

By degrees reality returns. It’s no dream at all. I’m an ordinary
mortal, who was bitten ferociously last night by Marquesan fleas and who
only possesses one English shilling and ten centimes in cash.

Though poor in worldly goods, I’m rich with transcendent cheek,
gallantry and the enormous deception of youth. I take a mighty interest
in all that interests the girl. I pluck a flower from the bush beside
us. She smiles deliciously when I, recalling my old aunt’s advice to be
polite to ladies, have bowed and fastened the flower in a fold of the
diaphanous robe that modestly covers her maiden bosom. As we walk up the
slope I feel that I am the old confidential friend of the family; in ten
minutes I learn the last five years of her history. I know that her
mother, old Lydia, kicks up a shindy if she’s out too late at night. I
know that Benbow (as I will call him), her father, gets awfully drunk
when home from sea. I know that, notwithstanding her rough surroundings,
she is innocent as a child; I know she loves her pet canary. I envy that
canary as she babbles on, and I catch glances from her fine lustrous
eyes, dark with a blue depth in the pupils, a depth that sparkles at
times as though a far-off star shines in their heavens.

In a few moments we part. I hear a musical ripple of laughter as she
disappears in the mission-room where resides Père de ——, the old priest,
who has known and educated Waylao since she toddled.

The next adventure that I can recall is that I was compelled to accept a
rotten job on a plantation. It somewhat grieves me to confess that such
humble employments came to me through the curse of being cashless. I
sweated in fine style whilst planting nuts. I also pulled taro, broke
copra with a native axe, cleared scrub, and did other odious things that
did not chime in with the elements of romance.

Soon afterwards I threw the job up in disgust and eventually found it
more congenial to consort with the derelicts who frequented the grog
shanty hard by.

About those men and their ways I will attempt to discourse in the next
chapter.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER II

Men who shaved their Beards off—Grog Shanty Sympathy—The
  Dead who returned on the Tide—Indian-like Men from the
  Malay Archipelago—The Little Carpet Bag and its Hidden
  Potentialities—True Belief—Idol-Worship in Secret—My Incorrigible
  Reverence for a Heathen Idol—The Old Clothes of Kindness from the
  Hands of Civilisation, and their Hidden Potentialities—The Devil
  tempts Eve in the New Garden of Eden, with a Leg Bangle!—Waylao
  returns Home late—Her Mother’s Wrath—Benbow’s Cottage—I conjure up
  a Picture of what must have been when Waylao fell in the Arms of
  Mohammed—The Cockney’s Disgust—_Where did You get that ’At_—A
  Bankrupt Poet—Helen of Troy—Odysseus


IN that grog shanty congregated the derelicts from the civilised cities
of the world, for the Marquesan Group was the special province of those
men who found it extremely convenient to change their names and shave
their chins.

Some would come hurrying up the shore, stagger into the grog shanty,
swallow a few drinks and once more pass away to sea, like ships in the
night.

Some were fugitives from justice, escaped from _Ile Nouve_, the convict
settlement of New Caledonia. They came in like waifs on the tide; some
on rafts and some disguised as passengers on the schooners that traded
from isle to isle.

It was an open secret amongst the scanty white population who these
hurried men really were.

The well-seasoned shellback would gaze critically at the gaunt, haggard
stranger who had arrived on the last schooner and say quietly:

“Waal, stranger, where yer bound for?”

Then he would immediately stand the new-comer a drink, and give a
significant smile that expressed brotherhood, and seemed to say:

“I know the kind ye are, but never you mind that; we don’t go back on a
cove when he’s down—no, not in these parts.”

I was deeply interested in these derelicts of the world. Some were
devil-may-care fellows, caring not a tinker’s cuss how the wind blew, so
low had they sunk in the social scale of human affairs.

Others had haggard faces that expressed something of bygone refinement,
and hunted-looking eyes, telling of a mind distraught with fears—and
sometimes, who knows, an intense longing for the homeland. Those rough
men, many quite youthful, would often disappear as mysteriously as they
appeared, probably stowed away on the outbound friendly schooners, never
to be heard of again—but stay, I forget—sometimes they came back—with
the tide, as a derelict corpse washed up on the shores of one of the
numerous Pacific Isles. I often saw those returning visitors, stricken
dead men—and women too! I’ve folded the hands together, looked on the
dead face and wondered if I dreamed it all—so sacred-looking, so
ineffably sad were the faces. Alas! it was no dream. Often a brief note
was found on the body, a last request for the one whom he thought might
still retain a tender thought for his memory in the world that he had
left for ever. These notes would sometimes awaken sentimental discussion
in the grog shanties, bring a Bret Harte atmosphere and a whiff of
pathos into the bar. At times the rough listeners received a bit of a
shock when the biggest scoundrel of the group ceased his volley of
oaths, and with emotion said something that revealed a long unsuspected
organ—a heart, after all, pulsed in his sinful anatomy!

These travellers were not the only suspicious arrivals who sought the
seclusion of the isles without letters of introduction. There also
arrived, about that period, several stealthy-footed followers of
Mohammed, a kind of mongrel, half-caste Chinese-Indian, hailing mostly
from the Malay archipelagos. I think they had been expelled from Fiji
for indulging in licentious orgies with natives. It was hard to tell
their origin. The traders called them “B—— Kanakas.”

Some wore turbans and looked genuine specimens of the man tribe; but not
one of them was as innocent, as artless-looking, as the little
tapestry-carpet bag that he carried. This little bag was generally full
of feminine linen and delicate Oriental silks, modest-looking
merchandise that was their stock-in-trade, which they hawked for a
living. A few worked on the copra, sugar or pineapple plantations. Their
chief ambition seemed to be to try to get native converts to their creed
and their moral codes.

A silk Oriental handkerchief, or a pair of bright yellow stockings, made
the eyes of the native girls positively shine with avarice—and true
belief!

Those swarthy men blessed Mohammed and had fine old times.

I would not wish to infer that Mohammedans are worse than others who are
successful in their ambitions. But I would emphatically assert that the
emigrant portion of Malay Indians of that day were a decidedly scummy
lot. Briefly speaking, they made converts of many of the native women,
reconverting them from Christianity to the bosom of Islam—and their own.

I recall that I had been in Tai-o-hae about two weeks when I heard that
a native festival was in progress. My curiosity was at once aroused. I
had read in South Sea reminiscent, missionary volumes about Marquesan
native dances, but still I was eager to see the real thing in its
natural element. Though I had secured a berth on a schooner that was
going to Papeete, I was not over-anxious to sail. I had been to Papeete
before, and knew well enough that I was as likely to be stranded there
as at Nuka Hiva, so I let the job go. Indeed as that very schooner went
seaward I stood in the forest thrilled with delight, as fierce, stalwart
savage men and women danced around a monstrous wooden idol. The
missionaries had long since issued an edict that no idols were to be
worshipped. The penalty for so doing was the _calaboose_ (jail), or a
fine that would plunge the culprit into life-long debt. It follows,
naturally enough, that idols were worshipped in secret. Consequently,
that secret pagan festival I witnessed was attended by all the
adventurous half-caste girls and youths, and made the more fascinating
from its being strictly forbidden. I must admit that the scene I
witnessed was a jovial contrast to the dull routine of Christianised
native life, and I count myself as the holiest culprit at the festival
in question.

I had seen idols in the British Museum, London, also in Fiji, one or two
in Samoa, and rotting in the mountains of Solomon Isles, but the one
that I saw that day in Tai-o-hae was exceptionally interesting. I was
fascinated by its emblematical expression of material might. As the
forest children crept from their citadel huts just by and knelt in its
presence, I too felt a strange reverence for it! It looked an awesome
yet harmless thing to worship. Its big, bulged, glass eyes, staring
eternally through the forest tree trunks, gave out no gleam of light to
those leafy glooms; its big wooden ears, stretched out, ever listening,
were deaf to all human appeals as the forest children wailed to its
wooden anatomy.

Though it is now many years since I stood before that thing, I still
recall the glassy stare of wonder, the grin of the wide, carven lips,
the one huge red, curved tooth. It may have been but a wayward boy’s
imagination, but that idol seemed to express to my soul the great,
indefinable something representing the Vast Unknown! I also felt the
awful reverence that was so deep within the dreams of those barbarian
children—dreams far more intense than the religious fervour of the
cultured minds of the civilised world.

I know that I’m incorrigible. I know that my confession will strike
horror into the hearts of white people—but I cannot help it—I still
retain a deep, reverent affection for that heathen idol! To me it still
possesses manifold virtues. The golden silence of its physiognomy, its
awe-inspiring grin—as if fully appreciating the fantastic movements of
those semi-nude high chiefs dancing in wild whirls with pretty maids
round its monstrous feet—filled me with strange reverence. I could not
deplore the fact that its wooden, hollow throat whispered no rebuke
against the irreligious levity that I beheld. And the whole time
barbarian drums crashed _fortissimo_, whilst heathen maids chanted. No
solemn denunciation came from its lips to thwart human happiness. It
seemed to say, with the great voice of silence: “O children of the
forest, drink kava, dance and be merry, for to-morrow you die!” The
furrowed frown of its carven brow seemed to wail: “Look ye upon me, here
am I stuck up like an emblem of unjoyous death that is devoid of evil
motives, secret human passions and ribald song. I say, can I help this
cruel dilemma? O children, what else can I do but grin in perpetual
silence—till my lips, as yours, in ripeness of time fall to dust? Who am
I? Why this monstrous infinity cast about me, I, who yearn to lift these
wooden feet and fly from the worship of mankind—or dance with ye all!”

So seemed to speak the idol in the forest by Tai-o-hae as I watched.
That old idol even grew moss on its gigantic cranium, as though it would
mock hairless old age and the unfruitful passing of man!

It was an unforgettable sight. As the festival progressed the prima
donna became more excited. She was a maid of perfect beauty, possessing
musical accomplishments; nor were her high kicks to be outrivalled the
world over. This particular prima donna would have achieved a vast
fortune in the western cities, I’m sure. Her rhythmic virtuosity was
marvellous! The terrific encores of the tattooed chiefs became deafening
as she sang and danced. She seemed to support her frame in space on
nothing but the balancing, rapid movement of her limbs. Suddenly she
jumped from the heathen _pae-pae_ (stage), lay sideways up in the ether
and moved her limbs as though she were performing mighty cadenzas on
vast strings of some invisible violin—with her toes.

It seemed the time of my life as I watched, and the white settlers and
beachcombers cheered and cheered each wondrous performance. As the
shadows of night fell over the forest height, the natives came in from
the plantations to join the festival. It was a weird sight to see them
running along the forest tracks that had been made by soft-footed
savages for ages. As they reached that _opéra bouffe_, each one rapidly
cast off their European clothes with relief. Nor was this act of theirs
to be wondered at, for those old clothes were supplied to them from the
_morgues_ of the South Seas and the far-off civilised cities, and
usually swarmed with vermin and germs of latent disease that had managed
to kill the late occupants. It is no exaggeration to say that the native
cemeteries were crammed with victims who had been doubly
unfortunate—those who had embraced the white man’s clothes as well as
his creed.

As they leapt bodily out of those semi-shrouds, old coats and pants,
they attired themselves in the cool, attractive suits that hung from the
boughs of the forest. Dusky girls hastily attired themselves in
sea-shells and strings of twisted leaves and tropical flowers. Then they
embraced the impassioned youths, who blushed in green-fringed high
collars that decorated their forest pyjamas, pyjamas noted for their
cheap material and scanty width—but were of _wide_ modesty.

While this was proceeding old chiefs joyously thumped mighty drums as
they stood on the back level of the ancient _pae-pae_. The contagion of
the glorious pandemonium spread. One by one old tattooed women
remembered their happy heathen past, discarded the _morgue_ chemise and
plunged into the mêlée. During the excitement about a dozen dark ghosts
who appeared to be clad in bath towels came on the scene; it was a crew
of Indians. Standing there beneath the giant bread-fruits, they looked
like majestic statues of the old Pharaohs that had somehow been dumped
into that forest. As they approached the huts that surrounded the
festival spaces, the pretty heathen girls rushed forth from the doors,
for lo! the stealthy mongrel Indians opened their little carpet bags.
One old Indian looked like some swarthy Pied Piper of Hamelin as the
children followed, clamouring after him and his little bag. It seemed
almost magical, that sudden change from sombre colours of green and gold
as the native girls purchased those Oriental decorations. Blue sashes,
crimson and saffron striped stockings, all the colours of the rainbow
were suddenly to be seen fluttering to the scented breezes of the forest
as the maids clutched their purchases. Flocking beneath the
banyan-trees, they squatted and started to swiftly attire themselves in
those gaudy, tinselled silks. It looked like some scene from an Arabian
Night fairy-tale as the shadows fell and moonlight pierced the forest
depth. Away flitted Marvaloa with her big blue silken sash flying behind
her—her only robe of simple attire. She was held by the impassioned arms
of some dusky Lothario who had never dreamed that he would live to see
that exquisite hour, as the sash flapped and the bright crimson
stockings tossed toward the forest height.

My attention was diverted from the pretty fairy toatisis[1] by the
appearance of a Malay Indian. He bowed to Waylao with Islamic
politeness. Waylao was alone; old Lydia, her mother, had departed
homeward—probably had a headache and wanted some “unsweetened.” I had
previously observed Waylao’s interest in one named Abduh Allah, but took
little notice. I had been speaking to her and had flattered myself on
gaining her attention, when that Indian settler obtruded with his
presence. Waylao took a deep, awestruck breath as he bowed majestically
to her. I can well imagine the girl’s thoughts, for I too have known
those deep breaths. I dare say the Indian seemed some splendid hero of
Eastern romance to the girl’s eyes as he stood there crowned with his
turban.

Footnote 1:

  Little girls.

“Gorblimy ducks!” murmured my new chum, an impecunious Cockney, as he
turned from the forest opera-box to light his short clay pipe.

“Who’s he?” said I to the handsome Marquesan chief who squatted beside
me.

He responded in this wise: “He great Indian mans, teach us kanakas all
bout big god Mohamma; sella jewels, nicer tappa cloth, mats, stocking to
womans from wonderful little tarpet bag O!”

At this my Cockney friend gave his inimitable side wink, expectorated on
to my boot and remarked:

“Seen ’im darn Mile End way; a damned ole Indian ’awker, hout ’ere in
the Sarth Seas aselling doar-mats and getting raund gals—that’s wat ’e
’is!”

We saw this sight: Abduh Allah with one knee bent Islamic wise as he
dangled before Waylao’s eyes a fascinating brass leg-bangle. It was a
sight replete with Biblical import, resembling nothing so much as a
modernised South Sea version of the devil’s first love affair in the
Garden of Eden.

From all that I perceived I was convinced that the magic carpet with all
its possibilities wasn’t in it with that little Islamic carpet bag. It
could overthrow creeds and heathen deities; it brought thousands of
dusky maids to the feet of that old fraud, the harem-keeper of
Mecca—Mohammed. It was even hinted that the devil himself sighed amongst
the forest mangroves, when the heathen maids crowded by the hut doors
and the stealthy old Indian opened that little carpet bag. I managed to
see Waylao alone, and begged the favour of escorting her home. I well
knew, from her own confession, that she must not be too late. Old
Takaroa, the great high chief, who had ceased to pound the big drum, and
was telling me in vehement pidgin-English mighty incidents of his high
lineage, tried to detain me longer in vain. My wish to accompany the
half-caste girl was greater than my affection for that Marquesan chief
and his kind. I admit I was deeply interested in those old chiefs. And
some day, when the seas are safe from submarines and high explosives,
when the war fever has subsided from the martial bosoms of the Western
world’s high chiefs, I’ll cast my disembowelling instruments and guns on
to the rubbish heaps and sail away down South once more.

I have basked in the spiritual light of the abstruse pages of
Herachlitus, Empedocles, Plato, Socrates, Plotinus, Olympiodorus,
Proclus, Synesius, down to Spinoza and Kant of the latest Old Gang, with
the result that I am determined to live my life amongst uncivilised
peoples, peaceful semi-heathen people of the Solomon Isles. How happy
will I be! I’ve still a life before me—the consequence of beginning
young.

O happy days! I recall the tumbling, moonlit, silvered seas breaking
silently afar as I strolled by the side of that half-caste girl. We had
left the barbarian festival behind. When we arrived at her bungalow her
mother welcomed me with a smile, but with the impulsiveness of her tribe
swore at Waylao with much vigour.

“Wheres you been? You lazy _tafoa vale_ [beachcomber], I told you come
’omes soons.”

“Kaoah! Whaine! Aue!” wailed the maid, soothing the maternal wrath with
swift Marquesan phrases that I could not understand.

The maternal ire vanished completely as Waylao hung her head with shame,
and the old mother shrieked: “Père de N—— the good missions mans been
’ere. ’E want know whys you no be in mission-room these many days.”
Saying this, the old native woman took a deep swig from her
pocket-flask, wiped her mouth and continued solemnly: “Ah, Wayee, though
you belonger me, allee same you never be good Cliston womans like youse
ole movther, you no good—savee?”

I was invited into that little homestead. It was wonderful how neat and
civilised it looked within. A grandfather’s clock ticked out its doom in
the corner of the cosy parlour. On the walls were old oil paintings of
English landscapes, also a few faded photographs of Benbow’s—Waylao’s
father’s—relatives. The furniture was better than one might see in many
a Kentish cottage. The old sailor had evidently fashioned his South Sea
home so that it might be reminiscent of other days. Not the least
important item of that homestead was the large barrel of rum which stood
by the unused fireplace, a grim, silent symbol of what wild carousals!
I, of course, knew not then that Benbow’s home-coming from sea was a
mighty event in the monotonous lives of the settled beachcombers who
dwelt beneath the shading palms by Tai-o-hae.

Sometimes Waylao came to the shanty and sang as I played the violin. All
this to me was very pleasurable. But one must not suppose that I had no
other purpose or ambition in life beyond playing sentimental solos to
handsome half-caste maids and impecunious sailors who had seen “better
days.” Indeed I took all advantage of my musical accomplishments,
attending as soloist many social functions at the French Presidency. I
also ingratiated myself into the good graces of high-class Marquesan
chiefs and chiefesses—many of the surviving members of the old barbarian
dynasty. For a while I became a kind of South Sea troubadour among those
semi-civilised savages, gathering experience and honours enormous.

Old chiefs, dethroned kings and discarded queens, after hearing my
solos, conferred upon me their highest honours.

It was in a pagan citadel in the north-western bread-fruit forests,
after performing Paganini’s bravura _Carnaval de Venise_ variations,
that a mighty, tattooed monarch invested me with the South Sea
equivalent of the Legion of Honour.

This degree was bestowed upon me in ancient style. Kneeling before the
bamboo throne, I kissed the royal feet amid the wildest acclamations of
the whole tribe. I was then tattooed on the right arm with peculiar
spots, which turned out to represent a constellation of stars that were
worshipped by that particular tribe. (I have those tattoo marks to this
day.) I recall the admiration of the Marquesan belles as I stood by the
bamboo throne wearing my insignia of knighthood—the whitened skull of
some old-time warrior! I recall the music of the forest stream as it
hurried by, and the noise of the winds in the giant bread-fruits, the
monotone of the ocean beating inland as a majestic accompaniment to the
musical exclamations of “Awai! Awai! Alohao! Talofa!” from the coral-red
lips of sun-varnished savage girls, handsome, tattooed, lithesome,
deep-bosomed chiefs, and youths.

I have been honoured with so many degrees, so many knighthoods, and so
often elected to the peerage that it is no exaggeration on my part to
say that I am a veritable living volume of all that’s distinguished—a
genuine personification of _Who’s Who_.

I achieved far-flung fame as a mighty Tusitala, singer of wondrous songs
on magic-wood with long spirit-finger (violin bow). Old semi-nude poets,
scribes of the forest, left their forum-stumps of the village and
followed me from village to village. Beautiful girls, arrayed in
picturesque tappa of delicate leaves and shells, threw golden forest
fruits at my feet, and then stood hushed, with finger to their lips as I
played again. Kind, babbling old native women called me into their
village homesteads, and without ceremony made me sit down and eat large
gourds of taro and scented _poi-poi_, which was made of bananas and many
indigenous fruits. As I seated myself on the homestead mat and ate,
those kind old Marquesan women would squat and gaze upon me with intense
curiosity, evincing little embarrassment at my presence. Indeed they
would touch my white flesh, and one curious old chiefess leaned forward
and lifted the upper lid of my eyes so as to better scan the unfamiliar
colour, the grey-blue iris that so pleased those Marquesan ladies.

Though those heathen citadels had numerous advantages which left the
vaunted claims of civilisation far behind, they had a few disadvantages.
For, to speak truth, the township bailiff would arrive at the author’s,
poet’s, or artist’s hut door with a regiment of determined warriors who
were often armed with rusty ship’s cutlasses, ponderous war-clubs and
heathen battle drums. It was no uncommon sight to meet some tribal poet
flying with his trembling family across the mountain tracks in the agony
of some great fear.

It was my lot to assist a distressed poet who was flying from the
aforesaid avenging law. When I came across him he was camped with his
wife and little ones on a plateau to the southward of Tai-o-hae. Hearing
the troubles and facts of his case, I bade him fear not. Ere sunset I
had taken him back into his native village so that he might appear
before the tribunal chiefs. In the meantime he, with his little ones and
trembling wife, stood in the background as I appealed on his behalf.
After much gesticulation and argument, and many stirring violin solos
performed before the whole tribe, I turned to the distressed Marquesan
poet, and said, as I touched his shaggy head with my violin bow: “Arise,
Sir Knight of Tai-o-hae!” Nor shall I easily forget the consternation of
the tribe or the fleeting delight of my bankrupt poet’s countenance at
this gracious act of mine, when I explained to all the assemblage how I
possessed the power to dub one with the glory of English knighthood. So
did I bring happiness to a savage author, and I believe he achieved
mighty fame in consequence of my impromptu act. One thing I know, that
his misdemeanours and debts after that event were looked upon with
extreme favour, and his songs were sung and engraved on the receptive
brains of island races as far as the equatorial Pacific Isles.

For a long time I roamed at will among the tribes of that strange land.
I recall one village that was nestled by a blue lagoon; the bird-cage,
yellow bamboo huts were sheltered by the natural pillared architecture
of gnarled giant trees. The scene presented to my imagination some
miniature citadel of ancient Troy as the romping, pretty, sun-varnished
children rushed up to me. One pretty maiden was a veritable Helen, and
the tawny youths loved to bathe in the sunlight of her sparkling
glances. They even looked askance, frowningly upon me, as, like some
wandering Odysseus, I wooed her with tender strains on my violin, and
held her up and admired the forest blossoms that adorned the glory of
her dishevelled tresses rippling down to the dimples of her cremona-like
varnished shoulders. “Aloue! Awaie! Talofa!” said she, as the little
woman in her soul gave wanton glances. She caressed my hand, and all the
while, from those Hellenic-like enchanted forest glades, stared the
envious little Trojans and Achæans who would slay each other to wholly
possess her charms. She was only about eight years of age, but I could
well believe that she inspired in the hearts of those youthful
barbarians some epic glory of long-forgotten, fierce, bronzed lovers and
romance, that seemed to sing over their heads as fitful sea winds sang
in the lyric trees.

Ah me! I suppose some Paris arrived in due course from the civilised
world and lured her from the arms of her dusky chief. And now ’tis only
I of all the world would wish to be the Homer to sing her faery-like
beauty, her childhood’s charms.

I never saw her again.

Talking in this strain reminds me of a Homeric character who suddenly
arrived at Tai-o-hae. He was a wondrous-looking being, attired in vast
pants that were held up by a monstrous, erstwhile scarlet sash, and a
helmet-hat with another coloured swathing about it. He looked Homeric
enough, indeed he could have walked on the stage anywhere on earth as
Ulysses. He strode into the grog shanty, gazed half scornfully at the
congregated shellbacks and ordered one quart of rum! He swallowed same
rum in two gulps, then, looking round the bar, asked the astonished,
staring shellbacks if their mothers knew they were out! The general
atmosphere grew hot and thundery. It was only when his massive, vandyke
reddish-bearded, sun-tanned face became wreathed in smiles, and his
deep-set fiery eyes laughed, that we all realised that his apparently
insulting manner was simply some fine overflow of inherent humour. His
commanding way and height seemed to inspire all the respect that his
rough audience had at their command. Ere he had shouted for his ninth
rum, he got boisterous, drew an old Colt revolver from his dirty, blue,
folded shirt and brandished it about as the whole crew dodged, blinked
and listened with respectful awe to all that he told. Unfortunately he
had to depart the next day on the same schooner that had brought him to
Nuka Hiva. But he really _did_ make up for his short introduction. He
sang wondrous songs of adventure in far-off lands, of farewells to
tender Nausicaas, of Circes and Calypsos, thundering forth in majestic
strain of mighty warriors whom he had put out of action with one blow of
his massive fist. His voice—well, all I can say is, “What a voice!” The
shanty shook as he sang. The whole crew were transported into some age
of Elysian lawlessness as he looked at us, darkling, spoke of Cimmerian
tribes on isles of distant seas, and hinted of things that would have
made blind old Homer tremble with envy. As he sang, a flock of naked
goddesses on their way home from fishing in the ambrosial waters
happened to peep into the shanty to see who sang so wonderfully well and
loud. I shall never forget the massive gallantry, the inimitable Homeric
grace of his manner when he sighted those maids, put forth his arms and
sang to the pretty eyes of those Marquesan girls. As he stood there in
the bar, his helmet-hat almost bashed against the shanty roof, so tall
was he, the maids looked up at him with coquettish, half-frightened
glance as he sang on. There’s no doubt he was handsome. What a nerve he
had! Did not care one rap for the old beachcombers who looked on and
wondered if they dreamed his remarkable presence. The muscles swelled on
his neck like whipcord and his huge nostrils dilated in fine style. When
he brought his enormous fist down on the bar to emphasise some bravura
point, the empty batch of rum mugs seemed to do a double shuffle with
astonishment. I admit that I breathed a sigh of relief when he replaced
his fire-iron in his belt and demanded: “Rum—no sugar—damn you!” His
vast Quixotic moustache backed to within two inches of his broad
shoulder curves and seemed some mighty insignia of virile manhood. I
could have wept with the joy I felt as he praised my violin-playing.
“Play that ageen, youngster,” said he. Such fame I had never dreamed of
achieving! And when he expectorated a swift stream of tobacco juice—no
indecision, mind you—between the astonished faces of the two shellbacks
who were sitting by the open window, my admiration for his prowess was
something that thrills me to this day.

Though men doubt if Homer’s Odyssean characters ever lived, I for one
have no doubt whatever that such redoubtable characters once walked the
earth. For I met such men when the world was young.

That uninvited guest came into our presence, massive and wonderful, some
strange embodiment of heroic romance and lore; then departed like unto a
dream. He was the nearest approach to my idea of Odysseus that I ever
came across. I can still imagine I hear the vibrant, melodious timbre of
his utterance as he curses and swaggers up the little rope gangway that
hung from the deck of the strange fore-and-aft schooner that had
suddenly appeared in the enchanted bay off Tai-o-hae. The very deck
seemed to tremble as his big sea-boots crashed on board. Even the
skipper gave one awesome glance at that giant figure of his as he
rattled his antique accoutrements; then with his huge, hairy, sun-tanned
hand arched to his fine brow he stared seaward at the sunset. The dark
saffron-hued canvas sails bellied to the soft warm winds as the
outward-bound schooner went out on the tide, as he stood on deck and
faded away on the wine-dark seas.

I could write many chapters on such men, their ways, virtues and sins.
They were strange, unfathomable beings of Time and Space: men who
followed their own wishes, who reigned as king over their own life: men
who were disciples of the great transcendental school of the genuine old
idealists—those spiritualists of the Truth, the wise and the beautiful,
happy in the glad excitement of the wide and wonderful. They were men
who in the great desert of life had found a wonderful oasis—in
themselves! Men who were born to command _themselves_, standing on their
own feet, standing apart from the supreme stagnation of conventional
civilisation.

Heaven knows how it was, but I always liked that class. They were, to
me, the posthumous books, works of long-forgotten heroes, the only works
that I ever read with deep educational interest: they are still books to
me, shelved tenderly in the library of my memory; books that I so well
know are born to be sneered at, buffeted about and criticised, ye gods,
by weak-kneed chapel disciples and all the sensual, godless,
hypocritical survivals that pose as the personification of the
beautiful.


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                              CHAPTER III

Another Comrade—Things as I found Them—Taking Photographs—I
  introduce Père de N—— —Penitent Natives—I witness a Native
  Domestic Scene


AFTER the passing of Odysseus I met another good comrade, B——. He proved
an estimable pal, and was of Scottish descent, consequently his mental
equipment was valuable and enabled him to discern an intelligent joke,
and laugh, if somewhat sadly, over English humour.

The absence of ordinary humour in the Scots is proverbial; but let me
maintain that this proverbialness originated in England. The English,
being unable to see through any joke other than their own, or a joke
that had its point in the discomfiture of another, at once accuse the
breezy, pithy Scot of lack of humour. The calumnies of my countrymen
have misled me more than once. From my earliest recollection I can
recall the old saying: “As mean as a Jew.” One can imagine my
astonishment when travelling across the desolate, far-off spaces of the
world, penniless and starving, I found my countrymen firing guns at
me—whereas the Jews rushed to my assistance, and of all hosts proved the
most courteous, gentle and generous.

I also found that the Japanese, Chinese and Kafirs were the cleanest
livers, both in their persons, morals and domesticity. I discovered the
French to be stoical, taking their pleasures sadly, phlegmatic and
fearless. The Italians were mostly unmusical, the reverse of vindictive,
and hated olives. The Germans I’ve met envied all that was British, sang
old English melodies and vomited at the sight of sausages! I found the
Irish somewhat humourless, but steadfast in friendship and good
peacemakers during troublous times! I have lived with Turks and
Armenians and found them deeply religious, clean in their mode of living
and general outlook on life. As for the Greeks, those descendants of
blind old Homer, I found them positively without any musical ear at all,
unpoetic and even devoid of the simple love of Art that I discerned
amongst the natives of Timbuctoo. I found Persians and Indians
unphilosophical, exceedingly effeminate, and beyond the long grey beard,
wise demeanour and picturesque turban of the Indian seer, I found no
trace whatever of poetic ability, nor did I perceive otherwise than a
great hatred for Indian curry.

The English I have always found gullible, and the finest hypocrites
extant; brave, yet submissive under serfdom rule, and real
stick-at-homes—such home-birds that the great cities of the world have
arisen through their love of settling down! Americans I have met were
decidedly undemocratic, unhurried in business, and in and out of their
homes courteous and reserved. I observed that the cannibals, the wild
men of the South Seas, were handsome, intelligent and poetical, their
inherent love of peace being their most striking attribute. But I
digress.

My comrade B—— possessed a camera, and as he was anxious to secure
original photographs of natives and native life, I at once agreed to go
off with him to the many scattered villages around and inland from the
shores of Nuka Hiva. The least said about some of those photos the
better. B—— had a contract with some publisher in Fleet Street, London,
who desired native types for the halfpenny classics. Anyway, I can
affirm that I placed my hand before my eyes and gazed seaward from the
mountain villages more than once as my comrade followed the practical
part of his tour through Southern Seas. And I will say on B——’s behalf
that much that the reader may imagine exists in the imaginative mind
only; that a background of palms and bread-fruit trees framed by
mountain peaks makes a bevy of laughing girls with starry eyes and
nut-brown knees (and, mind you, a mighty chief standing just by with
huge war-club) a picture of perfect innocence not lacking poetic charm.

I recall that we came across a Chinaman in distress, in the act of being
strangled by a Marquesan chief. We were passing through a mountain
village when this adventure came to us. “O savee me! E killiee poor
Chinemans!” yelled the yellow-skinned Celestial as he lifted his head,
squirmed and appealed to us. B—— and I immediately gripped the chief’s
leg and, giving a mighty pull, pulled him from the yellow man’s belly.
The Marquesan still gripped the Chinaman’s pig-tail. Meanwhile the
village children came rushing around us, screaming with sheer glee as
they witnessed the struggle. I gave that chief a plug of tobacco as a
bribe; he immediately rose to his feet, his mighty, tattooed chest
swelling with the fierce desire that afflicted him as he grasped the
tobacco and smiled his thanks. As he strolled away and coughed, and the
children and shaggy-haired native women drew their rugs around them for
sorrow that the fight was over, I asked the Celestial what he had done
to fire such wrath.

“Me! noee dooey anytink. Markesans man hittiee me ’hind ear cause I sell
woman’s one, two, three nicee opium pipe.”

B—— and I had our suspicions, but we wiped the blood off his face with
leaves and fixed him up. He thanked us in pidgin-English, then waddled
away.

I liked B——, but unfortunately he had to leave the next day, for his
boat was sailing for Papeete. I saw him off early, at dawn. Then I went
up the slopes and saw the old missionary, Père de N—— (Father O’Leary I
will call him). He had just had his morning bath. His few grey hairs
were still steaming as he stood bareheaded in the fierce sunlight that
blazed over the mountains. I also had just bathed in those cool morning
waters and had watched the broad awakening of the bright day. I saw the
golden light of the sunrise touch the paddling, curling wings of a
migrating flock of far-off parrots, twinkling as they sped away, fading
like tiny canoes across the rifts of blue in the seaward sky. Those
birds have flown away to their last roost these many years; but still
over the azure heaven they pass, yes, as the priest once more turns away
from the blue lagoon. As he stands before my memory I wipe my feet on an
old shirt, for towels are scarce, and watch the ecclesiastic as he
thoughtfully pulls his beard. Now he tugs the mission bell rope. Over
the slopes comes another chime from the special mission building wherein
Queen Vaekehu sings hymns and prayers for the sake of past sins. It
sounds familiar, yet strange, to hear those bells in the wild South
Seas. The priest looks worried; so much I notice at a glance as I stroll
into the mission-room and proceed with my job, for I have come that
morning to mend the broken stops in the mission harmonium. Père de N——
sighs, nor is it to be wondered at. Waylao and many of his flock are
missing from early morning prayers. Well enough he knows the temptations
that come to his flock on festival occasions: they are all
semi-heathens, the penitent dusky maids, youths and chiefs with tawny
wives who dwell around me. The holy Father is not at all a bigoted man.
He often sighs in the thought of how white men rush across the seas,
their brains afire with enthusiasm to paint the cannibal isles with
tints of beauty—to make dark-skinned people as white as the driven snow.
He well knows that rouged lips and jetty eyelashes do not make a whore a
saint.

I have seen tears in the eyes of that old priest when tattooed chiefs
once more turned up at his mission-room, fell on their trembling knees
and bellowed forth fervent prayer, their voices shaky with fear and
remorse—voices that smelt, alas! of gin.

Even as the old priest stands pondering in the bright sunlight and I
watch, the reactionary period has set in, for lo! out of their huts one
by one they creep, coming down the track to pray. Poor old Mazzabella,
the great chiefess, staggers in front as they walk in Indian file. She
is the essence of true belief and the finest example of tattoo art
extant. Ye gods! only last night the moon hid its face behind its
cloud-wisp handkerchief as the assembled tribe cheered with delight, and
gazed with ecstatic admiration on her fat, whirling limbs of carven,
hieroglyphic savage beauty. Her big throat pulses with the emotion she
feels as she staggers on. Behind her totters three ridi-clad royal
chiefs (one is a dethroned king, both his ears are missing). Their
retinue consists of three more penitent maids. They are in full church
dress—a loin-cloth and bright yellow silk stockings—finery that is fresh
from the Islamic carpet bag. ’Tis grievously essential to tell one these
things, for they are characteristic details, necessary, and full of the
pathos of true native life. Even as I watch and mend the broken bellows
of the sacred harmonium, I see the pathetic light in the Father’s eyes
change to an amused twinkle, and no wonder! for, as poor Mazzabella
kneels down in the pew, her mouth sobbing with ecclesiastical anguish,
she takes a nip of rum out of the flask which she has hidden beneath her
tappa gown.

Though I have not been long in the South Seas, I feel that there is no
denying that a pick-me-up after a modern tribal festival is essential.
In the olden days, ere casks of rum and Bibles were imported on sister
ships to the isles, such pathetic duplicity was comparatively unknown.
It is the combination of the Old World’s sins with the New World’s sins
that is so disastrous to the native’s nervous system. Indeed so
disastrous has been the introduction of Bibles and rum to the sins of
the Old World that many an isle is to-day perfectly virtuous—for the
whole native population, devoid of human passions, lie silent and
sinless in their graves.

As the priest stands before those rows of dusky, savage faces, droning
forth in reverent monotones the morning prayers, I finish my job and
creep out of the mission-room. I have mended his harmonium gratuitously.
I like the old fellow and know he’s as poor as a church mouse. How else
could he be but poor, since he was earnest in his belief?

Again I am out in the glorious sunlight. As I walk beneath the
bread-fruit trees I recall my promise; for I have quite forgotten to
fetch the new-laid eggs for my host, a white settler hard by who has
kindly given me shelter till I get a ship. Up the slopes I go, hurrying
on. The parrots shriek, flapping away from the topmost branches. In a
few moments I reach my destination—old Lydia’s cottage. Her new-laid
eggs are noted for size and cheapness. I stand in hesitation by the
doorway. It is quite evident that I’ve called whilst a little domestic
drama is in progress. I listen, for I too suffer from the great weakness
of mankind. “Deary me am! Poor chiles, mitia—Awai, Talofa! My poor
Wayee, you sick?—and so sleep late these morning? Poor chiles.”

As I listen to the foregoing I still hesitate beneath the coco-palms. I
can see through the slightly opened doorway. Old Lydia is stirring
scented _poi-poi_ on the galley stove. It is for poor sick Waylao. Alas!
that I must confess that as I watch the honour that should be mine is
mesmerised by the scene before me. There stands Waylao in complete
deshabille by her mother’s side. Her unloosened hair falls in tangled
masses to her dimpled shoulders. She has evidently hastily attired
herself in that silken blue kimono gown. Her feet are bare. Her old
mother looks positively jealous as the girl, sitting down on a chair,
commences to pull on the Oriental, silk, pink-striped stockings.

“Wheres you git ’em?” screams the native mother with delight, eyeing the
stockings with vivacious, child-like approval.

Again I remember that I am an honourable white man. Why should I pry on
such domestic innocence? I attempt to stride towards the door and make
my presence known, but my steps are arrested by a cry of joy. I make a
mighty effort to be blind to it all—then I look. Old Lydia stands
entranced, her mouth wide open with delight, for lo! Waylao has
succeeded in bribing the old mother’s curiosity as to where she’d been
the night before—has given her a brilliant pair of pink, yellow-striped
stockings!

Yes, there stands old Lydia; in a moment she had pulled the stockings
on, and now before the big German mirror sways and swerves in the most
grotesque postures as the green and yellow stripes reach above her dusky
knees.

Knowing not what else might occur, I hastily shuffle, cough loudly and
knock at the door! It opens wider. The old woman grins from ear to ear,
as, puff!—Waylao leaps out of sight into the next room.

Native instinct is deep: old Lydia stares at me suspiciously. With the
external politeness of Western guile I blow my nose and make an attempt
to appear more serious than usual.

I purchase the eggs.

“Nice eggs and good cheap,” says the old woman.

“Yes, very good,” I mutter.

“Good-morning, Aloha! Miss Waylao,” I say jokingly through the door
chink as I spy Benbow’s daughter.

No answer comes. But as I stroll away I look back and just catch a
glimpse of the girl’s face as she gazes after me through the little
lattice window. I wave my hand, and she responds with a smile.

It seems a romantic isle to me as I stroll along. The very trees bend
over me like wise old friends, wailing the lore of ages as the winds
creep in from the empurpled seas. The exotic odours of forest flowers
intoxicate my senses; they seem bright, living eyes of woods as they
dance to the zephyrs. The very tinkle-tinkle of the stealing stream at
my feet seems some wonderful song of sentient Nature as it ripples its
accompaniment to the “Wai-le woo! wai-le woo! willy O!” of the _mano
alta_ (morning nightingale) as I fade into the forest shadows.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER IV

Water-Nymphs—Ranjo’s Bath and Problem—The Old Hulk—Its Tenants—My
  Birthday—Shellback Accommodation—Washing Day


A DAY or so after the events of the preceding chapter I became chummy
with the inhabitants of the beach. I had seen them before, but had kept
slightly aloof. Finding me a musical vagabond at heart, they at once
took me to their bosom. Before my reader becomes also intimately
acquainted with them I will describe their quaint dwelling-place and its
poetical surroundings.

God’s bluest sky lit the world as I roamed beneath the coco-palms. I had
just left the kind host’s shanty wherein I had stayed for two or three
days. It seemed like a dream to me as I reflected over all that had
happened since I left the old country. The birds with brilliant wings in
the bread-fruits, the beating of the native drums in the villages, and
the tawny coco-nuts hanging over my head made me strangely happy. As I
roamed beneath the palms I came to a hollow: it was near the Catholic
mission-room. I heard a noise. It was Father O’Leary’s tired feet
treading the musical treadmill, which is commonly known as the
harmonium. I did not linger near that sacred spot; it reminded me too
much of my childhood’s Sunday school afternoons in the British Isles.

I strode down and out of the forest shadows. Before me lay miles of
winding coast. The odours of the forests breathed enchantment. As I
stood beneath the flamboyant trees, and the migrating cockatoos
screeched weirdly, I gazed at the ocean. Round the bend of that magic
shore, just to the right of me, were droves of sea-nymphs. Their curly,
wind-tossed hair streamed down their backs as they dived and splashed in
the blue lagoons.

As I dream on once more, the scene vividly presents itself before my
eyes, as I seem to stand again beneath the bread-fruit tree and watch
those dusky, sportive angels. There they splash in the blue waters by
the promontory. Soft-fingered paddles propel their delicate, shining
bodies along. I see their eyes sparkling as they look shoreward and see
me. I hear a wild shriek of fright as they mark my white face,
then—splash! they have all dived into the deep blue sea—no sportive
faeries, but native girls having their morning bath!

As I walk along the shore a more wonderful sight greets my gaze.

By the shore grog shanty, that lies just by the hollows, is something in
the ocean that looks like the weather-beaten figurehead of a sunken
Chinese junk. Suddenly it moves; at last two hands rise from the depths
and start to rub with cleansing vigour the matted hair and crooked-nosed
face. It is the gnarled, wrinkled physiognomy of Ranjo, the store-keeper
of the grog shanty. He, too, is having his morning bath. As he stands
there reflecting, immersed to the shoulders, he is deep in thoughts that
are as vital to him as the problem of the visible universe. He does not
yearn to probe Space and fathom the distance of the stars and the
marvels of far-off worlds; he is simply wondering how he can manage to
get those unprincipled beachcombers to pay their bills!

Not far away from Ranjo’s spacious bath is the promontory, on which
grows three-plumed coco-palms. It looks like a tiny track from the sea
that leads up, up into the vastnesses of the distant mountains. On the
shallows of the sands, just below the promontory, lies the huge, wrecked
hulk of the old windjammer, the _South Sea Rover_. Washed ashore during
a terrific hurricane some years before, she lies almost high and dry,
rotting and bleaching in the tropical suns. As I stare at that old hulk,
the carved figurehead’s outstretched hands seem, to me, symbolical of
that indefinable appeal to the heart which one feels in the atmosphere
of great poetry. The praying hands point seaward, yes, to the far-off,
dim, blue sky-line, as though, in her derelict old age, she longs to
catch the tide, to go a-roving again with her merry crew.

Bobbing about by her stern is another shoal of native girls. As they
turn somersaults in the warm liquid depths, only their small brown feet
appear on the surface—such pretty feet they are.

Notwithstanding the picturesque sight, my attention is riveted
elsewhere. Lo! something magically wonderful occurs. Suddenly, in the
full flood of sunlight, that silent derelict hulk seems to mysteriously
reveal the ghosts of her old crew. Lo! there they are: a dozen typical,
weather-beaten sundowners of the ocean highways. Up they come, creeping
through the rotting deck hatchway, clothed in bright-buttoned rags and
dilapidated peaked caps, climbing one by one out of the hulk’s deep
hold. My word! such weird, unshaved beings they look, but withal, ghosts
in one sense only; they positively hate anything of a solid nature that
resists muscular power—for they belong to the highest order of The Sons
of Rest; in short, they are genuine beachcombers. Yes, reader, they were
my beloved shellbacks and vagabonds of Tai-o-hae.

That old hulk was their home. I also have slept beneath those gloomy
hatchways, many, many a time. But it was the first time that I had spied
them coming out of doors, so to speak.

I see by my diary that I kept at that period that that day was my
fifteenth birthday. I suppose that I enlightened some of those old
shellbacks as to the fact, for it says here:

“_Monday, September 3rd._—My birthday, am fifteen years old. How time
flies! I feel quite ancient. Treated right royally by the big, sunburnt
men from the seas. The red-bearded man who swears most terribly made me
drink my own health in whisky. Phew! it tasted like lime-juice and
paraffin oil. Felt sick—_was_ sick. Had fine time. Two native girls
danced round me in the shanty’s card saloon. They kissed me—it’s the
fashion here. I turned quite red. Pretty girls. What would they think of
it all in England? Slept on the old hulk last night, my birthday night,
with a lot of jovial, fierce shellbacks. Played the violin to them in
the bowels of the ship—it’s a wreck—they had a barrel of rum or strong
beer down there with them—what a night! The very waves roared with
laughter as the wild choruses echoed in that ship’s wooden inwards. I do
like low men. Slept well.”

There is a good deal more here in my diary about those times, but I
think it wiser not to publish it as it stands, so I will proceed from
memory.

I recall those wild choruses as though it were yesterday; yes, as they
blessed my name, and one by one fell asleep.

It was surprising how comfortable they had made their derelict home. Old
ropes, empty barrels and rotting sails had been piled up so as to divide
their sleeping apartments from the deck space. Rough bunks had been
fitted up, filled with dead seaweed for mattresses, and were all that
one could desire in the way of comfort. A little stove had been fixed by
the mast stem that ran to the ship’s bottom. Its smoke stack had been
placed so as to run out of the port-hole on the starboard side. Once a
week they did their washing. It was a sight worth seeing as they stooped
over the big empty beef casks, rubbed and rubbed away as they punctuated
their labours with choice oaths—and what yarns!


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER V

The Derelict Hulk—The Signal of Prosperity in Tai-o-hae—The Night
  Phantoms—Representative Types of Nations—Grimes the Cockney


I CANNOT recall the history of that derelict hulk, from what port it
sailed, or whether its crew found a refuge on that shore, or slumbered
till the trump of doom beneath the sunny seas rolling to the sky-lines.
All I know is, that it was beached there after buffeting its “roaring
forties,” and by the cut of its jib, the beautiful curves of the bows
and figurehead, it must have sailed from its native port long before I,
or even its new derelict crew, were born. Could an aspiring novelist
have hidden in that hulk’s depth and listened, he would have gathered
enough vivid material to have lasted his lifetime.

The most wonderful sight on that hulk, to me, at any rate, was when the
washing was hung out to dry. The clothes-line stretched from the
forecastle to a portion of deckhouse stanchions amidships. On that
clothes-line would hang—fitting flags for that derelict—ragged old
shirts and pants, flapping and waving their many-coloured patches to the
South Sea breezes. Those rough men only did their washing when things
were slack, which meant no ships in, and therefore no treating going on
in the grog shanty. Consequently the derelicts’ washing-line was an
indisputable dial, signal and sign-post. Nor do I exaggerate when I say
that those old pants and shirts told of the prosperous hours of drunken
glory, or of the slack times on the slopes of the Parnassus of
beachcomberism. Indeed the incoming schooners of those days, creeping
through the sky-lines from distant seas, would sight the ragged shirts
or the empty clothes-line through the ship’s telescope, and so know the
exact state of affairs at Tai-o-hae.

Several of the beachcombers, however, positively refused to sleep on
that old hulk and told tales of night phantoms. Even the men who did
sleep in those gloomy depths said they did not like the noises that they
could hear on wild nights; they had their suspicions. I must admit that
some of the sounds I heard on that wreck at night _did_ sound a bit
uncanny. The masts were still standing, and on the yards hung the
tattered rigging and rotting canvas. When the wind blew, even slightly,
on hot nights, the rigging wailed. It would sound just like children
crying in the night up there aloft. If the moon was out you could see
shadows flitting across the grey sails and figures clinging to the
moonlit rigging. These things made those superstitious shellbacks swear
that the hulk was haunted at times by her old crew.

“I know, I know,” said one old fellow to me. “They comes back, climbs
aloft and sings their old sea-chanteys, all out of their ’ere graves;
that’s what it is.”

As those rough men became involved in a good deal that concerns my
reminiscences, I will bring the reader into closer touch with them. As
they crept up on to the deck, after a sound night’s rest, they would
yawn and gaze about them, and then stare at the blue sky. Possibly they
were thankful to be alive, maybe had just said their prayers. “No fear,”
I hear you say. Well, it is faithfully recorded in the annals of
beachcomberism that two or three of those sinful old shellbacks knelt by
their bunks every night—and said their prayers.

Passing down the plank gangway in single file to the sands, they made a
bee-line for the Alpha and Omega of their existence—Ranjo’s grog shanty.
In that low-roofed saloon of the Southern Seas they sat enthroned on
salt-beef tubs. Smoking their corn-cob pipes, they chewed plug tobacco,
and proceeded religiously with their toilet—that is to say, one little
small-tooth comb was handed around and each one combed his hair and
tangled whiskers. One could search the world over and never sight so
perfect a set of noble-looking vagabonds. Each one seemed some wonderful
figurehead, some symbolical, living representative of a nation’s typical
emotion and crimes. They were far from being bad men, notwithstanding
their twinkling eyes and grog-blossomed nasal organs. I’m not going into
details over their birth and the university they honoured. I know
nothing about their lost opportunities; only one thing am I certain
of—they were once boys. And, believe me, the boy, in a beautiful sense,
still laughed and looked through their wicked eyes. Though dead for
years, the boy’s ghost still lived, and shed tears when the chill came
as hope ran high. It did the same childish things—gave away the last
shilling when it should have been kept; and ah! how many more
ridiculous, boyish deeds. They were, in short, the world’s worst men,
and, as one knows, the world’s worst men have virtues that are undreamed
of in the hearts of the world’s best men.

The tallest was a typical Yankee specimen. I never saw so perfect a
resemblance to a cartoon in the flesh as “Uncle Sam.” His face was
cadaverous, alert and pleasant-looking. The poise of his head told of
imagined greatness, as one who felt that he had helped to create the
universe as well as being a representative of the land of the almighty
dollar. His chin resembled that of an aged billy-goat. Whenever he
yawned or spat vindictively and yelled, “Waal, I guess,” his long,
pointed beard inclined towards the roof. Another represented three
races: Japan, the South Sea and Yankeeland. This mixture had made an
argumentative strain. Nor could he help it, however he tried. The three
separate emotions of three separate strains would come into forcible
conflict during pugnacious arguments—consequently one of his ears was
missing.

Yet another represented the Shamrock, the Thistle and the Rose. He had a
huge, humorous mouth, merry blue eyes and a high bald head; a head that
was a veritable incubator for hatching wildly unprofitable schemes. Ah!
schemes that cracked through their shells so easily, just to flutter a
little way and fall with broken wings, yes, on their first flight.
Sometimes a new-born scheme even fluttered so far as to settle on a twig
and sing sweetly for a moment, as though it yearned to express the
hopelessness it felt, to write verse on the leaves with its tuneful
beak, so that the old beachcombers would cheer with delight as they
watched and yell deliriously:

“At last! at last! we’ve struck rich!”—and then it fell—dead at their
feet.

In that motley crew was not one true representative of the John Bull
type. There’s no denying the fact, but the typical John Bull is too avid
of comfort and abnormal self-respect, and all that is conventional, to
be found sitting on a tub in a grog shanty in the South Seas. It was
even ridiculous to expect to find a _true_ Britisher there. To annex a
continent, or even an isle, to explain the religious significance of the
annexation, while hiding that renowned smile behind the old red, white
and blue John Bull handkerchief, was natural enough; but to find him
sitting on an empty salt-beef tub in the South Seas—why, impossible,
absurd!

Should he by chance be found there, rest assured it is in some mongrel
state: some Britisher with the ravishing strain of the hilarious,
inconsequential, romantic Irish; or the Odyssean strain of the Italian
cavalier or Spanish hidalgo’s blood pulsing in his veins. Though,
stay—there _was_ one, by name Bill Grimes, a representative of the
much-abused Cockney.

Men have toiled over the inscrutable wonders of Cockneyism. The short
clay pipe, the black teeth, the perky shuffle of vile impertinence and
blasphemous oaths have bedecked many a novelist’s pages with inky crime.

Believe me, Bill Grimes was a real out and outer good ’un. It is true
enough that he chewed vilely and spat deliberately, so as not to miss,
with that streaming certitude of black tobacco juice, when anyone capped
his argument with indisputable conviction. But do not men argue the
world over? Is it not far better to have a straightforward squirt of
honest tobacco juice in one’s eye than life-long, stealthy enmity behind
one’s back?

Ah, Bill Grimes (he’s dead now), the blue of your eyes was not
counterfeit; your heart and voice had the genuine touch and true ring of
the last half-crown you so often shared.

Yes, there he sits; what a face!—more like a half-worn-out broom, with
two clear, sparkling eyes peeping from it, than anything else. A real
“low ’un”—and yet his mouth, sensitive-looking, firm as a beautiful
woman’s, as though ages back in British history some Roman captain,
leader of invading legions, sighted and fell into the arms of a
blue-eyed, golden-haired coster-girl, of leafy raiment and limbs of
woaded beauty, as she pattered down that primitive Mile End Way.

As Grimes sat there on his tub, he gave them back as good as they gave
when they chaffed him. He was no fool. His old grandfather and
grandmother kept a pawnbroker’s shop down the Old Kent Road. He seemed
to have tender memories of them and his kiddie days.

“Gorblimy, a dear old soul she were. She knewed all about Boyron the
poyet; yes, she readed to me the poultry that made me wanter go to sea.”

“Fancy that,” said I, as I looked into those fine, low eyes.

“Yus; and I’m well connected, mate, I am. I had a hunkle on the Karnty
Kouncil.” (Here he pulled his trouser-legs up and spat through the open
door with mathematical precision.) “Clever bloke ’e was.”

So would Grimes ramble on, telling me of old times, and of his first
aspirations to go to sea, in his picturesque style, till I saw, in my
imagination, the wrinkled old grandmother staring through her spectacles
as the little grimy imp looked up at her and drank in the romance of
life.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER VI

Tai-o-hae by Night—The Bowels of the Old Hulk—The Figurehead—A Mad
  Escape—South Sea Grog Shanty Barmen up to date—Men who shave their
  Beards off—Mrs Ranjo’s Blush—The Potentialities of a Bit of Blue
  Ribbon—A Picture of the Grog Shanty’s Interior—Pauline
  appears—Waylao appears—The Wonderful Dance of the Half-caste
  Girl—The Mixture of Two Races—The Music of a Marquesan Waltz


GRIMES was a blessing in those days; he was something new to me in the
way of man so far as my experiences went.

We’d go off together and get some job on the plantations, get a little
cash, then loaf by the beach, and by night sit together beneath the
palms and dream.

The surroundings of Tai-o-hae by night were something that, once seen,
clung to the memory like some scene of enchantment.

I wish I had the power to give a picture of that spot as night crept
over the mountains, bringing its mystery. We would sit beneath the
feathery palms and watch the snow-white tropic-bird wave its crimson
tail as it swooped shoreward. Far away the sun, sinking like a burning
brand into the ocean, fired the sky-line waves. The chanting chorus of
_cicadæ_ (locusts) would commence tuning up in the bread-fruits, as the
_O le manu-ao_ (twilight nightingale) and one or two of its feathered
brethren sought the heights of the giant palms to warble thanksgiving to
the great god of Polotu, the heathen god of Elysium. So the natives told
us when they crept from the huts hard by, and made fantastic, heathenish
incantations with their faces to the sky, while the birds warbled.

One songster was like an English blackbird. It would sit on the topmost
bough and pour forth its song, “recapturing its first fine careless
rapture,” and looking like some tiny Spanish cavalier serenading the
starlit walls of heaven, as the sky darkened and the wind ruffled the
blue, feathery scarf that seemed to be flung carelessly about its
throbbing throat.

Then we would hear the forest silence disturbed by the faint booming of
the native drums in the villages, beating in the stars as, in one’s
imagination, those far-off starry battalions were marshalled slowly
across the sky.

The moon rose, brightening the pinnacles of the palm-clad mountains,
bringing into clear relief the wild shores and quiet lagoons. The scene,
for miles, would appear like some vast canvas picture done in magical
oils, daubs of moonlight, mysterious splashes of rich-hued tropical
trees standing beneath the wonderful perspective of stars twinkling
across the tremendous dark blue canvas of night.

Far away, tiny twirls of smoke rose from the huts of the villages and
ascended into the moonlit air.

But to me the sight of all was where some great artist of night seemed
to have toiled to transcendental perfection on a bas-relief just visible
by the promontory of that little island world: a figure cut out in
perfect lines of emblematical grief, the sad symbol of aspiring
humanity, a beautiful, legendary woman, her carved arms outstretched,
appealing eternally to the dim, greenish-blue horizon—the old hulk’s
figurehead.

Only the curl and whitening of a wave by that wreck told of something
real. Just up the shore stood the grog shanty, a ghostly light gleaming
through its windows, and one pale flush streaming through the half-open
door up the tall, plumed palms that half leaned over the corrugated tin
roof. That was real enough; for who ever heard of a grog shanty on the
oil painting of a tropical landscape with wild song issuing from its
inwards and echoing to the hills?

Such was a characteristic scene of Tai-o-hae by night before my eyes,
while Grimes snored beside me. For we slept out for several nights,
preferring the beach to the bowels of that old hulk. I’ll tell you why.
An escape, a Frenchman—from Noumea, I think—went raving mad one night
down in that hold. Suddenly we were all awakened by terrible yells; we
jumped from our bunks and rubbed our eyes. I grasped an iron stanchion,
determined to sell my life dearly, for I thought that the natives were
aboard seeking “long-pig” for some cannibal feast. We soon realised the
truth, for the poor escape had been peculiar for several days. He rushed
up and down that dark hold shouting “Mon Dieu! Merci!” for he thought
that he was about to be guillotined.

Uncle Sam, Grimes, I and several others chased him up and down the hold,
trying to catch him as he struck the vessel’s side with his fists. His
eyes rolled fearfully. He’d gone stark mad. We tried to appease him,
told him it was all right, that we would not guillotine him. It was no
use; he fastened his teeth in Uncle’s Sam’s arm, thinking he was some
Noumea _surveillant_ who would lead him to that monstrous blade.

He bolted up on deck as we all gripped him. Jove! his clothing was left
in our hands as he broke away in his wild delirium. He climbed aloft and
up there he stuck.

We had a terrible night of it. He yelled forth, in his native tongue,
heart-rending appeals for mercy, awakening the native villages for miles
around.

He died next day. The weather was hot, so they buried him quickly in the
quiet cemetery near the calaboose.

So that I didn’t fancy sleeping on the hulk for some time; that night’s
adventure got on my nerves.

But to return to the grog shanty. While Grimes slept on under the
coco-palms I would creep into that bar, sit among those rough men and
listen to the sounds of _O! O! for Rio Grande_, _Blow the Man Down_,
etc., bellowed forth, as they spent the best part of the night
recounting their manifold adventures. I was fascinated by the sight
before me, for that motley crew resembled some strange postage-like
stamp collection of men who had once been recognised as genuine currency
by governments, but had long since gone through the post and had become
valuable and rare—some of them.

Mr and Mrs Ranjo, the grog shanty keepers, were delightful as they
dodged from bar to bar, for they had one bar for derelicts and another
for those mysterious, hurried individuals who arrived with cash. In the
saloon bar old Ranjo would put on his holiest and most obsequious smile,
as he praised his whisky, remarking: “Ho yes, Hi see, sir, Hi halways
thinks as ’ow _h_onesty is the best policy.” Saying this, he would swish
his bar towel and hand another mixture of paraffin and methylated spirit
to his customers, who were erstwhile bank managers, disillusioned
ecclesiastics and men who had hurried from far countries and shaved
their beards off.

Mrs Ranjo would blush in the saloon bar over the very story that she
herself would have told the beachcombers in the next bar. It seems
absurd, but that blush and old Ranjo’s “Ho” and “Hi see” increased the
price of the drinks in the saloon bar by one hundred per cent.

So one will see that culture existed also in the South Seas. A tweed
suit or a massive watch-chain secured immense respect and unlimited
trust from the Ranjos; and that was everything, for one must remember
that they owned the grog shanty. And this fact at Tai-o-hae or anywhere
else in the South Seas gave them a social distinction of the highest
rank; indeed they were as king and queen of beachcomberland, and
appreciation from them was equal to conferring a knighthood.

No wonder these men were fascinated by the smiles of the Ranjos. To
them, in their derelict times, a grog shanty was like that bit of blue
ribbon with its many hidden potentialities—the ribbon that flutters at
some pretty girl’s throat, or in her crown of hair, that insensate
adornment that is the first magnetic glimpse that awakens the romantic
dreams of some impassioned boy, yes, and even the staid man of the
world. But I must leave blue ribbons alone, also my reasons for
mentioning them, till later, and tell of one memorable night.

I was sitting in the grog shanty dreaming of old England, and wondering
what my people would think could they see me playing my violin to that
weird crew. I felt sure that it would have damped their ardour over any
idea of my retrieving the family’s fortunes during my travels.

Well, as I sat there I noticed a handsome man (whom I will call John
L——) stumble out of the bar as usual on his way home, drunk. He was
seldom sober, had little to say and was regarded as a mystery by all.
From hearsay I gathered that he had arrived in the Marquesan Group about
ten years before, bringing a pretty mite of a girl with him. Probably he
was one of those individuals who had hurried away from his native land
so as to retain his liberty—or his neck. Anyway, the little girl
interested me most. This little waif’s name was Pauline, and she had, at
this period, arrived at the stage when girlhood meets womanhood. Her
mother was dead. We all knew that, because when John L—— was drunk he
would sweep the stick he carried about, and sweep imaginary stars from
the low roof of the shanty as he cursed the heavens and God. Even the
Ranjos paled slightly during those fits of ungovernable frenzy, when he
yelled forth atheistic curses till he fell forward and sobbed like a
child. It would strike me with sorrow as well as horror to witness those
paroxysms.

John L—— and his daughter lived in a little homestead situated up near
the mountains that soared in the background of Tai-o-hae. It was a wild
spot this fugitive had chosen for his home in exile; only the South Sea
plovers passed over that place on their migrating flight to the
westward.

To me the memory of that homestead is like the “Forsaken Garden,” a
remote spot of that South Sea isle, its ghost of a garden still fronting
the sea:

                                 “Where there was weeping,
               Haply of lovers none ever will know,
               Whose eyes went seaward, a hundred sleeping
                                     Years ago.”

It isn’t a hundred years ago, though, but it seems so to me. I could
half think that I dreamed that white wooden homestead by the palms; that
it was some ghostly hamlet hidden up there in the wild South Sea hills—a
beautiful phantom-like girl trembling inside—and Destiny knocking,
knocking at the door. Ah, Pauline!

But to return to John L—— as he staggered away from the shanty into the
darkness. I recall that his farewell sounded more like a death-groan
than anything else. Almost every incident of that night is engraved on
my memory. I still see the haggard, haunted face as he departs, and the
shellbacks look into one another’s eyes significantly. I can even
remember the swaying of the palm leaves outside the open door as I saw
them drift apart, revealing the moonlit seas beyond, and John L——’s
white duck-suit jacket fluttering between them as he staggered homeward.
His thin-faced companion holds his arm—he’s a sardonic-looking
individual—and I, as well as the shellbacks, wonder why he tolerates
such a sinister comrade.

After their departure I played the fiddle once more, as that wonderful
collection of the drifting brigade sat listening. Serious faces, funny
faces, bearded, expressionless faces, sensitive, cynical, philosophical,
humorous, tawny and pasty faces, all holding rum mugs, and looking like
big wax figures clad in ragged duck-suits, dirty red shirts and belted
pants, wide-brimmed hats or cheesecutters, sitting there on tiers of
tubs, while Ranjo swished his towel and served out drink. Over their
heads were suspended multitudes of empty gin bottles, hanging on
invisible wires. Each bottle held a tallow candle that dimly flickered
as the faintest breeze blew through the chinks of the wooden walls and
open doorway. And as I fiddled on with delight, it seemed as if that bar
was some ghostly room stuck up in the clouds, and that in some magical
way those fierce, disappointed, unshaved pioneers of life had stolen a
constellation of stars of the third and fourth magnitude, which shone,
just over their sinful heads, in a phantom-roofed sky of ethereal deep
blue drifts—tobacco smoke.

Against the partition Ranjo had fixed a huge cracked ship’s mirror,
which had once adorned the saloon of a man-of-war, and which now
revealed in a kind of cinematograph show all that happened within, and
all who might enter.

The fiddle, the banjo and the mouth-organ were in full swing. Grimes had
come into the shanty and was sitting beside me, and the French sailors
from the man-of-war in the bay had just sung the _Marseillaise_ for the
last time and gone aboard. Suddenly the scene changed, silence fell over
the shanty. I swear that I had only drunk a little cognac, so as to be
sociable with Grimes, when something like an apparition stood before me,
framed in the shanty’s doorway! It was a white girl.

A deep gleam shone in her blue, star-like eyes; her lips were apart as
though she were about to speak; she seemed like some figure of romance,
a strip of pale blue ribbon fluttering at her warm, white throat.

The wild harmony of oaths and double-bass voices of good cheer ceased.
Each beachcomber, each shellback, stayed his wild reminiscences. The
new-comers, who were sympathetically treating the old-comers, fairly
gasped as they turned to see the cause of the sudden silence. That
tableau of astonishment and admiration on the grim, set faces of those
bearded sailors made one think of some mysterious contortion of the
Lord’s Last Supper; and they—a crew of sunburnt disciples looking at the
materialised divinity of their dreams.

The swashbuckler who spoke all day long about his pal Robert Louis
Stevenson, and swore that he was the main character of that author’s
latest book on the South Seas, dropped his glass smash on the floor and
muttered: “What a bewt!”

As for me, I felt the first thrill of romance since I went to sea,
arrived in a far country with a black eye and took up my residence in a
wharf dust-bin.

The girl looked unreal, like some beautiful creation that had just
stepped hurriedly out of the distant sky-line beyond the shanty’s door.
Her crown of rebellious hair seemed still afire with some magical glow
of the dead sunset. Nor was I quite mad, for as the escaping tobacco
smoke of that low-roofed den enshrouded her in bluish drifts, as the
winds blew up the shore, she _did_ look ghost-like, and her delicately
outlined form seemed robed in some diaphanous material cut out of the
vanished glory, the golden mist of the western skies. Hibiscus blossoms,
scarlet and white, were wantonly entangled in her mass of loosened
tresses that fluttered to the zephyrs, as though magical fingers
caressed her and would call her back to the portals beyond the setting
suns. Ah, Pauline, you were indeed beautiful. When I was young!

Her clear, interrogating eyes seemed to say: “Is dad here?”

I saw her lips tremble. She wavered like a spirit as I watched her
image, and mine staring in the mirror beside her.

None answered that gaze of hers. We all knew that her father had just
gone staggering home, blind drunk, crying like a demented man.

Even Queen’s Vaekehu’s _valet de chambre_ (a ferocious-looking Marquesan
who haunted the shanty, cadging drinks) looked sorry for the girl.

Though it was years ago, I recall the sympathetic comments of those men,
the look in their eyes, expressing all they felt.

That picture of astonishment, the breathless stare of admiration on the
upturned, bearded faces, resembled some wax-work show, a kind of Madame
Tussaud’s fixed up in a South Sea grog shanty. But I know well enough
that those unshaved, apparently villainous-looking men gazed on the
avatar of their lost boyhood’s dreams. So grim did they look, all
mimicked in the huge ship’s mirror as they still held their rum mugs
half-way between their lips, staring through the wreaths of smoke, in
perfect silence.

“Gott in Himmel!” said the Teuton from Samoa.

“Mon Dieu!” said the awestruck gendarme from Calaboose Hill.

“A hangel form!” gasped Grimes, as the three swarthy Marquesan women,
who wore loose ridis and had no morals, grinned spitefully to see such
admiration for a white girl.

“Did you ever!” sighed several more, as I laid the fiddle down and felt
a warm flood thrill me from head to foot.

Pauline vanished as swiftly as she came. Went off, I suppose, to seek
her drunken parent.

I half wondered if I had dreamed that glimpse of a white girl, a
glorious creation here in the South Seas, by the awful beach near
Tai-o-hae. It seemed impossible.

Then the hushed voices subsided. Once again came the wild crescendos of
ribald song from those lips, as the shanty trembled to the earthquake of
some crashing finale of a wild sea-chantey and thumping sea-boots.

“Grimes, have another,” said I. So we drank again, and then again.

What a night of adventure and romance that was, for another came out of
the night like an apparition and startled us.

I rose to go, and as I wished Grimes good-night two little native
children, peeping in at the shanty door like imps of darkness, shouted
“Kaolah!” and suddenly turned and bolted in fright as I tossed them a
coin. I turned to see what was up, and there stood Waylao.

I noticed that her eyes had a wild look in them. On her arm hung the old
wicker-work basket wherein she always placed her mother’s stores. I
suppose she had come to the shanty to do some shopping, for Ranjo sold
everything from bottled rum to tinned meat. I guessed that her mother
had sent her off hours before, with those usual strict injunctions to
hurry back home with the soap and the flask of rum.

Some of those rough shellbacks had known her since she could first
toddle down to the beach. None were surprised to see her at that late
hour. She was as wild as Tai-o-hae itself to them. She had even gone up
into the mountains when the shellbacks had bombarded the cannibal chief
Mopio’s stronghold; yes, when he had captured Ching Chu the Chinaman and
bolted off with him as though he were a prize sucking pig. They had
found the Chinaman trussed like a fowl, the wooden fire blazing, while
that half-mad cannibal chief, who was the horror of the little native
children in the villages, was about to club his half-paralysed victim.
But Uncle Sam had whipped out his revolver and blown off the top of the
cannibal’s head, in the nick of time.

“Hallo, girlie, how goes it?” “Give us a curl,” “Ain’t she growing,”
said the beachcombers.

“Why, Wayee, you’re getting quite a woman,” said Uncle Sam, as he
chucked her affectionately under her pretty chin.

“Give us a dance, there’s a good kiddie,” said another.

“What-o!” reiterated the whole crew, as they lifted their rum mugs and
drank to those innocent-looking eyes.

Wayee, who had so often entertained those rough men by dancing and
singing, at first quietly shook her head. She gazed at the men with
steady eyes. Her picturesquely robed figure, her pretty olive-hued face
and earnest stare, that was imaged in the mirror beside her, reminded
one of the white girl who had just peeped in like an apparition and then
vanished. Indeed, meeting Waylao by night in the dusk for the first
time, one might easily have mistaken her for a pure-blooded white girl.
She was one of that type of half-wild beauty, a beauty that seems to
belong to the mystery of night and moonlight. All the passionate beauty
of the Marquesan race and the finer poetic charm of the white race
seemed to breathe from the depths of her dark, unfathomable blue eyes.
The curves of the mouth revealed a faint touch of sensualism, so faint
that it seemed as though even the Great Artist had hesitated at that
stroke of the brush—and then left it there.

Sometimes her eyes revealed a far-away gleam, like some ineffable flush
of a dawn that would not break—a half-frightened, startled look, as
though in the struggle of some dual personality a dim consciousness
blushed and trembled, as though the dark strain and the white strain
struggled in rivalry and the pagan won.

“Come on, Wayee,” shouted the shellbacks, determined to make the girl
dance to them. She still hesitated. “Don’t be bashful, child,” said
Uncle Sam in his finest parental voice. It was then that the new robe of
self-consciousness fell from the girl. The old child-like look laughed
in the eyes. In a moment the men had risen _en masse_ and commenced to
shift the old beef barrels up against the shanty’s wooden walls, making
a cleared space for the prospective performance. Looking up into the
faces of those big, rough men, Waylao was tempted by the pleased looks
and flattering glances of their strong, manly eyes. As one in a dream
she stood looking about her, for a moment mystified. Then softly laying
down her little wicker-work basket, she tightened the coloured sash bow
at her hip. A hush came over the rowdy scene and general clamour of the
shanty. A dude in the next bar, craning his neck over the partition,
stared through his eyeglass—Waylao had lifted her delicate blue robe and
commenced to dance.

The regular drinks, getting mixed up with the between drinks, had made
those old shellbacks violently eloquent.

“Go it, kiddie! Kaohau! Mitia!” yelled their hoarse voices, as they
wiped their bearded mouths with their hands. Their eyes bulged with
pleasure. What had happened, they wondered. Her eyes were aglow like
stars. She commenced to sway rhythmically to Uncle Sam’s impromptu on
the mouth-organ. _O! O! bound for Rio Grande_ trembled to the strain of
Waylao’s tripping feet, as the silent hills re-echoed the wild chorus.

Attracted by those phantom-like echoes, pretty little dusky gnomes crept
out of the forest, and there, in semi-nude chastity, with
half-frightened eyes they peeped round the rim of the grog shanty door.
Then off they bolted, for lo! they suddenly saw their own demon-like
faces and curious, fierce eyes revealed in the large cracked mirror of
that low-roofed room. They were native children, truants from the
village huts close by.

Suddenly the hoarse bellowings of the beachcombers ceased. The big,
inflated cheeks of those old yellowing shellbacks suddenly subsided, and
looking like squashed balloons resolved back into wrinkles. Even Uncle
Sam ceased his unmelodious impetuosissimo on the mouth-organ, as he
looked at the fairy-like figure that danced before him. The
superstition, the magic of some old world, some spell of the wild poetry
of paganism seemed to exist and dance before them. Waylao’s lips were
chanting a weird native melody. The atmosphere of that grog shanty was
transmuted into the dim light of another age. Those graceful limbs and
musically moving arms, the poise of the goddess-shaped head of that
dancing figure, seemed to be some materialised expression of poetry in
motion. Her face was set and serious, her eyes strangely earnest
looking, yes, far beyond her brief years. She seemed to be staring at
something down the ages.

The open-mouthed shellbacks sat on their tubs and stared. Ranjo stood
like a statue in bronze, holding a towel as he gazed on the scene. His
low bar-room had become imparadised. Instinctively, in the polished
utterance of his saloon-bar etiquette, he breathed forth: “Ho! Hi say!
’Er heyes shine like a hangel’s!”

Waylao heard nothing. The low-beamed shanty roof and its log walls, with
the men enthroned on tiers of tubs around her, had crumbled, like the
fabric of a dream. A magical forest, with wild hills heaved up slowly
and grandly around her, a world that was brightened by the vaulted arch
of stars and a dim, far, phantom moonlit sea. Her lips were chanting a
melody that seemed to bewail some long-forgotten memory of love-lit
eyes, eyes that gazed beneath the unremembered moons of some long-ago
existence.

The awakening passion of womanhood had stirred some barbarian strain in
the girl. It awoke like some fluttering, imprisoned swallow that heard
the call of the impassioned South. It beat its trembling wings in the
blood-red heart of two races—the dual personality, the daughter of the
full-blooded Lydia and the blue-eyed sailorman, Benbow.

The poetic power, the wonderful visualising imagination of a dark race,
that had peopled their forests with marvellous pagan deities was awake,
revelling in her soul. The tropical moonbeams that poured through the
grog shanty’s vine-clad window crept across her dancing eyes and head of
bronzed curls as she swayed and chanted on.

“Well, I’m blowed! if it don’t beat all,” ejaculated the half-mesmerised
shellbacks. Waylao’s performance had created an atmosphere that affected
them strangely. “Is visions abart,” said Grimes in an awestruck voice.

“My dear Gawd, ain’t she bewtifool!” he murmured to himself as he licked
his parched lips and called for a “deep-sea” beer.

At the sound of the men’s voices the spell was broken. The half-caste
girl abruptly ceased to dance. With the sight of reality so grim-looking
around her, and the disenchantment of her own senses came a sense of
shame. For a moment she gazed at the men before her with a bewildered
stare, then stooped and picked up her little basket.

“Waal, Wayee, I guess I never seed yer dance like that ’ere afore,” said
Uncle Sam.

“Why, blimey, kiddie, if I had yer in London town I’d put yer before a
top-note audience, and make yer blooming fortoone and [_sotto voce_] me
hone fortoon too,” said the late jockey, Mr Slimes.

Grimes went to the bar and ordered a glass of the best lime-juice; he
handed it to Waylao with a trembling hand. His clumsy courtesy was
almost pathetic; his half-opened mouth reminded me in some mysterious
way of the pathetic spout of a tea-pot. The shellbacks winked and nudged
each other, for the look in Grimes’s eyes was unmistakable—he had fallen
in love.

Grimes noticed the manner of the men. He returned to his tub, and gave
them that inimitable, contemptuous Cockney sidelong glance, which is
accompanied by a little jerk of the head, that defiance, that
imperturbable disdain, and the genius required to inflict it upon one
whom one may hate, which is the sole prerogative of Cockneys. Men of all
races throughout the world have sought to imitate that Cockney glance,
but only to end in inevitable, miserable failure.


[Music:

                            MARQUESAN WALTZ.

                                                              A. SAFRONI
                                                              (A. S. M.)

          _Abbandono ed espressivo_

_mP_

_mf_

                                                 1st time       2nd time

             Ocean’s Monotone, heard in the Forest by Night

_f_ _simile_

               _rit._

_ff_

                                                             _f_    etc.

   Reproduced by kind permission of Messrs. BOOSEY & CO., London, W.

]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER VII

Father O’Leary’s Confessional Box—Penitent Natives, Chiefs,
  Dethroned Kings and Queens—Waylao goes into the Confessional
  Box—Father O’Leary’s Philosophy


THAT dance of Waylao’s in the grog shanty created a strange impression
in my mind. Henceforth I looked upon her as some half-wild faery
creature of the forest. I do not wish to give the impression that I was
in love with Waylao. It was only a romantic boy’s fancy, a clinging to
something that faintly resembled his immature ideals. I cannot tell the
events that followed in their exact progression. I recall that about
this period I started off with Grimes seeing the sights of the isles. I
could not tolerate sitting in a grog shanty for any length of time,
though I must admit the tales I heard there and much that occurred was
deeply interesting to one who wished to see more sides of life than one.

I think Grimes and I were away from Tai-o-hae two or three weeks. Things
were about the same when we returned. The natives were still singing as
they toiled on the various plantations. A few fresh schooners were in
the bay, and others loaded and ready to go seaward on their voyages to
the far-scattered isles of the Pacific.

My immediate recollections are centred on the occasion when, with the
help of Grimes, I was building a little outhouse for Father O’Leary. It
was near his mission-room, which, by the way, adjoined his homestead.
During the erection of this wooden building I became very pally with the
priest. Up to that period I had looked upon priests as unapproachable
mortals who lingered between the border-line of mortality and the
Promised Land. To my pleasant surprise, I found the Father a human being
of intellectual calibre. He knew the hearts of men and women to an
almost infallible degree. Nor was this to be wondered at, for his old
confessional box had held what strange types of mortals, what strange
tales of hope and remorse had he heard there!

The experiences of his profession seemed to have gifted him with second
sight and imbued his heart with extreme sympathy for erring mankind.
Yes, he toiled on in that temple of thought, a temple of spiritual faith
he had slowly built up, as it were, wall by wall, and turret by turret,
round the sorrow of his mortal dreams. Just think of it—the multitudes
of disenchanted native children who had crept out of the forest depths
to fall and confess at his feet! What hearts full of remorse, what
benighted lovers, what hapless wives, youths, girls with their cherished
dreams, quaking, had come to him after passion had burnt their converted
souls!

I myself had seen them arrive: dethroned kings and guilty queens, aged,
tattooed chiefs on tottering feet, shaking with fear of the wrath of the
great white God, after some wild reversion to the heathen orgies in the
old amphitheatres by the mountains. I had seen the Father put forth his
hands to hold up the stricken forms as they appeared before him—tawny
old chiefs swaying like dead men with the terror they felt—ere they
entered that confessional box.

For lo! a native once converted to Christianity takes to it seriously,
believes implicitly all that he professes to believe but cannot adhere
to.

I have seen old chiefs and women, girls too, come out of that
confessional box as though they had just been given everlasting life.
The tears all vanished as they leapt off into the forest, or stood on
their heads with delight just behind the mission-room coco-palms.
There’s no doubt about it, but that box was the supreme court of true
justice and glad truth. In there terrible dramas were unrolled to the
Father’s ears. He was the solitary judge; nor was he hard in the
sentences that he meted out to the culprits, for alas! he expiated for
all their crimes with prayers from his own soul.

But to revert to my experiences. I was digging away at post-holes and
feeling down in the mouth (for I do not tell all my reflections and
troubles of those times), when Waylao stepped out of the shade of the
pomegranates. In a moment I perceived that something was wrong with her.
Her eyes stared wildly. She did not respond to my cheery salutations in
her usual way.

As the Father stepped out of his mission-room she nearly fell into his
arms. I saw her embrace the old fellow as a daughter would a father.
“What’s the matter, my child?” he said, as he noticed her hysterical
manner. I threw my spade aside. The knowledge that the girl was in
trouble upset me. I could get no further than wondering at the meaning
of it all as I heard her weeping violently in that silent, sacred wooden
enclosure—the confessional box.

I heard the girl’s sighs as she ceased weeping, and the Father’s solemn
voice as he gave advice and absolution. I suppose Waylao was a true
daughter of Eve, and only told the Father half the truth. I know she did
not tell all, otherwise things would have taken a very different course.
Though the Father knew it not, Waylao had become the wife of a
sensualist.

So much I discovered long after. I did not know then how some of the
native girls and white girls got married in the South Seas. I had heard
a good deal of chaff, as I thought, about the ways of the Chinese and
the Indians, but I little dreamed how true it all was. As it turned out,
Waylao had married an Indian—which means that she had gone through a
midnight ceremony which was as follows. A deluded girl would come under
the influence of some emigrant hawker from Calcutta, or the Malay
Peninsula, usually a man with a smile that would have brought a fortune
to a Lyceum tragedian, for it was the breathing essence of limelight
sadness and sensual longing. One can imagine how such a man would trade
on a girl’s infatuation. It was the custom to lure them into the forest
and repeat the following wedding service, which is the Mohammedan
marriage prayer:—“There is no deity but Mohammed, and Mohammed is the
one prophet of Allah. I who now kneel before thee, O man, renounce the
heathen creed called Christianity, I, such an one’s daughter, by the
grace of my heart and the testimony of my virtue, give myself up to thee
body and soul for life and life everlasting.”

After getting the maid to repeat the foregoing drivel, the Mohammedan
would murmur mystical Eastern phrases. The deluded girl then thought the
great romantic hero of her life had blessed her with faithful love. Her
lips met those of the sensualist. The light of fear died away from the
child-girl’s eyes as she clung to her prize. Well might Adam and Eve
have sighed in their graves!

Such was the practice of the followers of Islam in the South Seas, and
probably closely resembled the marriage service that had brought Waylao
in fright and remorse to Father O’Leary’s mission-room. I remember that
Waylao was considerably cheered up after she had received the priest’s
blessing.

That same night, as I played the violin and the Father accompanied me on
the harmonium, she returned and sang to us. She seemed to want to haunt
the father’s presence. The old priest was as pleased as I to see her
again. She had a sweet, tremulous voice.

I suppose I was happy that night, for it is all very clear to my memory
after many years.

We sat outside beneath the palms. Far away between the trunks of the
giant bread-fruits we could see the moonlight tumbling about on the
distant seas. Father O’Leary had been speaking of his native land. I was
deeply interested, and surprised to hear much that he said. It was
somehow strange to me to find that an old Catholic priest had once been
a romping, careless boy.

I cannot tell how the conversation turned to the subject of emigrant
Indians, but it certainly did do so. Probably it was a subject that
deeply interested Waylao.

To the priest’s surprise and mine, Waylao looked up into the old man’s
face and said in this wise:

“Father, why do you call these strange men, who come from other lands
than your own, infidels?”

The old priest was suddenly struck dumb with astonishment.

Even I noticed that something had happened that he had never expected to
hear in his lifetime from that girl’s lips. For a moment he was silent,
like to a man who sees a multitude of meanings behind one remark. His
high, smooth brow creased into lines of thought. Then he laid his hand
upon Waylao’s shoulder and said, in his rich, kind voice, the
following:—

“My child, there are many paths that lead to many heavens, for that
which is heaven to one man is hell to another. But, believe me, there is
only one path to the reward of righteousness and a clear conscience.”

Waylao, who listened more to the music of that old voice than to what it
actually said, stood like an obedient child as the priest proceeded:

“Listen, Waylao. Many paths have evil-smelling flowers by the wayside;
some paths have sweet-scented blossoms; and is it not best to follow the
sweeter path—to drink the pure waters of the singing brook, bathe in the
seas of holiness and avoid those dismal swamps of pestilence wherefrom
they who drink shall find only bitterness?”

Seeing Waylao’s earnest attention, he continued with tremulous voice,
for he was a religious man and not a bigot:

“And, my child, if indeed all paths should happen to be stumbling-blocks
that lead, in the inevitable end, to darkness, still, is it not best to
go home to God after our travels, full of sweetness? Yes, even though we
should go home deluded, it shall not be said that we did not do our
best. And do not old graves look the sweeter for the bright flowers upon
them, instead of rank, evil-smelling weeds?”

“Father, why does God have so many paths and creeds that are evil or
good?” said Waylao.

At hearing her say this, I looked at her. Her face was very serious. It
seemed like some dream to me as the seas wailed up the shore and the
face of the girl turned with so serious a glance up at the priest. Then
the Father continued:

“My child, but a little while ago you played in your father’s house with
your many dolls: some had black faces with dark eyes, and some pale
faces, yet did you not love them all, even the ugliest, and love one
more than all the rest? Did you question or wonder why there was a
difference in them, or did those old dolls question you?”

“Not that I remember, Father,” said the girl absently.

“Just so, then, as we are the children of God, shall we question the
mysteriousness of His ways? Oh, my child, listen to me. We are the sad
poems that the Great Master writes on the scroll of Time. We are written
for some purpose that we know not of. And shall the poems in the great
Poet’s book of Life arise from their pages, inquire and demand from
whence came their thoughts—or criticise the Great Author and His works?”

The foregoing is the gist of all that I remember of old Father O’Leary’s
replies to Waylao’s strange questions. I saw the girl home that night.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER VIII

Characteristics of Marquesan Natives—Mixed Creeds—Temao and
  Mendos—Queen Vaekehu


IT may strike one as rather overdrawn that a girl of Waylao’s age should
interrogate a priest, or worry about religion at all. But the maids of
southern climes must not be judged in the same way as the maids of our
own lands. From infancy a child in the South Seas hears wild discussions
on creeds. Ere the dummy is cast altogether from their lips they see the
big, tattooed chief pass down the forest track swearing against the
fates that brought the white man to his demesne. Yes, with his old tappa
blanket wrapped about him, he shouts and yells his defiance to the
missionary, or to anyone who would speak disparagingly about his race.
Half-caste girls and youths (children of the settlers) lived in a world
of perpetual change. For those isles, where I found myself as a boy,
were not only populated by fearless shellbacks who drifted in on the
tide.

Tai-o-hae at that time was surrounded by wild scenery and
mountain-guarded glooms. Those glooms were haunted by handsome, tattooed
native men and picturesquely robed girls. By night one could hear their
songs from afar, chants in a strange tongue, as they flitted soft-footed
through the moonlit forest.

In cleared spaces of those wild valleys nestled villages full of the
hubbub of native life. I spent days in those tiny pagan cities, and so
got a good insight into the native ways.


[Illustration: NATIVE TATTOOED WITH ARMORIAL BEARINGS]


Through the influence of emigrant missionaries, their arguments, hopes
and ambitions seemed to be based on the subject of creeds. Natives who
one day had embraced Catholicism, or Protestantism, or had become
sun-worshippers, Mormons, Buddhists and Mohammedans, to-morrow cast the
faith aside and re-embraced some other creed that appeared to give
greater hope of earthly happiness. These changes were chiefly caused by
some apparent miracle performed by a native who had gone over to a new
creed. He would rush into the village and tell the excited mob of his
success; probably some scheme had met with sudden triumph. I myself have
heard a native chief shout in this wise:

“What ams ze goods of a creed that promise me heaven to-mollow, when me
allee samee have heaven to-day?”

His prayers had evidently been answered. His neighbour’s chickens were
missing, or the adulterously inclined wife of the high chief Grimbo had
fallen into his arms—at last.

Withal, they were a fine race. I have seen dethroned kings and stately,
tattooed chiefs stalk into the grog shanties for a drink. They still
retained something of their erstwhile majesty as they flung the coin
(just begged from some white man) carelessly on the bar. Even the
well-seasoned shellbacks looked up from their drinks as one old king of
other days stalked into the white man’s gin palace. Their oaths were
hushed as they saw that handsome, god-like figure with the atmosphere of
past barbarian splendour wrapped about him. About his loins was flung a
decorated, tasselled loin-cloth. It was drawn down and tied in a bow in
true native cavalier fashion at one tawny knee. His handsome,
chestnut-brown physique was artistically tattooed with the armorial
bearings of his tribe. No laugh or gibe escaped the lips of the white
men as he stood there, looking scornfully at them as they sat in rows,
and poured the last dregs of the fiery rum down his wrinkled throat.
Then that remnant of the past splendour of the South Sea Rome gave us
all a glance of defiance and stalked out of the bar door, followed by
his obsequious retinue—namely, a mangy dog, three scraggy (once
handsome) women and two nude children. To see such fine men and to
realise the true independence of their natures made me think of the lost
potentialities of the never-to-be South Sea Empire. What would their
race have become had their blue sky-lines been adamant crystal walls,
whereon ships bringing the reformers from civilised lands would have
dashed and been smashed to atoms?

I have often thought what sparkling, terraced cities of heathen beauty
might not have arisen on those sunny isles, enshrined by those horizons
of mythological stars that shine in the heathen’s poetic imagination.

Yes, they were wonderful lands, more wonderful than romance.

Chiefs would come into the grog shanty and for a drink tell one of the
most exciting events of Marquesan history. True enough, they were wont
to exaggerate, but a close observer could easily sift the truth from
fiction.

I recall Temao. He was a regular travelling volume of Marquesan lore,
romance, mythology and breezy barbarian crime.

Temao would stalk into Ranjo’s store and entertain Uncle Sam, Grimes and
all the rest with the history of Marquesan royalty for a period of about
forty years. As the white men filled him with rum, his eyes would flash
with grateful eloquence, and he would tell such tales that even those
seasoned shellbacks gasped.

Much that was told me first-hand of the terrors of those heathen times I
heard from a white man, one called Mendos, an old-time beachcomber. He,
I am sure, was one of the most wonderful characters that ever roamed
those Southern Seas. I have heard a lot about Bully Hayes, a South Sea
character, but to my mind Mendos stood far from the ruck of the ordinary
type of trader, for such he had been. He was well advanced in years and
intellectually superior to any man I met in those days. From him I heard
much about Queen Vaekehu. Indeed I believe that he was the only white
man who had once been the barbarian queen’s lover. But it’s not my
intention to dwell here on Mendos and his adventures.

As Queen Vaekehu was one of the most romantic royal personages of her
time, I feel that it would be interesting to give a brief account of
her, based on hearsay and also my own intimate reminiscences. This I
will attempt in another chapter.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER IX

South Sea Helen of Troy—A Barbarian Queen’s Lovers—Grimes and I pay
  Obeisance to the Reformed Queen—The Old Heathen Amphitheatre and
  the end of Impassioned Hearts—Descendants of Blue Blood—The
  Calaboose—“Time, Gentleman, please!”—A Race that is Dead—Marquesan
  Mythology—Holy Birds of the Gods—Thakombau, the Bluebeard of the
  South Seas—I practise the Cornet in the Mountains to the Delight
  of the Natives—Waylao believes in Fortune-telling


AT that time Queen Vaekehu was living not far from Tai-o-hae. She was
known to the French officials as “La Grande Chiefesse,” and I think she
received a grant from the French Government. She lived in a quiet style,
but still retained some of the distinctive elements of past majesty. It
was no easy matter to get into her presence. I suppose she had been
haunted by a good many curious tourists, and so felt shy of the white
men. When one _did_ gain access to her presence, it was hard to believe
that she had once been the Helen of Troy and Cleopatra of the South Seas
rolled into one.

But there she was, no myth; nor did rumour lie overmuch.

In the days of her amorous prime and splendid queen-ship fleets of
canoes had arrived off Tai-o-hae, coming from isles a thousand leagues
distant, crammed with tattooed warriors, headed by some redoubtable
Ulysses or Paris, whose soul, fired by rumour of the queen’s beauty, was
filled with one intense desire, one wild ambition—to win her sparkling
glance and impassioned embrace.

Majestic old chiefs for miles round vied with each other in their
reminiscences of the time when they successfully mounted her throne and
were each in turn the envied object of the queen’s “one” _grande
passion_.

One knew not how much truth existed in the eloquent flow of all that
they narrated. No sense of shame possessed those tawny warriors as they
stood erect, and, with their bronze throats and shoulders thrown
back—like some Roman orator of the Forum—completely lost their heads as
they waxed impassionately eloquent: reclasped in memory that queenly
form, fell gracefully on one knee, impulsively kissed the imaginary
queenly hand and vividly described, in unguarded detail, those things
that made the grog shanty re-echo with roars of hysterical laughter—and
Mrs Ranjo hasten into the saloon bar to blush.

I have seen the wife of an old chief press her beloved’s hand with the
pride and admiration she felt as he told of his amorous youth, of that
day when _he_, too, had mounted that throne in the glorious pride of
conquest; telling her of incidents which one would have thought would
have made her want to shoot him at sight, instead of listening with
pride.

An unforgettable privilege was mine. I performed violin solos before
Queen Vaekehu on the celebration of her birthday, and was greatly
impressed by the demure demeanour of the great ex-savage queen, after
all that I had heard. I quite expected to see some eagle-eyed, bronzed,
Elizabethan-like queen, something that at least hinted of those mighty,
amorous times, those terrific cannibalistic and heathen orgies at the
Marea Temples and arenas of death. Those surrounding hills had echoed
and re-echoed the booming calls of the death-drums as they beat the
sunset down and the stars in—and the last hour of what anguish-stricken
maid or youth, the prison-bound victims who were doomed to that last
dubious honour of being clubbed on the altar of the sacrificial rites!
Much of the first-hand terrors of those heathen times I have given in
full detail in my reminiscences of the old-time beachcomber, Mendos, the
most wonderful character, surely, who ever roamed those Southern Seas.

To see that majestic relic of royalty pirouette daintily, on tripping
feet, to the Parisian waltz made it hard to believe that she had been
such an exciting character in her golden days. “Queen Bess of the
South,” she was called by the French. There was a brooding expression on
her oval-shaped face. Her eyes were piercing, yet at times softened, and
looked earnest and reflective. Even in age the lips retained their
somewhat sensual curves. The beautiful tattoo revealed on her wrists,
below the sleeves of her modern attire, and just peeping up beneath the
tawny-hued throat’s fulness, was all that remained visible to the sight
of men of her past abandonment, of her renowned tattooed beauty, and of
the impassioned moonlit nights of long ago.

Bill Grimes accompanied me on that royal visit. It was he who played the
banjo that called forth such praise from those long since deserted lips.
As Grimes played, her eyes lit up—with what memories!—as the
pink-er-te-ponk!—ponk!—tromrrrrrrrrp! er te—trrrrr rrrrrrrrrrrrph! of
the Western world’s festival sounds reminded her of what dim echoes
coming across the years, the death-drums, beating, beating below the
ranges of heathen-land! When Grimes called her “Your Majesty” (only
English term of great deference that she seemed to know) her eyes
revealed a glimmer of the old pride of praise that she had once revelled
in. But, somehow, the first faint smile that flitted across her
wrinkled, bronzed face gave her a child-like expression. One seemed to
see the savage baby peeping through her brown eyes.

Her pride was intensified by my own courtly act in kissing her hand in
the Sir Walter Raleigh style. I believe Grimes would have thrown his
remnant of the coat he always slept in down in the dust for her to tread
upon, so awestruck was he in her presence, and by the servile
munificence of her decayed retinue. Poor Grimes! I felt a strange
tenderness for him, so clumsily did he imitate my courtly act, as he,
too, bent his knee, wiped the tobacco juice from his scrubby lips, and
saluted the royal hand with a kiss.

He blushed like a kiddie when Vaekehu fastened an acacia blossom on the
breast of his ragged coat, and said, in pidgin-English:

“Arise, thou art great chief, Monseigneur Grimes, as one can so easily
observe.” She bowed in picturesque Marquesan style to Grimes. He tried
to mimic that inimitable grace; his knees seemed to stagger and crack,
and a world of woe weigh down his shoulders.

“Good-bye, Mitia! Papalagi! Anglisman! Kaoha!” she murmured.

“Alower!” said Grimes huskily, breathing forth his one Marquesan word in
Cockneyesque style—“Alower!”

Not far from that residence were the ruins of the old heathen
amphitheatre, the once dreadful tapu arena. It was on that spot that
Vaekehu’s cast-off lovers paid their last enforced obsequies to their
royal mistress, and were served up, spiced and hot-blooded, from the
ovens as tempting joints for the great cannibal festival.

Many a trustful, impassioned heart that had once beat violently at her
beauty and her musical Marquesan vows had steamed on the dreadful
cannibal dish, a morsel for her eyes, and a tempting sight for the
jealous, hungry, new paramour.

Such was her past: and there she sat, a demure, nice old lady, looking
through her pince-nez, her wrinkled face a veritable manuscript, an
outlined map of the purest thought, the sweetest of lives, as she licked
her tattooed thumb and turned the leaves of her Bible.

Vaekehu was not the only royal relic of a glorious past. For there were
many royal-blooded chiefs staying at the Government institution, called
the _calaboose_ (jail).

Thither they retired when decrepitude brought their passions to a
smouldering state. The French officials had considerable trouble with
those native princes, chiefesses, dethroned tribal kings and sad,
forgotten queens, who looked upon that prison, with its regular meals,
as a godsend to old age. Indeed it required the sternest vigilance of
the gendarmes to keep those who had been released from escaping back to
the prison precincts! Cast forth upon their ravaged dominions once more,
they would yell forth pleading from sunset till dawn, swearing that some
mistake had been made in the date of their release: the day, the month,
or the year had been grossly miscalculated!

It was pathetic to listen to those royal personages as they rushed from
the gates of the jail stockade, when one passed, and started eloquently
to shout forth their line of pedigree: how they were each in turn the
true decendants of South Sea blue blood, true children of those who had
once reigned, and who in their turn were descendants of barbarian kings
from time immemorial. Nor were they to be blamed or laughed at, since,
having no _Who’s Who_ or _Peerage_ to tell their greatness, no
literature of note to hint of their glorious past, it was absolutely
enforced upon those sad old convicts to perpetuate their line by word of
mouth from decade to decade. So did men distinguish their origin in the
South Seas, preserve the glory of the past and gain respect from those
around them.

Once more out on the world’s mercy, released, in tears, those old relics
of a resplendent barbaric age roamed from grog shanty to grog shanty. In
those walls of the white man they could lay their weary heads from dawn
to dawn. The dreadful Fate-like call of, “Time, Gentleman, please!” was
never heard in those hospitable parts; in fact it was the reverse, for
did a man pass a grog shanty door without having a friendly drink after
midnight he was in danger of being “chucked in” rather than out.

It is curious how in various parts of the world the conditions of life
are turned upside down. My remembrance of Nuka Hiva is as of some
glorious reversion of mundane existence tinged with the poetic.

Once again in a dream I stand by those palm-clad, romantic mountains,
like sentinels guarding an enchanted land against the perilous faery
seas. The wonderful shores of Nuka Hiva are sharply outlined in my
memory, lulled by the echoing monotone of the ocean. The winds are all
asleep. Even my old schooner the _Molyhawk_, whose every board and bunk
I know, looks unreal, like some painted ship on a painted moonlit
tropical lagoon. The half-reefed, hanging canvas sails seem the tired
wings of Silence itself; they look unreal, as though fixed—a mirage
hanging between the crystalline, moonlit sky and sea.

Only the creeping shadows, belated natives by the shore banyans, give a
touch of reality that is somehow stranger than the dream.

Like the last of the Mohicans abroad again, a canoe steals across the
still lagoon of long ago, crammed with handsome, dusky, tattooed chiefs.
They wail a plaintive paddle song, a “himee.” They are the last of their
race.

Again I wander like a ghost that cannot sleep. So linked with romantic
sounds of song and mythology is the primeval scenery that the very air
seems to smell of scented myrrh, sandalwood and ancient life of deep,
mysterious, poetic import. I half fancy I hear the hubbub of some
ancient Assyrian city’s life floating across the silent, sleeping hills
between me and the dark ages. Then I hear the faint boom of drums and
realise that the soft-footed natives are speeding along the track that
leads to the bustling village below the mountains.

I stare seaward. Was that really a tiny, curling wave breaking on some
hidden reef afar, or the skeleton of some dead, home-sick sailor tossing
his white arms for a second as the home-bound sailing-ship goes away,
out with the tide, ere he sinks once again into the depths. It is only a
wave tossing its brief hand to the hidden corals, thank God! I will not
think rest is denied the dead; but at times the brain has strange
fancies. Perhaps I have listened too much to the legendary song and lore
of those Marquesans, who seem ever haunted by death; those stalwart,
tattooed men who see some symbol of the supernatural in all around them.
No cloud flies beneath the stars without bringing some fearful portent.
Its ragged shadows jumping across the moonlit sea are the vast hordes of
evil gods after the soul of some late departed. The breath of the mighty
god Oro blows through the mountain bread-fruits, ever calling the last
of his heathen children to shadow-land. They are frightened of his big,
blowing voice in the ranges; for have they not deserted him and bent on
their sinful knees to the white man’s God?

No night-bird cries in the forest but it has come from shadow-land to
warn the sick chief, or guilty one, that the hour is near, and the
gods have observed. The pretty Marquesan maid Talasenga trembles with
fright as she sits in the leafy glooms of the forest and hears that
twittering while she dreams those things that a maid should never
dream. She looks up with fright. She cries, “Awaie! Awaie!” as there
they sit, four goddesses with their fingers at their lips, their small
eyes bright with discovery. They have been watching from the boughs
overhead, those four little O le manu-ao birds, winged messengers from
that master-of-all-gods, Tangaloa of Polotu (Elysium). They still wear
their blue and crimson feathered tapu robes as they write down, on the
hastily plucked bread-fruit leaf, the terrible truth, all that they
have read, by magic, in the girl’s soul as she sat below that
treacherous tree thinking that she was unobserved. Away they fly to
shadow-land to tell the gods! Away! to the great Tangaloi with that
indictment safely fastened beneath their wings. Poor Talasenga, it is
indeed terrible!

It was a magical world, crammed with wonder and goodness. A little bird
inspiring a girl’s soul with faith; and lo! she has strangled her wicked
thoughts with the flight of those disguised, swift-winged goddesses,
those goddesses of a creed which had a more salutary effect on those
wild Marquesan people than all the denominations of the civilised world
put together.

The missionaries had a hard task to wrench their deep faith in that
glorious, poetic superstition from the native heart. The wonderful
heathen atmosphere _would_ cling like distilled moonlight to their
mystery-loving brains. That tiny, grey, Catholic, wooden abbey, with its
little steeple and the Virgin’s figure peeping from the South Sea
chestnuts, often peeped in vain. It could not dispel the wonders of the
great _tikis_ (wooden gods) which stood in the depths of their forest
colonnades—supreme, upright, ever watching, ever smiling with that
Fate-like grin on the wooden slit-mouth, as their bulging pearl-white
eyes stared on through the ages.

Waylao was reared up in such an atmosphere; her brain was a veritable
mythological bible of heathen magic and its wonderful goddesses and
gods. She told me many things about mythology, for from her earliest
childhood she had listened to her mother’s tales. Indeed I heard a good
many strange tales from old Lydia herself. Sometimes when I had little
to do I would go up to her cottage and, smoking my pipe, listen to the
native woman’s yarns. Though the old woman looked a full-blooded
Marquesan, she declared that she was a descendant of that South Sea
Bluebeard, Thakombau, the last of the Fijian kings.

No one who faced Lydia ever left her presence without hearing such
exclamations as: “Me! the descendants of great kinks [kings] stand ’ere
before yous!”

Here she would strike her bosom and, assuming a majestic pose, roll the
whites of her eyes and shout: “Me! tink of it, ’aves to feed chickens
and work wiles that lazy hussies Wayee sleeps in bed, wears flowers in
hair, and tink she beautiful white womans.”

Here she would purse her big mouth out with rage, roll her eyes and
roar: “Wayee! Wayee! you tink you white womans. You tink you great lady,
better than your old mother. Go you at once and get white mans one dozen
eggs from chicken-’ouse.”

Waylao had so often listened to the old woman’s garrulous descriptions
of the palatial splendour of Fiji, those ancestral halls wherein her
rumoured relatives lolled in royal comfort by the Rewa river, that she
often looked with longing for the day when she might go to Fiji. She
_did_ go some months after, but it was on a quest that she had not
anticipated in her wildest imaginings.

I will now revert to my immediate doings at that time. I had been away
with Grimes to Hivaoa. I had secured several musical engagements among
the French residents who lived on the coast. When we returned to
Tai-o-hae we were both once more warmly welcomed by the rough men of the
shanty. I was always welcomed there because of my violin. Indeed I had
formed a scratch orchestra from the members of that wild crew. This
musical gathering was composed of two banjos, two mouth-organs, piccolo,
flute and clappers, with now and then a jews’ harp thrown in. One can
imagine that it was not suitable for rendering artistic selections from
the works of the great masters. Still, the combination answered our
purpose, for it made the shellbacks happy.

About this period a French official presented me with a cornet, and I at
once started to practise it in the shanty. For a while the brave
shellbacks tolerated my thrilling endeavours on that cracked instrument.
Then they rose _en masse_ and threatened to take my life. After that I
went into the mountains to practise. The echoes would fly across the
ranges, and scare the parrots and the natives in the villages just
below. I became an imparadised being in the eyes of some of the old-time
Marquesan chiefs through that cornet. They would creep up the slopes as
I blasted forth the shrill notes, then go on their knees before me and
beg for one blow. I do not exaggerate, but I achieved more fame as a
musician through that old cornet and my endeavours to master it than
ever I did from my violin performances. Some of the natives fairly
worshipped me. I only had to go up into the hills and peal forth the
scales to cause a general hubbub amongst the natives on the plantations.
Indeed the white overseer came up to my secluded mountain studio and
said: “Look you here, young feller, if you blow that b—— thing off in
this ’ere group, I’ll have you shot, or ejected from the isles
altogether.”

“Surely I can play the cornet out here in the South Seas,” said I.

“God damn it!” he responded, as his red beard shook with emotion. “The
natives on my plantation stop work, dance, go mad and become b——
heathens for four hours every morning while you practise that darned
thing.”

At hearing the result of my aspirations to become a great cornet player,
I apologised, and had to relinquish my practice for a time. My advice to
aspirants for fame on the cornet is to keep in the cities, for there is
not privacy enough in the solitudes of the South Seas for cornet
practising. But to return to my scratch orchestra.

One night we were all playing in full swing in the shanty, making a
terrible row, when Waylao came in, as she often did. When the overture
to the fourteenth mug of rum was finished, Grimes and I too stopped for
refreshments.

“My word, don’t she look bewtiful!” whispered Grimes as he spotted
Waylao.

The girl was talking to Mrs Ranjo, who was telling her fortune.

Grimes blushed to his big ears when Waylao turned and gazed steadily at
him for a moment. He started to tune his old banjo up, so as to hide
that boyish flush. For a while we sat there in silence, as the girl
listened eagerly to Mrs Ranjo’s prophecies. That half-Spanish woman was
an adept at palmistry. She had already told Grimes’s fortune and mine,
and though I was extremely incredulous, even I had a great deal of
pleasure out of the experience.

I watched Waylao as the woman held her hand and scanned the lines. It
was easy enough to see that the girl believed implicitly all that the
woman said. Nor was there anything wonderful in her doing so, when one
thinks of the thousands of well-educated women in the civilised cities
who visit the crystal-gazers.

I tell of this little incident in the shanty because it led up to
something that was extremely weird and impressive, a scene that Grimes
and I witnessed quite by accident in the forest next day.

First, I must say that as we listened to Mrs Ranjo’s prophecies we
overheard the woman tell Waylao of one named Rimbo. Now Rimbo was a
great, well-known Marquesan prophet. It appeared that he lived in a hut
at a solitary spot just round the coast. For a long while Mrs Ranjo
expatiated on the virtues of Rimbo’s prophecies—how they always came
true. It was easy enough to see that Waylao was deeply impressed. At the
time I wondered myself why one fortune-teller should so applaud the
virtues of another. It turned out that there was reason enough for this
kindliness to a rival, as the reader will see in the next chapter.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER X

The Half-caste Girl visits Rimbo the Priest—Idols of the
  Forest—Waylao’s Flight—Grimes and I catch Rimbo—Rimbo’s Hut and
  Stores—Rimbo’s Hoarded Bribes—Legendary Belief—Remarks


IT so happened that the following day Grimes and I went off fishing in
the lagoons round the coast. I knew it not at the time, but as we fished
we were in close proximity to Rimbo’s hut. In this hut the heathen
priest lived all alone, dreaming and cursing the memory of the white men
who had blasted his lucrative profession and smashed up his best _tikis_
(idols).

As I was sitting on the reefs, smoking and fishing, my comrade suddenly
looked up and said: “Why, pal, there’s Wayler!”

In a moment we were all attention, for the girl was coming down into the
hollows that intervened between the shore and the vast forest of
bread-fruits. She was on her way to visit the fortune-teller Rimbo’s
hut.

As we watched, she stealthily glanced around ere she went along the
track that led to the hidden den where so many native girls entered to
know if their Don Juans were faithful to them.

For a while I will take the reader along with Waylao.

In a few moments she had passed into the thick glooms of the tropical
forest. It was a strangely impressive sight to see the half-caste girl
creeping through those wooded depths. She seemed some faery creature as
she dodged between the big tree trunks, her blue kimono robe and sash
fluttering as warm winds swept in from the sea. Nor was the enchantment
of the scene lessened when she arrived outside the half-hidden hut home
of the heathen wizard. She peered about her as though with fright, then
gave a “Tap! Tap!” on the closed door.

A windy voice broke the silence: “Tarona Awaie?” (“Well, little one?”)

It was the voice of Rimbo. Then the door opened a little wider and the
old heathen’s head protruded. It were impossible to imagine such a weird
physiognomy as he possessed. I recall nothing in the world’s museums,
anthropological collections of mummified priests, saints, devils or dead
kings to be compared with my vivid memory of that heathen man. He really
looked that which he professed to be—the personification of mythology,
its bigotry, mystery and sins. He had been handsome once, in the
cannibalistic days—so much could be seen at a glance—but it was a faint,
far-off tale.

As he opened that little door and peered forth, his tawny, wrinkled face
looked like some tattered map of thwarted human schemes.

Waylao trembled before him. From far came the muffled sounds of tribal
drums beating the sunset down. Overhead the twilight nightingale (_O le
manu-ao_) commenced to pour forth his silvery evening song. To Waylao’s
superstitious soul it was no melodious bird welcoming her to Rimbo’s
enchanted abode, but a good omen, that bird’s song, as it sat somewhere
up in the banyans. It sang of old memories, of its long-ago dead
girl-lover and cherished vows, ere some vengeful god or goddess had
touched the brave chief’s brow and turned him into a sad,
twilight-singing nightingale. Why, the forest itself was a world of
mythological wonder: the giant bread-fruit trees were the mighty
brooding bodies of long dead, bronzed warriors, their shaggy heads
bursting forth into gnarled boughs whereon, as the summers passed, hung
their dead aspirations—in golden fruits.

On wild nights when the typhoons blew the great gods and goddesses,
Tano, Pulutu, Oro, Tangaloa, would wail through that forest from the
halls of Polotu.

The enchanted seas rolled by that forest—seas where the golden sunsets
sank, to be caught by the hands of the sea-gods and fashioned into
mighty nets to catch the heathen souls of the day’s dead. For under
those dark waters of the Pacific slept the old-time chiefs and
chiefesses curled up in the old, broken moons—their coffins—or entangled
in the long dead sunsets as they awaited the heathen god’s trump of
doom. It was a wondrous creed of poetic lore, writ on a bible whose
pages held the faded sunsets and a million moons and stars; pages
wherefrom old Rimbo drank the very breath of his existence.

“What you wants?” said that old heathen as he stared at Waylao, who
stood before him holding in one hand the bag of goods she had purchased
for her mother at Ranjo’s stores.

He looked with astonishment on the pale-faced girl. He pulled his
shoulders up majestically. The old wretch was evidently flattered at
receiving so fair a client. His wrinkled brow smoothed out. “You Cliston
girls?” he wailed, as the map of wrinkles suddenly returned and extended
right up towards the northern territory of his domed head.

“No, great chief Rimbo,” responded Waylao, realising the full meaning of
the old chief’s suspicions. Once more the old priest peered over the
girl’s shoulders into the deep shadows of the forest. Satisfied that the
visit was no trick, no attempt to find out, spy and betray the
whereabouts of his wooden idols, he looked steadily at the girl and
said: “You wanter fortune tole?”

Waylao nodded her head.

“Tome! follows you me,” said that witchman, as he stalked on in front
and beckoned the trembling maid to follow.

“Yous quite sures the grog lady, kinds papalagi, sends yous to great
chief Rimbo?” he murmured once again, as he suddenly stood still and
looked about suspiciously.

Being once more assured that Waylao had been sent by the artful old Mrs
Ranjo, off he tottered again.

Suddenly he paused and said: “You never tells white peoples that Rimbo
got great _tiki_ [idol] if I take you to it?”

“Oh, priest, I promise to never say one word to a living soul,” said
Waylao earnestly, with a look in her eyes that convinced the old
tattooed witchman that she had no thought of betraying him to the
missionaries.

In a moment he stooped and divided the thickets of dwarf bamboos and
squeezed through a kind of stockade. Waylao followed, her heart thumping
with the mystery and wonder of it all.

As they both emerged into the cleared space of that arena of idol
worship, the girl looked about with awestruck eyes. There it stood, six
feet ten inches in height, broad-shouldered, and hideous enough to
express the hopes of dead and living men, its gigantic, one-toothed
wooden mouth agape with laughter. It was a wonderful sight. The mystery
of life and death seemed to hang about that mighty cathedral of the
ages, a cathedral supported by colonnades of giant bread-fruit trees
towering majestically to the great crystal dome of eternity. As Rimbo
prostrated himself before that graven deity, Waylao stood in the hush
that pervaded the dim light. She looked as though she was petrified with
fright. She might have been the emblematical figure of some frightened
angel in mortal realms. But her eyes were alive with terror, and no
insensate figure ever had such a glorious crown of hair falling over the
brow of so fair a face.

Night was fast approaching. A little wind crept down those mighty
heathen halls, stirring, uplifting the wide carpet pattern of exotic
flowers. The vaulted dome of eternity was faintly darkened, ready to
receive the first etherealised impression of the stars.

It was wonderful how much of the wild mystery of those hushed temple
halls was visible in the dim, magical light of the dying day. From the
roof tropical festoons of Nature’s wonderful handiwork hung in the
perfect stillness of brooding silence. The bent, gnarled columns of that
solemn edifice looked like massive, twisted lava-stone and broken
marble, as though some cataclysm of volcanic passion had passed that
way, leaving mighty architectural ruins that had mysteriously burst into
leaf. A few small images were half hidden in the green bowers of those
elevated branches. In the dim light it seemed as though small goddesses,
emblematical figures, holding in their unseen hands twining red and blue
vine-flowers, had hastily climbed those gnarled columns and clung there,
midway up, staring down in sculptured silence.

Far away through the shoreward columns of those primeval halls glimmered
God’s old mythological stained-glass window—the dying day—the emblazoned
hopes, the legendary beauty and faith of paganistic dreams, past and
future, ebbing like a tide. Nothing in Nature’s transcendent art could
outvie the beauty of those glimmering, ineffable, faint, greenish and
vermilion dyes, that like unto Scriptural daubs blushed between miles of
leaden stained lines of that remote window—sunset on the Western Seas.

Only a faint tinge of the day’s death-blood struck the dim light of that
heathen temple. With staring, awestruck eyes, Waylao crept up those
mossy aisles and knelt before that altar with her hands lifted in appeal
to that hideous effigy. Its enormous, bulging glass eyes seemed to stare
sidelong at the western glory, ever watching, ever listening with alert,
unwearied, deaf wooden ears. Waylao looked like some cursed, pleading
fallen angel at the feet of Hate, as she knelt there, the faded flowers
in her bronzed hair, the Islamic carpet bag’s pink and blue ribbon
fluttering at her throat, as the incense from decaying tropical flowers
came creeping through the moistened glooms. Not the faintest semblance
of her dark lineage was visible in that hushed, dim light as she lifted
her face. She appeared some beautiful white girl, it might have been
Pauline herself, kneeling there in heathen prayer at those monstrous
wooden feet. While the half-demented girl repeated the heathenish
phrases that Rimbo uttered as he stood by the idol in the shadows, it
suddenly seemed that those awful glass eyes moved! It seemed that they
stared half in wonder on this new, beautiful white worshipper. Suddenly
out of the huge, grinning, one-black-toothed mouth flew a disturbed
little bird! It gave a tiny wail: “Wailo, tu-loo! Wailo, to-loo!” as it
fluttered away, low down, into the forest shadows.

Full of faith, the superstitious girl was chanting some song of Rimbo’s
wretched belief when, lo! that monstrous, wooden-lipped, tongueless
mouth spoke! A hollow, windy voice said:

“O beautiful white womans, Mitia Kaloah! You belief in good old heathen
tiki-priest Rimbo? He good chiefs, able to bless yous with love, allee
samee, though he no Clistian priest. If you no belief in great Rimbo and
tells papalagi [white men] where I, the great god Pulutu, am standing,
hid in forest, yous life be cursed for evers and evers!”

After a pause, in which the girl-child looked up at the hideous idol
like one staring in a trance, the hollow-sounding voice continued:

“O answers me! Do you believes? Will you tell misslennaries
[missionaries] that Pulutu stand by the sea at Temarorio? Will you get
poor old priest Rimbo, who am great tapu mans, shut up in calaboose?”

“O great Pulutu of the forest, god of the great chief Rimbo, I promise
you that none shall know that you are here by the sea at Temarorio,”
said Waylao. Then she quickly continued: “But will you tell me all that
I must know? Is it best that I should desert those who have loved me
from childhood?”

Spake the idol: “O beautiful Marama, let the great Rimbo kiss you lips
three times, and do tings he wish to do; then you become tapu. So will
you prayers be answered. But first you must go to Misser Ranjo’s store
and get for great god Pulutu two large bottles of the zottest te-rom
[rum], one bottle of perandi [brandy], twos tins of ’densed milk, one
poun tabak [tobacco], and two green eyes and nice paint.”[2]

Footnote 2:

  Ranjo sold glass eyes and paint to the heathen natives, who had old
  idols hidden in the forest waiting to be renovated.

Waylao was dumbstruck with astonishment, notwithstanding her
superstitious belief, to hear an idol should want rum and unrecorded
things.

Something in her manner must have been observed by that heathen deity,
something showing that his demands were unwisely put.

“O maids that kneels in prayer to me, turn thy head, lookes behind you
so that you may be still blessed with great faith in great Rimbo.”

Waylao at this turned her head and looked over her shoulder, but,
turning back too quickly, observed old priest Rimbo sneaking out of that
decayed, ant-infested hollow inside of the huge idol wherein he had
hidden!

In a flash Waylao saw through the deception. Rimbo in turn perceived
that the girl had discovered his duplicity. The trick was quite obvious
for, as he jumped, the tassels of his lava-lava caught in a splinter
that existed on that wooden deity’s anatomy. His tawny brow creased into
a mass of wrinkles that went right up to the dome of his bald head.

Perceiving the look of fright and intense realisation on the girl’s
face, his deified majesty fell from him. The shock he received was
evident. He had lost all hope of receiving his bribe of rum. Mrs Ranjo
would heap curses on his sinful head; call him an ass; she would think
he had betrayed her. He would lose the commission that he always
received from his multitudes of confessional clients, bribes secured
from the superstitious children of the forest, old-time chiefs, aged
women, love-sick girls and aspiring youths who crept with hopes and
aspirations to that heathen confessional box, that had been doomed as
illegal by the French officials. The evil fate that eventually befell
Rimbo was undeserved.[3] Indeed his guilt in nowise could be compared to
that of the heathen crystal-gazers and mercenary quacks of the civilised
cities. A sense of shame came to Waylao. In a moment she had realised
the madness of her superstition.

With a cry of despair she rose to her feet, looked for a second into
Rimbo’s fierce eyes, then, clutching her mother’s soap, fled away into
the forest!

“Gawd blimy! if that don’t beat the band!—a bewtiful gal like that ’ere
too.” Simultaneously with this ejaculation a coco-nut caught the old
heathen priest crash on the hindpart!

Footnote 3:

  Rimbo was eventually caught red-handed by the gendarmes. His idols
  were destroyed, and he was imprisoned in the calaboose. His captors
  found half-a-ton of Oriental silks, tappa cloth, muskets, old coins,
  cloths and Waterbury watches in his hut, besides many bottles of
  various spirits and tinned foods. It was hinted that he had a
  hiding-place elsewhere. He was eventually shot, whilst attempting to
  escape from the calaboose, by a gendarme.

He had started after Waylao in full pursuit. No doubt he was
terror-stricken at the thought that the girl might seek the missionaries
and the local white men and tell them of his idols and his duplicity.

As the coco-nut struck the old chap, his long legs seemed to suddenly
leap skyward. Down he came, smash into the deep, ferny-flowered carpet
of the forest floor. It was then that Grimes and I stole out of the
shadows behind the buttressed banyans. We had been unseen witnesses of
the whole business.

For a moment the old priest stared at us as though his last hour had
come. I felt sorry. We swiftly reassured him that no further harm would
come to him from us. Indeed we were both intensely curious to speak to
the old fellow. It was something new to our experience. With the swift
instinct of his race he saw that our attitude was not hostile, and his
manner became child-like as he endeavoured to please us. I pretended
that we had only that moment come on the scene, and he seemed much
relieved at this information. For a while he tried to explain to us that
the old wooden effigy we were staring at had been mysteriously placed
there by some enemy who wished to get him into trouble with the French
officials.

Grimes and I assured him that whoever had done so dastardly a trick
deserved condign punishment.

The Marquesans are like children and, strange as it may seem, the old
prophet felt that he had convinced us of his innocence. Had he seen the
Cockney wink that Grimes gave me, I am sure that he would not have given
us his confidence as he did. He took us into his hut, quite a spacious
dwelling, crammed with piles of tinned meat, bottles of oil, old knives,
razors, springless clocks and cases of bottles of spirit, etc. This
hoard was no doubt part of the spoil, the fee that he demanded from his
credulous clients—superstitious native girls, youths, and even white men
at times!

The weather was extremely hot, so we accepted the bribe that he offered
when he once more became suspicious, a bottle of something that tasted
like the best champagne. Grimes nudged him in the ribs, winked and said
something like this: “Don’t you worry, old cock; I ain’t a-going to give
yer away.” Then he did a double shuffle, which delighted the Marquesan.

Whenever Grimes, after that, was hard up for a drink, he sneaked away
into the forest to see old Rimbo, where he renewed his protestations of
secrecy as to the heathen’s misdeeds and drank away to his heart’s
content.

Beneath Rimbo’s sly commercial propensities he nourished a deep belief
in the virtues of the heathen gods, as I discovered in the few
conversations which I had with him after the aforesaid experience. He
swore to me that he saw the old gods stalking through the forest on
moonlit nights. “You no believe me?” he responded to my remarks and
sceptical glance. “Allee samee, I see them go across forest, climb down
the stars, down into the big _moana ali_” (ocean).

“Rimbo, I believe you,” said I, as Grimes nudged him in the ribs,
saying:

“This ain’t ’alf good stuff,” then took another drink from Rimbo’s
hoarded store.

It was a pleasure to encourage Rimbo to tell the wonders of his weird
belief. And why shouldn’t one encourage him? Think of the thousands of
people in civilised lands who believe implicitly in spiritualism and
crystal-gazing. The poetic legends and creeds of the natives had their
virtuous side. It is true enough that many of their songs were based on
cannibalism and idol-worship, but more often they sang the praise of
warrior deeds that had brought some cruel enemy to the dust. The old
heathen bible had much inherent beauty in its primitive psalms, far more
than has ever been intimated by early travellers. The sacrificial altar
and cannibalistic horrors were much the same, and nearly as wicked, as
the deeds of the stake-burning era of Christianity in civilised lands.
Also, the savages were sincere in their beliefs, a fact that is proved
conclusively by the noble stoicism of their now historical martyrs, who
died mercifully by one blow of the war-club, whereas British
chapel-goers of our dark ages hired orchestral stalls and cheered whilst
the martyr died a lingering death. Their creed was a primitive Buddhism,
preaching reincarnation and a divine reverence for all living things.
The birds, the trees, the fish of the sea, the winds and clouds were
transformed beings, the shadows and poetic voices of dead warriors
beyond the grave. Indeed their apparently blood-thirsty religion
possessed an inherent gospel of tenderness: all creeping and living
things forming a sympathetic part of a mythology that was based on a
mystic reverence for nature and the beautiful, a reverence that has
never had a dominating sway in the religions of the Western world. A
dash of Marquesan heathenism, as it once was, thrown into the stock-pot
of modern Christianity would, I am sure, vastly improve the bigoted,
outrageous godless moan that attempts to dominate human wishes and joys
to-day.

As for Rimbo, I’d as soon enter heaven arm in arm with him as with any
saintly bishop or pope ever born.

I see by my diary notes that even in those days I was unconventional in
my religious views. One entry, 21st October, goes:

“Had great argument with thick-necked, low man about religion. He called
me b—— fool and crimson and purple idiot, etc., etc. He’s a coal-trimmer
from the _Alandine_, a Yankee tramp steamer that called yesterday from
Hivaoa. I told him he was an arrant coward, and swashbuckler to boot, to
strike a Marquesan youth on the head for stealing a clay pipe from his
pocket. He said same youth was only an animal. I told him brown men were
as good as white, especially his kind of white. Had great stand-up fight
by the settlers’ copra shed near Vaekehu’s wooden palace. Got nasty
knock in fourth round, but in fifth round gave him one in the starboard
eye that flummoxed him! Beachcombers waved their big hats and wildly
cheered as he made final plunge, and I got one in on the port side of
his jib and was declared the winner on the spot.

“Sounds low to fight after travelling so far, but obliged to fight so as
to gain respect. My fist has been my gold medal diploma, my finest
letter of introduction, in all countries and in the toughest
communities. Father O’Leary saw the fight as he left Vaekehu’s palace.
Says he was surprised to see one as presumably respectable as I fighting
such a man. The priest seemed very pleased that I’d only lost one tooth.
It’s not lost, but is decidedly loose!”

So runs the entry. I feel it’s worth reproducing if only to show the
material, sanguine side of youth. Besides, it’s honest to let one see
both sides. I’ve always been lucky. When I first ran away to sea I got
pally with an ordinary seaman who gave me lessons in boxing. One may
imagine how often I blessed him afterwards. I never dreamed how
invaluable a commodity a trained fist was for one who loved peace and
who trusted and felt kindly towards men.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER XI

Grimes and I fishing—Fish enjoy the Joke—Grog Shanty Chorus and
  Incidents—The Drunken Settler—The Steaming of Romantic Brains—On
  the Old Hulk—I cannot sleep—My Romance of the Figurehead—The
  Hamlet in the Mountains—The Phantom Burglars of the Enchanted
  Castle


AFTER our adventure with Rimbo the priest and the half-caste girl,
Grimes and I returned to the shanty, considerably impressed by the scene
we had witnessed in the forest. The idol and the pillared trees of that
natural temple, the beauty of the half-caste girl kneeling at the altar
of dark superstition, haunted us.

For several days we were very moody and spent our time fishing in the
shore lagoons, which were connected with the ocean by narrow creeks. It
was perfect sport. Almost every minute we’d pull in large
vermilion-striped denizens of the deep. The fish, as they came into view
on the end of our lines, seemed to enjoy the novelty of the game, their
slit mouths wide open, their bulged eyes agog at the joke of it all—so
it seemed!

As we sat in the grog shanty that night Grimes became confidential, and
confessed to me that he was a bit gone on Waylao. I wasn’t surprised to
hear that something was wrong with him. His fund of conviviality seemed
to have quite dried up and he had become something of a dreamer. The
boisterous, quick steps, the hilarious jigs had changed into sentimental
songs, which he accompanied on his banjo. Nothing surprised me in those
days. The soberest-looking men would suddenly get entangled with widowed
or discarded native queens, who were ever ready to overstep the
Marquesan moral code—and that’s saying something!

I heard wondrous tales in that grog shanty. Strange men would rush in
from nowhere, stare fiercely as they drank their rum, tell us how they
had ascended heathen thrones and been hastily disillusioned. Nor do I
exaggerate when I say that it was not unusual for a white man, who had
ascended the throne of some isle by a strategic marriage, to be suddenly
disturbed in the wedding chamber by half-a-dozen irate heathen monarchs
who had married into the same dynasty about a week before!

So one will see that the heathen countries differ little from the
civilised, where men aspire, enter asylums and shout through some night
of memory: “I am God, and there is no other God but me!”

Had some Homer roamed the South Seas in those days he could have
memorised many a wondrous odyssey. Nearly every grog shanty from Fiji to
Honolulu was crammed with fearsome experiences. The scenic effect on
entering a bar in those days was this—a crew of fierce-bearded chins
that were thrust forward in murderous defiance towards some opposing
crew of fierce-eyed, scrubby, untubbed men who strongly challenged a
mighty assertion.

“You’re a b—— liar!” would be the yelled response, accompanied by
thundering choruses of oaths and descending fists on the bar demanding
rum. Indeed such a scene was before me as I sat meditating in that
shanty by Tai-o-hae. Crash! came the grand interruption. Like unto a
fierce covey of barbarian drum-sticks, up went a flock of hairy fists,
that, descending, struck the grog bar with indisputable authority. The
half-bred trader swore to the truth. Dare one doubt him that the ’Frisco
schooner’s skipper bought twenty barrels of pork, which turned out to be
pickled Fijian natives who had fallen in the last tribal clash?

Then the man who had sailed with Bully Hayes laid down the law to the
Tahitian descendants of the _Bounty_ mutineers who had called him a
crimson liar.

The waxed-moustached Frenchman, with his eternal politeness, shrugged
his shoulders with surprise as Mrs Ranjo explained that she was
connected by blood with the Spanish throne.

“Mein gotts, you vash sees the vey we vash does dat in Germhanies,” came
the eternal Teutonic phrase. The midshipman who had bolted from the
windjammer in Sydney drank like a lord and sang _The Song of the
Thrush_, and afterwards a sad old English song which made some of the
men look quite doleful. It did not require _The Lost Chord_ to move the
hearts of those men—when rum was cheap. It’s wonderful how an old song
or a familiar cry touches the memory of a home-sick man, and at that
moment a dissipated, wrinkled old sailorman from London town shouted in
a rather melancholy voice: “Flies, flies—catch ’em ali-eeeeve—oh!” which
reminded his pal, Bob Slimes, of home; he stared vacantly into space for
a moment—then burst into tears!

Outside beneath the moonlit palms, to the trrrrrip-tomp-pe-tomp-te of a
banjo, and a fiddle made out of a bully-beef tin, a few select
shellbacks danced with Marquesan maids from the village hard by.

“Aloha! Awai! Awai, papalagi!” came the musical encores of the dusky
girls, followed by a weird clamouring, shuffling and hushed laughter. It
sounded as though we heard the echoes from some heathen underworld as
the white men answered the muffled screams of the girls who were trying
to teach them to dance the heathen can-can that had been forbidden by
the missionaries.

The university man shifted his eyeglass, flushed and quoted a verse in
Greek as the naked leg of some dusky dancer outside poked through the
shanty door, giving those pious old shellbacks a fearful shock, as one
can imagine. It was only a leg, terra-cotta colour, rounded with full,
perfect symmetry, five polished nails shining like pearls on the wagging
toes, and it caused a deal of critical comment. From the saloon bar came
guttural and musical voices of customers who had seen better days, and
still had some cash in hand. “Yesh, old man—hic, hic—you’re right, it’s
sheer bosth. A man’s a man even if he did bolt with a woman—and the
brass.” Here came much confidential whispering. Polished oaths were
intermingled with the faint echoes of the operatic strain, _Ah che la
Morte_, then silence again as someone fell to the floor!

Like a death groan the song moaned and faded—it was the voice of
Pauline’s father, who had tried to sing some half-forgotten song of
other days. Could one have peeped out of that shanty door into the
moonlight, he would have been seen once more on his regular night route,
staggering beneath the palms homeward, the eternal white jacket
fluttering afar as the ever watching, sinister, white-faced man kept by
his side, swaying and tottering like some awful-looking, sardonic mimic
as they returned to that lonely home in the hills.

“Toime, gentlemen, please!” It was the only call of _closing_ time in
Tai-o-hae, and came from the umpires outside as two burly, sunburnt men
of the sea _closed_ together. The struggle soon ceased. A faint hurrah
announced the victor, as crash! his opponent fell to the sward. It was
nothing much, just a little forcible argument between two passionate men
on some point that neither remembered when the winner had been
proclaimed, and once again they drank—fearless comrades at the shanty
bar!

Those rough men had a strange fascination for me. I do not hint that
they were samples of the highest order, but I emphatically assert that
that shanty was a good old honest slop-shop of life. Therein one could
go and pick up a good bargain in the way of man—bad as well as good. It
was as though Fate had made a glorious fizzling stew, a stock-pot of
bubbling, singing life, always at boiling-point. Flavoured with the
finest “familiar juice,” a connoisseur could sniff at the shanty door
the odoriferous steaming poetry, the delicious fragrance from the
boiled-down wild-bird-like songs. It was the steaming of romantic
brains, the intoxicating odours of forgotten moonlit nights—a woman’s
kisses years away, old memories, dead certs and dead dreams. For those
old birds would sometimes come to the surface, flutter their wings and
sing unearthly songs, strains of haunting beauty, only for a moment as
they opened their grog-blossomed beaks, flapped their despairing, broken
wings and then sank once again into the depths of the boiling groggy
soup!

They were at this despairing, flapping stage when slowly the hubbub of
the shanty faded. One by one the men went back to their ships. Songs
ceased, and wild ejaculations of spontaneous merriment died out. The two
pearl fortune hunters from the Paumotus had bummed their last drink and
were snoring lustily on the atrociously hard wooden settee. Mrs Ranjo
put out the first two rows of candles as old Ranjo struggled into bed
with his boots on.

As Grimes and I stole out into the night we followed the last two
lurching, ragged shadows as they went arm in arm back to their ship to
sleep. They looked like two enormous frogs, staggering and hopping in
drunken glee, their hind legs akimbo. We were the last to arrive on that
derelict hulk, for it was there that I too retired to sleep.

But I could not sleep that night. I stole from my bunk and crept up on
to the old hulk’s deck, watching the dim horizons, and wishing that the
western stars might answer that old figurehead’s eternal appeal, the
call of those beseeching hands, that the tattered sails might spread,
and, ghost-like, steal away, taking us across that moon-enchanted sea,
across phantom oceans beyond the sky-lines of mortal dreams. Ah! how
glorious to go out of the realms of Time and yet be alive, bound for the
beyond, voyaging on an old raft, alone with those ragged old shellbacks,
singing rollicking chanteys with them—till we crashed up against the
shores of Immortality. As I stood there dreaming I half fancied it had
happened; that I saw that huddled, sinful crew of sailormen, with
awestruck, staring eyes, creeping up those hallowed shores. It was a mad
fancy, I know. I knocked the ashes from my pipe and stole below, once
again, into the bowels of the hulk. Uncle Sam, Grimes, the Irishman, the
Scotsman and the bank manager were still sleepily arguing as they pulled
off their boots. One by one they jumped into their bunks, where the dead
sailors, the old hulk’s crew, had once slept and dreamed. Select, in the
far corner by the fore-peak, the university man lay fast asleep, his
dirty white cuffs still on.

I lay and stared through the port-hole at the infinite expanse of blue
sea outside. The world, somehow, did not seem to be made for sleep by
night. I crept from my bunk once more; all was silent below excepting
for double-bass snores. I stole up on deck.

As I stood there, perfectly alone with the night, so tremendously vast
and lonely did the heavens appear that I became, as it were,
half-etherealised, inspired by some intense, sad religion. I felt half
sorry for God. Staring up at that vast, mirror-like expanse, I half
fancied I saw the Great Poet of the Universe enthroned in eternal
loneliness, encircled by dark infinities, surrounded by His shattered
dreams—the stars.

Only that legendary woman, that derelict’s figurehead, and I seemed to
be intensely awake in the whole world. The poetry of existence hung like
a mysterious shroud about me. That figure seemed to be my glorious dead
romance. She was no insensate, legendary form, but a woman of immortal
beauty. The crumbling wood became mysteriously imbued with light, the
marble-like shoulders reddened, she blushed to the brow. I smelt ancient
scents of burning sandalwood; a faint breath of warm wind stole across
the silent tropic sea; her glorious hair was outblown. As I leaned over,
the bosom heaved and the eyes shone with etherealised beauty. It was not
wonderful to me when she moved, and her arms were outstretched to mine.
I felt the fragrance of those lips breathe incense into my soul. The
stars shone in her hair. I became half divine. I heard the cry of
mortality; it seemed afar off, yet it cried in the swinging monotone of
the seas on the reefs. I wondered on her romance: who was her lover, who
the artist that had fashioned those beautiful lines, the curves of that
graceful throat, her head thrown back? Ah! where was that poet lover as
she, the legendary woman of his soul, lived on—rotting in the warm,
tawny arms, the impassioned clasp of the wild, amorous, glorious South?

How strange it all seemed—his dust somewhere—and that figure from his
soul still pointing its allegorical hands to the far-off stars, still
obeying the eternal impulse of his work.

As I stared at that figure I seemed half to remember—perhaps _I_ was
that dead artist! What had brought me in all the world to that
mysterious corner of the South? I’m mad enough, thought I.

Leaning forward, I struck a match on the poor crumbling shoulder and
then deliberately placed the tiny blue flame against the wraith’s crown
of spiritual hair—puff! a bright blaze, a fizzle, and lo! she had
vanished—gone! my beautiful romance!

I lit my pipe, half chuckling at the thought of my splendid madness, the
glorious insanity that a tiny match flame could so easily dispel.

I looked shoreward. The moon was hidden behind a wrack of cloud massed
to the southward. Though the mist seemed to hang in perfect stillness in
the heavens, it made me stare in breathless admiration as the
palm-plumed mountain range and inland peaks slowly rose, grandly,
silently to the skies. Like some slow-travelling castaway’s raft, the
cloud wrack crept beneath the moon. It seemed only by a miracle that
those jagged peaks did not burst through that crystalline dome of starry
heaven.

That old hulk was not the only romantic spot in the heathen-land. By a
mossy track, not far from the rugged feet of the mountains, stood that
which now appears across the years to have been a phantom-like hamlet.
It was a native village of tiny huts. One little, grey, wooden building
stood with its verandahed front facing a gap in the granite hills.

Once or twice I went into that little homestead and played the violin,
for the settler, John L——, was fond of fiddling.

I slept there one night, or tried to, but the weirdness of that little
homestead gave me no sleep, for from that enchanted homestead’s window
one could see the distant ocean, looking like a witch’s vast cauldron,
full of boiling, bubbling, fire-flecked, silvered foam. It was a silent,
windless night that I spent there, yet between the intervals of the
nightingale’s “tin lan lone, loe lan ting,” up in the bread-fruit trees,
came weird sounds that thrilled me with fear. It was a faint, far-off
kind of rasping. It sounded as though two burglars were busily filing at
the gates of some enchanted castle of dreams wherein I slept!
“Sea-saw—sea-saw” it went, with a frightening sound, then silence at
regular intervals. Yes, as though those two burglars, who would rob that
castle of romance, paused in their nefarious work, wondering if they
were heard. I was wide awake, but still the sounds continued! As a
zephyr of wind came and wailed a plaintive accompaniment in the
she-oaks, those mysterious raspings sounded as though a phantom
violon-cellist had come to perform at the castle gate. First came the
low bass’s mellow note, and then it seemed that the performer’s bow was
swung over to the “A” string sounding some weird, falsetto harmonic! I
leapt from bed, determined to rout the troubadour of such an unseemly
hour. I discovered that, like most romantic ideas, the cause of it all
was human—and even so had a low origin, for it was Pauline’s father,
drunk, snoring on the verandah, while his weird comrade even in sleep
followed his deep bass snore in a falsetto, obsequious-like echo.

That was the only occasion that I slept in the white girl Pauline’s
home.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XII

Imaginary Millionaires—Pearls and Diamonds—The Fate of the
  Sacrilegious—Waylao’s Song—The Great Forest Festival—Grimes and I
  fall—So does the Idol—A Free Fight—Waylao’s Discovery


GRIMES and I returned once more to the grog shanty, penniless. We had
been away on a short cruise with a South Sea crank. This particular
crank—the South Seas abound with them—was after pearls. He swore that he
knew for a positive fact that pearls lay in heaps at the bottom of the
shore lagoons, and we believed him.

Our fortunes were made. We almost went balmy with delight as we nudged
each other in the ribs and speculated with our riches in the wildest
way, and, it may be guessed, we were feeling pretty down in the mouth at
the failure of our hopes.

In imagination Grimes had pensioned off several old uncles, and had
commemorated the goodness of his grandmother by placing a marble
monument over her grave in Kensal Green. I, too, had been pretty
generous, and made the eyes shine of old folks at home, also of friends
who really did not deserve such good luck, for they had done little for
me when I had arrived back in the old country from the great Australian
gold-fields, arrayed in a ragged, brass-bound midshipman’s suit. Well,
there we sat, worse off than any of them, for not only had our friends
afar lost the gifts of generosity, but we had spent our savings, the
hard-earned savings from our last voyage before the mast to San
Francisco via Honolulu.

I had persuaded Grimes to come with me on that pearling trip. It was all
my fault. “Grimes,” I said, “I feel awfully sorry that I persuaded you
to believe in old beery-whiskers” (as we called him), “but I’ll make it
all right as soon as I get a good job on one of the boats. I’ll pay you
back all _you’ve_ lost. You _did_ say he was a lunatic. I wish I’d
believed you.”

“That’s all roight, mate,” said Grimes. He pressed my hand. Mrs Ranjo
looked a bit fierce and then ticked off the next drink that Grimes
ordered for himself. We were both penniless.

It did seem a shame, for Grimes had suffered much through my sanguine
temperament. Nine months before we had shipped on a schooner for the
Malay Archipelago, calling in at Guadalcanar, Solomon Isles.

It was at the latter place that I had sworn that the idols’ eyes of
those parts were real diamonds, for so I had been told, and he believed
me. When we crept away through the forest, thinking we had safely got
the idols’ eyes, for we had sneaked into the heathen temple, under the
very noses of the sleeping savages, Grimes fell crash down a hole! In a
second the whole tribe of Kai-kai savages were after us! I shall never
forget the yells and Grimes’s unconventional exclamations as he puffed
along at my side. When we reached the shore we jumped into the canoe,
crash! and pushed off, just in time. But the leading savage chief,
racing like some monstrous, burly ghost in the moonlight, gripped Grimes
by the tail of his reefer jacket as the canoe swung round. The jacket
was old and flimsy and, thank God! it gave way. The impetus of the
sudden jerk shot our canoe right out into the bay. We were saved!

We almost cried when we got back to our old windjammer that lay out in
the stream, by the promontory. The idols’ eyes turned out to be bits of
broken glass, glass which had evidently been chipped by stealth from
ships’ port-holes.

No wonder on this present occasion Grimes and I were feeling wretched,
when Waylao suddenly entered the grog shanty. I don’t know how it came
about, but Ranjo, with the aid of some of the shellbacks, got her to
sing.

Grimes and I sat staring, as it were, at some beautiful apparition in
that cloud of bluish tobacco smoke, swaying to and fro as she sang.
Grimes gave it up, and laid his banjo down: he could not follow that
wild, beautiful melody. But I seemed to become inspired as I lifted the
violin to my chin and extemporised an _obligato_. The old beachcombers
swore they never heard so sweet a melody, and the girl looked like some
beautiful goddess, with a far-away look in her star-like eyes. I half
wondered at my talent; it was as though I played on my own
heart-strings. Perhaps the memory of Waylao’s pilgrimage to Rimbo, that
forest cathedral in Nature’s stronghold, had awakened some barbaric
strain of musical genius in my soul.

Grimes said he believed implicitly in God, the Holy Ghost, the
hereafter, and all kinds of peculiar, uncockneyfied things that night.
As for me, I confess I also felt inspired. We reddened to our ears when
Waylao stepped forward and thanked me for the way I had played. She
thanked Grimes too. I felt his hand trembling as he handed me my
lemonade. I could not stand strong liquor like Grimes and those seasoned
shellbacks. Though I have often been praised for this solitary virtue of
mine, those who praised me little dreamed how my heart mourned within me
at the thought that I could not take strong liquor. They knew not how
often I cursed the Fates, how I gazed with envy on those fearless men
who drank at the bar and clutched heaven in one hand while I am denied
through a weak stomach! So do I jog along through life, not only a
member of the vast army of sad teetotallers, but one who grieves in
sympathy with them.

After that song Waylao hurried away. She was off to the native festival.
There was something special on that night. As we sat in the grog shanty
we could hear the drums beating the stars in with unusual vigour. A
great heathen carnival was in progress, some mystical rite that
commemorated the wonders of the heathen deity Pulutu.

I believe that dance was the last great primeval orgy indulged in by the
Marquesan race, for gradually the officials condemned the old rites,
till hardly one was left on the Government programme of the great
“Permissible.”


[Illustration: FOREST SCENE, MARQUESAS GROUP]


Pious whites said it was disgraceful that people should be heard
laughing and dancing in the moonlight, and so the Marquesan race died
out, sat silent round their camp-fires, and one by one crept into the
grave—out of deep gloom into deeper silence.

Some of those heathen dances were a bit grotesque, I must admit. They
reminded one vividly of a London or Paris music hall performance, with
vast mirrors on the roof and stage walls, the ballet girls, terra-cotta
coloured, whirling against a background of moonlit coco-palms and
distant starlit mountains.

But to return to the dance in question. Grimes and I determined to
attend that festival, in fact had been invited by the old high chief
from Anahao. As we left the grog shanty, Grimes was still ruminating
over Waylao’s beauty, and the charm of her voice. We did not know it
then, but she too must have been tramping on through the forest, ahead
of us, making her way to the festival. I suppose she was really off to
meet her Indian lover, Abduh, whose wretched skull, well polished, with
the brains scooped out, would have made a fitting spittoon for the grog
shanty by Tai-o-hae.

As we passed over the westward slopes, Father O’Leary was tugging at his
bell-rope, calling his children to prayer.

The night sky was crowded with stars. The very winds were scented with
the odours of romance as whiffs crept from the orange groves and the
over-ripe _fies_ (bananas). It was a beautiful spot we had to cross ere
we reached the native festival. As we passed along the mossy tracks we
heard the island nightingales singing. High over the giant bread-fruit
trees we could hear the whir of migrating, long-necked cranes, looking
like whitened skeletons of dead men rushing beneath the moon. We heard
the rattlings of the bones, then came their leader’s wild, crazy cry as
they faded seaward. Sometimes, like a flock of frightened gnomes or
dusky fairies, a group of surprised native children bobbed their shaggy
heads out of the ferns of the forest floor, and vanished in the shadows,
for we were approaching the natural stockade of a half-pagan, tiny city.
Shadows in a hurry seemed dodging about. We heard the faint booming of
drums and the weird wails of barbarian flutes and screaming bamboo
fifes.

Emerging from the forest bread-fruits, we sighted the native village.
All was a-bustle in that now dead Babylon of the South Seas. By the
little groups of small bird-cage huts, made in picturesque style of
yellow bamboo and twining sinnet, sat the wild denizens of the forest.
It seemed as if we had suddenly passed through some little forest door
that led from reality into faeryland. The coco-nut-oil lamps burning
with a pale light by the hut doors gave a magical effect to the scene as
they flickered in the brilliant moonlight. By some of the
bee-hive-shaped dens sat handsome, savage, semi-nude old men and women,
the genuine tattooed chiefs and their wives—the faded, dusky, harem
beauties of a past which teemed with awful cannibalistic orgies. As
those grim old warriors, dressed in the picturesque, barbaric Marquesan
garb, sat there, they looked like idols or images, or tree trunks carved
to resemble man. Only the blinking of the bright, dark eyes and drifts
of tobacco smoke coming from their lips revealed the fact that they
breathed. Some had their hair well oiled, done up mopwise, bunched high
on top of the head; it almost looked as if some humorist had stuck huge
coco-nuts on broad, living, headless shoulders, and painted hideous
faces on them. Those grotesque physiognomies considerably enhanced the
fine appearance of the really handsome Marquesan chiefs, who, squatting
opposite their less fortunate companions, smoked vigorously and
repeatedly expectorated on the naked feet of the chiefs who sat before
them. (I believe this odious anointment was a sacrificial act of extreme
politeness, a survival of some old rite that expressed brotherhood.)

Just on the outskirts of those picturesque village huts was a cleared
forest patch, where was erected a kind of _pae-pae_, fashioned something
after the style of the old heathen altars. Decorated with gorgeous
hibiscus blossoms and forest festoons, which glimmered amongst the
hanging lanterns, it inspired one with a vivid idea of what the old
primeval fêtes must have been. The chief attraction of this _pae-pae_
was the monstrous wooden idol that adorned it. The carven face was the
acme of ugliness, and had been painted up for the occasion. The goggling
glass eyes seemed to express the glorious humour of the situation. The
big, slit mouth revealed one huge tooth, and its fixed grin expressed
wonder, as though it showed its delight at being brought out of its
hiding-place once more to be reinstated as supreme deity of
heathen-land. Just below the _pae-pae_, directly opposite the huge
wooden feet of the _tiki_ (idol), squatted a bevy of pretty Marquesan
girls. They looked like a group of dusky nymphs as they swayed their
nut-brown arms and the moonlit wind uplifted their masses of dark hair.
Some had golden tresses (dyed with coral lime).

“Did you ever!” said Grimes, as we both watched, fascinated.

“No, I never,” was all I could utter in reply.

I seemed to be gazing on some magical reproduction of primeval life in a
world that had long since passed away. They were clapping their hands,
swaying their flower-swathed bodies and singing some Marquesan madrigal,
a tender, far-off-sounding melody, that might have been the death-song
of their fast-vanishing race.

Snug among the leafy pillars of that primitive lyceum of the forest
squatted the royal orchestra. One tremendous drum sought to outrival the
various melodious but weird effects of the chief soloists. Those players
had been hired from far and near, and were the finest performers extant.
The ease with which they produced their effects on such simple
instruments was astounding. Some blew, by means of the nostrils, through
tiny flutes, others puffed with their lips at screaming bamboo fifes,
and some twanged on stringed gourds. One tawny old chief, who had both
his ears missing, scraped violently on an old German fiddle. It only
possessed two strings, but he played it fairly well. Probably he had got
it from some sailor who had given him a few lessons with the bargain. He
screwed his face up as he played, and when he repeatedly put his tongue
out and rolled his eyes, the little children shrieked with delight.

Notwithstanding the pandemonium of sound, the fierce rivalry between
each performer as they puffed their lips, crashed drum-sticks, howled
and twanged, it seemed as though the soul of some barbarian Wagner had
burst, had exploded from a wonderful bomb of pent-up inspiration, and
the _maestro_, in that forest, was chasing the flying echoes in anguish,
ere they were lost for ever! I do not exaggerate in this description,
and Grimes tugging away at the banjo and I playing the violin felt like
two happy barbarians as that forest carnival reached the zenith in a
marvellous cataract of sound. Just by my conducting desk—an old
egg-box—sat the dethroned king from the Paumotus Group. He had been
favourably received in Marquesan society, and seemed to swell with
renewed majesty, his very nostrils dilating with the excitement as the
maids commenced to dance—and what dances!

Grimes and I forgot to play our parts as the dancers became inspired on
that primeval stage before the footlights of the stars! Their feet
seemed literally to point and hover skywards, as they performed the
equivalent of a Marquesan can-can.

We stood up, gazing breathlessly with astonishment, our hands raised. We
must have looked like two gasping idiots—Grimes with scrubby face and
mouth wide open, and I attired in my old, tattered, brass-bound
midshipman’s suit, and on my head a dilapidated white helmet-hat.
Sometimes the moon, in the domed vault of that palladium, became dimmed,
as small woolly clouds drifted across the sky. Directly the travelling
mist had passed beneath the eye of night, up went the shadowy curtain
from that forest drama. And once more the dancing legs, the flying,
gauzy veils of figures flitting in rhythmical swerves, and the rows of
delighted, excited eyes came into full view. The scenic effect was that
of some enchanted forest, where magical waterfalls of moonlight poured
down through dark-branched palms from the sky, while dusky, faery-like
creatures danced through those magical waterfalls, their eyes bright
with wondering delight as one by one their soft feet landed on the
forest _pae-pae_.

Suddenly the leading drum went bang!—the echo travelling like a jumping
football of ghostly sound across the hills. That drum-head was made from
the tightened, tawny skin of some dead chief! The rim was ornamented
with the scalp and beard! As that echo faded seaward, an uncanny thought
struck my emotional senses. It seemed that the dead chief’s spirit had
haunted that drum, had been imprisoned inside, and now, at that
tremendous crash had escaped—in frightened tumult across the hills! That
smash was the sign for the orchestra to cease, but still the dancers
danced on. A puff of scented, cool sea wind crept through the forest
bread-fruits, and touched those performing, dusky figures, sweeping the
gauzy robes all one way.

The scenic effect changed, and that moonlit stage looked like some
wonderful scene of happy faery creatures dancing in silence, faintly
perceived in a vast mirror that reflected the skies, a mirror that some
grim humorist in heaven had suddenly turned upside down—so grotesque yet
faery-like were the rhythmical contortions of those flower-bedecked,
dancing maids.

The high chief from Anaho swayed his war-club with delight. Tattooed
warriors, wearing the royal insignia of knighthood (exquisitely tattooed
armorial bearings on the shoulders and breast), stood by, drinking toddy
from the festival calabash.

Suddenly the prime donna stepped forth to entertain, and to reveal the
beauty of her race. The handsome youths and men arose _en masse_ as she
emerged from the bamboos that towered just behind the huge wooden idol’s
back.

“Aloha! Aloha! Awai! Awai!” they cried in musical speech, as she made
obeisance to the audience in bewitching Marquesan style. She commenced
to dance, flitting across the stage in the radiance of the moonlight,
which appeared the more magical as the small, blue-burning flames of the
little coco-nut-oil lamps flickered in the breeze. The audience stared,
breathless with anticipation.

She seemed to be some embodiment of Marquesan grace and poetic
mythology. Her figure swayed to the tender _adagio_ strain, as I caught
the spirit of the weird chant and her movements and played on my violin.
In some mysterious way she seemed tied to the _tempo_, to the throbbing
wails of those waves of sound, so perfect, so exquisite was her every
movement to each suggestion of the melody. Her tappa robe, of the most
delicate material, lifted to the forest winds, the diaphanous folds
clinging to her figure ere they loosened, and flying out from her heels
as she flitted across the bamboo stage of that arena. At this sight the
enamoured youths, standing in rows by the palms and mangoes, yelled with
delight: “Aloha! Yoranna, Atua! Mon dieu!” The last two words being a
French Marquesan’s most fervent expression.

But it was the intense expression of vanity gratified on her face that
spoilt the imaginary effect and destroyed the illusion that some wraith
of the forest, some heathen goddess, danced and sang before me.

Nor was her flush of pride to be blamed, for those Marquesan youths were
indeed handsome. There they stood, knee-deep in the ferns, their dark
faces aglow with impassioned thought, their eyes shining like glowing,
sinful stars. About their perfectly shaped loins they had swathed the
latest fashion festival sash, its scanty width adorned with tassels, and
tied, bow-wise, coquettishly at the left knee. I will not dwell on that
prime donna’s solo, for it would be impossible to give the faintest
impression in words of the magical sounds of such weird, extempore
melody.

As all the maids who were squatting beneath the palms and bread-fruit
trees joined in the refrain the effect was most fascinating. Nor was the
fascination spoilt by those dusky youths who made strange sounds, in
perfect _tempo_, as the song proceeded, by clicking their tongues!
Though I am unable adequately to describe a Marquesan dance of the old
days, I can give an idea of the music, or at least of the impression
that is left on my memory, in the following specimen of a Marquesan
dance:—


[Music: ENTR’ACTE BARBARE.

                              (_Extract._)

                                                              A. SAFRONI

(A. S. M.)

Moonlight Drums in the forest

_pp_

                                                           _Prestissimo_

                                                              _Deciso f_

RECIT. _p_   _a tempo_    _morendo_

[segno]_Molto moderato, à orientale_

Native maids beating limbs with hands and chanting    Throw leg up

_Repeat 8va_

_p_

_mf_    dim.    etc.

D.C. to [segno]

   Reproduced by kind permission of Messrs. BOOSEY & CO., London, W.

]

It was in the finale, the mighty _tutti_, that the swelling _crescendo_
and the passion of the barbarian, orchestral music rose and fell and
faded into silence after the drums had ceased their primeval grandeur.

“Ter fink Oi’ve lived to see this ’ere day,” said Grimes hoarsely.

“To think I’ve lived to hear it,” I responded, as we dodged our heads in
the nick of time, as thirteen happy savages whirled past, swaying
war-clubs!

Aged, tattooed chiefs, chiefesses and plebeian, savage old women joined
in that dance. Off they went, their stiff limbs scorning old age, as
memories of youth and pagan days returned. The little children gazed
from the hut doors with awestruck eyes, screamed with delight, clapped
their tawny hands with childish ecstasy to see the antics, the high
kicks of their erstwhile sedate old grandparents. I can still see those
astonished little brown beggars as they stand there; even the glass eyes
of their old rag dolls, that they held in their arms, looked surprised.
Those contortions seemed impossible. Grimes and I held our hands up,
breathless, spellbound with expectancy—but not a leg quivered, not a
hip, not a limb or muscle was dislocated.

I felt like some happy barbarian. My nationality faded. The cares of the
world fell from me, and I felt a strange affection for that old,
stalwart humorist, the idol, standing before me, and I could have
worshipped that grotesque wooden god of the _pae-pae_!

I looked at Grimes; the wonder of it all shone in his merry eyes. I
thought of far-off old England, of grim conventionality. What a shock
for my country to hear a wooden drum bang and up go rows of dusky legs!
I thought of the funny old men who yearned to reconstruct modern
civilisation—Members of Parliament; men who would reverse things, put
the roof on the floor and the floor on the roof, reconstruct our
entrails, our hopes, fears and feelings. What would they think, I
wondered, if suddenly confronted with such a sight—a sunburnt British
youth playing a violin to that heathen festival dance? But I am
incorrigible, and as I sat there, imagining the horror on those British
physiognomies to see me taking part in that terrible pandemonium, I
snatched my red handkerchief from my pocket and tried to smother the
laughter that convulsed my being.

The festival dancers whirled; crash! went that awful drum and still I
reflected. I knew that those happy barbarians were the descendants of
ferocious cannibals; indeed some of them had practised heathen rites but
a few years ago. I wondered which was the most terrible: to eat your
dead pal on toast, or to be a Christian, build cathedrals with spires
pointing to the skies in the name of immortal salvation, while tender
little kiddies, sad old men and women starve in the streets.

I laughed again. Grimes thought I had gone mad. I was as bad then as I
am now, only I laughed more and was imaginative.

The dethroned king from the Paumotus Isles gazed frowningly upon my
merriment. He was suspicious; thought I was making light of that royal
display, little dreaming the truth!

Grimes and I ducked our heads as the covey of handsome native girls,
arms akimbo, swept in whirling circles by us. We heard the swish of the
gauzy, flower-bedecked robes. We ducked our heads just in the nick of
time as they swung their perfect limbs skyward. The prima donna’s pearly
toe-nails caught in Grimes’s curly hair. He yelled. Oh, the glorious
memory of it all! The drums were beating a hundred strong, the weird
barbarian fifes screamed. Something happened, my senses swam in some
delicious indecision. I tried to look shocked—a beautiful, savage girl
had embraced me!

“Aloah!” she murmured deliciously in my ear. I gazed interrogatively at
my comrade. “Shall it be?”

“Whose ter know?” whispered Grimes enviously.

Then——! How can I boldly confess the truth?

What will you think of me, O my civilised brothers, sweet-scented,
hair-combed men? Just think of it—I fell! I laid my violin down in the
forest ferns; I gazed about stealthily. Once more she whispered: “Aloah!
O beautiful papalagi!” Then I and Grimes whirled away into the wild
dance, joined that barbarian mêlée!

It’s a sad confession, I know. But why should America rejoice in the
proud memory of a Washington, and England lag behind?

Think of the many men of distinction who have roamed and written of
those Southern hemispheres. Captain Cook, the first pioneer, the cruise
of the _Casco_ with R.L.S., the Snark, Becks and Melvilles, and no such
confession right up to date! I hope posterity, when I am gone, will
remember with pride that it was I, a Britisher, who first told the truth
about Southern Seas.

                  *       *       *       *       *

However, I must return to my description of the spectacle.

Evidently this was a special gathering of various types of dusky men and
women of all the islands, tiers on tiers of handsome and ugly faces.
Some were splendid savage old men, some representing the types of races
that lived on isles a thousand leagues away, gathered together beneath
the terraced arches of that amphitheatre of pillared bread-fruits and
Nature’s colonnades of exquisitely twisted vine-work. Over this branched
roof shone the stars, inextinguishably beautiful lamps of heaven. There
were jovial faces; lean, avaricious faces, brooding, sardonic
physiognomies; poetic faces seared with wrinkles; philosophical
expressions; Voltaires, Spinozas, Darwins; sad old dethroned kings and
faded queens—all squatting in the shadows as the oil lamps twinkled on
the tasselled boughs above us. There were short, swarthy men, long men,
fat men, wide men, square men, sensuous-looking women, voluptuous
figures tattooed in conspicuous parts, scraggy women with faces like
wrinkled toads, whose savage tattoo of hieroglyphic beauty showed off to
advantage the handsome Marquesan physique. Honest old chiefs sat alone
in their poverty, attired in primitive loin-cloths of Poverty’s scanty
width. Budding poets gazed with thoughtful eyes on flippant old men and
pompous chiefesses. Vainglorious girls strutted before their less
fortunate sisters, wearing yellow stockings and little else. The
inevitable poor relations gazed with weary, envious eyes on the huge
calabash of sparkling toddy, moistening their parched lips as high
chiefs and chiefesses quaffed at its rim deliciously.

Grimes and I respected those clean-bodied, handsome savages—flealess,
immaculate in mind and attire, as they danced around us. And yet, alas!
the hand of civilisation had touched them, for as with a crash the
exiled king from the Solomon Isles fell from his bamboo erection, he
still clutched at the keg of the best rum from across the seas—exchanged
for copra to make scented oils to plaster down the hair of commercial
savages in civilised lands!

What with the wild laughter and beating drums, it seemed more like a
ghostly fête day than night, and so brilliant was the moon that one
could distinguish the various shades of the uplifted hair of the
Marquesan girls.

Grimes and I were not the only fascinated spectators of that barbarian
burlesque. Several white settlers, French gendarmes and officials,
Indians, Malay, Chinese, and one or two giant niggers stood in the shade
of the bread-fruits watching that scene. The Marquesan _élite_ sat in
the royal box—a kind of platform erected in the arbour of thick bamboo
clumps. These spectators belonged to the missions, and attended the
stone churches near Tai-o-hae. They were attired in European garb. Some
even gazed through spectacles on the scene, making critical comments on
the dress of their primitive brethren or the quality of the music of
that South Sea orchestra.

As the first cataclysm of sound faded away, and the chief drummer rested
his arm for the new _con furioso_ overture, Grimes and I, taking the
opportunity to look round, caught sight of Waylao standing amongst the
spectators by the bamboos.

Grimes was full of enthusiasm, and wanted to cross the space to speak to
her. But at that moment someone leaned against the great wooden idol, it
overbalanced, and fell with a crash.

This accident was a terrible omen, for the old wooden deity was tapu,
which meant that anyone who touched it was liable to be clubbed on the
quiet. The æsthetic-looking old chiefs and the superstitious chiefesses
positively groaned in their anguish as the fallen deity was slowly
lifted up from its degraded position. I don’t know what happened after
that. I believe there was a general fight, the Christianised, Catholic
natives of the French churches taking one side and the Protestants the
other.

For the time being I will leave Marquesan affairs and follow the deluded
Waylao, who was off that night to meet the Indian ex-convict—her
beautiful romance.

Near the spot where Waylao stood watching the native festival was the
small pagan village. As she stared across the space the children peeping
from the hut doors shouted, “Aloah! Mai le tupa!” for they knew Waylao
well.

The half-caste girl took no heed of the cheerful salutations, for she
had suddenly spotted the turbaned cranium of her lover, Abduh Allah,
beneath the buttressed banyans some distance away. I believe he held the
Koran in his hand, anyway he looked a holy beggar. Beside him stood a
veiled figure. Waylao stared. What did it all mean—her noble cut-throat
looking down into the eyes of some feminine being? It was terrible. Her
brain seemed as though it would burst with the flood of jealousy that
swamped her senses. The noise of the distant festival chanting was
unheard. One question only interested her—who was that who stood by the
side of her noble, Islamic hubby? Suddenly the slim form by Abduh’s side
flung aside her Oriental silk hooded wrap. Was it a ghost by his
side—some phantom girl of the forest staring up into her lover’s face
with pleading eyes? No. Notwithstanding all the mythological goddesses,
all the shadows of Pulutu and legendary wonders that haunted that
enchanted heathen-land, the Indian settler’s companion was none other
than the faery being from the little grey hamlet by the mountains—the
white girl Pauline.

Waylao rubbed her eyes. Was she dreaming? What hint of her unwanted
presence had reached Abduh’s soul, making that wraith of the forest
vanish so hurriedly?

In the flood of passionate pain that overwhelmed the senses of the
half-caste girl was a terrible feeling as of something lost, leaving her
a degraded creature, dominated by one passion—jealousy. This she told me
long after and under the strangest of circumstances.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIII

Wherein I describe the Harem Cave—Oriental Picturesqueness and
  Mohammedan Faith in its Bald State


IN this chapter I will take the reader to one of the many beautiful
caverns of natural subterranean architecture that are to be found in the
Marquesan Group, both in the mountain districts and by the shore.

In one of these caverns a certain group of Malay Indians had their
stronghold, where they lured the semi-civilised native girls.

It will be obvious that I can give no more than a meagre account of all
that followed the betrayal of Waylao, and in reference to Pauline’s
acquaintance with Abduh, which I hinted at in the close of the preceding
chapter, I do not wish to do more than paint a picture in chameleon
colours of the incidents connected with her infatuation for the
aforesaid abomination.

Neither do I make these remarks because I have any inward qualms as to
my method of placing the facts of the case before my reader. My doubts
are absolutely nil. I know that a man reigns king over the dominions of
his own book if he dips his pen in his own ink—the molten centre of his
own experiences.

When Waylao reached the Indian’s side she looked into his eyes as though
she would read his soul. But I suppose that the instincts of woman
failed her in the supreme moment and she did not appear to doubt the
veracity of his explanation. I can well imagine that his voice was
musical and sounded divinely truthful. How could she be expected to
doubt so noble, so manly-looking a lover?

Most of us place our confidence in the most unworthy objects. It’s a
pity that faith, which Providence lends us, is not double-sighted in
women—and in men too.

It was at this meeting that the Indian persuaded the girl to go with him
to the cavern.

“Must I go?” she said fearfully.

There was no light of mercy in that masterful gaze, as the girl
hesitated, seeking to fathom the truth with her own poor, blinded eyes.

Her innocent glamour had created that thing that stood before her, clad
in Oriental silken swathings, a coiled turban on its head. It
represented the embodied god of her romantic dreams.

The deceit of that spittoon-like skull triumphed. He led her away into
the shadows, just as the devil in Eden led happy Eve. But he took no
risks—he held her tightly by the wrist, and repeatedly reassured the
girl by tender pressures.

They were off to the Mohammedan mosque, the harem cavern by Temoria. It
will be hard to piece together the scene in that hell of passion, and
describe all that Waylao must have felt as she fell beneath that
Nemesis—the hand of her own idolatry and the power of Islam.

The remorse and the tears and the sorrow which followed she confessed to
Father O’Leary long after. But that is not to be written yet, and
sometimes I wish that I may never tell it.

The memory of that girl’s story and her weeping voice now seems as far
away as the stars which flashed in the vault over the windy tips of
those bread-fruit trees by Tai-o-hae. I could almost tell Waylao’s
thoughts as she crept by that man’s side, on to her fate. I will attempt
to describe all that followed.

“Ta’ala [come], O Hassan Marah, ta’ala!” whispered that Calcutta
cut-throat as he led the girl along the forest track. They had reached
the sea. Between the tree trunks the waves were distinctly visible. It
was a beautiful spot that surrounded that secret temple of Mohammed
worshippers. As Waylao tripped beside the tempter her sandalled feet
brushed the carpet of forest flowers. She was proud of those sandals. I
must admit they looked well, fastened to her feet with red ribbon from
the little Islamic carpet bag.

“Marah [wifey], I take thee to where thou shalt see many wonders; but
remember that I love thee as man never loved maid before. Also, forget
not that thou art now a child of Mohammed. Think not that whatever thou
seest is anything else but what it is!” (I can imagine that he smiled
grimly here at the thought of uttering so great a truth!)

Then he continued: “Remember, O child of beauty, that our humble mosque,
which is but a symbol of the Almighty Prophet’s creed, is the Mecca of
all our happiness; and all that happens therein is symbolical of all
that happens.”

The foregoing is a fair example of Indian Mohammedan lore as dabbled in
by its preachers in the islands.

They had now reached the shore. For miles along the coast by the serried
lines of giant bread-fruits and palms shone the blue lagoons that
reflected reefs of stars.

As though a ghost had crept from the forest to warn Waylao, her shadow
crept in front of her. Abduh’s monstrous silhouette also dodged in front
of him, so grotesque, so hideous that it might well have been the true
index of his mind expressed in his shadow to warn the mad girl. Suddenly
they arrived at the hollow in the volcanic rock. It was the entrance to
the mosque. Once in ages past that great cavern by the sea had been
moulded by Nature’s volcanic passion—and now the children of those wild
lands were lured into those old bowels wherein glowed the passions of a
greater hell. An old-time Chinese opium den, joss-house or fan-tan den
in ’Frisco or George Street, Sydney, was a positive holy citadel
compared with that cavernous hole of debauchery and Mohammedanistic
religion.

Waylao trembled with fright. The Indian, taking no risks, still clutched
her arm like some monstrous spider, as she looked behind her, stared
over her shoulder in fear. Then they entered that hollow doorway and
left the moonlit seas outside. The Indian, still clutching her arm, bent
his turbaned head as he passed beneath the low roof of that subterranean
passage, that harem cave of Mohammedanism in Southern Seas. Did her
heart flutter and all hope die as she entered there? God only knows.
Most likely she would have escaped if the man had not held her.

No sooner had they entered that tunnel-way than she heard the murmur of
singing harem beauties and the mumblings of far-off encores. Sounds of
ribald heathenish _himees_ (Marquesan cannibal songs) came to her
astonished ears, accompanied with faint whiffs of opium and scented gin.

Ah me! Had I and my old shellbacks had the slightest idea or hint of all
that happened in that cavern, methinks there would have been a mighty
rumpus between shellbackism and the Mohammedanistic propaganda one dark
night. Several pious Indians would have been seen floating seaward on
the next tide, with their skulls cracked.

Such an Island Night Entertainment was not to be found in the length and
breadth of the North and South Pacific as that one in the underworld.
Had Robert Louis Stevenson known of such a cavern, what a book we should
have had to-day.

The scene that met Waylao’s eyes as she emerged from that tunnel-way was
like some wildly exaggerated orgy of the heathen days.

I who stood in that hellish hole of past iniquity when the great crash
came which overthrew that inferno can well explain the scene that met
her eyes.

It was a large cavern, the rugged walls glittering with stalactites, a
roof adorned with scintillating festoons mirrored in the silent pool
waters that divided that subterranean temple’s floor.

The pool was left by each tide’s rise, forming a kind of underworld blue
lagoon of exquisite beauty. At the glassy bottom waved fern-like
seaweeds, clinging to beautiful twisting arms of vermilion-hued and
alabaster coral. The water was as clear as the purest crystal. Just
overhead, dangling from the roof, hung glimmering oil lamps that threw
flickering shadows into the far corners of the subterranean chamber. The
mirrored flames in those waters touched the red corals and gave a
blood-red hue which added to the mystery of that wide, rocky hollow. It
seemed that the waters blushed at the scenes they reflected in their
translucent depths, the dusky harem beauties who danced beneath those
hanging lamps.

The turbaned plantation gentry who inhabited those headquarters had
erected a _pae-pae_ at the far end of the chamber, where rose the roof
to the height of about eight feet. It was on this _pae-pae_ (stage) that
the newly converted native girls, or newly wedded brides, sang their
farewells to Christianity and went through those rhythmical swervings
and indescribable postures that so delighted the eyes of their swarthy
Eastern masters.

It was one of these sights that met Waylao’s eyes as she entered that
harem temple. A wedding dance was in full swing. The blue lagoon was
shining like a vast mirror beneath the hanging lamps and faithfully
reflected the shadows of festival dancers. At the far end, by the rocky
walls, where the roof sloped down to barely a man’s height, were several
rough wooden tables. Round these tables sat Indian and Chinese settlers
playing a kind of fan-tan, smoking and drinking with joss-house
liberality.

It will not be libellous to state that several of them were escapees
from Fijian law. On mats close by squatted several Marquesan chiefs who
had entered that holy order. They were a wild crew, and much that
happened in their midst can be better imagined than described. Several
Marquesan maids, dressed in Oriental robes of gauzy design, were on the
platform dancing some kind of can-can. The winds of heaven creeping in
from the moonlit sea outside quite innocently abetted that lascivious
scene; their unseen, shifting fingers touched the swaying girls, threw
the unloosed robes right out from their feet, and then once again let
them cling to the dancing, voluptuous figures.

The handsome faces of the dancers were aglow with pride as their excited
masters shouted: “Kattar rheyrak!”

These girls were the wives of the Malay Indians. There seemed more wives
than husbands knocking about, but that is explained by the fact that the
creed of the Great Mecca Prophet allowed a man four wives to go on with
ere he reached Elysium.

On a dais sat four aged, pock-marked marabouts reading the Koran. Their
long beards pointed ever and anon to the cavern’s roof as some holy
simile came from their lips.

As Waylao gazed with astonishment on the scene, a swarthy old Indian
mongrel, under the influence of liquor, prostrated himself before her.
Abduh gave him a nudge in the ribs with his boot and the old _roué_ at
once ceased pouring forth praises to the virtues of Mohammed’s beard.

“O mine Ayishah, O beautiful Marah, drink!” whispered the alluring voice
of Waylao’s Oriental hubby. The girl’s head swam with fear. She had
already repented coming to that hell. The sights that she witnessed
reminded her of all that she had thrown aside for the sake of her
infatuation. The heaven that the great Potter had mixed in her own
elemental clay blushed to her throat’s dusky whiteness. The natural
beauty of the girl’s face was intensified by the half-shrinking appeal
of her eyes and expression. To see her standing there with the bit of
pink ribbon fluttering at her throat, the hibiscus flowers in her pretty
hair, must have made even the engrossed cut-throats at the card-tables
stare for a moment and forget their tricks.

The sight of those dancing, full-blooded Marquesan girls on that
_pae-pae_ sickened her. Nor was it to be wondered at. Those tawny
figures of perfect grace swayed their limbs with pride, yes, surveyed
their own symmetrical proportions as the brass leg bangles jingled and
the glass jewels flashed as their limbs swung roofward in response to
the encores of Islamic delight.

Abduh’s voice pleaded passionately for his wishes. Indeed Waylao
recovered so much that she even smiled at the admiration that was so
evident in the eyes of the men about her.

“Marhabba!” (“Welcome!”) cried those young Islamic knuts as they stood
up from their gaming tables, threw their shoulders back, screwed their
heads sideways and surveyed the comely half-caste girl. Some went too
far. Abduh saw the look of realisation leap into her eyes. She looked
terrified.

“Something must be done at once: this will never do,” was his mental
reflection.

“Drink, Marah!” The voice was insinuating and sweet. Hardly knowing what
she did, Waylao let the innocent-looking coco-nut-shell goblet linger at
her lips. Then she gazed helplessly at his masterful eyes, half in
wonder. The jovial yellow boys from the Malay Archipelago, and the Sudan
and Calcutta reprobates clinked their mugs. “Allah be with thee!” they
murmured.

Somehow even their voices were hushed. It almost seemed that even they
saw the shame of it all, that so fair a creature should fall into the
spider-like clutch of that abomination.

Waylao blushed again. It was not the blush of shame, but the warmth of
vanity and the feverish effects of that potion, the wretched ecstasy of
morphine and gin, as those handsome men fell at her feet and paid
obeisance to her beauty. Did she dream? What was this wonderful worship
that made her feel she was some heathen queen, as that crew of flushed
faces whispered praise into her ears?

“Mebsoot! Mebsoot!” called the Marquesan girls. “Blessed be the great
Mahomeys!” It was the one little bit of Indian language that they had
learnt. Even the fine eyes of those abandoned native girls expressed
wonder at seeing so white a woman in that hellish abode.

The drug began its work, Waylao’s brain became delirious. Gin, morphine
and innocence mixed together had more enchantment in it than morphine,
gin and downright wickedness! Abduh Allah suddenly shone before her eyes
with such resplendent beauty that she lifted his hand and kissed it
before them all. The pock-marked old marabouts nudged each other in the
ribs and the younger villains exchanged glances. A treat was in store
for them.

If Benbow, her father, had entered at that moment, that cavern would
have experienced the greatest volcanic eruption of its history. Alas!
Benbow was at sea or in some island seaport telling of his past
experiences, how he had captured pretty girls in the blackbirding days,
filled his hold up to the brim with that quivering cargo, battened them
down and then, singing with his wild crew _For Those in Peril on the
Sea_ (his favourite hymn), put to sea.

Waylao quite forgot her father. Her mother’s old legendary creed was
true after all. Was she not in some wonderful underworld, some heathen
shadow-land? Were not goddesses and god-like men at her feet—worshipping
her? Her very innocence, her strange, poetic brain, made beautiful
creations of those abandoned native girls as they danced like faery
shadows around her.

It may seem unbelievable, but Waylao, to the call of a host of
impassioned pleadings, stood on the _pae-pae_ and began to dance; but
not as the others. Even those dissolute men gazed intensely, half
sobered by the exquisite beauty, the rhythmical movements of her perfect
figure. The winds crept in and stirred her bronzed tresses and their
crown of vermilion forest flowers: she lifted her robe delicately and
sang to her shadow in the lagoon at her feet. It was a unique sight, a
new experience to all in that cave as she danced and chanted. What was
that faint, ineffable glimmer that silently struck the still water? It
was a pale light, a streak from heaven, moonlight piercing through a
chink just overhead in the cavern’s rocky roof. That faint glimmer
streamed upon her mass of entangled hair, and lit her eyes with some
wild, half-etherealised light. As she danced on, it seemed the very
poetry, the grace of her movements appealed to these better qualities
which exist in the hearts of even the worst of men. As they watched the
earnest expression of her face, the cavern hollows became silent, except
for the twanging of bamboo flutes accompanying her wild melody. Those
swarthy, bearded scoundrels stood like unto awestruck figures of carven
stone, expressing artistic surprise. The devil in them was touched by
the magic of beauty in its finest form—the girl’s innocence.

Waylao chanted on. The liquor fumes began to work to their full extent.
With arms outspread, she danced along the _pae-pae_, her head close
against the rocky roof. Nearer and nearer she glided, step by step, till
with a cry she reached Abduh Allah’s side and swooned into his extended
arms.

As soon as the breathless, staring crew recovered from their
astonishment, the cavern echoed and re-echoed the encore: “Hasan! Kattar
rheyrak!” (“Beautiful! Oh, thanks!”)

The four grey-bearded marabouts who were squatting on the mats of the
dais opposite the _pae-pae_ lifted their eyes and turbaned heads; so
overcome were they with envious admiration that their pointed beards
were level with the rugged roof as they once again gasped out in sombre
syllables: “Allah! O Mohammed’s beard! Bless its growth!”

Suddenly realisation flashed through Waylao’s brain. She stared with
fright on the swarthy crowd of uplifted faces around her. Ere the men
had fathomed the meaning of her terror, she had broken away. Like one
demented she swept by them and, eluding their clutching hands, fled out
of that cavern, back to the sight of heaven and the moonlit seas.

It is no wish of mine to dwell on the terrors, the abominations of that
Indian Night Entertainment of Eastern Sensualism. All that I am out to
tell is of the temptation that came to Benbow’s daughter. And so I have
painted to the best of my ability all that is fit to tell of the scene
and happenings in that harem cave near Tai-o-hae: a scene that is common
enough in the Indian lines—as they call them—in Fiji and other
plantation settlements which are the glory-holes of emigrant
Mohammedanism in the South Seas. To this day the missionaries curse
those swarthy men, who, I have been told, were not true Indians, but a
mongrel race from the Malay Archipelago. However that may be, Abduh had
lived in Calcutta, and they were all Mohammedans.

I may as well say and have done with it that Pauline was also lured into
that cavern of iniquity. She too had crept behind that mockery in the
shape of man, Abduh, expecting to see something that corresponded with
her girlish conception of paradise. I do not wish to dwell on all that
_she_ confessed to me; suffice it to say that Pauline swiftly saw
through the veiled curtain that hid the monstrous inclinations of that
human spider and his crew.

Thank heaven! he failed to pounce upon her innocence then. She too had
lifted that vile potion to her lips, but had shattered the goblet,
untouched, in fragments at his feet.

Those swashbucklers at the card-tables, flushed with drink and thoughts
of the prize that seemed almost in their clutches, had also put forth
their vile talons to stay her flight; but she was too swift for them as
she sped from that sensual hollow by the seas, her soul ablaze with
fear.

Such is a portion of the history of those much-admired caves and
subterranean passages of the Marquesan Group, caverns where the tourist
doubtless enters to take a snapshot of Nature’s transcendent beauty of
coral, flowers and ferns, little dreaming of the secret they held for
the guile of men years ago.

I believe that these caverns were also used as Chinese opium dens. The
French authorities had issued an edict forbidding the traffic in opium
because of its demoralising influence on the native population. But
still the trade prospered in secret, natives inhaling the dreamy
narcotic, from Tai-o-hae to Papeete. The penalty for smugglers was a
heavy fine, but if the culprit had not the wherewithal he was discharged
with a caution, for the official exchequer was too poor to keep them in
the calaboose, which was always full of successful aspirants who yearned
to live, under Government protection, a life of comparative luxury and
ease.

It was hinted that the French officials of that time were not above
accepting bribes in the way of cash and maids, for Abduh Allah’s harem
cave was strangely immune from the vigilant eye of the law.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIV

Waylao Off Colour—Our Trip to Tahiti—Papeete at Night—The drowned
  Native Girl—Her Obsequies—A Humorous Creed


WAYLO returned home after her experience in that harem mosque with
several of her illusions slightly damaged. But though the
materialisation of her dreams did not correspond with the romance of her
old South Sea novels, she was too infatuated with Abduh to break away
from him.

All that I know about the matter, or knew then, is, that old Lydia sold
me one dozen new-laid eggs next morning.

“Where’s Waylao?” said I.

“She poor sick girls this longer time; she lie bed late in morning. Nice
sun over mountain, allee samee she no wake.”

The native woman then told me that Benbow was due home from sea in a
week or so, and, in native fashion, did a little dance to express her
delight.

The same day Grimes and I sailed from Tai-o-hae on a short trip. We had
secured a berth on a small trading schooner bound for Tahiti. I remember
that we called in at Papeete, stopping one day and night. The old
capital by moonlight looked like some mighty enchanted castle in ruins,
the starlit vault, for roof, spread like a mighty dome inland. Plumed
palms and beautiful tropical groves grew along its wide floors, which
climbed to the rugged mountain terraces rising to the blue midnight
heavens. Its dimly lit streets appeared like faeryland. Dusky figures,
robed in many-coloured, semi-barbaric materials, flitted beneath the
moonlit palms, singing songs in a strange tongue. As curiosity drew
one’s steps nearer, it was evident that they were handsome feminine
figures with luminous eyes, running down palm-sheltered streets on soft
feet. In the adjoining spaces, backed by the first little houses of the
native hamlet, danced French sailors, embracing voluptuous girls. They
looked like puppets as they shuffled their feet and were held in the
arms of those splendid, semi-savage women. The dusky Eves wore flowers
in their hair, and as each couple whirled gracefully, the French
sailor’s peaked cap on the side of his head, a pungent smell of cognac
drifted on the zephyrs to our nostrils.

We heard soft whisperings: “Yoranna, monsoo-aire! [monsieur] Awai!
Awai!”

Then came the tinkle of a zither and fiddle, accompanied by melodious
laughter as the dance proceeded. “Sacré!” hissed some jealous Frenchman
as Mira Moe, the belle of the ball, went with his pal into the Parisian
café just by, under the South Sea palms.

In the morning all had vanished like a dream of faeryland. The Broom
Road and the scattered white houses on the slopes, the busy,
gesticulating gendarmes and stalwart, tawny hawkers made the scene
appear quite a commercial centre.

We were obliged to leave that little Babylon of the South, for our boat
stopped there only two days, returning straight to Nuka Hiva.

When Grimes and I arrived back at that grog shanty near Tai-o-hae, we
were enthusiastically welcomed by the shellbacks, who thought we had
gone away for good.

Before we had been back many hours a dead native girl was found in the
lagoon, about half-a-mile from the shanty. She had a pretty face, with
the hair floating about it as we pulled her out of the water. The mouth
looked as though she was quietly crying to herself though she was dead.

Neither Grimes nor I were used to death in those days. We were both very
depressed after the incident, though the tribe of the drowned girl had a
great festival in commemoration of the sad event.

At first it struck me as incongruous that they should beat drums and
sing weird _himees_ to the gods who had received the ill-fated girl’s
soul. Those jovial lamentations were in striking contrast to the
woebegone faces and wails of the Christian choirs of natives who
attended the tin-roofed chapel by Calaboose Hill. I was hired as
violinist for the burial ceremony of that dead girl. Two Yankee
missionaries sang a _Te Deum_ (so they called it). I extemporised an
_obligato_ on the violin. It was the world’s most woeful sight as they
opened their mouths and sang some American hallelujah—and fifty natives
groaned in unison to the mournful strain.

I cannot help thinking that the world’s religion should be inspired by
the soul of laughter. The more sombre a creed is, the sadder are those
who kneel in true belief at its altar. Hypocrisy has become such a fine
art that even the hypocrite believes earnestly in the hypocrite. It
would be more truly religious if the personification of a great creed’s
deity were some glorious, Punch-like figure with eyes agog with infinite
humour—something that represented humanity in some universal dance,
flitting along arm in arm, in imitation of the dancing spheres! Think of
the glory of temples crammed with jolly-faced old men of the priesthood,
opening their mouths in side-splitting laughter as they sang: “Glory to
God the Great Unhurried—Glory to the Infinite Humorist, the Eternal
Grin—the Omniscient Eyes of Eternal Merriment guiding the song-swept
nations!” Would not such an _opéra bouffe_ religion and existence be
sweeter than the pangs of the martyrs and the universal moan that
announces the hope of salvation?

I feel sure such a creed would have met with success in the
heathen-lands and brightened the Southern Seas with happiness and
sincere belief. Just think, reader, of the mournful disciples of our
creed arriving suddenly in the South Seas, and then imagine the arrival
of a priesthood of funny old Bacchuses, Punch-and-Judy men singing
bacchanalian songs, dancing up the sea-shores convulsed with laughter! I
have deep suspicions that many of the heathen creeds were founded on
some such idea. When I returned from that burial service many of the
tribal chiefs were still dancing by the grog shanty door, joyously
jigging off the fag-end of their memorial service for one who had
entered the Kingdom of Heathenland! Though the hour was very late, we
could still see them dancing with happy, semi-heathen maids beneath the
starlit palms as we sat by the shanty door.

“Ain’t half enjoying themselves!” remarked Grimes.

“Yes, they’re happy enough in their way,” said I, as I thought of their
wooden idols grinning from ear to ear, agape with life’s subtle joke. I
said: “Grimes, I’m sure those heathens afford the Almighty more
amusement than Europeans do.”

“That’s so!” said my comrade, who fell asleep as I philosophised. I
poked him in the ribs in sheer disgust.

Then someone twanged a banjo and burst into drunken song.
“White wings they neveeer grow wearrrry,” was gurgled out.
“Tink-er-ty-pomp—tum-tum-tiddle-te-tum! rrrrrrrrrrrh! ter-ra-te-rrip!”
went the banjo strings, till silence came over the slopes, for it was
very late. Even the stars were off indoors as the moon rose on the
seaward horizon. One by one the beachcombers stole back to the shore,
back to the promontory where lay the derelict hulk. Its tattered,
arm-like sails seemed to flutter as though with delight at our
companionship, as we stole down into its bowels, once more to sleep and
dream.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER XV

Benbow’s Return—The Old Blackbirder at Home—The Broaching of the Rum
  Barrel—A Musical Evening—Benbow and his Daughter—Fatherly
  Discretion


FOR several days Grimes and I sweated away unloading a schooner that
arrived from Papeete with stores and lay in Hatiaeu Bay. Being cashless,
we were obliged to work at times. The heat was terrific. I wore white
duck pants, a dirty shirt and a native hat made out of a banana leaf,
and we both looked like sunburnt niggers. One night as we crept home
along the Broom Road, dying for a drink—for we’d been working in the
schooner’s coal hold—we heard sounds of wild revelry issuing from the
grog shanty. Waylao’s father, Benbow, was back in Tai-o-hae!

The fun had commenced, and the shellbacks had welcomed him home like a
lot of expectant, ragged schoolboys.

Benbow was something of a Captain Kidd. I have kept his correct name
back, but it will not hurt his posthumous reputation to say that he had
been one of the old-time blackbirders, and he was indeed a wonder, if
half of his yarns about himself were true. He was a burly, typical
Britisher, with a big beard of reddish hue, fiery, like his temper, and
very expressive-looking eyes.

Though the shellbacks and derelicts of those days congregated eagerly in
that little parlour of his snug homestead, they trembled in their
sea-boots when he roared at one hint of contradiction. Yet a kind word
at the critical moment made those blue, steely eyes of his soften. He
was the biggest bluffer I’ve ever met.

Benbow gave me twenty dollars to go to his place and play the fiddle, so
I know all about his idiosyncrasies. I think I would have accepted the
job if only for the fun of the entertainment. That old cottage fairly
shook on those spree nights. Should one rash member of that convivial,
unshaved troop express doubt of his host’s word, the great Tai-o-hae
gathering became plunged into the deepest gloom.

It is recorded in the Tai-o-hae annals of beachcomberism how the great
meeting of shellbacks at a certain date of the year had been suddenly
dispersed in the very midst of a glorious beano. Like the voice of Doom,
Benbow had yelled forth his fierce invectives. Men still live in those
parts who can recall how the echoes of the night hills recorded, like
some mighty gramophone, the voice of their exasperated host.

“Shiver me timbers! You doubt me? By God! Eh? You doubt me? You dare,
you son of a b—— nigger!” Then would come the final crash, as, lifting
old Lydia’s family heirloom—a war-club—he would strike the rim of the
mighty keg of rum, the bung of the barrel of fiery liquor that had been
specially broached to celebrate his return home. One more crash and the
bung was driven into the head. Ere the awestruck, broken-hearted
shellbacks rose and filed out into the homeless night, they would gaze
pathetically in silent appeals. Benbow was relentless. Out into the
night they would go, muttering deadly imprecations on the one who had
doubted Benbow and so brought unutterable sorrow on their heads.

But often the winds of Fate blew fair, and the cottage in the hills
trembled with ribald song, as, with his red, bushy beard shaking, Benbow
sat enthroned in his old arm-chair. Behind him the old grandfather clock
merrily ticked, as he yelled forth some chantey:

                   “Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest,
                   Yo! ho! ho! for a bottle of rum!”

Then would come the chorus from a choir of wrinkled, pulsing, groggy
throats as those ragged, sunburnt shellbacks clinked their rum mugs.
Those derelicts would roar forth glorious toasts to the glory of the
most highest—Benbow—as eyes looked into “eyes that spake again, and all
went merry” in Tai-o-hae. Old Lydia steamed from head to feet as she
shot to and fro replenishing the rum mugs. Father O’Leary would hear
“the sounds of revelry by night” in the distance, lift his arms to the
sky and say: “Oh, those white men!”

I know it nearly broke the drums of my ears the first time Grimes and I
responded to the invitation. They sang _Blow the Man Down_ that night,
and the ancient sea-song reminded me of my first voyage on a sailing
ship. It is a melody that seems to mysteriously express in a few bars
the true atmosphere of ocean life. As those old shellbacks sang it, in
their inimitable style, I fancied I saw the old wooden ships going down
the English Channel when the world was young. I saw the old sailors
singing that capstan song as they toiled. I saw their bearded,
crooked-nosed faces shine in the moonlight as they climbed aloft,
disappeared among the wide grey canvas sails, and vanished in the sky a
hundred years ago.

It was only when the night grew old, when Benbow’s fist struck the table
with indisputable conviction, and all the assemblage enthusiastically
believed his yarn that their songs resembled chaos.

Some banged mugs on the table, others thumped the floor with their
sea-boots, as their bearded throats roared out the choruses. No
barbarian cataclysm of joyous sound could outrival that pandemonium of
jangled melody. It resembled the steam-organ of a circus roundabout with
the pipes at full blast and out of tune. It seemed that the stops, the
bassoons, clarionets, double basses, horns, sopranos, cymbals, bagpipes,
drums, faint tinkles of the banjo and weird piston-rods of sound still
crashed forth, toiling on in some terrible ensemble as the great musical
engine broke down.

Ye gods! it was a pandemonium! Grimes and I stood at the door seeking
fresh air that night. We couldn’t stand it.

The natives came creeping across the hills. They heard that singing from
afar. Those awestruck Marquesans looked like happy ghosts as they crept
beneath the moonlit bread-fruit trees and listened. What did they think
of it, the great white man’s barbarian festival?

“Go it, allee samee nicee!” said one great tattooed warrior from Anahao
when Grimes gave him a bit of _tabak_ (tobacco).

Once more the roof of Benbow’s cottage vibrated as the chorus of _I owe
Ten Shillings to O’Grady_ struck the silence of those South Sea hills.
In the middle of the songs came the hubbub of various calls for rum,
terrible oaths and enthusiastic encores. It sounded like some mighty
gramophonic record coming on telegraph wires through the earth’s centre,
rumbling and humming from far-off civilisation, from the other side of
the globe, ay, from London town itself, as the thousand echoes struck
the silent hills of heathendom. The native children also flocked across
the slopes. Standing on their curly heads, they clapped their tiny
hands, and fairly screamed with ecstatic delight as they shouted
“Joranna!” One little dusky beggar, who was stone blind, but had ears,
wrung his tiny hands, and ran round and round under the moonlit
coco-palms. I saw his little tawny face gleam with joy in the moonlight
as once again came the thunder of that jovial chorus:

                “I owe ten shillings to O’Grady;
                He thinks he’s got a mortgage on my life.
                He calls on me early every morning,
                At night-time sends his wife!”

(Here came tremendous crashes of sea-boots, thumping mugs, and shouts of
“Go it, you b—— son of a sea-cook!” Crash! Thump! Then a howl of extreme
delight as old mother Lydia lifted her chemise and danced!)

“He wants me to pawn the grand piano!” came the second verse, followed
by the “Ta! Ra! Ra! Ra! Ra!”

No living musician, no Wagner of wordy mirth could describe the
expressive thunder of that final “Ta! Ra! Ra! Ra!”

“It’s glorious, Grimes,” said I. “Listen to the echoes of advancing
civilisation, the echoes of the ghostly footfalls of the coming tramp of
white men, salvation armies, bands of hope, the advance guard of the
great unwashed! Hear it, Grimes? It’s the sound of the great sign of the
London Cross arriving under the Southern Cross, that cross up there
inscribed in gold letters across the vault of infinity—the oldest cross
in existence.”

By this time the natives had commenced to dance on the hills. Though
they had been converted, they forgot their vows and joined in with the
white man’s hilarity. I saw their legs go up in the moonlight! They
looked so happy. The very sight of those handsome, tattooed men and
fine-looking Marquesan girls inspired me. I turned to Grimes and rattled
off _ex tempore_:

                                            “O Grimes,
        They’ll come! they’ll build a church, stone prison walls;
        Catch wild men by their huts who dare to sing:
        Erect a gallows. When its trap-door falls
        Civilisation will be in full swing!
        Maybe, they’ll read these lines, my modest pun
        On loveliness and truth beneath the sun.

        They’ll say: ’Who wrote such words of unbelief?
        Some poet wretch, no doubt, they are so neat.’
        Alas! ’tis true that white men cooked like beef
        Were welcomed in South Seas and found a treat!”

I can see Grimes’s grin in the moonlight now. The tune was fine. Of
course I didn’t mean it exactly as I sang it. Nor is there any need to
explain what I really meant. No one but a fool would suggest that
missionaries and men who strive to do their best are not a thousand
times better than the millions who are _not_ missionaries.

Dear old Grimes! Writing in this strain brings back the old memories.

I often dressed him up, lent him a white collar and nice clean tie, and
very well he looked. It’s true that when I took him to the Presidential
Ball, given by the French commissionaires at Papeete, he got drunk,
disgraced me, went on his knees before the President’s wife, kissed her
hand, and murmured “Vivy L’Impératrice.” I must admit she was a
fascinating creature. He cried afterwards and begged my forgiveness. But
there! my memories of the hallowed Grimes are too sacred to recall his
little failings.

But to return to the home-coming of Benbow. As I have said, there was a
terrible rumpus when he arrived. He came to the grog shanty ere he went
up to his home, accompanied by Ken-can, his chief mate, who had a face
like a death’s-head and on his lips a sinister, everlasting grin.

Ken-can was a mystery, and, God knows, he looked one. They even hinted
in the shanty that he had once been a hangman in Sydney. Be that as it
may, no one on earth knew why Benbow liked, or even tolerated, that
shadow-like, silent figure by his side. He seldom spoke, his eyes seemed
always staring, as though he knew his destiny, and moved towards it with
a grin. He looked and behaved, for all the world, like a peaked-capped,
ragged, walking scarecrow, watching over old Benbow and striving to
frighten off his jolly pals. He would stand at the shanty door while
Benbow drank, waiting like some Nemesis. When Benbow was in his
homestead, and the shellbacks roared forth their songs, that ragged
figure would stand before the door, staring at the stars. Waylao would
run by him half scared out of her wits, as if he were a ghost.

He roused my curiosity, and one night as he stood outside the shanty
staring up at the heavens I asked him for a match, put out my hand to
receive it, and lo! I touched nothing—the figure, that sardonic face,
had vanished.

“Rum,” you say. Well, perhaps you haven’t lived near Tai-o-hae. It may
have been a joke of Ken-can’s; he knew that we discussed him, and called
him “that mystery.” He looked unearthly enough for a joke of any subtle
kind.

Well that night when the beachcombers were sitting in Benbow’s snug
parlour roaring forth song in the good old style, while their host was
reviving his wonderful tales of his good old blackbirding days, Waylao
crept out of the forest, returning from her tryst. The sounds of that
rollicking chorus told her that her father was home from sea. She was
trembling, for she had just crossed the hollows where the officials had
but a few days before found a dead convict, an escape with gyves still
gripping his cold wrists. As the girl approached her home she saw that
everlasting figure, Ken-can, standing at the door, pointing with his
finger to the stars. His shadow on the moonlit taro patch by the door
was the first hint of his presence to Waylao. That shadow stood erect in
the moonlight, magnified on the mossy slope in front of the brightly lit
parlour window. Even the bearded faces of the shellbacks, lifting mighty
shadow rum mugs to their lips, were distinctly visible on that little
slope outside.

Waylao crept by Ken-can with her face half averted; like a
terror-stricken child she rushed by him, entered the doorway and nearly
fell into her mother’s arms. I could easily understand Waylao’s fright,
for I had often felt that way myself, in the dark. Old Benbow embraced
his daughter. His pride at seeing her developed beauty was immense. He
held her in his arms as he sat there in the old chair surrounded by his
ragged, impecunious courtiers. Old Lydia opened her mouth with
astonishment and pride as Benbow told of his wonderful deeds.

Grimes became quite sentimental as he gazed at Waylao: it was he who
suggested that the crew should arise and drink her health. His voice, as
he sang beside me, sounded quite sweet as he joined in each old English
song that the wild men of the sea yelled.

Benbow ordered Waylao out of the room ere he began to tell the latest
Tahitian love stories. He prided himself on being a wise and just
parent. “Mates,” he said, as he gave a knowing wink, “it’s best to keep
such tales from young ears, and so let a girl remain innocent of such
ribaldry.”

Grimes and I saw her that night. We were just off home to the hulk when
she came out of the little room. Grimes hiccupped, and gave her a
flower, falling forward gallantly on one knee and kissing her hand as he
presented the innocent gift. Waylao looked very pleased, as I held
Grimes’s arm tightly and helped him away, and she waved her hand till we
got out of sight. When I look back and reflect, I feel how much better
it would have been for her to have died that night, so dark was the
morrow and the many morrows to come.

In a week Benbow had sailed away; he was off to New Caledonia. The rum
barrel was empty, and the shellbacks were blessing his name for all the
joy he had brought them.

After that night Grimes and I secured a berth on a tramp steamer. We
went to Honolulu and to Samoa on a trip that lasted three months.

When we returned things were much about the same. Many of the old faces
were still there. Some had left and had been replaced by others who were
as wonderful in their way as my former friends. Uncle Sam was delighted
to see me again. The old Scotsman’s face beamed with pride as Grimes
treated them all to saloon drinks, and Mrs Ranjo put on her holiest
smile and even blushed at times. Of course one must bear in mind that I
seldom drank strong liquor. I have explained that this one virtue of
mine was due to a weak stomach. But it was no good offering those old
shellbacks religious tracts and olive oil to make them smile. I wanted
to see them happy, and so I had to treat them to the juice of the grape:
it was the golden key to the temples of their dreams.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XVI

The Discovery—Waylao’s Flight—A South Sea Scandal—I fall in with the
  Fugitive—The Convict Girl—Sorrow and Sympathy—What the Tide
  brought Back—Waylao’s Second Escape


I HARDLY know how to place the following incidents as they occurred.
Perhaps it will be best to give Lydia’s account of what had happened in
our absence.

It appeared that Waylao had been feeling sick for several weeks, and had
become strangely absent-minded. Night after night the girl had gone off
to get her mother’s stores and had completely forgotten them. One night
Mrs Benbow went to bed enraged at her daughter’s absence from the
domestic domicile. In the morning she got up full of suspicion, went
into the misguided girl’s room and found Waylao fast asleep.

“Get up, you lazy hussys; to tink that I, yours old mothers, the
descendant of great kinks [kings], should have to feed chicken while my
lazy daughters lay in beds!” Saying this, the old woman pulled the
bed-clothes right off Waylao—puff! As the girl stood before her irate
parent attired in her night attire, trembling with fear, the native
woman yelled fiercely: “Where yous go these nights after nights? What
yous do? Now then, tell me! Your father is far at sea, so you tink you
does as you likes with mees!”

Waylao said nothing. She hung her head and then stared through the
little lattice window.

Suddenly the mother said with a startled voice, a voice that was shrill
with horror:

“Gods Almighties! What you been doing?” This horrified shout was
immediately followed by the frantic woman clutching the Oriental muslin
robe from Waylao’s trembling figure.

The unhappy girl still stared, paralysed by the look of astonishment and
rage on her mother’s face.

Old Lydia was speechless. Her eyes rolled as though she were in a fit.
She opened her mouth wide, then the muscular rigidity of her face
relaxed, the jaws met together with a frightful click. It was a
convulsive movement, a faint expression of the horror she felt at the
discovery of the secret—revealed at last.

For several minutes Benbow’s cottage fairly trembled. It seemed to
Waylao that a flash of lightning came out of her mother’s eyes, followed
by a mighty crash that split the universe in twain. The old woman
clapped her hands together like an idiot, stamped her feet, then poured
forth volleys of her fiercest invectives. She went mad, danced and
whirled in a kind of heathen frenzy, leaping forward like a puppet, over
and over again, to strike that unhappy sinner, the wretched victim of
passion and romance.

Finally the demented old woman rushed into the next room, clutched hold
of the new tea set that she had given Waylao on her last birthday,
lifted each pretty china article above her head, and smashed it to atoms
at her feet.

Like a beautiful, sculptured figure, emblematical of the forlorn
betrayed, the poor girl still stood, silent, her eyes staring like
glassy terror, one foot outstretched as though to help the better to
bear the weight of humanity’s pious wrath on her guilty head. Old Lydia
forgot her own sins (she admitted this after); she was a Christianised
native woman; her daughter had disgraced her. It was terrible. The last
thread of self-control snapped in that old barbarian’s brain as with a
pious howl she rushed forward and fastened her teeth in the wretched
girl’s arm.

“Who did it? Who is it? Tell me, you wicked villains!” she shrieked.

Waylao stood silent as death, as mother and daughter faced each other.
Only the old grandfather’s clock broke the silence of those dreadful
minutes, ticking off, as though with sorrow, the flight of time.

“If yous don’t tells me the man, I’ll kills you!” shrieked the
infuriated woman. With the pluck born of resignation, the true pluck
that is found in most women when the supreme moment comes for the test,
the girl stared ahead with a look of secret defiance and loyalty to her
Indian cut-throat.

Like a big marionette on a stick, the dusky old woman jumped up to the
low-roofed ceiling three times, then, with a howl, rushed into the next
room and clutched hold of the huge family war-club hanging on the
parlour wall. In her flurry she tripped over the matting and fell.
Scrambling to her feet, she rushed back into the bedroom—it was empty.
In that moment of her mother’s absence Waylao had fled.

The old woman gasped, then rushed out of the cottage door, spurred by
mingled feelings of hatred and remorse.

“Wayee! Wayee! Wheres ares you? Come back! Come back! Tells me all,” she
shouted.

The old Marquesan woman stared through the colonnades of bread-fruits,
and listened. She heard nothing but the low cry of the katafa bird,
bound seaward, breaking the stillness.

All that day and the next day the sad old mother searched and called in
vain. She wandered like one demented to the huts of the native villages,
calling aloud for Waylao, telling every greedy listener of her sorrow.

The scandal swept with magical rapidity from village to village, from
shore to shore. Indeed scandal was as rampant in the South Seas as in
the cities of civilisation.

The rumour spread and spread, and took on wondrous shapes and hideous
detail. Some pitied the girl, and cried: “What! Waylao? Well, I never!
Poor Waylao!”

Others cried: “Shame! Shame! Oh, the sinful wretch to do so! Kill her!
Kill her!”

Old Ranjo tucked his shirt-sleeves up and struck fearsome imaginary
blows into the air of his saloon bar, blows that his heart yearned to
inflict on the girl’s betrayer. Uncle Sam got fearfully drunk.

The Irishman and Scotsman went into wordy rivalry over similar sorrows
in their boyhood’s memory. The reformed harlot from Sydney swooned with
sheer disgust to think sensuality had existed so near her virtuous
homestead.

The day after Waylao’s flight the scandal was raging like a violent
epidemic among the native and white settlers, for Waylao’s beauty and
sweet disposition had won for her the love of all the genuine men and
women of those parts.

So much was whispered and exaggerated over the reputation of the missing
girl that the little native children sat by the camp-fires huddled in
fright; they would look awestruck around and behind them, gazing into
the forest gloom, expecting to see the awful Waylao leap from the
shadows like a spirit-woman. Old chiefs lifted their hands as they
discussed, in hushed voices, with their Christianised wives the fall of
the beautiful half-white woman, and the subsequent shock to the morals
of the semi-heathen villages.

The great Christianised chiefess, Manaraoa, wailed out, “O Mita Savoo!
The devil allee samee good, ee always get ’is own,” then she too lifted
the bottle of gin to her lips and drank, to drown her grief, her
disgust, that a girl should fall so low.

Grimes and I had only just returned from Honolulu when we heard of
Waylao’s flight. We were sitting in the old grog shanty counting out our
hard-earned money. “We shall never make our fortunes at this rate,
Grimes,” said I, as I counted out the dollars.

“Never mind, pal,” said Grimes. “We’ll be wealthy by and by.”

“Yes,” said I, “when it’s too late to enjoy life, when we only want to
sit over the smouldering bonfire of our shattered dreams and warm our
hearts by the pale hearth-fire of the distant stars.”

“Blow the stars and yer shattered dreams! You’re allus finking everfing
is too late. We can be gay old men, can’t we?” responded my sensible
pal. Then he continued: “Look at the tharsands of giddy old men in
London, a-making up for all that didn’t ’appen in their ’appy youth.”
Considerably cheered by Grimes’s philosophy, we leaned back on to the
old settee and prepared for an afternoon’s siesta.

It was at this moment that Mrs Ranjo dropped a bombshell of surprise on
us.

“Hi, Mr Violinist, have you heard the latest?”

“No,” we responded drowsily, hardly looking up, for the latest was
generally some old joke from the prehistoric period.

“Waylao, Benbow’s pretty daughter, has got into trouble with some
beachcomber, you know, got _like that_.” And then she added, with her
eyebrows raised: “She’s bolted from home, kicked out by her mother.”

“No!” was our simultaneous ejaculation. We sat bolt upright and stared
like two idiots. That exclamation expressed the chaos of our thoughts.
It was like the erect ears and tail of canine astonishment; we were
dumb-struck, alert with surprise.

Grimes went quite ghastly; he looked sallow beneath his bronzed skin.
When we had heard all that Mrs Ranjo had to say, we went out into the
open.

“Well!” was all I could utter as the fresh breeze revived my thinking
power. Grimes for a moment was strangely silent, then suddenly started
off at full speed from my side! Away he went, his big feet shuffling and
stirring up clouds of sand as he raced.

I looked ahead to see the meaning of it all. There was no apparent
reason for his racing off like that. I stared with astonishment as he
reached the coco-palms down by the beach, turned right about, and once
again, with his elbows raised in racing attitude, came flying back to
where I stood.

“What’s the matter, pal?” I said. He did not reply at first, then he
said hoarsely: “Blimey! fancy ’er a-going wrong—that hangel!”

For a moment he stared in front of him, then continued: “Cawn’t we foind
’er? I’m in love with ’er, that’s where it is!”

It was then that I saw that Grimes had run just as an animal in pain
runs—to relieve his feelings.

I did not wonder, or take much notice of his wild remarks; for Grimes
and I had had many adventures together, so that his peculiarities had
become quite commonplace to me. He was all of a-tremble when I left him.

That night I went up to see old Lydia, and found the poor native woman
half demented. She knew me well. I was truly sorry for her and all
concerned. She wrung her hands with grief, cried like a child,
reiterating the full account of the terrible discovery. With frequent
sobs of remorse she related each incident, hiding nothing, behaving as
though it relieved her feelings to unburden her mind. “Mees old heathen
bitch!” she wailed, as she beat her flanks with her hands. “My pretty
Wayee, I send ’er way to the forest. Benbow kill mees when he comes
’ome.” So did the old girl ramble on, uttering a multitude of original
phrases that expressed genuine grief and despair.

I took the grieving mother’s hand and swore that I would do my best to
find her daughter and persuade her to return home.

Ere I left that little cottage the old woman flung her tawny arms about
me, kissed me hysterically, and said: “You bewtifool white mans, you no
say much, allee samee good Clistian man.”

Then I went away under the coco-palms to do as I had promised, and see
Father O’Leary, and tell him all that the poor mother had confided to
me.

I found the old priest at prayers, “My son, I have heard all,” he said,
as he lifted his hands to the sky. I felt sorry for him as he lifted his
old eyes and said: “My lost sheep, my little Waylao.” Then to my
astonishment he said: “Damn!”

This mild oath from the earnest ecclesiastic made me feel more sorry
than ever; I saw how intense was his sorrow.

Though I was a Protestant, if anything at all, he took my hand and
blessed me. To tell the truth, I loved that old priest. Though I did not
agree with half that he said, I admired and respected his sincerity. I
feel sure that he liked me, notwithstanding that I shocked him so much
at times that he lifted his hands to the skies and asked God to forgive
me. But we were pally, that old priest and I, and he was so upset that
night that he forgot to toll the mission bell.

I am not going to tell all that I did after I left that priest, or all I
felt. No one confesses their innermost thoughts—so why should I?

After seeing the priest and old Lydia I went to fulfil an engagement, at
a high-toned job, to appear at a great social gathering as violinist at
the Bishop of —— residence. But when I was about half-a-mile from
Tai-o-hae I made up my mind to let the concert go and hang itself as far
as I was concerned. I was feeling too sad about everything, as I walked
along with my violin.

No pages of romance could outvie what I experienced that night in the
silence of that tropical loneliness of heathen-land. It must have been
Fate which drew my footsteps to the solitude by the mountains near
Tai-o-hae, for I met not only Waylao, but another victim of life’s
drama.

I was passing down the track that ran beside the mountains, a lonely
spot, from where one could see the distant ocean twinkling in the
moonlight and the moth-grey sails of the outbound schooners fading out
to sea. Not far from where I stood was a chasm where the giant
bread-fruits still sheltered the ancient ruins of the heathen temple
Marea, a solemn reminder of the great old days. As I stood there alone,
drinking in the atmosphere of far-off years, a figure suddenly emerged
from a thicket of bamboos.

For a moment I could hardly believe my eyes. I had inquired and searched
at every likely place to find that sad fugitive, and lo! there stood
Waylao.

I will not dwell on all that happened, the girl’s despair and my own
feelings as I grasped the clammy hand of that sad enigma, that homeless
girl of mystery, passion and romance.

I led her into the shadows of the forest, and she cried bitterly as I
gave the sympathy she needed so much.

It seems like a dream in the recalling, the memory of that trembling
form, the wild look of terror in her eyes as at last she realised the
true character of the man whom she had worshipped. She did not divulge
the name of her betrayer, nor was it my wish to seek the information. It
was all beyond recall. One thing was very obvious to me—that she had
been to her betrayer for protection and found that he had flown directly
he had heard of her plight. I tried my best to persuade the misguided
girl to return home.

“Waylao,” I said, “I have seen your mother and she has begged me to try
and find you.” But it seemed that either she was half demented or that
her fear of Benbow and her mother made her prefer to roam homeless
rather than consent.

“I do not want to live, or if I must live, I do not wish to see those I
have disgraced again,” she murmured between her tears.

I took her hand and tried by the softest words to reassure the girl, but
it seemed hopeless. Indeed it was only when my persuasion brought a
terrified look into her eyes, and she was on the point of taking to
flight, that I led her away into the forest.

By the hollows where grew enormous banyans was a little deserted hut,
and there I led her.

“Waylao,” I said, “you cannot roam about like this; and if you are
determined not to return to your people, you had better stop here where
I can find you.”

Though I was about Waylao’s age, I felt considerably older. Indeed my
experience of the world made me look upon her as a child.

“Waylao,” I said, “I wish to be your friend. Will you let me help you?”

The girl only looked at me earnestly and burst into tears.

The night was perfectly still. The moon was shining brilliantly over the
mountains, revealing the distant shore and ocean for miles and miles.
Like some half-wild creature, the stricken girl crouched beside me. But
after a while she calmed down and even promised to try and listen to my
advice the next day, for I had arranged to come to that hut, to bring
food and blankets.

It was more like some Byronic romance than reality as I thought of our
strange position and looked at the girl beside me. She was robed in a
picturesque multi-coloured kimono, that she had hastily snatched up, I
suppose, in her flight. A few flowers were in her hair, that crown of
rich, glossy splendour, and made her appear wildly beautiful as the
dishevelled tresses fell about her throat, gleaming white in the
moonlight. I tried to cheer her up. Taking the violin out of the case, I
was lifting the bow to play a song that I had heard her sing in the
shanty when we heard a voice. For a moment I wondered what on earth it
could mean, for I distinctly heard the strains of sweet singing coming
nearer and nearer.

Waylao clung to me with fright. I immediately reassured her, for,
looking out through the thickets of wild _feis_, I saw a faery-like
being in the distance. I stared in astonishment at that sight. I rubbed
my eyes to convince myself that I did not dream it all; for there,
coming down the forest track on weary feet, outlined in the moonlight,
came the figure of a girl. Even Waylao half forgot her own sorrows as
she too peeped out of the thickets, watched and listened to that wraith
of the forest singing the saddest, sweetest strain I ever heard. It is
some phantom girl of the mountains, thought I, for in those days I was
mad enough to believe anything.

“What can it be, Waylao?” I whispered as we both watched and the melody
grew clearer, for the figure was coming towards us. As the form
approached, it seemed to be swaying to the tremulous song that the lips
were singing in a strange language. It were impossible to describe the
pathos of it all. It seemed that the poor, weary feet of that castaway,
that the dilapidated shoes that she wore, were shuffling out some
terribly sad accompaniment to that French song—for that wandering girl
of the night was an escapee, a convict girl from New Caledonia, a poor
fugitive who had stowed away on some schooner at the convict
settlements, risking the horrors of a homeless life in those wild South
Seas rather than live on linked with criminals. She was still clad in
her ragged convict clothes, the misery of God knows what thoughts
shining in her eyes, as she tramped the night track by Tai-o-hae.

Ere I could recover from the wonder that thrilled me the convict girl
was right opposite our hiding-place. I distinctly saw the beautiful
outline of her face as the moonlight streamed through the branches of
the bread-fruits that sheltered the track.

So intensely sad was her face that I instinctively leaned forward and
stared. In a moment the song ceased. The girl had observed me; she half
turned, as if to fly. It must have been some expression of my face that
made her stay, look again and respond half fearfully to my beckoning.

I think the memory, the pathos of that scene will remain with me till I
die.

The escapee’s eyes filled with tears as Waylao threw her arms about that
frail, possibly lately lashed form, for Waylao understood more than I
did the plight of those wretched derelicts who escaped and drifted as
stowaways across the Pacific from Noumea. Either they came to those
parts, hunted men—seldom women—or their skeletons were discovered in the
hold of some ship wherein they had hidden their trembling frames too
well.

So did romance come to me in its saddest, most terrible form. Nothing,
not even the sorrow of Calvary, could outdo that tragedy, that picture
of man’s inhumanity and mighty injustice to those in his power.

With all the impulsiveness of a boy’s wild desire to help the stricken,
to plead for the beauty of romance in woman, I knelt at that altar of
misery.

It may sound like a page from a drama that never saw the light of day. I
only wish it _were_ a fevered dream of the brain. But it was real
enough, though it certainly sounds sufficiently mad to be untrue in this
world of inscrutable mockery, where man lifts his eyes piously, and
where all his prayers begin or end with “God have mercy upon _me_!”

God! I’ve done glorious mission work in my time.

We took the poor escapee into the forest depth so that she might be safe
from the eyes of the gendarmes, the hunters, the officials of the
calaboose near Tai-o-hae, and she stood trembling beside us, beneath
those giant bread-fruits. Even those old, insensate trees seemed to bend
tenderly over that hunted convict girl.

After she had discovered that we were friends and had listened to our
sympathy, a beautiful expression, an almost indescribable splendour lit
up her tearful face. She looked like some fallen angel: the earnest
stars seemed to shine in her eyes as she stood before us, the dirty
strip of blue ribbon fluttering at her beautiful throat as she wept, and
told us all—yes, even the crime of passion which had caused her to be
exiled from her La Belle France.

As we listened to her story, we three huddled together in that forest,
the scents of the damp glooms were stirred by the creeping zephyrs, as
though the mighty brooding heart of Nature was in sympathy with all we
heard and with unseen fingers touched us, and sighed the breath from her
dead forest flowers upon us, as I sat there with those two beautiful
castaways, one a child of the South, and one from far-away civilisation.

I can still hear the terribly sad music of that voice, as in pathetic,
broken English she almost sang her sorrow into our ears.

She told us how justice was meted out to her, how fierce, relentless men
came in the disguise of outraged righteousness, seized her and shut her
with her remorse in that coffin whereon no flowers are placed: nailing a
young girl down with all her shattered dreams—alive, inside.

As Waylao and I listened to her story, I imagined that girl to be some
terrible symbol, some sad, beautiful personification of all the
castaways of the earth. The very winds seemed to shriek triumphantly, as
though they still roared out the hate of pious men, and coming from the
far-off cities across the seas, rushed up that shore and shook the
forest trees violently with pursuing hands. I felt as though the world
of reality had long since been shattered back into its hell by the final
cataclysm, the crash of the spheres; that I sat there with the remnant,
two beings it had failed to crush, but had left behind, gloriously
beautiful with sorrow, in a new, divine form. As for me, it seemed as
though I were some great mistake, some man, by a sad mischance, still
left behind on earth, and I sat between them listening and hung my head
for shame.

Out of another’s sorrow balm came to Waylao: she wept not for herself,
but for the ragged figure, the blistered feet of the derelict beside us.

O heart of mine! Is it true that the forest trees brightened with
ethereal light—that an angel stood weeping in those woods—that a
stricken phantom girl seemed to step from the confessional box of that
almighty cathedral of giant trees and the domed starlit night, her soul
renewed with glory, her shattered dreams restored by our sympathy?

Was it a fallen angel, a phantom of the imagination, that came down to
us in the forest by Tai-o-hae, sang that French hymn to beauty, and,
with the stars shining in her flying mass of hair,

                  Danced as the winds came creeping in
                  And I played on the violin!

Yes, danced, as the mad shadow played and played the songs of romance
and the waves beat out their warning monotones on the beach below.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Early the next day I hurried back to my two sad fugitives in their hut
by the sea. Ere I had left them the night before I had made them promise
not to stray away from that spot.

It would have been better if I had broken my promise and gone straight
to old Lydia and told her of Waylao’s whereabouts. But as usual in this
funny world, I managed to do the wrong thing at exactly the right
moment.

So strange and sad had been the happenings of the previous night that I
half fancied I had dreamed of Waylao and that hut in the forest and the
convict girl. That morning I went to Mrs Ranjo and got her to lend me
two blankets. “I’ve got an awful chill on the lungs,” I wailed
plaintively, in order to satisfy the bar-woman’s curiosity, and departed
for the forest with a parcel of dainty things.

When I arrived at that little hut by the mountains, there they still
were, huddled together, sisters of grief in each other’s arms. It is
hard to know, even now, which was the greatest sinner—Mohammed in the
South Seas, or “Christianity’s” strange justice in the civilised world.

I still recall the earnest eyes of that grateful convict girl as I crept
into that little shelter.

Ah, God! it’s hard to have been a missionary at the altar of romance and
beauty, to have reaped so little reward for so much sorrow. The milk of
human kindness is indeed diluted and hard to digest. That same night
Waylao and I listened to the wretched escapee’s story. She told us why
she had been transported for life, but it is too sad a tale to tell
here. She was a Parisian girl of superior family, and had suffered for
twelve months in the galleys and in the hideous chain gangs of Noumea
ere she escaped. She had stowed away in the hold of a small schooner
that called with stores at Noumea. Friendly sailors had connived to let
her slip ashore unperceived at Nuka Hiva a few days before Waylao and I
met her.

As we sat under the trees of that forest near Tai-o-hae, she seemed
still to be a being from another world. Our sympathy, which she had
probably never thought to find again on earth, inspired her with a new,
half-etherealised existence. Strange as it may appear to the marble-like
human beings of the great, polite world, she sang to us, swaying like to
some faery creature as I played to her on my violin. Ah! What a soloist
I’ve been! Who has had such fame, such success as I? What an audience
was mine—when I played to immortality, to those earnest eyes, to those
sad lips singing magical French songs to us. I think God must have
composed the melodies we three sang together in those wide halls before
the footlight of the stars, over the seas, years ago.

The native drums had already beaten the last stars in as I sat there in
deep thought, pondering over it all, wondering what was the best thing
to do for that poor derelict’s sake. As Waylao wept on, the lost escapee
rose as though restless, as though she wished to leave us. Her
restlessness had already worried me, for it was not the first time she
had intimated that she must leave us. Indeed Waylao had almost promised
me that she would return home for that derelict girl’s sake. For I must
confess that I had traded on the miraculous appearance of that fugitive,
and had sought to make her the instrument to serve two purposes.

“Waylao,” I said, “if you return to your mother, we can, with each
other’s help, hide this poor castaway till such time as we can help her
to get to a safer retreat.” At this Waylao had listened earnestly and,
for the sake of the French convict girl, promised to go home. I was
delighted at the way things were working, till that French girl rose and
intimated that she must go away.

“Why go? We will look after you,” we said appealingly.

I even told her that I would try and get her a passage back to the
colonies, so that she could once more get back to France.

She shook her head. She must never, never go back to the West; but must
ever wander, lost, exiled, with her face turned to the South, hopeless,
forgotten by all.

Waylao threw her arms about the girl, imploring her not to leave her.
When they had wept a little while together, the convict girl gave us to
understand that she wished to be left alone with her God for a while. We
were strangely impressed by the earnestness of her manner. Her eyes had
an indescribable look of beauty in them. The smile on her mouth almost
brought the tears to my eyes. I no longer sought to look for meanings of
anything. I sat there like one in a dream, as though I were doing my
part on some unknown stage where some mysterious drama was being
enacted.

“Mon dieu! I will come back to you again, sister,” she whispered in
broken English as Waylao kissed her. She went down the little track that
led to the shore. We saw her turn and wave her hand as she turned round
by the buttressed banyans and then disappeared.

Waylao and I waited together. As the wind came in from the sea and
wailed in the giant bread-fruits overhead, we felt strangely unhappy. At
last I listened to Waylao, whose instincts were stronger than mine in
fathoming the ways of her sex. I had already given up any idea of my
returning to Tai-o-hae. I determined to stay with Waylao till her
new-found comrade returned. We must have walked up and down that track
and along the shore for hours searching, and even calling, in hopes that
the fugitive would hear us and return. It was only when Waylao was
almost dropping with exhaustion that I returned to the hut in the
forest. Again we sat and still waited for the return of the girl who had
strangely gripped us by the very heart-strings. I made a soft bed of
moss and dead weeds for the homeless girl beside me. She lay down, and
ere I had spread the blanket over her figure she had fallen into a deep
sleep of exhaustion. Then I crept away down to the shore to smoke and
with the hope of discovering our lost companion.

Ah, God! Dawn came stealing in, like hushed grey wings sending the stars
home before their wide, silent sweep. Ere the first burnished flame of
the sun touched the horizon the blue lagoons of the shores sprang into
view. Scarcely a ripple stirred the deep waters of the Pacific as they
heaved, dark and immense, like some mighty, troubled tomb, ere it gave
up its dead.

Then her body came in on the tide, lifting and falling with the swell.
Even the tropic birds seemed to give a low cry of sorrow as they swept
away over the hushed waters. Just as the poets might say—her beautiful
hair floated like a glinting mass of softest seaweed. It might have been
a sleeping mermaid floating shoreward. Not in all the world of romance
and reality could one imagine a sight to outrival the pathos, the
ineffable sorrow of that castaway returning to the shores of earth—on
the incoming tide. I can still see the South Sea chestnut-trees and the
leaning bread-fruits as they stretched their tasselled, twining arms
over that blue lagoon. The mirroring water shone like purest glass above
the multi-coloured corals of the still depths. On she came. The blue
strip of ribbon was still at her throat, like some weeping symbol, a
tiny flag that had once fluttered on the visionary turrets of the
enchanted castle of a girl’s dreams. There it hung, limp as the hands
that had tied it there, after all the faeries had flown back to the
stars. As she reclined on the surface of those deep, clear waters, her
shadow was perfectly outlined, and her sleeping face sideways on her
hanging arm distinctly visible beneath her. Even the strip of ribbon was
imaged, and fluttered once again as the little starfish sailed right
_through_ it.

The light of man’s cruelty, the hopelessness of all the creeds, shone in
her dead eyes.

So died the convict girl. Sympathy had made her brave. She had regained
belief in the goodness of things, recaptured, out of misery, the lost
faith of her childhood; fearlessly risked her all—gone before One who
would not judge as men judge, or condemn the clay of His own fashioning.

They buried her by Calaboose Hill, in the hidden cemetery of the forest
depth, where lay old Marquesan chiefs and the home-sick white men. And
I, irreligious wretch that I am, went to that hallowed spot, leaned over
the dead escapee and placed a little cross on the grave.

After that terrible discovery I returned to Waylao, hardly conscious of
what I should say. For a while I managed to keep the sorrow of it from
her. She saw by my manner that something terrible had occurred; indeed
she half guessed the truth before I told her anything. Her grief was
terrible. I did my best to console the poor girl.

“Waylao,” I said, “it is no good grieving; she has gone from all the
sorrow of this world; and but for this little bit of ribbon we might
well imagine that such a being never existed, never drifted out of the
stars, and then, leaving these dilapidated shoes behind, escaped from
the clutches of the convict officials.”

Taking her hand as tenderly as a brother might take the hand of an
erring sister, I said: “Waylao, come away home to your people. I have
been to Father O’Leary and he wants to see you.” Then I told her once
more of her mother’s grief over her flight, of all the kind things that
people had said about her—for I, too, can be a holy liar—and I took her
away over the hills. She was strangely silent as she walked beside me.

“I don’t want to go back, I cannot,” she said when we were within sight
of the township. I did not dream of the true state of her mind. All that
she had gone through, and the sudden loss of her new-made friend in her
sorrow, had evidently unhinged her mind, for I never saw any woman run
like she did. We were just passing by a clump of bread-fruits that
stretched into the deeper forest by Tai-o-hae when I looked up and saw
her bolting.

Recovering from my astonishment, I started off in pursuit. She was light
of frame and foot, and so easily outpaced me.

I was more upset at this turn of affairs than I would like to confess.
When I got back to the old hulk I was sweating and exhausted through my
hopeless search. I thought it best to say nothing to anyone except
Father O’Leary of what had happened. To tell the truth, I began to
wonder what construction might be put on my unconventional interest in
Waylao’s plight. I suppose, even now, old Mother Grundy will have her
private opinion, but what care I, safe out here in the solitude of
Savaii Isles! I wonder what she would think of my next chance meeting
with the half-caste girl. Yes, we met again some time later, and in the
most miraculous way—far out at sea. But there’s a good deal to tell
before I reach that episode.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XVII

A Pacific Storm—A Glimpse of Pauline—Waylao on the Hulk—Her Many
  Fathers—Grimes’s Unuttered Proposal—A Serenading Fiasco—Hermionæ


TWO days after I had lost sight of Waylao I was sitting in the shadows
of the banyans near the Broom Road. Grimes was laid up in the hulk with
a sprained ankle, through some wild spree in the grog shanty. I had been
that day to Father O’Leary and told him my experiences. The old priest
was terribly upset, but we were both hoping that Waylao might eventually
turn up.

It had been a wild night. A storm had swept the Pacific Ocean into an
infinite expanse of flaming foam. Earth, air and sea had become, for a
while, a mighty harp for the passions of the elements to play upon,
while the great mountain peaks caught the vast cloud wracks flying
beneath the moon on their pinnacles. Each moment I saw those mists
tossed into glorious silvered waves of multitudinous shapes, as they
broke away and, like raging phantom seas, rolled across the sky.

There was no rain. Only the wild song of the pines and bread-fruits on
the ranges were singing to the storm. Then the distant ocean ceased its
wild tumbling, the passion of the winds died away, the long-drawn
thunder of the seas on the shore reefs decreased, and only after wide
intervals came the moan of those ramping shore chargers. The landscape
of forest and mountain scene appeared like some mystical shadow-land as
the visionary light of the constellations shone again across infinity. I
recall the creeping natives moving along like dusky ghosts after the
storm, only their shaggy heads dripping wet with the heavy, silvered
rains of brilliant moonlight that fell glimpsing through the palms.

Again I fancy I hear them singing their legendary songs, strains of wild
music telling of the dark ages. I see them sitting or dancing by their
huts, embrace and whirl away, vanish in the shadows like the phantoms of
some far-off, forgotten world.

Such are my memories of the night when Pauline came to me out of the
shadows. I had wandered back to the vicinity of the grog shanty. As I
stood smoking, and in deep reflection, I saw two figures pass out of the
shanty’s saloon door; away they went staggering along the same old
track, bound for that lonely habitation by the mountains—it was John L——
and his everlasting dodging pal. Pauline’s father was quite drunk. I
could hear his wailing voice singing some English song till the musical
groans faded right away up in the hills.

Then she came, Pauline, the white girl. Her eyes were shining with fear
as she hovered by the shanty door. Those shellbacks and all the types of
derelicts were singing their wildest songs as she listened for her
father’s voice.

So beautiful did she appear to me as we met each other beneath the palms
that I half fancied she might be some spiritual creation treading the
mossy earth.

I had seen her before, but that did not destroy the impression she made.
I suppose I had a fit of my old insanity upon me. It may have been the
full moon, or hereditary taint, the strain of some mad ancestor. Anyway
everything appeared beautiful to me; even the roughest of men seemed to
have shining eyes from which gleamed a glory of divinity, in strange
disguise, expressing some hidden poetry of the universe.

I was playing my violin when she came, and still played on as she
stepped out of the bamboo thickets. Standing there in the shadows before
me, she seemed as ethereal as the vision of my figurehead.

I trembled from head to foot. She looked up and said: “How beautiful!”

I had once hoped to outrival Paganini and make men stare with wonder as
I played before them. I had hoped to do fine things, but never in all
the glorious fervour of imaginative ambition had I dreamed of such a
tremendous success as the praise of those lips.

I looked into those clear, earnest eyes; they were as blue as the tropic
midnight sky—and as expressive.

For a moment I could not speak. Then she said: “What is the name of the
piece you have just played?”

I felt embarrassed. Even as she spoke I heard in the distance the
rollicking songs and the shanty oaths to which I had become so
accustomed.

As I looked up into the eyes of that girl, her wind-blown hair
fluttering into thick tresses that fell about her shoulders, I recovered
my mental faculties and responded:

“The piece that I have just played is called—_Pauline_!”

For a moment she stared at me. I was brave enough at times and I gazed
back defiantly. I knew I had a right to call my improvisations by any
name that I chose.

At first she responded with a smile that thrilled me. Then her pretty
mouth rippled into laughter.

“That is _my_ name,” she said.

“I know it is,” I replied.

I began to tremble. I cursed my shabby suit; only the brass buttons told
of better days. My soul cried within me. I yearned to be attired in such
a material as God has fashioned for his angels. I felt that I was some
earthy, soddened being, one not even fitted to play a violin to so
ethereal a creature.

And what happened then—well, that which usually happens when all that we
yearn for seems to be within our grasp—she flitted away into the
shadows, away back to her enchanted castle in the mountains. I did not
see Pauline for many a weary day after that. In the ordinary course of
things that happen on man’s inky ways, she should from this point keep
slipping into my pages with delightful continuity. But, alas! I am only
telling the facts of the case.

                  *       *       *       *       *

About two days after the foregoing events Uncle Sam, Grimes and a few
more impecunious gentlemen were walking along the beach near the Broom
Road when suddenly the old American said: “Hello! What’s that?” There in
the shade of the bamboos, right in front of their eyes, stood Waylao.

“Hello, girlie,” said Uncle Sam. “Waal, I reckon you’ve run across the
right sort.”

The old Yankee’s voice was thick with emotion as he stared at the
trembling girl.

“Come here, gal; you look ill. What ’ave they been doing to you? Not
’elping yer in trouble, I knows, eh?”

The concerned gaze on the rough face before her and the note of kindness
in the voice was too much for Waylao—she burst into tears.

“Oh, take me away, hide me,” she wailed.

Uncle Sam took the girl by the hand and led her away.

“I’ll be ’sponsible for yer,” said the old American.

Grimes chewed the end of his clay pipe right off; it fell at his feet as
he lifted his eyes to the sky and murmured: “My gawd! ain’t she
bewtifool! Fancy the loikes of ’er a-wandering about wifout frens!”

That same night Waylao sat hidden in the old hulk by the promontory, the
crowd of beachcombers around her. That hulk in the moonlight, with its
rotting figurehead appealing to the sky-line, might have appeared to a
stranger the most isolated spot in the South Seas. But a pathetic human
drama was being enacted in the bowels of that derelict.

I wish I had had a camera in those days. A photograph of those
shellbacks sitting on their barrels round that forlorn girl would have
been worth its weight in gold.

She looked like some trapped faery creature as she sat there dimly
outlined in the gloom, with glimpses of moonlight, through the broken
deck roof, flitting about the folds of her mass of glorious hair. One
would hardly believe the way those rough men looked after that girl, or
the tenderness of their private comments. One went off to the stores of
the township and purchased, on tick, the most delicate articles of food.
Uncle Sam made her swallow a tiny drop of whisky. “It won’t ’urt yer,
gal—that’s it, that’s it,” he said when Waylao at last sipped it. The
spirit pulled her together; she even smiled when the old shellback made
his antiquated jokes for her special benefit.

That night the crew prepared a bed for her at the far end of the
derelict’s hold. Each hand was eager to add to her comfort. They piled
up the tubs and rubbish till a wall divided her chamber from the rest of
them.

“Here’s my coat,” said one. Another lent a faithful ragged overcoat of
many years, so green that it looked as though it were growing moss; some
even gave their clean shirts. Bill Grimes rushed ashore and gathered a
heap of soft, sweet-scented seaweed. This made an excellent mattress.

When at length the bed was ready, it was quite a sumptuous pile; not a
man but eyed it with approval, and felt that he had done his bit, and
when eventually she lay down, one by one leaned over the improvised bed
and tucked her in. They looked so proud and pleased that one would have
thought each man was her father. The night was terrifically hot, so
their efforts to add to her comfort only succeeded in making Waylao
perspire. But nevertheless such was her gratitude that she smiled
through her misery when the jovial, generous Irishman placed two more
overcoats on her and, still half worried, said: “There you are, missy;
begorra, you won’t be cold _now_, will you?”

They all crept away to the far end of the hold, and instead of sitting
and yarning and using their wonderful oaths as usual, they sat smoking,
deep in thought. I say _wonderful_ oaths, because they were connoisseurs
in such matters. As a dog’s wagging tail expresses more truth and
gratitude than all human language, so those oaths expressed the true
depth of their feelings.

Next morning Ranjo missed his rough customers: they were hidden from the
blazing sun, all down in the hulk’s gloomy depth. There they sat on
their old barrels, holding a solemn council as to what was best to be
done about the girl who had sought their protection.

Uncle Sam pulled his whiskers. The rays of sunlight streaming through
the port-hole just above his head revealed his worried face and the
grizzled physiognomies of the sunburnt men grouped about him.

“I vote that we make her our valet de chambre,” said the Dude, who had
arrived at Nuka Hiva six months before with a bullet-hole in his
coat-tails.

“What!” ejaculated twenty deep bass voices.

“I reckon you wants to send the lot of us to hell,” said another, who
spat through the port-hole with wonderful precision and disgust as he
continued: “What would old Benbow say if he heard we’d had his daughter
down here, with coves like us?”

“Why, bless me soul,” said another, as he swiftly spat and crossed his
comrade’s last stream of tobacco juice on its way through the port-hole,
“Benbow would say that one of us” (here he lowered his voice and looked
in the direction of Waylao’s chamber) “was the father of the kid.
Where’d be the sprees when Benbow returned from his next voyage? No more
rum, I’ll bet, eh?”

“You’re about right, I reckon,” murmured the young sailors who were busy
in the corner making tobacco-pouches out of the tough skin of an
albatross’s feet.

The Dude from the London Stock Exchange said: “What a fuss to make over
a girl being in the family way.” Then he went on carefully cutting out a
new pair of paper cuffs, which he always wore to impress the skippers of
the outgoing schooners, who might give him a passage to the
“no-extradition” colonies of South America—on tick.

Bill Grimes put his spoke in and capped the lot. Looking up at the rows
of grim faces, he gave a little embarrassed cough, then said: “It’s my
way of finking that the gal oughter git married to some ’onourable cove
who would look after ’er, make ’er ’appy.” Rubbing his scrubby chin
fiercely, he continued: “Gawd! ain’t she ’andsome!”

As he hitched his checked trousers up, Uncle Sam and all the other rough
scoundrels turned their heads and stared at him in perfect silence for
about three minutes—a silence that spoke more than a thousand words.

Grimes met the steadfast gaze with a glance of defiance. Chinese Billy
(a bilious-looking Scotsman) said: “Weel, I didna ken to live to sae
this day, Bill Grames; here’s sax-pence, get ye ashore, ha’e a whuskey.
Ye’ll ne’er earyn the price o’ a shave for that ugly mug, let alane
enough to keep a bonny lass like her!”

At this moment Uncle Sam nudged the man who was just clearing his
throat, with delight, to make a speech, for he had once been a stump
socialistic lecturer. God knows what he was about to say; but I don’t
think much golden wisdom was lost through that interruption.

Waylao was awake; she stood at the far end of the hold staring at us
all.

It was a real treat to see the politeness of those scallawags; some even
reddened slightly as she appeared before them. The Dude made his cuffs
conspicuous, pulled them down half-an-inch, put his hand to his mouth
and gave the old, artful, conventional cough to the girl.

With the appearance of Waylao the men all rose and, one by one ascending
the iron ladder that led to the deck, went ashore.

Uncle Sam stayed behind for a while with Waylao. He did his level best
to persuade her to go home. The old shellback spoke like a grandfather
to her. I think she promised to go home that night, but asked to be left
to herself that day, on the hulk. Whatever she promised was not
fulfilled, for no one saw her on that hulk again excepting Grimes. Even
Grimes wouldn’t have seen her, but for the fact that he returned to the
hulk in the daytime. He lingered about for some time ere he went aboard
and faced Waylao. This he told me with his own lips when I returned that
night from a visit that I had been compelled to pay to those whom I had
disappointed on the night of my violin engagement.

It appeared that Grimes heard the girl singing to herself as he
approached the derelict. He had contemplated going straight aboard to
make Waylao an offer of marriage.

As near as I can recall, the following is what he had intended saying:—

“I’m Bill Grimes, a nonnest man; I knows just ’ow fings is wif yer; so
I’ve come to awsk yer if yer’ll marry the loikes of me.”

Grimes nearly sobbed as I pressed his hand that night. We both felt
wretched enough by that time, for Waylao had disappeared ere sunset, and
when old Lydia came rushing down to the hulk to see her daughter, she
was too late.

It was only after several whiskies that Grimes confided in me that he
had gone on to the hulk and interviewed Waylao; but when he faced the
girl his heart failed him, and instead of rattling off the choice bits
that he had inwardly rehearsed, God knows how earnestly, he only had the
pluck to offer her all the wages that he had saved.

“Did she take it, Grimes?” said I.

“Not at first; but I made her take it, you bet,” said that sinful
worthy.

I could sympathise with old Grimes, for, to tell the truth, he was not
the only one in love. I myself was haunted by the memory of Pauline. As
I lay in slumber in that old hulk’s depth, she crept down into silent
gloom and scanned each grizzled face till she came to my bunk. I felt
her shadow arms about me. I clasped her and kissed her lips in the
glorious ecstasy of dream possession. Those dreams haunted me through
the day. I felt that I could not seek a berth on the ships.

I even went so far as to go to that hamlet by the mountains, hoping that
I should come across her, and became so romantic that I even tried to
emulate the amorous programme of old-time Spanish hidalgos, and crept
away from my comrades one night with my violin to serenade Pauline by
moonlight.

I put my whole soul into my playing as I stood beneath the palms outside
that little white-walled bungalow and watched her window. I had but a
vague notion of what I expected: perhaps I imagined that a visionary
creature would open that little lattice and gaze upon me with ecstatic
rapture. It might have come off, too, but for the curse of reality.
Alas! that the world is so commonplace nowadays. And I shall never
forget the sudden chill that crushed my hopes when old John L—— rushed
out of that little door in his night attire.

We almost came to blows as he expostulated about the d——d row I was
making while he tried to sleep after a bad spell of two weeks’ insomnia.
And when I told him I had the same right to play the violin as he had to
get drunk, he struck out.

Well, anyway, such was the result of my South Sea serenading adventure.

And the cruel disillusionment of it made me decide to accept a berth on
an outgoing boat. It so happened that the _Sea Swallow_ was off in a few
days, bound for Fiji. I knew the skipper well—we had sailed together
before. He was a fiddle-player also, and had taken a liking to me. I
went on board, signed on for the trip, and felt easier in my mind once
the decision was made. In the few days that remained before the _Sea
Swallow_ sailed I wandered about a good deal. Grimes stuck to me like a
leech. He, too, tried to get a berth on the boat, but they were full up.
We walked miles in search of Waylao, but in vain. I even began to wonder
if she might not have followed the poor ex-convict girl’s example.

Grimes was very despondent about my leaving him. We seemed to be full up
with sorrow, for we had just heard that Hermionæ, our Marquesan chum,
was dead.

I see by my log-book that Hermionæ died on 4th September, the day after
my birthday, and that I shipped on the _Sea Swallow_ on the 5th.

But I must tell you about Hermionæ. He was about eighteen years of age,
straight as a coco-palm, and as graceful as a young god. I never saw
such fine eyes as he had, full of fire and yet tender as a girl’s.

A few days before Grimes and I had dressed him up in European clothes,
for it was his ambition to wear a white collar and trousers. I fastened
an old india-rubber collar round his full throat with much difficulty.
“Keep still, will you!” I had to keep yelling as he tried to stop
dancing with delight at having that white ring round his terra-cotta
throat. When he was finally dressed up and I added an old silver watch
and a brass chain to his equipment, his handsome face was flushed with
joy and excitement.

“Joranna! me love you!” he shouted as he gambolled like a puppy on the
slope.

“You great white man now, Hermionæ,” said I. He rushed off and looked
into the clear water of the lagoon, and nearly swooned with joy as he
sighted his checked trousers!

“Me marry nice white womans?” was his first ambitious comment.

“Well, yes,” said I dubiously.

“But you no got money, Hermionæ,” I continued, looking at his handsome
face. But he was so infinitely more attractive than some of the pimply,
dough-faced beings that women have to marry that I added: “Hermionæ, you
go England, great English _whyniees_ [ladies] fall at your feet.”

“Ah, but all white papalagi married, eh?”

“Yes, most of them, Hermionæ; but you never mind, you be ‘Don Juan.’”

“What Don Joo-an?” he responded, opening his fine eyes wide.

Then I explained: “You be great Marquesan chief, all ladies look at you
and say: ‘O handsome Hermionæ, we love you, we love you! How beautiful
you are!’ Then you fall into their arms, kiss them like this.”

Here Grimes and I embraced, and showed him exactly how to do it.

He screamed with delight, like a big child. Grimes and I nearly burst
with laughter as he mimicked the scenes he pictured. Like all
Marquesans, he was alert, and swift of comprehension, and extremely
imaginative.

“Love me? Fall at my feet? Hubbie jealous? White womans love me? Me love
wife when white man no look?”

I nodded my head rapidly to each vivacious interrogation.

Then he continued: “Me kiss beautiful white womans, and great white
chiefs all come running after me like this.” Here he imitated all that
he saw in his imagination, as fat white men ran after him, while he
bolted with their wives and daughters up the great English Broom
Road.[4]

Footnote 4:

  The coast roads in Nuka Hiva and in Papeete, Tahiti, are called the
  Broom Road.

I could write several chapters about Hermionæ, his faithfulness, his
quaint ways and fascinating sins.

The last I saw of him was two days after I had dressed him up in our old
clothes, and he had swaggered about in that incongruous attire. Then he
did as he had promised—brought all the clothes back. I felt sorry for
him as, with his head hanging in sorrow, he walked majestically away,
leaving his late greatness behind him.

Ere he was out of sight I missed something. “Hermionæ,” I yelled. But he
was fleet of foot. It was too late.

Next day I met him. “Hermionæ,” said I, “you believe in great white
God?”

“Master, I believes in great Gods of white mans. I no tell story, or
steals anything that no belonga me. Me heathen, but allee samee good
Marquesan boy.”

“Hermionæ,” I said sternly, “I have not yet said that you have stolen
anything; but, anyhow, where’s that watch of mine? I missed it out of
the pocket of the checked trousers, though you swore that you had placed
it there.” I put on my most ferocious look as I proceeded: “Is this the
way that you would thank a white man who has lent you his suit?”

He hung his head with shame, avoiding my steadfast gaze.

“I no see watch, master. Someone steal your watch and you blame poor
Hermionæ.”

As he stood there in tears before me, I looked at his magnificent form.
His tawny figure was shining as with the wonderful varnish of a
thousand-guinea Stradivarius violin. About his loins was swathed the
decorated, silken tappa sash tied into a fascinating bow at the right
hip. I could not be angry with him, so I said softly and sorrowfully:
“Hermionæ, what is that bright object that I perceive distinctly
peeping, hidden just under that pretty sash bow at your hip?”

He looked at me for a moment with an interrogating, appealing glance,
then slowly withdrew the watch from beneath the silken knot.

“Hermionæ,” I said, “it’s no wish of mine that you should fall dead and
go to the white man’s hell; neither is it godly for you to have such a
wish. True enough, you have sinned in a most perfidious way; but others
have sinned as you have sinned. It has even been recorded in the history
of the white races that a watch leads many into grievous temptation.”

It was no use. Hermionæ was inconsolable. He still moaned on and beat
his bronzed chest as the tears fell upon it. Nothing that I could say
could alter his opinion but that to have rewarded my kindness to him by
such perfidy merited no less punishment than death.

For a moment, as he wailed on, I gazed steadfastly upon him. Then I
said: “Hermionæ, here’s the watch, I give it you—live on.”

For a moment he held the watch in his hand as though stupefied, still
sobbing mechanically as his head hung with shame. Then, as he lifted it
and heard the tick, tick, it seemed too much for him: still weeping, he
turned a somersault and commenced to dance with delight.

Three days after that Grimes and I went to his funeral, and it may be
imagined how upset we were. His canoe had upset in the bay and poor
Hermionæ had been killed by a shark.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XVIII

A Flattering Send-off—The Ghost of the _Sea Swallow_—The Ghost as
  Passenger—The True Romance—Arrival at the Fiji Isles—Great-hearted
  Sailormen


REFERRING to my diary notes, I see that the _Sea Swallow_ was due to
sail on the 6th September, but did not sail till the 7th. This gave me
one day more in Nuka Hiva. I remember how delighted Grimes was to see me
appear in the shanty the morning after I was supposed to have sailed. We
spent the day visiting old friends, including Lydia, and did our best to
cheer her up. She kept wailing out: “Benbows kills me when ’e comes ’ome
from sea and find I send Wayee into forest in temper-fit.”

“Don’t you worry, she’ll come back soon,” said I soothingly, though I
must admit that I had my misgivings, which proved only too true.

I went alone to see Father O’Leary. The old priest took my hand and
blessed me, wishing me all kinds of luck, and I felt quite affected by
his fatherly manner. Next day the _Sea Swallow_ sailed. I had a mind to
persuade Grimes to stow away when he bade me good-bye. His big, scrubby
face looked very serious as he said: “You’re a-coming back with the
boat, I s’pose?”

“Yes, Grimes, you’ll see me again, don’t you fret,” I replied.

The impecunious beach fraternity gave me a hearty send-off. Uncle Sam,
the Dude, the jockey, O’Hara, the jovial Scot and the rest came down to
the beach as the anchor went up and gave me one final “Hurrah!”

Though I’d been elevated to the Marquesan peerage more than once, and
crowned with heathen honours, I felt mighty proud as those wild-looking
white men waved their wide-brimmed sombreros and cheered and cheered. I
felt that I had accomplished something in my life, something creditable,
and almost unhoped for in my schoolboy dreams.

I had played their old songs on my violin; recited _The Prisoner of
Chillon_; written love letters to relatives and far-away wives,
Penelopes, faithless damsels and longing daughters, and, notwithstanding
their fascinating persuasions, had only become slightly, jovially,
inebriated twice, and by so doing had earned their undying respect. Ah
me! I well knew that my mother, my sisters and old austere Aunt M——
would have swooned away at the very thought of my mixing with such
terrible men. But what knew they of the great world, of adventure and
all that appealed to the heart of sanguine youth?

But to return to the voyage of the _Sea Swallow_. I stood on deck and
watched the forests dwindle, as the shores of Nuka Hiva receded, and we
cut away out into the Pacific. While the skipper swore, the mountain
peaks became lower and lower, till they looked like big jewels sparkling
on the horizon astern, twinkling softly in the light of the setting sun.

The _Sea Swallow_ was a tramp steamer, carrying sail to steady her, for
she rolled like a ball on a rough sea.

I never met a more jovial skipper than Captain C——. He had his
drawbacks, but could swear well, and thought he was something of a
genius on the violin. When he was half-seas-over he _could_ play—a jig.

I think he managed to snap twenty strings one night as he tried to
imitate my playing of Paganini’s _Carnaval de Venise_.

The weather was gloriously beautiful the first two days out. I remember
I was having a cup of coffee with the fierce old cook in the galley when
the hurricane struck us. It swooped down, as is usual in those parts,
without the slightest warning, blowing great guns ere nightfall, and by
eight bells we were shipping thundering seas. There was something in
that infinite expanse of raging, mountainous waters that appealed to me.
I stood on deck watching the great foaming crests rise and roll away.
The stars were out, marshalled in their millions across those infinite
frontiers—and as we pitched along, the ship slewing first to leeward,
and then over to windward, with the heave of those mighty hills of
ocean, those regiments of starry constellations shifted, right about
turn, to the pendulous sway of the masts’ tips.

Rolling along, the wild poetry of that ramping, shouting, glorious,
frantic Pacific entered my soul and sent my thoughts back through the
past. It almost seemed as though I had imagined that far-away isle, the
grog shanty and all my recent experiences. I thought of Waylao. Where
was she? Had she returned home, or had she followed the fate of the
derelict girl from Noumea? Little did I dream, as we beat across the
storm-beaten Pacific, that down below in the depths of the hold beneath
my feet wept a stowaway—a figure huddled up, hidden amongst the bales of
cargo, moaning in the pangs of fright and misery, imprisoned and
starving in that iron coffin, nailed in, dead, yet alive—and that this
trembling, dying stowaway was Benbow’s daughter, Waylao. Yes, unknown to
me, as that tramp dived her nose into those raging gulfs, Waylao
shrieked for death to come to release her from her misery, just below
deck, under my feet.

She had stowed away about half-an-hour before we left Tai-o-hae. How she
had managed to creep on board without being observed was a mystery.
Still I know by experience that it is possible, for Grimes and I had
done it more than once ourselves.

Waylao told me after how she had crept aboard and slipped down the
fore-peak hatchway, and her terrible despair as she heard the sailors
cry, “Let go!” and crash!—down went the hatchway. As she stared up from
that dark depth she saw the last gleam of the blue tropic day vanish,
and knew she was a prisoner.

Hidden in that inky darkness, she had heard the throb of the engines,
and, reaching the open sea, had become fearfully sick, from the roll of
the steamer and the stifling air of that hold. The rats in hungry droves
came out and attacked her as she crouched on the bales of merchandise,
In her despair she had shrieked; but not a sound had reached the sailors
on deck. She felt the roll of the hurricane-lashed ocean, had heard the
crew singing their wild chanteys in the tempest.

Striving to climb up the iron stanchions to get near the fore-peak deck,
and make herself heard, she had fallen back into the depths of that dark
hold, and, clutching at the cases to save herself, had torn her
finger-nails off. God only knows the intense misery that that wretched
castaway must have suffered down in the bowels of that steamer. It’s bad
enough when two strong men stow away, and have each other’s
companionship, but how terrible for that frail girl down there, quite
alone, accompanied by her memories and her misery.

She was nearly dead when, a week out from Tai-o-hae, they discovered
her, broken, bleeding and starved.

The storm had blown itself out. We were cutting along at about eleven
knots. It was one of those nights when the monotony of the sea was
broken by the glorious expanse of the illimitable heavens.

The vastness of the ocean set in those dim, encircling sky-lines had
stirred my imagination. I was standing on a visionary ship in a rolling
world of illusions. The far-off, pale horizons on every side were not
horizons of reality, but dim, far-off sky-lines of more distant,
wonderful, unknown seas, where sailed the old ships that were loaded
with magical, sweet-scented cargoes of human dreams. I fancied I could
hear the faint moaning of the deep, moving waters, the waves breaking
away from God’s mighty Imagination, an Imagination sparkling the
wonderful foam of Immortal Beauty. I heard the winds of sorrow drifting
across the reefs of starry thought, beating finely, steadfastly, against
Eternity. I was only called back to the realms of Time by the shuffling
of sea-boots coming along the deck.

I took my pipe from my lips, wondering on the sudden, unusual commotion.
As I stared through the gloom, I saw the huddled crew coming aft. It was
a perfect night, hardly a breath of wind to stir the canvas. The sails
bellied out and then—flop!—they went, like grey drums beating out
muffled _réveillés_ to the stars. The skipper was tramping to and fro on
the poop as the crew stood by the gangway whispering together.

“What on earth’s the matter?” was my mental comment, as one of their
number, a sleek-faced Yankee, went on to the poop as spokesman.

As he approached the “Old Man,” I half wondered if a mutiny was on, and
calculated in my mind as to which side I should join, while my heart
leaped with excitement. Then I heard the Yankee say:

“Cap’en, we got a serious matter to speak about.”

“Well, get on with it,” said the skipper, as he stared at the men about
him as though he thought they had gone mad.

“Well, Cap’en,” said the sailor once more, as he expectorated so as to
relieve his feelings. Then, to my astonishment, he blurted out: “This
God-damned ship’s ’aunted!”

The skipper gazed contemptuously on the speaker, then yelled:

“Haunted, you say? Well, get to hell out of it! Or go forward and put up
with it!”

“’Tain’t no good, sir, yer carrying on. Ship’s ’aunted, and I, for one,
ain’t going forrard no more.”

“You moon-struck, superstitious niggers, clear to hell out of it, or, by
God! I’ll put you back,” yelled the now enraged skipper, as he stamped
on the deck.

Then the boatswain quickly stepped forward and said:

“Captain, I reckon this ’ere packet’s ’aunted right enough. You can come
up by the fore-peak and listen for yourself. We ain’t mad.”

Saying this, old Bully-beef—for that was the boatswain’s nickname—spat
on the deck, and then looked the captain steadily in the eyes.

The skipper’s manner immediately changed. He had sailed with Bully-beef
for several years, and knew that he was a level-headed old fellow.

For a moment he returned the boatswain’s stare, then he responded:

“Well, I’ll come forward and see your ghost, but, mind you, I don’t want
any fooling here. Now then, lads, tell me what’s upset you all?”

“Waal, Skipper,” said the first spokesman, “we can’t get no sleep, for,
by God! there’s a spirit down in the hold. We heard it talking last
night to another of its kind, and then it moaned like a mad thing and
started to sing. Ain’t that right, Billy?”

As the Yankee gave this information, he turned to another sailor, who
immediately stepped forward to corroborate the evidence:

“Sir, it’s right enough. I went on deck last night and stamped my foot,
thinking to frighten the thing away, but it only wailed louder and
louder still, and started to speak. So I puts my ear to the deck, by the
hatchway, and listens. Blowed if I didn’t hear it moan and say: ‘Oh,
Christ, protect me. Sink the ship. Mercy! Mercy!’”

“You _did_, did you?” said the skipper emphatically, as he pulled his
cap back from his forehead.

Walking down the poop gangway, he said: “Come on! We’ll soon see about
your ghost.”

In a moment the crew and the huddled Kanakas—for we had several natives
amongst us—followed the Old Man.

As we all stood assembled by the fore-peak, we listened. Only the sound
of the long-drawn roar of the dipping bows and the jiggle of the screw
disturbed the vast silence of the calm sea.

One of the crew stamped his foot on the deck. Then they all listened
again. They heard a noise.

“’Ear that, sir?” said the boatswain.

“Hear what?” said the skipper, as he looked aloft as the rigging rattled
and the smoke from the funnel slewed about and went south-west like a
great bank of cloud beneath the stars. “Why, you damned lot of cowards,
I’m blessed if you are not all frightened of the wind’s whistle in the
rigging!”

“Wait a bit, wait a bit, sir,” said the boatswain, as the bows dipped
and an interval of silence came. Then he too stamped his big foot.

Just as the skipper was about to yell at them again, he suddenly
stopped. A look of interest, that swiftly changed into astonishment,
came on to his face.

There sounded quite distinctly to the ears of the huddled crew a long,
far-away wail.

“Clear the hatch off. Now then, rise and shine. Don’t stand there with
your God-damned mouths wide open! By heaven! get a move on you.”

Some of the native members of the crew hesitated before they started to
do the skipper’s bidding. Then all worked with a will. Off came the
canvas covering—crash! crash!—and the wooden bolts were loosened.

“Fetch me a lantern,” shouted the skipper. Then, beckoning to the
boatswain to follow him, he leaned over the dark depth and went down the
iron ladder into the ship’s hold.

The boatswain looked at the sympathetic faces of the crew, glanced
seaward at the stars on the horizon as though for the last time in his
mortal existence—and also disappeared.

Presently we all heard a tumbling and a mumbling, then a deep moan.

“Good God Almighty!” came a voice from below.

“Hold her legs. That’s it. Gently now!” In a moment we were all bending
over the edge of the hatchway. We saw the skipper climbing up with the
figure in his arms. “It’s a stowaway!” was the cry all round. In a
moment the red-bearded cook and I had grabbed the deck grating. As the
skipper came up we all leaned forward. Good Lord! never, surely, was a
sadder sight. There on the deck, under the stars of that wide Pacific,
they laid her. The huddled crew gazed upon her: they could only stare
with awestruck eyes on that beautiful face.

I rushed to get water. It was I who first bent over that stricken form
as the skipper lifted the unconscious head. It was Waylao who lay there
before me; but so wasted was she that I did not recognise her. As the
cool winds drifted across the deck and the sailors and the black squad
stepped back, the fresh air revived her. We saw her eyelids quiver—they
opened and gazed upon the crew silently.

As I stood among those men and stared at that face through the gloom, I
thought it was some beautiful white girl. There was no semblance to a
half-caste in that thin face before us. I thought that I must be going
mad as I pushed the cook aside and stared again, for in the excitement
of it all I had fancied that the girl that lay before us, pale-faced and
stricken, was Pauline.

It was a mad idea, I know; but I had been thinking more about John L——’s
daughter than I have cared to confess.

As the shadows of the funnel’s smoke passed over us, it seemed that I
was a member of a phantom crew, so silent were those huddled men as they
watched the pale face of that figure lying there, on the hatchway.

The captain ordered us to lift the grating and take her into the cuddy.
When we had placed her tenderly in the spare cabin’s bunk, we saw the
way she was. The light of the swinging lamp lit up her face. Her bosom
was quite bare, her garments being torn to fragments. We had no sooner
placed her in the bunk and laid her head on the pillow than she fell
asleep. There were only four of us, beside the skipper, as we stood in
that cabin. I saw them look solemnly at each other; then each coughed,
as if to say in significant silence: “So _that’s_ the secret of the
stowaway. She’s stowed away because of _That_.”

In a flash I had recognised Waylao. For a moment I was so astounded that
I couldn’t even speak or think. Then my wits came to my assistance. I
decided to keep my own counsel and never reveal by the slightest sign
that I had seen the girl before.

It was three days before Waylao could sit up in her bunk and think
reasonably. But, considering her serious condition when found in the
hold, her improvement was wonderfully rapid. The cook made special
soups, and the skipper seemed always to be examining the small drawers
of his medicine chest. “That’s fine for cuts and bruises,” he’d say, as
he brought out boxes of ointment and went off to give Waylao medical
attention.

I do not think I can do better than refer to my diary and reproduce my
own remarks at this period of my story. Here’s how the entries go:

“_September 19th._—Waylao looks wonderfully well to-day. Her
finger-nails have fallen off, and the new nails are just peeping out of
the quicks. I played the violin to her this afternoon. She’s got a voice
that fairly thrills one. The skipper says she’d make a fortune in
America, on the stage. As we sat on deck last night, Waylao and I
referred to the poor escapee girl form Noumea, and I told her exactly
how I found the convict girl afloat in the lagoon at daybreak. Waylao
cried like a child when I said I had placed a little cross on the girl’s
grave.

“The boatswain’s given Waylao a beautiful silk and tappa dress. She
looks fine in it. He’d bought it from a native at Hivaoa, for his wife,
I suppose. Poor wife, she’ll never see _that_ dress.

“_September 20th._—I’ve been chaffed a good deal by the crew for paying
such a lot of attention to the stowaway. It’s a good job I didn’t let on
that I knew her before I left Tai-o-hae.

“Waylao keeps talking about Father O’Leary and her mother. I’ve promised
to go and see them both when I go back to Nuka Hiva. God knows when that
will be, I don’t.

“The sailors on this boat are fine fellows. Perfect gentlemen, so far as
the opinion of the world doesn’t go. Only one scoundrel on board; he
knocked my bow arm up in the air with his fist as I was playing the
violin in the forecastle. We had a fight. His lip’s swollen, but I’ve
got a lump just over the right eyebrow. The skipper’s put some of his
special ointment on my lump; says he’s ashamed to think of a respectable
fellow like me fighting on board his ship. I do feel a bit ashamed of
the lump, I admit.

“Sighted Tengerewa Isle on the starboard this evening. As we passed by
we could distinguish the coco-palms; they looked like the distant masts
of some old Spanish galleon derelict, ashore on an unknown isle in an
unknown sea—masts that had been there so long that they’d burst into
leaf. As the stars came out we could hear the breakers humming on the
reefs far away. It’s funny, but the noise of those breakers came very
loud once or twice, and made me think of the early workmen’s train that
rushed by my bedroom when I last lodged at Battersea, London Town.

“Waylao and I sat on deck till midnight. Saw vast flocks of strange
birds going south under the stars. They looked like migrating cranes,
had long necks, saw them distinctly fly _down_ the big moon looming on
the horizon.

“Never saw such a calm sea; looked like a mighty mirror that was walled
round by pale crystalline substance, and vaulted by a dome ornamented
with myriads of inexpressibly beautiful stars imaged in the vast mirror
beneath, with phantom ships sailing across it, breaking the brittle
surface into sparkling foams of phosphorescent light.

“It seemed hard lines that so many millions of worlds were wasting their
glory in infinite space, and I so hard up that I had to travel across
that ocean for a pittance of two pounds ten shillings a month.

“_Thursday, September 21st._—Made it up with boatswain’s mate. He seems
to like me since the fight. It’s a fact that it’s only wasting breath to
quote the poets to men in an argument. It’s like throwing pearls to
swine. Nothing like a good smash in the jaw to convince a man that you
are as good as he is.

“The skipper got fearfully drunk last night. I had to play the fiddle
till two o’clock in the morning as he sang a song that had no melody in
it. He said it was composed by his uncle, a Doctor of Music! I and the
cook eventually lifted the Old Man up with due respect and dropped him
in his bunk—dead drunk.

“Waylao’s been telling me what she intends to do when she gets to Suva,
Fiji. I’m worried about her; she talks like a child. It’s a bit of a job
to have a girl like Waylao on one’s hands. I feel that I must look after
her. It seems like a dream to me, this girl on a ship with me, lost, far
away at sea. I feel quite like some Don Juan, out here in the wide
Pacific with a beautiful half-caste girl looking to me for protection.
Those old novels that I read as a child were true after all. There _is_
such a thing as romance on earth, or at least on the seas.

“_Friday, September 22nd._—Been thinking of England to-day. I’d give
something to hear the thrush singing up in the old apple-tree of my
grandfather’s estate.

“It’s wonderful how beautiful another place seems when you are sailing
across Southern Seas, perfectly alone. As I dreamed, I could hear the
ship’s Kanakas singing their native songs in a strange tongue. I like
their melodies; they sound weirdly sweet. The words seem to go like
this: ‘Cheery-o, me-o, O see ka vinka! too-ee-me, loge wailo, mandy-o!
pom! pom!’ As they sang aloft, their shadows dropped down through the
moonlight on to the deck at my feet.

“I thought of my dear mother last night. I’d give something to put my
arms round her to-night. I was her favourite: that’s natural enough, as
I’m the worst boy of the family.

“_Saturday._—Feel a bit worried to-day. I went mad last night. The world
seemed beautiful; I felt like some old poet who’d crept out of the tomb
and found the world reading his poems. Waylao and I sat on deck. It was
a glorious night, perfectly calm. The sky was crowded with stars. I
could just see the outline of Waylao’s face in the gloom beside me. She
was sitting in the skipper’s deckchair. Her face seemed ineffably
beautiful, her eyes seemed to have caught the ethereal gleams of the
stars. She fascinated me. I felt a wild desire enter my heart. Then I
took hold of her hand and whispered:

“‘Waylao, I am worried about you.’

“‘And I about you,’ she responded half absently.

“Again the wild impulse thrilled me, but still I spoke on.

“‘Girl, we are only shadows in this world. In a little while all this
dream of ours will be less than a dream. It is strange that you should
have come into my life like this. I half wish that I had never met you,’
said I. Then, before I could understand what I was doing, I placed my
arms about her; I pulled her gently towards me. Her face was lifted up
to mine; I gazed into the depths of those exquisite eyes, they shone so
brightly. I looked at the mouth: it quivered. Ah! it _was_ a beautiful
mouth; it seemed to be curved so that it might tenderly resemble the
warm, wild, passionate South.

“Alas! though I was born in the far-away cold North-West, I, too, seemed
to feel the spell of the impassioned starlit Isles. I tried to control
myself; but men, let alone romantic youths, are weak, and so I fell—I
clasped her in my arms and pressed my lips to hers. Heaven only knows
what I might not have said to her in my madness if the boatswain had not
called me: ‘Hey, hey, youngster! Where are you? What the hell——’

“I leaped away into the darkness.

“I never had a wink of sleep that night. This morning I could not look
Waylao in the eyes. When no one was looking, she took my hand and smiled
in such a way that I knew that she understood my feelings. Ah me! I
shall never make a good missionary. Waylao’s look and her manner
convinces me that she is better than I am. Confession is good for the
soul. I ought to be better than I was last night, for I have confessed
the truth—had sinful thoughts, and the half-caste girl has made me a
better youth. Wish I wasn’t so passionate a fellow.

“_Sunday, September._—Sang hymns to-day in the cuddy. Skipper’s very
religious on Sunday. I told Waylao all about England to-day, and became
quite sentimental. I told her of the splendour of the woods—how May came
and quickened the fields to green sprouting grass; how the wild
hedgerows budded forth their beauty—like some poetic sorrow of the old
sunsets—bleeding forth pale, anæmic blossoms, flowers that scented the
airs with old memories. I told her of the blackbird singing its overture
to the sunrise. I said: ‘Ah, Waylao, I long to hear the blackbird again,
telling me that God, its Creator, too, has some divine memory of the
voice of a goddess who sang to Him ere His first heaven was shattered
into the chaos of all the stars.’

“While I spoke to Waylao night fell. I could only hear the throb of the
engines as we slid across the sea. As the girl stared up at me in the
dusk, I fancied that we two sailed across strange seas, quite alone, and
there was no one else in the world. A shooting star slid across the sky,
arched and faded like some signal thrown out of a door in heaven. Waylao
trembled like a leaf as she saw that light in the sky; she said that it
was a terrible sign. I tried to cheer her up, saying that she must not
believe the old legends that her mother told her, that a shooting star
did not mean anything awful, that no one was to die through its fall,
that most probably it was a signal to the infinite that some mortal had
just spoken the truth.

“That star, nevertheless, made me wonder as I looked up at the heavens.
I couldn’t help thinking of God. The vastness of creation, the wonder of
the stars seemed so terrific that a thrill went down my backbone. How
vast God must be. He who can hold creation with its myriads of worlds in
the hollow of His hand. Where did God come from? This shows that we lack
several senses. I suppose that the tropic bird that sailed through the
dusk over the ship, and looked at us with its beautiful wild eyes,
wondered where our ship came from. Even if that bird had intellect,
would it ever dream of the primeval forest, the giant pines, how they
fell before the axe; and were shaped into masts; of the shipbuilders; of
mighty furnaces smelting the ores from the old hills; of the toil of
men, and the strikes for higher wages; the happy homes in the villages
kept up by the money that the shipbuilding brought to them; of the
village theatre and the happy sprees as the wives took the children out
full of laughter, to come home again and romp in their cots about it
all; of the brass plate on the coffin telling the man’s name who fell
down the hold of the ship and was killed the day it was launched, and of
the wonders of the voyages? Stop! Good heavens! I could go on like this
for ever. Why, the history of a box of matches would fill all the paper
on earth with all-absorbing wonders. It only shows that the mystery of
God is only wonderful to us because we lack the sense to fathom the
mystery. Anyway, I’ll believe in God till I die. I used to believe in a
creed, but I think it best to believe in God.

“I suppose I’m talking like this because I’ve been thinking of Pauline.
Waylao has been telling me to-day how she and Pauline sat in the forest
by moonlight and sang old heathen songs together, songs that were
supposed to make the man who would love them poke his head out of the
waters of the lagoon that they watched. Waylao hummed the songs to me. I
don’t know why, but the look in her fine eyes made me feel intensely
unhappy. I’m a most passionate fellow at times. I have strange moods,
moods that make me feel very tender towards women and men. I suppose
it’s a kind of insanity. I’ve taken a liking to the funniest old men and
women imaginable. Once my fancy was for an old ex-convict: he was about
eighty years of age, swore fearfully, cursed God, never washed himself,
woke up in the middle of the night and roared forth atheistical songs,
opened his mouth wide and hissed ‘He! He! He!’ like a fiend, as he
mentioned the Deity—and yet when I was down with fever he waited on me
as though I were his child. Not even my dear mother could have outvied
the tenderness of that villainous scoundrel. I recall to mind how I met
a little native girl in Samoa. She was only six years of age,
curly-haired, and had brown, beautiful baby eyes. I never saw such a
pretty rosebud mouth, or _retroussé_ nose. I played the violin, and she
sang like a bird. We even went off busking together. When I went away
she threw her arms about me and looked into my face like a woman of
twenty. That little girl’s face haunted me for days; I even counted up
how old I’d be when she was twenty, thinking that I could come back to
the South Seas and marry her.

“I tell these things to show one that I am no ordinary being. I hope
some day to be able to publish this complete diary of my travels. Who
knows, men may read it and try to diagnose my temperament.”

(Page missing here in my diary.) I _must_ reproduce the next entry:

“_Sunday Night._—Waylao not well; gone to bed early. Played the violin
for two hours; skipper does not like my practice. I must admit it’s not
pleasant, for I’m practising difficult technical studies. I’ve got hopes
of becoming a great violinist; I feel ambitious, and hope to be a kind
of Paganini some day. I often feel that I’m something special in the way
of Man, and dream of my coming greatness. This egotism of mine makes me
supremely happy. Sometimes I see, in my imagination, the great hoarding
bills throughout the cities of the world announcing that ‘I AM COMING!’
I’ve gone so far as to imagine that the Queen commanded my presence at
Buckingham Palace. I’ve been knighted—in dreams. I’ve heard the royal
voice exclaim ‘Arise, Sir—(incognito)—Sir Shadow.’[5] I nearly revealed
my name, my identity then. Phew! Supposing I had done so, what would
haughty old Uncle Jack and prim, aristocratic old Aunt Mally say to hear
that I had published a diary telling of such things—the whole truth out
at last—deliberately published a public record telling how So-and-so’s
youngest son had sailed the Southern Seas with a beautiful half-caste
girl—and a girl LIKE THAT, too? They’d raise their hands with horror,
shocked, disgraced, broken with the thought of ‘What will They say?’ Who
the devil cares for _They_?”

Footnote 5:

  The author had intended to publish this book anonymously and has left
  the manuscript as originally written.

I see by the next entry in my diary that I gave the skipper several
violin lessons. Here are the entries:

“Skipper gone violin mad. He’s got a good ear, but his technique and
time are rotten. I’m on sick list. Skipper kept me up all night. Though
I hate whisky, I swallowed several glasses through his infernal
persuasion. I can see now that it was deliberate on his part. He says
that I played the violin like a heathen god. I know that I did
_something_, because the violin’s strings were all broken this morning.

“I’ve got some dim recollection of pressing Waylao’s hand when the
skipper wasn’t looking, recall some faint idea that I thought she was a
glorious Madonna, and that I whispered impassioned things into her ears.
I think I danced too. The world seemed to have suddenly righted itself,
everything seemed beautiful and rosy. Death and God walked mercifully
together. I even got over-familiar with the skipper—smacked him on the
back and told him he’d be a good violinist in about a thousand years’
time. No more whisky for me, thank you.

“_Monday._—Passed Curacoa reef this afternoon. Samoan Isles are away to
the north. Been thinking of dear old Grimes; wish he was with me.

“Waylao cried for two hours to-day. I did my level best to cheer her up.
She had been telling me a lot about her childhood. I find that she is
really a most intelligent girl, but rather given to following her
impulses instead of calm reason. Like me in that respect.

“I feel sometimes that I’m half in love with Waylao. She’s romantic; has
got a beautiful golden gleam in the pupils of her eyes. I can easily see
how that devil of a man got her into trouble. She’s been talking a lot
about Eastern men, Indians, etc. Got my suspicions about things. I know
what the world is: read about life in the newspapers, London, England.
Wicked, soulless old bounders some men are.

“I dreamed about Pauline last night. She came to me as I was playing the
violin by the old grog shanty. I threw my arms around her; she kissed me
passionately, saying that she had loved me all the time. She seemed
wondrously beautiful in the dream. I can’t imagine anything so
gloriously divine now that I’m wide awake. Yet I somehow feel the effect
on my heart. It’s strange that the most divine conceptions of beauty are
realised when we are asleep. Perhaps it’s a beautiful premonition, some
prophetic knowledge of what things will be like when we are dead—and
yet, what about nightmares?

“_Tuesday._—Sighted isles off Fiji at sunset last night. Smelt the
odours of decaying, overripe fruits as the wind blew gently from the
land.

“A fleet of canoes passed on the port side. Big, savage, tattooed men
waved paddles to us, friendly-wise. Passed one little isle that was
inhabited by one hut, sheltered by a large, feathery palm-tree. Looked
like the gaudy-coloured picture of a South Sea novel, as the Fijian
chief stood by his hut door with his club, and his deep-bosomed wife
threw the sailors a graceful salutation, kiss-wise, with hand at her
lips. They had two _fainy toatisis_ (girls), who were all the while
running up and down the shore, waving their arms and splashing in the
waves.

“Waylao is very excited at the prospect of going ashore soon. I’ve told
skipper that I intend leaving the ship at Suva. He was angry at first,
but calmed down after, and paid me all that was due to me.

“The boatswain kissed Waylao when she wished the sailors good-bye.

“I felt a bit wild at the way some of the sailors chaffed me about
Waylao. But I don’t care. I’m getting used to chaff and the winks and
ways of this clever world.

“You ought to have heard the skipper giving Waylao advice about stowing
away in the holds of tramp ships. He gave her a little cash, too. Shows
he doesn’t belong to a Charity Organisation, doesn’t it?

“I promised to meet Waylao ashore. Sailors all winking and accusing me
of leaving ship so as to accompany the pretty stowaway. I’ve been to
Suva before, so I know all about the best spots for a girl like Waylao
to get lodgings.”


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIX

Waylao’s Ancestors—Lodging Hunting—Mr and Mrs Pink—I turn
  Missionary—Piety at Home—My Disastrous Accident—My Tardy Recovery


I THINK it will be best now to leave my diary alone and go on in the old
way.

I see by the last entry that Waylao had some mad idea of going up to
Naraundrau, which was a native town not far from the coast and the
source of the Rewa river. She thought that she would come across some of
her mother’s royal-blooded relatives there. I told her that possibly her
mother had exaggerated about the greatness of her people, or that
perhaps, even if it was true, they were all dead, or slaving on the
sugar plantations. But it was no good: she had some idea that she was
descended from the great King Thakombau and that his palatial halls
still existed up at Naraundrau.

In my previous visit to Fiji I had met descendants of that Bluebeard of
the South Seas, for such he was. He was a bloodthirsty cannibal in his
earlier days, but in his old age became converted to the Christian
faith. He had strangled dozens of maids and wives in his day for the
cannibalistic orgies. But his later years had been renowned for his
devoutness, though it was hinted by the old chiefs that his heart still
clung fondly to the old beliefs and the heathen gods. Indeed it was
rumoured that ere he died he gave minute instructions for several huge
war-clubs and a large barrel of the best rum to be buried in his grave
with him. “For,” said he, “if I am denied to enter shadow-land because
I’ve deserted the old gods, I say, if the great white God denies my
entry into paradise—why, what matters, can I not fight my way in?”

A week after Thakombau’s death a terrible thunderstorm broke over the
district of Bau, where he was buried. The natives round those parts were
horror-struck. They looked up at the lightnings and hid in the caves in
their terror: they swore that the great cannibal king, Thakombau, had
been denied by the great white God, and that, drunk with the rum and
armed with his mighty clubs, he was fighting his way into the white
man’s heaven—with all his dead heathen warriors behind him.

I see by the next entry in my diary that I secured lodgings for Waylao
near Victoria Parade, Suva township. It was a snug room situated just
over Pink’s general stores. The population round that part was pretty
mixed in those days. Not far from Pink’s stores stood White’s hotel. It
was there where the swells from the Australian cities stayed when
touring with their cameras and notebooks for details of wild life in the
Southern Seas.

I introduced myself to old Mrs Pink as a missionary. She was a
whiskery-faced old woman, with suspicious, blinking eyes that were weak
and appeared to be always shedding tears.

I took her aside and said: “Madam Pink, I’m a missionary, my heart is my
profession, and if you are kind to this girl whom I wish to place in
your charge till she discovers her friends who live at Vauna Leveu, the
members of my denomination will amply reward you, above that which I
will pay you.”

I recall how the old woman glanced at Waylao with one eye cocked
sideways, and then surveyed me critically. That look said a good deal,
and I don’t mind confessing that I felt a strong desire to pull the old
girl’s whiskers out by the roots.

Then old Pink, her husband, arrived on the scene. He, too, was a
stiff-whiskered-looking old man. His face was very tanned, his beard was
scraggy and of reddish hue. Indeed his physiognomy looked like a large,
fibrous coco-nut that had twinkling eyes peeping out of its shell.

I sat in their little back parlour, and when I gave them enough money to
pay for Waylao’s board and lodging for a week, they almost wept. The old
woman went into the next room and sobbed out loud enough for me to hear:

“Them ’ere missionaries are hangels, ’elping the ’elpless—and the
fallen.”

I fancied I heard the smothered chuckle as old Pink nudged her in the
ribs, as he, too, took the hint from his wily spouse and wailed out:
“Gawd’s anointed they is, them who ’elps the ’elpless.”

“I’m getting on in my missionary work, with appreciation like this,”
thought I, as I heard those hypocrites fawning over Waylao, calling her
endearing names as they took her upstairs.

After I had seen Waylao comfortably settled I went for a stroll. As one
may imagine, I was very worried about everything. But I was
philosophical in those days, and felt that I could fight the pious world
with my sleeves tucked up.

That same night I met Waylao, as arranged, at the end of the Parade. I
did not care to call at her lodgings, for I saw, plain enough, that the
Pinks did not believe a word that I said.

Ah! how I recall that meeting, the last time I was to see her for many a
weary day. I little dreamed of the tragedy, the awful fate, that was to
befall that wretched girl ere we two met again.

It was a lovely night. She looked very pretty as she stood before me,
attired in her calico gown. She had taken my hint and dressed as well as
possible. And as we stood there beneath the thick palm-trees I admired
the red sash that swathed her waist and the small tanned shoes that I
had spotted at Pink’s stores and bought for her. She wore no hat, nor
did she need one in that terrific heat. Her hair fairly shone, gleaming
in the moonlight, as we stood there.

“Waylao, what’s to be done?” I said. Then I continued by saying that I
thought that it would be far better for her to attempt to return to her
people than to look for help elsewhere. As gently as possible I hinted
that I would get a job and so help her to get a passage by one of the
trading boats that went almost weekly to Hivaoa and Nuka Hiva.


[Illustration: PINEAPPLE PLANTATION, FIJI]


I recall the very voices of the singing natives that went pattering by
on the way to the tribal village just outside of Suva township. The
outcast girl looked so wretched as I spoke on that I could not express
all that I felt when she still persisted in her mad idea to seek her
mother’s relatives.

At length I got her promise to remain at the Pinks’ establishment until
I could get information about those relatives of hers.

The next day I went down to Suva Harbour and boarded several ships, for
I had it in my mind that if any of the trading vessels were going to the
Marquesas, I would send a letter to Father O’Leary. I knew that he would
help where others might fail. I also knew that a letter from the old
Catholic priest to any of the skippers would get a passage on tick for a
girl who was Benbow’s daughter.

I did not like to go back on Waylao, or do anything that she did not
approve; but I felt in my heart that I was attempting to do the very
best for her.

“Man proposes and God disposes.” I say this because the very thing that
happened at this period was, as far as I can see, the worst thing that
could have happened. It’s like this: I had been aboard a schooner, and
finding that she was bound for Hivaoa, I had decided to wait about till
the captain returned. He was ashore for a while. Full of hope that my
scheme would work well, and that I would get Waylao a passage home, I
hurried down the gangway, slipped, sprained my ankle. Providence also
arranged that my head should come such a crack on the iron stanchion as
I fell that I remained unconscious for five days. I say five days, but
it was two weeks or more ere I could think coherently.

I was taken in by a medical man who lived four miles out of Suva. I will
not go into detail about my illness, all that I suffered when at length
I recovered my senses; how I tried to remember if Waylao was a dream or
someone I had met in the flesh. As the days wore on, Mrs Pink’s
whiskered face loomed in front of my dreams. “It’s real enough,” thought
I; “no diseased imagination could fashion a face like that.” Then Old
Man Pink took a settled shape. I heard him wailing about the goodness of
things, and men ’elping the ’elpless.

When at length I realised the truth of everything, I was in a fearful
state of mind. What would Waylao think of my sudden absence? Would she
think that I had given her the slip—left her to her fate after all my
tender expressions, all that I said beneath those coco-palms on Suva
Parade?


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER XX

The Pinks in their True Colours—A Charitable Community—Waylao thrown
  out—I return Too Late—Punishment for the Pinks


I WILL do my best to record all that happened to Waylao after I was
stricken down.

It appeared that she waited and waited my return in absolute faith that
it was no fault of mine that I had not turned up. I cannot describe her
feelings as the days went by and I did not put in an appearance. But I
can easily imagine a good deal from all I heard, not only from the
people that resided in and around Pink’s establishment, but from
Waylao’s lips. It was a long time, though, ere we met once more, ere she
came like a stricken wraith out of the night to Father O’Leary and I,
before she again went away into the darkness.

Mrs Pink was devoutly religious and a typical chapel-goer. She had even
got old Pink to pay for a special pew in the wooden chapel at H——. So it
is not surprising that when the next week’s rent was due she became
extremely suspicious and fearfully pious.

Each morning she would put her head through Waylao’s doorway and,
glaring fiercely with one eye, say: “Hi say, miss, ’e ain’t returned
yet, ’as ’e?”

Then the old bitch (forgive me, reader, you don’t know Old Mother Pink
as I do) would hand her the bill, stand with her arms akimbo across her
wide hips, sneer and say: “Where’s yer money? You’re a fine old miss,
with yer missionarrry, yer pink sash an’ yellow boots!”

Waylao pleaded with the woman, assured her that I would return, that I
must have met with an accident and had been delayed.

“Met with a haccident! It’s _you_ what’s met with the haccident. I don’t
like the looks of it. It’s a plant, that’s what it is. ’Im a-going ter
re—turn! _I knows! I knows!_” So did Mrs Pink rave on as the days went
by, appealing also to the neighbours who lived in the little wooden
houses scattered round that part. They already knew about the pretty
girl who was lodging in the Pinks’ front room, brought there by a young
missionary—who had deserted her—and she like _that_, too! The delight of
that motley crew was immense. The little village homes buzzed like
bee-hives full of humming scandal. It was not unlike a native village at
that spot, only instead of tawny faces and frizzly heads poking out of
the little doors, they were pimply, dough-coloured faces with tawny
wisps of hair and blue, glassy eyes expressing their shocked disapproval
of the affair. Old women who had been fierce enemies, and not spoken to
each other for months, fell into each other’s arms. A kind of
heathenistic carnival commenced: the whole of the population assembled
beneath the palms and started to dance. “Kick ’er out! Kick ’er out! The
faggot!” they yelled. The natives hard by heard the noise and crept
under the bread-fruit trees, then joined in the procession. It must have
been a wonderful sight. Tawny old women, full of wrath, fat old women,
short legs, long legs, brown legs, fierce-looking, tattooed creatures,
some semi-heathens, others Christianised, wearing spectacles as they
searched the books—their Bibles—and shouted forth the Commandments—all
bunched there outside Pink’s stores, staring up at Waylao’s window.

The old trader from Lakemba tried to stop the riot, and so made things
worse, for he said: “What’s the d——d row about?” When they told him, and
the hubbub had ceased, and several retired women from the streets of New
South Wales had fainted with the horror of it all, he continued: “Well,
I’ve been about these ’ere parts a d——d sight longer than I orter ’ave
been, but I never seed a prettier girl than that ’ere girl who’s
a-lodging up at Pink’s.”

As the sunburnt trader finished, there was a tremendous silence; the mob
fairly gasped, could hardly believe their ears; then up went a fierce
howl of the maddest execration. White hags, scraggy hags, tawny hags,
pretty girls and ugly girls shouted as with one voice: “Turn ’er out!
Turn ’er out! The sinful woman to trade on the good nature of a
Christian woman like Mrs Pink!”

Mrs Pink was overcome with emotion—she sobbed; she seemed to have
awakened from a nightmare to find herself famous.

So was Waylao’s fate decided. That same night, with all her best clothes
detained for back rent, she left the Pinks’ establishment, and started
away, determined to go up the Rewa river and seek her relatives.

It may be imagined I was not in the most pleasant of moods when I sat in
Mrs Pink’s parlour on my recovery. After all I’d heard from the people
who lived opposite those infernal hypocrites, I had little hope of
getting much truthful information. I did not let on that I had heard a
word about that scandal or Waylao’s flight as the old woman welcomed me.

“Have you no idea why she went, or where she went?” said I.

I was sitting opposite Mr and Mrs Pink in their little parlour as I made
that remark.

“Poor, dear soul, we know not where she went. It was so sudden. Sir,
it’s nearly broke our ’earts, that it ’as, the idea of that poor gal
being out in this ’ere awful world, ’omeless.”

“You dear, godly woman,” was my mental comment, as I thought of all that
the trader who lived next door had told me.

“Don’t weep, Mrs Pink; it’s no good weeping over the inevitable,” said
I, as I stared at the wall to hide my real feelings.

Old Mother Pink sobbed the louder as I made that remark; but I must
admit that Old Man Pink paused a moment, withdrew his large red
pocket-handkerchief, and used one eye in a steady sidelong gaze at my
face. I think the holy old beggar heard the sarcastic note in my voice.
However that may be, he suddenly rose and hurried out of the room. Then
Mrs Pink handed me the bill, the sum total for Waylao’s rent and
expenses incurred. I said: “Ah, Mrs Pink, I’ll never forget your
kindness. I know human nature so well. I know that all the people living
in these parts are good Christians, followers of the preaching of our
Lord Jesus Christ, He who had nowhere to lay His head. I know that you
all go to chapel here, as they do in the big cities of the world—New
York, Paris, Berlin and London. Ah, Mrs Pink, I’ve travelled those
cities; you remind me so much of them, sweet soul that you are. I know
that a great grief has come into your life and into the lives of your
neighbours through the knowledge that a fallen girl is somewhere out in
the world homeless. Did it upset you all much, Mrs Pink?”

“Indeed it did, indeed it did,” sobbed the old hypocrite, as she bunched
the handkerchief against her eyes and rubbed and rubbed. Then I
proceeded:

“I am a missionary, but a boy in years, but I’m honest, truthful and
would help the fallen.”

“Yes, I know, I know,” sobbed the old woman in her ecclesiastical
anguish, as she gently pushed Waylao’s bill a little nearer to me.

Still I continued: “Ah, Mrs Pink, I know that if a voice said, ‘She who
is without sin _cast the first stone_,’ you of all would indeed be the
one on earth to cast such a missile.” Saying this, I looked at her
ignorant face, and I saw that my remarks had fallen on barren soil. I
rose from the chair, picked up Waylao’s bill for rent and expenses
incurred and tore it into pieces. The expression on the woman’s face
gave me extreme satisfaction. Without a word I strode out of the room. I
passed Old Man Pink in the narrow hall that led down to the steps and
the front door. I suppose he had been listening, so as to confirm his
suspicions. If he had any doubts they must have been quite dispelled as
he fell down the flight of steps and I strode away out into the night.
He was an old man, and I did not intend to push against him in that
narrow hall, but it was dark, and I was in no mood to argue with
obstacles.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXI

I seek Waylao—The Heart of Fiji—I discover Traces of the
  Fugitive—The Bathing Parade—The Knut’s Indiscretion—A Submerged
  Toilette—The Knut as Travelling Companion—A Philosopher—A Noumea
  Nightmare—The Knut meets his Fate


AFTER my interview with Mr and Mrs Pink I strode away, hardly knowing
where I went to, I was so upset about Waylao’s disappearance. I slept
out beneath some palm-trees just outside of Suva township; or it would
be more correct to say that I _rested_ out, for I did more thinking than
sleeping. Ere dawn came and the swarms of mosquitoes had finished their
repast on my sweating frame I had made up my mind to go in search of
Waylao.

It was a glorious daybreak, the brilliant sunrise streaming through my
branched roof, and the tiny _réveillé_ of the tuneful bush birds acted
like a strong stimulant on my worried mind.

Before the sun was up over the ocean’s rim I had tramped two or three
miles. I was on my way to N——, the native village where Waylao’s
relatives were supposed to live. I felt quite sure that the outcast girl
must have gone that way. Nor was I mistaken, for I had not gone far on
my journey when I heard news of her.

It was wild country that I had to pass through. One could hunt the
Pacific Isles and not find grander or more desolate scenery than those
mountainous districts I crossed. I had a little money in my possession,
and this fact considerably eased my journey, for I got a kindly native
to paddle me up the Rewa river for quite five miles. After that
beneficial lift I tramped it through the forest-lands, but I was not
very lonely, for as I passed by the palm-sheltered native villages the
children came rushing forth from the huts. They gazed inquisitively at
me, then shouted “Vinaka! Papalagi!” and tried to steal the brass
buttons off my tattered seafaring suit. They looked like dusky imps as I
passed through those forest glooms, roofed by the giant bread-fruit
trees.

As I rested by the dusty track two little mahogany-hued beggars stole
out of the shadows with their hands outstretched—they had brought me
oranges and wild _feis_ (bananas), fancying that I was hungry. Nor were
they mistaken in their fancy, for I had had nothing to eat since the
last nightfall.

As I ate the gift of fruit, they clapped their hands and then
somersaulted with delight. “Vinaka! White mans!” they screamed, as they
rushed off back to the hut villages to show their frizzly headed mothers
the brass button that I had given them.

I stayed in that village that night. My feet were very sore, and I could
not manage to get along without rest.

I felt pretty gloomy as I sat by the huts of those wild people,
wondering what was best to do, as I slashed the multitudes of flies and
mosquitoes away. Suddenly one of the dancing kiddies stood before me and
said: “Marama, beautiful white womans, come likee you, Signa tamba
[Sunday].” In a moment I was alert, and on inquiring of the chiefs who
squatted by me, I heard that Waylao had sought rest in that very
village.

In a moment all the Fijian maids were standing round me, gabbling like
Babylon, telling me how the pretty Marama had crept out of the forest.
Seeing my intense interest in all that they attempted to tell me, they
lifted their soft brown feet up and, with their eyes looking very
sorrowful, intimated plainer than by word of mouth how Waylao had come
amongst them in dilapidated shoes, footsore and weary.

“Your wahine?” said one pretty little maid as she put her finger to her
coral-hued lips and grinned.

“No,” I said, as I shook my head, and then at finding that Waylao was
not my wife, they gazed with deeper interest.

“You after Marama? She belonger you? Runs away from you? You love, she
no love you?”

To please those pretty Fijian beauties, I placed my hand on my heart and
sighed. I shall never forget the great murmur that went up from that
flock of dusky mouths, or the gaze of those dark eyes that gleamed at
the thought of some romance in the arrival of the travelling maid, her
disappearance—and then my coming on the scene. Directly those old chiefs
found that I was after the girl that they had befriended a few days
before they became intensely excited. Up they jumped like mighty puppets
on a string that had just been violently pulled by some hidden humorist.
For a while I could not think—so loud, so plaintive were the comments of
those dusky warriors.

“Me give nice Marama food!” “Me give ’ers nice coco-nut milk,” said
another. So did they clamour about me, praising Waylao’s beauty. Twenty
terra-cotta-coloured old hags lifted their hands to heaven and praised
the glory of Waylao’s eyes. The head chief of the village prostrated
himself at my feet. I knew too well that all this praise and servility
to my person was because they wanted to get paid for anything that they
may have done or pretended to have done for Waylao’s sake. It relieved
my feelings a good deal to find that she had had their sympathy. I felt
that they had, anyhow, done their best.

They were very savage-looking beings, dressed in the sulu only, tattooed
and scarred by old tribal battles; but their savagery—like
civilisation—was only skin deep. When they told me that several of the
village youths had given up their employment on the sugar plantations so
that they could paddle Waylao up the river in a canoe, I took the old
chiefs and chiefesses aside and, though I had only got a pound or so, I
gave them the cash that I had intended to pay the pious, Christianised
Pinks.

I see by my diary that I arrived at N—— the following evening. N—— was
as wild a village as one could find in this world. Besides the native
population, it was inhabited by the emigrant settlers who worked on the
sugar and coffee plantations. These settlers were mostly Indians from
the Malay Archipelago—Singapore, Malacca, Mandalay and Martaban. Indeed
the first knowledge I received that I was in the vicinity of the village
was when three pretty Malabar maids jumped out of a clump of bamboos and
greeted me in a strange tongue. I inquired of them the nearest way to
the village that I was seeking.

One, a very pretty girl, dressed in a costume of many colours, could
speak a little English. As soon as I had explained to her, she led the
way, jumping along the track in front of me like a forest nymph. It was
this Malabar girl who led me into the presence of the tribal chief. I
think he was called the Buli. Anyway, he was a decent old fellow, could
speak my language remarkably well and at once invited me into his
homestead. I think this man (who was a half-caste) was a kind of
missionary, and hailed from the mission station Maton Suva, down near
the town of Rewa.

As soon as I described Benbow’s daughter to him, he became interested.
Then I gathered from him that Waylao had arrived there in a destitute
condition a week or so before. It appeared that she had made inquiries
for the relatives that old Lydia had blown about so much, only to find
that they had never existed, or were dead and forgotten long ago.

Waylao’s disappointment and grief had filled the Buli and the native
girls with compassion. They had done their best to cheer her up, had
even invited her to stop in the village. Notwithstanding this
hospitality, she had suddenly disappeared from their midst two days
after her arrival. On going to the hut that they had prepared specially
for the castaway girl, they found that she had flown. None knew the way
of her going, for she had slipped away in the dead of night. I still
recall my disappointment over the result of my long tramp to N——. I must
admit that I could not blame the girl for leaving that semi-pagan
citadel of the forest.

I imagined how she would feel sitting by those huts with her new-made
friends, how the gloom and the wild mystery of her surroundings must
have depressed her. Even _I_ felt the distance from home; indeed I could
have half believed that I stood away back in some world of the darkest
ages. The stars were out in their millions when I left my host and
wandered into the village. I never saw such a sight as I witnessed that
night. Notwithstanding the guttural voices, the strange hubbub of
foreign tongues, the dim tracks and the little huts with their
coco-nut-oil lamps glimmering at the doors, I felt that I stood in some
phantom village. It seemed that representative types of all the ancient
nations flitted around me. The strange odour of dead flowers and
sandalwood intensified the magic of the scene, as the hubbub of the
Babylonian-like rabble hummed in my ears. Through the forest glooms
wandered soft, bright eyes, fierce eyes, alert eyes, hard faces, long
faces, short faces, sardonic and cynical faces. Some had thick lips,
some thin, with bodies sun-varnished, tattooed and magnificent, or
white-splashed, shapely and graceful; others were disease-eaten. Like
happy phantoms the girls rushed by, the symmetry and grace of their
tawny limbs exposed as the Oriental jewellery from the magical carpet
bag jingled on their arms and legs. Some of them were graceful, pretty
girls, others voluptuous-lipped, their eyes alight with greed and
jealousy as they revealed their charms, and sought the approval of
likely customers.

At first I thought that some native carnival was in progress, but it was
not so. It was simply the natives and the mixed emigrants jumbling and
tumbling about together. Many of these emigrants were Indians who dwelt
in hovels just outside the village. These hovels were called the Indian
Lines. The men who inhabited them were mostly Mohammedans, swarthy men
who made converts from the Fijians.

One of my supreme gifts is insatiable curiosity, consequently I can
assert that the scenes I witnessed almost outrivalled the orgies of the
harem cave near Tai-o-hae. The Christian missionaries had done good work
in Fiji for many years. It was they who abolished cannibalism and
idol-worship, but as far as the ultimate result of their labours was
concerned, they might as well have never moved a finger. For those
Fijians were revelling in a sensual creed of emigrant Mohammedanism.

Sickening of the sights that I witnessed just outside that village, I
went back to that semi-pagan citadel. All the conical-shaped huts were
sheltered by tall, feathery palms, clumps of scarlet ndrala and
bread-fruits. At different points crowds of natives were collected,
listening to the different lecturers who aspired to propagate their
special views much the same as the chapel-goers of the civilised cities.
One tawny, aged chief stood on a huge rum barrel yelling forth the
manifold virtues of the olden heathen creed. As I strolled by, the
listening crowd cheered him: “Vinaka! Te rum! Vinaka soo-lo!” they
shouted. A little farther off, yet again another lecturer who roared
forth the glory of Mohammed. In his hand he waved the Fijian Koran.
Outside the village stores, elevated on a tree stump, stood the village
poet, yelling forth _vers libre_ and singing legendary chants of the
stars and winds in the tree-tops. One old chief, who was tattooed from
head to feet, his tawny face wrinkled like the parchment of a broken
drum, stood on a large gin-case. He was a kind of South Sea Caliban. As
he stood waving his long, tattooed arms and shouting to his followers
who were assembled in that tiny forum, he spotted my white face. “Down
with the heathen papalagi!” he shouted. Then he glared scornfully at the
turbaned Indian men who stood about him, and on the native maids who
suckled babies with tiny, fierce, Indian-like faces.

“Down with the Mohametbums!” he yelled over and over again.

I never saw such a wise-looking old Fijian as he looked. I can fancy I
hear him now as I dream, as he stands there shouting:

“Down with papalagis! Fiji for the Fijians!”

They were not bad people when left to themselves. Indeed they had
already successfully overthrown the curse of militarism that had crushed
their isle during Thakombau’s terrible reign. In their huts, hard by,
hung the old war-clubs. Only those mighty weapons and a few bleached
skulls told of the pre-Christian days.

But I must not digress too much, for I have a long way to go yet. I only
stayed in that village one night. At daybreak I was up with the flocks
of green parrots that swept across the sky, whirling like wheels of
screaming feathers as they left their homes in the mountains.

I made up my mind to go straight back to Suva. I had got it into my head
that Waylao must have gone that way, possibly to inquire for me, to see
if I had turned up after she had been thrown out of the Pinks’
establishment.

I felt like some wandering Jew as I tramped along by the seashore.
Notwithstanding that I was alone, I forgot my immediate sorrows, for I
felt that I was seeing the world, and the scenery that I saw around me
was very beautiful. It was a lovely day. The inland mountains rose till
their distant peaks seemed to pierce the blue vault of heaven. Lines of
plumed palms and picturesque bread-fruits stretched for miles and miles.
On the slopes grew the ndrala-trees, covered with scarlet blossoms.
Along the shores gleamed the blue lagoons, shining like mirrors as the
swell from the calm sea broke into sheafs of iridescent foam by the
coral reefs. It seemed incredible that only a few years before the
death-drums of the cannibal tribes had echoed through that paradise of
silent, tropical forest.

As I tramped onward, my reflections were suddenly disturbed by a sight
that one could not easily forget. Just below the forest-clad slopes
stood a covey of nude native girls. Their tawny bodies were glistening
in the sunlight as they emerged one by one from the depths of the lagoon
by the shore. I was so near that I saw their brown, shapely, graceful
bodies steaming in the hot sunlight. In their wet masses of unloosed
hair still clung faded hibiscus blossoms of the day before, stuck in the
thick folds by large tortoise-shell combs. They were having their
morning bath. Though I knew well that it was wrong of me to remain
concealed in the bamboo bush, still I remained there. As they stood
chattering and laughing, thinking that they were quite unobserved, a
young white man, of the “knut” type, emerged from the coco-palms just
opposite them. I saw at a glance that he was a tourist. He had a camera
with him. Directly he spotted that sight he made a frenzied effort to
place the camera on its tripod, and so get a snapshot that did not crop
up every day.

At this moment I too came out and revealed myself. As the native girls
caught sight of us, they gave a frightened scream. They could not blush,
for Nature, in their fashioning, had already made them, at their birth,
blush from their head to their perfect toes, a terra-cotta hue.

“Lako tani! Lako tani!” (“Go away!”) they shouted. Lo! ere we could
believe our eyesight, up went twenty pairs of pretty nut-brown
feet—splash! they had all dived back into the lagoon.

The Knut fixed his eyeglass and gasped out: “Well, I nevah!”

The covey of frightened girls had disappeared, gone to the bottom of the
deep lagoon.

“Good Lord! they’ve drowned themselves,” was his horrified ejaculation
as I came up to him. It was true enough, there was no sight of a head on
the water; only a bubbling on the glassy surface, as though a fearful
death-struggle was in progress beneath.

“You’ve done it now!” said I. “Fijian girls are so modest that sooner
than be spied upon at such a moment they would die. They are as modest
as white women.”

“No!” was his awestruck comment as he stared at the water beyond the
coral reefs just in front of us. His eyeglass dropped from his eye; he
gave another horrified exclamation at the thought of those beautiful,
dusky Eves committing suicide through his curiosity.

It was at this moment that a slight commotion became visible in the
centre of the lagoon; then up poked a mass of dishevelled hair, a pair
of sparkling dark eyes and a set of pearly teeth. Next moment up came
another, then three more—till in a few seconds they all clambered,
splashing, ashore. There they stood, a flock of graceful, soft, tawny
shining bodies sparkling in the sunlight, each one modestly attired in
her pretty _sulu_ (fringed loin-cloth). They had snatched up their
scanty attire ere they had dived into the lagoon in order to arrange
their toilettes in its secret depths.

The Knut refixed his eyeglass, thanking God as I helped him on with his
coat, for he had prepared to dive after his victims.

The Knut, the girls and I became quite pally. I helped him arrange them
in an artistic row. We placed hibiscus blossoms in their frizzy masses
of hair, and extra girdles of flowers about their shoulders. One never
saw a prettier sight than those girls as they stood there laughing and
steaming in the sunlight. I often look in the South Sea novels and
reminiscent books in hopes that I may see the photographs that we took
of them. It was quite a trade in those days to travel the South Seas
taking snapshots of maidens having their morning bath!

That Knut and I became very friendly after that little episode.

“Been this way long?” said I.

“Two weeks, deah bhoy,” he responded in the cheeriest manner.

I took to him like a shot. When he had told me of his history, explained
in fullest detail his blue-blooded ancestry and close connection to
Charles I. of England, I casually remarked that I never saw anyone who
so resembled my great-great-great-grandfather, King James of Scotland,
as he did.

“You’ve got his brow to a T. Blessed if you’re not the dead spit of his
painting that hangs in my ancestral halls, the other side of the world,
in Kent. It’s the eyes that I can’t quite place. You see, it’s like
this. When Sir Cloudesley Shovel, the first Admiral of England, gave the
painting to my aunt (who was related to the Guelphs, the present
reigning family of the English throne) it had the eyes quite distinct,
but, on being told that they resembled mine, I pointed to the canvas,
and lo! my fingers went right through the eyes. I was a kiddie then, so
I cannot recall what they were really like.”

I never saw a Knut stare through an eyeglass like he did as I gave him
the foregoing information. He wasn’t a bad sort, for he took my hand in
good comradeship, and, mutually satisfied with each other’s pedigree, we
had fine times together.

On finding that he was going down to Suva, I at once accepted his
invitation to accompany him. I must say he cheered me up; he seemed to
find amusement in everything. We took several photographs on the way
that first day. When he heard me inquiring from the natives if they had
seen a half-caste girl, he fixed his eyeglass firmly and peered at me
curiously—then nudged me in the ribs. I did not tell him all that
worried me, but he too began to help me in my inquiries. In fact I saw
that he was curious about the affair. One can imagine my astonishment
when he suddenly said, “Heigho! Wait a minute,” then, opening his
haversack, pulled out a photo of Waylao.

“Good heavens!” was all I could get out, as I stared in astonishment at
the beautiful face.

“You don’t mean to say that’s _her_, deah bhoy? Damn it all!”

Then he told me how he had met a girl, several days before, resting on
the rocks near Rewa town. Struck by the singular beauty of her face, he
had taken a snapshot of her.

“Did you speak to her? Did you ask her if she was going to the Pinks’?”
I almost yelled. For a moment he looked at me as though he thought I had
gone mad, then said: “Who the devil are the Pinks, deah bhoy?”

For a moment I glared at him; then the absurdity of it all came to me,
and we both smiled.

I explained to him as much as I thought necessary.

“Quite romantic, old bhoy,” he said, as I told him about Waylao stowing
away on the _Sea Swallow_, and how she had been kicked out of the pious
Pinks’ establishment.

He was a good-hearted fellow, for though he chaffed me a bit about it, I
saw that he would have gone a deal out of his way to help me to find the
castaway girl. I will not tell how deeply I dreamed of that girl. In
imagination I saw her tramping along those wild tracks, homeless,
friendless, and full of misery. All thought of securing a berth on a
ship, or doing anything whatsoever for myself, vanished. One resolve
remained, and that was to scour the Pacific till I met Waylao.

She was no longer Waylao the stowaway to me. She had become something
wonderfully beautiful and mysterious, the poetry, the romance of
existence. It was a strange madness: the very memory of her eyes seemed
to be photographed on the retina of my own eyes, and to send a poetic
light over the wild landscape that I tramped across. I heard her voice
in the music of the birds that sang around us. The sorrow that reigned
in the heart of that homeless girl was mine also.

I was not what the world calls in love. It was a wild, romantic passion
that came to me. I became a child again. I heard the robin singing to
God high up in the poplar-trees just outside the little bedroom
window—the room wherein I slept, a child. Romance existed after all. It
was as real as the starving crows that faded across the snow-covered
hills into the sunset, as real as the tiny, secret candle gleam on the
magic page of the old torn novel by my bedside. The glorious poetry of
childhood was true.

But away mad dreams!

I recall how the Knut and I tramped across those wild miles. We cheered
ourselves up by singing part songs. _Who killed Cock Robin?_ was our
favourite melody. The first night we stayed at a small settlement near
Namara, a native village. We met a strange old man at this spot. He
lived in a hut by a palm-sheltered lagoon, slept on a fibre mat, native
style, only wore a large beard and pants, and on his head a stitched
banana-leaf hat. He was an ex-sailor. At first I took him for some
mighty philosopher, some modern Montaigne out there in Fiji,
unacknowledged and alone. But soon his wise sayings and growlings on
life palled on us. He tried to impress the Knut and me that he was some
kind of a mixture between François Villon and the wise Thoreau, with a
splash of Darwin thrown in. I recall his hatchet-like face. His drooping
nose seemed to be commiserating with his upper lip as he artfully drank
water and chewed dirty brown bread. On his table were piled the works of
the philosophers: Montaigne’s _Essays_, Diogenes, Thoreau’s _Meditations
in the Forest_, J. J. Rousseau’s _Confessions_, Darwin, and many more
standard works. He spoke much about the beauties of Nature, of birds’
songs and the beauty of flowers. And I believe he _was_ a clever old
man. His eyes shone with delight as the Knut and I praised him and bowed
our heads in complete humility as he uttered tremendous phrases. In the
corner of his hut stood a secret barrel of Fijian rum. It was neatly
covered with a pail, but my keen nasal organ smelt it out. The natives
told us that sometimes the old man got terribly drunk and danced like a
madman by the door of his hut, to their extreme delight. He was, withal,
a fine specimen of civilised man living under utterly new conditions in
a strange country. Such men I have often met—ex-sailors, ex-convicts,
ex-poets, ex-divines, authors and musicians—but seldom have they given
one the slightest hint, by their mode of thought or their way of living,
of their erstwhile calling during their life in civilised countries. Men
change completely. Environment makes all the difference. Undress the
artist, take the hope of praise for his enthusiastic efforts from him,
make him a tribal chief, and lo! his mental efforts are reversed. Some
primitive tribe applauds his ferocious, cannibalistic appetite, his
cruelty, his merciless, sardonic grin as some harem wife shrieks at the
stake. And he who, by God’s mercy, escaped the British gallows, roams
some South Sea forest and finds himself; becomes a poet, the wonders of
Nature, the music of the Ocean turning his exiled thoughts near to
tears. Experience has shown me that the inherent truth and goodness of
men is mostly hidden, and they learn by artifice that which leads them
to the gallows. But to return to my ex-sailor. He gave us a bed on the
floor, and made us comfortable; but we never had a wink of sleep all
night. He seemed delighted to get someone to listen to his philosophy.
He had evidently been living alone for a long time with his thoughts, so
we got the benefit of the great flood that burst forth from his
long-closed lips.

After we left that old sailor philosopher we walked two miles and then
fell fast asleep under the palms, and made up for the night’s
philosophy.

That evening we arrived at a little township near the mouth of the Rewa
river. Having had so little sleep the night before, the Knut took
comfortable lodgings with a white settler, a Frenchman.

As the evening wore on, we discovered that he had been a surveillant at
Ile Nou, the convict settlement off Noumea. He was a pleasant man
enough, but I could not help thinking of the power that had once been
his. He seemed to take a delight in telling terrible anecdotes about his
profession.

As he shrugged his shoulders and murmured, “Sapristi! Mon dieu!” we both
looked at him, horror expressed in our eyes.

“Mine tere friens, I but do my duties,” he said, as he saw the shocked
look on our faces.

As he continued telling us of those wretched convicts, I stared into the
little hearth fire that merrily flickered as it cooked our supper, and I
saw dawn breaking away over the seas as the waves lifted the limbs of
that silent figure, and laved the sad face of the dead escapee convict
girl of Nuka Hiva.

That surveillant’s happy wife and their little girl, staring at me with
wondering eyes, only intensified the pathos of the scene that my
imagination had conjured up.

I also had been to Noumea and seen those poor convicts, the dead still
toiling in chains, while some were fast asleep under their little cross
in the cemetery just by: “Ici repose Mercedes ——. Decede l’age——.” O
terrible, nameless epitaphs!

Ah! reader, have you read _The Prisoner of Chillon_? Yes? Well, you may
consider it a passionate poem of reflective longing as compared to the
great unwritten poem about the prisoners of Noumea. If Byron had been
able to see Noumea he would never have worried about Greece or Chillon,
but would have sat down and outrivalled Dante’s _Inferno_ with a New
Caledonian Inferno—I’ll swear.

I’ve seen the slaves of conventionality incarcerated in the strongholds
of Christian cities; dragged through London in the prison-van—called the
workman’s train—handcuffed by the official grip of the twelve
commandments of the book of civilisation, their dead eyes staring, still
alive, and the grip of iron-mouthed starvation of the soul and body on
their brows and limbs. But that sight was as nothing compared to the
wretchedness of those poor wretches in Noumea who had failed to comply
with the laws of equity and justice of La Belle France.

“They look like convicts, don’t they? It’s printed on their faces!” said
a comrade of mine, once, as we were led, by the officials, down that
terrible Madame Tussaud’s of the South Seas—a monstrous show where the
figures stood before one with blinking, glassy eyes, men stone dead,
standing upright in their shrouds, undecayed, though buried for years!

“Yes, they do look like convicts,” said I, wondering what I would look
like with head shaved, face saffron-hued, front teeth knocked out by
some zealous official, an infinity of woe in my eyes, No. 1892 on the
lapel of my convict suit, my back bent with what memories. Yes, I felt
that I should be slightly changed. I felt I should not have looked like
a saint. I had some idea that I should be an extremely vicious-looking
convict. But there, why worry? They have never _caught_ me at anything
yet.

But to return to our French host. That night my comrade and I slept in a
little off-room together. It was pitch dark in that stuffy chamber. My
friend went to sleep soon after he had finished his cigarette and I was
left alone with my thoughts, that strayed to the convict settlement in
La Nouvelle.

I imagined that I saw the convict prisoner awaiting his last sunrise: I
saw the gloomy corridors that lead out to the presence of that vast
tin-opener, that knife that lifts the hatchway of immortality with one
swift slide—the guillotine.

I saw the convict’s haggard face and trembling figure as he stood, at
last, before that dreadful cure for insomnia. There he stood, awaiting
death, as the dawn crept higher and higher on the sea’s horizon. Already
the pale eastern flush had struck the palms on the hill-tops of that
isle and lit up the faces of the huddled surveillants who awaited the
fall of the knife.

Yes, I saw that scene. The thought of the headless body and the blood
was nothing to me. It was the victim’s agony, the thought of the mind’s
attempt to grasp, to comprehend, its extermination, then the last
thought of—God knows who. It was this that made my heart go out to him,
for I knew that I might have been in his place if I had had his same
chances.

As these things haunted my brain, the world took on a nightmare form. In
that strange, intense reality that comes to one in dreams, when things
are more vivid than when we are awake, I felt all that convict’s
thoughts—I became _him_.

I looked on the world for the last time. They led me forth: I heard the
last bird singing in the coco-palms. I felt that I deserved death by
that atrocious blade; I could not remember the crime, but it was
sufficient that I had displeased Man. The knife looked down at me,
wriggled, seemed to grin and clink out in this wise:

“Ha! Ha! Ha! Thou hast displeased thy fellow-beings—they who never
sinned—thou must die!”

In some mysterious way my mother, Pauline and Waylao became mixed up,
became one personality. I looked into those eyes for the last time.

“Will you remember me?” I sobbed, as I clasped some figure of infinite
beauty in my arms. Then I gazed at the rising sun, for with the first
sight of its rim on the horizon I must die.

God Almighty! the signal came—the day was born. They clutched me. I gave
a terrible yell. “Mon dieu! Merci! Merci!” It was my last appeal to man
on earth, my last yell—in vain.

Crash went my foot, bang went my fist as I struck out. Then I heard the
Knut’s eyeglass clink on his little bed-rail as he stuck it on and tried
to peer at me through the gloom. Ah! What music was in the sound of that
little clink of the eyeglass.

“It’s nothing, dear old pal,” said I, as I felt an intense affection for
his presence. “I was only dreaming of those native girls in the lagoon.”
As I said this, I heard him yawn and snuggle down in the sheet again, to
sleep. Then he drawled out sleepily: “What figures they had, what
virginal curves, dear bhoy; no wonder that you dream of them. I hope the
plates will turn out well.” Then he murmured “Good-night.”

“Good-night,” I responded, then I too fell asleep.

                  *       *       *       *       *

I see by my diary that my tourist friend’s heart belied his cold-looking
monocle considerably, for here’s the entry of that date:

“R—— gave me £5. Feel very wealthy. Left French ex-official’s homestead
and started on our tramp towards Suva. Came across several groups of
huts under the bread-fruit trees by place called Na Nda. The inhabitants
worked on the sugar plantations some distance away. They were a very
cheerful community and greeted my comrade and I with loud cheers of
‘Vinaka!’ and other joyous Fijian salutations. I suppose they guessed
that my pal had plenty of cash. He’s dressed like a nabob: grey, fluffy
suit, tremendous white collar and a pink tie. Also wears yellow boots. I
think it was the eyeglass that inspired respect even more than the
neck-tie.

“We stopped at these little native villages for the rest of the day and
all night. Had wonderful experiences with the camera; caught more girls
bathing—little mites about three or four years of age. We stood the
camera up on its tripod and told them to stand in a row. They thought
that the camera was some terrible three-legged cannon—all suddenly
rushed away with fright, screaming. Took a splendid photograph of them
in flight, ere they disappeared under the forest palms.

“Saw thousands of red land crabs near the banks of the lagoons. As we
approached they marched away in vast battalions and entrenched
themselves in rock crevices.

“Had late dinner with a native chief and his wife. Nice old chap, had
intelligent face; if his lips had not been quite so thick he would have
resembled Gladstone, the great English statesman. R—— and I squatted on
mats before him in the native fashion and ate fish and stewed fruit off
little wooden platters. Delicious repast; couldn’t stand the _kava_
(native wine) offered us; we spat it out, much to host’s disgust.


[Illustration: BANANA PLANTATION, FIJI]


“A pretty Fijian girl, who was supposed to be connected by blood to some
great Tongan prince, came in from the hut opposite and proved most
entertaining. She sang native melodies to us and danced.

“R—— said she would make a fortune at the Tivoli. She was dressed in a
robe made of the finest material, fastened on by a girdle of grass and
flowers. The robe just reached to her knees. R—— said that the knees
alone were worth photographing. He is full of sunny humour. She got a
splinter in one of her toes. R—— fixed his monocle on and probed away at
the toe till he got it out. Never saw such perfect feet, olive-brown and
as soft as velvet. Terrible hot night; tried to sleep out beneath some
palm-trees; made a beautiful bed of moss and grass but couldn’t sleep.
Both jumped up and found that a modern semi-heathen, semi-Christian
ceremony was in progress. It’s what they called the Meke dance, I think.
R—— and I crept under the palms to see the sight. It was a magical scene
to see those maids and handsome Fijian youths dressed in their barbaric,
picturesque costumes as they did a barbaric two-step.

“We got into conversation with some of the old chiefs who were squatting
in a semicircle gazing on the dance.

“They told us that it wasn’t a barbarian dance at all, but simply the
anniversary of the time when they were converted. As the night wore on
the elders got convivial and drank kava out of a large calabash and
joined in that extraordinary religious ceremony. Many of the
thanksgiving high kicks made my pal hold on to me tightly and gasp. We
felt quite sure that something must go, either a joint get out of its
socket or a limb snap. The little Fijian kiddies that were watching my
comrade stare through his eyeglass screamed with delight and danced
around us. They thought he was some kind of an English idol. The grand
finale of that festival is indescribable.

“All I can say of the impression left on my memory is, that it seemed to
be some kind of ecclesiastical can-can, some strange potpourri of
Catholicism, Protestantism, Mohammedanism, Buddhism and reminiscent
heathenism flavoured with a dash of revelry.

“_Sunday._—Arrived at Suva. Went up to the Parade and made inquiries,
hoping to hear something of Waylao. All I could hear was the voice of Mr
and Mrs Pink singing in the mission-room that adjoined their store.

“‘You holy beggars!’ I thought to myself. ‘I pray God that I may never
become religious.’

“My comrade took me up to the White Hotel. Had a good time as far as
times go when you’ve trouble on your mind.

“Cannot make out what has become of Waylao. Wondering if she has
committed suicide. Feel down in the mouth.

“I feel lost without seeing Waylao. She’s my romance.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

I see by my next entry in my diary that the Knut left Suva on the
following Wednesday, so that we were together for three days on arriving
at Suva. I was very sorry to part with him; he was a good friend and
cheered me up by his entertaining ways. Ere he left me he got slightly
infatuated with a tourist girl he had met on the Victoria Parade. She
had dropped her handkerchief and he picked it up. I recall her well. She
was a horsey-looking being. Her name was Julia. The last I saw of them
together was on the highroad near Suva. He was ogling Julia through his
glass ogle as he strolled by her side. I hope he got well out of his
love dilemma, for though he was a good chap, he did not strike me as one
who would care for so serious-looking a catch as Miss Julia. Though he
sneered at my romantic ways, he was really full of sentiment. I remember
he helped me get my violin out of pawn, and then made me sit up all
night playing sentimental songs of the homeland.

I never saw him again after he left Suva. Probably a further account of
his doings can be found in some published book of South Sea
Reminiscences. I know that he intended to write down his adventures in
the South Seas, and include as illustrations those photographs that I
have described.

I sometimes wonder if I am in his book. If so, I suppose he has got me
down as some mysterious individual full of romance; one who tried to
convince him that he was a prince travelling incognito, searching for a
dusky princess.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXII

I lead a Gaff-house Orchestra—News of Waylao—The Matafas—Tamafanga’s
  Love Songs—My Sacred Gift to my Host and Hostess—I sail with
  Tamafanga for Nuka Hiva—The Storm—The End of Tamafanga’s
  Quest—Celestial Protection for Bugs


AFTER the Knut and his camera left me I became slightly depressed.

I see by the entry in my diary of that date that I had just got five
shillings in my exchequer when I decided to leave Suva.

Other entries show that I made several efforts to trace Waylao, also
that it was necessary to fall back on my musical accomplishments in
order to exist on something more appetising than coco-nuts. There’s
nothing like an empty stomach to make a man play the violin in public.
The romance and glory of Southern Seas are apt to fade away before the
grey dawn of cold hunger. I vividly recall the engagements that I
secured, and the white barbarian ladies as they lifted their delicate
mumus. It is true enough that those ridis reached to their ankles; but I
soon sickened of the amorous flutterings of those diaphanous, gaudy
robes as the figures they swathed whirled and swished beneath the
lamplit halls of that Suva gaff-house.

I half made up my mind to go back to England and settle down.

Why roam the world? Why seek further for my missing comrade? What could
I do if I discovered her? I could not alter things or change her evil
destiny. Such were my reflections as I stuck to my job, and led the
scratch orchestra in that gaff-house after roaming the world in search
of fame and fortune.

I thought of the sunless, songless skies of England. I pictured my
home-coming and the sight on the faces of my family on the wharf, when
I, the prodigal son, returned from wanderings in distant lands to
retrieve the family’s fortunes. I had many misgivings as to the
reception of myself and my worldly goods, which make the show in rhyme
as follows:—

 Oh! hear of my dreams of long ago, when I seized the splendid chance,
 When I sailed across the homeless seas for the isles of dim romance!
 Away to the lands of far-away, to the dim great Make-believe:
 And what was the fortune that I made—what deeds did I achieve?
 (Though goodly was my heritage to the ends of all the earth)
 Though I sang wild songs as our ship rolled home, O men, hear of my
    worth—
 Weighed down with rhymes and fearful crimes, sun-tanned and deadly
    sane,
 Face yellowish-brown—one bad half-crown and a monkey on a chain!

Such was my success. Even the monkey died before I left Suva. But I was
rich in experience.

The very sight of ugly Suva city, with its wooden dwarf houses, stinks
and mosquitoes, inspired me to seek for change.

Then it came again like a fever raging in my blood; it was the call of
the wild, echoing through my dreams. As I lay unsleeping in the
vermin-haunted bunk of that wretched hovel wherein I dwelt, that call in
my blood seemed somehow to echo from the lost Waylao’s sorrow.

I arose like one in a dream. I would seek the wilds, the forest and seas
again, and only dream of England’s skies.

Such were the reflections that I recall as I look back across the track
of the years to my glorious vagabond pilgrimage, back to the sun-kissed
bosom of the wilds, back to the starlit, tropical nights of eyes and
fragrant lips, to the sea foams, the scented, dusky hair of my beloved
South—my love of other days.

In looking back, how different seem the dreams that were once ours. The
present seems a daub, it has no perspective of its own, it is like the
raw colours of the aspiring artist ere he spreads them on the canvas and
the picture slowly shapes itself from his creating brain. How beautiful
are the paintings of rosy horizons of TO-MORROWS—how transfigured, how
rare and beautiful are those wonderful masterpieces of—SAD YESTERDAYS.

Ah! Waylao, you are the embodied phantom of my dreams. To-day I sit in
sorrow and mix my colours, and toil away as I paint you, both as you
were and as you appear now. You are my impassioned mistress of the
South. In dreams I gaze into your starlit eyes; I breathe through your
dishevelled, scented tresses, and sing into your shell-like ears the
songs that I loved.

Ah! Waylao, outcast of the mysterious South, our lips have met in
comradeship as we wept together—not you and I alone, but with all your
race.

You once loved the songs of my homeland, as I once loved and cherished
the wild, impassioned songs of your sunny isles. Ambushed in your warm,
impulsive clasp, I have heard the moaning waves wailing, breaking over
the coral reefs, tossing their arms with laughter, like the dusky
children of those wild shores. You have haunted me in long, long dreams
through the night, as I slept by the banyans of the moonlit shore.
Soft-footed you crept out of the shadows and sang your magical melodies
into my sleeping ears. And Pauline would come too, the beloved maid of
the Western Seas. Ah, how oft did she creep up the moonlit shores to lie
in my arms as I slept, and sing the dear homeland songs through my
dreams—dreams of England.

Do I speak in enigmas? Few may understand all that I mean, nor do I wish
them to understand.

Ah! Pauline, how your eyes haunted me in those sleepless nights of the
far-away years; and still they haunt me—yes, with all the songs that
once you sang to me. I often wonder if I _imagined_ that shadow of
yourself, that ran singing beside me as I tramped, and sailed from isle
to isle, on those knight-errant quests, searching for Waylao.

It seemed too vivid to be only a dream when I awoke in the lonely nights
of the forest dark and heard you whisper in my ears, calling me back to
Tai-o-hae.

I know that even Waylao was haunted by thoughts of you, of your pale,
beautiful face; for did you not sing those songs to us as we three sat
by the lagoon near your drunken English father’s home?

Where are those songs now—songs that made me feel the glorious romance
of all that I dreamed long ago, ere I put out my hands to clutch the
stars and plucked—dead leaves?

                  *       *       *       *       *

I must not dream. I recall how depressed I felt when I left that
gaff-hole. My only companion, who shared my lodgings, was a strange old
man, a retired sailor and trader. He would lie in bed beside me cursing
all living and dead missionaries the whole night long. I never
discovered the cause of this intense hatred of his for those
much-maligned men. Each night he knelt beside our sleeping-couch and
prayed fervently.

“Why do you pray, since you are always cursing everybody, and especially
missionaries?” I inquired curiously, as he fell on his knees.

He lifted his wrinkled physiognomy, gazed solemnly upon me, and said:

“Boy, I pray to my Maker each night, begging Him to save me from ever
becoming religious!”

The foregoing is about all that I remember of that sarcastic old man. I
bade him farewell, and left those lodgings. Then I went down to the few
trading boats in Suva Harbour, hoping to secure a berth on one that was
bound for the Marquesas Group. One three-masted schooner was almost
ready to leave for sea. She was bound for Apia (Samoa). Whilst waiting
to see the skipper, who was ashore, I strolled into the forecastle, and
so by the merest chance heard the sailors talking about an interesting
incident of the previous voyage. Their conversation was about a pretty
girl—a stowaway.

One may easily imagine my eagerness as I immediately inquired and found
beyond a doubt that I had come across news of Waylao.

Yes, on that very schooner Waylao had stowed away after arriving back in
Suva from her mad journey up to N——.

I gathered, from all that the sailors told me, that Waylao had arrived
back in Suva a fearful wreck. Having tramped nearly all the way round
the coast from N—— her feet were bleeding. Indeed, when the kindly
sailors had discovered the girl huddled away on deck, they were
horrified at her condition.

As I found out after, it was very probable that, had not a native woman
in Suva taken pity on the girl, fed her and given her some decent
clothing, she would most likely have given up all hope and ended her
life.

Though this kindly disposed Fijian woman had done all that her meagre
resources would allow her to do for the distressed castaway, still,
Waylao had been inconsolable. As the old Fijian herself told me, all
that the girl seemed to want was to get on a boat that was bound for
Nuka Hiva. It was this strong and natural yearning for home that took
her to the ships. It appeared, from her own story, that as she stood
beside the schooner _H——_ she had asked some native children where the
boat was bound for. On hearing that it was bound for Samoa, and then on
to the far Marquesan Isles, she had stowed away. It was not a difficult
matter in those days, for girls so seldom stowed away that one could
wander aboard without causing suspicion.

Waylao took good care not to hide in the vessel’s hold this time, for
they found her peeping with frightened eyes behind some orange-cases on
deck ere they had been to sea forty-eight hours.

“How was it? Tell me all about it?” said I to the sailor who had
discovered the girl.

“Why, we had just got out to sea, when I was a-standing on deck talking
to my mate there. ‘What’s that?’ says I, as I ’eard a rustling behind
the deck cargo.

“‘Rats!’ he says to me. Then I looks round and, strike me lucky! if I
didn’t see a pair of the prettiest frightened eyes peeping up at me
through the chink of an empty orange-case!

“Well, I looks down at them ’ere eyes, and says to my mate: ‘Strike me
lucky! if it ain’t a beautiful gal, a stowaway—and, phew! what eyes!
Hallo, missie! W’ere yer sprung from?’ says I. The skipper was at that
moment tramping to and fro on the poop. He’s a nasty old man, so as she
gazed up at us, me and my mate sees how things were, so I whispers to
her and says: ‘Keep still, girl, till the Old Man’s out of sight, and
we’ll slip you into the forecastle!’

“It wasn’t long before we saw our chance. ‘Come on, missie,’ says I.
Gawd! you oughter ’ave seen her blood-stained feet, as we sneaked across
the deck and into the boatswain’s cabin, for we had taken him into our
confidence.

“You should ’ave seen that poor devil’s grateful eyes as we trimmed her
up, gave her food and did our level best to make her comfortable.”

As the sailor spoke, I saw Waylao’s eyes quite plain enough.

“What happened then?” I said, as we walked ashore, for that sailor and I
became pally.

In the little saloon near the wharf at Suva we sat together as he
continued to tell all that I was so deeply anxious to hear.

It wanted deeper duplicity, a greater actor than I, to disguise my
interest in that unknown stowaway girl, as I drew out all I could from
that unsophisticated sailorman.

Suddenly he looked at me steadily; then, giving me a confidential,
half-serious wink, he said:

“Trust me for keeping mum—you knows more about that gal than I do! Eh,
mate?”

“Well, you’re right there, but it’s not exactly as you may think. I,
like you, met her at sea as a stowaway.”

Saying this, I at once proceeded to tell him how we had discovered
Waylao on the _Sea Swallow_.

He looked almost incredulously at me as I told him as much as I wished
to tell; but my manner eventually quite convinced him.

It was then I heard that when Waylao had arrived at Samoa the boatswain
had slipped her ashore and left her in the care of two natives that he
knew well. Samoans they were, Mr and Mrs Matafa.

One can hunt the world over and not find better-hearted men than real
sailormen. I learnt that the boatswain had made a collection amongst the
crew for the benefit of the homeless castaway. Indeed they had done all
in their power to cheer her up and alleviate her distress and stop the
tears that came when she discovered that the schooner was not going on
to the Marquesas. They had assured Waylao that many boats left Apia
Harbour bound for Hivaoa and Nuka Hiva.

The old Samoan couple, the Matafas, had welcomed Waylao with open arms.
It so happened that they had lost a daughter who, had she lived, would
have been about Waylao’s age. The old boatswain told me that the
superstitious natives looked at the girl with astonishment in their
eyes, and wailed: “Ah, ’tis her, our lost child, our beautiful daughter;
the great gods have sent this wonderfully beautiful girl across the seas
to us.” Then they had both fallen on their knees and thanked the great
god Pulutu. Ah! Matafas, you dear old blessed heathens of the South, I
thank the great God of this Infinite Universe of Inscrutable Wonder that
you did not turn out like the sweet, Christian Pinks—the pious old
humbugs of Suva township.

I called on the Matafas long after my first visit, just as I had called
on the old hag Pink. But I did not hurt the old heathen chief’s heart,
or his dear wife’s. What did I do? Ah, well I remember the look on their
faces as I said that the great heathen gods watched over them; and she,
the strange girl who had crept out of the seas to their arms, awaited
their coming to the halls of shadow-land. It was then that they wailed
like two children, laid their sinful heathen heads on the bench of their
little parlour and wept. But I must not go ahead of all that I have set
out to tell.

As soon as that sailor had told me all about Waylao’s adventures, and
acquainted me with the fact that she was stopping in Samoa, I made up my
mind to get a berth if possible on the same boat. I was rewarded with
success, for when the _H——_ sailed out of Suva Harbour I was on board.

I see by my diary notes that we had a very rough passage across, and did
not arrive at Apia till we were a week overdue.

It was after sunset when we anchored in that crescent-shaped harbour off
Apia. I vividly remember the scene, and hubbub of the clamouring natives
as they swarmed about our schooner in their strange, outrigged canoes.

Samoa is a kind of Italy of the Southern Seas. The people of those
palm-clad isles seem to be ever singing. They sing as they paddle, they
sing as they toil, they sing as they beg and in their huts, or under the
palms, they sing themselves to sleep.

The very speech of the Samoans is sweet and musical. Their fine eyes
beam with lustrous light, as though, in making them, God touched their
vision with a little spare starlight. I never saw such physiques, the
Marquesans excepted. Clambering out of their outrigged canoes on to the
shore, or stalking beneath the coco-palms, they looked like bronzed
Grecian statues of shapely Herculean art, statues that could come down
from their pedestals and roam beneath the forest palms at will.

It was late that night when I at last got ashore. In the distance
glimmered a few dim lights in Apia’s old township, and as I walked under
the palms I heard the guttural voices of the Germans who passed by going
back to their ship in the bay.

I will not weary my reader over the trouble I had to find the home of
the Matafas who dwelt near Apia. When the old Samoan chief, under whose
protection the boatswain of the _H——_ had placed Waylao, lifted his
hands and looked despairingly at me, I could have dropped from
disappointment.

“Ah, the beautiful, strange girl from the big waters, she gone!” he
said, when I eventually let out the reason for my coming to his humble
little homestead. I must admit that at first I wondered if the old chief
was deceiving me, but as he stood there, under the flamboyant tree, he
looked earnest enough, and so my disappointment was complete.

It was some time before I could get out of the old native exactly all
that had occurred, for, like all his race, he beat about the bush in all
manner of ways ere he came to the main point. But so as not to beat
about the bush myself, I will say at once that Waylao had stopped with
them for three weeks; and one morning when they had gone to awaken her
they found she had flown.

Old Matafa was a Samoan of the good old school. Although Christianised
and extremely devout in his exclamations about the new creed, still,
deep in his heart, he nursed the old memories of the heathen gods.

The great South Seas’ deities, Pulutu and Tama and Tangaloa (god of the
skies), were words that ever came from his lips in the form of oaths
whilst talking to me. He rejoiced in the title of O Le Tui Atua, which
meant that he was an erstwhile chief of the highest and most sacred
rank. His little hut home was not far from the native village of Satufa.
I had seldom seen a finer or more majestic-looking chief than Matafa.
When I first interviewed him, he rose from his squatting mat and stood
erect before me. His chest swelled out to its full proportions, so that
the armorial bearings of an elaborate tattoo were shown to their best
advantage. As I told him the cause of my visit his face grew serious,
his eyes gazed at me curiously. When he quite understood me, he went to
his hut door and called out: “Tamafanga! Tamafanga!” In a few moments a
handsome Samoan youth came rushing out of the little hut that was just
opposite the Matafas’ homestead.

“Tamafanga, you read that and tell me what it say.”

Tamafanga, who had been taught English in the mission classes, took the
note that had been given me by the boatswain of the _H——_, and slowly
read it. When he had at length translated it into the Samoan tongue for
the benefit of the old chief, Matafa’s manner completely changed. In a
moment he was all attention and looked at me with deep respect.

“Alofa! Papalagi!” said he, at once offering me a squatting mat.

Evidently he and that old boatswain were good pals. Probably the former
had promised a tip to Matafa and had told him also that I was a true
friend of Waylao’s.

As soon as I had taken up a squatting position on the great high chief
mat, the old man called out: “Fafine! Matafa!” Then for my special
hearing he said aloud, in English: “Mrs Matafa! ’Tis I who calls you, I
your husband the great chief, O Le Tui Atua!”

Ere the echoes of the old Samoan’s voice had died away, I heard a
shuffling in the next compartment, that was separated from the main hut,
then an old, but still handsome native woman toddled into the hut and
obsequiously approached the great “O Le Tui Atua.”

Ah! she was a dear old soul, and though much wrinkled she still revealed
in her tawny face the sad afterglow of her feminine beauty of other
years. Though her eyes were sunken and weary-looking, they still
retained much of the sweetness of the old light, the light that had long
ago beamed on the face of her great chief, Matafa.

When the old chief had told her why I was there she lifted her arms to
the roof and wailed. By the light of the small coco-nut-oil lamp I saw
how genuine was her grief over the disappearance of Waylao. Though that
old mouth was quite toothless, and the amorous curves that had once
imparadised the heart of Matafa were shrivelled, still, I discerned the
tremulous quiver of sincere emotion on her lips.

As I sat there with my legs crossed, and while the youth Tamafanga eyed
me earnestly, the chief and his faithful wife told me their sad tale,
how Waylao had come to them like some strange spirit girl out of the
seas. Wail after wail trembled from their lips as they described how the
girl had entered their desolate hearts and the great sorrow they
experienced when they found that their beautiful visitor had flown.

They told me how they had rushed about like two demented people,
searching far and wide for the girl.

“Tell me more,” said I, as the old chiefess wiped her eyes and wailed.

“Ah! white mans, she always crying and saying that she want to go back
across the seas to her peoples. We both much kind to her and say: ‘You
stop here and belonger to the great Matafas. We love you because you
like our beautiful daughter who die long ago. Perhaps _you her_, come
back?’”

So mournfully rambled on the native woman as she told me over and over
again all they had said to Waylao in their pleadings that she might stop
with them and become as a daughter.

While all this gabbling was in progress, Tamafanga lifted his eyes to
the roof of the hut and sighed. I gazed at him. He was a handsome youth,
and by all his actions and impulsive remarks it was easy to see how his
heart was where Waylao was concerned.

I see by my diary that I stopped at the Matafas’ for nearly three months
before I got a ship again. In that period I learnt almost everything
that was to be known about the missing castaway.

It appeared that in the short time that Waylao had lived with the
Matafas she had become known to all their friends and many of the
village folk near by. By degrees I learnt that Waylao had been looked
upon by the native girls and youths as some beautiful spirit girl from
the Langi of Polotu (Samoan Elysium). For though the young natives were
all Christianised, they still had great faith in their beautiful poetic
mythology, and were extremely superstitious. Nor is it to be wondered
at, when people of the civilised cities believe in fortune-telling,
spiritualistic séances and _Old Moore’s Almanack_!

Tamafanga and I became great friends. By night, when the old Matafas
were snoring in the next compartment, we would sit together smoking. It
was then that I discovered that Tamafanga was never tired of talking of
the beautiful stranger—Waylao.

He told me how she would sit by the Matafas’ hut door and sing her
native songs as she watched the sunset far away at sea. While Waylao
sang and the old Matafas listened with joy, native girls and handsome
youths would creep out from the shadow of the forest bamboos and
coco-palms to gaze on the lovely stranger.

“See how beautiful she is! It is only a goddess that could have so
beautiful a skin—that is neither white nor brown as our own. Besides,
who but a daughter of the great god Tangaloa could sing so beautifully?”

So did the superstitious Samoan girls argue as they listened to Waylao
as she sang to drown the bitterness of her misery.

It appeared that she had become very attached to those pretty children
of the forest. Indeed they too had come to love her in the little while
that she stayed amongst them. As she sang they crept up to the hut,
lifted her hands and knelt by her and placed hibiscus blossoms in her
hair. Indeed Matafa’s hut had become a sort of Mecca of romance.

While I was with the Matafas, a native _fau va’a_ (canoe builder)
suddenly called on the old chief and told him that a canoe was missing
from the beach for quite three weeks. It was this bit of news that upset
the lot of us, for we all felt certain that the culprit who had taken
the little craft was Waylao. And when the news came to that little
primitive household, Mrs Matafa wailed. I, too, felt heavy at heart and
Matafa, who had never tired of searching and inquiring, was as much
upset as his wife, while Tamafanga squatted on his mat, put his handsome
chin on his knees and cried like an infant.

I tried hard to cheer them up, but it was a wretched, futile effort on
my part, for I felt sure that Waylao had drifted away to sea and
perished. Whether she had gone off deliberately or not, I could not tell
then, but, soon enough, the reader shall know exactly what occurred.
Indeed I heard the whole matter from the girl’s lips when——. But it is
not here that I must tell that sad tale.

When Matafa saw my grief he gazed at me intently; then he arose from his
mat and, giving me a gentle nudge, passed out into the night. In a
moment I followed the chief out into the brilliant moonlight. As I stood
by him, leaning against a coco-palm smoking, he looked about him
carefully, to see that no eavesdroppers were near.

This secretive manner caused a great hope to spring up in my breast that
perhaps he knew something about Waylao and was about to divulge it. Then
the old chief sidled up to me and looked about once again, as my heart
beat high with hope. Inclining his head, he whispered into my ear:
“Master, O great Papalagi, art thou sorry for the girl?”

“I am,” said I most fervently, not comprehending the meaning of Matafa’s
mysterious manner. Then he continued:

“You say nothing, but _I_ understand, O Papalagi, allee samee! You now
very sorry. ’Tis you, O white mans, who would ask the beautiful girl
whom we have lost to forgive you—and be your _fafaine_ [wife]?”

In a flash I saw through the old native’s meaning.

“It is not that way that the wind blows, O great O Le Tui Atua,” I said
sternly, as the chief regarded me interrogatively. Then I proceeded: “I
am a white man. Do you think that one of my race would be guilty of that
which you have so vilely insinuated?” Though I said this, I felt sadly
amused at the old fellow’s suspicions. But he took my reply seriously,
my manner convincing him of his mistake.

“O noble white mans, I am ole Samoan fool. To doubt a white man’s honour
proves that I am still heathen.”

“Wail not, O noble Matafa, O great chief, say not that you deserve
death, for it has been known, even in my country, that such-and-such a
man has betrayed a maid.”

Poor old Matafa was delighted when I took his hand and truly forgave
him. After that confidential talk we became true pals, indeed he opened
his heart to me. He would never tire of talking about Waylao—in some
ways he was worse than Tamafanga.

“Ah, white mans,” he would say, “I did peep through the chink of the
screen that divided our chamber from the beautiful Waylao’s, and never
did I see so sweet a sleeping goddess.” Then he would twirl his fingers,
as he rolled a cigarette, and sigh heavily as though his heart said:
“Why should old eyes dare admire the beauty of a maid? Has not Mrs
Matafa been a good and faithful wife?”

Poor Matafa, he was truly virtuous, good to the backbone. He possessed
the inherent virtue of the highest races of mankind; for,
notwithstanding his reflections, he would never really have done any
harm to the unfortunate girl beneath his roof.

I did my best to cheer up my kind hosts. I recall how I took them to a
festival one night. It was some kind of carnival near Safuta Harbour,
and was very similar to the festival scenes which I have already
described in my Marquesan reminiscences. The memory of it all seems to
be some dim recollection of a wonderful faeryland of song. For the
Samoans are the greatest singers on earth. As the dancers whirled about
on the stage platform, their figures were lit up by a hundred
coco-nut-oil lamps that hung on the branches of the bread-fruits.
Tamafanga and I strolled about, half wondering if we would meet Waylao
amongst that hilarious mass of dusky beings. Though we had inquired
everywhere and heard that a canoe was missing the same night as Waylao
had disappeared, still, we had hopes that she might have returned to the
isle again.

Those picturesque Samoan maids looked more like fairies than earthly
beings, as they crept out of the shade of the moonlit palms to stare at
us. I never remember a more bewitching sight than when the sea wind
tossed up their masses of glorious, coral-lime-dyed hair. But some did
not use the dye that turned their naturally dark tresses to a bright
golden hue, and this made a delightful contrast as they strolled about
in groups together, rich scarlet blossoms in their tresses and adorning
their delicate tappa gowns.

Tamafanga would never cease singing as he roamed by my side. He had
heard me play the violin and so thought that I was never so happy as
when he sang to me. I recall how he took me up into the most beautiful
parts near Apia to show me the scenery. I often stood on those slopes by
night and watched the dim lamps far below on Apia’s only street. As I
write I seem to live again in the past. Once more Tamafanga and I stand
together beneath the palms and watch the stars shining over the distant
sea. All the birds of the forest are silent, only the songs of a few
sailors in the beach shanty break the stillness. As I dream on, Vaea’s
mountain-peak rises to the skies as the moon looms up far out at sea.
Only the beautiful tavau-trees and plumed palms move as the sea winds
touch them. As I watch, that height is no longer a mountain, it is the
vast, solitary tomb of Robert Louis Stevenson. Far below, old Vailima
(his late Samoan home) still has a light shining in its lonely verandah
window; shadows still move in those wooden walls which he had built, but
the master is far away up there, high above the Road Of The Loving
Heart, fast asleep in that mighty tomb, as through the windows of heaven
shine his eternal lamps—the stars.

Tamafanga sings by my side. I can see the ineffable, greenish flush of
the dim sea horizons. By Mulinuu Point lie a few schooners, their canvas
sails hanging like broken wings in the moonlit, windless air.

I am now alone, for I have sent Tamafanga down into Apia town to buy a
little gift for the kind-hearted Matafas. As I stand there, awaiting my
friend’s return, I recall all that has been and all that must have been
in days gone by. It is on those wild shores, kissed by the whitened
surfs, that the old Samoan kings met and discussed their various rights
to the throne. I think of the laughter of the white men and their wives
in that big wooden house in the hills. It was there where the Great
Tusitala (writer of stories) welcomed the men who came across the seas
to visit him.

As I still dream on and look about on the glorious light of the night
skies, I seem to breathe in the very poetry of nature. Over my head the
beautiful bread-fruit trees and plumed palms wave their richly adorned
branches. The deep, primeval silence, only disturbed by the cry of the
solitary _Mamoa uli_ bird, seems to steal into my very being. I can
smell the wild, rich odour of the forest, as the night’s faint breath
steals from the hollows, laden with scented whiffs from the decaying
tropical flowers and the damp undergrowth, that, a few hours before, was
pierced by glorious sunlight and musical with bees. Suddenly I hear the
sound of soft-footed feet, then a burst of song—it is Tamafanga. He has
returned with the present.

When we arrived back again at the hut, old Matafa and his wife rushed to
the door to greet me.

“Matafa,” I said, “you have befriended her whom I loved, and so I now
give unto thee that which the gods have sent you, through the tenderness
of my heart.” With delight they both stared at me, their eyes were
alive, shining with gratitude as they put forth their hands and clutched
the _O le oloa_ (sacred gift)—a bottle of the best unsweetened gin. I
felt that it was wrong to give them that stimulant after the fifty years
of missionaries’ supreme efforts. But they were old, and I knew that
even old people in the countries where the missionaries hailed from like
and need a little invigorating stimulant to buck them up when they can
ever hear that prophetic tapping—thump! thump!—as the kind gravedigger
pats the soil down, nicely and neatly over their old, tired heads and
cold hearts.

We were all feeling sad that night, for I had at last secured a berth on
a full-rigged ship that lay out in Apia Harbour. She was bound for Nuka
Hiva and San Francisco.

I had promised the Matafas that I would return again some day.

“Cheer up,” I said, and I told them that I had some idea that I would
find the beautiful girl Waylao back in Nuka Hiva. At that they clapped
their hands with delight, and then, alas! the reaction set in and they
wept.

As we all sat there, and they imbibed the contents of that bottle of
gin, Tamafanga sang to us. He reminded me very much of my dear dead
comrade Hermionæ the Marquesan. As he sang, and the lights burnt low,
his eyes shone with light, for he was happy with the thought that he was
going away on the big sea with me. For Tamafanga had gone on board the
_Rockhampton_ directly he heard that I had got a berth and asked for a
job as deck hand—and had secured one.

The Matafas were very sorry to find that he was going with me; but I had
promised to look after him and he had promised them that, if he ever saw
Waylao in Hivaoa, he would persuade her to return to them.

As we sat there together, for the last night, for the ship sailed next
day, the old Matafas sobbed as their Tamafanga sang. His song was one of
longing, for his head was full of the romantic idea that he was going
away across the big seas to search for the beautiful Waylao. This is how
it ran:

         “O eyes of the night, O voice of the winds,
         Beautiful are the dreams of love.
         Sweet are the sounds of deep-moving waters
         And the sight of the stars over the mountains:
         But, oh, how glorious is the light of a maiden’s eyes!
         Eyes that we cannot see—only remember.”

So did the handsome Samoan sing as I played the violin in that little
hut by Salufata village. As the night grew old, the Matafas laid their
heads on the table and wailed: “O noble white mans, bring back to us the
beautiful white girl, the stranger that came to us from out of the
seas.”

I slept little that night as I lay beside Tamafanga in the little room
next to the Matafas, who, thanks to the unsweetened gin, slept soundly.

I was anxious to get back to Tai-o-hae. I thought of Grimes, I longed to
hear his cheery voice again and to see the old faces. “What had happened
when Benbow came back and heard all about Waylao? Was the old cottage
still on the slope with its little chimney smoking as of old? Did old
Lydia still watch for Waylao’s return, or was the girl back there?” Such
were my reflections as I lay on that mat, sleepless, in Matafa’s hut.

Next day, when I went aboard the s.s. _Rockhampton_, the crew stared
with astonishment to see my obsequious retinue, for Mr and Mrs Matafa
had made up their minds to come and see us off. I did my best to
dissuade them, but it was no use—come they would!

As I strode up the gangway from the outrigger canoe that took us out,
Tamafanga followed close behind me, carrying my violin. Behind him came
the Matafas. Mrs Matafa’s arms were crammed with bunches of bananas and
other delicious fruits. Old Matafa had attired himself in his full
costume of sacred chiefdom. He was bare to the waist, but about his
loins was the gorgeous swathing that represented the Samoan’s royal
insignia of knighthood. I must say he looked a handsome old fellow as he
jumped down on the sailing-ship’s deck and stalked majestically behind
me, carrying his huge war-club which, decorated with many jewels, showed
his high degree. The sailors, mostly Yankees, grinned from ear to ear as
I wished the chief and his wife good-bye.

“Clear off!” shouted the chief mate as the tug took us in hand.

When the Matafas saw that we were really off they commenced wailing in a
most pathetic manner. Tamafanga prostrated himself at their feet and
wailed too. It was nothing much to see those old Samoans wail and cry
out, beating their hands all the time in anguish, for they mostly do
that kind of thing when they bid anyone farewell.

The chief mate caught poor Tamafanga by the fold of his old coat and
told him to “get off and do his work.”

Mr and Mrs Matafa stood up in the outrigged canoe and waved their hands
till our ship rounded the point, and we put out to sea. So did I leave
Apia, with Tamafanga as a shipmate, bound for Nuka Hiva.

We had not been to sea more than two days when they put Tamafanga in the
galley to help the cook. They found that he was no earthly use on deck.
He was for ever singing, but the cook was a good fellow and did not seem
to mind so long as Tamafanga washed the pans and peeled the spuds
properly. He had a bunk amidships, near mine in the deckhouse. He sang
all night long, as well as all through the day. Indeed he never seemed
to want to sleep.

“Tamafanga,” I said, “it’s true that you know that I am fond of music,
but do you think that it’s right to sit on the side of my bunk singing
when I am trying to get to sleep?”

He hung his head and looked like a whipped hound as I said that to him.
I felt more ashamed at heart than he did, as I added quickly:
“Tamafanga, I know that your voice is beautiful, but it is really
necessary to sleep when I come below. I am not a Samoan, I am only a
sleepy-headed white man, see? Tamafanga, old pal, that makes all the
difference.”

“Master, I promise that I will only sing four hours in the evening, as
you wish,” and then, saying this to me, he burst into song on the spot,
though he promised to sing no more that night.

All the sailors liked Tamafanga. One night they gave him some rum. They
deceived him by saying: “Tamafanga, you sing so beautifully that we have
decided to give you this nice stuff, which is specially prepared for the
voice. You will sing like a blackbird after you drink that.”

“What’s a blackbird?” said he.

“You’ll hear and know I guess,” said the sailor, as he coaxed and, at
length, lured Tamafanga to drink the grog.

After he had taken that potion, he clapped his hands and sang till the
forecastle echoed with song and wild laughter.

I am afraid I laughed too, for poor Tamafanga had never drunk rum
before, and I never saw a fellow dance and somersault as he did that
night. Suddenly he went on his knees before me and sang a weird song,
ending up with an extemporisation to Waylao’s eyes.

Ah! Tamafanga, when I think of all that happened after, my heart bleeds.

Next morning he had a face as long as a fiddle. The cook offered him
some rum as a pick-me-up, but he shook his head fiercely. Wise youth!

The events of that voyage are fixed in my memory, I do not think
anything on earth will make me forget all that happened.

A week after we left Apia we were becalmed for many days. The heat was
terrific. The pitch in the seams of the deck planks boiled and oozed
out, and stuck to our bare feet as we trod the deck.

Tamafanga seemed to be the only one who was cool: he cast off his old
seaman’s coat that he had bought at a store in Apia and reverted back to
the primitive lava-lava. To tell the truth I envied that scanty attire.
If we had been the only two on board as we lay becalmed in that
infinite, glassy ocean I should have dressed in exactly the same
fashion.

After the first week of calm, a slight breeze came up after sunset and
filled the sails, dragging us along about three or four knots, but at
sunrise, up came the steaming vapours and down poured the terrific
windless heat from the sky.

The skipper trod the poop all day long, staring fiercely at the sky
looking for wind. At length the weather improved, and we had a genuine
trade-sky over us, just one or two wraith-like clouds sailing across
illimitable blue as, with all sails set, we followed them as we rolled
once more across the vast liquid blue, below.

I recall the glorious tropical day that preceded the change in the
weather—and such a change! The wind dropped again, the air was hot,
almost thick with silence. As night fell, the sky pulsed with the
ethereal energy of a thousand thousand stars. Suddenly it came—crash!
The storm seemed to break over that vast, silent tropic sea like an
explosion: as though some terrific cataclysm had occurred out in the
solar system and blown the western horizon out. I fancied I heard the
tumultuous tottering of the heavens as that midnight hurricane smashed
down upon us.

“All hands on deck! Shorten sail! Aye there! Let go!” Boom! Crash! Then
came muffled orders that the wind slashed into a thousand pieces ere
they got clear from the Old Man’s lips (he was an old man, too; a grand
white beard, wrinkled, sun-tanned face alight with keen, grey eyes).

As we clung aloft, she gave a lurch to windward. A flash of brilliant
lightning split the heavens in twain. It lit up the sea. Ye gods, what a
sight! It was like some vast Arctic Ocean of mountainous, pinnacled
icebergs adrift, dancing with mad, chaotic delight, as they travelled
away to the east! As that flash came, I saw the heads of my comrades,
their figures clinging on in a row up there high aloft. We looked like
puppets clinging on a long stick that was dancing about up in the sky of
that inky, black night.

I felt my cap go. The wind ripped my hair, it seemed as though a
fiercely thrust knife had whipped out of space and scalped me.

Someone who clung just near me muttered a laboured oath. Then a voice,
that seemed to be out somewhere in space, said: “Now we sha’n’t be
long!” “Stow yer gab, yer son of a gun,” said another sepulchral voice
out in the black infinity. Crash! We felt the vessel shiver as the seas
broke over, then she lurched to windward. I felt sure that she was
turning turtle. Up she came and righted herself as we grabbed the folds
of the straining canvas in our fists. The flapping canvas and the
rigging bellowed like monstrous living beings as we all clung aloft, far
away up there in the chaos. Suddenly I clung on like grim death. I felt
certain that the world had suddenly shifted its orbit and had taken a
headlong plunge into infinite space. I turned my head and looked over my
shoulder; though the night was pitch black I saw it rise—a thundering,
boiling mass of ocean ablaze with phosphorescent light. Up—up—it came.
The _Rockhampton_ shivered and crouched like a hunted, frightened stag
of the ocean. Crash! We had pooped a sea! A mountain of seething,
boiling water rushed along the deck and swept to the galley. I felt the
stern sink to the weight of the water as the jib-boom stabbed the sky.
Another crash; the galley had been swept away and had crashed overboard
like matchwood. The masts shivered, the night moaned. I clung to the
fold of the sail with my fist, yes, tight with fright. I think if I had
gone before my Maker that next moment—as I expected to—I should have
still been clutching that little bit of dirty, wet canvas in my hand—the
last remnant of sweet mortality!

I heard a faint cry: it came from somewhere out in the storm-stricken
night. What was it, I wondered. It seemed to stab my heart. Then the
terrific roar of the night, the moan of the seas below and the thunder
of the winds aloft, blew all my faculties away into infinity like dust.

Suddenly the hurricane’s first mighty passion blew itself out.

We all stood on deck, huddled, looking into each other’s faces.

“Are you men all there?” roared the skipper.

“Aye, aye, sir!”

At first we had thought that the cook had gone overboard with his
galley, but he had just gone into the forecastle to turn in when the
storm came down on us, so was he saved.

Suddenly I felt as though God had given me a tremendous thump on the
heart. “Where’s Tamafanga?” I yelled.

The seas were still roaring and racing along, across the world, like
triumphant mountains, bound for the south-east. Far overhead the stars
were flashing and glittering in the wet, blue pools of the midnight sky.

“Tamafanga!” I yelled again.

“Tamafanga!” came like a husky echo from the bearded throats of the men
just by me.

Then a voice said: “Tamafanga was asleep on the cook’s bench in the
galley. He felt the cold, and lay down to sleep with some old sacks over
him!”

The galley was miles astern, lost on those mountainous seas!

The huddled sailormen looked pale and haggard. The moon shone through a
wrack of cloud, just for a moment, as they all turned their heads and
gazed astern into that vast, angry, tomb-like night. Their eyes looked
glassy with sorrow. It was the beautiful link between the white man and
the brown man. There it shone, terribly sad on those haggard, ghastly
faces.

“God Almighty!” I gasped, realising the truth.

All the crew answered my exclamation like an echo, it sounded
reverential and full of sorrow.

Tamafanga, the beautiful singer, handsome Tamafanga of the South
Seas—where was he?

“Tamafanga!” I yelled again, as I felt like some wild madman, not
knowing what to do or realising to the full how hopeless was my call to
that wild night of storm-swept seas. Then I cried like a child. The next
night and the next night—I wept again as I lay in my bunk. Ah! Why be
ashamed that I loved dear, singing Tamafanga?

Brother or sister, believe me, I would not have wept half so much had a
king lain down to rest in that bit of old sacking, to awaken far away on
those relentless, mountainous seas of the night, miles and miles astern.

The whole crew missed Tamafanga, I never heard so many genuine regrets.
The cook hardly spoke for two days, only puffed his pipe, stared from
the extemporised galley at the sea and murmured: “Well! Well!”

But why be sad? It’s done now, long years ago. Fate got its whack of
sorrow out of Tamafanga, so I suppose we must smile and be cheered at
the thought that Destiny did a cowardly act and was happy in doing it.
There is little more worth recording about that unfortunate passage.

After Tamafanga ceased singing, and went to the bottom of the Pacific to
await the trump of doom, I became depressed, though, of course, I had no
right to be. Depression over the loss of something that has nothing to
do with the materialistic side of one’s own existence is a sign of
mental disorder.

But I must admit that the crew of the _Rockhampton_ were all tarred with
the same brush, and when I played the violin in the forecastle it was
very obvious that they all missed Tamafanga’s voice.

The weather following that hurricane was gloriously fine for the rest of
the voyage. The days crept out of eternity and shone like vast blue
mirrors between the tropical nights of twinkling myriads of stars.

I do not think I had a good sound sleep throughout the whole passage to
Nuka Hiva. It was the saddest, the most uncomfortable voyage I ever
experienced in those parts. The _Rockhampton_ was one of the old, wooden
clipper ships, the sailors said that she was built of bug teak—some kind
of a tropical hard wood that bred bugs. True enough, those insects
fairly lifted me out of my bunk, turned me over and sought the tenderest
spots. It may sound blasphemous, but I believe that Providence watches
over the interests of bugs.

The instincts of those semi-human things was truly marvellous. Attacked
viciously all night by them, we would search by daylight—and never find
one. They migrated through the deck cracks into the hold during the day.
At night I would creep into my berth and sight thousands of pairs of
tiny reddish whiskers (South Sea bugs grow beards) twiddling through the
deck cracks. We kept a strong light on so as to make them think that it
was broad daylight. But do you think that they were gulled? Not they!
Though storms raged, though men wept, though romantic Tamafanga, with
his sweet songs, was swept into the raging seas of eternity—we arrived
off Tai-o-hae and not a bug lost!


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXIII

Nuka Hiva once more—The Deserted Grog Shanty—Benbow’s Second
  Home-coming—He hears the Truth—A Mournful Carouse—Knight-errants
  in the _Bell Bird_—A Letter from Grimes—Another Fruitless Serenade


ONE can imagine that I did not weep when at last we sighted the wild
shores of Nuka Hiva and entered the beautiful rugged bay of Tai-o-hae.
Though I had signed on for the trip to San Francisco, no sooner had the
anchor dropped than I proceeded to make myself scarce. At first I had
thought of doing a bolt, but on reflection I made up my mind to be
straightforward with the skipper, so I went to him and revealed the fact
that I wanted to leave ship at once. He turned out a good sort, and even
gave me a month’s money, though according to sea agreements he need not
have given me a cent.

To pack up and leave the ship was nothing to me. I was leading the life
of primeval man, so I was always at home, wherever I happened to be, and
I was always in the best possible place that I could possibly be in at
that precise moment. My luggage consisted of my violin, a steel-toothed
hair-comb, two flannel shirts and the blue Chinese-cloth midshipman’s
suit that I lived in.

I see by my diary notes that I stopped on the s.s. _Rockhampton_ for the
first night in port and arrived at the grog shanty at Tai-o-hae on the
9th December.

I will make no attempt to describe my disappointment when I arrived at
the old place and missed the friendly faces of most of the rough men I
had known. The tale that Mrs Ranjo told me sounded more like some wild
romance than anything else.

My first inquiry was about Waylao. Had she turned up? I awaited Mrs
Ranjo’s reply with intense interest. She only shook her head and stared
at me seriously. Indeed she looked a bit spiteful, for Waylao had been
the cause of taking away her most generous and oldest customers from
Tai-o-hae, under circumstances which I will describe later.

It was a glorious starlit night when I strolled out of the grog shanty
with my head fairly humming with all the strange things that I had heard
from the Ranjos.

I would have given anything at that moment to have had old Grimes beside
me, but alas! it could not be.

As I strolled along the silent track by the shore, my steps
instinctively strayed in the direction of the old hulk, and ere long I
stood on that friendly derelict—alone. My heart was heavy with the
silence that had greeted me wherever I sought the sweet music of the
voices of comradeship. As I stood beneath the broken masts, and stared
on the old scenes, the changelessness of Nature’s face oppressed me.

The same stars shone over the mountains, the old figurehead still
stretched its hands to the dim western constellations and those far-off
worlds seemed as remote as my own hopes. I felt the loneliness of heaven
enter my heart. Inland, just over the rows of forest bread-fruit trees,
I could see the ascending smoke from the native villages and, near the
shore, the tiny light of the solitary window of Father O’Leary’s
mission-room.

Gazing on the dim sky-line, the old figurehead and I became dear
comrades who communed in the silence of some great twinship of sorrow.
We were both alone. Hardly a sound came from the grog shanty. I saw its
lights twinkling beneath the palms. No familiar sounds of rollicking
songs disturbed the silence. I felt like one who stood on some old shore
of far-away memories, the shores of some world that I had known ages
ago. Below the decks silence reigned, dark and deep. The tinkling of the
banjo and the wild encore yells were missing. Not one song or muffled
oath greeted my ears. Grimes, Uncle Sam, Benbow and all the men I had
known so well were far away at sea.

When Ranjo and his wife told me all, I had gone straight up to Father
O’Leary. He, too, depressed me as he described what had happened since I
left Tai-o-hae.

“Ah! my son,” he said, “I have known many troubles since I came across
the seas to these isles, but few of them have been so bad as the sorrow
that has come to me of late.”

“Did they not find out who was the cause of all this unhappiness,
Father?”

The old priest shook his head for reply, then said:

“My son, what matters it all, the how and why, since the girl has gone?
What use in trying to avert the evil when evil has done the worst that
it could do?”

“That’s so,” I responded. Then I took the Father aside and told him all
that I knew about Waylao since she left Tai-o-hae. The telling took a
long time. As I sat by that grey-bearded old priest the tears came to
his eyes.

“My lost sheep, my pretty Waylao, the best of all—and so, the easiest to
fall, the swiftest to lose!” Saying this, he pressed my hands.

“My son, have hope. I feel assured that she will come again,” said the
old Catholic as I bade him good-night, and went away feeling less
hopeful than ever. Ere I left the Father I had asked him if Pauline was
still on the island. To tell the truth, I half-expected to hear that she
had flown away to sea also. When the priest told me that Pauline still
roamed that spot by the mountains my heart leapt with a strange thrill
of joy. She at least is left on earth, I thought, as I wandered away
into the night.

Next day I went and saw Madame Lydia, and I shall never forget the
welcome of the old native woman when I walked into her cottage. She
almost jumped into my arms as I greeted her. I was pleased to find that
she was not quite alone. It so happened that one of her own relations
was staying with her till Benbow returned to Tai-o-hae with all the
shellbacks who had gone away as his crew.

                  *       *       *       *       *

I will now describe, as well as I am able, all that I heard from old
Lydia and the Ranjos about Benbow’s home-coming and why he went to sea
with the beachcombers.

It appeared that, about a week after the _Sea Swallow_, with Waylao and
me on board, left, Benbow arrived home. All the beachcombers had stopped
in the shanty instead of going down to the shore to greet him as was
their custom when he put into Tai-o-hae Bay. They anticipated trouble.

Possibly Benbow himself wondered why everyone looked so damnably serious
instead of greeting him in the usual boisterous fashion when he entered
the grog shanty. Not one dare tell him the truth about the trouble
awaiting him at home, but their hearts were pretty full, I am sure, when
he called for drinks all round. He must have thought that the hot
weather had affected them as the beachcombers lifted their mugs, clinked
and drank his health in a subdued voice.

When the burly old skipper had left the shanty, and passed away up the
little track that led to his home, the shellbacks all rushed to the
door, watched and listened. Though Benbow’s bungalow was several hundred
yards away, they waited the thunderous voice of the skipper, the
ejaculations that would escape from his lips when trembling old Lydia
told him all.

As Benbow entered the old parlour he looked around. What was the matter?
Why did his wife look at him like a whipped hound? Where was the
welcoming voice of his pretty Waylao?

“Waylao!” he shouted. Then he stared round him wildly. Had old Lydia
gone mad, he wondered, as he yelled once again.

“What the hell’s the matter? Where’s Waylao?”

As the sailorman yelled again and again, in his wild impatience, the old
woman only wailed. Suddenly the stricken sailor stared aghast. “Is she
dead?” came his husky query. For what else but the death of his
beautiful Waylao could make this terrible silence and that terrible look
in the eyes of his native wife? Ah! reader, you know all, but Benbow,
the British sailor who had left his daughter in the care of his wife,
knew nothing.

“She’s gone, Benbow; she go run away into forest, days and weeks ago!”

“Gone!” that was all the skipper could say as he stared at the woman and
stamped his foot.

“Some man deceive our pretty Wayee—she like THAT! She run! She run! O ze
great white Gods helps us!”

Old Lydia wailed out the foregoing information, and looked into the
haggard face of the white man, trembling the while like a dead leaf.

For a moment he stared like an idiot. Then he passed his hand across his
brow.

“Gone? Like what?” came his response in a clash of thunderous passion.
It sounded like the voice of doom to the native woman’s ears as the
sailor yelled forth his inquiry.

The shellbacks, who were all huddled by the grog shanty door, heard that
yell. They shivered as they looked into one another’s awestruck, staring
eyes.

“Gawd blimey! to fink that oive lived to see this ’ere day!” murmured
Grimes as the huddled shellbacks breathed heavily, swayed in their
sea-boots and listened.

When Lydia had at length told her husband all that she could tell, and
dared tell, she clung to his knees.

For a moment the cottage shook. It was even reported that the shellbacks
heard muffled screams. Indeed they had prepared to rush up the slopes to
see if old Lydia was being murdered. But they did not go, nor was their
presence needed, for it was only the cries of Lydia in hysterics at the
sight of the Britisher’s anguish-stricken face.

Then the reaction came. The white man sat down in his arm-chair by his
old grandfather clock and cried like a child.

While Lydia told me those things, that old grandfather clock still
ticked on like doom. As we sat there in the silence, and the woman wept
and wailed out all her sorrow to my sympathetic ears, the “tick! tick!
tick!” seemed to chant out in a terribly relentless monotone:

              “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
               Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
                 Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
               Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

“What happened then?” I said, as the woman still wept on and I pressed
her hand. I hardly knew how to tell her all that I could tell: how
Waylao had stowed away on my ship, and then of her last disappearance
from the kind Matafas in Samoa. When at length I told her all that I
knew, she stared at me like a bronze statue; her nose looked brittle,
her eyes quite glassy. I cannot describe how affected I was by that
South Sea mother’s grief over her lost child, and how I raised her
hopes, swearing that I thought that Waylao was safe and sound, and would
soon return, while my heart, alas! belied all that my voice uttered.

She was a brown-skinned woman, born and reared up in a savage land, yet
I could see no difference between her grief and that of any other mother
of the civilised world.

When the distraught woman had at length somewhat recovered, she
continued to tell me about Benbow.

It appeared that as soon as the sailor had relieved his feelings he had
quietly put on his cap and gone back to the grog shanty. As he entered
the grog bar, the shellbacks faced him with steady eyes and silent lips.
He looked into their eyes and knew through one glance that he gazed on
honest men.

“Boys,” he said, “come up to my home. I want you to tell me all that you
know—then we will breach the rum cask!”

Saying this, without another word he walked away. The tense silence of
that rough crew of sympathetic men was dispelled by a huge sigh. Though
the rum cask was to be broached as usual, a fact quite outside their
expectations, they were sincerely sorry. That sigh came from the depths
of their hearts, that warmed at the thought of the rum, which was of the
very best brand.

As soon as the stricken father had departed, they all swallowed their
drinks and filed out into the dusk of the hot evening.

Following the little track by the colonnade of palms they soon arrived
outside Benbow’s cottage, and entered the little doorway in solemn
silence, like a funeral procession.

Each man hitched up the knees of his pants and sat down, half nervously,
in the old chairs to await events. The silence was broken only by the
tick of the grandfather clock and the small coughs of expectation as
Benbow stooped forward and, with tears in his eyes, broached the rum
cask. Benbow had by this time drunk several pick-me-ups to steady his
nerves, and he seemed more like himself again. Looking up at the crew as
he sat in the old arm-chair he said:

“Boys, you know all that’s happened during my absence; now, I want you
to tell me all that you know about this affair.”

For a moment all the beachcombers were silent. They remembered how
Waylao had slept in the hulk, and each one wondered what Benbow would
think when he heard about it all. Suddenly Ken-can, the ever-silent,
saturnine chum of Benbow’s, stared at them all and sneered. Uncle Sam
returned the gaze of those fixed, soulless eyes and muttered a fearful
oath beneath his breath. Uncle Sam knew the significance of that sneer,
but after a moment’s reflection determined to ignore it.

Under the influence of the same inspiration, each lifted his mug of rum
and relieved his feelings. Then Uncle Sam braced up his pants, coughed
as he looked round, and commenced in this wise:

“Captain, we feels right-down sorry about this ’ere business. We ain’t
going to hold nothing back about all that we knows. I guess I’ll tell
yer right here all that we know about your daughter, Waylao.”

He then slowly proceeded, with almost mathematical precision, to narrate
the whole story as far as he knew it.

“Ah, me,” said old Lydia to me. “He kind Melican man, Uncle Sams.”

It appeared that the good-hearted American shellback had put in many
little touches which were calculated to melt Benbow’s heart where his
old wife Lydia was concerned. Indeed Uncle Sam illustrated the native
woman’s grief over her daughter’s flight. He knew that it was well to do
this for Lydia’s sake, for she had wandered about the isle in a demented
condition screaming out: “I’ve driven my daughter Wayee away into the
forest for ever!” Of course, island scandal had made a lot out of the
native woman’s incoherent cries.

I’ve no doubt that it took Uncle Sam a long time to tell his story, and
much moistening of his throat with rum, but when the tale was told, and
Uncle Sam had described Waylao’s grief, Benbow pulled out his big red
pocket-handkerchief and blew his nose. All the beachcombers saw through
the ruse, for the British sailor slipped the corners to his eyes as
though he were ashamed of the tears. It appeared that they drank
considerably that night, and became emotional. I suppose the sight of
the old sailor’s grief was too much for them. There had been a regular
pandemonium of sorrowful expressions after that speech of Uncle Sam’s.
Some sneezed, some coughed and wiped their eyes with their sleeves. To
tell one the truth, even the jockey chap, who wore checked trousers and
made bets on the most sacred things, was overcome. He told me afterwards
that he’d never seen anything so sad since the “dead cert” came in last
and fell down dead. Then he said: “Well, I’ll never say that Bret
Harte’s characters were not taken from life again.”

Ere that renowned night of sorrow commingled with rum was old, Benbow
rose from his chair and called for volunteers who would go with him in
search of Waylao.

“I’ll search the b—— Pacific till I find her!” he roared.

Without any hesitation the whole assemblage of beachcombers had lifted
their mugs and, with voices thick with emotion as well as rum fumes, had
said: “Captain, put me down for one!”

Thus did Benbow get together his volunteer crew who would go and search
the seas for the missing Waylao.

As the old native woman rambled on, telling me these things in her
emotional, descriptive way, I saw that scene before my eyes, and even
regretted that I had been absent from so romantic a night. I knew those
rough men so well that I could easily imagine how the thought of going
away with Benbow after Waylao thrilled their hearts and struck some
dormant, romantic note of their souls!

Before the solemn meeting broke up, songs were sung. Perhaps it is best
to tell the whole truth—ere daybreak had painted the sea-line with grey,
only three beachcombers were able to creep back to the hulk without
immediate assistance. At least four of them slept under the palms, some
were carried back to the hulk with their feet dragging behind them, for
the rum cask in Benbow’s cottage was empty.

“Ah mees,” wailed old Lydia, as she continued. “The great white mans
were sorry for mees and so they did drink and drink.”

When I asked her about Bill Grimes her face became very sympathetic.
“Ah, good Grimes, it was he who put Benbows to beds. Benbow very ill, no
take boots off—feet pained!”

Then the old woman looked at me and said: “Ah, Glimes bad mans, but old
Lydia forgives him for stealing.”

“What did he steal?” said I, at hearing this strange accusation about my
honest Grimes.

“He steal my brass locket, with my pretty Wayee’s poto [photo] in it.”

As the woman told me of this slight indiscretion of my honest pal I felt
sorry for Grimes. I easily imagined the temptation, considering his
infatuation for the girl. I could almost see him slipping the image of
the girl off the bedroom toilet-table as he put Benbow to bed, and could
hear him unconsciously express the one great truth of modern
civilisation as he murmured: “What the eye don’t see the ’eart don’t
grieve abart!”

Suddenly Lydia ceased her tears and darted across the room to the pocket
of some old skirt. Then she returned to me and handed me a little note.
It was a letter from Grimes, left by him in the care of Lydia for me,
should I return ere he came back to Tai-o-hae. This is how it ran. I
copy it from the dirty bit of paper that lies before me on my desk as I
write:

    “DEAR OLD PAL.—’Ave goned away on the Bell bird, hoff to find
    Wayler, Benbow’s dorter, you knows. Opes to be back soone.
    Missed you afully like. rote some fine poultry [poetry]. Aint
    alf ad a spree since you went hoff on the Sea Swaller. If you
    gets back to Ty-o-hae afore I comes back, wait for me. If I
    finds Waylayer I moight marry ’er. You can come and stay wif us.
    Good-bye pal, dont forgit Grimes, we’ll meet soone

                                                      “BILL GRIMES.”

When I had read this note I felt depressed, and a bit wild, too, that I
had not been back in time to tell them all that I knew about Waylao. I
gathered from Lydia that the _Bell Bird_ had gone to Fiji.

It appeared that, before the schooner sailed, Benbow had had a hint that
Waylao had been in Suva. I never found out how he got this information,
probably he had heard it from some sailor who called in at Tai-o-hae
when the _Sea Swallow_ came into port again.

After I bade the native woman good-night I went straight away towards
the grog shanty to see the Ranjos again. In their little bar parlour I
heard a full account of the sailing of the _Bell Bird_. It appeared that
the whole township had been agog with the excitement of the start. The
whole population had turned out to see the beachcombers off. Bill
Grimes, Uncle Sam and nearly all who had attended the council at
Benbow’s cottage were on board as the crew. Ranjo said: “There never was
such a hell of a pandemonium of farewell cheers down on the beach before
as when Benbow put to sea with my Tai-o-hae customers on his ship—and
fourteen casks of the best rum in the cuddy!”

Some of the island folk sneered and said Benbow had gone daft.

“What a fuss to make about a sinful girl!” said some.

Others shook their heads about the ways of the world and of Benbow’s
wisdom in sailing away on such a mad search with such a desperately bad
crew. The Tai-o-hae _Missionary Times_ devoted a special article to the
sailing of the _Bell Bird_. Its tone was sarcastic: it said something
about Helen of Troy in the Southern Seas and of the benefit she had
conferred on the island by ridding Tai-o-hae of so many wastrels.

Many ventured their opinions as to the ultimate result of the voyage.
Some said that they would safely return with Waylao, others shook their
heads as though they were dubious about it. But not one, I am sure,
prophesied or dreamed of the far-off port that Benbow and his crew had
set sail for.

But to return to my own immediate experiences. As soon as I saw a chance
of speaking to Mrs Ranjo alone I took her aside and asked for news of
John L——.

“Does L—— still come to the shanty and imbibe?” I asked.

I asked this question because I had walked under the palms to and fro to
that grog bar quite twenty times, hoping that I might meet Pauline. I
knew that so long as her father had a chance of getting drunk the
daughter would be seeking his whereabouts.

When Mrs Ranjo informed me that he was laid up, crippled with gout, I
felt truly sorry. I must confess that I was not so sorry about his gout
and suffering as at the thought that he could not get tight at the
shanty and so give me a chance of meeting his daughter.

What with the absence of Grimes, the death of Tamafanga, and various
other aids to depression, I felt that something must be done to dispel
my cloudy thoughts and make a little artificial sunshine. With this
idea, I went straight off that same night to L——’s little homestead by
the mountains. It may be remembered I had been up to that silent hamlet
in the hills long before, serenading the girl who haunted my mind.

I recall the very atmosphere of that night as I left the shanty full of
hopes that I should see Pauline. Even as I write, I can almost fancy
that I smell the rich, warm scents of the wild cloves and faded orange
blossoms that hung on the boughs as I strolled by that silent bungalow.
The night was thick with stars, staring as though pale with fright at
the rising moon on the eastern horizon.

I crept through the thickets of bamboos and went across the small
pathway that ran across the patch of garden. All was silent except for
the chirruping monotone of the locusts that haunted the taro and
pine-apples that grew in wild profusion around.

Peering through the branches, I saw a light glimmering through the crack
of the doorway. I knew that it came from the small compartment wherein
lay John L—— and his weird companion. As I drew nearer, I saw the shadow
figure of that eternal watcher. That shadow bobbed about the wall as the
patient groaned and asked, presumably, for just a little drop of spirit
to moisten his fevered lips.

I became brave, and crept closer, to within three feet of the little
room wherein Pauline slept. I suppose that it was the worry I had had
and the sound of the breath of heaven that roamed through the trees that
made me madly romantic. I whistled a soft melody that Pauline had once
admired. I listened and watched, but only the stars winked over the
giant trees.

Ah! how my heart beat as I looked up at that moonlit window-pane. I
fancied I saw the scarlet blossoms of the tangled vines quiver in the
brilliant night gleam. It seemed to me that the small window by the
coco-palms was some ghostly, glassy eye staring down at me and watching
over that sleeping girl. In the vivid inward light of a romantic boy’s
imaginings, I fancied I saw Pauline lying like a warm, white-limbed
angel between the sheets, her eyes closed in sleep as she dreamed of
what—me? Alas! why should she dream of me?


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXIV

Heart-to-heart Talks with Pauline—My Native Friends—The
  Unappreciated Genius—His Views on Art—Father O’Leary’s
  Call—Waylao’s Return


FATHER O’LEARY and I became the best of pals. Though we disagreed on
some matters we never argued.

“My son, smoking is a silly habit,” he said.

“I suppose you’re right,” I responded, taking my pipe from my lips.

He at once held my hand, saying: “Smoke on, I know of men who have done
worse.”

By this alone one may gather that he was harmless enough and a truly
religious man.

He often spoke to me of his boyhood as we sat beneath the orange grove
by his little mission-room bungalow. I learnt then that his mother was
Irish and his father French.

He lent me a little book on the philosophy of the senses and I
discovered a beautiful lock of twisted hair in it. When I mentioned my
discovery, the priest coloured slightly and seemed embarrassed. He had
evidently forgotten it was in the book. When he was down with fever a
few days after, I distinctly heard him mention a woman’s name in his
delirium—a pretty French name—and from all that I heard his lips mutter,
it was evident that somewhere back in the past the Father had had a love
affair. As I lay on my trestle bed by his side, I wondered if that
woman’s name had anything to do with his exile out there in the South
Seas, and conjured up quite a host of romantic imaginings over the
discovery of that lock of brown hair. Whose was it? What evil fate had
intervened, that the only tokens of that romance should be the lock of
hair and the feverish ravings on the lips of an old French missionary
priest in the Marquesan cannibal isles? While the Father slept I gazed
at him and thought what a handsome youth he must have been. Even in old
age some aftermath of youth’s charm still lingered on his face. He had a
fine brow and a kind mouth, so different to millions of mouths I’ve
seen.

He was never so happy as when we sat out beneath the bread-fruits by
moonlight and I played tender solos on the violin. Fired by the romance
I had weaved around my discovery of that ringlet, I composed the
following solo. It was a favourite of the priest’s; he asked me to play
it over and over again. Nor did he dream why I had been inspired to
compose that strain.


[Music: LE RÊVE DU MOINE.

(_The Monk’s Dream._)

A. SAFRONI (A. S. M.)

INTRO.

   Reproduced by kind permission of Messrs. BOOSEY & Co., London, W.

]

He often spoke of Waylao in sorrow, and of the sins and the passions of
the dusky Southern race. Through his hospitality I met Pauline more than
once. She loved to hear me play the violin. The world took on a
different atmosphere as she sang old English songs her father had taught
her. The beauty of those songs was intense, and I became home-sick as I
listened to her voice, accompanied by the monotone of the breaking seas
below and the wild oaths of sunburnt seafaring men in the grog shanty
hard by. None but exiles know how an English song touches the heart and
awakens dreams in a man. I had led a wild life and done many strange
things, and had been influenced by many a chimera, but that white girl
singing a song of England seemed something deeper than I understood, and
took me back home across the seas. I spoke to Pauline in a sacred way of
my mother. I said: “Pauline, I never knew how beautiful my dear mother
was till I met you.” Then I spoke of my father. I told her how even when
I was a little, toddling boy he had a long white beard. I think that
Pauline learnt to love that dear parent of mine. She spoke so gently as
I described to her the various constellations of stars that shone in our
English skies. In the spontaneous utterance of youth I made her see my
old father’s gnarled walking-stick as it trembled, wavered a moment,
then pointed out to me the Great Bear, the Pleiades, Lyra, Alpha
Centauri and remote nebulæ, constellations shining in the heavens as I
walked by his side. I explained to her how I had looked up at that grand
old father of mine as his sombre voice told me those magical names, and
how I thought that _he_ was the first to name the stars.

Nor did I exaggerate in saying this to her. His grey beard had a look of
infinity about it as I walked by his side in those Kentish woods when I
was a boy. Ah! beautiful _when_.

I’ve often felt like jumping over my shoulders and racing back to my
childhood. As I dreamed by those coral seas I came to love the memory of
that child more than life itself. I was young then, so to speak. It was
only a very few years since I had laid that boy in the grave,
disillusioned, dead, with a bruised, cut lip and a black eye. I buried
him in the solitudes of an unknown country, buried him deep, too. Under
his head I pillowed all his childhood dreams. What dreams they’d been!
Ah me! Even now, after so many years, I go back to that grave in the
dead of night, lift the stone slab and gaze on the dead face. He’s as
white as marble. I don’t think he’ll dissolve into dust till I’m dead.
He often creeps out of the forests and shadows into my room by night,
sits at my feet and sings to me. We were twins once; now I stand ashamed
in his divine presence.

I could write a big book about that boy and I, what we thought to do
together when we grew big, when we had crossed the ocean—such wondrous
deeds of chivalry to fair women and comradeship to brave men. He was
plucky, that little pal of mine; would run by my side on the ships’
decks and cheer me in the wild, stormy nights up aloft. It was he who
led me through the vast, tropical forests, telling me to seek Waylao.
The world’s too rotten and cynical to hear all that he wished to do or
all the songs he sang.

That little pal still runs by my side. No wonder I love boys. I often
give a hungry-looking kid a penny and smile grimly to myself as he looks
at the coin, stares at the little ghostly pal at my side and runs away
in fright.

Whilst staying with the kind priest I got pally with his dusky converts.
Often I went into the forest villages about half-a-mile from his
mission-room. Never have I played to a more appreciative audience than
to those shaggy native mothers who crept from their huts to hear me.
Some, for all their sins, had handsome faces and eyes. Their little
children would romp about me and mimic the swaying of my violin bow and
the melodies that I played. One old ex-cannibal chief became a most
estimable companion of mine, and though he incidentally confessed that
he liked human flesh on toast, I found him a reliable pal, trustworthy
and deeply religious. He was a close observer of the beauties of nature,
and I cannot recall any civilised white man whose conversation took my
thoughts to a higher plane.

This particular old native, Maro Le Mu, had several bonny sons and
daughters. He invited me to his home, which was situated in a beautiful
spot not far from the lagoons near the shore port of entry near
Tai-o-hae. His wife was a stalwart, deep-bosomed Tahitian, and a most
hospitable woman. I stayed with them for a week and had fine times. The
children of Maro and his relatives (he had four discarded wives of old
standing) were delighted with me, and as I roamed the slopes and
forests, they followed me like a flock of gambolling puppies. They
looked upon me as some mighty white god or witchman. When I played the
violin they would creep up to me and try and peep into the instrument to
find where the music came from. I would run my fingers up the E string,
and as the bow wailed forth the high harmonics they would scream with
fright and spring away from me, regarding me with awe. Had it not been
for Chief Maro and those kiddies, I think I should have got a ship and
cleared before I did.

One of the sons’ children was a little girl about six years of age, a
very pretty child, a mixture of Marquesan and Tahitian blood. She was
beautifully tattooed on the shoulder curves and on the wrists. I think
that O Maro Le Mu was high born and that the child was marked with the
special insignia of the armorial bearings of the Maro Le Mu family’s
blood royal. However, I practically hired little Winga, for so I
pronounced her gimcrack Marquesan name. She would run behind me through
the forest like a little dusky ghost, and when I entered a village she
marched ahead as my advance-guard, so proud was she of being my servant.
It was a sight worth seeing as she lifted her chin, while the forest
flowers fastened in her folds of coral-dyed hair tossed as she marched
disdainfully across some _rara_ (village green), refusing to consort
with or look at the flocks of native kiddies who rushed up to us as we
passed along. They stared with awestruck eyes at that little comrade of
mine, as we saluted the tribal king and his retinue of dusky wives and
then passed away into the forest. She was an affectionate mite, and
reminded me of the Fijian kiddie of the same age whom a pal and I had
taken with us when we went troubadouring for hundreds of miles in the
various isles of Polynesia.

It was at this time that I met a strange old man, who turned out to be
an artist. He lived all alone on an islet just off the coast, not far
from Chief Maro Le Mu’s home, and he invited me to go and see him. I
accepted the invitation with alacrity, and hired a native canoe to take
me across the three or four hundred yards of deep sea that divided his
islet from the wooded mainland. Winga, her grandfather, and about twenty
native youths and girls swam beside my outrigger canoe as I was paddled
across to the isle. I felt like some dusky potentate as I saw those
handsome savage children and old-time chiefs of royal blood swimming
behind me, their dark heads drifting the still water into wavelets,
their bright eyes gleaming with delight. They were all shouting forth in
the musical Marquesan tongue their bright salutations: “Aloah! Awaie!
Tangi me o le solea!”

So well do I know those happy, innocent people, who are true heathens
and supposed to be savage animals, that I must confess that I have long
ago discarded all conventional ideas. Indeed, so far as the normal
outlook on conventional life is concerned, my mind has become completely
reversed. I sometimes think that God’s most sacred agent—he who gains
the most converts for immortality—is the devil himself. It is probable
that some mighty mistake was made somewhere, and I would not be
surprised to find, when I die, that the angels of heaven yearn to
inherit mortality.

When I arrived at that old artist’s bungalow, I was surprised to find so
snug a dwelling-place in that heathen-land. It was like an ideal bit of
paradise, and consisted of two rooms, one a sleeping compartment, the
other a living-room. As that solemn old man welcomed me into his little
parlour, I stared in wonder. On the table lay a quantity of books and an
old-fashioned telescope, native goblets made from coco-nut shells, and a
large calabash. In the corner was his easel and palette, where he still
followed the course of his profession. The walls of that cabin were
ornamented with roughly framed paintings. These paintings represented a
variety of subjects—ships fading away into the sunsets of mystical seas;
faery outlines of beautiful women afloat on clouds in wondrous skies,
allegorical faces peeping through mists, with stars shining through
their hair; symbolical pictures portraying human aspirations with a
wonderfully sure touch. One painting was so extensive that it took up
one whole side of the cabin wall. It represented God: a vast white beard
seemed to float on the sky-line of a dark infinity, the Face was a dim,
wonderful outline, only the deep eyes of Creation were visible in the
mystical hollows, mysteriously sprinkled with stars shining from their
infinite depths, as the ages hung heavily on the vast, craggy brows.
“You are a true artist,” said I, as I looked at that masterpiece.

The old man saw that I was greatly impressed. His wrinkled face lit up
with pride as he observed my silent admiration.

After taking refreshments we sat together in the shade of that snug
cabin of art, and the conversation drifted to the homeland. I soon
discovered that his memories of the civilised cities were not pleasant
dreams. I ventured the opinion that if our countrymen afar could see his
paintings his efforts would be greatly appreciated and his fortune
secured. A half-humorous curve flicked across his lips in a sarcastic
smile. Then he coughed, and with a look of deep commiseration in his
clear grey eyes he glanced steadily at me and said:

“Ah, my boy, I too once thought such things, ere I was drastically
disillusioned. You seem not to understand that our countrymen know
nothing of art, that they can rob artists with impunity and drive them,
crushed, broken up and penniless, abroad or into the grave. They are
even applauded for doing these things.”

“Dear me,” quoth I, as the old fellow’s white beard shook through the
emotion that he felt. Then I added: “Why are they applauded?”

“Why, say you?” responded he. “Simply because the laws of our country
are made by the elected of forty million fools, fools that make laws
that allow the enemies of art to rob the children of art. We artists
toil for many years endeavouring to express the truth in art. With what
result? Lo! he whom Nature has mentally equipped so that he might paint
our boots makes some monstrous imitation in vulgar perspective and
colour of our sublimest conceptions. These quacks rush forth and sell
their daubs as works of art.”

“Why, that which you say applies to all the arts: men rob——”

Ere I could proceed further the old man gave such a stern look at this
interruption of his pet theme that I at once stifled my assertive voice
and, shrinking up ashamed into my shell, once more listened as he
continued:

“What is the result of this robbery of our inherited dreams? Why, we
come forward, and though we offer true art, no one wants it, nor will
they pay according to its merits or in proportion to the labour that we
have expended. The walls of the homesteads in our country are covered
with these spurious works that have been painted by the hands that
should not have aspired higher than to paint the boots of Art.”

At saying this, and a good deal more, the sad old artist looked up over
the giant bread-fruit trees, as a flock of parrots swept across the sky,
stroked his massive beard, and went on in this wise:

“Ah! young friend, I could no longer stand being robbed by liars and
hypocrites and fools, so I bade farewell to my brother artists. Yes, I
gazed for the last time into their sunken eyes and on their hollow
cheeks and sailed away for the isles of these Southern Seas. Indeed the
clamouring of my creditors, the fingers of Scorn pointing at my shabby
garments, left nothing else for me to do. Here in these kindly isles I
hope to prolong my days by getting regular nourishment.”

So saying, the strange old fellow took from his capacious pocket half a
ripe coco-nut, bit off a large piece of the white substance and chewed
for a moment in silence. Swallowing the nutritious morsel, he proceeded,
to my delight—for the satire of his delivery was truly exquisite—

“I know of two other artists who, like myself, have emigrated to these
parts.”

“Do you?” quoth I eagerly, intensely interested in so strange, so wise
an old man.

“Yes; one is an author and the other a musician. They live happily
together on a lonely islet of the Paumotus Group. A late cannibal chief,
who is a native of these isles, is their beloved attendant; and with him
they commune in reverent dreams when the nights are long. There, on
their solitary islet, they discuss their experiences among the slaves in
civilised lands and the haunting memories of their childhood’s days.
Dressed in the native costume of these parts, a loin-cloth only, they
have long since resigned themselves to the inevitable. They now see the
pompous boast of civilisation and its brazen virtue as a monstrous,
hypocritical curse, a malignant fungus growth on the soul of truth, of
beauty and true happiness.”

“No!” quoth I in my intense interest, quite forgetting the stern gleam
of those grey eyes of art over my first interruption. I almost trembled
at my foolish assertion. For a moment he ceased speaking, pulled his
beard half viciously, and gazed at me like some towering schoolmaster as
I humbly stood there. Like all men who have lived long in exile, one
syllable of another’s voice was a tremendous interval of rude
interruption. Once more he continued: “These two men whom I spoke of ere
you interrupted still follow their professions. One plays on the violin
to the winds, and the other writes down his aspirations on the sea sands
and thoughtfully watches the tides wash the words away. They chop wood,
grow pine-apples, bananas, sago, taro, tobacco, and lead an ideal
existence.”

Delighted with my obvious interest, he meandered on:

“I know of another exile who lives near Guadalcanar, in the Solomon
Isles. Clothed in rags that covered an emaciated body, he escaped from
his own country by stowing away on a sailing-ship. He was a poet.

“After years of adventurous wandering he has settled in a wild, lonely
spot near a tribal village where not so long since the folk were
ferocious cannibals and addicted to the horrors of sacrificial heathen
ceremonies. I saw this poet myself, for I happened to go that way two
years agone.

“He had learnt the native tongue, and so makes a good living by
engraving his rhymes and improvisations on the brains of the islanders.
He dresses as the natives dress, in the scantiest of attire, and lives
and eats as they do. The last I saw of him was when he dwelt in a
comfortable parvanue near the mountain villages. He has reached the
zenith of his ambitions: he wears long hair, and, standing on his
lecture-stump in the native villages, he retells, in emotional, eloquent
verse, their old legends and glorious tales of far-off barbarian
battles, and thanks God that at last he has found a tribe of men who
understand his special gift, and who wildly applaud his efforts.”

“Well now!” was all that I could utter as he ceased.

He gave a little cough as he finished his discourse, a cough that almost
musically expressed the contemptuous exasperation that embittered his
mind.

I would not assert that the foregoing is an exact verbal account of all
that the old artist said to me, but I vouch that it is a faithful
reproduction of his central ideas and all that my memory retains and
which seems worth the recording. And I give it here as an illustration
of the strange characters that are to be found living an isolated life
in the wide spaces, the far-scattered isles of the North and South
Pacific.

I stayed with that strange man for several hours. He was delighted when
I played my violin to him. To my astonishment he commenced to sing some
old song—_Scenes that are Brightest_, if my memory does not fail me. He
had a fine voice, and looked annoyed when the dusky kiddies of my
retinue shrieked with laughter as he sang.


[Illustration: BY APIA HARBOUR]


When I left him he was packing up his few essential requirements for a
trip to Papeete, where he would often go when the trader streamer called
into the harbour from Hivaoa. My last remembrance of him is when he
stood at his hut door by the banyans, waving his hand to me as I went
down the little shore by the pauroe-trees and met my dusky comrades. The
memory of it all stands out like some experience that I had in another
world beyond the stars, some little islet by an immortal mainland, as I
paddled my own outrigger canoe and went back to the bread-fruit groves
of the opposite shores with a group of singing, dusky cherubims swimming
behind me.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The stars were crowding the sky in their millions when the unexpected
occurred. I was sitting near the mission-room at the time. It so
happened that there was a great commotion in the grog shanty, for a
schooner had just arrived in the port of Tai-o-hae. Also, I was feeling
a bit out of sorts. John L—— had just been buried in the cemetery by
Calaboose Hill. He had succumbed to gout and the best rum—at least that
was what they said in the shanty.

I had been comforting Pauline—she was weeping, and I thought things were
as bad as they could be.

Though I’d travelled far, lived with the world’s worst men, sought
fortunes on gold-fields, been down with fever, lived on bananas and
orange peel, buried old pals, I never got such a sorrowful surprise as
came to me on this particular night.

Suddenly Father O’Leary poked his face out of the cloistered shadows and
said: “My son, my son, come!”

I at once responded. When I arrived in the little room wherein he dwelt,
I found he had a companion with him. At first I thought it was some
native girl who had come to confess.

The light from his hanging oil-lamp was burning very dimly.

“My son, look!” he cried. I noticed that his voice trembled.

I could hardly believe my eyes as I looked again and saw that outcast by
his side. Notwithstanding the wasted form and the terrible look on the
face, I recognised Waylao.

The Father closed the door as I entered.

We never slept a wink that night. The old priest ran his fingers through
his beads and went on his knees as Waylao wept and told us all that had
happened to her since I had lost sight of her in Samoa, and her
experiences seemed incredible. I do not mind confessing that I was a bit
overcome as I heard that tale of sorrow. It was something that
outrivalled everything I’d read—Louis Beck, Robert Louis Stevenson and
all the romances of the South Seas. The surprise of the Father was even
greater than my own, for I knew much about the girl’s doings till the
time she had arrived at the Matafas’ in Apia.

As I would like to tell the facts of the case, I will revert to the
period when Waylao disappeared from the Matafas’.

I can only hope to give the faintest outline of all that really
happened, and this I will attempt in the following narrative.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXV

Waylao leaves the Matafas in Apia—She drifts a Castaway at Sea—Her
  Sufferings—The Canoe beaches on an Uninhabited Isle—The Natural
  Guest of her Sorrow arrives—Death—Strange Visits to the Isle—The
  Strangers tell Waylao of their Sufferings—Sympathy—Aiola the
  Hawaiian and O Le Haiwa-oe, her Lover—Mrs Matafa’s Shawl as a
  Distress Signal—Waylao’s Ruse—Castaways in Sorrow


WHEN Waylao decided to leave the Matafas in Samoa she had been in Apia
exactly one month.

The kind old Matafas had wished her good-night, as gently as though she
were their own daughter, and then retired to their sleeping compartment.
Although the half-caste girl had become quite attached to those old
Samoans since first they received her with open arms, the longing for
her native isle and the memory of those whom she had loved when a child
overcame all the trouble she felt at leaving her benefactors. She
resolved to steal one of the beach canoes on the shore by the Matafas’
homestead and put out to sea on her own account, trusting to luck. It
was a mad idea, full of peril, and yet as she told her tale bit by bit
quietly, and relentlessly, it seemed as though all that she had set out
to accomplish had come to her in the fullest measure.

Once out on those wide waters, adrift in that tiny craft, she knew she
would be at the mercy of the elements. The chances of being sighted by a
passing ship and taken to her native land were very remote, as one may
imagine.

But what cared Waylao? She troubled not whither the winds blew her, only
longed to drift away on those illimitable waters.

Without hesitation she jumped into the first canoe that she sighted,
lifted the paddle and pushed the tiny craft into deep water. The tide
was ebbing southward as she drifted away to sea. The dim, forest-clad
shore by Mulinuu faded from her sight like a dream of yesterday. She
seemed to be leaving reality for the realms of the great unreal as she
glided on the bosom of that mighty tide.

Away! Away! Anywhere away, she cared not whither.

The winds of heaven came down; they seemed to come to caress, to respond
to the vague wishes of the stricken girl. Their caressing, shifting
fingers touched her hair and fevered brow. Ineffable peace breathed
languor into her brain, and she slept. No mortal pen can tell the dreams
of that castaway girl as the sentinel night stared with a million
million eyes on to those waters of the Pacific.

A faint flush brightened the east—daybreak was coming. The stars took
hasty flight down the encircling sky-lines as Waylao awoke.

Dawn, like a mighty river’s multitudinous flood of infinite colour,
swept into that vast, hollow vault as the first pang of the new day’s
birth commenced. Crimson, splashed with lines of saffron and green,
climbed, glimmered, flickered and flamed as they touched and fired the
lines of mist on the eastern horizon, while far to the south-west the
last flock of stars took frightened flight.

The birth of that mighty splendour broadened till the gold-flashing eye
of day looked over the blue horizon. Nothing but the vast azure circle
of infinite water was in sight, only the frail castaway, a stricken girl
adrift, fleeing from wrath, the hatred of outraged virtue.

The very heavens seemed to assume a serious mood. The eye of day stared
with magnificent heat from its unlidded socket of all the sky. Old Mrs
Matafa’s hands had toiled divinely for the coming events of Time unborn,
for out of the measures of her weaving fingers happened that which her
soul had no hint of in her wildest dreams, as she knitted and knitted,
for lo! the perishing castaway ceased appealing to the dumb sky and drew
the laced folds of that old shawl over her sun-scorched head. But for
the protection of that old shawl the girl would certainly have perished
under the blaze of that brassy sky.

Thirst leapt into her frame with demon craving. The sun dropped like a
ball of blood into the ocean and glimmered fiercely in its fading light.
Like a goblet of boiling blood lifted on the sky-line, it appeared, then
suddenly disappeared.

Notwithstanding her sufferings, the girl still felt the cherished desire
of humanity to cling to life—though suffering the pangs of death. In
that tiny drifting craft on a world of torpid water, afloat beneath
illimitable space, she knelt in prayer to the great dumb sky. The
crowded stars at first seemed to mock her. Then, like far-off bright
thoughts of longing, they came to her, like flocks of her own
unattainable desires, and peeped up at her imaged in the vast, silent
waters.

A puff of wind ruffled that mirror and swept the deep waters into reefs
of illusive radiance. Then came a wind like an infinite breath of pity,
and the dying, parched relic of humanity sucked in that cold sigh of
night—as one would drink water. Still she floated on. Slowly a silver
glimmer of ineffable wildness flushed the south-west horizon; its
broadening tide of radiance outrivalled the earnest splendour of the
stars. Higher and higher it climbed, till the full, haggard moon peered
like sorrow on that lost child, and stared, with sad surprise, on the
edge of the ocean. It lit that hollow vault of night with a ghostly
gleam, a gleam that revealed no movement but the tossing arms of the
delirious castaway.

Who can paint that scene? Who can describe one iota of the indescribable
misery and anguish ere the senses were numbed and the head drooped,
faint from its prayer to a heaven that listened not, in all the vastness
of that terrible silence?

Another day swept in like a mighty silence of breathing fire. It came
almost without warning across those silent, tropic seas. It was as
though from the tomb-like vault some mighty starry slab of night had
been suddenly uplifted, revealing a vast sepulchre and deep, deep below
one little corpse huddled in its shroud, a corpse that still drifted
across the silent, blazing seas—as Death, the grey-nosed shark, followed
silently.

But Waylao was not dead. It was not the hot furnace winds of heaven that
fluttered old Mrs Matafa’s shawl—(I have that shawl)—it was the
convulsed movement of death’s despair in one who still lived.

In the delirium of that unquenchable blaze of sunlight Benbow’s
misguided daughter lifted her head. It was an eternity of seconds ere
she could muster strength enough to hang her face over the rim of her
drifting world, then she drank, drank, drank!

Only the infinite powers know why she did not die as that liquid brine
stiffened her parched frame with frantic fits of madness.

On, on she drifted. Yet another day swept the skies, yet again Time
lifted that tremendous lid from the vault of reality. Just as Fate loves
to shatter the dreams, the aspirations, the hopes of men, it seemed to
delay the everlasting touch of sleep, the sleep that hovers like an
angel with beating wings, waiting to close all eyes.

For lo! that same night the heavens poured down their sparkling drops.
The showers of cool liquid drenched her face as she screamed in the
ecstasy of its cruel blessing.

With the refreshing fluid on her parched lips, and the cool breezes of
heaven, her senses awakened; but only dimly was her mental vision
restored. Phantoms danced across that world of water. Shadows of the
wrack of clouds, racing beneath the moon, fled away into the darkness of
the far-off, silent horizons, and it may have been those shadowy
contortions of the sky that peopled the ocean solitude with visions for
the girl whose eyes were glazed with insanity. The face of her Islamic
betrayer hung enframed beneath the stars. She lifted her hands and beat
the air, and cursed that visionary face of evil.

Then her mother came to her, and who knows what visions of those whom
she had loved, those who had watched over the innocence of her
childhood? Once more her senses were numbed and she fell huddled to the
bottom of the canoe.

On the third or fourth day Waylao lifted her death-stricken face and
wondered if she still lived. She stared around. Had she died, and was
she still travelling onward across some purgatorial ocean of death? As
she stared, she saw a tiny blot; it glimmered on the western horizon. At
first she thought it was a ship; then in her delirium she thought it was
the shores of Nuka Hiva in sight.

At such a possibility the love of life that is so strong in youth awoke
again, and her being thrilled with tremendous hope. She might yet live
to gaze into the eyes of those she loved.

As the setting sun broadened in the west, the dark spot glittered and
took definite shape. One by one tiny hills arose, then plumed palms
stuck out in bright relief, distinctly visible against the background of
the yet more distant sunset.

The strong, hot north wind still blew and laughed along the rippling
sea, yes, as though it knew that its unseen hands were fast drifting the
poor derelict to deliverance from the homeless ocean.

At the sight of the little isle with its palms and all the materialised
beauty of Nature’s handiwork blossoming forth flowers and ferns, the
stricken girl fell on her knees and thanked God, God who in His own
inscrutable way had answered her prayers.

Ere sunset faded down into ocean depth behind the solitude of that
small, uninhabited isle, Waylao could hear the murmuring of the deep
waters on the reefs, and saw the singing waves running up the shore,
tossing their hands with delight.

In the reaction from deepest despair to the renewed hope she struggled
to a sitting posture and laughed in the madness of delirium. Then she
slept.

The stars were crowding the heavens when the canoe suddenly beached
itself. The impact of the frail craft on the coral reefs tore the
bottom, and so the cooling waters crept in and swathed the fevered limbs
of the unconscious girl.

Waylao’s life was not yet closed, though Providence would have been more
merciful to have taken her soul away beyond the deepest sleep.

As the cool waters swished about her body, her eyelids quivered; she
moved, then sat up and looked around.

Who knows what terrible thoughts haunted her delirious brain as she
tried to fathom the loneliness, the deep silence of the small world
whereon she had drifted? The pangs of thirst stupefied her faculties.
The moaning of the winds in the belt of palms just up the shore inspired
her heart with terror, and seemed to mock her misery.

Too weak to stand, she crawled up the little patch of soft sand to the
lagoon that glimmered in the hollows by the shore. She almost screamed
with delight as the life-giving crystal fluid crept between her cracked
lips, moistening her parched throat. It was fresh water. Dimly realising
that she was safe from the desolation of the trackless ocean, she crept
into the shadow of the bamboo thickets and, quite exhausted, fell
asleep.

There she lay, alone beneath the infinite skies. The great world, with
its cities and histories, did not exist so far as she was concerned.

Awakening with the gilding of the eastern horizon, she gazed around and
at once realised her awful position. Terror seized her. She lifted her
face and screamed, then listened. No answer came; only the weird screech
of the frightened parrots that had rested, on their migrating flight, in
the trees over her head. They rose in glittering flocks and hovered a
long time just over the isle ere they once more settled down.

With the rising of the kind sun her terror decreased. But the horror of
the loneliness on that silent world still remained. All that she had
suffered (only a part of which my pen can attempt to tell) had destroyed
her natural pluck. She was as weak as a child.

So great was her grief, and so vividly was the scene burnt in her brain
as she stared about her, that she told us how the tiny waves came up the
shore to her feet singing a song of tender fellowship.

Then how she ran about the isle calling aloud, in the hope that some
human being might exist in that loneliest spot in creation.

But when only the echoes of her own voice answered her despairing cries,
the awful desolation overwhelmed her, and she rushed back with terrified
eyes to the singing shore waves, and huddled near their presence, just
as a child might run from danger back to the security of its little
comrades.

The day passed with renewed tropical vigour. The sun seemed to hiss as
its molten mass of splendour dropped splash into the sea.

The sea-birds muttered. The migrating cockatoos sat on the topmost
branches of the four solitary bread-fruit trees. They looked like big
yellow and crimson blossoms that had whistling, chuckling beaks as they
all started off on their flight across the trackless seas. Waylao saw
them fade like a group of distant caravans on the silent desert blue of
the sky-line—leaving her alone in the vast Pacific.

Night came with its terror of darkness and the immutable stars. The
girl’s mind, like that of a child, flew back to the nearest bonds of her
existence.

“Mother! Mother! Father!” she wailed, staring first at the stars across
the sea, then behind her, with fright.

Strange pangs commenced to convulse her being. The critical moment of
her sorrow had arrived. The pangs of our first mother, Eve. But she was
alone—not even the devil to comfort her.

In the first instincts of approaching motherhood she looked behind her;
the terror of the gloom had vanished. She turned and crept into the
harbouring thicket of bamboos and tall ferns beneath the plumed palms.

In that silent, loneliest spot on earth she huddled, couched and
trembling. She forgot her desolation. The torturing memory of the past
vanished. A feeling of fierce joy thrilled her. She began to feel the
helpless, tender companionship of the unborn.

Wild delirium, intense longing, half anguish, half joy came to her
memory as she remembered the man who had brought the pangs of hell upon
her.

A gleam of cruel reality crept into her brain: she remembered the truth.

Struggling to her feet, she screamed: “Abduh! Abduh! I curse you! I
curse you and your Mohammed! I curse him!”

She clutched the figure of the Virgin that was at her breast and cried:
“O Mary! Mother! O Christ, I have forsaken you!”

In the anguish of her soul’s remorse she crossed herself and fell on her
knees. She called the name of Father O’Leary, he who had taught her from
childhood.

“Father, Father, I had doubted you, and all the beauty of my childhood’s
dreams.”

As Waylao reached this point in her terrible narrative the old priest
looked into the half-blind eyes of the girl, and touched her brow with
his lips. I saw his hot tears fall on to her face, and half fancied that
we stood before the dead who had inherited heaven, so beautiful was the
look in the stricken eyes of the girl as the old priest blessed her.
Outside the homestead mission-room the stars were shining, and the seas
were beating over the barrier reefs. Still the lips of her who was as
one dead spoke on.

The white sea moon crept over the silent sea. Its reflected light bathed
with silver the palms of that solitary isle. Only a breath of wind came
up the shore and stirred the dark-fingered leaves as at last Waylao
slept.

The sleeping girl’s bosom moved to the sad music of mortality’s soothing
kindness: two small hands were pressing vigorously and a tiny mouth was
toiling away for all it was worth at those soft, warm wells of
nourishing sorrow.

Dawn struck the east. The day broadened. Waylao lifted her baby up in
her arms. It blinked at the light of its first mortal day—and wailed.

Did she, in the ecstasy of a mother’s first inquisitiveness, peer
closely at the small face of that little stranger, the stranger who had
come as the natural guest of her sorrow—and sin?

She looked fiercely at it as it wailed as though it pleaded forgiveness
for that which was not its fault.

A mad desire to live came to her. She rushed down to the shore. Nothing
but the blue encircling sky-lines met her hopeless gaze. Her only chance
of being rescued was by some schooner being blown out of its course by
the terrific typhoons that sometimes swept those hot, unruffled seas.
She found a large cave by the shore, not far from the small promontory.
Near its gloomy entrance stood a belt of screw-pines and a clump of
coco-palms. By the time sunset had once more blazed the western seas she
had piled up a barrier of hard coral and rock at the cavern’s low
doorway. For in there the wind rushed from the sea, gave a hollow moan
and ran out again.

At the far end of this cavern the wretched girl made a soft couch of
fern-moss and ti-leaves. It was on this bed that she crept with her
child to sleep.

All night long the waves ran up the shores, tossed their wild arms and
wailed by the entrance, in wonder that the silence of the old cavern,
whereat they had knocked and knocked for ages, should be broken by the
wail of a human child.

In imagination Father O’Leary and I saw that cave, and distinctly heard
that pitiful wail. We saw the stricken girl mother creep like a wraith
beneath the stars of that solitary island world of the trackless
Pacific. We saw the tawny mass of ripe coco-nuts hanging as though from
the kind hands of Providence. They fell at her feet, so that she might
give the child nourishing milk, for grief and illness had stayed its
natural food.

Day by day the child sickened. One night the flocks of parrots and
strange birds—that none had ever named—suddenly rose in a screeching
drove above the palms of that lonely isle. Up, up they rose, fluttering
beneath the white South Sea moon. They had been disturbed from their
roosts by the agonised scream of the demented human being who had so
mysteriously arrived on their little world. It was Waylao’s screech that
had disturbed them. Humanity had come with its manifold woes and terrors
to their world, and so the very birds of the air groped and fluttered
blindly with fright up in the moonlit sky.

Waylao’s child lay on the moss at the end of the cavern, its face
resting on one small hand. It had turned waxen white. A wonderful
expression seemed to sleep on its face. Only the still, open eyes told
the girl of the indefinable something that had happened. She rushed to
the shore and dipped its warm body in the sea. The limpness of the limbs
and the head struck terror into her heart. She had never seen death like
that before. The wandering sea-gulls hovered, came near the shore
swiftly and silently, as though with curiosity, then they swerved
upward, up over the island’s palms, leaving her sitting alone with the
dead infant clutched to her breast.

The moon which flooded the ocean with brilliant light as it gazed on
that tragic drama, that scene of the lonely seas, had also shone upon
the dark-walled shadow cities of the far, far north-west, the remote
wilds of advanced civilisation. It shone on the huddled masses of
humanity on the streets of London, New York and Paris—lines and lines of
serried dark walls and dirty, ghostly windows. Its beams had streamed
into the dim hollows of how many thousands of dungeons wherein slept the
huddled forms of breathing humanity, and upon the enchanted castles of
happiness, on happy faces of men, women and laughing maidens. And still
it shone down on that silent isle set in a silent sea, where one frail
girl looked down on a dead child’s face.

But on that night Providence sent other strange beings out of those seas
of mystery.

As Waylao sat motionless, paralysed with loneliness and pain, staring
vacantly seaward, her heart leapt as she saw what looked like a phantom
ship on the dim horizon. She almost screamed with joy as the rigging of
that distant craft took definite form. The midnight breeze was hurrying
in with the incoming tide, the tide that hurried the small breakers up
the white beach.

Like one demented she ran about in her excitement, as nearer and nearer
crept the tiny craft.

Though it was still afar off, she held the dead child above her head and
screamed. Only the echoes of her own voice responded from the rocky
silence of her island world.

What was that strange-looking craft floating into that silent bay? As it
came into full view, it looked like some spectral hulk. Waylao stared.
She felt afraid. Was it some phantom derelict that was silently
approaching that unknown isle? The deck was nearly level with the sea,
and all awash with the waves. An old spanker swayed to and fro. The
tattered canvas sail still hung just over the broken deck-house, and the
jib flapped in the moonlight. But no one was at the helm.

As that strange derelict swerved with the tide, it heaved and came round
the edge of the promontory into full view. A gleam of moonlight streamed
through the palms, as it hugged the shore and fell slantwise across the
deck.

Waylao crept out on to the promontory, then stopped, petrified with
fright.

A terrible spectacle met her gaze, and the thought flew into her
demented mind that this was some ghostly craft with a crew of devils
aboard, who had come to take her dead child, and her, too, away to
purgatory.

No wonder she shrieked with horror.

Even in the security of that little mission-room the old priest and I
trembled and gasped at what we heard. No wonder Waylao’s scream broke
the terrible silence of that awful scene, and at the sound the crew of
huddled, ghostly shadows on the hulk’s deck moved.

Slowly one rose to its feet; then two more figures followed. The heads
seemed to waver as though the eyes sought the four points of the compass
with helpless indecision.

What were they? Devils or human beings? I will tell you. Those figures
lifted their heads and turned their faces to the shore. They heard by
instinct the direction of Waylao’s terrified call. They stared at her
with shining, bulged eyes; they tried to open their gaping, fleshless
mouths in ghastly efforts for speech. They were rotting, hideous
skeletons.

By the remnant of that hulk’s deck-house stood a tall native chief. He
and a beautiful native girl who clung to him alone looked human. They
both stared with fright, first at Waylao, and then across the silent
isle.

Waylao watched, paralysed with fear. Then from the deck arose two more
skeleton figures—revealing their hideous, noseless faces.

They lifted their heads as though with terrible effort. Their mouths
gave forth hollow moans as they slowly sank down again, out of sight,
among the wreckage of the deck.

One diseased, eaten face stared through the grating which had been fixed
up as an extemporised bulwark on the port side.

Waylao gave a terrified cry and turned to flee inland.

As she did so a hollow voice called out in a strange tongue:

“Aloha! Aloha! Wai! Wai! [water].”

The cry so resembled some distressed call of humanity that Waylao’s
fright was slightly subdued. She turned and swiftly glanced over her
shoulder, her heart beating with strange fear—a wild hope came that the
awful visitants might, after all, be friendly spirits in evil disguise.
She stared with terrified wonder. Three stricken forms stood on the
deck. In the dim light she saw them waving their skeleton hands; but
they were calling with beseeching voices, voices that thrilled Waylao’s
heart with joy, horror and hope.

She lifted the lifeless infant above her head again. In her delirium she
still thought that the direct cause of their visit was—her sorrow.

In response to her cry, a terrible form arose from the deck and stared
at her as she held the dead child. That figure from out of the mystery
of the silent seas lifted its hands and cried out:

“E ko mako Makua i-loko O ka Lani” (“Our Father which art in Heaven”).

Waylao heard that word Lani. She knew that it meant heaven. Her first
great fright vanished. “They are the dead from heaven,” she thought.

Suddenly the hulk crashed against the reefs by the shore, swerved round
and stopped still.

The stricken forms rose from the deck, lifted their skeleton faces and
for a moment stood terribly visible as they swayed helplessly by the
broken mast.

The moonlight brightened the tattered sails. It streamed down through
the branches of the surf palms that grew on the edge of the promontory.

Once again those gaping mouths moaned forth: “Wai! Wai!”

As the hulk swerved and listed towards the rocks, the handsome chief
leapt ashore, and the woman who had clung to him immediately followed.

For a moment that handsome stranger stood and gazed at Waylao like one
in a dream, as she looked up into his fevered, bright eyes.

Staring hurriedly around, he suddenly rushed forward and prostrated
himself at the edge of the lagoon. Placing his mouth into the crystal
liquid, he breathed like an animal, and drank, drank, drank! His
companion, the native girl, likewise prostrated herself and drank beside
him.

As Waylao watched, her fright subsided. They were human. For who but
mortals could be so maddened by thirst? Her heart was touched with
sorrow.

The chief rose to his feet, filled a large calabash with water and
returned to the derelict.

Waylao watched, with her heart in her mouth. The sorrow of others
overshadowed her own, as she saw the huddled, loathsome forms on that
hulk’s deck struggling for the water, their poor heads wobbling as they
sought with their blind eyes to locate the calabash.

The Hawaiian maid on the shore, standing by Waylao, forced a smile to
her lips, as she, too, watched. It was an unselfish attempt to reassure
her companion, to let her know whatever sight met her eyes was a sight
of deepest sorrow and nothing that could harm her.

When the chief returned to his comrade’s side, they both whispered
together and glanced at Waylao. Then the strange girl took the dead
child from the exile’s arms and laid it gently in the fern grass by the
lagoon. They spoke to Waylao in soft, musical speech. Seeing she did not
understand their language, they said:

“Wahine, you lone? No ones else belonga here?”

The Hawaiian girl clutched the chief’s arm with fright as they both
awaited Waylao’s reply. But when she answered, “I am quite alone, no one
else is on this island but me,” those silent listeners seemed endowed
with renewed life.

They gazed at each other with delight streaming from their eyes. The
chief lifted his hand to heaven and shouted some deep thanksgiving to
Lani. The intense misery of the woman’s eyes vanished. She turned to
Waylao, took her hand and pressed it impulsively. Suddenly she withdrew
it and gave a start of terror. For the chief had looked on the Hawaiian
girl and reminded her of the curse that lay upon them. But Waylao, who
had never thought to hear the music of human voices again, forgot her
own grief.

But who were they? What were those terrible figures huddled on the deck
of the hulk? Instinct told her that some terrible sorrow had drifted
across the sea, some sorrow that was tragically human. That stricken
crew had not come to hurt the girl. They would not wilfully harm a hair
of her head. They had drifted out of the hells of misery. They were the
stricken of the earth. They had escaped from the tomb where the buried
still have memories of lovers, husbands, wives and children—yes, the
tomb of God’s utterest pestilential misery, where the dead still curse,
still dream that they hear the laughter of other days moaning in the
wind-swept pines, on the shores of beetling, wave-washed crags.

They came from where the dead lay in their shrouds and could hear, with
envy, these toiling spades as their comrades were buried by
night—comrades, twice dead, released, at last, from their loathsome,
rotting corpse, life’s hideous, bloated face, gaping, fleshless mouth
and bulged, half-blind eyes.

O tragical truth! The handsome chief, the beautiful, clinging woman and
the stricken crew of the hulk were escapes—fugitives from the dreadful
lazaretto on Molokai, the leper isle.

The Hawaiian chief and his lover—for such they were, though stricken
with the scourge—had no sign as yet visible on their faces.

The sympathetic look that Waylao gave them, the pleasure she revealed at
their presence, touched their hearts. It was long, long ago since human
beings had welcomed _their_ presence.

The Hawaiian girl plucked some palm leaves and gently covered Waylao’s
dead child.

Then the Hawaiian chief and his tender comrade went back to the hulk and
proceeded to bring their leper comrades ashore. In a few moments they
both appeared by the hulk’s broken bulwarks and threw some planks that
made a gangway down to the wet sands, and began to carry their stricken
comrades, one by one, on a deck grating, down to the shore.

There were five all told. One was a flaxen-headed little boy of about
six years of age. As they laid the little form beneath the palms, the
child lifted its head and moaned.

Waylao, touched with intense pity, disobeyed the order of the chief,
went towards the figures of the stricken and attempted to soothe them.

She had no thought of the chances she took of catching the terrible
malady, but she gave a cry of horror at the sight that met her eyes.

It seemed impossible that such advanced dissolution should still live;
the fleshless, skull-like heads wobbled and lifted, the bulged,
glass-like eyes stared at her like hideous misery. The stricken beings
discerned the look of sympathy on Waylao’s face. The fleshless mouths
smiled. The girl half drew back, for the look in those eyes, the
movement of those lips resembled some grin of hate, rather than the
intense gratitude that they _yearned_ to express.

As Waylao watched, she heard splashes in the sea, and, looking in the
direction of the hulk, saw the Hawaiian chief in the act of throwing the
last body into the ocean depths. These were the bodies of the crew who
had died ere they reached the isles, and three corpses of those who had
drank too quickly of the water on deck, and so had died at once in
agony. It appeared that when the hulk sailed away from the leper isle
there were fourteen on board. After a week of drifting across the ocean
the number was reduced to nine. Another few days without water and
scorched by the blazing tropical sun had finished off three more, till
only five arrived ashore alive.

The chief had finished his terrible task on the hulk, and as Waylao
watched the dark spots bobbing about on the moonlit waters, she saw them
drifting round by the promontory’s edge, then, with the tide, go
seaward.

The Hawaiian girl clung tightly to her companion’s tall, handsome figure
and moaned. The reaction had set in.

“Aiola, Aiola!” he murmured in the tenderest way as he looked down into
her uplifted eyes. He was robed in the picturesque Hawaiian costume—a
broad-fringed lava-lava to his tawny knees, round his waist a tappa robe
swathed in a row of knots of ornamental design.

Aiola, for that was the girl’s name, looked with the deepest affection
up into his eyes, then kissed his tattooed, brown, shapely shoulders.

Waylao no longer attempted to shrink from the afflicted. She helped
gather soft mosses and leaves. The stricken lepers opened their terrible
eyes and regarded her with deep tenderness as she helped to make their
couches.

“No touch! No touch! Unclean! Unclean! Mai Pake! Mai Pake!”[6] they
moaned as she pushed their limp, helpless limbs into more comfortable
positions.

Footnote 6:

  Leprosy.

“Ora, loa, ia Jesu,” breathed one as she closed her eyelids and died—on
the shore.

Ere the night passed they had all died; only the Hawaiian chief and his
mistress lived.

As the dawn brightened the east they were still sitting huddled beneath
the screw-pines. As the sun streamed across the seas, Waylao, the chief
and the Hawaiian girl crept beneath the shade of the palms and slept.

So did sorrow in its most terrible form come across the seas to bring
balm and true comradeship to the friendless Waylao.

That same day the chief brought old sails and gratings ashore. Ere
sunset had faded he had fixed up the cavern’s hollow into two
compartments, one for himself and the other for Waylao and Aiola.

The beautiful Hawaiian girl sat by her lover’s side and sang songs to
him, looking up into his face all the while she sang—yes, in a way that
was like one sees in glorious pictures of tender romance, only it was
beautifully, terribly real.

The chief told Waylao how he had loved the maid since she was a little
child; how before she had reached womanhood the leprosy spot had
appeared on her body. Then came the terrible edict that condemned all
lepers to life exile on the Isle of Molokai. He told Waylao how he had
hidden the Hawaiian girl in a cave by the shores of his native isle. But
notwithstanding all his precautions they had discovered that he had a
lover hidden somewhere, a lover who had the dreaded leper spot, and was
striving to elude the clutch of the leper-hunters.

One night a terrified scream broke the silence of the shore caves, and
Aiola was taken away across the seas to the dread lazaretto. Then, to
the chief’s delight, he discovered the dread Mai Pake—the leper spot—on
his own body. He, too, was sent to the leper lazaretto, and so met Aiola
again.

They had clung to each other with the arms of love, but, still, the
loathsome sights, ever haunting their eyes, had made them yearn to
escape, anywhere, anywhere across the seas, from that living tomb.

Pointing to the hulk that lay high on the sands, for the tide had left
it dry, he said:

“That hulk was the means of our deliverance; it was washed ashore on the
Isle of Molokai through a hurricane. One night, under the cover of great
darkness, we did creep down to the shore. When we got on to the hulk and
stowed away in the dark hold, awaiting to push it into deep water as the
tide rose, we discovered that another lot of lepers had also stowed
away, ready for the outgoing tide. At first we were sorry, then we
became exceedingly glad, for it was only by their help that we were
enabled to push the hulk with bamboo rods into deep water.

“So did we drift away to sea. A great storm was blowing from the
north-west. The _matagia_ [gale] blew for five days. We all hid in the
hold, for we were frightened that some ship might sight the drifting
hulk and search and find us. But the great white God heard our prayers,
and so we were not discovered!”[7]

Footnote 7:

  It was a common thing in those days for travellers to find skeletons
  in the coast caves and the forests of the Hawaiian Isles, and in many
  of the surrounding isles of the North Pacific. Some, maybe, were the
  skeletons of shipwrecked white men and natives, or escapes from the
  convict settlements of Noumea. More often they were the remains of the
  stricken, who had fled from the leper-hunters, preferring to cast
  themselves adrift in a canoe or raft, and risk the terrors of the
  ocean to the dreadful exile to the lazaretto on Molokai. Often the
  fugitives were accompanied by a wife, husband, child or lover. And
  often those who shared their sorrows died by their own hand when the
  tragedy had ended in the death of the afflicted. It may be some will
  think that I have overdrawn the horrors of leprosy and its effects
  physically and mentally. I can assure my readers that, in my attempt
  to depict the scenes of leprosy and its consequences in those times, I
  am obliged to leave out a good deal. The full truth were too terrible
  to write about in a book that only touches on the matter so far as it
  concerns Waylao.

As the Father and I listened to the girl’s story, we marvelled with
astonishment, so evident was the intense interest the exiled girl had
taken in those stricken people, completely forgetting her own troubles.
The Father’s eyes were blind with tears, and so were mine.

Waylao came to love those Hawaiian exiled lepers. She also would kneel
beside the castaways and pray and sing with them.

Though they were both cursed with the plague, no spot had, as yet,
commenced to show its hideous presence on either of their faces.

The Hawaiian girl had contracted the malady years before her companion,
so the signs of the scourge were considerably advanced on her body; but
still her shoulders and breast were smooth and beautiful, and still the
Hawaiian chief, O Le Haiwa-oe, sang to the beauty of Aiola’s eyes. But
one day he noticed that those eyes he loved had begun to look dull and
shiny-looking. His heart beat as though it would burst, so deep was his
sorrow over what he knew was inevitable.

The leper girl’s swift instinct saw that look on her lover’s face. She
blushed deeply and trembled with fright at the thought of the hideous
rot, which at last had commenced to show itself on her features.

O Le Haiwa-oe looked at her and said: “Beloved, thou art as lovely as of
yore, ’twas the beauty of your eyes that made me gaze into them.”

But Aiola was not to be deceived.

As the days went on, Waylao resolved to stay in exile with those sad
fugitives.

So, without telling them, she went out to the dead screw-pine that stood
on the edge of the promontory, piled up the rocks one by one, then,
standing on them, took down the large bit of canvas sail, fastened there
as a signal of distress. She had only allowed it to be placed there
through the pleadings of the poor Hawaiians. They knew that the
inevitable hour was drawing near when life would be more than a living
death, for would they not see their own dissolution? They cared not for
the risk of a schooner sighting that signal. It would take Waylao away
to safety, but it would not take them. No; the Hawaiians had resolved to
go on a longer journey should their hiding-place be discovered. When O
Le Haiwa-oe saw Waylao take the signal down, his eyes filled with tears,
and in a moment he had run out to the edge of the promontory and placed
the canvas sail fluttering to the breeze.

At last a ship was sighted on the horizon. It was beating its lonely way
to the north-west. Waylao looked at it with longing eyes. Her heart went
out to the white sails that could so easily bear her homeward. She
dreamed that she heard the voices of the sailors on deck, and saw the
tenderness in their eyes as they carried her on board; then she turned
and looked at the stalwart Hawaiian leper chief, and the clinging maid.
They, too, were staring seaward, but their eyes were fevered-looking,
they were both silent with fear.

“Go and hide in the cave,” said Waylao. “If they should see the signal
and come, I will say there are no more here!”

For a moment both the stricken leper lovers looked at her with deep
gratitude. A look was in their eyes like the look in the eyes of hunted
animals, as they crept into the cave and hid.

When they had both crept away into the dark, they wondered why Waylao
had not wished them good-bye, for would she not be taken away on the
ship for ever? Aiola, at the thought, sobbed in her lover’s arms.

The schooner was now distinctly visible. Waylao saw the light of the
sunset gleaming on the flying sails. Though a tremendous longing
thrilled her heart, she crept out on the promontory. She thought of her
mother and father and the kind priest. But though her heart cried within
her, still she did not hesitate. Standing beneath the dead tree, she
piled the stones up as swiftly as possible, took down the distress
signal and waited till the schooner had passed before she replaced it.

Then she rushed back to the cave, and called softly:

“Aiola! O Le Zeno! Come, come! The ship has passed, and you are safe!”

The lepers came forth with a look of half-wild delight on their faces,
though still trembling, for life is sweet, however sad.

In a moment the Hawaiian chief glanced at the distress signal, “Aiola!”
he said, and the leper maid also looked. For a while the two stricken
Hawaiians gazed into each other’s eyes, their hearts too full to
speak—Waylao had in her hurry put the signal flag back upside down.

In a moment they had seen through the self-sacrifice of their little
comrade. Without saying a word, they looked into each other’s eyes, the
three of them, and then burst into tears—and far away, on the dim
horizon, the schooner’s sails faded like the wings of a grey sea-bird.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXVI

The Weaving Hands of Fate in Mrs Matafa’s Knitted Shawl—Waylao tries
  to kill Herself—Snatched from Death—The Terrible Scourge—The Hulk
  disappears—The Compact of Death—The Lovers put off the Act Day by
  Day—A Ship comes in Sight—The Last Farewell of the Leper
  Lovers—The Last Sunset


AS the days went by, Waylao noticed a great change in her comrades’
manners. Their songs ceased, and they mostly sat whispering or praying
together. One day as she sat beneath the palms by the shore, dreaming of
the past, the Hawaiian chief came up to her and said: “Waylao, we are
sorely troubled. We know that but for us you might have been rescued,
and been taken back to your people.” Saying this, the chief looked
steadily at Waylao, who replied:

“But I do not wish to leave you. Should I be taken from this isle, and
know that you were left here alone, to die, I should never be happy
again.”

The Hawaiian maid, who had crept up whilst her lover was speaking, heard
all that Waylao said, and was deeply touched. But they both quickly
responded as though with one voice: “We must not allow you to sacrifice
your life for our sake; we are sure to die, then it will be _you_ who
will be left here alone.” Without saying another word, the chief went
out to the palm-tree that grew on the most distant point of the
promontory, climbed the highest tree and fixed old Mrs Matafa’s knitted
shawl on the topmost bough. There it waved, flying to the breeze of that
silent sea, the token of Mrs Matafa’s kindness, flapping violently as
its knitted folds called to the illimitable sky-lines for help.

Waylao was too wretched to resist the wishes of the lepers. She knew
that the terrors of death were upon the beautiful Hawaiian maid Aiola,
for only the night before she had heard the maid say, as she clung to
the chief: “We must die! We must die, O Le Haiwa-oe! Promise that I am
dead ere mine eyes are dull!” And the chief promised.

“Beloved,” he said, “your eyes are still beautiful.” But as he gazed his
heart was stricken with anguish. For the terrible sight was there before
his gaze: the maid’s eyes were bulged and shining like glass in
consequence of the terrible scourge.

They made Waylao sleep alone. “You will surely catch the leprosy if you
sleep near us,” they said. So as the wind blew through the coco-palms
all night, and the waves tossed up the shore, Waylao tossed sleeplessly.
She could hear the Hawaiian girl moaning through the night in her sleep:
“O my beloved, kill me! Kill me! My eyes! My eyes!”

Next day, when Waylao thought she was unobserved, she crept out to the
edge of the promontory. There was no wind. The sea was like a mighty
sheet of glass. Only one or two waves, at long intervals, crept in from
the swell, to break sparkling on the sun-lit sand.

In a few seconds she had tied a large bit of rock coral on to the string
that she held secretly in her hand. This string she tied again to her
waist, then, with a prayer on her lips, she dived noiselessly into the
deep, clear water—and disappeared in the depths.

The Hawaiian chief by the merest chance saw Waylao’s head disappear
beneath the calm surface. He rushed out to the promontory’s edge and
tried to locate the spot where the girl had sunk. As the ripples
widened, he peered below the glassy surface and distinctly saw Waylao’s
figure as it lay on the sandy bottom. Her uplifted face and swaying
limbs were as visible as though she were lying encased in a mirror. Even
the lump of coral that she had tied to her waist was visible; he saw her
dying efforts to dislodge the string from her body. In a moment he had
dived, clutched the girl and brought her to the surface—coral and all.
“Waylao, you would leave us alone to sorrow over your death. Have we not
sorrowed enough?”

So did he speak as Waylao opened her eyes and gazed into those of her
rescuer.

“Forgive me, I longed to die,” she cried, as Aiola, the Hawaiian girl,
opened her bodice to chafe her breast.

“Kilia!” (leprosy) cried the Hawaiian maid as she rubbed Waylao’s bosom
and the skin all peeled softly off on to her hand—Waylao had contracted
the plague, she too was a leper.

Instead of the Marquesan girl being worried over the discovery, she
looked into the eyes of her friends and smiled. For the thought came to
her that they were now true comrades in grief.

On the following night a terrible typhoon blew. The thundering seas
seemed to make some tremendous effort to wash the little isle into the
ocean depths. The bending pines and palms moaned so loudly that it kept
the castaways awake all night, as they sat by the cavern’s doorway
together. It was this night that the chief came to Waylao and said:

“O maid, though you have got kilia, you may live for many years, so,
should a sail come in sight, they must see the distress signal. You will
then be able to go away and see your people before you die.”

Waylao hung her head with grief, and as Aiola tried to soothe her, once
more the chief put up the signal, which he had taken down at Waylao’s
request.

“Cannot I stay and die with you, Aiola?” Waylao replied.

“No; because you know not our plans. We have decided to die together.
How can we die and know in our hearts that you will be left alone on
this isle?”

Saying this, the Hawaiian girl took Waylao’s hand, kissed it, and said:
“If you love us, do as we wish.”

Then the two castaway girls embraced each other, cried in each other’s
arms and slept no more that night.

In the morning the sea had calmed; the typhoon had blown itself out as
swiftly as it had blown itself in.

As the day broadened, and the golden streams of fire imparadised the
eastern horizon, the three castaways stood on the beach and stared: the
old hulk, that had been high and dry on the beach facing their cavern
home, had disappeared. The wild night seas had dislodged it from the
reef and washed it away. As they stared across the brightening waters
they saw the hulk adrift, far off. All day long they watched it. At
sunset it faded on the horizon to the south-west. As it died from their
sight their hearts became heavy. Though it was only an insensate hulk,
it somehow faded away like a dear old friend, something that was the
last link between them all and the world that they had left for ever.

A few days later the chief came to Aiola and said:

“The distress signal still flies on the highest point. Our friend will
be saved some day.” Saying this, he looked into the sad eyes of the
Hawaiian girl. She returned the gaze steadily: she knew what he meant,
but did not flinch.

The chief’s voice was hoarse and had the note of intense sorrow in it.
The leper girl stood up on tiptoe, kissed his shoulder, and said:

“Beloved, I know how your heart feels, but remember that ’tis my wish
that we go to the great Lani [Heaven] together.”

The chief answered not, but sat perfectly still and gazed upon the maid
who still revealed the wild beauty of her race. She peered back into her
lover’s eyes. Crimson flowers to please his eyes bedecked the tresses of
her wind-blown hair. The tropic breezes stirred the rich-hued masses as
they fell to her smooth breast in curling waves. The silken tappa blouse
was torn, and revealed the curves of her smooth shoulders, that were as
perfect and brown as a nightingale’s eggs.

“My beloved, kiss me,” whispered the maid as she looked up into his
eyes.

The chief did not answer. Perhaps he was thinking of the past, for he
had known Aiola since she was a little child. The eventide was fast
falling—yes, the hour when the girl would cling to him and pass away
into the shadows of the great Unknown.


[Illustration: HALF-CASTE SAMOAN CHIEF]


As sunset flooded the seas, and the shadows fell over the small island
world, he looked into Aiola’s eyes and said: “Come!”

For a moment the two Hawaiians stood side by side, and looked over their
shoulders at Waylao, who sat on the promontory’s edge, ignorant that the
terrible moment had arrived.

“Aiola, hesitate not, come into the cave,” said the chief. Then they
both crept into the cave, and kneeling side by side prayed, saying: “Ora
li Jesu” (the Lord’s Prayer). Then they peered into each other’s eyes as
though for the last time; and the brave Hawaiian maid said: “Strike!”

The chief held the blade aloft and gave one longing look into the eyes
of the girl that he loved. He could not strike. So they fell into each
other’s arms and kissed again—and put it off till the next night.

So did they each night prepare to die; and each night his heart failed
him. Then, alas! one day a sail appeared on the horizon.

Waylao was the first to see the white glimmer, sparkling like a
beautiful bird’s wing far to the north-west.

She tried to distract the chief’s attention. But it was no good: his
keen eyes discerned it.

Nearer and nearer came the sail. The Hawaiian chief undid the old
Samoan’s woman’s shawl and placed it on a tree a little more to the
south of the isle. Then they all watched. At first it seemed as though
the schooner was dipping away across the sea straight on its course.
Suddenly the sails, on fire with the light of the sunset, swerved, and
the golden and crimson fire touched the other side of the spread canvas,
that had been a dull grey, and they knew the schooner had sighted the
signal of distress and was beating its way towards the solitary isle.

“Hide me, I don’t want to go away from you, don’t leave me!” screamed
Waylao.

It was no good. The Hawaiian chief looked at her sternly but kindly.

And Waylao knew that she appealed in vain.

The Hawaiian turned his head away to hide his tears. Fate had given him
a task which he hated to perform.

Aiola, who stood watching the approaching schooner, called out in a
beseeching voice: “Waylao, let us die!”

As Waylao gazed at the girl, pleading so strangely for the hand of Death
to strike, her heart stood still. For Aiola had hidden herself for
several days. Why? Her eyes goggled and stared like bulged glass, and as
the Hawaiian chief turned and looked at her she hung her head for shame.
The shoulders that he had so often praised for their smooth, graceful
beauty were spotted and disfigured.

Waylao followed the chief, obediently, like a child, as he led her to
say the last good-bye.

The two girls embraced and sobbed in each other’s arms. Then they all
knelt together and prayed.

Nearer and nearer came the schooner.

The chief was the first to rise.

“Waylao, go down to the shore and wait till I call you.” Saying this, he
stooped and kissed Waylao on the brow, and murmured something in a
strange tongue.

Waylao went down to the shore, walking like one in dream.

The Hawaiian chief took hold of his beloved one by the arm, and led her
into the cavern.

Before they entered the silent place that was to be their tomb, they
both looked over their shoulders into the light of their last sunset.
Then they swiftly embraced; their lips met; they murmured “Aloha!” into
each other’s very souls.

The knife flashed silently, then the same blade flashed again and went
straight to the Hawaiian chief’s heart also.

Waylao, who stood on the shore watching the dipping bows of the schooner
that came towards the isle, suddenly recovered her senses.

“Aiola! Aiola! Come to me!” she screamed. In the terror of the silence
that answered her despairing cry she rushed up the shore into the
cavern. Once inside, she stood bathed in the light of the setting sun
streaming through that hollow doorway. The sight that met her eyes
transfixed her with horror.

Even the sailors on the schooner’s deck heard that terrified shriek.
Then she ran down to the shore and fell prostrate on to the sands.

Thus was Waylao saved from the sea and brought back to her native isle
to die.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Such was the terrible story Waylao told Father O’Leary in my presence. I
cannot describe the sorrow that shone in her eyes, as through the hours
we listened. I recall how the priest held her in his arms as though she
were his own erring daughter, and laid her trembling form on the mission
couch. Though we could hear the wild songs and oaths of the very crew
who had brought her on their ship from that leper isle, no one in the
world knew the truth of the secret that Father O’Leary and I guarded in
the mission-room.

For three days she lay there, in that little room that she had so often
dusted for the kind priest.

It was on the third day that she left us for ever, the victim of a
tragedy that had left her a dying wreck at seventeen years of age.

I was obliged to clear out of that mission-room when the priest murmured
prayers by the coffin. I felt too weak and sick at heart to watch that
Calvary of stricken hopes and aspirations—betrayed by the Judas of
hypocritical manhood.

I hated to see the world so beautiful outside, as she slept on. The
mano-bird was singing in the banyans, the sunset fired the seas, and
from far came the sounds of drums that were beating the stars in up in
the mountain villages.

It was now that the Father went on his knees by that silent form for the
last time. It all seemed unreal to me, as he took the image of the
Virgin, softly pulled back the folds of the shroud and laid it on the
dead girl’s bosom. In that moment we both noticed the livid leprosy
patch on the breast of the sleeping girl.

The Father quickly fastened the shroud folds together again. I believe
trouble would have come to him had he been known to conceal a leper.
Then he called softly—in they came, three hired men. They were
rough-looking, almost villainous types, but even they looked deeply on
that silent form ere they stooped and nailed the lid down—and hid her
face for ever from the sight of men.

That same night I sat in the forest quite alone, like one in a dream. I
think I must have slept beneath the silence of those giant bread-fruit
trees that moaned sorrowfully over me as the wind swept in from the dark
seas. Though I felt some strange fright at my heart, I felt glad as
Pauline crept out of the cloistered shadows.

“I’m pleased you’ve come at last,” I said as I commenced to play a
wondrous melody on my violin.

Her eyes seemed unearthly bright as she suddenly sprang into my arms. It
was so unexpected. She was as cold as death and trembling.

“I shall come again,” she said.

“Must you go?” I responded, nothing seeming strange near Tai-o-hae.

My voice sounded a long way off. As I spoke, the pale brow, the
beautiful mass of hair became shadowy, dim and visionary. Only the
transcendent gleam of the blue eyes stared through the dark of my dream.

I put forth my arms and endeavoured to grasp her, but she had vanished.
It was then that I knew ’twas but another mad dream of mine.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                EPILOGUE

          Hark! o’er the wild shore reefs the seas are leaping,
          The clamouring white-armed waves come in and go;
          The wind along the waste, with voice unsleeping,
          Has that about its cry that all men know
          Who ghost-like from themselves steal far away
          To hearth-fires, dead sunset—of Yesterday!


OUT of the night the dawn came creeping over the ranges like a maiden
with her sandals dipped in light, the glory of the stars fading in her
hair as she stood on the brightening clouds of the eastern mountain
peaks of Nuka Hiva, and with her golden bugle of silence she blew
transcendent streaks of crimson along the grey horizon—to awaken the
day.

The sounds of the natives beating their drums aroused the echoes of the
hills.

“Wailo oooe! wailo ooooeeee!” called some nameless bird from the forest
shadows where now the last of the Marquesan race sleep by their beloved
seas.

The harbour was silent. Not an oath echoed from the grog shanty. The
traders and sailormen still slept. I could not sleep. As I stood by the
shore-sheds it seemed impossible that such tragedy should live in such
beautiful surroundings. I was not sorry that I had secured a berth on
the s.s. ——, a three-masted ship anchored out in the bay. She was due to
sail on the Saturday morning, so I still had three more days in Nuka
Hiva.

All the familiar faces had gone. News came in the Apia _Times_ that the
_Bell Bird_ schooner had gone down in a typhoon, lost with all hands off
Savaii Isle. The only evidence that the crew ever existed were several
small, dark spots sighted by a passing ship’s skipper, fading away on
the sky-line—the old peaked and oilskin caps of my old shellbacks
drifting away on the waste of waters, travelling N.N.W.

The Hebrew prophet might well have spoken of such a place as that wooden
grog bar of Tai-o-hae when he said: “One generation passeth away and
another cometh. Only the mountains abideth for ever.” Ah, Koheleth, your
wisdom was the wisdom of truth. The sun sets and rises again, the winds
blow eternally on appointed courses; the river flows to the sea; but
whither shall I go? And where is he who went away ten thousand years
ago?

Not only in the South Seas will you hear of the tragedy of Waylao. She
is at your door wailing—if you have eyes to see and ears to hear. She
walks the ghostly London streets by night, calling for her lost lover.
And one may pass her nameless grave wherever the dead are buried.

Perhaps my pages smack too much of sorrow; but I would say that even our
sorrows are too brief. Life itself is little more than this:

A man and a woman awoke in the hills of Time.

“How beautiful is the sun that I see,” said the man, after admiring the
beauty of the woman who had so mysteriously appeared before him. Still
the man stared at the sun, but so brief was his existence that, when he
turned to gaze once more on the glory of the woman beside him, she had
wrinkled up to a wraith of skin and bone.

“What is this terrible thing that has happened?” he said, as he wept to
see so terrible a change in that which he loved. “What have I done?” he
moaned.

Then the woman wept and said: “You too have altered since you turned
your face to the sun; it is wrinkled, and your cheeks look like the
cheeks of that big toad.”

Hearing this, the man rushed off into the forest and prayed to his
shadow in the lake, thinking it was Omnipotence!

Rushing back to see if his prayer had been answered, he saw a little
heap of dust: it was all that was left of the beautiful woman. He
shouted his hatred to the sky, then he fell prostrate and prayed
fervently, and then—he was struck deaf, dumb and blind; and only the sun
laughed over the hills again so that the flowers could blossom over
their dust.

So one will see that it is natural that sorrow as well as rum and wild
song should reign in Tai-o-hae.

When I went to say good-bye to the old priest, I was astonished to see
the change in him. But I must confess that I was more astonished when he
gazed steadily at me and said:

“My son, I have discovered the great secret. We are both nearer the
sorrow of Calvary and the joy of Paradise than I ever dreamed!”

Saying this, the old man took my hand, and said in his rich, musical
voice, that strangely thrilled me: “Come!”

In wonder I followed him beneath the palms.

As we passed down into the hollows, the sea-gulls swept swiftly away
from the surfaces of the hidden lagoons, their wild cries sounding like
the ghostly echoes of bugles.

The priest led me up the tiny track that led to the path by the
mountains, not far from the cross-roads that led to the calaboose of
Nuke Hiva. I began to wonder what on earth it could all mean, for the
old priest had a strange look on his face and was running his fingers
through his beads.

Suddenly he turned to me and said, in a cracked voice: “My son, lift
thine eyes, and breathe the hallowed name of Him who died for sinners.”

I made a mighty effort and obeyed. After I had looked up at the sky with
due decorum, he looked stealthily around him, and said in a tense
whisper: “My son, to think I have dwelt so near and never known.”

“Known what, Father?” I ejaculated, my heart full of wonder. (I noticed
that his eyes were unearthly bright.)

“My son,” he said, in a hushed voice, “it is here where our Lord Jesus
Christ died! I have discovered the remains of the old Cross!”

“No! Never!” I ejaculated, as he fell on his knees and lifted up a large
lump of grey coral stone. I admit that it looked like the remnant of
some tomb’s edifice. Under the influence of the Father’s earnest manner
I was thrilled with curious wonder as I stared at the lump of stone. My
belief at that moment was as firm as the rock that the priest still
held.

“’Tis the very stone, the cross that our Redeemer was crucified upon,”
said he, as he stared at me.

“How did it come here, all the way from Jerusalem?” I said, in a hushed
voice, as I gazed on the sacred relic.

“I know not, my son, but there it is. Canst thou not see it with thine
own eyes?”

“Assuredly I can, Father,” I murmured, as I looked at that old stone,
and thought how like an ordinary cross stone off a mortal’s grave it
seemed. True enough, the cemetery was close by, the spot where they
buried sad, home-sick men, women and children—and did _she_ not lie
there, the dead convict girl?

I took the Father’s hand and led him away. I called a native woman who
passed to take his other arm. He was old and tremulous, and I saw the
truth.

“So that’s the end of all your life’s self-sacrifice, your reward,” I
muttered to myself as we led the demented old man away.

That night the natives in the village hard by the mission-room could not
sleep, neither could I, as the Father lay calling out wild prayers to
the silent night, and strange names echoed in his room. That’s almost
the last I saw, or rather heard, of him.

My last visit in Tai-o-hae was to a place that anyone may go and see to
this very day. For the little track that lies north-west of the bay
leads suddenly upon a little plateau by Calaboose Hill. It is a lonely
spot, sheltered on one side by coco-palms and a few bread-fruit trees.
It is half fenced in by rough wooden railing. Across its hollows are
many piles of earth and stones. Old-time chiefs and missing white men
sleep there. Jungle grass and hibiscus blossoms almost hide the cross
where Waylao sleeps, and not so far away Pauline also lies at rest.

It was night when I last stood there—the winds seemed to strike the
giant bread-fruits with a frightened breath. Far away the ocean winds
were lifting the seas in their arms beneath the stars, till the ocean
looked like some mighty hissing cauldron of thwarted desires.

I could just hear faintly the echoes of wild song coming in from a ship
in the bay, and from the new generation of shellbacks in the grog
shanty.

It’s years since I packed up my traps and sailed away from Tai-o-hae. I
called in at Samoa and saw the Matafas. When I had told them the history
and end of Waylao and Tamafanga, they both laid their old heads on the
hut table and cried like two children.

No wonder I love heathens and hate the memory of Mr and Mrs Christian
Pink, of Suva township.

And what is the moral of the foregoing reminiscences and impressions?
The moral will be understood or ignored according to the temperament of
the reader. Some will sneer, and some will understand and feel as I have
felt. I’m sure to find good company among many; I’ve travelled the world
and met many of my own type. I’m common enough, thank God.

“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” said the poet. So is sorrow.
Nothing really dies; it’s all the same as it was long before, in some
new form being washed in again by the tide. The bird that sings to us
to-day sang to the reapers in the corn-fields of Assyria. I dare say
that I helped to build the Pyramids.

Is Grimes dead? No! He lives to-day, buckles on his armour, and with a
grim, brave look in his English eyes goes forth to battle, that the
helpless may live.

And Pauline? She still sings of England to exiled men, wherever Waylao
has wept for her race in the savage, ravished South.

I often hear their old songs as the winds and birds sing in the windy
poplars, in the green woods and English fields. I never go forth in the
summer nights but I can hear her shadow-feet pattering down the dusky
lanes beside me, and the sweetest songs of far-off romance echo in my
ears. Ah! could I catch the beauty of those songs, what a composer would
I be. But I can only write down the spindrift of those glorious strains.

I often sit dreaming far into the night. It is then that she comes back
from the shadows and kneels with me at the altar of my dreams—and sings
some far-off strain of my beautiful, dead Romance.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ Music files have been provided for the song presented on page 18,
      “On yonder high mountain.” If your browser supports it, clicking
      on the MP3 link will play the piano music; clicking on the MIDI
      link may open a program that can play MIDI files; and clicking on
      the Music XML link may download the MXL file to your computer. The
      music will probably not play in a device that uses ePub format or
      on a Kindle.
    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was silently corrected.
    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.
    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.
    ○ Text that was in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).





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