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Title: Sestrina - A romance of the south seas
Author: Safroni-Middleton, A. (Arnold)
Language: English
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                                SESTRINA

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

                          A. SAFRONI-MIDDLETON



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


                                SESTRINA

                      A ROMANCE OF THE SOUTH SEAS



                                   BY
                          A. SAFRONI-MIDDLETON

                      AUTHOR OF “SOUTH SEA FOAM.”



             _Life is our death: We dream reality.
             Imagination is Omnipotence,
             Some image of a bright eternity
             Flashed on Time’s mirror from the Mind Immense:
             ’Twill be reshaped from all that madness seems
             Into immortal beauty of new dreams!_



[Illustration]

                                NEW YORK
                        GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY


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



                PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



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



                                SESTRINA



                               CHAPTER I

          _A dusky maid stood ’neath a lone palm tree
          Down Makewayo beach, on Savaii Isles;
          A perfect shape and curved lips had she
          As stared her bright eyes o’er the lone sea miles;
          Maids have grown old, brave men seen their best day,
          But she was made of terra-cotta clay—
          In beauty by the sea still stands and smiles!_


“O SWEET is woman clad in modest smiles and grass!”

The speaker, Royal Clensy, was an ardent dreamer, romanticist and
mystic. He did not wear a flowing robe or seer’s beard, he was simply a
handsome young Englishman attired in a serge suit, wearing a topee as he
leaned against the stem of a palm tree. And had our hero have been able
to express his opinions in distinguished poetic style, instead of in the
crude phrase which opens this chapter, it is an extremely dubious point
as to whether he would ever have been awarded the Nobel Prize for _Vers
Libre_. However, though Clensy was ambitious, he was quite devoid of
pretence, which was as well since competition seems keen wherever one
goes.

“Cah! Cah! Cah! Too whoo Ha He!” said a second voice. It was the voice
of wisdom, the philosophy of the ages was expressed on the wrinkled
brow, in the solemn bright eyes and on the shining grey and crimson
striped homespun suit, as away, in its own private aeroplane, it sailed
over the palms—out of this story! It was a full-blooded native of the
Marquesas Isles—a cockatoo!

The first speaker, who still stood under a palm by the lagoons, swished
his hand and scattered the swarm of sandflies that buzzed before his
eyes obstructing his curious gaze at the pretty, symmetrical brown maid
who glided under the palms and then vanished! It was a common enough
sight to see a modest maid or youth clad only in smallest green attire
stitched on by invisible stiff grass thread, run from the village
doorways into another hut opposite. It was a sight to sweep a dreamer’s
reflective mind into the golden age of Eden’s fountains before the Tree
of Knowledge upset the innocence and beauty of the first sylvan shades.
And oh, the prevailing terrific heat, and the coolness suggested by such
artless attire. True enough the glowing tropic heat had its drawbacks on
those Isles. But Old Dame Nature toiled on, patiently and artlessly for
art’s sake, devising suitable clothes, mysteriously sewing and stitching
wonderfully hued patterns and greenest, cheapest materials for her
artless children. And what a fascinating code of morals was hers! An
ill-timed sneeze before the altar, and the dusky bride’s
wedding-robe—her mass of shining hair—lo, became disarranged, and made
the amorous chiefs sigh. How awful!

No wonder the young Englishman meditated profoundly and continued his
preposterous reflections: “Who knows, I may have been happier had I have
been born here, in Temeroka village, within sounds of the tribal drums
instead of the chimes of Bow Bells.” He gazed down on his much worn
boots and wondered what would happen when they fell off! “How on earth
can I ever get them re-soled and heeled here, on Isles where men and
women wipe their noses on sweet-scented leaves, where the highest social
society discuss morals and politics as they somersault in these shore
lagoons. Truly, a sylvan utopia of fierce happiness and clotheless
modesty. God’s finest sculptural art done in smooth terra-cotta clays,
sun-varnished, finished off with muscular curves, and, to say the least,
picturesque feminine outlines as folk roam under these coco-palms.” Our
hero’s reflections did him credit, nothing was truer. Even the first
wonder over creation seemed to gleam in the eyes of those wild peoples.
Only one odious odour disturbed the rich scents of tropic flowers. It
came from the copra sheds round the bend of the bay, by the primitive
wharf where a fore-and-aft schooner lay. It was at that spot where
beggared tattooed chiefs and melancholy kings and queens of fallen
dynasties cracked nuts ready for the extraction of suspicious looking
fats to smear on the artificial breadfruit and well-combed smooth hair
of civilised Man! O world of inscrutable mystery!

“‘Ow gloryhus is rum, woman and coco-nuts!” grunted a third voice. Our
hero was not startled. It was the voice of one of a noble lineage, that
presumably dated back to Bacchus down in Thebes. It was none other than
Beer de Beer Adams who spoke thus. It’s a crying shame to have to
introduce such a character to polite society. He would never have
entered these pages, but for the fact that he stood by Royal Clensy that
day. Adams was a derelict sailorman. Even as he spoke he conclusively
proved how unfit he was to enter the society of the humblest pages of
polite literature, except, perhaps, as a character of the most menial
position—lo, he pursed his vulgar lips and sent a stream of filthy
tobacco-juice across the line of Clensy’s vision. But what cared our
hero? He was young! twenty years of age!

As this script will probably be the only serious, authentic record of
Clensy’s life from that time when he left Hiva-oa on a schooner for the
South American coast, to arrive eventually at Port-au-Prince, Hayti, it
will be as well to let the uninformed know something about his mode of
life at the date when he met Adams. It will be sufficient to say that
Clensy had been roaming about the various isles of the Marquesan group
for three months before he decided to go farther afield. Adams was a
destitute drunken reprobate—and he looked it. To be seen in his company
was sufficient to exclude one from any decent society that might exist
between Terra del Fuego and the Coral Sea. Probably that is why Clensy
cottoned to Adams like a shot when he first ran across him in Taiohae.
Clensy was out to see the world and enjoy the vigorous novelty of
roughing it; and Adams was out to cadge from unsophisticated young men.
(Adams is not to be taken as a specimen of an honest South Sea
shellback.) As for Royal Clensy, he was physically perfect. He had a
fine brow, and eyes that shone with the light of a gay personality. His
mind was in the spongy state that readily absorbs good and bad
influences; but his belief in the goodness of human nature sent the mud
to the bottom of the living-waters to nourish and help the roots of the
lilies grow in the summer of his days. His temperament was, under sunny
conditions, sanguine and decidedly amorous. Anyone who knew him well was
not likely to die of shock were they suddenly informed that he had
eloped with a princess or a pretty serving maid. However, he did neither
of these things, and they are only suggested to help explain that which
is so difficult to explain—temperament. Like all men who have good in
them, he was his own godly priest, and instinctively knelt at the altar
of his own secret faith to confess his sins to a remorseful conscience.
Consequently his religion was sincere and quite devoid of hypocrisy. He
was bound to improve with time, as the mud settled down, and the lilies
took firm root. So much for Clensy’s embryo sins and virtues. This gay
young Englishman was of good birth; that was certain. Earlier incidents
connected with his life cannot be given. Whether on first entering into
the light of mundane things he was bottle or breast-fed, or was reared
in suitable surroundings for so erratic a temperament, is immaterial. It
can, however, be relied upon that he was born as he _was_, inheriting
all those peculiarities which made him solely responsible for the drama
of passion that put his life out of joint before he was twenty-one years
of age. All wise men agree that temperament is the ruling passion that
controls man’s actions, all impulses good or bad, be they successfully
curbed or blazed before an admiring or shocked world, as the case may
be. Adams swallowing rum or gassing Royal Clensy with smoke from his
filthy clay pipe, was Adams proper; and Clensy standing beneath the coco
palms staring with serious eyes, wondering what would become of him
should his people not soon send his remittance, was, and, without a
libellous statement on the reputation of his great natural mother, Dame
Nature, none other than the legitimate, handsome, sun-tanned
inconsequential Royal Clensy.

Instead of Clensy being shocked over Adams’s wicked yarns and disgusted
to see a man squirt tobacco-juice with such marvellous precision over
his shoulder, he stared his admiration of such vulgarity, and then
roared with laughter.

“So yer wants ter git to ther coast of Sarth America, do yer?” said
Adams. Then he added. “Look ye here, Myster Clensy, you’re a young gent,
anyone can spot that by the cut of yer jib. And anyones who knows me,
knows I’m ther man ter be an honest fren’ and guide ter yer.”

“You really do seem a good sort,” responded Clensy as he tugged the
little tip of his virgin moustache and looked critically at Adams’s
wrinkled, semi-humorous, rum-stricken countenance. Then Clensy, summing
up his inward thoughts, murmured to himself: “You look like a hardened
old sinner to me, blessed if you don’t.”

Adams who only saw the distinct surface of things, thought he had made a
fine impression. He rolled his solitary eye (he had lost his right eye
during a brawl in a heathen seraglio, New Guinea) and said: “So you’re a
remittance man, and want ter git ter a plyce wheres yer can ’ave the
spondulicks sent?”

Clensy nodded, and said, “I want to get to Acapulco, on the South
American coast, my uncle’s British Consul there.”

“‘Is E _indyed_!” gasped Adams as he at once obsequiously began to brush
an imaginary speck of dust from Clensy’s shoulder. Visions of coming
affluence loomed before his solitary eye.

“How can it be managed? I must leave this place soon or I’ll be dead
broke,” said Clensy. Thereupon Adams immediately informed the young
Englishman that the French tramp steamer, _La Belle France_, was leaving
Hiva-oa for the South American coast with a cargo of copra in a few
days. “She puts into Acapulco, so the thing’s done—if yer’ve got the
cash for passages?”

“I have,” said Clensy, then he handed the sailorman a sovereign on
account.

“Leave it all to me, I’ll get passages for about ten quid each,” said
the old reprobate as he spat on the golden coin for luck. So was the
matter settled between them. Two days after that, Adams informed Clensy
that he had managed to secure berths as deck passengers at twelve pounds
apiece. He watched Clensy’s face, and then smiled his inward delight,
for he had made five pounds over the deal with the skipper of the _La
Belle France_. Clensy, who guessed that he had secured berths for less
money than he said, made no remark.

“She’s sailing day after termorrer, so we’d better go and say good-bye
to our fren’s on the islets tother side; agreed?”

And so Clensy agreed to go to the neighbouring isle to say good-bye to
Adams’s old friend, the widowed queen, Mara Le Vakamoa. “You must see
heathen royalty afore you leaves these islands,” said Adams.

That same night Adams paddled Clensy in a canoe across the narrow strip
of ocean that divided them from the isle where dwelt several pagan kings
and much-married queens. When Clensy arrived at the unpalatial-looking
wooden building which was the residence of Queen Mara Le Vakamoa, much
of the glamour which Adams’s description of native royalty had conjured
up in his mind faded. They only stopped one night and day in the royal
village. True enough the queen and high chiefs were extremely courteous
and paid great homage to the noble papalagai’s (white men). But though
Adams was in his element when in the company of full-blooded South Sea
royalty, Clensy soon sickened of the ceaseless chattering and royal
display of limbs. The fact is, that the queens and princesses belonged
to an ancient dynasty, and had long since passed the zenith of their
beauty. Even Adams screwed up his lean, humorous-looking mouth and took
in a deep breath when the Queen Vakamoa opened her enormous thick-lipped
mouth and gave him a smacking farewell kiss. Then Clensy, too, bowed
before the inevitable, took a large nip of Hollands gin from Adams’s
flask, and saluted the queen likewise. It was only when the pretty
native girls took flowers from their hair, and handed them to Clensy as
they murmured, “Aloah, papalagi”; that he really took an interest in the
farewell ceremonies. Then they trekked down to the beach and paddled
away in their canoe. It all seemed like some weird dream to Clensy as
Adams chewed tobacco plug and diligently paddled back for the shore
lagoons of the mainland. Night had swept the lovely tropic stars over
the dusky skies, and they could faintly hear the musical cries of
“Aloah, e mako, papalagi,” as they faded away into the ocean’s silence.

Next day Adams and Clensy went aboard the _La Belle France_ which sailed
in the afternoon. They both felt quite depressed as they watched the
Marquesan Isles fade like blue blotches far away on the western horizon.
Clensy was every bit as depressed as his comrade. He had thoroughly
enjoyed his three months’ sojourn in the beautiful archipelago of
golden-skinned men, palms and sylvan valleys shaded by breadfruits and
coco-palms. He had also been well liked by the rough traders and
shellbacks whom he had come in contact with, for he had often gained the
respect and affection of sunburnt men from the seas who hated snobs.

The voyage to the South American coast was extremely monotonous to
Clensy. Adams’s constant companionship and swashbuckling deportment on
the dreary passage across tropic seas gave Clensy bad intellectual
spasms. But still, he patiently tolerated his presence. He probably well
knew that Adams too had his place in this scheme of intelligent things,
and that one change of a footstep at the beginning of Adams’s career
might have made him a splendid Government official or Controller, and
well respected by all who didn’t know him! The fact is, that Clensy was
by nature a genuine democrat. He was well bred, and so, carelessly
unconscious of his worldly advantages over the uneducated men with whom
he so readily consorted. He had proper pride, but it was humble enough.
His head did not swell overmuch. He could not realise that when he was
wealthy, and still dined side by side with penniless shellbacks, he was
doing something that should be vigorously blown from the highest peak on
democracy’s brass bugle so that it might reverberate and echo down the
halls of boasted brotherhood. His nature had no kinship with the great
boast of a democracy that shouts: “See how our millionaires sit by the
side of the wage-earning cowboy and dine on beans and corn-cobs.” Thus
pointing out to all who can see and hear, how wide a gulf really divides
the poor man from the eternal boast of the democratic brotherhood. In
short, Clensy was a splendid specimen of the democratic-aristocrat
Englishman dwelling under the great socialistic government of the human
heart. His intellect was fair: he knew that kings could feel humble, and
a pope be really religious. He was a gentleman.

Clensy breathed a sigh of relief when he sighted the coast of South
America, and the _La Belle France_ eventually entered the ancient bay of
Acapulco. But he was greatly disappointed when he discovered that his
uncle had left the consulate and had returned to England two months
before his arrival. “We’re done!” said Clensy as he realised that he
would have to wait quite three months before his remittance money
arrived from England. For a long while he and Adams were on their
“beam-ends.” Clensy had a few pounds which was augmented by Adams’s
musical accomplishments. For the derelict reprobate would go off on his
own and perform on his wretched accordion, playing to the Mexican
storekeepers. Sometimes he wrapped an old silk robe about him, and
putting on a Spanish hidalgo mein, would go busking outside the
old-fashioned homesteads of Vera Domingo. So did he help Clensy out of
his predicament.

In due course Royal Clensy’s remittance arrived. Acapulco was a quiet,
lazy town in those days. The inhabitants were mostly Spaniards, Mexicans
and niggers. Consequently Clensy made up his mind to clear out of the
place and make for the larger states. What really happened after Clensy
received his remittance whilst in Acapulco can only be guessed at.
Clensy was as improvident and reckless with money as Adams, so it is
possible that they had a pretty good time while the bulk of the money
lasted. The only thing that can be recorded with certainty is, that they
left Acapulco and made their way to Vera Cruz, and eventually arrived by
steamer at Port-au-Prince, Hayti.

“It’s no use you grousing, Myster Clensy,” said Adams.

“I suppose not,” replied the young Englishman as he gazed mournfully on
the dark faced population of the semi-barbarian city of the Black
Republic, Port-au-Prince. “Reminds me of what I’ve read about ancient
Babylon and the Assyrian cities,” said Clensy as he watched the swarthy
Haytian chiefs and handsome mulatto women, clad in yellow and blue
silken robes, as they shuffled along the stone pavements in their loose
sandals. Many of the quaintly robed folk stood by the doorways of their
verandahed weatherboard homes conversing, making a hushed kind of hubbub
as they muttered and stared with large dark eyes at Clensy and Adams.

“What’s Babylony and Asyery ter do with it? It b— well reminds me of
hell, and of being damned ’ard up, it do!” responded the unpoetical
ex-sailor.

“What on earth shall we do? We’re dead broke till my remittance arrives
again,” reiterated Clensy as he wiped his perspiring brow and smiled
wearily as the pretty Haytian girl passed by and gave him a languishing
glance.

“Don’t you worry, myster, the only thing ter do, is ter take up ter the
buskin’ again, but I _can’t_ play alone in this ’ell of a ’ole, I’ll
p’raps get shot by one of these smut-faced devils.”

“Can’t play alone! What do you mean?” said Clensy.

“I simply means thet you must stand by me, and see that I’m unmolysted
by these ere b— ’eathens.”

“Good heavens, have I come to this!” moaned our hero as he once again
wiped his brow and made a thousand good resolutions as to how careful he
would be when the next remittance came! But withal Royal Clensy was
game. He brushed his misgivings away and smiled, and thought, “Well, I
suppose I must adapt myself to circumstances in this world of woe and
tears.” Then he came to the sensible conclusion that it was best to cast
one’s pride aside when the digestive apparatus made pathetic appeals to
the higher senses.

That same afternoon, to Clensy’s extreme mortification, he found himself
standing just outside the presidential palace at Port-au-Prince. “It’s
best ter ply before people who ’as got money,” Adams had said, and so
there they stood as Adams opened his villainous mouth and wailed out
“Little Annie Rooney’s My Sweetheart” to his vile accordion
accompaniment. Clensy gnashed his teeth and hid his perspiring face in
his silk handkerchief of other days when the chorus came. It was then
that Adams shuffled his feet and, doubling the tempo of the song, danced
a hideous jig. “God our help in ages past,” murmured Clensy in an insane
way, as the ebony-hued population swarmed around them, and gazed in
astonishment at the one-eyed sailorman as he played on, quite
unconcerned and careless of Clensy’s anguished feelings. “What! you have
the infernal cheek to think I’ll go round with your coco-nut shell and
collect!” said Clensy, when Adams calmly stood on one leg, stopped
dancing, and intimated that Clensy might make a “whip round.” “Not I.
I’d sooner get a ship! Why, it’s bad enough to hear you make that damned
row,” said Clensy angrily. Consequently Adams went round himself with
the shell. To Clensy’s surprise, when Adams had passed among the crowd
of onlookers, and had come back, the coco-nut shell was nearly full of
peculiar-looking coins that neither knew the exact value of.

The Haytians and mulattoes are a naturally unostentatious folk in their
likes and dislikes, a peculiar kind of calmness pervading their most
deliberate acts. One cynical-looking Haytian chief gazed critically into
Adams’s collecting calabash as he once more went round, and dropped a
dead putrid rat inside! The Haytian chief was evidently not feeling
exactly partial towards white men, and chose that way of showing his
resentment.

“For heaven’s sake, don’t get ratty!” whispered Clensy as he pulled his
comrade’s coat-tail and gave a warning glance. Fortunately for them
both, Adams swiftly realised that Clensy was generally right, and so he
cooled down and soothed his outraged feelings by swearing at the Haytian
chief in the choicest Billingsgate English. With that marvellous
precision which brings envy to the hearts of foreign sailormen
throughout the world, Adams squirted a stream of tobacco-juice—splash!
it had sent a dark stain down the length of the chief’s yellow robe as
he stalked majestically away. Then once more the Cockney sailorman began
to play and sing.

“Wish I’d never written home from Acapulco and given an address at this
hole for my remittance to be sent to,” thought Clensy. His heart quaked
in the thought that he had to exist by aid of Adams’s musical
accomplishments for nearly two months. It was dreadful! But it was only
a momentary spasm of deepest gloom that afflicted our hero. Fate is
kind, in a way, to mortals. The silver lining generally appears on the
cloud when the day seems darkest; and though the cloud may be charged
with the thunders and lightnings of undreamed-of future storms to break
over the sanguine wayfarer’s head, it _does_ look silvery for a time,
and so cheers the despondent soul. In fact, Royal Clensy’s thoughts had
already suddenly leapt into another channel, had become charged with
warm, sensuous feelings that had blazed into existence by the magic
gleam of beautiful eyes! Adams had just finished his last song, and was
hand-pedalling his accordion into a thrilling wail, when a beautiful
Haytian girl ran out of the open gate of the presidential palace and
stared with evident admiration straight in Royal Clensy’s sun-tanned
handsome face. Then she stared in astonishment at Adams’s accordion.
(Accordions were great novelties in Hayti in those days.) Clensy blushed
to the ears. Her eyes shone like baby stars; her hair tumbled in a
glittering mass around her neck, rippling below her waist, floating in
artless confusion over her _neglige_ attire—a pale blue _sarong_. Her
complexion was of an olive hue, delicately tinted with the rosy blush of
health, like the complexion of a fair Italian girl.

“What cursed luck! Travelled the world over only to meet her at this
dire moment, outside a palace busking with a reprobate like Adams
playing a wretched accordion.” In that swift realisation of his
degradation, Clensy felt atheistical. He could have turned round and
screwed Adams’s neck till the scoundrel’s spine snapped! For the first
time in his career he became a child of modern democracy. A great wave
of snobbishness overwhelmed his senses. He longed to turn round and
shout into the Haytian girl’s ear: “Behold Me! the son of wealthy
parents, the blood of great ancestors flowing in my veins, yet here I
stand, happy in the society of this drunken old reprobate and his
damnable accordion.” Swiftly recovering from his embarrassment, he made
a courtly bow. The girl’s lips parted in a delicious smile as she
daintily imitated Clensy’s salutation. It was most fascinating. The
palace and the surrounding weatherboard houses seemed to fall on top of
Clensy’s head as the girl placed a coin in the collection-box. Then,
looking into Adams’s rum-stricken face, as he still sang, she said, “Oh,
monsieur, you _have_ gotter voice!”

Clensy whipped his handkerchief out and wiped his sweating brow, then
stared again and gave the maid the benefit of the doubt. “That can be
taken as the reverse of a compliment; the girl must have a sense of
humour,” he thought. As for Adams, he bit the coin with his blackened
teeth to assure himself that it was gold, then he made himself look as
awkward as a frog. He wasn’t going to be outdone by a whippersnapper
like Clensy. Arching his back as though the world of chivalry weighted
it he bowed too! The next moment an elderly negress poked her frizzy
head round the rim of the palace gateway and said in a squeaky voice,
“Oh, Madamselle Sestrina, ze president, your father, wish to zee you.”
At hearing this, the girl who had so impressed Royal Clensy gave a
silvery peal of laughter and ran back within the palace gates. Clensy
was not so much to blame for his sudden infatuation for the girl who had
appeared before him and had then vanished like a dream! She _did_ have
red lips that looked like smashed pomegranates formed to charm men to
taste. The beautiful morn of maidenhood shone on her brow; the first
golden streak of creation’s first sunrise seemed to twinkle in the
ocean-like depths of her eyes. Yes, Clensy saw her as woman standing on
the threshold of the temple of Beauty, her loveliness unconsciously
inviting some one to come and worship at her altar as she stared over
those visionary seas, seas where the shadows of the unborn children sit
on the shore reefs, singing their luring, plaintive, sunrise songs till
sad, wandering men pass along! Sounds sentimental and poetic? Well,
Clensy had suddenly become strangely endowed with the poetic instinct.
And so, the girl’s maiden beauty had presented itself to his mind in a
highly imaginative form. Beautiful Sestrina, President Gravelot’s
daughter, for such she was, had fired Clensy’s brain with an undying
passion, had unknowingly made the first fateful footstep down the path
of destiny that was to lead to the sad drama, the terrible catastrophe
that is alone responsible for this story.



                               CHAPTER II

                 _O mystery that made the frenzied thug,
                 And winds to beat the frozen sheep:
                 O fates that did conspire to make a bug
                 To haunt sad mortals in their sleep!_


“NICE gal, that!” mumbled Adams, as he and Clensy hurried away from the
crowd that still loitered before the presidential palace. They quickly
made their way towards the palm-sheltered portion of the dusty,
heat-stricken city.

“Yes, very nice,” responded Clensy, as he gazed vacantly ahead, hurrying
Adams along as though he sought to escape from his own embarrassment.

“I’d loike ter marry a bootiful crawture like ’er. Only one fault ter
find about ’er—she ain’t fat!” said the sailorman, as he glanced up at
Clensy, squinting his solitary eye sideways, like a curious cockatoo.

“Hem!” was Clensy’s rejoinder, as he threw his shoulders back and looked
the other way to hide his cynical disgust from Adams’s eye, as that
materialistic worthy still expressed several opinions about Sestrina’s
face and figure. Anything of a subtle nature in Clensy’s manner or talk
was naturally lost to such an intellect as Adams possessed, and so the
sailorman at once changed the conversation. “’E’s gone off agin, in one
of ’is balmy moods!” the reprobate murmured to himself, then he added
aloud, “Hawful ’ot,” and pulled his whiskers.

“Thank God it’s shady here,” said Clensy, as they arrived in the shades
of the beautiful mahogany trees. “Let’s see the sights of the town,”
said Adams, as they stood under the trees and gazed on the little
streets and the long, irregular rows of quaint wooden houses.

“I’m done up, nearly dead for want of sleep,” replied Clensy.

“Why, I feel as fresh as a two-year-old!” growled Adams. The true facts
are, that Adams was case-hardened and hadn’t spent a wretched night in
attempting to distract the attention of enormous fleas from his person
as poor Clensy had done in the low lodging-house bed the night before.
The Haytians love company in bed, and, from what Clensy could see, the
price of a bed in Hayti was increased if the fleas were lively and
plentiful. In fact, the inhabitants were kind-hearted, bohemian folk and
believed in the merciful creed of live and let live! A fact that was
well illustrated by the state of the streets in Port-au-Prince. Adams
said the streets were worse than the streets in Shanghai and Hum-kow,
Tokio. The Haytians do their washing in a tub before their front door,
and hang their clothes on lines that are spread from one side of the
street to the other, tied on to the stems of the palm-trees that usually
grow on the pavement side. It was a quaint, semi-poetic sight to Clensy
as he gazed at the yellow, crimson and white lingerie and garments of
both sexes fluttering to the caresses of the hot winds: wonderful
drapery placed side by side without any nice discrimination as to the
modest feelings and sensibilities of those who passed by! Adams looked
quite jovial as he gazed at the clothes-lines and made critical remarks.
The undemocratic Clensy simply looked at the filthy streets and held a
large lump of camphor to his nostrils, and often rubbed some on his
moustache. Royal Clensy always carried “Keating’s,” a small tooth-comb,
and lump of camphor during his travels. He was a wise fellow. Along the
kerb-sides were innumerable dustbins, for the Haytians throw all their
house refuse into the highway, right opposite their front door. And
there it stood, incubating in the hot sunlight, heaving and buzzing,
thousands of tiny worlds populated with happy life, green and
sapphire-winged insects, worlds upon worlds inhabited by bright-plumaged
beings that feed on the offal of their sphere as they sang and danced in
their youth and grew old in their universe of inscrutable mystery. Even
as Clensy and Adams watched, they saw clouds of bright, gauzy wings
arise, millions of God’s humblest beings emigrating as they swarmed
away, hissing and singing till they found another constellation of
shining hot worlds in front of the stores farther down the great highway
of their heavens! As for the black-faced population, they might have
been the dead Pharaohs shuffling along in some mysterious holiday,
rewakened from the tomb. On they shuffled, apparently oblivious to
everything; dusky faces, yellowish faces, greenish faces and
copper-coloured faces. A picturesque sight they made. The warm-coloured
women and girls were clad in _sarongs_ and scanty semi-European attire
as they slouched or shuffled under the palms of the street’s side,
laughing and babbling together, girls and youths of all types laughing
or yawning as they swallowed the astonished insects as they migrated
from one heap of refuse to another, and sometimes fell into the abyss of
those open thick-lipped negro and negress mouths!

“Don’t fink much of this ’ere plyce!” mumbled Adams.

“All right in its way; good for insect collectors,” replied Clensy.

“Mulatters and niggers ain’t civilised like _we_ are,” was Adams’s
sententious remark, as he removed a cork and sniffed the shellback’s
_sal volatile_—his rum-flask!

“Not they!” said Clensy, shaking his head with superb acquiescence. With
all the drawbacks of Haytian ways, Clensy admitted that the city had its
picturesque, poetic side. The half-caste girls and negresses with heads
adorned with wonderful chignons, the dusky, bright-eyed youths and the
musical _patois_ they babbled, greeted Clensy’s ears and eyes in a
pleasing way. Far away he saw the palm-clad mountain slopes disappearing
into rugged, dreamy blue distances, and on the other side of the city
stretched the dim wide plains of Gonaives. “What mahogany trees!”
exclaimed Clensy, as they stood before several giant, sombre trees, the
last members of the great forests that had once surrounded
Port-au-Prince.

“Damn yer trees!” said Adams, who was more interested in watching
several Haytian maids and negresses perform a peculiar dance, the
_bamboula_, the steps of which gave a bold exhibition of the dancer’s
physical charms. Adams, being very religious and modest by nature, said,
“‘Ow can they do sich fings before civilised men like hus! It’s
terryble!”

“Don’t break down; all our health is wanted to meet the trials of
adversity before us,” said Clensy in a soothing voice, as Adams hung his
blushing face and the maids still danced on. Then the sailorman lifted
his shocked countenance and, as his solitary eye gave a merry blue
twinkle, he murmured, “Let’s git out of it and go back to our lodgings.”

The fact is that it was getting late, and the stars were already shining
over the plains of Gonaives. In half an hour Clensy and Adams had
arrived back at their cheap lodging-house that was situated by the
Sing-Song Café, in La Selle Street.

“By God’s grace I’ll sleep to-night,” said Clensy, as he took his tin of
Keating’s flea powder forth and began to well pepper his bunk bed. Then
he opened his baize bag (he had pawned his portmanteau), and, taking out
his special bit of ship’s sheeting, he pitched the lodging-house sheet
out of the window and remade the bed. “You’re too aristocratic, too
’tickler ter travel. You orter stopped ’ome with yer pa and ma,” said
Adams, as he picked up a wriggling fat green lizard from his bed and
tossed it out of the window.

“Maybe I am too particular,” replied Clensy, as he glanced through the
window at the stars, and wondered how long the mingy oil-lamp, that
swung from the ceiling, would last before the oil was exhausted. Then
his heart gave a thump and nearly stopped! Adams dropped his pipe in his
astonishment. They both thought the roof had fallen on top of them.

But it wasn’t as bad as that. A huge settee-pillow had been thrown, had
struck Clensy on top of the head, and smashed into Adams’s back. A
tremendous peal of laughter shook the room. “Flea powder! By the gods of
my fathers, flea powder!” yelled a voice. They turned their heads, and
there, in a bunk right opposite their own, they saw two large blue eyes
staring at them from beneath a giant of a brow. They saw a great body
slowly uplift from the bunk. Then the figure’s wide-open mouth gave vent
to a vibrant peal of renewed laughter. The man who had so boisterously
introduced himself to Clensy and Adams was a new arrival in Hayti, had
only the day before left a steamer in the bay at Port-au-Prince.

Clensy and Adams still stared on the man with their mouths wide open.

“Give us some flea powder, youngster!”

Just for a moment Clensy continued to stare at those sombre yet
humorous-looking eyes, then he picked up the tin of powder and
courteously handed it to the big man.

“Got any baccy? Don’t stand there with yer goddamned mouths open; hand
the weed up!”

At this new demand, Adams and Clensy, like two obedient children, felt
quickly in their pockets and handed their giant-like bedroom companion
their pouches. They couldn’t help it! The strange eyes were magnetic,
the light in them not only compelled Clensy and Adams to accede to their
owner’s request, but also gave them pleasure at being able to supply his
wants!

“And who may you be?” asked Clensy quietly as he recovered his
composure.

“I’m Samuel Bartholomew Biglow! that’s my handle!” roared the boisterous
stranger. Then he half emptied their pouches, threw them on the floor,
and carefully pressed his thumb into his corn-cob pipe.

“So that’s your name, and it’s a suitable one,” Clensy ventured to say;
then he smiled, for he vaguely realised that a man had a right to call
himself by any name he wished, especially one with such a commanding
personality and giant-like proportions.

“I like the look of ye both, damned if I don’t,” said the stranger; then
he well sprinkled his bunk with the flea powder and tossed Clensy back
the tin.

“And what might your name be?” he said, as he gave Adams a mighty
languishing glance.

“My nyme’s Adams,” mumbled that worthy in humble tones.

“And my name is Jonathan Canton Solomon Clensy,” said the young
Englishman, in a voice which intimated that he too could call himself
names.

For a moment the big man surveyed Clensy with a glance of admiration,
then he yelled out, “Solomon Clensy and Isaac Adams, I’ve cottoned to ye
both, so I’ll see more of ye both in the morning.” The next moment he
had tucked his immense silken scarf about his throat, and placing two
huge, wonderfully white feet over the bunk’s side, settled himself for
sleep.

When Clensy and Adams awoke in the morning the new-comer was already up
and dressed.

“God damn it, rise and shine, lying in bed, ye lazy loafers,” he yelled.

They lifted their tired heads and gazed vacantly on the boisterous
disturber of their late slumber. For a moment a look of resentment over
the man’s impertinent manner leapt into Adams’s eye. Clensy also gave
Biglow a look which plainly said, “Who the devil are you that you have
the cheek to order us to rise?” But when Bartholomew Biglow laid his
massive hand on his velvet waistcoat and burst into a song that told of
the horn of the hunters on the English hills, of grey dawns and the
skylark’s melodious trills to the sunrise, Clensy and Adams rose, and,
looking rather sheepish, commenced to dress. Then Biglow took them both
into the big dining-room where lodgers assembled for their meals, and
treated them both to a glorious breakfast.

“Get it down ye!” he yelled, as Adams and Clensy munched their toast and
poached eggs and bacon. Adams nudged Clensy in the ribs, and chuckled
over their sudden luck. After breakfast, the three man went outside
their lodging shanty and stood under the shading mahogany trees near
Selle Place. Then Samuel Biglow, for such we will call him, told Clensy
and his comrade, that though he had been the paramour of queens and the
confidant of kings, he reckoned he was well off to have met such a one
as Adams. Adams took the big man’s hand and said in almost respectful
tones, “Same ter you, Myster Samuel Bartholomew Biglow.” Then Samuel
tendered them his credentials in the shape of voluminous verbal
reminiscences, telling them of mighty deeds he had performed. If the
man’s own accounts could be relied upon, he had been a wonder in his
time.

Then Samuel listened to Adams, for that worthy also started to blow his
own trumpet. Samuel Biglow bent his giant form and roared with laughter
as he listened. Then Adams said he was “a man of honour,” that he would
“sooner die than do unto another that which he would not like to be done
to him.”

“So, so!” murmured Samuel Biglow soothingly, as he gave Adams a kindly,
mother-like look, which plainly told Clensy, who thoroughly enjoyed the
play, that he, Samuel, didn’t believe one word that the sailorman said,
and that he was doubtlessly as big a rogue as himself. “Ye’ve got
honesty written on yer mug!” he said, and Adams felt pleased.

The fact is, that circumstances were running as near dire disaster as
could possibly be when two men like Samuel Biglow and Adams met in
Hayti, where catastrophes were of hourly occurrence. And it can only be
put down to extraordinary good luck that Royal Clensy never got his head
into at least a noose of difficulties through associating with such
characters. However, let it be said, that all that happened afterwards
was not the fault of either Samuel Biglow or Adams; if anything, Samuel
Biglow was Royal Clensy’s saviour when the hour arrived, and they had to
flee, the three of them, from Hayti.



                              CHAPTER III


SAMUEL BIGLOW was a blessing to Clensy and Adams.

As well as possessing enormous cheek, he possessed plenty of money. That
which surprised Clensy most about Biglow was his refined demeanour when
he entered Haytian society. It seemed to come natural to the man. He had
certainly never been well educated or reared amongst courtly people, yet
his self-possession and gallant manners outrivalled the polite
deportment of men and women who moved in the best social circle of
Port-au-Prince. It must be admitted that the highest Haytian social
circle, in those days, was not easily shocked over moral lapses or by
those acts which would be considered breaches of etiquette in European
society; but still, the Mexican and Spanish-French element of gallant
manners and pretty politenesses among the wealthy classes existed in a
large degree. These classes were made up of Haytian chiefs, mulattoes
and Mexicans, and lusty-looking men who appeared to have a large strain
of negro blood in their veins. The government of Hayti was in form
republican, the democratic element being especially noticeable when the
court officials and lustrous-eyed Haytian maids of the lower classes
came together. When Congress met at the chambers, the swarthy ministers
discussed public matters with great deliberation, each member holding a
drawn sword in his hand and a revolver lying fully loaded on the bench
in front of him. In fact, the Haytian Government constitution was up to
date, nothing to excel its laws—on paper! And the honest aspect of the
officials _par excellence_. All that was really required was an honest
Napoleonic Controller of Controllers to help responsible members of the
Republic from falling before the lure of bribery and lustrous-eyed
beauties of the Court.

Such was the state of Haytian affairs in Clensy’s youth, in the grand
days when Samuel Bartholomew Biglow smacked the President of the
Republic in genial comradeship on the back and patronised the cynical
Haytian chiefs by his august presence. Samuel Biglow was not an enigma,
he was simply royalty in the raw state. He had the personality and the
cool cheek that raises men to eminence amongst primitive or even
civilised peoples when they mourn a lost leader. Had Biglow lived in old
Britain in the days of Boadicea, he would have been heard of.
School-children would to-day have been compelled to memorise the date of
his birth and when and how he died. Antiquated, worn monuments to his
ancient fame would adorn the old bridges of our cities. But he was born
too late. When he arrived on earth, the moral codes of the heroic ages
had become reversed; consequently, it required all his astuteness to
save himself from being elected for the gallows or life-long meditation
in Wormwood Scrubbs or Sing-Sing. Such is the irony of fame and
changeful circumstance. However, Samuel was happy enough. His handsome
face would flush with the light of his amorous imagination when the
dusky ladies who attended the presidential balls gave him languishing
glances; and gallantly did he return them! He had not been in Hayti more
than a week before he managed to enter the palace and make the
acquaintance of President Gravelot. Adams and Clensy were astonished
when one night he came back to his lodgings and informed them that he
had had a busy day, being honoured as the special guest of the president
of the Black Republic.

“Borrow anyfing from ’im?” said Adams, staring at the big man in hopeful
surprise.

“No need to borrow. I’ve found out that the President is me long-lost
father. He’s recognised the strawberry mark on me back, and I’m to
receive an allowance from the Government exchequer,” replied Bartholomew
Biglow with his usual jovial mendacity. The truth of the whole business
was, that Samuel was doing a bit of gun-running for the U.S. firearm and
munition factories. And President Gravelot was anxious to purchase as
many Snider rifles and as much ammunition as he could possibly get hold
of. A revolution occurred in Hayti every year or so, when a rival for
the presidency appeared and was backed up by rebels and sometimes
Government soldiers. And so the Government officials and the rebel
officials, who dwelt by thousands in the mountains about Hayti, were for
ever competing with each other in buying arms and ammunition, and the
United States firms were ever ready to supply the aforesaid arms for
cash down. In fact, while Biglow was getting the best terms from
President Gravelot, an American steamer was lying in the bay off
Port-au-Prince with a cargo of antiquated old stock guns and explosives
on board. This steamer had carried a most enterprising super cargo and
shore agent, and this super-cargo was eminently suitable for the
position—his _nom de plume_ was Samuel Bartholomew Biglow! So it will be
easy to see why Biglow was welcomed by President Gravelot.

Biglow’s cheek and convivial ways pleased the President and all the
officials whom he came in contact with. Though the national emblem of
Hayti was the feathery cabbage palm, and suggested “Peace on Earth,
Truth and Beauty,” the true emblem should have been daggers and knives
and a human skull, with the motto, “Live and be Merry, for To-morrow we
lose power or die!” For, as has been said, revolutions came like the
punctuality of the seasons, and generally ended in the reigning
president being shot and the officials having to flee for their lives.
No doubt, Gravelot was immensely pleased to meet such a one as Biglow
when he was already feeling uneasy about his waning power. For the
Cacaos insurgents had already taken to warfare in the Black Mountains,
and day by day rumours were reaching Gravelot which hinted that his
presidency was nearing its close. Indeed, during his office Hayti had
been in arms, in one long civil war. Gravelot held the highest prestige
in the eyes of the British and French Consuls, and so Biglow knew what
he was about when he got in friendly touch with Gravelot. It was hard,
in the interminable squabbles between the negro, mulatto and Mexican
portion of the population, to know which was really the greatest power.
All that can be positively asserted is that no chance was lost by the
Haytians and mulattoes to thoroughly enjoy their lives according to
their tastes. So Biglow was received with open arms at the presidential
balls, where he astonished the lustrous-eyed maids of the passionate
south by his magnificent effrontery, in days of old when passions ran
riot in Hayti. When Clensy got wind of the truth, heard that Biglow was
in with the President, his heart beat with a great hope. Not for one
moment had he forgotten the beautiful girl who had spoken to them when
he and Adams had stood, two humble troubadours, outside the palace
gates. He saw his chance. He had already made inquiries, and discovered
that the girl who had so impressed him was the beautiful Sestrina,
President Gravelot’s daughter. At the earliest possible moment Clensy
had informed Bartholomew Biglow that he would feel more than kindly
towards that worthy if he would use his influence to get him introduced
into the palace.

“You can accomplish anything you wish to accomplish,” said Clensy.

“Possibly so,” was Biglow’s brief reply; then he added, “You see, lad,
my business at the palace is peculiarly secret, and I don’t stand on
safe ground when I commence to introduce white men into the Court of the
Black Republic.”

Clensy looked glum at hearing this, but he looked more cheerful when
Biglow ended up by saying, “I’ll think the matter over; p’raps I can see
a way of doing the thing.”

That same night Biglow happened to hear Adams performing on a banjo at
the Sing-Song Café, hard by their lodgings (Adams was a decent banjo
player), and Clensy strumming out melodies and dance-tunes on a derelict
piano. So when Biglow met Clensy next day he gave the young Englishman a
most contemptuous look, and said, “You! You play the piano like that and
yet ask _me_ to get you introduced into the palace society!”

“What on earth has the piano to do with it? How? Why?” said Clensy,
mystified.

“Lad, you’re a mug, and though you can’t see farther than the tip of yer
nose, you may consider yourself engaged on the spot as Pianist to the
President of the Black Republic.”

Clensy, with his usual lack of confidence, began to expostulate and
bring forward a hundred reasons to show why such a procedure would be a
failure. But Biglow simply gave him another contemptuous glance, and
then, pushing his mass of curls from his massive brow, turned on his
heel and walked away. Next day, when Clensy returned from a stroll in
the town back to his lodgings, Biglow smacked him on the back and
informed him that he was engaged as piano-player for the coming
presidential ball. The next moment Biglow had handed Clensy twenty
Mexican dollars.

“What’s this for?” gasped the astonished Clensy.

“Why, you looney, it’s your advance, a bit on account of your wages!”
Then Biglow explained that he had told the President that he, Clensy,
was a great musician, the chief Musical Director of the Conservatoire in
New York, and that it was a relentless rule of Yankee virtuosos to
demand an advance note.

“But I’m not a professional player at all. I can’t play well enough,”
said Clensy, as he recovered from his surprise, and looked at the money.
“I’m only a strummer on the piano, and they’ll expect to hear some of
the classics performed, won’t they?” said Clensy.

“Can’t play well enough! Classics, by God!” yelled Biglow, giving the
young Englishman a withering, pitying glance, then he added, “By
heavens, if you refuse the job, I’ll take it on! Do you think these
half-caste niggers know what music is? It’s Bartholomew Biglow who knows
what melody is; he’ll show ’em!” So saying, Biglow immediately opened
his mouth and began to sing some weird heathen melody which made the
Haytian maids rush from their doorways to see who sang so well and with
such vibrant feeling. Clensy at once bowed to the inevitable, and agreed
to accept the engagement, and play at the palace ball on the following
night.

Royal Clensy discovered that Biglow’s assurance that no one in Hayti
knew what real music was, was admirably exemplified by himself when he
sat the next night in the sumptuously furnished ball-room of the palace
and banged away on the imported Erard pianoforte. True enough he had
been well primed up for the occasion by Biglow, who had enticed him to
swallow much cognac. And so the young Englishman felt that he was seeing
tropical life in its most vigorous, romantic stage, as the
richly-attired Haytian chiefs and voluptuous-eyed mulatto women, clad in
picturesque _sarongs_, did wonderful dances that had been introduced
into Hayti by the old-time West African negro emigrants. As the happy
guests drank their host’s rich, heady wines, the strain of negro blood,
which is in the veins of almost all the Haytians, asserted itself. The
romantically clad half-caste girls undid their chignons and allowed
their shining, dusky tresses to fall in wanton abandonment about their
bare shoulders. And, as their softly-sandalled feet tripped and glided
across the wide polished floor of the dancing-room, their dark eyes
sparkled in the light of the innumerable hanging lamps. Clensy almost
forgot to play the tricky syncopated time of the dances, for just by the
side of the piano was a large mirror wherein the shadowy forms of the
wine-warmed dusky beauties gave misty yet vivid demonstrative
exhibitions of their delicate charms, as they did the heart-rending
steps of the _bamboula_ and the old barbarian _chica_ dances! Even
Biglow gave a ponderous wink and modestly arched his hand over his eyes
as his big dancing feet swerved by the piano, and Clensy looked sideways
at him. That ball-room was a seraglio of smouldering frenzied passion.
The semi-diaphanous robes of the women seemed to have been cut out of
material that was specially suitable for revealing the shapely limbs of
the wearers. The lustrous eyes of those dusky beauties of southern
climes gave deliberate, long languishing glances, and so fired the blood
of dark, fierce men who had their origin away back in the ancient
primitive life of Africa and Arabia.

When the interval arrived, Clensy rose from the piano and strolled
about, as he sought to find some trace of pretty Sestrina, she whom he
had dreamed so much about. He was almost pleased to find that she was
not to be found in that passionate, riotous, high Haytian society. The
reason Sestrina was absent was because the president would not allow his
daughter to enter the festival rooms when the fetish dances were on.
Instead of Clensy being disappointed at not seeing the girl at all, he
blessed his luck, for everything turned out beautifully unexpected. The
heat was terrific, and so Clensy, after having a cooling drink, pulled
the wide heavily-draped curtains of the ball-room aside and passed into
the outer corridors. Then he stood by the tropical flowers which grew in
pots in the large palace rooms, and breathed in the scented zephyrs
which floated through the open windows. The sight of the picturesque
grounds that surrounded the presidential residence tempted him to pass
out into the open air. As he approached the mahogany groves and lit a
cigarette, he was startled at hearing a voice say, “_Suva_, monsieur,
’tis you again! Why this pleasure?”

Clensy turned round and found himself face to face with President
Gravelot’s daughter, Sestrina! Her rich tresses were ornamented with
hibiscus blossoms. And as she stood smiling before Clensy, she did look
as perfect as a young man’s dream of woman.

“So you are here in the palace, _Suvam kari_, Engleesman?” the girl
said, speaking in a land of Haytian _patois_ in an undecided way, as
though she was uncertain as to which language Clensy would understand
the best.

“Yes, I am here,” replied Clensy, hardly knowing what else to say, as he
gazed into the girl’s dark, beautiful eyes as she laughed like a happy
child. And as he gazed, he heard the buzz and weird hum of the native
orchestra’s stringed instruments playing in the ball-room. Those sounds
meant that his absence from the piano would not be missed, for the
dancing had commenced to the strains of the four Haytian musicians, who
had sat silent in the ball-room when Clensy had presided at the piano.
Though it was night, the trees, the fountains, and even the colour of
the flowers, were distinctly visible. Every hanging bough sparkled with
the steady lights of the hundreds of hanging garden lamps. The mystery
of night and the stars and the dark orange groves was in perfect harmony
with Sestrina’s type of beauty. Perhaps Sestrina knew this, for she
stood perfectly still under the mahogany tree’s branches, staring
earnestly at Clensy as the warm scented winds drifted her tresses in
confusion over her shoulder. The young Englishman could hardly believe
his luck as the girl took his arm and walked away with him into the
shadows as though he was a very, very old acquaintance! Though she had
made a great impression on his mind when he had first seen her, he had
endeavoured to thrust her from his memory as something quite
unattainable, beyond his hopes and the ordinary possibilities of his
humble position in Hayti. But there he stood, Sestrina holding his arm,
gazing into his face with a childlike expression in her eyes. Yes, it
was all true enough. Fate had thrown them together, some immutable law
had decreed that it should be, that all that was to happen in their
lives afterwards, had been carefully planned out and sighed over by
destiny. Clensy’s heart thumped with happiness, no premonition of coming
sorrow in far-off days came to dispel his unbounded joy as they both, in
mutual secrecy, stole away by the tropical fuchsia trees so that they
could get away from the prying eyes of the stragglers near the palace.

“Have you come to stay in Hayti, Engleesman?” whispered Sestrina, as she
gave Clensy a swift bright glance.

“I don’t know yet,” responded Clensy. And as he gazed down the moonlit
orange groves he fancied he could see the happy phantoms of his
imagination dancing in impish delight on the footpath. The rich odours
from decaying pineapples and the hanging overripe lemons and limes made
a perfect atmosphere for Clensy’s romantic meditations. And
Sestrina?—her heart fluttered, it was almost like a dream to her, too!

“Oh, how different are the sun-tanned flushed faces of the handsome
Englishmen to the yellow-skinned Haytian men,” she thought as she sighed
and looked at Clensy again. Everything in nature seemed to feel kindly
disposed towards them both. The moon intensified the dark loveliness of
Sestrina’s eyes as the scented warm zephyrs lifted her tresses and
tumbled them in artless confusion about her neck and shoulders.

“I am only in Hayti for a holiday, I’m travelling. I’m a tourist, you
know,” said Clensy. Then he remembered under what circumstances Sestrina
had first seen him, and added with excusable mendacity. “I’ve been most
unfortunate, I lost all my money in a shipwreck just before I arrived in
Hayti.”

“Oh, how sad!” exclaimed Sestrina, then she gave a low, merry peal of
hushed laughter. Clensy wondered why the girl should laugh so, and
cursed the very memory of Adams. For, if ever he had wanted to appear
refined and gentle, and one who loved delicate associations, it was at
that moment in his life. However, Clensy was wrong in his suspicions,
the girl had believed every word he uttered. Sestrina was unworldly. She
was Gravelot’s only daughter. Her mother was an inmate of an asylum at
Rio Grande, a fact of which Sestrina was not aware, she having been
brought up to think that her mother was dead. She had led a secluded
life in the palace since her father had been made President of the Black
Republic. Her father had had her reared with jealous care. The girl’s
constant companion had been and was still, an aged negress nurse named
Claircine. Claircine had ever watched over the girl with that affection
which is characteristic in the coloured people when they become attached
to those who are placed in their care. This negress had cultivated
Sestrina’s imagination by telling her pretty legends and, as Gravelot
had wished, had kept her mind childlike, quite ignorant of the world and
ways of men and women. The only knowledge of the world that she had
acquired had come to her through the medium of the sensational French
novels which she obtained and read in secret. Indeed it is no
exaggeration to say, that Sestrina, like many Haytian maids, had
educated herself and obtained her knowledge of the great world around
her, from French novels. Of course, the girl did not realise the meaning
of a deal that she read. And so, to her mind, the words—“Passion, and
passionate,” only conveyed some idea that the hero or heroine possessed
bad tempers, or were endowed with a poetic passion which resembled the
wild moanings of the mahogany trees when the fierce tornadoes broke over
Hayti. And whenever she asked the negress uncomfortable questions,
Claircine adroitly changed the conversation or misinformed the girl. And
so Sestrina went every day with great punctiliousness to confess to the
aged Catholic priest, Père Chaco, also knelt every night by her bedside
to pray with absolute faith over the goodness of men and the boundless
mercy of God.

Such was the simple wisdom of Sestrina’s mind. And Royal Clensy, as he
stood in the palace gardens with Sestrina that night, did not
misunderstand her when she boldly intimated that she was supremely happy
in his company. A girl’s character is generally clearly imaged in the
mirrors of her soul—her eyes. And Clensy’s mind was not the kind that
gives a distorted view of the truth. When she took a flower from her
hair, touched it with her lips, and then placed it in the lapel of his
coat, he realised that it was all innocent enough. And he was happy as
they both walked up and down in the moonlit shades of the orange groves.
“Adams’s wretched accordion-music has its compensations,” he thought as
he realised that had he not gone off busking with Adams he might never
have met Sestrina. “It’s fate, Sestrina was destined to come into my
life like this,” he mused as Sestrina stumbled, and nearly fell over the
cactus hedge. Sestrina gave a little cry of distress.

“Destiny!” was his mental ejaculation as he leaned forward, and with an
apologetic look in his eyes, said “Allow me!”

Ah, the girl’s innocent manner made a fascinating picture as she lifted
her pretty ankle a few inches from the ground. How tenderly Clensy
examined it so that he might staunch the tiny flow of blood—a thorn had
torn the soft flesh! His solicitude eased the pain! Only a born artist
could have pulled the brown stocking down as he did! It was perfect art,
a subtle poem in curves, maiden artlessness, and the impertinence of
passionate youth. But all was well. Royal Clensy was in Hayti! Hayti,
the land of flowers and song. Hayti where the passions ran riot, where
pretty maids had a strange golden gleam in their large dark eyes, and
all their actions were inspired by the romance and glamour of flamboyant
French novels!

“And how, and when shall I see you again, Mademoiselle Sestrina?” said
Clensy as he gazed in an insane way into her face. Poor Clensy, it was a
case. However, his malady had its compensations, for Sestrina also
seemed beautifully insane as they both held each other’s hands, loth to
part! Only the cry of the blue-winged Haytian owl disturbed the silence
of the giant mahogany trees that stood like mighty sentinels around the
palace walls. The sounds of revelry by night had ceased, for quite an
hour had passed since they had heard the last wails coming from the
violins and weird Haytian musical instruments played in the Presidential
ball-room. Clensy had forgotten the flight of time. Sestrina was the
more practical of the two in the matter of time, since she dwelt within
walking distance of the paternal halls. She knew that her father would
raise the roof, so to speak, if he discovered that she was absent from
her chamber at such an hour. “Monsieur Royal, I will see you again, fear
not,” said Sestrina.

“But—how? And when?” said Clensy as he glanced about him in desperation.
Had not Sestrina told him a few moments before that she was not allowed
away from the palace precincts without old Claircine?

“Ah, foolish Engleesman,” said Sestrina as she fell back on her
fascinating _patois_, and placing her finger to her lips as though in
deep meditation, gave Clensy a roguish glance. Ah, how swift-witted is
woman in comparison with dull-witted man? Sestrina had solved the
problem as to the means of their meeting again. She well remembered how
Dumas’ heroes and heroines managed such delicate matters as lovers’
meetings when a parent stood in the pathway of happiness.

“I will tell _mon père_ that I wish to learn to play the pianoforte, and
you whom I wish to see again may easily be the favoured one to give me
those lessons, and the harmony be the sweeter for the strange though
happy coincidence that you of all men should be the chosen teacher!”

Before the young Englishman had realised the full import of Sestrina’s
remarks and her pretty wit, he was alone. Sestrina had passed away like
some shadowy form of a dream. He was still standing under the orange
trees that fronted Sestrina’s palatial residence. Then he moved away and
hurried home, his footsteps walking on air as he recalled the lovely
light of Sestrina’s eyes.

That same night Clensy’s life seemed to have become extra valuable to
him. For the first time he began to realise what a waste of his days he
was making by associating with men like Adams.

“By Jove! she’s a beautiful girl, well educated and poetic too,” he
muttered, as he pulled off his boots and recalled Sestrina’s pretty
phrases and those poetic sayings which she had memorised from the pages
of her beloved French novels. Then, and for the first time for many a
long day, Clensy said his prayers, and asked God to give him Sestrina
and make him really happy. He lay for quite an hour in his humble bed in
the lodging-house at Port-au-Prince, thinking and thinking. His mind
roamed far away into the realms of romance as he stared through the
window at the stars, a bright constellation that shone just over the
mountains, inland from Gonaives. And as he reflected on Sestrina’s
beauty and the deep impression she had made on his mind, he began to
realise what it all meant to him. His thoughts eventually became
entangled in dire confusion as the possibilities of the future presented
themselves to his mind. Would she really accept his hand in marriage?
Was she earnest, and did she really understand what a man’s love for a
woman meant? Why did her eyes look so childlike when he had whispered
those words of love in her pretty ears? What would the President think
when he became aware that a humble pianist had the infernal cheek to
aspire for his daughter’s hand? And what would his people in England
think if they heard that he had married an olive-hued Haytian girl? And
could he take her back to England with him—if she was willing to go? And
as he continued to reflect and conventional obstacles presented
themselves to his mind, all to be brushed ruthlessly aside as they came
to him, he realised that his personality had come under the complete
domination of a passion. He tried to sleep, but only closed his eyes to
find his imagination became more lively than ever. Then, opening his
eyes again, he drifted into a philosophical vein of thought.

“I am what I am! I cannot change myself. To attempt to control one’s
nature is as ridiculous and as hopeless as to attempt to revise and
reform the work of God Himself, and all that is written on that strange
manuscript—the human heart!”

Clensy fell into a fatalistic mood. He lit his pipe, and pitching his
tobacco pouch across the room, murmured, “I’m done for! Royal Clensy of
yesterday, Mr. _No. 1_ of myself died of a passionate spasm before the
palace gates at Port-au-Prince on October 14th, 18—, was ruthlessly
slain by the magic of a Haytian maid’s eyes. Alas! what is man but a
wandering bundle of dreams and vague desires? A scarecrow of himself
wrapt in old rags, standing in the lonely field of his imagination, his
thoughts fluttering like starving crows about his fleshly skeleton.
Where’s the corn and the oil that maketh glad the heart of man?—It
exists only in the golden sheaves of dreams, and the sickle that ever
reaps is the wide sweep of our hopes being borne back into the dust,
scattered by each inevitable disillusionment.”

Ah, Clensy, you had indeed got into a sadly morbid state.

As the young Englishman continued to reflect over the careless,
inconsequential splendour of his life up to the time when he met
Sestrina, he realised that his passion for the girl was as deep as his
own interest in himself, and, knowing this, he saw the brighter side of
his strange reflections and was cheered up. “I shall be happy even
though I fail, so long as Sestrina loves me,” he thought. Then he turned
over on his rickety bed and joined Bartholomew Biglow and Adams in the
calm, deep bass measure of their respective snores.



                               CHAPTER IV


AFTER Sestrina had taken her sudden departure from the infatuated
Clensy, she ran down the pathway by the fuchsia trees so that she might
enter her home unobserved. She did not fear meeting a stray servant who
might be abroad in the cool of the night, but she knew that her father
had been absent from the Presidential ball since six o’clock. His
absence was an ominous sign for Sestrina—when her parent returned from
his mysterious nocturnal visits into the mountains he usually behaved
like a frenzied maniac.

“I do hope I shall not see father to-night,” she thought, as she entered
the little doorway by the wine vaults, and then peered in fright down
the corridor. She was no longer the gay, inconsequential Sestrina whom
Clensy had parted from a few moments before. The Englishman had
dispelled all the heart-aching fear that had worried Sestrina’s mind for
the last few weeks. Clensy little dreamed of the skeleton in the
cupboard of the Haytian girl’s home, how it haunted her soul with a
fearful wonder and terror when it roamed about before her eyes! Even as
she peered along the silent corridor she gave a startled jump that made
her shadow leap down the whole length of the white wall. A sigh of
relief escaped her lips—it was only the shuffling footsteps of the old
negro, Charoco; he was putting out the lights in the large rooms from
which the festival guests had lately departed. The next moment Sestrina
had slipped down the corridor, and had run across the large drawing-room
where she had to pass through ere she could reach her chamber.

“_Garou!_ _nate!_ What’s that!” said a hushed, hoarse voice, speaking
first in Creole and then in English.

Sestrina gave an instinctive crouch in her fright, and then swiftly
turned round—a dark cloaked figure was standing behind her—it was her
father, President Gravelot.

“I’ve been out on the verandas, it was so hot inside the palace,” said
the girl quickly, for her parent’s face looked like the face of a fiend.
It was not the calm, handsome President that the Haytians knew by
daylight, but a demented, bloodthirsty fanatic who stared at Sestrina
with burning eyes. Sestrina gazed on the man in horror. She had seen her
father in a state of frenzy before, but that night he hardly resembled a
human being at all. The bigotry and heathenish lust of his Southern
blood shone in the brilliant cruel gaze of his eyes. It was not the
juice of the grape that had fired the man’s brain, transmuting him from
a human being into a devil of cruelty and lust, it was the living hot
blood mixed with white rum he had swallowed that made him look like
that. It was the blood of _The Goat without Horns!_—the symbolical term
for the blood of little children and men and women who had been
sacrificed at the terrible altars of the _vaudoux_!

Yes, and not far off either, for the altars were in the secret fetish
temples near the mountains of Port-au-Prince. President Gravelot was a
devotee to the _vaudoux_ worship! It was a terrible creed, and though
the French and Haytian authorities had taken drastic measures to put
down the horrors indulged in by its worshippers (the negro adherents
often indulged in cannibalistic orgies after they had slain the
sacrificial victims), children were missing from their homes every week,
were kidnapped and taken away to the temples of the terrible _papaloi_.

It seemed incredible that such a creed should be, but Sestrina’s
trembling form, and the blood-frenzied man who stood before her in the
dark corridor of her home, was sufficient evidence of the terrible
truth. It was a cruel creed, and had been introduced into Hayti by the
first negro emigrants from the West Coast of Africa. Hundreds of “high
class” Haytians were staunch adherents to the _vaudoux_ sacrificial
altars and the monstrous demands of its deity—_The Goat without Horns_.
These altars were situated as near as La Coupé, not more than five miles
from Port-au-Prince. And the fury of the strange paroxysms that
transformed the _vaudoux_ devotees into fiends of blood and
indescribable lust was exemplified by the distorted face and the burning
eyes of the soul-powerless man who stood before Sestrina. The reeking
atmosphere of the worship clung about its devotees like an evil spirit,
the warm blood of the victims they had sacrificed gleaming in their
eyes. The frenzied bigotry and uncontrollable lust of the _vaudoux
papaloi_ (head priests) stopped at nothing to satisfy their terrible
desires. No man, woman or child was sacred enough to stay the knife and
the bloody libations when once in the _papalois’_ merciless grip. Even
graves were desecrated in the secrecy of the night.[1]

Footnote 1:

  Several Haytian men and women were arrested for the murder of children
  whom they had kidnapped and then offered up to the _Vaudoux_ on the
  fetish altars somewhere in the mountains near Port-au-Prince. One of
  the prisoners, a negress, turned informer and told how the _papaloi_
  bribed men to dig up the newly buried dead from the cemeteries, where
  many graves had been found disturbed.—See “Memoirs of Moreau de St.
  Mery.”

“Father!” whispered Sestrina in her terror. She saw a wild look in his
eyes that horrified her. She lifted her hands as though she would ward
off a terrible blow. The gleam of the fevered eyes sent a death-like
chill to the girl’s heart. She instinctively realised that the
personality of the man before her was lost in some deadly sleep, though
she did not dream that the fumes that had done this thing to her father
were the fumes of human blood and white rum. Though Sestrina had heard
the word “_vaudoux_” whispered in awestruck tones by the negresses and
negroes of the palace, she had no idea as to what it really meant. All
she knew was, that it caused madness among many people, for the blood
and rum drinking, and the strain on the _vaudoux_ worshippers’ frenzied
imagination, generally ended in paralysis and idiocy, and often in
violent madness.

“_Vaudoux, loup garou!_” whispered the man as he stared at the girl.
Then he seemed slightly to recover himself.

“It’s you! you! Sestrina!” he murmured as the girl took his hand very
gently, and in pathetic, mute appeal looked up into her father’s face.
Her heart thumped violently as she watched the expression of his eyes.
Then she gave a sigh of relief. And still she fawned before him,
caressed his bloodstained hands, delight on her troubled face as she saw
the gleam of reason stealing back into his bloodshot eyes.

“It’s me! me!” she whispered, as she once more caressed that hand in her
terrifying eagerness to press her advantage. She saw the look of
recognition leap into his eyes.

“Sestrina, what did I do? What have I said? help me!” he moaned, as he
leaned forward and gazed into the terrified eyes of his daughter. What
had he said? What had the devil that possessed him muttered for the
girl’s hearing?

Gravelot’s stupefied brain had begun to realise the relationship and the
wickedness of his own terrible nature as he threw off the vile spell
that _vaudoux_ worship had cast over him. The change in his manner was
swift; already the fever of his eyes had changed to a look of
tenderness. “Go to bed at once, Sestrina,” he muttered in a hoarse voice
that Sestrina hardly recognised. He reeled about like a drunken man as
he began to take off his flowing cloak, which he wore as a disguise
whenever he stole away to the fetish temples in the mountains.

Sestrina fled. In a moment she had run along the corridor. Entering her
room she had begun to cry. For a long time she could think of nothing
else but the terrible expression which she had seen on her father’s
face. After a while her heart ceased to thump, and her thoughts strayed
into more pleasant channels. She began to think of the young Englishman.
“Oh, if only I could fly from here with him, elope just as I have read
folks do,” she murmured to herself as she rose and stared at her image
in the large mirror. Then she turned away and pushed the settee against
the door. Of late she had been very nervous at night, and this
nervousness was due to her father’s strange madness, which was becoming
worse of late. “What does it all mean? Why does he want me to go to the
mountains with him? Is not Père Chaco, the Catholic priest, a good man?
Did he not bless me with holy water and say beautiful things about the
world? And yet he flung me from him, yes, only a week before, and raved
like a madman when I refused to leave holy Père Chaco, and go away into
the mountains to pray before strange priests.”

As Sestrina mused on, she began to remove her picturesque attire; first
she cast aside the loose _sarong_; then she loosened her under-bodice.
Her hair fell in confusion down to her shoulders, tumbling in shining
ripples about her bosom, that was the whiter for being untouched by the
hot rays of the tropical sunlight. She was fast leaving her girlhood
behind; her footsteps, so to speak, were already on the threshold of
womanhood, the rose of beauty and innocence on her lips and shining in
her eyes. She half forgot the horror of her father’s distorted face as
she gazed at her image in the mirror. Though her mind was naturally
refined, the romantic passion of her Southern ancestry began to sigh in
its sleep; and Sestrina’s lips echoed the sigh, though she knew not why
they did so. She thought of the handsome Englishman, and of the sweet
things he had whispered into her ears. She thought of the rapture of
love, of the meeting of lips, and the romantic sorrows of parted lovers,
and all those things which had influenced her mind as she poured over
her French novels. “Ah me!” she sighed, then a startled look leapt into
her eyes. She looked towards the window in fright. It was only the
“Too-whoo-hee!” of the blue-winged Haytian owl that watched her from its
perch in the mahogany tree just outside. She opened the vine-clad,
latticed casement wide, and then stared out on the loveliness of the
tropic night. She could just see the dark, palm-clad slopes of the
mountains, faintly outlined by the moon’s pale light. “Ah, if he were
only here, how happy I should be!” she murmured as she watched the
swarms of fireflies dancing in the glooms of the bamboos, and then
looked across the plains where she could see the twinkling lights of the
homesteads near Gonaives. After that, she opened a little door that
divided her chamber from another small room. It was where Claircine, the
negress, slept.

“Oui, Madamselle Sessy!” said the ebony-hued negress servant as she sat
up in bed and rubbed her large, sleepy eyes, wondering why her mistress
should disturb her at so late an hour.

“Claircine, I feel so unhappy.”

“Why so, mamselles, there am nothings to be misleraable ‘bout, is
there?”

Sestrina responded by giving a deep sigh. Then the old negress started
to gabble away, as Sestrina sat on her bed for companionship. The
woman’s inconsequential chatter cheered Sestrina.

“You look so beautiful nows you be coming womans,” said Claircine as she
touched her mistress’s mass of glittering hair and ran the shining
tresses through her dark fingers, and sighed in the thought that her own
locks were so short and woolly. “Ah, Sessy, you ams like your mother,”
said Claircine, who had been her mother’s maid from the time of
Sestrina’s birth. Then the old negress continued: “She too had nicer
hair and white flesh, for she had a father who was a real handsome white
mans!”

After a while the conversation changed. Sestrina and the negress began
whispering. Several times they glanced as though in some fright towards
the bedroom door as a moan came to their ears. It was only the noise of
the wind sighing down the orange groves that murmured like sad phantoms
just outside the open casement as the girl and negress talked on. There
was something eerie and dreadful sounding in the slightest noise that
night! Claircine had also seen President Gravelot come home under the
terrible influence of the _vaudoux_ fetish. The old negress had seen the
President behave like a maniac, and had then seen the after effects as
he came round, laid his head on the table, and moaned in remorseful
despair.

“’Tis the terrible, but wonderful _papaloi_ who he see at the secret
mountain temples where they do drink ze blood and rum; yes, dey make
your father look like dat!” said Claircine. Then the negress added: “I
no tell you such tings, Madamselle Sessy, but I now tink it be best dat
you know such tings since dat you be getting older.”

“Do you really believe in such things, that the _papaloi_ are the chosen
priests of the heavens?” whispered Sestrina, as she heard such things as
she had never heard before or dreamed of. Claircine had spoken to the
girl in an awestruck, reverent way, about the terrible _vaudoux_
priests.

“No, madamselle, it am no good me believing, I am only low-caste, and so
am not allowed to attend great _vaudoux_ worships.” Then the old negress
sighed, and added: “If I’d been good enough, I would have marry handsome
Chaicko, for you know that women who am _vaudoux_ worshippers are
watched over by ze god of the _Goat without Horns_, and am always happy
in dere love affairs.”

“Surely you don’t mean that, or believe that my father would drink human
blood?” whispered Sestrina, as she looked despairingly into the
negress’s eyes. Her face looked pallid, almost death-like, dark rings
about her eyes.

“Ah, Madamselle Sessy, this chile _does_ believe in the greatness of ze
_papaloi_. I do often see ze _zombis_ (ghosts) creep ’bout under de
mahogany trees when the great _papaloi_ chant in ze forest.”

“But what about my father? Do you think that he really does visit these
awful places which you have just described to me?”

“P’raps not; I may be wrongs, madamselle,” said the old negress, who
felt upset to think she had told her innocent charge so much about the
_vaudoux_. And though Claircine rambled on, telling Sestrina many things
about the cruelty of the fetish worshippers and the attendant
superstitions of the bigoted adherents, she adroitly made it appear to
Sestrina that she spoke of a far-off time.

“’Tis not like that now. Oh, no! ze officials did shoot mens and womens
for drinking ze sacred wines from the _Goat without Horns_, and so ’tis
long past!”

So did Claircine attempt to undo the harm she had done by making
Sestrina feel so miserable and ashamed. But though the negress had
chatted on till the night grew old, the girl was still full of trouble
and fear over her own thoughts.

Bewildered over all she had heard, Sestrina crept back to her chamber to
dream of the dark _papaloi_ who chanted somewhere up in the black
mountains. For a long time she could not sleep. She thought of the
terrible look she had seen in her parent’s eyes, and, wondering what was
really the matter with him, forgot all else. For Sestrina, deep down in
her heart, had a great love and reverence for her father. “He looks so
different, so good and kind when the evil spirit does not possess him,”
she thought, as she wiped the tears from her eyes. Then she thought of
the young Englishman, of his blue eyes, his manly ways, and wondered
what he would have thought had he seen her father that night! Then her
reflections ran into a calmer channel, and with the pretty words that
Clensy had whispered that night still lingering in her ears, she at last
fell asleep.



                               CHAPTER V


A WEEK after the events of the preceding chapter, Royal Clensy found
himself standing by the Erard pianoforte in President Gravelot’s home.
Sestrina had suddenly developed a passionate desire to play and sing.
And President Gravelot, who was always eager to please the girl when he
was in his sane moods, had agreed to hire a teacher. Sestrina’s face had
looked very troubled when she had approached her father on the matter,
for she did not like the idea of deceiving him. But she easily overcame
her delicate scruples, and so, looking her parent straight in the face,
she had said, “I much prefer a white man as a teacher; the white men are
better educated, more simple and refined in their manners.” And so the
great coincidence which usually comes when the opposite sexes seek a
chance to meet each other, came about. Clensy, of all men in the world,
received a note from President Gravelot in which he was asked if he
would accept a position as Sestrina’s teacher for singing and pianoforte
playing! The terms offered were good too! When Bartholomew Biglow heard
that Clensy was teaching Sestrina to sing and play, he smacked our hero
on the back and gazed on him with splendid admiration. “Couldn’t have
done it better myself!” he had roared, and that was the greatest
compliment the big man could pay anyone. And so, there sat pretty
Sestrina, her heart bubbling with delight as her hands ran along the
ivory keys, diligently going through the five-finger exercises! She had
also arranged that Clensy should teach her to sing from the tonic sol-fa
system.

“No, no! like this,” said Clensy, as he forced a serious look into his
eyes and struck the pianoforte keys.

“Ah, monsieur, I see!” murmured the beautiful, guileless Sestrina, as
Clensy wondered what she would think of the contents of the note which
she had slipped into the folds of her pretty blue _sarong_ a second
before! They both had to be very careful! Old Gravelot kept walking into
the room and went shuffling about as though he was suspicious. His
brilliant eyes certainly _did_ stare in a critical manner at the
handsome music teacher, as that sanguine worthy leaned over his daughter
and guided her fingers along the keyboard, rippling out the scales!
Clensy knew that the president was all-powerful in Hayti, and that, were
his suspicions aroused, he would be shot. True enough, the worst
construction possible would be put on Clensy’s reason for seeking
Sestrina’s society. Sestrina trembled inwardly, but, like most women,
she was a born actress—she struck the pianoforte keys, _just so_! and
looked as solemn as a nun. Then her father walked out of the room. Oh,
the change in Sestrina’s face and manner when the heavily-draped
curtains divided, and the president disappeared, leaving them alone
again. It was magnificent! The discordant strumming of the scales
resolved into the perfect harmony of living music that shone from
Sestrina’s eyes and thrilled Clensy’s soul with unbounded happiness.
Then our hero took an unwarrantable liberty; he leaned forward, struck a
delicious chord on the piano, and kissed Sestrina’s pretty ear! Ah,
parents of all countries, beware of music teachers! Yes, Royal Clensy
was making good headway. He knew that there was much wisdom in the old
saying, “Faint heart never won fair lady.” It was a pretty picture as he
stood there by the side of the seated Sestrina; her hands still rested
on the keys as she looked up into his face. Her beauty was the beauty of
the tropic starry night, and Clensy was as fair as sunrise on the
morning mountains. His fine blue eyes charmed Sestrina the same as he
was charmed by the starry darkness of her own.

“I dreamed of you last night, sweet Sestrina.” Saying this, Clensy
rippled out a tender cadenza.

“And I of you, monsieur!” sighed the lovely pupil, as she dropped her
gaze and gently twiddled her fingers over the scales.

“Really? and what did you dream? pleasant, I would—!”

They heard the tasselled curtains, ornamented with brass, tinkle as they
were hastily divided—the president had entered the room again!

“No! No! Mademoiselle, _twice_ have I told you—like this!” Once again
Sestrina’s shining tresses tossed as she warbled the notes of the tonic
sol-fa system, and ran her fingers down the pianoforte keys! The
president lit a cigar, then shuffled about. Clensy smelt the
richly-scented odour of the smoke drifting about the room, for old
Gravelot had opened the window wide to let the cool airs drift in from
the orange groves. And though the president watched with wary eyes, the
calm expression of his handsome wrinkled face did not change. He was
outwitted. Sestrina’s voice sounded sincere, and the expression on
Clensy’s serious face told of the phlegmatic, unromantic Englishman! So
did Clensy find means of furthering his happy courtship with the
beautiful Sestrina, though it must be admitted that the happy result was
brought about more through Sestrina’s brilliant wit than Clensy’s superb
nerve.

As the days went by, Royal Clensy became deeper in love, and so did
Sestrina. And it must be admitted that greater progress was made in
their secret courtship at the piano than in Sestrina’s music-lessons.

Adams and Biglow saw very little of Clensy at that period, for he would
go strolling about Hayti seeing the sights and, presumably, dreaming of
Sestrina. Indeed, Adams got a bit jealous when Clensy hired separate
lodgings just down the town, and gave his reason for doing so by saying
that he was suffering from insomnia.

“He’s getting ’igh-toned, I fink, since he got in wif the presydent’s
darter. Damned if she won’t git all ‘is money when ’is remittance
arrives.” So spake the derelict sailorman to Bartholomew Biglow. But
Biglow knew human nature better than Adams did.

“The young whippersnapper’s true enough. You haven’t been in love like
him, or like I have. It’s a terrible complaint, something stronger than
rum fumes!” said Biglow, as he gave his fascinating smile and patted
Adams on the shoulder. And Biglow was right, for when the mail came in,
a few days after, bringing Clensy’s remittance, Adams got a fair share
and had a regular “bust up.” The reprobate sailorman felt remorseful
when Clensy behaved so generously, and while he was drunk, kept patting
Clensy on the back, and saying, “You’re an honest youth, and, by God,
you’ve been a father and a son. It’s fact that Gawd sent yer to comfort
me in me ole age.” Adams wasn’t all bad, for he did _mean_ what he said.
He couldn’t help being a cadger. He reminded Clensy of the Australian
gentry who are sometimes called larrikins, individuals who make cadging
a fine art and always carry lumps of blue-metal in their pocket to throw
if the stranger will not part with his loose cash or resents their
appearance in any way whatsoever.

Though Clensy was a bit rash with his remittance money, he took good
care to keep a needful supply of cash in hand. His affection for
Sestrina had made him less improvident. Biglow refused to take one penny
of Clensy’s money. The fact was that he had plenty of cash in hand
himself. Indeed, he was busy, and would go off on private business for a
whole week sometimes. Clensy and Adams couldn’t make out where he went
to. All they knew was, that he seemed very flush of cash and mightily
pleased with himself when he returned. The fact was, that Biglow was in
league with the Black Mountain insurgents, as well as being in league
with the Haytian government officials, for he was supplying the
insurgents with Snider rifles and ammunition, which had arrived at
Port-au-Prince on suspicious-looking schooners. However, Biglow’s
commercial enterprises have little to do with all that happened when the
revolution broke out in Hayti some time afterwards, and which was a
serious matter for all concerned. For, as has already been hinted, the
insurgents always razed the towns by fire and murdered half the
population, sparing neither women nor children.

One night Clensy and Biglow were sitting playing cards with a half-caste
Frenchman, a Monsieur de Cripsny, a government official, when Adams
suddenly walked in the room and said, “Heard the noos?”

“What news?” exclaimed Biglow and Clensy, as they looked up from their
cards. Then Adams, with an awestruck look in his eye, proceeded, “Why,
these ’ere damned Hoytians are blasted cannibals; got a kinder relygion
that they call Voody-worship on ther brain.”

“What’s that to do with us?” said Clensy quietly, as he puffed his
cigarette and reshuffled the cards. Bartholomew Biglow’s ears were alert
at once; he lifted his hand and, smashing at a fly that had settled on
Adams’s sweating bald head, said, “What have ye heard to make ye so
excited, man?”

Thereupon, Adams loosened his red neckcloth, and swallowed the proffered
glass of cognac, began to gesticulate and tell his comrades all which he
had heard. It appeared that Adams had that same day heard how thousands
of the Haytians were adherents to the _vaudoux_-worship. Some one had
told him how the _vaudoux_ folk went in for bloodthirsty orgies, drank
human blood and sacrificed children on the fetish altars, doing such
revolting, blood-curdling things as would have made a pre-Christian
South-Sea islander shiver with disgust.

De Cripsny, who sat curling the tips of his moustachios while Adams
narrated all that he had heard when visiting some grog-shanty in the
lower quarter of the town, astounded Clensy and Biglow by calmly
corroborating all that Adams had told them. “’Tis nothing new to me,
monsieurs,” said the half-caste Frenchman. Then he calmly sat there and
told the wondering Englishmen how many of the Haytians were staunch
devotees to _vaudoux_ worship, secretly attending the orgy temples,
which were situated somewhere by the mountains, a few miles away. De
Cripsny, who was a friend of Biglow’s and had some connection with that
worthy’s successful exploits in the gun-running line, pulled his
moustache and told Adams to shut the door. Then the Frenchman calmly
informed the three men that they were liable to be strangled and offered
up as sacrifices to the deities of the _vaudoux_ if they went into the
forest near Port-au-Prince after dark!

Adams opened his one eye and his mouth wide. Then he hitched his
trousers up and said he had been seriously thinking of taking to the sea
again; “nothing like the open seas!” he said, as he looked with fright
at the door.

“Don’t you worry, monsieurs; I tink you are quite safe; you are
Angleseman, and p’r’aps it would not be good for you to die on the
_vaudoux_ sacrificial altars.”

“Thank Gawd for that much,” exclaimed Adams, as he took another drink.

Then de Cripsny told them that the authorities had lately discovered
that many children were missing each week from the villages round
Port-au-Prince.

“What do you think has become of them?” exclaimed Clensy and Biglow.

“Why, monsieurs, they have surely been caught while strolling or playing
in the jungle and taken away to the mountain temples to the _papaloi_,
who do strangle them and drink blood—like so.”

Saying this, de Cripsny put his hands out, and, to the Englishmen’s
horror, squeezed an imaginary throat, made a pass with his knife, and,
lifting an empty goblet, illustrated to the astonished listeners how the
_papaloi_ slit the victim’s throat and drank their blood!

“’Tis mixed with rum and called the wine from _the Goat without Horns_.”

“Surely it’s not possible in these enlightened times?” said Clensy.

De Cripsny gave a grim smile, and, taking the _Haytian Press_ from his
pocket, translated the following:

    “Anyone giving information which would lead to the discovery of
    the hiding-place or temples of the _Vaudoux_ worshippers will
    receive a reward of £500.”

On hearing this, Biglow brought his big fist down on the table, crash!
and yelled, “By the gods of heathen lands, we’re saved! _Vaudoux_
worship; splendid thing; we’re saved!”

“Saved? what jer mean?” said Adams, as Clensy looked up and wondered why
the horror that they had just heard about should appeal to that
capacious intellect as a blessing instead of a curse.

“Five hundred pounds reward! It’s mine!” reiterated Biglow.

“Yours! Ours!” gasped Adams and Clensy, as they both realised that their
sanguine, uproarious comrade had got an idea in his head that he could
discover the _vaudoux_ miscreants and receive the reward.

“Yes, mine!” replied Biglow, as he swallowed his grog. Then he burst
into song. His hilarity was contagious. Adams lost his woebegone
expression. In less than ten minutes they all felt assured that they
were not only safe from the terrors of the _vaudoux_, but were likely to
receive a portion of the reward that Biglow seemed so certain of
obtaining.

It was at this moment that de Cripsny looked up and said, “It is mostly
the high-class Haytians and negroes who are adherents to the _vaudoux_.”

“Not surprising,” replied Biglow, as he rubbed his hands, his face
flushed through the intense enthusiasm of his thoughts.

Then de Cripsny stared hard at his three companions, and continued,
“Would you be surprised to hear that President Gravelot is King of the
_vaudoux_ worshippers?”

Clensy visibly paled. In a flash he realised that he was in Hayti, and
nothing in the way of surprises was impossible. Bartholomew Biglow, on
hearing the last bit of information, behaved in his usual boisterous
manner; de Cripsny dodged his head, and Adams and Clensy fell under the
table, but by a miracle none of them were hurt. Biglow, who had suddenly
knocked the table over to emphasise his surprise, immediately grabbed it
and stood it up on its legs again. De Cripsny looked quite spiteful as
he rose to his feet and stared about him with his brilliant small eyes.

“I speak truth only, and then you go and knock table over and nearly
kills me. Why so? You Englishman are too rude and noisy to speak to.”

“Beg pardon, Crippy, old pal,” said Biglow, as he patted the incensed
Frenchman on the back and soon soothed his ruffled feelings. Once more
the four seated themselves. Then de Cripsny began to tell them a lot
about the _vaudoux_ horrors, and hinted that many of the high officials
of the government were adherents to the fetish creed and cannibals. He
even hinted that many of the Haytian ladies were in with the _papaloi_
and attended the fetish dances, giving themselves up to all the
abandonment that the rites of the fetish demanded. When the Frenchman
leaned across the table and hinted that President Gravelot’s daughter,
Sestrina, was possibly a _vaudoux_ worshipper, Clensy had great
difficulty in controlling himself.

“Have you proof of such things?” he demanded, his voice quite
hoarse-sounding.

“No, monsieur, but I say ’tis possible, dat is all.”

This admission eased Clensy’s mind considerably. Then de Cripsny, who
seemed to love to illustrate the horrors of all that he was telling the
Englishmen, said, “If I do not speak truth, then I cut mines throat like
dis”—thereupon he drew an imaginary knife across his skinny throat.

As the conversation proceeded, Biglow tried to get information from de
Cripsny as to where he thought the _vaudoux_ temples were. The Frenchman
only shook his head and seemed to be unable to give Biglow any useful
information. It is quite possible that de Cripsny was ignorant as to
where such temples existed. Though de Cripsny had been a government
official for many years, he knew very little about the doings of the
people or of Haytian politics proper. He had been superintendent of the
burial of the dead in the great malaria plague of nineteen years before,
when an official had to be appointed to see that the death-carts called
at the homes of the victims and gave the dead immediate burial in the
cemeteries. And though the plague had long since passed away—indeed, had
become a dim, grim memory to the Haytians—de Cripsny had still remained
in office till about three weeks before Clensy met him. De Cripsny might
have been a splendid example of the latest thing in government officials
of civilised lands had he not have been dismissed, only three weeks
before, because he had omitted to attend to his duties. For years and
years he had drawn up his weekly report on the blue government forms,
filling them in so—“Deaths from malaria, none. All buried according to
Act 9, Statute 14. Disinfected death-carts and burnt victims’ clothing.”
But through illness he had not filled in the usual form, and this,
having been noticed by some alert official, had been the means of his
dismissal from office. Even Bartholomew gave a loud guffaw when de
Cripsny, after giving him the aforesaid information about his own
private affairs, suddenly said, “But, monsieurs, I care not that I am
dismissed from office.”

“How’s that, Crippy, old chum?” exclaimed Biglow.

Then the Frenchman informed them that his grandfather had been sanitary
inspector of the high-roads in Hayti for thirty years, and though he had
been dead twenty-one years, he, de Cripsny, his grandson, still received
the old man’s salary, no one having missed his grandfather, or noticed
any neglect of his duties as inspector of roads in Port-au-Prince. Ask
Haytians why they do not clean or mend their streets, they answer, “_Bon
Dieu, gâté li; bon Dieu paré li_” (“God spoilt them, and God will mend
them”). So de Cripsny was not a man of deep integrity, neither did he
trouble himself to delve deeply into the mysteries of the _vaudoux_. His
information was something that could have been given to Biglow and
Clensy by any negro in Hayti. Only a few days before, a nurse had been
out walking on the Champs de Mars when a huge negro, who had presumably
been prowling about on watch, suddenly snatched a white child from her
arms and ran off with it into the forest. The child was never seen
again. And more: It was known that human flesh, dried and salted in
tubs, was for sale in the markets of Port-au-Prince! When Clensy and
Biglow were given these unappetising bits of information about the
revolting practices of the lower orders of the _vaudoux_, they thought
more than their tongues could adequately express on the matter.

When Clensy arrived back at his lodgings that night, he turned about and
tossed on his bed, and could not sleep. De Cripsny’s hint that many of
the Haytian ladies went in for fetish dancing and the terrible
debauchery of the _vaudoux_, had upset his mind. He thought of President
Gravelot’s jealous care over his daughter’s life, and how Sestrina was
seldom allowed out without being accompanied by the negress servant.

“A man who is particular like that is not likely to persuade his
daughter to attend cannibal fetishes!—impossible!” Then he thought of
Sestrina’s eyes, her innocent ways, her girlish laughter and tears, for
sometimes she had wept while in his company. “Never! the last girl in
the world to succumb to the temptations of her father, however much she
respected his wishes.” So thought Royal Clensy in the final summing up
of his haunting thoughts about Sestrina and the possibility of her being
an adherent to the _vaudoux_. “She’s too wide-minded, too pure in heart
and soul to kneel before the altars of cruelty and lust!” Then the young
Englishman pulled the mosquito curtain together and settled himself for
sleep, happy in the thought that Sestrina was innocent. And he was
right.



                               CHAPTER VI


TWO nights after de Cripsny had given the three Englishmen the
information about _vaudoux_ worship, Clensy, who had been haunting the
vicinity of the presidential palace grounds, met Sestrina. She had
managed to slip out of the palace unobserved. She was trembling in her
delight.

“Away, Monsieur Royal, away from here, or we be seen!” she whispered as
she gazed appealingly up into Clensy’s face.

“Where shall we go, Sestrina?” said the young Englishman, as he tenderly
gripped the Haytian girl’s arm and stared about him.

“Away to the forest, the orange groves at H—; anywhere away from here!”
said Sestrina, as she looked around with frightened eyes, waved her
arms, and then pointed towards the big mahogany trees in the direction
of Gonaives. The aftermath of the sunset had left a blue twilight in the
skies, which were faintly dazzled with the gleams of a thousand stars.
In a moment they had passed away into the shadows.

“Oh, glad am I to be away from the palace walls. You be killed,
monsieur, if they see you there!” said Sestrina, as she fondly pressed
Clensy’s arm over the thought that harm should come to him through her.

In less than half an hour Clensy and Sestrina sat in the seclusion of
the mahogany trees. He felt happy. He had long since banished all ideas
of the _vaudoux_ from his head. If the remotest suspicion over the
possibilities of Sestrina being interested in the fetish creeds remained
in his head, one glance from her eyes dispelled it. He was in an
emotional, poetic mood, and so he made passionate love to the girl
beside him. Love is a contagious complaint when the first afflicted is
handsome and tenderly persuasive. Could anyone have seen Sestrina and
Clensy, as they sat on the dead palm stem that night, it would have been
hard to tell which one was in the most advanced stage of the romantic
malady. Sestrina’s eyes sparkled like diamonds, and Clensy’s surely
rivalled those lovely gems of warm, living light, when he gazed into her
face and sighed.

“Ah, you do not mean these nice things you say,” murmured Sestrina.

“’Tis true! I should never be happy again if we were parted,” replied
the enraptured Clensy. And then he softly slipped one arm about her
waist, and drew her face near to his own, and in the rapture of a strong
man’s—But why pry into the secret, insane, but innocent actions of these
lovers? No vulgar inquisitiveness stained the purity of their wonderful
belief in each other.

“Ah, Sestrina, you are more beautiful than I dreamed, even when I first
saw you,” he said in a reflective way, as he thought how the girl’s
merry manner at the pianoforte had slightly led his thoughts astray. It
was not boldness at all, it was only the boisterous innocence of the
girl’s warm heart that made her respond so readily to his impassioned
advances. As she sat there, under the mahogany tree, chatting about her
pet parrots, the characters in her novels, and confiding little domestic
matters to him, he discovered how really innocent and romantic her mind
was.

“This beautiful creature a _vaudoux_ worshipper! Oh, traitor to her
memory! to have had such dreadful suspicions,” muttered his mental
remorse. “You are the loveliest woman on earth!” he exclaimed.

Poor Clensy, there’s no doubt he was feeling badly in love to say such
things. But he meant what he said, the same as thousands of men have
meant the same strange things. The girl’s personality enchanted him, had
appealed to the best that was in him, and so had made him a child again.

“Have you never seen nice girls, like me, Monsieur Royal?” murmured
Sestrina, as she gazed in wonder on his face.

“No, I never have, never!” was Clensy’s emphatic reply, as he pressed
his advantage. Sestrina had taken a flower from her hair and was
fastening it on to the lapel of his coat, and, as she leaned forward, he
kissed her brow and touched her shining tresses with his lips.

“But surely there are beautiful girls in Angleterre! I’ve read about
them in books,” murmured the pretty Haytian maid as she looked up into
Clensy’s face in a wistful way.

“Ah, Sestrina, but the authors of those books, which you say you have
read, have never been to Hayti and sat beneath the starlit mahogany
trees with you!”

Sestrina seemed to like that explanation immensely. Her eyes shone with
delight, as the pale gleams from the rising moon dripped like silver
through the overhanging boughs and tropical loveliness of the mahogany
trees. It was easy enough to see that the girl was deeply in love with
the young Englishman. She opened her eyes and stared like a pleased,
wondering child, and then she did exactly that which Clensy asked her to
do—lifted one pretty sandalled foot up so that he might kiss her ankle.
It was a pretty ankle, no mistake about that. But, oh, propriety! Oh,
self-respecting maidenhood, alas! where wert thou at that moment?

“It’s not wrong, Monsieur Royal, to do that, is it?” she whispered as
she quickly dropped her foot and arranged the delicate fringe of her
_sarong_. She looked Clensy straight in the eyes. He made no reply. The
first rapture that followed his impulsive act and the sudden serious
stare of Sestrina’s eyes as she asked that question, rendered him
speechless. In a flash he had realised that his mind, compared with the
girl’s beside him, was full of sin.

“I always go and confess everything to kind Père Chaco, the priest, so I
must be careful, you know,” murmured Sestrina in a meditative way, as
though addressing her own reflections.

“Do you really?” said Clensy, as he turned his eyes away and stared
thoughtfully into the shadows of the forest. Then as he sighed and gazed
at the girl again, she placed her finger to her lips and gave Clensy a
coquettish glance.

“Why do you dream?” said Sestrina softly, as she noticed how quiet he
had suddenly become.

“I cannot help dreaming while in your presence, Sestrina.”

“My father will be very angry if he discovers that I have been out so
late,” said the girl.

“Is your father religious and good like you, Sestrina?” said Clensy
swiftly, taking advantage of the opportunity to get Sestrina’s private
opinion of her parent.

“Yes, he is very religious, but he does not go to kind Père Chaco as he
once did,” replied the girl, as she swung her foot and sighed.

Clensy did not press his advantage. He saw by the girl’s manner that,
whatever her father’s sins were, she was not a party to them. As they
sat there conversing, Clensy tried to probe the Haytian girl’s mind. He
asked her many questions, and found that she was a child so far as her
knowledge of the world was concerned. Her manner and her girlish views
charmed him. She had not gripped him by the arm and, in fierce accents,
tense with emotion, started to declaim materialistic mad views on social
questions. She did not jump to her feet and, with flashing eyes and chin
thrust towards his face in magnificent female aggressiveness, reveal
some bitterness which rankled in her irate soul over some peculiar
notion that resembled a kink in the brain. She had simply let Clensy
touch her brow with his lips, and had said, “I know so little about the
world and these things which you ask me; all I really know is, that you
have made me feel happy.” Then she had looked quietly into his face for
a moment and added: “It’s so good of God to let me meet you like this,
and I’m sure Père Chaco won’t mind.” And so the fragile girl had
conquered. With the almighty power of her own innocence she had
accomplished that which a thousand designing, worldly women could never
have accomplished. She held Clensy’s life in the rapture of a merciless
grip. The young Englishman was doomed! He at once robed the girl in all
the religious glamour that his mind was capable of conjuring up. She sat
there beneath the mahogany trees, clothed in those lovely symbols of
wistful beauty that come to the minds of men who aspire to find the
world’s best in woman; his mind exalted her from the ruck of mere woman
into some goddess-creature, possessing attributes divine. Sestrina did
not realise her great victory over Clensy.

“Wonderful! beautiful! clever too.” Though Royal Clensy had never heard
Sestrina make one remark that could be construed as “clever” by a
worldly or deadly sane man, she had set her magic seal on his soul. From
that moment it was Sestrina’s advice and views that would impress him
more than the advice of great philosophers. Had he been writing a book
or building a new kind of house, he would have yearned to plan the
book’s plot or build the house according to Sestrina’s views on the
matter. Old men who took snuff and weighed their words well and wisely
before they spoke, would tug their beards of wisdom—in vain! Clensy
would have none of them! And, in the inscrutable wonder of simple
things, it is quite possible that Sestrina’s advice would have been the
wisest of all! And so, when Sestrina once more reminded Clensy of the
swift flight of time, he at once realised that she was the wiser of the
two. The next moment he was gallantly fastening the pin of the pretty
ornament that kept the folds of her _sarong_ in place. Then, without any
undue argument, he obediently began to brush the green fern spores and
leaves from her tresses.

“Ah, ’twould be most awful should they see me return home so late with
moss in my hair and grass and leaves on my _sarong_,” murmured Sestrina.

“It would indeed,” said dull-witted Clensy, as he brushed the girl down,
his hands gliding over her as though she were some misty wraith standing
in the pale moonlight of the forest gloom. Then they hastened away under
the tall trees, and stole down the orange groves by Selle gully. When
they arrived near the palace, they stood under the palms and whispered
insane farewells. Again Clensy bowed before the wisdom of Sestrina’s
advice.

“Ah, monsieur, we may not stand here for ever saying good night.”

And so they parted. In a few moments Sestrina had slipped unobserved
into the silent palace, and Royal Clensy walked away under the mahogany
trees, and seemed to tread on air.

                  *       *       *       *       *

“Ah, Claircine, he is indeed beautiful, and there is no need for such
alarm.”

So spake Sestrina, for when she had run along the corridor and entered
her chamber, she found the old negress Claircine anxiously awaiting her.
Sestrina, who had just told the negress that she had been in the palace
grounds singing to herself and gazing at the moon, hung her head in
shame.

“Alas, madamselle, here ams another—and yet another! ’Tis as plain as ze
plainest ting can be!” said the shocked Claircine as she held another
small fern leaf and bits of dead grass up to the light of the hanging
oil-lamp and examined it critically with her large dark eyes. Oh,
infatuated, dull-witted Clensy! careless betrayer of innocent woman,
such was thy handiwork! And what did poor betrayed Sestrina do at this
incriminating evidence of her guilt? She threw her arms about the
negress and wailed:

“Sweet, dear Claircine, you will never, never tell on poor Sestrina?”

Claircine rolled her eyes for very joy, and then shook her head in a
kind, chiding way. Though Claircine was an inveterate scandal-monger,
she loved Sestrina and secretly yearned to hear that which she expected
to hear at that moment. Claircine lifted her hands to the ceiling and
looked terribly shocked when Sestrina had finished telling her the
truth. Then Sestrina, finding that Claircine was sympathetic with her,
went into ecstasies over Clensy’s perfections.

“But all ze maids do tink that each man who dey know, and who say nicer
tings ’bout them, is de one best mans, and full of nobblyness,”
reiterated Claircine as she rolled her eyes till the whites expressed
her scepticism over the virtues of mankind.

“Ah, you will see him some day, and _then_ you will surely believe me
when you see for yourself,” said Sestrina, as she stood before her
mirror and swerved slightly so as to convince herself that Clensy had
really meant all he had said about her hair and her beauty. Sestrina was
really modest, and, being really pretty, was dubious about her good
looks.

“Ah, madamselle, you am bootiful’s enough,” said the negress, then she
put her dark skinny hand against her chin in a meditative way, and said:
“This young Englishmans may be one really nice mans; de good God must
surely ’ave made _one_ good white mans to walk ze earth,” said
Claircine, then she solemnly added: “Yet it would be most strange if he
should come here, to Hayti.”

The expression on the cynical old negress’s face was utterly lost on
Sestrina, who, suddenly remembering, burst out: “Oh, how foolish of me
to forget; why, Claircine, he has seen you and you have seen him!”

“And de debil wheres?” exclaimed Claircine.

“Why, it is Monsieur Clensy!”

“Ze gods in heaven! You do not mean the music-teacher?” gasped the
astounded Claircine.

“Him and no other!” exclaimed Sestrina. Then the girl swiftly added, for
she was anxious that Claircine should feel friendly towards Clensy,
“Why, he said to me, only this night, ‘Ah, I remember her whom you call
Claircine; she has kind, beautiful eyes and a face that tells me she
might be a good friend to you and me.’”

Claircine, at hearing this, opened her mouth and revealed all her white
teeth in one broad grin.

“P’r’aps he _is_ one good mans. I somehow tink that he is good mans,”
she said, and then she too turned and gazed into the mirror.

After that Sestrina and Claircine talked over the matter till far into
the night. Then the negress kissed her mistress’s hand and, opening the
small door that led from the chamber, crept into her own room to sleep.

Sestrina retired to bed, feeling very happy in the thought that
Claircine had promised to be a friend to her and Clensy.

And Clensy? Immediately he arrived back in his lodgings after leaving
Sestrina, he stole away into a vast, solitary dream-world of his own, a
world whereon only one other than himself breathed—and that was
Sestrina. And as he dreamed by the musical fountains, Sestrina came back
to him in shadowy form. She tempted his soul with the magical fruit from
the Tree of Knowledge—not the forbidden fruit, but the rosy,
wine-scented apples that hung from the phantom branches of beauty and
romance. Clensy seemed to come under some mystical spell as he dreamed
on. He fancied he could hear and see Sestrina as she stole down some
memory on sandalled feet, singing by a murmuring sea-shore, the light of
the stars in her eyes, the rose of beauty on her lips. It was not so
strange that he should have such wild fancies, for Clensy was a believer
in the reincarnation theory and in anything that seemed more hopeful
than the dubious possibility of the resurrection of dead bones. He had
also come across a book in Acapulco which had greatly impressed him,
since it told him that five hundred millions of mortals who dwelt in the
wise East, believed in the reincarnation and transmigration of souls.
Adams had wondered what on earth our hero was reading about when he had
sat up all night dipping into the pages of magic that told the mysteries
of old Japan and the ancient Eastern creeds. It was no trouble for
Clensy to reverse the mythical significance of Greek sculptural art,
such as the god Hypnus with his two children, sleep and death, holding
inverted torches in their hands. Clensy felt assured that he had known
the oblivion of Lethe’s dark stream, and yet could remember a life
across the ages where he had eaten the golden apples of the Hesperides.

“It’s better to think the Fates have honoured me with the immortality of
mortality, so that I can at least feel assured of the mortality that
_dreams_ immortality, far better than believing in the dubious things
people seem to believe in,” he mused.

And as he sat there, indulging in strange metaphysics, hobnobbing with
Semiramis and a few Assyrian kings and queens he had known somewhere
away in the background of his creed, he dropped his pipe from his
listless fingers—crash! on the floor, and the sound rumbled like an
avalanche down the corridors of his dreaming mind. The visions vanished.
Adams’s solitary eye loomed before him; back came the fetid smells and
wretchedness of a present existence, making Clensy shiver as though with
cold.

“God forbid that this is the great reality of life, and not the illusive
dream!” he muttered, as he silently cursed the dab of that great sponge
of reality which had swept across the mirror and had shown him such
beautiful dreams.

It was only natural that Clensy’s metaphysical speculations should give
him kaleidoscopic glimpses of physical beauty and not glimpses of
visionary beauty, which men associate with the heavens. For to believe
in the incarnation of the soul is to believe in the immortality of the
flesh. Clensy realised this, and often tried to explore the depths of
his own mind, but invariably returned to the upper regions with a sigh,
convinced that he was his own heaven and hell. “It’s no good, I’m a
sinner; the beauty of that which I can see and feel is greater than that
which I must imagine.” So he mused in his foolishness, unable to read
his own soul. But do not condemn Clensy. He was young; the fires of
youth ran molten in his veins. The great alchemist, Sorrow, had not yet
knocked at his door, bringing those phials and magic potions that
transmute men and women into their older, other selves—sometimes
changing them into Angels and sometimes Devils.



                              CHAPTER VII


“HULLO, boy! how’s the wind blowing?” said the boisterous Bartholomew
Biglow when he met Clensy a week after the young Englishman had betrayed
Sestrina, through so carelessly brushing the fern and dead leaf from her
_sarong_.

“I wish the wind would blow a bit cooler,” replied Clensy as he fanned
his perspiring face with his silk handkerchief.

“Thank God you’re alive and up where the wind blows!” said Biglow as, to
Clensy’s great relief, he released his vigorous grip from his hand.

“You might lift your hat or blow me a friendly kiss when we meet,” said
Clensy, as he spread his tingling fingers out and made a wry face.

“Would you like to come with me on a splendid adventure, something that
will interest you, a sight to please the gods while the Haytian ladies
exhibit their dusky charms as they do the _chica_ dance before dear,
nice, religious old men.”

“What do you mean? It sounds interesting, I admit,” said Clensy, as he
looked calmly into the handsome flushed face of his strange comrade.

“I mean that I’ve got a pretty good idea where at least one of the
_vaudoux_ temples is situated.”

Then Biglow told Clensy that he had received certain information, and
meant to go off into the mountains without delay to try and get a
glimpse of the terrible papaloi and see what really happened when they
attended the rites of their creed.

“We’ll see a sight, as well as receiving the reward that’s offered!”
said Biglow, giving one of his magnificent winks.

“Isn’t it a bit risky?” said Clensy, as he thought of all he had heard
about the _vaudoux_ horrors, and imagined what desperate characters men
must be who attended such revolting orgies.

Biglow pooh-poohed Clensy’s misgivings.

“You can either come or stop away. I’m going to-morrow, and Adams is
coming with me.”

Saying this, Biglow shrugged his shoulders and again waited Clensy’s
reply.

Clensy was not a coward, neither was he a fool; he knew that a reward of
five hundred pounds would not be offered for information of the
_vaudoux_ worshippers if getting such information was as easy as
Biglow’s manner seemed to suggest. Besides, had not de Cripsny hinted
that President Gravelot was a _vaudoux_ worshipper? And what would
Sestrina think if she ever heard that Clensy had been one of the party
who had caused her father to be shot! For that’s what would happen if
the French government officials got hold of the miscreants.

As Clensy stood reflecting, Biglow, who had been watching his face,
said, “Don’t you worry about Sestrina’s pa. I won’t hurt him if we _do_
find out that he is anything to do with these damnable cannibals.” Then
the gun-runner added, “Besides, I know what I’m about; even if we were
caught, I’ve got the trick card up my sleeve.” Saying this, Biglow
explained to Clensy how he was in league with the Cacao insurgents, who
were deadly enemies of the British and French authorities, and were
staunch friends to the _papaloi_ and all who were connected with the
_vaudoux_ fetish.

“You don’t understand. I can easily turn the tables if things turned up
rough.” And as Biglow chatted on and made things look quite rosy,
Clensy, though he really did not understand half the gun-runner said,
made up his mind to accompany Biglow in his search in the mountains hard
by for the secret _vaudoux_ temples.

The risk of the adventure and all that he might see of the inner working
of the strange fetish, warmed Clensy’s ardour up immensely as he
reflected over it all.

“Perhaps Biglow will be so successful that he will get such information
as will enable the authorities to smash the whole infernal fetish creed
up!” And as he continued to reflect and thought of all the
possibilities, his zeal increased till he was as eager to go in search
of the secret fetish places as was Biglow. His imagination worked and
worked till he pictured Sestrina standing before her father with bowed
head, as he tried to lure her to become a convert to the revolting creed
which he himself indulged in.

“Who knows! I may be the means of saving Sestrina from falling before a
father’s vile temptation and becoming steeped in the blood, superstition
and debauchery of an old West African cannibalistic fetish creed!” So
ran Clensy’s thoughts; and when Biglow, Adams and he set out the next
day for their journey to the mountains, a few miles from Port-au-Prince,
Clensy was the most enthusiastic over the great possibilities of the
venture.

The weather was very hot, consequently they had given themselves plenty
of time for the venture. Biglow, who had once been employed by the
American Government to help put down slave traffic in the South Sea
Islands, was in his element. He had made all plans for the venture
without a hitch. Both Clensy and Adams were equipped with revolvers and
murderous-looking clasp-knives. When Biglow had handed Adams the
clasp-knife and revolver, the derelict sailorman had turned quite pale.
It wanted those deadly-looking weapons and Biglow’s serious-looking face
to make his dull brain realise that they were not going off to gather
strawberries. Even Clensy looked thoughtfully at the open clasp-knife’s
bright blade and at the revolver, and then, taking his silk handkerchief
from his pocket, blew his nose vigorously, just to relieve his feelings.

As soon as they had got away from the town they entered the thick jungle
country that lies inland from Port-au-Prince. After tramping three miles
they camped by the palm-clad elevations of the lower mountain slopes,
near Chocalo gullies. As they sat smoking their pipes, Biglow tugged at
the tips of his big moustachios and gave repeated chuckles, presumably
over all that his sanguine mind expected to happen when he had
discovered the hiding-place of the fetish devotees.

“Don’t yer fink it’s dyngerous a-coming up ’ere alone to catch myderers
and cannibals?” said Adams as he took another deep swill from his
rum-flask and glanced nervously across the gullies and on the sombre
forests of mahogany trees. Then he proceeded to remind Biglow that de
Cripsny had intimated that the agents of the dreadful papaloi roamed the
forests, looking out for likely folk whom they could strangle and sell
to the fetish priests.

“Almighty Gawd, don’t!” suddenly moaned Adams.

Biglow had replied to Adams’s fears by bringing his huge hand down with
a tremendous whack on the sailorman’s back, and at the same time had
given vent to a peal of laughter that echoed across the silent hills.

Adams rolled his eye. It was easy enough to see that he was losing his
temper. There’s a limit to all things. Even Clensy realised that it was
more than unwise to give such a shout when they might be within a mile
of the _vaudoux_ stronghold. Observing Adams’s consternation,
Bartholomew Biglow only laughed the louder. When the swarms of
bright-plumaged lories and frightened cockatoos, that had ascended in
screeching clouds from their perches, had settled down again on the
topmost branches of the mahogany and palm-trees, Biglow cheered Clensy
and Adams up by saying, “Look ye here, I can lick a hundred niggers
myself, and I happen to know for a fact that there are only about
twenty-five Haytian niggers in the fetish hole which we are bound for.”

“Um!” mumbled Adams, as he began to look more healthy and pleasant.

Clensy also looked more amiably settled in his mind. The fact is that
their giant comrade’s fearless eyes, as he sat before them pushing huge
morsels of toasted damper into his mouth, inspired them with fullest
confidence over the possibilities of the enterprise.

“‘Ow on earth yer know all about these ’ere myderers and the exact plyce
where they worshyps their gawds and women up ’ere, licks me!” said
Adams, as he poured another dose of rum into his mug of hot tea.

“I take good care to know everything that’s worth knowing when I come
out on a game like this. Do you think I’m leaving all the knowing to the
likes of you?” said Biglow, as he put forth his big boot and scattered
the fire’s glowing ash till it seemed that the awakening constellations
of the darkening skies were sparkling in miniature in the gloom of
fast-coming night which had suddenly fallen over the silent gullies.

“Smoke tells tales; can be seen miles away,” said Biglow, as he glanced
towards the mountains, far away to the south-west.

“Wish you’d thought of thet afore yer ’ollared so loud just now,” said
Adams in a complaining voice.

They had been resting about forty minutes when Biglow suddenly leapt to
his feet and said, “Now’s the time, come on, lads.”

In a moment they were off again. The moon had risen and was sending a
pale glimmer over the palm-clad slopes and distant mountains. Biglow
carefully examined his revolver. Adams and Clensy did likewise.

“Wish ter Gawd it wasn’t so dark,” growled Adams.

“Wish the moon wasn’t so high!” replied Biglow with his usual
cussedness, as the three men started to creep down the slope, Adams
following very carefully in the rear.

“He’ll git us mydered out ’ere in this damned ’ole, and I ain’t been the
best o’ men,” whispered Adams in a hollow voice as he leaned towards
Clensy’s right ear. Then he added: “Wish we was a-buskin’, earning money
honest, as of old, pal.”

“So do I,” whispered Clensy, as he broke the pledge—took the proffered
rum-flask from Adams’s hand and took a rather big nip.

After crossing the gradual curves of the slope, they passed through a
wide stretch of jungle and found themselves in a beautiful valley that
seemed to wind away between the mountains. To the right of them the
rugged hills slowly increased in height till they were lost below the
peak of a mountain that strangely resembled a vast cross, quite distinct
in the moonlight.

It was Biglow who called his comrade’s attention to that strange
resemblance, for he suddenly said: “Old de Cripsny was right! It _does_
look like a cross in the moonlight, though I’m damned if I could see any
resemblance when I first sighted it whilst we were tramping across the
plains, way back.”

“So that peak was your guide,” thought Clensy, as he stared up at the
distant peak, and no longer wondered how it was that Biglow tramped
along in one direction without the slightest hesitation, as though he
was going over some well-known track.

“This way, lads, don’t keep on that path,” suddenly said Biglow in a low
voice. Then he pointed to the ground and showed them a pathway that had
most certainly been made through the tramp of human footsteps. Biglow’s
voice had become subdued. His erstwhile jovial countenance had become
serious-looking.

“If _he_ looks serious, there’s something to be serious about,” was
Clensy’s uncomfortable reflection as he looked at his revolver and began
to wonder if he would ever see the sunrise again.

“Keep to the sand; for heaven’s sake keep to the sand!” said Biglow in a
premonitory voice, as they sank up to their ankles into the silvery dust
as they got off the beaten track.

“There’s no telling who might come along that pathway,” said Biglow, as
they found themselves once again in the shadows.

“Look out! a light on the starboard bow!” whispered Biglow, just as
Clensy and Adams were hoping that they had been brought on a wild-goose
chase. Sure enough, right below the cross-shaped peak, far away at the
end of the valley, gleamed a tiny light.

Clensy and Adams stared in each other’s eyes. What was going to be
Biglow’s next move, they both wondered? The big man’s ears had gone
stiff, alert, like a mastiff’s, as he stood there, his hand arched over
his brow, his eyes staring as though with delight at the tell-tale gleam
that flickered somewhere between the palm trunks ahead of them.

“Blest if the moon isn’t over the peak, in the exact position that I
want it!” said Biglow.

“Wa jer mean?” said Adams, as he lifted his solitary eye and gazed
nervously towards the mountain peak.

“Why, the moon’s the clock of the _papoloi_ cannibal priests, and when
it hangs over that peak it is a sign that the priests must offer
sacrifices on the fetish altars of the _vaudoux_. Old Crippy said so,
and he evidently knows, or else why is that light down the valley and
the moon hanging like a Chinese lantern exactly over that big cross up
there with a cabbage on top of it?”

Adams and Clensy looked towards the mountain. “It do look loike a
cabbage that ’ere nob on top of it,” growled Adams as his eye shifted
about, so nervous did he feel.

“Come on,” said Biglow, “don’t stand there gaping.”

The next moment Adams and Clensy obeyed Biglow’s orders. Without
hesitating both went down on their bellies and crawled along the silver
sand, Biglow leading the way. Adams began to make a bit of a fuss as he
went wriggling along on all fours, dragging his stout corporation as
high as possible over the stones and scrub. Presently the three of them
had crossed through the thick scrub and bamboo growth that divided them
from the treeless slope that led nearly to the end of the valley.
Peeping through the edge of the jungle growth, they peered across the
sands that ran towards the place where the tell-tale light gleamed, and
stared like men in a dream. There before them, not more than five
hundred yards away, stood about a dozen dark men robed in white
surplices, the goats’ horns, the _vaudoux_ symbol, stuck on their heads.
The horns gave a weird, devilish appearance to the huddled, slowly
moving figures.

“Keep yer peckers up, don’t get nervous,” said Biglow, as Adams and
Clensy suddenly bobbed their heads back into the jungle leaves, dreading
that they might be observed. Adams looked like having a fit when Biglow
nudged him violently in the ribs, and said in a stage whisper; “Five
hundred pounds, old boy! Five hundred!”

“You’ve gone mad ter talk loud like that in a hawful time like this
’ere,” Adams almost hissed. Biglow seemed delighted to see Adams’s
extreme funk, and the vicious light of his solitary eye.

“We’re not at a picnic, Biglow,” said Clensy as he too stared at his
giant comrade, feeling a trifle irritated.

“We’re at something a damned sight better!” replied Biglow as he pointed
in the direction of the white-robed priests moving about in the gloom.

Most certainly, the scene before their eyes was more like the
description of some brigand’s cave in a dime novel, than anything that
Clensy could liken it to. Even Biglow rubbed his eyes as he stared
again, and the light from the head priest’s torch fell in such a way
that they distinctly saw two coffins lying at the feet of those swarthy,
surpliced, fetish worshippers. And as the three men watched, they saw
those dark forms stoop and slowly lift the two coffins, and then begin
to move towards the wide, but low entrance of a cavern that ran deep
into the mountain’s side. So brilliant was the moonlight that they
distinctly saw the figures bend their horned heads as they carried their
gruesome load through the low-roofed cavern doorway.

“You’ll see the sight of your lives when you get in there,” said Biglow.

For a while Adams refused to budge, and said he wasn’t going to be
murdered by cannibals for twenty thousand pounds. But Biglow’s fearless
eyes and sanguine manner revived the ex-sailorman’s courage. “Awl
roight, Gawd forgive yer if I’m mydered!” said Adams, and then the three
men started to crawl slowly along the edge of the jungle, making their
way towards the cavern’s entrance.

“Don’t get flustered,” said Biglow as he turned his head while still on
his stomach, then added: “All you’ve got to do, is to hold your
revolvers ready, and shout your loudest if I give the signal, and all
will be well. I’ve fought three hundred niggers down at Sumatra, and
routed an army of nine hundred niggers armed with drums and spears on
the West Coast of Africa.”

“‘Ope it ain’t all talk,” wailed Adams as they crept under the fern
trees that grew thickly within a few feet of the cavern’s entrance. They
suddenly stopped. They could hear sounds of music.

“They’re dancing to the _chica_ jigs! Now for a ju-ju show!” chuckled
Biglow. The gun-runner’s careless levity braced Clensy’s and Adam’s
nerves wonderfully. “Come on, lads!” The next moment Biglow had boldly
stood erect, and had run across the soft sands that separated the three
of them from the cavern’s entrance. In another moment he had glanced
hastily round, and seeing no sign of the _vaudoux_ devotees, had slipped
into the opening, the rocky cleft which led into the subterranean
chambers of the secret _vaudoux_ temples. Clensy and Adams immediately
revealed their implicit faith in all that their courageous comrade
did—they at once followed him.

“Keep close to me, lads,” said Biglow as he stole slowly along the side
of the rocky wall of a passage that widened as it deepened.

“Well, now!” muttered Clensy. They could hear a voice singing a weird,
sweet strain to words in a strange tongue. It was a woman’s voice, and
the subterranean hollows produced a magical effect as the echoes of the
song floating about and re-echoed, sounding like exiled strains of music
in despair, calling for the brightness and beauty of the world outside.

“Gawd save me bacon!” said, or rather moaned Adams as the three of them
dodged back into the deeper shadows, and hid behind the boulders that
stood like massive pillars holding up the glittering crystalline
subterranean roof. So silent were they as they stood there that they
could hear each other’s breathing.

“All’s well, so far,” whispered Biglow. They were in a risky position
though, for the slightest sound would betray their presence. The passage
where they stood was about eighteen feet wide, so they were fortunately
out of the way of anyone who might pass in or out of the fetish
chambers. They stood still, breathless, like wonderfully chiselled
statues, the highest thing in sculptural art, when a big mulatto fellow,
clad in a surplice, walked down the passage from the chambers. They saw
him go to the cavern’s entrance and peer cautiously out into the night.
He was doing sentry duty, was on watch to give warning should anyone be
seen approaching the _vaudoux_ caves. The three hidden men saw his huge
form glide by them as he passed along the passage on his way back to the
hollow chambers. So close was he to Clensy that he felt a cool whiff of
air touch his sweating face as the mulatto’s surpliced robe swished by.

“Come on,” whispered Biglow. The next moment they had arrived before the
opening of some large inner chamber. By the dazzling glimmer of hanging
lamps they knew they were close to the sacrificial altars of the
terrible _vaudoux_, the altars that inspired strong Haytian men with
fear, making them tremble when they passed through lonely forests by
night, altars that inspired women and children with a vague terror of
the devil as they whispered and stared with awestruck eyes by the
firesides of the lonely homesteads round Port-au-Prince.

Biglow had already fixed his eye to a chink in the rocky wall. He could
see all that was passing in the lofty chamber beyond. Adams, who had
crouched behind Biglow, was vigorously chewing tobacco plug in an
attempt to calm his excited nerves.

“Come you here, lad,” whispered Biglow; and Clensy, taking a place
beside the intrepid gun-runner, at once fixed his eye to the chink. The
sight Clensy saw made his brain swim in bewilderment. The scenic effect,
while peeping through that tiny hole in the rocky wall, was as though he
had fixed his eye to the tube of some marvellous telescope that revealed
a scene of revelry on another world beyond the stars, some dim landscape
faintly lit by a little sky, shining with the glittering light of starry
constellations of stalactites. Had Clensy suddenly taken a peep at the
heavens through a telescope and discovered God enthroned,
hail-fellow-well-met with the devil on some infinite night-out, in a
seraglio down a back alley of the constellation of Hercules, roaring
forth the infinite laughter of the spheres, watching His own voluptuous
houris and puppets dancing in the drama of some sensuous lapse, his face
could not have expressed greater surprise. But the scene which Clensy
saw had no kindredship with human conceptions of the mysteries of the
unknowable overwatching the knowable. Relentless reality, unshadowy,
full of mortal frailness and sensuous passion, and lacking that æsthetic
sanctitude of beauty and coldness which mortals imagine when dreaming
over immortal things, was vividly expressed on the faces of that secret
assemblage. The weird atmosphere of indescribable remoteness which the
scene conjured up in Clensy’s brain was intensified by the swinging glow
of innumerable lamps which hung from the cavern’s wide roof, giving the
scene of impassioned abandonment an unreal, misty effect, as the
handsome mulatto girls and women and men whirled about, waving their
arms, chanting melodies in Haytian patois. The creole women, clad in
blue and yellowish diaphanous robes, specially fashioned for the
vigorous performance of the _chic_ and _bambalou_ dances in their
primitive form, moved their shadowy-like limbs rhythmically to the
chanting accompaniment of stern-looking papaloi and negroes. Haytian
chiefs, who stood by, staring with burning eyes, repeatedly raised their
sacred goblets full of white rum, and murmured “_Wanga Louye garou_,”
which was the cry of the terrible papaloi priests who were known as “Les
Mystéres.”

Notwithstanding the terror, the lust and cruelty associated with the
rites of the fetish, Clensy and Biglow came under the magic spell of the
music, and the alluring movements of the dancing houris, for such they
looked. Three of the Haytian girls appeared strikingly beautiful as they
performed the mystical passes of the forbidden ritual. Suddenly they
stopped whirling, and, forming rows, swayed in front of the dreaded
papaloi making graceful obeisance to those fetish priests, holding their
robes high, bowing with delicate grace before the burning eyes of the
swarthy white-surpliced voluptuaries. Under the influence of the fetish
drinks and frenzied fanaticism the girls’ and women’s eyes shone like
living jewels.

“Holy Mary!” exclaimed Biglow. The misty forms of the dancers stood
perfectly still, and the two coffins which Biglow and Clensy had seen at
the cavern’s entrance, were suddenly dragged into view by two huge
negroes.

“Lou potoa,” moaned one of the papaloi, a venerable looking aged
debauchee who wore a poetic-looking white beard. Then a pretty creole
maid ran forward, and, severing the ropes which were round the two
coffins, removed the lids. Nothing seemed too strange to occur that
night as Clensy and Biglow stared in astonishment—the inmates of the two
coffins sat up, were gazing on the assemblage with glazed, vacant
looking eyes, their jaw-bindings still on! Clensy noticed that their
hands were tied behind them.

“God!” was all that the young Englishman could mutter, but it
sufficiently expressed his feelings at that moment when God seemed so
far away.

“They’re sick men or women who have been buried alive, drugged, and
hurriedly buried.”

“Good heavens! what do you mean?” gasped Clensy.

“I simply mean that those two men (one was a man and the other a woman)
have been sold to the papaloi while they were sick, and after being
drugged and buried have been dug up by the _vaudoux_ thugs, stolen from
the cemeteries by night, coffins and all!”

“Are they going to kill them, do—” Clensy said no more. A tall negro had
stepped forward, and had dragged the coffins with their inmates back
into the shadows. It was the sight of the terrible papaloi priest who
had suddenly stepped forward, and had placed a large basket down on the
stage that had startled Clensy. This individual was the sacred
executioner, and he wore the horns of a goat on his bald, polished
skull, which gave him a demoniacal appearance. The rows of creole and
mulatto girls prostrated themselves before the executioner.

The whole assemblage of that cavern chamber stood in perfect silence
when the negro priest stooped and raised the lid of the basket,
revealing the enclosed victim, trussed, ready for the sacrificial
altar—a terror-stricken mulatto girl! The girl’s eyes gazed in vacant
terror at the stern chiselled-like faces of the papaloi who at once
surrounded her. No mercy shone in the eyes of those hungry looking
fanatics of the most bloodthirsty creed that has ever sent cries of
anguish to God. The girl’s mute appeal, for her mouth was gagged, made
no impression on the hearts of the hot-blooded African and Haytian men
and women who witnessed that sight. The greater her grief, the more
terrifying her convulsive throes, the more glory to the fetish deities
whom they worshipped. The wretched victim was the _Goat Without Horns_;
her living blood the anticipated libation that must be drunk with white
rum when those terrible fetish men and women knelt before the _vaudoux_
altars. No Marquesan, no Fijian cannibalistic orgy of the old
pre-Christian times ever approached in cruelty and lingering terror the
torture that those semi-civilised Haytians meted out to their victims.
The _Goat Without Horns_ was the chosen of the dark powers, the honoured
of their people, and so why should their hearts be touched by the
victim’s anguish?

Undoing the sennet thongs that bound the girl’s legs together, they made
her stand on the _vaudoux_ altar. Her terror was so great that her limbs
trembled like blown leaves, her fingers moving convulsively.

“_Savoot, garou!_” wailed a hoarse voice. That voice and those dreadful
words sent a death-like silence and chill into Clensy’s soul. Even
Biglow’s bosom gave a half-stifled sigh as he quietly drew his revolver
from his pocket. A tall, handsome man had suddenly stepped forward; he
removed his cloak.

“Good heavens! impossible!” murmured Clensy. But it wasn’t impossible at
all, for there, as real as Clensy’s surprise, stood President Gravelot,
Sestrina’s father. The fear of Clensy’s heart over the risk he was
running through being in that place, was extinguished as his whole soul
became centred with an intense curiosity on the scene before him. His
eyes began to scan eagerly the rows of robed women and girls, many in
their teens, who made up the strangely assorted audience of that
terrible seraglio of bloodthirsty superstition and indiscribable lust
that was sanctified by the presence of the _vaudoux_ priests. A great
fear had begun to haunt Clensy’s brain—was Sestrina among that crew? Why
were some of the female adherents as well as the men, wearing masks that
only revealed their burning eyes? Already the frenzy of drink and
superstition had seized those fetish devotees. The hot-blooded negro and
Haytian priests were already lifting their hands as they chanted the
weird _vaudoux_ melodies. They were wonderful strains that they chanted,
inasmuch as they suggested the indescribable debauchery of the men and
women who sang. Some of the young mulatto and creole girls were already
lying in postures of stupefied abandonment on the couches and settees of
that sumptiously furnished subterreanean temple chamber, some weeping
and laughing in the hysteria and religious fervour which had seized
them. Others stood as though transfixed by a terrible curiosity, yes, as
they watched in fiendish anticipation to see the coming torture of the
sacrificial victim.

By the wall, just behind the altars, stood a large stone figure of the
Virgin Mary, one chiselled arm outstretched, holding the figure of a
little child—it was a diabolical, blasphemous perversion of the
beautiful symbol of the Christian creed. Even Clensy and Biglow became
imbued with a sudden tinge of heathenish superstition at that moment,
for a strange-looking black figure, that had been standing by the altar,
had commenced to dance in a silent, unsubstantial manner. It was waving
its shadowy hands, mimicking every movement of the priests who were
going through the mystical passes of the _vaudoux_ rites. And as that
shadowy figure danced and the whole audience stared, spellbound, the
gleams of the lamps on the figure of the Virgin just behind it, were
distinctly visible through its form! Clensy, his eye still fixed to the
chink, slowly recovered his mental equilibrium, and was convinced that
Sestrina was not present with her parent.

“Thank God, _she’s_ not here,” he muttered to himself as he too gripped
his revolver. He knew that Bartholomew Biglow was not going to stand
there and see the young mulatto girl sacrificed before their eyes.
Biglow turned towards Adams, “Clear out of it, run your damndest.”

Adams needed no second request to take to his heels; he, surely, had
never run so fast in his whole career as he ran when he bolted down the
passage, and vanished from sight. Clensy and Biglow were good runners,
and they well knew that Adams, through being stout, would be a terrible
encumbrance were he with them when the time came for flight.

“Keep still, lad, leave it all to me,” whispered Biglow. Then he added;
“Wish we had my best pal, Samuel Bilbao here, he’d glory in a fix like
this, he would!”

And as the big man muttered the foregoing, alluding to a celebrated
South Sea character who was noted for his pluck and adventurous career,
he gave a quiet chuckle and clicked the trigger of his revolver. “Keep
quiet, lad!”

“All right!” whispered Clensy, for he knew that Biglow was a splendid
shot, whereas he might fire and miss. The head papaloi priest had
stepped forward. The whole audience stood breathless, spellbound, as
they watched to witness the fatal thrust that would make the victim’s
blood gush into the sacramental goblet. Clensy felt sick. The victim
already stood on the terrible slab, her anguished paralysed form held up
by two white-surpliced negroes who stood on either side, gripping her
arms. Then the aged, almost venerable looking papaloi priest, stepped
forward and began to mumble something. His head was thrown back, his
beard raised towards the roof as he continued mumbling the sacrificial
thanksgiving prayer! It all happened in a few seconds; the aged papaloi
stood with hand raised. Clensy and Biglow saw the shining steel of the
long blade hover before the victim’s terror-stricken eyes—the slayer
must aim true!

“Crack!” the papaloi-slayer’s arm was shattered near the wrist! Four
more shots followed in swift succession. Gravelot was winged in the
shoulder, another fell with the top of his head blown off! Then Biglow
snatched Clensy’s revolver from his hand, and, rushing into that chamber
of horrors, snatched the sacrificial victim up in his broad arms!

And what did the bloodthirsty _vaudoux_ worshippers who drank human
blood and sacrificed helpless children, do? They bolted like a drove of
frightened shadows, went flying in all directions. Maybe they imagined
that a hundred government gendarmes had charged them. Sure enough,
Biglow yelled loud enough for such an idea to seize their cowardly
imaginations as the echoes of his mighty voice and Clensy’s shouts
rumbled through the chambers of that subterranean place.

Clensy never could give a coherent account as to how he got safely out
of that terrible _vaudoux_ temple in the mountains. He had long legs,
and probably that fact, more than his heartfelt prayers, saved his life.



                              CHAPTER VIII


THE next day Clensy, Biglow, and Adams sat whispering together over a
table in the small café chantant near Toujeaur. They all appeared calm
enough after their adventure. Adams was the only one who had escaped
from the _vaudoux_ temple unscathed. Clensy had a swollen lip and Biglow
had got out of the mêlée with nothing more than a large contusion over
his left eyebrow. Biglow seemed in high spirits. He was delighted to
think that he had been able to save the wretched mulatto girl from being
slain on the _vaudoux_ altars.

“What a fine missionary I am!” he said, as, smacking his leg with his
hand, he gave a huge smile of approbation over his pleasure in the
thought of all he had accomplished. “Nice little kid she was too!” he
said as he referred to the maid he had rescued. “She’s as safe as houses
now; I’ve placed her in the hands of an aged Haytian woman, a special
friend of mine, one whom I can trust.”

“Wasn’t she thankful! and the way she clung to you and kissed you when
she came to!” said Clensy, referring to the rescued girl’s hysterical
delight when she found herself safe in the jungle, her brow being fanned
by Biglow and Clensy when she regained consciousness.

For the moment the three men sat silent. Even Adams’s solitary eye
looked dim as they sat there and thought of the mulatto girl’s delight
when she, realising the whole position, had clung like a child at
Biglow’s breast.

“Do you mean to inform the authorities about it all?” said Clensy.

“No lad, I’ve thought it over, it wouldn’t be much use. You see,
Gravelot is in with the fanatics, and he would be sure to deny
everything, and possibly turn the tables on us. By now they’ve wrapped
their wounds up and buried the dead too.”

“But Gravelot got a shot in the shoulder, I saw him stumble and clap his
hand to it; how would he explain that?” said Clensy.

“Oh, he’d say that we waylaid him, shot and robbed him while he was on
his way to church, evening Mass, or something, and we’d get shot for
that,” replied Biglow as he swallowed a tumbler full of whisky and
water.

“Maybe you’re right,” said Clensy feeling much relieved. The fact is,
that Clensy was trying to find out what Biglow’s intentions in the
matter really were. The young Englishman didn’t want Sestrina’s father
arrested by the British officials and shot. He knew that he would be
called upon to give evidence in the courts, and that Sestrina would
naturally look upon him as one who had helped put her father to death.

Biglow’s capacious mind had swiftly come to the conclusion that it would
pay him better to have the president under his thumb than to attempt to
claim the reward from the authorities.

“Stroikes me we’d better clear out of this blasted ’ole; it’s getting
’ot for us, there’s a revolution a-coming too!” said Adams as he turned
and shot a stream of tobacco juice through the open window.

“I don’t believe all I hear about the coming revolution,” exclaimed
Clensy.

“You don’t, don’t you?” said Biglow. Then he continued: “Would you be
surprised to know that the Cacaos insurgents have already had the first
skirmish in the mountains with the government soldiers? Bless you, they
came down only the other night and robbed the Haytian banks and shot
several of the nigger police. No one’s safe here. Men are arrested every
day and shot for openly showing their dislike to Gravelot. Duels are
being fought in the streets every day in Port-au-Prince. The French
chargé de affaires seems to have no power over the mad population, or is
indifferent to all that’s going on. Its quite a common thing to hear
shots in the night coming from the direction of the hills when the
government scouts met the insurgents.”

“Surely things are not as bad as you paint them,” said Clensy. Then he
suddenly remembered how he had heard sounds of shooting while in bed,
and had thought some one was out by night shooting owls in the mahogany
forests near Selle district.

“Not a very rose-tinted account of the present state of affairs here,”
thought Clensy as he left his two comrades and strolled back to his
lodgings. But Clensy was really more worried about Sestrina than
anything else. The idea that her father was an adherent to _vaudoux_
creed had greatly upset him at first. He was quite assured that Sestrina
had nothing whatever to do with the _vaudoux_. And as he thought over it
all, he realised that daughters are quite helpless so far as their
father’s sins are concerned. “Children can’t rear their parents and
subdue their passions and lead them on the better path; things might be
better if they could,” he thought to himself as he stood before his
looking-glass and brushed his hair. He was making himself look spruce,
for he had made up his mind to go that same evening and see if he could
meet Sestrina wandering by the palace. He had met her several times by
appointment, but she had not turned up at the last appointment. “Old
Gravelot must be home, laid up with a shot wound in his shoulder, so
he’s out of the way,” he thought, and as he reflected he made up his
mind to ask Sestrina if she would elope with him and clear out of Hayti.

“I’ll see her to-night if I have to sneak into the palace,” was his
mental reflection as he hastily brushed himself down. It wanted about
two hours before sunset, and so he began to wander about. Then he
strolled out into the street and started to go through the town so that
he could take a walk in the country before it was time to go and haunt
the palace grounds in an attempt to meet Sestrina.

“Biglow did not exaggerate about the people here being mad over fetishes
and possible revolutions,” he thought as the dark-eyed mulatto maids and
handsome creole girls and men stared at him as he passed down the
street. “Pretty fine state of affairs,” he thought as he began to ponder
over future possibilities, what might happen to Sestrina if a revolution
did break out in Hayti. Then he eased his troubled mind by recalling de
Cripsny’s words when he, Clensy, had asked him about the matter.

“It might be months and months and den all smooth down again, like it
has done before,” the half-caste Frenchman had said. But still,
notwithstanding de Cripsny’s sanguine outlook, Clensy noticed that the
old characteristic levity and song and brightness of the city’s
inhabitants had gone. And even he knew that the insurgents, or Cacaos,
as they were called, had become very powerful as they massed together
and gathered recruits from the cities as far away as Vera Cruz and the
sea ports of the Caribbean Sea. Indeed, no one in Hayti knew exactly
which was the potent authority, the Cacaos or the Government, by virtue
of the superiority of numbers, for, in Hayti, force of arms inevitably
decided all political controversies. Biglow was about the only white man
who knew the true state of affairs, and he knew that the insurgents were
the most powerful so far as numbers were concerned, also that they had
been so well supplied with cash from a secret source that they had been
able to purchase several steamers from the American shipowners. Even as
Clensy arrived at the top of the slope and gazed seaward, he could see
the tips of the mast of the steamer, which was one of many, that had
stolen into the harbour loaded up with guns and munition from the United
States.

Clensy had arrived into the wooded part of the country, half a mile from
the crowds of ugly houses in the valleys below. He quickened his
footsteps. His heart was thumping with apprehension as he thought of
Sestrina, and wondered if any harm would come to her if a revolution did
break out. “Oh, to hold her in my arms, kiss her lips, and feel she was
mine for ever! I’d starve, risk anything, do any crime to possess her,
body and soul, to gaze in her eyes and touch her sweet flesh with my
lips!” And as the young Englishman reflected, the ecstasy of his
feelings for Sestrina seemed to overwhelm his senses like a mad frenzy.
The thought that he might lose the girl seemed to stun him, as though
destiny had given him a tremendous blow on the heart. “Why, I’m as bad
as the frenzied _vaudoux_ worshippers,” he muttered as he vaguely
realised how strong a factor his passions were in the ecstasy which came
when he thought of Sestrina.

“I haven’t always felt like this. Perhaps it’s some peculiar effect
through seeing those terrible _vaudoux_ devotees the other night,” he
thought as he felt a great wave of passion sweep his better self away,
till he wished he was some fanatic so that he might make Sestrina the
symbol of his creed and worship the shrine of her loveliness! Clensy’s
passion for Sestrina had strangely materialised, changed his old
spiritual ideals into sensuous dreams. Beauty, religion and all the
soulful wonder over the unknown were no longer visible to him in the
mystery of the skies, but were expressed in woman’s eyes, her loosened
hair, her red lips and the amorous beauty of her form.

Biglow, only a day or two before, had slapped him on the shoulder and
said: “All men go mad once in their lifetime over a woman, but they’re
not in love till they stand over a woman’s grave, as I’ve done, and then
seen all her beauty shining in the sunlight on the flowers over her.”

It must be admitted that Clensy had stared long and curiously at Biglow
when he spoke like that; it was so unexpected from the lips of one who
seemed to be the last man who he would have expected to show signs of
spiritual sentiment.

The visible world, to Clensy, existed only as a vast garden wherein love
could walk and enjoy the physical emotions and ecstatic pangs of the
senses. He saw Creation as an almighty impassioned lover, holding the
stars in her eyes of night, the oceans kissing her feet of a thousand
shores. Sex had become the godhead of his desires. In short, Clensy saw
the world, nay, the universe itself, as a vast deification of himself,
whereas he was only the tiniest, humblest miniature of creation’s
conscious yearning to make the leaf green; his own life no more than a
sunbeam’s warmth on a wild flower.

And Sestrina? the maid of southern blood, the light of the tropic suns
and stars in her veins? She did not rave when she thought of Clensy, she
made no god or goddess of her physical sensations. Neither did her mind
conjure up poetical impressions and pictures over high aspirations which
were only daubs painted from the fires of a physical passion. No;
Sestrina saw Clensy as some wonderful apostle of her own simple faith,
the religion which was Père Chaco’s, the Catholic priest, the one who
had encouraged the girl’s spiritual dreams since she was a toddling
child. It was a pure woman’s faith, and was destined to expand, to grow
like a lovely tree on _the lonely desert isle—the soul which is in all
of us—set in the boundless seas encircled by the dim starlit horizons of
mortal imagination_.

As Clensy stood on top of the lovely hills and drank in the sombre
beauty of the shifting sunlight on the ancient trees, he began to feel
strangely calm. “I’m worrying about revolutions like a foolish child;
it’s only a rumour; yet, if anything happened to her! Ah, after all, she
is only a woman, and so little dreams how deeply men can love, how
eternal their faith in woman is.” Ah, Clensy!

As Clensy so reflected, he walked into the shadows of the palms and then
started to climb the slope’s side. Though he was well aware of the risk
he ran in wandering alone into the solitudes around Port-au-Prince, he
walked carelessly onward. All that worried Clensy was how to kill time
till dusk fell over Hayti so that he might steal back to the palace
precincts and haunt the orange groves in the hope of seeing Sestrina.
Gazing around, he discovered that he had already arrived at the lower
slopes of the mountains. He could see the tiny spirals of smoke
ascending from distant villages that were nestled in the valleys far to
the right. The brooding silence of the wooded country calmed his
feverish thoughts. His mind became absorbed in the deep philosophy of
the whispering trees and the picturesqueness of nature’s lovely talents
which were expressed in all the tropical scenery. The cool sea winds,
drifting inland, stirred the tops of the leafy trees and the
multitudinous patterns that decorated the flower-bespangled carpet of
the valleys, the slopes and rolling hills. What lore of the ages were
the wise old trees about him whispering? He distinctly heard them sigh
the far-away romance of the distant seas. “How beautiful!” he murmured
as a faint breath came to his nostrils from the decaying tropical
flowers. In the magic of his poetic mood those richly-scented floating
wines of creation’s oldest vintage, intoxicated his senses and whispered
infinite wisdom to him. The big fiery blossoms, that resembled the
blooms of the Australian waratah tree, brightened the gullies and
hill-sides as the sun sank behind the western peaks of the mountains.
There was grandeur, a majestic kind of beauty in the sight of the mighty
mahogany trees that stood to the left of him. But somehow, the sight of
it all sickened Clensy’s heart. The scenery lacked the refreshing green
of his native hills. Clensy had the artistic eye that loves nature’s
brooding handiwork in leaf and flower, and the solid architectural
grandeur of gnarled trunks. It was born in him, a strain deeper than his
love of sensuous beauty, and, so, was the strain which would survive the
mad passions of sanguine youth.

“Ah, there’s no scenery in the world that can outrival the peaceful
loveliness of the English woods, the pine-clad hills and the undulating
pastures of richest green.” So ran Clensy’s meditations, and as his eyes
roamed over the sombre forest pigments, he thought of the wild
hedge-rows of his native land, the spring-quickening valleys and the
waking primroses, and felt homesick. The sombre mahogany trees and the
broad-leafed palms, in which droves of parrots and cockatoos screeched,
made no appeal to him. Where was the melodious poetry of the
full-throated brown thrush’s song, or the wintry piping of the robin in
the apple trees, or the idly flapping crows fading away like the weary
dreams of sad men and women into the sunset? The cockatoo’s dismal
screech and the discordant cry of the daylight owl have their music too;
but ah, what music can outrival the soaring song of the skylark, pouring
forth its silvery chain of melody between the billowy green of the
fields and the eternal blue of an English sky? And as Royal Clensy stood
on the Haytian hills and asked himself these things, he wondered if he
would ever see the Old Country again, till he almost forgot the flight
of time.

In a moment he had turned about and had begun to retrace his footsteps.
“By the time I arrive near the palace it will be dark,” he mused, as he
stared towards the west—sunset was flooding the horizon with ethereal
pigments of saffron and liquid gold, hues that seemed to be magically
reflected in opposite colours of purple, crimson, and orange tinted
streaks on the mountain ranges to the east. One distant mountain peak
strangely resembled a mighty dark, forest-bearded giant, an Olympian god
putting forth promontory-like arms into space, holding great sheafs of
golden sunset in its hands. It looked like some tremendous shadowy
symbol of the eternity of the past and the dubious hopes of the future,
as though it would steal a portion of the dying day’s splendour to cheer
the night of gloom when the stars whispered about its rugged, calm,
time-wrinkled brow.

As Clensy turned away from that weird, yet strangely beautiful
symbolical sight of light on the mountains, he sighed. Then he passed
swiftly down the slopes and faded into the shadows of the forest below.
In less than half an hour he found himself standing by the spot where he
had twice secretly met Sestrina after dark. It was a lovely trysting
spot, for it was close to an inland lagoon and was sheltered by feathery
palms.

“Hist, monsieur!” whispered a voice in the shadows.

Clensy turned and stared in astonishment.

“Good heavens, you!” he exclaimed, as he looked swiftly this way and
that way to see if the dark woman who stood before him was accompanied
by her whom he so wished to see. It was old Claircine, Sestrina’s
serving maid, who stood before him!

“I been ’ere ebery night, for two nights, hobing to zee yous, monsieur,”
whispered the old negress as she hastily took a note from the folds of
her rather dilapidated _sarong_ and handed it to Clensy. He ripped the
_billet doux_ open in feverish haste and read:

    “OH, MONSIEUR ROYAL,

    “_Unhappy am I. I send Claircine every night to the trysting
    place hoping that she might find you there, since I cannot come
    myself. I know not why, but my father is having me watched, and
    so I have been unable to get out. I write this so that you may
    understand that Sestrina is always thinking of you. Ah,
    monsieur, you do not know how deep are the thoughts of a woman
    who truly loves. And since I am unable to get to you, I would
    ask you to come to me. I am in the room that is just above the
    balcony at the back of the palace, by the orange groves where we
    first met. And, Monsieur Royal, I would have you to know that
    the grape-vine grows thick on the walls below my chamber’s
    casement, which is ever open. So, Monsieur Royal, should an
    enemy wish to climb up the wall and enter my room to slay me, it
    could be, alas, easily accomplished. Think well, O Monsieur,
    over this danger _of mine, and I will retire late to-morrow
    night.

                   _Believe me, O Monsieur Royal, to be your_

                        “_unhappy_ SESTRINA, _till I see you_.”

So ran Sestrina’s note. The style had obviously been inspired by French
novels. The delicate hint thrown out in that epistle thrilled Clensy.
What else could Sestrina mean than to hint that he could, with ease,
climb up the grape-vine which grew thickly on the walls below her
chamber? In another moment he had taken a small bit of paper from his
pocket and had written:

    “_Beloved Sestrina,—If woman loves deeply, how deep must be the
    love of man? I will be with you to-morrow night a few moments
    after dusk. The grape-vine outside your chamber’s window will
    bear the sweetest thoughts and fruits of love as it brings me to
    your lips and eyes._

    “_In haste._

                   “_Yours_,

                        “ROYAL.”

Claircine curtsied, then greedily grabbed the coin.

“Go immediately and give this note to your mistress.”

“Dat I will, monsieur!”

No sooner was the kind old negress out of sight, than Clensy began to
reflect. “What an ass I am! Why on earth didn’t I say that I would go
to-night and climb the grape-vine?” And as he mused and thought over
Sestrina’s letter, he resolved to go to the palace that very night. “By
Jove! what a chance, only a grape-vine to climb and then—Sestrina’s eyes
and arms.”

Night lay over the palm-clad hills around Port-au-Prince. Clensy had
already reached the palace grounds. He had escaped the vigilant eyes of
two big negroes, who did sentry duty at the palace gates, by climbing
over the stone walls in the rear of the palace. “Thank heaven the moon
isn’t up yet,” Clensy thought as he slipped into the shade of the
bamboos and looked up at the sky.

The tropic twilight and the ethereal, pulsing gleams of a thousand
thousand stars gave sufficient light for Clensy’s requirements that
night. For a moment he stood perfectly still. Being assured that no one
was about, he crept stealthily forward, pushing the tall ferns and scrub
apart with his hands, very softly, so that his advance made no rustle.
Slipping noiselessly under the orange groves he felt more at his ease.
He was now familiar with the surroundings. He was at the spot where he
had first met and walked with Sestrina after his first engagement as
pianist at the presidential ball.

“How romantic, I’m like the hero of a romantic novel, blest if I’m not,”
he thought as he peered cautiously through the thickets of bamboos and
spied the balcony that fronted the chamber wherein Sestrina slept.

Creeping close to the wall he spied the thick stems of the grape-vine
that soared to the vine-covered casement. To Clensy’s romantic soul it
was indeed the magic casement that opened on the green foams of leafy,
wind-stirred palms and perilous seas of romance. Even as he watched and
listened Clensy heard the palms sigh some whispering melody that came in
from the ocean. The fireflies were dancing like miniature constellations
of stars in leafy glooms. A strange bird began to sing, somewhere up in
the mahogany tree hard by. “Too-willow, too-willow it-te-willowy
lan-lone, wee-it!” it went, ere it burst forth into a merry tinkling
song, as though it had suddenly got wind of all that was happening!

Clensy stood still and gazed intently up at the half-open casement: he
could see no light. “Perhaps she’s asleep? Or maybe she hasn’t retired
yet?” And, as he reflected, he lit a cigarette, carefully hiding the
gleam of the lighted match in the closed hollows of his hands. Already
his romantic imagination had begun to picture Sestrina in her chamber.
He began to feel nervous.

“Perhaps I should first throw a pebble, give her some warning,” he
thought as he puffed away at his cigarette and wondered what Sestrina
would think to see him appear at her chamber-casement without due
warning. “Pish! what does it matter? She is a sensible Haytian girl, not
a namby-pamby European girl,” he muttered as he tried to find an excuse
for his own meditations.

Clensy’s adoration for materialised beauty, the inherent greed of his
love of the sensuous—which he imagined was spiritual love—had made him
secretly aspire to see something different to the shadowy, divine
loveliness that the pure poetic imagination pictures when dreaming over
the charms of the woman loved. He aspired to see something which would
correspond with all that his physical senses felt, not the visionary
form that feeds the imagination eternally with increasing hope and
beauty, making the Fates whisper into the lover’s ears:

            “She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss.
             Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair!”

And so Clensy was bound to be disillusioned. True enough, it was a brief
disillusionment, but it came like a hint that would reveal the briefness
of sensuous beauty: and that’s all. It did not give him a hint, one
prophetic glimpse of the terrible drama, the unspeakable irony of human
things, the vision of the truth which his eyes were to see, when, with
wisdom and sorrow in his soul, he goes out of the last page of this
story.

As Clensy stood there in the shadows of the bamboos his eyes brightened
over his thoughts. Yet he still hesitated. He had been reared in polite
society; he was the son of a gentleman and had ever lifted his hat when
he passed a lady. And now—where was his spirit of chivalry?

“Men have done worse when they have truly loved a beautiful woman. And
this is Hayti, not England! Hayti!”; and thinking in this wise, he
thought of Sestrina sitting in the seclusion of her chamber and
scattered his qualms to the winds. “Hayti, land of romance and song, and
Sestrina,” murmured his ardent thoughts as he put forth his hands and
began to climb up the thick runners of the grape-vine! The thought of
what he might see when he reached the balcony and peeped into Sestrina’s
chamber intoxicated his senses.

As he slowly climbed, he seemed to drift into a subconscious state. How
carefully he climbed. Hand over hand he stealthily ascended, one false
step and the spheres would roll askew! He suddenly stopped and breathed
a sigh of relief. He had reached the jutting floor of the balcony. With
his right hand he gripped the thick stem of the grape-vine, then,
throwing his head back, he put forth his disengaged hand and grasped the
outer support post of the railings. The next minute he had twisted his
body back—for one moment he hung suspended in space, the next moment he
had clutched the vine-clad railings, and had pulled himself up—he was
standing on the balcony! His form was hidden in the deep shadows of the
overhanging mahogany tree’s branches. For a moment he groped about in
trembling indecision. It was then that he noticed the glimmer of light
stealing through the clusters of flowers that grew about a casement to
the right of him. “Her chamber!” He hesitated. In that supreme moment
his grosser thoughts vanished. He felt as one might feel if about to fix
the eye at a telescope tube that would reveal the ethereal landscapes
and roaming angels of another world. The next moment he had boldly fixed
his eye to a chink in the half-open shutter.

He stood in perfect safety, for the clusters of flowers and hanging vine
completely hid him. “In bed!” was his mental ejaculation. He saw the
bunched counterpane, its crimson lace fringe all crumpled. The outline
of the lone occupant was distinctly visible through the misty mosquito
curtains that draped the bed, hanging tent-like from the four high
brass-nobbed posts.

“She’s reading! How small a chamber, how poorly furnished!” A chill of
disappointment struck his heart: he expected to see something so
different. Where was the wild confusion of falling tresses? Where the
magic of dreaming eyes, and the secret loveliness of a maiden’s
deshabille? Ah, Clensy! He had yet to learn that nothing corresponds
with a mortal’s conceptions of beauty, that only dreams bring happiness;
that beauty like the horizon is to be imagined only, shadowed stars in
water, yes, even as the stars are only the reflex of their hidden
realities.

And still he stared. “Only the outline of her form under a sheet! Well!
I’ll tap the casement and then she’ll turn in her bed, yet—perhaps I’d
better—!” He gasped. The mosquito curtains had been swiftly pushed
aside! “Heavens, she’s getting out of bed!” He gazed with burning eyes.
The supreme moment had arrived. The ecstasy of his imaginings, all that
mystery and loveliness which he expected to see, made his brain reel.
Just for a second he closed his eyes, yes, one wondrous blink ere his
eyelids parted and he gazed again. What had happened! Anguish had
wrinkled his brow! He could hardly suppress a cry of horror escaping his
lips—two bony, skeleton-like legs had suddenly protruded from beneath
the laced edges of the counterpane! The castle of romance, all the
loveliness which his imagination had conjured up, fell with a silent
crash! The sight of those skinny legs, covered with shrunken flesh,
looking like unfilled sausage skins, sent an icy chill to his heart.
That awful sight was, to him, like the Egyptian skull of death shown,
not before the festivities, but in the presence of empty dishes and
wineless goblets.

“Thank God!” he murmured as he stared again—he had peeped through the
wrong casement, it was upon the old negress, Claircine, that he had
spied. She had leapt from her bed to put the lamp out! Clensy’s
ludicrous mistake made him feel sane. The sight of Claircine’s skinny
legs waving in space for one second ere they attained the perpendicular,
had taught him more about the vanity of human wishes and the briefness
of beauty than all the philosophies in existence.

For a moment he felt an abject fool. Then the reaction set in. His
imagination began, in feverish haste, to conjure up voluptuous pictures
of Sestrina’s beauty, all that she must look like when compared to poor
emaciated, shrunken Claircine.

“What an ass I am,” he murmured as he began to creep in haste on his
hands and knees towards the next casement. The shutters of that casement
were also half opened and conveniently hidden by clusters of flowers and
twining vine. Pushing the leaves aside with his hands, he peeped once
again. No mistake this time! There on a couch was Sestrina’s reclining
form. She was leaning back on the couch’s arm, her hair down, falling in
perfect confusion over her half-clad shoulders. The delicate drapery of
the couch was disturbed where one of her legs was lifted, the left knee
softly couched, inclined over the right leg. The silken brown stocking,
barely reaching to the knee, intensified the soft warm flush of beauty
and each dimpled curve. She placed her fingers between the laced
division of her unbuttoned bodice, and taking forth a tiny scented
handkerchief, placed it to her face, which was half hidden by the
tangled folds of her tresses, and wept!

The sight of the weeping girl filled Clensy’s heart with sorrow—and
shame. He sighed, and then, for all his remorse, stared again. Sestrina
had lifted her face, and, placing her hands on either cheek, was staring
in tearful thought at the ceiling.

“To-morrow night and he will be here! Ah, how I long to gaze in his
eyes, to hear him say those words again.”

Clensy had moved closer to the half-open shutter: his perfidious ears
drank in every word that escaped Sestrina’s lips. She sighed. He saw her
lips tremble as she breathed some rapturous thought. “What was she
saying to herself?” Clensy leaned forward; the boards beneath his feet
creaked! His figure stiffened as he stood alert, breathless in suspense.
Had she heard that creak? He breathed a sigh of relief.

Sestrina must have thought it was a night bird fluttering in the boughs
of the mahogany tree just beyond her window. She had arisen from her
couch. Her eyes sparkled as though in the delight of some sudden happy
idea. She moved towards the mirror, and, tossing her ringlets into
greater confusion, gazed upon her image. One glossy ringlet strayed from
its companions and curled serpentwise down over the billowy softness of
her bosom, which was revealed through her unlaced bodice.

Clensy stared at her figure just as a mad sculptor might stare on his
masterpiece. The charm of her deshabille, the mystery of her fluttering
lingerie as the orange and lemon scented zephyrs floated through the
open casement, intoxicated his senses. He stood spellbound, his eyes
drinking in the delicate harmony of each outline. His soul was thrilled
with the beauty and mystery of all that was left to his imagination, all
that was suggested, since he could only see her pretty sandalled feet, a
glimpse of the arms’ whiteness and the loveliness revealed between the
luxuriance of her falling tresses. “God, how beautiful!” he murmured.

A deep feeling of reverence for the girl crept into his sinful heart.
There was something so innocent about her pose, and her every action.
She had opened a tiny sandalwood box, and taking therefrom a small
powder-puff had softly dabbed it on a pimple that looked as though a
ladybird had flown through the open casement and had settled on the warm
whiteness of her bosom. Certainly a peculiar impression to get on
Clensy’s mind, but it was just like him!

“Why does she weep? I had thought to see her happy,” murmured Clensy as
Sestrina placed the powder-puff on the toilet, and then gazed in the
mirror on her own tearful eyes.

Clensy did not know that there had been misery in the palace for the
last three days. First of all, Sestrina and Claircine and Gravelot’s
valet, Zelong, had sat up all night talking about the rumours of a
revolution. And then the President had arrived home at midnight in a
fainting condition, a bullet wound in his shoulder. He had fallen down
in the hall. His eyes had no longer looked cruel.

“Forgive me, Sestrina,” he had murmured as Claircine, Sestrina, and
Zelong had helped carry him into his chamber.

When Sestrina had found herself alone with her parent, she had wished to
send for a doctor. But, no, Gravelot would not hear of such a thing. And
so, Sestrina carefully bathed and bound the shot-wound which had been
inflicted by Biglow’s revolver. That same night the President had
confessed to his daughter that he had been under the vile spell of the
_vaudoux_ worship.

Sestrina tried to soothe her father as he wept. His sobered senses made
him realise the wickedness and cruelty of the _papaloi_ and their fetish
rites.

“Thank God, Sestrina, that _you_ were strong enough to resist and keep
true to your old Père Chaco,” he cried, as he thought of all that would
have happened to the girl had she responded to his wishes and attended
the _vaudoux_ temples.

Then the President had told Sestrina of his fears, how the Cacaos were
rising in great force. Sestrina was astonished when her father informed
her that the palace might be stormed by the rebels if they once got into
the town. Then he had said: “Sestrina, if anything happens to me, you
must fly from the palace and seek safety on one of the Government
steamers and so get away from Hayti as soon as possible. The insurgents
would surely shoot all who are related to me.” And when the President,
continuing, said, “You must not leave the palace on any account, for I
have received information that several Cacaos chiefs are on watch to get
my body dead or alive,” Sestrina had felt terribly upset. Consequently
she had written to Clensy and begged him to come to her, and at the same
time had kept her true reasons for taking this bold course to herself.
It was not till Claircine had gone off with the note in hopes to see
Clensy and give it him, that Sestrina, woman-like, had reflected on the
matter and realised how dangerous it would be for Clensy, a white man,
to be seen stealthily approaching the palace after dark.

“_Mon Dieu!_ the sentinels will think he is an assassin, will think he
is some Cacaos chief waiting in ambush to slay my father. O, _mon Dieu_!
he will be shot, and all through me! It is I who have told him to come
and climb the grape-vine to-morrow night!”

And as she sat there on the couch in her chamber, she once more bowed
her head and wept bitterly.

“To-morrow night! To-morrow! I must write another note and tell
Claircine that it means death to Monsieur Royal if she does not deliver
it to him.”

And as she sighed, she gazed tearfully towards her casement, little
dreaming that her lover’s eyes at that very moment gazed upon her from
behind the clusters of flowers of the half-hidden trellis work. As she
sighed, Clensy once more inclined his head and listened.

“Oh! kind Père Chaco, I will see him to-morrow and confess all, and then
he will pray for his safety, for my beautiful Royal’s soul.”

Sestrina had taken a tiny crucifix from the fold of her robe and,
touching it with her lips, had murmured “Royal!”

Clensy’s eyes, as they stared through the scented leaves and crimson
blooms, brightened, shone like stars. His impassioned thoughts were
expressed on his flushed face. He seemed to lose control over his senses
and limbs too—he had leaned forward, and, swaying like something blown
by a great wind, he fell through the open casement.

“Royal!”

“Sestrina mine!”

The next second they were in each other’s arms.

Since the propriety of the means which Clensy had taken to meet Sestrina
that night can be quibbled over, and with perfect justice too, the
exclusion of much which they said and did can remain unrecorded without
hurting the feelings of the sensitive, conventional minded. It will
suffice to say, that Royal Clensy was a gentleman. The fact that the
young Englishman had crawled on all fours, and without announcing his
presence, into a maiden’s bedroom at midnight, must not let it be
assumed that our hero had a perverted mind. The strange things that
heroes and lovers think are often very different from the things that
they do—even when the opportunity of doing strange things presents
itself. Though Clensy’s love dream was sensuous more than spiritual, he
was not a bad type. He had a love of naturalness and a great hatred for
the sickening realities of conventional life.

He had long ago spoken to himself and seen through the mighty pretence
of civilised communities in the cities, where fat old men and women
passed in their robes of splendour through the door of the temple of
fame. Metaphorically speaking, he had sickened of seeing the devotees of
European _vaudoux_ worship kneel before the sacrificial altars of hot
meats, burning wines, and highly-seasoned foods. Even in his own little
brief worship at the altars of the terrible European _papaloi_ he had
felt indignation when some wealthy British _vaudoux_ chief had caught a
maiden of innocence, had lured her into the presence of the gaudy
_vaudoux_ temples, and had then sacrificed her strangled body on the
bloodthirsty altars of his heathenish deities. Let it be said, on
Clensy’s behalf, that he had often gazed on his own white unsoiled hands
and felt compassion for the corn-hardened hands of weary men who had
been born where the sad, mechanical charity organisation officials
loudly knocked the door. Long ago he had realised that the trembling
hand that toiled in the mud or brushed the boots of prosperity, might
easily be the hand that could pen the perfect poem, or paint the
outlines of the sorrowful saints and Madonnas, yes, the visionary
creations that haunt the minds of men who are adherents to the great
inborn creed, and worship at the sombre, sad altars of the Gospel of
Truth and Beauty. Clensy also had the instinctive insight of the artist
in his soul, consequently he saw Sestrina as a child who favoured his
presence in her chamber because she felt utterly alone, and was one who
had perfect trust in him by virtue of her own innocence.

Sestrina gazed into his eyes a moment, then turned her face away. Ah,
how beautiful she looked as she stood there clasped in Clensy’s arms,
wiping the tears from her eyes with the tiny flower-decorated
handkerchief. For she had wept afresh in her delight at the sudden
presence of her handsome lover.

Clensy bade her sit down on the couch. And there, as Clensy held her
hand, while the fireflies danced about the wine-scented flowers of the
open casement and the Haytian nightingale sang in the palms, Sestrina
took delicate sniffs from her salt-bottle and slowly told him all that
troubled her.

When Clensy heard of her father’s fears over a possible revolution, he
could hardly believe his ears. Though he was acquainted with all that
rumour told about the mysterious Cacaos in the Black Mountains, he had
not really seriously reflected over the matter, but had put it all down
to the ignorant babblings of the negro population. It all sounded so
different to him, coming from Sestrina’s lips. “Revolution! Palace
bombarded! Incredible!” And as the girl spoke on and he reflected deeply
and began to see things in their serious, possibly true perspective, his
first thought was over Sestrina’s safety. The ardency of his affection
for Sestrina swiftly inspired him with thoughts as to the best and
happiest way to get out of the difficulty.

“Sestrina, if the palace is attacked by the rebels, you might get
killed.”

“I know, Monsieur Royal.”

“And, knowing this, Sestrina dearest, I beg of you to consent to fly
with me from this cursed hole at the first opportunity. I’ve got plenty
of money, and we can get married somewhere and somehow. Will you do
this, Sestrina?”

President Gravelot’s daughter gazed at the flushed face of the young
Englishman like a wondering child—with wide-open eyes. Then she blushed
deeply. She had realised something of the import of what he had suddenly
asked of her.

“Do you mean that I be your wife?” she whispered as she gazed intently
into his eyes. Then she smiled, and placing her arms round his neck,
kissed him softly on the cheek. Then she softly released her clasp and
slid gently to the floor, fell on her knees before Clensy so that he
could kiss the flowers in her hair. It was an old Haytian custom, and
exactly according to fashion when a maid was willing to accept one as a
husband.

Clensy sat perfectly silent. Boundless happiness had left him speechless
for the moment.

“Way in Australia; how beautiful!” whispered Sestrina when Clensy had
told her that he had wealthy relatives in Melbourne, and it was there
that he would take her.

“You agree to fly from the palace and come to me at the first sign of
danger?” he said.

Sestrina nodded her head vigorously. Then they planned and planned.

“Should anything occur that separates us, I will fly to Honolulu and
wait till you come.”

“Why Honolulu, Monsieur Royal?”

“It’s there that my people in England will send my next letters with my
money in them. Also, we can easily get a passage on one of the ships for
Melbourne in Honolulu.”

And as Clensy spoke on and arranged a meeting spot at the T— Hotel in B—
Street, Honolulu, Sestrina’s heart bubbled with joy. In the excitement
of it all she quite forgot her father’s troubles, and the danger of the
revolution, should there be a rising.

Though Clensy’s plans to fly to Honolulu with Sestrina and go from there
to Melbourne might sound foolish to worldly minds, it was the most manly
and the safest course to follow. For, as has already been hinted, and as
Haytian history shows, the periodical risings in Hayti were conducted
with indescribable fury and bloodshed. The element of negro blood in the
vast population asserted itself in terrific fury after having been pent
up by the laws that compelled restraint for the passions and instinctive
love of bloodshedding in the half-caste Haytians. Men, women and
children were shot down at sight by the insurgents; nothing was sacred
when the war-fever was raging. Whole towns were fired, razed to the
ground, and the adherents of the _vaudoux_ creed lit fetish fires in the
mountains and indulged in frenzied dancing, debauchery, lust and
cannibalism. And so Clensy was wise in advising Sestrina to fly with him
or by herself to Honolulu should the revolution break out after all. She
was Gravelot’s daughter, and the rebels would probably shoot her at
sight.

“Your father, the president, owns several steamers, so you would have
little trouble in getting away should I lose sight of you,” he said, as
Sestrina and he sat side by side in deep thought.

“Yes, he has,” said Sestrina, and then, in response to Clensy’s query,
she told him that the steamers ran between Port-au-Prince and the
seaports in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, going as far as Vera
Cruz.

“But why worry? There may be no revolution, after all,” he murmured as
he tried to soothe Sestrina’s fears. For the girl seemed worried about
her father, as she wondered over all what might happen to him if the
palace was bombarded.

It was at this moment that the little door that divided Sestrina’s
chamber from the next apartment opened and revealed Claircine’s
ebony-hued, smiling face. In her dusky hand she held a silver salver,
whereon was a small decanter of light Haytian wine. Claircine had, and
with commendable discreetness, kept in the background till that moment.
She had heard voices, and had immediately jumped out of bed and, placing
her eye to the keyhole, had seen Clensy and her mistress sitting on the
settee, their faces turned one toward the other as they kissed and
embraced.

“Mon Dieu, si aoe ma eperdi suka,” she had cried in the creole tongue as
she lifted her hands to the ceiling in horror—and then peeped again.

                  *       *       *       *       *

“Ah, Claircine, is he not handsome?” whispered Sestrina as she and the
negress stood trembling by the open casement through which Clensy a
moment before had taken his undignified departure.

“You have now heard for yourself what he thinks of you and of your kind
face and nice figure,” said Sestrina, referring to Clensy’s wicked
flattery when he looked the negress straight in the eyes a few moments
before.

“Ah, si ver du pero, ma seque,” murmured the old negress as she placed
her dusky hand above her throbbing heart, little dreaming how Clensy had
been shocked at the sight of her skinny legs an hour before!

Sestrina’s heart fluttered as she leaned over the balcony’s railing and
watched her lover slowly descend, step by step, down the thick stems of
the grape-vine. “Mon Dieu,” she wailed as she noticed that the moonrise
was sending waves of pale light over the distant mountain ranges and far
down into the valleys by the palace grounds, “he will be seen!” But her
fears were needless. She saw Clensy’s form hasten across the yam patch
far beyond the palace grounds. The next moment he had disappeared into
the depths, under the great mahogany trees.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The next day Clensy suddenly walked into Biglow’s lodgings, near the
market-place at Selle. Adams was sitting by the window that opened on to
the veranda, tugging his side-whiskers. His face wore a serious
expression, and was as red as boiled beetroot.

“Where yer been to?” he said in a husky voice as he stared up at Clensy.

Clensy made no reply, but simply looked round the room and wondered why
Biglow was so busy packing his old carpet bag.

“Going to move again?” he said, as Biglow looked up, gave him a friendly
glance and then continued to ram pipes, thread and coloured shirts into
the bag.

Biglow suddenly ceased from packing, and, standing erect, said:

“If you hang about here after Sestrina much more, you’ll get shot.
Savvy?”

“I’ll hang about who I like, Mr. Bartholomew Biglow,” replied Clensy,
with considerable warmth. He was rather sensitive about any remarks that
referred to Sestrina, for Adams and Biglow had chaffed him a good deal
of late over his infatuation for Gravelot’s daughter.

“So! so! good lad; don’t be angry. Sestrina’s worth a hundred maids and
shots in the back. Got beautiful eyes too. Reminds me of Queen Vaekehu,
of the Marquesas, my first wife,” said Biglow.

“Your queen wasn’t a patch on Sestrina. Never seed a girl wif such
beautiful eyes and lovely bust,” chimed in Adams, who at the same time
gave Clensy a friendly wink.

“Don’t be silly,” said Clensy as he calmed down; then he added, “Why are
you packing up?”

“Because it’s a-coming, a blasted revolution, blazes and murder, and
thet’s ’zakley what Biggy here means,” said Adams.

Clensy’s heart thumped like a muffled drum.

“Look you here,” said Biglow, as he regarded the young Englishman with
his large serious-looking eyes. “It’s coming along any moment now; the
Cacaos are only awaiting the signal to blaze this town to the ground and
shoot every one who happens to get in the way. Savvy?”

The expression on Biglow’s face told Clensy that he meant what he said.

“Can it be possible, in these enlightened times, too?”

“It can!” said Biglow quietly, as he stared at our hero for a moment as
though in some hesitation; then he leaned forward and said: “I’ve been
doing a bit of gun-running for both sides, the legal authorities and the
rebels too, and you’ve been seen with me, and that means that they would
shoot you at sight to settle their doubts—if they had any!”

“Thank you, Mr. Bartholomew Biglow,” said Clensy.

Then the big man looked half sorrowfully at Clensy and said:

“Perhaps I ought to have warned you that I was dangerous company.
Anyhow, our only chance of safety is getting away from here by steamer
if a rising _does_ take place.”

“I’ll see you both again later,” replied Clensy, and before the two men
could look round he had vanished.

It was still daylight when Clensy arrived back at his apartments. He had
made up his mind to go straight to the palace and warn Sestrina of her
danger, and, if possible, get her to fly with him from the palace
without further delay. Just as he was getting ready to leave his rooms
and go out, his landlady, a creole woman, tapped at his door.

“Some one like to zee yous, Anglesman,” she said.

Poking his head out of the doorway, Clensy found himself face to face
with Claircine. The old negress looked very excited as she handed him a
note. In a moment Clensy had torn the envelope open and read:

    “OH, MONSIEUR ROYAL,

    “_Do not attempt to come to the palace to see me. They have
    placed sentinels in the grounds as well as at the gates.
    Something dreadful is going to happen, I’m sure. My father told
    me this morning that should I have to fly from here I must get
    on one of the Government steamers and go to the South American
    States. If I do that I may never see you again. Oh, ’tis
    dreadful, Monsieur Royal. Advise me as to what is best for me to
    do. Claircine will wait about till she sees you and can slip
    this note into the hands that I love_.

                   “_In haste_,

                        “SESTRINA.

    “_P.S. If you would like to see Père Chaco, the priest, he lives
    in that small wooden house near the groves of pomegranates,
    where we stood when you gave me your photograph and I gave you
    mine._”

“Wait a minute, Claircine,” said Clensy as soon as he had read
Sestrina’s letter. Then he rushed back into his room and penned the
following reply:

    “MY DARLING SESTRINA,

    “_I write in haste. I would risk coming to the palace, but I
    know you would not wish it. Your father’s advice is the best. By
    all means get on one of the steamers if trouble comes. Do not
    fear that you will lose sight of me or I of you. I will seek the
    steamers and find out which one you are on. Now, Sestrina,
    remember that I am yours, heart and soul. And remember, dearest,
    that in the event of my losing sight of you, you must make your
    way to Honolulu and wait for me at the T— Hotel in B— Street, or
    I will wait for you should I get there first. Once there
    together, we can do all that you agreed to do when I saw you
    last. Should all go well, I will come to the palace at the first
    opportunity and climb the grape-vine. Claircine can easily bring
    me a note from you to say when the sentinels have been removed.
    Remember, Sestrina, that I love you with all my heart and soul._

                   “_Yours ever and ever_,

                        “ROYAL.”

Handing Claircine the foregoing note, Clensy bade her hasten back to her
mistress.

“Ah, monsieur!” wailed the old negress as she looked into his eyes in a
sorrowful way, and then added: “Madamsele weeps, and loves you well,
_dat_ she does.” The next moment the old negress had disappeared under
the flamboyant trees that grew in front of Clensy’s lodgings.

That same night Clensy was suddenly awakened by a crash. He leapt from
his bed and hastened out on to the veranda. Notwithstanding all that he
had heard about the insurgents, he was surprised to hear the sounds of
heavy cannonading somewhere away in the hills—the Cacaos and Government
soldiery had met! The streets were alive with frightened, babbling
negroes and mulattoes, running about as though they were demented.
Children and women ran in and out the small wooden houses wringing their
hands and wailing in a weird, dismal manner. As Clensy stared out into
the night he saw a great blaze of reddish light up the hills in the
direction of La Coupe. The rebels were firing the villages along the
slopes and in the valleys! “Good God!” was all that Clensy could say to
express his consternation. In a moment he was dressed and out in the
streets. “I’ll risk it!” he muttered. The next moment he was hurrying
off in the direction of the palace. But as he got to the outskirts of
the town he found that he was too late. Hundreds of Government soldiers
were already entrenched along the main roads outside the town. They
would allow none to pass. Seeing some Haytians hurrying along, Clensy
asked them what was happening.

“Revolution! War! We must fly or be killed!” they cried.

“Is the palace in the hands of the Government or the rebels?” he asked,
a great fear clutching at his heart.

“In the hands of the Government and the rebels too,” shouted some one.

Then Clensy gathered that many of the Government soldiers who had been
brought to the palace had gone over to the side of the Cacaos. Seeing
that he could do nothing, that he was utterly helpless to help Sestrina
or even find out anything about her, Clensy took to his heels and made
his way to the small wooden house on the outskirts of the town where
Sestrina had told him Père Chaco, the Catholic, dwelt. In less than ten
minutes he stood in front of the small wooden building that had a small
cross on top of it. He knocked at the door. It was immediately opened by
a grey-bearded, serious-looking old man. The face before Clensy was
expressive, very melancholy looking, the eyes deep set and clear, the
brow high and intellectual.

“Well, my son, and what would you wish of me?”

“I am a friend of Sestrina’s, President Gravelot’s daughter. What can be
done about her?” said Clensy, immediately going into the matter.

“A true friend?” said the father.

“Yes, her life is all to me,” said Clensy.

The old priest scanned him steadily with his deep-set, earnest eyes, and
then said, “Um!” Then the aged priest told Clensy that his call had
already been too prolonged, for he, the priest, had just been about to
go off and visit the British Consul to ask about Sestrina and get help
in case her life should be in danger.

“Thank God for that!” exclaimed Clensy. Then the priest laid his
wrinkled hand on Clensy’s shoulder, and told him to have faith, and
possibly all would be well. The next moment Père Chaco had hurried away,
and Clensy was hastening back to the town to see Biglow and Adams.

“Thank heaven you’re here!” exclaimed the young Englishman as he entered
Biglow’s lodgings and found him standing by his old carpet bag, all
packed ready for immediate removal. “Well, it’s come!” exclaimed Clensy.

“Yes, and Adams and I and you had better be going!” said Biglow.

“I can’t go. I must hear if Sestrina’s safe first. I’d go mad if
anything happened to her,” said Clensy, as he almost lost control of
himself.

“Don’t worry about Sestrina, bless yer, she’s on board the _Catholot_, a
Government steamer, that’s outbound for Vera Cruz,” said Biglow.

Clensy’s relief at hearing this information may be imagined.

“Sestrina safe. I’ll see her again!” he cried out as Adams walked in and
said he wasn’t going to walk any longer about a place where “myderers”
kept firing revolvers and strangling people.

“You’re quite sure Sestrina’s safe?” said Clensy as he looked steadily
in the gun-runner’s eyes.

“Safe as houses, and her old man, the president, had the top of his head
blown off, and De Cripsny’s got his left ear blown away.”

“No!” exclaimed Clensy in a horrified voice.

“Well, he’s Sestrina’s father to you, but I don’t look upon him in that
light,” said Biglow when he noticed the note of sorrow in Clensy’s voice
on hearing that the president had been shot. “He won’t be a party to
killing any more children at the _vaudoux_ altars in the mountains, will
he?” said Biglow.

“No, he won’t,” replied Clensy in a very quiet voice.

Then Biglow began to inform our hero that directly the first shots had
been fired by the Government scouts in the hills behind Port-au-Prince,
the officials of the British and French consulates had immediately set
out for the presidential palace to warn the president and take charge of
Sestrina. It appeared that when they arrived at the palace the
president, who had foolishly ventured out to plead to the soldiers who
had shown signs of going over to the insurgents, had been shot by one in
the crowd.

Sestrina, who still remained ignorant of her father’s death, had been
immediately disguised in a servant’s robe, and hurried out of the palace
by a back entrance. She had then been at once escorted down to Cap
Hatien, and then taken in a boat out to the steamer _Catholot_ which lay
in the middle of the harbour.

“Must get out to the _Catholot_, whatever happens,” said Clensy. Biglow
could hear his comrade’s eagerness trembling in his voice. “I’ve got
eight pounds, and I’ll give you the lot if you can get me out to the
_Catholot_,” said Clensy.

“Keep yer money, lad. It’s my fault that you’re in this scrape, and I’ve
got enough money to get you out of the fix which I’ve got you in,” said
Biglow, as he gripped Clensy’s hand, and promised to do all he could to
bring Clensy and Sestrina together again, and get them safely away from
Hayti.

That same day Biglow kept his word, for he managed to hire a boat and
take Clensy out to the _Catholot_ himself.

The _Catholot_ was a steamer of about two thousand tons.

As Biglow rowed alongside, the funnel was smoking heavily.

“She’s getting up steam, ready to sail at a moment’s notice,” said
Clensy, his heart heavy to think that Sestrina might leave Hayti without
him. “I’m going to sail with her, if it can possibly be done,” was his
determined thought as he arrived on the _Catholot’s_ deck.

One of the sailors, urged by a liberal tip from Clensy, led them down
the steamer’s alley-way that led aft, and, after making several
inquiries, pointed out Sestrina’s cabin.

Directly Sestrina saw Clensy’s face looking over the shoulders of the
other passengers, she rushed forward and threw her arms around him. The
girl nearly broke down at that meeting.

Biglow stood aside, a kind look in his serious eyes as he gazed on the
scene, affected by the refugee girl’s grief.

“You will come with me, won’t you?” she reiterated, when they told her
not to fear, that they would keep in touch with her.

“If it can possibly be managed, I’m coming on this steamer as a
passenger,” said Clensy, when Sestrina, Biglow and he stood in a quiet
spot by the engine room, out of earshot of the excited refugees who
crowded the deck and cabins.

For a long time Clensy and Sestrina stood whispering together. Clensy
had never realised till that moment what the girl’s life meant to him.

“I reckon we’d better be making a move and try and see the skipper,”
said Biglow, who had begun to get impatient, for he saw that the lovers
were likely to stand there making plans and whispering till it was too
late.

Clensy tore himself away from the girl.

Sestrina’s depressed spirits had wonderfully revived when Clensy and
Biglow left her to seek the _Catholot’s_ skipper, and to try and
negotiate for berths as deck passengers.

When Clensy and Biglow at last found the skipper, and asked for
passages, they were sadly disappointed at finding that the authorities
at Port-au-Prince had given orders that no more passengers were to be
taken without permits being produced. Why such an order should have been
given out was a mystery. However, the skipper only shook his head to all
Biglow’s persuasions. “I’ve had strict orders from the officials, and
not another soul comes aboard. I should probably get shot were I to take
you fellows: how do I know who you are?” So spake the skipper. And
Biglow, after assuring the skipper that he wouldn’t like to see him shot
or mutilated in any way through swerving from his duty, told Clensy to
follow him.

“Never mind the girl now, she’s all right; I’ll manage everything.”

“Thank you,” exclaimed Clensy, who felt humbled through the uncertainty
of things, and his fear of losing Sestrina.

In a few moments they had reached the gangway.

“Make haste, no time to lose,” said Biglow, as he walked down the
gangway and re-entered their boat.

“He’s got some good scheme up his sleeve,” thought Clensy, as he
obsequiously followed his lusty comrade.

Immediately they had re-embarked and had rowed the boat out of earshot,
Biglow said, “We’ll stow away on her to-night! see?”

Clensy, at hearing the gun-runner say that, was considerably cheered up.
He had already told Sestrina not to despair. He had said, “Don’t you
worry, dearest, I’ll follow on by another steamer if I cannot get on
this boat.” Then he had taken Sestrina aside, and had told her to make
her way to Honolulu just as they had planned. “Go straight to this
address,” he had said, as he wrote down fullest particulars. “I’ll come
to Honolulu and wait there till you come if you are delayed in any way,
trust me, dear.” And, as he spoke, Sestrina had looked into his eyes and
knew that he meant what he said.

Before Clensy left the _Catholot_ he told Sestrina to expect to see him
on board again that same night.

The _Catholot_ was supposed to sail next morning, so Clensy naturally
presumed that he could, at any rate, row out to her and see Sestrina
once more before she sailed.

That same night, Biglow, Clensy and Adams packed their few goods and got
all ready to clear out of Hayti. They had decided to take a boat from L—
and row out to the _Catholot_ after dark, get on board by some excuse
and then stow away.

That night, without delay, they hired the boat.

“If _one_ can stow away three can, eh, lad?” said Biglow, as they pulled
at the oars and got round by the bend of the harbour near S—.

In a few moments they had turned the point where they got a good view of
the harbour.

“Done! She’s sailed!” said Biglow in a mighty voice.

He nearly upset the boat as he stood up and stared over the waters of
the starlit harbour.

It was true enough, the _Catholot_ had sailed. Sestrina had gone from
Hayti!

“We’ll all be mydered, sure!” wailed Adams, as he leaned back on his
portmanteau—an old red handkerchief—and groaned.

“It’s the fear of the blockade that made her sail to-day instead of
to-morrow. Hear that?” said Biglow.

And as the three of them listened they could distinctly hear the distant
booms of the guns and furious cannonade. It was evident that the
insurgents were already besieging Cap Hatien, as in the south the
Government soldiers were attacking Jacmel, Jéréme and Les Cayes.

Biglow swore terrifically when he realised their position. Clensy and
Adams placed themselves unreservedly in his hands. They knew that if
there was a way of getting out of Hayti, Biglow would find that way. And
so he did! for, in less than twenty-four hours after finding that the
_Catholot_ had sailed, Biglow, Adams and Clensy found themselves on
board a Government steamer outbound for South America. The reason they
did get away so easily was because Biglow, through his gun-running
exploits, was well in with the American Consul. He knew so much about
the financial side of the gun-running business, that in the event of the
Government overthrowing the insurgents and still retaining power, it
would turn out more convenient for the officials to get a man like
Biglow as far away from Hayti as possible.

“This is hell enough, without being worried out of my mind like this,”
muttered Clensy as he stood by the bulwark side of the _S.S. Prince_,
staring out to sea. The fact is, there was a terrible crush on the
steamer which he and Biglow found themselves aboard. There were about
two hundred refugees on board, mostly high-class Haytians who could
afford to seek safety from the terrors of their war-stricken province.
The weather was terrifically hot, too, and Clensy had to sleep in a
stuffy cabin with ten refugees. Consequently, after the first night of
unspeakable misery, he slept on deck. His whole thoughts were centred on
Sestrina.

“She’ll know it wasn’t my fault,” he mused, as he thought of the girl’s
disappointment when the _Catholot_ sailed before her time, thus making
him unable to keep his promise to see her again.

“Don’t you worry, lad,” said Biglow, who had suddenly walked up to
Clensy’s side. “We’ll find the girl!”

“But we don’t really know where she’s gone to,” said Clensy, as he
realised how the Government steamers sailed away from Hayti and gave a
false report as to the port they were really bound for.

“I’m sorry, lad, to have placed you in this pickle; it’s all my doings,”
said Biglow, as he stood by Clensy’s side and stared across the starlit
tropic seas. There was a tender, wistful note in the big man’s voice as
he spoke to Clensy.

“You couldn’t help it. Sestrina would have had to fly from the palace if
you had been ten thousand miles from Hayti when the revolution broke
out,” said Clensy in a mournful voice.

“Perhaps you’re right, lad; anyway, I’ll stick to you.”

“Thank you,” replied Clensy. He wanted a genuine comrade. Adams wasn’t
worth his salt. He had got mixed up with the crew of the steamer. In
fact, he had got so drunk and uninteresting that Biglow and Clensy
decided to have no more to do with him: and they, and the hidden voice
behind these pages, were more than thankful to see the old reprobate
Adams go out of the story altogether.

“As sure as my name’s Samuel Bilbao, you’ll see the girl again, lad. I’m
one who believes in everything that no one else believes in,” said
Biglow suddenly.

“Samuel Bilbao! Is that your real name?” said Clensy in an astonished
voice.

The fact is, that Samuel Bilbao was notorious from Fiji to Terra del
Fuego as one of the last of the wild, flamboyant traders who had hunted
the blackbirders down in the South Seas slaving days of ten years
before. Yes, it was Samuel Bilbao who stood beside Clensy; Bilbao who
ran the blockade in the Haytian revolution of three years before; Bilbao
who led the Marquesans in the great tribal battle at Taiohae; Bilbao who
helped the Tahitian chiefs when they fought the French in 18—, and
smashed a well-equipped garrison to smithereens. Yes, such things had
been accomplished by that worthy in the splendour of his prime.

When Clensy discovered that he was on the high seas with Samuel Bilbao
as his right hand, he blessed the fates. “Things could be worse,” he
thought.

Samuel Bilbao, to give him his proper name, was the life of the
_Prince_. The Haytian ladies on board tried hard to blush as he sang his
rollicking songs, extemporising words in their own language as his
versatile brain took in the degrees of temperament and the moral
lassitude of the female company he sang to. He infused life and laughter
into the hearts of the most woebegone refugees as he danced and made the
_Prince’s_ deck like a moonlit ball-room as they steamed along under the
stars. Yes, Samuel Bilbao was the best comrade Clensy could have found
under the circumstances.

It seemed like the memory of some feverish dream when Clensy, one month
after flying from Hayti, sat in the Rio Grande café at M— and thought of
all that he and Bilbao had gone through in their search for Sestrina.
“And all for nothing! Sestrina might have been swallowed up by an
earthquake for all we’ve heard to the contrary,” Clensy muttered, as he
looked through the open window on to the palm groves that faced the
veranda. “Thank heaven I’ve got enough money to take the next boat that
sails for Honolulu,” he thought, as he counted out his notes and gold.
He had only the day before received a generous remittance from England
by cable. And, as he reflected and mused on, he murmured: “There’s still
a good chance that we’ve missed her; there’s several ways of getting to
Hawaii. She might have got on a schooner that sailed from the lower
Californian seaboard harbours.” And as Clensy mused on and thought over
all the possibilities, he became very hopeful.

Samuel Bilbao had kept his promise, had not deserted our hero, for that
romantic worthy was just up the grove roaring forth a rollicking sea
chanty in the De La Plaza grog-saloon. Even as Clensy listened he could
hear the loud clapping and stumping and guttural cries of the delighted
Mexicans and Spanish hidalgos. Bilbao had managed to cheer Clensy up
many times during his fits of depression. For Royal Clensy had become a
different man since he had left Hayti. His love for Sestrina and the
uncertainty of the girl’s fate had strangely humbled him, had made him
look out on life with wiser and sadder eyes. Just as drink and
debauchery changes a man and debases his character, Clensy’s mind had
been elevated and made sympathetic and thoughtful through sorrow.

When Clensy at last arrived at Honolulu and still no news of Sestrina,
it wanted all the hilarity and flamboyant song of Bilbao’s cheerful
personality to bring a ghost of a smile to our hero’s lips. Not once did
the young Englishman’s faith in Sestrina waver. He was convinced that if
Sestrina never turned up at Honolulu it was because she was either dead
or very ill. As the weeks passed his hopes of seeing Sestrina again
faded, but his desire for her presence increased. His imagination began
to clothe his memory of her in all the beauty and the mystery which men
of his temperament imagine a good woman possesses. His romantic passion
for the girl transmuted his memory of her till her eyes sparkled as
far-off stars shining on the horizon of his imagination. She became the
unattainable, the mystery and spiritual wonder of the great undiscovered
lands that must ever lie beyond the skylines of mortal dreams, filling
human hearts with passionate longing and yearning for far-off divine
things. All that was beautiful in sounds lingered in Clensy’s memory of
Sestrina’s voice; her songs resolved into a dream, and became the
unheard music of his own soul, till he seemed to hear the dim murmurings
of the shells on the shores of the ocean that divides romance from
reality. The sorrow and uncertainty of their parting became his calvary
of anguish and the heart-crying creed which nourished a dim yearning
hope of some future. He vaguely realised that, though he might never see
Sestrina again, she had brought him boundless wealth; that he could
kneel at the altar of his great faith in her love and get as near the
realisation of his best ideals as man can get when he imagines the world
holds things that will correspond with his soul’s conceptions of the
beautiful. He knew well enough that his mind had got into that morbid
state which worldly men term foolish and sentimental. But the happiness
that his sentiment brought him and his knowledge of the little happiness
he would get from such dreams as worldly men indulged in, inspired him
with that wisdom which enables men to reign as king over their
imagination.

Through reading the musty volumes which he discovered in his apartments
in Honolulu, as he waited through weary months for Sestrina, he began to
get quite philosophical. His outlook on life became cynical, yet was
softened with the old sympathy of his earlier and happier days. “I was a
fool to ever fall in love and get unhappy like this. I thought I was so
wise, too!” The wisest men who ever lived are only little children
crying in the dark for light as they throw pebbles into their little
ponds of dreams and imagine they are sounding the depths of infinity, of
human nature and the mystery of life and death. Men know nothing! The
present is a chimera, the past a remembrance of it, and the dim future
the uncertainty that is the soul of religion. Why, even that bedraggled
old cockatoo on the palm outside my window might easily be some
reincarnation of a dead disillusioned philosopher. Its dismal discordant
cry sounds as though it curses the memory of some far-off day when its
mad intellect soared above the yearnings of its digestive apparatus,
when it fell into the abyss of its own thoughts and broke the backs of
its faiths one by one.

As Clensy soliloquised over his mad metaphysics, he saw a tawny Hawaiian
lift a gun to his shoulder, and prepared to aim at the very bird which
had inspired him with such mad ideas. “Don’t shoot, for heaven’s sake,”
he shouted, as he leaned out of the window and threw the Hawaiian a
coin. “Thank God I’ve saved it,” he muttered, as the aged, dilapidated
cockatoo looked sideways from its leafy perch, and muttered its deepest
gratitude ere it took its flight. “Perhaps it’s some dismal thought of
Sestrina’s reincarnated, now a cockatoo, hovering by my window to let me
know the truth why she cannot come? Ah, it’s madness to encourage such
fancies. Who would believe me were I to tell how I remember the harvest
girls singing as they sat with sickle in hand by their golden sheaves in
the cornfields of ancient Assyria? Why did the scent from the big dish
of overripe yellow oranges in the drawing-room of my home in England
send my thoughts adrift, make me go to sea—in search of what? They said
I was a fool—had romantic notions. What are romantic notions? And why do
millions of sensible and great-minded men and women kneel in true
devotion before the shadowy altar of that Heaven which no living mortal
since the birth of Time ever saw except in dreams.”

Crash! Some one had banged at Clensy’s door and had swept his peculiar
imaginings and metaphysical speculations to the winds, which are the
only elements that know how to deal with such wild fancies.

The next moment Samuel Bilbao’s huge personality and figure stood in our
hero’s apartments.

“Well, how are things going along?” said Clensy, as he swiftly released
his hand from the mighty grip of his comrade’s painful clasp.

Then Bilbao sat down and informed Clensy that trouble was brewing in one
of the South American republics, and that he was wanted. “It’s something
better than gun-running; there’s a wealthy president’s daughter waiting
to be abducted, whipped off into another state _against her will_, so
that she can marry the rival president’s only begotten son. There’s
plenty of money in the game, too.” So spake our worthy friend Samuel
Bilbao, giving out hints but leaving Clensy’s brain in the usual maze as
to what the big man had on his mind.

“Do you mean that you are leaving Honolulu?” said Clensy.

“Yes, lad, keep your heart up, I must go,” said Bilbao. Nor was he
leaving Clensy unduly, for he had stopped religiously with our hero in
Honolulu for eight months, and eight months in a place like Honolulu was
dead against the grain of a man like Samuel Bilbao.

“Eight months waiting in this hole of a place!” sighed Clensy. “I wish
to heaven I’d never seen Port-au-Prince.”

“Cheer up, lad, as sure as God made little apples you’ll see the girl
again some day,” said Bilbao. “If a girl with canny eyes like that
Sestrina’s got loves a fellow she’ll find _some_ means of letting him
know what’s become of her, I know!”

“But supposing she is dead,” said Clensy in a pathetic, mournful voice.

“Being dead makes no difference, lad, the dead are the only folk who are
living as they walk before us,” said Bilbao, in a soft, earnest, almost
religious voice!

“Well, _you_ of all men on earth!” thought Clensy, as he stared at the
gun-runner’s flushed face and the large, grey, expressive eyes.

And as Samuel Bilbao spoke on, his voice became as tender as a girl’s, a
troubled something wrinkling his fine brow. Then he laid his hand on
Clensy’s shoulder, and said: “Lad, the girl I loved has been dead
fifteen years, and it was only the other night she stood beside me.
‘Don’t drink that,’ she said, as she knocked the goblet full of rum from
my hand, smashing it to atoms at my feet! And all the traders and
shellbacks in the grog-shanty at Murrumbee Creek stared like blasted
lunatics as I took her hand and laid my head on her shoulders and then
looked into the eyes—of nothing! So the blind fools said!”

As Bilbao ceased, Clensy gazed in wonder on the expressive face before
him. He hardly recognised the great blustering, boisterous Samuel Bilbao
in the face of that superstitious, yet intellectual looking sunburnt man
of the seas.

“Yes, lad, dead women don’t forget,” said Bilbao softly, as he sat there
in Royal Clensy’s room in Honolulu, and the stars crept over the blue
skies to the east of Mount Pepé.

Years afterwards every word Bilbao had uttered that night came back and
lingered in Clensy’s memory, coming like echoes from the songs of the
long dead nightingales that had once sung in the mahogany forests by the
presidential palace in Hayti when he was a boy.


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



                                PART II



                               CHAPTER I


WHEN Sestrina, on the morning after the _Catholot_ had sailed from
Port-au-Prince, awoke and found that she was far out at sea, she felt
greatly depressed. She could hardly believe her own ears when she heard
the muffled thumping of the steamer’s screw and the pounding of the
engine’s pistons. She immediately ran from her cabin and sought the
skipper. He was a Yankee, and a kind-hearted man.

“Oh, I am so unhappy, I expected some one to come and see me last night
or to-day; I quite understood that your ship was not leaving
Port-au-Prince till to-night.”

“Did you, missy?” replied the skipper as he looked into Sestrina’s
tearful eyes and explained to her that the _Catholot_ had sailed before
her time so that they might not be locked in the harbour through the
blockade, for months. “It’s not my fault, missy,” he added, as he gazed
in a sympathetic way at the distressed girl.

“Am I alone on board? Where’s my father and Claircine?”

“I guess there’s no Pa or Claircine on board here with you,” replied the
skipper.

When Sestrina discovered that she was quite alone on board the
_Catholot_ her distress was deep indeed. But hope ever reigns in
youthful hearts, and so Sestrina calmed herself by taking Clensy’s last
two letters from the folds of her bodice and reading them over and over
again. She felt quite certain that Clensy would hasten to follow her,
and at once made up her mind to get to Honolulu as swiftly as possible.
Then she clasped her hands across the hidden crucifix in the folds of
her bodice, and thanked God that Royal Clensy had been thoughtful enough
to make plans to meet the strait in which she found herself. Then she
began to wonder if Clensy would be able to get safely away from Hayti.

In her mind she could still hear the furious cannonade in the hills
round Port-au-Prince and see the entrenched soldiers round the palace.
And, as she thought on, the terror and horror of it all became
intensified; her imagination began to picture all kinds of dire
disasters.

“He might be killed. Oh, Royal!” she murmured, and then she stole into
her cabin again and wept.

Two of the saloon passengers, an elderly American and his wife, took
compassion on Sestrina when they saw her grief, and did their best to
cheer her up. Their interest in her deepened when they discovered that
she was the daughter of the late President Gravelot of the Black
Republic at Hayti. The American had belonged to the U.S.A. Consulate at
Port-au-Prince, and had heard that President Gravelot had been shot; but
he did not tell Sestrina about the disaster which had befallen her
father. Sestrina became much happier when the American and his wife
invited her into their cabin and promised to do their best to place her
in good hands till such time as she could return to Hayti.

“The revolution won’t last for ever, you know,” said the American. But
Sestrina soon let her new found friends know that she had no desire to
return to Port-au-Prince again.

“Have you relations in Hawaii, mademoiselle?” queried the American, when
Sestrina once more emphatically informed that gentleman and his wife
that she wished to get to Honolulu with all speed.

“Yes, it is in Honolulu where I shall meet my best friends.”

It is almost needless to point that the pluralty of Sestrina’s “best
friends” in Honolulu were comprised in the sole personality of Royal
Clensy, who she expected to meet there.

When the American informed Sestrina that the _Catholot_ was bound for
Vera Cruz, in the Gulf of Mexico, and it was a fairly easy journey to
the Pacific coast where she could get a ship that sailed for Hawaii, she
was delighted. She went straight into her cabin and, falling on her
knees, kissed the crucifix, and felt that God had listened to her
heartfelt prayers at last. The outlook began to look quite rose-tinted
to her sanguine eyes. She had a thousand dollars in her possession,
which her father had thoughtfully provided her with. For, like a good
many sinners in this world, President Gravelot had a better side to his
nature, a side which was revealed when calamity came his way to remind
him that the world was made for sweetness and not for the gratification
of the passions alone.

So did Sestrina find friends when she became a refugee and fled from
Hayti with only Royal Clensy’s memory and his love letters to comfort
her.

When the _Catholot_ arrived at Vera Cruz, the American and his wife went
ashore with her and placed her under the care of the U.S.A. Consul at
Plaza Mexo. This estimable gentleman made himself very busy on
Sestrina’s behalf. He eventually advised her to leave Vera Cruz and go
to the United States.

“You will be in direct communication with Hayti and will know exactly
when to return, for the war may be over soon, or even now,” he said.

As can be imagined, Sestrina listened respectfully to the advice
tendered on her behalf, but was still determined to follow the course of
her prearranged plans, which agreed with all her hopes and sole ambition
in life.

And so, about one week after Sestrina had arrived at Vera Cruz, the
U.S.A. Consul called at the hotel where Sestrina was staying, and was
somewhat surprised to find that she had gone, had vanished, leaving no
trace whatever behind her! The fact is, that Sestrina had made
inquiries, and had found out that by getting to Acapulco or Yucata, on
the Pacific coast, she could get a passage to Honolulu on one of the
many schooners that sailed for the South Sea Islands for cargoes of
copra, pearls, etc.

It is a trite but true saying that “Man proposes and God disposes,” and
equally true is it that “Coming events do not always cast their shadows
before.” No prophetic hint of all the sorrow that lay before Sestrina’s
sad path in the new world which she was entering, came to disturb her
dreams as the winds stirred the palms just opposite her window at her
lodgings at Yucata. She had only arrived at the ancient seaport town the
day before and so was still feeling the fatigue of the long journey she
had undertaken after giving the U.S. Consul at Vera Cruz the slip.

So often had the passionate, impulsive Haytian girl thought of Clensy,
so often had her mind dwelt in the imaginary happiness of dreams that
corresponded with all that her sanguine heart anticipated would happen
when she met Clensy again, that her whole soul was centred on one
burning ambition—the swiftest way to get to Honolulu.

She had been greatly upset when she first arrived at Yucata, for, when
she tendered some of her notes as payment for her apartments, the tawny
half-caste Spaniard, her landlord, informed her that half of her money
was worthless paper, through the overthrow of the Haytian Government
that issued it. However, she had a good sum of legitimate cash in hand
and was greatly relieved to find that for about forty dollars she could
get a passage to Honolulu, on the _Belle Isle_, a rakish-looking
schooner that was due to sail for Hawaii in a day or two.

Though her Spanish landlord strongly advised her to wait till one of the
larger steamers was leaving with mails for Honolulu, she would not wait.
Her unthinking impulsive mind had begun to fear that Royal Clensy would
arrive at Honolulu and, not finding her there, would leave again
thinking she was not coming.

“Perhaps now that I’m far away from his sight he will cease to think so
much of me, and even think that I’ve forgotten him,” she murmured, as
her feverish imagination began to think over it all.

She looked into the mirror of the low-roofed hotel room and saw dark
rings around her eyes, her face was drawn and haggard too. In the
natural modesty of women that possess looks, she gazed with distress on
her imaged, beautiful face. “I’m not beautiful at all! He only said
those things to please me. I mustn’t wait! He might forget me! He might
forget me!” she almost sobbed, as the shadows of night fell over Yucata
and the drunken Mexican sailors passed below her window, singing strange
words to ancient sounding melodies as they tinkled on their guitars.

Sestrina had been in Yucata for eight days when she found herself on
board the _Belle Isle_. There was only one other passenger on board, and
that was an extraordinary looking aged Chinaman.

Though the _Belle Isle_ was called a schooner, she was a brigantine, a
hermaphrodite, square-rigged schooner, that carried square sails on the
foremast and the main. She was due to sail at any moment; was only
waiting a favourable wind.

The _Belle Isle_ looked as though she was off on some buccaneering
voyage, that is, if the character of the crew was anything like the
expression on their faces. The fact is, that Sestrina had entrusted an
aged Mexican priest to arrange for her passage, also the choice of the
boat. And it will not be defamation of character to positively assert
that the aforesaid old priest had secured Sestrina the cheapest berth on
the rottenest schooner he could find, so that he could put half of the
money entrusted to him in his own pocket. And though the Mexican
ecclesiastic had fallen on his sinful knees and prayed for Sestrina’s
soul and a pleasant voyage when she bade him farewell, Sestrina was
convinced that she had been swindled directly she set foot on the deck
of the _Belle Isle_.

The skipper was a swarthy Mexican. He looked as though he wouldn’t die
of remorse after cutting a man’s throat for the bribe of a dollar.
However, he had gallant manners, for he bowed profusely when he saw
Sestrina jump down on deck, and seemed to be quite elated to find that
his saloon passenger was so prepossessing.

The crew were a mixed lot: two or three full-blooded Mexicans, a
Chinese-Tahitian, two Yankee niggers, one old man who looked like a
civilised Hottentot, and two Kanakas. There was also a tiny lad, Rajao,
about nine years of age, he was the child of one of the Mexican sailors.

Sestrina’s dismay was very obvious when the nigger steward showed her
into her mingy cabin that was situated in the schooner’s cuddy (saloon).
But the Haytian girl accepted the situation with wonderful fortitude.
“It’s not for long!” she thought as she looked up at the ancient-looking
yellowish-hued hanging canvas aloft, and thought of how they would
spread to the winds and bear her across the ocean to Honolulu and
Clensy’s arms.

As she stood on deck that night and felt the breeze coming that would
cause the skipper to up anchor and set sail, she became quite happy. “On
a ship at last, bound for Honolulu!” she thought. “And where is he?
Perhaps still in Hayti. I will wait till he comes and then we will meet
again and remember the sweet nights and the grape-vine and be happy!”
Ah, Sestrina!

All wise men agree that happiness is only a fleeting anticipation of
some longed-for event which, in its best consummation, can only end in
disillusionment. And so it was as well that Sestrina should dream her
own happiness that night. It was to be brief enough, God knows.

She little dreamed the true nature of the schooner on which she had
embarked, and why it took a ghastly cargo on by stealth at midnight.
Alas, through being educated from French novels instead of realistic
South Sea novels, Sestrina was quite ignorant of the terrible dramas of
the Pacific seas and lonely island groups. Had she known more of the
ways of the world and life and sorrow in those seas, she would never
have placed herself in the most terrible position that a girl could well
be in. Even wilful Sestrina began to wish she had listened to her
Spanish landlord’s advice, to wait for one of the large steamers that
went to Honolulu. For as she lay in her bunk that night, just before the
_Belle Isle_ sailed at dawn, she felt sure she heard strange groans and
the clankings of iron chains!

“What did it all mean? Was that a smothered groan and then a farewell as
some one wailed ‘Talofa! Aue! O Langi!’? Why had the skipper shut the
cuddy’s door tight, as though he wished to keep those moans and murmurs
on the deck that night from the ears of his fair passenger? Was that a
phantom bay that the _Belle Isle_ lay anchored in as the red tropic moon
bathed the palm-clad shores by Yucata with ghostly gleams. What
nightmare could it be where chained men, with bulged, vacant eyes, were
being carried and helped on deck of the _Belle Isle_, and then secretly
dropped down into the fetid hold? The _Belle Isle_ was not a
blackbirding schooner (slave ship), for King Hammerehai of Hawaii had
issued an edict that all persons found dealing in slave traffic were to
be ‘shot at sight.’ And the _Belle Isle_ was bound for Hawaii. So what
was the mystery of that dark hold’s cargo?”

Sestrina awoke in the morning and half fancied that she must have
dreamed the terror that had haunted her during the early night hours.

Before the sun was well up on the horizon the _Belle Isle_, with every
stitch of her old-fashioned canvas spread, was fast leaving the Pacific
coast. Sestrina was very ill for the first two days, then her languor
left her. As she stood on deck, the boundless loneliness of the tropic
seas depressed her. She stared over the bulwark side, the dim blue
horizon seemed as far away, as illusive as her own hopes and dreams. The
noise of the half-filled canvas sails depressed her, as they filled out
to the lazy hot wind and then collapsed with a muffled rumble.

Only two members of the crew were visible as she stood on deck, and they
were stalwart ferocious-looking men, who wore strange tasselled caps,
and somehow reminded her of the pictures of the pirates of the Spanish
Main which she had seen on the walls of the British Consul’s residence
at Petionville, Port-au-Prince. One of the men seemed to be busy over an
endless coil of rope. The other man stood like an inanimate figure, some
fixture amidships, by the hatchway. Only the tobacco smoke issuing from
between his blackened teeth destroyed the statuesque effect as he stood
sentinel at that spot.

“Noa come dis way, miss,” the man muttered as he put forth his skinny
hand and warned Sestrina away as she started to walk forward.

Finding she was even denied the freedom of walking about the schooner as
she pleased the girl’s heart became heavy with dim forebodings. She
began to realise that something was being hidden from her.

Hoping to find some one congenial to speak to, she strolled aft, then
concluded that her own reflections were the better company.

The man at the wheel was a wrinkled, weird looking Mongolian. As he
stood there, his hands gripping the spokes of the wheel, his pigtail,
moving to the rolling of the schooner, swung to and fro like a pendulum,
and to Sestrina’s overwrought brain, seemed to be ticking off the slow
minutes of the hours to pass, ere something dreadful happened! The aged
Chinaman, Sestrina’s fellow passenger in the cuddy, had been the more
congenial to Sestrina had he never come on board: he lay in his bunk day
and night chanting weird words as his yellow-skinned hand clutched an
ivory idol, some heathenish symbol of his religion. It was only little
Rajao, the Mexican boatswain’s child of nine years of age, who Sestrina
felt inclined to welcome. Once he came running up to the girl, and after
staring into her face curiously, he said, “You nice, Señorita, I like
you.” Then he ran away forward.

“Morning, Señorita, nicer day.” Sestrina turned round and saw the
Mexican skipper. “You speak Englesse?” he said.

Sestrina nodded. For a moment she could not speak. There was something
sinister-looking about the man’s face. His small, brilliant eyes and
thin, cruel-looking lips made her heart quake. He had stepped forward
and had touched Sestrina under the chin, giving her a vulgar leer. The
next moment the Haytian girl had swiftly brought her hand up and knocked
his arm aside. So did Sestrina let the Mexican skipper of the _Belle
Isle_ see the quality of her mettle. After that incident, she made up
her mind to keep severely to herself. She had scanned each member of the
crew and had come to the conclusion that she had never seen such a pack
of cut-throats before. Only the negro steward seemed human. He _did_
have the grace to say, “Marning, missa,” and waited on her at the
cuddy’s table without giving lascivious leers. Sestrina’s heart resented
the weird music that accompanied her meals, for the Chinese passenger,
who was suffering from some mortal disease, intensified the gloom of the
cuddy as he chanted continuously to his ivory idol.

When the skipper discovered that Sestrina would allow no undue
familiarities, he tried to redeem his lost character by giving her
dainty dishes: tinned Californian pears, mangoes, yams, pineapples, and
sweet scented preserves and candies adorned the mingy cuddy’s table.

Sestrina discovered that every time she went out on deck, she was
shadowed by one of the crew, who would not allow her to go beyond the
galley which was situated just abaft the hatchway. This restraint placed
on her movements irritated her, as well as filling her already worried
mind with apprehension. Though she thought and thought, she could not
guess what the mystery could be. Why was the hatchway always open during
the sweltering heat of the tropic days, while the _Belle Isle_ rolled
becalmed on the glassy sea, and guarded by at least one member of the
crew day and night? Who was down there in that fetid hold? Sestrina was
certain that she could hear strange mumblings and faint wails, and
sometimes a sorrowful-sounding song being hummed in the _Belle Isle’s_
hold during the vast silence of the tropic nights. Perhaps they were
prisoners, convicts being transported from South America to some penal
settlement away in the Pacific Islands, or refugees, like herself, and
afraid to show their faces by the light of day?

As Sestrina reflected over the mystery of the schooner a nervous fright
seized her heart. She began to dread the cramped cuddy, and so she stood
on deck each night, watching the hot zephyrs drift across the glassy sea
and ruffle the mirroring water, shattering the crowds of imaged stars.
As the days went by, the plomp of the yellow canvas overhead and the
interminable moan and mystery of the beings down in the hold began to
tell on the Haytian girl’s brain. At last she would sit on deck all
night, too terrified and miserable to stay in the cuddy.

The aged Celestial passenger was dying, and in his delirium would
incessantly put his withered yellow-skinned hand through his cabin
porthole—which faced the cuddy’s table—and, clutching the ivory idol,
would moan and chant strange words to it. Sestrina felt like screaming
in her horror over that heathenish, but sad sight.

One night the Mexican skipper knocked the skinny, yellowish hand back
and gave a terrible oath as the sight got on his nerves too.

“_E fitu, padre meando_,” he said as he touched his brow significantly
and gave Sestrina a sympathetic look.

But Sestrina hated the man. She knew that he had deceived her; had
placed her in that precarious position with his cut-throat crew so that
he could make a few extra dollars by securing her as a passenger.

On the second week out from Yucata, the Chinese passenger died, and the
ivory idol and the withered, yellowish hand disappeared from the
porthole; the chanting was over for ever. But strange enough, Sestrina
felt terribly lonely when she heard that the Celestial was dead. The
skipper, seeing her nervous state, had the grace to attempt to keep the
Chinaman’s death from her. But Sestrina knew what had happened at once,
for she saw two of the crew go into the silent cabin and pull in yards
of sailcloth. Then she saw the crew collect on deck at sunset, ready to
commit the body to the deep. The Mexican captain, for all his villainy,
became religious in the presence of death.

Whether it was carelessness, or had been done deliberately, she did not
know, but the hammock-shroud was sewn down so that the skinny, yellow
hands were still visible, protruding about four inches through the
canvas. In a few moments the skipper had murmured the solemn sea burial
service as the crew stood in a row, their strange tasselled caps held
respectfully in their hands. The sight of it all fascinated Sestrina.
And as the weighted shroud softly splashed, alighted on the waters, she
half fancied she saw the yellow fingers move, as though they, at that
last moment in the world of the sun, sought to clutch the ivory idol.
Then she saw the coffin-shroud slowly sink, and, like some sad symbol of
all the universe of mortal desire, one bubble came to the calm
surface—and burst!

After seeing that sight Sestrina hurried into the cuddy, in some strange
fright seeking to hide from the memory of that sorrow which she had just
seen. But, in the great irony of accidental things, the first thing that
caught her eyes was the ivory idol lying on the cuddy’s table. She
stared on it, fascinated, picked it up, and then dropped it in fright.
Little did Sestrina dream that a day would come when she too would kneel
in humble pagan faith before that tiny carven ivory god.

On the third week out from Yucata, the barometer began to fall.

“Señorita, ze wind is gwing to blow, big waves come over deck, savvy?”
said the skipper.

“I don’t mind,” replied Sestrina as she gazed up at the deep blue of the
tropic sky and noticed flocks of strange birds travelling out of the dim
horizons. On, on they came, speeding across the sky, travelling
south-west on their migrating flight from some distant land, outbound
for another continent. Those winged travellers of the sky, voyaging
onward, had read their wonderful compass, instinct, and so had unerring
knowledge of the coming hurricane. Many of them had long necks and
peculiar loose hanging legs, and as they passed swiftly over the lonely
_Belle Isle_, Sestrina heard the faint rattle and whir of their ungainly
wings and legs rushing through space.

“Big winds blow, birds they know, and so fly fast,” said the captain as
he too followed Sestrina’s gaze and watched the flight of those
migrating birds.

“No, Señorita,” said the skipper when Sestrina attempted to pass out of
the cuddy and go on deck that night.

Perhaps it was as well that Sestrina obeyed the Mexican skipper, for the
first stars had hardly pierced the velvet blue of the evening skies when
the typhoon struck the _Belle Isle_. The sound of the storm’s first
breath came like the massed trampling of infinite cavalry and low
mutterings of mighty guns that fired the thunders and lightnings of the
heavens.

Sestrina, who had never been to sea in real bad weather, thought the
schooner was sinking.

“Rip! rppppppppp!” the stays and jib were torn to ribbons, were flapping
like mighty wings, making a noise which could be heard above the
universal clash and clamour of the thundering seas. The skipper helped
the crew put fresh sail out to steady the schooner that lay over as
though about to turn turtle. The crew worked with a will, for they well
knew that their lives were at stake.

“Let me out! I don’t want to be shut in this dismal place,” said
Sestrina, in an appealing voice to the skipper who had just entered the
cuddy. The schooner was rolling and pitching furiously. The girl had to
hold on to the iron stanchions of the cuddy to stay herself from being
violently flung to the deck. The skipper, who had rushed into the cuddy
for some rope and tackle, tried to soothe Sestrina’s fears. She noticed
that his manner had completely changed; he looked serious more manly.
But this fact did not ease Sestrina’s mind, since she knew the change in
his demeanour was because he saw danger ahead. Nor was the girl wrong in
her surmise. The skipper well knew that if the typhoon lasted much
longer, the _Belle Isle_ was likely to get broadside on to the great
seas and would possibly turn turtle, or the seas would sweep everything
on deck away.

“You stay, no fright, Señorita,” he said.

Then the man ran out on deck again.

At this moment little Rajao, the boatswain’s child, rushed into the
cuddy and clung to Sestrina’s skirt.

“Ze wins blow! Señorita,” wailed the child, a terrified look in his
eyes, as he stared up into her face.

“It’s all right, don’t be frightened, Rajao,” she said.

Sestrina laid the boy down in her bunk and left the cabin door open so
that he would not be frightened. Seeing by Rajao’s sudden appearance
that the skipper in his haste had left the cuddy’s door unfastened,
Sestrina immediately rushed towards it, and opening the door, stared out
into the night. By the flashing light of the stars, that seemed to
flicker to the force of the typhoon’s breath, she saw the great seas
rising up! up! They looked like travelling mountains, foaming liquid
ranges and multitudinous ridges lit with phosphorescent foams, that were
tossed and swept into tremendous cataracts of glittering sprays as the
typhoon’s breath swept the world of water like a huge unseen knife.

Crash! The schooner stopped, seemed to sink by the stern, then giving a
shivery jerk, fell before the dead weight of the onrushing seas that
crashed over her. The scene the lonely girl saw was as though God again
held the oceans in the hollows of His hands, as though the universe of
water had been re-thrown into the infinite; majestic liquid mountains
tossing mighty arms that resembled promontories of fiery foams,
triumphantly travelling through boundless space, bound for new regions,
taking the millions of marching stars with them, as like a lone ark,
with its little terrified mortality, the _Belle Isle_ flapped its broken
wings, bravely struggling in some effort to survive the chaos of a new
creation!

In her fright Sestrina shut the cuddy’s door, bang! and then stared in
terror through the porthole. She knew that something terrible had
happened. She distinctly heard faint wails, like the despairing cries of
helpless children calling from somewhere out in the infinity of dark and
wind. The square-rigged foremast had been snapped off just above the
mainyard—it had gone! The whole crew who had been aloft had disappeared,
washed overboard. Sestrina and little Rajao, the child, out of all the
crew, were left alone. The Haytian girl stood at the porthole, horrified
by the catastrophe which she knew had overtaken the _Belle Isle’s_ crew.
Like most women of her type, she revealed true pluck in a great
emergency. She rushed to the child Rajao. He had given a terrified
scream.

“It’s all right, Rajao, I’m near you,” she said as she clutched the
child in her arms, then standing him on the cuddy’s floor exhorted him
not to move. Then she stood waiting. An eternity of apprehensive terror
passed ere she felt the heavy rolling and pitching of the vessel
subside. The distant wails out in the night, the silence on the deck,
where a few moments before she had heard loudly shouted oaths, made her
realise that all the crew had gone. She knew that no human beings could
live in the chaotic crash of the charging seas that loomed before her
terror-stricken eyes like mountainous, glittering icebergs travelling
triumphant across the world! In the first realisation of her own
terrible loneliness, her thoughts flew to the imprisoned beings who, she
knew, were down in the hold of the _Belle Isle_. Looking out on deck,
she anxiously awaited her chance; the seas were still leaping over the
side, great liquid masses washing to and fro as the schooner pitched and
rolled. An opportunity presented itself; she ran out on deck and reached
the main hatchway. Inclining her head, she could distinctly hear above
the clamour of the charging seas muffled groans and wild cries coming
from below the hatchway. The crew had battened the hatch down just
before the typhoon had burst over the _Belle Isle_. As she stood there
and listened in terror, wondering what to do, a small shadowy figure ran
towards her. It was the child Rajao. He was wringing his hands and
calling for his father.

“Go back! get into the cuddy, quick,” cried Sestrina. The next moment a
tremendous sea crashed on board. The girl gripped a rope that was
hanging from the ratlines near the galley, and so saved herself from
being washed away. She let go and was immediately washed into the
scuppers on the windward side. In her horror at the terrible cry that
came to her ears, she ran to the side, and, careless of her own life,
stared over at the great seas—little Rajao had gone to his father! A
faint cry came out of the waters; then nothing more to tell of Rajao’s
existence. This new disaster upset Sestrina more than anything else that
had happened that night. She rushed back into the cuddy, and throwing
herself on the floor beat her hands and moaned like one demented. After
a while she calmed down. She had wisdom enough to realise that it was no
good grieving. Then she sought comfort by kneeling, and with the
crucifix in her hand prayed. And never did girl pray more fervently than
did Sestrina Gravelot that night on the storm-tossed _Belle Isle_. She
called Clensy’s name aloud in her prayers so that the word “Royal” might
bring comfort and companionship to her loneliness. Remembering the
appealing cry which she had heard when she had stood by the hatchway,
she calmed herself and longed to release the prisoners.

“Thank God that I’m not alone, there is some one near me,” she cried, as
she once more went to the cuddy’s door and anxiously waited a favourable
moment to get to the main hatch again. The first wild breath of the
typhoon had passed, but the seas were still running high. Seizing the
first opportunity she once more ran along the deck. Directly she came to
the main hatch she gripped a long piece of rope, and making one end fast
round her waist, tied the other end into the bolt at the bottom of the
mainmast. The whole time that she stood there she could hear muffled
wailings and voices speaking in a strange language, beseeching her to
release them from their perilous position.

Sestrina strove to lift the hatchway, but found it quite impossible to
do so with her delicate hands. Placing her face close to the cracks in
the hatch, she shouted, “Who are you? I’m all alone, the storm has
washed all the crew of this ship overboard!”

Then she listened. At first she heard a lot of mumbling, as though
insane men were gabbling in an unintelligible manner; then to her
immense relief a voice said:

“Wahine! Oh save us or we die!” It was a musical, clear voice and
sounded strangely calm in the midst of the hubbub of other voices that
gabbled incessantly.

“I cannot lift the hatch; I’m not strong enough,” she shouted back as
the wind swept her hair streaming behind her. A sea crashed on board.
She was only saved through her forethought in lashing herself to the
bolt in the mainmast. As soon as the water had subsided the schooner
ceased to roll.

Again she placed her mouth to the chink in the hatch and shouted once
more, “The crew have been washed overboard; I’m a woman, all alone up
here; and who are you?”

“All gone, wash way?” replied the melancholy voice, the only voice that
spoke in English. Then the voice continued, “You woman’s all alone?”

“Yes, I’m quite alone.”

“Getter hammer or lump of iron and knock lumps of wood, bolts, out of
the sides of the hatch so that we stricken men, O Wahine, may open it,”
said the voice in pathetic appeal.

The next moment Sestrina was groping about the dark deck seeking
something that would enable her to knock the large bolts from the
hatchway. At last she found an iron bar in the galley. Risking the
danger of the heavy seas that still leapt on board every time the _Belle
Isle_ rolled and lay over to windward, she lifted the bar and smashed
away at the bolts with all her might.

“I cannot move the bolts!” she cried when she had struck away till her
fingers bled.

“Oh, try again, Wahine, for the sake of dying men,” replied the voice as
the gabbling ceased.

“Who are you? and why are you locked down there?” replied Sestrina as
she stood breathless on the deck and for the first time realised her
position. There were evidently many men locked up in that fetid hold,
and she was there, a woman alone, about to release them. Her natural
instincts had begun to warn her.

“Ah papalagi, kind Wahine, we are only poor men who have been taken away
from our homes because we be ill.” There was an appealing, earnest note
in the voice that said this, that sounded unerringly true.

Sestrina’s fears vanished. “Ill!” she cried, as the winds swept the deck
and slashed her mass of wildly blown hair about her face. “Is that the
only reason that you have been locked up down there?” she called back.

“’Tis all that is the matter with us, and by the light of truth and the
great Kuahilo, Pelê, and the White God, I say this, O Wahine,” replied
the voice in a trembling way.

Sestrina’s heart was touched. The next moment she had once again begun
to deliver direct blows at the hatch bolts. Then she discovered that she
had been knocking them the wrong way. Crash! out came the first bolt;
crash! out came another. In a few minutes she stood still again; all the
bolts were out except two, one bolt on either side. Dawn was stealing
across the storm-tossed seas.

Though the first passion of the typhoon had blown itself out, a steady
wind of hurricane force was still blowing. Up! up! rose the tremendous
hills of water and the _Belle Isle_ creaked and groaned as she lifted
and the great seas passed safely under her! For a moment the lonely
Haytian girl stared seaward. It was a terrible, yet grand scene from the
derelict schooner’s deck as the battered wreck laboured like a brave,
conscious thing and the torn sails flapped and the seas leapt on board
and romped about her like hungry monsters.

Sestrina had opened the hatchway, and had at once hastily retreated
towards the cuddy’s doorway. As she stood there watching by the dim
light of the breaking dawn, which had barely extinguished the stars to
the west, she fancied she could hear the thumping of her own heart.

“Who had she rescued from the fetid depths of the schooner’s hold?” Her
eyes were fixed on the opened hatchway. First one head appeared; just
for a moment it wobbled and then sank back, as though from extreme
exhaustion through climbing the ladder that led from the schooner’s
bottom up to the deck. In another moment the head had reappeared.
Sestrina saw the face! She stared like one paralysed at that terrible,
ghastly sight. It was a skeleton of death, and the face noseless,
disease eaten; the head wobbled and swayed helplessly; the fleshless
lips grinned as the bony forehead turned and the face stared towards the
dawn of the far skyline with blind eyes! Then another head appeared; it
was white and blotched with snowy patches, hairless. The face might have
been some symbol of all sorrow and misery under the sun, so pathetic
looking was it, as it, too, shifted about, staring first to port and
then to starboard, as though it would scan the dim horizons of the grey
dawn-lit seas for help! Then came up another head. It was apparently the
head of the one who had stood below, behind the others, assisting them,
helping them ascend the ladder. There was no sign of disease on the head
or face of this one. He was a tall, handsome man with fine bright eyes.
Sestrina stared in surprise. She began to seek comfort in the thought
that all she saw was only some terrible nightmare of her afflicted
brain. The tall Hawaiian, for such he was, was attired in picturesque
costume, a tappa-cloth girdle and flowing robe, such as Hawaiian chiefs
wear. The man’s alert eyes at once espied Sestrina’s form as she stood
in the shadows, just inside the cuddy’s doorway. He had leapt on to the
deck and was moving in a hesitating way towards her. Sestrina gripped
the door handle, quite prepared to rush in the saloon and shut it; then
she stared hard in the soft grey light of the tropic dawn, and saw
something in the man’s face that told her he deserved her deepest
sympathy and not her fear!

“Who are you, and who are they? What’s the matter with them?” she asked
of the handsome Hawaiian, as she pointed towards the deck by the main
hatchway. Ten terrible-looking beings stood swaying like skeletons in
their ragged shrouds, drinking in the fresh air of the fast-breaking
dawn, as dying castaways might drink in water. What more terrible sight
could the whole world present than that lonely, wrecked, waterlogged
schooner, and on its deck those wobbling heads with half-blind eyes, the
rags of the skeleton frames flapping in the wind, their forms falling to
the deck as the schooner rolled and pitched on the storm-tossed seas.
The fallen figures were on their knees, with lifted hands, praying
feverishly in some musical tongue to the skies where the first deep blue
of the tropic day was stealing.

“Are you quite alone, Wahine?” said the Hawaiian, who had sadly watched
Sestrina’s terrified gaze on that dreadful sight of his fellows.

For a moment the girl looked steadily into the man’s eyes, then replied,
“I am quite alone; the crew were all washed away last night.”

It was then that the tall Hawaiian stood erect with bowed head, as
though lowered before the girl’s eyes in some shame, and said, “Wahine,
we got kilia (leprosy), and this ship was taking us to the leper
settlement, Molokai.” Saying this to the girl, the tall,
melancholy-looking man seemed relieved. He raised his head and said
softly, in the biblical style of the Hawaiians who have learnt their
English from the missionaries, “And Wahine, who art thou?”

Sestrina was speechless. She could not reply, for in her despair and
horror she forgot who she was. “Lepers!” was the only word that escaped
from her lips when the great mist left her brain, and once more the
_Belle Isle’s_ deck became a solid something being beaten by the chaotic
waters of an infinite sea. She had suddenly turned, as though she were
about to flee from that terrible presence, a scourge that made the
living dead still stand in the light of the sun, that they might watch
their bodies dissolve before the ravages, the canker of a loathsome
pollution, a malignant scourge that made its victims bless the blindness
of their afflicted eyes as the third stage arrived, the stage when they
could no longer see their disease-eaten limbs, the polluted flesh, and
the peeping, whitened bones of their own unburied skeletons. Where could
Sestrina fly to? Where? Already a faint odour from the pestilence of
those swaying, moaning lepers came floating to her nostrils. What had
she done that she should be cast away on a world of waters, alone on a
living tomb where the dead clamoured in their shrouds, put forth bony
fingers, and with half-blind eyes sought with pathetic indecision to
locate her whereabouts, as they appealed for water and food! Food for
the dead! Nourishment to sustain the loathsome body in that hellish
purgatory where men hated and feared men, where pain and misery came as
a blessing divine to stay memories of past love and homes, the anguished
thoughts that haunt the living grave! “Food! wai (water!)” they cried.
Such is the love of life in mortals who have once dwelt alive under the
sun!

The intermittent sounds, the beseeching mumblings of their parched,
almost fleshless lips, told Sestrina of their hunger and thirst. The
language they wailed was unintelligible to her, but the appeal of the
shrivelled outstretched hands and the stare in the bulged glassy eyes
spoke in that language which is intelligible to all mortals who dwell
under the sun. The horror that had partially paralysed Sestrina’s senses
vanished. She was a woman. The slumbering instincts of divine
motherhood, the sympathy and self-denial which springs into the hearts
of most women when they are put to the supreme test by some
heart-rending catastrophe, or when despairing men appeal, awoke in her
soul. The inscrutable will of Providence, that so often stabs the heart
with one hand and with the other soothes with sweetest balm, had given
Sestrina the divine faculty which enables one to forget one’s own sorrow
when in the presence of a greater grief. And so Sestrina’s fragile form
was enabled to bear the weight of grief at that moment in her life,
grief of a nature which was surely about the cruellest that the fates
could devise. Her desire to flee from the presence of those afflicted
men was swept away by a flood of sympathy and a feverish desire to help
to alleviate their sufferings. She looked into the eyes of the tall,
almost dignified-looking, handsome Hawaiian who stood before her. No
sign of the scourge was visible on his countenance. Seeing the girl’s
hasty glance at his face and over his form, and divining the reason why
she had stared so, he at once pulled up the sleeve of his native jerkin,
and, pointing to his arm, just under the muscles by the shoulder, said,
“See, Wahine?”

A small bluish patch, not larger than a penny piece, was visible. The
Hawaiian’s earnest, simple manner and the thought that he was still
strong and possibly a doughty protector if trouble came, acted like
magic on Sestrina’s stricken nerves.

“Come on!” she said.

The next moment she had dodged the green seas that were leaping over the
side, and had entered the silent cuddy. The Hawaiian had followed her.
Grasping the iron posts in the cuddy to save herself from falling, for
the schooner was still rolling very heavily, she opened the small
lockers and brought forth tinned meats, tinned fruits, bread, jam, and
all the table delicacies she could lay her hands on. She looked up,
sorrow and surprise in her eyes as the Hawaiian stood devouring a lump
of the bread. Yes, so great was his hunger.

“Come on!” she said.

Then she ran out on deck. Seeing the lepers huddled by the starboard
scupper, all clinging to the bolts and ropes as they swayed on their
knees in their helplessness, she held the food up and beckoned the tall
Hawaiian to take it to them. In a moment Hawahee, for such was the tall
Hawaiian’s name, approached his stricken comrades and gave them bread.

“Here, quick!” said Sestrina, as she saw him trying to burst the lid of
one of the tins of meat open. She had handed him a strong ship’s
clasp-knife. In a second he had wrenched the lid off. As the lepers
crawled about the deck, picking up the scattered crumbs and bits,
Sestrina could hear them murmuring, “O Jesu, Maki, kola, se moaa Langi.”
She knew that they were thanking her and the gods of their own creed and
her own Saviour.

Such was Sestrina’s experience on the _Belle Isle_ when the crew were
washed overboard. Daylight and the bright tropic sun shining over the
ocean eased her first terrors. Strange as it may seem, the sight of the
stricken lepers, and her knowledge that she could help them, made her
accept the tragical position with a strange feeling of calmful fear and
happiness. The Hawaiian, Hawahee, had an intellectual countenance, and
his manner was reserved and gentle. Sestrina thanked God on her knees
when she discovered that he had the scourge only in its first stage, and
very slight. She trembled when she thought of what her position would
have been had she found herself alone on those tropic seas with stricken
lepers who were nearly all in an advanced stage. Four of them were quite
blind, the rest were able to walk about and help Hawahee put things
ship-shape on board as the days went by. Hawahee spoke little to her,
but his sad demeanour, and the little he did say when he spoke to her,
convinced Sestrina that he was a true friend.

Two or three days after she had rescued the lepers from the fetid hold,
they nearly all showed signs of improvement. Even the four blind men
would stand out on deck and bathe in the hot sunlight. It was a terrible
sight, though. Sestrina would turn her eyes away as they put forth their
withered, almost fleshless hands and chanted strange prayers to the
skies. On the fourth night after the typhoon, one of the blind lepers
rushed out of the forecastle and jumped overboard. Sestrina and Hawahee,
who were standing aft by the cuddy with an oil-lamp, sorting out tinned
fruits that they had found in the lazaretto, heard a cry and at once
rushed forward. The swell was still heavy, causing the schooner to roll
at times in an alarming way. As Hawahee and Sestrina stared over the
side they heard the cry again, a faint cry like the wail of a child, but
they could see nothing. Then the moon, which had been concealed by a
wrack of cloud, seemingly floated into the blue space and sent a great
silver radiance over the waters.

“Look! there he is!” cried Sestrina, as she pointed away towards the
rolling, glassy waters.

True enough, as Hawahee and the three stronger lepers, Lupo, Rohana, and
Steno, stared over the side they could see their comrade’s struggling
form. For a moment the moon once more disappeared behind a dark cloud,
and the sad watchers on the wrecked _Belle Isle_ only heard a faint cry
as they stared into the darkness. Then a long shaft of moonlight fell
slantwise, down to where they had seen the struggling form, and touched
the waters. And as Sestrina watched, it seemed to her that a door in
Heaven had suddenly been opened by the Hand of divine sympathy. They saw
the dying man’s hands toss for the last time from his watery grave, as
though in some pathetic appeal to the heavens. Though the seas still
rolled on and the tangled ropes and torn sails flapped aloft and the
schooner’s deck creaked and moaned to the eternal roll, it seemed that a
great silence followed that last sad moment. Hawahee sighed and
Sestrina’s form trembled as she stood there, her hair outstreaming to
the wind. Yet they both knew that their dead comrade had at last found
rest and peace.

Sestrina’s brain became strangely etherealised through sorrow. Grief had
the effect of strengthening her mind. Even Hawahee gazed on the lonely
girl in calm admiration as she ran about attending his stricken comrades
with unremitting solicitude.

“Here are pillows and blankets,” she said, as she handed Hawahee all the
bedclothes she had found in the cuddy’s cabins.

“Aloah, Wahine,” murmured the Hawaiian, as he bowed and took them from
the girl’s arms and at once went forward to make comfortable beds for
his leper fellows. For the Hawaiian also was a good man, his heart full
of tenderness and religious sorrow for those who suffered around him.
Sestrina would sit in the cuddy alone by night, unable to sleep as the
schooner rolled helpless on the tropic seas. A dim, dream-like
kaleidoscopic glimpse of Royal Clensy sitting in some room in far-away
Honolulu, awaiting her presence, would flash through her brain. Her
feelings at such moments were wonderfully intense; her past, her life
itself and future hopes seemed to be suddenly crystallised into one
magic diamond-flash of the mind as she saw the shadowy form and face of
her awaiting lover. Her soul, winged by the mystery of the
unexplainable, crossed those tropic seas and went wandering amongst
strange people in strange places, searching to find the one who would
think she had forgotten him. Then the boundless reality of the
surrounding ocean would return and bring the darkest despair to her
heart.

In a few days the swell of the ocean had subsided enough to make it
possible to walk about the _Belle Isle_ without holding on to the
fixtures. It was then that Hawahee set about clearing the deck of the
wreckage, fallen spars and tackle, etc. The Hawaiian had been a sailor,
and so he knew that it would be wise to get the fallen spars of the
mainmast and the débris of the foremast overboard so as to ease the
schooner’s list. The clearance, by the help of Rohana and Lupo and
Steno, was accomplished in one day. Then Hawahee made Lupo take the
helm, so that he could attempt to keep the vessel’s head before the
swell; but the way of the schooner was not sufficient, and so she
drifted broadside. A few nights after that it came on to blow again.
Things began to look serious. Sestrina asked the Hawaiian to stay aft
with her in the cuddy. The thundering seas had once more begun to lift
the schooner as though it were a tiny boat. The seas swept right over
her deck as she drifted away, away into the vast unknown regions of the
Pacific Ocean.

Seeing that nothing could be done to bring the _Belle Isle_ under
control, Hawahee told the lepers to keep in the forecastle. Then he
looked kindly at Sestrina, and said, “Wahine, for your sake I will stay
aft.”

“Yes, do stay here with me!” cried Sestrina in dread as the darkness
came over the seas and the thundering seas crashed intermittently
against the schooner. It was a terrible night. The cargo shifted in the
hold, making the _Belle Isle_ take a worse list than ever. It was almost
impossible to keep a footing on deck without holding on to something.
Hawahee fell on his knees in the cuddy and prayed first to the great
White God, and then to his own gods. It all seemed like some terrible
nightmare to Sestrina as she lay in an exhausted state on the cuddy’s
settee, her sleepless eyes watching the Hawaiian on his knees appealing
to his gods with deep religious fervour. So often did Sestrina feel the
mountainous waters bear down on the wreck and lift it up on the
travelling hills, that she knew exactly when to expect the crash and
shiver of the schooner as the seas struck her.

“Where are we going to, where?” moaned Sestrina.

The Hawaiian, who had risen to his feet, gazed on the girl with
melancholy eyes, and then shook his head. He well knew that the _Belle
Isle_ was drifting far away from the track of the trading vessels, away
into the unknown seas.

Daylight came. Sestrina had lashed herself to the cuddy’s table and,
with her head on it, had fallen into a subconscious state. She thanked
her Maker on her knees when she woke and peered through the porthole.
She saw the dim eastern horizon slowly brighten from grey to saffron and
deep orange. Then she watched the crimson streaks burst out of the
glowing dawn’s first magnificent thrill, dawn’s first splendid pang as
the birth of the sunrise flooded the eastern skyline with a wealth of
golden and crimson splendour.

“O Langi, O le sao va moana,” said Hawahee, as he gazed on the rosy
eternity of the east. Then, folding his hands across his breast, he
prayed in his native tongue. And still the _Belle Isle_ drifted on,
drifting like some frightened conscious thing as the everlasting seas
charged her helplessness. She was loaded with timber, and so, as far as
sinking was concerned, they were safe.

“We shall not sink; Langi (heaven) is good to us,” murmured Hawahee as
he walked softly into the cuddy after examining the _Belle Isle’s_
cargo.

When the seas had calmed down, Sestrina and Hawahee stood on deck and
scanned the horizon to see if land or a sail was in sight.

“Fear not, Wahine, Langi and your great White God are with us.” So spake
Hawahee as, with his hand arched over his eyes, he carefully scanned the
boundless skylines. Sestrina did not gaze across the seas, but she
scanned Hawahee’s face, and knew by its expression and by his eyes that
no sail was in sight. And still Sestrina hoped on. And did Hawahee hope
on? No! It was only for the girl’s sake that he would wish to sight a
sail on those solitary tropic seas. He well knew that should a passing
vessel come to rescue him and his comrades, the crew would, on
discovering that they were lepers, flee from the _Belle Isle_ in terror.
And so it was for Sestrina’s sake only that he watched the skylines with
hope.

The _Belle Isle_ had been drifting exactly twelve days when something
happened that lessened the tenor of their position. Hawahee was staring
seaward. The wild splendour of sunset’s burnished light along the
western horizon had subdued the brilliance of the tropic day, so that
the skyline to the south-west was visible to the ocean’s apparent
remotest rim. Hawahee suddenly startled Sestrina by shouting, “Look,
Wahine!”

Sestrina stared over the side, her hair blowing wildly about her
shoulders as the steady breeze slashed her form.

“What is it? quick, tell me,” she said as she still gazed eagerly, her
hand arched over her eyes as she stared and stared. Again Hawahee
pointed to the south-west. It was then that Sestrina caught the first
glimpse of a bluish blotch that looked like a tiny cloud on the remote
skyline. It was land! The Haytian girl’s pulses leapt with joy. She
burst into tears, so intense was her delight in the thought that she
would see the solid earth again and the faces of men and women, with
happy eyes, beings who enjoyed the air they breathed in the glorious
thrill of healthy life. Such were the half-formed thoughts that swept
through Sestrina’s excited mind. But why did a shadow creep over
Hawahee’s face? Why did he fear the sight of strong, health-loving men
who thanked God for the health and liberty which they shared in common
with the insects of the air. Ah, why? Hawahee and his comrades well knew
that they were loathsome outcasts of creation. He knew that, were there
civilised men on the isle (for such was the land towards which the
schooner was fast drifting), he and his comrades would be captured and
chained like felons so that they could be safely re-shipped and sent
away to the terrible lazaretto, the dread Leper Isle—Molokai.

As Hawahee watched, the shadow passed from his face; his eyes
re-brightened. There was yet hope for him and his comrades. It was quite
possible that the isle they saw was one of the hundreds of uninhabited
isles of the South Pacific Ocean. Hawahee did not fear the savages who
might inhabit such an isle. He knew that they would be quite ignorant of
the contagious nature of the scourge from which he and his companions
suffered. Sestrina heard him give a sigh of relief as he stood there and
watched. She guessed not why he sighed so. Sestrina was only an
inexperienced girl after all. In the first thrill of excitement and hope
over sighting that little blue blotch on the skyline, she had wondered
if it might not be the shores of Hawaii—Honolulu! Poor Sestrina!

Ere the eastern stars had begun to bespangle the heavens, Hawahee lifted
his hands and murmured a hasty prayer to Kuahilo and the great Hawaiian
goddess Pelé. For he had distinctly made out a lonely isle. There it
was, far away to the south-west, the foams of the beating seas that
swept over its coral reefs distinctly visible. He was saved! The hands
of wrathful men would not grip him and his comrades and place gyves on
their limbs. He would yet enjoy the freedom of the hills before the
pollution of his mortal tenement made him cry to God out of the greatest
sorrow that can well come to men in this world. And, as the Hawaiian
reflected, he beckoned to Sestrina.

“Yes, Hawahee?” she said timidly, as she gazed up into his handsome face
in wonder, watching his eyes from some dread of her own mind. The fact
is, that she knew not whether the proximity of the isle was a blessing
to Hawahee, or whether he would attempt to alter the course of the
schooner so that he and his comrades could risk the horrors of the ocean
rather than fall into the hands of their fellow-men again.

To the girl’s delight, he looked kindly upon her, and said, “Go thou, my
child, into the cuddy, and bring unto me all those old ropes that we
have stored in readiness for such a pass as this.”

The ocean swell was still heavy, so heavy that it often lifted the
schooner up on her beam ends. Hawahee knew that if the _Belle Isle_
struck the reefs of that far-away isle’s shore and so became solid with
the land, the seas would dash over her and sweep them all away.

“Wahine, keep near me,” he said, as he ran about, making hasty
preparations for the coming shock. All the while Hawahee was making
these preparations, the stricken lepers were standing by the bulwark
side, beating their hands and chanting in a strange way. Two of the
blind men seemed to be demented, for they began to jump about and dance
in a grotesque manner on the deck.

“Rohana, Steno and Lupo!” called Hawahee.

In a moment the three men stood by his side.

“Go thou to the helm and do your best to keep the ship’s course so that
she might run ashore on the low sands of the isle, where the waters do
not send up such cataracts of spray, see?”

Saying this, he pointed to the far-away isle. And there, true enough,
Rohana and Sestrina stared and saw that one part of the shore was quite
visible, even the palms just inland in clear relief, because no showers
of flying spray dimmed the atmosphere. The _Belle Isle_ was so near the
land that they could plainly see the white lines of the rolling surfs as
the big ocean swell rolled up the shores, caught the barrier reefs, and
rebounded in mighty showers that glittered in the dusk. Then a pale
radiance swept right across the Pacific Ocean and dispelled the deeper
night shadows.

“’Tis good; the moon is up. Langi has sent light for us,” murmured
Hawahee, as he stared seaward, where the swollen moonrise looked like a
big haggard face peering in some anxiety over the horizon of the hot
tropic night sea. The lepers had already constructed a large raft,
making it out of the wooden gratings and the doors of the galley and the
cuddy. By the side of this raft stood the more helpless lepers waiting
to be lashed on to it so that they would not be washed away when the
final crash came. It was strange how those afflicted men clung to each
other and went to an infinite amount of trouble to help their more
helpless fellows. But still, they did go to the trouble, and it must be
supposed that the love of men for one another is a greater virtue in
sorrow than in the flush of perfect joy and health.

“All is ready, Wahine; do not fear,” whispered Hawahee as he approached
Sestrina, and then crept back into the shadows to watch. The wonder and
mystery of it all almost drowned Sestrina’s fears as she stared over the
bulwark. She saw the lonely isle, distant palm-clad hills, and all the
silvered waves tumbling, as though silently, in the moonlight as they
broke over the shore reefs and sent up glimmering fountains of spray.
Rohana, who had black shaggy hair, and looked like some handsome wild
man, crept near the girl and stared over the side as Hawahee stood in
prayer in the shadows.

“Listen, Wahine!” he said. And as Rohana inclined his head, Sestrina
inclined her head also. They could both distinctly hear the far-off boom
and low monotone made by the big white-ridged combers as they met the
shore of the isle and rebounded on the outer reefs. It was then that
Hawahee approached Sestrina again.

“Keep near me, Wahine,” he said, as he put on an old glove (he had found
it in the cuddy), so that he might grip hold of Sestrina without fear of
the contagion of the leprosy reaching her. Hawahee’s eyes were full of
tenderness as he gazed on the lonely girl as she stood there, hope
shining in her eyes, her unkempt mass of hair streaming out to the wind.
Hawahee saw that she did not realise the approaching danger. It was a
picture full of beauty and tragedy as she stood there. The fluttering
dishevelment of her torn dress and the dark rings formed by worry round
her eyes, the lines of sorrow on her brow, intensified the girl’s
beauty, and touched the Hawaiian’s heart. Sestrina heard him sigh.

“Don’t move,” said Hawahee; “keep quite near me, Sestra,” for so he had
called her since she had told him her name that day.

As they stood on deck, the moon, low on the horizon, was just behind
them. They could distinctly see the shore’s outline and the showers of
foam rise and curl, and disappear in the gloom.

“Hark!” said Sestrina; and as she and Hawahee listened they distinctly
heard the sea winds moan as they swept through the rows of shore palms.

“_Aue! Lo mao sapola!_” said Hawahee, as he beckoned to Rohana and Lupo.

The next moment the lepers had rushed to the raft. Then the crash came.
The _Belle Isle_ had struck broadside on the reefs in rather deep water.
In a second the great seas came ramping over the side like huge monsters
with slashing mains, crashed on deck and then leapt right over to the
port side. The lepers had just managed to cling on to the raft when it
was washed away over the side, going with ease over the rail, which was
level with the seas. Sestrina, who had expected the schooner to run
softly on the beach and so allow them all to paddle safely ashore, or at
least go in the schooner’s broken boat, gave a scream in her fright as
the seas crashed on board. The terrific tumult, the swaying and moaning
and snapping of the spars, and the chaotic ramping of the foaming waters
around her, made Sestrina think that a typhoon had struck the _Belle
Isle_ without the slightest warning. The next minute Hawahee had
clutched the frightened girl in his arms. A tremendous swell wave struck
the _Belle Isle_—they were both washed away.

“Have no fear, Wahine,” said Hawahee, as he recovered his breath, and
held the girl’s head above the water, placing one arm under her body.
“Let go, quick, Wahine!” he gasped, as Sestrina in her terror gripped
his swimming arm. Again they were engulfed, a sea passing right over
their heads. Sestrina thought her last moment had come. She gave a
despairing cry as she came to the surface, and then prepared to go under
again. It seemed to her that Hawahee had let go his hold as a great wave
engulfed them, and she fell down, down, into the blackness of the ocean.
Her consciousness began to fade. She felt herself being slowly dragged
along. She imagined that she was at the bottom of the Pacific and that
some dark, terrible, silent form was dragging her along, and at the same
time placing soft arms round her throat in an attempt to strangle her.
Sestrina’s delight can be imagined when she opened her eyes and
discovered Hawahee frantically pulling her up the wave-ridden beach. She
was saved! Sestrina, who had swallowed a deal of sea-water, immediately
lost consciousness. Hawahee lifted her in his arms and carried her up
the beach. In a few moments he had gathered a heap of the dry, soft,
drift seaweed scattered about the higher shore, and had placed her on a
soft couch under the palms. For a long time he rubbed her hands and did
all he could to revive the insensible girl.

“O Kuahilo! O Pelé!” he cried as he appealed to his old gods, and then
stared again on the girl’s pallid face that looked pathetically
beautiful lying there upturned, just visible in the moonlight which
streamed through the palms.

In his despair he unloosed her bodice. “Ora li Jesu!” he cried, as be
appealed to the new God of the mission-rooms, and softly rubbed away at
the girl’s bosom, just above the heart. Just as he was thinking that
Sestrina had succumbed to her long submersion in the water, she opened
her eyes. In his delight, Hawahee rose from his knees, and lifting his
hands towards the sky, mumbled some strange chant-like prayer to his
heathen deities. For, as is often the case with the Hawaiians who have
been converted to Christianity, Hawahee in his sorrow and great joy had
instinctively fallen back to the older faith, had appealed to the gods
of his childhood. With infinite care and tenderness Hawahee pulled the
folds of the girl’s bodice together again and arranged her clothing.
Sestrina’s wakeful brain noticed these things, and she looked into
Hawahee’s face and smiled.

“All is well; you are safe, Wahine,” he muttered. Then he left her and
hurried down to the beach to see how it fared with his comrades. No
sooner was he out of sight than Sestrina sat up and stared around her.
Her brain was the swift-seeing, imaginative kind. As she looked towards
the distant moonlit seas and heard the palms sighing over her head, a
cruel flash of intense realisation came to her.

“’Tis an isle where no one lives. I am cast away, lost for ever. I will
never see him or those I love again. Royal! come to me! Claircine, dear
old Claircine, where are you?” In the bitterness of her thoughts her
mind reverted to Père Chaco. “O Père Chaco, what have I done that this
should happen to me? ‘As we sow, so shall we reap,’ you said to me. O
Père Chaco, have mercy on me! What have I sown?” And as the miserable
girl wailed and reflected, she stared over her shoulder in fright at the
seas as they rushed up the beach. Then a great weariness came to her
brain. In the misery and confusion of her senses she began to think that
she was haunting the realms of some nightmare from which she must soon
awaken. But the terrors of reality soon presented themselves to her. For
she looked along the shore and saw a tall figure dragging helpless
bodies out of reach of the waves. It was Hawahee doing his best to save
his comrades from the ocean. Out of the nine lepers only five were
saved—Rohana, Lupo, Steno, and two blind men. Hawahee had found them
huddled on the shore, quite exhausted. He had swiftly dragged them
higher up the beach and placed them in a comfortable spot in the thick
grass and fern by the shore’s sheltering palms. The bodies which
Sestrina had seen Hawahee dragging from the sea were dead. In a few
moments the Hawaiian had placed them in a silent spot by the high reefs
ready for burial. Then he came back to Sestrina’s side.

“Wahine, you have sorrow on your face, and there is nothing to grieve
over now if you have true faith in your White God, the same as I have in
my country’s gods.” So spoke Hawahee, but for all his kind words and
great mental effort to cheer Sestrina, he was weak and ill and, giving
way to his sorrow, prostrated himself on the shore and wept.

“I will be brave since you have been so good and brave yourself,”
whispered Sestrina, as she gazed on the bowed head of the strange
semi-savage man beside her. Hawahee at once recovered his composure. He
hung his head like a big child for a moment as though he felt shame that
Sestrina should have seen his tears.

“See, I do not worry, Hawahee,” said Sestrina, as she smiled, and then,
taking a comb from her pocket, she began to comb the tangled folds of
her damp tresses.

“Ah, wahine, thou art brave and deserve a better fate than this,”
murmured Hawahee as, with his chin resting on his hand, he watched the
girl. And still Sestrina combed away at her shining tresses, as they
fell like a magical glossy tent over her shoulders, while she sang an
old Haytian melody.

Neither Hawahee or Sestrina remembered the moment when sleep lulled
their exhausted mind and body to rest. They must have slept two or three
hours, for when Sestrina opened her eyes the stars had begun to take
flight. The terrors of the night had been too cruel to make her think
she had awakened from a dream. In a moment she had realised everything.
She even gazed calmly upward and tried to see the birds that sang so
weirdly sweet in the palms overhead. Dawn was stealing over the ocean.
For a moment she stared at the ocean skyline. Out beyond the just
visible reefs lay the wreck of the _Belle Isle_. The hull lay right
over, the broken masts and spars pointed or leaning shoreward. In the
calm waters that were surrounded by reefs, she saw two floating dark
forms. She saw the ghastly death-stricken face of one of the forms as
the head bobbed about, the body turning round and round to the slight
swell of the water that heaved against the barrier reef beyond.

“Come away, wahine. I will place the dead to rest.”

It was Hawahee who spoke. He had suddenly awakened and found Sestrina
standing beside him, staring at the dead bodies of the lepers. They had
drifted in during the night.

“Come on, Sestra,” said the man. His voice was full of tenderness. The
weeping girl followed him up the beach. In a few minutes they found a
comfortable spot under the shades of the thick groves of breadfruit
trees. “Here will do, wahine,” said Hawahee, as he looked up at the
beautiful trees that spread their wealth of yellowing fruit amongst the
rich glossy leaves. It was a beautiful spot. Even the bright-plumaged
birds that haunted them seemed to welcome those sad strangers from the
seas. “Chir-rip! cheer-up!” they seemed to say, as Hawahee and Sestrina
gazed up at the fruit-loaded boughs that hung over them, so green and
bright in the infinite loveliness of Dame Nature’s unostentatious
hospitality.

“Here is food, wahine, and there is drink,” said Hawahee, as he gazed
first on the yellowing breadfruit and then at the tall palms, on which
hung tawny clusters of ripening coco-nuts.

“Wait, wahine, till I return,” said the Hawaiian. In a few moments he
returned with a great armful of soft seaweed and moss. “Lie there and
rest,” he said to Sestrina. Then the Hawaiian went down to the beach
and, wading out to the deep water, dragged the bodies of the two dead
lepers ashore. In a few moments he had dug a deep hole in the soft sand
where the waters rolled up the beach by the promontory. When he had
placed the bodies in the hollow he got several large lumps of coral rock
and dropped them over the spot, so that when the tides were high the
waters would not wash the sands away. Then he bathed himself in the cool
sea water. After that he gathered fruits and coco-nut and took them to
the lepers, but they took no notice of him, being fast asleep,
exhausted. Hawahee was delighted when he found a large slope whereon
grew wild _feis_ (bananas). Gathering the luscious fruit, he hastened
back to Sestrina, and told her to eat and drink. The shipwrecked girl
felt greatly revived when she had eaten the wild _feis_ and had drunk
refreshing coco-nut milk. As the sun climbed high in the heaven and
blazed over the tropic seas and the innumerable birds of the isle
shrieked and sang, Sestrina felt less depressed. It was only when she
followed Hawahee across the valley and caught sight of the huddled forms
of the poor lepers, that her mind became darkened again. Lupo and Rohana
stirred in their slumber, and then suddenly sat up.

“Aloah, wahine,” they murmured, as they caught sight of the girl, and
smiled.

Sestrina nodded, and wondered why the stricken men should look so
cheerful in such a pass. She could not realise how thankful the lepers
felt to their gods in having the freedom of that little island world
before them.

“Come away,” said Hawahee. Then he led Sestrina back to the shelter
beneath the breadfruits. “You lie down here and rest, Sestra, and I will
watch over you,” he said, as he gazed sorrowfully on the girl’s haggard
face. Though Sestrina did not feel like sleeping, she did as the man
bade her. Lying down on the soft moss couch that he had prepared, she
soon fell asleep. While she lay there Hawahee sat by her side in deep
meditation, making plans as to the best thing to do.

“If there is no one on this isle to interfere with us, we can easily
build a dwelling-place under these trees,” he thought. Then he too fell
asleep. The sun was sinking when Sestrina awoke. The dismal mutterings
of the cockatoos in the boughs around swiftly called her to her senses.
She felt so wretched and lonely that she touched Hawahee, who still lay
fast asleep beside her, on the arm. In a moment he sat up, and, rubbing
his eyes, stared in sorrow on the girl.

“Let us go and see how big this isle is, and find out if we are quite
alone here, wahine,” he said. Hawahee’s suggestion that they should
explore the isle together pleased Sestrina.

“Perhaps, after all, there are other human beings here,” she thought.

When they had reached the top of the hill, which was the highest
elevation of the isle, they scanned the shore lines and saw that they
were indeed alone, no sign of human habitation anywhere. It was a small
isle, not more than a mile across, and two miles in length. Sestrina
could not help but gaze in admiration on the loveliness of the scene
around her. All along the shores stood clusters of feathery-leafed palms
that leaned over small lagoons that shone like mirrors in the shadowy
distances. Tiny waves, creeping in from the ocean’s calm expanse, ran up
the silvery sands, tossed their snowy arms and faded. On all the higher
slopes, about fifty yards inland, stood the picturesque breadfruit
trees. And when the hot, soft sea wind drifted inland and touched their
heights, the rich, dark green leaves stirred and revealed the paler hues
underneath as they were softly blown aside. As Sestrina and Hawahee
stood up there and scanned the dim blue horizons, they felt the vast
loneliness of the Pacific enter their hearts. To the left, far beyond
the promontory, north of the island, lay the wreck of the _Belle Isle_.
The sight of the torn sails and rigging, which was still flapping softly
in the breeze, intensified the loneliness of the surroundings.

“Wait, Sestra, let us be sure,” said Hawahee, then he climbed the
nearest breadfruit tree.

For a long time he stood up in the leafy heights clinging to the boughs,
scanning the isle, and staring out to sea. Then he climbed down, and
standing by Sestrina, said: “We are safe, and there is no other land in
sight.”

In one sad mental flash Sestrina realised her terrible position to the
full. She realised that the greater the solitude of the isle the greater
security it afforded the hunted lepers.

Hawahee noticed the despairing look on Sestrina’s face; and swiftly
divining her thoughts, said: “Wahine, a ship may pass some day, and
then, believe me, ’tis we can hide, my comrades and I. And those who
come and rescue you will not know that we are here, savvy, wahine?”

“Yes, I understand what you mean,” murmured Sestrina as she stared out
to sea, and let her eyes roam over the vast solitude of waters. Tears
dimmed her yearning gaze. She instinctively knew that it might be
months, even years before a ship sighted the isle and sent men ashore to
search.

Seeing the girl’s grief, Hawahee gazed mournfully upon her and said:
“Have no fear, Sestra, I will be a friend to thee.”

Then they both walked back to the sheltered spot which Hawahee had
chosen by the shore.

The next day, Hawahee and his comrades, Rohana, Lupo, and Steno, made
many journeys over the reefs, and then swam out to the wreck of the
_Belle Isle_.

The sea had calmed down, and only a few waves dashed against the seaward
hulk as the swell came in. In a very little while they had fashioned a
substantial raft from the wreckage on the shore. And all day long they
worked feverishly as they salvaged cases of tin meats, fruits and
biscuits, and all the useful commodities that they could get hold of
before the _Belle Isle_ broke up. Two or three hours before the tropic
sun dropped, Hawahee and his comrades searched the shore for a suitable
spot, and then decided to build a dwelling by the caves, not far from
the place where they had been washed ashore. And so they at once
extemporised a rough dwelling for themselves. And while the stronger
lepers were busy, Hawahee walked inland, and chose a shady place, about
one hundred yards inland, for Sestrina’s home.

“’Tis a lovely spot, Sestra,” said Hawahee as he put in the first posts,
and gazed on the sheltering palms and the sylvan beauty of the valley
which ran half way down the centre of the isle. This valley had rugged
sides and caves which showed that the isle was of volcanic formation.
Between the spot which Hawahee had chosen for Sestrina’s home, and the
dwelling place of the lepers was a wide hollow in which grew huge cacti
and prickly pear. Hawahee had carefully chosen this spot so that the
girl should be quite apart from the lepers. “Is it not a lovely spot,
wahine?” said he.

“Yes, it is,” murmured Sestrina as she sighed, yet trying hard to appear
enthusiastic over the rich loveliness of the tropical flowers, and palms
and breadfruits that surrounded her new home.

In about a week, they were all settled in their rough habitations, and
as comfortable as could be under the circumstances, Sestrina’s abode was
all which could be desired, for Hawahee had fashioned a soft bed of
fern, seaweed and scented moss. He had fashioned a door to her
habitation out of the cuddy’s door of the _Belle Isle_. He had made
strong hinges out of the twisted sennet so that the door could swing and
be closed just as Sestrina desired. A few yards from the Haytian girl’s
homestead stood Hawahee’s dwelling.

“’Tis best, Sestra, that I should dwell near to you,” said he, as
Sestrina became quite industrious, and kept arriving by the busy
Hawaiian, her arms full of stiff grass and weed that he was thatching
his roof with. He had thatched her dwelling very carefully. Hawahee knew
that a strong thatch was necessary, for typhoons and heavy rains often
swept those sailless seas.

Sestrina would often lie sleepless by night in her primitive chamber and
weep. She would listen to the voices of the night, the winds sighing in
the palms, and in strange fancies imagine that Royal Clensy’s spirit
called to her. Sometimes the rustling of the leaves would bring back
memories of the grape-vine that grew below her chamber’s window at
Port-au-Prince. The haunting idea that her English lover might think
that she had made no attempt to get to Honolulu brought great distress
to her.

“Ah, if he only knew the truth, I could bear all this,” she moaned as
the great tropic starry nights of sleepless memory divided the hot, blue
tropic days, and brought intense loneliness to her heart. In her sorrow
she reverted to the pure religion of her childhood, and reaped much
consolation therefrom. It was quite possible that the Hawaiian, Hawahee,
had inspired her to seek comfort in prayer. For Hawahee was a fanatic in
his devotion to his heathen gods. For though he had been converted to
the Christian faith, he had greater faith in the deities of the olden
times. Like many of the native lepers, he had become very devout through
the sure knowledge that his days were numbered. He would kneel under the
palms and sometimes pray to the sunset, singing weird, sweet melodies as
he still remained on his knees. Sestrina would sit by him on these
occasions, her hand under her chin, watching him like some wondering,
wide-eyed child.

One evening as the sunset swept ineffable hues across the great storied
remote window of Hawahee’s vast heathen cathedral—the western sea sky
line—Sestrina opened her eyes in unbounded astonishment. “What’s that?”
she cried as he put his arm forth, and muttered weird words to an image
which he held in his hand.

“’Tis a vassal of the great goddess, Pelé!” replied Hawahee, as he held
the image close to Sestrina’s horrified looking eyes—she was staring on
the ivory idol which the aged, dying Chinaman on the _Belle Isle_ had
worshipped so fervently!

The sight of that heathenish relic, and of Hawahee’s reverent attitude
before its wonderfully carved little face, strangely impressed the
Haytian girl’s mind. A weird, uncanny kind of atmosphere seemed to fall
over her life, filling her mind with superstitious thoughts. The
strange, long-necked birds that perched at dawn on the palms by her
little homestead, no longer sang cheerful notes, but muttered dismal
chants that made her frightened—of she knew not what! But in a day or
two she regained the cheerful confidence that had so helped her in her
castaway loneliness, and once more sang as she toiled over her primitive
domestic duties.

One day, Hawahee suddenly approached Sestrina, and said, “Wahine, do not
roam about the isle unless I am near you.” He looked troubled as he
placed his hand to his brow, undecided as to how to continue.

Sestrina wondered why he should fear for her since they were castaways
on an uninhabited isle. “Is there a sail in sight?” she said, a great
hope springing into her heart.

“No, wahine,” murmured Hawahee, still gazing intently at the girl’s
face, an expression in his eyes as though his heart wished to say
something which his lips dare not express.

Then he said: “My comrades are not as I am; they have forgotten the
virtues of the great goddess Pelé, and of Kauhilo, and Atua of Langi,
and so, ’tis best that you should keep from their path.”

Sestrina, who had seldom seen the lepers, because the sight of their
afflicted forms made her feel miserable, gazed in wonder up at Hawahee’s
face. The five lepers were, to her, poor helpless, cursed, pathetic
beings, who calmly awaited the second death of their mortal existence.
Though they dwelt within five hundred yards of her homestead, she had
spoken only twice to them as they sat in the wattled shelter, and as the
two blind lepers gazed with pathetic indecision towards her, a great
wave of pain and sympathy had come to her heart.

Then Lupo, Rohana, and Steno had fallen on their knees, and, with their
hands lifted, had gazed upon her as though she were some goddess. And as
they wailed and wailed in their strange but musical tongue she imagined
they were thanking her for her timely rescue of them all from the _Belle
Isle’s_ stifling hold.

“They look upon me as their benefactress; perhaps in the delirium of
their fevered illness, they really think I am some heathen goddess?” she
thought as Rohana and Lupo continued to wail, and crawling a little
nearer, pointed to her shining tresses, murmured, “Aloah! wahine, makoa,
maikai!” Then the lepers had placed their hands to their swollen mouths,
making signs as they blew kisses to her, and cried “Maika! maikai!”
(thank you). For she had taken a flower from the folds of her hair, and
had thrown it towards them. Seeing the flower lying on the silver sands,
Lupo, Rohana and Steno had rushed forward, had started struggling in a
frantic way to secure the fading blossom. When Lupo placed the blossom
to his lips, the others had crowded round him, had sought to place their
lips against the faded petals. Such had been Sestrina’s experiences with
the lepers during three months of isolation on that Pacific isle. When
Hawahee stood before Sestrina and gave her the second warning, she still
remained ignorant of the meaning of it all.

Three nights after, Sestrina was suddenly awakened by hearing a distant
hubbub that sounded as though men were singing rollicking songs. “What
can it mean?” she thought as she leaped from her couch. Her heart
thumped as she listened and wondered. “’Tis a ship arrived off the isle,
and the sailors are ashore, singing!”

“Keep near me,” said a stern voice, as she rushed from her dwelling to
ascertain if her surmises were true. It was Hawahee who had spoken.

Sestrina gazed at him, and was alarmed at the expression of his eyes.

“’Tis Lupo, Rohana and the rest, they have been out to the wreck, and
found barrels of devil-water (rum); they are demented, wahine.”

“Rum! demented!” replied Sestrina as her heart sank within her. No ship
at all, but rum and demented! What did Hawahee mean? The girl did not
realise the serious import of the Hawaian’s remarks. She had no familiar
knowledge of men, and the demoralising influence of drink on their
natures. And so she dreamed not of her danger, she, a lonely woman, on
that solitary isle.

During the lepers stay on the isle their health had improved. The
abundance of shell fish, the fruit and tinned meats, saved from the
wreck, had renovated their wasted frames. Lupo and Rohana had even made
flesh, and so their smouldering passions had burst into flame again!
Indeed, but a day or two before, Rohana and Lupo had crept round the
shore, and spied Sestrina bathing in a lagoon.

They had watched, and then hastened back to their comrades and cried in
this wise: “Oh makaia, le sola!” and then the three stronger men had
crept back into the jungle on the shore, and had watched. That same
night they had talked about what they had seen, till even the blind
lepers had listened in ecstasy as their comrades spoke of the girl’s
beauty, the glory of her wet tresses as they sparkled in the warm
sunlight.

Hawahee, who knew these things, attempted to calm Sestrina’s fears by
saying, “Do not be alarmed by the singing of my brothers, I will protect
you.”

And then she had gone back into her hut, and had lain sleepless, weeping
bitterly, for her hopes had been cruelly dispelled. The next night she
was awakened again by hearing a wild song. Again she jumped from her
bed, and went outside, but this time she trembled in the thought of some
nameless fear. As she stood under the palms by her lonely homestead
doorway, she saw a great red glow on the sky over the sea.

“’Tis the wreck on fire,” said Hawahee as he stood beside her. For he
was ever wakeful.

“Why have they set the ship on fire?” said Sestrina as she stood
watching the sparks and the lurid smoke go skyward.

“They are mad with drink, and care only for themselves while the
devil-gods and te rom (rum) revel in their souls,” said Hawahee in a
bitter voice. Then he told Sestrina that they had fired the wreck so
that no passing vessel could sight it, and wonder if any of its late
crew were castaways on the isle.

Next day, Sestrina, thinking that all was well since the lepers had
burnt the wreck, and so destroyed the rum, crept down to the lagoon by
her homestead, wherein she bathed every morning. This lagoon was far
away from that part of the isle where Lupo and the rest dwelt. Letting
her hair down, she walked into the cool, shallow depths, and paddled
about. She behaved like a child. Lifting her torn skirt, which she had
patched up with pieces of the red table-cloth of the _Belle Isle_ cuddy,
she splashed about in the sparkling water and threw pebbles at the
green-winged parrots that perched on the palms that leaned over the
lagoon. Suddenly she stood perfectly still; she had observed a movement
in the thick jungle fern which grew a little way up the shore. She
stared again, and saw two burning eyes staring between the dark green
leaves. She gave a startled cry and let her dress drop—it was Lupo who
had spied upon her. Seeing her terror he stepped out of the jungle,
lifting his hands in an appealing manner.

Sestrina immediately felt ashamed of her fright. Noticing that he had
calmed the girl’s evident fear of him, Lupo moved towards her. As he
approached her she fancied she saw a terrible look in his eyes. The
instinct of womanhood made her realise—she knew not what. In a flash she
recalled all that Hawahee had said.

The next second Lupo had fallen on his knees, and with his hands lifted
in some appeal, said: “Aloah, wero, kawa, ma Pelé,” as he greedily drank
in the beauty of her face and form. He plucked a flower from the bush,
and held it towards the girl.

“No! no!” said Sestrina as she shook her head to intimate that neither
his gift nor his presence was required. In a moment Lupo’s manner had
changed. He glanced hastily around, then rose and staggered towards her.
Sestrina, on seeing the wild look in the leper’s eyes, fled.

Returning to her primitive homestead with a flushed face, and the
sea-water still sparkling on her tresses, she arrived before Hawahee in
a breathless state.

“Wahine, what is the matter?” he said as he stared at her.

“Nothing, only I felt frightened at seeing Lupo come out of the jungle
whilst I bathed.”

“Have I not warned thee to keep near to me, and not wander about the
isle, wahine?”

“Yes, I know,” gasped Sestrina, her breath still laboured through
running so fast.

“Hawahee, what do the lepers want with me?” she said quietly in sudden
wonder over all she had experienced.

The tall, handsome Hawaiian gazed steadily into the childlike, wide-open
eyes, and seeing that the girl was innocent in heart and soul, made no
reply to her query, but said: “Wahine, I shall be angry if you stray
from here again. Mind that you keep on this side of the valley, and
bathe no more at present.”

“I will do as you wish,” replied Sestrina, who put Hawahee’s fears down
to some dread in his mind that she might be contaminated by the terrible
scourge.

That same night Hawahee came across the slope and sat by Sestrina’s
homestead, telling her many of his own sorrows, and how it was he had
become incarcerated down in the hold of the _Belle Isle_. It was a sad
story that Sestrina listened to as the Hawaiian spoke on, telling her
many things about the horrors of leprosy on his native isles. Maybe he
did not wish Sestrina to think too ill of his comrades, the lepers on
the isle, whose sad lot was cast on the unknown waters with his own. And
be it known that of all the races of mankind, the Hawaiians are the most
sympathetic and lovable towards each other in sorrow or illness, their
hearts being endowed with a love passing the love of woman. Indeed, many
Hawaiians have been known to risk the contagion of leprosy in their
efforts to hide their relatives, wives, children, lovers and comrades,
from the relentless hands of the leper-hunters, who were ever on the
look-out for the victims of the hideous scourge.

Sestrina’s eyes filled with tears as the sad man sat before her and told
her of the terrors of Molokai, the leper isle, the sufferings of the
banished victims and of the heroic priest and martyr, Damien, and the
few Catholic missionaries who devoted their days and sacrificed their
lives for the sake of the stricken lepers.

“And how did you know all these things about the terrible isle where
poor lepers are banished to, since you yourself escaped and fled
successfully from the leper-hunters?”

Then Hawahee told Sestrina that he had once been a resident on Molokai
in the capacity of a missionary at Kalawao, and it was there that he had
contracted the complaint, as well as becoming only too familiar with the
horror of the dreadful lazaretto. Sitting there smoking by the lonely
girl, he continued his story, and told how the Hawaiian officials hired
brutal men to hunt and deliver up all men who showed the least sign of
the dreaded plague, so that they could be banished to the lazaretto on
Molokai.

From all that Hawahee said, it appeared that even the unafflicted were
in danger of being captured by the merciless hunters and sent away to
the dreaded isle. For leprosy develops slowly, the first symptom being
extremely faint, taking months, and even years, before becoming
externally evident. Consequently the brutal hunters, who sought to
secure the reward offered by the authorities, were only too eager to
pronounce the slightest bruise as evidence of incipient leprosy.

“Since your leprosy is hardly to be seen now, how is it that the
authorities knew anything about it, Hawahee?” said Sestrina.

“Ah, wahine, it must have been noticed when I was bathing in the lagoons
by my home. You must know, wahine, that there are always half-caste men
on my isle willing to sacrifice the lives of others for the sake of
getting the reward which is paid by the great council chiefs, and so I
too was betrayed. And when the leper-hunters did come one night through
the forest with masks over their faces, for they do not wish their faces
seen since my people would kill such perfidious betrayers were they to
recognise them, I did escape into the mountains by Kaulea. For a long,
long time I did roam homeless alone, then I met more lepers who were
hiding from the hunters in the mountains. We were all near to dying of
hunger when we at last sighted a schooner lying just off the shore by
the feet of the mountains near Sakaboa. With much stealth we did manage
to secure a large canoe so that we could paddle by night out to the
ship. It was by the mercy of Atua and Kuahilo that the night was dark
and hid our forms as we stole on board and crept down into the ship’s
hold. Next day the ship sailed. We were near to death when we did find
ourselves anchored off the South American coast, where we were
discovered by the crew and recaptured. Then the white papalagis tied our
legs and hands in thongs and placed as on a ship’s hulk off the coast,
as men unclean. For many weeks we were prisoners, awaiting to be
retransported back to Hawaii so that we might be sent to Molokai. Then
one night some men did come and place our limbs in chains. And when we
were helpless and could not move more than enough for our feet to move
slowly one before the other, we were taken round the coast to Acapulco.
There we found a boat awaiting our arrival, and we were at once taken
out to a schooner, which we knew was to take us back to Hawaii, and to
Molokai and death.” Saying the foregoing, the Hawaiian sighed, then,
looking sorrowfully into Sestrina’s face, he added: “It was the _Belle
Isle_, wahine, which we were taken to and imprisoned down in the hold;
and, to thy great sorrow, thou knowest the rest.” Relighting his
cigarette by the embers of the small cooking fire, Hawahee placed his
hand meditatively to his chin and continued: “I tell thee, wahine, I
would sooner meet the gods in death than risk capture by the merciless
papalagi or my own countryman and be banished to the lazaretto. True
enough, the ‘kaukas’ (doctors) are good to the stricken, and kind men
make coffins by night for the dying, but still, ’tis more than a living
death. Still, in my dreams, I do often see the skeletons of the dead
lepers walking and crawling by night along the craggy beach and under
the dark pandanus and palms by Kalawao.”

As Hawahee spoke on and Sestrina listened, the ocean’s monotone,
resounding on the reefs below, seemed to moan in sympathy with all he
told her.

“Ah, wahine, thou knowest not the sorrow of my people,” he murmured;
then he once more lapsed into pidgin English, which he usually did when
speaking under the stress of deep emotion. “Sestra, when I was once a
helper of the afflicted on Molokai, I did often see some beautiful
wahine with flying hair and starry eyes, running along the beach by
moonlight, wringing her hands, as she cried and answered the moaning
voice of the winds in the palms that sighed to her dying ears, like to
the dead laughter and the memories of lost children, lovers and husband;
I know not which. Then she would jump into the sea. And the waves,
closing over her head, did bring the peace of Atua, Pelé, and the great
White God, whichever may be the most merciful.”

Such were the incidents connected with Hawahee’s history, and which he
deigned to tell Sestrina that night and the next night as she sat by the
kitchen cooking-fire of her solitary home on their lone isle of the vast
Pacific. And often, when Hawahee had crossed the hollow and entered his
hut for sleep, the imaginative castaway girl would lie in her own
chamber and fancy she could hear the dead laughter of children and the
calling voices of the dying lepers, shrieking and calling somewhere out
in the wind swept palms, that sighed fitfully on the valley’s ridge by
her homestead. In these dreams Sestrina fully realised that, to the
lepers at least, her lonely desert isle was a haven of refuge, an oasis
in the desert of their life’s misery. For not in all the world was
sorrow so heart-rending, so hideous and intense as on Molokai. Yes,
notwithstanding that missionaries devoted their days as ministering
angels to the stricken exiles, and that the heroic martyr-priest Damien,
the lepers’ Christ, and Father Albert the good dwelt in their midst. For
who can stay the dead from dreaming in their living tombs, or from
leaping from the grave to run along the dark, beetling crags of the
moonlit beach, listening to the memories of the wind swept palms and
calling to the skies for mercy?



                               CHAPTER II


AFTER Sestrina’s experience with Lupo by the lagoon, everything went
along quietly for a week, during which time she and Hawahee busied
themselves by making their dwellings as comfortable as possible.
Sestrina gathered stiff grasses for the thatching of their kitchen roof,
which Hawahee was building so that they could have their meals in each
other’s company. It was only through Sestrina’s insistent appeals that
Hawahee agreed to this arrangement. Though Hawahee had discovered, to
his great joy, that the small leper patch on his arm had dried and
seemed to be healing, he still feared the girl’s close presence, and
demanded her not to touch him. Sestrina, happy in his society, worked
feverishly to help him improve their rough homes. She found that the
work distracted her thoughts from those longings and memories which
often came and filled her heart with anguish when she dwelt upon them.
Hawahee, too, did his best to comfort her. He often sang weird,
beautiful Hawaiian melodies to her and played on a bamboo flute which he
had fashioned as they sat in the shade of the lovely breadfruit that
grew on the valley’s side, just by their dwelling. Sestrina’s heart went
out to him as he piped away or sang in the shadows. At other times he
would tell her wonderful legends connected with the lore of his native
isle. Sestrina’s eyes would open wide, as, with his eyes bright with the
light of belief, he told her of the splendour and wonders of Atua,
Kuahilo, Tangalora, and Pelé, the gods and goddesses of his childhood’s
creed. Sestrina discovered that he was a native of Lahaina, and had been
a chief of the village where he dwelt till he had become converted to
Christianity.

“And do you not believe in the God of my creed?” said Sestrina, as she
thought of his devotion to the little ivory idol and his continuous
prayers to his heathen deities.

“I believe in all the gods of the heavens, wahine,” he had replied. And
then he had told the Haytian girl how he had once been a teacher in the
mission-rooms at Kailo, a fact which explained why Hawahee spoke a
mixture of pidgin and biblical English. “I play on flute, nice hymns
once,” he said; then he took his cleverly improvised flute from the
folds of his tappa-robe and played many melodies that were familiar to
Sestrina. He had already constructed a flute for Sestrina, making it out
of a slender bamboo stem, placing a broad blade of stiff grass in the
mouthpiece for a reed. “Thou hast a perfect ear, wahine,” he had said
when Sestrina astonished him by her perfect rendering of one of his
pagan melodies. Indeed, it was wonderful the headway Sestrina made with
her flute-playing as she sat alone under the breadfruits and practised
so as to distract her thoughts. Hawahee’s delight was unbounded to find
that Sestrina liked his heathen melodies. He had looked sideways at the
girl with a kind, yet artful, glance, and had said: “Thou playest well,
and ’tis well for thee to pray to the great White God, but better still
to turn thy head away and give praise unto the glory of Atua, Pelé and
Kuahilo—eh?”

Withal, Hawahee was a noble-souled, clean-minded man, and, like many of
his type, possessed the great virtue of truly believing all that he
professed to believe. Hawahee possessed the deep instincts of a pagan
fanatic combined with the pagan’s poetic sympathy with the beauties of
nature. No leaf dropped, no flower danced in the sunlight, no bird sang,
but Hawahee’s visualising imagination saw or heard it as some symbol of
human joy or sorrow, some natural living representation of the thousand
and one fancies that haunted his mind. Consequently nature was, to him,
some mysterious pageant of the deep thoughts of his gods blossoming in
multitudinous hues, or winging the sky as birds, or singing happily and
sometimes moaning angrily in the starlit, solemn big-trunked breadfruit
trees.

As Sestrina sat listening by night to his fascinating, poetic speech
that sparkled with spontaneous similes, she came under the influence of
his poetic, deeply-religious personality. This influence was a blessing
in disguise, for that too helped her forget the anguish and despair that
came when she thought of Royal Clensy of the great world, of her father,
Claircine and all she had left behind in the world that was fast
becoming a misty past to her sorrowing mind.

As the days passed Hawahee would sit by Sestrina with a troubled
expression on his face. “Like me, he sorrows over the memories of the
past,” thought Sestrina as she sat opposite him, watching him moodily
toil over the beautiful basket-weaving which he was so proficient in.
Then the castaway girl’s handsome comrade would rise, and saying,
“Wahine, I will go and scan the seas for a sail,” would walk across the
valley to see his leper comrades.

And why did Hawahee seek his stricken brothers? It was for the special
purpose of remonstrating with them, chiding them for their evil desires.

“Thou hast deserted thy goddess Pelé, and Atua of Langi,” he would say
as he stood before the stricken men while they sat huddled by their
wattle hut by the moaning, everlasting seas.

Lupo, Rohana, Steno and the two blind men would hang their heads in
shame and ask forgiveness.

“Ora loa Jesu,” sighed Rohana as he knelt in prayer before Hawahee,
asking the Christian God to help him fight against his sinful desires.

“’Tis well that you pray,” said Hawahee sternly, as he reminded them how
they had broken their sacred oaths. For they, too, had embraced
Christianity when first afflicted with the scourge, and at the same time
had secretly sworn to be faithful to the goddess Pelé and the god
Kuahilo, and so banish all desires of the flesh.

“’Tis te rom (rum) that did fire our bodies and the meats from the
wreck,” murmured Lupo.

Then Steno had sighed in a melancholy voice in this wise:

“But beautiful is she who dwelleth near our sorrow, she hath eyes and
beauty that must have been made by the great White God when He first
sighed the stars and made the soft whiteness of the sea-dawns.”

“Surely her mouth was made from the rosy flush of the first sunrise that
startled the great dark on the deep seas,” murmured Rohana as Steno’s
words fired his soul with bright thoughts over Sestrina’s beauty.

“And when she passed by us, O Hawahee, chief of Lahaina, we could scent
the odours of the first flowers on the mountain-side, made when the
White God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and formed trees, and birds to
wing the blue Langi,” said the two blind lepers as they mumbled and
sighed and moved their sightless heads thither and thither as they
imagined Sestrina’s loveliness and longed-for sight.

Then Lupo, who had nursed jealousy in his breast that Hawahee should
claim the girl’s companionship, hung his head and promised Hawahee never
to attempt to approach Sestrina again. And Lupo meant what he said. But,
alas! for the weakness of mortals, once more the lepers fell before the
compelling strength of their desires. Hawahee did not know they still
possessed two barrels of rum, which they had hidden in the caves just by
their dwelling.

And so Sestrina, two nights after the lepers had given their promise not
to approach her, was suddenly awakened again. Some one had thrown a
stone; she sat up and trembled in her fright; then some more pebbles
were thrown. She heard them go “tap, tap!” on the wooden walls of her
homestead.

“What can it be? Surely not Hawahee?” she thought, as she sprang from
her couch and ran towards the door. Pushing the old sail-cloth curtain
aside, she peered out into the night. The moon was high over the sea,
sending its silver radiance on the shore palms as the dark-fingered
leaves softly stirred to the warm breeze. “It must have been the fall of
a coco-nut,” she thought as she turned round and gazed up at the tall
coco-palm that sheltered her humble roof. Then she stared into the
shadows, and again looked seaward, where the tumbling silvered waves
seemed beating silently as they curled over the shore reefs. “Aue! Aue!”
she cried, as in her fright she dodged back—“pat, pat!” two more pebbles
had been thrown! With difficulty she suppressed the instinctive feminine
desire to scream for help—three figures had crept out of the bamboo
thicket, across the hollow, right opposite her door! Sestrina stood like
some beautiful chiselled statue with flying hair as she saw the dark
figures commence to crawl down the small slope, making straight for her
dwelling. For a moment the girl felt strangely calm. “It is the
lepers—and they want me!” she murmured, as in a flash she realised the
truth. As the figures passed by the huge prickly-backed cacti—that
resembled sleeping monsters breathing in moonlight—she distinctly
recognised Rohana, Steno and Lupo, and knew that the two hesitating
forms that crept behind were the blind lepers. Lupo was the foremost;
she saw his burning eyes stare at her through the moonlit gloom. Just
behind Rohana crawled Steno, and he, with the two blind lepers, was
lifting skeleton-like arms as though in terrible appeal as they each
stayed a moment on the slope. Sestrina stood perfectly still by her door
as the soft night wind touched her hair and sent it in ripples over her
face and shoulders. As Rohana lifted his head up to stare over Lupo’s
shoulder, he rolled his bulging, nearly blind eyes to locate Sestrina.
He could hear his comrades whispering about the girl’s loveliness. The
sounds of their whispering voices brought Sestrina to her senses.
Running a few steps forward, she cried:

“Stop!”

On seeing the girl’s determined attitude, as she stood with one hand
uplifted, Lupo, Rohana and Steno ceased to move. Then they lifted their
hands in appeal and at the same time whispered as loud as they dared—for
they knew that Hawahee slept near—impassioned words over her beauty.

“Are you hungry, brothers?” whispered Sestrina, as she leaned forward,
caught a few words and fancied the lepers appealed for food.

The lepers made no reply. Then Rohana rose to his feet, and, looking
over Lupo’s shoulder, said, in his own tongue, words which, translated,
would be as follows:

“O wahine, give us but one touch from thy lips, one embrace, and we will
never come again, but will take our sorrowing hearts in prayer to the
great White God of yours, and thank Him and thee also for thy divine
mercy towards hungry, sorrowing, yet sinful men.”

Though Sestrina did not understand, there was that light in their eyes
which spoke louder than words. A great fear clutched at her heart. She
turned to rush back into her homestead. In one bound Lupo had reached
her side, his comrades just behind him. The leper had clasped her in his
arms and was endeavouring to press hot kisses on her shoulders and face.
Rohana, who stood just by and had noticed the soft whiteness of her
arms, fell down on his knees, and in the delirium of the terrible
passion that maddened his better self, began to wail out words of appeal
and love for her ears.

Sestrina’s frightened scream echoed over the silent hills of the isle.
Even the roosting parrots rose in a fluttering, shrieking shower and
flapped and muttered in the moonlit sky at being disturbed by humanity
in the sylvan peace of their tropic world.

Hawahee, who had awakened with a start at hearing the girl’s cry, jumped
from his bed-mat. Rushing towards Sestrina’s hut, he found her
struggling in Lupo’s grasp as Rohana stood by and Steno and the two
blind lepers groped in their madness to touch the girl’s flesh. In a
moment Hawahee had knocked Lupo and Rohana down. Then he seized hold of
Sestrina and carried her fainting form into her chamber.

“Thank Pelé, Kuahilo, and the great White God that I was in time,” he
murmured, as Sestrina opened her eyes and said:

“Do not hurt them. They tried to kiss me; they have gone mad!”

Next day Hawahee went over to the lepers’ dwelling. Gazing upon the
stricken men with flashing eyes, he said, “Betrayers of innocence!
Faithless to the gods and to thine own souls, Pelé, Kuahilo and Atua of
Langi will leave your bodies everlastingly in the dust.”

Saying such things as these to the lepers, they hung their heads in
shame. And though Hawahee’s wrath was righteous and came from the depths
of his noble soul, he, too, was a man and so secretly felt a deep
compassion for his weaker fellows. But still keeping up an appearance of
anger, he ordered the lepers to pack up at once and go away, and make
another dwelling for themselves on the other side of the isle. Then he
straightway went into the hollows next to where they slept, and seeing
the half-empty barrel of rum, turned it upside down and let the hot
fluid run away into the sands.

“Loa, va naki” (go at once from here), he said.

The stricken men at once began to pack their belongings—a few old
clothes and trinkets saved from the wreck—and were soon prepared to
depart.

“Wahine, Sestra!” called Hawahee. As Sestrina, who had stood close by in
the shade of the bamboos, appeared, the erring men dropped their eyes,
and the blind ones wailed.

“Come thou too,” said Hawahee as he looked at the girl.

In a moment Sestrina followed the men as they started off with their
belongings. When they all arrived at the other side of the isle, they
found a large hollow by the shore, close to the palm-sheltered lagoons.

“This spot is even better than the place which you have left,” said
Hawahee.

On the slopes around stood coco-palms and flamboyant trees, the ground
being exquisitely carpeted with clusters of hibiscus and other rich
patterns of tropical flowers that were shaded by the beautiful pulus
(tree ferns).

When the banished lepers had placed their humble chattels in the large
cavern, Hawahee and Sestrina did their best to make them as comfortable
as possible. Then the handsome Hawaiian looked sternly upon the abject
men, and warned them never to come to the other side of the isle.
“Should you do so, you come to die,” he said, and the note in his voice
sounded ominous. Then he promised to come on the morrow and bring the
few chattels which they had been obliged to leave behind. “Brothers, my
love, notwithstanding your sins, is true and deep for you,” he said, and
saying this, he put forth his hand and muttered: “Ora loi Jesu, aloah, O
gods of Langi!” and on hearing these words, the lepers, like obedient
children, followed him down to the shore. Falling on their trembling
knees in the soft sands, they did as Hawahee bade—fervently prayed to
Kuahilo, Atua and the goddess Pelé, their faces turned towards the
sunset, which was the fiery portal of Pelé’s dwelling.

Sestrina, who stood a little way off, under the palms up the shore,
heard the pathetic mumblings as they prayed in their native language,
appealing to the gods, asking help so that they might conquer their
sinful desires. She saw them lift their fleshless hands and stricken
faces as they helped guide the hands of their blind comrades, as each
turned towards the light of the seaward sunset.

Sestrina felt sorry as she saw that sight; she turned her eyes away from
the shore and wept.


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



                                PART III



                               CHAPTER I

            _What greater wonder can the fates have planned
            Than this lone isle’s green palms and coral bars?
            That I—lost on a vast untravelled sea—
            Might stand astonished staring at the stars!_


EIGHT years had passed since the winds had drifted Sestrina and the
lepers into the vast solitude of that isle in the Pacific Ocean. Even on
that lonely island world, Time’s flight had wrought wondrous changes.

On the elevation, just above the shore reefs by the lagoons, stood five
lumps of coral stone which had been fashioned so as to resemble crosses.
It was the tiny necropolis where the lepers, Lupo, Rohana, Steno and
their two blind comrades lay asleep with all their mortal desires and
sins in the dust under the waving palms.

The years had changed Sestrina from a slim maid into the fully developed
beauty of womanhood. The hot tropical suns had tanned her body into a
deeper olive hue. Clad in the carefully woven raiment of tropical tappa
and silky fibres, she looked as wildly beautiful as the rich tropical
loveliness of the isle itself. Deferred hope and the agony of years, all
that she had suffered during her castaway life on the isle, had written
the poetry of sorrow on her brow. Her full dark eyes had become
mournful-looking, but shone with a deeper light than they had done in
her girlhood. In all the time that had passed since she had first set
foot on that desert isle, only one schooner had appeared on the horizon,
bringing a great hope to her heart. The cleverly weaved red and green
tappa-cloth signal-flag, made by Hawahee’s hands, and which still flew
on top of the dead palm that stood out on the promontory’s edge, had
streamed to the breezes, calling to the skylines—in vain! The schooner’s
sails had faded away, leaving a deeper loneliness in Sestrina’s heart.
She had watched it tacking, creeping along the dim blue skyline till the
sails faded into the sunset’s glow, taking her dreams and passionate
yearnings out to the great world that she but dimly remembered.

Time had completely metamorphosed her memory of the past. Her
childhood’s knowledge of the great world of men and women had been
slowly transmuted into a tiny isle set in surrounding, infinite seas, a
universe of stars, a lonely tropic sun, dim horizons, and Hawahee’s
melancholy eyes. Her Bible, and the books of life that she read, were
the moods of the winds, the seas and changing seasons. She saw her
passions blossom in the fiery crimson of the flamboyant trees, her
purest thoughts in the delicate spiritual flowers of gossamer whiteness;
her soul’s longing shone in the earnest stars, and her vanity in the
mirroring blue lagoons. All the great wonder, terror and mystery of the
unknown came to her on the voice of the winds when the ramping storms
and typhoons swept those sailless seas. Nature’s multitudinous twinings,
leafy arms of green and dark-branched broodings, made the grand æolian
harp that played to the wind’s shifting fingers, filling her soul with
religious fervour. The stars shining by night through those sombre
boughs were, to her, the glittering thoughts of the mighty dark-branched
brain of some heathen god. But dawn brought the eternal rose of beauty
in the radiant birth of the sunrise as she sat on the shore reefs,
piping on her flute while the flowers danced and the birds sang those
long, long thoughts that floated in the haunting mists of her mind. Her
sorrow, all the anguish and tears of years, had imparadised the skyline
of her memory, shining like an everlasting rainbow by virtue of the
sunlight of her days of pale resignation.

Sestrina had become a pagan! Yet—though her life had been slowly
transmuted into a conscious dreaming of the vast mystery of the
universe—she was still full of sweetness and light as she went about her
domestic duties. As she stood by the shore palms, she glanced with
satisfaction down at the heap of shellfish in her hand-woven basket.
Then she walked up the soft silvery sands till she came to her
homestead, a thatched hut which stood in the shades of the valley’s high
breadfruit trees and palms.

“Sestra!” said a man’s voice as she lifted a calabash and poured water
into the big shell-pot wherein she had placed the fish, and which was
hanging over the small domestic hearth-fire.

It was Hawahee who spoke. The hand of time had also toiled on his brow,
leaving faint lines and all the poetry of grief which ennobles the human
countenance. Through living on fresh shellfish, and through constant
bathings in the ocean that encircled his home, he had stayed the ravages
of the terrible scourge with which he was afflicted. He was still young
and handsome.

“Is the fish cooked, Sestra?”

“Yes, and I have cooked the yams and taro,” replied Sestrina.

She brushed her mass of shining tresses aside, and gazing in the
Hawaiian’s face, swiftly dropped her eyes again.

For years they had dwelt in the solitude of that place as comrades, and
only yesterday, for the first time, Hawahee had looked steadily at her
and said: “Sestra, you are beautiful to gaze upon, the light of the
stars still lingers in your eyes long after the dawn has come.”

He had often spoken to Sestrina in the semi-poetic style which is the
fascinating characteristic of Hawaiian speech, but never before had
Sestrina seen him look at her so. Her heart did not resent the tender
meaning of that look. She, too, had felt the great heart-loneliness and
the desire which comes to women when they feel the tiny fingers of
unborn children twining about the bosom of their dreams.

“The gods and goddesses have been good to us, Sestra.”

“Indeed they have, O Hawahee,” replied Sestrina in those sweet sombre
tones that had become habitual to her through years of isolated
companionship with the Hawaiian chief.

Throwing a small piece of wood on the kitchen fire, where the cooking
fish fizzled and splattered, Hawahee continued: “Ah, wahine, though you
so often dream of one you love, and have brought tears to my eyes over
your sorrow, remember that I am a lonely man, dwelling in lonelier
sorrow. And, I say, that though I have promised the gods to quench the
fire of mortal desire, I know ’tis no wish of the gods Kauhilo, Atua or
merciful Pelé, that I should not gaze on the loveliness of woman.”

“How know you that I dream of others than Pelé, Kauhilo and Atua?” said
Sestrina, as she gazed in wonder on the man who could read her secret
dreams.

“Can I help the magic light that brightens my soul, this gift of the
gods which enables me to see your innermost dreams? Can I stay the
reflected light of thy beauty from stealing over my soul, or the pain
and anguish of my quenched desires, O wahine?”

Sestrina listened with bowed head, and blushed deeply. She well knew the
sorrow of the man’s thoughts; and was not vanity a part of her
birthright? Only that morning had she stared on her image in the lagoon
and sighed as her wind-blown tresses rippled over the graceful beauty of
her form and about her faultless face.

Seeing Sestrina’s downcast eyes the Hawaiian sighed and said: “Wahine,
sister mine, feel not unkindly towards me; I am thy friend. Long ago I
would have died, but for the thought of your loneliness should I, too,
sleep on in the grave under the palms.”

Sestrina heard the deep note of sorrow in Hawahee’s voice, and wiped her
eyes, for up to that day he had always spoken as a dear brother to her.

And a strange thing had happened the night before as she dreamed in her
chamber and heard the starlit waves wailing on the beach below. For, had
she not leapt from her couch in wonder when she saw Hawahee asleep and
dreaming as he held her shadowy form in his arms—though he was in his
own hut under the breadfruits by the slopes of the valley, two hundred
yards away!

Hawahee was unaware that Sestrina also had suddenly become endowed with
the magic-flash which enabled him to read the deep dreams of the
solitary woman who stood before him.

Taking a crumpled flower from the folds of her hair, Sestrina placed it
tenderly against her lips and then handed it to Hawahee.

“Aloah, beloved, Mikai!” had replied the Hawaiian castaway as he took
the gift and sadly smiled. For he had spent many long twilight hours in
the island’s solitude telling Sestrina the poetic customs of his people.
And one custom was, that the Hawaiian maids gave crumpled flowers that
had adorned their hair in sleep to the one whom their hearts secretly
sorrowed over.

“’Tis sweet to feel the light and warmth of the living day, therefore I
am thankful for the gifts of the gods of the heiaus (sacred temples).”

Then they sat down opposite each other and ate their breakfast in
silence. The blue tropic day had risen in all the virgin splendour of
its new birth, and was scattering golden sunlight through the sheltering
palms as they sat there.

“Sestra! Sestra!” chuckled old Rohana. Then the aged, grey-striped,
blue-winged cockatoo stared sideways from its perch at Hawahee, who was
solemnly munching away, and croaked, “O Atua! O Pelé!”

“Be quiet, Rohana!” said Sestrina as she gazed fondly at the
wise-looking cockatoo which they had tamed and made their close
companion, calling it Rohana since its eyes so strangely reminded them
of the dead leper.

“The winds blow steadily from the sunrise, wahine, and so the heiaus
(temples) music moans for us,” said Hawahee in a solemn voice. As he
rose from his squatting mat, Sestrina also rose, and, inclining her
form, she listened to the musical murmurs that floated from the temple.

“Let us go and give thanks to the gods ere the sun is high,” said
Hawahee as he brushed the crumbs from his tappa-robe that so admirably
suited his tall, handsome figure. Then they both went away down the
slope that led into the lovely valley of breadfruits. Sestrina, with
bowed head, followed close behind her masterful, but kind, companion.

In a few moments they stood before the wonderful temple which Hawahee
had fashioned after infinite toil during the long lonely years. The
temple had been made out of the natural structure of the big cavern and
its high rocky walls in the valley’s side. The dimly lit, hollow chamber
was about fifteen feet high, and the altar side was composed of
wonderfully arranged shells of multitudinous shapes and sizes, all
having been placed in rows and spiral columns that rose to the roofless
edifice, for the sun by day and the stars at night were the sacred
lights that shone through the branched heights of that temple’s roof.
These shells, many of enormous dimensions, had been arranged with
delicate care in such a way, that when the winds blew from the
south-east, and came sweeping down the valley, they blew into the pearly
convolutions of each shell, which responded with a musical murmur. It
was not a disordered, unharmonious sound which the shells gave forth
when the sea winds blew, but a perfect, harmonious, plaintive chant-like
chime. And it was this weird, mournful chime which came to Hawahee’s and
Sestrina’s ears as they crept under the tall breadfruit trees, so that
they might kneel in prayer before the altar of the shell-gods!

It was a grand, masterly fashioned work, a temple of the highest art
attainable by mortal man. With the infinite patience of religious
fervour, and a deep insight and belief in the divine omnipotence of his
pagan gods, Hawahee had scraped and cut, through years of toil, three of
the larger shells till they resembled the faces of the goddess Pelé and
the gods Kauhilo and Atua. With no other tool than a broken ship’s
clasp-knife, which he had found on the _Belle Isle_, Hawahee had slowly
cut holes and chiselled perfect brows, leaving the wide pearly
convolution of each shell’s entrance for a mouth. The broad shoulders,
bust and limbs of giant proportions had been cut from boulders of coral
stone, each limb being fixed by indistinguishable joints of red clay.
The whole was a wondrous work of art. Each shell-face and boulder had
been exalted from insensate stone into an object of marvellous
allegorical, sombre, awesome beauty. The pearl flush of the lips and the
wrinkled brows expressed, in sculptural silence, something of the terror
and majesty of the unknown powers of the universe! For, Hawahee had
achieved the highest artistic result: through infinite toil he had
managed to imbue, endow each form with god-like attributes. And lo, each
face was an exact representation of the wonderful picture which his
poetic imagination, his inward vision shaped when he knelt in religious
fervour to the starlit dark and his pagan gods. But, withal, there was
something more than chiselled, symbolical beauty in Hawahee’s sculptural
work. This humble castaway child of Art who created his own deities, had
endowed their lips with the grand orchestral harmony of the ocean’s cry
in a thousand thousand caverns: for when the winds blew, each wonderful
shell-mouth of the gods and goddess moaned a deep bass note which was in
perfect harmony with the shrill murmurings and musical clamour of the
wonderful altar’s smaller shells!

The goddess Pelé, who stood in the centre—Kauhilo on the right and Atua
on the left side—was seven feet in height and possessed four arms, the
extreme right arm being outstretched, the perfect tapering fingers
gripping the yellowish, ivory idol that had been the symbol of the dead
Chinaman’s religion. Kauhilo, who gazed with an eternal sidelong glance
from his brilliant stone eyes at Pelé, had a human skull poised on his
right shoulder. Atua had four arms, three outstretched and one inclined
in marvellous sculptural beauty as it rested on Pelé’s shoulder, while
the pearl-white eyes gazed with immutable grief into the leafy shadows
of the banyan beyond the altar’s portals. Incredible as it may seem,
Hawahee had with infinite patience and genius constructed a marvellous
æolian organ of shells, whereon the winds not only played a cunning,
sweet-murmuring cadence, but rendered a sombre, beautiful Hawaiian hymn.
Some of the shells weighed a hundredweight; and glittering in the
sunlight that shone down through the palms over the temple, they looked
like mysterious pipes of some cathedral organ of nature’s construction,
rows upon rows of small shells gradually increasing to larger rosy
shells, each row arranged so that it gave forth the required note when
the winds swept down the valley.

The first idea that had inspired Hawahee to make this wonderful
instrument, came from his memory of the great Atua priests of his native
isles. These priests would artfully place large empty shells on the
shores by the tribal villages so that when the storms blew, the shells
moaned to the listening, superstitious chiefs hidden up the shores. So
did the priests invest their persons with a mighty significance and
prove to the chiefs that they were the chosen of Atua, Tangalora, Pelé
and Kauhilo.

It had taken years to select the one shell from thousands that would,
when placed just so, give forth the exact note required. Sestrina had
helped Hawahee in the building of this wonderful temple and altar. She,
too, had roamed round the shores of that lonely Pacific isle gathering
thousands and thousands of seashells, and had shared Hawahee’s
enthusiasm as one by one the perfect shell was discovered. Under the
influence of the Hawaiian’s fanaticism, Sestrina had developed deep
faith in the virtue of the shell’s Lydian strains. “The great White God,
and the older gods, will know the love I have given to this work, and
will hear the winds of heaven singing sweetly to their ears,” said
Hawahee.

Sestrina had gazed in wonder as the handsome, dignified fanatic toiled
through the years over his marvellous work of love. And so, she too had
developed a reverence for the stars and the voice of that mighty
lyrist—the wind of heaven—and had felt the deep soul-thrilling thoughts
that come to those who kneel before the materialised shapes of their
imagination, those objects which faintly represent the solemnity of
their innermost faith.

When Hawahee and Sestrina entered the temple, they at once knelt before
Atua, Pelé and Kauhilo. Then, as the winds swept along the valley and
the goddess Pelé’s tongueless shell-lips moaned a rich Lydian note to
the deeper mouths of the gods, they too lifted their voices and took
part in that wondrous choir.

Sestrina trembled. For the first time for years she found her thoughts
straying from the solemnity of the occasion. And why? She distinctly
heard Hawahee extemporising unusual words—words of his own language,
words that appealed with fervour to the gods to help him stay the desire
of the body.

When they once more rose to their feet and stole forth into the broad
light of the tropic day, Sestrina’s head was bowed, and many conflicting
thoughts haunted her mind. As they left those sacred portals, the whole
isle, the seas, the universe itself, hymned forth an echo of the
deep-voiced anthem which they had just heard. The choruses of the
feathered lyrists of the trees were pregnant with meaning. As Hawahee’s
majestic form stalked along, Sestrina stayed her running feet. With
finger to her lips she stood listening to the music of the palm groves:
for, as they moaned to her ears, she half fancied that phantom sea-caves
existed somewhere up in their green, foamy heights. Crimson-winged
lories and sulphur-crested cockatoos wheeled over her head as she once
more hurried after Hawahee. She stared up at the sky, and as the flocks
of birds whirled away, they looked like clusters of wind-blown leaves of
many hues glittering in the sunlight—as though the tropical flowers of
that island world had taken wing!

“The gods are happy this day,” said Hawahee as he, too, loitered, and
Sestrina gazed shoreward with enraptured eyes. She had come to love the
poetry of the distant seas and all the brooding loveliness of nature’s
handiwork around her. Day by day she had stood upon those little shores
watching the infinite expanse of ocean as the tiny waves of the calm
seas crept up to her feet. Those waves seemed her children: with strange
delight she watched them run up the shore to her feet, and with sorrow
saw them toss their foamy heads, as though in despair, ere they crept
back to the homeless deep again. And again, at night she would stand on
the shore by the dark ocean and the imaged stars, staring with such
reverence as one might feel when kneeling in prayer in some mighty
cathedral. She had inherited the imagination and superstition of her
fanatic father in diviner tone. Consequently she had been easily
influenced by the grandeur of Hawahee’s solemn faith.

Even as they reached the heights by the valley she bowed her head in
reverence as the winds swept inland and the murmuring music of the
shells was wafted to her ears.

“Sestra, the music is deep-voiced to-day, and so ‘twill be well to visit
our brothers,” said Hawahee.

Saying this, he and Sestrina turned their footsteps and walked up to the
palm-sheltered spot where Lupo, Steno, Rohana and the rest lay buried.

Each one of the lepers had died with Hawahee’s blessing to soothe their
souls. For when they were at last stricken deep by the ravages of the
terrible scourge, they had crept up to Hawahee’s and Sestrina’s
dwellings and begged forgiveness—forgiveness which had at once been
given. Lupo had been the first to go. He had stood on the shore wringing
his hands as the clear light of death and the infinite came to his soul
in place of the dark of his stricken, blind eyes. Sestrina had at once
run down the shore, and had whispered soothing words into his ears,
telling him there was nothing to forgive, that she was his dear, erring
sister. And when the dying man had turned his face first to the dim
horizon and then to the right and left, ere he located Sestrina, he had
fallen on his knees and wept like a child. Sestrina’s kind words and
wishes for his soul had greatly comforted him as he knelt upon the shore
wrapped in the shroud of death, ready for his soul’s last hurry to the
stars. Rohana, the last to go, had shaken his fist at the sky and cursed
the gods!—ere he fell a huddled heap on the sands. Steno and his two
blind comrades had moaned awhile, and had then fallen asleep like
children with tired heads. And so, Hawahee and Sestrina’s heart felt sad
enough as they knelt by the graves of their dead comrades and prayed.
Then they quickly passed back by the reefs on their way home and parted,
each going to their self-allotted tasks—Sestrina to her domestic duties
and Hawahee to his mat-weaving.

As soon as she had finished her day’s toil, she went down to the beach,
and jumping in her canoe paddled out beyond the reefs. Hawahee had made
that small craft. His delight had ever been to do all in his power to
make the castaway girl as happy as possible.

As Sestrina paddled along, she turned the small prow shoreward again,
and hugged the reefs. Then she stopped, and placing her paddle in the
canoe took her flute from the folds of her robe and started to play the
weird sweet melodies which Hawahee had taught her. Her eyes brightened
as she played on, for the winds in the palms that sheltered the blue
lagoons sighed a deep effective accompaniment to her sylvan music. The
light of reality faded, and her mind became wrapped in a robe of
mystery. She became one with the sea, the winds and the tropical
loveliness around her. Her unerring clock, the travelling sun, had
already stooped to set its golden seal on the brow of the departing day.
She ceased to pipe her songs as she looked seaward and watched the
melancholy eyes of day on the western sea horizon, touching the ocean
with ineffable splendour ere departing into the sleeping lake of all the
years since the birth of Time. She came near to tears as she watched the
first shadows fall and saw the great flocks of birds come speeding
through the distant horizon. On, on they came in their migrating flight,
looking like fleets of swiftly paddled sky-canoes. She looked up and saw
their curling wings hasten over the isle, and could hear their faint
dismal mutterings ere they faded to the southward, leaving a deeper
loneliness behind. It was such sights that awakened the pagan mystery of
her soul and made her a natural child of the universe. Even as she
watched the birds fade away, she recommenced her flute-playing and
paddled close to the shores to seek mysterious company. For Hawahee had
told her many strange legends, and one said: “The souls of the dead
Hawaiian men and women live in the shapes of birds and sing tender
melodies for the ears of those they loved when in mortal shape, and wail
in bitterness to the ears of those who wronged them when they roamed as
mortals on the earth.”

And so, as Sestrina laid her paddle in her canoe and piped her flute,
and heard the soft, Lydian music of the wind amongst the leaves, and
mutterings of cockatoos, she fancied the dead lepers spoke to her. Then,
as the shadows deepened to the westward, she saw shadowy tresses toss as
the winds stirred the dark-fingered palm leaves, revealing to her
watching eyes, visionary faces of beautiful women who gazed in silent
sorrow upon her. Where had she seen those faces before?—dim, remembered
faces of those who had watched over her in her childhood. Ere the stars
came over the seas, she swiftly paddled to the shore.

“I’m feeling strangely sad to-night. What has happened to me that I
should fear the wrath of Atua, Kauhilo and kind Pelé?” she murmured, as
she lay down on her soft couch for the night.

Then she heard Rohana shout, “Atua Hawee! Hawaee! O Pelé!” and knew that
Hawahee was placing ripe corn into the cockatoo’s cage ere he retired to
bed in his homestead just across the slope.

“I am safe, for he sleeps!” she whispered, as though in fright, to
herself. Then she crept from her couch, and kneeling by the old
photograph of Père Chaco, that hung on the wooden wall, she forgot the
shell-gods and prayed feverently to the great, merciful God of her
childhood.



                               CHAPTER II


THE next day Hawahee walked into the space of Sestrina’s palm-sheltered
kitchen, and said: “Sestra, I have made these things for you.” Sestrina
gazed in surprise and delight on the delicate articles which the
Hawaiian had placed on her wickerwork table. For Hawahee had, with great
patience and artistic toil, weaved a beautiful tappa bodice and
tasselled rami (native skirt) for her, and had also plaited pretty
sandals for her feet. She examined the primitive, but picturesque,
garments with great delight. The old skirt which she had made from the
bundle of tablecloths which had been found in the _Belle Isle’s_ cuddy
was very much tattered, and there was no more cloth left.

“Aloah, oh, Hawahee, ’tis good of you,” she said, as she stooped forward
and picked up a beautifully plaited pair of sandals. “Why, you have made
two pairs of sandals!”

Hawahee, who had been standing near with smiling face over the girl’s
delight, gave a startled jump forward and snatched the second pair of
sandals from her hands, as though he had not intended the second pair
for her, and had placed them in the parcel by mistake. Sestrina gazed in
wonder. Not once in all the years of their castaway life had she seen
Hawahee look so worried and confused. “Why had he taken the second pair
of sandals from her like that? Why look so shamefaced, so worried, as he
stood there with his head bowed as though in guilt, and then slipped the
sandals into the folds of his native jerkin? If the sandals were not
meant for her feet, who was her rival on that uninhabited isle, where
only she and Hawahee dwelt? They could not be meant for Pelé, for the
goddess had feet four times the size of her own.” And as Sestrina stood
wondering, Hawahee stalked away, went across the small slope and entered
his vine-covered homestead.

“How foolish of me. He means to present them to me some other day, when
these are worn out,” Sestrina murmured, as she gazed in delight on the
tiny, delicately weaved sandals which she still held in her hand.

Just before sunset on that same day, Sestrina came back from her swim in
the lagoon and stood before Hawahee, who at once stopped chopping
firewood and gazed upon her. A deep light shone in Sestrina’s eyes as
she stood before the Hawaiian arrayed in the tappa bodice, rami and
sandals.

On seeing the light in the girl’s eyes Hawahee’s eyes also brightened,
the lines of care at once smoothed from his brow. The next moment
Sestrina blushed deeply and realised, for the first time, that, however
hard a woman strives to conceal the secret thoughts of her heart, her
eyes must give her away.

“I have placed the things on, you see, Hawahee,” she murmured, as she
dropped her glance and gazed down at her sandalled feet.

“Thou hast grown more beautiful than I dreamed, Sestra,” said Hawahee,
as he gazed on the perfect symmetry of his lone companion’s form. True
enough the loose picturesque bodice, short-sleeved and low in the
shoulders and again below the throat’s fullness, and the skirt, also,
had been artfully devised so that the beauty of her figure should please
Hawahee’s eyes. The flush of health, the oval, dimpled face, the coral
red lips and lustrous eyes might well have brought the light of
admiration to the eyes of men placed in less loneliness than that which
passed over the Hawaiian’s solitary days. Perhaps it was the glory of
Sestrina’s mass of hair that made her look like some wonderful picture
that represented the zenith of woman’s physical loveliness. But the
perfect beauty of Sestrina gleamed in the earnest, spiritual light of
her eyes, the expression on the tremulous mouth, and the calm pure brow.
It was a lovely face. The Fates seemed to have meditated deeply over her
soul’s welfare when they fashioned that faultless face and remembered
all that destiny had planned, and the temptation that would beset her
path. As she stood there, the winds tossed her disordered hair till the
tresses fell in confusion over her face, hiding her own confusion as
they floated out and went rippling down far below her waist. A great
fire was burning in the Hawaiian’s eyes as he continued to gaze upon
her. Sestrina returned the gaze in a steady glance. She began to see how
the man felt for her. He put forth his hand, and taking her soft fingers
in his own placed them near his lips, then immediately dropped her hand
again. It was a long, long time since he had touched her; for though she
had often approached him, he had ever warned her of the danger she ran.
For though the leper-spot had almost healed, he knew the dreadful
scourge lurked in his body.

“Ah, wahine, I thank the gods for giving such a one as you to dwell here
with me in my sorrow,” murmured Hawahee as he sighed and stared seaward.

“Then, why have you placed the flag out again? Do you want me to leave
you for ever?” queried Sestrina as she hung her head, pleased to say
something as the Hawaiian’s glowing eyes once more stared upon her.
Sestrina had referred to the tappa-cloth signal flag which had flown for
years from the dead palm top out on the promontory’s edge. For Sestrina,
acting on a sudden impulse, had a week before, run out to the
promontory’s edge and climbing the palm had taken the flag down!

“No, I would not lose thee, beloved Sestra; but still, I feel worried
and much sad in the thought of the day which must come—when I am not
here!”

“Not here!” said Sestrina, great alarm in her voice.

“The gods may take me, wahine. For thou as well as they know that the
palms grow on and the seas roll for ever, but man departs.” So saying,
Hawahee sighed deeply and broke a piece of firewood on his knee. Then
continuing, he said: “Wahine, thou art a woman and I a man, and your
beauty sears my heart with thoughts that bring grief to the soul when I
hear the mouths of the gods warn me from their temple in the valley as I
lie sleepless in the night. And, Sestra, I see that too in your eyes
which tells me that I may speak this way to you.”

Sestrina listened with bowed head. She knew what the Hawaiian meant. And
so, through the innocence and natural modesty of her life and her deep
reverence for Atua, Pelé and Kauhilo, she was enabled to calmly take the
Hawaiian’s hand and say: “Dear Hawahee, we will kneel together and pray
deeply before the shell-altars asking that we may be made strong in the
hour of temptation.” Then, as she leaned forward and examined a small
blue flower that grew by the kitchen door, she said in a tremulous,
hesitating voice: “I too, at times, feel that thou art more than a dear
brother to me. And I say, O Hawahee, this feeling troubles me, since I
know it is the love of the flesh and not of the soul.”

“Since ’tis only love of the flesh and not of the soul, I will leave
thee and attend to the yam patch,” said Hawahee with a catch in his
throat. Then he strode away with deep sadness in his heart.

Sestrina gazed tenderly after him. Then she sat down by her kitchen door
and wept.

In a little while Sestrina rose and wandered down to the shore. As she
stood by the tropic, silent sea, her mind went back, far away into the
past. Once more she looked fondly into the memory of eyes that had long
years ago fired her girlish mind with romantic dreams and feverish
delight. It was a strange, deep, solemn memory that came to the girl.
The years of hopeless longing had imparadised her past. It was as though
sorrow and remembrance had, through some spiritual alchemy of the mind,
transmuted her memory of other days till now her past sparkled as the
spiritual light of carbon shines when the forces of nature have changed
it to the diamond’s light divine. It was the light never seen on sea or
land, and as vivid to Sestrina as the imaginative flash of a great
poet’s mind when he fancies he remembers the old stars that shone over
the primeval seas before creation. Sestrina not only possessed this
poetic imagination, but she also could hear the whisperings of her own
thoughts ere they left her and faded like exiled music into the spaces
around her!

Through living for years under the magnetic, spiritual fervour of
Hawahee’s weird personality, Sestrina’s mind had gradually reflected,
caught the weird light, the wonderful spiritual telepathy which enabled
the Hawaiian castaway to converse with her in her sleep, as he lay alone
in his silent hut beyond the yam patch!

For some time past, Sestrina had awakened and listened in fright and
wondered whether she dreamed; for she could hear mysterious,
unfathomable, hidden voices, and instinctively seemed to know that they
were deep thoughts haunting Hawahee’s mind as he dreamed in his silent
hut over the slope. From those things which Hawahee said to her at
times, she knew he had such power, but it was a revelation to her to
find that she too possessed so wonderful a gift. It had worried her mind
at first. She put the cause down to her own religious fervour and the
long years of listening to the murmuring shells of the ocean and the
deep bass voices of Kauhilo, Atua and Pelé. Sometimes she would stand on
the shore and dream till a strange feeling seemed to exalt her soul,
some ecstasy of melancholy that made her feel a wondrous kinship with
the universe around her. At such moments she would gaze seaward and
dreaming, fancy that her meditations had strangely taken wing! And,
incredible as it may seem, the hovering sea-birds, far out over the
ocean, would suddenly speed away as though something unseen had suddenly
touched their wings! Yes, out there on the vast ocean solitude! It can
only be supposed that in some simple, but mysterious, unexplainable way,
the girl’s yearning, passionate thoughts really _did_ take shape, and in
spiritual air-waves left her soul and flew away, went roaming the seas
and passed through the dim ocean horizons of her solitary isle to seek
and speak to those whom she had loved in the half-forgotten past.

And so Sestrina was not greatly surprised when Hawahee came back, after
his sudden departure for the yam patch, and said: “Who is this man who
haunts your dreams so much by night, Sestra, he whose eyes dwell in the
bosom of your imagination, aye, so deeply that the gleam sears my lonely
soul like fire?”

Sestrina, who had often lain on her lonely couch and listened with
unbounded astonishment to the soft passionate murmurings of Hawahee’s
sleepless nights, made no reply, but hung her head like a child ashamed.

“Tell me, Sestra. Though I have asked the gods to keep my deeper
thoughts from you, they have surely let you hear those voiceless words
that tell of my love, all that my sorrowing soul feels for you.”

Then Sestrina, gazed down at her new sandals, and said: “Sometimes I
have heard strange voices in the night that told me strange things, and
these voices frighten me; what does it all mean, Hawahee?”

“What hast thou heard, O Sestra mine?” said Hawahee as he too turned his
face away and sighed.

And then Sestrina, seeing the man’s sorrowful expression, said with the
brevity of a woman’s quick wit, “Perhaps ’tis only your prayers which I
have heard, for the winds blow soft in the night and could easily drift
stray, sad words from your lips to my ears.”

“Ah, wahine, Sestra mine,” murmured that strange, handsome Hawaiian as
he gazed steadily away from the girl as though he dare not trust himself
to gaze into the dark, unfathomable lustre of her soulful eyes.

Then once again he spoke: “Tell me, Sestra, who is he that haunts your
slumbers when the winds sigh in the palms and Pelé’s voice echoes down
the valley’s hollows?”

“He is one whom I met long years ago, one who said he loved me,” and as
Sestrina said this, she turned her eyes away, for they were full of
mist. But Hawahee had seen.

“I am a leper, the hated of the White God’s people.” His voice was full
of bitterness. Never had Sestrina heard him speak in such a manner
before.

“Remember the gods, Pelé and Atua,” whispered Sestrina as she gazed
tenderly, helplessly on the man. As she stood there and the soft winds
caressed her tresses, blowing them about her face and over her
shoulders, the man’s eyes burned with the light of a soft, hungry fire.

Sestrina turned away for a moment and stirred the cooking cakes over the
galley fire, then she sat down on her stool, and looking straight into
Hawahee’s face, said in a petulant voice, “So you would like me to be
rescued from this isle and taken back to the great world that I have
half forgotten, eh?”

“Wahine, why say these things,” replied Hawahee, who well knew why
Sestrina spoke so. Then he looked intently into the girl’s face and said
in a mournful voice, “Ah, Sestrina, I would you were as jealous as you
imagine you are. You know well enough that I wish thee to remain on this
isle.”

“Then, why have you gone and placed the flag on the palm top again after
I went and took it down? A ship may pass, and were the flag seen, men
would surely take me away,” said Sestrina, as she dashed her coco-nut
goblet at Hawahee’s feet.

“Attend to thy dreams, and not to the flag!” said Hawahee, as he kicked
the coco-nut goblet, and behaved like an angry schoolboy. Then seeing
how foolishly they were behaving, the Hawaiian forced a smile to his
lips, and with a bitter note trembling in his voice, said: “Sestrina,
should you be taken away on a ship I could easily die. One thrust with
this knife into the heart that worries about you, and I would be at
rest.”

Sestrina gazed in consternation into Hawahee’s flashing eyes. A great
shadow fell on her heart. She well knew that Hawahee was in earnest when
he said such things. “I would sooner dwell on this isle for ever than
such an end should come to you after all your kindness to me,” she
murmured as she gazed up into the man’s face, deliberately revealing the
tears that came swiftly to her eyes.

Hawahee’s heart was thrilled with a sweet yet sad joy as Sestrina spoke.
His eyes brightened. And as Sestrina stood up and touched him softly on
the shoulder, her tresses, blown by the wind, touched his face, sending
a deep thrill through him. His voice became musical and deep with
subdued passion. “Beloved wahine, ’tis strange that I have been blind to
your wondrous beauty of the flesh till now.”

“It is,” murmured Sestrina in her embarrassment, not knowing what she
was saying at the moment. Then she smiled, and Hawahee smiled also as
the girl glanced down on her pretty sandalled feet.

“The gods will not be angry, Sestrina, if we only speak as lovers. Pelé
knoweth my heart well, and no anger would come to her heart if we
imagine only our love for one another. For I say unto thee, that the
love of the imagination is greater than the reality,” so spake Hawahee
as in the religious fervour of his soul he tried to seek comfort for his
own sad thoughts.

Sestrina, thinking that Hawahee, who spoke so nobly, might see the
passionate light that gleamed in her eyes, walked to the shade of the
small banyan tree, and said: “Hark, the great strange birds are singing
in the breadfruits, yonder.” And as Hawahee and Sestrina gazed over the
small slope by the kitchen outhouse, they saw the big crimson winged
birds, that had arrived at the isle a week before, and who ever since
had settled on the trees by their home at sunset, croaking, chanting
weird, sometimes dismal notes.

“Yes, the birds have come,” murmured Hawahee. Then he gazed softly into
Sestrina’s face, and seeing the dark rings beneath her tired eyes, he
whispered, “Sestra, sweet sister, you are tired and must go to rest.”
Then with well simulated calmness he strode slowly across the patch,
away from the loveliness that made his heart stray from the gods in the
valley. Sestrina, who had always been so neat in her domestic affairs,
forgot to wash the wooden platters and coco-nut-shell goblets ere she
retired into her primitive chamber. It was a neatly furnished chamber
that Hawahee had built and arranged for her. Long ago they had pulled
the first frail shelter down. The couch was made of well dried wood and
fastened with strong sennet. The bed mattress was made of tappa-cloth
and stuffed with the softest seaweed. On the wall were one or two
pictures which had been saved from the wreck. Just over her bed hung the
faded photographs of her mother and the Catholic priest, Père Chaco,
which she had taken from the palace in her hurried flight from
Port-au-Prince ten years before.

For a long time Sestrina could not sleep. Womanhood had given birth to
strange thoughts in her worried mind. “Had not Hawahee been a noble
friend through the long years of sorrow?” And as she reflected, she felt
anger for the gods enter her heart that they should have a deeper place
in Hawahee’s heart than she appeared to have. Then, again, she
remembered, and sighed over her deepest dreams. “Why not give her love
to Hawahee and make him happy? What had the gods done for him or for
her? What mattered anything in that terrible isolation of an isle set in
apparently endless seas?” And as the castaway girl dreamed on, the winds
swept up the shore and all the palms resounded as though with one voice.
Again she can hear the moaning of the shells in the valley. Once more
the terror of superstition seizes her heart. “O Pelé! Atua! Kauhilo!
forgive me for such thoughts,” she cried.

And as the music of the winds soothed her soul, slumber touched her
eyes, and she stole off into those isles of troubled dreams that are
washed by the lulling, soundless seas of sleep.



                              CHAPTER III

         _Come to me in my dreams, and then I’ll hear
         The music of your voice steal like a stream
         Thro’ some old forest where like thirsty deer
         My thoughts will haunt the banks—drink deep the dream!
         Come when my night full of deep loneliness
         Sighs all its stars across the dreaming skies,
         Till memory’s ocean mirrors happiness—
         My heaven with all its half-forgotten eyes._


NEXT morning Hawahee and Sestrina went, as usual, and prayed before the
gods of the shell-temple. No sadder sight could be imagined than the
sight of the two lonely castaways kneeling there, in the faith born of
superstitious fear and misery, before those solemn-faced figures which
were sombre manifestations of Hawahee’s pagan creed.

Sestrina’s small delicate form, her hair rippling down her back, and
Hawahee, tall and broad-shouldered, kneeling by her side, like some
Phidias before Olympian Zeus and his colossal vassals, made a symbolical
picture which might well have appealed to a beneficent Omnipotence.
Their statues were dwarfed to pigmy-like proportions as they knelt in
humbleness before those herculean, solemn high-domed-headed gods that
stood on either side of the divinely majestic solemn-voiced goddess
Pelé. How mellow was her voice, for the wind, drifting from the
south-west, came sweeping down the leafy valley and entered the
convolutions of her pearly lips with æolian cunning and murmuring
sweetness.

As soon as they had left the temple Hawahee proposed that they should
take a trip together and search for seagulls’ eggs on the other side of
the isle. It was only about half an hour’s walk across the island.
Sestrina, who was never so happy as when roaming about the tropical
loveliness of that solitary world, clapped her hands with delight. When
they arrived on the cooler elevation of the palm-clad hills in the
centre of the isle, the sun was high in the sky.

“How sweet is the smell of the scented wind,” said Sestrina, as she
stood on the height and felt the cool scent-laden breeze as it stirred
the leafy boughs of the mango and breadfruit trees. Standing up there
they could see the far-off curling waves running up the shores around
their solitary isle. To the eastward they could see the two huge rocks
that looked like two vast monoliths standing by the sea. Again to the
south-west stood the lightning-blasted giant breadfruit trunk; its one
shrivelled blackened branch resembled a mighty human arm that ever
pointed to the western skyline, like some weird sign-post pointing the
way towards the eternity of the blue days and the sad, hesitating
sunsets.

While standing there, on the hills, the wind gently touched Sestrina’s
tresses, blowing them softly out till they floated against Hawahee’s
cheek.

“Sestra, the winds are my friends to-day,” said Hawahee, as he smiled
and then glanced about him in an observant manner, as though he would
hide his own thoughts from himself.

Then he pointed to the shore, far behind them, and said: “See, I have
taken the signal-flag down.”

Sestrina turned her head, also, and noticed that the old tappa flag no
longer flew from the top of the palm on the promontory’s edge.

“’Tis good of you, Hawahee, to take the flag down. I well know that you
have taken it down to please me.”

“True enough, wahine,” the man replied.

Sestrina gazed into Hawahee’s face; the fire of passion was glowing in
his eyes. She swiftly turned her head that he might not see the light in
her own eyes. In endeavouring to hide her face from her companion she
slipped and fell forward, giving a startled cry.

“Aue!” cried Hawahee. He had rushed forward—Sestrina had tumbled into a
small hollow by the bamboos. In a moment he was beside her. She lay in a
recumbent position, her dress slightly disarranged as she lifted her
knee, which was stained with blood.

“Are you hurt, O Sestra?” he murmured. His voice sounded hoarse and
strange to Sestrina as he knelt beside her and gently wiped the blood
from the small wound where a thorn had torn the flesh. Then he proceeded
to bind the knee with a piece of tappa-cloth which he had hastily torn
from the loose sleeve of his jerkin. “Aue! poor wahine,” he sighed as he
gently twisted the bandage round and round. Hawahee’s hand was shaking.
A flood of passion nearly overwhelmed his senses. All the noble
resolutions which he had made whilst on his knees before his gods were
made in vain!

“Sestra!”

“Hawahee!”

The next moment their lips met in a long impassioned kiss! Sestrina made
an attempt to rise. The full-blown, richly-scented, crimson tropic
flowers shed their leaves over her as her head fell back again into the
deep fern grasses. Her eyes, half closed, gave a quivering gleam from
the pupils, just visible between the dark-lashed eyelids, that were
slightly apart, like a sick baby’s when it sleeps.

“Hawahee, my knee!” she moaned as their lips met again and yet again.

He still knelt beside her, and lifting her slightly, clasped her to his
bosom. She opened her eyes; Hawahee saw a deep, earnest light in their
depths. He murmured soft fond words in his musical language. Lifting her
tresses, in the throes of some great passion, he buried his face in the
folds of her hair, touching the shining skeins with his lips. His arms
stole softly about her form. He felt the soft heave of her bosom as she
placed one hand over her eyes.

“Sestra, how beautiful you look, the wild scents of the flowers and
pulis cling to your tresses,” he whispered. A cockatoo in the palms gave
a dismal croak and fluttered away. The winds stirred the bamboo thickets
as her hair floated softly against his face.

“Sestra,” he murmured. His voice was hoarse and trembled. He touched her
hand, caressing her fingers with his own. “Wahine, O laki, aloah!” he
whispered. A sigh escaped Sestrina’s lips as he knelt there, beside her.

“Hawahee, let me go, my knee stings.”

“Sestra, ’tis my heart that stings; let me stay,” he replied.

Sestrina’s gaze met his own. Again she inclined her head, and placed her
hand over her eyes.

“Hawahee, remember I am weak, I am a woman!” she sobbed. Her voice
seemed to awaken the Hawaiian fanatic from some lovely impassioned
dream. He suddenly stared over his shoulder, a startled look in his
eyes. Beads of sweat stood on his brow. He too had something to
remember—he was a leper! And as he remembered, he distinctly heard the
warning, moaning chimes of the shells and the gods of the temple of the
valley. They both knelt there, listening, fright and misery expressed on
their brows. Hawahee was convinced, beyond all doubt, that the gods of
shadowland had seen his danger, had warned him.

“O god of Langi, O Atua, O Pelé! I thank thee,” he cried as he thought
how near to sorrow temptation had brought him and the woman he loved
beyond all earthly passion.

Sestrina also heard the solemn warning chimes from the valley of the
shell altar. She rose to her feet and gazed for a moment in wonder on
Hawahee. And as she noticed the reverence for the gods expressed on his
face and in his calm clear eyes, she also came under the influence of
the pagan superstition which he had instilled into her heart. Then she
remembered, and leaning forward in a great pretence, hid her face from
the man as she examined her injured knee.

Hawahee gazed on her inclined form for a second, and then gazed straight
up at the sky; and there was misery in his eyes as he watched the
fast-flying flock of migrating black swans as they came over the ocean,
passed over the isle, and sped on their trackless flight. Without
glancing at Sestrina, he murmured in a low tone, “Beloved sister, ’tis
well that I go alone to seek the sea-birds’ eggs.” Then, fearing his own
weakness, he hurried away from Sestrina’s presence. As his dignified,
handsome form passed between the palm stems, Sestrina gazed after him.
Tears were in her eyes as she noticed his bowed head. Then she, too,
hastened away and disappeared in the Arcadian shadows of the pulus
(dwarf fern trees) and palms.

                  *       *       *       *       *

“They are beautiful eggs,” murmured Sestrina. Hawahee had returned from
his journey and had laid the full basket of coloured sea-birds’ eggs
down at her feet.

“Ah, wahine, thank me not, ’tis a pleasure of great love to gather the
eggs for thee.”

“Is it, Hawahee?” responded Sestrina as her downcast eyes studied the
pretty hand-plaited ribbons of her sandals.

“Sestra, ’tis happy I am, that I can still call thee sweet sister,” said
Hawahee as Sestrina went on with her work, very busy cooking.

Sestrina made no reply to her companion’s remark, but placed the cooked
fish in the platters. Then they sat down and ate their meal in silence.

“Why so silent, Sestra?” said the man as the woman he loved avoided his
eyes.

Sestrina made no reply, but simply proceeded to pass the tortoise-shell
comb through her shining tresses, combing them forward so that they hid
the expression of her face from view.

“Aloah, Sestra, good night,” murmured Hawahee.

But still the comb moved and moved, as it relentlessly tugged the
tresses till they fell like a tent about the girl’s face and shoulders.

“Aloah!” he reiterated. Then he turned away from the veranda and passed
back into the shadows. And as the Hawaiian entered his lonely homestead,
he heard the shell-gods moaning their murmuring melodies. Thereupon, he
at once fell on his knees, and thanked all the gods and the great White
God who had helped him in his weaknesses, and so made the day pass
without sorrow.

That night Sestrina lay sleepless in bed thinking of many things that
troubled her. The moon had risen, and as she looked through the small
window-hole above her pillow, she could see the far-off ocean and the
tumbling silvered waves that seemed to be beating silently over the
shore reefs. One thin shaft of moonlight fell slantwise through the
dark-fingered palm leaves by her door, sending a mystic radiance across
her form as she lay there.

“I cannot sleep,” she murmured as she rose to a sitting attitude and
gazed on the faded photographs on the wall. Then she gave a start—a
shadow had fallen across the small room, obliterating the moon’s flame
swiftly, as though a lamp had been blown out. She gave no cry of fear as
she turned her head and saw Hawahee standing by her couch. “Why come to
me by night?” she asked calmly as she gazed up at the sad face of the
tall Hawaiian, who gazed in silence, speaking only by the light of his
earnest eyes.

“I also, like the stars, cannot sleep, wahine, dear sister,” he said, as
the woman turned her head, and once more a slip of moonlight touched the
lovely dishevelment of her shining hair. Her eyes were bright. One arm
lay across her bosom, the other inclined upward so that her head could
rest on it as she gazed in a meditative way at the solemn-faced man.

“Sestra, a great fire burns in my blood, and the gods may forget me,”
said Hawahee softly, a note of deep sadness in his voice. “Stare not in
my face, Sestra.”

But Sestrina still gazed, and saw that the sight of her lying there had
awakened a deep light in the Hawaiian’s eyes. The next moment she had
drawn the soft, delicately woven tappa sheet higher, so that her bosom
and throat curves were concealed. Hawahee, noticing this act of
Sestrina’s, gazed with downcast eyes at the floor, as though in shame.
Sestrina immediately put forth her arms, and said: “Hawahee, touch my
lips again, you are strong, noble and brave.”

“Hast thou forgotten the dreadful kilia?” he murmured as he reminded her
of the risk she ran through holding his hand.

“I care not for the kilia, or for anything else so long as you remain
with me, and keep brave and strong,” she sighed, as she too turned her
head away as though she dreaded that Hawahee would read her thoughts.

“Ah, wahine, I have come from my couch because I heard the hidden voices
whispering echoes of your own dreams into my heart. Be brave and strong,
Sestra, and desert not the gods. Pelé’s voice was deep with sorrow this
night when I knelt before her.” Then Hawahee lifted his hand and said:
“The shell-altars and the gods are speaking, listen!”

And as they both listened, they heard the night wind drifting the solemn
chant-chimes of Atua, Kauhilo, and Pelé across the slopes. The voices
sounded deep and solemn, and strangely in harmony with the low monotone
of the seas that answered along the shore. Again they kissed, and again
they heard the god-voices moan as the wind swept down the breadfruit
valley. Hawahee, fanatic as he was, seemed to realise at that moment how
he had toiled for years to create gods who would make his heart quake
with fear when the fruits of happiness and desire were within his grasp.
He turned his head and gazed in bitterness through the doorway. The next
moment the light of remorse and fear leapt into his eyes. He had
remembered all that the gods were supposed to have done for him, and for
Sestrina.

“But for their mercy I might be lying under the palms, hidden from the
winds of heaven beside Rohana, Steno, and their comrades in death,” he
thought.

Sestrina noticed the swift change in the man’s manner. Then she too
placed her hands to her ears as though she would attempt to shut out the
moans of the shell-gods.

“Be faithful to the gods, O wahine.”

“I will!” replied Sestrina as the old pagan superstition swept back to
her, bringing melancholy to her heart. For she had heard the praise of a
strong man’s voice. She sat up and stared in an appealing way at Hawahee
as she realised what her life had missed through the cruelty of the
fates. The presence of the tall, handsome man thrilled her in a strange
way, a thrill over which she seemed to have too little selfcontrol. She
half hated herself as the winds swept through the open door of her
chamber, and disturbed her tresses, making Hawahee turn his eyes from
her form as though he dreaded the temptation of her presence.

“’Tis I who am the temptress, he is truly noble—I am weak,” she said to
herself. “Ah, were it not for my memory of the past, and my thousand
prayers to the great White God and the Virgin when Hawahee thinks I am
praying to his gods, I would—”

Her reflections were suddenly broken short. Hawahee spoke, his voice
sounding almost stern:

“Sestra, a light which does not belong to the olden gods shines in your
eyes; why is this?”

“No! No!” said Sestrina as she gazed in fright at the man who could read
her thoughts. The next moment, Hawahee’s voice had softened.

“Thou knowest not the depth of my love, wahine. Maybe, some day you will
be rescued, taken away from this isle, and will go forth into the great
world again. ’Tis then you will remember these things, and know how
great was my love for thee.” So spake the great-souled Hawahee.

The sweet sorrow of that midnight meeting seemed to have brought comfort
to Sestrina’s heart when Hawahee vanished as though the winds had blown
a misty form from her presence. “Now I will sleep well, wahine,” he had
murmured as he turned to leave her. In a few moments he had stolen along
as though in some fear under the palms, and had entered his hut. For a
long time he knelt in deep prayer, appealing to his gods for comfort and
strength. Then he lay down on his couch, and seemed to pass away into a
deep slumber. And as he slept, his life entered the great dream-world of
the unseen reality. A wild wind swept through his slumber. Outside his
hut the giant breadfruits waved their tasselled arms and sighed some
melody of the ages.

On top of the first shore hill stood Sestrina’s hut, deserted! She too
had found a second existence, and had risen from her sleep and wandered
down to the shore. The ocean stretched away like a tremendous mirror of
pale romance as the tossing waves rose from the deep like white-necked
children of sorrow’s womb, and knocked in vain at the cave doors, or ran
along the dream-like beach. And still Sestrina walked up and down the
moonlit shore, wringing her hands in some unfathomable despair. Her face
was pale, and the gaze in her eyes as far-away looking as the light of
the imaged stars that haunted the blue lagoons by her side. As she
walked to and fro, her outblown hair softly lifting and falling about
her form as though in rhythmical sympathy with her own deep dreams, she
stared in fright out on the vast moon-ridden seas. Inclining her head,
she placed her hand to her ear and listened. Only the far-away sigh of
the winds reached her, the voices of the shell-gods were silent at last!
Again she listened—a startled look leaped into her eyes, for she could
hear the distant voice of Pelé rumbling across the pine and palm tracks.
It was a noiseless sound, just as one hears when placing the ear against
the pearly entrance of a large sea-shell. As though she was haunted by
the presence of some unfathomable terror, she wrung her hands, and began
to creep tiptoe up the slopes.

“Hawahee! Hawahee! save me! I am a woman, I am weak, and you are
strong,” she cried. Her voice, though apparently soundless, sent an echo
across the slopes into the ears of the sleeping man who listened!

Still she crept on, her hair blowing wildly about her, her rami’s
tasselled fringe swinging to the trembling of her own form. The next
moment she stood outside Hawahee’s open door. Her eyes were burning with
a strange, beautiful sapphire light. All the visionary beauty of woman
shone on her brow and in the fear of her parted lips as she called his
name.

Slowly, as though in some terror of the fascination and dread over which
her soul had no control, her pale hands clung, pulled at the canvas
folds of the doorway’s old curtain. Again and again she pushed and
pulled till slowly that fragile curtain, which divided the wandering
Sestrina from the sleeper, was swept aside, revealing Hawahee’s handsome
form and sleeping face. He tried to rise. He knew that he dreamed, and
yet he knew that his dream was the unseen reality of the truth!

Sestrina saw the smile on his lips as he welcomed her presence, for
though his eyes were closed he noticed these things. She even saw the
warm blood of some passion mount to his brow—the eyelids quivered as
though blown by some inward storm of the soul which they hid. “Hawahee,
my beloved Hawahee!” she whispered.

Ah, how sweet the voice sounded to the sleeper’s ears! That pale,
wraith-like woman who dreamed and voiced all the feminine passion and
sorrow of those infinite seas, saw the convulsive clutching of the
strong fingers as the sleeper endeavoured to rise from his couch and
embrace the vision of loveliness that leaned over him. He felt the touch
of warm lips kissing his own. The radiant light of some great passion,
mingled with religious fear, shone in the eyes of the figure that knelt
by his couch. It was only a momentary glance which he saw. The next
second his sad, beautiful visitor gazed in startled terror. It seemed
that a great wind had swept over an isle of dreams. It came up the
shores like some rude breath of reality sweeping across the pale seas of
romance, blowing the moon into shreds of mists and tangled light,
scattering the pale-eyed stars in fright from the lagoons.

Hawahee was awake. He distinctly saw a form standing in the moonlight by
his hut doorway, wringing its hands as though in terror. A shriek
escaped the figure’s lips. He stared again—like some moonlit cobweb
stuff, Sestrina’s shape seemed to have been blown from his sight.

“She only comes in dreams!” he sighed, and then the lone castaway fell
into a deeper slumber.



                               CHAPTER IV


“THE shell-gods moan in the valley, and your shadow dances!” said
Hawahee to Sestrina a few days after his midnight visit to her.

What do you mean, Hawahee?” said Sestrina as she gazed long and
earnestly at her solitary companion. A strange look, as though of
fright, was in his eyes. His handsome face was pallid. Sestrina took his
hand. He made no sign that she risked contagion by doing so, but stood
quite still. Then he placed one arm gently over her shoulder and said,
“Sestra, come and see, follow me.”

Sunrise was peeping over the ocean’s horizon, bathing the illimitable
miles with liquid gold; like divine thrills of soundless sound from the
bugles of eternity calling réveillé over the new day’s birth,
transcendent hues, rich harmonics of colour, swept, thrilled with
unheard music, the infinite horizons of the sailless seas. “How
beautiful breathe the gods when Pelé’s eyes stare from the east,”
whispered Sestrina as she stared from the hill-top, and like some
goddess with an imaginary goblet in her outstretched hand, dipped it
into the golden foams of the sunrise, and drank it with her lips and
eyes!

“’Tis the great Atua’s hand painting the skyline of the new day with the
colours of the old sunsets,” said Hawahee as he too turned and gazed on
the ocean’s eastern skyline. Then they both turned away, and walking
beneath the breadfruits, passed down the little slope that led into the
deep leafy glooms of the valley.

As they approached the temple they heard the shell-organ moaning soft
and low, Lydian strains and mournful monotones, some as faint as the
murmurs of a sea-shell.

As they stood within a few feet of the pagan temple, Hawahee said:
“Look, Sestra, art thou not beautiful as thy shadow dances?” As Hawahee
spoke he pointed towards the shades of the mighty buttressed banyan that
stood just to the left side of the temple.

“I can see nothing,” said Sestrina as she gazed in astonishment in the
direction where Hawahee declared he saw the figure of a beautiful woman
dancing—her own shadow—so he said.

Sestrina stared again. She could only see a moulting, dilapidated, large
grey and red-winged parrot calmly preening its feathers as every now and
again it gazed curiously at them from its high perch. Hawahee gave a
startled look. He seemed to have suddenly come to his senses; for he
looked round quickly and said, “’Tis only fancy, come away! come away!”
He almost pulled Sestrina as he beckoned her to hasten from that spot.
Slowly they both walked back, neither of them speaking one word to the
other.

This incident greatly worried Sestrina. All day long she went about her
domestic duties in an absent-minded way, reflecting deeply. “Perhaps his
mind is ill. I remember reading in books, long years ago, that men and
women become strange and have peculiar fancies—mad, I think they call
the complaint. I will go and watch him. He may harm himself through his
desire that afflicts him. Sooner than harm should come to him, I would—”

She would not allow her thoughts to go further, but seeing that the sun
was low, a great fear suddenly possessed her—she ran down the slopes to
go in search of Hawahee. Where had he been all day? she thought as she
stood on the shore. Seeing no sight of him on the isle, a terrifying
fright seized her heart. For the first time during the long years, a
faint realisation of how she would feel were she left perfectly alone on
the isle came to her. In her new terror she put forth her hands and
screamed as though in appeal to the dumb, bright sky: “Hawahee! Hawahee!
Where are you? Come to me, Sestra calls you!”

Inclining her head she listened eagerly, but only the faint echo of her
voice answered from the palm-clad hills. As she stared about her, she
suddenly observed a dark object moving in the jungle on the elevation
where the lepers were buried. The joy of life returned to her. Her feet,
winged with hope and fear, sped towards that small necropolis. She
suddenly stopped short. Her joy had turned to fear and wonder. What was
Hawahee doing? Why dig on that spot, just as he had dug when the lepers
died, one by one? She stared again. Sure enough, he was busily digging a
hole exactly next to the last grave which he had dug when Rohana died.
The next moment she had rushed out from the shadows.

“Why are you digging? Who has died, since ’tis only we, you and I, who
dwell on this world?” she cried, her voice full of anguish.

“I make my own grave, Sestra, surely I must die some day,” murmured
Hawahee as he suddenly stayed his hand, and rubbed his eyes as though he
had just awakened from a strange dream. Then he hung his head as though
in shame that he should cause the girl such grief.

“Come back to the palavana (homestead),” said Sestrina. And Hawahee
followed her like an obedient child.

Directly Hawahee entered his hut, he rubbed his eyes and remembered what
a strange thing he had done. Tears were in his eyes as he thought of
Sestrina’s grief. “I have brought pain to her heart, Sestra, the flower,
the light of my soul, the goddess of my soul’s misery! Surely the gods
of the valley have deserted me that they should make me feel that I was
as one dead, for did I not go and dig my grave by the side of Rohana’s
sleep, and my other comrades who dwell in Langi? ’Tis the madness of
desire, the long darkness and thirst which has made me forget I still
breathe the light.”

As the sad Hawaiian reflected, he drew up the sleeve of his jerkin so
that he might examine the leper patch on his arm. “Aue!” he exclaimed as
he gazed on his arm, astounded! “’Tis dry! and hardly to be seen! O
Atua! O Pelé! can it be that thou hast spared me? Kauhilo, blessed be
thy name, and the pure fires of thy mountains.[2] In the fires of
loveliness, O Kauhilo, thou hast surely purified my body! My body is
sweet as are the flowers of the forest, and warm as the sunlight afloat
on the seas. My desires! My desires! they shall be a blessing and not a
curse on the woman I love.”

Footnote 2:

  Just as the ancient Greeks gave Cyclops and his vassals, Hephaestus,
  etc, abodes in the volcanic mountains, abodes which were supposed to
  be the workshops of the Olympian Gods, the Hawaiians believed that
  Pelé, Kauhilo, Atua and their vassals, had their abodes in the
  volcanoes of Hawaii.

In the deep gratitude which he felt towards his gods, his eyes filled
with tears. Once again he pressed the muscles of his arms, and, sure
enough, the leper patch was dry—cured! He rose to his feet. He pulled
the delicately woven tappa shirt half over his shoulders, and then gazed
on his full chest. The flesh was soft, full-looking, like a woman’s, the
throat’s perfect curves and lines full of manly grace, and of the
splendid flush of health. The physical characteristics of his race were
shown to splendid advantage by his god-like figure, the symmetry, the
muscular beauty of his body’s strength. As he stood there, framed in his
hut’s tall doorway, his fine, clear eyes gazing on his pagan stars in
gratitude, he might easily have been mistaken for some god-like figure
expressing manly beauty, wondrously done in smooth-veined gold-brown
marble. In his ecstasy over his discovery, Hawahee lifted his arms and
prayed aloud. He thought of all that his discovery meant to him. Already
the shadow of night lay over the isle. In a frenzy of delight he rushed
from his homestead. Again he waved his arms to the sky.

As he lifted his hands and called to Atua, and Pelé, and Kauhilo he
looked what he was—a pagan praying to the stars.

Then he lay prone and beat his hands on the ground. Again he rose to his
feet, and, rushing down the valley, knelt before the wonderful stone
figures that were the great hope and pagan joy of his spiritual-dreaming
life. He lifted his arms in fervent prayer to Atua, and gazed in an
awestruck way up at Kauhilo’s eternal sidelong glance, and then again
into great Pelé’s face and the eyes that gave their immutable stare into
the leafy shadows. Rising from his knees, he again paid obeisance to the
gods of his own creating, and then rushed out into the shadows close by
and prayed again!

The great grey dawn came stealing over the Pacific: Hawahee was still
awake. He had only slept an hour or so. The wonder of his discovery had
driven sleep from his mind. Again he leapt from his couch. Again he
stood outside by his hut, in the soft light of the breaking day, and let
the sunrise gleams fall like liquid flame on his muscular form.

“Atua, O Pelé, O Kauhilo! I thank thee!” he cried aloud as he stared in
delight on the perfect smoothness of his muscular flanks, his bosom and
the healthful glow of his body! Hastily pulling on his tappa-robe, he
ran down the slope, away once more to pray to his gods!

Such was Hawahee’s delight when he left Sestrina and found he was full
of health.

In the meantime, Sestrina wept. Directly she saw Hawahee disappear in
his hut she hastened away over the slopes and filled in the grave which
he had dug for himself! Then she had returned in sorrow to her lonely
habitation. That same night, as Hawahee prayed in the frenzy of delight
over his discovery, Sestrina knelt alone in her chamber, praying to the
great White God of her childhood. Then, remembering, she bowed her head
and prayed to the gods of the temple.

“O Hawahee, thou art now all the world, all of life and light to me,
therefore I cannot desert the gods thou prayest to,” she murmured, as
she thought of the grave he had dug.

She was still awake when dawn sent a glimmer of silvery light over her
couch and along the wooden walls, touching the faded faces of the past.
She lay still, her eyes staring into the great sorrow of her dreams as
the first gleam of sunrise touched her couch, and her ears heard the
chatterings and melodious whistlings of the cockatoos and parrots. The
music of the birds called her back to herself. She at once rose and
swiftly attired herself in the picturesque costume which Hawahee, with
such artistic toil and love, had weaved. Stealing from her chamber, she
ran outside her doorway and stood like a graceful nymph in the cool
morning air. Her face was strangely flushed, her eyes feverish-looking,
as she gazed into the shadowy depths of the orange trees and smelt the
damp of the gloom that were illuminated with flowers. Glancing around,
she spied the calabash wherein Hawahee kept the fermented orange and
lime juice which he so carefully made for himself. For often he, too,
could not sleep.

“It brings sweetest sleep to my brain, O Sestra,” he had said.

And so the pagan girl dipped the coco-nut-shell goblet into the
calabash, and filling it to the brim, drank twice! Thoughts of Hawahee
and their mutual sorrow commenced to haunt her mind. “O Atua, O great
Pelé, why am I denied this man’s caress—and yet—” and as she spoke she
hesitated and dropped her eyes as some old memory seemed to steal on the
soft dawn’s breeze, coming to her as though from far beyond the seas.
She placed her fingers into her ears as though to stay the hidden
voices—for she had heard strange whisperings that night as Hawahee gazed
in joy on the full grace of his graceful form and dreamed of the
solitary woman who slept near him.

“Why not gaze into his eyes as I have longed to gaze in other eyes? Why
not feel the lovely, strong clasp of the arms of love? Have I not
secretly longed for such love—and have I not heard the hidden voices of
his dreams steal to me across the moonlit yam patch? Why have the gods
given me this strange desire? Am I different to the women who walk the
great living world that I am separated from by those far-away skylines
of the ocean and by cruel fate. O Atua, O Pelé, do I not remember the
old things of my childhood, of the longings and sweet, kind ways of the
world of the past? Was I not a child once, and did not my head lay on
the bosom of a mother who was beautiful in the virgin light of pure
motherhood?”

And, as Sestrina reflected, she worked herself into a kind of pagan
frenzy over the rebellious thoughts that began to haunt her.

“I am beautiful, O Pelé,” she cried. She ran down the shore. Throwing
her hair wildly about her shoulders she stared out to sea and began to
sway and chant in a strange manner. She gazed enraptured at her image in
the lagoon. “How rounded my limbs are, how full and soft. O Hawahee, how
happy am I in the thought of your praise.”

She gazed on her image again and swerved, vanity ashine in her eyes, to
see her mass of glittering hair rippling down the shadowy shoulders,
falling below her waist as she unclothed, ready to leap into the cool
lagoon’s water. Her eyes were bright with passionate thoughts. She
turned about and stared on the great shining seas. She drank in the
tropical loveliness of the isle as she had never done before. The
crimson glory of the tropic flowers gave her a strange thrill of
delight. All the spiritual beauty of the forest had vanished! She only
saw the warm colours, the hot sunlight and smelt the sensuous exotic
odours of the bee-sucked crimson petals of the hibiscus and flamboyant
blossoms. The pagan spirit that had suddenly awakened in her soul made
her clap her hands in ecstasy as she gazed up at the bright-plumaged
birds that sped across the sky. The huge-trunked breadfruit trees that
stood by the shore were still her wise old friends as they leaned their
richly tasselled leafy arms over her, nearly to the lagoon’s sandy bank,
and sighed. The next moment she had leapt from the waters and stood in
their shades.

“O wise old trees of the forest, you are happy, and so why should I be
sad?” she murmured as she stared at the big leafy heights and thought
how Hawahee had told her that they were the reincarnations of mighty
gods who had fallen in the past through having mortal desires!

She gave a silvery peal of laughter. She took forth her little bamboo
flute from the folds of her rami (skirt). There beneath the sighing
breadfruits, she placed the reed to her lips and piped like Pan in his
leafy solitudes. Wherefrom came the sweet plaintive notes of the magical
melody which she piped? Hawahee had never taught her that melody! She
opened her eyes wide in wonder. She rose and ran back to the lagoon’s
side, and, gazing on her knees in the water, spied the yet unhealed cut
which she had received when she fell in the hollow. Throwing her head
backward, she placed her arms up over her shoulders so that her head
could rest on her hands as she gazed at the sky. Then with eyes half
closed, she murmured dreamily: “Hawahee! Hawahee! I am but a woman!”
Suddenly her hair was outblown, for a great wind swept over the seas.
The next moment she had dropped her arms and was staring with startled
eyes, for the winds had swept down the valley. She could hear the gods
of the temple in the valley moaning deeply. “What have I been dreaming?
Why have such thoughts come to me?” she cried.

Hastily, and with trembling hands, she replaced her disordered hair,
rearranged her rami, and placing her hands over her eyes, hid them in
shame. She ran up the shore, ran as though in fright from herself! She
hastened to attend her domestic duties. In a few moments the yams and
fish were cooked and placed in the platters.

“He is late this morning,” she muttered, as Hawahee made no appearance.
Then she heard footsteps; it was as though Hawahee had heard her
thoughts, for there he stood by the kitchen porch. Sestrina gazed on her
lonely comrade in wonder. He looked very happy. The lines of sorrow had
left his brow, and his eyes were full of joyous light!

“Sestra, you are late this morning; how is it? Did you not sleep well,
wahine?”

Sestrina blushed deeply, and trembled inwardly in the thought that
perhaps the strange man before her had read her thoughts, had heard the
yearnings of her soul. “Why did he smile so wistfully and with such
tenderness? Why was his face suffused with a great warmth, as though
colour of the jungle-peonies had left their rosy flush on his cheeks?
Why did his eyes gleam with a wondrous light as though he had scanned
the heavens and sighted the angels amongst the stars? Why?”

As soon as Hawahee had breakfasted, he rose from the table and said:
“Sestra, I will away to weave my mats, and shall not see you to-day.”
And saying this, the Hawaiian, with his soul full of fervent joy over
his deliverance from the leprosy, went into the valley to spend the day
in prayer. For Hawahee was truly a holy man.

That same night, whilst Hawahee slept, Sestrina made up her mind to go
off to the shell-temple and pray to the gods. Rising from her couch she
hastily attired herself in the much worn tappa-robe and went to the
door. She looked out into the night and glanced fearfully about her. The
winds were blowing wildly, and she could hear the seas thundering as
they rebounded on the outer reefs. The deep strain of superstition in
her nature was intensified by the ocean’s monotone and the distant
moaning harmonies of the shell-altar. She had heard those strange
shell-murmurs for more than a thousand nights, till at last they chimed
to her ears like voices of the infinite.

Taking advantage of the wild moaning of the palms as a gust of wind
swept across the isle, she swiftly ran by Hawahee’s silent hut. In a few
minutes she had reached the solitudes of the valley. Approaching the
temple, a great fright seized her heart. She could hear the gods, those
wonderful oracles that had been fashioned by the toil of Hawahee’s
superstitious imagination, moaning loudly. In the darkness of the
valley, alone with the terror of her own imagination, the big
shell-mouths had spiritual voices.

For a moment she stood quite still, afraid to approach that pagan temple
of the valley. A falling dead leaf touched her shoulder; she gave a
startled jump and almost screamed in fright. “Why should I fear since
Hawahee prays so fervently; what is the matter with me?” she thought.
The next moment she had entered the portals of the temple.

In a moment she fell on her knees before the mighty oracles. With lifted
hands she gazed up at Pelé’s changeless face. Was it some wild fancy of
the brain, or did Pelé’s large, pearl-white eyes gaze on her kneeling,
supplicating figure in sorrow? Yes, as the curved, wide rose-flushed
shell-lips moaned a deep contralto note of sympathy.

“O goddess Pelé, O Atua, and great Kauhilo, send the deepest oblivion to
my heart, sweep the far-off past away! I would only wish to remember
Hawahee, the one whose loving hands fashioned the solemn wonder of your
presence.” And as Sestrina knelt and appealed to the gods, they suddenly
ceased their moanings—each voice stopped; then a violent gust of wind
swept through the banyan heights and Atua’s voice alone moaned a deep
angry warning-note to the pagan girl’s ears. Rising to her feet in the
terror of her superstition, for she imagined the gods were cursing her,
she rushed from the temple. In her fright she ran up the left slope, and
ran into the leafy shadows almost behind the temple. She turned to the
right and passed under the shade of the banyans through which the
moonlight glimmered.

She suddenly stopped, stood rigid, with hands up-raised, electrified, as
though to ward off some terror—there before her, standing in the shade
of the buttressed banyan, stood a figure; she stared on herself! She
stood before a figure of carven coral stone, chiselled to resemble her
nearly naked form, a marvellous work of heathen art, the lips, the brow,
the expression perfect, even to the immovable eyelids. The massed crown
of hair looked real! It was as though it had been carved with a needle.
The raised skeins of slenderest stone were artistically left so that the
carven ringlets should fall over the shoulders. It was a wonderful
emblematical figure of love’s highest achievement in sculptural poetic
art. The figure resembled the astonished girl so much, that could one
have seen the two figures standing there in the moon-touched gloom, it
would have been impossible to tell which knew the warm breath of life
and which was the sculptured, soulless stone!

Hawahee had carved her image, made a goddess of her, so that he might
kneel to her beauty, her cold loveliness, in secret! Every curve from
the brow down to the perfect feet was exact. She stared again and
trembled—the lips moaned! The Hawaiian fanatic had—and from what
infinite selection and choice?—placed a shell in the mouth. It was a
sad, sweet-linked, long-drawn note of melancholy that the shadowy mouth
of the pagan girl’s stone shape gave forth.

“Hawahee! Hawahee!” she cried in the momentary sorrow that came as she
realised why the sad leper had made that figure. In a flash she realised
that he knelt before that deaf, eyeless resemblance of her body so that
he could appeal in secret to the woman he loved, could kneel in some
half-divine passion without contaminating her own sad reality!

Only for a moment did she stand there staring in astonishment, face to
face with the beautiful immobility of her stone self. The next moment
she had turned aside, had fled in her terror.

Down the valley’s side she ran. When she arrived outside her dwelling
she was gasping for breath. She looked over her shoulder fearfully, then
ran inside her lonely chamber, for she could hear the loud moanings of
the gods and fancied they were racing in hatred after her!

No sleep for Sestrina that night! Her brain teemed with wild fancies as
she lay on her couch thinking, thinking. The wonder of the figure she
had seen behind the temple haunted her soul. For the first time for
years she felt the terror of her own loneliness, in the dark, alone in
that tiny dwelling, on an isle set in the boundless solitudes of the
Pacific Ocean. As the first weird atmosphere, through seeing that shape,
began to wear off, she rose from her couch, sat up.

“He shall not know that I have discovered it!” she murmured, as
thrilling waves of strange indignation, of passion, and of sorrow for
the Hawaiian came to her. She hardly knew what to think of it all. Then
the curiosity of the feminine nature asserted itself. “I will watch him!
I will see the meaning of it all!” And in this sudden resolution, she
lay her head on the pillow again and fell asleep.

Dawn swept over the Pacific seas, bringing the splendour of the tropic
day in its train. Sestrina was up with the birds. She saw the first
etherealised impression of the sunrise come, as the great artist,
Eternity, held the brush of Time in his unerring hand and swept the
ocean skyline with a daub of liquid gold. Sestrina saw that daub twinkle
like lightning as it ran in its splendid overflow and trickled across
the tremendous dark heaving canvas—the Pacific Ocean.

Once more she carefully turned the cooking yams, then she turned her
head—Hawahee stood before her.

“Sestra, I have been sleepless the last two nights,” he said, as the
castaway woman remarked on his early appearance.

Then Sestrina turned her eyes from his face, for she did not wish him to
see the curious wonder that she knew must be visible in her eyes. It was
then that Hawahee said: “Sestra, dear wahine, I have gathered no
sea-birds’ eggs at all the last two mornings, but have wandered by the
shore, watching the dawn and the morning’s gold steal over wide waters
and brush all the lagoons with soft fire.”

As Hawahee said this, Sestrina looked swiftly into his eyes. Why did his
lips smile so tenderly and yet in so _knowing_ a manner? She suddenly
remembered how she had the morning before gazed on her image in the
lagoon, had danced to her shadow and chanted! She blushed hotly at the
thought that Hawahee had been on the shore side instead of far away
seeking the morning seagulls’ eggs, and had spied on her during her
strange madness. Hiding her face in her hands, she said: “I hate you!”

Hawahee, who had seen and heard so much, only smiled. “Why this shame,
Sestra?” he said as he gazed at her. Sestrina was still trembling in her
confusion. Then he continued: “’Tis true that I saw you; do you deny me
the brief happiness that the Fates inspired you to give unto my soul at
the breaking of the day?”

At hearing these words, and the tender note of Hawahee’s melancholy
voice, Sestrina’s shame vanished. She half smiled to herself as she
looked up at the tall, dignified man before her and thought of her stone
shape behind the temple. And Hawahee smiled too, and was pleased that
she should take it all in such good part, for he little knew what she
knew!



                               CHAPTER V


THE sad Hawahee was strangely happy that day in the thought that
Sestrina had smiled over his perfidious spying on her! Sestrina could
hear him singing his pagan melodies as he chopped firewood on the huge
log by the yam patch. Hawahee’s mind was full of glorious schemes for
the future. Since he had discovered that the leprosy spot was almost
cured, the outlook of his life had completely changed. He had decided to
tell nothing about his wonderful discovery to Sestrina until he had
quite made his plans for the future. He felt assured that his castaway
companion loved him from the soul as well as the flesh. There was no
denying that the heathen melodies he sang were cheerful strains, lacking
all the sombre beauty of those chants he had sang till Sestrina’s heart
had ached. And so the long hot tropic day was full of anticipation and
happiness for Hawahee as well as for Sestrina.

When the sun had set and the shadows were thickening the stars over the
seas, Sestrina stole from her chamber. She knew that Hawahee had gone
down to the shell-temple to pray to his beloved gods. As she passed by
the bamboos on the ridge of the little hill to the right of the valley
she looked seaward. Even the big, calm, bright moon seemed to stare with
curiosity as it peered gently over the sea’s horizon, its lovely eye
sending a searchlight stream of ethereal beams over the dark palms of
the isle. Away she ran! In a few minutes she was creeping along in the
shadows of the palms by the temple of shells. The winds were blowing
softly, only a faint murmur came from the shell-organ. Still she crept
nearer, and then half in fright she peered round the portal’s edge and
stared into the great rocky sacred interior. Hawahee was not there! Only
the great unlidded stone eyes of Pelé and the gods gazed in their solemn
immobility on her fearful intrusion. Where was Hawahee? She could
distinctly hear him chanting—she knew that he was worshipping some one.
She pushed the feathery pulu leaves aside and peered, her eyes staring,
fascinated by the sight she saw. Hawahee knelt with hands upraised
before the carven, beautiful form of insensate stone! Again she gazed on
the wonderfully raised crown of hair that rippled down to the cold
lovely grace of the stone shoulders. He was singing, chanting some
melodious melody for the deaf ears—so beautifully shaped, like rosy
pearl shells of the ocean—she heard him whisper words of passion as he
gazed into the wide-open, wonder-lidded, delicately lashed stone eyes!
She saw the warm glow of his own. A thrill of uneasy joy tinged with
uncanny fright seized her heart as she watched. She remembered Hawahee’s
long absences from her side, when he told her he was away in the forest
busy mat-weaving! She gazed down the veined marble-like limbs and on the
artistically chiselled ankles and perfect sandalled feet—they were shod
with the second pair of sandals—the sandals which Hawahee had given her
by mistake when he presented her with the rami and tappa-weaved bodice.

Even she gazed in ecstatic admiration on that wonderful carven shape of
herself. The veined limbs, the curves, the symmetrical hues of the
rounded flanks were perfect! In the inherent modesty of her nature, a
tiny tinge of resentment came to her, a warm blush suffusing her face,
as a nervous wonder leapt into her mind. How had the impassioned
sculptor been able to achieve such perfect detail? In a flash she
thought of her morning bathings in the lagoon when Hawahee was supposed
to be far away on the other side of the isle seeking seagulls’ eggs. She
thought of his marvellous power of seeing her dreams and hearing the
hidden voices of the soul—perhaps he had the power of seeing her
visionary shape?

She swiftly forgave. A great love and tenderness for the kneeling
worshipper swept through her soul. She knew how true he was to his gods.
“Truer than I am!” she murmured as she watched and knew how easily she
herself would have fallen had Hawahee been a godless man.

“Hawahee!” she cried.

In a moment the worshipper turned round. He stood as though riveted to
the ground in his shame and surprise. He looked like some big child
caught in some sinful act wherefrom there was no escape.

“Sestra! Aue! O forgiver me!” he murmured, lapsing into pidgin English
in his shame.

“Hawahee, am I sweeter in the stone than in the flesh? Is my loveliness
only divine in the curves and lines of your own mind and its creationary
work?” she cried, a great wave of jealousy sweeping into her heart as
she stared on her breathless, bloodless rival. And still the
solemn-looking fanatic did not fly to the warm, living arms that were
outstretched in appeal as she spoke.

“Sestra, ’tis beautiful; see the shoulders, the face, the brow, the
hair, and the lips of my goddess—Sestra! ’Tis the divine beauty of
thyself, thy soul’s calm beauty in stone,” he murmured, as he pointed to
the wonderfully chiselled face that seemed to stare from the shadows in
stony sorrow and fright at its bright-eyed startled living shape.

Sestrina felt that she stood gazing upon herself—divine, divested of the
mortality of the flesh. Yes, there she stood, expressing in loveliest
grace and perfect form all that Hawahee had created, made of her by the
lovely creative-light of his imagination!

“Oh, Hawahee!” she cried.

The tall worshipper gazed first at the unchangeable grace, the cold
splendour of his mind’s materialised art, then he stared at the warm,
living eyes of the jealous woman that fronted it!

“Can you not make a stone figure of thyself, O Hawahee? For ’tis only in
stone that I should seem to truly love thee!” said Sestrina, a wrathful
gleam in her eyes.

In a moment Hawahee had clasped her in his arms. Again and again their
lips met. And still the gods moaned on in the shadows close by. And
still Sestrina wondered why she looked so luring in stone, so
beautifully unattainable, and why she felt so jealous of stone lips and
arms which could never give their fruits to a lover’s appeal.

“Sestra, forget not the presence of the gods.”

“No, Hawahee!” said the woman, as she too felt the subtle command and
warning mystery of the deep moaning voices of the gods—not six yards
from where they stood.

“How loudly they moan! Hawahee, I curse the winds of the valley,”
murmured Sestrina as she stood there with her arms clinging over the
strong shoulders of the man who had worshipped her image. Her face was
uplifted, a startled look in her eyes, as Pelé moaned to the wind’s deep
breath.

“Say not such things, O Sestra, sweet wahine, love of mine! Listen; I
have a plan in my heart that will outwit the gods; but Sestra, you too
must pray well; and in a very little while we shall be able to fall into
each other’s arms far away from the power of the gods that I have made
out of the reverence of my soul’s sorrow. Maybe, O Sestra, I know that
the great White God of Langi is a kind god, but still, Atua, Kauhilo,
and Pelé have been kind to me—I am cured of the kilia (leprosy). ’Tis
the gods who have done this thing to me, so how can I sin in their
sight?”

“Cured! Hast thou no fear of anything?” Sestrina gasped. She could say
no more, so deep was her surprise and happiness in the thought that her
sad comrade should be cured of the kilia.

“Outwit the gods, O Hawahee!” she murmured as she looked about into the
shadows with awestruck eyes. Then they kissed again.

“Let us be calm, for if it is true, this that you say, we have
eternities of happiness before us.”

She well knew that Hawahee was strong and brave and that when he said he
could outwit the gods he must have some wonderful plan in his mind.

“Let us away from here,” said Sestrina.

Hawahee through long habit turned to pay obeisance to the lone, lovely
figure that stood staring in splendid blindness from the shadows.

Sestrina noticed the spontaneous act. “Hawahee,” she murmured softly, a
note of deep sorrow in her voice, “I do not mind; kneel before the
beauty and innocence of myself, the loveliness that your noble mind has
created out of me; kneel to the innocence of my girlhood, the heaven of
innocence that was mine when I once prayed and confessed to a dim,
grey-headed old priest named Père Chaco.”

Hawahee gazed into her eyes as she ceased speaking.

“Why are the tears falling, why can I hear the poetry and all the
loveliness of the stars in the big sky, the innocence and beauty of the
flowers and the melancholy of the sunsets at Pelé’s altar, why? O
Sestra, why does the music of your voice sound so?”

Sestra made no reply, but to Hawahee’s astonishment, moved four steps
forward and flung herself down on her knees before the sorrowful,
divine-looking carven cold stone image of herself—and wept bitterly.

That same night Sestrina knelt in her chamber and prayed to the heathen
gods and to the great White God of Langi. Then she stood up and stared
through the small window-hole and heard the hidden voices murmuring in
the great speech of her soul. Her thoughts went out over the seas. She
heard the roosting cockatoos, in the palms outside, give a dismal,
startled screech, and even Rohana croaked as though in fright, “O Atua!
O Pelé!” as she sent her thoughts across the oceans, away through the
dim starry skylines that surrounded her island world. Then she sobbed as
she lay in bed. She thought of the past. And as she lay alone in her
silent chamber she heard the soft, quivering murmurings of Hawahee’s
dreams coming across the orange-scented hollow from his lonely hut. “O
Hawahee, ’tis love of the flesh and not of the soul!” she cried.



                               CHAPTER VI


TWO days after Sestrina had surprised Hawahee before her image, he came
to her and said: “Wahine, thou and I have tarried too long on this
cursed isle, dwelling in the anguish of our secret desires.”

“Yes, Hawahee,” murmured the lonely woman as she hid her face and
stirred the bubbling, sweet-scented poi-poi (taro and yam stew).

“I have thought deeply and long, Sestra mine, and feel ’twill be well to
build a raft so that we may float away together over the seas, you and I
alone, sweet goddess of my soul; shall it be?”

Sestrina heard the note of resolve in the man’s voice. Her heart was
thrilled with a great hope. She did not realise the dangers of being
cast away on those infinite waters on a raft, at the mercy of the
elements and the hot merciless light of the tropic suns. Often during
the first lonely years of their castaway life, Sestrina had suggested to
Hawahee that they could build a boat and try and float away to the
shores of the great world again. Hawahee had even, for the girl’s sake,
agreed to make the attempt, but Sestrina had dissuaded him when she
remembered that he would only be captured and sent to Molaki if they
_did_ arrive safely on the shores of the civilised world again.

“Hawahee, I long to leave this isle. None need ever know that you once
had the dreadful kilia,” she murmured, as she turned her head and gazed
tenderly into the face of the sad-looking man who stood awaiting her
reply.

The first confusion that had come to her through Hawahee’s presence had
disappeared. A great future with a maze of possibilities had flashed
into her hopeful brain. For a moment she stood stirring the poi-poi,
speechless with joy.

“And the shell-gods—would you leave them—’twould be—” She stopped.

A shadow had passed across Hawahee’s face. In a moment she felt that she
had foolishly reverted to a subject that might be the cause of dashing
her hopes to atoms. She too, revered the shell-gods, but what were their
solemn moanings when compared to the beautiful world of the past, and
the memories of her girlhood?

With a sweep of her hand, so to speak, she had swept the mighty heathen
gods to perdition. “Curse the shells, curse the gods, I hate the moaning
shells,” was her mental ejaculation.

But Sestrina’s fears were groundless, Hawahee had no intention of
swerving from his resolve to build a raft and leave the isle.

“Beloved Sestra, do not fear: the shells and the gods will still moan on
in the temple of the valley when we are far away and helpless on the
great waters.”

How strange is human nature with all its habits and old faiths and
long-nursed beliefs!

The next moment a flood of sympathy came to Sestrina’s heart—her
jealousy of the gods had vanished—she felt a great wave of sorrow come
to her soul in the thought of the poor shells moaning in the valley and
she and he so far away!

“Hawahee, we shall be happy when we are out on the great water?”

“Sestra, we will; and see, already the hands of the gods are painting
the colours of the sunset with gold and the warm blood of my desires;
’tis a sure sign that they will not be angry.”

Sestrina sprang into his arms, and then turned her head and saw a great
flood of crimson and gold staining the vast storied window of the remote
western skyline.

“Thanks to great Langi for this hour!” murmured Hawahee.

Then Sestrina went on with her cooking and the Hawaiian stole away into
the shadows to pray before his shell oracles. After chanting his prayers
into those deaf ears, he passed out of the temple and stole into the
shadows and stood before Sestrina’s stone image.

Why did he gaze so solemnly, so silently on that form and face that
represented all that was divine, all that was beautiful with innocence
and immortal loveliness to his pagan imagination? What had happened that
even a heathen’s eyes should fill with tears as he bent and knelt before
the cold stone and gazed up into the wide-lidded eyelids? Why did he,
for the first time, place his warm arms around the cold grace of that
bloodless thing? Who can tell, who can whisper one word, one murmur that
can explain the deep mysteries of the human soul’s aspirations for the
loveliness which mortals call innocence and beauty and truth? Who? Why
is the sweetest nectar, in the divinest vintage that was ever squeezed
from creation’s mighty wine-press of toiling suns and stars, bitter to
the soul’s taste, bringing nought to sad mortals but the despair of
shattered dreams and disillusionment?

The soulful Hawaiian poet rose to his feet and placed his lips in sorrow
against the grace of the cold bosom; he placed his warm fingers amongst
the chill fingers of the shape’s outstretched hand and cried aloud—like
a weeping child! He had placed a withered flower that had faded in the
statue’s reality—in Sestrina’s hair—in the small, cold hand’s palm.

“O Atua, O Pelé, goddess of beauty and innocence, why is my heart
afflicted? Why are the visionary shadows of my unhappy soul when shaped
into cold stone, sweeter than the realities I touch with living desire,
sweeter than the wines of love, sweeter than the touch of passionate
lips?”

And there, with his head inclined, the tall, handsome, noble-looking
fanatic, listened, awaiting a reply! But only the solemn moan of the
gods came to his ears as he gazed once more at the image of his soul’s
desire, and then stole away into the shadows.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Sestrina laughed like a happy child to herself as she lay in bed that
night and thought of all that Hawahee had said. She could hear the
white-ridged combers charging the shore reefs below, and they seemed to
be calling, “Come on! Come! out to our wide waters that sweep away
through the skylines to the great shores where the lights of the cities
gleam.”

“I’ll see the great world again! I’ll gaze into the lovely eyes of
memory—the long, long memory! O Atua, O Pelé!” she cried; and then she
remembered—she felt a great shame sweep through her, and immediately
called out, “O great White God, God of my childhood, God of the white
men, and his God!—he of long years ago.” Then she sighed and shed tears.
“Have they forgotten me? Has he forgotten? No, ’tis I who forgot! I who
have been faithful in the soul through all the long years. O God of my
childhood, you! you _know_ that I have been faithful in my soul to the
past!”

Ah, sad, beautiful Sestrina.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Day by day Hawahee toiled over the raft. He had gathered many boards
together and had fixed them side by side with the _Belle Isle’s_ old
hatchway. With native dexterity he had lashed each plank to the deck and
had framed a little bulwark. Then he made small lockers.

“What are they for?” said Sestrina, who kept running to and fro like a
happy child, giving all the help she could to Hawahee as he toiled over
the craft that was to take them on that great voyage out into the
trackless seas.

“It is for food and water, for we must take much water and food with us,
Sestra,” said Hawahee as he dropped his rough tools and gazed across the
infinite expanse of tropic ocean. No wonder he sighed as he gazed on the
dim wastes and the encircling skylines, the only dim, blue hope of that
wide world of water.

“That will do for to-day, Sestra. I am tired and will go and bathe in
the lagoon and so refresh my body,” said Hawahee as he dropped his
tools.

“So am I, Hawahee,” murmured Sestrina.

In a few moments they had both passed up the beach and had retired to
their separate huts. They had already had their supper, for Hawahee was
in a hurry to get the raft finished, and so had made up his mind to work
till sunset each night.

Directly Sestrina had passed out of sight, Hawahee went down to the
lagoon to bathe. In a few moments he stood in the cool water. His heart
was full of happiness in the thought that a chance of a new life _did_
lie before him and Sestrina. Then he stood gazing towards the aftermath
of the dead day as though he had suddenly died, and in some inexplicable
way still stood rigid, upright, with the water to his waist, staring at
the sky! What had done this, brought this awful change to Hawahee’s face
and eyes? It was nothing more than a stinging feeling in his back where
the salt water was smarting. He gave a gasp and partially recovered.
Then he placed his tappa-robe on, pulling it over his shoulders in a
mechanical way as though he was moving in a dream.

Walking along the sand bank of the lagoon, he pulled the robe down and
stared again on his imaged shoulder. It was true enough, no mistake!—a
great leper patch had broken out! In his grief he ran up the shore, and,
throwing himself on the ground, beat his hands and forehead on the
stones till they were stained with blood. For several minutes the
nobility of his character faded away and left him a frenzied, savage
fanatic.

“Wahine! Sestra! come to me! I am clean! I am clean!” he wailed as he
realised what the discovery meant to him, and to the woman he really
loved—unless be deceived her, told her nothing about his dreadful
discovery. In a few moments the natural bravery and nobleness of his
soul came to his assistance. He rose to his feet, and lifting his poor
hands to the sky, called in terrible fervour and anguish to the old gods
of his boyhood. He trembled as he stood there, staring first out to sea
and then in the direction of Sestrina’s homestead. But all was silent,
Sestrina had heard nothing. The next moment he had rushed down the
slope; he was on his way to the _heiau_ (temple). It was a terribly sad
sight as he stood in the gloom of that big pagan aisle and with lifted,
bloodstained hands, appealed to the goddess Pelé, Atua and Kauhilo. But
their immutable sightless eyes and hollow ears brought no comfort to the
stricken man’s soul as the wide, reddish shell-mouths moaned while the
wind swept down the valley. Only the goddess Pelé seemed to gaze from
her sombre immobility in sorrow upon the miserable man as he stood there
with lifted hands and grief-distended eyes. In the flood of bitterness
that came to him, he ran from the presence of those heathen deities and
knelt under the palms just outside the temple. “O White God of Langi,
Maker of the seas, the stars, the birds and all the wonders and beauty
of the universe, and the wondrous clays which I have moulded into the
great gods of shadowland, be merciful unto me, a poor heathen untutored
savage of the wilds.” And as he moaned on in this wise the night winds
caught the words and swept them away! Again he rose to his feet, and,
running a few steps, sought the spot where the stone image that
resembled Sestrina stood. He wrung his hands in despair as he bowed his
head before the moulded grace of the perfect, veined limbs. Then he
turned his head and hid his face in his hands. A great fear had swept
into his soul; he felt that he might be unable to control his passions,
so great was the beauty of the figure before him. “Sestra, I am like to
betray thee! I, Hawahee the leper, might make thee unclean. I, who love
thy shape, might cast the reality of your loveliness as a loathsome
object into the grave by the side of Rohana, Steno and the rest.” In the
terror of his thoughts and the possibility that he had lost Sestrina for
ever, he leaned forward to embrace the passionless grace of that
symbolical form which his imagination had incarnated, endowed with his
soul’s ideas. In the agony of his unsatisfied imagination, he embraced
the air. The winds wafted the rich odours of the breadfruits to his
nostrils. Again he leaned forward and gazed through the dusk with
burning eyes at that beautiful figure which he had fashioned with the
warm fingers of a wondrous creative impulse, till he had actually robed
the stone form with the glamour of a beauty almost divine. He forgot his
gods. Only the shape appealed to his staring eyes, the divinity, the
spiritual light of his soul strangely seemed to fade. What had happened?
Had he drunk too deeply of the pagan’s starry heavens, of the foaming
sunsets and Sestrina’s eyes? Was it only sorrow, that almighty alchemist
who transmutes mortal dross into purest gold, that had saved Hawahee and
Sestrina from falling into the lap of atheistical luxury and
warm-scented dreams?

“Sestra, O love of mine! Wahine, thou whom I have fashioned from the
moaning ocean’s coral stone, teach me to be brave, I am a leper,
unclean! unclean!” he wailed.

The sight of the form’s graceful beauty, the parted lips, the sensuous
curves of the shape, the symmetrical loveliness of the outstretched arm
and the hand still holding the faded flower, overwhelmed his senses. He
sprang towards the silent shape—. His material self seemed to swoon into
the grace of soulless stone! He gave a startled cry! Lo, the figure’s
outstretched arm had softly closed, held Hawahee in the grip of a
passionate clasp! His impassioned lips met the lips of the shape—they
were warm; the bosom heaved! The lips spoke: “Hawahee, thou shalt
worship me. I, at least, care not for leprosy, or for—”

“Sestra! your arms—your arms are warm! The eyes I made have light as
beautiful as the stars in them. O Pelé, what hast thou done?—forgive!
forgive!”

“Hawahee! save me, the light fades—I fall!” wailed the trembling statue.

The giant banyans sighed. The heathen worshipper of stone folded the
image of his dreams to his breast. His astounded, overwhelmed senses
swam before the bright gaze of eyes that pierced his soul with darts of
fire. The same wind that made the deep voices of the gods loudly moan,
blew shadowy hair and gossamer drapery about his form and face. Their
lips met in the sting of passion and some fear! Like fright the winds
moaned as the beautifully moulded arms clutched the worshipper, and the
faded flower that had once adorned Sestrina’s hair, dropped from the
hand to the forest floor.

Even the winds stayed their breath as though in grief over mortal
frailty and sorrow.

                  *       *       *       *       *

“Sestra! where are you?” said Hawahee, as he groped about as though lost
in the dark of his own mind. He realised! He broke away. He fled down
the valley, and like one demented vanished in the gloom of the banyans.

And Sestrina, who through her subterfuge had heard the truth about
Hawahee’s sorrow and grief over his leprosy, fell prostrate to the
ground again, and beating her hands amongst the flowers, moaned and
wept. The next minute she rose, and running into the shadows, knelt
before the stone shape, the rival she had outwitted, and cried like a
child before its cold, passionless purity.



                              CHAPTER VII


NOTWITHSTANDING the sorrow of the night, of mortal frailty and grief,
the door of the East slowly opened, and dawn in silvery sandals stood on
the threshold of those remote sailless seas. The birds sang sweetly as
the last troop of sentinel stars set out for home. Hawahee had long
since stolen into the solitude of his hut and Sestrina in tears to her
chamber. Nothing was changed. The sun rose just the same, and was
welcomed by that great philosopher, Rohana, with cynical cries of “O
Atua! O Pelé! ee! Wahinnnne! O Haw-wah-he cah cah whoo he!” The
warm-coloured flowers, red and white hibiscus on the hill-sides sent
voiceful, rich odours to each other’s rouged tiny faces and sparkling
eyes. The whole isle, set in those illimitable seas, sighed over the
tropical mystery of brooding loveliness and over the sorrowing heads of
the torn hearts of the two lone castaways.

The isle itself resembled the vast brooding soul of the universe, of
mortal aspirations, hope, prayer, anguish and faith. The giant trees,
haunted by multitudes of bright and sombre-plumaged birds, stirred and
moaned to the sea winds like a mighty, dark-branched brain of brooding
beauty and deep murmuring musical thought.

Sestrina saw signs of Hawahee’s secret anguish on his face when he
appeared before her in the broad daylight. The melancholy gaze of his
eyes filled her heart with intense sorrow.

“Aloah, wahine,” he murmured, as she swiftly turned her face away and
threw the peeled _kalos_ (sweet potatoes) into the cooking pot. “Hide
not thy face, wahine, but tell me of the night just passed.”

“Cah whoo O Pelé!” shouted Rohana as he stretched his neck and head
forward as though he resented such words and that stern gaze at his
beloved mistress.

But still Sestrina remained silent. Hawahee’s face softened.

“Sestra, thou hast outwitted the gods and their faithful servant too!—or
did I dream some madness in my sorrow last night?”

“One who worships a woman of stone might dream any mad thing!” said
Sestrina as she threw a _kalos_ (sweet potato) in the pot and splashed
the hot water over her rami and Hawahee as well! But Hawahee was not
deceived, he easily saw through Sestrina’s simulated wrath with which
she sought to hide her embarrassment—and shame! He heard the tears, the
choking sob in the voice.

“Here is the faded flower that you dropped, my wahine.”

Tears were in his own voice as Sestrina placed the flower to her lips
and replaced it in her hair.

“Sestra, fear not, the raft is nearly ready. The gods may give us
happiness yet,” he murmured. Then, as a sudden burst of passion came to
him, he said, “Sestra, beloved wahine, thou art more to me than all the
gods of shadowland; we will seek the great waters together.”

The next moment he had strolled across the yam patch and disappeared.

Directly Hawahee had gone, Sestrina lifted her hands in thankfulness to
the sky. “O God, I thank thee,” she said. Hawahee’s words had warmed her
chilled heart. She had lain in her bed in anguish of mind, thinking that
now the leprosy had broken out afresh he would not seek to leave the
isle on the raft. “Yet, he has put the flag out again,” she thought. And
as she thought she ran to the hilltop and stared toward the shore. True
enough, there on the top of the palm, that stood on the promontory’s
edge, streamed the old tappa distress flag, calling silently to the
skylines for help! For Hawahee, on discovering his fresh leper patch,
had put the flag out again.

Sestrina gazed long and with deep misery on that flag as it flew from
the dead palm top. “He will still risk the voyage on the oceans! He will
not alter his mind, we will float away on the wide waters together and
receive the boundless mercy of Him who made the stars.”

So mused Sestrina, and strange as it may seem, she felt intensely happy.
What cared she for leprosy? She had dwelt so long in its dreadful shadow
that it had become an integral part of the universe around her. Besides,
who was better than Hawahee? Had he not watched over her through the
weary years and saved her from the grave many, many times? Had he not
sat by her bedside when she was ill with fever, attending her with
religious care and tenderness? “Ah, Hawahee! Poor Hawahee!” she
murmured.

Hawahee had quite forgiven her for her deception when she had placed
herself behind the temple, had removed her stone-shape back into the
shadows and had then stood in its place—awaiting Hawahee’s worship! She
had told him straight to his face that she had no fear of the leprosy.
“What matters, so long as we are happy for a little while, even though
it be away on the hot tropic seas, without water and dying, which you
tell me might happen?”

As Hawahee listened a great fire burned in his eyes, and, unable to
control himself, he had walked rapidly away.

Two days had passed since Hawahee had discovered the new leper patch,
when he suddenly walked into the kitchen shelter, and, looking straight
into Sestrina’s eyes, said, “Sestra, you are the stars of the sorrowing
night, and the light of the great day to me.” Then he softly pulled her
form close to his own, and standing in an attitude of prayer, stared
over her shoulder, and gazed out to sea. Then he clasped the woman
passionately to his breast and pressed one long kiss on her brow.

Before Sestrina had recovered from her astonishment, he had abruptly
loosened his clasp and disappeared under the breadfruits of the valley.

Sestrina guessed nothing of the terrible battle going on in Hawahee’s
mind; how his body was wrenched with pain and anguish as his dual
personality, the two deadly rivals fought for supremacy in his soul. His
better self had knelt before the spiritual altar of his soul, asking the
gods to help him control his mortal desires. Then again: his other self
had knelt before the altar of his body’s desire, till he had shouted in
the passionate throes of a terrible appeal, beseeching the goddess Pelé,
Atua and Kauhilo to destroy his better self! to touch his soul with the
darkness which loves to degrade the thing it loves, and debase
friendship—yes, so that he might revel in the lust and desires of self.

“O Pelé, goddess of blood and fire, make my passions supreme conqueror
over those spiritual thoughts that gave this human heart of mine the
priceless solace, the belief in honour and in woman’s purity and the
White God’s boundless mercy. O let my hungering body sin gloriously,
without one pang of remorse!” And as the frenzied Hawaiian pagan cried
on, he suddenly remembered the warm, thrilling clasp of the
statuesque-shape in the shadows by the altar, and cried out in sorrow
unspeakable: “O Atua, I have fallen before the fire—her beauty tempted
me! Have I seared the soul of beauty, and scattered the flowers of her
pure soul into the dust?—am I too late? Too late!”

So cried the poor Hawaiian leper, appealing to the blind, deaf, and dumb
sky as he knelt before his shell-gods again. The valley echoed the cries
of his misery and loud lamentations as the winds swept like anger across
the island’s trees, taking his voice on its hurrying wings away from
Sestrina’s ears. And still he raved on; the swollen veins of his brow
standing out like whipcord as he cried: “O Pelé, Kauhilo and Atua, let
me be as Rohana, Lupo and Steno were, so that I might once more fold her
I love to this breast, and, caring not for the contagion, hold her in my
arms and drink in the ocean of happiness through my satisfied desires
and not this boundless misery born of my better self! If I am to die and
mingle with the dust, why deny me the joy of a woman’s embrace? Why deny
myself that which I have surely seen in the hungry light of her eyes,
telling me that she would freely give sooner than my soul should burn in
the patching fires of thy cruelty, thy monstrous virtue, O Kauhilo! O
Pelé, O Atua, hear me, I, Hawahee, the faithful: O make me dark and
cruel, the fierce light of pangless sin dwelling in my soul that I may
be happy in the joy of brief desire and not hating thee in my misery!”

So did the Hawaiian appeal from the nobility of his soul to his pagan
gods! When he rose to his feet and lifted his hands to the sky, they
were bloodstained, and the hot blood ran down his face.

While Hawahee’s soul was plunged in misery, Sestrina calmly went about
her domestic duties, her lips singing an old song. It was a song that
reminded her of a world somewhere far beyond that vast solitude, of an
isle which gave shelter to its castaway mortality that consisted of a
pagan’s noble soul fighting against fate, a moulting cockatoo, and
Sestrina’s own soul’s budding hopes. It was only the falling shadow of
approaching night that awakened her sorrow; opened her eyes to the
beauty and wonder of her existence. And, as she stood by the shore
watching the sunset fade, her eyes saw the visible universe of fading
light in the wonder of its true perspective. She realised that she
roamed and sorrowed in some vast crystal of a dream, where the seas
dashed and the trees waved by magical shores. And as she glanced up at
the skies, Time’s sad hand flung the shadowy bridal robe over the bed of
Night, as Poetry’s womb stirred in the tremendous pang that sighed her
thousand thousand children—the stars that stared in wonder from the wide
window of the dimly lit heavens.

She sighed, then stole up the shore and entered her lone dwelling.
There, in her chamber, she knelt in fervent prayer, appealing to the
gods which Hawahee had taught her to worship, enabling her eyes to see
the splendour, the beauty and sorrow of Creation.

Notwithstanding all that had happened, all that troubled her, deep in
her fatalistic heart a gleam of hope remained. She looked like Beauty’s
self kneeling there, as she prayed in her hushed chamber. Alas! she
might easily have been some castaway representation of a sad, lovely
Pandora dwelling on a lonely isle of the wine-dark seas of the boundless
Pacific. Just as the Greek goddess brought Promethean fires from Heaven,
and ills to destroy peace of mind, Sestrina had brought a fatal casket
of love and passion to that isle’s sole humanity—Hawahee’s sorrowing
heart. She too was fatally _All-gifted_. Some far-seeing Aphrodite of
inscrutable spite had robed her with beauty’s charm only that she might
stir the heart of man to rebellious thoughts, turning his dreams from
the gods to misery, and plunging her own peace of mind into the depths
of despair, Hope alone remaining. Yes, Sestrina had also brought the
blessings of the gods to the arcadian loveliness of that tropical isle,
only to open the casket full of the gifts of Heaven, to see them
escape—fly away into the darkness.



                              CHAPTER VIII

            _I am the sad composer of all time;
            The ocean’s deep orchestral boom—my own!
            The singing birds and winds of every clime
            Without my ears would be as songless stone.
            The stars will cease to sparkle at the last,
            When fades my mem’ry of the ages past,
            And God falls from pale reason’s shadow-throne._


THREE days had passed since Hawahee’s terrible appeal to the gods.
Sestrina stood in the shelter of her kitchen singing happily. The raft
was finished. She and Hawahee were about to embark, to seek the future
on the unknown seas around their island home. “Oh, how happy I feel! We
are going out to the seas; the gods will be—!”

She dropped her platter full of cooked fish—a terrible cry had reached
her ears! Whose cry was it? She stood trembling from head to feet.
Hawahee had gone a few moments before for his morning swim in the sea,
just behind the coral reefs where he would be hidden by the shore’s
palms. Why had he given so despairing a cry? Sestrina rushed from the
_palavana_. Her feet skimmed the sands without noise as she ran out to
the edge of the promontory. She stood perfectly still, as though death
had stricken her stiff with terror while in an attitude of upright
despair. Her face expressed terror in loneliness. Her outblown hair, and
lips apart, seemed to voice the wail of all unknown sorrows, her hands,
clasped tightly together, the symbol of all human appeal; her wide open
staring eyes all dire disaster beneath the sun! For, as she reached the
promontory’s edge, she had seen two hands toss up visible for a second
above the calm glassy surface of the sea, then swiftly disappear!

No thought came to her as to the cause of this calamity. Whether Hawahee
had been seized by a shark, or cramp, or had deliberately tied a lump of
coral stone to his feet ere he took his last dive off the promontory’s
edge, was something that never puzzled Sestrina. He had gone! that was
enough to know! Even the huge sea-birds seemed to hover near and gaze
with startled eyes as she stood there—immovable, staring in the awful
fascination of hopelessness at that spot!

All day long she rushed to and fro to the promontory’s edge calling
“Hawahee! Hawahee!” and weeping.

“’Tis coming, the night, the stars, the moon, I cannot stay!” she cried
as she spoke with pagan grief to the ocean, over which the first pale
stars were creeping.

She ran down to the raft. It was floating within the entrance of the
creek by the reefs. One push and it would go seaward.

Darkness swept over the seas. Sestrina stared in fright up the shore.
She was alone! Her half-demented mind peopled the shadows with unknown
terrors. Indescribable loneliness smote her heart like a blow. She gazed
up at the stars in anguished appeal. But the stars only seemed to gaze
in some immutable sorrow and hopeless silence that thundered
nightmare-sounds into her soul. Her grief-stricken mind magnified the
solitude—if that could be. She groped about the bamboo thickets and puli
ferns as she ran up the shore. Such was her loneliness, that she eagerly
sought the companionship of the lepers’ graves on the plateau. She ran
back to the shore and screamed for Hawahee again. The echoes of her
despairing voice awakened the roosting cockatoos and strange birds; up,
up they flew, shrieking discordantly in the darkness as they dashed
against each other in their blindness. The demented woman looked like a
wraith calling the dead as she wrung her hands and ran along the shore,
calling “Hawahee! Lupo! Rohana! Steno! come to me!” her mind so
distraught that she reverted to the companionship of the dead lepers.

The lagoons along the shore and the calm ocean before her shone with the
ethereal gleams of a thousand thousand stars. The trade winds that
commenced to blow every night, began to softly sigh. She had made up her
mind to go seaward on the raft.

Suddenly she thought of her own shape standing under the palms by the
shell temple. She turned round and stared inland, a startled gleam in
her eyes—she would seek its companionship! The impulse to gaze on that
shape which had been moulded from the dreams of the dead Hawahee, made
her stand breathless in some terrible ecstasy of despair. Her sad,
fallible mortal intellect, groping in its boundless dark, had clutched a
straw on the ocean of hopeless misery. In some vague, mad fancy of the
brain she had thought to crush, to outwit destiny’s cruel spite, to
still possess the companionship of Hawahee’s mortal conception of
herself in cold stone. The next second the impulse had vanished. She
realised that the shattered mirror of the past can never again reflect
the tender glance of loving eyes. She knew that Hawahee’s conception of
the sensuous beauty of her faultless form had vanished with the tossing
of his hands from his ocean grave.

The thought of her stone-shape standing under the island’s trees,
suddenly filled her soul with boundless misery. She detested it! In her
terror-stricken imagination she could see the full, perfect lips, the
lovely lines of the bosom and the passion-charmed curves and pose of the
whole form, clearer than had she run into the valley and stood before
it. She remembered Hawahee’s embrace of that unresponsive shape, and how
he had breathed thrilling words when he had clasped her form and found
it warm and impassioned as his own. Standing there, she tore her tappa
blouse apart, and, gazing down on her bosom, longed for a knife to stab;
then thumped and bruised the flesh in some agony!

“Jesu! God, Pelé! Père Chaco, forgive me!” Her voice echoed to the
distant valley, coming faintly back as though vast night in sympathy
repeated her despairing cries. Again she cried, “Save the soul of my
last girlhood and bury my womanhood for ever deep in these everlasting
seas!” That was Sestrina’s last appeal to the hollow seabound-night,
whereof she was the lone mortality, lonely as God before creation.

Standing there, trembling in fright, she stared seaward, afraid to
glance behind her. Her hands were outstretched, her face slightly raised
so that her eyes could stare on the horizon’s stars. She resembled some
emblematical figure of mortal despair, with lips apart, breathing a
prayer to the winds of the universe. The religious emotion, the
spiritual fervour of her soul had brought to her mind the magic flash
which so often had inspired Hawahee and herself with the wonderful
compelling power that had enabled them to send their thoughts roaming
the universe. Again and again she felt the visionary beauty of that
higher life which feeds the soul of sorrow and brings the light divine
which enables humanity to become conscious of God and elevates the human
mind. Again and again she appealed to the heavens, asking that her
thoughts might fly back to the memory of her girlhood—that _he_ might
know she had been faithful in her soul to him through the years of
sorrow. She inclined her head and listened. No answer came. Only the
restless moaning of the ocean and the melancholy sighing of the bending
shore palms whispered to her ears. And as she stood there with wide open
eyes, her hair outblown, she might easily have been some terrible, but
lovely representation, some symbol of all mortal sorrow, all broken
hopes, all shattered dreams and blighted simple faith; some perfect
chiselled goddess face telling of woman’s perfect trust and love
immortal, staring with cold, bright eyes across the infinite seas! Her
head fell forward; her arms dropped to her sides.

Without a cry she jumped on the raft. She cast it adrift—away, away,
anywhere from that despairing loneliness! Every tree, every reef and
familiar spot filled her heart with a sickening terror as she gazed
shoreward for the last time. Slowly the raft drifted, and slowly the
shadows of the shoreline receded. Suddenly she struggled to drift
shoreward again. She beat the water with her hands for she had no
paddles—she had heard a faint, sepulchral voice, coming from the deep
shadows up the shore, from the direction of her silent dwelling. “O
Atua, O Pelé!” it had cried—it was the aged cockatoo, Rohana, calling
for his evening meal. But still the raft drifted out on the relentless
tide of unchangeful circumstance. For a moment she lay prostrate in
grief over her deserted bird. The next minute she had jumped to her
feet, wringing her hands in despair. She placed her fingers to her ears,
as slowly and mournfully came those sounds, stealing over the silence of
the ocean—the temple gods had moaned aloud! The terror-stricken woman
heard those solemn shell-mouths calling her; she heard some appeal in
their deep, moaning voices, asking her not to desert them, leave them
alone in the great solitude of the valley of the island’s lonely hills,
set in endless oceans. As the raft drifted out to the silent, starlit
seas, the meaning voices became fainter and fainter.

The castaway soon prayed for death. But death does not come easily to
those who dwell in its shadow. She had neither food nor water on the
raft. She had cast herself adrift, caring not where the mighty tides
might take her.

Day came. The hot sunlight swept the silent tropic seas. Nothing but
illimitable skylines surrounded the raft as it floated adrift on the
burning waters—a tiny world of floating grief and misery unutterable,
its whole humanity a fragile form, speechless with thirst, its whole
breath of life and creed, tossing hands appealing to the great dumb,
blind, earless tropic sky!

Night came. The vast tomb whereon the living dead moaned and tossed, no
longer had the brassy glare of the day over it, but was covered with a
mighty slab, bright with a million stars. Then the first great shadow of
death crept over her brain. It came like a lovely dream, devoid of pain
and anguish, a dream full of infinite hope. She even smiled as she
dreamed on and thought she heard some one climbing up the grape-vine
below her casement in Port-au-Prince. And as she murmured the old names,
memories brought ineffable peace to her soul as the raft drifted away
for ever, fading into the vastnesses of the unknown seas.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Sunset still lingered on the skyline across the English hills, as a man
gazed from the latticed window of his study that faced the Channel
cliffs. He was watching the idly flapping crows fade away into the
crimson-streaked western glow. Why did the sight of the distant firs and
dark pines and the undulating grey hills so strangely influence him?

Some one softly opened the door and said, “Would you like to see her?”

“Yes,” he responded as he turned his head and gazed on the speaker, who
thereupon closed the door and departed. Then a pale-faced woman softly
entered the room. She carried a swaddled child in her arms. It was Royal
Clensy’s first-born.

“Why call her Sestrina? It is a strange name; what made you think of
it,” said the woman as she gazed in wonder up at the earnest face of the
man.

“Oh, nothing, it’s the name of some one I knew abroad, years ago.”

The man’s voice had become strangely soft and tender. Why did his senses
swim as a great sorrow crept over his heart? He tried to calm himself;
then gazed in surprise at the child’s eyes. They had suddenly opened
wide, had looked straight into his own.

“She has dark eyes,” he stammered as the woman stared. His voice shook.
Was it imagination? Why did the child’s gaze and his own meet as though
in the surprised light of swift recognition?

The woman crept from the room, softly closing the door behind her.

Royal Clensy stared like one in a dream through the window-pane,
apparently gazing out towards the distant seas. “Well, of all the world
of women the child reminds me of her—Sestrina!” he muttered. And as he
gazed, the pale hands of half-forgotten romance seemed to scrape up and
down the window-pane. He threw the lattice wide open. Was it the winds
that caressed his brow as the rich scent of the wistaria drifted to his
nostrils, coming like the scented odours from orange groves?

“Sestrina, you—after all these years!” he murmured.

Then he sadly smiled as he stared again at the image of the two stars
that seemed to stare up from the bowl where the goldfish swam, as, like
outblown hair, the leaves of the wistaria touched his face. His mind
wandered, went far away. It was not the Channel cliffs by the English
seas that he saw; he was gazing on the vast solitude of tropic seas, and
knew that the voice that called his name was no foolish sound, no freak
of the imagination. He felt the hot tropic wind touch his face. He saw
the castaway’s raft as it drifted on—on towards the skylines of
infinity. The great blinding sun shone over a phantom day. He saw the
silent, huddled form, and the fluttering rags as the hot wind blew,
revealing the bleached, whitened skeleton—the relic that had called to
him; the call which had roamed, how far across the universe before he
heard? He knew the truth. Even the waves seemed to put forth their hands
and pluck in sorrow, as they gently tossed against the craft which bore
that sad burden of all his soul’s conceptions of the beautiful on the
drought-swept depths of the past. It was as though the ocean felt the
sorrow of it all, had sent her children, the waves, that they might push
the fragile freight of that lone argosy into the deep calm of her bosom
for rest.

The vision slowly passed. The castaway’s raft became as shadowy as those
whitened bones of old trust, love and simple faith, as it faded away
into the great dusk of the starlit tropic seas—with all that had once
been the beautiful Sestrina.


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



                                EPILOGUE


NOT many years ago, a strangely rigged, rakish-looking brigantine hugged
the shore of a lonely isle of the remote South Pacific Ocean. The
skipper had sighted a ragged distress signal flag flying from the top of
a dead palm tree close to the shore.

“_Manana!_” exclaimed the half-caste, sun-tanned boatswain as the
yellow-skinned, mixed crew of Spanish-Mexicans, Yaquis, and Yucatan
sailors walked up the shore and stumbled across the old kitchen.

They held their strange, red-striped tasselled caps reverentially in
their hands as they gazed on the rotting mats and calabashes, the mouldy
remnants of an artistically weaved tappa-skirt and torn bodice that lay
by the little bunk bed in a hut just by. On a small post’s crosswise
placed rod swung a tiny bunch of feathers and bone, swinging to and fro
to the sea winds, like some sad relic of Hope’s once radiant wings—it
was Rohana, still chained to his perch! Then the wild-looking sailormen
strode down the incline.

“_Sapristi!_” cried one of those tawny, sunburnt men from the seas in a
startled voice.

The huddled crew stood just within the portals of the pagan
cathedral-cavern, gazing on the wondrous fashioned moaning shell-organ
and on the three giant, clay figures: Atua, with four arms, stood on the
left, the extreme right arm still faithfully reclining on Pelé’s left
shoulder; Kauhilo, with the human skull on his shoulder, stood on the
right of the goddess, whose uncrumbling hand of the extreme right arm
still gripped the ivory idol. Their sombre faces were overgrown with
hirsute-like moss, the ears sprouting delicate hair-fern; but the big
curved-lipped mouths were smooth and perfect. It seemed as though Time’s
hand had, in some melancholy sympathy, toiled on after Hawahee. For, as
they stood there in the sombre solitude of that cavern’s aisles,
mysteriously expressing in wondrous carven beauty the grandeur of
paganism and soulful belief in a merciful omnipotence, they looked more
god-like than ever!

“_Quien sabe?_” said one of the crew as they stood staring at each
other.

“_Dell ’anima!_” exclaimed another in an awestruck voice, as two of the
sailors walked into the shadows by the altar cavern and found themselves
before a wonderfully carven figure of a woman!

The exquisitely chiselled face was strangely untouched by the hand of
time. The wide-open eyelids still mystically expressed the old
half-divine sensuous charm that had fed the hungry, noble soul of a long
dead pagan. It was Sestrina’s shape, Hawahee’s faith, hope, art and love
of woman, expressed in stone. A tiny blue-winged bird fluttered from the
hollow of the figure’s bosom; it had built its nest within. There, under
the bosom’s polished fullness, nestled four red-specked eggs, nestling
in the silent eternity that was to awaken and thrill to-morrow’s leafy
boughs with music.

As the astounded, red-shirted sailormen crept down the shore sands,
going back to their boat, they glanced swiftly over their shoulders,
half in fright—they could hear the calling deep bass moans of the
deserted gods. Just as time enriches the music of a violin, age had
mellowed the voices of the gods till they gave forth sounds that echoed
as though from eternity. Even that rough, piratical-looking crew of the
brigantine _Cruz_ were affected as they heard the wailful, soulful music
of the stone figure, of the lovely shaped sculptured woman crying in the
isle’s solitude, as though she would tell their ears that sorrow is the
soul of infinity. Those wondering sailormen could still hear her voice
calling as they stood on deck, and the melancholy sounds came drifting
across the lagoons and out over the calm, deep-moving waters of the
tropic sea. They stared in each other’s eyes in wonder. The skipper
opened his bearded mouth and yelled a great oath. Then the yellowish
canvas sails, bellying to the night winds, sighed sorrowfully as they
faded away, flying south-west under the stars of the Pacific.


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 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ 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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