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Title: South Sea Foam - The romantic adventures of a modern Don Quixote in the southern seas
Author: Safroni-Middleton, A. (Arnold)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                             SOUTH SEA FOAM

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

                          A. SAFRONI-MIDDLETON



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


                             SOUTH SEA FOAM

                        THE ROMANTIC ADVENTURES
                        OF A MODERN DON QUIXOTE
                          IN THE SOUTHERN SEAS

                                   BY

                          A. SAFRONI-MIDDLETON



[Illustration]

                               NEW  YORK
                        GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY


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



                            COPYRIGHT, 1920,
                       BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



                PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



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



                                   TO
                              G. B. S.-M.



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



“On the open window-sill of the universal soul the ancient æolian harp
awakes.”—ANDREW MILLAR, _Robes of Pan_.



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



                                PREFACE


THOUGH the adventures recorded in this book may set up the impression
that I am a kind of Don Quixote of the South Seas, I do not claim to
have sought to redress wrongs done to beauteous dusky maidens. It was
the ardent, adventurous spirit of youth that brought me to the side of
such original characters as Fae Fae, Soogy, and Fanga, and gave me the
charming friendship of those pagan chiefs who have inspired me to write
this book. It is possible that many stay-at-homes will think I have
romanced, will think it incredible that such characters as I have
attempted to portray really existed. Well, all I can say is, that my
greatest literary effort in the following pages has been to keep to the
truth of the whole matter, even though such frankness should leave me,
at the end of this volume, with a blackened name.

As I have introduced several Polynesian legends and myths in this book,
I would like to make a few remarks with reference thereto. In recording
my memories of Island folk-lore I have to use, of course, my own order
of intelligence—as compared with that of the wild people who told the
stories—when I attempt to recreate the legendary lore, the poetry, and
the loveliness of the natural world as it must have appeared to the
imagination of primitive minds believing in them. In doing this I merely
accept the inevitable transmutation which all legends and myths of
primitive peoples must undergo when written down.

Myths in their earliest stage were the poetic babblings of the children
of nature. It is certain that folk-lore which comes to us in written
form has been subjected to obvious transformation. All creation-myths
and subtle moving legends that are representative of human passions and
yearning, be they from the lore of the ancient Finns, Hindoos,
Babylonians, Japanese, Egyptians, or Greeks, have been completely
transformed before they reached us. Legends are told, retold, and
embellished in accordance with the storyteller’s notion of what seems
compatible with and faithful to primitive conceptions, until, out of the
imaginative fires of a dozen or so narrators, we get the poetic picture
which the primitive mind probably conceived, but was unable to express.
There is little doubt, I imagine, that, if it were possible to trace our
great epic poems to their remote original sources, we should find them
based on simple poetic superstition which had its origin in the minds of
the lowest tribes of primitive man. Thus, through the influence of mind
on mind, the world’s great epic, when compared to that far-off original,
will resemble it as much as the nightingale’s egg of this summer will
resemble the full-fledged bird’s midnight-song to next year’s moon.

So much would I say for my method in writing my reminiscences of heathen
fairy-land. As for idol-worship, I have written about it just as O’Hara
and I saw it with our own eyes, distinct and solid as are the biblical
images of stone in the churches of our own sacred creed.

I make no attempt to trace outside influences on the mythologies of
Island creeds; indeed, no influences can be traced. The only influence I
was aware of, or ever heard discussed, was this, that with the advent of
the missionary, Island mythology and heathen legends were sponged off
the map of existence. The missionaries, naturally enough, could see no
use in preserving legendary creeds founded on idol-worship and
sacrificial cannibalism, and all that was certainly “not the correct
thing” in a world where morals and manners differ so greatly from our
own. In this way, both the old legends and the crude, primitive
conceptions of religious worship have long since been swept away, and
sometimes also the tribes that cherished these crude ideas were swept
away with their creeds.

Islands that twenty years ago had populations numbering many thousand,
to-day have a scattered population of a hundred or so. The blue-blooded
Marquesan tribes have been wiped out. The survivors are so mixed in
blood that they do not seem the children of their fathers. So rapid has
been the change that many old chiefs are still living who recall the
days when the voices of the winds and mountains were mutterings of the
mighty gods of shadowland. Born under the influences of new conditions,
the natives of to-day do not look back beyond the _lotu_ times. Their
imaginations are steeped in the atmosphere of the biblical stories they
learn in the mission-room. Having a sense of shame for the sins of their
fathers, they deny even the far-off wonders of the tapu-groves. In these
tapu-groves, and beneath the sacred banyan trees, there once stood the
heathen temples (_mareas_), the dwelling-places of those terrible
priests who, empowered by superstitious reverence, officiated at the
sacrificial altars. These priests were more powerful in their profession
than cannibal chiefs or heathen kings. Looking at the ruins of the
altars overgrown with weeds, it seems incredible that human hands were
once lifted in supplication to relentless captors before they were
sacrificed to the bigotry of heathen gospel. It forces upon us the
similarity of their fate and that of our old English martyrs. In the
forest, hard by, slept the dead—the dead who were the strange, wild
peoples that once made every shadow a lurking god, their superstitious
eyes seeing the starlit forest’s height as some mighty dark-branched
brain of a heathen deity’s glittering thoughts.

The Polynesians believed that their great ancestors were metamorphosed
into stars; in this belief there is something of the Egyptian and
Hellenic touch. There are many star-legends concerning the origin of the
conspicuous constellations of their lovely skies, legends that strangely
resemble those of Greek mythology. As Circé turned Odysseus’ comrades
into swine, so did the heathen goddesses turn Samoan warriors into
crabs, snakes, and cuttle-fish. Travellers have often been struck by
this resemblance in South-Sea mythology to the folk-lore of the western
world. The resemblance, I think, is easy enough to understand, for Man
is man wherever one goes in this wide world. Be he black, tawny, or
white, his innermost hopes and aspirations are much the same.

The South-Sea savage gazed with the same wondering eyes of hope on the
travelling sun, moon, and stars. To his childlike mind they were the
movements of his mighty deities and ancestors. He too peopled the
visible universe with gods and goddesses, as did the ancient Greeks; the
phenomena of nature impressed his mind in much the same way as it has
impressed mankind from the remotest ages. The same kind of sorrow dwelt
in the hearts of those old-time savages when they gazed on the dead
child in the forest. The sunsets blew the silent bugles of mysterious
hues along their horizons, touching their lovely skylines with unheard
but visible melodies over the briefness of all living things. They too
crept out of their forests long ages ago, and stared with wonder on the
rainbow that shone over their empurpled seas. Those old rainbows,
sunsets, and stars left the first etherealized impressions of beauty in
the heart of primeval Man the world over. And those old rainbows,
sunsets, and stars still exist, are shining to-day in Man’s imagination,
in all those longings for the beautiful that we call “Strivings after
Art.” Thus there is a strong link, a twinship between us and those past
savage races. Their old symbols of the stars, drifting clouds, fading
sunsets, and moons that once hung in the wide galleries of their heaven
still exist in all our poetic conceptions of that which is wild and
beautiful. Through the alchemy of man’s transmuting mind, the wonders of
that old world are represented in all that is highest in our Art; the
very landscape-painting that hangs on our homestead walls to-day faintly
expresses the poetic light that once sparkled in the eyes of those who
lived when the world dreamed in its savage childhood. The music
_maestro_ to-day stands before the footlights, not of the stars, but
before Man’s artificial splendour of lamplit halls, a highly-cultured
savage, some wonderful embodiment of the genius who once blew in the
magical conch-shell—that old barbarian musician who instinctively caught
the harmonies of creation from the resounding primeval seas, the winds
in the forests, and the songs of the first birds, applying them as
sympathetic symbols of sound that he might please the earnest longings,
the deepest dreams of that shaggy-haired, fierce audience that assembled
in their barbarian forest halls. So it seems that nothing that pleases
our eyes and senses belong to civilization or is of our own making. I
imagine that it has all been derived from the first tremendous
blackboard—the primitive days and starlit nights of heathen lands. And,
so, the first wild children of creation were our masters, who
unconsciously studied in the great school of Art under God’s mysterious
tuition that we might feel the pride and glory of all that is beautiful
and divine, with hope in this far-away New Day! We dwell to-day in a
materialistic age of brassy-blare and “advanced thought.” We have
weighted ourselves with the thick armour of civilization, till we fight
on with curved spines, hardly listing where we may fall. The old
mythological light of the stars is now switched on the pounding
machinery of our cities, instead of being fixed on our imaginations. We
grope in some darkness of our own making, as a thousand sects mumble in
their beards about some dubious hope beyond the grave. We are chained
prisoners in the stone cells of our own vaunted ambitions. No flower or
singing bird is a true symbol of hope, delight, or wonder; all that we
see is divested of the fairy-wings of that imagination that brings us
wealth beyond our fleshly selves. The true poetry of life has gone for
ever. The wild bird’s song steams in our old stew-pot—we like it better
that way! But one must suppose that all this is as it should be.
Nevertheless, we are the old savages, the Dark Ages, in a double sense,
dreaming that we are the children of the Golden Age! The nursery tale
told to the children as they sat by some Kentish homestead’s fireside
last night, was whispered into the ears of wondering children of the
South Seas long ages ago.

In reference to the general style of my book, I have written on the
theory that autobiographical writing should be inspired, not by any idea
of the apparent merits of those things which the author may feel that he
has done well, but from his indwelling regret over the many things which
he has never succeeded in doing at all. I imagine that it is so easy to
convince the world of our faults and so difficult to interest it by
putting down on paper those virtues we all secretly hope we possess.
However that may be, my reader can rest assured that my memoirs are
based on my happy meditations over all the great, worldly things that I
have never succeeded in doing, and so, whatever interest my book lacks,
is not lacking through any fault of my own.

I feel that it is necessary to admit here that I have been obliged to
dig deep whilst resuscitating from the legendary dark the old mummies,
the gods and goddesses which I found buried in the pyramids of heathen
mythology. It is I who have breathed the new breath of life into their
dusty nostrils as I unrolled their spiced, rotting swathings so that
they might have some resemblance to the time when they had true
visionary existence before the wondering eyes of those wild, savage
peoples of a mythological past. I have placed them, with a little
diffidence, on their crumbling feet, refashioning them with their unsewn
eyelids and mouths somewhat awry, on show in the temple of my memoirs,
in full view, standing along the aisles of dim remembrance, faintly lit
up, I hope, by the light of my own imagination.

As books of an autobiographical nature usually devote a chapter or so to
incidents connected with the author’s birth and childhood, and as some
of the critics of my previous books wished to know something of my
genesis, I am pleased to say that I am still full of go, still following
the sea-birds and land-birds on my vagabond travels. Through my
parentage I can claim the blood of three nations—English, Scottish, and
a strain of Italian—my mother being a descendant of Thomas Haynes Bayly,
the English ballad-writer; my father, a literary man, a descendant of
Charles, the second Earl of Middleton, and a lady of the Italian Court:
I believe this lady wrote some revolutionary songs, which were the
direct cause of her enforced flight from her own country. Having said
this much, I will retire as gracefully as possible by saying that I have
only stepped on the stage of this book as one of its humblest actors, as
a hollow-voiced prompter who would bolster up the reputations of his old
friends of the past with the weight of his fleshly self. And so I am
here in the spirit of good comradeship, the far-away echo of my violin
on the South-Sea buskin march assisting those who are scattered or dead,
and no longer able to help themselves on this new stage of a shadowy
drama in which I have placed them.

                                                                A. S.-M.


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



                                CONTENTS


                                PART ONE

                                                            PAGE
       CHAPTER I. SAMOA: FIRST IMPRESSIONS                    23

        Author’s Heritage—Arrives at
        Samoa—Disillusioned—Illusive Romance—Golden-skinned
        Polynesian Maids—Meets great Heathen Philosophers—The
        Samoan Chief, O Le Tao

       CHAPTER II. TROUBADOURING IN TAHITI                    49

        I ship with a genuine Old-time Crew—Poetic
        Nightmares—Tattooed Manuscripts of the Seas!—I learn the
        Art of Forcible Expression—Tar-pots—The Storm—Washed
        Overboard—Papeete—Pokara—How the first Coco-nuts
        came—Star Myths

       CHAPTER III. POKARA’S STORY                            92

        Pokara tells me how the first Idol came to be Worshipped

       CHAPTER IV. I MEET ALOA                               100

        The Hut in the Mountains—A Modern Fairy—The
        Escape—Love’s Hospitality—The Stranger from the Infinite
        Seas!

       CHAPTER V. FAE FAE                                    106

        I meet O’Hara—The Emotional Irish Temperament—The
        Tahitian Temperament—O’Hara and I go
        Pearl-hunting—Tapee, the Old-time Idol-worshipper

       CHAPTER VI. ABDUCTION OF A PRINCESS                   115

        O’Hara in Love—Fae Fae’s Midnight Elopement—Chased—A
        Melodramatic Race for Life—The Innocence of
        Eve—Temptation—The Lost Bride—The Madness of
        Romance—Outbound for Honolulu

       CHAPTER VII. THE HEATHEN’S GARDEN OF EDEN             144

        Tangalora the Samoan Scribe—Where the Gods and Goddesses
        first met in Council—The Materials of which the first
        Mortal Children were Fashioned—The first Wondering
        Men—The first Women—How the first Babies came to their
        Mothers

       CHAPTER VIII. IN OLD FIJI                             158

        A Heathen Monastery—A Scene of Primitive Heathenism—My
        unsolicited Professional Engagement—I imbibe Kava—I
        am made “Taboo”—Things that I may not Confess—My
        Escape—Fanga Loma—A Native Village—The Enchantress of
        the Forest—Temptation—In Suva again

       CHAPTER IX. KASAWAYO AND THE SERPENT                  175

        (A FIJIAN LEGEND FOR YOUNG AND OLD CHILDREN)

        A Goddess in the Garb of Mortality—A Garden of
        Eden—Temptation—Kasawayo and Kora the Mortal—The Battle
        Flight to Shadowland


                                PART TWO

       CHAPTER X. O LE LANGI THE PAGAN POET                  203

        A Pagan Poet—Influence of Byron and Keats—Star-myths
        Enchanted Crab

       CHAPTER XI. R. L. S. IN SAMOA                         214

        O Le Langi’s Influence—Heathen Magic—Poetic
        Aspirations—Ramao and Essimao-Samoan Types—Robert Louis
        Stevenson and the “Beautiful White Woman”—O Le Langi
        becomes a Part of the Forest—“Here lies O Le Langi”—A
        Great Truth

       CHAPTER XII. A MOHAMMEDAN BANQUET                     238

        A Child of American Democracy—Rajah
        Barab—Barbarossa—Brown-Slave Traffic Methods—Motavia’s
        Grave—The Magic Casement—The Splendour of Rose-coloured
        Spectacles—Mohammedanistic Desires—Giovanni’s Love
        Affairs—Exit Barab

       CHAPTER XIII. AN OLD MARQUESAN QUEEN                  254

        In Tai-o-hae—I come across a widowed Marquesan Queen—Am
        received with Dignity—The Artistic Tattoo on Loi
        Vakamoa’s Royal Person—The Queen tells how she was
        married to a certain Martin Smith of New South Wales—An
        aged Queen’s Vanity—A Heathen Necropolis

       CHAPTER XIV. TISSEMOA AND THE CUTTLE-FISH             265

        Impressionistic Scene in Nuka Hiva—Tissemao listens to
        the Luring Voice of a Cuttle-fish—The Love-stricken
        Cuttle-fish—When Crabs are Brave

       CHAPTER XV. CHARITY ORGANIZATION OF THE SOUTH SEAS    273

        I fall from Space—Court Violinist—Arrive in Fiji—With
        the Great Missing

       CHAPTER XVI. YORAKA’S DAUGHTER                        287

        The Wild White Girl—The Wagner of Storms—A Pagan
        Citadel—Pagan Democracy—Ye Old Britisher—A Battle in the
        Dark

       CHAPTER XVII. SOOGY, CHILD OF POETRY                  318

        Poetry’s Legitimate Child—Music’s Fairyland—A Civilized
        Old Man of the Sea—A Clerical Hat is the Symbol of
        Modern Religion

       CHAPTER XVIII. RETROSPECT                             326

        The Modern Old Man of the Sea—Fifty Pounds!—A Human
        Octopus—Adrift at Sea—Sorrow—Saved—In Tonga—Our Old
        Man’s last Hiding-place—Retrospect


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



                        TO YOU MEN OF THE CITIES


 Come! follow me o’er the sun-bleached sands by the seas where the small
    grog-shanty stands
 On the Wallaby track to Falaboo.
 Come! drink of the sunsets, rich old wine from the wandering sinful
    days of mine,
 For ’tis only in dreams the world rings true.
 Come! dream of some magic, far-off day, some lone backyard in the Milky
    way!
 I’ll fiddle; how the wandering stars will dance!
 We’ll sing together—“Yo ho! yo ho!” as on the mighty God-winds blow
 Through the dreams of my world of gay romance.


 I’ve tramped the tracks to Malabo, I’ve been the way the fallen go!
 When times were bad my fiddle wailed their grief—
 Till, by the camp-fires on the steep, one by one they fell asleep:
 (I’ve buried three, dead in their boots beneath
 The breadfruit trees, with all their dreams and Heaven knows what
    thwarted schemes!)
 We’d tramped the cities, then we sought the huts.
 And now?—secure on heathen isles, my pals still sport their hopeful
    smiles:
 We’re looking thin on rum and coco-nuts!


 So read these pioneer strains of mine, and drink deep, friend, as men
    do wine,
 Of sunsets on the ocean’s foaming rim,
 Of far-away and long ago where the scented trade winds blow
 Till skylines sigh the stars full to the brim!
 As on I tramp through sun-parched days or camp beside the trackless
    ways,
 Here with my fiddle in the jungle curl’d,


 Weighed down with wealth!—my tropic seas, my roof of stars above palm
    trees,
 My home the hills and highways of the world!
 But—if you men of far-off towns have got a few spare old half-crowns,
 Just buy my book, it’s really not the worst
 Man ever wrote, but nearly so, and that’s quite near enough, you know;
 So, be my friend—and read it “till you burst.”


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



                               _Part One_



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



                             SOUTH SEA FOAM

                                PART ONE



                  CHAPTER I. SAMOA: FIRST IMPRESSIONS

        Author’s Heritage—Arrives at
        Samoa—Disillusioned—Illusive Romance—Golden-skinned
        Polynesian Maids—Meets great Heathen Philosophers—The
        Samoan Chief, O Le Tao.


     I’d fiddled in Australia, lived on cheek,
     Cursed all the gold-fields ever found down South,
     Lived with mosquitoes down by Bummer’s Creek—
     To say the least, I’d felt down in the mouth.
     I’d tramped the seaboard cities with my fiddle
     To make my fortune, but ne’er solved the riddle.
     I’d got quite thin on nuts and grins and smiles,
     So emigrated to the South Sea Isles—
     That Eldorado where men yawned and seemed to make their piles!

EVEN the wind, my boon companion—for are we not both born roamers?—seems
to blow chunks of old memories through the moonlit, tossing pines that
are sighing to-night outside this wayside inn. It’s here that we rest
awhile, my fiddle and I, as I take up my pen to record some of the
incidents from my early travels. Time, in its everlasting hurry, gives
me the briefest space to say all I wish to say; and ere the month ends I
shall be, once more, outbound on the western ocean.

Personally, I think that to have inherited a pair of rose-coloured
spectacles from one’s ancestors is to have been endowed at birth with
inexhaustible wealth, as well as being born a king in one’s own right.
Such an inheritance enables one to conjure up the finest illusions,
helps one to surmount apparently impossible heights, and also cheers one
in each inevitable precipitous fall. I’ve often blessed the fates in the
thought that they so kindly enabled me to warm my hands and heart by an
imaginary fire when the winds were blowing cold. So much would I say, in
complete humbleness, about my special gift. Possibly the aforesaid gift
is the only inherited privilege that entitles me to write this book
dealing with my life and travels in the South Seas. So far as the
world’s and my own opinion goes, I’ve no violent claim to write more
than three books. For, true enough, it does not make for notoriety and a
keen interest in one’s self from a wide public to have done the things
that I’ve done. I seriously doubt if my effigy will be seen in Madame
Tussaud’s waxwork show when I come to die. The plain fact is, that it is
not considered highly respectable to have slept in a wharf-dustbin in a
strange land, unashamed, and with the lid on! And to have knelt in the
complete obeisance of idolatry before a wooden idol with a tattooed
heathen poet, and deliberately worshipped at the old shrine of the
stars, is, to say the least, _not quite the thing_. Neither does a
wandering vagabond life, and a deep feeling of kinship with strange old
shellbacks, ragged derelicts, and tattooed chiefs, lay a suitable
foundation for recording one’s omissions and sins in polite form.
However that may be, I believe that to have dined deeply on salt-horse
and weevily hard-tack, and to have played the fiddle on the “Wallaby
track” from Maoriland to the Solomon Isles, is to have gathered an
outfit of dire accomplishments that I hope may have inspired me with
something to say.

First of all, I will say that, though I had been smashing about the
seaports from Shanghai to Callao, and had trekked across the Never-Never
land, generally bound for Nowhere, I still had strange hopes that wild
pioneer life and romance, as I had read about it ere I ran away to sea,
existed somewhere in the world. I was down in the dumps, stranded in
Sydney, when the great opportunity presented itself. By the wharf, in
the harbour, lay a three-masted ship. When I went aboard I heard that
she was bound for the South Sea Islands—the Isles of the Blest!

“Any chance of a job?” I said to the chief mate. He solemnly shook his
head, then critically scanned me, then pointing towards the cuddy aft,
referred me to the skipper. Entering the gloom of the cuddy’s small
alley-way, I bumped up against the “Old Man.”

“What yer wan?”

“Any chance of a job, sir?” I murmured in my very best longing-for-work
voice. The skipper stood stroking his whiskers, and, after scrutinizing
me from head to feet, demanded to see my discharges.

“Git yer traps and come aboard.”

I was engaged as a member of the crew.

Next day we were towed down the harbour by a tug, and by midnight had a
steady wind on the quarter, which took us out with all sails set into
the Pacific.

It was a monotonous, long voyage. The “Saga,” for that was the name of
the ship, wasn’t a “Cutty Sark” or a “Thermopylae” for speed.[1] Anyway,
the length of the voyage helped to warm my ardent longing to arrive at
the palmy coral isles.

Footnote 1:

  The “Cutty Sark” and “Thermopylae” were two of the fastest sailing
  ships running from London to Sydney. The author sailed before the mast
  from Sydney to San Francisco on the “Cutty Sark.”

I think I was the happiest member of the crew when, after much buffeting
with wild weather and stinking pork and maggoty hard-tack, our old
wind-jammer hugged the outer reefs of the Samoan Isles. Ah, the music of
the long-drawn sounds of the surges beating over the barrier reefs! I
half fancied I could hear the palms sighing lyrical melodies as the
winds crept like overflowing zephyrs from some great scented dream
across that pagan world. On the dim blue horizon rose ranges of
mountains, apparently touching the tropic sky: they were, to me, the
peaks of romance!

The dry tongues of the aged, seasoned sailors hung out as they rubbed
their tarry hands and sniffed the distant grog-saloon. Old M’Dougal, the
ship’s carpenter, danced a jig and looked human for the first time. The
Dutch boatswain pulled his red beard, gave a terrific grin in the
moonlight, and muttered something about “Voomen and vine.” Then I got my
few belongings together, packed my violin carefully, and was ready to go
ashore.

It was quite dark when I found myself being rowed, or rather paddled,
ashore in an outrigger canoe. As I went gliding by the moon-ridden
lagoons, I felt that at last I had surely entered some magical harbour
of a fairy-land.

Even when sunrise came like a silent crash of liquid gold over the wide
Pacific, touching the mountain peaks and the scattered bee-hive-shaped
huts of the forest townships, I was not disillusioned. All seemed as I
had so fondly anticipated; it was as I had read about it all. Men yarned
and argued dogmatically as they stood, fierce-eyed, before the bar of
the wooden grog-shanty; there they stood, attired in large slouched
hats, telling such mighty things about their thrilling travels that even
old Homer, could he have heard, might well have sighed with envy!

When dusk came and I heard the tribal drums beating the stars in far
away up in the forest villages, I thought, “Here at least I shall find
rest from the hot-footed turbulency of civilized humanity; here I can
dwell beneath the Eden-like shades of feathery palms, and listen to the
wind-blown melodies as they come in from the sea and run across the
island trees.” I revelled in such like thoughts. I felt that I had come
across a pagan world where no more should I hear servile mumblings of a
conventional people. I would peer into savage bright eyes and listen to
the poetic lore of people who worshipped at the shrine of the stars and
counted their days by the fading moons. But when the fierce-eyed,
tattooed chief, leaning on his war-club before the rough customers of
the grog-shanty’s bar, looked straight into the eyes of an old
shellback, and, bringing his club down with a crash, said, with much
vehemence, that he preferred Solomon’s Songs to the second chapter of
the Corinthians, I rubbed my eyes and thought I dreamed! My chagrin was
immense; those delectable palm-clad isles of primitive lore and romance
had come under the blighting influence of civilization and of
missionaries!

I was in Apia, Samoa, R. L. S., attired in his velvet coat, walked into
the bar-room and then suddenly said, “Damn!” when the Beachcomber trod
on his toe, bowed, and said, “Beg pawden, soir!” I strolled afar and
discovered that bright-eyed babies, nestling at the bosoms of their
shaggy-haired, handsome mothers, slept as “safe as houses” in doorless,
small-thatched dens under the moonlit palms. And, wandering on, I saw
star-eyed, nymph-like girls with tossing, coral-dyed hair, pass and
repass me on the lonely forest track, singing merrily in a musical
tongue as they dived once more into the shadows of the coco-palms.[2]
All this was extremely pleasing. But one may imagine how my tenacious
illusions were grossly shattered when the majestic ex-king Malaetoa of
the proud _O Le Solu_ Dynasty, last of his ancient line, followed me
into the isolated grog-shanty hard by, gazed into my eyes with fondest
affection, and said, “Mine’s a bitter!”

Footnote 2:

  The Samoans are not tawny or mahogany-coloured, but are of a pleasing,
  golden-skinned hue, sometimes fairer than Europeans.

O, illusive Romance!

Nevertheless adventure abounded. Those semi-savage men sang weird
soulful songs, melodious ballads, about half-forgotten legends, and
battles long ago; and their love-songs were as pleasing as the beauty
and innocence of their womenkind. I roamed those palm-clad shores for
days, and was considerably enlightened in an educational way, for I came
across clans of strange old heathens, who seemed to me to be the
disciples of the one true transcendent democracy. They were semi-naked
heathen philosophers, old men clad in loin-cloths only. My pleasure was
immense when I observed them sitting by their coral cave doors, solemnly
chewing nuts, apparently as happy as the sunny, livelong day. It was
sunset, and when they all commenced to beat their drums violently,
beating the stars in, it seemed that their hoarse, quaintly musical
voices, wailed out, “Behold! we are the people! Creation hath nobly
toiled through the ages till, lo! the blessed sun warms our aged bones
as nature casts into our trembling hands digestible nuts and
sweet-scented taro!”

Could I help liking the companionship of such happy, wise old
philosophers?

Many of those old-time natives were endowed with wonderful poetic
intellect. And I vow that such an intellect my old Samoan friend, O Le
Tao, possessed. I came across Tao about three weeks after arriving in
Upolu. And I may say, that though I’ve played the fiddle under a palm
tree outside a barbarian queen’s royal seraglio, and have been given the
_Freedom of the pagan city_ in consequence, I can recall no one who was
more hospitable to me than O Le Tao. And so, before proceeding with the
wild life and adventures which I experienced after leaving Samoa for
Tahiti, I would like just to touch on O Le Tao’s character and genius by
the way. In fact, O Le Tao was interesting, if only on account of his
physiognomy, which strangely resembled the weird scenery of Samoa by
moonlight—scenery that I feel is an eminently suitable background for
introducing him, and not in an impressionistic sketch either, but just
as I knew him in his meditative old age.

First, I would tell you that it was a lovely sight to see the tropical
orange flush of evening fade to a deep, fairy-like green on the sea’s
horizon beyond the scimitar-shaped bay off Apia. Then, one by one, the
stars peeped out, not down from the sky, but wistful-like up from the
lagoons along the shore. It was an Olympian scene and one that I should
imagine would inspire the most unimaginative observer. The native
villages were silent; the mountains, like mighty sentinels staring out
to sea, stood with tangled forest beards, sighing down to their rugged
knees. Moonlit lines of palms waved like majestic plumes against the
crystalline skies; a falling star seemed a pale ember blown out of the
far-off constellations. But for the tiny pagan city of huts, nestling as
it were in the crevice of the mountain’s hip, it might have been an
uninhabited island world. Far down in the lower regions, in the vicinity
of the mountain’s vast feet, a canoe was paddled out from the hairy
growths between those mighty toes. It was a savage, wrinkled old man of
another age, paddling off for the silent waters in a canoe, that was, to
him, a small argosy bearing him away to the wonders of shadowland! But
it wasn’t as weird as all that; it was simply the Samoan chief, O Le
Tao, stealing away under the cover of night to one of the neighbouring
islets, so that he might worship his hidden idol. Though I cannot claim
to have been there on that special night, I well know it was none other
than O Le Tao. And how I know this is my own secret. Possibly I’ve been
a heathen too, and have prostrated myself before an idol; I’m queer
enough for anything. However that may be, I recall that I met O Le Tao
next day. I was travelling along in the vicinity of Mount Vala. I had
just had an appetizing meal of Bass’s Ale and monkey-nuts—and was
feeling in good humour. Coco-palms, breadfruits, and other picturesque
trees sheltered me from the hot sunlight and my banana-leaf socks hardly
swished as I softly trod the beautifully woven carpet of flower and fern
that Nature’s patient hand had spread across the forest floor. The sea
breeze swept pungent whiffs, like iced wine, to my nostrils, as I
followed the track made by soft-footed savages for ages. Suddenly I was
startled by seeing a frizzly, partially bald head protrude through the
bamboos. It was O Le Tao’s cranium.

“What you wanter here?” he said.

“Talofa! e maloto ea oe” (I greet you, comrade, and hope you are well),
I responded, as the chief’s brow puckered up with suspicion.

“What you gotter there—moosic?”

“Yes,” I responded, as he eyed my violin.

“You no tafoa vale?”

“No; I’m a friend,” I replied, as I handed him a mark. This largesse
changed his aggressive look into a broad smile of welcome. Following
him, I entered his hut. I sat on his best mat and drank refreshing
coco-nut milk. Suddenly we were disturbed by hearing loud grunts, heavy
breathing, and smashing of twigs. In another moment an aged Samoan woman
entered the hut. She was a fine-looking old woman, and had kind eyes.
She was carrying a huge calabash of water beneath one arm. Its
cumbersome weight did not deter her from further efforts—in the other
hand she held a coco-nut, a basketful of fish—all alive O!—on her back a
bunch of bananas, and between her teeth two fishing rods. She was O Le
Tao’s industrious better half. She too made me welcome. Then pretty
Cenerita, their daughter, arrived. She had pretty hair, and eyes that
outshone the gleams of the three coco-nut-oil lamps, hanging from the
hut’s low roof that night; for it all ended in O Le Tao asking me to
stay the night with them.

When the hour was late, I felt very contented as I squatted by their
homestead’s door by Cenerita’s side. Then the old chief commenced to
tell me about the grand old freebooting times.

O Le Tao was over seventy years of age, and so was a reliable authority
on the old sins and wonders of the heathen period of his palmy isles.

As the old chief spoke on, and his wife, Cenerita, and I sat by the
doorway that faced the ocean, I too became transformed into a
semi-heathen, the Samoan underworld becoming some dim, far-off reality
to my brain. The moon shone over the dark waters, and the voices coming
from the dark shore caves just below seemed to drum out muffled echoes
from the old gods of shadowland, as I listened to all that O Le Tao
told.

Cenerita had ceased to sing. We could faintly hear the _o le sanga_
(red-winged nightingale) whistling its melodious song somewhere up in
the mountain breadfruits. And still O Le Tao spoke on in this wise:

“O Papalagi, you must know and believe that, in those far-off days, the
great spirits of shadowland did walk about the native villages by night.
Often would the gods knock at the doors of the great _Atuiis_ (high
chiefs), bidding them strive for their mighty requirements; which were
many. And sad enough for us in the great sacrificial month!” said O Le
Tao after a pause; then he continued: “O white man, I must tell you that
Lao-mio was my kinsman’s child and was a maid beautiful to gaze upon.”

“Doubtless,” I said, as he continued.

“And of course she was daughter of great chief, so to fall in love with
a low-caste youth, as she did, was a terrible disgrace to me and my
people. Also the gods, Tangaloa, Tuli, Tane, and the goddesses of O E
Langi (Elysium) were dark-browed with anger about it all. ’Tis true that
the low-caste youth was handsome to look upon, straight as a coco-palm,
with eyes like a katafa bird’s. But such things do not make up for the
lack of great blood and the pride of the gods in one’s heart.”

“No, certainly not,” said I, as O Le Tao’s wrinkled physiognomy revealed
the pride he felt over those old ancestors that he claimed. Then he
continued:

“One night, when we were all fast asleep in our village by Tewaka, we
did all leap suddenly up from our sleeping mats, for lo! the
conch-shells of the gods in shadowland were blowing! True enough the
gods and goddesses were rushing about the forests in great anger! We did
know that something terrible had occurred, for their voices sounded like
to thunder and echoed to the mountain tops. As all my people did rush
from their huts, the gods disappeared in the moonlight, but we were all
just in time to see a canoe being fast paddled across the bay out to
sea! Ah, Papalagi, ’twas great insult; for it was that low-caste youth
Ko-Ko, for that was his name, and Lao-mio, the high-caste maid, in
flight together. For a moment we gazed dumb-struck, the horror of the
scene before us being on the faces of all the chiefs. And the _O
tausalas_ (high-class girls and women) weep to see so wicked a sight.”

Saying the foregoing, O Le Tao placed his wrinkled hand to his brow and
gazed in deep reflection on the scene that was apparently before his
memory. Then, as his old wife handed him a goblet of kava (he swallowed
it at a gulp), he cast his eyes skyward and continued:

“Suddenly we all recover our senses, and go rushing down to the shore.
But it was too late. The cunning Ko-Ko had severed the sennet tackles
and had cast all our canoes adrift, so that we could not follow him. He
was very low-caste too, for, as the canoe turned round by the
promontory, he did turn his face to us and waved his paddle jeeringly!
And though my kinsmen and many of the tausalas did dance with much rage
on the shore at this act of Ko-Ko’s, I did myself keep calm, as great
chief should keep; crossing my arms on my breast, I did spit seaward. It
was then that we all turned, and rushing way back to the village we
looked into the hut wherein Lao-mio had slept. Lo, master, we found
_all_ her clothes—she had left them behind! ’Twas sad enough, this act
of an erstwhile modest tausala maid, but we did all beat our chests when
we find the maid had left a note behind her too, and this note said: ‘O
stink chiefs of Samoa, I go away with my true love Ko-Ko, for his eyes
are like unto the gods! And I would have you know, O meddling people of
the village, that my children shall bless me for having so god-like a
husband!’

“At reading this insult about the godliness of a low-caste, we did all
beat our limbs and bodies till the blood fell. And as we did this act we
heard the mighty, far-off voices of the gods cursing our village, to
think that a high-caste tausala should elope with a cheeky low-caste
like Ko-Ko. The next day the great _toas_ (high chiefs) went away in
sorrow to the sacred altars at Manono, and, paying obeisance to the
_autiis_ (priests), asked them to find out what the gods would have them
do about the whole matter. After many libations of ceremonial kava and
sacred offerings to the God of gods, the vassals of shadowland did say:
‘You disgraced people of Manono must away go into the forest by Lauii;
and when you are there you must play sweetest music on the vuvu and the
magic conch-shells while the moon shines over the sea. It is then that
the spirits will hear, and will tell you what is best to be done to
enable you to catch the wicked lovers.’”

Saying this, O Le Tao paused a moment, then, swelling his tattooed chest
to its full proportions, and with his arms crossed high thereon, he
gazed majestic-wise upon Cenerita, his wife, and my humble self. Then,
turning his head and face round in the direction of the mountains, he
gazed in such a manner that it was plainly evident he was about to
divulge something reflecting no small amount of glory upon his person.
He continued:

“When the village did hear that which the gods wished to be done, they
all meet by the sacred banyans, and say, ‘Who? Who in our village am
_great_ enough to respond to the wishes of the gods?’ And, Papalagi, I
would have you know that, whilst this talk go on, I sit in full
humbleness behind the assembled tribe in deep shadow of breadfruit
trees.” (I nodded my head, intimating that I quite understood O Le Tao’s
humility.) Then he coughed, and proceeded: “For awhile I keep my face
bowed towards the earth; but still they call in one great voice again,
and yet again! And so, knowing well that one cannot cast the power, the
glory, and majesty from one’s own person, I slowly did arise, and,
standing forth into the clear light of the moon’s fullness, I say, ‘Who
is this that calls aloud for O Le Tao?’

“And, in this wise, was I chosen above all others, O Papalagi!

“That same night I and Lao-mio’s father, who was a kinsman of mine, did
go away to seek the magic caves where dwelt the vassals of the gods of
the underworld. When we arrived by the seashore we perceive four young
coco-palms growing, that had not been there before. And, as we blew the
conch-shells, the four coco-palms did commence to quiver in the light of
the moon, the plumes and bunches of nuts that sprouted at the tops
starting to swell visibly. Still we did blow and blow the vuvu and
conch-shell; and still the coco-nuts swell and swell till they gleam in
the moonlight, and lo! they were the big faces of the gods! We did then
notice that the trunks of the palms were their legs. My kinsman and I
did lean one against the other, so great was our surprise to hear their
voices. For, lifting their shivering arms to the sky, they say, ‘O great
O Le Tao, and he too who am shadowed in your presence.’”

“I suppose the gods alluded to your kinsman?” said I, interrupting the
old chief.

“That am so, Papalagi,” said Tao, as I struck a match on my knee and
intimated by a nod of my head that I wished him to proceed. Then he
continued in this wise: “The gods looked down upon us and said, ‘If you
would once more get Lao-mio the maid back to your village, you must go
along the coast and approach the caves wherein dwells the beautiful
goddess Pafuto. She will stand in your presence, and then lead you
across the sea to Savaii Isle so that you may get at the maid Lao-mio.’

“At saying these things they did look upon myself and my kinsman with
deep concern shining like a shadow on moonlit waters in their eyes, and
then, again said: ‘You are mortals, and so we would tell you that,
whatever you do, you must not gaze upon the goddess Pafuto’s face or
form with amorous eyes, neither may you let your hearts hold such
thoughts as one may have when gazing upon a beauteous mortal maid.’

“Well, Papalagi, this wish of the gods did not trouble us; but pulling
my tappa robe around me I did at once commence to go with my kinsman to
the spot where we might see the great goddess. When we did at length
come to the sea, the moonlight lay fast asleep on the deep waters. The
_o le manu ao_ (Samoan nightingale), hearing our approach, started
singing its midnight song to its favourite goddess _Langi_ (heaven). We
listened until our hearts were charmed very much, so much so that we
both felt that our hearts were fit to urge our voices to speak out those
things which the gods had told. And so I stepped forward, and say, ‘O le
sanga oa e magi langi.’ At hearing me speak, the _o le manu_ at once
cease its song. Silence did fall and run on silvery moonlight feet
across the forest. Then, lo, a shadow fell slantwise across the lagoon
that faced the sleeping ocean. We turn our eyes, and there, stepping
forth from her big shore cave, was the goddess Pafuto!

“Ah, Papalagi, never before did my eyes behold so beautiful a goddess.
Her raiment was made from the finest wove seaweed. Her hair tresses,
falling like a golden river on the sunset mountains, made a wonderful
mat for her nicest of feet.”

At this moment the old chief’s story was interrupted by the arrival of
Cenerita’s fiancé, a handsome youth named Tamariki. As the youth sat at
Cenerita’s feet, O Le Tao gave him a freezing look that he should
intrude at such a moment. Then the old man placed his hand archwise over
his eyes in some memory of the dazzling beauty of the goddess Pafuto,
and continued: “The goddess gaze on us with magical light stealing
through her eyes, then she plucked a reed from the lagoon’s edge and
blew out a note of sweetest music. At once the _o le manu ao_ commenced
to sing again, and out of the cavern to the right of us came floating a
_taumualua_ (native boat). My kinsman and I at once did that which the
goddess commanded, for we at once jump into the taumualua. As we sat in
the magic canoe, she did softly step into it and give a magic sign. It
was with much sorrow that I did notice that the taumualua carry no
paddles, for, Papalagi, I feel that the goddess may be for voyaging
_beneath_ the sea instead of moving over the waters. But just as I did
look into my kinsman’s eyes in sorrow, the goddess did stand upright
between us. She was as tall as a mast and as straight. Uplifting her
robes and stretching her curved arms out like unto sails of a ship, the
night wind did at once commence to softly blow. It was a wonderful sight
to see her robes gently fill out like big sails to the blowing airs as
the magical canoe start to move silently across the moonlit waters.

“As we did glide over the sea we could distinctly see her shadow
reflected in the water beside us, beside the imaged moon that was full
of brightness. Ah, Papalagi, it was this uprightness of the goddess that
did bring about the fall of my kinsman. Alas, as she became like to
sails of a taumualua, because of the uplifting of her robes there beside
us, her graceful limbs were revealed to half a finger’s length above the
knees. Truly, Papalagi, it was a sight to tempt even the gods, let alone
us poor mortals as we sat there, one each side of that wondrous figure,
my cheek almost touching the right flank, and my kinsman’s the left
knee.

“Knowing deep in our hearts what the gods had warned us about, we tried,
more than I may tell, not to behold or dream of her gracefulness and the
secret glory of such womanly loveliness, as we could have done had she
been a mortal.

“So, Papalagi, I did perspire overmuch through trying to kill those
thoughts that _will_ afflict us poor mortals. I sighed and prayed, and
even sang a short _lotu-song_ (hymn) to help stifle those thoughts that
dare not rise from my heart. It was during this misery of mine in
endeavouring to keep faith with the gods and our promises that I did
notice my kinsman breathing heavily. I look long upon him, and then see
that he was near to being _fauti_ (in a fit) for trying also to stay his
deeper thoughts. Much fright came to my soul at seeing the state of one
whom I loved much and who was near to me in blood. I did look eagerly
across the sea, and with much sorrow notice that we were still more than
a mile from the lonely shores of Savaii Isle. The promontory was just
visible far away to the north.

“‘What shall we do? What shall we do?’ I mutter as I did see my
kinsman’s form writhe in the agony of his desires.

“At this moment the goddess slightly swerved her outstretched arms
around to the north-east so that she might catch the fairer wind. In
this sudden action of hers, her mass of beautiful hair fell about our
shoulders, for she had slowly moved her head likewise, so that her face
should be turned to the south-west; so that, while her left arm point
north-east, her face turn south-west. Whether it was this movement of
the changing winds that made her tresses fall and prove my kinsman’s
undoing, I know not. But it is certain that, as her masses of hair fell
tenderwise on his face and shoulders, her eyes, inclined sideways, gazed
on him and on me in such a way as surely goddess never gazed to tempt
mortals before. And then, alas, whether the knees moved through the soft
swaying of the canoe or through the sudden veering of the night wind, I
know not, but my kinsman’s lips did suddenly touch the left knee of the
goddess!

“In a moment, as though lightning swept across the moonlit waters, a
flash of light leapt from the goddess’s eyes—the canoe wherein we sat
vanished—was as nothing!

“For longer time I did swim and swim. And when at length I sat on the
shore, only the great goddess Pafuto sat beside me! It was then I knew
that my sad kinsman had been unable to control his mortal thoughts, and
so was lying somewhere dead at the bottom of the _moana uli_ (the blue
sea). Gazing upon me, the goddess said, ‘O Le Tao, thou art a great
chief. Thou hast seen mucher beauty of the goddesses of Langi in their
true nakedness, and thou hast proven that thou lovest the light of
heaven in their eyes only.’

“At hearing this, I felt much pride. Yet, true enough, my heart did
quake overmuch, for well I knew how near I was to falling as my kinsman
fell.”

The old Samoan chief ceased for a moment. The night winds blew softly,
drifting the scents of ripe lemons and breaths of decaying flowers to
our nostrils. Cenerita, under the influence of her parent’s story,
peered into the forest glooms. The grand chiefess, Madame O Le Tao,
puffed her cigarette and revealed by the erect pose of her scraggy neck
that she realized the import of her position as O Le Tao’s faithful
spouse. The old chief, continuing his story, said:

“O Papalagi, when the goddess Pafuto said that to me which I have just
told you, I feel much proud and thankful for her mercy. I well knew that
she know in her heart that I too had been near to breaking my promise
when the taumualua swayed. But, still, she know what great soul O Le Tao
am!—so she say no more. Indeed, it was at this moment that she did bend
forward, softly touching me on the shoulder with her lips, and so did
make me _taboo_ (a sacred personage). When I did get back to the village
and told the chiefs all that had happened, they, though much grieved to
hear of my kinsman’s death, thought little more of the flight of the
lovers, Lao-mio and K-ko-ko. They did at once prepare great festival to
celebrate the glory that the goddess Pafuto had sent back such a great
one as I to still dwell amongst them.”

When he had made an end, the old chief lifted his shoulders
majestically, surveying me keenly the while with his dim eyes. It was
then that I realized how those island chiefs and the ancestors of
knights and kings of all lands had first gained their power, their
possessions, and mighty insignia. I instinctively knew that not only in
those wild isles were men gifted with an imagination that made them have
firm belief in all that they dreamed of over their own greatness. I half
envied O Le Tao’s gifts—gifts he had so well utilized. For as he sat
there I saw that he was enthroned on the heights of magnificent
imagination and lived in the light of respect from all men’s eyes.

Such was O Le Tao’s story of the goddess Pafuto, as told me while the
Samoan night doves moaned musically in the tamanu trees.

During my stay the semi-heathen chief took me to many interesting
places, showing me spots in the forests and along the shores where once
some great tribal battle had been fought, or some cave wherein, on
certain occasions, gods and goddesses met in midnight council. After
that, O Le Tao took Cenerita, Tamariki, and myself to a night dance in
the shore village near Monono. I am assured that Man cannot improve on
Nature’s handiwork in building roomy halls for secret congregations of
human beings who would indulge in heathenish capers that endeavour to
express the inherent impulses of mankind. The gnarled pillars and
flower-bespangled curtains of that wonderful forest opera-house,
decorated by Nature’s artless, silent-moving hands, left nothing to be
desired even by the most critical _Maestro_ who might happen to perform
on the wide, branch-roofed stage. The moon hanging in the vaulted roof
of space over the trees, was sufficient for all purposes. The acoustic
properties were perfect, the neighbouring hills echoing back each
orchestral crescendo and each encore in obsequious, weird diminuendos.
In the intervals of silence it would often seem that I heard some
phantom-like accompaniment, and faint encores coming from the gods of
shadowland, ere the barbaric orchestra of fifes, bone flutes, and drums
once more recommenced its terrific ensemble. I was more than astonished
to see O Le Tao suddenly throw his stiff legs out as he commenced to
dance with an elderly chiefess of enormous girth. A hundred dusky Eyes
seemed to tempt a hundred willing Adams as the sarong-like robes swished
to tripping feet when the whole audience began to dance before the
footlights of the stars! With the characteristic restraint of my race, I
clenched my fist in a great mental, virtuous effort, but only to fail
through my miserable fallibility, for, opening my closed eyelids, I
stared with unblushing effrontery at the _prima donna’s_ exquisitely
woven concert-robe—the equivalent of the South Sea fig-leaf!

She still danced on, a fascinating being, with the golden light of some
witchery in her eyes. Her clustered tresses were distinctly visible by
the pale glimmerings of the moon that silvered the huge colonnades of
the stage. And, all the while she danced, she sang an ear-haunting
melody, swaying her limbs, a scarlet blossom nestling in the hollow of
her bosom. “Aue! Aue! Talofa!” came from the lips of the tiers of gay
warriors and great high chiefs who squatted in the royal boxes. When the
handsome young chief, Tusita Le Salu—the head-dancer’s affianced—stepped
down from his perch in the breadfruit tree on the stage, the hubbub was
immense. He at once faced the dancer in a god-like style, and commenced
to sing a duet with her. They danced and tumbled about in a marvellous
way. And when she lifted the pretty blue sarong robe up to her knees, I
distinctly heard the aged O Le Tao groan through some pathetic
realization over his departed youth. Yet the most fastidious could have
gazed with delight on that scene: the whole thing was fairy-like, the
girl’s dancing creating an atmosphere that was full of poetic mystery
and nothing more.

The festival’s orchestra helped in no small way to enhance the poetic
beauty of the whole scene. The bamboo flutes and bone-clappers (made
from the skeletons of dead chiefs) played a suitable accompaniment to
the many “turns” that I witnessed. The special music that was performed
on this occasion was something between a Marquesan _Tapriata_ and a
Samoan _Siva dance_. Though I cannot reproduce the moaning of the
resounding seas on the shore below or the echoes in the mountains, I
give here an impressionist piano-forte arrangement of the wild music I
heard that night.

It is many years since O Le Tao departed for the legendary splendours of
his beloved shadowland: that much I certainly know. For, on a voyage
bound for the Malay Archipelago, not so long ago, my ship put into
Samoa, and, standing in the small village cemetery near Safuta, I gazed
in sorrow on a little wooden cross, and distinctly made out these words,
written in English and Samoan:

              “Here lieth the mortal remains of High Chief
                                O LE TAO
             Died, aged 83, in the year of our Lord, 1903.”
               “In my Father’s House are Many Mansions.”

Gazing on that grave, I realized the briefness of all living things, be
they great or small. There was something pathetic too in so humble a
tomb for one who had dwelt in such imaginative splendour. For the island
nightingale still sang its passionate song in the breadfruit, as the
same aged tamanu trees sighed in their glory by the sea. But, doubtless,
the children of a new age still whisper his name in wonder, telling how
he was favoured by the goddess Pafuto for the majesty and inborn virtue
of his mighty heart.

                  *       *       *       *       *

When I left O Le Tao’s hospitable homestead it was with feelings of
regret, and it was a long time before I returned to Samoa. Brief as was
my stay with that old chief, it was of long enough duration to influence
me; indeed, I might say that I became a semi-pagan too. Cenerita no
longer pointed in vain to the moonlit mountains, attempting to show my
blind eyes the shadow-gods that she declared were stalking across the
moon-ridden hills—I too saw them! I became a veritable heathen. My
personality became robed in the weird atmosphere of pagan dreams.
Civilization fell from me like an immaculate tall hat knocked off one’s
head with a brick. The stern, dull, drab colour of the world changed for
me. The bright-winged _katafa_, the brown-robed _O Le mao_ bird, and
bronzed-winged Samoan doves became warm-throated goddesses sitting in
the breadfruit trees over our heads, their eyes bright with discovery as
I played heathenish melodies and Cenerita sang. I was happy enough, for
I lived in a small native house all alone; it had two rooms and was
allotted me by the kindness of O Le Tao. That hut was my tiny grand
ancestral hall. Just beyond my threshold waved the plumes of my
coat-of-arms—a coco-nut tree crowned with a tawny bunch of fruit. My
clock, far away over the wide waters of my blue demesne, chimed each
sunset on the wave! Sometimes, when I played my violin far into the
night, I saw ghostly shadows moving under my lovely garden trees; then I
knew that I had awakened the wild people of another world, who came to
listen with delight to the Tusitala of the “magic-stick” from the lands
beyond the setting suns. Sometimes I would invite Tamariki, Cenerita,
and a few more sweet-minded Samoan children to spend the evening with
me. They would sing part-songs, melodies of which none knew the
composer, wonderful strains that had been mysteriously blown into some
old Samoan musician’s soul from the moonlit ocean caves. Crude as some
of those songs were, I heard the true note. Metaphorically speaking, I
threw all my music studies away. Away with such rubbish! No western
music ever thrilled me as I was thrilled by the haunting poetry of wild
sweet sounds such as I heard on those Samoan nights. It often seemed
unbelievable, dream-like, when I sat on a fibre mat before the limelight
of the stars and whiffed the odours of wild flowers and listened to the
perfect strains of that great University of Samoan elemental musical
art. Often when I heard the final chant of some musical genius I would
arise and cheer loudly, as the rough, tattooed audience beat their drums
and whistled their encores. Sometimes a sun-varnished maid would stand
before the forest audience and sing some masterpiece that expressed all
the impassioned melody of music’s far-away, forgotten childhood. I would
hear the seawinds sigh their long-drawn accompaniment across the lovely
wild-stringed harp of forest trees; a cloud would pass away from the
moon and so lift a great silver curtain of ghostly light from the leafy,
gnarled colonnades. And then the dusky, star-eyed _prima donna_ of the
forest would bow with a grace that was seemingly quite out of place as
one listened to the wild hubbub of the fierce-eyed, tawny men who waved
their arms as they cheered from the orchestral stalls of jungle, bush,
and fern. Such sights, such experiences might well turn the brain of a
much more sober head than I claim to possess.


                      [Music:  MARQUESAN TAPRIATA.
                      (Dance.)      A. S. M.
                      _Andante_
                      Piano _ff_
                      _mf_  Drum effects

                                          etc.
                      _p_ Tambourine.

                                 _f_    etc.
                      ]

         I’d sooner be a pagan in this hut,
         Wherein the singing spheres creep thro’ my door,
         And dance and dance upon my bedroom floor,
         As ’tween the sheets I watch with eyes unshut,
         And on my bed-rail, wailing o’er the din,
         A gnat plays on its tiny violin!

         I’m wrapt in some fine madness of a sense
         That robes me with the magic of those things
         That lend imagination lyric-wings,
         Imparadising all my dreams intense.
         ’Twill fade away, I know, and once again
         I shall half-weep—to find I am quite sane!

         Alas! I’ve worshipped stricken things called “Men”;
         I’ve travelled down their groves and found their light
         Hid magic splendours of the glorious night
         Of things unseen. And now?—clear to my ken,
         The sad old trees are whispering on the wind
         The harmonies that _maestros_ seek to find!

         Last night those old trees said: “Oh, brother, stay!
         That song you played just now we seem to know,
         We heard it sung a million years ago!”
         I said “It’s mine!” They sighed. I passed away;
         And even the flowers along the lonely track
         Said: “Poor, brief thing with feet and weary back.”

         ’Twas then the River, old and full of tears,
         Stopped by the hills and called, inquired of me—
         “Comrade, is this the right way to the sea?”
         I kissed its breast, I soothed its wandering fears
         As on we tramped; then, at the close of day,
         It said “Good-bye, old friend,” and crept away.

         And now?—a beauteous melody I hear,
         As constellations tumbling from the skies,
         Are dancing on the floor before my eyes;
         Nor do I dream at all, for, sitting near,
         A gnat plays perfectly the sweeping strain
         That Man’s ambitious mind strives for—in vain!

         I could cry out in spite to think for years
         I’ve sought applause, played to sad men and kings,
         To find, at last, the universe, of all things,
         Lo, hires a gnat to make the starry spheres
         Trip to and fro, go gaily o’er and o’er
         In perfect time across my bedroom floor!

         And still they dance and dance, and still the trees
         Sigh grand _adagios_ as that _maestro_
         Sits on my bed-rail sweeping from its bow
         The music of the grand infinite seas,
         Till ’neath the sheets I hide my head for shame
         To think, alas, a gnat achieves such fame!

After leaving O Le Tao I came across a kind of South Sea Mozart. He was
a young Samoan of about fourteen years. He possessed a cheap German
fiddle, and on its frayed strings extemporized melodies of the weirdest
beauty.

“What’s that song, Pango-Pango?” said I.

He shook his curly head and said, “Me knower not, nice songer camer me
out of win’ (wind) of the forest, from moan of sea-cave and stars of big
sky-land.”

Saying that, he once more placed his fiddle (’cello style) between his
knees, and performed a melody that might well have haunted the brain of
a Brahms, a Schubert, or an Elgar. He was a handsome little fellow, with
beautiful bird-like eyes. He was absolutely unconscious of the gift he
possessed. He seemed, to me, the sun-varnished, perfect-limbed
personification of Music itself, Music’s youth, light-winged,
passionate, beautiful with elemental sweetness, the ecstasy of
melancholy and inartistic carelessness. He played to his shadow in the
lagoons. There was a fascinating witchery in all his ways. Yet I doubt
whether such a soul as Pango’s could ever develop into that stage of
music which men call “Classic.” His genius was the genius of youth, and
could never grow old, and, rusting, develop into the austere
ossification of the fashionable musical cranium, that awful unvibrant
curvature of the musical spine that seems the melody of beauteous youth.
Pango was as natural in his art as are the flowers and birds on the
hillside. He could never have attained that decrepitude of imagination
that invests itself in a robe of artistries, making sad old men and
women imagine they hear the beautiful by having their unresponsive
spines forcibly shaken by the thunderous crash, the multitudinous rumble
and groan of artificial musical art. Ah, memory of Pango! Though a true
musician, he would have been nowhere as a music-hall composer. Nor could
he place suggestive words to music. He lacked British spiciness, too.
But I vow that he _did_ put the stars and forest streams to music as he
sat out on the promontory’s edge by moonlight, looking like some young
Grecian god as he hummed and played a strain that sounded like infinity
in pain. To my great regret I lost sight of Pango-Pango for quite a year
after that. The fact is, I left Samoa. How I left, and of the wonders of
the sea, I will tell in the next chapter.


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



                  CHAPTER II. TROUBADOURING IN TAHITI

        I ship with a genuine Old-time Crew—Poetic
        Nightmares—Tattooed Manuscripts of the Seas!—I learn the
        Art of Forcible Expression—Tar-pots—The Storm—Washed
        Overboard—Papeete—Pokara—How the first Coco-nuts
        came—Star Myths.


THERE are many sceptics who may disbelieve my account of the crew of the
“Zangwahee,” but away with such people!

About a week after losing sight of Pango-Pango I went across to Savaii
Isle. I had heard that there was an old sailing-ship anchored off
Matautu, and that she was bound on a long voyage across the Pacific. I
shall never forget the wonder I felt on first sighting the “Zangwahee”
as she lay out in the bay. “Looks like an old Spanish galleon,” I
thought, as I stared at the yellowish canvas sails and the antiquated
rigging imaged in the dark-toned waters of the bay. For a moment I eyed
the outlines of that craft with intense curiosity. The beautifully
carven emblematical figure-head (a goddess with outstretched praying
hands) kept my eyes spellbound. The poetry of the artist’s brain, the
magic that had inspired the human hands to carve such outlines, seemed
to enter my soul, as the light of the setting sun touched the
saffron-hued sails and glimmered across the silent, blue lagoons. The
movements of a man’s form on her deck made me realize the truth; for in
some credulous fancy I had half thought that she was some long-lost
treasure-trove ship that had lain there for centuries!

“Where you bound for?” I cried, hailing a weird-looking seadog who had
suddenly stared over the bulwark side.

Placing his hand to his lips, he yelled back, “Bound for Tarhoyti!”

“Where the h——’s Tarhoyti?” I yelled back. But no response came; the old
sailor simply pulled his dilapidated cap over his eyes and spat
melancholy-wise into the ocean. In a few moments I had taken one of the
beach canoes and paddled out to the “Zangwahee.” Clambering up the rope
gangway, I went on board. As I stood on deck, I stared in astonishment.
The crew, who were busy coiling up the ropes on deck, all stood up, and
looked like rows of mummies clad in rags. They were wrinkled and
sun-tanned to a yellowish hue! They might have been the crew of the
“Flying Dutchman,” so weird did they look, those old-time sailormen. And
talk about blasphemous oaths, when I meekly asked if they thought there
was any chance of a job!

“Captain Vanderdecken aboard?” I said, hoping to break the ice by such
an evident bit of humour on my part. One old sailorman, who had a Rip
Van Winkle look about him, stared at my blue serge suit of the
nineteenth century, and then, touching his cap respectfullike, said,
“Thar’s the Ole Man aft; cawn’t ye see ’im?”

Looking aft, I got a bit of a shock, I can tell you. The skipper looked
as ancient as his ship! He had a monstrous grey beard and O, the
expression on his face! I might have made a bolt over the side but for
the fact that he had already spotted me. Going straight aft, I looked
him in the face and said, “Any chance of a job, sir?”

Metaphorically speaking, he picked me up by the heels, smelt me, looked
at my teeth, screwed my neck round twice, examined my spine, thumped me
on the ribs, and said, “UM!”

I fancied I saw the dust of ages on his bony neck as a whiff of wind
came across the Pacific and divided the tresses of his beard. Then he
looked down on the deck and said, “Wha’s thawt?”

“My violin, sir,” I responded, as curiosity toned down much of the funk
I was in.

“Ho ho! He he! Haw haw!” he yelled, as he gazed on the deck at my
fiddle-case. In obedience to his commands, I at once took my instrument
from its case and commenced to play! It was like seeing God smile as his
wrinkled face lit up with delight. “Yoom’ll do,” he said. Then, taking
hold of me by the scruff of the neck, he pitched me headlong down the
alley-way into the dingy cuddy (saloon). Alighting gently on a rather
soft-plushed settee of prehistoric pattern, I murmured my thanks. You
see, I had sailed on sailing ships and well knew that the treatment I
was receiving was of marked courtesy in comparison with that which I had
experienced whilst on the Clipper Lines.

So did I become a member of a crew who, I should think, were the last of
the genuine old seadogs.

Next day the yards were squared to a stiff, fair breeze, and to the
strain of some old Spanish chanty I found myself bound for Tahiti! My
description of this voyage and the crew may appear like some gross
exaggeration; but I can assure the reader that I could not possibly
describe that crew and their ancient craft _without_ appearing to
exaggerate. I even remember the thrill that went through me when I saw
the ancient-looking yellowish sails belly to the Pacific wind as we
passed beyond the barrier reefs and caught the outer foam. But alas! the
thrill passed away when I sat down in the forecastle with those
marvellous old shellbacks and had my first meal.

I might say that the salt-horse and biscuits of the “Zangwahee” were as
ancient as the crew appeared to be. Perhaps it was natural enough that
there should be an affinity between the ancient members of that crew (a
few members belonged to my own century) and the horses that had
apparently roamed the primeval Arabian plains! Only a great poet could
describe the antique “Menu” of that forecastle. I have a brilliant
imagination, and so it was easy enough for me to imagine that the corn
that those biscuits were made of had ripened in Assyrian cornfields! I
only had to eat a foc’sle biscuit to enter at once the realms of
enchantment. Just as good wine intoxicates the brain, the fumes of those
cast-iron mouldy biscuits created a gassy atmosphere in my stomach and
inspired my brain with weird poetic fancies. I imagined I saw Ruth
standing amid the “alien corn”; and, taking another nibble, I had
visions of old rivers flowing by ancient walls, and of the desert towers
of the Pharaohs! I saw tired harvest girls, sickle in hand, sleeping by
their garnered heaps under Assyrian suns. Yes, reader, such dreams were
mine when I had poetic nightmares after partaking of the “Zangwahee’s”
forecastle menu of salt-horse and hard-tack.

Though I could fill reams with the wonders of the “Zangwahee’s” menu and
all that my brain fancied, I have only space to set down the stern facts
that apply to the “Zangwahee’s” crew. As I’ve said, they were
hairy-chested men, real seadogs of another age. To see their
thick-bearded lips and their crooked noses, as they sang and climbed
aloft, made me half fancy that I had been blown across a century into
the Nelson period. Notwithstanding the old skipper’s rough exterior, I
found him quite human. Surely few young men who have gone to sea have
had the experiences I have had, for that old skipper would get blind
drunk, and, lying in his bunk, roar mighty encores as I played
selections on my violin to him! He loved sea hymns, and, when I played
“For those in peril on the sea,” he would mumble deep in his beard, his
eyes becoming wet with tears! Though I liked that strange old captain
(and I believed he liked me), my chief delight was to come off watch and
sit in the forecastle with the crew as they tugged their beards, shook
their fists, cursed the mate, the skipper, and the Universe! As they sat
on their sea-chests in the dim-lit forecastle, they looked exactly what
they were—genuine high priests who worshipped at the altar of monstrous
yarns and the best rum!

Some of them had fine, fierce, kind eyes, and bearded lips that never
tired of yelling forth the wild mystery of the sea and oaths of
inexhaustible beauty! They were able to express, in one neat phrase, the
pictorial ruggedness of their adventurous, unholy careers. They were
true sea-poets—possessing forcible descriptive genius that enabled one
to conjure up weird visions of the wondrous countries they had seen and
the “charming” women they had known. And I vow that they made their
verse scan, subtle verse devoid of any direct influence from the idyllic
school of romanticism. Some hailed from ’Frisco, Japan, Callao, New
York, London Town, Norway, etc., so there was a splendid mixture of the
world’s maritime literature. Consequently that forecastle’s audience
made a terrific school of the “Sturm und Drang” persuasion, a school
that fairly hummed with the unrestraint of Rousseau’s _Confessions_, at
the same time favouring Mallarmé and Browning for concentrated
expression. A forcible accent came on their rhymes too! One epic
punch-rhyme would make one’s eyes see stars! What hairy fists they had!
But those older hands seldom quarrelled. O Le Tao’s frame was as bare as
an egg when compared to the hieroglyphics and tattooed sea-heraldry
inscribed on their carcases. I had never seen such living art before,
such brazen display as they revealed when they sat by their bunks and
undressed in that forecastle. Watching by the mingy oil-lamp that hung
from the fo’c’sle roof-beam, I seemed to be witnessing some life-like,
wondrous Madame Tussaud’s waxwork of the sea, as one by one they pulled
their coats and vests off, revealing their herculean, muscular frames in
the nude! What a sight I beheld!—the tattooed storied history of their
adventurous careers! On one old sea-weary sailor’s chest was engraved,
in curves of red and blue, a goddess-like girl, the one great romantic
love of his youth. She was exquisitely designed, and one unloosed tress
fell down to her bare shoulders. I was fascinated as, leaning forward, I
made out the faint words inscribed beneath the feet—“My Lucille,” then
again, over the crown of hair, “Mizpah.” Others were veritable living
volumes, depicting all those things that influence sailormen in the
seaports of the world: shapely-limbed maids of Shanghai, Tokio, Callao,
’Frisco, New York, and London Town adorned their figures. “My True love
Harriet,” Lucille, Unita, Mary Ann, Bill’s Alice, Ducky-Sarah, Angelina,
Una, Fan-Tan, all were there, pug-nosed, and some, alas, indelicately
underclad. I do not exaggerate when I say that I was initiated into the
storied, tragical history of the oceans, of wrecks, the morals and
poetic characteristics of strange womenkind in distant lands, and the
shattered hopes of faithful sailormen, as I studied those weather-beaten
manuscripts of the seas. For many of those tattooesque designs were
sentimental symbols telling of fidelity in love, some deep faith in
“Alice, dated 1879,” and lo, the recorded disillusionment with the later
date—1880—the design of a heart with a dagger through it, revealing
something of the bitterness brought to those old sailors’ hearts through
the faithlessness of those old loves whose names were tattooed on their
massive, hairy chests and muscular arms! It would indeed be a weird
chapter of memoirs that told of my brazen explorations, of my astonished
exclamations, as I curiously scanned and studied the tattooesque history
of those violent old manuscripts. Many of the inscriptions had faded
with age. Old Hans, who had sailed the seas fifty years, before I was
born, would yarn for hours as I frequently interrupted to stare at his
chest, his arms, wrists, and fingers.

“Who was she?” I’d ask.

He would shake his head sadly and tell me how Unita jilted him; how
Kum-Kum slept in Tokio, and Leila in Kensal Green, and Singa-Samber in
some old cemetery in the South Seas. Once he put forth his tarry
thumbnail, and by the mingy gleams of the fo’c’sle’s hanging oil-lamp
helped me to trace out a faint figure on his big wrinkled chest, and,
lo! I plainly discerned the face, legs, and shoulders of some old pal
hanging on a foreign gibbet! I often thought that I must be dreaming it
all, as they sat there in the shadows, yarning away, as the Pacific
combers banged against the vessel’s side, and we rolled along on our
lonely course bound for old Papeete. It took some time before that crew
acknowledged me as one of their legitimate members, for they were often
cantankerous devils.

Ah, memory of it all—and my first oath! For, though I had been many
voyages and roughed it “on the wallaby” with old sundowners in Australia
and New Zealand, I had not blossomed into a true sea-poet of the great
unromantic school of the oceans. No unfledged _prima donna_, no
débutante, ever rehearsed her first part as I did, I know. _I’d_ show
them how to swear! After deep meditation, I gathered together the finest
swear words extant. Over and over again I repeated those vile phrases
until they fell glibly, naturally, from my tongue—full-blooded
adjectives that resolved into monstrous illegitimate pronouns that I may
not print here! I longed to publish those words, so to speak, to inflict
them, sear them on the soul of one of those cantankerous old seadogs,
for they played many scurvy tricks upon me, such tricks as must remain
unrecorded. Though many opportunities presented themselves before I got
the swear-phrases off by heart, I had to wait quite four days before I
could get my own back in a legitimate way. At last the desired moment
came. It was just at sunset. I was standing on deck gazing on the
horizon, admiring the expanse of peace, the ineffable beauty of
awakening stars and approaching night. Suddenly the modern sailor, who
hailed from a local pub, Houndsditch, London, walked out of the
forecastle, looked at me as I stared over the bulwark, then yawned, and
dabbed me negligently—smash! in the mouth with a coal-tar brush, and
calmly asked me if “Me mother knew I was out?”

I clapped my hand to my tar-smeared face; then I let forth my pent-up
volley of oaths, which I well punctuated with a splendid driving blow on
that son of Houndsditch’s nasal organ. The applause and calls of encore
from the whole crew, who had rushed up to see the fight, were terrific.
They cheered and cheered. Then I gave them something more to cheer
about—I picked up the nearest tar-pot—there was a row of them by the
galley door—and crash! it fitted like a cap over my opponent’s cranium,
hiding his brow, eyes, nose, and mouth too! It was splendid. The cheer
that followed that unrehearsed act of mine soothed my ruffled nerves
considerably. I was declared the winner, and, metaphorically speaking,
was awarded on the spot the Nobel prize for swearing! I gained and
maintained the highest respect from those seasoned sailormen. They
nudged me in the ribs when “Houndsditch” passed me on deck, and reviewed
my contributions to ocean-poetry in the most friendly spirit as I swore
and swore. So have I slowly and painfully educated myself that I may
compete with my fellow-man and fight the world with my sleeves up. I
recall that I was quite comfortable on board after that fight. Ah! I
often think to myself, that if I were a king or a millionaire, how I
should purchase thousands of tar-pots, and fix them—crash!—over the
heads of some people I know. But why digress to record one’s personal
viciousness? Except for the incidents recorded it was a monotonous
voyage; and I was delighted when we caught a good trade wind and, with
all sails set, the “Zangwahee” fairly danced and bowed as she did her
ten knots toward old Papeete.

I had been to Papeete before, so knew what I was up against. I wasn’t
touring the world with a camera and a thousand a year; and, though
“South Sea palm-clad isles and wine-dark seas” sounds poetic and
comfortable like, you have to rough it a bit if you’ve only got
fourpence halfpenny in the exchequer. But these facts didn’t trouble me
overmuch, since I could play the fiddle and swear.

The cook of the “Zangwahee” was a most grotesque character. He swore
like the much-maligned trooper, banged his pots and pans about, and
behaved like a lunatic when we stood by the galley door and held our
noses, as we cynically praised the terrible effluvia of the cooking
salt-horse. He, too, belonged to another age. He was sun-tanned to a
yellowish hue, and had a large, drooping nose with bristly hair on the
end. He would purse his lips up and, giving me a contemptuous glance as
I smelt the galley odours, would say: “You call yerself a saylorman! yer
God-damned galoot, clear art of it!” But in the end he and I became
quite chummy. He would sit by his galley doorway and tell about the good
old days, curse the modern sailormen and seafaring ways, as I agreed
with all he had to say. “You orter been a-living in _our_ time, when men
_was_ sailors,” he’d say, as I softly pressed him to take another sip of
rum from the flask which I always carried, so that I might with ease
bribe those dogmatic seafarers. After that he would cook a small bit of
salted horse in fresh water instead of sea-water for my especial
benefit. He even gave me fresh-made biscuits at times. So did I manage
to exist on the “Zangwahee”; otherwise I should have been buried over
the side and gone out of this story years ago. When rum was plentiful,
the cook would stop on deck dancing half the night. Through being
bow-legged, he looked like some mammoth frog clad in an apron, as he
shuffled in a jig in the moonlight, close by his galley door. The songs
he sang were quite tuneless, consequently he sang and sang. He would
fold his arms on his breast and open his mouth like a puppet, as I
played the violin and he danced. I’ve never played an obligato to a
frog’s solo; but for tune and _tempo_ give me the frog! (I don’t think
it’s usually known, but the Polynesian swamp frog was the original
inventor of the syncopated accent of the modern cake-walk.) Its chant
goes:

[Illustration]


              [Music:

                                             _Bis_
              Clack, click,  click. Clack,  click, clack.
              ]

And to sit in a South Sea forest by moonlight and hear an old marsh-frog
conduct an orchestra composed of the weird denizens of the forest—the
Samoan nightingale wrapt in its green and bluish velvet robe, singing
exquisitely as _prima donna_, the mosquitoes buzzing on their weird
flutes, while the grey, swallow-tailed gnat, sitting on the tall
fern-spray, sweeps majestic strains from its wondrous violin, as the old
forest trees waltz—is a musical treat and sight to be ever remembered.

It is wonderful what we mortals can see and hear when we keep our inward
ears and eyes wide open. Of course, such sights were as nothing to me; I
had long since realized that the great truths of this world exist
outside the realms that men persist in erroneously dubbing “Reality.”

It was an engrossing spectacle to watch those old-time sailors
dance on deck by moonlight. The very winds in the sails seemed to
sing an eerie accompaniment, as the weird old shellbacks jigged
and tossed their arms to the moon. I’d play the fiddle, as the
strain of “Oh, oh for Rio Grande!” came ghost-like from the
dancers’ bearded lips. It looked as though they were the ragged
phantom crew of a ghostly ship, as they shuffled on deck, their
sea-boots going “Tip-er-te-tap-tum-per-te-thump-thump!” their eyes
bright with merriment, as they opened their big, tuneless mouths
and joined in the chorus. Then a cloud would suddenly pass across
the moon’s face, and lo, puff! they had all vanished, gone, blown
overboard!

I’d stare aghast, and see lumps of ragged clothes and misty stuff, like
remnants of old beards, swept off on the night winds, as their
parchment-like hands clutched in vain at the clouds in space!

Some unimaginative folk might have sworn that it was nothing more than
hovering albatrosses asleep on the wing, floating on the wind. But
still, it’s a weird place is the South Sea.

However, in the morning, there they were, all in their bunks, fast
asleep, or half awake, dipping their swollen heads in buckets of cool
sea-water—as real as real could be!

With all that voyage’s discomforts I found it in no way monotonous. For
that forecastle was a wonderful breathing library of stirring adventure.
The characters of the books walked about, talked, and took mighty oaths
if one dared to doubt their veracity.

I often marvelled how any shipping-office officials came to engage such
ancient-looking sailormen. They looked infirm and useless. I sometimes
half fancy that I dreamed them, or that I am quite a thousand years old,
as they come to me in some memory of the night, and dance till I
distinctly hear their sea-boots tapping on my bedroom floor in this old
inn. Olaf was clean-shaven, and was so wrinkled and tanned that he
looked like some neptuonic mummy clad in modern duck-pants and a belt.
Steffan wore a peculiar-shaped bristly beard round his neck only, which
looked like an old, frayed, grey woolly scarf, a fixture round his
throat. Hans, the boatswain, who always said “Thou canst,” and “thee,”
and “shiver-me-timbers,” would look straight into the mate’s eyes and
say, “Avast there, you lubber!” He had one enormous tooth that protruded
from his compressed lips, which seemed ever grinning, were he awake or
asleep. At other times he would remind me of a wonderfully carved
heathen idol, a kind of South Sea Laocoön that I had once seen in a
tambu-house in New Guinea. For he would stand on deck bathing in a large
tub that hardly reached to his knees, his muscles and veins swollen,
vividly standing out as though through some mental and physical agony,
while he stared on the skyline, then once again scanned his tanned arms
and chest, whereon were tattooed the strange names of women he had
known! Olwyn Saga, who wore a beard that brushed against his hips and
where through the winds whistled eerie melodies when storms blew, had
cornflower-blue eyes that had ogled the women of Shanghai and Callao
before any modern sailor was born.

Even the skipper would tug his huge beard in a kind of meditative way
whenever he met Olwyn on deck. As for the mate, a Scot, he almost
apologized before shouting out his orders to those grand old fathers of
the sea. Even their songs sounded like echoes from another age, as the
old fo’c’sle dog, Moses, sat upright before them, tears coursing down
his cheeks as the strains seemingly awakened memories of other days. And
when Olwyn jigged in the forecastle by night, the hands would sit
huddled on their sea-chests, their chins leaning on their horny hands as
they dreamily watched. And I would fiddle a weird obligato,
shivery-like, as I stood beneath the fo’c’sle’s oil-lamp, playing, not
to Olwyn’s dancing figure, but to his shadow that mimicked him as it
bobbed up and down in the gloom of the bunks and wooden bulwark side,
first to port and then to starboard, as, folding his arms under his
beard, he slewed round and round! Only the shuffling sounds of the big
sea-boots, “Tump-er-te-tump-er-thump-er-te-thump,” told of the reality,
as I, avoiding Olwyn and staring at his silently moving shadow in the
gloom, was enabled to feed my imagination and extemporize an eerie
accompaniment to a melody that had been sung on the Spanish Main a
century before.

It was in the hush of the hot, calm, tropic night, when the “Zangwahee”
wallowed in the swell and plomped till the hanging canvas seemed to be
drumming to the destiny of the marching stars, that I blessed those aged
sailormen. For, as they yarned and yarned, telling of their far-off
experiences, my admiration for them became unbounded. They were either
the most glorious old liars that ever existed, or had lived in Olympian
times when nothing was impossible and only the marvellous occurred.
Treasure-troves, typhoons, scented merchandise from the Indies,
faithless lovers, dusky beauties on mysterious uncharted isles, and God
knows what else, haunted my dreams, as I, at last, fell asleep, with
their voices still mumbling in my ears. Old Hans, who smoked a filthy
terra-cotta clay pipe and gassed me into insensibility on nights of sad
rememberings, took a fancy to me. I became quite interested in the
lonesome dog-watches. I’d sit by his bunk, and he’d point to the faded
pictures of the foreign women he’d known and shake his head. “When did
she die, Hans?” I’d say, as I pointed to one of the faded outlines of
his bunk’s photographs.

“She?—why, shipmate, she died ages ago!” Then I’d hear all about the
reality of that shadowy outline on the wooden wall. So did I become
familiar with the inner dramas of those old sailors’ lives. Sometimes
I’d hear things that made a shiver go down my spine, or, rather, down
where the remnants of my spinal column remained, for the mate had surely
broken it in three places (I had experienced so much in my travels that
it did not seem strange that I should go off to sea in search of romance
and lose my spine).

“You must be mighty old, Hans, to have experienced such things,” I
ventured to say, as he yarned on one night. Then, so that he might see
that I wasn’t as green as he appeared to think I was, I added, “Might
you have met Abraham or any of the Pharaohs in your time?”

For a moment he puffed his antique pipe, his fingers toiling away as he
stitched the fragments of his ancient clothing together; for quite a
while longer his chin pressed his white beard against his chest, as he
sat in an attitude of deep thought. Then I distinctly observed an amused
twinkle shoot into his pale blue eyes, as, solemnly shaking his head, he
replied, “No, I’ve never ’eard of them coves; they muster ’ave been born
_after_ my time!”

“Do you mean to tell me that you’re older than Abraham?” I said quietly.

Hans looked steadily at me, then gave me a solemn nudge in the ribs. And
then I knew that old Hans had been a bit of a humorist in his youth,
ages ago! I didn’t cotton to Steffan as keenly as I did to Hans. The
fact is, he would get drunk and shout all through the night, mind you:

                 Blow! blow! bully boys, blow—O!
                 We’re bound, bound for Callao—O!
                 We, the sailormen of long ago—O!
                 So let the winds roar what they know—O!
                 Blow! blow! bully boys, blow—O!

Then he’d finish up by expectorating a stream of tobacco juice right
through the port-hole on the figure-head’s dishevelled hair! (It is only
the callow youth who sees the poetry and romance of carven wood.) But
even Steffan became emotional when he opened his sea-chest and took
forth his old tattered love-letters. It seemed unbelievable as I
listened to the soft, sweet things romantic girls of eastern lands had
written in praise of Steffan’s eyes, tender ways, and figure! Then he
would fold each tattered yellow fragment up, and moan with the winds
outside in the foremast rigging, as tears coursed down his wrinkled
cheeks! I think it was when the skipper mustered the crew for prayers,
aft in the cuddy, that those old sailormen appeared the most emotional.
It was quite evident by their voices that they believed in a Supreme
Being’s watchful care over the lot of old sailormen. I would play the
fiddle as they stood by the cuddy’s table, prayer-book in hand, lifting
their sea-weary eyes mournfully, as their voices rose and fell. What
voices! Mellow and sombre with years, the deep bass notes seemed to come
from beneath the deck under their feet and echo through their beards.
The skipper, divested of all his erstwhile blasphemy, would hit the
cuddy’s table with his knuckles as he tried to keep the _tempo_ and the
language the same (they sang in various tongues). And one night, when
they all stood singing with their huddled backs bent, and the cuddy’s
dim lamp swung to and fro sending glimmerings over their wrinkled faces,
I seemed to have suddenly passed into a bygone age. “Houndsditch” and
the two other modern sailors were mysteriously blown, like cobweb
figures, out of the saloon by a puff of wind. Only those eight
hairy-chested, tattooed figures stood there, looking like misty things
with hollow eyes and eerie grey beards, as they sang a hymn that
strangely echoed up in the wailing sails. The tap, tap of the skipper’s
knuckles on the cuddy table sounded afar off. I heard only the long, low
plunge of the “Zangwahee’s” bows as she roamed onward and the praying
hands of the figure-head swerved, dived, or softly lifted towards the
tropic skies, while I stared across the little swaying table, fiddling
to the voices of those old sailors, as we sailed the dim, starlit seas
of romance!

One night, while we were playing cards in the dogwatch, something struck
the “Zangwahee” like a tremendous hammer-blow. We were carrying a lot of
canvas at the time. The “Zangwahee” heeled over and tumbled us in a heap
on the port side of the forecastle. The boatswain’s dog, old Moses, a
huge, fluffy fellow with fine brown eyes that were full of wisdom,
rushed out on deck and barked at the stars. Moses was always alert,
being the first to obey the mate’s orders. In a moment we had followed
Moses on deck in a regular stampede. The mate was yelling and swearing
like a madman.

“Where the blazing h—— are ye, mon? Take in sail; she’ll have the masts
ripped out of her!” (The mate seldom gave direct orders to those old
sailormen who had run the Easter down and doubled Cape Horn before he
was at his mother’s breast!)

That typhoon had struck us without the slightest warning. The
“Zangwahee” was already diving, as I clambered aloft with the rest of
the crew. The seas, calm as a sheet of glass when the sun went down,
were heaving angrily as the wind howled across the night. It was a
marvellous and grand sight, for there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The
stars were flickering as though the typhoon’s wild breath reached to the
remote outer spaces of infinity. As I crawled along the foot-ropes
aloft, I looked down on the “Zangwahee’s” swaying decks and distinctly
saw old Moses barking as he stared aloft, his hairy nose sniffing the
stars. I looked seaward and saw the ramping seas rolling away to the dim
night skylines like travelling mountains. As we fisted the canvas, the
old skipper roared his orders from the poop; his beard blew upward and
went over his shoulders as the wind struck him. Of course, up there
aloft we got the full force of the blast. I clung on like grim death. We
had to keep our faces to leeward, otherwise it were impossible to
breathe at all, as the wind struck us like a solid mass. I cursed that
typhoon. I hadn’t any diplomas for ability in going aloft on dark nights
while typhoons blew. Besides, I had a swollen face through toothache. I
felt as though I was being tossed about in space, lost in an infinity of
wind and darkness, with only the stars around me.

“‘Old ’ard! yer son of a gun!” roared an old salt, as I clutched the
canvas with one hand and grabbed his beard with the other when the
“Zangwahee” nearly turned turtle. It was Olwyn Saga, and for a moment I
had thought that a kind, vast white beard had been thrust out of space,
until I heard the mouth give a muffled oath. Only one who has been aloft
on a sailing-ship in really bad weather knows the sensation one feels
when one hangs on to the taut ropes of a stick that seems to wobble in
space, a stick with a dozen singing sailors clinging to it, using
frightful oaths as they apparently grab the stars and curse, when they
should be thinking of the supreme possibility of suddenly appearing
before their Maker.

“Avast there! Shiver-me-timbers! What yer doing, yer young B——!” seemed
to groan a sepulchral bearded voice from out the stars!

“Nothing,” I wailed, as the vessel, pooping a tremendous sea, seemed to
dive over the rim of the world into an abyss. I had instinctively
clutched the nearest solid portion of the visible universe—the seat of
the aged boatswain’s pants! And still those old salts sang some strange
chanty as we see-sawed to and fro in space. The moon had just risen,
blood-red on the horizon, sending a wild glow over the storm-tossed
waters. And, as I looked down from my perch in space, I saw the
tremendous seas lifting their oily backs, like mammoth monsters, as they
chased and charged the staggering ship. The skipper was still on the
poop, using his hands as a siren, as he yelled to the winds apparently.
Suddenly a tremendous smudge seemed to obliterate the world, a smudge
that incarnadined the ocean. The “Zangwahee” rose like a leaping stag,
then fell. Even the seasoned salts clinging beside me ceased their
eternal chanty at that awful moment. Crash! the “Zangwahee” had
apparently collided with the blood-red moon! I distinctly saw the
outstretched praying hands of the emblematical figure-head as the
jibboom dived and then stabbed the moon, and I went head-over-heels and
fell softly into the moon’s ghostly fires! So did it all seem to me, as
the “Zangwahee” nearly foundered, and I, in some inexplicable
double-somersault, had a swift glimpse of the horizon, as she fell
between the mountainous seas and I was jerked into old Olwyn’s arms. I
saw the great living walls of foam-lashed waters flying past us. For one
moment the foretop-gallant yard seemed exactly level with the foaming
pinnacles of the mountains of water that were travelling S.W. But for
Olwyn’s providential grip on me, I should surely have fallen from aloft,
that I know. I thanked Heaven when everything was snug aloft and we all
carefully descended the rattlings. I recall that I had barely got my
bare feet on the bulwark side, prior to jumping down on deck, when
another sea struck us. Again it seemed that we had foundered and that
the waters were thundering over our heads, ramping along, shrieking with
delight as we awaited the trump of doom. When the “Zangwahee” once more
righted herself, we picked the skipper up as he lay by the galley
amidships. He had been washed off the poop. By some miracle the man at
the wheel had been able to stick to his post, and so had managed to keep
the “Zangwahee” from falling broadside on into the tremendous seas. The
chief mate helped to carry the skipper aft and lay him in his bunk. His
leg had been broken. Suddenly old Hans wailed out in a horror-stricken
voice, “By the soul of Neptune, if my old Moses ain’t gone overboard!”

The huddled crew stood by the cuddy’s alley-way, white-faced as they
stared over the wild waters. The swollen moon’s wild red light, sweeping
the mountainous seas, made a glow that somehow harmonized with the
intense inner drama, the sorrow of that moment. The faithful eyes of
that comrade, who had stood sentinel by their bunks, were out there,
staring blindly in the engulfing cataclysms of those terrible night
waters.

“Shiver-me-timbers!” breathed forth those ancient men, as it came
again—a faint, deep, baying sound out of the night, “Wough! Wough!”

That familiar sound touched the very heart-strings of those ancient
sailormen. “God ’elp us all, me shipmate’s overboard!” said Hans to the
chief mate. The “Zangwahee” rose on a mountainous sea; then once more we
shipped heavy water. The torn sails of the mizzen-yard flapped, booming
like big drums, as those old seadogs stood there looking into each
other’s eyes. As for old Hans, he had never looked so appealingly or
spoken in so abject a way to a modern officer before.

For a moment the clear eyes of “Scotty,” for so they called the mate,
stared on Hans. He was hesitating. In that supreme moment he was the
true monarch of that buffeting little empire of wooden planks on an
infinity of water. His humble subjects awaited the order that would
prove if his heart glittered with the true stuff that would stamp him as
a man in their eyes.

Though the first force of the typhoon had blown itself out, the
“Zangwahee” was pitching terrifically, and to lower a boat on such a
night was a risky thing.

“’E’s been a good shipmate to us, sor,” said another, as Hans watched
the mate’s face and clutched his vast beard that had blown backward
right over his shoulder.

“I dinna ken what to do, mon; the skapper wouldnae think on’t, I know,”
said the mate, as he lifted his oilskin cap and scratched his red head.
Then he looked into Hans’s eyes and said quietly, “All right, mon, lower
No. 3 starboard boat.”

Possibly the mate remembered that old Moses had always obeyed him and
pulled the blanket off his bunk true to time when the midnight hot
coffee was ready. Even at that supreme moment a faint, deep, anguished
baying called to him out of the night. It was as though Moses’ wondrous
instinct knew that he was something of an outsider in a world of
two-legged men, and so might be left to his fate. In a moment the old
hands had scampered to No. 3 boat. Their hearts were out on those dark
thrashing waters. They cared not one iota about the risk they took that
night. The great loneliness of the ocean and the wild poetry of the
storm only strengthened the link of fellowship between them and the
brown eyes that stared from those seas at the flying, storm-tossed
“Zangwahee.” I had more than once seen men lower a boat to save a man
overboard, and I swear that there was no less determination and
eagerness displayed by those old salts when they struggled with the
tackle and risked the tremendous seas in lowering that boat.

“Give a hand there, youngster!” yelled Olwyn, as I clung to the davits
and did my best to help them. Then, just before they lowered away, I
jumped into the boat to give Hans his clasp-knife to cut some tangled
tackle. It was at that moment that one of the men, who was watching for
the critical moment to lower away, saw his chance, and loosened the
tackle, and I found myself numbered with the old salts in that boat. For
a moment I thought we had been swamped, for, as the boat touched the
back of the great oily sea that lifted the “Zangwahee” till she heeled
over as though she would turn turtle, another sea struck her. But those
old sea-poets were not amateurs: they knew how to make the seas scan and
the rolling waters rhyme to their requirements. But still for a long
time we all had to use our whole strength to keep the boat’s head to the
seas. It was then that I discovered, for the first time, that, though
the moon was well up on the horizon, a terrible darkness existed in the
gulfs of the waves. Once, when our tiny craft rode buoyantly on the top
of a tremendous sea, I got a swift kaleidoscopic glimpse of the
“Zangwahee’s” swaying masts and rigging, far-off, with the blood-red
moon just behind her. The sight of those illimitable miles of tossing
waters, our lonely ship and lonelier castaway boat, the frantic, hoarse
calls of the boat’s crew, calling “Moses! Moses!” was something
unforgettable, to be remembered when old ambitions and natural
catastrophes are long forgotten.

No reply came to that frantic call. Not a soul spoke as we all listened,
down there in the silence of the hollows, while the wind shrieked
overhead and we dropped into the sheer silence, as vast walls of living
waters rose around us. So strangely silent was it down there in that
gulf of the ocean, that I distinctly heard the deep breathing of the
sailors as they strained at the oars. At last we heard it come again,
that faint deep baying of our struggling canine shipmate. There was no
fancy about it; we heard the wild note of appeal and despair in each
faint, deep bark that answered us between the intervals of silence and
the crash of the seas.

“Damn the moon!” groaned the boatswain, as he stood by the tiller,
stared around him, and almost wept. We all knew that, had the moon been
high in the sky, we should have had a thousand better chances of
rescuing Moses.

“Yell, boys! Bully boys, yell!” roared Hans. And by faith they did yell.
Again they listened and stared out over the wild waters. Back it came—a
faint response, very faint. It was evident that, through the heavy seas
repeatedly washing over our shipmate’s head, he was fast becoming weak,
and so less able to resist the onrush of the travelling seas that would
bear him from us for ever. “Shout again, boys!” said Hans. And again we
shouted. We well knew that it was the only chance. For Moses would
instinctively hear from which direction our voices came and swim towards
us. It was then, whilst we all strained at the oars, and listened, that
we heard a faint, far-off cry of anguish. It sounded more like the
terrified cry of a human being than anything else I could think of.
Every face blanched, I know, as we heard that last faint, terrified
scream! Old Hans, who stood by the tiller, his eyes looking quite
glassy, nearly fell over the side in his eagerness to see what had
happened. Indeed, the boat was nearly swamped, for we left off rowing
when we realized that something else had come out of the vast night in
answer to poor old Moses’, our shipmate’s, despairing appeal to us. We
knew that the Pacific was infested by grey-nosed sharks. We had caught
three monsters on a hook with fat pork only a day or two before. I know
that we all shivered at that moment. We well knew that Moses would give
a scream like that only if _one_ thing happened.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Next night, as the “Zangwahee” once again stole steadily on her course,
I sat in the fo’c’sle with those strange old sailormen. There they sat,
huddled on their sea-chests, smoking their pipes and chewing
melancholy-wise, shuffling the cards as though they played a game that
was part of their destiny. Even their silhouettes, moving on the wooden
walls as the swinging oil-lamp sent its mingy gleams on the low table,
looked strangely mournful as the big-bearded mouths drew in tobacco
smoke and blew it forth again in clouds. The boatswain, old Hans, had
torn his Bible in half and used shocking atheistical expressions. I
heard the tramp, tramp of the look-out man just overhead, and the wail
of the rigging and heavy foremast canvas as the “Zangwahee” crept along
to the pushing hands of the night winds. Then old Hans lifted his bowed
head and looked towards the fo’c’sle doorway, where old Moses, night
after night, had sat on his mat, on watch, his hairy nose pointing to
the stars as we slept in our bunks. I heard the old sailor give a
muffled oath as he blew his nose in his dirty bit of sailcloth
handkerchief.

Then the cook closed the galley door for the night and, stepping softly
into the fo’c’sle, plumped down a large jar of the best Jamaica rum on
Hans’ sea-chest. It was a present from the bed-ridden skipper; and, as
the old salts slowly opened their mouths and in one melancholy gulp gave
a sad toast to the memory of Moses’ soul, I once more seemed to be
voyaging across the seas of some far-off age. I heard the melodies of
the winds wailing aloft in the grey sails that swayed along under the
stars. And, somehow, I felt the touch of the sea’s old sorrow and
romance blow across the deck. The moonlight was falling in an eerie way
through the spread canvas and wavering ghostly-wise on the deck just by
the fo’c’sle doorway. Again I felt that visionary presence, as it
rustled like a richly melancholy-scented wind along the deck, a
something that my senses could not place. I felt it creep into the
fo’c’sle, sending its shifting fingers tenderly over the bowed heads of
those old-time sailormen, who mourned the loss of Moses, the one who had
instinctively loved them all, through knowing the hidden virtue of their
hearts.

                  *       *       *       *       *

When we arrived off Papeete, we seemed to have dropped anchor in some
celestial harbour of a world beyond the stars. Dotted about along the
shore, under the waveless coco-palms, were tiny, yellow wickerwork,
bamboo huts. The sun was setting. It was a sight to please the most
unpoetical being, as dusky figures, clad in tappa-cloth and sashes of
gorgeous hues, flitted under the banyan groves. The far-away background
of that island world looked like some vast canvas daub, some tremendous
transcendent silence lit up by a liquid setting sun. The mountain ranges
of Orehena, visible for miles, resembled some old chaos of unhewn
creation stuffed, piled up, overgrown with forests, and encircled by the
distant blue pigment of the ocean skyline. But the savage children of
Adam and Eve were there right enough. Fleets of outrigger canoes were
being paddled out by the primitive peoples who had sighted the
“Zangwahee.” Those canoes were the Tahitians’ tiny argosies, and were
crammed with sweet-scented merchandise, coco-nuts, limes, softly-tinted
shells, corals, and luscious fruits. Those merchants of the south
clambered up the vessel’s side, rushed about the decks gabbling in a
musical tongue that was the more fascinating through being strange to
our ears. Some were in such haste that they dived from their canoes into
the sea, and, leaping on deck, looked like bronzed mermen as they shook
themselves. The water glistened from their lime-dyed locks and ran down
their handsome figures. “Yarana!” was their oft-reiterated salutation.
It was hard to tell which were the most attractive, the pretty maids
with hibiscus blossoms in their curly hair, or the handsome
terra-cotta-coloured youths. Whilst the hubbub and general pandemonium
of those pretty merchants were in full swing, old Hans, Olwyn, Steffan,
Olaf, and the rest of the old salts walked solemnly out of the
forecastle, hired a twelve-seated outrigger from the natives, and were
immediately paddled ashore.

It was at that moment that I sighted for the first time the old Tahitian
chief, Pokara. So tall was he that he overtopped the gabbling crowd who
stood on the “Zangwahee’s” deck. He was a handsome, wrinkled old fellow,
and his looks did not belie him, for he was a mighty heathen poet and
philosopher. Though old, he stood there in his resplendent youth of
seventy summers, his eyes ashine with the light of some witchery and
fond beliefs shared by no one else. Pokara, was one of a type who are
born old and grow up youthful. The blue days, and the death-blood of
some thousands of sunsets down his seventy years had mellowed his faith
in human things, sent the dross to the winds, leaving him a
simple-minded, grand old man. But, withal, directly Pokara sighted my
face, he made a bee-line for me. His fine bronze figure was almost
hidden, so heavily laden was he with his scented merchandise.

“You nicer white boy, me know!—me know!” said he, as he dropped his
bundles, crash! at my feet. Then he continued, “Wise old Pokara say to
’imself, as soon as he jumper on ship, ah, there stand ’ansome nicer
Englis’ boy; he gotter nicer face and alle-same-ee know that kind old
Pokara am here to sell tings bemarkable cheap.”

After finishing that flattering oration, the old Tahitian drew back a
few steps so that he might the better renew his scrutinizing glance over
my youthful physiognomy. A second look at my face seemed to make the old
chief fairly chuckle to himself. I must have appeared a tenderfoot! He
behaved as though he would have me know that he had, by a still more
careful study of my features, discovered hitherto undreamed-of virtues
and beauty in myself, such virtues that had quite escaped his notice
during his first hasty glance of admiration!

Majestically waving away the other scrambling native pedlars with his
hand, he said, “Ha! Ha! Yorana!” So how could I do otherwise than
purchase a few things that I did not want from that artful old man? I
tell these things concerning my introduction to Pokara, because he was a
typical Tahitian pedlar, a child in his duplicity, and a fine sample of
his race. But Pokara was a child in more ways than one. He was a genuine
survival of the heathen days, and his mind was a veritable repository of
old legends, star-myths, and the storied history of shadowland. He was a
mighty actor by nature, and, withal, was level-headed and good-hearted.
Consequently I never regretted meeting him that evening on the
“Zangwahee” decks, or at any time during my lengthy stay in Papeete.

I recall that, after I left the “Zangwahee,” I secured a good position
as first violinist in the French Presidency orchestra, which I took
under my leadership and made into a capital string band. Monsieur le
President allowed me a good salary from the official exchequer, and this
established me firmly on my feet. But, alas for the foolishness of
unsatisfied youth! I tired of success and went a-wandering. But I must
admit, and on my own behalf, that Pokara was at the bottom of that
business, for I suddenly met him again and got under his pleasing
influence. First, I must say that I was in a somewhat melancholy mood
that day. The night before, and by the merest chance too, I had seen the
last of the “Zangwahee’s” crew. I had just emerged from the Presidency
midnight ball, my violin in my hand, thinking to go straight home to my
lodgings (an old hut at the end of the township), for, as I have said,
it was close on midnight. A glorious full moon was shining over the
palm-clad mountains as I hurried on; but it so happened that, after all,
I did not return to my diggings till daybreak. For, as I stared between
the huddled spaces of the thick clumps of bamboos, I caught sight of
some eight ragged-looking human beings attired in ancient seamen’s
clothes and antique cheesecutter caps. They turned out to be none other
than the “Zangwahee’s” crew on their last night ashore. There they were,
old Hans with vast beard leading the way, Steffan, Olaf, Olwyn, the
cook, and the rest walking one behind the other in solemn Indian file
under the palms, as they made for the nearest café that sold the
cheapest and best rum and cognac. And as we all sat together in the
shanty by the mountains, the hills round Papeete rang with the echoes of
the wild sea chanties of an age that I had never known, while they
yarned and sang and drank solemnly at my expense. Old Joffre, the night
gendarme, and the sleepless natives came and stood by the café’s
doorway, and stared in wonder as those old salts smacked me on the back
and yelled many lamentations over their farewells. For I had told them
that I had decided not to return to the “Zangwahee” any more. I was
truly sorry to see the last of them. They had admitted me to their
distinctive social circle, had initiated me into the poetic art of
looking backward into a seemingly remote past, and, above all, they had
flavoured my soul with a dash of the romance and true poetry of the sea
that still wandered on the oceans in the shape of peculiar, old,
tattooed men, when I was a boy.

But to resume about Pokara. After leaving those old salts, I happened to
be strolling beneath the coco-palms by Motoa beach, a lonely spot by the
lagoons outside Papeete. I was standing by the wooden-columned portico
of a forest shanty listening to the tuneless chuckling of the
blue-winged parakeets, when I was startled by seeing a handsome, silent
figure standing beneath a palm tree. It was alive, for the full dark
eyes blinked as they stared towards the mountains. The magnificently
curved shoulders were squared to their full width, a tappa-sash of
gorgeous colour swathed the waist and was tied bow-wise at the left hip,
the tasselled end flung gracefully over the right shoulder. The figure
exactly resembled a bronze statue. The left knee was bent slightly
forward, and one hand was on the chin as the eyes stared in deep
meditation. The pose was perfect. Had a handsome Greek statue suddenly
stepped down from its pedestal and gripped my hand in friendship I could
not have been more astonished. That figure was none other than old
Pokara, shorn of his cumbersome merchandise and clad in the full
festival costume of ancestral chiefdom. His eagle-like eyes had seen me
coming down the orange groves!

The old chief bent forward on one knee, and, seizing my hand, pressed it
fervently to his lips. I discovered that the little wooden building by
the palms was the residence of a native friend of his, whom he had just
left after a visit. For a while we walked together, then at my
suggestion we went away over the slopes and retired into a café and had
a drink. Lord Pokara and I became staunch friends. I found that he was
looked upon by all the natives, and by the white settlers too, as a
character worth knowing. His majestic bearing was not the least of his
attractive attributes. Though his face was wrinkled into a deep,
expressive map by Time’s toiling hand, his terra-cotta-hued shoulders,
well greased with coco-nut oil, were as smooth as a youth’s. His thick
head of hair was undoubtedly grey; but Pokara was “up to snuff,” and had
checkmated Time’s tell-tale pigment by dying his locks to a golden hue
with strong coral lime. He had evidently been a gay cavalier in his
earlier days, for I observed that when the picturesque Tahitian maids
passed us on the forest track, all chanting their _himines_ (legendary
melodies), he returned their coquettish glances without stint,
negligently tossing his shoulder-sash. Nor must we blame old Pokara for
his love of sensuous beauty, for he was very old then and so must be
sleeping soundly to-night.

“You stopper at Papeete?” said he, as we finished our drink and came out
of the café.

“Yes,” I replied; and this answer of mine seemed to give him immense
satisfaction.

I saw Pokara almost daily after that, and I vow that it was chiefly his
wondrous personality and its effect on my youthful mind that made me
leave the Presidency orchestra and take to troubadouring with the old
Tahitian chief.

“You comer with me and play violin in villages a longer way off, and we
make lots of money,” said he one day, after I had been down at his
primitive homestead. Then he began to tell me _Arabian Nights_ tales
concerning the riches of the native villages and the wonders to be seen
in the pagan citadels over the mountains. And so it happened that we
went off together. It was a glorious day when I found myself tramping
with my violin strung beside me, crossing the palm-clad slopes of Mount
Orehena, _en route_ for the pagan villages where dwelt great high-caste
chiefs and chiefesses.

It seemed like some wild dream of a mediæval age when I first stood in a
pagan township playing my violin to dark-eyed, dusky houris. They stood
with finger to their hushed lips as I played by their bamboo huts and
Pokara sang a weird _himine_. I might say here that Pokara had made me
memorize several quaint heathen tunes before we started off on that
expedition, as well as telling me monstrous tales about princes and
chiefs who would cast pearls at my feet as prolifically as one throws
rice on a happy marriage morn. But, alas! it was not all as rosy as my
Tahitian comrade had painted it. And I thanked Heaven that the expenses
attached to the rôle of troubadouring were not over-abundant in those
glorious climes. Beyond languishing glances from the star-eyed,
golden-skinned Tahitian belles, I did not get much out of the adventure;
but I must admit that the sight of Pokara, with his tasselled sash flung
gracefully over his tawny shoulder and a fascinating poetic grin on his
wrinkled mouth, was something worth sweating across those tropic miles
for in far-off Tahiti. I know that Pokara seemed to look upon that trip
as the time of his life, as he passed round amongst our dusky audiences
with his coco-nut-shell collecting-box. Often the old chiefs would
persuade us to stay the night in the village, so that we might serenade
them at their sacred festival rites and wedding ceremonies. And for such
services we would receive the highest honours and valuable
curios—tappa-cloth, pearl shells, and many things that would make a
heavy load. Pokara managed to get hold of two large sacks, and, filling
them with our presents, had the cheek to ask me to carry one. But this I
positively refused to do, whereupon Pokara hid his booty in the jungle
till such time as he could come back and fetch it.

I think we had been on this South Sea buskin march for about three weeks
when we arrived at a pagan citadel where we had quite an exciting
adventure,—though, in good truth, we had many adventures that may not be
recorded here. One night, after we had been tramping miles through
breadfruit forests and by the rugged feet of lines of mountains, we came
to a pagan citadel called Ta-e-mao. I shall never forget the surprise of
the dusky inhabitants as we emerged from beneath the palms and I began
to play an old Tahitian madrigal, while Pokara wailed out words that I
did not understand. I was attired in duck pants and a brass-bound
midshipman’s reefer jacket, and had on my head a large, dilapidated
helmet hat. As for Pokara, though he was travel-stained and perspiration
had washed much of the gold pigment from his ambrosial locks, he was a
sight fitted to awaken admiration in all hearts. After the inhabitants
had rushed from their huts and got over the first surprise of our sudden
appearance, they were overcome with joy as I played on and Pokara sang.

I don’t exactly know what happened that night in Ta-e-mao, though I do
know that the high chiefs and chiefesses treated us both with that
punctilious etiquette always accorded troubadours in those South Sea
mediæval ages. It appeared that we had arrived on the occasion of a
great festival that was being given in honour of the visit of an aged
king from one of the islands to the south. He was a remarkable-looking
old fellow. He had a face like a gnarled tree-trunk carved to resemble a
man. His teeth were white as snow. He wore side-whiskers and had a large
seashell tied on to them. He was so stout that, when he went to drink
out of the festival calabash, the royal attendants laid the receptacle
down on the top of his corporation, then bowed and withdrew. He had
brought with him his two daughters, or granddaughters, I forget which.
They were comely-looking girls. One was even beautiful, according to our
European ideas of that oft-misused word. Her thick, curly hair was
artistically adorned with orange blossoms, and her attire consisted of a
most attractively woven raiment of tappa-cloth that fell to her knees.
She had fine dark eyes, luminous with a golden light, and they might
well have fired the imagination of a less bold and outrageous youth than
myself. Though I was not aware of it, Pokara well knew that she was
_taboo-bride_, which means that she had just arrived of age, and, being
a princess of a certain grand old dynasty, was entitled to propose to,
and accept, the first high chief of royal blood, or whoever might please
her eyes. In short, my confession is this: I made gallant advances to
her, and she received them with an abandonment that was boundlessly
refreshing and romantic, not only to myself but to the royal assemblage
of high chiefs and the old king also. One thing will I say in palliation
of all that I may have done, and that is, that I had not the slightest
idea that the delicious cooling drink proffered to Pokara and myself
with immense liberality was an intoxicating beverage. And I am sure that
that drink had a good deal to do with the heathenish doings of Pokara
and myself and the final episode that night in Ta-e-mao. Her name was
Soovalao, and it is a positive fact that Soovalao stood before me,
lifted one dusky arm, and sang a heathen bridal _himine_ to my eyes! The
applause at this choice of hers was terrific! It is even possible that
I, in some subconscious way, responded to the princess’s love-tokens and
modest caresses. For I distinctly recall that I heard the tribal drums
crash forth a mighty _fortissimo con passione_ as I gallantly accepted
the beautifully-carved tortoise-shell comb from her hair, kissed her
hand, and repeated some old Tahitian rite! But alas! in delicate
compassion for those who would resent this sad confession, I will draw a
veil of forgetfulness over the final heathen dance, when I played the
fiddle and Pokara sang, and it seemed that a thousand dusky beauties of
a phantom forest seraglio somersaulted beneath the moonlit palms!

At daybreak I awoke. Pokara was stirring beside me.

“Hush, O Papalagi, ’tis well that we fly at once.”

“Fly where?” I said, as I rubbed my eyes and stared.

Then the old chief looked at me, and said:

“O Papalagi, you did accept the princess’s comb, great gift from her
hair, and the whole tribe have accepted you as great chief!”

“Have they?” said I.

Then, as the dawn’s first bird commenced to sing in the banyans and the
village still slept on, Pokara and I crept forth from our little pagan
hut, and dived noiselessly into the forest!

“What happened? What _did you_ do, O Pokara?” said I, as we camped by a
lagoon that day, ten miles from that pagan citadel.

“You no wanter marry princess this day, and go way to ’nother island to
the south of the setting sun, and Pokara see you no more?” said Pokara.

“Um! so that’s how the wind blows,” I muttered to myself.

It was after the aforesaid experiences that we decided to return to
Papeete, and at once set out on our long return journey. Pokara would
swear terrifically, I know, in his own tongue, as he dropped his huge
sack of tribal presents and sat on a decayed tree trunk, irritated, as I
climbed the trees in search of birds’ nests. Somehow the old schoolboy’s
instinct of bird-nesting _would_ come back to me. It would have made any
collector’s eyes shine to see the mighty nests that I found, and the
richly-hued splashed cockatoos’, parakeets’, and strange tropic birds’
eggs that I discovered. Most of them were too far advanced in
fertilization to “blow out”; but, still, I secured a few fine specimens
that had hard shells and would not easily break.

One night, just as we had made up our beds of moss and fern grass by a
belt of mangroves, and Pokara was telling me his old legendary stories,
we were both startled by seeing a strange apparition step out of the
forest. It was a fine moonlight night. Pokara leapt to his feet as I
bravely leapt _behind_ him! At first I thought it was a heathen god. But
I discovered that the peculiar being was real enough, for It wore ragged
side-whiskers, large loose pantaloons held up by a belt, and a
tremendous wide-brimmed hat that had nothing spiritual-looking about it.
It was a derelict sailor.

“What oh, shipmate!”

“What oh!” I responded, as the stranger gave a loud guffaw and roared
out:

“Damn me blasted whiskers, where ther ’ell you sprung from?—a wirelin
too!” he added, as he stared down at my fiddle.

On hearing all that we chose to tell him, he winked, and told us that he
had knocked the skipper of his ship down, and had made a bolt from
Papeete to save being placed in irons.

He _did_ keep us alive that night, I must admit. He had a large flask of
whisky in his pantaloons and plied himself from it liberally. And the
way he sat by us that night and sang awful songs was something
extraordinary and thrilling. He seemed to be unable to sleep, and every
time I dozed off he caught me a whack on the back and said:

“Wake up, yer young b——!”

At daybreak he informed us that he must make tracks, as he wanted to
slip down to the coast and stow away on one of the trading schooners
that traded between the Marquesas group and Tahiti. I think that we were
about three days’ slow journey from Papeete when he left us. The last I
saw of him was when his big boots crashed though the forest scrub,
making the parrots rise and scream above the giant breadfruit trees, as
his herculean figure faded away into the shadows of the wooded depths.
Pokara seemed mighty glad to see him go! I was sorry. I recall that we
camped by a large lagoon near the shore that night. It was a glorious
starlit sky, and Pokara, who never wearied of telling me his wondrous
stories and old legends as we camped by those high sea ways, sat there
by the mountains and told me a very fascinating legend. I saw his eyes
brighten as the tale he told revived the legendary atmosphere of his
youth.

“You see stars—tips of light up there in sky?” said he, as I lit my pipe
and prepared to listen.

“Yes,” said I, as I looked up at the heavens and saw, millions of miles
beyond his dark, pointing finger, a small constellation of stars, six in
all—two very bright ones, and the remainder stars of about the fourth
magnitude.

“You liker know, O Papalagi, who those stars are, why they get in sky
and stop up there?”

“Indeed I would!” I responded.

Then the old pagan astronomer sighed deeply, and proceeded:

“Tousands and tousands of moons ago, big canoe come from Isles that am
in the setting sun. As big canoe get near Papeete, the win’ blew and
blew. Then the _moani_ (sea) jump and jump and push canoe on the reefs;
bottom of canoe fall out and sailors all go bottom of sea! One great
chief did try to keep life that belonger him, and so he not sink for a
longer time; but then he too go bottom. But, though he go to bottom of
ocean, he no die dead. It was then that he look round bottom of sea and
feel much worried; big place, all ’lone. Then he call out: ‘Me great
chief Ora Tua am here at bottom of sea—where am gods?’

“It so did happen that goddess Tarioa, who sat at her cave door weaving
the sunsets, seaweed, and the hairs of dead women to make mats for gods’
feet, look suddenly round cave door’s corner and see great chief Ora Tua
lying on floor of ocean. Her eyes did shine, for he, too, look ’andsome
chief as he stood up all tangled in the sunset. For you must know that
the sun was sinking just same time as canoe bottom was knock out on
reefs.

“When goddess Tarioa saw Ora Tua, she put her hand to eyes and stare
longer while to see so nice chief, chief who had belonger world ’way up
’bove sea floor. She slowly creep out of cave, and while Ora Tua was
looker ’nother way, she catch hold of his hair and pull ’im outer of the
sunset. As he stand before her, his face and form all shining with
golden fire and sunlight that once shine over this world, she say, ‘Ora
Tua, you are ’andsome chief!’

“Then Ora Tua look at goddess Tarioa, and answer nice things ’bout the
goddess’s face, and he say, ‘Oh, who are you, so beautiful under the
sea?’ Then no time am waste between them, they faller in love! Big day
gods and Atua (Thunder-god), the god who open door to let out kind sun
in morning and tattoo sky by night, peep through crack in that big cave
and say, ‘Oh, dear! Dear me! goddess Tarioa am gone now and kiss that
Ora Tua, a dead chief who am not _tapu_, but am mortal who once live up
in world by the sea.’

“It was then that big gods all rush out of caves and run after goddess
Tarioa and Ora Tua, so that they may not kiss again. But so big were
their shoulders, all moving alonger underneath ocean water, that it make
big waves tumble about up on sea beneath the stars; and so ’nother canoe
that was filled with nicer Tahitian maidens knock on reefs and go to
bottom of sea too!

“The gods were so pleased that the dead Tahitian girls so pretty all
stand before them, that they forget all about wicked goddess Tarioa and
chief Ora Tua.”

“What happened then, Pokara?” said I, as the chief licked his lips and
looked up towards the starlit skies in deep meditation. And he continued
in this wise:

“Well, longer time after Ora Tua kiss goddess, she had two children same
time!”

“Twins?” said I, as I laughed, and Pokara vouchsafed a solemn smile.

“The gods of shadowland were terrible angry: they stamp feet till world
shake. It was terrible thing for goddess Tarioa to give forth in birth
two mortal children!

“Goddess Tarioa know this much, so she cry and cry out: ‘O great gods,
giver unto me nice sweet milk for my two _strikas_ (children)!’ for her
grief was mucher, since goddess do have no bosoms.

“The gods did all look through the big ocean water like great faces
looking through white man’s image glass; they looker terrible angry at
Tarioa and say: ‘Your babies wanter milk?—why am this?’

“And Tarioa did hang her head to her bosomless bosom, where the little
ones did move their mouths and fingers in much sorrow. For a moment the
gods did look in wonder at the children, then they said: ‘O Tarioa,
since thy children are mortal, they must die!’

“Then the god who tattoos the skies by night look out of the great Ink
of Night, and say: ‘Is it well, O great Atua, to kill these children?
Are they not of those who gaze on the great blue ways as my finger,
toiling brightly, tattoos the stars?’

“And so did it happen that one god did pray for Tarioa and her children.
So they no kill Tarioa, but they run after her and drive her to the far
north-west of big ocean floor till she come to the shores! And then she
did run up into the world of sunlight, and standing on the shore did
say: ‘Oh, how nicer a world!’

“As she look up at nice trees all blowing and singing in win’ and saw
above the trees the kind blue sky, she look so beautiful that
_kamoka-bird_ (evening-nightingale) fly out of big forest by the sea and
sit on her head. It sang and flutter its wings as its feet get much
entangle in goddess’s hair. Then it hopped down on her shoulder, and try
mucher to poke _stalos_ (fireflies) in babies’ mouths as they cry and
cry for milk.

“But still they cry and cry. Fireflies no good! Then Tarioa very sad, so
she call out. ‘O god of Rain, Ora, Tane, Maker-of-flowers and birds and
nicer things, I have sin in thy sight, but now I do offer prayer. I
will, O gods, be as sacrifice to thy altars, and my children shall
worship thee if they do live.’

“The great god Tane, hearing her prayer, did walk out of forest. Seeing
so beautiful a goddess before his eyes, he say: ‘You wanter food, milk
for babies?’ Then he put forth his big hand and held babies up on tip of
one finger—and looker much pleased! He then say: ‘Your children, O
goddess of sin, may grow up beautiful through having so nicer a goddess
mother; they might have light of the great gods, my vassals, in their
hearts.’

“Then as the babies cry, god Tane turn in great hurry to a palm tree
just by. He touch the top, that was ’gainst sky, with his finger, and
lo! out sprang a bunch of ripe coco-nuts! Then he touch shell and so
make soft holes. And then he place babies’ mouths to the holes so that
they could drink of the nicer sweet milk. He then turn to goddess
Tarioa, and touch her breast, and her bosoms did grow—not two bosoms,
but four. So did she, being a great goddess and loved by Tane, have four
nipples.

“So did goddess Tarioa become mortal. Her children grew up and did have
more children who do ever have a far-away look in their eyes when they
stare towards the setting sun. For you must know that they are _tapu_
children, and live on the Isles that are far to the north-west. And
long, long ago, goddess Tarioa did go ’way to shadowland that is far up
in the sky. And it is up in the sky that her eyes did stop and still
stop as she ever watches by night over her children.”

Saying the foregoing, Pokara pointed up to the constellation of six
stars to the far north-west, and said:

“Papalagi, there she is!—those two bright stars are her eyes and the
four pale little stars am her nipples.

“So you see, O Papalagi, why all the children of the islands ’way to
north-west are _tapu_ (sacred), for they are the children of the
children who did once drink tapu-milk from the bosom of the stars.”

As Pokara finished, he looked intently up at the heavens. And as I too
looked up and saw the two bright stars, and the accompanying smaller
stars twinkling out there, far-off in the clear night sky, I understood
how wonderful the universe must have appeared to the old heathens of
many ages ago. I could not laugh over Pokara’s story, as we sat there by
the forest lagoons. I must confess that I too felt some weird
fascination for his heathen world. And, as the old chief laid his weary
head down on the forest floor and the winds sang mournfully in the
mangroves, I looked up towards the sky and strangely fancied that I saw
the beautiful goddess Tarioa watching from the night-heavens amongst the
stars, watching over her lost children. Then I laid my head down on my
pillow of gathered moss and tried to sleep. As I watched the moon slowly
climbing the blue vault of space over the forest height, Pokara’s deep
bass snores broke gently through my meditations. After a while I gazed
on the sleeping chief’s face and fancied he looked like some tattooed
mummy who had lain there in its scented swathings beside me for possibly
a thousand years. It was at that precise moment that my eyes spied a
bright spot that shone like a vast jewel under the distant ivory nut
palms. It was a small forest lagoon that I had not observed before. I
was not as surprised as one might suppose, when the water stirred and a
shock-head of glistening hair protruded and two sparkling eyes peered at
me. I could hardly believe my own eyes as the head rose higher and a
beautiful form slowly emerged from the silent depths. She was a
goddess-like creation of wondrous beauty; the glistening waters ran from
her tresses down below her thighs as she gazed upon me. She was not more
than twelve yards away.

“The wonders of the South Seas have no end,” thought I, as with finger
to her lips she beckoned to me and came gliding towards me on tiptoe. I
instinctively understood her meaning. In a moment I obeyed. Jumping to
my feet, I clutched my violin and followed her. I heard the eerie rustle
of her shadowy raiment, as her feet, pattering like rain on palm-leaves,
sped softly beside me. Then we came to the sea. It was a wild, solitary
spot. Only the tiny whirl of the incoming waves broke the moonlit
stillness that dwelt at the feet of the mountains which rose like mighty
sentinels to the north-west. Taking me by the hand, she led me out to
the edge of the promontory. As I stood there staring on the strange
greenish hue of the sea-line, I realized that I was standing on the most
solitary point of the earth. Then, as gracefully as possible, I did
exactly as she bade me—sat down in the large bowl of moonlight she had
mysteriously placed there. And, so seated, I lifted my violin to my chin
and played a weird melody, such a melody as a troubadour might well play
to a beautiful enchantress. It was all real enough, no dream at all. I
even touched myself. “No mistaking me!” I mumbled. Then I gazed on the
sky, and observed that the stars swam like goldfish across the midnight
blue. I knew that Pokara still lay fast asleep in the forest shadows,
little dreaming of the strange visitant who had lured me from his side.
In some strange way I realized how envious he would have been, could he
have seen me sitting there in that bowl of moonlight playing my violin.
He, I knew, always _would_ think the magic of things was wholly on his
side and not on mine; and there I was, being strangely favoured by the
gods of the present reality, whereas Pokara had to dive far back into a
heathen past ere he realized such wonders as I realized that very night.
And still I played on, as the maid danced in a way that surely none had
ever seen before. It did not seem at all strange when she leaned forward
and sang into my ears the melodious old English ballad “The Mistletoe
Bough”; and while I played a tender staccato on my violin the waves
wailed a wistful obligato _con anima espressione_, as they rippled on
the moonlit coral reefs.

Suddenly the maid, who had been dancing with her hands raised, stayed
the silent trippings of her feet and fell on one knee before me. In my
finest Hans Andersen style, I took her hand and listened to her
pleading. My heart beat rapidly, I know, as she said in accents soft and
low:

“O pale-faced troubadour from the western seas, come! Follow me!”

“Fancy this being the end of my wanderings in the southern seas!” I
muttered deep within my soul, as she knelt there on the promontory’s
edge and gazed into my eyes in a final mute appeal. Then I rose to my
feet. I well knew that many men had risked their all for the sake of the
light of witchery in a woman’s eyes. Perhaps she observed my hesitation,
for, as she gazed on me, I saw her eyes blink, and, lo! I got one
splendid glimpse of the stars that shone in their liquid depths. Nor
could I help myself, as, standing there, I touched her lips with my own
thrice before I took the final plunge. I instinctively placed my violin
under my coat so that it would not get wet. Once more I looked up at the
sky. Then we both dived noiselessly into the ocean and faded away into
the depths of a great silence.

I opened my eyes. Pokara was still beside me, fast asleep. Only the
passionate song of the _O Le Mao_, high up in the breadfruits just
overhead, disturbed the silence of the forest as I stared up at the
stars. Then in some vague longing I turned over and tried to sleep, so
that I might catch up the thread of that dream again.


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



                      CHAPTER III. POKARA’S STORY

        Pokara tells me how the first Idol came to be
        Worshipped.


WHEN I opened my eyes, the morning parrots were wheeling away in
screaming droves over the slopes. Pokara was already awake and busy
cooking yams for our breakfast on a little fire in the open.

“Good-morning, O mighty Pokara!”

Pokara, who loved to be addressed thus, saluted me in his fascinating
theatrical style.

“Did we travel together under the _moani ali_ (sea) last night, and
watch a beautiful goddess walk the midnight skies with stars shining in
her hair, comrade?” said I, as a bird flew out of the sunrise, pouring
forth passionate melody in its rapture of the awakening day over our
wide bedroom floor and the sculptural beauty of our vast, columned
portico—the mountain gaps high over the forest slopes. For answer Pokara
said:

“You taster nicer this, O Music Man of long fiddle-stick!”

It was good! Pokara was an estimable cook, as well as being a good
companion. I was a connoisseur in the derelict companion line. I had
travelled across the bushlands, isles, and seas with melancholy old men
who mumbled in their beards; jolly old men with big red noses; soppy,
anæmic-faced youths; lean, cynical men; scraggy, long-necked
Don-Quixote-like beings; religious maniacs; atheists with sad eyes;
glorious old liars crammed full of romantic notions; Homeric men who
would have been knighted by kings and loved by princesses in another
age, but alas! hanged in this new age where they slept with one eye ever
open. I had even met derelict white women on my travels—some in rags,
delicate lyrics of sorrow that only God knew the truth about; others,
women who wore virgin moustaches and swore so vilely that the pretty
brown maid from Malaboo hung her modest head as she ran off into the
forest to hide for shame that a woman should swear so! And,
notwithstanding this motley collection who had accompanied me on my
travels, Pokara was no mean second to the best of them!

I recall that we were both tired out when we camped by the sea that day
before travelling on in the cool of evening. For we were within sound of
the native villages and the outskirts of Papeete. Pokara made a hasty
meal of cooked fish from the lagoons. As we sat there, the ocean
resembled some mighty glass mirror, so calm was the evening. But at
times the water bubbled, was slightly fretted into feathery foams, as
though something moved beneath the surface.

“You see that on water out there,” said Pokara, pointing to the
movement.

“Yes, I do,” said I, wondering what on earth Pokara could make out of
such an ordinary movement of the ocean.

“You know, Papalagi, that mighty gods walk ’bout under sea?”

“Well, yes, I’ve heard so,” I said.

Then he continued:

“Big god walk under sea. He got big shoulders, wide as mountains, and in
his large head of wonderful hair he stick white feathers. And, as big
god Atua Mara move along ocean floor, feathers in his hair stick out top
roof of the sea, for he always walk about when _matagi_ (storm) going to
blow.”

Saying this, Pokara became excited, and, true enough, at the spot where
he pointed, the water on the glassy surface trembled, up poked a
feather, as though some mighty god really strode beneath the sea. Pokara
continued:

“Atua Mara is great shark-god now; but he once live on land, like me,
like you. He once sit under trees and sang music to the great god of
Light. He only one on world. No other mans, no womans, he quite ’lone,
all-e-samee, he ’appy god. Sometimes he see other gods in sky when no
clouds hide them. Once when win’ blow, he looker up in sky and saw great
god Papo walking ’cross sky, searching ’mong his bright moons and stars,
for he wanter find gods who had disobey him! Suddenly his angry eyes did
flash out the lightnings; his voice rumbled the great thunders in
mountains, for he did find Taroa, the god of Jealousy, hiding behind
cloud!

“Papo, the Master-of-all-gods, hold ’im tight, and struggle longer time
with Taroa. But all-e-samee it was no good. Papo throw big worlds at
Taroa and lift up ocean in hollow of his hands.

“Taroa fight all-e-time like brave chief. Then he fall dead, and was so
big that one of his dark feet did stretch right ’cross skies! Still, god
Papo throw worlds and oceans at his dead body, and the waters of oceans,
and the worlds that the victorious god still threw, rolled down the
flanks of the dead god, and down the skies like big rains. So did worlds
fall, and isles come on the seas, and waters of the seas grow bigger and
bigger.”

After this digression into the wonders of shadowland, and the reason
that so many isles were scattered across the seas, and the wherefore of
the ocean’s deepness, the old Tahitian continued:

“Atua Mara see great fight ’tween gods, and laugh much, for he like see
god Papo win battles.

“One day, as Atua Mara sit under breadfruit trees eating sweet potatoes,
taro, and more nicer things, he feel lonely. He no one speak to. No man,
no _wahinee_ (woman), no children cry or laugh. So he look at sky, and
call out to Papo, the Master-of-all-gods, and say: ‘I, Atua Mara, am
lonely. Me want ’nother to sit with me on this world for all the
thousands of moons that I sit in nice sunlight.’

“The Master-of-all-gods hear Atua Mara’s call, and look out of sky with
angry eye, and say: ‘O Atua Mara, you got all world for yourself, big
forest trees, oceans that sing you when win’s blow, yet you want more?’

“Atua Mara look up in sky to where voice came from, and answered:

“‘Yes, trees sing to mees, but their songs, like mees, sound lonely.’

“‘Very well,’ answered god Papo, ‘as you not pleased with my gifts, I
show Atua Mara how to get someone who will sing you all time!’

“Saying this, he told Atua Mara what to do.

“That same night Atua Mara go creep into forest and pull off nice
scarlet flower from flamboyant tree. Then, doing what great god Papo
tell him, he cut his side with sharp shell, and take out little bone
from his body, and wrap the flamboyant flower round it. Then he go down
shore to get lump of soft red clay. This he shape slowly with his
fingers. At last the lump of clay did begin look like what Atua Mara’s
heart desired and what he dreamed about before he found out that he felt
lonely.”

Saying this, Pokara looked up at me and said:

“You must know, Papalagi, that when he was finish and all nicer done and
smooth” (here Pokara pointed to his own frame and ran one finger down
his thighs), and, continuing, said in a hushed voice, “Atua Mara had
made the clay figure of the first womans!”

“Well, now!” said I; and Pokara, observing my interest, breathed deeply
and stroked his chin, then proceeded in this wise:

“When Atua Mara had placed the little bone, which he had carefully wrap
up in the flower, in the side of the clay figure, he did take the clay
womans and stand it on its feet ’gainst a straight coco-palm stem. Doing
this, he very careful that clay figure’s face was turned towards big
waters of the west, where sun say good-bye to mountain-tops, before it
go down through door of shadowland. That day, next day, and after days,
Atua Mara did come and kneel before the clay womans which he had make.
He look upon it and dance softly with joy when he notice that, each time
he come, the light of each sunset had shone plopberly (properly) on clay
figure. The clay get softer, and, where he had make small holes beneath
clay womans’ brow, the eyelids did begin to sprout dark lashes. As hair
grew and grew, falling down figure’s shoulders, he so pleased that he
run ’bout forest calling out praise to Master-of-all-gods. One day he
come at sunset and touch the clay figure. His work did look so nicer
that he touch it with his lips, and, Masser, it was quite warm! The lips
had turned like to red coral and were curved like the leaf of the palm.
He notice that the figure’s clay bosom was smooth, and when he did touch
it, it heaved soft, like the moving of deep, still water when stars are
imaged. Once more he placed his lips to the figure’s mouth. Ah, Masser,
that was the first kiss god-mans ever gave unto womans. It was then Atua
Mara gaze deeply at the clay figure’s face and kiss where he had made
holes, which had swollen and turned into soft eyelids. He kiss again and
yet again, and the eyelids quivered, and, lo, burst softly apart till
they caught and mirrored the light of the setting sun. So pleased was
Atua Mara, that he lift his hands to sky and no speak—for the eyes
commenced to move! It was then that the clay limbs trembled, the mouth
open and speak, saying: ‘Oh, Atua Mara, who am I, here in the kind
sunlight?’

“It was then, Masser, when first woman spoke, that the win’s sang a
long-away-off song in the breadfruits of the sacred groves; the shadows
did fall over the mountains, the stars turn pale in the lagoons; and
before the moon crept back into the halls of Poluti, at dawn, it look
back across mountains with big red face; then, with hand over its eyes
for shame, crept back home through the big door to tell the
Master-of-all-gods what had happened in the great world outside.”

On saying this, the Tahitian gazed seriously up into my face and said:

“Ah, Masser, you must know that Atua Mara had knelt before his figure of
clay and worshipped it! Next night the great God-of-the-skies did look
out from behind cloud and say aloud, ‘Atua Mara, where art thous?’ The
god’s voice did echo and rumble across the mountains of this world, and
then did fade into big silence. Then the voice did come again with
greater anger, and Atua Mara see big figure move ’bout on misty
moonlight of all the sky as someone tramp ’bout shadowland.

“‘Atua Mara, where art thous?’ came again like big echo. It was then
that Atua Mara, who was half-mortal, crept out of the thicket of bamboos
where he had hid at the first sound of the angry voice of the sky. He
much ’fraid, for he know well what he done! His head did hang down with
much shame, like unto great chief when he lose big battle. He answer
great god like unto this: ‘I am here; what you wanter? Me do nothings, O
great God-of-the-sky!’

“Then the great god Papo did answer, ‘I give you all you wanter; you did
ask for nice songs and one mans to speak to, and now you have gone and
make figure different to my wishes, and worshipped it instead of worship
me! For this great sin, O Atua Mara, I banish you from happiness of
sunlight! You shall move ’bout under great ocean for ever, and your face
be like unto the big face of the grey shark.’

“At hearing what the god did say, poor Atua Mara creep back ashamed into
forest to see womans he had made. As he did creep out of thicket of
bamboos, the womans did much shriek, for Atua Mara’s face was like unto
the cruel face of a shark. But, because Atua Mara had made the womans
himself and had kissed her as the God-of-the-sky not wish, she was kind
and tender; and, though Atua Mara look much ugly with ’im face like
shark, she sorry and love ’im still. So they had many children. Then one
stormy night, when gods were angry, Atua Mara die like all men must die.
When he was dead, his spirit did rush out of his body and run down into
the sea so that he could roam the ocean. And so did he become the
shark-god.”

Saying this, Pokara looked at me and said:

“And so, Papalagi, that is why some childrens of the isles to the
north-west have the cruelty of the shark in their hearts, for they are
the descendants of the clay-womans that Atua Mara made. And Atua Mara is
now one great jealous god. He ever walk ’bout bottom of seas trying to
catch girls and mans so that he can take them to his cave and make them,
like him, unhappy.”[3]

Footnote 3:

  Some authorities seem to give different versions of the South Sea
  creation legends. One legend says: The islands were originally a large
  shark. Another, that the god Atua Mara had temples wherein the priests
  made sacrifices to his honour; but, being dissatisfied with so much
  worship, he pulled the temples down, threw them all into the sea, and
  with the rubbish that they made turned them all into islands. Yet
  another legend: The great god Taroa was the first god of the skies: he
  laboured so much over creation that the sweat falling from his body
  made all the deep seas.

As Pokara finished his story the shadows deepened over the mountains. We
heard the voices of the natives who were fishing in the bay at the foot
of the mountains. Then we scattered the red ashes of our camp-fire, for
we still had a mile to journey ere we entered Papeete. And as we walked
away from that spot we looked back over our shoulders, and I distinctly
observed the feathers of the shark-god’s hair poking out of the ocean’s
glassy expanse. Pokara sighed; and as the first stars crept out of the
deep velvet skies we faded away along the shore track, on the last mile
of our troubadouring pilgrimage.


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



                        CHAPTER IV. I MEET ALOA

        The Hut in the Mountains—A Modern Fairy—The
        Escape—Love’s Hospitality—The Stranger from the Infinite
        Seas!


IN this chapter I will tell a true fairy story that is directly
connected with Pokara’s and my own experiences. Indeed, I imagine it to
be one of the most realistic fairy-tales that it was my lot to hear and
witness in its most full-blooded stage; I also deem that it will be
interesting, in an educational sense, to students of modern mythology,
since it quaintly distinguishes the difference between pre-Christian
mythology and the materialized Goddesses and Creation myths of to-day,
through being modified by European influences.

About a week after my troubadouring expedition with Pokara, I sat by the
old chief’s side wondering what new venture his erratic personality
would thrust upon me. My comrade, clad in his finest attire of
distinguished chiefdom, had puckered his brows, and his eyes had that
look about them which plainly told me that he was about to spring some
new surprise upon me. Suddenly he said:

“Masser, you play nicer moosic, therefore am to be trusted; I knower
that you feel kinder towards good mans who am in trouble and so no tell
what you no tell and so make troubles!”

“Not I, Pokara, old pal,” I responded, though I felt I was no apostle of
such mighty virtues any more than was Pokara. Without hesitation the
aged Tahitian began to insinuate by gentle hints that he wished me to go
off with him to see a dear friend who lived in the mountains that formed
a grand background to the semi-pagan city, Papeete. Before the screaming
coveys of parakeets, that were bound seaward, had faded on the horizon,
we were off.

It was a long, hot walk as I tramped by Pokara’s side and we threaded
our way through the deep jungle growth. I noticed that the old chief
often stopped and looked warily over his shoulder, to see if we were
observed as we crept along the winding tracks which ever led upward like
some “Excelsior” of Nature’s ambitious loveliness that would climb to
scenes of ever-increasing beauty. Indeed, as we climbed the scenery
became perfect: distant landscapes dotted with waving palms, chestnut,
breadfruit, and strange trees painted with rich crimson and delicate
pigments of Nature’s voluptuous art, ever coming into fullest view. Far
away, visible between rugged descents and sombre clefts, stretched the
sapphire-blue miles of the Pacific Ocean. Seemingly no human habitation
existed in those rugged leagues of mountain solitude. Emerging from the
thickets of giant bamboo, we came to a space on a plateau, and there, to
my astonishment, I found myself standing before two small, yellow bamboo
huts. I stared in amazement, and Pokara rubbed his hands in childish
delight at seeing the wonder my face expressed. I half fancied he had
led up to one of the enchanted homesteads of the fairies that he had
sworn had existed in those mountains in his youth. Death-like silence
prevailed. Even the giant mahogany trees ceased to sigh to the inblown
breath of the distant seas, as I gazed on the magical scene before me.
Pokara had uttered a weird kind of cry: “Aloa! Aue!” The spell was
broken, for the first hut’s little door was suddenly opened, and out
sprang the prettiest fairy-maid it has ever been my lot to meet. She
stared at me in a half-frightened way for a moment, then said:

“Yorana, Monsieur!”

I lifted my old helmet hat, then in my embarrassment dropped my
violin-case on her bare toes, and murmured, “Yorana, Mademoiselle.”

The fright went from the maid’s eyes when Pokara said:

“Ah, he all right; he nicer Englese boy, play moosic, and kind to
Pokara.”

On hearing this, the Spanish-Tahitian girl, for such I discovered she
was, looked up at me in a most bewitching manner, and, smiling, revealed
a set of invaluable pearly teeth. Her bright, far-away-looking eyes cast
a spell over me. In my confusion I dropped my own and, finding myself
staring at her bare, graceful ankles and knees, I blushed, and once more
looked her straight in the face, as Pokara chuckled like a child.

She was clad in true Tahitian style, but with a subtle decorous
picturesqueness such as a poet, sensitive to the delicate requirements
of his art, might have chosen as a special attire for her after deep
meditation—a meditation that was essentially needful, as one will soon
see. Bare to about an inch below the knees and again from the
exquisitely shaped throat to half an inch below the bosom’s topmost
curve, her figure was revealed with a delicacy that enchanted me. She
appeared like some half-serious, half-wicked goddess who would lure,
would tempt her lover, and turn to stone at the first hint of mortal
passion. But she was not a goddess nor a beautifully chiselled
terra-cotta statue. Her eyes blinked to the buzz of the forest flies.
Like tiny flashes of wriggling lightning in two miniature circles of the
midnight tropic skies, those orbs twinkled as the honey-bee clung to the
crown of her forest-like hair. And—alas for human weakness!—there was
that about her which told one that, for all her delicate loveliness, she
was imbued with the frailty of mortals.

Just as I was thanking my lucky stars that my eyes could dwell on so
sweet a sight and yet remain in the realms of reality, the spell was
once again broken. For the maid called out, “Revy! Awaie! Come!” and at
once, as though he had awaited that call, out of the same small hut
walked a sun-tanned, handsome young Frenchman! And who was he? I will
tell you. The young Parisian, standing there before me with staring
eyes, was a convict, a fugitive from _Ill Nou_, the penal settlement of
Noumea. He was hiding there in the mountains, secure from the lashes of
the remorseless _surveillants_, hiding, guarded by the tender protection
of that beautiful goddess, who was none other than Pokara’s
granddaughter! It appeared that Pokara’s son, who had been dead then for
years, had married a handsome Spanish woman whom he had saved from a
wrecked schooner that had gone ashore at Papeete many years ago.

Aloa was the one child of this marriage, and she was the one remaining
joy of Pokara’s long-vanished connubial bliss.

Reveire, for so I will call that young Frenchman, had escaped from the
convict settlement by stowing away on a schooner bound for Papeete. He
was evidently unaware of the schooner’s destination, for Papeete, being
under the French, was about the most dangerous place he could have come
to. Probably this fact made his hiding-place the more secure. Pokara had
met the escaped man whilst out on one of the schooners, and had
immediately accepted the proffered bribe. And it was whilst he was
hiding in Pokara’s bungalow that his granddaughter Aloa fell madly in
love with the Frenchman, and suggested that he should hide with her in
the mountains. It was a blessed union. Reveire was a fine type of
fellow. It was some crime of passion that had sent him into that
dreadful exile. From the young Frenchman’s lips I heard many tales of
horrors that were perpetrated by the _surveillants_ on the helpless
convicts at _Ill Nou_, New Caledonia. Some of those tales seemed
incredible; but, alas! Reveire’s manner expressed truth too well.

Many times did I visit that magical homestead of the mountains. And many
times, while on tropical nights the stars sighed over the mountain
trees, Pokara and I would listen as the exile told us his sorrows, while
pretty Aloa murmured, “Aue! Aue!” stroked her lover’s face, and kissed
his hand, tears coming into her eyes to think he had suffered so much.
As I watched that strange scene of secret domestic grief and happiness,
Pokara touched me gently on the shoulder and whispered:

“Ah, Masser, we all good peoples here. For I did fetch priest,
_kackerlick_ (catholic), for my Aloa’s sake, and he did marry them. He
good priest and say nothings, good man he, because he like God and God
like him!”

So spake Pokara, thus giving me this utmost satisfaction of recording
the fact that my goddess had entered the holy bonds of matrimony
according to the modern mythology of the Christian era.

“Wail! O wail! O jug! jug! too ee wailo,” came the plaintive strain of
the South Sea nightingale as it serenaded its mate during the intervals
of my violin-playing. It was no nightingale to Pokara and pretty Aloa;
it was simply a tiny, feathered cavalier, robed in a crimson [woolly]
gown of enchantment, singing to its long-dead lover, pouring forth
passionate melody over old memories of that time ere the gods disguised
it as a bird, when it was a brave Tahitian chief! Though I had had many
weird, dream-like experiences in my travels on sea and land, I was
greatly impressed by the human note of that forest drama. And, as I
listened and watched, drinking in each incident like a child at its
first pantomime, the fragrant odours of the dying forest flowers and
mellowing mountain fruits, wafted by the warm zephyrs over that secret
homestead, made the scene seem strangely dream-like. But it was all real
enough for, when I placed my violin to my chin and played the strains of
the “Marseillaise,” Reveire’s eyes filled with tears over some memory of
his far-off _La belle France_ that he would never see again. But thanks
to the inscrutable kindness of Providence, a small portion of the
wistful soul of chivalrous France came to him, and all seemed well in
the end. For, ere I bade Pokara good-bye, I went with him for a last
trip up into the mountains to visit that fairy-like secret homestead.
Reveire had quite forgotten his home-sick sorrows. He was laughing like
a big schoolboy. As for Aloa, she was gazing up into his face, delight
sparkling in her eyes, as in her arms she held up another little
Frenchman who was just one week old—and who had bravely crossed the
Infinite Seas to keep Reveire company.

                  *       *       *       *       *

After losing sight of Pokara, who went on a prolonged visit to some
native friends in a neighbouring isle, I secured a position as violinist
in the Presidency orchestra at Papeete. But, alas! one night when the
sea wind was moaning in the mountain palms near my wooden homestead, I
again heard the call of the wild, and plunged into a life of vagabond
adventure and madness, as will be seen in the next chapter.


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



                           CHAPTER V. FAE FAE

        I meet O’Hara—The Emotional Irish Temperament—The
        Tahitian Temperament—O’Hara and I go
        Pearl-hunting—Tapee, the Old-time Idol-worshipper.


PONDERING over my experiences of idol-worship and my further adventures
in Tahiti, the incidents connected with the whole matter seem
sufficiently interesting for me to give the story in detail. Not the
least important part of the matter was the headstrong Irish youth, my
companion; indeed, I might say that he was the prime mover in the whole
business.

First, I must say that I can tell the story only by making the facts
appear like the buffooneries of a South Sea burlesque. Thinking it over,
I must admit that my own cheek upon this particular occasion was
enormous and superb! I can recall no other escapade like it, except,
perhaps, my dangerous adventure with Singa Lorna, the dancing girl, in
the heathen monastery at Fiji. Though I can claim the dubious honour of
having arrived on the shores of four continents with three halfpence in
my portmanteau and an all-absorbing belief in the generosity of man, of
having been a member of the crew of an old-time blackbirder, and of
having been thrown among the wildest characters found outside the realms
of fiction, I can recall none who managed to get my head so near the
guillotine as did the wayward Irishman O’Hara. There was a deal of
humour about O’Hara’s personality; it was the humour of romantic youth,
a pathetic humour that is discernible only to the practical onlooker, or
at the time when the tale is old. In saying humour, I do not refer to
humour as defined in the old books of recognized jokes, or the works of
many modern humorists, works which, to me, are the saddest, driest books
in existence; but I mean the humour suggesting poignant laughter,
flickering in the light of the eyes and rippling on the lips, coming
like visible music on the flushed, emotional countenance—the poetry of
laughter and tears as suggested in a Mallarmé poem.

                  *       *       *       *       *

I had been some three or four weeks in Papeete when I first met O’Hara,
the curly-headed Irishman. I was in the small beach grog-café near
Potuo, having a glass of lime-juice at the time. By this, I do not wish
to infer that I was, or am, a teetotaller: on cold nights at sea nothing
warms my blood like a nip of rum. O’Hara introduced himself by giving me
a whack on the back, and then joined with immense gusto in the chorus of
“Killarney,” which I happened to be performing on my violin. Ah, what a
voice he had! mellow and sweet, it vibrated like the strings of a ’cello
in the hands of a Maestro. And, as he lifted his blue eyes and sang on,
moving his fingers before him as though he played an imaginary guitar,
the Tahitian belles, peeping through the open bar-door, lifted their
dusky arms in sheer ecstasy as they sighed for “One fond look from those
wild eyes.” One maid placed her hands on her hips and, putting forth her
pearly toe-nailed feet in exquisite style, danced a graceful Tahitian
_himine_. The old shellbacks waxed enthusiastic and pulled their
whiskers, as they made critical comments on the dancer’s beauty. I might
say here that these dances were wonderful for their restraint and
artistic movement, quite devoid of the vulgar limb-movements as
exhibited in European music-halls.

I attribute the almost menacing glance of those Tahitian orbs on the
Celtic temperament for all that occurred that night. For my Irish friend
overshadowed himself, became one inch taller, and broadened considerably
in the shoulders, on seeing the impression he had created in the minds
of those dusky maidens. His deplorable wit brought forth roars of
laughter from the assemblage of shellbacks and half-castes who haunted
their presence. Then he ordered a dozen drinks, pressed four plugs of
ship’s tobacco into my hand, and swore that he would die for my sake. I
returned the compliment, and told him that I did not wish him to die if
he would only consent to sing “Killarney” once more. It was nearly
midnight when the inevitable argument arose and the shellbacks and
traders took sides. I often wonder how O’Hara and I escaped suffocation
in the dust of the débris as the empty meat-tubs, the wooden
bar-screens, and a hundred drinking-mugs got inextricably mixed up in
the farewell mêlée and wild, insane farewells when true comradeship
returned, after the fight, and each man had a last drink and then went
his way.

Such was my first meeting with O’Hara. But I sought his company again.
It was at our next meeting that he informed me he knew a native who
could tell us where thousands of pearls were deposited. “Pal, our
fortunes are made! Savvy?” I intimated, by a conciliatory nod, that I
did savvy. I had heard before, both in Australia and the Islands, of
such vast fortunes in the pearl and nugget line; but I had never found
them! The very next day O’Hara introduced me to a weird-looking Tahitian
chief, who was supposed to know where the pearls were to be found,
providing we gave him a sufficiently large bribe. This chief (his name
was Tapee), was a most striking-looking old fellow. He was tall and
finely built, and looked about sixty years of age. His costume consisted
of bits of decorated fibre matting swathed about his loins. He wore a
large, cleverly-twisted palm-leaf hat. His face?—well, it was a face!
I’ve seen thousands of faces in my travels, but never one like his.
Tapee’s face was the essence of faces; it could easily have made fifty
ordinary ones and still possess enough character to make one stare back
if it passed by in a crowd. The mouth had been finely curved in days
gone by, but years had withered it, making the lips appear sardonic. The
eyes, once clear as a tropic sky full of stars, had faded into a dim,
far-away look, as though Tapee saw some wonderful new day beyond the
peaks of death—and stared into the beyond with fright! He was a
full-blooded heathen, worshipped idols, and believed in dreams and dark
omens.

“Look at him! What a face!” said O’Hara, as he nudged Tapee in the ribs,
bent forward, and exploded with laughter! Tapee took O’Hara’s
boisterousness in good part, even as a compliment, then, swallowing his
rum, beckoned us both to follow him down to the beach. When we stood
beneath the breadfruit trees, Tapee peered about to convince himself
that we were unobserved. The shadows of night were falling across the
rugged mountain slopes behind semi-pagan Papeete city. We could hear the
tinkling of guitars, mandolines, and zithers coming from the Café
Française that stood by the coco-palms near the main street of Papeete.
The enchantment of fairy-land was destroyed by the cries of “Vive la
France! Sacré!” as sunburnt gendarmes gazed, as only Frenchmen can gaze,
into the lustrous eyes of the pretty “Belles Tahitians.”

“You wanter lot moneys, great heap pearls, nice Englesman, eh?” said
Tapee.

“Oui! oui!” said O’Hara and I in one breath, as we joyously pronounced
that French monosyllable.

“Well, Masser, me knowee where tousands of pearls are hidder in lagoon
near coast.” Saying this, the old chief looked up artfully and
continued: “But you give me moneys firster—if I taker you there
to-mollow?”

“How do you know that there are pearls in the lagoon?” said I.

Old Tapee’s under lip trembled like a scolded babe’s. I had doubted a
Tahitian’s veracity!

“Me ole mans from heaben times, me knowee ebery think.”

“Begorra, pal, it’s a shame,—don’t! Look at that face! Does it look
dishonest?” said O’Hara.

“No,” I said, as I gazed reflectively, then handed Tapee my last forty
francs. This made in all eighty francs, for O’Hara had given him a like
amount.

That same night O’Hara pensioned off for life almost everyone in Old
Ireland. He was sure that Tapee told the truth about those pearls.

As the sun was setting, we met Tapee, as arranged. “Come on, white
mans,” said he, as he toddled off. Then he intimated that, before he
took us round the coast to the lagoon where the wondrous pearls were, he
must first consult someone. O’Hara and I were in a fever of excitement
as we followed him. It seemed incredible that in a few hours we should
both be wealthy men, and that the élite of the civilized world would
fall in humble obeisance on their knees before two such scallawags as we
were! But it was no dream. There stood Tapee before us, real enough,
wisdom and truth inscribed on his tawny wrinkled countenance, as he
said:

“Waiter here, Massers; me back presently, then shower you pearls.”

“Yes, we’ll wait,” we replied, as, with a chuckle in his dusky throat,
old Tapee toddled away beneath the palms. We saw him fade away amid the
orange groves. O’Hara and I looked at each other.

“What’s he up to?” said I.

It was a lonely spot. To the right rose the mountains, and below us, far
away, heaved the ocean, as sleepy winds stirred the forest trees
overhead.

“Let’s follow him!” said O’Hara.

Without discussion or hesitation we crept under the coco-palms after
Tapee.

It seemed as though we had, in some mysterious way, left the civilized
world, and with one footstep walked across a thousand years into the
dark ages. Tapee stood before us, in a space in the forest, waving his
thin arms and chanting into the lapping wooden ears of a monstrous idol!
Though the old native was six feet in height, he appeared diminutive as
he stood in front of that dilapidated wooden image. Its big, goggling,
glass eyes seemed to stare right over Tapee’s head, gazing mockingly at
us! We instinctively held our breath as we stood there exposed to view,
for so real did the eyes look that we fancied that It had observed us.
Then we dodged back into the shadows, for Tapee had started careering
about in the frantic capers of some heathen rite.

“He’s a heathen idol-worshipper!” whispered my comrade.

Then we received another surprise, for out of the shadows, just by us,
in response to Tapee’s weird cry of “Awaie! Awaie!” sprang what appeared
to be a Tahitian fairy figure! It was a native girl. She was dressed up
in some old heathen-time costume. Her mass of hair was of bronze-gold
colour, and fell down in luxuriant waves which streamed over her neck
and shoulders in attractive contrast to the bright sun-varnished hue of
her smooth skin. Her tresses were thickly adorned with flowers, and she
wore a barbarian kind of raiment, the tasseled folds of which reached
down to her knees. (It was a style similar to that which I had seen worn
at the tribal festivals in New Guinea and the Solomon Isles). In a
moment she too was careering round the idol in company with old Tapee,
as she chanted a _himine_.

“O Loa!” whispered Tapee, as he turned about and stared into the forest
shadows, as though he wondered if we were near enough to hear the girl’s
loud singing. O’Hara moved forward.

“Keep out of sight; let us see it all,” I whispered, in at the same time
pulling him back by the coat-tail into the shadows. Tapee had commenced
to dance again. Then the girl fell on her knees before the big image,
and began to beat her body with her hands in a heathen-like manner.

To my sorrow Tapee suddenly turned round and observed us peeping from
the bamboo thicket. He looked frightened out of his life.

“Oh, Masser, you no tell Flenchmans that me worship idols? Me know where
pearls are, and ’tis this nicer idol who tell Tapee where pearls are
found.”

My comrade only stared, hardly knowing what the old native was driving
at, till he continued:

“I come here to ask this idol where pearls are, now I am awake. You
know, Masser, that I only dream of pearls first; idol tell all ’bout
after—savvy?”

Thinking of my money, I shouted, and somewhat fiercely I think, “Don’t
you know where the pearls are, you old scoundrel? What about the eighty
francs we’ve given you?” I added, as Tapee hung his head, and then said:

“Me get Fae Fae, who am witch-girl, to ask idol where the pearls are,
and if idol no tell her, well, me give you back your moneys!”

It all ended in Tapee falling on his knees and saying: “Oh, Masser, me
and Fae Fae be put in calaboose if you tell of us. Me great chief and
Fae Fae is great princess, same blood as Queen Pomare.”

So spake Tapee, as he pointed to the girl, who stood trembling and
abashed beside him. After that the old chief took us into his
confidence, and we found, from what he told us as we stood there, that
he too was related to the Queen and that Fae Fae was his niece. It
appeared that he had managed to get her under his influence, and so she
often came out of the palace across the valley, to join Tapee in his
heathen worship. For a long time the old man wailed into our ears. Then
we gathered that Fae Fae was engaged to be married to a high chief named
Tautoa, and that Tapee was very much afraid of this chief.

All that seemed to concern my Irish comrade was Fae Fae and her fright.
O’Hara’s manner became quite tender as he repeatedly assured her that we
should never say a word to anyone about what we had seen. At this Fae
Fae gave O’Hara a languishing glance, and seemed to look with great
favour upon him, notwithstanding that she was engaged to be married to
the high chief Tautoa whom Tapee had just told us about.

In the end we helped Tapee to drag his huge idol into the deeper
undergrowth and so hide it securely from prying eyes. The old chap was
so overcome by our friendly manner that he volunteered to refund us part
of our money. Indeed, I think we got it all back, less thirty-five
francs, which Tapee had spent in the fan-tan bar-room at the Chinese
quarter at Soloam, Papeete.

So ended our adventure as far as the pearls were concerned; but it led
to another very exciting one, as will be seen in the next chapter.


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



                  CHAPTER VI. ABDUCTION OF A PRINCESS

        O’Hara in Love—Fae Fae’s Midnight Elopement—Chased—A
        Melodramatic Race for Life—The Innocence of
        Eve—Temptation—The Lost Bride—The Madness of
        Romance—Outbound for Honolulu.


I HAD just returned from an engagement where I had performed violin
solos at the French Presidency concert, when I met O’Hara again. I was
sitting in the wooden café at Selao at the time.

“Well, what’s the matter now?” I said, as O’Hara greeted me. I noticed
that he looked rather mournful.

“Pal, I’m not going to be done; I’ve made up my mind to marry the girl
Fae Fae, and be damned to her old nigger chief, Tautoa!”

One can imagine my astonishment as O’Hara blurted out the foregoing, for
I had no knowledge whatever that he had seen Fae Fae since we had first
seen the girl dancing round an idol in the forest. Slowly the truth came
out. It appeared that O’Hara had been secretly meeting Fae Fae every
night since the idol adventure. Things had come to such a pass that Fae
Fae had agreed to bolt from the palace and marry him.

“What’s the trouble, then? Don’t you want to marry her?” said I, as
O’Hara finished a glowing account of Fae Fae’s affection for him.

Then O’Hara made a further confession. It appeared that, in his usual
careless way, he had been overbold, and so had spoiled his chance of
wooing Fae Fae on the sly. He had gone to the Queen’s palace one night,
and had serenaded Fae Fae on the guitar, like some old-time Spanish
cavalier. This mad act had got Fae Fae into trouble, for she, in her
impulsive way, had rushed from the palace stockade gate straight into
O’Hara’s arms. It so happened that Tautoa, the chief to whom Fae Fae was
betrothed, caught them in each other’s arms! And my chum had made
matters worse, for he had managed to give Tautoa a black eye in the
mêlée that followed his mad presumption. It appeared that Fae Fae was
now under strict surveillance. And, more, the head chiefs had laid a
charge at the Government Presidency about the matter. And I believe
that, even at that early date, a warrant was out for the arrest of
O’Hara for disturbing the peace and forcing his presence on a native
maid of royal blood. When O’Hara first unfolded his plans for abducting
Fae Fae, I endeavoured to reason with him.

“It’s ridiculous, pal. You’re talking like a South Sea novel. You can’t
seize a beautiful girl of royal blood, a princess, and carry her away
from the palace like some old freebooter of the southern seas. Besides,
we’ll be arrested by the gendarmes. And there’s the old Queen to be
considered, her consort, her son, and, last and not least, Fae Fae’s
legitimate lover, Tautoa.”

O’Hara used a quite unprintable word as I mentioned that last name. Then
he stared as though I were mad, and said:

“Me! talking like a novel! I mean to have her.”

His eyes flashed as he blurted out his plans, telling me how easy it was
to steal a girl and bolt off into the mountains! His chest swelled
visibly over his thoughts. Holding up his glass of vile Papeete beer in
one hand, melodramatic fashion, he lifted his chin and burst into some
Irish song that told of maids clasped in the arms of impassioned lovers.
As he finished his extemporization, the native girls who were standing
at the shanty’s door, murmured, “Yorana! Yorana!” One dusky Tahitian
belle, with large, lustrous eyes, crossed her bare, smooth arms and one
timid knee, and, as she leaned against the door frame, gave a delicious
pout, telling with admiring eyes all that a romantic maid can tell when
gazing on a man whose favour she yearns to gain.

Though I had sought by wordy wisdom to persuade O’Hara to abandon his
mad idea of abducting Fae Fae from Pomare’s palace, my heart was as
enthusiastic about it all as was his own. The philosophy of the first
fine careless rapture of youth was mine. I felt I was out in the world
to live, if somewhat faintly, some of the glorious romance that poets
wrote about. I well knew that the great crabbed philosophies were
written by perished feathered quills on musty parchments, quills that
once fluttered on living wings among the blossoming boughs. I knew that
no pen, however inspired, could sing the impassioned philosophy of life
as the throbbing red throat of the brown thrush can sing, or as O’Hara
and I could live it. And, so, I must confess that the idea of the
breadfruit sighing as we sat awaiting the sunset’s close and O’Hara
impatiently watching for the favourable moment to abduct a Tahitian
princess from a pagan palace on a South Sea isle, seemed the perfect
music and the most noble endeavour of the Psalm of Life!

For several moments I compressed my brows as though in deepest
meditation over the wisdom or folly of doing what O’Hara proposed.

He watched me closely, then suddenly gripped my hand.

“Pal, I’m with you; it shall be done,” I said.

My Irish comrade was satisfied. He knew me. I hadn’t stowed away on
sailing and tramp ships, and lived with rats in coal bunkers on long
voyages across tropic seas, without looking a bit determined when I had
really made up my mind—well—to make a fool of myself!

I knew that Queen Pomare of Tahiti was allowed a certain amount of
authority over her people. Though aged, she was an attractive,
powerful-looking woman. It was also hinted by the officials that she
still leaned towards her old creed. However that may have been, her
retinue was made up of many old-time, ex-cannibal chiefs. One had only
to go by night up the mountain slopes by Tamao to hear the low chanting
of festival sounds coming from the solitary palace, sounds that were
suspiciously like the wild night-wassailing of some frenzied
heathenland!

The very next night we made our plans. O’Hara smacked me on the back,
and called down the blessings of the Virgin on my head for helping a pal
in trouble. It was finally settled that we should set out on our
romantic, risky adventure after dusk, the very next day.

The inevitable hour arrived. I stood beneath the palms at the arranged
spot.

“Are you ready, pal?” said O’Hara, as he met me.

“I am!” said I; and then added: “I suppose you are determined to attempt
to abduct Fae Fae?”

“By the holy Virgin, yes!” he muttered.

“I can rely upon you that the maid knows of your intentions, and has
agreed to bolt off into the mountains with you?” said I.

O’Hara gave a scornful laugh. It was then he told me that old Tapee had
slipped, under the cover of night, into the palace, and had bribed one
of the sentinels to deliver his _billet-doux_ into Fae Fae’s hands.

“Ho! so that’s how you’ve managed it all, is it?” I answered.

I felt much relief; for I will admit that I knew O’Hara well enough to
realize that he was likely to go off and seize a maid who knew nothing
of his coming. At hearing that old Tapee was in the secret, I felt
cheered up, and had greater faith in the result of the expedition. So
off I went, down the forest track with O’Hara, on the wildest adventure
into which I have ever plunged. We crept across the lonely Broome Road,
and passed under the shades of the giant breadfruit trees. The stars
were shining. Hardly a breath of wind disturbed the leaves of the
mountain palms. O’Hara clutched me by the arms, as though he were afraid
I might change my mind—and make a bolt.

“I’m game; don’t worry. I’ll see you through,” said I.

“Faith and be shure, you’re a good pal,” said my adventurous, amorous
comrade.

Taking a large flask from his pocket, he handed it to me. Though not an
imbiber of proof spirit, I took rather a bold nip, feeling that a little
extra Dutch courage might not be amiss ere the night was out! We had
arrived at the outskirts of the large cultivated space that half
surrounded Queen Pomare’s palace stockade. As we passed through the
arcades, constructed by Nature’s brooding handiwork of interlacing
branches of tropical undergrowth twining round the first pillars of
giant trees, my heart fluttered slightly.

“Is it some mad dream?” I thought, as we stood on the little moonlit
slope that faced the palatial stockade of Pomare’s dwelling. Standing
there, by O’Hara’s side, I peeped down the palm-terraced groves and
spotted the large one-storied, verandahed building. It had an ominous
look about it. Then O’Hara took me up a track where I had never been
before.

“Keep in the shadows; don’t expose yourself, for God’s sake!” he
whispered, as we stole onward.

We arrived among the thickets of dense bamboos growing by the wooden
gate that was the side entrance to the palace. We stood perfectly still
and waited. O’Hara gave a low whistle. Our hearts beat like muffled
drums as we stood there. I looked at the dim outline of the palace. All
was silent, phantom-like, in the rising moonlight. Only one small light
flickered in the little latticed window-hole by the main entrance.

“What’s that light?” quoth I in a hushed voice.

“It’s where the Queen sleeps,” replied my pal.

“Is it really?” I whispered, as I thought in some mad way of the old
romantic novels that I had read in my schooldays.

Yes, and there was I, sure enough, with a mad Irishman, outside a
barbarian’s palace, awaiting the psychological moment to seize a heathen
princess!

We must have stood there for half an hour before O’Hara gave the fourth
whistle and said, “She’s being watched, that’s what it is; otherwise,
begorra, she’d have come out of that gate before now.”

“What shall we do now?” said I, feeling fit for any emergency as the
spirit commenced to take effect. The romance of the whole situation
began to bubble, to thrill in my soul. Indeed, I had become as
enthusiastic as O’Hara over the prospective elopement of Fae Fae.

“Old pal,” said he, “I’m going into the palace to seize her; that’s what
I’m going to do!”

“Good Lord, really!” said I, as visions arose of dramatic scenes that
might ensue when we got into that eerie-looking, big wooden building.

“Won’t they hear us—and club us?” said I.

“Not they! I’ve been in the palace before by night; I know where Fae Fae
sleeps, and it’s no hard job to find her.”

“You do, do you!” thought I. Then O’Hara began to creep down the orange
grove and, like some obsequious shadow, I followed.

Not a sound broke the primeval stillness as we curved round the small
track that led to the main entrance of the palace. At that very moment a
night bird, somewhere up in the mangroves, burst into song. It gave a
sharp scream as we passed like shadows beneath the trees, and then
flapped away. We both leapt back into the deeper gloom. Our hearts
nearly stopped, for lo! the bushy head of some high chief suddenly poked
out of the half-open gate at the main entrance. We watched that big
mop-head and fierce-looking face turn to the right and left, peer into
the moonlight a moment, then we saw it withdrawn from view.

“I’d like to give that cove one on his napper!” whispered O’Hara, with a
levity which I thought considerably out of place at such a time. “I know
him; it’s old thin-legs, the night sentinel. I’ve tried to bribe the old
wretch, but ’twasn’t any go.”

“Oh!” said I, for the want of saying something better at such a moment.
Indeed, the most poignant phrases that the English language can twist
together could not have expressed all that I felt.

“What do you intend doing now?” said I.

“Why, I’m going to slip into the palace and see Fae Fae in her private
chamber. She’ll soon come when she sees us.”

“Are you sure she won’t scream? Don’t you think it’s a bit unwise, in
the night-time, like this?”

“Blimey ducks, no!” chuckled O’Hara. Thereupon I made up my mind to
seize the blessed Queen herself, if O’Hara wished me to do so.

To tell the truth, I had wondered if Fae Fae would not take fright at
seeing me with O’Hara. It appeared that my comrade had wooed Fae Fae
considerably in the little time he had known her. But I had only seen
her twice—and there I was, bound for her sleeping-apartment in the dead
of night.

Once again we moved on. Arriving before a little door that led into a
roomy apartment adjoining the west wing of the palace, O’Hara gently
pulled another door open. We both crept in. It was nearly pitch dark;
the faint rays of moonlight, peeping through chinks in the roof, just
helped us to grope along. As we moved stealthily across the floor, I
stumbled over a large calabash. We stood still, breathless with
suspense. I looked around: on the walls, dimly revealed by the
moonlight, hung old war-clubs, spears, and other ancient heirlooms of
the Pomarean dynasty. We heard a door open, then it was shut again, for
the sounds of distant laughter and heathen voices swiftly ceased. It
came from somewhere on the other side of the courtyard, that portion of
the palace where Queen Pomare and her suite dwelt. Once more we crept
on. Passing across another room, we suddenly came out into a small
courtyard.

Turning to me, O’Hara whispered:

“You see that door over there, on the far side of that wooden building?
Well, it opens into a long corridor, and at the far end is the chamber
where Fae Fae sleeps.”

I nodded.

“Are you game to follow me, pal?” he added.

“I am!” said I, as I clutched my revolver and thought how “gamey” we
might both soon be if we were discovered.

I don’t know if my story sounds like a sketch from some semi-comic
opera, but I _do_ know that it was a serious thing for us to attempt to
get into a native girl’s bedroom as we did that night. But, mind you, I
believed implicitly in O’Hara’s good intentions. Never once had I
observed him take a liberty with a maid. He had the Celtic temperament,
but was clean-minded, notwithstanding his sins. We opened the door that
led down the corridor to Fae Fae’s bed-chamber; then we took a rather
bold nip at the flask of whisky. In complete obedience to O’Hara’s
whispered directions, I at once went down on my knees, then, hand over
hand and knee over knee, we began to travel down that dark, narrow
corridor! A stream of moonlight crept through the airholes that were in
the roof. I could just discern O’Hara’s ragged coat-tails in front of me
as I blindly groped along behind him. I saw the dim shadows of the palms
waving about, silhouetted on the wooden walls as the winds stirred the
forest trees outside. Arriving about half-way down the corridor, I
whispered to my comrade:

“Supposing she’s asleep? Do you intend to seize her whilst she lies in
bed? Won’t she scream if she sees me with you, and awaken the whole
palace?”

I knew what English girls would do if they suddenly awoke and saw two
sunburnt tramps on their knees, peering round the edge of their bedroom
door at the dead of night.

My relief was considerable when O’Hara whispered:

“Don’t worry; Fae Fae expects me, and it’s not her who is going to
scream.” Then, in a tense whisper, he added: “Besides, she sleeps alone,
away from the rest of the palace folk.”

“Thank God for that much!” thought I, as we once more started to creep,
like two monstrous slugs, down the floor of the corridor.

O’Hara suddenly stopped. My heart gave a slight flutter. I knew we had
arrived outside Fae Fae’s chamber. I heard my comrade give two soft
taps—so, “tap!” “tap!”—on the door’s bamboo panel with his knuckles.
Each tap seemed to echo and re-echo down the silent corridor. I was
thankful that I had drunk deeply from the whisky-flask which O’Hara had
so thoughtfully handed me. Had we been about to seize a heathen man, or
even an old woman, the matter would have seemed different.
Notwithstanding that I had knocked about the world, the thought of so
rudely disturbing a maiden’s slumber and those romantic ideals which I
can find no name for here, had still a great influence over me.
Consequently, I paused on the threshold of that chamber. She was an
innocent girl, none need doubt that much. To the reader, who has never
plunged into such a midnight venture as I tell of here, I can
confidently say that he would require a little artificial stimulant to
buck his courage up were he placed under like circumstances. There’s
something eerie in creeping into a semi-heathen palace and crawling down
an interminable corridor to seize a maid as she sleeps in her chamber.
And all this, mind you, not for one’s self, but for another! And, again,
there was not only the danger of detection by that heathen crew to
reckon with, but also the French officials, who would assuredly give us
penal servitude in the _calaboose_ (jail), or transport us to Noumea
should they catch us on this mad venture. But for the fact that we had
youth’s superabundant confidence on our side, I am sure we should never
have ventured on such an escapade. I recall the breathless hush of that
supreme moment when O’Hara once more gently tapped the maiden’s door.

“Fae Fae!” he whispered.

How eagerly we listened! Only a faint moan came from the forest palms
just outside, then all was silent again.

“Begorra, she’s not there,” came in an agonized whisper from O’Hara.

Our hearts thumped—we heard a rustling sound, which resembled a noise
made by someone yawning. An uncomfortable suspicion flashed through my
brain: Had O’Hara mistaken the room? and was that chamber occupied by
some mighty chief?

“What’s that?” I said in a tense whisper, as that eerie sound came
again, with the soft patter of bare feet. “Look out, pal!” I whispered,
instinctively ducking my head in some vague idea that a club was falling
on it!

O’Hara tapped again, then softly called the maid’s name. I looked up, my
heart in my mouth, as we crouched there, both on our hands and knees.
The door creaked. We watched—and it was being slowly opened. Through a
chink, that was no wider than two inches, peeped two sparkling eyes,
half hidden by dishevelled tresses—it was Fae Fae!

In a swift, hoarse whisper O’Hara said:

“It’s only us, Faey.”

At once the door opened a little wider, and two astonished eyes looked
down upon us, both there on our hands and knees!

“Oh, Messieurs, you be killed!” she whispered, as she lifted her hands
and gazed upon us in an awestruck manner.

Slinking there, behind O’Hara’s coat-tails, I gazed up at the maid
through his armpits!

“Didn’t you hear me whistle, Faey dearest?” said my comrade, as the
astonished girl still stared at us in fright.

“No, Monsieur Hara, I sleep fast,” she said, rubbing her sleepy eyes.

At this candid confession, O’Hara looked crestfallen. I, too, must
confess that a dash of cold water seemed to have been thrown upon the
fires of my romantic soul. I pinched my leg to convince myself that I
was not dreaming. It was real enough, no dream at all. It was a solid me
intruding into a girl’s bed-chamber at the dead of night, ready to
clutch the maid and help my comrade to carry her away into the
mountains!

“Come, Fae Fae, don’t go back on me, darlint,” wailed O’Hara, as the
pretty maid looked about in a bewildered way, as though hesitating as to
what she ought to do under such distressing circumstances.

At this moment I poked my head up from behind O’Hara and revealed my
physiognomy clearly in the shifting moonlight.

“Oui! oui! Awaie!” she woefully ejaculated, as she recognized my
impertinent presence. Then she peered again, and said: “Tre bon! it’s
nicer fiddle man!”

I rose to my feet as though I had just received a knighthood, and bowed
with such courtesy as I felt was due at such a moment. I may have
blushed, but I do know that my heart warmed considerably to the
possibilities of the whole business. Much of the girl’s apprehension
seemed to have vanished at discovering that it was I who had accompanied
O’Hara on my hands and knees down that damned corridor! Ah me! As she
stood there bathed in moonlight, her tiny blue chemise ornamented with
flowers, I quite envied O’Hara. The hibiscus blossoms in her mass of
rich-hued hair were crushed on that side where her pillowed head had
lain but a moment before in sleep. I felt the thrill of her presence.
Standing there in the gloom, I saw O’Hara put forth his arms towards Fae
Fae.

“Come on, Faey,” he whispered.

Leaning forward in the gloom, Fae Fae misjudged the distance, and placed
her mouth on my flushed cheek. Then it really seemed that the tender
pressures of our groping hands got inextricably mixed up. I became
bolder. Looking into the girl’s face, I said in an appealing way:

“Come, Fae Fae, _do_ come!”

I felt that, to creep into a heathen’s palace to help a maid to elope,
and for the maid to refuse to come, would cast a slur on my idea of
chivalry and romance such as I could never forget. I was immensely
relieved when I noticed Fae Fae stoop and start shuffling about her
chamber floor. She was hastily gathering together her spare clothing!

“Awaie! Messieurs!” she cried softly. Then she held up a small bundle,
and blushed through the brightness of her eyes. Gallantly I leaned
forward and clutched those delicate garments that made up Fae Fae’s
trousseau! As for O’Hara, he grinned and then stared in surprise, as he
observed my correct manner when I bowed and offered Fae Fae my arm. (He
hadn’t read Alexandre Dumas, Byron, Shelley, and Keats, and slept with
his dreaming head on a volume of _Don Quixote_.)

Suddenly a door banged somewhere across the palace courtyard; we
distinctly heard distant sounds of laughter and indistinct voices. Then
silence came; the door had been closed again.

“Come on, there’s no time to lose,” I whispered, as I clutched the
pretty sandals that Fae Fae hurriedly picked up from beneath her bamboo
couch. Down the corridor we crept. As Fae Fae caught hold of my hand I
returned the gentle pressures of that frightened Tahitian maid. I
gathered that she did not realize the seriousness of the business. As we
stole along, a puff of wind came down the narrow corridor, and her mass
of unkempt hair floated softly against my face. I felt as though some
beautiful creation of romance had materialized before my eyes, as a
silken tress touched my lips. Only O’Hara’s heavy breathing, as he led
the way, and Fae Fae’s frightened gasps, made me realize that the whole
business was real enough. We all gave a deep sigh of relief as we stole
out into the night. A mighty alarm had seemed to thunder down the
silence of that palace corridor. Then O’Hara informed me that he had
missed the track whereby we had entered the palace. It was unfortunate,
for it necessitated our all climbing over a huge wooden wall that ran
along the south side of the track that led to the entrance of the palace
stockade.

“Come along, Fae Fae,” said I cheerfully, as the cool air of the moonlit
night and the glory of physical movement raised my spirits. O’Hara
clambered up to the top of the wall first; releasing Fae Fae’s trembling
hand, I followed. It was not hard climbing, for the huge, upright logs
were thickly overgrown with tough vine. “Look out!” said I, as I stood
in that elevated position and nearly stumbled. Squatting side by side up
there, we looked down. Fae Fae stared up at us; she was half hidden in
the forest ferns. O’Hara and I clasped each other’s hand to get a better
grip, then, bending down, we very carefully gripped hold of Fae Fae’s
extended hands and slowly hauled her up to the top of the wall.

“Oh, Messieurs, it’s tellible!” murmured the frightened girl as she
stood high up there beside us. She shivered as she put forth her arms in
fright to retain her balance. Her tiny, blue diaphanous robe was
out-blown as the night wind sighed across the forest height.

“Don’t be frightened, Miss Faey,” I murmured, as the girl swayed in
terror, pressed my hand, and looked appealingly into my eyes as we stood
up there.

O’Hara and I gripped her carefully by the arms, swayed her to and fro in
space for a second, then dropped her softly down into the mossy growth
and fern of the forest on the other side of the wall.

“Awaie!” she cried, as she looked up at us.

Then my comrade and I slid gently down, like threaded spiders, into the
mossy scrub.

For a moment we stood breathless, as Fae Fae clung to our arms,
trembling in fear. To the right lay the main track; once across that, we
could bolt into the forest depth, where we would be safe. I awaited
O’Hara’s signal. I was taking no risks. O’Hara knew the place too.

Suddenly my comrade said, “Now!” and off we went, rushing like three
phantoms across the exposed moonlit track.

“Holy St. Patrick!” breathed my chum, as we stood behind the thick clump
of bananas that divided us from the twelve yards that we must yet pass
ere we were out of sight of the main entrance to the palace.

We were suddenly paralyzed by hearing a terrific yell. We had been
observed! That yell smashed to atoms all my indecision as to what was
best to do. Metaphorically speaking, it arrayed me in armour, equipped
me with all the necessary weapons to fight a desperate battle for life
and for the protection of the trembling girl beside me.

I looked down the track: out of the main entrance had rushed three
stalwart Tahitian chiefs. They were quivering with excitement. We
remained standing still. I felt strangely calm.

“We’re in for it now,” said I.

O’Hara shook his fist and picked up a large stone. A glorious feeling of
exultation thrilled me at the thought of the coming race for life. It
was just in my line, whereas creeping on my hands and knees down a
corridor was dead against the grain.

Fae Fae gave a faint cry. It roused us. Simultaneously we dashed away
into the depths of the breadfruits and coco-palms. What a sight!—Fae
Fae, bare-footed, encumbered only by her pretty native _mumu_ (chemise)
of scanty width, raced ahead, as O’Hara and I, our arms held high in
racing attitude, puffed on behind!

“Follow her, pal; she knows the way,” murmured O’Hara, as Fae Fae’s
dusky flying heels glittered in the moonlight about twelve yards ahead
of us! Though I admired that impulsive Irish comrade of mine, I inwardly
thought what an ass he was; for, though our pursuers were hard on our
heels, I distinctly heard him chuckling to himself, making ecstatic
remarks about Fae Fae’s swaying figure as she fled down the forest
track! I turned my head to see how it went with the enemy. I was
extremely disconcerted at observing them coming up over the ridge of the
rising ground, quite distinct in the brilliant moonlight. A giant of a
fellow was gaining ground, was far ahead of the other pursuers.

“Wait!” I shouted in O’Hara’s ear. “We must frighten them somehow.” I
knew, well enough, that we were in the wrong, that we could be legally
charged with a serious, very serious offence. I felt some sad, prophetic
pain of a club falling on my romantic skull and my head tumbling into
the official guillotine basket. This sudden visualizing freak of my
imagination was made the more vivid through my seeing Fae Fae racing
along the track like some frightened child (she was little more than a
child in mind), as I lumbered on behind her, clutching her delicate
trousseau under my arm. Indeed I felt the guiltiest of the three. Fae
Fae was a child of the forest; O’Hara was another child, since he was
madly in love; while I?—well, instead of giving wise counsel, I was
there, an accessory before and after the fact, and with the maid’s
scanty wardrobe under my arm! Preposterous!

“Go on; never mind me,” said I, when O’Hara suddenly stopped dead short.
There, on the track, I held up my revolver and fired over the head of
the mop-headed savage who was a hundred yards ahead of the others. They
slowed down. I saw the leader wave his hand, and heard him yell out some
words in his native lingo, something that ended with the words “Fae
Fae!”

On hearing that name, O’Hara gasped out:

“Why, it’s him, that damned Tautoa, who wants to marry my Faey!”

It was with immense relief that I noticed that the pursuers had slowed
down and were apparently frightened at discovering that I was armed. We
couldn’t outrun Fae Fae. O’Hara and I had all we could do to catch up to
her as she still raced on, speeding round the curves of the forest
track. Indeed at times we could not see her at all, knowing that she
preceded us only because of the tiny, smoke-like clouds of dust that we
raced through, the diamond-like powder that her bare, flying feet
stirred and left behind as she raced along the track. Sometimes the path
wound into the full light of the moon; it was then that we sighted Fae
Fae’s flying figure and floating hair as we thundered along behind her.
I am sure the scene must have looked like some burlesque or the
rehearsal for a cinematograph picture. As we passed the deep lagoons by
the shore, weird shadows whipped across the imaged, broken moons that
were shining in the still, glassy depths! For, as the fireflies danced
in the leafy bamboo glooms, I saw Fae Fae’s image, with flying hair,
race across the lagoon’s surface to the right of us, though she,
herself, had passed round the bend and was quite out of sight! To the
southward stretched, for miles and miles, the palm-clad slopes. It
seemed as if we were racing across a vast landscape oilpainting! To the
north-west rose the pinnacled range of _La Diadème_. We had reached the
Broome Road. As we raced across it we just missed a crowd of hurrying
Chinamen who worked in the cool of night in the plantations of vanilla,
coffee, sugar-cane, and orange groves.

“Hon kong ching chi chow kow!” yelled a straggler, as his pig-tail
tossed up, and he fell sprawling in the dust.

“One for his napper!” breathed O’Hara, as he recovered his balance and
we rushed across the plantation. We were safe! There stood Tapee’s
bungalow to the left of us. All would have gone well had not O’Hara
stumbled as he leapt across the stream. He gave a yell of pain, and fell
crash on his face.

Fae Fae gave a cry. Then she and I, breathing heavily, picked our
comrade up. He groaned as I examined him. I was relieved to find that he
had done no more than sprain his ankle. At this moment a figure emerged
from the shadows—it was Tapee.

“You all right?—where’s Fae Fae?” said the old man, as he peered into
the jungle depths around us. Fae Fae, who was hiding behind the dwarf
coco-palms, heard Tapee’s voice, and revealed herself. On sighting the
girl, the old idol-worshipper grinned from ear to ear.

“You clever _wahine_ to run way from palace with kind white mans.”

It appeared that O’Hara had acquainted the chief that he was going to
get Fae Fae to elope with him from the palace that night. Tapee was
delighted to be of assistance to O’Hara, for he had some grudge against
Tautoa, the chief who was to marry Fae Fae. He was also pleased to annoy
Pomare, who had refused to allow Tapee to attend the palace festivities.

When I informed Tapee that the gendarmes were already on our track, he
simply rubbed his hands and grinned as though the trouble was over.
Seeing O’Hara standing on one leg and holding the other off the ground,
Tapee and I escorted him into the bungalow hard by. He groaned as we
laid him down on the bed mats. On pulling off his boot I saw that he was
quite out of action so far as walking was concerned—his ankle was
swollen to the size of an orange, a lump on the off-side.

Fae Fae, noticing the injury, gave a wail of despair. Then Tapee, to my
surprise, looked up and said:

“Oh, Messieurs, what shall we do? The popy priest am waiting to marry
Fae Fae and Papalagi O’Hara all this whiles down in Papeete.”

This was the first intimation I had received that O’Hara had made the
necessary preparations to have a Christian marriage with Fae Fae. It was
just like him, for, notwithstanding his being a scallawag, he was ever
ready to do the right thing at the right moment.

“Go, quick, and let the priest know that the marriage is put off till
another night,” moaned O’Hara. And so Tapee went off to postpone the
wedding. Fae Fae lifted her hands to the roof and wailed out, “Saprista!
Aloe, tua” and “Mon Dieu!” (Fae Fae spoke broken French as well as
English). I was more than glad to see that wedding postponed. I felt it
was quite enough for one night’s work to abduct the maid in readiness
for the wedding, and, moreover, Fae Fae was trembling like a leaf and
appeared very neurotic. She was a very high-strung girl. Indeed I saw
how artful-hearted Tapee had played with ease on the girl’s romantic,
sensitive temperament.

When Tapee returned, about half an hour after, he at once prepared
supper. We were all famished. We closed the door and bolted it. Tapee
said that on his way back after seeing the priest, he had heard a lot of
French officials discussing Fae Fae’s disappearance from the palace.
O’Hara groaned and Fae Fae wept, while I moodily ate mangoes and stewed,
juicy fruits, and wondered what my relatives would think when they heard
that I had been hanged for abducting maidens in the South Seas! We
passed a most wretched night. I dozed off once, and dreamed that the
world was a vast guillotine, with me sitting in its receiving-basket as
Time, and all the stars danced sorrowfully around me, ere the blade fell
and severed my connection with mundane things. When I awoke, O’Hara was
looking very ill; but he gave a faint smile as Fae Fae held his head and
passed her fingers through his curly hair. At daybreak Tapee went out
and hired a kind of _char-à-banc_ owned by a wizened Chinaman. We took
the Chinaman into our confidence, gave him a good tip, and promised him
a lot more than we could ever give him. To tell the truth, if a Chinaman
gives one his word of honour, he seldom breaks it. I’d sooner trust a
Chinaman than many pious people whom I’ve unfortunately met. When we got
into that wagon the bottom nearly dropped out. It was old and rotten.
The horse was an object for pity; it moved at a mile an hour, and the
angles of its bones looked decidedly like the angles of the guillotine.
We crouched in the bottom of the cart, safe from the vigilant eyes of
the officials who were on the look-out for us. When we arrived in the
Chinese quarter of Papeete, I hired a room in a fan-tan den, and O’Hara
helped me to put up a bed. When all was comfortable, O’Hara fell asleep,
and I crept out into the forest and went back to Tapee’s bungalow. When
I arrived there, Fae Fae was weeping bitterly. I saw that she had become
sane, and regretted her flight from the palace. She was evidently
terrified in her reflection over the punishment she would receive from
the Queen’s hands. I tried my best to soothe her.

“Oh, Monsieur, I so unhappy. Poor Monsieur Ilisham hurt himself too. I
feel lone, and Queen Pomare find me out and punish me, I know, I know!”
she wailed.

“Don’t worry, Fae Fae,” said I soothingly, as she gave me a tender,
sympathetic glance. I saw the tears in her eyes as she stared up at me
through her dishevelled tresses. Ah, beautiful hair it was! The room was
dimly lit by the latticed window-hole. She did look a plaintive creature
as she sat there swaying in her grief. I smelt the sweet odours of the
languishing flowers that still dangled, clinging among her scented
tresses, when she placed her hand caressingly on my shoulder, and
murmured:

“Oh, take me back to palace, Monsieur.”

We were close together, her eyes gazing beseechingly into mine. Her
smooth brow, bright in the glory of her vanilla-scented hair, was near
my lips. God knows that I would not betray the trust reposed in me by a
good comrade; but I have my weaknesses. Her hand pressed mine. I somehow
tripped forward, and, in some inexplicable entanglement of the senses,
my lips touched hers. Ah me! She gazed deeply into my eyes. In a moment
I realized what I had done. I hung my head as she gazed on, and then, to
my astonishment, she swiftly lifted my hand and kissed it passionately.
I thought of O’Hara, probably asleep on his bed-mat and of the implicit
trust he reposed in me. I made a tremendous effort so that my outward
demeanour should have no twinship with the turmoil of conflicting
thoughts within me. Inclining my head affectionately, but at the same
time forcing a melancholy, sober aspect to my blushing visage, I managed
to blurt out:

“Oh, Fae Fae, child, my heart is heavy in the thoughts of your sorrows.
I don’t know how to advise you!”

It was a near go, I know. Indeed, had I partaken a little more liberally
of the toddy that Tapee had given me from his huge flask, my memory of
the whole business would not have made such pleasant reading, I feel
sure of that. Sober reflections made me realize that, under the
circumstance, the best thing for the girl to do would be to go back to
the palace. I fully realized the clumsy way we had conducted ourselves
and the seriousness of the gendarmes being on our tracks.

At this moment Tapee opened the door and walked in. I was relieved by
his presence, but, to my consternation, Fae Fae’s attitude towards me
remained the same! Kissing the girl again, as though she were a child, I
looked her straight in the eyes, and said:

“I must get away and see O’Hara; it is unsafe for me to stop here.”

The girl responded to this only by falling on her knees before me.

“Oh, Monsieur, stay! stay!” she cried in a plaintive voice.

It was then I noticed the wild, strange stare of her eyes. I gave Tapee
an interrogative glance. He touched his brow significantly. I did not
quite comprehend his meaning at the time, but subsequent events soon
enlightened me as to the state of Fae Fae’s mind. Promising Tapee and
the girl that I would return soon, I hastened from their presence and
went back to O’Hara. He was awake and in great pain when I arrived at
our diggings. I sat with him till dusk, and all through the night poured
cold water on his sprained ankle.

I well knew that while he was lame we had little chance of clearing
away, if the gendarmes heard of our whereabouts.

Once again, at O’Hara’s request, I went off to see how Fae Fae was.
Arriving at Tapee’s bungalow I found him trembling and muttering in a
strange way.

“What’s the matter?” I said.

“Oh, Masser, she gone! She run away in night; she go kill herself, I
sure!”

After the old fellow had rambled on a good deal, I gathered that he had
awakened at daybreak, and, discovering that Fae Fae had flown, had spent
the morning in searching likely places where she might have hidden
herself. I at once got Tapee to send a trusted native friend up to the
palace to find out if Fae Fae had returned home. After a while the
native came back full of excitement, and informed us that the Queen and
her retinue of chiefs had gone off to the French Presidency to inform
the officials that Princess Fae Fae had been abducted from the palace by
two white men. That bit of information seemed to waken me up. I left
Tapee at once.

“It’s no good using language like that,” I said, chidingly to O’Hara, as
I rubbed his ankle with coco-nut oil.

By the next day he could just manage to limp along. He was determined to
search for Fae Fae, though I had tried to persuade him to do otherwise.
That same day he seemed very depressed as he sat under the palms singing
to me. (He always sang when he was feeling melancholy.)

“She’ll do herself some injury,” he said.

“She’ll turn up,” I said soothingly, though I must admit I felt dubious
about it all. I thought of the girl’s strange manner, how she had danced
round that idol; I was convinced that she was no ordinary girl.

That same evening we walked into the forest near Katavio. We were
intending to meet Tapee, who had informed us that he would be in his old
hut in that part of the forest where his idol was hidden.

I tried to cheer O’Hara up as we passed under the arch-like banyans that
grew on the outskirts of the wooded country. Then we sat down by the
lagoons till darkness came. Suddenly we were startled by hearing far-off
sounds like the singing of a woman’s beautiful voice. I jumped to my
feet. There was something eerie about the night as we listened. Then it
came again, the long, low, sweet refrain of an old-time Tahitian
_himine_. Bucking up our courage we stole forward, making for the
direction where the singing came from. Even the winds seemed hushed, not
a sound disturbing the silence of the forest. It seemed as if O’Hara and
I walked a stage whereon some thrilling South Sea drama was being
enacted; the tall trees looked unreal, even the wide roof over us might
have been some tremendous dark canvas bespangled with stars. The weird,
flute-like cadenza of the nightingale up in the branches of the
flamboyants did not destroy the unreal effect as it flew off.

“This way,” I whispered, as my comrade limped along.

We were standing on the wooded elevation just before the spot where we
had first caught Tapee worshipping his wooden image. Moonrise, somewhere
to the southward, behind the mountains, was sending a pale brilliance
over the rugged landscape. That weird singer of the forest, or whatever
it was, had ceased to sing. Then it came again, a weird, tender wailing!
O’Hara’s big form was leaning against mine when the surprise came:
staring there between the tree trunks, we saw the old idol again and,
careering around that hideous wooden deity, that which looked like a
phantom girl of the woods! I had travelled the world over and seen some
strange things, but had never seen so weird a sight before.

“It’s Fae Fae,” said O’Hara, as he stumbled on his sprained ankle.

“Impossible!” I responded in a mechanical way.

“She’s dead, and has come back to dance where she first met me!”
re-wailed my love-sick Irish comrade.

The girl _did_ look misty! I looked and wondered, notwithstanding my
cynicism over such things as ghosts. I felt that perhaps it was Fae
Fae’s ghost dancing before us! I had read of such things, and had met
old women who swore they had seen the dead doing strange, unaccountable
things.

We both stood still, strangely calm, as the girl whirled and sang in her
wild career, her diaphanous robe fluttering out to the breeze or
clinging closely to her misty-like figure. Then she lifted her arms and
moved towards us, her eyes wide open, apparently staring into vacancy.
The flowers in her unkempt hair, all crumpled, gave the _one_ touch that
told of something real. It was evident that she had not observed us, for
in another moment she was again whirling around the space, chanting to
the deaf, wooden ears of the massive idol. As she passed by us she came
so close that I felt the rush of cool air caused by her swift movements.
Though her figure looked ghost-like, I was still extremely sceptical. I
knew that mortality, when transformed into that blessed spiritual state
that is supposed to follow death, must of a necessity be unable to
create any impression through coming into contact with the material
elements of mortality. Indeed, I knew that singing itself was an
impossibility, since it necessitated an inflection and perfect
contraction in the throat of the singer. I resolved to seize the first
opportunity to substantiate my human suspicions as to the possibility of
the figure before us being a transfiguration of her whom we had once
known in mortal shape as Fae Fae. The opportunity presented itself
forthwith. Fae Fae’s apparent wraith, with arms outspread, the body
swerving with rhythmical beauty, was still flitting noiselessly round
the small space, coming toward us!

“Keep back!” I whispered to O’Hara, who was staring over my shoulder,
endeavouring to get a better glimpse of the figure. On she came,
seemingly draped in veils of the moonlight that was falling through the
overspreading, dark-fingered palm-leaves. Her lips had begun a chant,
her head turned slightly sideways as on her tripping flight she
approached and stared at the mighty, yellow-toothed, wooden deity. In a
moment she was upon us. I swiftly thrust forth my hand as she flitted
past.

“A phantom!” I gasped, as my fist passed right _through_ the folds of
her attire and then seemingly through her form! For a moment I could
only stare. A vulture screeched high in the banyans. O’Hara crossed
himself and murmured a portion of some _Ave Maria_, terror-struck.
“Impossible! preposterous!” thought I to myself. Then I remembered how I
had distinctly felt the material of her robes appeal to my sense of
touch as my fist apparently went through her figure; yes, something real
and material was there. I had simply missed touching her solid figure;
that was it, I felt sure. “O’Hara,” I whispered, and my voice sounded
cracked as I muttered, “it’s no ghost; it’s her, Fae Fae, right enough.
She’s mad, out of her mind!”

“No! Mad!” groaned O’Hara, as he jumped down from the banyan bough where
he had leapt in fright, and peered between the breadfruit trunks. I
tried hard to hold him back as he rushed forward; but it was too late—a
piece of his ragged coat came off in my hand!

Fae Fae gave a terrified scream as she spied him.

“It’s me! your O’Hara, darlint!” yelled my comrade, as the girl, turning
round, stared at him in a wild, vacant way. Then, with a frightened
scream that thrilled us with horror, she fled away into the depths of
the forest.

I also rushed off, following O’Hara, who bolted after her. He had not
gone far when he tripped and fell with a crash. He gave a groan as he
held up his afflicted foot. I at once came to a standstill. I was not in
the mood to go chasing after a mad native girl. Besides, I had had about
sufficient of O’Hara’s love affairs. O’Hara was inconsolable that night.
At daybreak we were up and ready to go forth in an endeavour to hear
something about Fae Fae. Indeed, O’Hara seemed more determined than ever
to find her. We had at first intended to go and see Tapee; but Tapee
saved us that trouble by suddenly walking into our apartments. Before we
could get a chance to tell the old chief of our adventure with Fae Fae,
he had started gabbling like one demented.

“Fae Fae, she go mad! and, O Papalagi, that Tautoa, her lover, he have
found her crying in the night in the forest, all ’lone,” said the old
dark man.

“No!” we both exclaimed in one breath.

“Ah, yes, Messieurs, it all-e-samee true. Fae Fae am now back in palace,
they got her now, and Queen Pomare am in terrible rage with white mans.
I knower that she am going to send gendarmes after you and Monsieur
O’Hara.”

The way O’Hara raved and carried on is indescribable. He got quite drunk
before midday. Then we were obliged to fly from our lodgings and hide
away under Tapee’s protection. For, sure enough, a warrant was really
out for both O’Hara and myself for trespass and the abduction of Fae
Fae, who from childhood had suffered from mental afffliction!

It was Tapee who gave us this last bit of information. As the old chief
crept into the disused native hut and, squatting down by us, told us
these things, much became clear to me. I recalled many things about Fae
Fae’s manner, which, though fascinating and romantic, seemed out of the
normal even in a native maid. We hid in that hut for three days, safe
from the French officials; but I felt pretty gloomy as I thought of the
prospect of our getting three years in the island calaboose. I gave out
no hint of my qualms to O’Hara, but I well knew that there was a good
chance of both of us being transported to the convict settlement at _Ill
Nou_, Noumea! The following night, however, we secured an old canoe,
through the help of Tapee, and paddled round to Matavai Bay, where we
heard that a tramp steamer was anchored.

And the next day, as we heard the tramping far overhead and the dull
pomp-e-te-pomp of engines, we both crept forth, moved our cramped,
huddled limbs, and groaned. I chewed a morsel off one of our four
coco-nuts. Then I caught a shadowy glimpse of O’Hara’s sweating black
face as he took a drink from the water-bottle, and groped with his hands
amongst the tiers of coal and terrific heat.

“Come on, this way!” I gasped, as I crawled along in that monstrous tomb
where we found ourselves buried alive! “That’s better!” I said, as I
felt a whiff of purer air come along some dark, labyrinthine way. O’Hara
sat by me in the gloom, groping about as he carefully replaced the
water-bottle and coco-nut in my portmanteau (an old green baize bag that
I always carried when I travelled _incognito_).

Then O’Hara climbed up on my shoulders and peered through the little
round hole just above our heads. For a long time he stared, gazing away
to the far south-west horizon, where rose the rugged pinnacles of La
Diadem, still visible.

“We’re safe enough now. They won’t catch us, I’ll bet,” said I.

“Ah, my darlint Fae Fae! I’ll never be happy again.”

“Yes, you will,” I murmured soothingly, as O’Hara still gazed through
that dirty coal-bunker’s glass porthole, staring wistfully so as to get
the last glimpse, as sunset touched the mountain palms of far-away
Tahiti! We were stowaways down in the hold of a tramp steamer, far out
at sea, outbound for Honolulu!


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



               CHAPTER VII. THE HEATHEN’S GARDEN OF EDEN

        Tangalora the Samoan Scribe—Where the Gods and Goddesses
        first met in Council—The Materials of which the first
        Mortal Children were Fashioned—The first Wondering
        Men—The first Women—How the first Babies came to their
        Mothers.


IT was nearly three months before I found myself in Samoa again. O’Hara
had shipped from Hawaii for the Solomon Isles, and I had signed on as
“deckhand” on a fore-and-aft schooner that was bound for Apia. I missed
the society of my Irish comrade; but we met long after, as will be seen
in the last chapters of this book. However, I soon made another friend,
for I came across a high chief, Tangalora, who was an aged Samoan. I
came to value his friendship greatly. He dwelt in a cave on the shores
of Savaii Isle, a cave wherein he lived in primitive comfort and seemed
happy enough. He was one of the last of the wandering Samoan scribes—men
who, with tappa robe flung across the left shoulder, wandered from
village to village in pursuit of their romantic calling. These scribes
would enter the small pagan villages at sunset, take their stand on the
village forum-stump (sometimes a tree trunk or a heap of coral stone
that denoted where some mighty warrior or poet was buried), then,
lifting one arm towards the sky, commence to pour forth in dramatic
fashion their own versions of the old mythological tales and legends.
Such a scribe was Tangalora, with whom I became on the most intimate
terms. As I have said, Tangalora was a very old man. I believe he was
nearly eighty years of age. Consequently, he was unable to travel from
village to village singing his romantic chants and legends to Samoan
maids and youths. I found him a most agreeable old poet, perfect in
every way, except that I noticed a tinge of jealousy arose whenever I
spoke of his contemporaries. But even that very human failing was
forgivable, for competition was keen among the poets of those days, and
I myself heard many followers of the Muse, as they stood on those
Parnassian heathen slopes, cursing the lying tongue of some wandering
scribe who had forestalled them by arriving at the forum-stump before
they did. However, it’s not my wish to go into detail over Tangalora’s
failings; all I will attempt is to tell from my own impressions some of
the incidents of the _extempore_ verse which he rattled off in his
cavern homestead. I must first say that he used this cavern as a lecture
hall as well as a homestead, charging a small fee to the native men and
crowds of children who collected outside his rocky door at sunset. It
was a sight worth seeing as those little native children, their eyes
bright with mystery, waited to enter the cavern and hear the wonderful
old wizard man, Tangalora, tell of the mysteries of shadowland. It was
such a sight that met my eyes when I arrived at that cavern’s entrance,
as eager as any of the forest children, I am sure.

The sun was setting on the sea skyline and the shadows falling over the
mountains as Tangalora sat on his coral throne at the far end of his
weird-lit cavern hall. He was fully decorated with all the insignia of
his office, wearing his tappa robe, and with his ornamental war-club by
his side, as he sat there before me.

“Talofa!” he said, and all the children responded:

“Talofa, O Tangalora!”

Then he said that which translated into our language would run in this
wise:

“Now then, _fantoes_ (children), come round close to me, my sight is
dim; sit by my knees, for I am old.”

In a moment the tawny children of the south were hustling and bustling
to secure their favourite position at the feet of the aged poet. Placing
his hand to his wrinkled mouth, he coughed twice, as he always did ere
he commenced to tell his stories.

“Are you all here?” His voice trembled into echoes.

“We are all here!” cried the children, as they crossed their arms and
legs and prepared to listen attentively. Then he began as follows:

“Thousands of years ago, when the sun, the moon, and the stars shone in
the sky and saw no one alive on the isles of these seas, the heathen
gods were walking across the wide floors of Mbau. Suddenly
Raitumaibulii, who was the god of Fruit and Taro, said: ‘I say, look at
that great ocean shining under the sun down there above unpeopled,
palm-clad isles.’ Then the god continued: ‘Is it not a shame that all
those beautiful palms and those breadfruit trees of mine should be laden
with such nice fruit and yet none there to eat of it?’ ‘It really does
seem a pity,’ replied the god of Fire; and he continued: ‘I also think
it sad that none can light fires in those deep forests. Look how
comfortable they would feel were they to see my flames brightly shining
beneath the palms by night.’ As the god Raitumaibulii and the god of
Fire ceased speaking and sighed over their thoughts, the beautiful
heathen goddess of Mburoto (the Paradise of Love and Bliss) came up to
them and said: ‘Ah! I have just heard your lament. I too feel sad to
think that there are no handsome youths and maidens in those beautiful
leafy forests.’ As the two gods listened and gazed on her beauty, she
lifted her hands and lovely eyes towards the mountains of Mburoto, and
continued in this wise: ‘Oh! think how pleased the moons would be to
light up the eyes of handsome lovers and reveal the bronze-hued faces of
pretty maidens if they roamed those now silent lands.’ It was then that
the great Thangi-Thangi, the god of Hate and Sin, stepped forth. He,
too, looked thoughtfully down on those far-distant beautiful isles and
murmured: ‘What a waste, what a waste it is, when I think how I could
make the folk of a world to hate each other and deeply sin.’

“The goddess of Love, who was listening to Thangi-Thangi, said: ‘Look
here, you are not wanted down there. I know well enough that if you had
anything to do with the making of the folk of another world, they would
never be really happy folk.’ As the beautiful goddess said this, her
daughter came forward. She had eyes like unto fire, and a serpent was
nestling at her breast. Gazing up into the face of the goddess of Love,
she said: ‘I am Jealousy, your sinful child; but may I help you to make
the new folk for that lovely country, those silent isles so far away,
down there?’

“For a long time the goddess of Love gazed across the terraced mountains
of Mbau. As she reflected, her hands were arched over her eyes that
shone like two lovely moons that had a bright star in their centre.
Slowly turning, she gazed sadly into her daughter’s dark, fiery eyes,
and said:

“‘I suppose you _must_ come and help me when I am making handsome men
and beautiful women. Of course, I shall have to make a few ugly mortals,
so that the favoured ones may see that they are handsome.’ Then the
goddess sighed and said: ‘So you must be there to kiss their lips, that
they may have the spirit to look after the _one_ they love.’

“After the gods and goddesses of Mbau had assembled in solemn council,
they decided that it would be best to make living people who could be
happy on the isles situated away down beneath the sun. ‘So shall it be,’
they all muttered, as they stalked across the magic mountains of
Mburoto, where they at once began to gather wonderful flowers and weeds,
stones, bits of fire, and cloudy skeins of moonlight and starlight. For
it was from the essential materials of Paradise that they must make the
children of the world that was beneath the sun.

“It was then that the aged goddess of Sorrow, who had stood silently
behind, said: ‘I also must come to help you.’

“‘Must you come?’ said the goddess of Love. And the goddess of Sorrow
replied: ‘It must be I alone who shall gather the compassionate cry of
the winds in the forest, the bundles of old sunsets, the long-ago wail
of blue sea-waves, and the songs of melancholy, small-throated birds.’

“‘But must we have such things? Cannot we make children without your
help, O goddess of Sorrow?’

“And Sorrow answered: ‘However beautiful you made the children, even
though their eyes were like unto the beauty of thine own, still they
would not be happy without being fashioned of those things that I must
gather from the graves of a million dead moons.’

“‘So shall it be,’ said the goddess of Love, as she sighed and kissed
Sorrow’s tender, trembling hand.

“‘Now then!’ said Atuaa, the chief vassal of Ndengi. ‘Come along! Come
along!’ Then, lo! on the beams of threaded moonlight that were falling
down the heavens of shadowland into the dark regions of the other world,
the gods and goddesses slid softly away, monstrous, shadowy figures as
they passed down, down through the deep skies! For a long time their
cloudy figures seemed to be falling. At last they stood, mighty shadows
in the silent forest of the isles far to the westward. They were all
much taller than the trees, their huge heads rising far above the forest
height, as their images moved across the sky. It was the god of Hate who
first spoke after they had stepped into the forest of Time. He said: ‘I
say, we must be very careful not to make these new children as big and
as strong as we ourselves are.’ For a long time the hands of the gods
and goddesses were busy, as they toiled silently, mixing up the
materials in the bundles they had brought with them. Before sunrise
appeared on the sea’s horizon, the gods had hurried back to the skies,
and were watching to see what would happen. Now the gods and goddesses
had not long left the lonely forest when old Silence trembled in his
cave at hearing the jabbering and scampering about of unusual things
amongst his solemn trees. An extraordinary thing had happened, for, as
the light of the sun stared down through the branches of the coco-palms,
six newly-created men yawned, jumped to their new, soft, brown clay
feet, and gazed on each other in mute astonishment. ‘Who am I? Who are
you?’ It sounded like echoes answering each other in a cave, as each one
gabbled forth, ‘Who am I? Who are you?’ For a long time they babbled
thus. Then they all stepped forward and said to each other: ‘Let us all
be happy, and care not at all who we may be.’

“Saying this, they rubbed noses and became _ma pataro_ (good friends).
Now, just behind the bamboos and mangroves, not a spear’s throw from
where they were gabbling and rubbing noses, stood six newly-created
maidens. These maidens also gazed at each other in astonishment and
cried out: ‘Who are we? Who are we?’ Then in some fright embraced, much
the same as the men had done, and said: ‘What matters it who we are, so
long as we are really here?’ and then they ran down to the seashore.

“The sun had risen and set thrice when the maids danced on the shore,
all singing some song which they had learnt from the soft murmurings of
a seashell. Each had clad her form in a small lava-lava that was made of
seaweed and fastened by threaded grass about the loins. Standing on the
big lumps of red coral, they all dived into the ocean, to come forth
laughing, as the sea-water fell glistening from their tresses that half
hid their soft feet. ‘Oh, how lovely this world really is!’ they said,
as they lifted seashells to their ears, and, singing again, dived
headlong into the ocean. It so happened that the six newly-created men
had made up their minds to go down and bathe in the cool sea-water; and,
as they gazed through the belt of mangroves, they suddenly gave a cry of
astonishment. One said: ‘Did ever one see such figures?’ Another,
swallowing the lump that came to his throat, said: ‘’Tis more wonderful
than finding ourselves in this lonely forest to see such divine
figures.’ Then yet another cried: ‘They must have come to us out of the
night and the starlight by way of the Dawn!’ Then, half in fright, they
crept down towards the shore so that they might see the maids the
plainer. ‘Vanaka! Vanaka!’ they cried, losing their heads through seeing
all that they did see. Being foolish, as men have always been, they
rushed forth from the shadows of the mangroves, in haste to embrace the
maids. The maidens, looking up in wonder at hearing other voices, all
screamed out in astonishment: ‘Oh, look, such figures!—why, surely, more
lovely than we are!’ Then, seeing that the figures were rushing down the
shores towards them, they huddled in fright together, then, hastily
lifting their loosened tresses that dangled down to their feet, they ran
off towards the forest of breadfruit trees. One, who possessed a figure
like a goddess, lagged behind the others as they raced up the shore, for
so long was her hair that it became entangled in her swiftly moving
feet. Suddenly she fell down on the glistening sand. The six pursuing
newly-created men shouted with joy on observing the maiden’s distress.
He who ran first was a handsome youth. In a moment he had reached the
side of the fallen maid, who, struggling to regain her feet, glanced
despairingly over her shoulder up into the eyes of him who leaned over
her. The maid half turned her form whilst she still lay in a reclining
position. So exquisite was the sight to him who had captured her that he
nearly swooned, and so it happened that, ere the others came up, the
maid had once more regained her feet and had sped off into the forests.
Hiding amongst the trees and flowers, the girls hastily plucked hibiscus
blossoms and palm-leaves. The flowers they swiftly placed in their hair,
and, hurriedly threading the leaves with grass, they wrapped them about
their loins. ‘Was it not foolish to run away from such figures?’ said a
tall maiden, who had soft, warm eyes like unto stars in a pool. ‘It was!
It was!’ they cried together, as they leaned over the lagoon and gazed
sideways on their images, swerving slightly that they might discover why
they were so fascinating. Seeing the men no more, they all sat down on
the edge of the lagoon and wept bitterly.

“Next day they searched and searched the forest till at last they found
the men; and, lo! the men fell down on their knees before them, and the
maids blushed exceedingly, their eyes sparkling with much joy. Ere the
moon had faded to the size of a bird’s underwing, the maidens were full
of jealousy, grief, and sorrow, for they were each in love with the very
one who loved another. When the gods of the shadowland (who were, of
course, aware of all that had happened) heard the moans and wailing
lamentations of the men and women whom they had created, they said:
‘What _shall_ we do now? We have made children of the forest, and lo,
have mixed them up the wrong way!’

“The goddess of Love gazed sorrowfully across the stars, and said: ‘I
must see what can be done for them, for now that we have made them they
are our children.’

“Then all the gods and goddesses stamped their feet in grief, and,
crying out as with one voice, said: ‘What shall we do now that we have
made the first children of the forest wrong?’

“The goddesses of Love and Passion replied: ‘We must now give unto them
little children of their own; then they will throw the blame of their
sorrows on themselves instead of on us who made them.’

“Then the goddess of Love continued: ‘Come on! Come on!’ and at once
started to move towards the mountains of Mburoto, and all the gods sadly
followed her. And when they stood beneath the mighty tree that threw
branches of night across all the skies and blossomed the bright-fingered
stars, she said: ‘Stay! It is here that we must gather the materials for
the children of the children of this new world which we have made.’
Saying this, she stooped and gathered little bits of starlight. And the
gods and goddesses, who followed close behind her, said: ‘What’s that
for?’

“‘That’s for the little ones’ eyes,’ answered the goddess of Love. Then
she gathered some tiny red flowers that were always murmuring music to
the soft winds on the mountain side.

“‘What’s that for?’ murmured all the gods.

“‘Why, that’s to make the children’s tiny mouths with.’

“Then the goddess looked up and gave a soft whistle; and down from the
beautiful palm trees of Mburoto came fluttering to her feet small,
black-breasted birds.

“‘Lift your heads up, O little birds!’ she said, as they all sang to
her. Then, as they still whistled and whistled, she stooped down and
with her forefinger tenderly brushed the dark down from each breast.

“‘What’s that stuff for?’ growled the old Thangi-Thangi, the god of Hate
and Sin.

“‘Why, that is for the hair on their tiny heads.’

“Then the goddess said: ‘Come on! Come on!’ and led the way to the edge
of the mighty threshold of _Atua_ (Elysium).

“Then she threw out a long fishing-net, and it fell away down the skies.
As she pulled it up very gently, it was full of old sunsets and old
broken moons.

“‘What’s that stuff for?’ murmured the gods, as the hills around were
lit up with a sad, beautiful light.

“‘Why, that is to make their little hearts with; I would have them love
and worship us, these children that we have made, so that when they die,
their spirits will come back again to shadowland.’

“Then she led them across the wide halls of Mburoto, till they came to
the lagoons that were the shining mirrors of the gods and goddesses.

“‘O gods and goddesses of shadowland, bend forward and gaze into the
deep waters so that your eyes will be imaged therein!’

“Leaning forward, they all gazed into their own mirrored eyes, thinking
the while deeply of all that they wished. The mirrored eyes of the god
of Hate gleamed like fire; Jealousy’s eyes stared and stared; and
Mercy’s eyes gazed back with tenderest beams into the eyes of Love and
her sister, Beauty.

“‘Don’t move!’ said the goddess, as she swiftly threw her magic
fishing-net into the lagoon, and caught the shining, mirrored eyelight
of the gods and goddesses. Picking it out of the net very tenderly with
her fingers, she placed the gleaming lumps of mystical light into her
wonderful bundle.

“‘Is that all?’ thundered Poluto, the Master-of-all-Desires, as he
stamped his feet with impatience when the goddess stooped yet again and
plucked the golden flowers that danced in laughter at her feet.

“‘Is that all?’ he thundered yet again, as she put the flowers in the
bundle, and then fastened her robe of the western winds about her tall,
glorious form!

“‘Alas! it is not enough,’ she responded, as she gazed tenderly into the
eyes of impatient Desire, and made great pretence to hasten. For well
she knew that he wanted nothing more than that!

“Then, in single file, the gods and goddesses tramped back the way they
had come, and their tall shadows moved along the mighty walls of the
moonlit mountains.

                  *       *       *       *       *

“Next night, while the moonbeams were shining over the small grass-huts
that the poor mortals had made, so that they could sleep, a shadow
passed across the whole of the sky. It was the goddess of Love. She had
arrived down in the depths of the forest wherein dwelt the sad,
newly-created mortals. She was so tall that she was obliged to use magic
and so make herself small. When she had shrunken up till she was only
about four times as big as a mortal, she could walk with ease beneath
the tall forest trees. Taking a lump of red clay out of the earth, she
strode deeper into the forest glooms. Standing beneath a giant
breadfruit tree, she made a little fire out of the old moonlights and
dead forest twigs. Often and often she blew its little flame. Then, at
last, it burnt steadily with a blue light.

“Then she started to make tiny figures out of the red clay! Opening her
bundle, she carefully took out bits of old sunsets and starlight. For a
long time she was very busy, toiling and toiling with her fingers, as
she moulded little arms, legs, and small feet. When she had completed
her task and had set the little figures all upright in a row, she very
tenderly put small pinches of sunset and starlight into the little holes
she had made beneath their brows. Then she whispered, and it sounded as
though a wind went moaning through the forest trees, and lo! the small
figures all looked up at her, for their eyes were made. Then she said
once again: ‘Now, little forest children, gaze upon me.’ Then all the
eyes of the small clay figures turned and gazed on her! ‘Now put out
your hands, and stamp, so, with your feet.’ At once the little
marionettes obeyed, stamped their feet and put forth their arms. When
the goddess had gazed approvingly at her own handiwork, she looked round
the silent forest, and said: ‘Come, my little ones, follow me.’ Then she
strode across the forest. And the tiny clay figures, looking round with
curiosity, followed her, half frightened, as they kept close to the big
ankles of the goddess who had made them. Their little eyes shone like
tiny constellations of wandering stars, as they followed their creator
through the depth of those forest glooms.

                  *       *       *       *       *

“At dawn, when the mortals awoke from sleep, sunrise was streaming
through the grass roofs of their huts. As they all jumped up and gazed
with astonishment at the sight they saw, the maidens, who had slept not
far away, cried out: ‘Oh, how beautiful, to be sure!’ For, lo!—a flock
of pretty _fantoes_ (children) were peeping into their wondering eyes,
laughing and clapping their tiny hands as they cried out: ‘Oh, we are
your children; the gods and goddesses of Mbau have sent us to look after
you!’

“After that the people multiplied on the island, till there were so many
that some were obliged to go forth and dwell on other isles of the South
Seas. And they were all happy for a long, long time, for they did not
have time hanging on their hands, so they were not jealous, nor did they
quarrel overmuch.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

“Tafola, me slo!” cried the children, as Tangalora finished his story.

Thereupon the old scribe hastened round with his coco-nut-shell goblet
to make the usual collection. The children immediately threw in the
coins which their mothers had given them, so that they might pay on a
fair royalty basis for the wonders which the tattooed Homer of their
isles had told them. I flung in two bits of silver; and, considering all
that I had heard, it was cheap at the price. Then the children, giving a
musical halloo that echoed through that small Olympus, scrambled out of
the cavern and disappeared in the forest.

Tangalora entertained me right royally that night, not only by relating
a lot of the fascinating storied history of heathenland, but because of
his thoughtfulness: he slyly pulled a piece of sacking from an old
barrel, and brought forth twelve bottles of sparkling Bass’s ale!
Squatting there, on Tangalora’s best fibre mat, things took on quite a
rosy look as I listened whilst the summer night grew old. Then I bade my
host good-night and went outside in the open to rest. There’s a good
deal of mythology in Bass’s ale: I know that much. When I had made my
bed beneath the palms and carefully placed my quilt of moss over my
tired frame, I distinctly saw the moon cheerfully wave a pale hand over
the highest pinnacle of Vae’s mountain range. It did not seem strange
that the midnight moon should laugh, and, sneezing, send a tiny spiral
of mist across the clear sky. All was as it should be when a magnificent
procession of mighty gods and goddesses from Poluto marched across my
bedroom floor, and disappeared in the adjacent glooms ere I closed my
eyes in sleep.

Referring to my diary and the scraps which I wrote down in those old
days, I find the notes considerably mixed up, parts quite obliterated
through my sea-chest getting washed about on sailing-ships. Many of the
pages are missing. But my memory is good, and I can easily fill in the
interminable gaps. Indeed, the best part of this book is being written
within the sounds of the winds in the palms. The dark, sombre green of
the tropic landscape stretches for miles and miles. There lies the
expanse of the sapphire-hued ocean, ending far away in the pale saffron
fires of the skyline’s sunset, as, in my imagination, I softly dip my
pen into the magic foams that sparkle on the coral-dust sands at my feet
and sigh with the coco-palms overhead.

I see by my notes that I have already recorded in my previous books[4]
many of the incidents connected with my visit to Samoa at this period.
And, having also previously related much that befell me on my first
voyage to Nuka Hiva and Hiva oa, I have no alternative but to revert to
the incidents of a very interesting experience which came to me after I
had “jumped ship” in Fiji. And this I will do in the next chapter.

Footnote 4:

  _A Vagabond’s Odyssey_; _Wine-Dark Seas and Tropic Skies_; _Sailor and
  Beachcomber_.


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



                       CHAPTER VIII. IN OLD FIJI

        A Heathen Monastery—A scene of Primitive Heathenism—My
        unsolicited Professional Engagement—I imbibe Kava—I
        am made “Taboo”—Things that I may not Confess—My
        escape—Fanga Loma—A Native Village—The Enchantress of
        the Forest—Temptation—In Suva again.


I RECALL that, though my profession has never burdened me with wealth
till it seemed an encumbrance, my violin has enabled me to delve without
harm into the most secretive, dangerous heathen societies and sacred
festivals. Where a white man would have been, in the ordinary way,
clubbed, or doped with a mixture of kava and South Sea strychnine for
intruding at a secret sacred festival, I have been received with open
arms. It seems incredible, when I think of the magnificent receptions I
have had through being able to play my old Sunday-school hymns on a
fiddle before ex-cannibal chiefs.

I was in Suva, Fiji, when I managed to wheedle my way into a heathen
monastery that was the one surviving temple of another age. This sacred
hell was situated in a picturesque spot up in the Kai Tholos mountains.
These Kai Tholos tribes were a fierce mountain people who, up till that
date, had successfully resisted the advances of the British
missionaries. Few of them were still living, but those few most
certainly did their best to make up for the iniquities of the missing
when they met in their temple cavern four miles west of Mandaua, not far
from the Rewa River. The aforesaid river ran through an isolated
district in those days. Where now the new sugar and coffee plantations
are, there was nothing more than a few taro and pineapple patches that
supplied the scattered villages with work and food.

How I got to know the whereabouts of the aforesaid monastery matters
little. I will simply say that an elder chief, named Kambo, secured me
uninterrupted admission into the cavern-chamber where the old
unconverted Kai Tholos assembled for religious purposes.

Only a poet of superb descriptive ability could adequately describe that
cavern’s interior and its romantic surroundings. All I am able to say of
the local scenery is, that the mountains seemed to abet, to watch over
those wild Kai Tholos and their secret meetings, for ever guarding the
cavern’s entrance with their rugged hollows and pinnacles that were clad
with feathery palms and the innocent flowerage of artless Nature. It was
like entering some wondrous _Arabian Nights_ cave of enchantment to
enter that volcanic chamber.

“In there?” I said to old Kambo, as I stood hesitating, looking across
the silent gullies, watching the migrating cockatoos fade away in the
aftermath of the sunset ere I made up my mind to enter.

The large red feathers in Kambo’s mop-head brushed against the low roof
of the tunnel-way as we both entered that ominous-looking entrance. The
glittering stalactites, hanging in festoons from the rocky alcoves,
intensified the weird atmosphere of that gloomy place, as, with fiddle
in my hand, I crept warily behind my swarthy guide. We had to stoop,
almost crawl, as we passed along into the third corridor. Great was my
surprise as I suddenly entered a spacious chamber. The scene before me
almost dazzled my eyes, for beneath the hanging rows of innumerable
coco-nut-oil lamps, suspended over a large platform, danced a group of
dusky, sparkling-eyed houris!

I stared like one in a dream as I continued to gaze on those whirling,
semi-nude figures. A few were attired in diaphanous tappa robes, that
seemed to be worn for no other purpose than for the fact that they
softly opened out like large umbrellas and then closed down again. I am
at a loss to know how to describe the dances and the various “turns”
those maids gave, as they sought to give the onlookers a violent,
demonstrative exhibition of their charms. Some whirled, some
somersaulted, and a few seemed to detach their limbs from their bodies
and gently throw them, in boomerang-like swerves, across the stage, ere
they returned and fixed themselves by apparent magic into their
customary position. So it seemed to me, for I am at a loss to give any
reasonable explanation of maidens pitching their legs and arms in such a
way as they did, without dislocation, if not serious injury and strain.
It is quite possible that they had been trained from early childhood,
like to our own contortionists and music-hall dancers, so that they
might please the eyes of sinful old priests.

Squatting on coco-nut-fibre mats, arranged in semicircles, reposed the
most hideous-looking chiefs it has ever been my lot to gaze upon. They
were tattooed in grotesque style from toes to chin, their teeth reddened
through chewing betel-nut. They were undoubtedly the surviving grand old
roués of the pre-Christian times. To the indescribable capers of the
sacred maids, they gave enthusiastic grunts and awful wheezes, and the
effect of it all was weird enough as the sounds echoed and re-echoed ere
they escaped from the close atmosphere of that subterranean chamber.

“Woi! Woi! Vanaka!” they yelled. Then several old women lifted magic
sticks, with sponges on the ends, and wiped dribble from their ugly
mouths!

“Kasawayo! Kasawayo!” the whole audience yelled, as a pretty Fijian
princess stepped from the alcove to the right of the stage, did a
seemingly impossible somersault, and gave a characteristic bow. The
audience gazed on her in breathless silence. She was arrayed in a most
picturesque style; the gleams of the hanging oil-lamps falling upon her
made her appear like some goddess. About her waist was a girdle of
shells and flowers that dangled down to her knees. But that which
attracted me most was the manner of the timid obeisances which she
repeatedly paid the monstrous wooden idol that an old priest had placed
in front of her.

“Whathi! Whathi, Ndengi!” the audience yelled, as she prostrated herself
before the image. Sometimes she burst into blood-curdling peals of
laughter and beat the floor with her limbs. Her skull must have been
extremely thick, for she repeatedly crashed her head on the floor
without any apparent harm coming to it. She looked like some weird
enchantress as she went through the heathen rites which were mimicked in
the old ship’s saloon mirror that was stuck up against the cavern’s wall
just beside her. Once she sprang to her feet as though struck by a
sudden wondrous thought, then, lifting one arm to the rocky roof, as
though it were some far-off sky, made a mute appeal, moving her lips as
though in prayer. After going through many seemingly impossible
contortions, she put forth her arms and, twining them that they might
resemble the sinuous movements of a crawling serpent, chanted a weirdly
sweet melody. And all the while this was going on, the whole audience
chanted out, “Whathi! Whathi!” Though she performed many feats that made
those dusky old men of the front rows lift their chins to the roof in
sheer ecstatic joy, it was her peculiar wardrobe that mostly appealed to
my imagination. Rising to her feet, she beat her bare thighs with her
hands and cried out as though in pain, her extensive wardrobe rattling
forth the weirdest music imaginable. Her raiment was adorned with the
threaded bones and teeth of dead chiefs, old men’s beards, maidens’
dried fingers and toes, and, most sacred of all, the dried bosoms of
sacrificed girls!—there they hung, tied into small bouquets, bits of
tawny skin like shrivelled parchment, grotesque but sad manuscripts of
forgotten lovers, and what sad heartbeats! For it appeared that they
were the breasts of vestal maidens who had fallen in love and so
violated the principles of their creed. “No! Never!” was my astonished
ejaculation as Kambo, my friendly guide, took me aside and whispered
much to me that must remain where it remains. As that old friendly
chief, Kambo, pointed out the distinctive charms that adorned the
dancer’s heathen-raiment, I felt like making a bolt for it. I heartily
repented of my foolish act in allowing myself to be lured into such a
den of heathen iniquity. But it was too late.

“Woh, woil! You play moosic, alak!” said Kambo, as several fierce men
approached me. In a moment all eyes were upon me. Something banged me on
the shoulder. For a moment I lost my head, and fancied that some mighty
heathen god had suddenly dropped from the roof upon me. In my fright and
in the one vital thought that came to me, I metaphorically leapt over my
own shoulders and endeavoured to bolt down the tunnel away out into the
night; but a nudge in the ribs with a war-club brought me back to my
senses. I was immediately gripped by twelve pairs of dusky hands and
lifted bodily by the neck and shoulders up on the _pae-pae_ (stage). In
a flash I realized the whole position. Obediently as a child I lifted my
violin to my chin and commenced to play. Only God remembers the melody I
performed; I don’t. A chief chuckled in a blood-curdling manner as I
finished the strain; then he swung a war-club across the chamber. I
instinctively dodged as the weapon made a boomerang-like swerve and
returned to its owner’s massive palm! Seeing that the aforesaid act was
only an act of appreciation of my playing by the court jester, I was
immensely relieved.

Then I took the proffered calabash of kava from the hands of the head
chiefess. All eyes were on me; there was no way out of it; I saw that I
had to drink to the glory of the dancer’s eyes. My hand trembled, I
know, as I lifted the goblet to my lips and took a sensitive gulp of
that wretched stuff; then I nearly vomited. It was surely the filthiest
liquor ever imbibed by man. I managed to keep it down, though. It is
wonderful what one can go through when necessity drives! Having read the
lives of the British martyrs, I well knew my chances, what might occur
to me if I did not favour the rites of those primitive religious bigots;
consequently I swallowed another pint, thinking it best to take no risks
of giving offence.

After that trial and dire insult to my digestive apparatus, I performed
another solo, keeping excellent _tempo_, considering my position, to the
mighty kicks and indescribable swerves of the heathen houris who were
giving a special ran-tan selection in my honour. The very coco-nut-oil
lamp gleams seemed to fade into a dim blush as I stared at the monstrous
silhouette of myself that fiddled on the wall. I might say that the
cavern was about fifteen feet high at the end where I stood. Just as the
unearthly din of the audience’s delighted exclamation was fading away,
half a dozen half-caste girls came running into the cavern out of the
tunnel entrance. They had coral-dyed hair, and by the fairness of their
complexion I guessed that they were a mixture of Samoan and Fijian
blood. I felt much relieved to see them appear, for they were
human-looking, and so brought a sense of companionship into that
subterranean den.

The oldest member of the new-comers was attractive-looking. Her eyes
were large and very bright. Her crown of hair had a marvellous glitter
about it and fell in soft ripples down to her shoulders. In another
moment she had rushed up to me and had prostrated herself at my feet! A
tremendous yell from the onlookers followed this act of the girl’s. It
appeared that her act had made me “taboo”—a sacred personage. I felt
bewildered over it all. An uncomfortable idea got into my head that I
was the chosen for some heathen sacrifice! I know that I must have
visibly paled. I even appreciated the caresses and wailing lamentations
that the goddess-maid (for such she was) made as she poured strange
phrases into my ears, telling me, doubtless, of my beauty! I do confess
here that her eyes told more than her lips (for I could not understand
the language in which she flattered me), and I could not fail to
understand the meaning conveyed.

Loud acclamations of approval followed all that the girl did. It was
some little time ere I discovered how I was supposed to show my
reciprocation of the dubious elevation that her choice had conferred
upon me. The fact was that she was the head sacred-maid, and, instead of
choosing a youth of her own race, had chosen me; therefore I found
myself suddenly elevated to priesthood. The order of priesthood was not
so bad, but I discovered that I was supposed to embrace and kiss the
lips of the monstrous wooden idol that stood on the _pae-pae_ in front
of me. Its big, wooden, grinning, one-toothed mouth and goggling glass
eyes seemed to say in some malevolent voice of silence: “Come on, thou
dog of a Christian, kiss this heathenish mouth, bow the knee to me, thou
destroyer of heathen creeds and mighty wooden images!”

I felt helpless. I gazed in despair on the front rows of that grim,
dusky-hued audience of mop-headed men! They had thrust their chins and
clubs forward on seeing my obvious hesitation to worship that wooden
thing. An ominous silence dwelt over all. Two fierce old hags put forth
their scraggy hands and made as though to clutch at me, but, warned by a
look from the goddess-maid who had brought me to that pass, they lifted
their chins and spat at me! And still I hesitated. I would die sooner
than kneel before that grinning wooden deity. By now the audience was
loudly shouting, their headdress of big red feathers violently shaking,
and still I pretended not to understand what they wished me to do. But
it was hopeless, for they kept shouting and pointing to the maid and
then at the idol. There stood that wooden thing, mocking me with its
hideous carven grin. Not even though it meant death for me, would I
violate my inherent dignity by embracing that monstrous image.

“Woi! Woi!” I cried, and, pretending to misunderstand the whole
business, I leapt forward and embraced the maid.

Those old chiefs opened their mouths in astonishment. That much I
noticed as I instinctively turned my head to see the effect of my act.
The very tattoo engraving that adorned the faces of the aged priests had
wrinkled up into distorted bunches. In another moment each look of rage
and horror had resolved into a grim grimace—they were all grinning. I
was saved! The Fijian race was endowed with humour! No words of mine can
adequately describe all I felt at that moment. My relief was intense. I
knew that, had those priests been as humourless as are British disciples
in their creeds, I had been done for. God knows, my head, that now
recalls those old days, would have decorated a Fijian’s girdle, or would
be a pinch of dust beneath the South Sea palms, or possibly have been
discovered ornamenting a native hut, and by now be on show, exhibited in
some British anthropological museum, as a fine specimen of the skull of
primitive man.

As the maid continued to rub my face with her soft nose (the customary
salutation of the Fijians), I felt much relieved.

“Awaie, le oa taki!” she murmured.

Then, in response to the wish of that subterranean audience, I placed my
violin to my chin and commenced to play a weird chant to her eyes. It
had to be done, I knew. Ah, how I played! My instrument wailed out
Wagner’s “Swan Song,” then I finished up with a Band of Hope hymn. And
all the while the maid fawned on me like a cat, looked into my eyes,
stroked my hand that swayed the violin bow, and gazed in wonder on the
other that travelled up and down the fingerboard of my instrument.

Suddenly I seemed to be whirled away on the roar and thunder of some
invisible Niagara Falls. Forked lightning seemed to flicker down the
corridors of my brain. I knew that it was the fumes of that cursed kava
beginning to work on the emotional temperament! The world seemed to
wobble on its orbit. I made a creditable effort, I am sure, to steady
myself; then I seemed to have leapt out of myself—I had clutched the
maid, and in some awful delirium of ecstasy was whirling with her in the
heathenish mekee-dance!

I may not tell all that occurred at that enforced professional
engagement, no, not till Time has finished its onward flight and the
blind sun stares on the melancholy past. One thing I can confess to, and
that is, I had made up my mind to escape at the first opportunity.
Opposite me was the tunnel-way wherethrough I had entered. Often, as the
clamouring audience rose to encore the dancers, their shadows fell on me
and across the cavern walls; but my chance seemed never to arrive. Still
I played on and watched, and still the maid whom I had embraced sang a
weird melody of wailful sweetness into my ears.

Once more I was compelled to imbibe the “sacred” potion of kava, and
once more my digestive apparatus groaned within me.

I thought I must surely be dreaming when all the fierce, watching eyes
of the priests, who stared at the goddess-maid and myself, suddenly
dropped from their sockets and twinkled on the cavern’s floor! This
strange effect was caused, not only through some obliquity of my
kava-stricken vision, but also because a puff of wind suddenly blew down
the tunnel-way’s entrance and swayed the rows of coco-nut-oil lamps into
shadowy gleams. As soon as normal conditions returned, my senses seemed
to readjust themselves.

Suddenly the sacred personage, Kasawayo, who had stood aside since I had
been made taboo, stepped forward and cried: “Alaka!” (Hold!)

This act of Kasawayo’s gave me considerable relief. I saw that she had
some great influence over the priests; for they immediately ceased their
hubbub and their remarks, I am sure, of a debased nature.

It appeared that Kasawayo was the religious impersonation of some great
goddess of shadowland, and I had reason to believe that she was a
jealous impersonation. Stepping on the small platform, she gave the maid
who had made me taboo a fierce whack on the face! A great hullabaloo
followed this ungracious act. The priests, chiefesses, and youths leapt
from their mats and joined enthusiastically in the mêlée. My chance to
escape had come! In a second I had dived towards the cavern’s side. I
scrambled down the tunnel-way. When I arrived at the spot where one was
compelled to stoop, a great fear seized my heart, for I heard the sound
of breathing just behind me—I knew that I was pursued! I cursed my ample
bulk. Had I been a little thinner I could have squeezed through the
narrow aperture easily enough. Holding my violin forward in one hand, so
that I could clear the walls without its being crushed, I gave a final
wriggle—I was through!

My delight can be imagined when I emerged into the bush of the
surrounding gullies. Scrambling through the tropical growth I heard a
faint shuffling noise close behind me. It was evident that someone else
had rushed through the tunnel-way and was close on my track.

“I’m done for!” I thought, as I turned round, determined to sell my life
dearly. The old barbarian that dwells in all men leapt into my soul. I
even felt some fierce joy at the idea of cracking my pursuer’s skull ere
I fell. “Come on!” I shouted, as I held a lump of rock over my head;
then I dropped my clumsy weapon and smiled—the dusky goddess-maid who
had made me taboo stood before me!

“Come, Papalagi!” she whispered, as she clutched my arm.

Like an obedient child I raced along as she ran soft-footed beside me. I
felt that I was running across some fairy-world in a dream, as I saw the
maid’s flying heels and the moonlit forest around me.

“Runner fast!” she said.

And so I did.

Arriving at the bottom of the steep incline, we pulled up by the edge of
a wide mountain lagoon. Feathery palms leaned over the silent waters.
The moon, high in the sky right overhead, was imaged distinctly in the
dark water at my feet, and by the mirrored orb floated a canoe. The
clear shadow of that tiny craft was so distinct that it seemed to float
just _over_ the moon’s image, the shadow being more visible than the
canoe itself.

“O Papalagi, jumper! jumper!” said the maid in an appealing voice.

I did not hesitate, but I leaned forward and leapt—splash!—I had jumped
into the shadow craft and down into the depths of the imaged moon. The
maid, as I floundered about in the deep water, clutched my hair, and so
enabled me to scramble up on the lagoon’s edge.

“Silly Papalagi!” she murmured; then we heard the wild calls of our
pursuers coming from somewhere up in the mountains. In a moment I had
leapt again, this time landing safely in the real article. The way that
girl paddled the canoe is something that pleases my memory to this day.
She looked like some pretty enchantress as she sat there in front of me,
her paddle cutting a line of fire as she dipped softly into the radiance
of the moon’s white flame. So clear were those huddled waters from the
distant mountains, that we could see ourselves sitting in the canoe as
it sped across the dark depths. I felt a thrill of joy as we gently
beached on the opposite shore. The girl leapt softly from the canoe; as
for me, I upset the fragile craft and then scrambled knee-deep ashore.
My little comrade was evidently taking no risks that night.

“Comer on!” she said.

It took me all my time to keep up with her as she raced down into the
hollows and sped up the steep inclines. There seemed no ending to that
forest, ere we rushed out from the shades of the breadfruits and I found
myself in a large, cleared space that fronted a native village!

Even then I did not feel easy in my mind. But I was relieved when the
girl told me that it was her own village. The hushed, huddled,
bee-hive-shaped dens in the shade of the palms, through which the
saluting moonlight fell, made a picturesque scene.

“Is it safe?” I said, as I stared at the rows of huts.

The little goddess-maid answered me by turning a somersault on the
_rara_ (village green) right in front of my eyes.

Then Fanga Loma, for that turned out to be her name, ran across the
green patch and entered one of the larger huts.

“Supposing she’s a traitor?” I thought, as the girl disappeared.

But she was straight enough. In a few moments I heard sleepy mutterings,
and then a loud jabbering commenced. In a few moments Fanga Loma’s
parents, for such they were, had hastily arrayed themselves in their
fig-leaves, so to speak, and had run out of the hut to see and welcome
me! For a considerable time Fanga continued to jabber in her own tongue
to her people. I could only guess the lies she was telling them as she
pointed excitedly to me and then gabbled again. She was a clever little
devil, for the pleased expression on the faces of her aged parents was a
treat to see. I suppose she had to invent some kind of a tale. The
village was a Christianized one, and had Fanga told the truth her
parents would probably have been greatly incensed at finding that she
visited the heathen Kai Tholos of the mountains. Though it was midnight,
a festival was immediately given in my honour. From the innumerable
grunts of pleasure and the attention which was lavished upon me, I
gathered that I was supposed to have rescued Fanga Loma from some dire
danger. As for Fanga, She gave me many fascinating glances of
confidence, and seemed quite assured that I was not the kind to go back
on her and tell the truth! She had evidently met white men before, and
so knew what holy beggars they were!

Sleepy youths and women dodged about as they lit up the hanging
coco-nut-oil lamps that are to be seen in all native villages. In a few
moments they were all alight, and the breadfruit and banyan boughs
looked like the branches of some fairy scene. I knew what was expected
of me, and so I took up my position beneath the centre palm tree and,
placing my violin to my chin, commenced to play. Possibly I looked like
some wondrous heathen god pulling invisible strings—strings that guided
the wonderful capers of those semi-heathen people. Up and down they
jumped, the whole population bobbing like puppets as I fiddled away! The
little kiddies awoke from their sleeping-mats and rushed out of the huts
to see the fun. To see a white man playing a strange instrument under a
palm by moonlight was something that made the kids stare in wonder. They
looked like dusky cherubs as they crept on all-fours among the leafy
banyan groves, and peered at me between the fern and palm-leaves in
fright. Such demon-bright eyes they had! And when I whipped out the
flute-like harmonics of Paganini’s “Witches’ Dance,” they all gave a
shriek of terror, let the big palm-leaf drop, and vanished, as it were,
into shadowland!

After playing for a considerable time, I stopped, and intimated to the
chiefs that I wished to get away. At first they begged me to stay; but,
seeing that I was determined, they loaded me with coco-nut milk. One old
woman took a large bone hair-comb from her mop and presented it to me.
After a little discussion they agreed to let Fanga Loma accompany me a
little way on the route. I was glad of this gracious act, for I felt a
bit nervous that night. And so off Fanga Loma and I went. I heard the
death-owl screaming as we entered the deep shadows of the forest. Fanga
began to sing a pretty strain as her bare feet shuffled a kind of
_tempo_ to her melody while she walked beside me. I felt like a heathen
as the moonlight streamed through the giant trees and that strange girl
stared up into my eyes. Those eyes of hers were unearthly bright, and
seemed to express the wild, poetic mystery of her race. She cast a weird
atmosphere over everything by her eerie presence. The trees around me,
the moonlight on the tropic flowers, the stealing streams, and the
stars, seemed charged with the magical light of Fanga Loma’s eyes! I’ve
often fancied I’ve felt the mystery of the great Unseen that dwells
about us as we move through this mortal existence, and such a feeling of
the proximity of the unknown and “worlds not realized” came to me that
night. That eerie, star-eyed girl seemed some enchantress, some dusky
Christabel haunting my footsteps as I softly trod the mossy path of that
moonlit forest. It was a bewitching melody that she sang as she softly
swayed in an elfin-like manner beside me.

“For Heaven’s sake don’t sing that!” I whispered, as I looked into her
face.

And did she stop?—not she! She simply sang on all the more, then looked
up into my eyes. I trembled; a fierce light shone in those unearthly
bright orbs.

“Why you leaver go my arm?” she wailed; then she said softly: “Papalagi,
must you go and leaver Fanga Loma for ever?”

We were standing by the cross-road of the forest as she said that. The
girl’s manner and the eerie gaze of her eyes carried me out of myself
back into some other age. I realized my weakness, and turned away from
those shining, appealing eyes. I kissed the hand she offered, and gazed
as though in deep thought on the floor of the silent forest.

“Fanga, I _must_ go back to Suva, but I will return some day,” I
whispered, as I looked in fright on the giant trees, wondering if they
could hear!

Then the girl fell on her knees, lifted her hands to the forest height,
and cried out in this wise:

“Is not the world of love, the magic of the stars, flowers, and deep
waters and touch of a maiden’s lips enough for such as you? Are not
these trees that sigh over us our dear, great friends, and yours too, O
white Papalagi? Who is this great white god that seems sweeter to you
than the loving arms of a maid? Hear me, I am daughter of great chief.
The village will be your own, chiefs will fawn at your feet and cast
nicer fruits and shells at you!”

For a moment I marvelled at the maid’s sudden outburst. I wondered if
she had been reading some South Sea novel, so strangely romantic did it
all seem.

“I will come again, Loma,” I murmured, as I recovered my senses and
gazed steadily into the eyes of that wild girl of the forest. She was
little more than a child; many acts of hers had told me that much.

“Farewell, little goddess-maid!” I said.

“Farewell, O Papalagi!” she whispered, then she gave a jump and—splash!
had dived headlong into the lagoon by our side.

“God, she’s committed suicide!” I thought, as I made to leap into the
dark water. I could see only a few ripples where she had disappeared. I
put forth my hands to dive, then stopped, for out in the middle of the
lagoon up came a tangled mass of hair! It was Fanga’s head. I saw her
swimming arms and dusky shoulders twinkle in the moonlight. She was
simply swimming across the lagoon, taking the nearest cut back to her
native village!

                  *       *       *       *       *

When I awoke in my Suva lodging-house next morning, I discovered that my
violin was cracked. But for the scratches on my legs and the wisps of
hair from dead men’s grey beards clinging to my blue serge suit, I might
have concluded that the whole of my night’s adventures were the outcome
of a nightmare. About a week after my adventure in that heathen
monastery and with Fanga Loma, I met a chief who claimed to be the son
of King Thakombau. He was an intelligent man, and told me a lot about
the doings of the old cannibalistic times. When I told him what I had
experienced in the heathen monastery of the Kai Tholos, he gave me a
hint as to what might have happened to me had I not made my escape. It
was this son of Thakombau’s who told me many interesting heathen
legends. One legend in particular struck my imagination, for it was
about the old goddess Kasawayo, but was so different from the
impersonation I had seen in the Kai Tholos temple, that I will do my
best to give an impression of all that I heard in the following chapter.


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



                  CHAPTER IX. KASAWAYO AND THE SERPENT

              (A FIJIAN LEGEND FOR YOUNG AND OLD CHILDREN)

        A Goddess in the Garb of Mortality—A Garden of
        Eden—Temptation—Kasawayo and Kora the Mortal—The
        Battle—Flight to Shadowland.


AGES ago a goddess of shadowland sickened of the sacred halls of the
passionless gods. One day a great desire to be a mortal entered her
heart, for she had once been a mortal herself and had had the desires of
mortality, but knew it not. She was sitting by her cavern door, gazing
across the starlit singing seas of paradise, when she made up her mind
to desert shadowland.

“My heart is lonely enough; I long for warm lips that will kiss my face
and eyes and give unto my soul those impassioned tendernesses that I so
strangely remember in my dreams,” she cried, as she listened to the
moaning of the waves and sighing forest trees of shadowland. “Why, why
should I sit here weeping, listening, for thousands of moons, and none
to touch my lips?” So thought the goddess as she put her fingers up and
softly twirled the skeins of tangled sunset that adorned her hair.
Having made up her mind, she at once went off and consulted the oracles
(who were the great dead chiefs of Fiji). Listening eagerly to them, she
at once followed their advice, and so started to travel across the
wonderful mountains of Mbula. It was in the great mountains of Mbula
where she could kneel at the altar and feet of the great god Ndengi, who
was the Supreme-Giver of shadowland. After travelling a long way,
Kasawayo (for that was the goddess’s name) came to the entrance of a
cavern in the mountain’s side. As she approached the entrance, a
beautiful light streamed out upon her. She gazed round, and heard the
tramp of the vassal gods who were passing across the outer plains. They
were going off, she knew, to hang the stars and moons and fleecy clouds
up in the sky.

On seeing the mighty heathen gods travelling along by the light of their
own eyes—eyes that stared like beautiful moons across the
plains—Kasawayo knew she had arrived at the wonderful halls wherein
dwelt Ndengi. Prostrating herself before the sentinel gods (for such
they were who stood for ever watching by the great hollow of the doorway
where she stood), she said: “I am Kasawayo, the goddess of
half-remembered dreams, and it is my wish to enter the mighty halls of
Mbula.”

The taller sentinel, who stood as high as a mountain, and who was busy
tattooing the sky with stars, dropped his mighty calabash that was full
of the dead hopes of human dreams, and said:

“Vanaka! O Le Su Kasawayo.”

In another moment Kasawayo had entered the doorway of the underworld,
and was travelling along a track that had mighty mountains on each side.
Looking upward she saw the spirits of the dead flying ahead of her, on
the way to the wrathful Ndengi to be judged for their sins on the great
living world.

“Vanaka!” she cried, waving her hand as the sorrowing souls passed right
overhead. Death had reshaped them into beautiful bird-like things that
had the faces of handsome youths. Kasawayo sighed as their glimmering
wings flitted beneath the stars that shone over the mountain peaks; then
they passed from her sight.

Kasawayo felt very sad and weary when she at last arrived before the
vast _pae-pae_ (throne) whereon sat the great god Ndengi. Across the
roof of the underworld shone a myriad stars, and many moons sent wistful
gleams across the mysterious forest regions of Spiritland.

Kasawayo trembled as she approached the vast _pae-pae_. A stream of
green light fell slantwise through the branches of the giant palms that
leaned over the god’s throne, sending wistful gleams down on the small
form of the ambitious goddess. As the moonbeams trickled over her
tresses that fell in a shining cataract down to her bare feet, she said:

“O great Ndengi, I have travelled far, for I wish to go down the skies
and live on the isles of Fiji.”

Then Ndengi spoke, and his voice sounded like the far-off muttering of
thunder in the mountains:

“I will let you go down over the waters of the sunsets, but ere you go I
must turn you into a bird.”

At hearing that she would be turned into a bird that could so easily fly
to the homes of mortal men, Kasawayo was delighted, and at once fell on
her knees before Ndengi and sang a prayer in this wise:

           “Oh, great Ndengi, God of Mbau,
            My heart murmurs, full of love for you;
            And the flowers and foaming rivers of shadowland
            Are singing of the splendours of Ndengi.
            The beauty of your wandering thoughts, the stars,
            Sing passionless in the hollow of your hand,
            Telling of your love for mighty things.”

Then she gazed up softly in the great god’s eyes, and whispered in a
frightened way:

             “I am a woman of half-remembered dreams,
              Where forests sigh above the stealing streams,
              And so I long to gaze in warm, wild eyes
              Of men where Passion in her sorrow sighs.”

Like a great wind was the sigh of Ndengi as Kasawayo ceased her sweet
song. Then he said: “Arise!” and the goddess rose to her feet and
stumbled on her thin legs, for she had been turned into a great bird!
Her eyes were still beautiful and sparkled like unto the stars. Her
wings were tipped with gold and striped with deep crimson and green, her
breast was as snowy white as the orange blossom. Ndengi leaned against
the mountains that were pillars of his throne, and, gazing on the
transformed Kasawayo, said:

“I have disguised you so that no mortal will dare to love you.”

Kasawayo, on hearing this, smiled in her heart as she stared in Ndengi’s
great mirror, a lagoon that imaged him as he sat on his throne. She saw
that she had a woman’s eyes, and she knew what a woman’s eyes could do.
Then, down the mountain’s paths and across the valleys of Mbau, the
goddesses came running, for they had heard the echoes, and would wish
Kasawayo good-bye ere she left shadowland.

“Vanaka! Le tao. O Kasawayo, you look beautiful, though you are a bird.”

Kasawayo lifted her eyes in her vanity and saw her own image reflected
in Ndengi’s great eyes! “He warns me!” she muttered.

Then Kasawayo spread her new wings, and without a moment’s hesitation
flew off into the starlit, silent night. Often her wings brushed against
the soft light of the stars as she curved in her downward flight ere she
came to the Fijian Isles, which she had seen in dreams and heard about
from sinful spirits. She was well pleased as she fluttered over the
breadfruit trees that grow in such abundance near Nadronga on the isle
of Viti Levu. Sitting on the topmost bough of a tall coco-palm, she
gazed down, and stared curiously on a flock of Fijian children who were
romping in the drala-weed and deep fern of the forest floor. The sight
of those children awakened strange old memories in her mind. Looking
down in a sidelong look, as a bird must look, she said:

“Children of the forest, I am the goddess Kasawayo, and have come from
shadowland to watch over you all!”

The children gazed in surprise as they looked up and saw a wonderful
bird with a human face speaking to them from the topmost bough of the
coco-nut palm. Then they all shouted back to the goddess:

“Are you Kasawayo, she of whom the great chiefs of our village so often
talk and pray about?”

Then a fierce-looking boy looked up and said:

“You’ve caused a lot of sorrow in our hut, you have. Why didn’t you hear
my mother’s prayers?”

But Kasawayo only flapped her wings, and gazed down on the children in
sorrow. At this moment a serpent crawled out of the thick bamboo bush
hard by the swampy lagoon. It had a long, crimson-hued neck that soared
upwards and fell as it crawled, like the neck of a _lika-bird_ (swan).
On seeing the children it at once stood erect on its twisted tail, and
hissed forth:

“Children, what are you talking to up in that tree?”

“We are talking to a bird, O god of the shore caves,” said the children,
as they all pointed up into the coco-palm.

The serpent, who was a disguised god, looked curiously up into the
coco-palm, and then said in a soft, insinuating way:

“Why, Kasawayo!—it’s you!” Then it added: “Why, I never thought to see
you down here after all these thousands of years!”

“Yes, it’s I, right enough; Ndengi let me come down and see you all for
a while.”

“Did he?” responded the serpent.

Kasawayo felt a bit worried as she looked sideways down at the serpent.
Then, feeling it would be best to be quite pleasant, she said as she
gave a coquettish glance:

“I am pleased to see you again, but what I really wish to see is a
handsome Fijian youth who will love me and return with me to the halls
of Mbau.”

“You do, do you?” thought the serpent-god as it looked up at Kasawayo, a
crafty, envious gleam in its big green eyes.

Kasawayo, who now had a woman’s instincts, trembled slightly as she
noticed that look. Then she said:

“I know you’ll help me to find a handsome, passionate mortal, won’t
you?”

The serpent-god swelled to double his size, and, looking up at Kasawayo,
thought to himself:

“Why, I like the look of you myself, and I can be a passionate lover if
I like.”

Being a wary serpent-god, he took care that Kasawayo should have no
inkling of his thoughts. Then he unrolled his spotted body so that he
might reveal his vivid colours to the best advantage. Having shown his
beauty, he said:

“Kasawayo, I will do my best to find you a handsome lover.”

“Vanaka! O serpent-god,” quoth Kasawayo, as she spread her wings that
the serpent might see that she was as well-coloured as he was. In
another moment she had bravely fluttered down to the forest floor.

“Alow! Woi!” cried the wondering children, as Kasawayo stood beside the
hot-eyed serpent.

“Run away, children!” said the artful serpent-god.

In a moment the children had all vanished, were running home to the
village to tell their parents all they had seen.

Turning to Kasawayo, the serpent-god said in his gentlest voice:

“Come on!”

And so Kasawayo with a trembling heart went away through the forest,
walking by the side of the crawling serpent-god whose heart was bitter
indeed to think he was not disguised by the fates as a handsome youth
instead of an ugly serpent-thing.

“Sing to me,” said the god, as he glided by Kasawayo’s side.

Kasawayo at once lifted her half-bird, half-human face, and sang.

And, while the serpent-god was flattering Kasawayo and giving artful
hints, a handsome native youth suddenly emerged from the forest shadows
and stood before them.

“A youth—the very one!” exclaimed the goddess.

On hearing Kasawayo’s unguarded exclamation, the god got into a great
rage and cursed himself for asking the goddess to sing. For it was the
sweet voice of the goddess that had attracted the handsome youth as he
lay dreaming under the coco-palms.

Now this youth’s name was Kora, and Kora was a passionate youth. The
serpent-god noticed the look of admiration that leapt into the youth’s
eyes as he stood before them.

“I must get rid of him,” thought the god, as he looked up into Kora’s
face and said in a very deceitful voice:

“Kora, how very pleased I really am to see you at this moment. What do
you think of this beautiful bird that is here by my side?”

Saying this, the serpent, without waiting to hear Kora’s opinion, took
hold of the bird’s wing and introduced her to Kora.

As Kasawayo’s eyes sparkled with delight and the handsome youth bowed
and kissed her tenderly on the face, the jealous serpent said quickly:

“See, Kora, ’tis but a bird, and for all its beauty is only fit for
flying.”

But, nevertheless, the kiss that Kora gave the bird was so unduly
prolonged, and was so passionate, that the disguised goddess hung her
head and blushed up to the soft feathers that adorned her brow! The
jealous serpent perceiving this, and seeing that Kora was already in
love with Kasawayo, looked up and said:

“Go away, Kora; Kasawayo is my guest. To-night she goes back again to
shadowland, so I have little time with her.”

“Ho! ho!” said Kora; “so you want her all for yourself, do you?”

Saying this, Kora stared defiantly at the serpent.

Without any more ado, the serpent seized hold of the frightened Kasawayo
and started off into the deeper shadows of the forest.

In a moment Kora sprang forward, saying:

“You shall not take her away from me; well enough I can see that she
loves me, and not you!”

Then Kora lifted his big war-club and made a desperate attack on the
serpent. In a moment the serpent had lifted its hideous head and chanted
forth, “Wathi, wathi, noko-buli!” As the sad Kora heard those words, he
realized that the serpent was a heathen god. He knew well enough that he
had no power to thwart the serpent’s wishes and so save Kasawayo.

As the serpent once more seized hold of the goddess, she looked over her
shoulder and gazed into the eyes of Kora as much as to say, “O beautiful
Kora, I love you. Yet must I go away into the forest with this terrible
serpent-god.”

Kora hung his head for shame to think that a serpent had more power than
he had.

When the god came to his dwelling-cave, which was by the sea, he pulled
Kasawayo hurriedly into the dark beyond the big doorway. This great cave
was lit up by a dim light that was emitted from the eyes of the serpent.
Dragging Kasawayo over to the far corner he placed the trembling goddess
on a large lump of red coral that was carved into a chair. As she sat
there, couched in the moonlight that crept through the doorway, she
trembled violently, and gazed despairingly on the serpent. It was then
that the serpent-god crawled to the far end of the big cavern, and,
raising his head till it touched the crystals of the sparkling roof,
said, “Wathi, wathi!” and lo, the serpent was no longer a serpent, but
stood there before Kasawayo—a handsome god!

Kasawayo said:

“Though you are now turned into a handsome god, still I do not like you.
You do not look as beautiful as the Fijian youth, Kora.”

On hearing this, the god got into a terrible rage. Then, quickly cooling
down, he said:

“If you will only love me, I will let you walk through the forest by
night in your own shape, for, though you are beautiful, you are not as
lovely as you were when you had a woman’s form in Mbau. Now will you
love me?”

For a moment Kasawayo sat couched in the moonshine, thinking over what
the god Buli-buli had said. Then she looked up into his glistening
serpent-like eyes, and said:

“I am in your power, so I will do my best to please and love you.”

Immediately the god heard Kasawayo say this, he said in a terrible voice
that echoed through the hollow cavern:

“Wathi! wathi!”

Before the echoes had faded away Kasawayo stood shining in the
moonshine. She was once more transformed back into a beautiful goddess.

Being a heathen serpent-god, and having none of the passions of the
mortals, Buli-buli simply gazed upon Kasawayo, and said:

“Now that I have made you a goddess again, you must sit here in this
cavern and sing to me all through the day and all through the night.”

And so for many days and nights Kasawayo sang and sang till her throat
was tired. At length her heart began to long for the voice of Kora, and
her eyes for one sight of his beauty.

One evening, as the sun was setting, she said to the god Buli-buli, who
was at that moment dozing by the cavern’s door:

“Oh, I am so tired of singing away in this cave; though I love you,
Buli-buli, still I feel that I would like to go out into the forest by
night alone.”

For a moment the god looked at Kasawayo, growled, and then said:

“If you go out into the forest alone, I shall be turned into a serpent
again till you come back; and, were you to be unfaithful to me by
allowing the lips of a mortal to touch your own, I should be doomed to
remain ever in the shape of a serpent.”

Saying this, the god looked fiercely at Kasawayo, as though he would
read her soul.

Kasawayo, being a true Fijian goddess-woman, put her most innocent look
into her bright eyes.

Then the god continued:

“Now, will you promise me that, if I let you go out into the forest
alone, you will be faithful and return again?”

“Oh yes, I promise faithfully that I will be true to you and return to
the cave again.” Saying this, Kasawayo’s heart beat violently with joy
at the thought that she might meet the handsome Kora once more.

Buli-buli looked up into her face for a long while, then said:

“The sun has dipped his head into the _moani aili_ (ocean); the stars
are marching across the plains of shadowland; go, Kasawayo, into the
forest alone!”

Kasawayo jumped to her feet, delight shining in her dark eyes. As she
passed out of the cavern, she looked over her shoulder to bid farewell
to the god, but she only saw a huge serpent crawling on its spotted
belly across the floor of the cave.

Directly she arrived outside the cavern she ran away at full speed into
the moonlit forest. She was indeed beautiful to look upon. Her hair hung
in thick, curling tresses down to her smooth brown back, and often got
entangled in her soft feet as she ran. A girdle of sweet-scented flowers
swathed her loins. As she ran along, the forest winds put out their
spirit fingers, lifted her masses of hair tenderly, and looked at her
beautiful form; and the moo-moo flowers scented her body as she brushed
past. Coming to the hollows, where grew the taro and the fruits of the
mortals, she turned aside and went inland. For she heard the laughter of
the little mortal children in the villages and the sounds of drums
beating. Her heart fluttered as she heard those mortal noises, and knew
that the forest high chiefs were worshipping their Meke idols beneath
the big crimson blossoms of the ndrala-trees.

“Tani! Vanaka! O Le saka!” were the words that came to her ears like
echoes of some far-away memory.

A great longing came to her soul. She felt that she would love to go
into the village that was just by and look upon the faces of the
mortals. But she stifled the feeling, for had she not promised the god
Buli-buli to keep away from them?

She had not gone far down the little track that led away from the native
village, when she came to a moonlit space that was just by a forest
lagoon. She knew not why it was, but her heart beat rapidly as she crept
nearer and nearer. And no wonder, for there, sitting on a mossy stump of
a dead breadfruit tree, with head bowed with grief, was Kora.

Lifting the big palm-leaves that brushed against her face, Kasawayo
gazed on the weeping youth with loving eyes. Then in her sweetest
accents she commenced to sing this song:

                “Oh, love of my life, like unto the stars
                 And the winds and the waving trees,
                 And the singing pines by the coral bars,
                 Loud with the voices of roaming seas,
                 You are to me, you are to me!”

Kora slowly raised his head. For a moment he gazed like one who still
thought that he dreamed. The _O Le maun oa_ (nightingale) ceased to sing
in the backa trees just overhead, so delicious was the warm-throated
melody that Kasawayo sang. Then Kora started up to his feet. He realized
that some beautiful goddess was singing to him. He knew well that no one
but his lost Kasawayo would have so beautiful a voice.

Still the goddess sang on. And as she sang she thought of the
serpent-god who had, for her sake, been transformed into a serpent so
that she might go into the forest alone.

She longed to rush forth from the bamboos and reveal herself to Kora.
But how could she do so when she had promised the serpent-god to be
faithful to him? So she still remained hidden, and sang on.

Kora listened to her voice with delight. Then he cried out:

“Kasawayo! I know ’tis you who sing; come forth and let me see you.”

On hearing the voice of the youth calling her, so strong was her love
that she almost rushed forward. For a moment she controlled the awful
impulse, and started to sing once more, and these were the words of her
song:

     “Oh, Kora, my beloved, your eyes are like the moo-moo flowers;
      Your form is as straight as a young coco-palm.
      So my heart, my heart is on fire with thoughts of love;
      Yet I dare not reveal the beauty of my face to you;
      For, oh, listen to me! I have made a vow to the serpent-god;
      And I must not reveal my beautiful face to your sweeter eyes.
      Oh, Kora, my heart is heavy with grief; what shall I do?”

Then Kora also made up a song; and the words of the song were like unto
this:

 “Oh, come to me, my Kasawayo, for my heart is full of joy.
  Vinaka! O loved one, all praise to Mbete and the great Ndengi of Mbau
  To think that you love me—oh, to think that you love me!
  And oh, Kasawayo, if two people love, who shall deny them?
  Cannot I see thy face, look into thine eyes, and love thy form,
     Kasawayo?”

Then Kasawayo answered in this wise:

“If I show you my face, will you promise not to kiss me, or say those
beautiful words of love that I would so love to hear you say? For, Kora,
dear one, I am a goddess, and, though I have a heart that feels some of
the passions of the mortals, it is sinful that I should love a mortal.”

Saying this, Kasawayo looked about her, and whispered through the
silence of the bushes:

“Hush, Kora, listen. The serpent-god may be able to know what I am
doing, though his eyes be far away!”

“O Kasawayo, I promise to do as you wish,” responded the handsome youth.

Then Kora commenced to sing his beautiful song, as with complete trust
Kasawayo stepped forth from the bamboo trees and stood before the youth
in all her loveliness!

For a moment the young chief Kora placed his hands over his eyes. The
beauty of Kasawayo was so dazzling that he dared not gaze upon her
without wanting to embrace her. At length, feeling that he could
withstand the temptation of her sight without risk, he uncovered his
eyes. Then the youth and the goddess gazed upon each other in perfect
stillness as though they were perfect figures of cold carven stone, so
entranced were they with the sight of each other’s beauty.

The goddess was the first to break the silence. With all the sweet
frailness that is born of woman, she, notwithstanding that she was a
goddess, put forth her beautiful face and said:

“O Kora mine, let us each close our eyes, and then, inclining our forms
one towards the other, imagine that we are lovers kissing.”

Kora replied:

“O Kasawayo, I will do this that you ask of me, but still am I sad to
think that the meeting of our lips is only to be imagined. For we
mortals love to feel the beauty of the maiden that we love; for, though
the imagination is always more beautiful than the reality, still we love
the beauty and sorrow that we see more than the heaven that we imagine.”

Saying this, Kora sighed and closed his eyes. Bending forward, he
stretched out his hands, and then, kissing the air fondly with his
impassioned lips, tried to imagine that he held the beautiful Kasawayo
in his arms.

And Kasawayo the spirit-woman?—she did likewise. Only for a few moments
did they both stand wrapt in the ecstasy of their imagination. The
forest winds sighed amorously through the branches of the ndralas,
kissing Kasawayo’s shining tresses that hung around her like a tent as
her form inclined towards Kora. Then, lo! the magic fingers of the
winds, that were caressing Kasawayo’s tresses, accidentally brushed them
against the bare knees of the inclining, impassioned Kora! At this the
young chief, through the ecstatic joy of his feelings, lost his balance
and, stumbling over a little twig, fell forward into the outstretched
arms of Kasawayo!

For a moment their lips met in a passionate kiss; their eyes, out of
which shone the light of their love, gazed fondly upon each other.

The travelling fingers of the winds wailed a tender, love-like _adagio_
across the night’s brooding harp of mighty forest trees. Suddenly
Kasawayo’s lips gave forth a scream. Alas! she had remembered her
promise to the serpent-god.

As remembrance came to her, her arms, that were still folded round the
handsome Kora in a fond embrace, shrivelled up, lo!—changed into a
bird’s wings.

The serpent-god, far away in his cave, knew what Kasawayo was doing!
Full of jealousy and hate, he waited for the lovers to kiss again. But
Kasawayo, who also knew the magic of seeing and knowing things that were
far away, looked up into Kora’s eyes and said: “O my Kora, kiss me not
again; should you do so, the serpent will be able to turn my body, that
you so love, into that of a bird.”

Directly Kora heard the scream and felt the rustle of the feathery wings
about his shoulders, he stepped apart. Looking into Kasawayo’s eyes, he
said:

“I will do as you wish, nor would the thing have happened but for the
interference of the winds and the twig of the ndrala-bush. But still it
matters not; we will thwart the serpent-god’s spite. You are still very
beautiful, though your arms have changed into the wings of a bird.”

As Kora whispered this into her ears, Kasawayo ceased weeping, gazed up
into his eyes, and murmured:

“Am I really as lovely as I was before I had these wings?”

Saying this, Kasawayo spread out the wings, and in doing so revealed the
topmost curves of her bosom to Kora’s eyes. So exquisite was the sight
to the youth, that in a moment of forgetfulness he stepped forward to
kiss her once again on her lips and so assure her of his love.

Kasawayo, seeing the brightness of his eyes, and guessing that which he
was about to do, ran backwards a few steps. Putting her wings out, she
cried:

“O Kora, kiss me not, for if you do I shall lose these limbs that you
have touched and told me are so beautiful!”

Kora, in the distraction of not being able to fold her in his arms and
kiss her lips, placed his hand to his eyes and stared across the moonlit
forest in deep thought. Then, turning to Kasawayo, he said:

“Where is this terrible serpent-god? I am determined to have your love
and kisses. I will go and kill the serpent.”

Saying this, Kora drew his stalwart form up to its full height, and,
taking hold of his big war-club, swung it around his handsome head three
times! Kasawayo, who possessed all the beautiful cunning that mortal
woman reveals when she would protect the one she loves, gazed upon the
youth with thoughtful eyes.

“Kora, my beloved, you are only a mortal; and, though I know well that
you are brave and strong, still my heart is heavy at the thought of your
meeting the serpent-god in combat.”

Side by side the lovers walked through the forest and said not a word to
each other. Kasawayo, who longed to feel Kora’s arms about her, said not
a word, because in her heart she knew that her companion was but a weak
mortal, and so might be tempted to do the very thing that would enable
the god to turn her into a complete bird again.

Many times did Kora glance sideways at her beauty, and his frame was
thrilled with thoughts of love. At length he looked around at Kasawayo,
who, truth to tell, had slipped a little into the rear so as to help
Kora to resist temptation. Then he said:

“O lovely spirit from shadowland, I can stand this delay no longer. If
you do not let me go and fight the serpent, I am quite certain that I
shall embrace and kiss you.”

“So be it!” said the sad spirit-woman, for she too longed for the kisses
of that mortal youth.

With her heart trembling violently with a great fear, Kasawayo said:
“Come on! come!” and, turning round again, led Kora towards the sea in
the direction of the serpent-god’s cavern.

As they walked along, Kasawayo’s wings drooped and almost covered the
delicate flanks of her form. Kora, who enviously watched every step of
her soft feet as they stirred the moonlit flowers of the forest floor,
sighed and sighed at the thought of the serpent-god’s power. Often as
they tramped along, Kora had to hide his eyes with one of his hands,
for, as Kasawayo turned round the bends of the twining forest track, one
wing would flop slightly sideways and so reveal the smoothness and
exquisite beauty of her form.

Presently they arrived at the mossy slopes that led down to the
seashore. For a moment they both stood still and gazed through the
forest breadfruit trees out upon the silvered moonlit waters of the sea.

Suddenly Kasawayo cried out:

“Oh, hark! though the ocean is calm, I can hear the moaning of the
thundering seas beating against the barriers of the serpent-god’s
cavern.” Then, with a deep sigh, she continued: “O Kora, that noise that
we hear is a sure sign that the serpent is in a terrible passion because
I love you. Oh, what shall we do, what shall we do?”

She gazed into Kora’s eyes with tenderness, for the beauty of mortality
and immortality shone in the same eyelight.

Suddenly, with a cry of delight, as a thought came to her, she said:

“O my beloved Chief, I have just thought how we can outwit the
serpent-god. For listen! though you die, still you will be mine, for,
being a spirit, I shall then be able to take you away to shadowland.”

As the handsome Fijian chief listened, he lifted his war-club and half
imagined that he was already fighting the serpent-god.

Kasawayo gazed with admiration upon his herculean frame, and sighed at
the thought that she would never possess him in a mortal state. Then she
thought like unto this:

“But, still, I shall have his spirit in shadowland, and, though even
goddesses cannot have all they want, I shall be satisfied with the
spirit of so beautiful a youth, and, more, I can fold him in my arms and
imagine he is a beautiful mortal.”

Her reflections were suddenly interrupted by Kora, who gazed upon her
with impassioned glance, and said:

“Kasawayo, tell me where this cavern is. I would meet the serpent at
once, and, vanquishing it in combat, possess your love and kisses.”

Kasawayo looked earnestly into Kora’s eyes, then, falling forward on one
of her rounded knees, and holding a small bamboo branch in front of her
bosom so that their figures should be shielded from temptation, said:

“Kora, O beloved, let us gaze upon each other a moment, for methinks it
will be the last time I can drink in your mortal beauty with these
eyes.”

So for a little while did they kneel together, inclining their figures
one towards the other. Poor Kora, who was so truly mortal, gently blew
his breath so that it would reach Kasawayo’s tresses. As the soft, jetty
curls swayed gently to and fro to the zephyrs that crept from his
impassioned lips and revealed the curves of the goddess’s dimpled
shoulders, he said:

“O Kasawayo, ’tis sweet to breathe so, and know that at least my
breathing caresses your loveliness.”

“Ah me!” softly responded Kasawayo, as she, too, breathed likewise,
blowing the curls of Kora’s forehead to and fro with the warm breath of
her passion. The very branches of the tall bamboos and palms seemed to
bend in leafy sympathy over them as they knelt and gazed into each
other’s eyes.

“May I not touch, with my finger outstretched so, the softest dimple of
your throat, Kasawayo?”

Kasawayo trembled from head to feet and nearly fell forward at the
pleading of the one whom she so much loved. And it is rumoured that all
the maidens who slept at that moment in the native village of Nadranga,
which is on the banks of the river a mile away, dreamed of the _one_
youth who truly loved them, not only for their beauty, but for the light
of shadowland that shone in their eyes.

It so happened that Kora, seeing the weakness of Kasawayo, as she nearly
fell forward into his arms, quickly came to the rescue; for he at once
ceased blowing his breath into the tangled mass of hair that fell on the
goddess’s bosom. Then he swiftly placed his hand before his eyes, and
hid from Kasawayo’s sight the light that he knew would prove their
undoing if he persisted in gazing upon her.

Leaping to his feet he said:

“Come, O my loved one, let me go and vanquish this serpent-god. I never
knew that I could hate a god so much as I now hate the god who has come
between us.”

Kasawayo led the way down the slope. In a few moments they both stood,
like statues of despair, outside the door of the serpent-god’s cavern.

“Come forth, O serpent!” said Kora, as he struck his war-club a mighty
blow against the coral rocks that stood like pillars at the awful
doorway.

Kasawayo, remembering how she had promised to be faithful to the god,
trembled as her lover once more struck the coral-pillars, till one of
them fell crash at her feet.

It was then that a great, roaring sound, and what sounded like the angry
lashing of a mighty tail, came out from the cavern’s gloom. Then the
serpent’s huge head appeared at the cavern’s door. In a moment Kora
bravely sprang forward, and the battle began.

Silently Kasawayo watched. She knew that Kora was mortal, and so had
little chance in such an unequal combat. So well did she know how the
battle would go, that she did not even cry out when the serpent’s tail
gave the brave Kora a terrible blow that stretched him dead at her feet.
For a moment she watched with a strange look in her eyes. She knew that,
did he not truly love her, he would still lie as one dead. But it was
not so, for, as she watched, and the moonlight touched Kora’s dead face,
his shadow left his mortal body and leapt straightway into Kasawayo’s
outstretched arms. The serpent-god, seeing this happen before his eyes,
roared with rage till the cavern shook and the rocks around trembled as
though from an earthquake. Going forward on his belly, the god slashed
at Kora’s body with his tail. But it was only a dead body, and could not
be hurt more than death had hurt it. Looking up, in his fearful rage, he
saw Kasawayo and Kora’s spirit hand in hand as they rushed away along
the seashore.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The first pale glimmer of dawn tinted the eastern skyline, and yet a few
stars were shining, when the little Fijian children awoke in the
villages. They all came running out of the hut doors in the village of
Rumbo-Rumbo.

There was not a breath of wind stirring the palm trees that sheltered
their hut groves. So they rushed off fast towards the sea to catch the
fish in the shore lagoons. Suddenly, as they ran along and the _Lukas_
(parrots) wheeled across the skies from the far-off mountains, they all
stood perfectly still. It was a wonderful sight that met their gaze. For
there, up in the sky, they distinctly saw the spirits of Kasawayo and
Kora, with their large wings outspread, as they faded away with the
stars far-off over the seas.

And to this very day, by the hut fires of the native villages, the
frizzly-headed old chiefs tell the children how the handsome warrior
Kora was seen in the arms of the beautiful Kasawayo, as they passed
away, flying together into shadowland—ages and ages ago. And still the
Fijians gaze with eyes of awe and complete reverence at the serpents
that glide across the forest floor of their lovely isles. And if a chief
should kill a bird with gold tipping its wings, loud are their
lamentations.

                  *       *       *       *       *

A few days after my experiences in Fiji, I secured a berth on a
fore-and-aft schooner that was bound for Samoa. After the usual
discomfiture and rebellious irritation to one of my temperament when
obeying the orders of disciplinary shipboard life, I arrived at Apia.
The skipper, who had relieved the monotony of the voyage by telling me
of his experiences when he sailed as mate under the notorious Captain
Bully Hayes, gave me several pounds above my set wages, thus showing his
appreciation of my violin-playing. I had often done my level best to
extemporize suitable obligato to his vocal attempts when he invited me
into the stuffy cuddy after eight bells. The mate died on the voyage
across, and when we buried him in his hammock-shroud, the skipper, who
read the burial service, had the best that was in him awakened. Like
most men he had a kind, brotherly side to his rough exterior, and, as is
usual with most men, his congenial side only revealed itself through
feeling the near presence of the cold, poetic hand of death. I know his
voice was tremulous when he said, “Let go!” and we softly dropped
“Scotty” the mate into the calm depths of the hot, tropic seas, where he
left a few bubbles behind him. Just before Scotty died, I held his hand
and said a few kind things, and I like to fancy that his soul remembered
and touched the skipper’s heart with a generous impulse so that I might
arrive in Samoa with plenty of cash in my pocket.

Being wealthy and having an hereditary hatred for work, I mooched about
for days, admiring the semi-poetic life of the natives, enjoying the
generous fellowship of the truest democracy the world ever harboured or
is ever likely to see. Then I met an aged mat-worshipper. First, I must
say that mat-worship was a strange old Samoan custom that was still
believed in by the aged chiefs when I was a boy. A bit of old
tappa-cloth or fibre carpet was regarded as a sacred object (_etua_).

This _etua_ was supposed to be a wonderful talisman, a kind of Aladdin’s
lamp; it was the “Open Sesame” to all its worshippers’ hopes on earth
and in the underworld life-to-be. I became deeply interested in those
old mats, my susceptibilities being aroused much the same as are the
susceptibilities of those who visit the ruins of ancient Rome and
Pompeii. The mat-worshipper with whom I became acquainted was an aged
chief who lived near Safata village. He possessed one of the aforesaid
revered objects. There it hung, just over his sleeping-couch in his hut.
Through being repeatedly kissed and rubbed by the chief and his
ancestors, for Heaven only knows how many generations, it was
dilapidated and threadbare. I recall the very light that shone in that
aged chief’s eyes as he gazed on his sacred mat. Though very aged he was
still a fine distinguished-looking old man. A vivid scar stained his
well-curved, tawny shoulders, for he had been a great warrior in his
early days. Throwing the tribal insignia of knighthood (a large
tappa-cloth rug of beautiful design) over his shoulders, he drew himself
up in a majestic manner, and gave me a half-critical glance of defiance
as I held my nose—for that old mat smelt like the unclean hide of a
mangy dog. It was, to him, the most romantic and sacred of relics and
its odour exquisite incense! Young as I was, my curiosity was aroused.

“What is it for? Why so beautiful?” I inquired. Whereupon the old
chief’s tattooed brow puckered up, looking like a piece of parchment
covered with hieroglyphics. He gazed upon me half in pity, half in
scorn. Once more he reverentially gazed upon the mat. Then in pigeon
English, and with many half-childish gesticulations, he endeavoured to
enlighten my profound ignorance as to the hidden virtues of that
threadbare symbol of the beautiful.

“It am great god-mat, belonga to great chief only. You white man, but
all-e-samee you fool, you not one great chief, you no got mat—eh?”

So saying, he reverently lifted the mat from the wall-nail and carried
it outside the hut, where I discovered that it was not such a dirty old
bit of rubbish after all. I quickly cast aside the assumed reverential
aspect with which I had masked myself that I might hide my boyish
levity. For, suddenly, I too gazed with genuine interest on that mouldy
object. Lo! particles of its threadbareness glistened, shone in the
sunlight! A tender feeling came to me for that dirty old bit of matting
when I did exactly as the old native bade me—touched with my fingers the
shining skeins that waved among its coarse fibres: it was the hair of
some dead woman! It appeared that some ancestress of the old chief’s had
imparadised that relic, for there shone her hair that had been
delicately, cleverly woven into the fibres of his sacred mat.

I was greatly impressed by that old mat’s secret. Often in my world-wide
travels I have been asked to inspect the heirlooms of great families and
the relics of faded dynasties, but nothing seems to have affected me or
aroused my admiration as that old mat and the pride of its possessor
did.

                  *       *       *       *       *

It was about this period that I met another character whom I found quite
as interesting as my friend who owned the sacred mat. This new character
was a poet.

“Talofa! Tusitala!” said the wrinkled native poet when he welcomed me
into his humble homestead.

Then I played him several heathen strains on my violin. His profile was
of a Dantesque type, the nose finely curved, and the deep-set eyes full
of intellect. He prostrated himself at my feet when I had finished
playing to him. I can never feel grateful enough to the old
mat-worshipper for introducing that mighty poet to me. The wonderful
tales he told and the delight I derived from his friendship (for we went
troubadouring together), have made me wealthy in many a memory since.

In Part II of this Volume I will endeavour to give an impression of my
memory of O Le Langi, the pagan poet.


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                               _Part Two_



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                                PART TWO



                  CHAPTER X. O LE LANGI THE PAGAN POET

        A Pagan Poet—Influence of Byron and
        Keats—Star-myths—Enchanted Crab.


      The imaged stars the oceans knew a million years ago
      Are dancing in the eyes of all the cities that I know!
      The man who sails to heathenland to preach the newest creed
      Sees in the happy pagan’s eyes his own soul’s greatest need.
      But these are aimless rhymes and will be understood by few,
      Because I am the poet of those old things men call new.

IN the shadowland regions of a barbarian poet’s brain flows the river
Lethe that murmurs the most subtle music of sentient Nature. Of such a
poet I shall tell in the following pages, one whom I instinctively
understood. For I also have stood in the primeval forest and “heard the
silent thunders of the leaves” and seen the lightnings of a wild bird’s
eyes, and God’s hand carving a thousand pillars for the temples of
Nature, painting magical halls with the storied history of the blue days
and daubs of all the dead sunsets. Wonderful eerie temples they were
too. I have even been a pagan and half fancied I have seen the dead
children creep out of the shadows and gaze around as they heard the sad
songs and whisperings of those old forest trees. Nor was I deaf to the
cry of anguish from the bleeding forest flowers as my foot crushed their
uplifted faces of brief enough beauty. O Le Langi saw the world with
such eyes. He was the first poet of his race. He was crammed full of
mythical light, his imagination touching with splendour all that his
eyes gazed upon. He hated most white men and their wretched boast of
advancement. He deeply read the books of Nature, but threw the white
man’s _lotu books_ into the sea! He too might well have cried out to his
chastened people who had accepted the white man’s dogmas and gifts of
clothing from the European morgues:

          “Lo! thirty centuries of literature
           Have curved your spines and overborne your brains.”

O Le Langi’s ever earnest cry was:

          Lo! centuries of grand belief in gods
          Have chasteneth us; my mind a forest is
          Of budding-light and thought’s bright spirit-flowers
          And faery-wings of Beauty’s moving hours.
          I am the darker-age grown old and thin—
          Personified, tattooed from toes to chin,
          And for you and your God care not one pin!

Such was O Le Langi’s cry to the white men—O Le Langi, who stands out
like some wonderful, tattooed bas-relief in the background of my memory.

O Le Langi means _Chief of the Heavens_, and, so far as his handsome
physique and fine, expressive face were concerned, he deserved that
name. He was a fine sample of his race. Though he lived in Samoa, he was
a full-blooded Marquesan, having emigrated from Nuka Hiva to Samoa in
his youth. His father had been high chief of Queen Vaekehu’s royal
bodyguard when that South Sea Semiramis had reigned supreme over her
dominions and a thousand death-drums had called the hour of the
sacrificial festival. O Le Langi’s mother had escaped from the rods of
the French officials by beating a hasty retreat from Nuka Hiva to
Papeete some fifty years before I met him. From Papeete she had stowed
away in a trading schooner with her three little children, O Le Langi
and her two daughters.

Both the girls had succumbed to the privations and terrors of some long
voyage in an open boat which had finally drifted O Le Langi and his
mother to the Samoan Isles. The incidents of that terrible voyage O Le
Langi only hinted about. Nor was I one who would attempt to learn more,
it being quite obvious to me that the sad old chief had some strange
idea that the whole truth of those days were best kept a secret in his
own heart.

Though secretive over the tragic history that had caused his father’s
execution and his mother’s flight from her native land, O Le Langi never
tired of telling me the wonders of his tribe, and commemorating in words
the mighty deeds of his forefathers.

His knowledge of heathen mythology was marvellous, as were the tattooed
armorial bearings, the insignia of blue blood, which were visible on his
massive chest. I entertained no doubt whatever as to Le Langi’s royal
pedigree. Seeing that massive human parchment inscribed with wondrous
savage hieroglyhpics, the truth of all he said was perfectly evident. I
knew that the Marquesans of royal blood had the tribal mottoes and
family crest tattooed on their sons before puberty.

Langi looked liked some Greek god as he stood on his village stump, his
royal robe of the best tappa-cloth swung about his rosewood-hued,
majestic frame. Never were the graceful, god-like shoulders wholly
covered. Even the maids, as they listened to his impassioned oratory,
sighed as the lightnings of poetic imagination leapt from those fine
dark eyes of his. Yes, old as he was. By profession he was a travelling
scribe, a genuine South Sea poet. This talent he had inherited. For I
discovered that his father had once stood in the barbarian forums of
Tai-o-hae and spouted the charms of his queen, Vaekehu, commemorating in
verse the warrior-like deeds of the many brief kings who had ascended
her throne—and their deaths when she had tired of them.

His temperament was Byronic, but at times he would become strangely
imbued with the savage instincts of his race, becoming extremely bitter
and cynical when his fortunes were at a low ebb. For I must confess he
had a large share of the commercial spirit. This much I noticed when he
looked into the coco-nut-shell that he always passed around amongst his
audience. Often one could see a poetic grin of extreme satisfaction end
the handsome wrinkles in a bunch up to the northern territory of his
high, bald, intellectual physiognomy as he counted the collection.

I never tired of listening to his way of telling the poetic legends of
his island world to the white men, though I must admit that, beyond
myself, few men of my colour were interested in all he had to say. Grins
and jokes and indecent remarks were their highest contribution in the
way of interest or gifts when he finished his poems.

I do not exaggerate in saying that, though Langi could not speak our
language better than an English child of ten years, he was conversant
with the works of many of our poets. He had an old volume of Byron. He
asked me if I knew Keats!

“He great Tusitala chief!” he said, when I told him Keats was dead. Then
he started off in raptures over Saturn and the fallen deities and
goddesses of _Hyperion_! He had also read Longfellow’s _Hiawatha_.

It seemed a wonderful thing that one should leave one’s country and
travel thousands of miles across desolate seas and pioneer lands, to
find, at last, on a savage isle of the remote wild South Seas, a savage
who loved poetry!

It is true enough that the old chief got little appreciation out of his
talent, but many kicks.

Poor O Le Langi! None of the natural chances of the literary world came
his way either by birth or luck. He was born in a spot remote from all
the dubious possibilities that the civilized world offers to budding
aspirants. He had none to puff him. With all his astuteness he could
seize on no scheme that would elevate him on a pedestal in the eyes of
men. Alas! no starving, unrecognized poet of another tribe expired on
his doorstep, so that the O Le Langi family for successive generations
might write the dead poet’s memoirs, and the memoirs of their father’s
memoirs concerning the poet’s last sigh and the benevolence of the O Le
Langi family to the dying poet’s last ten minutes! Ah me! No publisher
chanced upon sad O Le Langi till I, a penniless traveller, appeared on
the scene, recognizing his wonderful genius. And now that his body is
dust beneath his beloved coco-palms, I would write these humble memoirs
and commemorate the dust of the greatest poet I ever met on earth.

It is nothing against the posthumous poetic fame of O Le Langi to say
that he had loved passionately, more than twice. Indeed, it is well
known that men who are not poets have this mortal failing.

The amorous weakness of O Le Langi was impressively forced upon me, for
did I not walk beneath the coco-palms and breadfruits to that silent,
hallowed spot where slumbered his sleeping passions?—the little native
cemetery where slept the dead women and children that he had loved.

It was through this sad visit that I heard so much; for as O Le Langi
knelt over each little mound of crumbling dust he kissed the earth and
wept like a child. I saw at a glance that the solid earth did not hide
from the eyes of imagination the stretched figures, the eyes, the lips,
and the little fingers that he had once loved.

Rising to his feet he surveyed me with solemn eyes, then said:

“Ah, Papalagi, me now grow old and weak; me now belonger to fool time.”

“No, you don’t, great O Le Langi, high chief of handsome bearing, and
mightiest poet of the South Seas,” said I.

My heart was truly sorry for the old savage man, and well I knew that
such flattery was worth its weight in gold at such a melancholy hour.

Then I continued, as with an effort he drew his tattooed shoulders up to
their full proportion and looked at the sky:

“O Le Langi, they still live, those whom you love. We all live again.”

“But I no _cliston_ or _popy mans_” (christian or prayer-man), he
responded in a mournful voice.

“Phew! O great O Le Langi! It matters not a tinker’s curse _what_ you
are so long as you _remain_ as you are.”

For a moment the old chief looked about him, as though half in fright,
then, seeing that we were unobserved, he leaned forward and said:

“You nicer man. You no think much of ole white-beard-Man-big-nose?”

“Who’s he?” said I.

“_Ole Misson-loom mans_ (mission-room man) who mournful voice, and who
look at me and tell me that I one big liar!”

“Why?” said I, as the old poet’s face seemed to flush beneath its tawny
hue at the thought of such an affront to his veracity.

“I tells ’im I wanter no go white man’s ’eaven. I go ’eathen ’eaven.
Then ’e says, ‘There am no ’eathen ’eaven; yous sinfuls mans!’”

Saying this, the old poet squatted down on his mat, which he ever
carried under his arm, and inspired by grief dropped into the following
poetic effusion. (The sun had long since set, and the shadows lay deep
in the hollows by Mutoua. I sat down beside him, and as he commenced in
sombre tones, the _o le manoa_ sang its passionate strain up in the
flamboyants over and over again.)

I recall the very note of that strange night-bird’s song as O Le Langi
meandered on in this wise:

            _O white mans from across big waters,
            I die not though my body die, be dust:
            The waving pauroas, the ripening coco-nuts,
            The _maona_ in the forest singing, singing,
            The stars softly dropping from great darkness
            To whisper as they meet in deep, still lagoons,
            The deep caves by Savaii, and Momo,
            The eyes of children romping by the red seashore
            When even falls—I say, O white mans,
            All these things shall be my dead-heart dreaming!
            I great chief of gods, so never die dead._

“And will you see your loved ones again when you die, O Le Langi?”

         _My love ones live, they are not dead.
         They shine, their eyes in sky of darkness—
         When sings the maona my dead love makes stars four!
         Her children shine as eight stars far away.
         She watch down sky, ever look far north-west,
         As the big night passeth over_ moani ali_[5]
         Sometimes my love blink her eyes, and then
         The little stars all laugh and clap hands!
         And lo! stars shoot ’cross sky out of Poluto’s halls._

Footnote 5:

  The sea.

“’Tis good O Le Langi, to know that your loved one watches with her
starry eyes over your dead children,” I responded, as the scented sea
wind stirred the feathery palms and dying forest flowers. The very trees
seemed to sigh some mystery into my ears as the old poet spoke, or
rather chanted on, saying that which I have so weakly told. For a moment
O Le Langi did not answer. Then, with his massive chest swelling with
emotion, he slowly raised his handsome, old wrinkled face. He looked
like some marvellous bronze statue as he lifted his head and chin
skyward. I dared not speak as I saw him lift his arm and, with hand
archwise over his eyes, stare at that tremendous manuscript of
heathen-night. Then he pointed with one long, tawny finger to the
heavens. For a little moment that dark, thin finger wavered with
indecision, then it steadily pointed straight toward the far
north-west—and lo! I saw his beloved dead (her who had died thirty years
before) looking out of the sparkling constellation. Yes, two bright
stars—her eyes! It appeared that she was watching over the little group
of pale stars that wistfully stared from the east to the north-west—they
were the spirits of O Le Langi’s four dead children. It was some time
ere he lowered his chin, for he had watched long and strangely those
stars that he claimed.

As the shadows deepened and wild odours of citrons and decaying
pineapples drifted on the cool sea wind, I relit my pipe. Once more the
old poet looked at me with ambitious pride gleaming from his eyes over
my rapt attention and praise. Then he continued in sombre tones that
which was apparently of magnificent import to him:

 _One night I stand by sea-coast, dreaming
 Of old chief who had longer been dead in forest grave.
 I felt much sad as shadows of night falling
 Went like big lava-lava round the waist of Night
 As her big black feet rest on side of moonrise!
 Long before stars in sky go indoors of morning,
 As god open door and let sun walker out ’gain into sky.
 Then I looker at sea and saw old crab out walking:
 Creepy up shore it looker me sideway artful.
 “I know! I know!” I say to myselfs, “you am no crab that belonger sea,
 You am ole chief from Poluto, disguised in crab-case.
 That’s whater you ares!”_

“What did the old crab, the chief, I mean, say then?” said I, as the old
poet leaned his chin right down to the hieroglyphic tattoo of his chest,
lapsing into deep thought. In respectful attitude I awaited his next
inspiration, which came in this wise:

 _He wise ole crab-chief and know much, O Pagalagi.
 So he look up at me and say in voice like deep music of waters:
 “O Le Langi, greatest high chief of these parts,
 O Chief who ’ave listen to the Miserilinaries[6] and hung head,
 But still thoughter mucher of great gods all while,
 I say: the gods of Poluto and the great Tangaloa
 Still tramp, tramp across the great sky-floors of shadowland.
 They do say with voice of thunders in mountains:
 ‘That great O Le Langi seems most faithful to us;
 Therefore, though all the forest children desert us,
 We still put forth our hands and scatter stars—
 Stars across the skies of shadowland.
 We still break old moons across our mighty knees
 To brighten the Atua halls of long ago!
 We still catch winds that creep across worlds of mortals
 And take from their shifting, clutching fingers
 The thoughts of dead mothers for children.
 We still gently pull out the thoughts of dead maids and hopeful loves
 As we pull up the old sunsets from the oceans.
 Our vassal, the great Matagi wind, it still catch the prayers of our
    faithful children—
 And yet who am more faithful than the great O Le Langi?’”_

Footnote 6:

  Missionaries.

“O Le Langi,” said I, “I feel sure that the gods have no more faithful
servant.”

Lifting his hand aloft as he stared seawards to hide the embarrassment
he felt over my praise, he continued:

 _’Tis I, O Le Langi, who maker children faithful:
 I preach on sly to all little ones and old chiefs and chiefesses.
 I tell them wonders of shadowland as the evening falls.
 The fantoes creeper from huts doors and kneel at my feets and listen
    and listen!
 Some nights I go down, down in great caves of Underworld!
 A longer way I go, till I at lasse come to big ’nother world.
 It shine ’neath ’nother big sky of blue and red stars.
 I sit on small star and great god Tangalora sit on his throne by the
    big moon, and he say:
 “Halloa! great O Le Langi, what you wanter?”
 Then I says: “Show me ole chiefs who die, and all dead peoples.”
 Great Tangalora say: “O Le Langi—look!”
 He have lift big veil of Night, quick!—I stare and see
 Beautiful country of mighty trees and fruits,
 Big moonlit seas dashing by shore of bright Atua;
 I see my dead tribe dancing, waving arms, singing, singing to heathen
    land stars!
 Then big shadow hand of god Tangalora move and drop big veil of Night—
 And I no longer in Underworld._

“But what became of that old crab?” said I, as the old chief looked
about him and seemed to have forgotten the commencement of his story.

 _Ah me, Papalagi, the old crab look up and say:
 “Halloa! O Le Langi, you been in Underworld?”
 And then I say “Yes.”
 And then crab say: “Did you ’appen to see beautiful
 Linger Loa, whom I once love mucher, she who once my wife?”
 Then I look at crab and say:
 “Why, yes! I did see Linger Loa! and she say to me:
 ‘Have you see old crab on shores by Savaii Isle?’
 And I say: ‘Yes!’
 And then she say, as she beat bosom liker this (here the chief punched
    his breast vigorously),_


 _‘O great O Le Langi, when you nex see the old crab, you tell him I
    still lover him much;
 And tell him that, when ten thousand moons have passed away,
 He once more be turn to chief by gods, and so
 Will come back to arms of poor Linger Loa who longer see ’im.’”_

“And what did the old crab say to all that, O Le Langi?” said I.

       _Ah me! The great chief-crab looker up at me with sad eyes.
       Then he sigh and walk sideways down to sea,
       And, shedding tears, plunged into the deep water._


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                     CHAPTER XI. R. L. S. IN SAMOA

        O Le Langi’s Influence—Heathen Magic—Poetic
        Aspirations—Ramao and Essimao-Samoan Types—Robert Louis
        Stevenson and the “Beautiful White Woman”—O Le Langi
        becomes a Part of the Forest—“Here Lies O Le Langi”—A
        Great Truth.


               Here, by a tiny pagan hut,
               A kid, star-eyed and brown,
               Chews off the milky coco-nut
               That grew just up the town!
               As I, my back turned t’wards the sun,
               Stare out across the seas
               Wherefrom strange melodies come in and run
               Across the Island’s trees.

AH, sublime poet O Le Langi! It was your elemental poetic genius, more
than the inspirations of the poets of my own land, that first turned my
thoughts to the magic of the seas, skies, travelling stars, and the
strange look in men’s eyes. ’Twas you who made me hear the ineffable
sounds of music, the visionary sights and the wonders of night and
moonlight in the forest. Yours was the mercy that lent me the ear to
hear the pleading voice of the unfledged song in the red-splashed bird’s
egg, till I carefully climbed back and laid it once more in the mossy
nest high in the banyans. It was you who inspired me to stand on the
palm-clad slopes, by the sapphire-hued Pacific waters, and see the
glorious mist of God’s breath pervade the circumambient life of this
mirror of a universe that shadows forth His infinite dreams. ’Twas you
who led me into the magic parlour of infinite splendour where birds,
goddesses, and gods sang and lifted their goblets of nectar, toasting in
song their joy and thanksgiving to the laughing, flying hours—hours that
peeped through the magic door of the sunrise. I too stood by that
wondrous shanty door, where the palms sang, and stretched my shadow-arm
to the skyline, while with goblet in hand I dipped and filled it to the
brim with the sparkling foam from the golden sunsets of the wine-dark
seas! Yes, Langi, I also drank the intoxicating ecstasy of those foaming
hours of crimson and golden light. Yet, Langi, I, sceptic that I was,
once doubted you when you stood by the moonlit waterfalls of the forest
and swore that you saw the silvery flowing beards and big jagged knees
of the gods. In the blindness of my worldly vision I swore that it was
nothing more than the foaming moonlit waters falling down the fern-clad
crags of the mountain’s side: no knees, no gigantic rugged faces of gods
at all! I even doubted that the dark, Old-Man-Frog’s hind-legs, as he
swam deep in the still depths of the star-mirroring water of the lagoon,
touched with his webbed feet and scattered the constellation of stars
that were the proud eyes of your mighty ancestors who ever watched over
you from the skies out to the north-west. Ah, how blind I was! But I
became a true pagan after that. It was I who taught you to sing the
songs of Cathay and the melodies of mediæval romance of Long Ago. Who
will believe that we heard the winds tolling the bells of Time, faintly,
far away in some infinite belfry of the stars, as the violin wailed and
your aged, cracked voice chanted? Yes, long ago, when strange, blue-eyed
Danes and Homeric sailormen from the semi-fabled seas threw silver coins
into our old collecting-calabash! I thank you and Heaven, O Le Langi,
that once I was rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Notwithstanding the
beauty and truth of the Christian apostles, it was you, old heathen, who
invested me with a glamour, threw over the shoulders of this dilapidated
catastrophe Me, a magical cloak, the texture whereof I am unable to
explain. That old cloak of many colours and glorious illusions has long
since been torn to a thousand shreds. But out of each old heap, the
_débris_ of shattered illusions, have blossomed, from the seeds of old
enchantments, other flowers. Beautiful too are the flowers of
disenchantment! But away with such rhapsodizing, for I must return as
gracefully as possible to my immediate memoirs.

About this time I had a recurrence of yellow jaundice. My liver was a
healthy one; but on my first visit to Samoa, a year before, I had
foolishly eaten of some red-berry fruit that turned out to be most
poisonous. I had, in consequence, suffered a serious illness. Indeed, I
had turned a yellowish-green, and finally had taken a voyage to Honolulu
to seek special medical advice. Whilst in Honolulu my visage became so
distressingly yellow and my aspect so melancholy that the chief
undertaker, Rami Sarhab, gave me fifteen dollars a week to act as chief
mute and mourner at the royal burial ceremonies. But even in this
capacity my services failed lugubriously; for I felt such pain in the
abdomen, was so intensely sad, that the envy expressed in my eyes and on
my bilious-green physiognomy for the deep, painless slumber of the
defunct was conspicuous to all eyes, as I walked ahead of the hearse,
endeavouring my best to mourn over the dreamless sleep of the departed.
Thank Heaven, my second attack of jaundice left me in a few days. A
local native physician, Rimoloo, recommended me to drink deeply of the
water from boiled yams and breadfruits flavoured with Holland gin; and
my delight on changing colour at the fourth gallon can be better
imagined than described to those who have drunk of the aforesaid
mixture.

While enjoying the congenial companionship of O Le Langi I deserted my
study of instrumental music and harmony and turned my thoughts to
poetry. A trader at Matautu, Savaii Isle, had presented me with a volume
of A. L. Gordon’s poems and Whitman’s _Leaves of Grass_. The perusal of
these volumes amidst romantic surroundings intensified the ardent love I
have ever felt for Nature in all her wildest moods. Indeed, I have often
stood before an aged, dying forest-tree and felt some affectionate
kinship with its sensate sorrow over its approaching dissolution.
Strange as it may seem to some, I must confess that old wooden ships,
deserted huts, stuffed birds, and the like have appealed to me far more
than the tender melodies of beautiful songs and the thrills of romantic
books. Even the thick mahogany wood of my arm-chair calls up vistas of
some mammoth tree of the southern forest. What song-birds settled on its
boughs to stay and sing awhile on their flight! And what wild men,
women, and weary children on the strange, long tribal march camped
beneath their shelter—the shelter of boughs that now encircle my
recumbent, dreaming form in this inn’s carven arm-chair!

I remember that, after reading Whitman’s poems, I began to write words
to the many melodies that I was continually composing. I was surprised
at the ease with which poetical ideas seemed to come to me. My brain
teemed with suitable poetic similes. But my workmanship was execrable.
Many of my lyrics were inspired by home-sickness. I recall that I wrote
about thirty songs. Probably three of them were good. I know that I set
a high value on those sentimental lyrics and that I placed them in my
tin box with my prized volume of E. Prout’s _Harmony and Counterpoint_,
so that they might be safe until that day when I could submit them to a
publisher. But no publisher’s musical editor ever had them inflicted
upon him. My ship, a year later, was wrecked off the Solomon Isles; and
I stood under the shore palms, with all my beloved inspirations at the
bottom of the ocean, and passed in review, so I grimly imagined, by the
tuneful mermaids of the coral seas. Many of the stranded sailors’
effects were washed ashore the next day, but were immediately snatched
up by the thieving natives, who bolted off with them into the mountain
villages. Perhaps those wild tattooed men got hold of my sacred tin box.
And if any talented cannibal sings my old songs, and is well up in the
mysteries of harmony and counterpoint, he has undoubtedly made greater
headway in that difficult art than I had in those days. But still, it is
something that I should be able to claim to be the first who introduced
E. Prout’s volume of _Harmony and Counterpoint_ into the cannibal
Solomon Isles.

I remember that O Le Langi asked me to translate the words of many of
his legendary poems into my own language. My heathen poet’s face lit up
with pride when I sang some of his songs in my own tongue, and with
equal pride made a forcible accent on the rhymes so that he could hear
how the lines went. O Le Langi at once enticed me to go with him round
the coast to Mootua, so that I might let his rival scribes hear how nice
his poems sounded when translated into the great Papalagi’s language. He
was so delighted with the obvious jealousy that was expressed on the
wrinkled faces of his rivals that he struck his chest thrice and flung
one hand behind his back. I discovered that this act of Langi’s was a
direct challenge to them to compose the words of a song as well as he.
One of the older scribes, at once accepting the challenge, stepped
forward and, swelling the magnificent hieroglyphic tattoo of his chest,
chanted an impromptu legend. Though I could not understand all the words
of this legendary improvization, I remember that the melody was so
effective that I extemporized with ease an accompaniment on my violin.
This brought forth a volley of applause from the whole tribe, who had
rushed from their huts to listen to the wonderful magic wood-scraping of
the white _Tusitala_ (maker of songs). For a while I quite expected
there would be a fight between the rivals. But things smoothed down. I
was finally awarded a calabash of kava, which I courteously placed to my
lips, and then, whilst the chiefs were talking, poured the contents into
the fern grass at my feet. At this moment the high chief’s daughter, a
sea-blue-eyed maid with a veritable forest of bronze-hued hair, fell on
one knee before me and started to sing a weird melody. For a moment I
was considerably embarrassed. I soon, however, recovered my wits, and
then I took her hand and bade her rise. My imagination clothed me with a
majesty which I had gathered from my old novels. And I distinctly recall
the admiration in the eyes of the onlookers as I slightly lifted my
helmet hat and then bowed as though I were some mighty king paying court
to a princess of a neighbouring dynasty. She handed me a beautifully
carved tortoise-shell comb from her hair, and the glance that
accompanied the gift cannot be divulged in mere words. I responded by
diving my hand into my breast pocket, and then handed her a really
valuable silver match-box. She blushed deeply, for the munificence of my
return gift was obvious. That same night O Le Langi and myself were the
chief guests at the festival board of the _fale fapule_ (chief house).
And as I sat at the head of the long low table and the steam rose from
the mighty dishes of roast pig and many indigenous fruit dishes, Essao’s
eyes, for that was her name, gave me swift, bright glances that told all
that a romantic Samoan maid’s eyes can tell when her heart warms to a
stranger. But, notwithstanding my ardent nature and the lure of her
bright eyes, I was saved from early matrimony, for when the head chief
caught me bowing gallant acknowledgments to his daughter’s eyes, his
brow wrinkled up into a tortuous map of disapproval.

Nevertheless, when O Le Langi and I left the village that night, Essao
gave me her tenderest secret glance and managed to present me with a
flower from her hair. Though I did not see her again, I wrote many
verses about her beauty.

I think that it was about this period that I wrote several of the poems
that were later on published in my little booklet of _Australian and
South Sea Lyrics_. This little booklet of verse, to my surprise and
pleasure, was highly praised in the literary journals in England, and
also brought me letters of encouragement from such men as Henry Newbolt,
William Michael Rossetti, and Robert Bridges.

But to proceed with those adventurous happy days when the light of the
great poet O Le Langi’s eyes shone upon me. Whilst stopping with Langi I
was down with severe fever. I was staying at the time in a native
homestead quite near to the aged scribe’s residence. Langi was very kind
to me, and secured the services of a native woman to attend to my wants.
This Samoan lady had a child who was about four years old. He was an
intelligent little fellow and had ocean-blue eyes and curly hair. When I
sat up on my bed-mat, tinkling melodies on my violin, Ramao, for that
was his name, would somersault with delight; then once again peep inside
the _F_ holes of my instrument to see where the music came from. Every
day he would run off into the forest to pluck flowers for me, and would
make my bed with soft moss, attending to my wants with the unremitting
solicitude of a lovable, innocent child. Heaven knows where he learnt
the weird songs that he sang to me as he sat by my bedside, swaying to
and fro like some elfin-child. Lying there stricken with fever, I would
stare into his beautiful, original eyes till the whole world seemed to
be singing in its happy childhood. I realized that the age of four was
the golden age of mortal existence, the age that understands the
grandest philosophy of life, the age when all the infinite possibilities
are as near consummation as they can well be in this world. Much that
had puzzled my wretched civilized brain as I listened to O Le Langi’s
long discourses became clear to me. Langi was not such a fool after all;
it was I who was the heathen! The iron laws of my country had sent me to
school so that my God-given wisdom should be strangled by dogmatic
heathenish teachers. I recalled how the great and splendidly religious
Langi had crashed his club down on his threshold, and in magnificent
declamatory style had said:

“Pah! Foolish white-skinned man, he come here with his mouldy skull full
of worms so that he may teach us also to grow old, scraggy, and full of
wretched wisdom. He hears not the voices of the gods murmuring in the
children’s babblings.” Then that aged scribe had laid his wrinkled hand
on my head, and in sonorous, melancholy tones had said: “O Papalagi, I
say, your people looker beyond the mountains at the stars for the wisdom
of the great waters when ’tis only to be heard in the sweet-toned shells
that are scattered on the sunny shores of childhood.”

So spake Langi. And I, who knew that we are born in fullest possession
of the divine faculties only that we may grow old and sad, had at once
become a true disciple of that glorious old heathen. Indeed, I almost
succeeded in realizing that the peoples of the civilized world were my
humble attendants, and that O Le Langi, crammed with mythology and
strange tales about sad old crabs, was a heathen Solomon arrayed in the
splendour of the stars. Langi could stand on the mountain peaks of
supreme “ignorance,” whisper into the ear of the universe, and,
listening, hear those Truths that only murmur in some great speech of
silence to the soul.

I know that the light of little Ramao’s eyes also filled my soul with
some strange, intuitive wisdom. When the little fellow opened his eyes
wide and said:

“Oh, listen, Papalagi, to the _O le mao_ bird as it sings to the light
of the mountain stars,” I did not hear a night-bird singing to its mate
in the banyan trees, but I heard a soft-feathered transmutation of a
blue day of ages ago singing tenderly, sadly, to some memory of its
birth in the rosy eternity of the east. Ramao’s presence in that hut,
where I lay sick with fever, cast a poetic glamour over my existence.
One evening he rushed into the hut, and, stooping down by my bed-mat,
swiftly covered my shoulders with the tappa-rug. Then he turned to the
doorway and gave a whistle, and softly called out:

“Essimao, come in and see wonderful white boy who play on magic wood.”

He had brought his sister to see me. There she stood, a charming little
maid of about seven years, peeping curiously at me through the half-open
doorway. I called her; and, as though she had been born for the purpose
of waiting on men in sickness, she straightway squatted by me and
commenced to sing. Her voice rippled from her lips like the
deep-stealing music of a forest stream. Rising to her feet she swayed
softly, and it seemed that the rhythm of music rose and fell in tiny
billows along the graceful movements of her limbs. Her laughter was
sweetest balm to my fevered soul. She was a perfect little gipsy of the
sea-nursed south. I know that if the delightful George Borrow, that true
lover of the Romany Chile, had reached the South Seas and had seen
Essimao place a seashell to her ear and swear that she could hear the
big _moani ali_ (ocean) beating on the shores of God’s mountain
footstools, he would, I am sure, have devoted pages to the beauty of
Essimao and the religious influence her presence inspired. I know that
she impressed me more than all the Psalms could do. The sayings of the
Apostles and the teachings of Confucius, down to those of Kant and
Strindberg, etc., are as nothing to me when compared with the wisdom and
charm of little Essimao and Ramao’s four infinite years. Those little
philosophers made me realize, long ago, the cursed irony of the fates in
decreeing that man should be born the wrong way up, so that we grow old
instead of young. But my memory does not betray me when I assert here
that O Le Langi was an exception, a phenomenon who had outwitted the
fates, had never grown out of his wise, resplendent infancy. Like the
child of four years, he was still a mighty philosopher, a true
socialist, romanticist, individualist, poet, humorist, spritualist,
realist, optimist, pessimist, mystic, maniac, prophet, and one who had
the transcendentalist’s belief in a Supreme Being; and lo, all this
encased in one skull crammed with the divine light that we are all
gifted with when we are four years old. Ah, the wondrous book that an
imaginative child of four years could give us could it write down its
impressions, its own outlook on life and all that it imagines about this
world! What marvellous truths would its great unworldliness spring upon
us! Once, when I lay near to death, Ramao lay on one side of me and
Essimao on the other, placing their fingers in sympathy through my hair.
I felt that I had travelled so far that I had stumbled on the edge of
the earth that is nearest the heavens. Perhaps I digress unduly in my
reflections over Ramao and Essimao, when it is only children in the
hey-day of life’s philosophical prime who can understand the truth of
that which I say. Few may believe the virtues that I claim for my old
friend Langi and these children. Langi, who had read many of the
abridged editions of the standard works, cursed the outrageous vanity of
white men. His nervous, sensitive nostrils would dilate, his sonorous,
eloquently violent voice ringing out like the mellow poetry of old bells
as he declaimed:

“Pah! What am this white Papalagi more than a pale-skinned thief of the
night? Am he not the dark misbeliever who slay our mighty gods and doubt
their virtues—and us?”

“True! true! O mighty O Le Langi!” I’d say, as I listened in
incorrigible delight, while with chin and hand raised to the sky he
spoke on:

“The white Papalagi am one great hypocrite, who loveth the earth, money,
and old clothes—neither doth he smell over-sweet! Where? Where is this
God who had power to fashion this white man, yet, lo, made some First
Great Mistake—since I am brown?” And saying this, O Le Langi dashed his
coco-nut-shell goblet to the ground, and exclaimed: “Think you ’tis wise
His faults to change?” And still he would rave on in this wise: “I say,
O Papalagi, had the first white man discovered my people living in one
great town that had a leaning tower, and one rotunda and nicer
cathedrals with great stained-glass windows, they would have said: ‘O
great Samoan Peoples! God’s eyelight doth shine in thy sight; your
women, too, are beautiful as the stars and flowers. O wondrous brown
men, I greet you, Allelujah!’” Then, wiping the tears of tense emotion
from his eyes, he wailed forth: “Alas, my people lived in huts,
therefore were severely belaboured with rods and their daughters sold
into slavery and worshipped only for their bodies’ beauty.”

Even as I write I can hear O Le Langi sigh: “Alas! Alas! Papalagi the
faithful,” as his ghost peers over my shoulder to-night as I pen these
memoirs. Yes, O Le Langi could see “Heaven in a wild flower and Eternity
in a grain of sand.” Little Ramao, too, felt quite equal to the white
men, and honestly claimed everything from the stars down to my boots and
my violin. He even claimed my parents’ photographs which I kept in my
tin box, for he placed them carefully in the folds of his lava-lava when
I was not looking—true little socialist that he was. And, when he fell
from the palm tree, whilst seeking coco-nuts, and broke his back, he
died with a smile on his lips that had God’s philosophy in it.

The tears fell fast from O Le Langi’s eyes when he said:

“O Papalagi, the seas do roll on for ever, but man go back to his
fathers.”

Then the winds sighed mournfully in the coco-palms, and O Le Langi
softly dug his fingers into the heap of soft-scented mould, and dropped
the first lump of earth down on to Ramao’s dead, smiling face.

“Aue! Aue!” wailed the stricken mother, as we turned away from the
graveside. And three or four little children who had stood watching the
burial procession from the shades of the flamboyant trees, cried: “Wa
noo! Wa noo!” and then disappeared in some fright down the forest
tracks. Such was the end of Ramao as the sunset fired the far-off sea
horizon. The cicalas were chrruping in the belts of mangroves as we
arrived once more at Langi’s homestead.

For a long time after that sad incident I fancied I could hear some wail
of sorrow in the mournful monotones of the waves that incessantly beat
against the barrier reefs. But the splendid reality of the hot sunlight
again came over the world. Again Time turned the withered pages of each
blue tropic day, pages that faded into the yellowing of each sunset.
Flowers on the slopes grew musical with bees. Fierce happiness reigned
in the tribal villages along the coast as the old chiefs chanted their
savage memories of olden time and the children thumped toy drums.
Bright-eyed maidens and amorous youths laughed and sang. Then O Le Langi
enticed me to go off troubadouring with him.

“We maker lot moneys, O Tusitala!” said he.

And so I went, and O Le Langi carried my violin as we tramped miles and
miles visiting the coast villages. Sometimes we hired a canoe and
paddled to the many islets of the Samoan group. With his tappa robe
wrapped about him, the tasselled end flung cavalier-wise over one
shoulder, O Le Langi would stand with chin raised as he stood in the old
tribal forums of many a lonely native village, chanting melodiously as I
played on my violin. Even the white men, traders and sailors in the
grog-bars near Matautu, down by the beach on Savaii Isle, left their rum
mugs, strode to the bar doorway, listened and stared, as Langi told
wonderful things about his old gods, pointing magnificently to the
trees, the distant mountains and seas, calling them mighty witnesses of
all which he would claim for the beauty of his legendary world. The old
shellbacks opened their eyes in astonishment, tugged their beards, spat
seaward, and stared again, as the earnest note in his voice gained even
their ragged respect. It must have been a strange sight as my pagan
brother-artist stood before them, clothed in the majesty of a past
tribal chiefdom and the glory of a proud imagination that they could not
understand. But what cared I, as with fiddle to my chin I played on, my
helmet hat tilted back on my head, till O Le Langi’s wheezy voice gave
the final chant ere he snatched that dilapidated shelter from the tropic
sun off my head, and held it under the eyes of those sunburnt men from
the seas!

Ah, memory of Langi and true romance! Great, unlaurelled poet of the
South Seas, how satisfied you were with your earthly existence! How
satisfied with the poetic fame you achieved as your kind critics cast
coins of approval into my shabby helmet hat—that old hat that held the
joy and romance of my youth and all that was wealth inexhaustible to
you—and me! Often in my deeper dreams I see you standing beneath your
beloved palms near Apia as you watch the gold of the setting sun sinking
into the western seas. Ah, kind old heathen, again I see your grim
glance when you look at the woebegone faces of the missionaries as they
pass you by; and, as you watch them, I see your aged lips smile and
quiver into that poetic grin that seems to say:

“There, but for God’s mercy, goes O Le Langi!”

                  *       *       *       *       *

As some may think I have overestimated the comeliness and mentality of
the majority of the old-time Samoans, I would like to give other
opinions than my own on the subject before finishing this chapter. First
of all, I would mention that all observant, able authorities who have
travelled, and written about the South Seas, have remarked upon the fine
physique and general attractiveness of the Polynesian races. In my
profession, and I was bandmaster of the king’s bodyguard band in Hawaii,
in Tahiti, and again in Mexico, etc., I had many opportunities of
hearing the opinions of the various representatives of the Missionary
Societies, and they were very often men of refined tastes, and so
competent to judge. These men all seemed to share my opinion with
respect to the manliness and refinement of the Samoans. Of course, a
difference of opinion is bound to exist, for, to be sure, there is a
class of men who, by an inherent obliquity of mental vision, see all the
coloured races as something semi-bestial and unworthy of a white man’s
interest and sympathy.

I once had the pleasure of arriving in Apia with Monsieur Bassaire, a
well-known French artist. I vividly recall his astonishment and
admiration when he first saw the Samoans who came on deck to welcome us
when we arrived off Mulinuu. Nor was Bassaire’s surprise to be wondered
at, for the handsome, sun-bronzed, herculean figures of the Samoan men
were shown off to tremendous advantage as they stood on deck amongst the
slop-shouldered, thick-necked German crew. Bassaire, who had travelled
in New Guinea in 1879 with James Chalmers, the God-fearing, adventurous
missionary,[7] was touring the world, and was taking sketches of the
various races of mankind. I know that he was pleased with his artistic
work in Samoa. Bassaire was introduced to Robert Louis Stevenson, and it
was whilst they were in each other’s company that I heard R. L. S.
comment on the clear complexions of the Samoans. We were in the
photographer’s studio in Apia, and Stevenson was examining some of the
photographs. The photographer told us that, though hundreds of native
girls and youths presented themselves at his studio in hopes that they
would make photographs of commercial value for book illustrations and
for selling to tourists, he was invariably able to choose only two, or
three at most, who possessed the thick lips and sensual features that
coincided with the stock European idea of the South Sea type. Indeed,
when Stevenson glanced through the albums, he actually mistook some of
the photographs of the Samoans, which were toned in a light shade, for
Europeans. R. L. S. remarked that he considered that in some ways the
Samoans were amongst the handsomest races to be found in the world.
However, they become slightly broad in the nose as they get older and
the lips become sensual-looking; the skin, which in youth is of a golden
hue, deepens to a tawny hue with age, the complexion becoming swarthy,
something akin to that of the Spanish, Italian, Southern French, and the
darker types of British. Of course, these remarks refer to the
true-blooded types of over twenty years ago. Through intermarriage with
Mongolians, Negroes, Malays, Papuans, and low-caste British, the
herculean Samoan is becoming a very rare individual indeed. The
statue-like figure is becoming bent and dwarfed, the full, clear eyes
crafty-looking. I know that the surviving children of the old race, who
now roam those palm-clad slopes, struck me, on a later day, as a kind of
human rainbow, some aftermath that sadly reflected the tropic suns, the
light and laughter of other brighter days. For now one meets all kinds
of complexion—yellowish, brownish, white-blotched, mauve, greenish,
tawny, and black, and eyes as multitudinous in colour as their own
tropic flowers. At times it is hard to tell the half-caste from the
pure-blooded white man or woman.

Footnote 7:

  The author met James Chalmers in Apia and again at Port Moresby, New
  Guinea. Chalmers was a splendid type of the earnest missionary—manly,
  sincere, and brave, and a true Bohemian. He was murdered by New Guinea
  cannibals a few years ago.

The last remark recalls to my mind a little incident that it may not be
out of place to mention here. Robert Louis Stevenson heard that a white
woman was residing near Matautu, Savaii Isle. He at once made up his
mind to go and see this lady—a natural enough wish in those remote
isles, “where white men will tramp miles to catch a glimpse of a white
woman.” Well, R. L. S. hired a boat from a half-caste who was a
store-keeper, and with whom I was staying at that time. And so it
happened that I and the mate of a schooner had the pleasure of
accompanying R. L. S. in the boat. After a long, very wearying row from
Manono, for it was a terrifically hot day, we arrived off the coast of
Savaii. Even then we had to go ashore and tramp over two miles before we
could reach the bungalow where the white lady resided. When we did
arrive, Stevenson was nearly “dead-beat,” and struck me as irritated and
fatigued. It was with much relief that the three of us at length passed
under the shade of the mango-trees that sheltered the approach to the
bungalow.

“Where’s the white lady?” said Stevenson, speaking in rather a sharp
manner to a tawny-looking female who wore a small dark moustache and
happened to be looking out of the bungalow’s doorway. To our
astonishment the woman screwed her mouth up and shrieked out:

“What white lady?—damn yer eyes!”

Stevenson’s consternation and my own can be better imagined than
described, when I say that the sun-tanned, brown-skinned, vulgar-looking
woman who addressed us was the beautiful white lady herself! And, if I
may say so, she was a good specimen of the white lady to be found in the
South Seas in those days.

“’ave a beer, old party?” she said to R. L. S., who had astutely
apologized and cursed the hot sunlight that, shining in his eyes, had
made him so colour-blind.

Stevenson’s tact, after that grievous mistake, had a magical effect on
the manners of our countrywoman. She fastened a flower on R. L. S.’s
coat.

“Say when!” she said to the mate, as she clutched the gin bottle,
holding it high as she filled the glass.

Then she smacked me on the back, and filled with beer a huge receptacle
that looked like one of those fancy glasses wherein one keeps goldfish.
I think Stevenson had whisky. I know he enjoyed the situation. The lady
made eyes at R. L. S. and the mate too. She swore and behaved with the
convivial vulgarity that is the sole prerogative of the low-caste
British woman. I know that the Samoan servant-maid blushed as her
mistress complained of the “’orrible ’eat,” and pulled her dress down
below her Camberwell-South-East bosom. Who she was, why she was there
alone in that bungalow, only God knows. I recall that she nudged
Stevenson in the ribs and said she came from “Camberwool Sarth-East.”
She swore at everything in Samoa, and said that she never went “art of a
night because she knew the blasted natives were cannyballs!” Stevenson’s
face during all this was a perfect study in self-control and amused
politeness; and nothing off the stage could possibly outrival his
simulated interest and his convivial ejaculation of “Well now!” as she
finished each breezy yarn and ribald joke.

The mate was a London man.

“Do you remember the ‘Pig and Whistle’?” she screamed, as she plunged
into reminiscent talk about the “old homeland,” smacked the mate on the
shoulder, and pinched my leg! She insisted on fillng our glasses again
and again. She commenced to sing. Her wild, silvery laughter rippled
about our ears, mesmerized us all, and made the roosting parakeets in
the orange-trees outside rise, flutter and shriek with fright. Stevenson
was the first to attempt to withdraw from that little realistic drama of
life in a South Sea bungalow. His æsthetic, intellectual-looking face
became shadowed with a fierce determination as the wild familiarities of
the woman asserted themselves. He bowed with urbane politeness as he
rose from the table.

“Git the gentleman’s ’at, yer little brown-skinned slut!” she yelled.

In a moment the trembling Polynesian maid made a dive for Stevenson’s
old peaked cap. Stevenson was still expressing in his politest terms the
pleasure he felt at meeting the lady in the island.

“Stow it, yer son of a gun! No politeness ’ere! You know where to find
me, and _don’t_ forget me when yer comes this way!” she said, as we
passed through the doorway.

Stevenson nearly fell down her bungalow’s five steps as she yelled forth
a volley of ribald farewells. The relief of that parting was very
evident on Stevenson’s face. He chuckled like a schoolboy when we had
embarked and were all rowing our hardest, far away, safe out at sea.

But to return to O Le Langi. Many of the old-time chiefs of Langi’s type
were faithful to their old creeds in many ways, and lived just as they
had done in the heathen days. Indeed, Langi lived as though white men
had never trod on his isles. He was deeply imbued with the old
commercial spirit. Like the mediæval merchants of Cathay who travelled
far with their scented merchandise, Langi would go wandering from
village to village and isle to isle. True enough, he did not travel with
a camel across mighty deserts, but was his own caravan; for he carried,
by the aid of a large calabash slung over his own hump, not sandalwood,
topazes, diamonds, and opals for mummies’ eyes, but set off with pink
shells, corals, tappa-cloth, and magic charms that had been warmed by
the soft bosoms of mighty queens on their wedding-nights. These charms
were small precious stones that he ran through his fingers whilst
mumbling his pagan prayers.

“What may they be, those little shining stones, O mighty O Le Langi?”
said I one night, as he trickled the gems through his fingers and gazed
in a most mysterious way on the stars. He then informed me that they
were the old magic jewels of the ancient Samoan dynasty, and their value
was beyond all price. It turned out that they had once been threaded on
the skeins of a maiden’s hair so that they might be warmed on the virgin
bosom of her whom a king was about to take to wife. It appeared that on
the eve of the wedding the royal bride slept with the stones warm on her
bosom, and that the warmth imparted to them was the sapphire and ruby
light which shone in their depths as Langi ran them through his fingers.

One may wonder how O Le Langi obtained possession of the magic Crown
jewels of the old Samoan dynasty; but he was a true scribe and,
possibly, knew the ropes. Even in my time, kings and queens were not too
severe in Court etiquette. Here I will simply say that, through
possessing a bottle of the best Holland gin, I have received the highest
Court honours from South Sea Royalty. Indeed, I was once offered a
princess’s hand in marriage, as well as being presented with the
“freedom of the pagan city,” because the half-blind old king (in the
Paumotou group) had been told by his head chief that I had a flask of
the best Jamaica rum in my coat pocket. I seldom visited South Sea
Royalty without a bottle of gin on my person.

Langi never tired of expatiating on the beauty of the Samoan and
Marquesan maidens of his youth. He would lift his chin to the sky, and
curse the day when the maids were forced by the missionaries to wear the
Europeans’ cast-off clothing.

“Ugh! O Papalagi of the spirit-finger, we no do cover the flowers with
stink-cloth and so hide the loveliness of their leaves; then why, I say,
should new-time fool-men cover nicer girls, women, and mans down to
feets?”

So raved O Le Langi, as I sympathetically muttered: “True! true, O
mighty Langi!”

But it must be admitted that the long pink and blue-striped
night-gown-like attire of the maids suited them admirably. It was a
pretty sight to see a flock of native girls running along the shore
sands, delighting in the windy dishevelment, as they stooped and
clutched the gowns that were lifted from their ankles as the warm,
seductive winds blew in. And it must be confessed that many maids who
delighted in brown stockings would sit out on the shore reefs purposely
to court the flirtatious of the winds as the handsome native youths
passed by.

Though I have recorded the aforesaid incidents, they appear trivial
enough when I think of the wonders of pagan life and the poetic mystery
of a South Sea forest that flashes on the inward eye. I myself have more
than once completely lost my civilized individuality and become part of
the South Sea forest scene. I remember that O Le Langi once took me away
to a secret witch-hut in the forest near Mootua. Sunset had already
thrown the silent wooded depths into deep shadow when Langi, who was
creeping along just ahead of me, heard a suspicious noise, and suddenly
stood perfectly still: his tattooed wrinkled form had become a part of
the forest! his arms instinctively bent, twisted at the elbows,
represented two short, broken branch stumps. Lo! he was no longer O Le
Langi, but was a gnarled spotted tree-trunk with blinkless eyes and
carved to resemble man, apparently lifeless, as he stood with ears alert
among the aged banyan stems! Well, just as Langi’s primitive instincts
came to his assistance and made him unrecognizable, I too have become a
part of the forest. I do not say that I have turned into a human
tree-stump; but I have stood alone in the silent depths and felt my
inner life become one with the old trees around me. It was as though my
conscious life was splashed in spiritual colours over the leaves. I felt
some old sense exude from my being, like warm blood, and dye the forest
depth with the sunset’s golden glory and poetic mystery that lay hushed
on the branched luxuriant tropical growth about me.

Of O Le Langi’s musical ability I can say but little. It would require a
genius to describe the universal music of his gifts. He was a true
primitive literary man and, therefore, like most true literary men, was
a musician in the deeper meaning of that word. Langi could hear the
grandeur of Creation’s harmony and that still, small voice of humanity
that cannot possibly express itself by fiddling on catgut or blowing on
brass. I can only say that Langi wrote a great symphony that my memory
has vainly striven to play in these after years. The memory of his face
and deep-set, poetic eyes seems to me as of some weird, conscious
embodiment of all the sublimity of the rugged mountains and sunlit
palms, the unheard harmonies of the moon-ridden seas and lagoons from
Samoa to the Solomons, and again from Fiji to Tahiti and the far-off
Poutomous. Those old forests are, to me, O Le Langi’s now dead whitening
bones, where through the warm sea-winds whistle wonderful legends that
his tongue once uttered forth.

It was years after that I went to Apia again and stood by his grave. It
is situated by Safata village. I noticed that they had placed a wooden
cross over the spot, and on it was written:

                     “Here lies O Le Langi.
                      Died Feb. 14, 1908.”
        “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

He had undoubtedly been buried by the residential ecclesiastics; and the
spiritual text chosen by them for his memorial cross showed, to me at
least, that missionaries often speak great truths about dead men.

                  *       *       *       *       *

I had it in my mind to finish this chapter with a critical discourse on
native and European styles of music; but I feel that I am not able to do
the subject justice. I am too liable to be influenced by the maze of
melodies that are always playing in the great invincible orchestral
world of my memory. There are some, too, who would consider my taste for
music decidedly vulgar. Indeed, one night, whilst stopping at an old inn
on my north-west travels, I heard a barrel-organ being played outside on
the main country road. Looking out of the window, I saw a
melancholy-visaged, white-whiskered, weird-looking foreigner turning the
handle of a derelict barrel-organ that stood on one leg. It was an old
melody that it played, a ballad that I had been familiar with in my
childhood. Its dismal groan thrilled my soul. It took me across the
years! I heard the laughter of my brothers and sisters and the forgotten
strummings of the old piano. The old inn was transmuted—it stood on the
grey night-hills of another age. I peeped through the window-blind and
saw that weird old organ-grinder, just visible by the mingy gleam of the
one lamp-post’s flickering light. He had a strange look about him. He
wore a most suitable slouched hat, too! He seemed to me some ambassador
of Fate who had been sent out of the night to appeal to my soul. I
fancied that the stars and the moon went round as he turned that handle.
“Play on! Play on!” I gasped mentally; and so the vision of sight and
sound continued, yes, as I listened to the grand opera of my existence.
The semi-sad, half-gay ballad that he played touched my heart-strings;
the stars waved bright hands, dead laughter and beautiful,
half-forgotten voices of long ago murmured to the wailing accompaniment
of the poplar-trees that surely sighed over old memories just across the
road. I even saw the ghost of the little, curly-headed Italian
troubadour girl creep into our old front garden again, and once more
commence to play “Santa Lucia” on her accordion. What _maestro_ ever
played as soulfully as she played for my ears?—Her voice? Oh, music
inexpressibly beautiful! Ah, the cleverness of that surreptitious
special smile for me, as she peered sideways through her thrush-brown
tresses up at our castle window! I thought of my passion for her, of my
betrothal to that pretty, red-rose-lipped vagabondess of the south when
I was ten years old; of my austere father’s wrath when our plans for the
elopement were discovered, of my mother’s horror—and of my shame! Alas!
Let men and women go to the grand opera, let the mighty cathedral organs
of the world thunder and moan till their hearts are touched; but oh,
give me a one-legged barrel-organ under the poplar trees outside the
window of some old inn—playing “Santa Lucia” after dark!


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



                   CHAPTER XII. A MOHAMMEDAN BANQUET

        A Child of American Democracy—Rajah
        Barab—Barbarossa—Brown-Slave traffic Methods—Motavia’s
        Grave—The Magic Casement—The Splendour of Rose-coloured
        Spectacles—Mohammedanistic Desires—Giovanni’s Love
        Affairs—Exit Barab.


I WAS more than pleased to make the acquaintance of Giovonni as I
wandered about Apia. This newfound comrade was a clever artist on the
guitar, and our kindred tastes and mutual cashlessness was the direct
cause of our forming a trio for troubadour purposes. To our great
satisfaction, we came across another who was in a hard-up state: he was
a derelict Yankee sailorman, and he told us he had been an operatic
singer in his youth. Whether he strayed from the truth in swearing that
he had charmed select audiences by his vocal accomplishments, I cannot
say. I _do_ know that, when he sang, his peculiar twang and
extraordinary facial contortions at our wandering concerts amply made up
for the disinteresting drone of his wheezy voice. He accompanied
Giovanni and myself on our wanderings for many miles, as we visited
Savaii Isle and the old townships, Palaulae, Asaua, Matautu, Safune,
Monono, also Sufatea, and all the important native villages. Our Yankee
comrade’s swashbuckling deportment at our numerous engagements at the
high-class native _fale-po-ula_ (court dance houses) caused Giovanni and
myself a good deal of embarrassment. The fact is that his facial
contortions and voice seemed to appeal especially to the seasoned
shellbacks and traders who congregated outside the grog-shanties as we
stood beneath the palms and sang and played on our instruments. And if
it is a complimentary sign to have had a large bouquet in the shape of a
putrid crab put into the collecting calabash-dish at our great mixed
concert-festival down at Apia, then, all I can say is that the mêlée
that followed the aforesaid donation was a decided success. Anyhow,
Billy-goat whiskers, for so we called him, was not to blame. He was the
natural child of a vast Republic that has no historical, dynastic
background such as the Samoans and most of the South Sea races can claim
in their history. Consequently Billy-goat whiskers had based all his
ideas and ideals on the tinker-president-everyman-as-good-as-another
creed, and he was a fine specimen of the Yankee swanker. The American is
unborn who could imitate the splendid bearing that distinguishes a
Fijian or Samoan chief. Most of the savage races have a splendid
historical and legendary background that has influenced their actions
from earliest childhood, much the same as French boys are influenced by
the elegant bearing and gallant manners of the characters in their
country’s historical novels, such as Dumas’ works, etc. And so our
Yankee’s apparently vulgar ways were only the perfectly natural
expression of a great democracy that has grown out of the soul of the
people. But our pal was a brave, right down good fellow. His one fault
was rum and gin. He carried his rum-flask, beard-comb, and pack of cards
in a large handkerchief that was emblazoned with the stars and stripes.
He had short, supple legs, and could suck his big toe like a baby. I can
swear to that peculiarity of his, for when he had a touch of the D.T.’s
he sat up in bed the whole night long and made a most irritating noise
while using his big toe as a dummy in lieu of whisky. But, withal, it is
not my intention to write about our Yankee comrade. I will just finish
him off by saying that it was he who introduced us to Rajah Barab the
Mohammedan. Rajah Barab was a Malayo-Indian. He had once lived in German
New Guinea, but for sound reasons had hastily migrated to Samoa. He
lived just outside Apia.

Though this Mohammedan’s dwelling looked like some three-roomed
cow-shed, it was really the deserted ancestral hall of the great chief O
Le Sula Motavia, a heathen divine who had had his skull blown off in the
tribal war of 1885. This dwelling was situated about two miles
south-west, on the slopes of Vaea and not so far from Robert Louis
Stevenson’s old home, Vailima. And while O Le Sula Motavia slept on in
his cold bed within eight yards of his ancestral front door, with the
large orange tree spread above, and the blue jungle flowers blowing over
him, Rajah Barab, the sinful Mohammedan, sat in Motavia’s old halls
drinking deeply, as warm-eyed native girls danced and sang before him.
Now this old heathen’s homestead had not been turned exactly into a
_tambu-house_ after the New Guinea style, for Barab had no idols within.
But, to make up for those wooden images that were usually carved so as
to express a heathen’s ideas of Venus and jovial Bacchus, Barab himself
would stand erect so that the native maidens could worship the light of
his living eyes and kneel in complete obeisance at his sandalled feet.
He made a fine idol. He was a tall, broad-shouldered sinner. He wore a
richly-coloured turban and waist-swathing which he well knew pleased the
eyes of romantic Samoan girls. Perhaps his chief adornment was his long
iron-grey beard. He swore by it and pulled it thoughtfully when he
appeared to meditate over his infinite wisdom. And when he squatted
half-erect on his fibre mat before the admiring, awestruck maids, his
eyes had a far-away gaze in them that seemed to have kinship with the
_vers libre_ and the poetic grin that enshrined his ugly mug. I say
“mug” because it resembled the rim of a mug, and did not look like a
human mouth at all. And _I_ should know, because I was a witness of his
far-away-looking gaze and poetic grin, for I dined with him. Truth to
tell, Rajah Barab had plenty of cash, and so Giovanni and myself, both
in a cashless state, were compelled to accept the liberal fee which he
offered us should we perform on our instruments at one of his special
Mohammedan festivals. Our Yankee friend was down with the delirium
tremens at Apia at the time. It was unfortunate, because I know that he
would have been a great help to us that night.

When Giovanni and I arrived at the festival in question there were
several young Indian bloods present amongst the visitors. It was a
select gathering, inasmuch as Barab had invited only those whose sensual
desires were akin to his own. The moon was well up, and not only were
the palms visible around his tambu-temple, but also the native maids who
danced beneath them. Ava and gin were plentiful. Barab stood under the
large palm tree, pulling his revered beard and swearing by his Malayan
gods and Allah as he watched the scene. As Giovanni rippled pizzicatos
from his guitar and I played my violin, we watched the scene with
intense interest. There was something phantom-like about the whole
business as the girls danced amongst the gnarled pillars of that
primitive forest-hall of giant trees. The native girls, who had stolen
away from the solicitude of the missionaries, gave muffled screams of
delight and did such high kicks that the coco-nut-oil lamps swayed
violently. I might say that these lamps hung from the palm branches that
were immediately over the dancers’ heads. One maid was decidedly
attractive. Her name was Barbarossa. She was tastefully arrayed in some
diaphanous material that reached down to her ankles. Flowers bedecked
her thick, wavy hair that rolled loose over her neck and shoulders.
Moonlight somehow intensified the musical rhythm and charm of her form,
as she swerved in many semi-barbarian postures. While all this was going
on, Barab squatted on his old coco-nut-fibre mat, his body erect. His
pose was that of an Indian seer, and the chant that he mumbled added to
the peculiar weirdness of the scene. Even the low-caste Samoans, who
stood aside watching the performance, called out, “Talofa! Talofa!”
demanding an encore when Barbarossa finished her dance. As soon as the
dance was over, someone banged a drum, and that barbarian thump seemed
to echo in my heart and made me drop my fiddle, so startled was I. For
though my kind ancestors handed down to me a pair of rose-coloured
spectacles so that I might see life as they saw it, they also presented
me with a nervous temperament; consequently anything of a sudden
surprise is peculiarly hateful to me. This inherited nerve of mine was
possibly the cause of my accepting the drink of gin and lime-juice that
Barab so artfully offered to Giovanni and myself as we sat that night at
the festival board of his tambu-harem. Giovanni sat beside Barbarossa,
and I sat right opposite them. I was wedged in by Barab on one side of
me and a Malay Chinaman on the other side. I confess here that I felt
the degradation of my position, and can assume from that fact that I
must have been perfectly sober. It was a low, long table lit up by a
host of small hanging-lamps that were suspended from the wooden ceiling
by threads from sennit string. I remember that the girls, who sat along
each side, were all more or less in a maudlin condition as the fumes of
the gin and “ava” rose to their weak, feminine brains. My memory is a
brilliant one! I distinctly recall the wonder and feverish look that
shone in their dark eyes as the glasses clinked, when Barab and the few
remaining young bloods of his kidney roared forth toasts to their
beauty. I even remember the smell of the Chinaman who sat next to me.
You can always smell a Chinaman; it is a peculiar odour that suggests
something between orange-pekoe and chloroform, and is not absolutely
offensive unless you happen to be chewing delicate food when he is by.
As the maids drank on, Barab grew extremely excited, and banged his
fists on the low table in some wild delight of anticipation. Poor
Giovanni had fallen madly in love with Barbarossa. The fact was only too
evident by all that he did. True enough, Barbarossa was the queen of the
evening. As she sat there at the table, her eyes ashine and her loosened
tresses stirred by the scented winds that blew through the open doorway,
she looked out of place amongst the other thick-lipped, sensual-looking
girls. It was very evident, by the look in Barab’s eyes, that he
regarded her as the _pièce de résistance_ of that festival meeting.
However, Giovanni was handsome and Barab’s chances were small. Giovanni
was evidently not letting the grass grow under his feet. I shall simply
state that he behaved like the true Italian cavalier that he was, and
that I more than once lifted my glass and drank secretly to my pal’s
success in his romantic courtship. I felt a bit muddled, it was all so
unexpected and sudden. At that time I was not aware that Barab’s
festival programme was to get the girls quite drunk and then close and
tightly bolt the door of his tambu-house. I really thought that he had
taken a violent fancy to Barbarossa and intended to offer her his
swarthy hand in marriage according to the Malay Mohammedan rites. I must
admit that I was not at all aware of the Malay Mohammedan marriage rite
procedure when one of the sect took a fancy to a certain maid. I know
that Barbarossa was an innocent girl. I discovered afterwards that she
had been enticed to attend that festival by a dissolute native
missionary who had accepted a large bribe from Barab. Just as there are
dissolute houses in European cities, where men indulge in the
white-slave traffic, so were there establishments for trafficking
purposes in Samoa, and Barab’s house was one of them. When Giovanni and
I saw through the drift of the whole vile business, we determined that
pretty Barbarossa should not fall into Barab’s clutches if we could help
her. We both knew that Barab had a bad reputation; and, though he was
our host and had paid us well, our self-respect should have prevented us
from accepting his money. But it must be confessed here that Giovanni
and I were not to be numbered amongst those virtuous folk who would
rather die than sell their honour. Alas, many and many a time I would
much rather have sold my honour than nearly died! The best of men have
their weaknesses. I know that even that dear old tattooed clergyman, O
Le Langi, had often fallen before the lure of a few half-crowns when
victuals were scarce.

As soon as the festival itself was finished, Giovanni and I stole
outside the tambu-house and talked the matter over. In a very little
time we had decided to secure Barbarossa’s person by force sooner than
she should fall into Barab’s hands.

“Ah, comrado, he cursed una vipera!” said my Italian chum. Then he
looked at me sadly and said: “Will you stick to me, and mine friend be?”

“I will!” I responded most emphatically. Giovanni was a big lump of a
fellow and had courage written in the light of his magnificent eyes;
also, the idea of rescuing Barbarossa from her peril suited my
temperament exactly. We counted out the cash that Barab had given us
directly the feast was over, then we looked significantly at each other,
for he had paid us several marks more than were due to us. “He wants to
get rid of us at once, no doubt of that,” was my reflection, as I looked
at Giovanni’s handsome face and then on the moonlit solitude of the
mountain slopes around dead Motavia’s old homestead. Then we walked
back, treading very softly through the jungle as we approached the tambu
shed. Already the small lamp-lights on the palms and within those wooden
walls were burning low. We listened, and heard the low wail of some
Malayan chanty; then the drunken song ceased.

“What’s that?” whispered Giovanni. The door had suddenly opened, and we
saw two of the young bloods departing. Off they went, with three drunken
native girls staggering between them. So brilliant was the light of the
moon that we distinctly observed the girls’ faces as they tossed their
legs and shook the brass arm-lets, and kissed the shoulders of the men
who were leading them away. As soon as the men were out of sight we
listened again. All was quiet; it was evident that most of the girls who
remained within the tambu had fallen off into drunken slumber.
Barbarossa had sung her swan-song (so thought Rajah Barab). We heard a
click; the Rajah had closed the door and bolted it! That much we
discovered as we crept around the walls of that den and endeavoured to
see what was going on within.

“Wait a bit!” said Giovanni, as we suddenly heard someone commence to
drone out a weird heathen melody. It was a girl’s voice. Then all was
silent again. We both knew that Barab would soon be drunk and in a
suitable condition for our immediate desires, and so we strolled up and
down under the palms. Then we heard the _O Le mao_ commence to sing
somewhere up in the lime trees.

“It’s pretty silent now; that bird wouldn’t sing if there were any
suspicious noises about,” said I.

“Yes, comrade, ’tis so,” whispered Giovanni, pushing his curls off his
forehead and puffing his cigarette. I noticed that his lips were tightly
set as he swung his huge, knotted stick to and fro and gave swift
glances towards the dark-walled homestead before us. Then we slowly
crept towards the den again. The brilliant moonlight lit up the thatched
roof and sent a ghostly glimmering all along the front of the bamboo
verandah. I was standing just over old chief Motavia’s grave; the
moonbeams were softly falling through the branches of the orange tree
and had spread a silver radiance on my feet, which stood close to the
wooden cross that said: “Here lies the brave chief, O Le Sula Motavia.”
I felt sad to think how soundly dead men slept. I knew how handy that
chief would have been to us that night, how gladly he would have jumped
from his slumber to help us to repel the base intruder from his old
homestead.

“Come on!” I whispered to Giovanni, as we brushed the ferns aside and
stole softly towards the single window of the den. In a moment we were
both eagerly peering through the lattice-work of the wide, low
window-hole. It was a true South Sea magic casement that opened on the
feathery foam of palms, leafy tamanu, and _masa’ oi_ trees which grew
right up to the mountain slopes. There was something fairy-like but
tragic in the silent moonlit scene outside that window. But the most
wonderful sight to be seen through the casement was the scene before our
eyes as we both stared between the twisted wicker-work and saw behind
the shutter into the gloom of that room. There sat Rajah Barab, quite
visible by the dim light of the hanging roof oil-lamp. He was so drunk
that he could hardly stoop forward to pull off his sandals. Two of the
young bloods still remained, but, to our relief, we noticed that they
were prone, quite drunk. Pretty Barbarossa, Maroa, Niue, Singa Saloo,
Fae moa Oi, and Winga, the native missionary’s daughter—and who was not
a day older than fourteen years—lay on the mats in deep slumber. I know
that my heart echoed the sigh that Giovanni gave, as, with eyes glued to
the casement, we gazed in mute astonishment. There lay the victims of
the Mohammedan’s gold, _vers libres_, and hyprocrisy. No sign of vice
was expressed on the girls’ faces as they lay there, their bodies
half-couched in the flood of moonlight that fell across the corner of
the room. The sham jewellery that had evidently tempted them was
distinctly visible—bangles on their legs, arm-lets on their arms. Two or
three had silk handkerchiefs of brilliant colours about their throats,
the ends tied bow-wise, native-fashion, in the folds of their
much-disordered hair. The heat was terrific. A few fireflies had entered
the room. We distinctly saw them gleam and flash as they danced like
miniature starry constellations over the prone forms of the girls. In
the helpless abandonment of their drink-enforced slumber, their limbs
were thrown about in the various attitudes of restless sleep. Three of
the girls lay with their arms half-entwined, as though in some swift
realization and fright over their position they had clung to each other
ere they fell and lost consciousness. “Cara, bellissima!” Giovanni
breathed forth as he gazed on Barbarossa’s slumbering abandonment. Her
pretty blue robe was disarranged, revealing the curves of one tiny
ankle; her olive-hued heel was visible too, for the ribbon had become
loose, the tiny sandal had fallen half off.

“Mia bella! mia bellissima!” whispered Giovanni, as he gazed in romantic
rapture on her form. “Yes, she must be saved,” I said, as Giovanni
murmured on in his musical, impassioned language, saying things that
needed no translation for my sympathetic ears and eyes! No shame have I
in writing down these things for the eyes of whoever may wish to read. I
think, if anything, that my thoughts were less creditable than
Giovanni’s. My Italian comrade was in love, but where was the excuse for
my own impassioned glance? Why should the curves of an ankle haunt my
dreams for days? But let it pass. There are many who may understand and
forgive. A maiden’s ankle, a tress of hair, a side glance from lustrous
eyes, a ribbon round a throat, have turned the good thoughts of many a
man from the immediate matter in hand. Just beside the large calabash
and overturned pickle barrel lay Barbarossa’s boon friend, Mademoiselle
Singa Saloo; and the helpless abandonment of her sensuous beauty
expressed a fascinating twinship with all that Barbarossa’s enforced
recumbency revealed. It seemed that even the moon would abet the
inquisitiveness of our curious eyes, for its light streamed through the
chinks of the bolted door and so revealed the dusky beauty of the girls’
faces. The cool night winds swept down the mountain slopes, stirred the
palms that silently threw their shadows over the wooden walls and along
the floor where Barab’s huddled victims lay. Lying there, victims of
Barab’s peculiar desires, they looked like big sleeping babies. One had
her arm outstretched as though she knew the limpness of death, while the
other hand pillowed her head. Only the faint flutter of her delicate
blue throat-kerchief, following the regular intervals of her breathing,
told that life existed.

Barab had risen to his feet. His eyes shone with some terrible light as
he gazed on the helpless girls. “By the gods of Olympus!” blurted out
Giovanni as a puff of wind blew his hat off. The Mohammedan had lifted a
goblet of liquor to his lips. We saw him sway violently as he drank.
“He’s half-seas-over!” was my joyful comment. He had drawn himself erect
and had passed his hand across his brow as though he would muster up his
drowsy senses. Suddenly one of the girls in the farther corner lifted
her head and looked about her with vacant eyes. She lifted one hand and
swayed it as though she were dreaming that she conducted some musical
chant in her native village. She staggered to her feet. Giovanni and I
watched, breathless, in our excitement and intense curiosity. What was
she going to do? Had she in that moment realized the degradation of her
position, and would she attempt to escape? Our very breath frightened us
as it stirred the slender vine leaves that clustered there by our open
mouths and eyes as we stared through the casement. The girl was
staggering across the room, making for Barab. He stood erect, his turban
askew, one swarthy hand holding his beard as if he had the impertinence
to pose for the occasion. We saw the girl’s bare feet slip on the wooden
floor as she lurched to his side and gave him a drunken leer! “Well
now!” was our only comment, as she tossed her left leg till the brass
bangles that encircled her limbs jingled!

“Oh, handsome Mohamy clergyman!” she babbled.

“Phew!” was our simultaneous ejaculation, when she lifted her face and
kissed Barab’s shoulder! Such a look in a man’s eyes I had never seen
before. The girl had embraced him, her head was nursed in the folds of
his beard. She had commenced to sing some weird heathen melody or chant,
the chorus of the strain she had doubtless been singing ere she lost
consciousness. There was something indescribably weird in the sounds of
her muffled voice as she still sang on, her mouth buried deep in the
bushy growth of that Islamic beard! Barab seized her and was about to
lead her from the room into the inner chamber wherein Giovanni and I had
not been invited to enter.

“Now’s the time! Come on!” said I, as Giovanni nudged me in the ribs to
intimate that he had successfully placed his arm through the window-hole
and pulled the door-bolt back! Crash! The door opened and swung
violently to and fro, so fierce had been my thrust as I threw my whole
weight against it. In a moment Barab let the girl drop to the ground and
turned towards us. The muscles stood out on his swelling throat like
whipcord. He had whipped his _kris_ from beneath his jerkin. “_Iîu tidak
baik Tûan!_” (this is not friendly of you), he roared, as we stood
before him. Then he noticed the look in our eyes, and yelled “_Tôtong!_”
(help) at the top of his voice. Fast asleep in the corner of the room
lay two young bloods, Malays. In a moment they had leapt to their feet.
The immediate outlook was pretty dark for Giovanni and me. We possessed
no firearms at all. In a moment I placed my rose-coloured spectacles on,
so to speak, then, bang! it went. And the reader can rest assured that
that Islamic cranium received such a thump that its scheming interior
was out of action for some time. My violin case was broken, cracked down
the whole length. I cared not. I carefully laid it down by the door in
readiness for my coming hasty exit. Giovanni, who was taking no risks,
lifted the wooden table and let it drop most artistically on to Barab’s
prostrate form. “Allow me!” said I, then I lifted the large calabash of
pickle oil and dashed the whole thing in the face of the young blood who
had come to tackle me. Then the left cheek of the other one received an
Olympic punch from Giovanni. And then, as carefully as possible, I,
according to the Scriptures, smote him on the right cheek as he turned
towards me. By this time the native girls had staggered to their feet
and were staring about them, rubbing their eyes as though they had risen
in astonishment to the trump of the resurrection.

“Quick! out with her!” I said.

In a moment Giovanni and I had grabbed Barbarossa by the arm.

“Aue! Aue! seo, levu!” she wailed, as she looked around her in wonder.

But still we dragged her on by the arms. As I rushed back into the den
to seize my violin, the large table was already being lifted towards the
roof as the stricken Barab heaved his back up! He was roaring forth
terrible oaths in Malayan lingo as I once more made a hurried exit.
Barbarossa’s dishevelled tresses were streaming to the caress of the
night wind when I got outside. In a moment I had once more gripped her
arm. Arriving at the top of the slope Giovanni shook her rather roughly.

“Barbarossa, remember!” he whispered.

For a moment she stared vacantly at us, and then cried, “Aue! Aue!” and
to my intense relief voluntarily gripped our arms as we ran down the
slopes. Barbarossa became our eager guide after that. And though it is
years ago now, I can still hear the sounds of her feet pattering like
falling rain over the dead leaves of the forest ferns as we follow her
across the wild country to Mootuoa. Again Giovanni and I lift the
coco-nut-shell goblets and drink a toast with the big tattooed chief who
is Barbarossa’s father. For Barbarossa took us safely into her village
that night. And when the old chiefs and their womenkind heard about
Barab’s sinful ways and of our blessed missionary work, they swore to
club Barab, and cheered us exceedingly. But alas! I lost my dear chum
Giovanni. For I composed and performed a special betrothal chant,
playing it at the festival that made Giovanni Barbarossa’s legitimate
tribal _fiancé_. And was he faithful to the Samoan maid? I know not.
But, still, I do know that Giovanni was young and romantic. And I would
not be surprised if, as the years rolled by Barbarossa was happy, and
little children who could speak both Italian and Samoan romped about her
knees. Fine children too, I should think, from such a splendid
combination from the two romantic lands of the Sunny South.

Such was my personal experience of the Samoan Brown-Slave Traffic. And I
might say, it is an experience that I have considerably toned down in
the aforesaid narrative. As I have already intimated, I have included
this experience here only that my readers may have a view of both sides
of native life, and realize that native girls and women are subject to
the temptations of sensualists much the same as their sisters in the
large cities of the civilized world. And I would say that it is a
pleasure for me to be able to record here that Barab’s dwelling was
razed to the ground by the wrathful chiefs of Barbarossa’s village. True
enough, it was really the last homestead of that brave old chief O Le
Matavia; but he was a good and holy heathen. And so one might well
imagine that the flames of his corrupted ancestral halls gave cheerful
warmth to his ghost and cold bones as he slept on under the orange-tree,
just outside.

And what became of Barab the Mohammedan? All I can say is, the good work
that Giovanni and I began was finished off by the missionaries. Barab
was expelled from Samoa, and hastened seaward, doubtless to seek fresh
converts for his creed in other lands.

                  *       *       *       *       *

After losing Giovanni’s welcome companionship, I felt very lonely, and
so decided to go seaward again. Though I was not a sailor by profession,
it was always an easy matter for me to get a ship. I think I had an
ingratiating way with me when I approached the mates and skippers. And
when I came across a skipper or mate with a face like cast-iron and eyes
like a shark’s, which I often did, I changed my tactics. For I
approached him with my violin in one hand and a bottle of the best
Hollands in the other hand. I invariably found that, if music does not
soothe the savage breast, Hollands gin comes pretty near the mark.
Anyway, I got a berth and sailed before the mast outbound for old
Tai-o-hae, Nuka Hiva. I had been to the Marquesas many times, but in the
next chapter I shall tell a few incidents that I have not recorded
before.


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



                  CHAPTER XIII. AN OLD MARQUESAN QUEEN

        In Tai-o-hae—I come across a Widowed Marquesan Queen—Am
        received with Dignity—The Artistic Tattoo on Loi
        Vakamoa’s Royal Person—The Queen tells how she was
        married to a certain Martin Smith of New South Wales—An
        aged Queen’s Vanity—A Heathen Necropolis.


          The seas I’ve roamed, hypocrisy I hate:
          God grafted in my soul the fire of song.
          On life’s dark hills I’ve wrestled, fought with Fate.
          Here in South Seas, still young, I jog along,
          ’neath strange stars dream as low the banyan bends
          O’er heathens singing by their huts—my friends!

          We call them heathens, well, ’tis habit most.
          King Mafeleto is my royal friend:
          His ancestors, ’tis true, did eat on toast
          Their mortal enemies, but Heaven defend
          That I should judge men by their long-past crimes—
          We White Men, too, have had some fine old times.

          They’re chanting pagan songs by their hut-fires;
          At each full breast clings one sweet tiny mouth,
          Their busy babes, unsatisfied desires,
          Eyes sparkling starlight of the sea-nursed South!
          As down the forest track from hut to hut
          Pass natives, clad in half a coco-nut!

I RECALL the memory of a Marquesan royal person who stands out in my
recollection with unusual vividness.

Whilst wandering, during one of my troubadouring expeditions north-west
of Tai-o-hae, I came across a small, semi-pagan, tribal citadel of huts
on the lower mountain slopes. It was a romantic and picturesque scene.
The scattered bird-cage huts, made of twisted bamboo and nestling in the
hollows, that were shaded by feathery palms, intensified the enchantment
of the secluded forest empire. I know that the glad reception which I
received from the whole population when I entered the high bamboo
stockade gate, my two native boys ahead of me, was as impressive as it
was pleasing to me. The two boys in question were Palao and Sango,
neither of them more than ten years of age. But they were invaluable
guides, considering the benefit their protection afforded my unarmed
person, for they were able to converse in the difficult Marquesan
tongue, and could explain my wishes and friendly attributes.

I was always careful in those days, and contrived that Palao and Sango
should move ahead of me as my advance guard, thus leaving me in the
immediate rear, ready for flight. The tribes about that part were
supposed to be friendly, but my nerves were a bit unsettled through
hearing that two sailors had been murdered in a tribal village ten miles
to the eastward. Indeed, more than once I had been welcomed by the
sudden appearance of fierce warriors with raised war-clubs and other
strange implements of combat, which gave due notice that intruders were
not to call at that particular moment! Possibly a tribal battle had been
on, and had ended in the demise of a young warrior or so, and
consequently a happy cannibal festival was in progress. Hence, no
admission to the tribal stronghold for white men unless they happened to
call on the most secretive and intimate terms.

Seeing only the smiling faces of chiefesses and chiefs welcoming me from
the ambush of multi-coloured flowers by the lagoon mangroves, I saw that
I had arrived at an opportune moment. “Aloah! Alli, Papalagi!” came from
the lips of the assembled natives as I placed my violin to my chin and
commenced to perform an old Marquesan _himine_.

The effect was magical: out of the leafy shadows and the hut doorways
rushed the whole population, so it seemed to me, their faces bright with
delight. It was a sight worth travelling many miles to see: tawny, oval,
elongated, scarred, serious, and handsome faces, with original-looking
eyes of varied brilliance, stared at me. A few tattooed warriors, clad
in lava-lava and palm-leaf head-gear, leaned against the coco-palm stems
regarding me with fixed, cynical-looking eyes. I did not like the look
of them at all, but they turned out to be harmless enough. They were
simply the old conservatives of heathen times, who instinctively
resented the intrusion of white men into their sylvan demesne. Flocks of
pretty boys and girls, of a pale walnut-polished hue, clambered at the
picturesque _ramias_ (native skirts) of their deep-bosomed mothers,
gazing with half-frightened stare as my violin bow swept forth the
wailing strains. I must have looked like some Pied Piper as I marched
across the wide _rara_ (village green), with Palao and Sango singing
lustily, one on each side of me. That pagan mountain village was part of
a true wonderland of the wine-dark seas. I am unable to describe the
bright-eyed glances of those pretty Nausicaas and Circés who crept from
the Elysium-like shadows of heathenland and stared at me as I passed by.
Two stalwart chiefs, who were nibbling my present of tobacco plug, led
the way; they were taking me straight to the palace building wherein
dwelt their tribal queen. This palatial stronghold was constructed of
coral stone and was surrounded by a wide verandah that was again
sheltered by the beautiful pauroa and tamunu trees. Entering the palace,
I found myself in a low-roofed apartment. On the walls hung the polished
skulls of fallen warriors who had been renowned for bravery in their
day. Magnificently woven tappa-mats covered the polished floors and the
barbarian furniture. I noticed two cases of gin and one empty rum barrel
standing right in the centre of the apartment. They were given that
conspicuous position, I believe, because rum and gin denoted all that
was immense wealth in the eyes of the Marquesan race. But what struck me
as the most interesting piece of barbarian antiquity was the strange
woman who presided over that palatial residence. She looked as old as
her palm-clad native hills, and I discovered that she was one of the
surviving queens of the many who had once reigned over the small
dynasties of the Marquesan group. I had never seen her like before; her
physiognomy was unique and decidedly pleasing-looking. She might easily
have been some happy personification of Death itself as she sat there
and saluted me:

“Aloah! Papalagi, you wanter see me am?”

“Oui! Aloah Majesty Imperialess,” I responded, as I made an effort and
bowed the knee to her. I had visited Queen Vaekehu, who still reigned
supreme in her old age down on the lower slopes by Calaboose Hill, and
so I knew how to gain the appreciation of those heathen ex-Queens.
Vaekehu was a masterpiece in the tattoo line, but I can assure you that
ex-Queen Loi Vakamoa, for the sheer hieroglyphic-tattooed beauty that
adorned her limbs and shoulders, could stand unrivalled throughout the
North and South Pacific.

After addressing me, she left her squatting-mat just by her gin barrel,
and majestically mounted what I imagine was her throne (a lot of old
sea-chests and gin-cases covered with tappa-cloth). I did my level best
to make myself pleasant, played the violin, drank some bitter stuff, and
took a keen interest in all she said. Sitting up there on her old box
throne, her profile reminded me of those old-fashioned engravings of
Queen Elizabeth of England. The sensual curves, once so pronounced, had
shrunk with her lips; but the beak-like nose—tattooed with tiny
semi-circles from the bridge down to the cheeks—gave her a somewhat
melancholy aspect. The only perceptible determinedness of the face was
the sharp outline of the nose, which somehow suggested that its owner
would meet the accumulating calamities of age with commendable
aggressiveness. Yet her demeanour was affable in the extreme. Never
before had I beheld a face that so sadly expressed the aftermath of all
that had been and at the same time told of a bitter forlornness through
senescence of frame and mind. The devious shruggings of her shoulders,
the pathetic semi-amorous glances, and the many hints that she gave
whilst striving to convince me of her once mighty Queenship and physical
beauty, were positively painful to my mind. After giving me a goblet of
whisky and lime-juice, which I must admit was refreshing, we seemed to
become more confidential with each other. She took Palao by the arm and
got him to tell her where he had met me, and much that I, of course,
could not make out. By many direct hints she let me know that she had
enjoyed a vast plurality of husbands.

“I been wifer to many kinks!” she said.

Most of what she said was translated to me by Palao as I politely sipped
the peculiar beverage that she herself handed me. I hardly knew which
way to glance as she gabbled on and Palao translated and I listened.
Suddenly she acquainted me with the fact that she had been wedded more
than twice to white men of distinction! She saw the look of surprise on
my face. Perhaps she thought I doubted her, for she lifted the lid of a
small sandal-wood box and brought forth a yellowish, very faded sheet of
foolscap paper.

“Savvy, Papalagi?” she almost whimpered, as I read on. (And her eyes
were shining with pride all the while.)

And so I perused the following marriage lines:

    “This dokerment is to certify that Old Man Martin Smith of
    Woolloomooloo, New Sarth Wales, has from the dated day of this
    dokerment, 14th Feb. 1861, become the lawful husband of Queen
    Loi Vakamoa of this yere Isles and several more isles to the
    sarthwards. The foresaid Queen agrees to hand over all her
    monies and prufits she gits from her copra plantations and
    howsomeever monies she gits hold on whilst the aforesaid John
    Martin Smith remains King. And it is agreed that John Smith can
    have a safe passage in the old ship’s boat, free from any cursed
    interference by the late dethroned King Kai Le Tua Vakamoa and
    his b— heathen chiefs at any such time as he wants to quit this
    yere Isles and his dominions and go back to his lawful Missus,
    Maltida Sarah Martin Smith of Kansas City, Merica.

                                                    “Signed by QUEEN
                                            ————————— (_Signature_).

    “Old Man MARTIN SMITH, Bridegroom and King.

    “_Witness_,—JONATHAN BRIGGS, late Cook of S.S. ‘Albatross,’ who
    hereby claims 25 per cent. on all profits accruing from the
    aforesaid wedding.”

So ran the wording of all that may be published here of John Smith’s
marriage lines. My accumulated experiences of such hearties as John
Smith and Jonathan Briggs, Esq., gave me an idea as to the fine old
times those two noble papalagis had in their sojourn on those isles to
the southward during their brief kingship. But no hint of all I imagined
was visible on my countenance when I handed the tattered document back
to the smiling ex-queen. At this moment a hideous, aged Chinaman poked
his face in the palace doorway and surveyed me with surprised,
yellowish, vicious eyes. I wondered who he was, what relationship
existed between him and the Queen, that he could so impertinently thrust
his ugly physiognomy into the doorway like that. The next moment he had
gone, and I saw him no more, though I heard him gabbling as he drove off
the flocks of children who persistently crowded by the palace door,
waiting till I should come out again. And still the Queen spoke on.
Palao patiently translated her tales of departed lovers for my
inquisitive ears. Seeing my curiosity, her eyes gleamed with delight,
her two remaining frontal teeth, fitting fork-like into the gaps between
the two teeth of the lower jaw, gave a sardonic look to her face as she
sat there. She wore a peculiar garb too: the remnant of some old
European skirt swathed her frame, but was cut very short, ending just
above the knees. On her head was an old hat that had once been a
fashionable Parisian bonnet. Possibly this hat had been presented to her
by one of the French officials.

As I boldly surveyed her limbs she drew one tawny finger along the faded
blue curves and stripes of tattoo. From all that she vigorously hinted,
those tattoo marks were historic representations that denoted the
insignia and coats-of-arms of the tribes wherein she had married. “What
may that mean, Palao?” I said, as I glanced curiously at her anatomy,
and observed impressionistic figures of muscular men, some standing in a
gladiatorial attitude, spear in hand and face uplifted. And then,
listening carefully to all that Palao had to say, I made out that they
were a few of the ex-queen’s old lovers—men who had won her love in
years gone by and died in some great tribal battle that had been led by
some mighty chief who also yearned for her impassioned embrace! As my
faithful Palao and Sango translated these things to me (and more than
once cast their eyes in shame to the palace floor), it seemed like a
dream that I should be standing in that coral-built place listening to
the memories that remained in that old woman’s brain. A great deal that
she said sounded to my ears “not quite the thing.” But I am not one who
is too squeamish or critical over the moral codes that exist outside the
dominions of my own land. As she gazed up into my face, and her aged
lips quivered in the emotion she felt over her wild reminiscences, I
took the extended, shrivelled hand, and, with some emotional idea of all
that she once had been, gallantly kissed it! After that, her
conversation suddenly changed to a subtle delivery of phrases in pigeon
English. I slowly gathered that she was telling me of wondrous
presentations she had received from her past lovers, and how they had
each in turn recognized the great honour conferred upon them by _her_
acceptance of their manifold gifts. Before I had gathered the true
import of what she was driving at, she was beseeching me to hand over my
violin to her. I remained obdurate. What on earth she wanted my
instrument for, Heaven knows. Possibly she was childish, and so, like a
child, would have it as a toy.

She invited me to go out into the palace grounds. She led the way. Her
garden was cultivated. Pineapples, tomatoes, taro, oranges, yams, and
many tropical fruits grew in abundance around me. By the shade of the
buttressed banyans, at the far end of the cleared space, stood a huge
wooden idol. It was a hideous thing: one large tooth protruded from its
wide, slit, crocodile-like mouth, where in and out crawled fat insects
with tortoise-shell-hued wings (I think they were big ants). Though the
Queen wore a Catholic medallion on her bosom, and had told me that “She
belonger Popey God, and was all-e-samee great Cliston womans,” I
distinctly saw her aged form give a bow of heathenish reverence as we
both stood in front of that monstrous heathen deity! It stood nearly
seven feet high, and standing there as some representation of infinity,
the hopelessness of creeds and all the ills and mockery of human
existence, it was a magnificent bit of perfection. When we returned into
the small palace, it was dusk. “Salaba!” called Vakamoa in a wheezy
voice. In a moment I heard the shuffling of running feet, and then a
beautiful Marquesan maid, robed in tappa-cloth, flowers, and threaded
shells, appeared before me. She gazed on me with a quizzical lustrous
gleam in her eyes. This maid interested me because of her European-like
features. I saw her place her fingers into the folds of her thick
tresses to see that the hibiscus blossoms were still tastefully
arranged, in much the same way as a vanity-stricken English maid might
do. In a few moments this serving-maid, for such she was, lit up all the
tiny hanging coco-nut-oil lamps in the apartment, then she went away and
left Vakamoa and myself alone.

Squatting on the mats, I did as she bade me, and commenced to play my
violin. She seemed very pleased with the English melodies that I
performed, and once or twice mumbled as I played.

“You liker see me dance?” she said. Then she hummed a little _himine_
and asked me to play it. Had I not seen that old woman career round that
low-roofed chamber as she danced some old barbarian rhythm, I would
never have believed it possible. So astonished was I, that I forgot my
part of the business and stopped playing. “Alo! Alo!” (Go on! Go on!)
she said, almost fiercely. In a moment I placed my instrument to my
chin, and once more fired away. The hanging lamps along the roof-beams
swayed to and fro as her skirt swished violently, and her stiff legs
made such movements that it is impossible to describe them. “If this is
how she goes on in the dry leaf what _did_ she do in the green?” was my
reflection, as her bony legs went up with a bound, and then right over
my head! I’ve no wish to exaggerate in the description of it all; only
those who have seen the fetish frenzy of an aged barbarian woman under
the influence of whisky (for so I concluded she must be) will know what
I saw that night! I had no alternative but to go through with it. As she
leapt over me her toes caught in my hair and withdrew some by the roots!
But I did not budge an inch; I simply played for dear life, as it were.
I knew that she was a heathen, that she was old and childish and not
responsible for her actions. I also recalled many things that O Le Langi
had told me about heathen women’s mad ways when they grow old and
realize the loss of their beauty. “She can’t go on much longer,” I
thought, as she bounded round the room, lifting her scraggy arms and
chanting in a weird manner. True enough, she slowed down after the
fiftieth round, and then sat panting beside me. After that exhibition, I
did my best to keep on the right side of her. I handed her a piece of
tobacco plug that I, fortunately, had in my pocket. And, though it was
my last piece of tobacco, I felt well repaid for its loss by the evident
pleasure the gift gave her. She immediately twisted a lump off and
placed it in her large corn-cob pipe, then struck a match on the boniest
portion of her anatomy, and started to puff vigorously at my gift.

After that I withdrew as hastily as possible from her chamber. Palao and
Sango re-entered and prostrated themselves at her feet. This pleased her
immensely. Going down the mossy pathway that led to the stockade gate, I
turned my head and waved two or three farewell salutations. The last I
saw of her was as she stood by her door, her forked teeth close together
as she grinned with pleasure at thinking I should return on the morrow!
But I did not return again. And I may say here, that I have always felt
more at ease in the presence of old native men than in the presence of
native women, be they waiting-women or ex-queens.

Before I left the immediate precincts of that bungalow, which Vakamoa
styled her “palace,” I strolled into the tiny coral-fenced clearing by
the plateau of the mountain slopes. It was the lonely place where the
tribe buried their dead. I gazed for a little time on the strange
tomb-stones, and tried to make out the inscriptions that apparently
commemorated the past virtues of kings and chiefs who had passed into
shadowland. Notwithstanding the feathery palms and the glimpse of the
far-away, moonlit, tumbling seas, it was a forlorn place. And now,
doubtlessly, that discarded Queen Vakamoa has long since dissolved, with
all her pride of past queenship, into a little dust, and a lump of
memorial coral tells where she lies in that tiny, barbarian necropolis.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Next day I accepted the invitation of Palao to stop in his father’s
bungalow near the shore. I had had enough adventure for the time being,
and so was extremely pleased to romp with the native children and listen
to their wonderful fairy-tales. For be it noted that those children had
their Hans Andersens and Grimms, just as we have. I’ll tell one of the
stories in the next chapter.


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



               CHAPTER XIV. TISSEMAO AND THE CUTTLE-FISH

        Impressionistic Scene in Nuka Hiva—Tissemao listens to
        the Luring Voice of a Cuttle-fish—The Love-Stricken
        Cuttle-fish—When Crabs are Brave.


THE pagan city of Nuka Hiva was silent. The tired sentinel stars were
creeping homeward. Dawn had already arisen from her silvery couch, her
soft robe, cut out of the warm western winds, wrapped around her, her
sandals dipped in light as she stood on the skyline, a few stars still
plucking her dusky hair. Then that wonderful enchantress, who awakens
the ages, stepped tiptoe across the horizon’s shadow hills, the echoes
of her footfalls winging the silence of the tropic seas. Those echoes,
colliding with the granite hills of South Sea fairy-land, rustled the
magical shadows of the sylvan hollows, then, touching the winged nymphs
and petals of the flamboyants and ndrala blossoms, sped onward into the
deeper glooms of the forests. An aged cockatoo who had spent its best
years as a vassal of the god _Atua Mao_, looked sidelong at the golden
gleams of the eastern sky and called out hoarsely:

“Talofa! Aloah! Awake, O birds of the forest! Morn is here! Arise!”

Now, all this happened in full view of a little heathen village by a
mossy slope near Tai-o-hae. And who was it could see so strange a
fairy-land in the birth of a new day breaking across the ranges? It was
Tissemao, the Marquesan maid!

Tissemao was up very early that morning. She had been with her little
brother Noko-noko, fishing for _reatos_ in the blue lagoon by the bay.
And Noko, burdened with fishy wealth, had hurried back home to his
village hut that stood in the shadows of the mountains of _Atnana_,
leaving his sister alone. As Tissemao dangled her feet in the cool
waters of the ocean the golden light was stealing from the eyes of
sunrise; it touched the surface of the big _moani ali_ (ocean) that
shone like a mighty mirror that stretched to the horizon. Suddenly
Tissemao felt something pull at her toes which were dangling in the sea.
Looking down to see what it could be, she gave a cry of surprise. And no
wonder; for a Cuttle-fish poked its head out of the sea, and said:

“I’m so sorry to disturb you, Tissemao, but we’ve all been swimming
about here a long time, for we can see your shadow in the waters, and
really it is very beautiful.”

Tissemao blushed to hear such praise. Looking down, she saw that it was
quite correct, for there, in the water, shone her image as clear as
though it was mirrored in a sheet of glass. Clad in her coloured tappa
_holaku_ (short chemise), hibiscus flowers in her mass of dusky hair,
she really _did_ make a pretty picture.

The Cuttle-fish, putting on its sweetest smile, said:

“Would you like to come down here and see the wonders of the great world
under the sea?”

For a long time Tissemao hesitated, then she said:

“Why, Mr. Cuttle-fish, you must remember I’m not like you; I should soon
die for the want of breath under the sea.”

“Oh dear, no!” said the artful Cuttle-fish, shaking its head slowly at
the idea of such a ridiculous suggestion.

But very soon, hearing that there were so many strange and beautiful
things under the sea, Tissemao, with the Cuttle-fish’s kind help, slid
down gently into the deep water!

Directly she got beneath the surface, the Cuttle-fish seized her tightly
by the arm, and said fiercely:

“Come on! now I’ve got you!”

Poor Tissemao was frightened out of her life as she felt the clutch of
the Cuttle-fish as it dragged her down, down. It seemed such a long time
ere she touched the bottom of the ocean. Still the Cuttle-fish clutched
her, and breathed heavily, like one who had gained a rich prize and
dreaded to lose it. Dragging her along the ocean floor, he came to a
cavern. For a moment the Cuttle-fish looked round, then took her in.
This cavern was lit up by a faint glimmer from the light of the sun that
was shining up over the sea. As Tissemao looked round, the Cuttle-fish
said:

“I am all that’s beautiful; if you expect to see anything more beautiful
than a cuttle-fish, you are very, very much mistaken.”

Saying this, it lifted its ugly face and tried to assume a fascinating
smile.

But it was no good. Tissemao would have none of it, but simply said:

“Let me get away; let me go up into my village again, will you?”

The old Cuttle-fish got into an awful rage at hearing Tissemao plead so,
for he had fallen deeply in love with her.

Now it so happened, and by the merest chance too, that the Cuttle-fish
was terrifying Tissemao, trying to frighten her into subjection, when a
very old Crab happened to be walking by the Cuttle-fish’s cavern door.
The Crab distinctly caught sight of Tissemao looking up with
terror-stricken eyes at the Cuttle-fish.

“Ho ho!” he muttered to himself; “so he’s at it again, is he!”

Now, this old Crab was good-hearted, one of the respectable kind. And,
knowing the reputation the Cuttle-fish had as a _roué_ of the worst
type, he at once determined to thwart the Cuttle-fish in his endeavours
to attempt to hurt so sweet a maid as Tissemao. So he gently looked
round the corner of the cavern door, and said:

“Good afternoon.”

In a moment the vicious Cuttle-fish rushed to the door, so that its bulk
could artfully hide Tissemao from the intruder’s eyes.

The old Crab, seeing through the ruse and not wishing to let the
Cuttle-fish know that it had seen Tissemao, artfully put its claw to its
mouth, then, yawning, said:

“Oh dear, my eyes are so bad lately, really I can’t see anything at
all.” Then it looked straight into the Cuttle-fish’s eyes, and
continued: “I suppose you feel very lonely here in this cave of yours?”

The Cuttle-fish, like all things of a wicked type, had no brains at all,
and so was completely taken in. And the Crab, chuckling to itself, went
safely on its way as quickly as possible round the corner, to consider
what was best to do to extricate Tissemao from her awful position.

In a moment it had made its mind up. Going up to a large cavern that
stood in its own grounds to the south-west of the mighty forests of
sea-weeds, it lifted its claws and gently knocked at the door. In a
moment it opened, and a great Sword-fish thrust its tremendous spiked
nose out, and said:

“Hallo! What’s up now? I was just having a nap; you are the second
person who has knocked at my door this afternoon and disturbed me.”

The old Crab bowed, and apologized profusely as it saw the Sword-fish’s
angry face. Then the Crab said:

“I have come to you, knowing well that you are a friend of the helpless
and are fair-dealing in all your mighty battles with that weapon, that
sword which is fixed on your face.”

“Well, make haste. What is it?” said the Sword-fish, who, being
powerful, was used to soft, flattering speeches from old crabs and other
helpless things that were at his mercy under the deep sea.

Then the old Crab at once told the Sword-fish all that he had seen while
he had been passing the door of the Cuttle-fish’s cave. The Sword-fish,
who was fond of Cuttle-fish as a breakfast-dish, became most indignant
as he listened to the Crab’s comments on the morals of the Cuttle-fish.
Then, without further parley, they both sallied forth to rescue
Tissemao. Arriving outside the cavern, the Crab gently knocked at the
Cuttle-fish’s door, as prearranged, and said:

“Good evening, Mr. Cuttle-fish; I’ve called to see you because you are
so lonely.”

The Cuttle-fish, who was persuading Tissemao to give him just one kiss,
rushed to the door, and said:

“Clear out of this; I’m busy.”

At this, the old Crab swelled its breast out with bravery through its
knowledge that the Sword-fish was stealthily waiting round the corner,
and said:

“Don’t you talk like that to me, you ungrateful wretch, when I’ve come
all this way to pay you a friendly visit.” Then, losing its temper, the
Crab gave a knowing wink, and said: “I _know_ all about you; you are at
your old tricks again—_whose_ poor wife have you got in your house now,
I wonder?”

With its eyes ablaze with rage at hearing such a suggestion from a
cowardly old crab, and in its knowledge that truth was spoken, the
Cuttle-fish gave a running dash, and knocked the Crab over. This act was
just what the Sword-fish was waiting for, for as the Cuttle-fish rushed
out of the cave so as to reach the Crab, he, too, gave a dash forward
and so impaled the Cuttle-fish on his mighty sword! In a moment the Crab
had recovered its feet, delighted at the success of its ruse. For
Tissemao kissed its ugly face as it embraced her, and told of all it had
done on her behalf. It was then that the Crab said:

“Come on! Come on!”

Then it escorted her along the wide floor of the deep ocean till she
reached the shore. Then it said, “Never listen to the flattery of
cuttle-fishes again, for you see that, but for an ugly old sword-fish
and a brave person like me, you might have got out of your depth for
ever. Now then, go away, silly girl!”

On hearing the Crab’s advice, Tissemao at once stepped out of the ocean
water, and saw the beautiful sun, and thereupon made up her mind to be
satisfied with the world she knew. In a moment she had rushed off into
the forest, and back again to her native village. Her mother was
delighted to see her again. They had all thought she was drowned, or
dead somewhere in the forest, for though she knew it not, she had been
away for three days! And, to this day, the people of those isles to the
north-west always feel kindly toward old crabs, and look upon the big
sword-fish as a valiant warrior.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Such was the simple heathen fairy story which was told to me by my
little comrade the Marquesan youth, Palao, who, as the reader will
recall, was a member of my retinue when I paid a visit to the aged,
discarded Queen Vakamoa, she who had once been the unlawfully-wedded
wife of Old Martin Smith of New South Wales.

A few days after leaving the village where my little friend Palao lived,
I secured lodgings at the primitive inn near Tai-o-hae beach. I recall
that I stayed at that rum-stricken hostel for only a few days. The fact
is, that an extraordinary old madman dwelt in the room next to mine.
Just as I laid my weary head down and thanked Providence in my blessed
anticipation of a well-earned month’s rest, the old man went raving mad.
Why Ranjo, my host, put up with him was a complete mystery. Up and down
the room he would tramp, never ceasing, till he had wakened me for the
night, as he called out in a most solemn voice:

“Suffered under Pontius Pilate. O the quick and the dead! the quick and
the dead!”

So would he rave on for hours till, exhausted, he fell asleep. And then
he would snore, and puff the lips of his toothless mouth about in such a
terrific manner that I dreamed that I was dead and sleeping in a
deep-sea cave where the waves rushed in and violently lifted my
shell-burred bones eternally. On the third night I was relieved of his
presence, for he rose after midnight, went outside, and knelt before a
tallow candle which he lit and placed beneath the palm grove. He would
kneel before this humble tallow altar for about two hours, chanting in a
sombre voice the Lord’s Prayer, interspersed with ghastly epitaphs that
made my blood curdle as I groaned on my trestle bed.

I was thankful when I made the acquaintance of a young German. I cannot
wax enthusiastic over a member of the Teutonic race, but still, I must
admit, that my German friend was as clean-minded a comrade as one could
hope to meet in the South Seas in those days. Indeed, he and I secured a
berth as stowaways on a full-rigged windjammer, and so left Nuka Hiva,
incognito, outbound for the glorious Nowhere of sanguine youth. I see by
my diary that I eventually arrived in New Guinea, where I stayed six
months with a celebrated high chief and his family. Though my native
host was an inveterate cannibal in battle times, he and his family were
exceedingly kind to me while I was down with malaria. After that I
shipped on a German vessel for the Solomon Isles, where I arrived off
Bougainville in a typhoon. Our ship was wrecked off the coast, and we
lost four hands. I had only my shirt and boots on when a huge comber
swept me from the deck into the ocean, where I seemed to make about four
somersaults between the sea and the night sky, ere I was landed high up
on the sandy beach. Next day I recovered my violin from the wreck that
lay high and dry on the barrier reefs. Unfortunately, I have no space to
narrate all that I experienced when I became the staunch friend of the
Solomon Island head-hunters!—played the violin to the great Ingrova, to
Oom Pa, and gave violin lessons to high chief Stem-Poo’s half-caste
daughter, Mallio-Wao, up in the mountain stronghold at Zalabar. I will
simply say, that, under the friendly cover of one dark night, I
hurriedly left Ysabel for New Guinea, and after many wanderings once
more came across my Irish comrade, O’Hara. And in the next chapters I
will attempt to relate those things which I count as the most thrilling
experiences of wild South Sea life which I was ever thrown into by the
mystery of circumstance.


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



           CHAPTER XV. CHARITY ORGANIZATION OF THE SOUTH SEAS

        I fall from Space—Court Violinist—Arrive in Fiji—With
        the Great Missing.


             I wonder why men o’er the buried weep,
             When ’tis the wandering dead who cannot sleep?

I WAS hanging by one foot from a mystical cloud, lesiurely travelling
across the tropic sky, then I lost my grip and fell! I distinctly recall
the awful sensation of that noiseless dive through space, ere I arrived
with a crash! I had apparently fallen through the roof of a grog-shanty
on a Pacific Isle. Many may doubt the aforesaid assertion of mine, and
say that such a mishap was a physical impossibility. But I would say
that it is only the impossible that _does_ occur. I felt the spasm of
that sudden headlong contact of my skull against some hard object very
acutely. Opening my eyes I saw astonished traders standing around me,
still holding their rum mugs between the bar and their lips as they
stared, open-mouthed, down on my recumbent form. I looked through the
doorway and saw feathery palms, and moonlit seas softly beating over the
coral reefs of a strange shore.

“It looks as though I’ve fallen on another world,” thought I. But no
such luck for me! The fact of the case is this. Our ship, from Honolulu,
had arrived off the Fiji Islands that evening. I was with O’Hara, whom I
had re-met in Hawaii. And, in my hurry to get ashore, I had hired a
canoe, and whilst I was being paddled ashore, the canoe had turned
turtle! It appeared that I had sunk twice beneath the water before
O’Hara and the native boatmen rescued me. They thought I was done for
when they dragged me up the shore and carried me into the grog-shanty.

The native bar-keeper had gone off immediately to fetch a well-known
Fijian medicine-man who dwelt in Tumba-Tumba village. What on earth the
medicine-man did before he succeeded in restoring my heart-beats, I
don’t know. O’Hara swore that he delivered mighty blows on my hips with
a flat war-club, lifted me repeatedly up to the shanty’s roof by one leg
and let me drop with a crash! The native doctor was evidently cruel to
be kind, for his strange acts saved my life, and were the direct cause
of the strange sensations and my experience as above recorded.

As the reader knows, O’Hara was an old pal of mine, and, being an
Irishman, was impulsive and entertaining. When I was down in the mouth
he proved a medicine-man of the spirits, for he made me laugh insanely
when I was sane, and dosed me with romantic Irish songs and rum when
credit was scarce. As I have stated, it was after leaving New Guinea
that I had the good fortune to come across my old comrade again in
Honolulu. Though I had a good musical engagement, and was getting on in
the world, so far as the world’s opinion goes, I let everything go to
the winds through not keeping a square chin when O’Hara asked me to go
a-roving with him. As usual, he nearly succeeded in getting us both
hanged when we arrived at Apamama and I became Court violinist to King
Tembinok. It is _one_ thing to be loyal to a chum in adversity, but to
be expected to do the things that O’Hara wished me to do when Tembinok’s
tawny wife fell in love with him was quite another matter. I remembered
the Fae Fae excursion and our flight from Tahiti.

“No, thank you!” I said, when he had the cheek to come and ask me——

But, there, it’s not my wish to deal with that business here. I am out
to tell of quite a different adventure that befell us after we arrived
in Fiji. Financially speaking, I had done very well in Honolulu. I had
secured a good engagement as violinist to King Laukauhammer, as well as
my salary as conductor of the royal bodyguard band. In all I managed to
save a thousand dollars. Though I am not a man who can see anything in
this world to get a swelled head about, my vanity was considerable when
the King presented me with the Court shield of the Kalakaua dynasty—an
equivalent to the Cross of the Chevalier of Honour—thus making my
seventh South Sea knighthood in less than twelve months, not counting,
mind you, the proffered kingship at Temelako, New Guinea, where, on
playing my violin under a palm tree, outside a heathen seraglio, I was
embraced by a widowed queen and compelled to enter the tribal palace
palavana by royal command. Also I had, to the King’s delight, composed
special marches, and scored them for the strange, primitive
instrumentation of the King’s private military band. For a while I had
lived sumptuously at the best hotel in Beratania Street. Then I had
decided to start off in search of any adventure that was opposed to the
orthodox route as mapped out in the twelve commandments of civilized
life.

I recall that O’Hara and I sailed as first-class passengers on the S.S.
“Alameda,” which was bound for N.S.W., via Suva, Fiji. The voyage was
momentous for its monotony, not one storm or passionate incident. O’Hara
and I cursed everything, wished the sea yellow, the sun blue, and that
the crew might mutiny and pitch the skipper overboard or cast us adrift
on endless waters. Night after night we unbuttoned our clothes and
thankfully “turned in” to rehearse a death-like existence in our small,
coffin-shaped bunks. After arriving in Fiji and those things happening
already narrated, we put up at the best hotel in Suva, scorning Smith’s
bar and the old fan-tan shanty at Buta. For a while we enjoyed the
company of the élite—well-to-do traders, ships’ mates and derelict
skippers, stranded runaway apprentices, and strange men of better days
who appeared to have lost their memory and their reason for being in
Fiji at all.

It was while we were stopping at this hotel that O’Hara and I discovered
that our improvidence necessitated our looking for cheaper diggings. An
old shellback, seeing how things were with us, took us into his
confidence, recommended us to a good lodging-house, a sort of Sailors’
Home, on the Rewa river. First, one must know that this Sailors’ Home
was primarily the “Charity Organization of the Southern Seas!” For,
beneath its kind roof, sheltered by giant breadfruit trees, men hid from
the Suva police—men who were mostly fugitives from across the world, and
who had flown from the cities in haste to save their necks or their
liberty. But this fact did not deter O’Hara and myself from wishing to
go there. Personally, I have always thought that one has a perfect right
to save one’s neck. Man has only one neck, one life, and not always one
chance whilst alive of doing better for himself.

The idea that there was really a lonely wooden establishment hidden in
the deep seclusion of a certain forest, where hunted men found refuge
from the law, was most fascinating to me, and this fascination was the
main incentive that took O’Hara and me there.

When that old shellback stood on the Suva parade, put his finger
secretively up to the side of his corrugated nasal organ, and gave us a
significant wink of magnificent import as to all that he could tell
about that Charity Organization, O’Hara’s heart seemed to fairly burst
with glorious anticipation. His curly hair seemed to bristle forth the
possibilities before us; his face flushed till his bright blue eyes
seemed to breathe forth the poetry of romance. Nor was I myself far
behind in my eagerness to get to that mysterious residence of secretive
men of past crime. Besides, I was out in the world to take notes, and
was determined to take them.

We lost no time. We packed up our goods and trekked. By noon of the next
day we had been paddled in canoes across wide lagoons and up a mighty
river by friendly natives. Then we plunged into the bush-land.

The very silence of that South Sea forest and the gleam of the sea
horizon—just visible through the woods of mighty breadfruits—gave one’s
imagination the atmosphere of heathenland mystery. We could hear the
mountain drums beating the sunset down somewhere up in the native
villages. To the N.N.W. were the wild, tribal, haunted mountains of
_Vuni-cunu_, running in a westerly direction, finally meeting the ranges
of _Muanivatu_. Around us stood huge tropical trees—banyans,
breadfruits, big bamboos, limes, and the ndrala laden with scarlet
blossoms. The airs of the deep glooms, heavy with the wild perfumes of
dying hibiscus and many strange, exotic forest flowers, sent pungent
odours to our nostrils. Not so far away tumbled the cool, swirling
waters of the river, hurrying on their homeward journey from the
mountains that formed a grand, wildly picturesque background to the
district where the large, shed-like building of the Charity Organization
of the South Seas was situated.

Sheltered by feathery palms and one or two mighty buttressed banyans,
that dark, vine-overgrown building looked like some peaceful hermitage,
some primitive monastery that sheltered aged missionaries. True enough,
missionaries dwelt therein; but what missionaries they were!—men who
relieved unhappy men who had shaved their beards off and arrived in
haste overburdened with cash! Yes, they rested there in security till
the hot scent had blown over, and once again they could continue on
their way across the wine-dark seas, outbound for the enchanted realms
of No-Extradition Ports, where dwell the Great Missing!

Could one have put one’s ear to that Organization’s low-roofed door, one
would have distinctly heard a chorus of muffled oaths and snatches of
wild song droning from the lips of the mysterious inmates of that
Arabian Nights-like establishment. Could one have opened that door on
the sly and peeped in, one would have seen a sight worth seeing if only
for its anthropological interest. All types were there, from the genuine
“hard up” honest sailorman down to the reformed native from Timbuctoo.
There they sat: sun-tanned men from the seas, ex-convicts, _libérés_
from New Caledonia; handsome faces, bleared and serious-looking;
hideous, sallow faces with pugnacious pug noses—Chinese, half-caste
Malays, and one or two runaway ships’ apprentices. Most of them were
leaning over the large bench-like table, shuffling cards and drinking
fiery rum, as ever and anon they glanced beneath the rims of their
wide-brimmed sombreros, and stared with hunted-looking eyes toward the
shanty’s door. They were ever on the alert! O’Hara and I had been in
that place only two days when two runaways arrived from Suva—one of whom
hailed from London Town, the other from Noumea. They usually arrived
without portmanteaux, under the cover of night, tapped at the door, paid
the bribe demanded, and so came under the flag of brotherhood and the
protection of that Charity Organization’s kindness.

O’Hara was tremendously excited about it all, and so was I. We got to
love exciting cases. One day, as O’Hara and I were watching the antics
of a covey of native children romping like puppies in the forest ferns,
we heard the sound of voices.

“What’s that?” said O’Hara.

“Sounds like the paddles of a canoe and voices on the beach,” I replied.

We listened again, and distinctly heard sounds as of a woman weeping.
Going up the little slope, we peeped through the banyan trunks; sure
enough, there were new arrivals seeking the Organization’s shelter. They
were two in all, the third person, who was leading them across the dense
fern scrub, was Bill Bode, the second in command of the shanty. One of
the fugitives was a tall, aristocratic-looking man; the other a young
and pretty girl. It was very evident that the latter felt depressed as
she looked in wonder at the sombre forest surrounding us.

The shadows of night were falling when we crept softly down the tracks
and once more entered that mysterious shanty’s door.

That building consisted of several large, low-roofed rooms and two small
compartments that were strictly private. One was arranged with much
taste, even decorated with flower-pots and provided with the essentials
for a fragile guest; and when the fugitive arrived, bringing with him
the sad cause of his downfall, it was in that small compartment that she
slept!

As O’Hara and I arrived in the rooms of that Sailors’ Boarding
Establishment, for such it was to us, the new arrival walked quietly
into the primitive saloon bar, gave a friendly nod to the members of the
motley throng, and sat down amongst the guests, who were mostly belated
sailors awaiting a ship. For, as I have intimated before, not all who
dwelt beneath that roof were hiding from the long arm of the law. If
anyone had doubts as to the respectability of that place, they would
have been quickly dispelled had he seen the look on the faces of those
rough men when someone tapped loudly at the door. That same evening
Ko-Ko, the half-caste native maid, was dancing on the large bench at the
far end of the room. Everything seemed rosy and peaceful. As the rough
men cheered and repeatedly encored the girl’s dances, and one played the
banjo and step-danced an incongruous _obligato_ to the girl’s song, the
hilarity was suddenly turned off like a gas-jet! Crash! someone had
knocked violently at the shanty’s front door!

Every “man-jack” breathed an oath, put his hand to his sheath-knife, and
glared his anticipation of the arrival of the police from Suva. The new
arrival trembled visibly, and turned ashy-white as once more it
came—crash! crash! on the door.

Just by the door was a huge tub which was a kind of emergency barrel.
The whole scene, there in the shadows, seemed like some terribly
realistic moving-picture show enacting before our eyes. Bones had rushed
from the next room, lifted the vast lid from the barrel, while four
stalwart men lifted the new arrival bodily—crash! bang! the stranger had
gone!

Only a muffled swear-word told the way of his going as the lid went
down.

Bones, who was the head of that Organization, and pocketed the bribes,
gave his holiest smile, his half-humorous-looking face betraying no sign
of the intense excitement of the moment when the new-comer had
disappeared from life’s wildest drama beneath the lid of that huge
barrel.

As the door opened, a giant of a fellow stood framed by the opening. It
appeared that he was a half-caste official from the Suva police force.
When he had told Bones that a canoe had been found on the beach, and
that they had received information that a fugitive from the N.S.W. mail
steamer had landed at Suva, Bones simulated a terrible passion.

“What the b—— h—— yer come ’ere for? What’s that to do with me?”

“Keep yer wig on,” said the official, standing just behind the first
man, who by this time had given Bones a significant wink. It required
very little thought to enable one to discern that Bones was well in with
those officials. And one’s suspicions would have soon been confirmed had
one seen the official in question sit down on the emergency barrel, and
grin from ear to ear as a muffled sneeze came from beneath the lid!

In a few moments the friendly man-hunters had passed away, happy enough
with their bribe—bribery being the staple trade of that establishment.

Next day a shot was heard in the forest. When the Organization members
rushed out beneath the palms, they only discovered the quivering body of
yesterday’s arrival—the new-comer had blown the top of his head off!
They hid the body beneath the scrub. Next day they buried him on the
quiet, miles away, near the old-time sugar plantations.

Bones and three or four others were the chief mourners. No coffin,
simply a bit of old tarpaulin tied tightly at the feet and again round
the neck, the canvas so short that the poor fugitive’s hair stuck out in
a pathetic bunch. It was like burying a man at sea as they dropped him
down into that hastily-dug hollow. O’Hara crossed himself. Bones said
something that sounded kind. As for the girl, she wept bitterly,
trembling like a leaf as she knelt by the grave-side. It made me wonder
if I dreamed that sight—a grave in a South Sea forest, that silent,
canvas-wrapt figure, and that innocent-looking girl with a world of
sorrow, utter misery on her face. She wasn’t his daughter; there was
something too passionately poetical in the things she said as she knelt
there, caring not at all for the men who stared down at her with a misty
look in their eyes.

Two days after that, she had sufficiently recovered so that she could
venture to travel. The kindness of Bones and the shady characters was
something that revealed in an indisputable manner that a woman’s
presence and sorrow have more religious influence on sinful hearts than
all the Psalms.

No one knew the exact way of that girl’s going. But the favoured theory
was that Bones and the Organization members had made a collection and so
paid her fare in the next steamer that was bound for London.

Next day a clergyman arrived. “Ecclesiastical profession” was writ in
sombre lines across his lean physiognomy.

“Who’s coming here next?” breathed O’Hara, as we looked up from the
pages of our novels, making sure that he too was fleeing from the
righteous arm of justice. But we were mistaken. He was simply a
kind-hearted religious crank who spent his days in wandering from isle
to isle seeking to reform fallen men. His woe-begone, melancholy aspect
cast a deep gloom over the establishment as he moaned out sad quotations
from his Bible, a gloom that pervaded the forest and darkened the sea
horizon. Bones shook him heartily by the hand when he first arrived and
said pious things. Bones had a face like cast-iron, but was soft-hearted
and the finest hypocrite extant. Some of the honest sailormen, yielding
to that sad ecclesiastic’s soft persuasion, listened to long passages
from the Psalms and Solomon’s Song. Then he took O’Hara and me down to
the tribal villages and introduced us to some of the old-time chiefs.
Shaggy old women prostrated themselves at his feet as he prayed for
their souls.

It was very evident that he had been that way before. Everyone seemed to
know him. I got to like him immensely during the two days that he
stopped with Bones. His madness was interesting and original, and made
an agreeable change after consorting with mortals who were quite sane.
Then he, too, passed away on his melancholy wanderings.

After he went, there arrived a troupe of troubadours, who came from
Melbourne as deck-passengers on a schooner. Among their number were
three American girls who turned that shanty into a kind of _opéra
bouffe_, as they sang and step-danced in a wonderful way. The scene
inside when the girls danced and the fat man played his guitar, looked
like some living-picture representation of Madame Tussaud’s, as though
all the lifeless criminals had been mysteriously awakened and were
applauding the visitors, waving big hats in wild ecstasy at being
serenaded so sweetly while in their degraded state. For, as they
listened to the troubadours, about twenty of us stood by, looking on the
shadowy scene lit up by the tallow candles that swung to and fro on
wires suspended from the roof of the wide bar-room.

I believe the wandering troupe made a splendid collection that night. I
know the fat man, with a big stomach, got very drunk, sang several
songs, and then fell down. And the girls giggled all night long as they
slept in the private compartment, wherein the unhappy fugitive girl had
rested the night before.

Next day the troupe bade us all farewell, for they were bound for
’Frisco, and the boat was leaving at noon.

I think O’Hara and I had been at the establishment for two weeks then.
It wasn’t a long time, but I had seen more strange sides of life in that
short time than one could well see under normal circumstances in twenty
years. But it must be admitted that my immediate experiences seemed very
vapid compared with the exciting adventures of the peculiar men who
arrived at the Charity Hermitage and seemed never weary of telling their
reminiscences and hairbreadth escapes to the new-comers. Even O’Hara
opened his mouth in astonishment at all he heard from the lips of those
who yearned to tell yarns, as over and over again some strange old
derelict would pull his whiskers while dropping into deep meditation as
to “what happened next.” That Hermitage of the South Seas was a kind of
Old Inn on life’s highway wherein sad men entered from the unknown, sat
and drank, sang a song, and then departed out into the unknown,
sometimes in a great hurry. Three extraordinary-looking beings arrived
at the Hermitage one night. One resembled Don Quixote _in extremis_,
another had a huge crooked nose that was swathed by a vast reddish
beard, and the third had a huge, domed bald head that looked like a
mighty billiard ball with flapping ears. They were attired in loose,
dilapidated pantaloons, heavy belts, coloured shirts, and firearms, and
might have been South Sea freebooters, blackbirders, or anything that is
wild and lawless, if appearances are to be relied upon. They hadn’t been
in the Organization Hermitage twelve hours before the half-caste
surveillants arrived at the door. The three new-comers at once made a
bolt out under the palms that led down to the seashore, a quarter of a
mile off. And, if anyone had happened to pass along the sands that
afternoon, they would assuredly have seen three weird-looking objects
with twinkling eyes sticking up out of the calm blue waters by the
shore’s coral reefs. To an imaginative observer those objects would
certainly have resembled the figureheads of three sunken Chinese junks,
wooden faces protruding, just visible at low-tide, the eyes glassy,
staring at the sky, lips tightly compressed, the nostrils level with the
ocean’s surface. But then again, the vast polished bald head of one was
unaccountable, and the bristly hair of another toned down the weird
unreality of the scene. For who ever saw a hideous Chinese junk’s
figure-head with thick hair on its crown, and tobacco smoke issuing from
its mouth? In short, those three objects were the heads of the three
new-comers, their bodies hidden beneath the sea’s surface, their heads
and nostrils exposed just sufficient so that they might inhale the
breeze, as they hid from the surveillants! Next day the natives missed a
twelve-seater outrigger canoe. And had high chief Makaroa looked
seaward, instead of kneeling and weeping before his old idol, he would
have seen a small object fading away on the ocean horizon far to the
S.W. It was none other than Makaroa’s missing canoe, with the three
fugitives, out on the wide world of waters, bound for Nowhere! But all
this is only a detail.

Perhaps it will not be out of place to tell one of the yarns that we
heard at the Hermitage,—not a swash-buckling story, but a tale that had
the indisputable ring of truth in it. The teller of the story was a
weird-looking fellow of about fifty years of age. He had lived in the
Solomons and Fiji for years. I think he was a trader. Anyway, he had
travelled the South Seas in the old heathen times, had lived in Fiji
when cannibalism was in vogue, and King Thakombau reigned supreme over
his dominions from the old capital of Bau. In these pages I will call
him G——. I cannot reproduce his exquisite manner in telling a story. I
had never heard anything like it before. He had lived in the isles to
the east when Bully Hayes roamed the seas, when King Tembinok of Apamama
was in his cannibal youthful prime, and Queen Vaekehu of Tai-o-hae
welcomed many a dusky potentate into her impassioned arms.


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



                     CHAPTER XVI. YORAKA’S DAUGHTER

        The Wild White Girl—The Wagner of Storms—A Pagan
        Citadel—Pagan Democracy—Ye Old Britisher—A Battle in the
        Dark.


FIRST I must state that G—— was a casual member of the Charity
Organization, an Englishman, and, from the general run of his
conversation and manner, gave one the impression that he had seen better
days. But there was nothing wonderful about that, for it is a fact that
many of the apparent rogues of those days betrayed something of past
polish, and possessed a personality infinitely more interesting than
that of men who had never stepped over the border-line.

G—— was a big lump of a fellow, just over six feet in height, and had
fine, expressive eyes full of humour and sometimes revealing a lingering
sadness that made one’s heart go out to him. Personally, I liked him
immensely. He could play the flute as well as he could tell a yarn, and
that’s saying something!

But I would say, right here, that the story that he told me, and which I
will tell here, is told not so much for the presumable interest that it
might give as a mere yarn, as for my absolute confidence in the veracity
of the man who told me it, his manner whilst telling it leaving such a
possibility as doubt or exaggeration quite out of the question. Nor was
there any justifiable reason why one should be sceptical, since G—— had
lived, as I have said, in Fiji when cannibalism was in vogue, and white
men arrived at the islands and did very much as they liked,—some
resorting to savagery, some giving their hand in marriage to dusky
queens, ascending thrones and holding full sway over swarthy populations
of heathenland.

It was a glorious tropical eventide when G——, O’Hara, and I sat under
the palms as the fireflies commenced to dance in the bamboos by the
shore lagoons. G—— took his pipe from his lips, stroked his bearded chin
in his characteristic way, and commenced:

“You must know, boys, that things were very different in these parts in
the old semi-heathen times. I had arrived for the second time in Levuka
then, had left a trading schooner, and was spending my time in looking
round. I was a bit of a romantic loony in those days, and when my pal,
Mick Deny, who had been shipmate with me for two years, heard that a
Britisher, a fugitive from justice, was living like a wild man up in the
Kai Tholos mountains with his daughter, we got interested, I can tell
you. We got the whole facts of the case out of one of the Kai Tholos
natives who had come into Levuka to get fish. Deny was a bit gone on
girls, and when he heard that the Britisher had brought that young
daughter of his out to these infernal regions and had brought her up as
a heathen amongst those tribal natives, he was as eager as I to visit
the stronghold in the mountains and see how matters stood. It appeared
that this fugitive Britisher had assumed command over the tribe with
whom he dwelt, styled himself as Roko (high chief), taken unto himself
several native wives, and resorted to the unbridled lust and degradation
of savagery.

“‘How old is the girl?’ queried Deny, as the native trader told us these
facts.

“‘She nicer Marama, grow up beautifuls, nicer crown hair, nicer eyes,
colour of _moani ali_ (the ocean).’

“As that Fijian gabbled away, waxing enthusiastic over the beauty of the
exiled white girl up there, imprisoned from the sight of her own race,
Deny and I fairly gasped over the idea of it all. We got no sleep that
night. The idea of that girl being cruelly treated by her criminal
parent seemed to set our brains afire with romantic ideas. By the
morning we had made our minds up, and had decided to make an expedition
up into the Tholos mountains. The first thing to do was to get some
goods, so I went down to the schooners that lay in the harbour, cadged
some sugar, tea, tobacco plug, and those essentials which I guessed
would meet our requirements. Deny’s eyes flashed with delight at the
idea of it all. The risk of the job we were undertaking did not deter
us, it only added spice to the business. And the natives, I can tell
you, were not as chummy in those days as they are now. Old Thakombau had
only just been converted to Christianity, had swallowed four casks of
sacramental rum, and had shaken hands with all the missionaries. But he
was a sly old fellow, and didn’t know anything about the tribal fights
and the missing bodies of the dead after the _Bokolai_ feast (cannibal
feast). Oh no! Not he. He was quite converted! When we had packed up our
few traps, not forgetting my flute, and were quite ready to start off,
little Sanga, the native girl who did our cooking in the beach shanty
(only one store in Levuka in these days), started crying,

“‘You no-e takeer little Sanga longer you?’

“‘Let the kid come,’ said Deny; ‘besides, she’ll be useful, knows the
lingo, and that kind of thing,’ he added.

“‘All right, Sanga; don’t grizzle,’ said I.

“Then Deny and I went into the village to get permission from Sanga’s
parents.

“She couldn’t go off on an excursion like that without getting
permission from her parents. Sanga’s mother, a fine-looking half-caste,
gave us the kid in complete confidence.

“‘You noble Papalagis; me trust her with you.’

“‘Yes, we’re holy beggars,’ thought I, as we walked away across the
_rara_, Sanga somersaulting with delight like a puppy at our heels, as
we left the village and started on our trip to find out all about the
Britisher and his daughter. We _did_ take care of that kiddie too,
although we had some rough times ere bringing her safely back to her
village.

“By midday next day we had tramped many miles inland, and had already
crossed the lower ranges of the mountains to the N.N.W.

“Sanga was a blessing to us, and sang weird heathen songs as she tramped
by our side. I had dressed her up in a little blue kimono which I had
cut out of a large silk handkerchief, cutting holes in it for the
armpits. When she looked at herself in the lagoon hard by, she chuckled
with delight. The first night was all that could be desired as we slept
beneath the palms, side by side, and Deny sang a highland song till I
fell asleep.

“The next night a typhoon blew. It was something that I had never heard
before in the way of nature’s extempore musical expression. As you know,
I am not much of a musician. I can play the flute and knock out the
common chords for a song and dance on the piano; but to describe the
harmonies that storm made in the mountains is quite beyond me. We were
all tired out, just going off to sleep. In fact, I heard Deny snoring.
Sanga lay at my feet, her head on my calf, as she hummed in the dark.
Then it came—no warning, mind you. Bang! It seemed as if there had been
some tremendous upheaval in interstellar space, that worlds and planets
were exploding like vast bombs somewhere beyond the moon, the
south-western horizon being repeatedly blown out as the débris struck
the mountains around us. The enormous breadfruits and banyans, all
bending and howling like the sails, rigging, and masts of ships in a
hurricane, moaned a wild symphony in the pitch darkness, for the clouds
had slid over, puff! and put the moon out without any warning. Once a
star gleamed as the wrack raced across the sky. Sanga huddled close up
to Deny as I put my hand out to see where they were. Then the moon burst
through the cloud and the shadows went racing across the gullies till it
seemed that the mountains themselves were moving along, sailing before a
head wind! Then the deluge began. We were sheltered in a native hut, but
the rain came in by the bucketful. Oceans seemed to crash down from the
sky. Mighty trees were uplifted, and before they fell to the earth were
carried across the gullies like twigs before the tremendous violence of
the wind. Then there started the most wonderful thing in the way of
sound that I have ever heard, or shall ever hear again. It seemed that a
thousand demons had come out to carouse and play ghostly instruments in
some phantom military band. I never heard anything to resemble it. Drums
began to beat, a thousand strong, bassoons, horns, double basses,
clarionets, ’cellos, saxaphones, bugles, cornets—all wailing and
bellowing forth in the wildest orchestral combination that human ears
ever heard. ‘God! What is it pal?’ yelled Deny in my ear, and his voice
sounded like the wail of a child. My own heart thumped. ‘Strange that I
should live to see the end of the world,’ thought I, as that terrible
nightmare of sound suddenly subsided, while the typhoon stopped a moment
to take breath! We didn’t know it then, but that typhoon was a kind of
mighty Wagner of the elements that came by night with universal breath
to blow the terrific diapasons, vast bassoons and thunderous wails,
whistles, and timpani effects in the mightiest orchestral instrument
that creation has made, so far as I know. It was like this: those
mountains were volcanic, and so were fairly _honeycombed_ with
precipitous tunnels and big cavernous hollows, each hollow possessing
its own peculiar, specific quality of sound, so that when the typhoon
arrived, and its ten thousand orchestral members, so to speak, placed
their phantom lips and blew terrifically into each crevice, the noise
resembled something like ten thousand Easter Monday steam-organs and
beating-drums going hard and strong on some holiday down in shadowland!

“I don’t exaggerate when I say that some of the notes rang out in clear,
silvery, bugle tones, some full and mellow, tremulous with throbbing
expression; then the muffled sound of a mighty drum would boom out in
that infinite harmony of the dark and wind! When you consider that a
typhoon’s terrific and tremendously varied breathing powers blew through
a thousand thousand deep-voiced bugles and trumpets with curling tubes
that went running right down into the volcanic bowels of the Fijian
Isles, there wasn’t much wonder in the fact that wonderfully marvellous
subtle musical effects and perfect intonation should crop up somewhere.
Of course, Deny and I hadn’t the slightest idea then as to how that
pandemonium of sound came about.

“‘The end of the world arrived and they sent some kind of a brass band
to lead the battalions of the dead heathens into shadowland; that’s what
it is,’ yelled Deny, cheering up when I touched him, to assure myself
that we were still in the flesh.

“I think Sanga cheered us up more than anything. She even laughed, just
as we thought we were about to die too!

“She was a plucky youngster, and good-looking to boot.

“When dawn came the sun burst through the sky as though it was in a
hurry. It seemed to boil the soaking mountain forests. We could see the
chameleon-like colours sparkling, as the steam from the heated tropical
vegetation rolled away over the rugged hills. We were drenched through.
By nightfall I was seized with pains in the back. It was a kind of
malaria. My limbs began to quiver. By midnight I was delirious.

“‘Don’t die, pal,’ said Deny, as I begged him, for old-time’s sake, to
strangle the mighty heathen god who kept peering through the clouds,
putting his stinking mop-head against my nose as he struck me tremendous
blows on the head with a war-club! But I could not die. When I had slept
for an hour and got a bit sane, things seemed as bad. For the thousands
of insects that had sought refuge from the storm in our hut attacked me.
Scorpions, fat-bodied lizards, and huge red ants, as big as walnuts, and
red land-crabs formed up in regiments and attacked us. I felt strange
things creeping up the inside of my pants as they flapped their
rudimentary wings. Then Deny took me outside and gave me a drink of rum.
In a few minutes the fever had abated. By midday I was as fit as a
fiddle.

“Deny was a splendid cook. He gathered some _feis_ (bananas) and yams
from the garden of the deserted heathen hut, and made a glorious meal.

“Then we started off, Sanga singing cheerily behind us as we trekked it
up into the higher ranges.

“By this time we were near Nisao, and had already sighted one of the
native villages to the S.W. Though we had heard that the natives of that
part were friendly, still we were not taking any risks, so we sent Sanga
across the gullies as an advance-guard. She whipped off like an arrow,
without the slightest fear. When she came back she was accompanied by
four stalwart chiefs and two women. To our relief they were waving their
hands friendly-wise, welcoming us to their village.

“As we crossed the gully bridge—a huge breadfruit trunk—the sight of the
small conical homesteads beneath the feathery palms, the beautiful
moss-ferns, and scarlet-flowered ndralas, gave one the impression that
we were entering some perfect, pagan city of shadowland. Romping
children stopped their games, rushed out of the shadows and hut doorways
to gaze on Deny and me in astonishment. The shaggy-haired women by the
huts were smoking clay pipes, squatting on mats, and staring stolidly at
the pretty native girls, who fawned about us, stroked our hands, and
said in their own lingo, ‘O beautiful Papalagis, with blue eyes!’

“It was all right, I can tell you. Suddenly a giant of a fellow stood up
from among a huddled group of savages and come towards us. By the
distinguished tattooesque coat-of-arms on his massive chest and
shoulders, I knew that he must be the tribal chief. Besides, as he came
towards us, he was followed by an obsequious retinue of eight
half-decayed-looking old women, who were crawling on their wrinkled
stomachs as they placed their travelling hands in their august master’s
footprints. They were his old, cast-off wives. The new batch of young
wives were squatting by the big palavana, showing their pearly teeth and
making eyes at Deny and me. One cheeky little wench, who was clad in a
tappa-gown of two inches in width and half a yard in length, took a
flower from her hair and threw it towards us.

“I can remember it all as though it were yesterday. I can even hear the
strange bird that was singing up in the citron trees, which grew just
over the little plot where they buried their dead. We felt a bit
swaggery when the military band came out of the chief palavana, formed
up with their instruments (vuvis, bone flutes, human bones, gourds with
strings across, lais, wooden drums, and bamboo flutes), and commenced to
play an anthem of welcome as we entered the stockade gateway that led
into that portion of the village where the head chief received
ambassadors in council. I think the sight of all was Sanga, as she
marched just ahead of us, a flower dangling in her hair, and her little
chest swelled majestically, as she looked sideways on the tribal
children, who were staring at her with awestruck eyes.

“If I had had any poetic idea in my head about that village being some
dwelling-place of fairy-land, I’m sure it was soon dispelled when we
passed by the village dustbin.

“‘Phew!’ said Deny, as Sanga and I sniffed and held our noses. Even in
those high altitudes of the Fijian mountain villages there was
considerable room for sanitary improvement.

“Such was our reception in Nisao just twenty years ago.

“That same night we got pally with the high chief, Roko (meaning
‘high-born’). He gave us all the direct information that we required;
told us that, true enough, a white man did dwell up in the cool mountain
villages of the cannibal Kai Tholos. Then he told us how the _White
Roko_ had lorded it over the village folk of Tumba for quite ten years,
after having made himself their chief. It seemed as though we dreamed it
all as we stood there, Deny and I, and heard the astounding facts as we
warily got the friendly chief on the tack that we were most interested
in. He nodded his head and said:

“‘Yes, Papalagi, beautiful white _Marama_ (white girl) live up there
too; nicer chiefess; smoother shoulders, whiter skin.’

“Saying this, old Roko made various descriptive signs in an attempt to
convey to our minds the wondrous beauty of the White Roko’s daughter. It
was then that we learnt that the Englishman was known to his tribe by
the name of Yoraka. Whether his name was Yorick, and this name that he
was known by was a bastardized equivalent of it, I don’t know; possibly
it was so.

“I recall that that old chief was immensely amused when he discovered
that Deny and I were after the white girl.

“‘How does she dress? What does she do with herself? Is she wild? Is she
married?’ and such-like questions did we put to Roko.

“Roko did not know much about the girl’s habits, for she was seldom
allowed out of the Tholos stronghold, and Old chief Roko dared not go up
there to his neighbour’s stronghold because they were enemies. We were
delighted to hear that he was not on friendly terms with this
extraordinary Yoraka, for it enabled us to extract a promise from him to
help us out of it should we get into difficulties. We arranged that,
should our countryman ‘turn up rough’ and set his tribal heathen on us,
we should send Sanga back to his village for help.

“‘Things are going all right,’ chuckled Deny, when the old chief took a
vow to help us.

“‘Vinaka, O le tani—geroot!’ yelled the tribal warriors. Then they lined
up; and I can tell you, Deny and I felt considerably relieved as we
inspected Roko’s bodyguard—the war chiefs who would come to our help if
we needed them. We felt like two seasoned generals as we passed along
the lines, inspecting those weird-looking, tattooed warriors. They
swelled their massive chests, their big war-club handles standing on end
up to their shoulders. They had tremendous mouths, the teeth darkened
with the juice of the betel-nut; and such mops of hair, I’d never seen
the like before.

“‘Thank God they’re on _our_ side!’ was my mental comment, as the great
Roko shouted ‘Karoot!’ and up went fifty war-clubs, ere down they came,
crash! in the thunderous drill that would show us how easily they could
smash the thickest of skulls with one well-aimed blow!

“Twelve hours after that experience we had done the eight miles that
divided Roko’s village from the Tholos stronghold. We were actually in
sight of that tiny mountain citadel wherein had dwelt for nearly ten
years that fugitive Britisher, Yoraka.

“There was something terribly weird in the thought that up there was one
of our own race who had degenerated into complete savagery and held full
sway over the wild Kai Tholos natives. It were impossible for me to
attempt to find a name for the atmosphere that my imagination conjured
up as Deny and I stood there, our white helmet hats pushed back on our
heads, our hands arched to our eyes as we stared towards the sunset that
gleamed on the far-off tribal huts of that solitary stronghold.

“‘What would they think of us? How would they greet us? Would the white
girl scream and faint away at the delight of it all when she realized
that Deny and I had come to rescue her? Had she seen white men—other
than that damnable parent of hers? Or had she been a close prisoner from
childhood, kept in utter darkness of the great civilized world beyond
the seas?’

“A thrill of romance warmed my soul, pulsing through my veins like wine,
as the novelty, the wonder of it all seemed to shine in the magical
ultramarine of the far-off sea horizon and the mountain sunset. Within
an hour of our romantic contemplation of the village, we had actually
entered the stockade gates. I clutched my revolver, and Deny did
likewise.

“Just as the children had done in the last village, out ran the kiddies
from the huts, rushed up to us and shouted, ‘Vinaka! Vinaka!’

“‘They’ve seen plenty of white people before, that’s certain,’ said I to
Deny, as the old, squat-looking chiefs and shaggy-haired chiefesses
stared stolidly at us as we walked by. Possibly it was our tremendous
cheek and helpless appearance that disarmed the suspicions of those
wild-looking men and women as they shouted forth their acclamations of
welcome.

“We gave them bits of tobacco plug. Thinking it was wisest to make no
delay in letting them know that we were there on a friendly visit, we
straightway asked them to show us into the presence of the great White
Roko, Yoraka. Approaching a monstrous-looking chief who was heavily
decorated with insigniatorial tattoo, we expressed our wish. In a moment
a bodyguard had been formed and was solemnly walking ahead of us,
leading us through the village. Sanga walked between Deny and me. I
noticed that she too looked a bit serious as she clutched hold of the
knee of my trousers. Passing through a large archway, that seemed to be
of natural rock formation, we entered another district of the village.
As we turned the bend by the orange and citron trees, our hearts
thumped. We were standing before a large, conical-shaped building that
had evidently been built on European lines. We guessed that we were at
last standing before the residence of the ex-Britisher.

“It seemed incredible as we stood there and thought of the man who had
exiled himself from his race and had resorted to the unbridled lust and
squalor of all that we saw around us—girls and women in all stages of
undress and motherhood. But it was not so strange when one thinks of the
criminals and unbridled lust and squalor of the dens of great
cities—cities superintended by vigilant police officials with the power
of a nation to help them put down crime. And who will deny that,
notwithstanding Scotland Yard, London, and White House, New York, crime
does exist, that men _do_ revert back to their primitive instincts,
resort to bestiality, murder, and all that’s utterly opposed to the
instincts of decently trained, clean-minded men. However, the fact
remains that there _was_ a white man who dwelt in complete savagery in
the mountains to the N.N.W., however incredible it may seem. And nothing
could be more certain than the sound of a drunken voice singing an
English song, the melody of ‘There is a tavern in the town, in the
town!’ coming from the inside of that primitive but palatial-looking
dwelling before us!

“‘Keep close to me, Sanga,’ said I, as the chiefs turned and beckoned
us. Then Deny’s tall form stooped as he bent forward and entered the
doorway, while Sanga and I closely followed him.

“Though I had conjured up all kinds of picturesque types in my mind as
to what kind of a man I should see when I entered there, I’ll swear that
I was quite unprepared for the villainous type that I did see. Squatting
on a mat, native fashion, was a burly-looking man of about fifty years
of age. His face was a dull, pasty brown; indeed, the man before us was
more like a half-caste than any type I could think of at the moment.
Even his hair was done up in a large mop, native style. But the reddish
colour of the beard, and the deep-set, keen grey eyes were
unmistakable—there squatted a degenerate Britisher, robed in all the
glory of primitive royalty. Hanging from the wide, low roof were some
forty coconut-oil lamps which added to the mystery of the scene before
us. In a semicircle, almost up to his feet, squatted several native
women, some of them young girls, presumably his wives. To our
astonishment he nodded his head, as though courteously to acquaint us
with the fact that he was pleased to see us. This welcome of his seemed
incongruous enough, since he wore only a tasselled sulu about his loins,
a garb that barely reached to his muscular, hairy knees. As he stood up
he resembled nothing so much as some primitive blacksmith who wore a
leather apron only—had forgotten to put his trousers on.

“The walls were decorated with fibre matting, skulls, old men’s beards,
and other gruesome articles that make up the furniture of barbarian
homesteads. On the floor in front of him were large calabashes, some
full of fruits, others containing fermenting toddy. These facts I took
in at a glance as Deny stood speechless on one side of me and Sanga
clutched my hand on the other side.

“Suddenly he looked up, and said: ‘Vinaka, sirs! glader to see you, o le
su, ter-day, savve?’

“So long had it been since he had spoken to his countrymen that he had
actually got into the habit of speaking pigeon English! For a little
while he regarded us with suspicion, then, as he took another drink of
toddy from the calabash that the native girls held to his lips, he
became garrulous. As he spoke on I noticed that his speech improved; one
could almost hear the awakening in his brain of words that had lain
dormant for years.

“Though I courteously refused to drink of the toddy that he ordered to
be handed to me, Deny, to my regret, swallowed more than was good for
him. This convivial understanding of like appetites seemed to awaken his
interest in us, for ere long Deny stood before him and sang some old
Scottish songs—‘Robin Adair,’ and ‘Will ye no’ come back again?’ I
think. He gave orders to his concubines to fetch us sweet taro,
pineapples, and many mixed dishes that were made from indigenous fruits.
Then he shifted himself, squatted right opposite me, and commenced to
ask me questions about England.

“‘Whas London loiker? He! he! he! Does the ole Queen still sit on her
throne at Windsor? He! he!’

“Saying that, he gave a lurch forward, and I saw that the pose he had
assumed when we entered his dwelling-place had been dispelled by
drivelling intoxication. Still he raved on, nudged me in the ribs, and
shouted toasts to other days! Thrusting his pallid face forward, he
lifted the coco-nut goblet, and yelled again and again, ‘’Ows ye b—— ole
Queen!’ then he gave me another violent nudge, and roared with laughter.

“‘Nasty-looking ole swine!’ said Deny, as Sanga pinched my arm and said
in a quiet voice:

“‘Come away! Come away, Papalagi!’

“I saw that the kiddie didn’t like the look of that man of my race, who
leered towards her, and touched her smooth arms. Then Deny and he became
reminiscent as they discovered they were both familiar with Fleet
Street. I must say I felt a bit ashamed of my comrade, as he too lurched
forward and nudged that vile Britisher in the ribs. It was plain as
plain could be that that cursed toddy stuff had made Deny forget
himself.

“‘Deny, Deny!’ I said reprovingly.

“Alas, my pal responded only by looking up at me in an insane way and
gurgling out, ’Awl ’ight, pal!’

“As for Yoraka, he opened his slit mouth, drivelled like an imbecile,
poked his pallid tongue out over his sharp-edged, blackened teeth, and
yelled:

“‘Do the b—— natives on ye old Thames still wear clothes? He! he! How’s
ther Derby racecourse? By the gods of my fathers, I’d giver something
for a soda and whisky ter-night!’

“Saying this much, as near as I can recall all that he said, he lurched,
put his head forward, and pinched little Sanga’s small fat leg! The
kiddie almost screamed in her terror.

“‘It’s all right, Sanga. Don’t mind him. He’s only a drunken Britisher,’
said I swiftly, as the degenerate stooped over his toddy calabash and
offered Deny another gobletful. And all the while this was going on his
women and girl wives and servants, squatting on a mat in a semicircle
round him, were regarding Deny and me with curious stare.

“Then, once again, in hoarse acclamations, he yelled of England.

“‘Do they still read their Bibles—the pot-bellied, wassailed-eyed
English? Ye souls of missionaries, I’ve eaten better men than you
blooder Englishman!’

“Listening to those wild remarks from a drunken man, and a fugitive
British criminal into the bargain, I put his wild sayings down as
figures of speech that represented some bitterness in his heart over
memories of other days. By now he was drivelling copiously at the mouth,
the mop of hair had fallen and hung in ringlets on his brow. He
resembled some giant chimpanzee as he squatted before us, his narrow
eyes glittering, his reddish beard bunched to his neck, as he looked at
Deny and me and volleyed forth terrible oaths.

“’Ow’s ole Fleet Street? Did yer chance ter know the barmaid at ole
M——’s, Alice M’Gill eh? She was a fine wench; hell, what a figure, a
body, he! he! she had!’

“Then he yelped forth another volley of disgusting ribaldry that I
wouldn’t repeat if you wanted me to.

“While all this was going on, my eyes were squinting round, wondering
where on earth the girl was whom we had heard so much about.

“Deny had started to sing with Yoraka, who had begun to sing in a
drivelling voice:

            ‘There is a tavern in the town, in the town,
            Where my true love sits him down, sits him down.’

“Then Yoraka continued:

               ‘I’ll ’ang me ’arp oner weepin’ willer tree
               And may ther worle go well with thee.’

“Not liking to be left out of the ensemble, as the assembled wives,
girls, and servants beat their hands in a kind of chant,—I saw that the
Britisher had taught them all that song, for they chanted it in a rather
effective manner,—I took my flute from my breast pocket and commenced to
play. It must have been an incongruous sight to see and to hear as that
disgusting relic of our race squatted there, a grin on his blubbery
jowls, as Deny, with lifted hand, sang and made eyes at the
passable-looking girls of the royal retinue, and I stood, _maestro_
fashion, my helmet hat bashed against the low roof, performing on the
flute. It was whilst this quartette was in progress that the improbable
occurred. Suddenly the row of tattooed Fijians, who were huddled by the
door of some inner compartment, all moved as though to make way for
someone. The tappa curtains were drawn aside. I stopped my
flute-playing; Deny opened his mouth and gasped aloud. There she stood,
her pale blue eyes open with astonishment as she stared wistfully, like
a shadowy-figure in a South Sea picture, on Deny and then on me. It was
Yoraka’s, that loathsome British criminal’s, daughter!

“To my eyes, which had never before seen a pure-blooded white girl in
native costume, expressing all the innocent abandonment of natural life
in the pose of her figure and movement of her shapely limbs, she seemed
the most impressively beautiful example of charming womanhood that my
eyes had ever beheld. She was sun-tanned from head to feet, as though
she had been varnished by some artist with a wondrous mixture that
resembled a Cremona violin’s hue mixed up with sunlight. The picturesque
raiment of threaded fern grass that swathed her thighs, like a
loin-cloth, increased the beauty of the picture of that wild white girl
who stood there before us. She looked like the pictures I have seen of
Queen Boadicea. Her hair was a bright golden-bronze hue, like that deep
shade seen in the sunset’s aftermath, her rough, loosened tresses
falling down to the exquisitely curved shoulders, while one or two stray
locks fell in front, rippling down over her bosom to the tasselled
raiment that fell in modest modulation to her knees. I had a suspicion
that she had been told we were there in that palavana, that she had
peeped through the tappa-curtains and seen us, and had then gone and
arranged her secret toilet to please our eyes. I discovered afterwards
that the hue of her hair and the length of her tresses were the pride of
the whole tribe, the chiefs giving cattle to Yoraka that they might
breathe through her tresses, and so treating her as a goddess!

“I think Deny’s heart went out to her at once. However, I know that when
the strains of the flute mingled with the notes of the Scottish songs he
sang that night, it was very hard to know which sounded the most
beseeching!

“That which struck me forcibly as I scanned the girl’s clear eyes and
fine brow was, that she should really be the daughter of the
chimpanzee-like debauchee squatting there before us. But, recalling to
mind the trite old saying, ‘’Tis a wise child that knows its own
father,’ I gave the girl the benefit of the doubt; nor did this opinion
of mine cast a slur on the mother, for by the character of the man
before us, none could blame her for bestowing her secret affections on
another than her ‘rightful lord.’ I confess that the girl had her
failings. But they seemed only some natural expression of the innate
instincts that are prominent in all the actions of her more fortunate,
civilized white sisters. For, as I watched, it was quite evident that,
notwithstanding Deny’s boisterous manner as he ogled her, twirling his
moustache and assuming a massive gallantry that I had not thought him
capable of, she favoured his advances; indeed, she actually returned
with interest his admiring looks as her eyes roamed up and down his
giant figure, that swayed, drunken-wise, before her.

“‘He! he! nicer girl—eh?’ leered Yoraka, as he observed Deny’s
infatuated glances.

“Then that heathen scoundrel lurched forward and pinched Sanga’s leg
again, putting on such an unholy look as he gazed on her, that I felt
like giving him a punch under the ear. I’ve seen Chinamen, Niggers,
Kaffirs, Turks, all grades of followers of Mohammed, Borneo cannibals,
and what not, gaze on young native girls, but the look in that
degenerate Britisher’s eyes beat them all for downright wickedness. He
looked like some personification of all the guile, hypocrisy, power,
indescribable lust, and bestiality of white man, that have blighted
native life in these isles, crammed into one skull, gleaming forth from
one pair of terrible eyes, drivelling and chuckling from one mouth,
expressed on one iron brow, voiced by one filthy, fang-like tongue.

“Deny’s dead now. I won’t say a word of the further doings of that
night. He’d been down with fever too; the weather was terribly muggy
into the bargain, and that does put a thirst into a man. And, moreover,
notwithstanding the hideousness of all Yoraka’s actions, and the fright
that we both confessed we felt afterwards, through being in his power,
there was something fascinating in the novelty of it all. I think it
took twelve high chiefs to carry Deny across the _rara_ (space) and lay
him down in the hut that had been allotted to him, Sanga, and my humble
self.

“I rubbed my eyes in the morning, wondering if I had dreamed it all. It
was no dream though; there was no mistaking the reality of the wild
bird’s song that sang in the mountain banyans just outside our hut door.
Besides, there sat little Sanga, rubbing her sleepy eyes, and Deny was
as real as real could be, as he sat there with his head in a large
calabash of cold water, cooling his fevered skull!

“We had no sooner eaten the food that the natives brought to us than we
were outside in the clear morning air. Our great desire was to see that
white girl again.

“‘We must get her away from this hell of a hole,’ said Deny, turning his
eyes away from me as though he felt a bit ashamed of himself. Then he
said: ‘You got a bit rocky last night, didn’t you, pal?’

“‘A bit rocky!’ said I, feeling disgusted at such an insinuation from my
comrade, who had lowered my prestige in that village by his drunken
behaviour the night before. But I said nothing. I saw how the wind blew.
And it says something for Deny that he was enough ashamed of himself to
try and make out that I was as bad as he.

“I won’t go into all the details as to how we finally got to know where
the girl was to be found. It will be sufficient to say, that Deny gave
two natives plugs of tobacco and promised them another drink from his
rum-flask if they’d lead us to the den where the girl resided. For I
must tell you that we had found out by the merest chance that the girl
did not live with her parent, but dwelt at the other end of the village,
where the high chiefs resided.

“As the natives led us across the cleared village space, we wondered
what the girl would think to see us so eager to seek her presence. At
last we stood outside a thatched den, just on the outskirts of the
village.

“‘She in there, Marama, savvy?’

“In a moment Deny and I made up our minds and entered the hut. The first
thing that I did was to upset a cradle wherein lay two whitish-looking
kiddies.

“‘Look like damned half-caste kids,’ said Deny, as we cursed and made a
swift attempt to pick them up before the distracted mother appeared.
They opened their reddish mouths like two young crows, and made terrific
caw-like sounds. Deny put his hand over one’s mouth!

“Suddenly we felt a draught, the tappa-curtain was flung aside, the
white girl stood before us, her eyes blazing as we both held the kids!
She really _did_ look like a wild girl, as she stood there before us
with her mouth open, in _déshabillé_, an old torn sulu dangling to her
thighs. For a moment I felt embarrassed as I looked at her bare bosom.
Then I swiftly realized that she did not understand the novelty of the
sight,—a girl of our race dressed like that, showing so much of what
should have been her secret toilet, to say the least.

“Perhaps she saw the romantic light in Deny’s eyes as she stared up at
our flushed faces. Anyway, she cooled down, and asked us into her
homestead.

“Then she looked up at us in a startled way, and said, ‘You be killer;
go way! go way!’

“That was the first thing she said, as we got out of earshot of the
sly-looking old hags who were leaning against the palms smoking
cigarettes.

“‘We’ve come to save you!—to take you away from this village,’ whispered
Deny, giving her a ravishing look. ‘Take you away to another country
where the white men and women live,—understand?—savvy?’ continued Deny,
as the girl looked up and simply stared at us.

“At first we thought it might be some haunting remembrance of her
childhood days in England that made her stare so. It may have been so.
However, the only response she made was to put forth her hand and
commence to caress the pendant, the brass compass, that dangled at the
end of my silver watch chain! Then she giggled and showed us _her_
babies!

“‘Yours!’ almost yelled Deny.

“The scales fell from our eyes when we learnt from her own lips that
those pallid, demon-like-looking kids were hers—twins too!

“‘Where’s he?’ we both ejaculated in a tense whisper, as we looked
around.

“She shook her head, did not understand.

“‘The old man, your husband?—the father of the kids?’ said Deny, trying
to make her understand.

“Pointing to the floor, she said, ‘He go under, goodee job tooer!’

“‘Dead!’ was Deny’s and my comment. Nor did we shed any tears over the
dead heathen’s demise, I can tell you.

“There she stood before us, innocent-looking as a child, a splendid
specimen of what an English girl was like when reared up as a savage.
Even as I watched, I thought of the interest she would create in the
souls of those who went in for anthropology.

“I discerned at a glance that she had the instincts of a white woman the
world over. As she stared at us she hastily put her hand up to her hair
to see if the hibiscus blossoms were in an attractive position. As she
squatted on the mat and boldly looked into our eyes, she pulled her
picturesque raiment down over the curves of her knees. ‘That’s something
that a native woman wouldn’t do,’ was my mental comment. That one little
action convinced me that there is an inherent modesty in women of the
white races that is not conspicuous in many of the brown races. For,
_how_ did she know that women of our race wore long dresses? All the
native women about her wore barely anything at all! Besides, there was
the swift, instinctive action of an act that could only be the result of
_inherent_ modesty. Knowing the chance I had of testing the difference
between the white and the brown races, I went through all sorts of
artful dodges to find out the various shades of her character. I put my
hand out in a caressing way, softly touching her fingers so that she
might be assured that I was there only out of friendship. Deny did the
same.

“To our delight she repsonded by saying, ‘Yorana, Papalagi,’ and then,
in a soft, fawning, cat-like way, returned the caress, touched my wrist,
looked into my eyes, and murmured, ‘Oh, whi! whi, nicer,’ alluding to
the whiteness of my flesh just up under my coat-sleeve. Then, in a
really fascinating way, she admired the smoothness of our boyish faces;
put her fingers through my golden hair;—I had hair then.” (He was bald
as a badger as he sat there telling us these things.) “Then Deny took
the flask from his pocket and, to my surprise, asked her to take a nip
of rum! She gave one sip, and made a wry face as she spat the liquid
out.

“I looked into her eyes, held her hand, and said:

“‘Wouldn’t you like to leave this village and go across the seas to your
own people, see the big cities, large buildings?’

“She only stared at me. I saw that it was all Greek to her. Then I tried
to explain civilization to her. I told her that women wore beautiful
silken robes to the feet, robes that were adorned with flashing gems.
Her eyes sparkled with wonder for a while. She seemed to show true
interest only when I described English life, told of the comfortable,
cosy homes, the hearth-fires in cold weather, and of the little
children. Deny looked up at me, noticed my earnest manner, and thought I
was mad. So he said after. Sanga squatted just behind us the whole time,
staring at the girl with wonder in her eyes, and never said one word.

“As I told her these things, I watched for some evidence of a desire in
her heart to come with us; but the only effect it seemed to have on her
was that which one notices on a child when it listens to a fairy story.
There was something infinitely sad about it all as she sat there—a girl
of our race, lost to the world, irreclaimable, doomed to live on in that
hell of a village,—a girl with natural beauty shining from her soft,
almost wistful-looking eyes. The wind blew gently through the doorway,
the palms sighed mournfully on the mountain slopes, and it seemed that
the very zephyrs caressed her with sorrow as they touched the
picturesque robe she had put on since we had arrived.

“I can never tell you how Deny and I appealed to that girl, beseeching
her to come away with us. For a moment she gazed at us as though in
grief, then she put forth her hand and appealed to Deny to give her one
of his coat buttons. In a moment my pal had ripped a button off and
handed it to her. She held it up in the ray of sunlight that trickled
through the doorway, and gave a childish cry of pleasure.

“‘Look at her feet,’ said Deny.

“I had never seen such pretty feet before. The nails were like pearls,
and, through the foot having never been cramped up in boots, the toes
were exquisitely curved, the lower contours running up and finishing at
the ankles in a charming way. Deny took the liberty of tenderly holding
her leg up so that I might admire the curves of the calf, the perfect
roundness of the knee. She kept a wary eye on him: I’m _sure_ that _was_
the look that I noticed in her eyes. Then, on hearing our impassioned
exclamations, and seeing the appreciative glances of our eyes over the
beauty of her shape, she gave in; vanity was stronger than modesty. Then
Deny spoilt it all; as he held the leg in a graceful position, he
deliberately kissed the knee! That’s what my eyes saw! Deny swore that
it was a mistake, that he fell forward. But I knew Deny well enough, and
never before saw anything so deliberate in the way of impassioned acts.

“From that moment she became reserved in her attitude and manner. But,
still, I noticed that her eyes softly gleamed as Deny and I and Sanga
crept out of the door to answer the command of Yoraka. It was nearly
dusk then, and we had to be in Yoraka’s presence by dark.

“It was quite dark when we again stood outside Yoraka’s palatial hut,
hesitating before we entered. Then, seeing no way out of it, we entered
that home of licentiousness. All the hanging coco-nut-oil lamps were
ablaze as we stood there once more in the presence of Yoraka, the native
girls all staring at us. I think that I preferred the sight of them to
the drunken ribaldry of that British heathen. There was something
terrible in his gaze as he looked up at us. I saw the domineering gaze
of savagery staring from those cold, blue, British eyes. All the
inherent might of my own race—the might that had overthrown nation after
nation, conquered the world, making all the primitive tribes suppliant
at her Imperial Feet—seemed to shine forth in the terrible glare of that
red-bearded Britisher as he stared at us with _sober_ eyes! By the dim
light of the oil-lamps I discerned the tattoo that marked his massive
chest and shoulders. It seemed impossible that he was a white man at
all, so villainous did he look. Then he commenced to ask a thousand
questions as to what we wanted with him. We told him we didn’t want
anything of him. Deny came to the rescue like a brick, for Yoraka was
getting fierce; he handed him the remainder of his rum. In a moment the
man seemed to forget his suspicions; he smacked his lips, looked up, and
gripped Deny’s hand. After that he drank more toddy. He was soon
drivelling drunk again. I shall never forget that night if I live to be
a thousand years old. As the tribal girls waited on him, he roared forth
disgusting songs—putting words of his own to them—and at each loathsome
epithet spat up in the faces of the frightened harem-women. Looking up
into my face he chuckled and roared out uproariously, making remarks
about civilized life.

“‘Go back ter your ole Queen on the Thames! He! he! I’d giver ’er——

“‘Ugh! Ugh! who’ thater girl? She belonger you? I eater better girler
than that on toast! Savvy?’

“Still I did not gather the terrible import of his remarks as he looked
up, drivelling spittle from betel-nut between his clenched black teeth,
and pinched pretty Sanga’s soft arms!

“‘Comer way! Comer way! Master, don’t your know?’ whispered little
Sanga, inclining her curly head sideways as she slightly lifted her
pretty eyes, giving me a meaning look.

“But still Deny stared and I stared, as Yoraka grovelled on his belly
and made loathsome remarks to the women around him. Once more he sought
Deny’s conversation, and plied him with that vile toddy stuff. The night
was far advanced when the great climax came. Yoraka was poking Deny in
the ribs, and Deny was nudging Yoraka. The savage Britisher’s brain had
once more become reminiscent, for he was shouting and yelling disgusting
ribaldry about his memories of London, Fleet Street, the Strand, and
Marble Arch. Then he seemed to become breathless through his own
obscenity. He drivelled at the mouth, his head swaying like an imbecile
as he lurched forward on his stomach. Then, leaning forward, he took
hold of Sanga’s little robe, looked with some terrible meaning into her
eyes, took hold of her arm’s soft, semi-white flesh between his thumb
and forefinger—and pinched it deliciously!

“His hideous mouth was emitting spittle from between the gaps of his
filthy betel-nut-blackened teeth. I distinctly saw him give a fiendish,
hungry leer at the girl as he stroked her leg and said something very
unguardedly about ‘Long pig!’ and chuckled ‘Kai! kai! I eater nicer
girler!’ He was looking up into Deny’s astonished face as he said that.
Then he lifted his drunken eyes to my comrade and said, ‘You giver
girler me? I make you great chief here!’

“‘Heavens!’ gasped Deny, as he looked at me. ‘Why, he’s a cannibal!’

“Before I knew, or even realized the terror of the whole business, Deny
had expressed his horror of that fiend’s remarks in a most forcible way.
It all looked like some unreal picture of horror as Yoraka crouched
there, grovelling on his stomach, the rows of coco-nut-oil lamps sending
a ghastly, unreal glare over his face and on the barbarian furniture,
boxes, ornamental matting, calabashes, and human skulls that hung on the
walls. He was paralyzed!—as though he’d had a stroke and had died with
his mouth and eyes still half-open with astonishment. The native girls,
who had been bringing in platters of cooked yams and gourds of toddy,
stood transfixed, like wonderful life-like statues of terra-cotta hue,
so still did they all stand there in the dim light, some with arms still
outstretched, one leg placed forward, one arm uplifted, their eyes
glassy, petrified with astonishment—so sudden was the onslaught!

“That representative of a British criminal in savage ‘state,’ rolled his
eyes thrice; he seemed to strive to believe his own senses; his mouth
was wide open with astonishment and pain, revealing his sharp, dirty
teeth, as crash! a second blow knocked them down his throat!

“‘Ugh! Ugh!’ came like vomited sound from that devil’s entrails as Deny
stood there at his full height, his eyes afire with rage and drink. My
helmet hat was bashed down over my eyes as I leapt forward to stay Deny
from quite killing our host. In a flash I saw that Deny’s impulsiveness
would place us at the mercy of the whole tribe. But what cared old
Deny?—not a damn! He proceeded to demolish Yoraka’s palavana. The native
girls, seeing their master prostrated, recovered and bolted! Catching
hold of the central post, that was the mainstay for the hut’s support,
Deny tore it right out of the ground—crash! the roof had fallen on the
top of us!

“In the pandemonium that followed, amid the wild yells of Yoraka, the
screams of his concubines and children, I could hardly collect my
senses. Sanga was still trembling beside me, was clutching my hand. We
were on our stomachs, the heavy débris, planks, etc., nearly smothering
us.

“‘Comer, Master!’ murmured Sanga, as she tugged my coat and wriggled on.
By some wonderful instinct she found a pathway through that
terror-stricken group of clutching figures, all huddled in mad terror to
get out of the smothering débris into the open air. Outside the night
was pitch-black, not a star relieving the intense overhead dark as I
peered around, calling aloud to my comrade, ‘Deny! Deny!’

“As I stood there, hesitating, for I could not rush off into the forest
and leave a pal like that, I felt something brush against me, like the
rushing of a wind. It was a regiment of those damned cannibals. They had
rushed forth from their huts to rescue their master, the White Roko,
from the murderous hands of the two Papalagis. They were evidently
seeking to locate the exact spot of our host’s late homestead!

“‘Comer way, Master! They killer you!’ said little Sanga, as she tugged
my hand, and I glared round in the darkness, envying that little one’s
all-seeing eyes in the gloom. I felt the exultation of battle seize my
soul. I no longer regretted the fact that Deny had pulled down that
homestead of unbridled lust about the b—— cannibal Englishman’s ears! I
rushed forward, calling for my pal. Suddenly I collided with the soft,
naked bodies of those who were seeking Deny and myself. I heard Deny’s
voice just by me. ‘Thank God he’s all right,’ was my mental comment.
Then, to my astonishment, I heard Deny roaring forth an old sea chanty
at the top of his voice as he clubbed away at the natives in the
darkness! ‘O for Rio Grande!’ came to my ears as I too entered the fray,
and wondered if the whole business was some nightmare. My strength was
superhuman. For I tell you I was in a terrible funk, and there’s nothing
like true, unadulterated funk to make a man brave as a lion, and fight
splendidly for his own life!

“I had no weapon whatsoever to defend myself with. Deny had a club, I
know. Feeling a mass of tangled arms clutching for me in the dark, I
made a dive and, by good luck, caught what I meant to use as a club—it
was a soft, slippery, nude savage! I felt the bones creak as I swung
that living weapon round and round and aimed unseen blows at the bodies
of the savages who tried to catch hold of me in that inky darkness.

“‘Go it, pal!’ yelled Deny. Crash! came the sound of his falling club,
then a groan; another had gone under. Again and again came howls of pain
to my ears as the natives fell to the forest floor before my tremendous
onslaught as I wielded that soft, bulky weapon—a weapon that gave
terrified shrieks as it attempted to save itself, for the poor devil
made frantic clutches at the bodies I swung him towards as his hands
tore at their mops of hair in terror.

“Then Deny came to my assistance, just in time too. But though I’d got a
nasty knock on the head and nearly fell, I managed to follow Deny and
Sanga as they called me. Then the three of us rushed away down the
slopes. By daybreak we were miles away from that cursed village. And I
don’t think we stopped more than an hour to rest before we got down to
the seaboard.

“When we arrived back in Levuka we made up our minds to go out to the
man-o’-war boat that was lying out in the bay, and tell them about
Yoraka and his daughter up there in the Kai Tholos village. We were
determined to get our own back off that bloodthirsty Britisher. We
decided to let the matter slide for a day or so. Deny had got a blow on
the back of the head during the mêlée and wanted to sleep for a day or
so before he had any more excitement.

“It was during this interval that that happened which is history now. It
was like this. Some sailors from a man-o’-war—three, I think—had gone
off up in the mountains on a spree. They were never heard of again. So
Commander Goodenough, of the British man-o’-war lying off Levuka, sent a
crew of Jack Tars up to the tribal villages of the mountains to give
them a lesson and see if they could hear anything of the missing men.
They blew the Kai Tholos villages to smithereens! And it is common
knowledge amongst the missionaries and traders to this day that, when
they searched amongst the débris, to see if they could find any trace of
their comrades, they came across the body of a white girl, clad in
barbarian costume and riddled with bullets. Just by her side was the
body of a white man, clad in a sulu gown. He was tattooed and sunburnt,
but there was no mistake about his being a white man. They buried them
both up there in the mountains, and put a cross on the girl’s grave; no
name, just the date of the day when they had found her. Then they buried
the man by her side, and, as he was a Britisher, they sounded the _Last
Post_ and fired a volley over his grave. And Deny wrapped him up in the
Union Jack!”

“Well, now! if that’s not the irony of fate, and the way of this world
all over!” was all I could mutter, as G—— knocked the ashes out of his
pipe and finished his story, took his flute from his pocket, and began
to warble sweetly, “Scenes that are brightest.”

G—— was a kind of hero to O’Hara and myself after that. We followed him
about, and felt the glamour of romance shine whenever we stood in his
remarkable presence. I think it was the very next day that he took us
down the river, then across country to a native village, and introduced
us both to a fine-looking, native woman. She treated us in good style
when G—— told her that we were his friends. I noticed that she looked up
into his eyes as though she were some sister of his.

“Who is she?” I ventured to ask him at last.

“It’s her,—the kid we took up into the Kai Tholos mountains that
time,—little Sanga,” he replied.


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



                  CHAPTER XVII. SOOGY, CHILD OF POETRY

        Poetry’s Legitimate Child—Music’s Fairyland—A Civilized
        Old Man of the Sea—A Clerical Hat is the Symbol of
        Modern Religion.


HAD it not been for men like D—— and many other striking personalities
who enlivened the Organization, we should have cleared out of it sooner
than we did. We were considerably in debt to the host of that Sailors’
Home, too. There were no certified bailiffs in the South Seas, but if
one’s account was overdue, credit was taken out of the debtor in a novel
manner. Bones discovered that one of his customers owed him about fifty
dollars for board.

“Goying ter pye up?” said he laconically.

“Hain’t gotter cent ter bless meself with till I gets an adwance note,”
replied the stranded one. There was no further parley on the subject.
Bones simply caught the culprit by the scruff of the neck, placed one
knee in the middle of his back, and then, crash! sent the unfortunate
devil through the South Sea bankruptcy court at the end of his
boot—right through the open door—bang! on to the sward. And the
discharged bankrupt, out of debt, went his way, unworried, free from all
his late liabilities. Once or twice there was a fight when the members
took sides on behalf of someone who could not pay his way; hats, rum
mugs, and tin pots would fly about, but it was soon all over. They would
bind up each other’s wounds, shake hands all round, and end up in a
tremendous drinking bout. Sometimes highly-cultured men would step out
of the great unknown into that shanty’s door—actors, musicians, poets,
and sad-looking literary men, who would imbibe rum and prove highly
entertaining. Some had fine voices, others recited _Hamlet_, or made the
place hum with laughter ere they drank up, clinked their glass in some
toast, and then, to the cry of “God speed,” once more departed out into
the great unknown.

O’Hara and I would go wandering through the forests, visiting the
various tribal villages by the coffee plantations. On these wanderings
we were accompanied by our faithful little bodyguard, Soogy, a little
native half-caste boy. He was a mystical little beggar, not only in his
ways but in his origin. No one knew where he came from.

“You no father? No mother, Soogy?”

He shook his curly head and said: “No; me come down, dropper from sky!”

He had beautiful eyes, and by the paleness of his complexion one easily
concluded that he had European blood in his veins. He was about eight
years old. Whenever I played the violin he would at once put his little
chin on his knees and commence singing. Even G——, who had had a lot to
do with native youngsters, said that Soogy was a wonder. I had no doubt
at all that the child was a genius. His mother must have lived in a cave
within sound of the seas just before he was born, for music was alive in
his soul. His brain was splashed over with moonlight, there was no doubt
about that.

“Where did you learn that melody, Soogy?” I’d say, when he suddenly
burst forth and sang some sweet strain with a lingering, haunting note
of sadness running through it. He would simply look up, shake his curly
head, and wonder what I meant by asking him where his little brain
learned its own mysterious music from.

“Looks older than he is,” said O’Hara. “Got eyes like a blessed girl,”
my pal continued, as Soogy fondled my hand and stared up into my face, a
weird look in his pretty eyes. I could not make it out; but when that
kiddie came up to me in the forest, or crept into my hut-room, an old
broken-down shack near the river, the world would change, the sun shine
with a mysterious shadowy light, a kind of poetic atmosphere pervading
the deep gloom of the woods. I was not surprised when O’Hara said:

“Begorra, pal, I wish that kiddie would keep away; he’s like some little
beggar of a ghost hanging around. I’m sure he’ll bring us bad luck.”

“Don’t be a fool. How can a little child influence our ways or alter
what must happen to-morrow?” I replied, as the child noticed the angry
look in my comrade’s eyes, and looked up to see if I too wanted him to
go away.

I didn’t send him away, though. To tell the truth, I came under the
mystic spell of that weird child of the forest. Sometimes I’d go out of
earshot of all the world, accompanied by that mysterious little beggar,
and, under the banyans by the lagoon, as fireflies danced in the
bamboos, I’d play the violin while he danced. Even the cockatoos, as
they cried out, “Ka ka—ka to wooh! ka! ka! ka! to wooh!” seemed to have
come under the influence of Soogy’s songs. Somehow, the thought of the
world beyond the solitude of that forest seemed to fall away; I would
half imagine that Soogy and I sat side by side in some mossy fairy-wood
of a world far beyond the stars. We would seem to be two mighty
_maestros_ of heathenland, both of us enthroned on the highest pinnacles
of fame as I sat there, that weird little kiddie singing wondrous
melodies and dancing. It was nothing strange to me when the Old-Man-Frog
looked out of the moonlit marsh flowers in surprise, opened its
weird-slit mouth, and chanted a wonderful accompaniment in perfect
_tempo_ as Soogy danced. Then some strange thing with a green,
semi-human face would peep out of the _vatu_ weeds and clang its tiny
cymbals.

Knowing that the commonplace conception of reality does not exist at
all, and that we mortals only see a nose, a mouth, a glance of the
eyes—indeed, the Universe itself—in the relation that it assumes by
contact with one’s inner self, I felt no wonder as Soogy danced beneath
the moonlit palms, no Soogy at all, but a something weirdly beautiful
dancing as I played the violin in the shadowland of my own mad eyes, a
_something_ that looked to me like two fallen stars fixed in a wonderful
little receptacle called a skull poised on swaying, dusky limbs, and
possessing a sweet-voiced tongue.

The very forest trees became etherealized to my eyes as their big heads
moved and sighed to the soughing night winds, humming out half-forgotten
memories of cherished things. And when those old trees tenderly waved
their arms over the weird child, then took partners, and commenced to
waltz slowly, I didn’t wonder much; I still played on, wailing forth the
magical melodies that Soogy sang to my listening ears. It was clear
enough that the child had never been taught dancing in any mortal
school, for, as his small limbs moved in rhythmical motion, they swerved
not one bit from the _tempo_ of the swaying forest flowers as the
shifting fingers of the zephyrs tossed them gently one way, and then
softly the other way. And my chagrin was complete when I realized that
my cultured ear served only to empower me with discernment enough to
know that, as a conductor of the most subtle movements in that great
orchestra of the forest-night and mighty, waltzing trees, I was simply
nowhere where that conductor, an Old-Man-Frog, was concerned, as, with
his wonderful clappers going “Click-er-tee-clack! currh! currh! clack-er
to-clack,” he got the most marvellous, subtle musical effects from that
wonderful ensemble. The pathos of the tiny streamlet’s voice as it
hurried by us, then ran with fright under the forest trees and leapt
into the sea, convinced me that I was beautifully mad—as mad as I am now
deadly sane. It may have been some inherited madness, or possibly Soogy
had some magnetic influence over me. I know not which it was. But I _do_
know that, sometimes when I lay half asleep under the ndrala trees of
the moonlit forest, he would sit singing wonderful songs for my
half-sleeping ears—songs that would seem to drift my life across into
unremembered ages till I became one with the stars and the music of the
infinite. The very caves along the shore of my bedroom floor seemed to
sing out some old sorrow as he came, night after night, creeping out of
the forest like some little phantom child, to make my mossy bed!

Such a one was Soogy. I never dreamed that such sorrow could come to one
through knowing a little child—sorrow that made my heart ache for many a
day. The whole trouble came about through an old man suddenly arriving
at the Organization just when O’Hara and I had determined to get a ship
and clear out for Nuka Hiva. We were both tired out, had been sauntering
about amongst the villages, and were glad enough to get back to the
Organization’s hospitable roof; but, just as we were approaching the
door, we heard a terrible row in progress. It appeared that someone had
robbed the aforesaid old man of his valuable pocketbook. There he stood,
by the wide-open door, waving his hands in despair, shouting out:

“I’ll give a hundred pounds to the one who finds my pocketbook.”

He was a strange-looking old fellow. He wore a clerical hat, a stiff,
high collar, and grey side-whiskers; and he was purple to the forehead
as he stood there just beneath the low-roof saloon, shouting:

“Where’s my pocketbook?”

O’Hara and I stared with astonishment to see that old gent, so
fashionably attired, a bullet hole in his hat, standing up for himself,
defiantly facing the whole damned crew of sun-tanned, villainous-looking
men as they thrust their faces, chins, and fists out of the door, and
looked scornfully at the grand old man! Suddenly Tanner Bolt, who had
his nose missing and had a face like a diseased Chinaman, stepped
forward and knocked the old fellow’s hat off. O’Hara and I, not liking
such a cowardly act, immediately sided with the new-comer, who had
sought protection from justice in that forest hermitage. Bones regarded
O’Hara and me rather fiercely for a moment, then, whipping his revolver
out, turned to the men and roared:

“I’ll shoot the first God-damned rogue who touches any of ’em.”

Then the hullabaloo subsided. After that O’Hara and I made tracks
outside, as G—— went in to have his nap on the saloon settee. The old
gent followed us outside.

“A lot of rogues and thieves, that’s what they are,” he almost squeaked,
as he shook his fist at the half-hidden den, his false teeth dropping on
the sward, so violent was his rage as he shook from head to feet.

“Do you chaps belong to them?” said he, as he surveyed us critically.

“No, thank you!”

The emphatic note of my reply seemed to change the old man’s manner
immediately, and make him glad to give that confidence that so relieves
mortals when they have the world against them.

“A man enticed me up here from S——, telling me that I could wait here in
comfort till the ’Frisco boat arrived at S——. I want to get to San
Francisco; got business there,” he hurriedly added, as he readjusted his
pince-nez.

It was a bit of an effort for us to keep serious-looking and hide the
fact that we well knew that ’Frisco was the much-sought high road to the
No-Extradition Ports.

“Get me out of this hole and I’ll give you a present of fifty pounds,”
said the old fellow, as he gripped my hand and peered about in a
neurotic manner.

O’Hara and I looked into one another’s eyes. “Fifty pounds!” I heard
O’Hara’s soul gasp as mine re-echoed it. We had been on long voyages,
working like slaves for a mere pittance too!

“Don’t say a word to anyone. I can get you away from here safely,” said
O’Hara, giving him a quiet wink as Bones came out of the Organization
door.

“Here’s yer d—— pocketbook,” said he, as he threw something in the
direction of the old gent.

That aged, fugitive bank-manager nearly fell forward on to his knees in
thanksgiving when he opened the pocketbook and discovered his papers
intact.

As Soogy came rushing out of the forest and commenced to gambol by us,
Bones called the old man, took him under the breadfruits, and whispered
to him. We saw the old gent take Bones’ hand impulsively in his own and
vigorously shake it. Bones had some sense of honour, and I have no doubt
that he had told the new-comer that he would see that he was not
molested by the members of the shanty again.

It was wonderful how everything quieted down after that bit of
excitement. The old gent imbibed a considerable amount of whisky, told
the guilty men that he forgave them, shook their hands across the long
benchtable, and drank their health. The humour of it all even struck
those seasoned criminals. I saw them grin from ear to ear. It was a
sight to see those rows of fierce, bearded faces as they sat there, clad
in their red shirts and belted pants, the whole scene dimly lit up by
the swinging candles that hung in the empty gin bottles just overhead,
every sinful eye alert as the old man shook his finger.

That old gent’s main weakness was whisky and rum. Most probably it was
the main cause of his taking the desperate chance that brought him as a
fugitive from justice across the seas. He sang a song to those rough
men; his voice was strangely mellow and sweet, becoming pathetic as the
fumes got thicker in his sinful head—who knows what thoughts flashed
through his drunken dreams?

Tanner Bolt, Lively Humper, and Jimmy Scratch played their mouth-organs
and banjos as the wild chorus of those men shook the shanty. Then Soogy
came in and did a dance on the table. I noticed that even those drunken
men seemed to come under the spell of that kid’s song and dance. As for
the old gent, he kept taking out his watch, keying it up, and staring
with his mouth open as he watched the child’s bright eyes and his
wonderful dancing. I think the old man was trying to recall his senses,
wondering who he was, what he was doing there with those wild-looking
men as they encored that mysterious child. Then his besotted head fell
forward and he dropped off asleep. And when I think of all that happened
through him, how the innocent were punished for the sins of the guilty,
I wish that he had never awakened again. But there, I mustn’t be too
hard on him; he never made himself, and he suffered too.


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



                       CHAPTER XVIII. RETROSPECT

        The Modern Old Man of the Sea—Fifty Pounds!—A Human
        Octopus—Adrift at Sea—Sorrow—Saved—In Tonga—Our Old
        Man’s last Hiding-place—Retrospect.


THE perspective of things as seen after a lapse of years seems gifted
with a visionary light that has no relation to the normal outlook of the
intellect. The most commonplace objects and incidents, when seen and
thought over in the pale light of memory, become tinged with that
indefinable glamour, that something which men call poetry. A wind-blown
ship far at sea with trailing spars and torn sails beating its way into
the sunset; a bird travelling silently across a foreign tropic sky; a
wild girl singing by a lagoon; a dead tree tossing its arms on a windy
hill; an old gentleman with a little clerical hat bashed over his eyes;
the remembrance of a tiny, golden-eyed girl, with a bit of blue ribbon
in her hair as she sprang into your farewell arms when you said good-bye
and went off, a boy, on your first voyage to sea—I say, all these things
seem to be the landmarks, the promontories of the shores one has hugged
as one sailed across the wild seas of life.

And, in looking back, that old gent of the South Sea Organization seems
to stand out, not so much as a wicked, eccentric individual, as he does
of a type that represents nine-tenths of the men whom one is doomed to
knock up against in one’s pilgrimage along this shore of hope and sudden
chills, wrecks, and buffeted dreams.

I know that that old man came to us in the guise of a benefactor who
would bestow wealth on O’Hara and on me, whereas he turned out to be a
Nemesis wrapt up in the vilest disguise, a Nemesis who seemed to take
some vindictive delight in the frailties of youth, and was guilty of
unwarrantable cruelty to a child’s innocence. I have sometimes thought
that neither he, nor the Organization itself, ever existed in this world
as men know things to exist; that I once lived in a phantasmagorial
world of ghostly sunlight and shadow that was haunted by an aged man who
wore side-whiskers, clung to my back like an Old Man of the Sea, and
successfully throttled my faith in supreme goodness. It was our lack of
funds and the old man’s abundant wealth that brought the whole business
about. And, though I know that the lack of funds on the one side and an
abundance of funds on the other side has brought about the direst
disasters beneath the sun, still, I feel that the sorrow that came to us
through that old fellow is worth recording.

I think it was the very next day that O’Hara and I saw our chance of
luring the old gentleman away from the Organization to see if he was
really in earnest about that fifty pounds he said he would give to the
first one who got him safely away. In the little that we had seen of him
we observed that he was weak where native girls and dancing-women were
concerned. When O’Hara had acquainted him with the fact that there was a
great tribal-dance on down in the village of Takarora, that the chiefs
were going to pow-wow and the _meke-girls_ eat fire and dance, he took
hold of our hands, and begged us to take him to see the sight.

“I’ve read a bit about these people in books, but, dear boys, I’d really
like to see the grandeur of primitive life in the natural state.” So
spake that old man. Then off we went, with the old gent in our company,
down the forest track.

“I never _did_ see a place like this,” said O’Hara, as we both gave a
startled jump—two dusky, faun-like creatures had suddenly peered through
the tasi-ferns and exotic convolvulus festoons, and, seeing our white
faces, had given a scream and sped off to their homestead in the pagan
village. The old gentleman placed his hand on his heart, took a swill
from his brandy-flask, and said it was enough to give one syncope to
live in such a blasted heathenland. Then he reshaped his clerical hat,
that had been bashed in by a banyan bough, and once more followed us
through the interminable growth of camphor, sage-palm, and all that
mysterious assemblage of twisting trunks and vines that nature fashions
where the sunlight burns with fiery heat.

When we got to the native village the girls, clad in decorative
festival costume, were dancing away in full swing. On the
forum-lecture-stump that faced the village green stood some pagan
philosopher, spouting for all he was worth about the new edict passed
by the missionaries—prohibition of rum-selling on Sundays.

“What’s he saying, Soogy?” said I, as that haunting kiddie rushed up to
us, for we never could get rid of him. Then Soogy told me, in pigeon
English, that the old pagan chief was shouting:

“Down with the brown man’s burden! Down with the cursed white man
wrapped in clothes!”

I must admit he looked a nasty old heathen as he put forth his dark
chin, lifted his face to the forest roof, and called on the old heathen
gods to hear the prayers of their faithful child. When he had finished
he took a huge nip from the kava calabash, and the native girls
commenced to give a fascinating two-step whilst the next chief oiled his
hair and prepared for a speech.

“Now’s your chance!” said I to O’Hara, for the old gentleman seemed in
the most convivial of moods as he stared at the dancing maids. I confess
that I was not good at giving a hint to a man who had promised fifty
pounds if a certain thing was done for him and had apparently forgotten
all about his promise. As O’Hara sidled up to the old gentleman’s side,
I remained within comfortable earshot.

“Hard times these,” said my pal, as he looked first towards the old man
and then towards the dancers. Still the old fellow stared in a vacant
way, fingered and readjusted his pince-nez as the stout chiefess did a
most peculiar somersault while performing the heathen tango. O’Hara got
desperate; it got on his mettle to be ignored like that. He sidled up a
little closer to the old man, and I distinctly heard him say, as he
stared in an absentminded way in front of himself: “Hard times these;
wish there was a chance of getting fifty pounds, somehow!”

It wanted some pluck to give a hint like that, I can tell you. The old
fellow had a freezing way with him too. Polish does hang on one when one
is born where the missing bank-managers hail from. Yet O’Hara did the
trick; for the old fellow stared on for a long time as though he’d not
heard a word, then he turned quietly to my comrade and said: “I suppose
you really could get me safely away to Lakemba, so that I could catch
the next boat?”

O’Hara at once unfolded part of his scheme to the old chap, who seemed
mighty pleased at the way O’Hara presented the matter to him. The scheme
was that we should hire one of the large, full outrigger-canoes from the
natives, and paddle the old man across the mile or so of ocean that
separated us from Lakemba. We happened to know that at Lakemba there was
a schooner due to sail for Honolulu, and the old fellow knew as well as
we that it was an easy matter to get a boat from Honolulu to San
Francisco. So the matter was arranged.

Then O’Hara went off to the shore village, made all his plans, hired a
large outrigger-canoe that could hold twenty warriors, and decided that
at the first opportunity we should clear out with the old man, for we
thought that we could kill two birds with one stone and get away to
Honolulu in the same schooner. But since man proposes and God disposes,
nothing came off as arranged, excepting that we did succeed in getting
away from that place. The old man seemed as pleased as Punch after that
scheme had been so rosily presented to him. When we got back to the
shanty we discovered that the old gentleman had presented each member
with a five-pound note, and that they were all drinking his health from
the large barrel of rum he had specially purchased for them. They all
put out their horny hands and one after the other gripped his hand,
looking quite affected as he called them “My dear sons,” and ordered the
native girls to serve out the rum. I saw his old eyes shine as he looked
into their wicked faces. They were not all villainous-looking; some were
as honest as the sunlight, were castaway sailormen, or traders who had
arrived at that Organization as _bona fide_ travellers who would rest
there a while.

                  *       *       *       *       *

A special concert was given on the old chap’s behalf that night. The
native women from Tambu-tambu came in and danced on the saloon
_pae-pae_. Oaths and wild reminiscences were in full swing. The old
gentleman became loquacious, sat with lifted finger telling Billy Bode a
naughty story, and everyone listened with deep respect. For those wild
men instinctively felt that the old fellow was an _oasis_ in the desert
for them. He had promised them twenty pounds apiece and another barrel
of the best rum ere he left the Organization’s roof, consequently his
interest and safety were _their_ interest and safety, and when suddenly
a tremendous crash came at the Organization’s front door, they rose _en
masse_! In a flash they saw the promised rum and “twenty pounds apiece”
in danger. In a moment they were on the defensive. Piff! the packs of
half-shuffled cards dropped on the table bench; puff! went forty bearded
lips, and out went forty tallow candles—candles that were suspended from
the low roof in gin bottles. That old gent must have thought a human
octopus with ten thousand arms and legs had seized him! Every “man jack”
of them had made a grab at him in the darkness—crash! down went the vast
lid of the emergency barrel; they had lifted him bodily to the roof, and
then, with a mighty thrust, so that he was sure to fit in (for he was
stout) they had crashed him into that gigantic tub!

Someone opened the door and let the moonlight in. It gleamed across the
stubbily whiskered, wild-looking faces of the men of the shanty, faces
flushed with drink and the thought that the prisoner in the tub, who had
promised such wealth, might be seized and taken down to Suva in chains!
It seemed that fate stared with determined eyes when those scarred faces
looked on the new-comers, who stood like shadows at the doorway. There
was no doubt about it; they were men-hunters! Then there was a lot of
bustling and whispering, fearful efforts, and big bribes were promised
to allay suspicion, as eight of the stoutest Organization members sat on
the lid of the tub, grim determination on their faces, a resolve in
their eyes to sell their lives dearly ere they gave up that mighty hope
with side-whiskers and such promises!

When those surveillants went away, quite convinced that they were on the
wrong track, the whole shanty’s crew breathed a sigh of relief. It
sounded as though a young hurricane slept there, and had stirred in its
sleep as a score of “Phews!” of delighted relief went across the hot,
rum-smelling compartment, as one by one the candles were relit. Swiftly
taking the lid off the emergency barrel, they dragged forth the old
gentleman. Their hearts were touched by the sight they beheld. His eyes
rolled, his clerical hat looked like a broken pancake stuck on his head,
it was smashed flat through the sudden uncalculated fall of the heavy
lid in the darkness.

“What was that?” he wailed, as he recovered consciousness, and the light
of reason flickered across the pupils of his sunken eyes.

“Nothing much,” said someone soothingly, as they pushed his smashed hat
into shape. It was like attempting to stand a corpse on its feet, ere
_rigor mortis_ had set in, when they tried to stand him up.

“Blimey! he’s a-going, blest if ’e ain’t,” said one. Then they poured
some rum down his throat.

Rum seemed to have its virtues, for the old man made a wonderful
recovery after the dose was poured down his throat. Half an hour
afterwards he was singing “Little Annie Rooney’s my sweetheart,” and
telling jokes. Then he sang again till his voice got wheezy, telling
tales as he banged his fist on the bench, and nudged the men in the
ribs, while they roared with laughter! Still he drank on. “Rum! Rum!”
shouted he. Then he stood up on the bench and danced with a stout native
woman from Tambu-tambu village. The delight of the women and the shanty
members was such that they nearly raised the roof with their wild
encores and shouts. He did a two-step dance! He mimicked the
indescribable barbarian contortions of that native woman’s monstrous
antics! He smacked her bare arms, pinched her tawny flesh, winked like
an old _roué_, showing conclusively what manner of man he really was.
The native children peeped through the shanty doorway, and when they
observed that fashionable old gentleman dancing away with a woman of
their own land, they shrieked with delight. The atmosphere of the Stone
Age seemed to hang about the old man as the derelicts around him cheered
every “turn” he gave, as he repeatedly recaught each “fine careless
rapture”!

Then the hubbub subsided, and one by one the drunken audience fell
asleep. Old Tideman, who was a crank on astronomy, crept outside with
his telescope to look at the stars. The wide-open door revealed the
moonlit palms just outside and the few straggling figures of sulu-clad
natives who had crept from afar to listen to the songs of the wild white
men! The last that was seen of the old man that night was when he went
off down the track, his little clerical hat bashed over his eyes, his
arms waving as he tried to make his companion understand how he admired
her frizzly mop hair and lustrous eyes. For it was the fat native woman
with whom he had danced a Fijian jig on the bench table! O’Hara grinned
when he met the old gent in the morning. He responded by giving him a
freezing stare, as though he hardly knew him! He looked quite pious, as
though he only indulged in plain milk diet and studied ecclesiastical
problems. He looked bad though; one can’t bribe the liver and make its
overflow look blushing and rosy red when it’s really a bilious green!
The night of debauchery had aged him considerably. His hands shook; he
didn’t know which way to go. First he picked a flower, chewed it, then
wiped his mouth and his clammy forehead. O’Hara went straight into
business then, and said:

“I’m clearing out to-day. I’ve hired a fine outrigger-canoe that’s big
enough to hold twenty.” Then he looked square into the aged fugitive’s
face, and asked him if he was coming along with us.

He was as pleased to get away from that place as we were, that was very
evident, for he decided to go away with O’Hara and myself at once. There
was no need for secrecy, the shanty was quiet as the grave; for the
sleeping reprobates were making up by day for sleep lost through the
night. Only the forest banyans sighed as we three crept away into the
shadows, and then even the wail of the derelict captain’s concertina
faded away as we plunged into the dense wood. When we arrived at the
native village we found, to our disgust, that the man who had promised
to lend us the canoe was out fishing in it.

“It’s no good getting ratty, guv’nor,” said O’Hara, as the old fellow
began to swear, and said he’d go back to the Organization. We breathed a
sigh of relief when the native boat-owner at length returned. In a
moment we were off, bound for the shore. The old man dropped his
walking-stick in his hurry; we were all anxious to get away. As we went
down the long grove of feathery palms and giant breadfruits the stars
were shining over the sea. We could feel the cool drifts of wind coming
in as they stirred the wild odours of half-dead forest flowers and
decaying pineapples. As we tramped down the soft shore-track we saw the
fireflies dancing in the bamboos that grew high up on the edge of the
rocky slope above us, far ahead. It seemed as though we were looking
through a telescope and could see myriads of tiny worlds sparkling and
dancing far away in infinite space.

When we arrived down by the big shore lagoon, there lay the large
outrigger, floating on the still water, just as the native told us it
would be. He trusted us. For were we not “noble Papalagis”?

Not a soul was in sight as we stepped into that strange craft. In a
minute or two we had pushed off into the deeper water. We were both dab
hands at paddling. The scene looked like some picture of enchantment,
some picturesque landscape out of an Arabian Nights’ entertainment. Only
the dipping of the paddles which rippled the glassy oil-painting-like
stillness of the creek’s water gave a certain reality to the mystic
scene. The old man might have been some weird old “Pasha of many tales”
starting off on a voyage into fairy-land with a clerical hat on. It was
only the swelling on the side of his head where he had been thrust into
the emergency barrel that reminded one of gross, mundane things.

It was a terrifically hot night. The sea just outside was perfectly calm
and wonderfully bright. On the horizon shone the large, low, yellow
moon, bringing into relief the wild inland shores, gullies, buttressed
banyans, and belts of mangroves that grew down to the ocean’s edge.

The moon looked like some far-off, phantom tunnel-way as the ornamental
prow of our canoe turned and glided silently, making straight for its
ghostly rim, due south. The old fellow’s face was turned towards its
magnificent mystery; O’Hara sat in the centre of the canoe, and I aft.
We were not more than twenty yards from the shore then. It really _did_
look as though we were paddling away from some enchanted isle; only the
cry of some strange night-bird and the leap of a tidal wave over the
reefs, as it splashed into the lagoon’s still water, made a feeble,
ghost-like noise.

“It’s quite safe, fellows, I suppose?” queried the old man, as he looked
anxiously about him.

“Safe as houses,” O’Hara replied. Then he said, “What’s that?”

We all looked shoreward. Out by the edge of the promontory we distinctly
saw a tiny phosphorescent splash as though some strange animal had
darted from the forest and dived into the deep water.

We still watched, then we distinctly saw shivering lines of silver
ripples stealing towards us, coming fast, trembling and spreading
swiftly on the ocean’s perfectly calm, moonlit surface.

“It’s something big swimming under the water. Begorra! a shark coming
for us!” said O’Hara. The old gent shot up on his feet with fright and
nearly upset the canoe! I think my comrade and I looked a bit palish as
the uncanniness of that movement of the unseen came straight for us.
“Wish I’d brought a revolver. By St. Patrick! who’d ’ave thought things
was a-going to swim after us under the blasted water?”

“Keep still; don’t move!” said I, my heart in my mouth, for the ripples
were within thirty yards of our canoe, and still no sign whatever of the
cause of that mysterious movement beneath the water.

Then we stared as though we’d sighted a ghost; up poked a tiny curly
head, two bright, beautiful eyes were staring reproachfully at me!

“Good Lord!” I gasped; “it’s Soogy!”

We pulled him into the canoe. O’Hara used an awful swear word, said
unprintable things. As for me, I felt some strange, haunting kind of a
fear come over me as the child sat there.

“You go tryer and getter away from your little Soogy?” said that weird
child.

“No,” said I, shaking my head, feeling guilty as I replied, “No, Soogy,”
half apologetically! Then I said: “We were coming back to-morrow
morning. How on earth did you know we were out here in a canoe?”

The little fellow’s eyes brightened; he simply looked at me earnestly
for a while, then said:

“I knower all ’bout you! The wind blow in cave by sea and tell me all.”

“Well, I’m blithered and damned if that kid won’t bring us bad luck,”
said O’Hara.

Soogy had calmly got to the rear of the canoe, had taken the
steering-rod, and had started to guide us with the splendid precision of
a native child. The prow was toward the south, bound for the isle of
Lakemba.

“I suppose you know your way?” suddenly said the old gentleman, as he
leaned forward, struck a match, and lit a cigar.

O’Hara never answered, simply looked contemptuously at the
white-whiskered face as the mouth sent up curling whiffs of blue smoke
into the clear moonlit air. We were out in the deep ocean by then,
paddling for all we were worth. The distance by night took one quite out
of sight of land; even by daylight the nearest shore-line in the
farthest distance looked like a blue blotch on the horizon.

I think we had been paddling about an hour when the moon suddenly went
out and seemed to leave a puff of bright smoke behind—it had gone behind
a cloud.

“That was sudden-like!” said O’Hara.

It was a puff of wind; it blew the old gentleman’s hat off.

“Hope it’s not going to blow,” was my mental comment, as once again a
breath came down from the sky and stirred the glassy surface. The old
fellow saw the look in our eyes, and, guessing that things were not as
well as they could be, said: “Why didn’t you tell me we had to go out of
sight of land? I’d never have risked this; I wouldn’t—I wouldn’t,” he
muttered to himself. Then without further warning it came—crash! a
typhoon was on us. The first blast nearly blew the outrigger out of the
water. The only reason that it didn’t turn turtle was that the outrigger
contrivance had been constructed by the superior savage intellect. It
seemed that the bright worlds of stars and sea had been sponged off the
map of existence, as we clung to each other, and the mountainous seas
heaved their backs and began to roar like thunder around us. The old
fellow had lost his nerve, he wept and implored us to save him; but
O’Hara and I were very busy saving ourselves in that chaos of dark and
wind and ramping seas.

Soogy was there all right, I felt his hand clinging to my leg.

“Keep still! For God’s sake, don’t move!” we both cried, as the old man
came to our end of the canoe, nearly upsetting our planet, for such that
craft was to us. Soogy had taken a paddle to help O’Hara and so keep her
head on to the tremendous seas, but it was no use; she slewed round and
went broadside on, and so the seas swamped us. But still we did not
sink. Those stout bamboo poles kept the craft buoyant and steady as
compared to what would have happened had they not been there. For Soogy
was sitting on the dancing outrigger, balancing it as the big seas came
on and tried in vain to turn us upside down! Ah, he was a plucky little
beggar, quite devoid of fear. We three men simply gave up the ghost so
far as making intelligent efforts to save ourselves were concerned.
O’Hara clung to me, I clung to O’Hara, and the old fellow clung to us
both. The hot, terrific wind hissed, shrieked over us as we felt the
canoe go up—up! on the mountainous seas, then down—down! into the
terrible thundering valleys as the angry waters fell. Then once again we
were climbing the travelling hills that were drifting us away far out
into the vast solitude of the Pacific Ocean!

It seemed as if that dark and roaring wind hung over our heads for
infinite ages. How we clung to that outrigger and were not washed away
is a mystery that is connected with Providence and that word
“inscrutable.” When dawn at length brightened all the east, I lifted my
head half fearfully. Soogy was huddled beside me, O’Hara on the other
side, so tight that we were wedged in. The old gentleman had managed to
fix his head and neck under the forward canoe-seat in such a way that he
had become a part of the canoe itself! His bald head, through sea-water
repeatedly washing over it, had become quite bluish-looking. By some
miracle his clerical-shaped hat still lay just beside him. When O’Hara
softly pulled his coat to see if he was still alive, he half opened his
eyes and rolled them in a pathetic way. The fact that he still lived
relieved our loneliness. The wind had ceased, but the swell remained,
huge rolling hills of glassy water rising and travelling at about four
knots an hour. We immediately commenced to bale out the canoe, using a
calabash and a tin which we discovered beneath the seat. Soogy and the
old man helped O’Hara and myself in this task. We all felt deeply
thankful when the sun burst out over the great waste in all its tropical
vigour. Soogy began to sing, and cheered us up. None of us seemed to
realize the true state of affairs, that we were out of sight of land,
were castaways on the Pacific, our paddles gone, and only about two
pints of water in a rusty tin can!

The hot sunlight soon dried our soaked clothing.

The old fugitive became transformed. The erstwhile freezing look in his
eyes had gone, and was replaced by a gleam of friendly appeal to us! It
was quite evident that he saw things as they were, and had admitted
O’Hara and myself into his social circle, so to speak. He gave us
cigars. To our relief he discovered some matches in his breast pocket;
they were damp, but we placed them on the rim of his clerical hat and
they soon dried in the hot sunlight. That hat had gone through
something! To this day I cannot look at a clerical hat without thinking
of typhoons and tropic skies shining over wastes of water surrounded by
illimitable skylines.

We commenced carefully, and drank a very small drop of water each. We
made several attempts to make paddles out of the spare calabash and the
slit wood of a canoe seat, but it was no good. We were drifting at about
four knots an hour to the north-east.

As the hours went by we began to realize our position. And yet, somehow,
it seemed incredible that we should be cast away on those lonely waters
so easily.

“A ship is sure to pass us soon,” said O’Hara.

“Of course it is,” I replied, as our aged companion put his hand to his
brow and repeatedly scanned the horizon. I even laughed, and so did
O’Hara, and I thought of my old sea-adventure books, and felt quite a
romantic hero of the tropic seas. But I soon began to feel very
unheroic, and felt inclined to laugh on “the other side of my mouth,” as
they say. It was the coming of night that made the romantic novelty wear
off. There’s nothing in the world like the shadows of night coming over
the heads of castaways to make them sadly _realize_, so I should think.
Reality came down on us like a huge, Fate-like hand, and seemed to
crush, smash us as though we were bedraggled flies on a mighty
window-pane!

Night was a nightmare with a myriad starry eyes. Thirst had us in its
grip, but we dare not drink the tiny drop of water that remained in the
can. I fell asleep for five minutes, but only managed to fall off into
some gulf of misery that was mixed up with the horror of death and
castaway canoes. Then O’Hara and I sat up and started to sing a
sea-chanty, to cheer up the old gentleman and little Soogy. But, withal,
Soogy was plucky enough. As for the aged fugitive, he started to carry
on in a terrible way, and kept crying out: “Lost at sea in a boat! Lost
at sea in a boat!” Then he got sleepy and mumbled it out in a pathetic,
far-away tone, and got on our nerves more than I can express in cold
words.

I once fancied that I saw the light of a passing vessel, but it soon
died away, whatever it was.

“May the Holy Virgin protect us all!” said O’Hara.

Then dawn came. Soogy stopped singing songs. The sight of the child’s
bright, fevered eyes and parched lips unnerved us. O’Hara did the worst
thing he could do, gave the child a tiny drop of spirit as he lay
moaning out on the twisted bamboo grating of the outrigger. Soogy tried
hard to buck up, but his small frame hadn’t the lasting power that our
larger frames possessed. At the end of the second day, as near as I can
remember, we realized our position, and knew that we were floating on
the very edge of eternity. The old man became quite brave. His eyes lost
all the old cunning and craft that I had so particularly observed in
them. Even then, my numbed senses seemed to realize that it was only the
worldly world that makes men bad, the earthly values of things inspiring
them with greed till their darker passions overgrow their better
qualities as weeds overgrow and strangle flowers.

We shared out the last drop of water. The old gentleman gave Soogy a
part of his share, and we did likewise. O’Hara became quite religious,
in the true sense of that much misused word. Through the whole day and
night we never ceased lifting our weary heads to stare on the skyline.
But no vessel passed. The old man placed his large red handkerchief over
Soogy. It was a terrible sight, as Soogy’s hands tossed, to see the
blisters on the little arms. But it was no use waving to the hot tropic
sun as it shone up there in the cloudless sky.

“We’re done for,” said O’Hara; then he, too, lay down again, and seemed
to grow careless as to whatever might happen.

That night Soogy revived in a wonderful way. I was lying in a
semi-conscious state when I felt someone gently touch my arm.

“You sorry for Soogy?” said a far-away-sounding voice. The child was
staring in my eyes in a strange, quiet way.

“Perhaps I’m dreaming,” I thought, as a great sense of the unreal came
over me. My heart began to thump and my senses to whirl and swim. O’Hara
and the old man were lying just beside us, perfectly quiet, as though
dead. I stared into the eyes of the wistful little face.

“Is it you, Soogy?” I said in a hushed voice, as I lifted my aching
head. “Dear God!” I muttered, as I realized something for the first
time, while the child’s eyes stared into my own. I felt that I had never
seen such soft, beautiful eyes before. Floating there, under the stars
of the tropic seas, nothing seemed too strange or wonderful to occur. A
terrible sorrow possessed me as I touched the soft, tiny hand, and
pressed my lips to those pleading lips! For a little while, that seemed
like a thousand years, Soogy huddled beneath the folds of my coat.

“You come to me if I die, come to heathenland?” Such was what a faint
voice, like far-off music, whispered in my ears. I cannot say one word
of all that I whispered into the child’s ear. I said mad things, I know.

“I happy now, Papalagi,” whispered that faint, strange voice.

At daybreak Soogy died.

O’Hara laid the silent form out on the edge of the outrigger’s grating.
All that day O’Hara and I kept our backs turned towards that silent
form, lying there, face downwards. I told O’Hara to lay Soogy like that.
I couldn’t stand seeing those earnest eyes staring all night up at the
merciless infinity of stars.

The old fugitive became insane. We only saw his head move; he had
covered it over with a bit of sacking to keep the sun’s rays off.

“Forgive me, Cissie—forgive me, Cissie; keep the keys—keep the keys,” he
kept saying over and over again in his delirium. The sky was no longer a
sky to me, it was a monstrous slab lying over a mighty vault wherein the
dead still breathed as they floated and tossed their arms in agony on
illimitable waters.

Soogy’s death seemed to revive O’Hara and me; yet we said very little to
each other. It was a world of dreams that we stared in, some
phantasmagorial existence where only death whispered as the outrigger
plopped in the star-mirroring deep around us. O’Hara was no longer my
pal in sorrow; we had become rivals in some terrible struggle of
will-power. The energy of the whole universe seemed to be wholly
concentrated on one vital move on the tremendous chess-board of that
phantasmal world of water whereon we drifted. O’Hara and I were the
sorrowing slaves of Fate; nothing else existed, only he and I and the
dreadful thought as to which one of us must put forth our hand and make
that terrible move. It was inevitable that one of us must do it, for on
those tropic seas there was no other way than to crawl out on the
outrigger and push that small dead form into the vast depths that moved
around us. The tropic moon loomed on the horizon. It might have been the
uprising sun, for all I knew, in that world of horror that I had been
plunged into. I looked over the canoe’s side and gazed into the glassy
depths. I saw a great shark gliding along under the surface. It seemed
natural that it should be there, waiting for us. I gazed in a languid,
interested way as that cannibal of the deep turned softly over on its
back and revealed its shining belly. Its cruel, monstrous mouth looked
like some materialized jaw of pallid hate as it softly snapped at my
shadow that lay in the moonlit deep, and severed it in two! Then O’Hara
dissolved into some cobweb-like substance and was blown away on the puff
of wind that crept across the hot seas.

Dawn came like a mighty torrent of silver and swept across the silent
world of waters. I felt that I was floating across shadow-seas. For a
little while I heard a faint moaning and felt cool sea-water slashing
over me. I tried to move, but something held my feet down in a merciless
grip. It was all the more terrible because I realized in some mysterious
way that I was far at sea on that castaway canoe. The fact was, that a
breeze had sprung up and the canoe was being tossed wildly to and fro.
Why none of us was thrown out is a mystery. Anyhow, the blow was of
short duration, for I suddenly lifted my head, and saw O’Hara and the
old gentleman lying perfectly still beside me. Then the world seemed to
change again: night fell over the sea. Again I watched that silent form
lying out on the grating. Again the dawn sent grey wings along the
eastern horizon. It was then that I became strangely calm, and, terrible
as the sight was, as that child lay dead on the grating of the canoe, I
smiled and looked upon it all as the most commonplace of experiences.

“Good-bye, Soogy,” I said, then I gently pushed the small figure from
the bamboo-outrigger. Some terrible spell of curiosity gripped me. I
stared down into the water in wistful fascination, as, leaning over, I
watched the spot where the ripples spread, where the small form had gone
down, down into the clear, still ocean depth at dawn. I could still
distinctly see Soogy sinking down into the grave! It looked like the
figure of some tiny child imaged in some vast crystal mirror as down,
down it went. Only the mournful cry of a solitary sea-bird, as it passed
across the sky and sent a shadow over that wandering grave, broke the
stillness. Then I saw the figure begin to sway rhythmically to some deep
ocean current. Presently it looked no bigger than a penny
terra-cotta-coloured doll.

Ah, I had hoped to find that it was all a dream as I still watched,
rubbed my eyes, and hoped with a terrible hope. I well knew, as that
tiny remnant of mortality faded from sight, that I was living in some
terrible sorrow of reality. I thought of those forest dances away in
Fiji, of the weird, tender glances of those deep, golden-iris eyes, when
Soogy crept out of the forest palms to make my bed. I remembered the
sweet, weird song the heathen child had sung to me, and how the
witch-like little singer had stared across the camp-fire till I had felt
some strange fright! But the mystery of it all had vanished, for, on the
second night after the storm, O’Hara and I had discovered the
truth—Soogy was no boy at all, but a half-caste Polynesian girl!

A great silence seemed to come over the world after Soogy sank from
sight. And then my dreams were broken, and I fancied I could hear the
breakers beating against eternity. Someone touched me softly on the
brow, and a voice said:

“Try and stand on your feet; we’re saved, pal.”

I half realized something, and sat up. I looked immediately to the
southward and saw the eternal wastes of sea-skyline, then I glanced
round and noticed that our canoe was tossing about on a heavy swell just
off a rocky coast. We were so near the reefs that I could head the
soughing of the wind along the bending tracts of shore palms (it turned
out to be the Tonga Islands). O’Hara was sitting on the bamboo grating
of the canoe’s outrigger. His face appeared extremely thin and was
ghastly pale. The aged fugitive sat huddled by the prow, his battered
clerical hat held in his trembling hand, his chin on his chest, a wild
look in his eyes. They both looked like emaciated phantom-figures, quite
unreal. Only at that moment in my life did I realize in a flash how we
mortals are but shadows moving through some dream that divides our
existence from the boundless reality of the great shadowland. True
enough, too, I had awakened from a terrible reality into a darker dream.

“The child’s gone!” said O’Hara.

“I know,” I muttered in a vacant way before I realized the truth. Then,
in the terror of dawning realization, I gasped out, “Where’s Soogy?”

“She must have been washed away by the squall last night,” said O’Hara,
and his voice was as gentle as a girl’s.

                  *       *       *       *       *

After that tragical experience we were taken in by the missionaries at
Tonga and treated with the kindness that is always shown to shipwrecked
men wherever they may go. We soon recovered physically from the
buffeting of our castaway voyage. I know that in the comfort of life
under secure conditions in Tonga, the old gentleman’s freezing look
almost came back to his little blue eyes; but when he discovered that I
was a professional violinist as well as a vagabond troubadour, his
manner became almost polite. This deeply-rooted conventional attribute
of the old man’s was the more noticeable when I secured a position at
Nukualofa as Court violinist to King George of Tonga,[8] also a
munificent salary that was considerably augmented by gifts from the head
missionaries, who willingly paid me for my solos at the mission-room
concerts. My Irish comrade could hardly believe his eyes when I stood on
the primitive platforms of the native villages and became an
enthusiastic appealer to the souls of the pagan Tongans. I recall that,
when I played and conducted the royal string band in the native
wedding-march on the marriage of some prince of the old dynasty, the
Queen of Tonga presented me with an exquisitely carved tortoise-shell
comb from her hair. Indeed, I was doing exceedingly well, considering
that I had no letters of introduction. This kind of thing went on for
nearly three weeks, when a full-rigged sailing-ship, the “Orontes,”
dropped anchor off the island. Its sails gleaming in the sunset, shining
like beautiful signals of romance, called me, till the old roaming
spirit, asserting itself, shattered all my ambitions over kings, queens,
missionaries, Court appointments, and salaries. The “Orontes” was bound
for Ysabel, Solomon Isles, and British New Guinea. When I went aboard
her and interviewed the skipper, telling him I wanted a berth, he shook
his head, and said he could get a dozen Kanakas for the price of a
drink, as good as any white men, any day. And so, when the “Orontes,”
with her sails bellying to the winds, bowed to the sunset on her long
voyage across the Pacific, O’Hara and I lay huddled on old sacks in the
deep gloom of the _forepeak-hold_, where we had secured the cheapest
berth—as stowaways!

Footnote 8:

  King George of Tonga died recently, 1918.

In my imagination I can still see O’Hara’s grimy, unshaven face as he
sits in the gloom beside me, puffs his short pipe, and drinks at regular
intervals from the water-bottle. The rats squeak.

“Don’t smoke, for Heaven’s sake,” I say, as O’Hara strikes another match
on the ship’s iron side. I feel sick enough in that stuffy hold as the
vessel pitches to the swell. Then, as I sit there amongst the strong,
evil-smelling merchandise of our wandering argosy, I place my fiddle on
my knee and go “pink-e-te ponk-e-te,” pizzicato style, as my fingers
strum out an old English melody.

“For God’s sake, shut up, pal!” says O’Hara, as we hear the sailormen
tramping on the deck just overhead, as they go on watch in the silence
of the hot tropic night.

But all that’s past now. My Irish comrade went out of my life years ago.
And I suppose the old fugitive, with his clerical hat, has long since
paid his last debt, and kind men have hidden his artful face in that
place where no living man will search to find him. As for the Charity
Organization, it has most probably discarded long ago its primitive
style and locality, and now maybe does its good work from some more
palatial institution in the remoter islands of the Pacific. With the
advancement of civilization things are carried on in more sumptuous
style. Indeed, I would not be surprised to hear that the new Charity
Organization Hermitage, that welcomes the homeless derelicts who have
flown in haste from the western cities, has a gilded dome and spire
peeping from a solitary forest of some remote isle of the southern seas.
Possibly a secret cable runs under the Pacific, running straight from
its guarding seclusion, sending out warnings to its prospective
protégés. Indeed, even in those far-off days, Bones’ establishment at
Fiji had depots that extended to the extreme points of the civilized
world. And it was marvellous how often the keen surveillants of the
Australian seaboard cities were baffled in their search for missing
bank-managers, etc. So wags the world, things only apparently changing
as one age appears to differ from another age. It is only the hearts of
men that remain the same, as the centuries pass and fashions change, so
that men may open their doors inwards instead of outwards, and so sit
and dream that the moral codes of the world have become reversed. Even
my rose-coloured spectacles remain the same; though they have become
somewhat dimmed, I can still fix them on and gaze with hopeful eyes on
the wondrous pageant of life that moves with me along the great vagabond
track. And many times have I sought to lend them to sad men and women
who staggered beside me, yes, as they stared blindly through their bits
of smoky glass. But sometimes I shiver with dread at the possibility
that I may some day grow wise and restrained, and no longer love
fairy-tales, fallen, sinful men, and beautiful women of four years old.
And so I often rekindle my camp-fire and sit alone, so that I may hear
the forest trees singing overhead. It is then that O’Hara comes back out
of the shadows; and, as I play my violin, sings some rollicking Irish
song. And, strange as it may appear to some, when the log fire is
burning low, a misty pageant passes before my eyes. One by one my old
tribal poets, attired in all the primitive majesty of tattoo and
tapu-robes, stalk by me, and pass silently down the moonlit banyan
groves. ’Tis then that the call comes again; for I am the doomed rolling
stone that gathered the magical moss of these memoirs and all that has
made me know how little men are, and humbly realize that I have chanced
to live universally instead of only roaming in my boots over the wide
spaces of this beautiful world. In this wise I have found and placed
carefully down any little campfire-gleams of interest which my book may
possess, as well as having found my religion in some sorrow of the
eternity of all things past. I still jog along, carrying my staff and my
violin, and weighted swag of dreams, as I roam along the forest track.
And, though I have many years to travel ere I become old, I can say in
the deeper sense of its meaning:

            There’s not a flower along the wild hillside,
            Or song-bird of the woods that sang and died,
            But it has kinship with the winds that blow
            O’er memory’s forest trees of long ago.
            And not a beggar in the distant lands
            But I am with him, heart and soul and hands—
            To help him carry his old swag of dreams
            In some great twinship of our shattered schemes;
            As deep within my heart I hear the chime
            Of night winds tolling all the bells of Time—
            In some old belfry of the stars they ring
            The songs the dead men dream and cannot sing.

Even the bluest, grandest ocean of the world exists in my mind only as
some deep, solemn hymning that tells the briefness of mortal existence.
Sometimes, when I hear the wind blow in the night, my thoughts go flying
out to the wide Pacific that heaves under the stars, and is, to me, the
vast, wandering grave wherein ill-fated Soogy, the native child, sleeps.



                                THE END


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



 ● 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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