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Title: Short Stories
Author: Louis Becke
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Language:  English
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Title:      Short Stories
Author:     Louis Becke



(The native pronunciation of Kuria is like "Courier."--L.B.)


Among the Gilbert Group--that chain of low-lying sandy atolls annexed by
the British Government two years ago--there is one island that may be
said to be both fertile and beautiful; yet for all this Kuria--for so it
is called by the natives of the group generally--has remained almost
uninhabited for the past forty years. Together with the lagoon island of
Aranuka, from which it is distant about six miles, it belongs to the
present King of Apamama,2 a large and densely populated atoll situated
half a degree to the eastward. Thirty years ago, however, the grandfather
of the lad who is now the ruler of Apamama had cause to quarrel with the
Kurians, and settled the dispute by invading their island and utterly
destroying them, root and branch. To-day it is tenanted only by the young
king's slaves.

Of all the many groups and archipelagoes that stud the North and South
Pacific from the rocky, jungle-covered Bonins to Juan Fernandez,4 the
islands of the Gilbert Group are--save for this Kuria--the most
uninviting and monotonous in appearance. They are for the most part but
narrow strips of sandy soil, densely clothed, it is true, with countless
thousands of stately cocoanut palms varied with groves of pandanus and
occasional patches of stunted scrub, but flat and unpleasing to the eye.
Seldom exceeding two miles in width--although, as is the case at
Drummond's Island, or Taputeouea, they sometimes reach forty in the
length of their sweeping curve--but few present a continuous and
unbroken stretch of land, for the greater number consist of perhaps two
or three score of small islands, divided only by narrow and shallow
channels, through which at high water the tide sweeps in from the ocean
to the calm waters of the lagoons with amazing velocity. These strips of
land, whether broken or continuous, form the eastern or windward
boundaries of the lagoons; on the western or lee side lie barrier reefs,
between whose jagged coral walls there are, at intervals widely apart,
passages sufficiently deep for a thousand-ton ship to pass through in
safety, and anchor in the transparent depths of the lagoon within its
protecting arms.

* * * * *

Years ago, in the days when the whaleships from Nantucket, and Salem, and
Martha's Vineyard, and New Bedford cruised northward towards the cold
seas of Japan and Tchantar Bay, and the smoky glare of their tryworks
lit up the ocean at night, the Gilberts were a wild place, and many a
murderous scene was enacted on white beach and shady palm grove. Time
after time some whaler, lying to in fancied security outside the passage
of a lagoon, with half her crew ashore intoxicated with sour toddy,8 and
the other half on board unsuspicious of danger, would be attacked by the
ferocious brown people. Swimming off at night-time, with knives held
between their teeth, a desperate attempt would be made to cut off the
ship. Sometimes the attempt succeeded; and then canoe after canoe would
put out from the shore, and the wild people, swarming up the ship's side,
would tramp about her ensanguined decks and into the cabins seeking for
plunder and fiery New England rum. Then, after she had been gutted of
everything of value to her captors, as the last canoe pushed off, smoke
and then flames would arise, and the burning ship would drift away with
the westerly current, and the tragedy of her fate, save to the natives of
the island, and perhaps some renegade white man who had stirred them to
the deed, would never be known.

* * * * *

In those days--long ere the advent of the first missionary to the
isolated equatorial atolls of Polynesia and Melanesia--there were many
white men scattered throughout the various islands of the Ellice,10
Gilbert, and Marshall groups. Men, these, with a past that they cared
not to speak of to the few strangers that they might chance to meet in
their savage retreats. Many were escaped convicts from Van Diemen's
Land and New South Wales, living, not in dread of their wild native
associates, but in secret terror of recapture by a man-of-war and a
return to the horrors of that dreadful past. Casting away the garb of
civilisation and tying around their loins the airiri or grass girdle of
the Gilbert Islanders, they soon became in appearance, manners, language,
and thoughts pure natives. For them the outside world meant a life of
degradation, possibly a shameful death. And as the years went by and the
bitter memories of the black days of old, resonant with the clank of
fetters and the warder's harsh cry, became dulled and faint, so died away
that once for-ever-haunting fear of discovery and recapture. In Teaké,
the bronzed, half-naked savage chief of Maiana, or Mési, the desperate
leader of the natives that cut off the barque Addie Passmore at
Marakei, the identity of such men as "Nuggety" Jack West and Macy
O'Shea, once of Van Diemen's Land or Norfolk Island, was lost forever.

* * * * *


On Kuria, the one beautiful island of the Gilberts, there lived four such
white men as those I speak of. Whence they came they alone knew. Two of
them--a Portuguese deserter from a whaler and a man named Corton--had
been some years on the island when they were joined by two others who
came over from Apamama in a boat. One was called Tamu (Tom) by the
natives, and from the ease with which he spoke the Gilbert Island dialect
and his familiarity with native customs, he had plainly lived many years
among the natives; the other was a tall, dark-skinned, and morose-looking
man of nearly fifty. He was known as Hari to the natives--once, in that
outer world from which some crime had dissevered him forever, he was
Henry Deschard.

Although not familiar with either the language or the customs of the
ferocious inhabitants of the Gilbert Group, it was soon seen by the ease
with which he acquired both that Hari had spent long years roaming about
the islands of the Pacific. In colour he was darker than the Kurians
themselves; in his love of the bloodshed and slaughter that so often ran
riot in native quarrels he surpassed even the fiercest native; and as he
eagerly espoused the cause of any Kurian chief who sought his aid he
rapidly became a man of note on the island, and dreaded by the natives
elsewhere in the group.

There were then over a thousand people living on Kuria--or rather, on
Kuria and Oneaka, for the island is divided by one of those narrow
channels before mentioned; and at Oneaka Tamu and Deschard lived, while
the Portuguese and the man Corton had long held sway with the native
chief of Kuria.

During the time the four renegades had lived on the island two vessels
that had touched there had had narrow escapes from seizure by the
natives. The first of these, a small Hawaiian whaling brig, was attacked
when she was lying becalmed between Kuria and Aranuka. A breeze springing
up, she escaped after the loss of a boat's crew, who were entrapped on
the latter island. In this affair Deschard and Tamu had taken part; in
the next--an attempt to capture a sandalwooding barque bound to
China--he was leader, with Corton as his associate. The sandalwooder,
however, carried a large and well-armed crew, and the treacherous
surprise so elaborately planned came to ignominious failure. Deschard
accused his fellow-beachcomber of cowardice at a critical moment. The two
men became bitter enemies, and for years never spoke to each other.


But one afternoon a sail was sighted standing in for the island, and in
their hateful bond of villainy the two men became reconciled, and agreed
with Pedro and Tamu and some hundreds of natives to try to decoy the
vessel to an anchor and cut her off. The beachcombers, who were tired of
living on Kuria, were anxious to get away; the natives desired the
plunder to be obtained from the prize. A compact was then made that the
ship, after the natives had done with her, was not to be burnt, but was
to be handed over to the white men, who were to lead the enterprise.

* * * * *

Sailing slowly along till she came within a mile of the reef, the vessel
hove to and lowered a boat. She was a large brigantine,18 and the
murderous beings who watched her from the shore saw with cruel pleasure
that she did not appear to carry a large crew.

It had been agreed upon that Corton, who had special aptitude for such
work, should meet the boat and endeavor to lure the crew into the
interior, under the promise of giving them a quantity of fresh-water fish
from the artificial ponds belonging to the chief, while Deschard and the
other two, with their body of native allies, should remain at the village
on Oneaka, and at the proper moment attack the ship.

As the boat drew near, the officer who was in charge saw that although
there were numbers of natives clustered together on the beach, the
greater portion were women and children. He had with him five men, all
armed with muskets and cutlasses, and although extremely anxious to avoid
a collision, he was not at all alarmed. The natives meanwhile preserved a
passive attitude, and when the men in the boat, at a word from the
officer, stopped rowing, backed her in stern first, and then lay on their
oars, they nearly all sat down on the sand and waited for him to speak.

Standing up in the boat, the officer hailed--

"Hallo there, ashore! Any white men living here?"

For a minute or so there was no answer, and the eyes of the natives
turned in the direction of one of their number who kept well in the

Again the seaman hailed, and then a man, seemingly a native, stout and
muscular, with hair falling down in thick masses upon his reddish-brown
shoulders, walked slowly out from the others, and folding his brawny arms
across his naked chest, he answered-

"Yes; there's some white men here."

The officer, who was the mate of the brigantine, then spoke for a few
minutes to a young man who pulled bow oar, and who from his dress was not
one of the crew, and said finally, "Well, let us make sure that there is
no danger first, Maurice."

The young man nodded, and then the mate addressed the seeming native

"There's a young fellow here wants to come ashore; he wants to see one of
the white men here. Can he come ashore?"

"Of course he can. D'ye think we're a lot o' cannibals here? I'm a white
man myself," and he laughed coarsely; then added quickly, "Who does he
want to see?"

The man who pulled the bow oar sprang to his feet.

"I want to see Henry Deschard!"

"Do you?" was the sneering response. "Well, I don't know as you can. This
isn't his day at home, like; besides that, he's a good long way from here
just now."

"I've got good news for him," urged the man called Maurice.

The beachcomber meditated a few seconds; then he walked down to the boat.

"Look here," he said, "I'm telling the exac' truth. Deschard's place is a
long way from here, in the bush too, so you can't go there in the boat;
but look here, why can't you chaps come along with me? I'll show you the
way, and you'll have a good look at the island. There's nothin' to be
afraid of, I can tell you. Why, these natives is scared of all them guns
there that you won't see 'em for dust when you come with me; an' the
chief says as you chaps can drag one of his fish-ponds."

The mate was tempted; but his orders were to allow only the man Maurice
to land, and to make haste back as soon as his mission was accomplished.
Shaking his head to the renegade's wily suggestion, he, however, told
Maurice that he could go and endeavor to communicate with Deschard. In
the meantime he would return to the ship, and tell the captain--"and the
other" (these last words with a look full of meaning at the young man)
that everything was going on all right.

Foiled in his plan of inducing all the men to come ashore, Corton assumed
a careless manner, and told Maurice that he was still willing to conduct
him to Deschard, but that he would not be able to return to the ship that
night, as the distance was too great.

The mate was agreeable to this, and bidding the beachcomber and his
victim good-day, he returned to the ship.

Holding the young man's hand in his, the burly renegade passed through
the crowd of silent natives, and spoke to them in their own tongue.

"Hide well thy spears and clubs, my children; 'tis not yet time to act."

Still clasping the hand of his companion, he led the way through the
native town, and then into the narrow bush track that led to Oneaka, and
in another five minutes they were alone, or apparently so, for nought
could be heard in the fast gathering darkness but their own footsteps as
they trod the leafy path, and the sound of the breaching surf long miles

Suddenly the beachcomber stopped, and in a harsh voice said-

"What is the good news for Deschard?"

"That I cannot tell you," answered the stripling, firmly, though the grim
visage, tattooed body, and now threatening aspect of his questioner might
well have intimidated even a bolder man, and instinctively he thrust his
hand into the bosom of his shirt and grasped a letter he carried there.

"Then neither shall Deschard know it," said the man savagely, and
throwing himself upon the young man he bore him to the ground, while
shadowy, naked figures glided out from the blackness of the forest and
bound and gagged him without a sound. The carrying him away from the path
the natives placed him, without roughness, under the shelter of an empty
house, and then left him.

The agony of mind endured by the helpless prisoner may be imagined when,
unable to speak or move, he saw the beachcomber and his savage followers
vanish into the darkness; for the letter which he carried had been
written only a few hours before by the wife of the man Deschard, telling
him of her loving quest, and of her and her children's presence on board
the brigantine.


At daylight next morning some native women, passing by the deserted house
on their way to work in the puraka plantations of Oneaka, saw the
figure of the messenger lying dead. One of the women, named Niapó, in
placing her hand upon his bosom to feel if he yet breathed, found the
letter which had cost him his life. For nearly twenty years she kept
possession of it, doubtless from some superstitious motive, and then it
was bought from her by a white trader from Apamama, named Randall,20 by
whom it was sent to the Rev. Mr. Damon,21 the "Sailor's Friend," a
well-known missionary in Honolulu. This was the letter:--

MY DEAR HUSBAND,--It is nearly three years since I got your letter, but
I dared no risk writing to you, even if I had know of a ship leaving for
the South Seas or the whale fishery. None of the sandalwooding people in
Sydney seemed even to know the name of this island (Courier?). My dear
husband, I have enough money now, thank God, to end all our troubles.
Your letter was brought to me at Parramatta by a sailor--an American,
I think. He gave it first to Maurice. I would have rewarded him, but
before I could speak to him he had gone. For ten years I have waited and
prayed to God to bring us together again. We came to Sydney in the same
ship as Major D--, of the 77th. He has always been so good to us, and so
has his wife. Nell is sixteen now, Laura eighteen. God grant that I will
see you in a few hours. The captain says that he will land us all at one
of the places in the Dutch East Indies.23 I have paid him £100, and am to
pay him £100 when you are safely on board. I have been so miserable for
the past year, as Major D-- had heard that a man-of-war was searching the
islands, and I was in such terrible fear that we would never meet again.
Come quickly and God bless you, my dear husband. Maurice insisted and
begged to be allowed to take this to you. He is nineteen years old now,
but will not live long--has been a faithful and good lad. Laura is
eighteen and Nell nearly sixteen now. We are now close to Courier, and
should see you ere long.--Your loving and now joyful wife,--ANNA

* * * * *

In the big maniapa, or council house, on Oneaka, two hundred armed and
naked savages were sitting awaiting the arrival of Corton and his
warriors from Kuria. A little apart from the muttering, excited natives,
and seated together, were the man Deschard and the two other
beachcombers, Pedro and Tamu.

As Corton and his men filed across the gravelled pathway that led to the
maniapa, Deschard, followed by the two other white men, at once came out,
and the former with a fierce curse, demanded of Corton what had kept him.

"Couldn't manage to get them ashore," answered the other, sulkily. The he
proceeded to impart the information he had gained as to the ship, her
crew, and armament.

"Nine men and one native boy!" said Deschard, contemptuously. He was a
tall, lean-looking, black-bearded man, with even a more terrifying and
savage appearance than any of his ruffianly partners in crime, tattooed
as he was from the back of his neck to his heels in broad, perpendicular
lines. As he fixed his keen eyes upon the countenance of Corton his white
teeth showed in a cruel smile through his tangled, unkempt moustache.

Calling out the leading chiefs of the cutting-out party, the four
desperadoes consulted with them upon their plan of action for the attack
upon the brigantine, and then arranged for each man's work and share of
the plunder. The white men were to have the ship, but everything that was
of value to the natives and not necessary to the working of the ship was
to be given to the natives. The muskets, powder, and ball were to be
evenly divided between the whites and their allies.

Six of the native chiefs then swore by the names of their deified
ancestors to faithfully observe the murderous compact. After the ship was
taken they were to help the white men if the ship had anchored to get her
under way again.

It was the intention of Deschard and his mates to make for the East
Indies, where they would have no trouble in selling the ship to one of
the native potentates of that archipelago.

* * * * *

At daylight the brigantine, which had been kept under easy sail during
the night, was seen to be about four miles from the land, and standing
in. Shortly after, two or three canoes, with only a few men in each, put
off from the beach at Oneaka and paddled out leisurely towards the ship.
When about a mile or so from the shore they ceased paddling, and the
captain of the brigantine saw by his glass that they were engaged in

This was merely a device to inspire confidence in those on board the

In another hour the brigantine passed close to one of the canoes, and a
native, well tutored by past masters in the art of treachery in the part
he had to play, stood up in the canoe and held up a large fish, and in
broken English said it was a present for the captain.

Pleased at such a friendly overture, the captain put the helm down for
the canoe to come alongside. Handing the fish up over the side, the giver
clambered up himself. The three other natives in the canoe then paddled
quietly away as if under no alarm for the safety of their comrade, and
resumed their fishing.

As the ship drew into the land the mate called the captain's attention to
some eight or ten more natives who were swimming off to the ship.

"No danger from these people, sir," he remarked; "they are more
frightened of us then we of them, I believe; and then look at the women
and girls fishing on the reef. When the women come out like that,
fearless and open-like, there isn't much to be afraid of."

One by one the natives who were swimming reached the ship, and apparently
encouraged by the presence of the man who had boarded the ship from the
fishing canoe, they eagerly clambered up on deck, and were soon on the
most friendly terms with the crew, especially with one of their own
colour, a half-caste native boy from the island of Ambrym,25 in the New
Hebrides,26 named Maru.

This Maru was the sole survivor of the tragedy that followed, and
appeared to be well acquainted with the captain's object in calling at
Kuria--to pick up the man named Deschard. More than twenty years
afterwards, when speaking of the events here narrated, his eyes filled
with tears when he told of the "white lady and her two daughters" who
were passengers, and who had sat on the poop the previous day awaiting
the return of the mate's boat, and for tidings of him whom they had come
so far to find.

* * * * *


The timid and respectful manner of the islanders had now so impressed the
master of the brigantine that in a fatal moment he decided to anchor.
Telling the mate to range the cable and clear all ready, he descended to
the cabin and tapped at the door of a state-room.

"I am going to anchor, Mrs. Deschard, but as there are a lot of rather
curious-looking natives on board, you and the young ladies had better
keep to your cabin."

The door opened, and a girl of seventeen or eighteen appeared, and,
taking the captain's hand, she whispered-

"She is asleep, captain. She kept awake till daylight, hoping that my
father would come in the night. Do you think that anything has happened
either to him or Maurice?"

Maru, the Ambrym cabin-boy, said that the captain "patted the girl's hand
and told her to have no fear"--that her father was on the island "sure
enough," and that Maurice would return with him by breakfast time.

The brigantine anchored close in to the shore, between Kuria and Oneaka,
and in a few minutes the long boat was lowered to proceed on shore and
bring off Maurice and Deschard. Four hands got into her and then the
mate. Just as he was about to cast off, the English-speaking native
begged the captain to allow him and the rest of his countrymen to go
ashore in the boat. Unsuspicious of treachery from unarmed natives, the
captain consented, and they immediately slipped over the side into the

There were thus but four white men left on board--the captain, second
mate, two A.B.'s--and the half-caste boy Maru. Arms and ammunition,
sufficient for treble the crew the brigantine carried, were on board. In
those days the humblest merchant brig voyaging to the East Indies and
China coast carried, in addition to small arms, either two or four guns
(generally 6-pounders) in case of an attack by pirates. The brigantine
was armed with two 6-pounders, and these, so the Ambrym half-caste said,
were still loaded with "bags of bullets" when she came to an anchor. Both
of the guns were on the main deck amidships.

* * * * *

Contrary to the wishes of the mate, who appeared to have the most
unbounded confidence in the peaceableness of the natives, the captain had
insisted upon his boat's crew taking their arms with them.

No sooner had the boat left the vessel then the English-speaking native
desired the mate to pull round to the east side of Oneaka, where, he
said, the principal village was situated, and whither Maurice had gone to
seek Deschard. It must be remembered that this native and those with him
were all members of Corton's clientèle at Kuria, and were therefore well
aware of his treachery in seizing the messenger to Deschard, and that
Maurice had been seized and bound the previous night.

In half an hour, when the boat was hidden from the view of those on board
the brigantine, the natives, who outnumbered the whites two to one, at a
signal from their leader suddenly threw themselves upon the unsuspecting
seamen who were rowing and threw every one of them overboard. The mate, a
small, active man, managed to draw a heavy horse pistol from his belt,
but ere he could pull the trigger he was dealt a crushing blow with a
musket stock. As he fell a native thrust him through and through with one
of the seamen's cutlasses. As for the unfortunate seamen, they were
killed one by one as they struggled in the water. That part of the fell
work accomplished, the natives pulled the boat in towards Oneaka, where
some ten or fifteen large native double-ended boats and canoes, all
filled with savages lusting for blood and rapine, awaited them.

Deschard, a man of the most savage courage, was in command of some twenty
or thirty of the most noted of the Oneaka warriors; and on learning from
Tebarian (the native who spoke English and who was Corton's brown
familiar) that the two guns were in the waist of the ship, he instructed
his white comrades to follow in the wake of his boat, and, once they got
alongside, board the ship wherever their fancy dictated.

There was a muttered E rairai! (Good!) of approval from the listening
natives, and then in intuitive silence and perfect discipline the paddles
struck the water, and the boat and canoes, with their naked, savage
crews, sped away on their mission of death.


But, long before they imagined, they had been discovered, and their
purpose divined from the ship. Maru, the keen-eyed half-caste, who was
the first to notice their approach, knew from the manner in which the
canoes kept together that something unusual was about to occur, and
instantly called the captain. Glass in hand, the latter ascended the main
rigging for a dozen ratlins or so and looked at the advancing flotilla.
A very brief glance told him that the boy had good cause for alarm--the
natives intended to cut off the ship, and the captain, whom Maru
described as "an old man with a white head," at once set about to make
such a defence as the critical state of affairs rendered possible.

Calling his men to him and giving them muskets, he posted two of them on
top of the deckhouse, and with the remainder of his poor force stationed
himself upon the poop.30 With a faint hope that they might yet be
intimidated from attacking, he fired a musket shot in the direction of
the leading boat. No notice was taken; so, descending to the main deck
with his men, he ran out one of the 6-pounders and fired it. The roar of
the heavily-charged gun was answered by a shrill yell of defiance from
two hundred throats.

"Then," said Maru, "the captain go below and say good-bye to women and
girls, and shut and lock cabin door."

Returning to the deck, the brave old man and his second mate and two men
picked up their muskets and began to fire at the black mass of boats and
men that were now well within range. As they fired, the boy Maru loaded
spare muskets for them as fast as his trembling hands would permit.

Once only, as the brigantine swung to the current, the captain brought
the gun on the port side to bear on them again, and fired; and again
there came back the same appalling yell of defiance, for the shower of
bullets only made a wide slat of foam a hundred yards short of the
leading boat.

By the time the gun was reloaded the brigantine had swung round head to
shore again; and then, as the despairing but courageous seamen were
trying to drag it forward again, Deschard and his savages in the leading
boat had gained the ship, and the wild figure of the all but naked
beachcomber sprang on deck, followed by his own crew and nearly two
hundred other fiends well nigh as bloodthirsty and cruel as himself. Some
two or three of them had been killed by the musketry fire from the ship,
and their fellows needed no incentive from their white leaders to slay
and spare not.

Abandoning the gun, the captain and his three men and the boy Maru
succeeded in fighting their way through Deschard's savages and reaching
one of the cabin doors, which, situated under the break of the high poop,
opened to the main deck. Ere they could all gain the shelter of the cabin
and secure the door the second mate and one of the seamen were cut down
and ruthlessly slaughtered, and of the three that did, one--the
remaining seaman--was mortally wounded and dying fast.

Even at such a moment as this, hardened and merciless as were their
natures and blood-stained their past, it cannot be thought that had
Deschard and his co-pirates known that white women were on board the
brigantine they would have permitted their last dreadful deed. In his
recital of the final scene in the cabin Maru spoke of the white woman and
the two girls coming out of their state-room and kneeling down and
praying with their arms clasped around each other's waists. surely the
sound of their dying prayers could never have been heard by Deschard
when, in the native tongue, he called out for one of the guns to be run

* * * * *

"By and by," said Maru, "woman and girl come to captain and sailor-man
Charlie and me and cry and say good-bye, and then captain he pray too.
Then he get up and take cutlass, and sailor-man Charlie he take cutlass
too, but he too weak and fall down; so captain say, 'Never mind, Charlie,
you and me die now like men.'"

Then, cutlass in hand, the white-haired old skipper stood over the
kneeling figures of the three women and waited for the end. And now the
silence was broken by a rumbling sound, and then came a rush of naked
feet along the deck.

"It is the gun," said Maru to the captain, and in a agony of terror he
lifted up the hatch of the lazarette under the cabin table and jumped
below. And then Deschard's voice was heard.

"Ta mai te ae" (Give me the fire).

A blinding flash, a deafening roar, and splintering and crashing of
timber followed, and as the heavy pall of smoke lifted, Deschard and the
others looked at their bloody work, shuddered, and turned away.

Pedro, the Portuguese, his dark features turned to a ghastly pallor, was
the only one of the four men who had courage enough to assist some of the
natives in removing from the cabin the bodies of the three poor creatures
who, but a short time before, were full of happiness and hope. Deschard
and the three others, after that one shuddering glance, had kept away
from the vicinity of the shot-torn cabin.

* * * * *


The conditions of the cutting off of the brigantine were faithfully
observed by the contracting parties, and long ere night fell the last
boatload of plunder had been taken ashore. Tebarau, chief of Oneaka, had
with his warriors helped to heave up anchor, and the vessel, under short
canvas, was already a mile or two away from the land, and in his
hiding-place in the gloomy lazarette the half-caste boy heard Corton and
Deschard laying plans for the future.

Only these two were present in the cabin; Pedro was at the wheel, and
Tamu somewhere on deck. Presently Corton brought out the dead captain's
despatch box,32 which they had claimed from the natives, and the two
began to examine the contents. There was a considerable amount of money
in gold and silver, as well as the usual ship's papers, &c. Corton, who
could scarcely read, passed these over to his companion, and then ran his
fingers gloatingly through the heap of money before him.

With a hoarse, choking cry and horror-stricken eyes Deschard sprang to
his feet, and with shaking hand held out a paper to Corton.

"My God! my God!" exclaimed the unhappy wretch, and sinking down again he
buried his face in his hands.

Slowly and laboriously his fellow ex-convict read the document through to
the end. It was an agreement to pay the captain of the brigantine the sum
of one hundred pounds sterling provided that Henry Deschard was taken on
board the brigantine at Woodle's Island (the name Kuria was known by to
whaleships and others), the said sum to be increased to two hundred
pounds "provided that Henry Deschard, myself, and my two daughters are
landed at Batavia or any other East India port within sixty days from
leaving the said island," and was signed ANNA DESCHARD.

Staggering to his feet, the man sought in the ruined and plundered
state-room for further evidence. Almost the first objects that he saw
were two hanging pockets made of duck--evidently the work of some
seaman--bearing upon them the names of "Helen" and "Laura."

* * * * *

Peering up from his hiding-place in the lazarette, where he had lain
hidden under a heap of old jute bagging and other debris, Maru saw
Deschard return to the cabin and take up a loaded musket. Sitting in the
captain's chair, and leaning back, he placed the muzzle to his throat,
and touched the trigger with his naked foot. As the loud report rang out,
and the cabin filled with smoke, the boy crawled from his dark retreat,
and, stepping over the prostrate figure of Deschard, he reached the deck
and sprang overboard.

For hours the boy swam through the darkness towards the land, guided by
the lights of the fires that in the Gilbert and other equatorial islands
are kindled at night-time on every beach. He was picked up by a fishing
party, and probably on account of his youth and exhausted condition his
life was spared.

That night as he lay sleeping under a mat in the big maniapa on Kuria he
was awakened by loud cries, and looking seaward he saw a bright glare
away to the westward.

It was the brigantine on fire.

Launching their canoes, the natives went out to her, and were soon close
enough to see that she was burning fiercely from for'ard to amidships,
and that her three boats were all on board--two hanging to the davits
and one on the deckhouse. But of the four beachcombers there was no sign.

Knowing well that no other ship had been near the island, and that
therefore the white men could not have escaped by that means without
being seen from the shore, the natives, surmising that they were in a
drunken sleep, called loudly to them to awake; but only the roaring of
the flames broke the silence of the ocean. Not daring to go nearer, the
natives remained in the vicinity till the brigantine was nothing but a
mastless, glowing mass of fire.

Towards midnight she sank; and the last of the beachcombers of Kuria sank
with her.


Saunderson was one of those men who firmly believed that he knew
everything, and exasperated people by telling them how to do things; and
Denison, the super-cargo of the Palestine, hated him most fervently for
the continual trouble he was giving to everyone, and also because he had
brought a harmonium on board, and played dismal tunes on it every night
and all day on Sundays. But, as Saunderson was one of the partners in the
firm who owned the Palestine, Denison, and Packenham the skipper, had to
suffer him in silence, and trust that something might happen to him
before long. What irritated Denison more than anything else was that
Saunderson frequently expressed the opinion that super-cargoes were
superfluous luxuries to owners, and that such work as they tried to do
could well be done by the captains, provided the latter were intelligent

"Never mind, Tom," said Packenham hopefully, one day, "he's a big eater,
and is bound to get the fever if we give him a fair show in the Solomons.
Then we can dump him ashore at some missionary's--he and his infernal
groan-box--and go back to Sydney without the beast."

When the Palestine arrived at Leone Bay, in Tutuila, Saunderson dressed
himself beautifully and went ashore to the mission-house, and in the
evening Mrs. O-- (the missionary's wife) wrote Denison a note and asked if
he could spare a cheese from the ship's stores, and added a P.S., "What a
terrible bore he is!" This made the captain and himself feel better.

The next morning Saunderson came on board. Denison was in the cabin,
showing a trader named Rigby some samples of dynamite; the trader wanted
a case or two of the dangerous compound to blow a boat passage through
the reef opposite his house, and Denison was telling him how to use it.
Of course Saunderson must interfere, and said he would show Rigby what to
do. He had never fired a charge of dynamite in his life, nor even seen
one fired or a cartridge prepared, but had listened carefully to Denison.
Then he sarcastically told Denison that the cheese he had sent Mrs. O--
might have passed for dynamite, it was so dry and tasteless.

"Well, dynamite is made from cheese, you know," said the supercargo
deferentially, "just cheese slightly impregnated with picric acid,
gastrito-nepenthe, and cubes of oxalicogene."

Saunderson said he knew that, and after telling Rigby that he would walk
over to his station before dinner, and show him where to begin operations
on the reef, went on shore again.

About twelve o'clock Denison and Rigby went on shore to test the
dynamite, fuse, and caps--first in the water, and then on the reef. Just
abreast of the mission-house they saw a big school of grey mullet
swimming close in to the beach, and Denison quickly picked up a stone,
tied it with some string round a cartridge, cut the fuse very short, lit
it, and threw it in. There was a short fizz, then a dull, heavy thud, and
up came hundreds of the beautiful fish stunned or dead. Saunderson came
out of the mission-house and watched the natives collecting them. Denison
had half-a-dozen cartridges in his hand; each one was tightly enveloped
in many thicknesses of paper, seized round with twine, and had about six
inches of fuse, with the ends carefully frayed out so as to light easily.

"Give me some of those," said Saunderson.

The supercargo reluctantly handed him two, and Saunderson remarked that
they were very clumsily covered, but he would fix some more himself
"properly" another time. Denison sulkily observed that he had no time to
waste in making dynamite cartridges look pretty. Then, as Saunderson
walked off, he called out and told him that if he was going to shoot fish
he would want to put a good heavy stone on the cartridges. Saunderson
said when he wanted advice from any one he would ask for it. Then he sent
word by a native to Mrs. O-- that he would send her along some fish in a
few minutes.

Now within a few hundred yards of the mission-house there was a jetty,
and at the end of the jetty was Her Majesty's gunboat Badger, a small
schooner-rigged wooden vessel commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Muddle,
one of the most irascible men that ever breathed, and who had sat on more
Consuls than any one else in the service.

Saunderson went on the jetty followed by a crowd of natives, and looked
over into the water. There were swarms of fish, just waiting to be
dynamited. He told a native to bring him a stone, and one was brought--a
nice round, heavy stone as smooth as a billiard ball just the very wrong
kind of stone. He tied it on the cartridge at last, after it had fallen
off four or five times; then, as he did not smoke, and carried no
matches, he lit it from a native woman's cigarette, and let it drop into
the water. The stone promptly fell off, but the cartridge floated gaily,
and drifted along fizzing in a contented sort of way. Saunderson put his
hands on his hips, and watched it nonchalantly, oblivious of the fact
that all the natives had bolted back to the shore to be out of danger,
and watch things.

There was a bit of a current, and the cartridge was carried along till it
brought up gently against the Badger--just in a nice cosy place between
the rudder bearding and the stern-post. Then it went off with a bang that
shook the universe, and ripped off forty-two sheets of copper from the
Badger; and Saunderson fell off the jetty into the water; and the
bluejackets who were below came tumbling up on deck; and the gunner,
seeing Lieutenant-Commander Muddle rush up from his cabin in his
shirt-sleeves with a razor in his hand, thought that he had gone queer
again in his head, and had tried to blow up the ship, and was going to
cut his throat, and so he rushed at him, and knocked him down and took
his razor away, and begged him to be quiet; and Muddle, thinking it was a
mutiny, nearly went into a fit, and struggled so desperately, and made
such awful choking noises that two more men sat on him; and the
navigating midshipman, thinking it was a fire, told the bugler to sound
quarters, and then, seeing the captain being held down by three men,
rushed to his assistance, but tripped over something or somebody and fell
down and nearly broke his nose; and all the time Saunderson, who was
clinging to one of the jetty piles, was yelling pitifully for help, being
horribly afraid of sharks.

At last he was fished out by Rigby and some natives and carried up to the
mission-house and then, when he was able to talk coherently, he sent for
Denison, who told him that Commander Muddle was coming for him presently
with a lot of armed men and a boatswain with a green bag in which was a
"cat", and that he (Saunderson) would first be flogged and then hanged at
the Badger's yard-arm, and otherwise treated severely, for an attempt to
blow up one of Her Majesty's ships; and then Saunderson shivered all
over, and staggered out of the mission-house in a suit of Mr. O--'s
pyjamas, much too large for him, and met Commander Muddle on the jetty
and tried to explain how it occurred, and Muddle called him an infernal,
drivelling idiot, and knocked him clean off the jetty into the water
again, and used awful language, and told Denison that his chronometers
were ruined, and the ship's timbers started, and that he had had a narrow
escape from cutting his own throat when the dynamite went off, as he had
just begun to shave.

Saunderson was very ill after that, and was in such mortal terror that
Muddle and every one else on board the gunboat meant to kill, wound, or
seriously damage him, that he kept inside the mission-house, and said he
felt he was dying, and that Mr. O-- would prepare him for the end. So
Denison and Packenham, who were now quite cheerful again, sent his traps
and his harmonium ashore, and sailed without him, a great peace in their



"It is bad to speak of the ghosts of the dead when their shadows may be
near," said Tulpé, the professed Christian, but pure, unsophisticated
heathen at heart; "no one but a fool--or a careless white man such as
thee, Tenisoni--would do that."

Denison laughed, but Kusis, the stalwart husband of black-browed Tulpé,
looked at him with grave reproval, and said in English, as he struck his
paddle into the water--

"Tulpé speak true, Mr. Denison. This place is a bad place at night-time,
suppose you no make fire before you sleep. Plenty men--white men--been die
here, and now us native people only come here when plenty of us come
together. Then we not feel much afraid. Oh, yes, these two little island
very bad places; long time ago many white men die here in the night. And
sometimes, if any man come here and sleep by himself, he hear the dead
white men walk about and cry out."

* * * * *

They--Denison, the supercargo of the Leonora, Kusis, the head man of the
village near by and Tulpé, his wife, and little Kinia, their daughter--had
been out fishing on the reef, but had met with but scant success; for in
the deep coral pools that lay between the inner and outer reefs of the
main island were hundreds of huge blue and gold striped leatherjackets,
which broke their hooks and bit their lines. So they had ceased awhile,
that they might rest till nightfall upon one of two little islets of
palms, that like floating gardens raised their verdured heights from the
deep waters of the slumbering lagoon.

Slowly they paddled over the glassy surface, and as the little craft cut
her way noiselessly through the water, the dying sun turned the slopes of
vivid green on Mont Buache to changing shades on gold and purple light,
and the dark blue of the water of the reef-bound lagoon paled and
shallowed and turned to bright transparent green with a bottom of shining
snow-white sand--over which swift black shadows swept as startled fish
fled seaward in affright beneath the slender hull of the light canoe.
Then as the last booming notes of the great grey-plumaged
mountain-pigeons echoed through the forest aisles, the sun touched the
western sea-rim in a flood of misty golden haze, and plunging their
paddles together in a last stroke they grounded upon the beach of a
lovely little bay, scarce a hundred feet in curve from point to point;
and whilst Kusis and Tulpé lit a fire to cook some fish for the white
man, Denison clambered to the summit of the island and looked shoreward
upon the purpling outline of the mainland a league away.

Half a mile distant he could see the sharp peaks of the grey-thatched
houses in Leassé village still standing out plainly in the clear
atmosphere, and from every house a slender streak of pale blue smoke rose
straight up skywards, for the land-breeze had not yet risen, and the
smoky haze of the rollers thundering westward hung like a filmy mantle of
white over long, long lines of curving reef. Far inland, the great
southern spur of the mountain that the Frenchman Duperrey had named
Buache, had cloaked its sides in the shadows of the night, though its
summit yet blazed with the last red shafts of gold from the sunken sun.
And over the tops of the drooping palms of the little isle, Denison heard
the low cries and homeward flight of ocean-roving birds as they sped
shoreward to their rookeries among the dense mangrove shrubs behind
Leassé. Some pure white, red-footed boatswain birds, whose home was among
the foliage of the two islets, muttered softly about as they sank like
flakes of falling snow among the branches of the palms and bread-fruit
trees around him. All day long had they hovered high in air above the
sweeping roll of the wide Pacific, and one by one they were coming back
to rest, and Denison could see their white forms settling down on the
drooping palm-branches, to rise with flapping wing and sharp, fretful
croak as some belated wanderer fluttered noiselessly down and pushed his
way to a perch amidst his companions, to nestle together till the bright
rays of sunlight lit up the ocean blue once more.

At a little distance from the beach stood a tiny thatched roofed house
with sides open to welcome the cooling breath of the land-breeze that, as
the myriad stars came out, stole down from the mountains to the islet
trees and then rippled the waters of the shining lagoon.

The house had been built by the people of Leassé, who used it as a
rest-house when engaged in fishing in the vicinity of the village. Rolled
up and placed over the cross-beams were a number of soft mats, and as
Denison returned Kusis took these down and placed them upon the ground,
which was covered with a thick layer of pebbles. Throwing himself down on
the mats, Denison filled his pipe and smoked, while Tulpé and the child
made an oven of heated stones to cook the fish they had caught. Kusis had
already plucked some young drinking coconuts, and Denison heard their
heavy fall as he threw them to the ground. And only that Kusis had brave
blood in his veins, they had had nothing to drink that night, for no
Strong's Islander would ascend a coconut tree there after dark, for
devils, fiends, goblins, the ghosts of men long dead, and evil spirits
flitted to and fro amid the boscage of the islet once night had fallen.
And even Kusis, despite the long years he had spent among white men in
his cruises in American whaleships in his younger days, chid his wife and
child sharply for not hastening to him and carrying the nuts away as they

Then, as Denison and Kusis waited for the oven to be opened, Tulpé and
Kinia came inside the hut and sat down beside them, and listened to Kusis
telling the white man of a deep, sandy-bottomed pool, near to the islets,
which, when the tide came in over the reef at night-time, became filled
with big fish, which preyed upon the swarms of minnows that made the pool
their home.

"'Tis there, Tenisoni, that we shall go when we have eaten," he said, and
he dropped his voice to a whisper, "and there shall we tell thee the
story of the dead white men."

So, when the fish was cooked, Tulpé and Kinia hurriedly took it from the
oven and carried to the canoe, in which they all sat and ate, and then
pushing out into the lagoon again they paddled slowly along in shallow
water till Denison saw the white sandy sides of a deep, dark pool
glimmering under the starlight of the island night. Softly the girl Kinia
lowered the stone anchor down till it touched bottom two fathoms below,
on the very edge; and then payed out the kellick line whilst her father
backed the canoe out from the quickly shelving sides into the centre,
where she lay head-on to the gentle current.

For many hours they fished, and soon the canoe was half-filled with great
pink and pearly-hued groper and blue-backed, silver-sided sea salmon, and
then Denison, wearying of the sport, stretched himself upon the outrigger
and smoked whilst Tulpé told him of the tale of the white men who had
once lived and died on the little islets.

"'Twas long before the time that the two French fighting-ships came here
and anchored in this harbour of Leassé. Other ships had come to
Kusaie, and white men had come ashore at Lêla and spoken with the king
and chiefs, and made presents of friendship to them, and been given
turtle and hogs in return. This was long before my mother was married,
and then this place of Leassé, which is now so poor, and hath but so few
people in it, was a great town, the houses of which covered all the flat
land between the two points of the bay. She, too, was named I
am--Tulpé--and came from a family that lived under the strong arm of the
king at Lêla, where they had houses and many plantations. In those days
there were three great chiefs on Kusaie, one at Lêla, from where my
mother came, one at Utwe, and one here at Leassé. Peace had been between
them all for nearly two years, so, when the news came here that there
were two ships at anchor in the king's harbour, many of the people of
Leassé went thither in their canoes to see the strangers, for these ships
were the first the people had seen for, it may have been, twenty years.
Among those that went from Leassé was a young man named Kasi-lak--Kasi the
big or strong, for he was the tallest and strongest man on this side of
the island, and a great wrestler. There were in all nearly two hundred
men and women went from Leassé, and when they reached the narrow passage
to Lêla, they saw that the harbour was covered with canoes full of the
people from the great town there. These clustered about the ships so
thickly that those that came from Leassé could not draw near enough to
them to look at the white men, so they rested on their paddles and waited
awhile. Presently there came out upon a high part of the ship a chief
whose name was Malik. He was the king's foster-brother, and a great
fighting-man, and was hated by the people of Leassé for having ravaged
all the low-lying country from the mountains to the shore ten years
before, slaying women and children as well as men, and casting their
bodies into the flames of their burning houses.

"But now, because of the peace that was between Leassé and Lêla, he
showed his white teeth in a smile of welcome, and, standing upon the high
stern part of the ship, he called out, 'Welcome, O friends!' and bade
them paddle their canoes to the shore, to the great houses of the king,
his brother, where they would be made welcome, and where food would be
prepared for them to eat.

"So, much as they desired to go on board the ships, they durst not offend
such a man as Malik, and paddled to the shore, where they were met by the
king's slaves, who drew their canoes high up on the beach, and covered
them with mats to protect them from the sun, and then the king himself
came to meet them with fair words and smiles of friendship.

"'Welcome, O men of Leassé,' he said. 'See, my people have covered thy
canoes with mats from the sun, for now that there is no hate between us,
ye shall remain here at Lêla with me for many days. And so that there
shall be no more blood-letting between my people and thine, shall I give
every young man among ye that is yet unmarried a wife from these people
of mine. Come, now, and eat and drink.'

"So all the two hundred sat down in one of the king's houses, and while
they ate and drank there came boats from the ships, and the white men,
whom Malik led ashore, came into the house where they sat, and spoke to
them. In those days there were but three or four of the Kusaie men who
understood English, and these Malik kept by him, so that he could put
words into their mouths when he desired to speak to the white strangers.
These white men, so my mother said, wore short, broad-bladed swords in
sheaths made of thick black skins, and pistols were thrust through belts
of skin around their waists. Their hair, too, was dressed like that of
the men of Kusaie--it hung down in a short, thick roll, and was tied at
the end.(2)

"Kasi, who was the father of this my husband, Kusis, sat a little apart
from the rest of the Leassé people. Beside him was a young girl named
Nehi, his cousin. She had never before left her home, and the strange
faces of the men of Lêla made her so frightened that she clung to Kasi's
arm in fear, and when the white men came into the house she flung her
arms around her cousin's neck and laid her face against his naked chest.
Presently, as the white men walked to and fro among the people, they
stopped in front of Kasi and Nehi, and one of them, who was the captain
of the largest of the two ships, desired Kasi to stand up so that he
might see his great stature the better. So he stood up, and Nehi the
girl, still clinging to his arm, stood up with him.

"'He is a brave-looking man,' said the white officer to Malik. 'Such men
as he are few and far between. Only this man here,' and he touched a
young white man who stood beside him on the arm, 'is his equal in
strength and fine looks.' And with that the young white man, who was an
officer of the smaller of the two ships, laughed, and held out his hand
to Kasi, and then his eyes, blue, like the deep sea, fell upon the face
of Nehi, whose dark ones looked wonderingly into his.

"'Who is this girl? Is she the big man's sister?' he asked of Malik. Then
Malik told him, through the mouth of one of the three Kusaie men, who
spoke English, that the girl's name was Nehi, and that with many of her
people she had come from Leassé to see the fighting-ships.

"By and by the white men with Malik went away to talk and eat, and drank
kava in the house of the king, his brother; but presently the younger
white man came back with Rijon, a native who spoke English, and sat down
beside Kasi and his cousin Nehi, and talked with them for a long time.
And this he told them of himself. That he was the second chief of the
little ship, that with but two masts; and because of the long months they
had spent upon the sea, and of the bad blood between the common sailor
men and the captain, he was wearied of the ship, and desired to leave it.
Ten others were there on his own ship of a like mind, and more than a
score on the larger ship, which had twenty-and-two great cannons on her
deck. And then he and Rijon and Kasi talked earnestly together, and Kasi
promised to aid him; and so that Rijon should not betray them to Malik or
the two captains, the young white man promised to give him that night a
musket and a pistol as an earnest of greater gifts, when he and others
with him had escaped from the ships, and were under the roofs of the men
of Leassé. So then he pressed the hand of Kasi, and again his eyes sought
those of Nehi, the girl, as he turned away.

"Then Rijon, who stayed, drew near to Kasi, and said--

"'What shall be mine if I tell thee of a plan that is in the mind of a
great man here to put thee and all those of Leassé with thee to death?'

"'Who is the man? Is it Malik?'

"'It is Malik.'

"'Then,' said Kasi, 'help me to escape from this trap, and thou shalt be
to me as mine own brother; of all that I possess half shall be thine.'

"And then Rijon, who was a man who hated bloodshed, and thought it hard
and cruel that Malik should slay so many unarmed people who came to him
in peace-time, swore to help Kasi in his need. And the girl Nehi took his
hand and kissed it, and wept.

"By and by, when Rijon had gone, there came into the big house where the
people of Leassé were assembled a young girl named Tulpé--she who
afterwards became my mother. And coming over to where Kasi and his cousin
sat, she told them she brought a message from the king. That night, she
said, there was to be a great feast, so that the white men from the ships
might see the dancing and wrestling that were to follow; and the king had
sent her to say that he much desired the people from Leassé to join in
the feasting and dancing; and with the message he sent further gifts of
baked fish and turtle meat and many baskets of fruit.

"Kasi, though he knew well that the king and Malik, his brother, meant to
murder him and all his people, smiled at the girl, and said, 'It is good;
we shall come, and I shall wrestle with the best man ye have here.'

"Then he struck the palm of his hand on the mat upon which he sat, and
said to the girl Tulpé, 'Sit thou here, and eat with us,' for he was
taken with her looks, and wanted speech with her.

"'Nay,' she said, with a smile, though her voice trembled strangely, and
her eyes filled with tears as she spoke. 'Why ask me to sit with thee
when thou hast so handsome a wife?' And she pointed to Nehi, whose hand
lay upon her cousin's arm.

"''Tis but my sister Nehi, my father's brother's child,' he answered. 'No
wife have I, and none do I want but thee. What is thy name?'

"'I am Tulpé, the daughter of Malik.'

"Then Kasi was troubled in his mind; for now he hated Malik, but yet was
he determined to make Tulpé his wife, first because he desired her for
her soft voice and gentle ways, and then because she might be a shield
for the people of Leassé against her father's vengeance. So drawing her
down beside him, he and Nehi made much of her; and Tulpé's heart went out
to him; for he was a man whose deeds as a wrestler were known in every
village on the island. But still as she tried to eat and drink and to
smile at his words of love, the tears fell one by one, and she became
very silent and sad; and presently, putting aside her food, she leant her
face on Nehi's shoulder and sobbed.

"'Why dost thou weep, little one?' said Kasi, tenderly.

"She made no answer awhile, but then turned her face to him.

"'Because, O Kasi the Wrestler, of an evil dream which came to me in the
night as I lay in my father's house.'

"'Tell me thy dream,' said Kasi.

"First looking around her to see that none but themselves could hear her,
she took his hand in hers, and whispered--

"'Aye, Kasi, I will tell thee. This, then, was my dream: I saw the bodies
of men and women and children, whose waists were girt about with red and
yellow girdles of oap, floating upon a pool of blood. Strange faces were
they all to me in my dream, but now two of them are not. And it is for
this I weep; for those two faces were thine own and that of this girl by
my side.'

"Then Kasi knew that she meant to warn him of her father's cruel plot,
for only the people of Leassé wore girdles of the bark of the plant
called oap. So then he told her of that which Rijon had spoken, and Tulpé
wept again.

"'It is true,' she said, 'and I did but seek to warn thee, for no dream
came to me in the night; yet do I know that even now my father is
planning with his brother the king how that they may slaughter thee all
to-night when ye sleep after the dance. What can I do to help thee?'

"They talked together again, and planned what should be done; and then
Tulpé went quietly away lest Malik should grow suspicious of her. And
Kasi went quickly about among his people telling them of the treachery of
Malik, and bade them do what he should bid them when the time came. And
then Rijon went to and fro between Kasi and the big white man, carrying
messages and settling what was to be done.

"When darkness came great fires were lit in the dance-house and the town
square, and the great feast began. And the king and Malik made much of
Kasi and his people, and placed more food before them than even was given
to their own people. Then when the feast was finished the two ship
captains came on shore, and sat on a mat beside the king, and the women
danced and the men wrestled. And Kasi, whose heart was bursting with rage
though his lips smiled, was praised by Malik and the king for his great
strength and skill, for he overcame all who stood up to wrestle with him.

"When the night was far gone, Kasi told Malik that he and his people were
weary, and asked that they might sleep. And Malik, who only waited till
they slept, said, 'Go, and sleep in peace.'

"But as soon as Kasi and those with him were away out of sight from the
great swarm of people who still danced and wrestled in the open square,
they ran quickly to the beach where their canoes were lying, and Kasi lit
a torch and waved it thrice in the air towards the black shadows of the
two ships. Then he waited.

"Suddenly on the ships there arose a great commotion and loud cries, and
in a little time there came the sound of boats rowing quickly to the
shore. And then came a great flash of light from the side of one of the
ships and the thunder of a cannon's voice.

"'Quick,' cried Kasi; 'launch the canoes, lest we be slain here on the
beach!' And ere the echoes of the cannon-shot had died away in the
mountain caves of Lêla, the men of Leassé had launched their canoes and
paddled swiftly out to meet the boats.

"As the boats and canoes drew near, Rijon stood up in the bows of the
foremost boat, and the white sailors ceased rowing so that he and Kasi
might talk. But there was but little time, for already the sound of the
cannon and the cries and struggling on board the ships had brought a
great many of the Lêla people to the beach; fires were lit, and conch
shells were blown, and Malik and his men began to fire their muskets at
the escaping canoes. Presently, too, the white men in the boats began to
handle their muskets and fire back in return, when their leader bade them
cease, telling them that it was but Malik's men firing at Kasi's people.

"'Now,' said he to Rijon, 'tell this man Kasi to lead the way with his
canoes to the passage, and we in the boats shall follow closely, so that
if Malik's canoes pursue and overtake us, we white men shall beat them
back with our musket-fire.'

"So then Kasi turned his canoes seaward, and the boats followed; and as
they rowed and paddled, all keeping closely together, the great cannons
of the two ships flashed and thundered and the shot roared above them in
the darkness. But yet was no one hurt, for the night was very dark; and
soon they reached the deep waters of the passage, and rose and fell to
the ocean swell, and still the iron cannon-shot hummed about them, and
now and again struck the water near; and on the left-hand shore ran
Malik's men with cries of rage, and firing as they ran, till at last they
came to the point and could pursue no farther; and soon their cries grew
fainter and fainter as the canoes and boats reached the open ocean. Then
it happened that one of the white sailors, vexed that a last bullet had
whistled near his head, raised his musket and fired into the dark shore
whence it came.

"Thou fool!' cried his leader, and he struck the man senseless with the
boat's tiller, and then told Rijon to call out to Kasi and his people to
pull to the left for their lives, for the flash of the musket would be
seen from the ships. Ah, he was a clever white man, for scarce had the
canoes and boats turned to the left more than fifty fathoms, when there
came a burst of flame from all the cannons on the ships, and a great
storm of great iron shot and small leaden bullets lashed the black water
into white foam just behind them. After that the firing ceased, and Rijon
called out that there was no more danger; for the cunning white man had
told him that they could not be pursued--he had broken holes in all the
boats that remained on the ships.

"When daylight came, the boats and canoes were far down the coast towards
Leassé. Then, as the sun rose from the sea, the men in the boats ceased
rowing, and the big white man stood up and beckoned to Kasi to bring his
canoe alongside. And when the canoe lay beside the boat, the white man
laughed and held out his hand to Kasi and asked for Nehi; and as Nehi
rose from the bottom of Kasi's canoe, where she had been sleeping, and
stood up beside her cousin, so did Tulpé, the daughter of Malik, stand up
beside the white man in his boat, and the two girls threw their arms
around each other's necks and wept glad tears. Then as the canoes and
boats hoisted their sails to the wind of sunrise, the people saw that
Tulpé sat beside Kasi in his canoe, and Nehi, his cousin, sat beside the
white man in his boat, with her face covered with her hands so that no
one should see her eyes.

"As they sailed along the coast Tulpé told Kasi how she and Rijon had
gone on board the smaller of the two ships, and seen the tall young white
man whispering to some of the sailors. Then, when they saw the flash of
Kasi's torch, how these sailors sprang upon the others and bound them
hand and foot while a boat was lowered, and muskets and food and water
put in. Then she and Rijon and the young white leader and some of the
sailors got in, and Rijon stood in the bows and guided them to the shore
to where Kasi and his people awaited them on the beach.


"For nearly three months these white men lived at Leassé, and the father
of Kasi, who was chief of the town, made much of them, because they had
muskets, and bullets, and powder in plenty, and this made him strong
against Malik and the people of Lêla. The ships had sailed away soon
after the night of the dance, but the two captains had given the king and
Malik many muskets and much powder, and a small cannon, and urged him to
pursue and kill all the white men who had deserted the ships.
"'By and by, I will kill them,' said Malik.

"The young white man took Nehi to wife, and was given a tract of land
near Leassé, and Kasi became husband to Tulpé, and there grew a great
friends hip between the two men. Then came warfare with Lêla again, and
of the twenty and two white men ten were killed in a great fight at Utwé
with Malik's people, who surprised them as they were building a vessel,
for some of them were already weary of Kusaic, and wished to sail away to
other lands.

"Soon those that were left began to quarrel among themselves and kill
each other, till only seven, beside the husband of Nehi, were left.
These, who lived in a village at the south point, seldom came to Leassé,
for the big white man would have none of them, and naught but bitter
words had passed between them for many months, for he hated their wild,
dissolute ways, and their foul manners. Then, too, they had learnt to
make grog from coconut toddy, and sometimes, when they were drunken with
it, would stagger about from house to house, musket or sword in hand, and
frighten the women and children.

"One day it came about that a girl named Luan, who was a blood relation
of Nehi, and wife to one of these white men, was walking along a
mountain-path, carrying her infant child, when her foot slipped, and she
and the infant fell a great distance. When she came to she found that the
child had a great wound in its forehead, and was cold and stiff in death.
She lifted it up, and when she came to her husband's house she found him
lying asleep, drunken with toddy, and when she roused him with her grief
he did but curse her.

"Then Luan, with bitter scorn, pointed to the body of the babe and said,
'Oh, thou wicked and drunken father, dost thou not see that thy child is

"Then in his passion he seized his pistol and struck her on the head, so
that she was stunned and fell as if dead.

"That night the people of Leassé saw the seven white men, with their
wives and children, paddling over towards the two little islands,
carrying all their goods with them, for the people had risen against them
by reason of the cruelty of the husband of Luan, and driven them away.

"So there they lived for many weeks, making grog from the coconut trees,
and drinking and fighting among themselves all day, and sleeping the
sleep of the drunken at night. Their wives toiled for them all day,
fishing on the reef, and bringing them taro, yams, and fruit from the
mainland. But Luan alone could not work, for she grew weaker and weaker,
and one day she died. Then her white husband went to the village from
whence they were driven, and seizing the wife of a young man, bore her
away to the two islets.

"The next day he whose wife had been stolen came to the husband of Nehi,
and said, 'O white man, help me to get back my wife; help me for the sake
of Luan, whom this dog slew, and whose blood cries out to thee for
vengeance, for was she not a blood relation to Nehi, thy wife?'

"But though the husband of Nehi shook his head and denied the man the
musket he asked for, he said naught when at night-time a hundred men,
carrying knives and clubs in their hands, gathered together in the
council-house, and talked of the evil lives of the seven white men, and
agreed that the time had come for them to die.

"So in silence they rose up from the mats in the council-house and walked
down to the beach, and launching their canoes, paddled across to the
islands under cover of the darkness. It so happened that one woman was
awake, but all the rest with the white men and their children slept. This
woman belonged to Leassé, and had come to the beach to bathe, for the
night was hot and windless. Suddenly the canoes surrounded her, and,
fearing danger to her white husband, she sought to escape, but a strong
hand caught her by the hair, and a voice bade her be silent.

"Now, the man who held her by the hair was her own sister's husband, and
he desired to save her life, so he and two others seized and bound her,
and quickly tied a waist-girdle over her mouth so that she could not cry
out. But she was strong, and struggled so that the girdle slipped off,
and she gave a loud cry. And then her sister's husband, lest his chief
might say he had failed in his duty, and the white men escape, seized her
throat in his hands and pressed it so that she all but died.

"Then the avengers of the blood of Luan sprang out upon the beach, and
ran through the palm grove to where the white men's house stood. It was a
big house, for they all lived together, and in the middle of the floor a
lamp of coconut oil burned, and showed where the seven white men lay.

"And there as they slept were they speared and stabbed to death, although
their wives threw their arms around the slayers and besought them to
spare their husbands' lives. And long before dawn the canoes returned to
Leassé with the wives and children of the slain men, and only the big
white man, the husband of Nehi, was left alive out of the twenty and two
who came from the ships at Lêla. So that is the story of the two islets,
and of the evil men who dwelt there."

* * * * *

Denison rose and stretched himself. "And what of the big white man--the
husband of Nehi?" he asked; "doth his spirit, too, wander about at

"Nay," said Tulpé, "why should it? There was no innocent blood upon his
hand. Both he and Nehi lived and died among us; and to-morrow it may be
that Kinia shalt show thee the place whereon their house stood in the
far-back years. And true are the words in the Book of Life--'He that
sheddeth blood, by man shall his blood be shed.'"


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