A MEMORY OF THE SOUTHERN SEAS
From "Chinkie's Flat And Other Stories"
By Louis Becke
Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company 1904
CAPTAIN "BULLY" HAYES
In other works by the present writer frequent allusion has been made, either by the author or by other persons, to Captain Hayes. Perhaps the continuous appearance of his name may have been irritating to many of my readers; if so I can only plead that it is almost impossible when writing of wild life in the Southern Seas to avoid mentioning him. Every one who sailed the Austral seas between the "fifties" and "seventies," and thousands who had not, knew of him and had heard tales of him. In some eases these tales were to his credit; mostly they were not. However, the writer makes no further apology for reproducing the following sketch of the great "Bully" which he contributed to the Pall Mall Gazette, and which, by the courtesy of the editor of that journal, he is able to include in this volume.
In a most interesting, though all too brief, sketch of the life of the late Rev. James Chalmers, the famous New Guinea missionary, which appeared in the January number of a popular religious magazine, the author, the Rev. Richard Lovett, gives us a brief glance of the notorious Captain "Bully" Hayes. Mr. Chalmers, in 1866, sailed for the South Seas with his wife in the missionary ship John Williams—the second vessel of that name, the present beautiful steamer being the fourth John Williams.
The second John Williams had but a brief existence, for on her first voyage she was wrecked on Nine Island (the "Savage" Island of Captain Cook). Hayes happened to be there with his vessel, and agreed to convey the shipwrecked missionaries to Samoa. No doubt he charged them a pretty stiff price, for he always said that missionaries "were teaching Kanakas the degrading doctrine that even if a man killed his enemy and cut out and ate his heart in public, and otherwise misconducted himself, he could yet secure a front seat in the Kingdom of Heaven if he said he was sorry and was then baptized as Aperamo (Abraham) or Lakopo (Jacob)."
"It is characteristic of Chalmers," writes Mr. Lovett, "that he was able to exert considerable influence over this ruffian, and even saw good points in him, not easily evident to others."
The present writer sailed with Hayes on four voyages as supercargo, and was with the big-bearded, heavy-handed, and alleged "terror of the South Seas" when his famous brig Leonora was wrecked on Strong's Island, one wild night in March, 1875. And he has nothing but kindly memories of a much-maligned man, who, with all his faults, was never the cold-blooded murderer whose fictitious atrocities once formed the theme of a highly blood-curdling melodrama staged in the old Victoria Theatre, in Pitt Street, Sydney, under the title of "The Pirate of the Pacific." In this lively production of dramatic genius Hayes was portrayed as something worse than Blackboard or Llonois, and committed more murders and abductions of beautiful women in two hours than ever fell to the luck in real life of the most gorgeous pirate on record. No one of the audience was more interested or applauded more vigorously the villain's downfall than "Bully" Hayes himself, who was seated in a private box with a lady. He had come to Sydney by steamer from Melbourne, where he had left his ship in the hands of brokers for sale, and almost the first thing he saw on arrival were the theatrical posters concerning himself and his career of crime.
"I would have gone for the theatre people," he told the writer, "if they had had any money, but the man who 'played' me was the lessee of the theatre and was hard up. I think his name was Hoskins. He was a big fat fellow, with a soapy, slithery kind of a voice, and I lent him ten pounds, which he spent on a dinner to myself and some of his company. I guess we had a real good time."
But let us hear what poor ill-fated Missionary Chalmers has to say about the alleged pirate:—
"Hayes seemed to take to me during the frequent meetings we had on shore" (this was when the shipwrecked missionaries and their wives were living on Savage Island), "and before going on board for good I met him one afternoon and said to him, 'Captain Hayes, I hope you will have no objection to our having morning and evening service on board, and twice on Sabbaths. All short, and only those who like need attend.' Certainly not. My ship is a missionary ship now' (humorous dog), 'and I hope you will feel it so. All on board will attend these services.' I replied, 'Only if they are inclined.'" (If they had shirked it, the redoubtable "Bully" would have made attendance compulsory with a belaying pin.)
"Hayes was a perfect host and a thorough gentleman. His wife and children were on board. We had fearful weather all the time, yet I must say we enjoyed ourselves.... We had gone so far south that we could easily fetch Tahiti, and so we stood for it, causing us to be much longer on board. Hayes several times lost his temper and did very queer things, acting now and then more like a madman than a sane man. Much of his past life he related to us at table, especially of things (he did) to cheat Governments."
Poor "Bully!" He certainly did like to "cheat Governments," although he despised cheating private individuals—unless it was for a large amount. And he frequently "lost his temper" also; and when that occurred things were very uncomfortable for the man or men who caused it. On one occasion, during an electrical storm off New Guinea, a number of corposants appeared on the yards of his vessel, which was manned by Polynesians and some Portuguese. One of the latter was so terrified at the ghastly corpo santo that he fell on his knees and held a small leaden crucifix, which he wore on his neck, to his lips. His example was quickly followed by the rest of his countrymen; which so enraged Hayes that, seizing the first offender, he tore the crucifix from his hand, and, rolling it into a lump, thrust it into his month and made him swallow it.
"You'll kill the man, sir," cried Hussey, his American mate, who, being a good Catholic, was horrified.
Hayes laughed savagely: "If that bit of lead is good externally it ought to be a darned sight better when taken internally."
He was a humorous man at times, even when he was cross. And he was one of the best sailor-men that ever trod a deck. A chronometer watch, which was committed to the care of the writer by Hayes, bore this inscription:—
"From Isaac Steuart, of New York, to Captain William Henry Hayes, of Cleveland, Ohio. A gift of esteem and respect for his bravery in saving the lives of seventeen persons at the risk of his own. Honor to the brave."
Hayes told me that story—modestly and simply as brave men only tell a tale of their own dauntless daring. And he told me other stories as well of his strange, wild career; of Gordon of Khartoum, whom he had known, and of Ward and Burgevine and the Taeping leaders; and how Burgevine and he quarrelled over a love affair and stood face to face, pistols in hand, when Ward sprang in between them and said that the woman was his, and that they were fools to fight over what belonged to neither of them and what he would gladly be rid of himself.
Peace to his manes! He died—in his sea-boots—from a blow on his big, bald head, superinduced by his attention to a lady who was "no better than she ought to have been," even for the islands of the North Pacific.
THE "WHALE CURE"
I once heard a man who for nearly six years had been a martyr to rheumatism say he would give a thousand pounds to have a cure effected.
"I wish, then, that we were in Australia or New Zealand during the shore whaling season," remarked a friend of the writer; "I should feel pretty certain of annexing that thousand pounds." And then he described the whale cure.
The "cure" is not fiction. It is a fact, so the whalemen assert, and there are many people at the township of Eden, Twofold Bay, New South Wales, who, it is vouched, can tell of several cases of chronic rheumatism that have been absolutely perfectly cured by the treatment herewith briefly described. How it came to be discovered I do not know, but it has been known to American whalemen for years.
When a whale is killed and towed ashore (it does not matter whether it is a "right," humpback, finback, or sperm whale) and while the interior of the carcase still retains a little warmth, a hole is out through one side of the body sufficiently large to admit the patient, the lower part of whose body from the feet to the waist should sink in the whale's intestines, leaving the head, of course, outside the aperture. The latter is closed up as closely as possible, otherwise the patient would not be able to breathe through the volume of ammoniacal gases which would escape from every opening left uncovered. It is these gases, which are of an overpowering and atrocious odour, that bring about the cure, so the whalemen say. Sometimes the patient cannot stand this horrible bath for more than an hour, and has to be lifted out in a fainting condition, to undergo a second, third, or perhaps fourth course on that or the following day. Twenty or thirty hours, it is said, will effect a radical cure in the most severe cases, provided there is no malformation or distortion of the joints, and even in such cases the treatment causes very great relief. One man who was put in up to his neck in the carcass of a small "humpback" stood it for sixteen hours, being taken out at two-hour intervals. He went off declaring himself to be cured. A year later he had a return of the complaint and underwent the treatment a second time.
All the "shore" whalemen whom the writer has met thoroughly believe in the efficacy of the remedy, and by way of practical proof assert that no man who works at cutting-in and trying out a whale ever suffers from rheumatism. Furthermore, however, some of them maintain that the "deader" the whale is, the better the remedy. "More gas in him," they say. And any one who has been within a mile of a week-dead whale will believe that.
Anyway, if there is any person, rheumatic or otherwise, who wants to emulate Jonah's adventure in a safe manner (with a dead whale), let him write to the Davidson Brothers, Ben Boyd Point, Twofold Bay, N.S.W., or to the Messrs. Christian, Norfolk Island, and I am sure those valorous whalemen would help him to achieve his desire.
THE SEA "SALMON" SEASON IN AUSTRALIA
The sea salmon make their appearance on the southern half of the eastern seaboard of Australia with undeviating regularity in the last week of October, and, entering the rivers and inlets, remain on the coast till the first week of December. As far as my knowledge goes, they come from the south and travel northwards, and do not appear to relish the tropical waters of the North Queensland coast, though I have heard that some years ago a vast "school" entered the waters of Port Denison.
Given a dear, sunny day and a smooth sea the advent of these fish to the bar harbours and rivers of New South Wales presents a truly extraordinary sight. From any moderately high bluff or headland one can discern their approach nearly two miles away. You see a dark patch upon the water, and were it not for the attendant flocks of gulls and other aquatic birds, one would imagine it to be but the passing reflection of a cloud. But presently you see another and another; and, still farther oat, a long black line flecked with white can be discerned with a good glass. Then you look above—the sky is cloudless blue, and you know that the dark moving patches are the advance battalions of countless thousands of sea salmon, and that the mile-long black and white streak behind them is the main body of the first mighty army; for others are to follow day by day for another fortnight.
Probably the look-out man at the pilot station is the first to see them, and in a few minates the lazy little seaport town awakes from its morning lethargy, and even the butcher, and baker, and bootmaker, and bank manager, and other commercial magnates shut up shop and walk to the pilot station to watch the salmon "take" the bar, whilst the entire public school rushes home to prepare its rude tackle for the onslaught that will begin at dark.
The bar is a mile wide or more, and though there is but little surf, the ebbing tide, running at five knots, makes a great commotion, and the shallow water is thick with yellow sand swept seaward to the pale green beyond. Presently the first "school" of salmon reaches the protecting reef on the southern side—and then it stops. The fish well know that such a current as that cannot be stemmed, and wait, moving slowly to and fro, the dark blue compactness of their serried masses ever and anon broken by flashes of silver as some turn on their sides or make an occasional leap clear out of the water to avoid the pressure of their fellows.
An hour or so passes; then the tumult on the bar ceases, the incoming seas rise clear and sandless, and the fierce race of the current slows down to a gentle drift; it is slack water, and the fish begin to move. One after another the foremost masses sweep round the horn of the reef and head for the smooth water inside. On the starboard hand a line of yellow sandbank is drying in the sun, and the passage has now narrowed down to a width of fifty yards; in twenty minutes every inch of water, from the rocky headland on the south side of the entrance to where the river makes a sharp turn northward, half a mile away, is packed with a living, moving mass. Behind follows the main body, the two horns of the crescent shape which it had at first preserved now swimming swiftly ahead, and converging towards each other as the entrance to the bar is reached, and the centre falling back with the precision of well-trained troops. And then in a square, solid mass, thirty or forty feet in width, they begin the passage, and for two hours or more the long dark lines of fish pass steadily onward, only thrown into momentary confusion now and then by a heavy swell, which, however, does no more than gently undulate the rearmost lines of fish, and then subsides, overcome by the weight and solidity of the living wall.
Along the beach on the southern side of the river stand a hundred or more yelling urchins, with stout lines fitted with many baitless hooks and weighted with a stone. As the swarming fish press steadily on within ten feet or less of the shore the children fling their lines across, and draw them quickly in. Sometimes two or three fish are "jagged" at once, and as the average weight is 10 lb. the jagger takes a turn of the line around his waist and straggles up the beach. Even if he has but one fish hooked amidships he has all he can do to drag him out from the countless thousands and land him. It is not an eminently ideal or sportsmanlike sort of fishing, this "jagging," but it possesses a marvellous enjoyment and fascination for the youth of ten, and older people as well; for a full-grown salmon is a powerful fellow, and his big, fluke-like tail enables him to make a terrific rush when under the influence of terror or when chasing his prey.
Once over the bar and into the placid waters of the tidal river, the vanguards of the hundreds of thousands to follow pursue their way steadily up the shallow flats and numberless blind creeks, where they remain till spawning is over. Every day some fresh accessions to their numbers, and at night time strange, indescribable sounds are heard, caused by the movements of the fishes' tails and fins as they swim to and fro, and one section, meeting another, endeavours to force a right-of-way. On the third or fourth evening the sharks and porpoises appear, having followed the "schools" in from the sea, and wreak fearful havoc among them. Sometimes in a deep pool or quiet reach of the river one may see a school of perhaps five or six thousand terrified salmon, wedged one up against the other, unable to move from their very numbers, while half a dozen sharks dash in among them and devour them by the score; and often as the current runs seaward hundreds of half bodies of salmon can be seen going out over the bar. At night time the townspeople appear on the scene in boats with lanterns and spears, and for no other purpose than the mere love of useless slaughter kill the fish till their arms are exhausted. At places within easy access of Sydney by steamer or rail some few thousands of salmon are sent to market, but as the flesh is somewhat coarse, they are only bought by the poorer members of the community, 4d. and 6d. each being considered a good retail price for a 10 lb. fish. The roes, however, are excellent eating, and some attempt has been made to smoke them on a large scale, but like everything else connected with the fishing industry (or rather want of industry) in New South Wales, has failed. It sometimes happens (as I once witnessed in Trial Bay, on the coast of New South Wales) that heavy weather will set in when the salmon are either passing inwards over the bars or are returning to sea. The destruction that is then wrought among them is terrific. On the occasion of which I speak, every heavy roller that reared and then dashed upon the beach flung upon the sands hundreds of the fish, stunned and bleeding. At one spot where the beach had but a very slight inclination towards the water from the line of scrub above high-water mark there were literally many thousands of salmon, lying three and four deep, and in places piled up in irregular ridges and firmly packed together with sand and seaweed.
"What is the greatest number of sharks that you have ever seen together at one time?" asked an English lady in San Francisco of Captain Allen, of the New Bedford barque Acorn Barnes.
"Two or three hundred when we have been cutting-in a whale; two or three thousand in Christmas Island lagoon."
Some of the hardy old seaman's listeners smiled somewhat incredulously at the "two or three thousand," but nevertheless he was not only not exaggerating, but might have said five or six thousand. The Christmas Island to which he referred must not be mistaken for the island of the same name in the Indian Ocean—the Cocos-Keeling group. It is in the North Pacific, two degrees north of the equator and 157.30 W., and is a low, sandy atoll, encompassing a spacious but rather shallow lagoon, teeming with non-poisonous fish. It is leased from the Colonial Office by a London firm, who are planting the barren soil with coconut trees and fishing the lagoon for pearl-shell. Like many other of the isolated atolls in the North Pacific, such as the Fannings, Palmyra, and Providence Groups, the lagoon is resorted to by sharks in incredible numbers; and even at the present time the native labourers employed by the firm alluded to make a considerable sum of money by catching sharks and drying the fins and tails for export to Sydney, and thence to China, where they command a price ranging from 6d. to 1s. 6d. per pound, according to quality.
The lagoon sharks are of a different species to the short, thick, wide-jawed "man-eaters," although they are equally dangerous at night time as the deep-sea prowlers. The present writer was for a long time engaged with a native crew in the shark-catching industry in the North Pacific, and therefore had every opportunity of studying Jack Shark and his manners.
On Providence Lagoon (the Ujilong of the natives), once the secret rendezvous of the notorious Captain "Bully" Hayes and his associate adventurer, Captain Ben Peese, I have, at low tide, stood on the edge of the coral reef on one side of South Passage, and gazed in astonishment at the extraordinary numbers of sharks entering the lagoon for their nightly onslaught on the vast bodies of fish with which the water teems. They came on in droves, like sheep, in scores at first, then in hundreds, and then in packed masses, their sharp, black-tipped fins stretching from one side of the passage to the other. As they gained the inside of the lagoon they branched off, some to right and left, others swimming straight on towards the sandy beaches of the chain of islets. From where I stood I could have killed scores of them with a whale lance, or even a club, for they were packed so closely that they literally scraped against the coral walls of the passage; and some Gilbert Islanders who were with me amused themselves by seizing several by their tails and dragging them out upon the reef. They were nearly all of the same size, about seven feet, with long slender bodies, and their markings, shape, and general appearance were those of the shark called by the Samoans moemoeao ("sleeps all day"), though not much more than half their length. The Gilbert Islanders informed me that this species were also bakwa mata te ao (sleepers by day) at certain seasons of the year, but usually sought their prey by night at all times; and a few months later I had an opportunity afforded me of seeing some hundreds of them asleep. This was outside the barrier reef of the little island of Ailuk, in the Marshall Group. We were endeavouring to find and recover a lost anchor, and were drifting along in a boat in about six fathoms of water; there was not a breath of wind, and consequently we had no need to use water glasses, for even minute objects could be very easily discerned through the crystal water.
"Hallo! look here," said the mate, "we're right on top of a nice little family party of sharks. It's their watch below."
Lying closely together on a bottom of sand and coral debris were about a dozen sharks, heads and tails in perfect line. Their skins were a mottled brown and yellow, like the crustacean-feeding "tiger shark" of Port Jack-son. They lay so perfectly still that the mate lowered a grapnel right on the back of one. He switched his long, thin tail lazily, "shoved" himself along for a few feet, and settled down again to sleep, his bedmates taking no notice of the intruding grapnel. Further on we came across many more—all in parties of from ten to twenty, and all preserving in their slumber a due sense of regularity of outline in the disposition of their long bodies.
The natives of the low-lying equatorial islands—the Kingsmill, Gilbert, Ellice, and Tokelau or Union Groups—are all expert shark fishermen; but the wild people of Paanopa (Ocean Island) stand facile princeps. I have frequently seen four men in a small canoe kill eight or ten sharks (each of which was as long as their frail little craft) within three hours.
SOME PACIFIC ISLANDS FISHES
Of all the food-fishes inhabiting the reefs, lagoons, and tidal waters of the islands of the North and South Pacific, there are none that are prized more than the numerous varieties of sand-mullet. Unlike the same fishes in British and other colder waters, they frequently reach a great size, some of them attaining two feet in length, and weighing up to ten pounds; and another notable feature is the great diversity of colour characterising the whole family. The writer is familiar with at least ten varieties, and the natives gave me the names of several others which, however, are seldom taken in sufficient numbers to make them a common article of diet. The larger kind are caught with hook and line in water ranging from three to five fathoms in depth, the smaller kinds are always to be found in the very shallow waters of the lagoons, where they are taken by nets. At night, by the aid of torches made of dried coconut leaf, the women and children capture them in hundreds as they lie on the clear, sandy bottom. In the picturesque lagoons of the Ellice Group (South Pacific), and especially in that of Nanomea, these fish afford excellent sport with either rod or hand-line, and sport, too, with surroundings of the greatest beauty imaginable; for the little lagoon of Nanomea is perfectly landlocked, except where there are breaks of reef—dry at low water—which is as clear as crystal, and the low-lying belt of land is a verdant girdle of coco and pandanus palms, growing with bread-fruit and fetau trees on the rich, warm soil composed of vegetable matter and decayed coral detritis.
And then, too, you can look over the side of the canoe, or from an exposed boulder of coral, and see the fish take your bait—unless a breeze is rippling the surface of the water.
I usually chose the early morning, before the trade wind roused itself, as then, if in a canoe, one need not anchor, but drift about from one side of the lagoon to the other; then about ten o'clock, when the breeze came, I would paddle over to the lee of the weather side of the island (the land in places not being much wider than the Palisadoes of Port Royal in Jamaica) and fish in unruffled water in some deep pool among a number of sand banks, or rather round-topped hillocks, which even at high water were some feet above the surface.
When bent on sand-mullet—afulu the natives call them—I was in the habit of going alone, although the moment I appeared in the village carrying my rod, lines, and gun, I was always besought to take one or two men with me. One of the most ardent fishermen on the island was one Kino—a gentleman who weighed eighteen stone; and, as my canoe was only intended for two light-weights like myself, I always tried to avoid meeting him, for not only was he most persistent in his desire to see how I managed to get so many mullet, but was most anxious to learn to speak English.
On one occasion I fatuously took the monster out in my whaleboat to fish for takuo (a variety of tuna) one calm starlight night when the ocean was like a sheet of glass. We pulled out over the reef, and when a mile from the shore lowered our heavy lines and began fishing. For nearly a quarter of an hour neither of us spoke, then he suddenly asked me in his fat, wheezy tones, if I would mind telling him something.
"What is it?"
"Will you tell me, friend, what are the English words that should be spoken by one of us of Nanomea to a ship captain, giving him greeting, and asking him if he hath had a prosperous voyage with fair weather? My heart is sick with envy that Pita and Loli speak English, and I cannot."
Forgetting my past experiences of my man, I was fool enough to tell him.
"You say this: 'Good morning, Captain; have you had a good voyage and fair weather?'"
He greedily repeated each word after me, very slowly and carefully; then he asked me to tell him again. I did so. Then he sighed with pleasure.
"Kind friend, just a few times more," he said.
I told him the sentence over and over again for at least a score of times; and his smooth, fat face beamed when at last he was able to say the words alone. Then he began whispering it. Five minutes passed, and he tackled me again.
"Is this right?—'Good—mornin', kipen—ha—ad—you—have—goot—foy—age—and—fair wesser?'"
"That is right," I said impatiently, "but ask me no more to-night. Dost not know that it is unlucky to talk when fishing for takuo and tautau?"
"Dear friend, that we believed only in the heathen days. Now we are Christians."
He paused a moment, then raised his face to the stars and softly murmured, "Good—mornin' kapen—haad—you—you—have—goot—foyage—and wesser—and fair—wesser?" Then he looked at me interrogatively. I took no notice.
He toyed with his line and bent an earnest gaze down in the placid depths of the water as if he saw the words down there, then taking a turn of his line round a thwart, he put his two elbows on his enormous naked knees, and resting his broad, terraced chin on the palms of his hands, he said slowly and mournfully, as if he were communing with some one in the spirit-world—
"Good—mornin'—kapen. Haad—you—haave——" &c., &c.
Then I sharply spoke a few words of English—simple in themselves, but well understood by nearly every native of the South Seas. He looked surprised, and also reproachful, but went on in a whisper so faint that I could scarcely hear it; sometimes quickly and excitedly, sometimes doubtingly and with quivering lips, now raising his eyes to heaven, and with drooping lower jaw gurgling the words in his thick throat; then sighing and muttering them with closed eyes and a rapt expression of countenance, till with a sudden snort of satisfaction, he ceased—at least I thought he had. He took up a young coconut, drank it, and began again as fresh as ever.
"Stop!" I said angrily. "Art thou a grown man or a child? Here is some tobacco, fill thy pipe, and cease muttering like a tama valea (idiot boy)."
He shook his head. "Nay, if I smoke, I may forget. I am very happy to-night, kind friend. Good-mor——"
"May Erikobai" (a cannibal god of his youth) "polish his teeth on thy bones!" I cried at last in despair. That shocking heathen curse silenced him, but for the next two hours, whenever I looked at the creature, I saw his lips moving and a silly, fatuous expression on his by no means unintelligent face. I never took him out with me again, although he sent me fowls and other things as bribes to teach him more English.
* * * * *
These sand-mullet are very dainty-feeding fish. They are particularly fond of the soft tail part of the hermit crabs which abound all over the island, especially after rain has fallen. Some of the shells (T. niloticus) in which they live are so thick and strong, however, that it requires two heavy stones to crush them sufficiently to take out the crab, the upper part of whose body is useless for bait. For a stick of tobacco, the native children would fill me a quart measure, and perhaps add some few shrimps as well, or half a dozen large sea urchins—a very acceptable bait for mullet. My rod was a slender bamboo—cost a quarter of a dollar, and was unbreakable—and my lines of white American cotton, strong, durable, and especially suitable for fishing on a bottom of pure white sand. My gun was carried on the outrigger platform, within easy reach, for numbers of golden plover frequented the sand banks, feeding on the serried battalions of tiny soldier crabs, and in rainy weather they were very easy to shoot. The rest of my gear consisted of twenty or thirty cartridges, a box of assorted hooks, a heavy 27-cord line with a 5-in. hook (in case I saw any big rock cod about), a few bottles of lager, some ship biscuits or cold yam, and a tin of beef or sardines, and some salt. This was a day's supply of food, and if I wanted more, there were plenty of young coconuts to be had by climbing for them, and I could cook my own fish, native fashion; lastly there was myself, in very easy attire—print shirt, dungaree pants, panama hat, and no boots, in place of which I used the native takka, or sandals of coconut fibre, which are better than boots when walking on coral. Sometimes I would remain away till the following morning, sleeping on the weather side of the island under a shelter of leaves to keep off the dew, and on such occasions two or three of the young men from the village would invariably come and keep me company—and help eat the fish and birds. However, they were very well conducted, and we always spent a pleasant night, rose at daybreak, bathed in the surf, or in the lagoon, and after an early breakfast returned to the village, or had some more fishing. It was a delightful life.
My canoe was so light that it could easily be carried by one person from the open shed where it was kept, and in a few minutes after leaving my house I would be afloat, paddling slowly over the smooth water, and looking over the side for the mullet. In the Nanomea, Nui, and Nukufetau Lagoons the largest but scarcest variety are of a purple-grey, with fins (dorsal and abdominal) and mouth and gill-plates tipped with yellow; others again are purple-grey with dull roddish markings. This kind, with those of an all bright yellow colour throughout, are the most valued, though, as I have said, the whole family are prized for their delicacy of flavour.
As soon as I caught sight of one or more of the sought-for fish, I would cease paddling, and bait my hook; and first carefully looking to see if there were any predatory leather-jackets or many-coloured wrasse in sight, would lower away, the hook soon touching the bottom, as I always used a small sinker of coral stone. This was necessary only because of the number of other fish about—bass, trevally, and greedy sea-pike, with teeth like needles and as hungry as sharks. In the vicinity of the reef, or about the isolated coral boulders, or "mushrooms" as we called them, these fish were a great annoyance to me, though my native friends liked them well enough, especially the large, gorgeously-hued "leather-jackets," to which they have given the very appropriate name of isuumu moana—the sea-rat—for they have a great trick of quietly biting a baited line a few inches above the hook. Apropos of the "sea-rat," I may mention that their four closely-set and humanlike teeth are so thick that they will often crush an ordinary hook as if it were made of glass, and as their mouths are exceedingly small, and many are heavy, powerful fishes, they cause havoc with ordinary tackle. But a fellow-trader and myself devised a very short, stout hook (1 1/2 inch of shank) with a barbless curve well turned in towards the shank; these we bent on to a length of fine steel wire seizing. They proved just the ideal hook for the larger kind of sea-rat, which run up to 10 lb., and the natives were so greatly taken with the device that, whenever a ship touched at the island, short pieces of fine steel wire rigging were eagerly bought (or begged for).
However, no leather-jackets, wrasse, greedy rock-cod, or keen-eyed trevally being about, the bait touches the sandy bottom, and then you will see one—perhaps half a dozen—afulu cease poking their noses in the sand, and make for it steadily but cautiously. When within a foot or so, they invariably stop dead, and eye the bait to see if it is worth eating. But they are soon satisfied—that round, pale green thing with delicious juices exuding from it is an uga (hermit crab) and must not be left to be devoured by rude, big-mouthed rock-cod or the like, and in another moment or two your line is tautened out, and a purple-scaled beauty is fighting gamely for his life in the translucent waters of the lagoon, followed half-way to the surface by his companions, whom, later on, you place beside him in the bottom of the canoe. And even to look at them is a joy, for they are graceful in shape, lovely in colour, and each scale is a jewel.
You take up the paddle and send the canoe along for half-a-cable's length towards a place where, under the ledge of the inner reef, both afulu sama sama and afulu lanu uli (yellow and purple mullet) are certain to be found; and, as the little craft slips along, a large gar—green-backed, silvery-sided, and more than a yard long—may dart after you like a gleaming, hiltless rapier skimming the surface of the water. If you put out a line with a hook—baited with almost anything—a bit of fish a strip of white or red rag—you will have some sport, for these great gars are a hard-fighting fish, and do the tarpon jumping-trick to perfection. But if you have not a line in readiness you can wait your chance, and as he comes close alongside, break his back with a blow from the sharp blade of your paddle, and jump overboard and secure him ere he sinks.
"Not very sportsmanlike," some people will say; but the South Sea native is very utilitarian, and it takes a keen eye and hand to do the thing neatly. And not only are these gars excellent eating—like all surface-feeding, or other fish which show a "green" backbone when cooked; but fore and aft strips out from their sheeny sides make splendid bait for deep-sea habitants, such as the giant sea bass and the 200-pounder "coral" cod.
Under the ledge of the inner reef, if you get there before the sun is too far to the westward, so that your eyes are not blinded by its dazzling, golden light, you will see, as you drop your line for the yellow and purple mullet which swim deep down over the fine coral sand, some of the strangest shaped, most fantastically, and yet beautifully coloured rock fish imaginable. As you pull up a mullet (or a green and golden striped wrasse which has seized the bait not meant for him), many of these beautiful creations of Nature will follow it up to within a few feet of the canoe, wondering perhaps what under the sea it means by acting in such a manner; others—small creatures of the deepest, loveliest blue—flee in tenor at the unwonted commotion, and hide themselves among the branching glories of their coral home.
A "hard" man was Captain William Rodway of Sydney, New South Wales, and he prided himself upon the fact. From the time he was twenty years of age, he had devoted himself to making and saving money, and now at sixty he was worth a quarter of a million.
He began life as cabin boy on a north-country collier brig; was starved, kicked, and all but worked to death; and when he came to command a ship of his own, his north-country training stood him in good stead—starving, kicking, and working his crew to death came as naturally to him as breathing. He spared no one, nor did he spare himself.
From the very first everything went well with him. He saved enough money by pinching and grinding his crew—and himself—to enable him to buy the vessel to which he had been appointed. Then he bought others, established what was known as Rodway's Line, gave up going to sea himself, rented an office in a mean street, where he slept and cooked his meals, and worked harder than ever at making money, oblivious of the sneers of those who railed at his parsimony. He was content.
One Monday morning at nine o'clock he took his seat as usual in his office, and began to open his pile of letters, his square-set, hard face, with its cold grey eyes, looking harder than ever, for he had been annoyed by the old charwoman who cleaned his squalid place asking him for more wages.
He was half-way through his correspondence when a knock sounded.
"Come in," he said gruffly.
The door opened, and a handsome, well-built young man of about thirty years of age entered.
"Good morning, Captain Rodway."
"Morning, Lester. What do you want? Why are you not at sea?" and he bent his keen eyes upon his visitor.
"I'm waiting for the water-boat; but otherwise I'm ready to sail."
"Well, what is it then?"
"I want to know if it is a fact that you will not employ married men as captains?"
"Will you make no exception in my favour?"
"I have been five years in your employ as mate and master of the Harvest Home, and I am about to marry."
"Do as you please, but the day you marry you leave my service."
The young man's face flushed. "Then you can give me my money, and I'll leave it to-day."
"Very well. Sit down," replied the old man, reaching for his wages book.
"There are sixty pounds due to you," he said; "go on board and wait for me. I'll be there at twelve o'clock with the new man, and we'll go through the stores and spare gear together. If everything is right, I'll pay your sixty pounds—if not, I'll deduct for whatever is short. Good morning."
At two o'clock in the afternoon Captain Tom Lester landed at Circular Quay with his effects and sixty sovereigns in his pocket.
Leaving his baggage at an hotel he took a cab, drove to a quiet little street in the suburb of Darling Point, and stopped at a quaint, old-fashioned cottage surrounded by a garden.
The door was opened by a tall, handsome girl of about twenty-two.
"Lucy!" he replied, mimicking her surprised tone. Then he became grave, and leading her to a seat, sat beside her, and took her hand.
"Lucy, I have bad news. Rod way dismissed me this morning, and I have left the ship."
The girl's eyes filled. "Never mind, Tom. You will get another."
"Ah, perhaps I might have to wait a long time. I have another plan. Where is Mrs. Warren? I must tell her that our marriage must be put off."
"Why should it, Tom? I don't want it to be put off. And neither does she."
"But I have no home for you."
"We can live here until we have one of our own. Mother will be only too happy."
"Absolutely, or I would not say it."
"Will you marry me this day week?"
"Yes, dear—today if you wish. We have waited two years."
"You're a brave little woman, Lucy," and he kissed her. "Now, here is my plan. I can raise nearly a thousand pounds. I shall buy the Dolphin steam tug—I can get her on easy terms of payment—fill her with coal and stores, and go to Kent's Group in Bass's Straits, and try and refloat the Braybrook Castle. I saw the agents and the insurance people this morning—immediately after I left old Bodway. If I float her, it will mean a lot of money for me. If I fail, I shall at least make enough to pay me well by breaking her up. The insurance people know me, and said very nice things to me."
"Will you take me, Tom?"
"Don't tempt me, Lucy. It will be a rough life, living on an almost barren, rocky island, inhabited only by black snakes, albatrosses, gulls and seals."
"Tom, you must. Come, let us tell mother."
Three days later they were married, and at six o'clock in the evening the newly-made bride was standing beside her husband on the bridge of the Dolphin, which was steaming full speed towards Sydney Heads, loaded down almost to the waterways with coals and stores for four months.
Two months had passed, and the sturdy Dolphin was lying snugly at anchor in a small, well-sheltered cove on one of the Kent's Group of islands. Less than a hundred yards away was one of the rudest attempts at a house ever seen—that is, externally—for it was built with wreckage from many ships and was roofed with tarpaulins and coarse "albatross" grass. Seated on a stool outside the building was Mrs. Lester, engaged in feeding a number of noisy fowls with broken-up biscuit, but looking every now and then towards the Braybrook Cattle, which lay on the rocks a mile away with only her lower masts standing. It was nearing the time when her husband and his men would be returning from their usual day's arduous toil. She rose, shook the biscuit crumbs from her apron, and walking down to the Dolphin, anchored just in front of the house, called—"Manuel."
A black, woolly head appeared above the companion way, and Manuel, the cook of the wrecking party, came on deck, jumped into the dinghy alongside and sculled ashore.
"Manuel, you know that all the men are having supper in the house to-night," she said, as the man—a good-natured Galveston negro—stepped on shore.
"Well, I've done all my share of the cooking—I've made two batches of bread, and the biggest sea pie you ever saw in your life, but I want two buckets of water from the spring."
"All right, ma'am. I'll tote 'em up fo' yo' right away.".
"Please do. And I'll come with you. Captain Lester and the others won't be here for half an hour yet, and I want to show you some curious-looking stuff I saw on the beach this morning. It looks like dirty soap mixed with black shells, like fowl's beaks."
The negro's face displayed a sudden interest. "Mixed with shells, yo' say, ma'am. Did yo' touch it?"
"No—it looks too unpleasant."
The negro picked up the buckets, and, followed by Mrs. Lester, set out along a path which led to a rocky pool of some dimensions filled with rain water.. "Leave the buckets till we come back, Manuel We have not far to go."
She led the way to the beach, and then turning to the left walked along the hard, white sand till they came to a bar of low rocks covered with sea-moss and lichen. Lying against the seaward face of the rock was a pile of driftweed, kelp, crayfish shells, &c, and half buried in debris was the object that had aroused her curiosity.
"There it is, Manuel," she said, pointing to an irregularly-shaped mass of a mottled grey, yellow and brown substance, looking like soap, mixed with cinders and ashes.
The negro whipped out his sheath knife, plunged it into the mass, then withdrew it, pressed the flat of the blade to his nostrils, and then uttered a yell of delight, clapped his hands, took off his cap and tossed it in the air, and rolled his eyes in such an extraordinary manner, that Mrs. Lester thought he had become suddenly insane.
"Yo' am rich woman now, ma'am," he said in his thick, fruity voice. "Dat am ambergris. I know it well 'nuff. I was cook on a whaleship fo' five years, and have handled little bits of ambergris two or three times, but no one in de world, I believe, ever see such a lump like dis."
"Is it worth anything then?"
"Worth anything, ma'am! It am worth twenty-two shillings de ounce!"
He knelt down and began clearing away the weed till the whole mass was exposed, placed his arms around it, and partly lifted it.
"Dere is more'n a hundredweight," he chuckled, as he looked up at Mrs. Lester, who was now also feeling excited. "Look at dis now."
He cut out a slice of the curious-looking oleaginous stuff, struck a match and applied the light. A pale yellow flame was the result, and with it there came a strong but pleasant smell.
Mrs. Lester had never heard of ambergris to her recollection, but Manuel now enlightened her as to its uses—the principal being as a developer of the strength of all other perfumes.
Such a treasure could not be left where it was—exposed to the risk of being carried away by the tide so the negro at once went to work with his knife, catting it into three pieces, each of which he carried to the house, and put into an empty barrel. Then he returned and carefully searched for and picked up the minutest scraps which had broken off whilst he was cutting the "find" through.
Just at sunset, Lester and his gang of burly helpers returned tired and hungry, but highly elated, for they had succeeded in getting out an unusual amount of valuable cargo.
"We've had great luck to-day, Lucy," cried Lester, as he strode over the coarse grass in his high sea boots; "and, all going well, we shall make the first attempt to pull the ship off the day after to-morrow."
"And I have had luck too," said his wife, her fair, sweet face, now bronzed by the sun, glowing as she spoke. "But come inside first, and then I'll tell you."
The interior of the dwelling consisted of two rooms only—a small bedroom and a large living room which was also used as a kitchen. It was quite comfortably furnished with handsome chairs, lounges, chests of drawers, and other articles taken from the cabin of the stranded ship. The centre of the room was occupied by a large deal table made by one of the men, and a huge fire of drift timber blazed merrily at one end. Manuel was laying the table, his black face beaming with sup-pressed excitement, and the rough, sea-booted wreckers entered one by one and sat down. Mrs. Lester bade them smoke if they wished.
"Well, boys," said their leader to the wrecking party—of whom there were thirty—"we all deserve a drink before supper. Help yourselves to whatever you like," and he pointed to a small side-table covered with bottles of spirits and glasses. Then Lucy, after they had all satisfied themselves, walked over to the cask containing her "find," and standing beside it, asked if they would all come and look at the contents and see if they knew what it was. Lester, thinking she had succeeded in catching a young seal, looked on with an amused smile.
One by one the men came and looked inside the cask, felt the greasy mass with their horny fingers, and each shook his head until the tenth man, who, the moment he saw it, gave a shout.
"Why, I'm blest if it ain't ambow-grease!"
Lester started. "Ambergris! Nonsense!" and then he too uttered a cry of astonishment as a second man—an old whaler—darted in front of him, and, pinching off a piece of the "find," smelt it.
"Hamble-grist it is, sir," he cried, "and the cask is chock-full of it."
"Turn it out on the floor," said Lester, who knew the enormous value of ambergris, "and let us get a good look at it. Light all the lamps, Lucy."
The lamps were lit, and then Manuel repeated his experiment by burning a piece, amid breathless excitement. No further doubt could exist, and then Manuel, taking a spring balance (weighing up to 50 lbs.) from the wall, hung it to a rafter, whilst the men put the lot into three separate bags and suspended them to the hook in turn.
"Forty-five pounds," cried the mate of the Dolphin, as the first bag was hooked on. "Come on with the next one."
"And thirty-four pounds makes a hundred and eighteen," said Lester, bending down and eagerly examining the dial.
"How much is it worth, skipper?" asked the tug's engineer.
"Not less than L1 an ounce——"
"No, sah," cried Manuel, with an ex cathedra air, "twenty-two shillings, sah. Dat's what the captain of de Fanny Long Hobart Town whaleship got fo' a piece eleven poun' weight in Sydney last June. And I hear de boys sayin' dat he would hab got L1 5s. only dat dere was a power of squids' beaks in it—and dere's not many in dis lot, so it's gwine to bring more."
He explained that the pieces of black shell, which looked like broken mussel shells, were in reality the beaks of the squid, upon which the sperm whale feeds. Then, for the benefit of those of the party, he and the two other ex-whalemen described the cause of the formation of this peculiar substance in the body of the sperm whale.
Lester took pencil and paper and made a rapid calculation.
"Boys, we'll say that this greasy-looking staff is worth only a pound an ounce—though I don't doubt that Manuel is right. Well, at L1 an ounce, it comes to eighteen hundred and eighty-eight pounds."
"Hurrah for Mrs. Lester!" cried Lindley, the mate.
"She has brought us luck from the first, and now she has luck herself."
The men cheered her again and again, for there was not one of them that had not a rough affection for their captain's violet-eyed wife. They had admired her for her pluck even in making the voyage to this desolate spot, and her constant cheerfulness and her kindness and attention in nursing three of them who had been seriously ill cemented their feelings of devotion to her. There was a happy supper party in "Wreck House"—-as Lucy had named her strangely-built abode—that night, and it was not until the small hours of the morning that the men went off to sleep on the tug, and left Lucy and her husband to themselves.
"I'm too excited to sleep now, Tom," she said. "Come, I must show you the place where I found it. It is not a bit cold. And oh! Tom, I'm beginning to love this lonely island, and the rough life, and the tame seals, and the wild goats, and the fowls, and black Manuel, and, and—oh, everything! And look, Tom dear, over there at the lighthouse at Deal Island. I really believe the light was never shining as it is to-night. Oh! all the world is bright to me."
Two days later, and after nearly fifteen weeks of arduous and unremitting labour, there came, one calm night, a glorious spring tide, and the Dolphin, under a full head of steam, and with her stout, broad frame quivering and throbbing and panting, tugged away at the giant hulk of the stranded ship; and the ship's own donkey engine and winch wheezed and groaned as it slowly brought in inch by inch a heavy coir hawser made fast to a rock half a cable length ahead of the tug. And then the Braybrook Castle began to move, and the wrecking gang cheered and cheered until they were hoarse, and the second engineer of the tug and two stokers, stripped to their waists, with the perspiration streaming down their roasting bodies, answered with a yell—and then, lying well over on her starboard bilge, the great ship slid off stern first into deep water, and Tom Lester's heart leapt within him with joy and pride.
Lucy, as excited as any one else, was on the bridge with him, her face aglow, and her hand on the lever of the engine-room telegraph.
As the bell clanged loudly, and the heart of the sturdy tug beat less frantically, the wrecking gang on board the ship under Lindley slipped their end of the coir hawser from the winch barrel, and worked like madmen to get the ship on an even keel by cutting adrift the lashings of several hundred barrels of cement (part of the cargo) which were piled up on the starboard side of the main deck, and letting them plunge overboard As the ship righted herself inch by inch, and finally stood up on an even keel, Lester made an agreed-upon signal—blowing his whistle thrice—for Lindley to stand by his anchors, which were all ready to let go.
His device of getting up the barrels of cement from the lower hold, and stowing them against the iron deck stanchions (having previously cut away the bulwark plates) so as to give the vessel a big cant to starboard, had answered perfectly; for, high as was the tide that night, the Dolphin, though so powerful, could not have moved a ship of 1,500 tons with her keel still partly sustaining her weight on the rooks on which she had struck. By canting her as he had done, she had actually floated—and no more than floated—an hour before the tide was at its full.
Half an hour later the Braybrook Castle had been towed round to a little bay just abreast of "Wreck House," and the tug's engines stopped.
"All ready, Lindley?" shouted Lester.
"All ready sir."
"Then let go."
At a tap from Lindley's hammer, the great anchor plunged down, and the flaked out cable roared as it flew through the hawse-pipes, drowning the loud "Hurrah" of the men on board.
"What is it, Lindley?" cried Lester, "ten fathoms?"
"Give her another twenty-five. It's good holding ground and there is plenty of room for her to swing. Lindley!"
"We have had a bit of good luck, eh?"
"Yes, sir. That is because Mrs. Lester is on the tug. She brings us good luck."
Lester laughed and turned to his wife. "Do you hear that, Lucy?"
She was gazing intently over to the westward, but turned to him the moment he spoke.
"Tom, I can see a blue light over there.... Ah, see, there is a rocket! What is it?"
Lester took his night glasses and looked.
"There is a ship ashore somewhere between here and the Deal Island light," he said, and then he rang, "Go astern," to the engine-room.
"Lindley," he called as soon as the tug backed alongside the Braybrook Castle, "there is a ship ashore about four miles away from us to the westward. My wife noticed her signals a few minutes ago."
"More salvage, sir," bawled Lindley, "Mrs. Lester is bringing us more luck. What's to be, sir?"
"I want ten or a dozen men, and I'll go and see what I can do. You are all right, aren't you?"
"Right as rain, sir."
Fifteen, instead of a dozen men slid down a line on to the deck of the tug, and Lucy, at a nod from her husband, turned on "Full steam ahead," and Lester whistled down the speaking-tube.
"Hallo!" was the response.
"Give it to her, Patterson, for all she's worth. There is a ship ashore about four miles away. She is burning blue lights and sending up rockets."
Five minutes later, the Dolphin was tearing through the water at her top speed—eleven knots—and Patterson came up on the bridge.
"Who saw the seegnals first?" he inquired.
"I did, Mr. Patterson," said Lucy.
"Ay, I thoct as much, Mistress Leslie. Even that lazy, sheeftless Irish fireman loon ae mine, Rafferty, said ye'd bring us mair guid luck." Then he dived below again to the engines so dear to his Scotsman's heart.
The night was dark, but calm and windless, and the panting tug tore her way through a sea as smooth as glass towards where the ghastly glare of the last blue light had been seen. Twenty minutes later, Lester caught sight of the distressed ship. She was lying on her beam ends, and almost at the same moment came a loud hail—
"Clang!" went the telegraph, and the Dolphin's engines stopped, and then went astern, just in time to save her from crashing into a boat crowded with men; a second boat was close astern of the first. They came alongside, and the occupants swarmed over the tug's low bulwarks, and an old greybearded man made his way up to Lester.
"My cowardly crew have forced me to abandon my ship. We were caught in a squall yesterday, and thrown on our beam ends." Then he fell down in a fit.
"Veer those boats astern," cried Lester to his own men, "I'm going to hook on to that ship!"
Bailey, one of his best men, gave a yell.
"More luck, boys. Mrs. Lester!"
As the poor captain was carried off the bridge into the little cabin, the Dolphin went ahead, and in a quarter of an hour, Bailey and his men had cut away the masts and the tug had the ship in tow.
At daylight next morning Lester brought her into the little bay where the Braybrook Castle lay, and Bailey anchored her safely.
When Lester boarded her he found she was the Harvest Queen, sister ship to the Harvest Maid, Harvester, and his own last command, the Harvest Home, all ships of 1,500 tons, and belonging to Captain James Rodway.
"Why didn't you cut away her masts?" he said to the unfortunate captain later on.
"Ah, you don't know my owner," the old man replied, "and besides that, I could have righted the ship if my crew had stuck to me. But after being eighteen hours on our beam ends, they took fright and lowered the boats. I'm a ruined man."
"Not at all. You have done your duty and I'll give you command of another ship to-day—the Braybrook Castle. You have nothing further to do with the Harvest Queen. She was an abandoned ship. She's mine now. Salvage, you know."
The old man nodded his head. "Yes, I know that. And you'll make a pot oat of her."
"What is she worth?"
"Ship and cargo are worth L80,000. We loaded a general cargo in London."
"That will be a bit of a knock for Rodway." "Do you know him?" asked Captain Blake in surprise.
"I do indeed! I was master of the Harvest Home. Now come ashore. My wife is getting as something to eat."
At the end of another four weeks, the Braybrook Castle, with three-fourths of the cargo she had brought from London, sailed for Sydney under the command of Captain Blake of the Harvest Queen, and the Harvest Queen under jury masts, and with her valuable cargo undamaged, was ready to sail, escorted by the Dolphin on the following day, with Lindley as master.
The last night at "Wreck House" was even a merrier and happier one than that on which the wrecking party celebrated Lucy's "find." But yet Lucy herself felt a little sad at saying farewell to this wild spot, where amid the roar of the ever-beating surf, and the clamour of the gulls and terns, she had spent the four happiest months of her life. The rough food, the fresh sea-air, and the active life had, Lester declared, only served to increase her beauty, and she herself had never felt so strong and in such robust health before. Almost every day in fine weather she had taken a walk to some part of the interior of the island, or along the many white beaches, filling a large basket with sea-birds' eggs, or collecting the many beautiful species of cowries and other sea-shells with which the beaches were strewn. Years before, another wrecking party had left some goats on the island, and these had thriven and increased amazingly. Her husband's men had shot a great number for food, and captured three or four, which supplied them with milk, and these latter, with their playful kids, and a number of fowls which had been brought from Sydney in the Dolphin, together with a pair of pet baby seals, made up what she called her "farmyard." On one part of the island there was a dense thicket of low trees, the resort not only of hundreds of wild goats, but of countless thousands of terns and other sea-birds, who had made it their breeding ground. It was situated at the head of a tiny landlocked bay, the beach of which was covered with the weather-worn spars and timbers of some great ship which had gone ashore there perhaps thirty or forty years before. The whole of the foreshores of the island, however, were alike in that respect, for it had proved fatal to many a good ship, even from the time that gallant navigator Matthew Flinders had first discovered the group.
On the morning of the last day of the stay of the wrecking party on the island, Lucy set out for this place, remembering that on her last visit she had left a basket of cowries there. Bidding her beware of black snakes, for the place was noted for these deadly reptiles, Lester went off on board the Harvest Queen.
An hour afterwards, as Lester was engaged with Lindley in the ship's cabin, a man on deck called down the skylight to him.
"Here is Mrs. Lester coming back, sir. She's running, and is calling for you."
With a dreadful fear that she had been bitten by a snake, Lester rushed on deck, jumped into a boat, and was ashore in a few minutes. Lucy, too exhausted to come down to the boat and meet him, had sat down in front of the now nearly empty house.
"I'm all right, Tom," she panted, as he ran up to her, "but I've had a terrible fright," and she could not repress a shudder. "I have just seen three skeletons in the thicket scrub, and all about them are strewn all sorts of things, and there are two or three small kegs, one of which is filled with money, for the end has burst and the money has partly run out on the sand."
Lester sprang to his feet, and called out to the two men who had pulled him ashore to come to him.
"Mrs. Lester's luck again!" he cried.
"Mrs. Lester's luck again!" bawled one of the men to the rest of the wrecking party on board the Harvest Queen, and in an instant the cry was taken up, and then came a loud cheer, as, disregarding discipline, all hands tumbled into a boat alongside, frantically eager to learn what had occurred.
Lester waited for them, and then Lucy gave a more detailed account of how she made her discovery.
"I found my basket where I had left it, and had just sat down to take off my shoes, which were filled with sand, when a goat with two of the sweetest little kids you ever saw in your life came suddenly out from behind a rock. The kids were not more than a day or two old, and I determined to catch at least one of them to take home. The moment the mother saw me she ran off with her babies, and I followed. They dived into the thicket, and led me such a dance, for they ran much faster than I thought they could.
"I had never been so far into the scrub before, and felt a little bit frightened—it was so dark and quiet—but I was too excited to give up, so on I sped until the nanny and kids ran into what seemed a tunnel in the thick scrub. It is really a road made by the goats and is only about three feet high, the branches and creepers making a regular archway overhead. I stooped down and followed, and in a few minutes came to a little space which was open to the sky; for the sunlight was so bright that, coming out of the dark tunnel place, I was quite dazzled for a few moments, and had to put my hands over my eyes.
"When I looked about, I saw that the ground was strewed with all sorts of things—rotten boards and boxes, and ships' blocks, and empty bottles and demijohns, with all the cane covering gone. Then I saw the three kegs, and noticed one had burst open or rotted away, and that it was filled with what looked like very large and dirty nickel pennies. I went to it and took some up, and saw they were crown pieces! Of course, I was at once wildly excited, and thought no more of the dear little kiddies, when I heard one of them cry out—quite near—and saw it, lying down exhausted, about ten yards away. I was running over to it when I saw those three dreadful skeletons. They are lying quite close to each other, near some brass cannons and a lot of rusty ironwork. I was so terrified that I forgot all about the poor kid, and—and, well, that is all; and here I am with my skirt in rags, and my face scratched, and my hair loose, and 'all of a bobbery,' as Manuel says."
"Boys," said Lester, "I'm pretty sure I know how those poor fellows' bones come to be there. An East Indiaman—the Mountjoy—was lost somewhere on the Kent Group about sixty years ago; and I have read that she had a lot of specie on board. Now, as soon as Mrs. Lester has rested a bit, we'll start."
"I'll carry you, ma'am," said Bailey, a herculean creature of 6 ft. 6 in., and stepping into "Wreck House" he brought out a chair, seated Lucy on it, and amidst applause and laughter, lifted it up on his mighty shoulders as if she was no more weight than the chair itself.
She guided them to the spot, and within an hour, not only the three small casks—all of which were filled with English silver money, but the contents of two others, which were found lying partly buried in the sandy soil, were brought to the house. And then began the exciting task of counting the coins, which took some time, and when Lester announced the result, a rousing cheer broke from the men.
"Six thousand, two hundred and seven pounds, four shillings, boys; all with the blessed picture of good old George the Third on them. Lucy, my dear, let us drink your health."
Lucy drew him aside for a minute or two ere she complied with his request, and with sparkling eyes she talked earnestly to him.
"Of course I will, dear," he said.
"Now, hoys," he cried, as Lucy brought out two bottles of brandy, and some cups and glasses, "let us drink my wife's health. She has brought us good luck. And she and I are dividing a thousand pounds between you, with an extra fifty for Manuel; for I'm pretty well certain that the Home Government can't claim any royalty."
The rough wreckers cheered and cheered again, as they drank to "Mrs. Lester's Luck." They were all being paid high wages, and were worth them, for they had toiled manfully, and the most pleasant relations had always existed between them and Lester.
Immediately after breakfast on the following morning the anchors of the Harvest Queen were weighed to the raising chanty of—
"Hurrah, my boys, we're Homeward Bound!" and then the Dolphin, with Lester on the bridge and Lucy beside him at the telegraph, went ahead, and tautened out the tow line, and Lindley made all sail on his stumpy jury masts.
Seventeen days later, the gallant little tug pulled the Harvest Queen into Sydney Harbour. "Mrs. Lester's Luck," had been with them the whole voyage, for from the time they had left Kent's Group, till they passed between Sydney Heads, nothing but fine weather and favourable winds had been experienced.
As the Dolphin, with the hulking Harvest Queen behind her, came up the smooth waters of the harbour to an anchorage off Garden Island, big Bailey, who was standing beside Lester and Lucy on the bridge, uttered a yell of delight.
"Mrs. Lester's luck again, by all that's holy! There is the Braybrook Castle at anchor over in Neutral Bay!"
It was indeed the Braybrook Castle, which had arrived only one day previously, and when Lester went on shore a few hours later, he found that he was a richer man by over L17,000 than when he had left Sydney less than six months before.
And "Mrs. Lester's Luck" brought happiness to many other people beside herself and her husband in the city of the Southern Sea, and when a year later, in England, she stood on a stage under the bows of a gallant ship of two thousand tons, built to Lester's order, and broke a bottle of Australian wine against her steel plates, she named her "The Lucy's Luck!"
BULL-DOGS OF THE SEA
Not many sea-going people—outside of professional whalemen or sealers—know much about the "killer" and his habits, and still less of his appearance. Yet this curious whale (for the killer is one of the minor-toothed whales) is known all over the world, though nowhere is it more plentiful than along the eastern and southern coasts of the Australian continent. In the colder seas of the northern part of the globe it is not uncommon; and only last year one was playing havoc, it was stated, with the fishermen's nets off the northeastern coast of Ireland.
On the eastern seaboard of Australia, however, the killers can be watched at work, even from the shore, particularly from any bluff or headland from which a clear view can be obtained of the sea beneath, and should there be a westerly wind blowing, their slightest movements may be observed; particularly when they are "cruising," i.e., watching for the approach of a "pod" of either humpback or fin-back whales. During the prevalence of westerly winds the sea water becomes very clear, so clear that every rock and stone may be discerned at a depth of six or eight fathoms, and the killers, when waiting for their prey, will frequently come in directly beneath the cliffs and sometimes remain stationary for half an hour at a time, rolling over and over, or sunning themselves.
First of all, let me describe the killer's appearance. They range in length from ten to twenty feet, have a corresponding girth, and show the greatest diversity of colouring and markings. Their anatomy is very much that of the sperm whale—the one member of the cetacean family which they do not attempt to attack on account of his enormous strength and formidable teeth—and they "breach," "spout" and "sound" like other whales. The jaws are set with teeth of from one or two inches in length, deeply imbedded in the jawbone, and when two of these creatures succeed in fastening themselves to the lips of a humpback, even fifty feet in length, they can always prevent him from "sounding" and escaping into deep water, for they cling to the unfortunate monster with bull-dog tenacity, leaving others of their party to rip the blubber from his sides and pendulous belly.
On the coast of New South Wales—particularly at Twofold Bay, where there is a shore whaling station, there are two "pods" or communities of killers which have never left the vicinity within the memory of the oldest inhabitant, and indeed they were first noticed and written about in the year 1790. At other places on the Australian coast there are permanent pods of ten, fifteen or twenty, but those at Twofold Bay are quite famous, and every individual member of them is well-known, not only to the local whalemen, but to many of the other residents of Twofold Bay as well, and it would go hard with the man who attempted to either kill or injure one of any of the members of the two pods, for the whalemen would be unable to carry on their business were it not for the assistance rendered to them by their friends the killers, whose scientific name, by the way, is Orca Gladiator—and a more fitting appellation could never have been applied.
Now as to the colouring and markings—which are not only diverse, but exceedingly curious. Some are of a uniform black, brown, dark grey, or dirty cream; others are black with either streaks or irregular patches of yellow, white or grey: others again are covered with patches of black, white or yellow, ranging in size from half a dozen inches in diameter to nearly a couple of feet. One which the present writer found lying dead on the reef of Nukulaelae Island, in the Ellice Group, was almost a jet black with the exception of some poorly defined white markings on the dorsal fin and belly; another which he saw accidentally killed by a bomb fired at a huge whale off the Bampton Shoals, was of a reddish-brown, with here and there almost true circular blotches of pure white. This poor fellow was twelve feet in length, and his death was caused by his frantic greediness to get at the whale and take his toll of blubber. The whale was struck late in the day, and the sea was so rough that the officer in charge, after having twice tried to get up and use his lance, determined to end the matter with a bomb before darkness came on. At this time there was a "pod" of seven killers running side by side with the whale and endeavouring to fasten to his lips whenever he came to the surface; and, just as the officer had succeeded in getting within firing distance and discharging the bomb, poor Gladiator came in the way, and was killed by the shot, much to the regret of the boat's crew.
For, as I have said, the whalemen—and particularly the shore whalemen, i.e., those who do their whaling from a station on shore—regard, and with good reason, the killers as invaluable allies. Especially is this so in the case of the Twofold Bay shore whalers, for out of every ten whales killed during the season, whether humpbacks, "right" whales, or finbacks, three-fourths are captured through the pack of killers seizing and literally holding them till the boats come up and end the mighty creatures' miseries.
Towards the end of winter an enormous number of whales appear on the Australian coast, coming from the cold Antarctic seas, and travelling northward along the land towards the breeding grounds—the Bampton and Bellona Shoals and the Chesterfield Groups, situated between New Caledonia and the Australian mainland, between 17 deg. and 20 deg. S. The majority of these whales strike the land about Cape Howe and Gabo Island at the boundary line between New South Wales and Victoria—sixty miles south of Twofold Bay. Most of them are finbacks, though these are always accompanied by numbers of humpbacks and a few "right" whales—the most valuable of all the southern cetacea except the spermaceti or cachalot. The latter, however, though they will travel in company with the flying finback and the timid humpback and "right" whale, has no fear of the killers. He is too enormously strong, and could crush even a full-grown killer to a pulp between his mighty jaws were he molested, and consequently the killers give the cachalot a wide berth as a dangerous customer. The finback, however, swift and lengthy as he is, seldom manages to escape once he is "bailed up," and having no weapon of defence except his flukes (for he is one of the baleen or toothless whales), he has but one chance of his life, and that is to dive to such a depth that his assailants have to let go their hold of him in order to ascend to the surface to breathe.
The finback, I must mention, although the most plentiful of all the whale family, and sometimes attaining the length of ninety feet, is never attacked by whale-boats when he is "loose," i.e., free, and is only captured when his struggles with the ferocious killers have so exhausted him that a boat can approach and dart a harpoon into or lance him. The reason for this immunity of primary attack by boats is that the finback is in the first place of little value when compared to either the humpback or "right" whale, for the coating of blubber is thin, and the plates of baleen (or whalebone) he possesses are very short; and in the second place he is, although so timid a creature, too dangerous to be struck with a harpoon, for he would take the entire whale-line out of three or four boats and then get away with it after all, for it is the swiftest of all the cetacean family, and all whalemen say that no one but a stark lunatic would dream of putting an iron into a loose "finner," such as ranges the Southern Ocean. I was told, however, of one well-authenticated case off the Azores, where a reckless Portuguese shore-whaler struck a bull finback, which, after taking the lines from four boats (220 fathoms in each) towed them for three hours and then got away, the line having to be cut owing to the creature sounding to such an enormous depth that no more line was available.
The shore whaling parties at Twofold Bay, however, run no risks of this sort. They let their friends, the Gladiators, do most of the work, and find that "fin-backing" under these circumstances is fairly profitable, inasmuch as they can tow the carcase ashore, and "try out" the blubber at their leisure.
But, in a case where one of these finbacks is held by killers, it can be approached, as I have said, by shore boats and killed, as is the practice of the Twofold Bay whalemen.
Let the writer now quote, with the publisher's permission, from a work he wrote some years ago describing the way the killers "work in" with their human friends. In this particular instance, however, it was a humpback whale, but as Orca Gladiator treats the humpback and "right" whale as he does the lengthy "finner," the extract from the article is quite applicable.
"Let us imagine a warm, sunny day in August at Twofold Bay. The man who is on the look-out at the abandoned old lighthouse built by one Ben Boyd on the southern headland fifty years ago, paces to and fro on the grassy sward, stopping now and then to scan the wide expanse of ocean with his glass, for the spout of a whale is hard to discern at more than two miles if the weather is misty or rainy. But if the creature is in a playful mood, and 'breaches'—that is, springs bodily out of the water, and falling back, sends up a white volume of foam and spray, like the discharge of a submarine mine, you can see it eight miles away.
"The two boats are always in readiness at the trying-out works, a mile or so up the harbour; so too are the killers, and the look-out man, walking to the verge of the cliff, gazes down.
"There they are, cruising slowly up and down, close in shore, spouting lazily, and showing their wet, gleaming backs and gaff-topsail-like dorsal fins as they rise, roll, and dive again.... Some of them have nicknames, and each is well known to his human friends.
"Presently the watchman sees, away to the southward, a white, misty puff, then another, and another. In an instant he brings his glass to bear. 'Humpback!' Quickly two flags flutter from the flagpole, and a fire is lit; and as the flags and smoke are seen, the waiting boats' crews at the trying-out station are galvanised into life by the cry of 'Rush, ho, lads! Humpbacks in sight, steering north-west! Rush and tumble into the boats and away!'
"Round the south head sweeps the first boat, the second following more leisurely, for she is only a 'pickup' or relief, in case the first is 'fluked' and the crew are tossed high in air, with their boat crushed into matchwood, or meets with some other disaster. And as the leading boat rises to the long ocean swell of the offing, the killers close in round her on either side, just keeping clear of the sweep of the oars, and 'breaching' and leaping and spouting with the anticipative zest of the coming bloody fray.
"'Easy, lads, easy!' says the old boat-header; 'they are coming right down on us. Billy has right. They're humpbacks, sure enough!'
"The panting oarsmen pull a slower stroke, and then, as they watch the great savage creatures which swim alongside, they laugh in the mirthless manner peculiar to most native-born Australians, for suddenly, with a last sharp spurt of vapour, the killers dive and disappear into the dark blue beneath; for they have heard the whales, and, as is their custom, have gone ahead of the boat, rushing swiftly on below fully fifty fathoms deep. Fifteen minutes later they rise to the surface in the midst of the humpbacks, and half a square acre of ocean is turned into a white, swirling cauldron of foam and leaping spray. The bull-dogs of the sea have seized the largest whale of the pod or school—a bull—and are holding him for the boat and for the deadly lance of his human foes. The rest of the humpbacks rise high their mighty flukes and 'sound' a hundred—two hundred—fathoms down, and, speeding seaward, leave the unfortunate bull to his dreadful fate.
("And in truth it is a dreadful fate, and the writer of this sketch can never forget one day, as he and a little girl of six watched, from a grassy headland on the coast of New South Wales, the slaughter of a monstrous whale by a drove of killers, that the child wept and shuddered and hid her face against his shoulder.)
"Banging swiftly alongside of him, from his great head down to the 'small' of his back, the fierce killers seize his body in their savage jaws and tear great strips of blubber from off his writhing sides in huge mouthfuls, and then jerking the masses aside, take another and another bite. In vain he sweeps his flukes with fearful strokes from side to side—the bull-dogs of the sea come not within their range; in vain he tries to 'sound'—there is a devil on each side of his jaws, their cruel teeth fixed firmly into his huge lips; perhaps two or three are underneath him tearing and riving at the great rough corrugations of his grey-white belly; whilst others, with a few swift, vertical strokes of their flukes, draw back for fifty feet or so, charge him amidships, and strike him fearful blows on the ribs with their bony heads. Round and round, in ever-narrowing circles as his strength fails, the tortured humpback swims, sometimes turning on his back or side, but failing, failing fast.
"'He's done for, lads. Pull up; stand up, Jim.'
"The boat dashes up, and Jim, the man who is pulling bow oar, picks up his harpoon. A minute later it flies from his hand, and is buried deep into the body of the quivering animal, cutting through the thick blubber as a razor would cut through the skin of a drum.
"'Stern all!' and the harpooner tumbles aft and grips the steer oar, and the steersman takes his place in the head of the boat and seizes his keen-edged lance. But 'humpy' is almost spent, and though by a mighty effort he 'ups flukes' and sounds, he soon rises, for the killers thrust him upwards to the surface again. Then the flashing lance—two, three swift thrusts into his 'life' a gushing torrent of hot, dark blood, and he rolls oyer on his side, an agonised trembling quivers through his vast frame, the battle is oyer and his life is gone.
"And now comes the curious and yet absolutely truly described final part that the killers play in this ocean tragedy. They, the moment the whale is dead, close around him, and fastening their teeth into his body, by main strength bear it to the bottom. Here—if they have not already accomplished it—they tear out the tongue, and eat about one-third of the blubber. In from thirty-six to forty hours the carcase will again rise to the surface, and as, before he was taken down, the whalemen haye attached a line and buoy to the body, its whereabouts are easily discerned from the look-out on the headland; the boats again put off and tow it ashore to the trying-out works. The killers, though they haye had their fill of blubber, accompany the boats to the head of the bay and keep off the sharks, which would otherwise strip off all the remaining blubber from the carcase before it had reached the shore. But once the boats are in the shallow water, the killers stop, and then with a final 'puff! puff!' of farewell to their human friends, turn and head seaward to resume their ceaseless watch and patrol of the ocean.
"The killers never hurt a man. Time after time haye boats been stove in or smashed into splinters by a whale, either by an accidental blow from his head or a sudden lateral sweep of his monstrous flukes, and the crew left struggling in the water or clinging to the oars and pieces of wreckage; and the killers have swum up to, looked at, and smelt them, but never have they touched a man with intent to do him harm. And wherever the killers are, the sharks are not, for Jack Shark dreads a killer as the devil is said to dread holy water. Sometimes I have seen 'Jack' make a rush in between the killers, and rip off a piece of hanging blubber, but he will carefully watch his chance to do so."
* * * * *
One of the most experienced whaling masters of New Bedford, with whom the writer once cruised from the Gilbert Islands to Tap in the Western Carolines, told him that on one occasion when he was coming from the shore to his ship, which was lying to off the Chatham Islands, the boat was followed by a pack of five killers. They swam within touch of the oars, much to the amusement of the crew, and presently several of what are called "right whale" porpoises made their appearance, racing along ahead of the boat, whereupon Captain Allen went for'ard and picked up a harpoon, for the flesh of this rare variety of porpoise is highly prized. The moment he struck the fish it set off at a great rate, but not quick enough to escape the killers, for though the porpoise was much the swifter fish (were it loose), the weight of the boat and fifty fathoms of line was a heavy handicap. As quickly as possible the men began hauling up to the stricken fish so that Allen might give it the lance, when to their astonishment the killers seized it and literally tore it to pieces in a few minutes.
"If ever I felt mad enough to put an iron into a 'killer' it was then," he said, "but I couldn't do it. And very glad of it I was afterwards, for a week later I had two boats stove in by a whale, and of course, had I hurt one of those beggars of killers, the whole crew would have said it was only a just retribution."
On that fever-stricken part of the coast of the great island of New Britain, lying between the current-swept headland of Gape Stephens and the deep forest-clad shores of Kabaira Bay, there is a high grassy bluff dotted here and there with isolated coco-palms leaning northward to the sea beneath, their broad branches restlessly whipping and bending to the boisterous trade wind. On the western side of the bluff there is a narrow strip of littoral, less than half a mile in width, and thickly clothed with a grove of betel nut, through which the clear waters of a mountain stream flow swiftly out oceanwards across a rocky bar.
Near where the margin of the grove of straight, grey-boled betels touch the steep side of the bluff, there may be seen the outline of a low wall of coral stones, forming three sides of a square, and bound and knit together with vines, creepers, and dank, ill-smelling moss—the growth, decay, and re-growth of three score years. The ground which it encloses is soft and swampy, for the serried lines of betel-trees, with their thick, broad crowns, prevent either sun or wind from penetrating to the spot, and the heavy tropical rains never permit it to dry. It is a dark, dismal-looking place, only visited by the savage inhabitants when they come to collect the areca-nuts, and its solitude is undisturbed save by the flapping of the hornbill's wings as he carries food to his imprisoned mate, or the harsh screech of a white cockatoo flying overhead to the mountain forest beyond.
Yet sixty years ago it was not so, for then on the shore facing the bar stood a native village, and within the now rained wall were the houses of three white men, who from their doorways could see the blue Pacific, and the long curve of coast line with cape and headland and white line of reef stretching away down to the westward in the misty tropic haze.
Walk inside the old, broken walls, and you will see, half-buried in the moist, steaming, and malarious ground, some traces of those who dwelt there—a piece of chain cable, two or three whaler's trypots, a rotten and mossgrown block or two, only the hardwood sheaves of which have resisted the destroying influences of the climate; a boat anchor, and farther towards the creek, the mouldering remains of a capstan, from the drumhead holes of which long grey-green pendants of moss droop down upon the weather-worn, decaying barrel, like the scanty ragged beard that falls on the chest of some old man worn out with poverty and toil.
That is all that one may see now; for the dense, evergrowing jungle has long since hidden or rotted all else that was left.
* * * * *
The three men were named Ford, Adams, and Stenhouse. They were beche-de-mer fishers, and for nearly a year had been living in this savage spot—the only white men inhabiting the great island, whose northern coast line sweeps in an irregular half-moon curve for more than three hundred miles from Cape Stephens to within sight of the lofty mountains of New Guinea. In pursuit of their avocation, death from disease, or from the spears or clubs of the treacherous, betel-chewing, stark-naked cannibals among whom they dwelt was ever near, but to the men of their iron resolution and dauntless courage that mattered not. Two years' labour meant for them a large sum of money—enough to enable them to return with their wives and families and native dependents, to those more restful islands in the Western Carolines whence they had come a year before.
All three men were employed by one firm in Singapore, whose ship had brought them with their families and some thirty or forty natives of Yap to New Britain. Nine months after their landing, a small schooner had called to replenish their supplies, and ship the cured trepang, which by the most assiduous labour and daring enterprise they had accumulated; and when this story opens, the schooner had been gone some weeks, and they and their native workers were preparing their boats for another cruise along the great barrier reef of New Britain.
Two of these men, Adams and Stenhouse, were old and tried comrades, and in their rough way, devoted to each other. Stenhouse, the elder of the two, had some ten years previously, while sailing along the Pelew Island, found Adams adrift in an open boat—the sole survivor of a shipwrecked crew of sixteen men, and had nursed him back to life and reason. Later on, Adams had married one of Stenhouse's half-caste daughters. Ford, too, who was an American, was connected by marriage with Stenhouse, and nearly every one of the thirty or forty male and female Caroline Islanders who worked for the three white men were more or less allied to their wives by ties of blood or marriage, and there was not one of them who would not have yielded up his or her life in their defence.
Stenhouse, who was the leader of the adventurous party, was a man of about forty-five years of age, and, like his two comrades, an ex-sailor. He was nearly six feet in height, and possessed of such powers of strength and endurance that his name was known throughout the Western Pacific to almost every white man, but his once handsome features were marred by such a terrible disfigurement, that those who came to know the man and his sterling character always thought or spoke of him with genuine and respectful pity. What had caused this cruel distortion was known to but three other persons besides himself—the mother of his children, his son-in-law, Thomas Adams, and the man who had inflicted the injury; and to spare the reader's feelings as much as possible, it need only be said that the left side of his face had been so injured by violence of some kind as to be pitiful to look upon, the more so as the eye was missing.
* * * * *
Late one evening, just as Stenhouse and his son-in-law, Adams, were smoking their last pipes before tarning in, their comrade entered the house hurriedly, accompanied by one of their native employees, who had been away on a fishing excursion.
"Here's news! There's a big full-rigged ship just anchored under Cape Stephens. Masik boarded her, and had a yarn with the mate."
"Where is she from?" asked Stenhouse, turning his one eye upon the native, Masik.
"I know not, master. But she is a great ship with many men on board—some white, and some yellow, with shaven heads.
"Ah, a Calcutta-Sydney ship, most likely," said Stenhouse to his comrades. Then turning to Masik—"Why came she here? Didst ask?"
"Aye," replied the man in his native tongue; "the ship came here because there be many sick, and two dead men on board. It is a strong sickness."
"Didst speak of us white men here?"
The man nodded. "Aye, and the mate said that the captain would like thee all to come to the ship; but to hasten, for when the two men are buried to-morrow the ship will sail And the mate gave me these for thee."
Adams eagerly extended his hand for a bundle of newspapers which Masik carried wrapped up in a piece of old sail-cloth.
"This is a god-send," said Adams, as he opened the packet and tossed some of the papers to Stenhouse and Ford, "only about six months old. Hallo, here's the name of the ship and captain I suppose, on one of them:
Roger Fullerton, Esq., Ship Ramillies———"
It was Stenhonse who spoke, and his usual cheerful voice now sounded cracked and discordant, as with an oath he tore the paper from his comrade's hand, read the name, and then sat down, with one hand pressed to his sightless orb, his whole frame trembling from head to foot.
"What is the matter, Ted?" asked Ford anxiously.
Slowly he turned his face towards his comrades. It was white.
"Send them away," he said, "but tell them to call the others and get ready. I am going down to the cape to-night, to that ship. I am going to kill a man."
Ford looked at him wonderingly. Adams, who understood, spoke a few whispered words to the natives, who quickly left the room.
"Are all the women and children asleep?"
Adams nodded, and Stenhouse silently motioned to him and Ford to be seated. He remained standing.
"Jim Ford," he said quietly, "look at me"—he drew his hand down the distorted side of his face—"and tell me what you would do to a man who made you look like this."
"I would have his life if I swung for it."
"Well, I am going to have this man's life. I shall not be hanged for it, but if I am killed, I look to you, Jim, and you Tom, to stand to my wife and children."
Ford put out his hand impulsively: "All that I have I owe to you, Ted. I will stand to 'em, so help me God."
"I knew you would. Now, only three people in the world besides me—Tom Adams, my wife, and the man who did it—know what made me the blarsted scarecrow I am; but as I may be a dead man by this time tomorrow, I'll tell you."
He paused, and with his forefinger still pressed firmly on the name on the newspaper, said slowly:—
"This man, Roger Fullerton, was a passenger on the Mahratta, East Indiaman. I was his servant. We were bound to Sydney from Table Bay. He was going out to be Commissary-General or something of that kind in New South Wales. We had a rough, mutinous crew on board, and one night there was a fight between them and the officers and passengers. They burst into the cabin, and would have captured the ship but for the mate, who shot one man dead and cut another down. I had nothing to do with them—as God is my witness—for I was only a lad of nineteen, and would have stood to the captain and officers like a man, but I was made prisoner by the mutineers early in the fight. After the row was over, Mr. Fullerton missed his watch and a hundred sovereigns which were in a writing case in his cabin. He accused me of stealing them, and when I hotly denied the charge, knocked me down on deck and kicked me so savagely in the face that I should have been killed if I had not been dragged away from him. As it was, he broke my jaw and destroyed my left eye. But that was not all. When he reached Sydney he charged me with the theft. I got a heavy sentence and was sent to the coal-mines at Newcastle; but after two years of hell I escaped by stowing away in a Dutch barque bound to Samarang. And now my turn has come."