E-text prepared by James Tenison
ADVENTURES IN SOUTHERN SEAS
A Tale of the Sixteenth Century
First published August 1920 by George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd. 39-41 Parker Street, Kingsway, London, W.C.2 Reprinted July 1924 Printed in Great Britain by Neill & Co. Ltd., Edinburgh
In the year 1801 was found by the chief coxswain of the "Naturalist" (a ship commanded by Captain Hamelin on a voyage of discovery performed by order of the Emperor Napoleon I), at Shark's Bay, on the coast of West Australia, a pewter plate about six inches in diameter, bearing a roughly engraved Dutch inscription, of which the following is a translation:
"On the 25th of October arrived here the ship 'Endraght', of Amsterdam; first supercargo Gilles Miebas Van Luck; Captain Dirk Hartog, of Amsterdam. She set sail again on the 27th of the same month. Bantum was second supercargo; Janstins first pilot.
"Peter Ecoores Van Bu, in the year 1616."
No connected account of the voyages of Dirk Hartog is extant, but the report of the discovery of this pewter plate suggested the task of compiling a narrative from the records kept by Dutch navigators, in which Dirk Hartog is frequently referred to, and which is probably as correct a history of Hartog's voyages as can be obtained. The aborigines of New Holland, as Australia was then called, judging by the description given of them by Van Bu, the author of the writing on the pewter plate, appear to have been a more formidable race of savages than those subsequently met with by Captain Cook on his landing at Botany Bay, and the dimensions of the tribe among whom Van Bu was held captive were certainly larger than those of the migratory tribes of Australian blacks in more modern times. The "sea spider" described by Van Bu in his second adventure was probably the octopus, which attains to great size in the Pacific. The "hopping animals" are doubtless the kangaroos, with which Australians are now familiar.
Captain Dampier, in 1699, first mentions the water serpents referred to by Van Bu. "In passing," he says, "we saw three water serpents swimming about in the sea, of a yellow colour, spotted with dark brown spots. Next day we saw two water serpents, different in shape from such as we had formerly seen; one very long and as big as a man's leg in girth, having a red head, which I have never seen any before or since."
From an examination of the Dutch records, it would appear that a ship named the "Arms of Amsterdam" drove past the south coast of New Guinea in the year 1623. This is, perhaps, the voyage described by Van Bu to the Island of Gems. The gigantic mass of ice seen by Van Bu in the South is particularly interesting, since it may have been the first sight of the ice barrier from which glaciers in the Antarctic regions break off into the sea.
The north portion of New Guinea was for the first time rightly explored in the year 1678, by order of the Dutch East India Company, and found almost everywhere to be enriched with very fine rivers, lakes, and bays. About the north-western parts the natives were discovered to be lean, and of middle size, jet-black, not unlike the Malabars, but the hair of the head shorter and somewhat less curly than the Kafirs'. "In the black of their eyes," says a report given of this voyage, "gleams a certain tint of red, by which may, in some measure, be observed that blood-thirsty nature of theirs which has at different times caused so much grief from the loss of several of our young men, whom they have surprised, murdered, carried into the woods, and there devoured. They go entirely naked, without the least shame, except their rajahs or petty kings, who are richly dressed. The heathens of Nova Guinea believe there is some divinity in serpents, for which reason they represent them upon their vessels."
The "Golden Sea-horse" is mentioned as one of the Dutch ships said to have taken part in the discovery of Australia between the years 1616 and 1624. Other vessels noted are the "Endraght", "Zeewolf", "Arms of Amsterdam", "Pera", and "Arnheim". All these vessels lay claim to having touched at the 'Great Southern Continent' as well as at the islands of the South Seas.
The 'Place of the Painted Hands', the objective of the third voyage of Van Bu with Dirk Hartog to New Holland, is referred to by the late Mr Lawrence Hargrave, who made a very interesting study of picture-writings discovered in Australia, in a collection of pamphlets entitled "Lope de Vega", now in the possession of the Mitchell Library at Sydney. "There are picture-writings," he says, "which have remained for hundreds of years without any archaeologist discovering their meaning. They are not as ancient as those on the monuments of the Egyptians, but they are equally interesting. If they are read in the light of a message to posterity, they may yet reveal something of surprising interest. By whom were they chiselled? What is their meaning? The more recent discoveries show an oval encircling a cross—the symbol of Spanish conquest. On an ironstone rock-face on the Shoalhaven River are many 'hands.' These have been there to the memory of the oldest inhabitant. No aboriginal will go near them. Gold is still washed in this river, and possibly these hands, or fingers, refer to the days worked here washing gold, or to the number of 'quills' of gold obtained. You will understand these 'hands' are not carved, but painted with some pigment that has withstood the weather for some hundreds of years."
The Malays locate the Male and Female Islands visited by Van Bu, an account of which appears in many ancient manuscripts from the twelfth to the sixteenth century, as being the islands of Engarno, to the south of Sumatra. Marco Polo speaks of them in his voyage round the world, undertaken in 1271, and both Spanish and Dutch explorers refer to them in the accounts of their travels of more recent date.
In "The Discovery of Australia" (a critical documentary and historic investigation concerning the priority of discovery in Australasia by Europeans before the arrival of Lieutenant James Cook in the Endeavour in the year 1770), by George Collingridge, may be found accounts of Spanish and Portuguese attempts at settlement upon the Great Southern Continent—'Terra Australis'.
Staten Land was the name first given to New Zealand in honour of the States of Holland, and the monstrous birds seen there were probably the now extinct moa. The Cannibal Islands are doubtless Fiji. The data and references to chronicles in this work are genuine, and the result of a careful study of rare and (in some cases) unique books and manuscripts in the Mitchell Wing of the Public Library at Sydney, said to be the most comprehensive collection known of accounts of discoveries in South Seas.
I. I FALL INTO CAPTIVITY II. THE BLACK CANNIBALS OF NEW HOLLAND III. THE ONLY WHITE MAN IN NEW HOLLAND IV. THE SEA SPIDER V. THE VOYAGE CONTINUED VI. THE FIGHT ON THE SANDS VII. THE SPIRIT OF DISCORD VIII. PEARL ISLAND IX. MUTINY X. I EMBARK ON A SECOND VOYAGE XI. A SECOND VOYAGE WITH HARTOG TO THE SOUTH XII. THE SEA SERPENT XIII. THE FLOATING ISLAND XIV. AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE XV. THE SEAWEED SEA XVI. THE ISLAND OF GEMS XVII. QUEEN MELANNIE XVIII. A QUEEN'S FAVOURITE XIX. I BECOME CHIEF COOK XX. THE SNAKE GOD XXI. A PLAN OF ESCAPE XXII. THE NIGHT OF THE SACRIFICE XXIII. AT THE MERCY OF THE SEA XXIV. HOW MY SECOND VOYAGE ENDED XXV. I ARRIVE AT AMSTERDAM XXVI. HAPPILY MARRIED XXVII. ONCE MORE TO THE SOUTH XXVIII. THE MOLUCCA ISLANDS XXIX. THE VOYAGE CONTINUED XXX. A SPANISH SETTLEMENT XXXI. THE PLACE OF THE PAINTED HANDS XXXII. MAROONED XXXIII. CAPTAIN MONTBAR XXXIV. WE AGAIN EXPLORE THE CAVES XXXV. I AM KIDNAPPED XXXVI. THE MALE AND FEMALE ISLANDS XXXVII. A TASK IS SET ME XXXVIII. THE SLAYING OF THE GREAT CROCODILE XXXIX. I BECOME A VICTIM OF DOMESTIC INFELICITY XL. THE YELLOW PARCHMENT XLI. THE RUBY MOUNTAINS XLII. THE VALLEY OF SERPENTS XLIII. WE AGAIN LEAVE NEW HOLLAND XLIV. THE ISLANDS OF ARMENIO XLV. SUMATRA XLVI. MAHOMET ACHMET XLVII. KING TRINKITAT XLVIII. STATEN LAND XLIX. THE CANNIBAL ISLANDS L. AGAIN AT THE MOLUCCAS LI. GETTING BACK OUR OWN LII. CONCLUSION
ADVENTURES IN SOUTHERN SEAS
I FALL INTO CAPTIVITY
Let those who read this narrative doubt not its veracity. There be much in Nature that we wot not of, and many strange countries to explore. The monsters who roamed the earth in ancient times, as their fossil bones attest, are still to be seen in those regions hitherto unvisited by white men, and in the fathomless depths of uncharted seas leviathans find a home.
Peter Ecoores Van Bu was born upon the island of Urk, in the Zuider Zee, in the year 1596, and was brought up a fisher-lad until the coming to the island of a priest, to whom my parents, ambitious for my advancement, entrusted my education in the arts of reading and writing, accomplishments in little vogue at this time. Hence it comes that I am able to set down here a record of perils and adventures by sea and land which may prove entertaining reading to those who have never travelled beyond the limits of their own countries.
My parents, who had stinted themselves to provide my education, placed me when I was eighteen years old in a merchant's office at Amsterdam, where I became acquainted with Dirk Hartog, a famous navigator, who, a year later, invited me to become his secretary and engraver of charts on board the ship "Endraght", being then commissioned for a voyage of discovery to the South, and having obtained a reluctant consent from my master, De Decker, the merchant, to Hartog's proposal I gladly abandoned the office desk for the sea.
The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492 had given rise to a theory that a vast continent known as Terra Australis existed in the South, and Portuguese and Spanish ships had made report from time to time of this southern land. It was to confirm or dispel this belief that the voyage of Dirk Hartog was made.
For many months after leaving Amsterdam we sailed south, touching at some islands to obtain vegetable food and replenish our water-casks. Worn out with hardship, our crew more than once showed signs of mutiny. Sometimes for weeks together we lay becalmed in the tropics, when the air hung like a pall of vapour from the sky, and the pitch boiled and blistered in the seams of the deck-planks. In other seasons we were driven by storm and stress. But at length, in spite of every obstacle, an unbroken coast stretched before us far as the eye could reach. For three days we sailed past verdure-covered hills, white, sandy beaches, and bluff headlands, until Hartog felt assured the Great South Continent was at last in very truth before him.
The day upon which Hartog determined to land was bright and fine; the place a sandy beach upon which the waves broke in frothy spume. We were all keen to be ashore after so long a spell of the sea, and I reckoned myself in luck to be chosen as one of the boat's crew to land the captain.
"Let Peter come," said Hartog when the boat was alongside. "I would have him engrave a plate to be set in some safe place, so that it may be known that I, Dirk Hartog, landed here, to any who may come after me."
When we had come to the shore Hartog, taking the boat's crew with him, set off inland, leaving me to my work. The plate was soon finished, when I fastened it to a rock out of reach of the waves.
It bore the following inscription:
"On the 25th of October arrived here the ship 'Endraght,' of Amsterdam; first supercargo Gilles Miebas Van Luck; Captain Dirk Hartog, of Amsterdam. She set sail again on the 27th of the same month. Bantum was second supercargo; Janstins first pilot.
"Peter Ecoores Van Bu, in the year 1616."
I engraved the date upon which the ship was to sail according to directions given me by the captain, though whether the "Endraght" did sail at that time I cannot say, by reason of an adventure which befell me.
When I had finished my work I began to think in what manner I might employ myself until my companions returned, and, perceiving a grove of trees not far distant from where I stood, I determined to rest a while in the shade. As I penetrated these silent forests I beheld sights wholly novel. Parrots and paroquets flew among the trees, as also large white birds with sulphur crests, the like of which I had never seen before. Presently I came to a stream which took its course through a valley, and, kneeling, I was about to quench my thirst when I felt a hand upon my shoulder. Springing to my feet, I was confronted by a band of savages, many of whom held their spears its though about to strike. They were all quite naked, their bodies marked with white streaks. I tried to make them understand I came as a friend, and endeavoured to retrace my steps to the open, where I hoped my shipmates might see me and effect a rescue, but I now perceived that whichever way I turned my path was barred by these wild men. The savages now began to jabber to each other in a jargon which I could not comprehend, and presently two of them laid hold of me, one by each arm, and in spite of my protests and such resistance as I made, forced me through the scrub inland. Some of the tribe followed, others went on ahead, flitting like shadows among the trees, the journey being performed at a rate which made it hard for me to keep pace with them.
All day we continued to penetrate the bush toward the interior of the country, and just before dark we came to a native village, where we found the tribe assembled at their camp fires. There must have been several hundred blacks in this camp, and many gathered round to look at me, although they did not appear to regard me with as much curiosity as might have been expected, from which I conjectured that white men were not unknown to them.
After a meal of fish and wild duck, together with a pasty kind of bread made from the bulrush root, which I found palatable, I was permitted to lie down in one of their gunyahs upon a bed of freshly-picked leaves, where, in spite of my anxieties, I soon fell asleep.
Toward morning I awoke to a full conviction of my sorry plight. The camp was in darkness, save for the glow of the fires and the light of the stars, which shine with a wonderful brilliancy in these southern skies. The cry of some night bird came from the bush beyond the camp. All else was still, but a crouching form at the entrance to the gunyah warned me I was a prisoner. There was no need, however, to set a guard upon me, for without a guide I knew I could never reach the coast, so that even if I succeeded in making my escape from the savages, I must perish miserably in the bush.
My thoughts now turned to home and friends whom it seemed unlikely I would ever meet again. Dirk Hartog and the crew of the "Endraght", though rough as became the hardy lives they led, had always shown a kindly disposition toward me. They would miss me, and speak of me perhaps, until, in the changing events of their adventurous career, I would be forgotten. My parents also would mourn me as dead. But there was one at Urk who would miss me more than friends or parents; Anna Holstein, to whom I had plighted my troth, and to whom I looked to be wed on my return. Anna was above me in station as the world goes. Her father was the Governor of Urk, who would not willingly give his daughter in marriage to a poor lad such its I. But who in love is wise? Who reckons worldly wealth when love, the spirit and spring of the universe, awakens in the soul? Like birds who call their mates with love-learned songs, Anna and I loved each other, so that nothing bid, death could part us. I had promised Anna I would return rich from my voyage as others had done, when her father might be the more inclined to look with favour upon my suit. Well—here was the and of my promises, and my hopes—death, or, still worse, life among a savage and barbarous people.
THE BLACK CANNIBALS OF NEW HOLLAND
On the morning after my capture by the black cannibals of New Holland, at daybreak, I was driven, out of the gunyah in which I had passed the night, to be looked at by the tribe, who had now collected in great numbers, and who encircled me with a ring of hazel eyes. Their complexion was black, their hair woolly, and many of them were quite naked, as though they lived in a state of brute nature. There did not appear to be anyone in recognized authority among them, for they all talked their outlandish jargon at the same time, and, presently, they began to search me for such small articles of personal property as I possessed. My engraving tools and a sailor's sewing kit, given me by Anna, were taken from me, but to my great good fortune they did not rob me of my dagger-knife, or my flint and steel which lay concealed in the inner pocket of my leathern belt, nor of a lock of Anna's hair which I carried in a silken bag round my neck; and in the possession of which I found much comfort in my present predicament. My clothes did not interest my captors, and I was thankful not to be deprived of them.
I was now startled to observe that some of the natives carried at their girdles a human skull, but I subsequently learned that these trophies were not, as I had at first supposed, the result of a massacre, but were the drinking-cups of these people, who appeared to be the most debased in the scale of humanity I had ever encountered.
During the morning, although I could see that a watch was kept upon me, I was allowed my liberty, and, in spite of my wretched plight, I became interested in observing the natives at their daily occupations, one of which consisted in the capture of wild-fowl from a lagoon close to the camp by the ingenious method of floating upon their quarry submerged up to their necks in water, their heads covered by a mass of weeds and bulrushes. When among the birds they suddenly drew some of them under the surface without appearing to disturb the others.
And now a loud noise made by the beating of spears and waddies attracted my attention, when I came to the conclusion some tribal ceremony was in progress, and shortly afterward a number of youths were led in procession through the camp. These young men presented a strong and muscular appearance. Their naked bodies bore evidence of ill-usage; purple weals and open sores upon their backs and shoulders appeared to have been inflicted by the severe and long-continued stroke of the lash.
After a dirge-like song had been sung, a number of the elder warriors stepped forward, and with a piece of quartz formed a deep incision in the nape or the neck of each youth, cutting broad gashes from shoulder to hip, all the while repeating rapidly the following curious incantation:
"Kangar-marra—marra, Kano-marra-marra, Pilbirri-marra-marra."
A bunch of green leaves was then fastened round each middle and above this a girdle of human hair. They then blackened with charcoal, and their wounds plastered with clay in order to form the hands of gristle which they regard as an ornament upon their flesh. During this performance the lads showed no sign of pain, although their sufferings must have been very severe. Further ceremonies then took place, in which the women played a part too degrading to be here set down.
That night a feast was held, with dancing, in honour of the morning's ceremonies. The night was warm and the moon shone with a wonderful brilliancy, casting deep shadows upon the earth. In the distance rose a pillar of sparks and fire, which marked the place where the performers were preparing for the corroboree, a name given to their dancing by these savages, and presently 200 men and 60 boys in nudity came from among the forest trees. Each dancer was provided with a bunch of leaves fastened above the knee, which, as they stamped in unison, made a loud switching noise. These natives were painted from shoulder to hip, with five or six stripes rising from the breast, their faces streaked with white perpendicular lines, making it appear as the dancing of dead men's bones. For some time the dancers continued to stamp to and fro, and then, assembling at a fire that burned close by, they simultaneously sat down. Other dancers then took their places, dressed in fur cloaks, and wearing white and yellow feathers in their hair, their black visages rendered hideous by fish-bones stuck through the cartilage of the nose above their thick lips. These singular beings stamped their way backward and forward, giving vent to yells of excitement, and causing their bodies to tremble and twitch in the most surprising manner. The last act of this strange drama represented the warriors sitting cross-legged round the fire, when suddenly they simultaneously stretched out their right arms as if pointing to some distant object, at the same time displaying their teeth and rolling their eyes, and then, springing to their feet, they uttered a shout that echoed for miles over the surrounding country.
And now the preparations for a feast began. A number of women and young girls brought baskets of fish, roasted birds, and prepared bulrush root, whilst some very large eggs, such as I had never seen the like before, with green shells were stacked upon the grass. Strange-looking animals also, together with snakes and lizards, were stewed in clay vessels, while the savages gathered round in gloating anticipation of this repulsive food. When all was prepared one of the women gave a peculiar cry, when there came from among the trees the young men who had that morning undergone the baptism of initiation, each carrying upon his shoulder a bundle wrapped in reeds and bulrushes. Arrived in front of one who now acted as chief, much laid down his burden, exposing the contents—the body of a native child!—half roasted and drawn—the "long pig" of the cannibals!
Overcome by what I had seen, I sought my gunyah, where I passed the night a prey to the most dismal forebodings. Next morning I became ill, with violent pains and headache, which incapacitated me for some days, during which time a lubra named Moira sat beside me, apparently anxious to do what lay in her power to ease my sufferings.
Helped by the words I had learnt in my former intercourse with savages at the islands we had visited in the early part of the voyage, I was soon able to make myself understood to Moira, and to understand what she said when I confided to her my desire to escape to the sea coast At first she would only shake her head, but I became so insistent that at length she consented to help me. A tribal ceremony was very shortly to be celebrated, so Moira informed me, when the night would be favourable for the success of our project, since the tribe would then be assembled at the camp fires. On that night, moreover, there was no moon until late, and we trusted to be able to slip away in the darkness unobserved.
I had always been impatient of my captivity, but now that escape was in sight I could scarcely control my desire to be rid of these savages. I counted the days, dreading lest some change in the manner of my captivity might prevent the carrying out of the plan we had formed; but all went well until the time came when Moira whispered to me our chance had come.
The tribe were assembled at the camp fire, engaged in one of their many rites to propitiate the evil spirits whom alone they worship. Beyond the glow, darkness complete and compelling hung like a pall. The stars were hid by a curtain of clouds.
"Come," I whispered to Moira, and reckless of consequences, we fled into the pitch black of the scrub.
THE ONLY WHITE MAN IN NEW HOLLAND
After leaving the blacks' camp I made my way through the forest, guided by Moira, who could see in the dark. I was fearful lest we might be pursued, in which case I resolved I would not be taken alive. Moira, however, did not believe that we would be followed. Her people, she told me, were afraid to enter the forest at night, when evil spirits were supposed to be abroad, and indeed her own terror was so great that I realized her devotion to me in having braved, for my sake, the superstition in which she had been reared.
Moira was right in thinking we would not be followed, for no attempt was made to follow us. But now a fresh anxiety arose. There were shapes among the trees which were visible to Moira, though I could not see them, which caused her such terror that I was obliged almost to carry her, and I sometimes thought by the chill of her body that she had died in my arms. With the dawn, however, the shapes disappeared, and Moira's fears were dispelled.
Daylight found us several miles on our way to the coast, which we made, as I reckoned, about noon, to the north of where I had first landed. The cliffs here were high and rocky, the waves breaking at the foot in fountains of spray. The sky was dull and overcast, which betokened a storm. A number of white birds with yellow crests, such as I had seen on my first landing, flew inland, and several fur-coated animals, with heads resembling deer, and powerful tails, hopped across the stubble to the shelter of the trees. The prospect was a dreary one, and a feeling of melancholy oppressed me, which I found it hard to dispel.
Moira did her best to cheer me, but I could not rid myself of the dread of being the only white man upon this desolate shore. When we had walked for some distance we came to a sandy beach, where we found a cave in which to shelter from the storm which now burst upon us. For an hour or more the elements raged with a fury only to be equalled in the tropics. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled, whilst rain fell with the force of a deluge. Then, suddenly, the storm passed, and the sun shone with renewed splendour, decking the dripping foliage with myriads of raindrop gems.
We had depended for food since leaving the blacks' camp upon a supply of dried fish and prepared bulrush root, which Moira had brought with her in her dilly-bag, but we were now compelled to seek fresh means for our support. Moira collected a quantity of shellfish, for the cooking of which I made a fire of some dried wood. Moira showed the greatest astonishment and some alarm at my flint and steel, which I now used for the first time in her presence. Nothing would persuade her to touch it. She regarded it as something beyond her comprehension, as a fetish to be worshipped. When we had finished our meal we fell asleep, worn out by the fatigues of the long journey.
And now began for me a life of dull monotony, with days devoted to watching the ocean, and sleepless nights of anxiety and despair. I had built a beacon upon the highest part of the cliff above our cave, to be fired in case of sighting a ship, and every morning, with the dawn, I mounted to this look-out to scan the horizon. Here I remained all day, and when darkness drove me to the shelter of the cave I tried to persuade myself that each night in this lonesome place would be my last.
Had it not been for Moira I must have perished from want and neglect, for I could not bring myself to do anything for my personal comfort lest it might seem I had abandoned hope of rescue. But Moira was never idle. She worked for both, and displayed such ingenuity in converting to our use what Nature provided that we lacked nothing for our support. To begin with, she made an oven of baked clay, in which to cook our food. Next she plaited fishing lines from grass-tree fibre, and fashioned hooks from the bones of slaughtered birds and animals, to catch the fish which abounded near the rocks. With the aid of my Sailor's knife she made a bow and arrows to shoot the hopping animals, the flesh of which when roasted resembled venison, while their fur-coated skins made us warm sleeping mats. She even succeeded, after much labour, in constructing a canoe, in which to paddle along the coast, and sometimes, when it was calm, for some distance out to sea; nor did she appear to regret the loneliness of our lives. But I could not bring myself to take part in her work. Hour after hour, in moody silence, I paced the cliff beside the beacon, scanning the ocean, and speculating upon my chances of rescue.
If I had not been so absorbed in my selfish thoughts I might possibly have prevented a catastrophe which afterward caused me much self-reproach. Moira had more than once told me that food had mysteriously disappeared from a cave in which she kept a store of meat for our use, and she showed me where the rocks in front of this cave had been scraped of seaweed and mussel-shells as though by the passage of some cumbersome body. But I gave no heed to her anxieties, and although she urged me to shift our camp I would not leave the beacon lest a ship might pass during my absence.
Of the dreadful consequences which followed my selfishness it now only remains for me to tell.
THE SEA SPIDER
I was occupied one midday, as usual, scanning the horizon from the top of the cliff near the beacon in search of a passing vessel, when I noticed Moira urging her canoe toward the shore at a rapid pace. In the wake of the canoe a disturbance of the water betokened the presence of some denizen of the deep, and Moira's action in making for the rocks at top speed betrayed her terror of whatever it was that followed her. Hastily descending the cliff I ran to her assistance, when I saw Moira spring on to a flat rock upon which she generally landed from her canoe. At the same moment a snaky tentacle rose out of the sea and caught her, while other tentacles quickly enveloped her. The monster now dragged its shiny bulk upon the rock, and except in a nightmare surely no man had beheld such a creature before. It resembled a monstrous spider, but out of all proportion to anything in Nature. Its eyes, like white saucers with jet black centres, stared from its flat head, and the tentacles with which it seized its prey were provided with suckers to hold what they fastened upon.
Even in her extremity Moira thought more of my safety than her own. "Go back!" she cried. "You cannot help me. The sea devil has the strength of ten men."
Not heeding her warning I continued to advance to her assistance but as I approached the sea-spider drew back into its native element, and presently sank with its prey beneath the waves.
In my first feeling of dismay for what had happened, I could not believe that Moira had been taken from me, and as I remembered my ingratitude to her and thought of how surly I had become, absorbed in my own trouble, I threw myself down upon the rocks in an agony of remorse. Alas, poor Moira! Faithful friend! True heart, and loyal to death! A thousand times I reproached myself with my neglect of her, but my regrets were unavailing, and my repentance came too late.
It now became necessary if I would live to provide myself with food, and in this enforced occupation I obtained some relief from the dejection which had formerly obsessed me. I found no difficulty in procuring fish, and I quickly became expert with Moira's bow and arrows. Salt, also, I gathered from the rocks, and some roots which Moira had shown me served as vegetables. Of water I had an abundance from a fresh-water lagoon near by. So that I lacked nothing for my support. But although my body was nourished, my mind became so oppressed by solitude that, at times, I even thought of returning to the blacks and conforming to their ways, and had it not been that I knew them to be cannibals I might have spent the remainder of my life among them, so intense had become my longing to meet with others of my kind.
Another cause for anxiety now made me consider whether I had not better move my habitation to some cave along the coast. Within a week from the carrying off of Moira by the sea-spider, I began to miss supplies of fish and flesh which I kept in the storehouse cave. Strange sounds, also, as of some heavy body dragging itself over the rocks kept me awake at night, and filled me with alarm. Could it be that the monster was once more paying its visits to the cave? The sounds continued during the night, but with the break of dawn they ceased.
One morning, however, when I had resolved upon moving my camp, on mounting the cliff I sighted a vessel which I recognized as the "Endraght", coming up the coast from the south. In a frenzy of excitement I lighted the beacon and taking a silk handkerchief from my neck I waved it to attract attention. A dread overpowered me that my signals might not be observed, and had the ship passed without seeing me I verily believe I would have cast myself from the cliff on which I stood to certain death upon the rocks below. But now I saw that the vessel was heading for the shore, and presently a boat put off for the beach. Carried away by the thought of my salvation, I waded knee deep to meet my comrades, and climbing into the boat I soon found myself on board the "Endraght".
So wild-looking and unkempt had I become that at first my shipmates did not know me, but when they recognized me I was given a hearty welcome.
"Of a truth, Peter," said Hartog, smiling at my sorry appearance, "I have small wonder the cannibals did not make a meal off one so skinny." And, indeed, the hard life I had led on the island had reduced me to a bag of bones. But when I had washed and trimmed my hair and after I had clothed myself from my own sea-chest Hartog declared me fit to become, once more, his secretary.
I sat late that night with my comrades, to whom I recounted my adventures, and when I reflected upon the dangers I had passed I could scarcely contain my joy at my rescue from a fate worse than death.
THE VOYAGE CONTINUED
Dirk Hartog, convinced that he had discovered the continent known as Terra Australis, determined now to seek the gold and gems which this fabled land was said to contain. The "Endraght" was accordingly brought to anchor near to the mouth of a river on the coast, and preparations were made to explore the stream in one of the ship's boats for some distance along its banks. In the course of the afternoon we attempted a landing, but as the boat neared the shore a number of natives ran down to the water's edge with spears in their hands, and with loud cries forbade our progress. A present of some nails and beads thrown among them seemed, for the moment, to produce a good effect, but on our attempt to land being renewed the natives again showed signs of opposition. Hartog endeavoured to make them understand that no injury was intended, but his friendly advances met with no success. A musket was then fired amongst them, which was replied to by a flight of spears, but no damage was done on either side. One of the natives then threw a stone at our boat, which was answered by a discharge of small shot, which struck him in the legs, causing him to jump like one of the hopping animals I had seen on the island. When we pointed our muskets again he and his companions made off into the bush. We then landed, thinking the contest at an end, but we had scarcely quitted the boat when the blacks returned, carrying shields for their defence. They approached us and threw spears, but with no result. Another musket shot convinced them their shields were no protection against our firearms, when they again disappeared.
We then walked up to the blacks' camp and examined with much curiosity the primitive nature of their dwellings. Then, leaving some beads and pieces of cloth in exchange for some spears, which we took away with us, we returned to our boat, observing on our way several light canoes, each made of a single piece of bark, bent and laced up at both ends. In the evening two boats' crews were sent away fishing, and they caught in two hauls of the seine nearly three hundredweight of fish. Hartog, after our first landing, made many friendly overtures to the natives, who would not, however, hold any communication with us, from which we came to the conclusion that other navigators had been here before us, not so well disposed.
With regard to the gold and precious stones we expected to find, our inspection of the blacks' camp convinced us that nothing of the kind existed, at all events, in this part of the country. Such ornaments or utensils as the natives seemed to possess were of the crudest description, made of wood or clay, or consisting of shells and pebbles from the seashore. The stories of fabulous wealth, therefore, to be found in this new land appeared to be myths. It was to seek for treasure that the "Endraght" had been equipped by a number of merchants at Amsterdam, of whom my master, De Decker, made one, and we realized how disappointed they would be if we returned empty-handed. Our crew, also, began to show signs of discontent, and to murmur at having been brought so far on a fool's errand. It was only Dirk Hartog's indomitable personality that prevented a mutiny.
It was this same sordid greed for gain which had caused Christopher Columbus to be sent home in chains from America because he had failed to find gold. The acquisition of new countries did not interest those who equipped the navigators of this time. For this reason, no attempt was made by Hartog to take possession of any of the countries we visited. It was to find treasure he had been sent out, and should he return without it he might look for a surly welcome.
Yet Hartog himself, I am convinced, with the spirit of a great navigator, found satisfaction in having accomplished so long a voyage, to reach the goal for which he sailed.
"Can I help it, Peter," he said to me one evening when we sat together in his cabin examining the charts I had drawn under his directions, "that the natives of this country are poor? Gold, ivory, precious stones, spices even, seem not to exist in the South as they do in the East. Did I make this country, that I should be held responsible for what it contains?"
But, although he spoke thus, I could see he was bitterly disappointed at finding the land we had come so far to seek little better than a wilderness, and the people upon it so poor that they went entirely naked, and devoured each other in order to satisfy their hunger. I tried to cheer him by reminding him we might yet find chances to enrich ourselves before returning home, but I could see he was troubled by the thought that the voyage he had accomplished with so much skill and daring might prove resultless in the accumulation of wealth. In order to hearten the crew with fresh adventure, the course of the "Endraght" was now directed toward the islands of the Pacific. These islands were reported to abound in pearl shell, and whilst cruising among them we looked forward to obtaining a supply of pearls which might compensate the merchants at Amsterdam for the expense of our voyage, and send us all home rich men.
THE FIGHT ON THE SANDS
I must now tell of all incident I would willingly have left unrecorded, but as I have undertaken to set down here, in the order of its sequence, each event which took place upon my voyages with Dirk Hartog on southern seas, I must not, as a faithful chronicler, omit to record each happening in its order.
Now it so fell out that our first supercargo, Gilles Miebas Van Luck, bore me a grudge, although I could recall no act on my part upon which to attribute it, unless it be that I had gained the favour of the captain, of which I could see Van Luck was jealous. From the first Van Luck made no secret of his dislike of me, and more than once he complained to Hartog that by reason of my youth; I being at the time of sailing but nineteen years old, it would be more seemly if I took my meals with the men in the forecastle instead of in the cabin. But Hartog had overruled his objections. As his secretary he maintained I was entitled to berth with the officers, and after my rescue from the inhospitable shores of Terra Australis I continued to occupy my former place at the captain's table, although I would as lief have messed with the men sooner than have been the cause of a quarrel.
At length matters came to a climax, when Van Luck ordered me to set about some menial work which I did not consider compatible with my position as the captain's secretary, and which, therefore, I declined to perform. In his rage at my refusal Van Luck came at me with a belaying pin in his hand, but I had fought many a battle with the fisher lads upon the sands at Urk, and was well able to take my own part, so that when Van Luck was almost upon me I nimbly stepped aside, and with a trick I had been taught by an old smuggler at Urk, I tripped him as he passed so that he fell into the scuppers, when, with a muttered oath, he scrambled to his feet, and, plucking a pistol from his belt, he would have shot me had not Hartog at this moment appeared on deck, and commanded him to throw down his arms.
"How now," said Hartog, "am I captain of this ship or not? What means this mutiny? Come both of you to my cabin that I may hear the case and see justice done."
Without so much as a look at either of us Hartog then descended to his state room, whither we followed him in shamefaced silence, for when the captain spoke we knew he must be obeyed.
When Hartog had heard what we had to say, and the argument advanced by each on his own behalf, he delivered judgment in the following terms:
"You are both of you in the wrong," said he. "Peter should not have refused to obey an order without referring the matter to me, and you Van Luck ought not to have taken the law into your own hands when I, your captain, am the proper judge upon such matters. Still I am willing to overlook your dereliction of duty (though by every rule of the sea you are both deserving of death at the yard arm) provided that at the first suitable place, and time, you fight out your quarrel as man to man, and pass me your words that, whatever the result, the survivor, or victor, shall bear the other no ill will."
This was a favourite method of Hartog's for settling disputes that were occasionally bound to arise among his crew upon so long a voyage. Order upon the ship, he maintained, must, for the common safety, be rigidly observed, but if bad blood arose between men of high spirit and hot temper, the malcontents were landed at some convenient place where, in the presence of the ship's company to see fair play, they fought the matter out, afterwards returning on board with their ardour cooled, and their anger properly chastened. This plan, on the whole, was found to work well. Sometimes one and sometimes both of the combatants were killed, but, as a rule, the matter was settled without the sacrifice of life, and the parties returned from their blood-letting the better friends.
After hearing Hartog's decision we both bowed and retired, and, in the terms of our promise, resumed the ordinary routine of our duties as though nothing out of the common had occurred. But the news of the coming fight spread among the crew and became the subject of gossip throughout the ship.
I was now near twenty-one and Van Luck was three years my senior, we being all young men on board the "Endraght"; but I had led a hardy life, and my spell ashore had taken off superfluous flesh, and left me active and alert, with muscles like steel, an advantage not given to my older antagonist, who had, perforce, lived a monotonous existence for months past on shipboard. So I looked forward to the coming trial of strength and endurance with some degree of confidence, notwithstanding that Van Luck and his supporters promised me I would lose both my ears as forfeit, if not my life, in the encounter.
The discussion over the right at length became so keen that Hartog, fearing it might lead to further disputes, determined to get it over as soon as possible, and for this purpose he altered the ship's course to an island he sighted on the horizon which we made during the same afternoon, when we came to anchor in a natural harbour formed by a coral reef and opposite to a hard sandy beach well suited to the matter in hand.
At daybreak the following morning we landed two boats' crews on the beach, only the watch being left on board, who would nevertheless be able to see the fight from over the ship's bulwarks. It was a fine summer's morning, with little wind and no sea. The waves broke in crisp diamond sparkles upon the sand, and the feathery palms and coconut trees, with which the island abounded, imparted to the place a fairy-like aspect such as the hand of man could never design. The island appeared to be uninhabited and it seemed likely we would have the arena to ourselves, although our men were armed in order to repel attack.
When Hartog had taken up a position upon a spot he had selected as suitable for the contest, he explained the conditions under which the dispute was to be settled. The fight won to be to the death, or until either party confessed himself vanquished or was unable to continue, and in no case was malice to be shown after the event, whatever might be the result. Having then proclaimed strict silence he ordered us to make ready and begin. Both my opponent and I were now stripped to the waist, our singlets being used as bandages for the right arm to protect it from a chance wound from the dagger knives with which we were armed, we being allowed no other weapon. My adversary was stouter than I, but we were both of a height, and what I lacked in strength I made up for in agility.
And know we began to circle each other, waiting an opportunity to strike, which presently came to my opponent, who aimed a blow at me which I caught when his blade was within an inch of my heart. Putting forth my strength I strove to force his hand so that with his own blade he might kill or wound himself, but after a desperate struggle he broke away. Not a word was spoken by the onlookers, and no sound was heard save only the tread of our feet as we circled and waited for a chance to strike again.
It now occurred to me that since my adversary had proved himself the stronger when I had tried to force his hand, my better plan would be to tire him if possible before taking the offensive again, and to this end I led him on, always nimbly avoiding the strokes he aimed at me instead of spending my strength by attempting to oppose them, and this method proved so successful that I presently had the satisfaction of observing in my opponent evident signs of exhaustion. Realizing his impotence, and now beside himself with anger, Van Luck suddenly rushed upon me, when, using a trick I had learnt, I tripped him so that he fell, dropping his knife, which, before he could recover it, I secured. By all the rules of the game he was now at my mercy, and I called upon him to surrender, but, with a scowl, he refused to give in. The advantage I had gained now entitled me to stab him to death where he stood, or to cut off his ears if I had the mind to do it, but I could not bring myself to kill, or maim, an unarmed man. I therefore threw down both knives at Hartog's feet, and returned once more to the fight with bare hands. My superior agility now began to tell in my favour, and I found I was the better boxer and wrestler of the two, so that I rained blows upon my opponent, some of which drew blood. He then tried to clinch with me, but I had waited for this, and when he seized me in his powerful grip I held myself as I had been taught to do by my friend the smuggler, so that when he tried to throw me, he himself, by his own weight and a dexterous twist I gave him, was hurled over my head some distance along the sand, where he fell upon the broad of his back the breath being knocked clean out of his body. For some time he lay to all appearance dead, and it being evident he would not be able to continue the fight, Hartog awarded me the victory, and, later, when Van Luck regained consciousness, he ordered him to shake hands with me, which he did with an ill grace, though of a surety I bore him no malice.
"Peter," said Hartog to me when we were alone together in his cabin after the fight, "henceforth I look upon you as my comrade as well as my secretary; but do not, on that account, believe I shall be less strict to enforce discipline upon you equally with all under my command. At the great distance we are from home it behoves some one to be in authority, if we are ever to see the Netherlands again. Promise me then to set a curb upon your temper, and when Van Luck is able to resume his duties after the drubbing you have given him, let there be no bad blood between you."
I gave my promise willingly, and I can honestly say that, on, my part, I bore no grudge against Van Luck, nor against any man of the ship's company, though I could see that Van Luck would never forgive me for having bested him, nor could I disguise from myself the fact that there were some among the crew who sided with him.
THE SPIRIT OF DISCORD
The days which followed my fight with Van Luck were full of anxiety for those who were responsible for the safety of the ship. It was evident that a spirit of discord had begun to show itself among the crew, which threatened a mutiny. Janstins, the pilot, whom we knew to be trustworthy, did not attempt to hide the peril that was brewing in the forecastle.
"Those lubbers for'ard," he said when Hartog, he, and I sat together one evening in the cabin, "will make trouble if they can. They are a pig-headed lot, and a dozen apiece at the gratings would do them no harm. But while they outnumber us, as they do, three to one, we must avoid a quarrel. Besides, if we got the upper hand, and drove the scum into the sea, we'd be undermanned for the voyage, and unable to weather the first storm that came upon us."
"What is it they want?" asked Hartog impatiently. "Am I a wizard to conjure gold and jewels out of the wilderness? They knew the chances they took when they set sail, and will have their wages paid in full, whereas I shall receive nothing but abuse, so that in this they are in better case than I, their captain."
"Granted you are right," answered Janstins, "yet these dunderheads will not view the matter with such common sense. They believe that gold and jewels are to be found, but we have not the wit to find them."
"Who has told them this?" demanded Hartog with a frown. "They must have a leader amongst them whom we wot not of. If I find him I'll send him adrift upon the sea to look for the treasure he speaks of with none to hinder him."
It was the first time I had seen Hartog so deeply angered, aroused as he was by the rumoured treachery that was being hatched against his command, and when he spoke of the punishment most dreaded by seamen, of being cast adrift in an open boat with three days' provisions, I knew full well he would not hesitate to inflict this penalty upon whomsoever might be found attempting to undermine his authority.
At these consultations held by the officers in the cabin, I noticed Van Luck was never present. He made an excuse for his absence that, as first officer, his place was on deck when the captain was below. Although this could not be disputed, yet I bethought me he might have found an opportunity to add his voice to our councils had he the inclination to do it. But as yet I had no proof of treachery against Van Luck, and although I suspected him, I was loath to voice my suspicions lest my action might be attributed to malice for his scurvy treatment of me.
As luck would have it, an incident now occurred which, for the time, diverted the men's minds from the dangerous brooding in which they had indulged. A dark line appeared on the horizon, which at first we took for a breeze, but which, as it swept down upon us, proved to be a prodigious number of flying fish. These delicate creatures rose out of the water like silver clouds, and as they passed over our Vessel numbers fell upon our decks. These fish are excellent eating, and of those that fell aboard of us we soon had an ample supply. Hartog, as much to give the crew some novel occupation as from any other motive, set the men to work salting and drying the fish, so that we secured three barrels full, as an addition to our ordinary fare, which was very acceptable. The flying fish were pursued by a shoal of dolphins, which continued to play round our ship for several days, and some of these we captured with the line and converted into food.
In the excitement of the sport the sailors soon forgot their mutinous conduct, and resumed something of their former cheerfulness. Like children, seamen are easily led and readily influenced.
"I thank Providence," declared Hartog, "for the draught of fishes sent to us at so opportune a time; but for their coming I doubt we would have been at each other's throats ere this."
And indeed there is more in chance and circumstance than most believe.
I observed that Van Luck took no part in the fishing. The sport in which the seamen were engaged appeared to afford him more irritation than amusement.
I often wondered that Hartog did not note the surly demeanour of his chief officer. But he did not appear to do so, and it was no part of my duty to make mischief between the captain and his first mate.
When the fishing and salting were over, a breeze sprang up which freshened to half a gale—before which we scudded under furled mizzen and foresails. The men had now plenty to do, and there was no time for brooding or lamenting over lost hopes. It is mostly during a calm, when the ship rides motionless upon a painted sea, that mutinous and rebellious thoughts arise among seamen. When the vessel is ploughing her way through storm and stress, each man seems a part of the ship and to have an interest in her voyage. It is then, too, that the word of command carries weight and meaning, and the knowledge of common dependence upon the captain makes for obedience and discipline, so that while the gale lasted we had no fear of mutiny.
At the end of a week, during which time we covered many leagues of sea, the weather moderated, when we found ourselves once more among the islands of the South Seas, and the thoughts of being again on shore, and the adventures that might be in store for us, put to flight less wholesome and healthy thoughts.
By the time we came in sight of the islands Janstins had recovered his spirits, and Hartog his good humour. Janstins, who was of a sanguine disposition, began to speculate upon our chances of finding treasure, and Hartog predicted that fortune stood upon the shores of one of these pleasant islands to welcome us, and send us home rich men.
"It is not in nature, Peter," he said to me, "that precious stones and metals exist only in the Old World. They are as much the elements of the earth as rocks and water. It only needs a patient search to discover a mine of wealth, as yet untouched by civilized man."
I did not like to discourage him, but, young as I was, I knew how fickle a jade is fortune, giving to one with both hands, and from another withholding that which he most deserves.
Besides, who could tell, among these countless islands or the Pacific, upon, which one Nature had lavished her wealth?
As we approached the land I noticed that Van Luck appeared to have lost the influence he had acquired over the crew, many of whom seemed now as anxious to avoid him as before they had been inclined to follow him. He was, therefore, left much to his own devices, which, from his surly manner, did not seem to be pleasant company.
"I am resolved, Peter," said Hartog to me, "not to return home without sufficient treasure, at all events, to pay for the expenses of this voyage. So make up your mind to grow old among savages unless luck brings us a ransom from this banishment. My reputation, nay more, my honour, is pledged not to go back empty-handed, and I'd face greater perils than any we have encountered sooner than tell those money-grubbers at Amsterdam their principal would not be returned to them with interest."
I could understand the captain's dilemma, but I sighed when I thought of the time that might elapse before I would again see my betrothed.
For some weeks after sighting the South Sea Islands we continued to cruise among them, visiting many places, some of which were unknown to former navigators.
The weather at this time was calm and fine, but one day when in the open sea a tempest drove us among a number of islands, most of which appeared to be little better than barren rocks. As we approached, however, we observed one of large size, mountainous, well wooded, and fertile, and here we hoped to find the fresh water and vegetable food of which we stood in need. On rounding a coral reef which made a natural breakwater, we anchored in a quiet bay opposite a beach, and a party of us made ready to go ashore.
The waters of this bay were blue as the sky above, and we could see in the depths below a marine garden of seaweed and coral, and what interested us more, a great quantity of pearl shell. As we rowed towards the shore the beach became thronged with natives who appeared by their gestures to be full of wonder at the sight of our vessel. The people here were of a light coffee colour, with wavy hair. The men, of large stature, well formed, and dressed with a degree of taste far in advance of any of the savages we had hitherto met with. Elaborate devices were tattooed upon the exposed parts of their bodies; a petticoat of finely-plaited cloth reached from waist to knee; beautiful necklets made from red and white coral hung round their necks; while their hair was frizzled like a mop upon their heads, powdered red or yellow. The women were similarly attired, save that their petticoats were longer and their hair hung straight, while the children went entirely naked except for garlands of bright flowers. No weapons were carried by these islanders, and upon landing we found them friendly, and inclined to offer us hospitality.
The houses in the town to which they welcomed us are of a beehive shape; the sides open during the day, but closed at nights by blinds made from the leaves of the coconut tree. The floor is formed of powdered white coral, and is very clean. The town was built in a semi-circle facing the beach. In the centre was the king's house, a building of the same construction as the others, but of larger size. Beautifully-made mats and wooden bowls formed the only furniture in these dwellings, some of the mats being trimmed with red feathers, while others resembled shaggy white wool rugs, which, on closer inspection, proved to be made from the bark of a dwarf hibiscus, with which the islands abound, bearing a bright red flower. The food of the islanders consists of fish, coconuts, taro, yams, and breadfruit, of which there is a plentiful supply.
In return for their hospitality, Hartog distributed among the natives pieces of bright-coloured cloth, beads, knives, and other trifles, which, in the eyes of these simple savages, were so many wonders hitherto undreamed of.
When we had been some days upon the island Hartog expressed to the king his desire to obtain the pearl shells of which we could see an abundance at the bottom of the bay, within easy reach of an expert diver, and as these islanders were as much at home in the water as upon land, we soon had a pile of shell upon the beach which some of the crew set to work to open; but although we opened a great number of shells very few pearls were found, and none of any special value.
When the king observed what we were in search of he offered Hartog for his acceptance a number of pearls, some of large size and perfect colour, which from time to time he had collected.
"'Twill be enough to satisfy the merchants," said Hartog to me when he had safely locked up this treasure on board the "Endraght", "but nothing over, unless we can add to the collection by our own exertions." But although we continued to open shells for several days no great haul of pearls was made. The pearl shell we shipped, knowing that it would fetch a good price at Amsterdam.
Hartog was so relieved at having secured something that would repay the expenses of the voyage that he recovered his natural buoyancy of spirits which had lately been oppressed by the prospect of returning home empty-handed.
"'Tis wonderful, the power of money, Peter," he said to me one evening when we were counting, in secret, the pearls which the king of the island had given him; "we have come through some perils, as you know, but I give you my word I was never so afraid of anything as of going back without money's worth to satisfy the men who put their capital into this voyage. It was that which broke the great heart of Columbus, and I'd have become a pirate sooner than return empty-handed. The pious rogues who sent us out, and who never miss their churchgoing, would not have cared whence the money came so long as it filled their pouches."
Hartog had not confided the secret of the king's present to any but me, as he feared the crew, disappointed in the treasure hunt which they had been promised, might try to take forcible possession of it. He was so absorbed in counting the pearls and in speculating upon their value that he gave no heed to the possibility of being spied upon. But since I was to have no share in them, the pearls did not interest me as much as they did the captain, and I allowed my eyes to wander, when, in a flash of summer lightning, I saw the face of Van Luck looking down upon us from the skylight above our heads.
Making an excuse to go on deck, I stole cautiously up the companion-stairs, expecting to catch Van Luck red-handed in the act of playing the spy upon us, but when I reached the skylight I could see no sign of him. From where I stood, however, I was able to observe the captain counting the pearls, and I determined to warn him to have a cover made for the skylight, or a blind inside that might be drawn to ensure privacy. But I did not think it would be wise to say anything about my suspicion. It would be hard to prove, and might be set down to malice, though honestly I bore Van Luck no ill will.
A month after leaving Pearl Island, when it became known to the crew of the "Endraght" that a course had been set for home without having obtained the treasure which had been the object of the voyage, the spirit of discontent in the forecastle which had previously shown itself, became so marked as to threaten a mutiny. Had it not been that we held all the arms and ammunition aft, there would have been little doubt of the seamen refusing duty. As it was, they went about their work in so surly a manner, that if Hartog had not kept a check upon his temper, a serious outbreak on more than one occasion would have occurred.
"I cannot think what evil influence is at work among the men," said Hartog to me one evening, when we sat together alone in the cabin, for Van Luck, except at meals, seldom joined us. "As sailors, they ought to know that treasure hunts often prove disappointing, and they will each receive a good round sum in back pay when the crew is disbanded after the voyage. What, then, would they gain by mutiny? Without a navigator they would either lose the ship, or, if they succeeded in making a port, they would become food for the gallows. Knowing sailors as I do, I cannot understand, in present circumstances, what it is that fosters rebellion, unless some influence is at work that we wot not of."
It was then that I thought it my duty to tell the captain of my suspicions regarding Van Luck, and of how I had seen him looking down upon us through the skylight at the counting of the pearls.
Hartog was amazed at such treachery on the part of his first officer. His own nature was so open that he found it hard to credit deception in others. My disclosures, however, enlightened him on much that was taking place, and he bade me keep him advised of anything further I might see or hear. To this end, I made frequent excuses for spending my time in the forecastle among the men, pretending I found the companionship in the cabin irksome. I had not been long among them before I discovered a plot that was hatching to take the ship. Hartog and I, together with those who would not join in the mutiny, were to be set adrift with three days' provisions in one of the boats, when Van Luck would navigate the "Endraght" to the nearest port, promising to divide the pearls, the value of which he had greatly exaggerated, equally among all hands, share and share alike.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed, and I had no sooner divulged the plan of the mutineers to the captain than Hartog began to consider how we might meet the situation. Janstins, the pilot, the ship's carpenter, and three of the crew we knew we could depend upon, and they were instructed where to find arms and ammunition, and told to rally to us aft at the first signs of mutiny. Having completed these arrangements, Hartog's next step was to bring matters to a climax, for he argued rightly there was nothing to be gained, and much might be lost, by delay.
Stepping boldly upon his quarterdeck, he now issued his orders in his old peremptory style, and, upon one of the crew not moving smartly, he threatened him with a dozen at the ship's gratings. The man turned insolently, and demanded to know to whom Hartog was speaking, while, at the same moment Van Luck, who was standing near, remonstrated with the captain on the man's behalf. I had never seen Hartog really roused before. In two quick strides he was beside Van Luck, and picking him up as easily as if he had been a child, he flung him from the poop on to the deck below. At the same moment the mutineers made a rush aft, but those who were loyal to us were before them, and we presented such a formidable front that the rebels fell back, taking Van Luck with them. Hartog now turned the brass cannon, which had already been loaded upon the mutineers where they crowded together in the fore part of the vessel, swearing he would fire upon them if they did not instantly surrender. A hurried consultation followed, after which Van Luck stepped forward as spokesman. He complained that the crew had not been fairly dealt by. They had suffered much hardship, he said, and it was understood that all treasure obtained on the voyage was to be shared among them, whereas it appeared that the captain was concealing a parcel of pearls of sufficient value to make them all rich men. To this Hartog replied as follows:
"I am captain of this vessel, and I claim the right to do as I please. The pearls you speak of none of you helped to obtain, and they will be used to pay the expenses of the voyage, including what may be found to be due to each man as wages when the when the ship is paid off. As for you, Van Luck, who have acted the spy and played traitor, you may expect nothing from me but the fate you intended for those who have stood by me. The others may now return to duty."
It was then seen that Van Luck had no followers, for rebels are ever prone to abandon their leader when their cause is lost.
I would have pleaded with Hartog, even then, to spare Van Luck from being cast adrift upon the sea, but I knew no word of mine would change his purpose. Besides, an example must be made, and in the rough life we led the administration of justice was the prerogative of the captain alone. A boat was therefore prepared, three days' provisions were placed on board of her, and Van Luck was sent upon what promised to be his last voyage.
For as long as the boat remained in sight we could see that the castaway made no effort, either with the sail or the oars, to shape a course in any direction. He appeared to have abandoned hope, and to have made up his mind to let the wind and the waves carry him whithersoever they would. At length the boat appeared but a speck upon the ocean, and finally it vanished beyond the horizon.
For some time after the quelling of the mutiny Hartog maintained strict discipline among officers and crew, issuing his orders in the peremptory manner of one accustomed to command, and seldom speaking to any except upon matters connected with the ship. But when order was restored his mood changed, and we resumed our friendly chats together in the cabin. He never referred to Van Luck, whom he seemed to have wiped from the slate of his recollection, nor did he again allude to the mutiny. Once, when I touched upon it, he had cut me short, and I could see from his manner that all reference to it must henceforth be taboo. But I could not help sometimes recalling the picture of the boat with the solitary man on board of her, drifting upon the grey waste of sea, and I often wondered if Dirk Hartog had been able to obliterate that picture from his mind.
We now once more sailed in familiar waters, and passed many vessels as we neared home, where we arrived, without mishap, towards the end of the year 1620, after an absence of nearly five years, which was not regarded at that time as a voyage of unusual duration.
I EMBARK ON A SECOND VOYAGE
On my arrival at Amsterdam I obtained leave from my master, De Decker, to visit my parents, and was received by them at my home at Urk with a great show of affection, which, however, I found to be somewhat lessened when it was known I had come back with empty pockets. My father urged me to give up the sea, and to stick more closely to the business of a merchant at Amsterdam, for which my education had fitted me, and my mother extorted from me a half-willing promise that I would follow my father's advice. I also met Anna Holstein, to whom I related my adventures; nor did I conceal from her that my worldly condition was not yet sufficiently improved to warrant my making formal proposals for her hand in marriage.
My mother pronounced my appearance much improved, when she heard of my attachment to Anna she declared me to be a fit mate for any lady in the land.
"Of a truth, Peter," she said, "thou art become a proper man, like thy father was before thee, and in my day a young man of spirit chose his wife where he would. My own parents made objections to my being married to your father without some payment to them in goods or money, to compensate for the expense of my upbringing. But Abel Van Bu, thy father, came to our house one June morning and bade me make ready to marry him that very day, a clerk in holy orders being come to Urk to mate together those islanders who were willing to be wed according to the rites of the Church, and Abel's manner was so masterful that neither I nor my parents dared say him nay. This is how I came to marry your father, my son, and were I a man such as thou, art, I would take the girl of my choosing, in the same manner as thy father did."
But although I laughingly agreed with my mother, I knew that such a way of proceeding would not answer with Anna Holstein. Anna was rich. It would have shamed me to go to her, a penniless husband. Still, love is blind, and that Anna and I loved each other was not to be denied; so, one evening, by the Zuider Zee, we once more plighted our troth.
It was then that Anna confided to me a trouble of which she had kept the knowledge secret, fearing it might vex me, to the neglect of my work at Amsterdam. I had become so absorbed in my love for her, that I had given no thought to the question of others paying their court. Yet that such should be the case was but natural. Anna was young, beautiful, and wealthy, the only child of a proud noble, so that when Count Hendrick Luitken proposed for her, Anna's father regarded his suit with approval, and recommended him to his daughter's good graces. But Anna, whose heart was wholly mine, had evaded the Count's attentions, although she dared not openly reject him, lest the clandestine love we bore each other might become known by reason of too close questioning, so she had been compelled to play the part of a wilful maid who did not know her own mind, and could not be made to see how advantageous the alliance proposed for her would be.
"I could never marry anyone but you, Peter," she whispered to me, as we sat together on the terrace of the palace by the Zuider Zee, after she had confided to me her anxieties, "but I find it hard to keep up the deception that I am heart-whole and fancy-free, and yet indifferent to Count Hendrick's attentions. Indeed, my father openly upbraids me with being fickle, inconstant, unmaidenly, and I know not what besides, until I am driven to my wit's end to keep the peace between us. Yet I doubt not, if he knew the truth, he would marry me willy-nilly to Count Hendrick Luitken by force."
"Then it would be to a corpse he would marry you," I cried, "for sooner than see you wedded to Count Luitken I would strangle him with my bare hands if he refused to meet me as an equal in fair fight."
"Dear Peter," whispered Anna, as she nestled closer to me, "if I cannot marry you I'll marry none other, and the Church does not now sanction marriage vows given unwillingly. If they drive me to it I can at least seek the cloister or the grave."
"Do not speak so, dear Anna," I entreated. "We are both young, and by patience and industry I may yet win a place in the world."
But although I spoke hopefully I could see but little prospect of my advancement at Amsterdam. My master, De Decker, the merchant, in whose house I was employed, told me plainly that I need expect nothing more than a clerkship so long as I remained in his service. His son, then a boy at school, would inherit his business, and it might be many years before I could hope to buy a partnership in it. De Decker's business at this time, moreover, was not in a very flourishing condition. It seemed, therefore, not improbable that I would lose my clerkship unless it improved.
In these circumstances I was approached by Dirk Hartog some twelve months after the return of the "Endraght", who offered to take me as first officer on the "Arms of Amsterdam", a new vessel upon which he was about to make a second voyage of discovery to the South.
"It is not because we met no luck with the 'Endraght' that there is nothing to be gained, Peter," he said. "There is an island I have heard of which, if we can strike it, will make us rich men. Nothing venture, nothing win, and there is little prospect here for a man like you to make money by quill-driving."
His words impressed me, as well they might, for the love of adventure was strong within me, and I reflected that in my present calling of a merchant's clerk I could not hope to obtain an independence for many years—perhaps not at all. De Decker, also, appeared anxious that I should go. The sale of the pearls which the king of Pearl Island had given Hartog had more than repaid the merchants for sending out the "Endraght", and with the "Arms of Amsterdam" they hoped to accumulate further treasure. I was influenced also by Hartog's description of the Island of Gems, and the more I thought of the offer he had made me the more I liked it. Finally, I agreed to sign on for this second voyage, and, taking leave of Anna and my parents, I embarked upon the "Arms of Amsterdam", and set sail once more for southern seas.
A SECOND VOYAGE WITH HARTOG TO THE SOUTH
For three months after leaving the North Sea we sailed south, meeting with no land until we sighted a group of islands which Hartog believed to be the group that the Spaniard Cortes attempted to explore in 1519, when one of his ships was burned by the hostile natives, while he and his crew escaped with difficulty in the other vessel. These islands are mountainous, well wooded, and apparently fertile. In most places that we saw the trees were very thick, with spreading branches, in which we perceived houses to be built, which looked like the nests of some large bird. We approached the land with caution, for we knew from experience that the tides in the vicinity of the South Sea Islands are very irregular, and seem to be much affected by the prevailing winds and currents. There is only one tide in the twenty-four hours. The flood-tide sets to the north, and the ebb to the south. It therefore behoved us to choose a safe anchorage, which, after consultation, we finally decided upon, selecting a spot sheltered from the prevailing wind, in deep water, close to a beach and opposite to a stream.
Two boats were then lowered and manned, Hartog taking charge of one and I of the other. The natives, who had assembled in great numbers on the beach, did not appear so surprised at the sight of our vessel as might have been expected. As the boats drew near, some of them waded out to meet us, showing no fear, but rather an anxiety to welcome us. They were all entirely naked except for a strip of tapa cloth, which formed a tee-band around the middle and hung down behind like a tail. This was probably the reason for the reports given by the earlier navigators of the existence of tailed men in these regions.
Some of the natives wore feathers in their hair, and all had fish bones thrust through the cartilage of the nose, which gave them a ferocious aspect. Even young boys wore sticks in the same fashion. The women were attired in petticoats of white tapa cloth, which hung down in strips from a girdle round their waists.
Before trusting ourselves among these savages we gave them, as peace offerings, coloured beads and bright pieces of cloth. Our presents were well received, but immediately on becoming possessed of them the natives laid them at the feet of a young man who stood apart from the crowd, surrounded by several tall and fierce-looking savages. From this we concluded the young man to be the king of the country, though we wondered he should be so young, as the leadership amongst savages generally goes to the strongest.
We then showed the natives our water-casks, and, pointing to a stream close by, made them understand we desired to fill them, to which they offered no objection, so that we at once began to water the ship. When we had finished our task we were invited by signs to go to the king, and, being well armed against treachery, we boldly marched up in a body to the king's house, which we found to be an immense building, nearly 300 feet long and 30 feet wide. It had a high peaked portico, supported by posts 80 feet high, from which a thatched roof narrowed and tapered away to the end, where it reached the level of the ground. The house resembled nothing so much as an enormous telescope, and here the king lived with his numerous wives and families, together with all his relatives and immediate retainers.
From the knowledge I had picked up on my travels, particularly during the time I was captive among the black cannibals of New Holland, I had acquired the art of understanding, either by words or signs, what savage people wished, by their language, to convey, which to most would have been unintelligible, and from what I could gather it appeared that the young king, who had but lately inherited his kingdom from his father, whose tomb, perched on the top of a tree, was pointed out to us, was threatened with war by a neighbouring chief, the former king's hereditary enemy, and that if we would help him vanquish his opponent he was willing to hand over to us the property of other white men which had been left upon the island in years gone by.
When I had imparted this proposition, so far as I was able to understand it, to Hartog, he expressed a wish to see the white men's treasure, and on my repeating this request to the king's councillors, we were invited to accompany them to a part of the island where we were shown what were undoubtedly the remains of Cortes' vessel, the one that was burnt and abandoned to the savages. There did not at first sight appear to be anything of value among the ancient relics, but I noticed some iron boxes, which had rusted at the locks, so that it became difficult to open them. With the aid of a crowbar, however, which I sent for from the ship, we were able to prise the lid off one of them, when it was found to be filled with Spanish money, much gold coin being amongst it. There were twelve iron boxes, and we reckoned that each box contained money to the value of two thousand English pounds. At the sight of this treasure Hartog readily consented to assist the king of the islands against his enemies by every means in his power, and an agreement was come to accordingly. Hartog then ordered the specie to be taken on board, when we attended a council of the chiefs to ascertain the part it was proposed for us to play in the war, I acting as interpreter.
It then appeared that a number of canoes were expected shortly to arrive from the adjacent islands. They would be met by the young king's fleet, when a naval battle would take place; but the issue was doubtful, since the hostile chief possessed many more canoes than the young king did. It was to neutralize this disadvantage that our services were required.
Now the "Arms of Amsterdam" was a more powerful vessel than the "Endraght", mounting four guns, so we had little doubt but that we would be able to render valuable assistance to the young king in the defence of his country, and having pledged ourselves to support him we returned to our ship, well pleased with our adventure.
Next day the beating of war drums and much commotion ashore announced the approach of the enemy fleet, and having loaded our cannon we stood out to meet them. Twenty war canoes belonging to the king, each containing 100 men armed with spears and clubs, put off to take part in the battle. They were far outnumbered, however, by the hostile fleet, which now approached. At the sight of our ship the oncoming war canoes appeared to hesitate, and for some minutes ceased rowing, but presently they advanced again in the form of a crescent, evidently intending by their superior line of battle to surround us. We were now midway between the opposing fleets, and when the enemy canoes were well within range Hartog delivered a broadside, which had the most remarkable effect ever witnessed in a naval engagement. Not wishing to kill the natives if it could be avoided, since the quarrel was not ours, Hartog directed that the first broadside should be fired over the heads of the advancing savages, but the result was the same as if we had sunk or crippled the hostile fleet. At the flash and sound of the cannon, with black smoke rolling across the water towards them, the savages turned and fled, driving their canoes back to the place whence they had come at a pace which sent the foam flying from the paddles. But the most unexpected part of our interference was that the savages on board the king's canoes appeared to be as terrified as were the enemy, for they also turned and fled towards the shore. So we had the satisfaction of seeing the opposing fleets flying from each other without blood being shed.
Having thus brought matters to a satisfactory conclusion, and fulfilled our agreement with the young king to drive off the enemy fleet, we continued our voyage, well satisfied with our first transaction.
THE SEA SERPENT
For some days after leaving Cortes' island the weather continued fine and the sea calm, but a strong breeze then springing up from the north-west made it necessary to shorten sail. While so engaged we sighted a number of whales, which swam to meet us. Never before had I seen so strange a spectacle. Their vast numbers, their great bulk, and their quick evolutions impressed me with wonder.
The whales in these parts are fearless of man. They have not yet learned to regard him as an enemy. This fearlessness, however, although remarkable, was not to our liking, for some of the whales came so close to us that our decks were often deluged by the water which they spouted upon them.
One day, some little time after this adventure, the weather having moderated to a calm, a number of ripples appeared upon the sea, which at first we took to be a breeze, but on drifting among them we found the phenomenon to be caused by a number of water snakes, varying in size from a few inches to many feet in length. Some of them appeared to be asleep, whilst others reared their heads at us, although they made no attempt to attack us. Suddenly they disappeared, as though scared by the approach of a common enemy.
We had now been for some days becalmed, and at length we began to fear we had drifted into a dead sea, where the wind never rose, and the currents ran in a circle. The sun by day blistered the decks so that the tar bubbled in the seams. The nights were more tolerable, but the air below had become so foul that the cabins were deserted for the open. A musty smell rose out of the water, and made it hard to breathe the oppressive atmosphere. We lay about the deck exhausted, like a company of sick men.
One night the watch came aft to where Hartog and I were trying to obtain some rest, with the report that a monstrous shape had been noticed passing under the vessel, and on looking to leeward we could see that the water was agitated by some large body. Hartog inclined to the belief that the disturbance was caused by a number of whales, the one following the other, but the men declared the shape they had seen was a monster of amazing proportions. Both Hartog and the men were equally resolved upon their respective theories; but while they were arguing the matter, and the dawn being now come, all doubts were set at rest by the appearance of a prodigy so incredible that I scarce dare set down, in this plain tale, a description of it. Within fifty yards from the vessel a serpent's head, not unlike those we had seen, but infinitely larger, rose above the surface of the water, and presently a great water-snake began to swim slowly round our ship in decreasing circles. Its length could not have been less than 200 feet, while its girth, in the middle, was almost that of a fair-sized whale, tapering towards the head and tail. Lashing the sea around it into foam, the serpent drew closer until it looked as though it would crush the ship in its folds. Hartog, the only man amongst us who preserved his presence of mind, ordered our guns to be loaded and fired at the monster. This was done, but our broadside had no more effect upon the leviathan than to cause it to swerve from its circling movement, when it made off with incredible speed towards the horizon, whence it returned apparently bent upon destroying us.