CONCERNING "BULLY" HAYES
From "The Strange Adventure Of James Shervinton and Other Stories"
By Louis Becke
T. FISHER UNWIN, 1902
"BULLY" HAYES! Oh, halcyon days of the sixties and seventies, when the Pacific was not, as now, patrolled by men-of-war from lonely Pylstaart, in the Friendlies, to the low-lying far-away Marshalls and the coral lagoons of the north-west; when the Queensland schooners ran full "nigger" cargoes to Bundaberg, Maryborough, and Port Mackay; when the Government agents, drunk nine days out of ten, did as much recruiting as the recruiters themselves, and drew—even as they may draw to-day—thumping bonuses from the planters sub rosa! In those days the nigger-catching fleet from the Hawaiian Islands cruised right away south to palm-clad Arorai, in the Line Islands, and ran the Queensland ships close in the business. They came down from Honolulu in ballast-trim, save for the liquor and firearms, and went back full of a sweating mass of black-haired, copper-coloured Line Islanders, driven below at dark to take their chance of being smothered if it came on to blow. Better for them had it so happened, as befel the Tahiti a few years ago when four hundred of these poor people went to the bottom on their way to slavery in San Jose de Guatemala.
Merry times, indeed, had those who ran the labour vessels then in the trade, when Queensland rivalled the Hawaiian Islands in the exciting business of "black-birding," and when Captain William Henry Hayes, of Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.—vulgarly called "Bully" Hayes—came twice a year to fair Samoa with full cargoes of oil, copra, and brown-skinned kanakas, all obtained on the stalwart captain's peculiar time-payment system.
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One hardly ever hears the name of the redoubtable Bully mentioned nowadays, yet it is scarcely thirty years ago since his name was a power all over the wide Pacific, from Manila to Valparaiso. In those days did a German trading-vessel in the Islands sight a white-painted brig with yacht-like lines and carrying Cunningham's patent topsails, the Teutonic skipper cracked on all his ship could stagger under, and thanked heaven when he saw the stranger hull-down; for Bully, with his fidus achates, the almost equally notorious Captain Ben Peese, had a penchant for boarding Dutchmen and asking for a look at their chronometers, and in his absent-minded way, taking these latter away with him.
And in Sydney, and Melbourne especially, people will remember the gay, dashing, black-whiskered Yankee captain who, in the sixties, came to these ports in a flash clipper ship, where he spent his money royally, flirting—alas! if he had but stopped at that—with every accessible woman of high or low degree—provided she was fair to look upon—and playing the devil generally in every known and unknown manner, and who then sailed gaily away to China, neglecting to attend to many little financial matters in connection with the refitting of his ship, and leaving the affections of a number of disconsolate beauties in a very bad state of repair.
The writer happened to know the gentleman well, and although it is now sixteen years since his body was thrown to the sharks among the lagoons of the Marshall Group, it is not too late to rescue his memory from much undeserved obloquy. Many a fancifully embroidered tale has been told and printed of the terrible "massacres" he perpetrated among the inhabitants of the South Seas. These massacres were purely apocryphal and only worthy of appearing—as they did in the first place—in an unreliable daily paper in San Francisco.
A man's true character is generally revealed by sudden misfortune. The writer sailed with Hayes for nearly two years, and was with him when, perhaps, the heaviest stroke of ill-luck he ever experienced befell him. In March of 1874 his brig Leonora ground herself to death on the jagged coral of Strong's Island, in the Caroline Group, and "Bully" seemed for the nonce a broken man. But few people knew that beneath that gay, laughing, devil-may-care exterior there lay a whole world of dauntless courage and iron resolution; that six months after the brig was destroyed he would, by unwearying toil and the wonderful fascination he exercised over his fierce and ruffianly crew, find himself a wealthier man than when he trod his brig's deck with a full cargo of oil beneath his feet and ten thousand dollars in his cabin.
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Let me first of all, though, before relating all that befell us during our sojourn on Strong's Island, where I, at least, spent many long, happy months, speak of the Leonora, once the Waterlily, and alias the Luna, the Leonie, and the Racinga. As the Waterlily she was first known, and under that name sailed her maiden voyage in the opium-trade, and beat the record. At this time Hayes made his appearance at one of the Treaty Ports in a ship named the Old Dominion. On the way out from New York his crew had mutinied, headed by the steward, a Greek. In the fight that ensued Hayes killed the Greek outright by a blow of his fist, and threw another with such violence against a deck-house that he died in a few hours. An inquiry was held, and Hayes, so it was stated, came out of it well. The Old Dominion was sold, and Hayes entered the Imperial Chinese service as commander of a gunboat. Another gunboat was commanded by one Ben Peese. Of this period of his life Hayes never cared to speak, but the story of Peese and himself was given as follows:—
The two became friends, and in conjunction with some mandarins of high rank, levied a system of blackmail upon the Chinese coasting junks that brought them—not the junks—in money very rapidly, and Hayes's daring attack on and capture of a nest of other and real pirates procured for him a good standing with the Chinese authorities. Peese soon got into trouble, however, and when a number of merchants who had been despoiled had succeeded in proving that his gunboat was a worse terror to them than the pirates whom he worried, he disappeared for a time. The Waterlily, which was then on the point of sailing for Calcutta, was, at this time, chartered at a big figure by some rich merchants to take a cargo of provisions to Rangoon. Shortly after her departure Hayes resigned and went to Macao. Here he was joined by his colleague, in command of the Waterlily. How Peese had got possession of her was not known. Hayes told people that his friend had bought her, but those intimate with Peese knew a great deal better. Anyhow, some months later, the merchants who chartered her said that Peese, who had been given command after his forced resignation from the Imperial service, had landed them somewhere in the Straits, taken all their dollars, sold the cargo to the Dutch military authorities, and cleared out.
And then with a new ship, a new crew—many of whom were Hayes's and Peese's former Chinese naval service pirates—the partners sailed for the Bonin Islands, where Peese was well known, and had lived before. Two days ere making the Bonins a ship was sighted ashore on a reef. It was a gunboat from Macao with an official on board, bound to the Bonin Islands to investigate the murder of a Portuguese captain and mate. A boat was lowered from the Waterlily, and Peese, who spoke Spanish well, learned from the captain that the gunboat, which was then hard and fast, had run ashore in the night and bumped a big hole in herself just amidships. For a thousand dollars Peese agreed to stand by them and save all he could, including her four guns. The guns were rafted to the Waterlily, then the small arms and stores followed in the boats belonging to the gunboat. At dusk Hayes went aboard the wrecked ship and took the brig's Chinese carpenter with him. On examination he said the ship could be got off again if she could be canted over and a sail "fothered" over the hole temporarily. This the gunboat captain agreed to try, and signalled for his boats to return from the Waterlily. After working all night the thing was done, and the captain and officers were profuse in their expression of admiration at Hayes's skill. As the tide fell the carpenters got to work, and the gunboat was made watertight. Under Hayes's direction, at flood-tide, she was then kedged over the reef into the lagoon, and anchored in smooth water. Peese and Hayes then arranged to bring in the Waterlily at next tide, lay her alongside the gunboat, and put the guns and stores aboard again, agreeing to take the captain's order on Macao for 700 dollars and 800 dollars in cash. But next morning the brig was nowhere to be seen, and although the captain had his ship he was minus his big guns, many small arms, and stores to the value of 2,000 or 8,000 dollars. In attempting to get under way he again ran ashore, and remained hard and fast for a week.
Meanwhile Hayes and Peese had gone off on a southerly course to the Pelew Group where the cannons were sold to the chiefs, and the two captains gave a feast, and made merry generally, and got rid of nearly all their crew, taking Pelew men and seven Japanese in their places.
For a week or so all went well, and then Hayes and Peese fell out—over a woman, of course. Peese had bought a very beautiful girl from one of the chiefs for 250 dollars, which sum, he told Hayes privately, he did not intend to pay. Hayes insisted on his comrade either paying the sum agreed on or giving her up. Peese, declaring he would do as he liked, drew his pistol and ordered the girl into the boat. Hayes tore the weapon from him, and seizing the girl with one hand, pointed the pistol at Peese and told him to go on board. Peese was no coward, but he knew his man, and sulkily retired. With all Hayes's wickedness he was not entirely heartless. He asked the girl to tell him if she was afraid of Peese. She said "No!" and then Bully quietly told her to follow his fellow-captain aboard. But Peese never forgave him, and from that day the two mutually distrusted each other.
After cruising about the Western Carolines for two or three months, and in some mysterious way filling up the brig, now named the Leonora, with a cargo of coco-nut oil, and getting a ton of hawk-bill turtle-shell, worth 6 dollars a pound, the two worthies appeared in Apia Harbour, Samoa. Here they sold the cargo and obtained a commission from the firm of Johann Caesar Godeffroy and Sons, of Hamburg—a firm that in Polynesia rivalled, in a small way, old John Company—to procure for them two hundred or three hundred Line Island labourers at 100 dollars per head.
In those days the most respected storekeeper in Apia was a retired mariner—a Captain Turnbull—a stout old man, slow of speech, and profoundly, but not obtrusively, religious. People used to wonder how it was that "Misi Pulu," the shrewdest business man in the group, would supply Hayes with 1,000 or 2,000 dollars' worth of trade, and merely take his I O U, while refusing to give credit to any other soul. Spoken to on the matter, the gruff old man replied, "That's my business, but I'll tell you why I trust a man like Hayes and won't trust any one here. I know the man, and I've told him what none of you would dare to tell him, that I looked upon his course of life with horror. He laughed at me and said, with a dreadful oath, that if ever he could do me a 'good turn' he would. That pleased me, and when he came to me a week afterwards and said that he wanted new canvas and running gear, but the Dutchmen wouldn't sell him any on credit, I said I would—and did, and he paid me, and I'll give him a few thousand dollars' credit any day."
Bully and Peese sailed for the Ellice and Gilbert groups, and soon news reached Sydney that they had been playing havoc with the traders there. With the traders of Captain Eury, and those of Captain Daly, of the Sydney brig Lady Alicia, they were very rough, appropriating all their oil and other native produce and giving them sarcastically written receipts. Hayes stated that this was in retaliation for Daly having visited his (Hayes's) stations in some of the Kingsmill Islands, and having been too friendly with some of the local fair.
When the brig returned to Samoa, Hayes alone was in command; the voluble, bearded Peese had, he said, sold him his interest in the ship and gone to China again. People talked and said that Hayes had killed him, but as the strength of the big captain's right arm was well known in Samoa, nobody talked too loud. It was on this occasion that Hayes "had" the German firm for some thousands of dollars. It seems that in returning through the Kingsmill and Gilbert Groups he found a number of the German firm's traders in terror of their lives, the natives having warned them to clear out or be killed, they would have no white men on their islands. Hayes consented to give them all passages to Samoa—for a consideration, of course, and they agreed on behalf of their firm to pay him each 50 dollars passage money—a reasonable enough sum. Most of them had large quantities of oil and copra—this also was shipped. After the last island had been visited, Hayes called them together in the cabin and addressed them: "Now, boys, I've promised to give you all passages to Samoa, and I will—if you do what I want. Now you've all got money belonging to the German firm. Well, each of you must give me 50 dollars, and if you take my advice you'll stick to the remainder. One thing you all know as well as I do, and that is, that the Dutchmen will take your souls out of their cases if you owe them anything. As for the oil and copra I'll see to that. That's all I've got to say, and if any of you won't agree to this let him come on deck and try and convince me." The traders grinned and consented to take the offer of a passage and the privilege of annexing the firm's dollars, and each paid his 50 dollars. When Hayes got to Samoa, Weber, the German manager, interviewed Bully, who detailed the dangers the traders had escaped, and genially said, "I hardly like to make you pay for your traders' passages, but as I have such a heavy cargo for you, you won't object to pay me a trifle—say 50 dollars each. They've all got money for you as well as oil and copra." Weber paid, Hayes giving an acknowledgment. Then Weber sent his cargo-boats to unload the brig. He was rather surprised when Hayes sent him a note:—
Brig Leonora, Apia. "Dear Sir,—You have forgotten that you have not yet made any arrangements with me about the freight of your oil and copra. I now demand freight on 200,000 lbs. copra at 1 cent per lb., 2,000 dollars; for the oil, a lump sum of 600 dollars; in all, 2,500 dollars. Unless the freight is paid at once, and delivery taken forthwith, I will proceed to New Zealand and sell to recoup myself.—W. H. Hayes."
The German firm was furious at this trick, but knowing what Hayes was and fearing to lose everything, they paid and took delivery, and Hayes, as he paid over, told Weber that he would always have a good opinion of him in future for his prompt manner in settling up. Weber gasped, but said nothing.
Just about this time the American corvette Narrangansett steamed into Apia Harbour. It had been rumoured around Polynesia for some time previously that certain charges had been made against Bully by American citizens. What the exact nature of these charges were has never been known. Anyhow, the captain of the corvette heard that Hayes was at anchor in Apia, and came down full speed from Pago Pago in Tutuila. Captain Edward Hamilton was then pilot, and brought the Narrangansett in. The moment the anchor was down, an armed boat's crew dashed aboard the Leonora and took possession. The officer in command had a surprise in store for him, when, entering the brig's cabin, he saw seated at the table not the truculent, piratical ruffian he expected to see, but a quiet, stout man of herculean proportions, who bowed politely and said, "Welcome on board the Leonora, sir. Have you come to seize my ship and myself? Well now, don't apologise, but sit down a while until my steward brings you a glass of wine, and then I'll go and see what all this is about." This officer afterwards told Hamilton that he was so struck with Bully's cool effrontery, and his equally genial smile, that he did sit down and take a drink, and then Hayes accompanied him to the corvette. As the boat ran alongside, the officers and bluejackets not on duty thronged the side to see the famous pirate, who walked calmly to the quarter-deck, and, singling out the captain (Maude, I believe, was his name), said, "How do you do, sir? I am happy to see my country's flag again in these seas; but what the hell do you mean, sir, by putting an armed crew on my deck? By God, sir, if you don't give me good reasons I'll make you repent it." The corvette captain stood quite unmoved, although there was a suppressed titter heard amongst his officers.
"I pardon you your offensive language, Captain Hayes, as I daresay you feel excited. If you will come below I will show you good authority for my action. I have orders to arrest you and investigate serious charges against you. I trust, however, that you will be able to clear yourself."
The quiet, gentlemanly manner of the naval officer acted like a charm upon Hayes. The fierce glitter in his bright blue eyes died out, and bowing to the corvette captain he turned to the group of officers, and in a bluff sincere manner, said: "Gentlemen, I apologise to your captain and to you for my insulting manner. I see that I have acted in an unbecoming way; but I am a hasty man, yet quick to make amends when I am in the wrong."
The officers returned his salute, and then Bully went below and listened with an unmoved face to the warrant for his arrest. He was allowed to write a letter to the shore, and given the liberty of the ship whilst the captain of the Narrangesett was preparing for the trial. A notification was sent to the three Consuls of his seizure, and asking them to attend and verify the charges made to them by various persons against Hayes. None but the German Consul responded, and his witnesses (traders whose stations had been cleaned out by Hayes) utterly broke down. One look at those steady, steel-blue eyes was enough for them. They knew what was in store for them if any of them ever crossed Bully's path again, and slunk away to their German protectors. After two hours' investigation, the captain broke up the court, and formally told those present that he would announce his decision in writing.
Two hours afterwards the commander of the Narrangansett wrote a brief note to the Consuls, stating that he would not—from the unreliable and contradictory evidence—be justified in taking Hayes to the United States, and added some severe remarks about the skulking and terrified manner of the witnesses.
Then Hayes was told he was a free man, and straightway the prisoner became the guest, and Bully made a neat little speech.
"Gentlemen, I thank you for your kindness and courtesy to me. You have done me a good service. If I went to the States now and told how I had been seized by a tyrannical American officer, it would make me a rich man. I could run for President. I could get in, too. I could paint you all as a crew of piratical ruffians disgracing the uniform of the greatest country in the world, and the papers would back me up. They would make me President of a big bank, and the Secretary of the Navy would keep the Narrangansett at sea for another two years—to save you from getting lynched by an indignant nation. But I am just going to be good and generous and remain in obscurity; and to-morrow night I shall be proud and happy if you will honour me by coming to my house and see the pirate in his lair."
In the afternoon Bully "dressed ship" and gave his crew liberty. They went into Matafele, the German quarter of Apia, and made a hideous disturbance; the Narrangansett sailors joined in, and, only for some officers being present, the German residents would have had a bad night of it. Hayes's crew were all gloriously drunk, so were some of the Narrangansett men, and a lot of flash Samoan manaia, i.e., "bucks," lent a hand in the proceedings; for even in those days the Germans were as much hated by the natives as they are at the present time.
Before detailing my own experiences of the lamented "Bully," I must mention some other incidents in his career which will give a fair illustration of the notoriety he had acquired, and of his keen sense of humour. Long before these two gentlemen (Bully Hayes and Ben Peese) had commenced to exploit the Ellice, Gilbert, Kingsmill, Marshall and Caroline Groups, Bully, then owner of a small, fast-sailing schooner, had made unto himself a name—particularly as a connoisseur of Island beauty—among the Marquesas, Society, Hervey and Paumotu Groups, from Nuka-hiva to Rapa-nui (Easter Island), that ethnographical mystery of the Southern Seas, whose gentle and amiable people, thirty years ago, met with so dreadful a fate at the murderous hands of the Peruvian slavers.
Soon after the slavers had gone from the South Seas a story was current in Eastern Polynesia that Bully had landed armed boats' crews at Aana, in the Paumotu Archipelago, and seized a number of girls whom he sold to Chilian and Peruvian buyers. But, as a matter of fact, Hayes never sold a native girl, though he was always willing to barter for a new charmer any member of his harem who had palled upon his fastidious tastes. And if the other man in these little matters evinced the slightest want of trade-reciprocity, he generally regretted it, for he would lose the household chattel, and getting nothing for her, save perhaps lumps and excoriations, or perhaps a sarcastic note informing him that the writer could not afford to waste time haggling over so trifling a matter as the price of a native Venus.
While two of the fleet of Peruvian slavers appeared among the Ellice Group, the other two remained to "work" Easter Island, the which they did successfully, carrying away all the able-bodied men and comely women they could seize (three hundred), to die miserably in guano-pits of the Chincha Islands. The vessels which "worked" the Ellice Group were a barque and a brig. The brig was commanded by a big Irishman, and simply because he was a big man and spoke in English to the natives, it was reported in the Hawaiian missionary press that the slaver captain was Bully. The natives of Nukulaelae, an island which suffered severely from the slavers' visit, always maintained for long afterward that it was Hayes (whom they had never actually seen), because the ihi vaka (captain) was a tall, bearded man, who kept knocking his sailors down every minute if they were not quick in their movements; and this was the commonly accepted description of Bully and one of his habits.
But at the time the two Peruvians were cruising through the Ellices, Bully was exploiting the Paumotu Archipelago, and arousing the anger of the French authorities, by his irregular business methods. For instance, he would "buy" pearl-shell from the traders and kick them over the side if they had the audacity to ask for payment. In accordance with his custom, Bully, on this cruise, devoted a good deal of time to studying the soft-eyed Paumotuan vahine; and after filling his schooner with a fair amount of plunder, he did, it is stated, take away some ten or fourteen young Paumotu women—not to Chili or Peru, but merely on an extended and indefinite pleasure trip. Most of these young ladies were desirous of getting to Tahiti, where they believed their charms would be better appreciated than in their own island homes. In his characteristic way Il capitano galantuomo offered them free passages. Passing through the Society Group and not entering Papeite Harbour (possibly on account of his strained relations with the French naval authorities) he made his way to the Marquesas. Here some four or five of his lady passengers elected to remain with newly-found lovers, either white or native; and Bully always blessed the union of two happy hearts by recording the affair in his humorously-kept log and giving a spree. If the bridegroom was a white man, Bully would also "buy" his oil, fungus and cotton, make him very drunk, place his laughing and blushing bride in his arms, and then, in his absent-minded way, see him over the side into his boat and sail away without paying. Bully used to say that his defective memory was the cause of all the malignant slanders set afloat about him. And, as regarded women, he used to remark he also suffered from the curious complaint of "moral astigmatism." The rest of the girls reached home somehow, after undergoing a pleasant and varied experience, each being the happy possessor of one of his peculiar and characteristically written testimonials.
It was Bully's humour to give these precious documents to the time-expired members of his harem, in the same manner as an English mistress would give a certificate of character and efficiency to a departing maid. Some of these papers are still extant in Tahiti and Mangareva. Many years ago when buying turtle at the little island of Rurutu, I saw one pasted on a doorpost in a native house. In the Western Carolines and the Pelew Group, when whale ships were plentiful and prosperous, the native girls preserved these "characters" by gumming the paper (often upside down) on a piece of pandanus leaf bordered with devices in bead-work. When a fresh ship arrived, the damsels would bind these around their pretty little foreheads after the manner of phylacteries—and they were always read with deep interest by the blubber-hunting skippers and mates and the after-guard generally. Bully's "characters" ran somewhat in this wise:—
TO ALL WHOM IT MAY CONCERN.
I, William H. Hayes, hereby certify that the bearer of this, Marutahina of Vahitahi, was with me for four or five months, and I can confidently say that I can recommend her to any one in need of an active young wife, general help, or to do chores. She is a very good girl, and the sole support of her mother—an old thief with a tattooed back who lives on Beka Beka.
About 1871, the newspapers on the Pacific slope had a good deal to say of Bully's doings. The Daily Alta of San Francisco used to speak of him as a venturesome and high-spirited American gentleman, upholding the honour of his flag in the South Seas by disregarding the hateful tyranny of petty British Consuls; while the San Francisco Bulletin called him a vile and brutal miscreant who should be hanged on the same gallows with Alabama Sommes and Shenandoah Wardell. (Apropos of the latter gentleman, it is interesting to remember that the Melbourne (Victoria) Club gave a ball at which the adoring women cut off as souvenirs the uniform buttons of the gallant pirate and his officers.) The spitfire Chronicle "claimed" that Captain William Henry Hayes was one of Nature's gentlemen, and "was certainly not the cause of a terrible affliction that had befallen the editor of a certain esteemed morning contemporary." (The wife of the editor referred to had eloped with some one.)
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During a trading cruise in the Gambier Islands, the captain of our ship saw some young girls whom Hayes had bought from the King of Aana (one of the Chain Islands). They were very young, very scantily dressed, and without doubt very beautiful. They were always chaperoned, day and night, by two old women. One of these ancient dames named Tuna (the Eel) told our captain that, by and by, the "big captain" would come and take them. Tuna had quite a fund of anecdotes about Bully, whom she regarded as immeasurably superior to any white man she had ever seen. When she was a young and giddy girl of sixteen, she had been much admired, so she said, by Lord John—and the officers of His Majesty's ship ————. Bully Hayes, she believed, was Lord John's spirit returned in another and much stronger body and better shape; and just as she had fallen in love with the man-of-war captain, so had all the Aana girls with his latter-day double.
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At this time, the only white man on the island was a young American lad of about nineteen, and Tuna, and her long-haired, dark-eyed "boarding-school" came to his house, where they sat on an upturned canoe and drank stone-gin (Tuna took hers neat) while teaching him to pronounce properly the Paumotu language. Heavens! what eyes those girls possessed! Like stars they glowed with slumbering liquid fire—the fire of a quick-blooded and passionate race. Any one of these five island girls, our chief mate used to say, would have utterly demoralised even a Trappist monastery, had the holy brothers seen her face peeping in during their devotions. This island, Nukutavake, had but few inhabitants, most of whom had been brought there by Hayes, who, they said, would come again in a year or so, and take them back to Aana and Maga-Beva. They were all political offenders, and to escape death they besought Bully to take them to Nukutavake until "the wrath of the chiefs was dead." Bully, who had an idea that there was a lot of pearl-shell on Nukutavake, gave them all a passage, and also the two old women and the girls before mentioned. One of the latter, Talalua, told the young trader that Kapeni Hesi (Hayes) would have taken her with him but the ship was too small, and he had no more room, and there were two girls from Huaheine—"dogs with much gold in their ears "—with him, who threatened to give her to the sharks if she came aboard. During our stay at this island a schooner from Tahiti came to an anchor, and we learnt from the young American that he was to be removed to another island called Vairaatea. He sailed the following morning, and his departure was marked by the tearful farewells of Bully's beauties and old Tuna, who embraced him and rubbed noses, and wept gin-odorous tears of unalloyed gratitude when he gave her three bottles of liquor. To each of Hayes's nymphs he also presented a piece of book muslin (twelve yards each) and a bottle of musk valued at 2 dollars a bottle. Talalua and Marami each gave him some splendid pieces of hawk-bill shell, and the others contributed among them a silver ring. Poor girls! they had no more to give—a grass titi round their shapely loins and a few silver or gold rings, and ear pendants, being all their worldly wealth and clothing combined. Our young friend was solemnly cautioned never to let Kapeni Hesi know about the turtle-shell and other gifts, or his anger would "eat them up."
On hearing of this farewell testimonial business, the skipper of the schooner that was taking the young fellow away became greatly excited—Hayes, he said, would put his own construction on the gifts. To this, in his youthful innocence, the youth replied that he didn't care, as it was his business to make a present if he chose; whereupon the skipper, a jolly old sea-dog named Tom English, told him that that was all very well, but that he (English) would be looked upon as an accessory, and Hayes would make him suffer for it when they met again.
"Accessory to what?" said the wondering youth.
"D—— your thick skull, you young ass, why, accessory to makin' love to his girls."
This amused us immensely, but as the lad saw that English was serious, and was equally determined not to take the presents back, he wrote a note as follows and showed it to the old fellow, who said it might possibly pass with Bully:—
Below this he added:—
Dear ——— The above-mentioned I have supplied as per bill. I will feel obliged if you will pay the 120.00 to any of our firm's vessels on my account, I hope that, as I have not charged you native prices, you will pay me soon,
He then handed the bill to old Tuna, and told her that she must give it to the captain when he reached Nukutavake. When he did meet Bully a long time afterwards in Samoa, Hayes paid up like a man. But long before this old Tuna had given the trader's bill and letter to Hayes. Two years later the young trader found awaiting him at the American Consulate at Tahiti, the following letter:—
Dear Sir,—I received your note and bill for supplying some of my household with some rotten cheese-cloth out of your store, which you have the infernal impertinence to call muslin; also, five bottles of stinking bilge-water, labelled musk. I don't know who you are, but you can tell your employers from me, that I will see them roasted before I will give my good money for their filthy and disgusting Sydney trade goods, and when I drop across you, you will get a head put on you that will teach you not to again presume to interfere in my domestic affairs.
Yours very sincerely,
Wm. Henry Hayes.
Three or four years passed by, during which time the writer cruised about from island to island in the North and South Pacific—sometimes living ashore as a trader, sometimes voyaging to and fro among the many groups as supercargo or recruiter in the labour trader; and then one day the schooner, in which I then served as supercargo, reached Samoa, and there I accepted the dignified but unsatisfactory financial position of inter-island supercargo to a firm of merchants doing business in Apia, the distracted little capital of the Navigator's Island. At this time, the late Earl of Pembroke, the joint author with Dr. Kingsley of "South Sea Bubbles," was in Apia Harbour in his schooner yacht Albatross, and every day we expected to see the French Pacific Squadron steam into the port and capture the numerous German ships then laying at anchor there. But the gallant Admiral Clouet, who commanded, disdained such work as this—he was willing and eager to fight any German warships that he could come across, but had no inclination for the inglorious task of seizing unarmed merchantmen.
For two years or so I remained in the employ of the trading firm. Hayes then lived in Apia—or rather at Matautu, on the east side of Apia Harbour. When I say lived there, I mean that Samoa was his headquarters, for he was absent six months out of the twelve, cruising away in the North West Pacific among the Caroline and Marshall Groups. His house at Matautu Point was sweetly embowered in a grove of coco-nut and breadfruit trees, and here the so-called pirate exercised the most unbounded hospitality to the residents and to any captains (not Germans) visiting Samoa. Sometimes we would meet, and whenever we did he would urge me to come away with him on a cruise to the north-west; but duty tied me down to my own miserable little craft, a wretched little ketch of sixty tons register, that leaked like a basket and swarmed with myriads of cockroaches and quite a respectable number of centipedes and scorpions.
But it so came about that that cruise with Bully Hayes was to eventuate after all; for one day he returned to Samoa from one of his periodical cruises and told the owners of the aforesaid basket that he could sell her for them to the King of Arhnu—one of the Marshall Islands—for quite a nice sum. And the owners, being properly anxious to get rid of such a dangerous and unprofitable craft before she fell to pieces, at once consented.
Hayes sailed in the Leonora in the month of November, and it was agreed that I was to follow in The Williams (that being the name of my semi-floating abode of misery) in the following month, and meet him at Milli Lagoon, in the Marshall Islands. Here we were to doctor up the wretched little vessel as well as we possibly could, and then send her over to the Island of Arhnu in the same group, and defraud the monarch of that place of L1,000 by handing over the vessel to him.
Of the miseries and hardships of that voyage from Samoa to the Marshall Islands, I shall not speak. After a passage of forty-three days we reached Milli Lagoon, where we found Hayes awaiting us in the Leonora. The moment our anchor had touched bottom, I packed up my traps and told Hayes I had done with The Williams, and refused to go any further in her unless she was carried on the deck of another vessel. With his carpenter—a pig-eyed Chinaman—he made a survey of the vessel, and then told me that she was so rotten and unseaworthy that he would not take delivery of her. The captain, a gin-sodden little Dutchman, and the crew were given quarters on shore at the house of Hayes's local trader, where they were to remain till some passing ship gave them a passage back to Samoa. The ketch was then beached, as Hayes considered that she might eventually be patched up sufficiently to sell to the King of Arhnu, when the Leonora returned from her cruise to the islands of the North-west Pacific, in six months' time. As I had received no salary from my employers for nearly twelve months (and did not expect any), I consented very cheerfully to this arrangement, and then agreed to sail with Hayes as supercargo.
We sailed from Milli Lagoon for the Kingsmill Group a week later, and visited nearly every island in the cluster, buying coco-nut oil and other produce from the natives and the few scattered white traders. At Arorai, the southernmost island of the group, we found the natives in a state of famine owing to a long and disastrous drought. The condition of these poor people was truly pitiable to see, and the tears came to my eyes when I saw them, scarcely able to stand, crawling over our bulwarks, and eagerly seizing the biscuits and dishes of boiled rice that Hayes gave them with an unstinting hand. They begged us most piteously to take them away somewhere—they cared not where, Samoa, Fiji or Queensland—where they could work on the plantations and at least get food. Five of them ate so voraciously, despite all our endeavours to prevent it, that they died the following day. On the following morning, Hayes called several of the head men of the island into his cabin, and told them that if they were willing, he would take one hundred of the people—men, women, and children—to the German trading station and plantation at Ponape in the Caroline Islands. Here, he told them, they would have to work for three years for 5 dollars per month each. If, at the end of six months, they found that the Germans did not treat them well, he would bring them back again to their own island on his next voyage to Ponape. They accepted his offer with the strongest protestations of gratitude, and before noon we sailed with over a hundred of the poor people on board. Before we left, however, Hayes gave the remainder of the population nearly a ton of rice and several casks of biscuits. "You can pay me when the sky of brass has broken and the rain falls, and the land is fertile once more," said the so-called pirate.
We made a quick passage to the Caroline Islands, touching at Kusaie or Strong's Island on our way, and on a Sunday evening swept into Jakoits Harbour on the island of Ponape before a strong trade-wind. Here we made engagements for our passengers with a German planter, and two days later we again were at sea, bound for the western portion of the Carolines.
For the following three or four months, the brig cruised among the other islands of the Western Carolines, buying copra and turtle-shell in considerable quantities; for the much-maligned "Bully," despite his moral obliquity of vision in his commercial dealings with the merchants of Tahiti and other Polynesian ports, yet possessed the confidence of the wild Caroline Islanders to a remarkable degree. Then we returned to Ponape, where we remained a month, wooding and watering and cleaning the ship's bottom by the aid of native divers of both sexes.
Leaving Ponape we drifted rather than sailed back to the eastward, and one morning in March we again saw the verdant heights of beautiful Kusaie or Strong's Island, about ten miles away. On our first visit we had anchored at Coquille Harbour, a lovely lake of deepest blue, on the lee side of the island, where the king had supplied us with all the provisions we wanted; and Hayes had promised to return again in six months and buy a large quantity of coco-nut oil that his Majesty was keeping for him: and in pursuance of that promise the Leonora had now returned to the island.
As the breeze freshened we worked up to Lele, the principal harbour of the island, where Togusa, the king, resided, and in a few hours we were boarded by a number of white men, whom we had last seen at two lonely spots near the equator called Pleasant and Ocean Islands. In a few minutes we learnt that in consequence of their lives being in imminent danger from the natives, they, accompanied by their native wives, families, and over one hundred natives connected with them by marriage, had escaped from the islands in two whaleships, and landed at Kusaie, where they were at that moment causing old King Togusa a terrible amount of trouble by their wild and insolent demeanour. Their leader was a white-haired old ex-man-of-war's man, named Harry Terry. He was the doyen of the hardy, adventurous class among whom he had lived for over fifty years, and though exceedingly fond of square gin, was a thoroughly decent old fellow, and tried to restrain his own and his comrades' native followers as much as possible. Harry, when he came on board, was accompanied by about half a dozen other white men, all armed with revolvers, and all half-seas over. After a brief consultation with Hayes, they agreed to pay him a thousand dollars to take them and their belongings to Eniwetok (or Brown's Range) and Arrecifos (Providence Island) two large atolls situated about 10 degrees North. Both of these places were very thinly populated, and Arrecifos was Hayes's secret rendezvous in the North Pacific. His was the first ship that had ever sailed into its lagoon, and the vast groves of coco-nuts that clothed the low-lying island had decided him to return there at some future time with native labourers and turn the coco-nuts into oil. The traders were highly delighted at the prospect of securing homes in two such places to themselves, and agreed to sell Hayes all the oil they produced during the next five years, and give him one barrel out of every five as a tribute of recognition of his ownership of Providence Island and Eniwetok.
On the following day the whole lot came on board, and we left Lele Harbour to proceed down the coast to a little harbour named Utwe, where Hayes intended to water the ship and buy fresh provisions for the voyage to Providence Island. Just before we sailed, the King and Queen—the latter a very pretty and charming little woman about five-and-twenty years of age—came on board to make some purchases from my trade-room, and I had the distinguished honour of fitting on and selling to Queen Se a yellow silk blouse and two pairs of patent leather shoes. His Majesty, who was a curious combination of piety and inborn wickedness, and spoke whaler's English with great facility, bought about 200 dollar's worth of prints and cutlery, and then proceeded to get drunk. He said that he was very glad the Leonora was taking all the white men away from Kusaie, as he was afraid of their Pleasant Island retinue killing him and all his people, and taking possession of the island.
By the time Queen Se had finished and paid for her purchases her royal husband fell in a heap upon the cabin floor, and a number of twenty-dollar gold pieces, which he carried in a leather pouch at his waist, fell out and rolled all over the cabin. The Queen at once picked them up, and concealed them in the bosom of her dress, telling me with a smile that she would come on board again when we returned from Arrecifos, or as she called it, Ujilong, and spend them. Shortly afterward, her women attendants carried his Majesty up on deck, and Hayes sent him ashore in one of our boats; and then, with our decks filled with the noisy, excitable Pleasant and Ocean Islanders, and the white traders rolling about among them in a state of noisy intoxication, we got under way, and, with our yards squared, ran down the coast within a cable length of the reef.
Three days later we were driven ashore in a fierce north-westerly gale and the trim little Leonora sank in Utwe Harbour in fourteen fathoms of water.
The story of the wreck of the Leonora in Utwe Harbour has been told by the writer in another work, so I will now merely describe some incidents of our stay on the island. First of all, however, let me make some brief mention of the island and its people. Kusaie is about thirty-five miles in circumference and of basaltic formation, and from the coast to the lofty summit of Mount Buache, 2,200 feet high, is clothed with the richest verdure imaginable. The northern part of the island rises precipitously from the sea, and has no outlying barrier reef, but from the centre the land trends westward and southward in a graceful slope towards the beautiful shores of Coquille Harbour. The southern portion is enclosed by a chain of palm-clad coral islets, connected at low water by reefs, forming a long, deep lagoon, the waters of which teem with fish and turtle. This lagoon was used as a means of communication between the village of Utwe Harbour, where the Leonora was wrecked, and the village at Coquille, and all day long one might see the red-painted canoes of the natives passing to and fro over its glassy waters, which were, from their enclosed position, seldom raffled by any wind, except daring the rainy or westerly wind season. There were but three villages of any size on the island—that at Lele, where the King and his principal chiefs lived, Utwe or Port Lottin, and Mout or Leasee, on the shores of Coquille Harbour. At this latter place I lived most of the time during my stay on the island.
We were enabled to save a considerable amount of stores from the wreck, as well as some arms and ammunition. There were also a bull and two cows, which formed the remainder of a herd of cattle that Hayes had running on the island of Ponape; the rest—some forty head or so—had been stolen from there by his one-time bosom friend and colleague, the notorious Captain Ben Peese.
The natives of Strong's Island were but few in number—about four hundred all told—and although a very handsome race and possessed of the very greatest intelligence, were dying out rapidly. In 1825, when Duperrey, the French navigator, visited the island he estimated the population at eleven thousand, and Don Felipe Tompson, an Englishman in the Spanish Navy, who was there long before Duperrey, relates that the houses of the people formed an almost continuous line around the southern and western coasts. The introduction of European diseases made terrible ravages among them in 1828, and then about the year 1856, when the whole of the population were converted by American missionaries and adopted European clothing, pulmonary disease made its appearance and swept them away literally in hundreds.
Within a week after the loss of the brig Hayes and our passengers came to an agreement to build a town on the south shore of Utwe. They were to give Hayes the services of their native followers and help him to build dwelling-houses and store-houses for the manufacture of coco-nut oil. Hayes had accused—and with perfect truth—the Strong's Islanders of stealing a number of articles from the wreck, and demanded compensation from the King, who agreed to pay him an indemnity of a million coco-nuts. These were to be collected by our crew and the Ocean and Pleasant Islanders belonging to the traders. It was Hayes's intention to remain on the island till a passing sperm-whaler called there, and then charter her to take the ship's company and all the rest of the traders and natives to either Providence Island or Samoa.
In a month quite a town had been built, and a great sea wall of coral stones built to keep the sea from encroaching on the northern side. Standing apart from the rest of the houses was Captain Hayes's dwelling-house—an enormous structure, a hundred and fifty feet long and fifty wide. Here he ruled in state, and from his door watched his boats, manned by their savage crews, pulling to and fro on their mission of collecting coco-nuts. These, as soon as the boats touched the stone wharf he had built on the west side of the sea-wall, were carried up to the "Plaza" of the town, where they were quickly husked by women, who threw them to others to break open and scrape the white flesh into a pulp. This was then placed in slanting troughs to rot and let the oil percolate down into casks placed at the lower end. On the other side of the "plaza" were the forge, carpenter's shop, and boat-builder's sheds, all of which bustled with activity, especially when the dreaded eye of the captain looked over toward them. Two hundred yards away was the Kusaiean village of Utwe, a collection of about twenty handsomely built houses, and all day long the pale olive-faced Kusaiean men and women would sit gazing in wondering fear at the fierce Pleasant Island women, who, clothed in short girdles of grass called "aireere," sang a savage chant as they husked the nuts. In front of Hayes's house was hung the Leonora's bell, and at noon and at six in the evening, when it was struck, the whole of the people who toiled at the oil-making and boat-building would hurry away with loud clamour for their meals. It was a truly exciting scene to witness, and were it not for the continual drunkenness of most of the white traders, who could be seen staggering about the "plaza" almost at any time, a pleasant one.
After a while, however, Hayes and the white traders began to quarrel, and dreadful bloodshed would have followed; for the Pleasant Islanders, who were all devotedly attached to their white masters and were all armed with Snider rifles and cutlasses, were eager for their white men to make an assault upon Hayes and the crew of the Leonora. One night they gathered in front of their houses and danced a war-dance, but their white leaders discreetly kept in the background when Hayes appeared coming over toward them. He walked through the throng of natives, and in a very few minutes, although he was unarmed, picked out the biggest man of the lot and gave him a bad mauling about in the presence of every one in the village. One of the traders, a young American of thirty or so, named "Harry," at once declared that he was not going back on the captain, and would stand by him to the last, whereupon the others sullenly withdrew to their respective houses, and the trouble ended for the time.
This "Harry" was formerly a boat steerer on an American whaleship, from which he had deserted, and had been living on Pleasant Island for some years. He had four wives, whom he described as "the three Graces, with another chucked in," and though a rough, dare-devil fellow, he was, with the exception of old Harry Terry, the only one of the lot that was not a hopeless drunkard and ruffian. By one of his wives, a native of Sikaiana or Stewart's Island, he had two children, both girls. They were then about eight and ten years of age respectively, and were, I often thought, the loveliest specimens of childish beauty imaginable, and at the moment when their father stepped out from among the other traders and declared his intention of standing by Captain Hayes, each had a heavy navy revolver which their father had given them to carry in case he needed the weapons.
In the course of a month or so I had a serious disagreement with Captain Hayes over his treatment of a deputation of Strong's Islanders, and I left the settlement at Utwe, and removed to Leasse, the village at Coquille Harbour. The principal man in the place was a native named Kusis, with whom, and his wife Tulpe and daughter Kinie, I lived during the remainder of my stay on the island. And, although more than twenty-five years have passed and gone since then, I can never forget the kindness, warm-hearted hospitality, and amiability that filled their simple hearts to overflowing.
When Hayes and I quarrelled, the American trader, "Harry," who had hitherto stood by "Bully" sided with me, with the result that Hayes passionately declared that both of us were at the bottom of a conspiracy to lower his prestige and lessen his authority, not only with the other white men but with the natives as well. This was an utterly unfounded accusation, for we liked the man, but did not like the way in which he had treated the deputation of Strong's Islanders, who protested against his permitting the continual abduction of young Kusaiean girls by members of his crew.
I had brought the deputation to him, for Harry and myself were persona grata with the natives, who all knew that Hayes had a great liking for us. But to my astonishment and indignation, "Bully" turned on me furiously, called me a meddlesome young fool, prefixing the "fool" with some very strong adjectives, and then, losing all control of himself, he sprang at one of the members of the deputation—the youngest and strongest—and lifting him up in his arms, literally forced the unfortunate young man out of the house—not by the door, but through the side, tearing a hole in the thin lattice woodwork big enough to admit a bollock. The remainder of the deputation at once retired, and, as I have mentioned in the previous chapter, "Bully" and myself parted, each deeply incensed.
Harry, who had a large following of wild, intractable Pleasant Islanders, all of whom were armed with Snider rifles, moved over to the opposite shore of Utwe Harbour with "the three Graces and the fourth chucked in," promising to come and see me at Leasse after he had "settled down a bit."
My reason for removing to Leasse was that I knew the place very well through frequent visits there, and Eusis, the head man or chief, had constantly pressed me to come there and live; so a few hours after my quarrel with Hayes I made a start, accompanied by two Strong's Islanders named Sru and Nana, both of whom came from Leasse, and were delighted that I was leaving Utwe to come to their own village.
They assured me that I was doing wisely in leaving the captain, that the people of Leasse would gladly receive me, and that I would find great pig-hunting and pigeon-shooting among the dense forests that lay at the back of the village.
Our way lay over the waters of a deep but winding lagoon, which from Utwe to Coquille Harbour is bounded on the ocean side by a chain of narrow, thickly wooded, and fertile islets, the haunt of myriads of sea-birds and giant robber crabs. This chain of islets lay on our left hand; on our right the steep, forest-clad mountains of Strong's Island rose abruptly from the still waters of the lagoon. The lagoon itself averaged about a mile in width, and here and there, dotted upon its placid, glassy surface, were tiny isolated islets of perhaps not more than an acre in extent, but covered with a dense mass of the loveliest verdure imaginable, from the centre of which rose a group of half a dozen or so of stately coco-nut palms. Each islet was encircled by a snow-white beach, descending abruptly to the water, the great depth of which enabled us to paddle within a foot or so of the shore.
We had left Utwe just after daylight, and though the trade-wind was blowing freshly outside and we could hear the thunder of the ocean rollers pounding on the outside reef beyond the encircling chain of islets half a mile away, scarcely the faintest breath of air disturbed the blue depths of the lagoon. The canoe was light and our three paddles sent her over the waters at a great rate. My two companions were both young men, and, unlike most of the people of Strong's Island, who are a reserved and melancholy race, they laughed and sang merrily to the strokes of their red-stained paddles.
Here and there, as we skimmed along the shore of the forest-clad mountains of the mainland, we would pass a village of six or seven houses, and the small-made, light-complexioned folk would, as they heard the sound of our voices, come out and eagerly beseech us to come in "and eat and rest awhile."
But pleased as I would have been to have landed and accepted their hospitality—for I was known to every native on the island—my crew urged me not to delay so early on our journey. Sometimes, however, these kindly-hearted people would not be denied, and boys and girls would run parallel to our canoe along the beach and implore Sru and Nana and the "white man" to stay "just a little, just a very, very little time, and tell them the news from Utwe."
And then, as we rested on our paddles and talked, under pretence of getting closer to us they would dash into the water and seizing the gunwales of the canoe laughingly insist upon our coming ashore and entering their cool houses, and indeed it was hard to resist their blandishments. Then, once we were inside, they would tell us that they would not let us go till we had eaten and drunk a little.
A little! Basket after basket of cooked fish, crayfish, pigeons, baked pork, bunches of bananas and kits of oranges and heaps of luscious pineapples would be placed before us, and they seemed absolutely pained at my inability to eat more than a few mouthfuls. All the men at these isolated villages were away at Leasse or elsewhere in the vicinity of Coquille Harbour, and the women and young girls pretended to be very much frightened at being left by themselves for a couple of days. They were afraid, they said, that Captain Hayes's wild Pleasant Island natives might come up the lagoon and harry their villages—wouldn't we stay with them till their husbands and brothers came back?
Now, we knew all this was nonsense. There was no fear of the Pleasant Islanders' boats coming up the lagoon to these little villages when there was richer prey nearer at hand, so we only laughed. Many of the young boys and girls were of great personal beauty, and, indeed, so were many of the young unmarried women, but their light skins were stained and disfigured by the application of turmeric. At one of these places our pretty tormentors played us a trick. While we were in a house and having kava prepared in the Micronesian fashion, by pounding the green root into a hollowed stone, the girls carried our canoe up bodily from the beach and hid it in a clump of breadfruit trees about two hundred yards away. When we bade goodbye to the elder women, who had given us the kava, and walked down to the beach the canoe was gone.
"Here, you girls," said Nana, "where is our canoe? Don't play these foolish tricks; the white man must get to Leasse before darkness sets in."
But the imps only laughed at us, and for some minutes we had a great game with them, chasing them about. At last we tired of this, and, lighting our pipes, sat down to smoke under a great banyan, whose branches reached far out over the white beaches. One of the children, a merry-eyed girl of ten, with long hair that almost touched her knees, was a bit of a humorist, and told us that we might as well stay for the night, as the canoe was gone for ever.
"Where to?" we asked.
"Up there," she answered, with the gravest countenance imaginable, pointing skyward. "A big kanapu (fish eagle) was soaring overhead, and suddenly swooped down and seized it in his claws and flew away into the blue with it."
At last, however, they came back, carrying the canoe among them, and with much laughter dropped it into the water. Then they filled it with as many young drinking coco-nuts and as much fruit as we could stow, and bade us farewell, running along the beach with us till a high, steep bluff shut them off from following us any further.
By and by, as we paddled along, the sun began to get pretty hot, and we kept in as close as possible under the shade of the steep shores of the mainland. Overhead was a sky of matchless, cloudless blue, and sailing to and fro on motionless wing were numbers of tropic birds, their long scarlet retrices showing in startling contrast to their snow-white body plumage. All round about us turtle would rise every now and then, and taking a look at us, sink out of sight again. From the dense mountain forest, that earlier in the morning had resounded with the heavy booming note of the great grey pigeons and the cooing note of the little purple doves, not a sound now came forth, for the birds were roosting in the shade from the heat of the sun. Half a mile or so away, through a break in the chain of low islets, we could see the tumbling blue of the ocean, and over the tree-tops the white spume of the breakers as they leapt upon the iron-bound coast.
We made fast our canoe to a jutting point of rock and rested awhile and smoked. The tide was on the flow, and as the water came swirling and eddying in from the great passage in the reef five miles away, there came with it countless thousands of fish of the mullet species, seeking their food among the mangrove creeks and flats that lay behind us. They did not swim in an orderly, methodical fashion, but leapt and spun and danced about as if thrown up out of the water by some invisible power beneath. Sometimes they would rise simultaneously, thousands at a time, and, taking a leap, descend again with an extraordinary noise. Then, quick as lightning, they would make three or four such leaps in succession with the regularity and precision of machinery. Hovering and fluttering above them on tireless wing were numbers of sea-birds, which ever and again darted down amongst them and rose with hoarse, triumphant note, prey in mouth.
We lay resting quietly till the incoming tide had spent its strength, and then once more pushed out into the transparent depths of the lagoon. Bight ahead of us, after another hour's paddling, lay a long, gleaming point of sand covered with a grove of palms; beyond that a wide sweep of pale green shallow water; beyond that again the wild tumble and fret of the surf on the barrier reef.
Laying down our paddles—for we were now in shallow water—we took up our three long canoe poles, and striking them on the hard, sandy bottom in unison we sent the canoe spinning round to the point, and as we rounded it there lay before us the brown roofs of the village of Leasse nestling under the shade of its groves. This was, as I have said, to be my home for many long but happy months.
The moment we came in sight of the village, Nana, the native who was for'ard, stood up and gave a loud cry, which was immediately answered by some invisible person near us; and then the cry was taken up by some one else nearer the village. In a few minutes we saw the people coming out of their queer-looking, saddle-backed dwellings and running down to the beach, where, by the time we shot the canoe up on the sand, the whole population was gathered to welcome us.
Standing a little in front of the rest of the villagers was the head man, swarthy-faced, clean-shaved Kusis; beside him Tulpe, his wife, a graceful young woman of about five-and-twenty, and her husband's little daughter by a former wife. This child was named Kinie, a merry-faced, laughing-voiced sprite, ten years of age, with long, wavy, and somewhat unkempt hair hanging down over her shining copper-coloured shoulders.
Kusis spoke English well, and the moment I got out of the canoe he shook hands with me, his wife and daughter following suit, and said he was glad that I had left the settlement at Utwe; that King Togusa and Queen Se had sent him word that I intended leaving the other white men, and that if I came to Leasse or any other Tillage on the lee side of the island I was to be well cared for; "but," he added, "you an' me will talk 'bout this by and by. Come first to my house, and eat and smoke."
Here an old man, renowned as a great wild boar hunter, thrust himself through the surrounding crowd, and asked my name. His keen, wrinkled visage was all but enshrouded by a mass of snowy-white hair that made him present a very curious appearance—much like that of a Poland fowl. He shook hands with me vigorously, and then made a speech to the others, pointing his finger alternately at myself and then to his own breast. Knowing but little of the difficult Strong's Island language, I was at first under the impression that the old man was not pleased at the advent of a white man; but I was soon pleasantly undeceived, for at the conclusion of his speech every man, woman, and child came up in turn and solemnly shook hands with me.
Motioning to Sru and Nana—my crew—to hand my few little effects, which consisted of clothing, tobacco, and a Winchester rifle and ammunition, out of the canoe, the whole party of us started off for Kusis's house, the old pig-hunter proudly carrying the Winchester in advance, and Kusis and his wife each holding one of my hands.
Not one of them now spoke a word, and only that it would have given serious offence, the temptation to laugh at being led about like a child was very great. In another minute or two we reached the head man's house, a handsome, well-built structure of coral stone, with a thatched roof and cane-work floor raised some two feet or so off the ground. Here all the males in the company sat down to eat, while the women waited upon them.
In the whole village there were but a hundred people, and, with the exception of two or three young men who were away turtle-catching, they were now all present. After we had finished eating, Kusis repeated the King's message to me, and wanted to know what I intended to do—to live at Leasse, or "go and look at the other places along the coast, and see if there was a better place than Leasse?"
Leasse, I said, should be my home. I knew him and some others besides in Leasse, and liked the place and the people, etcetera. They appeared very pleased at this, and Eusis at once desired me to point out the spot whereon my house was to be built—meanwhile I was to live with him till it was completed. I chose a site about thirty yards away from where we stood; and then, to show that no time would be lost, Eusis at once sent five or six men into the bush to cut posts, and ordered all the women and girls to begin making the thatch for the roof and cutting cane for the walls and floor.
I must ask my readers to bear in mind that the friendship of these people for an almost unknown white man was inspired by no unworthy motive. Kusis and his people, as well as the King and Queen, knew that when the brig was lost I had saved nothing whatever from the wreck. Such little clothing as I had with me had been given to me by the young American trader before mentioned, and old Harry Terry had given me half a small tierce of tobacco and the Winchester rifle and cartridges. And shortly after the wreck of the brig it had been my fortunate lot to prevent a number of Strong's Islanders from serious ill-treatment by some of my white companions, and for this their gratitude knew no bounds. I found that the old King, as soon as he heard that young Harry and myself had separated from the other white men, had sent messengers to every place on the island telling them to treat us well. He was, however, terribly afraid of Harry's Pleasant Island natives, and anxious that he should keep them under control and disarm them. I told Kusis that the King had no reason to fear any harm coming to his people from Harry's followers, who would be kept well in hand by their master, furthermore that I had heard Harry threaten to shoot dead the first man that either robbed or offered violence to any Strong's Islander. They seemed much pleased at this, and told me that in the old days they were afraid of no one, and were a great fighting people, but since their conversion to Christianity all the fight had gone out of them; and, indeed, I found them, although a generous and amiable race, very cowardly.
During the time my house was being built I made friends with every boy and girl in the village; they took an especial delight in taking me about shooting and fishing. At the rear of Leasse the forest-clad mountains rise in a gradual but magnificent sweep to a height of two thousand feet, and on the second day after my arrival we set out to try and shoot some wild pigs, with which the dense mountain jungle abounded. The only adult beside myself with the party was the old boar hunter Rii. He was armed with a very heavy wooden spear, with a keen steel head, shaped like a whaler's lance, whilst the rest of the party, who were composed of boys and girls ranging in years from ten to fifteen, carried lighter spears. Every girl had two or three mongrel curs held in a leash. These animals were, however, well trained in pig-hunting and never barked until the prey was either being run down or was brought to bay. Amongst the children were two half-castes—brother and sister. The boy was about twelve, the girl a couple of years older. I learnt that their father, who was dead, was an Englishman, a deserter from a man-of-war. He had married a girl at Coquille Harbour, and, after living on Strong's Island for a few years, had gone with his wife and children to the Western Carolines, where he was killed in an attack on a native fortress, and the woman and boy and girl had returned to their native land in a whaleship. The girl spoke English very well, and although she was naked to the waist when we first started out, a feeling of modesty made her return to the village and don a man's singlet. Old Rii, our leader, who could not speak a word of English, called the pair up to me, and, pointing to the boy, said "Te-o" (Joe), and to the girl, "Lit-si" (Lizzie). Although they were much lighter in colour than the rest of our company, I had no idea they had white blood in their veins till the girl said shyly, "This is my brother; my father belong to England." I afterwards found from her that she only knew her father as "Bob"—his surname was never known.
For the first mile or two we walked along the banks of a noisy mountain stream, which here and there formed into deep pools, with a bottom of bright blue stones. These pools contained many fish, as well as vast numbers of crayfish. One of the girls with us carried fishing-tackle, and in a few minutes some rods were cut, the hooks baited with small crayfish, and several fine fish landed. These were at once cooked, the fires being kindled on some large, flat basalt stones, which were lying scattered about on the bank. On inquiring how these stones came to be there, I was told by "Lizzie" that they were the remains of an old wall that once enclosed one of the ancient villages. Afterwards we came across many similar sites, which seemed to bear out the statements of Duperrey and other navigators, that Strong's Island was once inhabited by over twenty thousand people. At the present time the population does not reach five hundred. One of these places was situated on the summit of a spur of the great mountain range that traverses the island. The top of the mountain had been levelled as flat as a table, and a space of about an acre was covered with what appeared to be a floor of huge basaltic prisms, laid closely together. What the purpose of such gigantic labour was none of my companions had any idea, and on my inquiring from Lizzie how these stones, many of which weighed several tons, were carried to such an extraordinary height up such a steep ascent, she shook her head, and said, "You ask Rii. He is a very old man, and not a Christian, and knows all about the old times. But please don' ask me. The missionaries don' let us talk of the bad days (i.e., heathen times)." This put an end to all inquiry on my part, as old Rii could not speak a word of English, save a few vigorous expressions he had acquired from whale-ships and which he was very fond of using, and I was only just learning the Kusaie language.
As we travelled up along the sides of the mountain we saw numbers of large, fat pigeons. They seemed to feel no alarm whatever at our presence. Their note, which is very deep and resonant, filled the air with strange, weird echoes that reverberated amongst the silence of the mountain forest. On reaching a little plateau on the side of a spur, old Rii stopped, and beckoned to us to keep silence, at the same time sending all the boys below the plateau. Peering cautiously through the jungle, we saw, lying down on the moss-covered ground at the butt of a tree, a sow with her litter. We lay very quiet till the boys had formed a cordon at the lower edge of the plateau, so as to cut off escape in that direction, and then Rii whispered to me to shoot the sow in the belly, but not to hit any of her litter if I could help it, as we could easily take them alive with the dogs. Just as I was about to fire the old sow raised her head, and I fired at her shoulder. At the same moment our twenty curs were let go, and the sow, although the bullet had smashed her shoulder, at once tore down the plateau, followed by her progeny, but catching sight of the cordon of boys below, at once turned, and, injured as she was, made up towards the summit of the mountain with incredible speed. Then began the fan, the dogs yelping and howling, and the boys and girls screaming with excitement, as they plunged through the undergrowth and vines in pursuit. Nearly on the summit was a huge tree, with foliage like an Australian white cedar, and here was the old pig's lair, for the soil at its buttressed foot was scooped out into deep holes.
When we had succeeded in gaining the top the dogs were running round and round the tree, making the most horrible din imaginable, but not daring to venture into the hole where the old sow was. Suddenly we saw a huge black head, with two great curved tusks, protrude out of one of the dark recesses, and the next instant a great black boar burst out and charged at the dogs, followed by the wounded sow and five little black-and-yellow suckers. Old as he Was, Rii showed his prowess, for, calling out to the boys and girls to see that none of the young pigs got down the spur, he advanced spear in hand towards the boar, which, after his first charge, had backed up to the tree again, and now stood surrounded by dogs and frothing his savage jaws. Already he had two or three light spears sticking into his stomach and rump.
Followed by a couple of girls who carried baskets of wood ashes, old Rii got to within a dozen feet of the great brute, and, taking a basket of ashes, threw it at the boar. It struck him fair in the face, and the contents smothered his head and forequarters, blinding him for a second or two; and then, at the same moment, Rii sprang forward and plunged his heavy spear deep into the creature's bowels. But even then the boar was game, and, with a terrific snort of rage, made another charge, only to meet half a dozen spear-thrusts.
A bullet through his head soon finished him, and then began the chase after the young suckers, every one of which was caught. Small as they were, they fought and snapped and bit viciously, and acted generally like little fiends. As for the old sow, she was killed by the dogs; she was very poor and mangy, but the suckers were as round as balls.
Slinging the huge carcase of the boar from a stout pole, we returned to the village at nightfall. On the way down my two young half-caste friends told me that it is a habit peculiar to the wild sows of Strong's Island, when rearing their young, to flee to the lair of the boar when alarmed, and that sometimes the boar will kill every one of her young when harassed by dogs, and then, bursting through them, leave his partner to her fate.
Month after month passed away in the quiet little village of Leasse without the writer seeing anything of his former shipmates in the Leonora. Sometimes Hayes's boats would come to within a mile or so of the entrance to Coquille Harbour in their quests for coco-nuts, but, fortunately for the peace of the villagers, their crews never ventured so far as the village itself. Perhaps, indeed, they did not know where it was, for the high-peaked, saddle-backed houses were embowered in a thick grove of breadfruit and durian-trees about half a mile from the beach; and only the white curling smoke arising from the fires as the women cooked the morning and evening meals would have revealed its presence.
One peaceful, monotonously happy day followed another till at last, in the first flush of one bright tropic sunrise, a stately British man-of-war rounded the north end of the island, and furling her snow-white canvas—for she made the land under sail—steamed into Lele Harbour. And the next day Hayes fled from the island in an open boat, and I, with three others of the Leonora's company, saw from the decks of the corvette the blue peaks of Kusaie sink into the sea.