The Strange Adventure Of James Shervinton - 1902
by Louis Becke
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse


By Louis Becke




The night was close and stifling, and the dulled bellowing of the surf on the weather side of the island told me that the calm was about to break at last, and in another hour or so the thirsty, sandy soil would be drenched with the long-expected rain, and the drooping palms and pandanus trees wave their wearied branches to the cooling trade-wind once more.

I rose from my rough bed of cane-work and mats, and, lighting my pipe, went outside, walked down to the beach, and seating myself on a canoe, looked out upon the wide expanse of ocean, heaving under a dark and lowering sky, and wondered moodily why I was ever such an idiot as to take charge of a trading station on such a God-forsaken place as Tarawa Island in the Gilbert Group.

My house—or rather the collection of thatched huts which formed the trading station—stood quite apart from the native village, but not so far that I could not hear the murmur of voices talking in their deep, hoarse, guttural tongue, and see, moving to and fro on the beach, the figures of women and children sent out to see that the fleet of canoes lying on the beach was safe beyond the reach of the waves which the coming storm would send in sweeping, endless lines across the outer reef to the foot of the coco-palms fringing the low-lying, monotonous shore.

The day had been a more than usually depressing one with me; and I had had many depressing days for the last four months. First of all, ever since I had landed on the island, nearly half a year before, I had suffered from bad health. Malarial fever, contracted in the gloomy, rain-soaked forests of New Ireland and New Britain, had poisoned my blood, soured my temper, and all but made me an old man at seven-and-twenty years of age. Violent attacks of ague, recurring with persistent and diabolical regularity every week for many months, had so weakened me, that although I was able to attend to my business and do justice to my employers, I felt that I should never live to see the end of my two years' engagement unless I either shook off the fever or was enabled to leave the torrid regions of the Equatorial Pacific for a cooler climate—such as Samoa or the Marquesas or Society Islands. The knowledge, moreover, of the fact that the fever was slowly but surely killing me, and that there was no prospect of my being relieved by my employers and sent elsewhere—for I had neither money, friends, nor influence—was an additional factor towards sending me into such a morbid condition of mind that I had often contemplated the idea—weak and ill as I was—of leaving the island alone in my whaleboat, and setting sail for Fiji or Samoa, more than a thousand miles distant.

Most people may, perhaps, think that such an idea could only emanate in the brain of a lunatic; but such things had been done, time and time again, in my own knowledge in the Pacific, and as the fever racked my bones and tortured my brain, and the fear of death upon this lonely island assailed me in the long, long hours of night as I lay groaning and sweltering, or shaking with ague upon my couch of mats, the thought of the whale-boat so constantly recurred to me even in my more cheerful moments, when I was free from pain, that eventually I half formed a resolution to make the attempt.

For at the root of the despondency that ever overpowered me after a violent attack of ague there was a potent and never dormant agent urging me to action which kept me alive; and that was my personal vanity and desire to distinguish myself before I died, or when I died.

For ten years I had sailed in the South Seas, and had had my full share of adventure and exciting episode, young as I was, as befell those who, in the "sixties" and "seventies," ranged the Western and North-Western Pacific. But though I had been thrice through the murderous Solomon Group as "recruiter" for a Fijian labour vessel—"blackbirders" or "slavers" these craft are designated by good people who know nothing of the subject, and judge the Pacific Islands labour trade by two or three dreadful massacres perpetrated by Englishmen in the past—I had "never done anything."

And to have "done something" in those days meant something worth talking about, something that would give a man a name and a place in the ranks of the daring men who had spent nearly all their lives in the South Seas. Little Barney Watt, the chief engineer of the Ripple, when the captain and most of the crew had been slaughtered by the niggers of Bougainville Island, had shut himself up in the deck-house, and, wounded badly as he was, shot seventeen of them dead with his Winchester, and cleared the steamer's decks. Then, with no other white man to help, he succeeded in bringing the Ripple to Sydney; Cameron, the shark-fisher, after his crew mutinied at Wake Island, escaped with his native wife in a dinghy, and made a voyage of fifteen hundred miles to the Marshall Group; Collier, of Tahiti, when the barque of which he was mate was seized by the native passengers off Peru Island and every white man of the crew but himself was murdered, blew up the vessel's main deck and killed seventy of the treacherous savages. Then, with but three native seamen and two little native girls to assist him, he sailed the barque back safely to Tahiti. And wherever men gathered together in the South Seas—in Levuka, in Apia, in Honolulu, in Papeite—you would hear them talk of "Barney Watt," and "Cameron," and "Jack Collier."

Should I, "Jim Sherry," ever succeed in doing something similar? Would Fate be kind to me and give me a chance to distinguish myself, not only among my fellows, but to make my name known to that outside world from which in a fit of sullen resentment I had so long severed myself?

As I sat on the mat-covered canoe, moody yet feverish, the first squall of rain came sweeping shoreward from the darkened sea-rim, and in a few minutes my burning skin was drenched and cooled from head to foot. Heedless of the storm, however, I remained without moving, watching the curling, phosphorescent breakers tumbling on the reef and listening with a feeling of pleasure to the rush and seethe of the rain squalls as they swept through the dense groves of coco-palms behind me.

Presently I rose, and walking over to my boat-shed, which was but a few yards distant, I endeavoured to close the rough wooden doors so as to prevent the rain from blowing in and flooding the ground. But my strength was not equal to the task, for a puff of more than usual violence not only tore the handle of the door from my hand, but blew me inside the house. Feeling my way in the darkness along the boat's side, I reached her stern, where I was sheltered, and searched my saturated pockets to see if by any chance I had a box of matches, so that I could light my boat's lantern and have a look round the shed. I found a few loose ones, but so wetted as to be useless, and was just about to return to my dwelling-house in disgust, when I heard my name called softly, and a hand touched my knee.

"Who is it?" I said, greatly startled that any one should be in the boat-shed at such a time.

"'Tis I, Niabon, the Danger Island girl; and Tematau lieth here on the ground near me. His master hath beaten him so that he is near to death. And we have come to seek aid from thee."

I knew the speaker, but did not question her any further at the time, beyond asking her if he whom she called Tematau could rise and walk to the house. She replied in the affirmative, but the injured man was so weak that the girl and I had to support him between us and grope our way over to the house in face of the furious wind and driving rain. The moment we were inside we laid the injured man down, and I struck a match and lit a lamp, whilst Niabon shut and locked the door, not against any possible intruders, but to keep out the rain and wind. Then, before doing anything else, I went into the store-room and got the woman a change of clothes—a rough, ready-made print gown such as the native women occasionally wear—and a warm rug for the man, who was wearing only the usual airiri or girdle of long grass, and then, changing my own sodden garments as quickly as possible, Niabon and I gave our attention to her companion.

The poor fellow had been fearfully beaten. The whole of his back, arms, and thighs were in a dreadful state, and the rain had caused the wounds to bleed afresh. But the worst injury was a deep cut on the face, extending from the lower left eyelid to the lobe of the ear, and exposing the bone. My surgery was none of the best, but I succeeded at last in sewing up the wound satisfactorily, the patient bearing the pain without flinching, and pressing my hand in gratitude when I told him I could do no more. As for his other injuries, the girl assured me that she herself would apply proper native remedies in the morning; and, knowing how very clever these natives are in such matters, I attempted nothing further beyond giving the man a glass or two of grog and a tin of sardines and some bread to eat.

"Niabon," I said to the girl, whose face was stern and set, "thou, too, must eat and then lie on my conch and sleep. I will sit here and read my book and watch the sick man, for the fever is in my bones to-night and I cannot sleep. So eat and rest."

She shook her head. "Nay, I feel no hunger, Simi,{*} and I would sit here with thee if it offend not. And then when the cold seizeth thee at the time when the dawn pushes away the night I can boil thee thy coffee."

* Jim—pronounced Seemee.

I was somewhat surprised that she knew that at dawn I usually had an attack of ague, for she lived ten miles away, and seldom even met any of the natives of the village where I was stationed, though she was well known to them by reputation. However, I was too ill and wearied at the time to think anything more of the matter, so after thanking her for her offer to sit up and attend the unfortunate Tematau I lay down on a cane lounge in the room and watched her making a cigarette.

"Shall I fill thy pipe, Simi?" she asked me as she approached me in a manner so self-reliant and unconcerned, and yet so dignified, that physically and mentally exhausted as I was I could not but feel astonished. For to me she was nothing more—as far as her appearance went—than an ordinary native woman, although I had quite often heard her name spoken in whispers as one who had dealings with the spirits and who had supernatural protection, and all that sort of stuff.

"No, thank you, Niabon," I replied, unintentionally speaking in English, "I must not smoke again tonight."

She smiled and seated herself on a mat beside my couch, then rising suddenly she placed her hand on mine, and said as she looked into my eyes—

"Why do you speak Englis* to me, Simi? Who has been tell you I understan' Englis'?"

"No one, Niabon. I did not know you could speak English or even understand it. Who taught you?"

"I shall tell thee at some other time," she replied in the Tarawa dialect, and then pointing to the figure of her companion she said she was sure a smoke would do him good. I gave her a new clay pipe, which she filled, lit, and placed in Tematau's mouth. He drew at it with such a deep sigh of satisfaction that the woman's stern features relaxed into a smile.

"My blessing on thee, Simi," said the man, as he blew a stream of smoke through his nostrils; "in but a few days I shall be strong, and then there shall be but one white man alive on Tarawa—thyself."

Niabon angrily bade him be silent and make no threats; it would be time enough, she said, to talk of revenge when he was able to put a gun to his shoulder or a hand to his knife.

"How came this thing about?" I asked her presently.

"The German sent Tematau away in his boat to one of the little islands at the far end of the lagoon to gather coco-nuts, and bade him hasten back quickly. Tematau and those with him filled the boat with husked coco-nuts, and were sailing homewards in the night when she struck on a reef and tore a great hole in her side. Then the surf broke her in pieces, and Tematau and the other men had to swim long hours to reach the shore. And as thou knowest, the north end of the lagoon hath many sharks, and it is bad to swim there at night even for a little time."

"Bad indeed, Niabon," I said, with a shudder; "'tis a wonder that any one of them reached the shore."

She smiled mysteriously. "They were safe, for each one had around his neck a cord of black cinnet interwoven with the hair of a sea-ghost. So they came to no harm."

She spoke with such calm assurance that I carefully abstained from even a smile. Then she went on—

"When they reached the white man's house and told him that the boat was lost he became mad with rage, and seizing a hatchet he hurled it at Tematau and cut his face open. Then as he fell to the ground the German seized a whip of twisted shark-skin and beat him until he could beat no longer."

Then she went on to tell me that the unfortunate man was carried to the house where she lived, and she, knowing that I should be well able and willing to protect him, decided to bring him to me. The only difficulty that presented itself to her was that the people of the village in which I lived, though not exactly at enmity with the natives of the north end of the island, were distinctly averse to holding any more communication with them than was absolutely necessary, and a refugee such as Tematau would either be turned back or kept as a slave. For, for nearly fifty-five years internecine feuds had been kept alive among the various clans on the island, and had caused terrible slaughter on many occasions. Whole villages had been given to the flames, and every soul, even children in arms, massacred by the conquering party. The advent of white men as traders had, however, been of great advantage to the island generally in one respect—the savage, intractable inhabitants began to recognise the fact that so long as they warred among themselves the white man would be averse to remaining among them, and consequently for the four years previous to my arrival on Tarawa there had been no tribal battle, though isolated murders were by no means uncommon. But owing to the white men's influence an amicable arrangement was always arrived at by the contending parties, i.e., the relatives of the murdered man and the aggressors.

It was for this reason that Niabon had brought the injured man to my village by a very circuitous route, so as to avoid meeting any of the people. Once he and she were inside my house to claim my protection there would be no further difficulty. She had succeeded in getting her companion into my boat-shed unobserved, and when the storm burst was patiently awaiting darkness so that she might bring the man to me.

That was her story, and now I will relate something of the woman herself and of the white man of whom she had spoken, the German trader Krause.


When I first landed on Tarawa, this man, whose name was Krause, according to the usual custom among us traders, called to see me. He was a big, broad-shouldered, good-looking fellow, and certainly was very civil and obliging to me in many ways, although I was an "opposition" trader; and a new man is never welcome from a business point of view, no matter how much he may be liked for social reasons, especially in the God-forsaken Equatorial Pacific, where whilst your fellow-trader is ready to share his last bottle of grog and his last tin of beef with you, he is anxious to cut your throat from a business point of view. Krause, however, did not seem to—and I honestly believe did not actually—entertain any ill-feeling towards me as a rival trader, although I was landed on the island with such a stock of new trade goods that he must at once have recognised the fact that my advent would do him serious injury, inasmuch as his employers (the big German trading firm in Hamburg) had not sent him any fresh stock for six months. Like most Germans of any education whom one meets in the South Seas, or anywhere else, he was a good native linguist, though, like all his countrymen, he did not understand natives like Englishmen or Americans understand wild races. He had no regard nor sympathy for them, and looked upon even the highly intelligent Polynesian peoples with whom he had had much dealing as mere "niggers"—to study whose feelings, sentiments, opinions or religious belief, was beneath the consideration of an European. But although he thus despised the natives generally from one end of the Pacific to the other, he had enough sense to keep his opinions reasonably well to himself, only expressing his contempt for them to his fellow traders, or to any other white men with whom he came in contact.

A few weeks after my arrival on the island I paid him a visit, sailing across the lagoon to his station in my whaleboat. On reaching his place I found that he was away from home on a trip to one of his minor outlying stations, and would not return till the evening. Somewhat disappointed at missing him, I got out of my boat with the intention of at least resting in one of the native huts for half an hour, so as to be out of the intense heat and glare of a torrid sun, when one of Krause's servants came down and said that the trader's wife would be glad if I would come to her husband's station and there await his return.

Glad to accept the invitation, for I was weak and tired out from fever, and ready to lie down almost anywhere out of the sun, I walked wearily along the beach and entered the house.

To my intense surprise, there came to meet me at the door, not the usual style of native wife one generally sees in most traders' houses—a good-looking young woman with a flaming blouse, and more flaming skirt of hideously coloured print, and fingers covered with heavy gold rings—but a slenderly-built pale-complexioned woman of apparently thirty years of age, dressed in a light yellow muslin gown, such as the Portuguese ladies of Macao and the Mariana Islands wear. The moment I saw her I knew that she had but a very slight strain of native blood in her veins, and when she spoke her voice sounded very sweet and refined.

"Will you not come inside and rest, sir?" she said in English. "My husband is away, and will not be back until about sunset; he will be very disappointed to have missed you."

"Thank you, Mrs. Krause," I replied; "I think I must accept your invitation, as I feel a bit shaky, and it has been so very hot crossing the lagoon." "Very, very hot, indeed, Mr. Sherry," she said, as she motioned me to enter the front room; "and I know what malarial fever is; for I once lived at Agana, in Guam, and have seen many people who have come there from the Philippine Islands to recruit. Now, lie down there on that cane lounge, beside the open window, and let me bring you something to drink—something cool. What would you like? There is lager beer, there is very cold water from a canvas water-bag, and there is some hock."

I gratefully took a long drink of the cold water, and then, instead of lying down, seated myself in a wide cane chair, and began to talk to my hostess, who sat on the lounge a few feet away, and now that I had an opportunity of closer observation, I saw that she was—despite her pallor and worn appearance—a woman of the very greatest beauty and grace.

It was so long since I had even talked to a white woman, even of the commonest class, that I could not but be insensibly attracted to her, and when in a few minutes she smiled at something I said about my longing to get away to Samoa, even if I had to sail there alone in my whaleboat, the faint flush that tinged her cheek seemed to so transfigure her that she looked like a girl of nineteen or twenty. She talked to me for nearly an hour, and I noticed that although we conversed principally about the Line Islands, and the natives, and of our few white neighbours scattered throughout the group, and their idiosyncrasies—humorous and otherwise—she hardly ever mentioned her husband's name, except when I asked her some direct question concerning him, such as the number of his outlying stations, was he fond of fishing or shooting, etc.

In some way I came to the conclusion that she was an unhappy woman as far as her relations with her husband went; and without the slightest reason whatever to guide me to such an inference, felt that he, and not she, was to blame; and even as we talked, there was unconsciously taking possession of me a dislike to a man from whom I had experienced nothing but civility and kindness. Just as she was leaving the room to attend to her household duties, the man Tematau came to the door, carrying a string of freshly-husked young drinking coco-nuts. At a sign from his mistress, he opened one and brought it to me, and then leaving a few beside my chair, took the remainder down to my boat's crew.

"That is Tematau, my husband's head boatman," said my hostess in her soft tones, as she watched him walking down to the beach; "he is so different from these noisy, quarrelsome Tarawa people, that I am always glad to have him about the house when he is not wanted in the boats. He is so quick, and yet so quiet."

"I thought he did not look like a Tarawa native," I said, "and I saw that he is tattooed like a Samoan."

"He has lived in Samoa for a great many years, and is very proud of that tattooing, I am sure. He is a native of Danger Island, a long way to the south-east of this group, and came here about a year ago with a girl named Niabon." She hesitated a little. "I suppose you have not heard of her?"

"No, I have not. Who is she?"

"They—that is, the natives generally, and some of the whites as well—call her 'the Danger Island witch woman.'"

"Oh, yes," I exclaimed, "I have heard of the 'witch woman,' but that was when I was trading at Gallic Harbour on Admiralty Island. There was a poor fellow there, Hairy Willard, who was dying of poison given him by some chief, and I remember quite well his wife, who was a Tahitian, telling me that if the witch woman of Danger Island was near she would quickly render the poison innocuous."

Mrs. Krause's dark eyes lit up with undoubted pleasure—"I must tell her that—"

"Is she living on Tarawa, then?"

"Yes, in this village, and she is in the house at this moment. She would like to speak to you. Do you mind her coming in?" "Indeed, I shall be very pleased." My hostess stood at the table for a few moments, with her face averted from me. Then she turned and spoke to me, and to my astonishment I saw that she was struggling hard to suppress her tears. I rose and led her to a seat.

"You are not well, Mrs. Krause," I said. "Sit down, and let me call one of your servants."

"No, please do not do that, Mr. Sherry. But I will sit down, and—and I should like to ask you a question."

She was trembling as she spoke, but suddenly whipped out her handkerchief, dried her tears, and sat up erect.

"Mr. Sherry, you are an Englishman, or an American—I do not know which—but I am sure that you are a gentleman and will truthfully answer the question I ask. Will you not?"

"I will, indeed, if it is in my power to do so," I replied earnestly.

She placed her hand on mine and looked at me steadily.

"Mr. Sherry, you and I have been talking on various matters for more than an hour. Have I, in your opinion, given you the impression that I am mentally deranged? Look at me. Tell me—for I am an unhappy, heartbroken woman, whose life for two years has been a daily torture and misery—what you do think. Sometimes I imagine that what my husband says may be true—and then I collapse and wish I were dead."

"What does he say, Mrs. Krause?"

"He says that I am mad, and he says it so persistently that—oh, Mr. Sherry, I feel that before long I shall go mad in reality. It is only this woman Niabon who sustains me. But for her I should have run out along the reef and drowned myself a year ago. Now, tell me, Mr. Sherry, do you think it possible that owing to the continuous strain upon me mentally and physically—for I am really very weak, and had a long illness two years ago when my baby was born—that my mind has become unhinged in any way?"

"I think, Mrs. Krause," I said slowly and very emphatically, "that your husband himself must be mad."

She wept silently, and then, again averting her face, looked away from me towards the wide expanse of the lagoon, gleaming hot and silvery under a blazing sun.

"I wish that what you say were true, Mr. Sherry," she said presently, trying bravely to suppress her tears, "and that my husband were indeed mad."

She rose, extended her hand to me, and tried to smile.

"You will think that I am a very silly woman, Mr. Sherry. But I am not at all strong, and you must forgive me. Now I must leave you."

"But am I not to see the famous witch woman, Mrs. Krause?" I said half jestingly.

"Oh, yes. She shall come to you presently. And you will like her, Mr. Sherry, I am sure. To me she been been the kindest, kindest friend." Then she paused awhile, but resumed in a nervous, hesitating manner, "Niaban is sometimes a little strange in her manner, so—so you most not mind all that she may say or do."

I assured her that I should be most careful to avoid giving any offence to the woman. She thanked me earnestly, and then said she would find Niabon and bring or send her to me.

Just as she went out I heard some one tapping at the latticed window near which I was sitting. Looking out, I saw the face of the man Tematau, who was standing outside.

"May I come in and speak with thee, gentleman?" he said in Samoan.

"Enter, and welcome."

He stepped round to the front door, and as he entered I saw that he had stripped to the waist; his hair was dressed in the Samoan fashion, and in his hand he carried a small, finely-plaited mat. In an instant I recognised that he was paying me a visit of ceremony, according to Samoan custom, so instead of rising and shaking hands with him, I kept my seat and waited for him to approach.

Stepping slowly across the matted floor, with head and shoulders bent, he placed the mat (his offering) at my feet, and then withdrew to the other side of the room, and, seating himself cross-legged, he inquired after my health, etc., and paid me the usual compliments.

As he spoke in Samoan, I, of course, replied in the same language, thanked him for his call, and requested him to honour me at my own place by a visit.

Then, to my surprise, instead of retiring with the usual Samoan compliments, he bent forward, and, fixing his deep-set, gloomy eyes on mine, he said slowly—

"Master, I shall be a true man to thee when we are together upon the deep sea in thy boat."

"Why dost thou call me 'master'?" I said quickly, "and when and whither do thee and I travel together?" "I call thee 'master' because I am thy servant, but when and whither we go upon the far sea I know not."

Then he rose, saluted me as if I were King Malietoa of Samoa himself, and retired without uttering another word.

"This is a curious sort of a household," I thought. "The mistress, who is sane enough, is told by her husband that she is mad, and fears she will lose her reason; a native who tells me that I am to be his master and travel with him on the deep sea, and a witch woman, whom I have yet to see, on the premises. I wonder what sort of a crank she is?"

I was soon to know, for in a few moments she came in, and instead of coming up to me and shaking hands in the usual Line Island fashion, as I expected she would do, she did precisely as my first visitor had done—greeted me in Samoan, formally and politely, as if I were a great chief, and then sat silent, awaiting me to speak.

Addressing her in the same stilted, highly complimentary language that she had used to me, I inquired after her health, etc., and then asked her how long she had been on the island.

She answered me in a somewhat abrupt manner, "I came here with Tematau about the time that the white lady Lucia and her husband came. Tematau is of the same family as myself. And it is of the blood ties between us that we remain together, for we are the last of many."

"It is good that it is so," I said, for want of something better to say, for her curious eyes never left my face for an instant. "It would be hard indeed that when but two of the same blood are left they should separate or be separated."

"We shall be together always," she replied, "and death will come to us together."

Then she rose, walked quickly to the open door, glanced outside to see if any one was about, and returned to me and placed her hand on mine.

"This man Krause is a devil. He seeks his wife's death because of another woman in his own country. He hath tried to poison her, and the poison still rankles in her blood. That is why she is so white of face and frail of body. And now she will neither eat nor drink aught but that of which I first eat or drink myself."

"How know you of this?"

"I know it well," she answered impressively, "and the man would kill me if he could by poison, as he hath tried to kill his wife. But poison can do me no harm. And he hateth but yet is afraid of me, for he knoweth that I long since saw the murder in his heart."

"These are strange things to say, Niabon. Beware of an unjust accusation when it comes to the too ready tongue."

She laughed scornfully. "No lie hath ever fouled mine. I tell thee again, this man is a devil, and has waited for a year past to see his wife die, for he married her according to the laws of England, and cannot put her away as he could do had he married her according to the native custom."

"Who hath told thee of these marriage laws of England?" I asked.

"What does it matter who hath told me?" she asked sharply. "Is not what I say true?"

"It is true," I said.

"Ay, it is true. And it is true also that she and thee and the man Tematau and I shall together look death in the face upon the wide sea. And is not thy boat ready?"

Her strange, mysterious eyes as she spoke seemed to me—a physically weak but still mentally strong man at the moment—to have in them something weird, something that one could not affect either to ignore or despise. What could this woman know of my desire to leave the island in my boat? What could the man Tematau know of it? Never had I spoken of such an intention to any person, and I knew that, even in my worst attacks of fever and ague, I had never been delirious in the slightest degree. A sudden resentment for the moment took possession of me, and I spoke angrily.

"What is all this silly talk? What have I to do with thee, and for what should my boat be ready?"

"Be not angry with them, Simi, for there is nought but goodwill toward thee in my heart. See, wouldst have me cure the hot fever that makes the blood in thy veins to boil even now?"

"No," I said sullenly, "I want none of thy foolish charms or medicines. Dost think I am a fool?"

"Nay," and she looked at me so wistfully that I at once repented of my harsh manner—"nay, indeed, Simi. Thou art a man strong in thy mind, and shall be strong in thy body if thou wouldst but let me give thee——"

"No more, woman," I said roughly. "Leave me. I want none of thy medicines, I say again."

"Thy wish is my law," she said gently, "but, ere I leave thee, I pray thee that in a little way thou wilt let me show thee that I do mean well to thee."

I laughed, and asked her what medicine or charm she desired to experiment with upon me.

"No medicine, and no charm," she answered. "But I know that because of many things thy mind and thy body alike suffer pain, and that sleep would be good for thee. And I can give thee sleep—strong, dreamless sleep that, when thou awakenest, will make thee feel strong in thy body and softer in thy now angry heart to Niabon."

"If you can make me sleep now, I'll give you twenty dollars," I said in my English fashion.

She took no notice of my rude and clumsy remark, though she had good reason to be offended.

"Simi," she said, "shall I give thee sleep?"

"Ay," I replied, "give me sleep till the master of this house returns."

She rose and bent over me, and then I noticed for the first time that, instead of being about thirty-five or forty years of age, as I had judged her to be by her hard, clear features and somewhat "bony" appearance externally, she could not be more than five-and-twenty, or even younger.

She placed her right hand on my forehead, and held my right hand in her own.

"Sleep," she said—"sleep well and dreamlessly, man with the strong will to accomplish all that is before thee. Sleep."

Her hand passed caressingly oyer my face, and in a few minutes I was asleep, and slept as I had not slept for many weeks past. When I awakened at sunset I felt more refreshed and vigorous than I had been for many months.

Krause had just returned in his boat, and met me with outstretched hand. His welcome was, I thought, unnecessarily effusive, and, declining his pressing invitation to remain for the night, I left, after remaining an hour or so longer. I noticed that immediately Krause arrived the girl Niabon disappeared, and did not return.

That was my first meeting with her, and I did not see her again till the evening of the storm, when she brought Tematau to me.


We, Niabon, Tematau and myself, were undisturbed by any visitors during the night, for the storm increased in violence, and, as daylight approached, the clamour of the surf upon the reef was something terrific. About four in the morning, however, there came such a thunderous, sudden boom that the island seemed shaken to its coral foundations, and Niabon declared that the storm had broken.

"That is what the people of the Tokelau Islands call O le fati le galu—the last great wave, that gathering itself together far out on the ocean, rushes to the reef, and curling high up as the mast of a ship, falls and shakes the land from one side to the other."

The girl knew what she was talking about, for from that moment the fury of the wind sensibly decreased, and half an hour later we were able to open the door and gaze out upon the sea, still seething white with broken, tumbling surf?

Walking down to my boat-house, I found that the boat herself was not injured in any way, though most of the roof had been blown away. Then feeling that my usual attack of ague was coming on, I returned to the house, and found that Niabon had made my coffee.

I drank it, and then wrapped myself up in a couple of blankets in readiness for the first touch of that deadly, terrible chill which seems to freeze the marrow in the bones of any one who is suffering from malarial fever. Niabon watched me gravely, and then came and stood beside me.

"Mr. Sherry," she said, this time speaking in English, "why don't you let me give you some medicine to cure you of that fever? I can cure you."

"I believe you can, Niabon," I replied; "you certainly mesmerised me when I was at Krause's station that day, and I awakened feeling a lot better."

"What is 'mesmerise'?" she asked quickly.

"Sending any one to sleep, as you did me."

"I can always do that," she said simply, "and so could my mother."

"Can you make me sleep now?"

"Not just now. Wait till the col' fit has gone. And then when you are wake up I shall have some medicine ready for you, and then you shall have no more fever."

My attack of ague lasted about half an hour, and left me with the usual splitting headache and aching bones. When I was able to turn myself, I saw that Niabon was seated beside Tematau dressing his lacerated back with some preparation of crushed leaves. She heard me move, turned her head, and smiled, and said she would be with me in a few moments. Although my head was bursting with pain, I watched her with interest, noting the tenderness with which her smooth, brown fingers touched her companion's body. When she had finished she rose, carefully washed and dried her shapely hands, and came over to me.

"Give me thy hand," she said in the native dialect, as she knelt beside my couch.

I gave her my left hand. She clasped it firmly but softly, and then the fingers of her right hand gently pressed down my eyelids.

"Sleep, sleep long."

As I felt the gentle pressure of her hand down my face, my throbbing temples cooled, and in a minute, or even less, I sank into a dreamless and profound slumber.

When I awakened it was past nine o'clock, and I found that my own two native servants, who slept in the village, had prepared my breakfast, and were seated beside Tematau, talking to him.

"Where is Niabon?" I asked.

They told me that she had gone away in search of some plant, or plants, with which to compound the medicine she was making for me. She returned early in the forenoon, carrying a small basket in which I saw a coil of the long creeping vine called 'At 'At by the natives, and which grows only on the sandiest and most barren soil.

"Have you been sleep well, Mr. Sherry?" she inquired.

"Indeed I did sleep well," I replied, "and, more than that, I have eaten a better breakfast than I have for many weeks."

She nodded and showed me the contents of her basket, and then seating herself at the table, ate a small piece of ship biscuit and drank a cup of coffee. It was then that I noticed for the first time that she was, if not beautiful, a very handsome woman. Her face and hands were a reddish brown, darkened the more by the sun, for I could see under the thin muslin gown that she was wearing, that her arms and shoulders were of a much lighter hue, and I felt sure that she had some white blood in her veins. Her hair was, though somewhat coarse, yet long, wavy, and luxuriant, and was coiled loosely about her shapely head, one thick fold drooping over her left temple, and shading half of the smooth forehead with its jet-black and gracefully arched eyebrows. This is as much as I can say about her looks, and as regards her dress, that is easy enough to describe. She invariably wore a loose muslin or print gown, waistless, and fastened at the neck; underneath this was the ordinary Samoan lava lava or waist-cloth of navy blue calico. Her gown, however, was better made, and of far better material than those worn by the native women generally; in fact she and Mrs. Krause dressed much alike, with the exception that the latter, of course, wore shoes, and Niabon's stockingless feet were protected only by rude sandals of coco-nut fibre such as are still worn by the natives of the Tokelaus and other isolated and low-lying islands of the Equatorial Pacific.

After making and smoking a cigarette she set about compounding my fever mixture by first crushing up the coil of 'At 'At and then expressing the thick colourless jelly it contained into the half of a coco-nut shell, which she placed on some glowing embers, and fanned gently till it began to give off steam. Then taking half a dozen ripe Chili berries, she pounded them into a pulp between two stones, added them to the 'At 'At, and stirred the mixture till it boiled.

"That is all, Simi," she said, as she removed the shell from the fire, and set it aside; "when it is cool enough to drink, you must take one-fourth part; another when the sun is tu'u tonu iluga (right overhead), and the rest to-night."

I thanked her, and promised to carry out her instructions, and then said—

"Why do you talk to me in three different languages, Niabon? I like to hear you speak English best, you speak it so prettily."

Not the ghost of a smile crossed her face, and she replied in Samoan that she did not care to speak English to any one who understood Samoan, or indeed any other native language. "I am a native woman," she added somewhat abruptly, "and English cometh hard to my tongue."

I said nothing further on the subject, fearing I might vex her, although I felt pretty sure that she was not a full-blooded native. However, I had no right to worry her with questions, and if she preferred to be thought a native it was no business of mine.

As soon as my medicine had cooled a little, I took my first dose. It tasted like Hades boiled down, and made me gasp for breath. Then Niabon bade me wrap myself up in all the rugs and blankets I could procure, and undergo a good perspiration, assuring me that I should have no more attacks of the dreaded ague after the second dose. Calling one of my native servants, a big hulking native named Tepi, to come and roll me up presently, I first went over to Tematau, and asked him how he was doing, and as I stooped down to examine his head, and see if the dressing was all right, a heavy booted footstep sounded outside, and Krause walked in.

One look at his face showed me that he was labouring with suppressed passion, though trying hard to conceal it.

"Good morning," I said without advancing to him; "take that chair over there, please. I just want to look at this fellow's head for a moment."

He stalked over to the chair I indicated and sat down, and a sudden spasm of rage distorted his face when he saw Niabon. She was seated at the further end of the room, her chin resting on her hand, and looking at him so steadily and fixedly that he could not but have resented her gaze, even if his mind were undisturbed by passion. Tematau, too, turned his head, and shot his master a glance of such deadly fury that I murmured to him to keep quiet. I rapidly revolved in my mind what course to pursue with our visitor, who, though I could not see his face, was, I felt, watching my every movement.

"That will do," I said to my patient in the island dialect, which Krause understood and spoke thoroughly; "lie down again. In a few days thou wilt be able to walk."

"By God, he's going to walk now," said Krause, rising suddenly, and speaking in a low, trembling tone. I motioned to him to sit down again. He shook his head and remained standing, his brawny hand grasping the back of the chair to steady himself, for every nerve in his body was quivering with excitement.

"What is the matter, Mr. Krause?" I said coldly, though I was hot enough against him, for he was armed with a brace of navy revolvers, belted around his waist. "Won't you sit down?"

"No, I won't sit down," he answered rudely.

"Very well, then, stand," I said, seating myself near him.

Then I pointed to the pistols in his belt. "Mr. Krause, before you tell me the business which has brought you here, I should like to know why you enter my house carrying arms? It is a most extraordinary thing that one white man should call on another armed with a brace of pistols, especially when the island is quiet, and white men's lives are as safe here as they would be in London or Berlin."

"I brought my pistols with me because I thought I might have trouble with the natives over that fellow there," he said sullenly, pointing to Tematau.

"Then you might have left them outside; I object most strongly to any one marching into my house in the manner you have done."

He unbuckled his belt, and with a contemptuous gesture threw the whole lot outside the door.

"Thank you, Mr. Krause," I said, "I feel more at ease now, so will you kindly tell me the object of your visit?"

"I've come to get that swine Tematau. I pay him. He is my man. I shall tolerate no interference. I shall take him back to Taritai" (the name of the village where he lived) "if I have to fight my way out of this village of yours and kill fifty of your niggers."

"Steady yourself, Mr. Krause, and don't say 'your niggers' so emphatically. In the first place I have but two native servants, not fifty, but either of those two would very much resent your calling him a 'nigger.' You know as well as I do that to call a native of this island, or of any other island of the group, a nigger, is so grossly insulting that his knife would be out in an instant."

"Ah, you and I have different ideas on the subject," he said sneeringly; "but that does not matter to me at the moment. My paid servant has absconded from my service, and I have come to get him. That is plain enough, isn't it?"

"Quite. But I am an Englishman, Mr. Krause, and not to be easily bluffed because a man comes stamping into my house with a brace of pistols in his belt."

"I did not come here to argue. I came here for that nigger—my property."

"Your property! Is the man a slave? Now, look here, Mr. Krause; you have used the man so brutally that he is unable to stand on his feet. He and the girl——"

"I don't want the girl, and I daresay you do," he said, with a sneering laugh that made me long to haul off and hit the fellow between the eyes; "she's a nuisance, and if I ever again see her prowling about my house and practising her infernal fooleries on my wife, I'll put a bullet through her. But the man I will have."

"Stop!" I cried warningly, as he took a step toward the sick man, "stop, before you run yourself into mischief. Listen to me. I have but to raise my hand and call, and you will find yourself trussed up fore and aft to a pole like a pig, and carried back to your village."

"Out of my way," he shouted hoarsely, as with blazing eyes he tried to thrust me aside.

"Back, man, back!" I cried. "Are you mad? The natives here will kill you if you attempt to force——"

"And I'll kill you, you meddlesome English hog," he said through his set teeth, and, before I could guard, his right hand shot out and grasped me by the throat, and he literally swung me off my feet and dashed me against the centre posts of the house with such violence that I went down in a heap.

When I came to a few minutes afterwards, Tepi was supporting me on his knees, and Niabon was putting some brandy to my lips. The house was full of natives, who were speaking in suppressed but excited tones. I swallowed the brandy, and then, as Tepi helped me to rise, the natives silently parted to right and left, and I saw something that, half-dazed as I was, filled me with horror.

Krause lay on his back in the centre of the room, his white duck clothes saturated with blood, which was still welling from three or four wounds in his deep, broad chest. I went over to him. He was dead.

"Who hath done this?" I asked.

"I, master," and Tematau placed an ensanguined hand on mine.

"And I," said a softer voice, and Niabon's eyes met mine calmly. "Tematau and I together each stabbed him twice."

As soon as I was able to pull myself together, I desired all the natives but three of the head men to leave, and then, after the unfortunate German's body was covered from view by a large mat, I asked the principal man of the village to tell me what he knew of the tragedy.

"I know nothing," was his reply. "Niabon can tell thee."

Niabon, in response to my inquiring glance—I was shaking from head to foot as I looked at her, but her calm, quiet eyes as she looked into mine restored my nerve—spoke clearly.

"The German dashed thee against the centre posts of the house, Simi. Then he drew a little pistol from his breast and shot at me, and the bullet struck me on the neck. See," and she showed us a still bleeding score on the right side of her neck, where a Derringer bullet had cut through the flesh. "And then he sprang at Tematau, but Tematau was on his feet and met him and stabbed him twice; and, as he fell I too stabbed him in the breast."

"This is an evil day for me," I said to the three head men, "and I fear it will prove an evil day to the people of this village, for the wife of the man who lies there told me that a ship of war of his country was soon to be here at this island. And how shall we account for his death?"

Niabon bent forward and spoke—

"Have no fear, Simi. Neither thou, nor Tematau, nor the people of this village, nor I, shall come to any harm from the German fighting-ship. For when it comes thou and I, and Tematau, and Tepi, who know of the blood let out this day upon the floor of thy house, will be far away. And when the captain of the fighting-ship questioneth, and sayeth to the people, 'Where is my countryman?' the people will shake their heads and say, 'We know not. He and his wife, and the Englishman, and Tepi, and Tematau, and the witch woman Niabon have gone. They have sailed away to beyond the rim of the sea and the sky—we know not whither."

I listened with all my faculties wide awake, and yet with a strange sense of helplessness overpowering me. Then Niabon made a swift gesture to the head men. They rose, and lifting the huge body of Krause, carried it away.

She came to me and pressed her hand on my forehead.

"You are tired," she said in English. "Lie down."

She took my hand and led me to my couch beside the window and then bent over me.

"Sleep, sleep long. For now the time is near and thou must have strength."


I slept well on towards four o'clock in the afternoon, and when I awakened I found the house deserted by all but my man Tepi, who was seated cross-legged near me with a cup containing my fever mixture beside him. He held it up to me silently.

Even before I raised myself to drink I felt that I was a stronger man, physically and mentally, than I had been six hours previously, and my veins no longer seemed as if they were filled with liquid fire. I drank the mixture and then looked about me, and saw that every ensanguined trace of the tragedy which had occurred a few hours before had been removed. The coarse and somewhat worn matting which had covered the floor had been taken away and replaced by new squares, and the room presented the usual neat and orderly appearance in which it was always kept by Tepi and my other servant.

"Master," said Tepi, "art hungry?"

"Aye," I replied, "I would eat; but first tell me of the dead man. Who hath taken him away?"

The man, instead of answering me in a straightforward manner, bent his head and muttered something I could not hear.

I jumped off my couch and went outside, and the first person I ran against was my cook, an old grizzled fellow of about sixty years of age named Pai. He was carrying a freshly-killed fowl in his hand, looked at me in an unconcerned manner as if nothing had occurred, and asked me would I have it broiled or boiled.

"As you will," I said impatiently. "Tell me, Pai, whither have they taken the dead white man?"

He made a peculiar and significant gesture—one that is not often used, but when it is it implies that certain matters or things must not be further alluded to, but must be for ever buried in oblivion. I put my hand on his tough, naked, and wrinkled shoulder, and again repeated my question.

"I know of no dead white man," he replied, looking me steadily in the face, and yet answering me in his usual respectful manner. Then he sat down beside the low stone wall surrounding the house, and began to pluck the fowl, casually remarking that it was fat for its age.

Somewhat puzzled at the reticence of my servants, I walked across my compound towards the native village, which, as I have before mentioned, was some distance from my house, and as I walked I felt at every footstep a renewed bodily vigour, and almost unconsciously I took out my pipe, filled it, and began to smoke with an enjoyment denied to me for many months.

The day was gloriously bright and cool, and the westering sun on my right hand shone on a sea of the deepest blue, whose placid bosom was dotted by a fleet of canoes with their mat sails spread to the now gentle trade wind, cruising to and fro catching flying fish. This seemed strange to me, bearing in mind the events of the past few hours. The death of a white man, even from natural causes, was of itself generally a matter of such importance to the natives of any of the mid-Pacific isles, that their daily avocations were suspended, and the house of the deceased man would not only be surrounded on the outside by a circle of people sitting on their mats and awaiting their turn to enter and express their condolences with his wife or children, but filled inside as well.

The first houses I passed on the outskirts of the village were occupied only by women and children, who all gave me their usual cheerful greeting of Tiakapo, Simi! ("Good-day, Jim") and one or two of them added a few words of congratulation upon my improved appearance, and then calmly went on with their work, such as mat-making, mending fishing nets, cooking, etc., but no one of them gave the slightest indication of even having heard that anything unusual had occurred.

Crossing the village square—if it could be so called—I directed my steps towards the great open-sided moniep, or council house, from which came the sound of many voices, talking in the vociferous manner common to all natives of the Gilbert and Kingsmill groups. As I drew near I saw that there were about twenty men seated inside, smoking, card playing, or making cinnet for fishing lines by twisting up the strands of coco-nut fibre on their naked thighs. As they heard my footsteps on the gravel, their conversation dropped a little, but they all gave me Tiakapo! as usual, invited me to enter and sit down and smoke, and then went on with either their work or their pastime.

"Now," I thought, as I sat down on the mat brought to me, "I shall get these fellows to tell me the meaning of all this reticence about the disposal of Krause's body."

For some minutes I smoked in silence and took the opportunity of looking at my hosts. They were all either middle-aged or old men, and were all known to me personally, especially one old bald-headed fellow named Kaibuka—"The Ship."

In his younger days this Kaibuka had acquired an evil reputation for being the instigator and leader of cutting-off attacks on whaleships and trading vessels, and his performances had gained him such kudos and respect from his savage associates that now in his old age he was the most influential of the three principal head men of the whole lagoon. Like all the others present, he wore but the usual airiri, or girdle of grass, round his loins, and his dark reddish-brown body was covered from head to waist with the scars of wounds received in earlier years. Each of his ear-lobes, pierced in infancy, had from long years of continuous distention by means of rolls of pandanus leaf, become so pendulous that they now hung loosely upon his shoulders in two great bights of thin flesh as thick as a lead pencil, though one of them had twisted in it a long stick of tobacco and a spare pipe. He was not, however, a bad-looking old ruffian, and his shining bald head, still perfect teeth, and extremely Jewish cast of features gave him quite a distinctive appearance from the younger men, whose long coarse hair, cut away across the forehead and hanging loosely down on their shoulders and backs, made their fierce, savage faces appear as if they looked at you from a moving frame of black. They certainly were a wild-looking lot, but their appearance somewhat belied their dispositions—at least as far as I was personally concerned. We had always got along very well together both socially and in business, and I was well aware that whilst they disliked and mistrusted Krause they placed implicit confidence in me.

Putting down my pipe on the mat beside me, I told old Kaibnka that I desired to talk to them.

There was a dead silence at once.

"E rai rai" ("Good"), he said.

"Kaibuka," I said, "hath the dead white man been taken to his wife?"

He looked stolidly at me for an instant, and then answered with an air of intense surprise.

"Dead white man! What dead white man, Simi? I know of none. We saw no dead white man!"

"Aye, we know of none," echoed the others in unison.

I began to feel both angry and uncomfortable, and showed it: but for the moment I was too puzzled to do more than stare at them each in turn. They looked straight before them as if their faces were so many stone jugs—they had about as much expression.

Again I addressed myself to Kaibnka.

"Why do ye make this pretence? Thou thyself, Kaibnka, and thou, Berau, were, with many others, in my house when his dead body lay on the floor. Why are ye all so silent? And whither have the girl Niabon and Tematau gone?"

This time I got an answer—to my last question, at any rate.

"Niabon and Tematau have gone across the lagoon in a canoe. They desired to talk with the white man's wife. In a little time, as darkness falls, they will return to thee."

"Did they take the dead man with them, then?" I persisted.

The old fellow met my inquiring glance quite calmly. "I know of no dead man, Simi."

I glared angrily at them all round, and then for a moment wondered if they were all crazy or I alone was wrong in my head. I was rising to my feet with an exclamation of anger at their obstinacy when the old bald-head motioned me to stay. Then at a sign from him all the others gathered up their impedimenta and quietly went off in Tarions directions, leaving us alone.

"Simi," he said, coming swiftly over and crouching in front of me, "be wise. Ask no one of the white man who was here yesterday; for no one will tell thee but Niabon. There is death in store for many, many people, if ye heed not my words. Go back to thy house, and be patient and wait, and ask naught of any one but Niabon of what is past. Wouldst thou see this land soaked in blood because of one man?"

He spoke in such curious, whispered tones, and kept his keen hawk-like face so close to mine that I saw he was in deadly earnest.

"Promise me, Simi. Promise me to rest in thy house and wait for Niabon."

"As you will, I shall wait."

I walked slowly back to my house and took a stiff glass of grog to steady my nerves, which were beginning to feel a little upset.

"It's time I got out of this place," I thought, as, lighting my pipe, I went down to my boat again and busied myself in taking out all her fittings, examining and replacing them again.

When I returned to the house for my supper it was quite dark, and just as my lamp was lit Niabon entered.


Thinking it would be wiser to refrain from asking her any questions until she had at least rested a little—for she seemed to be very weary—I said nothing to her but a few words of welcome, and bade my servants lay the supper, then told her that I was sure she was both hungry and tired. She replied that she certainly was tired, having come on foot from Taritai to save time. The canoe with Tematau was to follow on later in the night when the tide turned, and when there would be more water on the upper sand flats of the lagoon.

"Very well, Niabon," I said in English, "now sit down and drink a cup of tea and eat a little. Then we can talk."

"I have many things of which to tell thee, Simi," she said, "for I have been speaking long with the wife of the man Krause, and——"

I told her that it would please me better if she first ate something. She at once obeyed, but instead of sitting at the table with me she seated herself on a mat near me, and Pai waited upon her whilst big Tepi attended to me. Only once did she speak during the meal, when she asked me if I had had any recurrence of either fever or ague, and she was undoubtedly pleased when I said that I had not, and that another coarse or two of her medicine would, I believed, care me. She smiled, and told me she would make more of the mixture that evening.

After eating a very slight sapper she made herself a cigarette and sat and smoked until I had finished my pipe. Then she came a little nearer to me, and I felt ashamed of myself for not having asked her if her neck gave her much pain, for I now noticed that the neck and front of her dress were blood-stained. She made light of the wound, however; said it was but skin deep, and would be healed in a few days. But I insisted upon her letting me see for myself. She consented somewhat unwillingly, and I saw that she had had a very narrow escape, the heavy bullet from Krause's Derringer having scored her neck pretty deeply and made a wound nearly two inches long. She had, however, she told me, had it attended to by Mrs. Krause, who had done the very best thing that could have been done to a superficial injury of the kind—painted it liberally with Friar's Balsam, which though causing intense pain for a few minutes, had quickly stayed the flow of blood and prevented any inflammation from setting in.

"Is Mrs. Krause well, Niabon?" I asked as I readjusted the bandage.

"She is well."

"And she knows how her husband died?"

"She knows how he died, but knows not whose were the hands that dealt the blows. And, Simi, it is well that she does not know, for I am her friend, and it would grieve her did she know all."

I thought a moment or two before answering—

"How can the truth be kept from her, Niabon? There are many people who know 'twas thee and Tematau who slew him."

"She will never know, Simi," she asserted earnestly; "there is but one man who could tell her, and him she will not ask."

"Who is that?" I asked wonderingly.


"Why should she not ask me? Her husband met his death in my house. I saw his body lying at my feet. Dost think she will fail to question me if others whom she may ask remain silent?"

"She will ask thee no questions concerning him. His death hath taken away from her a terror by day and bad dreams at night that for two years hath wrung her heart and weakened her body, which is but frail. Have pity on her, Simi, and say nothing to her when thou seest her of her dead husband. He is gone; and yet, although she wept when I told her he was dead, and she knelt and prayed for his spirit which has gone beyond, I know well that now some peace hath come into her heart. And I have given her sleep."

As she spoke she turned her strangely sombrous and liquid eyes to mine in such an appealing glance that I could not resist her magnetic power, strive as I would.

"I will do as you wish, Niabon," I said, falling weakly into English again. "You are a strange girl, but I am sure that you mean well, not alone to me, but to that poor heartbroken woman. But you must tell me the meaning of all this strange silence on the part of the people of this village. Why do they deny the death of Krause? How can they conceal it? It cannot possibly be hidden. There is a German man-of-war coming to this island soon—Mrs. Krause herself told me—and how will these people account to the captain for his death? You and Tematau, who together killed him, cannot escape. And if I am questioned—as I shall be—what can I do? I cannot lie about a murder."

"It was no murder, Simi," she said steadily, and I felt that the girl was but right in her assertion; "it is no murder to strike and kill, and kill quickly, he who would slay the innocent and unoffending. That man was a devil."

"What have you done with him, Niabon? He might have been the devil you say he was; but he was a white man, and it is my place to see that he is buried as Christians bury the dead. He used me roughly, but——"

She placed her hand on my knee, and her very touch subdued my excitement.

"Simi, the man is dead, and not even a strand of his hair is left on earth. No one can ever question thee, or Tematau, or me, about him. He is gone, and even his name is already vanished from these people among whom he has dwelt. Dost not understand me?"

"No, I do not understand, Niabon," I said more gently. "How can his name be vanished when but a few hours ago he was alive and well. Tell me, in plain English, what you mean by saying that no one can question you and Tematau and myself about the manner of his death?"

"Because, Simi, thou and I and others shall be far away from here when the man's countrymen come in the fighting-ship."

"I wish to Heaven we were far away at this moment," I said impatiently. "I am sick to death of the place, and don't want to find myself a prisoner on board a German man-of-war on suspicion of being concerned in Krause's death."

She again repeated her assurance that I should never be questioned.

"Where is Mrs. Krause now?" I asked.

"At Taritai."

"Niabon"—and I placed my hand on her head—"you must not keep me in the dark about some things. I want you to answer me truly some questions. And, though I do not know why, I have this moment resolved to leave the island as quickly as possible. Would you come with me?"

"Yes, Mr. Sherry. Of course I am coming with you," she answered in English. "I told you that you and I and some other people would soon be together upon the sea. And I will answer any question you ask me. I don't want to deceive you. Why should I try to deceive you?"

As she turned her full, soft eyes up to my face, I saw in them such undoubted sincerity that I felt it was not possible for me again to doubt her.

"No, I am sure you will not deceive me, Niabon. And I want you to tell me straightforwardly the meaning of all this mystery. First of all, what has been done with the German's body? where is it buried?"

"In the sea. It was taken far out where the water is very, very deep—three hundred fathoms—and the mats in which it was wrapped were weighted so heavily with stones that it took six men to carry it down to the canoe."

"Why was this done? Why was he not buried on shore?"

"I will tell you, Mr. Sherry. It was done so that when the German man-of-war comes here, no trace of him will ever be found;" and then she told me frankly the whole story, and the meaning of the strange silence of the natives.

Krause, she said, after his savage attack upon Tematau, had told his terrified wife that he meant to bring back Tematau, and kill Niabon. After drinking heavily all night, he had started off alone in the morning, armed with a brace of revolvers and a Derringer pistol. He at first tried to get some forty or fifty of the Taritai young men to accompany him, and make a regular marauding expedition upon my village; but though they were eager to go with him and engage in battle with their old enemies, Niabon, assisted by the more cautious head men, succeeded in dissuading them, and finally Krause went off alone. He travelled along the inner beach of the lagoon, and as soon as he reached my village marched boldly up to my house, boastfully calling out to the natives that he had come to take Tematau out of the Englishman's house, alive or dead—a few minutes later he himself was dead.

A hurried consultation was at once held by the head men, and it was resolved to dispose of Krause's body so effectually that no trace of it would ever be found, and every man, woman, and child in the village of Utiroa was sternly warned not only against even alluding to the manner of his death, but even admitting that he had even been seen by any one of them on that particular day. Hastily wrapping the dead man in mats, the body was taken out to sea, and sunk as Niabon had described.

Then the fleet of canoes from the village began fishing as if nothing unusual had occurred, and after they had been out some hours they were met by eight or ten canoes from Taritai, which were also engaged in fishing. The moment they were within speaking distance the Taritai men inquired whether Krause had fulfilled his threat, and carried Tematau away. The Utiroa people affected great surprise, and said that they had seen nothing of him, but that most probably he had thought better of doing such a foolish and offensive thing, and had returned to Taritai again. The two fleets of canoes remained together for some little time, discussing Krause, and then one of the Taritai men frankly admitted that he (Krause) had tried to induce them to make a raid on Utiroa, but that Niabon and the head men had set their faces against such a wicked act of aggression.

"It is well for him then that he did not come to Utiroa to-day," said old Kaibuka's son gravely. "Such a man as he is not wanted in our town. So keep him at Taritai."

In the meantime Niabon and Tematau had set out for Taritai to acquaint Mrs. Krause of the tragedy which had occurred. The moment they entered the village they were surrounded by natives, who eagerly inquired when Krause was returning—had he driven Tematau out of the Englishman's house? etc., etc. Both Niabon and her companion expressed surprise—neither they nor any one else in Utiroa had seen Krause, they said, and Tematau had come with her to ask Mrs. Krause to try and induce her husband to let him leave his service. The natives accepted their story without the slightest doubt, and the two went on their way to the white man's house.

As soon as she and Mrs. Krause were alone Niabon told her the cause of her visit and the steps which had been taken by the head men of Utiroa to conceal her husband's death, so that when the German warship arrived and found him missing, the people of Utiroa could not be, even after the most searching investigation, connected with his disappearance. Mrs. Krause quite agreed that a wise course had been taken, for were it proved that her husband had been killed in Utiroa, the man-of-war would certainly inflict a terrible punishment on the village, as was usual with German warships' procedure in the South Seas.

Then at Niabon's suggestion she summoned the head men, and told them that her husband had not reached Utiroa. Something must have happened to him. Would they send out and search for him, and if they found him, urge him to return, as Tematau had come back, and there was now no occasion for him (Krause) to offend the people of Utiroa by entering their village armed.

The head men were only too willing, and at once sent out search parties, and when Niabon was coming back, she met two of them, who told her that they had been to Utiroa itself, but not one single person had seen anything of the white man, and they were now returning along the weather side of the island to search for him in the thick jungle, where they imagined he might have strayed and lost himself.

"So that is why these people here have acted so strangely, Mr. Sherry," she concluded. "It would be terrible for them to be all killed, and the village burnt. For the Germans are very cruel. I have seen them do very, very cruel things."

"I think the Utiroa people have done right. The German brought his death on himself. But I fear that the secret must come out some day. The Taritai people will surely suspect something."

"No. No one of the Taritai people will ever know. By this time to-morrow they will all say that he has been drowned when crossing one of those narrow channels between the islands on the weather side, for there are many deep pools, and the coral sometimes breaks under the pressure of a man's foot. And so they will think he has fallen in one of those pools, and his body carried out to sea, or into the lagoon, and eaten by the sharks."

Her emphatic manner reassured me.

"Well, it is a bad business, Niabon; but it cannot be helped. But I shall get away from here as soon as possible."

"I am glad. And Simi, there is yet one other thing of which I have not yet spoken. It is of Lucia."

She always called Mrs. Krause by her Christian name, as did the natives generally.

"What of her?"

"She desires greatly to come with us in the boat. And I pray thee to be kind to her, else will she die here of loneliness and terror."


This was a pretty astonishing request, and for a few seconds I gazed blankly at the girl.

"Good Heavens!" I said, "she must be mad to think of such a thing! And I should be as equally mad to even entertain the idea of taking her with me in a small boat on a voyage of more than a thousand miles."

"Nay, she is not mad, Simi. And she hath set her heart on this. It would be cruel to leave her to die."

"And to take her away would be still more cruel," I cried. "Such a long, long voyage is a hard and dangerous venture even for strong men—men who should be both good navigators and good seamen. But a weak, delicate woman—oh, it's all sheer nonsense, girl."

She put her hand on mine, and the moment I felt her warm touch, my impatience ceased. I would argue the thing out with her, I thought, and soon convince her that it would be impossible. Impossible—folly, utter folly. I must not think of such a thing for a moment. And yet—and yet—I rose from my seat, walked to the window, and then turned to Niabon.

"'Tis a mad idea," I said, trying to speak angrily, and failing lamentably. "'Tis you alone, Niabon, who hath made her ask me to do this."

"That is not true, Simi," she replied quietly, "Yet when I spoke to her of our voyage, her heart's wishes came to her lips, and I knew that she would ask to come with thee, even as I know that thou wilt not leave her here to die."

I could make no answer for the time. What was coming over me, that I could listen to such a suggestion with patience? What a strange influence did this girl Niabon possess that I, a sensible man, felt she could and would make me yield to her wishes, and let a sickly, delicate woman like Mrs. Krause accompany me on a voyage that presented nothing but danger. The fever must have weakened my brain, I thought.

But then, on the other hand, Mrs. Krause was a free agent. She had no children. Her husband had just been killed. I, the only other white man on the island to whom she could look to for social intercourse at long intervals, was leaving the island. Her mind had been tortured, and her life made miserable by her brute of a husband. Could I, as a man, leave her among a community of naked savages to fret out her life? She wished to come with me. Well, I should tell her of the dangers—aye, and the horrors—of such a voyage as I was bent upon. I should conceal nothing from her—nothing, absolutely nothing. I should tell her of how the wife of the captain of the ship Octavia, from Sydney to Singapore, had seen her husband die, and the famishing crew of the boat which had left the burnt ship, drag his body from her with savage curses and threats, and——


"What is it, Niabon? What would you have me do? Why do you tempt me to let this poor, weak lady accompany me on a voyage, which will, most likely, end in death to us all?"

"There will be danger, but no death," she replied dreamily, turning her face away from me towards the sea, and slowly extending her arms; "and thou, Simi—thou shalt gain thy heart's desire. For I have seen it all, even as I see it now."

"My heart's desire! Tell me what is my heart's desire?"

I stepped up to her and placed my hand gently on her head, and, bending down, saw that her eyes were closed.

"My heart's desire, Niabon? tell me what is my heart's desire," I said again, and as I spoke I caught my breath, and tried hard to steady myself.

"Fame, Fame! The praise of men for a great deed! This is thy heart's desire, Simi. To do such things as were done by the three men of whom thou dreame——"

"What three men?" I whispered, and in an instant there flashed through my mind the memory of the daring deeds of Jack Collier of Tahiti, of tousle-headed Barney Watt of the Ripple, and big Cameron of Honolulu. "Who are the three men of whom I dream?"

She pressed her hands to her bosom, and then turned her face, with her eyes still closed, to mine.

"I do not know, Simi. I cannot see beyond as I can do sometimes; for I am tired, and many other things are in my mind. But yet I can see one man of the three whom thou dost so often think."

"Tell me, then," and I knelt beside the girl and looked upwards to her face—"tell me of one man of the three. What is he like?"

"Simi, oh, Simi, be not too hard with me; for though I can see many faces, they are new and strange to me. And they quickly become faint and dim, and then vanish—but the sound of their voices seem to beat upon my closed ears—and I cannot understand, Simi, I cannot understand."

I took her hand in mine and pressed it gently. I did not want to torment the poor girl, but I did want to know something more of the one man of the three of whom she had spoken.

"Can you tell me of the one man, Niabon?" I said gently. "Is he young and strong, and of good looks?"

"He is not young, but is strong, and his eyes are deep-set and stern; and a great red beard flows down upon his broad chest; his feet are covered with boots that come to the knee, and he carries a stick in his hand, for he is lame."

I started. I knew whom she meant—it was Cameron of Honolulu, and had the man been there himself, in his rough rig-out, and leaning on his heavy stick as he walked, she could not have described him more clearly!

"No more shall I doubt you," I cried. "I will do all you wish."

She made no answer, but sat with eyes still closed, and her bosom gently rising and falling as if she were asleep. Fearing that I should do her some harm if I endeavoured to rouse her from what seemed to be a trance, I went softly away, and with a strange feeling of exaltation tingling through my veins, took down my roll of charts from my book-shelf, and opening out No. 780—one of the four sheets embracing the North and South Pacific—studied it carefully.

"I shall do it, I shall do it," I said aloud, and already I fancied I could see my boat sailing into either Levuka or else Apia Harbour, fifteen hundred miles away, and hear the cheers, and see the flags run up by the ships in port, as I stepped out of my boat on to the beach to report myself to the British Consul—"Jim Sherry, master and owner of a twenty-eight feet whale-boat, from Tarawa Island, in the Gilbert Group."

It would be an achievement, and I should become as well known as Cameron. But—and here my vanity received a check—Cameron sailed fifteen hundred miles in a poorly equipped dinghy, and yet succeeded in reaching Jaluit in the Marshall Islands, whilst I should have everything in my favour as far as equipment went.

But I would do more than Cameron did, I thought. If I reached either Samoa or Fiji safely, I would go on across to New Caledonia, and possibly from there on to the east coast of Australia! That would be something that had never yet been done by any one in a small boat, and would make me famous indeed!

That night I was too excited to think of sleeping, so remained up and worked at a new jib I was making, taking care to avoid any noise, for I found that Niabon was now really asleep, and I did not want to disturb her.

She did not awaken till nearly midnight, just as Tematan returned. He handed me a note. It was from Mrs. Krause, asking me, if it would not be inconvenient to me, would I come to Taritai in the morning, as she greatly wished to see me on a matter of importance. I smiled at Niabon as I read it, for I could easily guess what it was that the lady was so anxious to see me about.

I started off as soon as it was daylight, and on reaching Taritai village found Mrs. Krause expecting me, early as it was. She was pale, but yet, I imagined, looking better than she had when we last met. She went into the subject at once.

"Mr. Sherry, will it not be possible for you to let me go with you in the boat?"

"Yes, you can come. But I tell you frankly that we may never see Samoa or Fiji, for the risks of such a long voyage must necessarily be very great, even if we have fine weather all the way."

Her face lit up with pleasure. "It is kind of you. And you will not find me troublesome. I should go mad if I were left alone here, for Niabon has always been such a friend to me. Whenever my husband was away, she came and stayed with me."

This allusion to her husband, I could see, pained her, and therefore, although I knew that several parties were out in search of him, I did not mention his name to her.

"Mr. Sherry," she said presently, "I have a suggestion to make. One of the boats belonging to this station was lost, as you know, not long ago, but there is another, a large one, which was sold to some natives. Would you like me to send for her, and if you like it better than your own, I think we could buy it back."

I knew the boat well enough by sight. She was half-decked, and although not a beauty to look at, was certainly a much better and safer boat than my own for a long voyage. I decided to inspect her, and my hostess at once despatched a man to the village where the boat was then lying with a message to the chief to bring her to Taritai. I told Mrs. Krause that if the boat was seaworthy she would certainly be far preferable to my own, and that I would buy it from the natives. And then, much against my will, I had to ask her what she intended doing with her husband's property when she left the island.

"That is one subject upon which I want your advice. Will you look at his account-books, and tell me his position with the firm in Hamburg?"

Krause had kept his books very methodically, and after taking stock of the little trade goods that were still unsold, and counting his cash, I was able to tell her pretty exactly how he stood. There was about L200 due to him altogether.

"What would you advise me to do?" she asked.

"As far as the house and all that is in it is concerned, you can do nothing but leave it under the care of the head men of Taritai. They will undertake the responsibility, and hand the station over to the first German ship that calls."

"There will be a man-o'-war here soon, the Elizabeth. At least, we heard that she was likely to come here some time this year."

I said she would be doing wisely if she remained on the island, and got the man-of-war captain to settle up Krause's affairs; but she shuddered and looked at me in such fear that I said no more, beyond remarking that as her husband had left no will—at least, as far as she knew—I feared she would have trouble in getting the amount due to him at the time of his death. She would probably have to go to Sydney, where there was a branch of the firm he was trading for.

"I don't want the L200," she said vehemently. "I have a little money of my own—about twenty dollars—and one cannot well starve anywhere in the South Seas. I am young and can work. I could earn my living by making Panama hats if I could find nothing else to do."


"Twenty dollars is not much of a stand-by in a town like Apia or Levuka," I said gravely, as I looked at her now animated features. "Living there is very expensive—as I know to my sorrow—and unless you have friends at either place, you would have to go to an hotel in the first place."

"I am not afraid, Mr. Sherry. And I am not jesting about the hat-making. All of my mother's family were very expert at it, and quite often I have seen as much as twenty-five or thirty Mexican dollars paid for one of our hats. We could have sold ten times the number had we been able to have made more."

"Where was this?" I asked, with interest.

"At Agana, in the Marianas. My father lived there for many years. He was a very poor man, and had a hard struggle to get along with such a large family. So we all had to help him as much as we could. He was an Englishman named Arundel, and was in some Government employment in Rangoon. I do not remember exactly what it was, but think he was connected with maritime matters, for I remember that he had many nautical books, and used to go away frequently in the Government steamers to Perak and Singapore. I can scarcely remember my mother, for she died when I, who was the youngest of the family, was about six years old. But I think she was of Dutch-Javanese parentage, for sometimes she would speak to us children in both languages, and I remember her being very dark. Soon after she died, my father—who was always of a restless disposition I suppose—either gave up, or lost his employment in Rangoon, and taking us with him, settled on Tinian, in the Marianas, where he had something to do with cattle. But we did not remain there permanently; we were always moving about from one island to another—sometimes we would be living at Saipan, sometimes at Rota, and sometimes at Agana, in Guam. At this last place—which I love dearly—we were very happy, although we were so poor."

She stopped somewhat abruptly, and added that it was at this place she had met Krause, who came to the Marianas from Manila, on behalf of his firm, who had a large establishment at the latter city.

"I should like to see the Marianas—or the Ladrones, as we traders call them," I said. "There is a very dear friend of mine now living at San Anlaccio in Guam——"

"What is his name?" she asked quickly.

"Jose Otano. He was mate of a New Bedford whaler."

"I know him, I know him," she cried excitedly, "he and his mother, and his two sisters—Nicolacoa and Maria. Oh, how I should love to see them again! I remember going to San Anlaccio with my father and an elder sister, and staying there for two or three months. My father was buying cattle for tasajo, and we lived with the Otano family. They were very kind to as, and we three little girls used to ride together on the water buffaloes, and one day their brother Jose, who I remember was a sailor, had to come and search for us, for we were lost in a great swamp between Punta de los Amantes and the stone cross of Padre Sanvitores."

"Those are the people," I said, feeling pleasurably excited myself that we should have mutual friends. "I have often heard him speak of his mother and two sisters. And often, very often he has urged me to pay him a visit, and settle down with him. He says that I should not want to leave the Marianas once I could see what a beautiful country it is."

"No, indeed! Ah, Mr. Sherry, 'tis indeed a beautiful country. I wonder if I shall ever see it again! My father, two brothers, and three of my sisters died of fever just before I married Krause, and there are but two of us left now—myself and another sister who is married to the Spanish doctor at San Ignacio de Agana. Oh, shall I ever see her face again?"

Her eyes sparkled, and her pale face flushed as she bent towards me with clasped hands: "Oh, the mere thought of it makes me feel a young girl again."

"Why should you not?" I began, then I ceased speaking, and walked up and down the room thinking, and I felt my cheeks flush as a project, daring enough, came to my mind.

"Have you a big sheet chart of the Pacific—the large blue-backed one?" I asked.

"Yes, there it is in the corner beside you, with some others. But it is old."

"It will do."

I spread it out on the table, and weighted down each of the four ends by means of books, so as to get a good view.

"Come here, Mrs. Krause, and look."

She came over to me, and then her thin little hand followed my forefinger as I made a pencilled mark on the chart to the south-east.

"Here is Tarawa; here is Apia in Samoa, nearly fifteen hundred miles distant. Here is the island of Ovalau in Fiji, about the same distance. Do you see?"

"Yes, I see."

"And here, north-west from Tarawa, is your home on Guam—more than two thousand miles away. 'Tis a long, long way—but it could be done."

"A long, long way indeed." She lifted her eyes to me—and then she placed her hand on mine. "Why do you smile, Mr. Sherry; and yet why say 'it could be done'?"

"Let us sit down and talk the matter over quietly;" and I led her to a seat.

"Why should we go to Fiji or Samoa?" I said quickly, my blood afire with my new project. "There is nothing to draw you thither, is there?"

"Nothing. I know no one at either place. But you——"

"I! It matters but little to me where I go. But I am sick to death of this island, and long to be doing something. I am a man without a home, without ties, a wandering South Sea deadbeat—no friends."

"You must not say that," she said softly. "I am sure you have many friends. Just now you spoke of one—Jose Otano."

"Aye, I did; but I meant friends in Europe, in the outer and greater world—people who care for, who even give me a passing thought."

"That is sad, indeed. Oh, it must be sad to be alone, quite, quite alone in the world. And I am very, very sorry for you, Mr. Sherry."

The deep ring of sympathy in her voice warmed my heart to the little woman.

"Mrs. Krause," I said—and I spoke quietly, "you are a brave woman, else you would not dare to come with me in a small boat to so distant a place as Fiji or Samoa. But will you be braver still, and risk your life in a still more dangerous enterprise?"

"I will, indeed, Mr. Sherry. I have no sense of the fear of death—none, absolutely none," she replied.

"Then let us give up the idea of Fiji," I cried, catching her hand, "let us go to the north-west—to Guam, to your own home."

"Oh," and she gave a low gasp of pleasure. "Oh, yes, indeed, it will be a wonderful voyage."

"Yes, if we ever get there," I said. "But we can try."

"You will not fail. Of that I am as sure as I am of my own existence."

Again we turned to the chart, and were poring over it together when the messenger returned to say that the natives had arrived with the boat. I hurried down to the beach, and saw the native owners, and then the boat itself, which, after very little trouble, I bought for ten muskets, a couple of tierces of tobacco, and a hundred fathoms of red turkey twill. Then, after giving them some instructions, I went back to the house.

"Well, Mr. Sherry, what do you think of the boat?"

"Fairly well, Mrs. Krause. Anyway, I've bought her, and if you look out of the window, you'll see the crew getting her under way again to sail her over to Utiroa. Now I must get home, for there will be much to do. The first thing that I must get done is to alter my own boat's mainsail and jib, and make them large enough for my new ship, whose sails are quite rotten. Then I shall make an extra new suit as well. I'll set Niabon to work to-night."

"Ah, let me help! Do. It would give me such real pleasure."

"Indeed, I shall be very glad of your assistance. I can cut out the new suit, and you and Niabon sew them. It will only be very light material, but, for all that, may make your fingers suffer."

"I don't mind if it does—neither of your sail-makers will grumble," she said brightly. "When shall I come?"

"To-morrow. I'll send the whale-boat for you. You will find mine an untidy house, and Tepi a great cook—as far as size goes. He stands six feet."

And so with a laugh, and lighter hearts than had been ours for many a long day, we said goodbye till the morrow.


As soon as I arrived at Utiroa village with my new boat, I had her hauled up above high-water mark, close to the boat-shed, and then turned her over so as to get a good look at the bottom in the morning. Then without telling either Tematau or Niabon the reason for my purchase, I bade them open my trade-room door, and in a few minutes we were engaged in paying the late owners their tobacco, guns, ammunition, and bolts of turkey twill. They were well satisfied with the price I paid them, especially when I supplemented it with the gift of a case of biscuit and a case of tinned Australian meats, of which I had an ample stock. They were very much disposed to remain in the house and give my servants their view of the cause of Krause's strange disappearance, which was—as they had previously told me—that he had been seized and devoured by an enormous reptile, half eel and half turtle, which had been known to swallow not only human beings, but such trifles as double canoes, groves of coco-nut trees, etcetera; but on my telling them that I was very tired and wanted a quiet house, they retired to the native village to spend the night.

Calling Niabon and Tematau to me, I told them why I had bought the boat. They both seemed very pleased, but somewhat to my astonishment showed no surprise at the change in my plans; and for a moment or two a swift suspicion crossed my mind.

Did they—or Niabon at least—know that it was Mrs. Krause who had brought this boat to my notice? Had Mrs. Krause said anything on the matter to Niabon herself? I determined to ask.

"Niabon," I said in English, which Tematau also understood fairly well, though he never spoke it, "tell me truly—did you or Tematau ever speak to Lucia of this boat which I have just bought?"

"No, never, Mr. Sherry," she replied calmly, and the quiet dark eyes met mine with such an expression of truthfulness that I was instantly ashamed of my transitory suspicion. "I have never spoken to her about this boat, and never has Tematau, I am sure."

"Oh, well, it was a very lucky thought of hers," I said; "we have now a boat that will be much better than my own, which I must try and sell, for we shall want money, Niabon, we shall want money badly in the strange country to which we are going, and I have but little."

"Kaibuka and the head men will buy the other boat, I think."

"How do you know?" I said in surprise, for I had never even been approached on the subject of selling my boat.

"I will ask them to buy it," she replied, with a smile. "I will go to them now, if you wish. How much money do you want?"

"The boat is worth two hundred dollars, but I will take one hundred. If they cannot give me one hundred dollars I will take no less—but because they and I are good friends, I will give it to them freely, for it will be of no further use to me."

"They will buy the boat," she said confidently, and lighting her cigarette, she went out.

A quarter of an hour later she returned, accompanied by old Kaibuka and another head man. Each of them carried a small bag of money, which they handed to me, and simply observing that it was the price of the boat, sat down and waited for me to count the coins. I found there were two hundred dollars.

"There are one hundred dollars more than the price I asked," I said, pushing one-half of the money apart. "The boat is well worth the two hundred; for she is but new, and cost me more than that. But one hundred is all I asked for."

Hawk-eyed Kaibuka—one of the most avaricious old fellows I had ever met with in the South Seas—shook his head and said I was trying to wrong myself. The people would be glad to get such a fine boat for two hundred dollars, and that if he and the other head men announced that I had parted with her for a hundred dollars, the entire population of Utiroa would arise as one man and curse them as mean creatures; also they (the people) would refuse to use the boat, and he, Kaibuka, would be regarded as a hog—a man devoid of gratitude to the white man who had been kind to and had not cheated them.

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse