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Edward Barry - South Sea Pearler
by Louis Becke
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"We have, I should say, quite forty tons of beautiful shell here now, either cleaned, or rotting out at various places on the beach. Last week the people told me that they were diving three miles from here, and could see the brig's masts quite distinctly. I warned them to be careful. As for the pearls, I am afraid I must show them to you after all, I am so tired of looking at them by myself. There are over sixty now for the necklace—nearly every one of which is a perfect match with the rest. I have them apart from the others in a box of soft white wood which Pani made for me, and I have called the box 'Rose Maynard's Dot.'

"Now I must tell you some other news. Yesterday two ships were seen a long, long way off to the westward. I have no doubt but they are the first of the sperm whalers making south again towards New Caledonia and the New Hebrides. We are sure to see several more, and if any of them come within eight or ten miles, I could have a letter sent off for you—it would perhaps get to Sydney long before the Mahina—and just imagine how delighted some one would be to hear from you."

So Barry wrote two long letters, one to Rose, and one to Watson, telling them both that he hoped to see them in less than six months. To Watson he told the whole of the strange tragedy of the Mahina, and of the marvellous escape of Mrs. Tracey.

"Do not tell Miss Maynard all these horrors," he added; "it would only cause her intense anxiety, and I have only said that Mrs. Tracey's husband is dead, and that she is returning to Sydney in the brig. I am in hopes we may run across a man-of-war; if so I can get rid of these gallows' birds for a time, at any rate, before they are brought to trial. Good-bye and good luck."

He sent the letters down to Tebuan by Velo that night, and then work went on with renewed energy—Barry with the boats, Rawlings and the Greek amid the stench of the decaying oysters on the sandbank; and Barradas, silent, grim, and determined, attended to the brig, and began to prepare her for sea again, assisted by the four white seamen.

Then came the time when the divers ceased from work, and the last boatloads of shell were landed on the islet; for the little brig had as much as she could carry with safety stowed in her holds, and was deeper in the water than she had ever been since the day she was launched.

And that evening, whilst Rawlings and the boatswain were ashore at the village, bathing in fresh water from a native well, Barradas and the steward were quietly at work in the trade room, opening a case of Snider carbines, quickly cleaning and oiling the breeches, and then passing them, with an ample supply of cartridges, into the eager hands of Joe and Velo, by whom they were carried into the foc's'le, and given to those others of the crew then on board. Each man received his weapon in silence, and hid it under the mats of his bunk.

"When is it to be, Velo?" asked one of the divers.

"It may be to-night," replied the Samoan. "Be ye ready when the time comes."

Returning to the trade room the empty case was nailed up again, and another full one lifted on top of it. In the main cabin itself there was a stand of twenty rifles with cutlasses, but these were not disturbed for the time, as the absence of even one would most likely be noticed by Rawlings' eye.

* * * * * *

After they had finished their bath the captain and Paul, carrying their towels in their hands, strolled up to Barry's house. He had just lit his lamp, and with a native sailor helping him was packing up his traps, for this was his last night on shore.

"Ah! putting your house in order, Barry?" said Rawlings blandly.

"Yes, just straightening up a bit, and getting my gear ready to take it on board," he replied.

"We must have a little bit of a celebration tonight, I think," resumed Rawlings, "and let the men have a final fling too. They have worked splendidly under your management; and our success is largely due to you."

Barry nodded. "Yes, they've worked very well indeed. And I think we might have a bit of a celebration, as you suggest. Let us say tomorrow night. I'm a bit too tired to-night, and at daylight I'll start off with Velo and shoot a couple of pigs for the men. They'll think a lot of that."

"Quite so! A first-rate idea, Mr. Barry. They can have the whole day and night to themselves." Then after a pause he began to discuss with his officer the probabilities of the future—the return of the Mahina and the establishment of a permanent pearling station on the lagoon.

Barry listened, now and then making a suggestion of his own, for which, as usual, Rawlings thanked him effusively.

"And you think, Mr. Barry, that this lagoon can be fished for many years?" he inquired.

"Certain. It would take us four or five years as we have been working, without touching the deep-water patches. The bottom of this lagoon is paved with shell. There are hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of shell in it yet, let alone the pearls."

The Greek's greedy eyes lit up and his white teeth set. "Ah, ah, ah!" he said pantingly.

"Well, we will have our celebration to-morrow night, Mr. Barry," said Rawlings genially.

"Yes, we will wind up everything by a good time to-morrow night," answered the mate with unusual warmth, as after some further talk he walked down to the boat and went off on board with them.

Just before supper he strolled along the main deck. Barradas was in the waist leaning over the bulwarks, smoking and watching the movements of some large fish in the phosphorescent water. He raised his head as the mate came near, and looked at him inquiringly.

"Not to-night," said Barry in a low voice, as he passed; "but is everything ready?"

The second mate nodded.

"Let the men go ashore if they wish."

"We could do it now—easily," muttered Barradas, as the mate again passed him.

"No," said Barry quickly; "to-morrow night will be best. I have something on shore which must be attended to. But I'll be back early in the afternoon."

As soon as supper was over Barry turned in, telling the steward to call him at daylight. Rawlings and the others sat up late, but their talk did not disturb him, for he was really tired, and meant to get a good night's rest to fit him for the work he had in hand on the following day and night.



[1] Synonymous for husband.



CHAPTER XII.

BARRY AND VELO DISCOURSE ON MARRIAGE.

At daylight Barry came on deck, and after a cup of coffee and a biscuit he and Velo, each carrying a rifle, set out in the dinghy with two hands in her, towards one of the islands on the north side of the lagoon. Here, in full view of those on board the brig, they drew the boat up on the beach, leaving the two native sailors in charge, and then struck off into the palm grove, walking steadily on till they reached the centre of the island.

"Let us wait here, Velo," said the officer; "this is the place where a messenger from Mrs. Tracey is to meet us."

Laying their rifles down they sat under the shade of a great jack-fruit tree, whose wide-spreading branches towered even higher than the lofty coco-palms which surrounded it. For nearly an hour they waited, listening to the ceaseless hum of the surf upon the outer reef as the long, swelling billows rose, curled their green cress, and broke upon the rocky barrier of living coral. Overhead the blue vault of sky—where it could be seen—was unflecked by a single cloud, and the bright, blazing sun sent shafts of yellow light through the leafy aisles of the island forest as it rose higher and higher, and dried the cooling night dew which lay upon leaf and bough, and verdant undergrowth and soft, tufted moss. Westward from where they sat the wide waters of the unruffled lagoon stretched clear for twenty miles—a sheet of shining blue and green—with here and there a streak of molten silver on which flocks of snow-white sea birds lay floating lazily. Four or five miles away on the port hand the little Mahina loomed high up out of the water, like a ship of two thousand tons.

Barry, with his pipe in his mouth, lay on his back, looking contentedly up into the blue dome above, thinking of and picturing to himself the "love lit" eyes of Rose Maynard which would greet him on his return; of the poverty in which she and her father existed, and the joy which would be his when he took them from their squalid surroundings. They would all go to Pfahlert's Hotel—that was the swagger hotel in Sydney—and whilst he and old Mr. Maynard "trotted around" and enjoyed themselves, Rose, sweet Rose, and Mrs. Tracey would fuss about over the coming wedding and buy the trousseau and all that sort of thing. Of course Mrs. Tracey would fall in love with Rose at sight—that was a foregone conclusion—and would perhaps live with her when he was at sea. For he would go to sea again—to work for Alice Tracey, who might perhaps give him a share in Arrecifos and its riches. What a lucky devil he was after all!

He flung out his arms and stretched himself with a contented sigh and an unconscious smile.

"Parri," said Velo, speaking in Samoan, "thy thoughts are pleasant?"

"Moni, moni, lava,[1] Velo," he replied with a laugh; "pleasant indeed, for I was thinking of the woman I love."

Velo's dark eyes lit up and he nodded approvingly. "And she loves thee, Parri. I have seen it in her eyes. Ah, she is good to look upon indeed. May she bear thee many children."

Barry was puzzled for a moment, then it flashed upon him that Velo was upon the wrong tack.

"Whom dost thou mean, Velo?" he asked.

"Whom but she whom thou wilt see presently—the wife of the dead captain," replied the Samoan, elevating his brows in astonishment.

"Nay, not she, Velo; though as thou sayest she is a fair, good woman. But she is but a friend; the woman I love liveth far away in Sini." [2]

Velo puffed at his pipe in silence for a few seconds ere he answered.

"But this woman Alisi loves thee, and she and thee are mau tonu,[3] together. If thou dost not take her to wife she will be shamed in the eyes of all men."

The white man laughed again. "Not in the eyes of all men, Velo; the customs of us Englishmen are different from those of thy people. This woman is nothing to me and I am nothing to her but a friend. The ship is hers, and I am her servant, pledged to her service—that is all."

Velo shook his head. "Thou art more than a servant to her; thou art her toa (champion), and we all have said from the first that she and thee would wed."

Again Barry laughed amusedly. "Thou wouldst marry me to her against my own will, Velo."

"She is beautiful, and a widow, and a fitting mate for a strong man like thee," replied Velo energetically. "I have seen many white women, but none so good to look upon as her. And she is a widow."

"What has that to do with me? Did I make her a widow?"

"Do not mock at me, Parri," answered the Samoan with grave respect; "but because she is a widow and thou art working for her to overcome her enemies, it is but right and proper that thou shouldst make her thy wife."

"And what of the woman in Sydney to whom I am pledged?"

"Totogi lona aiga," [4] said Velo. "If she be young and handsome she will find another lover, and can have no cause of complaint against thee if thou dost compensate her."

Barry had a strong sense of humour, so he said he would think the matter over, whereat Velo seemed well pleased, and relapsed into silence for a few minutes. Then he began again.

"Parri, I would like to tell thee of a little thing which is in my mind."

"All right, Velo, go ahead," said Barry in English, as he sat up and filled his pipe; "what is the 'little thing'?"

"Only that I desire the girl Pani for my wife."

"That will be all right, Velo," said Barry lazily; "but why marry a woman of this wild place when there are better in Samoa?"

"Richer, but not better," said Velo, "and she is to my mind, and if I am to stay here on this island I shall need a wife."

"True, Velo, very true. I did not think of that. If the girl is willing you shall have her."

"She is willing. I am a fine man. How could she refuse me?"

"Very well, Velo. You shall marry her, and I will be the parson when I become captain of the Mahina, which will be to-morrow."

Velo smiled contentedly, and then the two men sprang to their feet as a native, clad in his armour of cinnet, stepped silently out of the undergrowth and beckoned to them to follow him.

He led them through the forest till they reached another cleared space, where, lying or sitting about under the trees, were the whole population of Tebuan, with Mrs. Tracey in their midst.

All of the men were armed with spears and clubs, and were clothed from head to foot in armour of coconut fibre; they all sprang to their feet with a babble of excitement as the white men drew near, but at a sign from Mrs. Tracey they at once stilled their voices, and sat quietly down again.

Mrs. Tracey, now thoroughly recovered from her accident, and her cheeks flushed with excitement, listened eagerly to Barry for some minutes, then she beckoned the expectant natives to gather round her, and spoke to them in their own tongue.

"To-morrow night, my friends, all will be well. This white man is my good friend, and will restore me to my husband's kaibuke (ship), and ye shall see the two white men who murdered him, and cast me into the sea, bound with links of iron, hand and foot. And when that is done, then shall I give to every man of Tebuan a rifle, and as many bullets as he can carry, and five hundred sticks of tobacco. And every woman and child shall take whatever her eye desires—red and blue cloth, and beads, and biscuit, and rice; for ye have been my good friends—friends when I was sick, and distressed, and poor."

A murmur of approval broke from the wild, savage-looking people, and one by one they came and shook hands with Barry, and then quietly dispersed to fish and hunt, Mrs. Tracey warning them not to show themselves anywhere on the inner beach, for fear they might be seen from the ship.

Barry remained talking to Mrs. Tracey for another hour or so, until Velo and some of the Tebuan men appeared carrying a large boar which they had shot. This was at once sent off to the boat, as well as four or five turtles, which had been captured.

"Good-bye till to-morrow night, then," said Barry, holding out his hand. "Now remember, when you see two fires lit on the south-east islet you and your people can start. On the beach you will find our two whaleboats, with some of the hands awaiting you. They will bring you all on board without making any noise. You and these two young women can hide in the sail-room; the men will be taken care of by Velo and our men until I want them."

"I will not fail to remember every word, Good-bye once more."

At three o'clock in the afternoon Rawlings saw the dinghy leisurely returning to the brig. She was pulling in close to the shore, whilst Barry and Velo were walking along the beach, rifles in hand, looking out for a shot at a chance pig. Barradas heaved a sigh of relief when he saw them, for his nerves had been at a tension for many days past, and he feared that something fatal to Barry's plans might occur at the last moment.



[1] "True, very true."

[2] Sydney.

[3] Truly bound.

[4] "Compensate her relatives."



CHAPTER XIII.

"THE LITTLE CELEBRATION" COMES OFF.

Very smart and clean did the Mahina look as the dinghy ran alongside and Barry stepped on deck. Her newly-painted sides shone snow-white in the bright tropic sun, and her decks had been scrubbed and scrubbed again and again with soft pumice stone till they were as smooth to the touch as the breast of a sea-bird. Aloft, her brightly scraped spars and carefully tended running and standing gear matched her appearance below, and even the cabins had been thoroughly overhauled and repainted. The two large boats used during the pearling operations yet lay astern; for Barry, who, as Mrs. Tracey said, "thought of everything," had his own reasons for delaying to hoist them inboard.

"Leave them till the last thing to-morrow morning," he suggested to Rawlings, "as the men are having liberty to-day."

"You fellows must cook that pig and the turtle on shore," said Barry to some of the crew who were leaning over the rail looking into the boat; "we don't want a dirty mess made on the decks now."

"Aye, aye," responded Joe, and one of the other white seamen, jumping into the dinghy, followed, at a sign from Velo, by two or three natives. She pushed off from the side, and was rowed ashore with Velo in charge. The two whaleboats were already on shore with some of the crew, and their nude, brown-skinned figures could be seen walking about on the beach, or gathering a last lot of coconuts for the voyage. At dark the dinghy returned, having left Velo on shore to superintend the feast, which the men were to eat on shore.

But before then, and while it was still daylight, and Rawlings was below, and the Greek on the poop, Barry and the second mate were standing on the topgallant foc's'le, looking up and apparently scrutinising the condition of things aloft.

Barry was speaking. "Watch me to-night. When you see me rise from the table after supper is over, I'll collar Rawlings, and you must tackle the Greek. The steward will be behind him to help you, but you must see that he doesn't get out his knife. He's as strong as a buffalo. Don't hurt him if you can help it. I have leg-irons and handcuffs all ready in my berth. We'll get all the help we want in a few seconds—before either of them know what has happened. Warner will be too drunk to offer any resistance, and our men and Mrs. Tracey's people will tackle his niggers if they show fight. They are coming on board to-night. Are you clear, Barradas?"

The Spaniard gave an affirmative gesture. "Quite clear, Mr. Barry. Trust me to settle the Greek. But be careful of Rawlings, he always carries a derringer and might put a bullet into you before you could get your hands on him."

"Don't be afraid of that, Barradas. I'll get him by the throat so suddenly that he'll have no chance to use it. The only thing I feel anxious about is that Velo and Joe and our natives will be able to dispose of Warner's niggers without much bloodshed, and——"

He ceased, for he saw the boatswain coming towards them, and then he added in his natural voice, as he ran his eye up and down the fore stay—

"Well, perhaps so, Mr. Barradas, but give me wire any day for standing gear; it's better in every way to set up, and looks neater."

Then he went aft again, and sat on the skylight smoking his pipe, and now and then looking shorewards through the fast-gathering darkness. He had told Velo not to light the two signal fires until it was quite dark.

Presently Rawlings, dressed as usual in a natty, spotless white duck suit, and smoking a cigar, came up from below.

"It's dark, isn't it?" he said genially, as he took a few brisk turns up and down the poop, and taking off his wide, soft hat of fala leaf, he let the cool night breeze play upon his head. And as he walked past the light of the lantern hanging from the centre of the awning, just over the skylight, and Barry noticed his clean-cut handsome features, and calm, smiling face, he ground his teeth together, and thought of the Nemesis that in so strange a way was so soon to overtake the heartless little fiend.

"Well, Barry, my dear fellow," said the captain, "I suppose you are just as glad as I am that the work is over at last. After all our troubles we have had most excellent luck, have we not?"

"Yes, you have had splendid luck so far, Captain Rawlings—extraordinary good luck."

"For which I am largely indebted to you, Barry. Your judgment, knowledge, and resourcefulness are, I can assure you, very fully appreciated by me. You have been the guiding spirit in the whole affair; and, to be perfectly candid with you, my dear fellow, I don't know how I should have managed without you. Our native crew are so devoted to, and have worked so splendidly under you that I intend to give every one of them a handsome present. And, although you once refused to accept anything from me, I shall indeed feel hurt if you will not now reconsider your former decision. It will add considerably to the pleasure I feel at this moment."

"The native boys certainly do deserve a handsome present from the owner of the Mahina," replied the chief officer, emphasising the word "owner." "They have worked with an energy that I alone, perhaps, can understand. And I can assure you that, with every facility to steal, not a single pearl has been taken by them. Their honesty is above suspicion."

"I am sure of it, my dear fellow," answered Rawlings effusively, "and they shall be treated properly by me, I can assure you. Twelve thousand pounds' worth of pearls——"

"Say sixteen," said Barry; "my estimate of their value is based on the price they would fetch in the colonies or Singapore—not London or Amsterdam."

"Just so. Well, sixteen thousand pounds' worth of pearls, and thirty thousand pounds' worth of shell is a big haul in less than six months. But you have evaded my suggestion about your own—what shall I call it—bonus, lucky-penny?"

"I can only repeat to you that I cannot accept anything from you," replied Barry quietly, though his hands were twitching to catch the handsome, plausible little scoundrel by the throat and strangle him there and then.

Rawlings flung out his hands with a pained expression and sighed. "You are too proud to accept a present from me, a gift to which you are well entitled and which I have sincere pleasure in offering. A thousand pounds will be nothing to me——"

"For God's sake, stop!" and Barry turned away fiercely. "I tell you that I want nothing from you."

Rawlings looked at him quietly with the faintest flicker of a smile. "Ah, I won't offend you again, my dear fellow. I'm afraid that I'm a bit too impulsive, and that you are too proud a man even to listen to a well-meant and kindly suggestion for your own benefit."

Barry swung round and looked at him for a moment. Rawlings met his glance with a calm, unperturbed countenance, as cigar in mouth and with his hands in his pockets he leant against one of the awning stanchions. Fearful of betraying himself by an outburst of temper and perhaps ruining everything, the mate did not trust himself to speak again, and was glad when Rawlings said—

"Ha, here is Warner coming alongside with his people. You'll find that both he and his natives will cause us no trouble this time, Mr. Barry. The man himself is really not a bad-hearted fellow, but his drinking habits are very disgusting and lead him into mischief. However, he is sorry for what has occurred and has promised me not to offend again."

"He certainly is brute enough when sober, but he's fifty times worse when he's drunk," said Barry. "I daresay, though, that he has some good in him, or else his niggers wouldn't let him knock them about in the manner he does."

The captain laughed. "Yes, every one has some good points. Poor Warner is simply his own enemy. By the way, he now wishes me to land him at Guam, in the Ladrones, so we won't have his company all the voyage."

Presently Warner came aft, nodded to Rawlings, and held out his hand to the chief officer.

"Shake hands, mister. Guess I've been a bit of a hog, but I'm sorry. It's all the fault of the whiskey."

Concealing his disgust, Barry took the proffered hand of the treacherous ruffian and made some commonplace reply; then the three began talking about the ship and her cargo.

Suddenly a bright flame lit up the black line of palms on the island, and then another, as two fires shone brightly out upon the beach, and continued to burn steadily.

"Ah," said the Greek, who just then came on deck, "the kanakas will have gooda time to-nighta—pork, turtle, biskeet, feesh, everythings. They are alla gooda comrade to-night too," and he showed his teeth in a hideous grimace which was intended for a friendly smile for the chief officer.

Supper was late that night on board the Mahina; for Mose, the brown-skinned Manhiki steward, was, aided by the cook, preparing such a supper as had never before been seen on the brig—at least so he told Rawlings, who had cheerfully agreed that eight o'clock was not too late. And at half-past seven Rawlings himself came below to see the table and Mose's ideas of decoration.

"Why, Mose, you're quite an artist," he said as he went into his state-room. "Keep the lager as cool as you can. Put half a dozen bottles and some hock on the poop with some wet towels round them. We'll be up late to-night."

"Yes, sir," answered the man, and as he turned away a grim smile for a second flitted across his swarthy features.

Eight bells struck, and as Rawlings, Barradas, and the Greek took their seats, Barry came out of his own cabin and sat at the for'ard end of the table. Rawlings was opposite to him, and the Greek and Barradas also faced each other, Warner being on the same side as the Greek.

As the steward brought in the turtle soup there came the strains of a wheezy accordion from the main deck, and then three or four voices joined in a native chorus, broken now and then by a laugh, and the sound of naked feet stamping time to the music.

"Hallo," observed the Greek with his usual grin. "Billy Onotoa and the other fella on boarda are hava a bita singa-songa and danca too."

"Let them enjoy themselves to-night," said Rawlings pleasantly. "And, steward, send them up a couple of bottles of grog. When the rest of them come aboard they shall have half a dozen between them. It won't hurt them once in a while."

The grog seemed to have a rapidly stimulating effect on the men on deck, for the "harmony" began with renewed vigour; and amid it all, as Billy Onotoa and four others of his shipmates thumped their feet, and slapped their bare chests and chanted their song louder than before, the two boats from the shore came silently alongside, filled with two score of naked figures and the remainder of the brig's native crew, Joe and one of his mates with them.

Velo took a quick glance along the deck. None of the Solomon Islanders were visible, they all having taken up their quarters in the main-hold on top of the cases of pearl shell, where they had spread their rough mats of coconut leaf. Two of the hatches were off, and Veto looking down at the savages saw that they were sitting or lying about smoking or chewing their inevitable betel-nut.

"Stand by to clap on the hatches," he said quietly to Sam Button.

The white sailor obeyed him promptly, for Barry had told him to take his orders from the Samoan; so he and three native seamen took up their places, two on each side of the hatch coamings. Then Velo stepped to the port side and called to Joe in a whisper—

"It's all right, Joe. You can all come aboard in a minute, but let Mrs. Tracey and the girls come first."

Mrs. Tracey and Pani and Toea clambered up over the bulwarks, and Velo noiselessly conducted them to the sail locker in the deck-house and bade them remain there for the present. Then, cutlass in hand, he crouched before the door and listened to the murmur of voices from the cabin.

Rawlings was in such excellent spirits that he could not refrain from "chaffing" his chief officer upon his want of appetite, and kept pressing him to drink.

"My dear Barry," he said, "you really want livening up. You have worked too hard altogether, and seem a bit run down. Come, if you won't drink lager, try a glass of hock."

"Yesa," said the Greek, with the grin that was so intolerable to the man he meant to murder, "you have worka too harda, Mr. Barry. Ah! when we get to Singapore you will feela betta; there is fine prawna curry there in Singapore—make you feel stronga. Make you feela you wanta come back quick to Arrecifos, and finda more pearla."

Barry looked up wearily, but for the twentieth part of a second his eye met that of Mose the steward, who slipped behind the Greek's chair and filled his glass.

"No, thank you," he said to Rawlings, "I won't drink anything just now. I have a bit of a headache. I'll sit on the transoms a bit, and get a breath of fresh air from the stern port."

"Guess it isn't on account of the liquor you've drunk, mister," said Warner, with a sneering laugh. He himself had been drinking freely and, despite warning glances from the captain, he had several times rudely insisted upon Barry drinking with him, and the officer's refusals had evidently aroused his brutal temper.

"I tell you that I don't want to drink anything," he said quietly.

He rose from his seat and walked toward the stern, but as he was passing Rawlings his left arm shot out like lightning and seized the captain by the throat; and at the same instant Barradas, rising to his feet, leant across the table and struck the Greek a fearful blow between the eyes. There was no need for the steward's help—the man went down like a stone dropped into a well.

And then came a rush of naked feet and wild cries, and an English cheer from Joe and the white seamen as the cabin was filled with the excited crew and their island allies.

Warner made a desperate dash towards the companion, and by sheer strength fought his way out through the white and native seamen with his fists, striking out right and left, and felling a man at each blow. Calling loudly upon his Solomon Islanders, he gained the deck, where he was met by Billy Onotoa, who presented a Snider carbine to his breast. Dashing the weapon aside the American struck the Gilbert Islander a blow on the chest which sent him reeling across the deck, and still shouting for Togaro and the rest of his followers to come to the rescue, he reached the main-hatch, which he found covered, and in the possession of a dozen of the Tebuan people.

There was nothing of the coward about him. Unarmed as he was he leaped into the midst of them and wresting a hatchet from one of their number he set to work, dealing out death at every blow, while from beneath came the cries of his imprisoned followers. But great as was his strength he had but little chance amongst so many, and presently a boy of fifteen dealt him a blow with his tomahawk across the small of the back which severed his spine. He fell with a groan on the blood-stained hatch.

In the cabin Rawlings lay gasping upon the cushioned transoms with Barry standing over him; the Greek had been dragged up into a sitting posture, and placed with his back against a cabin door, whilst Barradas proceeded to handcuff and leg-iron him. Then, together with Velo, who was carrying another set of irons, the second mate came towards Barry and Rawlings.

"This fellow's pretty little hands and feet are too small for them," said Barry; "carry him up on deck, you Velo, and Joe, and wait till he comes to. Then lash his hands athwartships behind his back, and take him and the Greek ashore. Keep a good look-out over them, and see that they have water to drink when they ask for it. They will swing at the gallows for their crimes. Let us be as merciful to them as we can; but for God's sake take them away from here quickly; their very presence poisons me. Barradas, come here . . . give me your hand. You have stood to me manfully. Now I must go on deck and see to Warner."

"He is dying, sir," said one of the white seamen who just then entered the cabin; "some of the Tebuan natives cut him down, but not until he had killed three of them. His niggers are safe under the main-hatch."

Followed by Mose the steward and big Joe, Barry ran on deck. On the hatch were three dead or dying natives, and Warner lay upon the deck with his head against the coamings.

"Bring some lights," cried Barry to the steward, as he knelt beside the wounded man.

"I guess that lights are just what I want, young feller," said Warner faintly, with a grim smile. "That darned kanaka boy just drove his hatchet inter my back, and I reckon I haven't much lights or liver left."

Barry tried to examine the man's wound, but the American stayed him.

"Let me be, mister. I meant to do for you, and would have done it later on. But I'm wiped out and don't want to make a song. Is Jim dead?"

"No," replied Barry, "he is not dead."

"Mister, you are a darned good sort. Me and Jim meant to do for you."

"Don't talk about that, Warner. I have no enmity against you. And I don't think you have long to live."

"That is so, mister. I guess I'm about done. I'd like to see Togaro and the rest of my niggers before I slip, if you have no objections."

Barry motioned to the crew to take off the hatches and let the Solomon Islanders come on deck to see their dying master. Then with a few kindly words he left him to return to the cabin, and watched Rawlings and the Greek being carried on deck in irons.

Mrs. Tracey, who had followed, overtook him at the companion way and touched his arm.

"Thank God, it is all over, Mr. Barry." Then her tears began to fall.

Barry raised her hand and touched it with his lips. "All over, thank God. Now will you come and speak to Barradas?"

She followed him below.

Barradas was sitting at the table with his hands over his eyes.

Mrs. Tracey placed her hand upon his shoulder, and said softly—

"As Christ forgives us all, so may He forgive you, Manuel Barradas; and so may He forgive those who . . ."

Barry stole swiftly up on deck and left them praying together.



CHAPTER XIV.

BARRY HOISTS THE FLAG OF ENGLAND.

Warner, or, to give him his right name, Chase, did not live long after Barry returned on deck. His wild followers were clustered round him, some stroking his hands and feet, others gazing into his face with silent concern. Togaro, the leader, himself had his dying master's back supported on his outspread hands, trying to staunch the flow of blood.

"Mister," said Chase faintly as the chief officer again bent over him, "I'm darned sorry."

Barry could not help taking his hand and giving it a kindly pressure; in two or three minutes the man had ceased to breathe, and his body was carried below into the main-hold to await burial on shore on the following morning; then Joe returned and reported that Rawlings and the Greek were safely secured in one of the huts with half a dozen of the Tebuan people guarding them.

Meanwhile Mose the steward had carefully removed all traces of the struggle from the cabin, whilst the native crew quickly washed down the ensanguined deck and removed the three dead men, so that Mrs. Tracey should not see them. Presently she appeared followed by Barradas, her face still wet with tears.

Placing a chair for her on the after-deck, the chief officer told her in as few words as possible of the fight on the hatch and the death of Warner and the three natives.

"We must at once consider what is to be done with Warner's people," he added. "To land them at any of these islands would only mean further bloodshed."

"Indeed, yes," assented Mrs. Tracey; "the Tebuan people would take a quick revenge for the lives of the three men he killed. We cannot consign them to the mercy of these natives—for no mercy will they have. Can we not keep them on board until we can land them on some islands where they will at least be safe?"

"That certainly is what we should do; but I must consult with Barradas and Velo. The difficulty is this: if we leave Velo with six of the Gilbert Islanders behind us to protect your interests on Arrecifos we shall be seven men less on board, and these Solomon Islanders are not for one moment to be trusted. We cannot put the poor devils in irons to swelter in the hold; and yet, to prevent them from suddenly rising and getting possession of the ship, we shall have to be constantly on our guard, and our crew will be obliged to go armed day and night. Only six years ago a party of seven Solomon Islands natives massacred the entire crew of an Australian trading barque—seventeen altogether. But here are Barradas and Velo. Let us hear their opinion."

"I think, sir," said the Spaniard after he had heard his superior on the question under discussion, "that we cannot do anything else but keep them aboard; we can't leave them here to be slaughtered by the Tebuan people. Now, most of them come from Bouka, at the north end of Bougainville Island, and Bougainville lies right in our track for Sydney. That they will be dangerous passengers I know; but if they are disarmed and well watched and the captain and the Greek don't get speech of them, we need have no fear."

Velo shook his head. "It would be running a great risk," he said; "these sixteen men have no regard for life, and unless they are kept heavily ironed the brig will always be in danger of capture. And if they find they have no chance of surprising and murdering every one on board, they will not hesitate to set fire to the ship and be burned with her."

Barry, however, believed with the second mate that the crew would be able to manage, and so, much to Mrs. Tracey's satisfaction, it was decided to keep them on board and land them at some part of Bougainville.

Then, exhausted by the events of the day, Mrs. Tracey retired to her cabin, leaving Barry and the Spaniard to snatch a few hours of sleep on deck under the awning.

At daylight the two big boats were sent off, manned by some of the Tebuan people, to bring up the shell collected by Mrs. Tracey, as Barry did not care about sailing down in the brig and there was still much to do on the south-east islet. Then the whaleboats were loaded with stores and sent ashore; for Mrs. Tracey and Barry had decided to take possession of Arrecifos by virtue of the Protection Order (given to Tracey in Sydney by the commodore) which had been found in Rawlings' cabin, together with all the other papers belonging to the dead captain. Velo with six men was to remain, and with the help of the willing Tebuan people continue to dive for shell, and await the return of the brig in six months' time.

So at nine o'clock the red ensign of England was run up on a flag pole in the centre of the little village amid the cheers of the crew—cheers which were bitter to the ears of the two men who were lying, bound and guarded, in one of the native huts, awaiting to be taken on board again, and Barry nailed a copy of the Protection Order on the bole of a stately coco-palm, handing the original to Velo for safe keeping and telling him how to act in the event of a British man-of-war entering the lagoon. Then Mrs. Tracey, standing beside Barry, addressed the people who had been so faithful to her, urging them to remember that Velo was "a true man" to her, and that they must protect and care for him, for he would that day be married to Pani, according to the fashion of white people. Toea would go with her mistress to Sydney and remain with her for perhaps a year or more.

"So that she may comfort me in my loneliness," said Mrs. Tracey; "for my husband is dead and I have no child, and it will be good for me to have Toea, so that I may hear the sound of the tongue of Ujilong and think of ye all. It may be that Toea and I shall come back with this our friend Parri"—she smiled into Barry's eyes—"when the ship returns; it may be that she and I will live in Sydney for a while and not return till twenty moons have passed. But return I shall."

An old, bald-headed warrior, grasping his spear in his right hand, thrust its point deeply into the ground, stood up and spoke.

"Alisi, this is a great day. The ship which was stolen from thy dear husband is thine again, and the white men who killed him and tried to kill thee are, as thou saidst they would be, bound in links of iron. That is well. But there are some things of which thou hast not spoken and of which we would know, out of our love."

"Tell me, old Roku."

"It is pleasing to us that this man Velo of Samoa is taking Pani to wife. He is a good man and true to thee and the white man Parri. But we of Tebuan would see thy own wedding feast ere the ship saileth."

A vivid scarlet dyed Mrs. Tracey's cheeks as a roar of applause burst from the assembled people. She put her hand to her throat and tried to speak.

"What is it, Mrs. Tracey?" inquired Barry.

"Nothing of any importance, Mr. Barry," she said hurriedly, but trying to force a smile and speak with unconcern. "I—I have been telling them that you will marry Pani and Velo to-day, and that all going well, Toea and I will return to Arrecifos certainly within two years."

Old Roku, the father of Toea, stood quietly holding the staff of his spear and awaiting her reply.

"Roku," she said at last, trembling as she spoke, "say not such things to me. This man Parri is my good friend, but hath no desire to wed me, nor do I desire to wed him. And even if we were both of a free mind such a thing could not be, for he is betrothed to another woman."

Roku slapped his naked chest in derision. "Alisi! what is that to thee? Thou art a great woman and can command. What is any other woman to thy will but as a dried leaf which falls and is swept away by the wind? This man Parri and thou must wed, else shall we of Ujilong be sore in heart. No child hath drawn at thy breasts——"

Mrs. Tracey held up her hand, her voice choking with shame in fear that Barry might understand what was being said. "Say no more, Roku. I tell ye all it cannot be. See, here in these boxes are the rifles and the tobacco for the men and the red and blue cloth and the many-coloured beads for the women and children, as was promised."

The old man thanked her for the gifts, but sat down as if disappointed at the rest of her remarks. Then a second man arose and made a demand that filled Mrs. Tracey with fear. Where were the black men whose master had slain three of the Tebuan people?

"What would ye have with them?" she asked quickly.

"Give us three of them for the three of our people whom they slew," was the instant reply.

"That I cannot do, neither would Parri here consent even if I were willing."

An ominous murmur of displeased astonishment broke from the natives. Surely, they asked, they had a right to these three men. Why should three of their own people lie dead with gaping wounds and the man-eaters escape without punishment? Would that be fair and just?

"What answer can I give them?" she asked of Barry after translating their demand. "We cannot give up three of the Solomon Islanders to be murdered, but we must do something to please them."

They conversed on the matter for a few minutes, and then Mrs. Tracey spoke again.

"These are Parri's words. These black men will be taken away in a ship, for Parri hath pledged himself to them. And not they, but their master who is dead, was it who killed the three men of Tebuan. But yet so that we may part with naught of soreness between us will I make provision for the wives and blood relatives of the three men who died in helping me to gain back my ship. This is my gift: three thousand sticks of tobacco, three large bags of biscuit, nine matted bags of rice, three muskets, a keg of powder, and a thousand round bullets—all these to be divided."

The munificence of the gift was too much for the native mind to resist, and to Mrs. Tracey's pleasure, old Roku, speaking for the people generally, said they were well pleased and would now "have no anger in their hearts against the black, man-eating strangers."

She decided to return to the ship with about ten or a dozen natives and see her present handed over to them by Barradas, leaving Barry to follow later on; for he had yet another task before him—the burial of Chase.

A little before noon a boat left the brig, carrying the man's body, which was in a hastily made coffin. Under Barry's direction a grave had already been dug in the little cemetery on the end of the islet, and here he was buried, the officer reading the service with Joe and two other of the white seamen standing beside him.

Then he returned on board again.



CHAPTER XV.

FAREWELL TO ARRECIFOS.

Barradas and Mrs. Tracey met him as soon as he stepped on the deck, which was covered with loose sticks of tobacco, ship biscuit, bags of rice, etc.—the present intended for the relatives of the dead men—which were being passed over the side into the other boat, where the eager, excited Tebuan people received every article with shouts of approval.

"Why, you have got along splendidly," he said, with a smile to Mrs. Tracey, whose dainty little hands were stained and discoloured with counting out tobacco, and whose perfect oval face was flushed with her exertions, as, sitting down on deck and leaning against Pani, she held her hands up before him with a laugh.

"Indeed we have! Mr. Barradas opened the tierce of tobacco, and Pani and Toea and I dug out the nasty sticky layers with sheath knives. I think we counted out three thousand sticks; but we got a little bit confused, so perhaps there are rather more."

A smile—the first that they had ever seen on his face—lit up the swarthy features of the Spanish mate. "I think there's nearer four thousand than three, madam."

"Oh well, never mind, Mr. Barradas. We mustn't be too particular," she said merrily, "but I should like some hot water to clean my hands. Please tell the steward. When is the wedding to be, Mr. Barry? The bride that is to be is very nervous, and, in fact, says she'd rather Velo married her in native fashion. But I'm not going to let her disappoint me. Big Joe is to be her best man, and the bridegroom is to be 'supported' by Mose the steward."

"I'll be ready in half an hour, Mrs. Tracey," replied Barry; "the Church Service is in my pocket, as it is."

"Ah!" and her eyes filled. "How wrong and childish of me to forget! You must forgive me; . . . but I am not myself. You have just come from the presence of death, and my first words to you are a jest. Do not be angry with me. I am not so heartless . . ."

A quick glance at her face showed Barry that she was on the verge of hysteria. "Come, Mrs. Tracey, come below."

"Yes, take me below—quickly, please," and she rose tremblingly to her feet. "I am very silly, am I not? I——"

The mate swept her up in his arms as if she were a baby and carried her below.

"Poor little woman," he said pityingly to himself, as he laid her down in her own berth; and then he added aloud, "You are overwrought and done up, Mrs. Tracey. Rest awhile, and you will soon feel better."

"Yes," she answered, trying hard to control herself from giving way altogether; "I shall be all right presently."

Motioning to the two native girls to attend her, he closed the cabin door and went on deck and joined Barradas.

"Manuel," he said, addressing his subordinate for the first time by his Christian name, whereat the Spaniard's cheeks flushed with pleasure, "we shall have to hustle along and get things done if we are to get to sea to-morrow. Poor Mrs. Tracey is not quite herself, as you can see, and until she is a bit recovered I don't want to worry her about some matters which must be attended to before we heave up. But meanwhile we can get to work at other things. Rawlings and the Greek will have to be confined in the sail-locker—there is nowhere else where we can put them with any degree of comfort. So turn to some of the hands and get it made as clean as possible. I am in hopes that we may meet a man-of-war somewhere in the Solomons; if so I can get rid of them, for a time at least."

Barradas made a gesture of assent, and at once set to work to fit up the sail-locker for the reception of the two prisoners. In half an hour his task was completed, and then Mrs. Tracey came on deck, dressed in a flowing gown of white muslin, and accompanied by Toea and Pani.

"Here we are, Mr. Barradas," she said with a smile; "where is big Joe? I must tell him what to do. And where is Mose; and where is the bridegroom himself?—ah! there he is, and quite nicely dressed, too. Tell Mr. Barry we are quite ready, please.—Come here, Velo, and promise me you will be good to my little Pani."

"I promise," said Velo gravely, taking the white woman's hand and pressing it to his forehead.

Then Barry, calling all hands aft, made Pani and Velo stand side by side on the after-deck as he read the marriage service, and the simple ceremony was soon over.

"Ring the bell like blazes!" shouted Barradas as soon as the last words of the service were uttered, and big Joe and a native sailor raced together to ring the ship's for'ard bell; then the two six-pounders on the main-deck were fired by Mose, and the marriage ceremonies of Velo and his pretty Pani were over.

"Now then, get ashore with your wife, Velo," said Barry laughingly to the faithful Samoan; "perhaps Mrs. Tracey may come and see you and Pani this evening."

"Of course I shall, Velo," said Mrs. Tracey, whose dark eyes were dancing with pleasure; "Toea and I mean to sleep ashore to-night with the Tebuan people, and come on board early in the morning. And I have some presents for little Pani."

An hour before sunset the two boats and a fleet of canoes returned from Tebuan with the pearl shell collected by Mrs. Tracey. It was hoisted aboard in baskets of coconut leaf and stowed in the main hold, and then the day's work, as far as the crew were concerned, was over.

Before supper, Barradas, Mrs. Tracey, and Barry sat together in the main cabin and examined the pearls—those which she had herself brought on board and those taken from Rawlings' cabin. Then it was that Barry showed Mrs. Tracey the seven largest pearls yet obtained.

"I kept these, Mrs. Tracey, to give to you personally," he said simply; "I did not want Rawlings or the Greek to touch them. I wanted to give them to you unsullied by the touch of their hands."

"How kind you are!" she murmured softly as, bending her head, she moved the beautiful gems to and fro under her hands upon the scarlet tablecloth, then raising her dark hazel eyes to Barry she dropped them suddenly with a blush, for both men were regarding her with undisguised admiration.

After supper she and Toea were taken on shore, and at once went to Velo's house (which was that formerly occupied by Barry). The Samoan and his wife received them with delight, and in a few minutes the house was filled with native women and girls who came to see the box of presents brought for Pani. Then, surrounded by the women, Mrs. Tracey went away to sleep for the last time in the house occupied by old Roku and Gurden's connections—the people who had been so kind to her during those first long, weary months on Tebuan.

At six o'clock in the morning Barry came ashore in the whaleboat, followed by the dinghy, which was to convey the prisoners on board. They were at once handed over by their native guards to Joe and his boat's crew, who assisted them down to the dinghy, and then pulled off to the ship.

Barradas received them at the gangway, and, taking no heed of the murderous looks and savage curses of the Greek, saw that they were placed in the deck-house and a sentry put over them. Their leg-irons, he told them, Barry intended to remove once the brig was clear of the land. Rawlings made no reply, but the Greek broke out afresh with a torrent of curses, and suddenly raising his manacled hands he brought them down upon the Spaniard's cheek and cut it to the bone. In another moment Joe would have felled the brute, ironed as he was, to the deck, but Barradas sternly struck aside his arm, and without a word of anger calmly went below and got the steward to stitch together the gaping wound.

On shore the people of Tebuan were clustering around the white woman and Barry as they stood together beside the flag-pole from which the red ensign of England streamed out to the lusty trade wind.

Velo, ever faithful Velo, wrung Barry's hand again and again, for proud as he was of being placed in charge of the island, his distress at parting from him was very great.

"There, good-bye once more, Velo. Don't work too hard, and, if a man-of-war comes, be sure you go on board and give the captain that letter. Come, Mrs. Tracey, we must be going. See, Barradas is already hove short, and waiting for us."

Helping Mrs. Tracey into the whaleboat, Barry followed, and grasped the long steer-oar.

"Give it to her, men, there's the brig breaking her heart to get away."

The light boat shot out like an arrow, and was soon alongside, and Mrs. Tracey was met at the gangway by Joe and another white seaman, both dressed in new duck suits given them by Barradas.

But instead of going into the cabin Mrs. Tracey waited at the gangway for Barry.

"I want to welcome the new captain of my ship," she said with a smile, as she held out her hand to him.

"Thank you, madam," and Barry raised his hat to her in such a formal manner that she laughed again, and asked him if he was afraid of the brig's owner, and Joe winked atrociously at Sam Button, and said in a loud whisper—

"He's a lucky cove, e' is, Sam. W'y 'e can marry the howner for the arskin'. I can see it in 'er eye, stickin' out a foot."

"Man the windlass again, Mr. Barradas," and Barry with a happy smile sprang on the poop, and himself took the wheel.

"Aye, aye, Captain Barry."

Up came the anchor from the coral bed in which it had lain for so many months, and ten minutes later the Mahina was slipping through the smooth water of the lagoon towards the passage. Another hour, with every stitch of her white cotton canvas shining bright in the glorious noonday sun, she was dashing over the long mountain swell of the North Pacific, and heading south before the brave north-east trade wind.

At noon the watches were picked, and then the captain ordered the Solomon Islanders to be brought on deck. They came up one by one with the expectation of being at once shot. Togaro, the leader, who understood and spoke a little English, glared resentfully at Barry when the latter ordered him to step out from the rest and listen to what he had to say.

"Togaro," said the captain, "I don't want to keep all your fellows down there in the hold, and no harm will be done to any of you if you obey orders. If you do as I tell you, then I will put you all ashore at Bouka in about two or three weeks from now. Now this is what you must do: eight of you can stay on deck at a time to help the sailors; the other eight must stay below. If any one of them tries to come on deck without permission he will be shot. Do you understand?"

The savage nodded.

"And as you are the boss, you will be shot too. Do you understand that?"

"Me savee, cap'en," replied Togaro, turning to his companions and translating Barry's speech. They grinned approval, and each one promised to faithfully obey the captain's orders, and as a proof of their honesty one of them descended into the hold and reappeared with three or four tomahawks and some knives which they had concealed among the cases of shell.

"That's all right, Togaro," said Barry as the weapons were passed over to Joe; "if you and your people are good fellows, you shall have these tomahawks and knives back again when we get to Bouka. And if you work well you'll get plenty of kai kai; if you don't, you'll feel hungry all the time. Steward, serve them out pipes and tobacco and tell the cook to give them a good square feed right away—the poor devils must be pretty hungry by this time."

* * * * * *

"Captain Barry," said Mrs. Tracey to him as he rejoined her on the after-deck, "you ought to be an admiral. How easily you did it all! Look now! There are those dreadful savages sitting down as quietly as if there had never been any trouble with them. I won't have the slightest fear of them in the future."

"I don't think there will be any danger to be apprehended from them now. Togaro, the leader, and myself had a little difference once——"

"I know. Velo has told me all about it——"

"And he'll be careful in the future. He's a thundering savage though, and I've no doubt but that he murdered poor Harry. However, bygones must be bygones now. We want no more bloodshed."

"No indeed," she said with a shudder, "but what has occurred was no fault of yours. You are, I am sure," she added impulsively, placing her hand on his arm, "a merciful man, as well as a brave one. Your wife that is to be will be a happy woman, Mr. Barry."

* * * * * *

For thirteen days the little Mahina ran southward under cloudless skies and over softly swelling seas till Bouka was sighted, and Togaro and his men prepared to be landed in a little bay fringed with coco-palms growing around a half-circle of snowy beach. They had all behaved well, and each man, ere he got into the boat which was to take them ashore, insisted on shaking hands with Barry and every one else on board. They were landed at sundown, and by dark the Mahina was again slipping over the long Pacific swell with the light of myriad stars illumining her snowy canvas and shining upon her spotless deck.



CHAPTER XVI.

EXIT RAWLINGS AND THE GREEK.

At daylight one morning, a week after leaving Bouka Island, the Mahina was lying becalmed off Nitendi, one of the islands of the Santa Cruz group, and just as Barry came on deck for his coffee the look-out called to Barradas—

"Sail ho, sir, right astern!"

Barry ran aloft, and there six or seven miles astern was a schooner-rigged steamer. Barradas, who had followed him, knew her at once.

"That's the Reynard, sir—one of the Sydney squadron patrolling the New Hebrides. I've seen her pretty often, and know her well."

"Ah, we're in luck, Manuel. There's a chance now of getting rid of our prisoners—for a time at least. She's steaming this way, and will be up to us in another hour. Get the whaleboat ready and hoist our colours."

There was no need for the Mahina to signal that she desired to communicate with the warship, for the latter steamed steadily along till she was abreast of the brig, and then stopped her engines and waited for Barry to come aboard.

In a few minutes the master of the Mahina was on the quarter-deck of the Reynard talking to her commander, a clean-shaven, youthful-looking officer.

"Come below, Mr. Barry, and tell me your story in detail," he said politely. "I will do all I can to assist you, if it was only for the pleasure of hearing that that scoundrel, Billy Chase, is no longer in the land of the living. And I must compliment you upon your good-nature and sound judgment in carrying back his natives to Bouka. I wish there were more trading captains like you in the distressful South Seas."

Lieutenant-Commander Martyn listened with intense interest to Barry's strange story, from the time he came on board the Mahina in Sydney Harbour till the Reynard was sighted.

"It is a perfect romance," he declared, "and you'll be quite a famous man in the history of the South Seas. Now as to your prisoners. As you have made the request I'll take them from you. My orders from the Admiral are to follow out the High Commissioner's instructions 'to maintain order and arrest all suspicious persons within the jurisdiction of the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific,' and these two fellows you have on board your vessel certainly come within the category of 'suspicious persons'—to put it mildly. I am bound to Noumea, New Caledonia, and from there I can send them on to Sydney or Fiji for the trial—wish I could dispose of them both in the good old-fashioned style, by dangling them from the end of the yard-arm. Now as to this other man, Barradas. He seems to have made all the amends possible in his power, but nevertheless he certainly was their accomplice in the piracy of the vessel. This may mean from two to five years' imprisonment for him—unless," he added carelessly, "he runs away before you get to Sydney."

Barry rose, when the commander bade him be seated again. "Don't go just yet, Mr. Barry. Take another whiskey-and-soda with me, and then I'll go aboard your ship, take over the custody of those two anointed scoundrels, and"—here he smiled—"ask to be introduced to the heroine of your strange tale."

He touched the bell on the table and gave the necessary orders to the sentry, and in a few seconds the boatswain's whistle called away one of the boats which, with the commander and a junior lieutenant, left the Reynard, together with Barry, who was in his own boat, but went alongside the Mahina first so as to receive the naval officer with all due ceremony.

Stepping on the deck, Commander Martyn returned Barry's salute in the usual naval manner—as if he had never before seen him in his life—and asked to see the ship's papers. He was conducted to the cabin, and the ship's papers and all other necessary documents bearing upon John Tracey's rights of possession of Arrecifos laid before him for examination.

"Everything is quite right, Mr. Barry," he said formally. "Now please hand over your prisoners to Lieutenant Jenkins, who will take them away immediately."

Then the coxswain of the man-of-war's boat and two bluejackets entered the sail-room, and Rawlings and the Greek were brought out, handcuffed, and helped down over the side into the boat. Neither of them looked at Barry, nor he at them, until their backs were turned to him. Not once during the voyage had he spoken to them, and now, though he did not know it, he saw them for the last time.

"Now, Mr. Barry——" and the naval officer turned to him with a smile.

The captain of the Mahina tapped at Mrs. Tracey's cabin door.

"Captain Martyn, of the Reynard, would like to be introduced to you, Mrs. Tracey," he said.

The door opened at once and Alice Tracey met the officer with outstretched hand. "And I am very pleased indeed," she said with a bright smile as Martyn bent low over her hand. He had no idea that he would see so beautiful a woman in the cabin of a South Sea trading vessel.

"Yours is indeed a strange, sad story, Mrs. Tracey," he said as he sat down beside her, "and the master of this vessel" (Barry had discreetly gone on deck) "seems to have acted in an exceedingly brave manner throughout. He looks—and of course he is—a very plucky fellow and a perfect type of the British seaman."

"He is indeed! He is like my poor husband"—her voice trembled—"who was also a perfect type of an English sailor."

The commander of the Reynard and Mrs. Tracey remained chatting together for nearly a quarter of an hour; he, delighted to meet an educated and refined white woman under such strange circumstances, and she listening with a secret pleasure to his praises of "Mr." Barry—for, like all naval officers, Commander Martyn could not address or speak of a merchant skipper as "captain."

Then "Mr." Barry came down and he and the naval officer and Mrs. Tracey drank a glass of champagne together, and exchanged various promises to meet again when the Reynard came to Sydney at the end of her cruise.

"This meeting with you, Mrs. Tracey, is the only pleasurable incident of a detestable cruise, I can assure you," said Martyn as he bade her farewell; "the Reynard is a beast of a ship and we are employed on beastly work; in fact I'm nothing better than a London sergeant of police detailed off for duty to watch 'the criminal classes' in Southwark or the Borough Road. Wish to goodness, however, that I was there now instead of stewing in these wretched islands—chasing slavers we can never catch and assailed by the Australian newspapers as 'lazy, la-de-da "haw-haws."' Wish I had one of those newspaper fellows on board the Reynard to show him how the much-maligned naval officer doing patrol work in the South Seas manages to live and keep his men from rank mutiny. Now, good-bye once more. Hope we'll all meet in Sydney soon."

Shaking hands with Mrs. Tracey, he and Barry went on deck and took a few turns together.

"She's a sweet little woman, Mr. Barry," said the naval officer impulsively; "her soft, velvety eyes are like those of a girl I know in the old country—near Swanage way. You're not a married man, are you?"

"No," replied Barry, with a laugh; "but I hope to be within a week or so after this little brig drops her mud-hook in Sydney harbour."

"Ah! I thought so! And you deserve her! By Jove, you do! It's the 'brave knight and the beauteous woman' story over again, with the South Seas for a setting. And she is a beautiful woman! Good luck to you both! Wish I could come to the wedding; but as I can't you must just accept my best wishes and all that sort of thing, you know. And now I'll have something to write about to the little girl in Dorset. Good-bye, here's my boat alongside."

He grasped Barry's hand vigorously, and with his sword clattering on deck and nodding a good-bye to Barradas and Joe, who stood at the gang-way, he descended the ladder and jumped into the Reynard's boat, which at once pushed off.

A quarter of an hour later Barry and Mrs. Tracey stood watching the gunboat as with the black smoke pouring from her long, yellow funnel she cut through the glassy water on her way to Noumea. Long before noon only a faint line of smoke on the southern sea-rim was visible.

* * * * * *

That night as the brig was moving quietly through the water, and Barradas had just relieved Joe (who was now second mate), the captain came and stood beside him, and began to speak to him in low but earnest tones. The Spaniard listened intently, but shook his head every now and then in dissent.

"I won't do anything like that, Captain Barry! I won't run away like a coward. I am a Catholic and have vowed to the Holy Virgin and the blessed Saints that I shall lead a better life. And I cannot begin that better life by avoiding the punishment that I should endure. No, sir, I will stick to the ship and be a man, and not a coward."

"Barradas," said Barry earnestly, placing his hand on the Spaniard's shoulder, "think again. Whatever harm you have done to Mrs. Tracey has been amply atoned for. The law may recognise that, or it may not. The captain of the man-of-war himself thinks that it would be as well for you to leave the ship before we get to Sydney. And remember that I and Mrs. Tracey, who are your sincere friends, will have to appear against you. This would be distressing to us both, Manuel."

"I am prepared to suffer for what I have done, captain," answered the Spaniard quietly, "and when I come out of prison I shall come to you and Mrs. Tracey and ask you to forget that I was Manuel Barradas, the fellow-criminal of Rawlings and the Greek, and ask you to only remember that I have tried to undo some of the wrong I have done."

"As you please, Manuel. But in me you will ever have a firm friend, even though you will force me to be an accuser."



CHAPTER XVII.

BARRY RECEIVES A "STIFFENER."

One day, nearly a month after the brig had spoken the Reynard, old Watson walked into the big room of the Sydney Merchants' Exchange, as he had done the first thing every morning for some weeks, and scanned the "arrivals" board. For the letters which Barry had written to him and Rose Maynard had come safely to hand nearly six weeks before.

Almost the first notice that met his eye was this:—

"Brig flying Hawaiian Islands and British colours entered 8.45."

The old man tossed his hat up to the ceiling, and gave a loud hurrah.

"Hallo, Watson, what's up?" said a seafaring friend named Craig, whom he ran up against at the door and nearly knocked down, in his eagerness to get out again.

"That brig I was looking out for has just come in. Her skipper is a friend of mine, and although he's been mighty lucky, I've rotten bad news for him, and wish some one else could tell it to him. Damn all women, I say!—leastways, all those who don't stick to the man who stuck to them."

"What's wrong, Watson?"

"Damn them all, I say!" repeated the old sailor in his deep, rumbling tones. "Here's as fine a sailor man as ever trod a deck coming into port to find the girl that was sworn to him another man's wife! Isn't that enough to make a man say 'Damn all women!' including the bad with the good?—not that this one is one of the bad lot, though."

"If I was served like that I'd make it mighty hot for the man who cut me out," said Craig, as they descended the steps of the Exchange, and by mutual intuition walked across the street to the nearest hotel.

"There are circumstances, and circumstances, Tom Craig. This girl is as good a little woman as ever put foot in shoe leather, but she had no grit in her, and that's the whole secret. Come in and take a drink, and I'll tell you the whole yarn before I go aboard and see the young fellow. I've got a letter for him—from her—in my pocket. It'll be a regular stiffener for him, poor chap; but if I'm any judge of a man he'll not make a song about it."

Entering a sitting-room of the hotel, the two men seated themselves at one of the tables and ordered drinks; then Watson, wiping his florid, heated face with his handkerchief, pulled out a letter from his breast-pocket and banged it down upon the table.

"That letter, Tom Craig, was written by a broken-hearted woman to the man she loves in her own weak-hearted way, if you understand me. And I have to give that blarsted letter to one of the best chaps that I ever met. And I don't like doing it, Tom Craig, I don't like doing it."

"Why don't you post it?"

"Because I can't. Didn't I tell you I'm going off to see him now? He knows that I know the girl who promised herself to him, and the first thing he will ask me will be about her; and then I'll have to tell him she's been married this six months to an old fellow, old enough to be her grandfather, poor child."

"Matter o' money, I suppose?"

"Matter of keeping body and soul together, Tom. It was this way. This young fellow and the girl were sweet on each other a long time ago, when her father was one of the big bugs of Sydney, but the girl's mother wouldn't have no sailor man courting her daughter. So there was a hitch for a time, and Barry—that's his name—was forbidden to see her again. He went off to sea again, got a berth as mate in the Tahiti trade, and when he came back to Sydney found that his girl and her father were close upon starving. The old man had lost all his money and the girl was earning a living by serving in a draper's shop—close by here, in George Street. The young fellow had precious little money, but he gave the old man all he had except a few shillings—something like six quid. Mind you, Tom Craig, the girl told me all this herself."

"He must be a good sort of a chap, Watson."

"Good! He's solid gold. Well, as I was saying, he did what he could for the old gentleman and the girl, and the same night as he met them he sailed. But before he did sail he gave the girl's father the address of some scientific old swab who he thought would buy some damned ebony or ivory carving that they wanted to sell. See?"

"I can see how it's coming out, Watson," replied his friend. "I know of just such another——"

"Shut up. I'm not sitting here to listen to any yarns of yours, Tom Craig. Well, as might have been expected, this old scientific fellow, Colonel Maclean, takes a fancy to the girl and asks her to take the billet of secretary to him. She took it—took it to help the old father who was getting shakier and shakier every day, and wanted all sorts of attention and nursing.

"I used to go and see them pretty frequently—at first just on account of this young fellow Barry who I had taken a liking to, and then because I liked the old man and the girl herself, whose voice was as sweet as the note of a thrush. She used to talk to me about Barry and made no secret of her loving him and all that.

"Well, one evening, I found she was in great trouble. Her father had had a paralytic seizure, and there were a couple of swell doctors attending him, and in the sitting-room was this old scientific bloke, Colonel Maclean, twirling his moustache and saying how very distressed he was and all that. He was mighty civil to me and took me down to Pfahlert's Hotel, where we had a drink or two, and he told me that he was deeply interested in Miss Maynard's welfare. Of course, I saw in a moment what he was driving at, and tried to do my best for Barry, saying that we (Miss Maynard and me) expected to see him back in a month or two, when they would be married.

"'Oh, indeed,' says the swab, 'how very interesting! I know Mr. Barry personally and have bought some very valuable ethnographical specimens from him. Good-night, Mr.—er, Mr. Watson.'

"Well, the next time I called at Miss Maynard's rooms I found that she and her father were gone—gone to Colonel Maclean's house, so the landlady said. I footed it out there and asked to see her. She came downstairs and met me, crying.

"'My father will never rise from his bed again, Mr. Watson,' she says, 'and I have promised to marry Colonel Maclean to-morrow. Here, take this, please,' and she hands me this very identical letter which I've just shown you, Tom. And married she was the very next day."

"It wasn't your fault, anyway, Sam," observed Mr. Craig, as he drank off his brandy-and-soda.

"Who said it was?" inquired the old mate indignantly; "I wasn't in charge of the girl, was I? But what has given me such a smack in the face is this, Tom; about a month after she was married I got a letter from Barry telling me all about his adventures—and damned queer adventures they are—and enclosing one to Miss Maynard."

"What did you do with it, Sam?"

"Posted it to her—to 'Mrs. Maclean, Carabella Villa, Darling Point,' and I got this," said Watson furiously, hauling another letter out of his pocket and reading it to his friend:—

"'Mrs. Maclean thanks Mr. Samuel Watson for his kind note and the letter enclosed received yesterday. In reply to Mr. Watson's sympathetic remarks concerning Mrs. Maclean's father's health, Mrs. Maclean is sorry to say that there is no improvement. Colonel Maclean wishes Mr. Samuel Watson to understand that the letter enclosed to his wife requires no answer.'"

Craig grinned. "That's the correct kind of letter to write to excuse a dirty trick, Sam. It's got the true, rotten, swell twang about it."

The old mate sighed. "Maybe, Tom, maybe. But I don't believe she wrote it naturally—from her heart, like. I believe that her husband made her write it. He has a cold, hard face, and she's but little more than a child. But it's hard on this young fellow."

"It is hard, Sam. But there's lots o' women in the world, and I daresay he'll find another just as good before a month o' Sundays. Come, buck up, old man; what'll you have? Same again?"

"No more for me, Tom; I'm off aboard to see him. And I feel as if I was a blarsted sheriff telling a man that he was to be hung."

Craig slapped his friend on the back as they rose from their seats. "He'll get over it, Sam, never fear. When the heart is young, as the Bible says, it doesn't care a damn for anybody. And if he's getting good money he'll soon forget all about the girl; for he'll see plenty more just as good as her. Anyway that's my experience, Sam."

Bidding his friend good-bye, Watson, with a gloomy brow, walked to the Circular Quay and hired a water-man to take him down the harbour to the Mahina.

"There she is, sir, over there in Neutral Bay," said the boatman as he rounded Fort Macquarie.

Half an hour's pull brought them alongside, and the old man jumping on deck at once made his way into the cabin. Barry was seated at the table, getting his papers ready and waiting for Mrs. Tracey.

Springing to his feet he grasped Watson's hand and shook it warmly, but at once discerned from the expression on the old man's kindly face that there was something wrong. Before he could frame a question, however, Watson blurted out that he had bad news.

"Anything the matter with Miss Maynard or her father," he asked quietly.

"The old gentleman has had a paralytic seizure; but it's not him I had in my mind." Then he hesitated.

"Go on, man, what is it?"

"The girl is married—married Colonel Maclean about two months ago."

Barry's face paled under its bronze, but he said nothing for a few moments. Then he motioned his friend to a seat.

"Sit down, Watson," he said quietly; "it is bad news for me, and news I never dreamt of hearing. Tell me all about it. Steward, bring us something to drink."

The red-faced old mate looked at him with a certain admiring sympathy, then he laid his hand on his shoulder.

"You're one of the right sort. Now I'll tell you the yarn, but first of all she gave me a letter for you. Here it is."

The captain of the Mahina took it from him, opened it, and read it with an unmoved countenance. Then without a word of comment he passed it over to Watson; it contained but a few lines:—

"DEAR TED,—Try to forgive me. Perhaps in after years I will try to forgive myself. I could not bear to see my father suffer. Weak and unstable as water as I am in some things, my duty and affection for him conquered my love for you.—ROSE."

Lighting a cigar, he leant back in his chair and listened to Watson's story. When it was finished he got up and held out his hand.

"Thank you, Watson, for all you tried to do for me. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but I'll get over it in time, like everything else."

Watson could not refrain from a sigh of relief. He had feared that Barry would cut up roughly.

"That is so," he said, "but it's a hard knock for you. Now I've lots of other news for you. First of all I got your letters from Arrecifos safely. The John and Pauline whaler put them ashore at Levuka, and I can tell you I went to bed with a bad head that night."

"What did you do with Miss Maynard's—I beg her pardon—Mrs. Colonel Maclean's letter?"

"Posted it to her, and this is what I got in reply," and he showed him the note he had exhibited to his friend Tom Craig.

Barry read it with a smile of contempt. "What's the other news, Watson?"

"Ah, now I have something that will astonish you. Rawlings and the other chap are dead."

"Dead!"

"Aye, both of 'em."

"How do you know?" said Barry quickly.

"The Eclipse, man-of-war, brought the news from Noumea last week. Here's the account of it," and he spread a newspaper out on the table, and pointed to an article headed—"Tragedy in the South Seas."

"Wait a moment," cried Barry excitedly, as springing from his seat he tapped at the door of Mrs. Tracey's cabin. "Come out quickly, please."

The door opened and Mrs. Tracey, without waiting for an introduction, first shook hands with the old mate. "You are Mr. Watson! I guessed who you were the moment you came on board, and I heard your voice. Now what is the matter, Captain Barry?"

"Read this, Mrs. Tracey," he replied, spreading the paper out on the cabin table. Stooping beside him they read it together:—-

"Just as the Eclipse was leaving New Caledonia, the gunboat Reynard arrived, and reported having spoken the Hawaiian brig Mahina in the vicinity of the Banks' Group. The acting master informed the commander of the gunboat that he had on board in confinement two men who, some months previously, had murdered the captain of the brig, and seized the vessel. By the aid of some natives, the chief officer succeeded in retaking her, and the two men were over-powered and placed in heavy irons. Commander Martyn, of the Reynard, consented to take charge of them, as the brig was deeply laden, and likely to make a long passage to Sydney. They were at once transferred to the gunboat, which then proceeded on her voyage to Noumea.

"About a week afterwards one of the two, a powerfully built Italian or Greek, who was of a sullen and savage disposition, was relieved of his irons for half an hour by the doctor's orders, and placed on deck with his companion, as he complained of a severe pain in his chest. This was evidently a ruse, for while the sentry's back was turned for a moment the Greek seized his fellow pirate (who was in irons) by the waist, and leapt overboard with him. They sank immediately, the Greek, no doubt, having determined to drown with the other man.

"Fuller particulars of the seizure of the brig, and her recapture, will be looked forward to with interest on her arrival here. It is stated that she has a cargo of 'golden-edge' pearl shell worth over 40,000 pounds."

Mrs. Tracey shuddered, and covered her face with her hands. "Heaven forgive them their crimes," she murmured.

Barry could not help a certain feeling of relief. Both he and Mrs. Tracey had looked forward to the trial of Rawlings and the Greek with the utmost aversion; for heartless villains and murderers as they were, their probable death at the hands of the law haunted Mrs. Tracey like a nightmare, and Barradas himself had a growing horror of the coming time, for on his evidence alone Rawlings would certainly be hanged.

"I must tell Barradas," said Barry; "steward, send the mate here."

The Spaniard came below, heard the news in silence, bent his head and crossed himself, and quietly went on deck again. He knew that in a few hours, or a day or so at most, he would be arrested, but knew that his conduct since the murder of Captain Tracey would go largely in his favour, and that in both Barry and Mrs. Tracey he had friends. As for attempting to escape, he had put the thought away at once and for ever the night he walked to the little island cemetery.

"Are you ready to come on shore, Mrs. Tracey?" inquired Barry as the mate left the cabin.

"Quite ready, captain," she answered with a light smile, "and see here. Look what I am taking with me," and stepping into her cabin she returned with the white wooden box which contained "Rose Maynard's Dot."

Barry rose to the occasion, like the man he was. "You must keep those pearls, Mrs. Tracey. The woman for whom you intended them is married. I only heard of it just now." He spoke very quietly, but Mrs. Tracey could detect the shame that he felt in making the admission.

"I am so sorry——" she began, and then with sudden passion she flung the box away. "How could she? I hate her! I hate her! She must be a wicked, worthless——"

She gave him a glance which told Barry her secret, and then with an hysterical sob passed him and entered her cabin, and as Toea shut the door old Watson looked at Barry, and the faintest flicker of a smile moved his lips.

Then stooping down he picked up the box of pearls and placed them in Barry's hand.

"My boy, I think your happiness lies in there—in that cabin. She loves you."



CHAPTER XVIII.

ON BOARD THE NEW BARQUE.

Three months had come and gone, and one warm summer's evening as Barry was dressing for the theatre one of the hotel waiters announced "Captain Watson."

"Come in, old man," cried Barry cheerfully, and he opened the door to his visitor. "Sit down there and smoke while I put on my togs, then we'll have a long cool drink. Phew, it'll be a roaster this evening."

"Going out dining?" inquired the rumbling-voiced old man.

"No, to the theatre. I'm taking Mrs. Tracey. How is everything getting on on board?"

"Right as can be. Came in to see if you'd come down to-morrow and have a look at her."

Barry nodded. "Right you are, Watson: and I daresay that Mrs. Tracey will come too. She takes a lot of pride in the new ship I can tell you."

"Just so. And you'll find that the new ship will be even a better sailer than the Mahina."

For the Mahina, had been sold a month or so before, and in her place had been bought a smart little barque of double her tonnage.

She was to sail for Arrecifos in a few days, and old Watson had joined her as chief mate, for poor Manuel Barradas was in prison, having received a sentence of two years' imprisonment for his share in the seizure of the brig. And here, as this story draws near to an end, let me tell what became of him. After twelve months of his sentence had expired he was, through the persistent efforts of Barry and his friends, set at liberty, the judge who had tried him being one of some hundreds of people who petitioned the Crown on his behalf. Before another year had passed he was back in Arrecifos Lagoon, in charge of the station, which he took over from Velo at Barry's desire; the faithful Samoan being tired of living on shore, and for long, long years Barradas remained in Barry's employ on the island, happy and contented and with his mind at rest.

* * * * * *

The hotel in which Barry was living was quite near the wharves of the Circular Quay. He had taken up his quarters there after the Mahina had been sold, for as old Watson was an active and energetic chief officer there was no need for him to live on board the new vessel. During the time he had been living on shore he had met Mrs. Tracey frequently; for he acted as her business agent, and she relied upon him with the most implicit confidence. When he suggested that the brig should be sold and another vessel bought she eagerly acquiesced on the one condition that he would take command.

"Of course I will," he said, "and very glad to do so, Mrs. Tracey. She is a beautiful little barque and not a bit too big. You will see how she can sail when you pay a visit to Arrecifos next year."

"I almost wish I were going this time, Captain Barry. Till next year seems a long, long time to wait, and what I should do without Toea to talk to I can't imagine. I suppose I shall grow more reconciled by and by."

"You will make many friends, Mrs. Tracey."

Her cheeks reddened slightly.

"Friends! No, not friends—merely people who want to know me because I am rich. And I don't want to make friends. The other afternoon a Mrs. Bell-Lovatt and her two daughters called to see me, and Mrs. Bell-Lovatt simply gushed over me for half an hour and made me feel quite sick with her odious flattery. I knew the girls when I was at school in Melbourne, but I've never seen them since and had no wish to see them again."

Barry laughed. "You'll have to put up with a good deal of that sort of thing, I fear. Even I, myself, have discovered that I unknowingly possessed heaps of friends. When I go into the Exchange now, a dozen or more men—shipowners, brokers, and others—insist on shaking hands with me and asking me to dinner. When I was in Sydney last and was badly in want of a berth no less than three of these very men metaphorically kicked me out of their offices when I applied to them. But now that I am agent and manager to 'the rich Mrs. Tracey' they can't find words to express their admiration of my talents and all-round virtues."

"Ah, well. We must not mind these things, I suppose. But I wish I were a man—I should at least escape being called upon and kissed by 'catty' women like Mrs. Bell-Lovatt."

Not once since he returned had Barry caught sight of the woman he had hoped to call his wife, and as the days went by he thought less and less of her and more of Alice Tracey. And his would indeed have been a hard, unimpressionable nature not to have yielded the influence she was surely, but slowly, exercising upon him. She honestly tried to attract him, and now that he was a free man she did not mean to let him go away to sea again without trying to let him understand that she would feel the loss of his society very much.

"If he cared for me ever so much he wouldn't tell me," she thought to herself, "he is that sort of man, I'm sure. If I had no money it would be different. Ah, well, I must wait."

Old Watson, in his own quiet way, was helping matters on; for he conceived quite a sincere admiration for the young widow, and one day he bluntly told Barry that she was "only waiting to be asked. And there'll be a hungry crowd hanging around her once you are away at sea, my boy."

"She's too rich a woman for me to think of, Watson," he said, with a laugh.

This was said on board the barque when they were at dinner, and Mose, the steward promptly imparted it to Toea when she one day came to look at the new ship, and Toea of course repeated it to her mistress, who said nothing but smiled wisely.

Leaving his hotel Barry drove to Mrs. Tracey's apartments in Macquarie Street, where she soon joined him, looking very charming in a dainty evening dress of yellow silk.

"How do I look, Captain Barry of the barque Arrecifos?" she inquired.

"As beautiful as the barque Arrecifos herself," answered Barry promptly, "and no more beautiful ship was ever launched."

"Oh, how nice of you to pay me such a compliment!" she laughed as a vivid blush dyed her face. "I really wish Mr. Watson were here to see me too; for he, too, has been ministering to my woman's vanity. He says quite a lot of nice things to me, the dear old fellow."

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