Mystic Isles of the South Seas.
by Frederick O'Brien
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The next day was all preparation. I would be gone several months, the usual time for the voyage of a trading schooner to the Marquesas and return to Papeete. I had no bother about clothes, as I was to be in the same climate, and in less formal circles even than in Tahiti. But I desired to carry with me a type-writer, and mine was out of order. There was no tinker of skill in Papeete, and I had about given up hope of repairs, when Lovaina said:

"May be that eye doctor do you. He married one of those girl whose father before ran away with that English ship and Tahiti girls to Pitcairn Island, and get los' there till all chil'ren grow up big. He has little house on rue de Petit Pologne."

I found on that street in a cottage an American vendor of spectacles, who by some chance of propinquity had married a descendant of a mutineer of the Bounty. I surrendered my machine to him while I talked with his wife, whose ancestors, one English, the other Tahitian, had sailed away from here generations ago, after the crew had possessed themselves of the British warship Bounty, and cast their officers adrift at sea. She was a resident of Norfolk Island, and I wished I had time to hear the full story of her life. But before we had come to more than platitudes, the eye doctor had repaired the type-writer, and called his wife to other duties.

We had a going-away dinner at the Tiare hotel, Landers, Polonsky, McHenry, Hallman, Schlyter, the tailor, and Lieutenant L'Hermier des Plantes, a French army surgeon who was sailing on the Fetia Taiao to the Marquesas to be acting governor there. Lovaina would not join us, but after we had eaten an excellent dinner, she came in while we drank her health. Llewellyn had been asked, but did not appear, and McHenry said he was "very low" at five o'clock when he passed him on the rue de Rivoli. Lying Bill preferred to spend his last evening ashore with his native wife, or else wished to avoid the chance of a headache on the morrow.

We drank our last toasts at midnight, and I was averse to arising when called at six by Atupu for the early breakfast and the last disposition of my affairs. By nine o'clock I had put my baggage on board the schooner, Lovaina taking me in her carriage, driven by the Dummy. Vava was excited and puzzled by my return from the country, and my sudden departure for the sea. While Lovaina stayed in the garden of the Annexe, gathering a garland of roses for my hat, the Dummy endeavored to narrate to me the tragedy of David. His own part in preventing Morton from shooting, Vava showed in vivid pantomime with a fervor that would have made a moving-picture actor's fame; and when he indicated Morton's abandonment of revenge, though the Dummy could have no knowledge of his words, he gestured with a dignity that conveyed all the meaning of Lying Bill's relation of the incident. In the expression and motion of the dramatic mute the aged uncle had the sublimity of Lear. For Vava, in a mask and an attitude, by some cryptic understanding encompassed the resignation and appeal to Deity.

Lovaina had left me on the deck of the Fetia Taiao, as Captain Pincher said that it would be an hour or two before he sailed. His crew was having a few extra upaupas in the Cocoanut House. I sat on the rail with Vava's dumb-show uppermost in my mind, and a strong desire came to me to see the grave of David, and the tombstone erected by his frenzied kinsman. I strolled up the Broom road to the Annexe, and past Madame Fanny's restaurant to the garden of the Banque de l'Indo-Chine, and continued westward to the cemetery.

It was a lonely spot, that acre of God in these South Seas, for the resting-place of one who had been so alive as that young American. The hours of our last wassail, the bowl of velvet, and my waking by the Pool of Psyche with the mahu and the Dummy beside me, were painted on my brain.

"There, but for the grace of God, goes John Wesley," said the exhorter when he saw a murderer on the way to the gallows.

Some such dismal thought assailed me as the lofty exotic cypress in the center of the Golgotha met my eye; the tree of the dead over all the world. I halted to view the expanse of mausoleums and foliage. The rich had built small houses or pagodas to roof their loved from the torrential rains, and, from my distance, only these buildings and the trees could be seen; but as I was about to cross the road to enter the gate, a figure approached. I drew back, for, of all men, it was Llewellyn. He seemed to walk an accustomed course, observing none of the surroundings, and with his head down, and his stick touching the ground like the staff of a blind man. He turned in the entrance and moved up the winding path until he came to a grave. There he stood a few seconds irresolutely, and then stooped beside the white stone. He leaned over, and appeared to read the inscription. Instantly he turned, and started almost to run, but halted after a few paces, and returned to the stone. I saw him put his hand to his forehead, cover his eyes, and then he took off his hat and dropped upon his knees, and bent nearly to the rounded earth. When he stood up again, he kept the hat in his left hand, and, his cane tapping hard upon the soil, came through the gate, and passed me, unseeing. There was a look of terror on his face that affected me deeply.

I crossed the road behind him, and walked swiftly to the grave. My time was short. There I perceived that the tombstone had just been raised, for the tools of the cemetery keeper were near by. On a plain, white slab of marble was the name, Morton David, and the date; and below these, an inscription:

Vengeance Is Mine I Will Repay.

This was what had frozen that look upon the face of Llewellyn. The tupaupa that should haunt him was this inscription. The old uncle who had loved the dead man had well left it to God.

I hurried away and back to the schooner. Lovaina was sitting in her shabby surrey under the flamboyants, the Dummy at the horse's head. Lying Bill was giving orders for raising his bow anchor, and the loosening of the shore lines. McHenry and Lieutenant L'Hermier des Plantes shouted to me to come aboard. Lovaina hugged me to her capacious bosom, the Dummy stroked my back a moment, and I was off for the cannibal isles.


A letter from Fragrance of the Jasmine, to Frederick O'Brien, at Sausalito, California:

"Ia ora na oe! Maru:

"Great sorrow has come to Tahiti. The people die by thousands from a devil sickness, the grippe, or influenza. It came from your country as we were rejoicing for the peace in France. The Navua brought it, and for weeks we have died. Tati is dead. Tetuanui is dead. They cannot lay the corpses in the graves, they fall so fast. There are no people to help. The dogs and pigs have eaten them as they slept their last sleep in their gardens. Now the corpses are burning in great trenches, and drunken white sailors with scared faces burn them, and drive the dead wagons crosswise in the streets. The burning of our loved ones is affrighting, and the old people who are not dead are in terrible fear of the flames. It is like the savages of the Marquesas in olden times.

"Your dear friend Lovaina was the first to die of the hotahota, as some call this sickness. Lovaina had a bad cough. The man who looks after the engines of the Navua went to see her, and she kissed him on the cheek. Then the good doctor of Papeete who visits the ships was called to see her. Maru, could that doctor have brought the hotahota to Lovaina? She was dead in a little while.

"Lovaina had good fortune all her life, for, being the first one to die, she was buried as we have always buried our people. All of Tahiti that was not ill walked with her coffin. Oh, Maru, I wept for Lovaina. Vava, whom you whites call the Dummy, is dead, too. When Lovaina was taken to the cemetery, Vava drove her old chaise with her children in it; and then, Maru, he was seen again only by a Tahitian who had gone to bathe in the lagoon because the fever was burning him. You know how Vava always took the old horse of Lovaina at sunset to swim in front of the Annexe. This man who was ill said that he saw Vava ride the horse into the sea, and straight out toward the reef. Vava signed farewell to the man with the fever. The man stayed in the lagoon to cool his body until the sun was below Moorea, and your friend, the Dummy, did not return. Maru, we loved dear Lovaina, but to Vava she was mother and God.

"It is strange, Maru, the way of things in the world. The lepers who are confined towards Arue were forgotten, and as nobody went near them, the hotahota passed them by.

"I cannot write more. O Maru, come back to aid us. It is a long time since those happy days when we walked in the Valley of Fautaua.

"Ia ora na i te Atua!



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