The situation was now both disciplinary and diplomatic.
"C'est tres serieux," whispered the secretary to the governor's private secretary, a dapper little man whose flirting had made his wife a Niobe and alarmed the husbands and fathers of many French dames et filles.
"Serious, monsieur?" said the private secretary, twisting his black wisp of a mustache, "it is more than serious now; it is no longer the French Establishments of Oceania. It is between Great Britain and France."
A peremptory order was given to drive every one off the quay, and though the crowd chaffed the police, the sweep of wharf was left free for the marchings and counter-marchings of the big men.
"What would be the result? Would the entire British population of the ship resist the taking away of any of the crew? Oh, if the paltry French administration at Paris had not removed the companies of soldiers who until recently had been the pride of Papeete! And crown of misfortune, the gun-boat, sole guardian of French honor in these seas, was in Australia for repairs. Eh bien, n'importe! Every Frenchman was a soldier. Did not Napoleon say that? Nom de pipe!"
Wilfrid Baillon, a cow-boy from British Columbia, was standing near me with his arms folded on his breast and a look of stern determination on his sunburned face.
"We must look sharp," he said to me. "We may all have to stand together, we whites, against these French frog-eaters."
The tension was extreme. The warrants had not come from the British consul, and there seemed no disposition on the Noa-Noa to save the face of la belle republique, for the blackened and blackguardly stokers still dangled their legs over the rail and made motions which caused the officials to shudder and the ladies to shut their eyes.
The agent of the vessel in Papeete, an American, appeared. He talked long and earnestly with the secretary-general and the first and second, and to lend even a darker color to the scene, the procureur-general, the Martinique black, tall, protuberant, mopping his bald head, took the center of the conclave. Noses were lowered and brought together, feet were stamped, hands were wiggled behind backs, and right along the American, the agent, talked and talked.
They demurred, they spat on the boards, they lifted their hands aloft—and then they ordered the pilot to return to the Noa-Noa, and that vessel, whistling long and relievedly, pointed her nose toward the opening in the reef.
Mon Dieu! the suspense was over. The people melted toward their homes and the restaurants, for it was nearly seven o'clock. I drifted into the knot about the officials.
"It is in the archives," said the secretary-general. "It will go down in history. That is enough."
The delightful M. Lontane, in khaki riding breeches,—he, as all police, ride bicycles—his khaki helmet tipped rakishly over his cigarette, blew a ringlet.
"C'est comme ca. We would not press our victory," he said gallantly. "We French are generous. We have hearts."
The secretary-general, the procureur-general, the first in command and the private secretary, sighted the carriage of the governor, who had not appeared until the Noa-Noa was out of the lagoon, and they went to tell him of the great affair.
The agent of the line, grim and unsmiling, climbed to the wide veranda of the Cercle Bougainville, and ordered a Scotch and siphon.
"There she goes," he said to me, and pointed to the steamer streaking through the reef gate. "There she goes, and I'm bloody well satisfied."
At tea the next afternoon the British consul cast a new light on the international incident. He was playing bridge with the governor and others when the demand for the warrants was brought.
"The blighters interrupted our rubber," said the consul, "and the governor was exceedingly put out. I told them the Noa-Noa couldn't proceed without the stokers, and as it carries the French mail, they patched it up to arrest them when they return. We quite lost track of the game for a few minutes."
But the cruel war would not down. There was not a good feeling between the English and French in Tahiti. A slight opposition cropped out often in criticism expressed to Americans or to Tahitians, or to each other's own people. New Zealand governs the Cook group, of which Raratonga is the principal island. Comparisons of sanitation, order, neatness, and businesslike management of these islands, with the happy-go-lucky administration of the Society, Paumotus, Marquesas, and Austral archipelagoes, owned by the French, were frequent by the English. The French shrugged their shoulders.
"The Tahitians are happy, and we send millions of francs to aid France," they said. "The English talk always of neatness and golf links and cricket-grounds. Eh bien! There are other and better things. And as for drink, oh, la, la! Our sour wines could not fight one round of the English boxe with whisky and gin and that awful ale."
The French residents protested at the missiles of the crew and the laissez-faire of the Noa-Noa officers, and the British consul received a letter from the governor in which the affair of the riot was revived in an absurd manner.
One might understand M. Lontane, second in command of the police forces,—six men and himself,—magnifying the row between the tipsy stokers and his battalions, but to have the governor, who was a first-rate hand at bridge, and even knew the difference between a straight and a flush, putting down in black and white, sealed with the seal of the Republique Francaise, and signed with his own hand, that "France had been insulted by the actions of the savages of the Noa-Noa," was worthy only of the knight of La Mancha.
So thought the consul, but he was a diplomat, his adroitness gained not only in the consular ranks, but also in Persia as a secretary of legation, and in many a fever-stricken and robber-ridden port of the Near and Far East. He pinned upon his most obstreperous uniform the medal won by merit, straddled a dangling sword, helmeted his head, and with an interpreter, that the interview might lack nothing of formality, called upon the governor at his palace.
He told him that the letter of complaint had roused his wonderment, for, said his British Majesty's representative, "There can be no serious result, diplomatically or locally, of this Donnybrook Fair incident. In a hundred ports of the world where war-ships and merchant ships go, their crews for scores of years have fought with the police. Besides, I am informed that Monsieur Lontane put a revolver against the stomach of one of the stokers, and that provoked the nastiness. Until then it had been uncouth mirth caused by the vile liquor sold by the saloons licensed by the Government, and against the Papeete regulations that no more intoxicants shall be sold to a man already drunk. But when this British citizen, scum of Sydney or Glasgow as he might be, saw the deadly weapon, he felt aggrieved. This revolver practice is all too common on the part of Monsieur Lontane. Six such complaints I have had in as many months. As to that part of your letter that the crew of the Noa-Noa not be allowed to land here on its return to Papeete, I agree with you, but it will be for you to enforce this prohibition."
It was agreed that on the day the Noa-Noa arrived on her return trip, all gendarmes and available guard be summoned from the country to preserve order, and that, as asked in the letter, the consul demand that the captain of the steamship punish the rioters.
And all this being done through an interpreter, and the consul having unlimbered his falchion and removed his helmet, he and the governor had an absinthe frappe and made a date for a bridge game.
"Te tamai i te taporo i te arahu i te umaru," the natives termed the skirmish. "The conflict of the limes, the coal, and the potatoes." A new himene was improvised about it, and I heard the girls of the Maison des Cocotiers chanting it as I went to Lovaina's to dinner.
It was something like this in English:
"Oh, the British men they drank all day And threw the limes and iron. The French in fear they ran away. The brave Tahitians alone stood firm."
And there were many more verses.
Gossip in Papeete—Moorea, a near-by island—A two-days' excursion there—Magnificent scenery from the sea—Island of fairy folk—Landing and preparation for the feast—The First Christian mission—A canoe on the lagoon—Beauties of the sea-garden.
My acquaintances of the Cercle Bougainville, Landers, Polonsky, McHenry, Llewellyn, David, and Lying Bill, were at this season bent on pleasure. Landers, the head of a considerable business in Australasia, with a Papeete branch, had time heavy on his hands. Lying Bill and McHenry were seamen-traders ashore until their schooner sailed for another swing about the French groups of islands. Llewellyn and David were associates in planting, curing, and shipping vanilla-beans, but were roisterers at heart, and ever ready to desert their office and warehouse for feasting or gaming. Polonsky was a speculator in exchange and an investor in lands, and was reputed to be very rich. He, too, would leave his strong box unlocked in his hurry if cards or wassail called. These same white men were sib to all their fellows in the South Seas except a few sour men whom avarice, satiety, or a broken constitution made fearful of the future and thus heedful of the decalogue.
These merry men attended to business affairs for a few hours of mornings, unless the night before had been devoted too arduously to Bacchus, and the remainder of the day they surrendered to clinking glasses, converse, Rabelasian tales, and flirting with the gay Tahitian women in the cinemas or at dances. There was a tolerance, almost a standard, of such actions among the men of Tahiti, though of course consuls, high officials, a banker or two of the Banque de l'Indo-Chine, and a few lawyers or speculators sacrificed their flesh to their ambitions or hid their peccadillos.
A chorus of wives and widows—there were no old maids in Tahiti—condemned scathingly the conduct of the voluptuaries, and the preachers of the gospel lashed them in conversation or sermon now and then. But on the whole there was not in Tahiti any of the spirit of American towns and villages, which wrote scarlet letters, ostracized offenders against moral codes, and made Philistinism a creed. Gossip was constant, and while sometimes caustic, more often it partook of curiosity and mere trading of information or salacious prattle.
Tahitian women concealed nothing. If they won the favors of a white man, they announced it proudly, and held nothing sacred of the details. One's peculiarities, weaknesses, idiosyncrasies, physical or spiritual blemishes, all became delectable morsels in the mouths of one's intimates and their acquaintances. One's passions, actions, and whisperings were as naked to the world as the horns on a cow. Every one knew the import of Polonsky's dorsal tattooings, that Pastor —— had a case of gin in his house, and that the governor, after a bottle or two of champagne, had squeezed so tightly the waist of an English lady with whom he waltzed that she had cried out in pain. Though bavardage accounted for much of the general knowledge of every one's affairs, there was an uncanny mystery in the speed at which a particular secret spread. One spoke of the bamboo telegraph.
It was proposed at the Cercle Bougainville that we have a series of jaunts to points some distance away. I was promised that I would see fully the way my acquaintances enjoyed themselves in the open. Llewellyn was given charge of the first excursion. It was to Moorea, an island a dozen miles or so to the northwest from Papeete, and which, with Tetiaria and Mehetia and Tahiti, constitute les iles de Vent, or Windward Islands of the Society archipelago.
In clear weather one cannot look out to sea from Papeete, to the north or west, without Moorea's weird grandeur confronting one. The island of fairy-folk with golden hair, it was called in ancient days by the people of other islands. A third of the size of Tahiti, it was, until the white man came, the abode of a romantic and gallant clan. Eimeo, it was called by the first whites, but the name of Moorea clings to it now. Over it and behind it sets the sun of Papeete, and it is associated with the tribal conflicts, the religion, and the journeys of the Tahitians. Now it is tributary to this island in every way, and small boats run to and from with passengers and freight almost daily.
We met at seven o'clock of a Saturday morning at the point on the coral embankment where the Potii Moorea was made fast, the gasolene-propelled cargo-boat which we had rented for the voyage. A hundred were gathered about a band of musicians in full swing when I appeared at the rendezvous on the prick of the hour. The bandsmen, all natives but one, wore garlands of purau, the scarlet hibiscus, and there was an atmosphere of abandonment to pleasure about them and the party.
A schooner swung at her moorings near by, under a glowing, flamboyant tree, and her crew was aboard in expectation of sailing at any hour. Another small craft, a sloop, was preparing to sail for Moorea, also. She was crowded with passengers and cargo, and all about the rail hung huge bunches of feis, the mountain bananas. Most of the people aboard had come from the market-place with fruit and fish and vegetables to cook when they arrived at home. A strange habit of the Tahitians under their changed condition is to take the line of least resistance in food, eating in Chinese stores, or buying bits in the market, whereas, when they governed themselves, they had an exact and elaborate formula of food preparation, and a certain ceremoniousness in despatching it. Only feasts bring a resumption nowadays of the ancient ways.
The crews of the schooner and of the other Moorea boat besides our own had a swarm of friends awaiting the casting off. Even a journey of a few hours meant a farewell ceremony of many minutes. They embrace one another and are often moved to tears at a separation of a few days. When one of them goes aboard a steamship for America or Australasia, the family and friends enact harrowing scenes at the quay. They are sincerely moved at the thought of their loved ones putting a long distance between them, and I saw a score of young and old sobbing bitterly when the Noa-Noa left for San Francisco though they stormed the stokers lustily when aroused. Their life is so simple in these beloved islands that the dangers of the mainland are exaggerated in their minds, and to the old the civilization of a big city appears as a specter of horrible mien. The electric cars, the crowds, the murders they read of and are told of, the bandits in the picture-shows, the fearful stranglers of Paris, the lynchers, the police, who in the films are always beating the poor, as in real life, the pickpockets, and the hospitals where willy-nilly they render one unconscious and remove one's vermiform appendix—all these are nightmares to the aborigines whose relations are departing.
When heads were counted, Landers's was missing, and jumping into Llewellyn's carriage, an old-fashioned phaeton, I drove to Lovaina's, where he occupied the room next to mine in the detached house in the animal-yard. He was sound asleep, having played poker and drunk until an hour before; but when I awoke him I could not but admire the serenity of the man. His body was in the posture in which he had lain down, and his breathing was as a child's.
"Landers, get up!" I shouted from the doorway. He opened his eyes, regarded me intently, and without a word went to the shower-bath by the camphor-wood chest, returned quickly, and dressed himself. I fancied him a man who would have answered his summons before a firing-squad as calmly. He had a perfection of ease in his movements; not fast, for he was very big, but with never an unnecessary gesture nor word. He was one of the finest animals I had ever seen, and fascinating to men and women of all kinds.
The Potii Morea had taken on her passengers when we returned, and we put off from the sea-wall at once, with two barrels of bottled beer, and half a dozen demi-johns of wine prominent on the small deck. Often the sea between Tahiti and Moorea is rough in the daytime, and passage is made at night to avoid accident, but we were given a smooth way, and could enjoy the music. We sat or lay on the after-deck while the bandsmen on the low rail or hatch maintained a continuous concert.
During the several days between our first planning the trip and the going, a song had been written in honor of the junketing, and this they played scores of times before we set foot again in Papeete. It was entitled: "Himene Tatou Arcarea," which meant, "Our Festal Song."
One easily guessed the meaning of the word himene. The Polynesians' first singing was the hymns of the missionaries, and these they termed himenes; so that any song is a himene, and there is no other word for vocal music in common use. The words of the first stanza of the "Himene Tatou Arearea" and the refrain were:
I teie nei mahana Te tere no oe e Hati Na te moana Ohipa paahiahia No te au Tei tupi i Moorea tamau a Tera te au Ei no te au Tamua a—aue
Ei reo no oe tau here I te pii raa mai Aue oe Tamarii Tahiti te aroha e A inu i te pia arote faarari
Faararirari ta oe Tamarii Tahiti La, Li.
Llewellyn put the words into approximate meaning in English, saying it was as difficult to translate these intimate and slang phrases as it would be to put "Yankee Doodle" into French or German. His translation, as he wrote it on a scrap of paper, was:
Let us sing joyful to-day The journey over the sea! It is a wonderful and agreeable thing to happen in Moorea, Hold on to it! That is just it; And because it is just it, Why hold on to it!
Your voice, O, Love, calls to us. O Tahitian children, Love to you! Let us all drink beer, And wet our throats! And wet them again To you, Tahitian Children!
The bandsmen were probably all related to Llewellyn, or at least they were of his mother's clan. His own son and nephew by unmarried mothers were among them; so that they were of our party, and yet on a different footing. They were our guests, we paying them nothing, but they not paying their scot. They did not mingle with us intimately, although probably all the whites except myself knew them well, and at times were guests at their houses outside Papeete.
The air to which the himene was sung eluded me for long. It was, "Oh, You Beautiful Doll!" They had changed the tune, so that I had not recognized it. The Tahitians have curious variations of European and American airs, of which they adapt many, carrying the thread of them, but differentiating enough to cause the hearer curiously mixed emotions. It was as if one heard a familiar voice, and, advancing to grasp a friendly hand, found oneself facing a stranger.
None of these island peoples originally had any music save monotones. In fact, in Hawaii, after the missionaries, Kappelmeister Berger, who came fifty years ago from Germany to Honolulu, was largely the maker of the songs we know now as distinctively Hawaiian. He fitted German airs to Hawaiian words, composed music on native themes, and spontaneously and by adaptation he, with others, gave a trend to the music of Hawaii nei that, though European in the main, is yet charmingly expressive of the soft, sweet nature of the Hawaiians and of the contrasts of their delightful gaiety and innate melancholy. These native tongues of the South Seas, with their many vowels and short words, seem to be made for singing.
The voyage from Tahiti to Moorea was a two-hours' panorama of magnificence and anomalism in the architecture of nature. Facing my goal was Moorea, and behind me Tahiti, scenes of contrary beauty as the vessel changed the distance from me to them. Tahiti, as I left it, was under the rays of the already high sun, a shimmering beryl, blue and yellow hues in the overpowering green mass, and from the loftiest crags floating a long streamer-cloud, the cloud-banner of Tyndal.
Moorea was the most astonishing sight upon the ocean that my eyes had ever gazed on. It was as if a mountain of black rock had been carved by the sons of Uranus, the mighty Titans of old, into gigantic fortresses, which the lightnings, temblors, and whirlwinds of the eons had rent into ruins. Its heights were not green like Tahiti's, but bare and black, true children of the abysmal cataclysm which in the time of the making of these oases of the sea thrust them up from the fires of the deep.
Far up near the peak of Afareaitu, nearly a mile above the wave, in one of the colossal splinters of the basalt rocks, was an eye, an immense round hole through which the sky shone. One saw it plainly from Tahiti. It was made by the giant Pai of Tautira when he threw his spear a dozen miles and pierced a window in the solid granite that all might know his prowess. One felt like a fool to rehearse to a Tahitian, telling one the tale, the statement of scientists that the embrasure had been worn by water when Afareaitu was under the ocean during its million-year process of rising from the mud. It would be like asking Flammarion, the wisest of French astronomers, to cease believing in the mystery of transubstantiation. He would smile as would the autochthon.
There was one picture in murky monochrome which never could be forgotten—a long sierra of broken pinnacles and crags which had all the semblance of a weathered and dismantled castle. It stood out against the tender blue of the morning sky like the ancient stronghold of some grisly robber-baron of medieval days; towers of dark sublimity, battlements whence invaders might have been hurled a thousand feet to death, slender minarets, escarpments and rugged casements through which fleecy clouds peeped from the high horizon. I once saw along the Mediterranean in Italy or France the fastness of a line of nobles, set away up on a lonely hill, glowering, gloomy, and unpeopled, the refuge, mayhap, of the mountain goat, the abiding-place of bats and other creatures of the night. Moorea's fortress conjured up the vision of it, its wondrous ramparts and unscalable precipices strangely the counterpart of the Latin castle.
But if one dropped one's eyes from the hills, gone was the recollection of aught of Europe. There was a scene which only the lavish colors of the tropics could furnish. The artist had spilled all his shades of green upon the palette, and so delicately blended them that they melted into one another in a very enchantment of green. The valleys were but darker variants of the emerald scheme.
The confused mass of lofty ridges resolved into chasms and combes, dark, sunless ravines, moist with the spray of many waterfalls, which nearer became velvet valleys of pale green, masses of foliage and light and shadow. The mountains of Moorea were only half the height of Tahiti's, but so artfully had they been piled in their fantastic arrangement that they seemed as high, though they were entirely different in their impress upon the beholder. Tahiti from the sea was like a living being, so vivid, so palpitating was its contour and its color, but Moorea, when far away, was cold and black, a beautiful, ravishing sight, but like the avatars of a race of giants that had passed, a sepulcher or monument of their achievements and their end.
As about Tahiti, a silver belt of reef took the rough caresses of the lazy rollers, and let the glistening surf break gently on the beach. Along this wall of coral, hidden, but charted by its crown of foam, we ran for miles until we found the gateway—the blue buckle of the belt, it appeared at a distance.
Within the lagoon the guise of the island was more intimate. Little bays and inlets bounded themselves, and villages and houses sprang up from the tropic groves. The band, which so far as I knew had not been silent a moment to awaken me from my adoration of the sculpture and painting of nature, now poured out the "Himene Tatou Arearea" in token of our approaching landing, which was at Faatoai, the center of population. All its hundred or two inhabitants were at the tiny dock to greet us, except the Chinese, who stayed in their stores.
Headed by the pipe and accordion, the brass and wood, now playing "Onward, Christian Soldier,"—which, if one forgot the words, was an especially carnal melody,—we tramped, singing a parody, through the street of Faatoai, and into a glorious cocoanut grove, where breakfast was spread.
A pavilion had been erected for our feasting. It was of bamboo and pandanus, the interior lined with tree ferns and great bunches of scarlet oleander, and decorated with a deep fringe woven of hibiscus fiber. The roof was a thatch of pandanus and breadfruit leaves, the whole structure, light, flimsy, but a gamut of golds and browns in color and cool and beautiful.
A table fifty feet or longer was made of bamboo, the top of twenty half sections of the rounded tubes, polished by nature, but slippery for bottles and glasses. A bench ran on both sides, and underfoot was the deep-green vegetation that covers every foot of ground in Moorea except where repeated footfalls, wheels, or labor kills it, and which is the rich stamp of tropic fertility.
The barrels of beer were unheaded, the demi-johns from Bordeaux were uncorked, and from the opened bottles the sugary odor of Tahiti rum permeated the hot air. The captain of the Potii Moorea and the hired steward began to set the table for the dejeuner and to prepare the food, some of which was being cooked a few feet away by the steward's kin. The guests disposed themselves at ease to wait for the call to meat, the bandsmen lit cigarettes and tuned their instruments or talked over their program, while they wetted their throats with the rum, as admonished by the "Himene Tatou Arearea."
I strolled down the road along the shore of the lagoon. Here was erected the first Christian church in this archipelago. British Protestant missionaries, who had led a precarious life in Tahiti, and fled from it to Australia in fear of their lives, were induced to come here and establish a mission. The King of Tahiti, Pomare, had fled to Moorea after a desperate struggle with opposing clans, and he welcomed the preachers as additions to his strength. The high priest of the district, Patii, collected all the gods under his care, and they were burned, with a Bible in sight, to the exceeding fear of the native heathen, and the holy anger of the other native clergy, who felt as Moses did when he saw his disciples worshiping a golden calf. On the very spot I stood had been the marae, or Tahitian temple, in which the images were housed, now a rude heap of stones. A hundred years ago exactly this exchange of deities had been made. Alas! it could not have been the true Christ who was brought to them, for they had flourished mightily under Oro, and they began almost at once to die. Not peace, but a sword, a sword of horrors, of frightful ills, was brought them.
There was a little canoe under a noble cocoanut-tree on the shell-strewn and crab-haunted coral beach, the roots of the palm partly covered by the salt water, and partly by a tangle of lilac marine convolvulus. I pushed the tiny craft into the brine, and paddled off on the still water of the shining lagoon.
No faintest agitation of the surface withheld a clear view of the marvelous growths upon the bottom. I peered into a garden of white and vari-colored flowers of stone, of fans and vases and grotesque shapes, huge sponges and waving bushes and stunted trees. Fish of a score of shapes and of all colors of the spectrum wove in and out the branches and caverns of this wondrous parterre.
Past the creamy reef the purple ocean glittered in the nooning sun, while the motionless waters of the lagoon were turquoise and bice near by and virescent in the distance. Looking toward the shore, the edge of milky coral sand met the green matting of moss and grass, and then the eye marked the fields of sugar-cane, the forests of false coffee on which grew the vanilla-vines, the groves of cocoanuts, and then the fast-climbing ridges and the glorious ravines, the misty heights and the grim crags.
The Arearea in the pavilion—Raw fish and baked feis—Llewellyn, the Master of the Revel; Kelly, the I.V.W., and His Himene—The Upaupahura—Landers and Mamoe prove experts—The return to Papeete.
The company was assembled in the pavilion when I walked through the streets of Faatoai again, and the food was on the bamboo table. One might have thought the feast would have been spread on soft mats on the sward, as is the Tahitian custom, but these whites are perverse and proud, and their legs unbending to such a position.
We had raw fish cut up, with bowls of cocoanut sauce. It was delicious in taste, but raw fish is tough and at first hard to chew until one becomes accustomed to the texture. Whites learn to crave it.
This fish was cut in small pieces thicker and bigger than a domino, and steeped in fresh lime-juice for half a day. The sauce was made by pouring a cup of seawater over grated cocoanuts and after several hours' straining through the fiber of young cocoanut shoots. It was thick, like rich cream.
We had excellent raw oysters and raw clams on the shell, crabs stewed with a wine sauce that was delicious, fish, boiled chicken, and baked pig. I had not tasted more appetizing food. It was all cooked in the native fashion on hot stones above or under ground. We saw the pig's disinterment. On the brink of the stream which flowed past the bower the oven had been made. The cooks, Moorea men, removed a layer of earth that had been laid on cocoa-palm leaves. This was the cover of the oven. Immediately below the leaves were yams and feis and under them a layer of banana leaves. The pig came next. It had been cut into pieces as big as mutton-chops and had cooked two and a half hours. It was on stones, coral, under which the fire of wood had been thoroughly ignited, the stones heated, and then the different layers placed above. The pig was tender, succulent, and the yams and feis finely flavored.
The two native men, in pareus, and with crowns of scarlet hibiscus, waited on us, while the son of Llewellyn uncorked the bottles. As usual, the beverages were lavishly dispensed, beginning with Scotch whisky as an appetizer, and following with claret, sauterne, vintage Burgundy, and a champagne that would have pleased Paris. These more expensive beverages were for us hosts only.
We were an odd company: Llewellyn, a Welsh-Tahitian; Landers, a British New-Zealander; McHenry, Scotch-American; Polonsky, Polish-French; Schlyter, the Swedish tailor; David, an American vanilla-grower; "Lying Bill," English; and I, American. There was little talk at breakfast. They were trenchermen beyond compare, and the dishes were emptied as fast as filled. These men have no gifts of conversation in groups. Though we had only one half-white of the party, Llewellyn, he to a large degree set the pace of words and drink. In him the European blood, of the best in the British Isles, arrested the abandon of the aborigine, and created a hesitant blend of dignity and awkwardness. He was a striking-looking man, very tall, slender, about fifty years old, swarthy, with hair as black as night, and eyebrows like small mustaches, the eyes themselves in caverns, usually dull and dour, but when he talked, spots of light. I thought of that Master of Ballantrae of Stevenson's, though for all I remember he was blond. Yet the characters of the two blended in my mind, and I tried to match them the more I saw of him. He was born here, and after an education abroad and a sowing of wild oats over years of life in Europe, had lived here the last twenty-five years. He was in trade, like almost every one here, but I saw no business instincts or habits about him. One found him most of the time at the Cercle Bougainville, drinking sauterne and siphon water, shaking for the drinks, or playing ecarte for five francs a game.
Below the salt sat his son and his nephew, men of twenty-five years, but sons of Tahitian mothers, and without the culture or European education of their fathers. With them two chauffeurs were seated. One of these, an American, the driver for Polonsky, had tarried here on a trip about the world, and was persuaded to take employment with Polonsky. The other was a half-caste, a handsome man of fifty, whose employer treated him like a friend.
Breakfast lasted two hours for us. For the band it kept on until dinner, for they did not leave the table from noon, when we sat down, until dark. When they did not eat, they drank. Occasionally one of us slipped down and took his place with them. I sat with them half an hour, while they honored me with "Johnny Burrown," "The Good, Old Summertime," and "Everybody Doin' It."
The heavy leads of the band were carried by an American with a two-horsepower accordion. He told me his name was Kelly. He was under thirty, a resolute, but gleesome chap, red-headed, freckled, and unrestrained by anybody or anything. He had no respect for us, as had the others, and had come, he said, for practice on his instrument. He had a song-book of the Industrial Workers of the World, a syndicalistic group of American laborers and intellectuals, and in it were scores of popular airs accompanied by words of dire import to capitalists and employers. One, to the tune of "Marching through Georgia," threatened destruction to civilization in the present concept.
"I'm an I. W. W.," said Kelly to me, with a shell of rum in his hand. "I came here because I got tired o' bein' pinched. Every town I went to in the United States I denounced the police and the rotten government, and they throwed me in the calaboose. I never could get even unlousy. I came here six weeks ago. It's a little bit of all right."
When Kelly played American or English airs and the Tahitians sang their native words, he gave the I. W. W. version in English. Some of these songs were transpositions or parodies of Christian hymns, and one in particular was his favorite. Apparently he had made it very popular with the natives of the band, for it vied with the "Himene Tatou Arearea" in repetition. It was a crude travesty of a hymn much sung in religious camp-meetings and revivals, of which the proper chorus as often heard by me in Harry Monroe's mission in the Chicago slums, was:
Hallelujah! Thine the glory! Hallelujah! Amen! Hallelujah! Thine the glory! revive us again!
Kelly's version was:
Hallelujah! I'm a bum! Hallelujah! Bum again! Hallelujah! Give us a hand-out! To save us from sin.
He had the stanzas, burlesquing the sacred lines, one of which the natives especially liked:
Oh, why don't you work, as other men do? How the hell can we work when there 's no work to do?
None of us had ever heard Kelly's songs, nor had any one but I ever heard of his industrial organization, and I only vaguely, having lived so many years out of America or Europe. But they all cheered enthusiastically except Llewellyn. He was an Anglican by faith or paternal inheritance, and though he knew nothing of the real hymns, they being for Dissenters, whom he contemned, he was religious at soul and objected to making light of religion. He called for the "Himene Tatou Arearea." He took his pencil and scribbled the translation I have given.
"This is the rough of it," he said. "To write poetry here is difficult. When I was at Heidelberg and Paris I often spent nights writing sonnets. That merely tells the sense of the himene, but cannot convey the joy or sorrow of it. Well, let's sink dull care fifty fathoms deep! Look at those band-boys! So long as they have plenty of rum or beer or wine and their instruments, they care little for food. Watch them. Now they are dry and inactive. Wait till the alcohol wets them, They will touch the sky."
Llewellyn's deep-set eyes under the beetling brows were lighting with new fires.
His idea of inactivity and drought was sublimated, for the musicians were never still a moment. They played mostly syncopated airs of the United States, popular at the time. All primitive people, or those less advanced in civilization or education, prefer the rag-time variants of the American negro or his imitators, to so-called good or classical music. It is like simple language, easily understood, and makes a direct appeal to their ears and their passions. It is the slang or argot of music, hot off the griddle for the average man's taste, without complexities or stir to musing and melancholy.
The musicians had drunk much wine and rum, and now wanted only beer. That was the order of their carouse. Beer was expensive at two francs a bottle, and so a conscientious native had been delegated to give it out slowly. He had the barrel containing the quartbottles between his legs while he sat at the table, and each was doled out only after earnest supplications and much music.
"Horoa mai te pia!" "More beer!" they implored.
"Himene" said the inexorable master of the brew.
Up came the brass and the accordion, and forth went the inebriated strains.
Between their draughts of beer—they drank always from the bottles—the Tahitians often recurred to the song of Kelly. Having no g, l, or s among the thirteen letters of their missionary-made alphabet, they pronounced the refrain as follows:
Hahrayrooyah! I'm a boom! Hahrayrooyah! Boomagay! Hahrayrooyah! Hizzandow! To tave ut fruh tin!
Landers being very big physically, they admired him greatly, and his company having been two generations in Tahiti, they knew his history. They now and again called him by his name among Tahitians, "Taporo-Tane," ("The Lime-Man"), and sang:
E aue Tau tiare ate e! Ua parari te afata e! I te Pahi no Taporo-Toue e!
Alas! my dear, some one let slip A box of limes on the lime-man's ship, And busted it so the juice did drip.
The song was a quarter of a century old and recorded an accident of loading a schooner. Landers's father's partner was first named Taporo-Tane because he exported limes in large quantities from Tahiti to New Zealand. The stevedores and roustabouts of the waterfront made ballads of happenings as their forefathers had chants of the fierce adventures of their constant warfare. They were like the negroes, who from their first transplantation from Africa to America had put their plaints and mystification in strange and affecting threnodies and runes.
All through the incessant himenes a crowd of natives kept moving about a hundred feet away, dancing or listening with delight. They would not obtrude on the feast, but must hear the music intimately.
The others of our party, having breakfasted until well after two, sought a house where Llewellyn was known. McHenry and I followed the road which circles the island by the lagoon and sea-beach. In that twelve leagues there are a succession of dales, ravines, falls precipices, and brooks, as picturesque as the landscape of a dream. We walked only as far as Urufara, a mile or two, and stopped there at the camp of a Scotsman who offered accommodation of board and lodging.
His sketchy hotel and outhouses were dilapidated, but they were in the most beautiful surrounding conceivable, a sheltered cove of the lagoon where the swaying palms dipped their boles in the ultramarine, and bulky banana-plants and splendid breadfruit-trees formed a temple of shadow and coolth whence one might look straight up the lowering mountain-side to the ghostly domes, or across the radiant water to the white thread of reef.
We met McTavish, the host of the hotel, an aging planter, who kept his public house as an adjunct of his farm, and more for sociability than gain. He was in a depressed and angry mood, for one of his eyes was closed, and the other battered about the rim and beginning to turn black and blue.
He knew McHenry, for both had been in these seas half their lives.
"In all my sixty years," he said, "I have not been assaulted quite so viciously. I asked him for what he owed me, and the next I knew he was shutting out the light with his fists. I will go to the gendarme for a contravention against that villain. And right now I will fix him in my book."
"Why, who hit you, and what did you do?" asked McHenry.
"That damned Londoner, Hobson," said McTavish. "He was my guest here several years ago, and ate and drank well for a month or two when he hadn't a sou marquis. I needed a little money to-day, and meeting him up the road, I demanded my account. He is thirty years younger than me, and I would have kept my eyes, but he leaped at me like a wild dog, and knocked me down and pounded me in the dirt."
I sympathized with McTavish, though McHenry snickered. The Scot went into an inner room and brought back a dirty book, a tattered register of his guests. He turned a number of pages—there were only a few guests to a twelvemonth—and, finding his assailant's name, wrote in capital letters against it, "THIEF."
"There," he said with a magnificent gesture. "Let the whole world read and know the truth!"
He set out a bottle of rum and several glasses, and we toasted him while I looked over the register. Hardly any one had neglected to write beside his name tributes to the charm of the place and the kind heart of McTavish.
Charmian and Jack London's signatures were there, with a hearty word for the host, and "This is the most beautiful spot in the universe," for Moorea and Urufara.
There were scores of poems, one in Latin and many in French. Americans seem to have been contented to quote Kipling, the "Lotus Eaters," or Omar, but Englishmen had written their own. English university men are generous poetasters. I have read their verses in inns and outhouses of many countries. Usually they season with a sprig from Horace or Vergil.
"I'm goin' to the west'ard," said McTavish. "There are too many low whites comin' here. When Moorea had only sail from Tahiti, the blackguards did not come, but now the dirty gasolene boat brings them. I must be off to the west'ard, to Aitutaki or Penrhyn."
Poor Mac! he never made his westward until he went west in soldier parlance.
McHenry, on our way back to Faatoai, said:
"McTavish is a bloody fool. He gives credit to the bleedin' beach-combers. If I meet that dirty Hobson, I'll beat him to a pulp."
From under the thatched roof of our bower came the sounds of:
Faararirari to oe Tamarii Tahiti La Li.
The himene was in its hundredth encore. The other barrel of bottled beer had been securely locked against the needs of the morrow, and the bandsmen's inspiration was only claret or sauterne, well watered.
We sat down for dinner. The dejeuner was repeated, and eggs added for variety. We had risen from breakfast four hours before, yet there was no lack of appetite. The drink appeared only to make their gastric juices flow freely. I hid my surfeit. The harmonies had by now drawn the girls and young women from other districts, word having been carried by natives passing in carts that a parcel of papaa (non-Tahitians) were faarearea (making merry).
These new-comers had adorned themselves for the taupiti, the public fete, as they considered it, and as they came along the road had plucked ferns and flowers for wreaths. Without such sweet treasures upon them they have no festal spirit. There were a dozen of these Moorea girls and visitors from Tahiti, one or two from the Tiare Hotel, whose homes were perhaps on this island.
The dinner being finished, the bandsmen laid down their instruments and the girls were invited to drink. Tahitian females have no thirst for alcohol. They, as most of their men, prefer fruit juices or cool water except at times of feasting. They had no intoxicants when the whites came, not in all Polynesia. It was the humor of the explorers, the first adventurers, and all succeeding ones, to teach them to like alcohol, and to hold their liquor like Englishmen or Americans. Kings and queens, chiefs and chiefesses, priests and warriors, were sent ashore crapulous in many a jolly-boat, or paddled their own canoes, after areareas on war-ships and merchantmen. Some learned to like liquor, and French saloons in Papeete and throughout Tahiti and Moorea encouraged the taste. Profits, as ever under the business rule of the world overweighed morals or health.
These girls in our bower drank sparingly of wine, but needed no artificial spirits to spur their own. Music runs like fire through their veins.
Iromea of the Tiare Hotel—perhaps some of Lovaina's maidens knew our plans and came over on the packet—took the accordion from Kelly. She began to play, and two of the Moorea men joined her, one with a pair of tablespoons and the other with an empty gasolene-can. The holder of the spoons jingled them in perfect harmony with the accordion, and the can-operator tapped and thumped the tin, so that the three made a singular and tingling music. It had a timbre that got under one's skin and pulsated one's nerves, arousing dormant desires. I felt like leaping into the arena and showing them my mettle on alternate feet, but a Moorea beauty anticipated me.
She placed herself before the proud Llewellyn, half of her own blood, and began an upaupahura. She postured before him in an attitude of love, and commenced an improvisation in song about him. She praised his descent from his mother, his strength, his capacity for rum, and especially his power over women. He was own brother to the great ones of the Bible, Tolomoni and Nebutodontori, who had a thousand wives. He drew all women to him.
The dance was a gambol of passion. It was a free expression of uninhibited sex feeling. The Hawaiian hula, the nautch, and minstrelsy combined. So rapid was the movement, so fast the music, so strenuous the singing, and so actual the vision of the dancer, that she exhausted herself in a few minutes, and another took the turf.
A thousand years the Tahitians had had these upaupahuras. Their national ballads, the achievements of the warrior, the fisherman, the woodsman, the canoe-builder, and the artist, had been orally recorded and impressed in this manner in the conclaves of the Arioi. Dancing is for prose gesture what song is for the instinctive exclamation of feeling, and among primitive peoples they are usually separated; but those cultured Tahitians from time immemorial had these highly developed displays of both methods of manifesting acute sensations. The Kamchadales of the Arctic—curious the similarities of language and custom between these far Northerners and these far Southerners—danced like these Tahitians, so that every muscle quivered at every moment.
The dancing in the bower was at intervals, as the desire moved the performers and bodily force allowed. The himene went on continuously, varying with the inspiration of the dancer or the whim of the accordion-player. They snatched this instrument from one another's hands as the mood struck them, and among the natives, men and women alike had facility in its playing. Pepe of Papara, and Tehau of Papeari, their eyes flashing, their bosoms rising and falling tumultuously, and their voices and bodies alternating in their expressions of passion, were joined by Temanu of Lovaina's, the oblique-eyed girl whom they called a half-Chinese, but whose ancestral tree, she said, showed no celestial branch. Temanu was tall, slender, serpent-like, her body flexuous and undulatory, responding to every quaver of the music. Her uncorseted figure, with only a thin silken gown upon it, wreathed harmoniously in tortile oscillations, her long, black hair flying about her flushed face, and her soul afire with her thoughts and simulations.
Now entered the bower Mamoe of Moorea, a big girl of eighteen. She was of the ancient chiefess type, as large as a man, perfectly modeled, a tawny Juno. Her hair was in two plaits, wound with red peppers, and on her head a crown of tuberoses. She wore a single garment, which outlined her figure, and her feet were bare. She surveyed the company, and her glance fell on Landers.
She began to dance. Her face, distinctly Semitic, as is not seldom the case in Polynesia, was fixed a little sternly at first; but as she continued, it began to glow. She did not sing. Her dance was the upaupa, the national dance of Tahiti, the same movement generally as that of Temanu, but without voice and more skilled. One saw at once that she was the premiere danseuse of this isle, for all took their seats. Her rhythmical swaying and muscular movements were of a perfection unexcelled, and soon infected the bandsmen, now with all discipline unleashed. One sprang from the table and took his position before her. Together they danced, moving in unison, or the man answering the woman's motions when her agitation lulled. The spectators were absorbed in the hula. They clapped hands and played, and when the first man wearied, another took his place.
Mamoe stopped, and drank a goblet of rum. Her eyes wandered toward our end of the table, and she came to us. She put her hand on Landers. The big trader, who was dressed in white linen, accepted the challenge. He pushed back the bench and stood up.
Landers in looks was out of a novel. If Henry Dixey, the handsome actor, whose legs made his fame before he might attest his head's capacity, were expanded to the proportions of Muldoon, the wrestler, he might have been Landers. Apparently about thirtythree, really past forty, he was as big as the young "David" of the Buonarroti, of the most powerful and graceful physique, with curling brown hair, and almost perfect features; a giant of a man, as cool as an igloo, with a melodious Australasian voice pitched low, and a manner with men and women that was irresistible.
He faced Mamoe, and Temanu seized the accordion and broke into a mad upaupa. An arm's-length from Mamoe Landers simulated every pulsation of her quaking body. He was an expert, it was plain, and his handsome face, generally calm and unexpressive, was aglow with excitement. Mamoe recognized her gyratory equal in this giant, and often their bodies met in the ecstasy of their curveting. Landers, towering above her, and bigger in bone and muscle than she in sheer flesh, was like a figure from a Saturnalia. The call of the isles was ringing in his ears, and one had only to glance at him to hear Pan among the reeds, to be back in the glades where fauns and nymphs were at play.
I saw Landers a care-free animal for the moment, rejoicing in his strength and skill, answering the appeal of sex in the dance. When he sat down the animal was still in him, but care again had clouded his brow. I think our early ancestors must have been much like Landers in this dance, strong, and merry for the time, seeking the woman in pleasures, fiery in movement for the nonce, and relapsing into stolidity. I can see why Landers, who takes what he will of womankind in these islands, still dominates in the trading, and bends most people his way. The animal way is the way here. The way of the city, of mere subtlety, of avoidance of issues, of intellectual control, is not the way of Polynesia. Bulk and sinew and no fear of God or man are the rules of the game south of the line, as "north of 53."
With Landers dancing, so must the others. Hobson had dropped in, and he, David, McHenry, Schlyter, and Lying Bill, trod a measure, and I, though with only a Celtic urge and a couple of years in Hawaii to teach me, faced Temanu. The bandsmen could not remain still, and, with Kelly to play the accordion, the rout became general. McHenry did not molest Hobson, who remained.
When we retired from the scene late at night, the upaupa was still active. We went to the house of Pai, a handsome native woman, whose half-caste husband was Mr. Fuller. There were only three beds in the house, which Landers, Lying Bill, and McHenry fell on before any one else could claim them. I contented myself with a mat on the veranda, and noticed that, besides the remainder of our party, Pai and her tane were also on that level.
At half past two in the morning we lay down. I could not sleep. From the bower the song and music rang out continuously, mingled with laughter and the sounds of shuffling feet.
I got up at five, and with a pareu about me, followed the stream until I found a delicious pool, where I bathed for an hour, while I read "The Ballad of Reading Gaol." The level land between the sea and the mountains was not more than a quarter mile broad, and the near hills rose rounded and dark green, with mysterious valleys folded in between them. All about were cocoanuts and bananas, their foliage wet with the rain that had fallen gently all night. The stream was edged with trees and ferns and was clear and rippling. At that early hour there was no sensation of chill for me, though the men of native blood balked at entering the water until the sun had warmed it. A Chinese vegetablegrower sat on the bank with his Chinese wife and cleaned heads of lettuce and bunches of carrots. She watched me apathetically, as if I were a little strange, but not interesting.
A dozen natives came by and by to bathe in the next pool. They observed me, and called to me, pleasantly, "Ia ora na!" which is the common greeting of the Tahitian, and is pronounced "yuranna." The white is always a matter of curiosity to the native. These simple people have not lost, though generations of whites have come and bred and died or gone, at least some of their original awe and enjoyment of their conquerors and rulers.
When we had coffee in the morning, our serious and distinguished native hosts stood while we ate and drank. We, guests in their own comfortable house, did not ask them to join us. Llewellyn, when I put the question, answered:
"No. I am both white and of too high native rank. You cannot afford to let the native become your social equal."
"You're bloody well right. Keep him in his stall, and he's all right; but out of it, ye'll get no peace."
So the gentle Pai and her husband—they are religious people, and went to the Faatoai church three times this Sunday—stood while we lolled at ease. Courtesy here seems a native trait, though even a little native blood improves on the white as far as politeness is concerned. En passant, the average white here is not of the leisure class, in which manners are an occupation; the native, on the other hand, is of a leisure class by heredity, and it is only when tainted by a desire to make money quickly or much of it that he loses his urbanity.
We had breakfasted in the bower at ten o'clock, with the band in attendance. Not one of the musicians had slept except Kelly, who said he had forty winks. When the pastors and their flocks of the various competing churches passed on their way to services, the band was keyed up in G, and was parading the streets, so that the faith of the Tahitians was severely tried. Even the ministers tarried a minute, and had to hold tightly their scriptures to control their legs, which itched to dance.
Aboard the Potii Moorea the bandsmen came sober, a revelation in recuperation. Again we passed the idyllic shores of Moorea, glimpsed the grove of Daphne and McTavish's bungalow at Urufara, and saw the heights, the desolated castle, the marvels of light and shade upon the hills and valleys, left the silver circlet of the reef, and made the open sea.
The glory of the Diadem, a crown of mountain peaks, stood out above the mists that cover the mountains of Tahiti, and the green carpet of the hills fell from the clouds to the water's-edge, as if held above by Antaeus and pinned down by the cocoanut-trees.
At landing I discovered that the bandsmen had stolen away the sleeping Mamoe, and had carried her aboard the Potii Moorea, and deposited her in the hold. She emerged fresh from her nap, and apparently ready for an upaupa that night. We marched to the Cercle Bougainville to recall the incidents of the excursion over a comforting Dr. Funk.
The storm on the lagoon; Making safe the schooners—A talk on missing ships—A singular coincidence—Arrival of three of crew of the shipwrecked El Dorado—The Dutchman's story—Easter Island.
It blew a gale all one day and night from the north, and at break of the second day, when I went down the rue de Rivoli from the Tiare Hotel to the quay, the lagoon was a wild scene. Squall after squall had dashed the rain upon my verandas during the night, and I could faintly hear the voices of the men on the schooners as they strove to fend their vessels from the coral embankment, or hauled at anchor-ropes to get more sea-room.
The sun did not rise, but a gray sky showed the flying scud tearing at the trees and riggings, and the boom of the surf on the reef was like the roaring of a great steelmill at full blast. The roadway was littered with branches and the crimson leaves of the flamboyants. The people were hurrying to and from market in vehicles and on foot, soaked and anxious-looking as they struggled against the wind and rain. I walked the length of the built-up waterfront. The little boats were being pulled out from the shore by the several launches, and were making fast to buoys or putting down two and three anchors a hundred fathoms away from the quays.
The storm increased all the morning, and at noon, when I looked at the barometer in the Cercle Bougainville it was 29.51, the lowest, the skippers said, in seven years. The William Olsen, a San Francisco barkentine, kedged out into the lagoon as fast as possible, and through the tearing sheets of rain I glimpsed other vessels reaching for a holding-ground. The Fetia Taiao had made an anchorage a thousand feet toward the reef. The waves were hammering against the quays, and the lagoon was white with fury.
In the club, after all had been made secure, the skippers and managers of trading houses gathered to discuss the weather. Tahiti is not so subject to disastrous storms as are the Paumotu Islands and the waters toward China and Japan, yet every decade or two a tidal-wave sweeps the lowlands and does great injury. Though this occurs but seldom, when the barometer falls low, the hearts of the owners of property and of the people who have experienced a disaster of this kind sink. The tides in this group of islands are different from anywhere else in the world I know of in that they ebb and flow with unchanging regularity, never varying in time from one year's end to another.
Full tide comes at noon and midnight, and ebb at six in the morning and six in the evening, and the sun rises and sets between half past five and half past six o'clock. There is hardly any twilight, because of the earth's fast rotation in the tropics. This is a fixity, observed by whites for more than a century, and told the first seamen here by the natives as a condition existing always. Another oddity of the tides is that they are almost inappreciable, the difference between high and low tide hardly ever exceeding two feet. But every six months or so a roaring tide rolls in from far at sea, and, sweeping with violence over the reef, breaks on the beach. Now was due such a wave, and its possibilities of height and destruction caused lively argument between the traders and the old salts. More than a dozen retired seamen, mostly Frenchmen, found their Snug Harbor in the Cercle Bougainville, where liberty, equality, and fraternity had their home, and where Joseph bounded when orders for the figurative splicing of the main-brace came from the tables.
George Goeltz, a sea-rover, who had cast his anchor in the club after fifty years of equatorial voyaging, was, on account of his seniority, knowledge of wind and reef, and, most of all, his never-failing bonhommie, keeper of barometer, thermometer, telescopes, charts, and records. When I had my jorum of the eminent physician's Samoan prescription before me, I barkened to the wisdom of the mariners.
Captain. William Pincher, who had at my first meeting informed me he was known as Lying Bill, explained to me that some ignorant landsmen stated that this tidal regularity was caused by the steady drift of the tradewinds at certain hours of the day.
"That don't go," said he, "for the tides are the same whether there's a gale o' wind or a calm. I've seen the tide 'ighest 'ere in Papeete when there wasn't wind to fill a jib, and right 'ere on the leeward side of the bloody island, sheltered from the breeze. How about it at night, too, when the trade quits? The bleedin' tide rises and falls just the same at just the same time. Those trades don't even push the tidal waves because they always come from the west'ard, and the trades are from the east."
"I can look out of the veranda of this Cercle Bougainville and tell you what time it is to a quarter of an hour any day in the year just by looking at the shore or the reef and seein' where the water is," said Goeltz. "You can't do that any place on the globe except in this group."
A beneficent nature has considered the white visitor in this concern, for he can go upon the reef to look for its treasures at low tide, at sun-up or sun-fall, when it is cool.
We fell to talking about missing ships, and Goeltz insisted on Lying Bill telling of his own masterful exploit in bringing back a schooner from South America after the captain had run away with it and a woman. Pincher was mate of the schooner, which traded from Tahiti, and the skipper was a handsome fellow who thought his job well lost for love. He became enamored of the wife of another captain. One night when by desperate scheming he had gotten her aboard, he suddenly gave orders to up anchor and away. The schooner was full of cargo, copra and pearl-shell and pearls, and was due to return to Papeete to discharge. But this amative mariner filled his jibs on another tack, and before his crew knew whither they were bound was well on his long traverse to Peru.
Lying Bill was the only other white man aboard, and he took orders, as he had to by law and by the might of the swashbuckler captain. The lady lived in the only cabin—a tiny corner of the cuddy walled off—and ate her meals with her lover while Pincher commanded on deck. At a port in Peru the pirate sold the cargo, and taking his mistress ashore, he disappeared for good and all from the ken of the mate and of the South Seas.
"Now," said Captain George Goeltz, "Bill here could 'a' followed suit and sold the vessel. Of course they had no papers except for the French group, but in South America twenty-five years ago a piaster was a piaster. Bill was square then, as he is now, and he borrows enough money to buy grub, and he steers right back to Papeete. Gott im Himmel! Were the owners glad to see that schooner again? They had given her up as gone for good when the husband told them his wife had run away with the captain. That's how Bill got his certificate to command vessels in this archipelago, which only Frenchmen can have."
Goeltz picked up the "Daily Commercial News" of San Francisco, and idly read out the list of missing ships. There was only one in the Pacific of recent date whose fate was utterly unknown. She was the schooner El Dorado, which had left Oregon months before for Chile, and had not been sighted in all that time. The shipping paper said:
What has become of the El Dorado, it is, of course, impossible to say with any degree of accuracy, but one thing is almost certain, and that is that the likelihood of her ever being heard of again is now practically without the range of possibility. Nevertheless she may still be afloat though in a waterlogged condition and drifting about in the trackless wastes of the South Pacific. Then again she may have struck one of the countless reefs that infest that portion of the globe, some entirely invisible and others just about awash. She is now one hundred and eighty-nine days out, and the voyage has rarely taken one hundred days. She was reported in lat. 35:40 N., long. 126:30 W., 174 days ago.
"There'll be no salvage on her," said Captain Pincher, "because if she's still afloat, she ain't likely to get in the track of any bloody steamer. I've heard of those derelic's wanderin' roun' a bloody lifetime, especially if they're loaded with lumber. They end up usually on some reef."
This casual conversation was the prelude to the strangest coincidence of my life. When I awoke the next morning, I found that the big sea had not come and that the sun was shining. My head full of the romance of wrecks and piracy, I climbed the hill behind the Tiare Hotel to the signal station. There I examined the semaphore, which showed a great white ball when the mail-steamships appeared, and other symbols for the arrivals of different kinds of craft, men-of-war, barks, and schooners. There was a cozy house for the lookout and his family, and, as everywhere in Tahiti, a garden of flowers and fruit-trees. I could see Point Venus to the right, with its lighthouse, and the bare tops of the masts of the ships at the quays. Gray and red roofs of houses peeped from the foliage below, and a red spire of a church stood up high.
The storms had ceased in the few hours since dawn, and the sun was high and brilliant. Moorea, four leagues away, loomed like a mammoth battle-ship, sable and grim, her turrets in the lowering clouds on the horizon, her anchors a thousand fathoms deep. The sun was drinking water through luminous pipes. The harbor was a gleaming surface, and the reef from this height was a rainbow of color. All hues were in the water, emerald and turquoise, palest blue and gold. I sat down and closed my eyes to recall old Walt's lines of beauty about the
—World below the brine. Forests at the bottom of the sea, the branches and leaves. Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seed. The thick tangle,... and pink turf.
When I looked again at the reef I espied a small boat, almost a speck outside the coral barrier. She was too small for an inter-island cutter, and smaller than those do not venture beyond the reef. She was downing her single sail, and the sun glinted on the wet canvas. I called to the guardian of the semaphore, and when he pointed his telescope at the object, he shouted out:
"Mais, c'est curieux! Et ees a schmall vessel, a sheep's boat!"
I waited for no more, but with all sorts of conjectures racing through my mind, I hurried down the hill. Under the club balcony I called up to Captain Goeltz, who already had his glass fixed. He answered:
"She's a ship's boat, with three men, a jury rig, and barrels and boxes. She's from a wreck, that's sure."
He came rolling down the narrow stairway, and together we stood at the quai du Commerce as the mysterious boat drew nearer. We saw that the oarsmen were rowing fairly strongly against the slight breeze, and our fears of the common concomitants of wrecks,—starvation and corpses—disappeared as we made out their faces through the glasses. They stood out bronzed and hearty. The boat came up along the embankment, one of the three steering, with as matter of fact an air as if they had returned from a trip within the lagoon. There was a heap of things in the boat, the sail, a tank, a barrel, cracker-boxes, blankets, and some clothing.
The men were bearded like the pard, and in tattered garments, their feet bare. The one at the helm was evidently an officer, for neither of the others made a move until he gave the order:
"Throw that line ashore!"
Goeltz seized it and made fast to a ring-bolt, and then only at another command did the two stand up. We seized their hands and pulled them up on the wall. They were as rugged as lions in the open, burned as brown as Moros, their hair and beards long and ragged, and their powerful, lean bodies showing through their rags.
"What ship are you from?" I inquired eagerly.
The steersman regarded me narrowly, his eyes squinting, and then said taciturnly, "Schooner El Dorado." He said it almost angrily, as if he were forced to confess a crime. Then I saw the name on the boat, "El Dorado S. F."
"Didn't I tell you so?" asked Lying Bill, who was in the crowd now gathered. "George, didn't I say the El Dorado would turn up?"
He glared at Goeltz for a sign of assent, but the retired salt sought kudos for himself.
"I saw her first," he replied. "I was having a Doctor Funk when I looked toward the pass, and saw at once that it was a queer one."
The shipwrecked trio shook themselves like dogs out of the water. They were stiff in the legs. The two rowers smiled, and when I handed each of them a cigar, they grinned, but one said:
"After we've e't. Our holds are empty. We've come thirty-six hundred miles in that dinghy."
"I'm captain N.P. Benson of the schooner El Dorado." vouchsafed the third. "Where's the American Counsul?"
I led them a few hundred feet to the office of Dentist Williams, who was acting as consul for the United States. He had a keen love of adventure, and twenty years in the tropics had not dimmed his interest in the marvelous sea. He left his patient and closeted himself with the trio, while I returned to their boat to inspect it more closely.
All the workers and loafers of the waterfront were about it, but Goeltz would let none enter it, he believing it might be needed untouched as evidence of some sort. There are no wharf thieves and no fences in Tahiti, so there was no danger of loss, and, really, there was nothing worth stealing but the boat itself.
Captain Benson and his companions hastened from the dentist's to Lovaina's, where they were given a table on the veranda alone. They remained an hour secluded after Iromea and Atupu had piled their table with dishes. They drank quarts of coffee, and ate a beefsteak each, dozens of eggs, and many slices of fried ham, with scores of hot biscuits. They never spoke during the meal. A customs-officer had accompanied them to the Tiare Hotel, for the French Government wisely made itself certain that they might not be an unknown kind of smugglers, pirates, or runaways. Their boat had been taken in charge by the customs bureau, and the men were free to do what they would.
When they came from their gorging to the garden, they picked flowers, smelled the many kinds of blossoms, and then the sailors lighted their cigars. This pair were Steve Drinkwater, a Dutchman; and Alex Simoneau, a French-Canadian of Attleboro, Massachusetts.
"Where's the El Dorado?" I asked of the captain.
Again he looked at me, suspiciously.
"She went down in thirty-one degrees: two minutes, south and one hundred twenty-one: thirty-seven west," he said curtly, and turned away. There was pride and sorrow in his Scandinavian voice, and a reticence not quite explicable. The three, as they stood a moment before they walked off, made a striking group. Their sturdy figures, in their worn and torn clothes, their hairy chests, their faces framed in bushes of hair, their bronzed skins, and their general air of fighters who had won a battle in which it was pitch and toss if they would survive, made me proud of the race of seamen the world over. They are to-day almost the only followers of a primeval calling, tainted little by the dirt of profit-seeking. They risk their lives daily in the hazards of the ocean, the victims of cold-blooded insurance gamblers and of niggardly owners, and rewarded with only a seat in the poorhouse or a niche in Davy Jones's Locker. I was once of their trade, and I longed to know the happenings of their fated voyage.
Next morning the three were quite ordinary-looking. They were shorn and shaved and scrubbed, and rigged out in Schlyter's white drill trousers and coats. They had rooms under mine in the animal-yard. They were to await the first steamship for the United States, to which country they would be sent as shipwrecked mariners by the American consulate. This vessel would not arrive for some weeks. The captain sat outside his door on the balcony, and expanded his log into a story of his experiences. He had determined to turn author, and to recoup his losses as much as possible by the sale of his manuscript. With a stumpy pencil in hand, he scratched his head, pursed his mouth, and wrote slowly. He would not confide in me. He said he had had sufferings enough to make money out of them, and would talk only to magazine editors.
"There's Easter Island," he told me. "Those curiosities there are worth writing about, too. I've put down a hundred sheets already. I'm sorry, but I can't talk to any one. I'm going to take the boat with me, and exhibit it in a museum and speak a piece."
He was serious about his silence, and as my inquisitiveness was now beyond restraint, I tried the sailors. They would have no log, but their memories might be good.
Alex Simoneau, being of French descent, and speaking the Gallic tongue, was not to be found at the Tiare. He was at the Paris, or other cafe, surrounded by gaping Frenchmen, who pressed upon him Pernoud, rum, and the delicate wines of France. So great was his absorption in his new friends, and so unbounded their hospitality, that M. Lontane laid him by the heels to rest him. Simoneau was wiry, talking the slang of the New York waterfront, swearing that he would "hike for Attleboro, and hoe potatoes until he died." I was forced to seek Steve Drinkwater. Short, pillow-like, as red-cheeked as a winter apple, and yellow-haired, he was a Dutchman, unafraid of anything, stolid, powerful, but not resourceful. I called Steve to my room above Captain Benson's, and set before him a bottle of schnapps, in a square-faced bottle, and a box of cigars.
"Steve," I said, "that squarehead of a skipper of yours won't tell me anything about the El Dorado's sinking and your great trip in the boat. He said he's going to write it up in the papers, and make speeches about it in a museum. He wants to make money out of it."
"Vere do ve gat oop on dat?" asked the Hollander, sorely. "Ve vas dere mit 'im, und vas ve in de museum, py damage? Dot shkvarehet be'n't de only wrider?"
I shuddered at the possible good fortune. I transfixed him with a sharp eye.
"Steve," I asked gentry, "did you keep a log? Pour yourself a considerable modicum of the Hollands and smoke another cigar."
"Vell," said the seaman, after obeying instructions, "I yoost had vun hell of a time, und he make a long rest in de land, I do py dammage! I keep a leedle book from off de day ve shtart ouid."
I heard the measured pace of the brave "shkvarehet" below as he racked his brains for words. I would have loved to aid him, to do all I could to make widely known his and his crew's achievements and gain him fortune. However, he would sow his ink and reap his gold harvest, and I must, by master or by man, hear and record for myself the wonderful incidents of the El Dorado's wreck. The insurance was doubtless long since paid on her, and masses said for the repose of the soul of Alex Simoneau. The world would not know of their being saved, or her owners of the manner of her sinking, until these three arrived in San Francisco, or until a few days before, when the steamship wireless might inform them.
Steve came back with a memorandum book in which he had kept day by day the history of the voyage. But it was in Dutch, and I could not read it. I made him comfortable in a deep-bottomed rocker, and I jotted down my understanding of the honest sailor's Rotterdam English as he himself translated his ample notes in his native tongue. I pieced these out with answers to my questions, for often Steve's English was more puzzling than pre-Chaucer poetry.
The El Dorado was a five-masted schooner, twelve years old, and left Astoria, Oregon, for Antofagasta, Chile, on a Friday, more than seven months before, with a crew of eleven all told: the captain, two mates, a Japanese cook, and seven men before the mast. She was a man-killer, as sailors term sailing ships poorly equipped and undermanned. The crew were of all sorts, the usual waterfront unemployed, wretchedly paid and badly treated. The niggardliness of owners of ships caused them to pick up their crews at haphazard by paying crimps to herd them from lodging-houses and saloons an hour or two before sailing to save a day's wages. Once aboard, they were virtual slaves, subject to the whims and brutality of the officers, and forfeiting liberty and even life if they refused to submit to all conditions imposed by these petty bosses.
Often the crimps brought aboard as sailors men who had never set foot on a vessel. On the El Dorado few were accustomed mariners, and the first few weeks were passed in adjusting crew and officers to one another, and to the routine of the overloaded schooner. When they were fifteen days out they spoke a vessel, which reported them, and after that they saw no other. The mate was a bucko, a slugger, according to Steve, and was hated by all, for most of them during the throes of seasickness had had a taste of his fists.
On the seventy-second day out the El Dorado was twenty-seven hundred miles off the coast of Chile, having run a swelling semicircle to get the benefit of the southeast trades, and being far south of Antofagasta. That was the way of the wind, which forced a ship from Oregon to Chile to swing far out from the coast, and make a deep southward dip before catching the south-west trades, which would likely stay by her to her port of discharge.
They had sailed on a Friday, and on Wednesday, the eleventh of the third month following, their real troubles began. Steve's diary, as interpreted by him, after the foregoing, was substantially as follows, the color being all his:
"From the day we sailed we were at the pumps for two weeks to bale the old tub out. Then she swelled, and the seams became tight. There was bad weather from the time we crossed the Astoria bar. The old man would carry on because he was in a hurry to make a good run. The mate used to beat us, and it's a wonder we didn't kill him. We used to lie awake in our watch below and think of what we'd do to him when we got him ashore. All the men were sore on him. He cursed us all the time, and the captain said nothing. You can't hit back, you know. He would strike us and kick us for fun. I felt sure he'd be murdered; but when we got into difficulty and could have tossed him over, we never made a motion.
"On the seventy-third day out, came the terror. The wind is from the southeast. There is little light. The sea is high, and everything is in a smother. We took down the topsails and furled the spanker. The wind was getting up, and the call came for all hands on deck. We had watch and watch until then. That's four hours off and four hours on. When the watch below left their bunks, that was the last of our sleep on the El Dorado. A gale was blowing by midnight. We were working all the time, taking in sail and making all snug. There was plenty of water on deck. Schooner was bumping hard on the waves and making water through her seams. We took the pumps for a spell.
"We had no sleep next day. In the morning we set all sails in a lull, but took them down again quickly, because the wind shifted to the northwest, and a big gale came on. Now began trouble with the cargo. We had the hold filled with lumber, planks and such, and on the deck we had a terrible load of big logs. These were to hold up the walls and roofs in the mines of Chile. Many of them were thirty-six feet long, and very big around. They were the trunks of very big trees. They were piled very high, and the whole of them was fastened by chains to keep them from rolling or being broken loose by seas. In moving about the ship we had to walk on this rough heap of logs, which lifted above the rails. They were hard to walk on in a perfectly smooth sea, and with the way the El Dorado rolled and pitched, we could hardly keep from being thrown into the ocean.
"This second day of the big storm, with the wind from the northeast, the El Dorado began to leak badly again. All hands took spells at the pumps. We were at work every minute. We left the ropes for the pumps and the pumps for the ropes. We double-reefed the mizzen, and in the wind this was a terrible job. It nearly killed us. At eight o'clock to-night we could not see five feet ahead of us. It was black as hell, and the schooner rolled fearfully. The deck-load then shifted eight inches to starboard. This made a list that frightened us. We were all soaking wet now for days. The after-house separated from the main-deck, and the water became six feet deep in the cabin.
"We had no sun at all during the day, and at midnight a hurricane came out of the dark. All night we were pulling and hauling, running along the great logs in danger always of being washed away. We had to lash the lumber, tightening the chains, and trying to stop the logs from smashing the ship to pieces. It did not seem that we could get through the night.
"This is Friday. When a little of daylight came, we saw that everything was awash. The sea was white as snow, all foam and spindrift. It did not seem that we could last much longer. The small boat that had been hanging over the stern was gone. It had been smashed by the combers. We should have had it inboard, and the mate was to blame. Now we took the other boat, the only one left, and lashed it upright to the spanker-stays. In this way it was above the logs and had a chance to remain unbroken.
"We sounded the well, and the captain ordered us again to the pumps. These were on deck between the logs, which were crashing about. We couldn't work the pumps, as there was seven feet of water in there on deck. The second mate spoke to the captain that it would be best to start the steam pump. The smokestack and the rest of the steam fittings were under the fo'c's'le head. It took a long time to get them out, and then the steam pump would not work. The water gained on us all the time now, and the captain ordered us to throw the deck-load overboard. We were nearly dead, we were so tired and sleepy and sore. This morning, the cook served coffee and bread when daylight came at six o'clock. That was the last bit of food or drink we had on the El Dorado.
"The taking off of the great chain was a murderous job. When we loosened it, the huge seas would sweep over the logs and us while we tried to get them overboard. It was touch and go. We had to use capstanbars to pry the big logs over and over. We tried to push them with the rolling of the ship. One wave would carry a mass of the logs away, and the next wave would bring them back, crashing into the vessel, catching in the rigging, and nearly pulling it down, and the masts with it. Dodging those big logs was awful work, and if you were hit by one, you were gone. They would come dancing over the side on the tops of the waves and be left on the very spot from which we had lifted them overboard. The old man should have thrown the deck-load over two days before. The water now grew deeper all the time, and the ship wallowed like a waterlogged raft. The fo'c's'le was full of water. The El Dorado was drowning with us aboard.
"We were all on deck because we had nowhere else to go. There was nothing in the cabin or the fo'c's'le but water. The sea was now like mountains, but it stopped breaking, so that there was a chance to get away. We were hanging on to stays and anything fixed.
"The captain now gave up hope, as we had long ago. He ordered all hands to make ready to lower the one boat we had left, and to desert the ship. We had a hard time to get this boat loose from the spanker-stay, and we lowered it with the spanker-tackle. Just while we were doing that, a tremendous wave swept the poop, with a battering-ram of logs that had returned. Luckily, the boat we were lowering escaped being smashed, or we had all been dead men now.
"We filled a tank with twenty-five gallons of water from the scuttle-butts and carried it to the boat. The old man ordered the cook and the boy to get some grub he had in a locker in his cabin, high up, where he had put it away from the flood. The cook and the boy were scared stiff, and when they went into the cabin, a sea came racing in, and all saved was twenty pounds of soda crackers, twelve one-pound tins of salt beef, three of tongue, thirty-two cans of milk, thirty-eight of soup, and four of jam.
"We went into the boat with nothing but what we wore, and that was little. Some of us had no coats, and some no hats, and others were without any shoes. We were in rags from the terrible fight with the logs and the sea. The old man went below to get his medicine-chest. He threw away the medicine, and put his log and the ship's papers in it. He took up his chronometer to bring it, when a wave like that which got the cook and the boy knocked the skipper over and lost the chronometer. All he got away with was his sextant and compass and his watch, which was as good as a chronometer.
"We got into the boat at four o'clock. The boat had been put into the water under the stern and made fast by a rope to the taffrail. We climbed out the spankerboom and slid down another rope. The seas were terrific, and it was a mercy that we did not fall in. We had to take a chance and jump when the boat came under us. Last came the old man, and took the tiller. He had the oars manned, and gave the order to let go. That was a terrible moment for all of us, to cast loose from the schooner, bad as she was. There we were all alone in the middle of the ocean, bruised from the struggle on deck, and almost dying from exhaustion and already hungry as wolves. In twenty-four hours we had had only a cup of coffee and a biscuit.
"It was very dark, and we had no light. We were, however, glad to leave the El Dorado, because our suffering on her for weeks had been as much as we could bear. The last I saw of the schooner she was just a huge, black lump on the black waters. We rose on a swell, and she sank into a valley out of sight.
"The captain spoke to us now: 'We have a good chance for life,' he said. 'I have looked over the chart, and it shows that Easter Island is about nine hundred miles northeast by east. If we are all together in trying, we may reach there.'
"None of us had ever been to Easter Island, and hardly any of us had ever heard of it. It looked like a long pull there. All night the captain and the mate took turns in steering, while we, in turn, pulled at the oars. We did not dare put a rag of canvas on her, for the wind was big still. The old man said that as we had both latitude and longitude to run, we would run out the latitude first, and then hope for a slant to the land. We were then, he said, in latitude 31 south, and longitude 121 west. That being so, we had about three hundred miles to go south and about six hundred east. He said that Pitcairn Island was but six hundred miles away, but that the prevailing winds would not let us sail there. We set the course, then, for Easter Island. We wondered whether Easter Island had a place to land, and whether there were any people on it. There might be savages and cannibals.
"It rained steady all night, and the sea spilled into the boat now and then. Two of us had to bale all the time to keep the boat afloat. We were soaked to the skin with fresh and salt water, weak from the days of exposure and hunger, and we were barely able to keep from being thrown out of the boat by its terrible rocking and pitching, and yet we all felt like singing a song. All but the Japanese cook. Iwata had almost gone mad, and was praying to his joss whenever anything new happened. During that night a wave knocked him over and crushed one of his feet against the tank of drinking water. The salt water got into the wound and swelled it, and he was soon unable to move.
"The second day in the small boat was the captain's forty-eighth birthday. The old man spoke of it in a hearty way, hoping that when he was forty-nine he would be on the deck of some good ship. There was no sign of the El Dorado that morning. But with wind and sea as they were, we could not have seen the ship very far, and we had made some distance under oarpower during the night. We put up our little sail at nine o'clock, though the wind was strong. The skipper said that we could not expect anything but rough weather, and that we had to make the best of every hour, considering what we had to eat and that we were eleven in the boat. The wind was now from the southwest, and we steered northeast. We had to steer without compass because it was dark, and we had no light.
"We had our first bite to eat about noon of this second day out. We had then been nearly three months at sea, or, to be exact, it was seventy-eight days since we had left port. It was thirty hours after the coffee and biscuit on the El Dorado, and God knows how much longer since we had had a whole meal, and now we didn't have much. The old man bossed it. He took a half-bucket of fresh water, and into this he put a can of soup. This he served, and gave each man two soda crackers and his share of a pound of corned beef. We dipped the crackers into the bucket. (I tell you it was better than the ham and eggs we had at the hotel when we landed.) We had this kind of a meal twice a day, and no more.
"The next day the wind was again very strong, with thunder and lightning, and we ran dead before the wind with no more sail than a handkerchief. The sea began to break over the boat, and our old man said that we could not live through it unless we could rig up a sea-anchor. We were sure we would drown. We made one by rolling four blankets together tightly and tying around them a long rope with which our boat was made fast to the ship when we embarked. This we let drag astern about ninety-feet. It held the boat fairly steady, and kept the boat's head to the seas. We fastened it to the ring in the stern. We used this sea-anchor many times throughout our voyage, and without it we would have gone down sure. Of course we took in a great deal of water, anyhow; but we could keep her baled out, and the sea-anchor prevented her from swamping.
"The nights were frightful, and many times all of us had terrible dreams, and sometimes thought we were on shore. Men would cry out about things they thought they saw, and other men would have to tell them they were not so. We were always up and down on top of the swells, and our bodies ached so terribly from the sitting-down position and from the joggling of the motion that we would cry with pain. The salt water got in all of our bruises and cracked our hands and feet, but there was no help for us, and we had to grin and bear it. A shark took hold of our sea-anchor and we were afraid that he would tear it to pieces.
"Every day the captain took an observation when he could, and told us where we were. We made about a hundred miles a day, but very often we steered out of our course because we had no matches or lantern.
"On the eighteenth we were in latitude 26 53' South, and the captain said that Easter Island was in the 27th degree, so after all we had steered pretty well.
"On the night of the nineteenth, we had a fearful storm. It seemed worse than the hurricane we had on the El Dorado. All night long we thought that every minute would end us, and we lay huddled in misery, not caring much whether we went down or not. But the next morning, we set part of the sail again, and at noon that day the captain took a sight and found that we were in latitude 27 8' south. Easter Island is 27 10' south. And now we began to fear that we might run past Easter Island. If we did, we knew we could never get back with the wind. We had squall after squall now, but we felt sure that soon we must see land. Our soup was all gone, and we were living on the soda crackers mixed with water and milk. Each of us got a cupful of this stuff once a day.
"On the twenty-second, when we were nine days out, I saw the land at ten o'clock in the morning, thirty miles away. We felt pretty good over that, and had two cupfuls of the mixture, because we felt we were nearly safe. My God! what we felt when we saw the rise of that land! The captain said it was Easter Island for certain, but that it was not a place that any merchant ships ever went, as there was no trade there. Once we saw the land we could not get any nearer to it. We tried to row toward it, but the wind was against us. Two days we hung about the back of that island, just outside the line of breakers. We were afraid to risk a landing, for the coast was rocky. On the eleventh day we saw a spot where the rocks looked white, and we rowed in toward it with great pains and much fear. A big sea threw us right upon a smooth boulder, and we leaped from the boat and tried to run ashore. We were weak and fell down many times. Finally we got a hold and we carried everything out of the boat, and after hours hauled it up out of reach of the breakers.
"There was a cliff that went right up straight from the rocks, and we could not climb it, we were so weak from hunger and the cramped position we had had to keep in the boat. We laid down a while, and then it was decided that the first and second mates should have a good feed and try to get up the precipice. We were taking risks, because we had very little grub left. It was about a hundred feet up, and we watched them closely as they went slowly up. They did not come back, and we were much afraid of what they might find. We did not know but there might be savages there. During the day the other sailors also got up, leaving the old man and me to watch the boat.
"Help arrived for us. The mates had walked all night, and at daybreak they reached the house of the head man, employed by the owner of Easter Island. It was a sheep and horse island. The mates were fed, and then they went on to the house of the manager. Horses were gotten out, and bananas and poi sent to us. The water just came in time, because we were all out. They brought horses for all of us then, and after we had started the people of the island went ahead and came back with water and milk, which did us a world of good. At the house of the governor we had a mess of brown beans, and then we all fell asleep on the floor. God knows how long we slept, but when we waked up we were like wolves again. We then had beans with fresh killed mutton, and that made us all deathly sick because our stomachs were weak."
* * * * *
Underneath us, while the red-cheeked and golden-haired Steve uttered his puzzling sentences in English, I heard from time to time the heavy tread of Captain Benson. He was, doubtless, living over again the hours of terror and resolution on the El Dorado and in the boat, and seeking to find words to amplify his log by his memories. I heard him sit down and get up more than once; while opposite me in an easy-chair, with his glass of Schiedam schnapps beside him, was the virile Dutchman, hammering in his breast-swelling story of danger and courage, of starvation and storm. I sighed for a dictaphone in which the original Dutch-English might be recorded for the delight of others.
Alex Simoneau came back after a night of the hospitality of M. Lontane, and soon was joyous again, telling his wondrous epic of the main to the beach-combers in the parc de Bougainville or in the Paris saloon, where the brown and white toilers of land and sea make merry.
"A man that goes to sea is a fool," he said, with a bang of his fist on the table that made the schnapps dance in its heavy bottle. "My people in Massachusetts are all right, and like a crazy man I will go to sea when I could work in a mill or on a farm. They must think I'm dead by now."