When everything belonging to the crew of the Foam had been collected, the savages returned to their canoe, re-launched her, paddled out to sea, and ere long left the little coral island out of sight behind them.
CONTAINS AN ACCOUNT OF THE DESPERATE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE PRISONERS.
Five hours passed away, during which the savages continued to paddle almost without intermission, and our hero with his friends lay fast bound in the bottom of the canoe. They suffered great pain from the swelling of their limbs and the tightening of the cords that bound them; but although Larry O'Hale, in the exasperation of his spirit, gave vent to one or two howls, accompanied by expressions that were the reverse of complimentary, no attention was paid to them until the island towards which they steered was reached.
The instant the canoe touched the sand the captives were lifted out— their hands and feet were tied together in a bunch, and, each being slung on a stout pole as one might sling a bundle, they were carried up to a native village on the margin of a wood. On the way, Wandering Will could see that the beach swarmed with natives—a fact, however, of which his ears had already assured him, for the air was filled with yells of delight as the captives were successively lifted out of the canoe. He also observed that the island appeared to be a large one, for he got a glimpse of a huge mountain rising over the tree tops. Neither he nor any of his comrades, however, had time to make many observations, for they were hurried up the beach and into the village, where they were thrown down under a rudely built hut which was covered with broad leaves.
Here the cords that fastened them were unloosed; but if this for a moment raised the hope that they were about to be set free, they were quickly undeceived by the savages, who rebound their hands behind them. Our hero, Captain Dall, Mr Cupples, Larry O'Hale, and Muggins, were then fastened with cords of cocoa-nut fibre to the several posts of the hut in such a manner that they could stand up or lie down at pleasure. George Goff, old Bob, and the others were led away. Seeing that they were about to be separated, Captain Dall suddenly called out, "Farewell, lads," in a tone so sad, that Goff looked back at him in surprise, but his captors forced him away before he could reply.
"You think we won't see them again?" said Osten, when they were left alone.
"I think not. From what I know of those savages, I fear they have taken our comrades away to be sacrificed, and that our own time will soon come."
Something between a groan and a growl escaped from O'Hale when this was said.
"Cudn't we break thim ropes, and run amuck amongst the murtherin' blackguards," he exclaimed, seizing the rope that bound him with his teeth and endeavouring to tear it—an effort which it is needless to say was futile, and nearly cost him a tooth.
"It's of no use, Larry," said the captain; "we can't help ourselves. If the Lord don't help us, we're dead men."
Although Will Osten was much depressed, not to say alarmed, by what he heard, he could not help wondering why the captain had so suddenly lost his buoyant spirit. At the time when a slow death by starvation had stared him in the face, he had not only retained his own heartiness of spirit, but had kept up wonderfully the spirits of his companions. Now, however—when, as Will thought, they had the chance of escaping by stratagem or by force from their captors, or, at the worst, of selling their lives dearly—his spirit seemed to have utterly forsaken him. Yet the captain was only despondent—not despairing. He had seen the deeds of savages in former years, and knew that with them there was seldom a long period between the resolve to kill and the accomplishment of the crime. He feared for the lives of his shipmates, and would have given his right hand at that moment to have been free to aid them, but the attempts of himself and his comrades to break their bonds were fruitless, so, after making one or two desperate efforts, they sat down doggedly to await their fate.
It might have been a curious study to have noted the different spirit in which these unfortunate men submitted to their unavoidable doom on that occasion. The captain sat down on a log of wood that chanced to be near him, folded his hands quietly on his knees, allowed his head to sink forward on his chest, and remained for a long time quite motionless. Will Osten, on the other hand, stood up at first, and, leaning his head on his arm against the wall of the hut, appeared to be lost in reverie. Doubtless he was thinking of home; perhaps reproaching himself for the manner and spirit in which he had quitted it—as many a poor wanderer has done before when too late! He quickly changed his thoughts, however, and, with them, his position: sat down and got up frequently, frowned, clenched his hands, shook his head, stamped his foot, bit his lips, and altogether betrayed a spirit ill at ease. Mr Cupples, whose soul had from the moment of their capture given way to the deepest possible dejection, lay down, and, resting his elbow on the floor and his head on his hand, gazed at his comrades with a look so dreadfully dolorous that, despite their anxiety, they could hardly suppress a smile. As for Muggins and O'Hale, the former, being a phlegmatic man and a courageous, sat down with his back against the wall, his hands thrust into his pockets, and a quid in his cheek, and shook his head slowly from side to side, while he remarked that every one had to die once, an' when the time came no one couldn't escape and that was all about it! Poor Larry O'Hale could not thus calm his mercurial spirit. He twisted his hard features into every possible contortion, apostrophised his luck, and his grandmother, and ould Ireland in the most pathetic manner, bewailed his fate, and used improper language in reference to savages in general, and those of the South Seas in particular, while, at intervals, he leaped up and tried to tear his bonds asunder.
Thus several hours were spent. Evening approached, and darkness set in; still no one came near the prisoners. During this period, however, they heard the continual shouting and singing of the savages, and sometimes caught a glimpse of them through crevices between the logs of which the hut was built. It was not possible for them to ascertain what they were about, however, until night set in, when several large fires were lighted, and then it could be seen that they were feasting and dancing. Suddenly, in the midst of the din, an appalling shriek was heard. It was quickly succeeded by another and another. Then the yells of the revellers increased in fury, and presently a procession of them was observed approaching the hut, headed by four men bearing a sort of stage on their shoulders.
The shrieks had struck like a death-chill to the hearts of the prisoners. No one spoke, but each had recognised familiar tones in the terrible cries. For the first time some of them began to realise the fact that they were really in the hands of murderers, and that the bloody work had actually begun. Great drops of sweat rolled down the face of Muggins as he gazed in horror through one of the crevices, and his broad chest heaved convulsively as he exclaimed, "God be merciful to us, it's George Goff!" This was too true. On the stage, carried by four natives, sat the unfortunate seaman. It required no second glance to tell that his spirit had fled, and that nothing but a corpse sat swaying there, supported by means of a pole, in a sitting posture. The cannibals were conveying it to their temple, there to cut it up and prepare it for that dreadful feast which is regarded as inexpressibly repulsive by all the human race except these islanders of the South Seas, who, incredible though it may appear, absolutely relish human flesh as a dainty morsel.
At sight of this, poor Will Osten, who had never quite believed in such terrible things, sank down on his knees with a deep groan, and, for the first time in his life, perhaps, prayed earnestly.
O'Hale's spirit blazed up in ungovernable fury. Like a wild beast, he tore and wrenched at the rope which bound him, and then, finding his efforts unavailing, he flung himself on the ground, while deep sobs burst at intervals from his oppressed heart.
A few minutes elapsed; then there was a rush of footsteps without, accompanied by fierce yells and the waving of torches. The prisoners leaped up, feeling almost instinctively that there hour had come. A moment later and the hut was filled with natives. All were naked, with the exception of a small piece of cloth round their loins. They were tatooed, however, and painted nearly from head to foot.
The prisoners were instantly seized and overpowered, and preparations were being rapidly made to carry them away, when a shout was heard outside, and a remarkably tall, powerful, and thickly painted savage sprang in. He pushed the natives violently aside, and gave some stern orders to those who held the prisoners. The immediate result was, that the latter were released and allowed to rise, although their hands were still bound behind them. Meanwhile the tall savage, standing beside them, harangued his comrades with great energy of tone and action.
While this was going on, Larry O'Hale whispered excitedly to his companions—
"Howld on, lads, a bit. Sure I've burst the ropes at last. The moment I git howld o' that blackguard's knife I'll cut yer lashin's. Stand by for a rush."
As Larry spoke, the tall savage drew the knife referred to from his girdle, and, glancing over his shoulder, said in English—
"Keep quiet, lads. I'll do my best to save 'ee; but if you offer to fight, you're dead men all in five minutes."
Amazement, if no other feeling had operated, would have rendered the prisoners perfectly quiet after that. They waited in deep anxiety and wonder, while the tall savage continued his harangue, at the conclusion of which his hearers uttered an expressive grunt or growl, as if of assent, and then they all filed out of the hut, leaving the prisoners alone with their deliverer.
OUR HERO AND HIS COMRADES IN DISTRESS BECOME SAVAGE WARRIORS FOR THE NONCE.
"Friend," said Captain Dall, taking the hand of the tall savage in his and speaking with some emotion, "you have been sent as our deliverer, I know, but how a South Sea islander should happen to befriend us, and how you should come to speak English as well as ye do, is more than I can understand."
"Onderstand!" exclaimed Larry; "it's past belaif. It baits cock-fightin' intirely."
A grim smile crossed the painted face of the savage, as he said somewhat hurriedly:—
"I'm no more a South Sea islander than you are, lads, but this is not the time for explanations. It's enough for you to know, in the meantime, that I'm an Englishman, and will befriend you if you agree to obey me."
"Obey ye!" cried Larry with enthusiasm, "blissin's on yer painted mug, it's warship ye we will, av ye only git us out o' this scrape."
"That's so," said Muggins, nodding his head emphatically, while Mr Cupples, in tones of the most awful solemnity, and with a look that cannot be described, vowed eternal friendship.
"Well, then," said the tall man, "we have no time to waste, for you are in a greater fix just now than ye think for. About myself it's enough to know that I'm a runaway sailor; that I made my way among these fellers here by offering to join 'em and fight for 'em, and that I won their respect at first by knocking down, in fair stand-up fight, all the biggest men o' the tribe. I don't think they would have spared me even after that, but I curried favour with the chief and married one of his daughters. Now I'm a great man among them. I didn't hear of your having been brought here till half an hour ago, havin' bin away with a war party in canoes. I returned just too late to save your comrades."
"What! are they all dead?" asked Will Osten.
"Ay, all, and if you don't follow them it will only be by attending to what I tell you. My name is Buchanan, but the savages can only manage to make Bukawanga out o' that. The word means fire, and ain't a bad one after all!"
The man smiled grimly as he said this, and then resumed, more rapidly and sternly than before:—
"You have but one chance, and that is to join us. I have come to the village with the news that a neighbouring tribe is about to attack us. If you agree to help us to fight, I may manage to save you; if not your case is hopeless. There is no time for consideration. Ay or no, that's the word."
"Sure I'll jine ye, Mr Bukkie Whangy," said Larry O'Hale, "wid all the pleasure in life. It's always for fightin' I am, at laist whin—"
"I don't like to shed human blood," said Captain Dall, interrupting, "where I've no quarrel."
"Then your own must be shed," said Bukawanga firmly.
"There's no help for it, captain," said Will Osten. "'Tis better to fight for these men than to be murdered by them. What say you, Mr Cupples?"
"War," replied the mate emphatically.
"Ditto," said Muggins, nodding his head and buttoning his jacket.
"Then strip, and we'll paint you right off," said Bukawanga; "look alive, now!"
He fastened the torch which he held in his hand to a beam of the hut, and cut the bonds of the prisoners; then, going to the door, he summoned two men, who came in with a basket made of leaves, in which were several cocoa-nut shells filled with red, white, and black earth, or paint.
"What!" exclaimed Will Osten, "must we fight without clothing?"
"An' wid painted skins?" said Larry.
"Yes, unless you would be a special mark for the enemy," replied Bukawanga; "but you have no chance if you don't become in every way like one of us."
Seeing that the man was in earnest, they were fain to submit. After removing their clothes, the natives began diligently to paint them from head to foot, laying on the colours so thickly, and in such bold effective strokes, that ere long all appearance of nudity was removed. Man is a strange being. Even in the midst of the most solemn scenes he cannot resist giving way at times to bursts of mirth. Philosophy may fail to account for it, and propriety may shudder at it, but the fact is undeniable. With death hovering, they knew not how near, over them, and the memory of the fearful things they had just witnessed strong upon them, they were compelled, now and then, to smile and even to laugh aloud, as the process of painting went on. There was some variety in the adornment of each, but let that of Larry O'Hale serve as an example. First of all his legs were rubbed all over with white earth, and his body with yellow. Then, down each lower limb, behind, a palm-tree was drawn in red—the roots beginning at his heels, and the branches above spreading out on his calves. Various fanciful devices were drawn on his breast and arms, and some striking circles on his back. Last of all, one-half of his face was painted red, and the other half black, with a stripe of white extending from the root of his hair down to the point of his nose. It is needless to say that during the process the enthusiastic Irishman commented freely on the work, and offered many pieces of advice to the operator. Indeed, his tendency to improve upon existing customs had well-nigh put an end to the friendly relations which now subsisted between the white men and the natives, for he took a fancy to have a red stripe down each of his legs. Either the native did not understand him, or would not agree to the proposal, whereupon Larry took the brush and continued the work himself. At this the savage indignantly seized him by the arm and pinched him so violently that he lost temper, and, thrusting the red brush into the native's face, hurled him to the ground. There was a yell and a rush at once, and it is probable that blood would have been shed had not Bukawanga interposed.
When the painting was completed, their protector led the white men (now no longer white!) to the hut of the chief. Bukawanga was received somewhat coldly at first. The chief, a large, fine-looking old man, named Thackombau, with an enormous head of frizzled hair, looked askance at the newcomers, and was evidently disposed to be unfriendly. Observing this, and that the warriors around him scowled on them in a peculiarly savage manner, most of the prisoners felt that their lives hung, as it were, upon a thread. The aspect of things changed, however, when their friend stood up and addressed the assembly.
Bukawanga had not yet said a word about the cause of his sudden return from the war expedition. It was, therefore, with much concern that the chief and his men learned that a neighbouring and powerful tribe, with which they had always been at enmity, were actually on the way to attack them; and when Bukawanga talked of the needful preparations for defence, and, pointing to the prisoners, said that they were his countrymen, able to fight well, and willing to help them, there was a perceptible improvement in the looks of the party. Finally, Thackombau condescended to rub noses with them all, and they were ordered off to another hut to have supper. This latter arrangement was brought about by their deliverer, who knew that if they remained to sup with the natives they would be shocked, and, perhaps, roused to some act of desperate violence, by the horrible sight of portions of the bodies of their poor comrades, which, he knew, were to be eaten that night. He therefore sought to divert their thoughts from the subject by sitting down and relating many anecdotes connected with his own adventurous history, while they partook of a meal of which they stood much in need.
The dishes, although new to them, were by no means unpalatable. They consisted of baked pig and yams served on banana leaves, and soup in cocoa-nut shells. Also a dish made of taro-tops, and filled with a creamy preparation of cocoa-nut done in an oven. Bread-fruits were also served, and these tasted so like the crumb of wheaten loaf, that it was difficult to believe them to be the fruit of a tree. For drink they had the juice of the young cocoa—a liquid which resembles lemonade, and of which each nut contains about a tumblerful. There was also offered to them a beverage named ava, which is intoxicating in its nature, and very disgusting in its preparation. This, however, Bukawanga advised them not to touch.
"Now, Mr Bukkie Whangy," said Larry, after having appeased his appetite, "if I may make so bowld as to ax—how came ye here?"
"The story is short enough and sad enough," replied his new friend. "The fact is, I came here in a sandal-wood trader's ship; I was so disgusted with the captain and crew that I ran away from them when they touched at this island for water. 'Tis eight years ago now, and I have bin here ever since. I have regretted the step that I took, for the devilry that goes on here is ten times worse than I ever saw aboard ship. However, it's too late for regret now."
"Ah! too late," murmured Will Osten, and his thoughts leaped back to England.
"The worst of it is," continued the runaway sailor, "that I have no chance of gettin' away, for the cruelty of sailors to the natives of this island has rendered them desperate, and they murder every white man they can get hold of. Indeed there would have been no chance for you but for the breaking out of war, and the fact that they are somewhat short of fightin' men just now. Not long after I landed on the island, an American whaler sent her boats ashore for water. They quarrelled, somehow, with the natives, who drove them into their boats with tremendous hooting and yells and some hard blows, although no blood was spilt. Well, what did the scoundrels do but pulled aboard their ship, brought their big guns to bear on the people, and fired on several villages—killing and wounding a good many of 'em, women and children among the rest. That's the way these fellows set the natives against white men. It was all I could do to prevent them from knocking out my brains after the thing happened."
While Bukawanga was speaking, a great commotion was heard outside.
"They're gettin' ready for action," he said, springing up. "Now, lads, follow me. I'll get you weapons, and, hark-'ee," he added, with a somewhat peculiar smile, "I heerd some of 'ee say ye don't want to spill blood where ye have no quarrel. Well, there's no occasion to do so. Only act in self-defence, and that'll do well enough; d'ye understand?"
The man gave vent to a short chuckle as he said this, and then, leading his countrymen from the hut, conducted them towards a temple, near to which a large band of warriors was busily engaged in making preparations for the approaching fight.
A FIGHT, WHICH RESULTS IN A MISTAKE AND A HASTY FLIGHT.
The horrors of war are neither agreeable to write about nor to reflect upon. However much, therefore, it may disappoint those readers whose minds delight to wallow in the abominations of human cruelty, we will refrain from entering into the full particulars of the sanguinary fight that ensued just after the arrival of Wandering Will and his friends in the island. It is sufficient to say that many lives were lost. Of course the loss of life bore no proportion to that which occurs in civilised warfare. One roar from the throats of our terrific engines of destruction will sometimes send more souls into eternity in one moment than all the fierce fury of a hundred savages can accomplish in an hour. But what the savage lacks in power he more than makes up for in cruelty and brutality. During the few days in which the fight raged, the sights that met the eyes of the white men, and the appalling sounds that filled their ears, turned their hearts sick, and induced a longing desire to escape.
The war was carried on chiefly in the way of bush fighting. Our sailors found this mode of warfare convenient, for it enabled them to act very much as spectators. Passing over the details of the brief campaign, we touch only on those points which affected the subsequent movements of the whites.
Bukawanga, who virtually acted the part of commander-in-chief, although all the chiefs considered themselves above him, moved about actively at all times to make sure that the village was properly guarded at every point. While thus employed he had, on one occasion, to pass through a piece of scrub, or thick bush, in which he heard the shriek of a woman. Turning aside he came to an opening where a man was endeavouring to kill a little boy, whose mother was doing her best to defend him. He evidently wished to kill the child and to spare the woman, but she stooped over the child and warded off the blows with her arms so cleverly, that it was still uninjured, although the poor mother was bleeding profusely from many wounds. Bukawanga instantly rushed to the rescue, and raised his club to deal the savage a deadly blow. Unobserved by him, however, another savage had been attracted to the spot, and, seeing what was about to happen, he ran up behind Bukawanga and felled him with a blow of his club. During the scuffle the woman snatched up her boy and escaped. The two savages then began to dispute as to which had the best right to cut off the head of their fallen foe and carry it away in triumph. Both of them were much fatigued with fighting, so they sat down on the back of the prostrate seaman to conduct the discussion more comfortably. The point was still undecided when Bukawanga recovered consciousness, felt the heavy pressure on his back and loins, and heard part of the interesting dialogue!
It chanced, at this point, that Will Osten and Larry O'Hale, who, from natural affinity or some other cause, always kept together, came to the spot and peeped through the bushes. Seeing two men sitting on the body of a third and engaged in an animated dispute, they did not see cause to interfere, but remained for a few minutes almost amused spectators of the scene, being utterly ignorant, of course, as to the purport of their dispute. Suddenly, to their great surprise, they beheld the two men leap into the air; the supposed dead body sprang up, and, before either savage could use his weapons, each received a strong British fist between his eyes and measured his length on the sward, while the conqueror sprang over them into the bush and disappeared.
"Man alive!" exclaimed Larry, "if it isn't Bukkie Whangy himself! Och, the murtherin' daimons!"
With that Larry leaped over the bushes flourishing his club and yelling like a very savage. But Will Osten was before him. Both savages had risen immediately after being knocked down, and now faced their new enemies. They were no match for them. Being expert in all athletic exercises, young Osten found no difficulty in felling the first of the men, while Larry disposed of the other with equal celerity. The Irishman's blood had fired at the thought of the narrow escape of his deliverer, and, still whirling his club round his head, he looked about eagerly as if desirous of finding another foe on whom to expend his fury. At that moment he caught sight of a pair of savage eyes gleaming at him from the bushes.
"Hah! ye dirty polecat," he cried, throwing his club at the eyes with all his force.
Never was there a worse aim or a better shot! The club flew high into the air and would have fallen some fifty yards or more wide of the mark, had it not touched the limb of a tree in passing. It glanced obliquely down, and, striking the owner of the eyes between the shoulders felled him to the earth.
Larry sprang upon him with a yell of triumph, but the yell was changed into a howl of consternation when he made the discovery that he had knocked down, if not killed, one of the principal chiefs of the village! To say that poor O'Hale wrung his hands, and wished bad luck to fightin' in general, and to himself in particular, gives but a feeble idea of the distress of his mind at this untoward event.
"D'ye think I've kilt him intirely, doctor dear?" he asked of Will Osten, who was on his knees beside the fallen chief examining his hurt.
"No, not quite. See, he breathes a little. Come, Larry, the moment he shows symptoms of reviving we must bolt. Of course he knows who knocked him down, and will never forgive us."
"That's true, O murther!" exclaimed Larry, with a mingled look of contrition and anxiety.
"Depend upon it they'll kill us all," continued Osten.
"And bake an' ait us," groaned Larry.
"Come," said Will, rising hastily as the stunned chief began to move, "we'll go search for our comrades."
They hurried away, but not before the chief had risen on one elbow and shaken his clenched fist at them, besides displaying a terrible double row of teeth, through which he hissed an unintelligible malediction.
They soon found their comrades, and related what had occurred. A hurried council of war was held on the spot, and it was resolved that, as a return to the village would ensure their destruction, the only chance of life which remained to them was to take to the mountains. Indeed, so urgent was the necessity for flight, that they started off at once, naked though they were, and covered with blood, paint, and dust, as well as being destitute of provisions.
All that night they travelled without halt, and penetrated into the wildest fastnesses of the mountains of the interior. Bukawanga had already told them, during intervals in the fight when they had met and eaten their hasty meals together, that the island was a large, well wooded, and fruitful one—nearly thirty miles in diameter; and that the highest mountain in the centre was an active volcano. There were several tribes of natives on it, all of whom were usually at war with each other, but these tribes dwelt chiefly on the coast, leaving the interior uninhabited. The fugitives, therefore, agreed that they should endeavour to find a retreat amongst some of the most secluded and inaccessible heights, and there hide themselves until a ship should chance to anchor off the coast, or some other mode of escape present itself.
The difficulties of the way were greater than had been anticipated. There was no path; the rocks, cliffs, and gullies were precipitous; and the underwood was thick and tangled, insomuch that Mr Cupples sat down once or twice and begged to be left where he was, saying that he would take his chance of being caught, and could feed quite well on cocoa-nuts! This, however, was not listened to. Poor Cupples was dragged along, half by persuasion and half by force. Sailors, as a class, are not celebrated for pedestrian powers, and Cupples was a singularly bad specimen of his class. Muggins, although pretty well knocked up before morning, held on manfully without a murmur. The captain, too, albeit a heavy man, and fat, and addicted to panting and profuse perspiration, declared that he was game for anything, and would never be guilty of saying "die" as long as there was "a shot in the locker." As for Larry O'Hale, he was a man of iron mould, one of those giants who seem to be incapable of being worn out or crushed by any amount of physical exertion. So far was he from being exhausted, that he threatened to carry Mr Cupples if he should again talk of falling behind. We need scarcely say that Wandering Will was quite equal to the occasion. Besides being a powerful fellow for his age, he was lithe, active, and hopeful, and, having been accustomed to hill-climbing from boyhood, could have left the whole party behind with ease.
Grey dawn found the fugitives far up the sides of the mountains—fairly lost, as Muggins said, in a waste howlin' wilderness. It was sunrise when they reached the top of a high cliff that commanded a magnificent view of land and sea.
"A good place this for us," said the captain, wiping his forehead as he sat down on a piece of rock. "The pass up to it is narrow; two or three stout fellows could hold it against an army of savages."
"Av there was only a cave now for to live in," said Larry, looking round him.
"Wot's that?" exclaimed Muggins, pointing to a hole in the perpendicular cliff a short distance above the spot where they stood.—"Ain't that a cave?"
Will Osten clambered up and disappeared in the hole. Soon after he re-appeared with the gratifying intelligence that it was a cave, and a capital dry one; whereupon they all ascended, with some difficulty, and took possession of their new home.
SHOWS HOW SOUTH SEA MISSIONARIES DO THEIR WORK, AND THAT IF THE WHITES CAN SURPRISE THE NATIVES THE LATTER CAN SOMETIMES ASTONISH THE WHITES!
For three months did Wandering Will and his friends remain concealed in the mountains. Of course they were pursued and diligently sought for by the natives, and undoubtedly they would have been discovered had the search been continued for any length of time, but to their great surprise, after the first week of their flight, the search was apparently given up. At all events, from that period they saw nothing more of the natives, and gradually became more fearless in venturing to ramble from the cave in search of food. They puzzled over the matter greatly, for, to say the least of it, there appeared to be something mysterious in the total indifference so suddenly manifested towards them by the savages; but although many were the guesses made, they were very far from hitting on the real cause.
During this period they subsisted on the numerous fruits and vegetables which grew wild in great abundance on the island, and spent their days in gathering them and hunting wild pigs and snaring birds. As Larry was wont to observe with great satisfaction, and, usually, with his mouth full of victuals—
"Sure it's the hoith o' livin' we have—what with cocky-nuts, an' taros an' bananas, an' young pigs for the killin', an' ginger-beer for the drinkin', an' penny loaves growin' on the trees for nothin', wid no end o' birds, an' pots ready bilin', night an' day, to cook 'em in—och! it would be hiven intirely but for the dirty savages, bad luck to 'em!"
There was more truth in Larry's remark than may be apparent at first sight. Vegetation was not only prolific and beautiful everywhere, but exceedingly fruitful. The bread-fruit tree in particular supplied them with more than they required of a substance that was nearly as palatable and nutritious as bread. Captain Dall fortunately knew the method of cooking it in an oven, for the uncooked fruit is not eatable. The milk of the young cocoa-nuts was what the facetious Irishman referred to under the name of ginger-beer; but his remark about boiling pots was literally correct. The summit of that mountainous island was, as we have already said, an active volcano, from which sulphurous fumes were constantly issuing—sometimes gently, and occasionally with violence.
Several of the springs in the neighbourhood were hot—a few being almost at the boiling point, so that it was absolutely possible to boil the wild pigs and birds which they succeeded in capturing, without the use of a fire! Strange to say, they also found springs of clear cold water not far from the hot springs.
There is a species of thin tough bark round the upper part of the stem of the cocoa-nut palm—a sort of natural cloth—which is much used by the South Sea islanders. Of this they fashioned some rude but useful garments.
"It seems curious, doesn't it," said Will Osten to Captain Dall, one day, referring to these things and the beauty of the island, "that the Almighty should make such a terrestrial paradise as this, and leave it to be used, or rather abused, by such devils in human shape?"
"I'm not sure," answered the captain slowly, "that we are right in saying that He has left it to be so abused. I'm afraid that it is we who are to blame in the matter."
"How so?" exclaimed Will, in surprise.
"You believe the Bible to be the Word of God, don't you?" said Captain Dall somewhat abruptly, "and that its tendency is to improve men?"
"Of course I do; how can you ask such a question?"
"Did you ever," continued the captain pointedly, "hear of a text that says something about going and teaching all nations, and have, you ever given anything to send missionaries with the Bible to these islands?"
"I—I can't say I ever have," replied Will, with a smile and a slight blush.
"No more have I, lad," said the captain, smiting his knee emphatically; "the thought has only entered my head for the first time, but I do think that it is we who leave islands such as this to be abused by the human devils you speak of, and who, moreover, are not a whit worse—nay, not so bad—as many civilised human devils, who, in times not long past, and under the cloak of religion, have torn men and tender women limb from limb, and bound them at the stake, and tortured them on the rack, in order to make them swallow a false creed."
This was the commencement of one of the numerous discussions on religion, philosophy, and politics, with which the echoes of that cavern were frequently awakened after the somewhat fatiguing labours of each day's chase were over, for a true Briton is the same everywhere. He is a reasoning (if you will, an argumentative) animal, and our little band of fugitives in those mountain fastnesses was no exception to the rule.
Meanwhile, two events occurred at the native village which require notice. Their occurrence was not observed by our friends in hiding, because the summit of the mountain completely shut out their view in that direction, and they never wandered far from their place of retreat.
The first event was very sad, and is soon told. One morning a schooner anchored off the village, and a party of armed seamen landed, the leader of whom, through the medium of an interpreter, had an interview with the chief. He wished to be permitted to cut sandal-wood, and an agreement was entered into. After a considerable quantity had been cut and sent on board, the chief wanted payment. This was refused on some trivial ground. The savages remonstrated. The white men threatened, and the result was that the latter were driven into their boats. They pulled off to their vessel, loaded a large brass gun that occupied the centre of the schooner's deck, and sent a shower of cannister shot among the savages, killing and wounding not only many of the men, but some of the women and children who chanced to be on the skirt of the wood. They then set sail, and, as they coasted along, fired into several villages, the people of which had nothing to do with their quarrel.
Only a week after this event another little schooner anchored off the village. It was a missionary ship, sent by the London Missionary Society to spread the good news of salvation through Christ among the people. Some time before, a native teacher—one who, on another island, had embraced Christianity, and been carefully instructed in its leading truths—had been sent to this island, and was well received; but, war having broken out, the chief had compelled him to leave. A second attempt was now being made, and this time an English missionary with his wife and daughter were about to trust themselves in the hands of the savages.
They could not have arrived at a worse time. The islanders, still smarting under a sense of the wrong and cruelty so recently done them, rushed upon the little boat of the schooner, brandishing clubs and spears, the instant it touched the land, and it was with the utmost difficulty that the missionary prevailed on them to stay their hands and give him a hearing. He soon explained the object of his visit, and, by distributing a few presents, so far mollified the people that he was allowed to land, but it was plain that they regarded him with distrust. The tide was turned in the missionary's favour, however, by the runaway sailor, Buchanan, or Bukawanga. That worthy happened at the time to be recovering slowly from the effects of the wound he had received in the fight, which had so nearly proved to be his last. On hearing of the arrival of strangers he feared that the savages would kill them out of revenge, and hastened, weak and ill though he was, to meet, and, if possible, protect them. His efforts were successful. He managed to convince the natives that among Christians there were two classes—those who merely called themselves by the name, and those who really did their best to practise Christianity; that the sandal-wood traders probably did not even pretend to the name, but that those who had just arrived would soon give proof that they were of a very different spirit. The result of this explanation was, that the chiefs agreed to receive the missionary, who accordingly landed with his family, and with all that was necessary for the establishment of a mission.
Those who have not read of missionary enterprise in the South Seas can form no conception of the difficulties that missionaries have to contend with, and the dangers to which they are exposed on the one hand, and, on the other, the rapidity with which success is sometimes vouchsafed to them. In some instances, they have passed years in the midst of idolatry and bloody rites, the mere recital of which causes one to shudder, while their lives have hung on the caprice of a volatile chief; at other times God has so signally blessed their efforts that a whole tribe has adopted Christianity in the course of a few weeks. Misunderstand us not, reader. We do not say that they all became true Christians; nevertheless it is a glorious fact that such changes have occurred; that idolatry has been given up and Christianity embraced within that short period, and that the end has been the civilisation of the people; doubtless, also, the salvation of some immortal souls.
In about two months after their arrival a marvellous change had taken place in the village.
The natives, like very children, came with delight to be taught the use of the white man's tools, and to assist in clearing land and building a cottage. When this was finished, a small church was begun. It was this busy occupation that caused the savages to forget, for a time, the very existence of Wandering Will and his friends; and if Bukawanga thought of them, it was to conclude that they had taken refuge with one of the tribes on the other side of the island.
That which seemed to amuse and delight the natives most in the new arrivals was the clothing which was distributed among them. They proved very untractable, however, in the matter of putting it on. One man insisted on putting the body of a dress which had been meant for his wife on his own nether limbs—thrusting his great feet through the sleeves, and thereby splitting them to the shoulder. Another tied a tippet round his waist, and a woman was found strutting about in a pair of fisherman's boots, and a straw bonnet with the back to the front!
One of the chiefs thus absurdly arrayed was the means of letting the fugitive white men have an idea that something strange had occurred at the village. This man had appropriated a scarlet flannel petticoat which had been presented to his mother, and, putting it on with the waist-band tied round his neck, sallied forth to hunt in the mountains. He was suddenly met by Larry O'Hale and Will Osten.
"Musha! 'tis a ow-rangy-tang!" cried the Irishman.
His companion burst into a fit of loud laughter. The terrified native turned to flee, but Larry darted after him, tripped up his heels, and held him down.
"Kape quiet, won't ye?" he said, giving the struggling man a severe punch on the chest.
The savage thought it best to obey. Being allowed to get on his legs he was blindfolded, and then, with Will grasping him on one side, and the Irishman on the other, he was led up to the mountain-cave, and introduced to the family circle there, just as they were about to sit down to their mid-day meal.
REMARKABLE CHANGES FOR THE BETTER.
It will not surprise the reader to be told that the savage with the red flannel petticoat tied round his neck was received with shouts of laughter by the inmates of the cave, and that his costume filled them with mingled feelings of astonishment and curiosity. The information obtained from him by signs did not enlighten them much, but it was sufficient to convince them that something unusual had occurred at the native village, and to induce Will Osten to act in accordance with his favourite motto.
"I tell you what, comrades," said he, after a few minutes' deliberation, "I have made up my mind to go back to the village with this red-coated gentleman, and see whether they are all decked out in the same fashion. To tell the truth, I have been thinking for some time back that we have been living here to no purpose—"
"Only hear that, now," said Larry O'Hale, interrupting; "haven't we bin livin' like fightin' cocks, an' gettin' as fat as pigs? Why, Mr Cupples hisself begins to throw a shadow on the ground whin the sun's pretty strong; an' as for Muggins there—"
"You let Muggins alone," growled the seaman; "if we are fatterer, p'raps it'll only be for the good o' the niggers when they come to eat us."
"Well, well," said Will; "at all events we shall never escape from this place by remaining here—('True for ye,' said Larry)—therefore I shall go to the village, as I have said. If they receive me, well and good; I will return to you. If not—why, that's the end of me, and you'll have to look out for yourselves."
As usual an energetic discussion followed this announcement. The captain said it was madness, Mr Cupples shook his head and groaned, Muggins thought that they should all go together and take their chance, and Larry protested that he would sooner be eaten alive than allow his comrade to go without him; but in time Will Osten convinced them all that his plan was best.
What would be the good of the whole of them being killed together, he said—better that the risk should fall on one, and that the rest should have a chance of escape. Besides, he was the best runner of the party, and, if he should manage to wriggle out of the clutches of the savages, would be quite able to outrun them and regain the cave. At length the youth's arguments and determination prevailed, and in the afternoon he set off accompanied by his sable friend in female attire.
On nearing the village, the first thing that greeted the eyes of our hero was a savage clothed in a yellow cotton vest and a blue jacket, both of which were much too small for him; he also had the leg of a chair hung round his neck by way of ornament.
This turned out to be the principal chief of the village, Thackombau, and a very proud man he obviously was on that occasion. To refrain from smiling, and embrace this fellow by rubbing noses with him, was no easy matter, but Will Osten did it nevertheless. While they were endeavouring to converse by signs, Will was suddenly bereft of speech and motion by the unexpected appearance of a white man—a gentleman clothed in sombre costume—on whose arm leaned a pleasant-faced lady! The gentleman smiled on observing the young man's gaze of astonishment, and advancing, held out his hand.
Will Osten grasped and shook it, but still remained speechless.
"Doubtless you are one of the party who escaped into the hills lately?" said the gentleman.
"Indeed I am, sir," replied Will, finding words at last, and bowing to the lady; "but from what star have you dropt? for, when I left the village, there were none but savages in it!"
"I dropt from the Star of Hope," answered the gentleman, laughing. "You have hit the mark, young sir, nearer than you think, for that is the name of the vessel that brought me here. I am a missionary; my name is Westwood; and I am thankful to say I have been successful in making a good commencement on this island. This is my wife—allow me to introduce you—and if you will come with me to my cottage—"
"Cottage!" exclaimed Will.
"Ay, 'tis a good and pretty one, too, notwithstanding the short time we took to build it. The islanders are smart fellows when they have a mind to labour, and it is wonderful what an amount can be done when the Lord prospers the work. These good fellows," added the missionary, casting a glance at the two natives, "who, as you see, are somewhat confused in their ideas about dress, have already done me much service in the building of the church—"
"Church!" echoed Will.
Again the missionary laughed, and, offering his arm to his wife, turned towards the village, saying—
"Come, Mr Osten—you see I know your name, having heard of you from your friend Buchanan—come, I will show you what we have been about while you were absent; but first—tell me—how fares it with your comrades?"
Will Osten at once entered into a full account of the doings of himself and his friends, and had just concluded, when he was once more rendered speechless by the sight of the missionary's cottage. It was almost the realisation of the waking dream which had captivated him so much on the evening when the storm arose that proved fatal to the Foam. He was still gazing at it in silent admiration, listening to an enthusiastic account of the zeal and kindness of the natives who helped to build it, when a young girl, apparently bordering on seventeen or eighteen years of age, with nut-brown curls, rosy cheeks, and hazel eyes, sprang out and hastened to meet them.
"Oh, father," she exclaimed, while the colour of her face came and went fitfully, "I'm so glad you have come! The natives have been so—so—"
"Not rude to you, Flora, surely?" interrupted the missionary.
"No, not exactly rude, but, but—"
Flora could not explain! The fact turned out to be that, never having seen any woman so wonderfully and bewitchingly beautiful before, the natives had crowded uninvited into the cottage, and there, seated on their hams round the walls, quietly gazed at her to their hearts' content—utterly ignorant of the fact that they were violating the rules of polite society!
Will Osten, to his disgrace be it said, violated the same rules in much the same way, for he continued to gaze at Flora in rapt admiration until Mr Westwood turned to introduce her to him.
That same evening Bukawanga, accompanied by Thackombau, went to the mountain-cave, and, having explained to its occupants the altered state of things at the village, brought them down to the mission-house where they took up their abode.
It need scarcely be said that they were hospitably received. Mr Westwood had not met with countrymen for many months, and the mere sight of white faces and the sound of English voices were pleasant to him. He entertained them with innumerable anecdotes of his experiences and adventures as a missionary, and on the following morning took them out to see the church, which had just been begun.
"Already," said Mr Westwood, as they were about to set forth after breakfast, "my wife and Flora have got up a class of women and girls, to whom they teach needle-work, and we have a large attendance of natives at our meetings on the Sabbath. A school also has been started, which is managed by a native teacher who came with me from the island of Raratonga, and most of the boys in the village attend it."
"But it does seem to me, sir," said Captain Dall, as they sauntered along, "that needle-work and book-learning can be of no use to such people."
"Not of much just now, captain, but these are only means to a great end. Already, you see, they are beginning to be clothed—fantastically enough at present, no doubt—and I hope ere long to see them in their right mind, through the blessed influence of the Bible. Look there," he added, pointing to an open space in the forest, where the four walls of a large wooden building were beginning to rise; "there is evidence of what the gospel of Jesus Christ can do. The labourers at that building are, many of them, bitter enemies to each other. Only yesterday we succeeded in getting some of the men of the neighbouring village to come and help us. After much persuasion they agreed, but they work with their weapons in their hands, as you see."
This was indeed the case. The men who had formerly been enemies were seen assisting to build the same church. They took care, however, to work as far from each other as possible, and were evidently distrustful, for clubs and spears were either carried in their hands, or placed within reach, while they laboured.
Fortunately, however, they restrained their passions at that time, and it is due to them to add that before that church was finished their differences were made up, and they, with all the others, ultimately completed the work in perfect harmony, without thinking it necessary to bring their clubs or spears with them.
The reader must not suppose that all missionary efforts in the South Seas have been as quickly successful as this one. The records of that interesting region tell a very different tale; nevertheless there are many islands in which the prejudices of the natives were overcome almost at the commencement, and where heathen practices seemed to melt away at once before the light of the glorious gospel.
During two months, Wandering Will and the wrecked seamen remained here assisting the missionary in his building and other operations. Then an event occurred which sent them once more afloat, and broke the spell of their happy and busy life among the islanders.
CONTAINS MORE THAN ONE SURPRISE, AND TOUCHES ON "LOVE'S YOUNG DREAM."
One quiet and beautiful Sabbath morning, the inhabitants of the South Sea Island village wended their way to the House of God which they had so recently erected. Among them were Will Osten and his friends, with the clergyman's wife and daughter.
Poor Wandering Will was very unhappy. The sunshine was bright, the natives were blithe, and the birds were joyous, but our hero was despondent! The fact was that he had fallen head and ears in love with Flora Westwood, and he felt that he might as well have fallen in love with the moon—as far as any chance of getting married to her was concerned. Will was therefore very miserable, and, like all ardent and very youthful lovers, he hugged his misery to his bosom—rather enjoyed it, in fact, than otherwise. In short, if truth must be told, he took pleasure in being miserable for her sake! When he allowed himself to take romantic views of the subject, and thought of the heights of bliss that might be attained, he was, so to speak, miserably happy. When he looked the stern realities in the face, he was miserably sad.
That Sabbath morning poor Will felt more impressed than ever with the hopelessness of his case, as he walked slowly and silently to church beside the modest Flora and her mother. He also became impressed with the ridiculousness of his position, and determined to "overcome his weakness." He therefore looked at Flora with the intention of cutting a joke of some sort, but, suddenly recollecting that it was Sunday, he checked himself. Then he thought of getting into a serious talk, and was about to begin, when his eye happened to fall on Thackombau, who, in honour of the day, had got himself up with unusual care, having covered his shoulders with a cotton jacket, his loins with a lady's shawl, and his head with a white night-cap—his dark tatooed legs forming a curious and striking contrast to the whole.
Before Will could think of another mode of opening the conversation, they had arrived at the church, and here, in front of the open door, there lay the most singular contribution that ever was offered to the cause of Christianity. Many dozens of church-door plates rolled into one enormous trencher would have been insufficient to contain it, for it was given not in money (of course) but in kind. There were a number of lengths of hollow bamboo containing cocoa-nut oil, various fine mats and pieces of native cloth, and sundry articles of an ornamental character, besides a large supply of fruits and vegetables, with four or five baked pigs, cold and ready for table! The entire pile was several feet in diameter and height, and was a freewill offering of the natives to the church—the beginning of a liberality which was destined in future years to continue and extend—a species of liberality which is by no means uncommon among the South Sea Islanders, for there are some of those who were savage idolators not many years ago who now give annually and largely to the support of the missions with which their churches are connected.
Larry O'Hale had just made a remark in reference to "the plate" which was not conducive to the gravity of his companions, when the echoes of the mountains were awakened by a cannon-shot, and a large ship was seen to round the point of land that stretched out to the westward of the island. Instantly the natives poured out of the church, rushed down to the shore, launched their canoes and paddled over the lagoon to meet the vessel, which, running before a stiff breeze, soon entered the natural gateway in the reef. The congregation having dispersed thus unceremoniously, the clergyman and his friends were compelled to postpone service for a time.
The ship which had created such a sensation in the village, was also the means of causing great disturbance in sundry breasts, as shall be seen. She had called for water. Being in a hurry, her captain had resolved not to waste time by conciliating the natives, but, rather, to frighten them away by a cannonade of blank cartridge, land a strong party to procure water while they were panic-stricken, and then up anchor and away. His surprise was great, therefore, when the natives came fearlessly off to him (for he had been warned to beware of them), and he was about to give them a warm reception, when he caught a glimpse of the small spire of the new church, which at once explained the cause of the change.
With rollicking good humour—for he was a strong healthy man with a sleeping conscience—Captain Blathers, on landing, swaggered up to the clergyman and shook him heartily and gratefully by the hand, exclaiming, with a characteristic oath, that he had not much opinion of religion in his own country, but he was bound to say it was "a first-rate institootion in the South Seas."
Mr Westwood rebuked the oath and attempted to correct the erroneous opinion, but Captain Blathers laughed, and said he knew nothing about these matters, and had no time for anything but getting fresh water just then. He added that he had "a batch of noosepapers, which he'd send ashore for the use of all and sundry."
Accordingly, off he went about his business, and left the clergyman and natives to return to church, which they all did without delay.
That night the missionary went on board the ship to see the captain and preach to the crew. While he was thus engaged, our friends, Captain Dall, Mr Cupples, O'Hale, Muggins, and Wandering Will, in a retired part of the forest, held an earnest conversation as to whether they should avail themselves of the arrival of the ship to quit the island. Captain Dall had already spoken with Captain Blathers, who said he was quite willing to let them work their passage to England.
"Now, you see, comrades," said Captain Dall, thrusting his right fist into his left palm, "the only trouble is, that he's not goin' direct home—got to visit the coast of South America and San Francisco first, an' that will make it a long voyage."
"But, sure," said Larry, "it won't be so long as waitin' here till next year for the missionary schooner, and then goin' a viage among the islands before gettin' a chance of boording a homeward-bound ship?"
"That's so," said Muggins, with a nod of approval. "I says go, ov coorse."
Mr Cupples also signified that this was his opinion.
"And what says the doctor?" asked Captain Dall, turning to Will Osten with an inquiring look.
"Eh? well, ah!" exclaimed Will, who had been in a reverie, "I—I don't exactly see my way to—that is—if we only could find out if she is—is to remain here always, or hopes some day to return to England—"
Poor Will stopped in sudden confusion and blushed, but as it was very dark that did not matter much.
"What does the man mean?" exclaimed Captain Dall. "How can she remain here always when she's to be off at daybreak—?"
"True, true," interrupted Will hurriedly, not sorry to find that his reference to Flora was supposed to be to the ship. "The fact is, I was thinking of other matters—of course I agree with you. It's too good an opportunity to be missed, so, good-night, for I've enough to do to get ready for such an abrupt departure."
Saying this, he started up and strode rapidly away.
"Halloo!" shouted Larry after him; "don't be late—be on the baich at daybreak. Arrah he's gone mad intirely."
"Ravin'," said Muggins, with a shake of his head as he turned the quid in his cheek.
Meanwhile Wandering Will rushed he knew not whither, but a natural impulse led him, in the most natural way, to the quiet bay, which he knew to be Flora's favourite walk on moonlight nights! The poor youth's brain was whirling with conflicting emotions. As he reached the bay, the moon, strange to say, broke forth in great splendour, and revealed— what!—could it be?—yes, the graceful figure of Flora! "Never venture," thought Will, "never—"
In another moment he was by her side; he seized her hand; she started, suppressed a scream, and tried to free her hand, but Will held it fast. "Forgive me, Flora, dearest girl," he said in impassioned tones, "I would not dare to act thus, but at daybreak I leave this island, perhaps for ever! yet I cannot go without telling you that I love you to distraction, that—that—oh! say tell me—"
At that moment he observed that Flora blushed, smiled in a peculiar manner, and, instead of looking in his face, glanced over his shoulder, as if at some object behind him. Turning quickly round, he beheld Thackombau, still decked out in his Sunday clothes, gazing at them in open-mouthed amazement.
Almost mad with rage, Will Osten rushed at him. The astonished savage fled to the woods, Will followed, and in a few minutes lost himself! How he passed that night he never could tell; all that he could be sure of was that he had wandered about in distraction, and emerged upon the shore about daybreak. His appointment suddenly recurring to him, he ran swiftly in the direction of the village. As he drew near he observed a boat pushing off from the shore.
"Howld on!" shouted a well-known voice; "sure it's himself after all."
"Come along, young sir, you're late, and had well-nigh lost your passage," growled Captain Blathers.
Will jumped into the boat and in a few minutes found himself on board the Rover, which, by the time he reached it, was under weigh and making for the opening in the reef.
Another hour, and the island was a mere speck on the horizon. Gradually it faded from view; and the good ship, bending over to the freshening breeze, bounded lightly away over the billows of the mighty sea.