The Call Of The South - 1908
by Louis Becke
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"He drew a lot of blood from us," said one of the natives to me, "and so I have drawn some from him."

I hurried to the deck-house and told the bos'un what had occurred. He was a level-headed young man, and taking up a carpenter's broad axe, smashed the door of the deck-house. Then he looked at me and smiled.

"You see, I'm gaining my liberty—captain and officers tied up, and no one to look after the ship."

I understood perfectly, and shaking hands with him and wishing him a better ship, I went over the side into the boat, and left the brig floating quietly on the placid surface of the ocean.

The eight native sailors made no noise, although they were all wildly excited and jubilant, but as we shoved off, they called out "Good-bye, bos'un".

An hour afterwards I was on board the Hazeldine and telling my story to her skipper, who was an old friend. Then I bade good-bye to the natives, who started off for Funafuti with many expressions of goodwill to their fellow-mutineer.

At daylight a breeze came away from the eastward, and at breakfast time the Hazeldine was out of sight of the Alfreda.

I learnt a few months later that the skipper had succeeded in bringing her into Funafuti Lagoon, where he managed to obtain another crew.


Mani was a half-caste—father a Martinique nigger, mother a Samoan—twenty-two years of age, and lived at Moata, a little village two miles from Apia in Samoa.

Mani's husband was a Frenchman named Francois Renault, who, when he was sober, worked as a boat-builder and carpenter, for the German "factory" at Matafele. And when he was away form home I would hear Mani laughing, and see her playing with her two dark-skinned little girls, and talking to them in a curious mixture of Samoan-French. They were merry mites with big rolling eyes, and unmistakably "kinky" hair—like their mother.

It was a fortnight after the great gale of 15th March, 1889, when the six German and American warships were wrecked, that Mani came to my house with a basket of fresh-water fish she had netted far up in a deep mountain pool. She looked very happy. "Frank," she said, had not beaten her for two whole weeks, and had promised not to beat her any more. And he was working very steadily now.

"That is good to hear, Mani."

She smiled as she nodded her frizzy head, tossed her tiputa (open blouse) over one shoulder, and sat down on the verandah steps to clean the fish.

"Yes, he will beat me no more—at least not whilst the shipwrecked sailors remain in Samoa. When they go I shall run away with the children—to some town in Savai'i where he cannot find me."

"It happened in this way," she went on confidentially: "a week ago two American sailors came to the house and asked for water, for they were thirsty and the sun was hot I told them that the Moata water was brackish, and I husked and gave them two young coco-nuts each. And then Frank, who had been drinking, ran out of the house and cursed and struck me. Then one of the sailors felled him to the earth, and the other dragged him up by his collar, and both kicked him so much that he wept.

"'Doth he often beat thee?' said one of the sailors to me. And I said 'Yes'.

"Then they beat him again, saying it was for my sake. And then one of them shook him and said: 'O thou dog, to so misuse thine own wife! Now listen. In three days' time we two of the Trenton will have a day's liberty, and we shall come here and see if thou hast again beaten thy wife. And if thou hast but so much as mata pio'd her we shall each kick thee one hundred times.'"

(Mata pio, I must explain, is Samoan for looking "cross-eyed" or unpleasantly at a person.)

"And Frank was very much afraid, and promised he would no longer harm me, and held out his hand to them weepingly, but they would not take it, and swore at him. And then they each gave my babies a quarter of a dollar, and I, because my heart was glad, gave them each a ring of tortoiseshell."

"Did they come back, Mani?"

Mani, at heart, was a flirt. She raised her big black eyes with their long curling lashes to me, and then closed them for a moment demurely.

"Yes," she replied, "they came back. And when I told them that my husband was now kind to me, and was at work, they laughed, and left for him a long piece of strong tobacco tied round with tarred rope. And they said, 'Tell him we will come again by-and-by, and see how he behaveth to thee'."

"Mani," said in English, as she finished the last of the fish, "why do you speak Samoan to me when you know English so well? Where did you learn it? Your husband always speaks French to you."

Mani told me her story. In her short life of two-and-twenty years she had had some strange experiences.

"My father was Jean Galoup. He was a negro of St. Pierre, in Martinique, and came to Samoa in a French barque, which was wrecked on Tutuila. He was one of the sailors. When the captain and the other sailors made ready to go away in the boats he refused to go, and being a strong, powerful man they dared not force him. So he remained on Tutuila and married my mother, and became a Samoan, and made much money by selling food to the whaleships. Then, when I was twelve years old, my mother died, and my father took me to his own country—to Martinique. It took us two years to get there, for we went through many countries—to Sydney first, then to China, and to India, and then to Marseilles in France. But always in English ships. That is how I have learned to speak English.

"We lived for three years in Martinique, and then one day, as my father was clearing some land at the foot of Mont Pelee, he was bitten by fer-de-lance and died, and I was left alone.

"There was a young carpenter at St. Pierre, named Francois Renault, who had one day met me in the market-place, and after that often came to see my father and me. He said he loved me, and so when my father was dead, we went to the priest and we were married.

"My husband had heard much of Samoa from my father, and said to me: 'Let us go there and live'.

"So we came here, and then Frank fell into evil ways, for he was cross with me because he saw that the pure-blooded Samoan girls were prettier than me, and had long straight hair and lighter skins. And because he could not put me away he began to treat me cruelly. And I love him no more. But yet will I stay by him if he doeth right."

The fates were kind to Mani a few months later. Her husband went to sea and never returned, and Mani, after waiting a year, was duly married by the consul to a respectable old trader on Savai'i, who wanted a wife with a "character"—the which is not always obtainable with a bride in the South Seas.


The day's work was finished. Outside a cluster of rudely built palm-thatched huts, just above the curving white beach, and under the lengthening shadows of the silent cocos, two white men (my partner and myself) and a party of brown-skinned Polynesians were seated together smoking, and waiting for their evening meal. Now and then one would speak, and another would answer in low, lazy tones. From an open shed under a great jack-fruit tree a little distance away there came the murmur of women's voices and, now and then, a laugh. They were the wives of the brown men, and were cooking supper for their husbands and the two white men. Half a cable length from the beach a schooner lay at anchor upon the still lagoon, whose waters gleamed red under the rays of the sinking sun. Covered with awnings fore and after she showed no sign of life, and rested-as motionless as were the pendent branches of the lofty cocos on the shore.

Presently a figure appeared on deck and went for'ard, and then a bright light shone from the fore-stay.

My partner turned and called to the women, speaking in Hawaiian, and bade two of them take their own and the ship-keeper's supper on board, and stay for the night Then he spoke to the men in English.

"Who keeps watch to-night with the other man?"

"Me, sir," and a native rose to his feet.

"Then off you go with your wife and Terese, and don't set the ship on fire when you and your wife, and Harry and his begin squabbling as usual over your game of tahia."{*}

* "Tahia" is a gambling game played with small round stones; it resembles our "knuckle-bones".

The man laughed; the women, pretending to be shocked, each placed one hand over her eyes, and with suppressed giggles went down to the beach with the man, carrying a basket of steaming food. Launching a light canoe they pushed off, and as the man paddled the women sang in the soft Hawaiian tongue.

"Happy beggars," said my comrade to me, as he stood up and stretched his lengthy, stalwart figure, "work all day, and sit up gambling and singing hymns—when they are not intriguing with each other's husbands and wives."

The place was Providence Atoll in the North Pacific, a group of seventeen uninhabited islands lying midway between the Marshall and Caroline Archipelagoes—that is to say, that they had been uninhabited for some years, until we came there with our gang of natives to catch sharks and make coco-nut oil. There was no one to deny us, for the man who claimed the islands, Captain "Bully" Hayes, had given us the right of possession for two years, we to pay him a certain percentage of our profits on the oil we made, and the sharks' fins and tails we cured. The story of Providence Atoll (the "Arrecifos" of the early Spanish navigators, and the "Ujilang" of the native of Micronesia) cannot here be told—suffice it to say that less than fifty years before over a thousand people dwelt on the seventeen islands in some twelve or fourteen villages. Then came some dread disease which swept them away, and when Hayes sailed into the great lagoon in 1860—his was the first ship that ever entered it—he found less than a score of survivors. These he treated kindly; but for some reason soon removed them to Ponape in the Carolines, and then years passed without the island being visited by any one except Hayes, who used it as a rendezvous, and brought other natives there to make oil for him. Then, in a year or so, these, too, he took away, for he was a restless man, and had many irons in the fire. Yet there was a fortune there, as its present German owners know, for the great chain of islands is covered with coco-nut trees which yield many thousands of pounds' worth of copra annually.

My partner and I had been working the islands for some months, and had done fairly well. Our native crew devoted themselves alternately to shark catching and oil making. The lagoon swarmed with sharks, the fins and tails of which when dried were worth from sixty to eighty pounds sterling per ton. (Nowadays the entire skins of sharks are bought by some of the traders on several of the Pacific Islands on behalf of a firm in Germany, who have a secret method of tanning and softening them, and rendering them fit for many purposes for which leather is used—travelling bags, coverings for trunks, etc.)

The women helped to make the oil, caught fish, robber-crabs and turtle for the whole party, and we were a happy family indeed. We usually lived on shore, some distance from the spot where we dried the shark-fins, for the odour was appalling, especially after rain, and during a calm night. We dried them by hanging them on long lines of coir cinnet between the coco-palms of a little island half a mile from our camp.

But we did not always work. There were many wild pigs—the progeny of domestic stock left by Captain Hayes—on the larger islands, and we would have great "drives" every few weeks, the skipper and I with our rifles, and our crew of fifteen, with their wives and children, armed with spears. 'Twas great fun, and we revelled in it like children. Sometimes we would bring the ship's dog with us. He was a mongrel Newfoundland, and very game, but was nearly shot several times by getting in the way, for although all the islands are very low, the undergrowth in parts is very dense. If we failed to secure a pig we were certain of getting some dozens of large robber-crabs, the most delicious of all crustaceans when either baked or boiled. Then, too, we had the luxury of a vegetable garden, in which we grew melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, etc. The seed (which was Californian) had been given to me by an American skipper, and great was our delight to have fresh European vegetables, for the islands produced nothing in that way, except coconuts and some jack-fruit. The lagoon teemed with an immense variety of fish, none of which were poisonous, and both green and hawk-bill turtle were captured almost daily.

How those natives of ours could eat! One morning some of the children brought five hundred turtle eggs into camp; they were all eaten at three meals.

That calm, quiet night the heat was somewhat oppressive, but about ten o'clock a faint air from the eastward began to gently rustle the tops of the loftiest palms on the inner beaches, though we felt it not, owing to the dense undergrowth at the back of the camp. Then, too, the mosquitoes were troublesome, and a nanny-goat, who had lost her kid (in the oven) kept up such an incessant blaring that we could stand it no longer, and decided to walk across the island—less than a mile—to the weather side, where we should not only get the breeze, but be free of the curse of mosquitoes.

"Over to the windward beach," we called out to our natives.

In an instant, men, women and children were on their feet. Torches of dried coco-nut leaves were deftly woven by the women, sleeping mats rolled up and given to the children to carry, baskets of cold baked fish and vegetables hurriedly taken down from where they hung under the eaves of the thatched huts, and away we trooped eastward along the narrow path, the red glare of the torches shining upon the smooth, copper-bronzed and half-nude figures of the native men and women. Singing as we went, half an hour's walk brought us near to the sea. And with the hum of the surf came the cool breeze, as we reached the open, and saw before us the gently heaving ocean, sleeping under the light of the myriad stars.

We loved those quiet nights on the weather side of Arrecifos. Our natives had built some thatched-roofed, open-sided huts as a protection in case of rain, and under the shelter of one of these the skipper and I would, when it rained during the night, lie on our mats and smoke and yarn and watch the women and children with lighted torches catching crayfish on the reef, heedless of the rain which fell upon them. Then, when they had caught all they wanted, they would troop on shore again, come into the huts, change their soaking waist girdles of leaves for waist-cloths of gaily-coloured print or navy-blue calico, and set to work to cook the crayfish, always bringing us the best. Then came a general gossip and story-telling or singing in our hut for an hour or so, and then some one would yawn and the rest would laugh, bid us good-night, go off to their mats, and the skipper and I would be asleep ere we knew it.


We were bound from Tahiti to the Gilbert Islands, seeking a cargo of native labourers for Stewart's great plantation at Tahiti, and had worked our way from island to island up northward through the group with fair success (having obtained ninety odd stalwart, brown-skinned savages), when between Apaian Island and Butaritari Island we spoke a lumbering, fat-sided old brig—the Isabella of Sydney.

The Isabella was owned by a firm of Chinese merchants in Sydney; and as her skipper (Evers) and her supercargo (Dick Warren) were old acquaintances of mine and also of the captain of my ship, we both lowered boats and exchanged visits.

Warren and I had not met for over two years, since he and I had been shipmates in a labour vessel sailing out of Samoa—he as mate and I as "recruiter"—so we had much to talk about.

"Oh, by-the-way," he remarked as we were saying good-bye, "of course you have heard of that shipload of unwashed saints who have been cruising around the South Seas in search of a Promised Land?"

"Yes, I believe that they have gone off to Tonga or Fiji, trying to light upon 'the Home Beautiful,' and are very hard up. The people in Fiji will have nothing to do with that crowd—if they have gone there."

"They have not. They turned back for Honolulu, and are now at Butaritari and in an awful mess. Some of the saints came on board and wanted me to give them a passage to Sydney. You must go and have a look at them and their rotten old brig, the Julia. Oh, they are a lovely lot—full of piety and as dirty as Indian fakirs. Ah Sam, our agent at Butaritari, will tell you all about them. He has had such a sickener of the holy men that it will do you good to hear him talk. What the poor devils are going to do I don't know. I gave them a little provisions—all I could spare, but their appearance so disgusted me that I was not too civil to them. They cannot get away from Butaritari as the old brig is not seaworthy, and there is nothing in the way of food to be had in the island except coco-nuts and fish—manna is out of season in the South Seas just now. Good-bye, old man, and good luck."

On the following day we sighted Butaritari Island—one of the largest atolls in the North Pacific, and inhabited by a distinctly unamiable and cantankerous race of Malayo-Polynesians whose principal amusement in their lighter hours is to get drunk on sour toddy and lacerate each other's bodies with sharks' teeth swords. In addition to Ah Sam, the agent for the Chinese trading firm, there were two European traders who had married native women and eked out a lonely existence by buying copra (dried coco-nut) and sharks' fins when they were sober enough to attend to business—which was infrequent. However, Butaritari was a good recruiting ground for ships engaged in the labour traffic, owing to the continuous internecine wars, for the vanquished parties, after their coco-nut trees had been cut down and their canoes destroyed had the choice of remaining and having their throats cut or going away in a labour ship to Tahiti, Samoa or the Sandwich Islands.

Entering the passage through the reef, we sailed slowly across the splendid lagoon, whose waters were as calm as those of a lake, and dropped anchor abreast of the principal village and quite near the ship of the saints. She was a woe-begone, battered-looking old brig of two hundred tons or so. She showed no colours in response to ours, and we could see no one on deck. Presently, however, we saw a man emerge from below, then a woman, and presently a second man, and in a few minutes she showed the Ecuadorian flag. Then all three sat on chairs under the ragged awning and stared listlessly at our ship.

Ah Sam came off from the shore and boarded us. He was a long, melancholy Chinaman, had thirty-five hairs of a beard, and, poor fellow, was dying of consumption. He told us the local news, and then I asked him about the cargo of saints, many more of whom were now visible on the after-deck of their disreputable old crate.

Ah Sam's thin lips parted in a ghastly smile, as he set down his whisky and soda, and lit a cigar. We were seated under the awning, which had just been spread, and so had a good view of the Julia.

The brig, he said, had managed to crawl into the lagoon three months previously, and in working up to an anchorage struck on one of the coral mushrooms with which the atoll is studded. Ah Sam and the two white traders went off with their boats' crews of natives to render assistance, and after some hours' hard work succeeded in getting her off and towing her up to the spot where she was then anchored. Then the saints gathered on the after-deck and held a thanksgiving meeting, at the conclusion of which, the thirsty and impatient traders asked the captain to give them and their boats' crews a few bottles of liquor in return for their services in pulling his brig off the rocks, and when he reproachfully told them that the Julia was a temperance ship and that drink was a curse and that God would reward them for their kindness, they used most awful language and went off, cursing the captain and the saints for a lot of mean blackguards and consigning them to everlasting torments.

On the following day all the Hawaiian crew bolted on shore and took up their quarters with the natives. The captain came on shore and tried to get other natives in their place, but failed—for he had no money to pay wages, but offered instead the privilege of becoming members of what Ah Sam called some "dam fool society".

There were, said Ah Sam, in addition to the captain and his wife, originally twenty-five passengers, but half of them had left the ship at various ports.

"And now," he concluded, pointing a long yellow forefinger at the rest of the saints, "the rest of them will be coming to see you presently—the tam teives—to see wha' they can cadge from you."

"You don't like them, Ah Sam?" observed our skipper, with a twinkle in his eye.

Ah Sam's reply could not be put upon paper. For a Chinaman he could swear in English most fluently. Then he bade us good-bye for the present, said he would do all he could to help me get some "recruits," and invited us to dinner with him in the evening. He was a good-natured, hospitable fellow, and we accepted the invitation with pleasure.

A few minutes after he had gone on shore the brigantine's boat came alongside, and her captain and three of his passengers stepped on board. He introduced himself as Captain Lynch Richards, and his friends as Brothers So-and-So of the "Islands Brothers' Association of Christians ". They were a dull, melancholy looking lot, Richards alone showing some mental and physical activity. Declining spirituous refreshments, they all had tea and something to eat. Then they asked me if I would let them have some provisions, and accept trade goods in payment.

As they had no money—except about one hundred dollars between them—I let them have what provisions we could spare, and then accepted their invitation to visit the Julia.

I went with them in their own boat—two of the saints pulling—and as they flopped the blades of their oars into the water and I studied their appearance, I could not but agree with Dick Warren's description—"as dirty as Indian fakirs," for not only were their garments dirty, but their faces looked as if they had not come into contact with soap and water for a twelvemonth. Richards, the skipper, was a comparatively young man, and seemed to have given some little attention to his attire, for he was wearing a decent suit of navy blue with a clean collar and tie.

Getting alongside we clambered on deck—there was no side ladder—and I was taken into the cabin where Richards introduced me to his wife. She was a pretty, fragile-looking young woman of about five and twenty years of age, and looked so worn out and unhappy that my heart was filled with pity. During the brief conversation we held I asked her if she and her husband would come on board our vessel in the afternoon and have tea, and mentioned that we had piles and piles of books and magazines on the ship to which she could help herself.

Her eyes filled with tears. "I guess I should like to," she said as she looked at her husband.

Then I was introduced to the rest of the company in turn, as they sat all round the cabin, half a dozen of them on the transom lockers reminding me somehow of dejected and meditative storks. Glad of an excuse to get out of the stuffy and ill-ventilated cabin and the uninspiring society of the unwashed Brethren, I eagerly assented to the captain's suggestion to have a look round the ship before we "talked business," i.e., concerning the trade goods I was to select in payment for the provisions with which I had supplied him. One of the Brethren, an elderly, goat-faced person, came with us, and we returned on deck.

Never before had I seen anything like the Julia. She was an old, soft-pine-built ex-Puget Sound lumberman, literally tumbling to decay, aloft and below. Her splintering decks, to preserve them somewhat from the torrid sun, were covered over with old native mats, and her spars, from want of attention, were splitting open in great gaping cracks, and were as black as those of a collier. How such a craft made the voyage from San Francisco to Honolulu, and from there far to the south of the Line and then back north to the Gilbert Group, was a marvel.

I was taken down the hold and showed what the "cranks" called their trade goods and asked to select what I thought was a fair thing in exchange for the provisions I had given them. Heavens! Such a collection of utter, utter rubbish! second-hand musical boxes in piles, gaudy lithographs, iron bedsteads, "brown paper" boots and shoes eaten half away by cockroaches. Sets of cheap and nasty toilet ware, two huge cases of common and much damaged wax dolls, barrels of rotted dried apples, and decayed pork, an ice-making plant, bales and bales of second-hand clothing—men's, women's and children's—cheap and poisonous sweets in jars, thousands of twopenny looking-glasses, penny whistles, accordions that wouldn't accord, as the cockroaches had eaten them up except the wood and metal work, school slates and pencils, and a box of Bibles and Moody and Sankey hymn-books. And the smell was something awful! I asked the captain what was the cause of it—it overpowered even the horrible odour of the decayed pork and rotted apples. He replied placidly that he thought it came from a hundred kegs of salted salmon bellies which were stowed below everything else, and that he "guessed some of them hed busted".

"It is enough to breed a pestilence," I said; "why do you not all turn-to, get the stuff up and heave it overboard? You must excuse me, captain, but for Heaven's sake let us get on deck."

On returning to the poop we found that the skipper of our vessel had come on board, and was conversing with Mrs. Richards. I took him aside and told him of what I had seen, and suggested that we should make them a present of the provisions. He quite agreed with me, so turning to Captain Richards and the goat-faced old man and several other of the Brethren who had joined them, I said that the captain and I hoped that they would accept the provisions from us, as we felt sure that our owners would not mind. And I also added that we would send them a few bags of flour and some other things during the course of the day. And then the captain, knowing that Captain Richards and his wife were coming to have tea with us, took pity on the Brethren and said, he hoped they would all come to breakfast in the morning.

Poor beggars. Grateful! Of course they were, and although they were sheer lunatics—religious lunatics such as the United States produces by tens of thousands every year—we felt sincerely sorry for them when they told us their miserable story. The spokesman was an old fellow of sixty with long flowing hair—the brother-in-law of the man with the goat's face—and an enthusiast But mad—mad as a hatter.

"The Islands Brothers' Association of Christians" had its genesis in Philadelphia. It was formed "by a few pious men to found a settlement in the South Seas, till the soil, build a temple, instruct the savages, and live in peace and happiness". Twenty-eight persons joined and seven thousand dollars were raised in one way and another—mostly from other lunatics. Many "sympathisers" gave goods, food, etc., to help the cause (hence the awful rubbish in the hold), and at 'Frisco they spent one thousand five hundred dollars in buying "trade goods to barter with the simple natives". At 'Frisco the Julia, then lying condemned, was bought for a thousand dollars—she was not worth three hundred dollars, and was put under the Ecuadorian flag. "God sent them friends in Captain Richards and his wife," ambled on the old man. Richards became a "Brother" and joined them to sail the ship and find an island "rich and fertile in God's gifts to man, and with a pleasant people dwelling thereon".

With a scratch crew of 'Frisco dead beats the brig reached Honolulu. The crew at once cleared out, and several of the "Brothers," with their wives, returned to America—they had had enough of it. After some weeks' delay Richards managed to get four Hawaiian sailors to ship, and the vessel sailed again for the Isle Beautiful. He didn't know exactly where to look for it, but he and the "Brothers" had been told that there were any amount of them lying around in the South Seas, and they would have some trouble in making a choice out of so many.

The story of their insane wanderings after the Julia went south of the equator would have been diverting had it not been so distressing. The mate, who we gathered was both a good seaman and a competent navigator, was drowned through the capsizing of a boat on the reef of some island between the Gilbert Group and Rarotonga, and with his death what little discipline, and cohesiveness had formerly existed gradually vanished. Richards apparently knew how to handle his ship, but as a navigator he was nowhere. Incredible as it may seem, his general chart of the North and South Pacific was thirty years old, and was so torn, stained and greasy as to be all but undecipherable. As the weary weeks went by and they went from island to island, only to be turned away by the inhabitants, they at last began to realise the folly of the venture, and most of them wanted to return to San Francisco. But Richards clung to the belief that they only wanted patience to find a suitable island where the natives would be glad to receive them, and where they could settle down in peace. Failing that, he had the idea that there were numbers of fertile and uninhabited islands, one of which would suit the Brethren almost as well. But as time went on he too grew despondent, and turned the brig's head northward for Honolulu; and one day he blundered across Butaritari Island and entered the lagoon in the hope of at least getting, some provisions. And again the crew bolted and left the Brethren to shift for themselves. Week after week, month after month went by, the provisions were all gone except weevily biscuit and rotten pork, and they passed their time in wandering about the beaches of the lagoon and waiting for assistance. And yet there wore two or three of them who still believed in the vision of the Isle Beautiful and were still hopeful that they might get there. "All we want is another crew," these said to us.

Our skipper shook his head, and then talked to them plainly, calling upon me to corroborate him.

"You will never get a crew. No sailor-man would ever come to sea in a crate like this. And you'll find no islands anywhere in the Pacific where you can settle down, unless you can pay for it. The natives will chivvy you off if you try to land. I know them—you don't. The people in America who encouraged you in this business were howling lunatics. Your ship is falling to pieces, and I warn you that if you once leave this lagoon in her, you will never see land again."

They were silent, and then the old man began to weep, and said they would there and then pray for guidance.

"All right," said the skipper, "go ahead, and I'll get my mate and the carpenter to come and tell you their opinion of the state of this brig."

The mate and carpenter made an examination, told Captain Richards in front of his passengers that the ship was utterly unseaworthy, and that he would be a criminal if he tried to put to sea again. That settled the business, especially after they had asked me to value their trade goods, and I told them frankly that they were literally not worth valuing, and to throw them overboard.

Ten days later the Brotherhood broke up—an American trading schooner came into the lagoon and her captain offered to take them to Jakuit in the Marshall Islands, where they were certain of getting a passage to Honolulu in some whaleship. They all accepted with the exception of Richards and his wife who refused to leave the Julia. The poor fellow had his pride and would not desert his ship. However, as his wife was ailing, he had a small house built on shore and managed to make a few hundred dollars by boat-building. But every day he would go off and have a look round the old brig to see if everything on board was all right Then one night there came a series of heavy squalls which raised a lumpy sea in the lagoon, and when morning broke only her top-masts were visible—she had gone down at her anchors.

Richards and his fellow-cranks were the forerunners of other bands of ignorant enthusiasts who in later years endeavoured to foist themselves upon the natives of the Pacific Islands and met with similar and well-merited disaster. Like the ill-fated "La Nouvelle France" colony of the notorious Marquis de Ray, all these land-stealing ventures set about their exploits under the cloak of religion. One, under a pretended concession from the Mexican Government, founded a "Christian Redemption Colony" of scallywags, loafers and loose women at Magdalena Bay in Lower California, and succeeded in getting many thousands of pounds from foolish people. Then came a party of Mormon Evangelists who actually bought and paid for land in Samoa and conducted themselves decently and are probably living there now. After them came the wretched Percy Edward band of pilgrims to found a "happy home" in the South Seas. They called themselves the "United Brotherhood of the South Sea Islands". In another volume, in an article describing my personal experiences of the disastrous "Nouvelle France" expedition to New Ireland,{*} I have alluded to the Percy Edward affair in these words, which I may be permitted to quote: "The Percy Edward was a wretched old tub of a brigantine (formerly a Tahiti-San Francisco mail packet). She was bought in the latter port by a number of people who intended to found a Socialistic Utopia, where they were to pluck the wild goat by the beard, pay no rent to the native owners of the soil, and, letting their hair grow down their backs, lead an idyllic life and loaf around generally. Such a mad scheme could have been conceived nowhere else but in San Francisco or Paris.... The result of the Marquis de Ray's expedition ought to have made the American enthusiasts reflect a little before they started. But having the idea that they could sail on through summer seas till they came to some land fair to look upon, and then annex it right away in the sacred name of Socialism (and thus violate one of the principles of true Socialism), they sailed—only to be quickly disillusionised. For there were no islands anywhere in the North and South Pacific to be had for the taking thereof; neither were there any tracts of land to be had from the natives, except for hard cash or its equivalent. The untutored Kanakas also, with whom they came in contact, refused to become brother Socialists and go shares with the long-haired wanderers in their land or anything else. So from island unto island the Percy Edward cruised, looking more disreputable every day, until as the months went by she began to resemble in her tattered gear and dejected appearance her fatuous passengers. At last, after being considerably chivvied about by the white and native inhabitants of the various islands touched at, the forlorn expedition reach Fiji. Here fifty of the idealists elected to remain and work for their living under a Government... But the remaining fifty-eight stuck to the Percy Edward, and her decayed salt junk and putrid water, and their beautiful ideals; till at last the ship was caught in a hurricane, badly battered about, lost her foremast, and only escaped foundering by reaching New Caledonia and settling her keel on the bottom of Noumea harbour. Then the visionaries began to collect their senses, and denounced the Percy Edward and the principles of the 'United Brotherhood' as hollow frauds, and elected to abandon her and go on shore and get a good square meal. What became of them at Noumea I did not hear, but do know that in their wanderings they received much charitable assistance from British shipmasters and missionaries—in some cases their passages were paid to the United States—the natural and proper country for the ignorant religious 'crank'."

* Ridan the Devil: T. Fisher Unwin, London.


We anchored under Cape Bedford (North Queensland) one day, and the skipper and I went on shore to bathe in one of the native-made rocky water-holes near the Cape. We found a native police patrol camped there, and the officer asked us if we would like to have a dingo pup for a pet. His troopers had caught two of them the previous day. We said we should like to possess a dingo.

"Bring him here, Dandy," said the officer to one of his black troopers, and Dandy, with a grin on his sooty face, brought to us a lanky-legged pup about three months old. Its colour was a dirty yellowish red, but it gave promise of turning out a dog—of a kind. The captain put out his hand to stroke it, and as quick as lightning it closed its fang-like teeth upon his thumb. With a bull-like bellow of rage, the skipper was about to hurl the savage little beast over the cliffs into the sea, when I stayed his hand.

"He'll make a bully ship-dog," I urged, "just the right kind of pup to chivvy the niggers over the side when we get to the Louisiades and Solomons. Please don't choke the little beggar, Ross. 'Twas only fear, not rage, that made him go for you."

We made a temporary muzzle from a bit of fishing line; bade the officer good-bye, and went off to the ship.

We were nearly a month beating up to the Solomons, and in that time we gained some knowledge of Dandy's character. (We named him after the black trooper.) He was fawningly, sneakingly, offensively affectionate—when he was hungry, which was nearly always; as ferocious and as spiteful as a tiger cat when his stomach was full; then, with a snarling yelp, he would put his tail beneath his legs and trot for'ard, turning his head and showing his teeth. Crawling under the barrel of the windlass he would lie there and go to sleep, only opening his eyes now and then to roll them about vindictively when any one passed by. Then when he was hungry again, he would crawl out and slouch aft with a "please-do-be-kind-to-a-poor-dog" expression on his treacherous face. Twice when we were sailing close to the land he jumped overboard, and made for the shore, though he couldn't swim very well and only went round and round in circles. On each occasion a native sailor jumped over after him and brought him back, and each time he bit his rescuer.

"Never mind him, sir," said the mate to Ross one day, when the angry skipper fired three shots at Dandy for killing the ship's cat—missed him and nearly killed the steward, who had put his head out of the galley door to see the fun—"there's money in that dog. I wouldn't mind bettin' half-a-sov that Charley Nyberg, the trader on Santa Anna, will give five pounds for him. He'll go for every nigger he's sooled on to. You mark my words."

In the fore-hold we had a hundred tons of coal destined for one of H.M. cruisers then surveying in the Solomon Group. We put Dandy down there to catch rats, and gave him nothing but water. Here he showed his blood. We could hear the scraping about of coal, and the screams of the captured rodents, as Dandy tore round the hold after them. In three days there were no more rats left, and Dandy began to utter his weird, blood-curdling howls—he wanted to come on deck. We lashed him down under the force pump, and gave him a thorough wash-down. He shook himself, showed his teeth at us and tore off to the galley in search of food. The cook gave him a large tinful of rancid fat, which was at once devoured, then he fled to his retreat under the windlass, and began to growl and moan. By-and-by we made Santa Anna.

Charley Nyberg, after he had tried the dog by setting him on to two Solomon Island "bucks" who were loafing around his house, and seen how the beast could bite, said he would give us thirteen dollars and a fat hog for him. We agreed, and Dandy was taken on shore and chained up outside the cook-house to keep away thieving natives.

About nine o'clock that evening, as the skipper and I were sitting on deck, we heard a fearful yell from Charley's house—a few hundred yards away from where we were anchored. The yell was followed by a wild clamour from many hundreds of native throats, and we saw several scores of people rushing towards the trader's dwelling. Then came the sound of two shots in quick succession.

"Haul the boat alongside," roared our skipper, "there's mischief going on on shore."

In a minute we, with the boat's crew, had seized our arms, tumbled into the boat and were racing for the beach.

Jumping out, we tore to the house. It seemed pretty quiet. Charley was in his sitting-room, binding up his wife's hand, and smoking in an unconcerned sort of a way.

"What is wrong, Charley?" we asked.

"That infernal mongrel of yours nearly bit my wife's hand off. Did it when she tried to stroke him. I soon settled him. If you go to the back you will see some native women preparing the brute for the oven. The niggers here like baked dog. Guess you fellows will have to give me back that thirteen dollars. But you can keep the hog."

So Dandy came to a just and fitting end.


Old Kala-hoi, the net-maker, had ceased work for the day, and was seated on a mat outside his little house, smoking his pipe, looking dreamily out upon the blue waters of Leone Bay, on Tutuila Island, and enjoying the cool evening breeze that blew upon his bare limbs and played with the two scanty tufts of snow-white hair that grew just above his ears.

As he sat and smoked in quiet content, Marsh (the mate of our vessel) and I discerned him from the beach, as we stepped out of the boat We were both tired—Marsh with weighing and stowing bags of copra in the steaming hold, and I with paying the natives for it in trade goods—a task that had taken me from dawn till supper time. Then, as the smell of the copra and the heat of the cabin were not conducive to the enjoyment of supper, we first had a bathe alongside the ship, got into clean pyjamas and came on shore to have a chat with old Kala-hoi.

"Got anything to eat, Kala-hoi?" we asked, as we sat down on the mat, in front of the ancient, who smilingly bade us welcome.

"My oven is made; and in it are a fat mullet, four breadfruit, some taro and plenty of ifi (chestnuts). For to-day is Saturday, and I have cooked for to-morrow as well as for to-night." Then lapsing into his native Hawaiian (which both my companion and I understood), he added, "And most heartily are ye welcome. In a little while the oven will be ready for uncovering and we shall eat."

"But how will you do for food to-morrow, Kala-hoi?" inquired Marsh, with a smile and speaking in English.

"To-morrow is not yet. When it comes I shall have more food. I have but to ask of others and it is given willingly. And even if it were not so, I would but have to pluck some more breadfruit or dig some taro and kill a fowl—and cook again to night." And then with true native courtesy he changed the subject and asked us if we had enjoyed our swim. Not much, we replied, the sea-water was too warm from the heat of the sun.

He nodded. "Aye, the day has been hot and windless until now, when the cool land breeze comes down between the valleys from the mountains. But why did ye not bathe in the stream in the fresh water, as I have just done. It is a good thing to do, for it makes hunger as well as cleanses the skin, and that the salt water will not do."

Marsh and I lit our pipes. The old man rose, went into his house and returned with a large mat and two bamboo pillows, telling us it would be more comfortable to lie down and rest our backs, for he knew that we had "toiled much during the day". Then he resumed his own mat again, and crossed his hands on his tatooed knees, for although not a Samoan he was tatooed in the Samoan fashion. Beside him was a Samoan Bible, for he was a deeply religious old fellow, and could both read and write.

"How comes it, Kala, that thou livest all alone half a league from the village?" asked Marsh.

Kala-hoi showed his still white and perfect teeth in a smile.

"Ah, why? Because, O friend, this is mine own land. I am, as thou knowest, of Maui, in Hawaii, and though for thirty and nine years have I lived in Samoa, yet now that my wife and two sons are dead, I would be by myself. This land, which measures two hundred fathoms on three sides, and one hundred at the beach, was given to me by Mauga, King of Tutuila, because, ten years ago, when his son was shot in the thigh with a round bullet, I cut it out from where it had lodged against the bone."

"How old are you, Kala-hoi?"

"I know not. But I am old, very old. Yet I am young—still young. I was a grown man when Wilkes, the American Commodore, came to Samoa. And I went on board the Vincennes when she came to Apia, and because I spoke English well, le alii Saua ('the cruel captain'), as we called him,{*} made much of me, and treated me with some honour. Ah, he was a stern man, and his eye was as the eye of an eagle."

* Wilkes was called "the cruel captain" by the Samoans on account of his iron discipline.

Marsh nodded acquiescence. "Aye, he was a strong, stern man. More than a score of years after thou hadst seen him here in Samoa, he was like to have brought about a bloody war between my country and his. Yet he did but what was right and just—to my mind. And I am an Englishman."

Kala-hoi blew a stream of smoke through his nostrils.

"Aye, indeed, a stern man, and with a bitter tongue. But because of his cruelty to his men was he punished, for in Fiji the kai tagata (cannibals) killed his nephew. And yet he spoke always kindly to me, and gave me ten Mexican dollars because I did much interpretation for him with the chiefs of Samoa.... One day there came on board the ship two white men; they were papalagi tafea (beachcombers) and were like Samoans, for they wore no clothes, and were tatooed from their waists to their knees as I am. They went to the forepart of the ship and began talking to the sailors. They were very saucy men and proud of their appearance. The Commodore sent for them, and he looked at them with scorn—one was an Englishman, the other a Dane. This they told him.

"'O ye brute beasts,' he said, and he spat over the side of the ship contempt 'Were ye Americans I would trice ye both up and give ye each a hundred lashes, for so degrading thyselves. Out of my ship, ye filthy tatooed swine. Thou art a disgrace to thy race!' So terrified were they that they could not speak, and went away in shame."

"Thou hast seen many things in thy time, Kala-hoi."

"Nay, friend. Not such things as thou hast seen—such as the sun at midnight, of which thou hast told me, and which had any man but thou said it, I would have cried 'Liar!'"

Marsh laughed—"Yet 'tis true, old Kala-hoi. I have seen the sun at midnight, many, many times."

"Aye. Thou sayest, and I believe. Now, let me uncover my oven so that we may eat. 'Tis a fine fat mullet."

After we had eaten, the kindly old man brought us a bowl of water in which to lave our hands, and then a spotless white towel, for he had associated much with Europeans in his younger days and had adopted many of their customs. On Sundays he always wore to church coat, trousers, shirt, collar and necktie and boots (minus socks) and covered his bald pate with a wide hat or fala leaf. Moreover, he was a deacon.

Presently we heard voices, and a party of young people of both sexes appeared. They had been bathing in the stream and were now returning to the village. In most of them I recognised "customers" of mine during the day—they were carrying baskets and bundles containing the goods bought from the ship. They all sat down around us, began to make cigarettes of strong twist tobacco, roll it in strips of dried banana leaf, and gossip. Then Kala-hoi—although he was a deacon—asked the girls if they would make us a bowl of kava. They were only too pleased, and so Kala-hoi again rose, went to his house and brought out a root of kava, the kava-bowl and some gourds of water, and gave them to the giggling maidens who, securing a mat for themselves, withdrew a little distance and proceeded to make the drink, the young men attending upon them to-cut the kava into thin, flaky strips, and leaving us three to ourselves. Night had come, and the bay was very quiet. Here and there on the opposite side lights began to gleam through the lines of palms on the beach from isolated native houses, as the people ate their evening meal by the bright flame of a pile of coco-nut shells or a lamp of coco-nut oil.

Marsh wanted the old man to talk.

"How long since is it that thy wife and sons died, Kala-hoi?"

The old man placed his brown, shapely hand on the seaman's knee, and answered softly:—

"'Tis twenty years".

"They died together, did they not?"

"Nay—not together, but on the same day. Thou hast heard something of it?"

"Only something. And if it doth not hurt thee to speak of it, I should like to know how such a great misfortune came to thee."

The net-maker looked into the white man's face, and read sympathy in his eyes.

"Friend, this was the way of it. Because of my usefulness to him as an interpreter of English, Taula, chief of Samatau, gave me his niece, Moe, in marriage. She was a strong girl, and handsome, but had a sharp tongue. Yet she loved me, and I loved her.

"We were happy. We lived at the town of Tufu on the itu papa" (iron-bound coast) "of Savai'i. Moe bore me boy twins. They grew up strong, hardy and courageous, though, like their mother, they were quick-tempered, and resented reproof, even from me, their father. And often they quarrelled and fought.

"When they were become sixteen years of age, they were tatooed in the Samoan fashion, and that cost me much in money and presents. But Tui, who was the elder by a little while, was jealous that his brother Galu had been tatooed first. And yet the two loved each other—as I will show thee.

"One day my wife and the two boys went into the mountains to get wild bananas. They cut three heavy bunches and were returning home, when Galu and Tui began to quarrel, on the steep mountain path. They came to blows, and their mother, in trying to separate them, lost her footing and fell far below on to a bed of lava. She died quickly.

"The two boys descended and held her dead body in their arms for a long while, and wept together over her face. Then they carried her down the mountain side into the village, and said to the people:—

"'We, Tui and Galu, have killed our mother through our quarrelling. Tell our father Kala-hoi, that we fear to meet him, and now go to expiate our crime.'

"They ran away swiftly; they climbed the mountain side, and, with arms around each other, sprang over the cliff from which their mother had fallen. And when I, and many others with me, found them, they were both dead."

"Thou hast had a bitter sorrow, Kala-hoi." "Aye, a bitter sorrow. But yet in my dreams I see them all. And sometimes, even in my work, as I make my nets, I hear the boys' voices, quarrelling, and my wife saying, 'Be still, ye boys, lest I call thy father to chastise thee both '."

As the girls brought us the kava Marsh put his hand on the old, smooth, brown pate, and saw that the eyes of the net-maker were filled with tears.


The fiat has gone forth from the Australian Commonwealth, and the Kanaka labour trade, as far as the Australian Colonies are concerned, has ceased to exist. For, during the month of November, 1906, the Queensland Government began to deport to their various islands in the Solomon and New Hebrides Groups, the last of the Melanesian native labourers employed on the Queensland sugar plantations.

The Kanaka labour traffic, generally termed "black-birding," began about 1863, when sugar and cotton planters found that natives of the South Sea Islands could be secured at a much less cost than Chinese or Indian coolies. The genesis of the traffic was a tragedy, and filled the world with horror.

Three armed Peruvian ships, manned by gangs of cut-throats, appeared in the South Pacific, and seized over four hundred unfortunate natives in the old African slave-trading fashion, and carried them away to work the guano deposits on the Chincha Islands. Not a score of them returned to their island homes—the rest perished under the lash and brutality of their cruel taskmasters.

Towards 1870 the demand for South Sea Islanders became very great. They were wanted in the Sandwich Islands, in Tahiti and Samoa; for, naturally enough, with their ample food supply, the natives of these islands do not like plantation work, or if employed demand a high rate of pay. Then, too, the Queensland and Fijian sugar planters joined in the quest, and at one time there were over fifty vessels engaged in securing Kanakas from the Gilbert Islands, the Solomon and New Hebrides Groups, and the great islands near New Guinea.

At that time there was no Government supervision of the traffic. Any irresponsible person could fit out a ship, and bring a cargo of human beings into port—obtained by means fair or foul—and no questions were asked.

Very soon came the news of the infamous story of the brig Carl and her fiendish owner, a Dr. Murray, who with half a dozen other scoundrels committed the most awful crimes—shooting down in cold blood scores of natives who refused to be coerced into "recruiting". Some of these ruffians went to the scaffold or to long terms of imprisonment; and from that time the British Government in a maundering way set to work to effect some sort of supervision of the British ships employed in the "blackbirding" trade.

A fleet of five small gunboats (sailing vessels) were built in Sydney, and were ordered to "overhaul and inspect every blackbirder," and ascertain if the "blackbirds" were really willing recruits, or had been deported against their will, and were "to be sold as slaves". And many atrocious deeds came to light, with the result, as far as Queensland was concerned, that every labour ship had to carry a Government agent, who was supposed to see that no abuses occurred. Some of these Government agents were conscientious men, and did their duty well; others were mere tools of the greedy planters, and lent themselves to all sorts of villainies to obtain "recruits" and get an in camera bonus of twenty pounds for every native they could entice on board.

Owing to my knowledge of Polynesian and Melane-sian dialects, I was frequently employed as "recruiter" on many "blackbirders"—French vessels from Noumea in New Caledonia, Hawaiian vessels from Honolulu, and German and English vessels sailing from Samoa and Fiji, and in no instance did I ever have any serious trouble with my "blackbirds" after they were once on board the ship of which I was "recruiter".

Let me now describe an ordinary cruise of a "blackbirder" vessel—an honest ship with an honest skipper and crew, and, above all, a straight "recruiter"—a man who takes his life in his hands when he steps out, unarmed, from his boat, and seeks for "recruits" from a crowd of the wildest savages imaginable.

Labour ships carry a double crew—one to work the ship, the other to man the boats, of which there are usually four on ordinary-sized vessels. They are whale-boats, specially adapted for surf work. The boats' crews are invariably natives—Rotumah men, Samoans, or Savage Islanders. The ship's working crew also are in most cases natives, and the captain and officers are, of course, white men.

The 'tween decks are fitted to accommodate so many "blackbirds," and, at the present day, British labour ships are models of cleanliness, for the Government supervision is very rigid; but in former days the hold of a "blackbirder" often presented a horrid spectacle—the unfortunate "recruits" being packed so closely together, and at night time the odour from their steaming bodies was absolutely revolting as it ascended from the open hatch, over which stood two sentries on the alert; for sometimes the "blackbirds" would rise and attempt to murder the ship's company. In many cases they did so successfully—especially when the "blackbirds" came from the same island, or group of islands, and spoke the same language. When there were, say, a hundred or two hundred "recruits" from various islands, dissimilar in their language and customs, there was no fear of such an event, and the captain and officers and "recruiter" went to sleep with a feeling of security.

Let us now suppose that a "blackbirder" (obnoxious name to many recruiters) from Samoa, Fiji, or Queensland, has reached one of the New Hebrides, or Solomon Islands. Possibly she may anchor—if there is an anchorage; but most likely she will "lie off and on," and send away her boats to the various villages.

On one occasion I "worked" the entire length of one side of the great island of San Cristoval, visiting nearly every village from Cape Recherche to Cape Surville. This took nearly three weeks, the ship following the boats along the coast. We would leave the ship at daylight, and pull in shore, landing wherever we saw a smoke signal, or a village. When I had engaged, say, half a dozen recruits, I would send them off on board, and continue on my way. At sunset I would return on board, the boats would be hoisted up, and the ship either anchor, or heave-to for the night. On this particular trip the boats were only twice fired at, but no one man of my crews was hit.

The boats are known as "landing" and "covering" boats. The former is in command of an officer and the recruiter, carries five hands (all armed) and also the boxes of "trade" goods to be exhibited to the natives as specimens of the rest of the goods on board, or perhaps some will be immediately handed over as an "advance" to any native willing to recruit as a labourer in Queensland or elsewhere for three years, at the magnificent wage of six pounds per annum, generally paid in rubbishing articles, worth about thirty shillings.

The "covering" boat is in charge of an officer, or reliable seaman. She follows the "landing" boat at a short distance, and her duty is to cover her retreat if the natives should attack the landing boat by at once opening fire, and giving those in that boat a chance of pushing off and getting out of danger, and also she sometimes receives on board the "recruits" as they are engaged by the recruiter—if the latter has not been knocked on the head or speared.

On nearing the beach, where the natives are waiting, the officer in the landing-boat swings her round with his steer oar, and the crew back her in, stern first, on to the beach. The recruiter then steps out, and the crew carry the trade chests on shore; then the boat pushes off a little, just enough to keep afloat, and obtrusive natives, who may mean treachery, are not allowed to come too near the oars, or take hold of the gunwale, Meanwhile the covering boat has drawn in close to the first boat, and the crew, with their hands on their rifles, keep a keen watch on the landing boat and the wretched recruiter.

The recruiter, if he is a wise man, will not display any arms openly. To do so makes the savage natives either sulky or afraid, and I never let them see mine, which I, however, always kept handy in a harmless-looking canvas bag, which also contained some tobacco, cut up in small pieces, to throw to the women and children—to put them in a good temper.

The recruiter opens his trade box, and then asks if there is any man or woman who desires to become rich in three years by working on a plantation in Fiji, Queensland, or Samoa.

If he can speak the language, and does not lose his nerve by being surrounded by hundreds of ferocious and armed savages, and knowing that at any instant he may be cut down from behind by a tomahawk, or speared, or clubbed, he will get along all right, and soon find men willing to recruit Especially is this so if he is a man personally known to the natives, and has a good reputation for treating his "blackbirds" well on board the ship. The ship and her captain, too, enter largely into the matter of a native making up his mind to "recruit," or refuse to do so.

Sometimes there may be among the crowd of natives several who have already been to Queensland, or elsewhere, and desire to return. These may be desirable recruits, or, on the other hand, may be the reverse, and have bad records. I usually tried to shunt these fellows from again recruiting, as they often made mischief on board, would plan to capture the ship, and such other diversions, but I always found them useful as touts in gaining me new recruits, by offering these scamps a suitable present for each man they brought me.

I always made it a practice never to recruit a married man, unless his wife—or an alleged wife—came with him, nor would I take them if they had young children—who would simply be made slaves of in their absence. It required the utmost tact and discretion to get at the truth in many cases, and very often on going on board after a day of toil and danger I would be sound asleep, when a young couple would swim off—lovers who had eloped—and beg me to take them away in the ship. This I would never do until I had seen the local chief, and was assured that no objection would be made to their leaving.

(When I was recruiting "black labour" for the French and German planters in Samoa and Tahiti, I was, of course, sailing in ships of those nationalities, and had no worrying Government agent to harass and hinder me by his interference, for only ships under British colours were compelled to carry "Government agents".)

But I must return to the recruiter standing on the beach, surrounded by a crowd of savages, exercising his patience and brains.

Perhaps at the end of an hour or so eight or ten men are recruited, and told to either get into one of the boats or go off to the ship in canoes. The business on shore is then finished, the harassed recruiter wipes his perspiring brow, says farewell to the people, closes his trade chest, and steps into his landing boat. The officer cries to the crew, "Give way, lads," and off goes the boat.

Then the covering boat comes into position astern of the landing boat, for one never knew the moment that some enraged native on shore might, for having been rejected as "undesirable," take a snipe-shot at one of the boats. Only two men pull in the covering boat—the rest of the crew sit on the thwarts, with their rifles ready, facing aft, until the boats are out of range.

That is what is the ordinary day's work among the Solomon, New Hebrides, and other island groups of the Western Pacific But very often it was—and is now—very different. The recruiter may be at work, when he is struck down treacherously from behind, and hundreds of concealed savages rush out, bent on slaughter. Perhaps the eye of some ever-watchful man in the covering boat has seen crouching figures in the dense undergrowth of the shores of the bay, and at once fires his rifle, and the recruiter jumps for his boat, and then there is a cracking of Winchesters from the covering boat, and a responsive banging of overloaded muskets from the shore.

Only once was I badly hurt when "recruiting". I had visited a rather big village, but could not secure a single recruit, and I had told the officer to put off, as it was no use our wasting our time. I then got into the boat and was stooping down to get a drink from the water-beaker, when a sudden fusillade of muskets and arrows was opened upon us from three sides, and I was struck on the right side of the neck by a round iron bullet, which travelled round just under the skin, and stopped under my left ear. Some of my crew were badly hit, one man having his wrist broken by an iron bullet, and another received a heavy lead bullet in the stomach, and three bamboo arrows in his chest, thigh and shoulder. He was more afraid of the arrows than the really dangerous wound in his stomach, for he thought they were poisoned, and that he would die of lockjaw—like the lamented Commodore Goodenough, who was shot to death with poisoned arrows at Nukapu in the Santa Cruz Group.

The skipper nicked out the bullet in my neck with his pen-knife, and beyond two very unsightly scars on each side of my neck, I have nothing of which to complain, and much to be thankful for; for had I been in ever so little a more erect position, the ball would have broken my neck—and some compositors in printing establishments earned a little less money.


Mr. Rudyard Kipling has spoken of what he terms "the Great American Pie Belt," which runs through certain parts of the United States, the people of which live largely on pumpkin pie; in the South Pacific there is what may be vulgarly termed the Great "Long Pork" Belt, running through many groups of islands, the savage inhabitants of which are notorious cannibals. This belt extends from the New Hebrides north-westerly to the Solomon Archipelago, thence more westerly to New Ireland and New Britain, the coasts of Dutch, German, and British New Guinea; and then, turning south, embraces a considerable portion of the coast line of Northern Australia. Forty years ago Fiji could have been included, but cannibalism in that group had long since ceased; as also in New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands.

The British, French and German Governments are doing their best to stamp out the practice. Ships of war patrol the various groups, and wherever possible, headhunting and man-eating excursions are suppressed; but some of the islands are of such a vast extent that only the coastal tribes are affected. In the interior—practically unknown to any white man—there is a very numerous population of mountaineer tribes, who are all cannibals, and will remain so for perhaps another fifty years, unless, as was done in Fiji by Sir Arthur Gordon (now Lord Stanmore), a large armed force is sent to subdue these people, destroy their towns, and bring them to settle on the coast, where they may be subjected to missionary (and police) influence.

During my trading and "blackbirding" voyages, I made the acquaintance, and indeed in some cases the friendship, of many cannibals, and at one time, when I was doing shore duty, I lived for six months in a large cannibal village on the north coast of the great island of New Britain, or Tombara, as the natives call it I had not the slightest fear of being converted into "Long Pig" (puaka kumi) for the chief, a hideous, but yet not bad-natured savage, named Bobaran, in consideration for certain gifts of muskets, powder, bullets, etc, and tobacco, became responsible for my safety with his own people during my stay, but would not, of course, guarantee to protect me from the people of other districts (even though he might not be at enmity with them) if I ventured into their territory.

This was the usual agreement made by white traders who established themselves on shore under the aegis of a native ruler. Very rarely was this confidence abused. Generally the white men, sailors or traders who have been (and are even now) killed and eaten, have been cut off by savages other than those among whom they lived—very often by mountaineers.

Bobaran and all his people were noted cannibals. He was continually at war with his neighbours on the opposite side of the bay, where there were three populous towns, and there was much fighting, and losses on both sides. During my stay there were over thirty people eaten at, or in the immediate vicinity of, my village. Some of these were taken alive, and then slaughtered on being brought in; others had been killed in battle. But about eighteen months before I came to live at this place, Bobaran had had a party of twenty of his people cut off by the enemy—and every one of these were eaten.

I parted from Bobaran on very friendly terms. I should have stayed longer, but was suffering from malarial fever.

After recruiting my health in New Zealand, I joined a labour vessel, sailing out of Samoa, and during the ten months I served on her as recruiter I had some exceedingly exciting adventures with cannibals among the islands off the coast of German New Guinea, and on the mainland.

On our way to the "blackbirding grounds" we sighted the lofty Rossel Island—the scene of one of the most awful cannibal tragedies ever known. It is one of the Louisiade Archipelago, and is at the extreme south end of British New Guinea. It presents a most enchanting appearance, owing to its verdured mountains (9,000 feet), countless cataracts, and beautiful bays fringed with coco-palms and other tropical trees, amidst which stand the thatched-roofed houses of the natives. I will tell the story of Rossel Island in as few words as possible:—

In 1852 a Peruvian barque, carrying 325 Chinese coolies for Tahiti, was wrecked on the island; the captain and crew took to the four boats, and left the Chinamen to shift for themselves. Hundreds of savage natives rushed the vessel, killed a few of the coolies, and drove the rest on shore, where for some days they were not molested, the natives being too busy in plundering the ship. But after this was completed they turned their attention to their captives, marshalled them together, made them enter canoes and carried them off to a small, but fertile island. Here they were told to occupy a deserted village, and do as they pleased, but not to attempt to leave the island. The poor Chinamen were overjoyed, little dreaming of what was to befal them. The island abounded with vegetables and fruit, and the shipwrecked men found no lack of food. But they discovered that they were prisoners—every canoe had been removed. This at first caused them no alarm, but when at the end of a week their jailers appeared and carried off ten of their number, they became restless. And then almost every day, two, three or more were taken away, and never returned. Then the poor wretches discovered that their comrades were being killed and eaten day by day!

To escape from the island was impossible, for it was four miles from the mainland, and they had no canoes, and the water was literally alive with sharks. Some of them, wild with terror, built a raft out of dead timber, and tried to put to sea. They were seen by the Rossel Islanders, pursued and captured, and slaughtered for the cannibal ovens, which were now never idle. Some poor creatures, who could swim, tried to cross to another little island two miles away, but were devoured by sharks. Without arms to defend their lives, they saw themselves decimated week by week, for whenever the natives came to seize some of their number for their ovens they came in force.

Six or seven months passed, and then one day the French corvette Phoque (if I am not mistaken in the name) appeared off the island. She had been sent by the Governor of New Caledonia to ascertain if any of the Chinamen were still on the island, or if all had escaped. Two only survived. They were seen running along the beach to meet the boats from the corvette, and were taken on board half-demented—all the rest had gone into the stomach of the cannibals or the sharks.

At the present time the natives of Rossel Island are subjects of King Edward VII., and are included in the government of the Possession of British New Guinea; have, I believe, a resident missionary, and several traders, and are well behaved They would cast up their eyes in pious horror if any visitor now suggested that they had once been addicted to "long pig ".

Ten days after passing Rossel Island, we were among the islands of Dampier and Vitiaz Straits, which separate the western end of New Britain from the east coast of New Guinea. It was an absolutely new ground for recruiting "blackbirds" and our voyage was in reality but an experiment. We (the officers and I) knew that the natives were a dangerous lot of savage cannibals, speaking many dialects, and had hitherto only been in communication with an occasional whaleship, or a trading, pearling, or, in the "old" colonial days, a sandal-wood-seeking vessel. But we had no fear of being cut off. We had a fine craft, with a high freeboard, so that if we were rushed by canoes, the boarders would find some trouble in clambering on deck; on the main deck we carried four six-pounders, which were always kept in good order and could be loaded with grape in a few minutes. Then our double crew were all well armed with Sharp's carbines and the latest pattern of Colt's revolvers; and, above all, the captain had confidence in his crew and officers, and they in him. I, the recruiter, had with me as interpreter a very smart native of Ysabel Island (Solomon Group) who, five years before, had been wrecked on Rook Island, in Vitiaz Straits, had lived among the cannibal natives for a year, and then been rescued by an Austrian man-of-war engaged on an exploration voyage. He said that he could make himself well understood by the natives—and this I found to be correct.

We anchored in a charming little bay on Rook Island (Baga), and at once some hundreds of natives came off and boarded us in the most fearless manner. They at once recognised my interpreter, and danced about him and yelled their delight at seeing him again. Every one of these savages was armed with half a dozen spears, a jade-headed club, or powerful bows and arrows, and a wooden shield. They were a much finer type of savage than the natives of New Britain, lighter in colour, and had not so many repulsive characteristics. Neither were they absolutely nude—each man wearing a girdle of dracaena leaves, and although they were betel-nut chewers, and carried their baskets of areca nuts and leaves and powdered lime around their necks, they did not expectorate the disgusting scarlet juice all over our decks as the New Britain natives would have done.

We noticed that many of them had recently inflicted wounds, and learned from them that a few days previously they had had a great fight with the natives of Tupinier Island (twenty miles to the east) and had been badly beaten, losing sixteen men. But, they proudly added, they had been able to carry off eleven of the enemy's dead, and had only just finished eating them. The chiefs brother, they said, had been badly wounded by a bullet in the thigh (the Tupinier natives had a few muskets) and was suffering great pain, as the "doctors" could not get it out.

Now here was a chance for me—something which would perhaps lead to our getting a number of these cannibals to recruit for Samoa. I considered myself a good amateur surgeon (I had had plenty of practice) and at once volunteered to go on shore, look at the injured gentleman and see what I could do. My friend Bobaran in New Britain I had cured of an eczemic disorder by a very simple remedy, and he had been a grateful patient. Here was another chance, and possibly another grateful patient; and this being a case of a gunshot wound, I was rather keen on attending to it, for the Polynesians and Melanesians will stand any amount of cutting about and never flinch (and there are no coroners in the South Seas to ask silly questions if the patient dies from a mistake of the operator).

Morel (the captain), the interpreter and myself went on shore. The beach was crowded with women and children, as well as men—a sure sign that no treachery was intended—and nearly all of them tried to embrace my interpreter. The clamour these cannibals made was terrific, the children being especially vociferous. Several of them seized my hands, and literally dragged me along to the house of the wounded man; others possessed themselves of Morel and the interpreter, and in a few minutes the whole lot of us tumbled, or rather fell, into the house. Then, in an instant, there was silence—the excited women and children withdrew and left the captain, the interpreter, some male cannibals and myself with my patient, who was sitting up, placidly chewing betel-nut.

In ten minutes Morel and I got out the bullet, then dressed and bandaged the wound, and gave the man a powerful opiate. Leaving him with his friends, Morel and I went for a walk through the village. Everywhere the natives were very civil, offering us coco-nuts and food, and even the women and children did not show much fear at our presence.

Returning to the house, we found our wounded friend was awake, and sitting up on his mat He smiled affably at us, and rubbed noses with me—a practice I have never before seen among the Melanesians of this part of the Pacific. Then he told us that his womenfolk were preparing us a meal which would soon be ready. I asked him gravely (through the interpreter) not to serve us any human flesh. He replied quite calmly that there was none left—the last had been eaten five days before.

Presently the meal was carried in—baked pork, an immense fish of the mullet kind, yams, taro, and an enormous quantity of sugar-cane and pineapples. The women did not eat with us, but sat apart. Our friend, whose name was Darro, had six wives, four of whom were present He had also a number of female slaves, taken from an island in Vitiaz Straits. These were rather light-skinned, and some quite good-looking, and all wore girdles of dracaena leaves. Neither Darro nor his people smoked, though they knew the use of pipe and tobacco, and at one time had been given both by a sandal-wooding ship. I promised to give them a present of a ten pound case of plug tobacco, and a gross of clay pipes—I was thinking of "recruits". I sent off to the brig for the present, and when it arrived, and I had given nearly one hundred and fifty cannibals a pipe and a plug of tobacco each, the interpreter and I got to work on Darro on the subject of our mission.

Alas! He would not entertain the idea of any of his fighting men going to an unknown land for three years. We could have perhaps a score or so of women—widows or slaves. Would that suit us? No, I said. We did not want single women or widows. There must be a man to each woman.

Darro was "very sorry" (so was I). But perhaps I and the captain would accept two of the youngest of his female slaves as a token of his regard for us?

Morel and I consulted, and then we asked Darro if he could not give us two slave couples—two men and two women who would be willing to marry, and also willing to go to a country and work, a country where they would be well treated, and paid for their labour. And at the end of three years they would be brought back to Darro, if they so desired.

Darro smiled and gave some orders, and two strapping young men and two pleasant-faced young women were brought for my inspection. All were smiling, and I felt that a bishop and a brass band or surpliced choristers ought to have been present.

These were the only "blackbirds" we secured on that voyage from Rook Island; but three and a half years later, when these two couples returned to Darro, with a "vast" wealth of trade goods, estimated at "trade" prices at seventy-two pounds, Darro never refused to let some of his young men "recruit" for Fiji or Samoa.

I never saw him again, but he sent messages to me by other "blackbirding" vessels, saying that he would like me to come and stay with him.

And, although he had told me that he had personally partaken of the flesh of over ninety men, I shall always remember him as a very gentlemanly man, courteous, hospitable and friendly, and who was horror-struck when my interpreter told him that in England cousins intermarried.

"That is a horrid, an unutterable thing. It is inconceivable to us. It is vile, wicked and shameless. How can you clever white men do such disgusting things?"

Darro and his savage people knew the terrors of the abuse of the laws of consanguinity.


A few years ago I was written to by an English lady, living in the Midlands, asking me if I could assist her nephew—a young man of three and twenty years of age—towards obtaining a berth as Government agent or as "recruiter" on a Queensland vessel employed in the Kanaka labour trade.

"I am told that it is a very gentlemanly employment, that many of those engaged in it are, or have been, naval officers and have a recognised status in society. Also that the work is really nothing—merely the supervision of coloured men going to the Queensland plantations. The climate is, I am told, delightful, and would suit Walter, whose lungs, as you know, are weak. Is the salary large?" etc.

I had to write and disillusionise the lady, and as I wrote I recalled one of my experiences in the Kanaka labour trade.

Early in the seventies, I was in Noumea, New Caledonia, looking for a berth as recruiter in the Kanaka labour trade; but there were many older and much more experienced men than myself engaged on the same quest, and my efforts were in vain.

One morning, however, I met a Captain Poore, who was the owner and master of a small vessel, just about to leave Noumea on a trading voyage along the east coast of New Guinea, and among the islands between Astrolabe Bay and the West Cape of New Britain. He did not want a supercargo; but said that he would be very glad if I would join him, and if the voyage was a success he would pay me for such help as I might be able to render him. I accepted his offer, and in a few days we left Noumea.

Poore and I were soon on very friendly terms. He was a man of vast experience in the South Seas, and, except that he was subject to occasional violent outbursts of temper when anything went wrong, was an easy man to get on with, and a pleasant comrade.

The mate was the only other European on board, besides the captain and myself, all the crew, including the boatswain, being either Polynesians or Melanesians. The whole ten of them were fairly good seamen and worked well.

A few days after leaving Noumea, Poore took me into his confidence, and told me that, although he certainly intended to make a trading and recruiting voyage, he had another object in view, and that was to satisfy himself as to the location of some immense copper deposits that had been discovered on Rook Island—midway between New Britain and New Guinea—by some shipwrecked seamen.

Twenty-two days out from Noumea, the Samana, as the schooner was named, anchored in a well-sheltered and densely-wooded little bay on the east side of Rook Island. The place was uninhabited, though, far back, from the lofty mountains of the interior, we could see several columns of smoke arising, showing the position of mountaineer villages.

It was then ten o'clock in the morning, and Poore, feeling certain that in this part of the coast there were no native villages, determined to go ashore, and do a little prospecting. (I must mention that, owing to light weather and calms, we had been obliged to anchor where we had to avoid being drifted on shore by the fierce currents, which everywhere sweep and eddy around Rook Island, and that we were quite twenty miles from the place where the copper lode had been discovered.)

Taking with us two of the native seamen, Poore and I set off on shore shortly after ten o'clock, and landed on a rough, shingly beach. The extent of littoral on this part of the island was very small, a bold lofty chain of mountains coming down to within a mile of the sea, and running parallel with the coast as far as we could see. The vegetation was dense, and in some places came down to the water's edge, and although the country showed a tropical luxuriance of beauty about the seashore, the dark, gloomy, and silent mountain valleys which everywhere opened up from the coast, gave it a repellent appearance in general.

Leaving the natives (who were armed with rifles and tomahawks) in charge of the boat, and telling them to pull along the shore and stop when we stopped, Poore and I set out to walk.

My companion was armed with a Henry-Winchester carbine, and I with a sixteen-bore breech-loading shotgun and a tomahawk. I had brought the gun instead of a rifle, feeling sure that I could get some cockatoos or pigeons on our way back, for we had heard and seen many flying about as soon as we had anchored. At the last moment I put into my canvas game bag four round bullet cartridges, as Poore said there were many wild pigs on the island.

On rounding the eastern point of the bay we were delighted to come across a beautiful beach of hard white sand, fringed with coco-nut palms, and beyond was a considerable stretch of open park-like country. Just as Poore and I were setting off inland to examine the base of a spur about a mile distant, one of the men said he could see the mouth of a river farther on along the beach.

This changed our plans, and sending the boat on ahead, we kept to the beach, and soon reached the river—or rather creek. It was narrow but deep, the boat entered it easily and went up it for a mile, we walking along the bank, which was free of undergrowth, but covered with high, coarse, reed-like grass. Then the boat's progress was barred by a huge fallen tree, which spanned the stream. Here we spelled for half an hour, and had something to eat, and then again Poore and I set out, following the upward course of the creek. Finding it was leading us away from the spur we wished to examine, we stopped to decide what to do, and then heard the sound of two gun-shots in quick succession, coming from the direction of the place in which the boat was lying. We were at once filled with alarm, knowing that the men must be in danger of some sort, and that neither of them could have fired at a wild pig, no matter how tempting a shot it offered, for we had told them not to do so.

"Perhaps they have fallen foul of an alligator," said Poore, "all the creeks on Rook Island are full of them. Come along, and let us see what is wrong."

Running through the open, timber country, and then through the long grass on the banks of the stream, we had reached about half-way to the boat when we heard a savage yell—or rather yells—for it seemed to come from a hundred throats, and in an instant we both felt sure that the boat had been attacked.

Madly forcing our way through the infernal reed-like grass, which every now and then caused us to trip and fall, we had just reached a bend of the creek, which gave us a clear sight of its course for about three hundred yards, when Poore tripped over a fallen tree branch; I fell on the top of him, and my face struck his upturned right foot with such violence that the blood poured from my nose in a torrent, and for half a minute I was stunned.

"Good God, look at that!" cried Poore, pointing down stream.

Crossing a shallow part of the creek were a party of sixty or seventy savages, all armed with spears and clubs. Four of them who were leading were carrying on poles from their shoulders the naked and headless bodies of our two unfortunate sailors, and the decapitated heads were in either hand of an enormously fat man, who from his many shell armlets and other adornments was evidently the leader. So close were they—less than fifty yards—that we easily recognised one of the bodies by its light yellow skin as that of Anteru (Andrew), a native of Rotumah, and one of the best men we had on the Samana.

Before I could stay his hand and point out the folly of it, Poore stood up and shot the fat savage through the stomach, and I saw the blood spurt from his side, as the heavy, flat-nosed bullet ploughed its way clean through the man, who, still clutching the two heads in his ensanguined hands, stood upright for a few seconds, and then fell with a splash into the stream.

Yells of rage and astonishment came from the savages, as Poore, now wild with fury, began to fire at them indiscriminately, until the magazine of his rifle was emptied; but he was so excited that only two or three of them were hit. Then his senses came back to him.

"Quick, into the creek, and over to the other side, or they'll cut us off."

We clambered down the bank into the water, and then, by some mischance, Poore, who was a bad swimmer, dropped his rifle, and began uttering the most fearful oaths, when I told him that it was no use my trying to dive for it, unless he could hold my shot gun, which I was carrying in my left hand. We had scarcely reached the opposite bank, when thin, slender spears began to whizz about us, and one, no thicker than a lead pencil, caught Poore in the cheek, obliquely, and its point came out quite a yard from where it had entered, and literally pinned him to the ground.

I have heard some very strong language in the South Seas, but I have never heard anything so awful as that of Poore when I drew out the spear, and we started to run for our lives down the opposite bank of the creek.

For some minutes we panted along through the long grass, hearing nothing; and then, as we came to an open spot and stopped to gain breath, we were assailed by a shower of spears from the other side of the creek, and Poore was again hit—a spear ripping open the flesh between the forefinger and thumb of his left hand. He seized my gun, and fired both barrels into the long grass on the other side, and wild yells showed that some of our pursuers were at least damaged by the heavy No. I shot intended for cockatoos.

Then all became silent, and we again started, taking all available cover, and hoping we were not pursued.

We were mistaken, for presently we caught sight of a score of our enemies a hundred yards ahead, running at top speed, evidently intending to cross lower down and cut us off, or else secure the boat Poore took two quick shots at them, but they were too far off, and gave us a yell of derision. Putting my hand into the game bag to get out two cartridges, I was horrified to find it empty, every one had fallen out; my companion used more lurid language, and we pressed on. At last we reached the boat, and found her floating bottom up—the natives had been too quick for us.

To have attempted to right her would have meant our being speared by the savages, who, of course, were watching our every movement. There was nothing else to do but to keep on, cross the mouth of the creek, and make for the ship.

Scarcely had we run fifty yards when we saw the grass on the other side move—the natives were keeping up the chase. Another ten minutes brought us to the mouth of the stream, and then to our great joy we saw that the tide had ebbed, and that right before us was a stretch of bare sand, extending out half a mile. As we emerged into the open we saw our pursuers standing on the opposite bank. Poore pointed his empty gun at them, and they at once vanished.

We stopped five minutes to gain breath, and then kept straight on across the sand, till we sighted the schooner. We were seen almost at once, and a boat was quickly manned and sent to us, and in a quarter of an hour we were on board again.

That was one of the joys of the "gentlemanly" employment of "recruiting" in the South Seas.


A short time ago I came across in a daily newspaper the narrative of a traveller in the South Seas full of illuminating remarks on the ease with which any one can now acquire a fortune in the Pacific Islands; it afforded me considerable reflection, mixed with a keen regret that I had squandered over a quarter of a century of my life in the most stupid manner, by ignoring the golden opportunities that must have been jostling me wherever I went. The articles were very cleverly penned, and really made very pretty reading—so pretty, in fact, that I was moved to briefly narrate my experience of the subject in the columns of the Westminster Gazette with the result that many a weary, struggling trader in the Solomon Islands, the New Hebrides and other groups of islands in the South Pacific rose up and called me blessed when they read my article, for I sent five and twenty copies of the paper to as many traders. Others doubtless obtained the journal from the haughty brass-bound pursers (there are no "supercargoes" now) of the Sydney and Auckland steamers. For the steamers, with their high-collared, clerkly pursers, have supplanted for good the trim schooners, with their brown-faced, pyjama-clad supercargoes, and the romance of the South Seas has gone. But it has not gone in the imagination of some people.

I must mention that my copies of the Westminster Gazette crossed no less than nine letters written to me by old friends and comrades from various islands in the Pacific, asking me to do what I had done—put the true condition of affairs in Polynesia before the public, and help to keep unsuitable and moneyless men from going out to the South Sea Islands to starve. For they had read the illuminating series of articles to which I refer, and felt very savage.

In a cabin-trunk of mine I have some hundreds of letters, written to me during the past ten years by people from all parts of the world, who wanted to go to the South Seas and lead an idyllic life and make fortunes, and wished me to show them how to go about it. Many of these letters are amusing, some are pathetic; some, which were so obviously insane, I did not answer. The rest I did. I cannot reproduce them in print. I am keeping them to read to my friends in heaven. Even an old ex-South Sea trader may get there—if he can dodge the other place. Quien sabe?

Twenty-one of these letters reached me in France during February, March and April of last year. They were written by men and women who had been reading the above-mentioned series of brilliant articles. (I regret to state that fourteen only had a penny stamp thereon, and I had to pay four francs postal dues.) The articles were, as I have said, very charmingly written, especially the descriptive passages. But nearly every person that the "Special Commissioner" met in the South Seas seems to have been very energetically and wickedly employed in "pulling the 'Special Commissioner's leg".

The late Lord Pembroke described two classes of people—"those who know and don't write, and those who write and don't know".

Let me cull a few only of the statements in one of the articles entitled "The Trader's Prospects". It is an article so nicely written that it is hard to shake off the glamour of it and get to facts. It says:—

"The salaries paid by a big Australian firm to its traders may run from L50 to L200 a year, with board (that is, the run of the store) and a house."

There are possibly fifty men in the Pacific Islands who are receiving L200 a year from trading firms. Five pounds per month, with a specified ration list, and 5 per cent, commission on his sales is the usual thing—and has been so for the past fifteen years. As for taking "the run of the store," he would be quickly asked to take another run. The trader who works for a firm has a struggle to exist.


"In the Solomons and New Hebrides you can start trading on a capital of L100 or so, and make cent, per cent, on island produce."

A man would want at least L500 to L600 to start even in the smallest way. Here are some of his requirements, which he must buy before leaving Sydney or Auckland to start as an independent trader in Melanesia or Polynesia: Trade goods, L400; provisions for twelve months, L100; boat with all gear, from L25 to L60; tools, firearms, etc, L15 to L30. Then there is passage money, L15 to L20; freight on his goods, say L40. If he lands anywhere in Polynesia—Samoa, Tonga, Cook's Islands, or elsewhere—he will have Customs duties to pay, house rent, and a trading licence. And everywhere he will find keen competition and measly profits, unless he lives like a Chinaman on rice and fish.

"In British New Guinea you can dig gold in hand-fuls out of the mangrove swamps" (O ye gods!) "and prospect for any other mineral you may choose."

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