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The Ebbing Of The Tide - South Sea Stories - 1896
by Louis Becke
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"Aye," answered a skinny old hag, carrying a basket of water-bottles, "'tis she, and the other is Terere. I lived with them once at Tutuila. She who is now made a wife and looketh so good and holy went away but a year ago with the captain of a ship—a pig of a German—and now, look you, she marrieth an Englishman."

The other natives laughed, and then an ugly fat-faced girl with lime-covered head and painted cheeks called out "Papatetele!" and Terere turned round and cursed them in good English.

"What does that mean?" said a white man to Flash Harry from Saleimoa—a man full of island lore.

"Why, it means as the bride isn't all as she purfesses to be. Them pretty soft-lookin' ones like her seldom is, in Samoa or anywhere else."

*****

The day following the stock-taking Etheridge went to Apia—and never came back.

One night a native tapped gently at Lawson's window and handed him a note. As he read Terere with a sleepy yawn awoke, and, stretching one rounded arm out at full length, let it fall lazily on the mat-bed.

"What is it, Harry?"

"Get up, d——— you! Etheridge is dead, and I'm going to take Lalia up to Apia as quick as I can. Why the h—— couldn't he die here?"

A rapid vision of unlimited presents from the rich young widow passed through the mind of Terere—to whom the relations that had formerly existed between her and Lawson were well known—as she and he sped along in his boat to Etheridge's. Lalia received the news with much equanimity and a few tears, and then leaving Terere in charge, she got into the boat and rolled a cigarette. Lawson was in feverish haste. He was afraid the consul would be down and baulk his rapid but carefully arranged scheme. At Safune he sent his crew of two men ashore to his house for a breaker of water, and then once they were out of sight he pushed off and left them. They were in the way and might spoil everything. The breeze was strong, and that night Lawson and Lalia, instead of being out in the open sea beating up to Apia, were ashore in the sitting-room of the white missionary house on the other side of Savaii.

"I am indeed glad to make your acquaintance, Mr. Lawson. Your honourable impulse deserves commendation. I have always regretted the fact that a man like you whose reputation as an educated and intelligent person far above that of most traders here is not unknown to me"—Lawson smiled sweetly—"should not alone set at defiance the teaching of Holy Writ, but tacitly mock at our efforts to inculcate a higher code of morality in these beautiful islands. Ere long I trust I may make the acquaintance of your brother-in-law, Mr. Etheridge, and his wife."

Lawson smiled affably, and a slight tinge suffused the creamy cheek of Lalia.

"And now, Mr. Lawson, as you are so very anxious to get back home I will not delay. Here are my wife and my native assistant as witnesses. Stand up, please."

*****

"Get in, you little beast," said Lawson, as he bundled Lalia into the boat and started back home, "and don't fall overboard. I don't want to lose the Best Asset in that Fool's Estate."

*****

When the consul, a week later, came down to take possession of Etheridge's "estate," he called in at Safune to ask Lawson to come and help him to take an inventory. Terere met him with a languid smile, and, too lazy perhaps to speak English, answered his questions in Samoan.

"He's married and gone," she said.

"Married? Aren't you Mrs. Lawson?" said the bewildered consul, in English.

"Not now, sir; my sister is. Will you take me to Apia in your boat, please?"

And that is how Lawson, the papalagi mativa (poor white) and "the best-hearted fellow in the world," became a mau aha—a man of riches, and went, with the Best Asset in Etheridge's estate, the calm-eyed Lalia, to start a hotel in—well, no matter where.



DESCHARD OF ONEAKA



I.

Among the Gilbert Group—that chain of low-lying sandy atolls annexed by the British Government two years ago—there is one island that may be said to be both fertile and beautiful; yet for all this Kuria—for so it is called by the natives of the group generally—has remained almost uninhabited for the past forty years. Together with the lagoon island of Aranuka, from which it is distant about six miles, it belongs to the present King of Apamama, a large and densely populated atoll situated half a degree to the eastward. Thirty years ago, however, the grandfather of the lad who is now the nominal ruler of Apamama had cause to quarrel with the Kurians, and settled the dispute by invading their island and utterly destroying them, root and branch. To-day it is tenanted only by the young king's slaves.

Of all the many groups and archipelagoes that stud the North and South Pacific from the rocky, jungle-covered Bonins to Juan Fernandez, the islands of the Gilbert Group are—save for this Kuria—the most uninviting and monotonous in appearance. They are for the most part but narrow strips of sandy soil, densely clothed, it is true, with countless thousands of stately cocoanut palms varied with groves of pan-danus and occasional patches of stunted scrub, but flat and unpleasing to the eye. Seldom exceeding two miles in width—although, as is the case at Drummond's Island, or Taputeouea, they sometimes reach forty in the length of their sweeping curve—but few present a continuous and unbroken stretch of land, for the greater number consist of perhaps two or three score of small islands, divided only by narrow and shallow channels, through which at high water the tide sweeps in from the ocean to the calm waters of the lagoons with amazing velocity. These strips of land, whether broken or continuous, form the eastern or windward boundaries of the lagoons; on the western or lee side lie barrier reefs, between whose jagged coral walls there are, at intervals widely apart, passages sufficiently deep for a thousand-ton ship to pass through in safety, and anchor in the transparent depths of the lagoon within its protecting arms.

*****

Years ago, in the days when the whaleships from Nantucket, and Salem, and Martha's Vineyard, and New Bedford cruised northward towards the cold seas of Japan and Tchantar Bay, and the smoky glare of their tryworks lit up the ocean at night, the Gilberts were a wild place, and many a murderous scene was enacted on white beach and shady palm grove. Time after time some whaler, lying to in fancied security outside the passage of a lagoon, with half her crew ashore intoxicated with sour toddy, and the other half on board unsuspicious of danger, would be attacked by the ferocious brown people. Swimming off at night-time, with knives held between their teeth, a desperate attempt would be made to cut off the ship. Sometimes the attempt succeeded; and then canoe after canoe would put out from the shore, and the wild people, swarming up the ship's side, would tramp about her ensanguined decks and into the cabins seeking for plunder and fiery New England rum. Then, after she had been gutted of everything of value to her captors, as the last canoe pushed off, smoke and then flames would arise, and the burning ship would drift away with the westerly current, and the tragedy of her fate, save to the natives of the island, and perhaps some renegade white man who had stirred them to the deed, would never be known.

*****

In those days—long ere the advent of the first missionary to the isolated equatorial atolls of Polynesia and Melanesia—there were many white men scattered throughout the various islands of the Ellice, Gilbert, and Marshall groups. Men, these, with a past that they cared not to speak of to the few strangers they might chance to meet in their savage retreats. Many were escaped convicts from Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales, living, not in dread of their wild native associates, but in secret terror of recapture by a man-of-war and a return to the horrors of that dreadful past. Casting away the garb of civilisation and tying around their loins the airiri or grass girdle of the Gilbert Islanders, they soon became in appearance, manners, language, and thoughts pure natives. For them the outside world meant a life of degradation, possibly a shameful death. And as the years went by and the bitter memories of the black days of old, resonant with the clank of fetters and the warder's harsh cry, became dulled and faint, so died away that once for-ever-haunting fear of discovery and recapture. In Teake, the bronzed, half-naked savage chief of Maiana, or Mesi, the desperate leader of the natives that cut off the barque Addie Passmore at Marakei, the identity of such men as "Nuggety" Jack West and Macy O'Shea, once of Van Diemen's Land or Norfolk Island, was lost for ever.



II.

On Kuria, the one beautiful island of the Gilberts, there lived four such white men as those I speak of. Whence they came they alone knew. Two of them—a Portuguese deserter from a whaler and a man named Corton—had been some years on the island when they were joined by two others who came over from Apamama in a boat. One was called Tamu (Tom) by the natives, and from the ease with which he spoke the Gilbert Island dialect and his familiarity with native customs, he had plainly lived many years among the natives; the other was a tall, dark-skinned, and morose-looking man of nearly fifty. He was known as Hari to the natives—once, in that outer world from which some crime had dissevered him for ever, he was Henry Deschard.

Although not familiar with either the language or the customs of the ferocious inhabitants of the Gilbert Group, it was soon seen by the ease with which he acquired both that Hari had spent long years roaming about the islands of the Pacific. In colour he was darker than the Kurians themselves; in his love of the bloodshed and slaughter that so often ran riot in native quarrels he surpassed even the fiercest native; and as he eagerly espoused the cause of any Kurian chief who sought his aid he rapidly became a man of note on the island, and dreaded by the natives elsewhere in the group.

There were then over a thousand people living on Kuria—or rather, on Kuria and Oneaka, for the island is divided by one of those narrow channels before mentioned; and at Oneaka Tamu and Deschard lived, while the Portuguese and the man Corton had long held joint sway with the native chief of Kuria.

During the time the four renegades had lived on the island two vessels that had touched there had had narrow escapes from seizure by the natives. The first of these, a small Hawaiian whaling brig, was attacked when she was lying becalmed between Kuria and Aranuka. A breeze springing up, she escaped after the loss of a boat's, crew, who were entrapped on the latter island. In this affair Deschard and Tamu had taken part; in the next—an attempt to capture a sandalwooding barque bound to China—he was leader, with Corton as his associate. The sandalwooder, however, carried a large and well-armed crew, and the treacherous surprise so elaborately planned came to ignominious failure. Deschard accused his fellow-beachcomber of cowardice at a critical moment. The two men became bitter enemies, and for years never spoke to each other.



III.

But one afternoon a sail was sighted standing in for the island, and in their hateful bond of villainy the two men became reconciled, and agreed with Pedro and Tamu and some hundreds of natives to try to decoy the vessel to an anchor and cut her off. The beachcombers, who were tired of living on Kuria, were anxious to get away; the natives desired the plunder to be obtained from the prize. A compact was then made that the ship, after the natives had done with her, was not to be burnt, but was to be handed over to the white men, who were to lead the enterprise.

*****

Sailing slowly along till she came within a mile of the reef, the vessel hove to and lowered a boat. She was a large brigantine, and the murderous beings who watched her from the shore saw with cruel pleasure that she did not appear to carry a large crew.

It had been agreed upon that Corton, who had special aptitude for such work, should meet the boat and endeavour to lure the crew into the interior, under the promise of giving them a quantity of fresh-water fish from the artificial ponds belonging to the chief, while Deschard and the other two, with their body of native allies, should remain at the village on Oneaka, and at the proper moment attack the ship.

As the boat drew near, the officer who was in charge saw that although there were numbers of natives clustered together on the beach, the greater portion were women and children. He had with him five men, all armed with muskets and cutlasses, and although extremely anxious to avoid a collision, he was not at all alarmed. The natives meanwhile preserved a passive attitude, and when the men in the boat, at a word from the officer, stopped rowing, backed her in stern first, and then lay on their oars, they nearly all sat down on the sand and waited for him to speak.

Standing up in the boat, the officer hailed—

"Hallo there, ashore! Any white men living here?"

For a minute or so there was no answer, and the eyes of the natives turned in the direction of one of their number who kept well in the background.

Again the seaman hailed, and then a man, seemingly a native, stout and muscular, with hair felling down in thick masses upon his reddish-brown shoulders, walked slowly out from the others, and folding his brawny arms across his naked chest, he answered—

"Yes; there's some white men here."

The officer, who was the mate of the brigantine, then spoke for a few minutes to a young man who pulled bow oar, and who from his dress was not one of the crew, and said finally, "Well, let us make sure that there is no danger first, Maurice."

The young man nodded, and then the mate addressed the seeming native again:

"There's a young fellow here wants to come ashore; he wants to see one of the white men here. Can he come ashore?"

"Of course he can. D'ye think we're a lot o' cannibals here? I'm a white man myself," and he laughed coarsely; then added quickly, "Who does he want to see?"

The man who pulled the bow oar sprang to his feet.

"I want to see Henry Deschard!"

"Do you?" was the sneering response. "Well, I don't know as you can. This isn't his day at-home like; besides that, he's a good long way from here just now."

"I've got good news for him," urged the man called Maurice.

The beachcomber meditated a few seconds; then he walked down to the boat.

"Look here," he said, "I'm telling the exac' truth. Deschard's place is a long way from here, in the bush too, so you can't go there in the boat; but look here, why can't you chaps come along with me? I'll show you the way, and you'll have a good look at the island. There's nothin' to be afraid of, I can tell you. Why, these natives is that scared of all them guns there that you won't see 'em for dust when you come with me; an' the chief says as you chaps can drag one of his fish-ponds."

The mate was tempted; but his orders were to allow only the man Maurice to land, and to make haste back as soon as his mission was accomplished. Shaking his head to the renegade's wily suggestion, he, however, told Maurice that he could go and endeavour to communicate with Deschard. In the meantime he would return to the ship, and tell the captain—"and the other" (these last words with a look full of meaning at the young man) that everything was going on all right.

Foiled in his plan of inducing all the men to come ashore, Corton assumed a careless manner, and told Maurice that he was still willing to conduct him to Deschard, but that he would not be able to return to the ship that night, as the distance was too great.

The mate was agreeable to this, and bidding the beachcomber and his victim good-day he returned to the ship.

Holding the young man's hand in his, the burly renegade passed through the crowd of silent natives, and spoke to them in their own tongue.

"Hide well thy spears and clubs, my children; 'tis not yet time to act."

Still clasping the hand of his companion, he led the way through the native town, and then into the narrow bush track that led to Oneaka, and in another five minutes they were alone, or apparently so, for nought could be heard in the fast gathering darkness but their own footsteps as they trod the leafy path, and the sound of the breaching surf long miles away.

Suddenly the beachcomber stopped, and in a harsh voice said—

"What is the good news for Deschard?"

"That I cannot tell you," answered the stripling, firmly, though the grim visage, tattooed body, and now threatening aspect of his questioner might well have intimidated even a bolder man, and instinctively he thrust his hand into the bosom of his shirt and grasped a letter he carried there.

"Then neither shall Deschard know it," said the man savagely, and throwing himself upon the young man he bore him to the ground, while shadowy, naked figures glided out from the blackness of the forest and bound and gagged him without a sound. Then carrying him away from the path the natives placed him, without roughness, under the shelter of an empty house, and then left him.

The agony of mind endured by the helpless prisoner may be imagined when, unable to speak or move, he saw the beachcomber and his savage followers vanish into the darkness; for the letter which he carried had been written only a few hours before by the wife of the man Deschard, telling him of her loving quest, and of her and her children's presence on board the brigantine.



IV.

At daylight next morning some native women, passing by the deserted house on their way to work in the puraka plantations of Oneaka, saw the figure of the messenger lying dead. One of the women, named Niapo, in placing her hand upon his bosom to feel if he yet breathed, found the letter which had cost him his life. For nearly twenty years she kept possession of it, doubtless from some superstitious motive, and then it was bought from her by a white trader from Apamama, named Randall, by whom it was sent to the Rev. Mr. Damon, the "Sailors' Friend," a well-known missionary in Honolulu. This was the letter:—

My Dear Husband,—It is nearly three years since I got your letter, but I dared not risk writing to you, even if I had known of a ship leaving for the South Seas or the whale fishery. None of the sandalwooding people in Sydney seemed even to know the name of this island (Courier?). My dear husband, I have enough money now, thank God, to end all our troubles. Your letter was brought to me at Parramatta by a sailor—an American, I think. He gave it first to Maurice. I would have rewarded him, but before I could speak to him he had gone. For ten years I have waited and prayed to God to bring us together again. We came to Sydney in the same ship as Major D———, of the 77th. He has always been so good to us, and so has his wife. Nell is sixteen now, Laura eighteen. God grant that I will see you in a few hours. The captain says that he will land us all at one of the places in the Dutch East Indies. I have paid him L100, and am to pay him L100 when you are safely on board. I have been so miserable for the past year, as Major D——— had heard that a man-of-war was searching the islands, and I was in such terrible fear that we would never meet again. Come quickly, and God bless you, my dear husband. Maurice insisted and begged to be allowed to take this to you. He is nineteen years old now, but will not live long—has been a faithful and good lad. Laura is eighteen, and Nell nearly sixteen now. We are now close to Courier,{*} and should see you ere long.—Your loving and now joyful wife,—Anna Deschard.

* The native pronunciation of Kuria is like "Courier."— L.B.

*****

In the big maniapa or council house, on Oneaka, two hundred armed and naked savages were sitting awaiting the arrival of Corton and his warriors from Kuria. A little apart from the muttering, excited natives, and seated together, were the man Deschard and the two other beachcombers, Pedro and Tamu.

As Corton and his men filed across the gravelled pathway that led to the maniapa Deschard, followed by the two other white men, at once came out, and the former, with a fierce curse, demanded of Corton what had kept him.

"Couldn't manage to get them ashore," answered the other, sulkily. Then he proceeded to impart the information he had gained as to the ship, her crew, and armament.

"Nine men and one native boy!" said Deschard, contemptuously. He was a tall, lean-looking, black-bearded man, with even a more terrifying and savage appearance than any of his ruffianly partners in crime, tattooed as he was from the back of his neck to his heels in broad, perpendicular lines. As he fixed his keen eyes upon the countenance of Corton his white teeth showed in a cruel smile through his tangled, unkempt moustache.

Calling out the leading chiefs of the cutting-out party, the four desperadoes consulted with them upon their plan of action for the attack upon the brigantine, and then arranged for each man's work and share o the plunder. The white men were to have the ship, but everything that was of value to the natives and not necessary to the working of the ship was to be given to the natives. The muskets, powder, and ball were to be evenly divided between the whites and their allies.

Six of the native chiefs then swore by the names of their deified ancestors to faithfully observe the murderous compact. After the ship was taken they were to help the white men if the ship had anchored to get her under way again.

It was the intention of Deschard and his mates to make for the East Indies, where they would have no trouble in selling the ship to one of the native potentates of that archipelago.

*****

At daylight the brigantine, which had been kept under easy sail during the night, was seen to be about four miles from the land, and standing in. Shortly after, two or three canoes, with only a few men in each, put off from the beach at Oneaka and paddled out leisurely towards the ship. When about a mile or so from the shore they ceased paddling, and the captain of the brigantine saw by his glass that they were engaged in fishing.

This was merely a device to inspire confidence in those on board the ship.

In another hour the brigantine passed close to one of the canoes, and a native, well tutored by past masters in the art of treachery in the part he had to play, stood up in the canoe and held out a large fish, and in broken English said it was a present for the captain.

Pleased at such a friendly overture, the captain put the helm down for the canoe to come alongside. Handing the fish up over the side, the giver clambered up himself. The three other natives in the canoe then paddled quietly away as if under no alarm for the safety of their comrade, and resumed their fishing.

As the ship drew into the land the mate called the captain's attention to some eight or ten more natives who were swimming off to the ship.

"No danger from these people, sir," he remarked; "they are more frightened of us than we of them, I believe; and then look at the women and girls fishing on the reef. When the women come out like that, fearless and open-like, there isn't much to be afraid of."

One by one the natives who were swimming reached the ship, and apparently encouraged by the presence of the man who had boarded the ship from the fishing canoe, they eagerly clambered up on deck, and were soon on the most friendly terms with the crew, especially with one of their own colour, a half-caste native boy from the island of Ambrym, in the New Hebrides, named Maru.

This Maru was the sole survivor of the awful tragedy that followed, and appeared to be well acquainted with the captain's object in calling at Kuria—to pick up the man named Deschard. More than twenty years afterwards, when speaking of the events here narrated, his eyes filled with tears when he told of the "white lady and her two daughters" who were passengers, and who had sat on the poop the previous day awaiting the return of the mate's boat, and for tidings of him whom they had come so far to find.

*****



V.

The timid and respectful manner of the islanders had now so impressed the master of the brigantine that in a fatal moment he decided to anchor. Telling the mate to range the cable and clear away all ready, he descended to the cabin and tapped at the door of a state-room.

"I am going to anchor, Mrs. Deschard, but as there are a lot of rather curious-looking natives on board, you and the young ladies had better keep to your cabin."

The door opened, and a girl of seventeen or eighteen appeared, and, taking the captain's hand, she whispered—

"She is asleep, captain. She kept awake till daylight, hoping that my father would come in the night. Do you think that anything has happened either to him or Maurice?"

Maru, the Ambrym cabin-boy, said that the captain "patted the girl's hand" and told her to have no fear—that her father was on the island "sure enough," and that Maurice would return with him by breakfast time.

The brigantine anchored close in to the shore, between Kuria and Oneaka, and in a few minutes the long boat was lowered to proceed on shore and bring off Maurice and Deschard. Four hands got into her and then the mate. Just as he was about to cast off, the English-speaking native begged the captain to allow him and the rest of his countrymen to go ashore in the boat. Unsuspicious of treachery from unarmed natives, the captain consented, and they immediately slipped over the side into the boat.

There were thus but four white men left on board—the captain, second mate, two A.B.'s—and the half-caste boy Maru. Arms and ammunition, sufficient for treble the crew the brigantine carried, were on board. In those days the humblest merchant brig voyaging to the East Indies and China coast carried, in addition to small arms, either two or four guns (generally 6-pounders) in case of an attack by pirates. The brigantine was armed with two 6-pounders, and these, so the Ambry half-caste said, were still loaded with "bags of bullets" when she came to an anchor. Both of the guns were on the main deck amidships.

*****

Contrary to the wishes of the mate, who appeared to have the most unbounded confidence in the peace-ableness of the natives, the captain had insisted upon his boat's crew taking their arms with them.

No sooner had the boat left the vessel than the English-speaking native desired the mate to pull round to the east side of Oneaka, where, he said, the principal village was situated, and whither Maurice had gone to seek Deschard. It must be remembered that this native and those with him were all members of Corton's clientele at Kuria, and were therefore well aware of his treachery in seizing the messenger to Deschard, and that Maurice had been seized and bound the previous night.

In half an hour, when the boat was hidden from the view of those on board the brigantine, the natives, who outnumbered the whites two to one, at a signal from their leader suddenly threw themselves upon the unsuspecting seamen who were rowing and threw every one of them overboard. The mate, a small, active man, managed to draw a heavy horse pistol from his belt, but ere he could pull the trigger he was dealt a crushing blow with a musket stock. As he fell a native thrust him through and through with one of the seamen's cutlasses. As for the unfortunate seamen, they were killed one by one as they struggled in the water. That part of the fell work accomplished, the natives pulled the boat in towards Oneaka, where some ten or fifteen large native double-ended boats and canoes, all filled with savages lusting for blood and rapine, awaited them.

Deschard, a man of the most savage courage, was in command of some twenty or thirty of the most noted of the Oneaka warriors; and on learning from Tebarian (the native who spoke English and who was Corton's brown familiar) that the two guns were in the waist of the ship, he instructed his white comrades to follow in the wake of his boat, and, once they got alongside, board the ship wherever their fancy dictated.

There was a muttered E rairai! (Good!) of approval from the listening natives, and then in perfect silence and intuitive discipline the paddles struck the water, and the boat and canoes, with their naked, savage crews, sped away on their mission of death.



VI.

But, long before they imagined, they had been discovered, and their purpose divined from the ship. Maru, the keen-eyed half-caste, who was the first to notice their approach, knew from the manner in which the canoes kept together that something unusual was about to occur, and instantly called the captain. Glass in hand, the latter ascended the main rigging for a dozen ratlins or so and looked at the advancing flotilla. A very brief glance told him that the boy had good cause for alarm—the natives intended to cut off the ship, and the captain, whom Maru described as "an old man with a white head," at once set about to make such a defence as the critical state of affairs rendered possible.

Calling his men to him and giving them muskets, he posted two of them on top of the deckhouse, and with the remainder of his poor force stationed himself upon the poop. With a faint hope that they might yet be intimidated from attacking, he fired a musket shot in the direction of the leading boat. No notice was taken; so, descending to the main deck with his men, he ran out one of the 6-pounders and fired it. The roar of the heavily-charged gun was answered by a shrill yell of defiance from two hundred throats.

"Then," said Maru, "the captain go below and say good-bye to women and girls, and shut and lock cabin door."

Returning to the deck, the brave old man and his second mate and two men picked up their muskets and began to fire at the black mass of boats and men that were now well within range. As they fired, the boy Maru loaded spare muskets for them as fast as his trembling hands would permit.

Once only, as the brigantine swung to the current, the captain brought the gun on the port side to bear on them again, and fired; and again there came back the same appalling yell of defiance, for the shower of bullets only made a wide slat of foam a hundred yards short of the leading boat.

By the time the gun was reloaded the brigantine had swung round head to shore again; and then, as the despairing but courageous seamen were trying to drag it forward again, Deschard and his savages in the leading boat had gained the ship, and the wild figure of the all but naked beachcomber sprang on deck, followed by his own crew and nearly two hundred other fiends well-nigh as bloodthirsty and cruel as himself. Some two or three of them had been killed by the musketry fire from the ship, and their fellows needed no incentive from their white leaders to slay and spare not.

Abandoning the gun, the captain and his three men and the boy Maru succeeded in fighting their way through Deschard's savages and reaching one of the cabin doors, which, situated under the break of the high poop, opened to the main deck. Ere they could all gain the shelter of the cabin and secure the door the second mate and one of the seamen were cut down and ruthlessly slaughtered, and of the three that did, one—the remaining seaman—was mortally wounded and dying fast.

Even at such a moment as this, hardened and merciless as were their natures and blood-stained their past, it cannot be thought that had Deschard and his co-pirates known that white women were on board the brigantine they would have perpetrated their last dreadful deed. In his recital of the final scene in the cabin Maru spoke of the white woman and the two girls coming out of their state-room and kneeling down and praying with their arms clasped around each other's waists. Surely the sound of their dying prayers could never have been heard by Deschard when, in the native tongue, he called out for one of the guns to be run aft.

*****

"By and by," said Maru, "woman and girl come to captain and sailor-man Charlie and me and cry and say good-bye, and then captain he pray too. Then he get up and take cutlass, and sailor-man Charlie he take cutlass too, but he too weak and fall down; so captain say, 'Never mind, Charlie, you and me die now like men.'"

Then, cutlass in hand, the white-haired old skipper stood over the kneeling figures of the three women and waited for the end. And now the silence was broken by a rumbling sound, and then came a rush of naked feet along the deck.

"It is the gun," said Maru to the captain, and in an agony of terror he lifted up the hatch of the lazarette under the cabin table and jumped below. And then Deschard's voice was heard.

"Ta mai te ae" (Give me the fire).

A blinding flash, a deafening roar, and splintering and crashing of timber followed, and as the heavy pall of smoke lifted, Deschard and the others looked in at their bloody work, shuddered, and turned away.

Pedro, the Portuguese, his dark features turned to a ghastly pallor, was the only one of the four men who had courage enough to assist some of the natives in removing from the cabin the bodies of the three poor creatures who, but such a short time before, were full of happiness and hope. Deschard and the three others, after that one shuddering glance, had kept away from the vicinity of the shot-torn cabin.



VII.

The conditions of the cutting off of the brigantine were faithfully observed by the contracting parties, and long ere night fell the last boatload of plunder had been taken ashore. Tebarau, chief of Oneaka, had with his warriors helped to heave up anchor, and the vessel, under short canvas, was already a mile or two away from the land, and in his hiding-place in the gloomy lazarette the half-caste boy heard Corton and Deschard laying plans for the future.

Only these two were present in the cabin. Pedro was at the wheel, and Tamu somewhere on deck. Presently Corton brought out the dead captain's despatch box, which they had claimed from the natives, and the two began to examine the contents. There was a considerable amount of money in gold and silver, as well as the usual ship's papers, &c. Corton, who could scarcely read, passed these over to his companion, and then ran his fingers gloatingly through the heap of money before him.

With a hoarse, choking cry and horror-stricken eyes Deschard sprang to his feet, and with shaking hand held out a paper to Corton.

"My God! my God!" exclaimed the unhappy wretch, and sinking down again he buried his face in his hands.

Slowly and laboriously his fellow ex-convict read the document through to the end. It was an agreement to pay the captain of the brigantine the sum of one hundred pounds sterling provided that Henry Deschard was taken on board the brigantine at Woodle's Island (me name Kuria was known by to whaleships and others), the said sum to be increased to two hundred pounds "provided that Henry Deschard, myself, and my two daughters are landed at Batavia or any other East India port within sixty days from leaving the said island," and was signed Anna Deschard.

Staggering to his feet, the man sought in the ruined and plundered state-room for further evidence. Almost the first objects that he saw were two hanging pockets made of duck—evidently the work of some seaman—bearing upon them the names of "Helen" and "Laura."

*****

Peering up from his hiding-place in the lazarette, where he had lain hidden under a heap of old jute bagging and other debris, Maru saw Deschard return to the cabin and take up a loaded musket. Sitting in the captain's chair, and leaning back, he placed the muzzle to his throat and touched the trigger with his naked foot. As the loud report rang out, and the cabin filled with smoke, the boy crawled from his dark retreat, and, stepping over the prostrate figure of Deschard, he reached the deck and sprang overboard.

For hours the boy swam through the darkness towards the land, guided by the lights of the fires that in the Gilbert and other equatorial islands are kindled at night-time on every beach. He was picked up by a fishing party, and probably on account of his youth and exhausted condition his life was spared.

That night as he lay sleeping under a mat in the big maniapa on Kuria he was awakened by loud cries, and looking seaward he saw a bright glare away to the westward.

It was the brigantine on fire.

Launching their canoes, the natives went out to her, and were soon close enough to see that she was burning fiercely from for'ard to amidships, and that her three boats were all on board—two hanging to the davits and one on the deckhouse. But of the four beachcombers there was no sign.

Knowing well that no other ship had been near the island, and that therefore the white men could not have escaped by that means without being seen from the shore, the natives, surmising that they were in a drunken sleep, called loudly to them to awake; but only the roaring of the flames broke the silence of the ocean. Not daring to go nearer, the natives remained in the vicinity till the brigantine was nothing but a mastless, glowing mass of fire.

Towards midnight she sank; and the last of the beachcombers of Kuria sank with her.



NELL OF MULLINER'S CAMP

Mulliner's Camp, on the Hodgkinson, was the most hopeless-looking spot in the most God-forsaken piece of country in North Queensland, and Haughton, the amalgamator at the "Big Surprise" crushing-mill, as he turned wearily away from the battery-tables to look at his "retorting" fire, cursed silently but vigorously at his folly in staying there.

It was Saturday night, and the deadly melancholy of Mulliner's was, if possible, somewhat accentuated by the crash and rattle of the played-out old five-head battery, accompanied by the wheezings and groanings of its notoriously unreliable pumping-gear. Half a mile away from the decrepid old battery, and situated on the summit of an adder-infested ironstone ridge, the dozen or so of bark humpies that constituted Mulliner's Camp proper stood out clearly in the bright starlight in all their squat ugliness. From the extra display of light that shone from the doorway of the largest and most dilapidated-looking of the huts, Haughton knew that the Cooktown mailman had come in, and was shouting a drink for the landlord of the "Booming Nugget" before eating his supper of corned beef and damper and riding onward. For Mulliner's had gone to the bad altogether; even the beef that the mailman was eating came from a beast belonging to old Channing, of Calypso Downs, which had fallen down a shaft the previous night. Perhaps this matter of a fairly steady beef supply was the silver lining to the black cloud of misfortune that had so long enshrouded the spirits of the few remaining diggers that still clung tenaciously to the duffered-out mining camp, for whenever Mulliner's ran out of meat a beast of Channing's would always—by some mysterious dispensation of a kindly goldfield's Providence—fall down a shaft and suffer mortal injuries.

*****

Just at the present moment Haughton, as he threw a log or two into the retort furnace and watched the shower of sparks fly high up over the battery roof, was thinking of old Channing's daughter Kate, and the curious state of affairs existing between her and his partner Ballantyne. Briefly stated, this is what had occurred—that is, as far as Haughton knew.

Twelve months before, Mrs. Channing, a meek-faced, religious-minded lady, had succumbed to the worries of life under the combined and prostrating influences of a galvanised iron roof, an independent Chinaman cook, and a small powerful theological library. Immediately after her death, old Channing at once wrote to his daughter, then at school in Sydney, to come back "and cheer up his lonely life."

"Poor dad," said Kate, "I suppose he means for me to continue poor mother's feeble remonstrances to Chow Kum about giving away so much rations to the station gins, and to lend a hand when we muster for branding."

However, being a dutiful girl, she packed up and went.

On board the steamer she had met Ballantyne, who was returning to Queensland to resume his mining pursuits in the Palmer District. He knew old Channing well by reputation as a wealthy but eccentric old squatter, and in a few days he managed to make the girl fall violently in love with him. The day that the steamer reached Brisbane a telegram was brought on board for Miss Channing. It was from her father, telling her that Mrs. Lankey, of Mount Brindlebul, was coming up from Sydney in another week, and she was to wait in Brisbane for her. Then they were to travel northward together.

If there was one woman in the world she hated it was Mrs. Lankey, of Mount Brindlebul station, in the Gulf country, and Ballantyne, from whom she could hide nothing, saw his opportunity, and took it. He took her ashore, placed her in lodgings, went to an hotel himself, and the day before her future escort arrived, married her.

Perfectly satisfied with the cogent reasons he gave for secrecy in not apprising her father of their marriage, and shedding tears at the nonchalant manner in which he alluded to a honeymoon "some time in a year or so when the old man comes to know of it," pretty Kate Channing went back alone to her lodgings to await Mrs. Lankey and cogitate upon the peculiarly masterful way in which Ballantyne had wooed and won her.

Six months afterwards she got a letter from Ballantyne, telling her that he had bought Petermann's crushing mill at Mulliner's Camp, "so as to be near you, my pet," he said. At the same time he warned her of the folly of their attempting to meet, at least openly; but added that Haughton, his partner, who knew of his marriage, would visit Calypso Downs occasionally and give her news of him; also that they could correspond by the same medium.

Thus matters stood between them for some months, till Kate, wearying to meet the cold, calculating Ballantyne, adopted the device of riding over late every Sunday afternoon to Mulliner's for the mail, instead of her father sending over one of his black boys.

But instead of meeting her with kisses, Ballantyne terrified her with savage reproaches. It was madness, he said, for her to run such a risk. By and by he would be in a better position; at present he was as poor as a rat, and it was best for them to be apart. And Kate, thoroughly believing in him, bent to his will. She knew that her father was, as Ballantyne thoughtfully observed, such a violent-tempered old man that he would cast her off utterly unless he was "managed" properly when he learnt of her marriage.

"And don't come down this way from Mulliner's," added the careful Ballantyne. "There's an old mail tin, about a mile or so away from here, near the worked-out alluvial patch. You can always drop a letter in there for me. Haughton's such a good-natured ass that he'll play Mercury for you. Anyway, I'll send him to look in the tin every Sunday night."

That, so far, was the history of Mr. and Mrs. Ballantyne.

*****

"Another duffing crushing," muttered Haughton, as he stooped and placed his hand into the bucket of quicksilver under the nozzle of the retort pipe. "What between a reef that doesn't pan out five pennyweights to the ton, and a woman that pans out too rich, I'm sick of the cursed place."

As he stood up again, and, hands on his hips, looked moodily into the fire, a woman came down the rough path leading from Ballantyne's house to the battery. Walking quickly across the lighted space that intervened between the blacksmith's forge and the fire, she placed a billy of tea on the brick furnace-wall, and then turned her handsome black-browed, gipsy-like face up to his. This was Nell Lawson, the woman who had "panned out too rich."

"Here's your tea, Dick," she said.

"Thanks," he said, taking it from her, and then with a quick look over towards the battery, "I wish you wouldn't call me 'Dick' when any of the hands are about; Lawson might hear of it, and I don't want you to get into any trouble over me."

The black eyes sparkled, and the smooth olive-hued features flushed darkly in the firelight as she grasped his arm.

"You lie!" and she set her teeth. "A lot you care! Do you think I'm a silly? Do you think as I don't know that you want to sling me and don't know how to go about it?" and she grasped his arm savagely.

Haughton looked at her in gloomy silence for a few seconds. Standing there, face to face, they looked so alike in features—he wiry, muscular, black-bearded, and bronzed to the hue of an Arab, and she tall, dark-haired, with oval, passionate face—they might have been taken for brother and sister.

She let his arm free, and then, being only a working miner's wife, and possessing no handkerchief, whipped her apron to her eyes.

"You're a damned cur!" she said, chokingly. "If it hadn't ha' been for you I'd ha' gone along all right wi' Bob, and put up wi' livin' in this place; an' now———"

"Look here, Nell," said Haughton, drawing her away into the shadow of the forge, "I'm a cur, as you say; but I'd be a worse cur to keep on this way. You can't marry me, can you?"

"You used to talk about our boltin'—once" and she snapped out the last word.

Haughton tried to explain why the "bolting" so trenchantly referred to did not eventuate. He was stone-broke. Ballantyne was going to do his own amalgamating at the battery, and it would be cruel of him to ask her to share his fortunes. (Here he began to appreciate his leaning to morality.) If she was a single girl he would stay at Mulliner's and fight it out with bad luck for her sake; but they couldn't go on like this any more. And the people at Mulliner's were beginning to talk about them, &c, &c.

She heard him in silence, and then gave a short, jarring laugh—the laugh that ought to tell a man that he is no longer believed in—by a woman who has loved him.

"I know," she said, quietly, "you want to get clear o' me. You're took up with Kate Channing, the proper Miss Channing that rides over here o' Sundays to meet you on the sly."

At first he meant to undeceive her, then he thought, "What does it matter? I'll be away from here in a day or so, and after I've gone she'll find I'm not so base as she thought me, poor girl;" so, looking away from her so as to avoid the dangerous light that gleamed in her passionate eyes, he made the plunge.

"That's it, Nell. I'm hard up and desperate. If you were a free woman——"

She struck him in the mouth with her clenched hand—"I'll kill her first, Dick Haughton," and then left him.

*****

A mile or so out from the battery, on a seldom used track that led to an abandoned alluvial workings, a stained and weather-worn biscuit-tin had been nailed to an iron-bark tree. In the prosperous days of Mulliner's it had been placed there by the diggers as a receptacle for letters, and its location there saved the mailman a long detour to their camp. At present poor loving Kate Channing and Dick Haughton were the only persons who ever looked into it. After getting the station letters from the landlord of the "Booming Nugget," Kate would ride through the bush and come out on the track just opposite; then, bending down from her horse, she would peer eagerly into the tin to see if a letter had been left there for her. Generally there was not. So, with a sad, wistful look in her blue eyes, she would drop her own tenderly-worded letter in and ride away home.

Twice Nell Lawson had seen her passing over the ridge towards the old workings, and had wondered what had taken her so far off the road; and on each of these occasions she had seen Dick Haughton follow in the same direction shortly after. He was never away more than half an hour. The first time she simply wondered, the next she grew suspicious, and as she saw him returning went and stopped him. As she threw her arms around his neck she felt the rustling of a letter that lay loosely in the front of the dungaree jumper he always wore when at work. She said nothing, but determined to watch, and one day, with the bitterest hatred gathering at her heart, she saw Kate Channing ride up to the tin on the iron-bark, look carefully inside, and then drop in a letter. And as Nell Lawson could not read she let it lay there untouched. But from that hour murder lay in her passionate heart.

That evening, as she entered Bob Lawson's humpy, her husband, a big, heavy-featured man, looked up and saw the ghastly pallor of her face.

"Why, what's the matter wi' 'ee, Nell? You be lookin' quite sick-loike lately. Tell 'ee what, Nell, thee wants a cheange."

"Mulliner's be a dull pleace," she answered, mechanically.

"Aye, lass, dull as hell in a fog. Mebbe I'll take thee somewheres for a spell."

*****

For nearly another week she nursed her hatred and planned her revenge; and Haughton, as he saw the dark rings forming under her eyes, and the cold, listless manner as she went about her work, began to experience a higher phase of feeling for her than that of the mere passion which her beauty had first awakened in him long months before.

*****

It was five o'clock on Sunday afternoon. The fierce, blinding sun had just disappeared behind the hideous basalt range twenty miles away from the "Big Surprise," when Nell Lawson put on her white sun-hood and walked slowly towards the old alluvial workings. When well out of sight from any one, near the battery, she turned off towards the creek and made for a big Leichhardt tree that stood on the bank. Underneath it, and evidently waiting for her, was a black fellow, a truculent-looking runaway trooper named Barney.

"You got him that fellow Barney?" she asked, in a low voice.

"Yo ai," he replied, keeping one hand behind his back. "Where that plenty fellow money you yabber me vesterday?"

"Here," and she showed him some silver; "ten fellow shilling."

Barney grinned, took the money, and then handed her an old broken-handled crockery teapot, which, in place of a lid, was covered over with a strip of ti-tree bark, firmly secured to the bottom by a strip of dirty calico.

As soon as the black fellow had gone she picked up that which he had given her and walked quickly along the track till she reached the old mail tin. She stood awhile and listened. Not a sound disturbed the heated, oppressive silence. Placing the teapot on the ground, she lifted the stiff, creaking lid of the tin and pushed it well back. Then, taking up the teapot again, she placed one hand firmly upon the ti-tree bark covering the top, while with the other she unfastened the strip of rag that kept it in position. In another moment, grasping the broken spout in her left hand, she held it over the open tin, and, with a rapid motion, turned it upside down, and whipped away her right hand from the piece of bark.

Something fell heavily against the bottom of the tin, and in an instant she slammed down the lid, and threw the empty teapot in among the boulders, where it smashed to pieces. Then, an evil smile on her dark face, she placed her ear to the side of the tin and listened. A faint, creeping, crawling sound was all she heard. In another minute, with hand pressed tightly against her wildly beating heart, she fled homewards.

*****

"This will be my last ride over, dear Ted," was the beginning of the letter to Ballantyne that lay in Channing's bosom. "Father is very ill, and I cannot leave him. Do let me tell him, and ask his forgiveness; it is so miserable for me to keep up this deceit."

Darkness had set in by the time she had got the mail from the landlord of the "Booming Nugget," and turned her horse's head into the track that led over the ridge to the old workings.

*****

Two hours before daylight, Kate Channing's horse walked riderless up to the sliprails of Calypso Downs, and the stockman who had kept awake awaiting her return, went out to let his young mistress in.

"Got throwed somewhere, I suppose," he grumbled, after examining the horse. "This is a nice go. It's no use telling the old man about it, he's too sick to be worried just now, anyway."

Taking a black boy with him, and leading Kate's horse, he set out to look for her, expecting, unless she was hurt, to meet her somewhere between the station and Mulliner's Camp. Just as daylight broke, the black boy, who was leading, stopped.

"Young missus been tumble off horse here," and he pointed to where the scrubby undergrowth on one side of the track was crushed down and broken.

The stockman nodded. "Horse been shy I think it, Billy, at that old fellow post-office there?" and he pointed to the old mail tin, which was not ten feet from where Billy said she had fallen off.

"Go ahead, Billy," said the stockman, "I believe young missus no catch him horse again, and she walk along to Mulliner's."

"Yo ai," answered the black boy, and he started ahead. In a few minutes he stopped again with a puzzled look and pointed to Kate Channing's tracks.

"Young missus been walk about all same drunk."

"By jingo, she's got hurted, I fear," said the stockman. "Push ahead, Billy."

A hundred yards further on they found her dead, lying face downwards on the track.

Lifting her cold, stiffened body in his arms, the stockman carried his burden along to Ballantyne's house. Haughton met him at the door. Together they laid the still figure upon the sofa in the front room, and then while the stockman went for Nell Lawson, Haughton went to Ballantyne's bunk and awoke and told him. His mouth twitched nervously for a second or two, and then his hard, impassive nature asserted itself again.

*****

"'Tis a terrible thing this, Ballantyne," said Haughton, sympathetically, as they walked out together to see the place where she had been thrown.

"Yes," assented the other, "dreadful. Did you hear what Channing's black boy told me?"

"No!"

"He says that she has died from snake-bite. I believe him, too. I saw a boy die on the Etheridge from snake-bite, and he looked as she does now; besides that, there is not a scratch or bruise on her body, so she couldn't have received any hurt unless it was an internal one when she was thrown. Here's the place," and then he started back, for lying at the foot of the tree was the panting, trembling figure of Nell Lawson.

She had tried to get there before them to efface all traces of her deadly work.

"What are you doing here, Mrs. Lawson?" said Ballantyne, sharply; "we sent over for you; don't you know what has happened?"

The strange hysterical "yes" that issued from her pallid lips caused Ballantyne to turn his keen grey eyes upon her intently. Then something of the truth must have flashed across his mind, for he walked up to the tree and looked into the tin.

"Good God!" he said, "poor little woman!" and then he called to Haughton. "Come here, and see what killed her!"

Haughton looked, and a deadly horror chilled his blood: lying in the bottom of the tin was a thick, brownish-red death adder. It raised its hideous, flatted head for a moment, then lowered it, and lay there regarding them with its deadly eye.

"How did it get there?" he asked.

Ballantyne pointed to Nell Lawson, who now stood and leant against a tree for support.

Haughton sprang to her side and seized her hands.

"Are you a murderess, Nell? What had she done to you that you should take her innocent life? She was nothing to me—she was Ballantyne's wife."

She looked at him steadily, and her lips moved, then a shrill, horrible laugh burst forth, and she fell unconscious at his feet.

That day Haughton left Mulliner's Camp for ever.

*****

Perhaps this story should have another ending, and Nell Lawson have met with a just retribution. But, as is the case of many other women—and men—with natures such as hers, she did not. For when old Channing lay dying she nursed him tenderly to the last, and perhaps because of this, or for that he could never understand why blue-eyed Kate had never come back, he left her all he had, much to the wondering admiration of honest, dull-witted Bob, her husband, who almost immediately after the old man's death, when returning home one night from the "Booming Nugget," filled with a great peace of mind and a considerable quantity of bad rum, fell down a shaft and broke his neck, after the manner of one of old Channing's bullocks—and then she married Ballantyne.

Everything seems to come to him who waits—especially if he is systematic in his villainy, and has a confiding wife—as had Ballantyne in his first matrimonial venture.



AURIKI REEF

One evening, not long ago, an old island comrade and I sat on the verandah looking out upon the waters of Sydney Harbour, smoking and talking of the old wild days down there in the Marshall group, among the brown people who dwell on the white beaches under the shade of the swaying palms. And as we talked, the faces of those we had known came back one by one to our memories, and passed away.

*****

In front of us, with her tall, black spars cutting out clearly against the flood of moonlight, that lit up the waters of the quiet little bay, lay the old Wolverene—to both of us a silent reminder of one night not long ago, under far-off skies, when the old corvette sailed past our little, schooner, towering up above us, a cloud of spotless white canvas, as she gracefully rose and sank to the long sweep of the ocean swell.

*****

"Poor old Tierney," said my friend, alluding to the captain of that little schooner. "He's dead now; blew his hand off with dynamite down in the Gilbert Group—did you know?"

"Yes. What a good fellow he was! There are few like him left now. Aye, few indeed."

"By the way, did he ever tell you about Jack Lester and his little daughter, Tessa?"

"Something of it. You were with him in the Mana that trip, weren't you?"

*****

"Yes," said my friend, "Brayley and I both. He had been up to Honolulu, sick; and he came on board of the Mana and seemed so anxious to get back to his station on Maduro that Tierney—good old fellow as he was—told him to bring his traps aboard, and he would land him there on the way to Samoa. His wife had died five years before, and he had to leave his station in the care of his daughter, a child of twelve or so. Not that he fretted much about the station—it was only the little girl he thought of."

We smoked on in silence awhile. Then my friend resumed—

"I shall never forget that voyage. It was a night such as this that it happened—I mean that affair of the boat on Auriki Reef."

Fifteen years ago is a long time to try back, and although I had been told something of a strange incident that had occurred during one voyage of the Hawaiian schooner Mana (she is now a Sydney collier), I could not recall the circumstances.

So then my friend told me the story of the boat on Auriki Reef.

*****

"I have told you that Brayley was a man of few words. But sometimes as we paced the deck together at night, as the schooner skimmed over the seas before the lusty trade-wind, he would talk to me of his child; and it was easy for me to see that his love for her was the one hope of his life.

"'I am going back to England soon,' he said to me one night; 'there is but one of us left—my sister—and I would like to see her face again in this world. She is older than I—she is past fifty now.... And it is thirty years since I said good-bye to her... thirty years... thirty long years,' and then he turned his face away and looked out upon the sea. 'Just to see her, and then say good-bye again, for here I have cast my lot, and here I will die. If I were alone in the world perhaps I would take to civilisation again, but Tessa'—he shook his head—'she would wither and die in cold England.'"

*****

"Ten days out we ran in amongst the Radack Chain of the Marshall Islands, and the wind falling light, and being surrounded by reefs and low uninhabited coral atolls, Tierney brought to, and anchored for the night. You know the spot, about nine miles due west of Ailuk, and between two sandy atolls covered with a scant growth of cocoanuts and pan-danus palms.

"The ship being all right the hands turned in, leaving only one man on watch, while we three white men laid down aft to smoke and yarn. It was a bright moonlight night, as light as day—just such a night as this. Away on our port quarter, distant about a quarter of a mile, was a shallow patch on which the surf was breaking. It was merely one of those flat patches of coral that, rising up steep from the bottom, have deep water all round them, but are always covered on the surface by a depth of one or two fathoms—c mushrooms,' we call them, you know. Well, it was such a wonderfully clear night that that shallow patch, with the surf hissing and swirling over and around it, was as clearly visible to us on the schooner as if it had been under our counter, not ten feet away."

*****

"Covering up my face from the vivid moonlight with a soft native mat, I laid down, and after awhile dropped off to sleep.

"How long I had been asleep I did not know then—I learnt afterwards that it was nearly four hours—when I was awakened by a loud hail of 'Boat ahoy!' called out by some one on board.

"I was awake in an instant, and sprang to my feet.

"'What is it?' I said to Tierney and Brayley, who were standing close to me, looking out towards the breaking reef. 'Where is the boat that you are hailing?'

"Neither of them answered; Tierney, turning towards me for a second, made a curious half-commanding, half-imploring gesture as if to ask my silence, and then gripping Brayley by his shoulder, stared wildly at the white seeth of the breakers astern of us.

"A quick look along the decks for'ard showed me that all the native sailors were on deck and clustered together in the waist, as far aft as they dared come. Each man had hold of his fellow, and with open mouths and wildly staring eyes they stood like statues of bronze, in an attitude of horror and amazement.

"'What is it?' I commenced again, when Tierney slowly raised his clenched and shaking hand and touched me.

"'Look,' he said, in a strange, quivering whisper, 'in the name of God, man, what is that?'"

*****

"I followed the direction of his shaking hand. It pointed along the broad, golden stream of moonlight that ran from close under our stern right across to the low, black line that we knew was Ailuk Island. For a moment I saw nothing, then, suddenly, amid the wild boil of the surf in Auriki, I saw a boat, a white-painted boat with a black gunwale streak. One person seemed to be sitting aft with his face drooping upon his breast. The boat seemed to me to be in the very centre of the wild turmoil of waters, and yet to ride with perfect ease and safety. Presently, however, I saw that it was on the other side of the reef, yet so close that the back spray from the curling rollers must have fallen upon it."

*****

"Pushing Captain Tierney away from him, Brayley suddenly seemed to straighten himself, and taking a step in advance of us he again hailed—

"'Boat, ahoy!'

"The loud, hoarse cry pealed over the waters, but no answer came from the silent figure, and then Brayley turned towards us. His bronzed features had paled to the hue of death, and for a moment or two his mouth twitched.

"'For God's sake, Tierney, call the hands and lower the boat. It is nothing from the other world that we see—it is my daughter, Tessa.'

"In a second the old man sprang into life and action, and in a shrill voice that sounded like a scream he called, 'Man the boat, lads!'

"Before one could have counted twenty the boat was in the water, clear of the falls, and Tierney and Brayley, with a crew of four natives, were pulling swiftly for the other boat."

*****

"In a few minutes they reached her, just as a big roller had all but got her and carried her right on top of Auriki. I saw Brayley get out of our boat and into the other, and lift the sitting figure up in his arms, and then Tierney made fast a line, took the strange boat in tow, and headed back for the ship.

"When the boat was within speaking distance, Tierney hailed me—'Get some brandy ready—she is alive.'"

*****

"We carried her into the cabin, and as Brayley bent his face over the poor, wasted figure of his child, the hot tears ran down his cheeks, and Tierney whispered to me, 'She is dying fast.'

"We all knew that as soon as we looked at her. Already the grey shadows were deepening on the face of the wanderer as we gathered around her, speaking in whispers. Suddenly the loud clamour of the ship's bell, struck by an unthinking sailor, made the girl's frame quiver.

"With a look of intense pity the captain motioned to Brayley to raise her head to try and get her to swallow a teaspoonful of water. Tenderly the trader raised her, and then for a moment or two the closed, weary eyelids slowly drew back and she gazed into his face.

"'Thank God,' the captain said, 'she knows you, Brayley.'

"A faint, flickering smile played about her lips and then ceased. Then a long, low sigh, and her head fell upon his breast."

*****

"At daylight we hove-up anchor and stood on our course for Brayley's Station on Arhnu. Just as we rounded the south end of Ailuk Island we saw the Lahaina, schooner, lying-to and signalling that she wanted to speak. Her skipper came aboard, and hurriedly shaking hands with us, asked if we knew that Jack Brayley's little Tessa had gone adrift in his boat ten days ago.

"Silently Tierney led him to the open skylight and pointed down to where she lay with her father kneeling beside her.

"'Poor man!' said the skipper of the Lahaina. 'I'm real sorry. I heerd from the natives that Tessa and two native girls and a boy took the whaleboat, for a joke like, and she said she was going to meet her father, as she had seen him in her sleep, an' she reckoned he was close to on the sea somewhere. I guess the poor thing's got swept to leeward by the current. They had a sail in the boat.'

"'Aye,' said Tierney, 'a squall must have struck the boat and carried away the mast; it was snapped off short about a foot above the thwart.'"

*****

"When we ran into Maduro Lagoon three days afterwards our flag was half-mast high for Tessa Brayley, and for her father as well—for we had found him the next morning on his knees beside her, cold and stiff in death, with his dead hand clasped around hers."



AT THE EBBING OF THE TIDE

Black Tom's "hell" was one of the institutions of Samoa. And not an unpleasant hell to look at—a long, rambling, one-storeyed, white-painted wooden building, hidden on the beach side from ships entering Apia Harbour by a number of stately cocoanuts; and as you came upon it from the palm-shaded track that led from the brawling little Vaisigago towards the sweeping curve of Matautu Point, the blaze of scarlet hibiscus growing within the white-paled garden fence gave to this sailors' low drinking-den an inviting appearance of sweetest Arcadian simplicity.

That was nineteen years ago. If you walk along the Matautu path now and ask a native to show you where Tom's house stood, he will point to a smooth, grass-covered bank extending from the right-hand side of the path to the coarse, black sand of Matautu beach. And, although many of the present white residents of the Land of the Treaty Powers have heard or Black Tom, only a few grizzled old traders and storekeepers, relics of the bygone lively days, can talk to you about that grim deed of one quiet night in September.

*****

Tamasi Uliuli (Black Thomas), as he was called by the natives, had come to Samoa in the fifties, and, after an eventful and varied experience in other portions of the group, had settled down to business in Matautu as a publican, baker and confectioner, butcher, seamen's crimp, and interpreter. You might go all over the Southern States, from St. Augustine to Galveston, and not meet ten such splendid specimens of negro physique and giant strength as this particular coloured gentleman. Tom had married a Samoan woman—Inusia—who had borne him three children, two daughters and one son. Of this latter I have naught to say here, save that the story of his short life and tragic end is one common enough to those who have had any experience of a trader's life among the betel-chewing savages of fever-haunted New Britain. And the eldest daughter may also "stand out" of this brief tale.

*****

Luisa was black. There was no doubt about that. But she was also comely; and her youthful, lissom figure as she walked with springy step to the bathing-place at the Vaisigago gave her a striking individuality among the lighter-coloured Samoan girls who accompanied her. Yet to all of us who lived in Matautu the greatest charms of this curly-haired half-caste were the rich, sweet voice and gay laugh that brightened up her dark-hued countenance as we passed her on the path and returned her cheerful "Talofa, alii!" with some merry jest. And, although none of us had any inclination to go into her father's pub. and let him serve us with a bottle of Pilsener, Luisa's laughing face and curly head generally had attraction enough to secure, in the course of the day, a good many half-dollars for the 50lb. beef-keg which was Black Tom's treasury.

*****

It gave us a shock one day to see Luisa emerging from the mission chapel with a white-haired old man by her side—married. The matter had been arranged very quietly. For about two months previously this ancient had been one of Black Tom's boarders. He was from New Zealand, and had come to Samoa to invest his money in trade, and being, perhaps, of a retiring and quiet disposition the sight of Mr. Thomas Tilton's innocent-looking dwelling attracted him thither. Anyhow, old Dermott remained there, and it was noticeable that, from the day of his arrival, Tamasi Uliuli exacted the most rigid performance of morning and evening devotions by his family, and that the nightly scenes of riot and howling drunkenness, that had theretofore characterised the "hotel," had unaccountably toned down. In fact, burly old Alvord, the consular interpreter, who had been accustomed to expostulate with Tom for the number of prostrate figures, redolent of bad rum, lying outside on the path in the early morning, showing by the scarcity of their attire that they had been "gone through" by thieving natives, expressed the opinion that Tom was either going mad, or "was getting consairned" about his sinful soul.

*****

The knowledge of the fact that old Dermott had so much worldly wealth stowed away in his camphor-wood trunk, may have had (doubtless it did) the effect of causing this remarkable change in Tom's daily conduct. Dermott, in his way, was sourly religious; and, although not understanding a word of Samoan, was fond of attending the native church at Apia—always in the wake of Luisa, Toe-o-le-Sasa, and other young girls. His solemn, wrinkled visage, with deep-set eyes, ever steadily fixed upon the object of his affection, proved a source of much diversion to the native congregation, and poor Luisa was subjected to the usual Samoan jests about the toe'ina and ulu tula (old man and bald head), and would arrive from the church at her father's hell in a state of suppressed exasperation.

The happy marriage had been celebrated by Tom and his clientele in a manner befitting the occasion and the supposed wealth of the bridegroom, Then none of us saw Luisa for a week at the bathing-place, and her non-appearance was discussed with interest at the nightly kava-drinking at half-caste Johnny Hall's public-house. Old Toi'foi, duenna of the kava-chewing girls, used to say solemnly that the old man had Luisa locked up in her room as she was vale (obstinate), and sat on a chair outside and looked at her through a hole in the wall.

*****

An hour after midnight on one of those silent tropic nights when naught is heard but the muffled boom of the ocean swell on the outer reef, a shot rang out through the sleeping village, and then a long wail as of some one in mortal agony or terror. Leger, the Canadian carpenter at Macfarlane's store, was, in company with Alvord the Swearer, and Pedro the Publican, and marry of us general sinners, up late at the kava-bowl when Leva, the prettiest girl on the Point, and the most notorious nymphe du beach in Apia (there are no pavements in Samoa), dashed in amongst its with the announcement that "Luisa was dead." In another ten seconds we kava-drinkers, with unsteady legs but clear heads, were outside on our way to Black Tom's house, which was within pistol-shot.

*****

An old man with a throat cut from ear to ear is not a cheerful sight at any time, and we turned quickly away from where he lay on the once spotless white bed, now an ensanguined horror, to look at poor Luisa, who lay on a mat on the floor, gasping out her brief young life. Her head was pillowed on her mother's bosom, and down her side the blood ran from the jagged bullet-hole. On a chair sat the herculean figure of Black Tom with his face in his hands, through which splashed heavy tears. Slowly he rocked himself to and fro in the manner of his race when strongly moved; and when he tried to speak there only struck upon our ears a horrible gasping noise that somehow made us turn again to the awful thing on the bed to see if it had aught to say upon the matter.

*****

Luisa spoke but little. The kind-faced, quiet-voiced missionary doctor told her that which she already knew too well; and then we drew away while he spoke of other things, and we saw the look of dread and horror on the comely young face pass away and a faint smile part the lips that were already touched by the grim shadow of coming dissolution. Some of her village playmates and companions, with wet cheeks, bent their faces and touched her lips with theirs, and to each she sighed a low To Fa of farewell, and then she looked toward the shaking bent figure in the chair and beckoned him over. With noiseless tread he came, and then, with her very soul looking at him from her great, death-stricken eyes, she murmured, "Fear not, my father, my mouth is covered by the hand of Death; farewell!" *****

The sound of the soft lapping of the falling tide came through the open window as Luisa spoke again to Toe-o-le-Sasa, the Maid of Apia—"E Toe, e pae afea te tai?" ("When is the tide out?") And the girl answered with a sob in her throat, "In quite a little while, O friend of my heart."

"Ua lelei. (It is well.) And as the waters run out so does my soul float away!" and she turned her face to her mother's bosom. And as we went softly out from the room and stood upon the path with the lofty palm-plumes rustling above us, we saw the first swirling wave of the incoming tide ripple round Matautu Point and plash on Hamilton's beach. And from within the silent house answered the wail of Death.



THE FALLACIES OF HILLIARD



I.

With clenched hand grasping the two letters—the one that sank his last hope of saving his plantation, and the other that blasted his trust in human nature—Hilliard, the planter of Nairai Viwa, walked with quick, firm step to his house, and sat down to think awhile. The great cotton "burst-up" had ruined most men in Fiji, and although long delayed in his case the blow had crushed him utterly.

An angry flush tinged his set features for a few seconds as he re-read the curt, almost savage denial, by his father of the "couple of thousand" asked for. "A fool to resign his commission in the Service and go into a thing he knew nothing about, merely to humour the fantastic whim of a woman of fashion who will, no doubt, now sheer very clear of your wrecked fortunes."

Ten minutes previously when Hilliard, who had thought his father would never see him go under for the sake of a couple of thou., had read these lines he had smiled, even with the despair of broken fortune at his heart, as he looked at the other letter yet unopened.

Kitty, at least, would stick to him. He was not a maudlin sentimentalist, but the memory of her farewell kisses was yet strong with him; and his past experiences of woman's weaknesses and his own strength justified him in thinking that in this one woman he had found his pearl of great price.

Then he read her letter; and as he read the tappa mallets at work in the Fijian houses hard by seemed to thump in unison with the dull beats of his heart as he stared at the correctly-worded and conventionally-expressed lines that mocked at his fond imaginings of but a few breaths back.

*****

Jimmy, the curly-headed half-caste who had brought him his letters from Levuka, had followed in his steps and was sitting, hat in hand, on the sofa before him when Hilliard raised his face. The fixed pallor had left his bronzed cheeks. For an instant the face of another man had passed before him—Lamington, his one-time fellow-officer, whom every one but Hilliard himself looked upon as being "first in the running" with the woman who had pledged herself to him. But, then, Lamington himself had told him that she had refused him, heir to a big fortune as he was, and they had shaken hands, and Lamington had wished him luck in his honest, good-natured fashion. "Perhaps," and here the dark flush mantled his forehead, "he's tried again and she's slung me. And I... what a damnably unpleasant and quick intuition of women's ways my old dad has! I always wondered why such a fiery devil as he was married such a milk-and-water creature as my good mother. By ———, I begin to think he went on safe lines, and I on a fallacy!"

The stolid face of Jimmy recalled him to the present. He must give up the plantation and take a berth of some sort. From the sideboard he took a flask of liquor and poured out two big drinks.

"Here, Jimmy, my boy. This is the last drink you'll get on Nairai Viwa. I'm burst up, cleaned out, dead broke, and going to hell generally."

Jimmy grunted and held out his brown hand for the grog. "Yes? I s'pose you'll go to Levuka first? I'll give you a passage in the cutter."

Hilliard laughed with mingled bitterness and sarcasm. "Right, Jimmy. Levuka is much like the other place, and I'll get experience there, if I don't get a billet."

"Here's luck to you, sir, wherever you go," and Jimmy's thick lips glued themselves lovingly to the glass.

Hilliard drank his oft quietly, only muttering to himself, "Here's good-bye to the fallacies of hope," and then, being at bottom a man of sense and quick resolution, he packed his traps and at sunset went aboard the cutter. As they rippled along with the first puffs of the land-breeze, he glanced back but once at the lights of Nairai Viwa village that illumined the cutter's wake, and then, like a wise man, the hopes and dreams of the past drifted astern too.

And then for the next two years he drifted about from one group to another till he found an island that suited him well—no other white man lived there.

*****



II.

The laughing, merry-voiced native children who, with speedy feet, ran to the house of Iliati, the trader, to tell him that a visitor was coming from the man-of-war, had gathered with panting breath and hushed expectancy at the door as the figure of the naval officer turned a bend in the path, his right hand clasped with a proud air of proprietorship by that or the ten-year-old son of Alberti the Chief.

Iliati with a half-angry, half-pleased look, held out his hand. "Lamington!"

"Hilliard! old fellow. Why didn't you come on board i Are all your old friends forgotten?"

*****

"Pretty nearly, Lamington. Since I came a cropper over that accursed cotton swindle I've not had any inclination to meet any one I knew—especially any one in the Service, but"—and his voice rang honestly, "I always wondered whether you and I would ever meet again."

"Hilliard," and Lamington placed his hand on the trader's shoulder, "I know all about it. And look here, old man. I saw her only two months ago—at her especial request. She sent for me to talk about you."

"Ah!" and the trader's voice sounded coldly, "I thought, long ago, that she had reconsidered her foolish decision of other days and had long since become Mrs. Lamington. But it doesn't interest me, old fellow. Can you drink Fiji rum, Lamington? Haven't anything better to offer you."

"I'll drink anything you've got, old fellow, even liquid Tophet boiled down to a small half-pint; but I want you to listen to me first. I've been a bit of a scoundrel to you, but, by God, old man, I exchanged into the beastly old Petrel for this cruise expressly to find you and make a clean breast of it. I promised her I would."

"Confound it all, Lamington, don't harrow your feelings needlessly, and let us have the rum and talk about anything else."

"No, we won't. Look here, Hilliard, it sounds beastly low, but I must get it out. We met again—at a ball in Sydney more than two years ago. Some infernal chattering women were talking a lot of rot about the planters in Fiji having very pretty and privileged native servants—and all that, you know. She fired up and denied it, but came and asked me if it was true, and I was mean enough not to give it a straight denial. How the devil it happened I can't tell you, but we danced a deuce of a lot and I lost my senses and asked her again, and she said 'Yes.' Had she been any other woman but Miss ———, I would have concluded that the soft music and all that had dazed her. It does sometimes—lots of 'em; makes the most virtuous wife wish she could be a sinner and resume her normal goodness next day. But Kitty is different. And it was only that infernal twaddle caused it and made her write you that letter. A week hadn't passed before she wrote to me and told me how miserable she was. But I knew all through she didn't care a d———about me. And that's the way it occurred, old man."

Hilliard's hand met his. "Say no more about it, Lamington; it's a mea mate as we say here—a thing that is past."

"But, good God, old fellow, you don't understand. She's written ever so many times to you. No one in Levuka knew where you had gone to; there's thousands of islands in the South Seas. And this letter here," he held it toward him, "she gave to me, and I promised her on my honour as a man to effect an exchange into the Petrel and find you."

"Thanks, Lamington. You always were a good fellow." He laid the letter on the table quietly and rose and got the rum.

*****

A young native girl, with deep lustrous eyes shining from a face of almost childish innocence, had entered the door and stood with one bare and softly-rounded arm clasped round the neck of Alberti's little son. Her lips parted in a smile as Lamington, with a gasping cough, set down his glass after drinking the potent spirit, and she set her brows in mock ferocity at Hilliard who drank his down like an old-time beachcomber.

"By Jove, Hilliard, what an astonishingly pretty face! She could give any New Orleans creole points. Time you got out of this before some of the Rotumah beauties make you forget things; and oh, by the way, I'm forgetting things. Remember you are to come aboard and dine with us to-night, and that you're in indifferent health, and that Captain ———, of Her Majesty's ship Petrel is going to give you a passage to Sydney."

At an angry sign from Hilliard the girl disappeared. Then he shook his head. "No, Lamington. I appreciate your kindness, but cannot accept it. I've been here two years now, and Alberti, the principal local chief, thinks no end of me; and he's a deuced fine fellow, and has been as good as ten fathers to me. And I've business matters to attend to as well."

*****

Lamington pressed him no further. "Lucky devil," he thought. "I suppose he'll clear out in the trading schooner to Sydney, next week; be there long before us any way, and I'll find them well over the first stage of married infatuation when I see him next."

Another hour's chat of old times and old shipmates in the Challenger and Lamington, with his honest, clean-shaven face looking into the quiet, impassive features of the ex-officer, had gripped his hand and gone, and Hilliard went over to the house of Alberti, the chief, to drink kava—and see the old French priest. From there, an hour afterward, he saw the cruiser with wet, shining sides dip into the long roll of the ocean swell, as with the smoke pouring from her yellow funnel she was lost to sight rounding the point.

*****

Said the son of Alberti to Lela, the innocent-faced girl with the dancing, starlike eyes and red lips, as they stood watching the last curling rings of the steamer's smoke—"And so that is why I knew much of what the papalagi from the man-of-war said to your Iliati; Alberti, my father, has taught me much of your man's tongue. # And, look thou, Lela the Cunning, Iliati hath a wife in his own country!"

"Pah!"—and she shook her long, wavy locks composedly, and then plucked a scarlet hibiscus flower to stick in front of one of her pretty little ears—"what does that matter to me, fathead? I am she here; and when Iliati goeth away to her she will be me there. But he loveth me more than any other on Rotumah, and hath told me that where he goeth I shall go also. And who knoweth but that if I have a son he may marry me? Then shalt thou see such a wedding-feast as only rich people give. And listen—for why should I not tell thee: 'Tis well to starve thyself now, for it may be to-morrow, for look! fathead, there goeth the priest into thy father's house, and Iliati is already there."



A TALE OF A MASK

Lannigan, who lived on Motukoe, was in debt to his firm. This was partly due to his fondness for trade gin and partly because Bully Hayes had called at the island a month or so back and the genial Bully and he had played a game or two of poker.

"I'll give you your revenge when I come back from the Carolines, Lannigan," said the redoubtable captain as he scooped in every dollar of the trader's takings for the past six months. And Lannigan, grasping his hand warmly and declaring it was a pleasure to be "claned out by a gintleman," bade him good-bye and went to sleep away from home for a day with some native friends. Tariro, his Manhiki wife, had a somewhat violent temper, and during the poker incident had indulged in much vituperative language outside, directed at white men in general and Lannigan in particular.

*****

"See, thou swiller of gin, see what thy folly has brought us to," said the justly-incensed Tariro, when he came back, and with her took stock of his trade goods; "a thousand and five hundred dollars' worth of trade came we here with, and thou hast naught to show for it but five casks of oil and a few stinking shark-fins; and surely the ship of the malo (his firm) will be here this month."

Lannigan was in a bit of a fix. The firm he was trading for on Motukoe didn't do business in the same free-and-easy way as did Bobby Towns' captains and the unconventional Bully Hayes. They made him sign papers, and every time the ship came the rufous-headed Scotch supercargo took stock, and a violent altercation would result over the price of the trade; but as the trader generally had a big lot of produce for the ship, matters always ended amicably. He—or rather his wife, Tariro—was too good a trader to have an open rupture with, and the wordy warfare always resulted in the trader saying, in his matter-of-fact way, "Well, I suppose it's right enough. You only rob me wanst in twelve months, and I rob the natives here every day of my life. Give me in a case of gin, an' I'll send ye a pig."

*****

But he had never been so much in debt as he was now. Tariro and he talked it over, and hit upon a plan. He was to say, when the ship came, that he had but five casks of oil; all his trade had been sold for cash, and the cash—a thousand dollars—represented by a bag of copper bolts picked up on the reef from an old wreck, was to be taken off to the ship and accidentally dropped overboard as it was being passed up on deck. This was Lannigan's idea, and Tariro straightway tied up the bolts in readiness in many thicknesses of sail-cloth.

*****

"Here's Lannigan coming," called out the captain of the trading vessel to the supercargo, a week or so afterwards, "and that saucy Manhiki woman as usual with him, to see that he doesn't get drunk. The devil take such as her! There's no show of getting him tight."

"How are you, Lannigan?" said the supercargo, wiping his perspiring brow. He had just come out of the hold where he had been opening tinned meats, and putting all the "blown" tins he could find into one especial case—for Lannigan. This was what he called "makin' a mairgin for loss on the meats, which didna pay well."

"Fine," said the genial Lannigan, "an' I haven't got but five casks of oil for yez. Devil a drop av oil would the people make when they looked at the bewtiful lot av trade ye gave me last time. They just rushed me wid cash, an' I tuk a matter av a thousand dollars or so in a month."

"Verra guid business," said the supercargo, "but ye made a gran' meestake in selling the guids for Cheelian dollars instead of oil. An' sae I must debit ye wi' a loss of twenty-five par cent, on the money——"

"Chile dollars be damned!" said Lannigan; "all good American dollars—we've had about twenty whaleships here, buyin' pigs an' poultry an' pearl shell."

"Twenty-one ship!" said Tariro, blowing the smoke of her cigarette through her pretty little nose.

"Whaur's the money, onyway?" said the supercargo; "let's get to business, Lannigan. Eh, mon, I've some verra fine beef for ye."

"Get the bag up out of the boat, Tariro," said the trader; "it's mighty frightened I was havin' so much money in the house at wanst, wid all them rowdy Yankee sailors from the whaleships ashore here."

*****

There was a great crowd of natives on deck—over a hundred—and the mate was swearing violently at them for getting in his way. The schooner was a very small vessel, and Motukoe being her first place of call for cargo, she was in light trim, having only her trade and a little ballast on board.

"Send those natives away from the galley," he called out to the cook, who was giving some of the young women ship-biscuits in exchange for young cocoanuts; "can't you see the ship keeps flying up in the wind with all those people for'ard!"

*****

Hekemanu, Lannigan's native "Man Jack," sat in the boat towing alongside, with the bag of "dollars" at his feet. He and all the boat's crew were in the secret. Lannigan owned their souls; besides, they all liked him on Motukoe.

Tariro stood for a moment beside the captain, indulging in the usual broad "chaff," and then leaning over the rail she called out to Hekemanu: Ta mai te taga tupe ("give me the bag of money").

The man for'ard hauled on the line to bring the boat alongside the schooner, and Hekemanu stood up with the heavy bag in his hand.

"Hold on there, you fool! If you drop that bag I'll knock your head off," said the skipper. "Here, Mr. Bates, just you jump down and take that money from that native, or he'll drop it, sure."

Before Hekemanu had time to let it fall over the side the mate had jumped into the boat and taken it.

Lannigan, putting his head up out of the little cabin, groaned inwardly as he saw the mate step over the rail with the fateful bag and hand it to the supercargo.

"Be the powers, ye're in a mighty hurry for the money," said Lannigan, roughly, taking it from him, "ye might ax me if I had a mouth on me first."

The supercargo laughed and put a bottle of gin on the table, and Lannigan's fertile brain commenced to work. If he could only get the supercargo out of the cabin for a minute he meant to pick up the bag, and declaring he was insulted get it back into his boat and tell him to come and count it ashore. Then he could get capsized on the reef and lose it. They were always having "barneys," and it would only be looked upon as one of his usual freaks.

*****

"What the deuce is that?" he said, pointing to a hideous, highly-coloured paper mask that hung up in the cabin.

The supercargo handed it to him. "It's for a man in Samoa—a silly, joking body, always playing pranks wi' the natives, and I thoct he would like the thing."

"Bedad, 'tis enough to scare the sowl out av the divil," said Lannigan.

Just then a mob of natives came aft, and the two men in the cabin heard the captain tell them to clear out again. They were saucy and wouldn't go. Hekemanu had told them of the failure of Lannigan's dodge, and they had an idea that the ship would take him away, and stood by to rescue him at the word of command.

"I'll verra soon hunt them," said the supercargo, with a proud smile, and he put the mask on his face. Tariro made a bolt on deck and called out to the natives that the supercargo was going to frighten them with a mask.

*****

Instead of wild yells of fear and jumping overboard, as he imagined would happen, the natives merely laughed, but edged away for'ard.

The schooner was in quite close to the reef; the water was very deep, and there was no danger of striking. She was under jib and mainsail only, but the breeze was fresh and she was travelling at a great rate. The wind being right off the land the skipper was hugging the reef as closely as possible, so as to bring up and anchor on a five-fathom patch about a mile away.

"Here, quit that fooling," he called out to the supercargo, "and come aft, you fellows! The ship is that much down by the head she won't pay off, with the helm hard up."

One look at the crowd of natives and another at the shore, and a wild idea came into Lannigan's head. He whispered to Tariro, who went up for'ard and said something to the natives. In another ten seconds some of them began to clamber out on the jib-boom, the rest after them.

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