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The Revenge Of Macy O'Shea by Louis Becke

 

A Story Of The Marquesas

I.

TIKENA the Clubfooted guided me to an open spot in the jungle-growth, and, sitting down on the butt of a twisted toa, indicated by a sweep of his tattooed arm the lower course of what had once been the White Man's dwelling.

"Like unto himself was this, his house," he said, puffing a dirty clay pipe, "square-built and strong. And the walls were of great blocks made of panisina -- of coral and lime and sand mixed together; and around each centre-post -- posts that to lift one took the strength of fifty men -- was wound two thousand fathoms of thin plaited cinnet, stained red and black. Apa! he was a great man here in these motu (islands), although he fled from prison in your land; and when he stepped on the beach the marks of the iron bands that had once been round his ankles were yet red to the sight. There be none such as he in these days. But he is now in Hell."

This was the long-deferred funeral oration of Macy O'Shea, sometime member of the chain-gang of Port Arthur, in Van Dieman's Land, and subsequently runaway convict, beachcomber, cutter-off of whaleships, and Gentleman of Leisure in Eastern Polynesia. And of his many known crimes the deed done in this isolated spot was the darkest of all. Judge of it yourself.

. . . . .

The arrowy shafts of sunrise had scarce pierced the deep gloom of the silent forest ere the village woke to life. Right beside the thatch-covered dwelling of Macy O'Shea, now a man of might, there towers a stately tamanu tree; and, as the first faint murmur of women's voices arises from the native huts, there is a responsive twittering and cooing in the thickly-leaved branches, and further back in the forest the heavy, booming note of the red-crested pigeon sounds forth like the beat of a muffled drum.

. . . . .

With slow, languid step, Sera, the wife of Macy O'Shea, comes to the open door and looks out upon the placid lagoon, now just rippling beneath the first breath of the trade-wind, and longs for courage to go out there -- there to the point of the reef -- and spring over among the sharks. The girl -- she is hardly yet a woman -- shudders a moment and passes her white hand before her eyes, and then, with a sudden gust of passion, the hand clenches. "I would kill him -- kill him, if there was but a ship here in which I could get away! I would sell myself over and over again to the worst whaler's crew that ever sailed the Pacific if it would bring me freedom from this cruel, cold-blooded devil!"

. . . . .

A heavy tread on the matted floor of the inner room and her face pales to the hue of death. But Macy O'Shea is somewhat shy of his two years' wife this morning, and she hears the heavy steps recede as he walks over to his oil-shed. A flock of gogo cast their shadow over the lagoon as they fly westward, and the woman's eyes follow them -- "Kill him, yes. I am afraid to die, but not to kill. And I am a stranger here, and if I ran a knife into his fat throat, these natives would make me work in the taro-fields, unless one wanted me for himself." Then the heavy step returns, and she slowly faces round to the blood-shot eyes and drink-distorted face of the man she hates, and raises one hand to her lips to hide a blue and swollen bruise.

The man throws his short, square-set figure on a rough native sofa, and, passing one brawny hand meditatively over his stubbly chin, says, in a voice like the snarl of a hungry wolf: "Here, I say, Sera, slew round; I want to talk to you, my beauty."

The pale, set face flushed and paled again. "What is it, Macy O'Shea?"

"Ho, ho, 'Macy O'Shea,' is it? Well, just this. Don't be a fool. I was a bit put about last night, else I wouldn't have been so quick with my fist. Cut your lip, I see. Well, you must forget it; any way, it's the first time I ever touched you. But you ought to know by now that I am not a man to be trifled with; no man, let alone a woman, is going to set a course for Macy O'Shea to steer by. And, to come to the point at once, I want you to understand that Carl Ristow's daughter is coming here. I want her, and that's all about it."

. . . . .

The woman laughed scornfully. "Yes, I know. That was why" -- she pointed to her lips. "Have you no shame? I know you have no pity. But listen. I swear to you by the Mother of Christ that I will kill her -- kill you, if you do this."

O'Shea's cruel mouth twitched and his jaws set, then he uttered a hoarse laugh. "By God! Has it taken you two years to get jealous?"

A deadly hate gleamed in the dark, passionate eyes. "Jealous, Mother of God! jealous of a drunken, licentious wretch such as you! I hate you -- hate you! If I had courage enough I would poison myself to be free from you."

O'Shea's eyes emitted a dull sparkle. "I wish you would, damn you! Yet you are game enough, you say, to kill me -- and Malia?"

"Yes. But not for love of you, but because of the white blood in me. I can't -- I won't be degraded by you bringing another woman here."

"'Por Dios,' as your dad used to say before the devil took his soul, we'll see about that, my beauty. I suppose because your father was a d----d garlic- eating, ear-ringed Dago, and your mother a come-by-chance Tahiti half-caste, you think he was as good as me."

"As good as you, O bloody-handed dog of an English convict. He was a man, and the only wrong he ever did was to let me become wife to a devil like you."

The cruel eyes were close to hers now, and the rough, brawny hands gripped her wrists. "You spiteful Portuguese quarter-bred ----! Call me a convict again, and I'll twist your neck like a fowl's. You she-devil! I'd have made things easy for you -- but I won't now. Do you hear?" and the grip tightened. "Ristow's girl will be here to-morrow, and if you don't knuckle down to her it'll be a case of 'Vamos' for you -- you can go and get a husband among the natives," and he flung her aside and went to the god that ran him closest for his soul, next to women -- his rum-bottle.

. . . . .

O'Shea kept his word, for two days later Malia, the half-caste daughter of Ristow, the trader at Ahunui, stepped from out her father's whaleboat in front of O'Shea's house. The transaction was a perfectly legitimate one, and Malia did not allow any inconvenient feeling of modesty to interfere with such a lucrative arrangement as this, whereby her father became possessed of a tun of oil and a bag of Chilian dollars, and she of much finery. In those days missionaries had not made much head- way, and gentlemen like Messrs Ristow and O'Shea took all the wind out of the Gospel drum.

And so Malia, dressed as a native girl, with painted cheeks and bare bosom, walked demurely up from the boat to the purchaser of her sixteen-years'-old beauty, who, with arms folded across his broad chest, stood in the middle of the path that led from the beach to his door. And within, with set teeth and a knife in the bosom of her blouse bodice, Sera panted with the lust of Hate and Revenge.

. . . . .

The bulky form of O'Shea darkened the door-way. "Sera," he called in English, with a mocking, insulting inflection in his voice, "come here and welcome my new wife!"

Sera came, walking slowly, with a smile on her lips, and, holding out her left hand to Malia, said in the native language, "Welcome!"

"Why," said O'Shea, with mocking jocularity, "that's a left-handed welcome, Sera."

"Aye," said the girl with the White Man's blood, "my right hand is for this" -- and the knife sank home into Malia's yellow bosom. "A cold bosom for you to-night, Macy O'Shea," she laughed, as the value of a tun of oil and a bag of Chilian dollars gasped out its life upon the matted floor.

II

The native drum was beating. As the blood-quickening boom reverberated through the village, the natives came out from their huts and gathered around the House of the Old Men, where, with bound hands and feet, Sera, the White Man's wife, sat, with her back to one of the centre-posts. And opposite her, sitting like a native on a mat of kapau, was the burly figure of O'Shea, with the demon of disappointed passion eating away his reason, and a mist of blood swimming before his eyes.

The people all detested her, especially the soft-voiced, slender-framed women. In that one thing savages resemble Christians -- the deadly hatred with which some women hate those of their sex whom they know to be better and more pure than themselves. So the matter was decided quickly. Mesi -- so they called O'Shea -- should have justice. If he thought death, let it be death for this woman who had let out the blood of his new wife. Only one man, Loloku the Boar Hunter, raised his voice for her, because Sera had cured him of a bad wound when his leg had been torn open by the tusk of a wild boar. But the dull glare from the eyes of O'Shea fell on him, and he said no more. Then at a sign from the old men the people rose from the mats, and two unbound the cords of afa from the girl, and led her out into the square, and looked at O'Shea.

"Take her to the boat," he said.

. . . . .

Ristow's boat had been hauled up, turned over, and covered with the rough mats called kapau to keep off the heat of the sun. With staggering feet, but undaunted heart, the girl Sera was led down. Only once she turned her head and looked back. Perhaps Loloku would try again. Then, as they came to the boat, a young girl, at a sign from O'Shea, took off the loose blouse, and they placed her, face downwards, across the bilge of the boat, and two pair of small, eager, brown hands each seized one of hers and dragged the white, rounded arms well over the keel of the boat. O'Shea walked round to that side, drawing through his hands the long, heavy, and serrated tail of the fai -- the gigantic stinging-ray of Oceana. He would have liked to wield it himself, but then he would have missed part of his revenge -- he could not have seen her face. So he gave it to a native, and watched, with the smile of a fiend, the white back turn black and then into bloody red as it was cut to pieces with the tail of the fai.

. . . . .

The sight of the inanimate thing that had given no sign of its agony beyond the shudderings and twitchings of torn and mutilated flesh was, perhaps, disappointing to the tiger who stood and watched the dark stream that flowed down on both sides of the boat. Loloku touched his arm -- "Mesi, stay thy hand. She is dead else."

"Ah," said O'Shea, "that would be a pity; for with one hand shall she live to plant taro."

And, hatchet in hand, he walked in between the two brown women who held her hands. They moved aside and let go. Then O'Shea swung his arm; the blade of the hatchet struck into the planking, and the right hand of Sera fell on the sand.

A man put his arms around her, and lifted her off the boat. He placed his hand on the blood-stained bosom and looked at Macy O'Shea.

"E mate!" he said.

 
 
 

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