ROCK & POOL
On An Austral Shore
AUTHOR OF "PACIFIC TALES," "BY REEF AND PALM," ETC.,
New Amsterdam Book Company
156 FIFTH AVENUE: NEW YORK CITY: MCMI
BY ROCK AND POOL
THE FISHER FOLK
AN ISLAND MEMORY
ON A TIDAL RIVER
THE "PALU" OF
THE WILY "GOANNER"
THE TĂNIFA OF
ON BOARD THE
THE MAN IN THE
A CRUISE IN THE SOUTH SEAS—HINTS TO INTENDING TRAVELLERS
By Rock and Pool on an Austral Shore
The quaint, old-fashioned little town faces eastward to the
blue Pacific, whose billows, when the wind blows from any point
between north and east, come tumbling in across the shallow bar
in ceaseless lines of foaming white, to meet, when the tide is
on the ebb, the swift current of a tidal river as broad as the
Thames at Westminster Bridge. On the south side of the bar,
from the sleepy town itself to the pilot station on the Signal
Hill, there rises a series of smooth grassy bluffs, whose
seaward bases touch the fringe of many small beaches, or start
sheer upward from the water when the tide is high, and the
noisy swish and swirl of the eager river current has
As you stand on the Signal Hill, and look along the coast,
you see a long, long monotonous line of beach, trending
northward ten miles from end to end, forming a great curve from
the sandspit on the north side of the treacherous bar to the
blue loom of a headland in shape like the figure of a couchant
lion. Back from the shore-line, a narrow littoral of dense
scrub, impervious to the rays of the sun, and unbroken in its
solitude except by the cries of birds, or the heavy footfall of
wild cattle upon the thick carpet of fallen leaves; and then,
far to the west, the dimmed, shadowy outline of the main
It is a keen, frosty morning in June—the midwinter of
Australia—and as the red sun bursts through the sea-rim,
a gentle land breeze creeps softly down from the mountain
forest of gums and iron-barks, and blows away the mists that,
all through a night of cloudless calm, have laid heavily upon
the surface of the sleeping ocean. One by one the doors of the
five little white-painted, weather-boarded houses which form
the quarters of the pilot-boat's crew open, and five brown,
hairy-faced men, each smoking a pipe, issue forth, and, hands
in pockets, scan the surface of the sea from north to south,
for perchance a schooner, trying to make the port, may have
been carried along by the current from the southward, and is
within signalling distance to tell her whether the bar is
passable or not. For the bar of the Port is as changeable in
its moods as the heart of a giddy maid to her
lovers—to-day it may invite you to come in and take
possession of its placid waters in the harbour beyond;
to-morrow it may roar and snarl with boiling surf and savage,
eddying currents, and whirlpools slapping fiercely against the
grim, black rocks of the southern shore.
Look at the five men as they stand or saunter about on the
smooth, frosty grass. They are sailormen—
one and all—as you can see by their walk and hear by
their talk; rough, ready, and sturdy, though not so sturdy nor
so square-built as your solid men of brave old Deal; but a long
way better in appearance and character than the sponging,
tip-seeking, loafing fraternity of slouching, lazy robbers who
on the parades of Brighton, Hastings, and Eastbourne, and other
fashionable seaside resorts in this country, lean against
lamp-posts with "Licensed Boatman" writ on their hat-bands, and
call themselves fishermen, though they seldom handle a herring
or cod that does not come from a fishmonger's shop. These
Australians of British blood are leaner in face, leaner in limb
than the Kentish men, and drink whiskey instead of coffee or
tea at early morn. But see them at work in the face of danger
and death on that bar, when the surf is leaping high and a
schooner lies broadside on and helpless to the sweeping
rollers, and you will say that a more undaunted crew never
gripped an oar to rescue a fellow-sailorman from the hungry
One of them, a grey-haired, deeply-bronzed man of sixty,
with his neck and hands tatooed in strange markings, imprinted
thereon by the hands of the wild natives of Tucopia, in the
South Seas, with whom he has lived forty years before as one of
themselves, is mine own particular friend and crony, for his
two sons have been playmates with my brothers and myself, who
were all born in this quaint old-time seaport of the first
colony in Australia; this forgotten remnant of the dread days
of the awful convict
system, when the clank of horrible gyves sounded on the now
deserted and grass-grown streets, and the swish of the hateful
and ever active "cat" was heard within the walls of the huge
red-brick prison on the bluff facing the sea. Oh, the old, old
memories of those hideous times! How little they wounded or
troubled our boyish minds, as we, bent on some fishing or
hunting venture along the coast, walked along a road which had
been first soddened by tears and then dried by the panting,
anguished breathings of beings fashioned in the image of their
Creator, as they toiled and died under the brutal hands of
their savage task-masters—the civilian officials of that
cruel "System" which, by the irony of fate, the far-seeing,
gentle, and tender-hearted Arthur Phillip, the founder of
Australia, was first appointed to administer.
But away with such memories for the moment. Over the lee
side with them into the Sea of the Past, together with the
clank of the fetters and the hum of the cat and the merciless
laws of the time; sink them all together with the names of the
military rum-selling traducers of the good Phillip, and of
ill-tempered, passionate sailor Bligh of the
—honest, brave, irascible, vindictive; destroyer of his
ship's company on that fateful adventure to Tahiti, hero of the
most famous boat-voyage the world has ever known; sea-bully and
petty "hazer" of hapless Fletcher Christian and his comrades,
gallant officer in battle and thanked by Nelson at Copenhagen;
conscientious governor of a starveling colony gasping under the
hands of unscrupulous military money-makers,
William Bligh deserves to be remembered by all men of English
blood who are proud of the annals of the most glorious navy in
But ere we descend to the beach to wander by rock and pool
in this glowing Australian sun, the warm, loving rays of which
are fast drying the frost-coated grass, let us look at these
square, old-time monuments to the dead, placed on the Barrack
Hill, and overlooking the sea. There are four in all, but
around them are many low, sunken headstones of lichen-covered
slabs, the inscriptions on which, like many of those on the
stones in the cemetery by the reedy creek, have long since
There, indeed, if you care to brave the snake-haunted place
you will discover a word, or the part of a
"Vimiera," or "Badaj——," or "Fuentes de
On——," and you know that underneath lies the dust
of men who served their country well when the Iron Duke was
rescuing Europe from the grip of the bloodstained Corsican. On
one, which for seventy years has faced the rising sun and the
salty breath of the ocean breeze, there remains but the one
glorious word, "Aboukir!" every indented letter thickly filled
with grey moss and lichen, though the name of he who fought
there has disappeared, and being but that of some humble
seaman, is unrecorded and unknown in the annals of his country.
How strange it seems! but yet how fitting that this one word
alone should be
preserved by loving Nature from the decaying touch of Time.
Perhaps the very hand of the convict mason who held the chisel
to the stone struck deeper as he carved the letters of the name
of the glorious victory.
But let us away from here; for in the hot summer months amid
these neglected and decaying memorials of the dead, creeping
and crawling in and out of the crumbling masonry of the tombs,
gliding among the long, reedy grass, or lying basking in the
sun upon the fallen headstones, are deadly black and brown
snakes. They have made this old, time-forgotten cemetery their
own favourite haunting place; for the waters of the creek are
near, and on its margin they find their prey. Once, so the
shaky old wharfinger will tell you, a naval lieutenant, who had
been badly wounded in the first Maori war, died in the
commandant's house. He was buried here on the bank of the
creek, and one day his young wife who had come from England to
nurse him and found him dead, sat down on his grave and went to
sleep. When she awoke, a great black snake was lying on her
knees. She died that day from the shock.
The largest of these four monuments on the bluff stands
nearest to the sea, and the inscription on the heavy flat slab
of sandstone which covers it is fairly legible:—
Sacred to the Memory of
Who was a Private in Captain
Fraser Allan's Company
of the 40th Regiment,
Who died on the 24th November, 1823,
of a Gunshot Wound Received
on the 20th Day of the Month,
when in Pursuit of a
Aged 25 years.
The others record the names of the "infant son and daughters
of Mr. G. Smith, Commissariat Storekeeper," and of "Edward
Marvin, who died 4th July, 1821, aged 21 years."
Many other sunken headstones denote the last resting-places
of soldiers and sailors, and civilian officials, who died
between 1821 and 1830, when the little port was a thriving
place, and when, as the old gossips will tell you, it made a
"rare show, when the Governor came here, and Major
Innes—him as brought that cussed lantana plant from the
Peninsula—sent ninety mounted men to escort him to Lake
The tide is low, and the flat
-covered ledges of reef on the southern side of the bar lie
bare and exposed to the sun. Here and there in the crystal
pools among the rocks, fish have been left by the tide,
and as you step over the
, whose teats spurt out jets of water to the pressure of your
foot, large silvery bream and gaily-hued parrot-fish rush off
and hide themselves from view. But tear off a piece of
open it, and throw the sanguinary-coloured delicacy into the
water, and presently you will see the parrot-fish dart out
eagerly, and begin to tear it asunder with their long,
irregular, and needle-like teeth, whilst the more cautious and
lordly bream, with wary eye and gentle, undulating tail, watch
from underneath a ledge for a favourable moment to dash out and
secure a morsel.
In some of the wider and shallower ponds are countless
thousands of small mullet, each about three or four inches in
length, and swimming closely together in separated but compact
battalions. Some, as the sound of a human footstep warns them
of danger, rush for safety among the submerged clefts and
crevices of their temporary retreat, only to be mercilessly and
fatally enveloped by the snaky, viscous tentacles of the
ever-lurking octopus, for every hole and pool among the rocks
contains one or more of these hideously repulsive
Sometimes you will see one crawling over the
, changing from one pool to another in search of prey; its
greeny-grey eyes regard you with defiant malevolence. Strike it
heavily with a stick, or thrust it through with a spear, and in
an instant its colour, which a moment before was either a dark
mottled brown or a mingled reddish-black, changes to a ghastly,
horrible, marbled grey; the horrid tentacles
writhe and cling to the weapon, or spread out and adhere to the
surrounding points of rock, a black, inky fluid is ejected from
the soft, pulpy, and slimy body; and then, after raining blow
after blow upon it, it lies unable to crawl away, but still
twisting and turning, and showing its red and white
suckers—a thing of horror indeed, the embodiment of all
that is hateful, wicked, and malignant in nature.
Some idea of the numbers of these crafty and savage denizens
of the limpid pools may be obtained by dropping a baited
fishing line in one of the deeper spots. First you will see
one, and then another, thin end of a tentacle come waveringly
out from underneath a ledge of rock, and point towards the
bait, then the rest of the ugly creature follows, and gathering
itself together, darts upon the hook, for the possession of
which half a dozen more of its fellows are already advancing,
either swimming or by drawing themselves over the sandy bottom
of the pool. Deep buried in the sand itself is another, a brute
which may weigh ten or fifteen pounds, and which would take all
the strength of a strong man to overcome were its loathsome
tentacles clasped round his limbs in their horrid embrace. Only
part of the head and the half-closed, tigerish eyes are
visible, and even these portions are coated over with fine sand
so as to render them almost undistinguishable from the bed in
which it lies awaiting for some careless crab or fish to come
within striking distance. How us boys delighted to destroy
these big fellows when we came across one thus hidden in the
on the bottom! A
quick thrust of the spear through the tough, elongated head, a
vision of whirling, outspread, red and black snaky tentacles,
and then the thing is dragged out by main strength and dashed
down upon the rocks, to be struck with waddies or stones until
the spear can be withdrawn. Everything, it is said, has its use
in this world, and the octopus is eminently useful to the
Australian line fisherman, for the bream, trevally, flathead,
jew-fish, and the noble schnapper dearly love its tough, white
flesh, especially after the creature has been held over a flame
for a few minutes, so that the mottled skin may be peeled
But treacherous and murderous Thug of the Sea as he is, the
octopus has one dreaded foe before whom he flees in terror, and
compresses his body into the narrowest and most inaccessible
cleft or endeavours to bury himself in the loose, soft
sand—and that foe is the orange-coloured or sage-green
rock eel. Never do you see one of these eels in the open water;
they lie deep under the stones or twine their lithe, slippery
bodies among the waving kelp or seaweed. Always hungry,
savage-eyed, and vicious, they know no fear of any living
thing, and seizing an octopus and biting off tentacle after
tentacle with their closely-set, needle-like teeth and
swallowing it whole is a matter of no more moment to them than
the bolting of a tender young mullet or bream. In vain does the
Sea Thug endeavour to enwrap himself round and round the body
of one of these sinuous, scaleless sea-snakes and fasten on to
it with his terrible cupping apparatus of suckers—the eel
slips in and out and "wolfs" and worries his enemy
without the slightest harm to itself. Some of them are
large—especially the orange-coloured variety—three
or four feet in length, and often one will raise his snaky head
apparently out of solid rock and regard you steadily for a
moment. Then he disappears. You advance cautiously to the spot
and find a hole no larger than the circumference of an
afternoon tea cup, communicating with the water beneath. Lower
a baited hook with a strong wire snooding, and "Yellowskin"
will open wide his jaws and swallow it without your feeling the
slightest movement of the line. But you must be quick and
strong of hand then, or you will never drag him forth, for
slippery as he is he can coil his length around a projecting
bit of rock and defy you for perhaps five or ten minutes; and
then when you do succeed in tearing him away and pull him out
with the hook buried deep in his loose, pendulous, wrinkled and
corduroyed throat, he instantly resolves himself into a
quivering Gordian knot, winding the line in and about his coils
and knotting it into such knots that can never be
Here and there you will see lying buried deep in the growing
coral, or covered with black masses of
such things as iron and copper bolts, or heavy pieces of
squared timber, the relics of the many wrecks that have
occurred on the bar—some recent, some in years long gone
by. Out there, lying wedged in between the weed and
kelp-covered boulders, only visible at low water, are two of
the guns of the ill-fated
, a ship, like her owner, famous in the history
of the colony. She was the property of a Mr. Benjamin Boyd, a
man of flocks and herds and wealth, who founded a town and a
great whaling station on the shores of Twofold Bay, where he
employed some hundreds of men, bond and free. He was of an
adventurous and restless disposition, and after making several
voyages to the South Seas, was cruelly cut off and murdered by
the cannibal natives of Guadalcanar in the Solomon Islands, in
the "fifties." The captain, after beating off the savages, who,
having killed poor Boyd on shore, made a determined attempt to
capture the ship, set sail for Australia, and in endeavouring
to cross in over the bar went ashore and became a total wreck.
Here is a description written by Judge McFarland of the
as she was in those days when Boyd dreamed a dream of founding
a Republic in the South Sea Islands with his wild crew of
Polynesians and a few white fellow adventurers:—
"She was of 240 tons burthen; very fleet, and had a flush
deck; and her cabins were fitted up with every possible
attention to convenience, and with great elegance; and had she
been intended as a war craft, she could scarcely have been more
powerfully armed, for she carried four brass
deck-guns—two six-pounders and two
four-pounders—mounted on carriages resembling dolphins,
four two-pounder rail guns—two on each side—and one
brass twelve-pounder traversing gun (which had seen service at
Waterloo)—in all thirteen serviceable guns. Besides
these, there were two small, highly-ornamented guns used for
firing signals, which were said to have been obtained from the
wreck of the
at Spithead. There were also provided ample stores of round
shot and grape for the guns, and a due proportion of small
arms, boarding pikes, tomahawks, &c."
Half a mile further on, and we are under the Signal Hill,
and standing on one side of a wide, flat rock, through which a
boat passage has been cut by convict hands, when first the
white tents of the soldiers were seen on the Barrack Hill. And
here, at this same spot, more than a hundred years ago, and
thirty before the sound of the axe was first heard amid the
forest or tallow-woods and red gum, there once landed a strange
party of sea-worn, haggard-faced beings—six men, one
woman, and two infant children. They were the unfortunate
Bryant party—whose wonderful and daring voyage from
Sydney to Timor in a wretched, ill-equipped boat, ranks second
only to that of Bligh himself. For Will Bryant, an ex-smuggler
who was leader, had heard of Bligh's voyage in the boat
belonging to the
; and fired with the desire to escape with his wife and
children from the famine-stricken community on the shores of
Port Jackson, he and his companions in servitude stole a small
fishing-boat and boldly put to sea to face a journey of more
that three thousand miles over an unknown and dangerous ocean.
A few weeks after leaving Sydney they had sighted this little
nook when seeking refuge from a fierce north-easterly gale, and
here they remained for many days, so that the woman and
children might gain strength and the seams of the leaking boat
be payed with tallow—their only
substitute for oakum. Then onward they sailed or rowed, for
long, long weary weeks, landing here and there on the coast to
seek for water and shell-fish, harried and chased by cannibal
savages, suffering all the agonies that could be suffered on
such a wild venture, until they reached Timor, only by a
strange and unhappy fate to fall into the hands of the brutal
and infamous Edwards of the
frigate, who with his wrecked ship's company, and the surviving
and manacled mutineers of the
, who had surrendered to him, soon afterwards appeared at the
Dutch port. Bryant, the daring leader, was so fortunate as to
die of fever, and so escaped the fate in store for his
comrades. 'Tis a strange story indeed.
At the end of the point of brown, rugged rocks which form a
natural breakwater to this tiny boat harbour, the water is
deep, showing a pale transparent green at their base, and deep
inpenetrable blue ten fathoms beyond. To-day, because it is
mid-winter, and the wind blows from the west, the sea is
clearer than ever, and far down below will be discerned lazily
swimming to and fro great reddish-brown or bright blue groper,
watching the dripping sides of the rock in hope that some of
the active, gaily-hued crabs which scurry downwards as you
approach may fall in—for the blue groper is a
, disdaining to eat of his own tribe, and caring only for crabs
or the larger and more luscious crayfish. Stand here when the
tide is high and the surf is sweeping in creamy sheets over
the lower ledges of rocks; and as the water pours off
torrent-like from the surface and leaves them bare, you may oft
behold a huge fish—aye, or two or three—lying
kicking on its side with a young crayfish in its thick, fleshy
jaws, calmly waiting for the next sea to set him afloat again.
Brave fellows are these gropers—forty, fifty, up to
seventy pounds sometimes, and dangerous fish to hook in such a
place as this, where a false step may send a man headlong into
the surf below with his line tangled round his feet or arms.
But on such a morning as this one might fall overboard and come
to no harm, for the sea is smooth, and the kelp sways but
gently to the soft rise and fall of the water, and seldom in
these cold days of June does Jack Shark cruise in under the lee
of the rocks. It is in November, hot, sweltering November, when
the clinking sand of the shining beach is burning to the booted
foot, and the countless myriads of terrified sea salmon come
swarming in over the bar on their way to spawn in the river
beyond, that he and his fellows and the bony-snouted saw-fish
rush to and fro in the shallow waters, driving their prey
before them, and gorging as they drive, till the clear waters
of the bar are turned into a bloodied froth. At such a time as
this it might be bad to fall overboard, though some of the
local youths give but little more heed to the tigers of the sea
than they do to the accompanying drove of harmless porpoises,
which join in the onslaught on the hapless salmon.
A mile eastward from the shore there rises stark and clear a
great dome-shaped rock, the haunt and resting-
place of thousands of snow-white gulls and brown-plumaged
boobies. The breeding-place of the former is within
rifle-shot—over there on that long stretch of banked-up
sand on the north side of the bar, where, amid the shelter of
the coarse, tufted grass the delicate, graceful creatures will
sit three months hence on their fragile white and
purple-splashed eggs. The boobies are but visitors, for their
breeding-places are on the bleak, savage islands far to the
south, amid the snows and storms of black Antarctic seas. But
here they dwell together, in unison with the gulls, and were
the wind not westerly you could hear their shrill cries and
hoarse croaking as they wheel and eddy and circle above the
lonely rock, on the highest pinnacle of which a great
fish-eagle, with neck thrown back upon his shoulders and eyes
fixed eastward to the sun, stands oblivious of their clamour,
as creatures beneath his notice.
Once round the southern side of the Signal Hill the noise of
the bar is lost. Between the hill and the next point—a
wild, stern-looking precipice of black-trap rock—there
lies a half a mile or more of shingly strand, just such as you
would see at Pevensey Bay or Deal, but backed up at high-water
mark with piles of drift timber—great dead trees that
have floated from the far northern rivers, their mighty
branches and netted roots bleached white by the sun and wind of
many years, and smelling sweet of the salty sea air. Mingled
with the lighter bits of driftwood and heaps of seaweed are the
shells of hundreds of crayfish—some of the largest are
newly cast up by the sea, and
the carapace is yellow and blue; others are burnt red by
exposure to the sun; while almost at every step you crush into
the thin backs and armoured tails of young ones about a foot in
length, the flesh of which, by some mysterious process of
nature, has vanished, leaving the skin, muscles, and beautiful
fan-like tail just as fresh as if the crustaceans were alive.
Just here, out among those kelp-covered rocks, you may, on a
moonlight night, catch as many crayfish as you wish—three
of them will be as much as any one would care to carry a mile,
for a large, full-grown "lobster," as they are called locally,
will weigh a good ten pounds.
Once round the precipice we come to a new phase of coastal
scenery. From the high land above us green scrub-covered spur
after spur shoots downward to the shore, enclosing numerous
little beaches of coarse sand and many coloured spiral
shells—"Reddies" we boys called them—with here and
there a rare and beautiful cowrie of banded jet black and
pearly white. The sea-wall of rock has here but few pools,
being split up into long, deep, and narrow chasms, into which
the gentle ocean swell comes with strange gurglings and
hissings, and groan-like sounds, and tiny jets of spray spout
up from hundreds of air-holes through the hollow crust of rock.
Here for the first time since the town was left, are heard the
cries of land birds; for in the wild apple and rugged
honeysuckle trees which grow on the rich, red soil of the spurs
they are there in plenty—crocketts, king parrots,
leatherheads, "butcher" and "bell" birds, and the beautiful
bronze-wing pigeon—while deep within the
silent gullies you constantly hear the little black scrub
wallabies leaping through the undergrowth and fallen leaves, to
hide in still darker forest recesses above.
There are snakes here, too. Everywhere their sinuous tracks
are visible on the sand, criss-crossing with the more defined
scratchy markings of those of iguanas. The latter we know come
down to carry off any dead fish cast ashore by the waves, or to
seize any live ones which may be imprisoned in a shallow pool;
but what brings the deadly brown and black snakes down to the
water at night time?
Point after point, tiny bay after bay, and then we come to a
wider expanse of clear, stoneless beach, at the farther end of
which a huge boulder of jagged, yellow rock, covered on the
summit with a thick mantle of a pale green, fleshly-leaved
creeper, bearing a pink flower. It stands in a deep pool about
a hundred yards in circumference, and as like as not we shall
find the surface of the water covered by thousands of
green-backed, red-billed garfish and silvery mullet, whose very
numbers prevent them from escaping. Scores of them leap out
upon the sand, and lie there with panting gill and flapping
tail. It is a great place for us boys, for here at low tides in
the winter we strip off, and with naked hands catch the mullet
and gars and silvery-sided trumpeters, and throw them out on
the beach, to be grilled later on over a fire of glowing
honeysuckle cobs, and eaten without salt. What boy does care
about such a thing as salt at such times, when his eye is
bright and his skin glows with the flush of health, and the
soft murmuring of the sea
is mingling in his ears with the thrilling call of the birds,
and the rustling hum of the bush; and the yellow sun shines
down from a glorious sky of cloudless blue, and dries the sand
upon his naked feet; and the very joy of being alive, and away
from school, is happiness enough in itself!
For here, by rock and pool on this lonely Austral beach, it
is good and sweet for man or boy to be, and, if but in utter
idleness, to watch and listen—and think.
The last strokes of the bell for evening service had scarce
died away when I heard a footstep on the pebbly path, and old
Pâkía, staff in hand and pipe dangling from his
pendulous ear-lobe, walked quietly up the steps and sat down
cross-legged on the verandah. All my own people had gone to
church and the house was very quiet.
"Good evening, Pâkía," I said in English, "how are
you, old man?"
A smile lit up the brown, old, wrinkled face as he heard my
voice—for I was lying down in the sitting-room, smoking
my after-supper pipe—as he answered in the island dialect
that he was well, but that his house was in darkness and he,
being lonely, had come over to sit with me awhile.
"That is well, Pâkía, for I too am lonely, and who
so good as thee to talk with when the mind is heavy and the
days are long, and no sail cometh up from the sea-rim? Come,
sit here within the doorway, for the night wind is chill; and
fill thy pipe."
He came inside as I rose and turned up the lamp so that its
light shone full on his bald, bronzed head
and deeply tatooed arms and shoulders. Laying down his polished
wood, he came over to me, placed his hand on my arm, patted it
gently, and then his kindly old eyes sought mine.
"Be not dull of heart,
A ship will soon come—it may be to-morrow; it must be
soon; for twice have I heard the cocks crow at midnight since I
was last here, three days ago. And when the cocks crow at
night-time a ship is near."
"May it be so, Pâkía, for I am weary of waiting.
Ten months have come and gone since I first put foot on this
land of Nukufetau, and a ship was to have come here in
He filled his pipe, then drawing a small mat near my lounge,
he squatted on the floor, and we smoked in silence, listening
to the gentle lapping of the lagoon waters upon the inner beach
and the beating, never-ceasing hum of the surf on the reef
beyond. Overhead the branches of the palms swayed and rustled
to the night-breeze.
Presently, as I turned to look seaward, I caught the old
man's dark eyes fixed upon my face, and in them I read a
sympathy that at that time and place was grateful to me.
"Six months is long for one who waits, Pâkía," I
said. "I came here but to stay four months and trade for copra;
then the ship was to call and take me to Ponapé, in the
far north-west. And Ponapé is a great land to such a man
I know it. Thrice have I been there when I sailed in the
whaleships. A great land truly, like the island called Juan
Fernandez, of which I have told thee, with high mountains green
to the summits with trees, and deep, dark valleys wherein the
sound of the sea is never heard but when the surf beats hard
upon the reef. Ah! a fine land—better than this poor
, which is as but a ring of sand set in the midst of the deep
sea. Would that I were young to go there with thee! Tell me,
dost know the two small, high islands in the
which is called Jakoits? Hast seen the graves of two white men
"I know the islands well; but I have never seen the graves
of any white men there. Who were they, and when did they
"Ah, I am a foolish old man. I forget how old I am. Perhaps,
when thou wert a child in thy mother's arms, the graves stood
up out of the greensward at the foot of the high cliff which
faces to the south. Tell me, is there not a high wall of rock a
little way back from the landing beach?... Aye!... that is the
place ... and the bones of the men are there, though now great
trees may grow over the place. They were both good
men—good to look at, tall and strong; and they fought and
died there just under the cliff. I saw them die, for I was
there with the captain of my ship. We, and others with us, saw
"Who were they, Pâkía, and how came they to
One was a trader, whose name was Preston; he lived on the
mainland of Ponapé, where he had a great house and oil
store and many servants. The name of the other man was Frank.
They fought because of a woman."
"Tell me the story, Pâkía. Thou hast seen many
lands and many strange things. And when ye come and sit and
talk to me the dulness goeth away from me and I no longer think
of the ship; for of all the people on this
, to thee and Temana my servant alone do I talk freely. And
Temana is now at church."
The old man chuckled. "Aye, he is at church because Malepa,
his wife, is so jealous of him that she fears to leave him
alone. Better would it please him to be sitting here with
I drew the mat curtain across the sitting-room window so
that we could not be seen by prying eyes, and put two cups, a
gourd of water, and some brandy on the table. Except my own
man, Temana, the rest of the natives were intensely jealous of
the poor old ex-sailor and wanderer in many lands, and they
very much resented his frequent visits to me—partly on
account of the occasional glass of grog which I gave him, and
partly because he was suspected of still being a
tagata po-uriuri, i.e.
, a heathen. This, however, he vigorously denied, and though
Maréko, the Samoan teacher, was a kind-hearted and
tolerant man for a native minister, the deacons delighted in
persecuting and harassing the ancient upon every possible
opportunity, and upon one pretext or another had
succeeded in robbing him of his land and dividing it among his
relatives; so that now in his extreme old age he was dependent
upon one of his daughters, a woman who herself must have been
I poured some brandy into the cups; we clicked them together
and said, "May you be lucky" to each other. Then he told me of
"There were many whaleships came to anchor in the three
harbours of Ponapé in those days. They came there for wood
and water and fresh provisions, before they sailed to the cold,
icy seas of the south. I was then a boat-steerer in an English
ship—a good and lucky ship with a good captain. When we
came to Ponapé we found there six other whaleships, all
anchored close together under the shelter of the two islets.
All the captains were friends, and the few white men who lived
on shore were friends with them, and every night there was much
singing and dancing on board the ships, for, as was the custom,
every one on board had been given a Ponapé girl for wife
as long as his ship stayed there; and sometimes a ship would be
there a long time—a month perhaps.
"The trader who lived in the big house was one of the first
to come on board our ship; for the captain and he were good
friends. They talked together on the poop deck, and I heard the
trader say that he had been away to Honolulu for nearly a year
and had brought back with him a young wife.
'Good,' said my captain, 'to-night I shall come ashore and
to ye both.'
"The trader was pleased, and said that some of the other
captains could come also, and that he had sent a letter to the
other trader, Frank, who lived on the other side of the island,
bidding him to come and greet the new wife. At these words the
face of Stacey—that was my captain's name, became dark,
and he said—
"'You are foolish. Such a man as he is, is better away from
thy house—and thy wife. He is a
. Take heed of my words and have no dealings with him.'
"But the man Preston only laughed. He was a fool in this
though he was so clever in many other things. He was a big man,
broad in the shoulders with the bright eye and the merry laugh
of a boy. He had been a sailor, but had wearied of the life,
and so he bought land in Ponapé and became a trader. He
was a fair-dealing man with the people there, and so in three
or four years he became rich, and bought more land and built a
schooner which he sent away to far distant islands to trade for
(beche-de-mer). Then it was that he went to Honolulu and came
back with a wife.
"That day ere it became dark I went on shore with my
captain; some of the other captains went with us. The white man
met them on the beach, surrounded by many of his servants, male
and female. Some were of Ponapé, some from Tahiti, some
from Oahu, and some from the place which you call Savage Island
and we call Niué. As soon as the captains had stepped out
upon the beach and I had bidden the four sailors who were with
me to push off to return to the ship, the trader, seeing the
tatooing on my arms, gave a shout.
'Ho,' he cried, turning to my captain, 'whence comes that
boat-steerer of thine? By the markings on his arms and chest he
should be from the isles of the Tokelau.'
"My captain laughed. 'He comes from near there. He is of
"Then let him stay on shore to-night, for there are here
with me a man and a woman from Nanomaga; they can talk
together. And my wife Solepa, too, will be well pleased to see
him, for her mother was a Samoan, and this man can talk to her
in her mother's tongue.'
"'So I too went up to the house with the white men, but
would not enter with them, for I was stripped to the waist and
could not go into the presence of the lady. Presently the man
and woman from Nanomaga sought me out and embraced me and made
much of me and took me into another part of the house, where I
waited till one of my shipmates returned from the ship bringing
my jumper and trousers of white duck and a new Panama hat.
Tāpā! I was a fine-looking man in those days, and
women looked at me from the corner of the eye. And now—
look at me now! I am like a blind fish which is swept hither
and thither by the current against the rocks and sandbanks.
Give me some more grog, dear friend; when I talk of the days of
my youth my belly yearns for it, and I am not ashamed to
"Presently, after I had dressed myself, I was taken by the
Nanomea man into the big room where Solepa, the white man's
wife, was sitting with the white men. She came to me and took
my hand, and said to me in Samoan
'Talofa, Pâkía, e mālolō ea oe?'
and my heart was glad; for it was long since I heard any one
speak in a tongue which is akin to mine own.... Was she
beautiful? you ask. Tāpā! All women are beautiful
when they are young, and their eyes are full and clear and
their voices are soft and their bosoms are round and smooth!
All I can remember of her is that she was very young, with a
white, fair skin, and dressed like the
women I have seen in Peretania and Itālia and in Chili and
"As I stood before her, hat in hand and with my eyes looking
downward, which is proper and correct for a modest man to do
when a high lady speaks to him before many people, a white man
who had been sitting at the far end of the room came over to me
and said some words of greeting to me. This was Franka
—he whom my captain said was a
. He was better clothed than any other of the white men, and
was proud and overbearing in his manner. He
had brought with him more than a score of young Ponapé
men, all of whom carried rifles and had cutlasses strapped to
their waists. This was done to show the people of Jakoits that
he was as great a man as Preston, whom he hated, as you will
see. But Preston had naught for him but good words, and when he
saw the armed men he bade them welcome and set aside a house
for them to sleep in, and his servants brought them many
baskets of cooked food—taro and yams, and fish, turtle,
and pork. All this I saw whilst I was in the big room.
"After I had spoken with the lady Solepa I returned to where
the man from Nanomaga and his wife were awaiting me. They
pressed me to eat and drink, and by and by sent for a young
girl to make kava. Tāpā! that kava of Ponapé! It
is not made there as it is in Samoa—where the young men
and women chew the dried root and mix it in a wooden
(bowl); there the green root is crushed up in a hollowed stone
and but little water is added, so that it is strong, very
strong, and one is soon made drunk.
"The girl who made the kava for us was named Sipi. She had
eyes like the stars when they are shining upon a deep mountain
pool, and round her smooth forehead was bound a circlet of
yellow pandanus leaf worked with beads of many colours and
fringed with red parrakeet feathers; about her waist were two
fine mats, and her bosom and hands were stained with turmeric.
I sat and watched her beating the kava, and as her right arm
rose and fell her short, black wavy hair danced about her
cheeks and hid the
red mouth and white teeth when she smiled at me. And she smiled
at me very often, and the man and woman beside me laughed when
they saw me regard her so intently, and asked me was it in my
mind to have her for my wife.
"I did not answer at once, for I knew that if I ran away
from the ship for the sake of this girl I would be doing a
foolish thing, for I had money coming to me when the ship was
(paid off). But, as I pondered, the girl bent forward and again
her eyes smiled at me through her hair; and then it was I saw
that on her head there was a narrow shaven strip from the crown
backward. Now, in Tokelau, this fashion is called
, and showeth that a girl is in her virginity. When I saw this
I was pleased, but to make sure I said to my friends, 'Her hair
. Is she a virgin?'
"The woman of Nanomaga laughed loudly at this and pinched my
hand, then she translated my words to the girl who looked into
my face and laughed too, shaking her head as she put one hand
over her eyes—
"'Nay, nay, O stranger,' she said, 'I am no virgin; neither
am I a harlot. I am respectable, and my father and mother have
land. I do not go to the ships.' Then she tossed her hair back
from her face and began to beat the kava again.
"Now, this girl pleased me greatly, for there were no twists
in her tongue; so, when the kava-drinking was finished I made
her sit beside me, and the Nanomaga woman told her I would run
away from the ship if she would be my wife. She put her face
to my shoulder, and then took the circlet from her forehead and
bound it round my bared arm, and I gave her a silver ring which
I wore on my little finger. Then, together with the Nanomaga
man and his wife, we made our plans.... Ah! she was a fine
girl. For nearly a year was she wife to me until she sickened
and died of the
which was brought to Ponapé by the missionary ship from
"So the girl and I made our plans, and my friends promised
to hide me when the time came for me to run away. We sat long
into the night, and I heard much of the man called Franka and
of the jealousy he bore to Preston. He was jealous of him
because of two reasons; one was that he possessed such a fine
house and so much land and a schooner, and the other was that
the people of Jakoits paid him the same respect as they paid
one of their high chiefs. So that was why Franka hated him. His
heart was full of hatred, and sometimes when he was drunk in
his own house at Rōan Kiti he would boast to the natives
that he would one day show them that he was a better man than
Preston. Sometimes his drunken boastings were brought to the
ears of Preston, who only laughed and took no heed, and always
gave him the good word when they met, which was but seldom, for
Jakoits and Kiti are far apart, and there was bad blood between
the people of the two places. And then—so the girl Sipi
afterwards told me—Franka was a lover
of grog and a stealer of women, and kept a noisy house and made
much trouble, and so Preston went not near him, for he was a
quiet man and no drinker, and hated dissension. And, besides
this, Franka took part in the wars of the Kiti people, and went
about with a following of armed men, and such money as he made
in trading he spent in muskets and powder and ball; for all
this Preston had no liking, and one day he said to Franka, 'Be
warned, this fighting and slaying is wrong; it is not correct
for a white man to enter into these wars; you are doing wrong,
and some day you will be killed.' Now these were good words,
but of what use are good words to an evil heart?
"So we pair sat talking and smoking, and the girl Sipi made
us more kava, and then again sat by my side and leant her face
against my shoulder, and presently we heard the sounds of music
and singing from the big house. We went outside to see and
listen, and saw that Preston was playing on a
and Solepa and the captain of my ship were dancing
together—like as white people dance—and two of the
other captains were also dancing in the same fashion. All round
the room were seated many of the high chiefs of Ponapé
with their wives, dressed very finely, and at one end of the
room stood a long table covered with a white cloth, on which
was laid food of all kinds and wine and grog to
drink—just as you would see in your own country when a
rich man gives a feast. Presently as we looked, we saw Franka
walk into the room from a side door and look about. His face
was flushed, and he staggered slightly in his steps. He went
over to the table and poured out some grog, and then beckoned
to Preston to come and drink with him, but Preston smiled and
shook his head. How could he go when he was making the music?
Then Franka struck his clenched fist on the table in anger, and
went over to Preston, just as the dancers had stopped.
"'Why will ye not drink with me?' he said in a loud voice so
that all heard him. 'Art thou too great a man to drink with me
"'Nay,' answered the other jestingly and taking no heed of
Franka's rude voice and angry eyes, 'not so great that I cannot
drink with all my friends tonight, be they white or brown,' and
so saying he bade every one in the room come to the great table
with him and drink
to him and his young wife.
"So the nine white men—Preston, and Franka, and the
seven whaleship captains, and Nanakin, the head chief of
Ponapé, and many other lesser chiefs, all gathered
together around the table and filled their glasses and drank
to the bride, who sat on a chair in the centre of the room
surrounded by the chiefs' wives, and smiled and bowed when my
captain called her name and raised his glass towards her. Then
after this he again took up the
and began to play, and my captain and Solepa danced again.
Suddenly Franka pushed his way through the others and rudely
placed his hand on her arm.
'Come,' he said, 'leave this fellow and dance with me.'
"She cried out in terror, and then silence fell upon all as
my captain withdrew his right arm from her waist and struck
Franka on the mouth; it was a strong blow, and Franka staggered
backwards and then fell near to the open door. As he rose to
his feet again my captain came up to him and bade him leave
quickly. 'We want no drunken bullies here,' he said, and at
that moment Franka drew a pistol and pointed it at his chest. I
leapt upon him and as we struggled together the pistol went
off, but the bullet hurt no one.
"Then there was a great commotion, and my captain and
Preston ran to my aid and seized Franka. They dragged him out
of the room, and with words of scorn and contempt threw him out
amongst his own people who were gathered together outside the
house, with their muskets in their hands. But already Nanakin
and his chiefs had summoned their fighting men; they came
running towards us from all directions, and surrounding Franka
and his men, drove them away and bade them beware of ever
returning to Jakoits.
"When they had gone, my captain called me to him, and,
turning to the other white men, said, 'This man hath saved my
life. He hath a brave heart. I shall do much for him in the
time to come.' Then he and the others all shook my hand and
praised me, and I was silent and said nothing, for I was
ashamed to think I was about to run away from such a good
In the morning we went back to the ship, and the boats were
then sent away to fill and bring off casks of water. Every time
my boat went I took something with me; tobacco and clothing and
other things which I had in my sea chest. Sipi and some other
girls met us at the watering place, and they took these from me
and put them in a place of safety. That afternoon as the boats
were about to leave the shore for the last time, towing the
casks, I slipped into the forest which grew very densely on
both sides of the little river, and ran till I came to the spot
where Sipi was awaiting me. Then together we went inland
towards the mountains and kept on walking till nightfall. That
night we slept in the forest; we were afraid to make a fire
lest it should be seen by some of Nanakin's people and betray
us, for I knew that my captain would cause a great search to be
made for me. When dawn came we again set out and went on
steadily till we came to the summit of the range of mountains
which divides the island. There was a clear space on the side
of the mountain; a great village had once stood there, so Sipi
told me, but all those who had dwelt there had long since died,
and their ghosts could be heard flitting to and fro at night
time. Far below us we could see the blue sea, and the long
waving line of reef with the surf beating upon it, and within,
anchored in the green water, were the seven ships and Preston's
"All that day and the next the girl and I worked at building
a little house for us to live in until the ships had gone. We
had no fear of any one seeking
us out in that place, for it had a bad name and none but
travelling parties from Rōan Kiti ever passed there. Sipi
had brought with her a basket of cooked food; in the deserted
plantations we found plenty of bananas and yams, and in the
stream at the foot of the valley we caught many small fish.
Four days went by, and then one morning we saw the ships set
their sails and go to sea. We watched them till they touched
the sky rim and disappeared; then we went back to Jakoits.
"The white man and Solepa were sitting under the shade of a
tree in front of their house. I went boldly up to him and asked
him to give me work to do. At first he was angry, for he and my
captain were great friends, and said he would have naught to do
with me. Why did I run away from such a good man and such a
good ship? There were too many men like me, he said, in
Ponapé, who had run away so that they might do naught but
wander from village to village and eat and drink and sleep.
Then again he asked why I had run away.
"'Because of her,' I said, pointing to the girl Sipi, who
was sitting at the gate with her face covered with the corner
of her mat. 'But I am no
I am a true man. Give me work on thy ship.'
"He thought a little while, then he and Solepa talked
together, and Solepa bade Sipi come near so that she might talk
to her. Presently he said to me that I had done a foolish thing
to run away for the
sake of the girl when I had money coming to me and when the
captain's heart was filled with friendship towards me for
turning aside Franka's pistol.
"I bent my head, for I was ashamed. Then I said, 'I care not
for the money I have lost, but I am eaten up with shame for
running away, for my captain was a good captain to me.'
"This pleased him, for he smiled and said, 'I will try thee.
I will make thee boatswain of the schooner, and this girl here
shall be servant to my wife.'
"So Sipi became servant to Solepa, and I was sent on board
the schooner to help prepare her for sea. My new captain gave
us a house to live in, and every night I came on shore. Ah,
those were brave times, and Preston made much of me when he
found that I was a true man and did my work well, and would
stand no saucy words nor black looks from those of the
schooner's crew who thought that the boatswain should be a
"Ten days after the whaleships had sailed, the schooner was
ready for sea. We were to sail to the westward isles to trade
for oil and tortoiseshell, and then go to China, where Preston
thought to sell his cargo. On the eve of the day on which we
were to leave, the mate, who was an old and stupid Siamani,
went ashore to my master's house, and I was left in charge of
the schooner. Sipi, my wife, was with me, and we sat together
in the stern of the ship, smoking our
(cigarettes) and talking of the time when I
should return and buy a piece of land from her father's people,
on which I should build a new house. There were six native
sailors on board, and these, as the night drew on, spread their
mats on the fore deck and went to sleep. Then Sipi and I went
into the cabin, which was on deck, and we too slept.
"How long we had slumbered I cannot tell, but suddenly we
were aroused by the sound of a great clamour on deck and the
groans and cries of dying men, and then ere we were well
awakened the cabin door was opened and Solepa was thrust
inside. Then the door was quickly closed and fastened on the
outside, and I heard Franka's voice calling out orders to hoist
sails and slip the cable.
"There was a lamp burning dimly in the cabin, and Sipi and I
ran to the aid of Solepa, who lay prone upon the floor as if
dead. Her dress was torn, and her hands and arms were scratched
and bleeding, so that Sipi wept as she leant over her and put
water to her lips. In a little while she opened her eyes, and
when she saw us a great sob broke from her bosom and she caught
my hand in hers and tried to speak.
"Now, grog is a good thing. It is good for a weak, panting
woman when her strength is gone and her soul is terrified, and
it is good for an old man who is despised by his relations
because he is bitten with poverty. There was grog in a wicker
jar in the cabin. I gave her some in a glass, and then as the
dog Franka, whose soul and body are now in hell, was getting
the schooner under way, she told me that while she and Preston
were asleep the house was
surrounded by a hundred or more of men from Rōan Kiti, led
by Franka. They burst in suddenly, and Franka and some others
rushed into their sleeping-room and she was torn away from her
husband and carried down to the beach.
"'Is thy husband dead?' I asked.
"'I cannot tell,' she said in a weak voice. 'I heard some
shots fired and saw him struggling with Franka's men. That is
all I know. If he is dead then shall I die too. Give me a
knife, so that I may die.'
"As she spoke the schooner began to move, and again we heard
Franka's voice calling out in English to some one to go forward
and con the ship whilst he steered, for the night was dark and
he, clever stealer of women as he was, did not know the passage
out through the reef, and trusted to those with him who knew
but little more. Then something came into my mind, and I took
Solepa's hand in mine.
"'I will save thee from this pig Franka,' I said quickly,
'he shall never take thee away. Sit ye here with Sipi, and when
ye hear the schooner strike, spring ye both into the sea and
swim towards the two islands which are near.'
"In the centre of the deck cabin was a hatch which led into
the hold. There was no deck between, for the vessel was but
small. I took my knife from the sheath and then lifted the
hatch, descended, and crawled forward in the darkness to the
fore hatch, up which I crept very carefully, for I had much in
my mind. I saw a man standing up, holding on to the fore stay.
He was calling out to Franka every now
and then, telling him how to steer. I sprang up behind him, and
as I drove my knife into his back with my left hand, I struck
him with my right on his neck and he fell overboard. He was a
white man, I think for when my knife went into his back he
called out 'Oh Christ!' But then many native men who have mixed
with white people call out 'Oh, Christ,' just like white men
when they are drunk. Anyway, it does not matter now.
"But as I struck my knife into him, I called out in English
to put the helm hard down, for I saw that the schooner was very
near the reef on the starboard hand. Franka, who was at the
wheel, at once obeyed and was fooled, for the schooner, which
was now leaping and singing to the strong night wind from the
mountains smote suddenly upon the coral reef with a noise like
the felling of a great forest tree, and began to grind and tear
"Almost as she struck Solepa and Sipi stood by me, and
together we sprang overboard into the white surf ... Give me
some more grog, dear friend of my heart. I am no boaster, nor
am I a liar; but when I think of that swim to the shore through
the rolling seas with those two women, my belly cleaves to my
backbone and I become faint.... For the current was against us,
and neither Sipi nor Solepa were good swimmers, and many times
had we to clutch hold of the jagged coral, which tore our skins
so that our blood ran out freely, and had the sharks come to us
then I would not be here with thee to-night drinking this, thy
good sweet grog which thou givest me out of thy
kind heart. Tāpā! When I look into thy face and see
thy kind eyes, I am young again. I love thee, not alone because
thou hast been kind to me in my poverty and paid the fines of
my granddaughter when she hath committed adultery with the
young men of the village, but because thou hast seen many lands
and have upheld me before the teacher, who is a circumcised but
yet untatooed dog of a Samoan. A man who is not tatooed is no
better than a woman. He is a male harlot and should be
despised. He is only fit to associate with women, and has no
right to beget children....
"We three swam to the shore, and when the dawn came we saw
that the schooner stood high and dry on the reef and that
Franka and his men were trying to float her by throwing
overboard the iron ballast and putting a kedge anchor out upon
the lee side of the reef. And at the same time we saw three
boats put off from the mainland. These boats were all painted
white, and when I saw them I said to Solepa, 'Be of good heart.
Thy husband is not dead, for here are three of his boats
coming. He is not dead. He is coming to seek thee.'"
"The three boats came quickly towards the schooner, but ere
they reached her Franka and those with him got into the boats
in which they had boarded the vessel, and then we saw smoke
arise from the bow and stern.... They had set fire to the ship.
They were cowards. Fire is a great help to cowards, because in
the glare and dazzling light of burning houses or ships, when
the thunder of cannons and the
rattle of rifles is heard, they can run about and kill
people.... I have seen these things done in Chili.... I have
seen men who would not stand and fight on board ship run away
on shore and slay women and children in their fury and
cowardice. No, they were not Englishmen; they were Spaniolas.
But the officers were Englishmen and Germans.
did not run away, they were killed. Brave men get killed and
cowards live. I am no coward though I am still alive. It is
quite proper that I should live, for I never ran away when
there was fighting to be done. I have only been a fool because
of my love for women. No one could say I was a coward, and no
one can say I am a fool, because I am too old now to be a
"As Franka and those with him left the burning schooner and
rowed towards the islands, the three boats from the shore
changed their course and followed him. Franka and his men were
the first to reach the land, and they quickly ran up the beach
and crouched behind the bushes which grew at high-water mark.
They all had guns, and Sipi and Solepa and I saw them waiting
to shoot. We were hiding amid the roots of a great banyan tree,
and could see well. As the boats drew near Solepa watched them
eagerly, and then began to weep and laugh at the same time when
she saw her husband Preston was steering the one which led. She
was a good woman. She loved her husband. I was pleased with
her, and told her to be of good cheer, for I was sure that
Preston and his people would kill Franka and those with him,
for as they rowed they made no noise. No one shouted nor
challenged; they came on and on, and the white man Preston
stood up with the steer oar in his hand, and his face was as a
stone in which was set eyes of fire. When his boat was within
twenty fathoms of the beach the rowers ceased, and he held up
his hand to those who awaited his coming.
"'Listen to me, men of Rōan Kiti. We are as three to
one of ye, and ye are caught in a trap. Death is in my mouth if
I speak the word. Tell me, is my wife Solepa alive?'
"No one answered, but suddenly Franka stepped out from
behind the bushes and pointed his rifle at him, and was about
to pull the trigger when a young man of his party who was of
good heart seized him by the arm, and cried out 'twas a
coward's act; then two or three followed him, and together they
bore Franka down upon the sand; and one of them cried out to
"'This is a wrong business. We were led astray by this man.
We are no cowards, and have no ill-will to thee. Thy wife is
alive. She swam ashore with two others when the ship struck.
Are we dead men?'
"Then, ere Preston could answer, Solepa leapt out from
beneath the banyan tree and ran through the men of Rōan
Kiti towards the beach, and cried—
"'Oh, my husband, for the love of God let no blood be shed!
I am well and unharmed. Spare these people and spare even this
man Franka, for he is mad!'
"Then Preston leapt out of the boat and put his
arms around her waist and kissed her, and then put her aside,
and called to every one around him—
"'These are my words,' he said. 'I am a man of peace, but
this man Franka is a robber and a dog, and hath stolen upon me
in the night and slain my people, and his hands are reddened
with blood. And he hath put foul dishonour on me by stealing
Solepa my wife, and carrying her away from my house as if she
were a slave or a harlot. And there is no room here for such a
man to live unless he be a better man than I. But I am no
murderer. So stand aside all! Let him rise and rest awhile, and
then shall we two fight, man to man. Either he or I must
"Then many men of both sides came to him and said, 'Let this
thing be finished. You are a strong man. Take this robber and
slay him as you would slay a pig.' But he put them aside, and
said he would fight him man to man, as Englishmen fought.
"So when Franka was rested two cutlasses were brought, and
the two men stood face to face on the sand. I kept close to
Franka, for I meant to stab him if I could, but Preston angrily
bade me stand back. Then the two crossed their swords together
and began to fight. It was a great fight, but it did not last
long, for Preston soon ran his sword through Franka's chest. I
saw it come out through his back. But as he fell and Preston
bent over him he thrust his cutlass into Preston's stomach and
worked it to and fro. Then Preston fell on him, and they died
"There was no more bloodshed. Solepa and Sipi and I dressed
the dead man in his best clothes, and the
Rōan Kiti men dressed Franka in his best clothes, and a
great funeral feast was made, and we buried them together on
the little island. And Solepa went back again to Honolulu in a
whaleship. She was young and fair, and should have soon found
another husband. I do not know. But Sipi was a fine wife to
The Fisher Folk of Nukufetau
Early one morning, about a week after I had settled down on
Nukufetau as a trader, I opened my chest of fishing-gear and
began to overhaul it. In a few minutes I was surrounded by an
eager and interested group of natives, who examined everything
with the greatest curiosity.
Now for the preceding twelve months I had been living on the
little island of Nanomaga, a day's sail from Nukufetau; and
between Nanomaga and Nukufetau there was a great bitterness of
long standing—the Nanomagans claimed to be the most
daring canoe-men and expert fishermen in all the eight isles of
the Ellice Group, and the people of Nukufetau resented the
claim strongly. The feeling had been accentuated by my good
friend the Samoan teacher on Nanomaga, himself an ardent
fisherman, writing to his brother minister on Nukufetau and
informing him that although I was not a high-class Christian I
was all right in all other respects, and a good
fisherman—"all that he did not know we have taught him,
therefore," he added slyly, "let your young men watch him so
that they may learn how to fish in deep and rough
water, such as ours." These remarks were of course duly made
public, and caused much indignation, neither the minister nor
his flock liking the gibe about the deep, rough water; also the
insinuation that anything about fishing was to be learnt from
the new white man was annoying and uncalled for.
I must here mention that the natives of De Peyster's Island
(Nukufetau) caught all the fish they wanted in the smooth and
spacious waters of the lagoon, and were not fond of venturing
outside the barrier reef, except during the bonito season, or
when the sea was very calm at night, to catch flying-fish.
Then, too, the currents outside the reef were swift and
dangerous, and the canoes had either to be carried a long
distance over the coral or paddled a couple of miles across the
lagoon to the ship passage before the open sea was gained.
Hudson's Island (Nanomaga)—a tiny spot less than four
miles in circumference—had no lagoon, and all fishing was
done in the deep water of the ocean. The natives were used to
launching their canoes, year in and year out, to face the
wildest surf, and were, in consequence, wonderfully expert, and
in the history of the island there is only one instance of a
man having been drowned. The De Peyster people, by reason of
the advantage of their placid lagoon, had no reason to risk
their lives in the surf in this manner, and so, naturally
enough, they were not nearly as skilful in the management of
their frail canoes when they had to face a sweeping sea on the
outer or ocean reef.
Just as I was placing some coils of heavy, deep-sea
lines upon the matted floor, Marèko the native teacher,
fat, jovial, and bubbling-voiced, entered in a great hurry, and
hardly giving himself time to shake hands with me, announced in
a tone of triumph, that a body of
(baby bonito) had just entered the passage and were making
their way up the lagoon.
In less than ten seconds every man, woman, and child on the
island, except the teacher and myself, were agog with
excitement and bawling and shouting as they rushed to the beach
to launch and man the canoes, the advent of the
having been expected for some days. In nearly all the
equatorial islands of the Pacific these beautiful little fish
make their appearance every year almost to a day, with
unvarying regularity. They remain in the smooth waters of
lagoons for about two weeks, swimming about in incredible
numbers, and apparently so terrified of their many enemies in
their own element, and the savage, keen-eyed frigate birds
which constantly assail them from above, that they sometimes
crowd into small pools on the inner reef, and when the tide is
low, seek to hide themselves by lying in thick masses under the
overhanging ledges of coral rock. Simultaneously—or at
least within a day or two at most—the swarming millions
are followed into the lagoons by the
—a large black and grey rock-cod (much esteemed by the
natives for the delicacy of its flavour) and great numbers of
enormous eels. At other times of the year both the
and the eels are never or but rarely seen inside the lagoons,
but are occasionally caught outside the reef at a good
depth—forty to sixty
fathoms. As soon, however, as the young bonito appear, both
eels and rock-cod change their normal habits, and entering the
lagoons through the passages thereto, they take up their
quarters in the deeper parts—places which are fringed by
a labyrinthine border of coral forest, and are at most ten
fathoms deep. Here, when the
are covering the surface above, the eels and rock-cod actually
rise to the surface and play havoc among them, especially
during moonlight nights, and in the daytime both rock-cod and
eels may be seen pursuing their hapless prey in the very
shallowest water, amidst the little pools and runnels of the
coral reef. It is at this time that the natives of Nukufetau
and some other islands have some glorious sport, for in
addition to the huge eels and rock-cod many other deep-sea fish
flock into the shallower lagoon waters—all in pursuit of
—and all eager to take the hook.
As soon as the natives had left the house, Marèko
turned to me with a beaming smile. "Let them go on first and
for us for bait," he said, "you and I shall follow in my own
canoe and fish for
. It will be a great thing for one of us to catch the first
of the season. Yesterday, when I was over there," pointing to
two tiny islets within the lagoon, "I saw some
. The natives laugh at me and say I am mistaken—that
had not come there could be no
think that the big fish came in some days ago, but the strong
wind and current kept the
outside till now. Come."
I needed no pressing. In five minutes I had my basket of
lines (of white American cotton) ready, and joined Marèko.
His canoe (the best on the island, of course) was already in
the water and manned by his two sons, boys of eight and twelve
respectively. I sat for'ard, the two youngsters amidships, the
father took the post of honour as
or steersman, and with a chuckle of satisfaction from the boys,
off we went in the wake of about thirty other canoes.
Oh, the delight of urging a light canoe over the glassy
water of an island lagoon, and watching the changing colours
and strange, grotesque shapes of the coral trees and plants of
the garden beneath as they vanish swiftly astern, and the quick
of the flashing paddles sends the whirling, noisy eddies to
right and left, and frights the lazy, many-hued rock-fish into
the darker depths beneath! On, on, till the half mile or more
of shallow water which covers the inner reef is passed, and
then suddenly you shoot over the top of the submarine wall,
into deepest, loveliest blue, full thirty fathoms deep, and as
calm and quiet as an infant sleeping on its mother's bosom,
though perhaps not a quarter of a mile away on either hand the
long rollers of the Pacific are bellowing and thundering on the
grim black shelves of the weather coast.
So it was on this morning, but with added delights and
beauties; as instead of striking straight across the lagoon to
our rendezvous we had to skirt the beaches
of a chain of thickly wooded islets, which gave forth a sweet
smell, mingled with the odours of
blossoms; for during the night rain had fallen after a long
month of dry weather, and Nature was breathing with joy. High
overhead there floated some snow-white tropic birds—those
gentle, ethereal creatures which, to the toil-spent seaman who
watches their mysterious poise in illimitable space, seem to
denote the greater Mystery and Rest that lieth beyond all
things; and lower down, and sweeping swiftly to and fro with
steady, outspread wing and long, forked tail, the fierce-eyed,
savage frigate birds scanned the surface of the water in search
of prey, and then finding it not, rose without apparent motion
to the cloudless canopy of blue and became as but tiny black
! and the tiny black specks which but a minute ago were high in
heaven are flashing by your cheeks with a weird, whistling
sound like winged spectres. You look for them. They are gone.
Already they are a thousand feet overhead. Five of them. And
all five are as motionless as if they, with their wide,
outspread wings, had never moved from their present position
for a thousand years.
"Chip, chip," and "chunk, chunk," go our paddles as we now
head eastward towards the rising sun in whose resplendent rays
the tufted palms of the two islets stand clearly out,
silhouetted against the sea rim beyond. Now and again we hear,
as from a long, long distance, the echoes of the voices of the
people in the canoes ahead; a soft white mist began to gather
over and then ascend from the water, and as we drew near
the islets the occasional thunder of the serf on Motuluga Reef
we heard awhile ago changed into a monotonous droning hum.
!" said Marèko the
, with a laugh, as he ceased paddling and laid his paddle
athwartships, "'tis like to be a hot day and calm. So much the
better for our fishing, for the water will be very clear. Boy,
give me a coconut to drink."
"Take some whisky with it, Marèko," I said, taking a
flask out of my basket.
! Shame upon you! How can you say such a thing to me, a
minister!" And then he added, with a reproachful look, "and my
children here, too." He would have winked, but he dared not do
so, for one of his boys had turned his face aft and was facing
him. I, however, made him a hurried gesture which he quite
understood. Good old Marèko! He was an honest,
generous-hearted, broad-minded fellow, but terribly afraid of
his tyrannical deacons, who objected to him smoking even in the
seclusion of his own curatage, and otherwise bullied and
worried him into behaving exactly as they thought he
By the time we reached the islets the
catching had begun, and more than a hundred natives were
encircling a considerable area of water with finely-meshed nets
and driving the fish shoreward upon a small sandy beach, where
they were scooped up in gleaming masses of shining blue and
silver by a number of women and children, who tumbled over and
pushed each other aside amidst much laughter and merriment.
On the larger of the two islets were a few thatched
huts with open sides. One of these was reserved for the
missionary and the white man, and hauling our canoe up on the
beach at the invitation of the people, we sat down under a shed
whilst the women grilled us some of the freshly-caught fish.
This took barely over ten minutes, as fires had already been
lighted by the children. The absence of bread was made up for
by the flesh of half-grown coconuts and cooked
—gigantic species of taro which thrives well in the sandy
soil of the Equatorial islands of the Pacific. Just as we had
finished eating and were preparing our lines we heard loud
cries from the natives who were still engaged among the
, and three or four of them seizing spears began chasing what
were evidently some large fish. Presently one of them darted
his weapon, and then gave a loud cry of triumph, as he leapt
into the water and dragged out a large salmon-like fish called
"utu", which was at once brought ashore for my inspection. The
man who had struck it—an active, wiry old fellow named
Viliamu (William) was panting with excitement. Some large
, he said, had just made their appearance with the
and were pursuing the small fish; therefore would we please
hurry forward with our preparations. Then the leader of the
entire party stood up and bellowed out in bull-like tones his
instructions. The canoes were all to start together, and when
the ground was reached all lines were to be lowered
simultaneously; there was to be no crowding. The white man and
missionary, however, if they wished, could start first and make
a choice of position.
"No, no," I said, "let us all start fair."
This was greeted with a chorus of approval, and then leaving
the women and children to attend to the camp, we hurried back
to the canoes. Just as we were leaving the hut I had a look at
—a fish I had never before seen. It was about three feet
in length, and only for its head (which was coarse and clumsy)
much like a heavy salmon. The back was covered with light green
scales, the sides and belly a pure silver, and the fins and
tail tipped with yellow. It weighed about 20 lbs., and
presented a very handsome appearance.
The fishing-ground to which we were now paddling was not
half a mile from the islets, and lay between them and the outer
reef which formed its northern boundary. It consisted of a
series of deep channels or connected pools running or situated
amidst a network of minor reefs, the surfaces of which were,
for the most part, bare at low water. Generally the depth was
from eight to ten fathoms; in places, however, it was much
deeper, and I subsequently found that there were spots whereon
I could stand (on the coral ledge) and drop my line into chasms
of thirty-two or thirty-three fathoms. Here the water was
almost as blue to the eye as the ocean, and here the very
largest fish resorted—such as the
, a species of rock-cod, and a blue-scaled groper, the native
name of which I cannot now recall.
It must have been nearly ten o'clock when the canoes were
all in position, and the word was given to let go lines. The
particular spot in which we were congregated was about three
acres in extent and about
seven fathoms in depth, with water as clear as crystal; and
even the dullest eye could discern the smallest pebble or piece
of broken coral lying upon the bottom, which was generally
composed of patches of coarse sand surrounded by an interlacing
fringe of growing coral, or white, blue, or yellow boulders. A
glance over the side showed us that the
had arrived; we could see numbers of them swimming lazily to
and fro beneath, awaiting the flowing tide which would soon
cover the lagoon from one shore to the other with swarms of
young bonito, as they swam about in search of such places as
that in which we were now about to begin fishing.
Each man had baited his hook with the third of an
—at this stage of their life about four inches long and
exactly the colour and shape of a young mackerel—and
within five minutes after ""
Tu'u tau kafa
!" ("Let go lines!") had been called out several of the canoes
around our own began to pull up fish—four to six
pounders. I was fishing with a white cotton line, with two
hooks, and Marèko with the usual native gear—a
hand-made line of hibiscus bark with a barbless hook made from
a long wire nail, with its point ground fine and well-curved
inwards. We both struck fish at the same moment, and I knew by
the zigzag pull that I had two. Up they came
together—three spotted beauties about eighteen inches in
length and weighing over 5 lbs. each. Then I found the
advantage of the native style of hook; Marèko simply put
his left thumb and forefinger into the fish's eye, had his hook
free in a moment, had baited,
lowered again and was pulling up another before I had succeeded
in freeing even my first hook which was firmly fixed in the
fish's gullet, out of sight. I soon put myself on a more even
footing by cutting off the small one and a half inch hooks I
had been using and bending on two thick and long-shanked four
inchers. These answered beautifully, as although the barbs
caused me some trouble, their stout shanks afforded a good grip
and leverage when extracting them from the hard and
keen-toothed jaws of the struggling fish. Then, too, I had
another advantage over my companions; I was wearing a pair of
seaboots which effectually protected my feet from either the
terrible fins or the teeth of the fish in the bottom of the
I had caught my eighth fish, when an outcry came from a
canoe near us, as a young man who was seated on the for'ard
thwart rose to his feet and began hauling in his line, which
was standing straight up and down, taut as an iron bar, the
canoe meanwhile spinning round and round although the steersman
used all his efforts to keep her steady.
"What is it, Tuluia?" called out fifty voices at once. "A
"My mother's bones!" said old Viliamu with a laugh of
contempt. "'Tis an eel, and Tuluia, who was asleep, has let it
twist its tail around a piece of coral. May he lose it for his
We all ceased fishing to watch, and half a dozen men began
jeering at the lad, who was too excited to heed them. Old
Viliamu, who was in the next canoe, looked down, and then cried
out that he could see the
eel, which had taken several turns of its body around a thick
branch of growing coral.
"His head is up," he called out to the youth, "but you
cannot move him, he has too many turns in and out among the
coral." Then paddling up alongside he again looked at the
struggling creature, then felt the line which was vibrating
with the tension. Stepping out of his own craft into that of
the young man, the line was placed in his hands without an inch
of it being payed out, for once one of these giant eels can get
his head down he will so quickly twine the line in and out
among the rugged coral that it is soon chafed through, if of
ordinary thickness. But the ancient knew his work well, as we
were soon to see. Taking a turn of the line well up on his
forearm and grasping it with his right a yard lower down, he
waited for a second or two, then suddenly bent his body till
his face nearly touched the water, then he sprang erect and
with lightning-like rapidity began to haul in hand
amid loud cries of approval as the wriggling body of the eel
was seen ascending clear of the coral. The moment it reached
the surface, a second native, with unerring aim sent a spear
through it and then a blow or two upon the head with a club
carried for the purpose took all further fight out of the
creature, which was then lifted out of the water and dropped
into the canoe. Here the end of its tail was quickly split open
and we saw no more of him for the time being.
To capture an eel so soon was looked upon as a lucky omen, to
have lost it would have been a presage of ill-fortune for the
rest of the day, and the incident put every one in high good
humour. By this time the tide was flowing over the flatter
parts of the reef and young bonito could be seen jumping out of
the water in all directions. Immense bodies were, so I was
assured by the natives, now coming into the lagoon from the
sea, and would continue to do so till the tide turned, when
those in the passage, unable to face a six-knot current, would
be carried out again, to make another attempt later on.
By this time every canoe was hauling in large rock-cod
almost as quick as the lines could be baited, and the bottom of
our own craft presented a gruesome sight—a lather of
blood and froth and kicking fish, some of which were over 20
lbs. weight. Telling the two boys to cease fishing awhile and
stun some of the liveliest, I unthinkingly began to bale out
some of the ensanguined water, when a score of indignant voices
bade me cease. Did I want to bring all the sharks in the world
around us? I was asked; and old Viliamu, who was a sarcastic
old gentleman, made a mock apology for me—
"How should he know any better? The sharks of Tokelau have
no teeth, like the people there, for they too are eaters of
This evoked a sally of laughter, in which of course I
joined. I must explain that the natives of the Tokelau
Group, among whom I had lived, through constantly chewing the
tough drupes of the fruit of the
(pandanus palm) wear out their teeth prematurely, and are
sometimes termed "toothless" by other natives of the South
Pacific. However, I was to have my own little joke at Viliamu's
expense later on.
Just at this time a sudden squall, accompanied by torrents
of rain, came down upon us from the eastward, and whilst
Marèko and his boys kept us head to wind—none of the
canoes were anchored—I took the opportunity of getting
ready two of my own lines, each treble-hooked, for the boys.
Their own were old and rotten, and had parted so often that
they were now too short to be of use, and, besides that, the
few remaining hooks of soft wire were too small. As soon as the
squall was over I showed Marèko what I had done. He nodded
and smiled, but said I should try and break off the
barbs—his boys did not understand them as well as
native-made hooks. This was quickly accomplished with a heavy
knife, and the youngsters began to haul up fish two and three
at a time at such a rate that the canoe soon became deep in the
water outside and very full inside.
"A few more, Marèko," I said, "and then we'll go
ashore, unload, and come back again. I want to tease that old
We caught all we could possibly carry in another quarter of
an hour, and I was confident that our take exceeded that of any
other canoe. This was because the natives would carefully watch
their stone sinkers descend, and use every care to keep them
entangled in the coral, whilst my line, which had a 12 oz.
leaden sinker, would plump quickly to the bottom in the midst
of the hungry fish; consequently, although I lost some hooks by
fouling and now and then dragged up a bunch of coral, I was
catching more fish than any one else. And I was not going to
let my reputation suffer for the sake of a few hooks. So we
coiled up our lines on the outrigger platform, and taking up
our paddles headed shoreward, taking care to pass near
Viliamu's canoe. He hailed me and asked me for a pipe of
"I shall give it to you when we return," I said.
"When you return! Why, where are you going?" he asked.
"On shore, you silly old woman! I have been showing these
boys how to fish for
, and we go because the canoe is sinking. When we return these
(infants) shall show
how to fish now that they have learnt from me."
There was a loud laugh at this, and as the old man took the
jest very good-naturedly I brought up alongside, showed him our
take, and gave him a stick of tobacco. The astonishment of
himself and his crew of three at the quantity of fish we had
afforded me much satisfaction, though I could not help feeling
that our luck was not due to my own skill alone.
Returning to the islets we were just in time to escape two
fierce squalls, which lasted half an hour and raised such a sea
that the remaining canoes began to follow us, as they were
unable to keep on the ground. During our absence the women and
had been most industrious; the weather-worn, dilapidated huts
had been made habitable with freshly-plaited
—coarse mats of green coconut leaves, the floors covered
with clean white pebbles, sleeping mats in readiness, and heaps
of young drinking nuts piled up in every corner, whilst outside
smoke was arising from a score of ground ovens in which taro
and puraka were being cooked, together with bundles of
wrapped in leaves.
Etiquette forbade Marèko and myself counting our fish
until the rest of the party returned, although the women had
taken them out of the canoe and laid them on the beach, where
the pouring rain soon washed them clean and showed them in all
their shining beauty. Among them were two or three
parrot-fish—rich carmine, striped with bands of bright
yellow, boneless fins, and long protruding teeth in the upper
jaw showing out from the thick, fleshy lips; and one
—a species of deep-water sand mullet with purple scales
and yellow fins.
Whilst awaiting the rest of the canoes I drew the teacher
into our hut and pressed him to take some whisky. He was wet,
cold, and shivering, but resolutely declined to take any. "I
should like to drink a little," he said frankly, "but I must
not. I cannot drink it in secret, and yet I must not set a bad
example. Do not ask me, please. But if you like to give some to
the old men do so, but only a very little." I did do so. As
soon as the rest of the party landed I called up four of the
oldest men and gave each of them a stiff nip. They were all
nude to the waist, and like all
Polynesians who have been exposed to a cold rain squall, were
shivering and miserable. After each man had taken his nip and
emitted a deep sigh of satisfaction I observed that hundreds of
old white men saved their lives by taking a glass of spirits
when they were wet through—they had to do so by the
"That is true," said one old fellow; "when men grow old, and
the rain falls upon them it does not run off their skins as it
would from the smooth skins of young men. It gets into the
wrinkles and stays there. But when the belly is warmed with
grog a man does not feel the cold."
"True," I said gravely, as I poured some whisky out for
myself; "true, quite true, my dear friends. And in these
islands it is very bad for an old man to be exposed to much
rain. That is why I am disturbed in my mind. See, there is
Marèko, your minister. He, like you, is old; he is wet and
cold. And he shivers. And he will not take a mouthful of this
because he fears scandal. Now if he should become ill and die I
should be a disgraced man. This
is now not
; it is medicine. And Marèko should take some even as you
have taken it—to keep away danger."
The four old fellows arose to the occasion. They talked
earnestly together for a minute, and then formed themselves
into a committee, requested me to head them as a deputation
with the whisky, and then waited upon their pastor, who was
putting on a dry shirt in another hut. I am glad to say that
under our united
protests he at last consented to save his life, and felt much
Presently the women announced that the ovens were ready to
be opened. As soon as the fish were counted, and the rain
having ceased, we all gathered round the canoes and watched
each one emptied of its load. As I imagined, our party had
taken the most fish, and not only the most, but the heaviest as
well. Marèko added to my blushing honours by informing the
company that as a fisherman and a knowledgable man generally I
justified his brother minister's opinion and would prove an
acquisition to the community. We then inspected the first eel
caught, and a truly huge creature it was, quite nine feet in
length, and in girth at its thickest part, as near as I could
guess with a piece of line, thirty inches. The line with which
it was caught was made of new four-stranded coir-cinnet, as
thick as a stout lead pencil, and the hook a piece of 3/6 or
1/2 inch iron with a 6-inch shank, once used as a fish spear,
without a barb! The natives seemed much pleased at the interest
displayed, and told me that sometimes these eels grew to
, two fathoms), but were seldom caught, and asked me if I had
tackle strong enough for such. Later on I showed them a
27-stranded American cotton line 100 fathoms long, with a
4-inch hook, curved in the shank, as thick as a pencil, and
"eyed" for a twisted wire snooding. They had never seen such
beautiful tackle before, and were loud in their expressions of
admiration, but thought the line too thin for a very heavy
fish. I told them that at Nanomaga I had caught
(a nocturnal feeding
fish of great size) in over sixty fathoms with that same
"That is true," said one of them politely, "we were told
that you and Tiaki (one Jack O'Brien, an old trader) of
Funafuti have caught many
with your long lines; but the
is a weak fish even when he is a fathom long. And as he comes
up he grows weaker and weaker, and sometimes he bursts open
when he comes to the surface. Now if a big eel—an eel two
"If he was three fathoms long he could not break this line,"
I replied positively.
They laughed and told me that when I hooked even a small
eel, one half a fathom in length, I would change my
Soon after our midday meal was over, and we were preparing
to return to our fishing-ground with an ample supply of fresh
bait, the sky to windward became black and threatening, and
through the breaks in the long line of palms on the weather
side of the island, which permitted the horizon to be viewed,
we could see that a squall of unusual violence was coming. All
the canoes were at once hauled up on the lee-side of the
islets, the huts were secured by ropes as quickly as possible,
and every one hurried under shelter. In a few minutes the wind
was blowing with astonishing fury, and the air was full of
leaves, sticks, and other
, whilst the coco-palms and other trees on the islets seemed
likely to be torn up by the roots. This lasted about ten
minutes. Then came a sudden lull, followed by a terrific and
deafening downpour of rain;
then more wind, another downpour, and the sun was out
As soon as the squall was over, I walked round to the
weather side of the islet with some children. We found the
beach covered with some thousands of
and beautiful little garfish which had been driven on shore by
the force of the wind. We were soon joined by women carrying
baskets, which they filled with fish and carried back to the
camp. On returning, we again launched the canoes and started
off again—to meet with some disappointment, for although
still bit freely and several eels were also taken, some scores
of the small, pestilent, lagoon sharks were swimming about and
played havoc with our lines. These torments are from two to
four feet in length, and their mouths, which are quite out of
proportion to their insignificant size, are set with rows of
teeth of razor-like keenness. The moment a baited hook was seen
one of these little wretches would dart at it like lightning,
and generally bit the line through just above the hook. So
quick were they, that one could seldom even feel a tug unless
the hook got fast in their jaws. Taking off my sinker, and
bending on a big hook with a wire snood, I abandoned myself to
their destruction, and as fast as I hauled one alongside it was
stunned, cut into three or four pieces, and thrown overboard to
be devoured by its fellows. Many of the Ellice and Tokelau
islanders regard these young sharks as a delicacy, as their
flesh is very tender, and has not the usual unpleasant smell.
In one of these young sea lawyers we found no less than
five hooks, with pieces of line attached; these were duly
restored to their owners.
Another two hours passed, during which we had fairly good
sport, then the rain began to fall so heavily that we gave up
for the day. We spent the first part of the evening in the
huts, eating, smoking, and talking, and overhauling our tackle
for the next day. It had been intended that about midnight we
should all go crayfishing in the shallow waters along the shore
of the islets, but this idea had to be abandoned in consequence
of the rain having soaked the coco palms—the dead
branches of which are rolled and plaited into a cylindrical
form and used as torches. The method of catching crayfish is
very simple: a number of men, each carrying a
torch about 6 feet in length in the left hand, and a small
scoop net in the right, walk waist-high through the water; the
crayfish, dazed by the brilliant light, are whipped up into the
nets and dropped into baskets carried by the women and children
who follow. They can only be caught on dark, moonless
When we returned to the village our spoils included besides
a great number of fish, a few turtle and some young frigate
birds. The latter were captured for the purpose of being tamed.
I made many subsequent visits to the two islets, sometimes
alone and sometimes with my native friends, and on each
occasion I left these lovely little spots with a keen feeling
of regret, for they are ideal resting-places to him who
possesses a love of nature and the soul of a fisherman.
Mrs. MacLaggan's "Billy"
When Tom Denison was quite a young man he was earning a not
too dishonest sort of a living as supercargo of a leaky old
ketch owned by Mrs. Molly MacLaggan of Samoa, which in those
days was the Land of Primeval Wickedness and Original and
Imported Sin, Strong Drink, and Loose Fish generally. Captain
"Bully" Hayes also lived in Samoa; his house and garden
adjoined that of Mrs. MacLaggan, and at the back there was a
galvanised iron cottage, inhabited by a drunken French
carpenter named Leger, whose wife was a full-blooded negress,
and made kava for Denison and "Bully" every evening, and used
to beat Billy MacLaggan on the head with a pole about six times
a day, and curse him vigorously in mongrel Martinique French.
Billy MacLaggan was Mrs. Molly's male goat, and as notorious in
Samoa as Bully Hayes himself.
I want to try and tell this story as clearly as possible,
but there are so many people concerned, and so many things
which really happened together, though each one seemed to come
before the other a little and try and get into the general
every one was so confused, some fatuous people blaming the
goat, and some Denison, who was generally disliked by the
Germans, while Mrs. Molly said it was caused by the man with
the bucket of milk, and Captain Hayes who had bribed him to do
it, and nearly caused bloodshed, as the German officer who was
insulted by Hayes had shot a lot of people in duels, or if he
had not shot them he had stuck his sword into them in fifteen
places, more or less.
Now let me explain: First of all there was Mrs. Molly, who
was the hostess; then there was Hamilton, the Apia pilot and
his wife; the manager of the big German firm at Matafale (he
wore gold spectacles, and was very fond of Mrs. Molly, who was
a widow); then there was Bully Hayes, and old Coe the American
consul, and young Denison; all these were some of the local
guests, and lived in Samoa, the rest were officers from a
German man-of-war lying in port, and the usual respectable town
loafers. Then there were Leger, the bibulous carpenter; '
his black wife; a white policeman named Thady O'Brien, and a
loafing scoundrel of a Samoan named Mataiasi, called "Matty"
for brevity, who was the public flogger, and milked Mrs.
MacLaggan's herd of seven imported Australian cows; and lastly
the goat, and about thirty or forty of Bully Hayes's crew, and
as many Samoans, who came to look at the dancing and see what
they could steal, Leger and his wife and the policeman and the
town flogger had charge of the refreshment tables, which for
the sake of coolness had been laid out upon the wide, back
and handsomely decorated with pot plants and flags from the
man-of-war, and blanc-manges and jellies, and tipsy cake, and
cold roast pigeons and chickens were lying around as if they
weren't worth two cents.
The big wholesale store, which formed part of Mrs. Molly's
house and establishment, made a fine ballroom. All the barrels
of whisky and Queensland rum, and the cases of lager beer and
Holland's gin, had been stowed neatly on each side, and covered
over with flags and orange blossoms by Denison and Bully Hayes
and his men, and the orange blossoms killed the smell of the
rum so much that strangers would have thought it was
Everything went on beautifully for the first two hours, and
then Mrs. Molly asked Denison to take out a very pretty young
half-caste lady and get her a drink of milk. When they reached
the side table where the milk should have been, they found it
all gone; but O'Brien the policeman said that Mataiasi had just
started off to milk another cow.
Just then Hayes came out to the refreshment tables with a
lady on his arm. She was thirsty, and so "Bully" opened a large
bottle of champagne, and she and he and Denison and the young
half-caste lady drank it; then they drank another, and all went
oft together to see Mataiasi milking the cow, which was tied up
to a coconut tree just outside the fence. The cow was a yellow
cow, and was standing very quietly, and just beside her Billy
MacLaggan (who caused all this trouble) was lying down, working
his jaws to and
fro and making curious, snorting sounds in the bright and
gorgeous moonlight. I forgot to say that Wm. MacLaggan was the
largest and ugliest goat ever known to the memory of man, and
had been taught every vice and wickedness any goat could be
taught, and it is as natural for a goat to imbibe sin as it is
for him to eat a cactus, or a hedgehog, or a tract.
Hayes addressed the goat by his Christian name, and asked
him how he did, and Billy looked at Hayes for a second or two
out of his green, sharky eyes, then he rose in a dignified
manner, and came over to him to be scratched under the chin.
Then he blew himself out, snorted, and rubbed his horns against
the captain's knee: and Hayes remarked to Denison that the poor
beggar wanted a drink, and proposed to give him a "proper
The goat knew perfectly well what "drink" meant, and made
his vicious tail quiver; then he followed them back to the
house, and stood at the foot of the steps waiting for Hayes and
Tom to come out again.
On the other side of the courtyard was Mrs. MacLaggan's
laundry. The door was wide open and the place was in darkness,
and no one took any notice when presently Tom sauntered out of
the ballroom, picked up a large plateful of tipsy-cake, and,
being kind to animals, gave a piece to William, who followed
him into the laundry for the rest; then Hayes came in with a
quart bottle of champagne, shut the door and struck a light.
Then he opened the bottle of fizz and poured it out into a
deep, enamelled starching-dish, and Billy MacLaggan drank
thereof, and then raised his head,
with his immoral-looking beard hanging in a sodden point like a
wet deck-swab, and asked for more. That is, he asked as well as
any Christian and civilised goat could ask, by standing up on
his hind legs like a circus-horse and making strange, unearthly
noises. Then he rammed his wicked old nose into the dish again,
and pushed it all round the room, trying to sop up more liquor,
which wasn't there, and trod on Denison's canvas-slippered
foot, and knocked over the little tin kerosene oil lamp which
was standing on the floor, and when Hayes, with loud and
blasphemous remarks grabbed at the ironing-blanket of the
laundry-table to extinguish the flames, he pulled the table
down on the top of Denison and himself and the goat and
everything, for the blanket was nailed on at the four corners,
and when he was down on his hands and knees, the goat being
exceedingly alarmed and half-drunk, and smelling his own hair
burning, put his head down and charged at the universe in
general, or anything else he could hit, and he hit Hayes fair
on the temple with a noise like a ship's mainmast going by the
board; then the people outside burst in the door, and the
creature, with a bull-like bellow, charged out among them, and
landed his bony head into the stomach of Mataiasi, who was
carrying the bucket of milk, and was afraid to put it down when
he saw him coming; then in some way the handle of the iron
bucket got on Billy MacLaggan's horns, which simply made him
thirst for gore, for he thought he was being made fun of
because he was in liquor. With the bucket swinging and
clattering and banging around,
he made a dash up on the verandah, among the pretty muslin-clad
ladies and white-duck suited men, creating havoc and
destruction, and smelling of kerosene and burnt hair and
ancient goat, and uttering horrible, blood-curdling
, till he got into the card-table corner, and mistaking the
wide glass window for an open door, he promptly jumped through
it, and fell with a shower of glass outside on to the verandah
again, where Thady O'Brien and the fat German with the
spectacles fell on him, and tried to hold him down, and the
spectacles were ground into dust and otherwise damaged, and
some of the ladies endeavouring to escape out of the hideous
fell with him, and then the goat struggled to his feet with the
bucket squashed flat against his forehead, and his horns
covered with lace, and tulle, and bits of kid gloves, and
planted one of his cloven forefeet into the shirt-front of a
German officer, and smashed his watch. Then with another roar
of defiance he burst through and disappeared into the
wilderness at the back of Mrs. MacLaggan's garden, where he was
followed by Leger, the drunken carpenter, and his wife, and
nineteen Samoans, all armed with rifles. The army fired at him
for two hours, and about midnight returned and reported him
riddled with bullets, whereupon Mrs. Molly, who was a little
hysterical at the awful mess and wreckage caused by the brute,
thanked them and gave them ten dollars.
Now it so happened that Billy MacLaggan was not killed at
all, for about two o'clock in the morning, as Bully Hayes and
Tom Denison were sitting on the
verandah of the former's house at Matautu Point, drinking
brandy and soda, and dabbing arnica bandages on their various
contusions, Pilot Hamilton hailed them from the front gate. He
had just left the dance with his wife, and was quite
sober—for Samoa. He asked them to come on with him to his
place, as Billy MacLaggan, he said, was lying down in Mrs.
Hamilton's kitchen, and seemed poorly, and that he hoped Hayes
would forgive the poor thing, which was only a dumb animal. So
Hayes and Denison went and saw William, who was now sober and
looked sorry. They dressed his wounds, and Tom Denison took him
on board early in the morning, intending to take him to sea
till the memory of his misdeeds had toned down a bit, for Billy
was a great institution in Samoa, and had many friends. Hardly
a white man in the place, no matter how hard up he was, but
would stand Billy a bottle of lager or a chew of tobacco. (I
forgot to mention that Billy would drink anything and chew
anything, except cigarettes, at which he snorted with
contempt.) Now Denison's little vessel was lying quite near the
German man-of-war, and was to sail next day for the Solomons if
the captain was sober, and he (Denison) had a lot of work to do
to get the ship ready, and whilst he was poring over accounts
in the cabin about noon, a boat ran alongside and Bully Hayes
came into the cabin.
"Where's Billy?" he said. "Quick, get him into my boat at
once. There's a search-party coming on board, and the widow is
going to give you the dirty kick-out, Tom Denison. There's been
the devil to
pay over that cursed goat, but I'm going to save his life all
the same. But if she does sack you, you can come to me for a
Billy, who was placidly eating bananas on the main deck, was
at once seized and hoisted over the side into Hayes's boat,
which shoved off, leaving Hayes on board to explain things to
It seemed that when the fat German manager—the man
with spectacles—I mean the man who had the spectacles
until Billy MacLaggan came in—the man who was courting
Mrs. Molly—fell on the top of the goat, some other man
trod on his face, and Leger (who was not sober enough to tell
one person from another) said that he saw Tom Denison do it.
Seven natives, male and female, swore that at the time alleged
Tom was out on the beach bathing his crushed toe in the salt
water, and using solemn British oaths; but Leger, who disliked
Denison, who had once kicked him overboard violently for being
drunk, not only stuck to the story, but said that Hayes and Tom
had set the goat on fire on purpose to break up the dance and
cause annoyance to the Germans present; also he vaguely hinted
that they, Denison and Hayes, would have driven the seven cows
into the ballroom but couldn't find them. Then Mrs. MacLaggan
promised the fat man to sack Denison on the following morning,
and at midnight, as I have said, word was brought in that Billy
had been shot. But about ten in the morning Leger heard from
some native that the goat was as well as ever, and on board
Denison's vessel, and being a mean, spiteful little hound, off
he trotted to the
German manager, and said that Captain Hayes and Mr. Denison had
rescued the creature. At that very moment the manager was
talking to some German officers, one of whom was the man whose
watch had been smashed, and as every German in Samoa hated
Hayes most fervently, it was at once concluded that Hayes had
trained, or suborned, or bribed, or corrupted the goat to do
it. So a young lieutenant went and called upon Hayes, and
demanded satisfaction for his friend, and Hayes was exceedingly
rude to him, but said that if the man with the broken watch
liked to meet Billy MacLaggan with his own weapons, and fight
him in a goatsmanlike manner, for fifty dollars a side, he
(Hayes) would put up Billy's fifty. Then the lieutenant asked
for a written apology for his friend, and Hayes said that Billy
couldn't write, and, anyway, he was Mrs. Molly's goat. If the
man with the smashed nickel wanted an apology, why the blazes
didn't he approach Mrs. MacLaggan? he asked.
Whilst Hayes was telling all this to Tom, pulling his thick
beard and laughing loudly, as they paced the little vessel's
deck, the search-party came on board to recover the goat. The
leader bore a letter from Mrs. MacLaggan to Tom, informing him
that his services as supercargo were no longer required, also
that he could come ashore at once and be paid off, as his
conduct was heartless, and the consuls said it might lead to
serious complications, as it had been done with intent to
insult the citizens of a friendly nation, one of whom, as he
was aware, had made the natives cut
down the price of copra half a cent. Under these circumstances,
Tom grinned and showed the letter to Hayes. Then he turned
to the mate.
"I've got the sack, Waters. You're in charge of this rotten,
filthy old hooker now until the old man is sober."
He packed up his traps, went ashore, drew his money from
Mrs. MacLaggan's cashier, and bade him goodbye.
"Where's the goat, Tom?"
"On board Bully Hayes' ship. His crool, crool mistress shall
see him no more! Never more shall his plaintive call to his
nannies resound o' nights among the sleeping palm-groves of the
Vaisigago Valley; never——"
The cashier jumped up out of his chair and seized the
dismissed supercargo by the collar.
"Stop that bosh, you rattlebrained young ass, and come and
take a farewell drink."
"Never more will he butt alike the just and the unjust, the
fat and bloated German merchant nor the herring-gutted Yankee
skipper, nor the bare—ah—um—legged Samoan,
nor the gorgeous consul in the solar topee. Gone is the glory
of Samoa with Billy MacLaggan. Goodbye for the present, Wade,
old man—I am not so proud of my new dignity—I am to
be supercargo of the brig
—as to refuse to drink with you, though you are but a
cashier. And give my farewell to the widow, and tell her that I
bear her no ill-will, for I leave a dirty little tub of a
infested ketch for a swagger brig, where I shall wear white
suits every day and feel that peace of mind which—"
"Oh, do dry up, you young beggar," said the good-natured
cashier, whose laughter proved so infectious that Tom joined
"Come then, Wade, just another ere we part."
Now as these two were drinking in the cashier's office it
happened that Thady O'Brien, the policeman (he was chief of the
municipal police, and fond of drink) saw them, and invited
himself to join them and also to express his sorrow at
Denison's "misfortune," as he called it, for Denison was a
lovable sort of youth, and often gave him drink on board. So
they all sat down, Wade in the one chair, and Tom and the
policeman on the table, and had several more drinks, and just
then Mrs. MacLaggan came to the door, holding a note in her
hand. She bowed coldly to Tom, whose three stiff drinks of
brandy enabled him to give her a reproachful glance.
"Captain Hayes wants to buy one or two of the nanny-goats,
to take away with him to Ponapé, Mr. Wade," she said. "I
shall be glad to let him have them. Please tell Leger and
Mataiasi to catch them at once."
Then Mrs. MacLaggan went away, and Tom and O'Brien went down
to the jetty to wait for a boat to take them on board—Tom
to his duty, and O'Brien because he was thirsty again.
Presently Leger and Mataiasi and a large concourse of native
children came down, carrying two female goats, who, imagining
were to be cast into the sea, began to cry with great violence,
and were immediately answered in a deep voice by Billy
MacLaggan from over the water, whereupon Leger started to run
off and tell Mrs. MacLaggan that Billy was alive, and on board
, and Denison put out his foot and tripped him, and was at once
assailed by Leger's black wife, who hit him on the head with a
stick, and then herself was pushed backwards off the jetty into
the water by Mr. O'Brien, taking several children and one of
the goats with her, and in less than two minutes there was as
pretty a fight as ever was seen. Several native police ran to
help their superior officer, and a lot of dogs came with them;
the dogs bit anybody and everybody indiscriminately, but most
of them went for Leger and Denison, who were lying gasping
together on the jetty, striving to murder each other; then a
number of sailors belonging to a whaleship joined in, and tried
to massacre or otherwise injure and generally maltreat the
policemen, and by the time the boat from the
came to the rescue the jetty looked like a battlefield, and one
goat was drowned, and the new supercargo was taken on board to
have his excoriations attended to, for he was in a very bad
That is the end of the story, which I have told in a
confused sort of away, I admit, because there are so many
things in it, though I could tell a lot more about the
adventures of Billy MacLaggan, after he went to sea with
Captain Bully Hayes.
An Island Memory
From early dawn wild excitement had prevailed in the great
native village on the shores of Port Lele, and on board two
ships which were anchored on the placid waters of the
land-locked harbour. As the fleecy, cloud-like mist which,
during the night, had enveloped the forest-clad spurs and
summit of Mont Buache, was dispelled by the first airs of the
awakened trade wind and the yellow shafts of sunrise, a fleet
or canoes crowded with natives put off from the sandy beach in
front of the king's house, and paddled swiftly over towards the
ships, the captains of which only awaited their arrival to
weigh and tow out through the passage.
As the mist lifted, Cayse, the master of the
of Sagharbour, stepped briskly up on the poop, and hailed the
skipper of the other vessel, a small, yellow-painted barque of
less than two hundred tons.
"Are you ready, Captain Ross?"
"All ready," was the answer; "only waiting for the
military," and then followed a hoarse laugh.
Cayse, a little, grizzled, and leathern-faced man of fifty,
replied by an angry snarl, then turned to his mate, who stood
beside him awaiting his orders.
"Get these natives settled down as quickly as possible, Mr.
North, then start to heave-up and loose sails. I reckon we'll
tow out in an hour. The king will be here presently in his own
boat. Hoist it aboard."
North nodded in silence, and was just moving on to the main
deck, when Cayse stopped him.
"You don't seem too ragin' pleased this mornin', Mr. North,
over this business. Naow, as I told you yesterday, I admire
your feelin's on the subject, but I can't afford—"
The mate's eyes blazed with anger.
"And I tell you again that I won't have anything to do with
it. I know my duty, and mean to stick to it. I shipped for a
whaling voyage, and not to help savages to fight. Take my
advice and give it up. Money got in this way will do you no
Cayse shifted his feet uneasily.
"I can't afford to sling away the chance of earnin' two or
three thousan' dollars so easy. An' you'll hev to do your duty
to me. Naow, look here—"
North raised his hand.
"That will do. I have said I will do my duty as mate, but
not a hand's turn will I take in such bloody work as you and
the skipper of that crowd of Sydney cut-throats and convicts
are going into for the sake of six thousand dollars."
"Well, I reckon we can do without you. Any
one would think we was going piratin', instead of helping the
king of this island to his rights. Naow, just tell
Again the mate interrupted him.
"I am going for'ard to get the anchor up, and will obey all
your orders as far as the working of the ship is
An hour later the two vessels, their decks crowded with
three hundred savages, armed with muskets, spears, and clubs,
were towed out through the narrow, reef-bound passage, and with
the now freshening trade wind filling their sails, set a course
along the coast which before sunset would bring them to
Leassé, on the lee side of the island. But presently, in
response to a signal from the
, the whaler lay to; a boat put off from the smaller ship, and
Captain Ross came alongside, clambered over the bulwarks and
joined Cayse and the young king of Port Lele, who were awaiting
him on the poop, to discuss with him the plan of surprise and
slaughter of the offending people of Leassé.
Nearly a week before the
had run into Port Lele to refresh before proceeding westward
and northward to the Bonin Islands in pursuance of her cruise.
Charlik, the king, was delighted to see Cayse, for in the days
when his father was king the American captain had conveyed a
party of one hundred Strong's Islanders from Port Lele to
MacAskill's Island, landed them in his boats during the night,
and stood off and
on till daylight, when they returned reeking from their work of
slaughter upon the sleeping people, and bringing with them some
scores of women and children as captives. For this service the
king had given Cayse half a ton of turtle-shell, and the
services of ten young men as seamen for as long a time as the
cruised in the Pacific on that voyage. When Charlik's father
was dying, he called his head chiefs around him, and gave the
boy into their care with these words—"Here die I upon my
mat like a woman, long before my time, and to-morrow my spirit
will hear the mocking laughs of the men of Môut and
Leassé, when they say, 'Sikra is dead; Sikra was but an
Then his son spoke.
"Not many days shall they laugh. They shall be destroyed
all, all, all of them."
The king touched his son's hand.
"Those are good words. But be not too hasty. Wait till the
American comes again. He will help with his men and guns. But
he is a greedy man. Yet spare nothing; give him all the silver
and gold money I have stored by for his return, and all the
turtle-shell that can be gathered together. And let there be
not even one little child left in Môut or
Charlik was a lad or seventeen when his savage old father
died, and for a year after his death he harried and distressed
his people by his exactions. All day long the men toiled at
making coconut oil, and at night time they watched along the
beaches for the
hawk-bill turtle; the oil they put into huge butts, which stood
in the king's boat-sheds, and the costly turtle-shell was taken
by the young ruler and locked up in the seamen's chests which
lined the inside wall of the great council-house. And no man
durst now fire a musket at a wild pig, for powder and ball had
—such things were given up to the chiefs, lest they might
be wasted, and every morning three young men climbed up the
rugged side of Mont Buache, to keep a look-out for the ship
whose captain would help their master to wreak a bloody
vengeance upon the rebellious people of Leassé.
At the end of the sixteenth month of watching, a sail
appeared coming from the southward, and the watchers on the
mountain-top sped down to the king's house, and sinking upon
their knees in the courtyard of coral slabs, whispered their
news to one of the king's serving-men, who, with a musket in
his hand and a cutlass girt around his naked waist, stood
sentry before the youthful despot's sleeping-room.
"Good," said the king to Kanka, his head chief; "'tis surely
the American Késa,
for this is the month in which he said he would return. Let the
women make ready a great feast, and launch my three boats, so
that if the wind fail, when the sun is high, they may help to
drag the ship into Lele."
Then came the sound of beating drums, and the long, mournful
note of the conch-shells calling the wild people together to
prepare for the ship. Turtle
were lifted from their walled-in prison holes on the reef, hogs
were strangled, and the king's wives went hither and thither
among his slave women, bidding them hasten to kindle the ovens,
whilst children went out into the great canework cage, wherein
were hundreds of the king's wild pigeons, and seizing the
birds, began to pluck them alive.
An hour passed. Charlik, sitting in a European chair, was
watching the wild bustle and excitement around him in the
courtyard, when his eye fell on the three messengers, who, with
bent head and bended knees, were awaiting his further
Beckoning to a young, light-skinned woman, who stood near
him, he bade her bring him three of his best pearl-shell bonito
hooks. They were brought, and taking them from her, he threw
them to the men.
"Ye have watched well," he said. "There is thy reward. Now
go and eat and sleep."
With eyes sparkling with pleasure, the young men each took
up his precious gift, and with crouching forms crept slowly
over to the further side of the courtyard, where they were
waited upon by women with food.
Presently the fair young woman—his sister
Sè—returned to her brother's side.
"The ship is near," she said, and then her voice faltered;
"but it is not the ship of Késa. It is but a small ship,
and she hath but two boats. Késa's had five."
"What lies are these?" said the young savage fiercely. "Go
The girl left him, to return a few minutes later with
grey-headed old Kanka, who in response to an inquiring look
from his master, bent his head and said slowly—
"'Tis a strange ship—one that never before have we
seen in Lele."
The youth made him no answer. He merely raised his arm and
pointed his finger at the three messengers.
"Then they have lied to me. Bring them here to me."
Kanka stepped over to where the fated men were sitting. They
rose at his behest, and crept over to the king; behind them, at
some invisible sign given by him, followed a man with a heavy
wood. The clamour which had filled the courtyard ceased, and
terrified silence fell. One by one the messengers knelt upon
the coral flags—no need for them to ask for mercy from
Charlik, the savage son of a bloodstained father. The bearer of
the club held the weapon knob downward, and watched the king's
face for the signal of death. He nodded, and then, one after
another of the men were struck and fell prone upon the stones.
With scowling eyes Charlik regarded them for a moment or two in
silence, then he turned unconcernedly away, as some of his
slaves came forward and carried the bodies out of sight.
Suddenly he sprang to his feet, as a loud, long cry, first
from a single throat, and then echoed and reechoed by a hundred
more, came upward from the beach.
A ship! A ship! Another ship! The ship of Késa!"
Bidding his sister and the old chief Kanka to come with him,
Charlik quickly left the house, and walking through a grove of
breadfruit trees, reached a spot from where he had a full view
of the open sea. There right in the passage was a small barque;
and, almost within hail, and just rounding the northern horn of
the reef was a larger vessel, one glance at which told Charlik
that it was the American whaler for which he had so long
waited. In less than an hour they were at anchor abreast of the
king's house, and the two captains were being rowed ashore.
They met on the beach. The master of the smaller vessel was a
tall, broad-shouldered man, armed with a pair of pistols and a
cutlass. Striding over the sand he held out his hand to the
"Good day. My name's Ross, barque
, of Sydney, from the New Hebrides to Hong Kong with
"Glad to meet ye. My name is Cayse, ship
, bound on a sperm whalin' cruise."
Further speech was denied them, for suddenly the thronging
and excited natives around them drew aside right and left as
Charlik, with a face beaming with smiles, came up to Cayse with
outstretched hand, and greeted him warmly in English. Then he
turned quickly to the Englishman and shook hands with him also,
and asked him from whence he came.
"From Sydney. I came here to get wood, water, and
Good. You can get all you want. Have you muskets and bullets to
"I can spare you some."
"Ah, that is good. I want plenty, plenty. Now come to my
house and eat and drink; then we can talk."
It was well on towards sunset before Charlik and Cayse had
finished their talk. Ross meanwhile had gone on board the
barque for some firearms which he was giving the king in
exchange for several boatloads of provisions. When he returned,
with two of his crew carrying six muskets, a keg of powder, and
a bag of bullets, Cayse met him on the threshold of the king's
"Come inside, mister. The king wants to talk to you on a
matter of business. I reckon you an' me together can do what he
wants done. But jest come along with me first. I want to show
you the kind of fellow he is when he gets upset."
The master of the sandalwooder followed the American across
the wide courtyard to some native houses. Stopping in front of
one, from which the low murmur of women's voices, broken now
and then by a wailing cry, proceeded, he desired Ross to look
in through the doorway. A small fire of coconut shells was
burning in the centre of the room, and
its light Ross saw several women crouched round the bodies of
three men, performing the last offices for the dead. They
looked at the white strangers with apathetic indifference, but
ceased their labours whilst Ross bent down and
examined the still faces. His scrutiny was brief, but it was
Cayse gave a sniggering laugh. "I reckon you'll feel sorter
startled, mister, when I tell you that you were the cause of
those men getting clubbed, hey?"
Ross frowned angrily. "What are you driving at? What the
devil had I to do with it?"
"On'y this. You see I'm the white-headed boy with this young
island cock, an' he's been expectin' to see the
for quite a time. Your barque happened to heave in sight first,
an' these three fellows who were standin' mast-head watch up
thar on the mountain, came tearin' down an' reported that it
was my old hooker. Charlik bein' a most impatient young fellow,
had 'em clubbed on the spot; he should hev waited another five
minutes. Come on, he's ready to talk business with us now."
In the centre of the big council room Charlik, attended by
his sister, was seated upon a mat. A couple of brightly burning
ship's lanterns suspended from the beams overhead, revealed the
figures of a score of armed natives, seated with their backs to
the canework walls of the room; midway between them and the
young king were two seamen's chests, beside which crouched the
half-naked, tatooed form or old Kanka.
Followed by the sailors carrying the muskets, the two
captains walked over the soft, springy floor of mats, and
seated themselves facing the young man. His eye lit up at the
sight of the arms, and then he
desired Ross to tell his men to withdraw. Then as the sound of
their footsteps died away, he looked at Cayse and said
"Go on, capèn. You talk."
Cayse went into the subject at once.
"Captain Ross, do you want to earn three thousand
"Neither do I. Well, just listen. The king here has three
thousand dollars in cash and three thousand dollars' worth of
coconut ile and turtle-shell. Now, if you and I will help him
to do a bit of fightin' it's ours. The money and shell is here
in this room, the ile is in the sheds near by. If you agree,
the king will hand us over the money now, and we can ship the
ile in the morning."
Ross thought a moment, then he said suspiciously—
"Why are you giving me a chance?"
"Not from any feelin' of affection for you, mister,"
answered Cayse with his peculiar snarl, "but because I ain't
able to do the whole business myself—if I could I
to come in. Now, I noticed this mornin' that you carry a big
crew, and have six guns, and I reckon thet you hev to use 'em
sometimes in your business?"
Ross laughed grimly. "All of us sandalwooding ships carry a
few nine-pounders as well as plenty of small arms. We are
allowed to do so by the Governor of New South Wales."
"Just so. Well, now, listen. This island is
governed by two chiefs; this one here, Charlik, has most
people, but the other lot, who live on the lee side of the
island, rebelled against his father more'n ten years ago.
They've had a good many fights, an' in the last one these Lele
people got badly whipped. Charlik is the proper king, but ever
since a white man named Ledyard went to live with the
Leassé people, they've refused to pay tribute. This
Ledyard is the cause of all the trouble, and he has taught his
natives how to fight European fashion. There's only about six
hundred of 'em altogether—men, women, and
The young chief nodded in assent.
"Now, by a bit of luck, news came up the other day by one of
Charlik's spies that Ledyard has gone away to Ponapé in a
cutter he has built. It will take him two or three weeks to go
there and back, and now is the time for Charlik to wipe out old
scores—the Leassé people won't stand much of a
chance agin' a night attack by three hundred of Charlik's
people. If Ledyard was there it would be different."
Ross soon made his decision. He was a man utterly without
pity, and Cayse who, while inciting others to slaughter for the
sake of his own gain, yet had some grains of compunction in his
nature, almost shuddered when the master of the
laughed hoarsely and said—
"It's a bargain—just the thing that my crowd could
tackle and carry through themselves. Two
voyages ago me and my beauties wiped out every living soul on
one of the Cartaret's Islands. I'll tell you the yarn some day.
But look here, king, can't we make another deal about the women
and children. Let me keep as many of them as I have room for
aboard, and I'll pay for them in muskets and powder and
"What do you want with them?"
"Sell them to old Abba Dul, the king of the Pelews. I've
done business with him before."
Charlik called Kanka over to him, and the two spoke in low
tones. Then the young ruler of Lele shook his head.
"No. There must be but one left to live—the white
man's wife. Now we shall count this money."
The boxes were carried over directly under the rays of the
lamps and opened, the bags containing the money lifted out, the
coins counted, and then evenly divided between the two
On the following morning the casks of oil were rolled down
to the beach and rafted off to the two ships, and before dawn,
on the fourth day, Ross and his fellow-ruffian sent word ashore
to the king that all was ready, and that he and his fighting
men could come on board at once and proceed on their dreadful
As the two captains and their ferocious young employer sat
on the snow-white poop of the
and discussed the plan of attack, the ship and barque kept
closely together, so closely that North, who had not yet placed
foot on board the sandalwooder, had now an opportunity of
looking down upon her decks, and watching the actions of those
who manned her. A more ragged and desperate looking lot of
ruffians he had never seen in his life; and their wild, unkempt
appearance was in perfect accord with the
herself, whose dirty, yellow sides were stained from stem to
stern with long streaks and broad patches of iron-rust. Aloft
she was in as equally a bad condition, and North and his
fellow-officers, used to the trimness and unceasing care of a
whaleship's sails and running gear, looked with contempt at the
disorder and neglect everywhere visible. On deck, however, some
attempt at setting things ship-shape were being made by the two
mates and boatswain, the six guns were being overhauled, and a
pile of muskets lying on the main hatch were being examined and
passed up to the poop one by one, to old Kanka, who was in
command of the contingent of Lele natives on board the barque.
Similar preparations with small arms were being made on board
by her crew which, largely composed of Chilenos, Portuguese,
and Polynesians, had eagerly accepted the offer of twenty
each man for a few hours' fighting. North alone had spoken
against and tried to dissuade his fellow-officers from taking
any active part in the expedition, but his remonstrances fell
upon unheeding ears. The details of the scheme to surprise the
unsuspecting inhabitants of the two villages had filled him
with unutterable horror and indignation, and all sorts of wild
plans formed in his brain to prevent the accomplishment of the
cruel deed. For the consequences of such interference to
himself he cared nothing. He was alone in the world, and had no
thought beyond that of making enough money to enable him to one
day buy a ship of his own. Once, as he passed the trio on the
poop, and glanced at the smooth, olive-coloured features of the
young king, who, with anticipative zest, was fondling a rifle
which Ross had brought on board for him, he felt inclined to
whip a belaying-pin out of the rail and bring it crashing down
upon his skull. Had there been any other ship but the
near, he would have left the
that moment. But help was coming to his troubled mind.
An hour before sunset the two vessels ran into a little
harbour, then called Port Lottin, but now known as South
Harbour by the few wandering whalers which sometimes touch at
the island. Here, ere it became dark, the natives, with
fourteen of the
crew under Ross, were landed. They were to march at early
morning, cross the mountain range which intervened between
South Harbour and Leassé, and then, hidden by the dense
forest, await the appearance of the ships off the
doomed villages on the following afternoon. The six
boats—two from the
and four from the
—were to pull ashore as soon as the ships were off
Leassé and take up positions, three to the north and three
to the south, so as to cut off all who attempted to escape
along the beaches from the attack which would be made by Ross.
Charlik was to command one of the boat parties, Cayse the
other, and should any canoes with fugitives attempt to gain the
open sea, they were to be sunk by the
guns, for she was to anchor in such a position that an escaping
canoe would have to pass within fifty yards of her.
Eight bells had struck, and North, who had declined to join
the captain and his fellow-officers at supper, was sitting in
his cabin smoking and listening to the soft hum of the surf on
the barrier reef a mile away. On deck all was quiet, only the
fourth mate and three of the hands were keeping watch, the rest
of the crew who were not turned in had gone ashore to witness a
dance given by King Charlik's warriors.
Suddenly he heard a footfall on the cabin deck, and then
some one said in a low voice—
"May I come in, sir?"
North, recognising the voice as that of a young man named
Macy, his own harpooner, at once bade him enter.
Macy, a sunburnt, blue-eyed youth, closed the cabin door
behind him, and held up his finger to enjoin silence.
I've only just now heard, sir, that you will not take a hand in
this work which is going on. Neither will I, sir; for those
damned savages are going to kill all the poor women and
children. I've come to ask you what I'm to do if I'm ordered
away in the boat? My God! Mr. North, must we all be turned into
a gang of murderers like those fellows on the
The officer shook the young seaman's hand. "I for one will
have no hand in it, my lad; and I wish there were more of us on
board of our way of thinking. I wish we could leave the ship. I
would rather die of thirst on the open ocean ... Macy, my lad,
will you stand to me?"
"Stand to you, sir! Aye, Mr. North. If you mean to take to
our boat, sir, I am with you."
"No," answered North in a whisper. "That, after all, would
only save us two from being mixed up in this murderous
business—I want to prevent it altogether. Have you heard
how far it is across the island to this place Leassé?"
"Seven miles, sir, over the mountains."
"And twenty by the boats! Macy, I am determined to leave the
ship to-night, cut across the island, and save the poor people
from massacre. Will you come? We may pay for it with our
The harpooner raised his rough hand. "We must all die some
For some minutes they conversed in whispered tones; then
Macy slipped on deck, and North took his pistols from their
racks, filled his coat pockets
with ammunition, and then followed him. His own boat was lying
Telling the cooper, who was the only one of the afterguard
on deck, that he was going ashore to look at the dance, and
that only Macy and another hand need come with him, North
ordered the boat to be hauled alongside. A quarter of an hour
later he and Macy stepped out upon the shore under the shadow
of a high bluff, and quite out of view from Ross and his party,
although the many camp-fires cast long lines of light across
the sleeping waters of the little harbour.
Informing the boat-keeper that they should return in a
couple of hours, the two men first walked along the beach in
the direction of the encampment. Then once out of sight from
the boat, they struck inland into a deep valley through which,
Macy said, a narrow track led up to the range, and then
downwards to the two villages. After a careful search the track
was found, and the bright stars shining through the canopy of
leaves overhead gave them sufficient light to pursue their way.
For two hours they toiled along through the silent forest,
hearing no sound except now and then the affrighted rush of
some startled wild boar, and, far distant, the dull cry of the
ever-restless breakers upon the coral reef. At last the summit
of the range was reached, and they sat down to rest upon the
thick carpet of fallen leaves which covered the ground. Here
North took a spirit-flask from his jacket, and Macy and he
drank in turns.
"Do you know, sir," said Macy, as he returned
the flask to the officer, "that there's a white man living at
"He's not there now, Macy. He's gone away to another island
in his cutter."
"I know that, sir. I've heard all about it from one of the
chaps on the
. The man's name is Ledyard, and this young devil's-limb of a
king hates him like poison—for two reasons. One is, that
Ledyard, who settled in Leassé a few years ago, taught the
people there how to use their muskets in a fight, when
Charlik's father tried to destroy them time and again; the
other is that his wife is a white woman—or almost a white
woman, a Bonin Island Portuguese—and Charlik means to get
her. When Ledyard comes back in his cutter he will walk into a
trap, and be killed as soon as he steps ashore."
North struck his hand upon the ground. "And to think that I
have sailed with such a villain as Cayse, who—"
"That's not all. Ledyard has two children. Charlik has given
orders for them to be killed, as he says he only wants the
woman! Ross, I believe, wanted him to spare 'em, but the young
cut-throat said 'No.' I heard all this from two men—the
chap from the
and one of Charlik's fighting men, who speaks English and seems
to have a soft place in his heart for Ledyard."
The mate of the
sprang to his feet. "The cold-blooded wretches! Come on, Macy.
get there in time."
For another two hours they made steady progress
through the darkened forest aisles, and then as they emerged
out upon a piece of open country, they saw far beneath them the
gleaming sea. And here, amidst a dense patch of pandanus palms,
the path they had followed came to an end. Pushing their way
through the thorny leaves, which tore the skin from their hands
and faces, Macy exclaimed excitedly—
"We're all right, sir. I can see a light down there. It must
be a fire on the beach."
Heedless of the unknown dangers of the deep descent, and
every now and then tripping and falling over the roots of trees
and fallen timber, they again came out into the open, and
there, two hundred feet below them, they saw the high-peaked,
saddle-backed houses of Leassé village standing clearly
out in the starlight. But at this point their further progress
was barred by a cliff, which seemed to extend for half a mile
on both sides of them. Cautiously feeling their way along its
ledge they sought in vain for a path.
"We must hail them, Macy. There will be sure to be plenty of
them who can speak a little English and show us the way to get
Returning as quickly as possible to the spot immediately
over the village, the officer gave a long, loud hail.
Below there, you sleepers!
The hoarse, shrieking notes of countless thousands of
roosting sea-birds, as they rose in alarm from their perches in
the forest trees, mingled with the barking of dogs from the
village, and then came a wild cry of alarm from a human
Waiting for a few moments till the clamour had somewhat
subsided, the two men again hailed in unison.
Below there! Awake, you sleepers!
Another furious outburst of yelping and
barking—through which ran the quavering of voices of the
affrighted natives—smote the stillness of the night. Then
the bright light of torches of coconut leaves flashed below,
nude figures ran swiftly to and fro among the houses, and then
came a deep-voiced answering hail in English—
Hallo there! Who hails
"Two white men," was the officer's quick reply. "We cannot
get down. Bear a hand with a torch; we have lost the track."
Then as something flashed across his mind, he added, "Who are
you? Are you a white man?"
"Yes. I am Tom Ledyard."
"Thank God for that! Send a light quickly. You and your
people are in deadly danger."
In a few minutes the waiting men saw the gleam of torches
amid the trees to their right, and presently a tall, bearded,
white man appeared, followed by half a dozen natives. All were
armed with muskets, whose barrels glinted and shone in the
Springing forward to meet him, North told his story in as
few words as possible.
Ledyard's dark face paled with passion. "By heaven, they
shall get a bloody welcome! Now, come, sir; follow me. You must
need rest badly."
As they passed through the village square, now lit
up by many fires and filled with alarmed natives, Ledyard
called out in his deep tones—
"Gather ye together, my friends. The son of the Slaughterer
is near. Send a man fleet of foot to Môut and bid him tell
Nena, the chief, and his head men to come to my house quickly,
else in a little while our bones will be gnawed by Charlik's
Then with North and Macy besides him, he entered his house,
the largest in the village. A woman, young, slender, and
fair-skinned, met them at the door. Behind her were some
terrified native women, one of whom carried Ledyard's youngest
child in her arms.
"'Rita, my girl," said Ledyard, placing his hand on his
wife's shoulder and speaking in English, "these are friends.
They have come to warn us. That young hell-pup, Charlik, is
attacking us tomorrow. But quick, girl, get something for these
gentlemen to eat and drink."
But North and the harpooner were too excited to eat, and,
seated opposite their host, they listened eagerly to him as he
told them of his plans to repel the attack; of the bitter
hatred that for ten years had existed between the people of
Leassé and the old king; and then—he set his
teeth—how that Sé, the friendly sister of the young
king, had once sent a secret messenger to him telling him to
guard his wife well, for her brother had made a boast that when
Leassé and Môut were given to the flames only Cerita
should be spared.
"Then, ten days ago, Mr. North, thinking that this
young tiger-cub Charlik knew that these people here were well
prepared to resist an attack, I left in my cutter on a trading
voyage to Ponapé. Three days out the vessel began to make
water so badly that I had to beat back. I only came ashore
He rose and walked to and fro, muttering to himself. Then he
"Mr. North, and you, my friend"—turning to
Macy—"have saved me and those I love from a sudden and
cruel death. What can I do to show my gratitude? You cannot now
return to your ship; will you join your fortunes with mine? I
have long thought of leaving this island and settling in
Ponapé. There is money to be made there. Join me and be my
partners. My cutter is now hauled up on the beach—if she
were fit to go to sea we could leave the island to-night. But
that cannot be done. It will take me a week to put her in
proper repair—and to-morrow we must fight for our
North stretched out his hand. "Macy and I will stand by you,
Ledyard. We do not want to ever put foot again on the deck of
The story of that day of bloodshed and horror, when Charlik
and his white allies sought to exterminate the whole community,
cannot here be told in
its dreadful details. Seventy years have come and gone since
then, and there are but two or three men
now living on the island who can speak of it with knowledge as
a tale of "the olden days when we were heathens." Let the rest
of the tale be told in the words of one of those natives of
Leassé, who, then a boy, fought side by side with Ledyard,
North, and Macy.
"The sun was going westward in the sky when the two ships
rounded the point and anchored in what you white men now call
Coquille Harbour. We of Leassé, who watched from the
shore, saw six boats put off, filled with men. There pulled
inside the reef, and went to the right towards Môut; three
went to the left. Letya (Ledyard), with the two white strangers
who had come to him in the night, and two hundred of our men,
had long before gone into the mountains to await Charlik and
his fighting men, and their white friends. They—Letya and
the Leassé people—made a trap for Charlik's men in
the forest. Charlik himself was in the boats with the other
white men. He wanted to see the people of Leassé and
Môut driven into the water, so that he might shoot at them
with a new rifle which Késa or the other ship
captain—I forget which—had given to him. But he
wanted most of all to get Cerita, the wife of Letya, the white
man. Only Cerita was to live. These were Charlik's words. He
did not know that her husband had returned from the sea. Had he
known that, he would not have given all his money and all his
oil to the two white captains to
help him to make Leassé and Môut desolate and give
our bones to his dogs to eat.
"It was a great trap—the trap prepared by Letya; and
Charlik's men and the white men with them fell in it. They fell
as a stone falls in a deep well, and sinks and is no more seen
"This was the manner of the trap: The path down the cliff
was between two high walls of rock; at the foot of the cliff
was a thick clump of high pandanus trees growing closely
together. In between these trees Letya built a high barrier of
logs, encompassing the outlet of the path to Leassé. This
barrier was a half circle; the two ends touched the edge of the
cliff, and the centre was hidden among the pandanus trees. On
the top of this barrier the men of Leassé waited with
loaded muskets; lower down on the ground were others, they too
had loaded muskets. On the top of the cliff where the path led
down, fifty men were hidden. They were hidden in the thick
scrub which we call
is a good thing in which to hide from an enemy, and then spring
from and slay him suddenly.
"I, who was then a boy, saw all this. I heard Letya, our
white man, tell the head of our village that Charlik's men
would enter into the trap and perish. Then kava was made, and
Letya and the head men drank. Kava is good, but rum is better
to make men fight. We had no rum, but we had great love for
Letya and his wife, and his two children, and great hate for
Charlik. So we said, 'If this is death, it is death,' and every
man went to his post—some to the barrier at the foot of
the cliff, and some to the thicket
on the summit. Cerita, the wife of Letya the Englishman, was
weeping. She was weeping because Nená, the chief of
Môut, was waiting in the house to kill her if her husband
should be slain. But she did not weep because of the fear of
death; it was for her children she wept. That is the way of
women. What is the life of a child to the life of a man?
"Nená was my father's brother. He was a brave man, but
was too old to fight, for his eyes were dimmed by many years.
So he sat beside Cerita and her two children, with a long knife
in his hand and waited. He covered his face with a mat and
waited. It was right for him to do this, for Letya was a great
man; and his wife, although she was a foreigner, was an
honoured woman. Therefore though Nená might not look upon
her face at other times, he could kill her if Letya said she
must die. This was quite right and correct. A wife must be
guided by her husband and do what is right and correct, and
"For many hours the women in the houses waited in silence.
Then suddenly they heard the thunder of two hundred guns, and
the roaring of voices, then more muskets. They ran out of the
houses and looked up to the cliff, and lo! the sky was bright
as day, for when Charlik's people and the white men walked into
the trap in the darkness, Letya and our people set alight great
heaps of dry leaves and scrub, which were placed all along the
barrier of logs. This was done so that they could see better to
shoot. There were thirty or forty of Charlik's men killed by
The white man who was leading them was very brave; he tried to
climb over the barrier, but fell back dead, for a man named Sru
thrust a whale-lance into his heart. All this time the other
white men and the rest of Charlik's people were firing their
muskets, but their bullets only hit the heavy logs of the
barrier, and Letya and our people killed them very easily by
putting their muskets through the spaces. When the sailors saw
their captain fall, they tried to run away, and the Lele
warriors ran with them. But when they reached the path which
led up between the cliff, it too was blocked, and many of them
became jammed together between the walls, and these were all
killed very easily—some with bullets, and some with big
stones. Then those that were left ran round and found inside
the trap, trying to get out. They were like rats in a cask, and
our people kept killing them as they ran. Some of
them—about thirty—did climb over, but all were
killed, for when they jumped down on the other side our people
were there waiting. At last four of the sailors made a big hole
by tearing out two posts, and rushed out, followed by the Lele
men. Letya was the first man to meet the sailors, and he told
them to surrender. Two of them threw down their arms, but the
other two ran at Letya, and one of them ran his cutlass into
him. It went in at the stomach, and Letya fell. We killed all
these white sailors, but some of the Lele men escaped. That was
a great pity, but then how can these things be helped?" The two
strange white men who were fighting beside Lētya, picked
him up, and they carried him
into his house. He was not dead, but he said, 'I shall soon
die, take me to my wife.' I did not go with them to the house.
I went into the barrier with the other youths to kill the
wounded. It is a foolish thing not to kill wounded men; they
may get better and kill you. So we killed them. There were
fourteen white men slain in that fight beside their
"Before it was daylight some of our men set out along the
beach to look for the boats. They did not want to kill any more
white men, but they did want to kill Charlik. They were very
fortunate, for before they had gone far on their way they saw
three of the boats coming along close in to the beach. So they
hid behind some rocks. Charlik was in the first boat; he was
standing in the bow pointing out the way. When he came very
close they all fired together, and Charlik's life was gone. He
fell dead into the sea. Then the boats all turned seaward, and
pulled hard for the ships. Then before long, we saw the other
three boats going back to the ships; in these last were four of
Charlik's men who had escaped. The boats were quickly pulled
up, and the ships sailed away, for those on board were
terrified when they heard that all the white men they had sent
to fight were dead.
"Letya did not die at once—not for two days. Cerita
his wife and two white men watched beside him all this time.
Before he died he called the head men to him, and said that he
gave his small ship to the two white men, together with many
other things. All his money he gave to his wife, and told her
she must go away with the white men, who would take
her back to her own people. To the head men he gave many
valuable things, such as tierces of tobacco and barrels of
powder. This was quite right and proper, and showed he knew
what was correct to do before he died. We buried him on the
little islet over there called Bèsi.
"The two white men and Cerita and her two children went away
in the little ship. But they did not go to Cerita's country:
they remained at Ponapé, and there the tall man of the
two—the officer—married Cerita. All this we learnt
a year afterwards from the captain of a whaling ship. It was
quite right and proper for Letya's widow to marry so quickly,
and to marry the man who had been a friend to her husband."
A Hundred Fathoms Deep
There is still a world or discovery open to the
ichthyologist who, in addition to scientific knowledge, is a
lover of deep-sea fishing, has some nerve, and is content to
undergo some occasional rough experiences, if he elects to
begin his researches among the many island groups of the North
and South Pacific. I possessed, to some extent, the two latter
qualifications; the former, much to my present and lasting
regret, I did not. Nearly twenty-six years ago the vessel in
which I sailed as supercargo was wrecked on Strong's Island,
the eastern outlier of the fertile Caroline Archipelago, and
for more than twelve months I devoted the greater part of my
time to traversing the mountainous island from end to end, or,
accompanied by a hardy and intelligent native, in fishing,
either in the peculiarly-formed lagoon at the south end, or two
miles or so outside the barrier reef.
The master of the vessel, I may mention, was the notorious,
over maligned, and genial Captain Bully Hayes, and from him I
had learnt a little about some of the generally unknown
deep-sea fish of Polynesia and Melanesia. He had told me that
sailing between Aneityum and Tanna, in the New Hebrides,
shortly after a severe volcanic eruption on the former island
had been followed by a submarine convulsion, his brig passed
through many hundreds of dead and dying fish of great size,
some of which were of a character utterly unknown to any of his
native crew—men who came from all parts of the North and
South Pacific. More remarkable still, some of these fish had
never before been seen by the inhabitants of the islands near
which they were found. There were, he said, some five or six
kinds, but they were all of the groper family. One of three
which was brought on board was discovered floating on the
surface when the ship was five miles off Tanna. A boat was
lowered, but on getting up to it, the crew found they were
unable to lift it from the water; it was, however, towed to the
ship, hoisted on board, and cut into three parts, the whole of
which were weighed, and reached over 300 lbs. In colour it was
a dull grey, with large, closely-adhering scales about the size
of a florin; the fins, tail, and lips were blue. Another one,
weighing less, had a differently-shaped head, with a curious,
pipe-like mouth; this was a uniform dull blue. A similar
upturning from the ocean's dark depths of strange fish occurred
during a submarine earthquake near Rose Island, a barren spot
to the south-west of Samoa. The disturbance threw up vast
numbers of fish upon the reefs of Manua, the nearest island of
the group, and the natives looked upon their great size and
peculiar appearance with unbounded astonishment.
Without desiring to bore the reader with unnecessary details of
my own experiences in the South Seas, but because the statement
bears on the subject of this article—a subject which has
been my delight since I was a boy of ten years of age—I
may say that, nine years after the loss of Captain Hayes's
vessel on Strong's Island, I was again shipwrecked on Peru, one
of the Gilbert, or, as we traders call them, the "Line"
Islands. Here I was so fortunate as to take up my residence
with one of the local traders, a Swiss named Frank Voliero, who
was an ardent deep-sea fisherman, and whose catches were the
envy and wonder of the wild and intractable natives among whom
he lived; for he had excellent tackle, which enabled him to
fish at depths seldom tried by the natives, who have no reason
to go beyond sixty or eighty fathoms. In the long interval that
had elapsed since my fishing days in the Carolines and my
arrival at Peru Island, I had gained such experience in my
hobby in many other parts of the Pacific as falls to few men,
and the desire to fish in deep water, and get something that
astonished the natives of the various islands, had become a
passion with me. Voliero and myself went out together
frequently, and, did space permit, I should like to describe
the fortune that attended us at Peru, as well as my fishing
adventures at Strong's Island.
In a former work I have endeavoured to describe that
extraordinary nocturnal-feeding fish, the
, and the manner of its capture by the Malayo-Polynesian
islanders of the Equatorial Pacific, and in the present
article I shall try to convey to my readers an idea of deep-sea
fishing in the South Seas generally. When I was living on the
little island of Nanomaga (one of the Ellice Group, situated
about 600 miles to the north-west of Samoa), as the one
resident trader, I found myself in—if I may use the
term—a marine paradise, as far as fishing went. The
natives were one and all expert fishermen, extremely jealous of
their reputation of being not only the best and most skilful
men in Polynesia in the handling of their frail canoes in a
heavy surf, but also of being deep-learned in the lore of
My arrival at the island caused no little commotion among
the young bloods, each of whose chances of gaining the girl of
his heart, and being united to her by the local Samoan
missionary teacher, depended in a great measure upon his
ability to provide sustenance for her from the sea; for
Nanomaga, like the rest of the Ellice Group, is but little more
than a richly-verdured sandbank, based upon a foundation of
coral, and yielding nothing to its people but coconuts and a
coarse species of taro, called puraka. The inhabitants, in
their low-lying atolls, possess no running streams, no fertile
soil, in which, as in the mountainous isles of Polynesia, the
breadfruit, the yam, and the sweet potato grow and flourish
side by side with such rich and luscious fruits as the orange
and banana, and pineapple—they have but the beneficent
coconut and the evergiving sea to supply their needs. And the
sea is kind to them, as Nature meant it to be to her own
The native missionary at Nanomaga was a Samoan. He was intended
by nature to be a warrior, a leader of men; or—and no
higher praise can I give to his dauntless courage—a
boat-header on a sperm whaler. Strong of arm and quick of eye,
he was the very man to either throw the harpoon or deal the
death-giving thrust or the lance to the monarch of the ocean
world; but fate or circumstance had made him a missionary
instead. He was a fairly good missionary, but a better
Three miles from Nanomaga is a submerged reef, marked on the
chart as the Grand Coral Reef, but known to the natives as Tia
Kau, "the reef." It is in reality a vast mountain of coral,
whose bases lie two hundred fathoms deep, with a flattened
summit of about fifty acres in extent, rising to within five
fathoms of the surface of the sea. This spot is the resort of
incredible numbers of fish, both deep-sea haunting and surface
swimming. Some of the latter, such as the
)—a long, scaleless, beautifully-formed fish, with a head
of bony plates and teeth like a rip-saw—are of great
size, and afford splendid sport, as they are game fighters and
almost as powerful as a porpoise. They run to over 100 lbs.,
and yet are by no means a coarse fish. In the shallow water on
the top of this mountain reef there are some eight or nine
varieties of rock cod, none of which were of any great size;
but far below, at a depth of from fifty to seventy fathoms,
there were some truly monstrous fish of this species, and I and
my missionary friend had the luck to catch the four largest
ever taken—221 lbs., 208 lbs., 118 lbs., and 111 lbs. I
had caught when fishing for
schnapper, in thirty fathoms off Camden Haven, on the coast of
New South Wales, a mottled black and grey rock cod, which
weighed 83 lbs., and was assured by the Sydney Museum
authorities that such a weight for a rock cod was rare in that
part of the Pacific, but that
fishermen on the Great Barrier Reef had occasionally captured
fish of the same variety of double that size and weight.
Not possessing a boat, we fished from a canoe—a light,
but strong and beautifully constructed craft, with "whalebacks"
fore and aft to keep it from being swamped by seas when facing
or running from a surf. The outrigger was formed of a very
light wood, called
, about fourteen inches in circumference. With the teacher and
myself there usually went with us a third man, whose duty it
was to keep the canoe head to wind, for anchoring in deep water
in such a tiny craft was out of the question, as well as
dangerous, should a heavy fish or a shark get foul of the
outrigger. Capsizes in the daytime we did not mind, but at
night numbers of grey sharks were always cruising around, and
they were then especially savage and daring.
Leaving the pretty little village, which was embowered in a
palm grove on the lee side of the island, we would, if
intending to fish on the Tia Kau, make a start before dawn,
remain there till the canoe was loaded to her raised gunwale
pieces with the weight of fish, and then return. Night fishing
on the Tia Kau by a single canoe was forbidden by the
(head men) as being too dangerous on account of the sharks, and
so usually from ten to twenty canoes set out
together. If one did come to grief through being swamped, or
capsized by having the outrigger fouled by a shark, there was
always assistance near at hand, and it rarely happened that any
of the crew were bitten. In 1872, however, a fearful tragedy
occurred on the Tia Kau, when a party of seventy
natives—men, women, and children—who were crossing
to the neighbouring Island of Nanomea, were attacked by sharks
when overtaken on the reef by a squall at night. Only two
escaped to tell the tale.
If, however, we meant to try for
, a huge variety of the mackerel-tribe, or
, a magnificent bream-shaped fish, we had no need to go so far
as the dangerous Tia Kau; three or four cable-lengths from the
beach, and right in front of the village, we could lie in water
as smooth as glass, and seventy fathoms in depth. Our bait was
invariably flying-fish, freshly caught, or the tentacles of an
octopus. My lines were of white American cotton, and I
generally used two hooks, one below and one above the sinker,
both baited with a whole flying-fish, while my companions
preferred wooden or iron hooks, of their own manufacture, and
lines made from hibiscus bark or coconut fibre.
I shall always remember with pleasure my first
. I was accompanied by the native teacher alone, and we paddled
off from the village just after evening service, and brought to
about a quarter of a mile outside the reef. The rest of the
islanders had gone
round in their canoes to the weather side of the little island
to fish for
, for we were expecting a
, or party of visitors from the Island of Nukufetau in a day or
two, and unusual supplies of fish had to be obtained, to
sustain, not only the island's record as the fishing centre of
the universe, but the people's reputation for hospitality. It
had been my suggestion to the teacher that he and I, who were
unable to accompany the others, should try what we could do
nearer home. The night was brilliantly starlight, and the sea
as smooth as glass—so smooth that there was not even the
faintest swell upon the reef. The trade wind was at rest, and
not the faintest breath of air moved the foliage of the coco
palms lining the white strip of beach. Now and then a splash or
a sudden commotion in the water around us would denote that
some hapless flying-fish had taken an aerial flight from a
, or that a shark had seized a turtle in his cruel jaws.
Lighting our pipes, we lowered our lines together according to
island etiquette, and touched bottom at thirty fathoms; then
hauled in a fathom or two of line to avoid fouling the coral.
In a few minutes my companion hooked an
, a sluggish fish, somewhat like a salmon in appearance, with
shining silvery scales and a broad flat head. As he was hauling
in, and I was looking over the side of the canoe to watch it
coming up, I felt a sharp, heavy tug at my own line, and,
before I could check it, thirty or forty yards of line whizzed
through my fingers with lightning speed.
" shouted the teacher, hurriedly making
his own line fast, and whipping up his paddle. "Don't give out
any more line or he will run under the reef, and we shall lose
I knew by the vibration and hum of the line as soon as I had
it well in hand that there was a heavy and powerful fish at the
end. Ioane, disregarding the
as being of no importance in comparison to a
, was plunging his paddle rapidly into the water, and
endeavouring to back the canoe seaward into deeper water, but,
in spite of his efforts and my own, we were being taken quickly
inshore. For some two or three minutes the canoe was dragged
steadily landward, and I knew that once the
succeeded in getting underneath the overhanging ledge of reef,
there would be but little chance of our taking him except by
diving, and diving on a moonless night under a reef, and
freeing a fish from jagged branches of coral, is not a pleasant
task, although an Ellice Islander does not much mind it.
Finding that I could not possibly turn the fish, I asked Ioane
what I should do. He told me to let go a few fathoms of line,
brace my knee against the thwart, and then trust to the sudden
jerk to cant the fish's head one way or the other. I did as I
was told. Out flew the line, and then came a shock that made
the canoe fairly jump, lifted the outrigger clear out of the
water, and all but capsized her. But the ruse was successful,
for, with a furious shake,
changed his course, and started off at a tremendous rate,
parallel with the reef, and then gradually headed seaward.
"Let him go," said Ioane, who was carefully
watching the tautened-out line, and steering at the same time.
"'Tis a strong fish, but he is
(truly hooked), and will now tire. But give him no more line,
and haul up to him."
For fully five minutes the canoe went flying over the water,
and I continued to haul in line fathom by fathom, until I
caught sight of, deep down in the water right ahead, a great
phosphorescent boil and bubble. Then the pace began to slacken,
as the gallant fighter began to turn from side to side, shaking
his head and making futile breaks from port to starboard.
Bidding me come amidships with the line, Ioane took in his
paddle, and picked up the harpoon which we always carried on
the outrigger platform in case of meeting a turtle. Nearer and
nearer came the great fish, till, with a splash of
phosphorescent light and spray, he came to the surface, beating
the water with his forked and bony tail, and still trying to
get a chance for another downward run. Then Ioane, waiting his
opportunity, sent the iron clean through him from side to side,
and I sat down and watched, with a thrill of satisfaction and a
sigh of relief, his final flurry. In a few minutes we hauled
him alongside, drew the harpoon, and with some difficulty
managed to get him over the side and lower him into the bottom
of the canoe amidships, where he lay fore and aft, his curved
back standing up nearly a foot and a half above the raised
gunwale. Although not above four feet in length, he was nearly
three in depth, and about sixteen inches thick at the
shoulder—a truly noble fish.
We have done well," said the teacher, with a pleased laugh, as
he hauled in his own line and dropped a 6-lb.
into the canoe. "There will be much talk over this to-morrow,
for these people here are very conceited, and think that no one
but themselves can catch
. They will know better now, when they see this one."
We returned to the shore within two hours from the time we
left, with my
, and five or six salmon-like fish called
, all nocturnal feeders, and all highly thought of by the
natives, especially the latter. The
we hung up under the missionary's verandah, and at daylight I
had the intense satisfaction of seeing a crowd of natives
surrounding it, and of hearing their flattering allusions to
myself as a
papalagi masani tonu futi íka
—a white man who really could fish like a native.
On a Tidal River
The English visitor to the Eastern Colonies of Australia who
is in search of sport with either rod or hand line can always
obtain excellent fishing in the summer months even in such
traffic-disturbed harbours as Sydney, Newcastle, and other
ports; but on the tidal rivers of the eastern and southern
seaboard he can, every day, catch more fish than he can carry
during seven months of the year. In the true winter months deep
sea fishing is not much favoured, except during the prevalence
of westerly winds, when, for days at a time, the Pacific is as
smooth as a lake; but in the rivers, from Mallacoota Inlet,
which is a few miles over the Victorian boundary, to the Tweed
River on the north of New South Wales, the stranger may fairly
revel not only in the delights of splendid fishing but in the
charms of beautiful scenery. He needs no guide, will be put to
but little expense, for the country hotel accommodation is good
and cheap; and, should he visit some of the northern rivers
where the towns, or rather small settlements, are few and far
between, he will find the settlers the embodiment of British
Some three years ago the writer formed one of the crew of a
little steamer of fifty tons named the
, which was sent out along the coast in the endeavour to revive
the coast whaling industry. Through stress of weather we had
frequently to make a dash for shelter, towing our sole
whaleboat, to one of the many tidal rivers on the coast between
Sydney and Gabo Island. Here we would remain until the weather
broke, and our crew would literally cover the deck with an
extraordinary variety of fish in the course of a few hours.
Then, at low tide, we could always fill a couple of cornsacks
with excellent oysters, and get bucketfuls of large prawns by
means of a scoop net improvised from a piece of mosquito
netting; game, too, was very plentiful on the lagoons. The
settlers were generally glad to see us, and gave us so freely
of milk, butter, pumpkins, &c., that, despite the rough
handling we always got at sea from the weather, we grew quite
fat. But as the greater part of my fishing experience was
gained on the northern rivers of the colony of N.S. Wales it is
of them I shall write.
Eighteen hours' run by steamer from Sydney is the Hastings
River, on the southern bank of which, a mile from the bar, is
the old-time town of Port Macquarie, a quaint, sleepy little
place of six hundred inhabitants, who spend their days in
fishing and sleeping and waiting for better times. There are
two or three fairly good hotels, very pretty scenery along the
coast and up the river, and a stranger can pass a month without
suffering from ennui—
that is, of course, if he be fond of fishing and shooting; if
he is not he should avoid going there, for it is the dullest
coast town in New South Wales. The southern shore, from the
steamer wharf to opposite the bar, is lined with a hard beach,
on which at high tide, or slack water at low tide, one may sit
down in comfort and have great sport with bream, whiting, and
flathead. As soon as the tide turns, however, and is well on
the ebb or flow, further fishing is impossible, for the river
rushes out to sea with great velocity, and the incoming tide is
almost as swift. On the other side of the harbour is a long,
sandy point, called the North Shore, about a mile in length.
This, at the north end, is met by a somewhat dense scrub, which
lines the right bank of the river for a couple of miles, and
affords a splendid shade to any one fishing on the river bank.
The outer or ocean beach is but a few minutes' walk from the
river, and a magnificent beach it is, trending in one great
unbroken curve to Point Plomer, seven miles from the
Before ascending the river on a fishing trip one has to
provide one's self with a plentiful supply of cockles, or
"pippies," as they are called locally. These can only be
obtained on the northern ocean beach, and not the least
enjoyable part of a day's sport consists in getting them. They
are triangular in shape, with smooth shells of every imaginable
colour, though a rich purple is commonest. As the back wash
leaves the sands bare these bivalves may be seen in thick but
irregular patches protruding from the sand. Some
times, if the tide is not low enough, one may get rolled over
by the surf if he happen to have his back turned seaward.
Generally I was accompanied by two boys, known as "Condon's
Twins." They were my landlord's sons, and certainly two of the
smartest young sportsmen—although only twelve years
old—ever met with. Both were very small for their age,
and I was always in doubt as to which was which. They were
always delighted to come with me, and did not mind being soused
by a roller now and then when filling my "pippy" bag. Pippies
are the best bait one can have for whiting (except prawns) in
Australia, for, unlike the English whiting, it will not touch
fish bait of any sort, although, when very hungry, it will
sometimes take to octopus flesh. Bream (whether black or
silvery), flathead, trevally, jew-fish, and, indeed, all other
fish obtained in Australia, are not so dainty, for, although
they like "pippies" and prawns best, they will take raw meat,
fish, or octopus bait with readiness. Certain species of sea
and river mullet are like them in this respect, and good sport
may be had from them with a rod in the hot months, as Dick and
Fred, the twins aforesaid, well knew, for often would their
irate father wrathfully ask them why they wasted their time
catching "them worthless mullet."
But let me give an idea of one of many days' fishing on the
Hastings, spent with the "Twins." Having filled a sugar bag
with "pippies" on the ocean beach, we put on our boots and make
our way through the belt of scrub to where our boat is lying,
tied to the protruding roots of a tree. Each of us is armed
with a green stick, and we pick our way pretty carefully, for
black snakes are plentiful, and to tread on one may mean death.
The density of the foliage overhead is such that but little
sunlight can pierce through it, and the ground is soft to our
feet with the thick carpet of fallen leaves beneath. No sound
but the murmuring of the sea and the hoarse notes of countless
gulls breaks the silence, for this side of the river is
uninhabited, and its solitude disturbed only by some settler
who has ridden down the coast to look for straying cattle, or
by a fishing party from the town. Our boat, which we had hauled
up and then tied to the tree, is now afloat, for the tide has
risen, and the long stretches of yellow sandbanks which line
the channel on the farther side are covered now with a foot of
water. As we drift up the river, eating our lunch, and letting
the boat take care of herself, a huge, misshapen thing comes
round a low point, emitting horrid groanings and wheezings. It
is a steam stern-wheel punt, loaded with mighty logs of
black-butt and tallow wood, from fifty feet to seventy feet in
length, cut far up the Hastings and the Maria and Wilson
Rivers, and destined for the sawmill at Port Macquarie.
In another hour we are at our landing-place, a selector's
abandoned homestead, built of rough slabs, and standing about
fifty yards back from the river and the narrow line of brown,
winding beach. The roof had long since fallen in, and the
fences and outbuildings lay low, covered with vines and
creepers. The intense solitude of the place, the motionless
of lofty grey-boled swamp gums that encompassed it on all sides
but one, and the wide stretch of river before it were
calculated to inspire melancholy in any one but an ardent
fisherman. Scarcely have we hauled our boat up on the sand, and
deposited our provisions and water in the roofless house, when
we hear a commotion in the river—a swarm of fish called
"tailer" are making havoc among a "school" of small mullet,
many of which fling themselves out upon the sand. Presently all
is quiet again, and we get our lines ready.
For whiting and silvery bream rather fine lines are used,
but we each have a heavy line for flathead, for these fish are
caught in the tidal rivers on a sandy bottom up to three feet
and four feet in length. They are in colour, both on back and
belly, much like a sole, of great width across the shoulders,
and then taper away to a very fine tail. The head is perfectly
flat, very thin, and armed on each side with very sharp bones
pointing tailward; a wound from one of these causes intense
inflammation. The fins are small—so small as to appear
almost rudimentary—yet the fish swims, or rather darts,
along the bottom with amazing rapidity. They love to lie along
the banks a few feet from the shore, where, concealed in the
sand, they can dart out upon and seize their prey in their
enormous "gripsack" mouths. The approach of a boat or a person
walking along the sand will cause them to at once speed like
lightning into deep water, leaving behind them a wake of sand
and mud which is washed off their backs in their flight. Still,
although not a
pleasing fish to look at, the flathead is of a delicious and
delicate flavour. There are some variations in their shades of
colour, from a pale, delicate grey to a very dark brown,
according to their habitat, and, although most frequent in very
shallow water, they are often caught in great quantities off
the coast in from ten to fifteen fathoms of water. Gut or wire
snoodings are indispensable when fishing for flathead, else the
fish invariably severs the line with his fine needle-pointed
teeth, which are set very closely together. Nothing comes amiss
to them as food, but they have a great love for small mullet or
whiting, or a piece of octopus tentacle.
Baiting our heavy lines with mullet—two hooks with
brass-wire snoods to each line—we throw out about thirty
yards, then, leaving two or three fathoms loose upon the shore,
we each thrust a stick firmly into the sand, and take a turn of
the line round it. As the largest flathead invariably dart upon
the bait, and then make a bolt with it, this plan is a good one
to follow, unless, of course, they are biting freely; in that
case the smaller lines for bream and whiting, &c., are
hauled in, for there is more real sport in landing an 8-lb.
flathead than there is in catching smaller fish, for he is very
game, and fights fiercely for his life.
Having disposed our big lines, we bait the smaller ones with
"pippies," and not two minutes at the outside elapse after the
sinkers have touched bottom when we know we are to have a good
time, for each of us has hooked a fish, and three whiting are
kicking on the sand before five minutes have expired. Then
for another hour we throw out and haul in again as quickly as
possible, landing whiting from 6 oz. to nearly 2 lbs. in
weight. One of the "Twins" has three hooks on his line, and
occasionally lands three fish together, and now and again we
get small bream and an occasional "tailer" of 2 lbs. or 3 lbs.
As the sun mounts higher the breeze dies away, the heat becomes
very great, and we have frequent recourse to our water
jar—in one case mixing it with whisky. Then the whiting
cease to bite as suddenly as they have begun, and move off into
deeper water. Just as we are debating as to whether we shall
take the boat out into mid-stream, Twin Dick gives a yell as
his stick is suddenly whipped out of the sand, and the loose
line lying beside it rushes away into the water. But Dick is an
old hand, and lets his fish have his first bolt, and then turns
him. "By Jingo! sir, he's a big fellow," he cries, as he hauls
in, the line now as taut as a telegraph wire, and then the
other twin comes to his aid, and in a few minutes the outline
of the fish is seen, coming in straight ahead as quick as they
can pull him. When he is within ten feet of the beach the boys
run up the bank and land him safely, as he turns his body into
a circle in his attempts to shake out the hook. Being called
upon to estimate his weight, I give it as 11 lbs., much to the
twins' sorrow—they think it 15 lbs.
Half an hour passes, and we catch but half a dozen silvery
bream and some small baby whiting, for now the sun is beating
down upon our heads, and our naked feet begin to burn and
sting, so we adjourn to
the old house and rest awhile, leaving our big lines securely
tied. But, though the breeze for which we wait comes along by
two o'clock, the fish do not, and so, after disinterring our
takes from the wet sand wherein we had buried them as caught to
prevent them being spoilt by the sun, we get aboard again and
pull across to the opposite bank of the river. Here, in much
deeper water, about fifteen feet right under the clayey bank,
we can see hundreds of fine bream, and now and then some small
jew-fish. Taking off our sinkers, we have as good and more
exciting sport among the bream than we had with the whiting,
catching between four and five dozen by six o'clock. Then,
after boiling the billy and eating some fearfully tough corned
meat, we get into the boat again, hoist our sail, and land at
the little township just after dark.
Such was one of many similar day's sport on the Hastings,
which, with the Bellinger, the Nambucca, the Macleay, and the
Clarence, affords good fishing practically all the year round.
Then, besides these tidal rivers, there are at frequent
intervals along the coast tidal lagoons and "blind" creeks
where fish congregate in really incredible quantities. Such
places as Lake Illawarra and Lake Macquarie are fishing resorts
well known to the tourist; but along the northern coast, where
the population is scantier, and access by rail or steamer more
difficult, there is an absolutely new field open to the
sportsman—in fact, these places are seldom visited for
either fishing or shooting by people from Sydney. During
November and December the bars of these rivers are literally
black with incredible numbers of coarse sea-salmon—a fish
much like the English sea-bass—which, making their way
over the bars, swim up the rivers and remain there for about a
week. Although these fish, which weigh from 6 lbs. to 10 lbs.,
do not take a bait and are rather too coarse to eat, their roes
are very good, especially when smoked. They are captured with
the greatest of ease, either by spearing or by the hand; for
sometimes they are in such dense masses that they are unable to
manoeuvre in small bays; and the urchins of coastal towns hail
their yearly advent with delight. They usually make their first
appearance about the second week in November, and are always
followed by a great number of very large sharks and saw-fish,
which commit dreadful havoc in their serried and helpless
ranks. Following the sea-salmon, the rivers are next visited in
January by shoals of very large sea-mullet—blue-black
backs, silvery bellies and sides, and yellow fins and tails.
These, too, will not take a bait, but are caught in nets, and,
if a steamer happens to be on the eve of leaving for Sydney,
many hundreds of baskets are sent away; but they barely pay the
cost of freight and commission, I believe. There are several
varieties of sea-mullet, one or two of which will take the hook
freely, and I have often caught them off the rocky coast of New
South Wales with a rod when the sea has been smooth. The
arrival of the big sea-mullet denotes that the season for
jew-fish is at its height; and if the stranger to Australian
waters wants exciting sport let him try jew-fishing at night.
In deep water off the coast these great fish are occasionally
caught during daylight, but a dull, cloudy night is best, when
they may be caught from the beach or river bank in shallow
water. Very stout lines and heavy hooks are used, for a 90-lb.
or l00-lb. jew-fish is very common. Baiting with a whole mullet
or whiting, or one of the tentacles of an octopus, the most
amateurish fisherman cannot fail to hook two or three jew-fish
in a night. (Even in Sydney harbour I have seen some very large
ones caught by people fishing from ferry wharves.) They are
very powerful, and also very game, and when they rise to the
surface make a terrific splashing. At one place on the Hastings
River, called Blackman's Point, a party of four of us took
thirteen fish, the heaviest of which was 42 lbs. and the
lightest 9 lbs. Next morning, however, the Blackman's Point
ferryman, who always set a line from his punt when he turned
in, showed us one of over 70 lbs. When they grow to such a size
as this they are not eaten locally, as the flesh is very often
full of thin, thread-like worms. The young fish, however, are
The saw-fish, to which I have before alluded as harrying the
swarms of sea-salmon, also make havoc with the jew-fish, and
very often are caught on jew-fish lines. They are terrible
customers to get foul of (I do not confound them with the
sword-fish) when fishing from a small boat. Their huge bone
bill, set on both sides with its terrible sharp spikes, their
great length, and enormous strength, render it impossible
to even get them alongside, and there is no help for it but
either to cut the line or pull up anchor and land the creature
on the shore. Even then the task of despatching one of these
fish is no child's play on a dark night, for they lash their
long tails about with such fury that a broken leg might be the
result of coming too close. In the rivers of Northern
Queensland the saw-fish attain an enormous size, and the
Chinese fishermen about Cooktown and Townsville often have
their nets destroyed by a saw-fish enfolding himself in them.
Alligators, by the way, do the same thing there, and are
sometimes captured, perfectly helpless, in the folds of the
nets, in which they have rolled themselves over and over again,
tearing it beyond repair with their feet, but eventually
yielding to their fate.
The schnapper, the best of all Australian fish, is too well
known to English visitors to describe in detail. Most town-bred
Australians generally regard it as a purely ocean-loving fish,
or at least only frequenting very deep waters in deep harbours,
such as Sydney, Jervis Bay, and Twofold Bay. This is quite a
mistake, for in many of the rivers, twenty or more miles up
from the sea, the writer and many other people have not only
caught these beautiful fish, but seen fishermen haul in their
nets filled with them. But they seldom remain long, preferring
the blue depths of ocean to the muddy bottoms of tidal rivers,
for they are rock-haunting and surf-loving.
Of late years the northern bar harbours and rivers of New
South Wales have been visited by a fish that
in my boyhood's days was unknown even to the oldest
fisherman—the bonito. Although in shape and size they
exactly resemble the ocean bonito of tropic seas, these new
arrivals are lighter in colour, with bands of marbled grey
along the sides and belly. They bite freely at a running
when a line is towed astern, and are very good when eaten quite
fresh, but, like all of the mackerel tribe, rapidly deteriorate
in a few hours after being caught. The majority of the coast
settlers will not eat them, being under the idea that, as they
are all but scaleless, they are "poisonous." This silly
impression also prevails with regard to many other scaleless
fish on the Australian coast, some of which, such as the
trevally, are among the best and most delicate in flavour. The
black and white rock cod is also regarded with aversion by the
untutored settlers of the small coast settlements, yet these
fish are sold in Sydney, like the schnapper, at prohibitive
In conclusion, let me advise any one who is contemplating a
visit to Australia, and means to devote any of his time to
either river or sea fishing, to take his rods with him; all the
rest of his tackle he can buy as cheap in the colonies as he
can in England. Rods are but little used in salt-water fishing
in Australia, and are rather expensive. Those who do use a rod
are usually satisfied with a bamboo—a very good rod it
makes, too, although inconvenient to carry when
travelling—but the generality of people use hand lines.
And the visitor must not be persuaded that he can always get
good fishing without
going some distance from Sydney or Melbourne. That there is
some excellent sport to be obtained in Port Jackson in summer
is true, but it is lacking in a very essential thing—the
quietude that is dear to the heart of every true fisherman.
Denison Gets Another Ship
Owing to reduced circumstances, and a growing hatred of the
hardships of the sea, young Tom Denison (ex-supercargo of the
South Sea Island trading schooner
) had sailed from Sydney to undertake the management of an
alleged duck-farm in North Queensland. The ducks, and the vast
area of desolation in which they suffered a brief existence,
were the property of a Cooktown bank, the manager of which was
Denison's brother. He was a kind-hearted man, who wanted to
help Tom along in the world, and, therefore, was grieved when
at the end of three weeks the latter came into Cooktown humping
his swag, smoking a clay pipe, and looking exceedingly tired,
dirty, and disreputable generally. However, all might have gone
well even then had not Mrs. Aubrey Denison, the brother's wife,
unduly interfered and lectured Tom on his "idle and dissolute
life," as she called it, and made withering remarks about the
low tastes of sailors other than captains of mail steamers or
officers in the Navy. Tom, who intended to borrow £10 from
his brother to pay his passage back to Sydney to look for a
ship, bore it all in silence, and
then said that he should like to give up the sea and become a
missionary in the South Seas, where he was "well acquainted
with the natives."
Mrs. Aubrey (who was a very refined young lady) smiled
contemptuously, and turned down the corners of her pretty
little mouth in a manner that made the unsuccessful duck-farmer
boil with suppressed fury, as she remarked that
had heard of some of the shocking stories he had been telling
the accountant and cashier of the
of the people in the South Seas, and
he wished to return there and re-associate with his vulgar and
wicked companions. Now, she added, had he stuck bravely to work
with the ducks, the Bank (she uttered the word "Bank" in the
tone of reverence as one would say "The Almighty") would have
watched his career with interest, and in time his brother would
have used his influence with the General Manager to obtain a
position for him, Tom Denison, in the Bank itself! But, judging
knowledge of his (Tom's) habits and disposition, she would be
doing wrong to hold out the slightest hope for him now,
"Look here, Maud, you're only twenty-two—two years
older than me, and you talk like an old grandmother;" and then
his wrath overpowered his judgment—"and you'll look like
one before you're twenty-five. Don't you lecture
. I'm not your husband,
thank Heaven above
! And damn the bank and its carmine ducks." (He did not say
"carmine," but I study the proprieties, and this is not a
From the weatherboard portals of the bank Tom strode out in
undisguised anger, and obtained employment on a collier,
discharging coals. Then, by an extraordinary piece of good
luck, he got a billet as proof-reader on the North Queensland
, from which, after an exciting three weeks, he was dismissed
for "general incompetency and wilful neglect of his duties." So
with sorrow in his heart he had turned to the ever-resourceful
sea again for a living. He worked his passage down to Sydney in
an old, heart-broken, wheezing steamer named the
, and stepped jauntily ashore with sixteen shillings in his
pocket, some little personal luggage rolled up in his blanket,
and an unlimited confidence in his own luck.
Two vessels were due from the South Sea Islands in about a
month, and as the skippers were both well known to and were on
friendly terms with him, he felt pretty certain of getting a
berth as second mate or supercargo on one of them. Then he went
to look for a quiet lodging.
This was soon found, and then realising the fact that
sixteen shillings would not permit him viewing the sights of
Sydney and calling upon the Governor, as is the usual procedure
with intellectual and dead-broke Englishmen who come to
Australia with letters of introduction from people who are
anxious to get rid of them, he tried to get temporary
employment by applying personally at the leading warehouses and
merchants' offices. The first day he failed; also the second.
On the third day the secretary of a milk company desired him to
call again in three days. He did, and was then
told by the manager that he "might have something" for him in a
month or two. This annoyed Tom, as he had put on his sole clean
collar that morning to produce a good impression. He asked the
official if six months would not suit him better, as he wanted
to go away on a lengthy fishing trip with the Attorney-General.
The manager looked at him in a dignified manner, and then bade
him an abrupt good-day.
A week passed. Funds were getting low. Eight shillings had
been paid in advance for his room, and he had spent five in
meals. But he was not despondent; the
, dear, comfortable old wave-puncher, beloved of hard-up
supercargoes, was due in a week, and, provided he could inspire
his landlady with confidence until then, all would be well.
But the day came when he had to spend his last shilling, and
after a fruitless endeavour to get a job on the wharves to
drive one of the many steam winches at work discharging cargo
from the various ships, he returned home in disgust.
That night, as he sat cogitating in his bedroom over his
lucklessness, his eye fell on a vegetable monstrosity from
Queensland, presented to him by one of the hands on board the
. It was a huge, dried bean-pod, about four feet long, and
contained about a dozen large black beans, each about the size
of a watch. He had seen these beans, after the kernels were
scooped out, mounted with silver, and used as match-boxes by
bushmen and other Australian gentry. It at once occurred to him
that he might sell it. Surely the thing ought to be worth at
least five shillings.
In two minutes he was out in the street, but to his disgust
found most of the shops closed, except the very small retail
Entering a little grocery store, he approached the
proprietor, a man with a pale, gargoyle-like face, and
unpleasant-looking, raggedy teeth, and showing him the bean,
asked him to buy it.
The merchant looked at it with some interest and asked Tom
what it was called.
Tom said it was a
. (He didn't know what a
was; but it sounded well, and was all the Latin he knew, having
heard from his mother that a dissolute brother of hers had been
afflicted with that complaint, superinduced by spirituous
The grocer-man turned the vegetable over and over again in
his hand, and then asked the would-be vendor if he had any
more. Tom said he hadn't. The
, he remarked, was a very rare bean, and very valuable. But he
would sell it cheap—for five shillings.
"Don't want it," said the man rudely, pushing it away
contemptuously. "It's only a faked-up thing anyway, made of
Tom tried to convince him that the thing was perfectly
genuine, and actually grew on a vine in North Queensland; but
the Notre Dame gargoyle-featured person only heard him with a
snort of contempt. It was obvious he wouldn't buy it. So,
sneeringly observing to the grocer that no doubt five shillings
was a large sum for a man in such a small way of
business as he was, Tom went out again into the cold world.
He tried several other places, but no one would even look at
the thing. After vainly tramping about for over two hours, he
turned away towards his lodging, feeling very dispirited, and
thinking about breakfast.
Turning up a side street called Queen's Place, so as to make
a short cut home, he espied in a dimly-lighted little shop an
old man and a boy working at the cobbler trade. They had
honest, intelligent faces, and looked as if they wanted to buy
very badly. He tapped at the door and then entered.
"Would you like to buy this?" he said to the old man. He did
not like to repeat his foolish Latin nonsense, for the old
fellow had such a worn, kindly face, and his honest, searching
eyes met his in such a way that he felt ashamed to ask him to
buy what could only be worthless rubbish to him.
The cobbler looked at the monstrosity wonderingly. "'Tis a
rare big bean," he said, in the trembling quaver of old age,
and with a mumbling laugh like that of a pleased child. "I'll
give you two shillin's for it. I suppose you want money badly,
or else you wouldn't be wanderin' about at ten o'clock at night
tryin' to sell it. I hope you come by it honest, young
Tom satisfied him on this score, and then the ancient gave
him the two shillings. Bidding him good-night, Tom returned
home and went to bed.
(Quite two years after, when Denison returned to
Sydney from the South Seas with more money "than was good for
his moral welfare," as his sister-in-law remarked, he sought
out the old cobbler gentleman and bought back his
bean for as many sovereigns as he had been given shillings for
Next morning he was down at the wharves before six o'clock,
smoking his pipe contentedly, after breakfasting sumptuously at
a coffee-stall for sixpence. There was a little American barque
lying alongside the Circular Quay, and some of the hands were
bending on her head-sails. Tom sat down on the wharf stringer
dangling his feet and watching them intently. Presently the
mate appeared on the poop, smoking a cigar. He looked at Tom
critically for a moment or so, and then said—
"Looking for a ship, young feller?"
The moment Tom heard him speak, he jumped to his feet, for
he knew the voice, last heard when the possessor of it was mate
of the island trading schooner
, a year before in Samoa.
"Is that you, Bannister?" he cried.
"Reckon 'taint no one else, young feller. Why, Tom Denison,
is it you? Step right aboard."
Tom was on the poop in an instant, the mate coming to him
with outstretched hand.
"What's the matter, Tom? Broke?"
"Sit down here and tell me all about it. I heard you had
. Say, sling that dirty old pipe overboard, and take one of
these cigars. The skipper will be on deck presently, and the
sight of it
would rile him terrible. He hez his new wife aboard, and she
considers pipes ez low-down."
Tom laughed as he thought of Mrs. Aubrey, and flung his clay
over the side. "What ship is this, Bannister?"
, of 'Frisco. We're from the Gilbert Islands with a cargo of
"Who is your supercargo?"
"Haven't got one. Can't get one here, either. Say, Tom,
you're the man. The captain will jump at getting you! Since he
married he considers his life too valuable to be trusted among
natives, and funks at going ashore and doing supercargo's work.
Now you come below, and I'll rake out enough money to get you a
high-class suit of store clothes and shiny boots. Then you come
back to dinner. I'll talk to him between then and now. He knows
a lot about you. I'll tell him that since you left the
you've been touring your native country to 'expand your mind.'
Boston, as ugly as a brown stone jug, and highly intellectual.
all right, and as good a sailor-man as ever trod a deck, but
boss, runs the ship, and looks after the crew's morals. Thet's
why we're short-handed. But she'll take to you like
lightning—when she hears that you've been 'expanding your
mind.' Buy a second-hand copy of Longfellow's, poems, and tell
her that it has been your constant companion in all your
wanderings among vicious cannibals, and she'll just decorate
your cabin like a prima-donna's boudoir, darn your socks, and
make you read some of her own poetry."
That afternoon, Mr. Thomas Denison, clean-shirted and looking
eminently respectable and prosperous, and feeling once more a
man after the degrading duck episode in North Queensland, was
strolling about George Street with Bannister, and at peace with
the world and himself. For the skipper's wife had been
impressed with his intellectuality and modest demeanour, and
was already at work decorating his cabin—as Bannister had
Jack Shark's Pilot
Early one morning as we in the
, South Sea trading schooner, were sailing slowly between
Fotuna and Alofa—two islands lying to the northward of
Fiji—one of the native hands came aft and reported two
large sharks alongside. The mate at once dived below for his
shark hook, while I tried to find a suitable bit of beef in the
harness cask. Just as the mate appeared carrying the heavy hook
and chain, our skipper, who was lying on the skylight smoking
his pipe, although half asleep, inquired if there were "any
pilot fish with the brutes."
"Yes, sir," said a sailor who was standing in the waist,
looking over the side, "there's quite a lot of 'em. I've never
seen so many at one time before. There's nigh on a dozen."
The captain was on his feet in an instant. "Don't lower that
hook of yours just yet, Porter," he said to the mate. "I'm
going to get those pilot fish first. Tom, bring me up my small
"They won't take a hook, will they?" I inquired.
"Just you wait and see, sonny. Ever taste pilot fish?"
No. Are they good to eat?"
"Best fish in the ocean, barring flying-fish," replied the
skipper, as, after examining his line, he cut off both hook and
leaden sinker and bent on a small-sized
—a native-made bonito hook cut out from a solid piece of
Then jumping up into the whaleboat which hung in davits on
the starboard quarter he waited for the sharks to appear, and
the mate and I leant over the side and watched. We had not long
to wait, for in a few minutes one came swimming quickly up from
astern, and was almost immediately joined by the other, which
had been hanging about amidships. They were both, however,
pretty deep down, and at first I could not discern any pilot
fish. The captain, however, made a cast and the hook dropped in
the water, about fifty feet in the rear of the sharks; he let
it sink for less than half a minute, and then began hauling in
the line as quickly as possible, and at the same moment I saw
some of the pilot fish quite distinctly—some swimming
alongside and some just ahead of their detestable companions,
which were now right under the counter. Then something gleamed
brightly, and the shining hook appeared, for a second or two
only, for two of the "pilots" darted after it with
lightning-like rapidity, and presently one came to the surface
with a splash, beautifully hooked, and was swung up into the
"Now for some fun," cried the captain, as tossing the fish
to us on deck he again lowered the hook. This time it had
barely touched the surface of the
water when away went the line with a rush right under our
"This is a big fellow," said the skipper, and up came
another dark blue and silver beauty about a foot in length,
dropping off the hook just in time as he was hoisted clear of
the gunwale. Then, in less than ten minutes—so eager were
they to rush the hook the moment it struck the water—five
more were jumping about upon the deck or in the boat. Then came
a calamity, the eighth fish dropped off when half way up and
took the hook with him, having swallowed it and bitten through
The captain jumped on deck again and began rooting out his
bag for another small-sized
, but to his disgust could not find one ready for
use—none of them having the actual "hook" portion lashed
to the shank, and the operation of lashing one of these
cleverly-made native hooks takes some little time and patience,
for the holes which are bored through the base of the "hook"
part in order to lash it to the shank are very small, and only
very fine and strong cord, such as banana-fibre, can be used.
However, while the irate captain was fussing over his task, the
mate and I were watching the movements of the sharks and their
little friends with the greatest interest, having promised the
captain not to lower the shark hook till he had caught the rest
of the pilot fish, for he assured us that they would most
likely disappear after the sharks were captured. (I learned
from my own experience afterward that he was mistaken, for when
a shark is caught at sea his attendants will frequently
remain with the ship for weeks, or until another shark appears,
in which case they at once attach themselves to him.)
Both sharks were now swimming almost on the surface, so
close to the ship that they could have been caught in a running
bowline or harpooned with the greatest ease; and in fact our
native crew, who were very partial to shark's flesh, had both
harpoon and bowline in readiness in case the cunning brutes
would not take a bait. They were both of great size—the
largest being over twelve or thirteen feet in length. With the
smaller one were three pilot fish, one swimming directly under
the end of its nose, the others just over its eyes; the larger
had but one attendant, which kept continually changing its
position, sometimes being on one side, then on another, then
disappearing for a few moments underneath the monster's belly,
or pressing itself so closely against the creature's side that
it appeared as if it was adhering to it. I had never before
seen these fish at such close quarters, and their extraordinary
activity and seeming attachment to their savage companions was
most astonishing to witness; occasionally when either of the
sharks would cease moving, they would take up a position within
a few inches of its jaws, remain there a few seconds, and then
swim under its belly and reappear at the tail, then slowly make
their way along its back or sides to the hideous head again.
Sometimes, either singly or all together, they would dart away
on either side, but quickly returned, never being absent more
than a minute. These brief excursions showed them to be
extremely swift, yet when they returned to their huge
companions they instantly became—at least to all
appearance—intensely sluggish and languid in their
movements, and swam in an undecided, indefinite sort of manner
as if thoroughly exhausted. But this was but in appearance, for
suddenly they would again shoot away along the surface of the
water with lightning-like rapidity, disappear from view of the
keenest eye, and, ere you could count five, again be beside the
vessel swimming as leisurely, if not as lazily, as if they were
incapable of quickening their speed.
Having his line ready again, the captain now began fishing
from the stern, and succeeded in catching three of the
remaining four, the last one (which our natives said was the
fish which had swallowed the first hook) refusing even to look
at the tempting bit of iridescent pearl-shell. Then the
impatient mate lowered his bait over the stern, having first
passed the line outboard and given the end to three or four of
the crew, who stood in the waist ready to haul in. The smaller
of the two sharks was at once hooked, and when dragged up
alongside amidships struggled and lashed about so furiously
that the big fellow came lumbering up to see what was the
matter, and Billy Rotumah, our native boatswain, who was
watching for him, promptly drove a harpoon socket deeply into
him between the shoulders; then, after some difficulty, a
couple of running bowlines settled them both in a comfortable
position to be stunned with an axe.
The schooner was at this time within a few miles of a small
village on Alofa, named Mua, and presently
a boat manned by natives boarded us to sell yams, taro,
pineapples, and bananas, all of which we bought from them in
exchange for the sharks' livers and some huge pieces of flesh
weighing two or three hundred pounds. These people (who
resemble the Samoans in appearance and language) were much
impressed and terrified when they saw the pilot fish which had
been caught, and told our crew that ours would be an unlucky
ship—that we had done a dangerous and foolish thing.
Their feeling on the subject was strong; for when I asked them
if they would take two or three of the fish on shore to Father
Hervé, one of the French priests living on Fotuna, who was
an old friend, they started back in mingled terror and
indignation, and absolutely declined to even touch them. Taking
one of the pilot fish up I held it by the head between my
forefinger and thumb and asked the natives if they did not
consider it good to look at.
"True," replied a fine, stalwart young fellow, speaking in
Samoan, "it is good to look at," and then he added gravely, "Talofa
lava ia te outou i le vaa nei, ua lata mai ne aso
malaia ma le tigā"
("Alas for all you people on this ship, there is a day of
disaster and sorrow near you").
I tried to ascertain the cause of their terror, but could
only elicit the statement that to kill a pilot fish meant
direful misfortune. No sensible man, they asserted, would do
such a senseless and
(cruel) thing, and to eat one was an abomination
As soon as our visitors had left I hurried to make a closer
examination of our prizes before the cook took
possession of them. Of the eleven, only one was over a foot in
length, the rest ranged from five to ten inches. The beautiful
dark blue of the head and along the back, so noticeable when
first caught, had now lost its brilliancy, and the four wide
vertical black stripes on the sides had also become dulled,
although the silvery belly was still as bright as a new dollar.
The eyes were rather large for such a small fish, and all the
fins were blue-black, with a narrow white line running along
the edges. Their appearance even an hour after death was very
handsome, and in shape they were much like a very plump trout.
In the stomachs of some we found small flying squid, little
shrimps, and other Crustacea.
Our Manila-man cook, although not a genius, certainly knew
how to fry fish, and that morning we had for breakfast some of
Jack Shark's pilots—the most delicately-flavoured
deep-sea fish I have ever tasted—except, perhaps, that
wonderful and beautiful creature, the flying-fish.
The "Palu" of the Equatorial Pacific
During a residence of half a lifetime among the various
island-groups of the North-western and South Pacific, I devoted
much of my spare time—and I had plenty of it
occasionally—to deep-sea fishing, my tutors being the
natives of the Caroline, Marshall, Gilbert, and Ellice
The inhabitants of the last-named cluster of islands are, as
I have said, the most skilled fishermen of all the
Malayo-Polynesian peoples with whom it has been my fortune to
have come in contact. The very poverty of their island
homes—mere sandbanks covered with coconut and pandanus
palms only—drives them to the sea for their food; for the
Ellice Islanders, unlike their more fortunate prototypes who
dwell in the forest-clad, mountainous, and fertile islands of
Samoa, Tahiti, Raratonga, &c., live almost exclusively upon
coconuts, the drupes of the pandanus palm, and fish. From their
very infancy they look to the sea as the main source of their
food-supply, either in the clear waters of the lagoon, among
the breaking surf on the
reef, or out in the blue depths of the ocean beyond. From morn
till night the frail canoes of these semi-nude, brown-skinned,
and fearless toilers of the sea may be seen by the voyager
paddling swiftly over the rolling swell of the wide Pacific in
chase of the
, or lying motionless upon the water, miles and miles away from
the land, ground-fishing with lines a hundred fathoms long.
Then, as the sun dips, the flare of torches will be seen along
the sandy beaches as the night-seekers of flying-fish launch
their canoes and urge them through the rolling surf beyond the
reef, where, for perhaps three or four hours, they will paddle
slowly to and fro, just outside the white line of roaring
breakers, and return to the shore with their tiny craft
half-filled with the most beautiful and wonderful fish in the
world. The Ellice Island method of catching flying-fish would
take too long to explain here, much as I should like to do so;
my purpose is to describe a very remarkable fish called the
, in the capture of which these people are the most skilful.
The catching of flying-fish, however, bears somewhat on the
subject of this article, as the
will not take any other bait but a flying-fish, and therefore a
supply of the former is a necessary preliminary to
Let us imagine, then, that the bait has been secured, and
that a party of
-fishers are ready to set out from the little island of
Nanomaga, the smallest but most thickly populated of the Ellice
Group. The night must be windless and moonless, the latter
condition being absolutely indispensable, although,
curiously enough, the fish will take the hook on an ordinary
starlight night. Time after time have I tried my luck with
either a growing or a waning moon, much to the amusement of the
natives, and never once did I get a
, although other nocturnal-feeding fish bit freely enough.
The tackle used by the natives is made of coconut cinnet,
four or eight-stranded, of great strength, and capable of
holding a fifteen-foot shark should one of these prowlers seize
the bait. The hook is made of wood—in fact, the same as
is used for shark-fishing—about one inch and a half in
diameter, fourteen inches in the shank, with a natural curve;
the barb, or rather that which answers the purpose of a barb,
being supplied by a small piece lashed horizontally across the
top of the end of the curve. These peculiar wooden hooks are
; the roots of a tree called
, whose wood is of great toughness, are watched when they
protrude from a bank, and trained into the desired shape;
specimens of these hooks may be seen in almost any
ethnographical museum. To sink the line, coral stones of three
or four pounds weight are used, attached by a very thin piece
of cinnet or bark, which, when the fish is struck, is always
broken by its struggles, and falls off, thus releasing the line
from an unnecessary weight. It is no light task hauling in a
thick, heavy line, hanging straight up and down for a length of
from seventy-five to a hundred fathoms or more!
Each canoe is manned by four men, only two of whom usually
fish, the other two, one at the bow and
the other at the stern, being employed in keeping the little
craft in a stationary position with their paddles. If, however,
there is not much current all four lower their lines, one man
working his paddle with one hand so as to keep from drifting.
My usual companions were the resident native teacher and two
stalwart young natives of the island—Tulu'ao and Muli'ao;
and I may here indulge in a little vanity when I say that my
success as a
-fisher was regarded as something phenomenal, only one other
white man in the group, a trader on the atoll of Funafuti,
having ever caught a
, or, in fact, tried to catch one. But then I had such
beautiful tackle that even the most skilled native fisherman
had no chance when competing with me. My lines were of
twenty-seven-strand white American cotton, as thick as a small
goose-quill, and easily handled, never tangling or twisting
like the native cinnet; and my hooks were the admiration and
envy of all who saw them. They were of the "flatted" Kirby
type, eyed, but with a curve in the shank, which was five
inches in length, and as thick as a lead-pencil. I had bought
these in Sydney, and during the voyage down had rigged them
with snoodings of the very best seizing wire, intending to use
them for shark-fishing. I had smaller ones down to three
inches, but always preferred using the largest size, as the
has a large mouth, and it is a difficult matter in a small
canoe on a dark night to free a hook embedded in the gullet of
a fish which is awkward to handle even when exhausted, and
weighing as much as sixty or seventy
pounds; while I also knew that any unusual noise or commotion
would be almost sure to attract some of those most dangerous of
all night-prowlers of the Pacific, the deep-water blue
Paddling out due westward from the lee side of the island,
where the one village is situated, we would bring-to in about
seventy or eighty fathoms. As I always used leaden sinkers, my
companions invariably let me lower first to test the depth, as
with a two or three-pound lead my comparatively thin line took
but little time in running out and touching bottom. A whole
flying-fish was used for one bait by the natives, it being tied
on to the inner curve of the great wooden hook, whilst I cut
one in half, fore-and-aft, and ran my hook through it
The utmost silence was always observed; and even when
lighting our pipes we were always careful not to let the
reflection of the flame of the match fall upon the water, on
account of the sharks, which would at once be attracted to the
canoe, and hover about until they were rewarded for their
vigilance by seizing the first
brought to the surface. Sometimes a hungry shark will seize the
outrigger in his jaws, or get foul of it, and upset the canoe,
and a capsize under such circumstances is a serious matter
indeed. For this reason the canoes are never far apart from
each other; if one should be attacked or disabled by a shark
the others at once render assistance, and the shark is usually
thrust through with a lance if he is too big to be captured and
killed. All haste is then made to get away from the spot,
leaving the disturber of the pro
ceedings to be devoured by his companions, whom the scent of
blood soon brings upon the scene.
With ordinary luck we would get our first
within an hour of lowering our lines. At such a great depth as
eighty or ninety fathoms a bite would scarcely be felt by one
of my companions on his thick, heavy, and clumsy line; but on
mine it was very different, and there was hardly an occasion on
which I did not secure the first fish. Like most
bottom-haunting fish in very deep water the
makes but a brief fight. If he can succeed in "getting his
head," he will at once rush into the coral forest amid which he
lives, and endeavour to save himself by jamming his body into a
cleft or chasm of rock, and let the hook be torn from his jaws,
which are soft, boneless, and glutinous. Once, however, he is
dragged clear of the coral he seems to lose all heart; and,
although he makes an occasional spurt, he grows weaker and
weaker as he is dragged toward the surface, and when lifted
into the canoe is apparently lifeless, his large eyes literally
standing out of his head, and his stomach distended like a
balloon. So enormous is the distention of the bladder that
sometimes it will protrude from the mouth, and then burst with
a noise like a pistol-shot! Perhaps some of my readers will
smile at this, but they could see the same thing occur with
other deep-sea fish besides the
. In the Caroline and Marshall Islands there is a species of
grey groper which is caught in a depth ranging from one hundred
to one hundred and fifty fathoms; these fish, which range up to
two hundred pounds, actually burst their
stomachs when brought to the surface; for the air in the
cavities of the body expands on the removal of the great
pressure which at such depths keeps it compressed.
Now as to the appearance of the
. When first caught, and seen by the light of a lantern or
torch, it is a dark, silvery grey in colour, with prickly,
inverted scales—like the feathers of a French fowl of a
certain breed. The head is somewhat cod-shaped, with eyes quite
as large as a crown-piece; the teeth are many, small, and soft,
and bend to a firm pressure; and the bones in the fin and tail
are so soft and flexible that they may be bent into any shape,
but when dried are of the appearance and consistency of
gelatine. The length of the largest
I have seen was five feet six inches, with a girth of about
forty inches. This one was caught in about ninety fathoms of
water; and when I opened the stomach I found it to contain five
or six undigested fish, about seven inches in length, of the
groper species, and for which the natives of the island had no
name or knowledge of beyond the appellation
—"unknown fish"—that is, fish which are only seen
when taken from the stomach of a deep-sea fish, or are brought
to the surface or washed ashore after some submarine
The flesh of the
is greatly valued by the natives of the equatorial islands of
the Pacific for its medicinal qualities as a laxative, whilst
the oil with which it is permeated is much used as a remedy for
rheumatism and similar complaints. Within half an hour of its
being taken from the water the skin
changes to a dead black, and the flesh assumes the appearance
of whale blubber. Generally, the fish is cooked in the usual
native ground-oven as quickly as possible, care being taken to
wrap it closely up in the broad leaves of the
plant—a species of gigantic taro—in order that none
of the oil may be lost. Thinking that the oil, which is
perfectly colourless and with scarcely any odour, might prove
of value, I once "tried out" two of the largest fish taken, and
obtained a gallon. This I sent to a firm of drug-merchants in
Sydney; but unfortunately the vessel was lost on the
does not seem to have a wide habitat. In the Tonga Islands it
is, I believe, very rare; and in Fiji, Samoa, and other
mountainous groups throughout Polynesia the natives appear to
have no knowledge of it, although they have a fish possessing
the same peculiar characteristics, but of a somewhat different
shape. I have fished for it without success at half a dozen
places in Samoa, in New Britain, and New Ireland. But it is
generally to be found about the coasts of any of the low-lying
coral islands of the Union (or Tokelau) Group, the Ellice,
Gilbert, Marshall, and part of the Caroline archipelagoes. The
Gilbert Islanders call it
te ika ne peka
—a name that cannot well be translated into bald English,
though there is a very lucid Latin equivalent.
In 1882 I took passage from the Island of Nukufetau in the
Ellice Group for the Caroline Islands. The vessel was a fine
brigantine of 160 tons, and was named the
. She was, unfortunately, com
manded by an incompetent, obstinate, self-willed man, who,
though a good seaman, had no meteorological knowledge and
succeeded in losing the ship, when lying at anchor, on Peru
Island, in the Gilbert Group, ten days after leaving Nukufetau,
simply through disregarding the local trader's advice to put to
sea. Disastrous as was the incident to me, for I lost trade
goods and personal effects to the value of over a thousand
pounds, and came ashore with what I stood in—to wit, a
pyjama suit—and a bag of Chili dollars, I had reason to
afterwards congratulate myself from a fisherman's point of
Living on the island was a Swiss, Frank Voliero, whom I have
before mentioned. He was an ardent deep-sea fisherman, and was
on that account highly respected by the natives, who otherwise
did not care for him, as he was of an exceedingly quarrelsome
disposition. He was an expert
man, and he and I therefore quickly made Island
. During the three months I remained on Peru we had many
fishing trips, and caught not less than fifty
. The largest of these was evidently a patriarch, for although
he was in rather poor condition he weighed 136 lbs. and was 6
feet 10 inches in length. Another, hooked at a depth of
eighty-five fathoms, was only 5 feet 2 inches, and weighed 129
lbs. Its stomach contained a small octopus with curiously
stunted tentacles, almost as thick at the tips as they were at
the base, but in all other respects similar to those found in
shallow water upon the reefs and in the lagoon.
Both Voliero and myself tried many kinds of bait for
believing that the native theory that the fish would only take
flying-fish was wrong. We found that on Peru, any elongated
fish, such as gars, silvery mullet, or young bonito, were
acceptable, and that the tentacle of an octopus, after the
outer skin was removed, answered just as well. Yet further
southward among the Pacific Isles, flying-fish is the only bait
they will take! Evidently, therefore, the
, at the great depths in which it lives, is attracted by a
brightly-hued fish whose habitat is on the surface of the
ocean. Why this is so must be decided by ichthyologists, for
there are no bright, silvery-scaled fish inhabiting the ocean
at such depths as eighty or a hundred fathoms. And why is it
quiescent by day, and feeding only at night, so eagerly seizes
a hook baited with a flying-fish—a fish which never
descends more than a few fathoms below the surface, and which
can never possibly see except when it is lowered by human hands
to, or sinks to the bottom?
Of the marvellous efficacy of the
-oil in a case of acute rheumatism I can speak with knowledge.
The second mate of an island-trading schooner of which I was
the supercargo, was landed at Arorai, in the Line Islands,
unable to move, and suffering great agony. After two days'
-oil he recovered and returned to his duties.
[Since this was written I have learned that Mr. E.R. Waite,
of the Sydney Museum, has described the
, "which hitherto
was known only from the North Atlantic, and whose recorded
range is now enormously increased. The Escolar—to give it
its Atlantic name—has been taken at depths as great as
three and four hundred fathoms, but can only be taken at night
in September and the early part of October." I should very much
like to learn how the
is taken at a depth of four hundred fathoms—eight hundred
The Wily "Goanner"
In the early part of the year 1899 a settler named Hardy,
residing at Glenowlan, in the Rylstone district of New South
Wales, about 150 miles from Sydney, lost numbers of his lambs
during the lambing season. Naturally enough, dingoes were
suspected, but none were seen. Then other sheep—men began
to lose lambs, and a close watch was set, with the result that
iguanas, which are very numerous in this part of the country,
were discovered to be the murderers of the little "baa-baa's."
The cause of this new departure in the predatory habits of the
"goanner"—which hitherto had confined his evil deeds to
nocturnal visits to the fowl-yards—is stated to be the
extermination of the opossum, which has driven the cunning
reptile to seek for another source of food. And, as before the
shooting of kangaroos, wallabies, and opossums was resorted to
as a means of livelihood by hundreds of bushmen who had no
other employment open to them, the young of these marsupials
furnished the iguana with an ample supply of food, the theory
is very probably correct. Poison will be the only method of
destroying or reducing the numbers of the iguana,
who, robber as he is, yet has his good points, as has even the
sneaking, blood-loving native cat—for both are merciless
foes to snakes of all kinds; and 'tis better to have an
energetic and hungry native cat and a score of wily iguanas
working havoc among the tenants of your fowl-house than one
brown or an equally deadly "bandy-bandy" snake within half a
In that part of New South Wales in which the writer was
born—one of the tidal rivers on the northern
coast—both snakes and iguanas were plentiful, and a
source of continual worry to the settlers.
On one occasion some boyish companions and myself set to
work to build a raft for fishing purposes out of some old and
discarded blue gum rails which were lying along the bank of the
river. Boy-like, we utterly disregarded our parents' admonition
to put on our boots, and, aided by a couple of blackfellows, we
moved about the long grass on our bare feet, picking up the
heavy rails and carrying them on our shoulders, one by one,
down to the sandy beach, where we were to lash them together.
Presently we came across a very heavy rail, about eight feet
long, twelve inches in width, and two inches thick. It was no
sooner up-ended than we saw half a dozen
"bandy-bandies"—the smallest but most deadly of
Australian snakes, not even excepting the
death-adder—lying beneath! We gave a united yell of
terror and fled as the black and yellow banded
reptiles—none of which were over eighteen inches in
length nor thicker than a man's little finger—wriggled
between our feet into the long grass around
us. For some minutes we were too frightened at our escape to
speak; but soon set to work to complete the raft. Presently one
of the blackfellows pointed to a tall honeysuckle-tree about
fifty feet away, and said with a gleeful chuckle, "Hallo, you
see him that 'pfeller goanner been catch him bandy-bandy?"
Sure enough, an iguana, about three feet in length, was
scurrying up the rough, ridgy bark of the honeysuckle with a
"bandy-bandy" in his jaws. He had seized the snake by its head,
I imagine, for we could see the rest of its form twisting and
turning about and enveloping the body of its capturer. In a few
seconds we saw the iguana ascend still higher, then he
disappeared with his hateful prey among the loftier branches.
No doubt he enjoyed his meal.
About a year or so later I was given another instance of the
"cuteness" of the wicked "goanner." My sister (aged twelve) and
myself (two years younger) were fishing with bamboo rods for
mullet. We were standing, one on each side, of the rocky edges
of a tiny little bay on the coast near Port Macquarie (New
South Wales). The background was a short, steep beach of soft,
snow-white sand, fringed at the high-water margin with a dense
jungle of wild apple and pandanus-trees.
The mullet bit freely, and as we swung the gleaming,
bright-silvered fish out of the water on to the rocks on which
we stood, we threw them up on to the beach, and left them to
kick about and coat themselves with the clean, white
sand—which they did in such an artistic manner that one
they considered it egg and breadcrumb, and were preparing
themselves to fulfil their ultimate and proper use to the
My sister had caught seven and I five, when, the sun being
amidships, we decided to boil the billy of tea and get
something to eat; young mullet, roasted on a glowing fire of
honeysuckle cobs were, we knew, very nice. So, laying down our
rods on the rocks, we walked up to the beach—just in time
to see two "goanners"—one of them with a wriggling mullet
in his mouth—scamper off into the bush.
A careful search revealed the harrowing fact that nine of
the twelve fish were missing, and the multitudinous criss-cross
tracks on the sand showed the cause of their disappearance. My
sister sat down on a hollow log and wept, out of sheer vexation
of spirit, while I lit a fire to boil the billy and grill the
three remaining mullet. Then after we had eaten the fish and
drank some tea, we concocted a plan of deadly revenge. We took
four large bream-hooks, bent them on to a piece of
fishing-line, baited each hook with a good-sized piece of
octopus (our mullet bait), and suspended the line between two
saplings, about three inches above the leaf-strewn ground.
Then, feeling confident of the success of our murderous device,
we finished the billy of tea and went back to our fishing. We
caught a couple of dozen or more of fine mullet, each one
weighing not less than 1-1/2 lbs.; and then the incoming tide
with its sweeping seas drove us from the ledge of rocks to the
beach, where we changed our bamboo rods for hand-lines with
and flung them, baited with chunks of mullet, out into the
breaking surf for sea-bream. By four in the afternoon we had
caught more fish than we could well carry home, five miles
away; and after stringing the mullet and bream through the
gills with a strip of supple-jack cane, we went up the beach to
our camp for the billy can and basket.
And then we saw a sight that struck terror into our guilty
of three writhing black and yellow, long-tailed "goanners,"
twisting, turning and lashing their sinuous and scaly tails in
agony as they sought to free their widely-opened jaws from the
cruel hooks. One had two hooks in his mouth. He was the
quietest of the lot, as he had less purchase than the other two
upon the ground, and with one hook in his lower and one in his
upper jaw, glared upwards at us in his torture and smote his
sides with his long, thin tail.
"Oh, you wicked, wicked boy!" said my partner in
guilt—at once shifting the responsibility of the whole
affair upon me—"you ought to be ashamed of yourself for
doing such a thing! You know well enough that we should never
hurt a poor, harmless iguana. Oh,
take those horrible hooks out of the poor things' mouths and
let them go, you wicked, cruel boy!"
With my heart in my mouth I crept round through the scrub,
knife in hand.
"Go on, you horrible, horrible, coward!" screamed my sister;
"one would think that the poor things were alligators or
sharks. Oh, my goodness, if you're so frightened, I'll come and
do it myself." With that
she clambered up into the branches of a pandanus-tree and
looked at me excitedly, mingled with considerable contempt and
Being quite wise enough not to attempt to take the hooks out
of the "goanners'" mouths, I cut the two ends of the line to
which they hung. They instantly sought refuge on the tree
trunks around them; but as each "goanner" selected his
individual tree, and as they were still connected to each other
by the line and the hooks in their jaws, their attempts to
reach a higher plane was a failure. So they fell to upon one
"Come away, you wicked, thoughtless boy," said my sister,
weepingly. "I shall never come out with you again; you cruel
Then, overcoming my fear, I valiantly advanced, and gingerly
extending my arm, cut the tangled-up fishing line in a dozen
places; and with my bamboo fishing-rod disintegrated the
combatants. They stood for a few seconds, panting and
open-mouthed, and then, with the hooks still fast in their
jaws, scurried away into the scrub.
The Tănifa of Samoa
Many years ago, at the close of an intensely hot day, I set
out from Apia, the principal port of Samoa, to walk to a
village named Laulii, a few miles along the coast. Passing
through the semi-Europeanised town of Matautu, I emerged out
upon the open beach. I was bound on a pigeon-shooting trip to
the mountains, but intended sleeping that night at Laulii with
some native friends who were to accompany me. With me was a
young Manhiki half-caste named Allan Strickland; he was about
twenty-two years of age and one of the most perfect specimens
of athletic manhood in the South Pacific.
For six months we had been business partners and comrades in a
small cutter in which we traded between Apia and
Sava'ii—the largest island of the Samoan group; and now
after some months of toil we were taking a week's holiday
together, and enjoying ourselves greatly, although at the time
(1873) the country was in the throes of an internecine war.
A walk of a mile brought us to the mouth of the Vaivasa River,
a small stream flowing into the sea from the littoral on our
right. The tide was high and we therefore hailed a picket who
were stationed in the trenches on the opposite bank and asked
them in a jocular manner not to fire at us while we were wading
across. To our surprise, for we were both well known to and on
very friendly terms with the contending parties, half a dozen
of them sprang up and excitedly bade us not to attempt to
"Go further up the bank and cross to our
(lines) in a canoe," added a young Manono chief whose family I
knew well, "there is a
about. We saw it last night."
That was quite enough for us—for the name
sent a cold chill down our backs. We turned to the right, and
after walking a quarter of a mile came to a hut on the bank at
a spot regarded as neutral ground. Here we found some women and
children and a canoe, and in less than five minutes we were
landed on the other side, the women chorusing the dreadful fate
that would have befallen us had we attempted to cross at the
mouth of the river.
E lima gafa le umi!
" ("'Tis five fathoms long!") cried one old dame.
"And a fathom wide at the shoulders," said another
bare-bosomed lady, with a shudder. "It hath come to the mouth
of the Vaivasa because it hath smelt the blood of the three men
who were killed in the river here two days ago."
"We'll hear the true yarn presently," said my
companion as we walked down the left-hand bank of the river.
"There must be a
cruising about, or else those Manono fellows wouldn't have been
so scared at us wanting to cross."
As soon as we reached the young chief's quarters, we were
made very welcome, and were obliged to accept his invitation to
remain and share supper with himself and his men—all
stalwart young natives from the little island of Manono—a
lovely spot situated in the straits separating Upolo from
Savaii. Placing our guns and bags in the care of one of the
warriors, we took our seats on the matted floor, filled our
pipes anew, and, whilst a bowl of kava was being prepared,
Li'o, the young chief told us about the advent of the
Let me first of all, however, explain that the
is a somewhat rare and greatly-dreaded member of the
old-established shark family. By many white residents in Samoa
it was believed to occasionally reach a length of from twenty
to twenty-five feet; as a matter of fact it seldom exceeds ten
feet, but its great girth, and its solitary, nocturnal habit of
haunting the mouths of shallow streams has invested it even to
the native mind with fictional powers of voracity and
destruction. Yet, despite the exaggerated accounts of the
creature, it is really a dreadful monster, rendered the more
dangerous to human life by the persistency with which it
frequents muddied and shallow water, particularly after a
freshet caused by heavy rain, when its presence cannot be
Into the port of Apia there fall two small streams—called
"rivers" by the local people—the Mulivai and the
Vaisigago, and I was fortunate to see specimens of the
on three occasions, twice at the Vaisigago, and once at the
mouth of the Mulivai, but I had never seen one caught, or even
sufficiently exposed to give me an idea of its proportions.
Many natives, however—particularly an old Rarotongan
named Hapai, who lived in Apia, and was the proud capturer of
—gave me a reliable description, which I afterwards
ten feet long, they assured me, was an enormously bulky and
powerful creature with jaws and teeth much larger than an
ocean-haunting shark of double that length; the width across
the shoulders was very great, and although it generally swam
slowly, it would, when it had once sighted its prey, dart along
under the water with great rapidity without causing a ripple.
At a village in Savaii, a powerfully built woman who was
incautiously bathing at the mouth of a stream was seized by one
of these sharks almost before she could utter a cry, so swiftly
and suddenly was she attacked. Several attempts were made to
capture the brute, which continued to haunt the scene of the
tragedy for several days, but it was too cunning to take a hook
and was never caught.
, which had been seen by the young Manono chief and his men on
the preceding evening had made its appearance soon after
darkness had fallen and had cruised to and fro across the mouth
of the Vaivasa till the tide began to fall, when it made
its way seaward through a passage in the reef. It was, so Li'o
assured me, quite eight feet in length and very wide across the
head and shoulders. The water was clear and by the bright
starlight they had discerned its movements very easily; once it
came well into the river and remained stationary for some
minutes, lying under about two feet of water. Some of the
Manono men, hailing a picket of the enemy on the opposite bank
of the river, asked for a ten minutes' truce to try and shoot
it; this was granted, and standing on top of the sandy trench,
half a dozen young fellows fired a volley at the shark from
their Sniders. None of the bullets took effect and the
sailed slowly off again to cruise to and fro for another hour,
watching for any hapless person who might cross the river.
Just as the kava was being handed round, some children who
were on watch cried out that the
had come. Springing to his feet, Li'o again hailed the enemy's
picket on the other side, and a truce was agreed to, so that
"the white men could have a look at the
Thirty or forty yards away was what seemed to be a huge,
irregular and waving mass of phosphorus which, as it drew
nearer, revealed the outlines of the dreaded fish. It came in
straight for the mouth of the creek, passed over the pebbly
bar, and then swam leisurely about in the brackish water,
moving from bank to bank at less than a dozen feet from the
shore. The stream of bright phosphorescent light which had
surrounded its body when it first appeared had now, owing to
there being but a minor degree of phos
phorus in the brackish water, given place to a dulled, sickly,
greenish reflection, accentuated however by thin, vivid
streaks, caused by the exudation from the gills of a streaming,
viscid matter, common to some species of sharks, and giving it
a truly terrifying and horrible appearance. Presently a couple
of natives, taking careful aim, fired at the creature's head;
in an instant it darted off with extraordinary velocity,
rushing through the water like a submerged comet—if I may
use the illustration. Both of the men who had fired were
confident their bullets had struck and badly wounded the shark,
but were greatly disgusted when, ten minutes later, it again
appeared, swimming leisurely about, at ten fathoms from the
Three days later, as we were returning to Apia, we were told
by our native friends that the shark still haunted the mouth of
the Vaivasa; and I determined to capture it. I sent Allan on
board the cutter for our one shark hook—a hook which had
done much execution among the sea prowlers. Although not of the
largest size, being only ten inches in the shank, it was made
of splendid steel, and we had frequently caught fifteen-feet
sharks with it at sea. It was a cherished possession with us
and we always kept it—and the four feet of chain to which
it was attached—bright and clean.
In the evening Allan returned, accompanied by the local
pilot (a Captain Hamilton) and the fat, puffing, master of a
German barque. They wanted "to see the fun." We soon had
everything in readiness; the hook, baited with the
belly-portion of a freshly-killed pig
(which the Manono people had commandeered from a bush village)
was buoyed to piece of light
wood to keep it from sinking, and then with twenty fathoms of
brand-new whale line attached, we let it drift out into the
centre of the passage. Then making our end of the line fast to
the trunk of a coconut tree, we set some children to watch, and
went into the trenches to drink some kava, smoke, and
We had not long to wait—barely half an hour—when
we heard a warning yell from the watchers. The
was in sight.
Jumping up and tumbling over each other in our eagerness we
rushed out; but alas! too late for the shark; for instead of
approaching in its usual leisurely manner, it made a straight
dart at the bait, and before we could free our end of the line
it was as taut as an iron bar, and the creature, with the hook
firmly fastened in his jaw, was ploughing the water into foam,
amid yells of excitement from the natives. Then suddenly the
line fell slack, and the half-a-dozen men who were holding it
went over on their backs, heels up.
In mournful silence we hauled it in, and then, oh woe! the
hook, our prized, our beautiful hook, was gone! and with it two
feet of the chain, which had parted at the centre swivel. That
was seen no more.
Nearly two months later, two
of a much larger size, appeared at the mouth of the Vaivasa.
Several of the white residents tried, night after night, to
hook them, but the monsters refused to look at
the baits. Then appeared on the scene an old one-eyed Malay
named 'Reo, who asserted he could kill them easily. The way in
which he set to work was described to me by the natives who
witnessed the operations. Taking a piece of green bamboo, about
four feet in length, he split from it two strips each an inch
wide. The ends of these he then, after charring the points,
sharpened carefully; then by great pressure he coiled them up
into as small a compass as possible, keeping the whole in
position by sewing the coil up in the fresh skin of a fish
known as the
—a species of the "leather-jacket." Then he asked to be
provided with two dogs. A couple of curs were soon provided,
killed, and the viscera removed. The coils of bamboo were then
placed in the vacancy and the skin of the bellies stitched up
with small wooden skewers. That completed the preparation of
As soon as the two sharks made their appearance, one of the
dead dogs was thrown into the water. It was quickly swallowed.
Then the second followed, and was also seized by the other
. The creatures cruised about for some hours, then went off, as
the tide began to fall.
On the following evening they did not turn up, nor on the
next; but the Malay insisted that within four or five days both
would be dead. As soon as the dogs were digested, he said, the
thin fish-skin would follow, the bamboo coil would fly apart,
and the sharpened ends penetrate not only the sharks'
intestines, but protrude through the outer skin as well.
Quite a week afterwards, during which time neither of the
had been seen alive, the smaller of the two was found dead on
the beach at Vailele Plantation, about four miles from the
Vaivasa. It was examined by numbers of people, and presented an
extremely interesting sight; one end of the bamboo spring was
protruding over a foot from the belly, which was so cut and
lacerated by the agonised efforts of the monster to free itself
from the instrument of torture, that much of the intestines was
That the larger of these dreaded fish had died in the same
manner there was no reason to doubt; but probably it had sunk
in the deep water outside the barrier reef.
On Board the "Tucopia."
The little island trading barque
, Henry Robertson, master, lay just below Garden Island in
Sydney Harbour, ready to sail for the Friendly Islands and
Samoa as soon as the captain came on board. At nine o'clock, as
Bruce, the old, white-haired, Scotch mate, was pointing out to
Mrs. Lacy and the Reverend Wilfrid Lacy the many ships around,
and telling them from whence they came or where they were
bound, the second mate called out—
"Here's the captain's boat coming, sir."
Bruce touched his cap to the pale-faced, violet-eyed
clergyman's wife, and turning to the break of the poop, at once
gave orders to "heave short," leaving the field clear to Mr.
Charles Otway, the supercargo of the
, who was twenty-two years of age, had had seven years'
experience of general wickedness in the South Seas, thought he
was in love with Mrs. Lacy, and that, before the barque reached
Samoa, he would make the lady feel that the Reverend Wilfrid
was a serious mistake, and that he, Charles Otway, was the one
man in the world whom she could love and be happy with for
ever. So, being a hot-blooded
and irresponsible young villain, though careful and decorous to
all outward seeming, he set himself to work, took exceeding
care over his yellow, curly hair, and moustache, and abstained
from swearing in Mrs. Lacy's hearing.
A week before, Mr. and Mrs. Lacy had called at the owner's
office and inquired about a passage to Samoa in the
, and Otway was sent for.
"Otway," said the junior partner, "can you make room on the
for two more passengers—nice people, a clergyman and his
"D——all nice people, especially clergymen and
their wives," he answered promptly—for although the
youngest supercargo in the firm, he was considered, the
smartest—and took every advantage of the fact. "I'm sick
of carting these confounded missionaries about, Mr. Harry. Last
trip we took two down to Tonga—beastly hymn-grinding
pair, who wanted the hands to come aft every night to prayers,
and played-up generally with the discipline of the ship.
Robertson never interfered, and old Bruce, who is one of the
psalm-singing kidney himself, encouraged the beasts to turn the
ship into a floating Bethel."
"Mr. Harry" laughed good-naturedly. "Otway, my boy, you
mustn't put on so much side—the firm can't afford it. If
you hadn't drunk so much whisky last night you would be in a
better temper this morning."
"Oh, if you've got some one else to take my billet
, why don't you say so, instead of backing and filling about,
like a billy-goat in stays?
don't care a damn if you load the schooner up to her maintop
with sky-pilots and their dowdy women-kind. I've had enough of
'em, and I hereby tender you my resignation. I can get another
and a better ship to-morrow, if—"
"Sit down, you cock-a-hoopy young ass," and "Mr. Harry" hit
the supercargo a good-humoured but stiff blow in the chest.
"These people aren't missionaries; they're a cut above the
usual breed. Man's a gentleman; woman's as sweet as a rosebud.
Now look here, Otway; we give you a pretty free hand generally,
but in this instance we want you to stretch a point—you
can give these people berths in the trade-room, can't you?"
The supercargo considered a moment. "There's a lot returning
this trip. First, there's the French priest for Wallis
Island—nice old buffer, but never washes, and grinds his
teeth in his sleep—he's in the cabin next to mine; old
Miss Wiedermann for Tonga—cabin on starboard
side—fussy old cat, who is always telling me that she can
distinctly hear Robertson's bad language on deck. But her
brother is a good sort, and so I put up with her. Then there's
Captain Burr, in the skipper's cabin, two Samoan half-caste
girls in the deck-house—there's going to be trouble over
those women, old Bruce says, and I don't doubt it—and the
whole lot will have their meals in the beastly dog-kennel you
call a saloon, and I call a sweat-box."
Thank you, Mr. Otway. Your elegant manner of speaking shows
clearly the refining influence of the charming people with whom
you associate. Just let me tell you this—you looked like
a gentleman a year or two ago, but become less like one every
"No wonder," replied Otway sullenly, "the Island trade is
not calculated to turn out Chesterfields. I'm sick enough of
it, now we are carrying passengers as well as cargo. I suppose
the firm will be asking us supercargoes to wear uniform and
brass buttons soon, like the ticket collector on a penny
"Quite likely, my sulky young friend—quite likely, if
it will pay us to do so."
"Then I'll clear out, and go nigger-catching again in the
Solomons. That's a lot better than having to be civil to people
who worry the soul out of you, are always in the way at sea,
and a beastly nuisance in port. Why, do you know what old Miss
Weidermann did at Manono, in Samoa, when we were there buying
yams three months ago?"
"No; what did she do?"
"Got the skipper and myself into a howling mess through her
infernal interference; and if the chiefs and old Mataafa
himself had not come to our help there would have been some
shooting, and this firm could never have sent another ship to
Manono again. It makes me mad when I think of it—the
silly old bundle of propriety and feminine spite."
"Tell me all about it, Otway. 'Twill do you good, I can see,
to unburden yourself of some of your
bad temper. Shut that door, and we'll have a brandy-and-soda
"Well," said Otway, "this is what occurred. I was ashore in
the village, buying and weighing the yams, the skipper was
lending me a hand, and everything was going on bully, when
Mataafa and his chiefs sent an invitation to us to come up to
his house and drink kava. Of course such an invitation from the
native point of view was a great honour; and then, besides
that, it was good business to keep in with old Mataafa, who had
just given the Germans a thrashing at Vailele, and was as proud
as a dog with two tails. So, although I hate kava, I accepted
the invitation with 'many expressions of pleasure,' and felt
sure that as the old fellow knew me of old, and I knew he
wanted to buy some rifles, that I should get the bulk of a bag
of sovereigns his mongrel, low-down American secretary was
carrying around. So oft went the skipper and I, letting the
yams stand over till we returned; the barque was lying about a
mile off the beach. Mataafa was very polite to us, and during
the kava drinking I found out that he had about three hundred
sovereigns, and wanted to see the Martini-Henrys we had on
board. Of course I told him that it would be a serious business
for the ship if he gave us away—imprisonment in a
dreadful dungeon in Fiji, if not hanging at the yard-arm or a
man-of-war—and the old cock winked his eye and laughed.
Then, as time was valuable, we at once concocted a plan to get
the rifles—fifty—ashore without making too much of
a show. Well,
among some of the women present there were two great swells,
one was the
, or town maid, of Palaulae in Savaii, and the other was a
niece of Mataafa himself. These two, accompanied by a lot of
young women of Manono, were to go off on board the barque in
our boats, ostensibly to pay their respects to the white lady
on board, and invite her on shore, so as to get her out of the
way; then I was to pass the arms out of the stern ports into
some canoes which would be waiting just as it became dark.
About five o'clock they started off in one boat, leaving me and
the skipper to follow in another. I had sent a note off to the
mate telling him all about the little game, and to be mighty
polite to the two chief women, who were to be introduced to
Miss Weidermann, give the old devil some presents of mats,
fruits, and such things, and ask her to come ashore as
"Well, something had gone wrong with the Weidermann's
temper; for when the women came on board she was sulking in her
cabin, and refused to show her vinegary face outside her
state-room door. Thinking she would get over her tantrum in a
few minutes, the mate invited the two Samoan ladies and their
attendants down into the cabin, where they awaited her
appearance, behaving themselves, of course, very decorously, it
being a visit of ceremony.
"Presently Old Cat-face opened her door, and then, without
giving the native ladies time to utter a word, she launched out
at them in her bastard-mongrel Samoan-Tongan. The first thing
she said was that she knew the kind of women they were, and
had brought them on board! How dared such brazen, shameless
cattle come into the cabin! Into the same cabin as a white
lady! The bold, half-naked, disgraceful hussies, etc., etc. And
then she capped the thing by calling to the steward to come and
drive them out!
"Not one of the native women could answer her. They were all
simply dumbfounded at such a gross insult, and left the cabin
in silence. The mate tried to smooth things over, but one of
the women—Mataafa's niece—gave him a look that told
him to say no more. In half an hour the whole lot of them were
back on the beach, and came up to the chiefs house, where the
skipper and myself were having a final drink of kava with old
Mataafa and his
The face of the elder of the two women was blazing with anger,
and then, pointing to the captain and myself, she gave us such
a tongue-lashing for sending her off to the ship to be shamed
and insulted, that made us blush. Old Mataafa waited until she
had finished, and then, with an ugly gleam in his eye but
speaking very quietly, asked us what it meant.
we say but that it was no fault of ours; and then, by a happy
inspiration, I added that although Miss Weidermann was
generally well-conducted enough, she sometimes got blazing
drunk, and made a beast of herself. This explanation satisfied
the chiefs, if not the women, and everything went on
smoothly. And as it was then nearly dark, and I was determined
that Mataafa should get his rifles, half a dozen of his men
took us off in their canoes, and we went on board. The skipper
and I had fixed up as to what we should do with the Weidermann
creature. She was seated at the cabin table waiting to open out
on us, but the skipper didn't give her a chance.
"'Go to your cabin at once, madam,' he said solemnly, 'and I
trust you will not again leave it in your present condition.
Your conduct is simply astounding.
Steward, see that you give Miss Weidermann no more grog
"The poor old girl thought that either he or she herself was
going mad, but he gave her no time to talk. The captain opened
her state-room door, gently pushed her in, and put a man
outside to see that she didn't come out again. Then we handed
out the rifles through the stern-ports to the natives in the
canoes, and sent them away rejoicing. And that's the end of the
yarn, and Miss Weidermann nearly went into a fit next morning
when we told her that no less than thirty respectable native
women had taken their oaths that she was mad drunk, and abused
The junior partner laughed loudly at the story, and Otway,
with a more amiable look on his face, rose.
"Well, I'll do what I can for these people. I'll make room
for them somehow. Where are they going?"
Samoa. They have an idea of settling down there, I think, for a
few months, and then going on to China. They have plenty of
"Oh, well, tell them to come on board to-morrow, and I'll
show them what can be done for them."
So the Rev. and Mrs. Lacy did come on board, and Mr. Charles
Otway was vanquished by just one single glance from the lady's
"It would have been such a dreadful disappointment to us if
we could not have obtained passages in the
," she said, in her soft, sweet voice, as she sank back in the
deck-chair he placed before her. "My husband is so bent on
making a tour through Samoa. Now, do tell me, Mr. Otway, are
these islands so very lovely?"
"Very, very lovely, Mrs. Lacy," replied Otway, leaning with
his back against the rail and regarding her with half-closed
eyes; "as sweet and fair to look upon as a lovely woman—a
woman with violet eyes and lips like a budding rose."
She gave him one swift glance, seemingly in anger, yet her
eyes smiled into his; then she bent her head and regarded the
deck with intense interest. Otway thought he had scored. She
Otway had just shown her and her husband his own cabin, and
had told them that they could occupy it—he would make
himself comfortable in the trade-room, he said. This was after
the first look from the violet eyes.
Robertson, the skipper, came aboard, shook hands with Mrs. Lacy
and her husband, nodded to the other passengers, dived below
for a moment or two, and then reappeared on deck, full of
energy, blasphemy, and anxiety to get under way. In less than
an hour the smart barque was outside the Heads, and heeling
over to a brisk south-westerly breeze. Two days later she was
four hundred miles on her course.
The Rev. Wilfrid Lacy soon made himself very agreeable to
the rest of the passengers, who all agreed that he was a
splendid type of parson, and even Otway, who had as much
principle as a rat and began making love to his wife from the
outset, liked him. First of all, he was not the usual style of
travelling clergyman. He didn't say grace at meals, he smoked a
pipe, drank whisky and brandy with Otway and Robertson, told
rattling good stories, and displayed an immediate interest when
the skipper mentioned that the second mate was a "bit of a
bruiser," and that there were gloves on board; and the second
mate, a nuggety little Tynesider, at once consented to a
friendly mill as soon as he was off duty.
"Wilfrid," said Mrs. Lacy, "you'll shock every one. I can
see that Captain Robertson wonders what sort of a clergyman you
Robertson saw the merry light in her dark eyes, and then
laughed aloud as he saw Miss Weidermann's face. It expressed
the very strongest disapproval, and during the rest of the meal
the virgin lady preserved a dismal silence. The rest of the
passengers, however, "took" to the clerical gentleman at once.
old Father Roget—the Marist missionary who sat opposite
him—he soon entered into an animated conversation, while
the two De Boos girls, vivacious Samoan half-castes, attached
themselves to his wife. Seated beside Otway was another
passenger, an American skipper named Burr, who was going to
Apia to take command of a vessel belonging to the same firm as
. He was a silent, good-looking man of about sixty, and
possessed of much caustic humour and a remarkable fund of
smoking-room stories, which, on rare occasions, he would relate
in an inimitable, drawling manner, as if he was tired. The
chief mate was a deeply but not obtrusively religious Scotsman;
the second officer, Allen, was a young man of thirty, an
excellent seaman, but rough to the verge of brutality with the
crew. Bruce, on the other hand, was too easy-going and
"I never want to raise my hand against a man," he said one
day, as a protest, when Allen gave one of the crew an
unmerciful cuff which sent him down as if he had been shot.
"Neither do I," replied Allen, "I prefer raising my foot.
But it's habit, Mr. Bruce, only habit."
For five days the barque ran steadily on an E.N.E. course,
then on the sixth day the wind hauled, and by sunset it was
blowing hard from the eastward with a fast-gathering sea. By
two in the morning Robertson and his officers knew that they
were in for a three-days' easterly gale; a few hours later it
was decided to heave-to, as the sea had become dangerous, and
little vessel was straining badly. Just after this had been
done, the gale set in with redoubled fury, and when Mrs. Lacy
came on deck shortly before breakfast, she shuddered at the
wild spectacle. Coming to the break of the poop, she clasped
the iron rail with both hands, and gazed fearfully about
"You had better go below, ma'am," said the second mate, who
was standing near, talking to Otway, "there's some nasty, lumpy
Then he gave a yell.
"Look out there!"
Springing to Mrs. Lacy's side, he clasped his left arm
around her waist, and held on tightly to the iron rail with his
right, just as a vast mountain of water took the barque
amidships, fell on her deck with terrific force, and fairly
buried her from the topgallant foc'scle to the level of the
poop. In less than half a minute the galley, for'ard
deck-house, long-boat, which was lying on the main hatch, and
the port bulwarks had vanished, together with three poor seamen
who were asleep in the deck-house. The fearful crash brought
the captain flying on deck. One glance showed him that there
was no chance of saving the men—to attempt to lower a
boat in such a sea was utterly impossible, and would be madness
itself. He sighed, and then took off his cap. Allen and Otway
followed his example.
"Is there no hope for them?" Mrs. Lacy whispered to
"None," replied the supercargo in a low voice. "None." Then
he urged her to go below, as it was not safe for her to remain
on deck. She went at once,
and met her husband just as he was leaving their cabin.
"What is the matter, Nell?" he asked, as he saw that tears
were in her eyes.
"Three poor men have been carried overboard, Wilfrid. They
were in the deck-house asleep ten minutes ago—now they
are gone! Oh, isn't it dreadful, dreadful!" And then she sat
down beside him and wept silently.
Breakfast was a forlorn meal—Robertson and his
officers were not present, and Otway took the captain's seat.
He, too, only remained to drink a cup of coffee, then hurriedly
went on deck. Lacy rose at the same time, but at the foot of
the companion, Otway motioned him to stop.
"Don't come on deck awhile, if you please," he said, "and
tell the ladies to keep to the cabin."
"Anything fresh gone wrong?"
"Yes," replied the supercargo, looking steadily at the
clergyman—"the ship is making water badly. Don't you hear
the pumps going? Tell the ladies not to come on deck—say
it is not safe. And if the old Weidermann girl hears the pumps,
and gets inquisitive, tell her that a lot of water got into the
hold when that big sea tumbled aboard. She's an inquisitive old
ass, and would be bound to tell the other ladies that the ship
is in danger."
Lacy nodded. "All right, I'll see to her. How long has the
ship been leaking?"
"For quite a long time. And there is fourteen inches in her,
and it's as much as we can do to keep it under."
That is serious."
Otway nodded. "Yes, it is serious in weather like this. Now
I must go. Daresay we may give you a call in the course of the
morning. Ever try a spell at old-fashioned brake pumps? Fine
"I'm ready now if you want me," was the quiet answer.
was indeed in a pretty bad case. Immediately after the fatal
sea had swept her decks the carpenter had sounded the well and
found fifteen inches of water, some little of which had got
below through the fore-scuttle, but the greater portion, it was
soon evident, was the result of a leak. The barque was a
comparatively new vessel, and Robertson and his officers, after
two hours' pumping, came to the conclusion that she had either
strained herself badly or a butt-end had started somewhere.
For two hours the crew worked at the pumps, taking a spell
of ten minutes every half-hour, Otway, the American captain
Burr, and Mr. Lacy all lending a hand. Then the well was
sounded, and showed two inches less.
Robertson ordered the men to come aft and get a glass of
grog. They trooped down into the cabin wet and exhausted, and
the steward served them each out half a tumblerful of good
French brandy. They drank it off, and then went on deck again
to have a smoke before resuming pumping. A quarter of an hour
later the pumps choked. There were a hundred tons of coal in
the lower hold, and some of the small of it had been drawn up.
By the time the carpenter had
them cleared the water had gained seven inches, and the little
barque was labouring heavily. Again, however, the willing crew
turned to and pumped steadily for another hour, but only
succeeded in reducing the water by an inch or two. Then
Robertson called his officers together and consulted.
"We can't keep on like this much longer," he said, "the
water is gaining on us too fast. And we can't run before such a
sea as this, in our condition; we should be pooped in less than
five minutes. We shall have to take to the boats in another
couple of hours, unless a change takes place. Mr. Allen, and
you, Mr. Otway, see to the two boats, and get them in
Then he went below to the passengers. They were all seated
in the main cabin, and looked anxiously at him as he
"I am sorry to tell you, ladies," he said quietly, "that the
ship is leaking so badly that I fear we shall have to abandon
her. The men cannot keep on pumping much longer, now that we
are three hands short. Fortunately we have two good boats, and,
if we must take to them, shall have no trouble in reaching
They heard him in silence, then the old priest opened his
state-room door, and came out.
"That is bad news indeed, captain," he said gently. "Still
we must bow to God's will, and trust to His guidance and
protection. And you and your officers and crew are good and
"Thank you, father. We'll do all right if we
have to take to the boats. And you must try and cheer up the
ladies. Now I must leave you all for awhile. We will stick to
the pumps for another hour or two."
"Captain," said Sarah de Boos, a tall, finely built young
woman of twenty, "let my sister and myself and our servant help
the men at the pump.
, please. We are all three very strong, and our help is surely
Robertson patted her soft cheek with his big, sunburnt hand.
"You are your father's daughter, Sarah, and I thank you. Of
course your help would be something; three fine lusty young
women"—he tried to smile—"but it's too dangerous
for you to be on deck. All the bulwarks are gone, and nasty
lumping seas come aboard every now and then."
"I'm not afraid of a life-line hurting my waist," was the
prompt answer, "and neither is Sukie—are you Sukie? Go on
deck, captain, and Sukie and I and Mina" (the servant) "will
just kick off our boots and follow you."
"And I too," broke in old Father Roget. "Surely I am not too
old to help."
In less than five minutes the two half-caste girls, the
native woman Mina, and the old priest, were working the
starboard brake, three seamen being on the lee side. Every now
and then, as the barque took a heavy roll to windward, the
water would flood her deck up to the workers' knees; but they
stuck steadily to their task for half an hour, when they gave
to Burr, the carpenter, the Rev. Wilfrid, and three native
In the cabin Mrs. Lacy sat with ashen-hued face beside Miss
Weidermann, their hands clasped together, and listening to the
wild clamour of the wind and sea. Presently the two De Boos
girls, Lacy, Father Roget, and Mina, came below to rest awhile,
the water streaming from their sodden garments. The old priest,
thoroughly exhausted, threw himself down upon the transom
"Wilfrid," said Mrs. Lacy coming over to him and placing her
shaking hand on his shoulder, "cannot I do something? Oh, Miss
De Boos, I wish I were brave, like you. But I am not—I am
a coward, and I hate myself for it."
The Rev. Wilfrid smiled tenderly at her as he drew her to
him for a moment. "Don't worry, little woman. You can't do
anything—yes, you can, though! Get me my pipe and fill it
for me. My hands are wet and cramped."
Sukie De Boos, whose firm, rounded bosom and strong square
shoulders made a startling contrast, as they revealed their
shape under her soddened blouse, to Mrs. Lacy's fragile figure,
impulsively put her hands out, and taking Mrs. Lacy's face
between them, kissed her twice.
"Dear Mrs. Lacy," she said, "don't be frightened, please.
Now get Mr. Lacy's pipe, and I'll rummage the steward's pantry
and get some food for us all to eat. Mr. Otway told me to tell
you and Miss Weidermann to eat something, as maybe we may not
for some hours. So I'm just going to stay here and see that
eat. I'll set you a good example."
In a few minutes she laid upon the table an assortment of
tinned meats, bread, and some bottled beer, and some brandy for
Father Roget and Lacy. Otway came down, followed by the
steward, and nodded approval.
"That's right, Sukie. Eat as much as you can. I'll take a
drink myself. Here's luck to you, Sukie. Perhaps we won't have
to make up a boating party after all. But there's nothing like
being ready. So will you, Mr. Lacy, lend a hand here with the
steward, and pass up our provisions to the second mate? The
captain will be down in a minute, and will tell you ladies what
clothing to get ready. For my part I'll be jolly glad if we do
have to take to the boats, where we shall be nice and comfy,
instead of rolling about in this beastly way—I'll be
sea-sick in another ten minutes. Old Bruce says he felt sick an
hour ago. Come on, steward."
The assumed cheerfulness of his manner produced a good
effect, and even old Miss Weidermann plucked up heart a little
as she saw him nonchalantly light a cigar as he disappeared
with the steward below into the lazzarette.
On deck Robertson and the mate were talking in low tones, as
they assisted the second mate with the boats. There was now
nearly three feet of water in the hold, and every one knew that
the barque could not keep afloat much longer. Fortunately the
violence of the wind had decreased somewhat, though there was
still a mountainous sea.
Both the old mate and the captain knew that the two small
quarter boats would be dangerously overladen, and their
unspoken fears were shared by the rest of the officers and
crew. But another hour would perhaps make a great difference;
and then as the two men were speaking a savage sea smote the
on the starboard bow, with such violence that she trembled in
every timber, and as she staggered under the shock and then
rolled heavily to windward, she dipped the starboard quarter
boat under the water; it filled, and as she rose again, boat
and davits went away together.
Robertson groaned and looked at the mate.
"It is God's will, sir," said the old Scotsman quietly.
Robertson nodded. "Tell Allen and the others to come here,"
The Tynesider, followed by Captain Burr, Otway, and the
"Mr. Allen," said the captain, "you are the best man in such
an emergency as this. You handle a boat better than any man I
know. There is now only one boat left, and you must take charge
of her. You will have to take a big lot of people—the
four women, the parson, the old French priest, Mr. Otway,
Captain Burr, the carpenter, and the five men."
"I guess I'll stand out, and stick to the ship," said Burr
in a lazy, drawling manner, "I don't like bein' crowded up with
a lot of wimmen."
Neither do I, said Otway.
"Same here, captain," said the carpenter, a little grizzled
man of sixty.
Robertson shook hands with each of them in turn. "I knew you
," he said simply. "Come below and let's have a drink together,
and then see to the boat."
"What's all this, skipper?" said Allen, with an oath, "d'ye
think I'm going to save my carcase and let you men drown? I'll
see you all damned first!"
"You'll obey orders," growled the captain, "and my orders
are that you take charge of that boat. And don't give me any
lip. You are a married man and have children. None of us who
are standing by the ship are married men. By God, my joker, if
you don't know your duty, I'll teach you. Are you going to let
these four women go adrift in a boat to perish when you can
Allen looked the captain squarely in the face and then put
out his hand.
"I understand you, sir. But I don't like doing it. The ship
won't keep afloat another hour. But, as you say, I've a wife
and kids to consider."
Followed by the others, Robertson went below, and told his
passengers to get ready for the boat. The old French priest,
exhausted by his labour at the pumps, was still lying on the
transom cushions, sleeping; the Rev. Lacy was seated at the
table smoking his pipe (all the ladies were in their
state-rooms). He rose as the men entered, and looked at them
We're in a bit of a tight place," said the captain, as he
coolly poured out half a tumblerful of brandy, "but I'm sending
you, Mr. Lacy, and Father Roget, and the ladies away with Mr.
Allen in one of the boats. Allen is a man whom I rely upon.
He'll bring you ashore safely. He's a bit rough in his talk,
but he's one of God's own chosen in a boat, and a fine sailor
man—better than the mate, Captain Burr, or myself; isn't
that so, Mr. Bruce?"
The white-haired old mate bent his head in acknowledgment.
Then he stood up stiff and stark, his rough bony hands clasped
upon his chest.
"I'll no' deny but that Mr. Allen is far and awa' the best
man to have charge o' the boat. But as there is a meenister
here, surely he will now offer up a prayer to the Almighty for
those in peril on the sea, and especially implore Him to
consider a sma' boat, deep to the gunwales."
He looked at the clergyman, who at first made no reply, but
stood with downcast eyes. The men looked at him expectantly; he
put one hand on the table, and then slowly raised his face.
"I think, gentlemen, that ... that Father Roget is the older
man." He spoke haltingly, and a flush dyed his smooth,
clean-shaven face from brow to chin. "Will you not ask him?"
Then his eyes dropped again.
Robertson, who was in a hurry, and yet had a sincere but
secret respect for old Bruce's unobtrusive religious feelings,
now backed up his mate's request.
"I think, sir, that as the mate says, a bit of a short
prayer would not be out of place just now, seeing the mess we
are in. And that poor old gentleman over there is too done up
to stand on his feet. So will you please begin, sir. Steward,
call the ladies. We can no longer disguise from them, Mr. Lacy,
that we are in a bad way—as bad a way as I have ever been
in during my thirty years at sea."
In a couple of minutes the two De Boos girls, Miss
Weidermann, and the native girl Mina, came out of their cabins;
and when the steward said that Mrs. Lacy felt too ill to leave
her berth, her husband could not help giving an audible sigh of
relief. Then he braced up and spoke with firmness.
"Please shut Mrs. Lacy's door, steward. Mr. Bruce, will you
lend me your church service—I do not want to go into my
cabin for my own. My wife, I fear, has given way."
The mate brought the church service, and then whilst the men
stood with bowed heads, and the women knelt, the clergyman,
with strong, unfaltering voice read the second of the prayers
"To be used in Storms at Sea." He finished, and then sitting
down again, placed one hand over his eyes.
The living, the living shall praise Thee
It was the old mate who spoke. He alone of the men had knelt
beside the women, and when he rose his face bore such an
expression of calmness and content, that Otway, who five
minutes before had been silently cursing him for his "damned
idiotcy," looked at him with a sudden mingled respect and
Stepping across to the clergyman, Bruce respectfully placed his
hand on his shoulder, and as he spoke his clear blue eyes
smiled at the still kneeling women.
"Cheer up, sir. God will protect ye and your gude wife, and
us all. You, his meenister, have made supplication to Him, and
He has heard. Dinna weep, ladies. We are in the care of One who
holds the sea in the hollow of His hand."
Then he followed the captain and the others on deck, Otway
alone remaining to assist the steward.
"For God's sake give me some brandy," said Lacy to him, in a
Otway looked at him in astonishment. Was the man a coward
He brought the brandy, and with ill-disguised contempt
placed it before him without a word. Lacy looked up at him, and
his face flushed.
"Oh, I'm not funking—not a d——d bit, I can
Otway at once poured out a nip of brandy for himself, and
clinked his glass against that of the clergyman.
"Pon my soul, I couldn't make it out, and I apologise. But a
man's nerves go all at once sometimes—can't help himself,
you know. Mine did once when I was in the nigger-catching
business in the Solomon Islands. Natives opened fire on us when
our boats were aground in a creek, and some of our men got hit.
I wasn't a bit scared of a smack from a bullet, but when I got
a scratch on my hand from an arrow, I dropped in a blue funk,
and acted like a cur.
Knew it was poisoned, felt sure I'd die of lockjaw, and began
to weep internally. Then the mate called me a rotten young cur,
shook me up, and put my Snider into my hand. But I shall always
feel funky at the sight even of a child's twopenny bow and
arrow. Now I must go."
The clergyman nodded and smiled, and then rising from his
seat, he tapped at the door of his wife's state-room. She
opened it, and then Otway, who was helping the steward, heard
her sob hysterically.
"Oh, Will, Will, why did you? How could you? I love you,
Will dear, I love you, and if death comes to us in another
hour, another minute, I shall die happily with your arms round
me. But, Will dear, there is a God, I'm sure there
a God.... I feel it in my heart, I feel it. And now that death
is so near to us——"
Lacy put his arms around her, and lifted her trembling
figure upon his knees.
"There, rest yourself, my pet."
"Rest! Rest?" she said brokenly, as Lacy drew her to him.
"How can I rest when I think of how I have sinned, and how I
shall die! Will dear, when I heard you reading that
to do it, Nell."
"Will, dear Will.... Perhaps God may forgive us both.... But
as I sat here in my dark cabin, and listened to you reading
that prayer, my husband's face came before me—the face
that I thought was so dull and stupid. And his eyes seemed so
soft and kind—"
For God's sake, my dear little woman, don't think of what is
past. We have made the plunge together——"
The woman uttered one last sobbing sigh. "I am not afraid to
die, Will. I am not afraid, but when I heard you begin to read
that prayer, my courage forsook me. I wanted to scream—to
rush out and stop you, for it seemed to me as if you were doing
it in sheer mockery."
"I can only say again, Nell, that I could not help myself;
made me feel pretty sick, I assure you."
Their voices ceased, and presently Lacy stepped out into the
main cabin, and then went on deck again.
Robertson met him with a cheerful face. "Come on, Mr. Lacy.
I've some good news for you—we are making less water! The
leak must be taking up in some way." Then holding on to the
rail with one hand, he shouted to the men at the pumps.
"Shake her up, boys! shake her up. Here's Mr. Lacy come to
lend a hand, and the supercargo and steward will be with you in
a minute. Now I'm going below for a minute to tell the ladies,
and mix you a bucket of grog. Shake her up, you, Tom Tarbucket,
my bully boy with a glass eye! Shake her up, and when she sucks
dry, I'll stand a sovereign all round."
The willing crew answered him with a cheer, and Tom
Tarbucket, a square-built, merry faced native of Savage Island,
who was stripped to the waist, shouted out, amid the laughter
of his shipmates—
Ay, ay, capt'in, we soon make pump suck dry if two Miss de Boos
Robertson laughed in response, and then picking up a wooden
bucket from under the fife rail, clattered down the companion
"Where are you, Otway? Up you get on deck, and you too,
steward. The leak is taken up and 'everything is lovely and the
goose hangs high.' Up you go to the pumps, and make 'em suck.
I'll bring up some grog presently."
Then as Otway and the steward sprang up on deck, the captain
stamped along the cabin in his sodden sea boots, banging at
"Come out, Sarah, come out Sukie, my little
chickabiddies—there's to be no boat trip for you after
all. Miss Weidermann, I've good news, good news! Mrs. Lacy,
cheer up, dear lady. The leak has taken up, and you can go on
deck and see your husband working at the pumps like a number
one chop Trojan. Ha! Father Roget, give me your hand. You're a
white man, sir, and ought to be a bishop."
As he spoke to the now awakened old priest, the two De Boos
girls, Mrs. Lacy and Miss Weidermann, all came out of their
cabins, and Robertson shook hands with them, and lifting Sukie
de Boos up between his two rough hands as if she were a little
girl, he kissed her, and then made a grab at Sarah, who dodged
behind Mrs. Lacy.
"Now, father, don't you attempt to come on deck. Mrs. Lacy,
just you keep him here. Sukie, my chick, you and Sarah get a
couple of bottles of brandy,
make this bucket full of half-and-half, and bring it on deck to
As he noisily stamped out of the cabin again, the old priest
turned to the ladies, and raised his hand—
"A brave, brave man—a very good English sailor. And
now let us thank God for His mercies to us."
The four ladies, with Mina, knelt, and then the good old man
prayed fervently for a few minutes. Then Sukie de Boos and her
sister flung their arms around Mrs. Lacy, and kissed her, and
even Miss Weidermann, now thoroughly unstrung, began to cry
hysterically. She had at first detested Mrs. Lacy as being
altogether too scandalously young and pretty for a clergyman's
wife. Now she was ready to take her to her bosom (that is, to
her metaphorical bosom, as she had no other), for she believed
that Mr. Lacy's prayer had saved them all, he being a
Protestant clergyman, and therefore better qualified to avert
imminent death than a priest of Rome.
Sukie and Sally de Boos mixed the grog, took it on deck, and
served it out to the men at the pumps.
The carpenter sounded the well, and as he drew up the iron
rod, the second mate gave a shout.
"Only seven inches, captain."
"Right, my boy. Take a good spell now, Mr. Allen. Mr. Bruce,
we can give her a bit more lower canvas now. She'll stand it.
Mr. Lacy, and you Captain Burr, come aft and get into some dry
togs. The glass is rising steadily, and in a few hours we'll
feel a bit more comfy."
He prophesied truly, for the violence of the gale
decreased rapidly, and when at the end of an hour the pumps
sucked, the crew gave a cheer, and tired out as they were,
eagerly sprang aloft to repair damages and then spread more
sail, Sarah and Susan de Boos hauling and pulling at the
running gear from the deck below. They were both girls of
splendid physique, and, in a way, sailors, and had Robertson
allowed them to do so, would have gone aloft and handled the
canvas with the men.
By four o'clock in the afternoon the little barque, with her
wave-swept, bulwarkless decks, now drying under a bright sun,
was running before a warm, good-hearted breeze, and the pumps
were only attended to twice in every watch.
Mrs. Lacy, Miss Weidermann, the De Boos girls, and the
French priest were seated on the poop deck, on rugs and
blankets spread out for them by Otway and the steward. Lacy,
with Captain Burr, was pacing to and fro smoking his pipe, and
laughing heartily at Sukie de Boos's attempts to make his wife
smoke a cigarette. Presently old Bruce came along with the
second mate and some men to set a new gaff-topsail, and the
ladies rose to go below, so as to be out of the way.
"Nae, nae, leddies, dinna go below," said the old mate
cheerfully, "ye'll no' hinder us. And the sight o' sae many
sweet, bonny faces will mak' us work a' the better. And how are
ye now, Mrs. Lacy? Ah, the pink roses are in your cheeks once
mair." And then he stepped quickly up to the young clergyman
and took his hand.
Mr. Lacy, ye must pardon me, but I'm an auld man, and must hae
my way. Ye're a gude, brave man;" then he added in a low voice,
"and ye called upon Him, and He heard us."
"Thank you, Mr. Bruce," Lacy answered nervously, as he saw
his wife's eyes droop, and a vivid blush dye her fair cheeks.
Then he plucked the American captain by the sleeve and went
below, and Sukie de Boos laughed loudly when in another minute
they heard the pop of a bottle of soda water. She ran to the
skylight and bent down.
"You're a pair of exceedingly rude men. You might think of
Father Roget—even if you don't think of us poor women.
Mr. Otway, come here, you horrid, dirty-faced, ragged creature!
Go below and get a glass of port wine for Father Roget, a
bottle of champagne for Mrs. Lacy and my sister and myself, and
a cup of tea for Mrs. Weidermann, and bring some biscuits,
"Come and help me, then," said the supercargo, who was
indeed dirty-faced and ragged.
Sukie danced towards the companion way with him. Half-way
down he put his arms round her and kissed her vigorously. She
returned his kisses with interest, and laughingly smacked his
"Let me go, Charlie Otway, you horrid, bold fellow. Now,
one, two, three, or I'll call out and invoke the protection of
the clergy, above and below—those on board this ship I
mean, not those who are in heaven or elsewhere."
Ten days later the
sailed into Apia Harbour and dropped anchor inside Matautu
Point just as the evening mists were closing their fleecy
mantle around the verdant slopes of Vailima Mountain.
The two half-caste girls, with their maid and Mr. and Mrs.
Lacy, came to bid Otway and the captain a brief farewell,
before they went ashore in the pilot boat to D'Acosta's hotel
"Now remember, Otway, and you, Captain Robertson, and you,
Captain Burr, you are all to dine with us at the hotel the day
after to-morrow. And perhaps you, too, Father Roget will
reconsider your decision and come too." It was Lacy who
The gentle-voiced old Frenchman shook his head and
smiled—"Ah no, it was impossible," he said. The bishop
would not like him to so soon leave the Mission. But the bishop
and his brothers at the Mission would look forward to have the
good captain, and Mr. Burr, and Mr. Otway, and the ladies to
accept his hospitality.
Mrs. Lacy's soft little gloved hand was in Otway's.
"I thank you, Mr. Otway, very, very sincerely for your many
kindnesses to me. You have indeed been most generous to us
both. It was cruel of us to take your cabin and compel you to
sleep in the trade-room. But I shall never forget how kind you
All that was good in Otway came into his vicious heart and
voiced softly through his lips.
I am only too glad, Mrs. Lacy.... I am indeed. I didn't like
giving up my cabin to strangers at first, and was a bit of a
beast when Mr. Harry told me we were taking two extra
passengers. But I am glad now."
He turned away, and went below with burning cheeks. Before
the storm he had tried his best, late on several nights, to
make Lacy drunk, and to keep him drunk; but Lacy could stand as
much or more grog than he could himself; and when he heard that
passionate, sobbing appeal, "Oh, Will, Will, how could you?"
his better nature was stirred, and his fierce sensual desire
for her changed into a sentimental affection and respect. He
knew her secret, and now, instead of wishing to take advantage
of it, felt he was too much of a man to abuse his
Supper was over, and as the skipper, Burr, and Otway paced
the quarter-deck before going ashore to play a game or two of
billiards and meet some friends, a boat came alongside, and a
man stepped on deck and inquired for the captain. As he
followed Robertson down the companion, Otway saw that he was a
well-dressed, rather gentlemanly-looking young man of about
five and twenty.
"Who's that joker, I wonder?" he said to Burr; "not any one
living in Samoa, unless he's a new-comer. Hope he won't stay
long—it's eight o'clock now."
Ten minutes later the steward came to him.
"The captain wishes to see you, sir."
Otway entered the cabin. Robertson, with frowning
face, motioned him to a seat. The strange gentleman sat near
the captain smoking a cigar, and with some papers in his
"Mr. Otway, I have sent for you. This gentleman has a
warrant for the arrest of Mr. Lacy, issued by the New Zealand
Government and initialled by the British Consul here."
Otway rose to the occasion. He nodded to the stranger and
sat down quietly.
"Yes, sir?" he asked inquiringly of Robertson.
"You will please tell my supercargo your business, mister,"
said the captain gruffly to the stranger; "he can tell you all
you wish to know—that is, if he cares to do so. I don't
see that your warrant holds any force here in Samoa. You can't
execute it. There's no government here, no police, no anything,
and the British Consul can't act on a warrant issued from New
Zealand. It is of no more use in Samoa than it would be at Cape
"Now, sir, make haste," said Otway with a mingled and
studied insolence and politeness. He already began to detest
"I am a detective of the police force of New Zealand, and I
have come from Auckland to arrest William Barton, alias the
Rev. Wilfrid Lacy, on a charge of stealing twenty thousand,
five hundred pounds from the National Bank of Christchurch, of
which he was manager. I believe that twenty thousand pounds of
the money he has stolen is on board this vessel at this moment,
and I now demand access to his cabin."
Do you? How are you going to enforce your demand, my cocksure
Otway rose, and placing his two hands on the table, looked
insultingly at the detective. "What rot you are talking,
The detective drew back, alarmed and startled.
"The British Consul has endorsed my warrant to arrest this
man," he said, "and it will go hard with any one who attempts
to interfere with me in the performance of my duty."
Otway shot a quick, triumphant glance at the captain.
"The Consul is, and always was, a silly old ass. You have
come on a fool's errand; and are going on the wrong tack by
making threats. That idiotic warrant of yours is of no more use
to you than a sheet of fly paper—Samoa is outside British
jurisdiction. The High Commissioner for the Western Pacific
would not have endorsed such a fool of a document, and I'll
report the matter to him.... Now, sit down and tell me what you
want, and I'll try and help you all I can. But don't try to
bluff us—it's only wasting your time. Steward, bring us
something to drink."
As soon as the steward brought them "something to drink"
Otway became deeply sympathetic with the detective, and
Robertson, who knew his supercargo well, smiled inwardly at the
manner he adopted.
"Now, just tell us, Mr.—O'Donovan, I think you said is
your name—what is all the trouble? I need
hardly tell you that whilst both the captain and myself felt
annoyed at your dictatorial manner, we are both sensible men,
and will do all in our power to assist you. Our firm's
reputation has to be studied—has it not, captain? We
don't want it to be insinuated that we helped an embezzler to
escape, do we?"
"Certainly not," replied Robertson, puffing slowly at his
cigar, watching Otway keenly through his half-closed eyelids,
and wondering what that astute young gentleman was driving at.
"I guess that you, Mr. Otway, will do all that is right and
"Thank you, sir," replied Otway humbly, and with great
seriousness, "I know my duty to my employers, and I know that
this gentleman may be led into very serious trouble through the
dense stupidity of the British Consul here."
He turned to Mr. O'Donovan—"Are you aware, Mr.
O'Donikin—I beg your pardon, O'Donovan—that the
British Consul here is not, officially, the British Consul. He
is merely a commercial agent, like the United States Consul.
Neither are accredited by their Governments to act officially
on behalf of their respective countries, and even if they were,
there is no extradition treaty with the Samoan Islands, which
is a country without a recognised government. Of course, Mr.
O'Donovan, you are acting in good faith; but you have no more
legal right nor the power to arrest a man in Samoa, than you
have to arrest one in Manchuria or Patagonia. Of course, old
Johns (the British Consul) doesn't know this, or
he would not have made such a fool of himself by endorsing a
warrant from an irresponsible judge of a New Zealand court. But
as I told you, I shall aid you in every possible way."
O'Donovan was no fool. He knew that all that Otway had said
was absolutely correct, but he braced himself up.
"I daresay what you say may be right, Mr. Supercargo. But
I've come from New Zealand to get this joker, and by blazes I
mean to get him, and take him back with me to New Zealand. And
I mean to have those twenty thousand sovereigns to take back as
"Well, then, why the devil don't you go and get your man?
He's at Joe D'Acosta's hotel with his wife."
"I don't want to be bothered with him just yet. I have no
place to put him into. The Californian mail boat from San
Francisco is not due here for another ten days. But I know that
he hasn't taken his stolen money ashore yet, and you had better
hand it over to me at once. I can get
at any time."
Otway leant back in his chair and laughed.
"I don't doubt that, Mr. O'Donovan. If you have enough money
to do it, you can do as you say—get this man at any time.
But you want to have some guns behind you to enforce it; and
then his capture won't affect our custody of the money. If the
Consul instigates you to make an attack on the ship, you will
do so at your peril, for we shall resist any piratical
O'Donovan's face fell. "You said you would assist me?"
"So I will," replied Otway, lying genially, "But you must
point out a way. The High Commissioner for the Western Pacific,
in Fiji, is the only man who could give you power to arrest the
man and convey him to New Zealand, and the moment you show me
the High or the Deputy High Commissioner's order to hand over
the money, and Lacy's other effects, I'll do so."
The detective made his last stroke.
"I can take the law into my own hands and chance the
consequences. The Consul will supply me with a
Robertson smiled grimly, and pointed to the rack of Snider
rifles around the mizen-mast at the head of the table.
"You and your force will have a bad time of it then, and be
shot down before you can put foot on my deck. I've never seen a
shark eat a policeman, but there seems a chance of it now."
O'Donovan laughed uneasily, then he changed his tactics.
"Now look here, gentlemen," he said confidentially, leaning
across the table, "I can see I'm in a bit of a hole, but I'm a
business man, and you are business men, and I think we
understand one another, eh? As you say, my warrant doesn't hold
good here in Samoa. But the Consul will back me up, and if I
can take this chap back to New Zealand it means a big thing for
me. Now, what's your figure?"
Two hundred each for the skipper and myself," answered Otway
"Done. You shall have it."
"Give me till to-morrow afternoon. I've only a hundred and
fifty pounds with me, and I'll have to raise the rest."
"Very well, it's a deal. But mind, you'll have to take care
to be here before the parson. He's coming off at eleven
"Trust me for that, gentlemen."
"I'm sorry for his wife," said Otway meditatively.
O'Donovan grinned. "Ah, I haven't told you the
yarn—she's not his wife! She bolted from her husband, who
is a big swell in Auckland, a Mr.——."
"How did you get on their tracks?"
"Sydney police found out that two people answering their
description had sailed for the Islands in the
, and cabled over to us. We thought they had lit out for
America. I only got here the day before yesterday in the
, from Auckland."
Otway paid him some very florid compliments on his
smartness, and then after another drink or two, the detective
went on shore, highly pleased.
As soon as he was gone, Otway turned to Robertson.
"You won't stand in my way, Robertson, will you?" he
asked—"I want to see the poor devils get away."
"You take all the responsibility, then."
"I will," and then he rapidly told the skipper his
plan, and set to work by at once asking the second mate to get
ready the boat and then come back to the cabin.
"All ready," said Allen, five minutes later.
"Then come with the steward and help me with this gear."
He unlocked the door of Lacy's state-room, lit the swinging
candle, and quickly passed out Mr. and Mrs. Lacy's remaining
luggage to the second mate and steward. Three small leather
trunks, marked "Books with Care," were especially heavy, and he
guessed their contents.
"Stow them safely in the boat, Allen. Don't make more noise
than you can help. I'll be with you in a minute."
Going into his own cabin, he took a large handbag, threw
into it his revolver and two boxes of cartridges, then carried
it into the trade-room, and added half a dozen tins of the
brand of tobacco which he knew Lacy liked, and then filled the
remaining space with pint bottles of champagne. Then he whipped
up a sheet or two of letter paper and an envelope from the
cabin-table, thrust them into his coat pocket, and, bag in
hand, stepped quickly on deck. The old mate was in his cabin,
and had not heard anything.
"Give it to her, boys," he said to the crew, taking the
steer-oar in his hand, and heading the boat towards a small
fore-and-aft schooner lying half a mile away in the Matafele
horn of the reef encircling Apia Harbour.
The four native seamen bent to their oars in silence, and
sped swiftly through the darkness over the calm
waters of the harbour. The schooner showed no riding light on
her forestay, but, on the after deck under the awning, a lamp
was burning, and three men—the captain, mate, and
boatswain—were playing cards on the skylight.
Otway jumped on deck, just as the men rose to meet him.
"Great Ascensial Jehosophat! Why, it's you, Mr. Otway?"
cried the captain, a little clean-shaven man, as he shook hands
with the supercargo. "Well, now, I was just wondering whether
I'd go ashore and try and drop across you. Say, tell me now,
hev you any good tinned beef and a case of Winchesters you can
"Yes, both," replied Otway, shaking hands with the three in
turn—they were all old acquaintances, especially Le Brun,
the mate. "But come below with me, Revels; I've important
business, and it has to be done right away—this very
Revels led the way below into the schooner's cabin, and at
once produced a bottle of Bourbon and a couple of glasses.
"No time to drink, Revels.... All right, just a little,
then. Now, tell me, do you want to make—and make it
easy—five hundred pounds?"
"Guess I do."
"Are you ready for sea?"
"I was thinking of sailing on a cruise among the Tokelau
Islands in a day or two."
"Then don't think of it. If you put to sea to-night for a
longer voyage, I can guarantee you that you will
get five hundred pounds—if you will take two passengers
on board, and put to sea as soon as they come alongside."
"Where do they want to go?"
"That I can't say. Manila or Hongkong, most likely. It'll
"Is the money safe?"
Otway struck his hand on the table. "Safe as rain, Revels.
They have plenty. I have it here alongside, and if you don't
get five hundred sovereigns paid you when you have dropped
Samoa astern, you can come back with your passengers, and I'll
give you fifty pounds myself."
"Friends of yours?"
"That's enough fur me, Otway. Now, just tell me what to
"Tell your mate to get your boat ready to go ashore, while I
write a note."
He took a sheet of paper, and hurriedly wrote in pencil:
"DEAR LACY,—Don't hesitate to follow
my instructions. There's a man here from New Zealand. Tried to
get access to your cabin; bluffed him. You and your wife must
follow bearer of this note to his boat, which will bring you to
a schooner. The captain's name is Revels. He expects you, and
you can trust him. Have pledged him my word that you will give
him £500 to land you at Manila or thereabouts; also that
you will hand it to him as soon as the schooner is clear of the
your luggage is on board the schooner, awaiting you. Allen
helped me. You might send him a present by Revels. Goodbye, and
all good luck. One last word—
be quick, be quick
"Boat is ready," said Revels.
Right," and Otway closed the letter and handed it to the mate.
"Here you are, Le Brun. Now, listen. Pull in to the mouth of
the creek at the French Mission, just beside the bridge. Leave
your boat there and then take this letter to D'Acosta's Hotel
and ask to see Mr. Lacy. If he and his wife have gone out for a
walk, you must follow them and give him the letter; but I feel
pretty sure you'll find them on the verandah. Bring them off on
board as quickly and as quietly as possible. No one will take
any notice of the boat in the creek. Oh! and tell Mr. Lacy to
be dead sure not to bring anything in the way of even a small
bag with him—Joe D'Acosta might wonder. I'll settle the
hotel bill later on. Are you clear?"
"Clear as mud," replied Le Brun, a big, black-whiskered
The schooner's boat, manned by two hands only, pushed off,
and then Revels turned to Otway.
"Shall I heave short so as to be ready?"
"Heave short, be d——d!" replied Otway testily.
"No, just lie nice and quiet, and as soon as you have your
passengers on board slip your cable. I'll see that your anchor
is fished up for you. And even if you lost your anchor and a
few fathoms of chain it doesn't matter against five hundred
sovereigns. The people on shore would be sure to hear the sound
of the windlass pawls, and there's a man here from
Auckland—a detective—who might make a bold stroke,
get a dozen native bullies and collar
you. So slip, my boy, slip. There's a fine healthy breeze which
will take you clear of the reef in ten minutes."
The two men shook hands, and Otway stepped into his boat,
which he steered in towards the principal jetty.
Jumping out he walked along the roadway which led from
Matafele to Apia. As he passed the British Consul's house he
saw Mr. O'Donovan standing on the verandah talking to the
Consul. He waved his hand to them, and cheerfully invited the
detective to come along to "Johnnie Hall's" and play a game of
Mr. O'Donovan, little thinking that Otway had a purpose in
view, took the bait. The Consul knew Otway, and, in a measure,
dreaded him, for the supercargo's knowledge of certain
transactions in connection with the sale of arms to natives, in
which he (the Consul) had taken a leading and lucrative part.
So when he saw the supercargo of the
beckoning to O'Donovan he smiled genially at him, and hurriedly
told the detective to go.
"He's a most astute and clever young scoundrel, Mr.
O'Donovan, and in a way we are at his mercy. But you shall have
the four hundred pounds in the morning—not later than
noon. This man Barton must be brought to justice at any
"Just so, sir; and you will get a hundred out of the
business, any way," replied O'Donovan, who had gauged the
Consul's morality pretty fairly.
As Otway and the detective walked towards the
hotel known as "Johnny Hall's" the former said
"Look here, Mr. O'Donovan. Are the skipper and myself to get
those four hundred sovs to-morrow or not? To tell you the exact
truth, I have a fair amount of doubt about your promise. Where
are you going to get the money?"
"That's all right, Mr. Otway. You're a business man. And you
and the skipper will have your two hundred each before one
o'clock to-morrow. The Consul is doing the necessary."
"Right, my boy," said Otway effusively. "Now we'll play a
game or two at Johnny's and have some fun with the girls."
By eleven o'clock Mr. O'Donovan was comfortably half drunk,
and Otway led him out on to the verandah to look at the
harbour, shimmering under the starlight. They sat down on two
cane lounges, and the supercargo's keen eye saw that Revel's
schooner had gone. He breathed freely, and then brought Mr.
O'Donovan a large whisky and soda.
In the morning Mr. O'Donovan and Mr. William Johns, the
British Consul, were in a state of frenzy on discovering that
Mr. and Mrs. Lacy had escaped during the night in the schooner
. The Consul knew that Otway was at the bottom of the matter,
but dared not say so, but O'Donovan, who had more pluck and
nothing to lose, lost his temper and came on board the
just as she was being hauled up on the beach to get at the
You're a dirty sweep," he said to Otway.
The supercargo hit him between the eyes, and sent him down.
Allen picked him up, dumped him into the boat alongside, and
sent him ashore.
lay high and dry on Apia beach Otway and old Bruce walked round
under her counter and looked for the leak. As the skipper had
surmised, a butt-end had started, but the gaping orifice was
now choked and filled with a large piece of seaweed.
"The prayer of one of God's ain ministers has saved us,"
said the Scotch mate, pointing upward.
"No doubt," replied Otway, who knew that the good old man
had heard nothing of what had happened.
The Man in the Buffalo Hide
Twelve years ago in a North Queensland town I was told the
story of "The Man in the Buffalo Hide" by Ned D——.
He (D——) was then a prosperous citizen, having made
a small fortune by "striking it rich" on the Gilbert and
Etheridge Rivers goldfields. Returning from the arid wastes of
the Queensland back country to Sydney, he tired of leading an
inactive life, and hearing that gold had been discovered on one
of the Solomon Islands, he took passage thither in the Sydney
packet, and though he returned to Australia without discovering
gold in the islands, he had kept one of the most interesting
logs of a whaling cruise it has ever been my fortune to read.
The master of the whaleship was Captain J.Y. Carpenter, a man
who is well known and highly respected, not only in Sydney
(where he now resides), but throughout the East Indies and
China, where he had lived for over thirty years. And it was
from Captain Carpenter who was one of the actors in this
twice-told tragedy, that D——heard this story of
Chinese vengeance. He (D——) related it to me in
'88, and I wish I
could write the tale as well and vividly as he told it.
However, I wrote it out for him then and there. Much to our
disgust the editor of the little journal to whom we sent the
MS., considered it a fairy tale, and cut it down to some two or
three hundred words. I mention these apparently unnecessary
details merely that the reader may not think that the tale is
fiction, for two years or so after, Captain Carpenter
corroborated my friend's story.
It was after the Taeping rebellion had been stamped out in
blood and fire by Gordon and his "Ever Victorious Army," and
the Viceroy (Li Hung Chang) had taken up his quarters in
Canton, and was secretly torturing and beheading those
prisoners whom he had sworn to the English Government to
Carpenter was in command of a Chinese Government despatch
vessel—a side-wheeler—which was immediately under
the Viceroy's orders. She was but lightly armed, but was very
fast, as fast went in those days. His ship had been lying in
the filthy river for about a week, when, one afternoon, a
mandarin came off with a written order for him to get ready to
proceed to sea at daylight on the following morning. Previous
experience of his estimable and astute Chinese employers warned
him not to ask the fat-faced, almond-eyed mandarin any
questions as to the steamer's destination, or the duration of
the voyage. He simply said that he would be ready at the
At daylight another mandarin, named Kwang—
one of much higher rank than his visitor of the previous
day—came on board. He was attended by thirty of the most
ruffianly-looking scoundrels—even for Chinamen—that
the captain had ever seen. They were all well armed, and came
off in a large, well-appointed boat, which, the mandarin
intimated with a polite smile, was to be towed, if she was too
heavy to be hoisted aboard. A couple of hands were put in her,
and she was veered astern. Then the anchor was lifted, and the
steamer started on her eighty miles trip down the river to the
sea, the mandarin informing the captain that he would name the
ship's destination as soon as they were clear of the land.
Most of Carpenter's officers were Europeans—Englishmen
or Americans—and one or two of them who spoke Chinese,
attempted to enter into conversation with the thirty braves,
and endeavour to learn the object of the steamer's mission.
Their inquiries were met either with a mocking jest or
downright insult, and presently the mandarin, who hitherto had
preserved a smiling and affable demeanour as he sat on the
quarter-deck, turned to the captain with a sullen and ferocious
aspect, and bade him remind his officers that they had no
business to question the servants of the "high and excellent
But though neither Carpenter nor any of his officers could
learn aught about this sudden mission, one of their servants, a
Chinese who was deeply attached to his master, whispered
tremblingly to him that the mandarin and the thirty braves were
in quest of one of the Viceroy's most hated enemies—a
of the Taepings who had escaped the bloodied hands of Li Hung
Chang, and whose retreat had been betrayed to the cruel,
merciless Li the previous day.
Once clear of the land, the mandarin, with a polite smile
and many compliments to Carpenter on the skilful and
expeditious manner in which he had navigated the steamer down
the river, requested him to proceed to a certain point on the
western side of the island of Formosa.
"When you are within twenty miles of the land, captain," he
said suavely, "you will make the steamer stop, and my men and I
will leave you in the boat. You must await our return, which
may be on the following day, or the day after, or perhaps
longer still. But whether I am absent one, or two, or six days,
you must keep your ship in the position I indicate as nearly as
possible. You must avoid observation from the shore, you must
be watchful, diligent, and patient, and, when you see my boat
returning, you must make your engines work quickly, and come
towards us with all speed. High commendation and a great reward
from the serene nobleness of our great Viceroy—who has
already condescended to notice your honourable ability and
great integrity in your profession—awaits you." Then with
another smile and bow he went to his cabin.
As soon as the steamer reached the place indicated by the
mandarin the engines were stopped. The boat, which was towing
astern, was hauled alongside, and the thirty truculent
"braves," with a Chinese
pilot and the ever-smiling mandarin, got into her and pushed
off for the shore. That they were all picked men, who could
handle an oar as well as a rifle, was very evident from the
manner in which they sent the big boat along towards the blue
outline of the distant shore.
For two days Carpenter and his officers waited and watched,
the steamer lying and rolling about upon a long swell, and
under a hot and brazen sun. Then, about seven o'clock in the
morning, as the sea haze lifted, a look-out on the foreyard
hailed the deck and said the boat was in sight. The steamer's
head was at once put towards her under a full head of steam,
and in another hour the mandarin and his braves were
The mandarin clambered up on deck, his always-smiling face
(which Carpenter and his officers had come to detest) now
"You have done well, sir," he said to the captain; "the
Viceroy himself, when my own miserable worthlessness abases
itself before him, shall know how truly and cleverly you and
your officers (who shall be honoured for countless ages in the
future) have obeyed the behests which I have had the
never-to-be-extinguished honour to convey from him to you.
There is a prisoner in the boat—a prisoner who is to be
tried before those high and merciful judges whose Heaven-sent
authority your valorous commander of the Ever Victorious Army
Carpenter, being a sailor man before all else,
swallowed the mandarin's compliments for all they were worth,
and I can imagine him giving a grumpy nod to the smiling minion
of the Viceroy as he ordered "the prisoner" to be brought on
deck, and the boat to be veered astern for towing.
The official interposed oilily. There was no need, he said,
to tow the boat to Canton if she could not be hoisted on board,
and was likely to impede the steamer's progress. Some of his
braves could remain in her, and the insignia of the Viceroy
which they wore would ensure both their and the boat's
safety—no pirates would touch them.
The captain said that to tow such a heavy boat for such a
long distance would certainly delay the steamer's arrival in
Canton by at least six or eight hours. The mandarin smiled
sweetly, and said that as speed was everything the most
honourable navigator, whom he now had the privilege to address,
and who was so soon to be distinguished by his mightiness the
Viceroy, could at once let the boat which had conveyed his
worthless self into the sunshine of his (the captain's)
presence, go adrift.
At a sign from Kwang, six of his cutthroats clambered down
the side into the boat, which was at once cast oft; the steamer
was sent along under a full head of steam, and the captain was
about to ascend the bridge when the mandarin stayed him, and
requested that a meal should be at once prepared in the cabin
for the prisoner, who, he said, was somewhat exhausted, for his
capture was only effected after he had killed three and wounded
half a dozen of "the
braves." So courageous a man, he added softly, whatever his
offence might be, must not be allowed to suffer the pangs of
hunger and thirst.
Carpenter gave the necessary order to the steward with a
sensation of pleasure, feeling that he had done the suave and
gentle-voiced Kwang an injustice in imagining him to be like
most Chinese officials—utterly indifferent and callous to
human suffering. Then he stepped along the deck towards the
bridge just as two of the braves lifted the prisoner to his
feet, which a third had freed from a thong of hide, bound so
tightly around them that it had literally cut into the flesh.
His hands were tied in the same manner, and round his neck was
an iron collar, with a chain about six feet in length which was
secured at the end to another band around the waist of one of
As the prisoner stood erect, Carpenter saw that he was a man
of herculean proportions and over six feet three or four inches
in height. His arms and naked chest were cut, bleeding and
bruised, and a bamboo gag was in his mouth; but what at once
attracted the captain's attention and sympathy was the man's
So calm, steadfast, and serene were his clear, undaunted
eyes; so proud, lofty, and contemptuous and yet so dignified
his bearing, as he glanced at his guards when they bade him
walk, that Carpenter, drawing back a little, raised his hand in
In an instant the deep, dark eyes lit up, and the tortured,
distorted mouth would have smiled had it not been for the cruel
gag. But twice he bent his
head, and his eyes did that which was denied to his lips.
Captain Carpenter was deeply moved. The man's heroic
fortitude, his noble bearing under such physical suffering, the
tender, woman-like resignation in the eyes which could yet
smile into his, affected him so strongly that he could not help
asking one of the "braves" the prisoner's name.
An insolent, threatening gesture was the only answer. But
the prisoner had heard, and bent his head in acknowledgment.
When he raised it again and saw that Carpenter had now taken
off his cap, tears trickled down his cheeks. In another moment
he was hurried along the deck into the cabin, and half a dozen
"braves" stood guard at the door to prevent intrusion, whilst
the gag was removed, and the victim of the Viceroy's vengeance
was urged to eat. Whether he did so or not was never known, for
half an hour afterwards he was removed to one of the
state-rooms, where he was closely guarded by Kwang's
cutthroats. When he was next seen by Carpenter and the officers
of the steamer the gag was again in his mouth, but the calm,
resolute eyes met theirs as it trying to tell them that the
heroic soul within the tortured body knew no fear, and felt and
appreciated their sympathy.
On the afternoon of the third day after leaving Formosa the
steamer ploughed her way up the muddy waters of the river, and
came to an anchor off the city at a place which was within half
a mile of the Viceroy's residence. The mandarin requested the
captain to fire three guns, and hoist the Chinese flag at both
the fore and main peaks.
This signal was, so Kwang condescended to say, to inform His
Illustriousness the Ever-Merciful Viceroy that he, Kwang, his
crawling dependent, guided by Carpenter's high intelligence,
and supreme and honoured skill as a navigator, had achieved the
object which His Illustriousness desired.
The captain listened to all this "flam," bowed his
acknowledgments, and then suddenly asked the mandarin the
Again the fat, complacent face darkened, and almost scowled.
"No," he replied sullenly, he himself "was not permitted" to
know the prisoner's name. His crime? He did not know. When was
he to be tried? To-morrow. Then he rose and abruptly requested
the captain to ask no more questions. But, he added, with a
smile, he could promise him that he should at least see the
In a few minutes a boat came off, and the prisoner, closely
guarded, and with his face covered with a piece of cloth, was
Four days had passed—days of heat so intense that even
the Chinese crew of the steamer lay about the decks under the
awning, stripped to their waists, and fanning themselves
languidly. During this time the captain and his officers, by
careful inquiries, ascertained that the unfortunate prisoner
was a brother of one of the Wangs, or seven "Heavenly Kings,"
who had led the Taeping forces, and that for a long time past
the Viceroy had made most strenuous efforts to effect his
capture, being particularly exasperated with him, not only for
his courage in the field, and the influence he had wielded over
the unfortunate Taepings, who were wiped out by Gordon and the
Ever-Victorious Army, but also because he refused to accept Li
Hung Chang's sworn word to spare his life if he surrendered;
for well he knew that a death by torture awaited him. Gordon
himself, it was said, revolver in hand, and with tears of rage
streaming down his face, had sought to find and shoot the
Viceroy for the cruel murder of other leaders who had
surrendered to him under the solemn promise of their lives
Late in the afternoon, a messenger came on board with a note
to the captain. It was from the mandarin Kwang, and contained
but a line. "Follow the bearer, who will guide you to the
An hour later Carpenter was conducted through a narrow door
which was set in a very high wall of great thickness. He found
himself in a garden of the greatest beauty, and magnificent
proportions. Temples and other buildings of the most elaborate
and artistic design and construction showed here and there amid
a profusion of gloriously-foliaged trees and flowering shrubs.
No sound broke the silence except the twittering of birds; and
not a single person was visible.
The guide, who had not yet uttered a single word, now turned
and motioned Carpenter to follow him along a winding path,
paved with white marble slabs,
and bordered with gaily-hued flowers. Suddenly they emerged
upon a lovely sward of the brightest green, in the centre of
which a fountain played, sending its fine feathery spray high
On one side of the fountain were a number of "braves" who
stood in a close circle, and, as Carpenter approached, two of
them silently stepped out of the cordon, brought their rifles
to the salute, and the guide whispered to him to enter.
Within the circle was Kwang, who was seated in his chair of
office. He rose and greeted the captain politely.
"I promised you that you should again see the criminal in
whom you and your officers took such a deep and benevolent
interest. I now fulfil that promise—and leave you." And,
with a malevolent smile, he bowed and disappeared.
The guide touched Carpenter's arm.
"Look," he said in a whisper.
Within a few inches of a wavering line of spray from the
fountain, purposely diverted so as to fall upon the grass, lay
what appeared at first sight to be a round bundle tied up in a
buffalo hide. A black swarm of flies buzzed and buzzed over and
"Draw near and look," said the harsh voice of the officer
who commanded the grim, silent guard, as he stepped up to the
strange-looking bundle, and waved his fan quickly to and fro
over a protuberance in the centre.
A black cloud of flies arose, and revealed a sight
that will haunt Carpenter to his dying day—the purpled,
distorted face of a living man. The eyelids had been cut off,
and only two dreadful, bloodied, glaring things of horror
appealed mutely to God. The victim's knees had been drawn up to
his chin, and only his head was visible; for the fresh buffalo
hide in which his body had been sewn, fitted tightly around his
Shuddering with horror, and yet fascinated with the dreadful
spectacle, Carpenter asked the officer how long the prisoner
had been tortured.
"Four days," was the reply.
For the buffalo, the hide of which was to be the prisoner's
death-wrap, was in readiness the moment the steamer arrived,
and ten minutes after the signal was hoisted, the creature was
killed, the hide stripped off, and the prisoner sewn up in it,
only his head being left free.
Then he was carried to a heated room, so that the hide
should contract quickly. From there he was taken to the
fountain, where his eyelids were cut off, and then he was laid
upon the ground, his mouth just within a few inches of a spray
from the fountain.
And the Viceroy came, saw, approved, and smiled, and
assigned to Kwang the honoured post of watching his hated enemy
die under slow and agonising torture. To attract the flies,
honeyed water was applied to the prisoner's shaven head and
face. And the guards, now and then as his thirst increased,
offered him brine to drink.
"He is still alive," the brutal-faced Tartar officer
said genially, as he touched one of the dreadful eyeballs, and
the poor, tortured creature's lips moved slightly.
Sick at heart and almost overcome with horror, Captain
Carpenter, with quickened footsteps, passed through the cordon
of guards, and followed his guide from the dreadful spot.
In a few minutes he was without the wall, and a sigh of
relief broke from him as he set out towards the river.
A CRUISE IN THE SOUTH SEAS
(HINTS TO INTENDING TRAVELLERS)
A Cruise in the South Seas
(HINTS TO INTENDING TRAVELLERS)
The traveller who makes a hurried trip in an excursion
steamer through the Cook, Society, Samoan, or Tongan Islands
has but little opportunity of seeing anything of the social
life of the natives, or getting either fishing or shooting; for
it is but rarely that the vessel remains for more than
forty-eight hours at any of the ports visited. Personally, if I
wanted to have an enjoyable cruise among the various island
groups in the South Pacific I should avoid the "excursion"
steamer as I would the plague. In the first place, one sees
next to nothing for his passage money if he fatuously takes a
ticket in either Sydney or New Zealand for "a round trip to
Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, and back." Certainly, he will enjoy the
sea voyage, for in the Australasian winter months the weather
in the South Seas is never very hot, and cloudless skies and a
smooth sea may almost be relied upon from April until the end
of July. At such places as Nukualofa, the little capital of the
Tonga Islands, an excursion steamer will remain for perhaps
forty hours; at Apia, in Samoa, forty-eight hours; and at
capital of the French island of Tahiti, forty-eight hours. At
the two latter places the traveller will be charmed by the
lovely scenery, and disgusted by the squalid appearance of the
natives; for within the last ten years great changes have
occurred, and the native communities inhabiting the island
ports, such as Apia and Papeite, have degenerated into the
veriest loafers, spongers, and thieves. The appearance of a
strange European in any of the environs of Apia is the signal
for an onslaught of beggars of all ages and both sexes, who
will pester his life out for tobacco; if he says he does not
smoke, they say a sixpence will do as well. If he refuses he is
pretty sure to be insulted by some half-naked ruffian, and will
be glad to get back to the ship or to the refuge of an hotel.
And yet, away from the contaminating influences of the town the
white stranger will meet with politeness and respect wherever
he goes—particularly if he is an Englishman—and
will at once note the pleasing difference in the manners of the
natives. Yet it must now be remembered that Samoa—with
the exception of the beautiful island of Tutuila—is
German territory, and German officials are none too effusive to
Englishmen or Americans—in Samoa.
But if any one wants to spend an enjoyable time in the South
Seas let him avoid the "excursion ship" and go there in a
trading steamer. There are several of these now sailing out of
Australasian ports, and there is a choice of groups to visit.
If a four months' voyage is not too long, a passage may be
obtained in a small, but fairly fast and com
fortable boat of 600 tons sailing from Sydney, which visits
over forty islands in her cruise from Niué or Savage
Island, ten days' steam from Sydney, to Jaluit in the Marshall
Islands. But this particular cruise I would not recommend to
any one in search of a variety of beautiful scenery, for nearly
all of the islands visited are of the one type—low-lying
sandy atolls, densely verdured with coco-palms, and very
monotonous from their sameness of appearance. Their
inhabitants, however, are widely different in manners, customs,
and general mode of life. To the ethnologist such a cruise
among the Ellice, Gilbert, and Marshall Islands would no doubt
be full of interest; but to the traveller in search of either
beautiful scenery or sport (except fishing) they would be
Let us suppose that the intending traveller desires to make
a stay of some two or three months in the Samoan Group. He can
reach there easily enough from Sydney or Auckland by steamer
once a month, either by one of the Union Steamship Company's
regular traders or by one of the San Francisco mail boats. From
Sydney the voyage occupies eight days, from Auckland five. The
outfit required for a three or four months' stay is not a large
one—light clothing can be bought almost as cheaply in
Samoa as in Sydney, a couple of guns with plenty of ammunition
(for cartridges are shockingly dear in the Islands), a large
and varied assortment of deep-sea tackle, a rod for fresh-water
or reef fishing, and a good waterproof and rugs for camping
out, as the early mornings are sometimes very chilly. And there
is one other thing
that is worth while taking, even though it may cost from
£30 to £50 or so in Sydney—a good secondhand
boat, with two suits of sails. Thus provided the sportsman can
sail all along the coasts of Savaii and Upolu, and be
practically independent of the local storekeepers. To hire a
boat is very expensive, and to travel in native craft is
horribly uncomfortable, and risky as well. And such a boat can
always be sold again for at least its cost.
A stay of two or three days, or at most a week, in Apia is
quite long enough, and the stranger will get all the
information he requires about the outlying districts from the
Consuls or any of the old white residents. Such provisions as
are needed—tea, sugar, flour, biscuits, tinned or other
meats, &c.—can be had at fairly cheap rates; but a
large stock should be taken, for, besides the keep of the
native crew of, say, four men, it must always be borne in mind
that a white visitor is expected to return the hospitality he
receives from the native chiefs by making a present, and the
Samoans are particularly susceptible to the charms of tinned
meats, sardines, salmon, and
(bread or biscuit). That such a return should be made is only
just and natural, though I am sorry to say that very often it
is not. Then, again, it is very easy to stow away in the trade
box in the boat eight or ten pieces of good print, cut off in
pieces of six fathoms (which is enough to make a woman's gown),
about 30 lbs. of twist negrohead tobacco (twenty to thirty
sticks to the pound), half a gross of lucifer matches, and such
things as cotton, scissors, combs, &c., and powder, caps,
bag of No. 3 shot for pigeon shooting. Now, this seems a lot of
articles for a man to take on a short Samoan
(journey), but it is not, and for the £50 which it may
cost for such an outfit (exclusive of the boat and crew's
wages) the traveller will see more of the people and their mode
of life, be more hospitably received, and spend a pleasanter
time than if he were cruising about in a 1,000-ton yacht. The
wages or boatmen and native sailors in Samoa are usually $15.00
per month, but many will gladly go on a
(the general acceptance of the word is a pleasure trip) for
much less, for there is but little work, and much eating and
drinking. But, as sailors, the Samoans are a wretched lot, and
the local living Savage Islanders, as the natives of Niué
Island are called, are far better, especially if there is any
wind or a beat to windward in a heavy sea. These Savage Island
"boys" can always be obtained in Apia. They are good seamen and
very willing to work; but they have to be fed entirely by their
white employer, for the Samoans seldom make a present of food
to a crew of Niué boys, for whom they profess a contempt
The Samoan Group consists of five islands, trending from
west by north to east by south. The two largest are Upolu and
Savaii. Tutuila, and the Manua Group of three islands are too
far to the windward to attempt in a small boat against the
south-east trades. And it would take quite three months to
visit the principal villages on the two large islands, staying
a few days at each place.
The best plan is to make to windward along the coast of Upolu
after leaving Apia. A large boat cannot be taken all the way
inside the reef, owing to the many coral patches which, at low
tide, render this course impracticable. The first place of any
importance is Saluafata, fifteen miles from Apia (I must
mention that Apia is in the centre of Upolu, and on the north
side), then Falifā, an exquisitely pretty place, and then
Fāgoloa Bay and village, eight miles further on. This is
the deepest indentation in Samoa, except the famous Pāgo
Pāgo Harbour on Tutuila, and the scenery is very
beautiful. After leaving Fāgoloa, the open sea has to be
taken, for there is now no barrier reef for ten miles, where it
begins at Samusu village, to the towns of Aleipata and
Lepā, two of the best in the group, and inhabited by
cleanly and hospitable people. This is the weather point of
Upolu, and after leaving Lepā the boat has a clear run of
over sixty miles before the glorious trades to the lee end of
the island—that is, unless a stay is made at the populous
towns of Falealilli, Sāfata, Lafāga, and Falelatai,
on the southern coast. The scenery along this part of the
island is enchanting, but sudden squalls at night-time are
sometimes frequent, from December to March, and 'tis always
advisable to run into a port at sunset.
Two miles off the lee end of Upolu is the low-lying island
of Manono, which is, however, enclosed in the Upolu barrier
reef. It is only about three miles in circumference,
exceedingly fertile, and is the most important place in the
group, owing to the political influence wielded by the chiefly
families who have
always made it their home. A mile from Manono, and in the
centre of the deep strait separating Upolu from Savaii, is a
curiously picturesque spot, an island named Apolima.
It is an extinct crater, but has a narrow passage on the north
side, and is inhabited by about fifty people, who are delighted
to see any
(foreigner) who is venturesome enough to make a landing
Savaii is distant about ten miles from Upolu. Its coast is
for the most part
—i.e., iron bound—but there are five populous towns
there—Palaulae, Salealua, Asaua, Matautu, and Safune.
After making the round of Savaii, the boat has to make back to
Manono, and then can proceed inside the reef all the way to
Apia, making stoppages at the many minor villages which stud
the shore at intervals of every few miles.
by boat along the coast or from one island to another are much
in favour with many of the white residents of Samoa, who find
their life in Apia very monotonous. European ladies frequently
accompany their husbands, and sometimes quite a large party is
made up. More than five-and-twenty years ago, when the writer
was gaining his first experiences of Samoan life, it was his
good fortune to be one of such a party, and a right merry time
he had of it among the natives; for in those days, although
there was party warfare occasionally, the group was free from
the savage hatreds and dissensions—largely fomented by
the interference and intrigues of unscrupulous traders and
incapable officials—which for the past ten or twelve
years have made it notorious.
In travelling in Samoa one need not always rely upon native
hospitality. Though most of the white traders at the outlying
villages nowadays make nothing beyond a scanty living, they are
as a rule very hospitable and pleased to see and entertain
white visitors as well as their poor means will allow, and in
nine cases out of ten would feel hurt if they were ignored and
the native teacher's house visited first; for between the
average trader and the native teacher there is always a natural
and yet reasonable jealousy. And here let me say a word in
praise of the Samoan teacher—in Samoa. Away from his
native land, in charge of a mission station in another part of
Polynesia or Melanesia, he is too often pompous and overbearing
alike to his flock and to the white trader. Here he is far from
the control and supervision of the white missionaries, who only
visit him twice in the year, and consequently he thinks himself
a man of vast importance. But in Samoa his superiors are prompt
to curb any inclination he may evince to ride the high horse
over his flock or interfere with any matter not strictly
connected with his charge. So, in Samoa, the native teacher is
generally a good fellow, the soul of hospitality, and anxious
to entertain any chance white visitor; and although the Samoans
are not bigoted ranters like the Tongans or
Fijians, and the teachers have not anything like the undue and
improper influence over the people possessed by the native
ministers in Tonga or Fiji, to needlessly offend one would be
resented by the villagers and make the visitor's stay anything
but pleasant. As for the white missionaries in Samoa, all I
need say of them is that they are gentlemen, and that the words
"Mission House" are synonymous in most cases with warm welcome
to the traveller.
Travelling inland in Savaii or crossing Upolu from north to
is very delightful, though one misses much of the lovely
scenery that unfolds itself in a panorama-like manner when
sailing along the coast. One journey that can easily be
accomplished in a day is that from Apia to Safata. Carriers are
easily obtainable, and some splendid pigeon shooting can be had
an hour or two after leaving Apia till within a few miles of
Safata. Pigeons are about the only game to be had in Samoa,
, or ring-dove, is very plentiful, but one hardly likes to
shoot such dear little creatures. Occasionally one may get a
wild duck or two and some fearful-looking wild fowls—the
progeny of the domestic fowl. Wild pigs are not now plentiful
in Upolu though they are in Savaii, but they are exceedingly
difficult to shoot and the country they frequent is fearfully
rough. In some of the streams there are some very good fish,
running up to 2 lbs. or 3 lbs. They bite eagerly at the
or freshwater prawn, and are excellent eating; and yet, strange
to say, very few of the white residents in the group even know
of their existence. This applies also to
deep-sea fishing; for although the deep water outside the reefs
and the passages leading into the harbours teem with splendid
fish, the residents of Apia are content to buy the wretched
things brought to them by women who capture them in nets in the
shallow water inside the reef. Once, during my stay on Manono,
a young Manhiki half-caste and myself went out in our boat
about a mile from the land, and in thirty fathoms of water
caught in an hour three large-scaled fish of the groper
species. These fish, though once familiar enough to the people
of the island, are now never fished for, and our appearance
with our prizes caused quite an excitement in the village,
everyone thronging around us to look. And yet there are two or
three varieties of groper—many of them weighing 50 lbs.
or 60 lbs.—which can be caught anywhere on the Samoan
coast; but the Samoan of the present day has sadly degenerated,
and, except bonito catching, deep-sea fishing is one of the
lost arts. But at almost any place in the group, except Apia,
great quantities of fish are caught inside the reefs by nets,
and one may always be sure of getting a splendid mullet of some
sort for either breakfast or supper.
Let us suppose that a party of Europeans have arrived at a
village, and are the guests of the chief and people generally.
Food is at once brought to them, even before any visits of
ceremony are paid, for the news of the coming of a party of
travellers has doubtless been brought to the village the
previous day by a messenger from the last stopping-place. The
repast provided may be simple, but will be ample,
baked pork most likely being the
pièce de résistance,
with roast fowl, baked pigeons, breadfruit (if in season), and
yams or taro, with a plentiful supply of young
drinking-coconuts. (Should the host be the local teacher, some
deplorable tea and a loaf of terrible bread are sure to be
produced.) This preliminary meal finished, the formalities
begin by a visit from the chief and his
or "talking-man," accompanied by the leading citizens. The
talking-man then makes a speech, welcoming the guests, and is
by no means sparing of "buttery" phrases which indicate the
intense delight, &c., of the inhabitants of the village at
having the honoured privilege of entertaining such noble and
distinguished visitors, &c. A suitable reply is made by the
guests (through an interpreter, if no one among them can speak
Samoan), and then follows a ceremonious brewing and drinking of
kava. This is a most important function in Samoa, and to the
stranger unaccustomed to the manner of making the beverage, the
ordeal of drinking it is an exceedingly trying one. It is
prepared as follows: The dried kava root is cut up in thin
slices and handed to a number of young women, who masticate it
and then deposit it in a large wooden
, or bowl. Water is then added in sufficient quantity till the
is half-filled with a thin yellowish-green liquid, which is
carefully strained by a thick "swab" of the beaten bark of the
-tree. This straining operation is performed only by a very
experienced lady, and is watched in respectful silence. Then
the drink is handed round in a polished bowl of coconut-shell.
But for a full
description of all the details of a kava-drinking, let me
commend my readers to the best and most charming book ever
written on South Sea life, "South Sea Bubbles," by the late
Earl of Pembroke and Dr. Kingsley. Nowadays, however, many
Samoan households, out of deference to European tastes, have
the kava root grated instead of being chewed.
The kava-drinking over, all stiffness and formality
disappears for the time, and the visitors are surrounded by the
villagers, eager to learn the latest news from Apia, and from
the world abroad. The discussion of political matters always
has a strong attraction for Samoans, who are anxious to learn
the state of affairs in Europe, and their knowledge and
shrewdness is surprising. Should there be any white ladies
present, the brown ones make much of them. The Samoans are a
fine, handsome race, and the faces and figures of many of the
young women are very attractive; but the practice of cutting
off their long, flowing black hair, and allowing it to grow in
a short, stiff "frizz" is all too common, and detracts very
much from an otherwise handsome and graceful appearance,
especially when the hair is coated with lime in order to change
its colour to red. Many of the men, particularly those of
chiefly rank, are of magnificent stature and proportions, and
their walk and carriage are in consonance.
An announcement that the visitors intend to go pigeon
shooting is warmly applauded, and each white man is at once
provided with a guide, for, unless he has had experience of the
Samoan forest, he will return
with an empty bag, as, however plentiful the birds may be,
their habit of hiding in the branches of the lofty
-trees render them difficult of detection. The natives
themselves are very good shots, and very rarely fail to bring
down a bird, even when nothing more than a scarlet leg or a
blue-grey feather is visible. The guns they use are very
common, cheap German affairs, but are specially made for Samoa,
being very small bored and long in the barrel. The best time is
in the early morning and towards the cool of the evening, when
the birds are feeding on
and other berries; during the heat of the day they seldom leave
their perches, though their deep crooning note may be heard
everywhere. In the mountainous interiors of Upolu and Savaii
there is but little undergrowth; the ground is carpeted with a
thick layer of leaves, dry on the top, but rain and dew-soaked
beneath, and simply to breathe the sweet, cool mountain air is
delightful. At certain times of the year the birds are very
fat, and I have very often seen them literally burst when
striking the ground after being shot in high trees. Their
flavour is delicious, especially if they are hung for a day. I
may here remark that, in New Britain, precisely the same
species of pigeon is very often quite uneatable through feeding
upon Chili berries, which in that island grow in profusion. In
shooting in a Samoan forest one has nothing to fear from
venomous reptiles, for, although there are two or three kinds
of snakes, they are rarely ever seen and quite harmless.
Scorpions and centipedes—the latter often six inches in
length—there are in plenty, but these
detestable vermin are more common in European habitations than
in the bush. At the same time, mosquitoes are a terrible
annoyance anywhere in the vicinity of water, and delight in
attacking the tender skin of the stranger. Then, again, beware
of scratching any exposed part of the skin, for, unless it is
quickly covered by plaister or otherwise attended to, an
irritating sore, which may take months to heal, will often
There are, during the visit of a travelling party to a
Samoan town, no fixed times for meals. You are expected to eat
much and often. During the day there will be continuous
arrivals of people bringing baskets of provisions as presents,
which are formally presented—with a speech. The speech
has to be responded to, and the bringers of the presents
treated politely, as long as they remain, and they remain until
their curiosity—and avarice—is satisfied. A return
present must be sent on the following day; for although Samoans
designate every present of food or anything else made to a
party of visitors as an "alofa"—
a gift of love—this is but a hollow conventionalism, it
being the time-honoured custom of the country to always give a
quid pro quo
for whatever has been received. Yet it must not be imagined
that they are a selfish people; if the recipients of an "alofa"
of food are too poor to respond otherwise than by a profusion
of thanks, the donors of the "alofa" are satisfied—it
would be a disgrace for their village to be spoken of as having
treated guests meanly.
After evening service—conducted on week-days in each
house by the head of the family—another meal is served.
Then either lamps or a fire of coconut-shells is lit, and there
is a great making of
, or cigarettes of strong tobacco rolled in dry banana leaf,
and there is much merry jostling and shoving among the young
lads and girls for a seat on the matted floor, to hear the
white people talk. A dance is sure to be suggested, and
or dance-house, is lit up in preparation, as the dancers, male
and female, hurry away to adorn themselves. Much has been said
about the impropriety of Samoa dancing by travellers who have
only witnessed the degrading and indecent exhibitions, given on
a large scale by the loafing class of natives who inhabit Apia
and its immediate vicinity. The natives are an adaptive race,
and suit their manners to their company, and there are always
numbers of sponging men and
(beach-women) ready to pander to the tastes of low whites who
are willing to witness a lewd dance. But in most villages,
situated away from the contaminating influences of the
principal port, a native
, or dance, is well worth witnessing, and the accompanying
singing is very melodious. It is, however, true, that on
important occasions, such as the marriage of a great chief,
&c., that the dancing, decorous enough in the earlier
stages of the evening, degenerates under the influence of
excitement into an exhibition that provokes sorrow and disgust.
And yet, curiously enough, the dancers at these times are not
low class, common people, but young men and women
of high lineage, who, led by the
, or maid of the village, cast aside all restraint and modesty.
In many of the dances the costumes are exceedingly pretty, the
men wearing aprons made of the yellow and scarlet leaves of the
or dracoena plant, with head-dresses formed of pieces of
iridescent pearl-shell, intermixed with silver coins and
scarlet and amber beads, and the hair of both sexes is
profusely adorned with the scarlet flowers of the hibiscus,
while from their necks depend large strings of
and other brightly-coloured and sweet-smelling berries. Of late
years the Tahitian fashion of wearing thick wreaths of orange
or lemon blossoms has come into vogue.
Before concluding these remarks upon Samoa, I must mention
that the climate is very healthy for the greater part of the
year; but in the rainy season, December to March, the heat is
intense, and sickness is often prevalent, especially in Apia.
Still fever, such as is met with in the New Hebrides and the
Solomon Group, "the grave of the white man in the South Seas,"
is unknown, and one may sleep in the open air with impunity.
Before setting out from Apia the services of a competent
interpreter should be secured—a man who thoroughly
understands the Samoan
as well as the language. Plenty of reliable half-castes can
always be found, any one of whom would be glad to engage for a
very moderate payment. Too often the pleasures of such a trip
as I have described have been marred by the interpreter's lack
of tact and knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of the in
habitants of the various districts and villages. The mere fact
of a man being able to speak the language fairly well is not
the all in all; for the Samoans are a highly sensitive people,
and the omission by the interpreter of a chief's titles,
&c., when the guests are responding through him to an
address of welcome, would be considered "shockingly bad
But the reader must not imagine that the Samoan Group is the
only one in the South Pacific where an enjoyable holiday may be
spent. The French possession of the Society Islands, of which
the pretty town Papeite, in the noble island of Tahiti, is the
capital, rivals, if not exceeds, Samoa in the magnificence of
its scenery, and the natives are a highly intelligent race of
Malayo-Polynesians who, despite their being citizens of the
French Republic, never forget that they were redeemed from
savagery by Englishmen, and a
(Englishman) is an ever-welcome guest to them. The facilities
for visiting the different islands of the Society Group are
very good, for there is quite a fleet of native and
European-owned vessels constantly cruising throughout the
archipelago. To cross the island of Tahiti from its south-east
to its north-west point is one of the most delightful trips
imaginable. Then again, the Hervey or Cook's Group, which
consist of the fertile islands of Mangaia, Rarotonga, Atui,
Aitutaki, and Mauki, are well worth visiting. The people speak
a language similar to that of Tahiti, and they are a fine,
hospitable race, albeit a little over-civilised. Both of these
groups can be reached from Auckland by sailing vessels,
but not direct from Sydney. As for the lonely islands of the
North Pacific, they are too far afield for any one to visit but
the trader or the traveller to whom time is nothing.