Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page

 

 

 

An Island Memory by Louis Becke

CHAPTER I

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 Iroquois 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 good."

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 me—"

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 concerned—nothing more."

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 Lucy May , 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 Iroquois 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 Iroquois 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 empty boaster.'"

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 Leassé."

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 been made tapu —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 commands.

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 look again."

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 club of toa 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 American.

"Good day. My name's Ross, barque Lucy May , of Sydney, from the New Hebrides to Hong Kong with sandalwood."

"Glad to meet ye. My name is Cayse, ship Iroquois , 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 provisions."

" Good. You can get all you want. Have you muskets and bullets to sell?"

"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 house.

"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 by 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 enough.

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 Iroquois 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 briefly—

"Go on, capèn. You talk."

Cayse went into the subject at once.

"Captain Ross, do you want to earn three thousand dollars?"

"Don't mind."

"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 wouldn't ask you 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 children—eh, Charlik?"

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 Lucy May 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 bullets."

"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 wolves.

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 mission.


CHAPTER II

As the two captains and their ferocious young employer sat on the snow-white poop of the Iroquois 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 Lucy May 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 the Iroquois by her crew which, largely composed of Chilenos, Portuguese, and Polynesians, had eagerly accepted the offer of twenty dollars for 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 Lucy May near, he would have left the Iroquois 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 Lucy May's 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 Lucy May and four from the Iroquois —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 Lucy May's 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 Lucy May! "

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 lives."

The harpooner raised his rough hand. "We must all die some day, sir."

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 astern.

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 this village?"

"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 Lucy May . 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 Lucy May 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 Iroquois sprang to his feet. "The cold-blooded wretches! Come on, Macy. We must 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 down."

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 throat.

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 firelight.

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 dogs."

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 yesterday."

He rose and walked to and fro, muttering to himself. Then he spoke again.

"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 lives."

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 Iroquois ."


CHAPTER III

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 all 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 of men.

"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 oap. Oap 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 of oap 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 avoid scandal.

"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 that volley. 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 captain.

"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."