TUVALU AND THE BLACKBIRDERS
This is the story of the barques and brigs that sailed out of Callao in Peru, calling at every Pacific island group except Hawaii, kidnapping thousands of men, women and children by violence and treachery and transporting them to slavery and death. It has been generally accepted that the people kidnapped from Tuvalu were bound for the phosphate mines of Chincha islands - this is not the case as they worked as domestics in the hotel industry in Peru or on the Peruvian plantations. The sad part of the story is that none of them returned.
This is an absorbing narrative of the conflicts between human greed and bewildered innocence set in the romantic and enchanting isles of the South Seas. It tells of how the unsuspecting islanders were captured, leaving in many cases only the aged and the children to reconstruct their stricken communities; of what befell them as slaves in Peru.
Early in 1863 it was becoming evident to the commercial speculators in Lima and Callao that the palmy days of the trade in Polynesian colonists were coming to an end. Nevertheless a few ships still carried on the trade with the total of six ships sailing for the Polynesian Islands. One of them, the 198-ton brigantine Margarita, left Callao on 26th January 1863 and vanished without trace.
Of the others, the barque Dolores Carolina, which left Callao on 25th January had been mentioned as being off Pukapuka early in April, still without any recruits. At Pukapuka or thereabouts she was joined by two other barques, the Polinesia, which had left Callao on 14th February, and the Honorio, which left on 1st March, also by the northern route, through the Marquesas and northern Cook Islands.
Continuing their search for potential colonists, the three barques appeared to have made for Samoa where they were sighted by the British Consul in May and one of them succeeded in capturing two Samoans. The barques then sailed west to the Ellice Islands (Tuvalu), the only inhabited group of atolls in all Polynesia still untapped by recruiters for Peru. On arrival of their first island, Nukulaelae, the Dolores Carolina and one of the other barques stood off and on at some distance from the shore, without attempting to anchor, while the third remained on the horizon and took no part in the recruiting operation. The date would have been about 29th May 1863 as it so happened the people of Nukulaelae were anxiously waiting the arrival of a promised Mission pastor who was to teach them about Christianity. Using Tom Rose, a Negro beachcomber who was able to suggest the ruse that the people be told that he would go with them to a place "where they would be taught about God and religion". The people flocked on board the ships. Those who could not obtain passages in the boats from the vessels went in canoes, and others swam; so great was their eagerness to be taught about God.
Once on board the vessels, the islanders found themselves trapped. The three barques set sail immediately, but before they had gone far on their course for Funafuti, two young men succeeded in escaping by swimming ashore; one of them, a Tokelau islander named Iusama who was living with his wife and children on Nukulaelae, managed to jump overboard when the island was barely visible from the deck and eventually reached the shore after swimming for one day and one night. The total of 250 taken represents 79% of the estimated total population in 1863, a substantially higher figure than any other island visited by the Peruvian ships.
Proceedings at Funafuti were in many ways repetitions of the Nukulaelae recruit. It appears that one ship, with Rose now on board entered the navigable lagoon and anchored while the other two remained outside of the passage, and therefore out of sight of the village. With Rose acting as interpreter and recruiter the islanders were invited to go with their Nukulaelae neighbours "to learn about God". A total of 171 were taken and 146 stayed behind.
OTHER TUVALU ISLANDS
It appears that Peruvian barques Dolores Carolina, Polinesia and Honorio visited Nukulaelae and Funafuti late in May 1863, and that one or more of them went on to Nukufetau. If any ship from Peru called at the other islands in Tuvalu, apart from the Adelante at Nanumea, they made no impact on the inhabitants and obtained no recruits at any of them.
The three barques commenced the long journey back to Peru early in June, with an approximate 428 recruits on board: one from Rakahanga, two from Samoa, 250 from Nukulaelae, 171 from Funafuti, 1 from Nukufetau and 3 from Rotuma. The Honorio arrived at Callao on 27th July with 110 (32 men, 40 women and 38 children), the Dolores Carolina on 14th August with 130 (55 men, 43 women and 32 children) and the Polinesia on 16th August with 113 (63 men, 40 women and 10 children). The ships thus landed a total of 353 islanders out of 428: a loss of 75, which would not appear unreasonable since food and probably water, was in short supply.
POLYNESIANS IN PERU - THE JOURNEY TO SERVITUDE
Once a ship had obtained as many islanders as possible the normal practice was to confine them between decks by closing the iron grills, or, if there were none fitted, by battening down the hatches to prevent both the crew being attacked and the recruits from jumping overboard and swimming for the shore while their island was still in sight. By all accounts the initial shock of finding themselves helplessly trapped and realizing, perhaps for the first time, that they were being carried away as captives to an unknown destination and an unknown face resulted in a feeling of utter hopelessness and desperation.
Food was invariably the main problem though water was often in short supply. On the worst ships there was nothing but rice or coconut and a little salt fish twice a day which being insufficient forced them to steal any food they could find. For drinking they were rationed to about three tumblers of water a day.
It would probably be fair to say that in the majority of recruiting vessels the Polynesians were treated without unnecessary brutality, but essentially as slaves. Every adult on food was worth good money if landed in sound condition at Callao and it made good economic sense not to lose en route if it could be avoided.
Not unexpectedly, however, the beauty of the younger women was not lost on the officers and, as it did not reduce their value as merchandise, they faced the age old choice of female captives the world over: seduction or rape. There were reports of women being taken by force from their husbands and kept in the officers' cabin during the voyage. On another ship it was reported that the women, though kept in the hole, were brought to the cabin from time to time for sexual intercourse with the officers. The Captain of the Dolores Carolina even announced his intention of giving a feast to celebrate his "pretend marriage" with a Rakahanga girl.
BONDAGE IN PERU
Once immigration formalities were completed, the Polynesian immigrants were able to land in charge of their buyers, who arranged for transport to the place where they were to work. A comparatively few specially selected men and women were destined for domestic service in Lima and Callao household, hotels and similar establishments. It was soon discovered that the Polynesians were not in fact attuned to the life of a servant in a continental city so completely the opposite in flexible routine to everything they had known before. Above all they had no immunity from the many diseases endemic in tropical cities.
So they began to die - at an ever increasing rate which neither kindness nor medical care could arrest. The ease and rapidity with which they sickened and wasted away from what appeared from melancholia, without making any effort to continue living, astonished the Peruvians and exasperated their employers. The records of the Lima charity hospital between 1862 and 1867 found that of 155 deaths 101 were males and 54 females. Significantly 65% "died of pulmonary or intestinal diseases - the maladies of the poor and ill-kept - while only about a sixth perished from smallpox."
If conditions for the Polynesian colonists were bad in the city they were even worse in the country where they were bought by the owners of the large coastal plantation as agricultural labourers. The daily routine of manual work on the Peruvian plantations were strenuous and physically exhausting, the working hours were long - usually 5 or 6 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. with an hour off at midday in which the labourer was required to prepare and eat his meal. Nostalgia was said to be the principal cause of death but clearly the unaccustomed food was a contributing factor.
THE CHINCHA ISLANDS
Many writers have stated that some of or even all, the islanders were procured, or bought on arrival, for work in the Chincha guano deposits and the mining operations on the main land. The basis for these statements is the licence granted on 16th September 1862 to Andres Calderon, the guano-loading contractor for the Chincha islands, to recruit 800-1000 islanders for work in the guano deposits. This licence was assigned to Arturo de Wholey who dispatched the Mercedes A. de Wholey and Barbara Gomez to recruit the necessary labour. It needs to be emphasized here that neither ship succeeded in landing a single recruit in the Chincha islands and that no further attempts were made by Calderon or anyone else connected with the guano industry to obtain labourers from Polynesia. Indeed, it must have soon appeared obvious that the islanders were quite unsuited for this exacting work.
When, W. S. Jerningham, British charge d 'affaires in Lima protested about the fate of Polynesian islanders during the Peruvian scandal of the early 1860's, he was told by the Peruvian Foreign Minister to "take care of your house, and we will take care of ours". Unfortunately Jerningham had no idea of where the British "house" in the islands was situated.
The British Foreign Office was unable to help at this junction; neither were their Lordships of the Admiralty, but afterwards the Government did its best and made vigorous attempts to control the manner of recruitment and behaviour of British subjects. The 1868 act to regulate and control the introduction and treatment of Polynesian labourers was intended to prevent abuses and secure proper treatment for native labourers bound for the British colony of Queensland.
The Barbara Gomez was to be used to repatriate recruits to their home island. However as the incidence of smallpox in Callao was alarming, it was decided to put the survivors on board the Diamant and send her off without waiting. She left on 20th July 1864 for the Marquesas with 29 repatriates of which only 15 survived a smallpox outbreak.
By the time the Barbara Gomez was ready to sail on 18th August 1864, 162 of her 470 passengers had already died and many of the 318 who remained were suffering from a virulent and highly infectious disease almost certain to bring pestilence and death to every island visited during the voyage. When the Barbara Gomez left it seems to have been realized that to sail the death ship to Tahiti would be injudicious. The cause therefore, was now set for isolated Rapa, the southern most rendezvous of the recruiters. By the time they arrived 439 out of the 470 embarked had been thrown overboard. Allowing for the fifteen landed at Easter, and a ship's boat conveyed "16 poor emancipated human beings to the shore with a peremptory request to the people to receive them", the Captain added that "he would not take them any farther; if they did not receive them, he would take them back to the vessel and throw them overboard, and they might swim for their lives".
THE SURVIVING REPATRIATES IN POLYNESIA
Of the 148 successfully repatriated to the Polynesian islands only 37 were actually Polynesians, the remainder being Micronesians from the Gilbert Group; and the Easter Islanders were the sole repatriates to be landed on their home island. It is worth noting that this is only a very small remnant from the more than 3000 who reached the shores of Peru.
There is no doubt that the sudden loss of up to 79% of the population of the small islands visited by the blackbirders constituted a major disruption of their social structure. On two of the atolls Nukulaelae and Funafuti the nature and extent of the catastrophe was immediately apparent, as it was evident from the outset that their kinsmen were being kidnapped, though in the case of Nukulaelae, not until two men had escaped from their ship and reached the atoll. The initial abandonment to the extreme of despair and despondency soon gave way, however, to practical considerations stemming from hunger and the need to carry on living if only for the sake of the children. Of particular importance for the individual in a time of crisis was his or her membership of an extended family or kindred a social group tracing descent from a common ancestor, which meant that in practice it was virtually impossible even in a major disaster for someone not to be left who would recognize a duty to care for a helpless woman or child.
The main need now on all islands was to replenish the population, and this would apparently affected partly by a temporary abrogation of sanctions for bidding adultery such as on Funafuti where a locally resident European was to father a numerous progeny, from which the majority of the present generation of islanders claim descent. Perhaps a more effective method of regenerating the population, at least on Tuvalu where the islanders were highly mobile, was to welcome immigrants, especially single males who might be expected to marry local girls and raise families as happened on Nukulaelae.
AFTER THE STORM
In 1973 an anthropologist was sent to Peru by the Australian National University to search for oral traditions for contemporary documentation concerning the Polynesians who remained behind after the abortive attempts at repatriation. It was found that nothing remained but the record of 155 deaths in the Lima charity hospital, the last being in 1867; nothing, that is, but the single word "canaca", now used as a derisive term for a lazy person and without any remembered connection with Pacific Islanders or other racial groups.
That a handful of islanders survived for a time is probable, and it is understood that three Easter Islanders married Peruvian women and settled down, one of them in the northern ports of Pacasmayo. But with the death of the last island "colonists" in Peru their memory apparently passed into oblivion.
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RECOLLECTIONS OF A BLACKBIRDER
From Blackbirding In The South Pacific by W.B. Churchward, London: Swan, Sonnenschein & Co. Paternoster Square, 1888.
I am very fortunate to have been able to obtain a copy of the above rare book. It is a first hand account of the seafaring activity of John King Bruce, a sailor from Liverpool, England who, for a time served on a blackbirding ship bound for Peru. The story opens in Callao where John King Bruce hereafter referred to simply as Bruce had jumped ship. He lived for a time among the ruffians of Callao where, being short of money he killed a fellow sailor and took his money. Shortly after he was offered the opportunity of serving on a blackbirding ship bound for the South Seas. The following is his story..... Jane Resture
I did not know then the Callao hymn, of which the chorus is - "On no condition is extradition allowed in Callao," - and was afraid that the police might nab me and send me back so I got away as far as I could into the country till the vessel left. I went a long way, till I couldn't see the coast and stopped four months at a dirty little village, in a Yankee nigger's house, who spoke English; and didn't he rob me!
There were half a dozen other ruffians there of all sorts and nationalities, each one with a pistol and a large knife stuck in his sash. Bless you, sir, bad as I felt, I was as nothing to that crowd! But I wasn't afraid. I'd robbed the ship, and would have killed that bosen's mate at sight on board, in defiance of all consequences, and all that was then wanted was to mix with these chaps for awhile to be fit for any villainy.
All day and night these chaps did nothing but play cards and fight over them; they talked nothing but brandy, murder, and robbery; and when they got drunk, they would cut and shoot one another like fun. The devil, I thought, still stuck to me. All I wished for was to be as comfortably bad as my companions, and in a short time I was.
I didn't care now about anything: bought pistol and knife, drank, played cards, swore and fought with the best of them. Soon they got nearly all my money; so one morning, before they were sober, I made tracks for the town, and was glad to see that my ship was gone. What an awful lot the chaps in Callao were in those days! They were of all nations under the sun, mixed up together, all armed and always drinking. There was shooting and knifing always going on, which nobody took any notice of but those in the row; and if a man got stretched in a grog shop, the "boss" would only throw him out into the road, whether dead or alive.
If you once got into some of these saloons, as they called them, you never came out without a fight, if you had a cent left. In the middle of all this I wasn't afraid, for something inside told me that my friend the devil would take care of me till I found my man. In a very few days my money was nearly all gone, and one day I found myself stretched out on the floor of one of the worst saloons in the place, run by a great big black, who had killed more men than any other chap in Callao.
I was dreadful bad all over, and sung out for some more rum, which was brought to me by the boss himself. "Now then, fork out your dollar, and look slippy," he shouted. But I couldn't find one anywhere, for some one had gone through my pockets while I was asleep. "Got no money!" he roared; then out he pulled his pistol, and pointed it at my head. I thought it was all over with me then, as I looked right down the barrel, poked close to my nose. "Damn you!" said he; "I've half a mind to kill you; and if you were not my colour, by the devil! I would."
I knew then, somehow, that I was safe, for that gentleman was my friend. "Hold up your hands quick!" shouted the big brute, "while I see what you have got about you; and if I find that you have gone back on me, by the holy! I'll cut your throat. I'm not going to be robbed." And then, with his pistol stuck in my face, he searched me all over, but found nothing but a pistol and knife. "I don't allow no pistol weapons here!" he screamed; "mine's enough for all the fighting in this house;" and as he took it away, he seemed to get in a worse rage than ever: his big red eyes stood right out of his head, and he foamed at the mouth like a mad dog.
"No, by Heaven! I'm not going to be cheated out of my dollars by a thing like you!" he howled; "I earn my money hard enough, and has to fight for it. You shan't rob me, you black thief! You shall work out the bill, damn you! or I'll serve you the same as the last chap here."
"Anything you like, boss," I said, "only don't kill me;" for I was mortal afraid that his pistol would go off, he was shaking so much with rage and rum. He then, with awful curses, set me to work washing up a pile of bottles in the backyard, right in the blazing sun, and I didn't dare refuse for fear, and set to. That afternoon suddenly I heard a voice inside the house, kicking up a thundering row. I knew it in a moment---I knew it belonged to that bosen's mate; and I felt that my friend the devil was at last about to perform his promise; he appeared to whisper so to me, and to tell me not to forget mine.
Then my whole body began to smart with the recollection of the kicks and licks that chap used to give me on board ship. I knew it was all fancy, but I assure you, sir, I felt them just as I did when I got them; but I seemed to like it, for all these pains made me mad to settle the long account between us. I crept up to the window and peeped in. Yes! There was that bosen's mate, respectably togged out as a skipper, drinking rum, half drunk, but getting worse and worse every minute.
"Thank you, my friend Satan! Thank you very much! I know that I shall be square with that cuss before night, and then you may do what you like with me; only you keep your promise and I'll keep mine." I then went back to my bottles, and drank off a lot of dregs I'd drained out of them. They made me so excited that I couldn't wait till night, so I crept back to the window again, and for a long time watched my man pouring down glass after glass of the fiery stuff, that the boss was plying him with as quick as he asked for it.
Golly! wasn't that chap strong! He tossed off the raw rum like water, and it appeared to take no grip of him at all. At last he began to stagger, and after fetching a roll or two, down he went on the floor dead drunk, when the boss left him and went out. Here was the chance I'd waited for so long. I drew my big knife, and quietly crept, on and on, slowly, like a snake, for fear I should disturb his innocent slumbers, till at last I stood alongside the man I so wanted---the man the devil gave me---the man who had made me what I was and what I was going to be.
There he lay---I can see him now---looking so strong and so able to crush me between his finger and thumb, as he would have done had he been awake and sober. But who was strongest now?---the poor, weak little sick nigger, with a long, sharp knife, and standing up, or the great, big white bully asleep on the floor? Oh, I knew! and how I thanked rum and the devil for being so good to me and giving their help to make me the master! I looked at the chap for a long time, and thought, and thought, and thought of all the brute had done me. Each thing as it came to my mind made me hotter, madder and madder, till at last I dropped down on my knees by his side, just as if I was going to pray for him.
My friend the devil was there, close at my elbow, and he told me, "Look sharp, Bruce, or you will lose him again." I said to myself, "No fear, good devil"; and I leant over him and felt for the place where his black heart ought to be. It went thump, thump, thump, so nice and strong; but I was soon going to alter that! He felt me touch him, his eyes opened, his lips said, "More rum, boss," and he began to get up; but just as his eyes met mine, and I could see that he recognised me, I drove my knife right through him, as I said, "You won't want no more rum this side of hell, bosen's mate."
With a big screech, he tumbled back dead; and, oh, how I did laugh!---I laughed till I thought I should burst. Soon a tired and sleepy feeling came over me, and I laid down beside him, to rest a little. I liked him then, for he was dead, quiet, and owed me nothing; and his blood was so pretty and red---just the same colour as mine, although I was a nigger, and he had seen that pretty often. At last I fell asleep, and when I woke up, my head was cool again, and I began to think what I should do next. I felt quite easy in my mind now, but knew that I must shift camp, for I was afraid that when the boss came back he would make short work of me.
I had no money, but soon found some; the dead man gave me his, as he had no further use for it; and I also took his pistol and kife, but left mine,---he looked so comfortable with it sticking in him. After a big drink of rum, mad as I could be, I rushed off down the street till I came to the harbour, where lots of ships were riding at anchor, and falling down behind a rock, I fell asleep.
The devil again came to me that night, and said, "You're mine altogether now Bruce; but never mind that, I don't want you just yet; there's plenty for you to do before you come home, and nothing shall harm you till you're full up."
Just then came a big kick, and I told the devil not to do that again, as I wanted more sleep. Bang came another one at once, and turning round, in a big rage, I saw not the devil, but a tall man, with one eye, and a big black beard, who inquired what I was doing there. I answered, "Can't you see I am sleeping? And I want more so hook it".
He looked like a skipper of one of these ships, and was just going away when I called out after him, "Want any hands on board your ship?" "That I do, my lad. Are you for a cruise amongst the islands, - all sunshine, fun, grog, and dollars?" "All right," I answered: "I'm your man but I want to be off at once".
The crew was an awful looking lot of pirates: they were niggers as black as myself, whites and yellow men of all sorts; some with long beards, others with none; but everyone carried a long knife stuck in his sash, and the lingo they jabbered I couldn't make anything at all out of.
The ship was very dirty, but well found and armed with four carronades on each side, and a "long Tom" trained fore and aft in the bows. I looked up to the peak, fully expecting to see the "Jolly Roger" flying but, instead of that, there was the Peruvian ensign. That's the way I got on board a Peruvian kidnapper, whose trade was to steal poor devils of natives from the islands and sell them for labour in the silver mines. This trade is called blackbirding.
Continuing our voyage, we at last came to a beautiful little island, so very pretty and looking so cool in the hot sun, with the bright white beach, sparkling and laughing, with the lovely blue waters and the coconut trees, in the light breeze, shaking their big green arms all over. We went close to the reef, dropped anchor, and waited for the natives to come off and see us; in the meantime, we got ready for the visit. We first got out all kinds of pretty calicos, beads, and knives, to show them an entice them to come on board; and then we got ready short bits of line to tie them up when once we got them over the side.
Afterwards we got heavy shot and stones from the ballast to heave into the canoes and break them up, to prevent their getting away; and lastly we put our boats in the water, on the far side of the ship, in readiness to come round and pick the birds out of the sea before they could swim on shore. We waited a long time, but no natives came off. There was no smoke on shore, and nothing could be seen that showed there was any one there, so the skipper began to growl and swear.
At last he got impatient. "Damn them!" said he; "if they won't come to us, we'll go to them." So we manned and armed two boats, and off we rowed. After travelling about two miles, we came right in front of a long clearing, and sticking out of it were a lot of what we took to be black poles. The skipper, as soon as he saw them swore worse than ever, and said. "We shall get no men in this place; somebody has been here before us. All the people belonging here have gone for a cruise in another ship. Wonder whos's been here? It must be that cuss 'Martinez,' from 'Coquimbo.' I never thought he could have got ready in time. Anyway, we'll take a look round."
We then landed, and leaving two men in each boat, the rest of the mob, with their guns all ready, stepped off for the clearing. As we got near, there was an awful stink, which grew stronger and stronger till we came to the edge of the small bushes growing all round the clearing, and then we saw the cause of it. Here, there, and everywhere - in twos, and threes, and bunches, with limbs all twisted and stiffened, bloated and blistered, in the scorching sun - were the dead bodies of a lot of natives, men, women, and children, all looking so horrible and smelling awful. They were all black people. Did you ever see a dead black man? Well, you know what he looks like; and these were worse than I ever saw.
In the middle of them was a drove of wild pigs from the bush, scarcely able to move after their horrible feast. They were so gorged that they would hardly stir, but sat and looked at us, as silly as a lazy chap does when you wake him out of a comfortable sleep. All turned quite sick at this sight, and got out of the way as quick as possible. I began to think that I had had quite enough of blackbirding; and glad I am to say that I never saw such a sight as that again, but perhaps some ship that followed ours did.
A little further on were the black sticks we saw coming in; and, as the skipper knew, we found them to be the posts of the houses burnt by the men who did the killing. Here again there were more dead men, but they were burnt, and did not look so bad. All the live ones left, no doubt, had been taken away to work in the Peruvian mines, never more to return.
Just here I came across the body of a poor little pickaninny, all broken to pieces and on a cocoanut tree close by was the splash where his brains had been dashed out. The baby was no good for work, but the mother was, and that was the way the chaps separated them. I was bad man enough then, goodness knows, but all this was too much even for me, so I went back and sat down in the boat, feeling quite sick. Soon the other men returned, having scoured the place all round, and reported that, except pigs, there was nothing left alive.
The skipper came last, and looking me right straight in the face, said, "What's the matter with you, Bruce? Want to go home to your mammy? Eh?" And his one eye glittered like mad as he touched his pistol. I knew what that meant, and said nothing but that I felt ill from the sun. He answered, "All right"; but from that time I saw that he suspected and watched me. He thought me all bad, but, than the Lord! There was some little good left to save me years after when I met with good men.
We took a few coconuts on board, and lifting anchor, left that fearful place. On leaving we steered due west, and on the third day were in the middle of a lot of islands all round us like a necklace, but with no one to be seen on them. Cruising slowly, we travelled amongst them, anchoring at night if the water was not too deep, and if it was, we shortened sail and kept a good look-out for rocks.
All this time my dear friend the skipper looked after me like a child, and never left me alone for a moment. If I went forrard and spoke to the crew, he was very soon alongside of me; and if I cottoned with the mates, he cottoned too; altogether he gave me no chance to make friends, and he knew well that all on board hated me. I thought of killing him some day, but was afraid that the rest of the gang would be sure to kill me, for I had fought them all too hard to make friends easy, and the mates were so awfully jealous
Mysteries of the island girls garlanded with flowers
No, I came to the conclusion that as long as he lived I should live, but with him dead there would be no more John King Bruce; so I kept quiet but knew that the end of all this was not very far off, and could see that he was of the same opinion. About the fifth day we came to a big island,---I don't know the name, but it was somewhere in the North Pacific,---and found plenty of people on it. It was a great, tall place, with a lofty mountain in the middle, smoking all day, and at night looking like a lighthouse in the sky.
The trees, white beach, and the blue water were just the same as in the first island, but there was more of everything. Again we got ready the stones, shot, ropes, and pretty calicoes, and then quietly dropped down to an anchorage, with the British flag flying at the peak. I didn't like that at all, but I dursn't speak. By-and-by three or four canoes put off from shore, and the skipper, who had been looking at them through his glasses, suddenly shouted out, "Put away those stones and shot; stow everything, and hoist in the boats."
He hadn't been blackbirding so long for nothing, and had too much "savee" to kill the goose who laid the golden eggs. He saw that the canoes had women and children in them, as well as men, and that told him they wished to be friendly. What was the good of a few people to him to-day when by making friends he could get a much bigger mob to-morrow? So when they came near he looked very pleasant and showed them all sorts of pretty cloth, knives, axes choppers, and made signs for them to come on board.
At first they were afraid, and kept the canoes a long way off but at last three men jumped overboard, swam to the ship, and ran up the cable like monkeys. We all went to see them, but the skipper sung out, "Stand back there, you fools! They won't come if you crowd them." When they got to the top of the rail, they came no farther, and sat there for some time, all ready for a jump back into the water. The wily old skipper knew what to do, and went up alone, holding out a big red handkerchief, and smiling and grinning all over his ugly mug, just as if he was the kindest man in the world.
However, he couldn't get them to come any nearer. They stopped up there on the rail, took the things with a snatch, but stood by for a jump, and the canoes still kept well away. The cunning boss then went back, and returned soon with some biscuits, holding them out and eating one himself. They took and eat them, and after a little talk, came down on deck, but always ready for a bolt overboard. When the grub was finished, the oldest of them pointed his finger at the flag, and said, "Mishionaree?" And the foxy old skipper then grinned again as he nodded his wicked head, and said, "Yes, Mishionaree."
By-and-by they thought all was right, eat some more biscuit, drank some water out of the scuttlebutt, and, after shaking hands with the skipper and the mates, went to the side, sung out for the canoes to come up, and soon there were about twenty of these people on board, men, women, and children, eating biscuit and thoroughly enjoying themselves.We made signs that we wanted water. They signed back there was plenty on shore. We said we would come the next day. They nodded "all right." And then they went on shore, each with some little present, to tell their people what a nice, kind lot of white men they were on board the big ship.
There was very little grog that night, as the skipper said we wanted cool heads for the next day. In the morning the first thing, away went the boats with the casks for water, and when we got ashore, the natives showed us the river, helped us to fill up, and brought us oranges, bananas, and all sorts of good things. We were invited to go to the town and drink "kava," but the skipper had forbidden us to go till the next day.
When we were full, we started off back to the ship, with canoes all round us, loaded down to the gunnel with yams, taro, oranges, bananas, fish, and all sorts of good things, to barter for cloth, knives, and axes. The men, women, and children, dressed in their best, all over beautiful flowers, sang their liveliest songs as they paddled along with us. When we got alongside, the casks were hoisted out, but the men did not leave the boat, and I could see that while we were away all the stones, shot, and lashings had been brought on deck again, and covered over with sails.
The poor devils crowded on board at once, to get the good things the white man had brought them, and the skipper, he was so kind! They got so friendly that presently a lot of them were persuaded to go down below, and get some better stuff, and then the skipper sent me to my boat, with orders to rush out as soon as he fired his pistol.
We hadn't to wait long before bang it went, and, my word! Wasn't there a row then! On deck the hatches were clapped on, and at the same time crash, crash went the stones and shot, smashing up the canoes like paper. All round the ship the islanders were jumping off like mad; but we were there to drag them into the boat, and tie them up as fast as we could; and if they tried to escape, a crack on the head soon quieted them.
The excitement was too much for me. I lost my head again, shouted and yelled like a demon, and danced upon the poor beggars lying tied on the bottom of the boat. Just then one big fellow broke loose on board ship, jumped over, and away he started for shore, swimming at an awful rate. They began to shoot at him from the ship; then I remembered my pistol, and, as he passed me, I shot him dead, all for nothing. He threw up his arms, and as he went down, down, down in the deep, clear water, I saw the blood pouring out of the bullet-hole as he sank, and making in the bright blue water a big red rope, and I thought, mad as I was, that I would get hold of the top end, and pull him up again.
With a shout, I jumped for it, and swam round and round, trying to catch the thing, but was at last hauled into the boat, and thrown down amongst the prisoners at the bottom. In a short time, when the row was over, I got all right, and we went back to the ship. There I found, tied up everywhere, men, women, and children, with their fine clothes torn off, and their pretty flowers smashed all over the deck in the fight. Down below were lots more, crying and wailing in the dark.
As soon as possible we lifted anchor, and put to sea, for the skipper didn't think it prudent to stop the night so near shore, and he said that he didn't think his "passengers," as he called them, would care to jump overboard out of sight of land, and that if they did the boats could soon grab them again. We did nothing all that night but stand straight away from shore and in the morning, when it was not in sight, we took in all sail, and set to work to make our visitors at home. The poor devils looked very wild, all tied up anyhow on deck, just they were caught, and their great big eyes were starting out of their heads with fright: they thought, I'm sure, that we were going to eat them. We then set to work taking off their lashings; and time it was, too, for the lines had cut right into their very flesh; and we put on comfortable irons instead.
When we had made all fast on deck, we went for the chaps down below, and found them all of a heap in the dark, moaning and groaning like stuck calves; and as we came near them, they put up their hands, like asking us not to kill them. No fear of our doing that while they were worth from forty to fifty dollars apiece alive, to sell to the Peruvian miners; but I think that if they had known the sort of life they were going to lead they would rather be dead. They gave us no bother at all, and were so done up with fright that we ironed them down to the ringbolts, put there for that purpose, without any trouble.
Whilst coming up the ladder, we heard an awful rumpus going on amongst the women on deck, and then splash! splash! in the water. That was the skipper throwing the small pickaninnies overboard, which he said were good for nothing, and not worth a cent; so the sharks gobbled them up, one by one, as they came over, just like swallowing oysters. Golly! how the women howled and cried! They went quite mad, and tore at their irons till the blood ran all over their arms and breasts; but it was no use, their chains wouldn't let them jump over and save their children.
Soon everything was quiet, and when we counted up how many passengers we had got, we found that, after all the fuss, there were only forty-two. The skipper was furious at this, and called us all the damned fools in the world, and plenty of other names, for not getting more. He swore and cursed till he was scarcely able to stand, and then went to his cabin for a bit. He thought he would have filled up the ship at that place, and got so savage because he hadn't
.By-and-by out he came again amongst us, and was quite friendly. "Never mind, boys," said he; "better luck next time. We'll go back to that place to-morrow night, and fetch them out of their houses; they shan't best us." All that day we drifted about just how the sea chose to take us, and the skipper gave the men so much grog that they were soon all drunk, and lying about the ship like pigs. That was the way he always worked these devils, for he knew that with little grog they got quarrelsome, but with plenty they became drunk and quiet, and slept.
The next day all grog was stopped, sail was made, and with a sharp look-out from the foremast head, we stood in again for the island. When it hove in sight, we stopped, as we didn't want the natives to see us coming back. By this time they must surely have thought that we had gone off for good, and would keep up no watch, but if they had seen us returning, they would have all taken to the bush, and we should have had our trouble for nothing. What we wanted to do was to get up close in the dark, surround the town, and catch the whole boiling.
When it was dark enough, we stood in nearer and nearer, till we heard the breakers booming on the big reef; then we lowered the boats, armed the crews with muskets and cutlasses, and each chap carried small bits of line, to tie up any one he might catch. The oars were all muffled, and not a word was spoken, as we followed in the wake of the skipper's boat. On shore we could see the lights of the town brightly burning against the dark hillside, and every now and then they would seem to twinkle, as the natives, moving about, passed to and fro in front of them; so we thought it best to wait a little until they had got tired of the open air and had gone to their houses to sleep.
We waited a long time, until our men began to grumble in their hurry to begin. At last they swore they would wait no longer, and in spite of my telling them to shut up and be quiet, as the skipper knew best, they rowed up to his boat and told him the same. Didn't he look ugly neither! His hand went straight to the pistol stuck in his sash, but he saw in a moment that game wouldn't do, for the men had guns, and looked as if they meant to use them, too; so, shoving his weapon back, with a big oath, he said, with a very doubtful smile on his face, "Well, boys, we'll go on in a minute, so don't kick up a row."
After that, he turned to me and said, "You, Bruce, come along in my boat; I want to speak to you; and Jose there can take charge of yours." I didn't like that arrangement at all; it looked very dangerous; but I knew that if I didn't go he would fetch me, and as the men were not friendly to me, I said nothing, but moved quietly on. He didn't say another word, but made signs for me to sit down in front of him, when he brought his ugly nose close to mine, and looked me through and through with that devilish one eye of his. He came so close that it seemed to bore me through like a gimlet, and I felt his hot breath on my face as scalding as boiling water.
All the time he looked at me so close I could no nothing; it didn't last long, but quite long enough; and when he took his hellish face away, I got all right again. His snaky eye completely fascinated me; but as soon as he left off his horrible stare, I felt I was just as good as him, so long as I kept my pistol, and I determined to keep a sharp look-out, and fire first if I saw him coming for me. All the way to shore he never said a single word, but I could see that his mind was made up to get rid of me at the first chance, for he thought that I had tried to make those chaps in the boat contankerous, and meant to kill me first if they mutinied.
The town fires were getting smaller and smaller, as we moved slowly and quietly towards shore, till they looked no bigger than little shivering stars stuck in the great black wall. Right up above was the burning mountain, with a big red-hot cloud in the sky on top of it, and it was groaning, growling, and spitting out showers of sparks like mad. Presently the skipper got the boats together, and said, quite low, "Mind, boys, I don't want any shooting, unless we have to fight. Dead niggers are no good. I want live ones, and then there will be plenty of dollars for all of us when we get back. And, by the Holy! I'll kill the first man who fires a shot until I tell him. Just you all mind what I say."
We then landed about a quarter of a mile above the town, and struck off on a bush track leading to it.
It was as dark--as we say in Samoa--as the inside of a Solomon islander, on whose skin a lump of coal will make a white mark; but, led by the skipper, whose one eye could see, like a cat's, just as well as in daylight, we worked our way along in silence. When we got quite close, we spread out all along the road, behind the houses, right round them, and then laid down until the word came to rush in and do the work. There was no movement at all in the place, the poor devils were in their houses fast asleep; but, by the sparkle of the fires, which crackled every now and then, as a puff of the night breeze blew the sticks into a little blaze, we could see some of them asleep round them.
By-and-by the boss came along, crawling on his belly, like a great ugly lizard, and gave us word to catch the men round the fire first, and when they sung out, and made a row, to rush the houses, and stop the rest from getting away, but to do no shooting. Then we crept, crept, crept quietly and slowly, like serpents, right between the houses, and no one stirred, we were so sly. As we passed the doors, we left one or two men at each, to keep them fast when the row began. Nearer and nearer we crept, till we came up to those chaps sleeping round the fire when we got up, rushed upon them, and before they knew what was up they lashed quite safe.
Of course they sung out like anything to their friends in the houses, who tried to get out and escape to the bush, but the men we left at the doors kept them in till we came up to help. "Keep them in! Keep every mother's son of the black devils in!" shouted the skipper, running about quite wild, with a pistol in each hand. "Don't let them out; we'll have the lot this journey! No damn canoes here; but no shooting! I'll kill the man who fires a shot; by the Holy, I will!" And, my word! he meant it, too, as he danced about, looking so savage and devilish, with that big red eye of his rolling round and round like to tumbling out, and shining like a fiery furnace.
I was not afraid of him then, but I hadn't forgotten how he looked at me in the boat, and I watched him close, so as not to give him the chance of first shot. We next searched through house after house, which were all in a line down the beach, beginning with the end ones, tying up all the blackbirds we found, until we came to two big places right in the middle of the village. These, the chaps at the door told us, were "chock full of game." "Come along with me," sung out the skipper. "Ten of you put down your guns, and come along with me; but all bring lashings." Then he and a few others rushed into the house, but very soon came out again, the boss with the blood running all over his ugly face, from a cut he had got in the dark; over him tumbled a man with a spear right through him, the point sticking a long way out from his back; and two other never came back at all, for although the natives hadn't much time to talk, they somehow or other persuaded them to stop.
All the rest of the men at this got into an awful rage, but the skipper kept very cool, and looked more devilish than ever I saw him before. As he tied up his wounded head in a big handkerchief, he sang out, "Never mind, boys! We'll have them all presently. No shooting. Catch 'em alive. Plenty of dollars in there, and a dead nigger isn't worth a cruse." All his talk was of no use, for the chaps were so excited they began shooting into the house all round. The shrieks and yells of the poor devils inside were dreadful to hear, and sounded right above the row of the firing and the yelling of the men, while the skipper ran about everywhere, shouting out to stop the shooting, but the men were so mad they would not leave off.
By-and-by three or four canoes put off from shore
The boss at last threatened them, but, pointing their guns at him, they soon made him leave them to themselves. All this time I didn't join in any of the row, because I had to keep an eye on the skipper, who, I knew, wanted to kill me in the scrimmage, and I went to one side and sat down on a log. By-and-by he saw me, and ran over. I saw him coming and got ready. At first he was in too big a rage to see that I had got the "bead" on him, as rushing up he said,---"Damn you! All this is your fault. You talked those men over and made them mutinous. I'll have it out of you, you cursed black nigger!" And then he began to draw his weapon, but didn't pull it right out, as he found that mine was pointed straight at himself.
He was always very discreet in his rows, and didn't much like fighting if he couldn't get first shot; so, seeing that his game was up for the time, he quietly took a seat on the log alongside of me. The row going on all the time was awful, bullets were flying round just anyhow, as through and through the grass walls of the house they went, wounding our own people, who, thinking that the natives were doing it, cursed, and swore, and fired all the harder. Presently a fellow sung out, ---"Let's have a light, to see the brutes better;" and then some one put a match to the house.
In a minute the thick grass roof burst into flames with a terrific roar, sending their long red and yellow tongues high aloft amongst the coconut trees, shrivelling up their big branches like tinder, and scorching with their fiery breath the cool green breadfruit leaves into cinders. Presently the big roof fell in with a loud crash, throwing up millions and millions of bright sparks and clouds of smoke; it seemed to me just like that picture of hell they have there up at Vaeia in the Catholic college, and our chaps dancing and yelling all round, like the devils in it stirring up the fire.
Once I really thought I saw the "old gentleman" in the middle of the flames, but it was only some of the natives, roasting alive, trying to get out; but not one escaped. The next house, with more people in it, soon caught fire, when the poor beggars inside tried to rush out, but as they came jumping through the roaring flames they were shot by our chaps, or cut down with their cutlasses. The men forgot all about dollars: they were only mad to kill and murder everything that came near them.
With fierce yells and laughs, they hove back into the fire all the natives they caught trying to get away through them, until at last all were dead and quiet. How the skipper did swear and curse as he sat still alongside of me! but he didn't like to go amongst the men while they were wild. In the end, the whole place was burnt, and nothing was left of the pretty little town but smoking ashes and two heaps of roasted human bodies, killed just for devilment, amongst which were two of our own fellows. The man with the spear through him was sure to die, so, to save trouble, one of the others blew his brains out, and he was left along with the rest.
When all was over, we took the few birds we had caught down to the boats, the men returned one by one, and off we went to the ship.
When we got on board, it was still daylight, so we weighed anchor, and, with all easy sail set, went off before the wind. The skipper never spoke a word to any one, and didn't even look at me; but all the same I stood ready for him, and I made up my mind that I wouldn't go to my bunk that night with him near. After sulkily walking round to see all right, he went straight to his cabin with the two mates, and stopped there drinking and talking with the door shut. I knew what they were talking about,---it was about me and the men.
They thought I wanted to make the men mutiny; and they saw what I saw,---and that was, the men didn't give up their guns on coming on board, but carried them with them to the fo'c's'le. I didn't like the look of that myself, for I saw they meant to take the ship, or to get up to some other devilment; and between the two sides I was bound to come to grief. As it got dark, the wind died off altogether, and left the ship with sails flapping, rolling and twisting on the tops of the smooth black swells, out of sight of land, drifting nobody cared where.
There had been plenty of rum knocking about all the day, and from all being so quiet, I thought the men were asleep. The mate gave them all the stuff they asked for, to get them drunk, and then get the guns; but I don't think they drank so much as the mate thought they did, for to me they seemed working cunning, and at first talked a lot more than usual; and when I saw them go into the fo'c's'le and shut the door, I was certain sure there would be a fight that night, and determined to leave the ship if I got the chance.
The boats had not been hoisted in, but were towing alongside. There was my chance! Perhaps I might strike off an island, or get picked up by some ship, and so live; but if I stopped I was sure to be killed, as I was hated by all alike. I kept quiet all alone on deck until it was quite dark, then I crawled forward to the fo'c's'le door, and heard a great buzz of talking. They weren't either drunk or asleep, but were getting ready for taking the ship!
I then went softly aft and leaning right over the side, I saw the bright light shining out from the skipper's cabin, and heard loud talking going on. They spoke about getting the guns from the chaps forrard, and about me. I thought then it was quite time to be off, so I slipped down the rope into the smallest boat. The other two were tied up with her, but no fear that I left them I cut them loose at the same time, and then we all three drifted away together slowly, till, bit by bit, like a great black ghost, with his long arms stretched out groaning and bowing to me that cursed hooker melted right out of my sight in the darkness, and I saw no more of her; but before we parted company for good, I heard from her, and what I did hear made me glad.
For about an hour I sat as still as a mouse, afraid to make a noise, and then a little wind sprang up, when I set sail, and let the boat go on her easiest course anywhere, to get out of sight from the ship before morning; but before I did so I knocked the bottoms out of the two other boats. I sailed along very nice and quiet in the dark, thick night, with the breeze rising every minute, till at last we were going quite lively over the greasy, bumpy water, looking blacker than the night itself.
By-and-by, a long way down to leeward, I heard the sound of musket shots and saw the bright flashes like shooting stars, about four or five miles off. I knew there would be a fight that night. I knew it main well. I suppose my friend Old Nick told me so; but I didn't care; there they were fighting, and I was safe out of it! Golly! How I shouted and laughed all alone in the boat as I saw the spitting flashes and heard the bangs! "Fight! fight away! fight!!" I sung out to them "Fight! Damn you! Fight till you are all killed as dead as those natives on shore." And I yelled to them just as if they could hear me.
"You both want John King Bruce don't you? You'll never get him, that's all! 'Where is the first mate?' you say. You want his blood, but you don't get it this journey; curse you all! And where's your boats, eh? 'Gone with that damned Bruce!' you say. Yes, you scoundrels! they have; two are gone to the bottom, he is very comfortable in the other, and you have got no more on board." Then I laughed again so loud as I thought of the rage they would all get into when they found no Bruce and no boats; and again I shouted and abused them all I knew, till I got so mad that I tumbled half out of the boat.
That made me think of where I was, and as soon as I got cool, I sat down and rowed to get the boat as far away from the ship as possible before sun up. By-and-by the day began to break, the stars went out, the sky kept on changing colour, brighter, brighter, brighter, till at last up jumped the big sun from the water, and threw a great red path, red as blood, on its bosom, from, as it looked, the edge of the world right into the stern of the boat.
The sight of that colour made feel very queer again, so I turned away my gaze, and looked the other way searching for anything in sight, but I saw nothing. Something soon made me take another look round, and there was that awful path on the blue water, redder than ever; it came right up to the stern of the boat and no further. I got so mad staring, that I thought I should like to take a walk on it, and nearly did, but as I lifted up my eyes before starting, to look at the other end, there, by the devil! right in the middle of the big red sun, I saw plainly the three topmasts of a ship below the sky-line, just on the beginning of that bloody road that was driving me crazy.
I knew that it was the cursed ship I had just run away from, and I heard the devil telling me that there had been awful work during the night, and to get still farther away I sat down, put out the oars, and pulled my hardest. As I rowed and rowed in my scare, the sun got higher and higher, the blood-red path sunk slowly through the bright blue waves and I felt easier, but could not stop pulling, so afraid was I that they might see me, and drag me off to their floating hell.
The sun got hotter and hotter; I felt it boiling in my brains, but still I kept up the work, till at last I couldn't go on any longer, and fell down quite silly to the bottom of the boat. When I came to, the sun was going down fast and presently all was dark again. My head now felt all right, but I was dreadfully hungry and thirsty, and had nothing to satisfy me. All that night I thought of what I should do if I didn't reach land or meet a ship. I supposed I should die mad.
Then again, I thought of what the devil said, that he would tell me when he wanted me; and he had said nothing yet, so I thought I might pull through. The breeze still kept up nicely, sending the boat along quite fast, but where I was going I hadn't the smallest idea, except that it was to the west. When the light came, I looked all round for ships, and badly I wanted to see one, yet, at the same time, I didn't, for I was afraid of my old ship getting me again. There was nothing in sight, not even a bird,---I was alone in the middle of a big ring of sky and water.
After a good look round, I felt so hungry, thirsty, and miserable that I sat down, shut my eyes, and leaning my head on the side of the boat, began thinking,--- "What is the use of living any more? When the sun gets up, I shall suffer all the tortures of the damned, worse than yesterday. I think I'll finish up and jump over. "There is no ship, no land, nothing to eat, nothing to drink, no wind, and I'm too weak to row, even if I had the oars, which dropped overboard the last time I fell asleep. No, it's no use going on any longer. If the devil won't come to me, I'll go to him."
I was just going to rise and jump over when something hit me on the head, and the boat rattled all over, just as if a shower of stones had been thrown into her. I didn't like to look at first, because I thought the devil had heard me, and really come. I didn't move my head one bit, but at last my eyes opened quite slowly, and the first things I saw were two enormous sharks, close to my face, looking at and watching me with their cruel grey eyes. I jumped back in a moment, and then I saw what had made all the clatter, and had hit my head---a lot of flying fish, that those sharks had driven out of the water into the boat.
They saved my life! I ate them until I could swallow no more; they were both meat and drink; and in my silliness I thanked those sharks, as they swam round, one on each side of the boat, for their kindness over and over again. They kept so close that I could almost have touched them, but I didn't try, for I knew they would jump at my arm, and drag me out of the boat. As I spoke to them, they appeared to answer with a cunning wink: "All right, darkie! You'll go clean mad soon, and then we shall have you. We can wait a long time." Then I said to them: "Not for the next few days, at least, gentlemen. I've got plenty of the fish you so kindly sent me left;" and I hung one over, just to aggravate them.
The intended victims were suspecting nothing
One shark looked so wicked that I began to think, "Perhaps you are the devil himself, and that's why you sent me those flying fish. I'll just see. If you are 'Old Nick,' my knife won't cut you; but if you are only a shark, I think I'll kill you, and then I shall have plenty to eat." To try the question, I lashed my knife on to the shaft of the boathook, and then threw a bit of an old bag over the bows. The shark saw it fall, and very, very slowly went up the side of the boat, to see it it was good to eat, and as he passed I drove the knife right through him.
The stroke must have broken his back, for he only gave one big splash with his tail, so close to the boat that the water he drove on board nearly knocked me over the other side, and then he lay quite dead, his great big ugly jaws wide open with his teeth shining in three horrid rows in the sunlight. I put a line round him, got him quite alongside, soon cut the liver out of him, and put it away on board. "No more thirst for two days, at least, with all that juicy stuff," I said to myself. And then I thought of getting some meat off him, and was just going to the side, when a big tug came, almost capsized the boat, and nearly threw me overboard. I got up and saw what it was. A lot of other sharks had come when they smelt the blood, grabbed my one, and if he rope I tied him with hadn't broken, certain sure they would have been tearing me up as they were their relation.
How those devils did fight, and lash the red water into froth! it made me think again of that bad sailor on board the ship who was killed for murdering the mate. But the thoughts of him didn't bother me much, for I felt quite safe and strong now, and would have set to work rowing, only I had no oars, so I sat down and whistled for a wind. By-and-by the breeze came up strong, and it began to rain; but I didn't want it now, as I had lots of shark's liver to chew when I was thirsty; besides that, I had nothing to catch the water in.
It blew hard all that night, and the first thing in the morning, about five miles off, I saw a long line of white water, and behind that a lot of little black dots, which I knew were trees, standing out above the land. "Thank God," I said---I forgot all about my friend the devil, since I found he didn't send me the flying fish---"thank God, there's land at last!" And I sung and prayed, and did I don't know what; I was that joyful. I soon got quite near to the reef, over which the big seas were breaking with terrific noise, and I saw it was one of those lagoon places, where the islands are in the middle of a big reef, which goes all round them like a ring.
About two miles off, inside, I saw two or three little bits of dry land, with coconut trees sticking straight out of them, like so many green mops, and in the middle of the smooth lagoon, where the water was like a sheet of blue glass, everything looked nice and cool in the morning light. I sailed along the outside of the reef, searching for a smooth place to get through the surf, and for a long time could find nothing but a white line of breakers, pounding themselves to atoms on the sharp coral rocks, and throwing the spray in big fountains high up into the air, as the swells smashed themselves against them with a loud, crashing noise.
About the middle of the day, I found a quiet spot, put the boat through, and was soon floating in peace on the calm waters of the lagoon. There were three small islands in it, covered with coconut trees, looking so lovely with the sparkling white coral sand all round them. On the biggest island I saw what I then thought was the best sight in the whole world: a busy little stream of water, running out of the cool green bushes, and trickling, like a silver thread, through the coral rocks over the beach to the sea. There I landed; and, my word! didn't I just drink a lot of that water! Better than all the rum in the world; better than all the sharks' liver in the Pacific; better than everything I knew of. Then I bathed in it, and afterwards laid down, and fell asleep.
The next morning I set to work to look round and see what the new place was like, and I soon found that I was not the first white man who had been there for on the other side of the island I came across some large iron kettles and small open huts, and in amongst the trees, in the shade, close alongside a big pool of fresh water, from which the pretty little stream on the other side ran, was a rough-built wooden house, with a big padlock on the door. "Wonder what's in there?" I said to myself; and before long I knew, for I broke the lock and went in. There I found all sorts of things belonging to white men---knives, fish lines, hooks, clothes, and what was better than all, a cask or two of good biscuit, and a keg of salt horse.
Whoever the owners were, I could see that they had not long left the place, as everything looked so fresh. I determined to take up my quarters here; so I went to the place where I first landed, to bring round the boat, and that same night I slept like a Christian, in a house, with a good bellyful, and quite comfortable. I stopped on those three islands, I think, for about four months, with plenty to eat and drink, and nothing to do, and no great hope of getting away. The fish were no trouble to catch, and in plenty; the turtle came up to the very door, asking to be cooked and eaten; and there were heaps of coconuts, whenever I wanted them; but with all this I got very tired, and wished to get away somewhere else.
I then began to get the boat ready for a cruise anywhere, and was hard at work at her one morning when, all of a sudden I was grabbed by the throat from behind, my hands and feet tied, and thrown down in the middle of a crowd of naked savages, grinning and dancing all round me. Presently a white man came along almost as naked as the natives, carrying a gun on his shoulder, and a big knife in his belt, and looking at me, said: "Who the hell are you? Where in thunder do you come from? Don't you know this is my island, and that I don't allow no one here?"
He looked so fierce I was quite frightened, and told him that I was a white man like himself. "The devil you are!" said he; "I never saw a white man your colour before." I then explained my case to him, and he cut me loose; then he told me that the island was his property, and that he came there twice a year with a party of natives, fishing and drying beche-de-mer, which he took back to the nearest port, and sold; and, anchored in the deep water about half a mile from shore, he pointed me out his schooner---a pretty little craft of about thirty tons. Well, I stopped with that man for the next four months, and worked with him collecting, cooking, drying, packing, and putting on board ship this sort of stuff, for which the natives dived all over the place.
One day, when the little craft was very nearly full up, the chap came to me, and said he: "I'm going away soon, Bruce, and I suppose you don't want to be left behind?" "No, that I don't," I answered; "I've had plenty of this place;" and I laughed, for I thought he was joking, but his face looked so serious and determined that I stopped that, and asked him what he meant. He continued: "I mean that if you don't do what I want I shall leave you to take care of the reef, and the trees, and the turtle and the fish outside; but you don't have no biscuit; and perhaps, too, I shall cut down all the coconuts before I leave. They are all mine, you know, and I can do what I like with them."
"Lord have mercy!" I cried; "don't leave me here alone! I'll do anything you like, only take me with you. If I am left, it won't be long before the land'crabs are picking my bones." "You're right there, my boy! They made short work of the chap who was here before you. I was obliged to shoot him because he refused to do what I wanted." "By golly, boss! I'll do everything you want." said I. "Only just show me the man you want killed, and I'll do it at once; only don't leave me here, I'm so precious full up with the place." "All right," he concluded, with a sort of cunning look; "I'm a very quiet man, but I must not be worried on my own ground. This place is worn out, all the fish are gone, and I don't want to come back here any more.
"It's those confounded niggers that's so very expensive; and, don't you see, if I take them back to their homes, I shall have to pay the six months' wages that I told them I would give when the fishing was over. "The fishing is not worth a snap or the bother of dividing this season, so we'll take the schooner back ourselves, save the dollars, and you shall have a share. "I think to-morrow night will do for a start; but, first of all, just you knock a hole in your boat, so that the boys can't follow." "All right." said I; "I'm with you;" so off I went, and burst a plank right out of the boat, so big that no native could mend it, and then I returned to tell him all was ready in that quarter. He then said to me: "The boys have worked very well lately, haven't they?" "Yes, boss," said I. "Then I think we'll give them a treat; so come along. We'll go and see them; they shall have some grog, and give us a dance in the moonlight."
When we got to the camp, we found that the boys had just finished their grub, and were lying round the fires, on their mats, yarning about all sorts of wonderful things, as they always do before turning in. They were always very cheerful and happy after their long day's work diving after the fish, but just then they were all the more joyful because they thought that in a day or two they would be going home to their people, on their own island, with plenty of all the things they liked best, such as calico, knives, beads, lines, hooks, and such articles like those.
When they saw us coming, the women got up, and brought along a nice clean mat, upon which we squatted in the middle of them. My friend then told them that the ship was nearly full up, and that in two more days we should all go home,---only one more day's fishing, and the next day off,---but in the meantime he and I were to get the schooner ready for sea. He told them that because if they saw us both together pulling the sails and ropes about they would suspect something, for they all knew well what white men had done before, and it was not the first time that some of the crowd had been out.
The boss said all sorts of pleasant and good things to them, produced the grog, and the boys and women were soon dancing, with shouts and songs, on the smooth white coral sand, by the light of the broad bright moon, till they all were exhausted and had to lie down. In the morning, as soon as the sun began to look over the tops of the coconuts, away went the crowd to the far-off reef, singing as they skylarked and splashed through the shallow water like children, to perform their last day's work. Before they went, to keep up the "blind," the boss talked a lot to them, and then we went on board the schooner.
You know, natives make up their songs about anything, just as they want them, and the one they were singing, as they went off, was all about the schooner and the two good white men who were going to get her ready to take them home to their friends. The boss smiled, as he quietly said to me, "I wonder what kind of song they will sing this evening, if we have any wind? Would you like to stop and listen, Bruce?" I didn't like that sort of joking, and I told him so. As soon as we got on board, we set to overhauling the ropes and sails, and by midday everything was right but the wind.
By-and-by, when the boys, a long way oft on the outside reef, looked like little black spots against the clear blue sky, a smart breeze sprung up, we pulled up the anchor passed through the passage, and once more I felt the heave and the rush of the big sea swells beneath my feet, and I felt so glad. Well, I don't know exactly how long we were at sea, for I kept no account of the days, but I do know that we had very easy work in the fine weather that we carried with us all the way to Jaluit.
About ten days out, early one morning, with very little wind, only enough to keep the ship going, we saw a smart looking brig coming up. When she got close, she hove to, and the boss, taking the dingy, went on board her, to see what she wanted, leaving me to take care of the schooner. In about an hour he came back, when the brig filled her sails, and went off on her course. He brought with him a bag full of money, which he shook up and laughed when he saw me stare. "What, have you been trading?" I said; "been selling the cargo?" "No fear, Bruce," said he, smiling all over his face. "Not the cargo, old man; but those chaps we left behind on the island. That brig is a labour ship, looking up recruits for Fiji, and the skipper is not particular how he gets them.
"I told him, as an old friend, that I knew where there were some thirty good men, who would very much like a passage to their own island; some white man having left them there by mistake!" "'What a big shame! he said. 'I would give a couple of hundred dollars to know where those poor devils are, and take them home out of charity. I don't like those doings at all. That's the way we all get a bad name in the Pacific.'
He then fetched this bag, and I told him where to go; but somehow or other I don't think they will get home quick in that brig, as I am afraid the skipper will have to call at Fiji before he gets to their island." He then began to open the bag, looked in, and of all the awfulest cursing I ever experienced that man's was the worst. Perhaps it was because I had never heard him swear much before, but after that lot I could see how talented he was in that direction. "What's the matter?" said I. "'What's the matter'! you damn fool!" he roared; "just look here; this is the matter. That cursed skipper has cheated me;" and with that he upset on the deck a whole heap of round bits of iron, which he had taken for dollars. I suppose when he took them, they felt round in the bag, clinked when he shook it, and were about the right weight for two hundred dollars, so he never looked at them on board the brig, and had given his dear friend thirty men for nothing!
I laughed like mad to think that one "old hand" had taken another "old hand" in so easy.
He looked very savage for a little, but soon laughed just as much as I did, and kicked the things overboard. "The damned scoundrel! I'll meet him sure again some other time, and get square; but, after all, it's the better, as I shall never see those fellows any more now, and it might be awkward for me if I did." We soon forgot all about the brig, and sailed on quietly without any further trouble. When the boss slept, I kept watch; when I was below, he kept awake; and at times we were both awake together, and amused ourselves swapping yarns about all sorts of things.
Altogether I liked the man, for he was the only one, bar that Liverpool sky pilot, who hadn't treated me like a dog. All the same, plenty of times when I saw him fast asleep the devil would whisper in my ear, "Suppose you knock him on the head, and throw him over; nobody will know, and you will have all the cargo." However, I wouldn't listen to that advice, refused to be tempted, and from that blessed time I think I began to get good. It was quite two months before we got to Jaluit, and anchored right abreast of the settlement, in the middle of four or five trading vessels. On the shore, scattered all up and down the beach, were plenty of wooden houses, the stores of the merchant traders, and the people were about as big a mixture as there was at Callao.
There were white men, Dutchies, Frenchies, Jackies, and all sorts of other niggers, and a precious rowdy gang they were. I don't think there was one of the whole lot sober when I first saw them; and what they called the wine of the country---square gin---was going all day and all night; but I didn't join, for the stuff drove me mad. This is the place where they say that they always know when Sunday comes round, from the people being worse drunk than in the rest of the week, and I think it is true; but I never saw them sober any day.
The boss soon sold the cargo to one of the ships, and together we put it on board. This time, I imagine, he did not take his money in a bag upon trust, but looked at it first for when the job was finished he said to me: "Bruce, it is all over now; I've sold the cargo and the ship; so good-bye, and good luck to you, and here's thirty dollars for you. If that skipper of the brig hadn't cheated me, there would have been more, but I can't help it now." Then off he went to one of the ships just leaving, and I thought I would see no more of him. In about a month, however, I heard something, when a man arrived, making very anxious inquiries for him.
It appeared that this chap was the real owner of the schooner the boss sold; but he did not good, for neither he nor the ship could be found; so he had to go back with nothing. I stopped a long time in that place, loafing round and doing odd jobs for my tucker; but all the time I kept myself respectable, and didn't go on like the other fellows for fear I should go mad again. When my thirty dollars were all gone, I did work in the stores, collected oil from the natives, loaded up ships, and got them water, but no one would pay me in dollars.
They knew if they did I should get money and go off to some ship, and that they didn't want, but liked to keep me on the beach to work for almost nothing. All I got was plenty of grub and good places to sleep in, but no cash; and I grew precious tired of that sort of thing. One day I was sitting on the beach, thinking hard of how I should get away and looking at the little schooner that brought me there, just come in from the other side of the island, with a cargo of oil for the stores, when some one punched me in the back.
I looked round sharp, and, bless me! there was my old boss, who I thought I should see no more. "Hallo, Bruce!" he began; "how goes it? Looking at my ship? We had a very nice little trip in her, didn't we, old man?" "Yes, boss," I said; "and I am so precious tired of this hole that I wish I could take another in her. But where have you come from?" "Never you mind where I've come from." he answered; "it's no matter of yours. What I want to know from you is whether you will come along with me for another cruise in my schooner." He looked, as he said this, so wicked and knowing that I waited a little before I said: "But that craft isn't yours, and a man who came here just after you left said it never was."
|"I know all about that mistake. It's all right; that chap is an awful fool, and doesn't savee what he is talking about. But, Bruce, look here. You shouldn't ever raise unpleasant subjects in these parts they are much too free for that; it's a very dangerous practice, I can tell you; and my mild temper has very much changed since I found out the fellow who bought the schooner had cheated me. I can't stand argument so quietly as I used to. That blackguard didn't give me half enough, but I've not seen him yet on the matter." "But," said I, "does that vessel belong to you again?"|
"No, Bruce, no," he said very gently, with a cunning grin all over his face; "but it's going to belong to me to-night, and you are going to help me sail her to Fiji before morning. "I know she's all right for the trip, as I saw her fill up, on the other side of the island, before she came round here. "She's full of oil, too, and that will pay our expenses. I don't like being cheated, and must get square somehow; there's no law courts here, so we have to take our own parts. you understand?" "Oh, yes," said I; "you mean to steal that ship again."
"My golly! he looked so very ferocious at me that I was sorry I had spoken, but it only lasted a minute, when he said again; "I think I told you, John King Bruce, that in these islands it is not good for the health to make personal and unfeeling remarks. "I told you that practice was very risky, and I tell you once more that it is likely to lead to very serious difference of opinion. Now, don't you do it again. That's my honest advice. But now let us talk proper business. "I mean to have that ship to-night, and you have got to help me get her.
"Now, listen attentively. That craft belongs to me. The chap who bought her only gave me half what she was worth, and he has had the use of her for more than two months. Now, I shall charge him the dollars he gave me for that hire; so don't you see, that if I take her back I don't steal her."
I began to shake my head, when he quickly continued,-----"Now, Bruce, don't you interrupt me. You had better shut up. I saw you were going to say something unpleasant. And about the cargo? We've got no time to discharge that, so it must stop for the present, but we will make all arrangements for it when we get to Fiji; then, if our expenses are not too heavy, the money it fetches shall be sent back. Do you see?"
I, of course, thought I saw, and said: "All right, boss, I'll go along with you; and I'm very glad it is not stealing, for I have turned good now,." "I'm very, very glad to hear it, Bruce, for I don't want no rowdy chaps in my ship; they annoy me, and then I get bad and fighty. "You can't savee the awful weight of responsibility that rests on the shoulders of a ship's captain, if he does his duty, whether he is the owner or not; of course you don't; but it's very heavy, all the same. Perhaps you'll feel it some day. Bruce, when you get a ship of your own; and who knows, this trip, that we shan't pick up one for you? then you'll know what it is to be a skipper.
"You can't think how joyful I am that you have turned good, because you were main bad once---got drunk, killed men, and all that sort of thing. You know, at times I didn't feel quite safe last trip, after what you told me that night you took too much gin. "You were so wild, and said such awful things, that one or twice I almost thought it best to shoot you; and, do you know, Bruce, I am almost certain sure that, now and then, you thought the same thing about me, because once I woke up and saw you staring at me very queer.
"I wasn't always asleep when you looked me over like that, though you thought so. Yes, my Christian friend, you made me very anxious at those times, but more especially about he safety of the ship and cargo---nothing else, I assure you,---but now it will be all right, as you good. You can't think what a relief it is to my mind. I shall sleep well this trip, because I shall know I have got good John King Bruce looking out on deck. I don't like that sleeping with one eye open all the time; it makes me tired, and then I get irritable. Oh, yes; it is great relief that you are good now; but I always sleep very lightly, the least thing wakes me up; and, you know, old man, I've been so long used to wear a pistol, to protect myself from bad men, that I can't turn in without one.
"See! here it is. You got one? No? Well, maybe that is all the better for you: there's lots of bad accidents with those things; they are always going off when you don't want them to." He then stopped his talk, and walked a little way down the beach with his arms folded, thinking hard. Presently he turned round, came back, poking his face close to mine, and looking very spiteful, said,---"Now, Bruce, I'm going off to get my things. You must meet me here just about dark; and mind you don't let on to any one that you have seen me, and spoil this trip. I don't want any one to see me off; parting with old friends is painful, and I don't like it. Now understand, when I come back I don't want to see any one but you; and, by the Holy! if I do find any bad men about, it will be the worse for you, my dear friend, for I'll shoot you first."
He looked so wicked when he said this that he awfully scared me, so I said: "Right you are; I don't think I'll go up amongst those chaps in town any more, but stop just here till you come back;" and giving me one more look, he went off through the trees, without another word. As I sat there, in the very same place, I thought carefully over all that the boss had told me, and the more I thought the less I liked it. He said that he was glad I'd turned good, and in the very same breath he talked about his confounded pistol!
Then, how the deuce did he savee what I thought on board the schooner coming here? He must be the devil himself to know that, for I didn't tell him anything that I can remember. It was all lies about my having too much drink; he never gave me half enough! I really thought he must have slept with one eye open, and caught me looking at him, that time I thought about taking the ship. I made up my mind on the spot to be very careful this next trip, and determined he shouldn't catch me looking ugly again.
Well, there I sat, talking to myself, and thinking, till the sun began to get very low, all the time watching the big and little sea-birds belonging to the island coming home to their resting-places, in ones, and twos, and threes, after their day's work was done, and whispering to themselves, or to one another, just the same as I was doing. At last all had come home except one big fellow, and he kept sailing round and round above me, squawking loudly all the time.
I thought: "What's that you say up there? Do you tell me to go home and rest? It's no use to tell me that. John King Bruce has got no home, my beautiful white friend, sitting on the wind up there. He is just going to look for a home, and would very much like to find rest. Tell me, my beauty, where shall he go for it? He don't know; the only rest he thinks he will get will be when he is dead, and the sharks have got him; or when the land-crabs are fighting over his carcass in some place like this. Then he may have rest, but not before."
All the time I thought like this the bird never left, but sailed round and round in rings, squawking, as though he was answering me; then, at last, he flew away, right over the trees, and I saw him no more. By-and-by the sea breeze stopped, and the night wind from off the land began to talk to me in whispers, as it rustled through the thick hanging leaves of the cocoanut trees, high overhead, and passing on, gently broke the smooth blue water of the lagoon into tiny, tiny little waves; and I sat still, watching all this, scarcely thinking of anything---it was so nice, cool, and quiet. Then the sun, all fiery red, blazing like anything, touched the edge of he bright blue water and for a minute or two everything turned to his own blood-red colour,---the sky, the water, the reef, the trees, everything was all the same,---until at last, with a sudden dive, he was gone for the day.
As the light went the waters all turned black; the sky kept on changing colour, until it was almost as dark as the sea, and the stars, coming out one by one, looked, shining down upon me, just as if they wanted to say: "Good-evening, Bruce! we begin our work together." It got darker and darker, and soon so dark that I lost sight of first the reef, then the ship and at last the very rocks in front of me, and still I sat waiting for the boss. Presently I heard the sound of a boat, rowing from the direction I knew the schooner was, and, going down to the edge of the water, saw one coming towards shore.
"Who the evil is that?" I thought; "it's all over with the game for this night, and just won't the old man be in a rage! I don't like this at all; he will think I've let on about the steal, and go for me. He said that if he found any bad men with me when he came back he would shoot me first, so I'm off." I was just about to run away when the man in the boat sung out; and, by Jove! it was the boss himself.
"Come along, Bruce; look sharp! And then looking hard at me, he said: "What the devil is the matter with you?" I answered in astonishment: "But how did you get on board that schooner?" He looked angry, and answered sharp: "Mind your own business! You seem to have forgotten what I told you about asking impudent questions. Jump in at once, or I shall get annoyed.!" I got in, took the oars, and rowed off to the schooner, when we tripped anchor, loosed sails, and the fine, strong land breeze soon carried us in safety through three reef to the open sea.
Well sir; it's no use to bother you with how we sailed along, day after day, just in the same old way. The day went, and the night came; the sun would get up all pink and lovely, with every sort of nice promise, and would go down in frowns of fiery red and yellow; the stars would burst out to help us see, and sometimes the moon would shine brightly, and keep us company in our long watch. We took in turn and turn about to steer the ship, but all the time I couldn't help seeing that the boss kept a sharp eye on me. Sometimes we would have a nice strong breeze, and travel on it beautifully; at other times---once for two days and a night---we had no wind at all, the sea was as smooth as glass, and the ship did nothing but turn round and round, like a lump of meat on a roasting-jack; and it was like roasting, too, for us, for the sun right above was beating down so hot that we could scarcely breathe.
Then we would grumble like fun, and the boss would find fault with everything, and I knew better than to answer back; but as soon as the wind came u, everything would get right again: he would then smile like an angel, and perhaps bring out the grog. One day, during my watch below, I was roused up by an awful row on deck, and heard my chum cursing and swearing like anything, and stamping his feet on the deck, until I thought he had gone mad. Above all this, I heard such a snorting, grunting row, as if all the pigs in the world were talking together, and blowing their noses, and now and then I could hear the tumble of water rattling down, for all the world like washing down the decks on board that Yankee man-of-war with the fire engine.
Such a shindy as there was I never heard before; there was swearing, dancing, snorting, grunting, and water splashing about, all jumbled up together. All this so puzzled me that I thought I would stop where I was; but I got so curious at last that I popped up my head through the hatchway; and the moment I did that, before I could look round, a big thump on the side nearly knocked the schooner out of the water, and sent the boss, who was shouting and dancing about like Old Nick, flat on his back, and at the same time, with the noise of a hurricane, a big fountain of water spouted right up into the air, and fell back with a shuddering smash on the deck, nearly washing him overboard.
Then, quite suddenly, to my horror, there came out of the sea, close alongside, an enormous great fish tail, higher, much higher, than our mast, with fins on it bigger than the mainsail. It stopped there aloft, almost over the ship, shaking and quivering in the air, and then slap it came down with such a bang that, with a row like the report of a cannon, the water flew over the little craft like a wave, and nearly swamped us. I thought the last day was come, and dived down below again, but the boss, all wet through and swearing sung out: "Come here, Bruce, you nigger! I'll teach you something! Come up! damn you! and look!" And I dursn't refuse, for I thought he was mad. Crawling up, and holding on to the mast alongside of him, I asked him what was the row.
"Look there, you black scoundrel!" said he, jumping about as mad as he well could be in so small a craft; "there's ten thousand pounds and me swimming about, and I've only this cussed little hooker, with tackle and nothing! Just like my luck, Bruce! Those are whales; and if I only had a proper ship, I'd make my fortune and yours before dark. Oh! ain't I just unfortunate! I'm an old whaler, and can't bear to see all this waste." He then sat down, and, by the holy poker! began crying like a child. I said nothing, for I was main frightened, both of him and the rumpus going on in the water close alongside.
On both sides, over the bows, under the stern all round, was hundreds and hundreds of those great black devils, sliding and slipping all over the lace and tearing up the big, green, smooth swells into froth. They seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, rolling over one another in great sport, and, as I thought, playing with the ship, which they took to be one of themselves. There they were all round throwing up their fountains high into the air with tremendous blowing roars.
Then, just as if they had told one another, at the same moment, up would go their tails, high out of the water, and down they would slip slowly out of sight, leaving he smooth sea as if there had been no disturbance at all. I thought first time that they had gone for good; but no! in about a couple of minutes up would come their great, black, shiny backs, and then they would begin once more, surging, rolling, frothing, and throwing up their spouts of water just as they pleased. They stopped with the ship, sporting like this, all day long; and when it got dark, the water all round was alight with their splashings.
Their spoutings looked like great sprays of fire, and as they darted, in their games, through the still water, the lines of dull light they made in their course crossed and crossed again, over and under each other, till it seemed that the ship was entangled in a net of flames. At last the blowing and snorting stopped, the splashing was heard no more, the fiery net sank out of sight in the black waste of waters, and all became very dark and quiet.
Next morning, before the sun was up, we saw the sky in the east crowded with lovely little sparks of pink fire, floating light, on silvery feathers of mist, and pointing right straight towards us, against the ugly grey of the first dawn. These we knew, were cloud, coming up from far away, which had caught the sun's light before he showed above the line of the dark waters. We knew, by them, that we should have wind soon; and as the day grew, up it came, and sent us along nicely. The boss was all right as soon as those blessed whales left, but all the same, he was very, very sorry that he did not steal a bigger ship to hunt them in.
We had now been out so long that the water began to run short and every day we very anxiously looked out for land, but none hove in sight. We sailed on and on like this, day after day seeing nothing but a shark or two and shoals of flying fish, skimming like swallows over and round, and in the hollows of the big banks of water, as they rolled and heaved smoothly on their way to Lord knows where. Many flying fish made big mistakes in the daytime, and flew on board of us, and at times whole shoals would jump right over us from side to side. At night we got lots of them by hanging a light in front of the mainsail. The attracted them to jump at it, hit the sail, and fall on deck. And very good tucker they were, too,---much better than the salt horse we had.
One morning, as I was steering, I saw a sort of black cloud in the sky, far away on the port bow, but I took no particular notice of it, and went on without thinking, and soon after it passed our beam we began leaving it behind. About this time the boss tumbled up to take his watch, and before handling the tiller he took a good look all round. When he saw the thing I thought was a cloud, he stopped quite still, shaded his eyes with his hands, and looked very hard at it. Presently he turned to me, and, pointing at it, said, "See that?" "Yes," said I; "I've seen it all this blessed morning." "Well," he returned, with a sneer, "you may be a very good man, but, all the same, you're a damned fool! That's land, Bruce! Put her about, you cursed nigger! We will go and have a look in there for water, and it it is all right, we'll stop a spell, for I don't know where we are."
We turned the ship round at once, and, although we travelled fast, the land grew out of the water very, very slowly, till darkness overtook us, when we shortened sail, to wait till morning, drifting about anyhow. When the day began to break, we looked out for land, and as we did we saw the sun first catch the green tree-tops on the tall mountain with his bright light, till they sparkled like emeralds. Then a glorious belt of his golden rays, thrown against the hillside, crept slowly, very slowly, as he rose, down, down, down, till it met the water rippling on the beach, when he burst suddenly up through the eastern ocean, and in a second everything was laughing and joyful that another day had began; and as the wind came up with him, we set sail, and stood in quite close.
It was an island, with no reef at all, but stood straight out of the water, with little coral points and black rocks poking out every here and there, making between them nice comfortable little bays, embracing pretty white shelly beaches, deeply set in their arms. Behind inland, rose a great hill, looking as if it was made of nothing but trees of all kinds and colours. We went straight for the biggest bay, right ahead of us, and, as we came near, crowds of natives came down to the beach, screeching and dancing like fun.
The nearer we got the more they jumped and yelled, moving round and round a small mob of men carrying something stuck on poles, and all the time swinging their clubs and spears most furiously. In the middle of all the rumpus was a man with a long beard, dressed all the same as the natives, and almost as dark.