Part 1 out of 3
Island Nights' Entertainments - Robert Louis Stevenson.
1905 Edition. Scanned and proofed by David Price
The Beach of Falesa
A south sea bridal
Night in the bush
The Bottle Imp
The Isle of voices
THE BEACH OF FALESA.
CHAPTER I. A SOUTH SEA BRIDAL.
I SAW that island first when it was neither night nor morning. The
moon was to the west, setting, but still broad and bright. To the
east, and right amidships of the dawn, which was all pink, the
daystar sparkled like a diamond. The land breeze blew in our
faces, and smelt strong of wild lime and vanilla: other things
besides, but these were the most plain; and the chill of it set me
sneezing. I should say I had been for years on a low island near
the line, living for the most part solitary among natives. Here
was a fresh experience: even the tongue would be quite strange to
me; and the look of these woods and mountains, and the rare smell
of them, renewed my blood.
The captain blew out the binnacle lamp.
"There!" said he, "there goes a bit of smoke, Mr. Wiltshire, behind
the break of the reef. That's Falesa, where your station is, the
last village to the east; nobody lives to windward - I don't know
why. Take my glass, and you can make the houses out."
I took the glass; and the shores leaped nearer, and I saw the
tangle of the woods and the breach of the surf, and the brown roofs
and the black insides of houses peeped among the trees.
"Do you catch a bit of white there to the east'ard?" the captain
continued. "That's your house. Coral built, stands high, verandah
you could walk on three abreast; best station in the South Pacific.
When old Adams saw it, he took and shook me by the hand. 'I've
dropped into a soft thing here,' says he. - 'So you have,' says I,
'and time too!' Poor Johnny! I never saw him again but the once,
and then he had changed his tune - couldn't get on with the
natives, or the whites, or something; and the next time we came
round there he was dead and buried. I took and put up a bit of a
stick to him: 'John Adams, OBIT eighteen and sixty-eight. Go thou
and do likewise.' I missed that man. I never could see much harm
"What did he die of?" I inquired.
"Some kind of sickness," says the captain. "It appears it took him
sudden. Seems he got up in the night, and filled up on Pain-Killer
and Kennedy's Discovery. No go: he was booked beyond Kennedy.
Then he had tried to open a case of gin. No go again: not strong
enough. Then he must have turned to and run out on the verandah,
and capsized over the rail. When they found him, the next day, he
was clean crazy - carried on all the time about somebody watering
his copra. Poor John!"
"Was it thought to be the island?" I asked.
"Well, it was thought to be the island, or the trouble, or
something," he replied. "I never could hear but what it was a
healthy place. Our last man, Vigours, never turned a hair. He
left because of the beach - said he was afraid of Black Jack and
Case and Whistling Jimmie, who was still alive at the time, but got
drowned soon afterward when drunk. As for old Captain Randall,
he's been here any time since eighteen-forty, forty-five. I never
could see much harm in Billy, nor much change. Seems as if he
might live to be Old Kafoozleum. No, I guess it's healthy."
"There's a boat coming now," said I. "She's right in the pass;
looks to be a sixteen-foot whale; two white men in the stern
"That's the boat that drowned Whistling Jimmie!" cried the Captain;
"let's see the glass. Yes, that's Case, sure enough, and the
darkie. They've got a gallows bad reputation, but you know what a
place the beach is for talking. My belief, that Whistling Jimmie
was the worst of the trouble; and he's gone to glory, you see.
What'll you bet they ain't after gin? Lay you five to two they
take six cases."
When these two traders came aboard I was pleased with the looks of
them at once, or, rather, with the looks of both, and the speech of
one. I was sick for white neighbours after my four years at the
line, which I always counted years of prison; getting tabooed, and
going down to the Speak House to see and get it taken off; buying
gin and going on a break, and then repenting; sitting in the house
at night with the lamp for company; or walking on the beach and
wondering what kind of a fool to call myself for being where I was.
There were no other whites upon my island, and when I sailed to the
next, rough customers made the most of the society. Now to see
these two when they came aboard was a pleasure. One was a negro,
to be sure; but they were both rigged out smart in striped pyjamas
and straw hats, and Case would have passed muster in a city. He
was yellow and smallish, had a hawk's nose to his face, pale eyes,
and his beard trimmed with scissors. No man knew his country,
beyond he was of English speech; and it was clear he came of a good
family and was splendidly educated. He was accomplished too;
played the accordion first-rate; and give him a piece of string or
a cork or a pack of cards, and he could show you tricks equal to
any professional. He could speak, when he chose, fit for a
drawing-room; and when he chose he could blaspheme worse than a
Yankee boatswain, and talk smart to sicken a Kanaka. The way he
thought would pay best at the moment, that was Case's way, and it
always seemed to come natural, and like as if he was born to it.
He had the courage of a lion and the cunning of a rat; and if he's
not in hell to-day, there's no such place. I know but one good
point to the man: that he was fond of his wife, and kind to her.
She was a Samoa woman, and dyed her hair red, Samoa style; and when
he came to die (as I have to tell of) they found one strange thing
- that he had made a will, like a Christian, and the widow got the
lot: all his, they said, and all Black Jack's, and the most of
Billy Randall's in the bargain, for it was Case that kept the
books. So she went off home in the schooner MANU'A, and does the
lady to this day in her own place.
But of all this on that first morning I knew no more than a fly.
Case used me like a gentleman and like a friend, made me welcome to
Falesa, and put his services at my disposal, which was the more
helpful from my ignorance of the native. All the better part of
the day we sat drinking better acquaintance in the cabin, and I
never heard a man talk more to the point. There was no smarter
trader, and none dodgier, in the islands. I thought Falesa seemed
to be the right kind of a place; and the more I drank the lighter
my heart. Our last trader had fled the place at half an hour's
notice, taking a chance passage in a labour ship from up west. The
captain, when he came, had found the station closed, the keys left
with the native pastor, and a letter from the runaway, confessing
he was fairly frightened of his life. Since then the firm had not
been represented, and of course there was no cargo. The wind,
besides, was fair, the captain hoped he could make his next island
by dawn, with a good tide, and the business of landing my trade was
gone about lively. There was no call for me to fool with it, Case
said; nobody would touch my things, everyone was honest in Falesa,
only about chickens or an odd knife or an odd stick of tobacco; and
the best I could do was to sit quiet till the vessel left, then
come straight to his house, see old Captain Randall, the father of
the beach, take pot-luck, and go home to sleep when it got dark.
So it was high noon, and the schooner was under way before I set my
foot on shore at Falesa.
I had a glass or two on board; I was just off a long cruise, and
the ground heaved under me like a ship's deck. The world was like
all new painted; my foot went along to music; Falesa might have
been Fiddler's Green, if there is such a place, and more's the pity
if there isn't! It was good to foot the grass, to look aloft at
the green mountains, to see the men with their green wreaths and
the women in their bright dresses, red and blue. On we went, in
the strong sun and the cool shadow, liking both; and all the
children in the town came trotting after with their shaven heads
and their brown bodies, and raising a thin kind of a cheer in our
wake, like crowing poultry.
"By-the-bye," says Case, "we must get you a wife."
"That's so," said I; "I had forgotten."
There was a crowd of girls about us, and I pulled myself up and
looked among them like a Bashaw. They were all dressed out for the
sake of the ship being in; and the women of Falesa are a handsome
lot to see. If they have a fault, they are a trifle broad in the
beam; and I was just thinking so when Case touched me.
"That's pretty," says he.
I saw one coming on the other side alone. She had been fishing;
all she wore was a chemise, and it was wetted through. She was
young and very slender for an island maid, with a long face, a high
forehead, and a shy, strange, blindish look, between a cat's and a
"Who's she?" said I. "She'll do."
"That's Uma," said Case, and he called her up and spoke to her in
the native. I didn't know what he said; but when he was in the
midst she looked up at me quick and timid, like a child dodging a
blow, then down again, and presently smiled. She had a wide mouth,
the lips and the chin cut like any statue's; and the smile came out
for a moment and was gone. Then she stood with her head bent, and
heard Case to an end, spoke back in the pretty Polynesian voice,
looking him full in the face, heard him again in answer, and then
with an obeisance started off. I had just a share of the bow, but
never another shot of her eye, and there was no more word of
"I guess it's all right," said Case. "I guess you can have her.
I'll make it square with the old lady. You can have your pick of
the lot for a plug of tobacco," he added, sneering.
I suppose it was the smile stuck in my memory, for I spoke back
sharp. "She doesn't look that sort," I cried.
"I don't know that she is," said Case. "I believe she's as right
as the mail. Keeps to herself, don't go round with the gang, and
that. O no, don't you misunderstand me - Uma's on the square." He
spoke eager, I thought, and that surprised and pleased me.
"Indeed," he went on, "I shouldn't make so sure of getting her,
only she cottoned to the cut of your jib. All you have to do is to
keep dark and let me work the mother my own way; and I'll bring the
girl round to the captain's for the marriage."
I didn't care for the word marriage, and I said so.
"Oh, there's nothing to hurt in the marriage," says he. "Black
Jack's the chaplain."
By this time we had come in view of the house of these three white
men; for a negro is counted a white man, and so is a Chinese! a
strange idea, but common in the islands. It was a board house with
a strip of rickety verandah. The store was to the front, with a
counter, scales, and the poorest possible display of trade: a case
or two of tinned meats; a barrel of hard bread; a few bolts of
cotton stuff, not to be compared with mine; the only thing well
represented being the contraband, firearms and liquor. "If these
are my only rivals," thinks I, "I should do well in Falesa."
Indeed, there was only the one way they could touch me, and that
was with the guns and drink.
In the back room was old Captain Randall, squatting on the floor
native fashion, fat and pale, naked to the waist, grey as a badger,
and his eyes set with drink. His body was covered with grey hair
and crawled over by flies; one was in the corner of his eye - he
never heeded; and the mosquitoes hummed about the man like bees.
Any clean-minded man would have had the creature out at once and
buried him; and to see him, and think he was seventy, and remember
he had once commanded a ship, and come ashore in his smart togs,
and talked big in bars and consulates, and sat in club verandahs,
turned me sick and sober.
He tried to get up when I came in, but that was hopeless; so he
reached me a hand instead, and stumbled out some salutation.
"Papa's (1) pretty full this morning," observed Case. "We've had
an epidemic here; and Captain Randall takes gin for a prophylactic
- don't you, Papa?"
"Never took such a thing in my life!" cried the captain
indignantly. "Take gin for my health's sake, Mr. Wha's-ever-your-
name - 's a precautionary measure."
"That's all right, Papa," said Case. "But you'll have to brace up.
There's going to be a marriage - Mr. Wiltshire here is going to get
The old man asked to whom.
"To Uma," said Case.
"Uma!" cried the captain. "Wha's he want Uma for? 's he come here
for his health, anyway? Wha' 'n hell's he want Uma for?"
"Dry up, Papa," said Case. "'Tain't you that's to marry her. I
guess you're not her godfather and godmother. I guess Mr.
Wiltshire's going to please himself."
With that he made an excuse to me that he must move about the
marriage, and left me alone with the poor wretch that was his
partner and (to speak truth) his gull. Trade and station belonged
both to Randall; Case and the negro were parasites; they crawled
and fed upon him like the flies, he none the wiser. Indeed, I have
no harm to say of Billy Randall beyond the fact that my gorge rose
at him, and the time I now passed in his company was like a
The room was stifling hot and full of flies; for the house was
dirty and low and small, and stood in a bad place, behind the
village, in the borders of the bush, and sheltered from the trade.
The three men's beds were on the floor, and a litter of pans and
dishes. There was no standing furniture; Randall, when he was
violent, tearing it to laths. There I sat and had a meal which was
served us by Case's wife; and there I was entertained all day by
that remains of man, his tongue stumbling among low old jokes and
long old stories, and his own wheezy laughter always ready, so that
he had no sense of my depression. He was nipping gin all the
while. Sometimes he fell asleep, and awoke again, whimpering and
shivering, and every now and again he would ask me why I wanted to
marry Uma. "My friend," I was telling myself all day, "you must
not come to be an old gentleman like this."
It might be four in the afternoon, perhaps, when the back door was
thrust slowly open, and a strange old native woman crawled into the
house almost on her belly. She was swathed in black stuff to her
heels; her hair was grey in swatches; her face was tattooed, which
was not the practice in that island; her eyes big and bright and
crazy. These she fixed upon me with a rapt expression that I saw
to be part acting. She said no plain word, but smacked and mumbled
with her lips, and hummed aloud, like a child over its Christmas
pudding. She came straight across the house, heading for me, and,
as soon as she was alongside, caught up my hand and purred and
crooned over it like a great cat. From this she slipped into a
kind of song.
"Who the devil's this?" cried I, for the thing startled me.
"It's Fa'avao," says Randall; and I saw he had hitched along the
floor into the farthest corner.
"You ain't afraid of her?" I cried.
"Me 'fraid!" cried the captain. "My dear friend, I defy her! I
don't let her put her foot in here, only I suppose 's different to-
day, for the marriage. 's Uma's mother."
"Well, suppose it is; what's she carrying on about?" I asked, more
irritated, perhaps more frightened, than I cared to show; and the
captain told me she was making up a quantity of poetry in my praise
because I was to marry Uma. "All right, old lady," says I, with
rather a failure of a laugh, "anything to oblige. But when you're
done with my hand, you might let me know."
She did as though she understood; the song rose into a cry, and
stopped; the woman crouched out of the house the same way that she
came in, and must have plunged straight into the bush, for when I
followed her to the door she had already vanished.
"These are rum manners," said I.
"'s a rum crowd," said the captain, and, to my surprise, he made
the sign of the cross on his bare bosom.
"Hillo!" says I, "are you a Papist?"
He repudiated the idea with contempt. "Hard-shell Baptis'," said
he. "But, my dear friend, the Papists got some good ideas too; and
tha' 's one of 'em. You take my advice, and whenever you come
across Uma or Fa'avao or Vigours, or any of that crowd, you take a
leaf out o' the priests, and do what I do. Savvy?" says he,
repeated the sign, and winked his dim eye at me. "No, SIR!" he
broke out again, "no Papists here!" and for a long time entertained
me with his religious opinions.
I must have been taken with Uma from the first, or I should
certainly have fled from that house, and got into the clean air,
and the clean sea, or some convenient river - though, it's true, I
was committed to Case; and, besides, I could never have held my
head up in that island if I had run from a girl upon my wedding-
The sun was down, the sky all on fire, and the lamp had been some
time lighted, when Case came back with Uma and the negro. She was
dressed and scented; her kilt was of fine tapa, looking richer in
the folds than any silk; her bust, which was of the colour of dark
honey, she wore bare only for some half a dozen necklaces of seeds
and flowers; and behind her ears and in her hair she had the
scarlet flowers of the hibiscus. She showed the best bearing for a
bride conceivable, serious and still; and I thought shame to stand
up with her in that mean house and before that grinning negro. I
thought shame, I say; for the mountebank was dressed with a big
paper collar, the book he made believe to read from was an odd
volume of a novel, and the words of his service not fit to be set
down. My conscience smote me when we joined hands; and when she
got her certificate I was tempted to throw up the bargain and
confess. Here is the document. It was Case that wrote it,
signatures and all, in a leaf out of the ledger:-
This is to certify that Uma, daughter of Fa'avao of Falesa, Island
of - , is illegally married to Mr. John Wiltshire for one week, and
Mr. John Wiltshire is at liberty to send her to hell when he
Chaplain to the hulks.
Extracted from the Register
by William T. Randall,
A nice paper to put in a girl's hand and see her hide away like
gold. A man might easily feel cheap for less. But it was the
practice in these parts, and (as I told myself) not the least the
fault of us white men, but of the missionaries. If they had let
the natives be, I had never needed this deception, but taken all
the wives I wished, and left them when I pleased, with a clear
The more ashamed I was, the more hurry I was in to be gone; and our
desires thus jumping together, I made the less remark of a change
in the traders. Case had been all eagerness to keep me; now, as
though he had attained a purpose, he seemed all eagerness to have
me go. Uma, he said, could show me to my house, and the three bade
us farewell indoors.
The night was nearly come; the village smelt of trees and flowers
and the sea and bread-fruit-cooking; there came a fine roll of sea
from the reef, and from a distance, among the woods and houses,
many pretty sounds of men and children. It did me good to breathe
free air; it did me good to be done with the captain and see,
instead, the creature at my side. I felt for all the world as
though she were some girl at home in the Old Country, and,
forgetting myself for the minute, took her hand to walk with. Her
fingers nestled into mine, I heard her breathe deep and quick, and
all at once she caught my hand to her face and pressed it there.
"You good!" she cried, and ran ahead of me, and stopped and looked
back and smiled, and ran ahead of me again, thus guiding me through
the edge of the bush, and by a quiet way to my own house.
The truth is, Case had done the courting for me in style - told her
I was mad to have her, and cared nothing for the consequence; and
the poor soul, knowing that which I was still ignorant of, believed
it, every word, and had her head nigh turned with vanity and
gratitude. Now, of all this I had no guess; I was one of those
most opposed to any nonsense about native women, having seen so
many whites eaten up by their wives' relatives, and made fools of
in the bargain; and I told myself I must make a stand at once, and
bring her to her bearings. But she looked so quaint and pretty as
she ran away and then awaited me, and the thing was done so like a
child or a kind dog, that the best I could do was just to follow
her whenever she went on, to listen for the fall of her bare feet,
and to watch in the dusk for the shining of her body. And there
was another thought came in my head. She played kitten with me now
when we were alone; but in the house she had carried it the way a
countess might, so proud and humble. And what with her dress - for
all there was so little of it, and that native enough - what with
her fine tapa and fine scents, and her red flowers and seeds, that
were quite as bright as jewels, only larger - it came over me she
was a kind of countess really, dressed to hear great singers at a
concert, and no even mate for a poor trader like myself.
She was the first in the house; and while I was still without I saw
a match flash and the lamplight kindle in the windows. The station
was a wonderful fine place, coral built, with quite a wide
verandah, and the main room high and wide. My chests and cases had
been piled in, and made rather of a mess; and there, in the thick
of the confusion, stood Uma by the table, awaiting me. Her shadow
went all the way up behind her into the hollow of the iron roof;
she stood against it bright, the lamplight shining on her skin. I
stopped in the door, and she looked at me, not speaking, with eyes
that were eager and yet daunted; then she touched herself on the
"Me - your wifie," she said. It had never taken me like that
before; but the want of her took and shook all through me, like the
wind in the luff of a sail.
I could not speak if I had wanted; and if I could, I would not. I
was ashamed to be so much moved about a native, ashamed of the
marriage too, and the certificate she had treasured in her kilt;
and I turned aside and made believe to rummage among my cases. The
first thing I lighted on was a case of gin, the only one that I had
brought; and, partly for the girl's sake, and partly for horror of
the recollections of old Randall, took a sudden resolve. I prized
the lid off. One by one I drew the bottles with a pocket
corkscrew, and sent Uma out to pour the stuff from the verandah.
She came back after the last, and looked at me puzzled like.
"No good," said I, for I was now a little better master of my
tongue. "Man he drink, he no good."
She agreed with this, but kept considering. "Why you bring him?"
she asked presently. "Suppose you no want drink, you no bring him,
"That's all right," said I. "One time I want drink too much; now
no want. You see, I no savvy I get one little wifie. Suppose I
drink gin, my little wifie he 'fraid."
To speak to her kindly was about more than I was fit for; I had
made my vow I would never let on to weakness with a native, and I
had nothing for it but to stop.
She stood looking gravely down at me where I sat by the open case.
"I think you good man," she said. And suddenly she had fallen
before me on the floor. "I belong you all-e-same pig!" she cried.
CHAPTER II. THE BAN.
I CAME on the verandah just before the sun rose on the morrow. My
house was the last on the east; there was a cape of woods and
cliffs behind that hid the sunrise. To the west, a swift cold
river ran down, and beyond was the green of the village, dotted
with cocoa-palms and breadfruits and houses. The shutters were
some of them down and some open; I saw the mosquito bars still
stretched, with shadows of people new-awakened sitting up inside;
and all over the green others were stalking silent, wrapped in
their many-coloured sleeping clothes like Bedouins in Bible
pictures. It was mortal still and solemn and chilly, and the light
of the dawn on the lagoon was like the shining of a fire.
But the thing that troubled me was nearer hand. Some dozen young
men and children made a piece of a half-circle, flanking my house:
the river divided them, some were on the near side, some on the
far, and one on a boulder in the midst; and they all sat silent,
wrapped in their sheets, and stared at me and my house as straight
as pointer dogs. I thought it strange as I went out. When I had
bathed and come back again, and found them all there, and two or
three more along with them, I thought it stranger still. What
could they see to gaze at in my house, I wondered, and went in.
But the thought of these starers stuck in my mind, and presently I
came out again. The sun was now up, but it was still behind the
cape of woods. Say a quarter of an hour had come and gone. The
crowd was greatly increased, the far bank of the river was lined
for quite a way - perhaps thirty grown folk, and of children twice
as many, some standing, some squatted on the ground, and all
staring at my house. I have seen a house in a South Sea village
thus surrounded, but then a trader was thrashing his wife inside,
and she singing out. Here was nothing: the stove was alight, the
smoke going up in a Christian manner; all was shipshape and Bristol
fashion. To be sure, there was a stranger come, but they had a
chance to see that stranger yesterday, and took it quiet enough.
What ailed them now? I leaned my arms on the rail and stared back.
Devil a wink they had in them! Now and then I could see the
children chatter, but they spoke so low not even the hum of their
speaking came my length. The rest were like graven images: they
stared at me, dumb and sorrowful, with their bright eyes; and it
came upon me things would look not much different if I were on the
platform of the gallows, and these good folk had come to see me
I felt I was getting daunted, and began to be afraid I looked it,
which would never do. Up I stood, made believe to stretch myself,
came down the verandah stair, and strolled towards the river.
There went a short buzz from one to the other, like what you hear
in theatres when the curtain goes up; and some of the nearest gave
back the matter of a pace. I saw a girl lay one hand on a young
man and make a gesture upward with the other; at the same time she
said something in the native with a gasping voice. Three little
boys sat beside my path, where, I must pass within three feet of
them. Wrapped in their sheets, with their shaved heads and bits of
top-knots, and queer faces, they looked like figures on a chimney-
piece. Awhile they sat their ground, solemn as judges. I came up
hand over fist, doing my five knots, like a man that meant
business; and I thought I saw a sort of a wink and gulp in the
three faces. Then one jumped up (he was the farthest off) and ran
for his mammy. The other two, trying to follow suit, got foul,
came to ground together bawling, wriggled right out of their sheets
mother-naked, and in a moment there were all three of them
scampering for their lives and singing out like pigs. The natives,
who would never let a joke slip, even at a burial, laughed and let
up, as short as a dog's bark.
They say it scares a man to be alone. No such thing. What scares
him in the dark or the high bush is that he can't make sure, and
there might be an army at his elbow. What scares him worst is to
be right in the midst of a crowd, and have no guess of what they're
driving at. When that laugh stopped, I stopped too. The boys had
not yet made their offing, they were still on the full stretch
going the one way, when I had already gone about ship and was
sheering off the other. Like a fool I had come out, doing my five
knots; like a fool I went back again. It must have been the
funniest thing to see, and what knocked me silly, this time no one
laughed; only one old woman gave a kind of pious moan, the way you
have heard Dissenters in their chapels at the sermon.
"I never saw such fools of Kanakas as your people here," I said
once to Uma, glancing out of the window at the starers.
"Savvy nothing," says Uma, with a kind of disgusted air that she
was good at.
And that was all the talk we had upon the matter, for I was put
out, and Uma took the thing so much as a matter of course that I
was fairly ashamed.
All day, off and on, now fewer and now more, the fools sat about
the west end of my house and across the river, waiting for the
show, whatever that was - fire to come down from heaven, I suppose,
and consume me, bones and baggage. But by evening, like real
islanders, they had wearied of the business, and got away, and had
a dance instead in the big house of the village, where I heard them
singing and clapping hands till, maybe, ten at night, and the next
day it seemed they had forgotten I existed. If fire had come down
from heaven or the earth opened and swallowed me, there would have
been nobody to see the sport or take the lesson, or whatever you
like to call it. But I was to find they hadn't forgot either, and
kept an eye lifting for phenomena over my way.
I was hard at it both these days getting my trade in order and
taking stock of what Vigours had left. This was a job that made me
pretty sick, and kept me from thinking on much else. Ben had taken
stock the trip before - I knew I could trust Ben - but it was plain
somebody had been making free in the meantime. I found I was out
by what might easily cover six months' salary and profit, and I
could have kicked myself all round the village to have been such a
blamed ass, sitting boozing with that Case instead of attending to
my own affairs and taking stock.
However, there's no use crying over spilt milk. It was done now,
and couldn't be undone. All I could do was to get what was left of
it, and my new stuff (my own choice) in order, to go round and get
after the rats and cockroaches, and to fix up that store regular
Sydney style. A fine show I made of it; and the third morning when
I had lit my pipe and stood in the door-way and looked in, and
turned and looked far up the mountain and saw the cocoanuts waving
and posted up the tons of copra, and over the village green and saw
the island dandies and reckoned up the yards of print they wanted
for their kilts and dresses, I felt as if I was in the right place
to make a fortune, and go home again and start a public-house.
There was I, sitting in that verandah, in as handsome a piece of
scenery as you could find, a splendid sun, and a fine fresh healthy
trade that stirred up a man's blood like sea-bathing; and the whole
thing was clean gone from me, and I was dreaming England, which is,
after all, a nasty, cold, muddy hole, with not enough light to see
to read by; and dreaming the looks of my public, by a cant of a
broad high-road like an avenue, and with the sign on a green tree.
So much for the morning, but the day passed and the devil anyone
looked near me, and from all I knew of natives in other islands I
thought this strange. People laughed a little at our firm and
their fine stations, and at this station of Falesa in particular;
all the copra in the district wouldn't pay for it (I had heard them
say) in fifty years, which I supposed was an exaggeration. But
when the day went, and no business came at all, I began to get
downhearted; and, about three in the afternoon, I went out for a
stroll to cheer me up. On the green I saw a white man coming with
a cassock on, by which and by the face of him I knew he was a
priest. He was a good-natured old soul to look at, gone a little
grizzled, and so dirty you could have written with him on a piece
"Good day, sir," said I.
He answered me eagerly in native.
"Don't you speak any English?" said I.
"French," says he.
"Well," said I, "I'm sorry, but I can't do anything there."
He tried me awhile in the French, and then again in native, which
he seemed to think was the best chance. I made out he was after
more than passing the time of day with me, but had something to
communicate, and I listened the harder. I heard the names of Adams
and Case and of Randall - Randall the oftenest - and the word
"poison," or something like it, and a native word that he said very
often. I went home, repeating it to myself.
"What does fussy-ocky mean?" I asked of Uma, for that was as near
as I could come to it.
"Make dead," said she.
"The devil it does!" says I. "Did ever you hear that Case had
poisoned Johnnie Adams?"
"Every man he savvy that," says Uma, scornful-like. "Give him
white sand - bad sand. He got the bottle still. Suppose he give
you gin, you no take him."
Now I had heard much the same sort of story in other islands, and
the same white powder always to the front, which made me think the
less of it. For all that, I went over to Randall's place to see
what I could pick up, and found Case on the doorstep, cleaning a
"Good shooting here?" says I.
"A 1," says he. "The bush is full of all kinds of birds. I wish
copra was as plenty," says he - I thought, slyly - "but there don't
seem anything doing."
I could see Black Jack in the store, serving a customer.
"That looks like business, though," said I.
"That's the first sale we've made in three weeks," said he.
"You don't tell me?" says I. "Three weeks? Well, well."
"If you don't believe me," he cries, a little hot, "you can go and
look at the copra-house. It's half empty to this blessed hour."
"I shouldn't be much the better for that, you see," says I. "For
all I can tell, it might have been whole empty yesterday."
"That's so," says he, with a bit of a laugh.
"By-the-bye," I said, "what sort of a party is that priest? Seems
rather a friendly sort."
At this Case laughed right out loud. "Ah!" says he, "I see what
ails you now. Galuchet's been at you." - FATHER GALOSHES was the
name he went by most, but Case always gave it the French quirk,
which was another reason we had for thinking him above the common.
"Yes, I have seen him," I says. "I made out he didn't think much
of your Captain Randall."
"That he don't!" says Case. "It was the trouble about poor Adams.
The last day, when he lay dying, there was young Buncombe round.
Ever met Buncombe?"
I told him no.
"He's a cure, is Buncombe!" laughs Case. "Well, Buncombe took it
in his head that, as there was no other clergyman about, bar Kanaka
pastors, we ought to call in Father Galuchet, and have the old man
administered and take the sacrament. It was all the same to me,
you may suppose; but I said I thought Adams was the fellow to
consult. He was jawing away about watered copra and a sight of
foolery. 'Look here,' I said, 'you're pretty sick. Would you like
to see Goloshes?' He sat right up on his elbow. 'Get the priest,'
says he, 'get the priest; don't let me die here like a dog!' He
spoke kind of fierce and eager, but sensible enough. There was
nothing to say against that, so we sent and asked Galuchet if he
would come. You bet he would. He jumped in his dirty linen at the
thought of it. But we had reckoned without Papa. He's a hard-
shell Baptist, is Papa; no Papists need apply. And he took and
locked the door. Buncombe told him he was bigoted, and I thought
he would have had a fit. 'Bigoted!' he says. 'Me bigoted? Have I
lived to hear it from a jackanapes like you?' And he made for
Buncombe, and I had to hold them apart; and there was Adams in the
middle, gone luny again, and carrying on about copra like a born
fool. It was good as the play, and I was about knocked out of time
with laughing, when all of a sudden Adams sat up, clapped his hands
to his chest, and went into the horrors. He died hard, did John
Adams," says Case, with a kind of a sudden sternness.
"And what became of the priest?" I asked.
"The priest?" says Case. "O! he was hammering on the door outside,
and crying on the natives to come and beat it in, and singing out
it was a soul he wished to save, and that. He was in a rare
taking, was the priest. But what would you have? Johnny had
slipped his cable; no more Johnny in the market; and the
administration racket clean played out. Next thing, word came to
Randall the priest was praying upon Johnny's grave. Papa was
pretty full, and got a club, and lit out straight for the place,
and there was Galoshes on his knees, and a lot of natives looking
on. You wouldn't think Papa cared - that much about anything,
unless it was liquor; but he and the priest stuck to it two hours,
slanging each other in native, and every time Galoshes tried to
kneel down Papa went for him with the club. There never were such
larks in Falesa. The end of it was that Captain Randall knocked
over with some kind of a fit or stroke, and the priest got in his
goods after all. But he was the angriest priest you ever heard of,
and complained to the chiefs about the outrage, as he called it.
That was no account, for our chiefs are Protestant here; and,
anyway, he had been making trouble about the drum for morning
school, and they were glad to give him a wipe. Now he swears old
Randall gave Adams poison or something, and when the two meet they
grin at each other like baboons."
He told this story as natural as could be, and like a man that
enjoyed the fun; though, now I come to think of it after so long,
it seems rather a sickening yarn. However, Case never set up to be
soft, only to be square and hearty, and a man all round; and, to
tell the truth, he puzzled me entirely.
I went home and asked Uma if she were a Popey, which I had made out
to be the native word for Catholics.
"E LE AI!" says she. She always used the native when she meant
"no" more than usually strong, and, indeed, there's more of it.
"No good Popey," she added.
Then I asked her about Adams and the priest, and she told me much
the same yarn in her own way. So that I was left not much farther
on, but inclined, upon the whole, to think the bottom of the matter
was the row about the sacrament, and the poisoning only talk.
The next day was a Sunday, when there was no business to be looked
for. Uma asked me in the morning if I was going to "pray"; I told
her she bet not, and she stopped home herself with no more words.
I thought this seemed unlike a native, and a native woman, and a
woman that had new clothes to show off; however, it suited me to
the ground, and I made the less of it. The queer thing was that I
came next door to going to church after all, a thing I'm little
likely to forget. I had turned out for a stroll, and heard the
hymn tune up. You know how it is. If you hear folk singing, it
seems to draw you; and pretty soon I found myself alongside the
church. It was a little long low place, coral built, rounded off
at both ends like a whale-boat, a big native roof on the top of it,
windows without sashes and doorways without doors. I stuck my head
into one of the windows, and the sight was so new to me - for
things went quite different in the islands I was acquainted with -
that I stayed and looked on. The congregation sat on the floor on
mats, the women on one side, the men on the other, all rigged out
to kill - the women with dresses and trade hats, the men in white
jackets and shirts. The hymn was over; the pastor, a big buck
Kanaka, was in the pulpit, preaching for his life; and by the way
he wagged his hand, and worked his voice, and made his points, and
seemed to argue with the folk, I made out he was a gun at the
business. Well, he looked up suddenly and caught my eye, and I
give you my word he staggered in the pulpit; his eyes bulged out of
his head, his hand rose and pointed at me like as if against his
will, and the sermon stopped right there.
It isn't a fine thing to say for yourself, but I ran away; and if
the same kind of a shock was given me, I should run away again
tomorrow. To see that palavering Kanaka struck all of a heap at
the mere sight of me gave me a feeling as if the bottom had dropped
out of the world. I went right home, and stayed there, and said
nothing. You might think I would tell Uma, but that was against my
system. You might have thought I would have gone over and
consulted Case; but the truth was I was ashamed to speak of such a
thing, I thought everyone would blurt out laughing in my face. So
I held my tongue, and thought all the more; and the more I thought,
the less I liked the business.
By Monday night I got it clearly in my head I must be tabooed. A
new store to stand open two days in a village and not a man or
woman come to see the trade was past believing.
"Uma," said I, "I think I'm tabooed."
"I think so," said she.
I thought awhile whether I should ask her more, but it's a bad idea
to set natives up with any notion of consulting them, so I went to
Case. It was dark, and he was sitting alone, as he did mostly,
smoking on the stairs.
"Case," said I, "here's a queer thing. I'm tabooed."
"O, fudge!" says he; "'tain't the practice in these islands."
"That may be, or it mayn't," said I. "It's the practice where I
was before. You can bet I know what it's like; and I tell it you
for a fact, I'm tabooed."
"Well," said he, "what have you been doing?"
"That's what I want to find out," said I.
"O, you can't be," said he; "it ain't possible. However, I'll tell
you what I'll do. Just to put your mind at rest, I'll go round and
find out for sure. Just you waltz in and talk to Papa."
"Thank you," I said, "I'd rather stay right out here on the
verandah. Your house is so close."
"I'll call Papa out here, then," says he.
"My dear fellow," I says, "I wish you wouldn't. The fact is, I
don't take to Mr. Randall."
Case laughed, took a lantern from the store, and set out into the
village. He was gone perhaps a quarter of an hour, and he looked
mighty serious when he came back.
"Well," said he, clapping down the lantern on the verandah steps,
"I would never have believed it. I don't know where the impudence
of these Kanakas 'll go next; they seem to have lost all idea of
respect for whites. What we want is a man-of-war - a German, if we
could - they know how to manage Kanakas."
"I AM tabooed, then?" I cried.
"Something of the sort," said he. "It's the worst thing of the
kind I've heard of yet. But I'll stand by you, Wiltshire, man to
man. You come round here to-morrow about nine, and we'll have it
out with the chiefs. They're afraid of me, or they used to be; but
their heads are so big by now, I don't know what to think.
Understand me, Wiltshire; I don't count this your quarrel," he went
on, with a great deal of resolution, "I count it all of our
quarrel, I count it the White Man's Quarrel, and I'll stand to it
through thick and thin, and there's my hand on it."
"Have you found out what's the reason?" I asked.
"Not yet," said Case. "But we'll fix them down to-morrow."
Altogether I was pretty well pleased with his attitude, and almost
more the next day, when we met to go before the chiefs, to see him
so stern and resolved. The chiefs awaited us in one of their big
oval houses, which was marked out to us from a long way off by the
crowd about the eaves, a hundred strong if there was one - men,
women, and children. Many of the men were on their way to work and
wore green wreaths, and it put me in thoughts of the 1st of May at
home. This crowd opened and buzzed about the pair of us as we went
in, with a sudden angry animation. Five chiefs were there; four
mighty stately men, the fifth old and puckered. They sat on mats
in their white kilts and jackets; they had fans in their hands,
like fine ladies; and two of the younger ones wore Catholic medals,
which gave me matter of reflection. Our place was set, and the
mats laid for us over against these grandees, on the near side of
the house; the midst was empty; the crowd, close at our backs,
murmured and craned and jostled to look on, and the shadows of them
tossed in front of us on the clean pebbles of the floor. I was
just a hair put out by the excitement of the commons, but the quiet
civil appearance of the chiefs reassured me, all the more when
their spokesman began and made a long speech in a low tone of
voice, sometimes waving his hand towards Case, sometimes toward me,
and sometimes knocking with his knuckles on the mat. One thing was
clear: there was no sign of anger in the chiefs.
"What's he been saying?" I asked, when he had done.
"O, just that they're glad to see you, and they understand by me
you wish to make some kind of complaint, and you're to fire away,
and they'll do the square thing."
"It took a precious long time to say that," said I.
"O, the rest was sawder and BONJOUR and that," said Case. "You
know what Kanakas are."
"Well, they don't get much BONJOUR out of me," said I. "You tell
them who I am. I'm a white man, and a British subject, and no end
of a big chief at home; and I've come here to do them good, and
bring them civilisation; and no sooner have I got my trade sorted
out than they go and taboo me, and no one dare come near my place!
Tell them I don't mean to fly in the face of anything legal; and if
what they want's a present, I'll do what's fair. I don't blame any
man looking out for himself, tell them, for that's human nature;
but if they think they're going to come any of their native ideas
over me, they'll find themselves mistaken. And tell them plain
that I demand the reason of this treatment as a white man and a
That was my speech. I know how to deal with Kanakas: give them
plain sense and fair dealing, and - I'll do them that much justice
- they knuckle under every time. They haven't any real government
or any real law, that's what you've got to knock into their heads;
and even if they had, it would be a good joke if it was to apply to
a white man. It would be a strange thing if we came all this way
and couldn't do what we pleased. The mere idea has always put my
monkey up, and I rapped my speech out pretty big. Then Case
translated it - or made believe to, rather - and the first chief
replied, and then a second, and a third, all in the same style,
easy and genteel, but solemn underneath. Once a question was put
to Case, and he answered it, and all hands (both chiefs and
commons) laughed out aloud, and looked at me. Last of all, the
puckered old fellow and the big young chief that spoke first
started in to put Case through a kind of catechism. Sometimes I
made out that Case was trying to fence, and they stuck to him like
hounds, and the sweat ran down his face, which was no very pleasant
sight to me, and at some of his answers the crowd moaned and
murmured, which was a worse hearing. It's a cruel shame I knew no
native, for (as I now believe) they were asking Case about my
marriage, and he must have had a tough job of it to clear his feet.
But leave Case alone; he had the brains to ran a parliament.
"Well, is that all?" I asked, when a pause came.
"Come along," says he, mopping his face; "I'll tell you outside."
"Do you mean they won't take the taboo off?" I cried.
"It's something queer," said he. "I'll tell you outside. Better
"I won't take it at their hands," cried I. "I ain't that kind of a
man. You don't find me turn my back on a parcel of Kanakas."
"You'd better," said Case.
He looked at me with a signal in his eye; and the five chiefs
looked at me civilly enough, but kind of pointed; and the people
looked at me and craned and jostled. I remembered the folks that
watched my house, and how the pastor had jumped in his pulpit at
the bare sight of me; and the whole business seemed so out of the
way that I rose and followed Case. The crowd opened again to let
us through, but wider than before, the children on the skirts
running and singing out, and as we two white men walked away they
all stood and watched us.
"And now," said I, "what is all this about?"
"The truth is I can't rightly make it out myself. They have a down
on you," says Case.
"Taboo a man because they have a down on him!" I cried. "I never
heard the like."
"It's worse than that, you see," said Case. "You ain't tabooed - I
told you that couldn't be. The people won't go near you,
Wiltshire, and there's where it is."
"They won't go near me? What do you mean by that? Why won't they
go near me?" I cried.
Case hesitated. "Seems they're frightened," says he, in a low,
I stopped dead short. "Frightened?" I repeated. "Are you gone
crazy, Case? What are they frightened of?"
"I wish I could make out," Case answered, shaking his head.
"Appears like one of their tomfool superstitions. That's what I
don't cotton to," he said. "It's like the business about Vigours."
"I'd like to know what you mean by that, and I'll trouble you to
tell me," says I.
"Well, you know, Vigours lit out and left all standing," said he.
"It was some superstition business - I never got the hang of it but
it began to look bad before the end."
"I've heard a different story about that," said I, "and I had
better tell you so. I heard he ran away because of you."
"O! well, I suppose he was ashamed to tell the truth," says Case;
"I guess he thought it silly. And it's a fact that I packed him
off. 'What would you do, old man?' says he. 'Get,' says I, 'and
not think twice about it.' I was the gladdest kind of man to see
him clear away. It ain't my notion to turn my back on a mate when
he's in a tight place, but there was that much trouble in the
village that I couldn't see where it might likely end. I was a
fool to be so much about with Vigours. They cast it up to me to-
day. Didn't you hear Maea - that's the young chief, the big one -
ripping out about 'Vika'? That was him they were after. They
don't seem to forget it, somehow."
"This is all very well," said I, "but it don't tell me what's
wrong; it don't tell me what they're afraid of - what their idea
"Well, I wish I knew," said Case. "I can't say fairer than that."
"You might have asked, I think," says I.
"And so I did," says he. "But you must have seen for yourself,
unless you're blind, that the asking got the other way. I'll go as
far as I dare for another white man; but when I find I'm in the
scrape myself, I think first of my own bacon. The loss of me is
I'm too good-natured. And I'll take the freedom of telling you you
show a queer kind of gratitude to a man who's got into all this
mess along of your affairs."
"There's a thing I am thinking of," said I. "You were a fool to be
so much about with Vigours. One comfort, you haven't been much
about with me. I notice you've never been inside my house. Own up
now; you had word of this before?"
"It's a fact I haven't been," said he. "It was an oversight, and I
am sorry for it, Wiltshire. But about coming now, I'll be quite
"You mean you won't?" I asked.
"Awfully sorry, old man, but that's the size of it," says Case.
"In short, you're afraid?" says I.
"In short, I'm afraid," says he.
"And I'm still to be tabooed for nothing?" I asked
"I tell you you're not tabooed," said he. "The Kanakas won't go
near you, that's all. And who's to make 'em? We traders have a
lot of gall, I must say; we make these poor Kanakas take back their
laws, and take up their taboos, and that, whenever it happens to
suit us. But you don't mean to say you expect a law obliging
people to deal in your store whether they want to or not? You
don't mean to tell me you've got the gall for that? And if you
had, it would be a queer thing to propose to me. I would just like
to point out to you, Wiltshire, that I'm a trader myself."
"I don't think I would talk of gall if I was you," said I. "Here's
about what it comes to, as well as I can make out: None of the
people are to trade with me, and they're all to trade with you.
You're to have the copra, and I'm to go to the devil and shake
myself. And I don't know any native, and you're the only man here
worth mention that speaks English, and you have the gall to up and
hint to me my life's in danger, and all you've got to tell me is
you don't know why!"
"Well, it IS all I have to tell you," said he. "I don't know - I
wish I did."
"And so you turn your back and leave me to myself! Is that the
position?" says I.
"If you like to put it nasty," says he. "I don't put it so. I say
merely, 'I'm going to keep clear of you; or, if I don't, I'll get
in danger for myself.' "
"Well," says I, "you're a nice kind of a white man!"
"O, I understand; you're riled," said he. "I would be myself. I
can make excuses."
"All right," I said, "go and make excuses somewhere else. Here's
my way, there's yours!"
With that we parted, and I went straight home, in a hot temper, and
found Uma trying on a lot of trade goods like a baby.
"Here," I said, "you quit that foolery! Here's a pretty mess to
have made, as if I wasn't bothered enough anyway! And I thought I
told you to get dinner!"
And then I believe I gave her a bit of the rough side of my tongue,
as she deserved. She stood up at once, like a sentry to his
officer; for I must say she was always well brought up, and had a
great respect for whites.
"And now," says I, "you belong round here, you're bound to
understand this. What am I tabooed for, anyway? Or, if I ain't
tabooed, what makes the folks afraid of me?"
She stood and looked at me with eyes like saucers.
"You no savvy?" she gasps at last.
"No," said I. "How would you expect me to? We don't have any such
craziness where I come from."
"Ese no tell you?" she asked again.
(ESE was the name the natives had for Case; it may mean foreign, or
extraordinary; or it might mean a mummy apple; but most like it was
only his own name misheard and put in a Kanaka spelling.)
"Not much," said I.
"D-n Ese!" she cried.
You might think it funny to hear this Kanaka girl come out with a
big swear. No such thing. There was no swearing in her - no, nor
anger; she was beyond anger, and meant the word simple and serious.
She stood there straight as she said it. I cannot justly say that
I ever saw a woman look like that before or after, and it struck me
mum. Then she made a kind of an obeisance, but it was the proudest
kind, and threw her hands out open.
"I 'shamed," she said. "I think you savvy. Ese he tell me you
savvy, he tell me you no mind, tell me you love me too much. Taboo
belong me," she said, touching herself on the bosom, as she had
done upon our wedding-night. "Now I go 'way, taboo he go 'way too.
Then you get too much copra. You like more better, I think. TOFA,
ALII," says she in the native - "Farewell, chief!"
"Hold on!" I cried. "Don't be in such a hurry."
She looked at me sidelong with a smile. "You see, you get copra,"
she said, the same as you might offer candies to a child.
"Uma," said I, "hear reason. I didn't know, and that's a fact; and
Case seems to have played it pretty mean upon the pair of us. But
I do know now, and I don't mind; I love you too much. You no go
'way, you no leave me, I too much sorry."
"You no love, me," she cried, "you talk me bad words!" And she
threw herself in a corner of the floor, and began to cry.
Well, I'm no scholar, but I wasn't born yesterday, and I thought
the worst of that trouble was over. However, there she lay - her
back turned, her face to the wall - and shook with sobbing like a
little child, so that her feet jumped with it. It's strange how it
hits a man when he's in love; for there's no use mincing things -
Kanaka and all, I was in love with her, or just as good. I tried
to take her hand, but she would none of that. "Uma," I said,
"there's no sense in carrying on like this. I want you stop here,
I want my little wifie, I tell you true."
"No tell me true," she sobbed.
"All right," says I, "I'll wait till you're through with this."
And I sat right down beside her on the floor, and set to smooth her
hair with my hand. At first she wriggled away when I touched her;
then she seemed to notice me no more; then her sobs grew gradually
less, and presently stopped; and the next thing I knew, she raised
her face to mime.
"You tell me true? You like me stop?" she asked.
"Uma," I said, "I would rather have you than all the copra in the
South Seas," which was a very big expression, and the strangest
thing was that I meant it.
She threw her arms about me, sprang close up, and pressed her face
to mine in the island way of kissing, so that I was all wetted with
her tears, and my heart went out to her wholly. I never had
anything so near me as this little brown bit of a girl. Many
things went together, and all helped to turn my head. She was
pretty enough to eat; it seemed she was my only friend in that
queer place; I was ashamed that I had spoken rough to her: and she
was a woman, and my wife, and a kind of a baby besides that I was
sorry for; and the salt of her tears was in my mouth. And I forgot
Case and the natives; and I forgot that I knew nothing of the
story, or only remembered it to banish the remembrance; and I
forgot that I was to get no copra, and so could make no livelihood;
and I forgot my employers, and the strange kind of service I was
doing them, when I preferred my fancy to their business; and I
forgot even that Uma was no true wife of mine, but just a maid
beguiled, and that in a pretty shabby style. But that is to look
too far on. I will come to that part of it next.
It was late before we thought of getting dinner. The stove was
out, and gone stone-cold; but we fired up after a while, and cooked
each a dish, helping and hindering each other, and making a play of
it like children. I was so greedy of her nearness that I sat down
to dinner with my lass upon my knee, made sure of her with one
hand, and ate with the other. Ay, and more than that. She was the
worst cook I suppose God made; the things she set her hand to it
would have sickened an honest horse to eat of; yet I made my meal
that day on Uma's cookery, and can never call to mind to have been
I didn't pretend to myself, and I didn't pretend to her. I saw I
was clean gone; and if she was to make a fool of me, she must. And
I suppose it was this that set her talking, for now she made sure
that we were friends. A lot she told me, sitting in my lap and
eating my dish, as I ate hers, from foolery - a lot about herself
and her mother and Case, all which would be very tedious, and fill
sheets if I set it down in Beach de Mar, but which I must give a
hint of in plain English, and one thing about myself which had a
very big effect on my concerns, as you are soon to hear.
It seems she was born in one of the Line Islands; had been only two
or three years in these parts, where she had come with a white man,
who was married to her mother and then died; and only the one year
in Falesa. Before that they had been a good deal on the move,
trekking about after the white man, who was one of those rolling
stones that keep going round after a soft job. They talk about
looking for gold at the end of a rainbow; but if a man wants an
employment that'll last him till he dies, let him start out on the
soft-job hunt. There's meat and drink in it too, and beer and
skittles, for you never hear of them starving, and rarely see them
sober; and as for steady sport, cock-fighting isn't in the same
county with it. Anyway, this beachcomber carried the woman and her
daughter all over the shop, but mostly to out-of-the-way islands,
where there were no police, and he thought, perhaps, the soft job
hung out. I've my own view of this old party; but I was just as
glad he had kept Uma clear of Apia and Papeete and these flash
towns. At last he struck Fale-alii on this island, got some trade
- the Lord knows how! - muddled it all away in the usual style, and
died worth next to nothing, bar a bit of land at Falesa that he had
got for a bad debt, which was what put it in the minds of the
mother and daughter to come there and live. It seems Case
encouraged them all he could, and helped to get their house built.
He was very kind those days, and gave Uma trade, and there is no
doubt he had his eye on her from the beginning. However, they had
scarce settled, when up turned a young man, a native, and wanted to
marry her. He was a small chief, and had some fine mats and old
songs in his family, and was "very pretty," Uma said; and,
altogether, it was an extra-ordinary match for a penniless girl and
At the first word of this I got downright sick with jealousy.
"And you mean to say you would have married him?" I cried.
"IOE, yes," said she. "I like too much!"
"Well!" I said. "And suppose I had come round after?"
"I like you more better now," said she. "But, suppose I marry
Ioane, I one good wife. I no common Kanaka. Good girl!" says she.
Well, I had to be pleased with that; but I promise you I didn't
care about the business one little bit. And I liked the end of
that yarn no better than the beginning. For it seems this proposal
of marriage was the start of all the trouble. It seems, before
that, Uma and her mother had been looked down upon, of course, for
kinless folk and out-islanders, but nothing to hurt; and, even when
Ioane came forward, there was less trouble at first than might have
been looked for. And then, all of a sudden, about six months
before my coming, Ioane backed out and left that part of the
island, and from that day to this Uma and her mother had found
themselves alone. None called at their house, none spoke to them
on the roads. If they went to church, the other women drew their
mats away and left them in a clear place by themselves. It was a
regular excommunication, like what you read of in the Middle Ages;
and the cause or sense of it beyond guessing. It was some TALA
PEPELO, Uma said, some lie, some calumny; and all she knew of it
was that the girls who had been jealous of her luck with Ioane used
to twit her with his desertion, and cry out, when they met her
alone in the woods, that she would never be married. "They tell me
no man he marry me. He too much 'fraid," she said.
The only soul that came about them after this desertion was Master
Case. Even he was chary of showing himself, and turned up mostly
by night; and pretty soon he began to table his cards and make up
to Uma. I was still sore about Ioane, and when Case turned up in
the same line of business I cut up downright rough.
"Well," I said, sneering, "and I suppose you thought Case 'very
pretty' and 'liked too much'?"
"Now you talk silly," said she. "White man, he come here, I marry
him all-e-same Kanaka; very well then, he marry me all-e-same white
woman. Suppose he no marry, he go 'way, woman he stop. All-e-same
thief, empty hand, Tonga-heart - no can love! Now you come marry
me. You big heart - you no 'shamed island-girl. That thing I love
you for too much. I proud."
I don't know that ever I felt sicker all the days of my life. I
laid down my fork, and I put away "the island-girl"; I didn't seem
somehow to have any use for either, and I went and walked up and
down in the house, and Uma followed me with her eyes, for she was
troubled, and small wonder! But troubled was no word for it with
me. I so wanted, and so feared, to make a clean breast of the
sweep that I had been.
And just then there came a sound of singing out of the sea; it
sprang up suddenly clear and near, as the boat turned the headland,
and Uma, running to the window, cried out it was "Misi" come upon
I thought it was a strange thing I should be glad to have a
missionary; but, if it was strange, it was still true.
"Uma," said I, "you stop here in this room, and don't budge a foot
out of it till I come back."
CHAPTER III. THE MISSIONARY.
AS I came out on the verandah, the mission-boat was shooting for
the mouth of the river. She was a long whale-boat painted white; a
bit of an awning astern; a native pastor crouched on the wedge of
the poop, steering; some four-and-twenty paddles flashing and
dipping, true to the boat-song; and the missionary under the
awning, in his white clothes, reading in a book, and set him up!
It was pretty to see and hear; there's no smarter sight in the
islands than a missionary boat with a good crew and a good pipe to
them; and I considered it for half a minute, with a bit of envy
perhaps, and then strolled down towards the river.
From the opposite side there was another man aiming for the same
place, but he ran and got there first. It was Case; doubtless his
idea was to keep me apart from the missionary, who might serve me
as interpreter; but my mind was upon other things. I was thinking
how he had jockeyed us about the marriage, and tried his hand on
Uma before; and at the sight of him rage flew into my nostrils.
"Get out of that, you low, swindling thief!" I cried.
"What's that you say?" says he.
I gave him the word again, and rammed it down with a good oath.
"And if ever I catch you within six fathoms of my house," I cried,
"I'll clap a bullet in your measly carcase."
"You must do as you like about your house," said he, "where I told
you I have no thought of going; but this is a public place."
"It's a place where I have private business," said I. "I have no
idea of a hound like you eavesdropping, and I give you notice to
"I don't take it, though," says Case.
"I'll show you, then," said I.
"We'll have to see about that," said he.
He was quick with his hands, but he had neither the height nor the
weight, being a flimsy creature alongside a man like me, and,
besides, I was blazing to that height of wrath that I could have
bit into a chisel. I gave him first the one and then the other, so
that I could hear his head rattle and crack, and he went down
"Have you had enough?" cried I. But he only looked up white and
blank, and the blood spread upon his face like wine upon a napkin.
"Have you had enough?" I cried again. "Speak up, and don't lie
malingering there, or I'll take my feet to you."
He sat up at that, and held his head - by the look of him you could
see it was spinning - and the blood poured on his pyjamas.
"I've had enough for this time," says he, and he got up staggering,
and went off by the way that he had come.
The boat was close in; I saw the missionary had laid his book to
one side, and I smiled to myself. "He'll know I'm a man, anyway,"
This was the first time, in all my years in the Pacific, I had ever
exchanged two words with any missionary, let alone asked one for a
favour. I didn't like the lot, no trader does; they look down upon
us, and make no concealment; and, besides, they're partly
Kanakaised, and suck up with natives instead of with other white
men like themselves. I had on a rig of clean striped pyjamas -
for, of course, I had dressed decent to go before the chiefs; but
when I saw the missionary step out of this boat in the regular
uniform, white duck clothes, pith helmet, white shirt and tie, and
yellow boots to his feet, I could have bunged stones at him. As he
came nearer, queering me pretty curious (because of the fight, I
suppose), I saw he looked mortal sick, for the truth was he had a
fever on, and had just had a chill in the boat.
"Mr. Tarleton, I believe?" says I, for I had got his name.
"And you, I suppose, are the new trader?" says he.
"I want to tell you first that I don't hold with missions," I went
on, "and that I think you and the likes of you do a sight of harm,
filling up the natives with old wives' tales and bumptiousness."
"You are perfectly entitled to your opinions," says he, looking a
bit ugly, "but I have no call to hear them."
"It so happens that you've got to hear them," I said. "I'm no
missionary, nor missionary lover; I'm no Kanaka, nor favourer of
Kanakas - I'm just a trader; I'm just a common, low-down, God-
damned white man and British subject, the sort you would like to
wipe your boots on. I hope that's plain!"
"Yes, my man," said he. "It's more plain than creditable. When
you are sober, you'll be sorry for this."
He tried to pass on, but I stopped him with my hand. The Kanakas
were beginning to growl. Guess they didn't like my tone, for I
spoke to that man as free as I would to you.
"Now, you can't say I've deceived you," said I, "and I can go on.
I want a service - I want two services, in fact; and, if you care
to give me them, I'll perhaps take more stock in what you call your
He was silent for a moment. Then he smiled. "You are rather a
strange sort of man," says he.
"I'm the sort of man God made me," says I. "I don't set up to be a
gentleman," I said.
"I am not quite so sure," said he. "And what can I do for you, Mr.
"Wiltshire," I says, "though I'm mostly called Welsher; but
Wiltshire is the way it's spelt, if the people on the beach could
only get their tongues about it. And what do I want? Well, I'll
tell you the first thing. I'm what you call a sinner - what I call
a sweep - and I want you to help me make it up to a person I've
He turned and spoke to his crew in the native. "And now I am at
your service," said he, "but only for the time my crew are dining.
I must be much farther down the coast before night. I was delayed
at Papa-Malulu till this morning, and I have an engagement in Fale-
alii to-morrow night."
I led the way to my house in silence, and rather pleased with
myself for the way I had managed the talk, for I like a man to keep
"I was sorry to see you fighting," says he.
"O, that's part of the yarn I want to tell you," I said. "That's
service number two. After you've heard it you'll let me know
whether you're sorry or not."
We walked right in through the store, and I was surprised to find
Uma had cleared away the dinner things. This was so unlike her
ways that I saw she had done it out of gratitude, and liked her the
better. She and Mr. Tarleton called each other by name, and he was
very civil to her seemingly. But I thought little of that; they
can always find civility for a Kanaka, it's us white men they lord
it over. Besides, I didn't want much Tarleton just them. I was
going to do my pitch.
"Uma," said I, "give us your marriage certificate." She looked put
out. "Come," said I, "you can trust me. Hand it up."
She had it about her person, as usual; I believe she thought it was
a pass to heaven, and if she died without having it handy she would
go to hell. I couldn't see where she put it the first time, I
couldn't see now where she took it from; it seemed to jump into her
hand like that Blavatsky business in the papers. But it's the same
way with all island women, and I guess they're taught it when
"Now," said I, with the certificate in my hand, "I was married to
this girl by Black Jack the negro. The certificate was wrote by
Case, and it's a dandy piece of literature, I promise you. Since
then I've found that there's a kind of cry in the place against
this wife of mine, and so long as I keep her I cannot trade. Now,
what would any man do in my place, if he was a man?" I said. "The
first thing he would do is this, I guess." And I took and tore up
the certificate and bunged the pieces on the floor.
"AUE!" (2) cried Uma, and began to clap her hands; but I caught one
of them in mine.
"And the second thing that he would do," said I, "if he was what I
would call a man and you would call a man, Mr. Tarleton, is to
bring the girl right before you or any other missionary, and to up
and say: 'I was wrong married to this wife of mine, but I think a
heap of her, and now I want to be married to her right.' Fire
away, Mr. Tarleton. And I guess you'd better do it in native;
it'll please the old lady," I said, giving her the proper name of a
man's wife upon the spot.
So we had in two of the crew for to witness, and were spliced in
our own house; and the parson prayed a good bit, I must say - but
not so long as some - and shook hands with the pair of us.
"Mr. Wiltshire," he says, when he had made out the lines and packed
off the witnesses, "I have to thank you for a very lively pleasure.
I have rarely performed the marriage ceremony with more grateful
That was what you would call talking. He was going on, besides,
with more of it, and I was ready for as much taffy as he had in
stock, for I felt good. But Uma had been taken up with something
half through the marriage, and cut straight in.
"How your hand he get hurt?" she asked.
"You ask Case's head, old lady," says I.
She jumped with joy, and sang out.
"You haven't made much of a Christian of this one," says I to Mr.
"We didn't think her one of our worst," says he, "when she was at
Fale-alii; and if Uma bears malice I shall be tempted to fancy she
has good cause."
"Well, there we are at service number two," said I. "I want to
tell you our yarn, and see if you can let a little daylight in."
"Is it long?" he asked.
"Yes," I cried; "it's a goodish bit of a yarn!"
"Well, I'll give you all the time I can spare," says he, looking at
his watch. "But I must tell you fairly, I haven't eaten since five
this morning, and, unless you can let me have something I am not
likely to eat again before seven or eight to-night."
"By God, we'll give you dinner!" I cried.
I was a little caught up at my swearing, just when all was going
straight; and so was the missionary, I suppose, but he made believe
to look out of the window, and thanked us.
So we ran him up a bit of a meal. I was bound to let the old lady
have a hand in it, to show off, so I deputised her to brew the tea.
I don't think I ever met such tea as she turned out. But that was
not the worst, for she got round with the salt-box, which she
considered an extra European touch, and turned my stew into sea-
water. Altogether, Mr. Tarleton had a devil of a dinner of it; but
he had plenty entertainment by the way, for all the while that we
were cooking, and afterwards, when he was making believe to eat, I
kept posting him up on Master Case and the beach of Falesa, and he
putting questions that showed he was following close.
"Well," said he at last, "I am afraid you have a dangerous enemy.
This man Case is very clever and seems really wicked. I must tell
you I have had my eye on him for nearly a year, and have rather had
the worst of our encounters. About the time when the last
representative of your firm ran so suddenly away, I had a letter
from Namu, the native pastor, begging me to come to Falesa at my
earliest convenience, as his flock were all 'adopting Catholic
practices.' I had great confidence in Namu; I fear it only shows
how easily we are deceived. No one could hear him preach and not
be persuaded he was a man of extraordinary parts. All our
islanders easily acquire a kind of eloquence, and can roll out and
illustrate, with a great deal of vigour and fancy, second-hand
sermons; but Namu's sermons are his own, and I cannot deny that I
have found them means of grace. Moreover, he has a keen curiosity
in secular things, does not fear work, is clever at carpentering,
and has made himself so much respected among the neighbouring
pastors that we call him, in a jest which is half serious, the
Bishop of the East. In short, I was proud of the man; all the more
puzzled by his letter, and took an occasion to come this way. The
morning before my arrival, Vigours had been sent on board the LION,
and Namu was perfectly at his ease, apparently ashamed of his
letter, and quite unwilling to explain it. This, of course, I
could not allow, and he ended by confessing that he had been much
concerned to find his people using the sign of the cross, but since
he had learned the explanation his mind was satisfied. For Vigours
had the Evil Eye, a common thing in a country of Europe called
Italy, where men were often struck dead by that kind of devil, and
it appeared the sign of the cross was a charm against its power.
"'And I explain it, Misi,' said Namu, 'in this way: The country in
Europe is a Popey country, and the devil of the Evil Eye may be a
Catholic devil, or, at least, used to Catholic ways. So then I
reasoned thus: if this sign of the cross were used in a Popey
manner it would be sinful, but when it is used only to protect men
from a devil, which is a thing harmless in itself, the sign too
must be, as a bottle is neither good nor bad, harmless. For the
sign is neither good nor bad. But if the bottle be full of gin,
the gin is bad; and if the sign be made in idolatry bad, so is the
idolatry.' And, very like a native pastor, he had a text apposite
about the casting out of devils.
"'And who has been telling you about the Evil Eye?' I asked.
"He admitted it was Case. Now, I am afraid you will think me very
narrow, Mr. Wiltshire, but I must tell you I was displeased, and
cannot think a trader at all a good man to advise or have an
influence upon my pastors. And, besides, there had been some
flying talk in the country of old Adams and his being poisoned, to
which I had paid no great heed; but it came back to me at the
"'And is this Case a man of a sanctified life?' I asked.
"He admitted he was not; for, though he did not drink, he was
profligate with women, and had no religion.
" 'Then,' said I, 'I think the less you have to do with him the
"But it is not easy to have the last word with a man like Namu. He
was ready in a moment with an illustration. 'Misi,' said he, 'you
have told me there were wise men, not pastors, not even holy, who
knew many things useful to be taught - about trees for instance,
and beasts, and to print books, and about the stones that are
burned to make knives of. Such men teach you in your college, and
you learn from them, but take care not to learn to be unholy.
Misi, Case is my college.'
"I knew not what to say. Mr. Vigours had evidently been driven out
of Falesa by the machinations of Case and with something not very
unlike the collusion of my pastor. I called to mind it was Namu
who had reassured me about Adams and traced the rumour to the ill-
will of the priest. And I saw I must inform myself more thoroughly
from an impartial source. There is an old rascal of a chief here,
Faiaso, whom I dare say you saw to-day at the council; he has been
all his life turbulent and sly, a great fomenter of rebellions, and
a thorn in the side of the mission and the island. For all that he
is very shrewd, and, except in politics or about his own
misdemeanours, a teller of the truth. I went to his house, told
him what I had heard, and besought him to be frank. I do not think
I had ever a more painful interview. Perhaps you will understand
me, Mr. Wiltshire, if I tell you that I am perfectly serious in
these old wives' tales with which you reproached me, and as anxious
to do well for these islands as you can be to please and to protect
your pretty wife. And you are to remember that I thought Namu a
paragon, and was proud of the man as one of the first ripe fruits
of the mission. And now I was informed that he had fallen in a
sort of dependence upon Case. The beginning of it was not corrupt;
it began, doubtless, in fear and respect, produced by trickery and
pretence; but I was shocked to find that another element had been
lately added, that Namu helped himself in the store, and was
believed to be deep in Case's debt. Whatever the trader said, that
Namu believed with trembling. He was not alone in this; many in
the village lived in a similar subjection; but Namu's case was the
most influential, it was through Namu Case had wrought most evil;
and with a certain following among the chiefs, and the pastor in
his pocket, the man was as good as master of the village. You know
something of Vigours and Adams, but perhaps you have never heard of
old Underhill, Adams' predecessor. He was a quiet, mild old
fellow, I remember, and we were told he had died suddenly: white
men die very suddenly in Falesa. The truth, as I now heard it,
made my blood run cold. It seems he was struck with a general
palsy, all of him dead but one eye, which he continually winked.
Word was started that the helpless old man was now a devil, and
this vile fellow Case worked upon the natives' fears, which he
professed to share, and pretended he durst not go into the house
alone. At last a grave was dug, and the living body buried at the
far end of the village. Namu, my pastor, whom I had helped to
educate, offered up a prayer at the hateful scene.
"I felt myself in a very difficult position. Perhaps it was my
duty to have denounced Namu and had him deposed. Perhaps I think
so now, but at the time it seemed less clear. He had a great
influence, it might prove greater than mine. The natives are prone
to superstition; perhaps by stirring them up I might but ingrain
and spread these dangerous fancies. And Namu besides, apart from
this novel and accursed influence, was a good pastor, an able man,
and spiritually minded. Where should I look for a better? How was
I to find as good? At that moment, with Namu's failure fresh in my
view, the work of my life appeared a mockery; hope was dead in me.
I would rather repair such tools as I had than go abroad in quest
of others that must certainly prove worse; and a scandal is, at the
best, a thing to be avoided when humanly possible. Right or wrong,
then, I determined on a quiet course. All that night I denounced
and reasoned with the erring pastor, twitted him with his ignorance
and want of faith, twitted him with his wretched attitude, making
clean the outside of the cup and platter, callously helping at a
murder, childishly flying in excitement about a few childish,
unnecessary, and inconvenient gestures; and long before day I had
him on his knees and bathed in the tears of what seemed a genuine
repentance. On Sunday I took the pulpit in the morning, and
preached from First Kings, nineteenth, on the fire, the earthquake,
and the voice, distinguishing the true spiritual power, and
referring with such plainness as I dared to recent events in
Falesa. The effect produced was great, and it was much increased
when Namu rose in his turn and confessed that he had been wanting
in faith and conduct, and was convinced of sin. So far, then, all
was well; but there was one unfortunate circumstance. It was
nearing the time of our 'May' in the island, when the native
contributions to the missions are received; it fell in my duty to
make a notification on the subject, and this gave my enemy his
chance, by which he was not slow to profit.
"News of the whole proceedings must have been carried to Case as
soon as church was over, and the same afternoon he made an occasion
to meet me in the midst of the village. He came up with so much
intentness and animosity that I felt it would be damaging to avoid
"'So,' says he, in native, 'here is the holy man. He has been
preaching against me, but that was not in his heart. He has been
preaching upon the love of God; but that was not in his heart, it
was between his teeth. Will you know what was in his heart?' -
cries he. 'I will show it you!' And, making a snatch at my head,
he made believe to pluck out a dollar, and held it in the air.
"There went that rumour through the crowd with which Polynesians
receive a prodigy. As for myself, I stood amazed. The thing was a
common conjuring trick which I have seen performed at home a score
of times; but how was I to convince the villagers of that? I
wished I had learned legerdemain instead of Hebrew, that I might
have paid the fellow out with his own coin. But there I was; I
could not stand there silent, and the best I could find to say was
"'I will trouble you not to lay hands on me again,' said I.
"'I have no such thought,' said he, 'nor will I deprive you of your
dollar. Here it is,' he said, and flung it at my feet. I am told
it lay where it fell three days."
"I must say it was well played, said I.
"O! he is clever," said Mr. Tarleton, "and you can now see for
yourself how dangerous. He was a party to the horrid death of the
paralytic; he is accused of poisoning Adams; he drove Vigours out
of the place by lies that might have led to murder; and there is no
question but he has now made up his mind to rid himself of you.
How he means to try we have no guess; only be sure, it's something
new. There is no end to his readiness and invention."
"He gives himself a sight of trouble," says I. "And after all,
"Why, how many tons of copra may they make in this district?" asked
"I daresay as much as sixty tons," says I.
"And what is the profit to the local trader?" he asked.
"You may call it, three pounds," said I.
"Then you can reckon for yourself how much he does it for," said
Mr. Tarleton. "But the more important thing is to defeat him. It
is clear he spread some report against Uma, in order to isolate and
have his wicked will of her. Failing of that, and seeing a new
rival come upon the scene, he used her in a different way. Now,
the first point to find out is about Namu. Uma, when people began
to leave you and your mother alone, what did Namu do?"
"Stop away all-e-same," says Uma.
"I fear the dog has returned to his vomit," said Mr. Tarleton.
"And now what am I to do for you? I will speak to Namu, I will
warn him he is observed; it will be strange if he allow anything to
go on amiss when he is put upon his guard. At the same time, this
precaution may fail, and then you must turn elsewhere. You have
two people at hand to whom you might apply. There is, first of
all, the priest, who might protect you by the Catholic interest;
they are a wretchedly small body, but they count two chiefs. And
then there is old Faiaso. Ah! if it had been some years ago you
would have needed no one else; but his influence is much reduced,
it has gone into Maea's hands, and Maea, I fear, is one of Case's
jackals. In fine, if the worst comes to the worst, you must send
up or come yourself to Fale-alii, and, though I am not due at this
end of the island for a month, I will just see what can be done."
So Mr. Tarleton said farewell; and half an hour later the crew were
singing and the paddles flashing in the missionary-boat.
CHAPTER IV. DEVIL-WORK.
NEAR a month went by without much doing. The same night of our
marriage Galoshes called round, and made himself mighty civil, and
got into a habit of dropping in about dark and smoking his pipe
with the family. He could talk to Uma, of course, and started to
teach me native and French at the same time. He was a kind old
buffer, though the dirtiest you would wish to see, and he muddled
me up with foreign languages worse than the tower of Babel.
That was one employment we had, and it made me feel less lonesome;
but there was no profit in the thing, for though the priest came
and sat and yarned, none of his folks could be enticed into my
store; and if it hadn't been for the other occupation I struck out,
there wouldn't have been a pound of copra in the house. This was
the idea: Fa'avao (Uma's mother) had a score of bearing trees. Of
course we could get no labour, being all as good as tabooed, and
the two women and I turned to and made copra with our own hands.
It was copra to make your mouth water when it was done - I never
understood how much the natives cheated me till I had made that
four hundred pounds of my own hand - and it weighed so light I felt
inclined to take and water it myself.
When we were at the job a good many Kanakas used to put in the best
of the day looking on, and once that nigger turned up. He stood
back with the natives and laughed and did the big don and the funny
dog, till I began to get riled.
"Here, you nigger!" says I.
"I don't address myself to you, Sah," says the nigger. "Only speak
"I know," says I, "but it happens I was addressing myself to you,
Mr. Black Jack. And all I want to know is just this: did you see
Case's figurehead about a week ago?"
"No, Sah," says he.
"That's all right, then," says I; "for I'll show you the own
brother to it, only black, in the inside of about two minutes."
And I began to walk towards him, quite slow, and my hands down;
only there was trouble in my eye, if anybody took the pains to
"You're a low, obstropulous fellow, Sab," says he.
"You bet!" says I.
By that time he thought I was about as near as convenient, and lit
out so it would have done your heart good to see him travel. And
that was all I saw of that precious gang until what I am about to
It was one of my chief employments these days to go pot-hunting in
the woods, which I found (as Case had told me) very rich in game.
I have spoken of the cape which shut up the village and my station
from the east. A path went about the end of it, and led into the
next bay. A strong wind blew here daily, and as the line of the
barrier reef stopped at the end of the cape, a heavy surf ran on
the shores of the bay. A little cliffy hill cut the valley in two
parts, and stood close on the beach; and at high water the sea
broke right on the face of it, so that all passage was stopped.
Woody mountains hemmed the place all round; the barrier to the east
was particularly steep and leafy, the lower parts of it, along the
sea, falling in sheer black cliffs streaked with cinnabar; the
upper part lumpy with the tops of the great trees. Some of the
trees were bright green, and some red, and the sand of the beach as
black as your shoes. Many birds hovered round the bay, some of
them snow-white; and the flying-fox (or vampire) flew there in
broad daylight, gnashing its teeth.
For a long while I came as far as this shooting, and went no
farther. There was no sign of any path beyond, and the cocoa-palms
in the front of the foot of the valley were the last this way. For
the whole "eye" of the island, as natives call the windward end,
lay desert. From Falesa round about to Papa-malulu, there was
neither house, nor man, nor planted fruit-tree; and the reef being
mostly absent, and the shores bluff, the sea beat direct among
crags, and there was scarce a landing-place.
I should tell you that after I began to go in the woods, although
no one offered to come near my store, I found people willing enough
to pass the time of day with me where nobody could see them; and as
I had begun to pick up native, and most of them had a word or two
of English, I began to hold little odds and ends of conversation,
not to much purpose to be sure, but they took off the worst of the
feeling, for it's a miserable thing to be made a leper of.
It chanced one day towards the end of the month, that I was sitting
in this bay in the edge of the bush, looking east, with a Kanaka.
I had given him a fill of tobacco, and we were making out to talk
as best we could; indeed, he had more English than most.
I asked him if there was no road going eastward.
"One time one road," said he. "Now he dead."
"Nobody he go there?" I asked.
"No good," said he. "Too much devil he stop there."
"Oho!" says I, "got-um plenty devil, that bush?"
"Man devil, woman devil; too much devil," said my friend. "Stop
there all-e-time. Man he go there, no come back."
I thought if this fellow was so well posted on devils and spoke of
them so free, which is not common, I had better fish for a little
information about myself and Uma.
"You think me one devil?" I asked.
"No think devil," said he soothingly. "Think all-e-same fool."
"Uma, she devil?" I asked again.
"No, no; no devil. Devil stop bush," said the young man.
I was looking in front of me across the bay, and I saw the hanging
front of the woods pushed suddenly open, and Case, with a gun in
his hand, step forth into the sunshine on the black beach. He was
got up in light pyjamas, near white, his gun sparkled, he looked
mighty conspicuous; and the land-crabs scuttled from all round him
to their holes.
"Hullo, my friend!" says I, "you no talk all-e-same true. Ese he
go, he come back."
"Ese no all-e-same; Ese TIAPOLO," says my friend; and, with a
"Good-bye," slunk off among the trees.
I watched Case all round the beach, where the tide was low; and let
him pass me on the homeward way to Falesa. He was in deep thought,
and the birds seemed to know it, trotting quite near him on the
sand, or wheeling and calling in his ears. When he passed me I
could see by the working of his lips that he was talking to
himself, and what pleased me mightily, he had still my trade mark
on his brow, I tell you the plain truth: I had a mind to give him a
gunful in his ugly mug, but I thought better of it.
All this time, and all the time I was following home, I kept
repeating that native word, which I remembered by "Polly, put the
kettle on and make us all some tea," tea-a-pollo.
"Uma," says I, when I got back, "what does TIAPOLO mean?"
"Devil," says she.
"I thought AITU was the word for that," I said.
"AITU 'nother kind of devil," said she; "stop bush, eat Kanaka.
Tiapolo big chief devil, stop home; all-e-same Christian devil."
"Well then," said I, "I'm no farther forward. How can Case be
"No all-e-same," said she. "Ese belong Tiapolo; Tiapolo too much
like; Ese all-e-same his son. Suppose Ese he wish something,
Tiapolo he make him."
"That's mighty convenient for Ese," says I. "And what kind of
things does he make for him?"
Well, out came a rigmarole of all sorts of stories, many of which
(like the dollar he took from Mr. Tarleton's head) were plain
enough to me, but others I could make nothing of; and the thing
that most surprised the Kanakas was what surprised me least -
namely, that he would go in the desert among all the AITUS. Some
of the boldest, however, had accompanied him, and had heard him
speak with the dead and give them orders, and, safe in his
protection, had returned unscathed. Some said he had a church
there, where he worshipped Tiapolo, and Tiapolo appeared to him;
others swore that there was no sorcery at all, that he performed
his miracles by the power of prayer, and the church was no church,
but a prison, in which he had confined a dangerous AITU. Namu had
been in the bush with him once, and returned glorifying God for
these wonders. Altogether, I began to have a glimmer of the man's
position, and the means by which he had acquired it, and, though I
saw he was a tough nut to crack, I was noways cast down.
"Very well," said I, "I'll have a look at Master Case's place of
worship myself, and we'll see about the glorifying."
At this Uma fell in a terrible taking; if I went in the high bush I
should never return; none could go there but by the protection of
"I'll chance it on God's," said I. "I'm a good sort of a fellow,
Uma, as fellows go, and I guess God'll con me through."
She was silent for a while. "I think," said she, mighty solemn -
and then, presently - "Victoreea, he big chief?"
"You bet!" said I.
"He like you too much?" she asked again.
I told her, with a grin, I believed the old lady was rather partial
"All right," said she. "Victoreea he big chief, like you too much.
No can help you here in Falesa; no can do - too far off. Maea he
small chief - stop here. Suppose he like you - make you all right.
All-e-same God and Tiapolo. God he big chief - got too much work.
Tiapolo he small chief - he like too much make-see, work very
"I'll have to hand you over to Mr. Tarleton," said I. "Your
theology's out of its bearings, Uma."
However, we stuck to this business all the evening, and, with the
stories she told me of the desert and its dangers, she came near
frightening herself into a fit. I don't remember half a quarter of
them, of course, for I paid little heed; but two come back to me
kind of clear.
About six miles up the coast there is a sheltered cove they call