Part 2 out of 3
Oolong was McAllister, petty trader and unintermittent guzzler; and he
ruled Oolong and its six thousand savages with an iron hand. He said
come, and they came, go, and they went. They never questioned his will
nor judgment. He was cantankerous as only an aged Scotchman can be,
and interfered continually in their personal affairs. When Nugu, the
king's daughter, wanted to marry Haunau from the other end of the
atoll, her father said yes; but McAllister said no, and the marriage
never came off. When the king wanted to buy a certain islet in the
lagoon from the chief priest, McAllister said no. The king was in debt
to the Company to the tune of 180,000 cocoanuts, and until that was
paid he was not to spend a single cocoanut on anything else.
And yet the king and his people did not love McAllister. In truth,
they hated him horribly, and, to my knowledge, the whole population,
with the priests at the head, tried vainly for three months to pray
him to death. The devil-devils they sent after him were awe-inspiring,
but since McAllister did not believe in devil-devils, they were
without power over him. With drunken Scotchmen all signs fail. They
gathered up scraps of food which had touched his lips, an empty
whiskey bottle, a cocoanut from which he had drunk, and even his
spittle, and performed all kinds of deviltries over them. But
McAllister lived on. His health was superb. He never caught fever; nor
coughs nor colds; dysentery passed him by; and the malignant ulcers
and vile skin diseases that attack blacks and whites alike in that
climate never fastened upon him. He must have been so saturated with
alcohol as to defy the lodgment of germs. I used to imagine them
falling to the ground in showers of microscopic cinders as fast as
they entered his whiskey-sodden aura. No one loved him, not even
germs, while he loved only whiskey, and still he lived.
I was puzzled. I could not understand six thousand natives putting up
with that withered shrimp of a tyrant. It was a miracle that he had
not died suddenly long since. Unlike the cowardly Melanesians, the
people were high-stomached and warlike. In the big graveyard, at head
and feet of the graves, were relics of past sanguinary
history--blubber-spades, rusty old bayonets and cutlasses, copper
bolts, rudder-irons, harpoons, bomb guns, bricks that could have come
from nowhere but a whaler's trying-out furnace, and old brass pieces
of the sixteenth century that verified the traditions of the early
Spanish navigators. Ship after ship had come to grief on Oolong. Not
thirty years before, the whaler BLENNERDALE, running into the lagoon
for repair, had been cut off with all hands. In similar fashion had
the crew of the GASKET, a sandalwood trader, perished. There was a big
French bark, the TOULON, becalmed off the atoll, which the islanders
boarded after a sharp tussle and wrecked in the Lipau Passage, the
captain and a handful of sailors escaping in the longboat. Then there
were the Spanish pieces, which told of the loss of one of the early
explorers. All this, of the vessels named, is a matter of history, and
is to be found in the SOUTH PACIFIC SAILING DIRECTORY. But that there
was other history, unwritten, I was yet to learn. In the meantime I
puzzled why six thousand primitive savages let one degenerate Scotch
One hot afternoon McAllister and I sat on the veranda looking out over
the lagoon, with all its wonder of jeweled colors. At our backs,
across the hundred yards of palm-studded sand, the outer surf roared
on the reef. It was dreadfully warm. We were in four degree south
latitude and the sun was directly overhead, having crossed the Line a
few days before on its journey south. There was no wind--not even a
catspaw. The season of the southeast trade was drawing to an early
close, and the northwest monsoon had not yet begun to blow.
"They can't dance worth a damn," said McAllister.
I had happened to mention that the Polynesian dances were superior to
the Papuan, and this McAllister had denied, for no other reason than
his cantankerousness. But it was too hot to argue, and I said nothing.
Besides, I had never seen the Oolong people dance.
"I'll prove it to you," he announced, beckoning to the black New
Hanover boy, a labor recruit, who served as cook and general house
servant. "Hey, you, boy, you tell 'm one fella king come along me."
The boy departed, and back came the prime minister, perturbed, ill at
ease, and garrulous with apologetic explanation. In short, the king
slept, and was not to be disturbed.
"King he plenty strong fella sleep," was his final sentence.
McAllister was in such a rage that the prime minister incontinently
fled, to return with the king himself. They were a magnificent pair,
the king especially, who must have been all of six feet three inches
in height. His features had the eagle-like quality that is so
frequently found in those of the North American Indian. He had been
molded and born to rule. His eyes flashed as he listened, but right
meekly he obeyed McAllister's command to fetch a couple of hundred of
the best dancers, male and female, in the village. And dance they did,
for two mortal hours, under that broiling sun. They did not love him
for it, and little he cared, in the end dismissing them with abuse and
The abject servility of those magnificent savages was terrifying. How
could it be? What was the secret of his rule? More and more I puzzled
as the days went by, and though I observed perpetual examples of his
undisputed sovereignty, never a clew was there as to how it was.
One day I happened to speak of my disappointment in failing to trade
for a beautiful pair of orange cowries. The pair was worth five pounds
in Sydney if it was worth a cent. I had offered two hundred sticks of
tobacco to the owner, who had held out for three hundred. When I
casually mentioned the situation, McAllister immediately sent for the
man, took the shells from him, and turned them over to me. Fifty
sticks were all he permitted me to pay for them. The man accepted the
tobacco and seemed overjoyed at getting off so easily. As for me, I
resolved to keep a bridle on my tongue in the future. And still I
mulled over the secret of McAllister's power. I even went to the
extent of asking him directly, but all he did was to cock one eye,
look wise, and take another drink.
One night I was out fishing in the lagoon with Oti, the man who had
been mulcted of the cowries. Privily, I had made up to him an
additional hundred and fifty sticks, and he had come to regard me with
a respect that was almost veneration, which was curious, seeing that
he was an old man, twice my age at least.
"What name you fella kanaka all the same pickaninny?" I began on him.
"This fella trader he one fella. You fella kanaka plenty fella too
much. You fella kanaka just like 'm dog--plenty fright along that
fella trader. He no eat you, fella. He no get 'm teeth along him. What
name you too much fright?"
"S'pose plenty fella kanaka kill 'm?" he asked.
"He die," I retorted. "You fella kanaka kill 'm plenty fella white man
long time before. What name you fright this fella white man?"
"Yes, we kill 'm plenty," was his answer. "My word! Any amount! Long
time before. One time, me young fella too much, one big fella ship he
stop outside. Wind he no blow. Plenty fella kanaka we get 'm canoe,
plenty fella canoe, we go catch 'm that fella ship. My word--we catch
'm big fella fight. Two, three white men shoot like hell. We no
fright. We come alongside, we go up side, plenty fella, maybe I think
fifty-ten (five hundred). One fella white Mary (woman) belong that
fella ship. Never before I see 'm white Mary. Bime by plenty white man
finish. One fella skipper he no die. Five fella, six fella white man
no die. Skipper he sing out. Some fella white man he fight. Some fella
white man he lower away boat. After that, all together over the side
they go. Skipper he sling white Mary down. After that they washee
(row) strong fella plenty too much. Father belong me, that time he
strong fella. He throw 'm one fella spear. That fella spear he go in
one side that white Mary. He no stop. My word, he go out other side
that fella Mary. She finish. Me no fright. Plenty kanaka too much no
Old Oti's pride had been touched, for he suddenly stripped down his
lava-lava and showed me the unmistakable scar of a bullet. Before I
could speak, his line ran out suddenly. He checked it and attempted to
haul in, but found that the fish had run around a coral branch.
Casting a look of reproach at me for having beguiled him from his
watchfulness, he went over the side, feet first, turning over after he
got under and following his line down to bottom. The water was ten
fathoms. I leaned over and watched the play of his feet, growing dim
and dimmer, as they stirred the wan phosphorescence into ghostly
fires. Ten fathoms--sixty feet--it was nothing to him, an old man,
compared with the value of a hook and line. After what seemed five
minutes, though it could not have been more than a minute, I saw him
flaming whitely upward. He broke surface and dropped a ten pound rock
cod into the canoe, the line and hook intact, the latter still fast in
the fish's mouth.
"It may be," I said remorselessly. "You no fright long ago. You plenty
fright now along that fella trader."
"Yes, plenty fright," he confessed, with an air of dismissing the
subject. For half an hour we pulled up our lines and flung them out in
silence. Then small fish-sharks began to bite, and after losing a hook
apiece, we hauled in and waited for the sharks to go their way.
"I speak you true," Oti broke into speech, "then you savve we fright
I lighted up my pipe and waited, and the story that Oti told me in
atrocious bech-de-mer I here turn into proper English. Otherwise, in
spirit and order of narrative, the tale is as it fell from Oti's lips.
"It was after that that we were very proud. We had fought many times
with the strange white men who live upon the sea, and always we had
beaten them. A few of us were killed, but what was that compared with
the stores of wealth of a thousand thousand kinds that we found on the
ships? And then one day, maybe twenty years ago, or twenty-five, there
came a schooner right through the passage and into the lagoon. It was
a large schooner with three masts. She had five white men and maybe
forty boat's crew, black fellows from New Guinea and New Britain; and
she had come to fish beche-de-mer. She lay at anchor across the lagoon
from here, at Pauloo, and her boats scattered out everywhere, making
camps on the beaches where they cured the beche-de-mer. This made them
weak by dividing them, for those who fished here and those on the
schooner at Pauloo were fifty miles apart, and there were others
farther away still.
"Our king and headmen held council, and I was one in the canoe that
paddled all afternoon and all night across the lagoon, bringing word
to the people of Pauloo that in the morning we would attack the
fishing camps at the one time and that it was for them to take the
schooner. We who brought the word were tired with the paddling, but we
took part in the attack. On the schooner were two white men, the
skipper and the second mate, with half a dozen black boys. The skipper
with three boys we caught on shore and killed, but first eight of us
the skipper killed with his two revolvers. We fought close together,
you see, at hand grapples.
"The noise of our fighting told the mate what was happening, and he
put food and water and a sail in the small dingy, which was so small
that it was no more than twelve feet long. We came down upon the
schooner, a thousand men, covering the lagoon with our canoes. Also,
we were blowing conch shells, singing war songs, and striking the
sides of the canoes with our paddles. What chance had one white man
and three black boys against us? No chance at all, and the mate knew
"White men are hell. I have watched them much, and I am an old man
now, and I understand at last why the white men have taken to
themselves all the islands in the sea. It is because they are hell.
Here are you in the canoe with me. You are hardly more than a boy. You
are not wise, for each day I tell you many things you do not know.
When I was a little pickaninny, I knew more about fish and the ways of
fish than you know now. I am an old man, but I swim down to the bottom
of the lagoon, and you cannot follow me. What are you good for,
anyway? I do not know, except to fight. I have never seen you fight,
yet I know that you are like your brothers and that you will fight
like hell. Also, you are a fool, like your brothers. You do not know
when you are beaten. You will fight until you die, and then it will be
too late to know that you are beaten.
"Now behold what this mate did. As we came down upon him, covering the
sea and blowing our conches, he put off from the schooner in the small
boat, along with the three black boys, and rowed for the passage.
There again he was a fool, for no wise man would put out to sea in so
small a boat. The sides of it were not four inches above the water.
Twenty canoes went after him, filled with two hundred young men. We
paddled five fathoms while his black boys were rowing one fathom. He
had no chance, but he was a fool. He stood up in the boat with a
rifle, and he shot many times. He was not a good shot, but as we drew
close many of us were wounded and killed. But still he had no chance.
"I remember that all the time he was smoking a cigar. When we were
forty feet away and coming fast, he dropped the rifle, lighted a stick
of dynamite with the cigar, and threw it at us. He lighted another and
another, and threw them at us very rapidly, many of them. I know now
that he must have split the ends of the fuses and stuck in match
heads, because they lighted so quickly. Also, the fuses were very
short. Sometimes the dynamite sticks went off in the air, but most of
them went off in the canoes. And each time they went off in a canoe,
that canoe was finished. Of the twenty canoes, the half were smashed
to pieces. The canoe I was in was so smashed, and likewise the two men
who sat next to me. The dynamite fell between them. The other canoes
turned and ran away. Then that mate yelled, Yah! Yah! Yah!' at us.
Also he went at us again with his rifle, so that many were killed
through the back as they fled away. And all the time the black boys in
the boat went on rowing. You see, I told you true, that mate was hell.
"Nor was that all. Before he left the schooner, he set her on fire,
and fixed up all the powder and dynamite so that it would go off at
one time. There were hundreds of us on board, trying to put out the
fire, heaving up water from overside, when the schooner blew up. So
that all we had fought for was lost to us, besides many more of us
being killed. Sometimes, even now, in my old age, I have bad dreams in
which I hear that mate yell, Yah! Yah! Yah!' In a voice of thunder he
yells, Yah! Yah! Yah!' But all those in the fishing camps were killed.
"The mate went out of the passage in his little boat, and that was the
end of him we made sure, for how could so small a boat, with four men
in it, live on the ocean? A month went by, and then, one morning,
between two rain squalls, a schooner sailed in through our passage and
dropped anchor before the village. The king and the headmen made big
talk, and it was agreed that we would take the schooner in two or
three days. In the meantime, as it was our custom always to appear
friendly, we went off to her in canoes, bringing strings of cocoanuts,
fowls, and pigs, to trade. But when we were alongside, many canoes of
us, the men on board began to shoot us with rifles, and as we paddled
away I saw the mate who had gone to sea in the little boat spring upon
the rail and dance and yell, Yah! Yah! Yah!'
"That afternoon they landed from the schooner in three small boats
filled with white men. They went right through the village, shooting
every man they saw. Also they shot the fowls and pigs. We who were not
killed got away in canoes and paddled out into the lagoon. Looking
back, we could see all the houses on fire. Late in the afternoon we
saw many canoes coming from Nihi, which is the village near the Nihi
Passage in the northeast. They were all that were left, and like us
their village had been burned by a second schooner that had come
through Nihi Passage.
"We stood on in the darkness to the westward for Pauloo, but in the
middle of the night we heard women wailing and then we ran into a big
fleet of canoes. They were all that were left of Pauloo, which
likewise was in ashes, for a third schooner had come in through the
Pauloo Passage. You see, that mate, with his black boys, had not been
drowned. He had made the Solomon Islands, and there told his brothers
of what we had done in Oolong. And all his brothers had said they
would come and punish us, and there they were in the three schooners,
and our three villages were wiped out.
"And what was there for us to do? In the morning the two schooners
from windward sailed down upon us in the middle of the lagoon. The
trade wind was blowing fresh, and by scores of canoes they ran us
down. And the rifles never ceased talking. We scattered like flying
fish before the bonita, and there were so many of us that we escaped
by thousands, this way and that, to the islands on the rim of the
"And thereafter the schooners hunted us up and down the lagoon. In the
nighttime we slipped past them. But the next day, or in two days or
three days, the schooners would be coming back, hunting us toward the
other end of the lagoon. And so it went. We no longer counted nor
remembered our dead. True, we were many and they were few. But what
could we do? I was in one of the twenty canoes filled with men who
were not afraid to die. We attacked the smallest schooner. They shot
us down in heaps. They threw dynamite into the canoes, and when the
dynamite gave out, they threw hot water down upon us. And the rifles
never ceased talking. And those whose canoes were smashed were shot as
they swam away. And the mate danced up and down upon the cabin top and
yelled, "Yah! Yah! Yah!"
"Every house on every smallest island was burned. Not a pig nor a fowl
was left alive. Our wells were defiled with the bodies of the slain,
or else heaped high with coral rock. We were twenty-five thousand on
Oolong before the three schooners came. Today we are five thousand.
After the schooners left, we were but three thousand, as you shall
"At last the three schooners grew tired of chasing us back and forth.
So they went, the three of them, to Nihi, in the northeast. And then
they drove us steadily to the west. Their nine boats were in the water
as well. They beat up every island as they moved along. They drove us,
drove us, drove us day by day. And every night the three schooners and
the nine boats made a chain of watchfulness that stretched across the
lagoon from rim to rim, so that we could not escape back.
"They could not drive us forever that way, for the lagoon was only so
large, and at last all of us that yet lived were driven upon the last
sand bank to the west. Beyond lay the open sea. There were ten
thousand of us, and we covered the sand bank from the lagoon edge to
the pounding surf on the other side. No one could lie down. There was
no room. We stood hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder. Two days they
kept us there, and the mate would climb up in the rigging to mock us
and yell, Yah! Yah! Yah!' till we were well sorry that we had ever
harmed him or his schooner a month before. We had no food, and we
stood on our feet two days and nights. The little babies died, and the
old and weak died, and the wounded died. And worst of all, we had no
water to quench our thirst, and for two days the sun beat down on us,
and there was no shade. Many men and women waded out into the ocean
and were drowned, the surf casting their bodies back on the beach. And
there came a pest of flies. Some men swam to the sides of the
schooners, but they were shot to the last one. And we that lived were
very sorry that in our pride we tried to take the schooner with the
three masts that came to fish for beche-de-mer.
"On the morning of the third day came the skippers of the three
schooners and that mate in a small boat. They carried rifles, all of
them, and revolvers, and they made talk. It was only that they were
weary of killing us that they had stopped, they told us. And we told
them that we were sorry, that never again would we harm a white man,
and in token of our submission we poured sand upon our heads. And all
the women and children set up a great wailing for water, so that for
some time no man could make himself heard. Then we were told our
punishment. We must fill the three schooners with copra and
beche-de-mer. And we agreed, for we wanted water, and our hearts were
broken, and we knew that we were children at fighting when we fought
with white men who fight like hell. And when all the talk was
finished, the mate stood up and mocked us, and yelled, Yah! Yah! Yah!'
After that we paddled away in our canoes and sought water.
"And for weeks we toiled at catching beche-de-mer and curing it, in
gathering the cocoanuts and turning them into copra. By day and night
the smoke rose in clouds from all the beaches of all the islands of
Oolong as we paid the penalty of our wrongdoing. For in those days of
death it was burned clearly on all our brains that it was very wrong
to harm a white man.
"By and by, the schooners full of copra and beche-de-mer and our trees
empty of cocoanuts, the three skippers and that mate called us all
together for a big talk. And they said they were very glad that we had
learned our lesson, and we said for the ten-thousandth time that we
were sorry and that we would not do it again. Also, we poured sand
upon our heads. Then the skippers said that it was all very well, but
just to show us that they did not forget us, they would send a
devil-devil that we would never forget and that we would always
remember any time we might feel like harming a white man. After that
the mate mocked us one more time and yelled, Yah! Yah! Yah!' Then six
of our men, whom we thought long dead, were put ashore from one of the
schooners, and the schooners hoisted their sails and ran out through
the passage for the Solomons.
"The six men who were put ashore were the first to catch the
devil-devil the skippers sent back after us."
"A great sickness came," I interrupted, for I recognized the trick.
The schooner had had measles on board, and the six prisoners had been
deliberately exposed to it.
"Yes, a great sickness," Oti went on. "It was a powerful devil-devil.
The oldest man had never heard of the like. Those of our priests that
yet lived we killed because they could not overcome the devil-devil.
The sickness spread. I have said that there were ten thousand of us
that stood hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder on the sandbank. When
the sickness left us, there were three thousand yet alive. Also,
having made all our cocoanuts into copra, there was a famine.
"That fella trader," Oti concluded, "he like 'm that much dirt. He
like 'm clam he die KAI-KAI (meat) he stop, stink 'm any amount. He
like 'm one fella dog, one sick fella dog plenty fleas stop along him.
We no fright along that fella trader. We fright because he white man.
We savve plenty too much no good kill white man. That one fella sick
dog trader he plenty brother stop along him, white men like 'm you
fight like hell. We no fright that damn trader. Some time he made
kanaka plenty cross along him and kanaka want 'm kill m, kanaka he
think devil-devil and kanaka he hear that fella mate sing out, Yah!
Yah! Yah!' and kanaka no kill 'm."
Oti baited his hook with a piece of squid, which he tore with his
teeth from the live and squirming monster, and hook and bait sank in
white flames to the bottom.
"Shark walk about he finish," he said. "I think we catch 'm plenty
His line jerked savagely. He pulled it in rapidly, hand under hand,
and landed a big gasping rock cod in the bottom of the canoe.
"Sun he come up, I make 'm that dam fella trader one present big fella
fish," said Oti.
I met him first in a hurricane; and though we had gone through the
hurricane on the same schooner, it was not until the schooner had gone
to pieces under us that I first laid eyes on him. Without doubt I had
seen him with the rest of the kanaka crew on board, but I had not
consciously been aware of his existence, for the Petite Jeanne was
rather overcrowded. In addition to her eight or ten kanaka seamen, her
white captain, mate, and supercargo, and her six cabin passengers, she
sailed from Rangiroa with something like eighty-five deck
passengers--Paumotans and Tahitians, men, women, and children each
with a trade box, to say nothing of sleeping mats, blankets, and
The pearling season in the Paumotus was over, and all hands were
returning to Tahiti. The six of us cabin passengers were pearl buyers.
Two were Americans, one was Ah Choon (the whitest Chinese I have ever
known), one was a German, one was a Polish Jew, and I completed the
It had been a prosperous season. Not one of us had cause for
complaint, nor one of the eighty-five deck passengers either. All had
done well, and all were looking forward to a rest-off and a good time
Of course, the Petite Jeanne was overloaded. She was only seventy
tons, and she had no right to carry a tithe of the mob she had on
board. Beneath her hatches she was crammed and jammed with pearl shell
and copra. Even the trade room was packed full with shell. It was a
miracle that the sailors could work her. There was no moving about the
decks. They simply climbed back and forth along the rails.
In the night time they walked upon the sleepers, who carpeted the
deck, I'll swear, two deep. Oh! And there were pigs and chickens on
deck, and sacks of yams, while every conceivable place was festooned
with strings of drinking cocoanuts and bunches of bananas. On both
sides, between the fore and main shrouds, guys had been stretched,
just low enough for the foreboom to swing clear; and from each of
these guys at least fifty bunches of bananas were suspended.
It promised to be a messy passage, even if we did make it in the two
or three days that would have been required if the southeast trades
had been blowing fresh. But they weren't blowing fresh. After the
first five hours the trade died away in a dozen or so gasping fans.
The calm continued all that night and the next day--one of those
glaring, glassy, calms, when the very thought of opening one's eyes to
look at it is sufficient to cause a headache.
The second day a man died--an Easter Islander, one of the best divers
that season in the lagoon. Smallpox--that is what it was; though how
smallpox could come on board, when there had been no known cases
ashore when we left Rangiroa, is beyond me. There it was,
though--smallpox, a man dead, and three others down on their backs.
There was nothing to be done. We could not segregate the sick, nor
could we care for them. We were packed like sardines. There was
nothing to do but rot and die--that is, there was nothing to do after
the night that followed the first death. On that night, the mate, the
supercargo, the Polish Jew, and four native divers sneaked away in the
large whale boat. They were never heard of again. In the morning the
captain promptly scuttled the remaining boats, and there we were.
That day there were two deaths; the following day three; then it
jumped to eight. It was curious to see how we took it. The natives,
for instance, fell into a condition of dumb, stolid fear. The
captain--Oudouse, his name was, a Frenchman--became very nervous and
voluble. He actually got the twitches. He was a large fleshy man,
weighing at least two hundred pounds, and he quickly became a faithful
representation of a quivering jelly-mountain of fat.
The German, the two Americans, and myself bought up all the Scotch
whiskey, and proceeded to stay drunk. The theory was
beautiful--namely, if we kept ourselves soaked in alcohol, every
smallpox germ that came into contact with us would immediately be
scorched to a cinder. And the theory worked, though I must confess
that neither Captain Oudouse nor Ah Choon were attacked by the disease
either. The Frenchman did not drink at all, while Ah Choon restricted
himself to one drink daily.
It was a pretty time. The sun, going into northern declination, was
straight overhead. There was no wind, except for frequent squalls,
which blew fiercely for from five minutes to half an hour, and wound
up by deluging us with rain. After each squall, the awful sun would
come out, drawing clouds of steam from the soaked decks.
The steam was not nice. It was the vapor of death, freighted with
millions and millions of germs. We always took another drink when we
saw it going up from the dead and dying, and usually we took two or
three more drinks, mixing them exceptionally stiff. Also, we made it a
rule to take an additional several each time they hove the dead over
to the sharks that swarmed about us.
We had a week of it, and then the whiskey gave out. It is just as
well, or I shouldn't be alive now. It took a sober man to pull through
what followed, as you will agree when I mention the little fact that
only two men did pull through. The other man was the heathen--at
least, that was what I heard Captain Oudouse call him at the moment I
first became aware of the heathen's existence. But to come back.
It was at the end of the week, with the whiskey gone, and the pearl
buyers sober, that I happened to glance at the barometer that hung in
the cabin companionway. Its normal register in the Paumotus was 29.90,
and it was quite customary to see it vacillate between 29.85 and
30.00, or even 30.05; but to see it as I saw it, down to 29.62, was
sufficient to sober the most drunken pearl buyer that ever incinerated
smallpox microbes in Scotch whiskey.
I called Captain Oudouse's attention to it, only to be informed that
he had watched it going down for several hours. There was little to
do, but that little he did very well, considering the circumstances.
He took off the light sails, shortened right down to storm canvas,
spread life lines, and waited for the wind. His mistake lay in what he
did after the wind came. He hove to on the port tack, which was the
right thing to do south of the Equator, if--and there was the rub--IF
one were NOT in the direct path of the hurricane.
We were in the direct path. I could see that by the steady increase of
the wind and the equally steady fall of the barometer. I wanted him to
turn and run with the wind on the port quarter until the barometer
ceased falling, and then to heave to. We argued till he was reduced to
hysteria, but budge he would not. The worst of it was that I could not
get the rest of the pearl buyers to back me up. Who was I, anyway, to
know more about the sea and its ways than a properly qualified
captain? was what was in their minds, I knew.
Of course, the sea rose with the wind frightfully; and I shall never
forget the first three seas the Petite Jeanne shipped. She had fallen
off, as vessels do at times when hove to, and the first sea made a
clean breach. The life lines were only for the strong and well, and
little good were they even for them when the women and children, the
bananas and cocoanuts, the pigs and trade boxes, the sick and the
dying, were swept along in a solid, screeching, groaning mass.
The second sea filled the Petite Jeanne'S decks flush with the rails;
and, as her stern sank down and her bow tossed skyward, all the
miserable dunnage of life and luggage poured aft. It was a human
torrent. They came head first, feet first, sidewise, rolling over and
over, twisting, squirming, writhing, and crumpling up. Now and again
one caught a grip on a stanchion or a rope; but the weight of the
bodies behind tore such grips loose.
One man I noticed fetch up, head on and square on, with the starboard
bitt. His head cracked like an egg. I saw what was coming, sprang on
top of the cabin, and from there into the mainsail itself. Ah Choon
and one of the Americans tried to follow me, but I was one jump ahead
of them. The American was swept away and over the stern like a piece
of chaff. Ah Choon caught a spoke of the wheel, and swung in behind
it. But a strapping Raratonga vahine (woman)--she must have weighed
two hundred and fifty--brought up against him, and got an arm around
his neck. He clutched the kanaka steersman with his other hand; and
just at that moment the schooner flung down to starboard.
The rush of bodies and sea that was coming along the port runway
between the cabin and the rail turned abruptly and poured to
starboard. Away they went--vahine, Ah Choon, and steersman; and I
swear I saw Ah Choon grin at me with philosophic resignation as he
cleared the rail and went under.
The third sea--the biggest of the three--did not do so much damage. By
the time it arrived nearly everybody was in the rigging. On deck
perhaps a dozen gasping, half-drowned, and half-stunned wretches were
rolling about or attempting to crawl into safety. They went by the
board, as did the wreckage of the two remaining boats. The other pearl
buyers and myself, between seas, managed to get about fifteen women
and children into the cabin, and battened down. Little good it did the
poor creatures in the end.
Wind? Out of all my experience I could not have believed it possible
for the wind to blow as it did. There is no describing it. How can one
describe a nightmare? It was the same way with that wind. It tore the
clothes off our bodies. I say TORE THEM OFF, and I mean it. I am not
asking you to believe it. I am merely telling something that I saw and
felt. There are times when I do not believe it myself. I went through
it, and that is enough. One could not face that wind and live. It was
a monstrous thing, and the most monstrous thing about it was that it
increased and continued to increase.
Imagine countless millions and billions of tons of sand. Imagine this
sand tearing along at ninety, a hundred, a hundred and twenty, or any
other number of miles per hour. Imagine, further, this sand to be
invisible, impalpable, yet to retain all the weight and density of
sand. Do all this, and you may get a vague inkling of what that wind
Perhaps sand is not the right comparison. Consider it mud, invisible,
impalpable, but heavy as mud. Nay, it goes beyond that. Consider every
molecule of air to be a mudbank in itself. Then try to imagine the
multitudinous impact of mudbanks. No; it is beyond me. Language may be
adequate to express the ordinary conditions of life, but it cannot
possibly express any of the conditions of so enormous a blast of wind.
It would have been better had I stuck by my original intention of not
attempting a description.
I will say this much: The sea, which had risen at first, was beaten
down by that wind. More: it seemed as if the whole ocean had been
sucked up in the maw of the hurricane, and hurled on through that
portion of space which previously had been occupied by the air.
Of course, our canvas had gone long before. But Captain Oudouse had on
the Petite Jeanne something I had never before seen on a South Sea
schooner--a sea anchor. It was a conical canvas bag, the mouth of
which was kept open by a huge loop of iron. The sea anchor was bridled
something like a kite, so that it bit into the water as a kite bites
into the air, but with a difference. The sea anchor remained just
under the surface of the ocean in a perpendicular position. A long
line, in turn, connected it with the schooner. As a result, the Petite
Jeanne rode bow on to the wind and to what sea there was.
The situation really would have been favorable had we not been in the
path of the storm. True, the wind itself tore our canvas out of the
gaskets, jerked out our topmasts, and made a raffle of our running
gear, but still we would have come through nicely had we not been
square in front of the advancing storm center. That was what fixed us.
I was in a state of stunned, numbed, paralyzed collapse from enduring
the impact of the wind, and I think I was just about ready to give up
and die when the center smote us. The blow we received was an absolute
lull. There was not a breath of air. The effect on one was sickening.
Remember that for hours we had been at terrific muscular tension,
withstanding the awful pressure of that wind. And then, suddenly, the
pressure was removed. I know that I felt as though I was about to
expand, to fly apart in all directions. It seemed as if every atom
composing my body was repelling every other atom and was on the verge
of rushing off irresistibly into space. But that lasted only for a
moment. Destruction was upon us.
In the absence of the wind and pressure the sea rose. It jumped, it
leaped, it soared straight toward the clouds. Remember, from every
point of the compass that inconceivable wind was blowing in toward the
center of calm. The result was that the seas sprang up from every
point of the compass. There was no wind to check them. They popped up
like corks released from the bottom of a pail of water. There was no
system to them, no stability. They were hollow, maniacal seas. They
were eighty feet high at the least. They were not seas at all. They
resembled no sea a man had ever seen.
They were splashes, monstrous splashes--that is all. Splashes that
were eighty feet high. Eighty! They were more than eighty. They went
over our mastheads. They were spouts, explosions. They were drunken.
They fell anywhere, anyhow. They jostled one another; they collided.
They rushed together and collapsed upon one another, or fell apart
like a thousand waterfalls all at once. It was no ocean any man had
ever dreamed of, that hurricane center. It was confusion thrice
confounded. It was anarchy. It was a hell pit of sea water gone mad.
The Petite Jeanne? I don't know. The heathen told me afterwards that
he did not know. She was literally torn apart, ripped wide open,
beaten into a pulp, smashed into kindling wood, annihilated. When I
came to I was in the water, swimming automatically, though I was about
two-thirds drowned. How I got there I had no recollection. I
remembered seeing the Petite Jeanne fly to pieces at what must have
been the instant that my own consciousness was buffeted out of me. But
there I was, with nothing to do but make the best of it, and in that
best there was little promise. The wind was blowing again, the sea was
much smaller and more regular, and I knew that I had passed through
the center. Fortunately, there were no sharks about. The hurricane had
dissipated the ravenous horde that had surrounded the death ship and
fed off the dead.
It was about midday when the Petite Jeanne went to pieces, and it must
have been two hours afterwards when I picked up with one of her hatch
covers. Thick rain was driving at the time; and it was the merest
chance that flung me and the hatch cover together. A short length of
line was trailing from the rope handle; and I knew that I was good for
a day, at least, if the sharks did not return. Three hours later,
possibly a little longer, sticking close to the cover, and with closed
eyes, concentrating my whole soul upon the task of breathing in enough
air to keep me going and at the same time of avoiding breathing in
enough water to drown me, it seemed to me that I heard voices. The
rain had ceased, and wind and sea were easing marvelously. Not twenty
feet away from me, on another hatch cover were Captain Oudouse and the
heathen. They were fighting over the possession of the cover--at
least, the Frenchman was. "Paien noir!" I heard him scream, and at the
same time I saw him kick the kanaka.
Now, Captain Oudouse had lost all his clothes, except his shoes, and
they were heavy brogans. It was a cruel blow, for it caught the
heathen on the mouth and the point of the chin, half stunning him. I
looked for him to retaliate, but he contented himself with swimming
about forlornly a safe ten feet away. Whenever a fling of the sea
threw him closer, the Frenchman, hanging on with his hands, kicked out
at him with both feet. Also, at the moment of delivering each kick, he
called the kanaka a black heathen.
"For two centimes I'd come over there and drown you, you white beast!"
The only reason I did not go was that I felt too tired. The very
thought of the effort to swim over was nauseating. So I called to the
kanaka to come to me, and proceeded to share the hatch cover with him.
Otoo, he told me his name was (pronounced o-to-o ); also, he told me
that he was a native of Bora Bora, the most westerly of the Society
Group. As I learned afterward, he had got the hatch cover first, and,
after some time, encountering Captain Oudouse, had offered to share it
with him, and had been kicked off for his pains.
And that was how Otoo and I first came together. He was no fighter. He
was all sweetness and gentleness, a love creature, though he stood
nearly six feet tall and was muscled like a gladiator. He was no
fighter, but he was also no coward. He had the heart of a lion; and in
the years that followed I have seen him run risks that I would never
dream of taking. What I mean is that while he was no fighter, and
while he always avoided precipitating a row, he never ran away from
trouble when it started. And it was "Ware shoal!" when once Otoo went
into action. I shall never forget what he did to Bill King. It
occurred in German Samoa. Bill King was hailed the champion
heavyweight of the American Navy. He was a big brute of a man, a
veritable gorilla, one of those hard-hitting, rough-housing chaps, and
clever with his fists as well. He picked the quarrel, and he kicked
Otoo twice and struck him once before Otoo felt it to be necessary to
fight. I don't think it lasted four minutes, at the end of which time
Bill King was the unhappy possessor of four broken ribs, a broken
forearm, and a dislocated shoulder blade. Otoo knew nothing of
scientific boxing. He was merely a manhandler; and Bill King was
something like three months in recovering from the bit of manhandling
he received that afternoon on Apia beach.
But I am running ahead of my yarn. We shared the hatch cover between
us. We took turn and turn about, one lying flat on the cover and
resting, while the other, submerged to the neck, merely held on with
his hands. For two days and nights, spell and spell, on the cover and
in the water, we drifted over the ocean. Towards the last I was
delirious most of the time; and there were times, too, when I heard
Otoo babbling and raving in his native tongue. Our continuous
immersion prevented us from dying of thirst, though the sea water and
the sunshine gave us the prettiest imaginable combination of salt
pickle and sunburn.
In the end, Otoo saved my life; for I came to lying on the beach
twenty feet from the water, sheltered from the sun by a couple of
cocoanut leaves. No one but Otoo could have dragged me there and stuck
up the leaves for shade. He was lying beside me. I went off again; and
the next time I came round, it was cool and starry night, and Otoo was
pressing a drinking cocoanut to my lips.
We were the sole survivors of the Petite Jeanne. Captain Oudouse must
have succumbed to exhaustion, for several days later his hatch cover
drifted ashore without him. Otoo and I lived with the natives of the
atoll for a week, when we were rescued by the French cruiser and taken
to Tahiti. In the meantime, however, we had performed the ceremony of
exchanging names. In the South Seas such a ceremony binds two men
closer together than blood brothership. The initiative had been mine;
and Otoo was rapturously delighted when I suggested it.
"It is well," he said, in Tahitian. "For we have been mates together
for two days on the lips of Death."
"But death stuttered," I smiled.
"It was a brave deed you did, master," he replied, "and Death was not
vile enough to speak."
"Why do you 'master' me?" I demanded, with a show of hurt feelings.
"We have exchanged names. To you I am Otoo. To me you are Charley. And
between you and me, forever and forever, you shall be Charley, and I
shall be Otoo. It is the way of the custom. And when we die, if it
does happen that we live again somewhere beyond the stars and the sky,
still shall you be Charley to me, and I Otoo to you."
"Yes, master," he answered, his eyes luminous and soft with joy.
"There you go!" I cried indignantly.
"What does it matter what my lips utter?" he argued. "They are only my
lips. But I shall think Otoo always. Whenever I think of myself, I
shall think of you. Whenever men call me by name, I shall think of
you. And beyond the sky and beyond the stars, always and forever, you
shall be Otoo to me. Is it well, master?"
I hid my smile, and answered that it was well.
We parted at Papeete. I remained ashore to recuperate; and he went on
in a cutter to his own island, Bora Bora. Six weeks later he was back.
I was surprised, for he had told me of his wife, and said that he was
returning to her, and would give over sailing on far voyages.
"Where do you go, master?" he asked, after our first greetings.
I shrugged my shoulders. It was a hard question.
"All the world," was my answer--"all the world, all the sea, and all
the islands that are in the sea."
"I will go with you," he said simply. "My wife is dead."
I never had a brother; but from what I have seen of other men's
brothers, I doubt if any man ever had a brother that was to him what
Otoo was to me. He was brother and father and mother as well. And this
I know: I lived a straighter and better man because of Otoo. I cared
little for other men, but I had to live straight in Otoo's eyes.
Because of him I dared not tarnish myself. He made me his ideal,
compounding me, I fear, chiefly out of his own love and worship and
there were times when I stood close to the steep pitch of hell, and
would have taken the plunge had not the thought of Otoo restrained me.
His pride in me entered into me, until it became one of the major
rules in my personal code to do nothing that would diminish that pride
Naturally, I did not learn right away what his feelings were toward
me. He never criticized, never censured; and slowly the exalted place
I held in his eyes dawned upon me, and slowly I grew to comprehend the
hurt I could inflict upon him by being anything less than my best.
For seventeen years we were together; for seventeen years he was at my
shoulder, watching while I slept, nursing me through fever and
wounds--ay, and receiving wounds in fighting for me. He signed on the
same ships with me; and together we ranged the Pacific from Hawaii to
Sydney Head, and from Torres Straits to the Galapagos. We blackbirded
from the New Hebrides and the Line Islands over to the westward clear
through the Louisades, New Britain, New Ireland, and New Hanover. We
were wrecked three times--in the Gilberts, in the Santa Cruz group,
and in the Fijis. And we traded and salved wherever a dollar promised
in the way of pearl and pearl shell, copra, beche-de-mer, hawkbill
turtle shell, and stranded wrecks.
It began in Papeete, immediately after his announcement that he was
going with me over all the sea, and the islands in the midst thereof.
There was a club in those days in Papeete, where the pearlers,
traders, captains, and riffraff of South Sea adventurers forgathered.
The play ran high, and the drink ran high; and I am very much afraid
that I kept later hours than were becoming or proper. No matter what
the hour was when I left the club, there was Otoo waiting to see me
At first I smiled; next I chided him. Then I told him flatly that I
stood in need of no wet-nursing. After that I did not see him when I
came out of the club. Quite by accident, a week or so later, I
discovered that he still saw me home, lurking across the street among
the shadows of the mango trees. What could I do? I know what I did do.
Insensibly I began to keep better hours. On wet and stormy nights, in
the thick of the folly and the fun, the thought would persist in
coming to me of Otoo keeping his dreary vigil under the dripping
mangoes. Truly, he made a better man of me. Yet he was not
strait-laced. And he knew nothing of common Christian morality. All
the people on Bora Bora were Christians; but he was a heathen, the
only unbeliever on the island, a gross materialist, who believed that
when he died he was dead. He believed merely in fair play and square
dealing. Petty meanness, in his code, was almost as serious as wanton
homicide; and I do believe that he respected a murderer more than a
man given to small practices.
Concerning me, personally, he objected to my doing anything that was
hurtful to me. Gambling was all right. He was an ardent gambler
himself. But late hours, he explained, were bad for one's health. He
had seen men who did not take care of themselves die of fever. He was
no teetotaler, and welcomed a stiff nip any time when it was wet work
in the boats. On the other hand, he believed in liquor in moderation.
He had seen many men killed or disgraced by square-face or Scotch.
Otoo had my welfare always at heart. He thought ahead for me, weighed
my plans, and took a greater interest in them than I did myself. At
first, when I was unaware of this interest of his in my affairs, he
had to divine my intentions, as, for instance, at Papeete, when I
contemplated going partners with a knavish fellow-countryman on a
guano venture. I did not know he was a knave. Nor did any white man in
Papeete. Neither did Otoo know, but he saw how thick we were getting,
and found out for me, and without my asking him. Native sailors from
the ends of the seas knock about on the beach in Tahiti; and Otoo,
suspicious merely, went among them till he had gathered sufficient
data to justify his suspicions. Oh, it was a nice history, that of
Randolph Waters. I couldn't believe it when Otoo first narrated it;
but when I sheeted it home to Waters he gave in without a murmur, and
got away on the first steamer to Aukland.
At first, I am free to confess, I couldn't help resenting Otoo's
poking his nose into my business. But I knew that he was wholly
unselfish; and soon I had to acknowledge his wisdom and discretion. He
had his eyes open always to my main chance, and he was both
keen-sighted and far-sighted. In time he became my counselor, until he
knew more of my business than I did myself. He really had my interest
at heart more than I did. Mine was the magnificent carelessness of
youth, for I preferred romance to dollars, and adventure to a
comfortable billet with all night in. So it was well that I had some
one to look out for me. I know that if it had not been for Otoo, I
should not be here today.
Of numerous instances, let me give one. I had had some experience in
blackbirding before I went pearling in the Paumotus. Otoo and I were
on the beach in Samoa--we really were on the beach and hard
aground--when my chance came to go as recruiter on a blackbird brig.
Otoo signed on before the mast; and for the next half-dozen years, in
as many ships, we knocked about the wildest portions of Melanesia.
Otoo saw to it that he always pulled stroke-oar in my boat. Our custom
in recruiting labor was to land the recruiter on the beach. The
covering boat always lay on its oars several hundred feet off shore,
while the recruiter's boat, also lying on its oars, kept afloat on the
edge of the beach. When I landed with my trade goods, leaving my
steering sweep apeak, Otoo left his stroke position and came into the
stern sheets, where a Winchester lay ready to hand under a flap of
canvas. The boat's crew was also armed, the Sniders concealed under
canvas flaps that ran the length of the gunwales.
While I was busy arguing and persuading the woolly-headed cannibals to
come and labor on the Queensland plantations Otoo kept watch. And
often and often his low voice warned me of suspicious actions and
impending treachery. Sometimes it was the quick shot from his rifle,
knocking a nigger over, that was the first warning I received. And in
my rush to the boat his hand was always there to jerk me flying
aboard. Once, I remember, on SANTA ANNA, the boat grounded just as the
trouble began. The covering boat was dashing to our assistance, but
the several score of savages would have wiped us out before it
arrived. Otoo took a flying leap ashore, dug both hands into the trade
goods, and scattered tobacco, beads, tomahawks, knives, and calicoes
in all directions.
This was too much for the woolly-heads. While they scrambled for the
treasures, the boat was shoved clear, and we were aboard and forty
feet away. And I got thirty recruits off that very beach in the next
The particular instance I have in mind was on Malaita, the most savage
island in the easterly Solomons. The natives had been remarkably
friendly; and how were we to know that the whole village had been
taking up a collection for over two years with which to buy a white
man's head? The beggars are all head-hunters, and they especially
esteem a white man's head. The fellow who captured the head would
receive the whole collection. As I say, they appeared very friendly;
and on this day I was fully a hundred yards down the beach from the
boat. Otoo had cautioned me; and, as usual when I did not heed him, I
came to grief.
The first I knew, a cloud of spears sailed out of the mangrove swamp
at me. At least a dozen were sticking into me. I started to run, but
tripped over one that was fast in my calf, and went down. The
woolly-heads made a run for me, each with a long-handled, fantail
tomahawk with which to hack off my head. They were so eager for the
prize that they got in one another's way. In the confusion, I avoided
several hacks by throwing myself right and left on the sand.
Then Otoo arrived--Otoo the manhandler. In some way he had got hold of
a heavy war club, and at close quarters it was a far more efficient
weapon than a rifle. He was right in the thick of them, so that they
could not spear him, while their tomahawks seemed worse than useless.
He was fighting for me, and he was in a true Berserker rage. The way
he handled that club was amazing.
Their skulls squashed like overripe oranges. It was not until he had
driven them back, picked me up in his arms, and started to run, that
he received his first wounds. He arrived in the boat with four spear
thrusts, got his Winchester, and with it got a man for every shot.
Then we pulled aboard the schooner, and doctored up.
Seventeen years we were together. He made me. I should today be a
supercargo, a recruiter, or a memory, if it had not been for him.
"You spend your money, and you go out and get more," he said one day.
"It is easy to get money now. But when you get old, your money will be
spent, and you will not be able to go out and get more. I know,
master. I have studied the way of white men. On the beaches are many
old men who were young once, and who could get money just like you.
Now they are old, and they have nothing, and they wait about for the
young men like you to come ashore and buy drinks for them.
"The black boy is a slave on the plantations. He gets twenty dollars a
year. He works hard. The overseer does not work hard. He rides a horse
and watches the black boy work. He gets twelve hundred dollars a year.
I am a sailor on the schooner. I get fifteen dollars a month. That is
because I am a good sailor. I work hard. The captain has a double
awning, and drinks beer out of long bottles. I have never seen him
haul a rope or pull an oar. He gets one hundred and fifty dollars a
month. I am a sailor. He is a navigator. Master, I think it would be
very good for you to know navigation."
Otoo spurred me on to it. He sailed with me as second mate on my first
schooner, and he was far prouder of my command than I was myself.
Later on it was:
"The captain is well paid, master; but the ship is in his keeping, and
he is never free from the burden. It is the owner who is better
paid--the owner who sits ashore with many servants and turns his money
"True, but a schooner costs five thousand dollars--an old schooner at
that," I objected. "I should be an old man before I saved five
"There be short ways for white men to make money," he went on,
pointing ashore at the cocoanut-fringed beach.
We were in the Solomons at the time, picking up a cargo of ivory nuts
along the east coast of Guadalcanar.
"Between this river mouth and the next it is two miles," he said.
"The flat land runs far back. It is worth nothing now. Next year--who
knows?--or the year after, men will pay much money for that land. The
anchorage is good. Big steamers can lie close up. You can buy the land
four miles deep from the old chief for ten thousand sticks of tobacco,
ten bottles of square-face, and a Snider, which will cost you, maybe,
one hundred dollars. Then you place the deed with the commissioner;
and the next year, or the year after, you sell and become the owner of
I followed his lead, and his words came true, though in three years,
instead of two. Next came the grasslands deal on Guadalcanar--twenty
thousand acres, on a governmental nine hundred and ninety-nine years'
lease at a nominal sum. I owned the lease for precisely ninety days,
when I sold it to a company for half a fortune. Always it was Otoo who
looked ahead and saw the opportunity. He was responsible for the
salving of the Doncaster--bought in at auction for a hundred pounds,
and clearing three thousand after every expense was paid. He led me
into the Savaii plantation and the cocoa venture on Upolu.
We did not go seafaring so much as in the old days. I was too well
off. I married, and my standard of living rose; but Otoo remained the
same old-time Otoo, moving about the house or trailing through the
office, his wooden pipe in his mouth, a shilling undershirt on his
back, and a four-shilling lava-lava about his loins. I could not get
him to spend money. There was no way of repaying him except with love,
and God knows he got that in full measure from all of us. The children
worshipped him; and if he had been spoilable, my wife would surely
have been his undoing.
The children! He really was the one who showed them the way of their
feet in the world practical. He began by teaching them to walk. He sat
up with them when they were sick. One by one, when they were scarcely
toddlers, he took them down to the lagoon, and made them into
amphibians. He taught them more than I ever knew of the habits of fish
and the ways of catching them. In the bush it was the same thing. At
seven, Tom knew more woodcraft than I ever dreamed existed. At six,
Mary went over the Sliding Rock without a quiver, and I have seen
strong men balk at that feat. And when Frank had just turned six he
could bring up shillings from the bottom in three fathoms.
"My people in Bora Bora do not like heathen--they are all Christians;
and I do not like Bora Bora Christians," he said one day, when I, with
the idea of getting him to spend some of the money that was rightfully
his, had been trying to persuade him to make a visit to his own island
in one of our schooners--a special voyage which I had hoped to make a
record breaker in the matter of prodigal expense.
I say one of OUR schooners, though legally at the time they belonged
to me. I struggled long with him to enter into partnership.
"We have been partners from the day the Petite Jeanne went down," he
said at last. "But if your heart so wishes, then shall we become
partners by the law. I have no work to do, yet are my expenses large.
I drink and eat and smoke in plenty--it costs much, I know. I do not
pay for the playing of billiards, for I play on your table; but still
the money goes. Fishing on the reef is only a rich man's pleasure. It
is shocking, the cost of hooks and cotton line. Yes; it is necessary
that we be partners by the law. I need the money. I shall get it from
the head clerk in the office."
So the papers were made out and recorded. A year later I was compelled
"Charley," said I, "you are a wicked old fraud, a miserly skinflint, a
miserable land crab. Behold, your share for the year in all our
partnership has been thousands of dollars. The head clerk has given me
this paper. It says that in the year you have drawn just eighty-seven
dollars and twenty cents."
"Is there any owing me?" he asked anxiously.
"I tell you thousands and thousands," I answered.
His face brightened, as with an immense relief.
"It is well," he said. "See that the head clerk keeps good account of
it. When I want it, I shall want it, and there must not be a cent
"If there is," he added fiercely, after a pause, "it must come out of
the clerk's wages."
And all the time, as I afterwards learned, his will, drawn up by
Carruthers, and making me sole beneficiary, lay in the American
But the end came, as the end must come to all human associations.
It occurred in the Solomons, where our wildest work had been done in
the wild young days, and where we were once more--principally on a
holiday, incidentally to look after our holdings on Florida Island and
to look over the pearling possibilities of the Mboli Pass. We were
lying at Savo, having run in to trade for curios.
Now, Savo is alive with sharks. The custom of the woolly-heads of
burying their dead in the sea did not tend to discourage the sharks
from making the adjacent waters a hangout. It was my luck to be coming
aboard in a tiny, overloaded, native canoe, when the thing capsized.
There were four woolly-heads and myself in it, or rather, hanging to
it. The schooner was a hundred yards away.
I was just hailing for a boat when one of the woolly-heads began to
scream. Holding on to the end of the canoe, both he and that portion
of the canoe were dragged under several times. Then he loosed his
clutch and disappeared. A shark had got him.
The three remaining niggers tried to climb out of the water upon the
bottom of the canoe. I yelled and cursed and struck at the nearest
with my fist, but it was no use. They were in a blind funk. The canoe
could barely have supported one of them. Under the three it upended
and rolled sidewise, throwing them back into the water.
I abandoned the canoe and started to swim toward the schooner,
expecting to be picked up by the boat before I got there. One of the
niggers elected to come with me, and we swam along silently, side by
side, now and again putting our faces into the water and peering about
for sharks. The screams of the man who stayed by the canoe informed us
that he was taken. I was peering into the water when I saw a big shark
pass directly beneath me. He was fully sixteen feet in length. I saw
the whole thing. He got the woolly-head by the middle, and away he
went, the poor devil, head, shoulders, and arms out of the water all
the time, screeching in a heart-rending way. He was carried along in
this fashion for several hundred feet, when he was dragged beneath the
I swam doggedly on, hoping that that was the last unattached shark.
But there was another. Whether it was one that had attacked the
natives earlier, or whether it was one that had made a good meal
elsewhere, I do not know. At any rate, he was not in such haste as the
others. I could not swim so rapidly now, for a large part of my effort
was devoted to keeping track of him. I was watching him when he made
his first attack. By good luck I got both hands on his nose, and,
though his momentum nearly shoved me under, I managed to keep him off.
He veered clear, and began circling about again. A second time I
escaped him by the same manoeuvre. The third rush was a miss on both
sides. He sheered at the moment my hands should have landed on his
nose, but his sandpaper hide (I had on a sleeveless undershirt)
scraped the skin off one arm from elbow to shoulder.
By this time I was played out, and gave up hope. The schooner was
still two hundred feet away. My face was in the water, and I was
watching him manoeuvre for another attempt, when I saw a brown body
pass between us. It was Otoo.
"Swim for the schooner, master!" he said. And he spoke gayly, as
though the affair was a mere lark. "I know sharks. The shark is my
I obeyed, swimming slowly on, while Otoo swam about me, keeping always
between me and the shark, foiling his rushes and encouraging me.
"The davit tackle carried away, and they are rigging the falls," he
explained, a minute or so later, and then went under to head off
By the time the schooner was thirty feet away I was about done for. I
could scarcely move. They were heaving lines at us from on board, but
they continually fell short. The shark, finding that it was receiving
no hurt, had become bolder. Several times it nearly got me, but each
time Otoo was there just the moment before it was too late. Of course,
Otoo could have saved himself any time. But he stuck by me.
"Good-by, Charley! I'm finished!" I just managed to gasp.
I knew that the end had come, and that the next moment I should throw
up my hands and go down.
But Otoo laughed in my face, saying:
"I will show you a new trick. I will make that shark feel sick!"
He dropped in behind me, where the shark was preparing to come at me.
"A little more to the left!" he next called out. "There is a line
there on the water. To the left, master--to the left!"
I changed my course and struck out blindly. I was by that time barely
conscious. As my hand closed on the line I heard an exclamation from
on board. I turned and looked. There was no sign of Otoo. The next
instant he broke surface. Both hands were off at the wrist, the stumps
"Otoo!" he called softly. And I could see in his gaze the love that
thrilled in his voice.
Then, and then only, at the very last of all our years, he called me
by that name.
"Good-by, Otoo!" he called.
Then he was dragged under, and I was hauled aboard, where I fainted in
the captain's arms.
And so passed Otoo, who saved me and made me a man, and who saved me
in the end. We met in the maw of a hurricane, and parted in the maw of
a shark, with seventeen intervening years of comradeship, the like of
which I dare to assert has never befallen two men, the one brown and
the other white. If Jehovah be from His high place watching every
sparrow fall, not least in His kingdom shall be Otoo, the one heathen
of Bora Bora.
THE TERRIBLE SOLOMONS
There is no gainsaying that the Solomons are a hard-bitten bunch of
islands. On the other hand, there are worse places in the world. But
to the new chum who has no constitutional understanding of men and
life in the rough, the Solomons may indeed prove terrible.
It is true that fever and dysentery are perpetually on the walk-about,
that loathsome skin diseases abound, that the air is saturated with a
poison that bites into every pore, cut, or abrasion and plants
malignant ulcers, and that many strong men who escape dying there
return as wrecks to their own countries. It is also true that the
natives of the Solomons are a wild lot, with a hearty appetite for
human flesh and a fad for collecting human heads. Their highest
instinct of sportsmanship is to catch a man with his back turned and
to smite him a cunning blow with a tomahawk that severs the spinal
column at the base of the brain. It is equally true that on some
islands, such as Malaita, the profit and loss account of social
intercourse is calculated in homicides. Heads are a medium of
exchange, and white heads are extremely valuable. Very often a dozen
villages make a jack-pot, which they fatten moon by moon, against the
time when some brave warrior presents a white man's head, fresh and
gory, and claims the pot.
All the foregoing is quite true, and yet there are white men who have
lived in the Solomons a score of years and who feel homesick when they
go away from them. A man needs only to be careful--and lucky--to live
a long time in the Solomons; but he must also be of the right sort. He
must have the hallmark of the inevitable white man stamped upon his
soul. He must be inevitable. He must have a certain grand carelessness
of odds, a certain colossal self-satisfaction, and a racial egotism
that convinces him that one white is better than a thousand niggers
every day in the week, and that on Sunday he is able to clean out two
thousand niggers. For such are the things that have made the white man
inevitable. Oh, and one other thing--the white man who wishes to be
inevitable, must not merely despise the lesser breeds and think a lot
of himself; he must also fail to be too long on imagination. He must
not understand too well the instincts, customs, and mental processes
of the blacks, the yellows, and the browns; for it is not in such
fashion that the white race has tramped its royal road around the
Bertie Arkwright was not inevitable. He was too sensitive, too finely
strung, and he possessed too much imagination. The world was too much
with him. He projected himself too quiveringly into his environment.
Therefore, the last place in the world for him to come was the
Solomons. He did not come, expecting to stay. A five weeks' stop-over
between steamers, he decided, would satisfy the call of the primitive
he felt thrumming the strings of his being. At least, so he told the
lady tourists on the MAKEMBO, though in different terms; and they
worshipped him as a hero, for they were lady tourists and they would
know only the safety of the steamer's deck as she threaded her way
through the Solomons.
There was another man on board, of whom the ladies took no notice. He
was a little shriveled wisp of a man, with a withered skin the color
of mahogany. His name on the passenger list does not matter, but his
other name, Captain Malu, was a name for niggers to conjure with, and
to scare naughty pickaninnies to righteousness from New Hanover to the
New Hebrides. He had farmed savages and savagery, and from fever and
hardship, the crack of Sniders and the lash of the overseers, had
wrested five millions of money in the form of bÍche-de-mer,
sandalwood, pearl-shell and turtle-shell, ivory nuts and copra,
grasslands, trading stations, and plantations. Captain Malu's little
finger, which was broken, had more inevitableness in it than Bertie
Arkwright's whole carcass. But then, the lady tourists had nothing by
which to judge save appearances, and Bertie certainly was a
Bertie talked with Captain Malu in the smoking room, confiding to him
his intention of seeing life red and bleeding in the Solomons. Captain
Malu agreed that the intention was ambitious and honorable. It was not
until several days later that he became interested in Bertie, when
that young adventurer insisted on showing him an automatic 44-caliber
pistol. Bertie explained the mechanism and demonstrated by slipping a
loaded magazine up the hollow butt.
"It is so simple," he said. He shot the outer barrel back along the
inner one. "That loads it and cocks it, you see. And then all I have
to do is pull the trigger, eight times, as fast as I can quiver my
finger. See that safety clutch. That's what I like about it. It is
safe. It is positively fool-proof." He slipped out the magazine. "You
see how safe it is."
As he held it in his hand, the muzzle came in line with Captain Malu's
stomach. Captain Malu's blue eyes looked at it unswervingly.
"Would you mind pointing it in some other direction?" he asked.
"It's perfectly safe," Bertie assured him. "I withdrew the magazine.
It's not loaded now, you know."
"A gun is always loaded."
"But this one isn't."
"Turn it away just the same."
Captain Malu's voice was flat and metallic and low, but his eyes never
left the muzzle until the line of it was drawn past him and away from
"I'll bet a fiver it isn't loaded," Bertie proposed warmly.
The other shook his head.
"Then I'll show you."
Bertie started to put the muzzle to his own temple with the evident
intention of pulling the trigger.
"Just a second," Captain Malu said quietly, reaching out his hand.
"Let me look at it."
He pointed it seaward and pulled the trigger. A heavy explosion
followed, instantaneous with the sharp click of the mechanism that
flipped a hot and smoking cartridge sidewise along the deck.
Bertie's jaw dropped in amazement.
"I slipped the barrel back once, didn't I?" he explained. "It was
silly of me, I must say."
He giggled flabbily, and sat down in a steamer chair. The blood had
ebbed from his face, exposing dark circles under his eyes. His hands
were trembling and unable to guide the shaking cigarette to his lips.
The world was too much with him, and he saw himself with dripping
brains prone upon the deck.
"Really," he said, ". . . really."
"It's a pretty weapon," said Captain Malu, returning the automatic to
The Commissioner was on board the Makembo, returning from Sydney, and
by his permission a stop was made at Ugi to land a missionary. And at
Ugi lay the ketch ARLA, Captain Hansen, skipper. Now the Arla was one
of many vessels owned by Captain Malu, and it was at his suggestion
and by his invitation that Bertie went aboard the Arla as guest for a
four days' recruiting cruise on the coast of Malaita. Thereafter the
ARLA would drop him at Reminge Plantation (also owned by Captain
Malu), where Bertie could remain for a week, and then be sent over to
Tulagi, the seat of government, where he would become the
Commissioner's guest. Captain Malu was responsible for two other
suggestions, which given, he disappears from this narrative. One was
to Captain Hansen, the other to Mr. Harriwell, manager of Reminge
Plantation. Both suggestions were similar in tenor, namely, to give
Mr. Bertram Arkwright an insight into the rawness and redness of life
in the Solomons. Also, it is whispered that Captain Malu mentioned
that a case of Scotch would be coincidental with any particularly
gorgeous insight Mr. Arkwright might receive. . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Yes, Swartz always was too pig-headed. You see, he took four of his
boat's crew to Tulagi to be flogged--officially, you know--then
started back with them in the whaleboat. It was pretty squally, and
the boat capsized just outside. Swartz was the only one drowned. Of
course, it was an accident."
"Was it? Really?" Bertie asked, only half-interested, staring hard at
the black man at the wheel.
Ugi had dropped astern, and the ARLA was sliding along through a
summer sea toward the wooded ranges of Malaita. The helmsman who so
attracted Bertie's eyes sported a ten penny nail, stuck skewerwise
through his nose. About his neck was a string of pants buttons. Thrust
through holes in his ears were a can opener, the broken handle of a
toothbrush, a clay pipe, the brass wheel of an alarm clock, and
several Winchester rifle cartridges.
On his chest, suspended from around his neck hung the half of a china
plate. Some forty similarly appareled blacks lay about the deck,
fifteen of which were boat's crew, the remainder being fresh labor
"Of course it was an accident," spoke up the ARLA'S mate, Jacobs, a
slender, dark-eyed man who looked more a professor than a sailor.
"Johnny Bedip nearly had the same kind of accident. He was bringing
back several from a flogging, when they capsized him. But he knew how
to swim as well as they, and two of them were drowned. He used a boat
stretcher and a revolver. Of course it was an accident."
"Quite common, them accidents," remarked the skipper. "You see that
man at the wheel, Mr. Arkwright? He's a man eater. Six months ago, he
and the rest of the boat's crew drowned the then captain of the ARLA.
They did it on deck, sir, right aft there by the mizzen-traveler."
"The deck was in a shocking state," said the mate.
"Do I understand--?" Bertie began.
"Yes, just that," said Captain Hansen. "It was an accidental
"But on deck--?"
"Just so. I don't mind telling you, in confidence, of course, that
they used an axe."
"This present crew of yours?"
Captain Hansen nodded.
"The other skipper always was too careless," explained the mate. He
but just turned his back, when they let him have it."
"We haven't any show down here," was the skipper's complaint. "The
government protects a nigger against a white every time. You can't
shoot first. You've got to give the nigger first shot, or else the
government calls it murder and you go to Fiji. That's why there's so
many drowning accidents."
Dinner was called, and Bertie and the skipper went below, leaving the
mate to watch on deck.
"Keep an eye out for that black devil, Auiki," was the skipper's
parting caution. "I haven't liked his looks for several days."
"Right O," said the mate.
Dinner was part way along, and the skipper was in the middle of his
story of the cutting out of the Scottish Chiefs.
"Yes," he was saying, "she was the finest vessel on the coast. But
when she missed stays, and before ever she hit the reef, the canoes
started for her. There were five white men, a crew of twenty Santa
Cruz boys and Samoans, and only the supercargo escaped. Besides, there
were sixty recruits. They were all kai-kai'd. Kai-kai?--oh, I beg your
pardon. I mean they were eaten. Then there was the James Edwards, a
But at that moment there was a sharp oath from the mate on deck and a
chorus of savage cries. A revolver went off three times, and then was
heard a loud splash. Captain Hansen had sprung up the companionway on
the instant, and Bertie's eyes had been fascinated by a glimpse of him
drawing his revolver as he sprang.
Bertie went up more circumspectly, hesitating before he put his head
above the companionway slide. But nothing happened. The mate was
shaking with excitement, his revolver in his hand. Once he startled,
and half-jumped around, as if danger threatened his back.
"One of the natives fell overboard," he was saying, in a queer tense
voice. "He couldn't swim."
"Who was it?" the skipper demanded.
"Auiki," was the answer.
"But I say, you know, I heard shots," Bertie said, in trembling
eagerness, for he scented adventure, and adventure that was happily
The mate whirled upon him, snarling:
"It's a damned lie. There ain't been a shot fired. The nigger fell
Captain Hansen regarded Bertie with unblinking, lack-luster eyes.
"I--I thought--" Bertie was beginning.
"Shots?" said Captain Hansen, dreamily. "Shots? Did you hear any
shots, Mr. Jacobs?"
"Not a shot," replied Mr. Jacobs.
The skipper looked at his guest triumphantly, and said:
"Evidently an accident. Let us go down, Mr. Arkwright, and finish
Bertie slept that night in the captain's cabin, a tiny stateroom off
the main cabin. The for'ard bulkhead was decorated with a stand of
rifles. Over the bunk were three more rifles. Under the bunk was a big
drawer, which, when he pulled it out, he found filled with ammunition,
dynamite, and several boxes of detonators. He elected to take the
settee on the opposite side. Lying conspicuously on the small table,
was the Arla's log. Bertie did not know that it had been especially
prepared for the occasion by Captain Malu, and he read therein how on
September 21, two boat's crew had fallen overboard and been drowned.
Bertie read between the lines and knew better. He read how the Arla's
whale boat had been bushwhacked at Su'u and had lost three men; of how
the skipper discovered the cook stewing human flesh on the galley
fire--flesh purchased by the boat's crew ashore in Fui; of how an
accidental discharge of dynamite, while signaling, had killed another
boat's crew; of night attacks; ports fled from between the dawns;
attacks by bushmen in mangrove swamps and by fleets of salt-water men
in the larger passages. One item that occurred with monotonous
frequency was death by dysentery. He noticed with alarm that two white
men had so died--guests, like himself, on the Arla.
"I say, you know," Bertie said next day to Captain Hansen. "I've been
glancing through your log."
The skipper displayed quick vexation that the log had been left lying
"And all that dysentery, you know, that's all rot, just like the
accidental drownings," Bertie continued. "What does dysentery really
The skipper openly admired his guest's acumen, stiffened himself to
make indignant denial, then gracefully surrendered.
"You see, it's like this, Mr. Arkwright. These islands have got a bad
enough name as it is. It's getting harder every day to sign on white
men. Suppose a man is killed. The company has to pay through the nose
for another man to take the job. But if the man merely dies of
sickness, it's all right. The new chums don't mind disease. What they
draw the line at is being murdered. I thought the skipper of the Arla
had died of dysentery when I took his billet. Then it was too late.
I'd signed the contract."
"Besides," said Mr. Jacobs, "there's altogether too many accidental
drownings anyway. It don't look right. It's the fault of the
government. A white man hasn't a chance to defend himself from the
"Yes, look at the Princess and that Yankee mate," the skipper took up
the tale. "She carried five white men besides a government agent. The
captain, the agent, and the supercargo were ashore in the two boats.
They were killed to the last man. The mate and boson, with about
fifteen of the crew--Samoans and Tongans--were on board. A crowd of
niggers came off from shore. First thing the mate knew, the boson and
the crew were killed in the first rush. The mate grabbed three
cartridge belts and two Winchesters and skinned up to the cross-trees.
He was the sole survivor, and you can't blame him for being mad. He
pumped one rifle till it got so hot he couldn't hold it, then he
pumped the other. The deck was black with niggers. He cleaned them
out. He dropped them as they went over the rail, and he dropped them
as fast as they picked up their paddles. Then they jumped into the
water and started to swim for it, and being mad, he got half a dozen
more. And what did he get for it?"
"Seven years in Fiji," snapped the mate.
"The government said he wasn't justified in shooting after they'd
taken to the water," the skipper explained.
"And that's why they die of dysentery nowadays," the mate added.
"Just fancy," said Bertie, as he felt a longing for the cruise to be
Later on in the day he interviewed the black who had been pointed out
to him as a cannibal. This fellow's name was Sumasai. He had spent
three years on a Queensland plantation. He had been to Samoa, and
Fiji, and Sydney; and as a boat's crew had been on recruiting
schooners through New Britain, New Ireland, New Guinea, and the
Admiralties. Also, he was a wag, and he had taken a line on his
skipper's conduct. Yes, he had eaten many men. How many? He could not
remember the tally. Yes, white men, too; they were very good, unless
they were sick. He had once eaten a sick one.
"My word!" he cried, at the recollection. "Me sick plenty along him.
My belly walk about too much."
Bertie shuddered, and asked about heads. Yes, Sumasai had several
hidden ashore, in good condition, sun-dried, and smoke-cured. One was
of the captain of a schooner. It had long whiskers. He would sell it
for two quid. Black men's heads he would sell for one quid. He had
some pickaninny heads, in poor condition, that he would let go for ten
Five minutes afterward, Bertie found himself sitting on the
companionway-slide alongside a black with a horrible skin disease. He
sheered off, and on inquiry was told that it was leprosy. He hurried
below and washed himself with antiseptic soap. He took many antiseptic
washes in the course of the day, for every native on board was
afflicted with malignant ulcers of one sort or another.
As the Arla drew in to an anchorage in the midst of mangrove swamps, a
double row of barbed wire was stretched around above her rail. That
looked like business, and when Bertie saw the shore canoes alongside,
armed with spears, bows and arrows, and Sniders, he wished more
earnestly than ever that the cruise was over.
That evening the natives were slow in leaving the ship at sundown. A
number of them checked the mate when he ordered them ashore. "Never
mind, I'll fix them," said Captain Hansen, diving below.
When he came back, he showed Bertie a stick of dynamite attached to a
fish hook. Now it happens that a paper-wrapped bottle of chlorodyne
with a piece of harmless fuse projecting can fool anybody. It fooled
Bertie, and it fooled the natives. When Captain Hansen lighted the
fuse and hooked the fish hook into the tail end of a native's loin
cloth, that native was smitten with so an ardent a desire for the
shore that he forgot to shed the loin cloth. He started for'ard, the
fuse sizzling and spluttering at his rear, the natives in his path
taking headers over the barbed wire at every jump. Bertie was
horror-stricken. So was Captain Hansen. He had forgotten his
twenty-five recruits, on each of which he had paid thirty shillings
advance. They went over the side along with the shore-dwelling folk
and followed by him who trailed the sizzling chlorodyne bottle.
Bertie did not see the bottle go off; but the mate opportunely
discharging a stick of real dynamite aft where it would harm nobody,
Bertie would have sworn in any admiralty court to a nigger blown to
flinders. The flight of the twenty-five recruits had actually cost the
Arla forty pounds, and, since they had taken to the bush, there was no
hope of recovering them. The skipper and his mate proceeded to drown
their sorrow in cold tea.
The cold tea was in whiskey bottles, so Bertie did not know it was
cold tea they were mopping up. All he knew was that the two men got
very drunk and argued eloquently and at length as to whether the
exploded nigger should be reported as a case of dysentery or as an
accidental drowning. When they snored off to sleep, he was the only
white man left, and he kept a perilous watch till dawn, in fear of an
attack from shore and an uprising of the crew.
Three more days the Arla spent on the coast, and three more nights the
skipper and the mate drank overfondly of cold tea, leaving Bertie to
keep the watch. They knew he could be depended upon, while he was
equally certain that if he lived, he would report their drunken
conduct to Captain Malu. Then the Arla dropped anchor at Reminge
Plantation, on Guadalcanar, and Bertie landed on the beach with a sigh
of relief and shook hands with the manager. Mr. Harriwell was ready
"Now you mustn't be alarmed if some of our fellows seem downcast," Mr.
Harriwell said, having drawn him aside in confidence. "There's been
talk of an outbreak, and two or three suspicious signs I'm willing to
admit, but personally I think it's all poppycock."
"How--how many blacks have you on the plantation?" Bertie asked, with
a sinking heart.
"We're working four hundred just now," replied Mr. Harriwell,
cheerfully; "but the three of us, with you, of course, and the skipper
and mate of the Arla, can handle them all right."
Bertie turned to meet one McTavish, the storekeeper, who scarcely
acknowledged the introduction, such was his eagerness to present his
"It being that I'm a married man, Mr. Harriwell, I can't very well
afford to remain on longer. Trouble is working up, as plain as the
nose on your face. The niggers are going to break out, and there'll be
another Hohono horror here."
"What's a Hohono horror?" Bertie asked, after the storekeeper had been
persuaded to remain until the end of the month.
"Oh, he means Hohono Plantation, on Ysabel," said the manager. "The
niggers killed the five white men ashore, captured the schooner,
killed the captain and mate, and escaped in a body to Malaita. But I
always said they were careless on Hohono. They won't catch us napping
here. Come along, Mr. Arkwright, and see our view from the veranda."
Bertie was too busy wondering how he could get away to Tulagi to the
Commissioner's house, to see much of the view. He was still wondering,
when a rifle exploded very near to him, behind his back. At the same
moment his arm was nearly dislocated, so eagerly did Mr. Harriwell
drag him indoors.
"I say, old man, that was a close shave," said the manager, pawing him
over to see if he had been hit. "I can't tell you how sorry I am. But
it was broad daylight, and I never dreamed."
Bertie was beginning to turn pale.
"They got the other manager that way," McTavish vouchsafed. "And a
dashed fine chap he was. Blew his brains out all over the veranda. You
noticed that dark stain there between the steps and the door?"
Bertie was ripe for the cocktail which Mr. Harriwell pitched in and
compounded for him; but before he could drink it, a man in riding
trousers and puttees entered.
"What's the matter now?" the manager asked, after one look at the
newcomer's face. "Is the river up again?"
"River be blowed--it's the niggers. Stepped out of the cane grass, not
a dozen feet away, and whopped at me. It was a Snider, and he shot
from the hip. Now what I want to know is where'd he get that
Snider?--Oh, I beg pardon. Glad to know you, Mr. Arkwright."
"Mr. Brown is my assistant," explained Mr. Harriwell. "And now let's
have that drink."
"But where'd he get that Snider?" Mr. Brown insisted. "I always
objected to keeping those guns on the premises."
"They're still there," Mr. Harriwell said, with a show of heat.
Mr. Brown smiled incredulously.
"Come along and see," said the manager.
Bertie joined the procession into the office, where Mr. Harriwell
pointed triumphantly at a big packing case in a dusty corner.
"Well, then where did the beggar get that Snider?" harped Mr. Brown.
But just then McTavish lifted the packing case. The manager started,
then tore off the lid. The case was empty. They gazed at one another
in horrified silence. Harriwell drooped wearily.
Then McVeigh cursed.
"What I contended all along--the house-boys are not to be trusted."
"It does look serious," Harriwell admitted, "but we'll come through it
all right. What the sanguinary niggers need is a shaking up. Will you
gentlemen please bring your rifles to dinner, and will you, Mr. Brown,
kindly prepare forty or fifty sticks of dynamite. Make the fuses good
and short. We'll give them a lesson. And now, gentlemen, dinner is
One thing that Bertie detested was rice and curry, so it happened that
he alone partook of an inviting omelet. He had quite finished his
plate, when Harriwell helped himself to the omelet. One mouthful he
tasted, then spat out vociferously.
"That's the second time," McTavish announced ominously.
Harriwell was still hawking and spitting.
"Second time, what?" Bertie quavered.
"Poison," was the answer. "That cook will be hanged yet."
"That's the way the bookkeeper went out at Cape March," Brown spoke
up. "Died horribly. They said on the Jessie that they heard him
screaming three miles away."
"I'll put the cook in irons," sputtered Harriwell. "Fortunately we
discovered it in time."
Bertie sat paralyzed. There was no color in his face. He attempted to
speak, but only an inarticulate gurgle resulted. All eyed him
"Don't say it, don't say it," McTavish cried in a tense voice.
"Yes, I ate it, plenty of it, a whole plateful!" Bertie cried
explosively, like a diver suddenly regaining breath.
The awful silence continued half a minute longer, and he read his fate
in their eyes.
"Maybe it wasn't poison after all," said Harriwell, dismally.
"Call in the cook," said Brown.
In came the cook, a grinning black boy, nose-spiked and ear-plugged.
"Here, you, Wi-wi, what name that?" Harriwell bellowed, pointing
accusingly at the omelet.
Wi-wi was very naturally frightened and embarrassed.
"Him good fella kai-kai," he murmured apologetically.
"Make him eat it," suggested McTavish. "That's a proper test."
Harriwell filled a spoon with the stuff and jumped for the cook, who
fled in panic.
"That settles it," was Brown's solemn pronouncement. "He won't eat
"Mr. Brown, will you please go and put the irons on him?" Harriwell
turned cheerfully to Bertie. "It's all right, old man, the
Commissioner will deal with him, and if you die, depend upon it, he
will be hanged."
"Don't think the government'll do it," objected McTavish.
"But gentlemen, gentlemen," Bertie cried. "In the meantime think of
Harriwell shrugged his shoulders pityingly.
"Sorry, old man, but it's a native poison, and there are no known
antidotes for native poisons. Try and compose yourself and if--"
Two sharp reports of a rifle from without, interrupted the discourse,
and Brown, entering, reloaded his rifle and sat down to table.
"The cook's dead," he said. "Fever. A rather sudden attack."
"I was just telling Mr. Arkwright that there are no antidotes for
"Except gin," said Brown.
Harriwell called himself an absent-minded idiot and rushed for the gin
"Neat, man, neat," he warned Bertie, who gulped down a tumbler
two-thirds full of the raw spirits, and coughed and choked from the
angry bite of it till the tears ran down his cheeks.
Harriwell took his pulse and temperature, made a show of looking out
for him, and doubted that the omelet had been poisoned. Brown and
McTavish also doubted; but Bertie discerned an insincere ring in their
voices. His appetite had left him, and he took his own pulse
stealthily under the table. There was no question but what it was
increasing, but he failed to ascribe it to the gin he had taken.
McTavish, rifle in hand, went out on the veranda to reconnoiter.
"They're massing up at the cook-house," was his report. "And they've
no end of Sniders. My idea is to sneak around on the other side and
take them in flank. Strike the first blow, you know. Will you come
Harriwell ate on steadily, while Bertie discovered that his pulse had
leaped up five beats. Nevertheless, he could not help jumping when the
rifles began to go off. Above the scattering of Sniders could be heard
the pumping of Brown's and McTavish's Winchesters--all against a
background of demoniacal screeching and yelling.
"They've got them on the run," Harriwell remarked, as voices and
gunshots faded away in the distance.
Scarcely were Brown and McTavish back at the table when the latter
"They've got dynamite," he said.
"Then let's charge them with dynamite," Harriwell proposed.
Thrusting half a dozen sticks each into their pockets and equipping
themselves with lighted cigars, they started for the door. And just
then it happened. They blamed McTavish for it afterward, and he
admitted that the charge had been a trifle excessive. But at any rate
it went off under the house, which lifted up cornerwise and settled
back on its foundations. Half the china on the table was shattered,
while the eight-day clock stopped. Yelling for vengeance, the three
men rushed out into the night, and the bombardment began.
When they returned, there was no Bertie. He had dragged himself away
to the office, barricaded himself in, and sunk upon the floor in a
gin-soaked nightmare, wherein he died a thousand deaths while the
valorous fight went on around him. In the morning, sick and headachey
from the gin, he crawled out to find the sun still in the sky and God
presumable in heaven, for his hosts were alive and uninjured.
Harriwell pressed him to stay on longer, but Bertie insisted on
sailing immediately on the Arla for Tulagi, where, until the following
steamer day, he stuck close by the Commissioner's house. There were
lady tourists on the outgoing steamer, and Bertie was again a hero,
while Captain Malu, as usual, passed unnoticed. But Captain Malu sent
back from Sydney two cases of the best Scotch whiskey on the market,
for he was not able to make up his mind as to whether it was Captain
Hansen or Mr Harriwell who had given Bertie Arkwright the more
gorgeous insight into life in the Solomons.
THE INEVITABLE WHITE MAN
"The black will never understand the white, nor the white the black,
as long as black is black and white is white."
So said Captain Woodward. We sat in the parlor of Charley Roberts' pub
in Apia, drinking long Abu Hameds compounded and shared with us by the
aforesaid Charley Roberts, who claimed the recipe direct from Stevens,
famous for having invented the Abu Hamed at a time when he was spurred
on by Nile thirst--the Stevens who was responsible for "With Kitchener
to Kartoun," and who passed out at the siege of Ladysmith.
Captain Woodward, short and squat, elderly, burned by forty years of
tropic sun, and with the most beautiful liquid brown eyes I ever saw
in a man, spoke from a vast experience. The crisscross of scars on his
bald pate bespoke a tomahawk intimacy with the black, and of equal
intimacy was the advertisement, front and rear, on the right side of
his neck, where an arrow had at one time entered and been pulled clean
through. As he explained, he had been in a hurry on that occasion--the
arrow impeded his running--and he felt that he could not take the time
to break off the head and pull out the shaft the way it had come in.
At the present moment he was commander of the SAVAII, the big steamer
that recruited labor from the westward for the German plantations on
"Half the trouble is the stupidity of the whites," said Roberts,
pausing to take a swig from his glass and to curse the Samoan bar-boy
in affectionate terms. "If the white man would lay himself out a bit
to understand the workings of the black man's mind, most of the messes
would be avoided."
"I've seen a few who claimed they understood niggers," Captain
Woodward retorted, "and I always took notice that they were the first
to be kai-kai'd (eaten). Look at the missionaries in New Guinea and
the New Hebrides--the martyr isle of Erromanga and all the rest. Look
at the Austrian expedition that was cut to pieces in the Solomons, in
the bush of Guadalcanar. And look at the traders themselves, with a
score of years' experience, making their brag that no nigger would
ever get them, and whose heads to this day are ornamenting the rafters
of the canoe houses. There was old Johnny Simons--twenty-six years on
the raw edges of Melanesia, swore he knew the niggers like a book and
that they'd never do for him, and he passed out at Marovo Lagoon, New
Georgia, had his head sawed off by a black Mary (woman) and an old
nigger with only one leg, having left the other leg in the mouth of a
shark while diving for dynamited fish. There was Billy Watts, horrible
reputation as a nigger killer, a man to scare the devil. I remember
lying at Cape Little, New Ireland you know, when the niggers stole
half a case of trade-tobacco--cost him about three dollars and a half.
In retaliation he turned out, shot six niggers, smashed up their war
canoes and burned two villages. And it was at Cape Little, four years
afterward, that he was jumped along with fifty Buku boys he had with
him fishing bÍche-de-mer. In five minutes they were all dead, with the
exception of three boys who got away in a canoe. Don't talk to me
about understanding the nigger. The white man's mission is to farm the
world, and it's a big enough job cut out for him. What time has he got
left to understand niggers anyway?"
"Just so," said Roberts. "And somehow it doesn't seem necessary, after
all, to understand the niggers. In direct proportion to the white
man's stupidity is his success in farming the world--"
"And putting the fear of God into the nigger's heart," Captain
Woodward blurted out. "Perhaps you're right, Roberts. Perhaps it's his
stupidity that makes him succeed, and surely one phase of his
stupidity is his inability to understand the niggers. But there's one
thing sure, the white has to run the niggers whether he understands
them or not. It's inevitable. It's fate."
"And of course the white man is inevitable--it's the niggers' fate,"
Roberts broke in. "Tell the white man there's pearl shell in some
lagoon infested by ten-thousand howling cannibals, and he'll head
there all by his lonely, with half a dozen kanaka divers and a tin
alarm clock for chronometer, all packed like sardines on a commodious,
five-ton ketch. Whisper that there's a gold strike at the North Pole,
and that same inevitable white-skinned creature will set out at once,
armed with pick and shovel, a side of bacon, and the latest patent
rocker--and what's more, he'll get there. Tip it off to him that
there's diamonds on the red-hot ramparts of hell, and Mr. White Man
will storm the ramparts and set old Satan himself to pick-and-shovel
work. That's what comes of being stupid and inevitable."
"But I wonder what the black man must think of the--the
inevitableness," I said.
Captain Woodward broke into quiet laughter. His eyes had a reminiscent
"I'm just wondering what the niggers of Malu thought and still must be
thinking of the one inevitable white man we had on board when we
visited them in the DUCHESS," he explained.
Roberts mixed three more Abu Hameds.
"That was twenty years ago. Saxtorph was his name. He was certainly
the most stupid man I ever saw, but he was as inevitable as death.
There was only one thing that chap could do, and that was shoot. I
remember the first time I ran into him--right here in Apia, twenty
years ago. That was before your time, Roberts. I was sleeping at Dutch
Henry's hotel, down where the market is now. Ever heard of him? He
made a tidy stake smuggling arms in to the rebels, sold out his hotel,
and was killed in Sydney just six weeks afterward in a saloon row.
"But Saxtorph. One night I'd just got to sleep, when a couple of cats
began to sing in the courtyard. It was out of bed and up window, water
jug in hand. But just then I heard the window of the next room go up.
Two shots were fired, and the window was closed. I fail to impress you
with the celerity of the transaction. Ten seconds at the outside. Up
went the window, bang bang went the revolver, and down went the
window. Whoever it was, he had never stopped to see the effect of his
shots. He knew. Do you follow me?--he KNEW. There was no more cat
concert, and in the morning there lay the two offenders, stone dead.
It was marvelous to me. It still is marvelous. First, it was
starlight, and Saxtorph shot without drawing a bead; next, he shot so
rapidly that the two reports were like a double report; and finally,
he knew he had hit his marks without looking to see.
"Two days afterward he came on board to see me. I was mate, then, on
the Duchess, a whacking big one-hundred-and fifty-ton schooner, a
blackbirder. And let me tell you that blackbirders were blackbirders
in those days. There weren't any government protection for US, either.
It was rough work, give and take, if we were finished, and nothing
said, and we ran niggers from every south sea island they didn't kick
us off from. Well, Saxtorph came on board, John Saxtorph was the name
he gave. He was a sandy little man, hair sandy, complexion sandy, and
eyes sandy, too. Nothing striking about him. His soul was as neutral
as his color scheme. He said he was strapped and wanted to ship on
board. Would go cabin boy, cook, supercargo, or common sailor. Didn't
know anything about any of the billets, but said that he was willing
to learn. I didn't want him, but his shooting had so impressed me that
I took him as common sailor, wages three pounds per month.
"He was willing to learn all right, I'll say that much. But he was
constitutionally unable to learn anything. He could no more box the
compass than I could mix drinks like Roberts here. And as for
steering, he gave me my first gray hairs. I never dared risk him at
the wheel when we were running in a big sea, while full-and-by and