Part 2 out of 3
messed alone, produced for him unexpected and sometimes
unpalatable dainties, of which he forced himself to eat. And one
day, when he was forward, he was surprised to feel a caressing
hand run down his shoulder, and to hear the voice of Sally Day
crooning in his ear: 'You gootch man!' He turned, and, choking
down a sob, shook hands with the negrito. They were kindly,
cheery, childish souls. Upon the Sunday each brought forth his
separate Bible--for they were all men of alien speech even to
each other, and Sally Day communicated with his mates in English
only, each read or made believe to read his chapter, Uncle Ned
with spectacles on his nose; and they would all join together in
the singing of missionary hymns. It was thus a cutting reproof to
compare the islanders and the whites aboard the Farallone.
Shame ran in Herrick's blood to remember what employment
he was on, and to see these poor souls--and even Sally Day, the
child of cannibals, in all likelihood a cannibal himself--so
faithful to what they knew of good. The fact that he was held in
grateful favour by these innocents served like blinders to his
conscience, and there were times when he was inclined, with
Sally Day, to call himself a good man. But the height of his
favour was only now to appear. With one voice, the crew
protested; ere Herrick knew what they were doing, the cook
was aroused and came a willing volunteer; all hands clustered
about their mate with expostulations and caresses; and he was
bidden to lie down and take his customary rest without alarm.
'He tell you tlue,' said Uncle Ned. 'You sleep. Evely man hae
he do all light. Evely man he like you too much.'
Herrick struggled, and gave way; choked upon some trivial
words of gratitude; and walked to the side of the house, against
which he leaned, struggling with emotion.
Uncle Ned presently followed him and begged him to lie
'It's no use, Uncle Ned,' he replied. 'I couldn't sleep. I'm
knocked over with all your goodness.'
'Ah, no call me Uncle Ned no mo'!' cried the old man. 'No
my name! My name Taveeta, all-e-same Taveeta King of Islael. Wat
for he call that Hawaii? I think no savvy nothing--all-e-
It was the first time the name of the late captain had been
mentioned, and Herrick grasped the occasion. The reader shall
be spared Uncle Ned's unwieldy dialect, and learn in less
embarrassing English, the sum of what he now communicated.
The ship had scarce cleared the Golden Gates before the captain
and mate had entered on a career of drunkenness, which was
scarcely interrupted by their malady and only closed by death.
For days and weeks they had encountered neither land nor ship;
and seeing themselves lost on the huge deep with their insane
conductors, the natives had drunk deep of terror.
At length they made a low island, and went in; and Wiseman
and Wishart landed in the boat.
There was a great village, a very fine village, and plenty
Kanakas in that place; but all mighty serious; and from every
here and there in the back parts of the settlement, Taveeta heard
the sounds of island lamentation. 'I no savvy TALK that island,'
said he. 'I savvy hear um CLY. I think, Hum! too many people die
here!' But upon Wiseman and Wishart the significance of that
barbaric keening was lost. Full of bread and drink, they
rollicked along unconcerned, embraced the girls who had scarce
energy to repel them, took up and joined (with drunken voices) in
the death wail, and at last (on what they took to be an
invitation) entered under the roof of a house in which was a
considerable concourse of people sitting silent. They stooped
below the eaves, flushed and laughing; within a minute they came
forth again with changed faces and silent tongues; and as the
press severed to make way for them, Taveeta was able to perceive,
in the deep shadow of the house, the sick man raising from his
mat a head already defeatured by disease. The two tragic triflers
fled without hesitation for their boat, screaming on Taveeta to
make haste; they came aboard with all speed of oars, raised
anchor and crowded sail upon the ship with blows and curses, and
were at sea again--and again drunk--before sunset. A week after,
and the last of the two had been committed to the deep. Herrick
asked Taveeta where that island was, and he replied that, by
what he gathered of folks' talk as they went up together from
the beach, he supposed it must be one of the Paumotus. This
was in itself probable enough, for the Dangerous Archipelago
had been swept that year from east to west by devastating
smallpox; but Herrick thought it a strange course to lie from
Sydney. Then he remembered the drink.
'Were they not surprised when they made the island?' he
'Wise-a-mana he say "dam! what this?"' was the reply.
'O, that's it then,' said Herrick. 'I don't believe they knew
where they were.'
'I think so too,' said Uncle Ned. 'I think no savvy. This one
mo' betta,' he added, pointing to the house where the drunken
captain slumbered: 'Take-a-sun all-e-time.'
The implied last touch completed Herrick's picture of the life
and death of his two predecessors; of their prolonged, sordid,
sodden sensuality as they sailed, they knew not whither, on their
last cruise. He held but a twinkling and unsure belief in any
future state; the thought of one of punishment he derided; yet
for him (as for all) there dwelt a horror about the end of the
brutish man. Sickness fell upon him at the image thus called up;
and when he compared it with the scene in which himself was
acting, and considered the doom that seemed to brood upon the
schooner, a horror that was almost superstitious fell upon him.
And yet the strange thing was, he did not falter. He who had
proved his incapacity in so many fields, being now falsely placed
amid duties which he did not understand, without help, and it
might be said without countenance, had hitherto surpassed
expectation; and even the shameful misconduct and shocking
disclosures of that night seemed but to nerve and strengthen
him. He had sold his honour; he vowed it should not be in vain;
'it shall be no fault of mine if this miscarry,' he repeated. And
in his heart he wondered at himself. Living rage no doubt
supported him; no doubt also, the sense of the last cast, of the
ships burned, of all doors closed but one, which is so strong a
tonic to the merely weak, and so deadly a depressant to the
For some time the voyage went otherwise well. They weathered
Fakarava with one board; and the wind holding well to the
southward and blowing fresh, they passed between Ranaka and
Ratiu, and ran some days north-east by east-half-east under the
lee of Takume and Honden, neither of which they made. In
about 14 degrees South and between 134 and 135 degrees West, it
fell a dead calm with rather a heavy sea. The captain refused to
take in sail, the helm was lashed, no watch was set, and the
Farallone rolled and banged for three days, according to
observation, in almost the same place. The fourth morning, a
little before day, a breeze sprang up and rapidly freshened. The
captain had drunk hard the night before; he was far from sober
when he was roused; and when he came on deck for the first time
at half-past eight, it was plain he had already drunk deep again
at breakfast. Herrick avoided his eye; and resigned the deck with
indignation to a man more than half-seas over.
By the loud commands of the captain and the singing out of
fellows at the ropes, he could judge from the house that sail was
being crowded on the ship; relinquished his half-eaten breakfast;
and came on deck again, to find the main and the jib topsails
set, and both watches and the cook turned out to hand the
staysail. The Farallone lay already far over; the sky was
obscured with misty scud; and from the windward an ominous
squall came flying up, broadening and blackening as it rose.
Fear thrilled in Herrick's vitals. He saw death hard by; and if
not death, sure ruin. For if the Farallone lived through the
coming squall, she must surely be dismasted. With that their
enterprise was at an end, and they themselves bound prisoners to
the very evidence of their crime. The greatness of the peril
and his own alarm sufficed to silence him. Pride, wrath, and
shame raged without issue in his mind; and he shut his teeth
and folded his arms close.
The captain sat in the boat to windward, bellowing orders
and insults, his eyes glazed, his face deeply congested; a bottle
set between his knees, a glass in his hand half empty. His back
was to the squall, and he was at first intent upon the setting of
the sail. When that was done, and the great trapezium of canvas
had begun to draw and to trail the lee-rail of the Farallone
level with the foam, he laughed out an empty laugh, drained his
glass, sprawled back among the lumber in the boat, and fetched
out a crumpled novel.
Herrick watched him, and his indignation glowed red hot. He
glanced to windward where the squall already whitened the near
sea and heralded its coming with a singular and dismal sound.
He glanced at the steersman, and saw him clinging to the spokes
with a face of a sickly blue. He saw the crew were running to
their stations without orders. And it seemed as if something
broke in his brain; and the passion of anger, so long restrained,
so long eaten in secret, burst suddenly loose and shook him like
a sail. He stepped across to the captain and smote his hand
heavily on the drunkard's shoulder.
'You brute,' he said, in a voice that tottered, 'look behind
'Wha's that?' cried Davis, bounding in the boat and upsetting
'You lost the Sea Ranger because you were a drunken sot,' said
Herrick. 'Now you're going to lose the Farallone. You're going to
drown here the same way as you drowned others, and be damned. And
your daughter shall walk the streets, and your sons be thieves
like their father.'
For the moment, the words struck the captain white and
foolish. 'My God!' he cried, looking at Herrick as upon a ghost;
'my God, Herrick!'
'Look behind you, then!' reiterated the assailant.
The wretched man, already partly sobered, did as he was told,
and in the same breath of time leaped to his feet. 'Down
staysail!' he trumpeted. The hands were thrilling for the order,
and the great sail came with a run, and fell half overboard
among the racing foam. 'Jib topsail-halyards! Let the stays'l
be,' he said again.
But before it was well uttered, the squall shouted aloud and
fell, in a solid mass of wind and rain commingled, on the
Farallone; and she stooped under the blow, and lay like a thing
dead. From the mind of Herrick reason fled; he clung in the
weather rigging, exulting; he was done with life, and he gloried
in the release; he gloried in the wild noises of the wind and the
choking onslaught of the rain; he gloried to die so, and now,
amid this coil of the elements. And meanwhile, in the waist up
to his knees in water--so low. the schooner lay--the captain
was hacking at the foresheet with a pocket knife. It was a
question of seconds, for the Farallone drank deep of the
encroaching seas. But the hand of the captain had the advance;
the foresail boom tore apart the last strands of the sheet and
crashed to leeward; the Farallone leaped up into the wind and
righted; and the peak and throat halyards, which had long been
let go, began to run at the same instant.
For some ten minutes more she careered under the impulse of
the squall; but the captain was now master of himself and of his
ship, and all danger at an end. And then, sudden as a trick
change upon the stage, the squall blew by, the wind dropped
into light airs, the sun beamed forth again upon the tattered
schooner; and the captain, having secured the foresail boom and
set a couple of hands to the pump, walked aft, sober, a little
pale, and with the sodden end of a cigar still stuck between his
teeth even as the squall had found it. Herrick followed him; he
could scarce recall the violence of his late emotions, but he
felt there was a scene to go through, and he was anxious and even
eager to go through with it.
The captain, turning at the house end, met him face to face,
and averted his eyes. 'We've lost the two tops'ls and the
stays'l,' he gabbled. 'Good business, we didn't lose any sticks.
I guess you think we're all the better without the kites.'
'That's not what I'm thinking,' said Herrick, in a voice
strangely quiet, that yet echoed confusion in the captain's mind.
'I know that,' he cried, holding up his hand. 'I know what
you're thinking. No use to say it now. I'm sober.'
'I have to say it, though,' returned Herrick.
'Hold on, Herrick; you've said enough,' said Davis. 'You've
said what I would take from no man breathing but yourself;
only I know it's true.'
'I have to tell you, Captain Brown,' pursued Herrick, 'that I
resign my position as mate. You can put me in irons or shoot
me, as you please; I will make no resistance--only, I decline in
any way to help or to obey you; and I suggest you should put
Mr Huish in my place. He will make a worthy first officer to
your captain, sir.' He smiled, bowed, and turned to walk
'Where are you going, Herrick?' cried the captain, detaining
him by the shoulder.
'To berth forward with the men, sir,' replied Herrick, with
the same hateful smile. 'I've been long enough aft here with you
'You're wrong there,' said Davis. 'Don't you be too quick with
me; there ain't nothing wrong but the drink--it's the old
story, man! Let me get sober once, and then you'll see,' he
'Excuse me, I desire to see no more of you,' said Herrick.
The captain groaned aloud. 'You know what you said about
my children?' he broke out.
'By rote. In case you wish me to say it you again?' asked
'Don't!' cried the captain, clapping his hands to his ears.
'Don't make me kill a man I care for! Herrick, if you see me put
glass to my lips again till we're ashore, I give you leave to
put bullet through me; I beg you to do it! You're the only man
aboard whose carcase is worth losing; do you think I don't
know that? do you think I ever went back on you? I always
knew you were in the right of it--drunk or sober, I knew that.
What do you want?--an oath? Man, you're clever enough to
see that this is sure-enough earnest.'
'Do you mean there shall be no more drinking?' asked
Herrick, 'neither by you nor Huish? that you won't go on
stealing my profits and drinking my champagne that I gave my
honour for? and that you'll attend to your duties, and stand
watch and watch, and bear your proper share of the ship's
work, instead of leaving it all on the shoulders of a landsman,
and making yourself the butt and scoff of native seamen? Is that
what you mean? If it is, be so good as to say it categorically.'
'You put these things in a way hard for a gentleman to
swallow,' said the captain. 'You wouldn't have me say I was
ashamed of myself? Trust me this once; I'll do the square thing,
and there's my hand on it.'
'Well, I'll try it once,' said Herrick. 'Fail me again. . .'
'No more now!' interrupted Davis. 'No more, old man!
Enough said. You've a riling tongue when your back's up,
Herrick. Just be glad we're friends again, the same as what I
am; and go tender on the raws; I'll see as you don't repent it.
We've been mighty near death this day--don't say whose fault
it was!--pretty near hell, too, I guess. We're in a mighty bad
line of life, us two, and ought to go easy with each other.'
He was maundering; yet it seemed as if he were maundering
with some design, beating about the bush of some communication
that he feared to make, or perhaps only talking against
time in terror of what Herrick might say next. But Herrick had
now spat his venom; his was a kindly nature, and, content with
his triumph, he had now begun to pity. With a few soothing
words, he sought to conclude the interview, and proposed that
they should change their clothes.
'Not right yet,' said Davis. 'There's another thing I want to
tell you first. You know what you said about my children? I
want to tell you why it hit me so hard; I kind of think you'll
feel bad about it too. It's about my little Adar. You hadn't
ought to have quite said that--but of course I know you didn't
know. She--she's dead, you see.'
'Why, Davis!' cried Herrick. 'You've told me a dozen times
she was alive! Clear your head, man! This must be the drink.'
"No, SIR,' said Davis. 'She's dead. Died of a bowel complaint.
That was when I was away in the brig Oregon. She lies in
Portland, Maine. "Adar, only daughter of Captain John Davis
and Mariar his wife, aged five." I had a doll for her on board. I
never took the paper off'n that doll, Herrick; it went down the
way it was with the Sea Ranger, that day I was damned.'
The Captain's eyes were fixed on the horizon, he talked with
an extraordinary softness but a complete composure; and Herrick
looked upon him with something that was almost terror.
'Don't think I'm crazy neither,' resumed Davis. 'I've all the
cold sense that I know what to do with. But I guess a man that's
unhappy's like a child; and this is a kind of a child's game of
mine. I never could act up to the plain-cut truth, you see; so I
pretend. And I warn you square; as soon as we're through with
this talk, I'll start in again with the pretending. Only, you
see, she can't walk no streets,' added the captain, 'couldn't
even make out to live and get that doll!'
Herrick laid a tremulous hand upon the captain's shoulder.
'Don't do that" cried Davis, recoiling from the touch. 'Can't
you see I'm all broken up the way it is? Come along, then; come
along, old man; you can put your trust in me right through;
come along and get dry clothes.'
They entered the cabin, and there was Huish on his knees
prising open a case of champagne.
"Vast, there!' cried the captain. 'No more of that. No more
drinking on this ship.'
'Turned teetotal, 'ave you?' inquired Hu'sh. 'I'm agreeable.
About time, eh? Bloomin' nearly lost another ship, I fancy.' He
took out a bottle and began calmly to burst the wire with the
spike of a corkscrew.
'Do you hear me speak?' cried Davis.
'I suppose I do. You speak loud enough,' said Huish. 'The
trouble is that I don't care.'
Herrick plucked the captain's sleeve. 'Let him free now,' he
said. 'We've had all we want this morning.'
'Let him have it then,' said the captain. 'It's his last.'
By this time the wire was open, the string was cut, the head
of glided paper was torn away; and Huish waited, mug in hand,
expecting the usual explosion. It did not follow. He eased the
cork with his thumb; still there was no result. At last he took
the screw and drew it. It came out very easy and with scarce a
"Illo!'said Huish. "Ere's a bad bottle.'
He poured some of the wine into the mug; it was colourless and
still. He smelt and tasted it.
'W'y, wot's this?' he said. 'It's water!'
If the voice of trumpets had suddenly sounded about the ship
in the midst of the sea, the three men in the house could
scarcely have been more stunned than by this incident. The mug
passed round; each sipped, each smelt of it; each stared at the
bottle in its glory of gold paper as Crusoe may have stared at
the footprint; and their minds were swift to fix upon a common
apprehension. The difference between a bottle of champagne
and a bottle of water is not great; between a shipload of one or
the other lay the whole scale from riches to ruin.
A second bottle was broached. There were two cases standing
ready in a stateroom; these two were brought out, broken open,
and tested. Still with the same result: the contents were still
colourless and tasteless, and dead as the rain in a beached
'Crikey!' said Huish.
'Here, let's sample the hold!' said the captain, mopping his
brow with a back-handed sweep; and the three stalked out of
the house, grim and heavy-footed.
All hands were turned out; two Kanakas were sent below,
another stationed at a purchase; and Davis, axe in hand, took
his place beside the coamings.
'Are you going to let the men know?' whispered Herrick.
'Damn the men!' said Davis. 'It's beyond that. We've got to
Three cases were sent on deck and sampled in turn; from each
bottle, as the captain smashed it with the axe, the champagne
ran bubbling and creaming.
'Go deeper, can't you?' cried Davis to the Kanakas in the
The command gave the signal for a disastrous change. Case
after case came up, bottle after bottle was burst and bled mere
water. Deeper yet, and they came upon a layer where there was
scarcely so much as the intention to deceive; where the cases
were no longer branded, the bottles no longer wired or papered,
where the fraud was manifest and stared them in the face.
'Here's about enough of this foolery!' said Davis. 'Stow back
the cases in the hold, Uncle, and get the broken crockery
overboard. Come with me,' he added to his co-adventurers, and
led the way back into the cabin.
Chapter 6. THE PARTNERS
Each took a side of the fixed table; it was the first time they
had sat down at it together; but now all sense of incongruity,
all memory of differences, was quite swept away by the presence
of the common ruin.
'Gentlemen,' said the captain, after a pause, and with very
much the air of a chairman opening a board-meeting, 'we're
Huish broke out in laughter. 'Well, if this ain't the 'ighest old
rig!' he cried. 'And Dyvis, 'ere, who thought he had got up so
bloomin' early in the mornin'! We've stolen a cargo of spring
water! Oh, my crikey!' and he squirmed with mirth.
The captain managed to screw out a phantom smile.
'Here's Old Man Destiny again,' said he to Herrick, 'but this
time I guess he's kicked the door right in.'
Herrick only shook his head.
'O Lord, it's rich!' laughed Huish. 'it would really be a
scrumptious lark if it 'ad 'appened to somebody else! And wot
are we to do next? Oh, my eye! with this bloomin' schooner,
'That's the trouble,' said Davis. 'There's only one thing
certain: it's no use carting this old glass and ballast to Peru.
No, SIR, we're in a hole.'
'O my, and the merchand' cried Huish; 'the man that made
this shipment! He'll get the news by the mail brigantine; and
he'll think of course we're making straight for Sydney.'
'Yes, he'll be a sick merchant,' said the captain. 'One thing:
this explains the Kanaka crew. If you're going to lose a ship, I
would ask no better myself than a Kanaka crew. But there's one
thing it don't explain; it don't explain why she came down
'Wy, to lose her, you byby!' said Huish.
'A lot you know,' said the captain. 'Nobody wants to lose a
schooner; they want to lose her ON HER COURSE, you skeericks!
You seem to think underwriters haven't got enough sense to
come in out of the rain.'
'Well,' said Herrick, 'I can tell you (I am afraid) why she came
so far to the eastward. I had it of Uncle Ned. It seems these two
unhappy devils, Wiseman and Wishart, were drunk on the
champagne from the beginning--and died drunk at the end.'
The captain looked on the table.
'They lay in their two bunks, or sat here in this damned
house,' he pursued, with rising agitation, 'filling their skins
with the accursed stuff, till sickness took them. As they
sickened and the fever rose, they drank the more. They lay here
howling and groaning, drunk and dying, all in one. They didn't
know where they were, they didn't care. They didn't even take the
sun, it seems.'
'Not take the sun?' cried the captain, looking up. 'Sacred
Billy! what a crowd!'
'Well, it don't matter to Joe!' said Huish. 'Wot are Wiseman
and the t'other buffer to us?'
'A good deal, too,' says the captain. 'We're their heirs, I
'It is a great inheritance,' said Herrick.
'Well, I don't know about that,' returned Davis. 'Appears to
me as if it might be worse. 'Tain't worth what the cargo would
have been of course, at least not money down. But I'll tell you
what it appears to figure up to. Appears to me as if it amounted
to about the bottom dollar of the man in 'Frisco.'
''Old on,' said Huish. 'Give a fellow time; 'ow's this, umpire?'
'Well, my sons,' pursued the captain, who seemed to have
recovered his assurance, 'Wiseman and Wishart were to be paid
for casting away this old schooner and its cargo. We're going to
cast away the schooner right enough; and I'll make it my private
business to see that we get paid. What were W. and W. to get?
That's more'n I can tell. But W. and W. went into this business
themselves, they were on the crook. Now WE'RE on the square,
we only stumbled into it; and that merchant has just got to
squeal, and I'm the man to see that he squeals good. No, sir!
there's some stuffing to this Farallone racket after all.'
'Go it, cap!' cried Huish. 'Yoicks! Forrard! 'Old 'ard! There's
your style for the money! Blow me if I don't prefer this to the
'I do not understand,' said Herrick. 'I have to ask you to
excuse. me; I do not understand.'
'Well now, see here, Herrick,' said Davis, 'I'm going to have a
word with you anyway upon a different matter, and it's good
that Huish should hear it too. We're done with this boozing
business, and we ask your pardon for it right here and now. We
have to thank you for all you did for us while we were making
hogs of ourselves; you'll find me turn-to all right in future;
and as for the wine, which I grant we stole from you, I'll take
stock and see you paid for it. That's good enough, I believe. But
what I want to point out to you is this. The old game was a risky
game. The new game's as safe as running a Vienna Bakery. We
just put this Farallone before the wind, and run till we're well
to looard of our port of departure and reasonably well up with
some other place, where they have an American Consul. Down
goes the Farallone, and good-bye to her! A day or so in the
boat; the consul packs us home, at Uncle Sam's expense, to
'Frisco; and if that merchant don't put the dollars down, you
come to me!'
'But I thought,' began Herrick; and then broke out; 'oh, let's
get on to Peru!'
'Well, if you're going to Peru for your health, I won't say no!'
replied. the captain. 'But for what other blame' shadow of a
reason you should want to go there, gets me clear. We don't
want to go there with this cargo; I don't know as old bottles is
a lively article anywheres; leastways, I'll go my bottom cent, it
ain't Peru. It was always a doubt if we could sell the schooner;
I never rightly hoped to, and now I'm sure she ain't worth a hill
of beans; what's wrong with her, I don't know; I only know it's
something, or she wouldn't be here with this truck in her inside.
Then again, if we lose her, and land in Peru, where are we? We
can't declare the loss, or how did we get to Peru? In that case
the merchant can't touch the insurance; most likely he'll go
bust; and don't you think you see the three of us on the beach of
'There's no extradition there,' said Herrick.
'Well, my son, and we want to be extraded,' said the captain.
'What's our point? We want to have a consul extrade us as far
as San Francisco and that merchant's office door. My idea is
that Samoa would be found an eligible business centre. It's dead
before the wind; the States have a consul there, and 'Frisco
steamers call, so's we could skip right back and interview the
'Samoa?' said Herrick. 'It will take us for ever to get there.'
'Oh, with a fair wind!' said the captain.
'No trouble about the log, eh?' asked Huish.
'No, SIR,' said Davis. 'Ligbt airs and baffling winds. Squalls
and calms. D. R.: five miles. No obs. Pumps attended. And fill
in the barometer and thermometer off of last year's trip.' 'Never
saw such a voyage,' says you to the consul. 'Thought I was
going to run short . . .' He stopped in mid career. "Say,' he
began again, and once more stopped. 'Beg your pardon, Herrick,'
he added with undisguised humility, 'but did you keep the
run of the stores?'
'Had I been told to do so, it should have been done, as the
rest was done, to the best of my little ability,' said Herrick.
'As it was, the cook helped himself to what he pleased.'
Davis looked at the table.
'I drew it rather fine, you see,' he said at last. 'The great
thing was to clear right out of Papeete before the consul could
think better of it. Tell you what: I guess I'll take stock.'
And he rose from table and disappeared with a lamp in the
"Ere's another screw loose,' observed Huish.
'My man,' said Herrick, with a sudden gleam of animosity, 'it
is still your watch on deck, and surely your wheel also?'
'You come the 'eavy swell, don't you, ducky?' said Huish.
'Stand away from that binnacle. Surely your w'eel, my man.
He lit a cigar ostentatiously, and strolled into the waist with
his hands in his pockets.
In a surprisingly short time, the captain reappeared; he did
not look at Herrick, but called Huish back and sat down.
'Well,' he began, 'I've taken stock--roughly.' He paused as if
for somebody to help him out; and none doing so, both gazing
on him instead with manifest anxiety, he yet more heavily
resumed. 'Well, it won't fight. We can't do it; that's the bed
rock. I'm as sorry as what you can be, and sorrier. We can't
look near Samoa. I don't know as we could get to Peru.'
'Wot-ju mean?' asked Huish brutally.
'I can't 'most tell myself,' replied the captain. 'I drew it
fine; I said I did; but what's been going on here gets me!
Appears as if the devil had been around. That cook must be the
holiest kind of fraud. Only twelve days, too! Seems like
craziness. I'll own up square to one thing: I seem to have
figured too fine upon the flour. But the rest--my land! I'll
never understand it! There's been more waste on this twopenny
ship than what there is to an Atlantic Liner.' He stole a glance
at his companions; nothing good was to be gleaned from their dark
faces; and he had recourse to rage. 'You wait till I interview
that cook!' he roared and smote the table with his fist. 'I'll
interview the son of a gun so's he's never been spoken to before.
I'll put a bead upon the--'
'You will not lay a finger on the man,' said Herrick. 'The fault
is yours and you know it. If you turn a savage loose in your
store-room, you know what to expect. I will not allow the man
to be molested.'
It is hard to say how Davis might have taken this defiance;
but he was diverted to a fresh assailant.
'Well!' drawled Huish, 'you're a plummy captain, ain't you?
You're a blooming captain! Don't you, set up any of your chat
to me, John Dyvis: I know you now, you ain't any more use
than a bloomin' dawl! Oh, you "don't know", don't you? Oh,
it "gets you", do it? Oh, I dessay! W'y, we en't you 'owling for
fresh tins every blessed day? 'Ow often 'ave I 'eard you send the
'ole bloomin' dinner off and tell the man to chuck it in the
swill tub? And breakfast? Oh, my crikey! breakfast for ten, and
you 'ollerin' for more! And now you "can't 'most tell"! Blow me,
if it ain't enough to make a man write an insultin' letter to
Gawd! You dror it mild, John Dyvis; don't 'andle me; I'm
Davis sat like one bemused; it might even have been doubted
if he heard, but the voice of the clerk rang about the cabin like
that of a cormorant among the ledges of the cliff.
'That will do, Huish,' said Herrick.
'Oh, so you tyke his part, do you? you stuck-up sneerin' snob!
Tyke it then. Come on, the pair of you. But as for John Dyvis,
let him look out! He struck me the first night aboard, and I
never took a blow yet but wot I gave as good. Let him knuckle
down on his marrow bones and beg my pardon. That's my last
'I stand by the Captain,' said Herrick. 'That makes us two to
one, both good men; and the crew will all follow me. I hope I
shall die very soon; but I have not the least objection to
killing you before I go. I should prefer it so; I should do it
with no more remorse than winking. Take care--take care, you
The animosity with which these words were uttered was so
marked in itself, and so remarkable in the man who uttered
them that Huish stared, and even the humiliated Davis reared
up his head and gazed at his defender. As for Herrick, the
successive agitations and disappointments of the day had left
him wholly reckless; he was conscious of a pleasant glow, an
agreeable excitement; his head seemed empty, his eyeballs
burned as he turned them, his throat was dry as a biscuit; the
least dangerous man by nature, except in so far as the weak are
always dangerous, at that moment he was ready to slay or to be
slain with equal unconcern.
Here at least was the gage thrown down, and battle offered;
he who should speak next would bring the matter to an issue
there and then; all knew it to be so and hung back; and for
many seconds by the cabin clock, the trio sat motionless and
Then came an interruption, welcome as the flowers in May.
'Land ho!' sang out a voice on deck. 'Land a weatha bow!'
'Land!' cried Davis, springing to his feet. 'What's this? There
ain't no land here.'
And as men may run from the chamber of a murdered corpse,
the three ran forth out of the house and left their quarrel
behind them, undecided.
The sky shaded down at the sea level to the white of opals; the
sea itself, insolently, inkily blue, drew all about them the
uncompromising wheel of the horizon. Search it as they pleased,
not even the practisect eye of Captain Davis could descry the
smallest interruption. A few filmy clouds were slowly melting
overhead; and about the schooner, as around the only point of
interest, a tropic bird, white as a snowflake, hung, and circled,
and displayed, as it turned, the long vermilion feather of its
tall. Save the sea and the heaven, that was all.
'Who sang out land?' asked Davis. 'If there's any boy playing
funny dog with me, I'll teach him skylarking!'
But Uncle Ned contentedly pointed to a part of the horizon,
where a greenish, filmy iridescence could be discerned floating
like smoke on the pale heavens.
Davis applied his glass to it, and then looked at the Kanaka.
'Call that land?' said he. 'Well, it's more than I do.'
'One time long ago,' said Uncle Ned, 'I see Anaa all-e-same
that, four five hours befo' we come up. Capena he say sun go
down, sun go up again; he say lagoon all-e-same milla.'
'All-e-same WHAT?' asked Davis.
'Milla, sah,' said Uncle Ned.
'Oh, ah! mirror,' said Davis. 'I see; reflection from the lagoon.
Well, you know, it is just possible, though it's strange I never
heard of it. Here, let's look at the chart.'
They went back to the cabin, and found the position of the
schooner well to windward of the archipelago in the midst of a
white field of paper.
'There! you see for yourselves,' said Davis.
'And yet I don't know,' said Herrick, 'I somehow think there's
something in it. I'll tell you one thing too, captain; that's all
right about the reflection; I heard it in Papeete.'
'Fetch up that Findlay, then!' said Davis. 'I'll try it all
ways. An island wouldn't come amiss, the way we're fixed.'
The bulky volume was handed up to him, broken-backed as
is the way with Findlay; and he turned to the place and began
to run over the text, muttering to himself and turning over the
pages with a wetted finger.
'Hullo!' he exclaimed. 'How's this?' And he read aloud. 'New
Island. According to M. Delille this island, which from private
interests would remain unknown, lies, it is said, in lat. 12
degrees 49' 10" S. long. 113degrees 6' W. In addition to the
position above given Commander Matthews, H.M.S. Scorpion, states
that an island exists in lat. 12 degrees 0' S. long. 13 degrees
16' W. This must be the same, if such an island exists, which is
very doubtful, and totally disbelieved in by South Sea traders.'
'Golly!' said Huish.
'It's rather in the conditional mood,' said Herrick.
'It's anything you please,' cried Davis, 'only there it is!
That's our place, and don't you make any mistake.'
"'Which from private interests would remain unknown,"'
read Herrick, over his shoulder. 'What may that mean?'
'It should mean pearls,' said Davis. 'A pearling island the
government don't know about? That sounds like real estate. Or
suppose it don't mean anything. Suppose it's just an island; I
guess we could fill up with fish, and cocoanuts, and native
stuff, and carry out the Samoa scheme hand over fist. How long
did he say it was before they raised Anaa) Five hours, I think?'
'Four or five,' said Herrick.
Davis stepped to the door. 'What breeze had you that time
you made Anaa, Uncle Ned?' said he.
'Six or seven knots,' was the reply.
'Thirty or thirty-five miles,' said Davis. 'High time we were
shortening sail, then. If it is an island, we don't want to be
butting our head against it in the dark; and if it isn't an
island, we can get through it just as well by daylight. Ready
about!' he roared.
And the schooner's head was laid for that elusive glimmer in
the sky, which began already to pale in lustre and diminish in
size, as the stain of breath vanishes from a window pane. At the
same time she was reefed close down.
Chapter 7. THE PEARL-FISHER
About four in the morning, as the captain and Herrick sat
together on the rail, there arose from the midst of the night in
front of them the voice of breakers. Each sprang to his feet and
stared and listened. The sound was continuous, like the passing
of a train; no rise or fall could be distinguished; minute by
minute the ocean heaved with an equal potency against the
invisible isle; and as time passed, and Herrick waited in vain
for any vicissitude in the volume of that roaring, a sense of the
eternal weighed upon his mind. To the expert eye the isle itself
was to be inferred from a certain string of blots along the
starry heaven. And the schooner was laid to and anxiously
observed till daylight.
There was little or no morning bank. A brightening came in
the east; then a wash of some ineffable, faint, nameless hue
between crimson and silver; and then coals of fire. These
glimmered a while on the sea line, and seemed to brighten and
darken and spread out, and still the night and the stars reigned
undisturbed; it was as though a spark should catch and glow
and creep along the foot of some heavy and almost incombusti-
ble wall-hanging, and the room itself be scarce menaced. Yet a
little after, and the whole east glowed with gold and scarlet,
and the hollow of heaven was filled with the daylight.
The isle--the undiscovered, the scarce believed-in--now lay
before them and close aboard; and Herrick thought that never
in his dreams had he beheld anything more strange and delicate.
The beach was excellently white, the continuous barrier of trees
inimitably green; the land perhaps ten feet high, the trees
thirty more. Every here and there, as the schooner coasted
northward, the wood was intermitted; and he could see clear over
the inconsiderable strip of land (as a man looks over a wall) to
the lagoon within--and clear over that again to where the far
side of the atoll prolonged its pencilling of trees against the
morning sky. He tortured himself to find analogies. The isle was
like the rim of a great vessel sunken in the waters; it was like
the embankment of an annular railway grown upon with wood: so
slender it seemed amidst the outrageous breakers, so frail and
pretty, he would scarce have wondered to see it sink and
disappear without a sound, and the waves close smoothly over
Meanwhile the captain was in the forecross-trees, glass in
hand, his eyes in every quarter, spying for an entrance, spying
for signs of tenancy. But the isle continued to unfold itself in
joints, and to run out in indeterminate capes, and still there
was neither house nor man, nor the smoke of fire. Here a
multitude of sea-birds soared and twinkled, and fished in the
blue waters; and there, and for miles together, the fringe of
cocoa-palm and pandanus extended desolate, and made desirable
green bowers for nobody to visit, and the silence of death was
only broken by the throbbing of the sea.
The airs were very light, their speed was small; the heat
intense. The decks were scorching underfoot, the sun flamed
overhead, brazen, out of a brazen sky; the pitch bubbled in the
seams, and the brains in the brain-pan. And all the while the
excitement of the three adventurers glowed about their bones
like a fever. They whispered, and nodded, and pointed, and put
mouth to ear, with a singular instinct of secrecy, approaching
that island underhand like eavesdroppers and thieves; and even
Davis from the cross-trees gave his orders mostly by gestures.
The hands shared in this mute strain, like dogs, without
comprehending it; and through the roar of so many miles of
breakers, it was a silent ship that approached an empty island.
At last they drew near to the break in that interminable
gangway. A spur of coral sand stood forth on the one hand; on
the other a high and thick tuft of trees cut off the view;
between was the mouth of the huge laver. Twice a day the ocean
crowded in that narrow entrance and was heaped between these
frail walls; twice a day, with the return of the ebb, the mighty
surplusage of water must struggle to escape. The hour in which
the Farallone came there was the hour of flood. The sea turned
(as with the instinct of the homing pigeon) for the vast
receptacle, swept eddying through the gates, was transmuted, as
it did so, into a wonder of watery and silken hues, and brimmed
into the inland sea beyond. The schooner looked up close-hauled,
and was caught and carried away by the influx like a toy. She
skimmed; she flew; a momentary shadow touched her decks
from the shore-side trees; the bottom of the channel showed up
for a moment and was in a moment gone; the next, she floated
on the bosom of the lagoon, and below, in the transparent
chamber of waters, a myriad of many-coloured fishes were
sporting, a myriad pale-flowers of coral diversified the floor.
Herrick stood transported. In the gratified lust of his eye, he
forgot the past and the present; forgot that he was menaced by
a prison on the one hand and starvation on the other; forgot
that he was come to that island, desperately foraging, clutching
at expedients. A drove of fishes, painted like the rainbow and
billed like parrots, hovered up in the shadow of the schooner,
and passed clear of it, and glinted in the submarine sun. They
were beautiful, like birds, and their silent passage impressed
him like a strain of song.
Meanwhile, to the eye of Davis in the cross-trees, the lagoon
continued to expand its empty waters, and the long succession
of the shore-side trees to be paid out like fishing line off a
reel. And still there was no mark of habitation. The schooner,
immediately on entering, had been kept away to the nor'ard
where the water seemed to be the most deep; and she was now
skimming past the tall grove of trees, which stood on that side
of the channel and denied further view. Of the whole of the low
shores of the island, only this bight remained to be revealed.
And suddenly the curtain was raised; they began to open out a
haven, snugly elbowed there, and beheld, with an astonishment
beyond words, the roofs of men.
The appearance, thus 'instantaneously disclosed' to those on
the deck of the Farallone, was not that of a city, rather of a
substantial country farm with its attendant hamlet: a long line
of sheds and store-houses; apart, upon the one side, a deep-
verandah'ed dwelling-house; on the other, perhaps a dozen
native huts; a building with a belfry and some rude offer at
architectural features that might be thought to mark it out for a
chapel; on the beach in front some heavy boats drawn up, and
a pile of timber running forth into the burning shallows of the
lagoon. From a flagstaff at the pierhead, the red ensign of
England was displayed. Behind, about, and over, the same tall
grove of palms, which had masked the settlement in the beginning,
prolonged its root of tumultuous green fans, and turned
and ruffled overhead, and sang its silver song all day in the
wind. The place had the indescribable but unmistakable appearance
of being in commission; yet there breathed from it a sense
of desertion that was almost poignant, no human figure was to
be observed going to and fro about the houses, and there was
no sound of human industry or enjoyment. Only, on the top of
the beach and hard by the flagstaff, a woman of exorbitant
stature and as white as snow was to be seen beckoning with
uplifted arm. The second glance identified her as a piece of
naval sculpture, the figure-head of a ship that had long hovered
and plunged into so many running billows, and was now brought
ashore to be the ensign and presiding genius of that empty town.
The Farallone made a soldier's breeze of it; the wind, besides,
was stronger inside than without under the lee of the land; and
the stolen schooner opened out successive objects with the
swiftness of a panorama, so that the adventurers stood
speechless. The flag spoke for itself; it was no frayed and
weathered trophy that had beaten itself to pieces on the post,
flying over desolation; and to make assurance stronger, there was
to be descried in the deep shade of the verandah, a glitter of
crystal and the fluttering of white napery. If the figure-head at
the pier end, with its perpetual gesture and its leprous
whiteness, reigned alone in that hamlet as it seemed to do, it
would not have reigned long. Men's hands had been busy, men's
feet stirring there, within the circuit of the clock. The
Farallones were sure of it; their eyes dug in the deep shadow of
the palms for some one hiding; if intensity of looking might have
prevailed, they would have pierced the walls of houses; and there
came to them, in these pregnant seconds, a sense of being watched
and played with, and of a blow impending, that was hardly
The extreme point of palms they had just passed enclosed a
creek, which was thus hidden up to the last moment from the
eyes of those on board; and from this, a boat put suddenly and
briskly out, and a voice hailed.
'Schooner aboy!' it cried. 'Stand in for the pier! In two
cables' lengths you'll have twenty fathoms water and good holding
The boat was manned with a couple of brown oarsmen in
scanty kilts of blue. The speaker, who was steering, wore white
clothes, the full dress oi the tropics; a wide hat shaded his
face; but it could be seen that be was of stalwart size, and his
voice sounded like a gentleman's. So much could be made out. It
was plain, besides, that the Farallone had been descried some
time before at sea, and the inhabitants were prepared for its
Mechanically the orders were obeyed, and the ship berthed;
and the three adventurers gathered aft beside the house and
waited, with galloping pulses and a perfect vacancy of mind, the
coming of the stranger who might mean so much to them. They
had no plan, no story prepared; there was no time to make one;
they were caught red-handed and must stand their chance. Yet
this anxiety was chequered with hope. The island being
undeclared, it was not possible the man could hold any office or
be in a position to demand their papers. And beyond that, if
there was any truth in Findlay, as it now seemed there should be,
he was the representative of the 'private reasons,' he must see
their coming with a profound disappointment; and perhaps (hope
whispered) he would be willing and able to purchase their
The boat was by that time forging alongside, and they were
able at last to see what manner of man they had to do with. He
was a huge fellow, six feet four in height, and of a build
proportionately strong, but his sinews seemed to be dissolved in
a listlessness that was more than languor. It was only the eye
that corrected this impression; an eye of an unusual mingled
brilliancy and softness, sombre as coal and with lights that
outshone the topaz; an eye of unimpaired health and virility; an
eye that bid you beware of the man's devastating anger. A
complexion, naturally dark, had been tanned in the island to a
hue hardly distinguishable from that of a Tahitian; only his
manners and movements, and the living force that dwelt in him,
like fire in flint, betrayed the European. He was dressed in
white drill, exquisitely made; his scarf and tie were of
tender-coloured silks; on the thwart beside him there leaned a
'Is the doctor on board?' he cried as he came up. 'Dr Symonds,
I mean? You never heard of him? Nor yet of the Trinity Hall?
He did not look surprised, seemed rather to affect it in
politeness; but his eye rested on each of the three white men in
succession with a sudden weight of curiosity that was almost
savage. 'Ah, THEN!' said he, 'there is some small mistake, no
doubt, and I must ask you to what I am indebted for this
He was by this time on the deck, but he had the art to be
quite unapproachable; the friendliest vulgarian, three parts
drunk, would have known better than take liberties; and not
one of the adventurers so much as offered to shake hands.
'Well,' said Davis, 'I suppose you may call it an accident. We
had heard of your island, and read that thing in the Directory
about the PRIVATE REASONS, you see; so when we saw the lagoon
reflected in the sky, we put her head for it at once, and so here
''Ope we don't intrude!' said Huish.
The stranger looked at Huish with an air of faint surprise,
and looked pointedly away again. It was hard to be more
offensive in dumb show.
'It may suit me, your coming here,' he said. 'My own schooner
is overdue, and I may put something in your way in the
meantime. Are you open to a charter?'
'Well, I guess so,' said Davis; 'it depends.'
'My name is Attwater,' continued the stranger. 'You, I
presume, are the captain?'
'Yes, sir. I am the captain of this ship: Captain Brown,' was
'Well, see 'ere!' said Huish, 'better begin fair! 'E's skipper on
deck right enough, but not below. Below, we're all equal, all got
a lay in the adventure; when it comes to business, I'm as good
as 'e; and what I say is, let's go into the 'ouse and have a
lush, and talk it over among pals. We've some prime fizz,' he
said, and winked.
The presence of the gentleman lighted up like a candle the
vulgarity of the clerk; and Herrick instinctively, as one shields
himself from pain, made haste to interrupt.
'My name is Hay,' said he, 'since introductions are going. We
shall be very glad if you will step inside.'
Attwater leaned to him swiftly. 'University man?' said he.
'Yes, Merton,' said Herrick, and the next moment blushed
scarlet at his indiscretion.
'I am of the other lot,' said Attwater: 'Trinity Hall, Cambridge.
I called my schooner after the old shop. Well! this is a
queer place and company for us to meet in, Mr Hay,' he
pursued, with easy incivility to the others. 'But do you bear out
... I beg this gentleman's pardon, I really did not catch his
'My name is 'Uish, sir,' returned the clerk, and blushed in
'Ah!' said Attwater. And then turning again to Herrick, 'Do
you bear out Mr Whish's description of your vintage? or was it
only the unaffected poetry of his own nature bubbling up?'
Herrick was embarrassed; the silken brutality of their visitor
made him blush; that he should be accepted as an equal, and
the others thus pointedly ignored, pleased him in spite of
himself, and then ran through his veins in a recoil of anger.
'I don't know,' he said. 'It's only California; it's good
enough, I believe.'
Attwater seemed to make up his mind. 'Well then, I'll tell you
what: you three gentlemen come ashore this evening and bring a
basket of wine with you; I'll try and find the food,' he said.
'And by the by, here is a question I should have asked you when
I come on board: have you had smallpox?'
'Personally, no,' said Herrick. 'But the schooner had it.'
'Deaths?' from Attwater.
'Two,' said Herrick.
'Well, it is a dreadful sickness,' said Attwater.
"Ad you any deaths?' asked Huish, ''ere on the island?'
'Twenty-nine,' said Attwater. 'Twenty-nine deaths and thirty-one
cases, out of thirty-three souls upon the island.--That's a
strange way to calculate, Mr Hay, is it not? Souls! I never say
it but it startles me.'
'Oh, so that's why everything's deserted?' said Huish.
'That is why, Mr Whish,' said Attwater; 'that is why the
house is empty and the graveyard full.'
'Twenty-nine out of thirty-three!' exclaimed Herrick, 'Why,
when it came to burying--or did you bother burying?'
'Scarcely,' said Attwater; 'or there was one day at least when
we gave up. There were five of the dead that morning, and
thirteen of the dying, and no one able to go about except the
sexton and myself. We held a council of war, took the. . . empty
bottles ... into the lagoon, and buried them.' He looked
over his shoulder, back at the bright water. 'Well, so you'll
come to dinner, then? Shall we say half-past six. So good of
His voice, in uttering these conventional phrases, fell at once
into the false measure of society; and Herrick unconsciously
followed the example.
'I am sure we shall be very glad,' he said. 'At half-past six?
Thank you so very much.'
'"For my voice has been tuned to the note of the gun
That startles the deep when the combat's begun,"'
quoted Attwater, with a smile, which instantly gave way to an
air of funereal solemnity. 'I shall particularly expect Mr
Whish,' he continued. 'Mr Whish, I trust you understand the
'I believe you, my boy!' replied the genial Huish.
'That is right then; and quite understood, is it not?' said
Attwater. 'Mr Whish and Captain Brown at six-thirty without
fault--and you, Hay, at four sharp.'
And he called his boat.
During all this talk, a load of thought or anxiety had weighed
upon the captain. There was no part for which nature had so
liberally endowed him as that of the genial ship captain. But
today he was silent and abstracted. Those who knew him could
see that he hearkened close to every syllable, and seemed to
ponder and try it in balances. It would have been hard to say
what look there was, cold, attentive, and sinister, as of a man
maturing plans, which still brooded over the unconscious guest;
it was here, it was there, it was nowhere; it was now so little
that Herrick chid himself for an idle fancy; and anon it was so
gross and palpable that you could say every hair on the man's
head talked mischief.
He woke up now, as with a start. 'You were talking of a
charter,' said he.
'Was I?' said Attwater. 'Well, let's talk of it no more at
'Your own schooner is overdue, I understand?' continued the
'You understand perfectly, Captain Brown,' said Attwater;
'thirty-three days overdue at noon today.'
'She comes and goes, eh? plies between here and . . . ?' hinted
'Exactly; every four months; three trips in the year,' said
'You go in her, ever?' asked Davis.
'No, one stops here,' said Attwater, 'one has plenty to attend
'Stop here, do you?' cried Davis. 'Say, how long?'
'How long, O Lord,' said Attwater with perfect, stern gravity.
'But it does not seem so,' he added, with a smile.
'No, I dare say not,' said Davis. 'No, I suppose not. Not with
all your gods about you, and in as snug a berth as this. For it
is a pretty snug berth,' said he, with a sweeping look.
'The spot, as you are good enough to indicate, is not entirely
intolerable,' was the reply.
'Shell, I suppose?' said Davis.
'Yes, there was shell,' said Attwater.
'This is a considerable big beast of a lagoon, sir,' said the
captain. 'Was there a--was the fishing--would you call the
fishing anyways GOOD?'
'I don't know that I would call it anyways anything,' said
Attwater, 'if you put it to me direct.'
'There were pearls too?' said Davis.
'Pearls, too,' said Attwater.
'Well, I give out!' laughed Davis, and his laughter rang
cracked like a false piece. 'If you're not going to tell, you're
not going to tell, and there's an end to it.'
'There can be no reason why I should affect the least degree
of secrecy about my island,' returned Attwater; 'that came
wholly to an end with your arrival; and I am sure, at any rate,
that gentlemen like you and Mr Whish, I should have always
been charmed to make perfectly at home. The point on which
we are now differing--if you can call it a difference--is one of
times and seasons. I have some information which you think I
might impart, and I think not. Well, we'll see tonight! By-by,
Whish!' He stepped into his boat and shoved off. 'All understood,
then?' said he. 'The captain and Mr Whish at six-thirty,
and you, Hay, at four precise. You understand that, Hay? Mind,
I take no denial. If you're not there by the time named, there
will be no banquet; no song, no supper, Mr Whish!'
White birds whisked in the air above, a shoal of parti-coloured
fishes in the scarce denser medium below; between, like Mahomet's
coffin, the boat drew away briskly on the surface, and its
shadow followed it over the glittering floor of the lagoon.
Attwater looked steadily back over his shoulders as he sat; he
did not once remove his eyes from the Farallone and the group
on her quarter-deck beside the house, till his boat ground upon
the pier. Thence, with an agile pace, he hurried ashore, and they
saw his white clothes shining in the chequered dusk of the grove
until the house received him.
The captain, with a gesture and a speaking countenance,
called the adventurers into the cabin.
'Well,' he said to Herrick, when they were seated, 'there's one
good job at least. He's taken to you in earnest.'
'Why should that be a good job?' said Herrick.
'Oh, you'll see how it pans out presently,' returned Davis.
'You go ashore and stand in with him, that's all! You'll get lots
of pointers; you can find out what he has, and what the charter
is, and who's the fourth man--for there's four of them, and
we're only three.'
'And suppose I do, what next?' cried Herrick. 'Answer me that!'
'So I will, Robert Herrick,' said the captain. 'But first, let's
see all clear. I guess you know,' he said with an imperious
solemnity, 'I guess you know the bottom is out of this Farallone
speculation? I guess you know it's RIGHT out? and if this old
island hadn't been turned up right when it did, I guess you know
where you and I and Huish would have been?'
'Yes, I know that,' said Herrick. 'No matter who's to blame,
I know it. And what next?'
'No matter who's to blame, you know it, right enough,' said
the captain, 'and I'm obliged to you for the reminder. Now
here's this Attwater: what do you think of him?'
'I do not know,' said Herrick. 'I am attracted and repelled.
He was insufferably rude to you.'
'And you, Huish?' said the captain.
Huish sat cleaning a favourite briar root; he scarce looked up
from that engrossing task. 'Don't ast me what I think of him!'
he said. 'There's a day comin', I pray Gawd, when I can tell it
'Huish means the same as what I do,' said Davis. 'When that
man came stepping around, and saying "Look here, I'm
Attwater"--and you knew it was so, by God!--I sized him right
straight up. Here's the real article, I said, and I don't like
it; here's the real, first-rate, copper-bottomed aristocrat. 'AW'
I DON'T KNOW YE, DO I? GOD DAMN YE, DID GOD MAKE YE?' No, that
couldn't be nothing but genuine; a man got to be born to that,
and notice! smart as champagne and hard as nails; no kind of a
fool; no, SIR! not a pound of him! Well, what's he here upon this
beastly island for? I said. HE'S not here collecting eggs. He's a
palace at home, and powdered flunkies; and if he don't stay
there, you bet he knows the reason why! Follow?'
'O yes, I 'ear you,' said Huish.
'He's been doing good business here, then,' continued the
captain. 'For ten years, he's been doing a great business. It's
pearl and shell, of course; there couldn't be nothing else in
such a place, and no doubt the shell goes off regularly by this
Trinity Hall, and the money for it straight into the bank, so
that's no use to us. But what else is there? Is there nothing
else he would be likely to keep here? Is there nothing else he
would be bound to keep here? Yes, sir; the pearls! First, because
they're too valuable to trust out of his hands. Second, because
pearls want a lot of handling and matching; and the man who sells
his pearls as they come in, one here, one there, instead of
hanging back and holding up--well, that man's a fool, and it's
'Likely,' said Huish, 'that's w'at it is; not proved, but
'It's proved,' said Davis bluntly.
'Suppose it was?' said Herrick. 'Suppose that was all so, and
he had these pearls--a ten years' collection of them?--Suppose
he had? There's my question.'
The captain drummed with his thick hands on the board in
front of him; he looked steadily in Herrick's face, and Herrick
as steadily looked upon the table and the pattering fingers;
there was a gentle oscillation of the anchored ship, and a big
patch of sunlight travelled to and fro between the one and the
'Hear me!' Herrick burst out suddenly.
'No, you better hear me first,' said Davis. 'Hear me and
understand me. WE'VE got no use for that fellow, whatever you
may have. He's your kind, he's not ours; he's took to you, and
he's wiped his boots on me and Huish. Save him if you can!'
'Save him?' repeated Herrick.
'Save him, if you're able!' reiterated Davis, with a blow of his
clenched fist. 'Go ashore, and talk him smooth; and if you get
him and his pearls aboard, I'll spare him. If you don't, there's
going to be a funeral. Is that so, Huish? does that suit you?'
'I ain't a forgiving man,' said Huish, 'but I'm not the sort to
spoil business neither. Bring the bloke on board and bring his
pearls along with him, and you can have it your own way;
maroon him where you like--I'm agreeable.'
'Well, and if I can't?' cried Herrick, while the sweat streamed
upon his face. 'You talk to me as if I was God Almighty, to do
this and that! But if I can't?'
'My son,' said the captain, 'you better do your level best, or
you'll see sights!'
'O yes,' said Huish. 'O crikey, yes!' He looked across at Herrick
with a toothless smile that was shocking in its savagery;
and his ear caught apparently by the trivial expression he had
used, broke into a piece of the chorus of a comic song which he
must have heard twenty years before in London: meaningless
gibberish that, in that hour and place, seemed hateful as a
blasphemy: 'Hikey, pikey, crikey, fikey, chillingawallaba dory.'
The captain suffered him to finish; his face was unchanged.
'The way things are, there's many a man that wouldn't let
you go ashore,' he resumed. 'But I'm not that kind. I know
you'd never go back on me, Herrick! Or if you choose to--go,
and do it, and be damned!' he cried, and rose abruptly from the
He walked out of the house; and as he reached the door, turned
and called Huish, suddenly and violently, like the barking
of a dog. Huish followed, and Herrick remained alone in the
'Now, see here!' whispered Davis. 'I know that man. If you
open your mouth to him again, you'll ruin all.'
Chapter 8. BETTER ACQUAINTANCE
The boat was gone again, and already half-way to the Farallone,
before Herrick turned and went unwillingly up the pier. From
the crown of the beach, the figure-head confronted him with
what seemed irony, her helmeted head tossed back, her formidable
arm apparently hurling something, whether shell or
missile, in the direction of the anchored schooner. She seemed a
defiant deity from the island, coming forth to its threshold with
a rush as of one about to fly, and perpetuated in that dashing
attitude. Herrick looked up at her, where she towered above
him head and shoulders, with singular feelings of curiosity and
romance, and suffered his mind to travel to and fro in her life-
history. So long she had been the blind conductress of a ship
among the waves; so long she had stood here idle in the violent
sun, that yet did not avail to blister her; and was even this the
end of so many adventures? he wondered, or was more behind? And
he could have found in his heart to regret that she was not
a goddess, nor yet he a pagan, that he might have bowed down
before her in that hour of difficulty.
When he now went forward, it was cool with the shadow of
many well-grown palms; draughts of the dying breeze swung
them together overhead; and on all sides, with a swiftness
beyond dragon-flies or swallows, the spots of sunshine flitted,
and hovered, and returned. Underfoot, the sand was fairly solid
and quite level, and Herrick's steps fell there noiseless as in
new-fallen snow. It bore the marks of having been once weeded
like a garden alley at home; but the pestilence had done its
work, and the weeds were returning. The buildings of the
settlement showed here and there through the stems of the
colonnade, fresh painted, trim and dandy, and all silent as the
grave. Only, here and there in the crypt, there was a rustle and
scurry and some crowing of poultry; and from behind the house
with the verandahs, he saw smoke arise and heard the crackling
of a fire.
The stone houses were nearest him upon his right. The first
was locked; in the second, he could dimly perceive, through a
window, a certain accumulation of pearl-shell piled in the far
end; the third, which stood gaping open on the afternoon, seized
on the mind of Herrick with its multiplicity and disorder of
romantic things. Therein were cables, windlasses and blocks of
every size and capacity; cabin windows and ladders; rusty tanks,
a companion hutch; a binnacle with its brass mountings and its
compass idly pointing, in the confusion and dusk of that shed,
to a forgotten pole; ropes, anchors, harpoons, a blubber dipper
of copper, green with years, a steering wheel, a tool chest with
the vessel's name upon the top, the Asia: a whole curiosity-shop
of sea curios, gross and solid, heavy to lift, ill to break,
bound with brass and shod with iron. Two wrecks at the least must
have contributed to this random heap of lumber; and as Herrick
looked upon it, it seemed to him as if the two ships' companies
were there on guard, and he heard the tread of feet and
whisperings, and saw with the tail of his eye the commonplace
ghosts of sailor men.
This was not merely the work of an aroused imagination, but
had something sensible to go upon; sounds of a stealthy
approach were no doubt audible; and while he still stood staring
at the lumber, the voice of his host sounded suddenly, and with
even more than the customary softness of enunciation, from
'Junk,', it said, 'only old junk! And does Mr Hay find a
'I find at least a strong impression,' replied Herrick, turning
quickly, lest he might be able to catch, on the face of the
speaker, some commentary on the words.
Attwater stood in the doorway, which he almost wholly filled;
his hands stretched above his head and grasping the architrave.
He smiled when their eyes Met, but the expression was
'Yes, a powerful impression. You are like me; nothing
so affecting as ships!' said he. 'The ruins of an empire would
leave me frigid, when a bit of an old rail that an old shellback
leaned on in the middle watch, would bring me up all standing.
But come, let's see some more of the island. It's all sand and
coral and palm trees; but there's a kind of a quaintness in the
'I find it heavenly,' said Herrick, breathing deep, with head
bared in the shadow.
'Ah, that's because you're new from sea,' said Attwater. 'I
dare say, too, you can appreciate what one calls it. It's a
lovely name. It has a flavour, it has a colour, it has a ring and
fall to it; it's like its author--it's half Christian! Remember
your first view of the island, and how it's only woods and water;
and suppose you had asked somebody for the name, and he had
'Jam medio apparet fluctu!' exclaimed Herrick. 'Ye gods, yes,
'If it gets upon the chart, the skippers will make nice work
of it,' said Attwater. 'But here, come and see the diving-shed.'
He opened a door, and Herrick saw a large display of
apparatus neatly ordered: pumps and pipes, and the leaded
boots, and the huge snouted helmets shining in rows along the
wall; ten complete outfits.
'The whole eastern half of my lagoon is shallow, you must
understand,' said Attwater; 'so we were able to get in the dress
to great advantage. It paid beyond belief, and was a queer sight
when they were at it, and these marine monsters'--tapping the
nearest of the helmets--'kept appearing and reappearing in the
midst of the lagoon. Fond of parables?' he asked abruptly.
'O yes!' said Herrick.
'Well, I saw these machines come up dripping and go down
again, and come up dripping and go down again, and all the
while the fellow inside as dry as toast!' said Attwater; 'and
I thought we all wanted a dress to go down into the world in,
and come up scatheless. What do you think the name was?' he
'Self-conceit,' said Herrick.
'Ah, but I mean seriously!' said Attwater.
'Call it self-respect, then!' corrected Herrick, with a laugh.
'And why not Grace? Why not God's Grace, Hay?' asked
Attwater. 'Why not the grace of your Maker and Redeemer, He
who died for you, He who upholds you, He whom you daily
crucify afresh? There is nothing here,'--striking on his bosom--
'nothing there'--smiting the wall--'and nothing there'--
stamping--'nothing but God's Grace! We walk upon it, we
breathe it; we live and die by it; it makes the nails and axles
of the universe; and a puppy in pyjamas prefers self-conceit!'
The huge dark man stood over against Herrick by the line of the
divers' helmets, and seemed to swell and glow; and the next
moment the life had gone from him. 'I beg your pardon,' said
he; 'I see you don't believe in God?'
'Not in your sense, I am afraid,' said Herrick.
'I never argue with young atheists or habitual drunkards,'
said Attwater flippantly. 'Let us go across the island to the
It was but a little way, the greatest width of that island scarce
exceeding a furlong, and they walked gently. Herrick was like
one in a dream. He had come there with a mind divided; come
prepared to study that ambiguous and sneering mask, drag out
the essential man from underneath, and act accordingly;
decision being till then postponed. Iron cruelty, an iron
insensibility to the suffering of others, the uncompromising
pursuit of his own interests, cold culture, manners without
humanity; these he had looked for, these he still thought he saw.
But to find the whole machine thus glow with the reverberation of
religious zeal, surprised him beyond words; and he laboured in
vain, as he walked, to piece together into any kind of whole his
odds and qnds of knowledge--to adjust again into any kind of
focus with itself, his picture of the man beside him.
'What brought you here to the South Seas?' he asked
'Many things,' said Attwater. 'Youth, curiosity, romance, the
love of the sea, and (it will surprise you to hear) an interest
in missions. That has a good deal declined, which will surprise
you less. They go the wrong way to work; they are too parsonish,
too much of the old wife, and even the old apple wife. CLOTHES,
CLOTHES, are their idea; but clothes are not Christianity, any
more than they are the sun in heaven, or could take the place of
it! They think a parsonage with roses, and church bells, and nice
old women bobbing in the lanes, are part and parcel of religion.
But religion is a savage thing, like the universe it illuminates;
savage, cold, and bare, but infinitely strong.'
'And you found this island by an accident?' said Herrick.
'As you did!' said Attwater. 'And since then I have had a
business, and a colony, and a mission of my own. I was a man
of the world before I was a Christian; I'm a man of the world
still, and I made my mission pay. No good ever came of
coddling. A man has to stand up in God's sight and work up to
his weight avoirdupois; then I'll talk to him, but not before. I
gave these beggars what they wanted: a judge in Israel, the
bearer of the sword and scourge; I was making a new people
here; and behold, the angel of the Lord smote them and they.
With the very uttering of the words, which were accompanied
by a gesture, they came forth out of the porch of the palm wood
by the margin of the sea and full in front of the sun which was
near setting. Before them the surf broke slowly. All around, with
an air of imperfect wooden things inspired with wicked activity,
the crabs trundled and scuttled into holes. On the right, whither
Attwater pointed and abruptly turned, was the cemetery of the
island, a field of broken stones from the bigness of a child's
hand to that of his head, diversified by many mounds of the
same material, and walled by a rude rectangular enclosure.
Nothing grew there but a shrub or two with some white flowers;
nothing but the number of the mounds, and their disquieting
shape, indicated the presence of the dead.
'The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep!'
quoted Attwater as he entered by the open gateway into that
unholy close. 'Coral to coral, pebbles to pebbles,' he said,
'this has been the main scene of my activity in the South
Pacific. Some were good, and some bad, and the majority (of
course and always) null. Here was a fellow, now, that used to
frisk like a dog; if you had called him he came like an arrow
from a bow; if you had not, and he came unbidden, you should have
seen the deprecating eye and the little intricate dancing step.
Well, his trouble is over now, he has lain down with kings and
councillors; the rest of his acts, are they not written in the
book of the chronicles? That fellow was from Penrhyn; like all
the Penrhyn islanders he was ill to manage; heady, jealous,
violent: the man with the nose! He lies here quiet enough. And so
they all lie.
"And darkness was the burier of the dead!"'
He stood, in the strong glow of the sunset, with bowed head;
his voice sounded now sweet and now bitter with the varying
'You loved these people?' cried Herrick, strangely touched.
'I?' said Attwater. 'Dear no! Don't think me a philanthropist.
I dislike men, and hate women. If I like the islands at all, it
is because you see them here plucked of their lendings, their
dead birds and cocked hats, their petticoats and coloured hose.
Here was one I liked though,' and he set his foot upon a mound.
'He was a fine savage fellow; he had a dark soul; yes, I liked
this one. I am fanciful,' he added, looking hard at Herrick, 'and
I take fads. I like you.'
Herrick turned swiftly and looked far away to where the
clouds were beginning to troop together and amass themselves
round the obsequies of day. 'No one can like me,' he said.
'You are wrong there,' said the other, 'as a man usually is
about himself. You are attractive, very attractive.'
'It is not me,' said Herrick; 'no one can like me. If you knew
how I despised myself--and why!' His voice rang out in the
'I knew that you despised yourself,' said Attwater. 'I saw the
blood come into your face today when you remembered Oxford.
And I could have blushed for you myself, to see a man, a
gentleman, with these two vulgar wolves.'
Herrick faced him with a thrill. 'Wolves?' he repeated.
'I said wolves and vulgar wolves,' said Attwater. 'Do you
know that today, when I came on board, I trembled?'
'You concealed it well,' stammered Herrick.
'A habit of mine,' said Attwater. 'But I was afraid, for all
that: I was afraid of the two wolves.' He raised his hand slowly.
'And now, Hay, you poor lost puppy, what do you do with the
'What do I do? I don't do anything,' said Herrick. 'There
is nothing wrong; all is above board; Captain Brown is a
good soul; he is a ... he is . . .' The phantom voice of Davis
called in his ear: 'There's going to be a funeral' and the sweat
burst forth and streamed on his brow. 'He is a family man,' he
resumed again, swallowing; 'he has children at home--and a
'And a very nice man?' said Attwater. 'And so is Mr Whish,
'I won't go so far as that,' said Herrick. 'I do not like Huish.
And yet ... he has his merits too.'
'And, in short, take them for all in all, as good a ship's
company as one would ask?' said Attwater.
'O yes,' said Herrick, 'quite.'
'So then we approach the other point of why you despise
yourself?' said Attwater.
'Do we not all despise ourselves?' cried Herrick. 'Do not
'Oh, I say I do. But do I?' said Attwater. 'One thing I know at
least: I never gave a cry like yours. Hay! it came from a bad
conscience! Ah, man, that poor diving dress of self-conceit is
sadly tattered! Today, now, while the sun sets, and here in this
burying place of brown innocents, fall on your knees and cast
your sins and sorrows on the Redeemer. Hay--'
'Not Hay!' interrupted the other, strangling. 'Don't call
me that! I mean. . . For God's sake, can't you see I'm on the
'I see it, I know it, I put and keep you there, my fingers are on
the screws!' said Attwater. 'Please God, I will bring a penitent
this night before His throne. Come, come to the mercy-seat! He
waits to be gracious, man--waits to be gracious!'
He spread out his arms like a crucifix, his face shone with the
brightness of a seraph's; in his voice, as it rose to the last
word, the tears seemed ready.
Herrick made a vigorous call upon himself. 'Attwater,' he
said, 'you push me beyond bearing. What am I to do? I do not
believe. It is living truth to you; to me, upon my conscience,
only folk-lore. I do not believe there is any form of words under
heaven by which I can lift the burthen from my shoulders. I must
stagger on to the end with the pack of my responsibility; I
cannot shift it; do you suppose I would not, if I thought I
could? I cannot--cannot--cannot--and let that suffice.'
The rapture was all gone from Artwater's countenance; the
dark apostle had disappeared; and in his place there stood an
easy, sneering gentleman, who took off his hat and bowed. It
was pertly done, and the blood burned in Herrick's face.
'What do you mean by that?' he cried.
'Well, shall we go back to the house?' said Attwater. 'Our
guests will soon be due.'
Herrick stood his ground a moment with clenched fists and
teeth; and as he so stood, the fact of his errand there slowly
swung clear in front of him, like the moon out of clouds. He
had come to lure that man on board; he was failing, even if
it could be said that he had tried; he was sure to fail now,
and knew it, and knew it was better so. And what was to be
With a groan he turned to follow his host, who was standing
with polite smile, and instantly and somewhat obsequiously led
the way in the now darkened colonnade of palms. There they
went in silence, the earth gave up richly of her perfume, the air
tasted warm and aromatic in the nostrils; and from a great way
forward in the wood, the brightness of lights and fire marked
out the house of Attwater.
Herrick meanwhile resolved and resisted an immense temptation to
go up, to touch him on the arm and breathe a word in
his ear: 'Beware, they are going to murder you.' There would
be one life saved; but what of the two others? The three lives
went up and down before him like buckets in a well, or like
the scales of balances. It had come to a choice, and one that
must be speedy. For certain invaluable minutes, the wheels
of life ran before him, and he could still divert them with a
touch to the one side or the other, still choose who was to
live and who was to die. He considered the men. Attwater
intrigued, puzzled, dazzled, enchanted and revolted him; alive,
he seemed but a doubtful good; and the thought of him lying
dead was so unwelcome that it pursued him, like a vision, with
every circumstance of colour and sound. Incessantly, he had
before him the image of that great mass of man stricken down
in varying attitudes and with varying wounds; fallen prone,
fallen supine, fallen on his side; or clinging to a doorpost with
the changing face and the relaxing fingers of the death-agony.
He heard the click of the trigger, the thud of the, ball, the cry
of the victim; he saw the blood flow. And this building up
of circumstance was like a consecration of the man, till he
seemed to walk in sacrificial fillets. Next he considered Davis,
with his thick-fingered, coarse-grained, oat-bread commonness
of nature, his indomitable valour and mirth in the old days
of their starvation, the endearing blend of his faults and
virtues, the sudden shining forth of a tenderness that lay too
deep for tears; his children, Adar and her bowel complaint, and
Adar's doll. No, death could not be suffered to approach that
head even in fancy; with a general heat and a bracing of his
muscles, it was borne in on Herrick that Adar's father would
find in him a son to the death. And even Huish showed a little
in that sacredness; by the tacit adoption of daily life they were
become brothers; there was an implied bond of loyalty in their
cohabitation of the ship and their passed miseries, to which
Herrick must be a little true or wholly dishonoured. Horror of
sudden death for horror of sudden death, there was here no
hesitation possible: it must be Attwater. And no sooner was
the thought formed (which was a sentence) than his whole
mind of man ran in a panic to the other side: and when he
looked within himself, he was aware only of turbulence and
In all this there was no thought of Robert Herrick. He had
complied with the ebb-tide in man's affairs, and the tide had
carried him away; he heard already the roaring of the maelstrom
that must hurry him under. And in his bedevilled and dishonoured
soul there was no thought of self.
For how long he walked silent by his companion Herrick had
no guess. The clouds rolled suddenly away; the orgasm was over;
he found himself placid with the placidity of despair; there
returned to him the power of commonplace speech; and he
heard with surprise his own voice say: 'What a lovely evening!'
'Is it not?' said Attwater. 'Yes, the evenings here would be
very pleasant if one had anything to do. By day, of course, one
'You shoot?' asked Herrick.
'Yes, I am what you would call a fine shot,' said Attwater. 'It
is faith; I believe my balls will go true; if I were to miss
once, it would spoil me for nine months.'
'You never miss, then?' said Herrick.
'Not unless I mean to,' said Attwater. 'But to miss nicely is
the art. There was an old king one knew in the western islands,
who used to empty a Winchester all round a man, and stir his
hair or nick a rag out of his clothes with every ball except the
last; and that went plump between the eyes. It was pretty
'You could do that?' asked Herrick, with a sudden chill.
'Oh, I can do anything,' returned the other. 'You do not
understand: what must be, must.'
They were now come near to the back part of the house. One
of the men was engaged about the cooking fire, which burned
with the clear, fierce, essential radiance of cocoanut shells. A
fragrance of strange meats was in the air. All round in the
verandahs lamps were lighted, so that the place shone abroad
in the dusk of the trees with many complicated patterns of
'Come and wash your hands,' said Attwater, and led the way
into a clean, matted room with a cot bed, a safe, or shelf or
two of books in a glazed case, and an iron washing-stand.
Presently he cried in the native, and there appeared for a moment
in the doorway a plump and pretty young woman with a clean
'Hullo!' cried Herrick, who now saw for the first time the
fourth survivor of the pestilence, and was startled by the
recollection of the captain's orders.
'Yes,' said Attwater, 'the whole colony lives about the house,
what's left of it. We are all afraid of devils, if you please!
and Taniera and she sleep in the front parlour, and the other boy
on the verandah.'
'She is pretty,' said Herrick.
'Too pretty,' said Attwater. 'That was why I had her married.
A man never knows when he may be inclined to be a fool about
women; so when we were left alone, I had the pair of them
to the chapel and performed the ceremony. She made a lot of
fuss. I do not take at all the romantic view of marriage,' he
'And that strikes you as a safeguard?' asked Herrick with
'Certainly. I am a plain man and very literal. WHOM GOD HATH
JOINED TOGETHER, are the words, I fancy. So one married them,
and respects the marriage,' said Attwater.
'Ah!' said Herrick.
'You see, I may look to make an excellent marriage when I go
home,' began Attwater, confidentially. 'I am rich. This safe
alone'--laying his hand upon it--'will be a moderate fortune,
when I have the time to place the pearls upon the market. Here
are ten years' accumulation from a lagoon, where I have had as
many as ten divers going all day long; and I went further than
people usually do in these waters, for I rotted a lot of shell,
and did splendidly. Would you like to see them?'
This confirmation of the captain's guess hit Herrick hard, and
he contained himself with difficulty. 'No, thank you, I think
not,' said he. 'I do not care for pearls. I am very indifferent
to all these . . .'
'Gewgaws?' suggested Attwater. 'And yet I believe you ought
to cast an eye on my collection, which is really unique, and
which--oh! it is the case with all of us and everything about
us!--hangs. by a hair. Today it groweth up and flourisheth;
tomorrow it is cut down and cast into the oven. Today it is here
and together in this safe; tomorrow--tonight!--it may be
scattered. Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of
'I do not understand you,' said Herrick.
'Not?' said Attwater.
'You seem to speak in riddles,' said Herrick, unsteadily. 'I do
not understand what manner of man you are, nor what you are
Attwater stood with his hands upon his hips, and his head
bent forward. 'I am a fatalist,' he replied, 'and just now (if
you insist on it) an experimentalist. Talking of which, by the
bye, who painted out the schooner's name?' he said, with mocking
softness, 'because, do you know? one thinks it should be done
again. It can still be partly read; and whatever is worth doing,
is surely worth doing well. You think with me? That is so nice!
Well, shall we step on the verandah? I have a dry sherry that I
would like your opinion of.'
Herrick followed him forth to where, under the light of the
hanging lamps, the table shone with napery and crystal; followed
him as the criminal goes with the hangman, or the sheep
with the butcher; took the sherry mechanically, drank it, and
spoke mechanical words of praise. The object of his terror had
become suddenly inverted; till then he had seen Attwater trussed
and gagged, a helpless victim, and had longed to run in and save
him; he saw him now tower up mysterious and menacing, the
angel of the Lord's wrath, armed with knowledge and threatening
judgment. He set down his glass again, and was surprised to
see it empty.
'You go always armed?' he said, and the next moment could
have plucked his tongue out.
'Always,' said Attwater. 'I have been through a mutiny here;
that was one of my incidents of missionary life.'
And just then the sound of voices reached them, and looking
forth from the verandah they saw Huish and the captain
Chapter 9. THE DINNER PARTY
They sat down to an island dinner, remarkable for its variety
and excellence; turtle soup and steak, fish, fowls, a sucking
pig, a cocoanut salad, and sprouting cocoanut roasted for
dessert. Not a tin had been opened; and save for the oil and
vinegar in the salad, and some green spears of onion which
Attwater cultivated and plucked with his own hand, not even the
condiments were European. Sherry, hock, and claret succeeded each
other, and the Farallone champagne brought up the rear with the
It was plain that, like so many of the extremely religious in
the days before teetotalism, Attwater had a dash of the epicure.
For such characters it is softening to eat well; doubly so to
have designed and had prepared an excellent meal for others; and
the manners of their host were agreeably mollified in
A cat of huge growth sat on his shoulders purring, and
occasionally, with a deft paw, capturing a morsel in the air. To
a cat he might be likened himself, as he lolled at the head of
his table, dealing out attentions and innuendoes, and using the
velvet and the claw indifferently. And both Huish and the captain
fell progressively under the charm of his hospitable freedom.
Over the third guest, the incidents of the dinner may be said
to have passed for long unheeded. Herrick accepted all that was
offered him, ate and drank without tasting, and heard without
comprehension. His mind was singly occupied in contemplating
the horror of the circumstances in which he sat. What Attwater
knew, what the captain designed, from which side treachery was
to be first expected, these were the ground of his thoughts.
There were times when he longed to throw down the table and flee
into the night. And even that was debarred him; to do anything,
to say anything, to move at all, were only to precipitate the
barbarous tragedy; and he sat spellbound, eating with white lips.
Two of his companions observed him narrowly, Attwater with
raking, sidelong glances that did not interrupt his talk, the
captain with a heavy and anxious consideration.
'Well, I must say this sherry is a really prime article,' said
Huish. "Ow much does it stand you in, if it's a fair question?'
'A hundred and twelve shillings in London, and the freight to
Valparaiso, and on again,' said Attwater. 'It strikes one as
really not a bad fluid.'
'A 'undred and twelve!' murmured the clerk, relishing the
wine and the figures in a common ecstasy: 'O my!'
'So glad you like it,' said Attwater. 'Help yourself, Mr Whish,
and keep the bottle by you.'
'My friend's name is Huish and not Whish, sit,' said the
captain with a flush.
'I beg your pardon, I am sure. Huish and not Whish,