Part 2 out of 7
visit Easter Island on account of its marvelous sculptures that
are supposed to be the relics of a preeminent-historic race. In truth,
however, we had no fixed plan except to go wherever circumstance
and chance might take us. Chance, I may add, or something else,
took full advantage of its opportunities.
We came to Suva in safety and spent a while in exploring the
beautiful Fiji Isles where both Bastin and Bickley made full
inquiries about the work of the missionaries, each of them
drawing exactly opposite conclusions from the same set of
admitted facts. Thence we steamed to Samoa and put our two
natives ashore at Apia, where we procured some coal. We did not
stay long enough in these islands to investigate them, however,
because persons of experience there assured us from certain
familiar signs that one of the terrible hurricanes with which
they are afflicted, was due to arrive shortly and that we should
do well to put ourselves beyond its reach. So having coaled and
watered we departed in a hurry.
Up to this time I should state we had met with the most
wonderful good fortune in the matter of weather, so good indeed
that never on one occasion since we left Marseilles, had we been
obliged to put the fiddles on the tables. With the superstition
of a sailor Captain Astley, when I alluded to the matter, shook
his head saying that doubtless we should pay for it later on,
since "luck never goes all the way" and cyclones were reported to
Here I must tell that after we were clear of Apia, it was
discovered that the Danish mate who was believed to be in his
cabin unwell from something he had eaten, was missing. The
question arose whether we should put back to find him, as we
supposed that he had made a trip inland and met with an accident,
or been otherwise delayed. I was in favour of doing so though the
captain, thinking of the threatened hurricane, shook his head and
said that Jacobsen was a queer fellow who might just as well have
gone overboard as anywhere else, if he thought he heard "the
spirits, of whom he was so fond," calling him. While the matter
was still in suspense I happened to go into my own stateroom and
there, stuck in the looking-glass, saw an envelope in the Dane's
handwriting addressed to myself. On opening it I found another
sealed letter, unaddressed, also a note that ran as follows:
"You will think very badly of me for leaving you, but the
enclosed which I implore you not to open until you have seen the
last of the Star of the South, will explain my reason and I hope
clear my reputation. I thank you again and again for all your
kindness and pray that the Spirits who rule the world may bless
and preserve you, also the Doctor and Mr. Bastin."
This letter, which left the fate of Jacobsen quite unsolved,
for it might mean either that he had deserted or drowned himself,
I put away with the enclosure in my pocket. Of course there was
no obligation on me to refrain from opening the letter, but I
shrank from doing so both from some kind of sense of honour and,
to tell the truth, for fear of what it might contain. I felt that
this would be disagreeable; also, although there was nothing to
connect them together, I bethought me of the scene when Jacobsen
had smashed the planchette.
On my return to the deck I said nothing whatsoever about the
discovery of the letter, but only remarked that on reflection I
had changed my mind and agreed with the captain that it would be
unwise to attempt to return in order to look for Jacobsen. So the
boatswain, a capable individual who had seen better days, was
promoted to take his watches and we went on as before. How
curiously things come about in the world! For nautical reasons
that were explained to me, but which I will not trouble to set
down, if indeed I could remember them, I believe that if we had
returned to Apia we should have missed the great gale and
subsequent cyclone, and with these much else. But it was not so
It was on the fourth day, when we were roughly seven hundred
miles or more north of Samoa, that we met the edge of this gale
about sundown. The captain put on steam in the hope of pushing
through it, but that night we dined for the first time with the
fiddles on, and by eleven o'clock it was as much as one could do
to stand in the cabin, while the water was washing freely over
the deck. Fortunately, however, the wind veered more aft of us,
so that by putting about her head a little (seamen must forgive
me if I talk of these matters as a landlubber) we ran almost
before the wind, though not quite in the direction that we wished
When the light came it was blowing very hard indeed, and the
sky was utterly overcast, so that we got no glimpse of the sun,
or of the stars on the following night. Unfortunately, there was
no moon visible; indeed, if there had been I do not suppose that
it would have helped us because of the thick pall of clouds. For
quite seventy-two hours we ran on beneath bare poles before that
gale. The little vessel behaved splendidly, riding the seas like
a duck, but I could see that Captain Astley was growing alarmed.
When I said something complimentary to him about the conduct of
the Star of the South, he replied that she was forging ahead all
right, but the question was--where to? He had been unable to take
an observation of any sort since we left Samoa; both his patent
logs had been carried away, so that now only the compass
remained, and he had not the slightest idea where we were in that
great ocean studded with atolls and islands.
I asked him whether we could not steam back to our proper
course, but he answered that to do so he would have to travel
dead in the eye of the gale, and he doubted whether the engines
would stand it. Also there was the question of coal to be
considered. However, he had kept the fires going and would do
what he could if the weather moderated.
That night during dinner which now consisted of tinned foods
and whisky and water, for the seas had got to the galley fire,
suddenly the gale dropped, whereat we rejoiced exceedingly. The
captain came down into the saloon very white and shaken, I
thought, and I asked him to have a nip of whisky to warm him up,
and to celebrate our good fortune in having run out of the wind.
He took the bottle and, to my alarm, poured out a full half
tumbler of spirit, which he swallowed undiluted in two or three
"That's better!" he said with a hoarse laugh. "But man, what is
it you are saying about having run out of the wind? Look at the
"We have," said Bastin, "and it is wonderfully steady. About 29
degrees or a little over, which it has been for the last three
Again Astley laughed in a mirthless fashion, as he answered:
"Oh, that thing! That's the passengers' glass. I told the
'steward to put it out of gear so that you might not be
frightened; it is an old trick. Look at this," and he produced
one of the portable variety out of his pocket.
We looked, and it stood somewhere between 27 degrees and 28
"That's the lowest glass I ever saw in the Polynesian or any
other seas during thirty years. It's right, too, for I have
tested it by three others," he said.
"What does it mean?" I asked rather anxiously.
"South Sea cyclone of the worst breed," he replied. "That
cursed Dane knew it was coming and that's why he left the ship.
Pray as you never prayed before," and again he stretched out his
hand towards the whisky bottle. But I stepped between him and it,
shaking my head. Thereon he laughed for the third time and left
the cabin. Though I saw him once or twice afterwards, these were
really the last words of intelligible conversation that I ever
had with Captain Astley.
"It seems that we are in some danger," said Bastin, in an
unmoved kind of way. "I think that was a good idea of the
captain's, to put up a petition, I mean, but as Bickley will
scarcely care to join in it I will go into the cabin and do so
Bickley snorted, then said:
"Confound that captain! Why did he play such a trick upon us
about the barometer? Humphrey, I believe he had been drinking."
"So do I," I said, looking at the whisky bottle. "Otherwise,
after taking those precautions to keep us in the dark, he would
not have let on like that."
"Well," said Bickley, "he can't get to the liquor, except
through this saloon, as it is locked up forward with the other
"That's nothing," I replied, "as doubtless he has a supply of
his own; rum, I expect. We must take our chance."
Bickley nodded, and suggested that we should go on deck to see
what was happening. So we went. Not a breath of wind was
stirring, and even the sea seemed to be settling down a little.
At least, so we judged from the motion, for we could not see
either it or the sky; everything was as black as pitch. We heard
the sailors, however, engaged in rigging guide ropes fore and
aft, and battening down the hatches with extra tarpaulins by the
light of lanterns. Also they were putting ropes round the boats
and doing something to the spars and topmasts.
Presently Bastin joined us, having, I suppose, finished his
"Really, it is quite pleasant here," he said. "One never knows
how disagreeable so much wind is until it stops."
I lit my pipe, making no answer, and the match burned quite
steadily there in the open air.
"What is that?" exclaimed Bickley, staring at something which
now I saw for the first time. It looked like a line of white
approaching through the gloom. With it came a hissing sound, and
although there was still no wind, the rigging began to moan
mysteriously like a thing in pain. A big drop of water also fell
from the sides into my pipe and put it out. Then one of the
sailors cried in a hoarse voice:
"Get down below, governors, unless you want to go out to sea!"
"Why?" inquired Bastin.
"Why? Becos the 'urricane is coming, that's all. Coming as
though the devil had kicked it out of 'ell."
Bastin seemed inclined to remonstrate at this sort of language,
but we pushed him down the companion and followed, propelling the
spaniel Tommy in front of us. Next moment I heard the sailors
battening the hatch with hurried blows, and when this was done to
their satisfaction, heard their feet also as they ran into
Another instant and we were all lying in a heap on the cabin
floor with poor Tommy on top of us. The cyclone had struck the
ship! Above the wash of water and the screaming of the gale we
heard other mysterious sounds, which doubtless were caused by the
yards hitting the seas, for the yacht was lying on her side. I
thought that all was over, but presently there came a rending,
crashing noise. The masts, or one of them, had gone, and by
degrees we righted.
"Near thing!" said Bickley. "Good heavens, what's that?"
I listened, for the electric light had temporarily gone out,
owing, I suppose, to the dynamo having stopped for a moment. A
most unholy and hollow sound was rising from the cabin floor. It
might have been caused by a bullock with its windpipe cut, trying
to get its breath and groaning. Then the light came on again and
we saw Bastin lying at full length on the carpet.
"He's broken his neck or something," I said.
Bickley crept to him and having looked, sang out:
"It's all right! He's only sea-sick. I thought it would come to
that if he drank so much tea."
"Sea-sick," I said faintly--"sea-sick?"
"That's all," said Bickley. "The nerves of the stomach acting
on the brain or vice-versa--that is, if Bastin has a brain," he
added sotto voce.
"Oh!" groaned the prostrate clergyman. "I wish that I were
"Don't trouble about that," answered Bickley. "I expect you
soon will be. Here, drink some whisky, you donkey."
Bastin sat up and obeyed, out of the bottle, for it was
impossible to pour anything into a glass, with results too
dreadful to narrate.
"I call that a dirty trick," he said presently, in a feeble
voice, glowering at Bickley.
"I expect I shall have to play you a dirtier before long, for
you are a pretty bad case, old fellow."
As a matter of fact he had, for once Bastin had begun really we
thought that he was going to die. Somehow we got him into his
cabin, which opened off the saloon, and as he could drink nothing
more, Bickley managed to inject morphia or some other compound
into him, which made him insensible for a long while.
"He must be in a poor way," he said, "for the needle went more
than a quarter of an inch into him, and he never cried out or
stirred. Couldn't help it in that rolling."
But now I could hear the engines working, and I think that the
bow of the vessel was got head on to the seas, for instead of
rolling we pitched, or rather the ship stood first upon one end
and then upon the other. This continued for a while until the
first burst of the cyclone had gone by. Then suddenly the engines
stopped; I suppose that they had broken down, but I never
learned, and we seemed to veer about, nearly sinking in the
process, and to run before the hurricane at terrific speed.
"I wonder where we are going to?" I said to Bickley. "To the
land of sleep, Humphrey, I imagine," he replied in a more gentle
voice than I had often heard him use, adding: "Good-bye, old boy,
we have been real friends, haven't we, notwithstanding my
peculiarities? I only wish that I could think that there was
anything in Bastin's views. But I can't, I can't. It's good night
for us poor creatures!"
At last the electric light really went out. I had looked at my
watch just before this happened and wound it up, which, Bickley
remarked, was superfluous and a waste of energy. It then marked
3.20 in the morning. We had wedged Bastin, who was now snoring
comfortably, into his berth, with pillows, and managed to tie a
cord over him--no, it was a large bath towel, fixing one end of
it to the little rack over his bed and the other to its
framework. As for ourselves, we lay down on the floor between the
table legs, which, of course, were screwed, and the settee,
protecting ourselves as best we were able by help of the
cushions, etc., between two of which we thrust the terrified
Tommy who had been sliding up and down the cabin floor. Thus we
remained, expecting death every moment till the light of day, a
very dim light, struggling through a port-hole of which the iron
cover had somehow been wrenched off. Or perhaps it was never
shut, I do not remember.
About this time there came a lull in the hellish, howling
hurricane; the fact being, I suppose, that we had reached the
centre of the cyclone. I suggested that we should try to go on
deck and see what was happening. So we started, only to find the
entrance to the companion so faithfully secured that we could not
by any means get out. We knocked and shouted, but no one
answered. My belief is that at this time everyone on the yacht
except ourselves had been washed away and drowned.
Then we returned to the saloon, which, except for a little
water trickling about the floor, was marvelously dry, and, being
hungry, retrieved some bits of food and biscuit from its corners
and ate. At this moment the cyclone began to blow again worse
than ever, but it seemed to us, from another direction, and
before it sped our poor derelict barque. It blew all day till for
my part I grew utterly weary and even longed for the inevitable
end. If my views were not quite those of Bastin, certainly they
were not those of Bickley. I had believed from my youth up that
the individuality of man, the ego, so to speak, does not die when
life goes out of his poor body, and this faith did not desert me
then. Therefore, I wished to have it over and learn what there
might be upon the other side.
We could not speak much because of the howling of the wind, but
Bickley did manage to shout to me something to the effect that
his partners would, in his opinion, make an end of their great
practice within two years, which, he added, was a pity. I nodded
my head, not caring twopence what happened to Bickley's partners
or their business, or to my own property, or to anything else.
When death is at hand most of us do not think much of such things
because then we realise how small they are. Indeed I was
wondering whether within a few minutes or hours I should or
should not see Natalie again, and if this were the end to which
she had seemed to beckon me in that dream.
On we sped, and on. About four in the afternoon we heard sounds
from Bastin's cabin which faintly reminded me of some tune. I
crept to the door and listened. Evidently he had awakened and was
singing or trying to sing, for music was not one of his strong
points, "For those in peril on the sea." Devoutly did I wish that
it might be heard. Presently it ceased, so I suppose he went to
The darkness gathered once more. Then of a sudden something
fearful happened. There were stupendous noises of a kind I had
never heard; there were convulsions. It seemed to us that the
ship was flung right up into the air a hundred feet or more.
"Tidal wave, I expect," shouted Bickley.
Almost as he spoke she came down with the most appalling crash
on to something hard and nearly jarred the senses out of us. Next
the saloon was whirling round and round and yet being carried
forward, and we felt air blowing upon us. Then our senses left
us. As I clasped Tommy to my side, whimpering and licking my
face, my last thought was that all was over, and that presently I
should learn everything or nothing.
I woke up feeling very bruised and sore and perceived that
light was flowing into the saloon. The door was still shut, but
it had been wrenched off its hinges, and that was where the light
came in; also some of the teak planks of the decking, jagged and
splintered, were sticking up through the carpet. The table had
broken from its fastenings and lay upon its side. Everything else
was one confusion. I looked at Bickley. Apparently he had not
awakened. He was stretched out still wedged in with his cushions
and bleeding from a wound in his head. I crept to him in terror
and listened. He was not dead, for his breathing was regular and
natural. The whisky bottle which had been corked was upon the
floor unbroken and about a third full. I took a good pull at the
spirit; to me it tasted like nectar from the gods. Then I tried
to force some down Bickley's throat but could not, so I poured a
little upon the cut on his head. The smart of it woke him in a
"Where are we now?" he exclaimed. "You don't mean to tell me
that Bastin is right after all and that we live again somewhere
else? Oh! I could never bear that ignominy."
"I don't know about living somewhere else," I said, "although
my opinions on that matter differ from yours. But I do know that
you and I are still on earth in what remains of the saloon of the
Star of the South."
"Thank God for that! Let's go and look for old Bastin," said
Bickley. "I do pray that he is all right also."
"It is most illogical of you, Bickley, and indeed wrong,"
groaned a deep voice from the other side of the cabin door, "to
thank a God in Whom you do not believe, and to talk of praying
for one of the worst and most inefficient of His servants when
you have no faith in prayer.
"Got you there, my friend," I said.
Bickley murmured something about force of habit, and looked
smaller than I had ever seen him do before.
Somehow we forced that door open; it was not easy because it
had jammed. Within the cabin, hanging on either side of the bath
towel which had stood the strain nobly, something like a damp
garment over a linen line, was Bastin most of whose bunk seemed
to have disappeared. Yes--Bastin, pale and dishevelled and
looking shrunk, with his hair touzled and his beard apparently
growing all ways, but still Bastin alive, if very weak.
Bickley ran at him and made a cursory examination with his
"Nothing broken," he said triumphantly. "He's all right."
"If you had hung over a towel for many hours in most violent
weather you would not say that," groaned Bastin. "My inside is a
pulp. But perhaps you would be kind enough to untie me."
"Bosh!" said Bickley as he obeyed. "All you want is something
to eat. Meanwhile, drink this," and he handed him the remains of
Bastin swallowed it every drop, murmuring something about
taking a little wine for his stomach's sake, "one of the Pauline
injunctions, you know," after which he was much more cheerful.
Then we hunted about and found some more of the biscuits and
other food with which we filled ourselves after a fashion.
"I wonder what has happened," said Bastin. "I suppose that,
thanks to the skill of the captain, we have after all reached the
haven where we would be."
Here he stopped, rubbed his eyes and looked towards the saloon
door which, as I have said, had been wrenched off its hinges, but
appeared to have opened wider than when I observed it last. Also
Tommy, who was recovering his spirits, uttered a series of low
"It is a most curious thing," he went on, "and I suppose I must
be suffering from hallucinations, but I could swear that just now
I saw looking through that door the same improper young woman
clothed in a few flowers and nothing else, whose photograph in
that abominable and libellous book was indirectly the cause of
our tempestuous voyage."
"Indeed!" replied Bickley. "Well, so long as she has not got on
the broken-down stays and the Salvation Army bonnet without a
crown, which you may remember she wore after she had fallen into
the hands of your fraternity, I am sure I do not mind. In fact I
should be delighted to see anything so pleasant."
At this moment a distinct sound of female tittering arose from
beyond the door. Tommy barked and Bickley stepped towards it, but
I called to him.
"Look out! Where there are women there are sure to be men. Let
us be ready against accidents."
So we armed ourselves with pistols, that is Bickley and I did,
Bastin being fortified solely with a Bible.
Then we advanced, a remarkable and dilapidated trio, and
dragged the door wide. Instantly there was a scurry and we caught
sight of women's forms wearing only flowers, and but few of
these, running over white sand towards groups of men armed with
odd-looking clubs, some of which were fashioned to the shapes of
swords and spears. To make an impression I fired two shots with
my revolver into the air, whereupon both men and women fled into
groves of trees and vanished.
"They don't seem to be accustomed to white people," said
Bickley. "Is it possible that we have found a shore upon which no
missionary has set a foot?"
"I hope so," said Bastin, "seeing that unworthy as I am, then
the opportunities for me would be very great."
We stood still and looked about us. This was what we saw. All
the after part of the ship from forward of the bridge had
vanished utterly; there was not a trace of it; she had as it were
been cut in two. More, we were some considerable distance from
the sea which was still raging over a quarter of a mile away
where great white combers struck upon a reef and spouted into the
air. Behind us was a cliff, apparently of rock but covered with
earth and vegetation, and against this cliff, in which the prow
of the ship was buried, she, or what remained of her, had come to
anchor for the last time.
"You see what has happened," I said. "A great tidal wave has
carried us up here and retreated."
"That's it," exclaimed Bickley. "Look at the debris," and he
pointed to torn-up palms, bushes and seaweed piled into heaps
which still ran salt water; also to a number of dead fish that
lay about among them, adding, "Well, we are saved anyhow."
"And yet there are people like you who say that there is no
Providence!" ejaculated Bastin.
"I wonder what the views of Captain Astley and the crew are, or
rather were, upon that matter," interrupted Bickley.
"I don't know," answered Bastin, looking about him vaguely. "It
is true that I can't see any of them, but if they are drowned no
doubt it is because their period of usefulness in this world had
"Let's get down and look about us," I remarked, being anxious
to avoid further argument.
So we scrambled from the remnant of the ship, like Noah
descending out of the ark, as Bastin said, on to the beach
beneath, where Tommy rushed to and fro, gambolling for joy. Here
we discovered a path which ran diagonally up the side of a cliff
which was nowhere more than fifty or sixty feet in height, and
possibly had once formed the shore of this land, or perhaps that
of a lake. Up this path we went, following the tracks of many
human feet, and reaching the crest of the cliff, looked about us,
basking as we did so in the beautiful morning sun, for the sky
was now clear of clouds and with that last awful effort, which
destroyed our ship, the cyclone had passed away.
We were standing on a plain down which ran a little stream of
good water whereof Tommy drank greedily, we following his
example. To the right and left of this plain, further than we
could see, stretched bushland over which towered many palms,
rather ragged now because of the lashing of the gale. Looking
inland we perceived that the ground sloped gently downwards,
ending at a distance of some miles in a large lake. Far out in
this lake something like the top of a mountain of a brown colour
rose above the water, and on the edge of it was what from that
distance appeared to be a tumbled ruin.
"This is all very interesting," I said to Bickley. "What do you
make of it?"
"I don't quite know. At first sight I should say that we are
standing on the lip of a crater of some vast extinct volcano.
Look how it curves to north and south and at the slope running
down to the lake."
"Lucky that the tidal wave did not get over the cliff," I said.
"If it had the people here would have all been drowned out. I
wonder where they have gone?"
As I spoke Bastin pointed to the edge of the bush some hundreds
of yards away, where we perceived brown figures slipping about
among the trees. I suggested that we should go back to the mouth
of our path, so as to have a line of retreat open in case of
necessity, and await events. So we did and there stood still. By
degrees the brown figures emerged on to the plain to the number
of some hundreds, and we saw that they were both male and female.
The women were clothed in nothing except flowers and a little
girdle; the men were all armed with wooden weapons and also wore
a girdle but no flowers. The children, of whom there were many,
were quite naked.
Among these people we observed a tall person clothed in what
seemed to be a magnificent feather cloak, and, walking around and
about him, a number of grotesque forms adorned with hideous masks
and basket-like head-dresses that were surmounted by plumes.
"The king or chief and his priests or medicine-men! This is
splendid," said Bickley triumphantly.
Bastin also contemplated them with enthusiasm as raw material
upon which he hoped to get to work.
By degrees and very cautiously they approached us. To our joy,
we perceived that behind them walked several young women who bore
wooden trays of food or fruit.
"That looks well," I said. "They would not make offerings
unless they were friendly."
"The food may be poisoned," remarked Bickley suspiciously.
The crowd advanced, we standing quite still looking as
dignified as we could, I as the tallest in the middle, with Tommy
sitting at my feet. When they were about five and twenty yards
away, however, that wretched little dog caught sight of the
masked priests. He growled and then rushed at them barking, his
long black ears flapping as he went.
The effect was instantaneous. One and all they turned and fled
precipitately, who evidently had never before seen a dog and
looked upon it as a deadly creature. Yes, even the tall chief and
his masked medicine-men fled like hares pursued by Tommy, who bit
one of them in the leg, evoking a terrific howl. I called him
back and took him into my arms. Seeing that he was safe for a
while the crowd reformed and once again advanced.
As they came we noted that they were a wonderfully handsome
people, tall and straight with regularly shaped features and
nothing of the negro about them. Some of the young women might
even be called beautiful, though those who were elderly had
become corpulent. The feather-clothed chief, however, was much
disfigured by a huge growth with a narrow stalk to it that hung
from his neck and rested on his shoulder.
"I'll have that off him before he is a week older," said
Bickley, surveying this deformity with great professional
On they came, the girls with the platters walking ahead. On one
of these were what looked like joints of baked pork, on another
some plantains and pear-shaped fruits. They knelt down and
offered these to us. We contemplated them for a while. Then
Bickley shook his head and began to rub his stomach with
appropriate contortions. Clearly they were quick-minded enough for
they saw the point. At some words the girls brought the platters
to the chief and others, who took from them portions of the food
at hazard and ate them to show that it was not poisoned, we
watching their throats the while to make sure that it was
swallowed. Then they returned again and we took some of the food
though only Bickley ate, because, as I pointed out to him, being
a doctor who understood the use of antidotes; clearly he should
make the experiment. However, nothing happened; indeed he said
that it was very good.
After this there came a pause. Then suddenly Bastin took up his
parable in the Polynesian tongue which--to a certain extent--he
had acquired with so much pains.
"What is this place called?" he asked slowly and distinctly,
pausing between each word.
His audience shook their heads and he tried again, putting the
accents on different syllables. Behold! some bright spirit
understood him and answered:
"That means a hill, or an island, or a hill in an island,"
whispered Bickley to me.
"Who is your God?" asked Bastin again.
The point seemed one upon which they were a little doubtful,
but at last the chief answered, "Oro. He who fights."
"In other words, Mars," said Bickley.
"I will give you a better one," said Bastin in the same slow
Thinking that he referred to himself these children of Nature
contemplated his angular form doubtfully and shook their heads.
Then for the first time one of the men who was wearing a mask and
a wicker crate on his head, spoke in a hollow voice, saying:
"If you try Oro will eat you up."
"Head priest!" said Bickley, nudging me. "Old Bastin had better
be careful or he will get his teeth into him and call them
Another pause, after which the man in a feather cloak with the
growth on his neck that a servant was supporting, said:
"I am Marama, the chief of Orofena. We have never seen men like
you before, if you are men. What brought you here and with you
that fierce and terrible animal, or evil spirit which makes a
noise and bites?"
Now Bickley pretended to consult me who stood brooding and
majestic, that is if I can be majestic. I whispered something and
"The gods of the wind and the sea."
"What nonsense," ejaculated Bastin, "there are no such things."
"Shut up," I said, "we must use similes here," to which he
"I don't like similes that tamper with the truth."
"Remember Neptune and Aeolus," I suggested, and he lapsed into
consideration of the point.
"We knew that you were coming," said Marama. "Our doctors told
us all about you a moon ago. But we wish that you would come more
gently, as you nearly washed away our country."
After looking at me Bickley replied:
"How thankful should you be that in our kindness we have spared
"What do you come to do?" inquired Marama again. After the
usual formula of consulting me Bickley answered:
"We come to take that mountain (he meant lump) off your neck
and make you beautiful; also to cure all the sickness among your
"And I come," broke in Bastin, "to give you new hearts."
These announcements evidently caused great excitement. After
consultation Marama answered:
"We do not want new hearts as the old ones are good, but we
wish to be rid of lumps and sicknesses. If you can do this we
will make you gods and worship you and give you many wives."
(Here Bastin held up his hands in horror.) "When will you begin
to take away the lumps?"
"To-morrow," said Bickley. "But learn that if you try to harm
us we will bring another wave which will drown all your country."
Nobody seemed to doubt our capacities in this direction, but
one inquiring spirit in a wicker crate did ask how it came about
that if we controlled the ocean we had arrived in half a canoe
instead of a whole one.
Bickley replied to the effect that it was because the gods
always travelled in half-canoes to show their higher nature,
which seemed to satisfy everyone. Then we announced that we had
seen enough of them for that day and would retire to think.
Meanwhile we should be obliged if they would build us a house and
keep us supplied with whatever food they had.
"Do the gods eat?" asked the sceptic again.
"That fellow is a confounded radical," I whispered to Bickley.
"Tell him that they do when they come to Orofena."
He did so, whereon the chief said:
"Would the gods like a nice young girl cooked?"
At this point Bastin retired down the path, realising that he
had to do with cannibals. We said that we preferred to look at
the girls alive and would meet them again to-morrow morning, when
we hoped that the house would be ready.
So our first interview with the inhabitants of Orofena came to
an end, on which we congratulated ourselves.
On reaching the remains of the Star of the South we set to work
to take stock of what was left to us. Fortunately it proved to be
a very great deal. As I think I mentioned, all the passenger part
of the yacht lay forward of the bridge, just in front of which
the vessel had been broken in two, almost as cleanly as though
she were severed by a gigantic knife. Further our stores were
forward and practically everything else that belonged to us, even
down to Bickley's instruments and medicines and Bastin's
religious works, to say nothing of a great quantity of tinned
food and groceries. Lastly on the deck above the saloon had stood
two large lifeboats. Although these were amply secured at the
commencement of the gale one of them, that on the port side, was
smashed to smithers; probably some spar had fallen upon it. The
starboard boat, however, remained intact and so far as we could
judge, seaworthy, although the bulwarks were broken by the waves.
"There's something we can get away in if necessary," I said.
"Where to?" remarked Bastin. "We don't know where we are or if
there is any other land within a thousand miles. I think we had
better stop here as Providence seems to have intended, especially
when there is so much work to my hand."
"Be careful," answered Bickley, "that the work to your hand
does not end in the cutting of all our throats. It is an awkward
thing interfering with the religion of savages, and I believe
that these untutored children of Nature sometimes eat
"Yes, I have heard that," said Bastin; "they bake them first as
they do pigs. But I don't know that they would care to eat me,"
and he glanced at his bony limbs, "especially when you are much
plumper. Anyhow one can't stop for a risk of that sort."
Deigning no reply, Bickley walked away to fetch some fine fish
which had been washed up by the tidal wave and were still
flapping about in a little pool of salt water. Then we took
counsel as to how to make the best of our circumstances, and as a
result set to work to tidy up the saloon and cabins, which was
not difficult as what remained of the ship lay on an even keel.
Also we got out some necessary stores, including paraffin for the
swinging lamps with which the ship was fitted in case of accident
to the electric light, candles, and the guns we had brought with
us so that they might be handy in the event of attack. This done,
by the aid of the tools that were in the storerooms, Bickley, who
was an excellent carpenter, repaired the saloon door, all that
was necessary to keep us private, as the bulkhead still remained.
"Now," he said triumphantly when he had finished and got the
lock and bolts to work to his satisfaction, "we can stand a siege
if needed, for as the ship is iron built they can't even burn us
out and that teak door would take some forcing. Also we can shore
"How about something to eat? I want my tea," said Bastin.
"Then, my reverend friend," replied Bickley, "take a couple of
the fire buckets and fetch some water from the stream. Also
collect driftwood of which there is plenty about, clean those
fish and grill them over the saloon stove."
"I'll try," said Bastin, "but I never did any cooking before."
"No," replied Bickley, "on second thoughts I will see to that
myself, but you can get the fish ready."
So, with due precautions, Bastin and I fetched water from the
stream which we found flowed over the edge of the cliff quite
close at hand into a beautiful coral basin that might have been
designed for a bath of the nymphs. Indeed one at a time, while
the other watched, we undressed and plunged into it, and never
was a tub more welcome than after our long days of tempest. Then
we returned to find that Bickley had already set the table and
was engaged in frying the fish very skilfully on the saloon
stove, which proved to be well adapted to the purpose. He was
cross, however, when he found that we had bathed and that it was
now too late for him to do likewise.
While he was cleaning himself as well as he could in his cabin
basin and Bastin was boiling water for tea, suddenly I remembered
the letter from the Danish mate Jacobsen. Concluding that it
might now be opened as we had certainly parted with most of the
Star of the South for the last time, I read it. It was as
"The reason, honoured Sir, that I am leaving the ship is that
on the night I tore up the paper, the spirit controlling the
planchette wrote these words: 'After leaving Samoa the Star of
the South will be wrecked in a hurricane and everybody on board
drowned except A. B. and B. Get out of her! Get out of her! Don't
be a fool, Jacob, unless you want to come over here at once. Take
our advice and get out of her and you will live to be old.--
"Sir, I am not a coward but I know that this will happen, for
that spirit which signs itself Skoll never tells a lie. I did try
to give the captain a hint to stop at Apia, but he had been
drinking and openly cursed me and called me a sneaking cheat. So
I am going to run away, of which I am very much ashamed. But I do
not wish to be drowned yet as there is a girl whom I want to
marry, and my mother I support. You will be safe and I hope you
will not think too badly of me.--JACOB JACOBSEN.
"P.S.--It is an awful thing to know the future. Never try to
I gave this letter to Bastin and Bickley to read and asked them
what they thought of it.
"Coincidence," said Bickley. "The man is a weak-minded idiot
and heard in Samoa that they expected a hurricane."
"I think," chimed in Bastin, "that the devil knows how to look
after his own at any rate for a little while. I dare say it would
have been much better for him to be drowned."
"At least he is a deserter and failed in his duty. I never wish
to hear of him again," I said.
As a matter of fact I never have. But the incident remains
quite unexplained either by Bickley or Bastin.
To our shame we had a very pleasant supper that night off the
grilled fish, which was excellent, and some tinned meat. I say to
our shame, in a sense, for on our companions the sharks were
supping and by rights we should have been sunk in woe. I suppose
that the sense of our own escape intoxicated us. Also,
notwithstanding his joviality, none of us had cared much for the
captain, and his policy had been to keep us somewhat apart from
the crew, of whom therefore we knew but little. It is true that
Bastin held services on Sundays, for such as would attend, and
Bickley had doctored a few of them for minor ailments, but there,
except for a little casual conversation, our intercourse began
Now the sad fact is that it is hard to be overwhelmed with
grief for those with whom we are not intimate. We were very sorry
and that is all that can be said, except that Bastin, being High
Church, announced in a matter-of-fact way that he meant to put up
some petitions for the welfare of their souls. To this Bickley
retorted that from what he had seen of their bodies he was sure
they needed them.
Yes, it was a pleasant supper, not made less so by a bottle of
champagne which Bickley and I shared. Bastin stuck to his tea,
not because he did not like champagne, but because, as he
explained, having now come in contact with the heathen it would
never do for him to set them an example in the use of spirituous
"However much we may differ, Bastin, I respect you for that
sentiment," commented Bickley.
"I don't know why you should," answered Bastin; "but if so, you
might follow my example."
That night we slept like logs, trusting to our teak door which
we barricaded, and to Tommy, who was a most excellent watch-dog,
to guard us against surprise. At any rate we took the risk. As a
matter of fact, nothing happened, though before dawn Tommy did
growl a good deal, for I heard him, but as he sank into slumber
again on my bed, I did not get up. In the morning I found from
fresh footprints that two or three men had been prowling about
the ship, though at a little distance.
We rose early, and taking the necessary precautions, bathed in
the pool. Then we breakfasted, and having filled every available
receptacle with water, which took us a long time as these
included a large tank that supplied the bath, so that we might
have at least a week's supply in case of siege, we went on deck
and debated what we should do. In the end we determined to stop
where we were and await events, because, as I pointed out, it was
necessary that we should discover whether these natives were
hostile or friendly. In the former event we could hold our own on
the ship, whereas away from it we must be overwhelmed; in the
latter there was always time to move inland.
About ten o'clock when we were seated on stools smoking, with
our guns by our side--for here, owing to the overhanging cliff in
which it will be remembered the prow of the ship was buried, we
could not be reached by missiles thrown from above--we saw
numbers of the islanders advancing upon us along the beach on
either side. They were preceded as before by women who bore food
on platters and in baskets. These people, all talking excitedly
and laughing after their fashion, stopped at a distance, so we
took no notice of them. Presently Marama, clad in his feather
cloak, and again accompanied by priests or medicine-men, appeared
walking down the path on the cliff face, and, standing below,
made salutations and entered into a conversation with us of which
I give the substance--that is, so far as we could understand it.
He reproached us for not having come to him as he expected we
would do. We replied that we preferred to remain where we were
until we were sure of our greeting and asked him what was the
position. He explained that only once before, in the time of his
grandfather, had any people reached their shores, also during a
great storm as we had done. They were dark-skinned men like
themselves, three of them, but whence they came was never known,
since they were at once seized and sacrificed to the god Oro,
which was the right thing to do in such a case.
We asked whether he would consider it right to sacrifice us. He
Certainly, unless we were too strong, being gods ourselves, or
unless an arrangement could be concluded. We asked--what
arrangement? He replied that we must make them gifts; also that
we must do what we had promised and cure him--the chief--of the
disease which had tormented him for years. In that event
everything would be at our disposal and we, with all our
belongings, should become taboo, holy, not to be touched. None
would attempt to harm us, nothing should be stolen under penalty
We asked him to come up on the deck with only one companion
that his sickness might be ascertained, and after much hesitation
he consented to do so. Bickley made an examination of the growth
and announced that he believed it could be removed with perfect
safety as the attachment to the neck was very slight, but of
course there was always a risk. This was explained to him with
difficulty, and much talk followed between him and his followers
who gathered on the beach beneath the ship. They seemed adverse
to the experiment, till Mamma grew furious with them and at last
burst into tears saying that he could no longer drag this
terrible burden about with him, and he touched the growth. He
would rather die. Then they gave way.
I will tell the rest as shortly as I can.
A hideous wooden idol was brought on board, wrapped in leaves
and feathers, and upon it the chief and his head people swore
safety to us whether he lived or died, making us the guests of
their land. There were, however, two provisos made, or as such we
understood them. These seemed to be that we should offer no
insult or injury to their god, and secondly, that we should not
set foot on the island in the lake. It was not till afterwards
that it occurred to me that this must refer to the mountain top
which appeared in the inland sheet of water. To those
stipulations we made no answer. Indeed, the Orofenans did all the
talking. Finally, they ratified their oaths by a man who, I
suppose, was a head priest, cutting his arm and rubbing the blood
from it on the lips of the idol; also upon those of the chief. I
should add that Bastin had retired as soon as he saw that false
god appear, of which I was glad, since I felt sure that he would
make a scene.
The operation took place that afternoon and on the ship, for
when once Marama had made up his mind to trust us he did so very
thoroughly. It was performed on deck in the presence of an awed
multitude who watched from the shore, and when they saw Bickley
appear in a clean nightshirt and wash his hands, uttered a groan
of wonder. Evidently they considered it a magical and religious
ceremony; indeed ever afterwards they called Bickley the Great
Priest, or sometimes the Great Healer in later days. This was a
grievance to Bastin who considered that he had been robbed of his
proper title, especially when he learned that among themselves he
was only known as "the Bellower," because of the loud voice in
which he addressed them. Nor did Bickley particularly appreciate
With my help he administered the chloroform, which was done
under shelter of a sail for fear lest the people should think
that we were smothering their chief. Then the operation went on
to a satisfactory conclusion. I omit the details, but an electric
battery and a red-hot wire came into play.
"There," said Bickley triumphantly when he had finished tying
the vessels and made everything neat and tidy with bandages, "I
was afraid he might bleed to death, but I don't think there is
any fear of that now, for I have made a real job of it." Then
advancing with the horrid tumour in his hands he showed it in
triumph to the crowd beneath, who groaned again and threw
themselves on to their faces. Doubtless now it is the most sacred
relic of Orofena.
When Marama came out of the anesthetic, Bickley gave him
something which sent him to sleep for twelve hours, during all
which time his people waited beneath. This was our dangerous
period, for our difficulty was to persuade them that he was not
dead, although Bickley had assured them that he would sleep for a
time while the magic worked. Still, I was very glad when he woke
up on the following morning, and two or three of his leading men
could see that he was alive. The rest was lengthy but simple,
consisting merely in keeping him quiet and on a suitable diet
until there was no fear of the wound opening. We achieved it
somehow with the help of an intelligent native woman who, I
suppose, was one of his wives, and five days later were enabled
to present him healed, though rather tottery, to his affectionate
It was a great scene, which may be imagined. They bore him away
in a litter with the native woman to watch him and another to
carry the relic preserved in a basket, and us they acclaimed as
gods. Thenceforward we had nothing to fear in Orofena--except
Bastin, though this we did not know at the time.
All this while we had been living on our ship and growing very
bored there, although we employed the empty hours in conversation
with selected natives, thereby improving our knowledge of the
language. Bickley had the best of it, since already patients
began to arrive which occupied him. One of the first was that man
whom Tommy had bitten. He was carried to us in an almost comatose
state, suffering apparently from the symptoms of snake poisoning.
Afterward it turned out that he conceived Tommy to be a divine
but most venomous lizard that could make a very horrible noise,
and began to suffer as one might do from the bite of such a
creature. Nothing that Bickley could do was enough to save him
and ultimately he died in convulsions, a circumstance that
enormously enhanced Tommy's reputation. To tell the truth, we
took advantage of it to explain that Tommy was in fact a
supernatural animal, a sort of tame demon which only harmed
people who had malevolent intentions towards those he served or
who tried to steal any of their possessions or to intrude upon
them at inconvenient hours, especially in the dark. So terrible
was he, indeed, that even the skill of the Great Priest, i.e.,
Bickley, could not avail to save any whom once he had bitten in
his rage. Even to be barked at by him was dangerous and conveyed
a curse that might last for generations.
All this we set out when Bastin was not there. He had wandered
off, as he said, to look for shells, but as we knew, to practise
religious orations in the Polynesian tongue with the waves for
audience, as Demosthenes is said to have done to perfect himself
as a political orator. Personally I admit that I relied more on
the terrors of Tommy to safeguard us from theft and other
troubles than I did upon those of the native taboo and the
The end of it all was that we left our ship, having padlocked
up the door (the padlock, we explained, was a magical instrument
that bit worse than Tommy), and moved inland in a kind of
triumphal procession, priests and singers going before (the
Orofenans sang extremely well) and minstrels following after
playing upon instruments like flutes, while behind came the
bearers carrying such goods as we needed. They took us to a
beautiful place in a grove of palms on a ridge where grew many
breadfruit trees, that commanded a view of the ocean upon one
side and of the lake with the strange brown mountain top on the
other. Here in the midst of the native gardens we found that a
fine house had been built for us of a kind of mud brick and
thatched with palm leaves, surrounded by a fenced courtyard of
beaten earth and having wide overhanging verandahs; a very
comfortable place indeed in that delicious climate. In it we took
up our abode, visiting the ship occasionally to see that all was
well there, and awaiting events.
For Bickley these soon began to happen in the shape of an
ever-increasing stream of patients. The population of the island
was considerable, anything between five and ten thousand, so far
as we could judge, and among these of course there were a number
of sick. Ophthalmia, for instance, was a prevalent disease, as
were the growths such as Marama had suffered from, to say nothing
of surgical cases and those resulting from accident or from
nervous ailments. With all of these Bickley was called upon to
deal, which he did with remarkable success by help of his books
on Tropical Diseases and his ample supplies of medical
At first he enjoyed it very much, but when we had been
established in the house for about three weeks he remarked, after
putting in a solid ten hours of work, that for all the holiday he
was getting he might as well be back at his old practice, with
the difference that there he was earning several thousands a
year. Just then a poor woman arrived with a baby in convulsions
to whose necessities he was obliged to sacrifice his supper,
after which came a man who had fallen from a palm tree and broken
Nor did I escape, since having somehow or other established a
reputation for wisdom, as soon as I had mastered sufficient of
the language, every kind of knotty case was laid before me for
decision. In short, I became a sort of Chief Justice--not an easy
office as it involved the acquirement of the native law which was
intricate and peculiar, especially in matrimonial cases.
At these oppressive activities Bastin looked on with a gloomy
"You fellows seem very busy," he said one evening; "but I can
find nothing to do. They don't seem to want me, and merely to set
a good example by drinking water or tea while you swallow whisky
and their palm wine, or whatever it is, is very negative kind of
work, especially as I am getting tired of planting things in the
garden and playing policeman round the wreck which nobody goes
near. Even Tommy is better off, for at least he can bark and hunt
"You see," said Bickley, "we are following our trades.
Arbuthnot is a lawyer and acts as a judge. I am a surgeon and I
may add a general--a very general--practitioner and work at
medicine in an enormous and much-neglected practice. Therefore,
you, being a clergyman, should go and do likewise. There are some
ten thousand people here, but I do not observe that as yet you
have converted a, single one."
Thus spoke Bickley in a light and unguarded moment with his
usual object of what is known as "getting a rise" out of Bastin.
Little did he guess what he was doing.
Bastin thought a while ponderously, then said:
"It is very strange from what peculiar sources Providence
sometimes sends inspirations. If wisdom flows from babes and
sucklings, why should it not do so from the well of agnostics and
"There is no reason which I can see," scoffed Bickley, "except
that as a rule wells do not flow."
"Your jest is ill-timed and I may add foolish," continued
Bastin. "What I was about to add was that you have given me an
idea, as it was no doubt intended that you should do. I will,
metaphorically speaking, gird up my loins and try to bear the
light into all this heathen blackness."
"Then it is one of the first you ever had, old fellow. But
what's the need of girding up your loins in this hot climate?"
inquired Bickley with innocence. "Pyjamas and that white and
green umbrella of yours would do just as well."
Bastin vouchsafed no reply and sat for the rest of that evening
plunged in deep thought.
On the following morning he approached Marama and asked his
leave to teach the people about the gods. The chief readily
granted this, thinking, I believe, that he alluded to ourselves,
and orders were issued accordingly. They were to the effect that
Bastin was to be allowed to go everywhere unmolested and to talk
to whom he would about what he would, to which all must listen
Thus he began his missionary career in Orofena, working at it,
good and earnest man that he was, in a way that excited even the
admiration of Bickley. He started a school for children,. which
was held under a fine, spreading tree. These listened well, and
being of exceedingly quick intellect soon began to pick up the
elements of knowledge. But when he tried to persuade them to
clothe their little naked bodies his failure was complete,
although after much supplication some of the bigger girls did
arrive with a chaplet of flowersÄround their necks!
Also he preached to the adults, and here again was very
successful in a way, especially after he became more familiar
with the language. They listened; to a certain extent they
understood; they argued and put to poor Bastin the most awful
questions such as the whole Bench of Bishops could not have
answered. Still he did answer them somehow, and they politely
accepted his interpretation of their theological riddles. I
observed that he got on best when he was telling them stories out
of the Old Testament, such as the account of the creation of the
world and of human beings, also of the Deluge, etc. Indeed one of
their elders said--Yes, this was quite true. They had heard it
all before from their fathers, and that once the Deluge had taken
place round Orofena, swallowing up great countries, but sparing
them because they were so good.
Bastin, surprised, asked them who had caused the deluge. They
replied, Oro which was the name of their god, Oro who dwelt
yonder on the mountain in the lake, and whose representation they
worshipped in idols. He said that God dwelt in Heaven, to which
they replied with calm certainty:
"No, no, he dwells on the mountain in the lake," which was why
they never dared to approach that mountain.
Indeed it was only by giving the name Oro to the Divinity and
admitting that He might dwell in the mountain as well as
everywhere else, that Bastin was able to make progress. Having
conceded this, not without scruples, however, he did make
considerable progress, so much, in fact, that I perceived that
the priests of Oro were beginning to grow very jealous of him and
of his increasing authority with the people. Bastin was naturally
triumphant, and even exclaimed exultingly that within a year he
would have half of the population baptised.
"Within a year, my dear fellow," said Bickley, "you will have
your throat cut as a sacrifice, and probably ours also. It is a
pity, too, as within that time I should have stamped out
ophthalmia and some other diseases in the island."
Here, leaving Bastin and his good work aside for a while, I
will say a little about the country. From information which I
gathered on some journeys that I made and by inquiries from the
chief Marama, who had become devoted to us, I found that Orofena
was quite a large place. In shape the island was circular, a
broad band of territory surrounding the great lake of which I
have spoken, that in its turn surrounded a smaller island from
which rose the mountain top. No other land was known to be near
the shores of Orofena, which had never been visited by anyone
except the strangers a hundred years ago or so, who were
sacrificed and eaten. Most of the island was covered with forest
which the inhabitants lacked the energy, and indeed had no tools,
to fell. They were an extremely lazy people and would only
cultivate enough bananas and other food to satisfy their
immediate needs. In truth they lived mostly upon breadfruit and
other products of the wild trees.
Thus it came about that in years of scarcity through drought or
climatic causes, which prevented the forest trees from bearing,
they suffered very much from hunger. In such years hundreds of
them would perish and the remainder resorted to the dreadful
expedient of cannibalism. Sometimes, too, the shoals of fish
avoided their shores, reducing them to great misery. Their only
domestic animal was the pig which roamed about half wild and in
no great numbers, for they had never taken the trouble to breed
it in captivity. Their resources, therefore, were limited, which
accounted for the comparative smallness of the population,
further reduced as it was by a wicked habit of infanticide
practised in order to lighten the burden of bringing up children.
They had no traditions as to how they reached this land, their
belief being that they had always been there but that their
forefathers were much greater than they. They were poetical, and
sang songs in a language which themselves they could not
understand; they said that it was the tongue their forefathers
had spoken. Also they had several strange customs of which they
did not know the origin. My own opinion, which Bickley shared,
was that they were in fact a shrunken and deteriorated remnant of
some high race now coming to its end through age and
inter-breeding. About them indeed, notwithstanding their
primitive savagery which in its qualities much resembled that of
other Polynesians, there was a very curious air of antiquity. One
felt that they had known the older world and its mysteries,
though now both were forgotten. Also their language, which in
time we came to speak perfectly, was copious, musical, and
expressive in its idioms.
One circumstance I must mention. In walking about the country I
observed all over it enormous holes, some of them measuring as
much as a hundred yards across, with a depth of fifty feet or
more, and this not on alluvial lands although there traces of
them existed also, but in solid rock. What this rock was I do not
know as none of us were geologists, but it seemed to me to
partake of the nature of granite. Certainly it was not coral like
that on and about the coast, but of a primeval formation.
When I asked Marama what caused these holes, he only shrugged
his shoulders and said he did not know, but their fathers had
declared that they were made by stones falling from heaven. This,
of course, suggested meteorites to my mind. I submitted the idea
to Bickley, who, in one of his rare intervals of leisure, came
with me to make an examination.
"If they were meteorites," he said, "of which a shower struck
the earth in some past geological age, all life must have been
destroyed by them and their remains ought to exist at the bottom
of the holes. To me they look more like the effect of high
explosives, but that, of course, is impossible, though I don't
know what else could have caused such craters."
Then he went back to his work, for nothing that had to do with
antiquity interested Bickley very much. The present and its
problems were enough for him, he would say, who neither had lived
in the past nor expected to have any share in the future.
As I remained curious I made an opportunity to scramble to the
bottom of one of these craters, taking with me some of the
natives with their wooden tools. Here I found a good deal of soil
either washed down from the surface or resulting from the
decomposition of the rock, though oddly enough in it nothing
grew. I directed them to dig. After a while to my astonishment
there appeared a corner of a great worked stone quite unlike that
of the crater, indeed it seemed to me to be a marble. Further
examination showed that this block was most beautifully carved in
bas-relief, apparently with a design of leaves and flowers. In
the disturbed soil also I picked up a life-sized marble hand of a
woman exquisitely finished and apparently broken from a statue
that might have been the work of one of the great Greek
sculptors. Moreover, on the third finger of this hand was a
representation of a ring whereof, unfortunately, the bezel had
I put the hand in my pocket, but as darkness was coming on, I
could not pursue the research and disinter the block. When I
wished to return the next day, I was informed politely by Marama
that it would not be safe for me to do so as the priests of Oro
declared that if I sought to meddle with the "buried things the
god would grow angry and bring disaster on me."
When I persisted he said that at least I must go alone since no
native would accompany me, and added earnestly that he prayed me
not to go. So to my great regret and disappointment I was obliged
to give up the idea.
Bastin Attempts the Martyr's Crown
That carved stone and the marble hand took a great hold of my
imagination. What did they mean? How could they have come to the
bottom of that hole, unless indeed they were part of some
building and its ornaments which had been destroyed in the
neighbourhood? The stone of which we had only uncovered a corner
seemed far too big to have been carried there from any ship; it
must have weighed several tons. Besides, ships do not carry such
things about the world, and none had visited this island during
the last two centuries at any rate, or local tradition would have
recorded so wonderful a fact. Were there, then, once edifices
covered with elegant carving standing on this place, and were
they adorned with lovely statues that would not have disgraced
the best period of Greek art? The thing was incredible except on
the supposition that these were relics of an utterly lost
Bickley was as much puzzled as myself. All he could say was
that the world was infinitely old and many things might have
happened in it whereof we had no record. Even Bastin was excited
for a little while, but as his imagination was represented by
zero, all he could say was:
"I suppose someone left them there, and anyhow it doesn't
matter much, does it?"
But I, who have certain leanings towards the ancient and
mysterious, could not be put off in this fashion. I remembered
that unapproachable mountain in the midst of the lake and that on
it appeared to be something which looked like ruins as seen from
the top of the cliff through glasses. At any rate this was a
point, that I might clear up.
Saying nothing to anybody, one morning I slipped away and
walked to the edge of the lake, a distance of five or six miles
over rough country. Having arrived there I perceived that the
cone-shaped mountain in the centre, which was about a mile from
the lake shore, was much larger than I had thought, quite three
hundred feet high indeed, and with a very large circumference.
Further, its sides evidently once had been terraced, and it was
on one of these broad terraces, half-way up and facing towards
the rising sun, that the ruin-like remains were heaped. I
examined them through my glasses. Undoubtedly it was a cyclopean
ruin built of great blocks of coloured stone which seemed to have
been shattered by earthquake or explosion. There were the pillars
of a mighty gateway and the remains of walls.
I trembled with excitement as I stared and stared. Could I not
get to the place and see for myself? I observed that from the
flat bush-clad land at the foot of the mountain, ran out what
seemed to be the residue of a stone pier which ended in a large
table-topped rock between two and three hundred feet across. But
even this was too far to reach by swimming, besides for aught I
knew there might be alligators in that lake. I walked up and down
its borders, till presently I came to a path which led into a
patch of some variety of cotton palm.
Following this path I discovered a boat-house thatched over
with palm leaves. Inside it were two good canoes with their
paddles, floating and tied to the stumps of trees by fibre ropes.
Instantly I made up my mind that I would paddle to the island and
investigate. Just as I was about to step into one of the canoes
the light was cut off. Looking up I saw that a man was crouching
in the door-place of the boat-house in order to enter, and paused
"Friend-from-the-Sea" (that was the name that these islanders
had given to me), said the voice of Marama, "say--what are you
"I am about to take a row on the lake, Chief," I answered
"Indeed, Friend. Have we then treated you so badly that you are
tired of life?"
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Come out into the sunlight, Friend, and I will explain to
I hesitated till I saw Marama lifting the heavy wooden spear he
carried and remembered that I was unarmed. Then I came out.
"What does all this mean, Chief?" I asked angrily when we were
clear of the patch of cotton palm.
"I mean, Friend, that you have been very near to making a
longer journey than you thought. Have patience now and listen to
me. I saw you leaving the village this morning and followed,
suspecting your purpose. Yes, I followed alone, saying nothing to
the priests of Oro who fortunately were away watching the
Bellower for their own reasons. I saw you searching out the
secrets of the mountain with those magic tubes that make things
big that are small, and things that are far off come near, and I
followed you to the canoes."
"All that is plain enough, Marama. But why?"
"Have I not told you, Friend-from-the-Sea, that yonder hill
which is called Orofena, whence this island takes its name, is
"You said so, but what of it?"
"This: to set foot thereon is to die and, I suppose, great as
you are, you, too, can die like others. At least, although I love
you, had you not come away from that canoe I was about to
discover whether this is so."
"Then for what are the canoes used?" I asked with irritation.
"You see that flat rock, Friend, with the hole beyond, which is
the mouth of a cave that appeared only in the great storm that
brought you to our land? They are used to convey offerings which
are laid upon the rock. Beyond it no man may go, and since the
beginning no man has ever gone."
"Offerings to whom?"
"To the Oromatuas, the spirits of the great dead who live
"Oromatuas? Oro! It is always something to do with Oro. Who and
what is Oro?"
"Oro is a god, Friend, though it is true that the priests say
that above him there is a greater god called Degai, the Creator,
the Fate who made all things and directs all things."
"Very well, but why do you suppose that Oro, the servant of
Degai, lives in that mountain? I thought that he lived in a grove
yonder where your priests, as I am told, have an image of him."
"I do not know, Friend-from-the-Sea, but so it has been held
from the beginning. The image in the grove is only visited by his
spirit from time to time. Now, I pray you, come back and before
the priests discover that you have been here, and forget that
there are any canoes upon this lake."
So, thinking it wisest, I turned the matter with a laugh and
walked away with him to the village. On our road I tried to
extract some more information but without success. He did not
know who built the ruin upon the mountain, or who destroyed it.
He did not know how the terraces came there. All he knew was that
during the convulsion of Nature which resulted in the tidal wave
that had thrown our ship upon the island, the mountain had been
seen to quiver like a tree in the wind as though within it great
forces were at work. Then it was observed to have risen a good
many more feet above the surface of the lake, as might be noted
by the water mark upon the shore, and then also the mouth of the
cave had appeared. The priests said that all this was because the
Oromatuas who dwelt there were stirring, which portended great
things. Indeed great things had happened--for had we not arrived
in their land?
I thanked him for what he had told me, and, as there was
nothing more to be learned, dropped the subject which was never
mentioned between us again, at least not for a long while. But in
my heart I determined that I would reach that mountain even
though to do so I must risk my life. Something seemed to call me
to the place; it was as though I were being drawn by a magnet.
As it happened, before so very long I did go to the mountain,
not of my own will but because I was obliged. It came about thus.
One night I asked Bastin how he was getting on with his
missionary work. He replied: Very well indeed, but there was one
great obstacle in his path, the idol in the Grove. Were it not
for this accursed image he believed that the whole island would
become Christian. I asked him to be more plain. He explained that
all his work was thwarted by this idol, since his converts
declared that they did not dare to be baptised while it sat there
in the Grove. If they did, the spirit that was in it would
bewitch them and perhaps steal out at night and murder them.
"The spirit being our friends the sorcerers," I suggested.
"That's it, Arbuthnot. Do you know, I believe those devilish
men sometimes offer human sacrifices to this satanic fetish, when
there is a drought or anything of that sort."
"I can quite believe it," I answered, "but as they will
scarcely remove their god and with it their own livelihood and
authority, I am afraid that as we don't want to be sacrificed,
there is nothing to be done."
At this moment I was called away. As I went I heard Bastin
muttering something about martyrs, but paid no attention. Little
did I guess what was going on in his pious but obstinate mind. In
effect it was this--that if no one else would remove that idol he
was quite ready to do it himself.
However, he was very cunning over that business, almost
Jesuitical indeed. Not one word did he breathe of his dark plans
to me, and still less to Bickley. He just went on with his
teaching, lamenting from time to time the stumbling-block of the
idol and expressing wonder as to how it might be circumvented by
a change in the hearts of the islanders, or otherwise. Sad as it
is to record, in fact, dear old Bastin went as near to telling a
fib in connection with this matter as I suppose he had ever done
in his life. It happened thus. One day Bickley's sharp eye caught
sight of Bastin walking about with what looked like a bottle of
whisky in his pocket.
"Hallo, old fellow," he said, "has the self-denying ordinance
broken down? I didn't know that you took pegs on the sly," and he
pointed to the bottle.
"If you are insinuating, Bickley, that I absorb spirits
surreptitiously, you are more mistaken than usual, which is
saying a good deal. This bottle contains, not Scotch whisky but
paraffin, although I admit that its label may have misled you,
unintentionally, so far as I am concerned."
"What are you going to do with the paraffin?" asked Bickley.
Bastin coloured through his tan and replied awkwardly:
"Paraffin is very good to keep away mosquitoes if one can stand
the smell of it upon one's skin. Not that I have brought it here
with that sole object. The truth is that I am anxious to
experiment with a lamp of my own design made--um--of native
wood," and he departed in a hurry.
"When next old Bastin wants to tell a lie," commented Bickley,
"he should make up his mind as to what it is to be, and stick to
it. I wonder what he is after with that paraffin? Not going to
dose any of my patients with it, I hope. He was arguing the other
day that it is a great remedy taken internally, being quite
unaware that the lamp variety is not used for that purpose."
"Perhaps he means to swallow some himself, just to show that he
is right," I suggested.
"The stomach-pump is at hand," said Bickley, and the matter
Next morning I got up before it was light. Having some
elementary knowledge of the main facts of astronomy, which
remained with me from boyhood when I had attended lectures on the
subject, which I had tried to refresh by help of an encyclopedia
I had brought from the ship, I wished to attempt to obtain an
idea of our position by help of the stars. In this endeavour, I
may say, I failed absolutely, as I did not know how to take a
stellar or any other observation.
On my way out of our native house I observed, by the lantern I
carried, that the compartment of it occupied by Bastin was empty,
and wondered whither he had gone at that hour. On arriving at my
observation-post, a rocky eminence on open ground, where, with
Tommy at my side, I took my seat with a telescope, I was
astonished to see or rather to hear a great number of the natives
walking past the base of the mound towards the bush. Then I
remembered that some one, Marama, I think, had informed me that
there was to be a great sacrifice to Oro at dawn on that day.
After this I thought no more of the matter but occupied myself in
a futile study of the heavenly bodies. At length the dawn broke
and put a period to my labours.
Glancing round me before I descended from the little hill, I
saw a flame of light appear suddenly about half a mile or more
away among those trees which I knew concealed the image of Oro.
On this personally I had never had the curiosity to look, as I
knew that it was only a hideous idol stuck over with feathers and
other bedizenments. The flame shot suddenly straight into the
still air and was followed a few seconds later by the sound of a
dull explosion, after which it went out. Also it was followed by
something else--a scream of rage from an infuriated mob.
At the foot of the hill I stopped to wonder what these sounds
might mean. Then of a sudden appeared Bickley, who had been
attending some urgent case, and asked me who was exploding
gunpowder. I told him that I had no idea.
"Then I have," he answered. "It is that ass Bastin up to some
game. Now I guess why he wanted that paraffin. Listen to the row.
What are they after?"
"Sacrificing Bastin, perhaps," I replied, half in jest. "Have
you your revolver?"
He nodded. We always wore our pistols if we went out during the
"Then perhaps we had better go to see."
We started, and had not covered a hundred yards before a girl,
whom I recognised as one of Bastin's converts, came flying
towards us and screaming out, "Help! Help! They kill the Bellower
with fire! They cook him like a pig!"
"Just what I expected," said Bickley.
Then we ran hard, as evidently there was no time to lose. While
we went I extracted from the terrified girl, whom we forced to
show us the way, that as the sacrifice was about to be offered
Bastin had appeared, and, "making fire," applied it to the god
Oro, who instantly burst into flame. Then he ran back, calling
out that the devil was dead. As he did so there was a loud
explosion and Oro flew into pieces. His burning head went a long
way into the air and, falling on to one of the priests, killed
him. Thereon the other priests and the people seized the Bellower
and made him fast. Now they were engaged in heating an oven in
which to put him to cook. When it was ready they would eat him in
honour of Oro.
"And serve him right too!" gasped Bickley, who, being stout,
was not a good runner. "Why can't he leave other people's gods
alone instead of blowing them up with gunpowder?"
"Don't know," I answered. "Hope we shall get there in time!"
"To be cooked and eaten with Bastin!" wheezed Bickley, after
which his breath gave out.
As it chanced we did, for these stone ovens take a long time to
heat. There by the edge of his fiery grave with his hands and
legs bound in palm-fibre shackles, stood Bastin, quite unmoved,
smiling indeed, in a sort of seraphic way which irritated us both
extremely. Round him danced the infuriated priests of Oro, and
round them, shrieking and howling with rage, was most of the
population of Orofena. We rushed up so suddenly that none tried
to stop us, and took our stand on either side of him, producing
our pistols as we did so.
"Thank you for coming," said Bastin in the silence which
followed; "though I don't think it is the least use. I cannot
recall that any of the early martyrs were ever roasted and eaten,
though, of course, throwing them into boiling oil or water was
fairly common. I take it that the rite is sacrificial and even in
a low sense, sacramental, not merely one of common cannibalism."
I stared at him, and Bickley gasped out:
"If you are to be eaten, what does it matter why you are
"Oh!" replied Bastin; "there is all the difference in the
world, though it is one that I cannot expect you to appreciate.
And now please be quiet as I wish to say my prayers. I imagine
that those stones will be hot enough to do their office within
twenty minutes or so, which is not very long."
At that moment Marama appeared, evidently in a state of great
perturbation. With him were some of the priests or sorcerers who
were dancing about as I imagine the priests of Baal must have
done, and filled with fury. They rolled their eyes, they stuck
out their tongues, they uttered weird cries and shook their
wooden knives at the placid Bastin.
"What is the matter?" I asked sternly of the chief.
"This, Friend-from-the-Sea. The Bellower there, when the
sacrifice was about to be offered to Oro at the dawn, rushed
forward, and having thrust something between the legs of the
image of the god, poured yellow water over it, and with fire
caused it to burst into fierce flame. Then he ran away and mocked
the god who presently, with a loud report, flew into pieces and
killed that man. Therefore the Bellower must be sacrificed."
"What to?" I asked. "The image has gone and the piece of it
that ascended fell not upon the Bellower, as would have happened
if the god had been angry with him, but on one of its own
priests, whom it killed. Therefore, having been sacrificed by the
god itself, he it is that should be eaten, not the Bellower, who
merely did what his Spirit bade him."
This ingenious argument seemed to produce some effect upon
Marama, but to the priests it did not at all appeal.
"Eat them all!" these cried. "They are the enemies of Oro and
have worked sacrilege!"
Moreover, to judge from their demeanour, the bulk of the people
seemed to agree with them. Things began to look very ugly. The
priests rushed forward, threatening us with their wooden weapons,
and one of them even aimed a blow at Bickley, which only missed
him by an inch or two.
"Look here, my friend," called the doctor whose temper was
rising, "you name me the Great Priest or Great Healer, do you
not? Well, be careful, lest I should show you that I can kill as
well as heal!"
Not in the least intimidated by this threat the man, a great
bedizened fellow who literally was foaming at the mouth with
rage, rushed forward again, his club raised, apparently with the
object of dashing out Bickley's brains.
Suddenly Bickley lifted his revolver and fired. The man, shot
through the heart, sprang into the air and fell upon his face--
stone dead. There was consternation, for these people had never
seen us shoot anything before, and were quite unacquainted with
the properties of firearms, which they supposed to be merely
instruments for making a noise. They stared, they gasped in fear
and astonishment, and then they fled, pursued by Tommy, barking,
leaving us alone with the two dead men.
"It was time to teach them a lesson," said Bickley as he
replaced the empty cartridge, and, seizing the dead man, rolled
him into the burning pit.
"Yes," I answered; "but presently, when they have got over
their fright, they will come back to teach us one."
Bastin said nothing; he seemed too dazed at the turn events had
"What do you suggest?" asked Bickley.
"Flight," I answered.
"Where to--the ship? We might hold that."
"No; that is what they expect. Look! They are cutting off our
road there. To the island in the lake where they dare not follow
us, for it is holy ground."
"How are we going to live on the island?" asked Bickley.
"I don't know," I replied; "but I am quite certain that if we
stay here we shall die."
"Very well," he said; "let us try it."
While we were speaking I was cutting Bastin's bonds. "Thank
you," he said. "It is a great relief to stretch one's arms after
they have been compressed with cords. But at the same time, I do
not know that I am really grateful. The martyr's crown was
hanging above me, so to speak, and now it has vanished into the
pit, like that man whom Bickley murdered."
"Look here," exclaimed the exasperated Bickley, "if you say
much more, Bastin, I'll chuck you into the pit too, to look for
your martyr's crown, for I think you have done enough mischief
for one morning."
"If you are trying to shift the responsibility for that
unfortunate man's destruction on to me--"
"Oh! shut it and trot," broke in Bickley. "Those infernal
savages are coming with your blessed converts leading the van."
So we "trotted" at no mean pace. As we passed it, Bastin
stooped down and picked up the head of the image of Oro, much as
Atalanta in Academy pictures is represented as doing to the
apples, and bore it away in triumph.
"I know it is scorched," he ejaculated at intervals, "but they
might trim it up and stick it on to a new body as the original
false god. Now they can't, for there's nothing left."
As a matter of fact, we were never in any real danger, for our
pursuit was very half-hearted indeed. To begin with, now that
their first rage was over, the Orofenans who were fond of us had
no particular wish to do us to death, while the ardour of their
sorcerers, who wished this very much, had been greatly cooled by
the mysterious annihilation of their idol and the violent deaths
of two of their companions, which they thought might be
reduplicated in their own persons. So it came about that the
chase, if noisy, was neither close nor eager.
We reached the edge of the lake where was the boat-house of
which I have spoken already, travelling at little more than a
walk. Here we made Bastin unfasten the better of the two canoes
that by good luck was almost filled with offerings, which
doubtless, according to custom, must be made upon the day of this
feast to Oro, while we watched against surprise at the boat-house
door. When he was ready we slipped in and took our seats, Tommy
jumping in after us, and pushed the canoe, now very heavily
laden, out into the lake.
Here, at a distance of about forty paces, which we judged to be
beyond wooden spear-throw, we rested upon our paddles to see what
would happen. All the crowd of islanders had rushed to the lake
edge where they stood staring at us stupidly. Bastin, thinking
the occasion opportune, lifted the hideous head of the idol which
he had carefully washed, and began to preach on the downfall of
"the god of the Grove."
This action of his appeared to awake memories or forebodings in
the minds of his congregation. Perhaps some ancient prophecy was
concerned--I do not know. At any rate, one of the priests shouted
something, whereon everybody began to talk at once. Then,
stooping down, they threw water from the lake over themselves and
rubbed its sand and mud into their hair, all the while making
genuflexions toward the mountain in the middle, after which they
turned and departed.
"Don't you think we had better go back?" asked Bastin.
"Evidently my words have touched them and their minds are melting
beneath the light of Truth."
"Oh! by all means," replied Bickley with sarcasm; "for then
their spears will touch us, and our bodies will soon be melting
above the fires of that pit."
"Perhaps you are right," said Bastin; "at least, I admit that
you have made matters very difficult by your unjustifiable
homicide of that priest who I do not think meant to injure you
seriously, and really was not at all a bad fellow, though
opinionated in some ways. Also, I do not suppose that anybody is
expected, as it were, to run his head into the martyr's crown.
When it settles there of itself it is another matter."
"Like a butterfly!" exclaimed the enraged Bickley.
"Yes, if you like to put it that way, though the simile seems a
very poor one; like a sunbeam would be better."
Here Bickley gave way with his paddle so vigorously that the
canoe was as nearly as possible upset into the lake.
In due course we reached the flat Rock of Offerings, which
proved to be quite as wide as a double croquet lawn and much
"What are those?" I asked, pointing to certain knobs on the
edge of the rock at a spot where a curved projecting point made a
Bickley examined them, and answered:
"I should say that they are the remains of stone mooring-posts
worn down by many thousands of years of weather. Yes, look, there
is the cut of the cables upon the base of that one, and very big
cables they must have been."
We stared at one another--that is, Bickley and I did, for
Bastin was still engaged in contemplating the blackened head of
the god which he had overthrown.
The Island in the Lake
We made the canoe fast and landed on the great rock, to
perceive that it was really a peninsula. That is to say, it was
joined to the main land of the lake island by a broad roadway
quite fifty yards across, which appeared to end in the mouth of
the cave. On this causeway we noted a very remarkable thing,
namely, two grooves separated by an exact distance of nine feet
which ran into the mouth of the cave and vanished there.
"Explain!" said Bickley.
"Paths," I said, "worn by countless feet walking on them for
thousands of years."
"You should cultivate the art of observation, Arbuthnot. What
do you say, Bastin?"
He stared at the grooves through his spectacles, and replied:
"I don't say anything, except that I can't see anybody to make
paths here. Indeed, the place seems quite unpopulated, and all
the Orofenans told me that they never landed on it because if
they did they would die. It is a part of their superstitious
nonsense. If you have any idea in your head you had better tell
us quickly before we breakfast. I am very hungry."
"You always are," remarked Bickley; "even when most people's
appetites might have been affected. Well, I think that this great
plateau was once a landing-place for flying machines, and that
there is the air-shed or garage."
Bastin stared at him.
"Don't you think we had better breakfast?" he said. "There are
two roast pigs in that canoe, and lots of other food, enough to
last us a week, I should say. Of course, I understand that the
blood you have shed has thrown you off your balance. I believe it
has that effect, except on the most hardened. Flying machines
were only invented a few years ago by the brothers Wright in
"Bastin," said Bickley, "I begin to regret that I did not leave
you to take part in another breakfast yonder--I mean as the
"It was Providence, not you, who prevented it, Bickley,
doubtless because I am unworthy of such a glorious end."
"Then it is lucky that Providence is a good shot with a pistol.
Stop talking nonsense and listen. If those were paths worn by
feet they would run to the edge of the rock. They do not. They
begin there in that gentle depression and slope upwards somewhat
steeply. The air machines, which were evidently large, lit in the
depression, possibly as a bird does, and then ran on wheels or
sledge skids along the grooves to the air-shed in the mountain.
Come to the cave and you will see."
"Not till we have breakfast," said Bastin. "I will get out a
pig. As a matter of fact, I had no supper last night, as I was
taking a class of native boys and making some arrangements of my
As for me, I only whistled. It all seemed very feasible. And
yet how could such things be?
We unloaded the canoe and ate. Bastin's appetite was splendid.
Indeed, I had to ask him to remember that when this supply was
done I did not know where we should find any more.
"Take no thought for the morrow," he replied. "I have no doubt
it will come from somewhere," and he helped himself to another
Never had I admired him so much. Not a couple of hours before
he was about to be cruelly murdered and eaten. But this did not
seem to affect him in the least. Bastin was the only man I have
ever known with a really perfect faith. It is a quality worth
having and one that makes for happiness. What a great thing not
to care whether you are breakfasted on, or breakfast!
"I see that there is lots of driftwood about here," he
remarked, "but unfortunately we have no tea, so in this climate
it is of little use, unless indeed we can catch some fish and
"Stop talking about eating and help us to haul up the canoe,"
Between the three of us we dragged and carried the canoe a long
way from the lake, fearing lest the natives should come and bear
it off with our provisions. Then, having given Tommy his
breakfast off the scraps, we walked to the cave. I glanced at my
companions. Bickley's face was alight with scientific eagerness.
Here are not dreams or speculations, but facts to be learned, it
seemed to say, and I will learn them. The past is going to show
me some of its secrets, to tell me how men of long ago lived and
died and how far they had advanced to that point on the road of
civilisation at which I stand in my little hour of existence.
That of Bastin was mildly interested, no more. Obviously, with
half his mind he was thinking of something else, probably of his
converts on the main island and of the school class fixed for
this hour which circumstances prevented him from attending.
Indeed, like Lot's wife he was casting glances behind him towards
the wicked place from which he had been forced to flee.