Sunday, October 21, 2007


Island Nights' Entertainments - Robert Louis Stevenson.

Island Nights' Entertainments - Robert Louis Stevenson.
The Beach of Falesa
A south sea bridal
The Ban
The Missionary
Night in the bush
The Bottle Imp
The Isle of voices
I SAW that island first when it was neither night nor morning. The
moon was to the west, setting, but still broad and bright. To the
east, and right amidships of the dawn, which was all pink, the
daystar sparkled like a diamond. The land breeze blew in our
faces, and smelt strong of wild lime and vanilla: other things
besides, but these were the most plain; and the chill of it set me
sneezing. I should say I had been for years on a low island near
the line, living for the most part solitary among natives. Here
was a fresh experience: even the tongue would be quite strange to
me; and the look of these woods and mountains, and the rare smell
of them, renewed my blood.
The captain blew out the binnacle lamp.
"There!" said he, "there goes a bit of smoke, Mr. Wiltshire, behind
the break of the reef. That's Falesa, where your station is, the
last village to the east; nobody lives to windward - I don't know
why. Take my glass, and you can make the houses out."
I took the glass; and the shores leaped nearer, and I saw the
tangle of the woods and the breach of the surf, and the brown roofs
and the black insides of houses peeped among the trees.
"Do you catch a bit of white there to the east'ard?" the captain
continued. "That's your house. Coral built, stands high, verandah
you could walk on three abreast; best station in the South Pacific.
When old Adams saw it, he took and shook me by the hand. 'I've
dropped into a soft thing here,' says he. - 'So you have,' says I,
'and time too!' Poor Johnny! I never saw him again but the once,
and then he had changed his tune - couldn't get on with the
natives, or the whites, or something; and the next time we came
round there he was dead and buried. I took and put up a bit of a
stick to him: 'John Adams, OBIT eighteen and sixty-eight. Go thou
and do likewise.' I missed that man. I never could see much harm
in Johnny."
"What did he die of?" I inquired.
"Some kind of sickness," says the captain. "It appears it took him
sudden. Seems he got up in the night, and filled up on Pain-Killer
and Kennedy's Discovery. No go: he was booked beyond Kennedy.
Then he had tried to open a case of gin. No go again: not strong
enough. Then he must have turned to and run out on the verandah,
and capsized over the rail. When they found him, the next day, he
was clean crazy - carried on all the time about somebody watering
his copra. Poor John!"
"Was it thought to be the island?" I asked.
"Well, it was thought to be the island, or the trouble, or
something," he replied. "I never could hear but what it was a
healthy place. Our last man, Vigours, never turned a hair. He
left because of the beach - said he was afraid of Black Jack and
Case and Whistling Jimmie, who was still alive at the time, but got
drowned soon afterward when drunk. As for old Captain Randall,
he's been here any time since eighteen-forty, forty-five. I never
could see much harm in Billy, nor much change. Seems as if he
might live to be Old Kafoozleum. No, I guess it's healthy."
"There's a boat coming now," said I. "She's right in the pass;
looks to be a sixteen-foot whale; two white men in the stern
"That's the boat that drowned Whistling Jimmie!" cried the Captain;
"let's see the glass. Yes, that's Case, sure enough, and the
darkie. They've got a gallows bad reputation, but you know what a
place the beach is for talking. My belief, that Whistling Jimmie
was the worst of the trouble; and he's gone to glory, you see.
What'll you bet they ain't after gin? Lay you five to two they
take six cases."
When these two traders came aboard I was pleased with the looks of
them at once, or, rather, with the looks of both, and the speech of
one. I was sick for white neighbours after my four years at the
line, which I always counted years of prison; getting tabooed, and
going down to the Speak House to see and get it taken off; buying
gin and going on a break, and then repenting; sitting in the house
at night with the lamp for company; or walking on the beach and
wondering what kind of a fool to call myself for being where I was.
There were no other whites upon my island, and when I sailed to the
next, rough customers made the most of the society. Now to see
these two when they came aboard was a pleasure. One was a negro,
to be sure; but they were both rigged out smart in striped pyjamas
and straw hats, and Case would have passed muster in a city. He
was yellow and smallish, had a hawk's nose to his face, pale eyes,
and his beard trimmed with scissors. No man knew his country,
beyond he was of English speech; and it was clear he came of a good
family and was splendidly educated. He was accomplished too;
played the accordion first-rate; and give him a piece of string or
a cork or a pack of cards, and he could show you tricks equal to
any professional. He could speak, when he chose, fit for a
drawing-room; and when he chose he could blaspheme worse than a
Yankee boatswain, and talk smart to sicken a Kanaka. The way he
thought would pay best at the moment, that was Case's way, and it
always seemed to come natural, and like as if he was born to it.
He had the courage of a lion and the cunning of a rat; and if he's
not in hell to-day, there's no such place. I know but one good
point to the man: that he was fond of his wife, and kind to her.
She was a Samoa woman, and dyed her hair red, Samoa style; and when
he came to die (as I have to tell of) they found one strange thing
- that he had made a will, like a Christian, and the widow got the
lot: all his, they said, and all Black Jack's, and the most of
Billy Randall's in the bargain, for it was Case that kept the
books. So she went off home in the schooner MANU'A, and does the
lady to this day in her own place.
But of all this on that first morning I knew no more than a fly.
Case used me like a gentleman and like a friend, made me welcome to
Falesa, and put his services at my disposal, which was the more
helpful from my ignorance of the native. All the better part of
the day we sat drinking better acquaintance in the cabin, and I
never heard a man talk more to the point. There was no smarter
trader, and none dodgier, in the islands. I thought Falesa seemed
to be the right kind of a place; and the more I drank the lighter
my heart. Our last trader had fled the place at half an hour's
notice, taking a chance passage in a labour ship from up west. The
captain, when he came, had found the station closed, the keys left
with the native pastor, and a letter from the runaway, confessing
he was fairly frightened of his life. Since then the firm had not
been represented, and of course there was no cargo. The wind,
besides, was fair, the captain hoped he could make his next island
by dawn, with a good tide, and the business of landing my trade was
gone about lively. There was no call for me to fool with it, Case
said; nobody would touch my things, everyone was honest in Falesa,
only about chickens or an odd knife or an odd stick of tobacco; and
the best I could do was to sit quiet till the vessel left, then
come straight to his house, see old Captain Randall, the father of
the beach, take pot-luck, and go home to sleep when it got dark.
So it was high noon, and the schooner was under way before I set my
foot on shore at Falesa.
I had a glass or two on board; I was just off a long cruise, and
the ground heaved under me like a ship's deck. The world was like
all new painted; my foot went along to music; Falesa might have
been Fiddler's Green, if there is such a place, and more's the pity
if there isn't! It was good to foot the grass, to look aloft at
the green mountains, to see the men with their green wreaths and
the women in their bright dresses, red and blue. On we went, in
the strong sun and the cool shadow, liking both; and all the
children in the town came trotting after with their shaven heads
and their brown bodies, and raising a thin kind of a cheer in our
wake, like crowing poultry.
"By-the-bye," says Case, "we must get you a wife."
"That's so," said I; "I had forgotten."
There was a crowd of girls about us, and I pulled myself up and
looked among them like a Bashaw. They were all dressed out for the
sake of the ship being in; and the women of Falesa are a handsome
lot to see. If they have a fault, they are a trifle broad in the
beam; and I was just thinking so when Case touched me.
"That's pretty," says he.
I saw one coming on the other side alone. She had been fishing;
all she wore was a chemise, and it was wetted through. She was
young and very slender for an island maid, with a long face, a high
forehead, and a shy, strange, blindish look, between a cat's and a
"Who's she?" said I. "She'll do."
"That's Uma," said Case, and he called her up and spoke to her in
the native. I didn't know what he said; but when he was in the
midst she looked up at me quick and timid, like a child dodging a
blow, then down again, and presently smiled. She had a wide mouth,
the lips and the chin cut like any statue's; and the smile came out
for a moment and was gone. Then she stood with her head bent, and
heard Case to an end, spoke back in the pretty Polynesian voice,
looking him full in the face, heard him again in answer, and then
with an obeisance started off. I had just a share of the bow, but
never another shot of her eye, and there was no more word of
"I guess it's all right," said Case. "I guess you can have her.
I'll make it square with the old lady. You can have your pick of
the lot for a plug of tobacco," he added, sneering.
I suppose it was the smile stuck in my memory, for I spoke back
sharp. "She doesn't look that sort," I cried.
"I don't know that she is," said Case. "I believe she's as right
as the mail. Keeps to herself, don't go round with the gang, and
that. O no, don't you misunderstand me - Uma's on the square." He
spoke eager, I thought, and that surprised and pleased me.
"Indeed," he went on, "I shouldn't make so sure of getting her,
only she cottoned to the cut of your jib. All you have to do is to
keep dark and let me work the mother my own way; and I'll bring the
girl round to the captain's for the marriage."
I didn't care for the word marriage, and I said so.
"Oh, there's nothing to hurt in the marriage," says he. "Black
Jack's the chaplain."
By this time we had come in view of the house of these three white
men; for a negro is counted a white man, and so is a Chinese! a
strange idea, but common in the islands. It was a board house with
a strip of rickety verandah. The store was to the front, with a
counter, scales, and the poorest possible display of trade: a case
or two of tinned meats; a barrel of hard bread; a few bolts of
cotton stuff, not to be compared with mine; the only thing well
represented being the contraband, firearms and liquor. "If these
are my only rivals," thinks I, "I should do well in Falesa."
Indeed, there was only the one way they could touch me, and that
was with the guns and drink.
In the back room was old Captain Randall, squatting on the floor
native fashion, fat and pale, naked to the waist, grey as a badger,
and his eyes set with drink. His body was covered with grey hair
and crawled over by flies; one was in the corner of his eye - he
never heeded; and the mosquitoes hummed about the man like bees.
Any clean-minded man would have had the creature out at once and
buried him; and to see him, and think he was seventy, and remember
he had once commanded a ship, and come ashore in his smart togs,
and talked big in bars and consulates, and sat in club verandahs,
turned me sick and sober.
He tried to get up when I came in, but that was hopeless; so he
reached me a hand instead, and stumbled out some salutation.
"Papa's (1) pretty full this morning," observed Case. "We've had
an epidemic here; and Captain Randall takes gin for a prophylactic
- don't you, Papa?"
"Never took such a thing in my life!" cried the captain
indignantly. "Take gin for my health's sake, Mr. Wha's-ever-yourname
- 's a precautionary measure."
"That's all right, Papa," said Case. "But you'll have to brace up.
There's going to be a marriage - Mr. Wiltshire here is going to get
The old man asked to whom.
"To Uma," said Case.
"Uma!" cried the captain. "Wha's he want Uma for? 's he come here
for his health, anyway? Wha' 'n hell's he want Uma for?"
"Dry up, Papa," said Case. "'Tain't you that's to marry her. I
guess you're not her godfather and godmother. I guess Mr.
Wiltshire's going to please himself."
With that he made an excuse to me that he must move about the
marriage, and left me alone with the poor wretch that was his
partner and (to speak truth) his gull. Trade and station belonged
both to Randall; Case and the negro were parasites; they crawled
and fed upon him like the flies, he none the wiser. Indeed, I have
no harm to say of Billy Randall beyond the fact that my gorge rose
at him, and the time I now passed in his company was like a
The room was stifling hot and full of flies; for the house was
dirty and low and small, and stood in a bad place, behind the
village, in the borders of the bush, and sheltered from the trade.
The three men's beds were on the floor, and a litter of pans and
dishes. There was no standing furniture; Randall, when he was
violent, tearing it to laths. There I sat and had a meal which was
served us by Case's wife; and there I was entertained all day by
that remains of man, his tongue stumbling among low old jokes and
long old stories, and his own wheezy laughter always ready, so that
he had no sense of my depression. He was nipping gin all the
while. Sometimes he fell asleep, and awoke again, whimpering and
shivering, and every now and again he would ask me why I wanted to
marry Uma. "My friend," I was telling myself all day, "you must
not come to be an old gentleman like this."
It might be four in the afternoon, perhaps, when the back door was
thrust slowly open, and a strange old native woman crawled into the
house almost on her belly. She was swathed in black stuff to her
heels; her hair was grey in swatches; her face was tattooed, which
was not the practice in that island; her eyes big and bright and
crazy. These she fixed upon me with a rapt expression that I saw
to be part acting. She said no plain word, but smacked and mumbled
with her lips, and hummed aloud, like a child over its Christmas
pudding. She came straight across the house, heading for me, and,
as soon as she was alongside, caught up my hand and purred and
crooned over it like a great cat. From this she slipped into a
kind of song.
"Who the devil's this?" cried I, for the thing startled me.
"It's Fa'avao," says Randall; and I saw he had hitched along the
floor into the farthest corner.
"You ain't afraid of her?" I cried.
"Me 'fraid!" cried the captain. "My dear friend, I defy her! I
don't let her put her foot in here, only I suppose 's different today,
for the marriage. 's Uma's mother."
"Well, suppose it is; what's she carrying on about?" I asked, more
irritated, perhaps more frightened, than I cared to show; and the
captain told me she was making up a quantity of poetry in my praise
because I was to marry Uma. "All right, old lady," says I, with
rather a failure of a laugh, "anything to oblige. But when you're
done with my hand, you might let me know."
She did as though she understood; the song rose into a cry, and
stopped; the woman crouched out of the house the same way that she
came in, and must have plunged straight into the bush, for when I
followed her to the door she had already vanished.
"These are rum manners," said I.
"'s a rum crowd," said the captain, and, to my surprise, he made
the sign of the cross on his bare bosom.
"Hillo!" says I, "are you a Papist?"
He repudiated the idea with contempt. "Hard-shell Baptis'," said
he. "But, my dear friend, the Papists got some good ideas too; and
tha' 's one of 'em. You take my advice, and whenever you come
across Uma or Fa'avao or Vigours, or any of that crowd, you take a
leaf out o' the priests, and do what I do. Savvy?" says he,
repeated the sign, and winked his dim eye at me. "No, SIR!" he
broke out again, "no Papists here!" and for a long time entertained
me with his religious opinions.
I must have been taken with Uma from the first, or I should
certainly have fled from that house, and got into the clean air,
and the clean sea, or some convenient river - though, it's true, I
was committed to Case; and, besides, I could never have held my
head up in that island if I had run from a girl upon my weddingnight.
The sun was down, the sky all on fire, and the lamp had been some
time lighted, when Case came back with Uma and the negro. She was
dressed and scented; her kilt was of fine tapa, looking richer in
the folds than any silk; her bust, which was of the colour of dark
honey, she wore bare only for some half a dozen necklaces of seeds
and flowers; and behind her ears and in her hair she had the
scarlet flowers of the hibiscus. She showed the best bearing for a
bride conceivable, serious and still; and I thought shame to stand
up with her in that mean house and before that grinning negro. I
thought shame, I say; for the mountebank was dressed with a big
paper collar, the book he made believe to read from was an odd
volume of a novel, and the words of his service not fit to be set
down. My conscience smote me when we joined hands; and when she
got her certificate I was tempted to throw up the bargain and
confess. Here is the document. It was Case that wrote it,
signatures and all, in a leaf out of the ledger:-
This is to certify that Uma, daughter of Fa'avao of Falesa, Island
of - , is illegally married to Mr. John Wiltshire for one week, and
Mr. John Wiltshire is at liberty to send her to hell when he
Chaplain to the hulks.
Extracted from the Register
by William T. Randall,
Master Mariner.
A nice paper to put in a girl's hand and see her hide away like
gold. A man might easily feel cheap for less. But it was the
practice in these parts, and (as I told myself) not the least the
fault of us white men, but of the missionaries. If they had let
the natives be, I had never needed this deception, but taken all
the wives I wished, and left them when I pleased, with a clear
The more ashamed I was, the more hurry I was in to be gone; and our
desires thus jumping together, I made the less remark of a change
in the traders. Case had been all eagerness to keep me; now, as
though he had attained a purpose, he seemed all eagerness to have
me go. Uma, he said, could show me to my house, and the three bade
us farewell indoors.
The night was nearly come; the village smelt of trees and flowers
and the sea and bread-fruit-cooking; there came a fine roll of sea
from the reef, and from a distance, among the woods and houses,
many pretty sounds of men and children. It did me good to breathe
free air; it did me good to be done with the captain and see,
instead, the creature at my side. I felt for all the world as
though she were some girl at home in the Old Country, and,
forgetting myself for the minute, took her hand to walk with. Her
fingers nestled into mine, I heard her breathe deep and quick, and
all at once she caught my hand to her face and pressed it there.
"You good!" she cried, and ran ahead of me, and stopped and looked
back and smiled, and ran ahead of me again, thus guiding me through
the edge of the bush, and by a quiet way to my own house.
The truth is, Case had done the courting for me in style - told her
I was mad to have her, and cared nothing for the consequence; and
the poor soul, knowing that which I was still ignorant of, believed
it, every word, and had her head nigh turned with vanity and
gratitude. Now, of all this I had no guess; I was one of those
most opposed to any nonsense about native women, having seen so
many whites eaten up by their wives' relatives, and made fools of
in the bargain; and I told myself I must make a stand at once, and
bring her to her bearings. But she looked so quaint and pretty as
she ran away and then awaited me, and the thing was done so like a
child or a kind dog, that the best I could do was just to follow
her whenever she went on, to listen for the fall of her bare feet,
and to watch in the dusk for the shining of her body. And there
was another thought came in my head. She played kitten with me now
when we were alone; but in the house she had carried it the way a
countess might, so proud and humble. And what with her dress - for
all there was so little of it, and that native enough - what with
her fine tapa and fine scents, and her red flowers and seeds, that
were quite as bright as jewels, only larger - it came over me she
was a kind of countess really, dressed to hear great singers at a
concert, and no even mate for a poor trader like myself.
She was the first in the house; and while I was still without I saw
a match flash and the lamplight kindle in the windows. The station
was a wonderful fine place, coral built, with quite a wide
verandah, and the main room high and wide. My chests and cases had
been piled in, and made rather of a mess; and there, in the thick
of the confusion, stood Uma by the table, awaiting me. Her shadow
went all the way up behind her into the hollow of the iron roof;
she stood against it bright, the lamplight shining on her skin. I
stopped in the door, and she looked at me, not speaking, with eyes
that were eager and yet daunted; then she touched herself on the
"Me - your wifie," she said. It had never taken me like that
before; but the want of her took and shook all through me, like the
wind in the luff of a sail.
I could not speak if I had wanted; and if I could, I would not. I
was ashamed to be so much moved about a native, ashamed of the
marriage too, and the certificate she had treasured in her kilt;
and I turned aside and made believe to rummage among my cases. The
first thing I lighted on was a case of gin, the only one that I had
brought; and, partly for the girl's sake, and partly for horror of
the recollections of old Randall, took a sudden resolve. I prized
the lid off. One by one I drew the bottles with a pocket
corkscrew, and sent Uma out to pour the stuff from the verandah.
She came back after the last, and looked at me puzzled like.
"No good," said I, for I was now a little better master of my
tongue. "Man he drink, he no good."
She agreed with this, but kept considering. "Why you bring him?"
she asked presently. "Suppose you no want drink, you no bring him,
I think."
"That's all right," said I. "One time I want drink too much; now
no want. You see, I no savvy I get one little wifie. Suppose I
drink gin, my little wifie he 'fraid."
To speak to her kindly was about more than I was fit for; I had
made my vow I would never let on to weakness with a native, and I
had nothing for it but to stop.
She stood looking gravely down at me where I sat by the open case.
"I think you good man," she said. And suddenly she had fallen
before me on the floor. "I belong you all-e-same pig!" she cried.
I CAME on the verandah just before the sun rose on the morrow. My
house was the last on the east; there was a cape of woods and
cliffs behind that hid the sunrise. To the west, a swift cold
river ran down, and beyond was the green of the village, dotted
with cocoa-palms and breadfruits and houses. The shutters were
some of them down and some open; I saw the mosquito bars still
stretched, with shadows of people new-awakened sitting up inside;
and all over the green others were stalking silent, wrapped in
their many-coloured sleeping clothes like Bedouins in Bible
pictures. It was mortal still and solemn and chilly, and the light
of the dawn on the lagoon was like the shining of a fire.
But the thing that troubled me was nearer hand. Some dozen young
men and children made a piece of a half-circle, flanking my house:
the river divided them, some were on the near side, some on the
far, and one on a boulder in the midst; and they all sat silent,
wrapped in their sheets, and stared at me and my house as straight
as pointer dogs. I thought it strange as I went out. When I had
bathed and come back again, and found them all there, and two or
three more along with them, I thought it stranger still. What
could they see to gaze at in my house, I wondered, and went in.
But the thought of these starers stuck in my mind, and presently I
came out again. The sun was now up, but it was still behind the
cape of woods. Say a quarter of an hour had come and gone. The
crowd was greatly increased, the far bank of the river was lined
for quite a way - perhaps thirty grown folk, and of children twice
as many, some standing, some squatted on the ground, and all
staring at my house. I have seen a house in a South Sea village
thus surrounded, but then a trader was thrashing his wife inside,
and she singing out. Here was nothing: the stove was alight, the
smoke going up in a Christian manner; all was shipshape and Bristol
fashion. To be sure, there was a stranger come, but they had a
chance to see that stranger yesterday, and took it quiet enough.
What ailed them now? I leaned my arms on the rail and stared back.
Devil a wink they had in them! Now and then I could see the
children chatter, but they spoke so low not even the hum of their
speaking came my length. The rest were like graven images: they
stared at me, dumb and sorrowful, with their bright eyes; and it
came upon me things would look not much different if I were on the
platform of the gallows, and these good folk had come to see me
I felt I was getting daunted, and began to be afraid I looked it,
which would never do. Up I stood, made believe to stretch myself,
came down the verandah stair, and strolled towards the river.
There went a short buzz from one to the other, like what you hear
in theatres when the curtain goes up; and some of the nearest gave
back the matter of a pace. I saw a girl lay one hand on a young
man and make a gesture upward with the other; at the same time she
said something in the native with a gasping voice. Three little
boys sat beside my path, where, I must pass within three feet of
them. Wrapped in their sheets, with their shaved heads and bits of
top-knots, and queer faces, they looked like figures on a chimneypiece.
Awhile they sat their ground, solemn as judges. I came up
hand over fist, doing my five knots, like a man that meant
business; and I thought I saw a sort of a wink and gulp in the
three faces. Then one jumped up (he was the farthest off) and ran
for his mammy. The other two, trying to follow suit, got foul,
came to ground together bawling, wriggled right out of their sheets
mother-naked, and in a moment there were all three of them
scampering for their lives and singing out like pigs. The natives,
who would never let a joke slip, even at a burial, laughed and let
up, as short as a dog's bark.
They say it scares a man to be alone. No such thing. What scares
him in the dark or the high bush is that he can't make sure, and
there might be an army at his elbow. What scares him worst is to
be right in the midst of a crowd, and have no guess of what they're
driving at. When that laugh stopped, I stopped too. The boys had
not yet made their offing, they were still on the full stretch
going the one way, when I had already gone about ship and was
sheering off the other. Like a fool I had come out, doing my five
knots; like a fool I went back again. It must have been the
funniest thing to see, and what knocked me silly, this time no one
laughed; only one old woman gave a kind of pious moan, the way you
have heard Dissenters in their chapels at the sermon.
"I never saw such fools of Kanakas as your people here," I said
once to Uma, glancing out of the window at the starers.
"Savvy nothing," says Uma, with a kind of disgusted air that she
was good at.
And that was all the talk we had upon the matter, for I was put
out, and Uma took the thing so much as a matter of course that I
was fairly ashamed.
All day, off and on, now fewer and now more, the fools sat about
the west end of my house and across the river, waiting for the
show, whatever that was - fire to come down from heaven, I suppose,
and consume me, bones and baggage. But by evening, like real
islanders, they had wearied of the business, and got away, and had
a dance instead in the big house of the village, where I heard them
singing and clapping hands till, maybe, ten at night, and the next
day it seemed they had forgotten I existed. If fire had come down
from heaven or the earth opened and swallowed me, there would have
been nobody to see the sport or take the lesson, or whatever you
like to call it. But I was to find they hadn't forgot either, and
kept an eye lifting for phenomena over my way.
I was hard at it both these days getting my trade in order and
taking stock of what Vigours had left. This was a job that made me
pretty sick, and kept me from thinking on much else. Ben had taken
stock the trip before - I knew I could trust Ben - but it was plain
somebody had been making free in the meantime. I found I was out
by what might easily cover six months' salary and profit, and I
could have kicked myself all round the village to have been such a
blamed ass, sitting boozing with that Case instead of attending to
my own affairs and taking stock.
However, there's no use crying over spilt milk. It was done now,
and couldn't be undone. All I could do was to get what was left of
it, and my new stuff (my own choice) in order, to go round and get
after the rats and cockroaches, and to fix up that store regular
Sydney style. A fine show I made of it; and the third morning when
I had lit my pipe and stood in the door-way and looked in, and
turned and looked far up the mountain and saw the cocoanuts waving
and posted up the tons of copra, and over the village green and saw
the island dandies and reckoned up the yards of print they wanted
for their kilts and dresses, I felt as if I was in the right place
to make a fortune, and go home again and start a public-house.
There was I, sitting in that verandah, in as handsome a piece of
scenery as you could find, a splendid sun, and a fine fresh healthy
trade that stirred up a man's blood like sea-bathing; and the whole
thing was clean gone from me, and I was dreaming England, which is,
after all, a nasty, cold, muddy hole, with not enough light to see
to read by; and dreaming the looks of my public, by a cant of a
broad high-road like an avenue, and with the sign on a green tree.
So much for the morning, but the day passed and the devil anyone
looked near me, and from all I knew of natives in other islands I
thought this strange. People laughed a little at our firm and
their fine stations, and at this station of Falesa in particular;
all the copra in the district wouldn't pay for it (I had heard them
say) in fifty years, which I supposed was an exaggeration. But
when the day went, and no business came at all, I began to get
downhearted; and, about three in the afternoon, I went out for a
stroll to cheer me up. On the green I saw a white man coming with
a cassock on, by which and by the face of him I knew he was a
priest. He was a good-natured old soul to look at, gone a little
grizzled, and so dirty you could have written with him on a piece
of paper.
"Good day, sir," said I.
He answered me eagerly in native.
"Don't you speak any English?" said I.
"French," says he.
"Well," said I, "I'm sorry, but I can't do anything there."
He tried me awhile in the French, and then again in native, which
he seemed to think was the best chance. I made out he was after
more than passing the time of day with me, but had something to
communicate, and I listened the harder. I heard the names of Adams
and Case and of Randall - Randall the oftenest - and the word
"poison," or something like it, and a native word that he said very
often. I went home, repeating it to myself.
"What does fussy-ocky mean?" I asked of Uma, for that was as near
as I could come to it.
"Make dead," said she.
"The devil it does!" says I. "Did ever you hear that Case had
poisoned Johnnie Adams?"
"Every man he savvy that," says Uma, scornful-like. "Give him
white sand - bad sand. He got the bottle still. Suppose he give
you gin, you no take him."
Now I had heard much the same sort of story in other islands, and
the same white powder always to the front, which made me think the
less of it. For all that, I went over to Randall's place to see
what I could pick up, and found Case on the doorstep, cleaning a
"Good shooting here?" says I.
"A 1," says he. "The bush is full of all kinds of birds. I wish
copra was as plenty," says he - I thought, slyly - "but there don't
seem anything doing."
I could see Black Jack in the store, serving a customer.
"That looks like business, though," said I.
"That's the first sale we've made in three weeks," said he.
"You don't tell me?" says I. "Three weeks? Well, well."
"If you don't believe me," he cries, a little hot, "you can go and
look at the copra-house. It's half empty to this blessed hour."
"I shouldn't be much the better for that, you see," says I. "For
all I can tell, it might have been whole empty yesterday."
"That's so," says he, with a bit of a laugh.
"By-the-bye," I said, "what sort of a party is that priest? Seems
rather a friendly sort."
At this Case laughed right out loud. "Ah!" says he, "I see what
ails you now. Galuchet's been at you." - FATHER GALOSHES was the
name he went by most, but Case always gave it the French quirk,
which was another reason we had for thinking him above the common.
"Yes, I have seen him," I says. "I made out he didn't think much
of your Captain Randall."
"That he don't!" says Case. "It was the trouble about poor Adams.
The last day, when he lay dying, there was young Buncombe round.
Ever met Buncombe?"
I told him no.
"He's a cure, is Buncombe!" laughs Case. "Well, Buncombe took it
in his head that, as there was no other clergyman about, bar Kanaka
pastors, we ought to call in Father Galuchet, and have the old man
administered and take the sacrament. It was all the same to me,
you may suppose; but I said I thought Adams was the fellow to
consult. He was jawing away about watered copra and a sight of
foolery. 'Look here,' I said, 'you're pretty sick. Would you like
to see Goloshes?' He sat right up on his elbow. 'Get the priest,'
says he, 'get the priest; don't let me die here like a dog!' He
spoke kind of fierce and eager, but sensible enough. There was
nothing to say against that, so we sent and asked Galuchet if he
would come. You bet he would. He jumped in his dirty linen at the
thought of it. But we had reckoned without Papa. He's a hardshell
Baptist, is Papa; no Papists need apply. And he took and
locked the door. Buncombe told him he was bigoted, and I thought
he would have had a fit. 'Bigoted!' he says. 'Me bigoted? Have I
lived to hear it from a jackanapes like you?' And he made for
Buncombe, and I had to hold them apart; and there was Adams in the
middle, gone luny again, and carrying on about copra like a born
fool. It was good as the play, and I was about knocked out of time
with laughing, when all of a sudden Adams sat up, clapped his hands
to his chest, and went into the horrors. He died hard, did John
Adams," says Case, with a kind of a sudden sternness.
"And what became of the priest?" I asked.
"The priest?" says Case. "O! he was hammering on the door outside,
and crying on the natives to come and beat it in, and singing out
it was a soul he wished to save, and that. He was in a rare
taking, was the priest. But what would you have? Johnny had
slipped his cable; no more Johnny in the market; and the
administration racket clean played out. Next thing, word came to
Randall the priest was praying upon Johnny's grave. Papa was
pretty full, and got a club, and lit out straight for the place,
and there was Galoshes on his knees, and a lot of natives looking
on. You wouldn't think Papa cared - that much about anything,
unless it was liquor; but he and the priest stuck to it two hours,
slanging each other in native, and every time Galoshes tried to
kneel down Papa went for him with the club. There never were such
larks in Falesa. The end of it was that Captain Randall knocked
over with some kind of a fit or stroke, and the priest got in his
goods after all. But he was the angriest priest you ever heard of,
and complained to the chiefs about the outrage, as he called it.
That was no account, for our chiefs are Protestant here; and,
anyway, he had been making trouble about the drum for morning
school, and they were glad to give him a wipe. Now he swears old
Randall gave Adams poison or something, and when the two meet they
grin at each other like baboons."
He told this story as natural as could be, and like a man that
enjoyed the fun; though, now I come to think of it after so long,
it seems rather a sickening yarn. However, Case never set up to be
soft, only to be square and hearty, and a man all round; and, to
tell the truth, he puzzled me entirely.
I went home and asked Uma if she were a Popey, which I had made out
to be the native word for Catholics.
"E LE AI!" says she. She always used the native when she meant
"no" more than usually strong, and, indeed, there's more of it.
"No good Popey," she added.
Then I asked her about Adams and the priest, and she told me much
the same yarn in her own way. So that I was left not much farther
on, but inclined, upon the whole, to think the bottom of the matter
was the row about the sacrament, and the poisoning only talk.
The next day was a Sunday, when there was no business to be looked
for. Uma asked me in the morning if I was going to "pray"; I told
her she bet not, and she stopped home herself with no more words.
I thought this seemed unlike a native, and a native woman, and a
woman that had new clothes to show off; however, it suited me to
the ground, and I made the less of it. The queer thing was that I
came next door to going to church after all, a thing I'm little
likely to forget. I had turned out for a stroll, and heard the
hymn tune up. You know how it is. If you hear folk singing, it
seems to draw you; and pretty soon I found myself alongside the
church. It was a little long low place, coral built, rounded off
at both ends like a whale-boat, a big native roof on the top of it,
windows without sashes and doorways without doors. I stuck my head
into one of the windows, and the sight was so new to me - for
things went quite different in the islands I was acquainted with -
that I stayed and looked on. The congregation sat on the floor on
mats, the women on one side, the men on the other, all rigged out
to kill - the women with dresses and trade hats, the men in white
jackets and shirts. The hymn was over; the pastor, a big buck
Kanaka, was in the pulpit, preaching for his life; and by the way
he wagged his hand, and worked his voice, and made his points, and
seemed to argue with the folk, I made out he was a gun at the
business. Well, he looked up suddenly and caught my eye, and I
give you my word he staggered in the pulpit; his eyes bulged out of
his head, his hand rose and pointed at me like as if against his
will, and the sermon stopped right there.
It isn't a fine thing to say for yourself, but I ran away; and if
the same kind of a shock was given me, I should run away again
tomorrow. To see that palavering Kanaka struck all of a heap at
the mere sight of me gave me a feeling as if the bottom had dropped
out of the world. I went right home, and stayed there, and said
nothing. You might think I would tell Uma, but that was against my
system. You might have thought I would have gone over and
consulted Case; but the truth was I was ashamed to speak of such a
thing, I thought everyone would blurt out laughing in my face. So
I held my tongue, and thought all the more; and the more I thought,
the less I liked the business.
By Monday night I got it clearly in my head I must be tabooed. A
new store to stand open two days in a village and not a man or
woman come to see the trade was past believing.
"Uma," said I, "I think I'm tabooed."
"I think so," said she.
I thought awhile whether I should ask her more, but it's a bad idea
to set natives up with any notion of consulting them, so I went to
Case. It was dark, and he was sitting alone, as he did mostly,
smoking on the stairs.
"Case," said I, "here's a queer thing. I'm tabooed."
"O, fudge!" says he; "'tain't the practice in these islands."
"That may be, or it mayn't," said I. "It's the practice where I
was before. You can bet I know what it's like; and I tell it you
for a fact, I'm tabooed."
"Well," said he, "what have you been doing?"
"That's what I want to find out," said I.
"O, you can't be," said he; "it ain't possible. However, I'll tell
you what I'll do. Just to put your mind at rest, I'll go round and
find out for sure. Just you waltz in and talk to Papa."
"Thank you," I said, "I'd rather stay right out here on the
verandah. Your house is so close."
"I'll call Papa out here, then," says he.
"My dear fellow," I says, "I wish you wouldn't. The fact is, I
don't take to Mr. Randall."
Case laughed, took a lantern from the store, and set out into the
village. He was gone perhaps a quarter of an hour, and he looked
mighty serious when he came back.
"Well," said he, clapping down the lantern on the verandah steps,
"I would never have believed it. I don't know where the impudence
of these Kanakas 'll go next; they seem to have lost all idea of
respect for whites. What we want is a man-of-war - a German, if we
could - they know how to manage Kanakas."
"I AM tabooed, then?" I cried.
"Something of the sort," said he. "It's the worst thing of the
kind I've heard of yet. But I'll stand by you, Wiltshire, man to
man. You come round here to-morrow about nine, and we'll have it
out with the chiefs. They're afraid of me, or they used to be; but
their heads are so big by now, I don't know what to think.
Understand me, Wiltshire; I don't count this your quarrel," he went
on, with a great deal of resolution, "I count it all of our
quarrel, I count it the White Man's Quarrel, and I'll stand to it
through thick and thin, and there's my hand on it."
"Have you found out what's the reason?" I asked.
"Not yet," said Case. "But we'll fix them down to-morrow."
Altogether I was pretty well pleased with his attitude, and almost
more the next day, when we met to go before the chiefs, to see him
so stern and resolved. The chiefs awaited us in one of their big
oval houses, which was marked out to us from a long way off by the
crowd about the eaves, a hundred strong if there was one - men,
women, and children. Many of the men were on their way to work and
wore green wreaths, and it put me in thoughts of the 1st of May at
home. This crowd opened and buzzed about the pair of us as we went
in, with a sudden angry animation. Five chiefs were there; four
mighty stately men, the fifth old and puckered. They sat on mats
in their white kilts and jackets; they had fans in their hands,
like fine ladies; and two of the younger ones wore Catholic medals,
which gave me matter of reflection. Our place was set, and the
mats laid for us over against these grandees, on the near side of
the house; the midst was empty; the crowd, close at our backs,
murmured and craned and jostled to look on, and the shadows of them
tossed in front of us on the clean pebbles of the floor. I was
just a hair put out by the excitement of the commons, but the quiet
civil appearance of the chiefs reassured me, all the more when
their spokesman began and made a long speech in a low tone of
voice, sometimes waving his hand towards Case, sometimes toward me,
and sometimes knocking with his knuckles on the mat. One thing was
clear: there was no sign of anger in the chiefs.
"What's he been saying?" I asked, when he had done.
"O, just that they're glad to see you, and they understand by me
you wish to make some kind of complaint, and you're to fire away,
and they'll do the square thing."
"It took a precious long time to say that," said I.
"O, the rest was sawder and BONJOUR and that," said Case. "You
know what Kanakas are."
"Well, they don't get much BONJOUR out of me," said I. "You tell
them who I am. I'm a white man, and a British subject, and no end
of a big chief at home; and I've come here to do them good, and
bring them civilisation; and no sooner have I got my trade sorted
out than they go and taboo me, and no one dare come near my place!
Tell them I don't mean to fly in the face of anything legal; and if
what they want's a present, I'll do what's fair. I don't blame any
man looking out for himself, tell them, for that's human nature;
but if they think they're going to come any of their native ideas
over me, they'll find themselves mistaken. And tell them plain
that I demand the reason of this treatment as a white man and a
British subject."
That was my speech. I know how to deal with Kanakas: give them
plain sense and fair dealing, and - I'll do them that much justice
- they knuckle under every time. They haven't any real government
or any real law, that's what you've got to knock into their heads;
and even if they had, it would be a good joke if it was to apply to
a white man. It would be a strange thing if we came all this way
and couldn't do what we pleased. The mere idea has always put my
monkey up, and I rapped my speech out pretty big. Then Case
translated it - or made believe to, rather - and the first chief
replied, and then a second, and a third, all in the same style,
easy and genteel, but solemn underneath. Once a question was put
to Case, and he answered it, and all hands (both chiefs and
commons) laughed out aloud, and looked at me. Last of all, the
puckered old fellow and the big young chief that spoke first
started in to put Case through a kind of catechism. Sometimes I
made out that Case was trying to fence, and they stuck to him like
hounds, and the sweat ran down his face, which was no very pleasant
sight to me, and at some of his answers the crowd moaned and
murmured, which was a worse hearing. It's a cruel shame I knew no
native, for (as I now believe) they were asking Case about my
marriage, and he must have had a tough job of it to clear his feet.
But leave Case alone; he had the brains to ran a parliament.
"Well, is that all?" I asked, when a pause came.
"Come along," says he, mopping his face; "I'll tell you outside."
"Do you mean they won't take the taboo off?" I cried.
"It's something queer," said he. "I'll tell you outside. Better
come away."
"I won't take it at their hands," cried I. "I ain't that kind of a
man. You don't find me turn my back on a parcel of Kanakas."
"You'd better," said Case.
He looked at me with a signal in his eye; and the five chiefs
looked at me civilly enough, but kind of pointed; and the people
looked at me and craned and jostled. I remembered the folks that
watched my house, and how the pastor had jumped in his pulpit at
the bare sight of me; and the whole business seemed so out of the
way that I rose and followed Case. The crowd opened again to let
us through, but wider than before, the children on the skirts
running and singing out, and as we two white men walked away they
all stood and watched us.
"And now," said I, "what is all this about?"
"The truth is I can't rightly make it out myself. They have a down
on you," says Case.
"Taboo a man because they have a down on him!" I cried. "I never
heard the like."
"It's worse than that, you see," said Case. "You ain't tabooed - I
told you that couldn't be. The people won't go near you,
Wiltshire, and there's where it is."
"They won't go near me? What do you mean by that? Why won't they
go near me?" I cried.
Case hesitated. "Seems they're frightened," says he, in a low,
I stopped dead short. "Frightened?" I repeated. "Are you gone
crazy, Case? What are they frightened of?"
"I wish I could make out," Case answered, shaking his head.
"Appears like one of their tomfool superstitions. That's what I
don't cotton to," he said. "It's like the business about Vigours."
"I'd like to know what you mean by that, and I'll trouble you to
tell me," says I.
"Well, you know, Vigours lit out and left all standing," said he.
"It was some superstition business - I never got the hang of it but
it began to look bad before the end."
"I've heard a different story about that," said I, "and I had
better tell you so. I heard he ran away because of you."
"O! well, I suppose he was ashamed to tell the truth," says Case;
"I guess he thought it silly. And it's a fact that I packed him
off. 'What would you do, old man?' says he. 'Get,' says I, 'and
not think twice about it.' I was the gladdest kind of man to see
him clear away. It ain't my notion to turn my back on a mate when
he's in a tight place, but there was that much trouble in the
village that I couldn't see where it might likely end. I was a
fool to be so much about with Vigours. They cast it up to me today.
Didn't you hear Maea - that's the young chief, the big one -
ripping out about 'Vika'? That was him they were after. They
don't seem to forget it, somehow."
"This is all very well," said I, "but it don't tell me what's
wrong; it don't tell me what they're afraid of - what their idea
"Well, I wish I knew," said Case. "I can't say fairer than that."
"You might have asked, I think," says I.
"And so I did," says he. "But you must have seen for yourself,
unless you're blind, that the asking got the other way. I'll go as
far as I dare for another white man; but when I find I'm in the
scrape myself, I think first of my own bacon. The loss of me is
I'm too good-natured. And I'll take the freedom of telling you you
show a queer kind of gratitude to a man who's got into all this
mess along of your affairs."
"There's a thing I am thinking of," said I. "You were a fool to be
so much about with Vigours. One comfort, you haven't been much
about with me. I notice you've never been inside my house. Own up
now; you had word of this before?"
"It's a fact I haven't been," said he. "It was an oversight, and I
am sorry for it, Wiltshire. But about coming now, I'll be quite
"You mean you won't?" I asked.
"Awfully sorry, old man, but that's the size of it," says Case.
"In short, you're afraid?" says I.
"In short, I'm afraid," says he.
"And I'm still to be tabooed for nothing?" I asked
"I tell you you're not tabooed," said he. "The Kanakas won't go
near you, that's all. And who's to make 'em? We traders have a
lot of gall, I must say; we make these poor Kanakas take back their
laws, and take up their taboos, and that, whenever it happens to
suit us. But you don't mean to say you expect a law obliging
people to deal in your store whether they want to or not? You
don't mean to tell me you've got the gall for that? And if you
had, it would be a queer thing to propose to me. I would just like
to point out to you, Wiltshire, that I'm a trader myself."
"I don't think I would talk of gall if I was you," said I. "Here's
about what it comes to, as well as I can make out: None of the
people are to trade with me, and they're all to trade with you.
You're to have the copra, and I'm to go to the devil and shake
myself. And I don't know any native, and you're the only man here
worth mention that speaks English, and you have the gall to up and
hint to me my life's in danger, and all you've got to tell me is
you don't know why!"
"Well, it IS all I have to tell you," said he. "I don't know - I
wish I did."
"And so you turn your back and leave me to myself! Is that the
position?" says I.
"If you like to put it nasty," says he. "I don't put it so. I say
merely, 'I'm going to keep clear of you; or, if I don't, I'll get
in danger for myself.' "
"Well," says I, "you're a nice kind of a white man!"
"O, I understand; you're riled," said he. "I would be myself. I
can make excuses."
"All right," I said, "go and make excuses somewhere else. Here's
my way, there's yours!"
With that we parted, and I went straight home, in a hot temper, and
found Uma trying on a lot of trade goods like a baby.
"Here," I said, "you quit that foolery! Here's a pretty mess to
have made, as if I wasn't bothered enough anyway! And I thought I
told you to get dinner!"
And then I believe I gave her a bit of the rough side of my tongue,
as she deserved. She stood up at once, like a sentry to his
officer; for I must say she was always well brought up, and had a
great respect for whites.
"And now," says I, "you belong round here, you're bound to
understand this. What am I tabooed for, anyway? Or, if I ain't
tabooed, what makes the folks afraid of me?"
She stood and looked at me with eyes like saucers.
"You no savvy?" she gasps at last.
"No," said I. "How would you expect me to? We don't have any such
craziness where I come from."
"Ese no tell you?" she asked again.
(ESE was the name the natives had for Case; it may mean foreign, or
extraordinary; or it might mean a mummy apple; but most like it was
only his own name misheard and put in a Kanaka spelling.)
"Not much," said I.
"D-n Ese!" she cried.
You might think it funny to hear this Kanaka girl come out with a
big swear. No such thing. There was no swearing in her - no, nor
anger; she was beyond anger, and meant the word simple and serious.
She stood there straight as she said it. I cannot justly say that
I ever saw a woman look like that before or after, and it struck me
mum. Then she made a kind of an obeisance, but it was the proudest
kind, and threw her hands out open.
"I 'shamed," she said. "I think you savvy. Ese he tell me you
savvy, he tell me you no mind, tell me you love me too much. Taboo
belong me," she said, touching herself on the bosom, as she had
done upon our wedding-night. "Now I go 'way, taboo he go 'way too.
Then you get too much copra. You like more better, I think. TOFA,
ALII," says she in the native - "Farewell, chief!"
"Hold on!" I cried. "Don't be in such a hurry."
She looked at me sidelong with a smile. "You see, you get copra,"
she said, the same as you might offer candies to a child.
"Uma," said I, "hear reason. I didn't know, and that's a fact; and
Case seems to have played it pretty mean upon the pair of us. But
I do know now, and I don't mind; I love you too much. You no go
'way, you no leave me, I too much sorry."
"You no love, me," she cried, "you talk me bad words!" And she
threw herself in a corner of the floor, and began to cry.
Well, I'm no scholar, but I wasn't born yesterday, and I thought
the worst of that trouble was over. However, there she lay - her
back turned, her face to the wall - and shook with sobbing like a
little child, so that her feet jumped with it. It's strange how it
hits a man when he's in love; for there's no use mincing things -
Kanaka and all, I was in love with her, or just as good. I tried
to take her hand, but she would none of that. "Uma," I said,
"there's no sense in carrying on like this. I want you stop here,
I want my little wifie, I tell you true."
"No tell me true," she sobbed.
"All right," says I, "I'll wait till you're through with this."
And I sat right down beside her on the floor, and set to smooth her
hair with my hand. At first she wriggled away when I touched her;
then she seemed to notice me no more; then her sobs grew gradually
less, and presently stopped; and the next thing I knew, she raised
her face to mime.
"You tell me true? You like me stop?" she asked.
"Uma," I said, "I would rather have you than all the copra in the
South Seas," which was a very big expression, and the strangest
thing was that I meant it.
She threw her arms about me, sprang close up, and pressed her face
to mine in the island way of kissing, so that I was all wetted with
her tears, and my heart went out to her wholly. I never had
anything so near me as this little brown bit of a girl. Many
things went together, and all helped to turn my head. She was
pretty enough to eat; it seemed she was my only friend in that
queer place; I was ashamed that I had spoken rough to her: and she
was a woman, and my wife, and a kind of a baby besides that I was
sorry for; and the salt of her tears was in my mouth. And I forgot
Case and the natives; and I forgot that I knew nothing of the
story, or only remembered it to banish the remembrance; and I
forgot that I was to get no copra, and so could make no livelihood;
and I forgot my employers, and the strange kind of service I was
doing them, when I preferred my fancy to their business; and I
forgot even that Uma was no true wife of mine, but just a maid
beguiled, and that in a pretty shabby style. But that is to look
too far on. I will come to that part of it next.
It was late before we thought of getting dinner. The stove was
out, and gone stone-cold; but we fired up after a while, and cooked
each a dish, helping and hindering each other, and making a play of
it like children. I was so greedy of her nearness that I sat down
to dinner with my lass upon my knee, made sure of her with one
hand, and ate with the other. Ay, and more than that. She was the
worst cook I suppose God made; the things she set her hand to it
would have sickened an honest horse to eat of; yet I made my meal
that day on Uma's cookery, and can never call to mind to have been
better pleased.
I didn't pretend to myself, and I didn't pretend to her. I saw I
was clean gone; and if she was to make a fool of me, she must. And
I suppose it was this that set her talking, for now she made sure
that we were friends. A lot she told me, sitting in my lap and
eating my dish, as I ate hers, from foolery - a lot about herself
and her mother and Case, all which would be very tedious, and fill
sheets if I set it down in Beach de Mar, but which I must give a
hint of in plain English, and one thing about myself which had a
very big effect on my concerns, as you are soon to hear.
It seems she was born in one of the Line Islands; had been only two
or three years in these parts, where she had come with a white man,
who was married to her mother and then died; and only the one year
in Falesa. Before that they had been a good deal on the move,
trekking about after the white man, who was one of those rolling
stones that keep going round after a soft job. They talk about
looking for gold at the end of a rainbow; but if a man wants an
employment that'll last him till he dies, let him start out on the
soft-job hunt. There's meat and drink in it too, and beer and
skittles, for you never hear of them starving, and rarely see them
sober; and as for steady sport, cock-fighting isn't in the same
county with it. Anyway, this beachcomber carried the woman and her
daughter all over the shop, but mostly to out-of-the-way islands,
where there were no police, and he thought, perhaps, the soft job
hung out. I've my own view of this old party; but I was just as
glad he had kept Uma clear of Apia and Papeete and these flash
towns. At last he struck Fale-alii on this island, got some trade
- the Lord knows how! - muddled it all away in the usual style, and
died worth next to nothing, bar a bit of land at Falesa that he had
got for a bad debt, which was what put it in the minds of the
mother and daughter to come there and live. It seems Case
encouraged them all he could, and helped to get their house built.
He was very kind those days, and gave Uma trade, and there is no
doubt he had his eye on her from the beginning. However, they had
scarce settled, when up turned a young man, a native, and wanted to
marry her. He was a small chief, and had some fine mats and old
songs in his family, and was "very pretty," Uma said; and,
altogether, it was an extra-ordinary match for a penniless girl and
an out-islander.
At the first word of this I got downright sick with jealousy.
"And you mean to say you would have married him?" I cried.
"IOE, yes," said she. "I like too much!"
"Well!" I said. "And suppose I had come round after?"
"I like you more better now," said she. "But, suppose I marry
Ioane, I one good wife. I no common Kanaka. Good girl!" says she.
Well, I had to be pleased with that; but I promise you I didn't
care about the business one little bit. And I liked the end of
that yarn no better than the beginning. For it seems this proposal
of marriage was the start of all the trouble. It seems, before
that, Uma and her mother had been looked down upon, of course, for
kinless folk and out-islanders, but nothing to hurt; and, even when
Ioane came forward, there was less trouble at first than might have
been looked for. And then, all of a sudden, about six months
before my coming, Ioane backed out and left that part of the
island, and from that day to this Uma and her mother had found
themselves alone. None called at their house, none spoke to them
on the roads. If they went to church, the other women drew their
mats away and left them in a clear place by themselves. It was a
regular excommunication, like what you read of in the Middle Ages;
and the cause or sense of it beyond guessing. It was some TALA
PEPELO, Uma said, some lie, some calumny; and all she knew of it
was that the girls who had been jealous of her luck with Ioane used
to twit her with his desertion, and cry out, when they met her
alone in the woods, that she would never be married. "They tell me
no man he marry me. He too much 'fraid," she said.
The only soul that came about them after this desertion was Master
Case. Even he was chary of showing himself, and turned up mostly
by night; and pretty soon he began to table his cards and make up
to Uma. I was still sore about Ioane, and when Case turned up in
the same line of business I cut up downright rough.
"Well," I said, sneering, "and I suppose you thought Case 'very
pretty' and 'liked too much'?"
"Now you talk silly," said she. "White man, he come here, I marry
him all-e-same Kanaka; very well then, he marry me all-e-same white
woman. Suppose he no marry, he go 'way, woman he stop. All-e-same
thief, empty hand, Tonga-heart - no can love! Now you come marry
me. You big heart - you no 'shamed island-girl. That thing I love
you for too much. I proud."
I don't know that ever I felt sicker all the days of my life. I
laid down my fork, and I put away "the island-girl"; I didn't seem
somehow to have any use for either, and I went and walked up and
down in the house, and Uma followed me with her eyes, for she was
troubled, and small wonder! But troubled was no word for it with
me. I so wanted, and so feared, to make a clean breast of the
sweep that I had been.
And just then there came a sound of singing out of the sea; it
sprang up suddenly clear and near, as the boat turned the headland,
and Uma, running to the window, cried out it was "Misi" come upon
his rounds.
I thought it was a strange thing I should be glad to have a
missionary; but, if it was strange, it was still true.
"Uma," said I, "you stop here in this room, and don't budge a foot
out of it till I come back."
AS I came out on the verandah, the mission-boat was shooting for
the mouth of the river. She was a long whale-boat painted white; a
bit of an awning astern; a native pastor crouched on the wedge of
the poop, steering; some four-and-twenty paddles flashing and
dipping, true to the boat-song; and the missionary under the
awning, in his white clothes, reading in a book, and set him up!
It was pretty to see and hear; there's no smarter sight in the
islands than a missionary boat with a good crew and a good pipe to
them; and I considered it for half a minute, with a bit of envy
perhaps, and then strolled down towards the river.
From the opposite side there was another man aiming for the same
place, but he ran and got there first. It was Case; doubtless his
idea was to keep me apart from the missionary, who might serve me
as interpreter; but my mind was upon other things. I was thinking
how he had jockeyed us about the marriage, and tried his hand on
Uma before; and at the sight of him rage flew into my nostrils.
"Get out of that, you low, swindling thief!" I cried.
"What's that you say?" says he.
I gave him the word again, and rammed it down with a good oath.
"And if ever I catch you within six fathoms of my house," I cried,
"I'll clap a bullet in your measly carcase."
"You must do as you like about your house," said he, "where I told
you I have no thought of going; but this is a public place."
"It's a place where I have private business," said I. "I have no
idea of a hound like you eavesdropping, and I give you notice to
clear out."
"I don't take it, though," says Case.
"I'll show you, then," said I.
"We'll have to see about that," said he.
He was quick with his hands, but he had neither the height nor the
weight, being a flimsy creature alongside a man like me, and,
besides, I was blazing to that height of wrath that I could have
bit into a chisel. I gave him first the one and then the other, so
that I could hear his head rattle and crack, and he went down
"Have you had enough?" cried I. But he only looked up white and
blank, and the blood spread upon his face like wine upon a napkin.
"Have you had enough?" I cried again. "Speak up, and don't lie
malingering there, or I'll take my feet to you."
He sat up at that, and held his head - by the look of him you could
see it was spinning - and the blood poured on his pyjamas.
"I've had enough for this time," says he, and he got up staggering,
and went off by the way that he had come.
The boat was close in; I saw the missionary had laid his book to
one side, and I smiled to myself. "He'll know I'm a man, anyway,"
thinks I.
This was the first time, in all my years in the Pacific, I had ever
exchanged two words with any missionary, let alone asked one for a
favour. I didn't like the lot, no trader does; they look down upon
us, and make no concealment; and, besides, they're partly
Kanakaised, and suck up with natives instead of with other white
men like themselves. I had on a rig of clean striped pyjamas -
for, of course, I had dressed decent to go before the chiefs; but
when I saw the missionary step out of this boat in the regular
uniform, white duck clothes, pith helmet, white shirt and tie, and
yellow boots to his feet, I could have bunged stones at him. As he
came nearer, queering me pretty curious (because of the fight, I
suppose), I saw he looked mortal sick, for the truth was he had a
fever on, and had just had a chill in the boat.
"Mr. Tarleton, I believe?" says I, for I had got his name.
"And you, I suppose, are the new trader?" says he.
"I want to tell you first that I don't hold with missions," I went
on, "and that I think you and the likes of you do a sight of harm,
filling up the natives with old wives' tales and bumptiousness."
"You are perfectly entitled to your opinions," says he, looking a
bit ugly, "but I have no call to hear them."
"It so happens that you've got to hear them," I said. "I'm no
missionary, nor missionary lover; I'm no Kanaka, nor favourer of
Kanakas - I'm just a trader; I'm just a common, low-down, Goddamned
white man and British subject, the sort you would like to
wipe your boots on. I hope that's plain!"
"Yes, my man," said he. "It's more plain than creditable. When
you are sober, you'll be sorry for this."
He tried to pass on, but I stopped him with my hand. The Kanakas
were beginning to growl. Guess they didn't like my tone, for I
spoke to that man as free as I would to you.
"Now, you can't say I've deceived you," said I, "and I can go on.
I want a service - I want two services, in fact; and, if you care
to give me them, I'll perhaps take more stock in what you call your
He was silent for a moment. Then he smiled. "You are rather a
strange sort of man," says he.
"I'm the sort of man God made me," says I. "I don't set up to be a
gentleman," I said.
"I am not quite so sure," said he. "And what can I do for you, Mr.
- ?"
"Wiltshire," I says, "though I'm mostly called Welsher; but
Wiltshire is the way it's spelt, if the people on the beach could
only get their tongues about it. And what do I want? Well, I'll
tell you the first thing. I'm what you call a sinner - what I call
a sweep - and I want you to help me make it up to a person I've
He turned and spoke to his crew in the native. "And now I am at
your service," said he, "but only for the time my crew are dining.
I must be much farther down the coast before night. I was delayed
at Papa-Malulu till this morning, and I have an engagement in Falealii
to-morrow night."
I led the way to my house in silence, and rather pleased with
myself for the way I had managed the talk, for I like a man to keep
his self-respect.
"I was sorry to see you fighting," says he.
"O, that's part of the yarn I want to tell you," I said. "That's
service number two. After you've heard it you'll let me know
whether you're sorry or not."
We walked right in through the store, and I was surprised to find
Uma had cleared away the dinner things. This was so unlike her
ways that I saw she had done it out of gratitude, and liked her the
better. She and Mr. Tarleton called each other by name, and he was
very civil to her seemingly. But I thought little of that; they
can always find civility for a Kanaka, it's us white men they lord
it over. Besides, I didn't want much Tarleton just them. I was
going to do my pitch.
"Uma," said I, "give us your marriage certificate." She looked put
out. "Come," said I, "you can trust me. Hand it up."
She had it about her person, as usual; I believe she thought it was
a pass to heaven, and if she died without having it handy she would
go to hell. I couldn't see where she put it the first time, I
couldn't see now where she took it from; it seemed to jump into her
hand like that Blavatsky business in the papers. But it's the same
way with all island women, and I guess they're taught it when
"Now," said I, with the certificate in my hand, "I was married to
this girl by Black Jack the negro. The certificate was wrote by
Case, and it's a dandy piece of literature, I promise you. Since
then I've found that there's a kind of cry in the place against
this wife of mine, and so long as I keep her I cannot trade. Now,
what would any man do in my place, if he was a man?" I said. "The
first thing he would do is this, I guess." And I took and tore up
the certificate and bunged the pieces on the floor.
"AUE!" (2) cried Uma, and began to clap her hands; but I caught one
of them in mine.
"And the second thing that he would do," said I, "if he was what I
would call a man and you would call a man, Mr. Tarleton, is to
bring the girl right before you or any other missionary, and to up
and say: 'I was wrong married to this wife of mine, but I think a
heap of her, and now I want to be married to her right.' Fire
away, Mr. Tarleton. And I guess you'd better do it in native;
it'll please the old lady," I said, giving her the proper name of a
man's wife upon the spot.
So we had in two of the crew for to witness, and were spliced in
our own house; and the parson prayed a good bit, I must say - but
not so long as some - and shook hands with the pair of us.
"Mr. Wiltshire," he says, when he had made out the lines and packed
off the witnesses, "I have to thank you for a very lively pleasure.
I have rarely performed the marriage ceremony with more grateful
That was what you would call talking. He was going on, besides,
with more of it, and I was ready for as much taffy as he had in
stock, for I felt good. But Uma had been taken up with something
half through the marriage, and cut straight in.
"How your hand he get hurt?" she asked.
"You ask Case's head, old lady," says I.
She jumped with joy, and sang out.
"You haven't made much of a Christian of this one," says I to Mr.
"We didn't think her one of our worst," says he, "when she was at
Fale-alii; and if Uma bears malice I shall be tempted to fancy she
has good cause."
"Well, there we are at service number two," said I. "I want to
tell you our yarn, and see if you can let a little daylight in."
"Is it long?" he asked.
"Yes," I cried; "it's a goodish bit of a yarn!"
"Well, I'll give you all the time I can spare," says he, looking at
his watch. "But I must tell you fairly, I haven't eaten since five
this morning, and, unless you can let me have something I am not
likely to eat again before seven or eight to-night."
"By God, we'll give you dinner!" I cried.
I was a little caught up at my swearing, just when all was going
straight; and so was the missionary, I suppose, but he made believe
to look out of the window, and thanked us.
So we ran him up a bit of a meal. I was bound to let the old lady
have a hand in it, to show off, so I deputised her to brew the tea.
I don't think I ever met such tea as she turned out. But that was
not the worst, for she got round with the salt-box, which she
considered an extra European touch, and turned my stew into seawater.
Altogether, Mr. Tarleton had a devil of a dinner of it; but
he had plenty entertainment by the way, for all the while that we
were cooking, and afterwards, when he was making believe to eat, I
kept posting him up on Master Case and the beach of Falesa, and he
putting questions that showed he was following close.
"Well," said he at last, "I am afraid you have a dangerous enemy.
This man Case is very clever and seems really wicked. I must tell
you I have had my eye on him for nearly a year, and have rather had
the worst of our encounters. About the time when the last
representative of your firm ran so suddenly away, I had a letter
from Namu, the native pastor, begging me to come to Falesa at my
earliest convenience, as his flock were all 'adopting Catholic
practices.' I had great confidence in Namu; I fear it only shows
how easily we are deceived. No one could hear him preach and not
be persuaded he was a man of extraordinary parts. All our
islanders easily acquire a kind of eloquence, and can roll out and
illustrate, with a great deal of vigour and fancy, second-hand
sermons; but Namu's sermons are his own, and I cannot deny that I
have found them means of grace. Moreover, he has a keen curiosity
in secular things, does not fear work, is clever at carpentering,
and has made himself so much respected among the neighbouring
pastors that we call him, in a jest which is half serious, the
Bishop of the East. In short, I was proud of the man; all the more
puzzled by his letter, and took an occasion to come this way. The
morning before my arrival, Vigours had been sent on board the LION,
and Namu was perfectly at his ease, apparently ashamed of his
letter, and quite unwilling to explain it. This, of course, I
could not allow, and he ended by confessing that he had been much
concerned to find his people using the sign of the cross, but since
he had learned the explanation his mind was satisfied. For Vigours
had the Evil Eye, a common thing in a country of Europe called
Italy, where men were often struck dead by that kind of devil, and
it appeared the sign of the cross was a charm against its power.
"'And I explain it, Misi,' said Namu, 'in this way: The country in
Europe is a Popey country, and the devil of the Evil Eye may be a
Catholic devil, or, at least, used to Catholic ways. So then I
reasoned thus: if this sign of the cross were used in a Popey
manner it would be sinful, but when it is used only to protect men
from a devil, which is a thing harmless in itself, the sign too
must be, as a bottle is neither good nor bad, harmless. For the
sign is neither good nor bad. But if the bottle be full of gin,
the gin is bad; and if the sign be made in idolatry bad, so is the
idolatry.' And, very like a native pastor, he had a text apposite
about the casting out of devils.
"'And who has been telling you about the Evil Eye?' I asked.
"He admitted it was Case. Now, I am afraid you will think me very
narrow, Mr. Wiltshire, but I must tell you I was displeased, and
cannot think a trader at all a good man to advise or have an
influence upon my pastors. And, besides, there had been some
flying talk in the country of old Adams and his being poisoned, to
which I had paid no great heed; but it came back to me at the
"'And is this Case a man of a sanctified life?' I asked.
"He admitted he was not; for, though he did not drink, he was
profligate with women, and had no religion.
" 'Then,' said I, 'I think the less you have to do with him the
"But it is not easy to have the last word with a man like Namu. He
was ready in a moment with an illustration. 'Misi,' said he, 'you
have told me there were wise men, not pastors, not even holy, who
knew many things useful to be taught - about trees for instance,
and beasts, and to print books, and about the stones that are
burned to make knives of. Such men teach you in your college, and
you learn from them, but take care not to learn to be unholy.
Misi, Case is my college.'
"I knew not what to say. Mr. Vigours had evidently been driven out
of Falesa by the machinations of Case and with something not very
unlike the collusion of my pastor. I called to mind it was Namu
who had reassured me about Adams and traced the rumour to the illwill
of the priest. And I saw I must inform myself more thoroughly
from an impartial source. There is an old rascal of a chief here,
Faiaso, whom I dare say you saw to-day at the council; he has been
all his life turbulent and sly, a great fomenter of rebellions, and
a thorn in the side of the mission and the island. For all that he
is very shrewd, and, except in politics or about his own
misdemeanours, a teller of the truth. I went to his house, told
him what I had heard, and besought him to be frank. I do not think
I had ever a more painful interview. Perhaps you will understand
me, Mr. Wiltshire, if I tell you that I am perfectly serious in
these old wives' tales with which you reproached me, and as anxious
to do well for these islands as you can be to please and to protect
your pretty wife. And you are to remember that I thought Namu a
paragon, and was proud of the man as one of the first ripe fruits
of the mission. And now I was informed that he had fallen in a
sort of dependence upon Case. The beginning of it was not corrupt;
it began, doubtless, in fear and respect, produced by trickery and
pretence; but I was shocked to find that another element had been
lately added, that Namu helped himself in the store, and was
believed to be deep in Case's debt. Whatever the trader said, that
Namu believed with trembling. He was not alone in this; many in
the village lived in a similar subjection; but Namu's case was the
most influential, it was through Namu Case had wrought most evil;
and with a certain following among the chiefs, and the pastor in
his pocket, the man was as good as master of the village. You know
something of Vigours and Adams, but perhaps you have never heard of
old Underhill, Adams' predecessor. He was a quiet, mild old
fellow, I remember, and we were told he had died suddenly: white
men die very suddenly in Falesa. The truth, as I now heard it,
made my blood run cold. It seems he was struck with a general
palsy, all of him dead but one eye, which he continually winked.
Word was started that the helpless old man was now a devil, and
this vile fellow Case worked upon the natives' fears, which he
professed to share, and pretended he durst not go into the house
alone. At last a grave was dug, and the living body buried at the
far end of the village. Namu, my pastor, whom I had helped to
educate, offered up a prayer at the hateful scene.
"I felt myself in a very difficult position. Perhaps it was my
duty to have denounced Namu and had him deposed. Perhaps I think
so now, but at the time it seemed less clear. He had a great
influence, it might prove greater than mine. The natives are prone
to superstition; perhaps by stirring them up I might but ingrain
and spread these dangerous fancies. And Namu besides, apart from
this novel and accursed influence, was a good pastor, an able man,
and spiritually minded. Where should I look for a better? How was
I to find as good? At that moment, with Namu's failure fresh in my
view, the work of my life appeared a mockery; hope was dead in me.
I would rather repair such tools as I had than go abroad in quest
of others that must certainly prove worse; and a scandal is, at the
best, a thing to be avoided when humanly possible. Right or wrong,
then, I determined on a quiet course. All that night I denounced
and reasoned with the erring pastor, twitted him with his ignorance
and want of faith, twitted him with his wretched attitude, making
clean the outside of the cup and platter, callously helping at a
murder, childishly flying in excitement about a few childish,
unnecessary, and inconvenient gestures; and long before day I had
him on his knees and bathed in the tears of what seemed a genuine
repentance. On Sunday I took the pulpit in the morning, and
preached from First Kings, nineteenth, on the fire, the earthquake,
and the voice, distinguishing the true spiritual power, and
referring with such plainness as I dared to recent events in
Falesa. The effect produced was great, and it was much increased
when Namu rose in his turn and confessed that he had been wanting
in faith and conduct, and was convinced of sin. So far, then, all
was well; but there was one unfortunate circumstance. It was
nearing the time of our 'May' in the island, when the native
contributions to the missions are received; it fell in my duty to
make a notification on the subject, and this gave my enemy his
chance, by which he was not slow to profit.
"News of the whole proceedings must have been carried to Case as
soon as church was over, and the same afternoon he made an occasion
to meet me in the midst of the village. He came up with so much
intentness and animosity that I felt it would be damaging to avoid
"'So,' says he, in native, 'here is the holy man. He has been
preaching against me, but that was not in his heart. He has been
preaching upon the love of God; but that was not in his heart, it
was between his teeth. Will you know what was in his heart?' -
cries he. 'I will show it you!' And, making a snatch at my head,
he made believe to pluck out a dollar, and held it in the air.
"There went that rumour through the crowd with which Polynesians
receive a prodigy. As for myself, I stood amazed. The thing was a
common conjuring trick which I have seen performed at home a score
of times; but how was I to convince the villagers of that? I
wished I had learned legerdemain instead of Hebrew, that I might
have paid the fellow out with his own coin. But there I was; I
could not stand there silent, and the best I could find to say was
"'I will trouble you not to lay hands on me again,' said I.
"'I have no such thought,' said he, 'nor will I deprive you of your
dollar. Here it is,' he said, and flung it at my feet. I am told
it lay where it fell three days."
"I must say it was well played, said I.
"O! he is clever," said Mr. Tarleton, "and you can now see for
yourself how dangerous. He was a party to the horrid death of the
paralytic; he is accused of poisoning Adams; he drove Vigours out
of the place by lies that might have led to murder; and there is no
question but he has now made up his mind to rid himself of you.
How he means to try we have no guess; only be sure, it's something
new. There is no end to his readiness and invention."
"He gives himself a sight of trouble," says I. "And after all,
what for?"
"Why, how many tons of copra may they make in this district?" asked
the missionary.
"I daresay as much as sixty tons," says I.
"And what is the profit to the local trader?" he asked.
"You may call it, three pounds," said I.
"Then you can reckon for yourself how much he does it for," said
Mr. Tarleton. "But the more important thing is to defeat him. It
is clear he spread some report against Uma, in order to isolate and
have his wicked will of her. Failing of that, and seeing a new
rival come upon the scene, he used her in a different way. Now,
the first point to find out is about Namu. Uma, when people began
to leave you and your mother alone, what did Namu do?"
"Stop away all-e-same," says Uma.
"I fear the dog has returned to his vomit," said Mr. Tarleton.
"And now what am I to do for you? I will speak to Namu, I will
warn him he is observed; it will be strange if he allow anything to
go on amiss when he is put upon his guard. At the same time, this
precaution may fail, and then you must turn elsewhere. You have
two people at hand to whom you might apply. There is, first of
all, the priest, who might protect you by the Catholic interest;
they are a wretchedly small body, but they count two chiefs. And
then there is old Faiaso. Ah! if it had been some years ago you
would have needed no one else; but his influence is much reduced,
it has gone into Maea's hands, and Maea, I fear, is one of Case's
jackals. In fine, if the worst comes to the worst, you must send
up or come yourself to Fale-alii, and, though I am not due at this
end of the island for a month, I will just see what can be done."
So Mr. Tarleton said farewell; and half an hour later the crew were
singing and the paddles flashing in the missionary-boat.
NEAR a month went by without much doing. The same night of our
marriage Galoshes called round, and made himself mighty civil, and
got into a habit of dropping in about dark and smoking his pipe
with the family. He could talk to Uma, of course, and started to
teach me native and French at the same time. He was a kind old
buffer, though the dirtiest you would wish to see, and he muddled
me up with foreign languages worse than the tower of Babel.
That was one employment we had, and it made me feel less lonesome;
but there was no profit in the thing, for though the priest came
and sat and yarned, none of his folks could be enticed into my
store; and if it hadn't been for the other occupation I struck out,
there wouldn't have been a pound of copra in the house. This was
the idea: Fa'avao (Uma's mother) had a score of bearing trees. Of
course we could get no labour, being all as good as tabooed, and
the two women and I turned to and made copra with our own hands.
It was copra to make your mouth water when it was done - I never
understood how much the natives cheated me till I had made that
four hundred pounds of my own hand - and it weighed so light I felt
inclined to take and water it myself.
When we were at the job a good many Kanakas used to put in the best
of the day looking on, and once that nigger turned up. He stood
back with the natives and laughed and did the big don and the funny
dog, till I began to get riled.
"Here, you nigger!" says I.
"I don't address myself to you, Sah," says the nigger. "Only speak
to gen'le'um."
"I know," says I, "but it happens I was addressing myself to you,
Mr. Black Jack. And all I want to know is just this: did you see
Case's figurehead about a week ago?"
"No, Sah," says he.
"That's all right, then," says I; "for I'll show you the own
brother to it, only black, in the inside of about two minutes."
And I began to walk towards him, quite slow, and my hands down;
only there was trouble in my eye, if anybody took the pains to
"You're a low, obstropulous fellow, Sab," says he.
"You bet!" says I.
By that time he thought I was about as near as convenient, and lit
out so it would have done your heart good to see him travel. And
that was all I saw of that precious gang until what I am about to
tell you.
It was one of my chief employments these days to go pot-hunting in
the woods, which I found (as Case had told me) very rich in game.
I have spoken of the cape which shut up the village and my station
from the east. A path went about the end of it, and led into the
next bay. A strong wind blew here daily, and as the line of the
barrier reef stopped at the end of the cape, a heavy surf ran on
the shores of the bay. A little cliffy hill cut the valley in two
parts, and stood close on the beach; and at high water the sea
broke right on the face of it, so that all passage was stopped.
Woody mountains hemmed the place all round; the barrier to the east
was particularly steep and leafy, the lower parts of it, along the
sea, falling in sheer black cliffs streaked with cinnabar; the
upper part lumpy with the tops of the great trees. Some of the
trees were bright green, and some red, and the sand of the beach as
black as your shoes. Many birds hovered round the bay, some of
them snow-white; and the flying-fox (or vampire) flew there in
broad daylight, gnashing its teeth.
For a long while I came as far as this shooting, and went no
farther. There was no sign of any path beyond, and the cocoa-palms
in the front of the foot of the valley were the last this way. For
the whole "eye" of the island, as natives call the windward end,
lay desert. From Falesa round about to Papa-malulu, there was
neither house, nor man, nor planted fruit-tree; and the reef being
mostly absent, and the shores bluff, the sea beat direct among
crags, and there was scarce a landing-place.
I should tell you that after I began to go in the woods, although
no one offered to come near my store, I found people willing enough
to pass the time of day with me where nobody could see them; and as
I had begun to pick up native, and most of them had a word or two
of English, I began to hold little odds and ends of conversation,
not to much purpose to be sure, but they took off the worst of the
feeling, for it's a miserable thing to be made a leper of.
It chanced one day towards the end of the month, that I was sitting
in this bay in the edge of the bush, looking east, with a Kanaka.
I had given him a fill of tobacco, and we were making out to talk
as best we could; indeed, he had more English than most.
I asked him if there was no road going eastward.
"One time one road," said he. "Now he dead."
"Nobody he go there?" I asked.
"No good," said he. "Too much devil he stop there."
"Oho!" says I, "got-um plenty devil, that bush?"
"Man devil, woman devil; too much devil," said my friend. "Stop
there all-e-time. Man he go there, no come back."
I thought if this fellow was so well posted on devils and spoke of
them so free, which is not common, I had better fish for a little
information about myself and Uma.
"You think me one devil?" I asked.
"No think devil," said he soothingly. "Think all-e-same fool."
"Uma, she devil?" I asked again.
"No, no; no devil. Devil stop bush," said the young man.
I was looking in front of me across the bay, and I saw the hanging
front of the woods pushed suddenly open, and Case, with a gun in
his hand, step forth into the sunshine on the black beach. He was
got up in light pyjamas, near white, his gun sparkled, he looked
mighty conspicuous; and the land-crabs scuttled from all round him
to their holes.
"Hullo, my friend!" says I, "you no talk all-e-same true. Ese he
go, he come back."
"Ese no all-e-same; Ese TIAPOLO," says my friend; and, with a
"Good-bye," slunk off among the trees.
I watched Case all round the beach, where the tide was low; and let
him pass me on the homeward way to Falesa. He was in deep thought,
and the birds seemed to know it, trotting quite near him on the
sand, or wheeling and calling in his ears. When he passed me I
could see by the working of his lips that he was talking to
himself, and what pleased me mightily, he had still my trade mark
on his brow, I tell you the plain truth: I had a mind to give him a
gunful in his ugly mug, but I thought better of it.
All this time, and all the time I was following home, I kept
repeating that native word, which I remembered by "Polly, put the
kettle on and make us all some tea," tea-a-pollo.
"Uma," says I, when I got back, "what does TIAPOLO mean?"
"Devil," says she.
"I thought AITU was the word for that," I said.
"AITU 'nother kind of devil," said she; "stop bush, eat Kanaka.
Tiapolo big chief devil, stop home; all-e-same Christian devil."
"Well then," said I, "I'm no farther forward. How can Case be
"No all-e-same," said she. "Ese belong Tiapolo; Tiapolo too much
like; Ese all-e-same his son. Suppose Ese he wish something,
Tiapolo he make him."
"That's mighty convenient for Ese," says I. "And what kind of
things does he make for him?"
Well, out came a rigmarole of all sorts of stories, many of which
(like the dollar he took from Mr. Tarleton's head) were plain
enough to me, but others I could make nothing of; and the thing
that most surprised the Kanakas was what surprised me least -
namely, that he would go in the desert among all the AITUS. Some
of the boldest, however, had accompanied him, and had heard him
speak with the dead and give them orders, and, safe in his
protection, had returned unscathed. Some said he had a church
there, where he worshipped Tiapolo, and Tiapolo appeared to him;
others swore that there was no sorcery at all, that he performed
his miracles by the power of prayer, and the church was no church,
but a prison, in which he had confined a dangerous AITU. Namu had
been in the bush with him once, and returned glorifying God for
these wonders. Altogether, I began to have a glimmer of the man's
position, and the means by which he had acquired it, and, though I
saw he was a tough nut to crack, I was noways cast down.
"Very well," said I, "I'll have a look at Master Case's place of
worship myself, and we'll see about the glorifying."
At this Uma fell in a terrible taking; if I went in the high bush I
should never return; none could go there but by the protection of
"I'll chance it on God's," said I. "I'm a good sort of a fellow,
Uma, as fellows go, and I guess God'll con me through."
She was silent for a while. "I think," said she, mighty solemn -
and then, presently - "Victoreea, he big chief?"
"You bet!" said I.
"He like you too much?" she asked again.
I told her, with a grin, I believed the old lady was rather partial
to me.
"All right," said she. "Victoreea he big chief, like you too much.
No can help you here in Falesa; no can do - too far off. Maea he
small chief - stop here. Suppose he like you - make you all right.
All-e-same God and Tiapolo. God he big chief - got too much work.
Tiapolo he small chief - he like too much make-see, work very
"I'll have to hand you over to Mr. Tarleton," said I. "Your
theology's out of its bearings, Uma."
However, we stuck to this business all the evening, and, with the
stories she told me of the desert and its dangers, she came near
frightening herself into a fit. I don't remember half a quarter of
them, of course, for I paid little heed; but two come back to me
kind of clear.
About six miles up the coast there is a sheltered cove they call
FANGA-ANAANA - "the haven full of caves." I've seen it from the
sea myself, as near as I could get my boys to venture in; and it's
a little strip of yellow sand. Black cliffs overhang it, full of
the black mouths of caves; great trees overhang the cliffs, and
dangle-down lianas; and in one place, about the middle, a big brook
pours over in a cascade. Well, there was a boat going by here,
with six young men of Falesa, "all very pretty," Uma said, which
was the loss of them. It blew strong, there was a heavy head sea,
and by the time they opened Fanga-anaana, and saw the white cascade
and the shady beach, they were all tired and thirsty, and their
water had run out. One proposed to land and get a drink, and,
being reckless fellows, they were all of the same mind except the
youngest. Lotu was his name; he was a very good young gentleman,
and very wise; and he held out that they were crazy, telling them
the place was given over to spirits and devils and the dead, and
there were no living folk nearer than six miles the one way, and
maybe twelve the other. But they laughed at his words, and, being
five to one, pulled in, beached the boat, and landed. It was a
wonderful pleasant place, Lotu said, and the water excellent. They
walked round the beach, but could see nowhere any way to mount the
cliffs, which made them easier in their mind; and at last they sat
down to make a meal on the food they had brought with them. They
were scarce set, when there came out of the mouth of one of the
black caves six of the most beautiful ladies ever seen: they had
flowers in their hair, and the most beautiful breasts, and
necklaces of scarlet seeds; and began to jest with these young
gentlemen, and the young gentlemen to jest back with them, all but
Lotu. As for Lotu, he saw there could be no living woman in such a
place, and ran, and flung himself in the bottom of the boat, and
covered his face, and prayed. All the time the business lasted
Lotu made one clean break of prayer, and that was all he knew of
it, until his friends came back, and made him sit up, and they put
to sea again out of the bay, which was now quite desert, and no
word of the six ladies. But, what frightened Lotu most, not one of
the five remembered anything of what had passed, but they were all
like drunken men, and sang and laughed in the boat, and skylarked.
The wind freshened and came squally, and the sea rose extraordinary
high; it was such weather as any man in the islands would have
turned his back to and fled home to Falesa; but these five were
like crazy folk, and cracked on all sail and drove their boat into
the seas. Lotu went to the bailing; none of the others thought to
help him, but sang and skylarked and carried on, and spoke singular
things beyond a man's comprehension, and laughed out loud when they
said them. So the rest of the day Lotu bailed for his life in the
bottom of the boat, and was all drenched with sweat and cold seawater;
and none heeded him. Against all expectation, they came
safe in a dreadful tempest to Papa-malulu, where the palms were
singing out, and the cocoa-nuts flying like cannon-balls about the
village green; and the same night the five young gentlemen
sickened, and spoke never a reasonable word until they died.
"And do you mean to tell me you can swallow a yarn like that?" I
She told me the thing was well known, and with handsome young men
alone it was even common; but this was the only case where five had
been slain the same day and in a company by the love of the womendevils;
and it had made a great stir in the island, and she would
be crazy if she doubted.
"Well, anyway," says I, "you needn't be frightened about me. I've
no use for the women-devils. You're all the women I want, and all
the devil too, old lady."
To this she answered there were other sorts, and she had seen one
with her own eyes. She had gone one day alone to the next bay,
and, perhaps, got too near the margin of the bad place. The boughs
of the high bush overshadowed her from the cant of the hill, but
she herself was outside on a flat place, very stony and growing
full of young mummy-apples four and five feet high. It was a dark
day in the rainy season, and now there came squalls that tore off
the leaves and sent them flying, and now it was all still as in a
house. It was in one of these still times that a whole gang of
birds and flying foxes came pegging out of the bush like creatures
frightened. Presently after she heard a rustle nearer hand, and
saw, coming out of the margin of the trees, among the mummy-apples,
the appearance of a lean grey old boar. It seemed to think as it
came, like a person; and all of a sudden, as she looked at it
coming, she was aware it was no boar but a thing that was a man
with a man's thoughts. At that she ran, and the pig after her, and
as the pig ran it holla'd aloud, so that the place rang with it.
"I wish I had been there with my gun," said I. "I guess that pig
would have holla'd so as to surprise himself."
But she told me a gun was of no use with the like of these, which
were the spirits of the dead.
Well, this kind of talk put in the evening, which was the best of
it; but of course it didn't change my notion, and the next day,
with my gun and a good knife, I set off upon a voyage of discovery.
I made, as near as I could, for the place where I had seen Case
come out; for if it was true he had some kind of establishment in
the bush I reckoned I should find a path. The beginning of the
desert was marked off by a wall, to call it so, for it was more of
a long mound of stones. They say it reaches right across the
island, but how they know it is another question, for I doubt if
anyone has made the journey in a hundred years, the natives
sticking chiefly to the sea and their little colonies along the
coast, and that part being mortal high and steep and full of
cliffs. Up to the west side of the wall, the ground has been
cleared, and there are cocoa palms and mummy-apples and guavas, and
lots of sensitive plants. Just across, the bush begins outright;
high bush at that, trees going up like the masts of ships, and
ropes of liana hanging down like a ship's rigging, and nasty
orchids growing in the forks like funguses. The ground where there
was no underwood looked to be a heap of boulders. I saw many green
pigeons which I might have shot, only I was there with a different
idea. A number of butterflies flopped up and down along the ground
like dead leaves; sometimes I would hear a bird calling, sometimes
the wind overhead, and always the sea along the coast.
But the queerness of the place it's more difficult to tell of,
unless to one who has been alone in the high bush himself. The
brightest kind of a day it is always dim down there. A man can see
to the end of nothing; whichever way he looks the wood shuts up,
one bough folding with another like the fingers of your hand; and
whenever he listens he hears always something new - men talking,
children laughing, the strokes of an axe a far way ahead of him,
and sometimes a sort of a quick, stealthy scurry near at hand that
makes him jump and look to his weapons. It's all very well for him
to tell himself that he's alone, bar trees and birds; he can't make
out to believe it; whichever way he turns the whole place seems to
be alive and looking on. Don't think it was Uma's yarns that put
me out; I don't value native talk a fourpenny-piece; it's a thing
that's natural in the bush, and that's the end of it.
As I got near the top of the hill, for the ground of the wood goes
up in this place steep as a ladder, the wind began to sound
straight on, and the leaves to toss and switch open and let in the
sun. This suited me better; it was the same noise all the time,
and nothing to startle. Well, I had got to a place where there was
an underwood of what they wild cocoanut - mighty pretty with its
scarlet fruit - when there came a sound of singing in the wind that
I thought I had never heard the like of. It was all very fine to
tell myself it was the branches; I knew better. It was all very
fine to tell myself it was a bird; I knew never a bird that sang
like that. It rose and swelled, and died away and swelled again;
and now I thought it was like someone weeping, only prettier; and
now I thought it was like harps; and there was one thing I made
sure of, it was a sight too sweet to be wholesome in a place like
that. You may laugh if you like; but I declare I called to mind
the six young ladies that came, with their scarlet necklaces, out
of the cave at Fanga-anaana, and wondered if they sang like that.
We laugh at the natives and their superstitions; but see how many
traders take them up, splendidly educated white men, that have been
book-keepers (some of them) and clerks in the old country. It's my
belief a superstition grows up in a place like the different kind
of weeds; and as I stood there and listened to that wailing I
twittered in my shoes.
You may call me a coward to be frightened; I thought myself brave
enough to go on ahead. But I went mighty carefully, with my gun
cocked, spying all about me like a hunter, fully expecting to see a
handsome young woman sitting somewhere in the bush, and fully
determined (if I did) to try her with a charge of duck-shot. And
sure enough, I had not gone far when I met with a queer thing. The
wind came on the top of the wood in a strong puff, the leaves in
front of me burst open, and I saw for a second something hanging in
a tree. It was gone in a wink, the puff blowing by and the leaves
closing. I tell you the truth: I had made up my mind to see an
AITU; and if the thing had looked like a pig or a woman, it
wouldn't have given me the same turn. The trouble was that it
seemed kind of square, and the idea of a square thing that was
alive and sang knocked me sick and silly. I must have stood quite
a while; and I made pretty certain it was right out of the same
tree that the singing came. Then I began to come to myself a bit.
"Well," says I, "if this is really so, if this is a place where
there are square things that sing, I'm gone up anyway. Let's have
my fun for my money."
But I thought I might as well take the off chance of a prayer being
any good; so I plumped on my knees and prayed out loud; and all the
time I was praying the strange sounds came out of the tree, and
went up and down, and changed, for all the world like music, only
you could see it wasn't human - there was nothing there that you
could whistle.
As soon as I had made an end in proper style, I laid down my gun,
stuck my knife between my teeth, walked right up to that tree, and
began to climb. I tell you my heart was like ice. But presently,
as I went up, I caught another glimpse of the thing, and that
relieved me, for I thought it seemed like a box; and when I had got
right up to it I near fell out of the tree with laughing.
A box it was, sure enough, and a candle-box at that, with the brand
upon the side of it; and it had banjo strings stretched so as to
sound when the wind blew. I believe they call the thing a Tyrolean
(3) harp, whatever that may mean.
"Well, Mr. Case," said I, "you've frightened me once, but I defy
you to frighten me again," I says, and slipped down the tree, and
set out again to find my enemy's head office, which I guessed would
not be far away.
The undergrowth was thick in this part; I couldn't see before my
nose, and must burst my way through by main force and ply the knife
as I went, slicing the cords of the lianas and slashing down whole
trees at a blow. I call them trees for the bigness, but in truth
they were just big weeds, and sappy to cut through like carrot.
From all this crowd and kind of vegetation, I was just thinking to
myself, the place might have once been cleared, when I came on my
nose over a pile of stones, and saw in a moment it was some kind of
a work of man. The Lord knows when it was made or when deserted,
for this part of the island has lain undisturbed since long before
the whites came. A few steps beyond I hit into the path I had been
always looking for. It was narrow, but well beaten, and I saw that
Case had plenty of disciples. It seems, indeed, it was a piece of
fashionable boldness to venture up here with the trader, and a
young man scarce reckoned himself grown till he had got his breech
tattooed, for one thing, and seen Case's devils for another. This
is mighty like Kanakas; but, if you look at it another way, it's
mighty like white folks too.
A bit along the path I was brought to a clear stand, and had to rub
my eyes. There was a wall in front of me, the path passing it by a
gap; it was tumbledown and plainly very old, but built of big
stones very well laid; and there is no native alive to-day upon
that island that could dream of such a piece of building. Along
all the top of it was a line of queer figures, idols or scarecrows,
or what not. They had carved and painted faces ugly to view, their
eyes and teeth were of shell, their hair and their bright clothes
blew in the wind, and some of them worked with the tugging. There
are islands up west where they make these kind of figures till today;
but if ever they were made in this island, the practice and
the very recollection of it are now long forgotten. And the
singular thing was that all these bogies were as fresh as toys out
of a shop.
Then it came in my mind that Case had let out to me the first day
that he was a good forger of island curiosities, a thing by which
so many traders turn an honest penny. And with that I saw the
whole business, and how this display served the man a double
purpose: first of all, to season his curiosities, and then to
frighten those that came to visit him.
But I should tell you (what made the thing more curious) that all
the time the Tyrolean harps were harping round me in the trees, and
even while I looked, a green-and-yellow bird (that, I suppose, was
building) began to tear the hair off the head of one of the
A little farther on I found the best curiosity of the museum. The
first I saw of it was a longish mound of earth with a twist to it.
Digging off the earth with my hands, I found underneath tarpaulin
stretched on boards, so that this was plainly the roof of a cellar.
It stood right on the top of the hill, and the entrance was on the
far side, between two rocks, like the entrance to a cave. I went
as far in as the bend, and, looking round the corner, saw a shining
face. It was big and ugly, like a pantomime mask, and the
brightness of it waxed and dwindled, and at times it smoked.
"Oho!" says I, "luminous paint!"
And I must say I rather admired the man's ingenuity. With a box of
tools and a few mighty simple contrivances he had made out to have
a devil of a temple. Any poor Kanaka brought up here in the dark,
with the harps whining all round him, and shown that smoking face
in the bottom of a hole, would make no kind of doubt but he had
seen and heard enough devils for a lifetime. It's easy to find out
what Kanakas think. Just go back to yourself any way round from
ten to fifteen years old, and there's an average Kanaka. There are
some pious, just as there are pious boys; and the most of them,
like the boys again, are middling honest and yet think it rather
larks to steal, and are easy scared and rather like to be so. I
remember a boy I was at school with at home who played the Case
business. He didn't know anything, that boy; he couldn't do
anything; he had no luminous paint and no Tyrolean harps; he just
boldly said he was a sorcerer, and frightened us out of our boots,
and we loved it. And then it came in my mind how the master had
once flogged that boy, and the surprise we were all in to see the
sorcerer catch it and bum like anybody else. Thinks I to myself,
"I must find some way of fixing it so for Master Case." And the
next moment I had my idea.
I went back by the path, which, when once you had found it, was
quite plain and easy walking; and when I stepped out on the black
sands, who should I see but Master Case himself. I cocked my gun
and held it handy, and we marched up and passed without a word,
each keeping the tail of his eye on the other; and no sooner had we
passed than we each wheeled round like fellows drilling, and stood
face to face. We had each taken the same notion in his head, you
see, that the other fellow might give him the load of his gun in
the stern.
"You've shot nothing," says Case.
"I'm not on the shoot to-day," said I.
"Well, the devil go with you for me," says he.
"The same to you," says I.
But we stuck just the way we were; no fear of either of us moving.
Case laughed. "We can't stop here all day, though," said he.
"Don't let me detain you," says I.
He laughed again. "Look here, Wiltshire, do you think me a fool?"
he asked.
"More of a knave, if you want to know," says I.
"Well, do you think it would better me to shoot you here, on this
open beach?" said he. "Because I don't. Folks come fishing every
day. There may be a score of them up the valley now, making copra;
there might be half a dozen on the hill behind you, after pigeons;
they might be watching us this minute, and I shouldn't wonder. I
give you my word I don't want to shoot you. Why should I? You
don't hinder me any. You haven't got one pound of copra but what
you made with your own hands, like a negro slave. You're
vegetating - that's what I call it - and I don't care where you
vegetate, nor yet how long. Give me your word you don't mean to
shoot me, and I'll give you a lead and walk away."
"Well," said I, "You're frank and pleasant, ain't you? And I'll be
the same. I don't mean to shoot you to-day. Why should I? This
business is beginning; it ain't done yet, Mr. Case. I've given you
one turn already; I can see the marks of my knuckles on your head
to this blooming hour, and I've more cooking for you. I'm not a
paralee, like Underhill. My name ain't Adams, and it ain't
Vigours; and I mean to show you that you've met your match."
"This is a silly way to talk," said he. "This is not the talk to
make me move on with."
"All right," said I, "stay where you are. I ain't in any hurry,
and you know it. I can put in a day on this beach and never mind.
I ain't got any copra to bother with. I ain't got any luminous
paint to see to."
I was sorry I said that last, but it whipped out before I knew. I
could see it took the wind out of his sails, and he stood and
stared at me with his brow drawn up. Then I suppose he made up his
mind he must get to the bottom of this.
"I take you at your word," says he, and turned his back, and walked
right into the devil's bush.
I let him go, of course, for I had passed my word. But I watched
him as long as he was in sight, and after he was gone lit out for
cover as lively as you would want to see, and went the rest of the
way home under the bush, for I didn't trust him sixpence-worth.
One thing I saw, I had been ass enough to give him warning, and
that which I meant to do I must do at once.
You would think I had had about enough excitement for one morning,
but there was another turn waiting me. As soon as I got far enough
round the cape to see my house I made out there were strangers
there; a little farther, and no doubt about it. There was a couple
of armed sentinels squatting at my door. I could only suppose the
trouble about Uma must have come to a head, and the station been
seized. For aught I could think, Uma was taken up already, and
these armed men were waiting to do the like with me.
However, as I came nearer, which I did at top speed, I saw there
was a third native sitting on the verandah like a guest, and Uma
was talking with him like a hostess. Nearer still I made out it
was the big young chief, Maea, and that he was smiling away and
smoking. And what was he smoking? None of your European
cigarettes fit for a cat, not even the genuine big, knock-me-down
native article that a fellow can really put in the time with if his
pipe is broke - but a cigar, and one of my Mexicans at that, that I
could swear to. At sight of this my heart started beating, and I
took a wild hope in my head that the trouble was over, and Maea had
come round.
Uma pointed me out to him as I came up, and he met me at the head
of my own stairs like a thorough gentleman.
"Vilivili," said he, which was the best they could make of my name,
"I pleased."
There is no doubt when an island chief wants to be civil he can do
it. I saw the way things were from the word go. There was no call
for Uma to say to me: "He no 'fraid Ese now, come bring copra." I
tell you I shook hands with that Kanaka like as if he was the best
white man in Europe.
The fact was, Case and he had got after the same girl; or Maea
suspected it, and concluded to make hay of the trader on the
chance. He had dressed himself up, got a couple of his retainers
cleaned and armed to kind of make the thing more public, and, just
waiting till Case was clear of the village, came round to put the
whole of his business my way. He was rich as well as powerful. I
suppose that man was worth fifty thousand nuts per annum. I gave
him the price of the beach and a quarter cent better, and as for
credit, I would have advanced him the inside of the store and the
fittings besides, I was so pleased to see him. I must say he
bought like a gentleman: rice and tins and biscuits enough for a
week's feast, and stuffs by the bolt. He was agreeable besides; he
had plenty fun to him; and we cracked jests together, mostly
through the interpreter, because he had mighty little English, and
my native was still off colour. One thing I made out: he could
never really have thought much harm of Uma; he could never have
been really frightened, and must just have made believe from
dodginess, and because he thought Case had a strong pull in the
village and could help him on.
This set me thinking that both he and I were in a tightish place.
What he had done was to fly in the face of the whole village, and
the thing might cost him his authority. More than that, after my
talk with Case on the beach, I thought it might very well cost me
my life. Case had as good as said he would pot me if ever I got
any copra; he would come home to find the best business in the
village had changed hands; and the best thing I thought I could do
was to get in first with the potting.
"See here, Uma," says I, "tell him I'm sorry I made him wait, but I
was up looking at Case's Tiapolo store in the bush."
"He want savvy if you no 'fraid?" translated Uma.
I laughed out. "Not much!" says I. "Tell him the place is a
blooming toy-shop! Tell him in England we give these things to the
kids to play with."
"He want savvy if you hear devil sing?" she asked next.
"Look here," I said, "I can't do it now because I've got no banjostrings
in stock; but the next time the ship comes round I'll have
one of these same contraptions right here in my verandah, and he
can see for himself how much devil there is to it. Tell him, as
soon as I can get the strings I'll make one for his picaninnies.
The name of the concern is a Tyrolean harp; and you can tell him
the name means in English that nobody but dam-fools give a cent for
This time he was so pleased he had to try his English again. "You
talk true?" says he.
"Rather!" said I. "Talk all-e-same Bible. Bring out a Bible here,
Uma, if you've got such a thing, and I'll kiss it. Or, I'll tell
you what's better still," says I, taking a header, "ask him if he's
afraid to go up there himself by day."
It appeared he wasn't; he could venture as far as that by day and
in company.
"That's the ticket, then!" said I. "Tell him the man's a fraud and
the place foolishness, and if he'll go up there to-morrow he'll see
all that's left of it. But tell him this, Uma, and mind he
understands it: If he gets talking, it's bound to come to Case, and
I'm a dead man! I'm playing his game, tell him, and if he says one
word my blood will be at his door and be the damnation of him here
and after."
She told him, and he shook hands with me up to the hilt, and, says
he: "No talk. Go up to-morrow. You my friend?"
"No sir," says I, "no such foolishness. I've come here to trade,
tell him, and not to make friends. But, as to Case, I'll send that
man to glory!"
So off Maea went, pretty well pleased, as I could see.
WELL, I was committed now; Tiapolo had to be smashed up before next
day, and my hands were pretty full, not only with preparations, but
with argument. My house was like a mechanics' debating society:
Uma was so made up that I shouldn't go into the bush by night, or
that, if I did, I was never to come back again. You know her style
of arguing: you've had a specimen about Queen Victoria and the
devil; and I leave you to fancy if I was tired of it before dark.
At last I had a good idea. What was the use of casting my pearls
before her? I thought; some of her own chopped hay would be
likelier to do the business.
"I'll tell you what, then," said I. "You fish out your Bible, and
I'll take that up along with me. That'll make me right."
She swore a Bible was no use.
"That's just your Kanaka ignorance," said I. "Bring the Bible
She brought it, and I turned to the title-page, where I thought
there would likely be some English, and so there was. "There!"
FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY, BLACKFRIARS,' and the date, which I can't
read, owing to its being in these X's. There's no devil in hell
can look near the Bible Society' Blackfriars. Why, you silly!" I
said, "how do you suppose we get along with our own AITUS at home?
All Bible Society!"
"I think you no got any," said she. "White man, he tell me you no
"Sounds likely, don't it?" I asked. "Why would these islands all
be chock full of them and none in Europe?"
"Well, you no got breadfruit," said she.
I could have torn my hair. "Now look here, old lady," said I, "you
dry up, for I'm tired of you. I'll take the Bible, which'll put me
as straight as the mail, and that's the last word I've got to say."
The night fell extraordinary dark, clouds coming up with sundown
and overspreading all; not a star showed; there was only an end of
a moon, and that not due before the small hours. Round the
village, what with the lights and the fires in the open houses, and
the torches of many fishers moving on the reef, it kept as gay as
an illumination; but the sea and the mountains and woods were all
clean gone. I suppose it might be eight o'clock when I took the
road, laden like a donkey. First there was that Bible, a book as
big as your head, which I had let myself in for by my own
tomfoolery. Then there was my gun, and knife, and lantern, and
patent matches, all necessary. And then there was the real plant
of the affair in hand, a mortal weight of gunpowder, a pair of
dynamite fishing-bombs, and two or three pieces of slow match that
I had hauled out of the tin cases and spliced together the best way
I could; for the match was only trade stuff, and a man would be
crazy that trusted it. Altogether, you see, I had the materials of
a pretty good blow-up! Expense was nothing to me; I wanted that
thing done right.
As long as I was in the open, and had the lamp in my house to steer
by, I did well. But when I got to the path, it fell so dark I
could make no headway, walking into trees and swearing there, like
a man looking for the matches in his bed-room. I knew it was risky
to light up, for my lantern would be visible all the way to the
point of the cape, and as no one went there after dark, it would be
talked about, and come to Case's ears. But what was I to do? I
had either to give the business over and lose caste with Maea, or
light up, take my chance, and get through the thing the smartest I
was able.
As long as I was on the path I walked hard, but when I came to the
black beach I had to run. For the tide was now nearly flowed; and
to get through with my powder dry between the surf and the steep
hill, took all the quickness I possessed. As it was, even, the
wash caught me to the knees, and I came near falling on a stone.
All this time the hurry I was in, and the free air and smell of the
sea, kept my spirits lively; but when I was once in the bush and
began to climb the path I took it easier. The fearsomeness of the
wood had been a good bit rubbed off for me by Master Case's banjostrings
and graven images, yet I thought it was a dreary walk, and
guessed, when the disciples went up there, they must be badly
scared. The light of the lantern, striking among all these trunks
and forked branches and twisted rope-ends of lianas, made the whole
place, or all that you could see of it, a kind of a puzzle of
turning shadows. They came to meet you, solid and quick like
giants, and then span off and vanished; they hove up over your head
like clubs, and flew away into the night like birds. The floor of
the bush glimmered with dead wood, the way the match-box used to
shine after you had struck a lucifer. Big, cold drops fell on me
from the branches overhead like sweat. There was no wind to
mention; only a little icy breath of a land-breeze that stirred
nothing; and the harps were silent.
The first landfall I made was when I got through the bush of wild
cocoanuts, and came in view of the bogies on the wall. Mighty
queer they looked by the shining of the lantern, with their painted
faces and shell eyes, and their clothes and their hair hanging.
One after another I pulled them all up and piled them in a bundle
on the cellar roof, so as they might go to glory with the rest.
Then I chose a place behind one of the big stones at the entrance,
buried my powder and the two shells, and arranged my match along
the passage. And then I had a look at the smoking head, just for
good-bye. It was doing fine.
"Cheer up," says I. "You're booked."
It was my first idea to light up and be getting homeward; for the
darkness and the glimmer of the dead wood and the shadows of the
lantern made me lonely. But I knew where one of the harps hung; it
seemed a pity it shouldn't go with the rest; and at the same time I
couldn't help letting on to myself that I was mortal tired of my
employment, and would like best to be at home and have the door
shut. I stepped out of the cellar and argued it fore and back.
There was a sound of the sea far down below me on the coast; nearer
hand not a leaf stirred; I might have been the only living creature
this side of Cape Horn. Well, as I stood there thinking, it seemed
the bush woke and became full of little noises. Little noises they
were, and nothing to hurt - a bit of a crackle, a bit of a rush -
but the breath jumped right out of me and my throat went as dry as
a biscuit. It wasn't Case I was afraid of, which would have been
common-sense; I never thought of Case; what took me, as sharp as
the colic, was the old wives' tales, the devil-women and the manpigs.
It was the toss of a penny whether I should run: but I got a
purchase on myself, and stepped out, and held up the lantern (like
a fool) and looked all round.
In the direction of the village and the path there was nothing to
be seen; but when I turned inland it's a wonder to me I didn't
drop. There, coming right up out of the desert and the bad bush -
there, sure enough, was a devil-woman, just as the way I had
figured she would look. I saw the light shine on her bare arms and
her bright eyes, and there went out of me a yell so big that I
thought it was my death.
"Ah! No sing out!" says the devil-woman, in a kind of a high
whisper. "Why you talk big voice? Put out light! Ese he come."
"My God Almighty, Uma, is that you?" says I.
"IOE," (4) says she. I come quick. Ese here soon."
"You come alone?" I asked. "You no 'fraid?"
"Ah, too much 'fraid!" she whispered, clutching me. "I think die."
"Well," says I, with a kind of a weak grin, "I'm not the one to
laugh at you, Mrs. Wiltshire, for I'm about the worst scared man in
the South Pacific myself."
She told me in two words what brought her. I was scarce gone, it
seems, when Fa'avao came in, and the old woman had met Black Jack
running as hard as he was fit from our house to Case's. Uma
neither spoke nor stopped, but lit right out to come and warn me.
She was so close at my heels that the lantern was her guide across
the beach, and afterwards, by the glimmer of it in the trees, she
got her line up hill. It was only when I had got to the top or was
in the cellar that she wandered Lord knows where! and lost a sight
of precious time, afraid to call out lest Case was at the heels of
her, and falling in the bush, so that she was all knocked and
bruised. That must have been when she got too far to the
southward, and how she came to take me in the flank at last and
frighten me beyond what I've got the words to tell of.
Well, anything was better than a devil-woman, but I thought her
yarn serious enough. Black Jack had no call to be about my house,
unless he was set there to watch; and it looked to me as if my
tomfool word about the paint, and perhaps some chatter of Maea's,
had got us all in a clove hitch. One thing was clear: Uma and I
were here for the night; we daren't try to go home before day, and
even then it would be safer to strike round up the mountain and
come in by the back of the village, or we might walk into an
ambuscade. It was plain, too, that the mine should be sprung
immediately, or Case might be in time to stop it.
I marched into the tunnel, Uma keeping tight hold of me, opened my
lantern and lit the match. The first length of it burned like a
spill of paper, and I stood stupid, watching it burn, and thinking
we were going aloft with Tiapolo, which was none of my views. The
second took to a better rate, though faster than I cared about; and
at that I got my wits again, hauled Uma clear of the passage, blew
out and dropped the lantern, and the pair of us groped our way into
the bush until I thought it might be safe, and lay down together by
a tree.
"Old lady," I said, "I won't forget this night. You're a trump,
and that's what's wrong with you."
She humped herself close up to me. She had run out the way she
was, with nothing on her but her kilt; and she was all wet with the
dews and the sea on the black beach, and shook straight on with
cold and the terror of the dark and the devils.
"Too much 'fraid," was all she said.
The far side of Case's hill goes down near as steep as a precipice
into the next valley. We were on the very edge of it, and I could
see the dead wood shine and hear the sea sound far below. I didn't
care about the position, which left me no retreat, but I was afraid
to change. Then I saw I had made a worse mistake about the
lantern, which I should have left lighted, so that I could have had
a crack at Case when he stepped into the shine of it. And even if
I hadn't had the wit to do that, it seemed a senseless thing to
leave the good lantern to blow up with the graven images. The
thing belonged to me, after all, and was worth money, and might
come in handy. If I could have trusted the match, I might have run
in still and rescued it. But who was going to trust the match?
You know what trade is. The stuff was good enough for Kanakas to
go fishing with, where they've got to look lively anyway, and the
most they risk is only to have their hand blown off. But for
anyone that wanted to fool around a blow-up like mine that match
was rubbish.
Altogether the best I could do was to lie still, see my shot-gun
handy, and wait for the explosion. But it was a solemn kind of a
business. The blackness of the night was like solid; the only
thing you could see was the nasty bogy glimmer of the dead wood,
and that showed you nothing but itself; and as for sounds, I
stretched my ears till I thought I could have heard the match burn
in the tunnel, and that bush was as silent as a coffin. Now and
then there was a bit of a crack; but whether it was near or far,
whether it was Case stubbing his toes within a few yards of me, or
a tree breaking miles away, I knew no more than the babe unborn.
And then, all of a sudden, Vesuvius went off. It was a long time
coming; but when it came (though I say it that shouldn't) no man
could ask to see a better. At first it was just a son of a gun of
a row, and a spout of fire, and the wood lighted up so that you
could see to read. And then the trouble began. Uma and I were
half buried under a wagonful of earth, and glad it was no worse,
for one of the rocks at the entrance of the tunnel was fired clean
into the air, fell within a couple of fathoms of where we lay, and
bounded over the edge of the hill, and went pounding down into the
next valley. I saw I had rather undercalculated our distance, or
over-done the dynamite and powder, which you please.
And presently I saw I had made another slip. The noise of the
thing began to die off, shaking the island; the dazzle was over;
and yet the night didn't come back the way I expected. For the
whole wood was scattered with red coals and brands from the
explosion; they were all round me on the flat; some had fallen
below in the valley, and some stuck and flared in the tree-tops. I
had no fear of fire, for these forests are too wet to kindle. But
the trouble was that the place was all lit up-not very bright, but
good enough to get a shot by; and the way the coals were scattered,
it was just as likely Case might have the advantage as myself. I
looked all round for his white face, you may be sure; but there was
not a sign of him. As for Uma, the life seemed to have been
knocked right out of her by the bang and blaze of it.
There was one bad point in my game. One of the blessed graven
images had come down all afire, hair and clothes and body, not four
yards away from me. I cast a mighty noticing glance all round;
there was still no Case, and I made up my mind I must get rid of
that burning stick before he came, or I should be shot there like a
It was my first idea to have crawled, and then I thought speed was
the main thing, and stood half up to make a rush. The same moment
from somewhere between me and the sea there came a flash and a
report, and a rifle bullet screeched in my ear. I swung straight
round and up with my gun, but the brute had a Winchester, and
before I could as much as see him his second shot knocked me over
like a nine-pin. I seemed to fly in the air, then came down by the
run and lay half a minute, silly; and then I found my hands empty,
and my gun had flown over my head as I fell. It makes a man mighty
wide awake to be in the kind of box that I was in. I scarcely knew
where I was hurt, or whether I was hurt or not, but turned right
over on my face to crawl after my weapon. Unless you have tried to
get about with a smashed leg you don't know what pain is, and I let
out a howl like a bullock's.
This was the unluckiest noise that ever I made in my life. Up to
then Uma had stuck to her tree like a sensible woman, knowing she
would be only in the way; but as soon as she heard me sing out, she
ran forward. The Winchester cracked again, and down she went.
I had sat up, leg and all, to stop her; but when I saw her tumble I
clapped down again where I was, lay still, and felt the handle of
my knife. I had been scurried and put out before. No more of that
for me. He had knocked over my girl, I had got to fix him for it;
and I lay there and gritted my teeth, and footed up the chances.
My leg was broke, my gun was gone. Case had still ten shots in his
Winchester. It looked a kind of hopeless business. But I never
despaired nor thought upon despairing: that man had got to go.
For a goodish bit not one of us let on. Then I heard Case begin to
move nearer in the bush, but mighty careful. The image had burned
out; there were only a few coals left here and there, and the wood
was main dark, but had a kind of a low glow in it like a fire on
its last legs. It was by this that I made out Case's head looking
at me over a big tuft of ferns, and at the same time the brute saw
me and shouldered his Winchester. I lay quite still, and as good
as looked into the barrel: it was my last chance, but I thought my
heart would have come right out of its bearings. Then he fired.
Lucky for me it was no shot-gun, for the bullet struck within an
inch of me and knocked the dirt in my eyes.
Just you try and see if you can lie quiet, and let a man take a
sitting shot at you and miss you by a hair. But I did, and lucky
too. A while Case stood with the Winchester at the port-arms; then
lie gave a little laugh to himself, and stepped round the ferns.
"Laugh!" thought I. "If you had the wit of a louse you would be
I was all as taut as a ship's hawser or the spring of a watch, and
as soon as he came within reach of me I had him by the ankle,
plucked the feet right out from under him, laid him out, and was
upon the top of him, broken leg and all, before he breathed. His
Winchester had gone the same road as my shot-gun; it was nothing to
me - I defied him now. I'm a pretty strong man anyway, but I never
knew what strength was till I got hold of Case. He was knocked out
of time by the rattle he came down with, and threw up his hands
together, more like a frightened woman, so that I caught both of
them with my left. This wakened him up, and he fastened his teeth
in my forearm like a weasel. Much I cared. My leg gave me all the
pain I had any use for, and I drew my knife and got it in the
"Now," said I, "I've got you; and you're gone up, and a good job
too! Do you feel the point of that? That's for Underhill! And
there's for Adams! And now here's for Uma, and that's going to
knock your blooming soul right out of you!"
With that I gave him the cold steel for all I was worth. His body
kicked under me like a spring sofa; he gave a dreadful kind of a
long moan, and lay still.
"I wonder if you're dead? I hope so!" I thought, for my head was
swimming. But I wasn't going to take chances; I had his own
example too close before me for that; and I tried to draw the knife
out to give it him again. The blood came over my hands, I
remember, hot as tea; and with that I fainted clean away, and fell
with my head on the man's mouth.
When I came to myself it was pitch dark; the cinders had burned
out; there was nothing to be seen but the shine of the dead wood,
and I couldn't remember where I was nor why I was in such pain nor
what I was all wetted with. Then it came back, and the first thing
I attended to was to give him the knife again a half-a-dozen times
up to the handle. I believe he was dead already, but it did him no
harm and did me good.
"I bet you're dead now," I said, and then I called to Uma.
Nothing answered, and I made a move to go and grope for her, fouled
my broken leg, and fainted again.
When I came to myself the second time the clouds had all cleared
away, except a few that sailed there, white as cotton. The moon
was up - a tropic moon. The moon at home turns a wood black, but
even this old butt-end of a one showed up that forest, as green as
by day. The night birds - or, rather, they're a kind of early
morning bird - sang out with their long, falling notes like
nightingales. And I could see the dead man, that I was still half
resting on, looking right up into the sky with his open eyes, no
paler than when he was alive; and a little way off Uma tumbled on
her side. I got over to her the best way I was able, and when I
got there she was broad awake, and crying and sobbing to herself
with no more noise than an insect. It appears she was afraid to
cry out loud, because of the AITUS. Altogether she was not much
hurt, but scared beyond belief; she had come to her senses a long
while ago, cried out to me, heard nothing in reply, made out we
were both dead, and had lain there ever since, afraid to budge a
finger. The ball had ploughed up her shoulder, and she had lost a
main quantity of blood; but I soon had that tied up the way it
ought to be with the tail of my shirt and a scarf I had on, got her
head on my sound knee and my back against a trunk, and settled down
to wait for morning. Uma was for neither use nor ornament, and
could only clutch hold of me and shake and cry. I don't suppose
there was ever anybody worse scared, and, to do her justice, she
had had a lively night of it. As for me, I was in a good bit of
pain and fever, but not so bad when I sat still; and every time I
looked over to Case I could have sung and whistled. Talk about
meat and drink! To see that man lying there dead as a herring
filled me full.
The night birds stopped after a while; and then the light began to
change, the east came orange, the whole wood began to whirr with
singing like a musical box, and there was the broad day.
I didn't expect Maea for a long while yet; and, indeed, I thought
there was an off-chance he might go back on the whole idea and not
come at all. I was the better pleased when, about an hour after
daylight, I heard sticks smashing and a lot of Kanakas laughing,
and singing out to keep their courage up. Uma sat up quite brisk
at the first word of it; and presently we saw a party come
stringing out of the path, Maea in front, and behind him a white
man in a pith helmet. It was Mr. Tarleton, who had turned up late
last night in Falesa, having left his boat and walked the last
stage with a lantern.
They buried Case upon the field of glory, right in the hole where
he had kept the smoking head. I waited till the thing was done;
and Mr. Tarleton prayed, which I thought tomfoolery, but I'm bound
to say he gave a pretty sick view of the dear departed's prospects,
and seemed to have his own ideas of hell. I had it out with him
afterwards, told him he had scamped his duty, and what he had ought
to have done was to up like a man and tell the Kanakas plainly Case
was damned, and a good riddance; but I never could get him to see
it my way. Then they made me a litter of poles and carried me down
to the station. Mr. Tarleton set my leg, and made a regular
missionary splice of it, so that I limp to this day. That done, he
took down my evidence, and Uma's, and Maea's, wrote it all out
fine, and had us sign it; and then he got the chiefs and marched
over to Papa Randall's to seize Case's papers.
All they found was a bit of a diary, kept for a good many years,
and all about the price of copra, and chickens being stolen, and
that; and the books of the business and the will I told you of in
the beginning, by both of which the whole thing (stock, lock, and
barrel) appeared to belong to the Samoa woman. It was I that
bought her out at a mighty reasonable figure, for she was in a
hurry to get home. As for Randall and the black, they had to
tramp; got into some kind of a station on the Papa-malulu side; did
very bad business, for the truth is neither of the pair was fit for
it, and lived mostly on fish, which was the means of Randall's
death. It seems there was a nice shoal in one day, and papa went
after them with the dynamite; either the match burned too fast, or
papa was full, or both, but the shell went off (in the usual way)
before he threw it, and where was papa's hand? Well, there's
nothing to hurt in that; the islands up north are all full of onehanded
men, like the parties in the "Arabian Nights"; but either
Randall was too old, or he drank too much, and the short and the
long of it was that he died. Pretty soon after, the nigger was
turned out of the island for stealing from white men, and went off
to the west, where he found men of his own colour, in case he liked
that, and the men of his own colour took and ate him at some kind
of a corroborree, and I'm sure I hope he was to their fancy!
So there was I, left alone in my glory at Falesa; and when the
schooner came round I filled her up, and gave her a deck-cargo half
as high as the house. I must say Mr. Tarleton did the right thing
by us; but he took a meanish kind of a revenge.
"Now, Mr. Wiltshire," said he, "I've put you all square with
everybody here. It wasn't difficult to do, Case being gone; but I
have done it, and given my pledge besides that you will deal fairly
with the natives. I must ask you to keep my word."
Well, so I did. I used to be bothered about my balances, but I
reasoned it out this way: We all have queerish balances; and the
natives all know it, and water their copra in a proportion so that
it's fair all round; but the truth is, it did use to bother me,
and, though I did well in Falesa, I was half glad when the firm
moved me on to another station, where I was under no kind of a
pledge and could look my balances in the face.
As for the old lady, you know her as well as I do. She's only the
one fault. If you don't keep your eye lifting she would give away
the roof off the station. Well, it seems it's natural in Kanakas.
She's turned a powerful big woman now, and could throw a London
bobby over her shoulder. But that's natural in Kanakas too, and
there's no manner of doubt that she's an A 1 wife.
Mr. Tarleton's gone home, his trick being over. He was the best
missionary I ever struck, and now, it seems, he's parsonising down
Somerset way. Well, that's best for him; he'll have no Kanakas
there to get luny over.
My public-house? Not a bit of it, nor ever likely. I'm stuck
here, I fancy. I don't like to leave the kids, you see: and -
there's no use talking - they're better here than what they would
be in a white man's country, though Ben took the eldest up to
Auckland, where he's being schooled with the best. But what
bothers me is the girls. They're only half-castes, of course; I
know that as well as you do, and there's nobody thinks less of
half-castes than I do; but they're mine, and about all I've got. I
can't reconcile my mind to their taking up with Kanakas, and I'd
like to know where I'm to find the whites?
Note. - Any student of that very unliterary product, the English
drama of the early part of the century, will here recognise the
name and the root idea of a piece once rendered popular by the
redoubtable O. Smith. The root idea is there and identical, and
yet I hope I have made it a new thing. And the fact that the tale
has been designed and written for a Polynesian audience may lend it
some extraneous interest nearer home. - R. L. S.
THERE was a man of the Island of Hawaii, whom I shall call Keawe;
for the truth is, he still lives, and his name must be kept secret;
but the place of his birth was not far from Honaunau, where the
bones of Keawe the Great lie hidden in a cave. This man was poor,
brave, and active; he could read and write like a schoolmaster; he
was a first-rate mariner besides, sailed for some time in the
island steamers, and steered a whaleboat on the Hamakua coast. At
length it came in Keawe's mind to have a sight of the great world
and foreign cities, and he shipped on a vessel bound to San
This is a fine town, with a fine harbour, and rich people
uncountable; and, in particular, there is one hill which is covered
with palaces. Upon this hill Keawe was one day taking a walk with
his pocket full of money, viewing the great houses upon either hand
with pleasure, "What fine houses these are!" he was thinking, "and
how happy must those people be who dwell in them, and take no care
for the morrow!" The thought was in his mind when he came abreast
of a house that was smaller than some others, but all finished and
beautified like a toy; the steps of that house shone like silver,
and the borders of the garden bloomed like garlands, and the
windows were bright like diamond; and Keawe stopped and wondered at
the excellence of all he saw. So stopping, he was aware of a man
that looked forth upon him through a window so clear that Keawe
could see him as you see a fish in a pool upon the reef. The man
was elderly, with a bald head and a black beard; and his face was
heavy with sorrow, and he bitterly sighed. And the truth of it is,
that as Keawe looked in upon the man, and the man looked out upon
Keawe, each envied the other.
All of a sudden, the man smiled and nodded, and beckoned Keawe to
enter, and met him at the door of the house.
"This is a fine house of mine," said the man, and bitterly sighed.
"Would you not care to view the chambers?"
So he led Keawe all over it, from the cellar to the roof, and there
was nothing there that was not perfect of its kind, and Keawe was
"Truly," said Keawe, "this is a beautiful house; if I lived in the
like of it, I should be laughing all day long. How comes it, then,
that you should be sighing?"
"There is no reason," said the man, "why you should not have a
house in all points similar to this, and finer, if you wish. You
have some money, I suppose?"
"I have fifty dollars," said Keawe; "but a house like this will
cost more than fifty dollars."
The man made a computation. "I am sorry you have no more," said
he, "for it may raise you trouble in the future; but it shall be
yours at fifty dollars."
"The house?" asked Keawe.
"No, not the house," replied the man; "but the bottle. For, I must
tell you, although I appear to you so rich and fortunate, all my
fortune, and this house itself and its garden, came out of a bottle
not much bigger than a pint. This is it."
And he opened a lockfast place, and took out a round-bellied bottle
with a long neck; the glass of it was white like milk, with
changing rainbow colours in the grain. Withinsides something
obscurely moved, like a shadow and a fire.
"This is the bottle," said the man; and, when Keawe laughed, "You
do not believe me?" he added. "Try, then, for yourself. See if
you can break it."
So Keawe took the bottle up and dashed it on the floor till he was
weary; but it jumped on the floor like a child's ball, and was not
"This is a strange thing," said Keawe. "For by the touch of it, as
well as by the look, the bottle should be of glass."
"Of glass it is," replied the man, sighing more heavily than ever;
"but the glass of it was tempered in the flames of hell. An imp
lives in it, and that is the shadow we behold there moving: or so I
suppose. If any man buy this bottle the imp is at his command; all
that he desires - love, fame, money, houses like this house, ay, or
a city like this city - all are his at the word uttered. Napoleon
had this bottle, and by it he grew to be the king of the world; but
he sold it at the last, and fell. Captain Cook had this bottle,
and by it he found his way to so many islands; but he, too, sold
it, and was slain upon Hawaii. For, once it is sold, the power
goes and the protection; and unless a man remain content with what
he has, ill will befall him."
"And yet you talk of selling it yourself?" Keawe said.
"I have all I wish, and I am growing elderly," replied the man.
"There is one thing the imp cannot do - he cannot prolong life;
and, it would not be fair to conceal from you, there is a drawback
to the bottle; for if a man die before he sells it, he must burn in
hell forever."
"To be sure, that is a drawback and no mistake," cried Keawe. "I
would not meddle with the thing. I can do without a house, thank
God; but there is one thing I could not be doing with one particle,
and that is to be damned."
"Dear me, you must not run away with things," returned the man.
"All you have to do is to use the power of the imp in moderation,
and then sell it to someone else, as I do to you, and finish your
life in comfort."
"Well, I observe two things," said Keawe. "All the time you keep
sighing like a maid in love, that is one; and, for the other, you
sell this bottle very cheap."
"I have told you already why I sigh," said the man. "It is because
I fear my health is breaking up; and, as you said yourself, to die
and go to the devil is a pity for anyone. As for why I sell so
cheap, I must explain to you there is a peculiarity about the
bottle. Long ago, when the devil brought it first upon earth, it
was extremely expensive, and was sold first of all to Prester John
for many millions of dollars; but it cannot be sold at all, unless
sold at a loss. If you sell it for as much as you paid for it,
back it comes to you again like a homing pigeon. It follows that
the price has kept falling in these centuries, and the bottle is
now remarkably cheap. I bought it myself from one of my great
neighbours on this hill, and the price I paid was only ninety
dollars. I could sell it for as high as eighty-nine dollars and
ninety-nine cents, but not a penny dearer, or back the thing must
come to me. Now, about this there are two bothers. First, when
you offer a bottle so singular for eighty odd dollars, people
suppose you to be jesting. And second - but there is no hurry
about that - and I need not go into it. Only remember it must be
coined money that you sell it for."
"How am I to know that this is all true?" asked Keawe.
"Some of it you can try at once," replied the man. "Give me your
fifty dollars, take the bottle, and wish your fifty dollars back
into your pocket. If that does not happen, I pledge you my honour
I will cry off the bargain and restore your money."
"You are not deceiving me?" said Keawe.
The man bound himself with a great oath.
"Well, I will risk that much," said Keawe, "for that can do no
harm." And he paid over his money to the man, and the man handed
him the bottle.
"Imp of the bottle," said Keawe, "I want my fifty dollars back."
And sure enough he had scarce said the word before his pocket was
as heavy as ever.
"To be sure this is a wonderful bottle," said Keawe.
"And now good-morning to you, my fine fellow, and the devil go with
you for me!" said the man.
"Hold on," said Keawe, "I don't want any more of this fun. Here,
take your bottle back."
"You have bought it for less than I paid for it," replied the man,
rubbing his hands. "It is yours now; and, for my part, I am only
concerned to see the back of you." And with that he rang for his
Chinese servant, and had Keawe shown out of the house.
Now, when Keawe was in the street, with the bottle under his arm,
he began to think. "If all is true about this bottle, I may have
made a losing bargain," thinks he. "But perhaps the man was only
fooling me." The first thing he did was to count his money; the
sum was exact - forty-nine dollars American money, and one Chili
piece. "That looks like the truth," said Keawe. "Now I will try
another part."
The streets in that part of the city were as clean as a ship's
decks, and though it was noon, there were no passengers. Keawe set
the bottle in the gutter and walked away. Twice he looked back,
and there was the milky, round-bellied bottle where he left it. A
third time he looked back, and turned a corner; but he had scarce
done so, when something knocked upon his elbow, and behold! it was
the long neck sticking up; and as for the round belly, it was
jammed into the pocket of his pilot-coat.
"And that looks like the truth," said Keawe.
The next thing he did was to buy a cork-screw in a shop, and go
apart into a secret place in the fields. And there he tried to
draw the cork, but as often as he put the screw in, out it came
again, and the cork as whole as ever.
"This is some new sort of cork," said Keawe, and all at once he
began to shake and sweat, for he was afraid of that bottle.
On his way back to the port-side, he saw a shop where a man sold
shells and clubs from the wild islands, old heathen deities, old
coined money, pictures from China and Japan, and all manner of
things that sailors bring in their sea-chests. And here he had an
idea. So he went in and offered the bottle for a hundred dollars.
The man of the shop laughed at him at the first, and offered him
five; but, indeed, it was a curious bottle - such glass was never
blown in any human glassworks, so prettily the colours shone under
the milky white, and so strangely the shadow hovered in the midst;
so, after he had disputed awhile after the manner of his kind, the
shop-man gave Keawe sixty silver dollars for the thing, and set it
on a shelf in the midst of his window.
"Now," said Keawe, "I have sold that for sixty which I bought for
fifty - or, to say truth, a little less, because one of my dollars
was from Chili. Now I shall know the truth upon another point."
So he went back on board his ship, and, when he opened his chest,
there was the bottle, and had come more quickly than himself. Now
Keawe had a mate on board whose name was Lopaka.
"What ails you?" said Lopaka, "that you stare in your chest?"
They were alone in the ship's forecastle, and Keawe bound him to
secrecy, and told all.
"This is a very strange affair," said Lopaka; "and I fear you will
be in trouble about this bottle. But there is one point very clear
- that you are sure of the trouble, and you had better have the
profit in the bargain. Make up your mind what you want with it;
give the order, and if it is done as you desire, I will buy the
bottle myself; for I have an idea of my own to get a schooner, and
go trading through the islands."
"That is not my idea," said Keawe; "but to have a beautiful house
and garden on the Kona Coast, where I was born, the sun shining in
at the door, flowers in the garden, glass in the windows, pictures
on the walls, and toys and fine carpets on the tables, for all the
world like the house I was in this day - only a storey higher, and
with balconies all about like the King's palace; and to live there
without care and make merry with my friends and relatives."
"Well," said Lopaka, "let us carry it back with us to Hawaii; and
if all comes true, as you suppose, I will buy the bottle, as I
said, and ask a schooner."
Upon that they were agreed, and it was not long before the ship
returned to Honolulu, carrying Keawe and Lopaka, and the bottle.
They were scarce come ashore when they met a friend upon the beach,
who began at once to condole with Keawe.
"I do not know what I am to be condoled about," said Keawe.
"Is it possible you have not heard," said the friend, "your uncle -
that good old man - is dead, and your cousin - that beautiful boy -
was drowned at sea?"
Keawe was filled with sorrow, and, beginning to weep and to lament,
he forgot about the bottle. But Lopaka was thinking to himself,
and presently, when Keawe's grief was a little abated, "I have been
thinking," said Lopaka. "Had not your uncle lands in Hawaii, in
the district of Kau?"
"No," said Keawe, "not in Kau; they are on the mountain-side - a
little way south of Hookena."
"These lands will now be yours?" asked Lopaka.
"And so they will," says Keawe, and began again to lament for his
"No," said Lopaka, "do not lament at present. I have a thought in
my mind. How if this should be the doing of the bottle? For here
is the place ready for your house."
"If this be so," cried Keawe, "it is a very ill way to serve me by
killing my relatives. But it may be, indeed; for it was in just
such a station that I saw the house with my mind's eye."
"The house, however, is not yet built," said Lopaka.
"No, nor like to be!" said Keawe; "for though my uncle has some
coffee and ava and bananas, it will not be more than will keep me
in comfort; and the rest of that land is the black lava."
"Let us go to the lawyer," said Lopaka; "I have still this idea in
my mind."
Now, when they came to the lawyer's, it appeared Keawe's uncle had
grown monstrous rich in the last days, and there was a fund of
"And here is the money for the house!" cried Lopaka.
"If you are thinking of a new house," said the lawyer, "here is the
card of a new architect, of whom they tell me great things."
"Better and better!" cried Lopaka. "Here is all made plain for us.
Let us continue to obey orders."
So they went to the architect, and he had drawings of houses on his
"You want something out of the way," said the architect. "How do
you like this?" and he handed a drawing to Keawe.
Now, when Keawe set eyes on the drawing, he cried out aloud, for it
was the picture of his thought exactly drawn.
"I am in for this house," thought he. "Little as I like the way it
comes to me, I am in for it now, and I may as well take the good
along with the evil."
So he told the architect all that he wished, and how he would have
that house furnished, and about the pictures on the wall and the
knick-knacks on the tables; and he asked the man plainly for how
much he would undertake the whole affair.
The architect put many questions, and took his pen and made a
computation; and when he had done he named the very sum that Keawe
had inherited.
Lopaka and Keawe looked at one another and nodded.
"It is quite clear," thought Keawe, "that I am to have this house,
whether or no. It comes from the devil, and I fear I will get
little good by that; and of one thing I am sure, I will make no
more wishes as long as I have this bottle. But with the house I am
saddled, and I may as well take the good along with the evil."
So he made his terms with the architect, and they signed a paper;
and Keawe and Lopaka took ship again and sailed to Australia; for
it was concluded between them they should not interfere at all, but
leave the architect and the bottle imp to build and to adorn that
house at their own pleasure.
The voyage was a good voyage, only all the time Keawe was holding
in his breath, for he had sworn he would utter no more wishes, and
take no more favours from the devil. The time was up when they got
back. The architect told them that the house was ready, and Keawe
and Lopaka took a passage in the HALL, and went down Kona way to
view the house, and see if all had been done fitly according to the
thought that was in Keawe's mind.
Now the house stood on the mountain side, visible to ships. Above,
the forest ran up into the clouds of rain; below, the black lava
fell in cliffs, where the kings of old lay buried. A garden
bloomed about that house with every hue of flowers; and there was
an orchard of papaia on the one hand and an orchard of breadfruit
on the other, and right in front, toward the sea, a ship's mast had
been rigged up and bore a flag. As for the house, it was three
storeys high, with great chambers and broad balconies on each. The
windows were of glass, so excellent that it was as clear as water
and as bright as day. All manner of furniture adorned the
chambers. Pictures hung upon the wall in golden frames: pictures
of ships, and men fighting, and of the most beautiful women, and of
singular places; nowhere in the world are there pictures of so
bright a colour as those Keawe found hanging in his house. As for
the knick-knacks, they were extraordinary fine; chiming clocks and
musical boxes, little men with nodding heads, books filled with
pictures, weapons of price from all quarters of the world, and the
most elegant puzzles to entertain the leisure of a solitary man.
And as no one would care to live in such chambers, only to walk
through and view them, the balconies were made so broad that a
whole town might have lived upon them in delight; and Keawe knew
not which to prefer, whether the back porch, where you got the land
breeze, and looked upon the orchards and the flowers, or the front
balcony, where you could drink the wind of the sea, and look down
the steep wall of the mountain and see the HALL going by once a
week or so between Hookena and the hills of Pele, or the schooners
plying up the coast for wood and ava and bananas.
When they had viewed all, Keawe and Lopaka sat on the porch.
"Well," asked Lopaka, "is it all as you designed?"
"Words cannot utter it," said Keawe. "It is better than I dreamed,
and I am sick with satisfaction."
"There is but one thing to consider," said Lopaka; "all this may be
quite natural, and the bottle imp have nothing whatever to say to
it. If I were to buy the bottle, and got no schooner after all, I
should have put my hand in the fire for nothing. I gave you my
word, I know; but yet I think you would not grudge me one more
"I have sworn I would take no more favours," said Keawe. "I have
gone already deep enough."
"This is no favour I am thinking of," replied Lopaka. "It is only
to see the imp himself. There is nothing to be gained by that, and
so nothing to be ashamed of; and yet, if I once saw him, I should
be sure of the whole matter. So indulge me so far, and let me see
the imp; and, after that, here is the money in my hand, and I will
buy it."
"There is only one thing I am afraid of," said Keawe. "The imp may
be very ugly to view; and if you once set eyes upon him you might
be very undesirous of the bottle."
"I am a man of my word," said Lopaka. "And here is the money
betwixt us."
"Very well," replied Keawe. "I have a curiosity myself. So come,
let us have one look at you, Mr. Imp."
Now as soon as that was said, the imp looked out of the bottle, and
in again, swift as a lizard; and there sat Keawe and Lopaka turned
to stone. The night had quite come, before either found a thought
to say or voice to say it with; and then Lopaka pushed the money
over and took the bottle.
"I am a man of my word," said he, "and had need to be so, or I
would not touch this bottle with my foot. Well, I shall get my
schooner and a dollar or two for my pocket; and then I will be rid
of this devil as fast as I can. For to tell you the plain truth,
the look of him has cast me down."
"Lopaka," said Keawe, "do not you think any worse of me than you
can help; I know it is night, and the roads bad, and the pass by
the tombs an ill place to go by so late, but I declare since I have
seen that little face, I cannot eat or sleep or pray till it is
gone from me. I will give you a lantern and a basket to put the
bottle in, and any picture or fine thing in all my house that takes
your fancy; - and be gone at once, and go sleep at Hookena with
"Keawe," said Lopaka, "many a man would take this ill; above all,
when I am doing you a turn so friendly, as to keep my word and buy
the bottle; and for that matter, the night and the dark, and the
way by the tombs, must be all tenfold more dangerous to a man with
such a sin upon his conscience, and such a bottle under his arm.
But for my part, I am so extremely terrified myself, I have not the
heart to blame you. Here I go then; and I pray God you may be
happy in your house, and I fortunate with my schooner, and both get
to heaven in the end in spite of the devil and his bottle."
So Lopaka went down the mountain; and Keawe stood in his front
balcony, and listened to the clink of the horse's shoes, and
watched the lantern go shining down the path, and along the cliff
of caves where the old dead are buried; and all the time he
trembled and clasped his hands, and prayed for his friend, and gave
glory to God that he himself was escaped out of that trouble.
But the next day came very brightly, and that new house of his was
so delightful to behold that he forgot his terrors. One day
followed another, and Keawe dwelt there in perpetual joy. He had
his place on the back porch; it was there he ate and lived, and
read the stories in the Honolulu newspapers; but when anyone came
by they would go in and view the chambers and the pictures. And
the fame of the house went far and wide; it was called KA-HALE NUI
- the Great House - in all Kona; and sometimes the Bright House,
for Keawe kept a Chinaman, who was all day dusting and furbishing;
and the glass, and the gilt, and the fine stuffs, and the pictures,
shone as bright as the morning. As for Keawe himself, he could not
walk in the chambers without singing, his heart was so enlarged;
and when ships sailed by upon the sea, he would fly his colours on
the mast.
So time went by, until one day Keawe went upon a visit as far as
Kailua to certain of his friends. There he was well feasted; and
left as soon as he could the next morning, and rode hard, for he
was impatient to behold his beautiful house; and, besides, the
night then coming on was the night in which the dead of old days go
abroad in the sides of Kona; and having already meddled with the
devil, he was the more chary of meeting with the dead. A little
beyond Honaunau, looking far ahead, he was aware of a woman bathing
in the edge of the sea; and she seemed a well-grown girl, but he
thought no more of it. Then he saw her white shift flutter as she
put it on, and then her red holoku; and by the time he came abreast
of her she was done with her toilet, and had come up from the sea,
and stood by the track-side in her red holoku, and she was all
freshened with the bath, and her eyes shone and were kind. Now
Keawe no sooner beheld her than he drew rein.
"I thought I knew everyone in this country," said he. "How comes
it that I do not know you?"
"I am Kokua, daughter of Kiano," said the girl, "and I have just
returned from Oahu. Who are you?"
"I will tell you who I am in a little," said Keawe, dismounting
from his horse, "but not now. For I have a thought in my mind, and
if you knew who I was, you might have heard of me, and would not
give me a true answer. But tell me, first of all, one thing: Are
you married?"
At this Kokua laughed out aloud. "It is you who ask questions,"
she said. "Are you married yourself?"
"Indeed, Kokua, I am not," replied Keawe, "and never thought to be
until this hour. But here is the plain truth. I have met you here
at the roadside, and I saw your eyes, which are like the stars, and
my heart went to you as swift as a bird. And so now, if you want
none of me, say so, and I will go on to my own place; but if you
think me no worse than any other young man, say so, too, and I will
turn aside to your father's for the night, and to-morrow I will
talk with the good man."
Kokua said never a word, but she looked at the sea and laughed.
"Kokua," said Keawe, "if you say nothing, I will take that for the
good answer; so let us be stepping to your father's door."
She went on ahead of him, still without speech; only sometimes she
glanced back and glanced away again, and she kept the strings of
her hat in her mouth.
Now, when they had come to the door, Kiano came out on his
verandah, and cried out and welcomed Keawe by name. At that the
girl looked over, for the fame of the great house had come to her
ears; and, to be sure, it was a great temptation. All that evening
they were very merry together; and the girl was as bold as brass
under the eyes of her parents, and made a mock of Keawe, for she
had a quick wit. The next day he had a word with Kiano, and found
the girl alone.
"Kokua," said he, "you made a mock of me all the evening; and it is
still time to bid me go. I would not tell you who I was, because I
have so fine a house, and I feared you would think too much of that
house and too little of the man that loves you. Now you know all,
and if you wish to have seen the last of me, say so at once."
"No," said Kokua; but this time she did not laugh, nor did Keawe
ask for more.
This was the wooing of Keawe; things had gone quickly; but so an
arrow goes, and the ball of a rifle swifter still, and yet both may
strike the target. Things had gone fast, but they had gone far
also, and the thought of Keawe rang in the maiden's head; she heard
his voice in the breach of the surf upon the lava, and for this
young man that she had seen but twice she would have left father
and mother and her native islands. As for Keawe himself, his horse
flew up the path of the mountain under the cliff of tombs, and the
sound of the hoofs, and the sound of Keawe singing to himself for
pleasure, echoed in the caverns of the dead. He came to the Bright
House, and still he was singing. He sat and ate in the broad
balcony, and the Chinaman wondered at his master, to hear how he
sang between the mouthfuls. The sun went down into the sea, and
the night came; and Keawe walked the balconies by lamplight, high
on the mountains, and the voice of his singing startled men on
"Here am I now upon my high place," he said to himself. "Life may
be no better; this is the mountain top; and all shelves about me
toward the worse. For the first time I will light up the chambers,
and bathe in my fine bath with the hot water and the cold, and
sleep alone in the bed of my bridal chamber."
So the Chinaman had word, and he must rise from sleep and light the
furnaces; and as he wrought below, beside the boilers, he heard his
master singing and rejoicing above him in the lighted chambers.
When the water began to be hot the Chinaman cried to his master;
and Keawe went into the bathroom; and the Chinaman heard him sing
as he filled the marble basin; and heard him sing, and the singing
broken, as he undressed; until of a sudden, the song ceased. The
Chinaman listened, and listened; he called up the house to Keawe to
ask if all were well, and Keawe answered him "Yes," and bade him go
to bed; but there was no more singing in the Bright House; and all
night long, the Chinaman heard his master's feet go round and round
the balconies without repose.
Now the truth of it was this: as Keawe undressed for his bath, he
spied upon his flesh a patch like a patch of lichen on a rock, and
it was then that he stopped singing. For he knew the likeness of
that patch, and knew that he was fallen in the Chinese Evil. (5)
Now, it is a sad thing for any man to fall into this sickness. And
it would be a sad thing for anyone to leave a house so beautiful
and so commodious, and depart from all his friends to the north
coast of Molokai between the mighty cliff and the sea-breakers.
But what was that to the case of the man Keawe, he who had met his
love but yesterday, and won her but that morning, and now saw all
his hopes break, in a moment, like a piece of glass?
Awhile he sat upon the edge of the bath; then sprang, with a cry,
and ran outside; and to and fro, to and fro, along the balcony,
like one despairing.
"Very willingly could I leave Hawaii, the home of my fathers,"
Keawe was thinking. "Very lightly could I leave my house, the
high-placed, the many-windowed, here upon the mountains. Very
bravely could I go to Molokai, to Kalaupapa by the cliffs, to live
with the smitten and to sleep there, far from my fathers. But what
wrong have I done, what sin lies upon my soul, that I should have
encountered Kokua coming cool from the sea-water in the evening?
Kokua, the soul ensnarer! Kokua, the light of my life! Her may I
never wed, her may I look upon no longer, her may I no more handle
with my loving hand; and it is for this, it is for you, O Kokua!
that I pour my lamentations!"
Now you are to observe what sort of a man Keawe was, for he might
have dwelt there in the Bright House for years, and no one been the
wiser of his sickness; but he reckoned nothing of that, if he must
lose Kokua. And again, he might have wed Kokua even as he was; and
so many would have done, because they have the souls of pigs; but
Keawe loved the maid manfully, and he would do her no hurt and
bring her in no danger.
A little beyond the midst of the night, there came in his mind the
recollection of that bottle. He went round to the back porch, and
called to memory the day when the devil had looked forth; and at
the thought ice ran in his veins.
"A dreadful thing is the bottle," thought Keawe, "and dreadful is
the imp, and it is a dreadful thing to risk the flames of hell.
But what other hope have I to cure my sickness or to wed Kokua?
What!" he thought, "would I beard the devil once, only to get me a
house, and not face him again to win Kokua?"
Thereupon he called to mind it was the next day the HALL went by on
her return to Honolulu. "There must I go first," he thought, "and
see Lopaka. For the best hope that I have now is to find that same
bottle I was so pleased to be rid of."
Never a wink could he sleep; the food stuck in his throat; but he
sent a letter to Kiano, and about the time when the steamer would
be coming, rode down beside the cliff of the tombs. It rained; his
horse went heavily; he looked up at the black mouths of the caves,
and he envied the dead that slept there and were done with trouble;
and called to mind how he had galloped by the day before, and was
astonished. So he came down to Hookena, and there was all the
country gathered for the steamer as usual. In the shed before the
store they sat and jested and passed the news; but there was no
matter of speech in Keawe's bosom, and he sat in their midst and
looked without on the rain falling on the houses, and the surf
beating among the rocks, and the sighs arose in his throat.
"Keawe of the Bright House is out of spirits," said one to another.
Indeed, and so he was, and little wonder.
Then the HALL came, and the whaleboat carried him on board. The
after-part of the ship was full of Haoles (6) who had been to visit
the volcano, as their custom is; and the midst was crowded with
Kanakas, and the forepart with wild bulls from Hilo and horses from
Kau; but Keawe sat apart from all in his sorrow, and watched for
the house of Kiano. There it sat, low upon the shore in the black
rocks, and shaded by the cocoa palms, and there by the door was a
red holoku, no greater than a fly, and going to and fro with a
fly's busyness. "Ah, queen of my heart," he cried, "I'll venture
my dear soul to win you!"
Soon after, darkness fell, and the cabins were lit up, and the
Haoles sat and played at the cards and drank whiskey as their
custom is; but Keawe walked the deck all night; and all the next
day, as they steamed under the lee of Maui or of Molokai, he was
still pacing to and fro like a wild animal in a menagerie.
Towards evening they passed Diamond Head, and came to the pier of
Honolulu. Keawe stepped out among the crowd and began to ask for
Lopaka. It seemed he had become the owner of a schooner - none
better in the islands - and was gone upon an adventure as far as
Pola-Pola or Kahiki; so there was no help to be looked for from
Lopaka. Keawe called to mind a friend of his, a lawyer in the town
(I must not tell his name), and inquired of him. They said he was
grown suddenly rich, and had a fine new house upon Waikiki shore;
and this put a thought in Keawe's head, and he called a hack and
drove to the lawyer's house. .
The house was all brand new, and the trees in the garden no greater
than walking-sticks, and the lawyer, when he came, had the air of a
man well pleased.
"What can I do to serve you?" said the lawyer.
"You are a friend of Lopaka's," replied Keawe, "and Lopaka
purchased from me a certain piece of goods that I thought you might
enable me to trace."
The lawyer's face became very dark. "I do not profess to
misunderstand you, Mr. Keawe," said he, "though this is an ugly
business to be stirring in. You may be sure I know nothing, but
yet I have a guess, and if you would apply in a certain quarter I
think you might have news."
And he named the name of a man, which, again, I had better not
repeat. So it was for days, and Keawe went from one to another,
finding everywhere new clothes and carriages, and fine new houses
and men everywhere in great contentment, although, to be sure, when
he hinted at his business their faces would cloud over.
"No doubt I am upon the track," thought Keawe. "These new clothes
and carriages are all the gifts of the little imp, and these glad
faces are the faces of men who have taken their profit and got rid
of the accursed thing in safety. When I see pale cheeks and hear
sighing, I shall know that I am near the bottle."
So it befell at last that he was recommended to a Haole in
Beritania Street. When he came to the door, about the hour of the
evening meal, there were the usual marks of the new house, and the
young garden, and the electric light shining in the windows; but
when the owner came, a shock of hope and fear ran through Keawe;
for here was a young man, white as a corpse, and black about the
eyes, the hair shedding from his head, and such a look in his
countenance as a man may have when he is waiting for the gallows.
"Here it is, to be sure," thought Keawe, and so with this man he
noways veiled his errand. "I am come to buy the bottle," said he.
At the word, the young Haole of Beritania Street reeled against the
"The bottle!" he gasped. "To buy the bottle!" Then he seemed to
choke, and seizing Keawe by the arm carried him into a room and
poured out wine in two glasses.
"Here is my respects," said Keawe, who had been much about with
Haoles in his time. "Yes," he added, "I am come to buy the bottle.
What is the price by now?"
At that word the young man let his glass slip through his fingers,
and looked upon Keawe like a ghost.
"The price," says he; "the price! You do not know the price?"
"It is for that I am asking you," returned Keawe. "But why are you
so much concerned? Is there anything wrong about the price?"
"It has dropped a great deal in value since your time, Mr. Keawe,"
said the young man stammering.
"Well, well, I shall have the less to pay for it," says Keawe.
"How much did it cost you?"
The young man was as white as a sheet. "Two cents," said he.
"What?" cried Keawe, "two cents? Why, then, you can only sell it
for one. And he who buys it - " The words died upon Keawe's
tongue; he who bought it could never sell it again, the bottle and
the bottle imp must abide with him until he died, and when he died
must carry him to the red end of hell.
The young man of Beritania Street fell upon his knees. "For God's
sake buy it!" he cried. "You can have all my fortune in the
bargain. I was mad when I bought it at that price. I had
embezzled money at my store; I was lost else; I must have gone to
"Poor creature," said Keawe, "you would risk your soul upon so
desperate an adventure, and to avoid the proper punishment of your
own disgrace; and you think I could hesitate with love in front of
me. Give me the bottle, and the change which I make sure you have
all ready. Here is a five-cent piece."
It was as Keawe supposed; the young man had the change ready in a
drawer; the bottle changed hands, and Keawe's fingers were no
sooner clasped upon the stalk than he had breathed his wish to be a
clean man. And, sure enough, when he got home to his room, and
stripped himself before a glass, his flesh was whole like an
infant's. And here was the strange thing: he had no sooner seen
this miracle, than his mind was changed within him, and he cared
naught for the Chinese Evil, and little enough for Kokua; and had
but the one thought, that here he was bound to the bottle imp for
time and for eternity, and had no better hope but to be a cinder
for ever in the flames of hell. Away ahead of him he saw them
blaze with his mind's eye, and his soul shrank, and darkness fell
upon the light.
When Keawe came to himself a little, he was aware it was the night
when the band played at the hotel. Thither he went, because he
feared to be alone; and there, among happy faces, walked to and
fro, and heard the tunes go up and down, and saw Berger beat the
measure, and all the while he heard the flames crackle, and saw the
red fire burning in the bottomless pit. Of a sudden the band
played HIKI-AO-AO; that was a song that he had sung with Kokua, and
at the strain courage returned to him.
"It is done now," he thought, "and once more let me take the good
along with the evil."
So it befell that he returned to Hawaii by the first steamer, and
as soon as it could be managed he was wedded to Kokua, and carried
her up the mountain side to the Bright House.
Now it was so with these two, that when they were together, Keawe's
heart was stilled; but so soon as he was alone he fell into a
brooding horror, and heard the flames crackle, and saw the red fire
bum in the bottomless pit. The girl, indeed, had come to him
wholly; her heart leapt in her side at sight of him, her hand clung
to his; and she was so fashioned from the hair upon her head to the
nails upon her toes that none could see her without joy. She was
pleasant in her nature. She had the good word always. Full of
song she was, and went to and fro in the Bright House, the
brightest thing in its three storeys, carolling like the birds.
And Keawe beheld and heard her with delight, and then must shrink
upon one side, and weep and groan to think upon the price that he
had paid for her; and then he must dry his eyes, and wash his face,
and go and sit with her on the broad balconies, joining in her
songs, and, with a sick spirit, answering her smiles.
There came a day when her feet began to be heavy and her songs more
rare; and now it was not Keawe only that would weep apart, but each
would sunder from the other and sit in opposite balconies with the
whole width of the Bright House betwixt. Keawe was so sunk in his
despair, he scarce observed the change, and was only glad he had
more hours to sit alone and brood upon his destiny, and was not so
frequently condemned to pull a smiling face on a sick heart. But
one day, coming softly through the house, he heard the sound of a
child sobbing, and there was Kokua rolling her face upon the
balcony floor, and weeping like the lost.
"You do well to weep in this house, Kokua," he said. "And yet I
would give the head off my body that you (at least) might have been
"Happy!" she cried. "Keawe, when you lived alone in your Bright
House, you were the word of the island for a happy man; laughter
and song were in your mouth, and your face was as bright as the
sunrise. Then you wedded poor Kokua; and the good God knows what
is amiss in her - but from that day you have not smiled. Oh!" she
cried, "what ails me? I thought I was pretty, and I knew I loved
him. What ails me that I throw this cloud upon my husband?"
"Poor Kokua," said Keawe. He sat down by her side, and sought to
take her hand; but that she plucked away. "Poor Kokua," he said,
again. "My poor child - my pretty. And I had thought all this
while to spare you! Well, you shall know all. Then, at least, you
will pity poor Keawe; then you will understand how much he loved
you in the past - that he dared hell for your possession - and how
much he loves you still (the poor condemned one), that he can yet
call up a smile when he beholds you."
With that, he told her all, even from the beginning.
"You have done this for me?" she cried "Ah, well, then what do I
care!" - and she clasped and wept upon him.
"Ah, child!" said Keawe, "and yet, when I consider of the fire of
hell, I care a good deal!"
"Never tell me," said she; "no man can be lost because he loved
Kokua, and no other fault. I tell you, Keawe, I shall save you
with these hands, or perish in your company. What! you loved me,
and gave your soul, and you think I will not die to save you in
"Ah, my dear! you might die a hundred times, and what difference
would that make?" he cried, "except to leave me lonely till the
time comes of my damnation?"
"You know nothing," said she. "I was educated in a school in
Honolulu; I am no common girl. And I tell you, I shall save my
lover. What is this you say about a cent? But all the world is
not American. In England they have a piece they call a farthing,
which is about half a cent. Ah! sorrow!" she cried, "that makes it
scarcely better, for the buyer must be lost, and we shall find none
so brave as my Keawe! But, then, there is France; they have a
small coin there which they call a centime, and these go five to
the cent or there-about. We could not do better. Come, Keawe, let
us go to the French islands; let us go to Tahiti, as fast as ships
can bear us. There we have four centimes, three centimes, two
centimes, one centime; four possible sales to come and go on; and
two of us to push the bargain. Come, my Keawe! kiss me, and banish
care. Kokua will defend you."
"Gift of God!" he cried. "I cannot think that God will punish me
for desiring aught so good! Be it as you will, then; take me where
you please: I put my life and my salvation in your hands."
Early the next day Kokua was about her preparations. She took
Keawe's chest that he went with sailoring; and first she put the
bottle in a corner; and then packed it with the richest of their
clothes and the bravest of the knick-knacks in the house. "For,"
said she, "we must seem to be rich folks, or who will believe in
the bottle?" All the time of her preparation she was as gay as a
bird; only when she looked upon Keawe, the tears would spring in
her eye, and she must run and kiss him. As for Keawe, a weight was
off his soul; now that he had his secret shared, and some hope in
front of him, he seemed like a new man, his feet went lightly on
the earth, and his breath was good to him again. Yet was terror
still at his elbow; and ever and again, as the wind blows out a
taper, hope died in him, and he saw the flames toss and the red
fire burn in hell.
It was given out in the country they were gone pleasuring to the
States, which was thought a strange thing, and yet not so strange
as the truth, if any could have guessed it. So they went to
Honolulu in the HALL, and thence in the UMATILLA to San Francisco
with a crowd of Haoles, and at San Francisco took their passage by
the mail brigantine, the TROPIC BIRD, for Papeete, the chief place
of the French in the south islands. Thither they came, after a
pleasant voyage, on a fair day of the Trade Wind, and saw the reef
with the surf breaking, and Motuiti with its palms, and the
schooner riding within-side, and the white houses of the town low
down along the shore among green trees, and overhead the mountains
and the clouds of Tahiti, the wise island.
It was judged the most wise to hire a house, which they did
accordingly, opposite the British Consul's, to make a great parade
of money, and themselves conspicuous with carriages and horses.
This it was very easy to do, so long as they had the bottle in
their possession; for Kokua was more bold than Keawe, and, whenever
she had a mind, called on the imp for twenty or a hundred dollars.
At this rate they soon grew to be remarked in the town; and the
strangers from Hawaii, their riding and their driving, the fine
holokus and the rich lace of Kokua, became the matter of much talk.
They got on well after the first with the Tahitian language, which
is indeed like to the Hawaiian, with a change of certain letters;
and as soon as they had any freedom of speech, began to push the
bottle. You are to consider it was not an easy subject to
introduce; it was not easy to persuade people you were in earnest,
when you offered to sell them for four centimes the spring of
health and riches inexhaustible. It was necessary besides to
explain the dangers of the bottle; and either people disbelieved
the whole thing and laughed, or they thought the more of the darker
part, became overcast with gravity, and drew away from Keawe and
Kokua, as from persons who had dealings with the devil. So far
from gaining ground, these two began to find they were avoided in
the town; the children ran away from them screaming, a thing
intolerable to Kokua; Catholics crossed themselves as they went by;
and all persons began with one accord to disengage themselves from
their advances.
Depression fell upon their spirits. They would sit at night in
their new house, after a day's weariness, and not exchange one
word, or the silence would be broken by Kokua bursting suddenly
into sobs. Sometimes they would pray together; sometimes they
would have the bottle out upon the floor, and sit all evening
watching how the shadow hovered in the midst. At such times they
would be afraid to go to rest. It was long ere slumber came to
them, and, if either dozed off, it would be to wake and find the
other silently weeping in the dark, or, perhaps, to wake alone, the
other having fled from the house and the neighbourhood of that
bottle, to pace under the bananas in the little garden, or to
wander on the beach by moonlight.
One night it was so when Kokua awoke. Keawe was gone. She felt in
the bed and his place was cold. Then fear fell upon her, and she
sat up in bed. A little moonshine filtered through the shutters.
The room was bright, and she could spy the bottle on the floor.
Outside it blew high, the great trees of the avenue cried aloud,
and the fallen leaves rattled in the verandah. In the midst of
this Kokua was aware of another sound; whether of a beast or of a
man she could scarce tell, but it was as sad as death, and cut her
to the soul. Softly she arose, set the door ajar, and looked forth
into the moonlit yard. There, under the bananas, lay Keawe, his
mouth in the dust, and as he lay he moaned.
It was Kokua's first thought to run forward and console him; her
second potently withheld her. Keawe had borne himself before his
wife like a brave man; it became her little in the hour of weakness
to intrude upon his shame. With the thought she drew back into the
"Heaven!" she thought, "how careless have I been - how weak! It is
he, not I, that stands in this eternal peril; it was he, not I,
that took the curse upon his soul. It is for my sake, and for the
love of a creature of so little worth and such poor help, that he
now beholds so close to him the flames of hell - ay, and smells the
smoke of it, lying without there in the wind and moonlight. Am I
so dull of spirit that never till now I have surmised my duty, or
have I seen it before and turned aside? But now, at least, I take
up my soul in both the hands of my affection; now I say farewell to
the white steps of heaven and the waiting faces of my friends. A
love for a love, and let mine be equalled with Keawe's! A soul for
a soul, and be it mine to perish!"
She was a deft woman with her hands, and was soon apparelled. She
took in her hands the change - the precious centimes they kept ever
at their side; for this coin is little used, and they had made
provision at a Government office. When she was forth in the avenue
clouds came on the wind, and the moon was blackened. The town
slept, and she knew not whither to turn till she heard one coughing
in the shadow of the trees.
"Old man," said Kokua, "what do you here abroad in the cold night?"
The old man could scarce express himself for coughing, but she made
out that he was old and poor, and a stranger in the island.
"Will you do me a service?" said Kokua. "As one stranger to
another, and as an old man to a young woman, will you help a
daughter of Hawaii?"
"Ah," said the old man. "So you are the witch from the eight
islands, and even my old soul you seek to entangle. But I have
heard of you, and defy your wickedness."
"Sit down here," said Kokua, "and let me tell you a tale." And she
told him the story of Keawe from the beginning to the end.
"And now," said she, "I am his wife, whom he bought with his soul's
welfare. And what should I do? If I went to him myself and
offered to buy it, he would refuse. But if you go, he will sell it
eagerly; I will await you here; you will buy it for four centimes,
and I will buy it again for three. And the Lord strengthen a poor
"If you meant falsely," said the old man, "I think God would strike
you dead."
"He would!" cried Kokua. "Be sure he would. I could not be so
treacherous - God would not suffer it."
"Give me the four centimes and await me here," said the old man.
Now, when Kokua stood alone in the street, her spirit died. The
wind roared in the trees, and it seemed to her the rushing of the
flames of hell; the shadows tossed in the light of the street lamp,
and they seemed to her the snatching hands of evil ones. If she
had had the strength, she must have run away, and if she had had
the breath she must have screamed aloud; but, in truth, she could
do neither, and stood and trembled in the avenue, like an
affrighted child.
Then she saw the old man returning, and he had the bottle in his
"I have done your bidding," said he. "I left your husband weeping
like a child; to-night he will sleep easy." And he held the bottle
"Before you give it me," Kokua panted, "take the good with the evil
- ask to be delivered from your cough."
"I am an old man," replied the other, "and too near the gate of the
grave to take a favour from the devil. But what is this? Why do
you not take the bottle? Do you hesitate?"
"Not hesitate!" cried Kokua. "I am only weak. Give me a moment.
It is my hand resists, my flesh shrinks back from the accursed
thing. One moment only!"
The old man looked upon Kokua kindly. "Poor child!" said he, "you
fear; your soul misgives you. Well, let me keep it. I am old, and
can never more be happy in this world, and as for the next - "
"Give it me!" gasped Kokua. "There is your money. Do you think I
am so base as that? Give me the bottle."
"God bless you, child," said the old man.
Kokua concealed the bottle under her holoku, said farewell to the
old man, and walked off along the avenue, she cared not whither.
For all roads were now the same to her, and led equally to hell.
Sometimes she walked, and sometimes ran; sometimes she screamed out
loud in the night, and sometimes lay by the wayside in the dust and
wept. All that she had heard of hell came back to her; she saw the
flames blaze, and she smelt the smoke, and her flesh withered on
the coals.
Near day she came to her mind again, and returned to the house. It
was even as the old man said - Keawe slumbered like a child. Kokua
stood and gazed upon his face.
"Now, my husband," said she, "it is your turn to sleep. When you
wake it will be your turn to sing and laugh. But for poor Kokua,
alas! that meant no evil - for poor Kokua no more sleep, no more
singing, no more delight, whether in earth or heaven."
With that she lay down in the bed by his side, and her misery was
so extreme that she fell in a deep slumber instantly.
Late in the morning her husband woke her and gave her the good
news. It seemed he was silly with delight, for he paid no heed to
her distress, ill though she dissembled it. The words stuck in her
mouth, it mattered not; Keawe did the speaking. She ate not a
bite, but who was to observe it? for Keawe cleared the dish. Kokua
saw and heard him, like some strange thing in a dream; there were
times when she forgot or doubted, and put her hands to her brow; to
know herself doomed and hear her husband babble, seemed so
All the while Keawe was eating and talking, and planning the time
of their return, and thanking her for saving him, and fondling her,
and calling her the true helper after all. He laughed at the old
man that was fool enough to buy that bottle.
"A worthy old man he seemed," Keawe said. "But no one can judge by
appearances. For why did the old reprobate require the bottle?"
"My husband," said Kokua, humbly, "his purpose may have been good."
Keawe laughed like an angry man.
"Fiddle-de-dee!" cried Keawe. "An old rogue, I tell you; and an
old ass to boot. For the bottle was hard enough to sell at four
centimes; and at three it will be quite impossible. The margin is
not broad enough, the thing begins to smell of scorching - brrr!"
said he, and shuddered. "It is true I bought it myself at a cent,
when I knew not there were smaller coins. I was a fool for my
pains; there will never be found another: and whoever has that
bottle now will carry it to the pit."
"O my husband!" said Kokua. "Is it not a terrible thing to save
oneself by the eternal ruin of another? It seems to me I could not
laugh. I would be humbled. I would be filled with melancholy. I
would pray for the poor holder."
Then Keawe, because he felt the truth of what she said, grew the
more angry. "Heighty-teighty!" cried he. "You may be filled with
melancholy if you please. It is not the mind of a good wife. If
you thought at all of me, you would sit shamed."
Thereupon he went out, and Kokua was alone.
What chance had she to sell that bottle at two centimes? None, she
perceived. And if she had any, here was her husband hurrying her
away to a country where there was nothing lower than a cent. And
here - on the morrow of her sacrifice - was her husband leaving her
and blaming her.
She would not even try to profit by what time she had, but sat in
the house, and now had the bottle out and viewed it with
unutterable fear, and now, with loathing, hid it out of sight.
By-and-by, Keawe came back, and would have her take a drive.
"My husband, I am ill," she said. "I am out of heart. Excuse me,
I can take no pleasure."
Then was Keawe more wroth than ever. With her, because he thought
she was brooding over the case of the old man; and with himself,
because he thought she was right, and was ashamed to be so happy.
"This is your truth," cried he, "and this your affection! Your
husband is just saved from eternal ruin, which he encountered for
the love of you - and you can take no pleasure! Kokua, you have a
disloyal heart."
He went forth again furious, and wandered in the town all day. He
met friends, and drank with them; they hired a carriage and drove
into the country, and there drank again. All the time Keawe was
ill at ease, because he was taking this pastime while his wife was
sad, and because he knew in his heart that she was more right than
he; and the knowledge made him drink the deeper.
Now there was an old brutal Haole drinking with him, one that had
been a boatswain of a whaler, a runaway, a digger in gold mines, a
convict in prisons. He had a low mind and a foul mouth; he loved
to drink and to see others drunken; and he pressed the glass upon
Keawe. Soon there was no more money in the company.
"Here, you!" says the boatswain, "you are rich, you have been
always saying. You have a bottle or some foolishness."
"Yes," says Keawe, "I am rich; I will go back and get some money
from my wife, who keeps it."
"That's a bad idea, mate," said the boatswain. "Never you trust a
petticoat with dollars. They're all as false as water; you keep an
eye on her."
Now, this word struck in Keawe's mind; for he was muddled with what
he had been drinking.
"I should not wonder but she was false, indeed," thought he. "Why
else should she be so cast down at my release? But I will show her
I am not the man to be fooled. I will catch her in the act."
Accordingly, when they were back in town, Keawe bade the boatswain
wait for him at the corner, by the old calaboose, and went forward
up the avenue alone to the door of his house. The night had come
again; there was a light within, but never a sound; and Keawe crept
about the corner, opened the back door softly, and looked in.
There was Kokua on the floor, the lamp at her side; before her was
a milk-white bottle, with a round belly and a long neck; and as she
viewed it, Kokua wrung her hands.
A long time Keawe stood and looked in the doorway. At first he was
struck stupid; and then fear fell upon him that the bargain had
been made amiss, and the bottle had come back to him as it came at
San Francisco; and at that his knees were loosened, and the fumes
of the wine departed from his head like mists off a river in the
morning. And then he had another thought; and it was a strange
one, that made his cheeks to burn.
"I must make sure of this," thought he.
So he closed the door, and went softly round the corner again, and
then came noisily in, as though he were but now returned. And, lo!
by the time he opened the front door no bottle was to be seen; and
Kokua sat in a chair and started up like one awakened out of sleep.
"I have been drinking all day and making merry," said Keawe. "I
have been with good companions, and now I only come back for money,
and return to drink and carouse with them again."
Both his face and voice were as stern as judgment, but Kokua was
too troubled to observe.
"You do well to use your own, my husband," said she, and her words
"O, I do well in all things," said Keawe, and he went straight to
the chest and took out money. But he looked besides in the corner
where they kept the bottle, and there was no bottle there.
At that the chest heaved upon the floor like a sea-billow, and the
house span about him like a wreath of smoke, for he saw he was lost
now, and there was no escape. "It is what I feared," he thought.
"It is she who has bought it."
And then he came to himself a little and rose up; but the sweat
streamed on his face as thick as the rain and as cold as the wellwater.
"Kokua," said he, "I said to you to-day what ill became me. Now I
return to carouse with my jolly companions," and at that he laughed
a little quietly. "I will take more pleasure in the cup if you
forgive me."
She clasped his knees in a moment; she kissed his knees with
flowing tears.
"O," she cried, "I asked but a kind word!"
"Let us never one think hardly of the other," said Keawe, and was
gone out of the house.
Now, the money that Keawe had taken was only some of that store of
centime pieces they had laid in at their arrival. It was very sure
he had no mind to be drinking. His wife had given her soul for
him, now he must give his for hers; no other thought was in the
world with him.
At the corner, by the old calaboose, there was the boatswain
"My wife has the bottle," said Keawe, "and, unless you help me to
recover it, there can be no more money and no more liquor tonight."
"You do not mean to say you are serious about that bottle?" cried
the boatswain.
"There is the lamp," said Keawe. "Do I look as if I was jesting?"
"That is so," said the boatswain. "You look as serious as a
"Well, then," said Keawe, "here are two centimes; you must go to my
wife in the house, and offer her these for the bottle, which (if I
am not much mistaken) she will give you instantly. Bring it to me
here, and I will buy it back from you for one; for that is the law
with this bottle, that it still must be sold for a less sum. But
whatever you do, never breathe a word to her that you have come
from me."
"Mate, I wonder are you making a fool of me?" asked the boatswain.
"It will do you no harm if I am," returned Keawe.
"That is so, mate," said the boatswain.
"And if you doubt me," added Keawe, "you can try. As soon as you
are clear of the house, wish to have your pocket full of money, or
a bottle of the best rum, or what you please, and you will see the
virtue of the thing."
"Very well, Kanaka," says the boatswain. "I will try; but if you
are having your fun out of me, I will take my fun out of you with a
belaying pin."
So the whaler-man went off up the avenue; and Keawe stood and
waited. It was near the same spot where Kokua had waited the night
before; but Keawe was more resolved, and never faltered in his
purpose; only his soul was bitter with despair.
It seemed a long time he had to wait before he heard a voice
singing in the darkness of the avenue. He knew the voice to be the
boatswain's; but it was strange how drunken it appeared upon a
Next, the man himself came stumbling into the light of the lamp.
He had the devil's bottle buttoned in his coat; another bottle was
in his hand; and even as he came in view he raised it to his mouth
and drank.
"You have it," said Keawe. "I see that."
"Hands off!" cried the boatswain, jumping back. "Take a step near
me, and I'll smash your mouth. You thought you could make a cat'spaw
of me, did you?"
"What do you mean?" cried Keawe.
"Mean?" cried the boatswain. "This is a pretty good bottle, this
is; that's what I mean. How I got it for two centimes I can't make
out; but I'm sure you shan't have it for one."
"You mean you won't sell?" gasped Keawe.
"No, SIR!" cried the boatswain. "But I'll give you a drink of the
rum, if you like."
"I tell you," said Keawe, "the man who has that bottle goes to
"I reckon I'm going anyway," returned the sailor; "and this
bottle's the best thing to go with I've struck yet. No, sir!" he
cried again, "this is my bottle now, and you can go and fish for
"Can this be true?" Keawe cried. "For your own sake, I beseech
you, sell it me!"
"I don't value any of your talk," replied the boatswain. "You
thought I was a flat; now you see I'm not; and there's an end. If
you won't have a swallow of the rum, I'll have one myself. Here's
your health, and good-night to you!"
So off he went down the avenue towards town, and there goes the
bottle out of the story.
But Keawe ran to Kokua light as the wind; and great was their joy
that night; and great, since then, has been the peace of all their
days in the Bright House.
KEOLA was married with Lehua, daughter of Kalamake, the wise man of
Molokai, and he kept his dwelling with the father of his wife.
There was no man more cunning than that prophet; he read the stars,
he could divine by the bodies of the dead, and by the means of evil
creatures: he could go alone into the highest parts of the
mountain, into the region of the hobgoblins, and there he would lay
snares to entrap the spirits of the ancient.
For this reason no man was more consulted in all the Kingdom of
Hawaii. Prudent people bought, and sold, and married, and laid out
their lives by his counsels; and the King had him twice to Kona to
seek the treasures of Kamehameha. Neither was any man more feared:
of his enemies, some had dwindled in sickness by the virtue of his
incantations, and some had been spirited away, the life and the
clay both, so that folk looked in vain for so much as a bone of
their bodies. It was rumoured that he had the art or the gift of
the old heroes. Men had seen him at night upon the mountains,
stepping from one cliff to the next; they had seen him walking in
the high forest, and his head and shoulders were above the trees.
This Kalamake was a strange man to see. He was come of the best
blood in Molokai and Maui, of a pure descent; and yet he was more
white to look upon than any foreigner: his hair the colour of dry
grass, and his eyes red and very blind, so that "Blind as Kalamake,
that can see across to-morrow," was a byword in the islands.
Of all these doings of his father-in-law, Keola knew a little by
the common repute, a little more he suspected, and the rest he
ignored. But there was one thing troubled him. Kalamake was a man
that spared for nothing, whether to eat or to drink, or to wear;
and for all he paid in bright new dollars. "Bright as Kalamake's
dollars," was another saying in the Eight Isles. Yet he neither
sold, nor planted, nor took hire - only now and then from his
sorceries - and there was no source conceivable for so much silver
It chanced one day Keola's wife was gone upon a visit to
Kaunakakai, on the lee side of the island, and the men were forth
at the sea-fishing. But Keola was an idle dog, and he lay in the
verandah and watched the surf beat on the shore and the birds fly
about the cliff. It was a chief thought with him always - the
thought of the bright dollars. When he lay down to bed he would be
wondering why they were so many, and when he woke at morn he would
be wondering why they were all new; and the thing was never absent
from his mind. But this day of all days he made sure in his heart
of some discovery. For it seems he had observed the place where
Kalamake kept his treasure, which was a lock-fast desk against the
parlour wall, under the print of Kamehameha the Fifth, and a
photograph of Queen Victoria with her crown; and it seems again
that, no later than the night before, he found occasion to look in,
and behold! the bag lay there empty. And this was the day of the
steamer; he could see her smoke off Kalaupapa; and she must soon
arrive with a month's goods, tinned salmon and gin, and all manner
of rare luxuries for Kalamake.
"Now if he can pay for his goods to-day," Keola thought, "I shall
know for certain that the man is a warlock, and the dollars come
out of the Devil's pocket."
While he was so thinking, there was his father-in-law behind him,
looking vexed.
"Is that the steamer?" he asked.
"Yes," said Keola. "She has but to call at Pelekunu, and then she
will be here."
"There is no help for it then," returned Kalamake, "and I must take
you in my confidence, Keola, for the lack of anyone better. Come
here within the house."
So they stepped together into the parlour, which was a very fine
room, papered and hung with prints, and furnished with a rockingchair,
and a table and a sofa in the European style. There was a
shelf of books besides, and a family Bible in the midst of the
table, and the lock-fast writing desk against the wall; so that
anyone could see it was the house of a man of substance.
Kalamake made Keola close the shutters of the windows, while he
himself locked all the doors and set open the lid of the desk.
From this he brought forth a pair of necklaces hung with charms and
shells, a bundle of dried herbs, and the dried leaves of trees, and
a green branch of palm.
"What I am about," said he, "is a thing beyond wonder. The men of
old were wise; they wrought marvels, and this among the rest; but
that was at night, in the dark, under the fit stars and in the
desert. The same will I do here in my own house and under the
plain eye of day."
So saying, he put the bible under the cushion of the sofa so that
it was all covered, brought out from the same place a mat of a
wonderfully fine texture, and heaped the herbs and leaves on sand
in a tin pan. And then he and Keola put on the necklaces and took
their stand upon the opposite corners of the mat.
"The time comes," said the warlock; "be not afraid."
With that he set flame to the herbs, and began to mutter and wave
the branch of palm. At first the light was dim because of the
closed shutters; but the herbs caught strongly afire, and the
flames beat upon Keola, and the room glowed with the burning; and
next the smoke rose and made his head swim and his eyes darken, and
the sound of Kalamake muttering ran in his ears. And suddenly, to
the mat on which they were standing came a snatch or twitch, that
seemed to be more swift than lightning. In the same wink the room
was gone and the house, the breath all beaten from Keola's body.
Volumes of light rolled upon his eyes and head, and he found
himself transported to a beach of the sea under a strong sun, with
a great surf roaring: he and the warlock standing there on the same
mat, speechless, gasping and grasping at one another, and passing
their hands before their eyes.
"What was this?" cried Keola, who came to himself the first,
because he was the younger. "The pang of it was like death."
"It matters not," panted Kalamake. "It is now done."
"And, in the name of God, where are we?" cried Keola.
"That is not the question," replied the sorcerer. "Being here, we
have matter in our hands, and that we must attend to. Go, while I
recover my breath, into the borders of the wood, and bring me the
leaves of such and such a herb, and such and such a tree, which you
will find to grow there plentifully - three handfuls of each. And
be speedy. We must be home again before the steamer comes; it
would seem strange if we had disappeared." And he sat on the sand
and panted.
Keola went up the beach, which was of shining sand and coral,
strewn with singular shells; and he thought in his heart -
"How do I not know this beach? I will come here again and gather
In front of him was a line of palms against the sky; not like the
palms of the Eight Islands, but tall and fresh and beautiful, and
hanging out withered fans like gold among the green, and he thought
in his heart -
"It is strange I should not have found this grove. I will come
here again, when it is warm, to sleep." And he thought, "How warm
it has grown suddenly!" For it was winter in Hawaii, and the day
had been chill. And he thought also, "Where are the grey
mountains? And where is the high cliff with the hanging forest and
the wheeling birds?" And the more he considered, the less he might
conceive in what quarter of the islands he was fallen.
In the border of the grove, where it met the beach, the herb was
growing, but the tree further back. Now, as Keola went toward the
tree, he was aware of a young woman who had nothing on her body but
a belt of leaves.
"Well!" thought Keola, "they are not very particular about their
dress in this part of the country." And he paused, supposing she
would observe him and escape; and seeing that she still looked
before her, stood and hummed aloud. Up she leaped at the sound.
Her face was ashen; she looked this way and that, and her mouth
gaped with the terror of her soul. But it was a strange thing that
her eyes did not rest upon Keola.
"Good day," said he. "You need not be so frightened; I will not
eat you." And he had scarce opened his mouth before the young
woman fled into the bush.
"These are strange manners," thought Keola. And, not thinking what
he did, ran after her.
As she ran, the girl kept crying in some speech that was not
practised in Hawaii, yet some of the words were the same, and he
knew she kept calling and warning others. And presently he saw
more people running - men, women and children, one with another,
all running and crying like people at a fire. And with that he
began to grow afraid himself, and returned to Kalamake bringing the
leaves. Him he told what he had seen.
"You must pay no heed," said Kalamake. "All this is like a dream
and shadows. All will disappear and be forgotten."
"It seemed none saw me," said Keola.
"And none did," replied the sorcerer. "We walk here in the broad
sun invisible by reason of these charms. Yet they hear us; and
therefore it is well to speak softly, as I do."
With that he made a circle round the mat with stones, and in the
midst he set the leaves.
"It will be your part," said he, "to keep the leaves alight, and
feed the fire slowly. While they blaze (which is but for a little
moment) I must do my errand; and before the ashes blacken, the same
power that brought us carries us away. Be ready now with the
match; and do you call me in good time lest the flames burn out and
I be left."
As soon as the leaves caught, the sorcerer leaped like a deer out
of the circle, and began to race along the beach like a hound that
has been bathing. As he ran, he kept stooping to snatch shells;
and it seemed to Keola that they glittered as he took them. The
leaves blazed with a clear flame that consumed them swiftly; and
presently Keola had but a handful left, and the sorcerer was far
off, running and stopping.
"Back!" cried Keola. "Back! The leaves are near done."
At that Kalamake turned, and if he had run before, now he flew.
But fast as he ran, the leaves burned faster. The flame was ready
to expire when, with a great leap, he bounded on the mat. The wind
of his leaping blew it out; and with that the beach was gone, and
the sun and the sea, and they stood once more in the dimness of the
shuttered parlour, and were once more shaken and blinded; and on
the mat betwixt them lay a pile of shining dollars. Keola ran to
the shutters; and there was the steamer tossing in the swell close
The same night Kalamake took his son-in-law apart, and gave him
five dollars in his hand.
"Keola," said he, "if you are a wise man (which I am doubtful of)
you will think you slept this afternoon on the verandah, and
dreamed as you were sleeping. I am a man of few words, and I have
for my helpers people of short memories."
Never a word more said Kalamake, nor referred again to that affair.
But it ran all the while in Keola's head - if he were lazy before,
he would now do nothing.
"Why should I work," thought he, "when I have a father-in-law who
makes dollars of sea-shells?"
Presently his share was spent. He spent it all upon fine clothes.
And then he was sorry:
"For," thought he, "I had done better to have bought a concertina,
with which I might have entertained myself all day long." And then
he began to grow vexed with Kalamake.
"This man has the soul of a dog," thought he. "He can gather
dollars when he pleases on the beach, and he leaves me to pine for
a concertina! Let him beware: I am no child, I am as cunning as
he, and hold his secret." With that he spoke to his wife Lehua,
and complained of her father's manners.
"I would let my father be," said Lehua. "He is a dangerous man to
"I care that for him!" cried Keola; and snapped his fingers. "I
have him by the nose. I can make him do what I please." And he
told Lehua the story.
But she shook her head.
"You may do what you like," said she; "but as sure as you thwart my
father, you will be no more heard of. Think of this person, and
that person; think of Hua, who was a noble of the House of
Representatives, and went to Honolulu every year; and not a bone or
a hair of him was found. Remember Kamau, and how he wasted to a
thread, so that his wife lifted him with one hand. Keola, you are
a baby in my father's hands; he will take you with his thumb and
finger and eat you like a shrimp."
Now Keola was truly afraid of Kalamake, but he was vain too; and
these words of his wife's incensed him.
"Very well," said he, "if that is what you think of me, I will show
how much you are deceived." And he went straight to where his
father-in-law was sitting in the parlour.
"Kalamake," said he, "I want a concertina."
"Do you, indeed?" said Kalamake.
"Yes," said he, "and I may as well tell you plainly, I mean to have
it. A man who picks up dollars on the beach can certainly afford a
"I had no idea you had so much spirit," replied the sorcerer. "I
thought you were a timid, useless lad, and I cannot describe how
much pleased I am to find I was mistaken. Now I begin to think I
may have found an assistant and successor in my difficult business.
A concertina? You shall have the best in Honolulu. And to-night,
as soon as it is dark, you and I will go and find the money."
"Shall we return to the beach?" asked Keola.
"No, no!" replied Kalamake; "you must begin to learn more of my
secrets. Last time I taught you to pick shells; this time I shall
teach you to catch fish. Are you strong enough to launch Pili's
"I think I am," returned Keola. "But why should we not take your
own, which is afloat already?"
"I have a reason which you will understand thoroughly before tomorrow,"
said Kalamake. "Pili's boat is the better suited for my
purpose. So, if you please, let us meet there as soon as it is
dark; and in the meanwhile, let us keep our own counsel, for there
is no cause to let the family into our business."
Honey is not more sweet than was the voice of Kalamake, and Keola
could scarce contain his satisfaction.
"I might have had my concertina weeks ago," thought he, "and there
is nothing needed in this world but a little courage."
Presently after he spied Lehua weeping, and was half in a mind to
tell her all was well.
"But no," thinks he; "I shall wait till I can show her the
concertina; we shall see what the chit will do then. Perhaps she
will understand in the future that her husband is a man of some
As soon as it was dark father and son-in-law launched Pili's boat
and set the sail. There was a great sea, and it blew strong from
the leeward; but the boat was swift and light and dry, and skimmed
the waves. The wizard had a lantern, which he lit and held with
his finger through the ring; and the two sat in the stern and
smoked cigars, of which Kalamake had always a provision, and spoke
like friends of magic and the great sums of money which they could
make by its exercise, and what they should buy first, and what
second; and Kalamake talked like a father.
Presently he looked all about, and above him at the stars, and back
at the island, which was already three parts sunk under the sea,
and he seemed to consider ripely his position.
"Look!" says he, "there is Molokai already far behind us, and Maui
like a cloud; and by the bearing of these three stars I know I am
come where I desire. This part of the sea is called the Sea of the
Dead. It is in this place extraordinarily deep, and the floor is
all covered with the bones of men, and in the holes of this part
gods and goblins keep their habitation. The flow of the sea is to
the north, stronger than a shark can swim, and any man who shall
here be thrown out of a ship it bears away like a wild horse into
the uttermost ocean. Presently he is spent and goes down, and his
bones are scattered with the rest, and the gods devour his spirit."
Fear came on Keola at the words, and he looked, and by the light of
the stars and the lantern, the warlock seemed to change.
"What ails you?" cried Keola, quick and sharp.
"It is not I who am ailing," said the wizard; "but there is one
here very sick."
With that he changed his grasp upon the lantern, and, behold I as
he drew his finger from the ring, the finger stuck and the ring was
burst, and his hand was grown to be of the bigness of three.
At that sight Keola screamed and covered his face.
But Kalamake held up the lantern. "Look rather at my face!" said
he - and his head was huge as a barrel; and still he grew and grew
as a cloud grows on a mountain, and Keola sat before him screaming,
and the boat raced on the great seas.
"And now," said the wizard, "what do you think about that
concertina? and are you sure you would not rather have a flute?
No?" says he; "that is well, for I do not like my family to be
changeable of purpose. But I begin to think I had better get out
of this paltry boat, for my bulk swells to a very unusual degree,
and if we are not the more careful, she will presently be swamped."
With that he threw his legs over the side. Even as he did so, the
greatness of the man grew thirty-fold and forty-fold as swift as
sight or thinking, so that he stood in the deep seas to the
armpits, and his head and shoulders rose like a high isle, and the
swell beat and burst upon his bosom, as it beats and breaks against
a cliff. The boat ran still to the north, but he reached out his
hand, and took the gunwale by the finger and thumb, and broke the
side like a biscuit, and Keola was spilled into the sea. And the
pieces of the boat the sorcerer crushed in the hollow of his hand
and flung miles away into the night.
"Excuse me taking the lantern," said he; "for I have a long wade
before me, and the land is far, and the bottom of the sea uneven,
and I feel the bones under my toes."
And he turned and went off walking with great strides; and as often
as Keola sank in the trough he could see him no longer; but as
often as he was heaved upon the crest, there he was striding and
dwindling, and he held the lamp high over his head, and the waves
broke white about him as he went.
Since first the islands were fished out of the sea, there was never
a man so terrified as this Keola. He swam indeed, but he swam as
puppies swim when they are cast in to drown, and knew not
wherefore. He could but think of the hugeness of the swelling of
the warlock, of that face which was great as a mountain, of those
shoulders that were broad as an isle, and of the seas that beat on
them in vain. He thought, too, of the concertina, and shame took
hold upon him; and of the dead men's bones, and fear shook him.
Of a sudden he was aware of something dark against the stars that
tossed, and a light below, and a brightness of the cloven sea; and
he heard speech of men. He cried out aloud and a voice answered;
and in a twinkling the bows of a ship hung above him on a wave like
a thing balanced, and swooped down. He caught with his two hands
in the chains of her, and the next moment was buried in the rushing
seas, and the next hauled on board by seamen.
They gave him gin and biscuit and dry clothes, and asked him how he
came where they found him, and whether the light which they had
seen was the lighthouse, Lae o Ka Laau. But Keola knew white men
are like children and only believe their own stories; so about
himself he told them what he pleased, and as for the light (which
was Kalamake's lantern) he vowed he had seen none.
This ship was a schooner bound for Honolulu, and then to trade in
the low islands; and by a very good chance for Keola she had lost a
man off the bowsprit in a squall. It was no use talking. Keola
durst not stay in the Eight Islands. Word goes so quickly, and all
men are so fond to talk and carry news, that if he hid in the north
end of Kauai or in the south end of Kau, the wizard would have wind
of it before a month, and he must perish. So he did what seemed
the most prudent, and shipped sailor in the place of the man who
had been drowned.
In some ways the ship was a good place. The food was
extraordinarily rich and plenty, with biscuits and salt beef every
day, and pea-soup and puddings made of flour and suet twice a week,
so that Keola grew fat. The captain also was a good man, and the
crew no worse than other whites. The trouble was the mate, who was
the most difficult man to please Keola had ever met with, and beat
and cursed him daily, both for what he did and what he did not.
The blows that he dealt were very sore, for he was strong; and the
words he used were very unpalatable, for Keola was come of a good
family and accustomed to respect. And what was the worst of all,
whenever Keola found a chance to sleep, there was the mate awake
and stirring him up with a rope's end. Keola saw it would never
do; and he made up his mind to run away.
They were about a month out from Honolulu when they made the land.
It was a fine starry night, the sea was smooth as well as the sky
fair; it blew a steady trade; and there was the island on their
weather bow, a ribbon of palm trees lying flat along the sea. The
captain and the mate looked at it with the night glass, and named
the name of it, and talked of it, beside the wheel where Keola was
steering. It seemed it was an isle where no traders came. By the
captain's way, it was an isle besides where no man dwelt; but the
mate thought otherwise.
"I don't give a cent for the directory," said he, "I've been past
here one night in the schooner EUGENIE; it was just such a night as
this; they were fishing with torches, and the beach was thick with
lights like a town."
"Well, well," says the captain, "its steep-to, that's the great
point; and there ain't any outlying dangers by the chart, so we'll
just hug the lee side of it. Keep her romping full, don't I tell
you!" he cried to Keola, who was listening so hard that he forgot
to steer.
And the mate cursed him, and swore that Kanaka was for no use in
the world, and if he got started after him with a belaying pin, it
would be a cold day for Keola.
And so the captain and mate lay down on the house together, and
Keola was left to himself.
"This island will do very well for me," he thought; "if no traders
deal there, the mate will never come. And as for Kalamake, it is
not possible he can ever get as far as this."
With that he kept edging the schooner nearer in. He had to do this
quietly, for it was the trouble with these white men, and above all
with the mate, that you could never be sure of them; they would all
be sleeping sound, or else pretending, and if a sail shook, they
would jump to their feet and fall on you with a rope's end. So
Keola edged her up little by little, and kept all drawing. And
presently the land was close on board, and the sound of the sea on
the sides of it grew loud.
With that, the mate sat up suddenly upon the house.
"What are you doing?" he roars. "You'll have the ship ashore!"
And he made one bound for Keola, and Keola made another clean over
the rail and plump into the starry sea. When he came up again, the
schooner had payed off on her true course, and the mate stood by
the wheel himself, and Keola heard him cursing. The sea was smooth
under the lee of the island; it was warm besides, and Keola had his
sailor's knife, so he had no fear of sharks. A little way before
him the trees stopped; there was a break in the line of the land
like the mouth of a harbour; and the tide, which was then flowing,
took him up and carried him through. One minute he was without,
and the next within: had floated there in a wide shallow water,
bright with ten thousand stars, and all about him was the ring of
the land, with its string of palm trees. And he was amazed,
because this was a kind of island he had never heard of.
The time of Keola in that place was in two periods - the period
when he was alone, and the period when he was there with the tribe.
At first he sought everywhere and found no man; only some houses
standing in a hamlet, and the marks of fires. But the ashes of the
fires were cold and the rains had washed them away; and the winds
had blown, and some of the huts were overthrown. It was here he
took his dwelling, and he made a fire drill, and a shell hook, and
fished and cooked his fish, and climbed after green cocoanuts, the
juice of which he drank, for in all the isle there was no water.
The days were long to him, and the nights terrifying. He made a
lamp of cocoa-shell, and drew the oil of the ripe nuts, and made a
wick of fibre; and when evening came he closed up his hut, and lit
his lamp, and lay and trembled till morning. Many a time he
thought in his heart he would have been better in the bottom of the
sea, his bones rolling there with the others.
All this while he kept by the inside of the island, for the huts
were on the shore of the lagoon, and it was there the palms grew
best, and the lagoon itself abounded with good fish. And to the
outer slide he went once only, and he looked but the once at the
beach of the ocean, and came away shaking. For the look of it,
with its bright sand, and strewn shells, and strong sun and surf,
went sore against his inclination.
"It cannot be," he thought, "and yet it is very like. And how do I
know? These white men, although they pretend to know where they
are sailing, must take their chance like other people. So that
after all we may have sailed in a circle, and I may be quite near
to Molokai, and this may be the very beach where my father-in-law
gathers his dollars."
So after that he was prudent, and kept to the land side.
It was perhaps a month later, when the people of the place arrived
- the fill of six great boats. They were a fine race of men, and
spoke a tongue that sounded very different from the tongue of
Hawaii, but so many of the words were the same that it was not
difficult to understand. The men besides were very courteous, and
the women very towardly; and they made Keola welcome, and built him
a house, and gave him a wife; and what surprised him the most, he
was never sent to work with the young men.
And now Keola had three periods. First he had a period of being
very sad, and then he had a period when he was pretty merry. Last
of all came the third, when he was the most terrified man in the
four oceans.
The cause of the first period was the girl he had to wife. He was
in doubt about the island, and he might have been in doubt about
the speech, of which he had heard so little when he came there with
the wizard on the mat. But about his wife there was no mistake
conceivable, for she was the same girl that ran from him crying in
the wood. So he had sailed all this way, and might as well have
stayed in Molokai; and had left home and wife and all his friends
for no other cause but to escape his enemy, and the place he had
come to was that wizard's hunting ground, and the shore where he
walked invisible. It was at this period when he kept the most
close to the lagoon side, and as far as he dared, abode in the
cover of his hut.
The cause of the second period was talk he heard from his wife and
the chief islanders. Keola himself said little. He was never so
sure of his new friends, for he judged they were too civil to be
wholesome, and since he had grown better acquainted with his
father-in-law the man had grown more cautious. So he told them
nothing of himself, but only his name and descent, and that he came
from the Eight Islands, and what fine islands they were; and about
the king's palace in Honolulu, and how he was a chief friend of the
king and the missionaries. But he put many questions and learned
much. The island where he was was called the Isle of Voices; it
belonged to the tribe, but they made their home upon another, three
hours' sail to the southward. There they lived and had their
permanent houses, and it was a rich island, where were eggs and
chickens and pigs, and ships came trading with rum and tobacco. It
was there the schooner had gone after Keola deserted; there, too,
the mate had died, like the fool of a white man as he was. It
seems, when the ship came, it was the beginning of the sickly
season in that isle, when the fish of the lagoon are poisonous, and
all who eat of them swell up and die. The mate was told of it; he
saw the boats preparing, because in that season the people leave
that island and sail to the Isle of Voices; but he was a fool of a
white man, who would believe no stories but his own, and he caught
one of these fish, cooked it and ate it, and swelled up and died,
which was good news to Keola. As for the Isle of Voices, it lay
solitary the most part of the year; only now and then a boat's crew
came for copra, and in the bad season, when the fish at the main
isle were poisonous, the tribe dwelt there in a body. It had its
name from a marvel, for it seemed the seaside of it was all beset
with invisible devils; day and night you heard them talking one
with another in strange tongues; day and night little fires blazed
up and were extinguished on the beach; and what was the cause of
these doings no man might conceive. Keola asked them if it were
the same in their own island where they stayed, and they told him
no, not there; nor yet in any other of some hundred isles that lay
all about them in that sea; but it was a thing peculiar to the Isle
of Voices. They told him also that these fires and voices were
ever on the seaside and in the seaward fringes of the wood, and a
man might dwell by the lagoon two thousand years (if he could live
so long) and never be any way troubled; and even on the seaside the
devils did no harm if let alone. Only once a chief had cast a
spear at one of the voices, and the same night he fell out of a
cocoanut palm and was killed.
Keola thought a good bit with himself. He saw he would be all
right when the tribe returned to the main island, and right enough
where he was, if he kept by the lagoon, yet he had a mind to make
things righter if he could. So he told the high chief he had once
been in an isle that was pestered the same way, and the folk had
found a means to cure that trouble.
"There was a tree growing in the bush there," says he, "and it
seems these devils came to get the leaves of it. So the people of
the isle cut down the tree wherever it was found, and the devils
came no more."
They asked what kind of tree this was, and he showed them the tree
of which Kalamake burned the leaves. They found it hard to
believe, yet the idea tickled them. Night after night the old men
debated it in their councils, but the high chief (though he was a
brave man) was afraid of the matter, and reminded them daily of the
chief who cast a spear against the voices and was killed, and the
thought of that brought all to a stand again.
Though he could not yet bring about the destruction of the trees,
Keola was well enough pleased, and began to look about him and take
pleasure in his days; and, among other things, he was the kinder to
his wife, so that the girl began to love him greatly. One day he
came to the hut, and she lay on the ground lamenting.
"Why," said Keola, "what is wrong with you now?"
She declared it was nothing.
The same night she woke him. The lamp burned very low, but he saw
by her face she was in sorrow.
"Keola," she said, "put your ear to my mouth that I may whisper,
for no one must hear us. Two days before the boats begin to be got
ready, go you to the sea-side of the isle and lie in a thicket. We
shall choose that place before-hand, you and I; and hide food; and
every night I shall come near by there singing. So when a night
comes and you do not hear me, you shall know we are clean gone out
of the island, and you may come forth again in safety."
The soul of Keola died within him.
"What is this?" he cried. "I cannot live among devils. I will not
be left behind upon this isle. I am dying to leave it."
"You will never leave it alive, my poor Keola," said the girl; "for
to tell you the truth, my people are eaters of men; but this they
keep secret. And the reason they will kill you before we leave is
because in our island ships come, and Donat-Kimaran comes and talks
for the French, and there is a white trader there in a house with a
verandah, and a catechist. Oh, that is a fine place indeed! The
trader has barrels filled with flour, and a French warship once
came in the lagoon and gave everybody wine and biscuit. Ah, my
poor Keola, I wish I could take you there, for great is my love to
you, and it is the finest place in the seas except Papeete."
So now Keola was the most terrified man in the four oceans. He had
heard tell of eaters of men in the south islands, and the thing had
always been a fear to him; and here it was knocking at his door.
He had heard besides, by travellers, of their practices, and how
when they are in a mind to eat a man, they cherish and fondle him
like a mother with a favourite baby. And he saw this must be his
own case; and that was why he had been housed, and fed, and wived,
and liberated from all work; and why the old men and the chiefs
discoursed with him like a person of weight. So he lay on his bed
and railed upon his destiny; and the flesh curdled on his bones.
The next day the people of the tribe were very civil, as their way
was. They were elegant speakers, and they made beautiful poetry,
and jested at meals, so that a missionary must have died laughing.
It was little enough Keola cared for their fine ways; all he saw
was the white teeth shining in their mouths, and his gorge rose at
the sight; and when they were done eating, he went and lay in the
bush like a dead man.
The next day it was the same, and then his wife followed him.
"Keola," she said, "if you do not eat, I tell you plainly you will
be killed and cooked to-morrow. Some of the old chiefs are
murmuring already. They think you are fallen sick and must lose
With that Keola got to his feet, and anger burned in him.
"It is little I care one way or the other," said he. "I am between
the devil and the deep sea. Since die I must, let me die the
quickest way; and since I must be eaten at the best of it, let me
rather be eaten by hobgoblins than by men. Farewell," said he, and
he left her standing, and walked to the sea-side of that island.
It was all bare in the strong sun; there was no sign of man, only
the beach was trodden, and all about him as he went, the voices
talked and whispered, and the little fires sprang up and burned
down. All tongues of the earth were spoken there; the French, the
Dutch, the Russian, the Tamil, the Chinese. Whatever land knew
sorcery, there were some of its people whispering in Keola's ear.
That beach was thick as a cried fair, yet no man seen; and as he
walked he saw the shells vanish before him, and no man to pick them
up. I think the devil would have been afraid to be alone in such a
company; but Keola was past fear and courted death. When the fires
sprang up, he charged for them like a bull. Bodiless voices called
to and fro; unseen hands poured sand upon the flames; and they were
gone from the beach before he reached them.
"It is plain Kalamake is not here," he thought, "or I must have
been killed long since."
With that he sat him down in the margin of the wood, for he was
tired, and put his chin upon his hands. The business before his
eyes continued: the beach babbled with voices, and the fires sprang
up and sank, and the shells vanished and were renewed again even
while he looked.
"It was a by-day when I was here before," he thought, "for it was
nothing to this."
And his head was dizzy with the thought of these millions and
millions of dollars, and all these hundreds and hundreds of persons
culling them upon the beach and flying in the air higher and
swifter than eagles.
"And to think how they have fooled me with their talk of mints,"
says he, "and that money was made there, when it is clear that all
the new coin in all the world is gathered on these sands! But I
will know better the next time!" said he.
And at last, he knew not very well how or when, sleep feel on
Keola, and he forgot the island and all his sorrows.
Early the next day, before the sun was yet up, a bustle woke him.
He awoke in fear, for he thought the tribe had caught him napping:
but it was no such matter. Only, on the beach in front of him, the
bodiless voices called and shouted one upon another, and it seemed
they all passed and swept beside him up the coast of the island.
"What is afoot now?" thinks Keola. And it was plain to him it was
something beyond ordinary, for the fires were not lighted nor the
shells taken, but the bodiless voices kept posting up the beach,
and hailing and dying away; and others following, and by the sound
of them these wizards should be angry.
"It is not me they are angry at," thought Keola, "for they pass me
As when hounds go by, or horses in a race, or city folk coursing to
a fire, and all men join and follow after, so it was now with
Keola; and he knew not what he did, nor why he did it, but there,
lo and behold! he was running with the voices.
So he turned one point of the island, and this brought him in view
of a second; and there he remembered the wizard trees to have been
growing by the score together in a wood. From this point there
went up a hubbub of men crying not to be described; and by the
sound of them, those that he ran with shaped their course for the
same quarter. A little nearer, and there began to mingle with the
outcry the crash of many axes. And at this a thought came at last
into his mind that the high chief had consented; that the men of
the tribe had set-to cutting down these trees; that word had gone
about the isle from sorcerer to sorcerer, and these were all now
assembling to defend their trees. Desire of strange things swept
him on. He posted with the voices, crossed the beach, and came
into the borders of the wood, and stood astonished. One tree had
fallen, others were part hewed away. There was the tribe
clustered. They were back to back, and bodies lay, and blood
flowed among their feet. The hue of fear was on all their faces;
their voices went up to heaven shrill as a weasel's cry.
Have you seen a child when he is all alone and has a wooden sword,
and fights, leaping and hewing with the empty air? Even so the
man-eaters huddled back to back, and heaved up their axes, and laid
on, and screamed as they laid on, and behold! no man to contend
with them! only here and there Keola saw an axe swinging over
against them without hands; and time and again a man of the tribe
would fall before it, clove in twain or burst asunder, and his soul
sped howling.
For awhile Keola looked upon this prodigy like one that dreams, and
then fear took him by the midst as sharp as death, that he should
behold such doings. Even in that same flash the high chief of the
clan espied him standing, and pointed and called out his name.
Thereat the whole tribe saw him also, and their eyes flashed, and
their teeth clashed.
"I am too long here," thought Keola, and ran further out of the
wood and down the beach, not caring whither.
"Keola!" said, a voice close by upon the empty sand.
"Lehua! is that you?" he cried, and gasped, and looked in vain for
her; but by the eyesight he was stark alone.
"I saw you pass before," the voice answered: "but you would not
hear me. Quick! get the leaves and the herbs, and let us free."
"You are there with the mat?" he asked.
"Here, at your side;" said she. And he felt her arms about him.
"Quick! the leaves and the herbs, before my father can get back!"
So Keola ran for his life, and fetched the wizard fuel; and Lehua
guided him back, and set his feet upon the mat, and made the fire.
All the time of its burning, the sound of the battle towered out of
the wood; the wizards and the man-eaters hard at fight; the
wizards, the viewless ones, roaring out aloud like bulls upon a
mountain, and the men of the tribe replying shrill and savage out
of the terror of their souls. And all the time of the burning,
Keola stood there and listened, and shook, and watched how the
unseen hands of Lehua poured the leaves. She poured them fast, and
the flame burned high, and scorched Keola's hands; and she speeded
and blew the burning with her breath. The last leaf was eaten, the
flame fell, and the shock followed, and there were Keola and Lehua
in the room at home.
Now, when Keola could see his wife at last he was mighty pleased,
and he was mighty pleased to be home again in Molokai and sit down
beside a bowl of poi - for they make no poi on board ships, and
there was none in the Isle of Voices - and he was out of the body
with pleasure to be clean escaped out of the hands of the eaters of
men. But there was another matter not so clear, and Lehua and
Keola talked of it all night and were troubled. There was Kalamake
left upon the isle. If, by the blessing of God, he could but stick
there, all were well; but should he escape and return to Molokai,
it would be an ill day for his daughter and her husband. They
spoke of his gift of swelling, and whether he could wade that
distance in the seas. But Keola knew by this time where that
island was - and that is to say, in the Low or Dangerous
Archipelago. So they fetched the atlas and looked upon the
distance in the map, and by what they could make of it, it seemed a
far way for an old gentleman to walk. Still, it would not do to
make too sure of a warlock like Kalamake, and they determined at
last to take counsel of a white missionary.
So the first one that came by, Keola told him everything. And the
missionary was very sharp on him for taking the second wife in the
low island; but for all the rest, he vowed he could make neither
head nor tail of it.
"However," says he, "if you think this money of your father's ill
gotten, my advice to you would be, give some of it to the lepers
and some to the missionary fund. And as for this extraordinary
rigmarole, you cannot do better than keep it to yourselves."
But he warned the police at Honolulu that, by all he could make
out, Kalamake and Keola had been coining false money, and it would
not be amiss to watch them.
Keola and Lehua took his advice, and gave many dollars to the
lepers and the fund. And no doubt the advice must have been good,
for from that day to this, Kalamake has never more been heard of.
But whether he was slain in the battle by the trees, or whether he
is still kicking his heels upon the Isle of Voices, who shall say?
(1) Please pronounce PAPPA throughout.
(2) Alas!
(3) Aeolian
(4) Yes.
(5) Leprosy.
(6) Whites.

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