Produced by Tony Adam and David Widger
by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne
IN THE MARQUESAS.
It was about three o'clock of a winter's afternoon in Tai-o-hae, the
French capital and port of entry of the Marquesas Islands. The trades
blew strong and squally; the surf roared loud on the shingle beach; and
the fifty-ton schooner of war, that carries the flag and influence of
France about the islands of the cannibal group, rolled at her moorings
under Prison Hill. The clouds hung low and black on the surrounding
amphitheatre of mountains; rain had fallen earlier in the day, real
tropic rain, a waterspout for violence; and the green and gloomy brow of
the mountain was still seamed with many silver threads of torrent.
In these hot and healthy islands winter is but a name. The rain had not
refreshed, nor could the wind invigorate, the dwellers of Tai-o-hae:
away at one end, indeed, the commandant was directing some changes in
the residency garden beyond Prison Hill; and the gardeners, being
all convicts, had no choice but to continue to obey. All other folks
slumbered and took their rest: Vaekehu, the native queen, in her
trim house under the rustling palms; the Tahitian commissary, in his
beflagged official residence; the merchants, in their deserted stores;
and even the club-servant in the club, his head fallen forward on
the bottle-counter, under the map of the world and the cards of navy
officers. In the whole length of the single shoreside street, with its
scattered board houses looking to the sea, its grateful shade of palms
and green jungle of puraos, no moving figure could be seen. Only, at
the end of the rickety pier, that once (in the prosperous days of the
American rebellion) was used to groan under the cotton of John Hart,
there might have been spied upon a pile of lumber the famous tattooed
white man, the living curiosity of Tai-o-hae.
His eyes were open, staring down the bay. He saw the mountains droop,
as they approached the entrance, and break down in cliffs; the surf boil
white round the two sentinel islets; and between, on the narrow bight
of blue horizon, Ua-pu upraise the ghost of her pinnacled mountain tops.
But his mind would take no account of these familiar features; as he
dodged in and out along the frontier line of sleep and waking, memory
would serve him with broken fragments of the past: brown faces and
white, of skipper and shipmate, king and chief, would arise before his
mind and vanish; he would recall old voyages, old landfalls in the hour
of dawn; he would hear again the drums beat for a man-eating festival;
perhaps he would summon up the form of that island princess for the love
of whom he had submitted his body to the cruel hands of the tattooer,
and now sat on the lumber, at the pier-end of Tai-o-hae, so strange
a figure of a European. Or perhaps from yet further back, sounds and
scents of England and his childhood might assail him: the merry clamour
of cathedral bells, the broom upon the foreland, the song of the river
on the weir.
It is bold water at the mouth of the bay; you can steer a ship about
either sentinel, close enough to toss a biscuit on the rocks. Thus
it chanced that, as the tattooed man sat dozing and dreaming, he was
startled into wakefulness and animation by the appearance of a flying
jib beyond the western islet. Two more headsails followed; and before
the tattooed man had scrambled to his feet, a topsail schooner, of some
hundred tons, had luffed about the sentinel and was standing up the bay,
The sleeping city awakened by enchantment. Natives appeared upon all
sides, hailing each other with the magic cry "Ehippy" - ship; the Queen
stepped forth on her verandah, shading her eyes under a hand that was
a miracle of the fine art of tattooing; the commandant broke from his
domestic convicts and ran into the residency for his glass; the harbour
master, who was also the gaoler, came speeding down the Prison Hill; the
seventeen brown Kanakas and the French boatswain's mate, that make up
the complement of the war-schooner, crowded on the forward deck; and the
various English, Americans, Germans, Poles, Corsicans, and Scots - the
merchants and the clerks of Tai-o-hae - deserted their places of
business, and gathered, according to invariable custom, on the road
before the club.
So quickly did these dozen whites collect, so short are the distances
in Tai-o-hae, that they were already exchanging guesses as to the
nationality and business of the strange vessel, before she had gone
about upon her second board towards the anchorage. A moment after,
English colours were broken out at the main truck.
"I told you she was a Johnny Bull - knew it by her headsails," said an
evergreen old salt, still qualified (if he could anywhere have found
an owner unacquainted with his story) to adorn another quarter-deck and
lose another ship.
"She has American lines, anyway," said the astute Scots engineer of the
gin-mill; "it's my belief she's a yacht."
"That's it," said the old salt, "a yacht! look at her davits, and the
boat over the stern."
"A yacht in your eye!" said a Glasgow voice. "Look at her red ensign! A
yacht! not much she isn't!"
"You can close the store, anyway, Tom," observed a gentlemanly German.
"Bon jour, mon Prince!" he added, as a dark, intelligent native cantered
by on a neat chestnut. "Vous allez boire un verre de biere?"
But Prince Stanilas Moanatini, the only reasonably busy human creature
on the island, was riding hot-spur to view this morning's landslip on
the mountain road: the sun already visibly declined; night was imminent;
and if he would avoid the perils of darkness and precipice, and the
fear of the dead, the haunters of the jungle, he must for once decline
a hospitable invitation. Even had he been minded to alight, it presently
appeared there would be difficulty as to the refreshment offered.
"Beer!" cried the Glasgow voice. "No such a thing; I tell you there's
only eight bottles in the club! Here's the first time I've seen British
colours in this port! and the man that sails under them has got to drink
The proposal struck the public mind as fair, though far from cheering;
for some time back, indeed, the very name of beer had been a sound of
sorrow in the club, and the evenings had passed in dolorous computation.
"Here is Havens," said one, as if welcoming a fresh topic. "What do you
think of her, Havens?"
"I don't think," replied Havens, a tall, bland, cool-looking, leisurely
Englishman, attired in spotless duck, and deliberately dealing with a
cigarette. "I may say I know. She's consigned to me from Auckland by
Donald & Edenborough. I am on my way aboard."
"What ship is she?" asked the ancient mariner.
"Haven't an idea," returned Havens. "Some tramp they have chartered."
With that he placidly resumed his walk, and was soon seated in the
stern-sheets of a whaleboat manned by uproarious Kanakas, himself
daintily perched out of the way of the least maculation, giving his
commands in an unobtrusive, dinner-table tone of voice, and sweeping
neatly enough alongside the schooner.
A weather-beaten captain received him at the gangway.
"You are consigned to us, I think," said he. "I am Mr. Havens."
"That is right, sir," replied the captain, shaking hands. "You will find
the owner, Mr. Dodd, below. Mind the fresh paint on the house."
Havens stepped along the alley-way, and descended the ladder into the
"Mr. Dodd, I believe," said he, addressing a smallish, bearded
gentleman, who sat writing at the table. "Why," he cried, "it isn't
"Myself, my dear fellow," replied Mr. Dodd, springing to his feet with
companionable alacrity. "I had a half-hope it might be you, when I found
your name on the papers. Well, there's no change in you; still the same
placid, fresh-looking Britisher."
"I can't return the compliment; for you seem to have become a Britisher
yourself," said Havens.
"I promise you, I am quite unchanged," returned Dodd. "The red
tablecloth at the top of the stick is not my flag; it's my partner's.
He is not dead, but sleepeth. There he is," he added, pointing to a bust
which formed one of the numerous unexpected ornaments of that unusual
Havens politely studied it. "A fine bust," said he; "and a very
"Yes; he's a good fellow," said Dodd. "He runs me now. It's all his
"He doesn't seem to be particularly short of it," added the other,
peering with growing wonder round the cabin.
"His money, my taste," said Dodd. "The black-walnut bookshelves are Old
English; the books all mine, - mostly Renaissance French. You should see
how the beach-combers wilt away when they go round them looking for a
change of Seaside Library novels. The mirrors are genuine Venice; that's
a good piece in the corner. The daubs are mine - and his; the mudding
"Mudding? What is that?" asked Havens.
"These bronzes," replied Dodd. "I began life as a sculptor."
"Yes; I remember something about that," said the other. "I think, too,
you said you were interested in Californian real estate."
"Surely, I never went so far as that," said Dodd. "Interested? I guess
not. Involved, perhaps. I was born an artist; I never took an interest
in anything but art. If I were to pile up this old schooner to-morrow,"
he added, "I declare I believe I would try the thing again!"
"Insured?" inquired Havens.
"Yes," responded Dodd. "There's some fool in 'Frisco who insures us, and
comes down like a wolf on the fold on the profits; but we'll get even
with him some day."
"Well, I suppose it's all right about the cargo," said Havens.
"O, I suppose so!" replied Dodd. "Shall we go into the papers?"
"We'll have all to-morrow, you know," said Havens; "and they'll be
rather expecting you at the club. C'est l'heure de l'absinthe. Of
course, Loudon, you'll dine with me later on?"
Mr. Dodd signified his acquiescence; drew on his white coat, not without
a trifling difficulty, for he was a man of middle age, and well-to-do;
arranged his beard and moustaches at one of the Venetian mirrors; and,
taking a broad felt hat, led the way through the trade-room into the
The stern boat was waiting alongside, - a boat of an elegant model, with
cushions and polished hard-wood fittings.
"You steer," observed Loudon. "You know the best place to land."
"I never like to steer another man's boat," replied Havens.
"Call it my partner's, and cry quits," returned Loudon, getting
nonchalantly down the side.
Havens followed and took the yoke lines without further protest. "I am
sure I don't know how you make this pay," he said. "To begin with,
she is too big for the trade, to my taste; and then you carry so much
"I don't know that she does pay," returned Loudon. "I never pretend to
be a business man. My partner appears happy; and the money is all his,
as I told you - I only bring the want of business habits."
"You rather like the berth, I suppose?" suggested Havens.
"Yes," said Loudon; "it seems odd, but I rather do."
While they were yet on board, the sun had dipped; the sunset gun (a
rifle) cracked from the war-schooner, and the colours had been
handed down. Dusk was deepening as they came ashore; and the Cercle
Internationale (as the club is officially and significantly named) began
to shine, from under its low verandas, with the light of many lamps. The
good hours of the twenty-four drew on; the hateful, poisonous day-fly
of Nukahiva, was beginning to desist from its activity; the land-breeze
came in refreshing draughts; and the club men gathered together for the
hour of absinthe. To the commandant himself, to the man whom he was then
contending with at billiards - a trader from the next island, honorary
member of the club, and once carpenter's mate on board a Yankee
war-ship - to the doctor of the port, to the Brigadier of Gendarmerie, to
the opium farmer, and to all the white men whom the tide of commerce,
or the chances of shipwreck and desertion, had stranded on the beach of
Tai-o-hae, Mr. Loudon Dodd was formally presented; by all (since he was
a man of pleasing exterior, smooth ways, and an unexceptionable flow of
talk, whether in French or English) he was excellently well received;
and presently, with one of the last eight bottles of beer on a table
at his elbow, found himself the rather silent centre-piece of a voluble
group on the verandah.
Talk in the South Seas is all upon one pattern; it is a wide ocean,
indeed, but a narrow world: you shall never talk long and not hear the
name of Bully Hayes, a naval hero whose exploits and deserved extinction
left Europe cold; commerce will be touched on, copra, shell, perhaps
cotton or fungus; but in a far-away, dilettante fashion, as by men
not deeply interested; through all, the names of schooners and their
captains, will keep coming and going, thick as may-flies; and news
of the last shipwreck will be placidly exchanged and debated. To a
stranger, this conversation will at first seem scarcely brilliant; but
he will soon catch the tone; and by the time he shall have moved a
year or so in the island world, and come across a good number of the
schooners so that every captain's name calls up a figure in pyjamas or
white duck, and becomes used to a certain laxity of moral tone which
prevails (as in memory of Mr. Hayes) on smuggling, ship-scuttling,
barratry, piracy, the labour trade, and other kindred fields of human
activity, he will find Polynesia no less amusing and no less instructive
than Pall Mall or Paris.
Mr. Loudon Dodd, though he was new to the group of the Marquesas, was
already an old, salted trader; he knew the ships and the captains; he
had assisted, in other islands, at the first steps of some career of
which he now heard the culmination, or (vice versa) he had brought
with him from further south the end of some story which had begun in
Tai-o-hae. Among other matter of interest, like other arrivals in
the South Seas, he had a wreck to announce. The John T. Richards, it
appeared, had met the fate of other island schooners.
"Dickinson piled her up on Palmerston Island," Dodd announced.
"Who were the owners?" inquired one of the club men.
"O, the usual parties!" returned Loudon, - "Capsicum & Co."
A smile and a glance of intelligence went round the group; and perhaps
Loudon gave voice to the general sentiment by remarking, "Talk of good
business! I know nothing better than a schooner, a competent captain,
and a sound, reliable reef."
"Good business! There's no such a thing!" said the Glasgow man. "Nobody
makes anything but the missionaries - dash it!"
"I don't know," said another. "There's a good deal in opium."
"It's a good job to strike a tabooed pearl-island, say, about the fourth
year," remarked a third; "skim the whole lagoon on the sly, and up stick
and away before the French get wind of you."
"A pig nokket of cold is good," observed a German.
"There's something in wrecks, too," said Havens. "Look at that man in
Honolulu, and the ship that went ashore on Waikiki Reef; it was blowing
a kona, hard; and she began to break up as soon as she touched. Lloyd's
agent had her sold inside an hour; and before dark, when she went to
pieces in earnest, the man that bought her had feathered his nest. Three
more hours of daylight, and he might have retired from business. As it
was, he built a house on Beretania Street, and called it for the ship."
"Yes, there's something in wrecks sometimes," said the Glasgow voice;
"but not often."
"As a general rule, there's deuced little in anything," said Havens.
"Well, I believe that's a Christian fact," cried the other. "What I want
is a secret; get hold of a rich man by the right place, and make him
"I suppose you know it's not thought to be the ticket," returned Havens.
"I don't care for that; it's good enough for me," cried the man from
Glasgow, stoutly. "The only devil of it is, a fellow can never find a
secret in a place like the South Seas: only in London and Paris."
"M'Gibbon's been reading some dime-novel, I suppose," said one club man.
"He's been reading _Aurora Floyd_," remarked another.
"And what if I have?" cried M'Gibbon. "It's all true. Look at
the newspapers! It's just your confounded ignorance that sets you
snickering. I tell you, it's as much a trade as underwriting, and a
dashed sight more honest."
The sudden acrimony of these remarks called Loudon (who was a man of
peace) from his reserve. "It's rather singular," said he, "but I seem to
have practised about all these means of livelihood."
"Tit you effer vind a nokket?" inquired the inarticulate German,
"No. I have been most kinds of fool in my time," returned Loudon, "but
not the gold-digging variety. Every man has a sane spot somewhere."
"Well, then," suggested some one, "did you ever smuggle opium?"
"Yes, I did," said Loudon.
"Was there money in that?"
"All the way," responded Loudon.
"And perhaps you bought a wreck?" asked another.
"Yes, sir," said Loudon.
"How did that pan out?" pursued the questioner.
"Well, mine was a peculiar kind of wreck," replied Loudon. "I don't
know, on the whole, that I can recommend that branch of industry."
"Did she break up?" asked some one.
"I guess it was rather I that broke down," says Loudon. "Head not big
"Ever try the blackmail?" inquired Havens.
"Simple as you see me sitting here!" responded Dodd.
"Well, I'm not a lucky man, you see," returned the stranger. "It ought
to have been good."
"You had a secret?" asked the Glasgow man.
"As big as the State of Texas."
"And the other man was rich?"
"He wasn't exactly Jay Gould, but I guess he could buy these islands if
"Why, what was wrong, then? Couldn't you get hands on him?"
"It took time, but I had him cornered at last; and then - - "
"The speculation turned bottom up. I became the man's bosom friend."
"The deuce you did!"
"He couldn't have been particular, you mean?" asked Dodd pleasantly.
"Well, no; he's a man of rather large sympathies."
"If you're done talking nonsense, Loudon," said Havens, "let's be
getting to my place for dinner."
Outside, the night was full of the roaring of the surf. Scattered lights
glowed in the green thicket. Native women came by twos and threes out of
the darkness, smiled and ogled the two whites, perhaps wooed them with
a strain of laughter, and went by again, bequeathing to the air a
heady perfume of palm-oil and frangipani blossom. From the club to Mr.
Havens's residence was but a step or two, and to any dweller in Europe
they must have seemed steps in fairyland. If such an one could but have
followed our two friends into the wide-verandahed house, sat down
with them in the cool trellised room, where the wine shone on the
lamp-lighted tablecloth; tasted of their exotic food - the raw fish, the
breadfruit, the cooked bananas, the roast pig served with the inimitable
miti, and that king of delicacies, palm-tree salad; seen and heard by
fits and starts, now peering round the corner of the door, now railing
within against invisible assistants, a certain comely young native lady
in a sacque, who seemed too modest to be a member of the family, and too
imperious to be less; and then if such an one were whisked again through
space to Upper Tooting, or wherever else he honored the domestic gods,
"I have had a dream," I think he would say, as he sat up, rubbing his
eyes, in the familiar chimney-corner chair, "I have had a dream of a
place, and I declare I believe it must be heaven." But to Dodd and his
entertainer, all this amenity of the tropic night and all these dainties
of the island table, were grown things of custom; and they fell to meat
like men who were hungry, and drifted into idle talk like men who were a
The scene in the club was referred to.
"I never heard you talk so much nonsense, Loudon," said the host.
"Well, it seemed to me there was sulphur in the air, so I talked for
talking," returned the other. "But it was none of it nonsense."
"Do you mean to say it was true?" cried Havens, - "that about the opium
and the wreck, and the blackmailing and the man who became your friend?"
"Every last word of it," said Loudon.
"You seem to have been seeing life," returned the other.
"Yes, it's a queer yarn," said his friend; "if you think you would like,
I'll tell it you."
Here follows the yarn of Loudon Dodd, not as he told it to his friend,
but as he subsequently wrote it.
CHAPTER I. A SOUND COMMERCIAL EDUCATION.
The beginning of this yarn is my poor father's character. There
never was a better man, nor a handsomer, nor (in my view) a more
unhappy - unhappy in his business, in his pleasures, in his place of
residence, and (I am sorry to say it) in his son. He had begun life as a
land-surveyor, soon became interested in real estate, branched off into
many other speculations, and had the name of one of the smartest men in
the State of Muskegon. "Dodd has a big head," people used to say; but I
was never so sure of his capacity. His luck, at least, was beyond doubt
for long; his assiduity, always. He fought in that daily battle of
money-grubbing, with a kind of sad-eyed loyalty like a martyr's; rose
early, ate fast, came home dispirited and over-weary, even from success;
grudged himself all pleasure, if his nature was capable of taking any,
which I sometimes wondered; and laid out, upon some deal in wheat or
corner in aluminium, the essence of which was little better than highway
robbery, treasures of conscientiousness and self-denial.
Unluckily, I never cared a cent for anything but art, and never shall.
My idea of man's chief end was to enrich the world with things of
beauty, and have a fairly good time myself while doing so. I do not
think I mentioned that second part, which is the only one I have managed
to carry out; but my father must have suspected the suppression, for he
branded the whole affair as self-indulgence.
"Well," I remember crying once, "and what is your life? You are only
trying to get money, and to get it from other people at that."
He sighed bitterly (which was very much his habit), and shook his poor
head at me. "Ah, Loudon, Loudon!" said he, "you boys think yourselves
very smart. But, struggle as you please, a man has to work in this
world. He must be an honest man or a thief, Loudon."
You can see for yourself how vain it was to argue with my father.
The despair that seized upon me after such an interview was, besides,
embittered by remorse; for I was at times petulant, but he invariably
gentle; and I was fighting, after all, for my own liberty and pleasure,
he singly for what he thought to be my good. And all the time he never
despaired. "There is good stuff in you, Loudon," he would say; "there
is the right stuff in you. Blood will tell, and you will come right in
time. I am not afraid my boy will ever disgrace me; I am only vexed he
should sometimes talk nonsense." And then he would pat my shoulder or
my hand with a kind of motherly way he had, very affecting in a man so
strong and beautiful.
As soon as I had graduated from the high school, he packed me off to the
Muskegon Commercial Academy. You are a foreigner, and you will have a
difficulty in accepting the reality of this seat of education. I assure
you before I begin that I am wholly serious. The place really existed,
possibly exists to-day: we were proud of it in the State, as something
exceptionally nineteenth century and civilized; and my father, when he
saw me to the cars, no doubt considered he was putting me in a straight
line for the Presidency and the New Jerusalem.
"Loudon," said he, "I am now giving you a chance that Julius Caesar
could not have given to his son - a chance to see life as it is, before
your own turn comes to start in earnest. Avoid rash speculation, try
to behave like a gentleman; and if you will take my advice, confine
yourself to a safe, conservative business in railroads. Breadstuffs are
tempting, but very dangerous; I would not try breadstuffs at your time
of life; but you may feel your way a little in other commodities. Take
a pride to keep your books posted, and never throw good money after bad.
There, my dear boy, kiss me good-by; and never forget that you are an
only chick, and that your dad watches your career with fond suspense."
The commercial college was a fine, roomy establishment, pleasantly
situate among woods. The air was healthy, the food excellent, the