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SUMMER CRUISING IN THE SOUTH SEAS

BY THE SAME AUTHOR

Post 8vo, cloth, gilt top, 6s. net.

THE ISLAND OF TRANQUIL DELIGHTS

"After a lapse of many years the author of 'Summer Cruising in the South
Seas' presents the public with another series of South-Sea idyls. Of the
first collection Emerson said - 'I do not think that one who can write so
well will find it easy to leave off.' The prophecy has come true.
'Summer Cruising in the South Seas' has become a classic in American
literature, and the sequel bids fair to attain rank alongside of it. One
might fitly describe it, in Mr. Kipling's words, as 'a very tropic of
colour and fragrance.' There is a haunting quality about these idyls
that must make them live in the hearts of all who read them. They are
full of charming word-pictures and of exquisite touches which tell of
dream life in fairyland - among the lightest, sweetest, wildest, freshest
things that have been written about the life of these 'summer isles of
Eden.'" - _Glasgow Herald_.

"A pretty book with a pretty title. Glimpses of Paradise he gives in
these tropic pictures, and with something of idyllic grace he presents
them." - _Westminster Gazette_.

"Delightful sketches and stories." - _Times_.

"Written in a leisurely style, and possessing a certain elusive
atmospheric style of their own.... There is charm here, and that of a
kind not often to be found in modern fiction.... 'The Island of Tranquil
Delights' should be read." - _Standard._

"Altogether charming.... It is a book for quiet half-hours." - _Daily
Mail_.

"A delightful book - more than fascinating. After having read the book
for the stories, one reads it again for the style." - _Travellers'
Magazine_.

"A collection of idealistic sketches.... The author conveys the
languorous beauty of the region very vividly, and the book is attractive
for the contrast that it offers to the familiar ways of
civilisation." - _Morning Post_.

LONDON: CHATTO & WINDUS, 111 ST. MARTIN'S LANE, W. C.

* * * * *




SOUTH-SEA IDYLS

·SUMMER CRUISING IN THE SOUTH SEAS·

BY CHARLES WARREN STODDARD

A NEW IMPRESSION

LONDON CHATTO & WINDUS 1905




PREFACE.


THE experiences recorded in this volume are the result of four summer
cruises among the islands of the Pacific.

The simple and natural life of the islander beguiles me; I am at home
with him; all the rites of savagedom find a responsive echo in my heart;
it is as though I recollected something long forgotten; it is like a
dream dimly remembered, and at last realized; it must be that the
untamed spirit of some aboriginal ancestor quickens my blood.

I have sought to reproduce the atmosphere of a people who are
wonderfully imaginative and emotional; they nourish the first symptoms
of an affinity, and revel in the freshness of an affection as brief and
blissful as a honeymoon.

With them "love is enough," and it is not necessarily one with the
sexual passion: their life is sensuous and picturesque, and is incapable
of a true interpretation unless viewed from their own standpoint.

To them our civilization is a cross, the blessed promises of which are
scarcely sufficient to compensate for the pain of bearing it, and they
are inclined to look upon our backslidings with a spirit of profound
forbearance.

Among them no laws are valid save Nature's own, but they abide
faithfully by these.

His lordship's threadbare New Zealander sitting upon a crumbling arch of
London Bridge, recently restored, and finding too late that he had
forestalled his mission, would know my feelings as I offer this plea for
his tribe; and any one who instinctively lags in the march of progress,
and marks the decay of nature; any one to whom the highly educated
grasshopper is a burden, must see that my case is critical.

Yet in imagination I may, at the shortest notice, return to the seagirt
arena of my adventures, and restore my unregenerated soul.

Limited flagons cannot stay me, neither will small apples comfort me; I
have eaten of the tree of life, my spirit is full-fledged, and when I
take wing I feel the earth sinking beneath me; the mountains crumble,
the clouds crouch under me, the waters rise and flow out to the horizon;
across my breast the sunbeams brush, leaving half their gold behind
them; seas upon seas fill up the hollow of the universe; I soar into
eternity, blue wastes below me, blue wastes above me. The stars only to
mark the upper strata of space.

Day after day I wing my tireless flight, and the past is forgotten in
the radiance of the dawning future.

Land at last! A green islet sails within the compass of my vision: land
at last! Crumbs of earth, fragments of paradise, litter the broad sea
like strewn leaves. A myriad reefs and shoals wreathe the blue
hemisphere; the moan of surfs rises like a grand anthem, the fragrance
of tropic bowers ascends like incense; I pause in my giddy flight, and
sink into the bosom of the dusk.

Sunset transfigures the earth; the woods are rosy with glowing bars of
light; long shadows float upon the waves like weeds; gardens of sea
grass rock for ever between daylight and darkness, tinted with changeful
lights.

I know the songs of those distant lands; there have I sought and found
unbroken rest; again I return to you, my beloved South, and after many
days of storm and shine, I touch upon your glimmering shores, flushed
with the renewal of my passionate love for you.

Again I dive beneath your coral caves; again I thread the sunless depths
of your unfading forests; and there, finally, I hope to fold my drooping
wings, where the flowers breathe heavily and fountains tinkle within the
solitude of your moonlit ivory chambers.

Oh, literary death, where is thy sting, while this happy hunting-ground
awaits me!

In the singularly expressive tongue of my barbarian brother,

Aloha oe! Love to you!




CONTENTS.

_Page_

IN THE CRADLE OF THE DEEP 13

CHUMMING WITH A SAVAGE: -

I. KÁNA-ANÁ 29

II. HOW I CONVERTED MY CANNIBAL 45

III. BARBARIAN DAYS 56

TABOO. - A FÊTE DAY IN TAHITI 76

JOE OF LAHAINA 103

THE NIGHT-DANCERS OF WAIPIO 117

PEARL-HUNTING IN THE POMOTOUS 133

THE LAST OF THE GREAT NAVIGATOR 154

A CANOE CRUISE IN THE CORAL SEA 167

UNDER A GRASS ROOF 178

MY SOUTH-SEA SHOW 182

THE HOUSE OF THE SUN 198

THE CHAPEL OF THE PALMS 215

KAHÉLE 231

LOVE-LIFE IN A LANAI 252

IN A TRANSPORT 267

A PRODIGAL IN TAHITI 287

AN AFTERGLOW 314


THE COCOA-TREE.

Cast on the water by a careless hand,
Day after day the winds persuaded me:
Onward I drifted till a coral tree
Stayed me among its branches, where the sand
Gathered about me, and I slowly grew,
Fed by the constant sun and the inconstant dew.

The sea-birds build their nests against my root,
And eye my slender body's horny case,
Widowed within this solitary place;
Into the thankless sea I cast my fruit;
Joyless I thrive, for no man may partake
Of all the store I bear and harvest for his sake.

No more I heed the kisses of the morn;
The harsh winds rob me of the life they gave;
I watch my tattered shadow in the wave,
And hourly droop and nod my crest forlorn,
While all my fibres stiffen and grow numb
Beck'ning the tardy ships, the ships that never come.




SUMMER CRUISING IN THE SOUTH SEAS.




IN THE CRADLE OF THE DEEP.


Forty days in the great desert of the sea, - forty nights camped under
cloud canopies, with the salt dust of the waves drifting over us.
Sometimes a Bedouin sail flashed for an hour upon the distant horizon,
and then faded, and we were alone again; sometimes the west, at sunset,
looked like a city with towers, and we bore down upon its glorified
walls, seeking a haven; but a cold grey morning dispelled the illusion,
and our hearts sank back into the illimitable sea, breathing a long
prayer for deliverance.

Once a green oasis blossomed before us, - a garden in perfect bloom,
girded about with creaming waves; within its coral cincture pendulous
boughs trailed in the glassy waters; from its hidden bowers spiced airs
stole down upon us; above all the triumphant palm-trees clashed their
melodious branches like a chorus with cymbals; yet from the very gates
of this paradise a changeful current swept us onward, and the happy isle
was buried in night and distance.

In many volumes of adventure I had read of sea perils: I was at last to
learn the full interpretation of their picturesque horrors. Our little
craft, the "Petrel," had buffeted the boisterous waves for five long
weeks. Fortunately, the bulk of her cargo was edible: we feared neither
famine nor thirst. Moreover, in spite of the continuous gale that swept
us out of our reckoning, the "Petrel" was in excellent condition, and,
as far as we could judge, we had no reason to lose confidence in her. It
was the grey weather that tried our patience and found us wanting; it
was the unparalleled pitching of the ninety-ton schooner that
disheartened and almost dismembered us. And then it was wasting time at
sea. Why were we not long before at our journey's end? Why were we not
threading the vales of some savage island, and reaping our rich reward
of ferns and shells and gorgeous butterflies?

The sea rang its monotonous changes, - fair weather and foul, days like
death itself, followed by days full of the revelations of new life, but
mostly days of deadly dulness, when the sea was as unpoetical as an
eternity of cold suds and blueing.

I cannot always understand the logical fitness of things, or, rather, I
am at a loss to know why some things in life are so unfit and illogical.
Of course, in our darkest hour, when we were gathered in the confines of
the "Petrel's" diminutive cabin, it was our duty to sing psalms of hope
and cheer, but we didn't. It was a time for mutual encouragement: very
few of us were self-sustaining, and what was to be gained by our
combining in unanimous despair?

Our weather-beaten skipper, - a thing of clay that seemed utterly
incapable of any expression whatever, save in the slight facial
contortion consequent to the mechanical movement of his lower jaw, - the
skipper sat, with barometer in hand, eyeing the fatal finger that
pointed to our doom; the rest of us were lashed to the legs of the
centre-table, glad of any object to fix our eyes upon, and nervously
awaiting a turn in the state of affairs, that was then by no means
encouraging.

I happened to remember that there were some sealed letters to be read
from time to time on the passage out, and it occurred to me that one of
the times had come - perhaps the last and only - wherein I might break the
remaining seals, and receive a sort of parting visit from the fortunate
friends on shore.

I opened one letter and read these prophetic lines: "Dear child," - she
was twice my age, and privileged to make a pet of me, - "Dear child, I
have a presentiment that we shall never meet again in the flesh."

The poor girl's knowledge of past times was almost too much for me. I
shuddered where I sat, overcome with remorse. It was enough that I had
turned my back on her and sought consolation in the treacherous bosom of
the ocean; that, having failed to find the spring of immortal life in
human affection, I had packed up and emigrated, content to fly the ills
I had in search of change; but that parting shot, below the water-line
as it were, - that was more than I asked for, and something more than I
could stomach. I returned to watch with the rest of our little company,
who clung about the table with a pitiful sense of momentary security,
and an expression of pathetic condolence on every countenance, as though
each was sitting out the last hours of the others.

Our particular bane that night was a crusty old sea-dog whose memory of
wrecks and marine disasters of every conceivable nature was as complete
as an encyclopædia. This "old man of the sea" spun his tempestuous yarn
with fascinating composure, and the whole company was awed into silence
with the haggard realism of his narrative. The cabin must have been
air-tight, it was as close as possible, yet we heard the shrieking of
the wind as it tore through the rigging, and the long hiss of the waves
rushing past us with lightning speed. Sometimes an avalanche of foam
buried us for a moment, and the "Petrel" trembled like a living thing
stricken with sudden fear; we seemed to be hanging on the crust of a
great bubble that was, sooner or later, certain to burst, and let as
drop into its vast black chasm, where, in Cimmerian darkness, we should
be entombed for ever.

The scenic effect, as I then considered, was unnecessarily vivid; as I
now recall it, it seems to me strictly in keeping and thoroughly
dramatic. At any rate, you might have told us a dreadful story with
almost fatal success.

I had still one letter left, one bearing this suggestive legend: "To be
read in the saddest hour." Now, if there is a sadder hour in all time
than the hour of hopeless and friendless death, I care not to know of
it. I broke the seal of my letter, feeling that something charitable and
cheering would give me strength. A few dried leaves were stored within
it. The faint fragrance of summer bowers reassured me: somewhere in the
blank world of waters there was land, and there Nature was kind and
fruitful; out over the fearful deluge this leaf was borne to me in the
return of the invisible dove my heart had sent forth in its extremity. A
song was written therein, perhaps a song of triumph. I could now silence
the clamorous tongue of our sea-monster, who was glutting us with tales
of horror, for a jubilee was at hand, and here was the first note of its
trumpets.

I read: -

"Beyond the parting and the meeting,
I shall be soon;
Beyond the farewell and the greeting,
Beyond the pulse's fever-beating,
I shall be soon."

I paused. A night black with croaking ravens, brooding over a slimy
hulk, through whose warped timbers the sea oozed, - that was the sort of
picture that rose before me. I looked further for a crumb of comfort: -

"Beyond the gathering and the strewing,
I shall be soon;
Beyond the ebbing and the flowing,
Beyond the coming and the going,
I shall be soon."

A tide of ice-water seemed rippling up and down my spinal column; the
marrow congealed within my bones. But I recovered. When a man has supped
full of horror and there is no immediate climax, he can collect himself
and be comparatively brave. A reaction restored my soul.

Once more the melancholy chronicler of the ill-fated "Petrel" resumed
his lugubrious narrative. I resolved to listen, while the skipper eyed
the barometer, and we all rocked back and forth in search of the centre
of gravity, looking like a troupe of mechanical blockheads nodding in
idiotic unison. All this time the little craft drifted helplessly, "hove
to" in the teeth of the gale.

The sea-dog's yarn was something like this: He once knew a lonesome man
who floated about in a water-logged hulk for three months; who saw all
his comrades starve and die, one after another, and at last kept watch
alone, craving and beseeching death. It was the staunch French brig
"Mouette," bound south into the equatorial seas. She had seen rough
weather from the first: day after day the winds increased, and finally a
cyclone burst upon her with insupportable fury. The brig was thrown upon
her beam-ends, and began to fill rapidly. With much difficulty her masts
were cut away, she righted, and lay in the trough of the sea rolling
like a log. Gradually the gale subsided, but the hull of the brig was
swept continually by the tremendous swell, and the men were driven into
the foretop cross-trees, where they rigged a tent for shelter, and
gathered what few stores were left them from the wreck. A dozen wretched
souls lay in their stormy nest for three whole days in silence and
despair. By this time their scanty stores were exhausted, and not a drop
of water remained; then their tongues were loosened, and they railed at
the Almighty. Some wept like children, some cursed their fate. One man
alone was speechless - a Spaniard, with a wicked light in his eye, and a
repulsive manner that had made trouble in the forecastle more than
once.

When hunger had driven them nearly to madness they were fed in an almost
miraculous manner. Several enormous sharks had been swimming about the
brig for some hours, and the hungry sailors were planning various
projects for the capture of them. Tough as a shark is, they would
willingly have risked life for a few raw mouthfuls of the same. Somehow,
though the sea was still and the wind light, the brig gave a sudden
lurch and dipped up one of the monsters, who was quite secure in the
shallow aquarium between the gunwales. He was soon despatched, and
divided equally among the crew. Some ate a little, and reserved the rest
for another day; some ate till they were sick, and had little left for
the next meal. The Spaniard with the evil eye greedily devoured his
portion, and then grew moody again, refusing to speak with the others,
who were striving to be cheerful, though it was sad enough work.

When the food was all gone save a few mouthfuls that one meagre eater
had hoarded to the last, the Spaniard resolved to secure a morsel at the
risk of his life. It had been a point of honour with the men to observe
sacredly the right of ownership, and any breach of confidence would have
been considered unpardonable. At night, when the watch was sleeping, the
Spaniard cautiously removed the last mouthful of shark hidden in the
pocket of his mate, but was immediately detected and accused of theft.
He at once grew desperate, struck at the poor wretch whom he had robbed,
missed his blow, and fell headlong from the narrow platform in the
foretop, and was lost in the sea. It was the first scene in the
mournful tragedy about to be enacted on that limited stage.

There was less disturbance after the disappearance of the Spaniard. The
spirits of the doomed sailors seemed broken; in fact, the captain was
the only one whose courage was noteworthy, and it was his indomitable
will that ultimately saved him.

One by one the minds of the miserable men gave way; they became peevish
or delirious, and then died horribly. Two, who had been mates for many
voyages in the seas north and south, vanished mysteriously in the night;
no one could tell where they went or in what manner, though they seemed
to have gone together.

Somehow these famishing sailors seemed to feel assured that their
captain would be saved; they were as confident of their own doom, and to
him they entrusted a thousand messages of love. They would lie around
him, - for few of them had strength to assume a sitting posture, - and
reveal to him the story of their lives. It was most pitiful to hear the
confessions of these dying men. One said: "I wronged my friend; I was
unkind to this one or to that one; I deserve the heaviest punishment God
can inflict upon me"; and then he paused, overcome with emotion. But
another took up the refrain: "I could have done much good, but I would
not, and now it is too late." And a third cried out in his despair, "I
have committed unpardonable sins, and there is no hope for me. Lord
Jesus, have mercy!" The youngest of these perishing souls was a mere
lad; he, too, accused himself bitterly. He began his story at the
beginning, and continued it from time to time as the spirit of
revelation moved him; scarcely an incident, however insignificant,
escaped him in his pitiless retrospect. O the keen agony of that boy's
recital! more cruel than hunger or thirst, and in comparison with which
physical torture would have seemed merciful and any death a blessing.

While the luckless "Mouette" drifted aimlessly about, driven slowly
onward by varying winds under a cheerless sky, sickness visited them.
Some were stricken with scurvy; some had lost the use of their limbs and
lay helpless, moaning and weeping hour after hour; vermin devoured them;
and when their garments were removed, and cleansed in the salt water,
there was scarcely sunshine enough to dry them before night, and they
were put on again, damp, stiffened with salt, and shrunken so as to
cripple the wearers, who were all blistered and covered with boils. The
nights were bitterly cold: sometimes the icy moon looked down upon them;
sometimes the bosom of an electric cloud burst over them, and they were
enveloped for a moment in a sheet of flame. Sharks lingered about them,
waiting to feed upon the unhappy ones who fell into the sea overcome
with physical exhaustion, or who cast themselves from that dizzy
scaffold, unable longer to endure the horrors of lingering death. Flocks
of sea-fowl hovered over them; the hull of the "Mouette" was crusted
with barnacles; long skeins of sea-grass knotted themselves in her
gaping seams; myriads of fish darted in and out among the clinging
weeds, sporting gleefully; schools of porpoises leaped about them,
lashing the sea into foam; sometimes a whale blew his long breath close
under them. Everywhere was the stir of jubilant life, - everywhere but
under the tattered awning stretched in the foretop of the "Mouette."

Days and weeks dragged on. When the captain would waken from his
sleep, - which was not always at night, however, for the nights were
miserably cold and sleepless, - when he wakened he would call the roll.
Perhaps some one made no answer; then he would reach forth and touch the
speechless body and find it dead. He had not strength now to bury the
corpses in the sea's sepulchre; he had not strength even to partake of
the unholy feast of the inanimate flesh. He lay there in the midst of
pestilence; and at night, under the merciful veil of darkness, the fowls
of the air gathered about him and bore away their trophy of corruption.

By-and-by there were but two left of all that suffering crew, - the
captain and the boy, - and these two clung together like ghosts, defying
mortality. They strove to be patient and hopeful: if they could not eat,
they could drink, for the nights were dewy, and sometimes a mist covered
them, a mist so dense it seemed almost to drip from the rags that poorly
sheltered them. A cord was attached to the shrouds, the end of it
carefully laid in the mouth of a bottle slung in the rigging. Down the
thin cord slid occasional drops; one by one they stole into the bottle,
and by morning there was a spoonful of water to moisten those parched
lips, - sweet, crystal drops, more blessed than tears, for they are salt;
more precious than pearls. A thousand prayers of gratitude seemed hardly
to quiet the souls of the lingering ones for that great charity of
Heaven.

There came a day when the hearts of God's angels must have bled for the
suffering ones. The breeze was fresh and fair; the sea tossed gaily its
foam-crested waves; sea-birds soared in wider circles; and the clouds
shook out their fleecy folds, through which the sunlight streamed in
grateful warmth. The two ghosts were talking, as ever, of home, of
earth, of land. Land, - land anywhere, so that it were solid and broad.
O, to pace again a whole league without turning! O, to pause in the
shadow of some living tree! To drink of some stream whose waters flowed
continually; flowed, though you drank of them with the awful thirst of
one who had been denied water for weeks and weeks and weeks, for three
whole months, - an eternity, as it seemed to them.

Then they pictured life as it might be if God permitted them to return
to earth once more. They would pace K - - Street at noon, and revisit
that capital restaurant where many a time they had feasted, though in
those days they were unknown to one another; they would call for coffee,
and this dish and that dish, and a whole bill of fare, the thought of


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Online LibraryCharles Warren StoddardSummer Cruising in the South Seas → online text (page 1 of 20)