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Mystic Isles of the South Seas
White Shadows in the South Seas




Mystic Isles
of the South Seas


Author of "White Shadows in the South Seas," etc.


Hodder and Stoughton
Publishers London

Copyright. 1921, by THE CENTURY Co.

Made and Printed in Great Britain for Hodder and Stoughton Limited,
by Butler & Tanner Ltd., Frome and London


THIS is a simple record of my days and nights, my thoughts
and dreams, in the mystic isles of the South Seas,
written without authority of science or exactitude of know-
ledge. These are merely the vivid impressions of my life in
Tahiti and Moorea, the merriest, most fascinating world of all
the cosmos ; of the songs I sang, the dances I danced, the men
and women, white and tawny, with whom I was joyous or
melancholy ; the adventures at sea or on the reef, upon the
sapphire lagoon, and on the silver beaches of the most beauti-
ful of tropics.

In this volume are no discoveries unless in the heart of the
human. I went to the islands below the equator with one
thought to play. All that I have set down here is the profit
of that spirit.

The soul of man is afflicted by the machine he has fashioned
through the ages to achieve his triumph over matter. In this
light chronicle I would offer the reader an anodyne for a few
hours, of transport to the other side of our sphere, where
are the loveliest scenes the eyes may find upon the round
of the globe, the gentlest climate of all the latitudes,
the most whimsical whites, and the dearest savages I have

Mystic Isles of the South Seas precedes in experience my
former book, White Shadows in the South Seas, and will be
followed by Atolls of the Sun, which will be the account of a
visit to, and a dwelling on, the blazing coral wreaths of the
Dangerous Archipelago, where the strange is commonplace,
and the marvel is the probability of the hour.

These three volumes will cover the period I spent during



three journeys with the remnants of the most amazing of
uncivilized races, whose discovery startled the old world, and
whom another generation will cease to know.


In this book the reader may be tempted to stumble over some foreign
words. I have put them in only when necessary, to give the colour
and rhythm of Tahiti. The Tahitian words are very easily pronounced
and they are music in the mouth of anyone who sounds them properly.
Every letter and syllable is pronounced plainly. The letters have the
Latin value, and if one will remember this in reading, the Tahitian words
will flow mellifluously. For instance, " tane " is pronounced " tah-
nay," " maru " is pronounced " mah-ru." " Tiare " is " tee-ah-ray."
The Tahitian language is dying fast, as are the Tahitians. Its beauties
are worth the few efforts necessary for the reader to scan them.





Departure from San Francisco Nature man left behind
Fellow-passengers on the Noa-Noa Tragedy of the Chinese
pundit . . . . ^ i . . -... 13


The Discovery of Tahiti Hailed by a wind-jammer Middle of

the voyage Tahiti on the horizon Ashore in Papeete . 20


Description of Tahiti A volcanic rock and coral reef Beauty
of the scenery Papeete the centre of the South Seas
Appearance of the Tahitians . . . . . .30


The Tiare Hotel Lovaina the hostess, the best-known woman
in the South Seas Her strange manage The Dummy A
one-sided tryst An old-fashioned cocktail The Argentine
training ship . . . . . . . .41


The Pare de Bougainville Ivan Stroganoff He tells me the
history of Tahiti He berates the Tahitians Wants me to
start a newspaper ........ 57





The Cercle Bougainville Officialdom in Tahiti My first visit to
the Bougainville Skippers and merchants A song and a
drink The flavour of the South Seas Rumours of war . 65


The Noa-Noa comes to port Papeete en ftte Rare scene at
the Tiare Hotel The New Year celebrated Excitement at
the wharf Battle of the Limes and Coal .... 76


Moorea, a near-by island A two-days' excursion there Mag-
nificent scenery from the sea Island of fairy folk Landing
and preparation for the feast The First Christian Mission
A canoe on the lagoon Beauties of the sea-garden . 88


The Arearea in the pavilion Raw fish and baked feis Llewellyn,
the Master of the Revel ; Kelly, the I.W.W. and his himene
The Upaupahura Landers and Mamoe prove experts
The return to Papeete ....... 95


The storm on the lagoon ; Making safe the schooners A talk on
missing ships A singular coincidence Arrival of three of
the crew of the shipwrecked El Dorado . . . .106


move to the Annexe Description of the building Evoa and
Poia The corals of the lagoon The Chinese shrine The
Tahitian sky . , . . , , , , .114




The princess suggests a walk to the falls of Fautaua, where Loti
went with Rarahu We start in the morning The suburbs of
Papeete The Pool of Loti The birds, trees and plants
A swim in a pool Arrival at the cascade Luncheon and
a siesta We climb the height The princess tells of Tahitian
women ......... . 129


The beach-combers of Papeete The consuls tell their troubles
The American boot-blacks The cowboy in the hospital
Ormsby, the supercargo The death of Tahia The Christ-
church Kid The Nature men Ivan Stroganoff's desire for
a new gland ......... 144


The market in Papeete Coffee at Shin Bung Lung's with a
prince Fish the chief item Description of them The
vegetables and fruits The fish strike Rumours of an upris-
ing Kelly and the I.W.W. The mysterious session at Fa'a
Hallelujah ! I'm a Bum ! The strike is broken . . 158


A drive to Papenoo The chief of Papenoo A dinner and poker
on the beach Incidents of the game Breakfast the next
morning The chief tells his story The journey back
The leper child and her doll The Alliance Franfaise
Bemis and his daughter The prize-fight My bowl of
velvet ... . . . . . . . 176


A journey to Mataiea I abandon city life Interesting sights
on the route The Grotto of Maraa Papara and the Chief
Tati The plantation of Atimaono My host, the Chevalier
Tetuanui ......... 194




My life in the house of Tetuanui Whence came the Polynesians
A migration from Malaysia Their legends of the past
Condition of Tahiti when the white came The great navi-
gator, Cook Tetuanui tells of old Tahiti .... 205


The reef and the lagoon Wonders of marine life Fishing with
spears and nets Sponges and hermit crabs Fish of many
colours A visit to Vaihiria and legends told there . . 222


The Arioi, minstrels of the tropics Lovaina tells of the infanti-
cide Methods of the Arioi Destroyed by missionaries . 236


Rupert Brooke and I discuss Tahiti We go to a wedding feast
How the cloth was spread What we ate and drank A
Gargantuan feeder Songs and dances of passion The royal
feast at Tetuanui's I leave for Vairao Butscher and the
Lermontoffs f ....... 246


A heathen temple The great Marae of Oberea I visit it with
Rupert Brooke and Chief Tetuanui The Tahitian religion
of old The wisdom of folly ...... 267


I start for Tautira A dangerous adventure in a canoe I go by
land to Tautira I meet Choti and the Greek god I take
up my home where Stevenson lived . . . . -275



My life at Tautira The way I cook my food Ancient Tahitian
sports Swimming and fishing A night hunt for shrimp
and eels ......... 286


In the days of Captain Cook The first Spanish missionaries
Difficulties of converting the heathens Wars over Christ-
ianity Ori-a-Ori, the chief, friend of Stevenson We read
the Bible together The church and the himene . . . 294


I meet a sorcerer Power over fire The mystery of the fiery
furnace The scene in the forest Walking over the white-
hot stones . . . . . . . . . 305


Farewell to Tautira My good-bye feast Back at the Tiare
A talk with Lovaina The Cercle Bougainville My visit
to the cemetery Off for the Marquesas . . . -314


Departure from San Francisco Nature man left behind Fellow-pas-
sengers on the Noa-Noa Tragedy of the Chinese pundit.

THE warning gong had sent all but crew and passengers
ashore, though our ship did not leave the dock. Her
great bulk still lay along the piling, though the gangway was
withdrawn. The small groups on the pier waited tensely for
the last words with those departing. These passengers were
inwardly bored with the prolonged farewells, and wanted to be
free to observe their fellow- voyagers and the movement of the
ship. They conversed in shouts with those ashore, but most
of the meanings were lost in the noise of the shuffling of baggage
and freight, the whistling of ferries, and the usual turmoil of
the San Francisco waterfront. I was glad that none had come
to see me off, for I was curious about my unknown companions
upon the long traverse to the South Seas, and I had wilfully
put behind me all that America and Europe held to adventure
in the vasts of ocean below the Equator.

But the whistle I awaited to sound our leaving was silent.
Officers of the ship rushed about as if bent on relieving her of
some pressing danger, and I caught fragments of orders and
replies which indicated that until a search was completed she
could not stir on her journey. Then I heard cries of anger
and protest, and caught a glimpse of a man whose appearance
provoked confusing emotions of astonishment, admiration, and
laughter. He was dressed in a Roman toga of rough monk's-
cloth, and had on sandals. He was being hustled bodily over
the restored gangway, and was resisting valiantly the second
officer, purser, and steward, who were hardly able to move
him, so powerfully was he made. One of his sandals suddenly



fell into the bay. He had seized hold of the rail of the gang-
way, and the leather sandal dropped into the water with a
slight splash. His grasp of the rail being broken, he was
gradually being pushed, limping, to the dock. His one bare
foot and his half-exposed and shapely body caused a gale of
laughter from the docks and the wharf.

The gangway was quickly withdrawn, and our ship began
to move from the shore. The ejected one stood watching us
with sorrow shadowing his large eyes. He was of middle size,
with the form of a David of Michelangelo, though lithe, and
he wore no hat, but had a long, brown beard, which, with his
brown hair, parted in the middle and falling over his shoulders,
and his archaic garb, gave me a singular shock. It was as if a
boyhood vision, or something seen in a painting, was made real.
His eyes were the deepest blue, limpid and appealing, and I
felt like shouting out that if it was a matter of money, I would
aid the man in the toga.

" Christ ! " yelled the frantic dock superintendent. " Get
that line cast off and let her go ! Are you ceemented to that
hooker ? "

Instantly before me came Munkacsy's picture of the Master
before Pilate, evoked by the profanity of the wharf boss, but
explaining the vision of a moment ago. The Noa-Noa emitted
a cry from her iron throat. The engines started, and the dis-
tance between our deck and the pier grew as our bow swung
toward the Golden Gate. The strange man who had been put
ashore, with his one sandal in his hand, and holding his torn
toga about him, hastened to the nearest stringer of the wharf
and waved good-bye to us. It was as if a prophet, or even
Saul of Tarsus, blessed us in our quest. He stood on a tall
group of piles, and called out something indistinguishable.

The passengers hurried below, to return in coats and caps
to meet the wind that blows from China, and the second officer
and the surgeon came by, talking animatedly.

" Oh, yus," said the seaman, chuckling, " 'e wuz 'auled out
finally. The beggar 'ad 'id 'imself good and proper this time.
'E wuz in the linen-closet, and 'ad disguised 'imself as a bundle
o' bloomin' barth-towels. 'E wuz a reg'lar grand Turk, 'e wuz.
Blow me, if you'd 'a' knowed 'im from a bale of 'em, 'e wuz so


wrapped up in 'em. 'E almost 'ad us 'ull down this time.
The blighter made a bit of a row, and said as 'ow he just
couldn't 'elp stowin' aw'y every boat for T'iti."

" He's a bally nut," said the surgeon. " I say, though, he
did take me back to Sunday school."

We were in the Golden Gate now, that magnificent opening
in the California shores, riven in the eternal conflict of land
and water, and the rending of which made the bay of San
Francisco the mightiest harbour of America. Before our
bows lay the immense expanse of the mysterious Pacific.

The second officer was directing sailors who were snugging
down the decks.

" What did the queer fellow want to go to Tahiti for ? " I
asked him.

He regarded me a moment in the stolid way of seamen.

" The blighter likes to live on bananas and breadfruit and
that kind of truck," he replied. " The French won't let 'im
st'y there. 'E's too bloomin' nyked. 'E's a nyture man.
They chysed 'im out, and every steamer 'e tries to stow 'imself
aw'y. 'E's a bleedin' trial to these ships."

That was puzzling. Did not these natives of Tahiti them-
selves wear little clothing ? Who were they to object to a
white man doffing the superfluities of dress in a climate where
breadfruit and bananas grow ? Or the French, the governors
of Tahiti ? Were they, in that isle so distant from Paris,
their capital, practising a Puritanism unknown at home ?
Was nature so fearful ? The figure of the barefooted man
often arose as I watched the Farallones disappear, the last of
land we would see until we arrived at Tahiti, nearly two weeks

The days fell away from the calendar ; they obliterated
themselves as quietly as our ship's wake to the north, as we
planed over the smooth waters toward the Equator. Grad-
ually the passengers took on character, and out of the first
welter of contacts came those definite impressions which are
almost always right and which, though we modify them or
reverse them by acquaintance, we return to finally.

There was a Chinese, the strangest figure of an Asiatic, with
a thin moustache, and wearing always a black frock-coat and


trousers, elastic gaiters, and a stiff, black hat. His face was
long and oval and the colour of old ivory. He had tried to
gain admission to Australia and New Zealand, and then the
United States, and had been excluded under some harsh laws.
He was plainly a scholar, but had brought with him from
China a store of curios, probably to enable him to earn money
in the land of the white. Australia had refused him ; he had
been shut out of San Francisco, and the very steamship that
brought him was compelled to take him away. He had failed
to bring a necessary certificate, or something of the sort, and
the inexorable laws of three Christian countries had sent him
wandering, so that it was inevitable he must return to China
by the route he had come. He was the most mournful of
sights, sitting most of the day in a retired spot, brooding,
apparently over his fate. He never smiled, though I who have
been much in China, tried to stir him from his sadness by
exclamations and gestures.

This man's face was rid of any self-pity. I think he was
stunned by the horror of the thing, that he, a man of Chinese
letters, who had departed from the centuried custom of his
pundit caste of remaining in their own country, who had left
bis family or clan to increase his store of lesser knowledge,
should be denied the door by these inferior nations of the
West. A thousand years ago the Chinese put the soldier
lowest in the scale and the scholar highest, with the man of
business as of no importance. And yet these commercial
peoples barred their gates to him 1 For a number of days
he took bis place in the shade of a davited boat, and now
and again he read from a quaint book, the Analects of

We sailed on Wednesday, and on Sunday made the first
tropic, nearly twenty- three and a half degrees above the line.
No rough weather or unkindly wind had disturbed us from the
hour we had left the " too nyked " man upon the wharf, and
Sunday, when I went to take my bath before breakfast, I felt
the soft fingers of the South caress my body, and looking out
upon the purple ocean, whose expanse was barely dimpled by
gleams of silver, I saw flying-fish skimming the crests of the
swinging waves. The officers and stewards appeared in white ;


the passengers, too, put off their temperate-zone clothes, and
the decks were gay with colour.

The Chinese he was Leung Kai Chu on the list did not
change his melancholy black. The deck sports were organized,
ship tennis, quoits, and golf, and the disks rattled about his
feet ; but though he often moved his chair to aid those seek-
ing a lost quoit or ring, and bowed ceremoniously to those who
begged his pardon for bothering him, he kept his position.
I felt a sombre sense of gathering tragedy.

The tragedy came sooner than expected by me. It was
dusk of Monday. The sun had sunk behind the glowing rim
of the western horizon, and the air was suffused with a tremb-
ling rose colour, when Leung Kai Chu tapped at my cabin
door, which gave on the boat-deck. I opened it, and he
bowed, and handed me an image. It was of porcelain, prec-
ious, and I was at a loss to know whether he had felt the
need of a little money and had brought it to sell, or had been
impelled to give it to me because of my feeble efforts to cheer
him. I made a gesture which might have meant payment,
but he raised his hand deprecatingly, and for the first time I
saw him smile, and I was afraid. He bowed, and in the
mandarin language invoked good fortune upon me. He had
the aspect of one beyond good and evil, who had settled life's
problem. When he left me I stood wondering, holding in
my hands the majestic god seated upon the tiger, the symbol
of the conquest of the flesh.

I heard a shout, and dropping the image, I rushed aft.
Leung Kai Chu had thrown himself over the rail just by the
purser's office. A steward had seen him fling himself into
the white foam. I tore a gas-buoy from its rack and tossed
it toward the screw, in which direction he must have been
swept. A sailor ran to the bridge, the whistle blew, and the
ship shook as the engines ceased revolving, and then reversed
in stopping her. Orders were flung about fast. A man
climbed to the look out as the first officer began to put a boat
into the water. The crew of it and the second officer were
already at the oars and the tiller as the ropes slid in the blocks.
The passengers came crowding from their cabins, where they
were dressing for dinner, and there were many expressions of



surprise and slight terror. Death aboard ship is terrible in its
imminence to all. The buoy, with its flaming torch, had
drifted far to leeward, and the look out could do no more
than follow its fainting light as the dark of the tropics closed
in. An hour the Noa-Noa lay gently heaving upon the
mysterious waters in which the despairing pundit had sought
Nirvana, until the boat returned with a report that it had
picked up the buoy, but had seen no sign of the man. Doubt-
less he had been swept into the propellers, but if not quickly
given release in their cyclopean strokes, he may have watched
for a few minutes our vain attempt to negative his fate. If
so, I imagine he smiled again, as when he gave me the god upon
the tiger.

As they hoisted the boat to its davits, I found in the lantern
light his ancient volume, the Analects of Confucius and claimed
it for my own. It was the very boat he had been accustomed
to sit under, and he must have laid down the ancient philoso-
pher to procure the gift for me, his grim determination already

Hallman nearly stated the general feeling :

" By God, he spoiled sport, that black ghost on deck. He
was like a tupapau, a Polynesian demon."

Hallman was in his early forties, with twenty years of
South-Seas trading, a tall, strong, well-featured, but hard-
faced European, with thin lips over nearly perfect teeth, and
cold, small, pale-blue eyes. He talked little to men, but
isolated young women whenever possible, and bent over them
in attempted gay, but earnest, converse. He was one of those
cold sensualists whose passion is as that of some animals,
insistent, prowling, fierce, but impersonal.

That night I walked through the waist of the ship and
on to the promenade-deck of the third-class passengers, where
a huddle of stores, coiled ropes, and riff-raff prevented these
poor from taking any pleasurable exercise. I stood at the
taffrail and peered down at the welter of white water, the
foam of the buffets of the whirling screws, and then at the wide
wake, which in imagination went on and on in a luminous
path to the place we had departed from, to the dock where
we had left the debarred lover of nature. The deep was lit


with the play of phosphorescent animalculae whom our pas-
sage awoke in their homes beneath the surface and sent
questing with lights for the cause. A sheet of pale, green-
gold brilliancy marked the route of the Noa-Noa on the brine,
and perhaps far back the corpse of the celestial philosopher
floated in radiancy, with his face toward those skies, so
brazen to his desires.

There were two Tahitians aboard, both females. One was
an oldish woman, ugly and waspish. She counted her beads
and spoke to me in French of the consolations of the Catholic
religion. She had been to America for an operation, but
despaired of ever being well, and so was melancholy and
devout. I talked to her about Tahiti, that island which the
young Darwin wrote, " must forever remain classical to the
voyager in the South Seas," and which, since I had read
Rarahu as a boy, had fascinated me and drawn me to it. She
warned me.

" Prenez-garde vous, monsieur ! " she said. " There are
evils there, but I am ashamed of my people."

The other was about twenty-two years old, slender, kohl-
eyed, and black-tressed. She was dressed in the gayest
colours of bourgeoise fashion in San Francisco, with jade ear-
rings and diamond ornaments. Her face was of a lemon-
cream hue, with dark shadows under her long-lashed eyes.
Her form was singularly svelt, curving, suggestive of the
rounded stalk of a young coco-palm, her bosom moulded
in a voluptuous reserve. Her father, a clergyman, had
cornered the vanilla-bean market in Tahiti, and she was
bringing an automobile and a phonograph to her home, a vil-
lage in the middle of Tahiti.

Leung Kai Chu with the sharks, and the nature man left
behind ! The one had lost his dream of returning to Tahiti,
in which the Chinese might freely have lived, and the other
had thrown away life because he could not enter the America
that the other wanted so madly to leave. The lack of a piece
of paper had killed him. Was it that happiness was a delusion
never to be realized ? If the pundit had bribed the immigra-
tion authorities, as I had known many to do, he might now
have^been studying the strange religion and ethics which had


caused the whites to steal so much of China, to force opium
upon it at the cannon's mouth, to kill tens of thousands of
yellow men, and to raise to dignities the soldiers and financiers
whom he despised, as had Confucius and Buddha. And if
that white of the sandals had kept his shirt on in Tahiti, he
might be lying under his favourite palm and eating breadfruit
and bananas.

People have come to be afraid to say or even to think they
are happy for a bare hour. We fear that the very saying of it
will rob us of happiness. We have incantations to ward off
listening devils knocking on wood, throwing salt over our
left shoulders, and saying " God willing."

What was I to find in Tahiti ? Certainly not what Loti

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