Frederick O'Brien.

Mystic Isles of the South Seas online

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irritatedly. "But when the letter's mailed to ol' Morton in Frisco,
'e comes down on the nex' steamer, an' carries a gun to kill Llewellyn,
an' tells everybody 'at Llewellyn dragged his nephew to 'ell, an'
M'seer Lontane takes 'is gun away when Llewellyn meets 'im in Lovaina's
porch, an' 'e pulls the gun, an' the Dummy stops 'im, and Llewellyn
grabs a knife off the table. Why, there's some reason for 'im comin'
in 'ere like a bloody queer un an' abusin' us."

"Hell! that's all over!" said Hallman. "I'll tell you, Llewellyn's
always been sour. That's what that dam' German university highfalutin'
education does for you. It takes the guts out of you. I know. I never
had any of it. I'm a business man, by God! and I'm not crammed full
of Dago and other rot. All the Davids in the world could croak on my
doorstep, and if the police couldn't get me for it, I'd worry. I - "

"Belay there!" Lying Bill shouted at Hallman. "You don't know
Llewellyn like I do. How about the tupapau, the bloody ghosts? You
forget that Llewellyn's a quarter Kanaka, an' born 'ere. All that
German university stuff ain't no good against the tupapau. Suppose
you were part Kanaka, an' the kid 'ad done what 'e did? I've seen
some things myself in these waters. That's what's eatin' Llewellyn,
an', believe me, it's goin' to kill 'im if he don't bloody well drink
'imself dead, first. I've seen too many Kanakas go that way when the
tahua got the tupapau after them. Llewellyn remembers what Lovaina said
ol' man Morton hollered when M'seer Lontane took the gun away from him
at the Tiare. 'All right!' hollered the uncle. 'All right! I'll leave
it to God!' The ol' boy loved that kid. 'E told Lovaina 'at 'is whole
bloody family was drowned when the Rio Janeiro went down off Mile Rock
in Frisco bay. The kid was 'is sister's only child, an' 'is uncle left
a thousand francs with the American consul for a proper tombstone on
'is grave in the cemetery. The ol' gent worshipped that kid."

Our session was over, the dinner hour having come; but Hallman had
his final say:

"If Llewellyn 's got the tupapau horrors, for God's sake! let him
stay away from the club. It's got so I hate to see him come in here,
looking like a death's head. He spoils my drink. I'd rather be in
the Marquesas with old Hemeury Fran√Іois, who is dyin' by inches of
the spell Mohuto 's put on him. They're alike, these Kanakas; they're
afraid of God and the devil, their own and the dam' missionary outfit,
too. They've got them coming and going. No wonder they're getting so
scarce you can't get any work done."

The next day was all preparation. I would be gone several months,
the usual time for the voyage of a trading schooner to the Marquesas
and return to Papeete. I had no bother about clothes, as I was to
be in the same climate, and in less formal circles even than in
Tahiti. But I desired to carry with me a type-writer, and mine was
out of order. There was no tinker of skill in Papeete, and I had
about given up hope of repairs, when Lovaina said:

"May be that eye doctor do you. He married one of those girl whose
father before ran away with that English ship and Tahiti girls to
Pitcairn Island, and get los' there till all chil'ren grow up big. He
has little house on rue de Petit Pologne."

I found on that street in a cottage an American vendor of spectacles,
who by some chance of propinquity had married a descendant of a
mutineer of the Bounty. I surrendered my machine to him while I talked
with his wife, whose ancestors, one English, the other Tahitian, had
sailed away from here generations ago, after the crew had possessed
themselves of the British warship Bounty, and cast their officers
adrift at sea. She was a resident of Norfolk Island, and I wished I
had time to hear the full story of her life. But before we had come
to more than platitudes, the eye doctor had repaired the type-writer,
and called his wife to other duties.

We had a going-away dinner at the Tiare hotel, Landers, Polonsky,
McHenry, Hallman, Schlyter, the tailor, and Lieutenant L'Hermier des
Plantes, a French army surgeon who was sailing on the Fetia Taiao to
the Marquesas to be acting governor there. Lovaina would not join
us, but after we had eaten an excellent dinner, she came in while
we drank her health. Llewellyn had been asked, but did not appear,
and McHenry said he was "very low" at five o'clock when he passed him
on the rue de Rivoli. Lying Bill preferred to spend his last evening
ashore with his native wife, or else wished to avoid the chance of
a headache on the morrow.

We drank our last toasts at midnight, and I was averse to arising
when called at six by Atupu for the early breakfast and the last
disposition of my affairs. By nine o'clock I had put my baggage on
board the schooner, Lovaina taking me in her carriage, driven by the
Dummy. Vava was excited and puzzled by my return from the country,
and my sudden departure for the sea. While Lovaina stayed in the
garden of the Annexe, gathering a garland of roses for my hat, the
Dummy endeavored to narrate to me the tragedy of David. His own part
in preventing Morton from shooting, Vava showed in vivid pantomime
with a fervor that would have made a moving-picture actor's fame; and
when he indicated Morton's abandonment of revenge, though the Dummy
could have no knowledge of his words, he gestured with a dignity that
conveyed all the meaning of Lying Bill's relation of the incident. In
the expression and motion of the dramatic mute the aged uncle had
the sublimity of Lear. For Vava, in a mask and an attitude, by some
cryptic understanding encompassed the resignation and appeal to Deity.

Lovaina had left me on the deck of the Fetia Taiao, as Captain Pincher
said that it would be an hour or two before he sailed. His crew
was having a few extra upaupas in the Cocoanut House. I sat on the
rail with Vava's dumb-show uppermost in my mind, and a strong desire
came to me to see the grave of David, and the tombstone erected by
his frenzied kinsman. I strolled up the Broom road to the Annexe,
and past Madame Fanny's restaurant to the garden of the Banque de
l'Indo-Chine, and continued westward to the cemetery.

It was a lonely spot, that acre of God in these South Seas, for the
resting-place of one who had been so alive as that young American. The
hours of our last wassail, the bowl of velvet, and my waking by the
Pool of Psyche with the mahu and the Dummy beside me, were painted
on my brain.

"There, but for the grace of God, goes John Wesley," said the exhorter
when he saw a murderer on the way to the gallows.

Some such dismal thought assailed me as the lofty exotic cypress in
the center of the Golgotha met my eye; the tree of the dead over all
the world. I halted to view the expanse of mausoleums and foliage. The
rich had built small houses or pagodas to roof their loved from the
torrential rains, and, from my distance, only these buildings and the
trees could be seen; but as I was about to cross the road to enter
the gate, a figure approached. I drew back, for, of all men, it was
Llewellyn. He seemed to walk an accustomed course, observing none
of the surroundings, and with his head down, and his stick touching
the ground like the staff of a blind man. He turned in the entrance
and moved up the winding path until he came to a grave. There he
stood a few seconds irresolutely, and then stooped beside the white
stone. He leaned over, and appeared to read the inscription. Instantly
he turned, and started almost to run, but halted after a few paces,
and returned to the stone. I saw him put his hand to his forehead,
cover his eyes, and then he took off his hat and dropped upon his
knees, and bent nearly to the rounded earth. When he stood up again,
he kept the hat in his left hand, and, his cane tapping hard upon
the soil, came through the gate, and passed me, unseeing. There was
a look of terror on his face that affected me deeply.

I crossed the road behind him, and walked swiftly to the grave. My time
was short. There I perceived that the tombstone had just been raised,
for the tools of the cemetery keeper were near by. On a plain, white
slab of marble was the name, Morton David, and the date; and below
these, an inscription:

Vengeance Is Mine
I Will Repay.

This was what had frozen that look upon the face of Llewellyn. The
tupaupa that should haunt him was this inscription. The old uncle
who had loved the dead man had well left it to God.

I hurried away and back to the schooner. Lovaina was sitting in
her shabby surrey under the flamboyants, the Dummy at the horse's
head. Lying Bill was giving orders for raising his bow anchor, and
the loosening of the shore lines. McHenry and Lieutenant L'Hermier
des Plantes shouted to me to come aboard. Lovaina hugged me to her
capacious bosom, the Dummy stroked my back a moment, and I was off
for the cannibal isles.


A letter from Fragrance of the Jasmine, to Frederick O'Brien, at
Sausalito, California:

"Ia ora na oe! Maru:

"Great sorrow has come to Tahiti. The people die by thousands from a
devil sickness, the grippe, or influenza. It came from your country
as we were rejoicing for the peace in France. The Navua brought it,
and for weeks we have died. Tati is dead. Tetuanui is dead. They cannot
lay the corpses in the graves, they fall so fast. There are no people
to help. The dogs and pigs have eaten them as they slept their last
sleep in their gardens. Now the corpses are burning in great trenches,
and drunken white sailors with scared faces burn them, and drive the
dead wagons crosswise in the streets. The burning of our loved ones is
affrighting, and the old people who are not dead are in terrible fear
of the flames. It is like the savages of the Marquesas in olden times.

"Your dear friend Lovaina was the first to die of the hotahota, as
some call this sickness. Lovaina had a bad cough. The man who looks
after the engines of the Navua went to see her, and she kissed him on
the cheek. Then the good doctor of Papeete who visits the ships was
called to see her. Maru, could that doctor have brought the hotahota
to Lovaina? She was dead in a little while.

"Lovaina had good fortune all her life, for, being the first one
to die, she was buried as we have always buried our people. All of
Tahiti that was not ill walked with her coffin. Oh, Maru, I wept for
Lovaina. Vava, whom you whites call the Dummy, is dead, too. When
Lovaina was taken to the cemetery, Vava drove her old chaise with her
children in it; and then, Maru, he was seen again only by a Tahitian
who had gone to bathe in the lagoon because the fever was burning
him. You know how Vava always took the old horse of Lovaina at sunset
to swim in front of the Annexe. This man who was ill said that he
saw Vava ride the horse into the sea, and straight out toward the
reef. Vava signed farewell to the man with the fever. The man stayed
in the lagoon to cool his body until the sun was below Moorea, and
your friend, the Dummy, did not return. Maru, we loved dear Lovaina,
but to Vava she was mother and God.

"It is strange, Maru, the way of things in the world. The lepers who
are confined towards Arue were forgotten, and as nobody went near them,
the hotahota passed them by.

"I cannot write more. O Maru, come back to aid us. It is a long time
since those happy days when we walked in the Valley of Fautaua.

"Ia ora na i te Atua!


Online LibraryFrederick O'BrienMystic Isles of the South Seas → online text (page 35 of 35)