The Land of the Hibiscus Blossom - Hume Nisbet - E-Book

The Land of the Hibiscus Blossom E-Book

Hume Nisbet

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The Land of the Hibiscus Blossom : LAST year, while travelling over Australasia collecting material for a work then being prepared, I thought to score a point for my firm while up in Northern Queensland by visiting that as yet considerably dark island, New Guinea. The Melbourne editor and agent at once consented to my proposal, and considered, with me, that it would be of great advantage to the work if I could make my notes and sketches from the savages and their land direct, if I thought it was worth risking my life for; but was it after all worth the risk? In Australia, New Guinea is a name to inspire fear and trembling; they are much nearer to the dreaded cannibals, and hear more of their deeds of atrocity than we in England are and do. Tales of death from fever to those who luckily escape the spears and poisoned arrows float down monthly. "God help you if you go to that fever-stricken land," wrote a Victorian friend, by way of farewell.

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James Hume Nisbet


(8 August 1849 – 4 June 1923)[1] was a Scottish-born novelist and artist. Many of his thrillers are set in Australia.


Nisbet was born in Stirling, Scotland and received special artistic training, and was educated under the Rev. Dr. Culross (later of Bristol College) up to the age of fifteen.[2]

At 16 years of age he went to Australia and stayed about seven years, during which he travelled to Tasmania, New Zealand, and the South Sea Islands, painting, sketching, writing poetry and stories, and making notes for future work. He spent one year of the period acquiring theatrical experience at the Theatre Royal, Melbourne, under the actor Richard Stewart.[2]


Nisbet returned to London in 1872, and spent some time in studying and copying pictures in the National Gallery and in South Kensington. At the end of the next year he went back to Scotland and devoted himself to art, with an occasional lapse into literature.[2] For eight years he was art master of the Watt Institution and School of Art, Edinburgh.[2] He travelled in Australia and New Guinea again during 1886, and paid a further visit to Australia in 1895. He had studied painting under Sam Bough, R. S. A., but he does not appear to have had any success. He speaks with bitterness of this in a volume called Where Art Begins, which he published in 1892.[3]

Among his best-known paintings are "Eve's first Moonrise," "The Flying Dutchman," "The Dream of Sardanapalus," four pictures of "The Ancient Mariner," and "The Battle of Dunbar."[2]


Nisbet devoted most of his time to writing. He produced many volumes of verse, books on art and fiction. Several of his novels are coloured by his Australian experiences and appear to have had some success.[3] Miller in his Australian Literature lists about 40 novels published between 1888 and 1905. During the next 10 years he published a few more books, including Hathor and Other Poems, which appeared as the first volume of his poetic and dramatic works in 1905. There was another edition in 1908.[3]

Many of Nisbet's volumes were of ghost stories. These include Paths of the Dead (1899), Stories Weird and Wonderful (1900), and The Haunted Station (1894)[4] whose title story (about a haunted property or "station" in the Australian Outback) has often been reprinted.

Nisbet was a member of the Yorick Club, London, and a friend of Philip Mennell.[1] Nisbet died in Eastbourne, Sussex, England on 4 June 1923.[1]


The Land of the Hibiscus Blossom: A Yarn of the Papuan Gulf



Doctor Bernard St. Vincent: A Sensational Romance of Sydney



Ashes: A Tale of Two Spheres



Bail Up!: A Romance of Bushrangers and Blacks



The Black Drop



The Savage Queen: A Romance of the Natives of Van Dieman's [sic] Land



The "Jolly Roger". A Story of Sea Heroes and Pirates



The Bushranger's Sweetheart


: An Australian Romance



The Divers: A Romance of Oceania



Valdmer the Viking: A Romance of the Eleventh Century by Sea and Land



The Queen's Desire



A Bush Girl's Romance



The Demon Spell



A Desert Bride



Her Loving Slave. A Romance of Sedgemoor



The Great Secret: A Tale of To-morrow



The Rebel Chief: A Romance of New Zealand



My Love Noel



The Swampers: A Romance of the Westralian Goldfields



A Sweet Sinner



In Sheep's Clothing: A Romance of Upper Queensland



Children of Hermes: A Romance of Love and Crime



A Losing Game: An Australian Tragedy



A Dream of Freedom: Romance of South America



A Colonial King



Collected works

The Haunted Station and Other Stories



Stories Weird and Wonderful



Mistletoe Manor



Table of Contents




Chapter 1 - An Island in the Torres Straits

Chapter 2 - Captain Cook's Telescope

Chapter 3 - In the Bungalow

Chapter 4 - Queen Ine

Chapter 5 - Bêche-De-Mer Working

Chapter 6 - The "Sunflower"

Chapter 7 - A Parting Glass

Chapter 8 - Hafid and His Little Friend

Chapter 9 - Hafid Again on the Road Home

Chapter 10 - Hula.—A Lover's Quarrel

Chapter 11 - Toto Remembers One of the Christian Virtues, and Forgives

Chapter 12 - In the Gardens of Hula.—The Reconciliation

Chapter 13 - Towards the Fly River

Chapter 14 - The Voyage of the "Thunder"

Chapter 15 - The Storm

Chapter 16 - Driven Ashore

Chapter 17 - Rea's Troubles Begin

Chapter 18 - On Board the "Sunflower"

Chapter 19 - Niggeree's Version of His Escapade

Chapter 20 - Niggeree's Version of His Escapade (Continued)

Chapter 21 - Hafid Finds His Bride

Chapter 22 - Yule Island

Chapter 23 - A Hunting Expedition

Chapter 24 - Toto as a Defender

Chapter 25 - Kamo to the Fore

Chapter 26 - A Night Raid

Chapter 27 - The 'Thunder' to the Rescue

Chapter 28 - A Boat Voyage

Chapter 29 - A Tribe of Butchers

Chapter 30 - The Coming Home of the Fleet

Chapter 31 - "Help"

Chapter 32 - Port Moresby

Chapter 33 - A New River

Chapter 34 - A Prospecting Expedition

Chapter 35 - Return of the Professor

Chapter 36 - White Gods

Chapter 37 - A Walloby Hunt

Chapter 38 - Hibiscus Blossoms

Chapter 39 - Bon Soir, Queen Ine


LAST year, while travelling over Australasia collecting material for a work then being prepared, I thought to score a point for my firm while up in Northern Queensland by visiting that as yet considerably dark island, New Guinea.

The Melbourne editor and agent at once consented to my proposal, and considered, with me, that it would be of great advantage to the work if I could make my notes and sketches from the savages and their land direct, if I thought it was worth risking my life for; but was it after all worth the risk?

In Australia, New Guinea is a name to inspire fear and trembling; they are much nearer to the dreaded cannibals, and hear more of their deeds of atrocity than we in England are and do. Tales of death from fever to those who luckily escape the spears and poisoned arrows float down monthly.

"God help you if you go to that fever-stricken land," wrote a Victorian friend, by way of farewell.

I considered it worth the risk, and as I had in former years lived with the cannibals of New Zealand, besides having had some distant relations wolfed amongst them in the good old days, I did not feel quite the same shrinking as a new chum might.

It was rather amusing to hear the sad forebodings of casual friends whom I picked up as I progressed towards my destination; the nearer I drew to it, the sadder became the gloomy farewells.

"You are too plump to escape the natives."

"Just the temperament to catch the fever quickly." And so on.

I made friends at Thursday Island, and was fortunate enough to find the mail-steamer going, not only to Moresby, but round the coast as far as Teste Island; so Mr. Vivian Bowden, the plucky manager of the enterprising firm of Messrs. Burns, Philip, and Co., made up his mind to take a little holiday and accompany me on the voyage round the British part of the island.

I am indebted to his kindness in many ways; not less to his great patience, allowing me to use their vessel pretty much as I liked, but in giving me time to take as many sketches as I wished, besides introducing me to the genial and generous traders throughout the islands of the Torres Straits, and where they had ventured to establish stations in New Guinea.

I met with no mishaps from natives, nor did I catch the fever. Everywhere I was cordially received and overpowered with kindness: by the Governor, his Excellency Sir John Douglas, the missionaries, white and coloured, the traders, and those splendid man-eaters, the natives; so that now I can hardly know which to admire or regret the most, since fate has forced me to say "adieu."

I mixed with the traders and listened to their thrilling tales night after night; I went amongst the natives, who gave me presents, looked wonderingly upon my sketches, and treated me like a friend and brother, acting with scrupulous honesty, and feeling my arms and legs with apparent pleasure, but without desire.

The Kanaka teachers whom I met astonished me, without exception, by their patience under no ordinary sufferings and their Christian heroism; they had come to the land to lay down their lives, and went with contented faces about their daily sacrifices.

With the missionaries it was the same, Protestant and Catholic; it was not only a question of giving up the necessities of civilization, but the yielding up of their lives.

To write a story about New Guinea and introduce fictitious characters I found to be one of the most distasteful tasks I have ever attempted, as the number of white men who have as yet been there are so few that they are all known, with their characteristics, as well as the names of the islands, with their differences of outline, which lie about the coast.

Again, when I tried to work out my characters, the men I had known came up so vividly before me that I found it next to impossible to resist describing some peculiarity when building up my heroes.

Therefore, if any one is inclined to take umbrage, or fancy himself to be the person I describe, because in some points he may trace a resemblance, I trust he will exonerate me entirely as he reads, and believe me when I tell him that "It is not you I mean."

There are no such characters in reality as Niggeree, Carolina Joe, General Flagcroucher, or Professor Killmann—remember that always as you read; they are entirely imaginary characters, or, rather, embodied principles of what might influence the future of this great island, if lawlessness was allowed to run riot and religion and order were not in the majority.

Yet I will, however, admit that there was a Toto at Hula. He may be known to those who have been there, particularly to those who may have been unjustly blamed for his iniquities.

Regarding the geographical correctness of locality, however, the truth of colouring, and the habits and customs of the people, I have been most rigid, and never for a moment permitted myself a licence; also I do not think that I have exaggerated the murders. If the incidents did not happen while I was there, that they have taken place, and are taking place weekly, a glance at the Government records of massacres and atrocities will convince any one; so that, although I escaped hurtless, it might have been otherwise I will at once admit.

Besides my own observations, I was indebted while in the Papuan Gulf for much information from Mr. Andrew Golchi, botanist and naturalist at Port Moresby, who placed his diaries and experiences of ten years at my disposal; Mr. Cuthbertson and party of surveyors; Mr. Bruce and the young missionary, Mr. Savage, at Murray Island; Father Virgirce at Yule Island; Messrs. Gerise and Moresby, of York Island; Mr. Kissick, of Teste Island; and Mr. A. Morton, Curator of the Museum, Hobart, a New Guinea traveller; besides many of the native teachers and traders with whom I sojourned.

His Excellency Sir John Douglas and his representative, Mr. Milman, at Thursday Island, also gave me the benefit of their experiences, and authenticated the sketches and notes which I had taken.

The Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Lawes I only saw for a few minutes at Port Moresby, as they had just returned from a coasting cruise; but when I reached England I had the benefit of many hints and suggestions from the Rev. James Chalmers, whom I met in London; also a very great amount of valuable information from my lately-gained friend, the Rev. Dr. S. Macfarlane, LL.D., whose long experience in the South Seas and New Guinea fully warrants the trust which I place in his criticisms.

Details of the discovery of two important rivers since I left the Papuan coast I received from my friend James Burns—to whom I beg to dedicate my story—Mr. Theodore Burns being the explorer, for particulars of which discovery see note on New Rivers.

I admire the missionaries, as I admire the traders, when I can place myself on their different platforms and look as they do; they are working faithfully and well in their different ways to civilize the savages. Yet this is not a missionary tale, but the words of one who believes as Professor John Ruskin believes, that what the savage gains from religion and civilization is not equivalent to his own benefits when left alone.

On the whole, I think we civilized savages murder as much and as atrociously as the so-called savages do in dark lands, even though we may not eat our victims; and, aside from this evil, I fancy that they are happier in their simplicity than we are with our vaunted civilization.

Still, since we have souls to be redeemed, and if the penalty of ignorance is damnation, then it is the duty of the missionary to enlighten the dark races, and ours as Christians, to help them to our utmost in their noble work.

Looking on the savages of New Guinea from a material standpoint, I think that they are much more comfortable as they now are than are our English poor—indeed, than many of our English middle-classes—who are fighting so madly for an existence, while they, the natives, bask away luxuriously on their coral-fringed and sunny strands.

Professor John Ruskin, the philanthropist and friend of mankind in general, wrote to me on my arrival in England, saying, "I hope you intend to print some record of the kindness of the native race, whom I suppose our Christianity will now soon extinguish with gunpowder and brandy."

I have endeavoured to give a faithful record of the natives and their kindness, when not abused, towards strangers; and I trust to be able to tell further, at some future time, of their traits. As yet I can vouch that I never saw a native of New Guinea touch intoxicants; they are simple in their diet and drink, and have no more taken to our firewater than they have taken to our other habits. But how long it will be before they lose their simplicity, become converts, and finally are extinguished, is but a question of time.

We who are the favoured ones of earth teach the naked races how to dress themselves before we bury them. It is the legend of the devil and Adam being constantly enacted under the specious title, Civilization.




An Island in the Torres Straits

A DARK NIGHT, AS NIGHTS are in the tropics before the moon rises, in spite of those dense clusters of stars which stain, like milk-splashes, the intense blue-black of that vault above, or the more isolated worlds which hang, as if they were electric globes let down by invisible wires, from that vast ceiling, whose extremity the eye cannot reach!

Very bright those irregularly hung lamps; very close-set, and sparkling, those clusters of gems beyond, very filmy the milk-stains upon that blue—black roof; but the space is too mighty to be illuminated even by those myriad lights, their effulgence is sucked up by the miles of atmosphere, and so on the shores, and in the jungle, darkness grapples with form and wins the battle; the eye looking up becomes dazed with that studded diamond vault and blinded to all beneath.

It is an island within that great barrier reef, which extends from above Keppel Bay to Cape York, and along the Torres Straits to the Papuan Gulf, making eternal summer and calm seas—one of those islands raised by the insect creators of continents, who are for ever working, regardless of time; one of the many formed, or in process of formation, which greet the anxious glance of the mariner every few miles of his dangerous navigation through those uncertain waters upon which the sun warmly smiles, and shows in the varied shades of delicious green, the spots to be avoided; and, in the threads of amethyst, the narrow passages to trust for safety. There are no charts to guide the mariner as yet, only the sharp eyes and the steady head; for woe to the unlucky master who pins his faith to a chart, when his vessel sails within these reefs.

This island has been long established as a place of call for vessels going pearl-fishing, bêche-de-mer, or copra collecting, and is inhabited by a tribe of blacks who give hospitality and work to the traders who have settled amongst them, and who feed them and teach them the refinements of civilization, in return for hospitality and assistance in their business.

The island is well protected from rough seas by the great coral wall which lies about two miles to westward, and is guarded from the near approach of uninvited visitors by hummocks and sharp-edged fringes which are covered at low-tide and surround the smooth sand-shore, layer within layer, with fathomless depths of ocean between, until the innermost fringe is passed. Then a long spread of shallow water has to be waded over, before dry land is reached, so that the trader, as he sits in his bungalow with his friendly servant-hosts behind him, need only wait and finish his pipe, if the visitor chances to be one of those interfering personages, until the unwary vessel safely runs and sticks against the protecting reef-walls, when he sallies forth to rescue the wrecked crew and claim the wreckage according to the very just and proper law of flotsam.

On this dark night there were several small stranger vessels lying about alongside Carolina Joe's own craft. (Carolina Joe was the title this protector of these friendly natives bore amongst his friends and admirers.) As these vessels were all safely at anchor-age, we must conclude that they had been here before, and did not come for hostile purpose.

Neat little craft, rocking under the starlight, and breaking the reflection of the sparkles below with their hulls and hull-shadows, but with nothing definite as regards outline or proportion.

On shore—along the dark strips of sand discernible only because of the more intense shadow of the palm and croton groves behind and the jet-like reflecting blackness of the water lapping softly against dead shells and broken fragments of coral—a heavy breath breaking upon the silence along with a faint cocoa-nut odour, apprises one of a native gliding past. The sand is smooth, and hard, and pleasant to the bare feet where it is not covered with those spider-spiked shells; and from the shallow parts you step upon a smooth warm plain, for the night is still too young for the heavy dews to cool the ground; thence into the copse, guided by the faint red glow from the drying-house. This gleam comes through the crevices of the corrugated iron sides of the shed, or further on from the hut, where the king and his family wait awake for the orders of their friend and master, the trader, and where they silently squat and smoke. The red fire from their pipes, and the sombre glow from their neglected log alone break upon the blackness of the night.

It is all quiet and indefinite until a splash of oars, from the rocking boats, breaks in upon the repose, a gentle splashing of paddles used by dextrous hands, and the huts are deserted, while the lonely shore is peopled as if by magic.

They are landing something from the boats, and, without a word spoken, the object is taken out, lifted by two indistinct forms, and carried forward, while the canoe drifts back again as the crowd disappear into the general dark envelopment of night, and once more all is still.



Captain Cook's Telescope

"THIS YER TELESCOPE, mates, belonged to Capting Cook."

"Coudn't ha' believed it?"

"No, there's not a many as can."

Carolina Joe, as host, was exhibiting the curiosities of his bungalow to the brother traders, who were now sharing his hospitality for the night, some on their way to New Guinea, some to the islands and stations scattered over Torres Straits, devoted to pearl-fishing, copra or bêche-de—mer collecting, bird or curio hunting, &c.

The etceteras of their profession included various modes of making money, which may appear in the course of their conversations, and so need not be here explained.

Joe held in his brown paws a large copper and canvas-bound telescope, much battered, though hardly of ancient enough pattern to have done service in the Endeavour; yet, as these honest old sailors, who formerly scoured the seas and now bask their declining days under the cocoanuts, are proverbial for their rigid adherence to facts, it might have been Cook's.

"This is how it happened, mates: ye all remember the Polly going on the reefs half a mile from here?"

"That night you lighted the fires at the wrong place, you old beach—coomber," observed, in a very gruff voice, a swarthy young man, from a corner where he sat panikin in hand, almost doubled up from the remains of the malaria fever.

"That was the night, Nig! only you're all out about the fires, I knowst nothink what-some-ever about these yer fires; the natives had a wake on that night, and I was sound asleep until they called me up next morning, and no one can say that I didn't do my duty as a man; I saved the crew, as ye all know, and lent them my boat Daisy to carry them to Thursday Island."

"That's true, Joe, the same smack that you afterwards sold the French missionary with, and which they have christened Pope Pius; and you say you are a good catholic."

"I am a darned freethinker, as all the world knows; I've got all the books on it in that yer chest along o' my revolver and 'munition, and I only did my duty by that yer Daisy. Didn't these missionary chaps want to get to Yule Island after they were refused permits to land on New Guinea, and didn't they see the cursed smack afore they bought her? that was fair and square dealing, wasn't it? Did they ever ax me one question as to her age, or state of repair? and didn't they offer me right away 80l. for her, and no questions axed, and was I going to be a darned old fool and tell them she was rotten? Not likely, boys; Carolina Joe wasn't raised in old Virginia to come it that way; besides, didn't I get the boys to paint it all neat over inside and out without being axed in the bargain?"

Joe paused a moment, flourishing Captain Cook's relic in his right hand and his empty panikin in the other, and glaring savagely in the direction of the doubled-up "Nig," who only smiled quietly, without replying.

"That's all correct, Joe; you did, even before they saw her, as soon as you heard they wanted a boat," cried out a very slender, gentlemanly young fellow dressed in spotless white, with an aristocratic and clean-cut face, who had twice filled his can from the bottle while Joe was speaking—"but go on about the telescope."

Joe swaggered over to the deal plank which did service for a table, emptied about half a bottle of whisky into his panikin, drank it straight away without winking, and, drawing the hairy back of his hand across his grizzly beard, went over through the soft sand to his former place beside his sea-chest, and continued:—

"Wall, along o' the other articles in that er wreck (and precious little there war, for all the trouble as I took over it)."

"What trouble, Joe?" asked the young man, filling up for the fourth time, and emptying the bottle as he inquired.

"Landing it on the safest reef in course; didn't I watch her all that cursed arternoon a-coming on afore the wind with the infernal moon—soon blowing in my teeth, and not a drop o' liquer to keep the ague back."

"Oh you did, did you?"

"Of course a man's got to keep his eyes about him, or them niggers allays bungle business, an' not a wink o' sleep that night I got, thinking they'd get off after all."

"But I thought you were fast asleep that night," observed Nig softly.

"Asleep, who do you think could plant the fires right if I fell asleep?"

A general grin passed round the company, as one little girlish-looking man, with bright blue eyes and fair moustache, drew with his knife corkscrew the corks from three more bottles of whisky, while the others held out their panikins for him to fill up, and then they settled down to listen, and light their pipes.

"Cartainly Queen Ine is purty smart, and can do most anything I teach her to do, but it's best to superintend delicate work oneself."

"Quite right, Joe! Quite right," responded, in a thin voice, Captain Allan Collins, with his head on one side; he wore it thus, not from choice or habit, but from necessity, having had it nearly severed at one time by natives, the same cause which produced his piping voice.

"But about that telescope, Joe; how do you know it to have been Cook's?" asked the youth with the clean-cut features.

"Because after we got that wreck broken up, I found it amongst the coral under her hull, and because his name war written on it; of course, mates, it warn't very plain, yet I could just make it out, though the friction had wore off the date. I could just make out the letters, 'COOK,' a way he had o' spellin' his name, I believe."

"Not an uncommon way of spelling cook. Might it not have belonged to some ship's cook—?"

This from the youth with an air of innocence, upon which the others laughed.

"Ship's cook! When did ye ever hear of a cook with a telescope like this?"

"It certainly would be superfluous furniture to cart about, but let's see it; is the name still on it?"

"Wall, you see, Queen Ine is fond o' polishing up brass work, and I guess that's how it wore off, but it was there when we fust had it, wasn't it, 'Spears'?"

"Oh, yes! right under where the canvas now is, we covered it so to preserve it," responded Spears, from his chin.

"After it was gone," murmured Nig sadly, puffing out a little smoke from his nearly finished pipe.



In the Bungalow

CAROLINA JOE'S ABODE, where this little convivial gathering of friends were now seated, was built after the style of the native houses upon the islands; a hut with posts and rafters of bamboo, lathed with split cane, walls and roof thatched with fronds of the bamboo and tattered fringes of the banana, a sloping roof with the ragged ends of the thatch hanging down between the bars of split cane, walls hung at odd places with tortoiseshells strung together and ready for transport, native curios, spears, shields, and ornaments, all there for sale purposes, yet giving the interior a most picturesque appearance. A rough form had been made by "Spears," formerly a ship's carpenter, but who now represented the handy man of the island, a table likewise made from a roughly sawn board, and which, with three sea-chests, comprised the furniture of the bungalow—that is with the exception of the bamboo couches; with these the place was plentifully supplied, three sides of the room being taken up with them; broad springy couches, each capable of accommodating six or eight people, and where Joe was wont to loll and smoke during the days when there was no drink in the locker, for on these balmy islands whisky does not come every day in the week, nor even once in the month. Sometimes months passed before the ordered case arrived, and when it did turn up, one day was sufficient to empty it, the rest of the long interval having to be spun out with cocoa-nut milk. To-night Joe was merry, for three long-delayed cases had arrived all at once, so that the result meant a glorious orgie while they lasted.

The bungalow had been raised on the sands which served for floor and carpet, soft fine dry sand into which the feet sank deeply; like all native houses the door-way served to admit fresh air and light, so that while by day the sun glared outside, and beat upon the sea shores until they felt nearly red hot, or slanted in long white rays between the fronds of palms, here there was always a cool and constant twilight.

A pleasant home to rest in, amid tropic heats, in spite of the multitudinous life which swarmed and throve amidst that tawny coloured thatch; scorpions, centipedes, spiders and snakes—one gets used to all that as one gets used to mosquitoes, and soon forgets the dangers and discomforts; but upon the stranger, the flop-flap of the poisonous snake moving about at nights after mice and vermin inside the sleeping quarters, has a disturbing effect. The thud of the large centipede, as it drops from the roof upon your face or shoulders is apt to cause a shudder, while the sight of a huge hairy-limbed tarantula lazily moving towards you, not many feet off, does not conduce to speedy repose, any more than the buzzing and stinging of the myriad mosquitoes will do; yet to all these discomforts time brings the cure, and after all it is astonishing how little trouble there is about even misery when one gets used to it.

A pair of tight boots, or the parting with a dear friend, shape in alike by degrees.

This night the mosquitoes swarmed in myriads; spotted fiends bred in the mangroves and making night musical with their revengeful ditties; in the soft sands one being pricked in the foot never felt sure whether it was the bite of a centipede or the sharp edge of a shell; from the slender rafters heavy webs swung undisturbed, the whole only faintly lighted by the single tallow-candle which flared in the night breeze and overflowed the square sides of the empty gin-bottle which served as a candlestick. But those assembled were long accustomed to sights like this; indeed this represented Elysium after the close cabins of their little vessels, and they spread out their scantily clad limbs with an air of unaccustomed comfort.

A ruddy illumination of bronzed faces, bare arms and legs, and exposed chests, as they sat there gradually getting mellow and disconnected in their articulation, while fresh corks were drawn, and young cocoanuts emptied of their fluid.

These young cocoanuts are only used for the milk, which serves instead of water to quench thirst or dilute spirits, although on nights like this, and in such company, like the water used in the punch-brew of the "Noctes" club, one cocoanut went much further than a bottle of "Tappit Hen."

The apartment was about eighteen feet by twelve, so that the company sat close and the single candle served to make objects discernible while at the same time flinging heavy shadows behind and above.

Spears and Danby (the youth with the aristocratic features) half reclined upon one of the couches in the shady side of the room, dangling their naked limbs, with their pijamas rolled up to the thighs for the sake of wading freely, and dipping their feet into the soft loose sand which they caught up between their toes and scattered about while they drank and smoked.

By the plank-table, and crouched together leaning his bare brown arms against it, sat "Nig," or Niggeree, as the natives called him; sallow, thin, and looking undersized and weary, from the after prostration of the fever he had gone through, that wasting fever caught at Port Moresby: to-night he appeared to be about twenty-six; a weak young man, speaking in a low dejected tone, and with great effort; he was clean shaven, with regular features and eyes black and filmy; he only spoke when addressed or when chaffing Joe, and then said as little as he could as if finding the attempt too much for his strength; his pipe had gone out and he did not attempt to light it afresh, and when he lifted his can to his lips he merely tasted the contents, and put it down again with a contortion as if it was medicine.

Near him, on one of the sea-chests, sat Captain Allan Collins, with his head on one side, displaying a long thin neck, and sharing the seat with the German engineer, Hans Helfich; while on the ground amongst and half buried in the sand squatted the short and burly figure of that old sea—dog, Captain MacAndrews, master of the little reef-steamer Thunder, which now lay to leeward of the island.

The group here gathered together, and unconsciously striking up picturesque attitudes within this native-built hut, might well have been taken for a pirate crew holding their nightly orgies ashore under the wind-shaken flame of this candle—perhaps in drawing the picture it would be better to substitute a flaring torch for the flickering candle, only that this was a hut built of easily-ignited material instead of being a sea—rover's cave, while the gentlemen assembled were only honest traders and idlers out for an adventure instead of being bold buccaneers, so perhaps it is as well in this case to adhere to strict facts, prosy though they be.

Niggeree being nearest the candle, caught upon his swarthy, if wan, neck and chest, the strongest glare, and as he had turned to speak to Hector, the young man with the fresh girlish face, his profile was completely in shadow, as were his lower limbs and left shoulder, a trifle brown where the skin shone out, with an edge of dingy yellow undershirt torn open at the neck for air.

Hector stood still drawing corks, but tasting only from the half—cocoanut, which he had made a cup of, for while he diligently filled out for the others, as strong as they desired, he took his cocoa-milk unadulterated, as Joe took his spirits.

The light shone full upon Hector, and revealed a fair young face, which the sun had only slightly reddened, and a breast white as a child's flesh below the abrupt line made by the shirt when buttoned; a golden moustache, and limpid blue eyes, where truth might have dwelt serene; his voice soft and caressing, his manner deprecating, as if he felt an intruder, and his age seemingly about twenty-one. As he replied to "Nig's" dejected question with a few earnest words, as if his soul spoke through his lips, a stranger might wonder at so much innocence wandering so far from home; but none of the company seemed surprised. In reality he was twenty-nine, and if the shirt had been thrown a little wider, discoloured blue blotches would have revealed where the spear or bullet had pierced; also the table cast too heavy a shadow over the bare lower limbs to reveal the many scars there. Hector, with the girl's face and small body, had fought his way into respect with these rough traders of the Torres Straits, while the man-eating savages of the Fly River paid as much attention to his tender words as to a pistol-shot.

Joe, as master of the premises, was monopolizing the conversation, and no small portion of the grog. As a rule, he was said to be equal to a case of whisky or brandy by himself at one square sitting, and wild stories were afloat as to how long he had continued to consume this daily case before he began to see snakes about. When three parts of the case, i.e. six bottles, had been safely stowed away, they said he was getting good company. But, as has been stated, he had had a long spell of enforced abstinence, and now, although only the contents of a case and a half had gone the round, he was already getting disconnected in his reminiscences.

"I was reared in Virginia, boys, and all our family were Federals. Would you like to hear how I lost my mother?—"

Captain Allan Collins was remarking to Hans Helfich and the burly MacAndrews, whose clustering grey curls surrounded the upper portion of a head and beard which might have served as the model for Achilles as it gleamed out in half-tones against the intensity of the shadow behind, that although admiring Niggeree's principles in general, he considered him a little too quick with his Winchester and cutlas, while the Irish mate of the Thunder was engaged amidst the tobacco fog singing an Irish legend entitled "Brian on the Moor;" so that no one replied, or expressed the slightest curiosity about the maternal affliction which had befallen their host.

"My mother, boys, was the natural but unacknowledged wife of the late General Jackson; so that I, being her only child, oughter ha' been his heir—"

"I don't approve of shooting the moment a native pokes his head down the gangway," said Captain Collins; "Nig does. Give them time to declare themselves, and after that, fire or don't fire, as the case may be."

The mosquitoes were being driven out by degrees as the atmosphere became loaded with tobacco-smoke; still the Irish legend was chaunted behind the veil, while no one paid any attention except to his own voice.

"Wall, it was just afore the war that the Injuns came down and scalped the whole twelve on 'em, leaving me, in a manner, an orphan."

"What twelve?" asked Danby, the aristocratic-featured youth, simply.

"What twelve did you think, ye blasted fool? not the twelve apostles, surely?"

"Well, how could I know unless you tell me?"

"My poor brothers and sisters, of course, along with their dam, fought, Jeruselam! but they did sell their blessed lives dear, yet it warnt no use."

"But I thought you were the only child and heir of General Jackson?"

Joe stood for a moment dazed, as if he had lost something, while he passed his hand over his brow and threw back his grizzly hair, then with a drunken laugh he picked it up,—

"Don't you know Amerikay's the place for divorces cheap? and could my mother not marry again if she liked, and have twenty children if she blarned well liked to? What's to prevent her, I want to know—?"

"I don't often shoot," said Captain Collins, "but when I shoot, I kill; and, take my word on it, that's about the only way to get respect from the natives of New Guinea."



Queen Ine

"KILLMANN! WHO SAYS he didn't shoot? Ax the natives? I tell ye what, when he was up that 'ere coast, if he saw a man walking along the sands with a fine mop on him and some beads which he thought would look well amongst his curios, he thought no more of putting up his rifle and potting that native, than he did o' bringing down a bird of but then I always did say that he was like Nig there, just a little too reachy."

Captain Allan Collins was having the best of it, for he had got an audience while Joe had dropped upon the sands nearly helpless, with hardly voice enough left even to blaspheme.

"Ten o'clock, boys, and Carolina Joe as drunk as Tam o' Shanter; time we were all aboard if we mean to be up to time to-morrow morning," said a voice from the fog as it parted and revealed a figure about five foot eight, slim built and gentlemanly, with an olive tinted face and close—clipped black beard.

"All right, Bowman, I'm ready," responded Danby, getting up as calmly as if no whisky had crossed his clean-cut lips, although the boy had been supplied twice every round.

At the same moment the burly sea model of Achilles struggled to his feet, as did the others.

"Get up, Orphan Jackson," said Danby, giving the prostrate Joe a heavy slap with his bare foot, "here comes your father-in-law, with two of your royal brothers, and you haven't shown us Queen Ine and the last batch of pie-bald twins yet."

Carolina Joe, who had not lain above five minutes, rose as if he had been sleeping twelve hours, and apparently shook the drink-stupor as easily from him as a man might shake the night mists away in the early morning, while at the same moment an old native appeared in the doorway attired in a soldier's faded red coat minus the buttons, a tall white hat, and by way of under garb, a blue rag tied round his waist; he was white-bearded, grey-skinned, and bleary-eyed, and as he stood in the dim light of the guttering candle looked like a mummy dressed for a masquerade, while close behind him appeared two stalwart young blacks, bearing between them the third case of drink.

"What's in that case, Bowman?" inquired Joe, in a surly tone.

"Gin, Joe!" answered Bowman. "It's all we have now left aboard."

"It'll do," growled Joe. "Break the thing up and let us taste it."

Little Hector, ever ready with his sharp knife, stooped to prise open the case, while Joe continued, turning to the ancient king,—

"Where's the women, Primrose?"

"All gone sleep, Joe."

"An' Queen Ine?"

"Waiting down by beach."

"Fetch her, I've promised to show her to my mates, d'ye hear! an' don't forget the kids."

"She say you too dam drunk, and she no come to-night," said the king solemnly.

"You go down and tell her I want her, an' no humbug."

"All right!" replied his majesty, stalking out with an offended air as if at not being honoured enough.

"Here!" bawled out Joe, who seemed to know what the matter was.

The king returned, and stood solemnly waiting with his two sons behind him.

"Boys, this yer is my father-in-law, and the king of this island, and these yer are two of the princes, so if ye've got a stick o' baccy to give him, give it without more ado, and let him fetch his daughter."

Bowman and Danby pulled out some sticks of trader's tobacco, and bestowed them upon his majesty, who in return gave them his paw to shake, and then went out to fetch in the rebellious spouse of their host.

Meanwhile the case of gin was opened, one of the bottles produced, and uncorked, while Joe, now once more sober and genial, drank a parting peg along with his friends; he took a full measure to himself, but was economical as regards the measure of his friends.

"You've had nigh enough o' my grog, mates, this bout; I'll keep the rest for a nightcap arter you're aboard, for the Lord only knows when the next lot will come to hand."

Joe had reached that rebounding stage, which often succeeds the generosity of the drunkard.

"I suppose you want to have a good old spree with your father-in-law to-night, Joe," said Bowman, laughing over the meanness of the trader.

"No fears, I don't encourage drinkin' on this yer island, I give them tobacco, but not a drop o' grog, that's too precious."

Queen Ine appeared at this moment with her month-old twins, sullen, and being pushed forward by her father.

"My wife, mates, and the two last kids."

"Hallo! Joe, they are the same as last lot, one half caste and one pure black," cried Danby, looking over them, while the mother stood with sullen brows, and casting ominous glances towards her lord and master.

"That's the curious part on it, boys, Queen Ine always fetches twins, and always that way, one black and one white."

Queen Ine was a magnificent specimen of womanhood, tall, black as coal, upright, and, where exposed, with flesh as firm as marble; she was attired in the loose blue single shirt-gown which the missionaries give to the native women as a token of civilization. It was fastened at the shoulders and open in the neck, the rest falling in the graceful clinging folds with which sculptors drape their goddesses; she now stood half—shrouded in that rank mist through which the expiring candle shot up irregular flashes, that barely reached her, with that sullen look upon her heavily-bent brows and that lurid gleam in her dark eyes, while beside her, like a showman at a fair exhibiting the points of a leopard, hung the half-intoxicated ruler of her life, with his dirty, torn, red shirt open to the waist, his ragged patched trousers, and his bestial expression as he laid his heavy brown hairy arm across that satin-lustred jet-black shrinking shoulder; for he had half torn her gown from her as she stood passively but sternly under his coarse caresses. The two tokens of her own degradation were lying against her breasts, and were held carelessly up with one strong, lovely-modelled arm. She appeared to represent an ebony statue of indignant Nature, protesting mutely against that bestiality of so-called civilization, which degrades where it cannot slay.

Her father, like an ape, and her two brothers ranged beside her emotionless, seemed to be sunk to the level of her white husband, but she stood like a ruined queen.

"That's the sort of woman for a sailor, boys; I can leave her to look after this island when I'm away, and not one dare disobey; look on these arms, why, she could fell an ox with her club."

Queen Ine stood passive and scowling as he lifted her disengaged bare arm to show it to his friends, and as he let it go it dropped limply by her side, while his drunken friends pinched the firm flesh, and praised her up according to their lights. The candle leapt up wildly, before it sent its flame to air, and showed the whole scene with an intense flame, which did not even screen the bloated tarantula on the rafters: then, as they turned with one impulse to stagger out to the stars and freshness of the night, the degradation of the picture was mercifully blotted out, and Joe was left in darkness, with his case of gin and the woman who called him master.



Bêche-De-Mer Working

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO lie in bed after the sun rises in the tropics (no matter how late one goes to sleep), but pleasure ineffable to get up as the light appears and before the stars are quite quenched by the approaching flood of light.

Next morning the scene on the beach was a busy one, natives thronging in their canoes, laden with water-casks and fruit for the vessels about to sail, little boys and girls tumbling about the waves, or trying to fish with their pronged fish-spears, women with their infants sitting on the sands, and a constant passing to and fro of dark semi-nude figures, or sunburnt seamen.

Behind the slueing cluster of smacks lay the more massive, if less picturesque, outline of the little steamer Thunder, with her black sides and heavy Dutch-built stern, and her painted funnels emitting their gaseous vapours, which became discoloured as they were wafted towards that opal space overhead, and spread in filmy melting clouds upon the otherwise cloudless sky.

The natives had been awake and working even while the stars were still lustrous, under the direction of King Primrose, and his stern-browed daughter, Queen Ine; but the master lay grunting and tossing on his bamboo couch in that uneasy after-slumber which ever precedes the awakening from the dreamless lethargy of the drunkard.