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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesEdward Barry: South Sea Pearler - Chapter 15. Farewell To Arrecifos
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Edward Barry: South Sea Pearler - Chapter 15. Farewell To Arrecifos Post by :brettslane Category :Long Stories Author :Louis Becke Date :May 2012 Read :3377

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Edward Barry: South Sea Pearler - Chapter 15. Farewell To Arrecifos

CHAPTER XV. FAREWELL TO ARRECIFOS

Barradas and Mrs. Tracey met him as soon as he stepped on the deck, which was covered with loose sticks of tobacco, ship biscuit, bags of rice, etc.--the present intended for the relatives of the dead men--which were being passed over the side into the other boat, where the eager, excited Tebuan people received every article with shouts of approval.

"Why, you have got along splendidly," he said, with a smile to Mrs. Tracey, whose dainty little hands were stained and discoloured with counting out tobacco, and whose perfect oval face was flushed with her exertions, as, sitting down on deck and leaning against Pani, she held her hands up before him with a laugh.

"Indeed we have! Mr. Barradas opened the tierce of tobacco, and Pani and Toea and I dug out the nasty sticky layers with sheath knives. I _think we counted out three thousand sticks; but we got a little bit confused, so perhaps there are rather more."

A smile--the first that they had ever seen on his face--lit up the swarthy features of the Spanish mate. "I think there's nearer four thousand than three, madam."

"Oh well, never mind, Mr. Barradas. We mustn't be _too particular," she said merrily, "but I _should like some hot water to clean my hands. Please tell the steward. When is the wedding to be, Mr. Barry? The bride that is to be is very nervous, and, in fact, says she'd rather Velo married her in native fashion. But I'm not going to let her disappoint me. Big Joe is to be _her best man, and the bridegroom is to be 'supported' by Mose the steward."

"I'll be ready in half an hour, Mrs. Tracey," replied Barry; "the Church Service is in my pocket, as it is."

"Ah!" and her eyes filled. "How wrong and childish of me to forget! You must forgive me; . . . but I am not myself. You have just come from the presence of death, and my first words to you are a jest. Do not be angry with me. I am not so heartless . . ."

A quick glance at her face showed Barry that she was on the verge of hysteria. "Come, Mrs. Tracey, come below."

"Yes, take me below--quickly, please," and she rose tremblingly to her feet. "I am very silly, am I not? I----"

The mate swept her up in his arms as if she were a baby and carried her below.

"Poor little woman," he said pityingly to himself, as he laid her down in her own berth; and then he added aloud, "You are overwrought and done up, Mrs. Tracey. Rest awhile, and you will soon feel better."

"Yes," she answered, trying hard to control herself from giving way altogether; "I shall be all right presently."

Motioning to the two native girls to attend her, he closed the cabin door and went on deck and joined Barradas.

"Manuel," he said, addressing his subordinate for the first time by his Christian name, whereat the Spaniard's cheeks flushed with pleasure, "we shall have to hustle along and get things done if we are to get to sea to-morrow. Poor Mrs. Tracey is not quite herself, as you can see, and until she is a bit recovered I don't want to worry her about some matters which must be attended to before we heave up. But meanwhile we can get to work at other things. Rawlings and the Greek will have to be confined in the sail-locker--there is nowhere else where we can put them with any degree of comfort. So turn to some of the hands and get it made as clean as possible. I am in hopes that we may meet a man-of-war somewhere in the Solomons; if so I can get rid of them, for a time at least."

Barradas made a gesture of assent, and at once set to work to fit up the sail-locker for the reception of the two prisoners. In half an hour his task was completed, and then Mrs. Tracey came on deck, dressed in a flowing gown of white muslin, and accompanied by Toea and Pani.

"Here we are, Mr. Barradas," she said with a smile; "where is big Joe? I must tell him what to do. And where is Mose; and where is the bridegroom himself?--ah! there he is, and quite nicely dressed, too. Tell Mr. Barry we are quite ready, please.--Come here, Velo, and promise me you will be good to my little Pani."

"I promise," said Velo gravely, taking the white woman's hand and pressing it to his forehead.

Then Barry, calling all hands aft, made Pani and Velo stand side by side on the after-deck as he read the marriage service, and the simple ceremony was soon over.

"Ring the bell like blazes!" shouted Barradas as soon as the last words of the service were uttered, and big Joe and a native sailor raced together to ring the ship's for'ard bell; then the two six-pounders on the main-deck were fired by Mose, and the marriage ceremonies of Velo and his pretty Pani were over.

"Now then, get ashore with your wife, Velo," said Barry laughingly to the faithful Samoan; "perhaps Mrs. Tracey may come and see you and Pani this evening."

"Of course I shall, Velo," said Mrs. Tracey, whose dark eyes were dancing with pleasure; "Toea and I mean to sleep ashore to-night with the Tebuan people, and come on board early in the morning. And I have some presents for little Pani."

An hour before sunset the two boats and a fleet of canoes returned from Tebuan with the pearl shell collected by Mrs. Tracey. It was hoisted aboard in baskets of coconut leaf and stowed in the main hold, and then the day's work, as far as the crew were concerned, was over.

Before supper, Barradas, Mrs. Tracey, and Barry sat together in the main cabin and examined the pearls--those which she had herself brought on board and those taken from Rawlings' cabin. Then it was that Barry showed Mrs. Tracey the seven largest pearls yet obtained.

"I kept these, Mrs. Tracey, to give to you personally," he said simply; "I did not want Rawlings or the Greek to touch them. I wanted to give them to you unsullied by the touch of their hands."

"How kind you are!" she murmured softly as, bending her head, she moved the beautiful gems to and fro under her hands upon the scarlet tablecloth, then raising her dark hazel eyes to Barry she dropped them suddenly with a blush, for both men were regarding her with undisguised admiration.

After supper she and Toea were taken on shore, and at once went to Velo's house (which was that formerly occupied by Barry). The Samoan and his wife received them with delight, and in a few minutes the house was filled with native women and girls who came to see the box of presents brought for Pani. Then, surrounded by the women, Mrs. Tracey went away to sleep for the last time in the house occupied by old Roku and Gurden's connections--the people who had been so kind to her during those first long, weary months on Tebuan.

At six o'clock in the morning Barry came ashore in the whaleboat, followed by the dinghy, which was to convey the prisoners on board. They were at once handed over by their native guards to Joe and his boat's crew, who assisted them down to the dinghy, and then pulled off to the ship.

Barradas received them at the gangway, and, taking no heed of the murderous looks and savage curses of the Greek, saw that they were placed in the deck-house and a sentry put over them. Their leg-irons, he told them, Barry intended to remove once the brig was clear of the land. Rawlings made no reply, but the Greek broke out afresh with a torrent of curses, and suddenly raising his manacled hands he brought them down upon the Spaniard's cheek and cut it to the bone. In another moment Joe would have felled the brute, ironed as he was, to the deck, but Barradas sternly struck aside his arm, and without a word of anger calmly went below and got the steward to stitch together the gaping wound.

On shore the people of Tebuan were clustering around the white woman and Barry as they stood together beside the flag-pole from which the red ensign of England streamed out to the lusty trade wind.

Velo, ever faithful Velo, wrung Barry's hand again and again, for proud as he was of being placed in charge of the island, his distress at parting from him was very great.

"There, good-bye once more, Velo. Don't work too hard, and, if a man-of-war comes, be sure you go on board and give the captain that letter. Come, Mrs. Tracey, we must be going. See, Barradas is already hove short, and waiting for us."

Helping Mrs. Tracey into the whaleboat, Barry followed, and grasped the long steer-oar.

"Give it to her, men, there's the brig breaking her heart to get away."

The light boat shot out like an arrow, and was soon alongside, and Mrs. Tracey was met at the gangway by Joe and another white seaman, both dressed in new duck suits given them by Barradas.

But instead of going into the cabin Mrs. Tracey waited at the gangway for Barry.

"I want to welcome the new captain of my ship," she said with a smile, as she held out her hand to him.

"Thank you, madam," and Barry raised his hat to her in such a formal manner that she laughed again, and asked him if he was afraid of the brig's owner, and Joe winked atrociously at Sam Button, and said in a loud whisper--

"He's a lucky cove, e' is, Sam. W'y 'e can marry the howner for the arskin'. I can see it in 'er eye, stickin' out a foot."

"Man the windlass again, Mr. Barradas," and Barry with a happy smile sprang on the poop, and himself took the wheel.

"Aye, aye, _Captain Barry."

Up came the anchor from the coral bed in which it had lain for so many months, and ten minutes later the _Mahina was slipping through the smooth water of the lagoon towards the passage. Another hour, with every stitch of her white cotton canvas shining bright in the glorious noonday sun, she was dashing over the long mountain swell of the North Pacific, and heading south before the brave north-east trade wind.

At noon the watches were picked, and then the captain ordered the Solomon Islanders to be brought on deck. They came up one by one with the expectation of being at once shot. Togaro, the leader, who understood and spoke a little English, glared resentfully at Barry when the latter ordered him to step out from the rest and listen to what he had to say.

"Togaro," said the captain, "I don't want to keep all your fellows down there in the hold, and no harm will be done to any of you if you obey orders. If you do as I tell you, then I will put you all ashore at Bouka in about two or three weeks from now. Now this is what you must do: eight of you can stay on deck at a time to help the sailors; the other eight must stay below. If any one of them tries to come on deck without permission he will be shot. Do you understand?"

The savage nodded.

"And as you are the boss, you will be shot too. Do you understand that?"

"Me savee, cap'en," replied Togaro, turning to his companions and translating Barry's speech. They grinned approval, and each one promised to faithfully obey the captain's orders, and as a proof of their honesty one of them descended into the hold and reappeared with three or four tomahawks and some knives which they had concealed among the cases of shell.

"That's all right, Togaro," said Barry as the weapons were passed over to Joe; "if you and your people are good fellows, you shall have these tomahawks and knives back again when we get to Bouka. And if you work well you'll get plenty of _kai kai_; if you don't, you'll feel hungry all the time. Steward, serve them out pipes and tobacco and tell the cook to give them a good square feed right away--the poor devils must be pretty hungry by this time."

* * * * * *

"Captain Barry," said Mrs. Tracey to him as he rejoined her on the after-deck, "you ought to be an admiral. How easily you did it all! Look now! There are those dreadful savages sitting down as quietly as if there had never been any trouble with them. I won't have the slightest fear of them in the future."

"I don't think there will be any danger to be apprehended from them now. Togaro, the leader, and myself had a little difference once----"

"I know. Velo has told me all about it----"

"And he'll be careful in the future. He's a thundering savage though, and I've no doubt but that he murdered poor Harry. However, bygones must be bygones now. We want no more bloodshed."

"No indeed," she said with a shudder, "but what has occurred was no fault of yours. You are, I am sure," she added impulsively, placing her hand on his arm, "a merciful man, as well as a brave one. Your wife that is to be will be a happy woman, Mr. Barry."

* * * * * *

For thirteen days the little _Mahina ran southward under cloudless skies and over softly swelling seas till Bouka was sighted, and Togaro and his men prepared to be landed in a little bay fringed with coco-palms growing around a half-circle of snowy beach. They had all behaved well, and each man, ere he got into the boat which was to take them ashore, insisted on shaking hands with Barry and every one else on board. They were landed at sundown, and by dark the _Mahina was again slipping over the long Pacific swell with the light of myriad stars illumining her snowy canvas and shining upon her spotless deck.

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