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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesJohn Frewen, South Sea Whaler - Book 1 - Chapter 9
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John Frewen, South Sea Whaler - Book 1 - Chapter 9 Post by :brettslane Category :Long Stories Author :Louis Becke Date :May 2012 Read :1194

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John Frewen, South Sea Whaler - Book 1 - Chapter 9

BOOK I CHAPTER IX

Soon after Raymond and the old chief with his followers had set out for the ship, and when the swift tropic night had closed in upon the island, Captain Marston died. He was conscious when his kindly host and Randall Cheyne had returned, and before he passed away, thanked the planter sincerely for all that he had done for his wife, his crew, and himself; for he well knew that his end was near.

"I fear that nothing will ever be heard of my ship again," he said, in a whisper. "They will scuttle or burn her. My poor wife!" and he pressed her hand. "But thank God, Amy, you will not be quite penniless. Mercado" (his agent in Valparaiso) "will have about two or three thousand pounds to pay you for some cargo he bought from me. You must go there. He is an honourable man, and will not seek to evade his liabilities. I know him well."

Raymond, whose heart was overflowing with pity for the dying man, could no longer restrain himself. At first he had decided not to say a word to Marston about the intended recapture of the ship, for fear it would excite him; but now, when he saw how calmly and collectedly he spoke of her future to his wife, he changed his mind, and, bending down, said:--

"Captain Marston, I must say a few words to you and Mrs. Marston. I did not intend to do so just now, but I know that they will bring you peace of mind, and help you to recovery. I have good news for you."

Marston looked at him eagerly, and his wife, with her hands clasped, moved a little nearer to the planter, who was speaking in very low tones so as not to disturb or excite a man whom he knew was dying bodily, but whose brain was alive.

"Is it about my ship?"

"Yes. She is within six miles of this house, lying becalmed, and, before midnight, will be recaptured by some good friends of mine, and at anchor in this bay by daylight."

Marston's lips quivered, and the agonising look of inquiry and doubt in his eyes was so piteous to behold that Raymond went on more rapidly.

"You may absolutely rely upon what I say. The _Esmeralda has been in sight since early in the forenoon. I boarded her this morning with the express purpose of seeing if it were possible to recapture her, and have only just returned. And I assure you on my word of honour that she _shall be recaptured before midnight, without bloodshed, I trust; for the mutineers are completely off their guard, believing I am returning with fifty natives in several boats to tow the ship out of danger, purely out of kindness to their leader."

"You are indeed a good friend," murmured Marston slowly and haltingly. "My wife has told me your name... I know my time is short. If you recapture my ship... she is worth six thousand pounds, and the specie on board amounts to nine thousand. I commend my wife to your care------"

Raymond pressed his hand, and urged him not to say anything further, but Marston, whose eyes were now lightened by that ephemeral light so often seen in the eyes of the dying, went on--

"I commend my wife to your care... and Villari--is he dead?"

"No, Harry," whispered Mrs. Marston, "he is not dead, but badly wounded."

"Poor Villari... a born sailorman, though an Italian.... Mr. Raymond, Amy... Let him command.... I should have taken his advice... And give him five hundred pounds, Amy.... You, Mr. Raymond, will be entitled to a third of the value of the ship and her cargo... You understand?"

"I will not take a penny," said Raymond, as he rose. "Now I must be going. But have no fear for the _Esmeralda_. She will be at anchor in this bay to-morrow morning."

Marston put his hand gently over towards him, and pressing it softly, Raymond withdrew.

His wife met him at the door. Her dark, Spanishlike face showed traces of tears, but she smiled bravely as he put his arms around her and kissed her.

"Tom, dear, you must not be angry. I have not been crying for fear that something may happen to you if there is a fight with those dreadful men on board the ship--for I am _sure that you will come back to me and our little one safe and sound--but I do so pity poor Mrs. Marston, Tom, if Captain Marston dies."

"I think that there is no possible hope of his recovery, dear."

"Then she must stay with us, Tom, for some time, until she is stronger. She will need to have a woman's care soon."

Raymond kissed his wife again. "As you will, Marie; you always think of others. And I shall be very glad if she will stay with us."

Ten minutes later she walked down to the beach, and watched her husband and Malie with his followers depart, and then she slowly returned home along a winding path bordered by shaddock trees, whose slender branches were weighted down with the great golden-hued fruit. As she reached the verandah steps a pretty little girl of four years of age ran up to her, and held out her arms to be taken up.

"Where has father gone, Muzzie?" she said in English, and then rapidly added in Samoan, "_Ua alu ia i moana?_" ("Has he gone upon the sea?")

"Yes, Loise. He has gone upon the sea, but will soon return. Where is Malu?"

"Here, lady," replied a woman's voice in the soft Samoan tongue, and a pleasant-faced, grey-haired woman of fifty came down the steps, and took the child from her mother's arms, and as she did so, whispered, "The tide hath turned to the ebb."{*}


* Note by the Author.--Nearly all Polynesians and
Micronesians believed most firmly that the dissolution
of soul from body always (excepting in cases of sudden
death by violence or accident) occurred when the tide
is on the ebb. From a long experience of life in the
Pacific Islands, the writer is thoroughly imbued with
and endorses that belief. The idea of the passing away
of life with the ebbing of the tide will doubtless seem
absurd to the European and civilised mind, but it must
be remembered that an inborn and inherited belief,
such as this, does, with many so-called semi-savage
races, produce certain physical conditions that
are well understood by pathologists.


"Ay, good Malu. I know it. So keep the child within thy own room, so that the house may be quiet."

Old Malu, who had nursed Mrs. Raymond's mother, bent her head in assent, and went inside, and her mistress sat down in one of the cane-work lounge chairs on the wide verandah and closed her eyes, for she was wearied, physically and mentally. Her nerves had been strained greatly by the events of the day, and now the knowledge that within a few feet of where she sat, a life was passing away, and a woman's heart was breaking, saddened her greatly.

"I must not give way," she thought. "I must go and see how the wounded men are doing."

But ere she knew it, there came the low but hoarse murmuring cries of myriad terns and gulls flying homewards to the land, mingled with the deep evening note of the blue mountain pigeons; and then kindly slumber came, and rest for the troubled brain and sorrowing heart.

She had slept for nearly an hour when a young native girl servant, who had been left to wait upon Mrs. Marston, came quickly but softly along the verandah and touched her arm.

"Awake, Marie,{*} and come to the white lady."


* It will doubtless strike the reader as being peculiar that
an educated and refined woman such as I have endeavoured to
portray in Mrs. Raymond would allow a servant to address her
by her Christian name. But the explanation is very simple:
In many European families living in Polynesia and in
Micronesia the native servants usually address their masters
and mistresses and their children by their Christian names--
unless it is a missionary household, when the master would
be addressed as "Misi "(Mr.) and the mistress as "Misi
fafine "(Mrs.). The difference does not in the least imply
that the servant speaks to the lay white man and his wife in
a more familiar manner than he would to his spiritual
teacher. No disrespect nor rude familiarity is intended--
quite the reverse; it is merely an affectionate manner of
speaking to the employer, not _as an employer, but as the
friend of the household generally. It is related of the
martyred missionary John Williams, that a colleague of his
in Tahiti once reproved a native youth for addressing Mr.
Williams as "Viriamu" (Williams) instead of "Misi Yiriamu"
(Mr. Williams), whereupon the pioneer of missionary
enterprise in the South Seas remarked--" It does not matter,
Mr. -----, I infinitely prefer to be called
'Viriamu' than 'Tione Viriamu Mamae' (the Sacred, or
Reverend, John Williams)."


She rose and followed the girl to the room where Marston lay. His wife was kneeling by him with her lips pressed to his.

Marie Raymond knelt beside her, and passed her arm around her waist.

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BOOK I CHAPTER VIIIFrewen seemed to think for a moment or two ere he replied; then he looked at Raymond inquiringly. "How long would it take to send to Falealili,{*} and ask Tom Morton, the trader, to come with his two boats and help the captain?" he asked. * A large native town on the south side of Upolu. "A day at least--too long altogether with such a strong current setting the ship towards the reef." "Ah, yes, I daresay it would," he said meditatively; then, as if struck with a sudden inspiration, he added quickly, "What about Malie? He has
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