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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTessa - Chapter 12
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Tessa - Chapter 12 Post by :Keyser Category :Long Stories Author :Louis Becke Date :May 2012 Read :1948

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Tessa - Chapter 12

CHAPTER XII

Soon after they had left Harvey the Manhikian and Huka parted, each preferring to take his own way, Roka laughingly telling his comrade that although he, Roka, had no spear, he would bring back a turtle.

"In my land of Manihiki we trouble not about spears. We dive after the turtle and drag them ashore."

"Thou boaster," replied the Savage Islander good-naturedly, as he stepped briskly down the hard, white sand towards the water, his sturdy, reddish-brown body naked to the waist, and his brawny right arm twirling the heavy turtle-spear about his head as if it were a bamboo wand. "I go into the lagoon, whither goest thou?"

Roka pointed ahead. "Along the beach towards the islet with the high trees. May we both be lucky in our fishing."

In a few minutes he was out of sight and hearing of his shipmate, for the beach took a sudden curve round a low, densely-verdured point, on the other side of which it ran in an almost straight line for a mile. Suddenly he paused and shaded his eyes with his hand as he caught sight of a dark object lying on the sand.

"'Tis a boat," he muttered, and in another moment he was speeding towards it. When within a few hundred yards he stopped and then crouched upon his hands and knees, his dark eyes gleaming with excitement.

"It is the captain's boat," he said to himself, as lying flat upon his stomach he dragged himself over the sand into the shelter of the low thicket scrub which fringed the bank at high-water mark. Once there, he stood up, and watched carefully. Then stripping off his clothes and throwing them aside, he sped swiftly along an old native path, which ran parallel to the beach, till he was abreast of the boat. Then he crouched down again and listened. No sound broke the silence except the call of the sea-birds and the drone of the surf upon the reef.

He waited patiently, his keen eyes searching and his quick ear listening; then creeping softly along on his hands and knees again, he examined the sandy soil. In a few minutes his search was rewarded, for he came across the footmarks of Chard and the captain, leading to the vine-covered boulders under the shelter of which they had made their camp. Following these up, he was soon at the place itself, and examining the various articles lying upon the ground--provisions, clothing, the roll of charts, sextant. Leaning against the rocky wall was a Snider carbine. He seized it quickly, opened the breach, and saw that it was loaded; then he made a hurried search for more cartridges, and found nearly a dozen tied up in a handkerchief with about fifty Winchesters. These latter he quickly buried in the sand, and then with his eyes alight with the joy of savage expectancy of revenge, he again sought and found the tracks of the two men, which led in the very direction from which he had come.

To a man like Roka there was no difficulty in following the line which Hendry and the supercargo had taken; their footsteps showed deep in the soft, sandy soil, rendered the more impressionable by the heavy downfall of rain a few hours before. And even had they left no traces underfoot of their progress, the countless broken branches and vines which they had pushed or torn aside on their way through the forest were a sure guide to one of Nature's children, whose pursuit was quickened by his desire for vengeance upon the murderers of his brother and his shipmates.

Pushing his way through a dense strip of the tough, thorny scrub called _ngiia_, he suddenly emerged into the open once more--on the weather side of the island. First his eye ran along the sand to discover which way the footsteps trended; they led southwards towards a low, rugged boulder whose sides and summit were thickly clothed with a thick, fleshy-leaved creeper. Beyond that lay the bare expanse of reef, along which he saw Harvey Carr was walking towards the shore, unconscious of danger. And right in his line of vision he saw Chard, who, kneeling amid the foliage of the boulder, was covering Harvey with his rifle; in another instant the supercargo had fired, Roka dropped on one knee and raised his Snider carbine, just as Sam Chard turned to Hendry with a smile upon his handsome, evil face, and waved his hand mockingly towards the prone figure of Harvey.

"That's one more to the good, Louis----" he began, when Roka's carbine rang out, and the supercargo spun round, staggering, and then fell upon his hands and knees, with the blood gushing in torrents from his mouth.

Hendry, taking no heed of anything but his own safety, dashed into the undergrowth and disappeared.

Running past Chard, rifle in hand, the Manhikian launched a curse at the groaning man, who heard him not in his agony. Leaping from pool to pool over the rough, jagged coral, which cut and tore his feet and legs, the seaman sprang to Harvey's aid, and a hoarse sob of joy burst from him when he saw that he was not dead.

"My thigh is broken, Roka. Carry me to the shore quickly, and then haste, haste, good Roka, and warn the others. These men of Pikirami are traitors. Haste thee, dear friend, if ye be a good man and true, and help to save the woman who is dear to me."

Tearing off the sleeves of Harvey's shirt, Roka, as he answered, bound them tightly over the wound to stay the flow of blood. "Nay, master, 'tis not the men of Pikirami. 'Tis the captain and the _tuhi tuhi_{*} who have done this to thee. Nay, question me no more... so, gently, let me lift thee."

He raised Harvey up in his mighty arms as if he were a child, his right hand still grasping the Snider carbine, and carried him carefully to the beach. There he laid him down for a while.

"Stay not here with me, Roka of Manhiki," said Harvey, trying hard to speak calmly, though he was suffering the greatest agony from his wound--"stay not here, but run, run quickly, so that there may be no more murder done. Leave me here.... Tell the _sua alii_{**} to get the people together and hunt and slay those two men. Give them no mercy."

* I.e., one who writes--a supercargo or clerk.

** The mate, chief officer--one next in command to a captain.

"No mercy shall they have," said the Manhikian grimly; "so rest thee content for a little while.... _Aue!_"

He sprang to his feet, carbine in hand, for from out the thickset jungle there emerged a thing of horror to look upon.

Chard, leaning upon his Winchester, was staggering down to the beach, with his lower jaw shot away. He came blindly on towards the man he had sought to murder, gasping and groaning. Then he saw Roka, dropped his Winchester, threw up his hands, and tried to speak.

Roka walked up to him.

"'Tis better for thee to die quickly," he said.

The supercargo swayed to and fro, and mutely held out both hands to Harvey as if imploring help or forgiveness.

Roka drew back, and planted his left foot firmly in the sand, as he placed the muzzle of his carbine against Chard's breast, and Chard, grasping the barrel in his left hand to steady himself, bent his dreadful face upon his chest.

*****

As the loud report reverberated through the leafy forest aisles there came the sound of rushing feet, and Malua and the rest of the crew of the Motutapu, together with the six Pikirami natives, burst through the undergrowth, and gazed in wonder at the scene before them--Harvey lying on the sand, Roka with his still-smoking rifle in his hand, standing over the dead body of Chard.

Too weak from loss of blood to answer Malua's weeping inquiries, Harvey yet managed to smile at him, and indicate Roka by a wave of his hand. Then the Manhikian spoke.

"No time is there now to tell ye all. Run back, some of ye, to the _sua alii Atkins, and tell him that I have killed the man Chard, but that the captain hath escaped. Get thee each a rifle and follow him. He hath fled towards his boat, which lieth on the little island with the high trees. Follow, follow quickly, lest he drag the boat into the water and sail away. Slay him. Let his blood run out. And tell the _sua alii Atkins and the white girl that Harfi hath been sorely hurt, but is well, and will not die, for it is but a broken bone."

Five or six men darted off, while the rest, under Roka's directions, quickly made a litter for Harvey, and placed him upon it.

"Art thou in pain, master?" asked the giant Manhikian tenderly, as the bearers lifted the wounded man.

"Ay, but let me smoke so that the pain may go. And one of ye go to where I fell on the reef and bring me the five pule,{*} lest when the tide cometh in they be lost."

* Cowries.

Roka himself ran off, picked up the hat and shells and brought them back; then he gave the word to march.

Half-way through the forest they were met by Atkins and Tessa, who were accompanied by the entire population of the village, except those of the young men who had set off in pursuit of Hendry.

"I'm all right, Tessa," said Harvey; "it's only a broken bone. Atkins, old man, don't look so worried. You can set it easily enough. Good man, you've brought some rum, I see, and 'I willna say no,' as poor Morrison used to say."

Atkins, whose hand was shaking with excitement, for he thought that perhaps Harvey was mortally wounded and was only assuming cheerfulness, gave him a stiff tot of rum.

"Here's luck to you, Atkins. Tessa dear, don't cry. Atkins will fix me up in a brace of shakes as soon as we get to the village. And look here, Tess. See what I found upon the reef."

*****

Long before sunset Harvey was sleeping quietly in the head-man's house, with Tessa and Maoni watching beside him. Atkins had carefully set the broken limb with broad splints of coconut-spathe; and, proud and satisfied with his work, was pacing to and fro outside the house, smoking his pipe.

Presently Latour and Malua appeared, and the Frenchman beckoned to the second mate.

"What is it, steward?"

"Huka has just come back, sir. He wants to see you. The captain is dead."

"Thank God for that. Where did they get him?"

"Huka will tell you, sir. Here he is."

The Savage Islander stepped forward, and raised his hand in salute, with a smile of pride upon his lips.

"I been kill him," he said in his broken English; "I was come along back to meet Mr. Harvey, when I hear the guns. And then I see the captain come, running quick. He have Winchester in his hand, and when he see me he stop. He fire two, three times at me. Then I run up to him, and I drive my turtle spear through him, and he fall down and I put my foot on his mouth, and he die."

Atkins slapped him on the shoulder. "Good man you, Huka! Stay here a moment, and I'll bring you a big drink of rum. Then we must go and bury both the swine."

*****

Three weeks later the _Sikiana sailed into the lagoon, and the "good little Dutch skipper," of whom Harvey had spoken, had him brought on board and placed in his bunk for the voyage to Ponape.

"My tear Mees Tessa," he said, "Mr. Carr haf dold me dat your fader vill gif me five hundred dollar ven ve get to Ponape. If der _Sikiana vas mein own ship I vould dake you und Mr. Carr and der second mate und all your natives to Ponape for nodings; for your fader vas a good man to me, und Harvey Carr vas a good man to me ven I sailed mit him in the _Belle Brandon_. But you must invide old Westphalen to the wedding."

"Indeed we shall, captain."

"And me too, miss?" asked Atkins, with a sly twinkle in his eye.

"And you too, of course, dear, dear Atkins, so good, brave, and true. There, look, Harvey, I am going to kiss Mr. Atkins."

"God bless you both, miss," said the mate huskily.


(THE END)
Louis Becke's Novel: Tessa

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