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The Fallacies Of Hilliard Post by :restlesswind Category :Short Stories Author :Louis Becke Date :April 2011 Read :3753

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The Fallacies Of Hilliard


With clenched hand grasping the two letters--the one that sank his last hope of saving his plantation, and the other that blasted his trust in human nature--Hilliard, the planter of Nairai Viwa, walked with quick, firm step to his house, and sat down to think awhile. The great cotton "burst-up" had ruined most men in Fiji, and although long delayed in his case the blow had crushed him utterly.

An angry flush tinged his set features for a few seconds as he re-read the curt, almost savage denial, by his father of the "couple of thousand" asked for. "A fool to resign his commission in the Service and go into a thing he knew nothing about, merely to humour the fantastic whim of a woman of fashion who will, no doubt, now sheer very clear of your wrecked fortunes."

Ten minutes previously when Hilliard, who had thought his father would never see him go under for the sake of a couple of thou., had read these lines he had smiled, even with the despair of broken fortune at his heart, as he looked at the other letter yet unopened.

Kitty, at least, would stick to him. He was not a maudlin sentimentalist, but the memory of her farewell kisses was yet strong with him; and his past experiences of woman's weaknesses and his own strength justified him in thinking that in this one woman he had found his pearl of great price.

Then he read her letter; and as he read the tappa mallets at work in the Fijian houses hard by seemed to thump in unison with the dull beats of his heart as he stared at the correctly-worded and conventionally-expressed lines that mocked at his fond imaginings of but a few breaths back.


Jimmy, the curly-headed half-caste who had brought him his letters from Levuka, had followed in his steps and was sitting, hat in hand, on the sofa before him when Hilliard raised his face. The fixed pallor had left his bronzed cheeks. For an instant the face of another man had passed before him--Lamington, his one-time fellow-officer, whom every one but Hilliard himself looked upon as being "first in the running" with the woman who had pledged herself to him. But, then, Lamington himself had told him that she had refused him, heir to a big fortune as he was, and they had shaken hands, and Lamington had wished him luck in his honest, good-natured fashion. "Perhaps," and here the dark flush mantled his forehead, "he's tried again and she's slung me. And I... what a damnably unpleasant and quick intuition of women's ways my old dad has! I always wondered why such a fiery devil as he was married such a milk-and-water creature as my good mother. By ------, I begin to think he went on safe lines, and I on a fallacy!"

The stolid face of Jimmy recalled him to the present. He must give up the plantation and take a berth of some sort. From the sideboard he took a flask of liquor and poured out two big drinks.

"Here, Jimmy, my boy. This is the last drink you'll get on Nairai Viwa. I'm burst up, cleaned out, dead broke, and going to hell generally."

Jimmy grunted and held out his brown hand for the grog. "Yes? I s'pose you'll go to Levuka first? I'll give you a passage in the cutter."

Hilliard laughed with mingled bitterness and sarcasm. "Right, Jimmy. Levuka is much like the other place, and I'll get experience there, if I don't get a billet."

"Here's luck to you, sir, wherever you go," and Jimmy's thick lips glued themselves lovingly to the glass.

Hilliard drank his oft quietly, only muttering to himself, "Here's good-bye to the fallacies of hope," and then, being at bottom a man of sense and quick resolution, he packed his traps and at sunset went aboard the cutter. As they rippled along with the first puffs of the land-breeze, he glanced back but once at the lights of Nairai Viwa village that illumined the cutter's wake, and then, like a wise man, the hopes and dreams of the past drifted astern too.

And then for the next two years he drifted about from one group to another till he found an island that suited him well--no other white man lived there.




The laughing, merry-voiced native children who, with speedy feet, ran to the house of Iliati, the trader, to tell him that a visitor was coming from the man-of-war, had gathered with panting breath and hushed expectancy at the door as the figure of the naval officer turned a bend in the path, his right hand clasped with a proud air of proprietorship by that or the ten-year-old son of Alberti the Chief.

Iliati with a half-angry, half-pleased look, held out his hand. "Lamington!"

"Hilliard! old fellow. Why didn't you come on board i Are all your old friends forgotten?"


"Pretty nearly, Lamington. Since I came a cropper over that accursed cotton swindle I've not had any inclination to meet any one I knew--especially any one in the Service, but"--and his voice rang honestly, "I always wondered whether you and I would ever meet again."

"Hilliard," and Lamington placed his hand on the trader's shoulder, "I know all about it. And look here, old man. I saw her only two months ago--at her especial request. She sent for me to talk about you."

"Ah!" and the trader's voice sounded coldly, "I thought, long ago, that she had reconsidered her foolish decision of other days and had long since become Mrs. Lamington. But it doesn't interest me, old fellow. Can you drink Fiji rum, Lamington? Haven't anything better to offer you."

"I'll drink anything you've got, old fellow, even liquid Tophet boiled down to a small half-pint; but I want you to listen to me first. I've been a bit of a scoundrel to you, but, by God, old man, I exchanged into the beastly old _Petrel_ for this cruise expressly to find you and make a clean breast of it. I promised her I would."

"Confound it all, Lamington, don't harrow your feelings needlessly, and let us have the rum and talk about anything else."

"No, we won't. Look here, Hilliard, it sounds beastly low, but I must get it out. We met again--at a ball in Sydney more than two years ago. Some infernal chattering women were talking a lot of rot about the planters in Fiji having very pretty and privileged native servants--and all that, you know. She fired up and denied it, but came and asked me if it was true, and I was mean enough not to give it a straight denial. How the devil it happened I can't tell you, but we danced a deuce of a lot and I lost my senses and asked her again, and she said 'Yes.' Had she been any other woman but Miss ------, I would have concluded that the soft music and all that had dazed her. It does sometimes--lots of 'em; makes the most virtuous wife wish she could be a sinner and resume her normal goodness next day. But Kitty is different. And it was only that infernal twaddle caused it and made her write you that letter. A week hadn't passed before she wrote to me and told me how miserable she was. But I knew all through she didn't care a d------about me. And that's the way it occurred, old man."

Hilliard's hand met his. "Say no more about it, Lamington; it's a _mea mate_ as we say here--a thing that is past."

"But, good God, old fellow, you don't understand. She's written ever so many times to you. No one in Levuka knew where you had gone to; there's thousands of islands in the South Seas. And this letter here," he held it toward him, "she gave to me, and I promised her on my honour as a man to effect an exchange into the _Petrel_ and find you."

"Thanks, Lamington. You always were a good fellow." He laid the letter on the table quietly and rose and got the rum.


A young native girl, with deep lustrous eyes shining from a face of almost childish innocence, had entered the door and stood with one bare and softly-rounded arm clasped round the neck of Alberti's little son. Her lips parted in a smile as Lamington, with a gasping cough, set down his glass after drinking the potent spirit, and she set her brows in mock ferocity at Hilliard who drank his down like an old-time beachcomber.

"By Jove, Hilliard, what an astonishingly pretty face! She could give any New Orleans creole points. Time you got out of this before some of the Rotumah beauties make you forget things; and oh, by the way, I'm forgetting things. Remember you are to come aboard and dine with us to-night, and that you're in indifferent health, and that Captain ------, of Her Majesty's ship _Petrel_ is going to give you a passage to Sydney."

At an angry sign from Hilliard the girl disappeared. Then he shook his head. "No, Lamington. I appreciate your kindness, but cannot accept it. I've been here two years now, and Alberti, the principal local chief, thinks no end of me; and he's a deuced fine fellow, and has been as good as ten fathers to me. And I've business matters to attend to as well."


Lamington pressed him no further. "Lucky devil," he thought. "I suppose he'll clear out in the trading schooner to Sydney, next week; be there long before us any way, and I'll find them well over the first stage of married infatuation when I see him next."

Another hour's chat of old times and old shipmates in the _Challenger_ and Lamington, with his honest, clean-shaven face looking into the quiet, impassive features of the ex-officer, had gripped his hand and gone, and Hilliard went over to the house of Alberti, the chief, to drink _kava_--and see the old French priest. From there, an hour afterward, he saw the cruiser with wet, shining sides dip into the long roll of the ocean swell, as with the smoke pouring from her yellow funnel she was lost to sight rounding the point.


Said the son of Alberti to Lela, the innocent-faced girl with the dancing, starlike eyes and red lips, as they stood watching the last curling rings of the steamer's smoke--"And so that is why I knew much of what the _papalagi_ from the man-of-war said to your Iliati; Alberti, my father, has taught me much of your man's tongue. # And, look thou, Lela the Cunning, Iliati hath a wife in his own country!"

"Pah!"--and she shook her long, wavy locks composedly, and then plucked a scarlet hibiscus flower to stick in front of one of her pretty little ears--"what does that matter to me, fathead? I am she here; and when Iliati goeth away to her she will be me there. But he loveth me more than any other on Rotumah, and hath told me that where he goeth I shall go also. And who knoweth but that if I have a son he may marry me? Then shalt thou see such a wedding-feast as only rich people give. And listen--for why should I not tell thee: 'Tis well to starve thyself now, for it may be to-morrow, for look! fathead, there goeth the priest into thy father's house, and Iliati is already there."

(The end)
Louis Becke's short story: The Fallacies Of Hilliard

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