Mischief brewing—My blood is made to run cold—Evil consultations and wicked
resolves—Bloody Bill attempts to do good, and fails—The attack—Wholesale
murder—The flight—The escape.
 NEXT morning I awoke with a feverish brow and a feeling of deep depression at my heart, and the more
I thought on my unhappy fate, the more wretched and miserable did I feel.
I was surrounded on all sides by human beings of the most dreadful character, to whom the shedding
of blood was mere pastime. On shore were the natives, whose practices were so horrible that I could
not think of them without shuddering. On board were none but pirates of the blackest dye, who,
although not cannibals, were foul murderers, and more blameworthy even than the savages, inasmuch as
they knew better. Even Bill, with whom I had, under the strange circumstances of my lot, formed a
kind of intimacy, was so fierce in his nature as to have acquired the title of "Bloody" from his
vile companions. I felt very much cast down the more I considered the subject and the impossibility
of delivery, as it seemed to me—at least, for a long time to come. At last, in my feeling of
utter helplessness, I prayed fervently to the Almighty that He would deliver me out of my miserable
condition; and when I had done so I felt some degree of comfort.
 When the captain came on deck, before the hour at which the men usually started for the woods, I
begged of him to permit me to remain aboard that day, as I did not feel well; but he looked at me
angrily, and ordered me, in a surly tone, to get ready to go on shore as usual. The fact was that
the captain had been out of humour for some time past. Romata and he had had some differences, and
high words had passed between them, during which the chief had threatened to send a fleet of his
war-canoes, with a thousand men, to break up and burn the schooner; whereupon the captain smiled
sarcastically, and, going up to the chief, gazed sternly in his face, while he said, "I have only to
raise my little finger just now, and my big gun will blow your whole village to atoms in five
minutes!" Although the chief was a bold man, he quailed before the pirate's glance and threat, and
made no reply; but a bad feeling had been raised, and old sores had been opened.
I had, therefore, to go with the wood-cutters that day. Before starting, however, the captain called
me into the cabin, and said—
"Here, Ralph; I've got a mission for you, lad. That blackguard Romata is in the dumps, and nothing
will mollify him but a gift; so do you go up to his house and give him these whale's teeth, with my
compliments. Take with you one of the men who can speak the language."
I looked at the gift in some surprise, for it consisted of six white whale's teeth, and two of the
same dyed bright red, which seemed to me very paltry things. However, I did not dare to hesitate or
ask any questions; so, gathering them up, I left the cabin, and was soon on my way to the chiefs
house, accompanied by Bill. On expressing my surprise at the gift, he saidó244
"They're paltry enough to you or me, Ralph, but they're considered of great value by them chaps.
They're a sort o' cash among them. The red ones are the most prized, one of them bein' equal to
twenty o' the white ones. I suppose the only reason for their bein' valuable is that there ain't
many of them, and they're hard to be got."
On arriving at the house, we found Romata sitting on a mat, in the midst of a number of large bales
of native cloth and other articles, which had been brought to him as presents from time to time by
inferior chiefs. He received us rather haughtily; but on Bill explaining the nature of our errand,
he became very condescending, and his eyes glistened with satisfaction when he received the whale's
teeth, although he laid them aside with an assumption of kingly indifference.
"Go," said he, with a wave of the hand—"go tell your captain that he may cut wood to-day, but
not to-morrow. He must come ashore; I want to have a palaver with him."
As we left the house to return to the woods, Bill shook his head.
"There's mischief brewin' in that black rascal's head. I know him of old. But what comes here?"
As he spoke, we heard the sound of laughter and shouting in the wood, and presently there issued
from it a band of savages, in the midst of whom were a number of men bearing burdens on their
shoulders. At first I thought that these burdens were poles with something rolled round them, the
end of each pole resting on a man's shoulder; but on a nearer approach I saw that they were human
beings, tied hand and foot, and so lashed to the poles that they could not move. I counted twenty of
them as they passed.
 "More murder!" said Bill, in a voice that sounded between a hoarse laugh and a groan.
"Surely they are not going to murder them?" said I, looking anxiously into Bill's face.
"I don't know, Ralph," replied Bill, "what they're goin' to do with them; but I fear they mean no
good when they tie fellows up in that way."
As we continued our way towards the wood-cutters, I observed that Bill looked anxiously over his
shoulder in the direction where the procession had disappeared. At last he stopped, and turning
abruptly on his heel, said—
"I tell ye what it is, Ralph: I must be at the bottom o' that affair. Let us follow these black
scoundrels and see what they're goin' to do."
I must say I had no wish to pry further into their bloody practices; but Bill seemed bent on it, so
I turned and went. We passed rapidly through the bush, being guided in the right direction by the
shouts of the savages. Suddenly there was a dead silence, which continued for some time, while Bill
and I involuntarily quickened our pace until we were running at the top of our speed across the
narrow neck of land previously mentioned. As we reached the verge of the wood, we discovered the
savages surrounding the large war-canoe, which they were apparently on the point of launching.
Suddenly the multitude put their united strength to the canoe; but scarcely had the huge machine
begun to move, when a yell, the most appalling that ever fell upon my ear, rose high above the
shouting of the savages. It had not died away when another and another smote upon my throbbing ear;
and then I saw that these inhuman monsters were actually launching their canoe over the living
bodies of their victims. But there was no pity in the
 breasts of these men. Forward they went in ruthless indifference, shouting as they went, while high
above their voices rang the dying shrieks of those wretched creatures, as, one after another, the
ponderous canoe passed over them, burst the eyeballs from their sockets, and sent the life-blood
gushing from their mouths. O reader, this is no fiction. I would not, for the sake of thrilling you
with horror, invent so terrible a scene. It was witnessed. It is true—true as that accursed
sin which has rendered the human heart capable of such diabolical enormities!
When it was over, I turned round and fell upon the grass with a deep groan; but Bill seized me by
the arm, and lifting me up as if I had been a child, cried—
"Come along, lad; let's away!"—and so, staggering and stumbling over the tangled underwood, we
fled from the fatal spot.
During the remainder of that day, I felt as if I were in a horrible dream. I scarce knew what was
said to me, and was more than once blamed by the men for idling my time. At last the hour to return
aboard came. We marched down to the beach, and I felt relief for the first time when my feet rested
on the schooner's deck.
In the course of the evening I overheard part of a conversation between the captain and the first
mate, which startled me not a little. They were down in the cabin, and conversed in an undertone;
but the skylight being off, I overheard every word that was said.
"I don't half like it," said the mate, "It seems to me that we'll only have hard fightin' and no
"No pay!" repeated the captain, in a voice of suppressed anger, "Do you call a good cargo all for
nothing no pay?"
 "Very true," returned the mate; "but we've got the cargo aboard. Why not cut your cable and take
French leave o' them? What's the use o' tryin' to kill the blackguards when it'll do us no manner o'
"Mate," said the captain in a low voice, "you talk like a fresh-water sailor. I can only attribute
this shyness to some strange delusion; for surely" (his voice assumed a slightly sneering tone as he
said this), "surely I am not to suppose that you have become soft-hearted! Besides, you are
wrong in regard to the cargo being aboard; there's a good quarter of it lying in the woods, and that
blackguard chief knows it and won't let me take it off. He defied us to do our worst yesterday."
"Defied us! did he?" cried the mate with a bitter laugh. "Poor, contemptible thing!"
"And yet he seems not so contemptible but that you are afraid to attack him."
"Who said I was afraid?" growled the mate sulkily. "I'm as ready as any man in the ship. But,
captain, what is it that you intend to do?"
"I intend to muffle the sweeps and row the schooner up to the head of the creek there, from which
point we can command the pile of sandal-wood with our gun. Then I shall land with all the men except
two, who shall take care of the schooner and be ready with the boat to take us off. We can creep
through the woods to the head of the village, where these cannibals are always dancing round their
suppers of human flesh, and if the carbines of the men are loaded with a heavy charge of buck-shot
we can drop forty or fifty at the first volley. After that the thing will be easy enough. The
savages will take to the mountains in a body, and we shall take what we require, up anchor, and
 To this plan the mate at length agreed. As he left the cabin I heard the captain say—
"Give the men an extra glass of grog, and don't forget the buck-shot."
The reader may conceive the horror with which I heard this murderous conversation. I immediately
repeated it to Bill, who seemed much perplexed about it. At length he said—
"I'll tell you what I'll do, Ralph. I'll swim ashore after dark and fix a musket to a tree not far
from the place where we'll have to land, and I'll tie a long string to the trigger, so that when our
fellows cross it they'll let it off, and so alarm the village in time to prevent an attack, but not
in time to prevent us gettin' back to the boat. So, Master Captain," added Bill, with a smile that
for the first time seemed to me to be mingled with good-natured cheerfulness, "you'll be balked at
least for once in your life by Bloody Bill."
After it grew dark, Bill put this resolve in practice. He slipped over the side with a musket in his
left hand, while with his right he swam ashore and entered the woods. He soon returned, having
accomplished his purpose, and got on board without being seen, I being the only one on deck.
When the hour of midnight approached the men were mustered on deck, the cable was cut, and the
muffled sweeps got out. These sweeps were immensely large oars, each requiring a couple of men to
work it. In a few minutes we entered the mouth of the creek, which was indeed the mouth of a small
river, and took about half-an-hour to ascend it, although the spot where we intended to land was not
more than six hundred yards from the mouth, because there was a slight current against us, and the
 narrowed the creek impeded the rowers in some places. Having reached the spot, which was so darkened
by overhanging trees that we could see with difficulty, a small kedge anchor attached to a thin line
was let softly down over the stern.
"Now, lads," whispered the captain, as he walked along the line of men, who were all armed to the
teeth, "don't be in a hurry, aim low, and don't waste your first shots."
He then pointed to the boat, into which the men crowded in silence. There was no room to row; but
oars were not needed, as a slight push against the side of the schooner sent the boat gliding to the
"There's no need of leaving two in the boat," whispered the mate, as the men stepped out; "we shall
want all our hands. Let Ralph stay."
The captain assented, and ordered me to stand in readiness with the boat-hook, to shove ashore at a
moment's notice if they should return, or to shove off if any of the savages should happen to
approach. He then threw his carbine into the hollow of his arm and glided through the bushes,
followed by his men. With a throbbing heart I awaited the result of our plan. I knew the exact
locality where the musket was placed, for Bill had described it to me, and I kept my straining eyes
fixed upon the spot. But no sound came, and I began to fear that either they had gone in another
direction or that Bill had not fixed the string properly. Suddenly I heard a faint click, and
observed one or two bright sparks among the bushes. My heart immediately sank within me, for I knew
at once that the trigger had indeed been pulled, but that the priming had not caught. The plan,
therefore, had utterly failed. A feeling of dread now began to creep over me as I stood in the
 boat, in that dark, silent spot, awaiting the issue of this murderous expedition. I shuddered as I
glanced at the water that glided past like a dark reptile. I looked back at the schooner, but her
hull was just barely visible, while her tapering masts were lost among the trees which overshadowed
her. Her lower sails were set, but so thick was the gloom that they were quite invisible.
Suddenly I heard a shot. In a moment a thousand voices raised a yell in the village; again the cry
rose on the night air, and was followed by broken shouts as of scattered parties of men bounding
into the woods. Then I heard another shout loud and close at hand. It was the voice of the captain
cursing the man who had fired the premature shot. Then came the order, "Forward!" followed by a wild
hurrah of our men as they charged the savages. Shots now rang in quick succession, and at last a
loud volley startled the echoes of the woods. It was followed by a multitude of wild shrieks, which
were immediately drowned in another hurrah from the men; the distance of the sound proving that they
were driving their enemies before them towards the sea.
While I was listening intently to these sounds, which were now mingled in confusion, I was startled
by the rustling of the leaves not far from me. At first I thought it was a party of savages who had
observed the schooner, but I was speedily undeceived by observing a body of natives
—apparently several hundreds, as far as I could guess in the uncertain light—bounding
through the woods towards the scene of battle. I saw at once that this was a party who had
outflanked our men, and would speedily attack them in the rear. And so it turned out; for in a short
time the shouts increased
 tenfold, and among them I thought I heard a death-cry uttered by voices familiar to my ear.
At length the tumult of battle ceased, and from the cries of exultation that now arose from the
savages, I felt assured that our men had been conquered. I was immediately thrown into dreadful
consternation. What was I now to do? To be taken by the savages was too horrible to be thought of;
to flee to the mountains was hopeless, as I should soon be discovered; and to take the schooner out
of the creek without assistance was impossible. I resolved, however, to make the attempt, as being
my only hope, and was on the point of pushing off, when my hand was stayed, and my blood chilled by
an appalling shriek, in which I recognised the voice of one of the crew. It was succeeded by a shout
from the savages. Then came another and another shriek of agony, making my ears to tingle, as I felt
convinced they were murdering the pirate crew in cold blood. With a bursting heart and my brain
whirling as if on fire, I seized the boat-hook to push from shore, when a man sprang from the
"Stop! Ralph, stop!—there now, push off," he cried, and bounded into the boat so violently as
nearly to upset her. It was Bill's voice! In another moment we were on board—the boat made
fast, the line of the anchor cut, and the sweeps run out. At the first stroke of Bill's giant arm
the schooner was nearly pulled ashore, for in his haste he forgot that I could scarcely move the
unwieldy oar. Springing to the stern, he lashed the rudder in such a position as that, while it
aided me, it acted against him, and so rendered the force of our strokes nearly equal. The schooner
now began to glide quickly down the creek; but before we reached its mouth, a yell from a thousand
voices on the bank told
 that we were discovered. Instantly a number of the savages plunged into the water and swam towards
us; but we were making so much way that they could not overtake us. One, however, an immensely
powerful man, succeeded in laying hold of the cut rope that hung from the stern, and clambered
quickly upon deck. Bill caught sight of him the instant his head appeared above the taffrail; but he
did not cease to row, and did not appear even to notice the savage until he was within a yard of
him. Then, dropping the sweep, he struck him a blow on the forehead with his clenched fist that
felled him to the deck. Lifting him up, he hurled him overboard, and resumed the oar. But now a
greater danger awaited us, for the savages had outrun us on the bank, and were about to plunge into
the water ahead of the schooner. If they succeeded in doing so, our fate was sealed. For one moment
Bill stood irresolute. Then, drawing a pistol from his belt, he sprang to the brass gun, held the
pan of his pistol over the touch-hole, and fired. The shot was succeeded by the hiss of the cannon's
priming; then the blaze and the crushing thunder of the monstrous gun burst upon the savages with
such deafening roar that it seemed as if their very mountains had been rent asunder.
This was enough. The moment of surprise and hesitation caused by the unwonted sound gave us time to
pass the point; a gentle breeze, which the dense foliage had hitherto prevented us from feeling,
bulged out our sails; the schooner bent before it, and the shouts of the disappointed savages grew
fainter and fainter in the distance as we were slowly wafted out to sea.