Bloody Bill is communicative and sagacious—Unpleasant prospects—Retrospective
meditations interrupted by volcanic agency—The pirates negotiate with a Feejee
chief—Various etceteras that are calculated to surprise and horrify.
 IT was many days after the events just narrated ere I recovered a little of my wonted spirits. I
could not shake off the feeling for a long time that I was in a frightful dream, and the sight of
our captain filled me with so much horror that I kept out of his way as much as my duties about the
cabin would permit. Fortunately he took so little notice of me that he did not observe my changed
feelings towards him, otherwise it might have been worse for me.
But I was now resolved that I would run away the very first island we should land at, and commit
myself to the hospitality of the natives rather than remain an hour longer than I could help in the
pirate schooner. I pondered this subject a good deal, and at last made up my mind to communicate my
intention to Bloody Bill; for during several talks I had had with him of late, I felt assured that
he too would willingly escape if possible. When I told him of my design he shook his head. "No, no,
Ralph," said he, "you must not think of running away here. Among some of the groups of islands you
might do so with safety, but if you tried it here you would find that you had jumped out of the
fryin'-pan into the fire."
 "How so, Bill?" said I; "would the natives not receive me?"
"That they would, lad; but they would eat you too."
"Eat me!" said I in surprise; "I thought the South Sea Islanders never ate anybody except their
"Humph!" ejaculated Bill. "I s'pose 'twas yer tender-hearted friends in England that put that notion
into your head. There's a set o' soft- hearted folk at home that I knows on who don't like to have
their feelin's ruffled, and when you tell them anything they don't like—that shocks them, as
they call it—no matter how true it be, they stop their ears and cry out, 'Oh, that is
too horrible! We can't believe that!' An' they say truth. They can't believe it 'cause they
won't believe it. Now, I believe there's thousands o' the people in England who are sich born
drivellin' won't-believers that they think the black fellows hereaways at the worst eat an
enemy only now an' then, out o' spite; whereas I know for certain, and many captains of the British
and American navies know as well as me, that the Feejee Islanders eat not only their enemies but one
another; and they do it not for spite, but for pleasure. It's fact that they prefer human
flesh to any other. But they don't like white men's flesh so well as black; they say it makes them
"Why, Bill," said I, "you told me just now that they would eat me if they caught me."
"So I did, and so I think they would. I've only heard some o' them say they don't like white men
so well as black; but if they was hungry they wouldn't be particular. Anyhow, I'm sure they
would kill you. You see, Ralph, I've been a good while in them parts, and I've visited the different
groups of islands oftentimes as a trader. And thorough-goin' blackguards some o'
 them traders are; no better than pirates, I can tell you. One captain that I sailed with was not a
chip better than the one we're with now. He was trading with a friendly chief one day, aboard his
vessel. The chief had swum off to us with the thing for trade tied atop of his head, for them chaps
are like otters in the water. Well, the chief was hard on the captain, and would not part with some
o' his things. When their bargainin' was over they shook hands, and the chief jumped overboard to
swim ashore; but before he got forty yards from the ship the captain seized a musket and shot him
dead. He then hove up anchor and put to sea, and as we sailed along the shore, he dropped six black
fellows with his rifle, remarkin' that 'that would spoil the trade for the next comers.' But, as I
was sayin', I'm up to the ways o' these fellows. One o' the laws o' the country is, that every
shipwrecked person who happens to be cast ashore, be he dead or alive, is doomed to be roasted and
eaten. There was a small tradin' schooner wrecked off one of these islands when we were lyin' there
in harbour during a storm. The crew was lost, all but three men, who swam ashore. The moment they
landed they were seized by the natives and carried up into the woods. We knew pretty well what their
fate would be, but we could not help them, for our crew was small, and if we had gone ashore they
would likely have killed us all. We never saw the three men again; but we heard frightful yelling
and dancing and merrymaking that night; and one of the natives, who came aboard to trade with us
next day, told us that the long pigs, as he called the men, had been roasted and eaten, and
their bones were to be converted into sail-needles. He also said that white men were bad to eat, and
that most o' the people on shore were sick."
 I was very much shocked and cast down in my mind at this terrible account of the natives, and asked
Bill what he would advise me to do. Looking round the deck to make sure that we were not overheard,
he lowered his voice and said, "There are two or three ways that we might escape, Ralph, but none o'
them's easy. If the captain would only sail for some o' the islands near Tahiti, we might run away
there well enough, because the natives are all Christians; an' we find that wherever the savages
take up with Christianity they always give over their bloody ways, and are safe to be trusted. I
never cared for Christianity myself," he continued in a soliloquising voice, "and I don't well know
what it means; but a man with half an eye can see what it does for these black critters. However,
the captain always keeps a sharp lookout after us when we get to these islands, for he half suspects
that one or two o' us are tired of his company. Then we might manage to cut the boat adrift some
fine night when it's our watch on deck, and clear off before they discovered that we were gone.' But
we would run the risk o' bein' caught by the blacks, I wouldn't like to try that plan. But you and I
will think over it, Ralph, and see what's to be done. In the meantime it's our watch below, so I'll
go and turn in."
Bill then bade me good-night, and went below, while a comrade took his place at the helm; but
feeling no desire to enter into conversation with him, I walked aft, and leaning over the stern,
looked down into the phosphorescent waves that gurgled around the rudder, and streamed out like a
flame of blue light in the vessel's wake. My thoughts were very sad, and I could scarce refrain from
tears as I contrasted my present wretched position with the happy, peaceful time I had spent on the
 Coral Island with my dear companions. As I thought upon Jack and Peterkin, anxious forebodings
crossed my mind, and I pictured to myself the grief and dismay with which they would search every
nook and corner of the island, in a vain attempt to discover my dead body; for I felt assured that
if they did not see any sign of the pirate schooner or boat when they came out of the cave to look
for me, they would never imagine that I had been carried away. I wondered, too, how Jack would
succeed in getting Peterkin out of the cave without my assistance; and I trembled when I thought
that he might lose presence of mind, and begin to kick when he was in the tunnel! These thoughts
were suddenly interrupted and put to flight by a bright red blaze which lighted up the horizon to
the southward and cast a crimson glow far over the sea. This appearance was accompanied by a low
growling sound, as of distant thunder, and at the same time the sky above us became black, while a
hot, stifling wind blew around us in fitful gusts.
The crew assembled hastily on deck, and most of them were under the belief that a frightful
hurricane was pending; but the captain, coming on deck, soon explained the phenomena.
"It's only a volcano," said he. "I knew there was one hereabouts, but thought it was extinct. Up
there and furl top-gallant sails; we'll likely have a breeze, and it's well to be ready."
As he spoke a shower began to fall, which we quickly observed was not rain but fine ashes. As we
were many miles distant from the volcano, these must have been carried to us from it by the wind. As
the captain had predicted, a stiff breeze soon afterwards sprang up, under the influence of which we
speedily left the volcano far
 behind us; but during the greater part of the night we could see its lurid glare and hear its
distant thunder. The shower did not cease to fall for several hours, and we must have sailed under
it for nearly forty miles, perhaps farther. When we emerged from the cloud, our decks and every part
of the rigging were completely covered with a thick coat of ashes. I was much interested in this,
and recollected that Jack had often spoken of many of the islands of the Pacific as being volcanoes,
either active or extinct, and had said that the whole region was more or less volcanic, and that
some scientific men were of opinion that the islands of the Pacific were nothing more or less than
the mountain tops of a huge continent which had sunk under the influence of volcanic agency.
Three days after passing the volcano, we found ourselves a few miles to windward of an island of
considerable size and luxuriant aspect. It consisted of two mountains, which seemed to be nearly
four thousand feet high. They were separated from each other by a broad valley, whose thick-growing
trees ascended a considerable distance up the mountain sides; and rich, level plains, or
meadow-land, spread round the base of the mountains, except at the point immediately opposite the
large valley, where a river seemed to carry the trees, as it were, along with it down to the white,
sandy shore. The mountain tops, unlike those of our Coral Island, were sharp, needle-shaped, and
bare, while their sides were more rugged and grand in outline than anything I had yet seen in those
seas. Bloody Bill was beside me when the island first hove in sight.
"Ha!" he exclaimed, "I know that island well. They call it Emo."
"Have you been there before, then?" I inquired.
 "Ay, that I have, often, and so has this schooner. 'Tis a famous island for sandal-wood. We have
taken many cargoes of it already, and have paid for them, too; for the savages are so numerous that
we dared not try to take it by force. But our captain has tried to cheat them so often, that they're
beginnin' not to like us overmuch now. Besides, the men behaved ill the last time we were here, and
I wonder the captain is not afraid to venture. But he's afraid o' nothing earthly, I believe."
We soon ran inside the barrier coral-reef, and let go our anchor in six fathoms water, just opposite
the mouth of a small creek, whose shores were densely covered with mangroves and tall umbrageous
trees. The principal village of the natives lay about half a mile from this point. Ordering the boat
out, the captain jumped into it, and ordered me to follow him. The men, fifteen in number, were well
armed, and the mate was directed to have Long Tom ready for emergencies,
"Give way, lads," cried the captain.
The oars fell into the water at the word, the boat shot from the schooner's side, and in a few
minutes reached the shore. Here, contrary to our expectation, we were met with the utmost cordiality
by Romata, the principal chief of the island, who conducted us to his house and gave us mats to sit
upon. I observed in passing that the natives, of whom there were two or three thousand, were totally
After a short preliminary palaver, a feast of baked pigs and various roots was spread before us; of
which we partook sparingly, and then proceeded to business. The captain stated his object in
visiting the island, regretted that there had been a slight misunderstanding during the last visit,
and hoped that no ill-will was
 borne by either party, and that a satisfactory trade would be accomplished.
Romata answered that he had forgotten there had been any differences between them, protested that he
was delighted to see his friends again, and assured them they should have every assistance in
cutting and embarking the wood. The terms were afterwards agreed on, and we rose to depart. All this
conversation was afterwards explained to me by Bill, who understood the language pretty well.
Romata accompanied us on board, and explained that a great chief from another island was then on a
visit to him, and that he was to be ceremoniously entertained on the following day. After begging to
be allowed to introduce him to us, and receiving permission, he sent his canoe ashore to bring him
off. At the same time, he gave orders to bring on board his two favourites, a cock and a paroquet.
While the canoe was gone on this errand, I had time to regard the savage chief attentively. He was a
man of immense size, with massive but beautifully moulded limbs and figure, only parts of which, the
broad chest, and muscular arms, were uncovered; for although the lower orders generally wore no
other clothing than a strip of cloth called maro round their loins, the chief, on particular
occasions, wrapped his person hi voluminous folds of a species of native cloth, made from the bark
of the Chinese paper-mulberry. Romata wore a magnificent black beard and moustache, and his hair was
frizzed out to such an extent that it resembled a large turban, in which was stuck a long wooden
pin! I afterwards found that this pin served for scratching the head, for which purpose the fingers
were too short without disarranging the hair. But Romata put himself to much greater inconvenience
on account of his hair, for
 we found that he slept with his head resting on a wooden pillow, in which was cut a hollow for the
neck, so that the hair of the sleeper might not be disarranged.
In ten minutes the canoe returned, bringing the other chief, who certainly presented a most
extraordinary appearance, having painted one half of his face red and the other half yellow, besides
ornamenting it with various designs in black! Otherwise he was much the same in appearance as
Romata, though not so powerfully built. As this chief had never seen a ship before, except,
perchance, some of the petty traders that at long intervals visit these remote islands, he was much
taken up with the neatness and beauty of all the fittings of the schooner. He was particularly
struck with a musket which was shown to him, and asked where the white men got hatchets hard enough
to cut the tree of which the barrel was made! While he was thus engaged, his brother chief stood
aloof, talking with the captain, and fondling a superb cock and a little blue-headed paroquet, the
favourites of which I have before spoken. I observed that all the other natives walked in a
crouching posture while in the presence of Romata. Before our guests left us, the captain ordered
the brass gun to be uncovered and fired for their gratification; and I have every reason to believe
he did so for the purpose of showing our superior power, in case the natives should harbour any evil
designs against us. Romata had never seen this gun before, as it had not been uncovered on previous
visits, and the astonishment with which he viewed it was very amusing. Being desirous of knowing its
power, he begged that the captain would fire it; so a shot was put into it. The chiefs were then
directed to look at a rock about two miles out at sea, and the gun
 was fired. In a second the top of the rock was seen to burst asunder, and to fall in fragments into
Romata was so delighted with the success of this shot that he pointed to a man who was walking on
the shore and begged the captain to fire at him, evidently supposing that his permission was quite
sufficient to justify the captain in such an act. He was therefore surprised, and not a little
annoyed, when the captain refused to fire at the native, and ordered the gun to be housed.
THE CHIEFS WERE THEN DIRECTED TO LOOK AT A ROCK ABOUT TWO
MILES OUT AT SEA, AND THE GUN WAS FIRED.
Of all the things, however, that afforded matter of amusement to these savages, that which pleased
Romata's visitor most was the ship's pump. He never tired of examining it and pumping up the water.
Indeed, so much was he taken up with this pump, that he could not be prevailed on to return on
shore, but sent a canoe to fetch his favourite stool, on which he seated himself, and spent the
remainder of the day in pumping the bilge-water out of the ship!
Next day the crew went ashore to cut sandal-wood, while the captain, with one or two men, remained
on board, in order to be ready, if need be, with the brass gun, which was unhoused and conspicuously
elevated, with its capacious muzzle directed point-blank at the chiefs house. The men were fully
armed, as usual; and the captain ordered me to go with them, to assist in the work. I was much
pleased with this order, for it freed me from the captain's company, which I could not now endure,
and it gave me an opportunity of seeing the natives.
As we wound along in single file through the rich, fragrant groves of banana, cocoa-nut,
bread-fruit, and other trees, I observed that there were many of the plum and banyan trees, with
which I had become familiar on the Coral Island. I noticed also large quantities of
taro-  roots, yams, and sweet potatoes growing in enclosures. On turning into an open glade of the woods,
we came abruptly upon a cluster of native houses. They were built chiefly of bamboos, and were
thatched with the large, thick leaves of the pandanus; but many of them had little more than a
sloping roof and three sides with an open front, being the most simple shelter from the weather that
could well be imagined. Within these and around them were groups of natives—men, women, and
children—who all stood up to gaze at us as we marched along, followed by the party of men whom
the chief had sent to escort us. About half a mile inland we arrived at the spot where the
sandal-wood grew, and while the men set to work I clambered up an adjoining hill to observe the
About mid-day the chief arrived with several followers, one of whom carried a baked pig on a wooden
platter, with yams and potatoes on several plantain leaves, which he presented to the men, who sat
down under the shade of a tree to dine. The chief sat down to dine also; but, to my surprise,
instead of feeding himself, one of his wives performed that office for him! I was seated beside
Bill, and asked him the reason of this.
"It is beneath his dignity, I believe, to feed himself," answered Bill; "but I daresay he's not
particular, except on great occasions. They've a strange custom among them, Ralph, which is called
tabu, and they carry it to great lengths. If a man chooses a particular tree for his god, the
fruit o' that tree is tabued to him; and if he eats it, he is sure to be killed by his people, and
eaten, of course, for killing means eating hereaway. Then, you see that great mop o' hair on the
chief's head? Well, he has a lot o' barbers to keep it in order; and it's
 a law that whoever touches the head of a living chief or the body of a dead one, his hands are
tabued; so in that way the barbers' hands are always tabued, and they daren't use them for their
lives, but have to be fed like big babies, as they are, sure enough!"
"That's odd, Bill. But look there," said I, pointing to a man whose skin was of a much lighter
colour than the generality of the natives. "I've seen a few of these light-skinned fellows among the
Feejeeans. They seem to me to be of quite a different race."
"So they are," answered Bill. "These fellows come from the Tongan Islands, which lie a long way to
the eastward. They come here to build their big war-canoes; and, as these take two and sometimes
four years to build, there's always some o' the brown-skins among the black sarpents o' these
"By the way, Bill," said I, "your mentioning serpents reminds me that I have not seen a reptile of
any kind since I came to this part of the world."
"No more there are any," said Bill, "if ye except the niggers themselves; there's none on the
islands but a lizard or two, and some sich harmless things. But I never seed any myself. If there's
none on the land, however, there's more than enough in the water, and that reminds me of a wonderful
brute they have here. But come, I'll show it to you." So saying, Bill arose, and, leaving the men
still busy with the baked pig, led me into the forest. After proceeding a short distance, we came
upon a small pond of stagnant water. A native lad had followed us, to whom we called and beckoned
him to come to us. On Bill saying a few words to him which I did not understand, the boy advanced to
the edge of the pond and gave a low, peculiar whistle. Immediately the water became
agi-  tated, and an enormous eel thrust its head above the surface and allowed the youth to touch it. It
was about twelve feet long, and as thick round the body as a man's thigh.
"There!" said Bill, his lip curling with contempt; "what do you think of that for a god, Ralph? This
is one o' their gods, and it has been fed with dozens o' livin' babies already. How many more it'll
get afore it dies is hard to say."
"Babies!" said I, with an incredulous look.
"Ay, babies," returned Bill. "Your soft-hearted folk at home would say, 'Oh, horrible! impossible!'
to that, and then go away as comfortable and unconcerned as if their sayin' 'Horrible! impossible!'
had made it a lie. But I tell you, Ralph, it's a fact. I've seed it with my own eyes the last
time I was here, an' mayhap if you stop a while at this accursed place, and keep a sharp look-out,
you'll see it too. They don't feed it regularly with livin' babies, but they give it one now and
then as a treat. Bah, you brute!" cried Bill in disgust, giving the reptile a kick on the snout with
his heavy boot that sent it sweltering back in agony into its loathsome pool. I thought it lucky for
Bill, indeed for all of us, that the native youth's back happened to be turned at the time; for I am
certain that if the poor savages had come to know that we had so rudely handled their god, we should
have had to fight our way back to the ship. As we retraced our steps I questioned my companion
further on this subject.
"How comes it, Bill, that the mothers allow such a dreadful thing to be done?"
"Allow it? the mothers do it! It seems to me that there's nothing too fiendish or diabolical
for these people to do. Why, in some of the islands they have an
insti-  tution called the Aréoi, and the persons connected with that body are ready for any
wickedness that mortal man can devise. In fact they stick at nothing; and one o' their customs is to
murder their infants the moment they are born. The mothers agree to it, and the fathers do it. And
the mildest ways they have of murdering them is by sticking them through the body with sharp
splinters of bamboo, strangling them with their thumbs, or burying them alive and stamping them to
death while under the sod."
I felt sick at heart while my companion recited these horrors.
"But it's a curious fact," he continued after a pause, during which we walked in silence towards the
spot where we had left our comrades—"it's a curious fact, that wherever the missionaries get
a footin' all these things come to an end at once, an' the savages take to doin' each other good and
singin' psalms, just like Methodists."
"God bless the missionaries!" said I, while a feeling of enthusiasm filled my heart, so that I could
speak with difficulty. "God bless and prosper the missionaries till they get a footing in every
island of the sea!"
"I would say Amen to that prayer, Ralph, if I could," said Bill, in a deep, sad voice; "but it would
be a mere mockery for a man to ask a blessing for others who dare not ask one for himself. But,
Ralph," he continued, "I've not told you half o' the abominations I have seen durin' my life in
these seas. If we pull long together, lad, I'll tell you more; and if times have not changed very
much since I was here last, it's like that you'll have a chance o' seeing a little for yourself