Imprisonment—Sinking hopes—Unexpected freedom to more than one, and in more senses than
 FOR a long, long month we remained in our dark and dreary prison, during which dismal time we did
not see the face of a human being, except that of the silent savage who brought us our daily food.
There have been one or two seasons in my life during which I have felt as if the darkness of sorrow
and desolation that crushed my inmost heart could never pass away until death should make me cease
to feel. The present was such a season.
During the first part of our confinement we felt a cold chill at our hearts every time we heard a
footfall near the cave—dreading lest it should prove to be that of our executioner. But as
time dragged heavily on, we ceased to feel this alarm, and began to experience such a deep,
irrepressible longing for freedom, that we chafed and fretted in our confinement like tigers. Then a
feeling of despair came over us, and we actually longed for the time when the savages would take us
forth to die! But these changes took place very gradually, and were mingled sometimes with brighter
thoughts; for there were times when we sat in that dark cavern on our ledge of rock and conversed
almost pleasantly about the past, until we well-nigh forgot the dreary
 present. But we seldom ventured to touch upon the future.
A few decayed leaves and boughs formed our bed, and a scanty supply of yams and taro, brought to us
once a day, constituted our food.
"Well, Ralph, how have you slept?" said Jack in a listless tone, on rising one morning from his
humble couch. "Were you much disturbed by the wind last night?"
"No," said I; "I dreamed of home all night, and I thought that my mother smiled upon me, and
beckoned me to go to her; but I could not, for I was chained."
"And I dreamed, too," said Peterkin; "but it was of our happy home on the Coral Island. I thought we
were swimming in the Water Garden; then the savages gave a yell, and we were immediately in the cave
at Spouting Cliff, which, somehow or other, changed into this gloomy cavern; and I awoke to find it
Peterkin's tone was so much altered by the depressing influence of his long imprisonment that, had I
not known it was he who spoke, I should scarcely have recognised it, so sad was it, and so unlike to
the merry, cheerful voice we had been accustomed to hear. I pondered this much, and thought of the
terrible decline of happiness that may come on human beings in so short a time; how bright the
sunshine in the sky at one time, and in a short space how dark the overshadowing cloud! I had no
doubt that the Bible would have given me much light and comfort on this subject, if I had possessed
one, and I once more had occasion to regret deeply having neglected to store my memory with its
While I meditated thus, Peterkin again broke the silence of the cave by saying, in a melancholy
 "Oh, I wonder if we shall ever see our dear island more!"
His voice trembled, and covering his face with both hands, he bent down his head and wept. It was an
unusual sight for me to see our once joyous companion in tears, and I felt a burning desire to
comfort him; but alas! what could I say? I could hold out no hope; and although I essayed twice to
speak, the words refused to pass my lips. While I hesitated, Jack sat down beside him, and whispered
a few words in his ear; while Peterkin threw himself on his friend's breast, and rested his head on
Thus we sat for some time in deep silence. Soon after we heard footsteps at the entrance of the
cave, and immediately our jailer entered. We were so much accustomed to his regular visits, however,
that we paid little attention to him, expecting that he would set down our meagre fare, as usual,
and depart. But to our surprise, instead of doing so, he advanced towards us with a knife in his
hand, and, going up to Jack, he cut the thongs that bound his wrists, then he did the same to
Peterkin and me! For fully five minutes we stood in speechless amazement, with our freed hands
hanging idly by our sides. The first thought that rushed into my mind was that the time had come to
put us to death; and although, as I have said before, we actually wished for death in the strength
of our despair, now that we thought it drew really near, I felt all the natural love of life revive
in my heart, mingled with a chill of horror at the suddenness of our call.
But I was mistaken. After cutting our bonds, the savage pointed to the cave's mouth, and we marched,
almost mechanically, into the open air. Here, to our surprise, we found the teacher standing under a
 with his hands clasped before him, and the tears trickling down his dark cheeks. On seeing Jack, who
came out first, he sprang towards him, and, clasping him in his arms, exclaimed—"Oh, my dear
young friend, through the great goodness of God you are free!"
"Free?" cried Jack.
"Ay, free," repeated the teacher, shaking us warmly by the hands again and again—"free to go
and come as you will. The Lord has unloosed the bonds of the captive, and set the prisoners free, A
missionary has been sent to us, and Tararo has embraced the Christian religion! The people are even
now burning their gods of wood! Come, my dear friends, and see the glorious sight."
We could scarcely credit our senses. So long had we been accustomed in our cavern to dream of
deliverance, that we imagined for a moment this must surely be nothing more than another vivid
dream. Our eyes and minds were dazzled, too, by the brilliant sunshine, which almost blinded us
after our long confinement to the gloom of our prison, so that we felt giddy with the variety of
conflicting emotions that filled our throbbing bosoms; but as we followed the footsteps of our sable
friend, and beheld the bright foliage of the trees, and heard the cries of the paroquets, and smelt
the rich perfume of the flowering shrubs, the truth, that we were really delivered from prison and
from death, rushed with overwhelming power into our souls, and with one accord, while tears sprang
to our eyes, we uttered a loud, long cheer of joy.
It was replied to by a shout from a number of the natives who chanced to be near. Running towards
us, they shook us by the hand with every demonstration of
 kindly feeling. They then fell behind, and forming a sort of procession, conducted us to the
dwelling of Tararo.
The scene that met our eyes here was one that I shall never forget. On a rude bench in front of his
house sat the chief. A native stood on his left hand, who from his dress seemed to be a teacher. On
his right stood an English gentleman, who I at once and rightly concluded was a missionary. He was
tall, thin, and apparently past forty, with a bald forehead and thin grey hair. The expression of
his countenance was the most winning I ever saw, and his clear grey eye beamed with a look that was
frank, fearless, loving, and truthful. In front of the chief was an open space, in the centre of
which lay a pile of wooden idols, ready to be set on fire; and around these were assembled thousands
of natives, who had come to join in or to witness the unusual sight. A bright smile overspread the
missionary's face as he advanced quickly to meet us, and he shook us warmly by the hands.
"I am overjoyed to meet you, my dear young friends," he said. "My friend and your friend, the
teacher, has told me your history; and I thank our Father in heaven, with all my heart, that He has
guided me to this island, and made me the instrument of saving you."
We thanked the missionary most heartily, and asked him in some surprise how he had succeeded in
turning the heart of Tararo in our favour.
"I will tell you that at a more convenient time," he answered; "meanwhile we must not forget the
respect due to the chief. He waits to receive you."
In the conversation that immediately followed between us and Tararo, the latter said that the light
of the Gospel of Jesus Christ had been sent to the island,
 and that to it we were indebted for our freedom. Moreover, he told us that we were at liberty to
depart in our schooner whenever we pleased, and that we should be supplied with as much provision as
we required. He concluded by shaking hands with us warmly, and performing the ceremony of rubbing
This was indeed good news to us, and we could hardly find words to express our gratitude to the
chief and to the missionary.
"And what of Avatea?" inquired Jack.
The missionary replied by pointing to a group of natives in the midst of whom the girl stood. Beside
her was a tall, strapping fellow, whose noble mien and air of superiority bespoke him a chief of no
"That youth is her lover. He came this very morning in his war-canoe to treat with Tararo for
Avatea. He is to be married in a few days, and afterwards returns to his island home with his
"That's capital," said Jack, as he stepped up to the savage and gave him a hearty shake of the hand.
"I wish you joy, my lad; and you too, Avatea."
As Jack spoke, Avatea's lover took him by the hand and led him to the spot where Tararo and the
missionary stood, surrounded by most of the chief men of the tribe. The girl herself followed, and
stood on his left hand while her lover stood on his right, and, commanding silence, made the
following speech, which was translated by the missionary:—
"Young friend, you have seen few years, but your head is old. Your heart also is large and very
brave. I and Avatea are your debtors, and we wish, in the midst of this assembly, to acknowledge our
debt, and to say that it is one which we can never repay. You have
 risked your life for one who was known to you only for a few days. But she was a woman in distress,
and that was enough to secure to her the aid of a Christian man. We, who live in these islands of
the sea, know that the true Christians always act thus. Their religion is one of love and kindness.
We thank God that so many Christians have been sent here; we hope many more will come. Remember that
I and Avatea will think of you and pray for you and your brave comrades when you are far away."
To this kind speech Jack returned a short, sailor-like reply, in which he insisted that he had only
done for Avatea what he would have done for any woman under the sun. But Jack's forte did not lie in
speech- making, so he terminated rather abruptly by seizing the chief's hand and shaking it
violently, after which he made a hasty retreat.
"Now then, Ralph and Peterkin," said Jack, as we mingled with the crowd, "it seems to me that the
object we came here for having been satisfactorily accomplished, we have nothing more to do but get
ready for sea as fast as we can, and hurrah for dear old England!"
"That's my idea precisely," said Peterkin, endeavouring to wink; but he had wept so much of late,
poor fellow, that he found it difficult. "However, I'm not going away till I see these fellows burn
Peterkin had his wish, for in a few minutes afterwards fire was put to the pile, the roaring flames
ascended, and amid the acclamations of the assembled thousands the false gods of Mango were reduced
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