He clapped his hands twice.
In a moment a tom-tom began to beat from behind, and the people all crowded without the circle. The King of Fire came forward ostentatiously and made taboo. “If, any man cross this line,” he said in a droning sing-song, “till the canoe return from the great oracle of our faith on Aloa Mauna, I, Fire, will scorch him into cinder and ashes. If any woman transgress, I will pitch her with palm oil, and light her up for a lamp on a moonless night to lighten this temple.”
The King of Water distributed shark’s-tooth spears. At once a great serried wall hemmed in the Europeans all round, and they sat down to wait, the three whites together, for the upshot of the mission to Aloa Mauna.
And the dawn now gleamed red on the eastern horizon.
AT SEA: OFF BOUPARI.
Thirteen days out from Sydney, the good ship Australasian was nearing the equator.
It was four of the clock in the afternoon, and the captain (off duty) paced the deck, puffing a cigar, and talking idly with a passenger on former experiences.
Eight bells went on the quarter-deck; time to change watches.
“This is only our second trip through this channel,” the captain said, gazing across with a casual glance at the palm-trees that stood dark against the blue horizon. “We used to go a hundred miles to eastward, here, to avoid the reefs. But last voyage I came through this way quite safely—though we had a nasty accident on the road—unavoidable—unavoidable! Big sea was running free over the sunken shoals; caught the ship aft unawares, and stove in better than half a dozen portholes. Lady passenger on deck happened to be leaning over the weather gunwale; big sea caught her up on its crest in a jiffy, lifted her like a baby, and laid her down again gently, just so, on the bed of the ocean. By George, sir, I was annoyed. It was quite a romance, poor thing; quite a romance; we all felt so put out about it the rest of that voyage. Young fellow on board, nephew of Sir Theodore Thurstan, of the Colonial Office, was in love with Miss Ellis—girl’s name was Ellis—father’s a parson somewhere down in Somersetshire—and as soon as the big sea took her up on its crest, what does Thurstan go and do, but he ups on the taffrail, and, before you could say Jack Robinson, jumps over to save her.”
“But he didn’t succeed?” the passenger asked, with languid interest.
“Succeed, my dear sir? and with a sea running twelve feet high like that? Why, it was pitch dark, and such a surf on that the gig could hardly go through it.” The captain smiled, and puffed away pensively. “Drowned,” he said, after a brief pause, with complacent composure. “Drowned. Drowned. Drowned. Went to the bottom, both of ’em. Davy Jones’s locker. But unavoidable, quite. These accidents will happen, even on the best-regulated liners. Why, there was my brother Tom, in the Cunard service—same that boast they never lost a passenger; there was my brother Tom, he was out one day off the Newfoundland banks, heavy swell setting in from the nor’-nor’-east, icebergs ahead, passengers battened down—Bless my soul, how that light seems to come and go, don’t it?”