For he loved her to-night; he would watch over and protect her. He would save her at least from the deadliest of insults.
INTERCHANGE OF CIVILITIES.
All night long, without intermission, the heavy tropical rain descended in torrents; at sunrise it ceased, and a bright blue vault of sky stood in a spotless dome over the island of Boupari.
As soon as the sun was well risen, and the rain had ceased, one shy native girl after another came straggling up timidly to the white line that marked the taboo round Felix and Muriel’s huts. They came with more baskets of fruit and eggs. Humbly saluting three times as they drew near, they laid down their gifts modestly just outside the line, with many loud ejaculations of praise and gratitude to the gods in their own language.
“What do they say?” Muriel asked, in a dazed and frightened way, looking out of the hut door, and turning in wonder to Mali.
“They say, ‘Thank you, Queenie, for rain and fruits,’” Mali answered, unconcerned, bustling about in the hut. “Missy want to wash him face and hands this morning? Lady always wash every day over yonder in Queensland.”
Muriel nodded assent. It was all so strange to her. But Mali went to the door and beckoned carelessly to one of the native girls just outside, who drew near the line at the summons, with a somewhat frightened air, putting one finger to her mouth in coyly uncertain savage fashion.
“Fetch me water from the spring!” Mali said, authoritatively, in Polynesian. Without a moment’s delay the girl darted off at the top of her speed, and soon returned with a large calabash full of fresh cool water, which she lay down respectfully by the taboo line, not daring to cross it.
“Why didn’t you get it yourself?” Muriel asked of her Shadow, rather relieved than otherwise that Mali hadn’t left her. It was something in these dire straits to have somebody always near who could at least speak a little English.
Mali started back in surprise. “Oh, that would never do,” she answered, catching a colloquial phrase she had often heard long before in Queensland. “Me missy’s Shadow. That great Taboo. If me go away out of missy’s sight, very big sin—very big danger. Man-a-Boupari catch me and kill me like Jani, for no me stop and wait all the time on missy.”
It was clear that human life was held very cheap on the island of Boupari.
Muriel made her scanty toilet in the hut as well as she was able, with the calabash and water, aided by a rough shell comb which Mali had provided for her. Then she breakfasted, not ill, off eggs and fruit, which Mali cooked with some rude native skill over the open-air fire without in the precincts.
After breakfast, Felix came in to inquire how she had passed the night in her new quarters. Already Muriel felt how odd was the contrast between the quiet politeness of his manner as an English gentleman and the strange savage surroundings in which they both now found themselves. Civilization is an attribute of communities; we necessarily leave it behind when we find ourselves isolated among barbarians or savages. But culture is a purely personal and individual possession; we carry it with us wherever we go; and no circumstances of life can ever deprive us of it.