Rocked on the smooth green swell of the sea, beneath the white rocks, I was brooding over these and many other matters, when I heard sudden and violent movements in the deep vegetation on the hillside. The laurel groves were stirred, and Bill Bludger, with a basket in his hand, bounded down the slope, and swam for dear life to the boat.
“They’re after me,” he cried; and at that moment an arrow quivered in the side of the boat.
I helped William on board as well as I might, under a shower of arrows from the hill-top, most of which, owing to the distance, were ill directed and fell short, or went wide.
Into the boat, at last, I got him, and thrusting an oar in his direction, I said, “Pull for your life,” and began rowing. To my horror, the boat made no way, but kept spinning round. A glance in the bow showed me what was the matter: William Bludger was hopelessly intoxicated! He had got at the jars of wine in the chief’s cellar,—thalamos, they call it,—and had not taken the precaution of mixing the liquor with water, as the natives invariably do when they drink. The excitement of running had sent the alcoholic fumes direct to his brain, and now he lay, a useless and embarrassing cargo, in the bows. Meanwhile, the shouts of the natives rang nearer and louder, and I knew that boats would soon be launched for our capture. I thought of throwing Bludger overboard, and sculling, but determined not to stain what might be my last moments with an act of selfishness. I therefore pulled hard for the open sea, but to no avail. On every side boats crowded round me, and I should probably have been shot, or speared, but for the old priest, who, erect in the bows of the largest vessel, kept yelling that we were to be taken alive.
Alas! I well knew the secret of his cruel mercies.
He meant to reserve us for the sacrifice.
Why should I linger over the sufferings of the miserable week that followed our capture? Hauled back to my former home, I was again made the object of the mocking reverence of my captors. Ah, how often, in my reckless youth, have my serious aunts warned me that I “would be a goat at the last”! Too true, too true; now I was to be a scapegoat, to be driven forth, as these ignorant and strangely perverted people believed, with the sins of the community on my head, those sins which would, according to their miserable superstition, be expiated by the death, and consumed away by the burning, of myself and William Bludger!