Getting ashore at the stone steps of Taka-Uka was a task worthy of such boatsmen, in the darkness, the sea beating madly against the cliffs. Tetuahunahuna listened to the smashing waves and peered for the blacker outlines of the stairway and the faint gleam of the foam. The boat approached; the sea leaped to break it against the rocks. The steersman held it a second, and in that second you had to leap. It is touch and go, and heaven help you! If you miss, you fall into the sea, or the boat crushes you against the rocks. The swell sweeps the place you land on, and you must ascend quickly to safety or find hold against the suck of the retiring water.
Tetuahunahuna ran to the nearest house for a lantern and poles, and while two remained in the boat to hold it off the rocks, the others carried my luggage to Atuona. I took the lead in a drizzling rain, carrying the light, mighty glad to stretch my legs after more than a dozen hours of cramp. Passing the house of the chief-of-police, I heard laughter and the clink of glasses. Bauda halted me with a leveled revolver, thinking we were a rum-smuggling gang. That brave African soldier was ever dramatic, and D’Artagnan could not have struck a finer attitude as he thrust the gun in my face and called out, “Halte la!”
“Ah, c’est le Yahnk’ Doodl’. Mais tonnerre de dieu, you have been away a long time!”
Sea sports; curious sea-foods found at low tide; the peculiarities of sea-centipedes and how to cook and eat them.
With what delight I returned to lazy days in Atuona Valley, lounging on the black paepae of my own small blue cabin in the shadow of Temiteu, idling on the sun-warm sands of the familiar beach, walking the remembered road between banana hedges heavy with yellowing fruit! The heart of man puts down roots wherever it rests; it is perhaps this sense of home that gives the zest to wandering, for new experiences gain their value from contrast with the old, and one must have felt the bondage, however light, of emotion and habit before he can know the joy of freedom from it. Still a man leaves part of himself in every home he makes, and the wanderer, free of the one strong cord that would hold him to one place, feels always the urge of a thousand slender ties pulling him back to the thousand temporary homes he has made everywhere on the world.
So the old routine closed around me pleasantly; mornings in the shade of my palms and breadfruit, eating the breakfasts prepared for me by Exploding Eggs over the fire of cocoanut husks, baths in the clear pool of the river with my neighbors, afternoons spent in the cocoanut-groves or with merry companions on the beach. Exploding Eggs directed the surf board with a sure hand, lying flat, kneeling or even standing on the long plank as he came in on the crest of the breakers. I had now and again succeeded in being carried along while flat on my stomach on the board, but failed many times oftener than I succeeded. Now I set myself in earnest to learn the art of mastering the surf.