As we caught the wind a flock of koio came close to us in their search for fish. The black birds were like a cloud; there must have been fifty thousand of them, and flying over us they completely cut off the sunlight, like a dark storm. If they had taken a fancy to settle on us they must have smothered us under a feathered avalanche. Ugh! was startled and amazed that the birds should come so close, and all raised an uproar of voices and waved arms and oars in the air, to frighten them off. They passed, the sun shone upon us again, and in a sparkling sea we made our way past Iva Iva Iti and Iva Iva Nui, rounding a high green shore into the bay of Vait-hua.
The mountains above the valley loomed like castellated summits of Italy, so like huge stone fortresses that one might mistake them for such from the sea. The tiny settlement reaching from the beach half a mile up the glen was screened by its many trees.
The whaleboat slid up to a rocky ledge, and my luggage and I were put ashore. Exploding Eggs, who had insisted on accompanying me, took it into his charge, and with it balanced on his shoulders we sauntered along the road to the village where the French gendarme had lost his nose to the mad namu-drinker.
Idyllic valley of Vait-hua; the beauty of Vanquished Often; bathing on the beach; an unexpected proposal of marriage.
The beach followed the semi-circle of the small bay, and was hemmed in on both sides by massive black rocks, above which rose steep mountains covered with verdure. The narrow valley itself sloped upward on either hand to a sheer wall of cliffs. In the couple of miles from the water’s edge to the jungle tangle of the high hills were thousands upon thousands of cocoanut-palms, breadfruit-, mango-, banana-, and lime-trees, all speaking of the throng of people that formerly inhabited this lovely spot, now so deserted. The tiny settlement remaining, with its scattered few habitations, was beautiful beyond comparison. A score or so of houses, small, but neat and comfortable, wreathed with morning-glory vines and shaded by trees, clustered along the bank of a limpid stream crossed at intervals by white stepping-stones. Naked children, whose heads were wreathed with flowers, splashed in sheltered pools, or fled like moving brown shadows into the sun-flecked depths of the glade as we approached.
We were met beneath a giant banian-tree by the chief, who greeted us with simple dignity and led us at once to his house. The most pretentious in the village, it consisted of two rooms, built of redwood boards from California, white-washed, clean, and bare, opening through wide doors upon the broad paepae. This house, the chief insisted, was to be my home while I remained his guest in Vait-hua. My polite protestations he waved away with a courtly gesture and an obdurate smile. I was an American, and his guest.