Suddenly, as we slid breathlessly downward, a great wall of water rose beside us, higher and higher until it seemed to touch the sky, clear and solid-looking as a sheet of green glass, a sight so stupendous that amazement took the place of fear. For an instant it remained poised above us, then crashed down with the shock of an earthquake.
Stunned, I emerged from a smother of water to find our canoe completely under the waves, kept afloat solely by grace of the outrigger. All hands were overside, clinging to the edge of the submerged craft, while Exploding Eggs and I bailed for our lives. Strong swimmers, they held us off-shore until we had so lowered the water that they could resume the oars.
For two hours we tossed about, while the chief held the steering-oar and his men paddled through a welter of jeweled color that threatened momentarily to toss us on the rocks. If we smashed on them we were dead men, for even had we been able to climb them the high tide would have drowned us against the wall of the cliffs. No man showed the slightest fear, though they pulled like giants and obeyed instantly each order of the chief.
Battling in this fashion, we rounded at last Point Teaehoa and won the protection of the Bay of Traitors. I, at least, felt immeasurable relief, that quickly turned to exhilaration as we hoisted sail and drove at a glorious speed straight through the breakers to the welcoming beach of Atuona.
The Marquesans at ten o’clock mass; a remarkable conversation about religions and Joan of Arc in which Great Fern gives his idea of the devil.
I was surprised to note that the few natives within view when we landed were dressed in the stiff and awkward clothes of the European; some fete must have been arranged during my absence, I thought. Then with a shock I realized that the day was Sunday. In the lovely, timeless valley of Vait-hua the calendar had dropped below the horizon of memory as my native land had dropped below the rim of the sea. Here in Atuona, whose life was colored by the presence of whites, the days must take up their constricted regular march again.
Already through the crystal air of a morning after rain the mission bells were ringing clear, and Chief Neo, forgetting the night of toil and danger past, was eager to accompany me to church. It would be an honor befitting his chiefly rank to sit with the distinguished white man in the house of worship, and I, remembering his perfect hospitality, was glad to do him honor in my own valley.
We hastened to my cabin, Exploding Eggs running before us up the trail with my luggage balanced on his shoulders. Cocoanuts and popoi, coffee and tinned biscuits, were waiting when we arrived. We ate hastily and then donned proper garments, Exploding Eggs rejoicing in a stiff collar and a worn sailor-hat once mine. They sat oddly upon him, being several sizes too large, but he bore himself with pride as we set out toward the church.