Adventures in Southern Seas eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 245 pages of information about Adventures in Southern Seas.

These islanders were industrious in their own way.  They built comfortable houses, and made excellent pottery capable of withstanding the heat of fire when used for cooking.  Their boat-builders constructed sea-going canoes capable of travelling long distances.  They also made a delicate cloth from the bark of the mulberry tree, upon which they printed from wooden blocks patterns of great elegance.  Their spears and clubs also showed much taste in their construction and ornamentation.  The women made fishing nets of coconut fibre, with which they captured an abundance of fish.  The tribes on the different islands kept up a system of barter with one another, exchanging commodities, the making of which was their hereditary occupation.  A son followed the occupation of his father, and for him to have followed any other occupation would have been regarded as an offence against ancestors.  A son was expected to do exactly as his father did before him, and to do it in the same way.

One day when I was fishing outside the reef, I was startled by a cry, and looking toward whence it came I perceived a young girl in evident terror, swimming for the reef with the black fin of a shark close upon her.  Going to her assistance I managed, at some risk, to drive off the shark, and, pulling the girl into my boat I took her on board our ship, where I delighted her with a present of printed calico with which to reign as a queen of fashion among her tribe.  When I took her ashore she showed her gratitude by taking my hand in hers, and placing it upon her forehead, which meant the making of a compact between us that she would lay down her life for me if occasion should require.  It was to this that we subsequently owed our escape from death.

We had not found anything profitable to trade from these islands with the exception of sandal wood and tortoiseshell, of which we obtained a supply, but I noticed that the chief did not appear to grudge anything we took from him.  It became a joke among our crew that they could have anything for the asking, and the ship was soon a museum of island curiosities.  This aroused my suspicion, for I knew the cupidity of savages, and how they always try to take all and give nothing in return.

Toward the end of our visit, I also observed that numbers of savages from the adjacent islands began to arrive in canoes, and that preparations were being made for a feast.  It was then that I noticed the girl I had saved from the shark was often to be seen standing on the beach opposite to the ship, gazing at the vessel long and earnestly.  Thinking she wished to come on board again, I went in my boat to fetch her, but when I met her she showed great alarm lest we should be seen speaking together, and, urging me to follow her, she led me to a secluded spot of the island, in order that we might be free from observation.  Here she confided to me the treachery of Vale Vulu, the chief whose guests we were.

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Adventures in Southern Seas from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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