It appeared from this girl’s account of the matter that Vale Vulu’s professed friendship for us was only a blind in order that he might attack us unawares. To this end he had invited certain tribes from some of the adjacent islands, with whom he happened to be on friendly terms, to a feast, the principal food of which was to consist of the dead bodies of our crew. His own tribe, unaided, he did not consider strong enough for this enterprise, but with the assistance of the friendly cannibals, whom he invited to the banquet, he made no doubt that he would easily be able to overcome us, particularly as we were to be taken unawares. The plan was to invite us to the feast, which we would be told was to consist only of fish, coconuts, and bananas, but, when we were seated, at a given signal we would be massacred and eaten, after which Vale Vulu would take possession of our ship and all that belonged to us.
The poor girl, when she had finished her story, confessed she would no doubt suffer death by torture for having betrayed the plot. I tried to induce her to come on board with me, but she refused, saying that if she did so an attack would be made upon us at once, where our ship lay, helpless, in the lagoon. I could not but see the force of her argument, and, as the matter was too urgent to admit of delay, I hurried on board and informed Hartog of what I had heard.
Our plans were soon made. All hands were told to be in readiness to man the boats in order to tow the ship out of the lagoon during the night, when we would depend upon a breeze to escape from these bloodthirsty savages. Arms and ammunition were served to the crew, and our brass cannon was loaded to the muzzle with grape and canister.
During the early part of the night we could see lights on the shore, whilst the beating of war drums and the sound of wooden horns continued to a late hour. At last all was still, when we slipped our anchor, and began the arduous task of towing the ship out of the lagoon through the opening in the reef which marked a break in the line of white surf. During the night we laboured at the oars, and when morning broke we had succeeded in towing the ship into the open sea for some distance from the land. But our peril was by no means at an end. An absolute calm prevailed, and unless a breeze came in time we feared the savages would put off in their war canoes to attack us. Nor in this were we mistaken, for we presently heard a great beating of drums and blowing of horns, while we could see the savages crowding on to the reef, from which they watched us lying becalmed. Ten canoes then came through the opening in the reef, each containing some one hundred savages, and were paddled rapidly toward us.