“It is not in nature, Peter,” he said to me, “that precious stones and metals exist only in the Old World. They are as much the elements of the earth as rocks and water. It only needs a patient search to discover a mine of wealth, as yet untouched by civilized man.”
I did not like to discourage him, but, young as I was, I knew how fickle a jade is fortune, giving to one with both hands, and from another withholding that which he most deserves.
Besides, who could tell, among these countless islands or the Pacific, upon, which one Nature had lavished her wealth?
As we approached the land I noticed that Van Luck appeared to have lost the influence he had acquired over the crew, many of whom seemed now as anxious to avoid him as before they had been inclined to follow him. He was, therefore, left much to his own devices, which, from his surly manner, did not seem to be pleasant company.
“I am resolved, Peter,” said Hartog to me, “not to return home without sufficient treasure, at all events, to pay for the expenses of this voyage. So make up your mind to grow old among savages unless luck brings us a ransom from this banishment. My reputation, nay more, my honour, is pledged not to go back empty-handed, and I’d face greater perils than any we have encountered sooner than tell those money-grubbers at Amsterdam their principal would not be returned to them with interest.”
I could understand the captain’s dilemma, but I sighed when I thought of the time that might elapse before I would again see my betrothed.
For some weeks after sighting the South Sea Islands we continued to cruise among them, visiting many places, some of which were unknown to former navigators.
The weather at this time was calm and fine, but one day when in the open sea a tempest drove us among a number of islands, most of which appeared to be little better than barren rocks. As we approached, however, we observed one of large size, mountainous, well wooded, and fertile, and here we hoped to find the fresh water and vegetable food of which we stood in need. On rounding a coral reef which made a natural breakwater, we anchored in a quiet bay opposite a beach, and a party of us made ready to go ashore.
The waters of this bay were blue as the sky above, and we could see in the depths below a marine garden of seaweed and coral, and what interested us more, a great quantity of pearl shell. As we rowed towards the shore the beach became thronged with natives who appeared by their gestures to be full of wonder at the sight of our vessel. The people here were of a light coffee colour, with wavy hair. The men, of large stature, well formed, and dressed with a degree of taste far in advance of any of the savages we had hitherto met with. Elaborate devices were tattooed upon the exposed parts of their bodies; a