Queen Melannie, having appropriated Anna’s mirror, and finding I understood what she said to me, then dismissed her attendants and invited me to a private audience. I asked her how she, a white lady, came to be among savages, but she could tell me nothing except that she remembered standing upon the beach as a child, alone, when it was very cold, and that she cried very much, until the natives had brought her into this house, where she had been reared and cared for ever since.
“They tell me I was born of the sea,” she said, “but I do not believe that, for I seem to remember other faces, like yours, before I came here.”
It was then plain to me that this poor girl had been shipwrecked as a child, and cast upon this island. It was sad to think that one so beautiful should be condemned to live among savages, but I reflected that my own case was no better, for it seemed unlikely I would return to civilization. Melannie appeared to place full confidence in me from our first meeting.
“I am not really queen,” she said. “Ackbau is king, and I must do as he tells me. He makes me speak his words, but sometimes I would rather not say what he bids me.”
I sympathized with her, for I could readily understand why this Ackbau, who was the chief before whom I had been taken, chose her to be his mouthpiece. She had become a goddess to the tribe, and it was thought she could speak nothing wrong. So that by using her as his medium Ackbau gained his ends without accepting responsibility.
Whilst I was talking to the queen I could not help admiring the jewels in her diadem, and seeing I was pleased with them she invited me to accompany her to a rock cavern near to her dwelling, where I saw such an accumulation of wealth that I began to picture myself among the richest of men. The floor of this cave was carpeted with gold dust, and nuggets of the same precious metal were piled high against its walls. But what caused me to rub my eyes in wonder was a slab of opal, which seemed ablaze with the fire it contained. Upon this priceless table were strewn a collection of gems, which, from the knowledge I had acquired in De Decker’s office at Amsterdam, I knew to be of great value, but which did not appear to be so regarded by the queen, for when she had presented me with a double handful she still seemed to consider herself in my debt for the mirror and some other trifles I had given her. I now knew that I had come to the Island of Gems of which Hartog had spoken. But, alas! of what use was all this wealth, since I could not spend it in this place, and it seemed improbable I would ever go back to my own country?
Melannie now returned to her dwelling, which I subsequently found she seldom left, except at night, which accounted for the fairness of her skin. All festivals were held at night, by moonlight, and what struck me as peculiar was the absence of fire. Fish and shellfish were eaten raw, but many subsisted entirely upon coconuts and fruit, which grew upon the island in great profusion.