Ackbau seldom spoke to me, and when he did his tone was unfriendly. “The white man will make good sport at the coming of the snake god,” he said to me once when I had angered him by walking out with the queen, and those with him had laughed, and had looked at me in a manner that made me speculate upon what cruel fate it was to which they, in their own minds, had already consigned me.
Of the tortures practised by the islanders upon those who offended them, I was not left long in doubt. There had lately been a war, so Melannie told me, between this people and those of an adjacent island in which some captives had been taken who, according to custom, would be offered in sacrifice to propitiate one of the many evil spirits whom these benighted people worship. On the day of the sacrifice I was bidden to be present, and not daring to refuse, I accompanied the queen to a barren spot at the foot of the mountain where some gaunt trees rose out of a bed of lava. Here we found Ackbau haranguing the victims, and describing to them the tortures they would shortly be called upon to suffer. One of the captives had been prepared for the sacrifice, and, but for the gravity of his position, his appearance might have excited mirth. His body was encased in a kind of basket from which his head, arms, and legs protruded, giving him the appearance of a gigantic insect. To the top of the basket, or tamgky, to give it its native name, was attached a rope of flax, the end of which had been thrown over a branch of one of the trees to the height of about forty feet from the ground. By command of Ackbau, a file of warriors now began to pull upon this rope, when the victim was drawn up to the branch over his head, where Melannie told me he would be allowed to remain until, in the course of time, the rope rotted away, when the skeleton would fall to the ground. The object of enclosing the vital parts of the victim in a basket was that death might come as slowly as possible. Some would live, so the queen assured me, for many days, during which time of agony their faces and the exposed parts of their bodies would be devoured by ants and other venomous insects. Yet Melannie sat unmoved by the sight of these tortures, and even smiled when the poor wretch had been drawn up to his awful doom, and cried out in his agony. For that smile I felt that I could kill her.
Unable to control myself in the presence of such barbarities, I abruptly left the place of execution and began to ascend the mountain, at the foot of which the sacrifices were made, which I could see was the cause of a commotion among the natives. As none offered to stay me, however, I continued my way up the steep sides, which I found to be composed of rocks and scoria, with occasional patches of coarse grass. Among the slag of metals between the crevices of the rocks I unearthed a number of gems, though none so large as those which Melannie had given me, which I added to the collection I carried in a belt I had made for the purpose. I knew it was unlikely these bits of coloured crystal would ever be of value to me, but I carried them in the hope that some day I might be rescued, when I would return home possessed of the wealth I had coveted, and which I had risked my life to obtain.