He was too astonished at what he saw to find fault, and when, later, he had eaten of grilled cod and boiled clams, seasoned with salt and cut-up bananas, a recipe which Melannie, with her woman’s instinct, had invented for the preparation of this delicacy, he was so pleased with his food that he forgot to be ill-tempered.
After this surprise visit from Ackbau our privacy was at an end. Next day the whole council came to dinner. They brought with them a quantity of fish and clams, which they wanted cooked, and it became necessary to make fresh fires, and to instruct them in the art of cooking. This was soon done, for the natives, when shown our simple methods, very quickly began to understand what was required of them, and they became so interested in the cookery that for the time being all other business on the island was suspended. Soon the whole tribe took part in the cooking, and fires burned all along the shore at which fish and clams prepared as Melannie directed were converted into luscious banquets for the astonished islanders. Nothing else was thought of but cooking and eating, and the natives often gorged themselves to such an extent that they were unable for hours to stir from the spot.
This soon gave rise to disagreements and led to quarrels, until at length Ackbau, who in his own way was a born organizer, called the council together and enacted laws for the regulation of the cookery.
By these laws cooks were appointed, of whom I was made chief, and it became an offence, punishable by death, for any except those duly qualified to indulge in cooking. Regulations were also made for the distribution of food, and each day, at stated hours, the tribe assembled round the fires, when they were served with their portions, which they greedily devoured. There were no birds upon the island, or I might have added game to our bill of fare, but turtles were plentiful, and, when captured, were cooked under my directions in a manner which convinced the savages that I was of divine origin. The method of fire-making I kept to myself, rightly conceiving that so long as I preserved this secret my life would be spared.
But notwithstanding the improvement in their mode of living which I had brought to these people by the introduction of the use of fire amongst them, I could see that Ackbau still regarded me with disfavour. His cruel nature, moreover, began to suggest to him another use to which fire might be applied. One of his slaves inadvertently picked up a burning brand, which burnt his fingers, and the pain which it caused suggested to Ackbau that fire might be employed in torture. He ruled by fear, and the fear of fire had now become universal among the islanders. Ackbau spoke to me privately with regard to the making of this new element, and even offered to give me a seat on the council if I would surrender to him my flint and steel, but I told him that to me alone was committed the power of making fire, and that any other attempting it would bring upon himself inevitable disaster. Ackbau’s ambition to become a fire-maker was checked for the moment, but I could see it was not satisfied.