And now the preparations for a feast began. A number of women and young girls brought baskets of fish, roasted birds, and prepared bulrush root, whilst some very large eggs, such as I had never seen the like before, with green shells were stacked upon the grass. Strange-looking animals also, together with snakes and lizards, were stewed in clay vessels, while the savages gathered round in gloating anticipation of this repulsive food. When all was prepared one of the women gave a peculiar cry, when there came from among the trees the young men who had that morning undergone the baptism of initiation, each carrying upon his shoulder a bundle wrapped in reeds and bulrushes. Arrived in front of one who now acted as chief, much laid down his burden, exposing the contents—the body of a native child!—half roasted and drawn—the “long pig” of the cannibals!
Overcome by what I had seen, I sought my gunyah, where I passed the night a prey to the most dismal forebodings. Next morning I became ill, with violent pains and headache, which incapacitated me for some days, during which time a lubra named Moira sat beside me, apparently anxious to do what lay in her power to ease my sufferings.
Helped by the words I had learnt in my former intercourse with savages at the islands we had visited in the early part of the voyage, I was soon able to make myself understood to Moira, and to understand what she said when I confided to her my desire to escape to the sea coast At first she would only shake her head, but I became so insistent that at length she consented to help me. A tribal ceremony was very shortly to be celebrated, so Moira informed me, when the night would be favourable for the success of our project, since the tribe would then be assembled at the camp fires. On that night, moreover, there was no moon until late, and we trusted to be able to slip away in the darkness unobserved.
I had always been impatient of my captivity, but now that escape was in sight I could scarcely control my desire to be rid of these savages. I counted the days, dreading lest some change in the manner of my captivity might prevent the carrying out of the plan we had formed; but all went well until the time came when Moira whispered to me our chance had come.