Jokoits Harbour some time towards the end of February or the beginning of March
1874, the Leonora sailed for Strong's Island, where King Togusa had a large
quantity of coconut oil waiting for her arrival. The brig had a light weather
passage to the eastward and, without stopping at the lovely Coquille Harbour on
the lee side of the island, worked her way up to Lele or Chabral, the principal
harbour of the island, where King Togusa lived.
Kusaii or Strong's Island is one of the most beautiful of the high islands in
the South Seas, being of basaltic formation and clothed from the coastline to
the summits of its hills with the rich green verdure of the tropics. It is about
twenty-four miles in circumference, and the altitude of Crozer, the highest
peak, is 2,155 feet, whilst Mount Buache in the north runs up to 1,912 feet.
island is surrounded by the usual coral reef, through which there are several
passages leading to good harbours, which, lying in the track of vessels between
Australia and China, were excellent orts for wooding and watering and
refreshing, and if necessary for careening, in the old days. It was discovered
in 1804 by the American Captain Crozer, who named it Strong after the Governor
of Massachusetts. Captain Du Perrey was there for ten days in 1824 and estimated
the population at 11,000. At this date and previous to it the houses of the
people formed an almost continuous line round the southern and western coasts,
but about 1830 the visiting whale ships introduced European diseases, which
swept away more than half the population. then came the American missionaries in
the year 1856, whose advocacy of European clothing was the cause of pulmonary
diseases amongst the islanders and still further diminished the population.
Wood, who visited the island in October 1873, on his yachting trip through the
South Seas, writes as follows:
cannot but strike one with melancholy. Here are the last relics of a fine race
of people, utterly ruined by their contact with whites. The natives are more
robust-looking than those of Ponape, but they will soon be extinct. There are
now not 200 on this large and fertile island that used to hold its thousands. In
the twelve months ending in December 1872, upwards of sixty died, and already
this year twenty-six have succumbed.
refers to Bully Hayes landing some of his Ocean Island refugees a few months
before his own visit in the following words:
on shore here about twenty natives of Ocean Island; their country had been
stricken with a famine, and some trading vessel had carried them here out of
kindness. They now wanted me to take them home again, but I declined, out of
respect to the laws of my country.
the road between the mountains of Buache and Crozer the chief method of
communication was by means of the deep lagoon within the reef round the southern
part of the island. 'All day long,' Becke writes, 'one might see the red-painted
canoes of the natives passing to and fro over its glassy waters, which, from
their enclosed position, were seldom ruffled by any wind, except during the
rainy or westerly wind season.'
winds, violent squalls and spells of calm kept the Leonora hanging about
off the land for the greater part of the day. but as soon as she was near enough
to the entrance a big pulling boat with the king's son aboard, who acted as
pilot, came out. the passage through the reef into the harbour of Chabral is
less than a cable in width at its narrowest part, and on either side the heavy
swell, as a rule, fills the air with clouds of spray as it falls crashing with a
deep crackling boom upon the coral heads of either side of the entrance.
white squalls sometimes sweep down the passage from the mountain gorges above, a
handy clipper like the Leonora had nothing to fear, and she was soon
lying snugly at anchor under the southern shore of Lele Island, within hailing
distance of the King's house and that of the American missionary, Mr. Snow, who
was away cruising in the Morning Star when the Leonora arrived, though
his fellow worker, Likiak Sa, his wife, and the Snows' pretty housekeeper, Kitty
of Ebon, were at home.
the anchorage were a couple of whalers. Almost before the Leonora's
anchor had got a grip of the ground boats were pulling off to her from the
whalers and from the shore. The first boat brought a messenger from King Togusa
and Queen Se imploring Bully Hayes to come ashore and give them his advice. In
the boats from the whalers were half a dozen white men who proved to be traders
from Pleasant and Ocean Islands headed by the two veterans, Harry Terry and Bob
Ridley. It appears that the fighting on Pleasant Island, as a direct result of
Bully Hayes's gun-running, had become so hot that the white men and their
families had been compelled to take refuge on the whale ships, which had brought
them to Strong's Island with a retinue of natives. The traders from Ocean Island
had been driven away by drought and famine, along with their families and native
traders and their fierce Pleasant and Ocean Islanders to the number of close on
a hundred were a most unwelcome addition to the village of Lele, or Lella as the
natives pronounce it; the mild Kusaiians were horribly afraid of these warriors,
and it was on this subject that the King wished to consult bully Hayes.
interview between King togusa and the South Sea corsair was an interesting
experience for the youthful Becke, who was present. He describes the King as a
'curious compound of shrewdness, generosity, cant and immorality.' A cripple
from rheumatism, Togusa sat hunched up in his chair clad in European clothes,
consisting of military white duck trousers and a black coat of the style known
in New England as a claw-hammer. On one arm of his royal chair lay a huge Bible
in the Kusaiian dialect, whilst on the other was a long churchwarden's clay
pipe. By the King's side leant Queen Se, a pretty little woman with wavy black
hair. Her podgy fingers were much bejewelled and two heavy gold earrings hung
from her ears.
Becke paid the Queen all the compliments he could think of, according to the
Captain's advice of 'Flatter her to the masthead,' Bully Hayes, after settling
his oil dealings with the King, reassured that anxious monarch about the white
traders and their wild followers by promising to take them away in the
Leonora. Presently a banquet was prepared, consisting of an enormous roasted
hog, huge quantities of fish, and taro, yams and other vegetables. This feast
was considerably enlivened by a basket of liquor which was sent ashore from the
Leonora, consisting of gin, brandy and beer. Whilst the youthful Becke
split a bottle of Tennant's bitter beer with the Queen, the King and the
Leonora's captain devoted themselves to brandy, with the result that King
Togusa's worn, anxious face was soon wreathed in smiles.
banquet was half-way through when King Togusa, with a grimace of dismay, uttered
a hasty sentence to the Queen in Kusaiian, at which she also seemed greatly
upset. It appears that they had forgotten to say grace. The adroit brain of
bully Hayes was always prepared for any contretemps. He immediately reassured
the King with the information that his supercargo was an expert at saying grace,
upon which Becke stumbled out the half-forgotten Latin formula, and the royal
pair regained their ease. The King was soon half-seas over, and began to mix up
quotations from scripture with sailors' oaths, and in the same sentence
professed great friendship with Missionary Snow and his determination once more
to worship his old gods and increase his harem, giving point to this last
statement by a maudlin eulogy on the beauty of Kitty of Ebon, the missionary's
housekeeper. At these drunken babblings from her lord and master Queen Se only
smiled, and after a puff at her Manila cheroot said with a pout of her red lips,
'Hear the old fool talk!'
next interview was with the traders aboard the Leonora. The Pleasant
Island contingent, consisting of three white men, their numerous wives and
half-cast progeny, as well as about twenty natives, had already approached C. F.
Wood, who in October 1873 had called at Kusaii in his schooner yacht. They
offered him 500 dollars to take them to Arrecifos or Providence Island. this he
refused without mincing words. He declared that he would not think of inflicting
such a pestilence on the unfortunate Arrecifos Islanders. Bully Hayes was not so
squeamish, and after some haggling he agreed to take the Pleasant Island party
to Arrecifos and the Ocean Island traders and their crowd to Eneiwotok or
Brown's Range for a matter of 1,000 dollars.
declared that Arrecifos was Hayes's secret rendezvous in the North Pacific, and
that the Leonora was the first ship that ever sailed into its lagoon,
when she landed Henry Gardiner there in 1871. As a matter of fact this group of
ten islets strung on a reef shaped like an irregular parallelogram, with sides
twelve miles by five, was discovered by the ship Providence in 1811, and
visited previous to the Leonora's arrival by the mission brig Morning
Star, Captain James, in 1864; the Dundonald, Captain Gulick, in 1867;
and the Charlotte Jane, Captain Richards, in 1868. The Eneiwotok atoll is
considerably bigger, with a circular reef running twenty miles north and south
and twenty-six miles east and west, on which thirty low islands are studded.
This group was discovered by Captain Thomas Butler of the ship Walpole on
December 13th, 1794, and was named Brown's Range after the chief supercargo of
the Honourable East India Company at Canton. Both groups in 1874 were somewhat
thinly populated, besides being very much overgrown with coconut palms.
Hayes's bargain with the traders was that they should sell him all the oil they
produced during the next five years and give him one barrel out of every five in
recognition of his ownership of these atolls. It was also arranged that until
the Leonora was ready to sail from Strong's Island she should convey the
traders and their followers from Lele to the little southern harbour of Utwe -
or as it is now called, Port Lottin. That night there was high revelry aboard
the Leonora, for it was Hayes's intention to sail the following morning.
Soon after daybreak the traders came off in their whale boats along with their
wives and children and native retainers to the number of over a hundred. Just
before the Leonora got under way the King and Queen came on board to make
some purchases from the brig's trade-room, and Becke declares that he had 'the
distinguished honour of fitting on and selling Queen Se a yellow silk blouse and
two pairs of patent leather shoes.'
Togusa, after buying about 200 dollars' worth of prints and cutlery, retired to
the Leonora's comfortable saloon, where he proceeded to get drunk on
bully Hayes's brandy. Queen Se, having finished her purchases, stepped into the
cabin just in time to see her royal husband collapse in a heap on the floor. In
his fall a leather pouch at his waist burst open and a number of twenty-dollar
gold pieces tumbled out and rolled all over the saloon. the lively queen at once
picked them up and concealed them in the bosom of her dress, promising, when the
brig returned from Arrecifos, that she would come aboard and spend them. She
then ordered her women attendants to carry the King on deck. As soon as the
royal party left for the shore, the anchor was weighed, and with the whale boats
all towing astern, the brig was headed for the passage through the reef. Chabral
Harbour is sometimes a very difficult place to get out of, owing to the
prevalence of the trade winds, which blow right in for seven months out of the
twelve. The passage through the reef is deep and narrow, and only the smartest
of clippers can beat out against the N.E. trade, owing to the heavy swell which
rolls without ceasing through the passage. That long, steep swell runs in just
as heavy on calm as on windy days, and there is no possibility of kedging out
through the reef owing to the great depth of the water. In 1836 the whaler
Falcon of London, on her fifth attempt to tow out with her five boats, was
swept on to the reef and broken up by the huge combers. This vessel had run in
to wood and water, and had waited her chance to get out again for 120 days.
However, with the perfumed land breeze blowing, the Leonora had a fair
wind out. Bully Hayes, as was his custom, went on to the foreyard to con the
ship, and the best helmsman was sent to the wheel.
of the wind being off the land the swell running in through the ref was very
steep, though it was not breaking. Right in the centre of the passage a heavier
sea than usual was encountered; Becke expected to see the decks swept, and some
of the traders sprang into the main rigging for safety, but the Leonora
never lost her way for a moment, and lifting to the crest lunged out into open
water. The brig was then put under her topsails for the run down the coast, as
Hayes had no intention of venturing into the small harbour of Lottin in the
dark. The deck of the brig was crowded: forward, lying about on their sleeping
mats, were the Pleasant and Ocean Islanders, whilst aft, clustering round the
Leonora's captain as he lay smoking and yarning on the skylight, were the
white traders. We have an interesting description of these men in Rolf
Boldrewood's Modern Buccaneer, which I should say was dictated by Louis
Becke with but little departure from the truth. As a proof of the accuracy of
Becke's memory on this occasion one can confirm his statement that old Harry
Terry served under Captain Waldegrave of H.M.S. Seringapatam and Captain
Thompson of the Talbot. frigate on the coast of South America. The 46-gun
frigate Seringapatam was serving on the South American station between
February 1829 and 1833 under the command of Captain the Honourable William
Waldegrave, whilst the Talbot of 28 guns was on the same station from
1834 to about 1838.
was accompanied by his four stalwart half-cast sons. Next to him sat a tall,
red-bearded Irishman known as Pleasant Island Bill, whom Becke describes as 'a
merry good-for-nothing with a warm heart and unlimited capacity for whisky.'
This man had with him his wife, Tiaro, a handsome fair-skinned, wild-looking
native of Drummond Island. Sitting next to Becke upon a bundle of sleeping mats
was the Adonis of the South Seas, young Harry Skillings, with clear-cut
features, dark brown curly locks, and drooping moustaches. 'He was the ideal sea
rover,' writes Becke, 'much untrammelled by the canons of more civilized life.
To each of his four young wives he appeared equally devoted. Though a blase
exquisite in manner he was a man who simply laughed at wounds and death; a
dangerous antagonist too, as some of his fellow traders had good reason to
there was Seth, a young American who had run away from the whale ship Seagull,
and Dick Mills, the boat steerer, another deserter from a whaler. Finally there
was old Bob Ridley, brown as a coffee berry, scarred, weather-beaten, and
tattooed like a Marquesas Islander. 'Very dour and dangerous was this veteran -
thinking no more of settling a difference with his ever-ready revolver than of
filling his ancient clay pipe. 'Thus wrote Becke. Besides two sons and three
daughters, all of whom except the youngest daughter were married to natives, the
old convict had a young wife with him, whom he had acquired on a recent visit to
Tahiti. this was the clever and beautiful Lalia, a native of Rapanui or Easter
Island, and possessing to the full the beauty and regal manner for which her
race was famed. Becke declared that this clever lady gave herself great airs
over her step-children. Having been an inmate of the military camp at Tahiti she
was tainted with a strong veneer of civilization, being able to swear fluently
not only in French and English, but with the fearsome and strange oaths in use
The Wreck Of The
Whilst the brig stood off and on outside the entrance
to Port Lottin, within sound of the surf which thundered upon the reef and
veiled the dark green of the mangroves and coco palms in a mist of spray,
dancing and singing were kept up on board throughout the greater part of the
night. The traders, enthusiastic if unconscious disciples of Omar Khayyam,
snored noisily on the raised quarter-deck whilst their followers danced and
sang. Having whole-heartedly filled 'the Cup that clears To-day of past
regrets and future fears,' they slumbered with easy consciences, their faith
in the future embodied in the famous verse:
Oh Thou who didst with Pitfall and with Gin
Beset the Road I was to wander in,
Thou wilt not with Predestination round
Enmesh me, and impute my Fall to Sin?
When day broke, sail was made and the Leonora
headed into where a gap in the line of white surf showed the entrance to the
harbour. There was a heavy swell running, and as the brig approached, the
booming of the surf upon the reef became deafening. Clouds of spray filled the
air on either side of the passage, but in the centre a clear view could be
obtained of the narrow little harbour of Utwe or Port Lottin. To Hayes's
disgust this revealed four whalers at anchor inside, which meant that there
would be no room for the Leonora to bring up. One of the vessels had
her canvas loosed, however, and it was evident that she was getting under way.
Hayes at once gave the order for the main yard to be backed, and the brig lay
bobbing up and down just clear of the broken water and ready to slip through
the entrance directly the whaler had passed. The latter rolled so heavily as
she came out that her boats barely cleared the water. She proved to be the
Marathon, and as she passed close under the Leonora's stern her captain
sang out that one of the other south Seamen was going to follow him in a few
As soon as the second whaler had passed, Hayes filled
his main topsail and ran in. the anchor was dropped between the remaining
whale ships and the dense belt of mangroves which hid the shore. The first job
as soon as sail was fast and the deck cleared up was to land the cattle. there
had been bad blood between Captain Hayes and his mate the whole voyage, and
the latter had recently been deposed from his position. However, as
preparations were being made to land the cattle he begged to be reinstat3ed.
According to Becke, Hayes offered to give him another chance if he behaved
himself, and then ordered him to get to work slinging the cattle over into the
water. The two whale ships, Europa of Sag Harbour and St. George
of New Bedford, lay so close to the Leonora in that narrow harbour that
their crews could see everything which went on board the brig. The Leonora
was, of course, famous throughout the South Seas, and the crews of the whalers
crowded their rails, so great was their interest in Hayes's clipper brig.
First of all the longboat was lowered and dropped
into the water alongside. This, in charge of the second mate, had to tow the
cattle ashore. Then the first beast was swung out of the hold, and by means of
a tackle on the main yardarm launched over the side. Just before the order was
given to lower the beast into the sea, the strop parted and the bull fell into
the harbour with a resounding splash, just missing the boat. A roar of
laughter came from those watching aboard the whalers, but there was dead
silence aboard the brig. The bull, however, came to the surface at once and,
proving himself a fine swimmer, was soon heading away for the mangroves.
Aboard the Leonora a wordy warfare now started between the mate and the
bosun as to who had been at fault. this was broken into by Bully Hayes
himself, who asked, with a suspicious calmness in his voice, 'Who rigged that
'I did,' growled Nahnsen sullenly, and he began to
edge away towards his cabin.
Keep the deck, sir!' roared the Captain. 'Damn you,
sir, you're neither good enough for an officer or man before the mast. There's
not a Kanaka aboard this brig who could not have rigged that tackle in
seamanlike manner. One of the girls would have made a better fist of it.
You've disgraced the brig before those spouters. Go to your cabin.'
As he turned towards the deckhouse Nahnsen muttered,
'Why didn't you let the women do it, then?'
At this the fierce temper of bully Hayes broke loose,
and in a moment the two men were at hand-grips. Nahnsen pulled a pistol from
his shirt, but his wrist was immediately held and the muzzle pointed upwards;
yet the mate was an extremely powerful man, and for a moment it seemed as if
bully Hayes had met his match. Amongst the excited spectators one of the
traders swang out, 'By God, he's getting the best of it!'
But at this moment bully Hayes broke clear, and
stepping back drove his fist twice into Nahnsen's face with a quickness which
was astonishing in so big a man. The mate, with his brow cut to the bone,
staggered wildly and then dropped to the deck. A cheer went uip from the
spectators. The Captain called for a glass of water, and then gave orders to
the second mate to get the cattle ashore and at the same time land the bigt
Dane and his sea-chest. With the cattle and the mate safely ashore there was a
peaceful interlude aboard the Leonora, but this was speedily broken by
Likiak Sa, the missionary, who came aboard to complain because his natives
were being paid by Becke for their yams in goods from the trade-room.
'You don't want your peole to be paid in trade, don't
you?' was bully Hayes's response to the missionary's whine. 'Precisely so! You
white-chokered schemer, you whited sepulchre! You want to see those
hard-working slaves of natives paid in cash so that you may rob the poor
devils of every dollar for church tithes. The supercargo has my fullest
confidence and will not rob any native of a cent. Go and talk to him.'
The missionary found Becke selling pigeon shot and
powder to a native named Sree. Becke's reply to the missionary was to ask the
natives present if he had suggested their taking trade instead of dollars. On
receiving a chorus of 'Noes' the youthful supercargo drove the Hawaiian out of
the trade-room. The man was furious, and the two girls, Lalia and Kitty, did
not help matters by throwing flour over him as he passed the pantry.
At 6 p.m. Hayes left the deck, only to return hastily
and take a long squint out to sea with an anxious frown.
'The glass is falling fast,' he said to Becke. 'I
can't make it out. I've never known it blow hard here at this time of year.
Still, it's banking up to the westward.'
He then hailed the whalers and they replied by coming
aboard to consult him. A heavy black cloud was rising over the horizon to the
south-west and growing blacker and blacker. The land breeze had died away and
there was every appearance of a blow coming on from the south-west. The first
of the two whalemen to step over the gangway proved to be Captain Zachariah
Grant of the St. George, a white-haired, sturdily-built veteran who was
well known throughout the South Seas, where he had spent the greater part of
fifty years. Captain Grant was followed by Captain Ed Fish of the Europa,
who was as short and fat as the other was long and thin, with a face like a
weather-beaten pippin, a body as round as one of his own blubber casks, and
legs like hoops. He was a whimsical old boy, according to Captain Silas, with
a witty tongue, always fond of a joke - but poor on discipline and a very
easygoing skipper for a sperm whaler. And his old Europa showed ever
sign of neglect, being as blowzy, bedraggled and untidy as a Whitechapel
lodging-keeper. She leaked, too, like a sieve; the old-fashioned chain pumps
going chug-chug aboard her without ceasing. 'Well, gentlemen,' said Bully
Hayes impressively, as he greeted his visitors,' we're in a damned bad fix,
caught in this coral trap.'
'Yew're dead right, Capen Hayes,' agreed Captain
Zack. 'We caint tow out in the face o' this swell, even if we had daylight.'
'And even with my handy Leonora it'd be
craziness to try and beat out in the dark.'
'I calculate our only chance is to ride it out,' said
Captain Ed Fish. 'Though my old gal ain't a good roadster by any means. I
kiender guess I've drained the Pacific Ocean, pretty near every drop between
the Kuriles and Ball's Pyramid, through the Europa's seams in the last
six months. I'm afeared of her opening right out, if this swell gets worse,
an' going' down under my feet.'
'You're all right, Capen,' returned Bully Hayes
encouragingly. 'You've plenty of room to swing. If you send down your light
spars and your cables are good you'll see to-morrow's light; but I'm in a
rotten sort of a strait. I've got coral horse's heads all round me and I
daren't give my brig a fathom more cable. Though she ain't like your Europa,
Captain Fish, being a nice easy roadster, she's bound to snub badly and pitch
her whole foc's'le under with the short chain out, if this sea running in gets
'Waal! that ain't no help for it that I can see - we
must ride it out as Capen Ed says,' declared Captain Grant. 'And if we can
help each other we sure will when the time comes - Adios, Capen.'
And with this he bundled over the side, followed by
Bully Hayes gave a look of approval as the St.
George's whale boat was pulled rapidly away over the long swell by four
sturdy Rotumah boys. Captain Ed's boat was not so smart. Her bow, a shaggy
Gay-Header, was clumsy in fending her off and the old skipper nearly swamped
her as he dropped heavily into his seat.
'Henry beggar, let him drop,' he quoted cheerfully,
with his face upturned to the line of heads along the Leonora's rail. 'Goo'night,
Capen Hayes, pleasant dreams and keep clear o' them coral - lips' (pointing at
Hope Island Nellie). As his boat pulled away a hearty roar of laughter
reverberated over the water, only to cease at the cry of 'oars' as Captain Ed
brought her up to the gangway of the Europa.
No sooner were the skippers of the Europa and
St. George over the side before Hayes started to prepare his ship for her
ordeal. First of all the decks were cleared of everything which could be
placed below, including the crowd of native passengers. Then the royal and
topgallant yards were sent down and five fathoms of cable hove in. The reason
for this was plain. directly the wind came Hayes reckoned that the Leonora
would swing round with her head pointing to the passage through the reef. This
would bring her stern almost on top of a coral head; thus it was absolutely
necessary to shorten in whilst there was time. With the coming of night the
murky atmosphere seemed to become alive with electricity. With not a breath
stirring, the least sound seemed to be magnified a hundred times, and the deep
boom and crackle of the heavy surf upon the reef might well have been mistaken
for thunder. The sky was now entirely overcast, and the dense thickness
overhead seemed to press down upon the three ships. those aboard the
Leonora could see the yellow gleam of the swinging lamps shining through
the after ports of the two whalers and they could hear the working cries of
their crews, but so dense was the atmosphere that not even the faintest loom
of their hulls could be made out. All of a sudden, clear and distinct, the
voice of Captain Grant of the St. George reached the ears of those aboard the
brig: 'Stand by, Captain Hayes, it's coming along as solid as a wall!'
Hardly had he spoken before the first gust took the
brig and she heeled sharply in what seemed to be a solid sheet of rain and
spray. As she swung head-on to the blast and righted, the wind screeched
through her rigging like a thousand demons; and with the wind came the sea,
rolling in through the entrance with ever-increasing steepness, which soon had
all three vessels pitching and snubbing viciously at their cables. With the
exception of a couple which had been got on deck, the traders' whale boats
were hanging to the stern of the Leonora. Bully Hayes now turned to the
leading trader, old Harry Terry, and called out:
'Harry, get your boats alongside and land as many of
the people as you can. The sea is making fast, and in less than no time these
rollers will be breaking and then we shall have our decks swept fore and aft.'
The first boat was carefully hauled alongside, and
old Harry and his four stalwart half-caste sons got safely aboard, the old man
taking the steering oar and the sons the rowing thwarts. It must have been a
biggish boat, for Becke declares that fifty of their followers then sprang
over the side and were hauled into the boat, which, with a wild shout of
farewell from those aboard, disappeared in the darkness astern. The second
boat, in charge of Pleasant Island Bill, also got safely away in a lull
between two squalls. This boat took many of the women and the two children,
Toby and Kitty, all of whom either jumped or were tossed into the water to be
pulled out by the boat's crew. A dim grey line could now be seen astern
marking the wash of the breakers churned into soapsuds amongst the mangroves.
Hayes took a sounding over the Leonora's stern and found four fathoms.
He put his mouth to Becke's car and shouted: 'Little enough water under us if
the sea gets worse, and if the wind hauls another point we'll about touch that
bit coral mushroom on the port quarter, and then it's good-bye to the
Even as he spoke there came a sudden lull in the
wind. Hayes immediately sprang into the main rigging and, swaying easily to
the mad rolling of the brig, held u his hand to feel the direction of the
wind, but as the lull still held he called for volunteers to man a boat and
take a line to the Europa.
'If I could get a hawser from the brig's stern to the
spouter it may keep us off that boulder under our port quarter and save the
ship. If not, we're done for.'
Four men volunteered. A whale boat was successfully
lowered and, with a coil of whale line made fast to the Leonora's best
hawser, pulled away for the South Seaman. Twenty minutes passed, and the lull
still continued; then the boat suddenly appeared under the brig's stern, and
Antonio, the Portuguese, sang out: 'It's all right, Captain; have away on your
hawser, the end's fast to the Europa.'
'Well done, lads,' roared Bully Hayes. 'Now stand by
to get some more women ashore.'
The supercargo was sent below to round up the women
and also to get the ship's papers and any small articles of value for
transport to the shore. Five women, headed by old Mary, crawled on deck and
were immediately seized by the Captain and some of the crew and dropped over
the side into the boat. meanwhile Becke began hurriedly to pack a trade chest
with sextants, chronometers, charts, and gold and silver coin, filling up with
Winchester carbines and cartridges. This he managed to get on deck with the
help of Lalia, who had remained sobbing in the cabin. Somehow or other it was
successfully got into the boat. Becke was ordered by Bull Hayes to go along
with it, and he was just about to go over the side when the brig pitched into
a heavy sea, which broke on board and would have swept the boy away if he had
not clung to the iron boat-davits. The sudden jerk as the vessel pitched
evidently broke the boat's painter, and the latter was swept rapidly to
leeward. However, she made a safe landing, though one of her hands was knocked
overboard, but he was washed up unhurt amongst the mangroves.
Becke, as soon as he recovered himself, discovered
the girl Lalia hanging to the davit alongside him and pretty nearly done in.
With the Captain's help he carried her below. As soon as Bully Hayes reached
the deck again he saw that the lull was over and the wind coming away from the
south with even more than its old fury. Every sea was now breaking over the
bows and sweeping the decks. matters looked desperate. The brig was almost
hove short and so was unable to rise quickly enough, and they could not give
her chain owing to the coral head close under the quarter. At the same time
she was rolling so much that Becke thought she would capsize at any moment.
All hands were obliged to hang on in the face of a succession of seas. So
serious was the outlook that bully Hayes now sung out to the carpenter to
stand by ready to cut away the masts.
Meanwhile down below Becke, aided by the terrified
Lalia, started to pack another trade chest with papers and other valuables.
The girl's teeth were chattering, her lips blue with cold, and her eyes wide
with terror. Becke poured a glass of brand from the decanter and gave it to
her, and then the two of them started to haul the heavy chest u the
companion-way. The Leonora gave a plunge; Becke slipped u on his back
and the box fell and jammed the girl's feet against the lining of the
companion stair. Becke yelled for help, and fortunately four of the men heard
him and managed to lift the chest off the girl's legs. Becke then carried her
below for the second time, and dropping her into the steward's bunk, told her
to stay there until he came for her.
As soon as he reached the deck again he was met by
the Captain, who pointed out over the ship's stern to a dark object rising and
falling just clear of the counter.
'There's real grit for you,' roared Hayes in his ear.
'Captain Zack's a white man to think of us in this wild hurrush.'
It was the St. George's whale boat with the
four Rotomah men and a lanky harpooner from Martha's Vineyard at the steering
'Can you take some o' my passengers ashore?' shouted
the Big Captain to the whaler's coxswain.
'Aye, aye, sir. Tell 'em to jump as we haul u
Several natives jumped in; others were content to
trust to their own swimming powers and let the run of the sea take them
ashore. One, a powerfully-built Ocean woman, sprang into the water with her
child in her arms and, instead of making for the boat, swam off in the
direction of the nearest land. Next morning the child was picked up more than
a mile away lying unharmed on a small beach. Close beside the baby was the
body of the mother with one foot missing, but evidently killed by a fearful
gash on the head.
Hayes wanted young Becke to go ashore in the boat,
but he preferred to take his chance with the shi. the boat now disappeared
into the darkness with a wailing cry of farewell. Those still left on the
Leonora gathered by the main rigging ready to cut away at the Captain's
order; and then the final catastrophe happened. The people aboard the
Europa, evidently in fear of their own safety, began paying out the
Leonora's hawser, so that the big coral head, which had been fifty feet
away, now grinned bare between each sea like a huge tooth in a ring of broken
water right under the counter. As the brig lifted to a tremendous roller the
hawser tautened and then suddenly slackened u as if it had either parted or
been cast off.
'The cursed dogs!' roared Hayes. 'They're paying out
on the hawser and letting us go to the devil!'
Sure enough the very next sea that came along broke
abreast of the mainmast, and all hands felt the grinding, shuddering thud as
the ship's keel struck on the coral patch. Most of the men hanging in the main
rigging went overboard with this sea, but Becke and the Leonora's
captain hung on. The former has described the insane fury of the Captain, who,
picking up a rifle, fired in the direction of the Europa.
The very next sea finished the Leonora. Her
rudder was torn from the stern-post and several of her timbers ripped u by the
jagged coral. Hurling his rifle into the boiling foam Bully Hayes remained
staring helplessly in the direction of the whaler.
'My ship is dearer to me than my life,' he muttered
brokenly, unaware that Becke had left his side. The latter, however, had
suddenly remembered the girl Lalia, whom he had left in the steward's berth.
He found her sitting up in the bunk gazing in terror at the water washing over
the cabin floor. Becke had hardly succeeded in pulling her up the companion
before a torrent of water almost overwhelmed them, filling the cabin and
putting out the lamps. Becke had but a hazy remembrance of what happened after
this. He heard the Captain's voice shouting, 'Catch hold of me; hold on like
grim death!' and then a sea swept them all over the side.
There was a boat lying upside down on top of the
deck-house. When that huge sea broke amidships it took this boat over the
side, along with all those who were still aboard. The natives and Bully Hayes
were, of course, like fish in the water, and they managed to get hold of the
gunwale, but Becke, who had been knocked out by a piece of wreckage, would
have gone under if it had not been for the girl Lalia, who dragged him to the
boat. The next sea dashed the boat and those clinging round it on the coral
head, and the boat went to pieces there and then. Everyone was more or less
cut about by the coral, the chief victim being young Becke, who, besides
having his back badly lacerated, had a sharp spike of coral broken off in his
face. The girl had her arm badly torn, and the pair of them would have
undoubtedly been drowned but for a native named Karta, a retainer of the
trader, Harry Skillings. This man somehow brought both Becke and Lalia safely
When Becke came to his senses he found himself lying
under some coconut trees in the bright sun, whilst Karta and the girl bathed
his back. The storm had ceased, the wind had blown itself out, and the little harbour was as smooth as a duck pond. Both whale ships had ridden out the
storm in safety, and the Europa was already standing out to sea through
the passage. The only visible sign of the disaster was the main topmast of the
Leonora showing above the mirror-like surface of the harbour. The bank
of mangroves where the three had landed was separated from the village of Utwe,
where all the others had got ashore, by a deep channel. As Becke lifted his
head and looked across this channel he noticed the tall form of Captain Hayes
directing a number of men who were hauling wreckage up the beach. From this
the boy's eyes were drawn to the deep channel between them, which was in a
wild state of commotion . Hundreds of sharks were fighting for the dead bodies
of the pigs which had been washed overboard from the Leonora.
Karta soon managed to draw the attention of those on
the other shore, and presently Bully Hayes himself came across in one of the
traders' whale boats. He seemed very pleased to find the supercargo alive, and
declared that he had had search parties looking for him since daylight. After
skillfully dressing their various wounds, Hayes took them back to the village,
where he left them in order to continue his exertions in salving whatever he
could from the wreck of his beloved brig. One cannot help admiring the
resiliency with which this pirate of the South Seas recovered from the
staggering blows which fortune dealt him, and immediately set to work
retrieving his losses. But the wreck of the Leonora was a tragedy from
which he could not recover. Never again was he quite the same man; the
overflowing vitality, the nervous force, the very spark of life had been spent