An Island Memory by Louis Becke
From early dawn wild excitement had prevailed in the great
native village on the shores of Port Lele, and on board two
ships which were anchored on the placid waters of the
land-locked harbour. As the fleecy, cloud-like mist which,
during the night, had enveloped the forest-clad spurs and
summit of Mont Buache, was dispelled by the first airs of the
awakened trade wind and the yellow shafts of sunrise, a fleet
or canoes crowded with natives put off from the sandy beach in
front of the king's house, and paddled swiftly over towards the
ships, the captains of which only awaited their arrival to
weigh and tow out through the passage.
As the mist lifted, Cayse, the master of the
of Sagharbour, stepped briskly up on the poop, and hailed the
skipper of the other vessel, a small, yellow-painted barque of
less than two hundred tons.
"Are you ready, Captain Ross?"
"All ready," was the answer; "only waiting for the
military," and then followed a hoarse laugh.
Cayse, a little, grizzled, and leathern-faced man of fifty,
replied by an angry snarl, then turned to his mate, who stood
beside him awaiting his orders.
"Get these natives settled down as quickly as possible, Mr.
North, then start to heave-up and loose sails. I reckon we'll
tow out in an hour. The king will be here presently in his own
boat. Hoist it aboard."
North nodded in silence, and was just moving on to the main
deck, when Cayse stopped him.
"You don't seem too ragin' pleased this mornin', Mr. North,
over this business. Naow, as I told you yesterday, I admire
your feelin's on the subject, but I can't afford—"
The mate's eyes blazed with anger.
"And I tell you again that I won't have anything to do with
it. I know my duty, and mean to stick to it. I shipped for a
whaling voyage, and not to help savages to fight. Take my
advice and give it up. Money got in this way will do you no
Cayse shifted his feet uneasily.
"I can't afford to sling away the chance of earnin' two or
three thousan' dollars so easy. An' you'll hev to do your duty
to me. Naow, look here—"
North raised his hand.
"That will do. I have said I will do my duty as mate, but
not a hand's turn will I take in such bloody work as you and
the skipper of that crowd of Sydney cut-throats and convicts
are going into for the sake of six thousand dollars."
"Well, I reckon we can do without you. Any
one would think we was going piratin', instead of helping the
king of this island to his rights. Naow, just tell
Again the mate interrupted him.
"I am going for'ard to get the anchor up, and will obey all
your orders as far as the working of the ship is
An hour later the two vessels, their decks crowded with
three hundred savages, armed with muskets, spears, and clubs,
were towed out through the narrow, reef-bound passage, and with
the now freshening trade wind filling their sails, set a course
along the coast which before sunset would bring them to
Leassé, on the lee side of the island. But presently, in
response to a signal from the
, the whaler lay to; a boat put off from the smaller ship, and
Captain Ross came alongside, clambered over the bulwarks and
joined Cayse and the young king of Port Lele, who were awaiting
him on the poop, to discuss with him the plan of surprise and
slaughter of the offending people of Leassé.
Nearly a week before the
had run into Port Lele to refresh before proceeding westward
and northward to the Bonin Islands in pursuance of her cruise.
Charlik, the king, was delighted to see Cayse, for in the days
when his father was king the American captain had conveyed a
party of one hundred Strong's Islanders from Port Lele to
MacAskill's Island, landed them in his boats during the night,
and stood off and
on till daylight, when they returned reeking from their work of
slaughter upon the sleeping people, and bringing with them some
scores of women and children as captives. For this service the
king had given Cayse half a ton of turtle-shell, and the
services of ten young men as seamen for as long a time as the
cruised in the Pacific on that voyage. When Charlik's father
was dying, he called his head chiefs around him, and gave the
boy into their care with these words—"Here die I upon my
mat like a woman, long before my time, and to-morrow my spirit
will hear the mocking laughs of the men of Môut and
Leassé, when they say, 'Sikra is dead; Sikra was but an
Then his son spoke.
"Not many days shall they laugh. They shall be destroyed
all, all, all of them."
The king touched his son's hand.
"Those are good words. But be not too hasty. Wait till the
American comes again. He will help with his men and guns. But
he is a greedy man. Yet spare nothing; give him all the silver
and gold money I have stored by for his return, and all the
turtle-shell that can be gathered together. And let there be
not even one little child left in Môut or
Charlik was a lad or seventeen when his savage old father
died, and for a year after his death he harried and distressed
his people by his exactions. All day long the men toiled at
making coconut oil, and at night time they watched along the
beaches for the
hawk-bill turtle; the oil they put into huge butts, which stood
in the king's boat-sheds, and the costly turtle-shell was taken
by the young ruler and locked up in the seamen's chests which
lined the inside wall of the great council-house. And no man
durst now fire a musket at a wild pig, for powder and ball had
—such things were given up to the chiefs, lest they might
be wasted, and every morning three young men climbed up the
rugged side of Mont Buache, to keep a look-out for the ship
whose captain would help their master to wreak a bloody
vengeance upon the rebellious people of Leassé.
At the end of the sixteenth month of watching, a sail
appeared coming from the southward, and the watchers on the
mountain-top sped down to the king's house, and sinking upon
their knees in the courtyard of coral slabs, whispered their
news to one of the king's serving-men, who, with a musket in
his hand and a cutlass girt around his naked waist, stood
sentry before the youthful despot's sleeping-room.
"Good," said the king to Kanka, his head chief; "'tis surely
the American Késa,
for this is the month in which he said he would return. Let the
women make ready a great feast, and launch my three boats, so
that if the wind fail, when the sun is high, they may help to
drag the ship into Lele."
Then came the sound of beating drums, and the long, mournful
note of the conch-shells calling the wild people together to
prepare for the ship. Turtle
were lifted from their walled-in prison holes on the reef, hogs
were strangled, and the king's wives went hither and thither
among his slave women, bidding them hasten to kindle the ovens,
whilst children went out into the great canework cage, wherein
were hundreds of the king's wild pigeons, and seizing the
birds, began to pluck them alive.
An hour passed. Charlik, sitting in a European chair, was
watching the wild bustle and excitement around him in the
courtyard, when his eye fell on the three messengers, who, with
bent head and bended knees, were awaiting his further
Beckoning to a young, light-skinned woman, who stood near
him, he bade her bring him three of his best pearl-shell bonito
hooks. They were brought, and taking them from her, he threw
them to the men.
"Ye have watched well," he said. "There is thy reward. Now
go and eat and sleep."
With eyes sparkling with pleasure, the young men each took
up his precious gift, and with crouching forms crept slowly
over to the further side of the courtyard, where they were
waited upon by women with food.
Presently the fair young woman—his sister
Sè—returned to her brother's side.
"The ship is near," she said, and then her voice faltered;
"but it is not the ship of Késa. It is but a small ship,
and she hath but two boats. Késa's had five."
"What lies are these?" said the young savage fiercely. "Go
The girl left him, to return a few minutes later with
grey-headed old Kanka, who in response to an inquiring look
from his master, bent his head and said slowly—
"'Tis a strange ship—one that never before have we
seen in Lele."
The youth made him no answer. He merely raised his arm and
pointed his finger at the three messengers.
"Then they have lied to me. Bring them here to me."
Kanka stepped over to where the fated men were sitting. They
rose at his behest, and crept over to the king; behind them, at
some invisible sign given by him, followed a man with a heavy
wood. The clamour which had filled the courtyard ceased, and
terrified silence fell. One by one the messengers knelt upon
the coral flags—no need for them to ask for mercy from
Charlik, the savage son of a bloodstained father. The bearer of
the club held the weapon knob downward, and watched the king's
face for the signal of death. He nodded, and then, one after
another of the men were struck and fell prone upon the stones.
With scowling eyes Charlik regarded them for a moment or two in
silence, then he turned unconcernedly away, as some of his
slaves came forward and carried the bodies out of sight.
Suddenly he sprang to his feet, as a loud, long cry, first
from a single throat, and then echoed and reechoed by a hundred
more, came upward from the beach.
A ship! A ship! Another ship! The ship of Késa!"
Bidding his sister and the old chief Kanka to come with him,
Charlik quickly left the house, and walking through a grove of
breadfruit trees, reached a spot from where he had a full view
of the open sea. There right in the passage was a small barque;
and, almost within hail, and just rounding the northern horn of
the reef was a larger vessel, one glance at which told Charlik
that it was the American whaler for which he had so long
waited. In less than an hour they were at anchor abreast of the
king's house, and the two captains were being rowed ashore.
They met on the beach. The master of the smaller vessel was a
tall, broad-shouldered man, armed with a pair of pistols and a
cutlass. Striding over the sand he held out his hand to the
"Good day. My name's Ross, barque
, of Sydney, from the New Hebrides to Hong Kong with
"Glad to meet ye. My name is Cayse, ship
, bound on a sperm whalin' cruise."
Further speech was denied them, for suddenly the thronging
and excited natives around them drew aside right and left as
Charlik, with a face beaming with smiles, came up to Cayse with
outstretched hand, and greeted him warmly in English. Then he
turned quickly to the Englishman and shook hands with him also,
and asked him from whence he came.
"From Sydney. I came here to get wood, water, and
Good. You can get all you want. Have you muskets and bullets to
"I can spare you some."
"Ah, that is good. I want plenty, plenty. Now come to my
house and eat and drink; then we can talk."
It was well on towards sunset before Charlik and Cayse had
finished their talk. Ross meanwhile had gone on board the
barque for some firearms which he was giving the king in
exchange for several boatloads of provisions. When he returned,
with two of his crew carrying six muskets, a keg of powder, and
a bag of bullets, Cayse met him on the threshold of the king's
"Come inside, mister. The king wants to talk to you on a
matter of business. I reckon you an' me together can do what he
wants done. But jest come along with me first. I want to show
you the kind of fellow he is when he gets upset."
The master of the sandalwooder followed the American across
the wide courtyard to some native houses. Stopping in front of
one, from which the low murmur of women's voices, broken now
and then by a wailing cry, proceeded, he desired Ross to look
in through the doorway. A small fire of coconut shells was
burning in the centre of the room, and
its light Ross saw several women crouched round the bodies of
three men, performing the last offices for the dead. They
looked at the white strangers with apathetic indifference, but
ceased their labours whilst Ross bent down and
examined the still faces. His scrutiny was brief, but it was
Cayse gave a sniggering laugh. "I reckon you'll feel sorter
startled, mister, when I tell you that you were the cause of
those men getting clubbed, hey?"
Ross frowned angrily. "What are you driving at? What the
devil had I to do with it?"
"On'y this. You see I'm the white-headed boy with this young
island cock, an' he's been expectin' to see the
for quite a time. Your barque happened to heave in sight first,
an' these three fellows who were standin' mast-head watch up
thar on the mountain, came tearin' down an' reported that it
was my old hooker. Charlik bein' a most impatient young fellow,
had 'em clubbed on the spot; he should hev waited another five
minutes. Come on, he's ready to talk business with us now."
In the centre of the big council room Charlik, attended by
his sister, was seated upon a mat. A couple of brightly burning
ship's lanterns suspended from the beams overhead, revealed the
figures of a score of armed natives, seated with their backs to
the canework walls of the room; midway between them and the
young king were two seamen's chests, beside which crouched the
half-naked, tatooed form or old Kanka.
Followed by the sailors carrying the muskets, the two
captains walked over the soft, springy floor of mats, and
seated themselves facing the young man. His eye lit up at the
sight of the arms, and then he
desired Ross to tell his men to withdraw. Then as the sound of
their footsteps died away, he looked at Cayse and said
"Go on, capèn. You talk."
Cayse went into the subject at once.
"Captain Ross, do you want to earn three thousand
"Neither do I. Well, just listen. The king here has three
thousand dollars in cash and three thousand dollars' worth of
coconut ile and turtle-shell. Now, if you and I will help him
to do a bit of fightin' it's ours. The money and shell is here
in this room, the ile is in the sheds near by. If you agree,
the king will hand us over the money now, and we can ship the
ile in the morning."
Ross thought a moment, then he said suspiciously—
"Why are you giving me a chance?"
"Not from any feelin' of affection for you, mister,"
answered Cayse with his peculiar snarl, "but because I ain't
able to do the whole business myself—if I could I
to come in. Now, I noticed this mornin' that you carry a big
crew, and have six guns, and I reckon thet you hev to use 'em
sometimes in your business?"
Ross laughed grimly. "All of us sandalwooding ships carry a
few nine-pounders as well as plenty of small arms. We are
allowed to do so by the Governor of New South Wales."
"Just so. Well, now, listen. This island is
governed by two chiefs; this one here, Charlik, has most
people, but the other lot, who live on the lee side of the
island, rebelled against his father more'n ten years ago.
They've had a good many fights, an' in the last one these Lele
people got badly whipped. Charlik is the proper king, but ever
since a white man named Ledyard went to live with the
Leassé people, they've refused to pay tribute. This
Ledyard is the cause of all the trouble, and he has taught his
natives how to fight European fashion. There's only about six
hundred of 'em altogether—men, women, and
The young chief nodded in assent.
"Now, by a bit of luck, news came up the other day by one of
Charlik's spies that Ledyard has gone away to Ponapé in a
cutter he has built. It will take him two or three weeks to go
there and back, and now is the time for Charlik to wipe out old
scores—the Leassé people won't stand much of a
chance agin' a night attack by three hundred of Charlik's
people. If Ledyard was there it would be different."
Ross soon made his decision. He was a man utterly without
pity, and Cayse who, while inciting others to slaughter for the
sake of his own gain, yet had some grains of compunction in his
nature, almost shuddered when the master of the
laughed hoarsely and said—
"It's a bargain—just the thing that my crowd could
tackle and carry through themselves. Two
voyages ago me and my beauties wiped out every living soul on
one of the Cartaret's Islands. I'll tell you the yarn some day.
But look here, king, can't we make another deal about the women
and children. Let me keep as many of them as I have room for
aboard, and I'll pay for them in muskets and powder and
"What do you want with them?"
"Sell them to old Abba Dul, the king of the Pelews. I've
done business with him before."
Charlik called Kanka over to him, and the two spoke in low
tones. Then the young ruler of Lele shook his head.
"No. There must be but one left to live—the white
man's wife. Now we shall count this money."
The boxes were carried over directly under the rays of the
lamps and opened, the bags containing the money lifted out, the
coins counted, and then evenly divided between the two
On the following morning the casks of oil were rolled down
to the beach and rafted off to the two ships, and before dawn,
on the fourth day, Ross and his fellow-ruffian sent word ashore
to the king that all was ready, and that he and his fighting
men could come on board at once and proceed on their dreadful
As the two captains and their ferocious young employer sat
on the snow-white poop of the
and discussed the plan of attack, the ship and barque kept
closely together, so closely that North, who had not yet placed
foot on board the sandalwooder, had now an opportunity of
looking down upon her decks, and watching the actions of those
who manned her. A more ragged and desperate looking lot of
ruffians he had never seen in his life; and their wild, unkempt
appearance was in perfect accord with the
herself, whose dirty, yellow sides were stained from stem to
stern with long streaks and broad patches of iron-rust. Aloft
she was in as equally a bad condition, and North and his
fellow-officers, used to the trimness and unceasing care of a
whaleship's sails and running gear, looked with contempt at the
disorder and neglect everywhere visible. On deck, however, some
attempt at setting things ship-shape were being made by the two
mates and boatswain, the six guns were being overhauled, and a
pile of muskets lying on the main hatch were being examined and
passed up to the poop one by one, to old Kanka, who was in
command of the contingent of Lele natives on board the barque.
Similar preparations with small arms were being made on board
by her crew which, largely composed of Chilenos, Portuguese,
and Polynesians, had eagerly accepted the offer of twenty
each man for a few hours' fighting. North alone had spoken
against and tried to dissuade his fellow-officers from taking
any active part in the expedition, but his remonstrances fell
upon unheeding ears. The details of the scheme to surprise the
unsuspecting inhabitants of the two villages had filled him
with unutterable horror and indignation, and all sorts of wild
plans formed in his brain to prevent the accomplishment of the
cruel deed. For the consequences of such interference to
himself he cared nothing. He was alone in the world, and had no
thought beyond that of making enough money to enable him to one
day buy a ship of his own. Once, as he passed the trio on the
poop, and glanced at the smooth, olive-coloured features of the
young king, who, with anticipative zest, was fondling a rifle
which Ross had brought on board for him, he felt inclined to
whip a belaying-pin out of the rail and bring it crashing down
upon his skull. Had there been any other ship but the
near, he would have left the
that moment. But help was coming to his troubled mind.
An hour before sunset the two vessels ran into a little
harbour, then called Port Lottin, but now known as South
Harbour by the few wandering whalers which sometimes touch at
the island. Here, ere it became dark, the natives, with
fourteen of the
crew under Ross, were landed. They were to march at early
morning, cross the mountain range which intervened between
South Harbour and Leassé, and then, hidden by the dense
forest, await the appearance of the ships off the
doomed villages on the following afternoon. The six
boats—two from the
and four from the
—were to pull ashore as soon as the ships were off
Leassé and take up positions, three to the north and three
to the south, so as to cut off all who attempted to escape
along the beaches from the attack which would be made by Ross.
Charlik was to command one of the boat parties, Cayse the
other, and should any canoes with fugitives attempt to gain the
open sea, they were to be sunk by the
guns, for she was to anchor in such a position that an escaping
canoe would have to pass within fifty yards of her.
Eight bells had struck, and North, who had declined to join
the captain and his fellow-officers at supper, was sitting in
his cabin smoking and listening to the soft hum of the surf on
the barrier reef a mile away. On deck all was quiet, only the
fourth mate and three of the hands were keeping watch, the rest
of the crew who were not turned in had gone ashore to witness a
dance given by King Charlik's warriors.
Suddenly he heard a footfall on the cabin deck, and then
some one said in a low voice—
"May I come in, sir?"
North, recognising the voice as that of a young man named
Macy, his own harpooner, at once bade him enter.
Macy, a sunburnt, blue-eyed youth, closed the cabin door
behind him, and held up his finger to enjoin silence.
I've only just now heard, sir, that you will not take a hand in
this work which is going on. Neither will I, sir; for those
damned savages are going to kill all the poor women and
children. I've come to ask you what I'm to do if I'm ordered
away in the boat? My God! Mr. North, must we all be turned into
a gang of murderers like those fellows on the
The officer shook the young seaman's hand. "I for one will
have no hand in it, my lad; and I wish there were more of us on
board of our way of thinking. I wish we could leave the ship. I
would rather die of thirst on the open ocean ... Macy, my lad,
will you stand to me?"
"Stand to you, sir! Aye, Mr. North. If you mean to take to
our boat, sir, I am with you."
"No," answered North in a whisper. "That, after all, would
only save us two from being mixed up in this murderous
business—I want to prevent it altogether. Have you heard
how far it is across the island to this place Leassé?"
"Seven miles, sir, over the mountains."
"And twenty by the boats! Macy, I am determined to leave the
ship to-night, cut across the island, and save the poor people
from massacre. Will you come? We may pay for it with our
The harpooner raised his rough hand. "We must all die some
For some minutes they conversed in whispered tones; then
Macy slipped on deck, and North took his pistols from their
racks, filled his coat pockets
with ammunition, and then followed him. His own boat was lying
Telling the cooper, who was the only one of the afterguard
on deck, that he was going ashore to look at the dance, and
that only Macy and another hand need come with him, North
ordered the boat to be hauled alongside. A quarter of an hour
later he and Macy stepped out upon the shore under the shadow
of a high bluff, and quite out of view from Ross and his party,
although the many camp-fires cast long lines of light across
the sleeping waters of the little harbour.
Informing the boat-keeper that they should return in a
couple of hours, the two men first walked along the beach in
the direction of the encampment. Then once out of sight from
the boat, they struck inland into a deep valley through which,
Macy said, a narrow track led up to the range, and then
downwards to the two villages. After a careful search the track
was found, and the bright stars shining through the canopy of
leaves overhead gave them sufficient light to pursue their way.
For two hours they toiled along through the silent forest,
hearing no sound except now and then the affrighted rush of
some startled wild boar, and, far distant, the dull cry of the
ever-restless breakers upon the coral reef. At last the summit
of the range was reached, and they sat down to rest upon the
thick carpet of fallen leaves which covered the ground. Here
North took a spirit-flask from his jacket, and Macy and he
drank in turns.
"Do you know, sir," said Macy, as he returned
the flask to the officer, "that there's a white man living at
"He's not there now, Macy. He's gone away to another island
in his cutter."
"I know that, sir. I've heard all about it from one of the
chaps on the
. The man's name is Ledyard, and this young devil's-limb of a
king hates him like poison—for two reasons. One is, that
Ledyard, who settled in Leassé a few years ago, taught the
people there how to use their muskets in a fight, when
Charlik's father tried to destroy them time and again; the
other is that his wife is a white woman—or almost a white
woman, a Bonin Island Portuguese—and Charlik means to get
her. When Ledyard comes back in his cutter he will walk into a
trap, and be killed as soon as he steps ashore."
North struck his hand upon the ground. "And to think that I
have sailed with such a villain as Cayse, who—"
"That's not all. Ledyard has two children. Charlik has given
orders for them to be killed, as he says he only wants the
woman! Ross, I believe, wanted him to spare 'em, but the young
cut-throat said 'No.' I heard all this from two men—the
chap from the
and one of Charlik's fighting men, who speaks English and seems
to have a soft place in his heart for Ledyard."
The mate of the
sprang to his feet. "The cold-blooded wretches! Come on, Macy.
get there in time."
For another two hours they made steady progress
through the darkened forest aisles, and then as they emerged
out upon a piece of open country, they saw far beneath them the
gleaming sea. And here, amidst a dense patch of pandanus palms,
the path they had followed came to an end. Pushing their way
through the thorny leaves, which tore the skin from their hands
and faces, Macy exclaimed excitedly—
"We're all right, sir. I can see a light down there. It must
be a fire on the beach."
Heedless of the unknown dangers of the deep descent, and
every now and then tripping and falling over the roots of trees
and fallen timber, they again came out into the open, and
there, two hundred feet below them, they saw the high-peaked,
saddle-backed houses of Leassé village standing clearly
out in the starlight. But at this point their further progress
was barred by a cliff, which seemed to extend for half a mile
on both sides of them. Cautiously feeling their way along its
ledge they sought in vain for a path.
"We must hail them, Macy. There will be sure to be plenty of
them who can speak a little English and show us the way to get
Returning as quickly as possible to the spot immediately
over the village, the officer gave a long, loud hail.
Below there, you sleepers!
The hoarse, shrieking notes of countless thousands of
roosting sea-birds, as they rose in alarm from their perches in
the forest trees, mingled with the barking of dogs from the
village, and then came a wild cry of alarm from a human
Waiting for a few moments till the clamour had somewhat
subsided, the two men again hailed in unison.
Below there! Awake, you sleepers!
Another furious outburst of yelping and
barking—through which ran the quavering of voices of the
affrighted natives—smote the stillness of the night. Then
the bright light of torches of coconut leaves flashed below,
nude figures ran swiftly to and fro among the houses, and then
came a deep-voiced answering hail in English—
Hallo there! Who hails
"Two white men," was the officer's quick reply. "We cannot
get down. Bear a hand with a torch; we have lost the track."
Then as something flashed across his mind, he added, "Who are
you? Are you a white man?"
"Yes. I am Tom Ledyard."
"Thank God for that! Send a light quickly. You and your
people are in deadly danger."
In a few minutes the waiting men saw the gleam of torches
amid the trees to their right, and presently a tall, bearded,
white man appeared, followed by half a dozen natives. All were
armed with muskets, whose barrels glinted and shone in the
Springing forward to meet him, North told his story in as
few words as possible.
Ledyard's dark face paled with passion. "By heaven, they
shall get a bloody welcome! Now, come, sir; follow me. You must
need rest badly."
As they passed through the village square, now lit
up by many fires and filled with alarmed natives, Ledyard
called out in his deep tones—
"Gather ye together, my friends. The son of the Slaughterer
is near. Send a man fleet of foot to Môut and bid him tell
Nena, the chief, and his head men to come to my house quickly,
else in a little while our bones will be gnawed by Charlik's
Then with North and Macy besides him, he entered his house,
the largest in the village. A woman, young, slender, and
fair-skinned, met them at the door. Behind her were some
terrified native women, one of whom carried Ledyard's youngest
child in her arms.
"'Rita, my girl," said Ledyard, placing his hand on his
wife's shoulder and speaking in English, "these are friends.
They have come to warn us. That young hell-pup, Charlik, is
attacking us tomorrow. But quick, girl, get something for these
gentlemen to eat and drink."
But North and the harpooner were too excited to eat, and,
seated opposite their host, they listened eagerly to him as he
told them of his plans to repel the attack; of the bitter
hatred that for ten years had existed between the people of
Leassé and the old king; and then—he set his
teeth—how that Sé, the friendly sister of the young
king, had once sent a secret messenger to him telling him to
guard his wife well, for her brother had made a boast that when
Leassé and Môut were given to the flames only Cerita
should be spared.
"Then, ten days ago, Mr. North, thinking that this
young tiger-cub Charlik knew that these people here were well
prepared to resist an attack, I left in my cutter on a trading
voyage to Ponapé. Three days out the vessel began to make
water so badly that I had to beat back. I only came ashore
He rose and walked to and fro, muttering to himself. Then he
"Mr. North, and you, my friend"—turning to
Macy—"have saved me and those I love from a sudden and
cruel death. What can I do to show my gratitude? You cannot now
return to your ship; will you join your fortunes with mine? I
have long thought of leaving this island and settling in
Ponapé. There is money to be made there. Join me and be my
partners. My cutter is now hauled up on the beach—if she
were fit to go to sea we could leave the island to-night. But
that cannot be done. It will take me a week to put her in
proper repair—and to-morrow we must fight for our
North stretched out his hand. "Macy and I will stand by you,
Ledyard. We do not want to ever put foot again on the deck of
The story of that day of bloodshed and horror, when Charlik
and his white allies sought to exterminate the whole community,
cannot here be told in
its dreadful details. Seventy years have come and gone since
then, and there are but two or three men
now living on the island who can speak of it with knowledge as
a tale of "the olden days when we were heathens." Let the rest
of the tale be told in the words of one of those natives of
Leassé, who, then a boy, fought side by side with Ledyard,
North, and Macy.
"The sun was going westward in the sky when the two ships
rounded the point and anchored in what you white men now call
Coquille Harbour. We of Leassé, who watched from the
shore, saw six boats put off, filled with men. There pulled
inside the reef, and went to the right towards Môut; three
went to the left. Letya (Ledyard), with the two white strangers
who had come to him in the night, and two hundred of our men,
had long before gone into the mountains to await Charlik and
his fighting men, and their white friends. They—Letya and
the Leassé people—made a trap for Charlik's men in
the forest. Charlik himself was in the boats with the other
white men. He wanted to see the people of Leassé and
Môut driven into the water, so that he might shoot at them
with a new rifle which Késa or the other ship
captain—I forget which—had given to him. But he
wanted most of all to get Cerita, the wife of Letya, the white
man. Only Cerita was to live. These were Charlik's words. He
did not know that her husband had returned from the sea. Had he
known that, he would not have given all his money and all his
oil to the two white captains to
help him to make Leassé and Môut desolate and give
our bones to his dogs to eat.
"It was a great trap—the trap prepared by Letya; and
Charlik's men and the white men with them fell in it. They fell
as a stone falls in a deep well, and sinks and is no more seen
"This was the manner of the trap: The path down the cliff
was between two high walls of rock; at the foot of the cliff
was a thick clump of high pandanus trees growing closely
together. In between these trees Letya built a high barrier of
logs, encompassing the outlet of the path to Leassé. This
barrier was a half circle; the two ends touched the edge of the
cliff, and the centre was hidden among the pandanus trees. On
the top of this barrier the men of Leassé waited with
loaded muskets; lower down on the ground were others, they too
had loaded muskets. On the top of the cliff where the path led
down, fifty men were hidden. They were hidden in the thick
scrub which we call
is a good thing in which to hide from an enemy, and then spring
from and slay him suddenly.
"I, who was then a boy, saw all this. I heard Letya, our
white man, tell the head of our village that Charlik's men
would enter into the trap and perish. Then kava was made, and
Letya and the head men drank. Kava is good, but rum is better
to make men fight. We had no rum, but we had great love for
Letya and his wife, and his two children, and great hate for
Charlik. So we said, 'If this is death, it is death,' and every
man went to his post—some to the barrier at the foot of
the cliff, and some to the thicket
on the summit. Cerita, the wife of Letya the Englishman, was
weeping. She was weeping because Nená, the chief of
Môut, was waiting in the house to kill her if her husband
should be slain. But she did not weep because of the fear of
death; it was for her children she wept. That is the way of
women. What is the life of a child to the life of a man?
"Nená was my father's brother. He was a brave man, but
was too old to fight, for his eyes were dimmed by many years.
So he sat beside Cerita and her two children, with a long knife
in his hand and waited. He covered his face with a mat and
waited. It was right for him to do this, for Letya was a great
man; and his wife, although she was a foreigner, was an
honoured woman. Therefore though Nená might not look upon
her face at other times, he could kill her if Letya said she
must die. This was quite right and correct. A wife must be
guided by her husband and do what is right and correct, and
"For many hours the women in the houses waited in silence.
Then suddenly they heard the thunder of two hundred guns, and
the roaring of voices, then more muskets. They ran out of the
houses and looked up to the cliff, and lo! the sky was bright
as day, for when Charlik's people and the white men walked into
the trap in the darkness, Letya and our people set alight great
heaps of dry leaves and scrub, which were placed all along the
barrier of logs. This was done so that they could see better to
shoot. There were thirty or forty of Charlik's men killed by
The white man who was leading them was very brave; he tried to
climb over the barrier, but fell back dead, for a man named Sru
thrust a whale-lance into his heart. All this time the other
white men and the rest of Charlik's people were firing their
muskets, but their bullets only hit the heavy logs of the
barrier, and Letya and our people killed them very easily by
putting their muskets through the spaces. When the sailors saw
their captain fall, they tried to run away, and the Lele
warriors ran with them. But when they reached the path which
led up between the cliff, it too was blocked, and many of them
became jammed together between the walls, and these were all
killed very easily—some with bullets, and some with big
stones. Then those that were left ran round and found inside
the trap, trying to get out. They were like rats in a cask, and
our people kept killing them as they ran. Some of
them—about thirty—did climb over, but all were
killed, for when they jumped down on the other side our people
were there waiting. At last four of the sailors made a big hole
by tearing out two posts, and rushed out, followed by the Lele
men. Letya was the first man to meet the sailors, and he told
them to surrender. Two of them threw down their arms, but the
other two ran at Letya, and one of them ran his cutlass into
him. It went in at the stomach, and Letya fell. We killed all
these white sailors, but some of the Lele men escaped. That was
a great pity, but then how can these things be helped?" The two
strange white men who were fighting beside Lētya, picked
him up, and they carried him
into his house. He was not dead, but he said, 'I shall soon
die, take me to my wife.' I did not go with them to the house.
I went into the barrier with the other youths to kill the
wounded. It is a foolish thing not to kill wounded men; they
may get better and kill you. So we killed them. There were
fourteen white men slain in that fight beside their
"Before it was daylight some of our men set out along the
beach to look for the boats. They did not want to kill any more
white men, but they did want to kill Charlik. They were very
fortunate, for before they had gone far on their way they saw
three of the boats coming along close in to the beach. So they
hid behind some rocks. Charlik was in the first boat; he was
standing in the bow pointing out the way. When he came very
close they all fired together, and Charlik's life was gone. He
fell dead into the sea. Then the boats all turned seaward, and
pulled hard for the ships. Then before long, we saw the other
three boats going back to the ships; in these last were four of
Charlik's men who had escaped. The boats were quickly pulled
up, and the ships sailed away, for those on board were
terrified when they heard that all the white men they had sent
to fight were dead.
"Letya did not die at once—not for two days. Cerita
his wife and two white men watched beside him all this time.
Before he died he called the head men to him, and said that he
gave his small ship to the two white men, together with many
other things. All his money he gave to his wife, and told her
she must go away with the white men, who would take
her back to her own people. To the head men he gave many
valuable things, such as tierces of tobacco and barrels of
powder. This was quite right and proper, and showed he knew
what was correct to do before he died. We buried him on the
little islet over there called Bèsi.
"The two white men and Cerita and her two children went away
in the little ship. But they did not go to Cerita's country:
they remained at Ponapé, and there the tall man of the
two—the officer—married Cerita. All this we learnt
a year afterwards from the captain of a whaling ship. It was
quite right and proper for Letya's widow to marry so quickly,
and to marry the man who had been a friend to her husband."