Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 11 The Revolt of Talalu

  • FOR three days nothing happened. The people of Pitcairn, white and brown, wen_bout their daily occupations as usual, but there was a suppressed excitemen_nd an ominous calmness that augured ill for the future, and the rift betwee_he two parties—those who sided with Christian, and those who supporte_illiams—widened slowly but surely.
  • Ever since the day of the quarrel the islanders had been sulky and suspiciou_n their manner to all the white men except Christian and Smith. Young,
  • although openly declared as Christian's taio or friend, they regarded wit_istrust, even though Alrema, doubtful as she was beginning to feel of he_usband's loyalty to herself, strove to persuade them of his goodwill toward_hem.
  • To them Christian had always been a fair and just man, refusing to recognis_ny distinction between them and his white comrades. They would have fough_or and followed him to the death had occasion arisen for the sacrifice.
  • Tairoa-Maina and the other Tubuaians, being unmarried, lived by themselves i_ separate house, and thither went Talalu and his gentle wife for refuge fo_he time being from the savage Williams. Fearing to remain much longer nea_is former master, Talalu determined to build himself a new house among th_ountains in a secluded little valley about half a mile lower down tha_hristian's cave. Every morning, axe on shoulder, accompanied by Nahi, he se_ut to work.
  • "I will live like Kirisiani," he said, when his countrymen asked him why h_esired to leave them; "even as he lives so will I. These white men are ba_asters; no longer will I work for them like a slave."
  • On the fourth morning after the quarrel, Williams rose from his bunk and bega_o make preparations for his breakfast. The fertility of the island was suc_hat this gave him little labour. In his house were supplies of breadfruit,
  • yams, and bananas, and overhead on the cross- beams hung strings of drie_ish. In addition to these he had his share of the stores from the Bounty,
  • such as wine, biscuit, rice, and salted pork, but his extravagance had lef_im but little of the meat, and he uttered a savage curse when on lifting th_ittle two-gallon wine keg he found it empty. To procure more meant a walk t_he storehouse, some distance away; and before he could get the wine he woul_ave to ask Quintal, who, by common consent, was in charge of all the store_hat remained. He had always been accustomed to drink wine with his food, an_he loss of it annoyed him.
  • "If that cursed Talalu had been here," he thought, "this wouldn't hav_appened. What right had the fellow to clear out, and take his wife with hi_oo? And the breadfruit and yams were cold. If Nahi were here they would hav_een heated for him. Curse them both, the damned copper-hided savages."
  • As he ate he worked himself into a state of savage fury. What right had tha_ellow to have such a handsome woman as Nahi for his wife? If he were out o_he way she wouldn't make such a fuss; would no doubt be proud to become th_ife of a white man. Damn that fine-talking fellow, Christian! Only for hi_he thing would have been done. Brown and Mills would have stood by if Talal_ade a noise about his wife being taken. By God! he'd stand it no longer. He'_ring the pair of them back to work at once.
  • His eye caught his musket, hanging on brackets over his bunk. He took it down,
  • loaded it, and then walked rapidly away in the direction of the house occupie_y Talalu and his wife.
  • With murder in his heart he reached the dwelling of Tairoa-Maina. Neither th_hief nor his two countrymen were visible, but Talalu and Nahi were at work i_he garden at the back. They were digging yams, and the white man watched the_n sullen silence for a few minutes. Every movement of the woman's gracefu_igure angered him against her husband. What was he? A slave; a cursed savage.
  • A man who had no right to possess a beautiful wife. He would not only have th_oman, but make the man work for him as well.
  • Creeping along the wall of coral stones that enclosed the garden, he reached _pot not twenty yards from them. Then he stood up and covered the man with hi_usket.
  • "Come back with me, you two," he called fiercely, in Tahitian; "if you don'_ome outside at once, I'll kill the pair of you."
  • Nahi, with heart full of love, threw herself before her husband, but Talal_aid something to her in a low voice, and she turned and faced the white man.
  • "Even as thou wilt, master," replied Talalu quietly, and taking Nahi's hand h_ame outside the wall.
  • With his gun over his shoulder the white man followed them, triumphantl_miling to himself at this proof of his power of command.
  • Very quietly they walked before him, till they reached his house, then entere_t, and Nahi seated herself upon the matted floor.
  • Williams stood in the doorway for a moment, regarding them with a smile o_ictory. He intended to let them feel their position at once.
  • "I've a damned good mind to give you a lacing, Mister Talalu," he said i_nglish, "but I'll put it off for a bit and give you another chance. But _ant something to eat. You, Nahi, go to Kawintali and ask him for some ric_nd wine and salted meat; and you, Talalu—"
  • He never spoke again. The Tahitian sprang upon him like a tiger, seized hi_hroat with both hands, and squeezing his windpipe, forced him to the ground.
  • For a minute they struggled fiercely, but the white man, though strong an_ctive, was but as a child in the giant's grasp. They swayed to and fro _ittle, and then Williams lay upon the ground with the brown man's knee upo_is chest, making feeble efforts to free himself from the grasp of death.
  • Presently he ceased to struggle, and was only conscious enough to know tha_ll hope was gone and his time was come. One glance from his bloodshot eye_nto the death-dealing face of the man above him told him that.
  • For a little while the Tahitian relaxed his hold. Beside him, her eyes dilate_ith triumphant hatred, Nahi bent over the prostrate figure, all th_itterness of the past reflected in her dark face. She had watched th_truggle with a sense of victory. Who in the old days at Matavai could vi_ith Talalu in wrestling? And when she saw the huge form of her husband bea_he slighter figure of their joint oppressor to the earth, she laughed.
  • With the foam of the agony of death flecking his lips, and breathing in awful,
  • fitful gasps, Williams lay before them, one hand of Talalu still gripping hi_hroat. The musket lay upon the floor beside the men. Williams had carried i_t full cock, and the priming had been spilt when he dropped it to meet th_nslaught of Talalu.
  • Still keeping his hand upon the sailor's throat Talalu turned to his wife.
  • "Take thou the powder horn and prime the gun," he said.
  • She took the horn from the peg upon which it hung and did as he told her.
  • "Now put the end of the gun to this dog's temple."
  • She dropped upon one knee and pressed the muzzle of the gun to William's dar_orehead.
  • "Now pull the little piece of iron," said Talalu, "and let his black sou_epart unto the land of evil spirits."
  • There was a flash and the heavy musket-ball dashed out the wretched man'_rains, ploughed through the matted floor, and scattered the coral pebbles i_ white shower against the furthest side of the house. Then Talalu, wit_loodied right hand, rose to his feet and stood regarding the body of hi_nemy.
  • Picking up the lifeless form of Williams, the Tahitian motioned to his wife t_ollow, and walked towards the cliffs to the same place where, a few month_efore, he had seen the wife of the dead man fall.
  • Standing on the jagged cliff edge, he looked down. Far below him lay th_ough, pebbly beach upon which Faito had fallen and dyed the stones with he_lood. Then he raised the white man high in his mighty arms and cast him ove_ith a bitter curse.
  • "Lie there, thou who slew thy wife with cruel words, and would have stole_ine," he cried, as he dashed the body upon the stones.
  • He looked down a while longer at his dead enemy, and then, taking Nahi's han_n his own, turned homewards.