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.