DARKNESS fell on the lonely island, and the muffled roar of the breaker_eating against the cliffs of Afita was the only sound that disturbed th_ilence of the night.
In the big living-room of Edward Young's house Talalu sat moodily upon a ma_n one corner, wondering what had become of Nahi. His captors, at Young'_equest, had not bound their prisoner, but had left Alrema on guard over hi_ith a loaded musket and pistol.
"Where was Nahi?" he wondered. "Why was she, the faithful, loving wife, no_ith him now?" Alrema, by Young's direction, had given him food, but it la_eside him untasted. Young himself was absent; for soon after bringing Talal_o the house he had quietly left again. Alrema sat at the open doorway, he_ale, handsome face wearing a disturbed expression. Where was her husband? Wh_as he so eager to get away at such a time as this, when men's minds wer_isturbed and the scent of blood was in the air! But for her proud and haught_ature she would have watched his movements, and would now have gone in searc_f him. But Mahina's soft, gentle face rose before her, with her pleadin_yes, and Alrema lowered her head and wept silently. How could she kil_ahina, who had ever been her friend, and who had eyes and heart for Kirisian_lone? And yet—ah! she could think no longer. Perhaps her husband was gon_lsewhere, and Mahina slept alone with her children.
The long, long hours passed slowly away till midnight; then a step crunche_pon the pebbly path, and Young entered the house. His face was calm, bu_lrema saw that his dark eyes burned with unusual brilliancy.
As he seated himself, Smith came in.
"Mr. Young," he said, "the others have just held a sort of meeting at Brown'_ouse, and are now coming up to demand that we wait no longer for th_ahitians to surrender. They say their lives are in danger while the native_ave arms in their possession. I have tried to persuade them to leave th_atter to you, but they won't listen."
"All right," answered the other quietly; and Alrema noticed that he spok_omewhat brokenly, as if out of breath. "I can do no more, but if they insis_n pursuing this quarrel to the bitter end, I must see it through with th_est of you."
Alrema handed him a young coconut to drink. He took it from her hand, but hi_yes avoided his wife's face. Then, taking his musket and putting a pistol i_is belt, he spoke to Talalu.
"You must come with us," he said, not unkindly to the Tahitian, "so that you_ountrymen may see that no harm hath been done thee. I will try and reaso_ith them." Then, leaving Alrema with her child, the three men stepped ou_nto the darkness to meet the others.
Nahi had not deserted her husband in his extremity. While he sat a prisoner i_oung's house, wondering why she had not come near him, Nahi was busy with he_ongue. Since nightfall she had been in Williams' house talking to he_ountrymen, and with passionate eloquence stirring their hearts to the doin_f a great deed; and the Tahitians and Tubuaians, as they watched her flashin_yes sparkle and glow like diamonds in the faint light and listened to he_iery appeal, shifted uneasily and muttered to one another in low tones.
"Why dost thou urge us to such a bloody deed, oh Nahi?" said Manale, a short,
stout man, who, with his musket upon his knees, sat cross- legged on th_loor. "'Tis not for blood we seek, but for the right to live and work fo_urselves, and no longer remain slaves. Thou art but a woman, and shouldst no_rge—"
"A woman!" and she clenched her hand fiercely round the hilt of the knife sh_eld—"a woman, yes. But thou, Manale—bulky as thou art in body, thy heart i_s the heart of a tiny fish. Will ye five be slaves to these cruel white dogs?
Shame on ye all! Is there no one among you better than a Mahu?"
"Nay, insult us not, Nahi, with such bitter words," said Tairoa- Maina; "w_re men. It is in our minds that Kirisiani will help us."
She laughed bitterly. "Kirisiani! He whom my husband trusted before othe_en—only to be betrayed! He has turned from our people, and cares not if hi_ountrymen rid themselves of us. Death is before ye all, I tell thee. Will y_et these white men slay ye one by one? Have ye not guns in thy hands? Fiv_ieces of iron, and death lieth within them, ready to leap out with flame an_moke. Live and be slaves! Act and be men!"
She ceased; the lamp of tui tui nuts flickered, wavered and died out, an_arkness fell upon them.
"Let us talk," said Tairoa-Maina in a whisper to the other four.
"Aye, talk," said Nahi, "talk. And think that even now my husband lies dea_ecause ye have proved cowards!"
Five minutes passed; then Nahi, with fierce joy, saw them rise.
"Come thou and see us act," said Manale to her, as he touched her arm, an_hey all filed out in silence.
Young and Smith, with Talalu walking between them, had scarcely gone a hundre_ards from the house when they met Quintal and McCoy coming down the rugge_ath towards Young's dwelling.
"Mr. Young," said McCoy, "we have determined to clap a stopper on this mutin_t once. We can't let these fellows take charge of the island any longer, an_e want you to come along with us and surprise them before daybreak."
"Very well, I'm agreeable. But at the same time"—and Young laughe_ronically—"it does me good to hear you—or any of us—talk about putting down _utiny."
"Call it by any name you like," said McCoy, roughly. "But it won't do for u_o let this thing go on. We came to you because we know you won't leave us i_he lurch, like Mr. Christian has."
"All right; lead on. Where are the others?" said Young.
"They've gone on ahead slowly; we'll overtake them before they reach th_ouse."
Following Young in Indian file, the three white men and the Tahitian walked a_uickly as the night would permit along the narrow path which wound gently u_ hill thickly covered with hibiscus shrubs. So sinuous was their course,
however, that objects even a few yards ahead could not be perceived.
No sound disturbed the silence of the island night, save for the throbbing o_he ever-restless surf and the strange, plaintive cries of the young sea-bird_n their rookeries on the cliffs.
Suddenly there rang out, and echoed and re-echoed in quavering reverberation_n the hollows of the hills, three musket shots in quick succession, followe_y the hoarse, weird clamour of tens of thousands of birds as they rose an_ircled in wild alarm.
"By God!" cried Young, "we must run; that's our men firing."
"This comes of too much palavering. While we've been paying out fathoms o_alk the fight has begun," said Quintal, angrily; and the four white men,
leaving Talalu to his own devices, took to their heels and ran excitedly i_he direction of the firing, which seemed, however, to be nearer the whit_en's houses than to that of the Tubuaians.
"Looks as if our fellows had grabbed 'em while they were asleep, an_ourt—martialled 'em on the spot while we've been arguing over the thing,"
said McCoy as he ran with the others.
But their surmises were entirely wrong. Before getting more than two hundre_ards further Smith, who was in advance, stumbled and fell over something i_he darkness; the hands he put out to save himself plunged into a pool o_lood which was oozing from the body of Brown, who lay dead in the middle o_he track, with a jagged bullet-hole through his chest.
"There's been a fight. Come on, men, for heaven's sake; we may be in time t_ave the others"; and Young, followed by McCoy and Quintal, rushed along th_rack in search of their comrades, and in a few seconds had left Smith man_ards behind.
Stooping down again over the body of the murdered man, Smith felt his heart t_atisfy himself that he was dead. He lifted the still bleeding figure, carrie_t a few yards away from the path, and proceeded to grope for his own musket,
which he had dropped.
As he stooped a dark form silently stepped out from the thick undergrowt_ining the path. A clubbed musket was raised in the air, and Smith fell an_ay unconscious close to the corpse of his fellow- country-man.
"Aue!" said Manale the Tubuaian to Nihu the Tahitian, who accompanied him,
"'tis Simeti whom I have slain. And I would not have harmed him, for he hat_ver been good to us. But this dog"—and he spurned the body of the other whit_an—"was our enemy, and my hand was strong with hate when I slew him."
Young and the others ran on, but only for a short distance, when again a_xclamation of horror burst from them; this time two dead men lay in thei_ath—Mills and Martin.
Then, before they could realise what had happened, five muskets blazed ou_rom a rocky ridge above, and several naked figures sprang from their ambus_ith savage yells.
None of the white men were struck, but Quintal and McCoy, terrified out o_heir wits, dropped their muskets and fled. The intense darkness favoure_hem. They succeeded in evading the rush of their opponents, and were soo_lambering down the mountain side in the hope of finding better shelter in th_ense scrub of the valley. Young alone stood his ground, and fired his muske_t the first of the natives who sprang upon him; but he missed his mark, an_efore he could club the weapon Nihu struck him a blow on the head with _usket, and laid him senseless.
The five figures bent over him for a moment, and talked hurriedly amon_hemselves.
"'Tis Etuati," said Tetihiti; "he lieth as one dead. For the sake of Alrema,
his wife, who is of my blood, let him live, oh friends"; and he warded off th_usket of the savage Manale, who had pressed the muzzle of the weapon t_oung's heart. "But the other two, Makoi and Kawintali, must die."
So they sped away in pursuit of Quintal and McCoy. A class of degrade_ahitians, now happily extinct, who affected the dress and manners of women.