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Chapter 16 After the Storm

  • FOR some minutes Edward Young lay stunned upon the rocky path, a stream o_lood oozing from a severe cut in his head. Presently the cool night ai_rought him back to consciousness, and, as by slow degrees his senses returne_e feared that he alone was left alive of all the white men on the island, an_t was likely enough that even his hours were numbered. With a struggle h_ose slowly and painfully, dragging his footsteps along the road until h_eached his house. Fearful of again encountering the enraged islanders h_roceeded with the greatest caution, stopping suddenly, when at a turn in th_arrow track he saw three figures in a crouching position.
  • He dropped upon his hands and knees and scanned them carefully. Presently h_ecognised Nahi, Alrema, and Terere. The three women were supporting Smith, who was too badly hurt to stand upon his feet. As Young watched, doubtfu_hether to approach or not, he saw a fourth figure join them, and knew Mahin_y the black mantle of hair falling down her back.
  • "Is he dead, I wonder?" he muttered to himself. "Better for him if he is. _ill never surrender her again."
  • He rose to his feet and advanced towards them. The women gave a startled cry, and Smith fell back upon the ground with a groan of agony.
  • Alrema's arms were round Young's neck in an instant, and her fearful, pantin_osom pressed to his lovingly. "My husband, my husband," she murmured, "tho_rt wounded; yet Nahi said thou wouldst be safe." She turned fiercely upon th_ife of Talalu, who covered her face with her hands and wept.
  • "Alas! what have I done?" said Nahi, "the fire of anger in my countrymen'_earts was kindled by me, and in their wrath they knew not friend from foe."
  • Mahina drew near, trembling from head to foot; and Alrema, with an agonise_eart, saw her husband's hand steal out to her friend's and give it a quick, warm pressure. Then Mahina sank upon her knees in the darkness and wep_ilently. Did Alrema know that she, her friend, had yielded, and that Edwar_oung no longer cared for the brave, loyal wife who had fought and bled fo_im in the days gone by in Tubuai?
  • Alrema did know. But maddened as she was by the discovery of her husband'_aithlessness, she was yet true to Mahina; and all her love for Young welle_p fresh and strong in her heart when she felt him swaying to and fro on hi_eet from weakness.
  • "Thou cruel Nahi," she cried bitterly, "dost thou think that thy husband i_ore dear to thee than mine is to me"—a sob choked her utterance—"he for who_y life is ever ready to be given? If he comes to further harm I swear I wil_ill thee, thou false and wicked Nahi."
  • Nahi sprang to her feet, and her black eyes gleamed with fire as she threw he_rms wide out. "What I have done was for the love of Talalu! But let us no_aste time in words; hide thy husband and the husband of Terere until the fur_f our people hath spent itself."
  • It was now agreed that Young, who was only just able to walk, should go o_head and conceal himself in a cave in the mountains, known only to the women, who would bring him food and water until he was safe from pursuit or furthe_engeance from the brown men; and, supported by Alrema and the tremblin_ahina, the wounded man set out, and the three toiled slowly along. Then Youn_egan to talk.
  • "Leave me by myself," he said weakly in English. "You, Alrema, return home an_ee to our child. Maybe she has come to harm. You, Mahina, look for you_usband, he may be dead."
  • "What matters it to me?" burst from Mahina. "Would that I, too, were dead."
  • "Take thou my husband to the cave, Mahina."
  • It was Alrema who spoke, steadying her voice through unseen tears. "Take hi_o the cave whilst I seek out thy husband and bring him to thee—to thee and t_is friend—his true and good friend."
  • The bitterness of the words, "his true and good friend," pierced the anguishe_eart of Christian's wife like a knife-stab.
  • "Nay, nay, Alrema, leave me not, I pray thee. See, thy husband needs us both.
  • Stay with me; for the love I have always borne thee, stay with me."
  • But Alrema only answered her with a sob, and in another instant was gone, t_all upon her face a few yards away and weep out her shame and bitterness o_eart. "For the sake of my child," she moaned, "for the sake of my child, neither his blood nor hers shall redden my hand."
  • Then rising to her feet she went to seek Christian.
  • Smith had fainted. His wife, as soon as he returned to consciousness, assiste_im to his feet; they set out towards the cave where Young was gone, and i_nother hour their journey was successfully accomplished.
  • The wives of McCoy and Quintal—Puni the Huahine woman, and Malama— meantim_at alone in their houses, weeping at the thought of the fate which they fel_ure had overtaken their husbands. Nahi, on her way to seek Talalu had calle_n and spoken words of encouragement which somewhat allayed their fears. Sh_romised that she would restrain her countrymen from further attacking th_hite men; then still fearful as to what had become of her own husband, sh_uickly ran the rest of the distance to her little dwelling in Williams'
  • enclosure. When she entered she found the gigantic Tahitian quietly seate_ross-legged upon a mat, with his musket beside him, eating his supper. Sh_mbraced him tenderly and began to tell him of all that had happened.
  • He interrupted her in the middle of her recital. "I know all, Nahi. I wa_idden in a clump of trees and saw all that took place between thee and th_ounded white men. And now that thou hast returned in safety I myself will g_o Manale and the others, and stay their hands from further killing. Enoug_lood has been shed."
  • Towards dawn the islanders returned from their fruitless search for McCoy an_uintal, and as they filed one by one into Williams' house they were met b_alalu, who had just missed them in the darkness.
  • In a few words he so worked upon their feelings that they readily agreed to d_o further harm to the remaining white men, and consented to meet and discus_heir future relations towards each other.
  • Christian, slumbering in the loneliness of his mountain cave, had heard th_eport of the muskets and guessed what was happening; but he was perfectl_ndifferent as to how the quarrel might end, and so remained where he was.
  • About two or three hours before dawn he felt a touch upon his arm and saw _oman's figure bending over him.
  • "What now?" he said angrily, thinking it was Mahina who had disturbed him.
  • "I have come, Kirisiani, to tell thee that three of the white men are dead, and Simeti and Etuati wounded. Didst thou not hear the guns?"
  • "I heard them, Alrema, but it is naught to me."
  • "Naught to thee? Hast thou no thought to ask if Mahina and thy children b_live or dead?"
  • He laughed bitterly. "None. What care I for Mahina? Dost thou think I a_lind? Hast thou not seen what I have seen?"
  • The woman sank on her knees beside him, and, taking his hand in hers, wep_assionately. "Aye, I know it now. But yet Mahina is my friend, else had _illed her. And because of that and for my great friendship for thee have _rought thy two children, so that thou mayest take them to their mother."
  • "Where is she?" asked Christian as he rose, and with steel and flint lit th_ude lamp of coconut oil.
  • "She is waiting for thee in the cave with Simeti and my husband. And see, thi_o I swear—only because I bade her stay and help the wounded men did sh_emain away from thy house and children. Else would she have come, and wit_hem sought thee here."
  • Christian regarded her for a moment or two in silence. He admired her intens_oyalty and devotion to Mahina, which was put to such a test, and s_estrained himself from sneering at her weakness.
  • "Where are my children?" he asked.
  • "They wait outside. I feared to bring them to thee till we had spoken togethe_ little."
  • "Bring them in," he said, "and stay with them here till I return."
  • She placed her hand upon his shoulder. "Thou wilt hurt neither my husband no_ahina?" she said beseechingly.
  • "No," he said in a low voice, "neither. For the sake of these, my children, _ill not."
  • She took his hand and kissed it again. "Forgive her, Kirisiani. When tho_idst cast her aside from thee on the cliffs she became in the hands of m_usband, who is a cunning man, as a twig that is bent by the fingers of _hild. Only for this she had remained true to thee and he true to me."
  • Again he laughed with bitter scorn. "All women are alike, and all men ar_alse to their friends and their duty when a woman's face comes between. Sta_ere till I return."
  • Just as dawn broke, Christian, guided by the directions Alrema had given him, found and entered the cave, and was greeted with an exclamation of joy fro_mith; Young, who lay upon a couch of leaves, merely nodded to him and sai_othing. Mahina was not visible.
  • "I am glad to find you both alive—both," he added, with a steady glance a_dward Young, whose eyes dropped before his, "although if every white man o_he island had been killed it would have been but justice. How can thes_eople trust men who, even among themselves, are guilty of the blackes_reachery to each other?"
  • For a little while no one spoke; then came a murmur of voices outside, an_alalu stood before the three white men.
  • "This is my message to ye, oh white men who were once my friends; these ar_he words of Temua, Nihu, the men of Tubuai, and I, Talalu. Let there be peac_etween us. We sought not blood; only when it was forced upon us did we figh_nd kill. Let there be peace."
  • "I blame neither thee nor them," said Christian quietly, "and now I tell thes_wo men here, who were once my friends, but whom I wish to see no more, tha_hey will do well to make peace with thee and thy countrymen."
  • Without a word of farewell he turned and left them with Talalu, who, as bot_oung and Smith saw, was unfeignedly glad at their escape; and they in thei_urn were relieved to hear that McCoy and Quintal were safe.
  • As the sun rose they heard plaintive notes of wailing for the dead rising fro_he valley below, and soon after, Nahi and some of the Tahitian men came, unarmed, to tell them that their comrades' graves were being dug.
  • Still weak from loss of blood, Young and Smith managed to leave their retrea_nd, assisted by the now friendly Tahitians, reach the valley, where they sa_tanding round the three bodies a little group of brown people. As they dre_ear, Manale stepped out from the others and offered his hand to Young.
  • "Is it peace between us?" he asked.
  • "It is peace," said Young and Smith, both taking his hands.
  • Presently they were joined by McCoy and Quintal; and the bodies of the slai_en, having been wrapped in mats by the women, were placed in their graves i_ilence, broken only by the sobs of their wives.
  • Walking slowly away from the cave, Fletcher Christian, with white, despairin_ace, went first to his house, intending to bring away some further article_or his own use in his retreat. The door was closed, but not fastened on th_nside. Pushing it open, he saw the figure of his wife upon her couch. She ha_een weeping, and as he entered the room trembled in every nerve; then, ere h_ould restrain her, cast herself at his feet and flung back her head.
  • "Kill me," she cried; "kill me, else will I die as did Faito."
  • He drew back from her coldly. "Thou art but a woman, and men do not kill wome_n my country, even though they be false to their husbands. Listen to me. S_hat I never see thy face again I am content. But still would I see m_hildren sometimes. Therefore with thee they shall remain, and sometimes wil_ come to them."
  • In another moment he was gone, and Mahina looked wildly after his retreatin_igure. Then she swayed and fell, and an hour after Alrema, with tears of pit_illing her star-like eyes, came in with the children and embraced her frien_ovingly.
  • "He will yet love thee again," said the loyal girl—"'tis but a black clou_hat will vanish. And see, I too forgive thee."