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Chapter 8 A Loyal Friend

  • MAHINA went alone to the burial of her friend, and the other women, when the_aw her, knew that her sorrow was not so much for the dead girl as for th_ead love of Christian.
  • Returning from her husband's cave, she met Edward Young, who spoke so kindl_hat her overwrought feelings brought a flood of tears, and Young, with _trange look, had drawn her to him and bidden her be of good courage. He woul_lways be her friend, he said, and it grieved him to see her sad. And Mahina,
  • drying her tears, pressed his hand gratefully, and in her innocent fashio_laced her cheek against his for a moment; for was he not her husband's frien_nd brother, and therefore hers. And Edward Young, as she walked away, watche_er with a smile on his lips, and muttered to himself—
  • "The man is a fool. She is a glorious creature, and I—well I don't suppose h_ares."
  • On the second morning, long ere the sun had dried the glittering diamonds o_ew trembling on every leaf and blade of grass, Williams came across th_reensward towards his wife's grave and addressed the mourning women.
  • "Come now," he said roughly. "Faito's had enough of this foolery, and so hav_. Put her in the ground, and make an end of it."
  • Then Talalu and his countrymen stepped quietly out from beneath the shade of _reat tamanu tree which stood near. They had brought their final offerings t_he dead, and as they placed these at the foot of the grave, all the rest o_he white men but Christian appeared upon the scene.
  • At the harsh command of Williams, the women huddled timidly together, lookin_earfully at one another; and Talalu, leaving his countrymen, softly besough_he man to allow them to continue their funeral customs, so that the spirit o_aito might rest in peace. Mahina, too, joined in his pleadings.
  • To the brown-skinned people Williams had ever been a cruel taskmaster for who_hey worked without murmuring for the sake of his wife, whom they loved; an_ow that she was dead he seemed to care nothing, and would not even permi_hem to "comfort her spirit."
  • The remaining white men looked on in curious silence, while Talalu and Mahin_egged Williams not to interrupt them. Williams had, however, acquired _ertain influence over his countrymen, and they were not disposed t_nterfere.
  • Again the harsh voice of the man bade the mourners cease. "Let this foll_nd," he said angrily in Tahitian; "begone, and get back to work."
  • The words stung Talalu to the quick, and with flashing eyes and clenched hand_e faced the white man.
  • "Thou dog without a heart!" he cried fiercely, "may thy mother's skin be mad_nto a water-bottle! Not content with our service and thy wife's devotion,
  • thou would'st harrow the soul of the dead with thy harsh and cruel voice.
  • Shame on thee for a pitiless man! Go home and leave us with the body and th_pirit of our kinswoman. She is nothing to thee now. Thou canst not harm he_ody, but her spirit is tormented by thy very presence here."
  • With a furious gesture Williams advanced towards him, cursing him for a_mpudent slave, in the coarse language he always used towards the Tahitians.
  • But quick as lightning Mahina intercepted him.
  • "Stop, thou low-born sailor," she said, "and leave us, as Talalu hath desire_hee, or it will go ill with thee! I swear by Oro and Tane and the bones of m_ather to stab thee to the heart if thou dost but even raise thy hand t_alalu."
  • Callous as the white men were, they drew back and muttered to Williams t_eave her and her fellow-mourners alone; and Williams himself blanched befor_he slight figure of Christian's wife, and with a savage threat of vengeanc_gainst Talalu, turned away, followed by the rest of the mutineers excep_oung. He, walking apart from them, seated himself on the trunk of a falle_ree near by, called Alrema, and told her to hasten to his house and bring hi_owling-piece, as he intended to shoot some sea-birds.
  • As soon as her graceful figure disappeared among groves of breadfruit betwee_he grassy sward and the houses of the white men, Young walked over to wher_ahina sat, apart from the others.
  • "Dear friend of my heart," he said, taking her hand, "thou knowest that I a_hy friend, dost thou not?"
  • "Truly," said Mahina, "always my friend—my friend and my brother, and th_riend and brother of my husband."
  • A disappointed look swept over Young's face, and he dropped her hand moodily.
  • "Nay, not so now. It is always in my heart that he whom I once loved as _rother hath acted cruelly to thee. Thou art a woman fair and sweet, and to b_or ever loved. And because he hath neglected and turned his heart away fro_hee and thy love hath my friendship for him grown smaller and smaller day b_ay."
  • "By and by, when the evil moods have left him, he will love me again," sai_ahina, looking straight before her, and as she spoke, the falling tear_elied her hopeful words.
  • For many minutes they sat thus, she weeping softly to herself, and Youn_atching his opportunity to speak again. Presently he saw Alrema returnin_ith his fowling-piece. He rose and touched Mahina lightly on the shoulder.
  • "Farewell till to-morrow," he said in a low voice. "Remember that I am always,
  • always thy friend—and that I love thee—he no longer does."
  • She looked up with a low, startled cry, and hastily rising from her seat, wen_ver to the other women and took her child from Terere. The tone of Young'_ords had filled her with a strange feeling of misery and fear.