THE GARDEN OF GOD

H. deVERE STACPOOLE June 15 1923

THE GARDEN OF GOD

H. deVERE STACPOOLE June 15 1923

THE GARDEN OF GOD

H. deVERE STACPOOLE

&U~I~!'ER \xx\. h of s `~i

ON THE morning when Laminai and all his host set out,

never to return. Uta Matu, sitting where his women had placed him on the sand of the beach, watched the canoes depart.

It was a glorious morning and the waters of the lagoon, stirring tthe first of the ebb, were sweeping towards the break, beyond which lay the outer sea, like a vision of shattered sapphires.

He saw the paddles flashing and the sheening foam of the outriggers, be watched the mat sails take the wind; gulls followed the canoes, escorting them, wheeling, sweeping and glanging on the wind. Then the gulls passed away and the sails vanished beyond the reef, and Uta found himself alone.

Alone with the women and the children and the crabs of the beach, he who had always led the fight and directed the rowers and dispensed the la^sof Karolin forsixty long years’ Alone and useless as the smallest child! Uta had been a hard and stern ruler, merciless to enemies, yet just according to his lights; he had known three gods—himself. N'anawa. the shark-toothed one. and Nan of the cocoanuts.

He had only worshipped the first.

Just as a clever man believes in ghosts without letting the belief interfere in the least with his renting a house ■supposed to be haunted. Uta believed in his co-gods without letting his belief worry him

Even if the verdict of Le Juan had been against the expedition, it s highly probable that he would have sent it off all the same; his fighting instincts had been raised and the death of his grandson. Sru, had vexed his soul.

Having sat for awhile contemplating the ripples breaking on the sand and the gulls fighting above the water, the king of Karolin called to his women to carry him back to his house.

That night the great hot wind from the south blew, and whilst Lamina; and his men were slaughtering each other and the waves were roaring on the reef of Karolin. Le Juan, full of kava and the fear that Nanawa had taken it into his head to play them some dirty trick instead of running straight, was clinging to a tree before the house of the king, shouting that Karolin was triumphant and her enemies slain, that Nanawa was riding the great south wind hastening to fight with the men of Karolin.

Then came the peaceful morning and after that came the next day, and the next, and a week passed, and a fortnight, and still the men of Karolin did not return, and still another fortnight.

tTA would cause himself to be carried on his litter down to the canoe houses and there, resting and reviewing things, he would gaze into the great, half lit interiors of the house where the long canoes had once rested. He could see the ridge poles and the thatch of the roofs, the rollers and the tackle that had once held the canoes. The great hot wind, broken by a cocoanut grove, had left the houses aimost undamaged, but the canoes - -where were they? “Of what use a-e the houses without the canoes?” Lta would say to himself, “or of w-hat use is life without the men who made the life of Karolin?—and my son Laminai and my grandsons, where are they?”

He ordered three women to take a fishing canoe and start for the north, find Palm Tree, and see what they could 3ee, but never to come back unless they brought news of the missing ones, and the three vromen he chose were the wnves of Talia. Manua and Leopa,

the three men who had been with Sru and who had brought the news of his death to Karolin.

The three wretched women started with food enough for four days, and they never came back. Weeks vanished, the days flighting from east to west like gorgeous birds, born in purple dawns and vanishing in amber sunsets, but no word came, nothing but the voice of the bearded sea mumbling on the reef and the wind in the cocoa palms and the challenge of the gulls. Uta lost touch with life; for days he would neither speak nor eat; then, one morning, he called for Le Juan and she came, her knees knocking together.

"Well,” said Uta in a voice suddenly grown strong again, “what have you done with my men? What have you done with Laminai, my son, with his son and the men who went with him? Speak!”

The wretched creature stood without a word. She had been honest, born of a priestess to Nanawa and brought up in the faith; she had always served faithfully her belief and her god. She knew his trickery, his capriciousness, how he would answer a wish favourably and sometimes he would do exactly the reverse of what was desired. He had let her down now once and for all. She could tell that by the light in Uta’s eye which meant death to her.

But though honest, her heart was wicked, and her

wicked heart came now to her assistance, and she found her voice.

“It is not my fault, O Uta,” said Le Juan, “nor the fault of him w’ho speaks through me. Last night in my dreams he revealed his form, and his voice was like the voice of the reef when the great waves come in. The men of Karolin are held by Nanawa, the shark-toothed one. nor will he let them go till a woman of Karolin is giver, to him. O Kai O fai karaka. (To be staked out on the reef for the sharks to eat.)

“And the name of the woman?” asked Uta.

“It has not been told to me yet,” replied the wretched creature, fighting for time in the presence of imminent death.

But Uta had suddenly failed and lost interest, the spurt of energy had passed and the light of rage had faded from his eyes; perhaps in his inmost heart he knew that nothing availed, that his men had gone where the dead men go, and that all the women of Karolin staked out on the reef for the servants of the shark-toothed one to devour would be a sacrifice offered in vain.

He moved his hand as if dismissing Le Juan. "Tomorrow,” said Uta. Then turning on his side he seemed to forget things, and Le Juan took her departure, saved for the moment.

DUT the king’s women had heard and in an hour there was not a woman of Karolin who did not know that their men were held by Nanawa and that nothing would free them but the great sacrifice which might fall to the lot of any one of them.

Never for a moment did it occur to any of these unfortunates that, since Nanawa wanted a woman and since Le Juan was a woman, the simplest way out would be to stake Le Juan on the reef.

Not a bit. She was sacred, being a priestess. On Karolin there was not enough morality to divide in two pieces, but there was enough religion of a sort to furnish a world.

By sunset, from Le Juan sweating in her hut, word went forth that the victim had been revealed to her. Nalia, the wife of Leopa, and failing Nalia, her daughter Ooma, a halfwitted girl of fourteen.

Never was fox cuter than Le Juan. Nalia was one of the women sent in the canoe to scout for the lost expedition; she had not come back, but she might still come back, so nothing would be done for a while, and in the meantime Uta might die, and Uta once dead, she would have no fear of anything. Having sent this pronouncement abroad. Le Juan set to work wholeheartedly to light a fire and wish Uta dead, and dead quickly.

She might have saved her fire. Uta was dying. The king of Karolin’s tipie had come, and by midnight the fact was known.

It was the night before the new moon, a hot, breathless night; and round the king’s house the air was filled with the piping and whistling of little shells, tiny varieties of the conch, blowm to keep awray evil spirits, the surf on the reef sounded low’ and its respirations w’ere longspaced, like the breathing of the dying man.

Not a soul was in the house with him, though the w’hole population of Karolin, every women and every child, was seated outside in row’s and rings beneath the stars. The chief wife sat by the right door-post listening, waiting to signal the fact of death, and, though not a breath of w’ind stirred, a vague wdiispering came and went like the sound the sand makes w’hen the wind blows over it. It w’as the whispering of the women.

All Uta’s life w as running about that night outside his house from lip to lip, from memory to memory. The battles he had fought, the

children he had begotten, the men he had executed with his own hand, or caused to be killed. The fight with the Spanish ship people and the people of the Paumotus.

Katafa’s name was mentioned, the child whom he had saved from Laminai and who had been drowned and devoured by the sharks. And as they whispered and talked, the lagoon water whispering on the beach seemed telling also of the deeds of the departing one, and in the far rumble of the reef the voice of the outer sea seemed joining in.

If Uta had never loved a human being, he had loved the sea, as the gulls love it and the fish. It was part of him.

Then suddenly the whisperitlg ceased. The chief wife had risen and was standing erect and motionless like a brown statue by the door. Deceived by a cessation of the breathing in the house, she gave the signal that her lord and master was dead, but scarcely had she raised her arm to lower it again when a voice from the house made her jump as though she had received a blow.

THE king of Karolin was not the man to depart from this world like a sickly child; he who had entered it shouting eighty-one years ago was not the man to leave it without saying good-bye. He was calling for his women, calling them to carry him down to the water’s edge. “It is hot here,” cried Uta. "I wish to be cool. I want the wind.”

There was no wind, but they carried him, four women, one at each shoulder and one at each thigh, and lo! as they reached the lagoon edge and placed him on the s»pd facing the water and propped in their arms, the air stirred with a breath that shivered the star reflections on the lagoon.

The wind of dawn had begun to blow and in the east, beyond the break, the dawn itself showed a dubious light that brightened and burned as though day were hurrying to greet Uta and crown him for the last time with the only crown he had ever worn. With the strengthening light the tide could be seen sweeping into the lagoon;

}t had turned half an hour ago and was poming strong, sweeping past the coral piers from the dim violet sea, above which the high flying gulls showed bright with the day.

Uta watched. He was not the man to go out with the tide; the full flood was the time for him when, bravely swimming, his soul might go fearless to the God who piade the sharks and the gulls and the kings and peoples pf the sea. He watched the light break on the water, and ¿he brow of the sun rise from the ocean; then, as the morning lit the lagoon in the whole of its forty mile stretch, Uta, straightening in the arms of the women, gave a shout, “They come!”

Past piers of the break they were coming, the whole fleet of Karolin, sailing against the wind and with all the paddles flashing, gulls wheeling and crying above them and the flood tide boiling in their wake.

Rising like a young man, and swift as a boy, he ran where, curving inwards, they made to beach on the cream,white sand. Laminai, shouting his name, sprang on the outrigger gratings to meet him—and as he sprang on board and they grasped each other, the great eanoe, .turning, shot up into the eye of the sun.

But the women saw nothing of this, nothing but the dead body of Uta supported in the arms of his wives.

CHAPTER XXXVI.

The Club of Ma

.■VpAORl!”

A The birds were twittering on the branches above >nd the first sunbeams breaking through the leaves.

“Laori!” whispered Katafa, her arm around the neck of the sleeper and her lips close to his ear.

He stirred, raised himself on his elbow and sat up. sleep propping fror« him suddenly like a cloak.

“Listen!” said Katafa.

Awakening with the first beam of light she had heard

vague and far away sounds, sounds caught and repeated by the echoes of the hated woods.

The woods that had imprisoned her once, that seemed in league against her again, the woods she had always hated, that had always hated her, barring her from the freedom she craved for, and the wide spaces that were part of her soul.

Karolin was calling, and the sea was open and the boat was there ready, nothing was wanting but the dark of the next night, and just in that first clear minute of waking from sleep with her arm around the man she loved, came a sense of oppression, imprisonment and evil—the woods.

The vision of the copra traders and the great canoe guarding the lagoon was almost forgotten, the sense of hate and imprisonment came from the trees and may'be in that waking moment her mind had glimpsed the core of things, for it was the trees that brought the traders.

Then came the far-away sounds; shouts and vague indefinite noises heard through the movement of the wind in the leaves, now dying to nothing, now more clear and purposeful, almost like the sound of pursuit. It was the sound of search. The copra traders w'ere combing the groves. The remains of the canoes broken on the beach had given them pause before taking full possession of the place, and they' wished to see what might possibly' be lurking amidst the trees.

Even as Dick listened the sounds grew clearer. They would die aw'ay as though finished and done with, and then they wmuld break out of a sudden, closer. There is nothing more deceptive than the trees with their dense patches, their winding run-ways, their echo-haunted dells, their draughts and stillnesses. Sound enters here like a runner, and gets lost, and goes far, or fails, or drops dead, according to the road it takes, according to the wdnd it meets, or the absence of wind.

A shout came from the sward. Dick parted the leaves

and there, running across the sw ard towards the house, was a man a red-bearded man, gun in hand. Four others came after him, brown and naked with frizzy black beards and Dick whose piercing eyes noted everything, saw the marks on their bodies, marks of old wounds and ring-worm sores.

He stooped and picked up the coral-headed club he had found that day on the Eastern beach and rest ing his hands lightly on it. continued to wTatch.

They made for the house and surrounded it whilst the red-bearded man went in. Dick could see him inside looking here and there at the shelves, at the walls, and round or. the floor, as if searching for trace of the owners; then he came out, and the whole party disappeared into the grove to the left.

Ten minutes later they reappeared, re-crossed the sward and entered the woods again, making, evidently, for the eastern beach again.

“They are gone,” said Katafa, “but let us still keep hidden for they may return.”

Dick wdthout answering stood listening. “No,” said he, “they are gone, but they will not return yet.”

He pushed his way through the branches to where the boat was hidden, fetched out a fishing line, caught a robber crab and using its flesh for bait, came out and began to fish from the bank in the full light of day. A bream was on the hook in a couple of minutes, and leaving it for Katafa to clean and prepare, he went straight across the swTard to the old firehole and began to light a fire.

Then putting some breadfruit to bake, he made off behind the house to the shack that the search party had missed, found the old water breaker of the dinghy, filled it at the little well at the back of the yam patch, and returned with it on his shoulder. He placed it carefully in the boat, then he came back to w’here Katafa wTas cooking the fish, and stood wdth his brow knotted, watching, but scarcely seeing her. He was reviewing everything in his mind, that mind so simple yet so straight-thinking and clear-sighted; another person might have been bothering about the strangers and the possibility of their return to the sward; he was thinking of nothing but the journey ahead and the meal in hand. Having determined to risk being found, he dismissed the matter from his mind.

After standing for a moment like this, he suddenly turned, went back to the bank, and having re-baited the hook with the remains of the crab, began to fish again, landing in the course of five minutes or so a three pound Schnapper and another bream. “For to-mowow,” said he, as he threw them on the ground by the girl and sat down to the meal she had prepared.

TT"ATAFA said nothing. Fear was at her heart, she could scarcely eat, every breath of the breeze was a foot step and the hateful woods that surrounded the sward seemed only' waiting to seize her, but she said nothing. The calm, certain courage of Dick bore her along with it, his coolness became part of her but without destroying the fear that breathed on her from the woods.

Then when the meal was over and Dick, picking up the club that had never left him even when fishing, gave her directions to cook the remaining fish, place them in the boat, and stay in the boat till his return, she made no objection, though the fear of being alone was like the fear of death.

“I am going to look,” said Dick, “to see if the big canoe is still there and how it lies, and count how many of them there are, and see what they' are doing. Wait for me.” He swept the sward, the trees, and the lagoon with a glance, then he made off, trailing the club, towards the eastern trees.

She had play'ed her part so well that he did not guess her terror. He himself had no fear even of the ape-like men; fear had been left out of his composition when he was born in those same woods he was treading now, light of foot, silent as a panther and as swift on the trail.

Katafa, left to herself, bent her head for a moment as though a heavy hand were pressing it down; then, straightening herself and flinging out her arms as though casting fear away, she set to on the work before her. In half an hour it was finished, the fish cooked and wrapped in leaves and placed in the boat, the fire put out, and all traces of the meal cast into the lagoon.

Then snuggling down in the dinghy, she waited. Nothing could be more hidden than her position, nothing more secure, yet fear lay with her. claw ing at her heart. Never had she felt such fear as this fear, not for herself, but for Dick.

It was their first parting. She had not known at all what Dick was to her till now, how every fibre of her being was tied to him and the true and awful meaning of love— the sexless love that is akin to mother love, the one thing deathless, if there is no death..

For a moment she had felt it on that night when the point of Laminai's spear killed Tarainan and self in her and she had flung passion away only to be seized by it again in the arms of Taori. Since then life had been a dream almost without thought, a happiness whose only stain was the far-off vision of Karolin.

Now alone, with the branches moving above her in the wind, she knew what love really was, the cruellest gift the gods ever gave to man and the most beautiful; the most terrible and yet the most benign.

As the embryo passes through the forms of all things once embryonic, even of the fish, before it takes the form of man. so had the soul of Katafa passed through all the forms of human soul-states in its change from the nebulous to the formed.

Antagonism when Kearney tried to hit her with the whip of seaweed, hatred when he hit her with the tia wood ball, the longing for revenge which brought him death, the boundless irritation that had been bom in her from Dick, the mad desire to destroy him, pity bom in her at his cry for help, tenderness brought to her by the bird, passion full-grown in a moment and causing her to embrace the living tree, love that turned all other things belonging to her previous experience to nothing—even the spell of Taminan.

UTHO finds a soul finds sorrow, and who finds love finds death. Death surely and at last, and almost as surely a hundred little deaths in imagination, absence, or estrangement.

She heard the movement of the leaves in the wind and the eternal voice of the surf on the reef, and beyond them the silence so full of possibilities.

Katafa knew more of the world than Dick. Dick was the child of two people who had gone far to a state of savagery; Katafa had been born in civilization. On Karolin. when she had walked as a ghost amongst ghosts, she had seen terrible things that had left her unmoved owing to the gulf that had separated her from humanity, ar.d now from that past came all sorts of half formless imaginings threatening Dick.

Time and again she would have left the boat and made for the eastern beach to see what had happened but for his order. She was to stay in the boat and wait for him. She could not resist that order and fortunately for them both she did not try. As she lay there listening, waiting, loathing her own security and inaction, the one thing giving her comfort and strength was the fact that she was obeying his order. It was as though he had left with her part of his mind, warm, living and sustaining.

An hour passed and then from the trees came a sound, the sound of something moving swiftly and moving towards her, a form dashed the leaves and branches aside it was Dick.

The club w-as trailing from his left hand, his right, grasping a branch, was holding it thrust aside, around his neck a tendril of convolvulus twined as though the woods, worshipping, had wreathed him, and his face was lit with battle triumph and the light of something terrible that

was almost laughter. For a moment he stood there like a god of old time before his worshipper, then, letting the branches close behind him, he slipped into the boat and lay holding her in his a-ms, his lips almost to her ear.

He had stolen through the trees to spy on the strangers and drawing toward the eastern beach had heard the sound of axes at work. The men with holes in their ears and slit noses were cutting down trees awrny to the right of the beach, in amongst the trees and invisible from the beach. Having watched them through the leaves without being seen, he made for the beach itself. The great canoe was in " he lagoon just as she had been on the nigh* before and on the sands walking up and down w'e*e tw'o white men. Men the same as Kearney only different in face, men with hair on their faces, one red, the other black.

What happened then he told in few words.

WATCHING the bearded men walking up and down and talking together, the wish came on him to go up to them and look them in the face and speak to them. This pride had somehow risen against the fact that he was hiding there in concealment whilst they were walking free with command of the beach, and besides that there was the wish to speak to them, to hear them speak, to see them closer. Yet something held him back. Caution, maybe, who knows? but it did not hold him long. Just as though something were pushing him from behind, out he came from the trees and crossing the sands approached the two men. They stopped in their walk, turned and stared at him.

Dick’s description of the two men was succinct. They stank, gin probably, but whatever it was it offended his fine sense of smell, and the memory of it made him spit over the side of the dinghy as he told of it.

One can fancy the disgust that was written on his beautiful and expressive face as he came towards the strangers, chin uptilted and with level eyes like an object lesson in what man ought to be contrasted with what man is, and one may fancy what the products of high civilization may have felt at the sight of a Kanaka walking as if the world belonged to him as well as the beach.

Nothing is so infectious as dislike and distaste, and the gentlemen from the ship exchanged remarks and laughed, and, though Dick had all but forgotten the language of his birth, he knew. An animal would have known what they said and what they thought, for the language of insult is universal, and Dick, standing before them, forgetting everything, replied. Just one word: “Parakal”

Paraka in Karolinese means a dog-fish, just as karaka means a shark. Do the Karolinites know the relationship between the two creatures since they use only a single letter to differentiate one name from the other, who knows? But the single letter concludes the business as far as insult is concerned ; for the shark is feared and respected the dog-fish loathed and despised; it steals the bait, it bites the fish on the hook, it will sometimes attack a man if he is defenceless, or a child. It was Katafa’s term of dishonour and reproach for the robber crabs and scavenger gulls, and the bula fish all spines and snap, the ink jetting octopods, and the green eels that tangled the lines when caught.

The word heaped with insult had scarcely left Dick’s mouth when the red man struck. Dick nearly fell, recovered himself, and with a great half moon sweep of the club brought the red man low, then he chased the black-bearded man forhalf a hundred yards till reason returned and he remembered the ape men, Katafa, and all the things he ought never to have forgotten. Shouts from the anchored schooner did not delay his steps as he took cover in the trees, making with all speed for the hidden dinghy.

That was the story he told into Katafa’s ear. “Remembering you, I came back,” he finished.

That was the truth. But for Katafa he would have no doubt done to the black-bearded man what he had done to the red. Heaven knows what the end of the whole adventure might have been or the end of that dominant and fearless spirit, whether he would have fallen beneath the weight of numbers and been trodden out on the sand1,, or whether he would have brought the New Hebrideans? to heel, taken the schooner, sailed and found civilization,, and risen to Napoleonic heights. No one knows where a. human rocket may go, once fired, but Katafa and Fate interposed—at least to delay the firing and alter the direction of the line of energy.

THEY lay listening, yet hearing nothing but the wind and the surf, but they knew that this silence was absolutely deceptive; the woods were full of trickery and the altering of a few points in the wind would cut off or increase sound travelling from a distance. More, the altering of the time of day made a difference. Here in the twenty-four hours of a day leaves, twigs, branches, the very trees themselves, altered in pose or position, and every alternation of the great green curtain interposed or removed barriers to sound. The energy expended in the opening and closing of earth flowers, what mill might it not drive if “properly directed” and the energy Palm Tree Island expended in a day, who could measure it! It was unknown or only instinctively known to Dick and Katafa in the recognition that the sound carrying qualb ties of the woods varied with morning, noon, and night.

As they lay secure, hidden and listening, Katafa, whose left arm was about the neck of her companion, let her right hand rest on the club that lay beside her.

The cocoanut fibre always wrapped round the club handles in war time so as to give a better grip had unwound a bit and her fingers straying felt a ring surrounding the wood, lower down another ring and lower dowp

another. It was the three-ringed club of Karolin, the sacred Pasht always carried by the eldest son of the king or his representative in battle; it had been carried by Laminai in the attack on the Spanish ship long years ago, and recently by Ma, the only son of Laminai. When Dick had killed Ma in the glade it had lain there in the moonlight, and had been picked up by one of the fugitives from the battle who cast it away on the beach before plunging into the water in his vain attempt to escape.

Katafa knew that it was the royal club, a thing equivalent to a sceptre. She had seen it naked of its cocoanut fibre wrapping, carried in state, worshipped. No woman of Karolin dared handle it on pain of death, and as her fingers touched the sacred rings and the fact became clear to her that it was It, a thrill of pride went through her.

It was Dick’s.

Karolin’s symbol of power and success in war had fallen into the hands of Taori.

She did not know that she was handling the weapon that had slain her mother—the weapon that had fallen into the hands of Taori, not through coincidence, but the iron logic of events.

CHAPTER XXXVII.

The Club of Ma (Continued.)

DISMISS the clumsy and brutal affair that sculptors have placed in the hand of Hercules, and which inevitably is recalled to mind by the word club.

The Pasht of Karolin might almost have been called a sword, almost likened to an English field-hockey stick. Four feet two inches from extremity to extremity, curved and broadened and flattened at the striking end, with a tip rim of coral mortised to the wood, it could strike with the convexity, the concavity or the flat. It could sever a head if properly used or make a gash half a foot deep in a man or simply stun. No man knew its age; the fire hardened wood of which it was made had ceased to grow on Karolin and the art by which the coral tip had been mortised to the wood was a forgotten art.

There is no doubt that this terrible weapon had a history as blood-stained as it was long, but it was the blood of battle it had spilt, not the blood of sacrifice and superstition, not the blood of greed and trade. Laminai alone had disgraced it by killing a woman with it. But Laminai was dead, and his sons and his seed destroyed forever.

Lying by Dick, Katafa told him what she knew about it, shewed him the rings on the handle, told him that now, since Ma and all the fighting men of Karolin were gone and Uta of no account, it was his to keep and hold and wield above the heads of all other men.

Talking to him her voice suddenly cea id. The wind through the branches had brought a sound.

Now it came clear, a sound like thu cry of hounds in pursuit of game; it died off, grew louder, ceased. Then came another sound, sudden and close, and bursting through the branches and between fhe trees so close to the lagoon bank that Dick could have hit him with a biscuit, came a man. He was the black-bearded man of the beach and he was running for his life. Dick concealed by the trees just glimpsed him, but the glimpse was enough. Right on the heels of the fugitive came three of the ape-men, the leader armed ^vith an axe.

They were no longer giving tongue, but he could hear their breath coming as they ran.

“Waugh—waugh—waugh.” They passed, then came a shriek from fhe sward and then pandemonium.

Dick, listening with Katafa’s arm about him, knew what had happened, but he did not know all, or how that the red-bearded man, the owner of the schooner and the terrible personality that had dominated the expedition, being put out of count, the new Hebrideans armed with their tree cutting axes,

^ad risen in revolt. That of the

four white men and the dozen Polynesian sailors of the schooner not one man remained alive; that a hundred and forty Melanesians held the island in their grasp, the schooner and the trade goods and rum on board of her.

At one stroke the club of Ma had done this work of magic with no magic to help it but that of its own perfect balance and the personality of its wielder.

Safe hidden in the bushes, they heard the sounds from the sward die down. Then came silence, broken only by the old tune of the reef, the whisper, and the sounds of the birds in the branches.

CHAPTER XXXVIII.

The Fete of Death

TT WAS close on midnight and the ebb running strong shewed through the branches an occasional lazy swirl on the moonlit lagoon water. At the break it was racing strong, but here the water seemed hardly to move. The wind still held from the north and as Dick untied from the tree roots, it parted and closed the branches above showering Katafa with moonlight and shadow. He pushed off with a scull and before he could take his seat again the current, lazy though it looked, had slewed the bow of the little boat right round.

They had settled to get away when the schooner people were asleep, but sleep was far from the island that night, to judge by the vague sounds that came from the east between the breathings of the wind. But the tide was outrunning and the hour was come; and Dick was not of the order that waits for a better opportunity. Stepping the mast with the sail lightly brailed and ready to break out, he took the sculls and the moonlit glade and the cape of wild cocoanuts passed behind them out of sight for ever.

And now, as they moved swiftly, great ripples running out from the divided water and spreading towards

bank and reef, Katafa, who was steering, saw something beyond the tree tops, a rose red pulsating light that seemed fighting the light of the moon, and above the light smoke like blown hair streaming on the wind towards the south; and now, .as the dinghy, driven by sculls and current, drew on to the great curve that led to the eastern beach, the sounds that had reached them by the sward loudened and became more shrill and through the voices of men outshouting gulls, and gulls outshouting men, came a new sound, sudden, sonorous and without cease, the roar of flame triumphant.

The dinghy turned the last cape into a world of light. The schooner, fired by accident or design and straining at her anchor chain, was blazing against the night like a bon-fire; lagoon, reef and woods were lit broad as by day, and crossing the roar of the flames the shouting of the reef gulls mixing with the yelling from the beach where a hundred black forms danced and sang and screeched, mad with the black joy of rum and destruction.

It was like breaking into a fete. At a stroke the desolation of the island was shattered and the world, holding clamorous festival, had taken the beach. Katafa, half-standing up for a moment with the red light shining on her face, gazed fascinated with the terrible glamour of the thing; then she sank back, steadily steering, right for the broad fairway between ship and shore.

Dick shouted to her, she knew, and leaving the tiller for a moment leaned over him, unbrailed the sail and gave it to the following wind.

CHAPTER XXXIX.

From Garden to Garden Like Seeds on the Wind

ITERE there was peace. The great dark swell coming up and passing in the moonlight, the following wind, the stars; nothing remained but these, these and the whisper of the reef far astern, and the far glow of the burning ship.

Katafa s*eered, the great bunch of bananas up against her legs, Nan on his stick beside her, the head of Nan hanging over the transom like the head of a person contemplating sea-sickness.

THEN, as the boat raced for salvation and without releasing the tiller, she saw two things: to left, and for a moment, the blazing schooner pouring flame to the sky, roaring at her, scorching her and with its bowsprit festooned with wretches who dared not drop into the shark-filled lagoon; to right, the white beach a stone’s throw away, and, racing the boat along the beach, shouting at her, threatening her, a great crowd of men. naked, black and mad with rum.

Then, in a flash, all this was wiped out and the fire-lit concave of the sail was before her outlined on the calm night beyond.

Dick, who had spoken no word since his order to her, half rose; she sawr his face lit by the retreating blaze, and the rage and hatred in it; she saw' him fling out his arm at the beach and schooner, and she heard his voice shrill against the cries that followmd him. It was the cry that the companions of Sru had hurled at him long ago.

“Kara! Kara! Kara!” War, war, war!

Turning, he brailed the sail and again seized the sculls; the dinghy wTas rocking and racing in the confluence of the floods from the arms of the lagoon. They passed the palm tree in the northern pier of the break as an arrow' passes the mark, tossed to the meeting of current and flood, and with sail filling again headed south against the long heave of the Pacific. Behind them lay the glow of the still-burning wreck, that was seen that night at Karolin.

They had never thought of dishonouring him by taking him off his stick. He was something real to them, and, without thinking back and putting things together, they felt that he was an influence in their lives.

He was. But for him Sru Continued on page 36

The G a rden of G o d

Continued from page 29

would not have landed to be killed; the army and navy of Karolin would never have sailed to break the charm of Tamilian. But for him the idea of making a mast for the dinghy would never have occurred to Dick, for it was the cut sapling that gave him the idea. But for the mast the idea of journeying to Karolin would never have arisen.

Nan had literally put the club of Ma into the hands of Dick; the blazing schooner, the dead white men, the revolt of the Mel -nesians—all these were part of the work of Nan, who seemed only a cocoanut, but was, yet, an idea. The fish, the bread fruit, the water beaker,and all the odds and ends they had brought away were stowed, some in the stern and some amidships; whilst in the bow reposed the little ships like the toys of these children who had never learned to play with toys, but with men and events and with Destiny itself.

The wind blew steady and strong from the north.

Palm Tree had never depended on the Trades. Owing to the influence of the Low Archipelago the Trade Law did not hold either here or at Karolin, neither could the strength of. the northern running current be depended on; south winds increased its rate of flow; north winds decreased it. To-night the dinghy had to face only a knot and a half current.

Towards three o’clock in the morning the far glow of the burning schooner suddenly vanished from the northern sky, the sound of the reef had been left long ago astern; nothing remained but the sea, the wind, and the stars. Dick, who had not spoken for some time, had slipped down into the bottom of the boat and was lying with his arm on the thwart and his head on his arm. He was asleep. Katafa did not awaken him. She was almost glad to be alone in these first solemn hours of return to all that her heart desired. The frigate bird had found its home again among the infinite sea distances, and the wide spaced column of the swell, as they passed, saluted her.

NOW to port the tremendous vagueness and secrecy of the night began to give before something that seemed less like light than life; the sky shewed scarcely a change, yet the sea had altered, and now, low in the east, dim, red and luminous like the banked smoke of burning cities, a line of mist lay suddenly revealed above the line of sea. A gull passed the boat soaring on the wind and the wind whipped the sea with renewed life and freshness and the sea cast its spray at Katafa as she steered, her eyes wandering from the sail to the old and accustomed glory, the wild, triumphant splendour of the east a-flame. Two great zones of light, like the knees of the angel of the dawn, shewed, and, far above, wings in tumultuous colour and wide spread arms of light struggling as if to smash down the crystal doors—and then, tumult dying and colour fading, at a stroke the western sky shewed not a single star and in the eastern sky stood day.

Dick awoke from sleep with the sun half lifted above the horizon. Creeping aft he took his place beside Katafa, but though she gave the tiller to him and, slipping down rested her head against her knee, she could not sleep. The island they had left vanished utterly from sight they were alone with the sea, and new for the first time came doubt. She knew the sea and its absolute infidelity, its traps and surprises. Should they not find Karolin! should some storm rise suddenly and blow them into the unknown east, or the west where the dead men warm themselves round the dying sun! She glanced up at Dick— Dick, beautiful as the god of youth and as serene, Dick who had only known the waters of the lagoon and the sea beyond the reef and who was gazing now at the sea itself, untroubled by its vastness and un-afraid. Whilst her eyes held him she knew no fear, but when her eyes left him doubt returned. She had been so long separated from the sea that the guiding sense and instinct that served the fishermen for compass had all but deserted her. She felt lost.

She had forgotten the guiding sign placed long ago above the great lagoon by God whose garden is nature and whose rivers are the currents of the sea. Dick

perhaps divining her trouble by that subtle sense by which they could communicate without words, leaned sideways towards her as he steered, and letting the boat a few points off her course, pointed to where far ahead the light of the great lagoon formed its wan miraculous window in the sky.

CHAPTER XL.

The Birth of a Sea King.

THEY had with them food and water enough for a week. Dick had left little to chance. When a tiny child he had almost frightened Kearney by putting the fish away in the shadow of the thwart to prevent the sun from spoiling it, and this natural ability for dealing with things which had been a..gift, from his parents, had not been decreased by life on the island.

Now, with all he had ever known taken away from him by distance, facing a new world and the unknown sea, this ability to deal with things shewed itself in his fearlessness and absolute confidence in himself, the boat, and the course they were steering.

By noon they had been twelve hours on their journey, making two and a half knots against the current. Thirty miles to the north lay Palm Tree, whilst in the south, like a beacon, the forty mile lagoon of Karolin signalled to them from the blue; and now as it drew towards sunset, Katafa, who had fallen asleep, awoke, and sitting up, seemed listening as though to catch the sound of something she had heard in her dreams.

There was nothing, nothing but the slap of the bow wash and the creak of the mast and the lapping of the long swell as it kissed the planks, nothing but the cry of a gull that passed them. It was flying south.

Yet still she listened, resting her head against the gunnel, her eyes fixed on the space of sky beneath the sail. Nothing.

Then, as the sun, now fur down in the west, was reaching to the sea that boiled up in gold to meet him, Katafa raised her head. Dick heard it now, a faint far breathing,a murmur that cameand passed and came again, a voice that was not the wind.

It was Karolin—Karolin invisible but singing, calling the gulls home across the evening sea.

Far away they could be seen flying from east and west towards the invisible land and now as the sun went down like a ship on fire and a single great star broke out above the purple west, the whisper of the great forty mile reef loudened and changed to a definite murmur like the voice of a far-off multitude.

KATAFA, standing up for a moment and steadying herself with her hand on the mast, seemed to have forgotten Dick. Karolin was still a great way off, but its voice was enough to dispel all doubt and fear. She knew these waters, and all the old sea instincts, that had given her distance and direction when out in the fishing canoes, returned, led by memory and the voice of the reef.

The tide was beginning to flood on Karolin and the wind and tide were building the sea on the coral. The air was filled with the rumour of it; it seemed to come from everywhere around, from the very stars that lit the night. Then the running swell looming up and passing in the gloom altered in character, and away to starboard something shewed white, something that came and went like the flicker of a handkerchief—a natural sea beacon, the foam on the Karaka rock.

The Karaka rises sharp like the spire of a cathedral from the great mountain range that forms the Palu bank. At full flood it is submerged entirely, but even then it will break if there is a heavy swell on. It is the only sign of the bank and the only danger to ships, but to Katafa it was a friend.

Crawling forward, whilst Dick let go the sheets, she dropped the anchor they had so often used when fishing off Palm Tree; it fell in twelve fathom water and held.

It was near here that she had anchored when the squall struck the canoe, driving her from Karolin, but to-night there was no danger of squalls. The

wind had sunk to a steady breathing from the north and the swell had fallen to a gentle heave that rocked the little boat like a cradle to the lullaby of the surf.

DICK, tired out, had fallen asleep lying in the bottom of the boat, and clasped by the girl, just as his father had fallen asleep long years ago clasped by Emmeline and death.

But death was far away to-night. Life ringed the sleepers with its charm and the future spoke in the voice of the reef.

“Taori, Karolin has called you to be her king and rule her people and make her laws and break her chains of terror; for this you were born, for this you still live, and war shall be your portion whilst you live, and peace shall crown your victories and lead you at last to the eternal peace which is Freedom.”

With his head on the pasht, unconscious as the dead, he slept whilst the sea wind blew and the great reef sang, mourned, murmured and spoke.

CHAPTER XLI.

His Kingdom

BROAD as the reef break was at Karolin, no ship under sail could enter at the full ebb. Sweeping with an eight knot clip and boiling round the coral piers, the waters of the great lagoon met the northward running current in a leaping cross sea of aquamarine and emerald whipped to snow when the wind was in the east. At slack all this died aw-ay, a child might have swum the passage and a leaf would have drifted with scarce a change of place. This was the sea gate of Karolin, and the keepers of the gate were the sun and the moon.

The sun and the moon and the wind and the sea, these four held the great atoll between them and had here a significance unguessed by dwellers on the continents and lands of the world, for here the new and the full moons were manifestly the letters in of the great spring tides, and the first and third quarter moons the admitters of the neaps. Here the sun was seen from his rising to his setting, from his leap to his plunge, and storm and halcyon and calm oast their spells on life unbroken and uninterfered with by hills or walls or mountains or forests.

Here for undated ages man had lived alone with the sea and the gulls and the fish, and had remained man, learning little, forgetting nothing, with a memory and tradition kept alive by the necessities of the moment that urged him to - build canoes as his forefathers had built them, and houses to shelter the canoes and houses to protect him from the rains and winds. Here there was nothing that did not date from the remote past, nothing that was not of use in the immediate present.

Only man can change, only man can live for ages without change yet remain capable of change; only man can be sealed away in the land of instinct, yet remain capable of entering the land of reason.

So it was with the people of Karolin gathered together this morning on the beach by the gridiron of coral w’here for ages past victims had been sacrificed to Nanawa, the shark-toothed one, by his priests and through the agency of his servants the sharks. Le Juan, after the death of Uta Matu had temporised. She did not in the least mind sacrificing the half-witted girl, Ooma, but she greatly dreaded barren results.

INCLUDING the king’s wives, there I were over two hundred women on Karolin all wanting their men back, and close on three hundred children, more than half of whom were boys; of these boys a large number were over twelve and a good number over fourteen, all ripe for mischief, without fear of Nanaw'a and with the antagonism of all boys towards old women of Le Juan’s type.

Le Juan had sent the fathers and husbands of this terrible population to a war from which they had not returned, and, worse than that, she had made herself responsible under Nanawa for their return.

She had declared that they were “held” by Nanawa till the great sacrifice of a woman had been offered to him, yet, feeling that the tricky shark god had played another trick, she simply dared not make the sacrifice. She knew what would happen if it failed, she felt the temper of the people as a man feels the

sharp point of a dagger against his breast; so she temporised, fell into pretended trances, had pretended visions, declared that nothing was to be done until it was absolutely sure that the mother of Ooma would not return, and sweated consumedly at night as she lay in her shack listening to the sounds of the village and the shouting of the ribald boys and the boom of the surf on the reef, whilst Ooma, half-witted and happy, slept protected from death by the ferocious beast that was the soul of Le Juan and whose one dread was extinction—through failure.

BUT the time had come and the death warrant was sealed by the far red speck of light on the northern sky caused by the burning of the schooner.

A boy had seen it; two minutes later the whole village was watching it and next day it had got into the minds of the people. It was looked on as a sign—of what, no one could say; but it was an angry sign, and that night, Walia, the chief wife of the dead Uta, had a dream.

She dreamt that Uta appeared to her and that the red light was his wrath that the great sacrifice had not been made. He also declared that if it was not made at once, worse would befall Karolin. That was the end. Before dawn Le Juan, dragged from her hut to hear the news, gave in, and as the sun broke above the lagoon the preparations began.

Ooma, awakening to another happy day of life, was anointed and rubbed with palm oil to make her acceptable to the god. She laughed with pleasure. She was of the happy half-witted kind with sense enough to know that she was being feted. When they put flowers in her hair she laughed and laughed, and when they led her by the hand to a suddenly prepared banquet where she alone was the guest, she went laughing, the boys dancing around her and shouting: “ Kara1', a he, Oon;r, karaka.”

The last of the tide was flowing out of the lagoon when, the banquet over, Le Juan, taking the hand of Ooma, led her along by the water side followed by the population of Karolin. By the break, great sheets and coils of glass-smooth water, pale as forget-me-nots, could be seen moving between the wind-flaws where a half-dead breeze touched the surface; ahead of the advancing crowd the gridiron of coral lay almost entirely uncovered by the tide.

NATURE with that assistance which she sometimes lends to inhumanity had tilted this terrible shelf so that the gradually rising water would take the victim to the waist at greater flood; art had driven in iron bars for the binding. At quarter flood, or before, the sharks who always knew what was going on, instructed maybe by Nanawa, would begin their struggle for the prize.

As the procession approached the gridiron, Ooma suddenly began to hold back. Some instinctive warning had come to her that danger lay ahead, that all things were not as they pictured themselves to be; that the flowers and the feasting and all the splendours of that most glorious morning of her life were veils of illusion behind which lay terror.

She stopped, trying to release her hand from the grip of Le Juan, then, struggling with her captor, she began to scream. They seized her, still screaming, and brutally cast her on the coral, binding her to it by each thigh, by the wrist and by the shoulders. Then, as she lay there half-stunned, voiceless, and staring at the sky suddenly from the great ring of the atoll, rising to heaven like a protest came a sigh, profound, from the very heart of the sea. It was the turning of the tide.

CHAPTER THE LAST

A T SUNRISE that morning Katafa had awakened to find the wind fallen to a gentle breeze. Away to the south she could see the palms of Karolin and across the scarcely ruffled swell she cculd hear the song of the surf on the ccral.

The karaka rock spouting to starboard told her the state of the tide; it was falling. Hours must elapse before they could make the break with the flood, so, instead of waking Dick who was still soundly asleep, she sat watching the gulls and the wind flaws on the water, listening, dreaming.

Far away over the past her mind flitted like the frigate bird, her namesake, tireless, covering vast distances. She

saw again the reef where she had played as a child, that endless sunlit coral road, the sea wrack and the shells and the gulls always flying, the beaches where ' she had played like a ghost child with ! children untouchable as ghosts. The vast sunsets, the tumultuous dawns, the ! nights when under the coil of the great ¡ snake she had watched the torches of the fish spearers on the reef, and the night 1 when under the sickle moon the sea had taken her and swept her away to find love and a soul.

A gull sweeping past saluted the boat with a cry, and Dick, stirring in his sleep, awoke, stretched, held out his arms and then clasped them around Katafa, gazing as she pointed away to the south where every lift of the swell showed the palms of the great atoll whose mirror blaze was paling the sky.

Then hauling in the anchor and setting the sail to the light wind that had shifted to the west of north, Katafa steered, heading for the east, whilst Dick handed her food and water from the beaker, eating scarcely anything himself.

His eyes were fixed on the far-off shore to starboard, the endless shore that shewed nothing but gulls and palms, foam jets when a greater breaker broke on the coral, all seen against air luminous with the dazzle of the vast lagoon.

And now, still following the turn of the reef, Katafa pointed ahead, where far away past the northern pier of the break the whole sea danced as the out-pouring waters met the current, the last of the ebb rushing like a river, foam dashed, jubilant, green against blue, white against green and gulls over all, gulls wheeling and shouting ,and diving and drifting on the wind like turbulent spirits on the sun blaze. Katafa held on, still steering due east as though to leave Karolin behind, on and on till the vast sea disclosed itself to the south and the turmoil at the break died and oiled away into the slack. Deep in the knowledge of those waters she held on steering now to the south west against the current, then turning the boat at last she made due west. The wind had freshened and backed to the east of north as if to help them, yet it was half flood before the piers of the break shewed clear before them, the water pouring in and lashing the coral, leaping on the outer beach and filling the air with its fume and song; great fish went with them, albacores leaping like whirled swords, bream, gar fish, all in the grip of the mighty river of the flood.

And now the blue and blazing lagoon where the fleets of the world might have harboured, flung out its mighty arms, the roar and thunder and spray of the breakers saluted them, and then, under a storm of gulls, the spray and thunder and torrent of the sea passed like a dream and before them across the untroubled waters lay the white beach where Uta Matu had watched the dawn and the return of the fleet that never more could return.

THE beach was crowded. It was half flood and the sharks had snatched away the last of the ■ last offering ever to be made to the great god Nanawa. Steering for the beach, Katafa ! saw nothing but the crowd, women, children, boys all lined by the water’s edge, dumb with scarcely a movement, watching the approaching boat that had appeared as if in answer to the sacrifice of Ooma.

Amongst them stood Le Juan and as she watched, wondering like the others I and as dumb, the rapidly approaching I boat called up in her mind a vision from I far away—the boat of the Spanish ship ! of years ago, the ship that had brought 1 Katafa and whose timbers lay sunk ten fathoms deep, crusted by the everbuilding coral.

She saw in the boat the answer of Nanawa, the evil god who was to play her one last trick, for, as the prow dashed on the sand and as though the god had suddenly stripped a curtain aside, she saw Katafa.

Ah, the spirit of prophecy had not been denied to her those long years ago when urging Uta Natu to destroy the child, she saw in her the agent of revenge for the murdered papalagi. Katafa who had brought Taiofa to his death and Sru, Laminai, and all the men of Karolin; j Katafa who had destroyed half a nation ! to recreate it; Katafa who had vanished i to return, a woman beautiful like a star risen from the sea.

She saw nothing else, neither Taori who

stood on the sands beside the girl nor the the people had surged back as the cry rang along the beach: “Katafa, from

the dead she has returned, Katafa!’’

She saw neither the boat nor the lagoon, nor the sky beyond; like a beast the spirit that had dwelt with her always, swelled and seized her and shook her and spoke, spoke in words that were strange and unknown as though it had flung human speech aside for the language of the devils.

Then, as though the great hand that had used her was crushing her and dropping her, she fell, and with her the power of Nanawa for ever.

THE sun was near his setting, and in the evening light Nan stood on his post erected by the house of Uta, once king of Karolin, and in the house dimly to be seen were the little ships of Taori, toys of the long ago, symbols now of the sea power that he dreamed of vaguely as he stood in the sunset on the reef with Katafa, and facing the line of the empty canoe houses.

Only yesterday he had stood, armed with the pasht, by the dead body of Le Juan, whilst the people, listening to the words of Katafa, proclaimed him their chief, yet by this evening he had visited the canoe houses and had sent fisher boys to the southern beach to fetch Aioma, Palia and Tafuta, the three old men. too old for war, but canoe builders all of them, and holding between them the secret of the construction of the great war canoes.

For to Dick, standing with uptilted chin before the women and the children and the boys who with the sure instmct of children and women and boys had seen in him their ruler, a vision had come, God sent, of the world that lay beyond the world he knew. He had seen again Ma in the moonlight and the spear of Laminai, the red-bearded man he had put to death, and the black-bearded man chased through the woods, the burning schooner and the ape men who still held the beach of Palm Tree, and as he looked on Katafa, on the women and helpless children, on the boys growing towards war age but still unripe, the great knowledge came to him, as it came to the. earliest men who fronted the wolf, that strength is possession and that without possession love is a mockery. That dreams based on unreality are dreams.

And as he gazed on these helpless ones and beyond them, his face, altering, took again that far-sighted look which to Lestrange had recalled Emmeline across the years—as though had returned to him the genius of the mother, which is the spirit of all things noble and great in

DICK and Katafa turned from the canoe houses and came along the reef. Here on the outer beach, the village far behind them, they sat down to rest.

It was the first time they had found themselves alone since leaving Palm Tree. All last night the village had hummed around them, bonfires burning all along the coral and bonfires answering from the southern beach, conch answering conch, whilst the great stars watched and the breakers thundered as they had thundered at the coming of Uta Matu to power, of Uta Maru his father, and all the line of the kings of Karolin stretching to the remote.past, but never beyond the voice of the sea.

Here they were at last alone, all trouble done with for the moment, the past like a tempestuous sea, the future veiled and vague but great and full of the splendors of promise.

For a moment neither of them spoke, their eyes following the spray clouds of the breakers and the flighting gulls wheeling above the flooding sea. Then as they turned one to the other and as he seized her by the shoulders, to Katafa, for the first time, fully came the knowledge of the splendour of man crowned with power. Man triumphant, mighty, kingly and dominant. For in the past few hours. Taori had changed from the passionate boy to a man fit to be the ruler of men.

Holding her from him for a moment, his head drawn back like the head of a cobra, he consumed her with his eyes.

Then he struck, crushing her with his arms, his lips to her lips, her throat, her breast, whilst the full flooding sea shook the coral with its thunder and the gulls in great circles swung chanting above the haze of the spray.

AS THE sea touched the horizon, AY pouring its gold across the outgoing tide, Katafa, turning from her lover and sweeping the sea with her eyes, saw floating far above the northern skyline, something that was not cloud, that was not land, that was not sea. The ghost of an island, lonely and illusive as the land where in his dream Lestrange had met his vanished children.

Palm Tree, far lifted above all things earthly—by mirage.

The End