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Kidnapping in the Pacific; Or, The Adventures of Boas Ringdon

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Kidnapping in the Pacific, by WHG Kingston.


  ________________________________________________________________________KIDNAPPING IN THE PACIFIC, BY WHG KINGSTON.


  "You want a yarn. You shall have one," said a young friend of mine, amidshipman, who had just returned from a four years' cruise in thePacific. "I am not a good hand at describing what I have seen, but Ican narrate better the adventures of others which they have told me:--"

  We had visited a good many islands in the Pacific, engaged in settlingthe disputes of the natives or trying to settle them, punishing evildoers, supporting the consuls and missionaries, surveying occasionallyhitherto unknown harbours, and endeavouring to make the British flagrespected among the dark-skinned inhabitants of those regions.

  I with another midshipman and a boat's crew had landed on a beautifulisland of the Western Pacific to bring off a cargo of cocoa-nuts andbreadfruit with which the natives had promised to supply us. Two of ourmen had straggled off against orders into the interior. While waitingfor them we saw the signal made for our return. Unwilling to leave thembehind, we ourselves unwisely started off to look for them. The nativesgave us to understand that they were a little way ahead, so we pushed onhoping to come up with them and bring them with us.

  A considerable time longer than we expected was thus occupied, and whenhaving at length overtaken them we got back to the beach, we found thata strong breeze had set in, and that so heavy a surf was breaking on theshore that it would be extremely dangerous passing through it. Stillthe signal was flying and the order must be obeyed.

  We shoved off, but had not pulled many strokes before a succession oftremendous rollers came roaring in, turning the boat right over andsending her back almost stove to pieces on the beach. Had it not beenfor the natives who swam to our rescue, we should probably have lost ourlives.

  Wet through, and half-drowned, we were dragged on shore. It would havebeen madness to have again made an effort to get off. All we could do,therefore, was to haul our sorely battered boat out of the reach of thesurf and to collect the portion of our cargo washed up on the sands.

  Although it was tolerably hot we felt that we should be more comfortablethan we were if we could shift our wet clothes. The garments worn bythe natives could assist us but little, seeing that most of them woreonly somewhat narrow waist clothes. They made us understand, however,that not far off we should find the house of a white man, who wouldperhaps afford us accommodation. Why he had not yet hitherto made hisappearance we could not tell, but we determined to visit him and claimhis hospitality. Led by the natives, we proceeded some distance alongthe beach when we came in sight of a hut, larger and more substantiallybuilt than the other habitations around. Just inside a porch at theentrance of the hut, an old white man, dressed in shirt and trousers,with a broad-brimmed straw hat on his head, was seated in a roughly madeeasy-chair with his feet resting on the trellis-work before him. Alarge wooden pipe was in his mouth, from which he was smoking lustily.He seemed scarcely to notice our approach, and when we addressed him heenquired in a gruff voice where we came from and what we wanted. Wetold him what had happened, and asked him if he could give us shelter,and lend us some garments while our clothes were drying.

  "As to that, young gentlemen, you shall have a shirt and a pair of ducktrousers apiece, and such food as there may happen to be in mystore-house," he answered, seeing by our uniforms who we were. "Yourmen shall be looked after also."

  We were soon seated round his cooking stove inside the house, rigged outin the garments he had provided while our own clothes were hung up todry. A native girl attended us, obeying with alacrity the old man'scommands. We supposed her to be his daughter, and spoke of her as such.

  "No, you are wrong in that, I have no child," he observed. "She is mywife. That," pointing to a thick stick which rested on a stool nearhim, "served as my marriage lines, it makes her as sharp and attentiveas I can wish, and keeps her in good order."

  I had suspected from the appearance of the old fellow that he was aruffian; I had now no doubt that he was a thorough one; and I felt surethat had he dared he would not have scrupled to hand us over to thenatives should they by chance demand our lives. A man-of-war in theoffing, though she might be driven away for a few days, afforded usperfect security with such a character.

  At first he was not disposed to be communicative; he kept beating aboutthe bush to ascertain apparently whether we knew anything about him, andhad come to call him to account for any misdeeds of which he might havebeen conscious. When he discovered that we were not even aware that awhite man resided on the island, he opened out more freely. I wascurious to know something about him, and, concealing the opinion I hadformed of his character, tried to induce him to talk of himself; that hewas an old sailor I could see at a glance.

  "You were long at sea, I suppose," I observed.

  "First and last pretty nigh sixty years," he answered.

  "I was a small boy when I first ran off from home, and I never lived onshore many weeks together from that time up to within a few years ago.I have served on board every sort of craft afloat, and have seen a goodmany curious sights, as you may suppose."

  I resolved not to interrupt him, unless he should get a hitch in hisyarn with which a question might help him through, so I let him run on,and, once having begun, he seemed nothing loth to allow his tongue fullplay. Probably he had not had auditors who could understand him formany a long day.

  "The first craft I shipped aboard was bound for the coast of Africa. Inthose days not a few vessels belonging to Liverpool were engaged in oneway or another in the slave trade, either in supplying the slavers withgoods, and stores, and provisions, or in actually running cargoes ofblacks, which though the most profitable was a dangerous business toengage in.

  "I understood that we were to bring back gold dust and ivory, butinstead of that we began to load with negroes, and soon had pretty nighthree hundred stowed away below hatches. We had hoisted the Spanishflag, and had a Spanish captain, and fresh papers, for it was, I fancy,a hanging matter for an Englishman to command a slaver, though a fewyears back it had been all lawful and shipshape, but things change, yousee, and what seems right one day is wrong the other. We had to keep abright look out for English cruisers, who were on the coast to put astop to the business.

  "I heard some curious yarns of the way the slaves are taken. Somepowerful tribes make it a regular business, and attack their weakerneighbours for no other purpose than to capture them, and then to sellthem to the slave dealers. They generally steal on a village at night,surround and set fire to it, and seize all the inhabitants who rush fromtheir huts to escape the flames. Parties go out to pick up otherswandering in the woods, or travelling from one place to another. Theinhabitants of the West Coast of Africa must have an uncomfortable lifeof it, I suspect. With our living cargo on board we made sail for SouthAmerica.

  "Before we were many leagues from the shore, an English man-of-war hovein sight. Should we be taken we should not only lose the vessel and ourexpected profits, but it would go hard with the English part of thecrew. All knew that, and were ready to do anything to escape. We madeall sail, but for a wonder the British man-of-war was a fast craft, andsoon began to overhaul us. Our skipper, and most of the officers andcrew, swore fearfully at the stranger, and some declared that soonerthan be taken they would blow our vessel, with all the niggers on board,as well as the Engli
sh cruiser, into the air.

  "I observed the captain and officers talking together, and there was afierce determination in their looks which showed they meant what theysaid. I had no fancy to be blown into the air, and was considering whatI could do to save myself.

  "As the cruiser drew near I saw some of our men go below, and presentlyup they came with a black fellow. They led him aft and lowered himoverboard.

  "`Don't be frightened, all you have to do is to swim to yonder ship, andshe will pick you up,' said the mate.

  "I don't fancy the negro understood him, still blacks are as fond oflife as other people, and I saw him striking out boldly for the ship.He was seen. The ship hove-to, a boat was lowered, and he was pickedup. Our people laughed at the success of the plan, for we had increasedour distance from the enemy.

  "Evening was coming on. The great thing was to keep ahead of her tilldarkness