The Trouble With Jinaban by Louis Becke

Palmer, one of Tom de Wolf's traders on the Matelotas

Lagoon in the Western Carolines, was standing at his door, smoking his pipe and wondering what was best to be done. Behind him, in the big sitting-room, were his wife and some other native women, conversing in low tones and looking shudderingly at a basket made of green coconut leaves which stood in the centre of the matted floor.

Presently the trader turned and motioned one of the women to come to him.

"Take it away and bury it," he said, "'tis an ill thing for my wife to see."

The woman, whose eyes were red with weeping, stooped and lifted the basket; and then a young native lad, nude to the waist, stepped quickly over to the place where it had lain and sprinkled a handful of white sand over a broad patch of red which stained the mat.

Palmer, still smoking thoughtfully, watched the rest of the women follow her who carried the basket away into the grove of breadfruit-trees, and then sat down upon a bench outside his door.

The sun was blazing hot, and on the broad, glassy expanse of the slumbering atoll a dim, misty haze, like the last vanishing vapours of a sea fog in some cold northern clime, hovered low down upon the water; for early in the day the trade wind had died away in faint, warm gusts, and left the island and the still lagoon to swelter under the fierce rays of an all but equatorial sun. Five miles away, on the western side of the reef-encircled lagoon, a long, low and densely-wooded islet stood out, its white, dazzling line of beach and verdant palms seeming to quiver and sway to and fro in the blinding glare of the bright sunlight. Beyond lay the wide sweep of the blue Pacific, whose gentle undulations scarce seemed to have strength enough to rise and lave the weed-clad face of the barrier reef which, for thirty miles, stretched east and west in an unbroken, sweeping curve.

In Ailap village, where the trader lived, a strange unusual silence brooded over all; and though under the cool shades of the groves of breadfruit and orange-trees groups of brown-skinned people were sitting together, they only spoke in whispered tones, and looked every now and again at the figure of the white man standing at his door.

And as the people sat together in silence, Palmer, with his bearded chin resting on the palm of one hand, gazed steadily before him, seeming oblivious of their presence, for he was thinking deeply, and wondering what had best be done to rid the island of Jinaban.

Presently a young man, dressed like a seaman and wearing a wide-rimmed hat of pandanus leaf, came along the path that led from the village to the trader's house. He stopped for a moment at the gate as if in doubt whether to open it or not; and then catching sight of Palmer's figure he pushed it open quickly and walked towards him, and the trader, roused by the sound of approaching footsteps, raised his head and looked in some surprise at the new-comer, who was an utter stranger to him.

"Good morning," said the man to Palmer, and the moment he had spoken and lifted his hat, the trader saw that he was not a white man, for his dark complexion, wavy black hair and deep-set eyes proclaimed him to be of mixed blood. Nearly six feet in height, he yet walked and moved with that particularly easy and graceful manner so noticeable among the native races of Polynesia, and Palmer was quick to see from his stature and appearance generally that he was not a Caroline Island half-caste. And he noticed as well that the stranger had a firm, square-set jaw and a fearful raw-looking slash across his face that extended from ear to chin.

"Good morning," he answered. "Do you want to see me?"

"Yes," answered the man, in a slow, hesitating sort of manner. "I was the second mate of that schooner "—and he waved his hand with a backward sweep toward the lagoon, where a large white-painted vessel was being towed down to the passage by her boats, to anchor and wait for the land-breeze at night—"but last night I had a row with the skipper. He called me a half-bred Maori nigger, an' so——"

"And so you had a fight?"

"Yes, sir, we had a fight. But he couldn't stand up to me for more than a couple of rounds; an' sang out for the mate an' carpenter to come and help him, an' the three of 'em went for me: They got me down at last, and then the mate gave me a slash across the face with his knife. So, as I didn't want to get killed, I jumped overboard and swam ashore. I've been hiding in the village since."

Palmer looked steadily into the man's immovable face, and then said—

"You want a stitch or two put in that cut. Come inside and I'll do it for you. Your skipper was here at daylight this morning looking for you. He told me quite a different story; said that you gave him 'lip' and then struck him."

The half-caste laughed quietly. "He lied, sir. He's a regular bully, and he and the mate knock the men about something terrible. But he made a mistake when he started on me and called me a nigger. And if he tries to bring me aboard of that floating hell again I'll kill him, as sure as my name is Frank Porter."

The trader's face lightened up. "Are you Frank Porter, the man who saved the Marion Renny from being cut-off in the Solomon Islands?"

"Yes," answered the half-caste, "I am the man."

Palmer extended his hand. "You're welcome to my house, Frank Porter. And there's no fear of the captain coming ashore again to look for you. Now come inside, and let me dress that ugly slash for you."

"Thank you, Mr. Palmer. But I did not come to you for that. I came to see if you can give me a berth of some sort on your station. I'm a pretty handy man at almost anything."

The trader thought a moment; then he looked up quickly. "I cannot give you anything to do on the station—there is nothing to do. But I will give you five hundred dollars and a home in my house if you will help me to do one thing."

"What is that?"

"Put a bullet into a man here who has murdered thirty people within ten years. I cannot do it alone, I have tried and failed, and these people cannot help me. Come inside, and I'll tell you all about it."

The half-caste followed Palmer into his sitting-room, and the trader, getting needles and silk thread from his wife, stitched up the wound in the man's face. Then he gave him a glass of whiskey, and as they smoked their pipes, told him the story of Jinaban, the Outlaw.

Two years before, when Palmer first landed on the white beach of Matelotas Lagoon to settle down as a trader for turtle-shell, Jinaban was one of the three chiefs who ruled over the cluster of palm-clad islets—the two others were his half-brothers, Jelik and Rao. All three had met the white man as soon as he landed, and he and they had exchanged gifts and vows of friendship after the manner of the people of Las Matelotas.

But Jinaban, who was a man of violent temper, was bitterly aggrieved when Palmer decided to build his house and trading station in the village ruled over by his half-brother Jelik. He had long been anxious to secure a white trader for his own village, and bitter words passed between Jelik and Raô and himself. Palmer stood by and said nothing. He had taken an instinctive dislike to Jinaban, whose reputation as a man of a cruel and sanguinary nature had been known to him long before he had come to settle in the Carolines. But Palmer was not a man to be daunted by Jinaban's fierce looks and the bitter epithets he applied to his half-brothers, whom he accused of "stealing" the white man from him. He quietly announced his intention of standing to the agreement he had made with Jelik; and the next day that chief's people set about building a house for the trader. In a month the house was finished, and Palmer, who meant to try the lagoon for pearl shell, and thought that his stay on the island would be a long one, announced his intention of taking a wife, and asked Jelik for a young girl named Letanë. She was about seventeen, and her gentle, amiable disposition had attracted him from the first day he landed on the island. Calling the girl to him, Jelik questioned her as to her inclinations, and she at once, in the most innocent and charming manner, expressed her liking for the white man, but said that her uncle Jinaban, who had gained some idea of her feelings towards Palmer, had threatened to kill her if she dared to marry him; for he (Jinaban) had determined that the people of Ailap—Jelik's village—should not monopolise him altogether, and that a wife should be chosen from his (Jinaban's) village.

Jelik's face instantly become grave. He knew the rancour of Jinaban's feelings towards him, and dreaded to incur his further hatred, and soon acquainted Palmer with his fears. The trader laughed at them, and said that he would be dictated to by no man as regarded his choice of a wife, and, drawing the smiling Letanë to him, told the chief to make all haste with the wedding feast. The news of this soon reached Jinaban, who soon after made his appearance at Palmer's house accompanied by many old men of his clan and a young and beautiful girl named Sépé. Trembling with suppressed rage and excitement, he addressed the trader with all the eloquence he could command. He was, he said (and with truth), the greatest of the three brothers in rank and influence, but had yielded to the white man's desire to live in Ailap under the protection of his brother Jelik; but neither he (Jinaban) nor his people would put up with the additional insult of the trader espousing an Ailap girl. And then, pointing to the girl who accompanied him—a handsome creature about eighteen or twenty years of age—he earnestly besought Palmer to make her his wife. Before the trader could frame a reply Letanë, accompanied by a number of her young girl friends, walked into the room, and, sitting down beside him, put her hand on his shoulder, and, though her slender form trembled, gave her uncle and the girl Sépé a look of bold defiance.

Palmer rose to his feet, and placed his hand on the head of the girl, who rose with him. "It cannot be, Jinaban. This girl Letanë, who is of thine own kin, shall be my wife. But let not ill-blood come of it between thee and me or between thee and her; for I desire to live in friendship with thee."

Without a word Jinaban sprang to his feet, and, with a glance of bitter hatred at the trader and the girl who stood beside him, he walked out of the house, accompanied by his old men and the rejected Sépé, who, as she turned away, looked scornfully at her rival and spat on the ground.

In a few weeks the marriage took place, and Palmer made the customary presents to his wife's relatives. To Jinaban—who refused to attend the feasting and dancing that accompanied the ceremony—he sent a new fishing-net one hundred fathoms in length, a very valuable and much-esteemed gift, for the cost of such an article was considerable. To Jelik, his wife's guardian, he gave a magazine rifle and five hundred cartridges, and to Raô, the other brother, presents of cloth, tobacco, and hatchets.

That night, whilst Palmer slept with his bride, Jinaban came to the house of his brother Jelik. His black eyes gleamed red with anger.

"What right hast thou, my younger brother, to take from the white man that which I coveted most? Am not I the greater chief, and thy master? Give me that gun."

Jelik sprang to his feet. "Nay, why shouldst thou covet my one gift from the white man? Is not the net he gave thee worth twenty such guns as the one he hath given me?"

Jinaban leapt at his brother's throat, and for a minute or two they struggled fiercely; then Jelik fell with a groan, for Jinaban stabbed him in the throat twice. Then seizing the rifle and two bags of cartridges he sallied out into the village. Behind him, panting with rage, ran his murdered brother's wife, a young woman of twenty years of age. She carried an infant in her arms, and was running swiftly, clutching in her right hand a short dagger.

"Stand, thou coward, Jinaban!" she called, setting the child down in the path—"stand, thou coward, for though thou hast slain my husband thou shalt not rob me of that which was his—give me back the gun."

Jinaban laughed fiercely, and his white teeth flashed from his black-bearded lips; he slipped some cartridges into the rifle. He waited till the woman was within ten yards of him, then raised the weapon and shot her dead. And now, his tiger nature aroused to the full, he sprang into the middle of the village square of Ailap, and began firing at every person he saw, sparing neither age nor sex. His second brother, Raô, a courageous young man, seizing the only weapon available—a seaman's cutlass—rushed forth from his house and, calling upon Jinaban to lay down his weapon, advanced towards him. Pretending to consent—for a cartridge had jammed and the rifle would not work—Jinaban held out the butt to Raô in token of surrender; then the moment Raô grasped it, he sprang at his throat and bore him to the ground, and, tearing the cutlass from his hand, he plunged it through and through the prostrate man's body. Then, with a savage threat against the whole of the murdered men's families, he turned and fled towards the beach. Dragging a light canoe down into the water, he sprang into it, and pushed off just as Palmer appeared on the scene, and, raising his revolver, fired six shots at the escaping murderer. None of the shots, however, took effect, and Jinaban, with an oath of vengeance against the white man, paddled swiftly away and reached the low, densely wooded and uninhabited island on the western side of the lagoon.

This for two years had now been his lair. Paddling over at dead of night from time to time, he would stalk, rifle in hand, through the village, and, entering any house he pleased, demand food and tobacco. And such was the terror of his name and his chiefly prestige that no one dared refuse. Sometimes, moved by the lust for slaughter, he would command that the food he demanded should be carried before him and placed in his canoe. Then he would shoot the unfortunate bearer dead on the beach. Against his half-brother's families he manifested the most deadly hatred; and on one occasion, meeting a girl, a slave of Rao's widow, on a little islet some miles away from Ailap, he shot the poor child through her legs, breaking them both, and left her to perish of starvation. Palmer well knew that he was willingly supplied with food by the people of his own village, although they asserted their innocence of aiding him in any way, and expressed the utmost fear and horror of the outlaw. That his death would be a relief to them as well as to the people of Ailap was certainly true, but Palmer and his wife Letanë were well aware that none of Jinaban's own people would ever raise hand against him; and, indeed, the Ailap people, though they now had the strongest feelings of friendship for the white man, were so smitten with terror at the constantly recurring bloody deeds perpetrated by Jinaban, that they were too terrified to accompany the trader over to the outlaw's island and track him to his lair. Twice had Palmer crossed over in the darkness of night, and, Winchester in hand, carefully sought for traces of Jinaban's hiding-place, but without success. The interior of the island was a dense thicket of scrub which seemed to defy penetration. On the last occasion Palmer had hidden among a mass of broken and vine-covered coral boulders which covered the eastern shore. Here for a whole night and the following day he remained, keeping a keen watch upon the line of beach in the hope that he would see Jinaban carrying his canoe down to the water to make one of his murderous descents upon the Ailap village. His own canoe he had carefully concealed among the scrub, and as he had landed on a very dark night upon a ledge of rocks that stretched from the water's edge to the thicket, and carried the canoe up, he was sure that no trace of his landing would be visible to Jinaban. At dark on the following evening he gave up his quest and paddled slowly over to the village, sick at heart with fear for his wife Letanë, for the outlaw had made a threat that she should soon fall a victim to his implacable hatred.

Halfway across the lagoon he heard the sound of two shots, and by its sharp crack knew that one came from Jinaban's rifle—the rifle he had given to the slaughtered Jelik. Urging his canoe along the surface of the quiet water, Palmer soon reached the beach of Ailap village, and was horrified to learn that the man he had sought had just left after shooting a lad of fifteen—a cousin of Letanë—whom he had surprised while fishing in the lagoon. Cutting off the boy's head, Jinaban had boldly stalked through the village till he reached Palmer's house, through the open window of which he had thrown his gory trophy, and then made his escape.

The trader's wife, who at the time was sleeping in the big room of the house, surrounded by half a dozen natives armed with muskets, at once sprang up, and, seizing a rifle, started in pursuit, for she feared that Jinaban had learnt of Palmer's absence, and would wait for and shoot him as he crossed the lagoon. She managed to reach the beach in time to see the escaping murderer paddling along in his canoe close in shore. Kneeling down, she took careful aim and fired. A mocking laugh answered the shot.

That was the story that Palmer told the half-caste Maori, who listened to him attentively throughout.

For some minutes, however, after the trader had finished, he did not speak, and then at last said in his slow, methodical way—

"I will promise you that I'll get you Jinaban, dead or alive, before a week is out. And I don't want money. But I want you, please, to get some one of your natives here to come and tell me all they can about Jinaban's friends in the other village."

Palmer called to his wife. She came in, heavy-eyed and pale-faced, for the youth whose head she and her women had just buried was much attached to her, and her husband as well. At that moment the lad's relatives were searching the lagoon in the hope of finding the body, into which it had doubtless been thrown by the ruthless hand of Jinaban; and Letanë had just returned alone to the house.

In a very short time the half-caste learnt from Letanë that Sépé, who lived in Jinaban's village, was strongly suspected of receiving visits from the outlaw, and even of visiting the man himself; for on several occasions she had been absent from her mother's house for two or three days at a time. And as most of Jinaban's people were in secret sympathy with their outlawed chief, the girl's movements were never commented on by the inhabitants of her own village, for fear that the relatives of the murdered chiefs, Raô and Jelik, and other people of Ailap, would kill her. But in some way Sépé had betrayed herself, and Letanë was now having a strict watch kept upon the girl by two or three of her women attendants whom she had sent to reside in Ijeet, as Jinaban's village was called. Ostensibly they had gone to visit some relatives there. Sépé, however, was always on her guard, and so far the spies had learnt nothing fresh.

At Porter's request the trader's wife gave him a description of Sépé's appearance, and also described the exact position of the house in which she lived with her mother. Then the half-caste unfolded his plan to Palmer and his wife.

"And now," he said, "I must go. If I stay longer it may spoil our plans by making Jinaban's friend suspicious. Give me the bottle of gin, and I'll carry it so that every one can see it as I walk through the village. And you must get all your men out of the way by the time I come back. They might shoot me, but the women will be too frightened."

Palmer went to his trade room and returned with a large bottle of Hollands, which he gave to Porter, together with a box of revolver cartridges; these the half-caste carefully concealed in the bosom of his singlet. Then, shaking hands with the trader and his wife, he walked out of the house, down the steps, and along the path to the village.

"Parma," said Letanë to her husband, as they watched the seaman disappear among the coco-palms, "dost think this man will be true to us in this thing?"

"Aye," replied the trader, "sure am I of his good faith; for he it was who four years ago, single-handed, fought two hundred of the wild man-eaters of the Solomon Islands, when they captured the ship in which he sailed, and slew every man on board but himself. Twenty-and-three of those devils of kai tagata (cannibals) did he kill with his Winchester rifle from the fore-top of the ship, although he was slashed in the thigh with a deep knife wound, and was faint from loss of blood. And then when the rest had fled in their canoes he came down and steered the ship away from the land and sailed her in safety to a place called Rubiana where white men dwell."

"Ah-h-h!" and Letanë's dark eyes opened wide in admiration.

An hour later Frank Porter, with an half-emptied bottle of liquor placed before him on the matted floor, was sitting in a house in Jinaban's village, surrounded by a number of young men and women.

"Come," he said, with drunken hilarity, and speaking in the Ponapé dialect, which is understood by the people of Las Matelotas, "come, drink with me;" and pouring out some of the liquor he offered it with swaying hand to the man nearest him; "drink, I tell thee, for when this bottle is empty then shall I make the white man give me more."

"Bah!" said a tall, dark-skinned girl, whose head was encircled with a wreath of red and yellow flowers, and who stood with her rounded arms folded across her bare bosom, "thou dost but boast. How canst thou make Parma give thee liquor, if, as thou sayest, thou hast no money? Is he a child to be frightened by loud words—which are but born in the belly of that" and she laughed and pointed contemptuously at the bottle beside him.

The half-caste looked at her with drunken gravity.

"Who art thou, saucy fool?" he asked, "to so talk to me? Think ye that I fear any white man? See!" and staggering to his feet he came over to where she stood, "seest thou this bloodied cut across my face, which was given me by a white man, when I fought with, three but last night?"

The girl laughed mockingly. "How know I but that last night thou wert as drunk as thou art now, and fell on the ship's deck and so cut thy face, and now would make us think that——"

"Nay, Sépé," broke in a lad who sat near, "'tis true, for I was on the ship and saw this man fight with three others. He does not lie."

"Lie!" and the half-caste, drawing his knife from its sheath, flashed it before the assembled natives; "nay, no liar am I, neither a boaster; and by the gods of my mother's land I shall make this Parma give me more grog to drink before the night comes, else shall this knife eat into his heart. Come ye all, and see."

And in another minute, followed by the girl Sépe and a dozen or more men and women, he sallied out into the road, knife in hand, lurching up against a palm-tree every now and then, and steadying himself with a drunken oath.

Sitting or standing about Palmer's house were some scores of native women, who waited for him to awaken from his afternoon's sleep and open his store so that they might sell him the pearl-shell that the menfolk had that day taken from the lagoon. But the white man seemed to sleep long to-day, and when the people saw Letanë, his wife, coming from her evening bathe, they were glad, for they knew she would open her husband's store and buy from them whatever they had to sell. But suddenly, as she walked slowly along the shaded path, a man sprang out upon her and seized her by the wrist. It was the half-caste sailor.

"Back!" he shouted warningly to the women, as they rushed towards him, "back, I say, else do I plunge my knife into this woman's heart." And then, releasing his hold of Letanë's wrist, he swiftly clasped her round the waist, and swung her over his shoulder with an exulting laugh. "Tell ye the white man that his wife shall now be mine, for her beauty hath eaten away my heart," and he ran swiftly away with his struggling burden, who seemed too terrified even to call for assistance.

And then as the loud cries of alarm of the women sounded through the village, Palmer sprang out from his house, pistol in hand, and darted in pursuit. The half-caste, with a backward glance over his shoulder, saw him coming.

Dropping the woman, who seemed to have swooned, for she lay motionless upon the path, Porter awaited the white man, knife in hand, and laughed fiercely as Palmer, raising his pistol, fired at him thrice. In another instant they were struggling fiercely together, and a cry of terror broke from the watching women when they saw the trader fall as if stabbed or stunned, and the half-caste, leaping upon him, tear the pistol from his hand, and, with an exultant cry, wave it triumphantly in the air. Then he fled swiftly through the palm grove towards Ijeet.

When Palmer opened his eyes, Letanë and a number of terrified women were bending over him, all but Letanë herself imagining he had been stabbed.

"Nay," he said, putting his hand to his head, "I was but stunned. Help me into my house."

That night the whole population of Ailap came to his house and urged him to lead them to Ijeet and slay the coward sailor who had sought to take his life and steal from him his wife.

"Wait," he answered grimly, "wait, I pray thee, O my friends, and then shalt thou see that which shall gladden thy hearts and mine. And let none of ye raise his hand against the half-caste till I so bid him."

They wondered at this; but went away contented. Parma was a wise man, they thought, and knew what was best.

When the house was in darkness, and the trader and his wife lay on their couch of mats with their sleeping child between them, Palmer laughed to himself.

"Why dost thou laugh, Parma?" And Letanë turned her big eyes upon his face.

"Because this man Porter is both wise and brave; and in two days or less we shall sleep in peace, for Jinaban shall be dead."

Back from the clustering houses of Ijeet village the man who was "wise and brave" was sitting upon the bole of a fallen coco-palm with his arms clasped round the waist of the star-eyed Sépé, who listened to him half in fear, half in admiration.

"Nay," she said presently, in answer to something he had said, "no love have I for Jinaban; 'tis hate alone that hath led me to aid him, for he hath sworn to me that I shall yet see Letanë lie dead before me. And for that do I steal forth at night and take him food."

"Dost thou then love Parma?"

"As much as thou lovest his wife," the girl answered quickly, striking him petulantly on his knee.

The half-caste laughed. "Those were but the words of a man drunken with liquor. What care I for her? Thee alone do I love, for thy eyes have eaten up my heart. And see, when thou hast taken me to Jinaban, and he and I have killed this Parma, thou shalt run this knife of mine into the throat of Letanë. And our wedding feast shall wipe out the shame which she hath put upon thee."

The girl's eyes gleamed. "Are these true words or lies?"

"By my mother's bones, they be true words. Did not I flee to thy house and bring thee this pistol I wrenched from Parma's hand to show thee I am no boaster. And as for these three women of Ailap who spy upon thee—show me where they sleep and I will beat them with a heavy stick and drive them back to their mistress."

Sépé leant her head upon his shoulder and pressed his hand. "Nay, let them be; for now do I know thou lovest me. And to-night, when my mother sleeps, shall we take a canoe and go to Jinaban."

At dawn next morning Palmer was aroused from his sleep by a loud knocking at the door, and the clamour of many voices.

"Awake, awake, Parma!" cried a man's voice; "awake, for the big sailor man who tried to kill thee yesterday is crossing the lagoon, and is paddling swiftly towards thy house. Quick, quick and shoot him ere he can land."

In an instant the trader and every one of his household sprang from their couches, the door was thrown open, and Palmer, looking across the lagoon, which was shining bright in the rays of the rising sun, saw about a quarter of a mile away, a canoe, which was being urged swiftly along by Frank Porter and a woman. She was heading directly for his house, and already Palmer's bodyguard were handling their muskets, and waiting for him to tell them to fire.

Taking his glass from its rack over the door he levelled it at the approaching canoe, and looked steadily for less than half a minute, and then he gave an exulting cry.

"Oh, my friends, this is a lucky day! Lay aside thy guns, and harm not the sailor; for in that canoe is Jinaban, bound hand and foot. And the fight that ye saw yesterday between this half-caste and me was but a cunning plan between us to get Jinaban into our hands; and no harm did he intend to my wife, for she too knew of our plan."

A murmur of joyful astonishment burst from the assembled natives, and in another moment they were running after Palmer down to the beach.

The instant the canoe touched the sand, Porter called out in English—

"Collar the girl, Mr. Palmer, and don't let her get near your wife. She means mischief."

Before she could rise from her seat on the low thwart, Sépé was seized by two of Palmer's people. Her dark, handsome face was distorted by passion, but she was too exhausted to speak, and suffered herself to be led away quietly. And then Jinaban, who lay stretched out on the outrigger platform of the canoe, with his hands and feet lashed to a stout pole of green wood, was lifted off.

A few hurried words passed between Palmer and the half-caste, and then the former directed his men to carry the prisoner up to the house. This was at once done, amidst the wildest excitement and clamour. The lashings that bound him to the pole were loosened a little by Palmer's directions, and then four men with loaded rifles were placed over him. Then, calling a native to him, Palmer told him to take a conch-shell, go from village to village, and summon all the people to the white man's house quickly.

"Tell them to come and see Jinaban die," he said sternly.

As soon as the prisoner had been disposed of for the time being, Palmer and Porter went into the dining-room, where Letanë had prepared a hurried breakfast for the half-caste.

"Where is Sépé?" he asked, as he sat down.

"Locked up in there," said Palmer, pointing to one of the store-rooms.

"Poor devil! Don't be too rough on her. I had to lay a stick across her back pretty often before she would help me to carry Jinaban down to the canoe. And I had to threaten to shoot her coming across the lagoon. She wouldn't paddle at first, and I think wanted to capsize the canoe and escape, until she looked round and saw my pistol pointed at her. Then she gave in. I wasn't goin' to let Mr. Jinaban drown after all my trouble. But"—his mouth was stuffed with cold meat and yam as he spoke—"I'm sorry I had to beat her. An' she's got the idea that your missus will kill her when I tell you all about her."

Washing down his breakfast with a copious drink of coffee, Porter lit his pipe, and then, in as few words as possible, told his story. And as he told it a loud, booming sound rang through the morning air, and the hurrying tramp of naked feet and excited voices of the gathering people every moment increased, and "Jinaban!" "Jinaban!" was called from house to house.

"As soon as the girl an' me got to the island," he said, "she told me to wait in the canoe. 'All right,' I said, and thinking it would be a good thing to do, I told her to take the revolver and box of cartridges with her, just to show them to Jinaban in proof of the story of the fight I had with you; I thought that if she told him I was armed he might smell a rat and shoot me from the scrub. An' I quite made up my mind to collar him alive if I could. The night was very dark, but the girl knew her way about pretty well, an', leaving me in the canoe, she ran along the beach and entered the puka scrub. About an hour went by, an' I was beginning to feel anxious, when she came back. 'Come on,' she said, 'Jinaban will talk with you.' I got out of the canoe and walked with her along the beach till we came to what looked like a tunnel in the thick undergrowth. 'Let me go first,' she said, stooping down, and telling me to hold on to her grass girdle, she led the way till we came out into an open spot, and there was Jinaban's house, and Jinaban sitting inside it, before a fire of coconut shells, handling your revolver and looking very pleased. He shook hands with me and, I could see at once, believed everything that Sépé had told him. Then we had a long talk and arranged matters nicely. I was to stay with him until the first dark, rainy night. Then we were to come over and hide ourselves in your boat-shed to wait until you opened your door the first thing in the morning. We were both to fire together, and bring you down easy. Then Sépé was to settle her account with your wife while Jinaban rallied the Ijeet people, in case the Ailap natives wanted to fight. After that he and I were to divide all the plunder in the house and station between us, take two of your whaleboats, and with some of his people make for some other island in the Carolines as quick as possible. And Sépé was to be Mrs. Frank Porter.

"Then, before he knew what was the matter with him, I hit him under the ear, and laid him out stiff; and after choking the girl a bit to keep her quiet, I tied him up safely."

Palmer set his teeth, but said nothing. Then the half-caste, having finished his pipe, rose.

"What are we going to do with him—hang him, or what?" he inquired, coolly.

"Stand him out there on the beach and let one of the Ailap people shoot him."

Jinaban was led forth from Palmer's house into the village square, and bound with his back to a coconut palm. On three sides of him were assembled nearly every man, woman, and child on Las Matelotas Lagoon. Not a sign of fear was visible in his dark, bearded face; only a look of implacable hatred settled upon it when Palmer, followed by the half-caste seaman and a servant boy, walked slowly down his verandah steps and stood in full view of the assemblage. He was unarmed, but the boy carried his rifle.

Raising his hand to command silence, the murmuring buzz of voices was instantly hushed, and the trader spoke. There, said he, was the cruel murderer who had so ruthlessly slain more than a score of men, women, and children—many of whom were of his own blood. Jinaban must die, and they must kill him. He himself, although he had good cause to slay him, would not. Let one of those whose kith and kin had been slain by this cruel man now take a just vengeance.

A young man stepped out from among the crowd, and Palmer, taking the rifle from the boy who held it, placed it in his hand. He was the brother of the girl whom Jinaban had shot through the legs and left to die of starvation and thirst.

Slowly the young native raised the rifle to his shoulder, glanced along the barrel, then grounded it on the sand.

"I cannot do it," he said, handing the weapon back. Jinaban heard and laughed.

"Just what I thought would happen," muttered Palmer to Porter. "We must hurry things along, even if we have to do it ourselves," and then, raising his voice, he called out—

"Ten silver dollars to the man who will shoot Jinaban."

No one moved, and a low murmur passed from lip to lip among the crowded natives. A minute passed.

"Oh, cowards!" said Palmer scornfully. "Twenty dollars!"

"Double it," said the half-caste in a low voice; "and be quick. I can see some of Jinaban's people looking ugly."

"Forty dollars, then, and ten tins of biscuit to him who will kill this dog. See, he mocks at us all."

A short, square-built man—a connection by marriage of the murderer's brother, Rao—sprang into the open, snatched the rifle from Palmer's hand, and levelled it at Jinaban. But as his eye met those of the dreaded outlaw his hand shook. He lowered the weapon, and turned to the white man.

"Parma," he said, giving back the rifle to Porter, "I cannot do it; for his eye hath killed my heart."

"Ha!" laughed Jinaban, and the group of Ijeet men swayed to and fro, and a savage light came into Palmer's eyes. He looked at Porter, who at that moment raised the rifle and fired, and a man who was approaching Jinaban, knife in hand, to cut his bonds, spun round and fell upon the sand with a broken back. In a moment the crowd of Ijeet men drew off.

"Back, back," cried the half-caste, fiercely, springing towards them and menacing them with the butt of his empty rifle, and then hurling it from him he leaped back and picked up something that stood leaning up against the wall of Palmer's boat-shed. It was a carpenter's broad-axe—a fearful looking weapon, with a stout handle and a blade fourteen inches across.

"Look," he cried. "This man must die. And all the men of Ailap are cowards, else would this murderer and devil now be dead, and his blood running out upon the sand. But, as for me who fear him not—see!"

He took two steps forward to Jinaban and swung the axe. It clove through the murderer's shaggy head and sank deep down into his chest.

Two days later Sépé, who had made her peace with Palmer's wife, met the sailor as he was walking down to the beach to bathe.

"Wilt thou keep thy promise and marry me?" she asked.

"No," answered the half-caste, pushing her aside roughly; "marriage with thee or any other woman is not to my mind. But go to the white man and he will give thee the forty dollars and ten tins of biscuit instead. Something thou dost deserve, but it shall not be me."