A Story for the Young
REV. JOSEPH SPILLMANN, S. J.
Translated from the German
Mary Richards Gray
St. Louis, Mo., and Freiburg, (Baden)
Published by B. Herder,
TALES OF FOREIGN LANDS
A Series of Stories for the Young
Edited by Rev. Joseph Spillmann, S. J.
St. Louis, Mo., and Freiburg, (Baden)
Published by B. Herder,
I. Two Young Friends
II. Sad Tidings
III. Aboard the "St. George"
IV. With the Priest of the God of the Golden Fish
V. In the City
VI. The Chinese New Year
VII. The Unexpected Departure
VIII. A Very Real Danger
IX. A New Plan
X. The Hurricane
XII. At Last
ANN ELIZA SMYTHE OF CHICAGO
The translator dedicates her part of this little volume.
Two Young Friends.
At the mouth of the great river of Canton lies a maze of islands large
and small, of which the most important is Hongkong on account of its
fine harbor. More than half a century ago the English seized upon this
island and forced the Chinese to cede it to them. Then it was little
more than a barren rock with a low swampy shore on which were a few
villages inhabited by poor fisher folk. The swamps have been drained,
gardens planted, and villas built, until now the once barren heights
vie in beauty with the grass-grown slopes of the hills at the foot of
which in the shade of great trees nestle pleasant little fisher
hamlets. On the north side of the island stands the capital city,
Victoria, in which tier above tier, stair-like the rows of houses and
splendid buildings rise one above another up the side of a hill.
Beautiful quays, broad streets lined with shade trees, churches,
barracks, theaters, hospitals, hotels, and shops with great show
windows take one back in thought to the European capitals; and as the
elaborately decorated pagodas are not near to the Christian churches,
and, as there are not many more Chinese than English people in the
streets, one can almost forget that he is within the confines of China
and a tropical land.
In this great capital city nearly all the missionary societies of China
have settlements, and in each of the missionary seminaries the stranger
finds a hospitable welcome, but the one we like best of all to visit is
the beautiful College of the Holy Saviour in Mayland. It stands in the
very shadow of the cathedral, the tall spires of which, towering to the
heavens, tell us in which direction to turn our steps to find it. We
know full well that the door-keeper, the old Italian Brother with
snow-white hair and coal-black eyes, will greet us cordially, and show
us the garden and the grounds on which blonde-haired European boys play
in brotherly fashion with pig-tailed Chinese youths. When Brother
Onufrio—for this is the name of the door-keeper—is in very good humor
and has the time he tells us stories of his experiences in the College
of the Holy Saviour in which he has been in active service since its
foundation. One of these is the wonderful history of the small Irish
lad, Willy Brown, the son of a sea captain, and his friend, the Chinese
foundling, Joseph. We shall tell the tale just as Brother Onufrio
would tell it, beginning with the day in the first year of his
residence in Hongkong when the crosses were placed on the spires of the
dome of the cathedral.
* * * * * *
A few days before the Chinese New Year in 1858 the work on the
cathedral had progressed so far that the great golden crosses could be
erected. Securely fastened with strong ropes they lay at the foot of
the scaffolding ready to be drawn up into place, and standing about in
a half circle were missioners, pupils, and workmen. The Apostolic
Prefect, dressed in festal robes, and attended by the small acolytes,
Willy Brown and the Chinese Joseph, had blessed the crosses. Then at a
signal the workmen pulled the ropes and, as they rose on high, the
clear, piping voices of the boys rang out in the splendid old hymn:
The Royal banners forward go,
The Cross shines forth in mystic glow;
On which the One Who in our flesh was made
Our sentence bore, our ransom paid.
When the crosses had been put in place the Prefect made a speech,
saying among other things, "Now afar over Hongkong and its harbor where
it may be seen not only by all the people who dwell here but also by
those who come in ships from far distant ports shines the sign of Our
Lord." Of all that the head of the order of missioners said on this
occasion this impressed little Willy most, and when the celebration was
over the small acolyte went to Father Somazzo and said: "Father, the
Apostolic Prefect said that the cross on the cathedral could be seen
from all the ships that come into the harbor. From the cross can you
see all the ships?"
"Yes, certainly, Willy," he answered. "From all the ships, streets,
open squares, and hills round about from which the cross is visible,
any and all those places are visible from the dome on which the cross
"Oh, then, Father, let me climb up. It is not dangerous. The ladders
are fastened tightly to the scaffolding, and the scaffolding is so
strong that it will hold big men. Yesterday at recess Joseph almost
climbed up; he would have gone to the very top, if the Prefect had not
seen him and called him down. O Father, don't frown so at me, but let
me go. I want so much to see whether my father's ship has come. He
wrote that he would be here before the New Year, and I would know his
ship at a glance from the golden picture of holy Saint George that's on
the bow. Please, Father, please."
Father Somazzo shook his head and said: "The ship is too far away for
you to see what is painted on the bow, and besides it is too dangerous
for you to climb up there. You might get dizzy and fall, and what
would your father say if he were to come here and find you a corpse, or
with your legs and arms broken?"
"Oh, but Father, I do not get dizzy. I have often been up on the
rigging of the 'Saint George', in the crow's nest, and even on the very
highest yard. I know every bit of the rigging of the ship. O Father,
let me climb up right now."
The teacher looked at Willy earnestly and raised his finger chidingly.
"Willy," he said, "you've got that stubborn little head of yours set
again. How often have I told you that it is not becoming for you to
insist on having your own way. No, you cannot climb up to the dome
under any circumstances. I forbid it."
With that Father Somazzo left the small boy standing in the garden and
followed the other missioners into the house. Willy looked about him,
half frightened, half defiant, and giving his cap a jerk down over his
curly yellow hair muttered, as he glanced at the shining cross: "I will
climb up there, and he can punish me if he likes. Let him catch me
Willy Brown was really not a naughty boy, but he could be very willful
at times. Irish by birth and accustomed to more liberty than the
Italian teacher was wont to give his pupils in Hongkong, he did not
always submit readily to the rather strict discipline of the school,
but aside from this was an exemplary child. In order to break him of
his habit of being so stubborn his teacher often commanded or forbade
him to do things which otherwise would never have been thought of a
second time. Just now the one desire of Willy's heart was to see his
father's ship, and to him the climbing of the scaffolding seemed so
wholly without danger that he looked upon the command which he had
received as an act of tyranny, and resolved to disobey. His conscience
said to him, "It is a sin to disobey," but he heeded not the small
voice within him. Before going up he sought out his favorite
companion, a little twelve year old Chinaman. The boys were of an age
and were to receive their first communion at the same time—facts which
created a bond of sympathy between two children almost as totally
unlike as it was possible for children to be. The young Chinaman was a
foundling. His parents after the fashion of many of the Chinese had
exposed him when but a few days old, thus consigning him to death,
although their heathen religion forbids the practice, and if the
Sisters of Mercy had not found and cared for him in the orphanage he
would have perished. There the boy was baptized and brought up in the
Christian religion. And when the years passed by, as Joseph—this was
the name given him at baptism—showed decided talent, he was put in
school, and finally given over to the missioners in the college, to be
trained for the priesthood, if God called him to the work.
At the very time that Willy was seeking for Joseph, Joseph was seeking
for Willy, and, when he heard the voice of his red-cheeked companion,
his black slanting eyes danced and his yellow face flushed with
"Hello, Peppo," said Willy, addressing him by the nickname which old
Brother Onufrio had given him.
"Come with me behind the camelia-bush where Father Somazzo cannot see
"But why must he not see us? You are not going to do anything wrong,
are you?" asked the small Chinaman trembling.
"What? Anything wrong? I'll play him a trick or two—the tyrant—and
that will not be wrong, I say. Is there anything wrong about my
looking to see whether my father's boat is here? Come with me right
now." Peppo hesitated. "Come this minute or I'll drag you along by
your pig-tail the way naughty Freddy used to do before I took you in
Joseph went with his protector without more ado, but did not approve of
the plan disclosed to him behind the camelia bush.
"Don't do it, Willy. It will be disobedience, and it's against the
"The fourth commandment of God tells me to love my father, and for love
of my father I want to climb up and look for his ship. That cannot be
against the fourth commandment," said the sinful distorter.
The sophism did not enlighten small Peppo. "I believe, Willy," he
said, "that it is against the fourth commandment, because the Father
has forbidden it. He will be very sorry to have you do this, and will
give us a dreadful punishment. Only think! the day after tomorrow will
be the Chinese New Year, and then in the evening we shall be allowed to
go to the marketplace and the harbor to see all the lights,—and the
fireworks,—and the Punch and Judy show, if we are good boys. You have
never in all your life seen anything so beautiful,—green, and red, and
blue, and yellow lanterns,—and all the people,—and the
sky-rockets,—and the puppet show. Wouldn't you be sorry to have to
stay at home for punishment while all of us boys go to the show?"
Willy was almost persuaded and hesitated a moment; then he struck his
heels into the ground defiantly and said:
"Never mind, Peppo, Father Somazzo won't catch me, and, if he does, I
won't tell on you. Now you've got to help me over the wall, and I'll
climb up on the other side where he can't see me from the house. Come,
now hurry up, Peppo, if you want to be my friend."
Unwillingly the young Chinaman yielded to his comrade's command. He
felt it was wrong to lend a helping hand to one who was disobeying, but
he did not wish to lose his best friend, the one who had so often
defended him from the teasings of his companions. He slipped along
with Willy in the shadow of the bushes, then helped him climb the wall,
but even when the youthful sinner had swung himself from the wall to
the scaffolding he remonstrated, saying:
"Willy, don't do it. Come down."
"Nonsense, Peppo," he said as he began to ascend.
"Willy,——he does not hear me. I wish I had not helped him," sighed
Peppo, as he slipped away to his companions with an uneasy conscience.
A very few moments after Willy with the help of Peppo had climbed the
garden wall the bell called Brother Onufrio to the door. There stood a
stranger. He wore a cap marked with a golden anchor and inquired for
an Irish lad named Willy Brown.
"Yes, Willy is here. You are his father, are you not? For days he has
talked of nothing but your coming. He will be so pleased to see you.
Come in, Captain, I'll announce your arrival to the Father Prefect, and
With these words the Brother showed the Captain into the small
reception-room near the door, and would have left quickly had not the
stranger motioned him to wait.
"Hm,—hm,—my coming," he said, "will not give the boy so much pleasure
as you think. I am not his father but his guardian. His father died
suddenly last week at sea."
"Oh, how sad! And the poor child knows nothing of it," sighed the
Brother. "I'll first speak to the Father Prefect in private; he must
prepare him somewhat for this sad news. Wait a moment. Father Somazzo
will be here immediately."
The Captain gave the gray-haired man a sinister look as he left the
room, then muttered to himself: "Prepared! As if such a piece of news
could have much effect on a healthy child. If it would only frighten
him to death.—Well, there'd be no great damage done. Then I'd have
his inheritance—which is really not a trifling sum—instead of being
merely the administrator, and my creditors would not be driving me
almost out of my senses. If his father had only given me a lump sum of
at least ten thousand pounds, as I begged him to do before he
died!—Our ship will be confiscated in Melbourne. The 'St. George'
does not belong to me but to my nephew, my ward.—Oh, if I only knew
how to get myself out of this predicament! One fortunate thing has
happened since the death of my brother. I have managed to get all the
books and accounts out of the way, and perhaps things will go better,
if I once get the boy in my power." These were the thoughts which
occupied the mind of John Brown, as, with downcast eyes and sullen
mien, he paced up and down the reception-room.
John Brown was the younger brother of George Brown, Willy's father.
Both men had received from their parents, in Dublin, a large amount of
money, but they had not managed it equally well. George, choosing to
go to sea had invested his in a merchantman, and in a short time
through prosperous voyages to the Indian and Chinese Seas doubled his
capital. In Hongkong he married a Catholic maiden, who unfortunately
died, leaving a child, Willy, now barely eight years old. In
accordance with her last wish this child was taken to the Missionary
College of the Holy Saviour to be educated. Here the father had
frequent opportunities of seeing him, as his trading expeditions often
took him to Hongkong. The reports of the child's progress and behavior
were always good, and he seemed so happy and contented that the father
questioned the advisability of taking him to a larger European
institution, especially as Willy begged to remain where he was.
Oftentimes the Captain took his little son with him on short trips to
the neighboring ports of Canton and Malacca; and for one of these Willy
was now hoping, as his father was just returning from a voyage to
Ireland. But instead of the father, there came the uncle, whom he had
never seen, and of whose existence he did not even know, bringing the
sad news of the death of George Brown.
John Brown was a man of an altogether different stamp, and had lived an
altogether different life. Possessed of a passion for drinking and
gambling he had indulged in riotous living until he made an end of his
patrimony, then appealed to his brother to pay his debts. In order to
save the family name from disgrace George furnished him money, but the
appeals for more were so constant that he was obliged to give no heed
to them or else ruin himself. On the occasion of his last visit to
Dublin he found his brother in trouble, and, to escape the charges
preferred against him in the criminal courts, took him with him on what
proved to be his last voyage. Captain Brown died a few days out from
Hongkong and was buried at sea.
John Brown was innocent of his brother's death, and so the officers and
crew of the "St. George" believed, yet the death came so suddenly and
opportunely that it gave grounds for suspicion. John was left
administrator of the estate of his nephew, and, directly on landing in
Hongkong, had himself, as next of kin, appointed Willy's guardian, with
the idea of taking him with him on board the "St. George." But how to
get him away from the school in the middle of the term was a puzzling
Father Somazzo appeared in the doorway and greeted the stranger
politely, but with utmost reserve. "You are the brother of the
esteemed Captain Brown, the father of dear little Willy," began the
priest, noting as he spoke the dark features of the man and the
striking resemblance which he bore to his brother.
"I am the Captain's younger brother and the guardian of his son.
George died at sea last week, as the door-keeper undoubtedly told you,"
said the man with a stiff bow. "How is my nephew? Is he doing well?
Is he advanced sufficiently so that he can take business training or
have the schooling of life at sea prove of value to him?"
"We are much pleased with Willy and the progress he is making,"
answered Father Somazzo, inviting the stranger to be seated. "He is a
good, pious child, only somewhat stubborn and capable of playing mad
tricks at times. Just now he has been guilty of disobedience for which
we would punish him, were it not that he must be told of the death of
his father. That, of course, drives away all thought of harsh
"What has my nephew been doing?"
"Oh, nothing so very bad. He climbed to the dome of the Cathedral on
the scaffolding, or, rather worse than that, he went after being
expressly forbidden to go. Of course, he did it—he can in a measure
be excused—out of love of his father, whose ship—"
"Is that the careless way in which you watch over the boys in this
institution?" interrupted the Captain. "On a bright day like this can
your pupils climb the scaffolding on that dome at will without being
stopped? Now, what if my nephew, for whose welfare I, as guardian,
have a care, had fallen headlong and been killed or crippled for life?
My dear Father, that decides me right now to take my nephew out of your
"Captain Brown, before I give the boy over to your care you must give
proof of being his guardian. And, then, too, before taking such a rash
step you ought to consider well what is for his best interest. His
revered father would have sanctioned no such thing as this; your
reasons for taking him away from here are groundless. He is neither
ready to go into business, nor into training on shipboard, and what is
more has no desire for any such thing. Of that I'm very sure."
Father Somazzo spoke very quietly and firmly, yet not without anger, as
he scrutinized the man before him, and pictured what Willy's life would
be on board the "St. George."
Captain Brown gave the priest a wicked look and said sarcastically:
"Indeed, my ward is to be neither a sea-faring man nor a business
man—but a priest, I suppose, in which case you would inherit the not
unimportant property which has been left him by his father?—Oh, do not
look so angry—holy intentions of such a sort as that are not unheard
of. That is another reason for my taking the boy away from your
influence. Here is the official proof that I am his guardian, and I
wish him given over to me at once."
Father Somazzo examined the paper. It was legal, therefore he could
not refuse the request, but he asked permission to keep the child until
the following day to comfort him as much as he could over the death of
his father. The Captain objected and Willy was sent for. Frightened
and with tears streaming from his eyes he was led into the
reception-room by Brother Onufrio. At sight of his uncle he screamed,
"I won't go, I won't go with him," and buried his face in Father
Somazzo's skirts. "Father, send the bad man away that says he is my
uncle, and that my father is dead. He doesn't tell the truth. I have
no uncle. My father never told me anything at all about having an
uncle. And see what wicked eyes he has. I don't want to, and I won't
go with him."
With difficulty Father Somazzo quieted the child, saying:
"God knows that I am willing to keep you here, Willy, but your
uncle—the Captain is your uncle, even though you never have seen or
heard of him—has control over you, and you owe obedience to him in all
things which are not sinful. Go with him, and may God and his guardian
angels watch over you. We will pray to the Blessed Virgin for you, and
I hope she will safely bring you back to us. Perhaps you will come
sooner than you think for."
Blessing the boy the priest sprinkled him with holy water and then gave
him over to the Captain, saying:
"Only because I am compelled to, Captain, do I give this boy into your
care. He is good and innocent. Bear in mind that from now on you are
accountable to God for his soul."
The Captain muttered something which could not be understood and tried
to make an end to the scene. He took the boy by the arm, made a stiff
bow, and stepped to the door. Here, on hearing the news that Willy was
about to leave the school, most of his companions had assembled to bid
him good-bye. Many shed tears, and Peppo, at the last moment, came
flying in breathless. "Oh, Willy, Willy," he cried embracing him,
"never, never shall I forget how good you were to me. Who will protect
me now when they all tease me?"
"Oh, but you are all here together and like each other so much,"
answered Willy. "Who is going to protect me from this bad man?" The
last words he whispered in the ear of his little friend.
"Your holy guardian angel," he answered, "and we will all pray for you."
"Come on, nephew, I don't want to stay here any longer," urged the
Captain, and a moment later the two had left the College of the Holy
Saviour and were out in the street.
Immediately after their departure Father Somazzo called his pupils into
the chapel and there they commended their small companion to the
Blessed Virgin and the holy guardian angels. Of all there assembled
small Peppo prayed most earnestly.
"O holy guardian angel, thou who art my protector," he said in his
childish simplicity, "Willy will now have need of two guardian angels
instead of one, if God will permit, go and help Willy's guardian angel
to protect him from the bad man who has taken him away. You see here
where I am the good Fathers will watch over me, and it will be enough
if each day you but look at me and then fly away to Willy. But, dear
angel, come to me when I am in danger and call for help."
After this the boys returned to the schoolroom, and as soon as they
were at work, Father Somazzo took his hat and walking-stick and went to
the city to consult Mr. Black, an English lawyer. To him he stated the
case assuring the learned gentleman that the father would not willingly
have placed his child under the guardianship of this younger brother,
who was a gambler and a spendthrift, and asked if there was any way of
getting the boy a way from him. Mr. Black said that according to law
the uncle, as next of kin, could claim the guardianship of his
brother's children, and unless sufficient proof that he was not a fit
person to have such guardianship could be secured immediately, months
might elapse before he could be taken from him. At the time of our
story Hongkong was not connected with Europe by telegraph, as it now
is, and it took from eight to ten weeks to communicate with people in
Aboard the "St. George."
The Captain took his nephew directly to the harbor. The boy cried
softly to himself as he trudged along, and at last his uncle said to
him in a mild tone of voice, "Willy, stop your crying. See, all the
passersby are looking at you. If I were a boy like you, I would be
only too happy to get out of such a tiresome old place where you just
learn and pray all day long. I am going to take you into quite a
different school, one in which all is bright and gay. On board the
ship you won't have any old exercises to do."
"Oh, but I liked everything at the College so much, and in the new
school there won't anybody know me," wailed Willy. "And you—are you
really my uncle?"
"Most assuredly. How can you doubt if? Just look at me! Have I not
the same hooked nose that your father had?"
"Yes, but you have no such friendly eye. And my father always had so
much reverence for the Father Prefect."
"While I speak to the Father Prefect only compliments in which all the
i's are dotted and all the t's are crossed most punctiliously—ha!
ha!—not so bad. But now see here: let us strike a bargain. You
recognize me as your uncle to whom you owe obedience, and everything
will be all right. If you go on in this obstinate, defiant way, you
shall, so sure as my name is John Brown, this very day make the
acquaintance of the cat-o'-nine-tails, and take a diet of bread and
water in the company of the rats in the hold of the ship for awhile."
Willy had once seen a cabin boy flogged with a cat-o'-nine-tails, and
there was nothing in the world which he feared more than rats, so he
thought it best to make peace with his uncle. After a pause he said:
"If you really are my uncle, I must obey you, but don't whip me, and
don't shut me up with the rats, please.—If you wish me to love you
very much indeed, send me back to the College."
"Don't say another word about that College," snarled the Captain with a
dark look. "Now dry your eyes. Here we are on the shore, and here is
our boat. Get in, obey—else—"
The Captain sprang into the boat and Willy followed without more ado.
He looked back toward the city to seek among the domes that of the
Cathedral of the Holy Saviour, and soon recognized it by the
scaffolding. At sight of the glittering crosses tears came to his
eyes, but the thought that those he had left behind would pray for him
comforted him. Unmoved he gazed while the boat glided in and out
between the great ships at anchor in the harbor, and at last, far out,
they reached the ship they sought. The "St. George" was a beautiful
boat with three masts, and as we have said Willy had made more than one
trip on it with his father. He was then the darling of the crew. Now
as he climbed the ladder behind the Captain strange faces peered down
at him over the railing; there were new officers, and officers and crew
alike seemed rough fellows. Late in the evening as he stood on the
rear deck watching the golden crosses of the Church of the Holy Saviour
in the light of the setting sun, he heard a well-known voice behind him
speak his name.
"Oh, it is you, Tommy Green!" said Willy looking around in a friendly
manner. "So there really is after all one old friend on board. Are
you still the second mate? Where are James and John and all the rest?"
"Well, Master Willy," said Tommy, "they are all gone, one to the 'South
Star,' and the others to 'The Water Rose.' I was on the point of
leaving"—then he added, looking around cautiously and lowering his
voice, "for the life on the 'St. George' is not what it was when your
father was alive. God rest his soul! Now instead of rice sacks and
bales of merchandise we carry human freight—slant-eyed, pig-tailed
Chinamen bound for the gold fields of Australia."
"I am so glad you are here, Tommy; there is one human being on board I
know," repeated Willy.
"Why Master Willy, do you not know your uncle, the Captain?"
"I did not know until today that I had an uncle."
"Is that possible? Well, your father surely had no reason to be proud
of his brother. Why, in a single night he gambled away 'The Gold
Nixie' and more, too. I believe that he would gamble away the 'St.
George' if it were his, but it belongs to you, Master Willy. I ought
not to say anything to such a young lad as you about the matter—I know
In the cabin Redfox, the first officer, and the Captain sat in earnest
conversation. "Redfox, your wish is fulfilled. My nephew is on board,
but, do you know, now that I have seen the boy—he so much resembles my
poor dear brother when he was his age—I have not the heart to carry
out our plan," said the Captain.
"Hm, hm," answered the first officer, stroking his red beard, and
giving the Captain a wicked side glance, "hm—and we have everything so
well planned. It is our only salvation. Must I repeat the reasons
"It is not necessary; I understand them, but when our salvation is
bought at such a price—shall I say it?—bought at the price of crime."
"Mr. Brown, you can do it, and it is not only your salvation, but also
mine.—I am far from planning to sacrifice the half million for which
the 'St. George' is insured on account of any evasion on your part.
The half million will suffice to pay our debts and give us enough to
live on for awhile. After your brother had the good grace to die just
at the right time—"
"Do not speak to me of his death. As time goes on I become more and
more convinced, Redfox, that you had a hand in his death."
"Your brother died a natural death," said the first officer with a
lowering look; "and even if that were not the case, the most of the
suspicion would fall on you instead of me. And so surely as I stand
here, I swear to you, that if you upset my plan I'll manage matters
so you'll be condemned as the murderer of your brother. Since
his death nothing stands in our way except this boy. Now, if he
should—accidentally—follow in the footsteps of his father, he would
surely go to heaven, that is, if what the priests teach is true. If he
does not die now in the days of his innocence, ten chances to one, he
will grow up to be as reckless and worthless as ourselves. It would be
the greatest luck imaginable for him, if now—by chance, of course,—he
were to make his journey to heaven."
"True, most true. I wish that I had died when I was his age," groaned
"You leave all with me. The boy is on board. That is enough—"
With the Priest of the God of the Golden Fish.
On the south side of the island of Hongkong are a number of small
villages occupied by fishermen. Any one of these hidden away under the
shade of the great bamboos may be taken as a type of all the others.
The little houses have roofs made of reeds and bundles of twigs, but
these do not serve so well for protection from wind and weather as the
thick foliage of the overhanging trees. On the beach fishing nets are
spread to dry; and in the calm waters of the little bay a number of
poor old junks ride lazily at anchor. One of these is drawn up on the
shore and the men are examining the haul of fish just brought in.
Women and children with baskets and buckets are hurrying down to the
beach to do their part in the work of sorting. The large shining blue
fishes with bands of blue and rose-red and the yellow ones with spots
of red and green they pack in small baskets between rows of green
leaves. The lobsters, always plentiful, they place in baskets having
compartments so that they cannot get at each other and mangle their
bodies fighting; the oysters they throw into a large common bucket,
keeping out the small and inferior ones to carry to their huts to use
for food. Whenever wind and weather permit the men go off on fishing
expeditions, and this is the usual scene which attends their home
coming. Then, according to whether the haul has been a good or a poor
one, Lihoa, the oldest man in the village, says: "We will take to the
God of the Sea who rides on the Golden Fish a thank offering," or "The
God who rides on the Golden Fish is angry with us; we must pacify him
with strips of gold-paper." And, regularly on an appointed day, the
old man goes up to the cell of the priest carrying the thank- or the
sin-offering, as the case may be, to the God with the dreadful goggle
eyes who rides a gilded sea-monster.
On the day on which the crosses had been erected on the Cathedral of
the Holy Saviour Lihoa and his people had had a miserably small catch
"My children," cried Lihoa, "what crime against the God of the Golden
Fish have you committed? So small a haul as this we have not had for a
year and a day. The New Year is at hand. How can we have our usual
celebration with only a sapeck or two in our pockets?"
"How shall we celebrate the New Year?" cried one. "How shall we
appease the God?" wailed others mournfully.
An old Chinaman, whose wrinkled face looked like parchment cried out:
"Why do you even ask the cause of our bad luck? Do you not know why it
has come upon us? Were not those white-faced women here again
yesterday whose God is the enemy of our God? Again they have carried
off bur babies to the great white house in Hongkong. Why do not the
people kill the superfluous children according to the old custom of the
land? Why let living children get into the hands of these foreign
women to be murdered and to have their eyes and hearts stewed up into
magic drinks? The God of the Golden Fish is angry with us. Not
another good haul shall we have; and what is more we shall be swallowed
up in the sea, if we allow any more children to be taken to the house
of the foreign God."
"Be still, be still, old Loha," answered Lihoa. "You don't know what
you are taking about. I myself have been to the great white house of
the foreign women in Hongkong. There they do naught but good, and
nobody ever hears of your doing anything good from morning till night.
Our children are better taken care of there than here in our poor old
huts. If our women only loved their babes as much as these white-faced
women do! Be still. Your drivelling talk about stewing up their eyes
and hearts to make drinks is all a foolish lie. Did we not open one of
the graves of one of the children to see if the eyes and hearts were
there? And they were. A nephew of mine, the son of my sister Luli,
who was exposed twelve years ago by his mother, because her husband was
drowned and she had no means of bringing him up, was taken to the great
house and now he is a splendid big boy. From there they sent him to
the school, and he can speak and write the Chinese language and also
that of the West. Some day I shall go and get him and bring him back
to live with our family.—Ah! here we stand and gossip like old women,
while the sun is sinking. It is time to take the fish and the oysters
to the market. Whose turn is it to go?"
Four men stepped forward and raised the wooden yoke having attached to
it buckets of oysters and baskets of fish. The sack containing the
crabs Lihoa himself swung over his shoulder, and they started at a
quick pace up the hill over which the path to Victoria lay. The women
as they turned to go with the children to the huts to prepare the
evening meal bade them farewell and called out, "A fortunate sale!"
Night settled down quickly, for in a tropical climate the twilight does
not last so long as with us. In Hongkong the sun hardly sets before it
is dark, and this evening as the moon, almost at the full, stood high
in the heavens, Lihoa had no occasion to light the little lantern which
he carried with him. He found the footpath leading up the hill without
difficulty, and his people followed after him goose-fashion in single
file. Almost at the top they came to the cell in the rock occupied by
the priest of the God of the Golden Fish, and in the moonlight to their
astonishment saw in the broad open space in front of it a group of men
from the neighboring villages. At a signal from Lihoa the carriers
placed their burden upon the ground and all went forward to see what
the gathering meant.
"Have you heard nothing, Lihoa, of the great scheme which is on foot?"
asked the leader of the most important of the villages on the north
coast of Hongkong. "Has not the recruiting officer of the rich Natse
been to your village?—Oh, it is so small and hidden away that he does
not deem it worth his while to go to you, and then, besides, the three
hundred who are wanted have announced their intention to go, for who
would remain here and tiresomely drag out existence with the niggardly
sums to be made from fishing when elsewhere the gold lies in such heaps
that one can pick up whole bags full in a few days?"
"How? What? For heaven's sake!—sacks full of gold in a few days?"
cried Lihoa, who, like all Chinamen, was covetous of great wealth.
"Speak, Lohe, tell us, can we get some of the gold,—at least a handful
or two? It is just as you say, our village is the last and the very
least in the world, and not a soul has come to us with the good news.
Tell us the road to fortune."
The agent Lohe, who for each able-bodied Chinaman whom he secured,
received a hundred sapecks, agreed to tell Lihoa the road for the
reason that he was "his cousin and was glad to do him a little
service". He pictured to him a land, bearing the barbaric name
Australia, which the "devils from the West" had discovered many days'
journey away beyond the islands to the south, where the gold lay in the
fields like the stones on the island of Hongkong, and where great
nuggets, as large as a man's head, were to be had. This Goldland "the
devils from the West" wanted for themselves, but the priest of the God,
in whose cell he had just been, said that this gold could be taken away
only by the sons of the Celestial Kingdom, that the treasures of this
land belonged to the Chinese, and not to the barbarians of the West.
The sly discoverers of the Goldland had come to get the Chinese to
bring these lumps of gold to their ships, where the men from the West
and the sons of the Celestial Kingdom would divide the spoils. The
rich Natse was out in search of three hundred men to bring this gold
from the distant land to the south. Of course, each one of the three
hundred fortunate enough to go would receive his own weight in gold,
and for him and his entire family there would be a life of wealth and
honor on his return home.
Thus Lohe explained the situation.
"More than a hundred pounds of gold, and wealth and honor," repeated
Lihoa, on whom the story of the gold which the God had said was to be
given to the Chinese and not to the hated barbarians from the West, had
made a deep impression.
"Have you heard it, my people? We can all become as rich as rich
Natse, and even richer, if we go on the ship to the southland."
"Yes", said one of the oyster carriers, "if all that is true—"
"And if we are not drowned on the long journey," put in another.
"Or, if 'the devils from the West' do not kill us for our money after
we have brought all the gold from the land to the ship for them," put
in the third fish carrier.
"Yes, but if I knew that I would surely come back with some of the
gold, I would go," added the fourth.
"There, just see how sharp you all are!" said Lohe. "Just such doubts
as these troubled my friends and myself, so we are here to consult the
priest of the God of the Golden Fish, who surely knows. We have
promised to have a new fish made of solid gold to replace the gilded
wooden one, if he counsels us well and has a care over us while on the
way. The priest is now in his cell burning incense before the God, and
when the moon reaches that constellation in the middle of the heavens,
he will tell us the God's answer."
The moon had almost reached the place designated. Lihoa and his
followers with the rest of the men seated themselves on the mossy rocks
before the sanctuary, to await the answer of the spirit. The nearer
the time came the quieter they were; until at last they scarcely dared
breathe. The rim of the moon touched the constellation: no sound was
heard in the cave. Softly the silver beams of light fell upon the bare
rocks and cast over the "waters of the sea a shimmering bridge that
stretched from the foot of the hill away into the darkness.
"Will the spirit not answer?" whispered Lihoa impatiently.
"Wait. The moon is not yet in the middle of the constellation,"
answered Lohe. Hardly had he uttered these words when from the cell
came the sound of a gong, then a song in a high nasal tone, which was
plainly heard, but being in a strange language was not understood by
any of the listeners.
"The Spirit speaks to the priest," said the credulous men, trembling
with superstitious fear. The secret song lasted for a minute perhaps,
then from the depths of the cave came a flash of lightning and a loud
peal of thunder. Many of the Chinamen, half frightened out of their
wits, fled screaming at the top of their lungs. Again the gong
sounded, and the priest came to the entrance of the cell with a smoking
pan of incense in his hand. So suddenly did he appear, that it seemed
as if he had sprung out of the very rock on which they stood. All gave
a wild cry of terror, as with utter abhorrence they gazed, while a
little deformed old man described figures in the air with his smoking
pan, and said, shaking his great bald head:
"What do you fear, O children of the Middle Kingdom? Surely not my
master, the terrible God that rides on the back of the Golden Fish, nor
me, poor old Lihong. For you and you alone I have just subjected
myself to his terrible gaze. Had you seen his burning eyes, your
courage would have failed you. He is angry because some of you do not
hate enough those who serve the foreign God, his deadly enemy; yet he
answered your questions, because many of you have heretofore brought to
him your offerings. Listen to the words of the Spirit which rides upon
the back of the Golden Fish:
Gold, gold, gold,
In distant fields so far away!
'Tis his who comes to seek, I say;
'Tis his to take where'er he will,
'Tis his go where he will—his still.
Gold, gold, gold,
In getting it three things beware!
In discord take no part or share;
Beware the sea's engulfing waves,
And thirst which drives men to their graves."
With open mouths the Chinamen listened to the mysterious words of the
priest, and when he had finished his slyly contrived speech, they sat
for a time in mute astonishment. Finally Lohe spoke up:
"To me the answer seems favorable. The God confirms the idea of there
being gold in a distant laud to the south, and says that we can get and
keep possession of it, if we only take heed of three things—discord,
the sea, and thirst. As to discord—it lies within our power to avoid
that; as to the sea—we could be drowned quite as easily on our own
coast as on a long journey to the south, if that is to be our fate; and
as to thirst, who would not endure thirst for the sake of becoming ten
times richer than the rich Natse?"
All agreed that the answer was most favorable. The greedy priest did
not stop, but went on to tell that the God could not be relied upon to
take them safely through all dangers, unless rich sacrificial offerings
were made. "Daily", said he, "I will burn incense and strips of gold
paper before his picture. The clouds of smoke will appease the spirits
of the storm and fall upon you as rain-drops which will quench your
burning thirst, and the gold paper will reconcile the spirits that
watch over the gold in the distant Goldland, so that they will
willingly give to you their treasures."
The Chinamen reached into their pockets and handed over their last
sapeck to the priest, then in silence left, firmly resolved to attempt
the journey to the Goldland.
In the City.
Lohe attached himself to the party of fish carriers, because he did not
wish them to get away before binding themselves to go to the gold
fields. A two hours' walk diagonally across the island brought them to
a high point of land above the city of Hongkong. Below them the white
houses shimmered in the moonlight, stretching row after row like steps
down to the harbor, and out on the glistening sea many large vessels
lay at anchor. The carriers put down their burden to rest for a time
before descending into the streets of the city.
"The barbarians of the West are a capable people after their fashion,"
said Lohe. "See what a great city they have built here where a few
years ago there were only a half dozen or more bamboo huts. And, too,
each day their power increases. Over there another great building with
towers reaching to the very sky is going up. What can it be?"
"One of their pagodas," answered Lihoa, "and down there is the school
in which one of my nephews is being instructed in the learning of the
West. The white-faced women with the long veils brought him up because
my sister exposed him when a baby. They found and cared for him in the
great white house where a light burns in the window; there they bring
up the children which our women are not able to care for. Let us go
down and see what is going on at this time of the night."
Lohe and Lihoa went down to the long low orphanage in which the Sisters
of Mercy care for a hundred or more foundlings. The shutters were
drawn, but they found a tiny hole through which they could peep. In
the dormitory they saw four rows of small white beds, all spread with
beautiful white linen, and in each little bed lay a child. The most of
them were asleep, but a few were crying and fretting—for Chinese
babies have quite as many troubles as American children. Some of the
nuns were walking up and down between the rows of beds, lovingly
tucking up the fretful little beings, giving the bottle to some, and
rocking others with the utmost patience. Hardly did they quiet one
before another began to whimper, and so it went on. Shaking their
heads the two Chinamen slipped away. They had seen for themselves the
love and patience with which the Sisters care for these poor deserted
"I thought we were going to find them putting the children's eyes out,"
said Lohe, "when I heard the cries in there. These women show greater
love for these babes than their own mothers."
"Yes, yes," answered Lihoa. "It is wonderful. I wish our priests
would do for our children what the foreigners do for them."
Without further delay Lihoa went to Nona, the fish dealer, who lived in
one of the alleys near the harbor. All night long he watched and
waited for the fishermen who came to him from all parts of the island.
Complaining as he took what Lihoa had brought, he weighed the fish and
poured the oysters out in a heap to estimate their value, then handed
the old Chinaman a tael ($1.50) and several sapecks.
"What? Is that all you are going to give me, when you know that the
sum must be divided among twenty families?" complained Lihoa.
"To-morrow morning in the market you will get three times that amount
for the beautiful fish."
"Well—and why not? When I take inferior things to the market, I have
to content myself with a small price.—Not a sapeck more for you,"
answered the dealer.
"Now then, Nona, don't be surprised if you get no more fish from us.
We are going into a more profitable business. We are going to the
distant Goldland, and shall come back rich men."
"What? What do you mean, you fools?" cried Nona. "Do you want to be
drowned? Well, if you get back with whole skins you'll be doing well,
and no matter how much gold you get, the rich Natse will have it all
before you are through with him."
"As far as drowning is concerned, we could drown easily in the business
in which we are now engaged, and as to Natse's getting our gold, we'll
attend to that." With these words Lihoa put the money in his pocket
and started with his followers to the harbor, where, behind one of the
warehouses, they laid down and took a nap.
At break of day they went to interview Natse, who was trying to get
three hundred men to sail on the "St. George". When they arrived, he
had just engaged a hundred or more, and there seemed no likelihood of
there being a place for Lihoa and his followers, "though Lohe's people
always had the preference". "But", said Natse, "if you have some one
among your people who understands the language of the West well enough
to act as interpreter, perhaps I can arrange for you and a dozen or
more of your friends to go."
Then an idea popped into old Lihoa's head: "Wait until to-night, and I
will bring you an answer," he said. "I think I can get an interpreter."
Lihoa sent his companions to the hamlet with the command, that those
who wished to go on the trip to the Goldland were to get ready
immediately, and he betook himself straight to the College of the Holy
Saviour. There he asked to see the foreign teacher. Father Somazzo
came into the reception room, and learned to his utter astonishment
that the old Chinaman had called to demand his beloved pupil, little
Peppo. Quietly the priest listened while the old man spoke, then took
a pinch of snuff, and said: "My dear friend, for twelve years we have
had this boy in our care, and have spent much time and money on him,
and now that he is old enough to be of use, you ask us to give him to
you. You are unreasonable. Prove in the court that the child is
yours, and then, that we took him illegally, and you can have him. He
has not been brought up in your religion, as you know, but is a
Christian. We have many plans and hopes for him, and I am sure he will
not care to leave us. Go, and may peace attend you."
"But I am the boy's uncle, and an uncle has paternal power over his
sister's children according to Chinese law. I know the boy by the
birthmark on his wrist," said Lihoa.
"Take your claims into court, and we will settle them there. In the
meantime may peace attend you," repeated the missioner as he left the
Lihoa expected a refusal, for he was not so simple-minded as to believe
that the child would be given over to him without ado, but the answer
that he received, according to his way of thinking, justified his
kidnapping his nephew. He knew a Chinese youth, who was a servant at
the seminary, and to him he went for help to carry out his plan of
getting possession of Peppo. In a nearby tavern he waited for
Totu—for that was the youth's name—knowing that while the missioners
and their pupils were at table, he was accustomed to come here for a
glass of saki, a wine made from burnt rice. When he entered, Lihoa
went and sat down beside him, addressed him as cousin, and ordered and
paid for a second glass of saki. The two conversed for a time in low
tones, then finally Totu said:
"Agreed! The day after to-morrow, at the New Year's celebration, I'll
see to it that you get your nephew, but may the gods of the sea destroy
your ship, if you do not pay me the money you say you will. I must
have three tael to-morrow, for this may cost me my job, and you know,
'No penny, no paternoster'." Lihoa promised what Totu asked, and the
The Chinese New Year.
The New Year came and found Hongkong in festal array. All the Chinese
houses were decorated with plants and flowers, and from long cords
stretched from house to house, and diagonally across the streets, were
suspended hundreds upon hundreds of lanterns of various colors. At the
first peep of day thousands of people, dressed in holiday attire, began
to throng the streets and crowd into the great open squares, where
eatables of all sorts were to be had. Here were tables loaded down
with all kinds of Chinese delicacies, many of which, I fear, my little
readers would not find palatable. For example, there were sugar-coated
worms, preserved red snails, trepang,—a kind of sea-worm,—and putrid
doves' eggs in an unspeakable sauce. The cakes made of honey, sugar
and rice-meal, I am sure, would have been much more to your liking.
Each hour the crowd increased, as the people poured into the city from
the villages on the island of Hongkong, and from neighboring places.
It was a general reception day. Whenever a Chinaman met an
acquaintance, putting his hands in the wide, flowing sleeves of his
gown, he greeted him with many bows, wished him a happy New Year, and
invited him to have a cup of tea or saki. Even the poorest people had
saved up enough to take part in the celebration. All over the great
city joy reigned.
The missioners, glad to give their pupils English as well as Chinese,
all the pleasure they could, always celebrated the New Year by having a
more elaborate supper than usual, and taking the boys to see the
brilliantly lighted city and the puppet shows. For weeks beforehand
all looked forward to the great holiday, and could hardly wait for the
time to come when the city would be in holiday attire, and the
fireworks and puppet shows in progress. On this night supper was over,
the bell had rung, and the boys were in a double line ready to start on
their little excursion. At the head of the ranks stood young Peppo,
the leader, in a state of subdued excitement. He was anxious to see
the beautiful lights, and also hoped to find his little companion,
Willy, at the puppet show, where he knew he would be, if possible.
Just as the happy band was about to start, Father Somazzo called Peppo
back, for it occurred to him that perhaps the man, who had a few days
previous to this so impudently demanded possession of him, might try to
"Peppo", he said, addressing Lihu by his Italian nickname, "Peppo, you
know that I mean well by you."
"Yes, Father," answered the boy impatiently, "but please don't keep me
now. We are going to the city and I am to be the leader of the ranks."
"Peppo, not very long ago you said that you were willing to make a
great sacrifice to God, because he saved you from death, and permitted
you to be baptized, and because you are soon to receive your first
"Yes, Father, I did, and I will willingly make a sacrifice, but let me
go now. Brother Onufrio has already opened the door."
"Peppo, would it not be a beautiful sacrifice for you to give up going
"O Father," stammered the child with tears in his eyes, "no, I don't
want to. I will make a sacrifice, but not to-night. I want to see the
fire-works and the puppet show. And Willy will be at the puppet show,
I want to find him, too. He will go if he can, for he knows that every
New Year's night we boys go. Please, Father, do not keep me. I will
willingly live on rice and water for a month rather than stay home
"Poor child, you do not know what is for your best good," answered
Father Somazzo. "I wanted you to look upon this as a sacrifice which
you were willing to make, but since you will not, I command you to
remain at home, for a reason which I cannot tell you. Come, Peppo,
into the class-room. You may take my big picture-book with all the
pictures of European cities and churches, ladies and gentlemen in fine
clothes and battles and ships. The time will pass quickly. Come and
win the reward of obedience."
"I don't want to, I won't go!" cried the boy, crying at the top of his
lungs and stamping his feet on the floor.
"What? What? Such a thing as this from you? That is no way to
behave. If you do not come with me willingly, you shall not have the
With these words Father Somazzo led the weeping child into the
class-room, while he went to get the promised book. Totu, the servant,
who was standing near the door at the time, was a witness of the scene.
His plan was to seize the boy at the puppet show, when the attention of
all the by-standers was on the stage, fasten him to himself by a
cunningly contrived chain and belt, so that he could not possibly
escape in the crowd, and deliver him over to his uncle. When he saw
that the boy was detained against his will, the sly fellow changed his
"Ha, ha," said he, "this is much easier for Totu," and hurrying into
the garden, stationed himself under the window which opened into and
was on a level with the garden. As soon as Father Somazzo left the
room, Peppo went to the window to watch the sky rockets that every now
and then went shooting into the sky, and to listen to the shouts of the
merry revelers in the streets.
"What, little Lihu, are you not going to the celebration? Why, down in
the marketplace there is the finest puppet show that was ever seen or
heard of anywhere," said Totu in a sympathetic tone of voice.
"I can't," said he, "Father Somazzo is an old tyrant. He wants me to
renounce this pleasure, to make a sacrifice to God to-night by staying
"Oh, nonsense!" answered the tempter. "You come with me. I'll take
you down into the city, and to the puppet show, and the fireworks, and
everything else. We'll be back in an hour, and Father Somazzo, who is
saying his prayers, won't even know you've been away."
"He has locked the door, and will be angry if he finds me gone," said
the boy, half ready to yield to the tempter.
"He won't find it out. Quick. Climb up on the window-sill, I'll lift
you down, and in a moment we'll be out through the little gate in the
wall, for I have the key that unlocks it. We've no time to lose.
Don't you hear the drums and tomtoms in the market-place? The puppet
show is beginning."
Little Peppo's conscience told him that he ought not to go, but his
anger at what seemed to him an unjust command, caused him to give no
heed to its dictation. "Well, anyway, when Father Somazzo shuts me up
for punishment, I'll have seen the puppet show and the fireworks," he
said, climbing up on the window-sill, and the next moment he was in the
garden. Taking Totu by the hand, he slunk along in the shadow of the
wall to the little gate, and soon the two were with the crowd out in
the brilliantly lighted street.
Father Somazzo was detained a short time, and when he returned to the
classroom was dumbfounded to find his favorite pupil gone. He went to
the window and called "Peppo, Peppo", but received no answer. At first
he could scarcely believe that the boy, who had always been so
obedient, could be guilty of such a grievous breach of discipline; but
as calling and searching proved of no avail, at last, with a heavy
heart, he had to admit that even good little Peppo had yielded to
"Lord, deal not harshly with the erring," sighed the missioner, and
then he prayed: "Let not his disobedience cause him and us too much
sorrow, Blessed Virgin. Take the poor child to thy motherly bosom, and
bring him back to us in safety. Thou knowest we have great hopes for
Father Somazzo could do no more than this, for he could not leave the
house alone; and, even if he had been able to do so, his attempts to
find the child in the crowds that thronged the streets would have
availed nothing. Hoping that Peppo would join his companions and
return with them, the good Father waited, but in vain. He neither came
with the boys, nor later by himself.
On the following morning Father Somazzo received a visit from Mr.
Black, the lawyer, whom he had consulted concerning the guardianship of
Willy. He came to report that he believed he had sufficient proof to
ask the court to take Willy away from John Brown, and also to cause his
imprisonment. He had through agents sought out the sailors dismissed
from the "St. George", and from them not only learned of the life of
John Brown in Dublin, but also of the peculiar circumstances attendant
upon his brother's death at sea. Mr. Black asked whether he should
prosecute, adding: "Whatever is done, must be done quickly, for I am
told that the 'St. George' will sail to-morrow morning, or the morning
after at the latest, for Australia with three hundred Chinaman on
Father Somazzo signed the necessary papers, then told of little Peppo's
disappearance, and his conjecture that he had been carried off by a
Chinaman named Lihoa, who claimed to be a relative.
"I'll wager ten to one, this Lihoa is one of the greedy Chinamen who is
going to sail on the 'St. George'," said Mr. Black. "Let's go down to
the office of the Chief of Police, and, if my conjecture is true, we'll
find the people we want on board the 'St. George'—'kill two birds with
one stone', as the old saying has it. Be quick, Father, get your hat
and walking stick and come with me. We haven't a moment to lose."
The two men hurried down to the harbor. The Chief of Police received
them in a friendly manner, but when they laid their case before him, he
shrugged his shoulders and said: "I am very sorry, indeed. You have
come just eight hours too late. The 'St. George' sailed this morning
at two with the tide and a favorable wind."
"What is to be done?" questioned the Father.
"We will send your papers to Melbourne and Sidney and have the Captain
and Lihoa arrested when they put into port. That is all that can be
done," answered the Chief.
Matters had to be left thus. Mr. Black returned to his office to make
out the necessary documents, and Father Somazzo to the College to
commend both boys to God and his ministering angels.
An Unexpected Departure.
On the morning following the Chinese New Year, with a favoring west
wind the "St. George" put to sea with Green at the helm, because the
Captain was unable to find a man that he liked better, who was capable
of taking his place. Restlessly the Captain paced up and down the
deck, gazing at the island in the moonlight until it was lost in the
sea. As soon as the morning light gave better opportunities, he
climbed to the crow's nest and with a field glass searched the western
horizon, and not until the sun was well up did he push the glass
together. Then he muttered to himself as he came down from the rigging:
"My fears are vain. Why, that Italian priest wouldn't have the Chief
of Police send a steam launch after us on account of that boy. And yet
Redfox states positively that he sent the agents of the police to the
sailors' home, to sidle up to the crew that I dismissed and to try to
get out of them all the information they could. But what do they know?
What can they prove?—Oh, I am such a coward! Come, John, come. Drive
these stupid fears out of your head. Think of the future and not of
The Captain went to the helmsman and found the boatswain and first
officer, Redfox, with him. All greeted the Captain in a becoming
manner and wished for favoring winds to carry them on their way.
"We could make use of them all right," cried the Captain. "Gray, the
ship can carry more canvas. Set all the sails, and Green, do you steer
as straight as a crow flies for the Channel of Balintang. How far is
it to Balintang, Redfox?"
"Four hundred and fifty sea miles, but we can save a hundred miles by
holding for the southern point of Luzon—"
"Yes, and be wrecked on some one of the hundred reefs and islands which
make the route by the Philippines so dangerous! No, Mr. Redfox, though
it is of great importance for me to get to Melbourne as soon as
possible, I shall not take any risks going that way. We'll go farther
to the north through the Balintang, from there down between the Palau
and Caroline Islands, on through by the Soloman Islands, and the
"We shall meet with dangerous seas that way, too, but if it's the route
you've decided on, that's all there is to it. What's going on with the
three hundred Chinamen in the steerage?"
"I don't know. Let them stay down where they are; they won't suffocate
yet awhile, and we'll have peace on deck for an hour or two," growled
"With the last lot that came on board there was a little pigmy, barely
ten years old," said Gray. "An old Chinaman carried him in his arms
and said he was asleep. It seemed to me that he was in a stupor, and I
had more than half a mind to send them back, and then it occurred to me
that we could use the lad in the kitchen, as the cook's assistant.
I'll get the boy, Captain, and let you see what you think of giving him
over to the cook. By cuffs and knocks perhaps he can be developed into
"Go ahead, Gray," answered the Captain. "And you, Redfox, want my
nephew, of whom this small Chinaman makes me think." Then he added in
a low tone: "Since our last talk I have thought the thing over.—You
are right. It cannot be otherwise. He must disappear, at least for a
time, that is, until we are in possession of the money; later I will
restore it to him."
"Quite right. And if—by any accident—he should fall from the
rigging, or else—"
"No, no, I won't have him put to death. God knows I wish my brother
were alive. The thought even that perhaps in my drunkenness I
sanctioned the changing of his medicine, almost drives me mad.—I am
satisfied, though, that we will have to hide this boy for a time in
some institution, and then announce to the authorities that at the
shipwreck, which we contemplate having, he perished."
"Captain, you are always for half-way measures. But as you like, so
long as you hold fast to our agreement—the half of the property."
"On the day on which I come into possession of the property, the half
"Very well. You have sworn to this, and now be assured that just so
surely as you betray me, or attempt to cheat me out of the wages of my
sins, you are a dead man, even if at that very hour I go to eternal
damnation with you."
"You may depend upon me. Half and half, just as I have sworn. And now
I'll go for my nephew."
With these words the Captain stepped into the cabin. Through this
cabin ran a partition, and in one corner of the smaller part Willy had
hung his hammock. So soundly had he slept, that his first knowledge
that the "St. George" was under sail came when he noticed the motion of
the ship, and heard the swishing of the water.
"O dear! We've left Hongkong, and Father Somazzo couldn't get me away
from my uncle," was his first thought. "And last night I dreamed that
he did get me away, and that Brother Onufrio and Peppo were with me,
but I can't remember where.—O dear, we are out at sea and on the way
to Australia, or God knows where."
Willy was almost in tears. Father Somazzo's comforting words came to
his mind, then kneeling down for a short morning prayer, he commended
himself to the care of his guardian angel. Strengthened by the thought
that God's holy guardian angels are companions and protectors at sea as
well as on land, he was rising from his knees just as his uncle came
into the room.
"What, up and dressed! By the seven sleepers of old, I verily believe
that you have been praying! That's what they set you to doing at the
pension, but you'll soon get over it; a seaman has no time for any such
superfluous business as that."
"Superfluous to say one's prayers?" questioned Willy in utmost
surprise, opening wide his big blue eyes. "The good Fathers prayed
every day, and used to say that 'he who knows not how to pray, the sea
will teach to pray'. What will become of us, if God and his angels do
not watch over and guard us?"
"Oh, dear me! You talk just like the preaching Brothers," laughed the
Captain, in a way that made the boy shudder.
"Well, for aught that I care keep on praying to your guardian angel to
watch over you, but now go into the kitchen and get a cup of coffee and
a biscuit or two. Hurry yourself. In five minutes be ready for work
and report on deck to the first officer."
In the meantime the boatswain had started for the steerage, where three
hundred Chinamen were packed like herrings on the floor and in the
berths along the sides of the room. When he opened the trap-door to go
down the stairs, the poisonous stench which assailed his nostrils
almost knocked him down. "By all the great sharks in the sea," he
cried angrily, "I believe it would be easier to breathe in the bottom
of the ocean than down there with those pig-tailed Chinamen! He! I
don't want to go down there. Be quick, and send the interpreter up
here," he called.
A babel of Chinese words came from the unventilated room which was
lighted by an old kerosene lamp, and the crowd pushed to the gangway to
get up on deck. The boatswain thundered "Back", and to make his words
emphatic as well as intelligible, drew his revolver. The men went
back, and Lihoa brought his nephew, the small Peppo, to the foot of the
gangway. "Tell him that he is to let us come out on deck before we
suffocate in this vile hole," commanded Lihoa.
As soon as Peppo began to tell in English what he had been told to say,
the boatswain cried out: "Ha, ha! So you are the interpreter, you
little pigmy? Why, that's all right. How lucky! Come up. I am
looking for you, but your pig-tailed cousins will have to stay down
there. They won't suffocate for awhile; the air of the steerage is
thicker and more nourishing than that on deck."
After a little parleying Lihoa let his nephew go. Quickly he ran up
the ladder, and when Gray had closed the trap-door he threw himself at
his feet, and with outstretched hands begged to land, because he had
been brought on board against his will.
"Land?" laughed Gray. "Land on what? We have been under sail for six
hours or more and are now a goodly number of miles from Hongkong, and
probably won't see land again for weeks. For good or for evil, for
better or for worse, my little pigmy, you'll have to go with us until
we land those cousins of yours in Australia. Get up. I'll take you to
the kitchen, and there our cook will find so much for you to do, that
you won't have time for sad thoughts."
With these words he seized Peppo by the arm and led him to the kitchen,
where he gave him over to the cook. The fat cook with the big white
apron looked at the slender youth half angrily, half compassionately,
"That little Chinaman is to give me the promised help? How is he to
lift the heavy kettles of rice off the fire, Mr. Gray?"
"Well now, Mr. Blue, it's better to have a little help than none at
all. Why, indeed, you'll have to lift the heavy kettles off the fire
yourself. The boy can peel potatoes and wash dishes."
"Yes, and break more than his neck is worth in Brothers. I
understand.—Now, little one, come here and get into this apron, and
begin work.—Oh, wait a moment. You have not had any breakfast.
There, take that bowl of rice; you are more accustomed to that than to
our bread and coffee. When you have finished get at those dishes, and
wash and wipe them quicker than scat, and for every one you break a
precious good thump you'll get."
With tears in his eyes poor little Peppo choked down his rice, and went
to work. "Oh, dear," he said to himself, as he dipped the plates in
hot water and burned his fingers trying to get them out, "Oh, dear, how
God is punishing me for my disobedience! If I had only stayed where I
was told. Father Somazzo must have known what Lihoa was going to do.
This is what I get for running off and having my own way. And who
knows whether I'll ever see Hongkong and the good Fathers again so long
as I live?"
Poor little Peppo's cup was full to overflowing. As with trembling
fingers he kept on fishing the hot plates out of the dishpan, he
noticed that all the plates had on them the word "St. George"; then he
recalled that that was the name of Willy's father's boat. Just as it
was dawning on him that he must be on the "St. George" the kitchen door
opened and he heard a well-known voice say, "Give me some breakfast
quicker than a wink, dear cook, for I've got to go to work as cabin-boy
Peppo was walking across the floor to the crockery chest to put away a
dozen or more clean plates which he had in his hands, when at the sound
of the voice he turned and saw Willy whom the Captain had given a push
that sent him half across the kitchen. The small Chinaman gave a cry
of surprise and let the plates fall on the floor where they broke into
a thousand rattling pieces. Angrily the cook sprang at him, and would
have struck him with the big wooden cooking spoon, if Willy had not
come between them and received the blow meant for Peppo.
"Peppo, Peppo," he cried, "are you here?"
"Yes, Willy, as a punishment for my disobedience. And now see what
more mischief I have done, and what more punishment I shall get. The
cook will beat me half to death for breaking all the beautiful plates,"
"But I was all to blame for that," said Willy. "I frightened you so
that you let them fall. That's so, isn't it, dear cook? You won't
punish him, will you?"
The cook's anger was somewhat mollified. The good-natured man was
pleased with the boys, and gave them both some breakfast on a little
table. Peppo told of his adventures, and Willy comforted him by
saying, "You have been disobedient and you'll have to take your
punishment, but the dear God ordained it that you should come to me.
We'll pray together and be good, so that our holy guardian angels will
take us back to Hongkong again to the Fathers."
Just here the boatswain came in and ordered Willy on deck, or they
would have continued talking indefinitely.
A Very Real Danger.
Meanwhile the "St. George" under full sail and well over on her side
was running before a strong west wind. The waves washed over the deck;
the sea was so rough that it was hard for an experienced seaman to make
his way, and only those sure of foot and hand dared venture on the
rigging. Nevertheless Redfox ordered Willy to climb the mainmast with
him to help unfurl the sail at the very top.
"If you want to be a good seaman like your father you must learn to
climb the rigging not only in a light breeze like this but also in a
hurricane. You want to get so that you can run around up there like a
squirrel in a Christmas tree. There is no danger; just hold tight to
the rigging with one hand and don't get frightened when the boat
pitches. You can't learn to do any climbing that's worth while
standing around here on deck. Up, my little man, let's see if you have
"Yes, I have nerve, and lots of times in pleasant weather I've been up
the mast, but when the ship rocks as it does now, my father would never
let me think of going up," answered Willy.
"And he had good reason, too," put in the helmsman, who was standing
near Redfox and had heard all the conversation.
"I never heard of such a thing as asking the cabin-boy to climb the
rigging when the sea is rough, and before he has had a chance to prove
himself a good climber in pleasant weather. Master Willy, don't obey
any such foolhardy order. The Captain, I am sure, does not want you to
try any such thing."
"Oho, helmsman, you dare to order this boy to be insubordinate, do you?
I'll have you put in irons for your impudence," cried Redfox, giving
him a wicked look.
"Green, don't be frightened. I can climb much better than you think,
and then besides my guardian angel will watch over me and keep me from
falling. I am sure I won't come down any more of a corpse than I did
from the dome of the cathedral. I must obey this man. Let me go. You
just see my guardian angel will take care of me."
"Mr. Redfox, I tell you plainly it's a foolhardy game you are playing
with that boy," said the helmsman earnestly. "If anything happens to
him you'll answer for it on a charge of criminal carelessness at the
first port we put into."
"Wait till you get a chance," growled the officer to Green; to Willy he
said, "Go on up."
Willy crossed himself, then swung himself without fear up on the rope
ladder leading from the side of the vessel to the crow's nest. Right
after him followed Redfox. With anger and fear Green watched how the
wind blew Willy's blonde hair and the officer's red beard; for a moment
the two disappeared behind the sails, then they appeared scaling the
topmost ladder. The wind had increased; the vessel tipped still more
to the side. Willy clambered on courageously higher and higher up, but
the real danger was yet to come.
"Now see, he is astride the yard sliding out fully twelve feet from the
main mast—now he is loosening the rope by which the top-sail is
fastened to the arm! Redfox ought to do that himself," said the
helmsman to himself. "But no, he forces the boy before him out on the
yard, orders him to stand up and unfasten the rope. The inhuman
wretch!—That means the boy's death. It is no easy task even for an
experienced seaman. And he is not even holding him by the belt, only
by the bottom part of his jacket.——Now he is holding him tighter.
There——O holy Mother of God the boy is falling!" Green closed his
eyes for a moment and gasped. "No, he is sliding along the yard. Hold
fast, Willy, hold fast for two or three minutes. I'll come to help
He threw the rope over the wheel and ran like a cat up the rigging.
Willy, in utmost danger of falling, was sliding and swinging along
between the sails of the fore and mainmast, every moment expecting that
his strength would give out and that he would fall on the planks of the
deck below or into the sea.
"Holy guardian angel," he cried, "take me; I cannot hold on any
longer!" Everything swam before his eyes, and in a moment he would
have fallen, if the helmsman had not, almost miraculously reached him
and seized him in his arms. He carried him down to the deck and laid
him in a dead faint on a pile of rope, and began working over him.
Before Redfox came down from the rigging Willy had recovered. "You
see," he said to Green, "my holy guardian angel did not leave me."
"Indeed, Master Willy, you speak the truth, for without the help of
your guardian angel I should not have been able to save you," affirmed
Green, wiping drops of cold sweat from his forehead. Then he thundered
"Thank God, that you lay yourself down to rest tonight without a murder
on your conscience. It is no fault of yours that that boy came down
from the rigging alive."
"I forbid any such talk," answered Redfox without meeting the gaze of
the helmsman. "The stupid youngster got dizzy when I let go of his
jacket and started to get a better hold of his belt."
"No, no, Mr. Redfox," answered Willy firmly, "you pushed me instead of
getting hold of my bolt. I did not get dizzy."
"Ridiculous! Your fear put that notion into your head. Now if you go
to telling that story round here—even once—I'll have the Captain shut
you up in the steerage with the Chinamen. You go to telling the wrongs
you suffer from your superior officer and you'll get yourself into
trouble. No more of this."
Redfox went to the Captain's cabin. Indignantly the helmsman looked
after him, and then he again asked the boy if he was very sure that
Redfox had pushed him.
"Quite sure," he replied, "and he looked at me more wickedly than I
thought any man could look. What has he against me? I have never done
him any harm. And my uncle, too, acts so strangely, he has never once
given me a pleasant word or look."
"I understand well enough," answered the helmsman. "Be on your guard
with Redbeard and your uncle; I don't dare to tell you any more. I'd
like to open your eyes, but I can't. Trust in God and your holy
guardian angel who saved you almost miraculously today. In the first
port that we put into Redbeard will answer for what he did today—and
for a few other things, too."
To the Captain Redfox reported, "I did not think it possible for that
boy to come down from the rigging alive, and now he is telling that I
tried to push him off the yard, and, of course, that numbskull of a
Green is only to ready to believe him. That fellow has got wind of
some things, too. We must see to it that he gets no chance to tell
what he knows or thinks he knows."
"You are my bad angel, Redfox, and want to drag me deeper and deeper
into crime," said the Captain. "Haven't I told you again and again
that I will not have that boy put out of the way?"
"Oh, you are always for half-way measures. I take no account of them
in my reckonings. It would have been very fine for you,
if—accidentally—he had fallen from the rigging," growled Redfox.
"No, no, I won't have any bloodshed," said the Captain most earnestly.
"There are enough things now for which I have to answer,—and there
will be more when we wreck the 'St. George' on one of the many reefs
off the east coast of Australia, as we have planned to do. Now, if
against my will, you do anything to that boy, I'll have you turned over
to the authorities, even if I run the danger of being arrested as your
accomplice. You may know what to expect."
With these words the Captain left Redfox standing at the door of the
cabin. He muttered to himself, "Well, do you know, I really believe
his conscience is troubling him—the mushhead! I must deal with him
more firmly.—No, no, Captain, after what happened this morning the
only thing to do is to get him out of the way,—and the helmsman along
with him. I'll tend to that. Ha, ha! Mr. Captain, you'll get up in
the morning early to turn Redfox over to the authorities!"
A New Plan.
Weeks had passed since the happenings told of in the previous chapter
took place, and nothing of any importance had occurred. Redfox had not
again ordered Willy to climb the mast with him, and even when the ship
was becalmed and lay with slackened sails on a sea smooth and clear as
a looking-glass, he would not allow him to go up to the crow's nest.
"Oh, no, no, if you were to get dizzy and fall, you'd tell that I
pushed you," he sneered at every possible opportunity. Green he
avoided as much as possible.
"The boy was perhaps mistaken, and my suspicions of the Captain and
Redfox may be wholly unfounded," thought honest Green, when week after
week went by without their taking revenge on either him or Willy. The
voyage had been an extraordinarily quick and fortunate one. The days
which ships usually spend in being becalmed under the Equator the 'St.
George' spent under full sail with favoring winds. Everything on
shipboard was going very well, yet the Captain was always sullen and
morose. He and Redfox sat in the cabin and gambled and drank most of
their time. Rarely did they finish one debauch before they began on
another. Redfox seemed to exercise hypnotic power over the Captain.
Willy, the darling of the crew, at first was much grieved over his
uncle's behavior and the aversion which the first officer showed for
him, but he soon became accustomed to their ways. The companionship of
Green, who initiated him into the mysteries of the compass and the
practical work of steering the ship, was pleasant, and he had Peppo.
The Captain had allowed the boatswain to put up another hammock in
Willy's cabin, so that Peppo could sleep there instead of going down
into the steerage. Together the boys said their morning and evening
prayers, just as they were accustomed to do in the pension in Hongkong,
and slept like nabobs in their little hammocks while the ship went
ploughing its way through the placid ocean.
The "St. George" was at this time in the sea between the New Britain
Archipelago, as the group of islands which now goes by the name of the
Bismarck Archipelago was at that time called, and the Soloman Islands.
With full sail the boat was running before a stiff northwest breeze.
The fiery tropical sun burned in the heavens, and far as the eye could
reach the waters rolled in a long swell on the deep blue southern sea.
A pair of screaming sea-gulls circled round the top of the mast, the
sails flapped, the rigging creaked, and the waters swished and dashed
against the sides of the vessel. Other sounds there were none. The
vessel might almost have been a phantom ship upon an enchanted sea.
Green sat near the wheel in the shade of one of the sails smoking his
pipe and with difficulty keeping his eyes open sufficiently to glance
at the big compass and the distant horizon occasionally. "If our
reckonings are right we shall sight the Soloman Islands now at any
minute," he said to himself, and was about to call to the man on watch
in the crow's nest to see that he was not asleep, when Willy came out
from the cabin and motioned to Green that he had something important to
"Hello, Willy, what's the matter? Any one would think from the
expression on your face that you had seen 'The Klabautermann'!"
"The Klabautermann" is a spirit of the sea similar to the brownies of
the mountains and the goblins which play such a part in children's
stories. Ordinarily unseen this spirit helps the sailors in their work
when they are good and true, but when he appears with a fiery head and
green teeth, attired in riding boots, yellow hose, and pointed hat,—as
the sailors assert they have seen him—then look out. Beware of
misfortune. Some awful fate awaits the ship, so the superstitious
sailors solemnly swear.
"I have not seen 'The Klabautermann'," answered Willy, "and I don't
believe there is any such spirit, although you are so positive about
it; but I have something to tell you that will surprise you more than a
visit from the Flying Dutchman's haunted ship, that you told me about."
"Well, let's have the surprise."
"Can any one play eavesdropper here?"
"No; no one at all. We are here all by ourselves aft and who is there
that would want to listen to us?"
"Redbeard and my uncle, but they are in the cabin, drinking and
gambling as usual. Last night, you know, Peppo had toothache all night
and couldn't sleep, so this afternoon I took his place in the kitchen
while he went up to have a nap in his hammock. He just came and told
me that he had overheard Redbeard plotting some dreadful thing against
us. Peppo couldn't understand it all, but he got this much, that at
the island to which we are coming today, or at the latest tomorrow
morning, he is going to send you ashore for drinking water. He has let
the water leak out of the casks. 'When Green goes ashore,' he said, 'I
haven't a doubt in the world but that the young one, who stands in your
way, will want to go with him, and the little Chinaman, whom I do not
trust, will also want to go—We can just send them, even if you don't
hanker after this plan. And—well—if they don't come back, why the
wild Soloman Islanders will know what to do with them.' Peppo heard
the first officer say this."
"Oh, the traitor!" said Green. "And so he is going to furnish the
cannibals with a nice juicy stew for their pots, is he? And pray tell,
what did that nice uncle of yours, the Captain, say to all this?"
"At first he would not listen to a word of it; then Redfox threatened
him with something which Peppo could not understand, and at last he
said, 'Oh, you are my bad angel. I am in your power. Do what you
must, but I won't have any part in it.'"
"Pontius Pilate made similar remarks when he gave Our Lord over to
death, but handwashing of that sort is of no use. As for the rest you
are right. Redfox is the chief sinner and forces the Captain into
things which he would never think of doing otherwise.—But what are we
to do? Here we are helpless in the power of these monsters. We might
give them over to the authorities at the first port at which we touch,
but the trouble with that plan comes in just here: Gray will not listen
to or believe what that little Chinaman says. It couldn't be done
without a life and death struggle. I must win over the Chinamen—and
if I fail, by so much as a hair-breadth, I'll go to the gallows as a
rebel.—And yet—I must risk my life for you as well as for the rest of
us. Quick, bring your little friend here. I'll tell him what to say
to the men in the steerage. They will be on our side for they have
been badly treated."
Willy did not understand all that the honest helmsman said for he was
half talking to himself, but he got enough to realize that they were in
great danger, and that Green scarcely knew what to do. Why did
Redbeard wish their death? Green had told him a number of times, but
the boy could not understand the question of the property, even after
it was explained to him, and now there was no time to talk about it.
"Be quick, go get Peppo for me," repeated the helmsman, instead of
answering his questions. "The crisis may come any moment. In the
meantime pray to your guardian angel, who once saved you miraculously
from the power of these monsters."
A few minutes later Peppo slipped down to the steerage and delivered
Green's message to his uncle, and he in turn held a secret counsel with
the most resolute of his companions. They talked much of the warning
which the God of the Golden Fish had given them about keeping out of
broils without arriving at any conclusion, though their feelings
prompted them to wreak vengeance on the Captain for his rough treatment
of them. While they were talking a voice from the crow's nest called,
"Land—ahoy!" and in a moment the ship was all life. The boatswain
sounded his pipe calling every sailor to his place and the Captain came
on deck to give orders. On the left in the South Sea a wooded hill
rose from the water, and quickly became larger, as the ship flew
towards it like a bird. The Captain and Redfox stepped up to the wheel
and the Captain said to Green, "We must heave to."
"What? Heave to in such a fine breeze as this? What have we got for
the cannibals over there?"
"We must have water," said the Captain without looking at the helmsman.
"Redfox says that the cask has leaked and that there is not enough
water to last us through to Australia."
"I saw the cask yesterday, and then there was no leak in it. If it is
empty now there has been foul play."
"Hello! What ails the man?" cried Redfox. "Who has been doing the
"Since you ask I'll tell you. You have. And as you let the water run
out you can see to getting more to put in. Under no circumstances will
I do it."
"Well, Captain, what do you think of the fellow's impudence? I say he
belongs in chains," cried Redfox in a rage.
"Quite right. Insubordination on shipboard cannot be tolerated.
Either you take a small boat and go for water to fill the cask or I'll
put you in irons. A dozen Chinamen and the small interpreter are to
"Just as I thought. And your nephew is to go, too, and when we are on
shore the 'St. George' is to take advantage of favoring breezes, and we
are to be left for the cannibals. You'll have to murder the boy and me
right here; we'll not run our heads into any such trap. Heda! my
little Chinaman, now is the time for your countrymen to defend
themselves. The responsibility is mine," and with these words he threw
himself upon Redfox who drew out his knife with a curse. Green struck
him a blow that knocked him senseless, and then turned on the Captain,
who called loudly for help. The sailors to a man rushed to his aid,
while the Chinamen refused to mix in the white men's quarrel. Green
was quickly overpowered and was thrown into chains in the steerage.
There the Captain also put the boys who had openly taken the helmsman's
In utmost astonishment the sailors looked after the helmsman and the
two boys as they were led away. All honored and trusted Green as a man
true to his duty and a brave comrade; the Captain's nephew was the
favorite of the crew, and everybody liked faithful little Peppo. What
did it all mean? Now before their very eyes the helmsman had attacked
the first officer and the Captain, and even commanded the Chinamen to
be insubordinate, and the boys openly had taken sides with the helmsman.
"Green has lost his mind," cried an old sailor.
"It must be so," answered his companion. "Perhaps he is moonstruck;
more than one good fellow has gone moonstruck in the tropics."
"He must be out of his mind," put in the Captain, "but that's a matter
for the judge to find out. You can testify as to what he said and did,
and if the judge sends him to the mad-house instead of the gallows, I
shall be glad. Redfox has fortunately recovered himself after the
murderous attack and is going into my cabin." The Captain started
across the deck. "But hello, here!—What's the matter? The wind has
changed all of a sudden, or rather the breeze has ceased. The sails
are flapping against the mast, and the pennons are not moving. Every
man to his post," he shouted. "I fear the wind will veer suddenly
before we have time to turn round, and blow harder than will be
pleasant for us. Gray, go to the wheel. The rest of you mount the
rigging, furl the sails, all, even the great topsail. Oh, here, you
Chinamen, get down stairs."
The scene which had just taken place on deck had so absorbed the
attention of the entire crew that now for the first time they took note
of the change. There was the same long swell on the sea, but the
beautiful blue green waters had taken on a dull leaden hue. The sky
was threatening; instead of being azure, as it had been for weeks, it
was of a peculiar grayish color, although not a cloud was visible. In
the west the sun surrounded by a dark halo was going down. First a
dark bank of clouds appeared above the horizon; then quickly, like a
giant's hand with outstretched fingers to grasp the ship which lay
motionless on the waters, it spread until it covered the sun. With
greatest anxiety the sailors watched the signs of the approaching
hurricane, making what preparations they could by furling the sails,
locking the hatchways, and fastening every rope securely.
"We're going to have a hurricane, I fear, Captain. Just see how the
quicksilver has dropped in the barometer, and we are right upon this
accursed island with its coral reefs. God have mercy on us or we are
lost," said Gray.
White with fear he looked at the barometer, then at the sky. Already
the rumblings of the storm could be heard, and in the distance sheets
of foam like a mist were being driven before the wind.
"It will be here in a moment. The first shock will strike us on the
side.—If we only don't capsize," said the Captain.
"I cannot turn the ship against the wind so long as it is lying still
like this. We must let the waves wash over us—there!"
While Gray was speaking the storm broke and went howling through the
rigging, filling the only sail which was unfurled. The mast creaked;
the ship groaned in all its joints, as it tipped on its side until the
ends of the yards touched the water, and for one awful moment it seemed
as if it could not right itself. Then yielding to the rudder it swung
round to the west, and offered the point of the bow to the storm. Only
the fact that it was very strongly built saved it from destruction.
"Keep to the south as much as you can," called the Captain.
"The first danger is over," said Gray breathless, "but what now? How
am I to steer a ship that won't and can't be steered in such a storm as
this. I wish Green were here in my place."
"Keep to the south as much as you can. Every inch that we get away
from the Soloman Islands is so much away from sure destruction. If we
can only avoid those coral reefs we shall be safe.—Oh, that I was ever
fool enough to listen to Redfox and steer for those accursed islands."
These last words the Captain muttered under his breath, as he realized
how quickly God's punishment was overtaking him.
"To the south, Captain, so long as mast and sails remain and the good
ship yields to the rudder; but do let Green come and take my place. I
am not capable of steering in such a storm as this."
The Captain left Gray and went immediately to the room where the
helmsman was chained. The thrashing of the vessel, and the noise of
the waves dashing over its decks told that a frightful storm was
raging, and of the dangers of the coral reefs he knew only too well.
Consequently he said when the Captain came in, "It is no time now to
talk of grievances and discipline, you need my help. I give you my
word that when the ship is saved, if saved it can be, I will put on my
"I hope it will not be necessary. You will see that there is some
misunderstanding.—What was that awful crash? Death is upon us," cried
the Captain, interrupting himself.
"One of the masts has broken and gone over board!" cried Green. "Come
quickly or we'll go to the bottom. Bring the two boys into the cabin
and let them pray. If God will not spare these two innocent children
there is no hope for the rest of us. We can only repent and prepare
for the end."
A moment later Green was on deck. The mizzen-mast had broken off, but
still hung to the side of the vessel with all its tackling.
"Cut the ropes and clear the ship; then try one of the jib-sails,
otherwise there will be no such thing as steering," he said.
The sailors obeyed quickly. They were approaching nearer and nearer to
the reefs, over which the breakers washed with a thundering noise.
"If only the jib-sail will stand the pressure on it, perhaps we can
avoid the reefs. I reckon they are not a half mile away; the ship
yields a little," said Green.
The Captain again came on board, but avoided the helmsman. To Gray he
said, "Put out the flying-jib so as to be prepared in case the jib does
not hold, and get ready to cast the anchor." The sailors took their
places at the capstan and made ready to lower the anchor. Meantime the
night had settled down quickly, for in the tropics night follows the
going down of the sun without any twilight. There was a rainbow but
thick banks of clouds driven along by the storm hid it. The darkness
was so intense that you could not see the top of the mast, and even on
the deck it was impossible to distinguish objects only a step or two
away. Now and again a flash of lightning showed the foaming breakers
washing over the reefs and the dark outlines of the island beyond them.
Anxiously every eye was turned towards the point of danger.
"We're not two knots away from those accursed islands," said Gray.
"The storm is rising. The sails will be in shreds in a moment. Such
waves I have never seen before," answered Gray.
The ship danced like a nutshell on the raging waters. The bowsprit
raised itself high in the air, while the stern was buried in the trough
of the sea. All clung to the ropes or whatever object presented itself
expecting to be washed overboard, as the boat shook and creaked in its
Hanging for dear life to the railing near the wheel the Captain looked
upon the uproar of the elements, and must have admitted to himself that
the helmsman's words of accusation were only too well founded. A
frightful cry shook his soul. "Cain, where is thy brother Abel? What
hast thou done with thy brother's child? What judgment will be
pronounced on thee?" Now he did not seek to put the guilt on his
corrupter, his bad angel, but admitted that he was guilty, and despair
almost broke his heart. "There is no forgiveness, miserable sinner,"
whispered the arch enemy. "Thou art a murderer, thy brother's
murderer!" Then came back a happier thought, a picture of his innocent
youth. He saw himself before the miraculous image of the Blessed
Virgin, which he then so often visited. There were the lights of many
candles, and her motherly eyes looking down upon him, and at the foot
of the image written on a little tablet these words: "Mother of mercy,
refuge of sinners: pray for us." Like a friendly star in the night of
awful darkness came this bright picture, and in his agony he cried to
heaven: "O Lord, give me time to repent and atone for my sins."
The vessel swept on. The wind tore the sails to shreds. The sailors
cast the anchor. With a thud it went into the sea, and for a moment
held the vessel.
"Cut the masts," thundered the Captain. The sailors obeyed orders, but
with the first stroke of the ax, above the roaring of winds and waves
came the awful human cry: "The anchor is lost! We're drifting!"
"God have mercy on our souls," cried Green crossing himself, and the
Captain fell on his knees, moaning, "Mercy, mercy, O Lord, have mercy
A dazzling streak of lightning showed the white outlines of the reef
and the next moment a wave mountain high washed the vessel upon it.
When the ship stranded on the reef all on board were thrown from their
feet, and the anguishing cries of the shipwrecked mingled with the
creaking of the vessel and the roaring of the waves. The two boys
found themselves in utter darkness in a corner of the cabin. Willy,
the first to recover himself sufficiently to speak, said:
"Oh, Peppo, are you alive?"
"I thought the ship was sinking and that we were drowning. Oh, if we
had only all repented and atoned," groaned Peppo.
"Hear your people calling," said Willy.
"They are not baptized and will go to hell. Shall we not try to
baptize them? Come, quickly, let us try. If I could only find the
door—here it is. Come, come."
Willy wished to make the effort with his little friend acting as
interpreter and preacher, but scarcely had he and Peppo groped their
way out of the cabin before they found themselves caught in a crowd of
human beings, who screaming and howling at the top of their lungs, were
making their way from the steerage into which the water was streaming.
The prow of the ship had struck the reef and was high above the water
while great waves washed over the stern. All were crowding up the
narrow gangway and soon with three hundred Chinaman on deck there was
not an inch of space not covered with water which was unoccupied. In
their fear of death they climbed what was left of the rigging and hung
there like monkeys calling upon Buddha and all the heathen gods for
help and giving utterance to wild, maniacal shrieks. The boys would
have been pushed overboard in this panic had it not been that they fell
in with the Captain and helmsman who protected them as best they could.
"Tell your people," cried Green to Peppo, "that there is no need of
this frightful, insane howling. We are so securely lodged that we
cannot possibly sink, and the wreck will hold together until morning.
Five minutes ago when I saw that we were going to strike the reef, I
wouldn't have given a pipeful of tobacco for all our lives." And the
Captain said to Willy in a more friendly manner than he had ever
spoken: "You prayed well, my little man."
"Will the first officer also be good to me?" asked Willy, happy to
receive a kind word.
"Hello, Redfox," cried Green, "we quite forgot you in this mad
scramble," and the helmsman went to him and helped him along the deck.
"We are all in the same fix, and as Christians who pray 'Our Father' we
should forgive and be brothers. Here is my hand." The first officer
refused the proffered hand, turning his back on the honest helmsman.
The night with its raging storm wore away; towards morning the moon
showing itself in a rift in the clouds lighted the scene. Scarcely two
ships' lengths away the sea thundered on the beach; farther out the
waves, mountain-high, rolled in endless succession; to the right and
left extended the reef like a wall, several meters above the water,
except in one place it sank down so abruptly that even at low tide it
was under water.
"Truly it is a marvel that we struck this reef just in this particular
place, instead of there where it breaks off so abruptly," said the
Captain, "yet we are not in a fortunate position. We have been saved
from sudden death, but in its place we shall have a lingering and
perhaps more agonizing one. The ship is a total loss. The provisions
in the stern are under water, and the nearest port is a thousand miles
away."—Today the great island of Bougainville, on the east coast of
which the "St. George" stranded, belongs to Germany, and now it is not
so difficult for those who meet with misfortunes at sea to reach a
German harbor, but at the time of my story the nearest ports were those
of Australia and New Caledonia.—"How are three hundred Chinamen to
live here for an indefinite length of time?"
The full light of day revealed the fact that the reef which was of
great length was only a few feet wide and separated from the main land
by an inlet of water. The first thing that the Captain did was to
order the Chinamen to take what was left of the sails and build
themselves tents; then he gave his attention to the question of the
"We must cross to the main land and get some drinking water," he said,
"for we have only one cask left."
"Just enough to last the big boat on its trip to Australia," whispered
Redfox to the Captain. "You and I and Gray, and a couple of the
strongest of the young fellows will attempt the journey. Let Green and
the boys stay here with the Chinamen until we bring help. Our plans
will come out all right after all. The half million for which the ship
is insured will be ours—and we shall be able to take it with a clear
"No, Redfox, enough of your machinations. I have resolved to turn over
a new leaf, and to do good hereafter, that is, if there is any good
left in me. We must fix up these people the best that we can with the
wreckage of the ship, build a fort for them yonder on that little
brook, and give them arms and provisions, then we will cast lots as to
who is to go in the open boat to the nearest Australian port."
The Captain went on then with preparations for crossing to the island
for drinking water and edible fruits. Unfortunately the powder and
firearms were all under water, so that the men had to make the
dangerous landing armed only with clubs and knives. The Captain led
the party, taking with him four sailors, a dozen or more Chinamen, and
small Peppo to act as interpreter. Willy would have gone gladly, but
his uncle would not hear to his risking his life unnecessarily.
"I'll pray for you, uncle," said the boy, "that it won't go with you
"As certain people had planned it for you and others," the uncle
finished the sentence of the faltering child. "Yes, pray that the old
saying that 'He who digs a grave for another, himself falls therein,'
may not be fulfilled." Turning to Redfox, he asked: "Don't you want to
go with me?"
The latter muttered something under his breath and slipped away. The
Captain gave the signal and soon they were on the opposite shore. A
group of natives came down to greet them, seemingly in friendly
fashion, offered them fruit, and helped to roll the casks up on the
beach; then all of a sudden with unearthly shrieks they fell upon them
with their clubs. With difficulty the Captain and two sailors managed
to get into the boat and across the inlet, to where their companions,
pale with fear, stood shuddering to think of the awful fate of their
"Poor, poor Peppo," wailed Willy, "can't we help him? Will he be eaten
up by the cannibals?"
Immediately there appeared on the shore whole troops of cannibals, and
more poured out of the woods. Swinging their clubs and giving
frightful war cries they challenged the intruders to do battle with
"Quickly, boatswain," said the Captain, "order the Chinaman to make a
raft from the beams of the boat, and to arm themselves as best they
can. We must force a landing and get some drinking water or we are
lost. It we only had half a dozen guns and some ammunition.—Just
listen to the cries of these men whom they are putting to death," said
the Captain, turning his eyes away from the sickening sight. 
By means of signs the boatswain tried to incite the Chinamen to action.
They understood perfectly well what was wanted but remained passive,
for Lihoa reminded them of the warning of the God of the Golden Fish
not to engage in any strife.
"Leave the cowards to their fate," said Gray. "We'll take the single
cask of water, the salted meat and hardtack which we fished out of the
sea and get out of here tonight secretly."
The sailors to a man agreed to this plan, but as the boat would hold
only six persons the thing could not be managed. The Captain offered
to remain, and asked who was willing to stay with him. The helmsman
was the only one to signify his willingness to stay; the rest preferred
to settle the matter by drawing lots. According to this Redfox and
Gray were to remain, so the Captain appointed Green to direct the boat
"Green, you are the only man equal to the task, and I give my nephew
into your keeping. The boy's life must be saved. The dangers which
threaten you on this perilous trip are scarcely less than those which
we face here. Perhaps on some neighboring island you can get
drinking-water, perhaps you will fall in with some ship which will come
to our rescue. If we are here a month, yes, a week, even, without
drinking-water, what then? But as God wills. For my part I will
willingly offer my life as a sacrifice in atonement for the past. May
the best of fortune favor you, and may you save the life of my nephew.
The insurance on this boat all goes to him; and if you rescue him, send
him to Father Somazzo in Hongkong. If you cannot save us, come back
and see that our bones receive decent Christian burial."
Thus spoke the Captain. The helmsman, who would willingly have stayed
behind on the dreary reef, made ready for the trip and at midnight set
sail with the ebb of the tide.
 NOTE.—What is told here and in the following chapter concerning
the cannibals happened at the time that the "St. Paul" was wrecked on
the Island of Rossel in July, 1858. Compare this account with the one
found in Jos. Spillmann's story, called "Over the South Sea."
Night had settled down. The Chinamen lay under their tents and
listened to what Lihoa spoke: "So far we have avoided discord; from the
sea we have been saved, and now surely the God of the Golden Fish will
not let us perish from thirst. Within a few days it must rain;
drinking-water will come to us from the heavens. Tonight, I
understand, that the helmsman is to set sail for Australia in a small
boat, and take the boy with him. That will never do. As you know the
Captain and Redbeard are the helmsman's enemies and have conspired
against his life. He will not come back to save them—he would be a
fool if he did—but he loves the boy. Our only salvation lies in
keeping the boy here with us; in holding him as a whiplash over the
helmsman. Otherwise we are lost."
All nodded assent to Lihoa's words, but as they had no way of telling
the Captain what they wanted, they decided that when the time came for
the boat to sail they would forcibly detain Willy. Just here little
Peppo, whom they thought dead, appeared in their midst. He and one
sailor had escaped and swum across the little inlet. The cannibals had
not killed them when they did their companions for some reason or other
but had bound them with cords and left them on the shore. These cords
they had managed to unfasten, and, protected by the darkness, had got
away. While the sailor was telling his companions of his awful
experience Lihoa told Peppo what to say to the Captain, and to add
force to the words, the Chinamen in a body attended the small
interpreter on his mission. Great was the noise and excitement
following his announcement, but how could a handful of men oppose three
hundred Chinaman? Willy was ready to stay behind.
"Tommy," he said to the helmsman, "leave me here with Peppo and my
uncle. In the boat I'd only be in the way. I'll pray that you may
return soon. Good luck to you. Be brave of heart, Tommy, and may your
holy guardian angel watch over you."
Those embarking promised faithfully to come back or to send help as
soon as possible, and parted with tears in their eyes. Tommy kissed
Willy and said: "God knows that if I do not put my faith in your
guardian angel there is little hope of ever seeing you again on this
earth. Once more good-bye until we meet again. Pray for us all,
Thereupon he sprang into the boat, and they were off. The moon was
full and in its light they could be seen as they passed through the
opening in the reef. Again they called farewell and waved their
handkerchiefs. The crew raised the sail and in a few moments the stiff
breeze had carried the little boat beyond the tongue of land and out of
sight. With hearts too full for utterance the men sat and wondered
what the future would bring. If by chance the boat fell in with a
merchant vessel—not a likely thing, as few vessels frequented this
route—help might come soon, otherwise under the most favorable of
circumstances they must wait for months for Green to go to Australia
and come back.
In the crow's nest of the mast which was still standing they kept a
constant watch in the hope of sighting a vessel and signalling of their
distress. Day after day went by with no sign of help. Mercilessly the
tropical sun burned down on the dreary sandbar. Scurvy broke out. The
small amount of rations which they had, water-soaked biscuits and
salted meats, increased their thirst, and to add to their distress the
cannibals on the opposite shore mockingly showed them bunches of
luscious bananas and other tropical fruits.
"Don't look there any more, Willy," said Peppo. "Those dreadful
cannibals are only just showing us the fruit to tantalize us, and if we
go after it we shall be murdered and eaten up the way I've told you
"But, Peppo, I think the thirst is just as bad as being killed,"
complained Willy, "I'd just as soon be killed as die of thirst."
"That's just what my people were saying today," answered Peppo. "Lihoa
told them that they were to be patient a little longer, that the rain
would surely come for he had seen unfailing signs. We will bear the
thirst with patience for a little time yet. You know why I want them
to hold out. I want to convert them. My poor countrymen!"
"Peppo! how came you to think of that?" said Willy, looking at his
friend with open eyes.
"I don't know. Just a little while ago when I was praying the thought
came to me, and I firmly believe that God saved me from the cannibals
for this purpose. I have been talking to Lihoa and the others about
the belief in Jesus Christ and baptism, and many of them said that if
our God would save them now in their hour of peril, they would be
baptized. The most of them are looking for help from one of their gods
who rides on a Golden Fish. They expect he will be forced to rescue
them from this miserable reef through the offerings of one of their
"A God that rides on a Golden Fish? I'd like to see him," said Willy.
"You are right about advising them to be baptized. We may all perish
here before Tommy gets back with help. And if we do, the Chinese with
the holy grace of baptism will go to heaven. If we are all saved, then
they will take back with them to Hongkong a greater treasure than all
the gold of the Goldland to the south. That would be such a fine thing
for yon, Peppo! Do you not remember what Father Somazzo said about the
saving of a soul—that one precious soul was worth more to God than all
the gold and jewels in the world. What a happy boy you will be, if you
save not one but three hundred souls? Oh, if I only understood Chinese
and could help you explain our faith!"
"You can help by offering this awful desire for water to God as a
sacrifice. Father Somazzo used to tell us to offer up many unpleasant
little things as sacrifices to God for the conversion of the heathens
and promised us our reward for so doing."
Willy did as Peppo suggested and his thirst became easier to bear.
Captain Brown who happened to be standing by and overheard this
conversation most heartily approved of the plan. Since the rescue from
the shipwreck he had been a different man. Redfox no longer held him
in his power; drinking and gambling had no attractions for him and he
turned away from "his bad angel" in disgust. His sins and frivolity he
repented most sincerely, and with tears in his eyes, he said to the
boys, "If only you and the rest can be saved I will give my life.—O
Lord, Lord, take my life as atonement for the past," he prayed aloud.
Next day Lihoa's prophecy came true. The heavens clouded over and
there came a frightful thunderstorm. The rain poured down. The
thirsty men caught it by spreading out the sails and soon the empty
casks were filled. Its coming gave relief to dire distress but brought
with it a new misery. The water soaked and rotted the sun-dried wood
of the wreck, which the Chinese had made into small huts, until fever
broke out to add to the suffering caused by scurvy. The coming of the
fever more than anything else caused the Chinese to lose their faith in
the God of the Golden Fish.
"Neither by discord, the sea, nor thirst, concerning which our lying
priest warned us, have we lost a single one of our number, but now
disease rages until our men die like flies," said Lihoa.
From this time on all of the sick were willing to be baptized—not by
the Captain but by the two boys, Willy and Peppo. The Captain became
very ill and Willy nursed him. Redfox was taken with fever, and in his
delirium would trust no one to wait upon him. Constantly he cried
"Water! water!" then would not take it when offered him. Willy gave
him a glass and he threw it at his head screaming, "Poison! poison!
The boy wants to poison me!" One morning he was gone. His companions
searched for him in vain, and finally recognized his agonizing cries
from the opposite shore where the cannibals were torturing him. In his
delirium he had swum across the narrow inlet which separated them from
their enemies; his heartrending cries told of the reception accorded
him. "Oh, if he had only repented!" cried the boys with a shudder, as
* * * * * *
The rainy season had been over for weeks and again the water in the
casks was running short. When it was gone, what then?—Men looked
death in the face and prepared for it. Of the crew barely a dozen were
left; and of the Chinamen not more than fifty, and all of them were
suffering from scurvy. They wandered about looking more like ghosts
than human beings, and now still another danger threatened. For a long
time they had noticed that the cannibals were preparing to attack them.
"How shall we protect ourselves?" asked the Captain; "if they really do
fall upon us, we are lost. Willy go have Peppo tell his people who
have not been baptized that it is high time that they attend to the
matter, and then climb the mast to see if you can make out what the
cannibals are doing. We will sell our hides as dearly as possible."
Willy delivered the message to Peppo, and climbed the mast, which after
the destruction of the wreck had been put up on the shore as a place
from which to keep a lookout for passing vessels rather than to spy on
the neighbors opposite. The sailors were so sick and weak that none of
them could climb the mast to the crow's nest, so the task always
devolved on the two boys, who though they had eaten of the salt meat,
had not as yet been attacked with scurvy. This time instead of
watching the sea Willy gave his attention to the natives who had built
a raft and were manning it to cross the inlet and make an attack.
After reporting what he saw his uncle called to him to come down and
help baptize the Chinamen. Just then the boy glanced seaward and to
his surprise discovered a ship lying at anchor not a mile away. "Holy
guardian angel! Blessed Mother of God!" he cried in joy. "A ship! a
ship! A ship in sight! Ship—ahoy! Wait, wait, they're coming!
They're launching a small boat!" Willy was so excited that he did not
know what he was saying, as he slid down the mast and ran for the shore
followed by all his companions.
It was really true that a ship was at anchor but a short distance away
and that the needed help was at hand, for, "When need is greatest God's
help is nearest." Just as the first raft loaded with cannibals
attempted to land, a boat with Tommy Green at the helm appeared in the
opening of the coral reef and a half dozen shots sufficed to frighten
away the enemy. A moment or two later Willy was in the arms of his old
friend. It did not take long for the men who had survived the horrors
of life on the coral reef to make their way to "The South Star."
What had been Tommy Green's experiences at sea in an open boat? He
told of storms, a calm, hunger, and thirst, and how more than once he
and his companions were in utter despair, but ever to their minds in
the hour of greatest trial came the thought "Surely the guardian angels
of those two innocent boys will not desert us."
"And they have not," said Tommy, "for they have brought us to you now
when you needed us most. Is that not true, my children."
With good care and treatment the most of the sick recovered before "The
South Star" put into the harbor of Hongkong. On disembarking at
Willy's request the Captain gave each of the Chinamen a sum of gold,
which to them seemed a great fortune. Lihoa thanking the Captain for
himself and his people said, "This is not the real treasure which we
have brought home with us; our real treasure is the true religion."
Full of joy they went back to their little hamlet where they told of
their experiences and soon converted many of their people to the
Christian faith. Still greater than the rejoicing in the little hamlet
was that at the College of the Holy Saviour when the shipwrecked boys
put in their appearance. Brother Onufrio shed tears of joy and Father
Somazzo was deeply moved when told of the sufferings endured on the
coral reef. "God has done all things for the best," he said, "and His
guardian angels watched over you, my children, in your hour of greatest
When the excitement attendant upon the arrival of the sufferers had
somewhat died down Tommy Green asked to be received as lay brother in
the congregation of missioners, in accordance with a solemn vow he made
on the night of the shipwreck. Captain Brown showed a desire to follow
his example, but God in His mercy took the deed for the word, calling
the repentant man to Him within a few months. The two boys continued
their studies in the College. Peppo became a missioner, and is perhaps
this very day carrying on his blessed work among his people. Willy
made law his life work and had an honorable career in his chosen