Literary Thoughts edition presents The Hurricane by Charles Bernard Nordhoff & James Norman Hall ------ "The Hurricane" was written in 1936 by Charles Bernard Nordhoff (1887-1947) & James Norman Hall (1887-1951). The novel is set in the late 1800s, telling the story of colonists and natives on a small atoll in the South Pacific, which is set upon by a fierce hurricane that destroys nearly everyone and everything. All books of the Literary Thoughts edition have been transscribed from original prints and edited for better reading experience. Please visit our homepage www.literarythoughts.com to see our other publications.
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Liczba stron: 313
Transscribed and Published by Jacson Keating (editor)
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Scattered over a thousand miles of ocean in the eastern tropical Pacific, below the Equator, lies a vast collection of coral islands extending in a general northwesterly, southeasterly direction across ten degrees of latitude. Seventy-eight atolls, surf-battered dykes of coral, enclosing lagoons, make up this barrier to the steady westward roll of the sea. Some of the lagoons are scarcely more than salt-water ponds; others, like those of Rangiroa and Fakarava, are as much as fifty miles long by twenty or thirty across. The motu, or islets, composing the land, are threaded at wide intervals on the encircling reef. The smaller ones are frequented by sea fowl which nest in the pandanus trees and among the fronds of scattered coconut palms. Others, enchantingly green and restful to sea-weary eyes, follow the curve of the reef for many miles, sloping away over the arc of the world until they are lost to view. But whatever their extent, one feature is common to all: they are mere fringes of land seldom more than a quarter of a mile in width, and rising only a few feet above the sea which seems always on the point of overwhelming them.
There is no other group of islands so remote from any continent. The inhabitants, few in number, are Polynesians, with the cheerful dignity of their race; but the loneliness, the enforced simplicity, and the precariousness of life faced with the perpetual menace of the sea have made them sturdy and resourceful, and have implanted in them an abiding sense of the tragic nature of man’s fate. They have both the hardihood and the enduring fear of those whose mother, the Sea, is ever at their doorsteps. None know so well the peace and beauty of her kindly moods. To none is her unescapable and mindless majesty revealed, at times, with more awe-inspiring grandeur.
Their own collective name for their half-drowned homelands is Tuamotu: Islands of the Distant Sea. Geographers, and the few white men who visit them, call them the Low, or Dangerous, Archipelago.
Late on an afternoon in October, a two-masted schooner entered the pass at the western end of the island of Manukura. She was a broad-beamed vessel of ninety tons, with a native crew, and the manner in which she was conned through the coral shoals within the lagoon revealed that her captain, himself a Polynesian, was no stranger to the place. The sails had been lowered at the entrance, and the ship proceeded with her engine at half-speed toward an islet that extended eastward from the passage for a distance of two miles or more. A quarter of an hour later the engine was reversed, and the vessel, losing way, was brought to anchor near the end of a ruined pier of coral slabs.
The breeze, which had become lighter with the descending sun, died away completely. Night had now fallen and the constellations of the Southern Hemisphere sparkled in a cloudless sky. In the starlight, the fringe of near-by land was a narrow ribbon of black, dividing two immensities. No sound came from the beach, nor was there any sign along the whole extent of it of human habitation. To the east and south, Manukura Lagoon seemed to stretch away to infinity, to be metamorphosed at last into sound: a faint, unceasing thunder, without beginning or end, as though somewhere, at a vast distance, the stream of Time itself were pouring over the brink of an abyss.
The vessel lay motionless; no creak of block or rudder could be heard. Two men, seated at a table on the afterdeck, their faces thrown into clear relief by the light of a lantern hanging from the boom, seemed awed and hushed by a silence so profound. They had finished dinner, and now, with their chairs pushed back, they were gazing out over the starlit water, each engaged in his own reflections. Dr. Kersaint had been medical officer of the Tuamotu Group for more than fifteen years. He was a Breton, in late middle life, short, stout and active, with a closely clipped gray beard. His bald head glimmered in the lamplight, and his blue eyes, behind gold-rimmed spectacles, were kindly and shrewd. His companion, Vernier, was a younger man, about thirty; lean, sallow of complexion, with a sensitive, rather melancholy face.
Presently the silence was shattered by the shrill complaining of blocks as one of the ship’s boats was lowered from its davits, and a moment later the captain, clad only in a waistcloth, appeared within the circle of lamplight and spoke to the doctor, in the native tongue. Kersaint turned to his companion.
“They’re going to Motu Tonga, across the lagoon, for a night of fishing,” he said. “They will return about dawn. Would you care to join them?”
Vernier shook his head. “Not to-night, Doctor. Thank him for me, will you? I’m much too comfortable to move.”
Kersaint turned to the captain and they spoke together for a moment; then the latter, with a nod to his passengers, went forward, climbed down into the boat, and took the long steering sweep, while four of his men ran out their oars. The boat moved off, shadowy in the starlight, the two men gazing after it in silence until the creaking of the oarlocks died away.
“A striking-looking fellow, this captain of ours,” Vernier remarked, at length. “There must be good blood in his veins. I’ve been interested in the way he handles his vessel; his men, too, for that matter. They seem to know by instinct what he wants done.”
“You will discover, when you know these people better, that they can converse without words, conveying their meaning in a glance, a slight movement of the head, or a lifting and lowering of the eyebrows.”
“Have you known him long?”
“The captain? A good many years, now.”
“Does he understand navigation? I’ve not seen him take a sight since we left the Marquesas.”
“Oh, yes. He passed an excellent examination for his certificate. But he knows this part of the Pacific as well as the sea birds themselves. You observed how precisely he made his landfall?”
Vernier nodded. “You like these people, Doctor; that’s plain,” he remarked.
“I do, though I’m not blind to their failings. Five years hence you shall tell me what you think of them. I predict that, comparing them with all the races you’ve known, it will not be the Polynesians who suffer in the final estimate.”
“Five years hence! God forbid that I should be buried here as long as that!”
Kersaint smiled. “You say that feelingly,” he replied.
The cabin boy came aft to clear the table; the two men rose to resume their steamer chairs by the rail, and to light their pipes. Vernier stood for a moment, gazing toward the near-by land.
“Five years. . . .” he repeated. “I hope not. Doctor, let me speak frankly. I go where the Government sends me and try to do my duty. Thus far I have had two posts, wretched places up rivers in equatorial Africa. But I assure you that in neither of them have I had so profound a sense of loneliness and desolation as I was conscious of when approaching the land this afternoon. The sparse vegetation, the great heaps of broken coral, like bleaching bones, a few forlorn coconut palms scattered here and there . . . small wonder the place is uninhabitable. Five years among such islands? Wish me better luck, in heaven’s name!”
“You have entered your new province through the back door,” Kersaint replied. “Had we come from Tahiti instead of the Marquesas, we should have touched at several islands which are fairer examples of the Tuamotu. I can understand your feeling about Manukura as you see it now; yet it was once a rich island, as atolls go, and well populated. It will be peopled again when soil has had time to form.”
“And when will that be?”
“Five hundred years hence, perhaps.”
“A longish time to wait!”
“To a European. Down here we measure time by a different rule—in tens and scores of generations. You’ve heard of de Laage, perhaps?”
“De Laage? No, I don’t think so.”
“In his time Manukura was the seat of the administration. The Residency stood yonder, on the beach, not a quarter of a mile from where we’re anchored. There was a fine church, and a flourishing village, as pretty as any in the Group.”
“It seems incredible. What happened, a hurricane?”
“One of the worst that ever crossed this region.”
The two men puffed at their pipes in a silence deepened rather than broken by a muffled, unceasing vibration in the air, registering on the remote background of consciousness: the sound of distant breakers thundering over miles of desolate reef. Reclining in his chair, Kersaint stared into the sky, bright with stars for which he knew only Polynesian names. Takurua was low in the east; he recognized Matariki, Tangi-Rio Aitu, and Pipiri-Ma, the Twins. They had shone on Manukura ages before human feet had pressed its sands, had stood as beacons to guide the Polynesian explorers, fifteen hundred years ago. They had witnessed the discovery and settlement of the island centuries before white men had found it, and had seen it devastated in a single night. Some day their light would again filter softly down through groves of coconut palms and glimmer on the roofs of men’s dwellings where now were only bleached coral and patches of thin parched shrub. For a moment the doctor had an odd sense of existence outside of time. He turned his head.
“You are thinking that I must be a very poor doctor or a very foolish one to have remained out here fifteen years.”
“Not that,” Vernier protested; “but you will forgive me if I wonder how any European could be content for so long. I’m curious, I confess.”
“I quite understand. The explanation is simple: I love these islands. They are barren and inhospitable, if you like, compared with the high volcanic islands to the westward, but where else is there to be found such beauty, such peace, such remoteness from the world of our times? These are advantages that appeal strongly to me. There are more than sixty inhabited islands in the Group, with a total population of about five thousand. Being the only medical officer, you will perceive that I am able to be of some use. I’ve had opportunities to go elsewhere, but when it came to the point of decision, I’ve always discovered that I wanted to stay. No doubt the authorities think me slightly mad.”
“You were through the war?”
Dr. Kersaint chuckled quietly. “It’s plain from that question that you agree with them.”
“Don’t misunderstand me, Doctor,” his companion remonstrated. “It was a quite natural question.”
“To be sure it was. Yes, I had passed my thirty-fifth birthday when the Armistice was signed. You must have been in your teens at that time, but no doubt you remember it as vividly as I myself.”
“I recall my keen disappointment that it all ended just as I was ready to take part. What fools boys can be!”
“Men of my generation had had more than enough. The world in which our youth was passed was in ruins. We were too old to take much interest in the shaping of a new one, and still too young to fold our hands and do nothing. We had to go on living, somehow. As I look back to those days, it seems to me that what most of us wanted was merely the privilege of retiring from chaos. We could at least hope to build up something resembling order and decency in our own lives. That, certainly, was what I wished to do, and I didn’t in the least care how far I might have to go in search of the opportunity. I had spent four years in base hospitals, advanced hospitals, and front-line dressing stations. By the time the war was over I had a knowledge of my trade which I hoped never to use again.”
“I can well understand that.”
“There was nothing, then, to prevent my ordering my life as I chose. The only near relative I had remaining was an uncle at the Ministry of Colonies. We were, naturally, drawn more closely together across the gaps made in the family circle. He was one of the kindest of men, well along in his sixties at that time, with an administrative, non-political position at the Ministry. Governments rose and fell, but he remained at his post undisturbed, to instruct incoming members in their routine duties. Although he had never been out of France, he had a profound knowledge of our colonial possessions. I went to him for advice, telling him that I wanted a post as medical officer in some backwater colony as far removed as possible from Europe. My uncle was sympathetic, but he had a very delicate sense of what was fitting in his position. He would not lift a finger to help me. However, he promised that when he learned of a vacancy which he thought would suit me, he would let me know.”
Dr. Kersaint broke off. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I had no intention of launching out into my family history. This can interest you very little.”
“On the contrary,” his companion replied. “Please continue. Your uncle was as good as his word, evidently.”
“Very well then. . . . Yes, he was, although he must have leaned over backward to avoid any action savoring of nepotism. A year passed and I was still waiting. At last came a laconic message, dictated, as I knew, by my uncle. I can recall the exact wording of it: ‘If the doctor who wished to bury himself in the remotest of all colonies is still of the same mind, he is informed that an opportunity for interment now presents itself on the opposite side of the globe.’ Under this was a note in my uncle’s hand, asking me to call at ten the following morning.
“I was there on the stroke of the hour. A huge map of the Pacific hung on one wall of my uncle’s bureau. He pointed out the Tuamotu Archipelago—I had never heard of it until that moment—and then proceeded to give me the bleakest possible account of conditions there. The inhabitants, he said, lived upon coconuts and fish. The islands, only a few feet above sea level, were frequently devastated by hurricanes. The few white men sent out in administrative positions were authentically buried for the period of their service. Once there, they were all but forgotten, and lost opportunities for advancement that came as a matter of course to those in more important colonies. But advancement was the least of my concerns, and the more my uncle tried to dissuade me, the more convinced I became that the Tuamotu was the post I sought. I got it almost for the asking. It seems that no one else wanted it.”
“And you’re quite contented? You’ve never regretted . . .” Vernier broke off, leaving the sentence unfinished. Dr. Kersaint rose, knocked out his pipe against the rail, and again settled himself comfortably in his chair.
“Never,” he replied. “I’ve not had the slightest desire to return to Europe. It’s not easy to explain. You’ll grant that a satisfactory life must be based on reality? Well, I find reality here.”
“Reality!” exclaimed the younger man. “When we leave this place I shall find it hard to believe that the island exists at all! I scarcely know why, but even more than Africa this disquiets me, puts me on the defensive. On such crumbs of land man seems so helpless—so hopelessly, microscopically small. Tropical jungles are bad enough, but Nature typified by such an ocean . . . it is too powerful. It numbs the imagination.”
“But Nature is powerful, my dear Vernier! I know: we try to forget it, and at home, where we herd together, thousands to the square mile, we very nearly succeed. But all our efforts to thwart her, to harness her, must come to nothing in the end.”
“You believe, then, that our science will get us nowhere; that we shall never emancipate ourselves; that progress is an illusion, in short?”
“Progress aims at a steadily increasing security. I’m not saying that it is not a worthy end to strive toward, but think what we lose in the pursuit of it! And security is not enough; far from it! The people of these islands have been taught better. They live in the present, enjoying the simple occurrences of each day as it comes. They waste little time in planning for the future, for at any moment Nature may decide to take a hand. And they are happy, I think.”
“I hope so,” said Vernier with a wry smile. “Certainly, you should be a good judge of that. You must know these people as few outsiders do.”
“I like them, at least, and speak their language. Situated as I am, with almost no intercourse with the outer world, one comes to take great interest in simple things: the happenings of village life, the little tragedies and comedies that develop here as well as elsewhere. In Polynesia, a doctor is a privileged person even more than at home; everyone, from the children to the great-grandparents, open their hearts to him. I divert myself by looking on, by listening to all that they tell me, until I can piece together each small drama, complete from beginning to end.”
“Theirs is existence reduced to its simplest terms, I should think.”
“So it is, and we Frenchmen are supposed to care little for life stripped down to the essentials. I may be eccentric in this respect, but I find it unfailingly refreshing. I am no believer in the noble savage of Jean Jacques, yet to my mind there is an elemental fineness in lives like these, free from the petty concerns that debase our lives at home. Greed, parsimony, avarice, scarcely exist among them. Thrift, which we elevate to a virtue, is a term of ridicule here. A virtue? This acquisitive storing up for the future which the peasant shares with the squirrel?”
“Have a care, Doctor!” Vernier put in with a good-humored laugh. “I shall begin to doubt you a fellow countryman.”
“Don’t take an elderly crank too seriously. I have changed, no doubt of it, but I fancy the war had more to do with that than the atolls.”
He paused. “Are you sleepy?” he asked, presently.
“Not in the least.”
“I’ve a mind to give you a glimpse of your new province in advance. In my mail, at Atuona, I found a letter informing me that Madame de Laage was dead. She was a remarkable woman; I had the greatest respect for her. Save myself, she was the last surviving European who played a part in a series of events in which I took deep interest. Would you care to hear the story?”
“I’d like nothing better.”
“It concerns the hurricane which desolated Manukura, but bound up with that was a most unusual little drama which came under my own observation. You will understand that I didn’t gather the details all at once, but before I was done, I knew everything that had happened, and, I imagine, very nearly as it occurred. The situation, like most of our troubles and perplexities, was man-made, but Nature furnished the solution in the end. Very well, then:—”
This schooner was built just before the war. The people of Manukura took an almost proprietary interest in her, for her frames and knees of tohonu wood were cut out by them to Captain Nagle’s order, and freighted, by cutter, to the shipyard at Tahiti. A remarkable wood, tohonu; it grows only on the Low Islands, and the scent of it when freshly sawn attracts butterflies for miles around. It is proof against dry rot, and grows harder and harder with age. It is twenty-one years since the Katopua was launched, and so far as her frames go, she is good for fifty more. At any rate, she has outlasted her skipper.
Nagle was an Englishman. He came out here in early youth, one of those unusual men who succeed in eradicating all traces of nationality. He spoke French fluently, though with a strong twang of the Midi. His compatriots supposed him an American, and Americans, an Englishman. Hearing his voice on deck, on a dark night, the natives of neighboring groups had more than once mistaken him for a Tuamotu man. His seamanship, more than his appearance or speech, proclaimed his English birth.
He began his career as cook on a brig belonging to the Maison Brander, trading to the west coast of South America, in the days when Chile dollars circulated all through this part of the world. Cook, sailor, quartermaster, mate, captain—he climbed the steps easily. He had resolved to own and operate his own vessel in the Tuamotu, and his schooner, when finally launched, represented the savings of more than twenty-five years at sea.
Like every skipper in these parts, he had a favorite island where he enjoyed a monopoly of trade, and to which he hoped to retire some day. The people of Manukura regarded Captain Nagle as one of themselves. Twice each year, with a regularity that never failed, the Katopua sailed into the lagoon, bringing flour, rice, tobacco, tinned beef, prints, cutlery, and other things for Tavi’s store, and loading the one hundred tons of copra bagged and waiting for him in the sheds by the landing place. Nagle’s memory was remarkable. He knew everyone on the island, children included: what woman was expecting a baby; which child was to be confirmed at the church; what people had relatives on other islands, and the relationship between them. He was given innumerable commissions each time he sailed, and these, no matter how small, he would execute faithfully, without profit to himself. He would match a yard of lace for a grandmother or buy a particular color of ribbon in the Papeete shops for one of the girls. In return for his many services, there was nothing within the people’s power to give that Nagle might not have had for the asking.
It was natural that a Manukura crew should man the schooner. Like all Low Islanders, they made splendid seamen, once they got the hang of the ropes and compass. The best of the lot was Terangi, a lad of sixteen when Nagle took him aboard a few weeks before Germany declared war.
The men of the Tuamotu were not conscripted for service overseas, but the blood of warlike chiefs flowed in Terangi’s veins, and once he had visited Tahiti and seen the drilling and departure of the troops, all the captain’s influence was needed to prevent the lad from volunteering. Young as he was, he was well grown and strong beyond his years; he might have passed anywhere for eighteen or nineteen. The boy was of a type occasionally to be found among the ariki class: thin-lipped and aquiline in feature, and as courageous and trustworthy as he was good-natured.
Nagle had long known Terangi’s mother, Mama Rua, a widow whose other children had scattered to distant islands, which is often the case in the Tuamotu, for the people are careful about inbreeding. He had had many a talk with the slender gray-haired woman and had opened his mind to her as to his hopes for Terangi. He would take the lad to sea, teach him his trade, and turn over the schooner and the business to him when he himself was ready to retire. The boy, of course, was told nothing of all this. Like others, he went to sea when he was old enough, and it struck him as natural that a portion of the ancestral land should be allotted to the captain, who would some day build a house upon it and live there.
The war years passed with only two ripples of excitement: the bombarding of Papeete by the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and the stir caused by Count von Luckner’s raider, the Seeadler. Aside from these not over-serious reminders, the war might have been waged upon another planet. Copra, as you know, is a valuable source of glycerine, and the brisk demand for explosives was good business down here. The captain’s views on war, which were somewhat in advance of his time, he took good care to keep to himself; but since men were fools enough to insist upon slaughtering one another, he saw no reason why George Nagle should stand aside and let others reap a harvest from a sowing which was none of his own.
When the fighting was over and the nations began to contemplate the ruins of the world they had wrecked, Nagle had built up a substantial balance at the Banque de L’Indo-Chine, and Terangi was the Katopua’s mate.
He was twenty-one at that time: a handsome, light-skinned fellow, not tall, but already noted for his activity and strength. When the schooner touched at atolls without passes, where the boats were loaded on the outer reef, he could walk a hundred yards over the rough coral of the shallows with four sixty-kilo bags of copra on his back. Most sailors carry two; three are considered a load for a powerful man. There is no more exhausting, back-breaking work in the world than that of loading copra schooners. Terangi thrived on it, and found time between whiles to become a thorough seaman. He handled the vessel as well as the captain himself. As I have said, he was a modest fellow, without a hint of arrogance in his character, but he had a sense of dignity not to be affronted without risk. It was at this time that he got into trouble that was to have most serious results.
The Katopua had returned to Papeete with a load of copra, and one afternoon when the work for the day was over, Terangi, with two others of Nagle’s men, was sharing a bottle of beer at Duval’s, a place near the waterfront frequented by seamen, planters, and the like. Nagle himself was there at a near-by table and saw what happened. The monthly steamer from Sydney was in port and the bar crowded with the usual customers, together with passengers from the steamer, stretching their legs ashore. Presently a paunchy, red-faced man came in and stood by the door for a moment, looking for a vacant table. He was a good deal the worse for liquor and wanted more. He had a sweaty, boozy face which he mopped with a dirty handkerchief as he glared truculently around the room, as though defying everyone in it to refuse to make a place for him. There were no chairs vacant, but he didn’t mean to lower his sense of his own importance by standing up at the bar. Of a sudden he walked over to the table where Terangi and his friends were sitting and ordered them away from it. His manner said as plainly as words could have done: “I’m white. You’re not. Get out!”
Polynesians are obliging and courteous folk. If the man had asked for a seat with even an approach to decency he would have had a place made for him at once. But he wanted the whole table to himself. Two of the boys got up, but Terangi didn’t move. He paid no attention to the fellow and went on quietly drinking his beer. The Colonial, for so he was, was wild at being so coolly ignored, and by a “nigger” at that, as he called him. He swung his arm at full length and caught Terangi a clap on the face with his beefy paw that nearly knocked him out of his seat.
Terangi sprang to his feet and gave the fellow a blow straight from the shoulder, with the full strength of his powerful right arm, and there was no open hand at the end of it. It was precisely what the animal deserved, and there was no one present who did not think so. Unfortunately for Terangi, the man’s jaw was broken. When he regained consciousness he was taken to the hospital and there proceeded to make no end of a disturbance. He was a British subject. He demanded his rights. Little as he deserved to be, it seems that he was a man of considerable authority at home—a Labourite politician or some such thing. Wireless messages passed back and forth. The British consul had, of course, been called in, and the result was that Terangi was made the victim of political expediency. He was had up for assault and battery, and despite the efforts made in his behalf by Captain Nagle and others, he was given six months in jail.
The captain was hot with anger at the result, but he took good care not to let Terangi see it. He went to visit him in the prison a few days before the schooner sailed, counseling him in a fatherly way, and urging upon him the necessity of taking his punishment quietly and cheerfully. Terangi was too strong, that was all. The next time he hit a man who imposed upon him, he must take care not to break his jaw. Six months would quickly pass. Nagle would explain matters to Marama, the young wife Terangi had married six weeks before, and deliver the little gifts the husband had purchased to take home. Terangi listened and seemed to approve of the well-meant advice, but Nagle was anything but confident of the impression he had made. Knowing the men of the Tuamotu, and Terangi in particular, he had little hope that he would submit to prison discipline.
His forebodings were soon justified. On the day the schooner sailed he learned that Terangi had gotten away the night before. The chief of police with some of his men came to search the schooner as they were about to cast off from the wharf. He was courteous and apologetic about it. It was a natural inference that Terangi might have stowed away on board, though the commissaire knew Captain Nagle well enough to be sure that he would not have connived at such business, and felt pretty certain that the boy would avoid anything that might involve Nagle with the law. After a thorough search of the Katopua he again apologized and went ashore.
That was the first of a long series of escapades. Terangi was caught within a fortnight, for he was still over-trustful of his fellow men. For centuries past there has been no love lost between the Tahitians and the Low Islanders. A pig hunter far up the Punaruu Valley made Terangi welcome in his little camp, fed him, and soon discovered who he was. The hunter invited him down to his house on the beach and betrayed him to the police while he slept. The warden at that time, a thoroughly decent fellow, let him off with fifteen days solitary confinement, the lightest of the disciplinary measures under the circumstances. And he talked to the boy like an uncle, saying precisely what Nagle had said.
Solitary confinement leaves its mark on anyone; to a man of Terangi’s kind it was torture. He endured five days of it before he broke the lock of his cell and escaped to the hills once more. He was caught after a chase of several weeks, and a year was added to his sentence. His first escape had been from the road gang. Breaking jail was an offense of a different category and could not be lightly passed over. When he next escaped he took with him a military rifle from the guardhouse, with a supply of ammunition. Life in the uninhabited interior of Tahiti was not easy. He wanted a weapon for shooting wild pigs, but the authorities, of course, took a different view of his reasons. They believed that he meant to defend himself. He was becoming something of a legendary figure by this time, and now that he was known to be armed, it was easy to fancy him a desperado, a menace on the mountain trails. When he was retaken, five more years were added to his sentence.
There is no need of going into the details of his adventures during this period. It is enough to say that, during the next five years, he escaped eight times. He showed an ingenuity and a fierceness of determination in getting away that were new to the experience of the police. He could be kept in prison only by methods too inhumane to be practised steadily, and the authorities bore in mind the trivial nature of the offense that had brought him there in the first place. Vain attempts were made to cow him by threats. As soon as he was given a measure of freedom within the walls, he would find a means of getting outside them. The Tahitians, although they betrayed him time after time, had a secret admiration for him, and he became a hero to every small boy on the island. The gendarmes who were compelled to hunt him in wild and difficult country saw him in a different light, as did those higher up. He was making a laughingstock of authority. Meanwhile, he had accumulated a total sentence of sixteen years.
Although he felt keenly the injustice of his first imprisonment, he was too much of a man to hoard up bitterness. He knew that his captors were doing no more than their duty and nursed no resentment toward them. But he had to be free, whatever the cost.
On each of Captain Nagle’s infrequent visits to Tahiti, he had gone at once to the jail in the hope of seeing Terangi; but what with escapes to the mountains and the fact that visitors were not permitted to see those in solitary confinement, three years passed without his having so much as a glimpse of the prisoner. Meanwhile, a new warden had arrived from France, one of those just men, as coldly impersonal as the Law itself. At last, more than four years after the affair in Duval’s bar, Nagle learned, at the wharf, that Terangi, after his latest escape, was once more in custody. Nagle went straight to the Governor, over the warden’s head, and was granted permission to see him.
His reception at the prison, under these circumstances, was a chilly one. It was clear from the warden’s manner that there was to be no more nonsense about this Terangi matter; no more making a mock of authority. He took the Governor’s note, glanced at it, bowed coldly, and led the way to Terangi’s cell. There was a new iron-studded door of hardwood, four inches thick, equipped with a formidable series of locks.
The cell was about eight feet square and lighted by a single small window, high in the wall. Terangi was tethered by one leg, the chain attached to his ankle, shackled to a heavy ringbolt set into the floor of stone. He had altered little, outwardly, save that he was now a man, fully matured, but Nagle was conscious of a profound inward change. All the joy of life had gone out of him, and there was a sombre look in his eyes. Nagle scarcely trusted himself to speak; he took Terangi’s hand and held it between his own. The warden stood in the doorway, looking on.
If Terangi was moved, he showed no sign of it. He had himself well in hand. When the silence was broken, he asked for news of his wife and mother, and of the little daughter he had never seen. Nagle pulled himself together and contrived to answer with some show of cheerfulness, but he was soon aware that Terangi was as eager to close the interview as the warden himself. Nagle left the prison in a gloomy frame of mind.
There was a stir on Tahiti when Terangi escaped once more. It happened about three months after Nagle’s visit. The new warden had been over-sanguine about breaking Terangi’s spirit. He kept him in solitary confinement until he seemed thoroughly subdued, and then gave him tastes of liberty when traps were laid: apparent chances to escape which the prisoner was too wary to take advantage of. At last he was permitted to have his hour of exercise without shackles, in the prison yard.
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