Eastward, from the coast of New Guinea,
there lies a large island called, on the maps, New
Britain, the native name of which is Berara. It
is nearly three hundred miles in length and, in parts,
almost sixty in width, and excepting the north-eastern
portion, now settled by German colonists, is inhabited
by a race of dangerous and treacherous cannibals,
who are continually at war among themselves, for there
are many hundred tribes living on the coast as well
as in the interior. Although there have been
white people living on the north-east coast for over
thirty years for there were adventurous
American and English traders living in this wild island
long before the natives ever saw a German not
one of them knew then, or knows now, much of the strange
black tribes who dwell in the interior of the centre
and western part of the island, save that they were
then, as they are in this present year, always at
enmity with the coast tribes, and are, like them, more
or less addicted to cannibalism.
Sixty miles from the western end of
the island is the mountainous land of German New Guinea;
and sometimes, when the air is clear and the south-east
trade wind blows, the savages on Berara can see across
the deep, wide strait the grey loom of the great range
that fringes the north-eastern coast of New Guinea
for many hundred miles. Once, indeed, when the
writer of this true story lived in New Britain, he
saw this sight for a whole week, for there, in those
beautiful islands, the air is very clear at certain
seasons of the year.
From Matupi, where the principal settlement
in New Britain is situated, to the deep bay at Kabaira,
fifty miles away, the coast is very beautiful.
And, indeed, no one who looks at the lovely grassy
downs that here and there show through the groves
of waving palm trees stretching from the beach away
up to the rising land of the interior could think
that such a fair country was the home of a deadly fever;
and that in the waters of the bright limpid streams
that ran gently down from the forest-clad hills to
meet the blue waters of the Pacific there lurked disease
and death to him who drank thereof.
At the time of my story (except for
the adventurous American whalemen from Nantucket and
New Bedford, and the sandal-wood cutters from New
South Wales, who sometimes touched there) white men
were unknown to the people of New Britain. Sometimes
when the sperm-whaling fleet was cruising northwards
and westward to the Moluccas, a ship would sail along
the coast in the daytime, but always anchored at night,
for it was dreaded for the many dangerous reefs that
surround it. And once the anchor was down a strict
watch was kept on board, for the natives were known
to be fierce and treacherous.
Between where is now the German settlement
and the great native town at Kabaira Bay there is
an island called Mano, which stands five miles off
from the mainland. Early one morning, when the
wild people of the villages among the palm-groves
which lined the long winding beach came out of their
thatched huts for their morning bathe they gave a great
cry, for a large full-rigged ship was standing in close
under the lee of Mano, and clewing up her sails before
she came to an anchor.
Now the natives who lived on the mainland
of New Britain were the hereditary enemies of those
who dwelt on Mano Island, and it was hateful for them
to see a ship anchor there, for then the Mano Islanders
would get axes and muskets and hoop-iron.
So, with Baringa, the chief, at their
head, they all ran to the summit of a high, grassy
hill (known, by reason of a terrible deed once done
there in the olden times, as the Hill of Old Men’s
Groans), and sat down to watch if the ship would send
her boats ashore.
‘Look!’ said Baringa,
fiercely, striking the ground with his heavy jade-headed
club, ’look, I see a boat putting out from the
side. Who among ye will come with me to the ship,
so that I may sell my turtle shell and pearl shell
to the captain for muskets and powder and bullets?
Are these dogs of Mano to get such things from the
ship, and then come over here at night and slay and
then cook us in their ovens? Hungry am I for
revenge; for ’tis now twelve moons since they
stole my son from me, and not one life have I had
in return for his.’
But no one answered. Of what
use was it, they thought, for Baringa to think of
his little son? He was but a boy after all, and
had long since gone down the throats of the men of
Mano. Besides, the Mano people were very strong
and already had many guns.
So for an hour Baringa sat and chafed
and watched; and then suddenly he and those with him
sprang up, for a sound like thunder came over to them,
and a cloud of white smoke curled up from the ship’s
side; she had fired one of her big guns. Presently
Baringa and his people saw that the boat which had
gone ashore was pulling back fast, and that some of
the crew who were sitting in the stern were firing
their muskets at the Mano people, who were pursuing
the boat in six canoes. Twice again the ship
fired a big gun, and then the boat was safe, for the
two twenty-four pounders, loaded with grape-shot,
smashed two of them to pieces when they were less
than a hundred yards from the ship.
Baringa shouted with savage joy.
‘Come,’ he cried, ’let us hasten
to the beach, and get quickly to the ship in our canoes;
for now that the white men have fought with these
Mano dogs, the ship will come here to us and anchor;
for I, Baringa, am known to many white men.’
The name of the ship was the Boadicea.
She was of about seven hundred tons, and was bound
to China from Port Jackson, but for four months had
remained among the islands of the New Hebrides group,
where the crew had been cutting sandal-wood, which
in those days was very plentiful there. Her captain,
who was a very skilful navigator, instead of going
through Torres Straits, had sailed between New Ireland
and New Britain, so that he might learn the truth
of some tales he had heard about the richness of those
islands in sandal-wood and pearl shell. So he
had cruised slowly along till he sighted Mano Island,
and here he decided to water the ship; for from the
deck was visible a fine stream of water, running from
the forest-clad mountains down to the white sands of
the quiet beach.
As soon as possible a boat was lowered
and manned and armed; for although he could not see
a native anywhere on the beach, nor any signs of human
occupation elsewhere on the island, the captain was
a very cautious man. A little further back from
the beach was a very dense grove of coco-nut trees
laden with fruit, and at these the crew of the Boadicea
looked with longing eyes.
‘We must water the ship first,
my lads,’ said Captain Williams, ’and
then we’ll spend the rest of the day among the
coco-nut trees, and fill our boats with them.’
Just then as the bronze-faced captain
was ascending to the poop from his cabin; a small
barefooted boy came aft, and, touching his hat, said,
‘Av ye plaze, sor, won’t ye let me
go in the boat, sor?’
’Why, Maurice, my boy, there’s
quite enough of us going in her as it is,’ said
the captain, kindly, for the dirty-faced but bright-eyed
Maurice Kinane was a favourite with everyone on board.
‘Ah, but shure, sor,’
pleaded the boy, ’av yer honour would
just let me go, av it was only to pluck
a blade av the foine green grass, and lave me
face in the swate clane wather I’ll be beholden ’
‘Well, well, my lad, jump in
then,’ said Captain Williams, with a smile,
and buckling his cutlass belt around his waist he sent
the lad down the ladder before him and the boat pushed
Ten months before, this poor Irish
lad, who was but thirteen years of age, had lost both
his parents through the upsetting of a boat in Sydney
Harbour. His father was a sergeant in the 77th
Regiment, and had only arrived in the colony a few
months previous to the accident, and the boy was left
without a relative in the world. But the captain
of his father’s company and the other officers
of the regiment were very kind to him, and the colonel
said he would get him enlisted as a drummer.
And so for a time Maurice lived in
the barracks under the care of Sergeant MacDougall,
a crusty old warrior, who proved a hard master and
made the boy’s life anything but a happy one.
And Maurice, though he was proud of the colonel’s
kind words and of serving with the regiment, fretted
greatly at the harsh manner of the old sergeant.
One morning he was reported as missing.
Little did those who looked for him all the next day
think that the boy was far out at sea, for he had
stowed away on board the Boadicea; and although
Captain Williams was very angry with him when he was
discovered and led aft, the lad’s genial temper
and bright, honest face soon won him over, as, indeed,
it did everyone else on board.
For nearly an hour after the boat
had landed at the mouth of the little stream the seamen
were busily-engaged in filling the water casks.
Not a sign of a native could be seen, and then, regardful
of the longing looks that the sailors cast at the
grove of coco-nuts, the captain, taking with him Maurice
and four hands, set out along the beach for the purpose
of gathering a few score of the young nuts to give
to his men to drink.
One of the four seamen was a Kanaka
named ‘Tommy Sandwich.’ He was a
native of Sandwich or Vate Island in the New Hebrides.
In a very short time this man had ascended a lofty
palm-tree, and was throwing down the coco-nuts to
the others, who for some minutes were busily engaged
tying them together to carry them to the boat.
‘That will do, Tommy,’
cried the captain, presently. ’Come down
now and help the others to carry.’ He did
not see that Maurice, boy-like and adventurous, had
managed to ascend a less lofty tree some little distance
away, out of sight of his shipmates, and at that moment
was already ensconced in the leafy crown, gazing with
rapture at the lovely scene that lay before him.
It took the men but another ten minutes
to tie up the coco-nuts into bunches of ten, and then
each of them drank copiously of the sweet milk of
half a dozen which Tommy had husked for them.
‘Come, lads,’ said Captain
Williams, ‘back to the boat now. By-and-by ’
A dreadful chorus of savage yells
interrupted him, and he and the men seized their muskets
and sprang to their feet. The sounds seemed to
come from where the boat was watering; in a few seconds
more four musket shots rang out.
‘Run, run for your lives,’
cried the captain, drawing his pistol. ’The
savages are attacking the boat.’ And the
seamen, throwing down the coco-nuts, rushed out of
the palm grove to rescue their shipmates.
They were only just in time, for the
banks of the little stream were covered with naked
savages, who had sprung out of the thick undergrowth
upon the watering party, and ere the boat could be
pushed off two of the poor sailors had been savagely
slaughtered. Fortunately for the captain and
his party, they were nearer to the boat, when they
made their appearance, than were the natives, and,
plunging into the water, and holding their muskets
over their heads, they reached her in safety, and
at once opened fire, whilst the rest of the crew bent
to the oars.
But the danger was not yet over, for
as soon as the boat was out of reach of the showers
of spears sent at her from the shore, a number of
canoes appeared round a bend of the mountainous coast.
They had evidently been sent to cut off the white
men’s retreat. And then began the race
for life to the ship which had been witnessed by Baringa
and his people from the mainland.
Maurice, from his tree, had heard
the yells of the savages and the gunshots, and was
about to descend and follow the captain and his shipmates,
when he heard a rush of bodies through the palm grove,
and saw beneath him forty or fifty natives, all armed
with clubs and spears. They were a horrible-looking
lot, for they were quite naked and the lips of all
were stained a deep red from the juice of the betel-nut,
and their dull reddish-brown bodies were daubed over
with yellow and white stripes. This party had
perhaps meant to surprise the captain and his men
as they were getting the coco-nuts, for, finding them
gone, they at once rushed out of the grove in pursuit.
Fortunately for Maurice they were too excited to think
of looking about them, else his end would have come
For nearly ten minutes the lad remained
quiet, listening to the sounds of the fighting, and
in fearful doubt as to his best course of action whether
to make a bold dash and try to find his way to the
boat, or remain in the tree till a rescue party was
sent from the ship. Suddenly the thundering report
of one of the ship’s guns made him peer seaward
through the branches of his retreat; and there, to
his delight, he caught a brief view of the boat.
Again the report of another gun pealed out, and a
wild screaming cry from the natives told him that the
shot had done some execution.
‘I must get out of this,’
he thought, ’and make a bolt along the beach
in the other direction, till I get into the hills.
I can see better from there, and perhaps make a signal
to the ship.’ Maurice got quietly down
from the tree, and after looking cautiously about him,
was about to set off at a run, when he found himself
face to face with a young native boy, who, running
quickly forward, grasped him by the hands, and began
to talk volubly, at the same time trying to drag him
towards the beach. The boy, save for a girdle
of ti leaves, was naked, and Maurice, anxious and
alarmed as he was for his own safety, could not but
notice that the young savage seemed terribly excited.
‘Let me go, ye black naygur,’
said Maurice, freeing his hands and striking him in
In an instant the native boy fell
upon his knees, and held up his hands, palms outward,
in a supplicating gesture.
Puzzled at this, but still dreading
treachery, Maurice turned away and again sought to
make his way to the hills; but again the boy caught
his hands, and with gentle force, and eyes filled
with tears, tried to push or lead him to the beach.
At last, apparently as if in despair of making the
white lad understand him by words, he made signs of
deadly combat, and ended by pointing over to where
the boat had been attacked. Then, touching Maurice
on the chest, and then himself, he pointed to the sea,
and lying on the ground worked his arms and legs as
‘Sure, perhaps he’s a
friend,’ thought Maurice, ‘an’ wants
me to swim off to the ship. But perhaps he’s
a thraitor and only manes to entice me away to be
murdered. Anyway, it’s not much of a choice
I’ve got at all. So come on, blackamoor,
I’m wid ye.’
Although not understanding a word
that Maurice said, the native boy smiled when he saw
that the white lad was willing to come with him at
last. Then, hand-in-hand, they ran quietly along
till they reached the beach; and here the native,
motioning Maurice to keep out of view, crept on his
hands and knees till he reached a rock, and then slowly
raised his head above it and peered cautiously ahead.
Whatever it was he saw evidently satisfied
him, for he crawled back to Maurice, and again taking
his hand broke into a run, but instead of going in
the direction of the river, he led the way along the
beach in the opposite direction. Feeling confident
now that he had found a friend, Maurice’s spirits
began to rise, and he went along with the boy unhesitatingly.
At last they rounded a sandy point,
covered with a dense growth of coco-nut trees and
pandanus palms; this point formed the southern
horn of a small deep bay, in the centre of which stood
an island, warded by a snow-white beach, and on the
nearmost shore Maurice saw a canoe drawn up.
The island beach was quite three hundred
yards away, but Maurice was a good swimmer, and although
he shuddered at the thought of sharks, he plunged
in the water after his dark-skinned companion and soon
reached the islet, which was but a tiny spot, containing
some two or three score of coco-palms, and three untenanted
native huts. It was used by the natives as a
fishing station, and the canoe, which was a very small
one, had evidently been in use that day. Close
by were the marks in the sand where a larger one had
been carried down. In one of the huts smoke was
arising from a native ground-oven, which showed that
the fishermen had not long gone; doubtless they would
return when the food was cooked, for the native boy
pointed out the oven to Maurice with a look of alarm.
The two boys soon launched the canoe,
and each seizing a paddle, at once struck out in the
direction of the ship. The native lad sat aft,
Maurice for’ard, and clumsy as was the latter
with the long and narrow canoe paddle, he yet managed
to keep his seat and not capsize the frail little
‘Hurroo!’ cried foolish
Maurice, turning to his companion, ’we’re
all right now, I’m thinkin’. There’s
There she was sure enough, and there
also were four canoes, paddling along close in-shore,
returning from their chase of the captain’s
boat. They heard Maurice’s loud shout of
triumph, at once altered their course, and sped swiftly
towards the two boys.
Scarcely had Captain Williams and
his exhausted crew gained the ship when the mate reported
that a fleet of canoes was coming across from the
mainland of New Britain, and orders were at once given
to load the ship’s eight guns with grape and
canister. (In those days of Chinese and Malay pirates
and dangerous natives of the South Seas, all merchants
ships, particularly those engaged in the sandal-wood
trade, were well armed, and almost man-of-war discipline
‘We’ll give them something
to remember us by, Hodgson,’ said Captain Williams,
grimly. ’That poor lad! To think I
never noticed he was not in the boat till too late!
I expect he’s murdered by now; but I shall take
a bloody vengeance for the poor boy’s death.
Serve out some grog to the hands, steward; and some
of you fellows stand by with some shot to dump into
the canoes if we should miss them with the guns and
they get alongside.’
But just as he spoke the mate called
out, ’The canoes have stopped paddling, sir,
all except one, which is coming right on.’
’All right, I see it. Let
them come and have a look at us. As soon as it
gets close enough, I’ll sink it.’
For some minutes the canoe, which
contained seven men, continued to advance with great
swiftness; then she ceased paddling, and the steersman
stood up and called out something to the ship, just
as she was well covered by two of the guns on the
port side. In another minute she would have been
blown out of the water, when Tommy Sandwich ran aft
’I think, cap’n, that
fellow he no want fight ship; I think he want talk
‘Perhaps so, Tommy; so we’ll let him come
a bit closer.’
Again the native paddles sent the
canoe inward till she was well within easy hailing
distance of the ship, and the same native again stood
up and called out,
’Hi, cap’n. No you
shoot me. Me Baringa. Me like come ‘board.’
‘All right,’ answered Captain Williams,
The moment the canoe ranged alongside,
Baringa clambered up the side, and advanced fearlessly
toward the poop. ‘Where cap’n?’
he asked, pushing unceremoniously aside those who
stood in his way; and mounting the ladder at the break
of the poop he walked up to the master of the Boadicea
and held out his hand.
In a very short time, by the aid of
Tommy Sandwich, whose language was allied to that
of the natives of New Britain, Captain Williams learnt
how matters stood. His visitor was anxious to
help him, and volunteered to join the white man in
an attack on the treacherous people of Mano, though
he gave but little hope of their finding Maurice alive.
They had, he said, stolen his own son twelve months
before, and eaten him, and he wanted his revenge.
Presently, as a proof of his integrity, he produced
from a dirty leather cartridge pouch, that was strapped
around his waist, a soiled piece of paper, and handed
it to the captain. It read as follows:
’The bearer, Baringa, is the
chief of Kabaira Coast. He is a thorough
old cannibal, but, as far as I know, may be trusted
by white men. He supplied my ship with fresh
provisions, and seems a friendly old cut-throat.
Algerine of New Bedford.
‘October 2 st,
‘Well, that’s satisfactory,’
said Captain Williams, turning to Tommy. ’Tell
him that I am going to land and try and find Maurice,
and he can help me with his people. Mr Hodgson,
man and arm the boats again.’
In a moment all was bustle and excitement,
in the midst of which a loud ‘hurrah’
came from aloft from a sailor who was on the fore-yard
watching the remaining canoes of Baringa’s fleet.
’Hurrah! Here’s Maurice, sir, coming
off in a canoe with a nigger, an’ a lot of other
niggers in four canoes a-chasin’ him.’
Springing to the taffrail, Captain
Williams saw the canoe, which had just rounded the
point and was now well in view. The two boys were
paddling for their lives; behind them were the four
canoes filled with yelling savages.
‘Into the boats, men, for God’s
sake!’ roared the captain. Had a greater
distance separated Maurice from his pursuers the master
of the Boadicea would have endeavoured to have
sunk the four canoes with the ship’s guns; but
the risk was too great to attempt it as they were.
However, the gunner and carpenter were sent into the
fore-top to try and pick off some of the natives by
firing over Maurice’s canoe.
Five minutes later the ship’s
three boats were pulling swiftly to the rescue, and
Baringa, jumping into his own canoe, beckoned to the
rest of his flotilla to follow him, and six natives
urged the light craft furiously along after the boats.
On, on, came the two poor boys, straining
every nerve; but every moment their pursuers gained
on them; and on, on dashed the heavy, cumbersome boats.
Already the nearest canoe was within fifty feet of
Maurice and his black friend, the savage paddlers
undaunted by the fire from the muskets of the gunner
and carpenter, when Captain Williams saw a native
rise up and hurl a club at the two boys. Quick
as lightning the captain picked up his musket and
fired, and the savage fell forward with a bullet through
his chest. But quick as he was he was too late,
for the club whizzed through the air and struck the
native boy on his right arm.
A savage yell of triumph came from
the pursuing canoes as their occupants saw the boy
go down and the canoe broach-to, and then the leading
canoe dashed up alongside that of Maurice and his companion.
‘Pull, men, pull, for God’s
sake!’ cried the captain, frantically, as he
saw the Irish lad, paddle in hand, standing up over
the body of the fallen boy, and strike wildly at his
With heaving bosoms and set teeth
the seamen urged the boats along, and they and the
four canoes crashed together in deadly conflict.
But as they met, a huge savage stood up and, poising
a spear, darted it at the prone figure of the native
boy; it did not reach him, for Maurice, wounded and
bleeding as he was with a spear wound through his thigh,
flung himself in front of the weapon to save his friend.
It struck him in the shoulder and came out a full
foot at his back.
‘You dog,’ said Williams,
raising his pistol, and the native went down with
And then ensued a scene of slaughter,
as the seamen of the Boadicea got to work with
their cutlasses. It did not take long to end the
fight, and not one of the Mano men escaped, for now
Baringa’s canoes had come up, and with their
heavy jade clubs dashed out the brains of those of
their enemies who sought to swim ashore. It was
in truth a hideous sight, and even the hardy sailors
shuddered when they saw the merciless manner in which
wounded and dying men were massacred by their naked
As quickly as possible, the two boys
were lifted out of the little canoe and placed in
the captain’s boat, where their wounds were examined.
The native boy’s arm was broken, and his back
badly hurt, but he was quite conscious. As for
Maurice, he was in a bad state, and Captain Williams
decided not to pull out the spear till the ship was
Just as he had given orders to pull
for the ship, Baringa’s canoe returned from
the slaughter of the remaining fugitives, and drew
up alongside the captain’s boat, and the moment
the chief saw the native boy lying in the stern sheets
of the boat he sprang out of the canoe and embraced
‘It is my boy, my Lokolol he whom
I thought was dead.’
Little remains to be told. The
two boys were carefully attended to as soon as they
reached the ship, and to the joy of everyone the spear,
when extracted from Maurice’s body, was pronounced
by Baringa not to be a poisoned one. As for Lokolol,
the chief’s son, his arm was put in splints,
but during the time that was occupied in doing this
his hand was clasped around that of the brave young
sailor lad who had saved his life, and his big, black
eyes never left Maurice’s pallid face.
For three days the Boadicea
remained at anchor opposite the village she
had sailed there the morning after the fight and
the chief showed his gratitude by every possible means.
On the morning of the day on which the ship sailed
he came on board, attended by thirty canoes, every
one of which was laden deep down with pearl shell.
It was passed up on deck, and stacked in a heap, and
then Baringa asked for the captain and the white boy
who had saved his son. Beside him stood Lokolol,
his arm in a sling, and tears running down his cheeks,
for he knew he would see Maurice no more.
Then Captain Williams came on deck
and showed the chief the little cabin boy, lying in
a hammock under the poop awning. The burly savage
came over to him, and taking Maurice’s hand
in his, placed it tenderly upon his huge, hairy bosom
in token of gratitude. Then he spoke to the captain
through Tommy Sandwich.
’Tell this good captain that
I, Baringa, am for ever the white man’s friend.
And tell him, too, that all this pearl shell here is
my gift to him and the boy who helped my son to escape
from captivity. Half is for the good captain;
half is for the brave white boy.’
Then, after remaining on board till
the ship was many miles away from the land, the chief
and his son bade the wounded boy farewell and went
back to the shore.
Maurice soon recovered, and when the
Boadicea arrived at Hong Kong, and Captain
Williams had sold the pearl shell, he said to his cabin
’Maurice, my lad, I’ve
sold the pearl shell, and what do you think I’ve
been paid for it? Well, just eight thousand dollars L1600
in English money. You’re quite a rich boy
now, Maurice. It’s not every lad that gets
four thousand dollars for saving a nigger’s life.’
Maurice’s bright blue eyes filled
with honest tears. ’Shure, sor, he
was a naygur, thrue enough. But thin, yere honour,
he had a foine bould heart to do what he did for Maurice
And, as I have said, this is a true
story, and old Maurice Kinane, who is alive now, himself
told it to me.