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where are? Where can-balls are?" demanded Mr. Pottle.
Tiki Tiu closed his eyes and let blue smoke filter through his nostrils. Finally he said:
"Isle of O-pip-ee."
"Isle of O-pip-ee?" Mr. Pottle grew excited. "Where is? Is where?" "Two hunded miles south," answered Tiki Tiu.
Mr. Pottle's eyes sparkled. He was on the trail.
"How go there? Go there how? There go how?" he asked.
Tiki Tiu considered. Then he said: "I take. Nice li'l' schooner." "How much," asked Mr. Pottle. "Much how?"
Tiki Tiu considered again. "Ninety-three dol's," he said. "Goodum!" cried Mr. Pottle, and counted the proceeds of 186 hair-cuts into the hand of Tiki Tiu.
"You take me to-mollow? To-mollow you take me? Me you take tomollow? To-mollow? To-mollow? To-mollow?" asked Mr. Pottle.
"Yes," promised Tiki Tiu; "to-mollow."
Mr. Pottle stayed up all night packing; from time to time he referred to much-thumbed copies of "Robinson Crusoe" and "Green Isles, Brown Man-Eaters, and a White Man."
Tiki Tiu's nice li'l' schooner deposited Mr. Pottle and his impedimenta on the small, remote Isle of O-pip-ee; Tiki Tiu agreed to return for him in a month.
"This is something like it," exclaimed Mr. Pottle as he unpacked his camera, his ukulele, his razors, his canned soup, his heating outfit, and his bathing-suit. Only the wild parrakeets heard him; save for their calls, an ominous silence hung over the
thick foliage of O-pip-ee. There was not the ghost of a sign of human habitation.
Mr. Pottle, vaguely apprehensive of sharks, pitched his pup-tent far up on the beach; to-morrow would be time enough to look for cannibals.
He lay smoking and thinking. He was happy. The realization of a life's ambition lay, so to speak, just around the corner. To-morrow he could turn that corner-if he wished.
He squirmed as something small nibbled at his hip-bone, and he wondered why writers of books on the South Seas make such scant mention of the insects. Surely they must have noticed the little creatures, which had, he discovered, a way of making their presence felt.
He wondered, too, now that he came to think of it, if he had n't been a little rash in coming alone to a cannibalinfested isle with no weapons of defense but a shot-gun, picked up at a bargain at the last minute, and his case of razors. True, in all the books by explorers he had read, the explorer never once had actually been eaten; he always lived to write the book. But what about the explorers who had not written books? What had happened to them?
He flipped a centipede off his ankle, and wondered if he had n't been just a little too impulsive to sell his profitable barber-shop, to come many thousand miles over strange waters, to maroon himself on the lonely Isle of O-pip-ee. At Vait-hua he had heard that cannibals do not fancy white men for culinary purposes. He gave a little start as he looked down at his own bare legs and saw that the tropic sun had already tinted them a coffee hue.
Mr. Pottle did not sleep well that night; strange sounds made his eyes fly open. Once it was a curious scuttling along the beach. Peeping out from his pup-tent, he saw half a dozen tupa (or giant tree-climbing crabs) on a nocturnal raid on a cocoanut-grove. Later he heard the big nuts come crashing down. The day shift of insects had quit, and the night shift, fresh and hungry, came to work; inquisitive vampire bats butted their soft heads against his tent.
At dawn he set about finding a permanent abode. He followed a small fresh-water stream two hundred yards inland, and came to a coral cave by a pool, a ready-made home, cool and, more important, well concealed. He He spent the day settling down, chasing out the bats, putting up mosquitonetting, tidying up. He dined well off cocoanut milk and canned sardines, and was so tired that he fell asleep before he could change his bathingsuit for pajamas. He slept fairly well, albeit he dreamed that two cannibal kings were disputing over his prostrate form whether he would be better as a ragout or stuffed with chestnuts.
Waking, he decided to lie low and wait for the savages to show themselves, for he knew from Tiki Tiu that the Isle of O-pip-ee was not more than seven miles long and three or four miles wide; sooner or later they must pass near him. He figured that there was logic in this plan, for no cannibal had seen him land; therefore he knew that the cannibals were on the isle, but they did not know that he was. The advantage was his.
For days he remained secluded, subsisting on canned foods, cocoanuts, mei
(or breadfruit), and an occasional boiled baby feke (or young devil-fish) a nest of which Mr. Pottle found on one furtive moonlight sally to the beach.
Emboldened by this sally and by the silence of the woods, Mr. Pottle made other expeditions away from his cave; on one he penetrated fully five hundred yards into the jungle. He was prowling, like a Cooper Indian, among the faufee (or lacebark-trees) when he heard a sound that sent him scurrying and quaking back to his lair.
It was a faint sound that the breezes bore to him, so faint that he could not be sure; but it sounded like some faroff barbaric instrument mingling its dim notes with those of a human voice raised in a weird, primeval chant.
But the savages did not show themselves, and finding no cannibals by night, Mr. Pottle grew still bolder; he ventured on short explorations by day. He examined minutely his own cove, and then one morning crept over a low ledge and into the next cove. He made his way cautiously along the smooth, white beach. The morning was still, calm, beautiful. Its peace all but drove thoughts of cannibals from his mind. He came to a strip of land running into the sea; another cove lay beyond. Mr. Pottle was an impulsive man; he pushed through the keoho (or thorn-bushes); his foot slipped; he rolled down a declivity and into the next cove.
He did not stay there; he did not even tarry. What he saw sent him dashing through the thorn-bushes and along the white sand like a hundredyard sprinter. In the sand of the cove were many imprints of naked human feet.
A less stout-hearted man than Mr. Pottle would never have come out of his cave again; but he had come eight thousand miles to see a cannibal. An overmastering desire had spurred him on; he would not give up now. Of such stuff are Ohio barbers made.
A few days later, at twilight, he issued forth from his cave again. Around his loins was a scarlet pareu; he had discarded his bathing-suit as too civilized. In his long, black hair was a yellow hibiscus flower.
Like a burglar, he crept along the beach to the bushy promontory that hid the cove where the footprints were, he wiggled through the bush, he slid down to the third beach, and crouched behind a large rock. The beach seemed deserted; the muttering of the ocean was the only sound Mr. Pottle
The savage darted down the beach
heard. Another rock, a dozen feet away, seemed to offer better concealment, and he stepped out toward it, and then stopped short. Mr. Pottle
stood face to face with a naked, brown savage.
Mr. Pottle's feet refused to take him away; a paralysis such as one has in nightmares rooted him to the spot. His returning faculties took in these facts: first, the savage was unarmed; second, Mr. Pottle had forgotten to bring his shot-gun. It was a case of man to man-eater.
The savage was large, well-fed, almost fat; his long black hair fringed his head; he did not wear a particularly bloodthirsty expression; indeed, he appeared startled and considerably alarmed.
Reason told Mr. Pottle that friendliness was the best policy. Instinctively, he recalled the literature of his youth, and how Buffalo Bill had acted in a like circumstance. He raised his right hand solemnly in the air and ejaculated, "How!"
The savage raised his right hand solemnly in the air, and in the same tone also ejaculated, "How!" Mr. Pottle had begun famously. He said loudly:
"Who you? You who? Who you?" The savage, to Mr. Pottle's surprise, answered after a brief moment: "Me-Lee."
Here was luck. The man-eater could talk the Pottle lingo.
"Oh," said Mr. Pottle, to show that he understood, "you-Mealy."
The savage shook his head.
"No," he said; "Me-Lee. MeLee." He thumped his barrel-like chest with each word.
"Oh, I see," cried Mr. Pottle; "you Mealy-mealy.'
The savage made a face that among civilized people would have meant that he did not think much of Mr. Pottle's intellect.
"Who you?" inquired Mealy-mealy. Mr. Pottle thumped his narrow chest.
"Me, Pottle. Pottle!"
"Oh, you Pottle-Pottle," said the savage, evidently pleased with his own powers of comprehension.
Mr. Pottle let it go at that. Why argue with a cannibal? He addressed the savage again.
"Mealy-mealy, you eatum long pig? Eatum long pig you? Long pig you eatum?"
This question agitated Mealy-mealy. He trembled. Then he nodded his head in the affirmative, a score of rapid nods.
Mr. Pottle's voice faltered a little as he asked the next question.
"Where you gottum tribe? You gottum tribe where? Tribe you gottum where?"
Mealy-mealy considered, scowled, and said:
"Gottum velly big tribe not far. Velly fierce. Eatum long pig. Eatum Pottle-Pottle."
Mr. Pottle thought it would be a good time to go, but he could think of no polite excuse for leaving. An idea occurred to Mealy-mealy.
"Where your tribe, Pottle-Pottle?" His tribe? Mr. Pottle's eyes fell on his own scarlet pareu and the brownish legs beneath it. Mealy-mealy thought he was a cannibal, too. With all his terror, he had a second or two of unalloyed enjoyment of the thought. Like all barbers, he had played poker. He bluffed.
"My tribe velly, velly, velly, velly, velly, velly big," he cried.
"Where is?" asked Mealy-mealy, visibly moved by this news.
"Velly near," cried Mr. Pottle; "hungry for long pig; for long pig hungry-"
There was suddenly a brown blur on the landscape. With the agility of an ape, the huge savage had turned, darted down the beach, plunged into the bush, and disappeared.
"He's gone to get his tribe," thought Mr. Pottle, and fled in the opposite direction.
When he reached his cave, panting, he tried to fit a cartridge into his shotgun; he 'd die game, anyhow. But rust had ruined the neglected weapon, and he flung it aside and took out his best razor. But no cannibals came.
He was scared, but happy. He had seen his cannibal; more, he had talked with him; more still, he had escaped gracing the festal board by a snake's knuckle. He prudently decided to stay in his cave until the sails of Tiki Tiu's schooner hove in sight.